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.

 

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Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling

At-a-Glance:

As electric and gas utilities contemplate investing in low-carbon hydrogen and the technology to produce it, the high price of today’s supplies and equipment – and the potential for cost declines – are major considerations. At the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, hydrogen experts and stakeholders expressed confidence that the cost curve will indeed bend in the coming years. The March 2 panel on low-carbon hydrogen production and technologies offered a detailed breakdown of the forces behind the price trend. To learn more, read Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Norwegian electroyzer-maker Nel ASA in January announced a goal of producing green hydrogen at $1.50 per kilogram by 2025. Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas is targeting hydrogen production costs from the nation’s hydropower and solar resources in a range of $1-2/kg.
  • Green hydrogen produced with renewable resources costs between about $3/kg and $6.55/kg, according to the European Commission’s July 2020 hydrogen strategy. Fossil-based hydrogen costs about $1.80/kg, and the commission estimated the cost of blue hydrogen at about $2.40/kg.
  • Access to low-cost renewable electricity will be the most important factor in driving green hydrogen costs down to $1.50/kg, according to Everett Anderson, vice president for advanced product development at NEL Hydrogen AS.
  • The hydrogen production process of methane pyrolysis is attracting attention and investment for its ability to decompose methane at high temperatures to produce solid carbon rather than carbon dioxide. This could allow hydrogen production at nodes between natural gas lines and distribution systems.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate Power-to-Gas pathway. Power-to-hydrogen requires only electrolysis, where electrolyzers use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen (from water) for direct use as a fuel. In addition, hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. Complexities arise as there is, unlike the existing infrastructure for methane, no comparable hydrogen infrastructure. Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. Power plant technology manufacturers seem to understand this as many of them are in the process of developing technologies that are fueled by 100% hydrogen.

 

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Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.

At-a-Glance:

Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, and now FedEx. The giant delivery company joined more than 50 other major corporations when it announced on March 3 that it too aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040 – an effort to curb climate change. Executives say that a gathering cultural change is fueled by companies responding not only to shareholders but also to the growing urgency of climate change and the concerns of their own employees and customers. To learn more, read “Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • FedEx pledged an initial investment of $2 billion to start electrifying its massive fleet of more than 180,000 vehicles and $100 million for a new Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture.
  • Some of the other companies promising to meet the 2040 carbon-neutral goal and inspire other firms to do the same have signed on to an initiative called the Climate Pledge. These companies include IBM, Microsoft, Unilever, Johnson Controls, Coca-Cola, Uber, and Best Buy.
  • Action by big utilities, refiners, and concrete manufacturers are also essential if countries are going to meet their own economy-wide goals.
  • FedEx’s pledge to Yale is part of an effort to search for novel ways to remove and store more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using nature.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Multiple organizations, utilities and government agencies are setting ambitious clean energy goals and the need to reduce carbon emissions is real. In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global emissions would need to reach net-zero (or carbon-neutral) by 2050 to prevent severe climate change impacts. Electricity is a major contributor—electricity generation was responsible for approximately 33% of total CO2 emissions in the U.S. in 2018.

 

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Utilities Are the Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?

At-a-Glance:

In the early 2000’s, utilities were unable to grasp the climate change movement. Today, they have been swept up by it – a function of stricter environmental regulations, cheaper natural gas, and affordable renewables. But if electrification and decarbonization are realized, it could pay big dividends for power companies. To learn more, read Utilities Are The Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 70% of the largest U.S. electric and gas utilities now have net-zero goals, says S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • The Boston Consulting Group analyzed a “model utility” with 2-3 million customers. It found that it would need to invest between $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per electric vehicle (EV) through 2030.
  • Xcel Energy has announced plans to serve 1.5 million EVs by 2030. Xcel Energy Chair Ben Fowke expects 60% of the utility’s electric generation to be fueled by renewables in 2030 – with some natural gas as a backup.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Carbon neutral and carbon free systems must install enough capacity (with the right capabilities) to meet energy needs in worst-case scenarios. At a minimum, to assure reliability and avoid blackouts, utility system planners and policy makers need to account for seasonal trends in availability of renewable resources. Accurate modelling can make a critical difference in renewable integration, resilience and reliability. Finally, energy storage systems designed for daily shifting with less than 12 hour duration are not cost optimal for long-term storage and energy time-shifting in high renewable power systems.

 

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Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say

At-a-Glance:

Texans were left in the cold and dark this February, following extreme cold weather that had the Texas competitive energy market unable to prevent deadly power failures. Leaving behind its historic commitment to power system independence and joining the larger U.S. grid can relieve some of the consequences of extreme weather events Texas is likely to see again, many energy analysts in and out of Texas said. To learn more, read Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say.”

Key Takeaways:

  • “We designed this system for Ozzie and Harriet weather and we now have Mad Max,” said Texas energy consultant Alison Silverstein.
  • Some customers discovered variable bill plans can come with price spikes.
  • “The theory is that a high price will bring investments, but people don’t invest in things that might only make money sometime in the future unless they are required to,” said Jussi Heikkinen, North America Director of Growth and Development for global power plant developer Wärtsilä.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Texas does not have firm rules on power plant engineering for ambient temp ranges. Recommendations from ERCOT were published after the 2011 blackouts, but they are not mandatory, like they are in the eastern part of the country The Texas blackouts are an urgent indication that recommendations should be turned into common-sense regulation that leads to grid reliability and ratepayer protection.

 

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Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis

At-a-Glance:

The $1 billion class-action lawsuit filed against the Texas wholesale electricity retailer Griddy Energy is triggering questions about who is to blame for the state’s mid-winter blackout. The core question, though, is whether restructuring Texas’ electricity markets in the early 2000’s exacerbated the crisis. To learn more, read Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  •  Since 2002, consumers could choose their retail electric provider, which purchases its power from competing generators. Millions of Texas’ customers chose competitive suppliers. Others opted for the regulated rate.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that customers in Texas who selected the competitive plans paid 13% more than the national average between 2004 and 2019. Customers choosing the regulated plan, conversely, paid 8% less during that same time frame.
  • Customers choosing competitive suppliers will in theory make their homes more energy-efficient and use demand response signals to reduce their bills. In the case of the Texas blackouts, however, the price spikes lasted for days and prompted the $9,000 per megawatt-hour regulatory limit.
  •  As renewables start to make up a greater share of the electricity portfolio, greater attention will need to be paid to improving energy efficiency and decentralizing electricity production and delivery systems.
  • Greater resiliency will also need to be built into the power grid, given the intermittent nature of wind and solar, including weatherizing every form of energy generation and delivery so that whole supply chains don’t freeze up.

Path to 100% Perspective:

There must be adequate, dispatchable power for unusual weather events, especially as global reliance on renewables continues to grow. The ideal power system of the future will maintain reliability while continuing to make a decarbonized future a reality by utilizing curtailed solar and wind power to produce future fuels such as green hydrogen, ammonia or carbon-neutral methane to power on-demand power generation. As the energy transition continues, power plants must be able to balance and respond to the grid to produce power during periods when the renewable generation does not match the load – during the winter and unusual weather conditions such as heat waves.

 

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