Serie de preguntas y respuestas: Fernando Damonte sobre la aceleración de la descarbonización en Argentina

Damonte tiene más de 20 años de experiencia como consultor de servicios públicos principalmente en América Latina, pero también ha participado en proyectos de regulación de servicios públicos en América, Europa, África y Oceanía.

Pregunta: ¿Podría hablarnos de usted y de su trabajo?

Fernando: Soy el Chief Operating Officer de Quantum America, una consultora internacional especializada en el área de servicios públicos, con fuerte presencia en el mercado latinoamericano y en expansión al resto del mundo. A lo largo de mis 20 años de carrera, he participado en numerosos trabajos sobre la regulación de empresas de servicios públicos en América, y también en países de Europa, África y Oceanía. Previamente, fui gerente de proyectos en estudios destacados, entre ellos: Diseño de Marcos Regulatorios, Diseño de Estructuras Tarifarias Modernas y Estudios de Eficiencia Comparativa (Benchmarking) tanto en Energía Eléctrica como en Gas Natural.

También he sido expositor en numerosos cursos y congresos, entre los que destacan 16 Seminarios Internacionales de Regulación y Tarifas, organizados anualmente por Quantum. He sido expositor en Brasil en dos ocasiones en el Gas Summit y en tres ediciones del Smart Grid Forum. Por último, he sido ponente en el Curso de Regulación organizado por el PURC de la Universidad de Florida en Estados Unidos.

A lo largo de mi carrera, he sido coautor de artículos en libros y publicaciones académicas sobre temas de diseño de tarifas y estimación de eficiencia en empresas distribuidoras de energía eléctrica. Anteriormente, me desempeñé durante cinco años como jefe de tarifas en Distribuidora de Gas del Centro y Cuyana en Argentina (ECOGAS). Tengo una licenciatura en ingeniería industrial de la Universidad Católica de Córdoba, Argentina, y una maestría en economía de la Universidad de Florida, Estados Unidos de América.

P: ¿Qué le hizo querer unirse al Path to 100%?

Fernando: El futuro de la energía es distribuido, renovable y digitalizado, pero la velocidad a la que llega la humanidad es crucial para revertir el cambio climático. Debemos involucrarnos para acelerar ese proceso. El paradigma del cambio ahora es diferente. En el pasado era centralizado, de arriba hacia abajo. Las autoridades tomaban decisiones y definían políticas para que todos las siguieran. En la actualidad, muchos cambios se gestan desde abajo hacia arriba, desde una conciencia social colectiva que comienza a actuar y a elegir de determinada manera. Para conseguir un 100% renovable, no podemos esperar que las autoridades lo hagan por si mismas en sus propios tiempos, necesitamos gestar movimientos sociales, horizontales, distribuidos que comiencen a generar energía limpia de manera distribuida, que almacenen energía en sus vehículos y en baterías en sus viviendas. Este movimiento distribuido se complementará obligatoriamente con medidas que tomen los planificadores energéticos regionales. El camino al 100% renovable no tiene una única solución, sino al contrario, requiere que a todos los niveles ocurran cambios para que entre todas la pequeñas y grandes soluciones se acelere la transición energética.

P: Describa su pasión por la energía renovable y cómo la ha puesto en práctica en Argentina.

Fernando: ¡La energía limpia e ilimitada es emocionante! Fundé IRIS con mis colegas consultores, que es una empresa de asesoría en consumo de energía inteligente que incluye instalación de paneles solares y desarrollo de comunidades solares.

IRIS, es una empresa que tiene como misión ayudar a los consumidores de energía a convertirse en protagonistas del mercado de la energía. Las nuevas tecnologías de generación y almacenamiento de energía junto con los desarrollos en soluciones digitales, inteligencia artificial y domótica revolucionarán la economía mundial. Es importante desarrollar soluciones locales, cerca de los consumidores, para ayudarles a consumir y a generar su propia energía, que puedan compartirla entre pares, cooperar y colaborar en el desarrollo de soluciones creativas que fomenten las economías regionales, las economías circulares, estimulando la sustentabilidad y el cuidado del medioambiente. El nuevo paradigma de la energía es colaborativo, participativo, sostenible, inteligente, digital y distribuido.

Dentro de estas iniciativas estamos desarrollando el concepto de Generación Comunitaria de Energía mediante la cual un grupo de usuarios se asocian para generar su propia energía en un punto remoto de sus puntos de consumo, inyectan su energía a la red y el Distribuidor les descuenta el valor de esa energía es la factura de cada consumidor copropietario. La Generación Comunitaria puede ser solar (Comunidad Solar) pero también puede ser de Generación Térmica a partir de Biogás, pequeña Hidro, Eólica, etc.

P: Su carrera se ha extendido por más de 20 años, ¿podría describir algunos de sus proyectos o logros notables?

Fernando: Participé en el diseño de prefactibilidad y determinación de precios para la licitación de más de 3000 km de gasoductos en México en 2014 dentro de un plan estratégico de importar gas natural (shale gas) desde Estados Unidos. Este proyecto ayudo a convertir la matriz energética mexicana hacia una más limpia.

Colaboré en 2017 en el desarrollo del Marco Regulatorio de Gas Natural para El Salvador que permitirá sustituir combustibles líquidos en la generación de energía y en la industria. En 2013 participé en un estudio para la transición energética hacia la masificación del servicio eléctrico mediante energías limpias en Islas Salomon, Oceanía. Estos son solo algunos proyectos de los muchos y muy interesantes que he tenido oportunidad de participar a lo largo de estos años.

P: ¿Qué son las comunidades solares y por qué son importantes para un futuro de energía 100% renovable?

Fernando: Las comunidades consisten en la realización de instalaciones de generación de energía limpia de manera conjunta por varios usuarios en vez de que cada uno realice instalaciones individuales. De este modo se logran beneficios para la sociedad y para los individuos. Los usuarios invierten sus ahorros en generación de energía, lo cual es preferido a que el Estado o grandes corporaciones lo hagan, pero al asociarse pueden lograr mejor escala que la que lograrían en sus propios domicilios.

Algunos de los beneficios de las comunidades solares (y cualquier tipo de generación comunitaria renovable) son:

  • Democrático: Pueden participar incluso los que no poseen espacio en su vivienda o condiciones para hacerlo (alquilan, viven en un edificio, tiene sombra, etc.)
  • Inclusivo: Pueden participar con cualquier nivel de aporte ya que son propietarios del generador de manera proporcional a su aporte.
  • Impacto Social: Algunos programas permiten acceder a la propiedad mediante aporte de trabajo en la construcción
  • Economías de Escala: Construir un generador comunitario de 1 MW de potencia puede ser hasta 3 veces menos costoso en USD/kW instalado que pequeñas instalaciones domiciliarias
  • Eficientes: Al instalar 3 veces más potencia con el mismo nivel de inversión se generan al menos 3 veces la cantidad de energía contribuyendo de forma mas eficiente al medio ambiente (mas CO2 desplazado)
  • Colaborativo/Cooperativo: Los usuarios se asocian para producir energía en vez de recurrir a la solución individualista fomentando el espíritu de sociedad de bienestar y el sentido de pertenencia al grupo social
  • Sinérgico: Al evitar el autoconsumo ya que la energía se genera en una locación diferente del punto de consumo, la Distribuidora no pierde sus ingresos por el uso de sus cables, postes y transformadores. De esa forma los generadores comunitarios son aliados de las distribuidoras y pueden fortalecerse mutuamente generando fuertes sinergias, mejorando la calidad del servicio eléctrico y la resiliencia de la red.

P: Ahora bien, ¿cuál considera que es uno de los principales desafíos que enfrenta Argentina en su camino hacia una energía limpia y asequible?

Fernando: Tenemos un grave disenso sobre el rumbo, Argentina es un país con gran riqueza en hidrocarburos, hay muchas opiniones que favorecen su explotación masiva antes de que pierdan valor. Por otro lado, la migración hacia energías renovables requiere inversiones y las inversiones perciben alto riesgo dada la baja credibilidad institucional.

Es decir, hay fuertes incentivos para explotar los fósiles antes de que pierdan valor por la sustitución por alternativas renovables. Un Ministro de Energía de Arabia Saudita dijo hace muchos años en relación al fin de la era de los combustibles fósiles que la edad de piedra no terminó por falta de piedras. En el caso del petróleo y el gas natural, quedarán reservas bajo el suelo que nunca serán explotadas dada la sustitución por alternativas renovables.

Por otro lado, una transición hacia una energía 100% renovable requiere importantes montos de inversión. Argentina tiene muy baja credibilidad para inversionistas dada la alta inseguridad jurídica y las malas políticas fiscales de los últimos 20 años.

Estas dos fuerzas, acceso a combustibles fósiles y falta de acceso a financiamiento impiden el desarrollo de energías limpias.

P: Finalmente, ¿qué pasos específicos puede tomar Argentina para ayudar en el camino hacia una energía 100% renovable? ¿O qué cambios ve que se están produciendo ahora? 

Fernando: Argentina debería estimular la participación privada en inversiones de generación de energía limpia. El Estado es ineficiente e insolvente y las empresas requieren de altos retornos para reducir la inseguridad jurídica. Miles de pequeños ahorristas que demuestran interés en ser protagonistas del sector eléctrico, que tienen conciencia medioambiental podrían generar el cambio que necesitamos, porque el nuevo paradigma es descentralizado y democrático.

 

Photo: Juan Pablo Mascanfroni on Unsplash

Q&A Series: Fernando Damonte on Accelerating Decarbonization in Argentina

Damonte has more than 20 years of experience as a public services consultant mainly in Latin America, but he has also participated in public service regulation projects in America, Europe, Africa and Oceania.

Question: Could you please tell us about yourself and your work?

Fernando: I am the Chief Operating Officer of Quantum America, an international consulting firm specializing in the area of ​​public services, with a strong presence in the Latin American market and expanding to the rest of the world. Throughout my 20-year career, I have participated in numerous works on the regulation of public utilities in America, and also in countries in Europe, Africa and Oceania. Previously, I was a project manager in several  studies, among them: Design of Regulatory Frameworks, Design of Modern Tariff Structures and Comparative Efficiency Studies (Benchmarking) in both Electric Power and Natural Gas.

I have also been a speaker at numerous courses and conferences, among which 16 International Seminars on Regulation and Rates stand out, organized annually by Quantum. I have been an exhibitor in Brazil on two occasions at the Gas Summit and in three editions of the Smart Grid Forum. Finally, I have been a speaker at the Regulation Course organized by the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) of the University of Florida.

Throughout my career, I have co-authored articles in books and academic publications on tariff design and efficiency estimation issues in electric power distribution companies. Previously, I worked for five years as head of rates at Distribuidora de Gas del Centro y Cuyana in Argentina (ECOGAS). I have a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Catholic University of Córdoba, Argentina, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Florida.

Q: What made you want to join the Path to  100%?

Fernando: The future of energy is distributed, renewable and digitized, but the speed at which humanity arrives is crucial to reverse climate change. We must get involved to accelerate that process. The paradigm of change is now different. In the past it was centralized, top-down. The authorities made decisions and defined policies for everyone to follow. Currently, many changes are made from the bottom up, from a collective social conscience that begins to act and choose in a certain way.

To achieve 100% renewable energy, we cannot expect the authorities to do it themselves in their own time, we need to create social, horizontal, distributed movements that begin to generate clean energy in a distributed manner, that store energy in their vehicles and in batteries in their homes. This distributed movement will be compulsorily complemented by measures taken by regional energy planners. The path to 100% renewable does not have a single solution, but on the contrary, it requires changes to occur at all levels so that between all the small and large solutions the energy transition is accelerated.

Q: Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put it into practice in Argentina.

Fernando: Clean and unlimited energy is exciting! I founded IRIS with my consulting colleagues, which is a smart energy consulting company that includes solar panel installation and solar community development.

IRIS is a company whose mission is to help energy consumers to become protagonists of the energy market. New energy generation and storage technologies together with developments in digital solutions, artificial intelligence and home automation will revolutionize the world economy. It is important to develop local solutions, close to consumers, to help them consume and generate their own energy, that they can share it among peers, cooperate and collaborate in the development of creative solutions that promote regional economies, circular economies, stimulating sustainability and caring for the environment. The new energy paradigm is collaborative, participatory, sustainable, smart, digital and distributed.

Within these initiatives we are developing the concept of community energy generation through which a group of users associate to generate their own energy at a remote point from their consumption points, inject their energy into the grid and the distributor discounts the value of that energy is the bill of each co-owner consumer. The community generation can be solar (solar community) but it can also be thermal generation from biogas, small hydro, wind, etc.

Q: Your career has spanned over 20 years, could you describe some of your notable projects or achievements?

Fernando: I participated in the pre-feasibility design and pricing for the tender for more than 3,000 km of gas pipelines in Mexico in 2014 within a strategic plan to import natural gas (shale gas) from the United States. This project helped to convert the Mexican energy matrix towards a cleaner one.

I collaborated in 2017 in the development of the Natural Gas Regulatory Framework for El Salvador that will allow the substitution of liquid fuels in power generation and in industry. In 2013, I participated in a study for the energy transition towards the massification of electric service through clean energies in the Solomon Islands, Oceania. These are just a few of the many and very interesting projects that I have had the opportunity to participate in over the years.

Q: What are solar communities and why are they important to a 100% renewable energy future?

Fernando: The communities consist of the creation of clean energy generation facilities jointly by several users instead of each one carrying out individual installations. In this way, benefits are achieved for society and for individuals. Users invest their savings in power generation, which is preferred to the State or large corporations to do so, but by partnering they can achieve better scale than they would in their own homes.

Some of the benefits of solar communities (and any type of renewable community generation) are:

  • Democratic: Even those who do not have space in their home or the conditions to do so can participate (they rent, live in a building, have shade, etc.)
  • Inclusive: They can participate with any level of contribution since they own the generator in proportion to their contribution.
  • Social Impact: Some programs allow access to the property through contribution of construction work
  • Economies of Scale: Building a community generator of 1 MW of power can be up to 3 times less expensive in USD / kW installed than small residential installations
  • Efficient: By installing 3 times more power with the same level of investment, at least 3 times the amount of energy is generated, contributing more efficiently to the environment (more CO2 displaced)
  • Collaborative / Cooperative: Users associate to produce energy instead of resorting to the individualistic solution, fostering the spirit of a welfare society and the sense of belonging to the social group
  • Synergic: By avoiding self-consumption since the energy is generated in a different location from the point of consumption, the distributor does not lose its income from the use of its cables, poles and transformers. In this way, community generators are allies of the distributors and can strengthen each other by generating strong synergies, improving the quality of the electricity service and the resilience of the grid.

Q: Now, what do you consider to be one of the main challenges Argentina faces on its way to clean and affordable energy?

Fernando: We have serious disagreements about the course. Argentina is a country with great wealth in hydrocarbons and there are many opinions that favor their massive exploitation before they lose value. On the other hand, migration to renewable energies requires investments and investments are perceived as high risk given the low institutional credibility.

In other words, there are strong incentives to exploit fossil fuels before they lose value due to the substitution of renewable alternatives. A Saudi Arabian Energy Minister said many years ago in relation to the end of the era of fossil fuels that the stone age did not end for lack of stones. In the case of oil and natural gas, there will be reserves under the ground that will never be exploited given the substitution by renewable alternatives.

On the other hand, a transition to 100% renewable energy requires significant investment amounts. Argentina has very low credibility for investors given the high legal uncertainty and bad fiscal policies of the last 20 years.

These two forces, access to fossil fuels and lack of access to financing impede the development of clean energy.

Q: Finally, what specific steps can Argentina take to help on the path to 100% renewable energy? Or what changes do you see taking place now?

Fernando: Argentina should stimulate private participation in clean energy generation investments. The state is inefficient and insolvent and companies require high returns to reduce legal uncertainty. Thousands of small savers who show interest in being protagonists of the electricity sector, who are environmentally conscious, could generate the change we need, because the new paradigm is decentralized and democratic.

 

 

Photo: Juan Pablo Mascanfroni on Unsplash

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.

 

Photo: Nuno Marques on Unsplash

Shell enters supply deal with Amazon to provide renewable energy

At-a-Glance:

Shell Energy Europe BV has agreed to supply Amazon.com Inc. with renewable energy, which will help the U.S. online retailer power its business completely using clean energy by 2025 which is five years ahead of Amazon’s target. To learn more, read “Shell enters supply deal with Amazon to provide renewable energy.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Shell Energy Europe BV said it will provide the renewable energy from a subsidy-free offshore wind farm constructed off the coast of the Netherlands.
  • According to a press release distributed by Shell, the wind farm will be operated by The CrossWind Consortium, a joint venture between Shell and Eneco.
    • Starting in 2024, Amazon will offtake 250 megawatts (MW) from Shell and 130 MW from Eneco, for a total of 380 MW.
    • “Supplying Amazon with electricity from this offshore wind farm contributes to their net-zero pledge while progressing our own ambition to be a net-zero emissions business by 2050 or sooner,” stated Elisabeth Brinton, Executive Vice President of New Energies at Shell.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Achieving a 100% renewable energy future requires collaboration and innovation to serve organizations and utility partners. Mutually beneficial partnerships, such as the newly established agreement between Shell and Amazon, is an impactful strategy with the potential to accelerate decarbonization. Although costs continue to decline for renewables, the need for ongoing solutions to create flexible, reliable and sustainable grids continues to be the overarching challenge in reaching renewable energy goals.

 

Photo: Nicholas Jeffway on Unsplash

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.

 

Photo: Alexander Tsang on Unsplash

Can Biden Get a 100% Clean Energy Bill Through Congress?

At-a-Glance:

Now that President Joe Biden has assumed office, he can get to work on his pledge to move the nation to 100 percent clean energy. During the campaign, Biden advocated a 100 percent clean energy standard pegged to 2035. This builds on state-level renewable portfolio standards, which spurred tremendous growth in renewables by mandating that utilities buy or purchase a certain amount of clean power by certain deadlines. Biden wants to apply the concept nationally while front-loading investment in clean energy and technology to bring down costs. To learn more, read “Can Biden Get a 100% Clean Energy Bill Through Congress?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Biden’s 2035 clean energy timeline is more ambitious than those of states that have passed their own clean energy targets: Hawaii, California, and others chose 2045 deadlines. Nearly all major electric utilities have pledged to go carbon-neutral or zero out emissions by 2045 or 2050.
  • Transforming the nation’s electricity system in 15 years will require an unprecedented ramp-up of renewable construction and grid infrastructure investment, and likely some reliance on unproven emerging technologies.
  • Some climate policy advocates believe a clean energy standard could materialize through budget reconciliation. The most straightforward way to do this would be to create a clean energy credit trading system.
  • Alternatively, Congress could use reconciliation to set emissions targets or award block grants to states if they pass their own clean energy standard in line with federal guidance.
  • In the waning days of 2020, Congress pulled out a surprise bipartisan energy policy win, passing a spending and stimulus bill that extends clean energy tax credits and earmarked billions of dollars for advanced energy technology research.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The path to 100% may not look the same for every organization or government. A mix of policy, technology, and innovation will be required to achieve a 100% renewable energy system. Policy alignment between the states and federal government will help to accelerate decarbonization efforts and decrease confusion for utilities and citizens trying to decipher renewable energy solutions and the timelines attached to each goal.

 

 

Photo by Sungrow EMEA on Unsplash

Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers

At-a-Glance:

Just which companies are the biggest buyers of green energy? In 2020, it was Amazon, which bypassed Google and Facebook. These companies were followed by French oil giant Total, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and U.S. telecom Verizon. To learn more, read “Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • In its 2021 Corporate Energy Outlook, BloombergNEF reported that more than 130 companies in sectors ranging from oil and gas to big tech have inked clean energy deals and purchased 23.7 gigawatts of clean energy.
  • Amazon entered into 35 power purchase agreements in 2020 and has purchased 7.5 gigawatts of clean energy to date.
  • Sixty-five companies joined the RE100 in 2020, pledging to offset 100% of their electricity consumption with clean energy; there are 280 companies in all.
  • Forty-eight percent of Fortune 500 and 63% of Fortune 100 companies are promising to cut their greenhouse gases and increase their use of renewable energy or improve their energy efficiencies.

Path to 100% Perspective:

More corporations are realizing the benefits of investing in clean energy to expand responsibility, reliability, and flexibility. These companies are setting an ambitious example for others to follow as the path to 100% is seen as possible, practical, and financially feasible. Access to  clean energy resources on a global scale is making it easier for companies to set and work toward clean energy targets.

 

Photo by Abby Anaday on Unsplash.

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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Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system

At-a-Glance

The California Independent System Operator added 2.1 GW of capacity to its grid in 2020 with another 3.3 GW permitted with online dates in 2020 or 2021 as the state works to achieve its ambitious 100% clean energy mandate over the next 25 years. To learn more, read Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system.”

Key Takeaways

  • In 2020, Cal-ISO had 2.1 GW of capacity added through September of which 1.3 GW was gas-fired, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.
  • EIA also shows 3.3 GW permitted with an online date in either 2020 or 2021. About 2,500 MW of this is under construction which includes 1.5 GW solar, 800 MW battery and 200 MW wind.
  • Cal-ISO president and CEO Elliot Mainzer has said the grid operator is working to improve its resource adequacy system following the rotating outages in August.
  • “Longer term, we’re working very closely with the [Public Utilities Commission], the Energy Commission and others in the regulatory space to try to make sure the resource adequacy paradigm in California is modernized sufficiently to recognize the changing resource mix,” Mainzer said. “There’s a lot of additional solar and batteries and wind and other renewables coming onto the system.”
  • Renewable generation curtailments in 2020 were up 220% year on year, according to ISO data.

Path to 100% Perspective

No power system can achieve 100% renewable electricity just by adding more renewable generation. It also needs to slash fossil-fueled generation. That means reducing reliance on traditional gas- and coal-fired plants, whether they’re used for baseload or to back up variable renewable generation. And that can be harder than you might think. The challenge is that traditional fossil-fuel-powered plants are inflexible: they can’t just switch off when the sun is high and switch back on when the sun sets. Because traditional power stations require many hours to shut down and many hours to start back up, they cannot power up and down quickly enough to handle predictable shifts in demand and generation, let alone unexpected changes in the weather. To ensure a steady flow of electricity, California’s traditional gas-fired power stations have to keep running at 40% to 50% capacity, even on a bright, sunny day. Running at low capacity is inefficient and emits large amounts of climate-warming carbon.

 

Photo by Jarosław Kwoczała on Unsplash

Green hydrogen: The zero-carbon seasonal energy storage solution

At-a-Glance:

Founder and former executive director of the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA), Janice Lin, explains the process of developing California’s 100% renewable portfolios and modelling California’s clean energy storage needs. During the process, Lin discovered the viability of green hydrogen as the solution to balance the grid. In 2019, she founded the Green Hydrogen Coalition (GHC) to research how hydrogen can offer the large-scale storage capacity and flexible discharge horizons to support a global clean energy future. To learn more, read “Green hydrogen: The zero-carbon seasonal energy storage solution.”

Key Takeaways:

  • CESA deduced that of the commercially available solutions, green hydrogen was the only low-carbon, potentially economically viable option to support seasonal, dispatchable, scalable energy storage for the grid.
  • Hydrogen gas can power the grid via multiple pathways, either through conversion in a fuel cell or by direct combustion in a gas turbine. Many gas turbines are already able to combust a blend of natural gas and hydrogen, and several leading manufacturers are developing new gas turbines that can consume 100% hydrogen gas.
  • By repurposing existing energy infrastructure, green hydrogen has the potential to make the clean energy transition affordable, reliable and scalable.
  • CESA changed their definition of energy storage to include hydrogen storage technologies, including purpose-built storage facilities as well as pipelines.
  • Green hydrogen is the ideal seasonal energy storage medium:
    • Hydrogen is abundant, offers separate power and energy scaling, can be produced from renewable energy and can be stored at scale.
  • Although lithium-ion energy storage is an important part of the toolkit, there is just not enough lithium to support the needs of a sustainable and reliable clean energy future.
  • Only abundant, available hydrogen can offer the large-scale storage capacity and flexible discharge horizons to support a global clean energy future.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Green hydrogen is produced with water, an electrolyzer and electricity generated from renewable energy. Hydrogen offers interesting possibilities for decarbonized power generation. In a power system that incorporates renewables and battery storage, for example, some of the excess renewable energy could be used to produce hydrogen that could be used in a power plant to balance the power system at times when cloudy and calm weather may reduce the output of solar and wind power plants. Hydrogen could be produced when electricity need is low, stored relatively cheaply, and used when needed. This would lower the overall cost of the clean electricity. Incorporating hydrogen in this way would add a long-term energy storage solution to the short-term storage solution provided by batteries.

 

Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

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.

 

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

Q&A Series: Joseph Kopser Offers His Strategic View to Energy Innovations

Kopser is a technology entrepreneur and expert in transportation, smart cities, urban mobility, energy, national security issues as well as an Army combat veteran.

 

Question: Could you please describe you and your work?

Joseph: I am a serial entrepreneur and expert in energy and national security issues. Currently, I serve as an Executive-in-Residence at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. In addition, I am President of Grayline after co-founding and serving as CEO of RideScout before it was acquired by Mercedes. I served in the U.S. Army for 20 years earning the Combat Action Badge, Army Ranger Tab and Bronze Star. I am a graduate of West Point with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and also received a Masters from the Harvard Kennedy School. In 2013, I was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for my efforts in Energy and Transportation. In 2014, RideScout won the U.S. DOT Data Innovation Award and I co-authored the book, Catalyst. I am the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the CleanTX Foundation, an economic development and professional association for cleantech.

Q: What made you want to join the Path to 100%? 

Joseph: I want to partner with any and all parties that are moving towards a more sustainable energy economy. Some might find it ironic that I was born in a coal state (Kentucky), moved to an oil and gas state (Texas) and now I advocate for a cleaner energy economy. For me, it’s about the triple bottom line– people, profits, and the planet. And the good news is that with an appropriate balance between public and private sector policy goals, we can achieve success for all three elements of the triple bottom line. I see the Path to 100% as just one of the many ways to get there.

Q: Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put that to work in the United States.

Joseph: My interest in renewable energy started during my time serving in the military, where I was able to see first hand ways that our lack of a clear energy security policy was threatening our national security. I participated in missions in Iraq that were little more than delivering diesel fuel out to remote military sites with out of date and inefficient generators and motors that were guzzling the fuel. Every time a Soldier went on the road for a delivery, they were at risk from the enemy. It didn’t make sense for the greatest nation in the world (that put a man on the moon in the 1960s) to still be using generators that were made before the Soldiers were even born.

Since that time, I’ve become a clean energy warrior in and out of uniform. My first company, RideScout, set out to reduce our carbon footprint by making transportation more energy efficient. I was co-founder of the DefenseEnergy.com Summit and the National Security Technology Accelerator where both entities were in search of clean energy technologies to benefit the warfight at all aspects of energy production, storage and distribution.

Finally, I chair the board of advisors for CleanTX.org. CleanTX is a clean energy consortium dedicated to accelerate and promote the growth of renewable energy.

Q: How would you like to see your work implemented on a global scale? 

Joseph: First, the US has to be a leader. In the short term, some may perceive it as a cost, but we have to measure the fully burdened costs of our decisions long term. We have to be more willing to take risks, experiment with pilot projects and most importantly learn from our failures of what does and does not work. Finally, we have to align incentives and remind people that you always get what you pay for. Currently, the costs are disproportionately spread across everyone in the economy as opposed to certain producers or consumers that are actually generating the negative externalities. Being serious about some kind of carbon pricing will allow the marketplace to better align to a set of goals that work for people, profits and the planet

Q: What do you believe are the greatest areas of opportunity for your the U.S.’s renewable energy sector?

Joseph: Creating jobs for the 21st century energy economy. Lots of them. Bringing renewable jobs closer to home would allow us to decrease our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. All too often, people fight change when they see it as a threat. It is understandable that people seek economic security for their family and their kids long-term. Therefore, I see the greatest opportunity to bring people along better by demonstrating (not just talking about) how they benefit from clean water, fresher air, and most importantly, higher paying jobs.

Q: Now, what do you see as the primary barriers or challenges the U.S. faces on its path to clean, affordable energy?

Joseph: Fear of losing your job or your livelihood. The way I see it, innovation in the private sector is not enough to successfully reinvent the American energy economy. Partnership with the government that creates the conditions for innovation is essential, both from a funding and regulatory perspective.

The social, economic, and political environment in which we all operate is changing faster than ever, and the pace of change is accelerating. Robotics, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, renewables, 3D printing, and other emerging technologies are colliding with socioeconomic forces such as urbanization, wealth concentration, aging populations, and widespread workforce displacement. At the same time, socio-economic segregation is on the rise in the U.S. and our educational system needs serious changes to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

You cannot talk about a path to cleaner, more affordable energy without balancing all aspects of change in society that weigh a family down at the kitchen table. All too often, advocates in our industry are only looking at the issue from an environmental standpoint. I recommend they stand back and take a more holistic view.

Q: Finally, how can the U.S. lead in the path to 100 percent renewables? And what progress do you envision for the region over the next few years?

Joseph: We wrote a Constitution that despite its shortcomings has stood the time of time. We overcame the existential threat of the Civil War. We came together to pull ourselves out of the Great Depression. We won World War II and created the first middle class in human history. Thanks to American innovation, rule of law and protection of intellectual property, we have created the conditions with our economy to lift more people out of poverty world-wide than any other invention in human history.

I am confident that if we take all of our best collective talents, and point it in the right direction, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. In building a cleaner energy economy, we will create jobs, educate more people world-wide and leave a much better world for our kids tomorrow.

Photo: Mitchell Kmetz on Unsplash