How Utah Olympic bid could bolster shift to clean energy

At-a-Glance: 

Salt Lake City is vying to host the Olympic Games in 2030 or 2034, but all host cities must meet the demands of the International Olympic Committee to “run a two-week, snow-based international sporting event and leave the climate better off than before.” It’s hoped this will catalyze the clean energy transition in Utah, where more than 60 percent of the state’s net electricity generation came from coal in 2021. For more read: How Utah Olympic bid could bolster shift to clean energy.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mario Molina, president of the climate advocacy group Protect Our Winters, said that an Olympics bid should put pressure not just on the host city, but the state and entire country, to be more aggressive about renewable energy — even with Utah’s current reliance on fossil fuels.
  • According to IOC guidance issued in 2020, organizing committees for each Olympics will be required to minimize and compensate direct and indirect carbon emissions created by the event, as well as implement “lasting zero-carbon solutions for the Olympic Games and beyond.”
  • Salt Lake City has set a goal of achieving net 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
  • A study from the University of Waterloo found that without action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, only one of 21 previous Winter Olympics host cities — Sapporo, Japan, which hosted in 1972 — would have the right climate conditions to hold a safe event by 2080. Even if the goals of the Paris climate accord are met, the report said, only eight of the 21 cities would have the right conditions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Massive world events like the Olympic games can influence change. It is encouraging that the IOC is requiring future host cities to think about the environment and make it a requirement. If Salt Lake City can achieve its decarbonization goals, in cooperation with the state of Utah and other surrounding cities, it can be an example to other cities around the world.

Australia and U.S. Join Forces on the Path to Net-Zero

At-a-Glance: 

The United States and Australia signed the Australia – United States Net-Zero Technology Acceleration Partnership at the Sydney Energy Forum, a formal partnership to accelerate the development and deployment of zero emissions technology, and cooperate on critical minerals supply chains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while supercharging economic growth. For more read: Australia and U.S. Join Forces on the Path to Net-Zero.

Key Takeaways:

  • Both countries share ambitious targets to reach net-zero by 2050.
  • The two countries will work together to unlock critical advances in long-duration storage, grid integration, clean hydrogen, direct air capture, and critical minerals and materials – providing an essential opportunity to export the innovations that will accelerate the global clean energy transition.
  • Cooperation will be practical, inclusive of industry, research and private sector to drive investment, trade, and development of commercial opportunities between our countries in low and zero emissions technologies and critical material that will drive them.
  • Initial areas for cooperation include the development of long duration energy storage technology, as well as digital electricity grids and technology to support the integration of variable renewable energy, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide removal, including direct air capture.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Cooperation, not only across the world but on a smaller scale, should help accelerate the decarbonization journey for everyone. A key obstacle to achieving net zero in some countries is the lack of the local government’s understanding and acceptance that decarbonization can’t be achieved overnight but through careful planning and measured steps along the way. You can’t simply shut down coal-powered plants and switch completely to wind and solar because they aren’t always reliable. First, you need storage capabilities and a flexible power plant, capable of starting and stopping when needed, to ensure electricity is available.

U.S. Dept. Of Energy Joins New Federal–State Partnership To Grow Domestic Offshore Wind Supply Chain

At-a-Glance: 

The first of its kind forum between 11 East Coast Governors and Administration officials will enable collaboration to build a strong, U.S.-based supply chain for offshore wind, grow a skilled U.S. workforce, and accelerate work to address important regional matters. The partnership will advance the industry’s rapid development and provide more affordable clean energy to all Americans. Read more: U.S. Dept. Of Energy Joins New Federal–State Partnership To Grow Domestic Offshore Wind Supply Chain

Key Takeaways:

  • State and federal collaboration will help achieve the U.S. goal of 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. Achieving this goal will result in an expected $12 billion in annual investment in offshore wind projects, which in turn can lead to the construction of up to 10 manufacturing plants for offshore wind turbine components and new ships to install the turbines.
  • The partnership will advance the industry’s rapid development and provide more affordable clean energy to all Americans, helping accelerate President Biden’s goal of 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 and 100% clean electricity by 2035.
  • A report from the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium forecasts the need for an offshore wind workforce averaging between 12,300 and 49,000 full time workers annually.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, are the key to decarbonization around the world. This investment is a huge step for the United States towards that goal. It is also important to remember that these renewable energy sources are also variable. If the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, power operators need to have a reliable backup. Energy storage and power plants that can be started quickly when needed will be important to reliable energy generation in the future.

The US needs to build a bigger, stronger grid. FERC has a plan for that

At-a-Glance: 

A new federal proposal would task grid operators, states and utilities with planning a grid that can support clean energy over the long term — and fairly share the costs of building it. For more, read The US needs to build a bigger, stronger grid. FERC has a plan for that.

Key Takeaways:

  • The U.S. has abundant clean energy sources but the grid does not reliably connect those sources with population centers that need it the most.
  • The proposal, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC), would require all regulated transmission providers to undertake planning in a ​“sufficiently long-term, forward-looking basis to meet transmission needs driven by changes in the resource mix and demand.
  • Providers would also need to consider a number of factors in determining the benefits of regional transmission plans to be weighed against the costs of building them. For example, converting to clean energy sources may be more expensive in the short term but would pay off in the long run.
  • The proposal is not final. Stakeholders — including transmission grid operators, state utility and energy regulators, transmission-owning utilities, independent transmission and energy developers — will have months to comment on the proposal before FERC votes on a final rule, potentially before the end of this year. 

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% will vary across the world, however the transition must include more clean energy sources, like wind and solar, while reducing the use of fossil fuels like coal. To get there, energy producers must be willing to invest and prepare for future technologies and fuel sources. In addition, governments at all levels must be willing to work with providers by passing laws and regulations that will allow for innovation and progress, even if the benefits are not seen immediately. This FERC proposal is encouraging because it appears to pave the way for that cooperation.

A 100% Renewable Energy Future Is Possible, & We Need It

At-a-Glance: 

A transition to renewable energy is not just one of the most consequential tools at our fingertips to act on climate, but also represents a great opportunity to increase control over our energy choices, improve the health of our communities and the planet, create jobs and wealth, and much more. For more read A 100% Renewable Energy Future Is Possible, & We Need It.

Key Takeaways:

  • A new study called On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables examined how two dozen state members of the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA) can meet all of their electricity needs with renewable energy — while decarbonizing other sectors of the economy and ensuring equitable benefits to all communities.
  • Using the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) electricity model from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the study found that coal generation in member states essentially disappears by 2040 in USCA states as solar and wind generation grows exponentially.
  • The model found that the US would be about 73% renewable by 2040 because fossil fuel plants will still exist in other states and the power grid is so interconnected that generation is shared across state lines.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The Path to 100% is working to identify the fastest, most cost-effective, most reliable ways to decarbonize electricity — not just city by city, but across entire states and nations. As the article states, increasing the reliance on renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, will be critical to success. We must also determine a plan to realistically phase out fossil fuel plants which provide more consistent, reliable power around the clock. Renewable sources can be intermittent, so battery technology will need to improve and we will need to build flexible power plants that can run on sustainable fuels like hydrogen. The path will not be the same everywhere and the timeline may vary, but a 100% renewable energy future in the United States is possible by 2050 if everyone works together.

Renewable Energy Provided 24% Of US Electricity In December

At-a-Glance: 

In December of 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for nearly 24% of electricity generation across the U.S. Wind energy accounted for 11.9(, and solar accounted for 2.7%. These stats are an increase in comparison with previous years’ data, revealing that the new solar and wind power capacity does lead to noticeable increases in electricity generation from renewable sources. To learn more, read, Renewable Energy Provided 24% Of US Electricity In December.”

Key Takeaways:

    • The U.S. grid is vast, and power plants have lifespan longevity – therefore even 100% of new power capacity from renewable power plants results in a modest increase in the energy share’s electricity supply.
    • In December 2019 and December 2020, both nuclear and coal produced more electricity than renewable energy sources. 
      • In December 2021, renewables had passed both of them up and had a solid lead — 23.8% of electricity compared to 20.6% from nuclear power plants and 17.5% from coal power plants.
    • Renewables accounted for 21% of US electricity in 2021, up from 18.3% in 2019 and 20.3% in 2020.
      • Solar and wind account for the majority of that piece of the pie, 13% of all US electricity production in 2021, up from 9.7% in 2019 and 11.6% in 2020.

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. Current market trends show the energy landscape is in transition towards more flexible energy systems with a rapidly increasing share of renewable energy, declining inflexible baseload generation and wider applications of storage technology. The declining costs of renewables have begun to reduce new investments into coal and other inflexible baseload technologies; a transition which will eventually cause renewables to become the new baseload.

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.

 

Navigating the evolving state of the storage industry

At-a-Glance: 

At-a-Glance: Wärtsilä’s Vice President of Energy Storage and Optimization, Andy Tang, details that the energy storage industry is in its infancy of a global pricing reset which will impact deployments for years to come. Yet, there are solutions that can help energy providers navigate the dynamics of the shifting market. To learn more, read, “Navigating the evolving state of the storage industry.”

 

Key Takeaways:

  • A decade-long cost decline has driven battery adoption, making the United States the largest market for stationary storage in the world.
    • Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that annual demand for lithium-ion batteries will surpass 2.7 terawatt-hours by 2030.
  • The solar industry is dealing with similar industry-wide supply chain constraints that have caused the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to lower their 2022 forecasts by as much as 25 percent.
  • Integrators will need to do their part to set transparent and reasonable expectations on cost structure and timelines with offtakers.
  • Leveraging weather, use-case, historical system performance and battery data, energy management software can forecast how much power an adjoining plant will produce and take advantage of and balance for price variations, among other insights.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Energy providers are now tasked with navigating the most efficient energy storage deployment tactics in the midst of the industry’s global pricing reset. Battery storage remains a competitive and popular storage option among today’s power system technologies. However, what can utilities and grid operators expect batteries to cost in the coming decades and how will this technology likely evolve to meet market needs in the future?

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 – it is crucial to manage variability in supply and demand to manage the industry’s pricing shift. 

 

California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO

At-a-Glance: 

California’s energy transition requires 53GW of solar PV by 2045, with the state’s transmission system requiring a $30.5 billion investment in addition to a major increase in energy storage to accommodate the additional power. A draft version of California ISO’s (CAISO) 20-Year Transmission Outlook report provides a roadmap for the next twenty years, as well as a draft 2021-2022 Transmission Plan covering the next 10 years. To learn more, read, “California’s energy transition to require 53GW of solar PV, US$30bn+ for grid upgrades by 2045, says CAISO.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • The report outlined that by 2045, the state would require 53GW of utility-scale solar, 37GW of battery energy storage systems, 4GW of long-duration storage and more than 2GW of geothermal, alongside 24GW of wind power reserves, all of which need to be connected to the grid.
  • Transmission needs will range from high-voltage lines that traverse significant distances to access out-of-state resources with lead times for such upgrades ranging from eight to 10 years being reasonable or optimistic.
  • The CAISO report forecast that the state’s peak load in 2040 would be 82.3GW, up from an estimated 64.1GW in 2030. 
    • CAISO would need to accommodate 73.9GW of this through its network.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The CAISO proposal reveals a sensitivity to seeking geographic diversification through transmission – a critical component to catering to each region’s renewable energy threshold. It falls on the shoulders of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. 

The electric grid is expected to be tripled in the coming years – developing the supportive infrastructure to offer a reliable, carbon-free and flexible power system requires proactive solutions to answer the call. Addressing grid capacity will be essential to realizing a 100% zero emission electricity system by 2050, and solar, wind, hydro and nuclear will all play a role in the future grid. The Path to 100% will require leveraging the appropriate technologies and renewable fuels to equip the energy transition. 

Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

At-a-Glance: 

BloombergNEF, a strategic researcher that looks at ways power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors can adapt to the energy transition, makes ten predictions for solar energy for 2022. The list focuses on the rapid growth of solar across the world as prices fall and the need for storage solutions increase. For more read Solar – 10 Predictions for 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The article predicts 2022 will be the first year in which more than 200GW of solar will be installed.
  • Strong demand for polysilicon materials drove prices up because production could not keep up in 2021. With new capacity ramping up in 2022, there should be an adequate supply that should trigger lower prices. In addition, new technologies joining the mix should help solar manufacturing to grow.
  • Installed utility-scale solar-and-storage will double, with the largest markets in China and the U.S. Residential solar-and-storage will be on the political and investment agenda with greater urgency than in previous years, as it is starting to be a significant sector.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The growth of solar energy and the anticipated lower costs is a huge step on the Path to 100%, but that alone will not be enough. Solar, along with wind, is variable and can’t be relied on to provide enough power around the clock. At night, for instance, solar would not generate power in real time. So the key is finding economical and efficient storage solutions as a backup when needed. One realistic option is power-to-gas (PtG), which could convert access wind and solar power to sustainable fuels, like hydrogen, and store it until needed to power future flexible power plants. 

How far have we really gotten with alternative energy?

At-a-Glance: 

Electricity generation from coal, oil and natural gas represented 60% of all power generated world-wide this year, down from 67% in 2010, according to data and consulting firm IHS Markit. That is likely to drop to 42% to 48% by 2030, depending on how aggressively countries move toward renewables. Each of the alternative fuels has its own potential, and its own obstacles. Here’s a closer look at current status and outlook for five types of carbon-free energy that could play a bigger role in the future. To learn more, read “How Far Have We Really Gotten With Alternative Energy?” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Energy Department says the U.S. now gets just 3% of its power from solar sources. 
    • Globally, just 4% percent of power generation this year is from solar, up from 1.4% five years ago, according to IHS Markit. 
    • Global installations will likely increase 20% this year to 175 gigawatts, according to IHS Markit. 
    • That’s about enough to power roughly 35 million U.S. households for a year.
  • About 10% of global commercial electricity production came from nuclear power in 2020, well below the high point in the mid-1990s of 17.5%, according to the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
  • Wind provides about 7% of the world’s electricity, a share projected to at least double by 2030, according to IHS Markit. 
    • Installations last year reached a record 93 gigawatts, up 53% from 2019, according to the Global Wind Energy Council industry group.
  • Geothermal plants provide less than 1% of the world’s electricity, but drilling has been on the rise for the past six years. 
    • An estimated 180 wells are being drilled each year for power generation, and that number is expected to rise to 500 by 2025.
  • The International Energy Agency says hydrogen currently supplies less than 1% of the world’s energy, and adds that only 1% of that amount is low-carbon, or green, hydrogen. 
    • The Hydrogen Council trade group forecasts that hydrogen could supply 20% of the world’s energy by 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Natural gas is a necessary factor in the transition towards cutting carbon emissions. Yet to achieve a net-zero goal, it is crucial for coal and oil fired plants to diminish entirely if we have any chance of reaching the proposed targets. Natural gas can be used to reduce carbon emission and aid in the transition to implementing alternative fuels once available, and economically priced. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the power sector pioneers the rapid decarbonization of economies worldwide. The technology needed to reach net zero already exists, however, planning and investment are needed to accelerate the energy transition. Critically, it’s not just economics that’s driving the energy transition. Today’s global targets for 2030 are nowhere near enough to meet the Paris targets, as the United Nations (UN) has made clear. Globally, emissions must be cut in half over the next decade. It is the job of every power company to now put strategies and capital in place to navigate to net zero and to embed flexibility at the heart of grids to unlock 100% renewable energy systems. To achieve this, utilities must commit to front-loading their efforts and investment strategies. 

 

Photo by Nuno Marques on Unsplash

Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch

At-a-Glance:

French energy giant TotalEnergies SE expects global oil demand to peak before the end of this decade, as more nations crack down on fossil fuels and promote cleaner power in transport and industry to mitigate global warming. Total’s 2021 Energy Outlook, which takes into account new net-zero pledges made by countries including the U.S. and China, assumes crude demand will plateau before 2030 and then decline. To learn more, read, “Total Sees Oil Demand Peaking Before 2030 in Power Switch.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Total’s Momentum scenario, which is based on environmental targets and policies announced worldwide, points to a 2.2 to 2.4-degree increase in global temperatures by the end of the century.
  • This year’s report “considerably” raises the company’s forecasts for global solar and wind investments by the middle of the century to electrify transport as governments increasingly ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles.
  • Meanwhile, natural gas is seen keeping its role as a transition fuel, especially as carbon dioxide and methane emissions are increasingly reined in.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

According to the IEA’s landmark 2050 roadmap, there is a viable pathway to build a global net zero emissions energy sector by 2050, but it is narrow and calls for a transformation in how energy is produced, transported and used globally. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that to limit global warming to 1.5C°, global CO2 emissions should decline by 45% by 2030 in comparison to 2010 and reach net zero by 2050.

Meanwhile, 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.

 

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Oil Giants Turn to Startups for Low-Carbon Energy ideas

At-a-Glance:

Some of the world’s biggest oil companies are turning to startups to help plot their future.

Energy giants including BP PLC and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are bolstering their venture capital arms—increasing budgets, hiring more staff and doing more deals—seeking out new low-carbon technologies to help future-proof their profits. The moves come as several big oil companies work to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and expand their low-carbon activities, partly in response to growing pressure from investors and governments to cut emissions. To learn more, read, “Oil Giants Turn to Startups for Low-Carbon Energy ideas.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the media outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • BP, Shell, and French peer TotalEnergies SE are now among the most active clean-tech investors, according to data provider PitchBook, with activity ramping up amid the shift to technologies like electric vehicles and solar and wind power.
  • BP now expects to spend up to $200 million a year, double what it has spent in previous years.
    • BP’s investments this year have included geothermal startup Eavor Technologies Inc.—where it was part of a $40 million funding round alongside Chevron Corp. —and autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica Ltd.
  • Shell declined to disclose its venture capital budget but said the number of annual investments it makes had doubled since 2017 to around 20 to 25 deals a year, typically between $2 million and $5 million in size.
    • This year, Shell’s investments included charging technology, hydrogen-electric planes, and a logistics company that aims to prevent trucks running without goods—all of which could ultimately reduce demand for oil.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The strategy by several international oil giants to invest in startups could reveal solutions that could evolve the oil industry into a net-zero resource. Many of these petroleum based businesses are already exploring hydrogen as a possible way to contribute to decarbonization efforts. To connect the dots further, 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. Flexibility, reliability and resilient grids are required to avoid power disruptions caused by extreme or intermittent weather conditions.

 

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash