Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say

At-a-Glance:

Texans were left in the cold and dark this February, following extreme cold weather that had the Texas competitive energy market unable to prevent deadly power failures. Leaving behind its historic commitment to power system independence and joining the larger U.S. grid can relieve some of the consequences of extreme weather events Texas is likely to see again, many energy analysts in and out of Texas said. To learn more, read Texas must increase ties to the national grid and DER to avoid another power catastrophe, analysts say.”

Key Takeaways:

  • “We designed this system for Ozzie and Harriet weather and we now have Mad Max,” said Texas energy consultant Alison Silverstein.
  • Some customers discovered variable bill plans can come with price spikes.
  • “The theory is that a high price will bring investments, but people don’t invest in things that might only make money sometime in the future unless they are required to,” said Jussi Heikkinen, North America Director of Growth and Development for global power plant developer Wärtsilä.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Texas does not have firm rules on power plant engineering for ambient temp ranges. Recommendations from ERCOT were published after the 2011 blackouts, but they are not mandatory, like they are in the eastern part of the country The Texas blackouts are an urgent indication that recommendations should be turned into common-sense regulation that leads to grid reliability and ratepayer protection.

 

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McKinsey: Low Cost Renewables Will Outcompete Fossil Assets By 2030

At-a-Glance:

The energy transition is accelerating. In 2020, renewables outpaced fossil fuels in Europe for the first time. According to the latest research from McKinsey, demand for fossil fuels will never return to pre-pandemic levels. To learn more, read McKinsey: Low Cost Renewables Will Outcompete Fossil Assets By 2030.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • McKinsey’s 2021 Global Energy Perspective Report predicts that fossil fuel demand is set to peak globally by 2029 and that by 2036, half of the global power supply will be generated by intermittent renewable energy sources.
  • While an earlier peak in hydrocarbon demand means a substantial reduction in forecasted carbon emissions, the world remains significantly off the 1.5°C pathway and will run out of its carbon budget for 2100 in the early 2030s.
  • Many pandemic related recovery packages are providing significant support to the hydrocarbon industry. The 2020 Climate Transparency Report said that by mid-October 2020, G20 countries had spent nearly $400 billion on support for the energy sector – with 53.5% going to the fossil fuel sector.
  • McKinsey’s Christer Tryggestad concludes: “According to our estimates, annual emissions would need to be around 50 percent lower in 2030 and about 85 percent lower by 2050 than current trends predict to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The shift toward renewable energy sources over fossil fuels appears to be the way forward. Governments around the world will need to use this shift as motivation to put policies in place that encourage greater investment in renewable energy. There is a tremendous opportunity in this moment for G20 countries, which are responsible for around 75% of global emissions, to rethink their energy investments and bank on low-cost renewables to meet net-zero targets and pave the way for a 100% renewable energy future.

 

 

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The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021

At-a-Glance:

With the uncertainty of 2020 behind us, the new year kicked off with surging growth for renewable energy. Growth will likely continue into 2021, fueled in part by last year’s major turning points. Some analysts have started predicting that the U.S. power sector is approaching peak natural gas. That would leave room for solar-panel installations to build on the ongoing boom. To learn more, read The 10 Ways Renewable Energy’s Boom Year Will Shape 2021.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Although U.S. residential solar installations dropped nearly 20% in the second quarter of 2020 from the first, by the end of the year, the sector bounced back and the country added 19 gigawatts of total solar power.
  • New battery capacity in the U.S. more than doubled in the third quarter of 2020 from the second, according to Wood Mackenzie and the U.S. Energy Storage Association. Projects in California were a key reason for the surge.
  • Electricity from Spain’s solar farms was up over 60% in 2020 compared to 2019, generating over 15,000 gigawatt hours of power, according to data from the country’s grid manager Red Electrica.
  • Renewable power beat out fossil fuels in the European Union for the first time, with approximately 40% of electricity in the first half of 2020 coming from renewable sources compared with 34% from plants burning fossil fuels.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Despite the upheaval caused by COVID-19 in 2020, the demand for renewable energy has not slowed and the path to 100% is becoming clearer as countries around the world commit to carbon-free sources of electricity. Developments such as China’s commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 and the European Union’s shift to renewables as the dominant power source provide further evidence that the tide is turning toward decarbonization. Ambitious goals, a commitment to research and development, and ongoing collaboration will continue to pave the path to a renewable energy future.

 

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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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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