The Daily Show On Eclipses And Climate Change
At about 2:45, Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains why the eclipse proved climate change deniers are wrong. From Comedy Central
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, September 23-24:
At about 2:45, Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains why the eclipse proved climate change deniers are wrong. From Comedy Central
The Rump talks his usual nonsense about beautiful coal and plentiful gas. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
Access to cost-effective energy storage changes the whole game. From Bloomberg via YouTube
New Climate Change Report Just List Of Years Each Country Becomes Uninhabitable
September 21, 2017 (The Onion)
…[New research from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] consists solely of an alphabetized list of every country on earth and the years each of them will become uninhabitable. ‘Albania, 2035; Algeria, 2027; American Samoa, 2024,’ read the two-page report, divided into two columns containing no text other than the names of the more than 200 countries and sovereign territories on the planet alongside the date by which that location’s inhabitants will no longer be able to survive the conditions brought on by global warming. ‘Cameroon, 2029; Canada, 2049... Japan, 2041... United States of America, 2033.’ When reached for comment, the committee expressed its hope that the report would be used by governments around the globe to help them make forward-thinking, evidence-based decisions about how and when to euthanize their populations.” click here for more
Why China Is Crushing the U.S. in Solar Energy; China is putting its weight behind building a large solar industry, something the U.S. hasn't done in any material way.
Travis Hoium, September 17, 2017 (Motley Fool)
“…[China had] 78 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by the end of 2016…[and] may exit this year with around 123 GW…The U.S. ended 2016 with 40 GW of solar installed and is expected to…[have] around 52 GW by year-end….China and Chinese companies are by far the biggest solar manufacturers in the world. Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ), JinkoSolar (NYSE:JKS), JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO), and Hanwha Q-Cells (NASDAQ:HQCL) are among the largest solar module suppliers in the world…[A]ll have over $600 million of short-term debt and notes payable. They've literally funded billions of dollars in manufacturing expansion with short-term debt…Solar power plant construction is driven by developers knowing where they're going to sell energy from the plant long-term and how much they'll be paid…An underappreciated factor driving China's solar boom is the growth in China itself. China's electricity demand jumped 5%, or about 281 terawatt-hours (TWh), in 2016 (enough to power 25 million U.S. homes). Since 2007, U.S. electricity consumption is down 78 TWh per year…” click here for more
Pumped hydro storage 'could make Australia run on renewable energy alone within 20 years'
Stephen Smiley and Caroline Winter, September 20, 2017 (Australian Broadcasting Company)
“…Australia has the capacity to store up to 1,000 times more [New Energy] than it could ever conceivably need…[Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU)] found at least 22,000 suitable locations for pumped hydro sites…[and concluded the country] could transition to [100% Ndew Energy] in 20 years if just a few of those sites were built…Pumped hydro works by pumping water uphill between two connected reservoirs when power is plentiful, and dispatching power to the grid [by letting it flow downhill through turbines] when demand is high or when wind and solar do not work…[A] typical pumped hydro facility could deliver maximum power for between five hours and one full day [and can] be quickly dispatched…The technology behind pumped hydro is not new…[and is] widespread in Europe…[The researchers found tens of thousands of potential] sites Australia-wide…” click here for more
Engineering study dispels myths on limits to renewables in SA; Report confirms the power system will be sufficiently flexible to handle very large amounts of variable wind and solar PV generation.
Chris Yelland, 17 September 2017 (MoneyWeb)
“…Myths and propaganda peddled by discredited utility executive on the limits and costs of accommodating significant levels of variable renewable energy capacity in the South African power grid [are dispelled by the hard facts reported in Assessing the impact of increasing shares of variable generation on system operations in South Africa.] The study and associated report was prepared for the South African Department of Energy (DoE) and Eskom…commissioned and funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) under the DoE’s South African – German Energy Programme (SAGEN)…[and] conducted by international engineering consultants…[To refute claims by fired former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and suspended Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko, it] investigates the increased flexibility [and cost] requirements of the South African power system resulting from increased levels of renewable generation in the time-frame up to 2030…The study confirms that the South African power system will be sufficiently flexible to handle very large amounts of variable wind and solar PV generation, especially when considering the addition of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) and open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs)…[with feasible modernizations] at moderate additional costs…” click here for more
Leonardo DiCaprio Commits $20 Million To Fight Climate Change
Philip Perry, September 20, 2017 (Big Think)
“…[Hollywood star, writer, and producer Leonardo DiCaprio is] a long-time advocate for the environment, and sits on the board of many prominent organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare…He’s also traveled the world speaking on climate change…[and] brought up climate change in his [Oscar] acceptance speech…[Now the Leonardo DiCaprio foundation has promised] $20 million dollars in grants to 100 nonprofits working to fight climate change…[In his speech announcing the grants, DiCaprio said economic turmoil will come with the] ecological disaster…[But he said] R&D, green jobs, and green engineering…[are] ‘the largest domestic opportunity in all of American history’…[and the only thing lacking] is the political will to tackle this ever-increasing problem…[renewable energy, clean transportation, and sustainable agriculture] can begin to build a brighter future…” click here for more
Solar Energy Just Cleared a Pricing Target Set for 2020
Brad Jones, September 14, 2017 (Futurism)
“…[Utility-scale solar has] now reached the $0.06/kWh cost target in Kansas City, Missouri, that was set for 2020 by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative in 2011…[It is cheaper in sunny places like Phoenix, Arizona, and] more expensive in New York…[Utility-scale] solar now costs around one dollar per watt in terms of the total install cost, not taking into account any tax credits…[and] the price the price of installing utility-scale solar hardware dropped 29 percent over the first quarter of 2017…[The price of commercial-industrial and residential solar is about 85 percent of the SunShot target. The department’s next milestone, for 2030, will focus on improving reliability,] resilience, and storage…” click here for more
Wind energy mines digital cash to support climate research; Using the symptoms of climate change to fight climate change.
Jon Fingas, September 16, 2017 (End Gadget)
“…[Julian Oliver's Harvest project uses a 700W wind turbine to power a PC mining cryptocurrency (specifically, Zcash) that directly funds climate change research…It was commissioned as a piece of art, but it's a very practical design that could find plenty of uses in the real world…The PC itself is mostly off-the-shelf, with the GPU-heavy specs that you'd expect from a mining rig: it's using 'just' a Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, but it packs a hefty GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to process virtual cash as quickly as possible. The biggest changes are the obligatory weatherproof casing and a controller to regulate the incoming charge. The turbine itself has two hefty 150Ah batteries (each weighs about 95lbs) to store excess energy for use around the clock…[Harvest is installed at Sweden's Konstmuseet i Skövde (Art Museum in Skövde) until] mid-November. Oliver will donate the mined cryptocurrency to three climate-related non-profit groups…[He] sees this as a prototype, and envisions ‘hundreds’ of these machines raising money in windy areas…[for the climate fight or] rural internet access and any other infrastructure…” click here for more
When will self-driving electric cars make conventional cars worthless?
Michael J. Coren, September 18, 2017 (Quartz)
"…[T]ens of millions of conventional vehicles could one day be dumped in junkyards and weedy lots when self-driving, electric vehicles make them too expensive by comparison…[RethinkX predicts that, by 2030,] shared, autonomous electric vehicles will account for 95% of all U.S. passenger miles traveled thanks to their low-maintenance and fuel costs, as well as their ability to work around the clock. Most of those miles will be logged in cities and suburbs…[Internal combustion engine cars are forecast to be] 40% of all vehicles on the road by 2030, but they’ll just be used far less, and mostly in ex-urban and rural areas with less density than urban regions…[ RethinkX expects economics will cause transporatation-as-a-service (TaaS) to] quickly take over once it comes online…” click here for more
Is 100% renewable energy the best goal to cut power sector emissions? A new literature review says keeping some nuclear and CCS on the system could be more cost-effective
Herman K. Trabish, March 20, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: There is a consensus emerging that it is urgent to plan seriously for 80% renewables now and consider the last 20% of the power mix as that planning turns into reality.
A research review commissioned by the Energy Innovation Reform Project(EIRP) examines the best route to “deep decarbonization” -- nearly zero greenhouse gas emissions -- of the power sector by mid-century. It argues 100% renewables is not the best way to get there. The review assumes that an 80% to 100% cut in carbon emissions from the electric utility sector is necessary to limit global climate change to 2°C this century and argues the literature shows eliminating the last 10% to 30% of emissions needed for deep decarbonization is more cost-effective with a diverse energy mix. In addition to increases in wind and solar, energy storage, and demand response, it would include nuclear power, fossil fuel generation with carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy…
On the other hand, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s Solutions Project offers state and national roadmaps to 100% renewables by 2050. Jacobson called the EIRP study “highly misleading” because nuclear and CCS will not necessarily reduce the costs of decarbonization. “The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found they may not be needed to get deep decarbonization and that nuclear in particular is expensive and risky,” he added. The EIRP review assessed a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that modeled an 80% U.S. renewables penetration. The four-volume, 2014 study found a renewables mix “in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of the total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States.” One NREL study author suggested focusing now on the most cost-effective resource mix for deep decarbonization in the near term... click here for more
Have California's efforts to value distributed resources hit a roadblock? Just about the only thing parties in the state's DER valuation working group can agree on is that the tool they developed is 'not yet ready'
Herman K. Trabish, March 21, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: It is becoming increasingly clear that finding the right way to integrate DER into the power system faces many economic and policy hurdles. Ironically, the technology is the easy part.
California’s landmark effort to value distributed energy resources by their location on the grid faces complexities. Stakeholders in the state’s locational net benefit analysis(LNBA) working group agreed that the valuation tool they have developed is “not yet ready” and “needs refinements.” The group was tasked with building a locational value tool to inform key proceedings in California’s effort to open its marketplace to distributed energy resources (DER). They say the tool’s avoided cost inputs are a simplified representation of utilities’ cost-benefit analyses and not an appropriate proxy to determine payments to DER. It is only a start toward valuing distribution system expenditure deferrals.
Stakeholders say the bigger value of DER in expenditures that are deferred is still too complicated to model, with too many places for errors. Regulators believe the tool is important because it shows what can and cannot yet be valued and what remains to be developed in order to proactively identify locational value of DER. Working group discussions were based on the visionary More than Smart document that initiated the California DER proceedings. But commission guidance is now needed to prioritize next steps because longer-term refinements of the tool and methodology are necessary. The Integration of Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) proceeding (R.14-10-003), the Distribution Resource Planning (DRP) proceeding (R.14-08-013), and the commission’s net energy metering (NEM) successor tariff decision (D.16-01-044) hinge on and inform this effort… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
The Truth about the Need for Electric Transmission Investment: Sixteen Myths Debunked
Julia Frayer, Eva Wang, Marie Fagan, Barbara Porto, Jinglin Duan, September 2017 (London Economics for the WIRES Group)
WIRES commissioned London Economics International LLC (“LEI”) to provide a White Paper on the myths and truths about transmission investment. The views of key decision makers regarding the need for transmission investment are often governed by widely-believed but outdated or inaccurate myths regarding the key drivers for investment, such as: trends in electric demand and supply; the cost of infrastructure and who should pay for it; benefits of investment; and the interplay between transmission and various new technologies. This White Paper identifies the principal myths surrounding consideration of transmission projects in regulatory, industry, and political circles and then explains why those myths are typically baseless, false, and misleading. The paper uses real-life examples of transmission investment projects to debunk these harmful misconceptions. In order to offer a more accurate portrayal of the need to invest in transmission infrastructure, this White Paper concludes with recommendations for practical and feasible improvements to the process of evaluating transmission projects.
Introduction And Roadmap To This Report
Why are there myths around transmission investment?
Myths are sprouted from small “seeds” that are grounded in reality but then grow to be “larger than life.” The factual foundations begin to fade, and the embellishments soon become the focus of the story. With respect to transmission investment, myths have arisen as a shorthand to help navigate the complexities of transmission investment decisions. Unfortunately, trying to simplify the decision of investors and system planners down to a sound bite of several words creates inaccuracies and gives rise to myths that undermine beneficial investment opportunities.
Transmission investments are complex and large-scale, and they require careful evaluation, forward-looking analysis, and long-term commitments. Key issues in the decision-making process include the following considerations:
• Transmission investment decisions are multi-faceted. Electric transmission investment is a highly regulated, complex undertaking which involves many decision-makers.
• Transmission investment is large-scale. This creates almost an immediate natural tendency to consider deferral and smaller-scale, sometimes piecemeal, options because the costs and consequences of not pursuing a large-scale investment are typically ignored because they are more difficult to come to grips with.
• Transmission investment requires long-term commitments and planning. It can take 10 to 15 years to plan, permit, and construct new transmission, and sometimes much longer. Once built, transmission projects typically have economic and operating lives that are more than 50 years.
It is tempting to tame these complexities by relying on familiar myths to guide transmission investment decisions. However, as this report shows, using outdated myths to guide investment will result in missed opportunities for benefits to the power system, transmission users, and to electricity consumers. This report uses real-life examples to debunk the myths around transmission investment.
In Section 2, we briefly explain the important changes to the transmission system over the past two decades and the new realities that have resulted for the transmission system. In sections 3-7 we identify the myths and replace them with the new realities, or truths, about transmission. In Section 8, we provide recommendations for practical and feasible improvements to the process of evaluating the need for transmission investment to reflect these new realities. Some of the recommendations are already being practiced by system planners – if other decision-makers adopt these recommendations then their decisions around investment would more truly reflect the value that transmission investment brings to consumers and the power grid.
Why Do We Need Transmission?
Electricity service is not simply about which power plants are running. Keeping the lights on involves an integrated network of resources, including: transmission lines, substations, control equipment, and local distribution lines (see Figure 1 below). Transmission infrastructure also ensures that the system is “reliable,” meaning that the lights stay on even when power demand surges or an individual power plant goes offline.
Transmission investments are generally grouped into three categories:
• Reliability: Projects that are necessary to resolve a reliability issue (such as keeping the lights on);
• Economic: Projects that, while not necessary to resolve a reliability issue, allow cheaper generation to reach more load; and
• Public policy: Projects that assist in meeting public policy goals (e.g., lines built to support state renewable portfolio standards (“RPS”) by, for example, allowing new remote wind generation to access load centers).
Investing in each of these three types of transmission requires long-term planning and a coordinated effort to ensure transmission is built where and when it is needed. The “drivers” of the need for new transmission were simple and straightforward: growing demand for electricity in a utility’s service territory and the location of its power plants. The benefits of a new line were often taken for granted by the regulator, as long as the costs seemed reasonable and it was a straightforward exercise to allocate costs to consumers.
2.1 The evolving role of transmission
In the past, most transmission projects were developed by “vertically integrated” utilities that served a well-defined service territory and built power lines to connect its plants with its consumers, and consumers would only take services from this utility.
Nowadays, however, many regions of the US are served by independent power generators who own only power plants, and transmission and distribution utilities who focus only on delivering electricity to consumers. Even in areas where a single utility provides all services to consumers (and owns its own generation along with its wires businesses), there are now rules and regulations that require open access of the transmission system and “arms-length” considerations between the generation and transmission businesses. Independent system operators known as Regional Transmission Operators (“RTOs”) or Independent System Operators (“ISOs”) are now operating across the North American grid, and are in charge of the system planning and evaluation of transmission projects. Meanwhile, non-traditional investors are now allowed to ‘compete’ with utilities to build and own transmission projects. The line between consumers and producers is also blurring. Not only do consumers in some states have the right to choose their own supplier, but they also have an option to invest in their own generation facilities, thanks to the evolution of technology and regulatory reforms. In addition, many states have targets for renewable investment, which often call for additional transmission facilities to connect new generations with the load centers.
Thus, over the past few decades, the simple drivers of transmission have become less relevant, and new realities are driving the sector.
2.2 From myths to truths
Many common misconceptions around transmission investment have evolved from high-level generalizations about why transmission investment is needed and has led to oversimplification of the cost and benefits. These common misconceptions – “myths” – are detached from realities, or “truths,” about transmission, and impose great challenge on efficient transmission development to meet current and future transmission needs.
These myths generally fall into five different categories, namely: (i) myths about power demand; (ii) myths about power supply; (iii) myths about alternatives to transmission; (iv) myths about costs; and (v) myths about benefits of transmission investments. We have identified a total of sixteen myths (see Figure 2) that need urgently to be corrected to better help system planners make informed decisions1—a topic which will be discussed in detail in the following sections…
Myths And Truths About Electricity Demand…Myths And Truths About Electricity Supply…Myths And Truths About Alternatives To Transmission…Myths And Truths About The Cost Of Transmission…Myths And Truths About The Benefits Of Transmission…
From Myths To Reality: Recommendations For A Change Of Perspectives In Investment Planning And Decision-Making
To avoid myths and to think about transmission investment realistically, decision makers need to adopt a comprehensive and consistent approach to evaluating the costs and benefits of transmission.
LEI recommends that this approach recognize a common set of evaluation criteria (or metrics) across all types of transmission projects (see Figure 17). Even if a project has been proposed for reliability, for example, it might also have benefits related to market efficiency and/or policy. Applying a broad set of metrics to every transmission investment would ensure that all potential benefits would be captured for evaluation.
8.1 Costs and benefits should be evaluated as a whole package Some benefits of a transmission project tend to increase over time with both load growth and fuel price inflation. At the same time, costs tend to leave an impression of being “front-loaded,” although in fact, the investment costs are typically spread over many years in rates to consumers, and decline over time as capital cost is depreciated. Transmission investments have benefits and cost lives that extend well beyond 40 years. In spite of this, many transmission investment decisions are made based on comparisons of costs and benefits over a much shorter period than the typical 40-year useful life of the asset, for example, for the first 10 years of a project. Requiring a comparison of the first 10 years of estimated benefits with annual transmission consumer costs for the same number of years raises the benefit-to-cost threshold that projects must overcome.43 Instead, we recommend analysis of benefits over a longer period to better match the life of the investment. In addition, it is important for benefits of investments to be measured against an accurate view of the world of not doing the project. Frequently, opportunity costs are ignored even though the costs of a reliability shortfall are well recognized.44
There are many other dimensions of costs and benefits that need to be paired accurately to ensure that sound decisions are being made, as discussed below.
8.2 Transmission alternatives need to be examined comprehensively
As noted previously, alternatives to transmission ([Non-Transmission Alternatives] NTAs and [Market Resource Alternatives] MRAs) and transmission investment offer a range of different types of benefits. While it is true that MRAs can provide valuable services, transmission infrastructure tends to provide a broader array of benefits that accrue to a wider variety of parties over a larger geographical dimension (as well as to local areas). Thus, an optimal process is not one that poses an either/or decision (treating transmission and MRAs as substitutes), but one which treats them as potential complements, and asks “how much of each should we use in this circumstance?” When considering the costs, the cost of subsidies provided to some distributed generation such as behind-the-meter solar PV should also be included as an indirect cost. In addition, positive and negative externalities should be considered, thereby evaluating indirect benefits or costs on various stakeholders.
8.3 Recognize that certainty of costs and uncertainty of benefits can be an illusion
It is easier to perceive the costs of an investment than to envision its benefits. The cost of an investment is up-front (at least when described in capital spending terms) and “known” while benefits can be of varying magnitudes over time and will depend upon how the future unfolds. In addition, it is difficult for most stakeholders to perceive the cost of not taking action. However, there are real costs to inaction—system reliability can hamper local economic activities (for example, if there is simply insufficient electricity to meet demand, some economic activities will need to be interrupted). Inaction can also increase the cost of electricity (due to the lack of efficient resources and rising congestion when existing transmission capacity is “used up”).
8.4 Plan for the future
Not only is transmission a long-lived asset, its required siting, permitting and construction time frames are also lengthy, as noted previously. Thus, investors need to project drivers for transmission investment many years into the future, so that when the transmission development project is finally completed and energized, it will be the right size, and in the right place. For example, the timing of many nuclear license expirations (for the 2030s and early 2040s) seems far into the future right now; but a transmission development process that begins in 2018 and takes 10-15 years to complete will result in a project that will serve the market for many years after those nuclear plants retire.
8.5 Overcome the natural human tendency to over-rely on recent experience
Looking out over the long term, developing realistic assumptions for forward-looking investment analysis and system planning is not straight forward. The use of scenario analysis to understand and quantify some of the uncertainties in long-term investment can be valuable. Scenarios should include a “business as usual” scenario, as well as alternative scenarios that contain various transmission solutions and technically-suitable alternatives, or alternative values for drivers (such as varying assumptions for future natural gas prices, economic activities and consumer behavior patterns around electricity use).
Scenario analysis is built on plausible futures that are intended to envelop the range of outcomes, not just outcomes that mirror recent experience. If all the scenarios were to identify meaningful benefits, that suggests that even if one were uncertain about the future, there would be benefits to the investment regardless of which scenario was actually realized.
8.6 Plan for the unexpected
A “most-likely” analysis cannot capture the impact of unlikely but extreme events. These events can have expensive consequences for consumers. For example, during the winter of 2013/14, the coldest winter in 20 years in many places,45 there were in fact three “Polar Vortexes” that extended across across the Eastern seaboard of the US. Many ISOs/RTOs saw unprecedently high winter peak loads and experienced very high energy prices (see Figure 18). For instance, the NYISO set a new record winter peak load of 25,738 MW, and requested voluntary reduction from about 900 MW of its demand resources. 46 ISO-NE reached a peak just short of its all-time historic peak and also called for demand response resources to be ready for deployment.47 PJM and some providers in South Carolina had to cut voltage in their areas by 5%, while South Carolina Electric & Gas was forced to disconnect some consumers to ensure that the power grid could remain within safe operating limits and could withstand a worsening of the emergency.
A system-wide blackout can amount to billions of dollars of economic losses. For example, the total cost of a 12-hour system-wide outage in MISO, which has an outage cost of $3,500/MWh and an average hourly load of 76,850 MWs, would amount to $3.2 billion.49 Prior economic studies have pinpointed economic losses from the blackout of 2003 to as much as $4-$10 billion.50 A transmission line can help moderate consumer rate hikes due to weather driven events and could in some circumstances make the system more resilient and insure against an expensive system-wide blackout.
Decision-making around transmission investment is complex and multi-faceted, and each transmission project is unique to some degree in the mix of benefits it can provide to consumers and the electric system. As we have shown, relying on outdated myths can handicap the decision-making process, mistakenly reject valuable transmission investment, and result in missed opportunities to benefit consumers. We must strive to correct the myths in our thinking about transmission investment and must also move the investment analysis in a direction which will allow us to avoid the trap of making more “myths.” In doing so, we can thereby ultimately support more informed transmission investment decision-making in the future.
All About Climate Change In 17 Short Answers Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.
Justin Gillis, September 19, 2017 (NY Times)
“…[Understanding the facts about global] warming can be daunting…[This easy-to-read piece boils it down to 17 short,] straightforward answers…[Both climate change and global warming] are accurate, but they mean different things…You can think of global warming as one type of climate change. The broader term covers changes beyond warmer temperatures, such as shifting rainfall patterns…President Trump has claimed that scientists stopped referring to global warming and started calling it climate change because ‘the weather has been so cold’ in winter. But the claim is false. Scientists have used both terms for decades…As of early 2017, the Earth had warmed by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (more than 1 degree Celsius) since 1880, when records began at a global scale. The number may sound low, but as an average over the surface of an entire planet, it is actually high, which explains why much of the world’s land ice is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, scientists say, the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would undermine the planet’s capacity to support a large human population…” click here for other 15 answers
New Energy Ready To Step Up Clean Energy Is Approaching a Tipping Point
Reed Landberg, September 19, 2017 (Bloomberg News)
“The cost of renewables is plunging faster than forecasters anticipated just a few years ago as technologies like gigantic wind turbines arrive on the market…[Bloomberg New Energy Finance] estimates that clean energy will reap 86 percent of the $10.2 trillion likely to be invested in power generation by 2040…[T]echnology that’s slashing the costs of wind and solar farms makes it inevitable that clean energy will become more economical than fossil fuels for utilities in many places...
The most visible advance is in the scale of wind turbines…When it started collecting data in earnest in 2004, BNEF already could see a trend toward bigger machines in the wind industry that deliver more spark to the grid. The scale of those turbines will grow…
The same process of producing more electricity for a lower cost is making photovoltaics cheaper…[Power generation fueled by natural gas and coal…[are increasingly unattractive because new wind and solar are becoming] cheaper than anything else…[A little further off,] it will be more costly to operate existing coal and gas plants than to take power from wind and solar…” click here for more
How Old Energy Attacks Solar The troubling 'tactics' politicians are using to attack rooftop solar
Greer Ryan, September 18, 2017 (CNBC)
“…[New figures show the U.S. solar power market experienced more record growth in the second quarter of 2017 and has been] 22 percent of new electric capacity this year…[But] politicians influenced by fossil fuel and utility companies are working feverishly to stifle renewable energy growth…[They have backed policies that] drive up the costs of residential solar and make it unaffordable for many Americans…Much of the impressive solar power growth in 2017 was led by large-scale and utility installations. Distributed solar – those smaller systems often put on rooftops and parking lots – only grew one percent in the second quarter…[This slowdown is problematic because distributed solar has the potential to supply electricity during grid outages resulting from extreme weather or other emergency situations…[so, on] top of reducing our fossil fuel dependence, rooftop solar helps to make our cities more resilient in the face of climate change…[And we can’t take utility-scale solar growth] for granted either…The federal government is considering a trade petition [moving forward under the guise of protecting U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers from international competition] that could, if [approve d by the president]…double the price of solar panels in the United States…[and force] the loss of one-third of domestic solar jobs…” click here for more
Charting the Emergence of Corporate Procurement of Utility-Scale PV
Jenny Heeter, Jeffrey J. Cook, and Lori Bird, September 2017 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Corporations are procuring utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) generation to meet their renewable energy and financial goals for electricity. The corporate procurement of utility-scale PV has grown from less than 1% of annual installed utility-scale capacity in 2014 to 9% in 2016 (Shiao et al. 2017), and it accounted for 17% in early 2017 (Honeyman et al. 2016). Through July 2017, corporate customers contracted for more than 2,300 MW of utility-scale solar, primarily using financial power purchase agreements (PPAs) and green tariff or bilateral contracts with utilities (43% and 36%, respectively) (Figure ES-1).
Figure ES-1 includes PPAs and green tariff or bilateral contacts, which are in some cases enabled by retail choice and becoming a licensed wholesale seller of electricity. This paper examines the benefits, challenges, and outlooks for large-scale off-site solar purchasing through four pathways: PPAs, retail choice, utility partnerships (green tariffs and bilateral contracts with utilities), and by becoming a licensed wholesale seller of electricity. Each pathway differs based on where in the United States it is available, the value provided to a corporate off-taker, and the ease of implementation (Table ES-1). In addition, corporations will consider a range of metrics when determining which procurement option is most appropriate for them.
In order to expand corporate procurement of off-site solar, both a purchasing pathway and costcompetitive solar are required. Corporations typically are interested in purchasing least-cost renewables, with no preference of wind over solar, however, more wind has been contracted to date, largely due to its low-cost availability in Texas, along with the ability to sign a PPA. Figure ES-2 shows the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of utility-scale solar using a one axis tracker, and corporate procurement of renewable energy, by resource and procurement pathway. To deploy more corporate off-site solar, new procurement pathways are needed, such as the green tariff that is enabling procurement of solar in Nevada.
Of the states with the greatest solar potential (on an LCOE basis), California and Nevada have seen the greatest MW of corporate PV purchasing, through financial PPAs (California) and green tariffs (Nevada), but purchasing options are just emerging or do not exist in other areas of the country with strong solar potential…
Pathway Comparison and Outlook
Market innovation is enabling corporate solar procurement, including new purchasing models, declining costs, and increased interest by corporate purchasers. The market drivers for largescale solar photovoltaic are poised to continue in the near term: increased interest by corporate customers in renewable energy procurement, declining solar costs and increasing retail electricity rates, as well as a rush to sign projects that will receive the full 30% investment tax credit by commencing construction before the end of 2019. A critical question is which pathway offers corporations the best opportunity to leverage these developments and deploy more solar.
Each pathway provides different levels of value to corporate purchasers. In addition, corporations will consider a range of metrics when determining which procurement option is most appropriate for them (Table 6). Each pathway differs in the hedging value it provides, ease of implementation, and availability.
• Hedge value. Corporations interested in procuring solar would prefer the best value proposition available in a given location. This value is driven largely by the scope of the hedging opportunity. In this context, operating as a licensed wholesale electricity supplier might offer the best opportunity, followed by PPAs. In the retail choice and utility green tariff pathways, contracts might be shorter term, and the fixed rate might be influenced by retail supplier and utility participation in the contract.
• Ease of implementation. Corporations are also interested in reducing the administrative costs of their off-site purchases (in term of staffing and knowledge development as well as administrative fees paid to utilities or others). In this regard, utility green tariff programs and retail choice require less internal capacity building and market expertise, but they might come at the expense of paying administrative or other fees.
• Availability. The availability of these options can influence which pathways corporations are able to pursue in a given location. Availability might also influence how corporations might source electricity to serve existing facilities and how they make siting decisions for future facilities. In this context, the licensed wholesale electricity supplier pathway is most attractive because it is available to any corporation across the United States. In comparison, PPAs, retail choice, and utility green tariff programs are more limited in geographic scope.
Expanding Off-Site Solar Procurement Options
For the corporate solar procurement market to grow, more purchasing options need to be available at decreased price points for corporate buyers. Corporate buyers need access not only to a purchasing option but one that will be feasible for them to sell to senior executives. There are a variety of opportunities to expand corporate access to each of the four pathways as well as make them more attractive to prospective companies. These opportunities were generated from the interviewees who participated in this study and are summarized for each pathway in turn
To enable PPAs in new markets, state policymakers could open electricity markets to wholesale access. Because financial PPAs require renewable projects to sell into a wholesale market, projects in states such as Arizona and New Mexico cannot move forward under a financial PPA.
Additional work is also needed to ensure that PPAs are viable options for smaller corporate purchasers. To date, PPAs have been dominated by information and communication technology companies that have large, centralized loads (O’Shaughnessy et al. 2016; Miller et al. 2015), but many smaller corporate purchasers are beginning to take interest in the option. Aggregation of smaller loads is time-consuming and to date has been done only in limited numbers; however, as corporate interest increases among smaller purchasers, creating PPA aggregation models would allow greater numbers of companies, and megawatts, to be signed.
To further reduce PPA prices, more standardization of contracts is needed as well as decreased customer acquisition times. Currently, corporate solar contracts are negotiated on the basis of each individual company, which is time-consuming and adds costs to the project. If corporations and solar developers were to use a more standardized PPA, these costs could come down. Standardizing contracts could also create a secondary market for financing projects. In addition to standardizing contracts, decreasing the time to acquire a corporate off-taker could improve project economics. Developers have noted that corporate customers often require a lot of education before signing deals, particularly when compared to a utility off-taker. Developers also need a sense of where potential corporate off-take is located, to site projects accordingly; this is especially an issue for large utility-scale solar projects, which take more time to site and construct than on-site solar projects.
State policymakers could also open markets to retail choice, either for some or all retail customers. To date, 21 states allow at least some corporate customers to purchase electricity from their choice of suppliers, with 8 of those states having only partial retail choice. Although there is movement in Nevada and Washington to allow more retail choice (either for the market as a whole, as in Nevada; or for specific customers, in the case of Microsoft in Washington), the retail choice cap in Michigan was recently maintained. Because of the complexities in restructuring retail electricity markets, there will likely be little movement in expanding retail choice in the short term.
If state policymakers are interested in creating opt-out provisions such as those in Nevada, one of the more contentious issues to be aware of is the process of assessing exit fees. Exit fees are designed to keep existing ratepayers whole for any costs incurred by the corporation leaving the utility. In Nevada, exit fees are determined at the level of the PUCN.
Utilities have primarily been adopting green tariffs voluntarily, but state policymakers could direct utilities under their purview to create and provide a green tariff. Michigan’s Public Act 342 (2016) required electricity providers to offer a voluntary green pricing program. Although the act did not specify that the program needed to be a green tariff program, Consumers Energy proposed a green tariff to fulfill their obligation under the statute. To date, only 7 utilities have green tariffs with customers, and an additional 7 utilities have participated in bilateral agreements with corporate off-takers; however, there is increased interest by utilities in developing new arrangements. These options can take time to develop, with public utilities commission approval needed for both the tariff and individual contract.
To increase the use of green tariffs, utilities, corporate off-takers, and public utility commissions could consider creating green tariffs and bilateral contracts that provide value to both the utility and the subscribing customer. Corporate customers want to ensure that their participation is not laden with heavy administrative costs and that the full value of the price hedge is passed through in the green tariff or bilateral contract. At the same time, utilities want to ensure that their transmission and distribution costs are compensated.
Supplier Although becoming a wholesale electricity supplier offers the greatest control over corporate electricity use, to date it is a complex process in which few corporate customers have taken interest. Corporate customers that have large electricity loads might be interested in learning from the experience of those that have undertaken the option to better evaluate whether it would make sense for them.
Future Outlook Summary
Existing purchasing options will improve access and viable purchasing options for corporate customers to buy off-site renewable energy. However, for solar to play a larger role in corporate purchasing, states and utilities should consider working with stakeholders to develop purchasing options in areas where solar is most cost-competitive. Many interviewees noted that corporate purchasers have little preference for either solar or wind; rather, they are looking only at the availability of renewable projects at lowest cost. Although solar has dominated corporate purchasing in some areas of the country, in other areas purchasing is currently dominated by wind. Opening options in areas of the country where solar is most cost-competitive could make it a preferred option for corporate customers. Figure 13 shows the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of utility-scale solar using a one axis tracker and corporate procurement of renewable energy, by state.
Of the states with the greatest solar potential (on an LCOE basis), California and Nevada have seen the greatest MW of corporate PV purchasing, through financial PPAs (California) and green tariffs (Nevada), but purchasing options are just emerging or do not exist in other areas of the country with strong solar potential.
The Key Climate Change Unknown The Real Unknown of Climate Change: Our Behavior
Justin Gillis, September 18, 2017 (NY Times)
“As Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast, few people in that state seemed to understand the nature of the looming danger…[Scientists in Texas] have spent their careers issuing a larger warning, one that much of the public still chooses to ignore…Because of atmospheric emissions from human activity, the ocean waters from which Harvey drew its final burst of strength were much warmer than they ought to have been, most likely contributing to the intensity of the deluge…[Most likely,] the most savage heat waves that we experience today will likely become routine in a matter of decades…[and the] coastal inundation that has already begun will grow worse and worse…
…[While many people are coming to their own commonsense conclusions,] some senior Republicans continue to question the link between human-caused emissions and rising temperatures…[Real uncertainties about details remain but they cut in both directions…[If they go against us, there] could be 80 or 100 feet of sea level rise...The truth is that the single biggest uncertainty is, and has always been, how much carbon pollution humans are going to choose to pump into the air…And yet most of us have still not bestirred ourselves to care, much less to march in the streets demanding change…Is this failure to act the legacy our generation wants to leave for the generations yet to come?” click here for more
Beer Brewer Anheuser-Busch In Big Wind Buy Anheuser-Busch signs wind farm power deal as part of global renewable energy goal
Lisa Brown, September 13, 2017 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“Anheuser-Busch InBev has signed a deal to buy power produced by an Oklahoma wind farm as part of its global goal to have 100 percent of its purchased electricity come from renewable sources by 2025…[A-B will buy 152.5 MW of the $435 million, 298 MW Thunder Ranch wind project being developed in Oklahoma by Enel Green Power. The power purchase agreement] will be the brewer’s first contracted utility-scale project to start operations globally [when it goes online later this year. The maker of Budweiser and other beers announced plans for a similar deal in Mexico for 490 gigawatt hours annually, but that wind farm deal won’t go into effect until 2019…The renewable energy produced under A-B’s agreement with Enel Green Power will be equivalent to powering up to half of A-B’s total purchased electricity in a year…Solar power will [also] continue to be an area of focus for A-B…” click here for more
Montana Grew Solar 400% In 2016 Montana quadruples solar energy capacity in one year
Erin Loranger, September 15, 2017 (Helena Independent Record)
“…Montana was producing 6.6 megawatts of installed capacity a year ago. The governor’s office released an energy plan, Montana Energy Future, with a goal to double solar capacity by 2025. Now the state has an installed capacity of 26 megawatts…[The governor’s office said] the state hopes to continue increasing solar production, which creates jobs and promotes energy independence…There [were] 373,807 solar jobs as of 2016 in the United States. The solar industry employs more people than coal, natural gas, wind or nuclear sources…[For helping drive this solar growth, the Montana Renewable Energy Association presented Governor Bullock’s] administration with a clean energy leadership award…” click here for more