Booming Investment In Renewables Is Set To Continue In 2023 And Beyond

At-a-Glance

Climate tech has come to the fore like never before with its potential to be a safe haven investment in a macroeconomic environment of uncertainty. For more, read Booming Investment In Renewables Is Set To Continue In 2023 And Beyond.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean energy investment significantly accelerated and is expected to surpass $1.4 trillion in 2022, says the World Economic Forum
  • Three-quarters of overall growth in energy investment is attributable to clean energy, which has been growing at an average annual rate of 12% since 2020.
  • Governments across Europe are doing their part to assist in the energy transition in a meaningful way, with the EU accelerating the speed at which permits are given to renewable energy projects.
  • Germany approved plans for each state to allocate a minimum amount of land for onshore wind farms and EU energy ministers backed laws with targets to get 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Deloitte’s Renewable Energy Outlook for 2023 report forecasts that the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) extension of tax credits for renewable energy projects will lead to up to 550 gigawatts of additional clean energy by the end of the 2020s.
  • Private investment in renewables in the U.S. reached a record high of $10 billion in 2022, investment levels that Deloitte forecasts are expected to continue into 2023 as investors are attracted by transparent and predictable returns on mature technologies that are backed by the IRA’s 10-year tax credits.

Path to 100% Perspective

Recent investments in clean energy make it abundantly clear that the renewable revolution is here. Increasing and being consistent in these investments is necessary to realize a 100% renewable energy future. As energy leaders take stock post-COVID and restructure their models, now is a key moment to set clear frameworks for achieving net zero. For most, it’s not about starting from scratch, but understanding where and how to invest to drive future resilience.

Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US

At-a-Glance

A couple of energy projects in the Eastern United States are helping to increase access to clean energy and clean transport, while helping to level the playing field in other ways too. For more, read Two Partnerships Expand Access To Clean Energy & Transport In The Eastern US.

Key Takeaways

  • New York-based Autel Energy is partnering with Legacy Clean Energy (LCE), a minority-owned business in Charlotte, North Carolina, to offer electric vehicle charging solutions for corporations and marginalized communities across the country.
  • In Pennsylvania, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Lightsource bp have joined forces with a 25-megawatt solar project now in operation. With the addition of this second solar farm to SEPTA’s statewide portfolio, both companies boast 42 megawatts – rough electricity to fulfill 20% of SEPTA’s total demand.
  • By partnering with Lightsource bp, SEPTA’s Elk Hill Solar 1 project has enabled Pennsylvania to reduce its carbon footprint by 28,000 metric tons of CO2 each year.
  • The solar farm not only contributes to achieving Pennsylvania’s clean energy goals but also increases energy security and diversifies their portfolio. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Engaging private industry in the path to 100% is critical to develop the solutions and innovations needed for decarbonization. These examples show what’s possible when private companies and utilities partner to expand both capacity and access to clean energy. Partnerships like these are needed to accelerate the transition to net zero, meet decarbonization goals, and limit the impacts of climate change.

The Hydrogen Economy Will Soon Be Ready For Takeoff, Including Planes and Power Plants

At-a-Glance

Does the aviation sector have its head in the clouds? Indeed, the experts are working hard to make hydrogen a sustainable aviation fuel. For more, read The Hydrogen Economy Will Soon Be Ready For Takeoff, Including Planes and Power Plants.

Key Takeaways

  • A study by Clean Sky 2 and Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 says that hydrogen-powered aircraft could be ready for flight as early as 2035.
  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed a year ago includes up to $7 billion to establish between 6 and 10 regional hydrogen hubs across the country. The goal is to create a network of hydrogen producers and industrial consumers with an interconnected infrastructure to accelerate the use of clean hydrogen.
  • In its Hydrogen Economy Outlook, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says green hydrogen could supply 24% of the world’s energy demands by 2050 while cutting CO2 levels by 34%.
  • To help accelerate the use of green hydrogen, the U.S. Department of Energy is taking an “Earthshot”, launched in June 2021, to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per one kilogram in one decade. Currently, hydrogen from renewable energy costs about $5 per kilogram.
  • The hydrogen hubs will be essential to achieving economies of scale, bringing about price parity and driving adoption.

Path to 100% Perspective

Hydrogen is one of several potential future fuels that can help phase out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy as part of the final push to decarbonize energy systems. At the moment, hydrogen is the most promising candidate of the P2X fuel for power plants. Hydrogen is carbon-free, has the highest production energy efficiency of the P2X fuels, and with time it is predicted to become the most cost competitive due to low renewable electricity prices. The most sustainable form of hydrogen is green hydrogen, which is produced through electrolysis of water utilizing renewable electricity. Important for green hydrogen production is access to renewable electricity and clean water. Locations with favorable conditions for these will become hydrogen production hubs.

Deep Geothermal – One Renewable Energy Source to Rule Them All?

At-a-Glance

Deep geothermal technologies, such as the gyrotron, may be the key to harnessing the heat stored below the Earth’s crust to make abundant zero emissions energy. For more, read Deep Geothermal – One Renewable Energy Source to Rule Them All?

Key Takeaways

  • Gyrotrons, which produce high power beams, are currently used in fusion research. Paul Woskov, an MIT researcher, has posed the idea of using the technology to drill geothermal wells that can reach the Earth’s mantle.
  • MIT spinoff Quaise Energy received a grant from the Department of Energy to scale up Woskov’s lab experiments using a larger gyrotron. The goal is to vaporize a hole 100 times the depth of Woskov’s current experiments by sometime next year.
  • Quaise Energy plans to start harvesting energy from pilot geothermal wells that reach rock temperatures at up to 500°C by 2026. The team then hopes to begin repurposing coal and natural gas generating plants using its system.
  • Many of the skills developed over the past century by the oil and gas industry are readily transferable to deep geothermal, meaning that a ready-made, well-trained workforce is already available. Current fossil fuel infrastructure can be readily repurposed to rapidly advance geothermal energy.

Path to 100% Perspective

A variety of technologies will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Deep geothermal is an emerging technology that can help ease the transition. What makes this technology exciting is that it’s compatible with existing thermal power plants, which can be converted to run on steam instead of coal and natural gas. Building conditions to enable investment in thermal balancing power plants is a key step to frontloading net zero and adding geothermal energy is one way to make this possible. There are many other renewable sources in use today that are the subject of scale-up research and expanded deployment, including ocean energy, bioenergy, and renewable synthetic fuels from Power-to-X (P2X). Ocean, biomass, and geothermal are not forecast to get to the scale that solar and wind could reach, but all are important. All of these technologies are part of the analysis and discussion around the transition to a 100% renewable energy future.

California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms

At-a-Glance: 

In its quest to decarbonize its energy, California is heading offshore. Besides being green, tapping the winds over the Pacific Ocean offers an additional benefit: Good timing. For more read California’s Solar Problem Could Be Solved by Floating Wind Farms.

Key Takeaways:

  • While current solar capacity in California provides a deluge of power supply in the middle of the day, the peak demand for power is in the evening, when solar isn’t as reliable. This is especially troubling during extreme weather conditions.
  • Wind turbines off the coast capture steadier ocean winds than those on land, sometimes 50% more, and it usually peaks at night, making it a useful complement to solar power during the day and reducing the need to turn to gas-fired plants and battery storage
  • Matching supply more precisely with demand is an essential, but often overlooked, element of the energy transition. Traditional power supply relies on having dispatchable generators, usually burning fossil fuels, on call to match fluctuating demand. 

Path to 100% Perspective

California can reach its goal of serving 100% of retail load with renewable energy. However, this cannot be achieved with its current portfolio of resources. The rolling blackouts in summer 2020 show that California needs additional resources to supplement the tools already in place. More specifically, California needs new resources that complement the wind, solar, and hydro needed for a shift to a 100% renewable electricity system. Slow ramping, long start, baseload resources must be replaced by faster, more flexible resources that are capable of running on sustainable fuels. Sustainable fuels produced by excess wind and solar energy, plus storage resources, can enable California to cleanly and reliably shift energy from low-net loads to high-net loads.

US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law

At-a-Glance: 

Accelerated by the Inflation Reduction Act, solar capacity will more than triple from 2021 to 2030 and battery storage will jump exponentially, predicts BNEF. For more, read US Renewable Power Set to Get More Than 20% Boost From New Climate Law.

Key Takeaways:

  • Enough solar power plants will be built from this year through 2030 to generate 364 gigawatts of electricity, BNEF estimates. That’s more than three times the capacity of all US solar plants in operation last year.
  • A gigawatt is roughly the output of a commercial nuclear reactor and, depending on the region, can power 750,000 homes. 
  • BNEF predicts147 gigawatts of new wind installations, many of them in coastal waters along New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and toward the end of the decade, California. 
  • The IRA also includes a new tax credit for large energy storage systems — typically, big packs of lithium-ion batteries — plugged into the power grid. BNEF forecasts 107 gigawatts of storage installations through 2030, up from just 5.7 gigawatts in use this year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The passage of the IRA means there has never been a better time to make a long-term investment in U.S. decarbonization goals, but just investing in renewables is not enough. Solar and wind are variable, and will need a reliable backup to maintain the grid. As renewables become the new baseload, the need for flexible power generation and reliable storage solutions will be more important than ever.

In its Front-Loading Net Zero report released in 2020, Wärtsilä Energy outlined the benefits of investing now in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy and storage technology.

“Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar,” according to the report. “Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power up-front, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation.”

 

US wind, solar tripled over the past decade: analysis

At-a-Glance: 

The United States generated three times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind last year in comparison to 2012, a new analysis has found. Seven states alone now produce enough electricity from these sources, as well as geothermal energy, to cover half of their consumption, according to an online energy dashboard. Read more in US wind, solar tripled over the past decade: analysis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Just five years earlier, none of the states mentioned— South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico — had achieved this level of renewable energy progress.
  • Among the dashboard’s key findings was evidence that the U.S. produced enough wind energy to power 35 million typical homes in 2021 — or 2.7 times as much wind energy as in 2012. 
  • The U.S. also generated enough solar energy that year to power 15 million homes — or 15 times as much solar energy as in 2012, according to the dashboard. 
  • The dashboard found that the country now has nearly 4.7 gigawatts of battery storage, or 32 times as much as in 2012. This helps support the use of more renewable energy and keep the lights on during extreme weather events. 
  • California, Texas and Florida exhibited the most growth in solar power and battery storage from 2012 to 2021, while Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa ranked highest for wind power growth.

Path to 100% Perspective

The rise in renewables is a key step in the Path to 100%, and the numbers should continue to grow as the Inflation Reduction Act makes now a perfect time to invest in clean energy technology.

As mentioned in the article, the key to integrating renewable energy into the system is backup power– both thermal and storage. That’s because solar and wind are variable– you can’t always count on them to produce power at peak demand times.

Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower

At-a-Glance: 

In America, solar power could be a new cash crop for farmers as the new innovation known as agrivoltaics grows. It is the process of farmers leasing land to solar farms and incorporating the panels as they plant crops or raise livestock. Read more in: Throwing Shade Is Solar Energy’s New Superpower.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act includes billions of dollars in renewable energy funds that will accelerate the adoption of solar and other renewables. This will hasten the creation of large utility-scale arrays on existing cropland, perfect for its light winds, moderate temperatures and low humidity.
  • Farmers can lease their land for hundreds of dollars an acre, a much easier income than labor-intensive traditional farming. They can plant crops that thrive in shade or cool their cows under solar panels to double their income stream.
  • Critics worry that solar farms are unattractive and could change the character of rural communities, and that the panels could block access to the soil.
  • Despite positive advantages, agrivoltaics, at least on a large scale, remains a subject of research more than a method of doing business. It costs more to place solar panels high enough off the ground to allow for planting and livestock to fit underneath.

Path to 100% Perspective

In order to decarbonize, we must increase the usage of renewable energy sources like solar. Agrivoltaics could provide one solution to add more utility-size solar panels in more parts of the United States. More research is needed to determine how best to achieve this goal, but the premise is promising and if achieved, could hasten the Path to 100%.

 

Photo by Micha Sager on Unsplash

A “Supercharge” Of Renewable Energy Development Is Taking Place Around Us

At-a-Glance: 

Incentives in The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will lower the cost of renewable energy in the U.S. dramatically over the next decade, according to analysis from the ICF Climate Center, a global consulting firm. They’ve deduced that the new US climate law will make clean energy projects easier to finance across the country, quickening the pace of the US energy transition.  For more read: A “Supercharge” Of Renewable Energy Development Is Taking Place Around Us.

Key Takeaways:

  • All of the technologies the authors of this report analyzed —  whether mature wind and solar or emerging battery, hydrogen, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) — would see double digit percentage declines. 
  • The IRA’s broad definition of energy storage for the ITC should help emerging alternatives to lithium ion batteries come to market, increasing the diversity of energy storage options, 
  • Hydrogen could see the biggest cost decline — a huge reduction anywhere from 52% to 67% — of any technology. Green hydrogen facilities that take advantage of the climate law’s tax credits could become cost-competitive with new natural-gas-powered facilities by 2030.
  • The authors assume within their projections that policymakers will address some sticky obstacles confronting clean energy projects, including “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) reactions and interconnection problems.

Path to 100% Perspective

A 100% renewable energy future in the United States is possible by 2050 if everyone works together, and the IRA definitely sets the stage for an influx of development. While increasing renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, the U.S. must also determine a plan to realistically phase out fossil fuel plants. Renewable sources can be intermittent, so battery technology will need to improve. Investing in technology like Wartsila’s flexible power plants, which can run on sustainable fuels like hydrogen, will also provide the dispatchability needed to ensure reliable power.

Historic $7B federal funding opportunity to jump-start America’s clean hydrogen economy

At-a-Glance: 

The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting applications for the $7 billion program to create regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the country. The H2Hubs will be a central driver in helping communities across the country benefit from clean energy investments, good-paying jobs, and improved energy security. For more read: DOE Opens Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding Opportunity for Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs and Releases Draft of DOE National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be produced from clean, diverse, and domestic energy resources, including wind, solar, and nuclear energy, or by using methane while capturing resulting carbon to reduce emissions.
  • DOE also released a draft of the National Clean Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap, which provides an overview of the potential for hydrogen production, transport, storage, and use in the United States and outlines how clean hydrogen can contribute to national decarbonization and economic development goals. 
  • For this initial funding opportunity launch, DOE is aiming to select six to ten hubs for a combined total of up to $7 billion in federal funding. 

Path to 100% Perspective

Renewable fuels, like hydrogen, will play a significant role in transitioning to a 100% renewable energy power system, especially as the market for these fuels continues to grow in the transportation and industrial sectors. Hydrogen-based sustainable fuels can be stored in large quantities and for extended periods at power plants for long periods of use, enabling clean capacity to be cost effectively scaled up according to the needs of grids.

 

 

How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave

At-a-Glance: 

A two-week heat wave in California put the electric grid to an extreme test, but despite record demand the power stayed on, largely due to the fact that the state has gone all-in on clean energy technology like wind, solar, battery storage, and demand response. For more read: How Clean Energy Kept California’s Lights On During A Historically Extreme Heat Wave.

Key Takeaways:

  • Batteries played a critical role in keeping the grid running, and without them we would have experienced rolling blackouts. California has more than 3.2 GW of batteries supporting the grid, up from just 250 megawatts in 2020. These batteries typically provide four hours of energy, so that’s 150 times more energy from just two years ago. 
  • Customers also played a part, drastically reducing power usage after text alerts asked them to conserve power. This did help, but can’t be relied upon in every situation.
  • Renewable energy sources helped, too, but did need battery backup. Solar provided a consistent source of power during the day, but dropped off in the evening, when the demand increased. Wind did pick up in the evening. 
  • The state is racing to install more solar, wind, batteries, as well as transmission to connect all these new resources to the grid.

Path to 100% Perspective

It’s encouraging to hear that 10 states have already set decarbonization goals, but it isn’t enough. The Path to 100% will take support from everyone– from government and business leaders to private citizens. While the path isn’t the same everywhere, it includes some common steps, like increasing the use of renewables while incorporating storage and flexible power plants that can provide a source of energy backup when renewables like wind and solar are not enough. Without a plan to ensure firm, reliable power at all times, support of the energy transition could decrease.

 

 

NREL Study Identifies Opportunities & Challenges Of Achieving The U.S. Transformational Goal Of 100% Clean Electricity By 2035

At-a-Glance: 

A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines the types of clean energy technologies and the scale and pace of deployment needed to achieve 100% clean electricity, or a net-zero power grid, in the United States by 2035.

Key Takeaways:

  • Overall, NREL finds multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035 that would produce significant benefits, but the exact technology mix and costs will be determined by research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and infrastructure investment decisions over the next decade.
  • To achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, new clean energy technologies will have to be deployed at an unprecedented scale. Modeling shows that wind and solar would need to supply 60% to 80% of generation. Getting there would require an additional 40–90 gigawatts of solar on the grid per year and 70–150 gigawatts of wind per year by the end of this decade – more than four times the current annual deployment levels for each technology.
  • Seasonal storage, like clean hydrogen-fueled combustion turbines, is important when clean electricity makes up about 80%–95% of generation. Achieving the needed amount of storage requires substantial development of infrastructure, including fuel storage, transportation and pipeline networks, and additional generation capacity needed to produce clean fuels.
  • Overall, NREL finds in all modeled scenarios that the health and climate benefits associated with fewer emissions exceed the power system costs to get to 100% clean electricity.

Path to 100% Perspective

Achieving ambitious decarbonization goals will require a reduction of reliance on fossil fuels and an increase in renewable energy. What will be critical to the transformation is a reliable source of energy when sources like wind or solar are not producing enough. The most economical long-duration storage is formed with green hydrogen-based sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, carbon neutral methanol and methane. These fuels can be used to generate electricity in flexible power plants. Such flexible power plants provide carbon neutral firm, dispatchable capacity to the grid at any time.

Sustainable fuels can be produced using a process called Power-to-Gas (PtG), which uses surplus solar and wind energy to produce renewable fuels, like synthetic methane and hydrogen. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon-free and synthetic methane produced using carbon recycled from the air, is a carbon-neutral fuel.