Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen

Petteri Laaksonen

What roles will hydrogen and electricity play in power generation on the path to decarbonization? This is one of several questions that were explored during the March 31 webinar, Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen.

This webinar is the first in the Path to 100’s Community of Experts Networking Call Series, also known as the Expert Exchange, which serves as a forum for experts to share knowledge on the best ways to decarbonize electricity to speed the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Jussi Heikkinen

Jussi Heikkinen

Featured speakers for the inaugural Community of Experts webinar were Petteri Laaksonen, Research Director in the School of Energy Systems at LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland, and Jussi Heikkinen, Director, Wärtsilä Growth and Development, who also moderated the webinar.

The focus of Laaksonen’s presentation was green electrification and the hydrogen economy. He opened by discussing some of the ways in which electricity and hydrogen are produced and used for energy in different sectors of industry, in transportation, and in buildings. Central to this discussion was the efficiency of electricity versus hydrogen for use in applications and the infrastructure that is needed to support their use.

According to Laaksonen, “Hydrogen is not as efficient as electricity when it comes to transportation and the transport sector does not have the infrastructure and vehicles to support hydrogen’s use. However, hydrogen’s potential lies in its ability to be synthesized into different products, such as synthetic fuels.”

The focus of the presentation then shifted to a discussion of the location-related competitive advantages of hydrogen and electricity. One of the big advantages of producing and storing hydrogen and electricity as fuels onsite is cost, specifically the costs of shipping and lost efficiency when transporting from one location to another.

“When it comes to choosing which fuel, hydrogen or electricity, to use in an application, there are no clear winners. Each location will have its advantages,” said Laaksonen.

After Laaksonen’s presentation, Heikkinen spoke about the role of hydrogen in the optimal decarbonization path using a California modelling case study. Central to the discussion was a new approach to electricity storage that utilizes both short- and long-term storage strategies. He emphasized that on the optimal path, hydrogen in long-term storage can be tapped into as a fuel to help with seasonal system balancing and managing extreme weather.

Said Heikkinen, “Having seasonal storage in the form of fuel and flexible power plants can result in cost reductions from 126 to 50 dollars per megawatt hour and enable firm capacity that can be tapped into when there’s a heat wave or cloud cover.”

Missed the webinar? Watch the recording here. Want to learn more about the California case study’s modeling and results? Download the whitepaper.

 

 

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Switching to renewable energy is sometimes dirty. Tech like blockchain can help

At-a-Glance:

The worldwide push to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require advances in green technologies – particularly tech associated with renewable energy – but simply waiting for future tools to emerge isn’t a viable solution to climate change. To learn more, read Switching to renewable energy is sometimes dirty. Tech like blockchain can help.”   Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • According to McKinsey, electricity will occupy 30% of the global demand for power by 2050 – up from 19% today. The International Energy Agency expects renewables to generate 80% of global electricity demand within the next decade, as the cost of renewable generation plummets below the cost of fossil fuels.
  • “Clearly, there’s a great danger that we simply replace a hydrocarbon-based economy…with a metal economy,” says Robert Lee, professor of law at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., referring to the metals that are required to make batteries, such as lithium. Mining those metals is a polluting process itself, and properly disposing of batteries at the end of their shelf life is a looming issue.
  • Digital technologies can help address the challenges involved in switching to renewable energy and electricity. For example, the European Union passed legislation requiring battery manufacturers to stamp battery units with a digital “passport” tag so the battery can be traced through its lifetime.
  • Energy saved by efficiencies introduced through digitalizing will offset the energy consumed by digitalization. This would come through actions like energy suppliers using remote sensors and AI oversight to monitor power demand and distribute electricity efficiently.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The average estimated life of a Lithium-Ion battery is about two to three years or 300 to 500 charge cycles, whichever happens first. Lower costs and increased spending on renewables are driving deeper penetration of renewable energy around the globe. Renewables will certainly play an integral role in powering mining operations because of the benefits they offer in terms of cost and sustainability. Economically it makes sense. The levelled cost of electricity (LCOE) is lower than ever, and renewables are becoming increasingly cost-effective as organizations seek efficiencies and breakthroughs.

 

 

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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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Texas Moves to Make Generators Winterize, Bar Future Griddys

At-a-Glance:

The Texas Senate passed a sweeping bill to overhaul the state’s electricity market following February’s historic blackouts by forcing power plants to winterize and barring the type of business model used by Griddy Energy. To learn more, read “Texas Moves to Make Generators Winterize, Bar Future Griddys.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The measure, which still needs approval by the state’s House of Representatives, would require the owners of all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to protect their facilities against extreme weather or face a penalty of up to $1 million a day.
  • On March 30, the Texas house preliminarily approved its own package of bills designed to respond to the grid failure. They include a measure that would only require power plants and power line owners to weatherize.
  • Both House and Senate measures would ban power providers from offering electricity plans tied to the state’s volatile wholesale power market, a practice that resulted in exorbitant bills for customers during the energy crisis.
  • The Senate bill would change the way that electricity is priced during an emergency to protect utilities from sky-high bills and require renewable energy sources to have backup plans to provide power at critical periods by purchasing so-called ancillary services.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Texas blackouts are an urgent indication that recommendations should be turned into common-sense regulation that leads to grid reliability and ratepayer protection. Regulators and system planners analyze energy use based on one event in ten years. The current planning process does not account for extreme weather conditions that happen once in a hundred years, such as the system that moved through Texas in February. As climate change progresses, such events are forecasted to become more frequent, and should be considered during planning.


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California duck curve “alive and well” as renewable, minimum net load records set

At-a-Glance:

High wind and solar production combined with low demand led the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to reach a new record of 92.5% of load served by renewables and 98.1% of load served by carbon-free resources,CAISO reported. To learn more, read “California duck curve ‘alive and well’ as renewable, minimum net load records set.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The records were set on March 13. That same day,  CAISO established a new minimum net load, which is load minus wind and solar generation, 3.614 GW.
  • Wind generation averaged 22% of the total fuel mix on March 13, the highest daily average on record, according to CAISO data. That jump in wind generation drove wind and solar generation to a combined daily average of 39.2% of the mix, more than double the three-year average.
  • CAISO has made significant progress in working with the battery storage community to support system reliability during stressed operating conditions by establishing a minimum state of charge requirement that will be applied when day-ahead markets indicate the potential for insufficiency.
  • CAISO is also initiating longer-term market design work with storage providers to develop enhancements that will support system reliability while more effectively addressing the commercial and asset optimization needs of a diverse fleet of storage resources.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California has made impressive gains in its integration of renewables into the power supply mix. While these numbers are worth celebrating, there is much more work to do if the state is going to meet its 100% clean energy target by 2045. It is possible, and the Optimal Plan provides the

lowest transition costs by including flexible thermal generation. The flexible thermal generation assets can be converted as needed to use carbon-neutral fuels produced with excess solar and wind energy through Power-to-X, forming a large, distributed, long-term energy storage system.

 

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Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.

At-a-Glance:

The loss of life and economic costs stemming from the recent crisis in Texas have demonstrated that electric power is a necessity, not an ordinary commodity. While fact finding has just begun, it’s clear that policy makers must take a hard look at the economic rules and incentives governing the power sector and assess the resilience of a vast array of critical infrastructure. To learn more read,  Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.”

Key Takeaways:

3 areas for collaboration:

Current incentives create restraints on rapid change, but can overcome to meet climate goals with effective public-private collaboration in three areas:

  • Support for innovation. The federal government should invest big to help new technologies make the leap from laboratory to marketplace.
  • Inclusive policies. Indulging preferences for some solutions over others might be tenable if there was plenty of time, but getting there will require a massive increase of renewable energy; breakthroughs in energy storage technologies, such as batteries, and in new energy carriers, such as hydrogen.
  • The ability to build big and build fast. To tackle our interrelated climate and energy challenges, America must rediscover the moonshot ambition and collective sense of urgency that allowed us to put a man on the moon in less than 10 years. A century earlier we built the transcontinental railroad in just six years.

Path to 100% Perspective:

As each government and organizational leader considers the landscape of the decade of consequence for the global climate, a clear line of sight to achieve decarbonization has been set by science. 3,000 GW of installed renewable capacity is required by 2030 to achieve the lower Paris target of 2°C5. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said in June 2020 that world leaders have six months to put policies in place to prevent a rebound in emissions that could put that target permanently out of reach. Leaders now face a clear choice: either be shaped by the inherent shocks of a worsening climate emergency or take action to shape the energy system around the needs and impact of a net-zero future.

 

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Los Angeles now has a road map for 100% renewable energy

At-a-Glance:

Los Angeles is one of the last places in California still burning coal for electricity — and if all goes according to plan, it could become one of the country’s first major cities to nearly eliminate fossil fuels from its power supply. In a first-of-its-kind study commissioned by the city and released, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded L.A. is capable of achieving 98% clean energy within the next decade and 100% by 2035, meeting one of President Biden’s most ambitious climate goals. And it can do so without causing blackouts or disrupting the economy, the federal research lab found, undercutting two of the most common arguments used by opponents of climate action. To learn more, read “Los Angeles now has a road map for 100% renewable energy.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The NREL study team included nearly 100 people and was aided by the “Eagle” supercomputer at the research lab’s Golden, Colo., headquarters.
  • They conducted an energy systems analysis they believe to be unprecedented in scope and detail, running more than 100 million simulations since 2017 and integrating heaps of modeling data on electricity use, job creation, weather conditions, power lines and the potential for rooftop solar panels on houses across Los Angeles, among other topics.
  • Under a different scenario, L.A. would still get about 10% of its electricity from gas come 2045, down from 24% today.
  • Every pathway outlined by NREL includes geothermal power plants, which tap the Earth’s subterranean heat and can generate climate-friendly energy around the clock, as well as pumped hydropower, which can store solar and wind longer than a typical battery. Several pathways in the study also assume the city keeps its 5.7% ownership stake in Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear plant.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California already has the natural gas infrastructure in place to follow the Optimal Path. The state’s existing gas storage capacity and distribution systems can easily provide the necessary 8 TWh of reliable, fully dispatchable renewable energy while using only 15 percent of existing underground gas storage capacity. This alleviates concerns around “stranded assets” since flexible generation plants can shift at any time to burn synthetic methane, even before 2045. California’s current plan without thermal generation would require an investment of $309 billion between 2021 and 2045 to add another 1,624 GWh of battery storage and electricity generation cost would jump to a sky-high 128 $ / MWh. However, the Optimal Path would save the state $176 billion with Power-to-Gas and thermal generation as long term energy storage between 2021 and 2045 and electricity generation cost would be $50 / MWh in 2045. More batteries without thermal generation is not affordable and is not enough to create a resilient or reliable grid.

 

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Apple Spends 15% of Debut Euro Green Bond in First Year Projects

At-a-Glance:

Apple Inc. spent 15% of the 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) of green bonds it raised in late 2019 within a year, mostly on renewable energy projects, according to its annual impact report released on March 17. To learn more, read Apple Spends 15% of Debut Euro Green Bond in First Year Projects.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The tech giant had allocated almost $330 million of the euro green bond proceeds by September 2020.
  • Just over $310 million was funneled to renewable energy, with the rest going to low-carbon design and engineering, energy efficiency and so-called carbon mitigation and sequestration projects.
  • Spending included power purchase agreements with wind farms in the U.S. and the opening of a solar project in Denmark.
  • Apple previously issued two other dollar green bonds in 2016 and 2017, amounting to $2.5 billion. Both are fully allocated.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Since Apple was founded in April 1976, it has been solidified through a series of successes and failures that have carved out a trailblazing place for the technology company. Apple continues to look for ways to remain unique, innovative and progressive by investing in a renewable energy future. Circular economy practices are becoming increasingly popular as organizations seek sustainability, responsibility and reliability in the days and years ahead.

 

 

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Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling

At-a-Glance:

As electric and gas utilities contemplate investing in low-carbon hydrogen and the technology to produce it, the high price of today’s supplies and equipment – and the potential for cost declines – are major considerations. At the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, hydrogen experts and stakeholders expressed confidence that the cost curve will indeed bend in the coming years. The March 2 panel on low-carbon hydrogen production and technologies offered a detailed breakdown of the forces behind the price trend. To learn more, read Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Norwegian electroyzer-maker Nel ASA in January announced a goal of producing green hydrogen at $1.50 per kilogram by 2025. Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas is targeting hydrogen production costs from the nation’s hydropower and solar resources in a range of $1-2/kg.
  • Green hydrogen produced with renewable resources costs between about $3/kg and $6.55/kg, according to the European Commission’s July 2020 hydrogen strategy. Fossil-based hydrogen costs about $1.80/kg, and the commission estimated the cost of blue hydrogen at about $2.40/kg.
  • Access to low-cost renewable electricity will be the most important factor in driving green hydrogen costs down to $1.50/kg, according to Everett Anderson, vice president for advanced product development at NEL Hydrogen AS.
  • The hydrogen production process of methane pyrolysis is attracting attention and investment for its ability to decompose methane at high temperatures to produce solid carbon rather than carbon dioxide. This could allow hydrogen production at nodes between natural gas lines and distribution systems.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate Power-to-Gas pathway. Power-to-hydrogen requires only electrolysis, where electrolyzers use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen (from water) for direct use as a fuel. In addition, hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. Complexities arise as there is, unlike the existing infrastructure for methane, no comparable hydrogen infrastructure. Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. Power plant technology manufacturers seem to understand this as many of them are in the process of developing technologies that are fueled by 100% hydrogen.

 

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Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.

At-a-Glance:

Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, and now FedEx. The giant delivery company joined more than 50 other major corporations when it announced on March 3 that it too aims to be carbon-neutral by 2040 – an effort to curb climate change. Executives say that a gathering cultural change is fueled by companies responding not only to shareholders but also to the growing urgency of climate change and the concerns of their own employees and customers. To learn more, read “Can the market save the planet? FedEx is the latest brand-name firm to say it’s trying.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • FedEx pledged an initial investment of $2 billion to start electrifying its massive fleet of more than 180,000 vehicles and $100 million for a new Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture.
  • Some of the other companies promising to meet the 2040 carbon-neutral goal and inspire other firms to do the same have signed on to an initiative called the Climate Pledge. These companies include IBM, Microsoft, Unilever, Johnson Controls, Coca-Cola, Uber, and Best Buy.
  • Action by big utilities, refiners, and concrete manufacturers are also essential if countries are going to meet their own economy-wide goals.
  • FedEx’s pledge to Yale is part of an effort to search for novel ways to remove and store more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using nature.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Multiple organizations, utilities and government agencies are setting ambitious clean energy goals and the need to reduce carbon emissions is real. In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that global emissions would need to reach net-zero (or carbon-neutral) by 2050 to prevent severe climate change impacts. Electricity is a major contributor—electricity generation was responsible for approximately 33% of total CO2 emissions in the U.S. in 2018.

 

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Xcel Energy – Colorado plans to deliver 80% renewable energy by 2030

At-a-Glance:

Xcel Energy Colorado has announced details of its upcoming Clean Energy Plan, which will result in an estimated 85% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. The plan will double renewable energy and battery storage on the Xcel Energy Colorado system, providing customers with electricity derived from approximately 80% renewable sources while maintaining affordable and reliable energy service. To learn more, read Xcel Energy – Colorado plans to deliver 80% renewable energy by 2030.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

Highlights from the plan include:

  • Adding approximately 5,500 MW of new wind, solar generation, and battery storage.
  • Significantly reducing coal plant operations by 2030 and retiring or repowering all remaining coal units by 2040.
  • Building upon successful customer-focused energy efficiency programs, distributed generation opportunities, and demand response options to manage energy load.
  • Ensuring grid stability and reliability with flexible resources capable of operating around renewable resources as well as during times of extreme heat or cold.
  • Creating a workforce and community transition plan, building upon the utility’s experience leading clean energy transitions across its service area.
  • Evaluating transmission infrastructure in the state to improve the reliability and flexibility of the system and reduce the cost of the renewable energy additions contemplated by the plan.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize our power system fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and flexible fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.  Xcel Energy Colorado is building a resilient decarbonization plan.

 

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This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs

At-a-Glance:

Workrise makes its money by finding jobs for skilled laborers, handling their payroll and benefits and taking its cut from employers. The company works with Exxon Mobil Corp., General Electric Co. and First Solar Inc., among others. It sent more than four times as many people into renewable energy last year compared with 2019, placing about 4,500 skilled workers into green jobs like building solar farms or fixing lightning-damaged wind turbines. That was almost a third of all its workers in 2020. To learn more, read This Company Helps Roughnecks Find Renewable Energy Jobs.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • When cold weather and grid failures left millions of Texans shivering in the dark without power the week of Valentine’s Day, both oil companies and clean-power plants tapped Workrise for help.
    • The company dispatched workers to keep drilling sites safe and operational, turning off wells and wrapping lines with insulation.
  • The company sees job training as a big part of the future of its business. It provided training for about 5% of its 8,000 workers in 2019, but in 2020 it trained 15% of its 15,000 workers.
  • Workrise also wants to take advantage of opportunities to send workers to plug methane-leaking wells and build carbon capture and underground storage. The company has already submitted some bids to provide workers to stop up abandoned wells, including on a project in North Dakota.

Path to 100% Perspective:

A variety of technologies and fuels will have a role to play along the Path to 100%. Some technologies commonly used today will see a decreased role as decarbonization becomes a priority. A decarbonized grid will require an electricity mix powered by carbon-free or carbon neutral sources, as well as technologies that can balance the seasonal and daily changes in consumption, and weather variability, of key renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This energy transition will require an agile workforce and workforce development.

 

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