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.

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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. 

 

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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.

 


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How Green Energy Will Transform the Ranks of the World’s Biggest Electric Generators

At-a-Glance:

The world’s energy sector has embarked on a transitional journey to a clean, green, low-carbon future powered by windmills and solar panels. It’s going to be a long trip. According to the International Energy Agency, we still derive an incredible 80% of our primary energy from fossil fuels—with oil contributing 32%, coal 27% and natural gas 23%. To learn more, read How Green Energy Will Transform the Ranks of the World’s Biggest Electric Generators.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Electric industry analyst Hugh Wynne of research shop SSR says carbon dioxide will be regulated in one way or another, via a carbon tax, cap-and-trade or emissions allowances.
  • Analysts believe companies with stubbornly high emissions are going to have to pay to pollute — while those with low emissions will enjoy a profitability advantage.
  • Wynne found the “dirtiest” utilities are those with coal-fired fleets in China, Russia and India.
  • Meanwhile, some of the more progressively minded utility companies are keen to take advantage of new tools evolving out of advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
  • Forbes Global 2000 companies Southern Company, Exelon, and Dominion Energy are all customers of a startup called Urbint, which was founded by Forbes 30 Under 30 alum Corey Capasso and has raised more than $40 million in funding for its A.I.-driven infrastructure safety platform.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a very broad field. Forecasts for price and power are generated by AI and represent the expected trajectory or probability distribution of that value. In the end, as a power trader, it is important to remember the historical data is not a picture of the future, but rather a statistical distribution that can be leveraged to inform the most probable outcome of the unknown future. AI is more capable at leveraging statistics than people will ever be. The benefit of using AI is more effective utilization of the existing infrastructure. There is quite a bit of under-utilized infrastructure in the power generation industry. However, with the use of greater intelligence on the edges of the network coupled with great intelligence at the points of central dispatch, under-utilized infrastructure can be maximized for a more reliable power system.

Biden Commits U.S. To Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2030

At-a-Glance:

President Joe Biden has committed to cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels. The ambition is a significant advance on the previous target, set by President Barack Obama, of a 26-28% cut from 2005 levels. But it stops short of doubling that target. Now, climate leaders are waiting to see how the U.S. proposes that that target will be achieved.To learn more, read “Biden Commits U.S. To Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 2030.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The White House said in January that the president’s plan would put the country on a path to a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.
  • Other countries have recently ramped up their climate ambitions. On April 21, the European Union announced that it would commit to further emissions cuts by 2030 and ensure its 27 member nations achieve carbon neutral status by 2050.
  • The U.K. has set an even more ambitious target, committing to a 78% cut in emissions by 2035.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for all nations to submit ambitious new climate action plans ahead of the COP26 climate summit, scheduled for November.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Countless governments have set ambitious carbon neutral targets, but these are yet to be matched by realistic strategies and firm action plans. The path to decarbonization can only be accelerated by modelling power systems and developing strategic plans to futureproof the path to 100% renewable energy using technology that is available today. But the path to net zero will not materialize through incremental steps and organic change. An unplanned, step-by-step journey risks energy systems being burdened with technologies that do not support the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Governments and utilities must adopt clear strategies to drive action, developed in collaboration with all sectors of the economy and setting clear milestones for transformation.

 

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2020 Set A New Record For Renewable Energy. What’s The Catch?

At-a-Glance:

All over the world, the growth of green energy is accelerating. More than 80% of all new electricity generating projects built last year were renewable, leading to a 10.3% rise in total installed zero carbon electricity generation globally, a new report shows. Yet in spite of reduced energy demand in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, fossil fuel electricity generation also continued to grow. So, therefore, did carbon emissions. To learn more, read “2020 Set A New Record For Renewable Energy. What’s The Catch?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The report, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), revealed that 91% of new renewables last year were wind and solar projects, with solar generation having grown the fastest, up by 127 gigawatts—a 22% increase from 2019.
  • But the IRENA report also found that, in spite of lower energy demand and the larger share of renewables in 2020, fossil fuel capacity also increased, though not by quite as much as seen during the previous year, rising 60 gigawatts as compared with 64 gigawatts in 2019.
  • A plan to retire and replace coal and gas plants is essential to reduce emissions, as well as enable workers from those industries to transition into the renewable energy sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable energy is widely acknowledged to create more jobs than fossil fuels. McKinsey Sustainability, for example, reports that for every $10 million USD of government spending on renewable technologies 75 jobs are typically created, compared to 27 jobs in the fossil fuels sector. Additionally, renewable energy generates more labor-intensive jobs in the short run, when jobs are scarce, which boosts spending and increases short-run GDP. In the long run, renewable energy requires less labor for operation and maintenance, which frees up labor as the economy returns to capacity.

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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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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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Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis

At-a-Glance:

The $1 billion class-action lawsuit filed against the Texas wholesale electricity retailer Griddy Energy is triggering questions about who is to blame for the state’s mid-winter blackout. The core question, though, is whether restructuring Texas’ electricity markets in the early 2000’s exacerbated the crisis. To learn more, read Deregulation Is Not The Central Culprit For Texas’ Electricity Crisis.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  •  Since 2002, consumers could choose their retail electric provider, which purchases its power from competing generators. Millions of Texas’ customers chose competitive suppliers. Others opted for the regulated rate.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that customers in Texas who selected the competitive plans paid 13% more than the national average between 2004 and 2019. Customers choosing the regulated plan, conversely, paid 8% less during that same time frame.
  • Customers choosing competitive suppliers will in theory make their homes more energy-efficient and use demand response signals to reduce their bills. In the case of the Texas blackouts, however, the price spikes lasted for days and prompted the $9,000 per megawatt-hour regulatory limit.
  •  As renewables start to make up a greater share of the electricity portfolio, greater attention will need to be paid to improving energy efficiency and decentralizing electricity production and delivery systems.
  • Greater resiliency will also need to be built into the power grid, given the intermittent nature of wind and solar, including weatherizing every form of energy generation and delivery so that whole supply chains don’t freeze up.

Path to 100% Perspective:

There must be adequate, dispatchable power for unusual weather events, especially as global reliance on renewables continues to grow. The ideal power system of the future will maintain reliability while continuing to make a decarbonized future a reality by utilizing curtailed solar and wind power to produce future fuels such as green hydrogen, ammonia or carbon-neutral methane to power on-demand power generation. As the energy transition continues, power plants must be able to balance and respond to the grid to produce power during periods when the renewable generation does not match the load – during the winter and unusual weather conditions such as heat waves.

 

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Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers

At-a-Glance:

Just which companies are the biggest buyers of green energy? In 2020, it was Amazon, which bypassed Google and Facebook. These companies were followed by French oil giant Total, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, and U.S. telecom Verizon. To learn more, read “Amazon Tops The 2020 List Of Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers.” Reading this article may require a subscription. 

Key Takeaways:

  • In its 2021 Corporate Energy Outlook, BloombergNEF reported that more than 130 companies in sectors ranging from oil and gas to big tech have inked clean energy deals and purchased 23.7 gigawatts of clean energy.
  • Amazon entered into 35 power purchase agreements in 2020 and has purchased 7.5 gigawatts of clean energy to date.
  • Sixty-five companies joined the RE100 in 2020, pledging to offset 100% of their electricity consumption with clean energy; there are 280 companies in all.
  • Forty-eight percent of Fortune 500 and 63% of Fortune 100 companies are promising to cut their greenhouse gases and increase their use of renewable energy or improve their energy efficiencies.

Path to 100% Perspective:

More corporations are realizing the benefits of investing in clean energy to expand responsibility, reliability, and flexibility. These companies are setting an ambitious example for others to follow as the path to 100% is seen as possible, practical, and financially feasible. Access to  clean energy resources on a global scale is making it easier for companies to set and work toward clean energy targets.

 

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How To Light A Fuse Under The Green Hydrogen Economy

At-a-Glance:

Generating electricity from clean hydrogen has always been elusive. But that may change in the not-so-distant future: the technological, political and environmental factors – the variables to create the hydrogen economy – are aligning. What remains a sticking point, though, is the cost factor. To learn more, read How To Light A Fuse Under The Green Hydrogen Economy.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • More than 99% of the world’s hydrogen production comes from fossil fuels (called grey hydrogen). The goal is to get to green hydrogen, where solar and wind power is used to produce electricity that is put through an electrolyzer to create pure hydrogen gas.
  • In the interim, some say that a mix of green and blue (produced from natural gas using carbon capture and storage) hydrogen is a faster and more optimal solution. Currently, green hydrogen can be blended with natural gas at a rate of 15% while getting to 30% is doable.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water has agreed with Utah authorities to buy much of the output of the Intermountain Power Project which will generate hydrogen from wind and solar.
    • The plant will convert to a natural-gas-combined-cycle facility that can burn hydrogen as a fuel.
    • By 2025, 30% of electricity will come from hydrogen and by 2045, all of it will.
  • In its Hydrogen Economy Outlook, Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that green hydrogen could cut global greenhouse gases by 34% by 2050.
  • “Hydrogen has potential to become the fuel that powers a clean economy,” writes Kobad Bhavnagri, lead author of the Bloomberg report. “If the clean hydrogen industry can scale up, many of the hard-to-abate sectors could be decarbonized using hydrogen, at surprisingly low costs.”

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen and synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen-based renewable synthetic methane, promise to be an important piece of the decarbonization puzzle. Creating such a flexible power system would accelerate the global transition to 100% clean energy.

 

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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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