Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition

At-a-Glance: 

Hydrogen is required to decarbonizing industries that cannot be easily electrified, like deep sea shipping, aviation, and high heat industrial processes. Yet, Forbes’ recent forecast Hydrogen Future to 2050 finds that hydrogen uptake will be far too slow. To meet the Paris Agreement goals, by 2050 hydrogen should meet approximately 15% of energy demand, but our findings show it will reach just 0.5% by 2030 and 5% by mid-century. Read more: Hydrogen Risks Being The Great Missed Opportunity Of The Energy Transition.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Even if hydrogen production is forecast to fall short of what it needs to be, huge investment opportunities exist. 
  • Electricity-based green hydrogen – produced by splitting hydrogen from water using electrolyzers – will be the dominant form of production by the middle of the century, accounting for 72% of output.
  • Hydrogen will be transported by pipelines up to medium distances within and between countries, but almost never between continents. Ammonia – a derivative of hydrogen – is safer and more convenient to transport and is more suitable for long distance seaborne trade. 
  • Cost considerations will lead to more than 50% of hydrogen pipelines globally being repurposed from natural gas pipelines, rising to as high as 80% in some regions
  • Hydrogen derivatives like ammonia, methanol and e-kerosene will play a key role in decarbonizing the heavy transport sectors (aviation, maritime, and parts of trucking). We do not foresee hydrogen uptake in passenger vehicles, and only limited uptake in power generation. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen is the biggest buzz word these days when it comes to decarbonization, and for good reason. It’s carbon-free, can easily be created from and used to store renewable energy sources, and can be used in gas turbines to increase power system flexibility and reduce carbon emissions. Wartsila is currently participating in hydrogen fuel testing at a power plant in Michigan.

While it’s likely that hydrogen and its derivatives will likely be one of the sustainable fuels of the future, it is not certain. The key for power producers is to invest in flexibility now with engines capable of running on natural gas/hydrogen blends that can be easily converted to operate on whatever fuel becomes the most available in the future.

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10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

At-a-Glance: 

Wind is an abundant natural resource on Earth that occurs as a result of the sun unevenly heating the surface of the planet. As hot air rises, cooler air moves in to fill the void. Wind has long served as a power source to humans, from powering ships across the sea to farmers relying on windmills to grind their grains and pump water. Today, we use wind turbines – both onshore and offshore – to generate electricity. To learn more, read 10 Incredible Facts about Wind Energy That Will Blow You Away

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Wind turbines are huge– an average turbine blade is about 200 ft long while turbine towers reach up to 295 ft tall on average, and they will likely get even bigger to produce more renewable power.
  • Offshore wind could potentially generate 18 times the current global electricity demand. They can generate more electricity with fewer turbines and it frees up land for other purposes without impacting human or terrestrial wildlife activity.
  • Despite being the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China is also the world leader when it comes to wind energy, producing more than a third of global wind power generation and capacity. Its Gansu Wind Farm will eventually include 7,000 turbines producing 20GW of power.
  • In the U.S., the first commercial-scale wind farms have been approved off the Massachusetts coastline. Another will be built in the Pacific Ocean lining the coast of California with a long-term plan in place to construct wind farms along nearly the entire US coastline.

Path to 100% Perspective:

To reach clean energy goals, renewable sources like solar and wind will need to provide the basis of all power generation in the future. However, both are dependent on environmental factors that could make them less reliable. Backup capabilities must be in place to succeed, like both short and long term battery storage. In addition, flexible power plants, capable of ramping up when needed, will need to be installed. Eventually, those plants will run on sustainable fuels that can be generated by excess solar and wind energy.

 

With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

At-a-Glance: 

President Biden aims to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035 and to be net-zero by 2050. His administration considers clean energy to be any facility that produces no CO2 or that can capture carbon and bury it, which keeps natural gas in the fold. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says that natural gas comprises 40% of the electric generation portfolio while coal is at 19% and falling. Natural gas has been replacing coal because it releases about half the emissions when it is burned in a power plant. For more, read With Coal On The Way Out, Policymakers Have Their Eye On Natural Gas

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Over the last 10 years, the cost of wind energy has fallen by 70% while the price of utility-scale solar power has dropped by 80%. He says that 80% of the country’s coal plants are 30 years or older and they are unable to compete.
  • Net-zero does not mean the elimination of fossil fuels. It means off-setting those emissions with measures like using underground pipelines to transport CO2 that has to be stored.
  • Most experts say that the United States can get 70% of the way to its net-zero goals by 2035. The technologies to do so now exist. But the real challenge is to get the rest of the way. 
  • The American Gas Association says natural gas delivers three times more energy on the coldest days of the year than does the electric system on the hottest days. 
  • Natural gas can be used to firm-up wind and solar when the weather is not favorable for producing power.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Based on the competitive prices of renewables in the US we have seen this renewable transition taking place, regardless of political wills. As we transition to carbon neutrality, natural gas may be required to fill the gap until it can be replaced by more sustainable fuels, such as synthetic methane or green hydrogen. The storage of those fuels, along with improved battery storage in the future, will provide a cleaner alternative over the long term.

 

100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There

At-a-Glance: 

DOE publicly launched the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable Energy (PR100) study in February. After back-to-back natural disasters that destroyed around 80% of the island’s power distribution and transmission infrastructure, the U.S. and Puerto Rico will work together to rebuild a resilient, reliable, and robust energy system that will not be dependent on imported fossil fuel. Instead, it will focus on renewable energy with the island’s own excellent supply of sun, wind, water, and other renewable resources. To learn more read: 100% Renewable Energy In Puerto Rico — How To Get There.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Improving resilience of energy infrastructure in the face of extreme weather is a high priority for stakeholders.
  • PR100 has set these milestones: 40% renewable energy by 2025, 60%  renewable energy by 2040, and 100% renewable energy by 2050.
  • The PR100 study is working off a similar analysis for Los Angeles in the LA100 study, which generated custom scenarios for the city to achieve its own 2045 clean energy goals.
  • The study’s clean energy scenarios will use curated models of Puerto Rico to simulate how such an energy transition could play out. The models are assembled and simulated with a software suite that, when brought together, can forecast energy system evolution into the far future. 
  • In a preliminary study, analysts found that distributed solar photovoltaics (PV) installed on all residential rooftops in Puerto Rico would generate 20 gigawatts of power, far exceeding the current capacity.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Jussi Heikkinen, a member of the Path to 100% Community of Experts, outlined Puerto Rico’s optimal path to decarbonization in a study last year. The key in the path is to make the system is flexible enough to enable the addition of large amounts of variable renewables. In the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, you must ensure the system has constantly adequate firm power capacity. Without it, the country could experience blackouts or shortages. Before retiring all legacy thermal power plants. new flexible gas power plants need to be added. They will be able to operate as needed to provide a backup for variable solar and wind generation. They can also later be converted to run on sustainable fuels.

 

Want To Hit Net-Zero Goals? Increase Public Investment In Viable Technologies

At-a-Glance: 

The goal to reach net zero by 2050 will not only entail cutting carbon levels, but electrifying the entire economy. Decarbonization technologies have not quite reached the necessary scale – and the pathway will require coordination across federal and state governments to solve innovation, regulation, and market issues. Renewable energy inevitably serves as a significant benefactor, but therefore onsite generation and advanced energy storage must be expanded. To learn more read, Want To Hit Net-Zero Goals? Increase Public investment in Viable Technologies.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Electricity now makes up 20% of all end-use energy consumption in this country. By 2050, however, that could rise to 60%.
  • The grid has to be able to handle the increased traffic and the influx of intermittent energy sources that depend on the weather. 
    • California plans to get to 60% renewables by 2030 and to 100% by 2045. The state’s independent system operator has called distributed energy resources “absolutely critical” — a way to alleviate strain on the primary grid while using clean energy and ensuring reliability. 
  • The International Renewable Energy Association estimates that hydrogen could make up 12% of global energy use by 2050. 
    • The association predicts that the mid-2030s will be the turning point — the time when green hydrogen will be competitive with “grey hydrogen” produced from fossil fuels.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% requires addressing economic, scientific and political challenges within the energy market. The United State’s decarbonization goals require an innovative energy transition in order to enter 2050 carbon-free. Solely boosting renewables is not enough – there must be a decrease in reliance on traditional gas and coal-fired plants, and gravitate towards flexible power systems that serve the dynamic needs of the communities consumption rhythm. 

 

The 3 Biggest Future Trends (And Challenges) In The Energy Sector

At-a-Glance: 

The traditional ways of generating energy were designed for a world of the past, aptly deemed, “fossil fuels.” Transforming the energy sector is a crucial challenge as our reliance on fossil fuels has reigned far too long. Traditional energy companies can be slow to change – probably because they face some unique complications, such as health and safety risks, and the huge amount of capital invested in existing energy assets. But change they must, if they want to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive sector. The following article proposes three future trends, and challenges in the energy sector within the quest to phase out the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. To learn more read, The 3 Biggest Future Trends (And Challenges) In The Energy Sector

Key Takeaways

Trend #1: Decarbonization

  • The world must transition towards a clean, carbon-free world, largely by increasing our use of renewables and increasing premiums on the use of fossil fuels.
  • In the US, fossil fuels are responsible for 60.3% of electricity generation. For electricity to become emissions-free, we must move further towards renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar, and biofuels. 

 

Trend #2: Decentralization

  • This trend is all about transitioning away from our current system of highly centralized energy grids run by monopolistic energy providers, towards distributed energy production systems.
  • Thanks to a combination of renewable energy and localized “microgrids,” consumers can generate their own electricity for their own needs.

 

Trend #3: Digitization

  • This trend is all about the use of digital machines, devices, and technology to optimize energy production, infrastructure, and use. 
  • An increasing variety of zero-carbon energy sources will mean our energy networks become more complex. Decentralized grids will need intelligent solutions to monitor and manage fluctuating demand. Digital tools will help overcome  these challenges and realize much-needed changes in the energy sector.

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 the reliance on traditional gas – and coal-fired power plants. The challenge is these traditional plants are inflexible. The solution is to retire inflexible coal and gas plants and replace them with a new generation of flexible generation plants that stop and start in minutes, only burn fuel when the grid signals the need, and can convert to run on renewable fuels such as power-to-gas fuels become more plentiful and affordable.

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

 

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

For the U.S. to Become Carbon Neutral, Long-Term Energy Storage is a Must

At-a-Glance:

The Biden administration is pushing its Energy Earthshots Initiative that aims to accelerate innovation and bring life-changing products to market. That involves “long-term energy storage,” which could radically alter the way electricity is produced and consumed by permanently tipping the scales toward green energy. If voracious energy users such as data centers are to hit their net-zero targets, they must run their enterprises on renewable energy. But the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. So long-term energy storage is vital. To learn more, read “For the U.S. to Become Carbon Neutral, Long-Term Energy Storage is a Must.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the media outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Energy Internet Corporation (EIC) uses isothermal Compressed Air Energy Storage, which stores surplus renewable power as compressed air. Compressed or liquid air is used to generate power when needed.
  • EIC says that this technology is superior to the most prevalent form of long-term storage: pumped hydro, which generates power by running turbines with water flowing through them.
  • Additionally, there’s hydrogen. Solar panels will generate excess electricity which, through an electrolyzer, is turned into pure hydrogen. It is a form of long-term energy storage, although the cost of producing “green hydrogen” from clean sources needs to drop before it would become commonplace.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Short-duration and long-duration energy storage are both necessary in future power systems and they each have different roles. Long-duration storage has been the missing piece of the decarbonization puzzle, however, the use of battery storage in this application is not economical or viable. The most economical long-duration storage is formed with green hydrogen-based future 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.

 


Photo by Nuno Marques on Unsplash