Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years

At-a-Glance:

The nascent industry that captures and stores carbon dioxide has to scale to the size of the oil industry much faster than oil did, according to the head of the Global CCS Institute. To learn more, read  Carbon Capture Has To Get As Big As Oil Industry In Less Than 30 Years.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The oil industry moves about 5 gigatons of oil and gas per year. To meet climate goals, the world has to remove at least that weight of carbon dioxide – 5 to 10 gigatons – from the atmosphere each year.
  • Hard to decarbonize sectors – steel, chemicals, cement, fertilizers, and plastics – will generally need carbon capture and storage to address their emissions.
  • The Global CCS Institute is an international think tank seeking to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture and storage. It knows of 26 operating CCS facilities and 40 more that are either in development or suspended.
  • If all 66 facilities were operational, they would collectively capture and store 102 megatons of carbon dioxide each year. Capacity may have to increase 100-fold by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Accelerating decarbonization efforts is the subject of discussions, research and multiple organizational goals. Carbon capture technology is gaining interest in the energy sector around the world as industries seek innovation, traction and affordability.

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Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.

At-a-Glance:

The loss of life and economic costs stemming from the recent crisis in Texas have demonstrated that electric power is a necessity, not an ordinary commodity. While fact finding has just begun, it’s clear that policy makers must take a hard look at the economic rules and incentives governing the power sector and assess the resilience of a vast array of critical infrastructure. To learn more read,  Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.”

Key Takeaways:

3 areas for collaboration:

Current incentives create restraints on rapid change, but can overcome to meet climate goals with effective public-private collaboration in three areas:

  • Support for innovation. The federal government should invest big to help new technologies make the leap from laboratory to marketplace.
  • Inclusive policies. Indulging preferences for some solutions over others might be tenable if there was plenty of time, but getting there will require a massive increase of renewable energy; breakthroughs in energy storage technologies, such as batteries, and in new energy carriers, such as hydrogen.
  • The ability to build big and build fast. To tackle our interrelated climate and energy challenges, America must rediscover the moonshot ambition and collective sense of urgency that allowed us to put a man on the moon in less than 10 years. A century earlier we built the transcontinental railroad in just six years.

Path to 100% Perspective:

As each government and organizational leader considers the landscape of the decade of consequence for the global climate, a clear line of sight to achieve decarbonization has been set by science. 3,000 GW of installed renewable capacity is required by 2030 to achieve the lower Paris target of 2°C5. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said in June 2020 that world leaders have six months to put policies in place to prevent a rebound in emissions that could put that target permanently out of reach. Leaders now face a clear choice: either be shaped by the inherent shocks of a worsening climate emergency or take action to shape the energy system around the needs and impact of a net-zero future.

 

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Utilities Are the Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?

At-a-Glance:

In the early 2000’s, utilities were unable to grasp the climate change movement. Today, they have been swept up by it – a function of stricter environmental regulations, cheaper natural gas, and affordable renewables. But if electrification and decarbonization are realized, it could pay big dividends for power companies. To learn more, read Utilities Are The Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 70% of the largest U.S. electric and gas utilities now have net-zero goals, says S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • The Boston Consulting Group analyzed a “model utility” with 2-3 million customers. It found that it would need to invest between $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per electric vehicle (EV) through 2030.
  • Xcel Energy has announced plans to serve 1.5 million EVs by 2030. Xcel Energy Chair Ben Fowke expects 60% of the utility’s electric generation to be fueled by renewables in 2030 – with some natural gas as a backup.

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. Accurate modelling can make a critical difference in renewable integration, resilience and reliability. Finally, energy storage systems designed for daily shifting with less than 12 hour duration are not cost optimal for long-term storage and energy time-shifting in high renewable power systems.

 

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What the Biggest Corporate Energy Buyers Want from Federal Clean Energy Policy

At-a-Glance:

The Biden-Harris administration and the Democratic majority in Congress have an important backer in their quest to achieve an ambitious climate agenda: corporate America and its increasing hunger for carbon-free energy. On January 25, a notable subset of the largest U.S. corporations signed on to a statement from the Renewable Energy Buyers Association (REBA), laying out the top federal policy priorities that will help them meet their own aggressive decarbonization goals. To learn more, read What the Biggest Corporate Energy Buyers Want from Federal Clean Energy Policy.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Many of the signatories have already pledged to zero out their carbon footprints in the next decade or two, whether internally or across their supply chains. They’ve also been procuring and bankrolling clean energy at gigawatt scale.
  • The first federal policy priority is to improve the workings of the country’s wholesale energy market and expand similar markets to the rest of the country.
  • The second priority is to “harmonize and update” the largely state-by-state policy patchwork that governs clean energy procurement and sets values on the decarbonization potential of different technologies and investments.
  • The third priority centers on moving federal clean energy research and development to commercial application.
  • December 2020’s omnibus federal spending and coronavirus relief bill contains billions of dollars for these types of commercialization efforts, from core energy technologies to applications in manufacturing and construction.

Path to 100% Perspective:

U.S. corporations have been stepping up their commitment to lower or eliminate their carbon footprints for the last several years. Yet, they cannot pave the path to 100% alone. Federal support for clean energy has been significantly reduced in recent years, with federal energy initiatives primarily focused on the fossil fuel sector. The federal government can clear the way to a 100% renewable energy future by harmonizing state decarbonization policies, optimizing and expanding the renewable energy infrastructure, and investing in clean energy technology research and commercialization. Given the scale and depth of its energy market, the U.S. has the economic and technological potential to scale up renewable energy at an unprecedented rate.

 

 

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Shell Says Hydrogen Is Heavy Transport’s Future. What Now For Biofuels?

At-a-Glance:

Hydrogen will be the key energy source for global road freight, according to a new report commissioned by European oil major Shell. Electrification is the most economic and environmental solution for smaller delivery vehicles. The study, carried out by global accountancy firm Deloitte on Shell’s behalf, questioned 158 executives in the road freight sector in 22 different countries. To learn more, read Shell Says Hydrogen Is Heavy Transport’s Future. What Now For Biofuels?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Of those interviewed for the report, 70% ranked decarbonization as a top-three concern for their business and many said they expect hydrogen to be commercially viable in just five to 10 years.
  • Carlos Maurer, EVP of sectors and decarbonization at Shell, stated, “We believe that once produced at scale, hydrogen will likely be the most cost-effective and viable pathway to net-zero emissions for heavy-duty and long-route medium-duty vehicles, and electric mobility will do the same for light-duty and short-route medium-duty vehicles.”
  • Major truck manufacturers in Europe have accelerated the target date for their diesel engine phase-out from 2050 to 2040. Hydrogen and electrification are the low-carbon technology options of choice.
  • Biofuels are more likely to play their largest role in the short term when it comes to the transportation sector; however, there are other transport end markets where biofuels hold a strong advantage.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will be a key step in realizing a 100% renewable energy future. Investments in hydrogen production, both in policies and infrastructure, will accelerate the timeline for commercial viability.

 

 

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Time Is Running Out, But Net-Zero By 2050 Is Doable. Here’s How

At-a-Glance:

Decarbonization is a buzzword bandied about in policy and corporate circles. But defining it and planning for it are separate challenges. The Low-Carbon Resources Initiative is charting such a course – an effort led by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Gas Technology Institute. To learn more, read Time Is Running Out But Net-Zero By 2050 Is Doable. Here’s How.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • This five-year initiative brings together industry stakeholders to accelerate development and to demonstrate low- and zero-carbon energy technologies through clean energy research and development.
  • The initiative focuses on four core pathways:
  • The United States has reduced its annual energy-related CO2 release by about 1 billion tons since 2005. That represents a 14% reduction even as the U.S. economy grew by 28%.
  • The initiative says to reach mid-century targets of 80% CO2 reductions, the U.S. will have to double the current pace over the next 15 years.
  • “We need a portfolio of technologies,” says the Gas Technology Institute’s Mike Rutkowski. “Our initiative will bring scale and financial leverage – working with industry sponsors to multiple success and meet this global challenge.”

Path to 100% Perspective:

Net-zero by 2050 is possible, but it will take a concerted investment in the research and development of clean energy technologies, such as green hydrogen. The Low-Carbon Resources Initiative exemplifies the kind of collaboration that is needed to accelerate the pace of these investments and achieve a decarbonized power system before mid-century.

 

 

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The Texas Polar Vortex Resurrects the Decarbonized Grid’s Fuel Diversity Question

At-a-Glance:

This article is not about which generating technologies caused the blackouts experienced in Texas and states across the Midwest this week. However, these events can get us thinking about where the industry goes from here. First, the U.S. natural-gas supply network was stressed by record demand and prices. The record-high gas demand would have been even higher without the rolling blackouts that were imposed because more homes with central heat would have run either gas-fired heaters or electric heat pumps, which would have been powered mostly by coal- or gas-fired generators if those weren’t impacted by outages. To learn more, read The Texas Polar Vortex Resurrects the Decarbonized Grid’s Fuel Diversity Question.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The nine days between February 9 – 17 seem to highlight a fuel-diversity dilemma for U.S. decarbonization targets and policies. Coal and natural gas comprised 65% of the power generation mix, 30% and 35% respectively, while utility-scale wind and solar only provided 6%.
    • Many utility integrated resource plans seek to quickly replace coal plants with new, or existing but underutilized, natural-gas plants as “bridge fuel,” while adding large amounts of wind and solar over the next five to 20 years.
  • An increase in natural-gas usage during a repeat polar vortex event would likely lead to more grid reliability problems. There are two options to prevent this:
    • Expand U.S. natural gas supply/network to support even higher send-out for an extended cold snap.
    • Build enough renewable energy sources to offset the loss of coal generation and prevent increased natural gas demand during an extended cold snap.
  • Wood Mackenzie’s latest Long-Term Outlook forecasts the U.S. adding over 1,300 GW of new combined wind and solar capacity by 2050 to reach 85% decarbonization, plus over 400 GW of battery storage.
    • The system would still require some backup natural-gas generation for periods of low renewable energy output.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power systems won’t decarbonize overnight. The pathway toward a 100% renewable power system will be a phased transformation, leveraging different mixes of technologies and fuels at different steps along the path. Power-to-gas technology is one approach that can ease the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, while providing a long-term energy storage solution that ensures a reliable and secure supply of electricity during periods of extreme weather.

 

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California wastes its extra solar, wind energy. Could hydrogen be the storage key?

At-a-Glance:

No amount of solar panels and wind turbines alone will be enough for California to reach its goal of a clean electrical grid unless the state can solve its energy storage problem. The state already generates an abundance of energy from wind and solar farms, particularly during the sunny and blustery spring and early summer months. But it loses much of that energy because it has nowhere to store it, and unlike fossil fuels, the sun and wind are not dispatchable, and therefore are unable to be called on to generate power 24 hours a day. Utilities must rely on gas-fired power plants to keep up with California’s energy demands during peak demand periods. To learn more, read California wastes its extra solar, wind energy. Could hydrogen be the storage key? Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some experts and legislators say the missing puzzle piece could be hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for power plants, vehicles and machinery.
  • “I would say it’s almost the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Jussi Heikkinen, Director of Growth and Development at Wärtsilä Energy, a Finnish technology company that has built battery storage systems in California. “We don’t need to get rid of the power plants, but we need to get rid of fossil fuels.”
  • State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, is carrying a bill, SB18, that specifies the state’s climate and electrical grid plans include “green hydrogen,” or hydrogen gas that is produced using electricity from renewable sources.
  • According to Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, hydrogen is more effective for longer storage than batteries because it doesn’t lose energy over time and can be stored underground easily and cheaply.
  • Hydrogen advocates say that California ultimately needs a mix of hydrogen and batteries to reduce carbon emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Investing in green hydrogen will be important as California looks to decarbonize its energy system. The state can turn this into a win-win by harnessing the excess power generated by existing wind and solar farms to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored and turned back into electricity using flexible thermal assets. Policies that enable rapid reductions in fossil fuel use and rapid increases in renewable generation in the electricity sector are a valuable piece to accelerating the decarbonization process. Legislation should 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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Leveraging Coronavirus Stimulus to Take a Giant Leap Toward Decarbonization

At-a-Glance

While electricity demand has faltered during the global pandemic, the share of wind and solar generation has continued to increase. Wind and solar produced 10 percent of global electricity between January and June in 2020. In the European Union, renewables accounted for 33 percent of all power generation. According to the International Energy Agency, the EU’s renewable energy production was higher than its fossil fuel generation between February and early July of this year. The increased role of renewables has highlighted the investments necessary to make the transition to a 100 percent renewable power system faster and more economically efficient. To learn more, read “Leveraging Coronavirus Stimulus to Take a Giant Leap Toward Decarbonization.” 

Key Takeaways

  • While there are nuances depending on local circumstances, one significant takeaway is that the power system as a whole can handle a more rapid shift to renewables than grid operators have long assumed. 
    • “What we found was the energy system can cope really well with much more renewable power and that it’s possible to raise the ambitions around adding more clean energy,” said Sushil Purohit, president of Wärtsilä Energy.
  • Charting a more rapid and financially efficient transition to a 100 percent renewables future was a primary objective of Wärtsilä’s recent report, Aligning Stimulus With Energy Transformation, based on its Atlas modeling. 
    • The report demonstrates how using energy-related stimulus investments to support clean energy could speed decarbonization in five key countries: the U.S., the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany and Australia.
  • According to the report, 54 percent of the $400 billion pledged has been targeted to benefit fossil-fuel-based energy, while 36 percent has been devoted to clean energy. 
    • In the U.S., more than 70 percent of the current $100 billion allocated for energy stimulus was pledged to fossil fuels, compared to less than 30 percent for clean energy.

Path to 100% Perspective

Beyond the issue of decarbonization, this is a missed opportunity to spark near-term job creation. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, every $10 million of government spending on renewables creates 75 jobs, while the same amount invested in fossil fuels creates 27 jobs. For the U.S., reallocating the $72 million of the COVID-19 energy stimulus currently earmarked for fossil fuels to clean energy would result in 544,000 new jobs, 175 percent more than would be produced in the traditional energy sector. In addition, these investments would result in 107 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity and a 6.5 percent increase in renewable electricity generation, from 17.5 percent to 24 percent.

Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told 

At-a-Glance

According to the report from Finnish energy tech firm Wärtsilä, the U.K. would stand to save $860 million per year if, instead of new nuclear power, the government backed grid flexibility measures, such as battery storage and thermal generation. That equates to a saving of about $33 dollars per British household per year. Crucially, the analysis revealed that even if energy generation was to remain the same as it is today, Britain could increase renewables’ share of that generation to 62% simply by adding more flexibility. To learn more, read Ditch Nuclear And Save $860 Million With Grid Flexibility, U.K. Told.” Reading this article could require a subscription.

Key Takeaways

  • According to the Wärtsilä report, Germany at one point paid almost $1.1 million per hour to export 10.5 gigawatts of electricity. Such inefficiencies, Ville Rimali, growth and development director at Wärtsilä Energy said, were indicative of inflexible electricity systems—while countries that had built flexibility into their power grids had no such issues.
  • On the other hand, investing in nuclear power could, according to Wärtsilä, entrench an inflexible grid while making renewables such as solar and wind less cost-effective.
  • Wärtsilä’s recommendations appear to align closely with those of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has stated that, as economies move away from fossil fuels, “power system flexibility has become a global priority.” Subsequently, according to a report released by the agency last month, much faster deployment of grid flexibility will be required if countries are to achieve their decarbonization targets.

Path to 100% Perspective

In the “Optimising the UK’s Shift to a Renewable-Powered Economy, Wärtsilä recommends a three phase strategy to accelerate a cost-optimal shift to 100% renewable energy and economic decarbonisation. 

  1. Support faster renewable energy deployment to achieve 80% renewable generation by 2030. 
  2. Increase investment in flexibility to unlock renewable energy and deliver a cost-optimal transition for consumers. 
  3. Future-proof today’s decisions to enable future technologies – such as Power-to-X – to achieve 100% renewable energy before 2050

 

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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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An $11 trillion global hydrogen energy boom is coming. Here’s what could trigger it

At-a-Glance:

Storing fuel in salt caverns isn’t new, but hydrogen’s growing role in decarbonization has revitalized interest in the concept. The Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah aims to build the world’s largest storage facility for 1,000 megawatts of clean power, partly by putting hydrogen into underground salt caverns. The concept is quickly gaining momentum in Europe. To learn more, read An $11 trillion global hydrogen energy boom is coming. Here’s what could trigger it.

Key Takeaways:

  • With the cost of renewables such as solar power falling, green hydrogen is being touted as one part of the energy mix that will lead toward decarbonization, with applications ranging from consumer and industrial power supplies to transportation and spaceflight.
  • By 2050, U.S. demand for hydrogen could increase anywhere from 22 million to 41 million metric tons per year, up from 10 million today, according to a study released this month by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
  • Bank of America believes hydrogen technology will generate $2.5 trillion in direct revenue — or $4 trillion if revenue from associated products such as fuel cell vehicles is counted — with the total market potential reaching $11 trillion by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen has a high potential of becoming the fuel of the future, helping societies move towards decarbonization. Because hydrogen was not used as a power generation fuel in the past, the technologies to combust and use it in different applications need to be developed. Hydrogen burns with air to produce water, without any carbon emissions. It is perfect for use in 100% clean energy portfolios.

 

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