Wärtsilä Report Urges 100% Renewables Sooner, Uruguay Proves It Can Happen Now

At-a-Glance:

With the COP26 conference happening in Glasgow, many climate and environmental  groups are urging nations to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. A new report from Wärtsilä entitled Front Loading New Zero argues that nations can adopt 100% renewable systems faster than currently planned. To learn more, read “Wärtsilä Report Urges 100% Renewables Sooner, Uruguay Proves It Can Happen Now.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The new report says significant cost reductions can be achieved by front loading the deployment of renewables — mostly wind and solar — and by utilizing the technologies needed to balance their inherent intermittency with energy storage and thermal generating stations.
  • Wärtsilä CEO Håkan Agnevall explains, “As we approach COP26, our Front-Loading Net Zero report should act as a wake-up call for leaders, as this is our last and best chance to get countries on pathways to carbon neutrality.
  • Sushil Purohit, president of Wärtsilä Energy adds, “There is no single solution that fits all markets, and this report highlights the different paths and technologies that can be utilized. The ultimate aim, however, is common to all and that is to decarbonize energy production and take the fullest advantage of our natural energy sources.”
  • In 2007, Uruguay had to rely on electricity imported from neighbors like Brazil and Argentina.
    • Within 10 years, it had 4,000 MW of installed capacity.
    • Today, 98% of the electricity for its 3.4 million inhabitants comes from renewables, including hydro.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The price of electricity does not need to increase when power systems move to net zero. Utilities are shifting from a costly operational expenditure (opex) model, where capital is continually drawn into fuelling and maintaining legacy inflexible coal, oil, and gas plants – to a new model where up-front capital expenditure (capex) is invested in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy technology. Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar – and earning rewards from capacity mechanisms. Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power up-front, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation.

 

Photo by Ernesto Velázquez on Unsplash

Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch

At-a-Glance:

French energy giant TotalEnergies SE expects global oil demand to peak before the end of this decade, as more nations crack down on fossil fuels and promote cleaner power in transport and industry to mitigate global warming. Total’s 2021 Energy Outlook, which takes into account new net-zero pledges made by countries including the U.S. and China, assumes crude demand will plateau before 2030 and then decline. To learn more, read, “Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Total’s Momentum scenario, which is based on environmental targets and policies announced worldwide, points to a 2.2 to 2.4-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
  • This year’s report “considerably” raises the company’s forecasts for global solar and wind investments by the middle of the century to electrify transport as governments increasingly ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles.
  • Meanwhile, natural gas is seen keeping its role as a transition fuel, especially as carbon dioxide and methane emissions are increasingly reined in.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

According to the IEA’s landmark 2050 roadmap, there is a viable pathway to build a global net zero emissions energy sector by 2050, but it is narrow and calls for a transformation in how energy is produced, transported and used globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that to limit global warming to 1.5C°, global CO2 emissions should decline by 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050.

Meanwhile, the price of electricity does not need to increase when power systems move to net zero. Utilities are shifting from a costly operational expenditure (opex) model, where capital is continually drawn into fuelling and maintaining legacy inflexible coal, oil, and gas plants – to a new model where up-front capital expenditure (capex) is invested in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy technology. Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar – and earning rewards from capacity mechanisms.

 

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

DOE eyes AI, machine learning to accelerate long-duration energy storage research

At-a-Glance:

A proposed federal research program to accelerate research into the durability and performance of long-duration energy storage is a critical step to meeting the Biden administration’s decarbonization goals, speakers said Thursday at a Department of Energy (DOE) panel. DOE officials said long-duration energy storage technology must be commercially ready, at scale, by 2030, in order to increase the share of renewables on the grid and meet the administration’s 100% clean electricity by 2035 goal. To learn more, read, DOE eyes AI, machine learning to accelerate long-duration energy storage research.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In July, DOE announced a moonshot goal to reduce the cost of utility-scale, long-duration storage by 90% within a decade, backed by federal research, large-scale demonstrations and domestic manufacturing incentives
  • Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk said bringing long-duration storage to the grid wouldn’t just make it possible to rely on more renewable energy, but also “increase resilience and lower energy burdens” for vulnerable communities.
  • Although there have been technical breakthroughs on long-duration technologies — notably Form Energy’s July announcement of a 100-hour iron-air battery — experts have cautioned about the limited window to test batteries in the real world.
    • ROVI, the proposed initiative from DOE’s national labs, seeks to close that information gap by using machine learning and artificial intelligence to model performance of different long-duration storage technologies, including predicting how the technology will lose performance or hold up physically over time.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will be key elements for the design of future energy systems, supporting the growth of smart grids and improving the efficiency of power generation, along with the interaction among electricity customers and utilities. Centralized power systems enable equal access to clean power at the lowest cost, reducing economic inequality. Regardless of whether the path forward is more or less centralized, AI brings value to all parties. The more AI is used in the dispatch of power plants, the more it will be needed in the design and creation process for new power plants or aggregations of power generation equipment. AI and equipment expertise are needed to enhance the safety, reliability, and efficiency of power equipment and systems. AI and machine learning will play increasingly important roles in future power generation, especially as more communities and organizations come to rely on smart grids and renewable fuels for their electricity needs.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Should Google and Microsoft focus on sourcing their own 100% clean power or cleaning up the dirtiest grids?

At-a-Glance:

Major companies with ambitious clean energy goals face a complicated set of options for how they ought to prioritize their efforts over the coming decade. Should they make their own electricity supply as clean as possible, or should they focus first on cleaning up the dirtiest power grids? To learn more, read, “Should Google and Microsoft focus on sourcing their own 100% clean power or cleaning up the dirtiest grids?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Google’s 24/7 clean energy pledge, made a year ago, which sets a 2030 deadline for powering its data centers and corporate campuses with 100 percent carbon-free energy every hour of the year.
  • Microsoft followed up earlier this year with a 100/100/0 pledge to match 100 percent of its corporate power consumption with zero-carbon resources 100 percent of the time by decade’s end.
  • Maximizing corporate carbon reductions has been gaining traction in recent years: investing in clean energy projects based on their ​“emissionality,” or their ability to directly reduce carbon emissions

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Clean energy goals along with clean energy investments is accelerating the decarbonization journey by putting a focus on decreasing carbon emissions. Google and Microsoft have been making headlines for their clean energy efforts for several years. Each organization has been able to promote their 100% achievements within the past five years. The path to 100% renewable energy does not look the same for every organization, community or region, but the steps to decarbonization are similar. Investing in renewable energy as well as clean-technology is consistently producing clean energy solutions as well as additional pledges and milestone accomplishments.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Biggest biofuel producer in US pledges carbon neutrality by 2050

At-a-Glance:

The largest biofuel manufacturer in the U.S., POET, announced a new goal this week of reaching carbon neutrality by the year 2050. The company said in a sustainability report that it has a number of benchmarks it aims to meet toward that objective, including reducing the carbon intensity of bioethanol by 70 percent and investing in technology to advance low-carbon bioproducts. The company also said it would aim to advance policies that support these goals. To learn more, read, Biggest biofuel producer in US pledges carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Carbon neutrality differs from zero emissions as companies that commit to neutrality aim to offset their carbon footprint by attempting to remove the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere that they contribute.
    • Many companies do this by buying carbon offset credits that go toward sustainability projects.
  • In its report, POET claimed to be the fastest-growing renewable CO2 business in the U.S.
  • The company said it would “consider” numerous ways of reducing carbon emissions including investing in solar power as well as technologies to capture and store CO2.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government agencies, communities and organizations are pledging to reach clean energy or carbon neutrality goals with ambitious timelines. However, the only way to reach these complex solutions in the next few decades is strategic planning and integration of multiple technologies. Biofuels have been part of the energy transition since the 1980’s, but the focus on biofuels gained more traction in the early 2000’s. Since then, the cost for renewable energy has dramatically increased which has increased the popularity for fuels produced by renewable energy such as hydrogen, ammonia and synthetic methane. POET’s increased focus and investment in emerging technologies could help to propel this biofuel manufacturer towards their carbon neutral goals and milestones.

 

Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash

Biden administration sets goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050

At-a-Glance:

The Biden administration announced a goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050, setting forth a plan to dramatically boost production of fuels made from waste or plants to drive down the environmental cost of flying. The use of what are called sustainable aviation fuels is in its infancy, with a handful of refineries in operation around the world. But airlines are banking on them as a major part of their efforts to cut emissions and become carbon neutral by the middle of the century. To learn more, read, “Biden administration sets goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Aviation accounts for about 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The federal government’s new goal targets annual production of 3 billion gallons of the fuels by 2030 — a level the White House says would enable a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from flying compared with doing nothing.
  • Currently, the alternative fuels have to be combined with conventional jet fuel, and eliminating fuel made from crude oil would require technological breakthroughs to allow engines to run entirely on the alternatives.
  • In March, members of Airlines for America, a trade group for major carriers, set a 2030 target of producing 2 billion gallons of alternative fuels.
    • In September, Nicholas Calio, the group’s chief executive, said airlines had agreed to the administration’s more ambitious goal.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Decarbonizing the transportation sector is complex and this will be an ongoing challenge of the energy transition. Although alternative fuels such as hydrogen are gaining in popularity, the ability to produce green hydrogen to scale has not been solved yet. Additionally, the technology to burn engines on pure green hydrogen as well as the ability to transport these types of sustainable alternatives, has not been developed yet. However, there is an ongoing commitment to invest in ways to produce and transport alternative fuels, which is notable progress for the energy transition.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Can a Green-Economy Boom Town Be Built to Last?

At-a-Glance:

As it prepares to deliver its first electric pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles this year, Rivian has spent around $1.5 billion renovating and expanding a factory once owned by Mitsubishi. On a typical day the 3.3-million-square-foot plant hosts several hundred construction workers alongside more than 2,500 workers employed by the company, which expects to eventually double its local head count. To learn more, read, Can a Green-Economy Boom Town Be Built to Last?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Electric vehicles require fewer workers to make than gasoline-powered ones.
  • Rivian’s prospects appear strong — it filed for a public stock offering in August, seeking a valuation of roughly $70 billion — the company could be overwhelmed by a growing list of competitors.
  • A nearby community college started a program this fall to train electric vehicle technicians, and Illinois State University, which abuts Uptown, is building an engineering school partly in response to Rivian.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

The economics are on our side. Power generation is undergoing fast trans- formation towards cleaner energy sources due to low-cost renewables. In addition, rapidly maturing energy storage technologies, together with sector coupling, are for the first time paving a route towards zero-emission electricity generation. In order for organizations and communities to build on the energy transition, there needs to be realistic and strategic planning, investments in innovation and commitment to accelerate decarbonization using a mix of renewable energy, fuels produced by renewable energy and energy storage.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. would need to quadruple the amount of solar energy it installs by 2035 if it wants to achieve a goal of decarbonizing the nation’s power grid, the Energy Department said in a study released in September 2021. According to the study, solar energy has the potential to power 40% of the nation’s electricity and employ as many as 1.5 million people by 2035. To learn more, read, Solar Needs to Quadruple for U.S. to Have Carbon-Free Grid.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2020, the U.S. installed a record 15 gigawatts of solar power bringing the total to 76 gigawatts or 3% of the nation’s electricity supply.
  • The study, which was conducted by the agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that by 2035, the U.S. would need to provide 1,000 gigawatts of solar power to achieve a 95% emission-free grid.
    • Decarbonizing the grid would require as much as 3,000 gigawatts of solar by 2050, the study said.
  • The study comes as the President called for a 100% clean energy grid by 2035 and a 50% economy-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as part of an effort to combat climate change.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

It is the job of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. As the current population emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments can lay the foundations for a smoother transition to a decarbonized world. To achieve this, utilities must commit to front-loading their efforts and investment strategies. Not only will this unlock a wealth of new commercial opportunities in a transformed power market, but the future of the planet and it’s population depends on it.

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

Rich in renewable energy, Chile seeks to become global hydrogen powerhouse

At-a-Glance:

As a net importer of fuels, Chile has not been a significant player in global energy markets. But the sun-drenched, wind-rich South American country aims to become a titan in the burgeoning green hydrogen economy, setting a goal to become one of the world’s top three exporters by 2040. The hydrogen economy is still taking shape, and the world is waiting for the costs of the technology to fall. Multinational companies are taking up the offer, looking to use Chile’s rich renewable energy resources to make breakthroughs in green hydrogen and take advantage of potential government subsidies. To learn more, read, “Rich in renewable energy, Chile seeks to become global hydrogen powerhouse.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Chilean President Sebastian Piñera’s outgoing administration launched its National Green Hydrogen Strategy in November 2020.
    • The goal is to have 5 GW of electrolysis capacity under development by 2025 and to create the cheapest green hydrogen on the planet by 2030.
  • Mining companies in the region are looking to hydrogen to slash operational costs by eliminating the expensive importation of diesel fuel.
    • They also believe green hydrogen can be used for electricity at mining sites alongside cheap renewable energy resources.
  • Beyond mining, companies are using Chile as a testing ground to create both ammonia and synthetic fuels from green hydrogen.
  • Roughly half of Chile’s installed power generation capacity for 2021 was sourced with renewable energy resources, making the production of green hydrogen easier.
  • Operators of coal-fired plants in the country, including international firms AES Corp., Enel SpA and Engie SA, have announced plans in 2021 to shut down such facilities and increase investments in renewables.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Chile has one of the most ambitious decarbonization plans in the world, targeting carbon neutral electricity in 2050. This South American country is already at a 70% renewable energy share with some of the world´s best wind and solar resources available. It is possible to retire coal in Chile before 2030 and to reach a 100% carbon neutral power system before 2050. Although competitive renewable energy and battery storage are available, the missing piece of the puzzle is long-term energy storage, which has the role of ensuring proper system function and reliability even during longer usual weather patterns such as drought, extreme heat or cold waves, cloud cover and rain, low wind periods as well as low solar seasons such as winter. Utilizing the Power-to-Fuel-to-Power as the long term energy storage can save Chile an estimated 17 billion dollars or 26% in investments and enables lower generation costs with better system reliability.

 

Photo by Ximena Nahmias on Unsplash

Linde says it will triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028

At-a-Glance:

Linde will invest more than $1 billion in decarbonization initiatives and triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028, according to the industrial gas giant’s 2020 Sustainable Development Report. The report highlights how Linde is investing across the hydrogen value chain to accelerate the clean energy transition. To learn more, read, “Linde says it will triple the amount of clean hydrogen production by 2028.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Linde says it will pursue competitive low-carbon sources of hydrogen, including energy-efficient steam methane reformers (SMRs) with carbon dioxide capture, electrolysis with renewable power and piloting new low-carbon technologies.
  • The firm says it has the largest liquid hydrogen production capacity and distribution system in the world today and it also operates the first commercial high-purity hydrogen storage cavern.
  • Linde also has around 200 hydrogen stations and 80 hydrogen electrolysis plants worldwide.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Future fuels can be produced using a process called Power-to-Gas (PtG), which uses surplus solar and wind energy to produce renewable fuels, like synthetic methane and hydrogen. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon-free and synthetic methane produced using carbon recycled from the air, is a carbon-neutral fuel. Future fuels, such as synthetic methane and hydrogen can replace carbon emitting fossil fuels. These fuels produced by renewable energy can also be stored indefinitely and used on demand for long periods of time (weeks) to produce power and provide balancing services to the grid.

Future fuels enable a renewable energy power system.

 

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

WRI lays out options for large energy users to decarbonize beyond renewables procurement

At-a-Glance:

Large energy buyers should take a leading role in accelerating the carbon-free grid transition by expanding their approaches to clean energy procurement practices, the World Resources Institute (WRI) wrote in a recently published report. Pursuing transmission buildout to increase access of clean energy, incorporating demand flexibility in procurement practices and getting more granular data on grid emissions, such as hourly matching, are some of the innovative approaches that cities and corporations with decarbonization goals have already taken to explore market products and opportunities across the grids they operate on, according to the WRI report. To learn more, read, “WRI lays out options for large energy users to decarbonize beyond renewables procurement.”

Key Takeaways:

  • WRI highlighted the efforts of Google; Microsoft; Apple; Des Moines, Iowa; Sacramento, California, and other large energy buyers to use different procurement practices with a focus on firm resources, reducing near-term emissions reductions, or enabling battery storage and carbon capture.
  • Michael Terrell, who chairs the board of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, said that 80% of the renewable energy deals in the U.S. occur in deregulated wholesale markets.
  • Des Moines, which WRI reported as the first U.S. city to commit to a 24/7 carbon-free electricity target by 2035, sought allies in other customers of MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.
    • Des Moines’ progress and approach is upheld as an example in the recent WRI study.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

State, provincial, municipal and in some cases national governments are declaring mandatory targets for 100% clean power. These regulatory targets are often considered renewable mandates as it is commonly understood that wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy sources are needed to replace fossil-fuel power plants in a zero-carbon emissions future. In most cases, the metrics that define “100%” compliance are often decoupled from strict renewable requirements, quantified using metrics such as carbon intensity (e.g., 0 g/kWh of CO2 emissions), thus potentially allowing for nuclear and combustion of biofuels and synthetic renewable fuels to meet the goals. The terms 100% renewable, 100% carbon-free and 100% carbon-neutral are often used interchangeably.

 

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

California to boost solar and wind capacity to meet renewable goals

At-a-Glance:

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) region plans to increase its solar and wind power capacity in 2021 to help meet the state’s target of 50% renewable generation by 2025, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). To learn more, read, “California to boost solar and wind capacity to meet renewable goals.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The CAISO plans to add an additional 1.6 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity, 0.4 GW of onshore wind turbine capacity and 2.5 GW of battery storage capacity this year, the EIA said.
    • These batteries could be charged using renewable power generation that would otherwise have been curtailed.
  • Additionally, two projects are being developed to facilitate hydrogen production and hydrogen-based energy storage, which could also help reduce curtailments of excess solar output.
  • Excess supply from renewable sources has prompted the grid to increasingly curtail solar and wind generation at times, even as it struggles to balance its clean energy push with the need to boost tight power supplies and avoid rolling blackouts amid heatwaves.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

California can reach its goal of serving 100% of retail load with renewable energy. However, this cannot be achieved with its current portfolio of resources. The rolling blackouts in summer 2020 show that California needs additional resources to supplement the tools already in place. More specifically, California needs new resources that complement the wind, solar, and hydro needed for a shift to a 100% renewable electricity system. Slow ramping, long start, baseload resources must be replaced by faster, more flexible resources that are capable of running on sustainable fuels. Sustainable fuels produced by excess wind and solar energy, plus storage resources, can enable California to cleanly and reliably shift energy from low-net loads to high-net loads.

 

Photo by Anders J on Unsplash