Missing Pieces of Decarbonization Puzzle Realized

Jussi Heikkinen, Director of Growth & Development, Americas
Wärtsilä Energy Business

These are exciting times as the renewable energy future is a focus for so many organizations and governments around the world, as indicated by attendance of the Wärtsilä sponsored webcast hosted by GreenBiz on November 19, 2020, Missing Pieces of Decarbonization Puzzle Realized. Emerging technologies are moving closer to reality, which makes ambitious energy goals more realistic and the path to 100 percent renewable energy is now within reach.

A place where the transition to renewables has progressed quite far already is California. The lessons learned along the way have been plentiful, but powerful nonetheless. The record-breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation during the transition, and to meet clean power mandates.

The big challenge facing California and the rest of the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved.

That’s why Wärtsilä launched its Path to 100% initiative. We believe a 100% renewable energy future is possible, practical and financially viable so we assembled a community of experts to produce solutions based on science and engineering. This fall, we published a white paper that describes the Optimal Path to decarbonization for California using new hourly load data provided by this summer’s extreme heatwave.

In the whitepaper, Path to 100% Renewables for California, we modelled an approach for  California to reach its climate and clean power goals faster, at a lower cost to ratepayers, all while maintaining system reliability.

The “Optimal Path“ includes renewable carbon neutral fuels – hydrogen and synthetic methane. Curtailed renewable electricity is used in the process with water to produce hydrogen, and carbon is captured from air to produce synthetic methane with hydrogen. These fuels are used in power plants to provide a long term energy storage for seasonal and weather management needs. In the Optimal Path scenario, Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) commitments would actually be reached by 2040, five years ahead of schedule.

Generation costs in the “Optimal Path” scenarios are between 50 and 54 dollars per megawatt hour in 2045, while these costs would be almost 3 times higher if California opted to use only solar, wind and storage to build the power system. This cost difference is excessive and not beneficial for industries or households to pay. Additionally, carbon emissions are at net zero in 2045 in both scenarios.

How can California get on the Optimal Path to a renewable energy future? One recommendation is to recognize carbon neutral fuels – as presented above – to be counted as renewable for RPS purposes. This would enable the utilities to start looking for ways to invest and use such fuels to the benefit of California.

Another state aggressively pursuing renewable energy goals is Texas. Co-presenter and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Principal of Market Design and Development, Kenneth Ragsdale shared the Lone Star State’s progress on integrating renewables into the power system.

Climate Imperative’s Executive Director, Bruce Nilles offered a big picture perspective on electricity generation capacity and the commitments needed to accelerate decarbonization.

To watch the recorded presentations from Wärtsilä, ERCOT as well as Climate Imperative and download presentation materials, register today for the Missing Pieces of Decarbonization Puzzle Realized webcast.

The Green Hydrogen Revolution Is Now Underway

At-a-Glance:

While renewables are now the fastest growing energy industry, hydrogen is following closely behind in a massive gale. The 21st century will likely witness the rise of a mega-billion hydrogen fuel industry. Countries are taking initial steps to pursue green hydrogen as an energy solution and it is clearly becoming an innovative trend.  The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) is tracking dozens of green hydrogen electrolyzer projects around the world with a theoretical combined capacity of 50 GW worth $75 billion. To learn more, read The Green Hydrogen Revolution Is Now Underway.”

Key Takeaways:

  • With the announcement of its 10-year $10.5 billion Green Hydrogen roadmap earlier this month, Spain joins a slew of other countries seeking to develop a zero-emission fuel for trucking, aviation, and shipping.
  • OPEC leader Saudi Arabia is building a green hydrogen facility,capable of producing 650 tons of green hydrogen fuel per day, in its cutting-edge futuristic city of Neom
  • Korea and Japan have both rolled out roadmaps to guide hydrogen-related investment and policy in coming years, including encouraging hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (HFVC) production. 
    • The Toyota Mirai is an HFCV unveiled in 2014 and has 10,300 worldwide sales since December 2019. 
    • Korea’s Hyundai is producing the hydrogen powered SUV Nexo.
  • China’s Hebei province approved $1.2 billion of projects for hydrogen equipment manufacturing, filling stations, fuel cells and hydrogen production, including electrolysis.
  • Perhaps the most ambitious project so far is the Asian Renewable Energy Hub based in Pilbara, Western Australia. The $16 billion initiative could see green hydrogen shipments as early as 2027.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate pathway to get to 100% clean energy. Hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. However, there are costly investments involved with adding hydrogen to the mix because the infrastructure for this fuel still needs to be developed. Thermal power plants designed to burn methane typically cannot burn 100% hydrogen. Existing gas storage facilities, pipelines, compressor stations and distribution lines typically cannot handle 100% hydrogen without expensive upgrades, if not complete replacements.  Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. 

 

 

Photo: Levi Midnight on Unsplash