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.

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

Q&A Series: Claudio Huepe Minoletti Shares Long-term Vision for Sustainable Development in Chile

Claudio Huepe Minoletti is an economist with more than twenty years of experience in both the public and private sectors committed to economic analysis, public policies and regulation, mainly in natural resources, energy, water infrastructure and sustainable development.

Please describe yourself and your work. 

Claudio: I am an economist, working on sustainable development and energy. I work part time at Universidad Diego Portales, where I teach, research, and liaise with the public and private sector on public policy issues.  The rest of my time, I work as an independent consultant, mostly for private companies.

During my career, I have focused mostly on the analysis and development of public policies and the impacts of projects and programs, using economic analysis (including quantitative and prospective methodologies) integrated with social, legal and political perspectives to develop useful products. I have also coordinated and managed research and dissemination projects.

I was a founding partner and director of a consulting company for over 10 years and later worked at the National Energy Commission and the Ministry of Energy, where I oversaw the creation of departments dedicated to long term studies and established links and joint projects with international organizations, such as the United Nations Secretariat, the International Energy Agency and the European Commission. I was also an advisor for the first United Nations Global Sustainability Report and am on the board of the Chilean Council for Strategic Foresight.

What made you want to join the Path to 100%?

Claudio: I believe exchanging ideas and experiences on long-term visions for the energy sector is crucial for sustainable development, as energy is one of its most significant elements and where renewables are the core.

Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put that to work in Chile.  

Claudio: Renewable energy is an opportunity not only for a greener planet but also for solid long-term economic growth with possibilities at various scales and for multiple uses.  There is a large potential and creativity must be put to work to untap it. While working at the Ministry of Energy on long-term policies we promoted not only the role of renewables in the energy mix in the medium to short term, but also the role that renewables (in all sorts of uses, from electricity to fuels) can have in a development, which is at the same time a strong driver of economic growth, of environmental protection (locally and globally), and socially acceptable and beneficial activities.

How would you like to see your work implemented on a global scale? 

Claudio: I would like to see more efforts on making the energy sector a strong driver of economic growth, where all countries participate and not only as neutral technology users, but as users and developers that seek to maximize the impact, especially for local development.

What do you believe are the greatest areas of opportunity for Chile’s renewable energy sector?

Claudio: In the short-term, the large-scale electric renewable sector is quite well developed, but I see an extraordinarily strong opportunity for small-scale, decentralized development of electric renewables, as well as local production. In the longer-term, there is great potential in green hydrogen, which can be relevant in all sorts of uses, such as transportation, storage, gradually replacing natural gas, and other uses. In the future, there are also opportunities for other forms of renewable energy.

Now, what do you see as the primary barriers or challenges Chile faces on its path to clean, affordable energy? 

Claudio: Up until now, the effort has been on affordable and secure energy provision, which has worked quite well in terms of the spread of renewables. Turning renewables into a source of economic growth would be the next step, but this requires a more active role of the public sector and greater public investment, which Chile has avoided until now.  

Finally, how can Chile lead in the path to 100 percent renewables? And what progress do you envision for the region over the next few years? 

Claudio: Chile is already quite advanced in terms of renewable penetration and its strategy already considers a major role for renewables — with 70 percent in the electric sector. Yet, working toward 100 percent renewables means a very relevant change in focus. On the one hand, it requires not only looking at the electric sector, but beyond. It is in this area where Chile could strengthen its leadership in renewables. Furthermore, it must seek ways to have a more renewable electric sector by reducing the role of gas, primarily because coal is already in the process of being phased out.

 

 

Photo: Olga Stalska on Unsplash