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.

 

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