California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO

At-a-Glance: 

California’s energy transition requires 53GW of solar PV by 2045, with the state’s transmission system requiring a $30.5 billion investment in addition to a major increase in energy storage to accommodate the additional power. A draft version of California ISO’s (CAISO) 20-Year Transmission Outlook report provides a roadmap for the next twenty years, as well as a draft 2021-2022 Transmission Plan covering the next 10 years. To learn more, read, “California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • The report outlined that by 2045, the state would require 53GW of utility-scale solar, 37GW of battery energy storage systems, 4GW of long-duration storage and more than 2GW of geothermal, alongside 24GW of wind power reserves, all of which need to be connected to the grid.
  • Transmission needs will range from high-voltage lines that traverse significant distances to access out-of-state resources with lead times for such upgrades ranging from eight to 10 years being reasonable or optimistic.
  • The CAISO report forecast that the state’s peak load in 2040 would be 82.3GW, up from an estimated 64.1GW in 2030. 
    • CAISO would need to accommodate 73.9GW of this through its network.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The CAISO proposal reveals a sensitivity to seeking geographic diversification through transmission – a critical component to catering to each region’s renewable energy threshold. It falls on the shoulders 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. 

The electric grid is expected to be tripled in the coming years – developing the supportive infrastructure to offer a reliable, carbon-free and flexible power system requires proactive solutions to answer the call. Addressing grid capacity will be essential to realizing a 100% zero emission electricity system by 2050, and solar, wind, hydro and nuclear will all play a role in the future grid. The Path to 100% will require leveraging the appropriate technologies and renewable fuels to equip the energy transition. 

300 companies chart path for CO2-free energy technology

At-a-Glance:

More than a decade ago, a host of U.S. companies capitalized on voluntary energy purchases to help drive down wind and solar energy costs, revealing the financial strength of the nation’s power sector to spur the nation’s access to clean energy. Now, those same companies are being asked to once again give similar treatment to much-needed next-generation clean energy technologies. An alliance of nearly 300 major corporations, whose members also include Microsoft Corp., Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and General Motors Co., is seeking to channel financial support to clean energy options such as long-term batteries, geothermal energy, hydrogen fuels, hydropower installations on existing dams, CO2 capture from gas-fired power plants and new nuclear reactor projects to help jump-start these technologies. To learn more read, “300 companies chart path for CO2-free energy technology.”

Key Takeaways:

  • According to studies by Princeton researchers and other analysts, a huge ramp-up in wind and solar power and infrastructure in this decade could bring the share of clean power in the U.S. to roughly 70 percent. 
  • Over the past 15 years, business and industry have been catalysts for the addition of over 42,000 megawatts of new renewable power in the U.S., and so far this year they have been responsible for 40 percent of new renewables additions.
  • Google has also signed purchasing contracts with startup Fervo Energy, which is adapting oil and gas fracking methods to the production of geothermal energy to generate power 
  • A study which used a complex electricity planning model from Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, assessed the effect on carbon emissions in California and the PJM Interconnection grid of switching to an around-the-clock clean energy procurement rather than contracts for annual totals. 

Path to 100% Perspective: 

The alliance of companies seeking to capitalize on voluntary energy purchases is accelerating decarbonization by identifying the fastest, most reliable and  most cost-effective ways to reach net-zero energy across cities, states, and nations. Over the past 20 years, the cost per kilowatt of wind power plants has decreased by 40%, while the cost of solar generation has dropped by 90%. Renewable generation is attracting more investment dollars than fossil-powered generation year after year. Current market trends show the energy landscape is in transition towards more flexible energy systems with a rapidly increasing share of renewable energy, declining inflexible baseload generation and wider applications of storage technology.

 

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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.

 

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Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen

Petteri Laaksonen

What roles will hydrogen and electricity play in power generation on the path to decarbonization? This is one of several questions that were explored during the March 31 webinar, Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen.

This webinar is the first in the Path to 100’s Community of Experts Networking Call Series, also known as the Expert Exchange, which serves as a forum for experts to share knowledge on the best ways to decarbonize electricity to speed the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Jussi Heikkinen

Jussi Heikkinen

Featured speakers for the inaugural Community of Experts webinar were Petteri Laaksonen, Research Director in the School of Energy Systems at LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland, and Jussi Heikkinen, Director, Wärtsilä Growth and Development, who also moderated the webinar.

The focus of Laaksonen’s presentation was green electrification and the hydrogen economy. He opened by discussing some of the ways in which electricity and hydrogen are produced and used for energy in different sectors of industry, in transportation, and in buildings. Central to this discussion was the efficiency of electricity versus hydrogen for use in applications and the infrastructure that is needed to support their use.

According to Laaksonen, “Hydrogen is not as efficient as electricity when it comes to transportation and the transport sector does not have the infrastructure and vehicles to support hydrogen’s use. However, hydrogen’s potential lies in its ability to be synthesized into different products, such as synthetic fuels.”

The focus of the presentation then shifted to a discussion of the location-related competitive advantages of hydrogen and electricity. One of the big advantages of producing and storing hydrogen and electricity as fuels onsite is cost, specifically the costs of shipping and lost efficiency when transporting from one location to another.

“When it comes to choosing which fuel, hydrogen or electricity, to use in an application, there are no clear winners. Each location will have its advantages,” said Laaksonen.

After Laaksonen’s presentation, Heikkinen spoke about the role of hydrogen in the optimal decarbonization path using a California modelling case study. Central to the discussion was a new approach to electricity storage that utilizes both short- and long-term storage strategies. He emphasized that on the optimal path, hydrogen in long-term storage can be tapped into as a fuel to help with seasonal system balancing and managing extreme weather.

Said Heikkinen, “Having seasonal storage in the form of fuel and flexible power plants can result in cost reductions from 126 to 50 dollars per megawatt hour and enable firm capacity that can be tapped into when there’s a heat wave or cloud cover.”

Missed the webinar? Watch the recording here. Want to learn more about the California case study’s modeling and results? Download the whitepaper.

 

 

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What does negative net zero carbon mean?

At-a-Glance:

Negative net-zero carbon. The phrase sounds redundant or oxymoronic. But it is a real thing. You can have less than net-zero carbon emissions if you capture and use emissions that otherwise would be released as greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. To learn more, read “What does negative net zero carbon mean?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewable natural gas (RNG), or biogas, is derived from organic waste material. Biogas can be captured and used as fuel in place of traditional natural gas.
  • According to a University of California Davis study, there is so much organic waste available in California that more than 20% of the state’s residential gas needs could be met with RNG.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) data shows that the average “carbon intensity” of all renewable natural gas vehicle fuel in the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program was negative for the first time in program history.
  • RNG made up nearly 90% of all natural gas vehicle fuel in the low carbon fuel program and consumed in California in the first half of 2020, up from around 77% in 2019, according to CARB data.
  • According to an EPA study, if you capture all the methane coming off of RNG capture potential areas, you could run about 200,000 trucks on renewable natural gas every year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The role of natural gas in power generation is increasing as it is being more widely utilized to run power plants that are integrated with intermittent wind and solar systems. As the share of wind and solar capacity increases and the net load to thermal plants decreases, gas power plants can also provide peaking to system balancing. Renewable natural gas can be leveraged as a fuel source to replace fossil-fuel based natural gas, thus moving the world one step closer to decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.

 

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Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology

At-a-Glance:

In light of mounting global environmental issues, Toyota Motor North America is continuing to take measures to achieve net zero carbon emissions and make a positive environmental impact. The Mirai, a signature innovation for the company, is just one development at the heart of such commitment, with Toyota openly expressing its passion and commitment for hydrogen. To learn more, read Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Toyota is committed to hydrogen fuel cell-electric technology because it is a clean, versatile, and scalable electrification platform that can meet a broad range of customers’ mobility needs with zero emissions.
  • Since 2015, over 6,600 Mirai have been sold or leased in California making it the most popular fuel cell vehicle on the road today.
  • A new, second-generation fuel cell system along with the additional hydrogen capacity gives the second generation Mirai a range of over 400 miles – as much, or more, range than a traditional gas-powered car.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen has a high potential of becoming the fuel of the future, helping societies move towards decarbonization. So far, the market for hydrogen engines has been limited, but the need for them is beginning to emerge as the use of fossil fuels is gradually reduced and finally banned. Because hydrogen was not used as a power generation fuel in the past, the technologies to combust and use it in different applications need to be developed. Wärtsilä is testing concepts for both blending hydrogen into natural gas as well as pure hydrogen operation. The R&D process will continue, testing the fuel first on a small scale to define optimal dimensions and parameters for hydrogen engines.

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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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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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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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Joe Biden wants 100% clean energy. Will California show that it’s possible?

At-a-Glance:

There are several economic and environmental arguments for the $1.9 billion Pacific Transmission Expansion. The undersea power line would run south from San Luis Obispo County, hugging the California coast for 200 miles before making landfall in or near Los Angeles. It would be able to carry electricity from a fleet of offshore wind turbines, providing Southern California with clean power after sundown and helping to replace fossil-fueled generators. Fewer planet-warming emissions, less risk of blackouts, and no chance of igniting the wildfires sometimes sparked by traditional power lines are among the cases being made for this project. To learn more, read Joe Biden wants 100% clean energy. Will California show that it’s possible?” Reading this article could require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Policymakers across the country are looking to California to show that it’s possible to phase out fossil fuels. State law mandates 100% clean energy by 2045 and, in 2019, nearly two-thirds of California’s electricity came from climate-friendly sources.
  • As demonstrated by summer 2020’s rolling blackouts, there’s a clear longer-term need for clean energy sources that can be relied on when electricity demand is high and there’s not enough sunlight to go around.
  • The Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a proposal that made its 2030 target to reduce emissions from power plants by 25% the basis for approving or rejecting new transmission lines, which is crucial for connecting renewable-energy facilities with cities that consume large amounts of electricity.
  • Climate advocates are urging Governor Newsom to play a more active role in utility infrastructure decisions to ensure the state is prepared to meet its clean energy targets.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California is a clean energy leader and state-level renewable energy infrastructure decisions made now will likely influence similar decisions across the country. State-of-the-art power-system modeling reveals that California can reach its renewable energy and emissions targets faster by utilizing flexible thermal generation. Flexible thermal generation assets can be converted as needed to use carbon-neutral fuels produced with excess wind and solar energy through power-to-gas technology, forming a large, distributed, long-term energy storage system. Such a system can provide a reliable source of electricity in cases of extreme or variable weather.

 

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