California to Test Whether Big Batteries Can Stop Summer Blackouts

At-a-Glance:

With summer’s heat approaching, California’s plan for avoiding a repeat of last year’s blackouts hinges on a humble savior – the battery. Giant versions of the same technology that powers smart phones and cars are being plugged into the state’s electrical grid at breakneck speed, with California set to add more battery capacity this year than all of China. To learn more, read “California to Test Whether Big Batteries Can Stop Summer Blackouts.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet. 

Key Takeaways:

  • By August, California will have 1,700 megawatts of new battery capacity – enough to power 1.3 million homes and, in theory, avert a grid emergency like that of 2020.
  • The state’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 may require installing 48.8 gigawatts of energy storage, according to a report by three state agencies – more than five times the output of all the grid-scale batteries currently operating worldwide.
  • But batteries do have two major limitations – time and cost. Most of the battery packs now available are designed to run for just four hours at a stretch. While that makes them a good fit for California, where electricity supplies can be strained in early summer evenings after solar power shuts  down, batteries would not have prevented the multi-day outage that paralyzed Texas in February. A battery can only operate for so long before it needs to recharge.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California’s current plan without thermal generation would require an investment of $309 billion between 2021 and 2045 to add another 1,624 GWh of battery storage and electricity generation cost would jump to a sky-high 128 $ / MWh. However,  with Power-to-Gas and thermal generation as long-term energy would save the state $176 billion between 2021 and 2045 and electricity generation cost would be $50 / MWh in 2045. More batteries without thermal generation is not affordable and is not enough to create a resilient or reliable grid.

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Texas Moves to Make Generators Winterize, Bar Future Griddys

At-a-Glance:

The Texas Senate passed a sweeping bill to overhaul the state’s electricity market following February’s historic blackouts by forcing power plants to winterize and barring the type of business model used by Griddy Energy. To learn more, read “Texas Moves to Make Generators Winterize, Bar Future Griddys.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The measure, which still needs approval by the state’s House of Representatives, would require the owners of all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to protect their facilities against extreme weather or face a penalty of up to $1 million a day.
  • On March 30, the Texas house preliminarily approved its own package of bills designed to respond to the grid failure. They include a measure that would only require power plants and power line owners to weatherize.
  • Both House and Senate measures would ban power providers from offering electricity plans tied to the state’s volatile wholesale power market, a practice that resulted in exorbitant bills for customers during the energy crisis.
  • The Senate bill would change the way that electricity is priced during an emergency to protect utilities from sky-high bills and require renewable energy sources to have backup plans to provide power at critical periods by purchasing so-called ancillary services.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Texas blackouts are an urgent indication that recommendations should be turned into common-sense regulation that leads to grid reliability and ratepayer protection. Regulators and system planners analyze energy use based on one event in ten years. The current planning process does not account for extreme weather conditions that happen once in a hundred years, such as the system that moved through Texas in February. As climate change progresses, such events are forecasted to become more frequent, and should be considered during planning.


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California duck curve “alive and well” as renewable, minimum net load records set

At-a-Glance:

High wind and solar production combined with low demand led the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to reach a new record of 92.5% of load served by renewables and 98.1% of load served by carbon-free resources,CAISO reported. To learn more, read “California duck curve ‘alive and well’ as renewable, minimum net load records set.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The records were set on March 13. That same day,  CAISO established a new minimum net load, which is load minus wind and solar generation, 3.614 GW.
  • Wind generation averaged 22% of the total fuel mix on March 13, the highest daily average on record, according to CAISO data. That jump in wind generation drove wind and solar generation to a combined daily average of 39.2% of the mix, more than double the three-year average.
  • CAISO has made significant progress in working with the battery storage community to support system reliability during stressed operating conditions by establishing a minimum state of charge requirement that will be applied when day-ahead markets indicate the potential for insufficiency.
  • CAISO is also initiating longer-term market design work with storage providers to develop enhancements that will support system reliability while more effectively addressing the commercial and asset optimization needs of a diverse fleet of storage resources.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California has made impressive gains in its integration of renewables into the power supply mix. While these numbers are worth celebrating, there is much more work to do if the state is going to meet its 100% clean energy target by 2045. It is possible, and the Optimal Plan provides the

lowest transition costs by including flexible thermal generation. The flexible thermal generation assets can be converted as needed to use carbon-neutral fuels produced with excess solar and wind energy through Power-to-X, forming a large, distributed, long-term energy storage system.

 

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Study: California can Reach a Decarbonized Electric Grid Affordably and Reliably by 2045

At-a-Glance:

California can eliminate carbon emissions without markedly increasing the cost of electricity while preserving the reliability of the state’s grid, according to an analysis published in the online journal, Issues in Science and Technology. To learn more, read Study: California can Reach a Decarbonized Electric Grid Affordably and Reliably by 2045.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The study employed three different models of California’s electricity system to quantify the costs of a variety of future scenarios for new sources of clean, reliable electric power.
    • Each team’s model determined how much electricity would cost under a variety of scenarios.
    • The models also considered the physical implications of building the decarbonized grid, examining questions like how much infrastructure would be required; how quickly the state would need to build it; and how much land would be needed.
    • While each team approached the challenge differently, they all produced similar results that kept the cost of generation and transmission between 7 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour, comparable to the current costs of generation and transmission for California’s investor-owned utilities.
  • While the teams found that renewables like wind and solar will remain critical to the state’s path toward decarbonization, California will need to tap into clean electricity that is available on demand, for as long as it is needed, whenever it is needed.
    • Known as “clean firm power,” this type of energy includes geothermal and nuclear power as well as natural gas that utilizes carbon capture and storage technology to sequester CO2.
    • Clean fuels such as hydrogen manufactured with no life-cycle emissions could also be added to the mix.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Meeting California’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2045 while ensuring affordable and reliable power is a tremendous challenge. This analysis shows the potential of Power-to-Gas technology, in conjunction with energy storage, as a source of firm carbon-neutral power that can help the state achieve an optimal, decarbonized power system while keeping costs low for ratepayers and ensuring a secure supply of electricity.

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Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.

At-a-Glance:

The loss of life and economic costs stemming from the recent crisis in Texas have demonstrated that electric power is a necessity, not an ordinary commodity. While fact finding has just begun, it’s clear that policy makers must take a hard look at the economic rules and incentives governing the power sector and assess the resilience of a vast array of critical infrastructure. To learn more read,  Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.”

Key Takeaways:

3 areas for collaboration:

Current incentives create restraints on rapid change, but can overcome to meet climate goals with effective public-private collaboration in three areas:

  • Support for innovation. The federal government should invest big to help new technologies make the leap from laboratory to marketplace.
  • Inclusive policies. Indulging preferences for some solutions over others might be tenable if there was plenty of time, but getting there will require a massive increase of renewable energy; breakthroughs in energy storage technologies, such as batteries, and in new energy carriers, such as hydrogen.
  • The ability to build big and build fast. To tackle our interrelated climate and energy challenges, America must rediscover the moonshot ambition and collective sense of urgency that allowed us to put a man on the moon in less than 10 years. A century earlier we built the transcontinental railroad in just six years.

Path to 100% Perspective:

As each government and organizational leader considers the landscape of the decade of consequence for the global climate, a clear line of sight to achieve decarbonization has been set by science. 3,000 GW of installed renewable capacity is required by 2030 to achieve the lower Paris target of 2°C5. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said in June 2020 that world leaders have six months to put policies in place to prevent a rebound in emissions that could put that target permanently out of reach. Leaders now face a clear choice: either be shaped by the inherent shocks of a worsening climate emergency or take action to shape the energy system around the needs and impact of a net-zero future.

 

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Los Angeles now has a road map for 100% renewable energy

At-a-Glance:

Los Angeles is one of the last places in California still burning coal for electricity — and if all goes according to plan, it could become one of the country’s first major cities to nearly eliminate fossil fuels from its power supply. In a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by the city and released, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded L.A. is capable of achieving 98% clean energy within the next decade and 100% by 2035, meeting one of President Biden’s most ambitious climate goals. And it can do so without causing blackouts or disrupting the economy, the federal research lab found, undercutting two of the most common arguments used by opponents of climate action. To learn more, read “Los Angeles now has a road map for 100% renewable energy.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The NREL study team included nearly 100 people and was aided by the “Eagle” supercomputer at the research lab’s Golden, Colo., headquarters.
  • They conducted an energy systems analysis they believe to be unprecedented in scope and detail, running more than 100 million simulations since 2017 and integrating heaps of modeling data on electricity use, job creation, weather conditions, power lines and the potential for rooftop solar panels on houses across Los Angeles, among other topics.
  • Under a different scenario, L.A. would still get about 10% of its electricity from gas come 2045, down from 24% today.
  • Every pathway outlined by NREL includes geothermal power plants, which tap the Earth’s subterranean heat and can generate climate-friendly energy around the clock, as well as pumped hydropower, which can store solar and wind longer than a typical battery. Several pathways in the study also assume the city keeps its 5.7% ownership stake in Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear plant.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California already has the natural gas infrastructure in place to follow the Optimal Path. The state’s existing gas storage capacity and distribution systems can easily provide the necessary 8 TWh of reliable, fully dispatchable renewable energy while using only 15 percent of existing underground gas storage capacity. This alleviates concerns around “stranded assets” since flexible generation plants can shift at any time to burn synthetic methane, even before 2045. California’s current plan without thermal generation would require an investment of $309 billion between 2021 and 2045 to add another 1,624 GWh of battery storage and electricity generation cost would jump to a sky-high 128 $ / MWh. However, the Optimal Path would save the state $176 billion with Power-to-Gas and thermal generation as long term energy storage between 2021 and 2045 and electricity generation cost would be $50 / MWh in 2045. More batteries without thermal generation is not affordable and is not enough to create a resilient or reliable grid.

 

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California Energy Officials Trying to Avoid Summer Blackouts

At-a-Glance:

State agencies and electric utilities are scrambling to shore up power supplies in hopes of avoiding the rolling blackouts that left 800,000 California homes and businesses without power during a record-breaking heat wave last August. To learn more, read California Energy Officials Trying to Avoid Summer Blackouts.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Gas-fired power plants could be called on more, instead of less. State regulators extended the life of outdated gas-fired power generators in Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Redondo Beach, and Oxnard, all scheduled to shutdown at the end of 2020.
  • The state’s “Final Root Cause Analysis” found the rolling blackouts on Aug. 14 and 15 resulted from a combination of increased demand, inadequate supplies, a now-fixed software glitch, the export of power to out-of-state utilities, gas-fired plants unable to run at full capacity and out-of-state suppliers with no energy left to sell to California.
  • Considering long-term needs, the state Public Utilities Commission has called for 8,000 megawatts of new clean energy over the next four years – including 2,000 megawatts by this summer.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The current plan in California is to use more gas fire plants, but by adding flexible generation to the mix, California could follow the Optimal Path and reduce the need for battery storage to 158 GWh. This would help the state avoid overbuilding its renewable generation and battery storage infrastructure and cut solar and wind capacity requirements by 8 GW compared to renewables plus battery storage alone. California already has the natural gas infrastructure in place to follow the Optimal Path. The state’s existing gas storage capacity and distribution systems can easily provide the necessary 8 TWh of reliable, fully dispatchable renewable energy while using only 15 percent of existing underground gas storage capacity. This alleviates concerns around “stranded assets” since flexible generation plants can shift at any time to burn synthetic methane, even before 2045.

 

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Apple Spends 15% of Debut Euro Green Bond in First Year Projects

At-a-Glance:

Apple Inc. spent 15% of the 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of green bonds it raised in late 2019 within a year, mostly on renewable energy projects, according to its annual impact report released on March 17. To learn more, read Apple Spends 15% of Debut Euro Green Bond in First Year Projects.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The tech giant had allocated almost $330 million of the euro green bond proceeds by September 2020.
  • Just over $310 million was funneled to renewable energy, with the rest going to low-carbon design and engineering, energy efficiency and so-called carbon mitigation and sequestration projects.
  • Spending included power purchase agreements with wind farms in the U.S. and the opening of a solar project in Denmark.
  • Apple previously issued two other dollar green bonds in 2016 and 2017, amounting to $2.5 billion. Both are fully allocated.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Since Apple was founded in April 1976, it has been solidified through a series of successes and failures that have carved out a trailblazing place for the technology company. Apple continues to look for ways to remain unique, innovative and progressive by investing in a renewable energy future. Circular economy practices are becoming increasingly popular as organizations seek sustainability, responsibility and reliability in the days and years ahead.

 

 

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FedEx CEO to testify as U.S. lawmakers make green infrastructure push

At-a-Glance:

FedEx Corp’s chief executive, Frederick Smith, testified before Congress on March 10 as U.S. lawmakers began a fast push for a massive hike in infrastructure spending and drive toward electric vehicles. “The Business Case for Climate Solutions” is expected to include PG&E testimony about more than $400 million in programs to help customers transition to EVs. To learn more, read FedEx CEO to testify as U.S. lawmakers make green infrastructure push.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In early March, FedEx announced it planned to become carbon-neutral by 2040 and will invest $2 billion in vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration. FedEx also said its entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will be zero-emission electric vehicles by 2040.
  • FedEx is the latest among a number of corporations, automakers, and startup companies that are working to adopt electric-vehicle pickups and larger delivery vehicles.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize our power system fast enough. If corporations with the largest carbon footprints take the lead in optimizing power resources, renewable energy and flexible fuels others will follow as they pave the path to 100%.

 

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Wärtsilä to supply and maintain two major interconnected energy storage systems for Texas grid services

At-a-Glance:

Two standalone battery energy storage systems (BESS) totalling 200MW of output will be deployed in Texas’ ERCOT market by the energy division at Wärtsilä Corporation. Finland-headquartered marine and power systems technology manufacturer, which has become one of the biggest system integrators for energy storage in the US market, said today that it has been awarded contracts for the two projects in Southern Texas by developer Able Grid Energy Solutions.To learn more, read, “Texas’ grid to get 200MW of battery storage from Wärtsilä”,“Wärtsilä to supply two major interconnected energy storage systems for Texas grid services”,and“Wärtsilä wins order for utility-scale energy storage to support Texas electric grid.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wärtsilä Energy will supply its recently-launched GridSolv Quantum advanced energy storage solution to both sites, as well as the company’s GEMS energy management software and controls platform.
  • The systems, called Ignacio and Madero, are thought to be around 100MW each, equalling the US state’s largest battery storage project under construction so far, the 100MW Chisholm Grid BESS which is also an Able Grid project.
  • “Able Grid selected Wärtsilä technology, among other considerations, for its critical safety and cyber-security features. The system complies with all applicable standards, like UL9540A, to ensure sustained safe and reliable operations. In addition, the GEMS Power Plant Controller is U.S.-code based and meets all IEC62443 cybersecurity standards,” commented Sharon Greenberg, Able Grid Chief Operating Officer.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Storage technologies will be essential to maintaining stability in the power grid as the world shifts from power systems based on fossil fuels to renewables and carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels. Batteries will provide ideal solutions to keep the lights on during normal / average weather, while unusual and extreme weather events such as those recently experienced in California and Texas will require integrated long-term storage solutions that ensure security of supply in the face of seasonal and weather-related variability. Flexible generation power plants are also part of the solution as they can operate on carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels and can provide the essential firm power component to our power systems of the future.

The 10 most innovative corporate social responsibility companies of 2021

At-a-Glance:

From sustainably manufactured shoes to offsetting 75 years of carbon waste, these ten initiatives set the bar for this year’s most innovative companies in the category of corporate social responsibility. To learn more and view the full list read The 10 most innovative corporate social responsibility companies of 2021.” 

Key Takeaways:

  • Microsoft promised to become carbon neutral by 2030 and, by 2050, to remove all the carbon the company has ever emitted since its founding in 1975.
  • Natural products retailer Grove Collaborative has committed to removing all plastics from its product lines by 2025.
  • Consumer electronics design company Logitech has committed to label its products with a carbon footprint number by 2025 to help consumers make more informed decisions and hold itself accountable for “total carbon transparency”.
  • Twisted X is driving down waste in the fashion industry by using sustainable raw materials in its production and is aiming for its shoes to contain 80% “eco elements”, such as rice husks and algae, by the end of 2021.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Lower costs and increasing spending on renewables are driving deeper penetration of renewable energy around the globe. While solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And while wind generates 5% of today’s electricity, it is projected to generate 26% by 2050. While two thirds of the world’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels today, by 2050 two-thirds of electricity will be generated from zero-carbon sources, with almost half coming from renewables and the rest from hydroelectric and nuclear power. The writing is on the wall: the global shift to renewable power generation has begun, and there is no going back.

 

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Duke Energy Faces Challenges to Its Push for New Natural Gas Plants

At-a-Glance:

Duke Energy’s plan to build gigawatts’ worth of new natural gas generators to supply its grid over the next 15 years has already drawn fire from clean-energy advocates who say it violates the utility’s long-range decarbonization goals and could leave customers paying for power plants that can’t economically compete with cleaner alternatives. To learn more, read Duke Energy Faces Challenges to Its Push for New Natural Gas Plants.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In Duke’s integrated resource plan (IRP) for its Carolina utilities, only one of six pathways for reaching net-zero carbon by 2050 avoids building new natural gas plants. The rest propose between 6.1 – 9.6 gigawatts of new natural gas capacity.
  • The IRP also notes that Duke is planning a massive build-out of clean-energy capacity, including between 8.7 – 16.4 GW of new solar and 1 – 7.5 GW of new energy storage, depending on each scenario’s targeted levels of carbon emissions reduction.
  • A key issue highlighted by Duke’s critics is that its IRP appears to have inflated its peak electricity demands and underestimated the amount of resources available to meet its winter loads.
  • A second key issue is that Duke’s IRP appears to undervalue solar power, batteries, demand-side management, and energy efficiency as cost-effective alternatives to building new power plants.
  • An independent analysis by Synapse Energy Economics found that taking a solar-battery path could reduce overall system cost by $7.2 billion, out of a range of 15-year costs; reduce carbon dioxide emissions by tens of millions of tons per year; and provide enough capacity to carry Duke through its electric-heating-driven winter peaks without threatening grid reliability.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Duke is facing the challenge of the pressure to decarbonize quickly, all while maintaining reliability for their customers. Fast-start, flexible thermal plants can help utilities meet rigorous carbon reduction targets, maintain grid reliability and minimize costs. They are designed to burn natural gas today and convert to renewable fuels produced using power-to-methane (or hydrogen) in the future. Power-to-methane (PtM) is one of a growing number of power-to-gas processes. PtM sequesters carbon from the air through direct-air carbon capture. This process is coupled with electrolysis for hydrogen, and a methanation process to combine carbon and hydrogen into synthetic methane. The electricity used to power this process comes from excess renewable (e.g., wind and solar) or carbon-free (e.g., hydro or nuclear) sources. Thus, the fuel produced from PtM is renewable.

 

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash