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The lesson of Texas – and a new program states can use to quickly fund the distributed energy storage solution

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 14:00

If we learn anything from the Texas blackouts, and the death and suffering that have resulted, it should be this: distributed resilient solar+storage systems are no longer a luxury – they are an essential tool to protect citizens from power outages, and modernize the grid so outages become less frequent and severe.

The thing is, we should have learned this lesson a long time ago. The wildfire blackouts in California should have taught us. Or the wholesale wrecking of the electric grid by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Or recurring widespread storm-related outages up and down the East Coast, from New Orleans to New Jersey.

Sadly, it seems that each state and region has to learn this lesson separately, the hard way. Sometimes it takes repeated outages, with their associated death and suffering, before the lesson sinks in.

The good news is that a few states and utilities in the Northeast have figured out a way to scale up deployment of behind-the-meter batteries fast, in a way that can make storage accessible even in low-income communities. That’s important because, despite dramatic reductions in battery prices, cost is still a major barrier. The new financing model, called ConnectedSolutions in Massachusetts (where it was first developed with technical support from the Clean Energy Group (CEG)), allows states to offer significant energy storage incentives without establishing new programs or new budgets; and it improves the financeability of battery systems, making it easier to offer these systems in underserved communities.

The program works like this: First, the state incorporates battery storage into its energy efficiency program, making batteries eligible for efficiency incentives. States can do this because while batteries do not reduce net consumption of electricity, they are very useful for reducing peak demand, which increases efficiencies across the grid (and saves ratepayers money).

Once batteries are part of the efficiency program, the program administrators — usually utilities — market them to their customers (or let third-party developers and aggregators do the marketing). Customers can buy a battery using low- or no-cost financing (and sometimes a rebate), install it in their home or business, and then sign a contract with the utility that allows the utility to dispatch the battery during times of regional peak demand, when electricity is very costly. This saves money for the utility, which then pays the customer for the service. With appropriate financing in place, this pay-for-performance model can scale up distributed storage deployment very quickly, creating instant “virtual power plants” that utilities can draw on when demand is highest.

This saves money for ratepayers, while it also helps keep the grid stable. If the grid ever does go down, the battery customers can “island,” using their battery to supply themselves with electricity until the grid is back up and running.

In addition to grid support, it turns out that paying customers for grid services has a lot of other benefits. For one thing, it significantly improves the economics of battery systems. CEG has just published a report showing how ConnectedSolutions improves battery economics for multifamily affordable housing facilities by about 30 percent, on average, in Massachusetts.

But more than that, the ConnectedSolutions program model offers numerous social and policy benefits that should make it attractive to policymakers, utilities and customers alike. A second new report from CEG shows how this simple innovation in battery funding can:

  • Democratize storage ownership by making storage accessible to all regulated utility customers in states that adopt the program (including, with appropriate adders or rebates, low-income customers)
  • Democratize storage benefits by using private battery systems to support the regional electric grid, reducing ratepayer costs
  • Encourage cost-saving system and program standardization by setting state-wide program eligibility standards
  • Expand energy resilience and other benefits by providing a revenue stream for larger batteries than would otherwise be economic for most customers to install
  • Support market diversification by supporting customer- and third-party ownership of battery storage

Most importantly, the ConnectedSolutions model can be adopted by any state that has an energy efficiency program — and most states do. Across the country, more than $6 billion per year is budgeted in state electric efficiency programs. Historically, this money has incentivized basic home and commercial improvements such as weatherstripping, high-efficiency boilers, and lighting upgrades. Now, with the simple inclusion of batteries, these state efficiency budgets can begin to address the bigger picture — how to provide benefits to all ratepayers by bringing down expensive and polluting demand peaks, integrating renewables onto the grid, increasing resiliency and preventing blackouts.

With a new administration in Washington, we should start to see more federal support for state clean energy programs, including for energy storage (our new report addresses that, too). But federal administrations come and go, and the reality is that grid failures can be addressed most directly by state regulators and policymakers. When it comes to protecting citizens’ access to electric power, assuring grid reliability and advancing clean energy policy, states are in the driver’s seat.

That’s why state energy regulators and policymakers need to take a close look at the ConnectedSolutions program, which has already spread from Massachusetts to Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire. A few states may have the deep pockets needed to put millions of dollars into energy storage rebates, like California and New York; but the reality is that most states don’t have the resources to create new, large-scale programs. That’s why letting storage technologies access existing energy efficiency funds is so important — both for getting storage scaled up fast, and for making it available to all the people — not just the wealthiest early adopters.

For more information about the ConnectedSolutions program, download CEG’s new report here, and register to attend our free webinar scheduled for March 12th.

The post The lesson of Texas – and a new program states can use to quickly fund the distributed energy storage solution appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

Customers are driving the push towards renewables and digitalization

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 13:48
Renewable energy is moving into a new stage in its evolution.

By Allen Austin, ABB

Renewables account for more than two thirds of new generating capacity additions in the U.S. This means that renewable energy is claiming an increasing share of the national generation mix. EIA estimates that wind power accounted for 9% of U.S. electricity generation in 2020., surpassing hydropower as the predominant renewable electricity generation source in 2019.

The agency expects wind to make up 31% of the nearly 40GW of new generating capacity in 2021. That’s nearly double the share claimed by new gas-fired generation (16%). Solar comes in first, accounting for 39%, according to EIA.

The industry’s maturation has brought with it a major consolidation in recent years. Vestas acquired half of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ offshore wind business, Siemens acquired Gamesa wind, Centrica acquired Vista Solar, and Tesla acquired Solar City.

In the last few years, ABB has made some consolidation moves of our own. We sold our solar inverter business to Fimer, and we exited the high-voltage T&D business. On the plus side, the acquisition of GE Industrial Solutions in 2019 added critical low- and medium-voltage components and systems. These additions complement our existing renewable portfolio.

For us at ABB, it’s an exciting time. Our customers are pushing us to help them maximize their efficiencies and increase long-term sustainability with digital and cloud-connected technologies.

For example, utilities today are under extreme pressure to provide reliable high-quality power at competitive prices while reducing environmental footprint. Trends towards decentralized power generation from renewable sources further challenge established grid structures and require flexible and intelligent solutions.

Ultimately, it is customers—and their needs—that drive any supplier’s strategy. It’s clear that utilities and others in the renewable space are increasingly focused on technology that can lower costs and reduce risk. Condition monitoring on wind turbines, for example, feeds into predictive maintenance. It also establishes a basis for long-term capex planning by identifying the potential for various types of component failure in the future.

Customers are adopting these digitally-enabled capabilities more widely every day. Technology is no longer just for “early adopters”.

The next step for us now is working with our utility customers to knit together the hardware—low-voltage components in wind turbines, medium-voltage switchgear, energy storage—with cloud-based software and analytics. That means developing the ABB Ability platform that brings those digital capabilities together with the equipment in the field.

As the cost of underlying technologies, like sensors, continues to decline and analytics become more refined, customers have more choices. We expect more products and systems to come to market with connected digital capabilities the norm. In that environment, as technology proliferates, we see domain expertise as the ultimate differentiator.

There’s no substitute for experience, and in upcoming posts, I’ll share some of ours. We’ll explore topics from utilities’ transition to high renewable penetration to the role of energy storage. We are committed to the renewables industry for the long haul. That commitment means being a part of the conversations taking place within the renewables community right now.

Exciting times, and there’s more to come.

About the Author

Allen is the Senior Renewable Energy Market Development Manager at ABB Electrification USA. He began is work with the Renewable Energy market in 2008 with ABB Inc Low Voltage, where he developed and launched the local USA Low Voltage Products division strategy for the solar market. Within two years, he achieved more than 8X growth in solar. Since then, his responsibilities have expanded to all renewables including wind, energy storage and power generation for the Electrification Division-Americas with focus on the USA. Interests include all aspects of renewables, such as OEM’s utilities, developers, EPC’s, contractors, specifiers, distributors and industry associations.  

The post Customers are driving the push towards renewables and digitalization appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

Sunnova secures 85 MW in most recent ISO New England forward capacity auction

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 10:05

Last week, US residential solar and storage installer Sunnova announced it has secured a position of 85 megawatts in the recent ISO-New England Forward Capacity Auction (FCA15). Sunnova’s aggregated residential solar portfolio will offer competitive renewable energy capacity to help meet the region’s future energy needs. The company expects the complete portfolio to begin participating with the FCA15 commitment year beginning June 2024.

Overall, Sunnova’s commitment priced at nearly $3/kW-mo across the region. The company expects the first-year value to be approximately $2 million and the gross value across the term to be approximately $38 million. The final pricing for FCA15 increased from prior years with systems in the surrounding Boston area (Northeast Massachusetts and Boston, Southeast Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) securing $3.98/kW-mo, Connecticut and Western Massachusetts clearing $2.61/kW-mo, and New Hampshire pricing at $2.48/kW-mo.

“Our ability to win capacity in a competitively priced auction with the largest aggregation of distributed renewables to date demonstrates our commitment to leading the energy transition in the region,” said William J. (John) Berger, Chief Executive Officer of Sunnova. “More importantly, Sunnova is looking forward to supporting ISO-NE on its path to a clean resilient grid and providing homeowners with the affordable and reliable energy they deserve.”

“Sunnova’s continued high growth in New England, and our strong dealer relationships allowed us to bid tens of thousands of new rooftop solar services into the auction,” said Michael Grasso, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer of Sunnova. “The participation of Sunnova’s portfolio secures the long-term involvement of our assets in the New England capacity program.”

The post Sunnova secures 85 MW in most recent ISO New England forward capacity auction appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

GWEC: Nearly 30GW of new wind energy capacity was auctioned in 2020

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 17:56

By Babalwa Bungane

Despite the economic and supply chain impacts felt across the world in 2020 due to COVID-19, the global wind energy industry has continued to power ahead and reach new records.

According to new analysis by GWEC Market Intelligence in its latest Q4 2020 Wind Energy Auction Update, nearly 30GW of new wind power capacity was awarded globally through auctions in the second half of 2020, which is a slight increase compared to the 28GW awarded during H2 2019. This surge in new auctioned capacity is a clear signal that the industry is back on track and committed to building up the global pipeline of wind power projects, notes the report.

While the first half of 2020 saw auctions being postponed or cancelled due COVID-19 restrictions, the sector bounced back with vigour in the second half of the year as key mature and emerging wind markets began overcoming the impacts of COVID-19.

Overall, nearly 35GW of new wind power capacity was auctioned globally in 2020. The update acknowledges that although this is a 26.5% decrease compared to the previous year, 2020 was still the second-highest year on record for auctioned wind capacity.

“Although there were initial concerns from the industry that the COVID-19 pandemic would severely impact the pipeline of wind power projects across the world, the sector’s impressive comeback in Q3 and Q4 2020 has shown that wind power has emerged from the crisis stronger than ever, with 2021 now expected to be a record year for new auctioned capacity,” said Feng Zhao, head of strategy and market intelligence at GWEC.

This influx of auctioned capacity in H2 2020 was led by the world’s largest wind market – China. Although no capacity was awarded in China during the first half of the year, the market recovered formidably, beginning in Q3 2020, awarding nearly 12GW of new wind capacity through auctions. This momentum continued into Q4 2020, with 11GW of new wind power projects approved in the last two months of the year alone.

In total, China accounted for 67% of the global wind power capacity auctioned and awarded in 2020, with subsidy-free onshore wind projects accounting for 96% of the approved capacity in China.

In addition to the remarkable growth in China, there were eight other countries which awarded new wind power capacity in H2 2020, including: India (2.2GW), Germany (1.5GW), Poland (900MW), Netherlands (759MW) Ireland (479MW), Greece (472MW), France (258MW), and Ecuador (110MW).

Other countries such as Brazil, Chile and the US, which either cancelled or postponed their auctions in 2020 due to the crisis, have now rescheduled them to take place in 2021, which will drive the record auction levels.

The full Q4 2020 Wind Energy Auction Update, which includes both analysis and a full database of global wind auctioned capacity, is available exclusively on GWEC’s Members Area.

This article was originally posted on ESI Africa and was republished with permission.

The post GWEC: Nearly 30GW of new wind energy capacity was auctioned in 2020 appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

I don’t believe renewables are the main cause for Texas blackouts

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 14:06

Record low temperatures, including snow in Texas, have led Texas electric grid operator to ration electricity. Even before the winter event is done, misinformation is spreading that wind turbine blades froze, and hence, renewables are the leading cause for Texas blackouts.

The fact is, due to cold weather, a lot of generators, including nuclear, coal, natural gas, and renewables, had a tough time operating. Texas has many factors, such as wind, solar, energy storage, natural gas pipelines, and transmission lines working in its favor. At the same time, every year, demand is increasing. Hence we can expect multiple factors to cause Texas electric demand challenges. Until we do a root cause analysis, we don’t know which factor or combination of factors caused the most damage.

It is also a fact that the Texas Regional Entity, the regional electric compliance entity arm of North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would jointly work on investigating what went wrong. Yes, Texas electric grid does not fall under FERC jurisdiction. That may or may not have a bearing on this situation because California had brownouts in August 2020 due to high temperatures, and California is under FERC jurisdiction. So, it does not matter whether you are under the federal authority or not.

It is also a fact that we have seen in recent years – wildfires on the west coast during summers, hurricanes, and other natural disasters on the east coast and now record cold temperatures in Texas increase in frequency and magnitude. As a result, there is increased stress on the electric transmission and distribution grid.

As electric consumers have increased demand watching Netflix shows at home, the electric demand has moved from commercial office spaces to residential home office settings. This shift is COVID-19 related and may last for few years because some people like working from home and don’t want to go back to their office cubes. Nothing to do with peak winter conditions in Texas, but the point is electric demand is shifting in front of our eyes.

Another shift in consumer preference central to finger-pointing in this Texas situation is the customer-owned solar generation. Not everyone likes solar, but people who like to generate their electricity – believe in independence from fossil energy and their monopolistic utility. Texas is one of those “de-regulated” states that allow consumers to chose their retail electricity provider. This shift to more distributed energy is also happening well before Texas winter challenges.

So, hold your horses – consider facts before throwing renewables under the bus because consumers are driving the change to solar. The blackouts in Texas may make both Texas and federal energy regulators more aware of what storage can do and how electric storage can help fill the gap when these outages happen in the future again.

The post I don’t believe renewables are the main cause for Texas blackouts appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

Where are we with the safer nuclear option known as nuclear fusion?

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 14:03

The world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor is in development in Provence, southern France. ITER (originally the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject funded and run by seven member entities: the European Union, China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States; Overall, 35 countries are participating in the project directly or indirectly. The project was initiated in 1988 and is expected to start full deuterium-tritium fusion experiments in 2035. That’s a very long project time. The Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first nuclear weapon lasted for 6 years. One would be correct to assume that it must be a behemoth of a task with far-reaching consequences for humanity. As Matt McGrath rightly titles his BBC article –‘Nuclear fusion is a question of when, not if’, how long will it take us to produce energy using nuclear fusion?

WHAT IS NUCLEAR FUSION?

Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars. Fusion is the fusing of two or more atoms to form different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. The mass lost in the process is converted to energy. For the nuclei of two atoms to overcome the aversion to one another caused by having the same charge, high temperatures and pressures are required. Temperatures must reach approximately six times those found in the core of the sun. At this heat, the hydrogen is no longer a gas but a plasma, an extremely high-energy state of matter where electrons are stripped from their atoms.

WHY NUCLEAR FUSION AND NOT FISSION?

With the money, time, and effort being spent on this project, the question arises if it’s worth it? Can we improve the way by which we produce nuclear energy? The biggest problem with nuclear fission is the storage of dangerous radioactive end products. The storing and reprocessing are further complicated by the long half-life of the radioactive materials in the nuclear waste. For example, some of the components can retain half of their dangerous levels even one million years later after production. Until we find a safe and reliable method, disposal of nuclear wastage is just a dangerous risk we are passing onto our progeny. Even with all the risk measures taken, there is always a risk of accidents with devastating consequences which cannot be predicted.

These points were kept in mind while planning.

From the ITER website:

  • It is absolutely impossible for a Fukushima-type accident to happen at ITER. The fundamental differences in the physics and technology used in fusion reactors make a fission-type nuclear meltdown or a runaway reaction impossible. The fusion process is inherently safe.
  • Even in the event of a cataclysmic breach in the tokamak, the levels of radioactivity outside the ITER enclosure would remain very low. The ITER Preliminary Safety Report presents an analysis of risks that demonstrates that during normal operation, ITER’s radiological impact on the most exposed populations will be one thousand times less than natural background radiation. For postulated “worst-case scenarios,” such as fire in the Tritium Plant, the evacuation of neighboring populations would not be necessary.
  • Fusion reactors, unlike fission reactors, produce no high activity/long life radioactive waste. The “burnt” fuel in a fusion reactor is helium, an inert gas. Because the half-life of most radioisotopes contained in this waste is lower than ten years, within 100 years the radioactivity of the materials will have diminished in such a significant way that the materials can be recycled for use in other fusion plants.

SO WHERE ARE WE WITH FUSION ENERGY?

This is not the first time a nuclear fusion reactor is being made. “Fusion machines” were already operating in the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, and Japan by the mid-1950s. A breakthrough occurred in 1968 in the Soviet Union when researchers were able to achieve temperature levels and plasma confinement times — two of the main criteria to achieving fusion — that had never been attained before. The Soviet machine was a doughnut-shaped magnetic confinement device called a tokamak. The Tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion.

FUSION PROCESS

Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel. Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators. Inside, under the influence of extreme heat and pressure, gaseous hydrogen fuel becomes a plasma that provides the environment in which light elements can fuse and yield energy. The charged particles of the plasma can be shaped and controlled by the massive magnetic coils placed around the vessel. As the plasma particles become energized and collide they also begin to heat up. Auxiliary heating methods help to bring the plasma to fusion temperatures (between 150 and 300 million °C). Particles “energized” to such a degree can overcome their natural electromagnetic repulsion on collision to fuse, releasing huge amounts of energy.

There have been various Tokamaks that have successfully operated but only for short durations, which is the main problem ITER is trying to solve. France holds the record for the longest plasma duration time of any tokamak: 6 minutes and 30 seconds. We are yet to produce a fusion machine that produces as much energy as is required to heat them which is defined by the Q ratio. Plasma energy breakeven (a Q ratio of 1) has never been achieved: the current record for energy release is held by JET, which succeeded in generating 16 MW of fusion power, for 24 MW of power used to heat the plasma (a Q ratio of 0.67). ITER aims to have a Q ratio of 10, which means producing 500 MW of energy for 50 MW of energy consumed which is a very audacious target. But it will not be striving alone in its quest—fusion machines all over the world have re-oriented their scientific programs or modified their technical characteristics to act either partially or totally in support of ITER operation.

SO WHEN WILL IT START OPERATING?

The project duration is a very long one. ITER project officially initiated in 1988 with conceptual design activities. Machine assembly was launched on 28 July 2020. The construction of the facility is expected to be completed in 2025 when commissioning of the reactor can commence. ITER’s First Plasma is scheduled for December 2025 and the deuterium-tritium operation is to start in 2035. That will be the first time the machine is powered on and the first act of ITER’s multi-decade operational program.

Decades of fusion research and generations of fusion devices have contributed to the design of ITER. ITER, in its turn, will contribute to the design of the next-generation machine—DEMO—that will bring fusion research to the threshold of a prototype fusion reactor. DEMO is the machine that will address the technological questions of bringing fusion energy to the electricity grid, which is the end goal.

ITER will be the largest of more than 100 fusion reactors built since the 1950s with the total price of constructing and operating the experiment expected to be more than €22 billion as of 2016. It’s a technological marvel no doubt and the achievements will be immense. It definitely will be a historic moment when we finally produce net energy from the fusion process.

The post Where are we with the safer nuclear option known as nuclear fusion? appeared first on Renewable Energy World.

To maximize emission cuts, this Boston campus gets its power from the Midwest

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 11:53
Boston University prioritized impact over location in deciding to buy electricity from a South Dakota wind farm.

Boston University has started sourcing all of its electricity from a newly built wind farm in South Dakota, a move intended to maximize the university’s greenhouse gas reductions and hopefully provide a model for how other large institutions can also amplify their climate impact. 

The school will buy enough electricity from the Midwestern turbines to cover its annual consumption of 205 million kilowatt-hours. In the process, it will cut carbon emissions by up to three times as much as if the university had chosen to procure renewable energy closer to home. 

“We were very deliberate about finding the project with the greatest impact we could find,” said Dennis Carlberg, associate vice president for university sustainability.

The process of bringing the wind farm online began in 2015, when Carlberg first proposed the university look into sourcing renewable energy for its power needs. Then, in 2017, the school produced its first climate action plan, which included a pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, in part by buying renewable electricity.

Though renewable energy advocates often promote locally sourced power as the best option, the chair of the university’s climate action task force questioned that conventional wisdom. 

“He kept asking us why doing a project in New England or nearby was so important,” Carlberg said. “He kept saying we should find a project that will have the greatest impact we can have on global greenhouse gas emissions because the climate doesn’t care where our reductions come from.”

About half of the electricity in New England is generated by burning natural gas, which produces less emissions than coal or oil; another 30% comes from nuclear plants. In other parts of the country, coal is a much bigger part of the mix, sometimes fueling more than half the power. Therefore, a kilowatt-hour of renewable energy generated in these regions keeps more emissions out of the atmosphere than one generated on New England’s much cleaner grid. 

The numbers won over the task force, and the university realized it would have to look outside the Northeast to achieve the goal of maximizing emissions reductions. 

Planners also wanted to ensure they were helping to create additional renewable resources, so they committed to supporting a new project rather than buying from an existing development or one that was already in the works. 

So the university put out a call for bids for either solar or wind projects, focusing on four regions with the most emissions-intensive electricity generation. They received 127 proposals, from which they chose 11 for in-depth analysis. Using data from Carnegie Mellon University, they assessed how many pounds of carbon dioxide emissions would be avoided by each potential project. 

The calculations included not just the overall emissions numbers, but also took a nuanced look at when the renewable project would be producing the most power relative to when demand was greatest on the grid. The goal was to choose a development that generated more clean energy when the need for power was greatest, reducing pollution from the dirtiest power plants, which are more likely to operate at times of peak demand. 

“We wanted more power generation when the emissions were greatest,” Carlberg said.

The university’s initial numbers were validated by clean energy data nonprofit WattTime and the South Dakota wind project was selected. WattTime’s analysis found that the chosen development would avoid well more than 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions for every megawatt-hour of energy generated, for a total of more than 307 million pounds of reduced emissions each year, an amount equivalent to the carbon dioxide released by more than 30,000 average cars. 

Construction started in summer 2019, turbines started spinning in November 2020, and the university began buying its power from the development on Dec. 1. 

The wind farm will also be an educational and research tool for university students and faculty. Students from any discipline interested in learning more about wind energy can take an independent study class that will include a week-long trip to visit the wind farm in South Dakota and the turbine production facility in Florida. The first trip had been planned for last year, but was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. The data generated by the installation will also be available to university researchers. 

Boston University’s early and consistent focus on maximizing emissions reductions was “groundbreaking,” said Henry Richardson, an analyst at WattTime. He is, however, seeing growing interest in the strategy from corporate and institutional energy buyers.

“We’re saying don’t by default assume that, from an emissions standpoint, you should do it in the area you’re located in,” Richardson said. “If those actors instead bought [energy] in the dirtiest places, the differential in emissions savings would be massive.” 

Some advocates of local energy, however, are still skeptical about the approach. Smaller-scale renewable projects built close to the energy buyer can help create jobs and boost the local economy, improve air quality, and, depending on the structure of the project, save money for consumers. 

Small installations spread out on the grid can also relieve some of the stress on an aging transmission system, said John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. 

“We also know from experience that these projects can help to defer expansion on the grid,” he said, noting that these delays can reduce the need for costly system upgrades the consumer would end up paying for.

Farrell believes universities and other large energy buyers should consider the full range of potential benefits when making renewable decisions. They should consider it, he said, part of their “moral calling.”

Carlberg acknowledges the advantages local energy can offer, but argues that each institution needs to set its own priorities. In the case of Boston University, cutting emissions came first. 

And Carlberg is eager to share the university’s experience with other large energy buyers considering their renewable energy procurement strategies. 

“We need to do everything we can to help everyone else climb their learning curve and get out there and get renewables,” he said. “We can’t do this alone.”

This article was first published by the Energy News Network and was reprinted with permission.

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Iberdrola plans first industrial-scale floating offshore wind farm in Spain with an investment of more than €1 billion

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 14:39

Iberdrola is planning what it says will be the first industrial scale floating offshore wind farm in Spain. The 300-MW project will cost more than €1 billion said the company. It will be located off the Spanish coast.

The renewable facility could become a driver of the country’s industrialization and job creation, said Iberdrola, estimating that it would provide more than 2800 jobs per year in research, design and engineering before the wind farm becomes operational in 2026.   

Iberdrola said the project requires the participation of 66 Spanish companies and technology centers, including 52 SMEs.

The project represents an opportunity to develop the country’s supply chain and establish Spain as an international benchmark, said Iberdrola. It has been submitted to the Next Generation EU programme and is aligned with the pillars of the Spanish government’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.

Project could lead to 2GW of offshore wind

This project would spearhead the development of up to 2,000 MW of potential floating offshore wind projects that Iberdrola has identified off the coasts of Galicia, Andalusia and the Canary Islands.

In addition, the project is one of 150 initiatives submitted by the company to the Next Generation EU programme – in the fields of heat electrification, floating offshore, sustainable mobility, green hydrogen, innovative renewables, smart grids, circular economy and energy storage – that would mobilize investments of €21 billion and involve hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises.

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Government and private funding – we need both for the energy transition

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 13:00

by Jill Feblowitz

These days, companies and governments alike are making commitments to net zero emissions. While commitments are good, making progress requires investment. That means putting money on deploying existing technology in the near term, while continuing to fund innovation to deliver cost-effective approaches in the future. The current picture looks promising, but there is always a chance the momentum will lag.

Deploying Clean Technology

Despite COVID-19 and the economic downturn, clean energy investment did surprisingly well in the United States last year. U.S. companies, households and the government spent $85.3 billion on deployment of low-carbon technology in 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Although there was an overall decline (-11%) from 2019, investment in electric transportation and residential heat pumps saw an uptick. Green bonds, which are primarily asset-linked, grew by 13% to a record $305 billion globally, after a slowdown in the first half of the year.

The federal government plays a significant role in the deployment of clean energy, mainly through policies like tax incentives, rebates and technical assistance. The U.S. Energy Act of 2020 (The Act) which was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, extended existing taxes incentives for solar and wind, a new emphasis on 45Q carbon capture incentives and a new offshore wind credit. 

Even without legislation, the federal government can do a lot with clean energy related procurement. Think procurement of clean energy for federal facilities. Add to that the plans for the entire US federal fleet – over 645,00 vehicles –  to be replaced with electric vehicles made in the US by 2035. Going forward, expect to see more spending on energy efficiency in federal buildings, IT for managing federal facilities energy usage and smart federal buildings.    

Investing in Innovation

To reach decarbonization goals in a cost-effective manner, new technologies and approaches will be needed. That means investment in academic research and startup companies.  Budding companies go through a technological valley of death proving the concept, and a commercial valley of death getting to scale. The path to maturity starts with the concept, and includes prototype/proof of concept, pilot/demonstration, and commercialization. It’s not a straight line as many founders may attest (see Figure1).

All these stages need support. Government funding has traditionally supported R&D, proof of concept and demonstration projects. What’s new with The Act is a focus on commercialization.  The newly created Department of Energy Innovation will support commercialization of technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Private investment – think corporations –  plays a role too in R&D as well.  Venture capital and private equity support the later stages.

Figure 1.  Innovation from Concept to Maturity

The Energy Act of 2020 appropriates about $30 billion over 5 years for research and development (R&D), demonstration, and commercialization. There is a caveat, though.  Figure 2 shows what has been appropriated. A subsequent reconciliation process will solidify funding.

Figure 2. Estimated Funded Dedicated to Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercialization Source: Energy Act of 2020, as interpreted by the author.

There is a heavy commitment to carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS); over half of the funding will be dedicated to large scale pilots and demonstration projects. ARPA-E, the energy version of DARPA, will see an increase in funding. The budget was $425 million in FY 2020.  It will go from $435 million in FY2021 to $760 million by FY2025.

Transportation energy R&D is broadly defined as sustainable.  The category calls out fuel cells, but not specifically electric vehicles.  Electrical vehicle infrastructure is hardly mentioned. Less than $300 million is devoted to grid integration of both renewable energy resources and EVs. It’s notable that carbon removal and hard to decarbonize sectors have made their way into the Act. Expect to hear more about these in the future.

As for private investment, tech companies are jumping in big. Amazon’s $2 Climate Pledge Fund aims to invest in companies in multiple industries. To date, most dollars have gone into startups. Breakthrough Energy Ventures just announced a second round of $1 billion in funding. It is not just mission driven. Investor are seeing real returns from investment, especially in valuations of startups in the transportation space. 

A relatively new mechanism,  the SPAC, could boost the sector – or not. SPACs are shell companies listed on exchanges with a mission to buy private companies and convert them into public ones. There were 4 large deals in 2020.  Still, the jury is out on whether SPACs will be a viable path for going public.

Sustaining the Momentum

The trend towards increased investment in clean energy is likely to continue. There is a new emphasis on accountability and climate risk. For many companies that means physical risks and transition risks. Major asset managers like Blackrock are pushing hard. Why should investors back a company with assets that might literally and figuratively be underwater in a few years?  As a result, companies – Xcel Energy is one – are reporting climate-related materials risks under the framework established by the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) believes that climate change poses systemic risks to financial systems. A recent report mentions a price on carbon and climate risk disclosure for multiple time horizons.

Attitudes on the need for decarbonization have changed.  A study by Yale and the George Mason University found that “66 percent of US voters said that developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority.” That’s quite a shift. The clear skies during COVID, rising temperatures and the increase in extreme weather and wildfires are likely part of change in attitude. Government legislation and regulations are also driving investment by providing incentives; some have set legally binding net zero targets.

Plus, companies like Amazon and Microsoft are taking note. Says Abe Yokell, managing partner and co-founder of Congruent Ventures on The Interchange, July 2020, “….[They] are really interested in skating to where the puck is going. Look out 10 to 15 years. Where is the world going? What’s the price on carbon?  What should they be doing to decarbonize their entire effort?  …They want to be seeking returns, but they also want to be supporting their employees and climate goals…”

Finally, cleantech is now seen as a less risky space, a space where companies are delivering solid returns.  According to BNEF, the NEX, an index of companies active in renewable and low-carbon energy, was up more than 140% last year, easily besting the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.

Still, there are a lot of ways that the momentum could be halted or delayed. As for government funding, much will depend on whether clean energy investments will boost economic recovery through business and job creation.  Bipartisan support will determine just what pathways to net zero are funded. The bigger question is whether funds will go to technology advancements in pathways that will meet decarbonization objectives in long term.

About the Author

Jill Feblowitz is a long-time consultant and analyst in the energy industry, focusing on innovation.  As President of Feblowitz Energy Consulting, a Women’s Business Enterprise in MA, Jill’s focus is on climate risk, the energy transition and transportation.  She currently serves on the advisory board for Distributech International conference and Distributech’s INITIATE!, a forum for startups and utility industry innovators.  She holds a B.S. from MIT in urban studies and an electrician’s license from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

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UGI Utilities to distribute renewable natural gas from Pennsylvania landfill

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 08:31

An electric and gas utility in Pennsylvania and Maryland has signed a deal to bring renewable natural gas from a landfill into its distribution system.

UGI Utilities Inc.’s agreement with Archaea Energy is the company’s first RNG supply interconnect agreement. The utility will accept RNG from the Keystone Landfill located in Dunmore, PA.

The RNG supply will be injected into UGI Utilities’ high-pressure natural gas pipeline serving its distribution system located in Lackawanna County, PA. The landfill gas, a byproduct of naturally decomposing materials in the landfill, will be processed and conditioned to meet UGI Utilities’ gas quality requirements.

“This agreement advances our strategy to position UGI Utilities as a leading provider of energy solutions that meet the environmental and social needs of our customers and our communities,” said Robert F. Beard, Executive Vice President – Natural Gas, UGI. “We look forward to expanding our portfolio of renewable energy offerings available to our customers across our service territories.”

The project is scheduled to become operational in September 2021.

When fully operational, the UGI Utilities system will be designed to take up to 16,000 mcf (thousand cubic feet) per day of RNG supply at a rate of up to 780 mcf per hour, making this the largest RNG supply point in the United States to-date. This supply point will be available for the company, as well as for natural gas suppliers operating on its system, for the purpose of supplying UGI Utilities customers.

Moving this RNG supply into the UGI Utilities distribution system reportedly will reduce the release of naturally occurring methane from the Keystone Landfill into the atmosphere. From an environmental perspective, accepting delivery of the RNG will reduce CO2 emissions that would otherwise occur by up to approximately 314,000 metric tons per year.

This CO2 reduction equates to removing the emissions from more than 67,000 passenger vehicles over the course of a calendar year.

Other power industry firms, such as Babcock & Wilcox, have participated in waste-to-energy power plant projects globally for years. Proponents believe the methane removed from landfills will exceed any emissions from the plant itself by a considerable margin.

— — — — —

The POWERGEN+ online series will focus on the Future of Electricity in June. Check out April with a look at Optimizing Plant Performance. Registration is free.

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90 MW community solar plus energy storage to be completed in New York by 2025

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 22:20

This week, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to help local governments and state agencies build 40 distributed solar systems that will bring renewable energy to surrounding communities.

The projects will help meet the New York Power Authority (NYPA) 2025 community solar target that sets a goal of 75 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity, including 15 MW of paired battery storage. These projects aim to stimulate more than $135 million in direct, private investments toward their development, construction and operation.

Under this new program, NYPA will work with municipal and state government entities to assist in community solar development while also aiming to support clean energy generation in low-income communities. NYPA Community Solar and Storage Program staff assist throughout the full project development process including scoping, design, purchasing to execution, project management and close-out.

Community solar offers households, schools and businesses the opportunity to benefit from a solar project in their area often without any upfront costs or participation fees. These projects increase access to those who may not have the ability or ideal conditions to install solar panels at their buildings. Solar energy is fed into the grid and local subscribers get credit on their electric bills.

“New York has the strongest community solar market in the nation, and we are continuing to prioritize the development of renewable sources that will transform the energy industry, protect the environment and lower energy costs for New York families and businesses,” Governor Cuomo said. “Partnering with local governments and state agencies for community projects will further solar and storage deployment, while creating new jobs all across the state.”

Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO said, “New York State is already one of the nation’s foremost markets for developing community solar distributed generation. By setting a stretch target to address the need for more solar and storage systematically, NYPA will help governments overcome potential hurdles in onboarding solar projects and more effectively serve as ‘anchor subscribers’ which can then help engage the surrounding community.”

Anchor subscribers help energy to be affordable for all

Distributed solar projects can be a challenge for local governments due to long development timelines and uncertain future revenues. However, as a result of recent New York State’s Public Service Commission rules, large customers can now serve as “anchor subscribers” for distributed solar projects. This helps reduce costs by allowing projects to reach economies of scale, provide assurance to developers and financiers, and benefit residents and small businesses by making access to solar credits easier.

NYPA is currently working on two projects at Quarryville in Ulster County and at John F. Kennedy International Airport to supply a total of 11 MW to surrounding communities. The City of White Plains in the Mid-Hudson region is also developing a program to produce community solar. NYPA also is coordinating a solicitation to allow Westchester County municipalities to participate in a combined energy portfolio.

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4.5 GW of pumped-storage hydro could save UK up to £690 million annually

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 15:40

A new study by independent researchers from Imperial College London has found that just 4.5 GW of new long duration pumped hydro storage, with 90 GWh of storage, could save up to £690 million per year in energy system costs by 2050, as the UK transitions to a net-zero carbon emission system.

Commissioned by SSE Renewables via Imperial Consultants, the report focused on the benefits of new long-duration pumped hydro storage in Scotland, as the most-established long-duration energy storage technology. The main benefit of long-duration storage compared to short-duration batteries is being able to continuously charge up the storage with excess renewables and discharge power to the grid for several hours or days when wind and solar output is low.

In its recent Energy White Paper, the UK Government set out that long-duration storage technologies, like pumped hydro, would play an essential role in decarbonizing the UK’s electricity supply by integrating renewable energy and maintaining security of supply.

In October, SSE Renewables received a revised consent from the Scottish Government for what would be the UK’s largest pumped hydro energy storage scheme – 1.5-GW Coire Glas – located near Loch Lochy in the Scottish Highlands. The Coire Glas scheme, which would offer storage of 30 GWh, would more than double the current pumped hydro storage capacity in Great Britain, providing an invaluable low carbon resource to help cost effectively manage the fluctuations of the electricity system.

The study found that 75% of the savings to the energy system from projects like Coire Glas would be from the avoided capital expenditure in higher cost electricity generation technologies that would otherwise be needed to meet the UK’s target of carbon neutrality by 2050 while meeting security of supply.

Importantly, the report highlighted that despite all of the benefits new pumped hydro storage projects would bring, the current policy and market framework is unlikely to bring forward investment in many new projects because the long duration and low carbon capability of pumped hydro storage is not sufficiently valued.

“The analysis carried out demonstrated that new Long Duration Pumped Hydro Energy Storage located in Scotland, can reduce system costs by providing a number of services to the GB net-zero emission energy system,” said Professor Goran Strbac from Imperial’s Faculty of Engineering, who led the study.

These are:

  • Reduced wind curtailment by storing excess renewable production and discharging it when needed;
  • Provision of critical ancillary services needed for integrating a high penetration of renewable generation, particularly frequency response and operating reserves, while enhancing system inertia;
  • Reducing system emissions by displacing operation of some conventional (fossil-fuel based) mid-merit and peaking plants and
  • Supporting network congestion management and reducing the need for transmission network reinforcement between Scotland and England.

“The findings in this report support our view – that pumped hydro storage projects like Coire Glas have a huge role to play in the UK achieving its ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in the most cost-effective way possible,” said Mike Seaton, director of development at SSE Renewables. “Following the recent reconsent of Coire Glas we are now progressing the project through further refinement and studies and believe it could come online by the end of the decade, generating thousands of jobs in the process”

“However, there are commercial hurdles that we still need to overcome if such a large civil engineering project is to become a reality. The current policy and market framework are not yet suitable for attracting investment in such large-scale storage projects, although the UK Government has set out its intention to address those barriers to investment.”

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, said: “The Scottish Government has long been supportive of pumped hydro storage for its role in ensuring resilience in our electricity supplies, and for the tremendous opportunity it provides to unlock the potential of renewable energy and support Scotland’s net zero ambitions. As we add more renewable electricity generation across Scotland, investing in pumped hydro storage will be key to balancing our electricity demand with supply and keeping the system secure, as well as creating high quality, green jobs and enabling a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we continue to call on the UK Government to take urgent steps which are essential to provide investors with improved revenue certainty and unlock potentially significant investment in new pumped storage capacity in Scotland.”

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New Sustainable Energy Factbook shows 2020 was ‘blockbuster’ year for renewables in America

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 15:37

Faced with COVID-19 pandemic and sharp economic contraction, the U.S. clean energy sectors showed strong resilience in 2020, continuing a decade-long growth trend, BloombergNEF (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) find in their annual joint report. The ninth edition of theSustainable Energy in America Factbook tells the story of American energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy in a volatile year.

This story is told for the first time with over 130 slides and data visualizations that put 2020 performance in the context of past years, said the organizations.

Figure 1: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Source: BloombergNEF estimate

The economic disruption caused a massive drop in national greenhouse gas emissions. Energy demand for electricity and transportation fell by 3.8% and 14.4%, respectively, supporting the 9% year-on-year decline in harmful greenhouse gas emissions for the United States. This fall in emissions (see Figure 1) is the most significant on record and puts the United States on track to meet its 2025 Paris Agreement commitment, though energy demand and emissions are expected to rebound with widespread vaccinations in 2021.

The impacts of cleaner electricity generation will persist. Figure 2 shows that natural gas and renewable generation continued to expand their share of the resource mix. A record 33.6 GW of wind and solar capacity was added to the grid this year.

“In a year when so much went sideways, it was a blockbuster year for renewable energy build and for the first time, a record 40% of U.S. power consumed generated no CO2 emissions,” said Ethan Zindler, BloombergNEF’s head of Americas. “Decarbonization of U.S. energy accelerated in 2020 and the benefits will be felt for years to come.”

“The continued growth of clean energy in the United States, in spite of the economic downturn and the challenges of the pandemic, demonstrates that the market for these technologies is maturing and the portfolio is highly resilient,” said Lisa Jacobson, BCSE President.

“Global supply chain disruptions, workforce protection measures, and policy uncertainty required adaptation across the industry. The strength of these businesses kept the lights on and houses warm in America, and supported communities during an unprecedented crisis, all while we continued to build cleaner resources,” she said.

Figure 2: U.S. Electricity Generation By Fuel Type in 2020. Source: BloombergNEF

The full 2021 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook is available for download here. Notable clean energy statistics from the pandemic year include:

Power Generation

  • Renewables’ contribution to the power grid set another record, rising 11% year-on-year. Renewable energy generated a fifth of U.S. power in 2020.
  • Power from all zero-carbon sources (renewables plus nuclear power) set another record, meeting 40% of demand. This was despite a decline in nuclear output.
  • Natural gas remained the largest source of U.S. power generation at 41%, though its 2019-2020 growth was slower than 2018-19.
  • Coal-fired power’s contribution slipped to 19% from 45% a decade ago on weak demand and competition for lower-carbon power sources. Coal plants continued to retire rapidly.
  • A record 33.6GW of wind and solar combined was built. Records were also set for each individual technology. Wind enjoyed its strongest year ever with 17.1GW constructed while solar bested its previous 2016 high with 16.5GW completed.

Emissions

  • Total U.S. emissions sank 9% to end 2020 20% below 2005 levels as result of the pandemic. The U.S. got on track to meet its Paris Agreement goal but 2021 emissions will rebound with economic recovery.
  • CO2 emissions from road, rail, and aviation fell furthest (-14%) but transportation remains the highest emitting sector. Lower travel rates were responsible for the decline.

Demand

  • U.S. energy “productivity” (GDP / total energy consumption) rose, but not primarily for positive reasons as economic hardship prompted many consumers to cut back consumption.
  • Natural gas demand dipped 0.8% year-on-year, the first decline since 2009. Power sector demand and exports rose but industrial, commercial and residential demand all fell.

Corporate and Sub-National Action

  • Corporate decarbonization commitments grew. 65 companies joined the RE100 initiative to expand renewables use, 59 joined EP100 pledging to improve energy productivity.
  • But companies signed fewer contracts in 2020 to buy clean power. Corporate power purchase agreements (PPA) for wind/solar slowed to 11.9GW due to pandemic worries.
  • Renewable thermal energy is expanding. At the close of 2020, 26 states had acted to promote the use of renewable natural gas for thermal heating in homes and businesses.

American clean energy businesses went above and beyond during the pandemic to protect their customers and employees, from fuel cell manufacturers who refurbished ventilators in their facilities, to utilities and technology providers who implemented careful distancing and quarantine measures to maintain service, to and propane companies provided space heating for pop-up COVID-19 testing and evaluation sites. The sectors’ performance in a year of unprecedented challenges reflects millions of Americans’ ingenuity and dedication.

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Statkraft and Aquila Capital sign 5-year PPA for 50MW Spanish park

Thu, 02/18/2021 - 13:17

Renewable energy firm Statkraft and Aquila Capital, the German real asset investment manager, have signed their first PPA in Spain for the Albeniz solar plant located in Andalusia on behalf of Aquila’s client.

This is a 5-year power purchase agreement starting in 2022 with an innovative price structure in which Aquila Capital will provide Statkraft with 100% green electricity at competitive price levels. 

The construction permit was issued in December 2020 and construction works started in early January 2021.

The Albeniz solar park is located in Almería, South-Eastern Spain, and it will have a total installed capacity of 50 MW. Once it is connected to the grid, the plant will produce 103 GWh of solar energy per year of which Statkraft will offtake a majority of its electricity output. The power generated by this solar plant will save 32,960 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

Statkraft and Aquila Capita have previously partnered in Nordic countries resulting in important operations such as Aquila’s acquisition of Småkraft.

Simon Kornek, vice president of South European Origination, said: “The power generated by the solar plant Albeniz will be used to supply our industrial and commercial customers in Iberia and in Europe more widely.

“In Statkraft, we are convinced that the private PPA market will continue to play a major role to respond to the customer-specific demands of green energy buyers. Thus, we are fully committed to help our European customers and its supply chains transform to 100% renewable power and deliver on their sustainability targets.”

“We are delighted to be able to strengthen our partnership with Aquila Capital outside of the Nordic countries. This new deal will allow us to continue expanding renewables in the Iberian market with the help of one of our most long-standing partners. Spain presents great opportunities when it comes to the development of renewable energy and we believe that the provision of PPAs such as this one is crucial to make sustainable energy more accessible for all sectors.”

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Des Moines looks for leverage to push MidAmerican on carbon-free power

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 18:39

The city is exploring several strategies to cut emissions, but will depend on its investor-owned utility to achieve much of its ambitious new clean energy goal.

As Des Moines leaders begin drafting plans for achieving the city’s ambitious new clean energy goals, one challenge looms above all: getting buy-in from the city’s investor-owned utility.

Iowa’s most populous city passed a resolution last month calling for a transition to 100% carbon-free electricity community-wide by 2035. Officials are exploring several strategies, including solar panels on city buildings and an expanded energy benchmarking program for buildings, but none will get Des Moines to its goal without changes to the electricity mix it receives from MidAmerican Energy.

MidAmerican has made major investments in wind farms in recent years and expects to soon offset 100% of its electricity sales with wind power. However, it continues to burn coal and natural gas for baseload power and has not announced plans to phase out those power plants.

Company officials told the City Council in December that shifting to 100% renewable energy with storage would more than triple average residential electric bills from $74 to $264, an estimate that City Councilor Josh Mandelbaum thinks was an attempt “to scare us away.”

The utility has since said that it “welcomes the challenge” of helping Des Moines meet its clean energy goals, but experts on city-utility relationships say local governments seeking changes need to look for leverage.

“Cities should always go into these situations thinking, ‘What power do we have to compel action?’” said John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which published a toolkit this month for cities trying to get utilities on board with clean energy goals.

Investor-owned utilities can be particularly reluctant, Farrell said, because they operate within “a market structure that rewards them for certain behavior, and it often does not align with clean energy or climate goals.”

A good starting point, Farrell said, is to commission a study identifying possible steps and strategies to reaching 100% clean energy. “With that, you go to the utility and say, ‘We can’t make the goal without you. Are you in, or do we need to figure this out on our own?’”

It doesn’t have to be antagonistic, Farrell said, but it has to be very clear. If a utility declines to join in, cities can start pulling levers. One option is the franchise agreement, a contract between a city and its utility that spells out some of the terms under which a utility provides service. Because franchise agreements generally run for 20 years or more, the timing works out only rarely.

The timing turns out to be auspicious in Des Moines, as its contract with MidAmerican will expire in June 2022. The city’s clean energy resolution originally included language by Mandelbaum that would have incorporated the goals into future franchise agreements with MidAmerican, but it was removed after other council members objected.

In 2014, Minneapolis used the expiration of its franchise agreement with Xcel Energy to press the utility on clean energy. The two parties, along with the city’s gas provider, CenterPoint Energy, signed a partnership document that set out a clean energy agenda. Although that example hasn’t fulfilled his hopes, Farrell said the franchise agreement remains an important source of leverage for cities.

A related tool is the franchise fee, allowed in about 40 states. Levied on utility customers, it serves as “rent” for the utility’s use of city property to locate poles and wires, for example. Some cities have used proceeds to develop clean energy projects, but Farrell said the fee is “an interesting and underused” tool.

Cities have inherent clout because of the sheer size of their loads, said Jay Orfield, who directs strategy and policy for the American Cities Climate Challenge. They often are among a utility’s largest customers. And although they historically have used that influence only to ask for cheap electricity, more cities are “waking up slowly” to the potential to shape other aspects.

When state regulators consider utility plans for new generation, for example, Orfield said, cities are increasingly using those proceedings to put pressure on utilities to transition more quickly from fossil fuels. “Cities are starting to see that they have a seat at the table.” 

Another emerging trend is cities banding together to demand changes from a utility. Orfield cited an example in North Carolina, where the cities of Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh worked together to pressure Duke Energy for changes. “To me, that is really exciting.”

Mandelbaum, who in addition to being on the Des Moines City Council is also a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said officials from several other Iowa cities have contacted him with interest in clean energy goals, and they may consider a similar alliance there. Cities should look beyond other municipalities for partners, Orfield said, including any large customer.

“Find hospitals, large corporations and commercial users and bring them along,” he said. “There’s a demand side of this equation that I think is out there but ends up being silent a lot of the time. The full power of that demand is not being felt. Make sure your voice is amplifying other voices.”

Cities aiming to leave fossil fuels behind can also entice utilities by making themselves useful, suggested Celina Bonugli, an associate with the Clean Energy Innovation program at the World Resources Institute.

Cities should acknowledge the challenges for utilities of generation that comes and goes, and should ask, “How can I help?” She suggested they ponder how they might lower peak demand, or serve as a battery.

“Can we change the way we consume energy so our ‘ask’ doesn’t create more grid insufficiencies?” Bonugli said. “There’s a great opportunity to collaborate.”

Mandelbaum said the goal is to establish a partnership with MidAmerican, and on that point, the utility appears to agree. In a recent email, MidAmerican spokesperson Tina Hoffman said the company looks forward to working with the city to meet its goals without compromising reliability or affordability: “We are ready to get to work and are coordinating now with city officials on the next steps.”

This article was originally posted on Energy News Network and was republished with permission.

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Commentary: I’ve had it up to here. Fire the climate leaders now!

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 17:09

The Texas governor is calling for the resignation of ERCOT leaders in the wake of the frigid temps and subsequent blackouts that ensued. Dangerous cold temps and no electricity are not a combination that anyone should have to endure.

Well you know what? I think we should go higher. Let’s go above the head of the Texas governor and Ercot leaders and call for the resignation of the climate leaders.

I mean, how can anyone live their life this way? Giant storms coming from out of nowhere causing billions of dollars in damage and the loss of property and lives. Droughts that impact people in the Northwest, which again, cause billions in damage to property and more lives lost. Oh, and remember Hurricane Sandy? That caused $70B in destruction in the Northeast. And of course, who could forget Hurricane Katrina, which almost swamped all of New Orleans.

This is ridiculous! This unpredictability has got to stop. Ask the Californians and Australians how they feel about wildfires? I bet they’d be in favor of firing those in charge of the climate. I mean, this is absolutely insane.

Only a couple weeks ago, a melting glacier caused a massive flood in the Himalayans, taking with it at least 31 souls, with hundreds more missing, according to reports. Who the heck is in charge here?

Look, I’m now speaking directly to the leaders of the climate: get your act together now.

And now for the real commentary

In all seriousness, it’s time to stop pointing fingers when bad stuff happens as a result of weather that no one was expecting. We know that climate change is responsible for the acceleration of those ‘once-in-a-100-years’ events down to ‘once-every-10-years’ events, or worse. And we keep witnessing major catastrophe, after major catastrophe, after major catastrophe, all of which is causing pain.

People are in pain.

And it’s no one’s fault.

Just like COVID, we are in this mess as a global community, all of humanity, so we’ll all need to combat the immediate effects of it (sickness and death for COVID, storms and natural disasters for the climate), while also trying to implement a remedy. Unfortunately for climate change, the remedy isn’t as simple as a vaccine. If only…

So, let’s stop pointing fingers and instead, start the work of hardening our infrastructure so that more of us can survive these unpredictable, never-before-seen events and ALSO continue — maybe even accelerate — the work of preventing them from happening by embracing new clean energy, low-carbon technologies.

Now can someone please get me the number of the President of the Climate.

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South Korea announces ambitious 8.2GW wind complex

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 14:51

South Korea has unveiled a KRW 48.5 trillion ($43.2 billion) project to develop an 8.2GW wind complex offshore the Sinan County, South Jeolla Province. The project is said to be the world’s largest of its kind and forms part of the country’s efforts to support a green recovery.

The agreement is said to involve 33 public and private entities, including Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), equipment manufacturers such as Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction, and engineering and manufacturing companies such as SK E&S, Hanwha Engineering & Construction Corp, CS Wind Corp, and Samkang M&T Co.

The companies will provide 47.6 trillion of the required funding and the government the remaining 0.9 trillion, Moon’s office Blue House said.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in oversaw the signing of the agreement to build the offshore wind complex in the country’s southwest.

President Moon Jae-in at Investment Agreement Signing Ceremony, courtesy: Office of the President

President Moon Jae-in said: “The wind farm to be built on the waters off Sinan will be as much as seven times the size of the world’s current largest wind power complex.

“The 8.2 gigawatts of electricity to be generated here is equivalent to the capacity of six new Korean nuclear power reactors combined. This immense amount of electricity can meet the needs of every household in Seoul and Incheon.

“With this project, we are accelerating the eco-friendly energy transition and moving more vigorously toward carbon neutrality.”

The project will provide up to 5,600 jobs and increase the country’s wind power capacity to 16.5GW by 2030 from the current 1.67GW.

South Korea’s green ambitions

The South Korean Government announced a Green New Deal on 14 July 2020, worth approximately KRW 114 trillion (US$94.5 billion) to drive the country’s economic post-COVID recovery.

The plan includes remodeling public buildings to boost energy efficiency, creating urban forests, establishing a foundation for new and renewable energy, and creating low-carbon energy industrial complexes to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

This article was originally posted on Power Engineering International and was republished with permission.

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Madison Gas and Electric seeks approval to invest in solar and storage

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 14:37

Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), in partnership with We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), subsidiaries of WEC Energy Group, is seeking approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to purchase solar energy and battery storage from the Paris Solar-Battery Park. If approved, MGE will own 20 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and 11 MW of battery storage from the 200-MW solar park to be built in the Town of Paris in Kenosha County.

The Paris Solar-Battery Park will help MGE to meet future energy and capacity needs as the company continues its ongoing transition away from coal-fired electricity with the planned retirement of the Columbia Energy Center in Portage by the end of 2024.

Invenergy received approval from the PSCW to build the solar project and install a battery storage system at the site.

When completed, the 1,500-acre project is expected to feature up to 750,000 solar panels. We Energies and WPS will own the remaining 180 MW of the output and 99 MW of battery storage from the project.

If approved, construction is expected to begin in 2022, and the solar park is expected to begin serving customers in 2023.

MGE’s Net‐Zero Carbon Electricity Goal

In May 2019, MGE announced its goal of net-zero carbon electricity by 2050. MGE’s net-zero goal is consistent with the latest climate science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) October 2018 Special Report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

To achieve deep decarbonization, MGE is growing its use of renewable energy, engaging customers around energy efficiency and working to electrify transportation, all of which are key strategies identified by the IPCC.

“Investment in solar energy and battery storage at the Paris Solar-Battery Park is an opportunity for MGE to invest further in cost-effective clean energy and new technologies to reliably serve all our customers as we work to meet our aggressive carbon reduction goals,” said Jeff Keebler, MGE Chairman, President and CEO. “This project is another step toward carbon reductions of at least 65% by 2030 and our goal of net-zero carbon by 2050. We have said since introducing our clean energy and carbon reduction goals—if we can go further faster, we will.”

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Hitachi ABB Power Grids is supporting world’s largest wind farm with third interconnect contract

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 14:19

Hitachi ABB Power Grids announced that the owners/developers of the 3.6-GW Dogger Bank Wind Farm have selected it to connect the third transmission link from Dogger Bank to the UK mainland.  The link is 130 km.

Hitachi ABB Power Grid is already delivering the interconnects for Dogger Bank A and B and the new contract is for the third phase, Dogger Bank C.

Dogger Bank A and B is a joint venture between SSE Renewables (40%), Equinor (40%) and Eni (20%) subject to regulatory and lender approvals of Eni’s agreement to enter the joint venture which are due in early 2021. 

Hitachi ABB Power Grids will use its compact high-voltage direct-current technology, HVDC Light, to fulfill the contract. The company said the latest HVDC Light system provides the most compact design and the lowest energy losses in the power industry. According to an independent life cycle assessment, the implementation of this technology will reduce the lifetime CO2 impact by almost two-thirds, compared to previously commissioned installations, supporting the green energy transition and the strong global focus on carbon-neutral energy systems, said Hitachi ABB Power Grids. 

“Confirmation of our collaboration with Hitachi ABB Power Grids on all three phases of Dogger Bank Wind Farm is another important milestone for our world-leading development,” said Steve Wilson, Project Director at Dogger Bank Wind Farm. “Working together in an integrated way will enable us to achieve optimum efficiency during the design, procurement and construction work, while the use of market-leading HVDC technology will ensure efficient and reliable transmission of renewable energy for six million UK households once all of the wind farm phases become operational.” 

“This is an important milestone for Dogger Bank Wind Farm,” said Halfdan Brustad, Vice President for Dogger Bank at Equinor. “Using HVDC technology is a competitive solution for offshore wind at a long distance from shore, and this will be the first offshore HVDC solution in the UK, opening up new markets and opportunities. The appointment of Hitachi ABB Power Grids demonstrates cross industry collaboration, bringing best expertise into a successful Dogger Bank delivery.” 

Hitachi ABB Power Grids has delivered more than half of the world’s HVDC projects, it says. These include North Sea offshore wind grid connection projects such as DolWin 1 and 2, and the world’s first offshore wind farm, BorWin1. In addition, Hitachi ABB Power Grids is playing a central role in connecting the SSEN Transmission-owned Shetland link to its Caithness-Moray HVDC system for integration to the UK mainland transmission network. 

Aibel will work alongside Hitachi ABB Power Grids to provide the offshore converter platforms located in the North Sea.

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Pumped storage hydro, utility-scale batteries return about 80% of the electricity they store

Tue, 02/16/2021 - 19:23

Pumped-storage hydroelectric facilities in the U.S. operated with an average monthly round-trip efficiency of 79%, and the utility-scale battery fleet operated at 82%, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Round-trip efficiency is the percentage of electricity put into storage that is later retrieved. The higher the round-trip efficiency, the less energy is lost in the storage process.

With electric energy storage becoming more important as the share of intermittent generating technologies, such as wind and solar, in the electricity mix increases, EIA said storage metrics can help us understand the value of the technology. EIA’s Power Plant Operations Report provides data on utility-scale energy storage, including the monthly electricity consumption and gross electric generation of energy storage assets, which can be used to calculate round-trip efficiency. The metrics reviewed here use the finalized data from the Power Plant Operations Report for 2019 — the most recent year for which a full set of storage data is available.

Pumped-storage facilities are the largest energy storage resource in the U.S. The facilities collectively account for 21.9 GW of capacity and for 92% of the country’s total energy storage capacity as of November 2020.

In recent years, utility-scale battery capacity has grown rapidly as costs have decreased. Batteries have become the second-largest source of electricity storage. As of Nov. 20, 2020, utility-scale battery capacity had 1.4 GW of operational capacity. Another 4 GW of battery capacity is scheduled to come online in 2021, according to EIA’s Preliminary Electric Generator Inventory.

Although battery storage has slightly higher round-trip efficiency, pumped-storage facilities typically operate at utilization factors that are twice as high as batteries. Increasing durations among battery applications could shift battery operations toward services that reward longer output periods. For example, in 2015, the weighted average battery duration was a little more than 46 minutes, but by 2019, weighted average battery durations were 1.5 hours.

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