NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc. wants to buy more power lines to tap into rising demand for renewable energy, weeks after closing a $660-million deal for such transmission wires. The Florida-based company plans to expand its business both by developing and acquiring transmission assets. In March, NextEra bought GridLiance, which owns about 700 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, for about $660 million from Blackstone Group Inc. To learn more, read “NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Corporate executives are encouraged by President Joe Biden’s focus on renewables, which is in turn encouraging more companies to expand their investment in renewables.
  • NextEra plans to add up to 30,000 megawatts of wind, solar and battery storage by 2024.
  • The country will need to expand its transmission grids by as much as 60% for wind and solar to make up half of U.S. electricity capacity by 2030 to meet the President’s goal of a fully green U.S. power grid by 2035.

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. Meanwhile, inflexible power systems cannot keep up with wind and solar’s variability, so power plants have to stay online and burn fuel even on sunny or windy days when they are not needed. In practice, this limits power systems to using perhaps 30% renewable generation. Any more than that gets curtailed. Therefore, additional investment in more transmission is required to meet the growing demand.

 

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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Renewables expected to replace coal by 2033, says Morgan Stanley

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. is on the path to cutting out coal completely as the cost of renewable energy falls and the push for carbon-free power picks up steam. A new report from global wealth management company Morgan Stanley projects coal-fired power generation is likely to disappear from the U.S. power grid by 2033 and will largely be replaced by renewable energy resources. To learn more, read “Renewables expected to replace coal by 2033, says Morgan Stanley.” 

Key Takeaways:

  • The report from Morgan Stanley said renewable energy such as solar and wind power will provide about 39 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030 and as much as 55 percent in 2035.
  • Coal has experienced a steady decline in power generation due to sustained low prices for natural gas.
    • In 2010, coal supplied 46 percent of U.S. electricity, compared with an approximate 20 percent share just a decade later.
    • The share of electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants increased from 23 percent in 2010 to an estimated 39 percent last year.
  • The projection from Morgan Stanley comes as the Biden administration is aiming to make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050, which will require steep reductions in greenhouse emissions and investments in renewables like solar and wind.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Rapidly reducing the use of fossil fuels is a big step on the journey to 100% clean energy. However, as reliance on fossil fuels declines, integration of renewable fuels and renewable generation must increase to ensure reliability and sustainability in power grids. This transition includes efforts to promote policies that enable rapid reductions in fossil fuel use and rapid increases in renewable generation in the electricity sector. These commitments will also steer electricity-sector decisions about investments, infrastructure, and technology toward decisions that quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pave the way for a 100% renewable energy future

 

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Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target

At-a-Glance:

When the global community was focused on the U.S. presidential election last fall, a huge story was developing in Norway: Its parliament was preparing to finance “the greatest” carbon capture project in the world that would cut emissions and jumpstart the technology. It would first be implemented at a cement factory. It is the type of thinking that Prince Charles of Wales said is critical if the international community is to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement and to keep temperatures in check. To learn more, read “Without Carbon Capture And Storage, The World Can’t Meet Its Climate Target.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Prince Charles specifically endorsed Net Power, which is working with Toshiba Corporation to burn natural gas in oxygen to create pure CO2 – much of which is captured, heated and used to create electricity. The remaining CO2 is captured and either sequestered underground or used to enhance oil recovery.
  • Carbon capture and sequestration is feasible, but expensive. However, a tax credit is now given to coal, natural gas and oil companies that can capture or reuse their CO2 releases. Known as Q45, it gives a credit of $50 per ton for CO2 that is buried and $35 per ton for CO2 that is re-utilized.
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. wants to catapult the concept further by using carbonated fuel cells that concentrate and capture the CO2 from power plants, while substantially reducing costs. 
  • Net Power’s Bill Brown says that instead of choosing specific fuels, the United States needs to choose a future – one that is set on becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Free-market forces are pushing companies, large and small, to address climate change. The innovative technologies being developed and deployed by companies like Net Power, Exxon, and Norway’s Gassnova will go a long way to make carbon capture and storage both affordable and accessible for the entire world. While much more will need to be accomplished before achieving a 100% renewable energy future, these efforts are charting a productive course to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal of net-zero carbon releases by 2050.

 

 

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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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Black & Veatch leaving coal projects in the dust

At-a-Glance:

Engineering and construction company Black & Veatch has announced it is ceasing participation in coal-based design and construction projects in an attempt to focus on more renewable energy work. Black & Veatch has been its increasing focus on renewable energy and energy storage projects over the last decade. The transition away from coal-based jobs will allow the firm to more fully focus on sustainable energy projects. To learn more, read “Black & Veatch leaving coal projects in the dust.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In an example of the company’s move to clean energy projects, earlier this year it was selected to work on the Intermountain Power Agency Renewal Project, one of the earliest installations of combustion turbine technology designed to use a high percentage of green hydrogen.
  • Black & Veatch will still carry out projects to convert coal plants to cleaner energy sources, as well as decommissioning existing coal plants. The biggest change is the contractor will no longer extend the life of any coal facility.
  • “Any decision of this nature will have an impact, but our global client base is overwhelmingly pushing toward a zero-carbon future,” Mario Azar, president of Black & Veatch’s power business said. “The fundamental challenge for the industry is whether to look to the future or continue to look to the past.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The influence of governments and organizations moving toward a zero-carbon future continues to expand to companies responding to the growing demand of their customers and investors. As the investment in energy-related innovation grows,  the renewable energy future presents more affordability, flexibility and reliability for organizations striving to accelerate decarbonization efforts.

 

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Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions

At-a-Glance:

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) would provide California with 15 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to meet its goal of a carbon-neutral economy in 2045, and it would save the state $750 million in costs for solar generation and grid-scale batteries, according to a new study. The report was released in October by the non-profit Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and Stanford University. According to the report, 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted by 76 large industrial and power-generating emitters in California, could be extracted and stored underground at a profit. To learn more, read “Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Clean firm power available whenever needed and most likely to come from natural gas, is necessary to smooth out the peaks and valleys that are inherent to wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, according to EFI.
  • Transportation accounts for 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The need for clean firm power will surge in concert with the growth of electric vehicles as the state moves to phase out gasoline-fueled cars by 2035.
  • Industry in California is a larger source of emissions than the power sector today, and it has few options available to reduce CO2 apart from CCS. Cement production, for example, requires high temperatures, but only 40 percent of its emissions are from combustion; a larger fraction is process related.
  • A federal tax credit known as 45Q offers $22 per ton of CO2 that is captured and used for enhanced oil recovery or other end uses, increasing to $35 in 2026 and adjusted for inflation thereafter. The credit is $34 per ton, increasing to $50, for CO2 that is captured and injected to geologic storage.
  • The research found that ethanol plants, hydrogen producers, and refineries in the state could capture and store CO2 profitably with existing incentives.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The record breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State this summer, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation and meet clean power mandates. The big challenge facing California and the rest of the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved. The “Optimal Path“ includes using power-to-gas (PtG) along with existing and future renewable energy.

 

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Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra

At-a-Glance:

Becoming carbon neutral — also known as climate-neutral or net zero — is now a legal requirement in some countries, while European authorities are adopting legislation to become the first net zero continent. Even oil companies are getting in on the act. Buildings, airlines and events have also made the pledge, while investments groups managing almost $5 trillion of assets have committed to having carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050.To learn more, read Why ‘Carbon Neutral’ Is the New Climate Change Mantra.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is carbon neutral? It means cutting emissions to the very limit and compensating for what can’t be eliminated.
  • What are carbon offset credits? Developed by the United Nations and non-profit groups, these let the buyers emit a specified amount of greenhouse gas, which is offset by using the money raised to fund carbon-reduction projects such as reforestation.
  • Who’s trying to be carbon neutral? Dozens of countries have committed to go net zero, or at least outperform carbon-reduction targets set out in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • What’s driving this? CO2 pollution is still rising — 2019 was another record — and is unlikely to peak before 2040, driven by growing use of fossil fuels, says the International Energy Agency.
  • How will the goals be reached? To get anywhere close to net zero by 2050, the world must invest $2.4 trillion in clean energy every year through 2035, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Much will ride on technologies that on the grand scale required are as yet unproven, including carbon capture, using hydrogen as fuel and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Understanding the evolving terminology is useful, but embracing a plan that is possible, practical and affordable will combine knowledge with measurable results. As organizations add renewable energy to their net zero goals, it is important to develop a power system with flexibility, reliability and sustainability in mind. Renewable energy can actually generate renewable fuels that can be used to create a sustainable grid with a path to faster decarbonization.

 

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Pathways Toward 100% Carbon Reduction for Electric Utility Power Systems

Many states, cities, towns and utilities are committing to a 100% clean energy future. This push toward 100% is ubiquitous in the news, academia and politics. However, there is no clear or commonly accepted understanding of what this means. For example, what is the difference between 100% carbon-free and 100% carbon-neutral?

A recent Wärtsilä whitepaper, “Pathways Toward 100% Carbon Reduction for Electric Utility Power Systems,” breaks down these terms and examines the costs and carbon reduction trajectories associated with these 100% targets. It explores what these different definitions imply for utility systems as they transition from fossil-dominated to clean energy dominated.

The findings of the whitepaper point toward utilities leveraging power-to-gas (PtG) technologies to meet net-zero carbon emission goals, rather than 100 percent carbon-free. In examining the cost of a carbon-free system versus a carbon-neutral system, the analysis concludes that electric utilities can achieve 80 percent carbon reduction based purely on economics, with no subsidies, mandates or renewable requirements by leveraging PtG.

Carbon free may be the ideal solution for utilities that have ready access to hydro or other carbon free resources that can provide firm capacity when wind and solar falter. But most utilities do not fall in this camp and must explore a wider array of technical solutions to meet decarbonization goals. PtG provides an additional degree-of-freedom in the planning process that unlocks new and exciting pathways towards decarbonization. This work shows PtG pathways provide the lowest cost for ratepayers while simultaneously attending to climate change concerns.

The United States can lead in the path to a 100 percent renewable future by investing in PtG to provide a cornerstone of the path towards what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for: carbon-neutrality. In general, PtG will be a large part of decarbonization for flights, sea-freight and domestic shipping and automotive, supplementing the strides we are making with electric vehicles. The investment in power-to-fuels is already starting and will accelerate.

This will provide positive feedback loops and interplay among the liquid fuels industry, the natural gas fuel industry, and the electric utility industry that will be beneficial for all three in meeting decarbonization targets. What may still be needed, is the legislative and regulatory vision to make this possible, or at the least, not stifle it.

For example, many states openly allow biofuels to count as “renewable” for power generation. Allowing the same for renewably generated power-to-gas would provide a great deal of incentive in the adoption of this technology and hopefully accelerate a 100% renewable future.