Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

At-a-Glance: 

Chevron Corp. purchased Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 billion, giving a significant boost to Chevron’s push into renewable fuels. Demand is expected to grow in the coming years as businesses and governments move away from oil and gas to cut carbon emissions. Chevron, like the rest of the fossil fuel industry, is under pressure from investors to help scale up technologies to advance a low-carbon economy as well as reduce its own carbon footprint. For more read Chevron to Buy Biofuel-Maker Renewable Energy Group for $3.1 Billion

Key Takeaways

  • Renewable is one of North America’s largest producers of biodiesel, and they also make renewable diesel. The fuels are seen as critical in decarbonizing heavy-duty transportation that cannot be electrified as easily as passenger vehicles, such as airplanes.
  • Renewable diesel is almost chemically identical to traditional petroleum and therefore easy for fossil-fuel companies to adopt. 
  • As more big oil refiners — motivated by federal and state subsidies — gear up to make the climate-friendly fuel, the cost of vegetable oil, discarded animal fats and other feedstocks used to make it has soared.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will be a key step in realizing a 100% renewable energy future. Investments in renewable fuels like biodiesel, both in policies and infrastructure, will accelerate the timeline for commercial viability. It is also encouraging to see that oil companies have seen the critical need to pivot to remain viable and develop their own decarbonization strategies. Investments and leadership from large traditional oil companies will continue to encourage the transition and development of future fuels.

Photo by Luis Ramirez on Unsplash

Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

BloombergNEF, a strategic researcher that looks at ways power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors can adapt to the energy transition, makes ten predictions for solar energy for 2022. The list focuses on the rapid growth of solar across the world as prices fall and the need for storage solutions increase. For more read Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The article predicts 2022 will be the first year in which more than 200GW of solar will be installed.
  • Strong demand for polysilicon materials drove prices up because production could not keep up in 2021. With new capacity ramping up in 2022, there should be an adequate supply that should trigger lower prices. In addition, new technologies joining the mix should help solar manufacturing to grow.
  • Installed utility-scale solar-and-storage will double, with the largest markets in China and the U.S. Residential solar-and-storage will be on the political and investment agenda with greater urgency than in previous years, as it is starting to be a significant sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The growth of solar energy and the anticipated lower costs is a huge step on the Path to 100%, but that alone will not be enough. Solar, along with wind, is variable and can’t be relied on to provide enough power around the clock. At night, for instance, solar would not generate power in real time. So the key is finding economical and efficient storage solutions as a backup when needed. One realistic option is power-to-gas (PtG), which could convert access wind and solar power to sustainable fuels, like hydrogen, and store it until needed to power future flexible power plants. 

Wärtsilä to optimize and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä has contracted with a gold mining company in Suriname to build a 7.8 MW energy storage system to help the company achieve its climate targets and decarbonizations goals. This is the first utility-scale energy storage system to be built in Suriname and Wärtsilä’s first energy storage project in the country. To learn more read: Wärtsilä to optimise and decarbonise gold mine power station in Suriname, South America

Key Takeaways

  • The integrated energy storage system will improve efficiency at the gold mine’s power station by reducing the need for emergency back-up spinning reserve, therefore lowering fuel consumption. 
  • The project is estimated to reduce the mine’s emissions by 5,600 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This optimized energy system will extend to improvements across the lifetime of the engines and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
  • The GEMS Digital Energy Platform, Wärtsilä’s advanced energy management system, will control and optimize energy storage and evaluate opportunities to integrate renewable energy assets at the facility to further decarbonise mining operations, further reduce operations costs and provide clean electricity to surrounding communities.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Energy storage simply means capturing produced energy and saving it for later. It is becoming more and more important as we turn to more renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, because they cannot produce a continuous supply of energy around the clock. Being able to store that energy is a key element to reliable, 100% renewable power in the future.

By installing this technology now, the mining company will see improved reliability, efficiency and sustainability. The company is also future-proofing its investments in a changing energy market.

 

Four Western states joining forces to create hydrogen hubs

At-a-Glance: 

Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado are banding together to develop new ways to make hydrogen more available as fuel for vehicles. The four states signed an agreement to create a regional clean hydrogen hub, and their governor’s announced that each state will compete for a portion of the $8 billion in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to go towards the development of at least four hubs. To learn more read, “Four Western states joining forces to create hydrogen hubs.”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • According to the agreement, the Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub will have facilities in all four states and additional interested states can be added to the MOU in order to help create the hubs.  
  • Some of the goals of the endeavor include bolstering economic development and using the llatest science, research, and technology for cost-effective generation, transportation and use of clean hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the plant and some in the auto and truck industry view it as the “fuel of the future.” 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The four states that are collaborating to promote hydrogen as a clean energy resource are a clear example of the power of collaboration in driving renewable energy goals. This agreement between the states will boost economic development by using the latest science to generate and transport hydrogen.

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.

 

Why North America And Europe Need To Hit Net Zero Well Before 2050

At-a-Glance: 

The UK minister in charge of the COP26 warned that the progress made in Glasgow is in danger of withering on the vine if action is not forthcoming. To reach net zero requires much more aggressive decarbonization, and the understanding that the ability to reach net zero varies from country to country. The energy transition research team at DNV proposed an Energy Transition Outlook – an independent view of where the energy transition is headed by taking into consideration economic, technological and policy developments. To learn more, read, “Why North America And Europe Need To Hit Net Zero Well Before 2050.”

Key Takeaways

  • The proposed pathway suggests that Europe and North America must hit net zero by 2042 and then become carbon negative thereafter. 
  • Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 does not require the complete phasing out of fossil fuels
    • Currently the energy system is split 80:20 in favor of fossil fuels, but the cheapening of renewable power is causing a revolution in the energy mix and they forecast that fossil and non-fossil sources will most likely share the mix by midcentury.
  • The proposal suggests that carbon capture and storage is an important feature of the pathway to net zero. 
  • Critics of carbon capture and storage say it unnecessarily extends the lifetime and influence of fossil fuels, but their proposal argues it has an essential role to play in the transition to net zero. 
    • Hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives offer a green alternative to many of the hard-to-abate sectors and whilst producing (green) hydrogen from renewables is likely to become the dominant method.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The strategies set in motion during COP26 must be put into play based on the variables of each specific nation and region while also remaining thoroughly rooted in science, data and engineering. 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 originally anticipated. 

The role of natural gas in power generation is increasing as it is being more widely utilized to run power plants that are integrated with intermittent wind and solar systems. As the share of wind and solar capacity increases and the net load to thermal plants decreases, gas power plants can also provide peaking to system balancing. Renewable natural gas can be leveraged as a fuel source to replace fossil-fuel based natural gas, thus moving the world one step closer to decarbonization and a 100% renewable energy future.

Wärtsilä opens Expertise Centre to serve North American energy customers with remote support

At-a-Glance: 

Wärtsilä’s new Houston Expertise Centre allows technicians to remotely manage and monitor power plants and storage systems. Artificial intelligence and advanced diagnostics will not only watch for problems, but will also look for ways to improve efficiency that will reduce costs and emissions. The Centre will allow the plants to run more optimally so they will emit less carbon. For more read Wärtsilä opens Expertise Centre to serve North American energy customers with remote support

Key Takeaways

  • Wärtsilä customers can receive 24/7 support, along with unmatched guidance, real-time data analytics, and quick response to plant issues.
  • The Expertise Centre will act as a central operational hub by integrating all available data sources and is compliant with essential requirements in the U.S. such as the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) protocols.
  • If there’s an issue, technicians can start troubleshooting and working on the problem immediately, hopefully avoiding long and costly shutdowns.
  • There are six other Expertise Centres around the world, maintaining performance of the power plant over its lifecycle and emphasizing power availability, reliability, fuel consumption and emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Companies like Wärtsilä are critical to the Path to 100%. Ambitious decarbonization goals can only be achieved by investments in new technologies and equipment that make power plants more efficient, flexible, and environmentally-friendly. Wärtsilä has set a goal of 2030 to be carbon neutral in its own operations and to provide a product portfolio which will be ready for zero carbon fuels. These are the examples that will encourage other businesses and industries to embark on their own decarbonization journeys.

Photo: Wärtsilä

Big-box stores could power half of energy needs with solar, report says

At-a-Glance: 

America’s big-box retail and grocery stores could fulfill half of their own electricity needs and generate enough clean electricity to power more than 7.9 million U.S. homes if they covered their roofs with solar panels, a new report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center has found. To learn more read: Big-box stores could power half of energy needs with solar, report says

Key Takeaways

  • It would not only boost the country’s solar energy output, it would also cut greenhouse emissions in an amount equivalent to eliminating 11.3 million cars from the road.
  • The nation’s big-box stores would collectively be able to generate 84.4 terawatt hours of solar energy, with the most potential capacity — enough to power 870,000 homes — situated in California, followed by Florida, Texas, Ohio and Illinois, the authors found. 
  • The authors calculated that Walmart’s roofs could power the equivalent of 842,700 households, while Target could power 259,900 households, Home Depot 256,600, Lowe’s 223,700 and Kroger 192,500.
  • The report recommended several public policy changes — including expanded federal clean energy tax credits, state and local tax incentives for solar, the ability to sell excess energy back to the grid, streamlined permitting and the encouragement of community solar programs. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

A commitment by the large retail chains and grocery stores to invest more in solar energy would show their commitment to a clean energy future and encourage other companies to do the same. Converting to more renewable energy now, like solar and wind, should be viewed as an investment in the future

Decarbonising electricity generation does not need to be expensive, and could even be cheaper in the long run. Wind and solar prices have declined over the past years, and they have become competitive in many parts of the world. This decline is expected to continue, which can even lead to lower electricity prices during the path to a 100% carbon neutral system.

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

 

Exxon Plans to Zero Out Emissions from Operations by 2050

At-a-Glance: 

Exxon Mobil Corp. announced an “ambition” to eliminate a portion of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the oil giant’s first long-term pledge to curb carbon output. To learn more read, Exxon Plans to Zero Out Emissions from Operations by 2050.

Key Takeaways:

  • Over the next two years, Exxon will develop roadmaps for its crude refineries, chemical plants and other facilities to eliminate so-called Scope 1 and 2 emissions.
  • The plan excludes carbon spewed when customers use Exxon products such as gasoline and jet fuel, or Scope 3 emissions that comprise the bulk of oil-industry pollution.
  • Although Exxon’s pledge falls short of those made by European peers like Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc, it’s a major step for the largest Western oil explorer. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

Large energy companies have seen the value and opportunity in developing their own decarbonization strategies. They are joining the race to renewables using their name recognition, influence in the energy sector and budgets to spur more competition to the benefit of those striving for a renewable energy future.

Exxon and other mass producers of carbon emissions have an important role to play in decarbonization. Making infrastructure and technology investments now, while keeping future flexibility in mind, will help reduce greenhouse emissions in the long run.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

A 21st-century reinvention of the electric grid is crucial for solving the climate change crisis

At-a-Glance: 

With the falling costs of wind and solar power and existing nuclear power plants, many analysts believe the U.S. can cost-effectively and reliably operate a power grid with 80% to 90% clean electricity, but decarbonizing the last 10% to 20% will be notably more challenging. Unlike coal and nuclear, solar and wind are variable; they provide power only when the sun and wind are available. Finding sources of flexibility is the key. To learn more read, A 21st-century reinvention of the electric grid is crucial for solving the climate change crisis

Key Takeaways:

  • Hailed as the greatest invention of the 20th century, our now-aging grid was initially based on a combination of “base load” coal plants that operated 24 hours a day and large-scale hydropower.
  • With the planet facing increasingly intense heat waves, drought, wildfires and storms, we must transition the electric grid to carbon-free wind and solar and convert most other fossil fuel users in transportation, buildings and industry to electricity.
  • The Biden administration’s goal is to have a carbon emissions-free grid by 2035. One recent study found that the U.S. will need to nearly triple its 2020 growth rate for the grid to be 80% powered by clean energy by 2030.
  • Converting to a 21st-century grid that is increasingly based on variable resources requires a completely new way of thinking. New sources of flexibility – the ability to keep supply and demand in balance over all time scales – are essential to enable this transition.
  • There are basically three ways to accommodate the variability of wind and solar energy: use storage, deploy generation in a coordinated fashion across a wide area of the country along with more transmission, and manage electricity demand to better match the supply.

Path to 100% Perspective:

It’s no longer a question of if the world will transition to a carbon-free future, but when will it arrive? We have the technology necessary for the energy transition, but ensuring the adequate adaptability for sustainable fuels is the next step. Utilities can act now, creating strategies and investing in the right technology to make the transition to net zero possible. Government leaders must support the transition with funding and policy change.

Sustainable fuels can serve as the solution to the long-term storage problem highlighted in the article -. providing a backup power supply when there is insufficient wind or solar power available.

A process called Power to Gas (PtG) can be used to convert surplus wind and solar energy into renewable fuels, like synthetic methane and hydrogen. Those sustainable fuels can be stored in large quantities and for extended periods for long periods of use when it’s needed like in times of extreme weather.  These fuels can be used to generate electricity in flexible power plants that can provide carbon neutral firm, dispatchable capacity to the grid at any time.

Photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

Biden decarbonization goals could triple reliance on electric grid: EPRI

At-a-Glance: 

Maintaining grid reliability is a mis-guided plight within the energy transition journey. The Biden administration has set a target to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030 on the path to a carbon-neutral economy in 2050, and this adjustment will require transitioning the transportation sector to electric vehicles and electrifying buildings and industrial processes that currently run on fossil fuels. Preparing the electric grid for the new normal is a crucial aspect in transitioning the energy sector. Read more on, “Biden decarbonization goals could triple reliance on electric grid: EPRI.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 20% of end-use energy consumption in the United States today is electricity, but that could rise to 60% by 2050 as the country moves towards a carbon-neutral economy.
  • To meet the 2030 target, EPRI sees electricity’s share of end-use energy consumption rising from 20% to 33%. Looking out to 2050, that could rise to 40-60%.
  • There will be a “massive increase in dependence on the electricity sector by society as we go forward,” requiring better energy planning and modeling, collaborative innovation across the industry, and supportive policies and regulations.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The electric grid is expected to be tripled in the coming years – developing the supportive infrastructure to offer a reliable, carbon-free and flexible power system requires proactive solutions to answer the call. Addressing grid capacity will be essential to realizing a 100% zero emission electricity system by 2050, and solar, wind, hydro and nuclear will all play a role in the future grid – the Path to 100% will require leveraging the appropriate technologies and renewable fuels to equip the energy transition. Clean energy goals along with clean energy investments is accelerating the decarbonization journey by putting a focus on decreasing carbon emissions, and in order to accommodate the significant amount of renewables to be installed – flexibility in the form of energy storage and carbon neutral flexible gas power plants will be key to balancing the grid. 

Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash

The EU Finally admits natural gas and nuclear are key To decarbonization

At-a-Glance: 

The European Commission recently acknowledged that natural gas and nuclear are key in transitioning to a renewable-based future. In this opinion piece, the author believes if decarbonization is the goal, natural gas and nuclear energy must be a big part of the continent’s energy mix. In this article, the author compares and contrasts the current narratives discerning the incorporation of natural gas and nuclear energy towards decarbonization. To learn more read, The EU Finally Admits Natural Gas And Nuclear Are Key To Decarbonization.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The European Commission released a statement which said “There is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future.
  • The New York Times proposes gas and nuclear could be considered transitional sources to be used to bridge countries’ moves away from coal and carbon-emitting power toward clean energy technologies like wind and solar.
  • The International Energy Agency states that in Germany, “Connections to carry wind power from the north to the south are insufficient,” Public opposition remains an impediment to the siting of necessary infrastructure.
  • The author claims that natural gas and nuclear are not bridge fuels or transition fuels, but that they are the fuels of the future for their low or no-carbon, small footprints, affordability, and scalability.

Path to 100% Perspective:

While two thirds of the world’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels today, by 2050 two-thirds of electricity will be generated from zero-carbon sources, with almost half coming from renewables and the rest from hydroelectric and nuclear power. 

Whether gas and nuclear are a bridge or transition fuel, it is evident that we must decrease our reliance on fossil fuels as soon as possible in order to initiate the final 100% renewable system featuring carbon neutral or non-carbon emitting fuels in order to maintain a reliable, clean, affordable power system. Once 80% to 90% of electricity in a system is generated with renewable resources, utilities can convert flexible generation plants from burning natural gas to running on synthetic carbon-neutral or carbon-free fuels produced with excess renewable power. Sustainable fuels can be stored indefinitely and used on demand for long periods of time to produce power and provide balancing services to the grid. These sustainable fuels can help us reach our decarbonization goals.

Photo by Lukáš Lehotský on Unsplash

Tantalus seeks to end utility frustrations in digitizing the grid

At-a-Glance: 

Tantalus Systems Holding intends to bring electric, water and gas utilities into the digital age. The technology company relieves the frustration of public power and rural electric cooperative utilities by deploying a digital network of connected devices to assist utilities in receiving data to make informed, proactive decisions that improve the efficiency, reliability, and resilience of the distribution grid. Their innovative approach to strengthening the electric grid stems from installing a meter device to elicit data communication from a power generation source to a utility. To learn more read, “Tantalus Seeks To End Utility Frustrations In Digitizing The Grid.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Tantalus uses a 220 MHz band, the narrow band set aside by the Federal Communications Commission, to access meter data in remote locations through  wireless communication. Removing the need for expensive, time-consuming manual processes.
  • Their proprietary technology includes a small device which fits under the glass of a meter, enabling it to analyze, send and receive vital data via the radio network.
  • The technology grants a utility a total operating picture in near real time – providing prompt data to where there is low voltage or high voltage, whether a tree limb is chafing a line, or what is causing the blink.

Path to 100% Perspective:

A system imbalance can cause electrical equipment and industrial processes to malfunction, lights to flicker, and sensitive electrical equipment to be damaged; if the imbalance is significant enough, the entire electric grid can fail, causing a blackout. The transition towards a 100% renewable power system must be a phased transformation – leveraging different mixes of technologies and fuels at different steps along the path. As more communities and organizations come to rely on smart grids and renewable fuels for their electricity needs, the future of power generation will depend on the collaborative efforts between innovative technology and public utility cooperation. 

 

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash