#PathTalks: Chile moving towards a future of 100% renewable energy

Chile has one of the most ambitious decarbonization plans in the world, targeting carbon neutral electricity in 2050. This South American country is already at a 70% renewable energy share with some of the world’s best wind and solar resources available. It is possible to retire coal in Chile before 2030 and to reach a 100% carbon neutral power system before 2050.

#PathTalks host Fernanda Castro speaks with Wärtsilä Chile General Manager, Alejandro McDonough about the updated study “Towards a Future of 100% Renewable Energies” and what it could mean in accelerating the energy transition in Chile.

The study indicates that although competitive renewable energy and battery storage are available, the missing piece of the puzzle is long-term energy storage, which has the role of ensuring proper system function and reliability even during longer usual weather patterns such as drought, extreme heat or cold waves, cloud cover and rain, low wind periods as well as low solar seasons such as winter.

This video is in Spanish, but includes English subtitles.

Wärtsilä Report Urges 100% Renewables Sooner, Uruguay Proves It Can Happen Now

At-a-Glance:

With the COP26 conference happening in Glasgow, many climate and environmental  groups are urging nations to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. A new report from Wärtsilä entitled Front Loading New Zero argues that nations can adopt 100% renewable systems faster than currently planned. To learn more, read “Wärtsilä Report Urges 100% Renewables Sooner, Uruguay Proves It Can Happen Now.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The new report says significant cost reductions can be achieved by front loading the deployment of renewables — mostly wind and solar — and by utilizing the technologies needed to balance their inherent intermittency with energy storage and thermal generating stations.
  • Wärtsilä CEO Håkan Agnevall explains, “As we approach COP26, our Front-Loading Net Zero report should act as a wake-up call for leaders, as this is our last and best chance to get countries on pathways to carbon neutrality.
  • Sushil Purohit, president of Wärtsilä Energy adds, “There is no single solution that fits all markets, and this report highlights the different paths and technologies that can be utilized. The ultimate aim, however, is common to all and that is to decarbonize energy production and take the fullest advantage of our natural energy sources.”
  • In 2007, Uruguay had to rely on electricity imported from neighbors like Brazil and Argentina.
    • Within 10 years, it had 4,000 MW of installed capacity.
    • Today, 98% of the electricity for its 3.4 million inhabitants comes from renewables, including hydro.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The price of electricity does not need to increase when power systems move to net zero. Utilities are shifting from a costly operational expenditure (opex) model, where capital is continually drawn into fuelling and maintaining legacy inflexible coal, oil, and gas plants – to a new model where up-front capital expenditure (capex) is invested in predictable, low maintenance, renewable energy technology. Flexibility creates the conditions where renewable energy is the most profitable way to power our grids: ensuring back-up power is available when there’s insufficient wind or solar – and earning rewards from capacity mechanisms. Investing in renewable baseload is now viewed as buying ‘unlimited’ power up-front, as opposed to betting against fluctuating oil prices and narrowing environmental regulation.

 

Photo by Ernesto Velázquez on Unsplash

US reducing power sector CO2 emissions while growing economy: study

At-a-Glance:

The US power industry has been making steady progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with power sector carbon dioxide emissions decreasing about 10% between 2019 and 2020 because of a mixture of pandemic impacts, energy efficiency and fuel switching away from coal, a July 20 report said. This year’s report, which has been prepared since 1997, highlighted several “dramatic shifts,” as the share of power produced by non-hydro renewables increased 20% from 2019 levels and the share from coal-fired generation decreased by roughly 17%, the statement said. To learn more, read “US reducing power sector CO2 emissions while growing economy: study.”

Key Takeaways:

  • An S&P Global Platts analysis earlier this year showed the US now has at least 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, with aggressive plans in the works for 100% renewable power, carbon-free power or net-zero emissions, roughly double the number from a year ago, while 12 states have not initiated any clean energy plans.
  • The 100 largest power producers in the US own nearly 3,500 power plants and account for more than 80% of the sector’s power generation and reported air emissions, according to the benchmarking report, which relies on data from state agencies, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency and US Energy Information Administration.
  • The top five producers of zero-carbon power in 2019 were Exelon, NextEra Energy, Duke Energy, Tennessee Valley Authority and Entergy.
  • The top five generators with the lowest CO2 emissions rates in 2019 were Exelon, Public Service Enterprise Group, NextEra Energy, Entergy, and Dominion Energy, according to the report.
  • Facilities in Texas produced 483 million MWh compared with just 42 million MWh in Wyoming, but only about 19% of the power produced in Texas comes from coal, compared with 83.9% in Wyoming, he added.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

State, provincial, municipal and in some cases national governments are declaring mandatory targets for 100% clean power. These regulatory targets are often considered renewable mandates as it is commonly understood that wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy sources are needed to replace fossil-fuel power plants in a zero-carbon emissions future. According to the UCLA Luskin Center For Innovation November 2019 report of the Progress Toward 100% Clean Energy in Cities and States Across the U.S., a growing number of investor owned utilities are making 100% commitments, whether the states they supply energy to mandate the requirement or not. This private-public commitment to decarbonization is continuing to build momentum toward a renewable energy future. 

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.

Wartsila case study: DC-coupled energy storage systems ideal for real-time trading

At-a-Glance:

With more opportunities to sell energy into new energy markets, energy developers are thinking creatively about wasted energy and harnessing greater efficiency. There are two important evolutions in energy storage technology that solar power producers are opting for when purchasing new systems: solar projects are leveraging the efficiencies of DC-coupled design in energy systems just at the emergence of market bidding as a new industry standard. As more developers pair solar systems with energy storage, the convergence of these two trends serve as an anchor design for utility-scale solar and storage projects going forward to ensure these systems are as optimized and impactful as possible. To learn more, read “Wärtsilä case study: DC-coupled energy storage systems ideal for real-time trading.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Wärtsilä recently announced a solar PV and storage project that incorporates both DC-coupled design and market bidding and illustrates the most efficient designs and revenue-generating systems out there.
  • The Wärtsilä system, a 40-MW/80-MWh energy storage system, located in Mitchell County, Georgia, will enable a subsidiary of RWE Renewables (Hickory Park Solar) to sell nearly 200 MW of generation from the solar PV panels to Georgia Power Company.
  • The RWE project is Wärtsilä’s first DC-coupled system and the largest application of the GridSolv Quantum solution which is a fully integrated modular energy storage system that is highly optimized for DC-coupled systems.
  • The RWE project is also the first application of Wärtsilä’s new cloud-based IntelliBidder software. IntelliBidder leverages machine learning and optimization algorithms based on automated and forecasted data and real-time trading for elevated value-based asset management and portfolio optimization.

Path to 100% Perspective:

This is one of the very few projects globally on this scale using DC-coupling. Delivery of this innovative equipment is scheduled for September 2021 and the plant is expected to commence commercial operations in November. The global technology company previously delivered energy storage solutions to RWE Renewables in Texas and Arizona.

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.

Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology

At-a-Glance:

In light of mounting global environmental issues, Toyota Motor North America is continuing to take measures to achieve net zero carbon emissions and make a positive environmental impact. The Mirai, a signature innovation for the company, is just one development at the heart of such commitment, with Toyota openly expressing its passion and commitment for hydrogen. To learn more, read Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Toyota is committed to hydrogen fuel cell-electric technology because it is a clean, versatile, and scalable electrification platform that can meet a broad range of customers’ mobility needs with zero emissions.
  • Since 2015, over 6,600 Mirai have been sold or leased in California making it the most popular fuel cell vehicle on the road today.
  • A new, second-generation fuel cell system along with the additional hydrogen capacity gives the second generation Mirai a range of over 400 miles – as much, or more, range than a traditional gas-powered car.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen has a high potential of becoming the fuel of the future, helping societies move towards decarbonization. So far, the market for hydrogen engines has been limited, but the need for them is beginning to emerge as the use of fossil fuels is gradually reduced and finally banned. Because hydrogen was not used as a power generation fuel in the past, the technologies to combust and use it in different applications need to be developed. Wärtsilä is testing concepts for both blending hydrogen into natural gas as well as pure hydrogen operation. The R&D process will continue, testing the fuel first on a small scale to define optimal dimensions and parameters for hydrogen engines.

Photo by Christina Telep on Unsplash

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

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.

 

Photo by Paul Tune on Unsplash

The 10 most innovative corporate social responsibility companies of 2021

At-a-Glance:

From sustainably manufactured shoes to offsetting 75 years of carbon waste, these ten initiatives set the bar for this year’s most innovative companies in the category of corporate social responsibility. To learn more and view the full list read The 10 most innovative corporate social responsibility companies of 2021.” 

Key Takeaways:

  • Microsoft promised to become carbon neutral by 2030 and, by 2050, to remove all the carbon the company has ever emitted since its founding in 1975.
  • Natural products retailer Grove Collaborative has committed to removing all plastics from its product lines by 2025.
  • Consumer electronics design company Logitech has committed to label its products with a carbon footprint number by 2025 to help consumers make more informed decisions and hold itself accountable for “total carbon transparency”.
  • Twisted X is driving down waste in the fashion industry by using sustainable raw materials in its production and is aiming for its shoes to contain 80% “eco elements”, such as rice husks and algae, by the end of 2021.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Lower costs and increasing spending on renewables are driving deeper penetration of renewable energy around the globe. While solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And while wind generates 5% of today’s electricity, it is projected to generate 26% by 2050. While two thirds of the world’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels today, by 2050 two-thirds of electricity will be generated from zero-carbon sources, with almost half coming from renewables and the rest from hydroelectric and nuclear power. The writing is on the wall: the global shift to renewable power generation has begun, and there is no going back.

 

Photo by Josh Power on Unsplash

Utilities Are the Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?

At-a-Glance:

In the early 2000’s, utilities were unable to grasp the climate change movement. Today, they have been swept up by it – a function of stricter environmental regulations, cheaper natural gas, and affordable renewables. But if electrification and decarbonization are realized, it could pay big dividends for power companies. To learn more, read Utilities Are The Focus Of Electrification And Decarbonization, But Can They Deliver?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • About 70% of the largest U.S. electric and gas utilities now have net-zero goals, says S&P Global Market Intelligence.
  • The Boston Consulting Group analyzed a “model utility” with 2-3 million customers. It found that it would need to invest between $1,700 and $5,800 in grid upgrades per electric vehicle (EV) through 2030.
  • Xcel Energy has announced plans to serve 1.5 million EVs by 2030. Xcel Energy Chair Ben Fowke expects 60% of the utility’s electric generation to be fueled by renewables in 2030 – with some natural gas as a backup.

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. Accurate modelling can make a critical difference in renewable integration, resilience and reliability. Finally, energy storage systems designed for daily shifting with less than 12 hour duration are not cost optimal for long-term storage and energy time-shifting in high renewable power systems.

 

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash