Vehicle-to-grid inches closer to reality, but barriers remain

At-a-Glance:

In the energy storage industry, it can be easy to think that the growth trajectory is exceptional. Indeed, six months ago, in the IHS Markit Grid-Connected Energy Storage Market Tracker (our bi-annual evaluation of the energy storage industry), we predicted that the industry would double in size in 2021, with installations topping 10 GW for the first time. To learn more, read, Vehicle-to-grid inches closer to reality, but barriers remain.”

Key Takeaways:

  • This interface with the electricity grid, where electric vehicles or EVs both charge and discharge, is called vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and could operate at a scale that eclipses the current and projected stationary storage market.
  • In addition to that, the incremental increase in cost of a bidirectional charger (the key component that needs to be added to an EV/EV charger to enable V2G, compared to the conventional alternative) is falling rapidly, with near parity expected in the next five years.
  • Automotive OEMs already have over-air communication with their vehicles in many cases, and new EV chargers now invariably come with communications hardware to schedule charging.
    • These communication and control interfaces could be leveraged to control V2G with minimal additional complexity.
    • The combination of these factors will potentially enable V2G to be used as energy storage at an incredibly low cost.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Developing infrastructure to offer a reliable, resilient and flexible power system also requires planning for the growth in EV manufacturing, sales and operations. The federal government is adding billions of dollars in funding to develop solutions for the growing need for EV charging options, but innovation will also be required to meet the growing demand while also developing ways to maximize batteries as a replacement for fossil fuels both on and off the road.

 

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Renewables generated a record amount of electricity in 2020, EIA says

At-a-Glance:

In 2020, renewable energy sources (including solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal energy) generated a record 834 billion kWh of electricity, or about 21% of all the electricity generated in the United States. Only natural gas (1,617 billion kWh) produced more electricity than renewables in the United States in 2020, according to the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). To learn more, read “Renewables generated a record amount of electricity in 2020, EIA says.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewables surpassed both nuclear (790 billion kWh) and coal (774 billion kWh) for the first time. EIA said this outcome was due mostly to “significantly less coal use” in U.S. electricity generation and steadily increased use of solar and wind.
  • U.S. electricity generation from coal in all sectors declined 20% from 2019, while renewables, including small-scale solar, increased 9%.
  • Wind, currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the United States, grew 14% in 2020 from 2019.
  • Utility-scale solar generation (from projects greater than 1 MW) increased 26%, and small-scale solar, such as grid-connected rooftop solar panels, increased 19%.
  • Renewables are again forecast to eclipse coal in 2022 as capacity grows and coal’s cost advantage eases.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power upfront, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation. The early leaders of the renewable transition are now outperforming their counterparts in the fossil fuel sector. New capex is now surging in the power sector, driving the build-out of renewables at an unprecedented rate in areas of the world, such as Chile and New Mexico, that yield the highest renewable power capacity factors. Faced with the magnitude of the transition, some power producers have stopped investing – stopped progressing. Some are waiting to see if renewable technology costs fall even further as the sector transforms in front of their eyes. However, power producers that stall their investments risk being left with portfolios that rely on legacy technologies, which can only provide diminishing returns, while the low hanging fruit for solar and wind parks is progressively being capitalized by the first movers. Delaying the transition to renewables will reduce the competitiveness of power producers, as well as putting national climate targets out of reach. 

 

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NREL releases five-year study on continent-wide integration of renewable energy resources

At-a-Glance:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released findings from it five-year North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS), which aims to inform grid planners, utilities, industry, policymakers, and other stakeholders about challenges and opportunities for continental system integration of large amounts of wind, solar, and hydropower to support a low-carbon future grid.

The study looked at a range of future scenarios and considered potential impacts on costs, emissions, resource adequacy, and specific technologies. To learn more, read “NREL releases five-year study on continent-wide integration of renewable energy resources.” 

Key Takeaways:

  • NREL said that four key findings emerged from the analysis.
    • Finding 1: Multiple Pathways Can Lead to 80% Power-Sector Carbon Reduction Continent-Wide by 2050.
    • Finding 2: The Future Low-Carbon Power System Can Balance Supply and Demand in a Wide Range of Future Conditions.
    • Finding 3: Interregional and International Cooperation Can Provide Significant Net System Benefits Through 2050.
    • Finding 4: Operational Flexibility Comes From Transmission, Storage, and Flexible Operation of All Generator Types.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that to limit global warming to 1.5C°, global CO2 emissions should decline by 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050. The latest IPCC report finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the opportunity to limit warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will slip beyond our reach. A rapid acceleration in renew- able energy output can provide the near-term emissions reductions that are crucial for holding the global temperature rise to 1.5C°, but only if pathways to 100% renewables are fully embraced by energy leaders. 

Wärtsilä to supply and maintain two major interconnected energy storage systems for Texas grid services

At-a-Glance:

Two standalone battery energy storage systems (BESS) totalling 200MW of output will be deployed in Texas’ ERCOT market by the energy division at Wärtsilä Corporation. Finland-headquartered marine and power systems technology manufacturer, which has become one of the biggest system integrators for energy storage in the US market, said today that it has been awarded contracts for the two projects in Southern Texas by developer Able Grid Energy Solutions.To learn more, read, “Texas’ grid to get 200MW of battery storage from Wärtsilä”,“Wärtsilä to supply two major interconnected energy storage systems for Texas grid services”,and“Wärtsilä wins order for utility-scale energy storage to support Texas electric grid.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wärtsilä Energy will supply its recently-launched GridSolv Quantum advanced energy storage solution to both sites, as well as the company’s GEMS energy management software and controls platform.
  • The systems, called Ignacio and Madero, are thought to be around 100MW each, equalling the US state’s largest battery storage project under construction so far, the 100MW Chisholm Grid BESS which is also an Able Grid project.
  • “Able Grid selected Wärtsilä technology, among other considerations, for its critical safety and cyber-security features. The system complies with all applicable standards, like UL9540A, to ensure sustained safe and reliable operations. In addition, the GEMS Power Plant Controller is U.S.-code based and meets all IEC62443 cybersecurity standards,” commented Sharon Greenberg, Able Grid Chief Operating Officer.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Storage technologies will be essential to maintaining stability in the power grid as the world shifts from power systems based on fossil fuels to renewables and carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels. Batteries will provide ideal solutions to keep the lights on during normal / average weather, while unusual and extreme weather events such as those recently experienced in California and Texas will require integrated long-term storage solutions that ensure security of supply in the face of seasonal and weather-related variability. Flexible generation power plants are also part of the solution as they can operate on carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels and can provide the essential firm power component to our power systems of the future.

Top 10 U.S. corporate renewable energy buyers of 2020

At-a-Glance:

Amazon was the number one U.S. corporate buyer of renewable energy in 2020, procuring more than 3.16 GW. Utility-scale solar power also was the most sought-after renewable resource among the country’s major corporations. That’s according to the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a member-based organization that represents and advocates on behalf of many of the nation’s largest corporate energy purchasers. To learn more, read “Top 10 U.S. corporate renewable energy buyers of 2020.”

Key Takeaways:

  • REBA found that U.S. corporations once again showcased their resolve and commitment to renewable energy with a record-breaking 10.6 GW of contracted capacity.
  • REBA’s group members accounted for 97% of the procurements tracked in 2020. Of the 98 deals reflected in the full report, 72% were for utility-scale solar projects.
  • Amazon is on a path to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of its original target of 2030.
  • REBA reported that 2020 was the first year that multiple U.S. corporate energy buyers announced procurements including battery storage, aligning with broader industry trends as storage technology becomes more accessible.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Corporate renewable energy trailblazers such as Amazon are reaching and exceeding their clean energy goals. Achieving a zero-carbon power sector will require leveraging a mix of technologies and fuels at different steps along the path to 100%. Investment in innovation is proving that reaching renewable energy goals is possible, practical and affordable.

 

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3 graphs that shed light on the ERCOT power crisis

At-a-Glance:

As work continued to restore electric power across the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region, data firm Lium released a series of graphs that offer early insight into the state’s grid performance in the days before the blackouts and immediately after. To learn more, read 3 graphs that shed light on the ERCOT power crisis.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wind generation progressively slowed and ended up down around 8 GW compared with the prior week.
  • Natural gas generation was suffering shortfalls as well, with a “big crash” in early hours of Monday February 15.
  • Lium concluded that the ERCOT shortfall could have been met had natural gas, coal, and nuclear all been operating at peak summer levels (+9 GW) and if wind were operating at its typical February rate (+ 8 GW).

Path to 100% Perspective:

The recent Texas blackouts demonstrate the importance of having reliable sources of power in the event of extreme weather and natural disasters. Liquid fuels can be stored in large quantities at power plant sites for occasions when gas pressure is too low. In the future, these back-up fuels can be carbon-neutral methanol or ammonia, offering long-term, carbon-free, on-site energy storage. Excess electricity from periods of oversupply of solar and wind energy can be used to produce such renewable fuels locally in Texas.

 

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