Mexico’s Path to 100%

At-a-Glance:

Considered a global initiative, the Path to 100% movement seeks to find reliable, quick and cost-effective ways to fully decarbonize electricity. To achieve this, there are a variety of paths available to every country. What would Mexico’s roadmap look like? Wärtsilä’s Business Development Executive for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, Raúl Carral, sheds light on where to start. To learn more, read Mexico’s Path to 100%.”

Key Takeaways:

  • A look at SENER’s latest 2019 figures reveal that Mexico had around 80 GW of installed energy capacity. Fossil fuels accounted for 66 percent of that capacity, of which 56 percent came from natural gas.
  • Renewables and hydroelectricity combined made up 17 percent of installed energy, although many MWs of wind and solar were installed in 2020.
  • Carral argues that Mexican utility CFE should consider competitive, future-proof assets like renewable power and flexible power generation and make plans based on a vision that will lead to more profitability, sustainability and reliability for CFE’s power generation and Mexico’s power grid.
  • Carral highlighted that several hydrogen projects are underway, which will help lower costs associated with this fuel. Existing gas-based power plants could be adapted to run on hydrogen and Wartsila announced they will be ready to burn this fuel with their equipment, too.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Mexico’s path to 100% is beginning to unfold. As the country increases its reliance on renewables, investing in infrastructure, like flexible thermal generation, will be critical to make up for times of intermittent wind and solar power. Path to 100% formed  a community of subject matter experts in Mexico to explore the best way to 100% renewable energy penetration.

 

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Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system

At-a-Glance

The California Independent System Operator added 2.1 GW of capacity to its grid in 2020 with another 3.3 GW permitted with online dates in 2020 or 2021 as the state works to achieve its ambitious 100% clean energy mandate over the next 25 years. To learn more, read Cal-ISO renewable capacity climbs, storage resources coming onto system.”

Key Takeaways

  • In 2020, Cal-ISO had 2.1 GW of capacity added through September of which 1.3 GW was gas-fired, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.
  • EIA also shows 3.3 GW permitted with an online date in either 2020 or 2021. About 2,500 MW of this is under construction which includes 1.5 GW solar, 800 MW battery and 200 MW wind.
  • Cal-ISO president and CEO Elliot Mainzer has said the grid operator is working to improve its resource adequacy system following the rotating outages in August.
  • “Longer term, we’re working very closely with the [Public Utilities Commission], the Energy Commission and others in the regulatory space to try to make sure the resource adequacy paradigm in California is modernized sufficiently to recognize the changing resource mix,” Mainzer said. “There’s a lot of additional solar and batteries and wind and other renewables coming onto the system.”
  • Renewable generation curtailments in 2020 were up 220% year on year, according to ISO data.

Path to 100% Perspective

No power system can achieve 100% renewable electricity just by adding more renewable generation. It also needs to slash fossil-fueled generation. That means reducing reliance on traditional gas- and coal-fired plants, whether they’re used for baseload or to back up variable renewable generation. And that can be harder than you might think. The challenge is that traditional fossil-fuel-powered plants are inflexible: they can’t just switch off when the sun is high and switch back on when the sun sets. Because traditional power stations require many hours to shut down and many hours to start back up, they cannot power up and down quickly enough to handle predictable shifts in demand and generation, let alone unexpected changes in the weather. To ensure a steady flow of electricity, California’s traditional gas-fired power stations have to keep running at 40% to 50% capacity, even on a bright, sunny day. Running at low capacity is inefficient and emits large amounts of climate-warming carbon.

 

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California’s pathway to 100% clean electricity begins to take shape, but reliability concerns persist

At-a-Glance

California’s energy agencies are taking a first stab at assessing possible pathways to the state’s ambitious goal of achieving 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045, but concerns about system reliability — especially in light of the rolling blackouts — continue to plague regulators. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Energy Commission (CEC) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a draft report on getting to a 2045 clean electricity portfolio, which indicated the goal is technically achievable. To learn more, read “California’s pathway to 100% clean electricity begins to take shape, but reliability concerns persist.”

Key Takeaways

  • The report presents important initial insights into potential paths for the electric sector, Mary Nichols, CARB chair, said at the workshop, adding that “the initial work highlights the enormous challenge ahead, requiring a complete transformation in the type of electricity that Californians consume.”
  • California’s carbon goals are part of legislation passed by the state in 2018, called Senate Bill 100, which calls for 100% of electric retail sales in the state to come from renewable energy and zero-carbon resources by the end of 2045.
  • The bill also required the three energy agencies to create a report evaluating the policy and follow it up with updates at least every four years. The agencies intend to submit a final version of the initial report early next year.
  • Based on this analysis, the report concludes that achieving the 100% clean electricity goal is technically achievable, and could cost around 6% more than the baseline 60% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) future by 2045, although that could change if renewables continue to decline in cost at a faster rate than anticipated by the models.

Path to 100% Perspective

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.

 

 

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Leveraging Coronavirus Stimulus to Take a Giant Leap Toward Decarbonization

At-a-Glance

While electricity demand has faltered during the global pandemic, the share of wind and solar generation has continued to increase. Wind and solar produced 10 percent of global electricity between January and June in 2020. In the European Union, renewables accounted for 33 percent of all power generation. According to the International Energy Agency, the EU’s renewable energy production was higher than its fossil fuel generation between February and early July of this year. The increased role of renewables has highlighted the investments necessary to make the transition to a 100 percent renewable power system faster and more economically efficient. To learn more, read “Leveraging Coronavirus Stimulus to Take a Giant Leap Toward Decarbonization.” 

Key Takeaways

  • While there are nuances depending on local circumstances, one significant takeaway is that the power system as a whole can handle a more rapid shift to renewables than grid operators have long assumed. 
    • “What we found was the energy system can cope really well with much more renewable power and that it’s possible to raise the ambitions around adding more clean energy,” said Sushil Purohit, president of Wärtsilä Energy.
  • Charting a more rapid and financially efficient transition to a 100 percent renewables future was a primary objective of Wärtsilä’s recent report, Aligning Stimulus With Energy Transformation, based on its Atlas modeling. 
    • The report demonstrates how using energy-related stimulus investments to support clean energy could speed decarbonization in five key countries: the U.S., the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany and Australia.
  • According to the report, 54 percent of the $400 billion pledged has been targeted to benefit fossil-fuel-based energy, while 36 percent has been devoted to clean energy. 
    • In the U.S., more than 70 percent of the current $100 billion allocated for energy stimulus was pledged to fossil fuels, compared to less than 30 percent for clean energy.

Path to 100% Perspective

Beyond the issue of decarbonization, this is a missed opportunity to spark near-term job creation. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, every $10 million of government spending on renewables creates 75 jobs, while the same amount invested in fossil fuels creates 27 jobs. For the U.S., reallocating the $72 million of the COVID-19 energy stimulus currently earmarked for fossil fuels to clean energy would result in 544,000 new jobs, 175 percent more than would be produced in the traditional energy sector. In addition, these investments would result in 107 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity and a 6.5 percent increase in renewable electricity generation, from 17.5 percent to 24 percent.

New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050

At-a-Glance:

BloombergNEF (BNEF) published its New Energy Outlook 2020 (NEO) in October. The NEO projects the evolution of the global energy system over the next 30 years. This report is widely utilized by planners, strategic thinkers, and investors in developing long-term forecasts and plans. One of the NEO’s most notable projections is that the sharp drop in energy demand from the Covid-19 pandemic will remove about 2.5 years’ worth of energy sector emissions between now and 2050. To learn more, read New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

Other notables from the report:

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) reach upfront price parity with Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles before 2025.
  • Gas is the only fossil fuel to grow continuously through the outlook, gaining 0.5% year-on-year to 2050.
  • Coal demand peaked in 2018 and collapses to 18% of primary energy by mid-century, from 26% today.
  • In the NEO Climate Scenario, the clean electricity and hydrogen pathway requires 100,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power generation by 2050. This power system is 6-8 times bigger than today’s and generates five times the electricity.
  • Green hydrogen provides just under a quarter of total final energy in 2050 under the Climate Scenario.
  • Reducing emissions well below two degrees under the clean electricity and green hydrogen pathway requires between $78 trillion and $130 trillion of new investment between now and 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The dramatic fall in once-expensive renewable and flexible capacity costs has transformed energy investment over the last decade and the pace of change in accelerating. The cost of offshore wind, for example, has fallen by 63% since 2012. With a renewed focus on future-proofing their business models, utilities have increased renewable energy investments, taking advantage of the certainty that clean energy brings to the balance sheet. In effect, adopting renewable energy, coupled with flexible generation and storage for system balancing, is akin to purchasing unlimited power up-front, as opposed to placing bets on fluctuating oil prices and exposure to narrowing environmental regulation.

 

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Renewable Electricity Set To Power Past Coal And Gas By 2025

At-a-Glance:

Global economic growth has dropped this year because of COVID-19 and the energy sector has been among the hardest-hit, with oil prices at one point turning negative as demand slumped.

However, one part of the energy industry has defied the downturn – and is set to post record growth this year and next. Cost reductions and sustained policy support are set to drive strong growth in renewable energy. By 2025, renewables will have usurped coal to become the biggest source of electricity generation globally. To learn more, read “Renewable Electricity Set To Power Past Coal and Gas By 2025.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) Renewables 2020 report says that almost 200GW of new clean power capacity will be installed in 2020, almost 90 percent of all new power capacity around the world.
  • Renewable electricity generation will increase by 7 percent globally in 2020, underpinned by the record new capacity additions, the Agency says. This growth comes despite a 5 percent annual drop in global energy demand, the largest since World War II.
  • India’s renewable energy sector is set to double in 2021.
  • Global growth in renewable capacity in the first 10 months of 2020 is already 15 percent higher than the same period last year, despite the pandemic, and growth is set to continue.
  • But while renewables in the power sector are going from strength to strength, the COVID crisis has hit electric vehicles and renewable heat hard

Path to 100% Perspective:

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. In 2018, investment in renewable power capacity was about three times higher than the amount invested in new coal- and gas-fired generation combined, according to the global renewable energy organization REN21. Worldwide investment in renewables has exceeded $230 billion for nine years in a row.

 

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Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions

At-a-Glance:

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) would provide California with 15 percent of the emissions reductions necessary to meet its goal of a carbon-neutral economy in 2045, and it would save the state $750 million in costs for solar generation and grid-scale batteries, according to a new study. The report was released in October by the non-profit Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and Stanford University. According to the report, 20 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted by 76 large industrial and power-generating emitters in California, could be extracted and stored underground at a profit. To learn more, read “Renewables alone won’t satisfy California’s clean energy ambitions.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Clean firm power available whenever needed and most likely to come from natural gas, is necessary to smooth out the peaks and valleys that are inherent to wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, according to EFI.
  • Transportation accounts for 40 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. The need for clean firm power will surge in concert with the growth of electric vehicles as the state moves to phase out gasoline-fueled cars by 2035.
  • Industry in California is a larger source of emissions than the power sector today, and it has few options available to reduce CO2 apart from CCS. Cement production, for example, requires high temperatures, but only 40 percent of its emissions are from combustion; a larger fraction is process related.
  • A federal tax credit known as 45Q offers $22 per ton of CO2 that is captured and used for enhanced oil recovery or other end uses, increasing to $35 in 2026 and adjusted for inflation thereafter. The credit is $34 per ton, increasing to $50, for CO2 that is captured and injected to geologic storage.
  • The research found that ethanol plants, hydrogen producers, and refineries in the state could capture and store CO2 profitably with existing incentives.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The record breaking heat wave that swept across the western part of the country and caused a series of blackouts in the Golden State this summer, offered additional modelling opportunities to demonstrate the most effective mix of energy to accommodate any extreme weather situation and 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. The “Optimal Path“ includes using power-to-gas (PtG) along with existing and future renewable energy.

 

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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. 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil

At-a-Glance:

NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s biggest provider of wind and solar energy, is now more valuable than oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp., once the largest public company on Earth. NextEra ended Wednesday, October 7, with a market value of $145 billion, topping Exxon’s $142 billion. The oil major’s U.S. rival, Chevron Corp., also surpassed it in value for the first time. To learn more, read “NextEra Now More Valuable Than Exxon as Clean Power Eclipses Oil.” (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • NextEra has emerged as the world’s most valuable utility, largely by betting big on renewables, especially wind.
  • NextEra had about 18 gigawatts of wind and solar farms at the end of last year, enough to power 13.5 million homes. And it’s expanding significantly, with contracts to add another 12 gigawatts of renewables. Its shares have surged more than 20% this year.
  • At the same time, Exxon’s shares have tumbled more than 50% as the pandemic quashed global demand for fuels. The company’s second-quarter loss was its worst of the modern era and, in August, Exxon was ejected from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
  • The company was worth $525 billion in 2007, more than three times its current value.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The global economic shift away from fossil fuels continues to become more evident as more public commitments are being announced and financial milestones such as this one are making history. However, continued efforts to reach renewable energy goals are still being monitored worldwide as organizations and governments are piecing together innovative solutions and strategic partnerships designed to pave a path to a renewable energy future.

 

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This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment

At-a-Glance:

The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. And yet a report released in September, by the International Energy Agency, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. The secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t happen by just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport. To learn more, read “This is How the Government Can Ramp Up Climate Tech Investment.”  (Reading this article requires a subscription.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Physicist Varun Sivaram sees the first step is to establish a National Energy Innovation Mission and create a White House Task Force to coordinate spending across different federal agencies. Sivaram and his team include a draft executive order in the report so the next administration can just plug and play.
  • Step two is to ramp up spending on energy innovation research and development from the current rate of about $9 billion a year to at least $25 billion by 2022.
  • The plan breaks down decarbonization into 10 categories where breakthroughs must occur. These include clean fuels, clean agricultural systems, carbon capture use and sequestration, and carbon removal.
  • One of the most persuasive moments in the report comes in a chart showing the disconnect between the sectors in the U.S. responsible for emissions and the corresponding research budget through the Department of Energy. Electricity produces 27% of emissions but gets 47% of the research dollars, while industry produces 22% of the emissions but receives 6% of the innovation funding.
  • The proposed budget would remedy that by adding money to underfunded areas, such as tripling the money for carbon capture from $115 million a year to $300 million.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Government economic stimulus must go beyond merely boosting the amount of renewables, but should also support system flexibility. We don’t just need wind turbines and solar panels but also energy storage, optimization platforms and flexible power plant technology to balance the influx of renewables. Energy storage and digital optimization is already becoming essential as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid to manage the volatility of wind and solar. Flexible gas engine technology is ready to use future fuels such as green hydrogen and synthetic methane derived from renewable energy sources (Power-to-X). These will help to balance out the longer-term needs of the grid, that can’t be matched by shorter duration energy storage.

 

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg