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.