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.

 

Photo by Jarosław Kwoczała on Unsplash

Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage

At-a-Glance

For decades oil producers have stored fossil fuels in manmade caverns carved into naturally occurring salt domes, deep below the surface of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Now, this hydrogen infrastructure will form the center of several marquee initiatives launched in 2020 to unlock the much broader potential of the most abundant element in the universe. To learn more, read “Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage.”

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrogen will power fuel cells to drive passenger vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, ships, airplanes, as well as heat and light buildings. It will enable levels of decarbonization unimaginable using only renewable resources and battery storage.
  • With limited demand and no real scale to date, green hydrogen sourced from renewable energy can cost four times as much as other options, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • “A truly hydrogen-based economy … appears out of reach, at least before 2030,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report released in November. “Energy transitions typically take decades.”

Path to 100% Perspective

Green hydrogen makes up less than 0.1% of the world’s 70 million-metric-ton annual hydrogen supply, according to the Green Hydrogen Coalition, a California-based nonprofit advocacy group. “Gray” hydrogen, produced from natural gas using high-temperature steam methane reforming, and “brown” hydrogen, made by gasifying coal, account for almost all hydrogen in use today. The chief customers are oil refineries, chemical plants and industrial manufacturers such as steel and cement makers. “Blue hydrogen,” a lower-carbon variant, also uses fossil fuels as a source but offsets emissions with carbon capture and storage. Blue and green hydrogen are not widely used at this time.

 

Photo by Isravel Raj on Unsplash