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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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EIA: Renewables will make up 23% of U.S. electric power generation next year

At-a-Glance:

Electric power generated from renewable energy sources in the U.S. will rise to nearly 23% in 2022, according to short-term guidance released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Renewables – including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy – became the second-most prevalent U.S. electricity source in ­­2020, trailing only natural gas. New additions of solar and wind generating capacity in 2021 were offset by reduced generation from hydropower in 2020, according to EIA, keeping the renewable share of electricity generation flat from 2020 to 2021. To learn more, read, “EIA: Renewables will make up 23% of U.S. electric power generation next year.”

Key Takeaways:

Findings from EIA’s August short-term outlook:

  • Estimate +14.7 GW of new wind capacity in 2020, +17.6 GW in 2021, and +6.3 GW in 2022
  • Estimate +10.6 GW utility-scale solar in 2020, +16.2 GW in 2021, and +16.6 GW in 2022
  • Estimate +10 GW small-scale solar capacity from 2021-2022
  • Expect significant solar capacity increases in Texas

Path to 100% Perspective:  Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize our power system fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and future fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.  Electricity generation in the United States was responsible for approximately 30% of CO2 generation in 2017. As other industrial sectors decarbonize they will become more reliant on utility infrastructure to supply carbon-free or carbon-neutral energy, in effect increasing utility load.

 

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ERCOT releases plan to boost reliability after blackouts, as report outlines gas, electric failures

At-a-Glance:

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released a 60-point roadmap outlining how the grid operator plans to ensure the state’s power grid is more reliable, following the catastrophic blackouts last winter that almost shut down the region’s entire electric system. A report released by he University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute analyzes what went wrong,  finding the outages that plagued Texas last winter were caused by multiple failures across the gas and electric systems, including, in part, fuel shortages, outages at critical fuel facilities and non-weatherized power plants. To learn more, read “ERCOT releases plan to boost reliability after blackouts, as report outlines gas, electric failures.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The Texas legislature passed comprehensive legislation intended to overhaul the state’s power grid and strengthen reliability.
    • Two of the bills, signed into law, will require power companies to weatherize their power plants and transmission lines, and require ERCOT’s board to be appointed by state legislators.
  • UT’s report found the “failure” of the natural gas and electric system during the February winter storm “had no single cause.”
    • All generation technologies — gas, coal and nuclear plants, as well as solar and wind facilities — failed in some capacity as a result of the storm.
  • ERCOT’s most extreme winter scenario underestimated demand by about 9,600 MW, or 14%, the report found, while weather models inaccurately predicted the timing and severity of the storm.
  • Several generating units were not weatherized properly, the report found, in part leading to these issues.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

February’s arctic cold wave caused widespread blackouts in Texas because many power plants were not designed for extreme ambient temperatures, which caused them to become inoperable during the below freezing temperatures. Winterizing gas supply and power plants is required to avoid another blackout scenario. Although it is more expensive to winterize the gas supply and power plants, it is necessary to offer reliability. On the open electricity markets, plant investors struggle to see the point of winterizing for extreme conditions that may not happen. Indeed, it is going to be more expensive to engineer power plants to expand the temperature range down from 15 degrees fahrenheit to 0 degrees fahrenheit, but the critical need for power during these conditions would make the investment prudent.

NREL releases five-year study on continent-wide integration of renewable energy resources

At-a-Glance:

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released findings from it five-year North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS), which aims to inform grid planners, utilities, industry, policymakers, and other stakeholders about challenges and opportunities for continental system integration of large amounts of wind, solar, and hydropower to support a low-carbon future grid.

The study looked at a range of future scenarios and considered potential impacts on costs, emissions, resource adequacy, and specific technologies. To learn more, read “NREL releases five-year study on continent-wide integration of renewable energy resources.” 

Key Takeaways:

  • NREL said that four key findings emerged from the analysis.
    • Finding 1: Multiple Pathways Can Lead to 80% Power-Sector Carbon Reduction Continent-Wide by 2050.
    • Finding 2: The Future Low-Carbon Power System Can Balance Supply and Demand in a Wide Range of Future Conditions.
    • Finding 3: Interregional and International Cooperation Can Provide Significant Net System Benefits Through 2050.
    • Finding 4: Operational Flexibility Comes From Transmission, Storage, and Flexible Operation of All Generator Types.

Path to 100% Perspective: 

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. The latest IPCC report finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the opportunity to limit warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will slip beyond our reach. A rapid acceleration in renew- able energy output can provide the near-term emissions reductions that are crucial for holding the global temperature rise to 1.5C°, but only if pathways to 100% renewables are fully embraced by energy leaders. 

The grid’s big looming problem: Getting power to where it’s needed

At-a-Glance:

In the punishing heat wave that struck the Pacific Northwest, about 17,000 electricity customers were without power in Washington state in June. Nearly 20,000 more were enduring blackouts in Idaho, Oregon, California and Nevada. Those aren’t devastating numbers, but they are a reminder that the electrical grid in America is frayed and always operating close to the edge. To learn more, read “The grid’s big looming problem: Getting power to where it’s needed.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • A central issue is chronic congestion on transmission lines that bring power from where it’s made to where it’s wanted.
  • In Texas, ERCOT says congestion costs the state about $1 billion a year. In northern Vermont, officials have put a moratorium on new solar and wind projects, because the transmission lines can’t carry any more electricity.
  • A consequence of congestion is that wind and solar equipment is sometimes unable to operate because there is no room on the lines to carry their electricity. For example, in New York state last year, 62 gigawatt-hours of wind power was curtailed.
  • A larger problem is that wind, solar, and other projects can wait years before they get the green light to connect to transmission lines. Currently, the waiting list includes proposed renewable power plants capable of turning out 680 gigawatts.
  • Up to now, much of the country has pursued a market-based approach, with different companies producing, transmitting and distributing power.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Addressing grid capacity will be essential to realizing a 100% zero emission electricity system by 2035. To accommodate the significant amount of renewables to be installed, flexibility in the form of energy storage and carbon neutral flexible gas power plants will be key to balancing the grid. The U.S. will need 410 GW of new battery energy storage by 2035, combined with 116 GW of new flexible gas-fired power capacity operating on renewable bio or synthetic carbon neutral fuels.

 

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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.

New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases

At-a-Glance:

The new CEO of SunPower Corp. – a veteran of Amazon.com Inc. – wants to make the rooftop solar-buying process easier for homeowners. in an interview Wednesday. “Until we make getting solar as simple as buying a book on Amazon, we’re not going to stop,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Peter Faricy said. To learn more, read “New SunPower CEO Wants Buying Solar as Easy as Amazon Purchases.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interest in residential solar is surging in the U.S. with climate change a threat to the power grid, however, only about 3% of the country’s homes are equipped with panels.
  • Rooftop-solar companies attribute market penetration to lengthy permitting processes and low-tech sales techniques.
  • SunPower’s new CEO, Peter Faricy, who spent 13 years at Amazon.com, thinks the solar business is ripe for digital innovation.
  • SunPower deployed 77 megawatts of residential solar in the first quarter, up from 70 megawatts during the same period last year.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Solar energy generates only about 2% of Earth’s electricity today, it is projected to generate 22% by 2050. Electric utilities and governments across the world are moving towards 100% carbon-free energy. To succeed, they need to not only increase renewable generation, but also to rapidly reduce the use of fossil fuels. Renewables and storage alone cannot rapidly decarbonize  power systems fast enough. Optimizing power resources, renewable energy and future fuels is the way to pave the Path to 100%.

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.