How ISOs and RTOs can create a more nimble, robust bulk electricity system and accelerate renewable energy.
Its no secret that the limiting factor for renewable energy growth is the lack of robust and coordinated transmission and the tools to control intermittency. This ISO/RTO Council report is probably the best update on the subject available. A great read and well worth time.
From the executive summary:
“. . . . specifically, the task force seeks to identify where technological deployment intersects with operational and policy considerations. This report is the culmination of that effort.
In the course of developing this report, three key priorities emerged as imperatives to continuously ensure the reliability and efficiency of the
Bulk Electric System as the penetration of emerging technologies continue to expand. Those identified priorities are as follows:
1. Renewable supply and integration: Many breakthroughs are being made in individual technologies such as renewable generation, grid-scale energy storage and microgrids, for example. However, is there enough innovative activity happening cohesively to integrate all of these disparate components into the overall electricity system?
2. Greater situational awareness: Several technological options are presenting themselves, but are they being exploited to their maximum potential and will they be enough to maintain adequate awareness over a changing system?
3. Controlling an increasingly distributed electricity system: As Distributed Energy Resources (DER)3 increasingly connect to the distribution system, their aggregate impact on the bulk electricity system4 is already evident. To what extent should operation of DERs be ‘controlled’ or influenced by the bulk system operator and what should that relationship look like? What technologies will best assist that framework.”
As this report demonstrates, we have the technology and the knowledge to speed this clean energy transition but we need the political will. It’s time for leadership at all levels to embrace what it is the greatest economic and environmental opportunity of our lifetime.Share this:
A survey by Public Opinion Strategies, a national Republican political and public affairs research firm with its roots in political campaigns, yet again not only illustrates how broad based support is for clean & renewable energy but also the issue by issue disconnects. A good piece here on the survey and the survey itself found here.
Of all the events I’ve attended in my 20 years in the solar industry, I will always remember the renewable energy finance conference I attended in 2012 where the major investment banks, pension funds, and project finance entities gave one presentation after another stating they treat wind and solar as any other energy generation asset class when looking at returns and risk. This was a major turning point for the renewables industry, as finance is the heartbeat of the rapidly expanding industry.
Consider the following facts: renewable energy industry growth is >30% YOY on average reaching $30B in 2016, renewables are the largest
generator of jobs in the U.S. in the last 4 years and it’s by far the largest sector of new electricity generation for the last 4 years. Since that conference, my phone has been ringing repeatedly, and weekly, with calls from the finance community looking for projects to purchase. Demand for projects far outstrips supply. The rate of return and the low risk profiles are that good.
So it amazes me that our new president and other elected officials can stand in front of the country and claim over and over that wind and solar power does not “pay off in less than 18 years”. Clearly Wall Street and other finance entities do not put capital work into a near USD $1 trillion global industry that are not producing solid, predictable long term returns. (See: global renewable energy investment market to exceed USD 350 billion by 2020) Of course when confronted with actual facts, the conversation go right to the specious argument that taxpayer funded subsidies makes renewable energy projects possible. Anyone that knows me knows my rant on this topic: the fossil fuel industry has 10X more embedded and ongoing subsidies than renewables.
The renewable energy industry has done remarkable work in bringing solar and wind to compete with a highly subsidized fossil fuel industry to a point that it’s now less costly than coal and on par with natural gas derived energy. The investment opportunity has never been better.
An excellent fact book on the U.S. sustainable energy transformation can be found at the bi-partisan Business Council for Sustainable Energy.Share this:
Like many Americans, I am an avid listener to American Public Media’s Marketplace show. The show bills itself as “the most widely heard program on business and the economy — radio or television, commercial or public broadcasting — in the country. That popularity can also be a problem when journalists on the show discuss something they don’t understand.Earlier this month, Marketplace had a weekly roundup on the economy, focusing on manufacturing jobs because of emphasis provided on this topic by both of the presidential campaigns. The guests were John Carney of the Wall Street Journal and Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post.
At the third minute, Rampell weighs in on whether clean energy jobs would really help laid-off manufacturing workers. At 4:30, Carney shows his complete ignorance and claims that clean energy jobs are “science fiction.”
I know that Marketplace knows better. Scott Tong does excellent clean energy reporting for the show on a regular basis.
Let’s set the record straight since Rampell and Carney clearly couldn’t do a basic Google search.
The solar industry alone has created one out of every 80 jobs in the United States since the great recession. When including wind, LED lighting, and other clean energy categories, that number could be close to one in 33.
For the solar industry, a majority of these new employment opportunities are blue collar construction and manufacturing jobs that pay an average of $21 per hour — far higher than the $16 per hour non-union manufacturing jobs that South Carolina was touting later in that episode.
Amazingly, even Kai Ryssdal got into the bashing by questioning if clean energy could make a dent in hiring laid off manufacturing and mining workers.
In fact, the solar industry has hired more veterans than anyone else, retrained coal workers, and even provided a soft landing for oil and gas workers who have lost their jobs. The vast majority of solar and wind workers are trained in less than six months because their previous work experience and training is completely transferrable.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind technician is the fastest growing job category — expanding twice as much as the next-fastest growing job, occupational therapy assistant.
In 2015, the manufacturing arms of the solar and wind industries employed tens of thousands of people making pieces and parts in the United States. This is up by 20,000 people over 2014. In fact, this number is expected to continue to grow at that pace for the next five years.
How does an amazing show like Marketplace get these things so wrong? How do folks from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal not know that solar and wind power now make up over 75 percent of new electric capacity additions in the United States — representing over $70 billion in new capital investment in 2016 alone. In so doing, these industries are generating substantial fees for investment banks, lawyers, accountants, and often advertising dollars for their newspapers and radio shows.
My sense is that these folks want to run as far away from environmentalists as possible. Clean energy in the United States has been defined by earnest environmentalists who, to their credit, embraced it wholeheartedly. But to our collective detriment, they spun an ideological, naïve story divorced from the reality of the energy economy transformation actually taking shape around us.
The result is that clean energy is mistakenly seen as a passive and precious solution for a future society — a delicate sunflower waving in the face of a muscular coal miner or a pristine field of green and sky of blue set against a dirt mound penetrated by a fracking rig. It feels more Utopian than aspirational, more luxury than necessity.
In short, it doesn’t feel American.
American is can-do, right-now, yes ma’am. Luckily, the actual transformation of the energy economy is as American as the Hoover Dam or the interstate highways, and even more earth-shaking. If only the discussion among politicians, media, business leaders, and the American public reflected that reality.
Unfortunately, the clean energy conversation is profoundly and unnecessarily polarizing. Like climate change itself, it’s become part of a larger culture war that fits neatly into the media’s predictable tendency of false equivalence, pitting workers against activists, businessmen against academics, and common sense against idealism. As a result, according to recent surveys, public sentiment about the urgency of action to prevent climate change is split along party lines between “let’s do something!” and “meh.”
The energy might be clean, but the work and the jobs are as rooted in dirt, sweat, and back-breaking labor as any American endeavor, and even more lasting.
We need to change the conversation to align with the deep emotional and aspirational narratives that speak to the American public. Clean energy could feel as all-American, cutting-edge, rugged, reliable, resilient, and tough as fracking. The same American ideals of independence, freedom, self-sufficiency, and opportunity can bring together green advocates and Tea Party stalwarts, labor and entrepreneurs, main street and Wall Street.
Independence is the heart of American identity. Clean energy is independence turned into electrons: the application of cunning, sweat, and ingenuity to harness the restless power of the American landscape.
The American energy economy is changing, and changing rapidly. Clean energy and energy efficiency is where the growth is happening. We can move of millions people from coal mining, low-tech manufacturing, and even oil and gas into good paying jobs that don’t negatively impact the health of people and the planet.
By rebranding clean energy, we can empower all Americans to work together for a stronger future. It’s time to get down and dirty
Without a healthy and productive environment and climate, nothing else matters. Nothing.
We can no longer depend on the U.S. federal government to lead on Climate Change.
193 nations around the world understand the anthropological science and the recent history of Climate Change and the threat it represents. Science is key to understanding how we arrived here and where Climate Change is heading.
The United States needs to lead on Climate Change and social activism is what gets its done in our democracy. Now more than ever, if we want to protect not only future generations but increasingly our current planet health, our time and money will be required, continually, to support activist groups who credibly lead this activism. 350.org, Greenpeace, NRDC, EDF, Ceres, Sierra Club and the list goes on.
Climate Change activism is underpinned with non-partisan science which is why I have supported Union of Concerned Scientist since 1985. In a time when the truth and facts mean nothing, UCS strives to make sure truthful science and fact is presented to our elected officials and the electorate. Their work is crucial not just because of the results of the recent election but also the accumulating and alarming data which shows that climate change is likely accelerating significantly beyond the models we have relied on. The graph below is an alarming indicator of just how serious and near term the threat is. The red line is 2016 ice accumulation.
Please consider supporting this highly productive and effective organization now by viewing the Union of Concerned Scientist website – www.ucsusa.org
But that prediction is less than certain as a result of the negatives and positives of the 5 year ITC extension.
Article originally posted on PV Tech
Author: Mark Osborne
Updated: According to the latest analysis by Deutsche Bank and in contrast to market research firms, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and GTM Research the US solar market is expected to grow in 2017, heralding in the last ‘gold rush’ period through 2020.
Deutsche Bank analyst, Vishal Shah said in a research note that PV module and inverter price declines would drive improved solar economics in 2017 and result in continued strong demand seen in the US market in 2016.
Shah noted: “This precipitous decline in module prices is also accompanied by a sharp decline in inverter prices, especially in the utility-scale and C&I [Commercial & Industrial] markets. As a result, we expect solar economics in several U.S. markets to improve significantly over the next 12-18 months. Our analysis suggests that project returns in the U.S. could likely exceed the returns solar developers achieved in other markets during prior cycle peaks and these returns are unlikely to improve as incentives gradually decline or net metering phases out. As such, we expect the final “gold rush” in the U.S. market to begin in 2017.
However, BNEF has recently cited the US ITC extension as “hurting” solar growth in 2017, due to the urgency to complete projects ahead of future ITC cuts is several years away. According to BNEF, overall US solar demand in 2017 is set to experience its first major slowdown after years of strong growth. BNEF also expects the US residential solar market to stay steady at around 2.8GW in 2017, a 0.3% increase over 2016 forecasts.
GTM Research had been the first firm to warn of a slowdown in the US market in 2017, citing utility-scale project slowdowns after the ITC extension at the end of 2016. The market research firm expected the overall US solar market to decline from around 14GW in 2016 to levels of around 7 to 8GW last seen in 2015.
Update: However, GTM Research has since told PV Tech that it latest forecast was closer to a flat year in 2017, compared to a dramatic drop. The research firm is guiding installs at 13.7GW in 2017, down slightly from 13.9GW in 2017.
A major decline in US installations is expected to occur in 2018, yet rebound to around 15GW in 2019 and over 17GW in 2020.
Deutsche Bank said it estimated around 8GW of primarily utility-scale projects were under various stages of development in Texas alone, while nationwide that figure stood at around 31GW, which would translate into a relatively flat 2017 market with 2016 but generate strong growth over the next three years.
“For 2018-20, we expect strong growth in all segments, and raise demand estimates from 13.2GW, 15.2GW and 17.4GW to 16.5GW, 18GW and 19.7GW respectively,” noted Shah.
Deutsche Bank’s forecast would seem to be the more bullish, currently.
PV module price declines steeper than expected
Only a month ago, Deutsche Bank’s Shah noted that industry participants at the SPI 2016 exhibition in Las Vegas expected average PV module prices to approach US$0.35c/W within the next 6-9 month timeframe, down from US$0.60c/W at the end of Q2, 2016.
However, Shah said in the latest report that US module prices had already declined by nearly a third in the Q3 to US$0.40c/W and were set to decline further to US$0.35c/W in the fourth quarter of 2016.Share this:
“Why are solar companies going out of business as the industry grows? The explanation is fairly simple, and it may continue to happen over and over again.”
The headlines above are from a recent article on Motley Fool. It s a familiar headline given the recent solar industry turmoil and the election falsehoods reported in the media. But the thesis like this one that the industry is in some self inflicted death spiral is just plain wrong.
The actual answer IS simple and straight forward:
- Solar energy and other renewables are competing with highly subsidized fossil fuel energy This is not new news. During its remarkable accent, the solar industry has been driven to meet a subsidized utility cost basis (kWh cost) that then ripples negatively across the entire solar industry supply chain.
- Fossil fuel subsidies run between 10x to 20x more than the amount renewable energy receives depending on sector and timeframe. Numerous articles on the specifics of the subsidy imbalance can be found here and in an older post on this blog.
- Of course the fossil fuel industry doesn’t pay for negative externalities – its been using ground level air and earth’s atmosphere as a garbage dump for particulate and GHG emissions. This represents an enormous economic burden to society via healthcare, environmental damage, climate change and general quality of life which is paid for in non-energy cost sectors. In other words, we are certainly paying for it, just not on the energy bill.
- And while the solar industry has done a great job of reaching near grid parity in certain markets despite this subsidy imbalance, a number of studies have shown that if you level the subsidy playing field – WITHOUT factoring in negative externalities, solar can be the same or lower kWh cost depending on locale.
- While a barrier to new, large balance sheet entrants, current efforts from Elon Must/Lyndon Rive and their SolarCity, as we ll as Sunpower, First Solar and many others to go large scale to solve immediate pressing global climate change problems, the fossil fuel subsidy largesse limits the success of these efforts.
- The enormity of the subsidy imbalance problem is global in nature and is well understood to be holding back a rapid transition to clean energy generation.
I always find it amusing when I hear free market fundamentalists opine on the renewable energy industry when they state that they would never invest in a sector that relies on subsidies to exist. The entire energy industry is not a pure market and has always been highly subsidized and regulated.
So, how much longer will societies around the world take to regulate a level playing field so the all important energy sector can meet the Paris climate accords targets?
Poll: More than three-quarters of Americans say next president should speed up adoption of renewable energy
Originally posted on solarserver.com, the author of this piece.
As Americans count down to Election Day, more than three-quarters (78 percent) believe the winner of the presidential race should prioritize the faster adoption of renewable energy, according to the seventh annual “Sense & Sustainability” study released on September 13th, 2016 by G&S Business Communications (G&S, New York).
According to the poll, more than 4 in 5 Americans (85 percent) believe customers benefit from having alternatives to conventional power utilities, such as distributed energy resources that include rooftop solar and wind.
In addition, more than three-quarters (77 percent) say government regulators should develop a pricing model that ensures utility companies pay for excess power supplied to the grid by smaller scale, independently owned device operators.
Despite strong public sentiment favoring the next president’s focus on renewables, the G&S study found that American opinion is practically split when it comes to elected leaders and their understanding of the costs associated with fossil fuels.
More than half (52 percent) disagree, as compared to 48 percent who agree, that elected officials are well informed about fossil energy’s total costs, among them the effects of air pollution on healthcare and the impact of climate change on property insurance.
Americans believe the advantages of market competition may go beyond cost savings. More than two-thirds (68 percent) feel it is more important to have a resilient power grid than to enjoy lower electricity costs.
“Even the contentious nature of this year’s presidential campaign could not distract Americans from recognizing the importance of renewable energy to future economic growth and their own personal well-being,” said Ron Loch, G&S managing director and sustainability consulting leader.
“It’s clear that public interest is served when there are discussions about the broader financial impact of fossil energy and the need to improve both energy efficiency and the infrastructure investment required to build a resilient power grid.”
Americans claim priority of renewables
One of the key finding from the study is that Americans voice strong support for raising the priority of renewables on the White House agenda: More than three-quarters of Americans (78 percent) believe the next president should dedicate more attention to speeding up renewable energy adoption.
Among issues ranked most influential on accelerating use of renewable energy, cost savings from energy efficiency was cited most often (26 percent), followed by energy security (23 percent) and cost to taxpayers for government incentives (19 percent).
The G&S Sense & Sustainability Study was conducted online by Harris Poll in August 2016 among 2,007 U.S. adults.
To obtain a summary of the G&S Sense & Sustainability® Study, please visit the company’s website.
In my previous Diversification Chronicles post I covered some of the high level reasons why the time is right for fossil fuel and electric utilities to pursue profitable diversification into the renewable energy industry. Below, I outline recent events and news that further highlights the legal, regulatory and market drivers that should create urgent diversification strategy development or expansion for companies with large CO2 and GHG negative externalities as a result of their business operations.
On August 9th, the federal 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the first time on the legality of the Obama administration’s estimated social cost of carbon (SCC). SCC was determined by federal agencies who worked together starting in 2008 to create an accurate SCC, a metric that represents the long-term economic damage to society, in U.S. dollars, from each incremental ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The latest estimate placed the SCC at $36 per metric ton of CO2.
The recent ruling upheld the Department of Energy’s use of the SCC metric in its analysis of standards for commercial refrigeration equipment. DOE used them for issuance of 2 rules in 2014: one of the rules set energy efficiency standards for 49 classes of commercial refrigeration equipment, while the other stipulated test procedures for the standards.
The refrigeration industry challenged DOE’s use of the social cost of carbon, but DOE’s use of the SCC metric, “was neither arbitrary nor capricious” according to senior federal judge Kenneth Ripple, who was appointed to the bench by President Reagan. The ruling was definitive in its entirety.
While this ruling only applies to the refrigeration industry in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, the implications are enormous for the oil & gas and electric utilities. The SCC metric as established by the US government is now a benchmark going forward. This may well be the first domino falling which would affect all CO2 & GHG emitters in near term.
For the first time ever, CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants will drop below those from natural gas in 2016, according to a new analysis from the federal Energy Information Agency. Renewable energy, energy efficiency, historically low prices for natural gas, and other factors have driven coal use down by >30% while natural gas has been replacing that fuel for generation.
It was always assumed that natural gas would be a solid 50-year bridge fuel combined with renewables, energy storage and other technologies. But with its rapid rise in use, less energy density, and methane issues, natural gas is becoming a larger CO2 & GHG contributor with projections putting it past coal emissions in its heyday.
In addition to overproduction, very low oil prices, and legal challenges surrounding potential prior knowledge of the impact of their industry on climate change, the oil & gas industries are facing a potentially game changing problem of how Wall Street will value each company’s fossil fuel reserves.
Typically, an oil & gas company’s stock market valuation is weighed heavily on proven reserves and ability to extract. With many countries looking at putting a price on CO2 and limiting extraction of oil & gas as a result of the COP 21 Paris Agreement, this becomes a crucial data point for both the investment community and the operating companies themselves.
Industry observers believe that it’s only a matter of a few years before the investment community significantly reduces the value of oil & gas companies and limits their equity positions. Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission is coming under pressure to change its rules to require energy firms to be more clear on what their material climate change risks are.
Combined with climate change symptoms seemingly accelerating over the last few years, these market and regulatory challenges make diversification into renewables an imperative. Short-term and weak green-washing strategies of the past will not stand up to public or government scrutiny going forward. The time is now for government and corporations to lead the transition to renewable and clean energy.Share this:
PV Advocate synopsis:
- Cost of installing a PV system continues its rapid YOY decline, 5% – 15% over the last year
- Utility scale solar has declined quicker than commercial rooftop and residential sectors
- For the first time ever, price decline came from reduction non-module hardware and lower soft costs as module prices held consistent throughout year
- Capacity factors have increased as a result of more tracker use, better system design and advances in module technology.
- Full access to the original LBNL 2016 report
The fate of the world depends on driving down the cost of solar power.
Yes, that’s a melodramatic way of putting it. But it’s not wrong. Any scenario that has humanity avoiding the worst ravages of climate change involves explosive global growth in solar power.
So how’s that going?
Happily, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) releases a set of reports each year devoted to tracking solar prices; they’ve just released the latest editions. Long story short: Prices are steadily falling, more or less on schedule
There are two reports, one for each type of solar power. One is on “utility-scale solar,” which means solar systems larger than 5 MW. The other report is on solar photovoltaic (PV) systems under 5 MW.
Those are two very different markets, but I’m going to squish them together in this post, with the help of a bazillion charts.
Solar is growing, growing, growing
Here’s a good scene-setter. It shows historic and projected solar power capacity additions, by technology. (We’ll get into the difference between CSP and varieties of PV below — ignore for now.)
A few things to notice about this chart. First, there’s about 29 GW of solar installed in the US now; LBNL expects that to clear 100 GW sometime around 2020. That’s crazy-fast growth (from almost nothing in 2007!), but it will still only put solar at around 3 percent of the US electricity mix in 2020.
Third, the giant spike in utility-scale PV happening this year is an artifact that reveals how much solar still depends on policy. Everyone thought the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC) for solar was going to expire this year. Contracts signed in 2016 would have been the last to qualify. So there was a huge rush to get projects on the books.
As it happens, the ITC was unexpectedly extended late last year (it will phase out over the next five years), or else the spike would have been even bigger. As it is,more than twice as much utility-scale PV capacity will be added in 2016 than in any previous year.
Prices for utility-scale solar are falling
Prices are falling for both big and small solar, though at different rates and for different reasons. Read the rest of this entry »Share this:
This archived webinar from my friend Terry Schuyler and his colleagues at DNV GL provides a clear picture of the challenges and the coming opportunities as the storage technologies decrease in cost and increase in performance.