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Updated: 9 hours 20 min ago

DOE invests $61 million in ‘smart building’ energy efficiency projects

11 hours 20 min ago

The U.S. Dept. of Energy is backing 10 energy efficiency pilot projects that aim to transform thousands of homes and workplaces into resilient smart buildings.

DOE is providing $61 million for the "Connected Communities" program, which will equip buildings with smart controls, sensors, and analytics to reduce energy use, costs, and emissions.

“From our homes to workplaces, this groundbreaking, grid-connected building technology will help reduce our impact while cutting energy bills, maximizing convenience, and propelling our efforts to reach a carbon-neutral, clean energy economy by 2050,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These projects will help universalize technology that can maximize the efficiency and sustainability of America’s nearly 130 million buildings and make significant headway in the fight against climate change.” 

Read more: Analysis: Lacking energy efficiency efforts undercut state climate goals

Grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) could deliver $100-200 billion in savings to the U.S. power system and cut CO2 emissions by 80 million tons per year by 2030, according to a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Brattle Group.

So-called "smart neighborhoods" in Alabama and Georgia have used approximately 42-44% less energy than the current average all-electric home, the DOE added.

Projects selected:

  • Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (New York City, Seattle, San Diego) will transform multi-family buildings in affordable housing developments into GEBs that will demonstrate different ways to decarbonize buildings, make them more resilient, and reduce utility bills. (Award amount: $5.27M)
  • IBACOS, Inc. (NC) will deploy a coordinated control program to optimize the energy use of a comprehensive mix of distributed energy resources in 1,000 new and existing homes, including single-family and multifamily homes and both owner-occupied and rental properties. (Award amount: $6.65M)
  • Open Market ESCO Limited Liability Company (MA) will bring the benefits of efficiency, demand flexibility, renewable generation, and energy storage with more affordable renovations in up to 20 low-to-moderate-income apartment communities. (Award amount: $6.65M) 
  • PacifiCorp (UT) will establish a program to manage solar photovoltaic, batteries, electric vehicle charging in a diverse community of all-electric buildings and a mass transit transportation center, equipped with the latest market-leading efficient technologies to optimize their collective energy use and provide grid services at scale.(Award amount: $6.42M) 
  • Portland General Electric (OR) will renovate over 500 buildings in North Portland’s historically underserved neighborhoods to reduce their energy burden with numerous energy efficiency measures and connected devices that provide the grid with a range on energy services. (Award amount: $6.65M) 
  • Post Road Foundation (ME, NH) will investigate the capacity of a novel Transactive Energy Service System to harmonize communications and optimize energy use among the distributed energy resources, local energy markets, and buildings of three rural communities. (Award amount: $6.65M) 
  • Slipstream Group Inc. (WI) will convert approximately 15 facilities in Madison, Wisconsin into GEBs that connect with nearby electric vehicle charging stations to establish a scalable business model for utilities to install demand flexibility and energy efficiency upgrades across multiple building sizes in public and private sectors.(Award amount: $5.18M) 
  • Spokane Edo LLC (WA) will unlock demand flexibility up to 2.25 megawatt (MW) using flexible loads in residential and commercial buildings augmented by distributed energy resources within Spokane, Washington’s Opportunity Zones of vulnerable populations. (Award amount: $6.65M) 
  • SunPower Corporation (CA) will build tomorrow’s homes today in two communities of all-electric homes in Menifee, California that meet DOE’s zero-energy-ready home qualifications and feature solar energy, home energy management systems, and community-scale battery storage. (Award amount: $6.65M) 
  • The Ohio State University (OH) will investigate the capacity of Ohio State’s existing on-campus connected community to provide essential but overlooked ancillary grid services from a diverse range of grid-interactive technologies in a cyber- and data-secure environment. (Award amount: $4.2M) 

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AfDB approves $86.72 million loan for second phase of Lesotho Highlands Water Project

11 hours 20 min ago

The African Development Bank Group’s Board of Directors has approved a loan of $86.72 million to co-finance the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

The multi-phase project will provide water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and generate hydroelectricity for Lesotho. The project entails harnessing the waters of the Senqu/Orange River in the Lesotho highlands by constructing a series of dams for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, a state-owned entity in South Africa charged with financing and implementing bulk raw water infrastructure projects, will use the funds to construct Polihali Dam and reservoir, a 38-km-long water transfer tunnel, roads and bridges, and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as to extend electricity and other development infrastructure to Lesotho. The Lesotho Highland Development Authority will implement the part of the project that falls within Lesotho’s borders.

“The two governments’ partnership on this project around the shared water resources from the Orange-Senqu River Basin serves the interests of their mutual development agenda and also deepens regional integration,” said Dr. Beth Dunford, AfDB vice president for agriculture, human and social development. “The intervention will be the first major project to be financed by the Bank in the water sector in South Africa and it will complement the Bank’s current support in the energy and transport sector, diversify the Bank’s portfolio and consolidate the Bank’s strong partnership with the country.”

Once completed, the project is expected to boost transfer capacity between Lesotho and South Africa to 1,260 million m3/year, up from the current 780 million m3/year, and enable additional generation of hydroelectric power in Lesotho. Expected project benefits include greater water security in the Gauteng region and a boost to Lesotho’s socio-economic development due to infrastructure improvements and increased hydropower capacity.

These developments are expected to positively impact 26 million people in South Africa and boost a region that accounts for 60% of the country’s economic output. In Lesotho, the project will benefit more than 85,000 people in the project area and generate more than 6,000 jobs over the next six years. Lesotho’s economy will also receive a boost from the royalty payments it will receive for water transfers.

The project, with a total cost of $2.171 billion, is also receiving financing $213.68 million in loans from the Shanghai-based New Development Bank. The South African government will contribute $1.871 billion as well as a loan guarantee.

The first phase of the project was completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004.

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The impact of EV charging on the grid: business models and consumer behaviors

11 hours 20 min ago

By Philip T. Krein, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Zhejiang University, China

An intriguing aspect of electric vehicle (EV) charging is how it will change business models for vehicle energy. In this article, aspects of charging practices and impacts are discussed, in the context of consumer-driven electric vehicles. Practices will be different for vehicle fleets, delivery driving, and large vehicles, and those issues are left to other discussions.

According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, in 2017 there were approximately 150,000 retail fueling stations in the United States. Nearly all consumer fuel is delivered through these. In the transition to EVs, the filling-station model begins to break down. Although station-based, fast-charge points are important, battery wear and tear from fast charging is substantial, and energy delivered at megawatt scales probably will require premium pricing.

Practical EV charging is much different. The experience so far suggests that consumers seek convenience. Thus, access at home, at work, or in community environments enters the picture. There is still a need for fast-charging points to support distance driving, but a substantial portion of energy is likely to be delivered in a distributed fashion. Data from the Federal Highway Administration surveys suggest that only 2.5% of household driving trips exceed twice the average of 29.2 miles per day. The average is not especially useful (a car that does not meet consumer needs will not be accepted in the market), but the data suggest that about 90% of EV energy could be delivered through low-power charge points. Anecdotally, EV owners do not like a filling-station model, seeking convenience. This suggests that only about 10% of consumer EV energy will come from fast-charge stations.

Consumer vehicles are parked most of the time. A filling-station model does not leverage this. A parked EV has the potential to be a connected car—a battery pack engaged with the power grid with opportunities for charge coordination, interactive intelligence, and dynamic energy management. A connected car offers flexibility on how and when energy is delivered. It is interesting that bidirectional energy flow does not alter the basic issues—a “charge-only” system offers timing flexibility and coordination. Parked-car coordination implies business models for service aggregators. For example, a downtown parking garage containing many charge points could offer frequency regulation and other services to the grid.

This discussion implies four major business connections for future EV charging:

  1. Fast-charging stations. These would deliver only about 10% of the total EV energy if convenient, low-power charge points become widely available. A highway scenario might have five vehicles simultaneously seeking about 100 kWh each in 10 minutes, a rate of 3 MW. Energy costs would need to be high enough to recover initial costs.
  2. Service aggregators. A parking facility operator able to manage a substantial number of low-power charge points could coordinate charging and provide grid services to offset costs.
  3. Home and work charging.
  4. Community charging. A store, restaurant, or hotel could offer free charging to customers, or a city could use free charge access to attract customers to retail districts.

A store that offers conventional 120-V outlets to customers would be delivering a typical level of roughly 1.5 kWh per hour of connection. At a restaurant, a two-hour charge would entail only 36 cents’ worth of energy at the national average rate of 12 cents per kWh, so infrastructure costs and installation dominate the economics. At home or work, 30 miles of driving at a rough usage level of 4 miles/kWh requires an energy input of 7.5 kWh per day—at a cost of under $1 per day.

Fast-charging stations involve high power, and coordination with grid operators and the distribution grid infrastructure will be essential. Initial costs will probably be high, so low risk would require well-funded investors. When there are relatively few fast-charge points (as today), vehicle manufacturers could be an investment source, but this is probably not sustainable. The service-aggregator model is interesting in dense urban areas. A downtown parking provider could add outlet infrastructure and install vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) devices that interact with individual cars. In the Chicago loop, for instance, monthly garage rates approach $400 per vehicle. Energy costs would add about $10 per month to this, but the aggregator has access to grid service markets.

In a home environment, simple time-of-day rate structures can be quite powerful. Modern EVs have programmable chargers, and low, overnight rates can encourage a driver to set, for example, a 2-5 a.m. window. At work, the same concept could encourage charging when solar power is abundant. With more flexible programming, a grid operator could offer a special EV rate with low overnight energy prices, low solar-linked prices, and high prices in the late afternoon and early evening. A motivated customer would save on energy with proper programming. These rate structures could function with little or no communication between vehicle and grid (V2G), or with basic information such as “I am connected,” “I will be needing x kilowatt-hours,” and “I am full.”

In the case of community charging, some businesses might make charging a loss-leader service. A cost-sensitive business owner could use a controlled outlet, activated either when a customer is confirmed or when a small fee is paid. In businesses such as hotels, the effort to install conventional outlets adjacent to a building and within reach of vehicles is likely to be modest.

A more sophisticated EV interface could support active demand response and take advantage of V2G exchange. In a typical scenario, a vehicle connects (either directly or through an aggregator), the EV charger reports the connection, reports the amount of energy to be purchased, indicates a power limit at the location, and provides a target time for completion of energy delivery. The grid operator has full flexibility on charge rate and timing, subject to delivering the requested energy by the specified deadline. Within the constraints, the grid operator could even carry out fast-charge modulation for regulation services. A vehicle connection becomes a direct source of services, at least until the battery is full. For the consumer, a reasonable energy discount might be sufficient as an incentive to enable demand response control—provided the customer experiences delivery of the requested energy by the required time.

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Effective V2G programs with demand response need accurate, tamper-proof, onboard EV energy metering in order to supplement state-of-charge and battery-health monitors. Chargers need to include active safety management, ground fault protection, and handshaking—and they need to implement EV supply equipment requirements. There must be communications capability. When charging from unintelligent outlets, the charger might need to throttle back current in order to avoid overloads. The vehicle software must securely track usage and interface for billing and external control.

Today, the Department of Energy reports that there are about 44,000 EV charging points in the United States. The above discussion—except for fast-charging stations—implies that conventional electrical outlets should be able to deliver about 90% of consumer vehicle energy. Expansion of conventional outlets for parked vehicles is a different proposition than installation of relatively expensive EV charge points. The economic tradeoffs between fast chargers and conventional outlets will continue to develop, since fast chargers are important for supporting long-distance driving. Even as the number of fast-charge points continues to grow, ready availability of convenience outlets for EV charging is essential for widespread adoption.

About the author:

A research leader in the fields of power electronics and motor drives, Philip T. Krein’s transformative contributions to energy conversion have broadly impacted electric and hybrid vehicle technologies. Krein began working on improving battery management for electric vehicles at a time when few believed this was a technical necessity. He developed a battery-equalization technique using switched capacitor circuits that helped reduce the size and cost of battery-management systems. His method extends the lifetime and efficiency of energy-storage systems, which are critical to the success of today’s electric and hybrid vehicles. His contributions to vehicle-systems optimization include high-fidelity dynamic models of vehicle systems and their interactions, linking fuel cells, batteries, ultracapacitors, and motor drives.

An IEEE Fellow, Krein is Director of the Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Distinguished Professor at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. He was awarded the 2021 IEEE Transportation Technologies Award for contributions to electric vehicle battery management and hybrid system optimization.

Portland utility targets distributed energy, smart grid in net-zero plan

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 13:47

Portland General Electric has outlined a path to net-zero emissions that relies on tripling clean energy assets and utilizing customer-sited distributed energy resources for grid resiliency.

The Oregon utility shared plans Friday to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2030, 90% by 2035, and to reach zero emissions by 2040. To reach the 2030 goal, PGE will eliminate coal from its portfolio and approximately 1,500 – 2,000 MW of clean and renewable resources and approximately 800 MW of non-emitting dispatchable capacity resources.

"We are taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy future for everyone," said Brett Sims, PGE Vice President of Strategy, Regulation and Energy Supply. "Working collaboratively with our stakeholders, we are advancing plans to add more renewables and non-emitting resources and partnering with our customers on building an equitable, two-way electric grid."

PGE expects 25% of power needed on the hottest and coldest days to come from distributed energy resources like solar, battery storage, and electric vehicles by 2030. The utility anticipates adding four times as much distributed solar and storage than exists today for a total of 500 MW by the end of the decade.

A bill approved by Oregon lawmakers in June mandates nearly all carbon emissions be eliminated from the power grid by 2040.

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Report analyzes value of renewable energy participation in ancillary services markets

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 10:21

A new report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aims to advise renewable energy asset owners on the value of participating in ancillary services markets as an additional revenue source and grid resiliency tool.

Researchers analyzed standalone wind and solar deployments in the seven U.S. electricity markets, as well as hybrid wind and solar paired with energy storage. Historically, wind and solar participation in ancillary services markets have been "low to non-existent," the authors wrote.

While the researchers found potential for significant value to wind and solar resource owners from ancillary services market participation, they determined that the thin AS marketplace could become saturated by energy storage projects in the pipeline.

"Relying on additional AS revenues as a means to offset declining energy and capacity value may be a risky strategy for resource owners," the authors wrote.

Across electricity markets, we estimate that average (2015-2019) additional revenues from participating in regulation markets were $0.0-2.9/MWh (+0-15% of revenue without participation) for standalone resource owners and $1-33/MWh (+1-69%) for hybrid resource owners (see figures).

Berkeley Lab

Colorado steel mill becomes ‘world’s first’ to be run almost entirely on solar

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 09:21

Claiming to produce some of the greenest steel in the world, a Colorado steel mill will soon be powered almost entirely by solar.

Lightsource bp announced that its 300 megawatt Bighorn Solar project will position EVRAZ's Pueblo steel mill as the world's first steel mill to run almost entirely on solar. The project, which is currently generating electricity into the grid and is expected to come fully online in November, is the largest on-site solar facility in the U.S. dedicated to a single customer.

“This project proves that even hard-to-abate sectors like steel can be decarbonized when companies come together with innovative solutions," Lightsource bp, Americas CEO Kevin Smith said. "Our collaboration with Xcel Energy and EVRAZ North America made Bighorn Solar a reality. It’s a great example of partners tackling complex issues that US industry is facing today, while at the same time preserving jobs in the manufacturing sector.”

The Bighorn Solar project features 750,000 solar panels located primarily on 1,800 acres.

Lightsource bp sells the electricity generated by the Bighorn Solar project to Xcel Energy through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

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Siemens Gamesa awards UL new contracts for wind turbine certification

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 09:00

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has selected UL (Underwriters Laboratories) for the provision of inspection and certification services for the company’s most advanced turbine designs.

UL will inspect Siemens Gamesa’s new 5.X onshore platform, the SG5.8-170 and SG5.8-155 wind turbines with a capacity of 5.8MW and rotor diameters of 170 and 155 meters — representing some of the largest turbines in the global onshore wind industry. 

The inspection services will include checking the electrical characteristics of wind turbines to assess their reliability and safety in generating electricity. UL will assess the compatibility of Siemens Gamesa’s wind turbines with certification and grid codes for the Spanish, German and UK markets.

Certification and compliance with the standards will enable Siemens Gamesa to deploy its turbines across the markets and Europe, according to a statement.

The certification will also allow Siemens Gamesa to launch its new 5.X onshore platform worldwide.

Kai Grigutsch, head of wind certification for UL, said: “Confirming that new turbine technologies can support the power grid while optimizing energy production is crucial to accelerating the development of wind farms and Europe’s green energy transition.”

The wind energy sector has been expanding rapidly over the past decade ender efforts by governments and utilities to decarbonize power generation and economies. However, the pandemic has to some extent disturbed the growth in 2020 and 2021 due to disruptions in the supply chains of equipment.

Trade tensions between the US/Europe and China have also caused delays to the rollout, as well as factors including the lack of adequate funding and lack of appetite by other utilities and governments to invest in green technologies.

This has resulted in the establishment of regional mechanisms and regulations such as Fit for 55, Joe Biden’s 2030 wind energy target and the establishment of GWEC’s Africa WindPower to help move the energy transition agenda ahead. Technology companies have also embarked on the development of innovative wind technologies to enhance the generation capacity of projects.

Irene Alli Oños, head of SG5.X Certification at SGRE, added: “We needed a trustworthy strategic supplier that could help us efficiently to certify our latest turbine design platform for international deployment and to support our customers.

“Our collaboration with UL will enable us to swiftly meet market-specific certification requirements.”

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Minnesota solar installer bankruptcies leave unfinished projects, calls for better oversight

Fri, 10/15/2021 - 09:00

By Frank Jossi, Energy News Network

The state’s solar energy trade group has made improving consumer protections a priority after a string of bankruptcies in recent years left dozens of customers stuck with unfinished projects.

Minnesota solar industry leaders are working with state officials to tighten oversight of residential solar contractors after the bankruptcy of a Utah-based company left dozens of homeowners with unfinished projects.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry reached an agreement last week with the trustee of Empire Solar Group LLC, a national solar installer that went bankrupt earlier this year. The trustee promised to help 45 homeowners pay other installers to complete their projects.

As the volume of residential solar installations grows in the state, so too is the volume of complaints about installers. The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association says the majority of solar firms in the state are reputable companies, but it’s received emails complaining about individual installers. 

The trade association is sharing that information with the state attorney general’s office and labor department for potential investigation. If the problem involves an association member, Executive Director Logan O’Grady said he will speak to state officials and the contractor to help create a resolution.

“I wouldn’t want to allow this to get out of hand and we’re left defending the existence of the solar industry,” O’Grady said. “The majority of our members and the majority of solar companies in the state are good actors, and are trying to do the right thing for their customers and run a business and make payroll for their employees.”

The global rooftop solar market has the potential to exceed 2,000 GW of generation and 1,000 GWh of energy storage by 2050 through careful policy design, according to a new report.

A string of solar company bankruptcies in recent years prompted increased collaboration between the trade group and state officials. Since 2018, Northstar Solar, Altaray Solar, and Able Energy closed shop, leaving dozens of clients scrambling to have their installations completed. According to Minnesota-based installers who have worked with their stranded clients, both Altaray and Empire Solar had headquarters in Utah and used high-pressure, door-to-door sales tactics to sign up customers. Minneapolis attorney Jeremy Kalin has also been working with around 16 homeowners who say they are struggling to get work finished by another Utah company. 

Still, it’s hard to gauge how many homeowners have been affected by the installer bankruptcies. The state and the solar association collect little overall data except when homeowners seek compensation from the state’s Contractor Recovery Fund, which receives money from licensing fees. Just how many homeowners pay to finish solar installations or find sympathetic contractors to do it for free remains a question, O’Grady said.

Michael Allen, CEO of All Energy Solar, said he received calls from frustrated customers of Empire Solar and other bankrupt firms. Their stranded projects could take thousands of dollars to finish. He’s angered that companies go out of business and face no fines. “We’d like to fix the customers going through this but we’d rather figure out a way not to allow these companies to come in,” Allen said.

O’Grady and his members remain concerned with out-of-state companies that have gone bankrupt and left customers with half-finished solar systems. Homeowners in that situation have few options for recourse. One is financial compensation from the recovery fund, but that requires upfront legal work. Charles Durenberger, director of licensing and enforcement for the state, said a customer must first win a civil judgment against the solar contractor. The contractor must have a residential building license for clients to qualify for the recovery fund.

After past solar company failures, Xcel Energy began requiring contractors using its Solar Rewards incentive program to have a residential building license, Durenberger said. He said the department has seen homeowners unable to access the fund because their installers lacked residential building licenses.

Any Empire Solar client who signed a contract before Jan. 22, 2021, for instance, cannot receive help from the recovery fund because the company did not have a residential building license before that date. Durenberger said that customers of a Wisconsin-based solar firm that closed after the owner’s death had no chance at the recovery fund because the company farmed out work to subcontractors and had no residential building license.

Altaray had both residential and electrical licenses, which led to nine of its customers receiving nearly $46,523 from the recovery fund in 2020, he said, and they used the money to complete installations. Though the number was far fewer than the total number of Altaray customers affected by the bankruptcy, others also found relief. Kalin represented 21 Altaray clients who did not receive money from the recovery fund but worked out confidential settlements with the company.

Sometimes lending institutions collaborating with solar companies pay to complete customers’ projects after a collapse. Empire Solar’s bankruptcy trustee agreed to release 45 homeowners with nearly completed projects from bankruptcy proceedings. That saves them a significant amount of money, as much as $5,000, in attorney and court fees. 

Durenberger said the trustee arranged an agreement with Goodleap, Empire’s third-party lender, to complete projects with local contractors at no additional cost to the homeowners. The trustee also announced a plan to sell the company’s remaining Minnesota projects to local solar contractors who can then finish the projects.

Empire Solar’s founders remain mired in lawsuits. Former employees brought a class action suit and the company that loaned Empire Solar millions of dollars has now sued it in a New Jersey court, bringing a wide range of charges.

Kalin said the trustee’s decision does not surprise him. Many solar lenders have provided homeowners relief. In the Altaray case, “lenders stepped up and did the right thing” in helping clients finish projects, he said.

O’Grady saw the Empire Solar deal as good enough. “As an organization, we felt relieved that there was finally going to be some sort of resolution for these customers and we hope we can work with them to get the solar installed,” O’Grady said. He said that two Twin Cities firms, All Energy Solar and TruNorth Solar, have stepped forward to assist Empire Solar customers.

The Legislature will reconsider legislation that failed a few years ago, which would require all solar contractors to have residential building licenses, O’Grady said. The solar association may also try to put together a buyer’s guide to help homeowners and businesses interested in solar.

Allen believes the state could consider having a nonprofit consider applications to sell solar in Minnesota. The organization would verify the solar company’s record, financial status, and marketing materials and check whether they have complaints filed against them locally and nationally. The Utah companies gave clients power generation estimates 25% higher than possible for the size of the installation, Allen found. “This would make sure you’re not having a lot of companies selling unrealistic projects,” he said.  

Durenberger said consumers have to read contractors closely and ask to see evidence of a residential building license. For now it’s still a buyer-beware environment. “It hurts me when I hear these stories of consumers that end up getting ripped off by these contractors,” he said. “But in many cases, they could have easily avoided the situation by not agreeing to a huge down payment, or structuring their contract in a way that doesn’t put them in a situation where if a contractor does fail that they’re in a situation where they owe a lot of money.”

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North Carolina proves climate action can be bipartisan

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 14:07

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday signed into law a bipartisan mandate that will require the state to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

House Bill 951: Energy Solutions for North Carolina directs the Utilities Commission to "take all reasonable steps" to achieve the emissions targets from electric public utilities.

"Today, North Carolina moves strongly into a reliable and affordable clean energy future," Cooper said in a statement. "This new bipartisan law requires the North Carolina Utilities Commission to take steps needed to get North Carolina a 70% reduction in carbon emission by the year 2030 and to carbon neutrality by 2050

"Making transformative change is often controversial and never easy, especially when there are different points of view on big, complex issues. But coming to the table to find common ground is how government should work."

Under the bill, the Utilities Commission has until the end of next year to develop a plan with utilities to achieve the mandated emissions targets. "The Carbon Plan" will then be reviewed every two years and may be adjusted. Any generation and resource changes must maintain or improve the reliability of the grid.

The Utilities Commission is authorized to direct the procurement of solar energy in 2022 by utilities if determined to be necessary by the initial Carbon Plan. Within 180 days, the Utilities Commission will establish rules for the early retirement of subcritical coal plants.

The bill was changed nearly 50 times since first being introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly, Spectrum News reported.

Luis Martinez, director of southeast energy for the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, commended North Carolina leaders for reaching a bipartisan agreement on energy legislation.

"North Carolina is the first state with a Republican-controlled legislature to codify such rigorous climate targets, which include 70% reductions in power-sector carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050," Martinez said. “While HB951 is a big step forward, the bill also has flaws and more must be done to protect North Carolina’s low-income residents. From here, we will engage in every step of the process — particularly before the North Carolina Utilities Commission — to ensure progress on the carbon reductions and clean energy required by the bill and to ensure that we reduce the energy burden for low-income North Carolinians.”

The bill took effect on the day it was signed into law -- Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress continues to haggle over details of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, both with major advancements for climate mitigation and clean energy infrastructure. Budget reconciliation, with the most substantial climate steps, could get cut in half, however, because of objections from moderate Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

Joint venture targets ‘vast potential’ of U.S. floating offshore wind market

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 10:34

A joint venture between global energy giant TotalEnergies and Simply Blue Group, a developer of floating offshore wind projects, aims to capitalize on the "vast potential" of floating offshore wind projects in the U.S.

Together, TotalEnergies and Simply Blue Group have more than 9 gigawatts of offshore wind in development around the world.

“We are convinced of the large potential of floating offshore wind to provide U.S. coasts with renewable electricity, and are committed to contribute our extensive expertise in offshore projects to make it happen," said Stéphane Michel, President, Gas, Renewables & Power at TotalEnergies.

The Biden administration set a goal of reaching 30GW offshore wind capacity by 2030 – a milestone authors from the Clean Energy Technology service say the White House is “almost certain” to miss, due to supply chain challenges and the maturity of the U.S. market.

IHS Markit expects $100 billion to be invested in the offshore wind industry over the next nine years, resulting in the U.S. market share of global capacity increasing from (nearly) 0% to 9%.

“Complex and lengthy permitting processes combined with a lack of manufacturing facilities, specialized U.S.-flagged installation and service vessels, dedicated ports plus poor power transmission infrastructure continue to be the key bottlenecks hampering more rapid growth of the U.S. offshore wind capacity,” IHS Markit analysts wrote.

Analysts noted additional challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and high costs for offshore wind projects compared to other carbon-free generation sources.

“Current unsubsidized costs for bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind projects are estimated at $125 per MWh and $225 per MWh respectively, well above wholesale electricity prices and costs for both onshore wind and solar PV.”

The report does, however, signal that permitting speeds and project costs will improve in the coming years. The Dept. of Energy’s planned $3 billion in public financing for offshore projects and an extension to the 30% investment tax credit should also encourage growth for the industry.

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FERC’s deadlock means SEEM is here to stay—Why are renewables worried?

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 09:53

Despite a deadlocked 2-2 vote by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, an energy market proposed by Southeast utilities was allowed to take effect due to rules regarding tie votes by the agency.

Expected members of the Southeast Energy Exchange Market (SEEM)

The 15 utilities behind the Southeast Energy Exchange Market (SEEM) hailed the proposal as providing "cost, reliability and environmental benefits." So, why is the renewable energy industry so concerned?

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy describes the SEEM proposal as a "bilateral market among Southeast utilities that allows for trading in 15-minute increments, on a voluntary basis, with free transmission, and a split-the-difference price-setting mechanism" in the absence of a market monitor.

"The implementation of SEEM may slightly reduce the curtailment of solar among SEEM utilities, but could also potentially be used as a way for utilities to sell off excess generation that is a result of over building fossil gas resources," Maggie Shober, the director of utility reform at SACE, wrote.

Meanwhile, a coalition of clean energy groups -- Advanced Energy Economy, Advanced Energy Buyers Group, and Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance -- issued a joint response to FERC's split vote, calling it a "missed opportunity."

"The acceptance of SEEM without a FERC order allows the sponsoring utilities to move forward without any Commission direction on how the new platform should be implemented and with no conditions that would improve transparency as to the benefits SEEM will actually deliver in practice," said Jeff Dennis, AEE's managing director and general counsel. "FERC appears to have passed on creating a forum to foster discussion with states and stakeholders regarding the future of wholesale power markets in the region. This result could allow utilities in the Southeast to lock in a subpar alternative that will not create meaningful savings for ratepayers and will do little to accelerate the adoption of advanced energy technologies, while allowing those utilities to cement their market dominance in the region.”

Background: On Aug. 20, Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel for Advanced Energy Economy, joined Renewable Energy World’s John Engel to discuss the latest back-and-forth (at the time) between SEEM and FERC.

Gizelle Wray, director of regulatory affairs and counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association, said that SEEM will allow monopoly utilities to further cement their control on the marketplace.

"This proposal will embolden utilities to put up roadblocks for independent power producers and will slow our transition to clean energy," Wray said in a statement. "We need a true market that encourages new entrants and competitive bidding, all of which could help bring Southeast utilities into the 21st century."

A study released last month by the American Council on Renewable Energy determined that SEEM would produce the lowest cost savings and emission reductions of available options, and would imperil decarbonization goals.

The study -- conducted by Vibrant Clean Energy -- compared the proposed Southeast Energy Exchange Market to an optimal energy imbalance market (EIM) and regional transmission organization (RTO), finding an EIM would save $111 billion by 2040, while an RTO would save $119 billion.

Additionally, modeling from the study projects that an EIM and RTO would reduce carbon emissions by 67 and 70%, respectively, over the same time period, compared to just 30% under the SEEM framework.

“Accelerating the growth of renewable energy in the Southeast is critical to achieving our nation’s climate goals," ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone said following FERC's effective approval of SEEM. "As our recent analyses have shown, a real-time energy market would generate significant cost savings and emission reductions beyond approved proposals."

Southern Company, one of the driving forces behind SEEM, called the market a "21st century solution" that will provide "additional data transparency."

“SEEM will allow resources to more easily access the electricity wholesale market and will enable and encourage new technologies and approaches necessary to deliver more economic and clean energy to our customers," said Noel Black, Southern Company's vice president of governmental affairs.

SEEM's member utilities released a third-party report that estimated that SEEM would deliver $40-50 million in annual benefits to customers and utility grid operators in the near-term, increasing to $100-150 million annually in later years.

SEEM's footprint will cover nearly 20 entities in parts of 11 states with more than 50 million people.

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Construction begins on 44 MW community solar portfolio in Maine

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 09:00

Summit Ridge Energy has begun construction on the first of 13 community solar projects in Maine as part of a 44 MW portfolio.

The projects, which are expected to reach commercial operation in 2022 and 2023, will operate under the Maine NEB program. SRE will finance the projects, while Revision Energy will handle development, subscription, and construction of the portfolio.

“We’re proud to partner with Maine’s largest solar contractor and look forward to delivering thousands of local residents and businesses with monthly utility savings generated entirely from clean, renewable power,” said Garren Bisschoff, SRE’s Vice President of Business Development. 

The Biden administration has set a target of powering 5 million American homes with community solar projects by 2025-- an ambition that would require 700% growth of current capacity.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates a total of 3,253 MW-AC community solar capacity was installed in the U.S. by the end of 2020 -- enough to power 600,000 homes. The cumulative installed capacity of community solar has grown rapidly since 2010, doubling on average year-over-year.

On-demand: Watch the Renewable+ Series "Community Solar Projects and Programs: Today and Tomorrow" by registering for free here.

Community solar enabling legislation exists in 21 states and the District of Columbia, either through state-required programs or authorization of pilot programs, according to NREL.

Currently, 72% of cumulative community solar capacity is concentrated in just four states: Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York.

Community solar projects allow residents without suitable rooftops for generation to take advantage of the benefits of solar power, improving access to renewable energy for low-income and disadvantaged communities. Community solar project subscribers often receive guaranteed cost savings on their energy bills, too.

The Biden administration believes reaching its community solar target could create $1 billion in energy savings.

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Here’s how developing countries can do more on climate

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 09:00

Contributed by Hari Suthan Subramaniam, Chief Strategic Growth Officer, Opus One Solutions

Our planet faces an unprecedented slate of climate risks, and world leaders are gathering at COP26 in Glasgow next month with a mandate to stave off disaster. But while this crisis requires a global effort, we too often focus on the efforts of a small group of wealthy countries. In fact, developing countries are only too happy to cut emissions, build clean infrastructure and adapt to the new realities of a warming planet – but we need to support them to make it happen.

What do they need? After 18 months of the pandemic, developing countries’ resources are stretched thin. To step up on climate, they require financial and technical support. A new five-point Climate Action Network plan, drafted by organizations from countries in the Global South with roughly half of the world’s population, shows how we can deliver this support in a focused, sustainable way. Bringing the planet back from the brink will depend in part on our willingness to make these investments.

Point 1: Cutting emissions

Under the Paris Agreement, which the U.S. recently rejoined, signatories agreed to do whatever it takes to reach a net-zero future within a couple of decades. For every country, progress hinges on significant emission reductions across industry sectors and communities through infrastructure investment and innovation. While the developing world is on the hook to cut emissions, developed countries can boost their efforts without completely reinventing the wheel.

For example, USAID recently launched a program in Ghana with climate action at its core. While the focus is mainly on helping build resilience into Ghana’s infrastructure and power resources, reducing carbon emissions remains a fundamental metric for measuring overall program success. This model should be quickly applied to all kinds of support for developing countries.

Point 2: Finance 

The Paris Agreement and the Copenhagen convention before it included national financial commitments. Developed countries like the U.S., Britain, and Canada are on the hook for their own investments, plus helping developing countries to invest in climate mitigation to the tune of $100-billion a year by 2020, with increases in yearly deposits from 2025 onward. Developing countries included finance as the second point in their plan to highlight that developed countries’ first attempt to meet the $100-billion mark last year missed the mark and to emphasize that trust is waning among countries in need of help to make meaningful progress. 

Negotiators from developed countries are poised to rally fellow participants around delivering on these commitments at the COP26 negotiating table and to offer financial assistance tailored to each nation’s long-term climate plan.

Point 3: Adaptation

Many global efforts to halt or reverse climate impacts have squarely focused on resilience and mitigation. We’re only just now seeing a meaningful shift toward adaptation efforts under the understanding that power grids, utility assets, and other infrastructure will need built-in flexibility to cope with changing climate conditions. Developing countries understand the importance and significance of this trend, calling to apply up to $50-billion of the $100-billion annual promise underlined in the Paris Agreement to adaptation.

Climate leaders in developed countries, such as Canada and the EU, have an opportunity to draw from adaptation work around the world to offer technical assistance and introduce mechanisms proven to also help improve food and water security for countries suffering acute effects from climate change. 

Point 4: Loss and damage

All countries should be held accountable for climate action to address pressing risks. Initial steps should be taken to try to save the most vulnerable countries and their assets from permanent damage due to climate-related events — or at least to minimize it. The inclusion of loss and damage in the developing countries’ five-point plan for COP26 highlights what’s already been lost and adds urgency to their call for action.

In fact, the G7 countries (the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) recently launched three new multilateral technical and financial assistance initiatives to help the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries. The goal is to offer immediate disaster response resources and limit economic or human collateral damage. This is a mission that can be applied on a global scale to negotiations at COP26 — and follow-on actions from participating countries.

Point 5: Implementation

The Paris Agreement marked a watershed moment in global unity around tackling climate change and launched an ambitious international race against the clock. In order to realize the net-zero goals set forth in the accord, mechanisms must be introduced that help all signatory countries achieve technical and financial progress. USAID’s experience helping individual countries (such as Kenya, Antigua, and the Philippines) to incorporate climate into infrastructure development, clean water, food security, public health, and economic prosperity programs offers a model for the entire world. Pressure is mounting to move from promises made to promises kept, especially from developing countries.

As the five-point plan notes, addressing climate issues head-on as a global community requires countries to cut emissions, finance infrastructure refurbishment and development, shift from mitigation toward adaptation, and work to limit loss and damage from climate events within the most vulnerable areas. For developed countries, making progress in the face of intensifying climate impacts, like extreme weather, wildfires, and droughts also involves providing support to developing countries that are falling behind on climate commitments due to financial or technical deficits. Roughly 2.5 billion people in the developing world rely on “climate-sensitive” industries like fishing or agriculture to earn a living and put food on the table.

While every country holds responsibility for action, developed countries are poised to help beyond what’s laid out in the global accords. Signatory countries should be redoubling their efforts to help developing countries address the urgent impacts of climate change.

About the author:

Hari Suthan Subramaniam is the Chief of Strategic Growth for Opus One Solutions, with over 20 years of experience in R&D, marketing and management consulting. Prior to joining Opus One, he was the CEO of eCamion Inc., a community energy storage company and Vice Chair of Energy Storage Ontario. Hari was also a Vice President with GE Canada’s National Executive team where he drove growth in Canada by seeking out market opportunities across GE platforms and larger infrastructure projects. Additionally, he served in senior roles within Canada’s Provincial and Federal governments, including Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and member of the Government Transition Team for the Premier of Ontario as well as Federal Ministers of Canada. Hari is also a veteran of the Canadian Navy. Hari currently sits on the board of Centre for Urban Energy at Ryerson University and has previously served on the Boards of the Distributed Energy Association of Canada, McGill University, and Rouge Valley Health System.

Hitachi drops ABB Power Grids and is now officially Hitachi Energy

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 09:00

This summer Hitachi announced its intention to change its name to Hitachi Energy and drop the joint venture name it adopted when it purchased the grid business from ABB. Today, the company is announcing that the former name, Hitachi ABB Power Grids, has been officially changed to simply Hitachi Energy.

Related: Shedding light on the Hitachi/ABB joint venture and why renewables play a key role

Claudio Facchin, CEO of Hitachi Energy, said in a press release that the company is “championing the urgency of a clean energy transition, through innovation and collaboration.”

Citing the International Energy Agency’s Net-Zero by 2050 report, which states that global electrification will nearly double electricity demand as electricity becomes the backbone of the entire energy system, he said that the company is committed to “continue pushing the boundaries of innovation.”

“Delivering on the promise of a carbon-neutral future will take passion, trust and innovation – and the benefits will be for our generations and those to come. With our new name – Hitachi Energy – we are broadening our commitment to creating real impact for our customers and partners, our people and society,” said Facchin.

In addition, Facchin pointed to the importance of HVDC in a fully decarbonized world and said that the company is contributing to many of these interconnections, such as the recently announced Saudi Arabia – Egypt HVDC interconnector (see lead image), which is the first large-scale interconnector in the Middle East and North Africa and the start of operation of North Sea Link, the world’s longest subsea interconnector between the UK and Norway.

Hitachi is also working on grid edge solutions like a microgrid in Cordova, Alaska, which was presented in a POWERGEN Plus session in November 2020.

As part of Hitachi Energy’s ‘go live’ celebrations, Facchin will on October 13 host a dialogue with Steven Chu, 12th US Secretary of Energy, scientist and Nobel Prize co-winner for Physics (1997), and Lully Miura, Japanese scholar of international politics and a member of the Growth Strategy Committee of Cabinet Office of Japan. The session titled, ‘Energy technologies and innovations that contribute to a carbon-neutral future’​, will be streamed from the Hitachi Social Innovation Forum 2021 JAPAN. The focus will be on how to realize the ambitious net-zero targets that many countries have committed to and how Hitachi and Hitachi Energy are contributing to establishing a society that is more sustainable, flexible, and secure.​

The business formally registered Hitachi Energy Ltd. on June 30, 2021 and is currently undertaking the formal name-changing process globally, with the exception of China where the business will transition at a later date. Hitachi, Ltd. has an 80.1 percent stake in the joint venture which started operations on July 1, 2020, and ABB Ltd. holds the balance. 

Embodied carbon vs operational carbon: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 09:00

Contributed by Steve McGregor, Group MD, DMA Group

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world population will live in urban areas. By the same year, the UK Government aims to have reached net zero. As more governments around the world take steps against the climate crisis, it becomes increasingly important to understand and implement technologies that allow for development in sustainable and ecologically viable ways.

As demand for urban housing and public spaces increases, architects and developers must prioritize reducing CO2 emissions during the design, construction, and subsequent operation phases of new builds. But operational carbon must not be forgotten as so much of the work to reach net-zero depends on the retrofitting of existing buildings. Operational carbon accounts for more than a quarter (28%) of global greenhouse gas emissions.

What is embodied vs operational carbon?

Understanding the difference between embodied and operational carbon is crucial when planning and designing greener alternatives for your buildings. The two can be considered in much the same way as capital expenditure and operational expenditure in finance.

Embodied carbon is all the CO2 emitted in the production of the building. Much like CAPEX, embodied carbon is a result of distinct, rather than ongoing, processes that produce carbon. This includes the extraction and production of materials used during construction and their transportation in addition to the carbon released by plants and machinery throughout the building process itself. In the case of rebuilds, demolition adds to the embodied carbon of a site.

Operational carbon, like OPEX, is the carbon released from the ongoing operation of the building. Sources will include lighting, power, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and other infrastructure such as lifts and automatic doors.

Improving carbon emissions: embodied vs operational

In recent years, much attention has fallen on improving operational carbon and some huge leaps have been made. Basics like improving building insulation and installing LED lighting and automatic controls have long been used to improve energy efficiency. These are proven mitigators and can lower OPEX for many sites, though it should be noted that they still add to the embodied carbon of the site as new products and materials are brought in, and old ones removed and disposed of.

Embodied carbon can be reduced during the initial design and planning stages, but cannot be removed from an existing building. Reducing embodied carbon is only achieved by thoughtful initial design and specifying construction products and materials that are more locally available, extracted, manufactured, and delivered via low-carbon means. This should include minimizing energy use and reducing waste through recycling wherever possible. Using materials and products with longer lifespans and more resilience to change will reduce future carbon impact. It can be well worthwhile working with an expert in sustainable building design.

Rebuild vs retrofit

As the climate crisis has moved further up the agenda, many organizations have set their own green targets alongside the UK target of net-zero. With emissions from buildings forming such a high proportion of carbon, improving their efficiency is a crucial contributor. This has sparked much debate surrounding the value of incentivizing retrofit vs demolition and rebuild.

New buildings are typically designed to be highly energy-efficient, with innovative materials and using modern construction methods as well as smart technology. This combines to significantly reduce operational carbon as well as OPEX for the owner and occupier. Retrofitting existing buildings to save energy and cut carbon, by comparison, can be more complex and time-consuming with resultant compromises, so newbuilds are considered more attractive by many. Notwithstanding the tax-efficient financial incentives that exist, too.

However, for organizations concerned with their green credentials, embodied carbon is top of mind. All of the energy and carbon involved in demolishing a site and disposing of materials, whether as waste or recycling, adds to the embodied carbon within the existing structure itself. All that before the new building project even begins can be a huge amount of carbon to consider.

Refurbishing existing buildings will clearly save energy and cut carbon, although installing better insulation or replacing and upgrading old systems will increase the embodied carbon, but it will be insignificant compared to the carbon impact of demolishing and rebuilding. Retrofit measures extend the life of any building which will contribute significantly to our net-zero objectives.

Cutting carbon

Simple and consistent changes can make a significant contribution towards saving energy and cutting carbon. Installing LED lighting rather than traditional lamps or using underfloor heating can reduce energy consumption and emissions. Equally, using renewable energy heat pumps, which extract the buildings’ heating or cooling requirement from the external ground, air, or water, will substantially reduce the environmental impact. Heat pumps can also be used in centralized, community heating schemes. Transforming the way we heat and cool our buildings is a vital component of the journey to zero carbon and there are a number of effective technologies that developers could be investing in now.

If we want to see widespread adoption of renewable options, it is important that we look at extending vital renewable energy incentives such as the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Sadly, the RHI is no longer accepting applications. In its place, the government has introduced the Clean Heat Grant. Of course, in prime residencies, incentives will need to look a little different.

The vast array of benefits of going green

With every organization talking about moving to more sustainable processes, this might seem like an unnecessary question. But improving emissions can be a costly project and will often see its biggest returns in the long term. Therefore, short-term recognition can be the added boost that many companies need to push them to engage fully with greener practices.

There are many widely recognized accreditations that can set a site apart. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) is a leading sustainability assessment for buildings and infrastructure. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an international verification of a building’s green features. SKA Rating is an environmental assessment method and benchmark for non-domestic fit-outs, led by RICS.

As some of the most renowned accreditations, the bar for these is high so your building project or retrofit is certain to stand out.

Why does it matter?

The net-zero race is on. Yet, the key to decreasing the built environment’s impact on climate change is to reduce carbon emissions. To achieve long-term benefits, the whole lifecycle of a building must be taken into consideration. Therefore, truly understanding the difference between embodied and operational carbon is crucial when considering a site’s carbon footprint.

Understanding the complex processes from design through to procurement and installation, to operation and end-of-life and the resulting emissions is a crucial step in making better, greener choices for projects in the built environment. The sector has an opportunity in the coming decade to lead the way to a more sustainable future, but this intention must start at the point of design and continue through the lifecycle of a building. We can change the way people are living and experiencing their environment for the better. It is a complex process and businesses need to be in it for the long haul, but it is, unquestionably, the way forward.

About the author:

Steve McGregor joined DMA Group in February 2016. He is a highly experienced sales and general management executive with a strong 40 years track record across every aspect of the built environment from design and build through to total facilities management & business process outsourcing. From his engineering origins, Steve has led national and international teams to realise over £11 billion of new sales.

World Energy Outlook 2021: Transition to renewables not fast enough for net-zero targets

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 15:46

The International Energy Agency called for "unmistakable" action by world leaders to reduce emissions ahead of the COP26 Climate Change Conference, warning that the global transition to renewable energy isn't happening quickly enough to meet net-zero goals.

The IEA has released its World Energy Outlook 2021 which details a global rebound in coal and oil use in 2021, as well as the second-largest annual increase in CO2 emissions in history.

“The world’s hugely encouraging clean energy-momentum is running up against the stubborn incumbency of fossil fuels in our energy systems,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Governments need to resolve this at COP26 by giving a clear and unmistakable signal that they are committed to rapidly scaling up the clean and resilient technologies of the future. The social and economic benefits of accelerating clean energy transitions are huge, and the costs of inaction are immense.”

The IEA analyzed current government net-zero emissions pledges, finding demand for fossil fuels would peak by 2025 and global CO2 emissions would fall by 40% by 2050. The global average temperature rise in 2100 is held to 2.1°C in the "Announced Pledges Scenario."

The "Net-Zero by 2050" scenario calls for a massive push for clean electrification that requires a doubling of global solar PV and wind deployment relative to current pledges; investment in electricity infrastructure and all forms of system flexibility (including hydropower); rapid phase-out of coal; a "relentless" focus on energy efficiency; drive to cut methane emissions from fossil fuel operations; significant increase in clean energy innovation investment.

The report notes that $4 trillion in annual clean energy project investment by 2030 is needed to get the world on track to keep global temperature increases within 1.5 °C of pre-industrial levels -- with 70% of new spending being directed to developing economies. The world is not investing enough, the authors wrote, to meet future energy needs, which could lead to prolonged volatility in energy markets.

The IEA called on governments and agency leaders to immediately invest in grid resiliency, as extreme weather events become more frequent due to climate change.

The IEA directed government leaders to use the World Energy Outlook 2021 as a guide at COP26, which takes place from Oct. 31-Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Microgrids missing from Biden’s solar plan

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 13:07

To save humanity from the existential threats that confront it through climate change, which President Biden recognizes, the US needs leadership. The DOE acknowledges this, “There is no greater challenge facing our nation and our planet than the climate crisis.”

Yet in the DOE’s Solar Futures Studies Report, which offers a blueprint for the zero-carbon grid, the US has not risen to the occasion. Instead of undertaking fundamental industry structure analysis, with examination of strategic, technical, and economic evaluation of options in the electricity industry, what we have is obvious, anticlimactic: “deploy solar.” Solar electricity’s contribution rises to 45% of total capacity by 2050. How? Grid-tied, massively, and with almost no other options considered. This is no policy, no strategy. Why was a study needed for this?  

It is tiring to read, and irrelevant, “The U.S. electric grid is one of the world’s largest machines, comprising millions of miles of transmission and distribution lines.” But it is obsolete. Fundamental economic forces and technical advances make such size an unmanageable liability, vulnerable to sabotage and breakdowns, fires, and hurricanes. Why is the DOE arguing for a prominent role for the existing yet dying electric utilities?  The US should embrace its historical strengths – innovation and entrepreneurship. This report’s recommendations undermine the US’s global competitive position, undercuts broad-based economic growth. It says, “We estimate that roughly 80%–90% of that capacity will be utility-scale solar, with the remainder coming from smaller-scale distributed solar.” In other words, a paean to the dead.

Microgrids missing: No understanding of the microgrid revolution

Microgrids are resilient, reliable, and allow for entrepreneurial entry into the industry, support innovation and local management, and more.  They are poised to not only rid the world of carbon dioxide emissions but also give a boost to national competitiveness and innovation, the core strengths of the US. Microgrid technologies are largely mature. You would not know this by reading this report. It devotes all of one page out of 300+ to mention microgrids.

And that text mentions the cliched “resiliency,” “isolation from the grid in an emergency” type truisms. Should the topology of the future “grid” be a “federation of microgrids,” a constellation of peer-to-peer networks, sharing power and information among each other, we would have a broad-based economic and technological revolution and a substantial impact on the GDP itself. But no recognition of this is in the report.   

New electricity can be as transformative as telecommunications

History of industrial US favors bold steps. This was accomplished with breath-taking structural innovations in telecommunications – wireless spectrum auctions of MTAs (Major Trading Areas) and several hundred BTAs (Basic Trading Areas); allowing competition in the local loop telephony; the embrace of Wi-Fi, the Internet, the plethora of apps; wireline telephony moving from circuit-switched to packet-switched; the emergence of OTT (Over The Top) streaming entertainment, to mention but a few industry structure innovations. Now the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to revolutionize industry after industry. What happened in telecom is poised to happen in electricity, too, if only national leadership rises up to the challenge of providing a favorable context.  

Parallels with AT&TTelecom transformed, so can electricity

Once upon a time in telecommunications, during the early days of MCI, Bill McGowan did legal battle with the historic, regulated giant AT&T. And won. Who will do battle with the electric utilities? This would normally and naturally happen in the US, leading to industrial restructuring, as in telecommunications. AT&T’s monopoly for telecommunications – “natural monopoly” once believed, and thus heavily regulated – was first challenged and then overturned by the FCC. Then followed the wireless revolution that upended the traditional wireline telecommunications applecart. The boom in telecommunications, wireless, and the Internet, is the result. Something similar needs to happen to replace old electricity. Who should lead the charge? President Biden?  

Fundamental industry structure change, not tinkering

The enabling policies have to be right – entrepreneurs will do the rest. The technological fundamentals and economic forces are aligned too. Consider: In the new electricity industry, Economies of scale is dead – unit costs of electricity are no longer a function of the scale of generation. Small generation, at the level of a home or a retail store, is at least as economical as grid electricity.  New electricity is not capital intensive, therefore, even for a homeowner, the capital costs are comparable to the price of a car, with negligible operating costs. The electricity does not need to travel over large distances – local generation, local consumption, local storage, local ownership works well. Barriers to entry in new electricity generation are gone. Unlike giant coal plants, costs of capital are no barrier to get into the electricity business. 

“Network Effects” – a demand-side phenomenon – do not exist in new electricity, certainly not to the same extent as in telecommunications. “Telecommunications are a classic example of a platform that exhibits network effects. Having a phone is worthless if there is no one else who has a phone that you can call. Yet if everyone in the world is connected and can call each other, there are enormous benefits to the phone network through improved communication. Thus, as the scale of the network increases, the value to everyone on the network increases.”

The grid – a one-way, hierarchical, and top-down network- offers no comparable benefits to an electricity user.  Benefits remain local. That I can “call” a remote user or email her, and vice versa, is a benefit due to telecommunications. No such benefits in electricity; there are no increasing returns to scale as the electricity network expands. In other words, why bother with the network called the “grid”? At most, a local area network – a microgrid – is necessary. None of these technical and economic features are tackled in the DOE report.

Economics of the grid from first principles

In fact, a DOE report of this kind should have undertaken a fundamental strategic analysis of the grid. It might have concluded that the grid is obsolete. In the age of distributed generation, battery storage, and sophisticated software managing generation and storage, do we need monopolistic utilities anymore?

With solar and storage, we have local generation, local storage, and local consumption. The age of towers and miles of transmission cables, acres, and acres of solar over land, are so yesterday. Inefficient, an eyesore, lossy, and unnecessary.  Given the technological miracles – electricity without moving parts, battery storage, and electronics for control and operations, why haven’t we junked the coal and gas-based centralized, capital-intensive, monolithic, one-way electricity system? The US has not caught up with the possibilities of our age.

Value of electricity is distinct from the value of the grid

We ought not confuse the value of electricity, which is rising, with the value of the grid that delivers it today. The grid is like a horse-drawn cart. Valuable as transport, but past its prime. Electricity will continue to be critically needed in our daily lives, more so than today, for new uses, such as EV (electric vehicle) battery charging. But the electricity should come from locally generated power from renewables like the sun, wind, and storage.

Of Microgrids Representing Schumpeterian Creative Destruction – No Understanding

Microgrids have extraordinary innovation potential, be it with software controlling the various generation sources and storage, the demand side management built-in, and the emissions light generation of the electricity itself. They also have a longish history now, and worldwide participation – see the proceedings of the Microgrids Symposium. Even retailers, campuses, shopping malls are creating their own microgrids. They are thus primed to create a world “nearer to our heart’s desire” to address the climate emergency. Why should they not see a greater role in the emerging electricity future? Creative Destruction is a norm of economic life, with microgrids we embrace it.

New thinking for a novel topology

What is needed is industry structure change, a new topology for the infrastructure of the future, for instance, a locally owned, managed, cluster of electricity operations. The emphasis should not be on individual technologies – solar, wind, batteries, hydrogen, fuel cells, and associated controls. The core issues are industry structure transformation, public policy, business strategy, and fewer technologies. The public policy question should hence be: How do we transform and radically alter the electricity infrastructure?

Many utility companies have fought against rooftop solar panels because they see a threat to their business and would rather build large solar farms that they own and control. What about ownership of the emerging infrastructure in private hands, as Chick-fil-A is trying to do? And as numerous microgrid communities are doing?

The World Looks Up to US leadership

This was true in telecommunications and is true in energy. Microgrids are revolutionary – the US will do well to back them big time. Political leadership must take time to understand microgrids and their implications in the industry structure context. This is once in a generation moment, historic, and addresses a danger comparable to nuclear war – a threat to humanity’s survival on earth.

“One of the things we’re hoping that people see and take from this report is that it is affordable to decarbonize the grid,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, director, Solar Energy Technology Office in the DoE. “The grid will remain reliable. We just need to build.” On the contrary, when looked at from the first principles of economics, and technical advances already in place, the grid is obsolete. And build by whom? The momentum for solar and other renewable energy deployments — some centralized, some decentralized — should be led by individuals, entrepreneurs, innovators, across the nation, at local levels.  

Our children’s and grandchildren’s futures are at stake. US leadership must pay heed to the despair of the young. We know that fossil fuels-based electricity production is the principal cause of our angst expressed by the youth. The stakes are higher than in telecommunications. Breath-taking leadership is called for, not ho-hum “more solar.”

The US as an innovation leader? No.

The report should have had “a man on the moon” ambition. The US’s history of innovation would be acknowledged. Instead, we have the pedestrian recommendation: Increase solar penetration to 45%+ in 25 years. This would happen, more or less, anyhow and worldwide.

Were I a young man between 16 and 25, as in the student group survey led by Bath University (five universities, 10,000 responses, 10 countries), and written in The Lancet, I too would despair. Those questioned “perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately. Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults. The authors say the young are confused by governments’ failure to act.” Instead of charging up the younger generation toward a desirous future, what this report does is a genuflection to the grid, to the past, to the dead, to the reason for the impending catastrophe.

President Biden has spoken of the existential threat climate change represents. Mr. John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, is crisscrossing the world to rally support toward climate goals. However, if this report is the kind of recommendation that originates from a prestigious US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, further despair of youth is understandable.

Armed with the arguments presented here, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, must champion the cause of transforming and radically altering the electricity infrastructure.

ESS becomes first U.S. long-duration energy storage company to list on NYSE

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 12:40

Oregon-based ESS has had a pretty solid few weeks.

On top of inking a massive 2 GWh deal with SB Energy, and reaching an agreement to supply Enel Green Power with 17 battery systems in Spain, ESS became the first U.S. long-duration energy storage system company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

ESS began trading on the NYSE on Oct. 11 with the ticker symbol GWH after closing its combination with the company's SPAC, ACON S2 Acquisition Corp. On its first day of trading, ESS was up over 70%. ESS utilizes iron flow technology, as opposed to lithium-ion battery storage, to provide storage of 4-12 hours.

“This is an incredibly proud moment for the entire ESS team and a milestone for the industry at large,” ESS CEO Eric Dresselhuys said. “We are excited to begin our next chapter as the first publicly traded long-duration energy storage company. Our differentiated battery technology gives us a first mover advantage in a rapidly expanding market, while simultaneously transforming the value proposition of long-duration storage to support renewable energy generation for the electrical grid."

The NYSE welcomes @ess_info $GWH to help drive the energy transition! pic.twitter.com/QJhsu4D2KC

— NYSE ???? (@NYSE) October 11, 2021

Long-duration storage is seen as the Holy Grail of the energy world right now-- a crucial piece in the world's transition away from polluting fossil fuels toward renewable energy resources. Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures is backing long-duration storage companies ESS, Form Energy, and Ambri, among others, while gravity-based energy storage firm Energy Vault is expected to list on the NYSE after a SPAC merger of its own, valuing the company at $1.1 billion.

Long-duration energy storage -- systems capable of storing energy for more than five hours -- can provide resiliency for the grid and reliability for intermittent renewable energy generation.

SB Energy will deploy additional ESS battery systems to support solar power projects in Texas and California, where grid reliability issues have been front and center. (Courtesy: ESS)

Global energy storage deployments are expected to nearly triple year-over-year in 2021, reaching 12 GW/28 GWh, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie.

Wood Mackenzie's Global Energy Storage Outlook forecasts nearly 1 TWh of total demand from 2021-2030, with the U.S. and China dominating the market. The two countries will account for over 70% of total global installed energy storage capacity through 2030, the report notes.

“Moves to accelerate the decarbonization of the US and Chinese power sectors are gaining pace and provide the foundation of our global market forecast," Wood Mackenzie senior research analyst Xu Le said.

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FERC’s data request to NYISO on Order 2222 offers clues for MISO’s compliance filing

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 09:15

Distributed solar stakeholders must take comfort in FERC’s data requests sent to NYISO and CAISO. There are seven instances where solar is mentioned in the FERC letter to NYISO. Most of the questions focused on how distributed solar would operate within the ISO market construct through an aggregator and how the ISO would coordinate with the distribution utility to facilitate solar and storage dispatch.

This blog focuses on two compliance elements out of the possible ten topics, because FERC staff had many questions on NYISO’s market model, and how NYISO would coordinate with the distribution utilities and the retail authorities. Taking the cue from FERC’s letters to NYISO and CAISO, ISO staff at MISO, SPP, PJM, and ISO-NE would be well served.

Background

New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) did not ask for an extension and filed their compliance plan at FERC on July 19, 2021, the original due date. However, on October 1, FERC staff sent twenty-one “please explain” questions to NYISO regarding their Order 2222 compliance filing.

For distributed solar and storage stakeholders, these FERC letters (one sent to California ISO (CAISO) and who also submitted their compliance filing) offer clues for FERC’s attention and focus on the aggregation of distributed energy resources and their role in the energy market construct.

Both NYISO and CAISO did not convene stakeholders to put together their compliance filings. But the rest of the ISOs did. Hence these questions offer guidance for ISO staff and stakeholders at PJM, ISO-NE, MISO, and SPP, since they still have time to file their compliance plans.

FERC had many questions on the eligibility to participate in NYISO markets for DER Aggregator (DERA) and the coordination between NYISO, the Aggregator, and the Distribution Utility (DU). Hence this blog focuses on these two compliance elements out of the possible ten topics.

DERs market participation model

The key difference with the current market model for demand response and distributed storage or solar with the 2222 market model is, ISOs are required to allow multiple distributed technologies to aggregate as long as they meet the minimum size 100 kW requirement. And participate in all of the markets – energy, capacity, and ancillary services. Both CAISO and NYISO have the most experience with DERs. Hence their DER experience is paving the way for more DERs to participate at other ISOs.

FERC has given ISOs leeway on implementing these 2222 requirements because each ISO can leverage their existing market models for aggregated DERs. For example, MISO recently announced that aggregated DERs would participate using the Electric Storage Resource (ESR) model. This ESR model is required of MISO to comply with another FERC Order 841 that requires ISOs to allow electric storage resources to participate in all of the wholesale markets.

Since aggregation of DERs would contain solar and storage or some combination with existing demand response programs, FERC is asking NYISO how homogenous (same technologies) versus heterogeneous (multiple technologies) would participate in NYISO markets. MISO and PJM have this question covered because they are engaging stakeholders in use case discussions. They are specifically discussing how solar plus storage would work versus multiple solar farms.

Coordination between the RTO/ISO, Aggregator, and Distribution Utility – Big piece of the puzzle

Coordination among multiple stakeholders is the key to implementing the vision of FERC Order 2222. There are three main aspects in this coordination to make it work.

First, let’s start with the DU role and address the double-counting issue

If the Transmission Owner (TO) plays a key role in the wholesale markets because they own the transmission, the distribution utility plays a similar role in the distribution system because they own the distribution wires, feeders, and substations where DERs interconnect.

And double counting is an issue when a distributed resource participates in both wholesale and retail markets for the same service at the same time. But ISOs already have experience with demand response programs, which participate in wholesale markets where states have allowed such participation.

Due to this double-counting potential, the DUs have raised market registration concerns at MISO and SPP O2222 stakeholder meetings. FERC asks NYISO to explain how the DU reliability criteria would allow DERs to participate in NYISO markets. All the ISOs should note and discuss how DU reliability requirements would allow DERs that are part of aggregation to participate in organized markets.

Second is the DU override issue

Since RTOs don’t have the authority over the distribution network, the DU’s do, the DERA could be in a potentially conflicting role in a situation where the RTO operator dispatches the aggregated DER, and the DU overrides that dispatch due to a safety and reliability issue on the distribution grid. This situation is the “override” issue when the DU overrides the ISO dispatch of the DERA.

FERC’s question to NYISO focuses on the specific NYISO tariff provision that discusses this override and how NYISO maintains transparency for the Aggregator in such a situation. Similarly, both MISO and SPP should discuss this question in their DU coordination workshops.

Third, is the State authorities Coordination

Within the O2222 context, Relevant Electric Retail Regulatory Authorities (RERRA) are the primary authorities responsible for authorizing DER’s participation in the wholesale market. Small utilities with sales ≤ 4 million MWh in the prior fiscal year are by default “opt-out,” but they can “opt-in” with their RERRA approval.

FERC’s RERRA coordination questions to NYISO are asking for more details on how NYISO plans to coordinate with RERRAs, “Please specify whether the RERRA will have a role in coordinating the participation of Aggregations in NYISO’s markets by: developing interconnection agreements and rules; developing local rules to ensure distribution system safety and reliability, data sharing, and/or metering and telemetry requirements; overseeing Distribution Utility review of Distributed Energy Resource participation in Aggregations; establishing rules for multi-use applications; or resolving disputes between Aggregators and Distribution Utilities over issues such as access to individual Distributed Energy Resource data”.

Since storage provides multiple services, this RERRA question offers ideas on what MISO should discuss at the October 22 MISO RERRA workshops.

Conclusion

NYISO has 30 days to respond to FERC. Hence, their response to FERC is due by the end of this month. CAISO is in a similar boat. While this blog focused on FERC’s data request to NYISO, the industry knows this is not a “request” per se. And the remaining RTOs like PJM, ISO-NE who are up next, must pay attention to what FERC had asked in these NYISO and CAISO letters.

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Will New York City’s largest buildings meet emissions reduction limits by 2024?

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 09:00

Contributed by Saverio Grosso, Edison Energy

New York City’s Climate Mobilization Act has been lauded as one of the most ambitious and innovative legislative initiatives by a major city to combat climate change. 

Under the Act, passed in 2019, most buildings over 25,000 square feet—roughly 50,000 residential and commercial properties across the city—must meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions by 2024, and stricter limits in 2030.

Courtesy: Luke Stackpoole/Unsplash

Currently, about 70 percent of New York City’s carbon footprint comes from large commercial and multi-family buildings. The goal: Reduce their emissions 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.

The rest of the country is starting to follow suit. Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy determined that the updated 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) would improve energy efficiency in buildings subject to the code. 

States and cities that adopt the IECC will effectively require new buildings to cut energy use an average of more than 10 percent compared to the previous code, and by more than a third compared to the 2009 version, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

There’s been a tremendous uptick in energy optimization and efficiency projects. What we typically saw 15 years ago was just performance evaluation. Now we’re looking at almost full building optimization—everything from start to finish—and planning for the future.

Three New York measures have really impacted energy efficiency: Local Laws 84, 87, and 97. They’re part of New York City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a comprehensive set of energy efficiency laws targeting the largest existing buildings. These constitute half of the City’s built square footage and 45 percent of citywide energy use. By 2030, the Plan is expected to reduce citywide GHG emissions at least 5.3 percent from the 2009 baseline of 50.8 million metric tons. 

Such buildings must disclose their energy and water use each year; conduct an audit and retro-commissioning every 10 years; and make lighting upgrades.

LL 84, also known as the Benchmarking Law, directs all buildings over 25,000 square feet to submit annual data on energy usage by May 1 of each year for the previous year. This was the first foray for many building owners to understand how much energy they use.

LL 87 mandates that buildings over 50,000 square feet undergo periodic energy audits and retro-commissioning measures. It looks at big-ticket items that will need to be repaired or replaced and could reduce energy usage, as well as at quick, immediate fixes of issues that hinder performance.

It may create headaches for some because action costs money, but the intent of 87 was always, “What can I fix now to capture savings, and what should I be doing within the next five to 10 years to improve it?”

Sadly, a majority of buildings went through the LL 87 process and haven’t yet taken advantage of the knowledge they paid for. Anytime legislation is passed, there are those who follow the intent of the law and identify ways of actually saving energy; and then there are the bad actors who claim, “I met the legislation,” and that’s it.

LL 97 is considered the most ambitious building emissions legislation enacted by any city in the world. It Incorporates a green power purchase option and a provision for carbon trading between buildings.

LL 97 is forcing the hand of those who just saw LL 87 from a compliance aspect. It’s prompting them to go back and say, “We have some great ideas here. Let’s take this report off the shelf and make it actionable.”

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Breaking down barriers

New York City’s package of policies is likely to transform the way the real estate and financial industries value energy efficiency in buildings, with major financial and environmental benefits. 

Along with significant job creation from energy audits, retro-commissioning, lighting upgrades, and equipment maintenance, the policies will also suppress demand for electricity, over time making the city’s electrical grid more reliable and resilient.

But getting property owners to implement energy optimization and efficiency projects can be an uphill battle because it goes against the status quo. Managers may think, “If the phone doesn’t ring and I don’t get any complaints, why change it?”

At times you’re convincing people to make efficiency improvements they don’t think are necessary. Or perhaps you’re dealing with someone within the organization who doesn’t see the bills, so they don’t see the value of saving energy.

One strategy to convince them is to show how improvements would enhance their day-to-day operations and actually solve problems they might not be aware of.

Either way, building owners will soon have to get on board or be forced to grapple with financial penalties for non-compliance, potentially facing multimillion-dollar annual fines beginning in 2024.

What property owners want

Building owners are increasingly investing in system controls to improve efficiency and cut costs. They’re also curtailing the use of fossil fuels to reduce emissions. Throughout, baseline temperature, humidity, and pressurization must be maintained. 

The challenge is to structure energy programs that can be implemented in existing buildings that operate 24 hours a day, and to develop phases for larger improvements. In a hospital, for instance, you just can’t shut down a floor and renovate; the plans need to take into account the day-to-day needs of the patients and staff with the building’s mission in mind. It’s an investment of time and effort, and there’s a cost to that.

Every building presents new challenges ranging from equipment use and age, to keeping its clients satisfied, to operations and maintenance, budgets, and the building’s future. The complexity of systems and, frankly, the people in the spaces and running them, make each a unique scenario that services need to be tailored around.

My favorite projects involve working with building operators and managers who have insights into their property’s systems, are willing to invest in energy optimization, and achieve measurable improvements from those investments.

At the project’s end, the building operations staff appreciates that we helped ease some of the burden on their O&M personnel and improved reliability. The property manager is thrilled that we captured savings and reduced risk. And the owner is happy that we put them on a path so that they don’t have to pay any fines as the legislation comes down in 2024 or 2030.

As the battle against climate change ramps up, and as American cities continue to enact emissions reduction mandates, Edison’s energy optimization and efficiency offerings will continue to evolve and expand. But our mission and vision will remain firm: always to improve the buildings that we work in, so they can provide a better value to their clients.

About the author:

Saverio Grosso is Managing Director of Energy Optimization for Edison Energy, which empowers organizations to conquer the biggest challenges in energy today: cost, carbon, and complex choices.