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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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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This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs

At-a-Glance:

Workrise makes its money by finding jobs for skilled laborers, handling their payroll and benefits and taking its cut from employers. The company works with Exxon Mobil Corp., General Electric Co. and First Solar Inc., among others. It sent more than four times as many people into renewable energy last year compared with 2019, placing about 4,500 skilled workers into green jobs like building solar farms or fixing lightning-damaged wind turbines. That was almost a third of all its workers in 2020. To learn more, read This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • When cold weather and grid failures left millions of Texans shivering in the dark without power the week of Valentine’s Day, both oil companies and clean-power plants tapped Workrise for help.
    • The company dispatched workers to keep drilling sites safe and operational, turning off wells and wrapping lines with insulation.
  • The company sees job training as a big part of the future of its business. It provided training for about 5% of its 8,000 workers in 2019, but in 2020 it trained 15% of its 15,000 workers.
  • Workrise also wants to take advantage of opportunities to send workers to plug methane-leaking wells and build carbon capture and underground storage. The company has already submitted some bids to provide workers to stop up abandoned wells, including on a project in North Dakota.

Path to 100% Perspective:

A variety of technologies and fuels will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Some technologies commonly used today will see a decreased role as decarbonization becomes a priority. A decarbonized grid will require an electricity mix powered by carbon-free or carbon neutral sources, as well as technologies that can balance the seasonal and daily changes in consumption, and weather variability, of key renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This energy transition will require an agile workforce and workforce development.

 

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The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence

At-a-Glance:

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Global Warming of 1.5°C report stated, to have a shot at achieving the Paris Agreement’s stretch goal of limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre industrial levels, every nation must cut its carbon-dioxide emissions in half by 2030—and neutralize them by 2050. Two years later, eight of the 10 largest economies have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Twenty-nine countries, plus the European Union, have net-zero pledges for either CO₂ or all greenhouse gases, accounting for 14.5 percent of global emissions. About 400 companies, including Microsoft, Unilever, Facebook, Ford, Nestle, Pepsi Co, and Brunswick Group, have signed on with the Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge, which is built on the IPCC’s analysis. To learn more, read The World Is Moving Toward Net Zero Because of a Single Sentence.”  Reading this article could require a subscription to the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Like most statements the IPCC sets down, the most important sentence ever written is just terrible—clunky and jargon-filled. What it says, in English, is this:
    • By 2030 the world needs to cut its carbon-dioxide pollution by 45%, and by midcentury reach “net-zero” emissions, which means any CO₂ still emitted would have to be drawn down in some way.
  • The half-by-2030, all-by-2050 guidance is keyed specifically to emissions of CO2, by far the biggest contributor to warming.
  • According to the World Resource Institute’s Kelly Levin, “Countries with the highest emissions, greatest responsibility, and capability should adopt the most ambitious target time frames.”
  • Since the Clean Energy D.C. Act became law in early 2019, it has been joined by dozens of other national or subnational jurisdictions trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The IPCC’s statement has proven to be a catalyst that sparked a sense of urgency for government leaders, corporate decision makers and utilities. Renewable energy goals are taking many forms, but they have similar targets and deadlines which can only be achieved through commitment, continued research and collaboration. The renewable energy future has not yet been achieved, but with the growing number of investors, innovators and subject matter experts working towards this goal, the path to decarbonization is coming into focus.

 

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PepsiCo Pledges to Achieve Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2040

At-a-Glance:

PepsiCo Inc. has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, adding to the growing list of major companies including Amazon.com Inc. that aim to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions a decade ahead of scientists’ guidance. To learn more, read PepsiCo Pledges to Achieve Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2040.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • PepsiCo’s goals include curbing absolute emissions across its direct operations by 75% and its Scope 3 emissions by 40% from 2015 levels by the end of this decade. Scope 3 emissions are generated in the supply chain or by customers using their products.
  • Approximately 1,400 businesses have set or pledged to set net-zero emission goals under the Race to Zero Initiative convened by the United Nations, while the Biden administration has vowed to put the U.S. on a path to 100% clean energy by no later than 2050.
  • PepsiCo already announced plans to use renewable electricity across all company owned businesses by 2030 and across all third-party operations a decade later.
  • The emission reduction plan also includes an expansion of the company’s network of “Demonstration Farms,” which provide local farmers with sustainable tools and practices. It’s targeting a reduction in virgin plastic use and more recycled content in packaging as well.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Leaning into ambitious carbon reduction goals will be necessary to make world-wide decarbonization a reality. Global leaders like PepsiCo and Amazon are paving the way to 100% clean energy for the rest of the world through bold and innovative thinking. Integrating renewables, finding the optimal mix of energy for each power system, and looking for ways to improve clean energy practices at every level will accelerate grid decarbonization globally.

 

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Texas Power Crisis Moves Into Fourth Day With Millions in Dark

At-a-Glance:

Economic fallout from the extreme winter weather that caused widespread blackouts is continuing to have a ripple effect even as power is restored. “The current energy crisis is much bigger than most people realize. This is a global crisis,” Paul Sankey, an oil analyst at Sankey Research, wrote in a note. “The largest energy outage in U.S. history.” To learn more, read Texas Power Crisis Moves Into Fourth Day With Millions in Dark.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • While Texas’s grid operator was able to restore power to 1.8 million homes by Wednesday February 17, 1.2 million homes remained without electricity.
  • Generation capacity on the grid reached 52 gigawatts Wednesday evening, the highest level since Monday morning. Electricity load climbed to 49 gigawatts, indicating that power had been restored to some customers.
  • As of February 17, 43 gigawatts of the state’s generation capacity remained offline, including 26.5 gigawatts of thermal generation that shut due to frozen instruments, limited gas supplies, and low gas pressure.
  • Frozen turbines and icy solar panels shut down nearly 17 gigawatts of renewable energy.
  • Gas production has plummeted to the lowest level since 2017.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The recent Texas power crisis impacted millions of people in Texas and neighboring states. One reason these blackouts occurred is that many power plants are not designed to handle extreme ambient temperatures. Limited natural gas supply and low gas pressure also posed a challenge for power plants across the state. Winterizing gas supply and power plants is a must to avoid similar situations in the future. Although it is more expensive to winterize the gas supply and power plants, this is required to ensure reliability when extreme weather occurs.

 

 

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The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021

At-a-Glance:

With the uncertainty of 2020 behind us, the new year kicked off with surging growth for renewable energy. Growth will likely continue into 2021, fueled in part by last year’s major turning points. Some analysts have started predicting that the U.S. power sector is approaching peak natural gas. That would leave room for solar-panel installations to build on the ongoing boom. To learn more, read The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Although U.S. residential solar installations dropped nearly 20% in the second quarter of 2020 from the first, by the end of the year, the sector bounced back and the country added 19 gigawatts of total solar power.
  • New battery capacity in the U.S. more than doubled in the third quarter of 2020 from the second, according to Wood Mackenzie and the U.S. Energy Storage Association. Projects in California were a key reason for the surge.
  • Electricity from Spain’s solar farms was up over 60% in 2020 compared to 2019, generating over 15,000 gigawatt hours of power, according to data from the country’s grid manager Red Electrica.
  • Renewable power beat out fossil fuels in the European Union for the first time, with approximately 40% of electricity in the first half of 2020 coming from renewable sources compared with 34% from plants burning fossil fuels.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19 in 2020, the demand for renewable energy has not slowed and the path to 100% is becoming clearer as countries around the world commit to carbon-free sources of electricity. Developments such as China’s commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 and the European Union’s shift to renewables as the dominant power source provide further evidence that the tide is turning toward decarbonization. Ambitious goals, a commitment to research and development, and ongoing collaboration will continue to pave the path to a renewable energy future.

 

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Biden Official Says Texas Storm Shows Infrastructure Need

At-a-Glance:

The Biden administration said it will work with states and businesses to make infrastructure more resilient after a winter storm led to widespread power outages in Texas. To learn more, read Biden Official Says Texas Storm Shows Infrastructure Need.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • President Joe Biden received multiple updates a day on the federal response to the storm that caused power disruptions and prompted rolling blackouts, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
  • In Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided 60 generators, 729,000 liters of water, 10,000 wool blankets and 225,000 meals.
  • By late Thursday morning, February 18, the number of customers without power was down to about 500,000 from more than 4 million two days earlier, according to PowerOutage.us.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Texas blackouts have been linked to lack of winterization and adequate natural gas supply. Regulators and system planners analyze energy use based on one event in ten years, which determines the need for generation capacity and the required reserve margin. This planning process does not account for extreme, once-in-hundred-years weather conditions like the system that moved through Texas. As climate change progresses, events such as the recent Texas blackouts are forecasted to become more frequent and should be accounted for during planning.

 

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Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy

At-a-Glance

Amazon.com Inc. made an announcement in December to say it was backing 26 new wind and solar utility projects around the globe, a massive investment that the company said made it the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. The retail and technology company said the utility-scale projects, located in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S., would have the capacity to produce 3.4 gigawatts of electricity. To learn more, read “Amazon Backs 26 Green Projects in Drive to Renewable Energy.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • In 2019, Google was the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and claimed the previous high water mark that year with a 1.6 gigawatt purchase in a single announcement.
  • “Amazon is helping fight climate change by moving quickly to power our businesses with renewable energy,” Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
  • Amazon has said it aims to power its operations with renewable energy sources by 2025, five years ahead of an earlier target, and to become carbon neutral 15 years later.
  •  Including the new deals, Amazon has backed 127 wind and solar projects, with 6.5 gigawatts of capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Ambitious renewable energy goals make headlines every week, with some organizations competing for the title of energy leader. This form of competition is accelerating the path to decarbonization through strategic investments in emerging technologies and innovative ways to integrate renewable energy into business plans and power systems. As more organizations join forces to find solutions designed to decrease carbon emissions, the marketplace and utility sector are able to more easily visualize a renewable energy future on the horizon.

 

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Next Era’s Bet on Renewable Energy Was a Winner All Along

At-a-Glance

NextEra Energy Inc. started becoming a green giant in 2002. At the time wind was still a more expensive way to generate electricity than coal, but not drastically so. NextEra had no doubt seen the cost dropping quickly and figured it would keep the same trajectory in the future. In short order, it put a similar strategy into a batch of solar plants. To learn more, read “Next Era’s Bet on Renewable Energy Was a Winner All Along.” Reading this article could require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways

  • NextEra Energy was betting, essentially, on Wright’s Law, a theory of industrial production born, like the utility, in the 1920s. Wright was studying airplane makers and found that with each doubling of capacity, cost declined by a similar amount. Essentially: if you build it, you will save.
  • Not only did NextEra utilize Wright’s cost curve correctly, but it leveraged government subsidies – often at the state level – to build plants before they would be profitable on their own. 
  • NextEra’s wind and solar farms, now scattered across about half the U.S., produce enough power to energize Greece. The company has plans to nearly double its renewable capacity to be able to power 11 million homes, which is about 10 percent of the country. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Visionaries have a valuable skill set which allows them to study the past and present trends as well as “lessons learned” to develop strategies for the future. NextEra has proven to be a trailblazer for utilities in their deliberate and ambitious approach to transition to renewable energy. Their investments are aligned with their increasing goals, which is proving to serve as an example to organizations throughout the energy sector.

 

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NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s biggest provider of wind and solar energy, is now more valuable than oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., once the largest public company on Earth. NextEra ended Wednesday, October 7, with a market value of $145 billion, topping Exxon’s $142 billion. The oil major’s U.S. rival, Chevron Corp., also surpassed it in value for the first time. To learn more, read “NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil.” (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • NextEra has emerged as the world’s most valuable utility, largely by betting big on renewables, especially wind.
  • NextEra had about 18 gigawatts of wind and solar farms at the end of last year, enough to power 13.5 million homes. And it’s expanding significantly, with contracts to add another 12 gigawatts of renewables. Its shares have surged more than 20% this year.
  • At the same time, Exxon’s shares have tumbled more than 50% as the pandemic quashed global demand for fuels. The company’s second-quarter loss was its worst of the modern era and, in August, Exxon was ejected from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • The company was worth $525 billion in 2007, more than three times its current value.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The global economic shift away from fossil fuels continues to become more evident as more public commitments are being announced and financial milestones such as this one are making history. However, continued efforts to reach renewable energy goals are still being monitored worldwide as organizations and governments are piecing together innovative solutions and strategic partnerships designed to pave a path to a renewable energy future.

 

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This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg