Oil Majors Look to Fill Businesses’ Growing Appetite for Green Power

At-a-Glance:

Businesses are buying more renewable power, and oil majors want a piece of the action. European oil companies including BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are building new wind and solar projects and striking deals to supply electricity to big corporate buyers like Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp., treading into the domain of traditional power companies. To learn more, read Oil Majors Look to Fill Businesses’ Growing Appetite for Green Power.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Oil companies say securing long-term deals to supply electricity will provide a new source of income and underpin their expansion into wind and solar power as they seek to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and prepare for a lower-carbon economy.
  • Corporate power-purchase agreements are an area of focus for BP’s solar-power joint venture Lightsource BP, which this year signed deals to supply Amazon, Verizon Communications Inc. and a unit of insurer Allianz SE.
  • New deals continue to be struck at a rapid pace, rising 75% in the first four months of the year versus the same period a year ago, the BNEF data showed.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that new wind and solar will cost less than existing coal and gas generation in China by 2027, and that new wind and solar will be cheaper than existing goal and gas generation in most of the world by 2030. As wind and solar power become increasingly cost-competitive, investments in traditional, inflexible base load plants such as large coal, nuclear, and gas combined-cycle plants are declining. This signals an end to the era of large, centralized power plants that run on fossil fuels.

How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says

At-a-Glance:

Global recessions, wars, and pandemics have a way of driving down energy demand. Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the collapse in global primary energy demand brought on by COVID-19 was the biggest drop since the end of World War II, itself the biggest drop since the influenza pandemic after World War I. IEA also reported that renewable power capacity grew at its fastest pace this century in 2020, raising its growth forecast for wind and solar power for this year and next.According to the Paris-based energy watchdog, renewables were the only energy source for which demand increased last year. The addition to the world’s renewable electricity capacity last year was 45% more than in the prior year and the biggest jump since 1999, as wind and solar farms sprang up across the world’s major economies. To learn more, read How Wind and Solar Power Got the Best of the Pandemic AND Wind, Solar Power Made Strong Gains in 2020, IEA Says.” Reading these articles may require a subscription from the news outlets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Renewable energy installations not only increased during the pandemic, they exceeded even the most bullish of expectations, with wind installations increasing 90% and solar increasing 23%.
  • IEA estimates that in 2022, renewables will account for 90% of new power capacity expansion globally.
  • ​​“Wind and solar power are giving us more reasons to be optimistic about our climate goals as they break record after record,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, adding that greater use of lower-carbon electricity was needed for the world to achieve its carbon-reduction goals.
  • The European Union plans to spend $1 trillion to reach its goal of net carbon neutrality by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

U.S. renewable energy adoption continues to rise, in 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for 17.5% of total utility-scale electricity generation, with renewable energy generation reaching 720 TWh. More than 70% of energy stimulus funding is currently allocated to legacy fossil fuels, compared to less than 30% to clean energy. However, reallocating $72 billion in energy stimulus funding could achieve:

  • 107 GW of new renewable energy capacity
  • 6.5 % rise in share of renewable electricity generation (from 17.5% to 24% renewable electricity).
  • 544,000 new jobs in renewable energy, 175% more jobs than if the same stimulus was used to revive the legacy energy sector.

The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company

At-a-Glance:

In late April, a raft of oil majors released their first quarter results with companies like Royal Dutch Shell Plc showing a return to pre-pandemic profit levels. At the same time, some of the majors increased their energy transition commitments. Spanish firm Repsol SA devoted 40% of its capital expenditure to low-carbon projects, and France’s Total SE stated plans to increase its renewable energy capacity five-fold over the next four years. To learn more, read “The Climate Transition: How an Oil Company Becomes a Renewables Company.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Norway’s state-owned oil producer, Equinor ASA posted more than $2.6 billion of earnings in the first quarter of 2021, 49% of which was from renewable energy.
  • Last quarter, Equinor earned more from renewables than it did from oil and gas exploration and production.
  • Equinor is farming down to two European oil majors: BP Plc is buying into the U.S. projects, and Italy’s Eni SpA is buying into the U.K. projects – they are paying Equinor for the privilege of taking on the early stages of developing offshore wind.
  • One reason Equinor could be an early developer of U.S. offshore wind is that it has decades of experience developing and operating offshore oil and gas assets.
  • Equinor is two-thirds owned by the Kingdom of Norway, with Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global owning another 3.59% of the company via Folketrygdfondet, which expects its portfolio companies to integrate climate change considerations into policies and strategy.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that more than two-thirds of Earth’s population already lives in countries where solar or wind — or both — are the least-expensive sources of new electricity generation. As wind and solar power become increasingly cost-competitive, investments in traditional, inflexible base load plants such as large coal, nuclear, and gas combined-cycle plants are declining. This signals an end to the era of large, centralized power plants that run on fossil fuels. Global financial trends reflect this dramatic shift, with renewable generation attracting more investment dollars than fossil-powered generation year after year. Worldwide investment in renewables has exceeded $230 billion for nine years in a row.

Tucson Electric turns on its biggest renewable-energy plants to date

At-a-Glance:

The electricity powering most of Tucson, including the University of Arizona, got a little cleaner the week of May 3, as Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) switched on its biggest solar and wind power plants to date. To learn more, read “Tucson Electric turns on its biggest renewable-energy plants to date.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The 1,130 acre project, built and owned by NextEra Energy, includes 30MW of linked battery storage to bank solar power for use when the sun goes down.
    • The Wilmot Energy Center is expected to generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 26,000 typical TEP homes.
  • TEP’s biggest renewable energy resource, the 250MW Oso Grande Wind Project in New Mexico, went online a couple of weeks later. Consisting of 62 wind turbines on 24,000 acres, Oso Grande is expected to generate enough energy each year to serve about 90,000 homes.
  • With Wilmot and Oso Grande online, TEP will have 628MW of large, community-scale wind and solar resources – with the 99MW Borderlands Wind Project, being built 100 miles south of Gallup, New Mexico, coming online by the end of 2021.
  • The new solar and wind farms will help TEP toward its goal of generating 70% of its power from renewables and cutting its carbon emissions by 80% by 2035.
  • TEP has dedicated a portion of its output to provide the UA campus with “100% clean energy” under a 20-year, green energy agreement announced in 2019.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Electric utilities such as TEP are embracing their role in reducing climate emissions by shifting to renewable energy sources, like solar and wind. As a growing number of cities, states, and nations set goals for increasing amounts of renewable energy, economics is helping bring those plans to fruition. Over the past 20 years, the cost per kilowatt of wind power plants has decreased by 40%, while the cost of solar generation has dropped by 90%. The cost-competitiveness of renewables is making it possible to accelerate decarbonization of power systems such as TEP.

The Renewable Energy Asset Rotation Cycle Is Stuck

At-a-Glance:

Bloomberg NEF calculates that meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement with a combination of zero-carbon electricity and hydrogen would require more than $60 trillion of power sector investment, plus more than $30 trillion of investment in hydrogen production and transport by 2050. Flex a few technical choices – such as switching over dedicated nuclear power plants to manufacturing hydrogen – and the total price tag is $100 trillion or more. To learn more, read “The Renewable Energy Asset Rotation Cycle Is Stuck.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Pumping up the flow of trillions of dollars from giant asset managers to early stage companies looking to make these investments will be a big job for the world’s capital markets and will depend on financial systems functioning perfectly.
  • Currently, some assets aren’t rotating like they used to, particularly in Europe. EDP, Portugal’s major electric utility, rotated 87% of its assets from 2014 to 2016, but intends to only rotate 35% of mostly-renewable assets from now until 2025.
  • There are a number of reasons rotation might be slow.
    • Renewable assets with stable financial returns look attractive on the corporate balance sheet.
    • Green finance allows companies to refinance assets advantageously and increase those returns on their books without cashing out of early-stage assets.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The U.S. is a global leader in renewable energy with the second largest installed capacity in the world. Total private sector investment in renewable energy reached a record USD $55.5 billion in 2019, an increase of 28% year on year. Federal government support for clean energy has been significantly reduced in recent years, with federal energy initiatives primarily being focused on the fossil fuel sector. However, given the scale and depth of its energy market, the U.S. has the economic and technological potential to scale-up renewable energy at an unprecedented rate.

$15 trillion global hydrogen investment needed to 2050-research

At-a-Glance:

Decarbonizing energy and other industries globally using hydrogen will require investment of almost $15 trillion between now and 2050, the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) said in a report in April. The ETC is an international coalition of executives from the energy industry committed to achieving net zero emissions by mid-century, a goal set by the Paris climate agreement. To learn more, read $15 trillion global hydrogen investment needed to 2050-research.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydrogen use is forecast to grow to 500-800 million tons a year by mid-century, accounting for 15-20% of total final energy demand, from 115 million tons currently.
  • Producing green hydrogen will need zero-carbon electricity supply to increase by 30,000 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2050, on top of 90,000 TWh needed for decarbonization generally, the ETC said.
  • Around 85% of the required investment would be in electricity generation and 15% in electrolysers, hydrogen production facilities and transport and storage infrastructure.
  • Large-scale geological storage will be needed for the hydrogen produced, given the limited capacity and large costs of compressed hydrogen containers. Salt caverns will offer the lowest cost but if 5% of total annual hydrogen use in 2050 needs to be stored, it needs about 4,000 typical size salt caverns, compared with only about 100 in use for natural gas today, the report said.

Path to 100% Perspective:

As coal, diesel and legacy natural gas plants are retired to achieve ambitious decarbonization goals, the need for new dispatchable capacity is necessary for reliability and resiliency in future power systems. 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.

 

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash

Cleantech incubator part of Houston’s goal to be ”energy transition capital“

At-a-Glance:

Cleantech startup incubator Greentown Labs officially opened its Houston facility in April, marking Earth Day and the one-year anniversary of the city unveiling its first Climate Action Plan. The 40,000-square-foot space has room for 50 startups with more than 300 employees working in clean technology. To learn more, read “Cleantech incubator part of Houston’s goal to be ‘energy transition capital’.”

Key Takeaways:

  • City officials said at a press conference that 30 early-stage companies are ready to move in.
  • Greentown, which is headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts, already has a slew of partners for the incubator, including various energy and oil companies with significant operations in the Houston area.
  • Greentown CEO Emily Reichert said she hopes the new location can be an “on-the-ground catalyst for accelerating the energy transition” by encouraging new jobs, economic opportunity and Texas’ growing innovation ecosystem.
  • Houston’s ambitious Climate Action Plan calls for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

According to the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston is the energy capital of the world with more than 4,600 energy-related firms in this Lone Star State metropolitan hub. Texas stands out both as a primary generator and significant user of U.S. energy. Approximately 10% of US electricity demand comes from Texas. Texas is the national leader in the US wind energy industry with 30 GW of installed wind. It ranks first in the country for installed and under construction wind capacity, supporting 25,000 wind-related jobs. Modelling indicates the potential for the state to spearhead the country’s renewable energy transition can be seen as follows:

  • 10 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity, including solar and wind by 2025
  • 54,000 new clean energy jobs, 175% more than if the same stimulus was used to revive the legacy energy sector12
  • 15% reduction in power sector CO2 emissions

 

Photo by Carlos Alfonso on Unsplash

NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc. wants to buy more power lines to tap into rising demand for renewable energy, weeks after closing a $660-million deal for such transmission wires. The Florida-based company plans to expand its business both by developing and acquiring transmission assets. In March, NextEra bought GridLiance, which owns about 700 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, for about $660 million from Blackstone Group Inc. To learn more, read “NextEra Aims to Buy More U.S. Power Lines to Fuel Renewable Push.”  Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Corporate executives are encouraged by President Joe Biden’s focus on renewables, which is in turn encouraging more companies to expand their investment in renewables.
  • NextEra plans to add up to 30,000 megawatts of wind, solar and battery storage by 2024.
  • The country will need to expand its transmission grids by as much as 60% for wind and solar to make up half of U.S. electricity capacity by 2030 to meet the President’s goal of a fully green U.S. power grid by 2035.

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. Meanwhile, inflexible power systems cannot keep up with wind and solar’s variability, so power plants have to stay online and burn fuel even on sunny or windy days when they are not needed. In practice, this limits power systems to using perhaps 30% renewable generation. Any more than that gets curtailed. Therefore, additional investment in more transmission is required to meet the growing demand.

 

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.

 

 

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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.

Photo by Peter Beukema on Unsplash

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.


Photo by Charles Fair on Unsplash