Archive for the ‘Energy Policy’ Category
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
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:
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:
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its twenty first Conference of Partners (COP21) in Paris in 2015.
The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change, the text of which represented a consensus of the representatives of the 196 parties attending it. The agreement will enter into force when joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. On 22 April 2016 (Earth Day), 174 countries signed the agreement in New York, and began adopting it within their own legal systems.
The key result was an agreement to set a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century.
This is all a very large challenge given the many sectors, beyond energy, contribute massively to climate change.
The great visualization below from the UN explains why the 2 degrees Celsius target is so important to stabilizing the earth’s atmosphere. (click on the play button in middle of graphic)
According to the IPCC (get to know more about IPCC), global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events. In Copenhagen in 2009, the countries stated their determination to limit global warming to 2°C between now and 2100. To reach this target, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 and that carbon neutrality (zero emissions) needs to be reached by the end of the century at the latest.Share this:
Important and great NASA modeling and visualizations using data from around the globe and from space observations.
Click here to view CO2 visualization video: A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2
View temperature visualization video: Earth Surface Temperature from 1950 – 2013
We have all the science proficiency we need from exceptional government science sources to validate anthropogenic global warming, and yet our political leaders will dispute scientific knowledge when it does not line up with their narrow focus and constituents. Worse, the knowledge is often corrupted with junk science which nonpartisan, science based organizations like the Union Concerned Scientists work diligently to debunk and correct.
Please consider supporting their great work by becoming a member on the UCS site: www.ucsusa.orgShare this:
For the first time in its 100-year history, the electric utility industry in the US did not have an uptick in electron sales exiting a recession. This is due to a number of factors including the strong emphasis on energy efficiency programs over the last 10 years, growth in distributed generation behind the utility meter, demographic shifts with movement to warmer climates and an economic downward reset after the large bubble burst which led to the great recession.
Combined with growth in renewable energy and independent power producers (IPP), this lack of growth has caused extensive discussionand consternation about the future of the electric utilities and their ongoing viability as going concerns in the energy industry and on Wall Street.
Recent discourse centers on the rise of residential PV due to the well-documented reduction in cost of PV systems over the last 6 years. PV deployed on homes now competes with retail priced energy from the electric utilities, which is now at cost parity in many locations. With the emerging development of PV combined with energy storage using batteries, the conversation is about a utility death spiral that goes like this: as more and more homes deploy solar with batteries, the electric utility loses more and more revenue which requires them to raise rates which then encourages more adoption of residential PV by home owners.
While there is no question that the electric utility industry is going through a large and painful transition to a new and yet to be defined business model as a result of the aforementioned issues, it would seem highly unlikely the electric utility business model would go away completely as many pundits would suggest, for the following reasons:
1) They possess a regulatory-granted monopoly which evolved to serve a nationwide public need for robust and reliable electric service;
2) They have low cost of capital in an industry that requires large capital expenditures;
3) They operate at unprecedented scale with corresponding efficiencies;
4) They own and operate the grid infrastructure.
There is no question that the utility industry has historically been slow to react or plan for the current disruptions in the energy industry. They also have a dismal record when entering new markets and seeming unwilling to accept new or disruptive technology trends and business models. With the exception of a few forward-looking utilities such as NRG, the power utility providers of today have been non-reactive to very large and visible recent trends that are a direct threat to their electron sales-only model. In many instances they have been hostile and retaliatory. But the reasons above provide a very strong platform for a competitive advantage that is unlikely to see the electric utility demise anytime soon especially now that they are waking up to not only the threats but the opportunities.
Many high profile participants and pundits have been predicting that renewable energy will be larger than 50% of total generation in the future and that all clean energy generation will come from the non-utility players. While I have very little doubt that renewables and in particular solar energy will be a large piece of the generation pie (as smart grid technology and grid improvements are implemented), the electric utilities with their regulatory monopoly, cost of capital advantages, and ability to implement at enormous scale will own a much larger share of the clean energy generation than most observers realize.
Utility adoption of renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, distributed automation grids and other new business models are beholden to the same issues that IPP’s and other non-electric utility energy market participants face – the transition away from a 100-year old, one direction, aging grid infrastructure to a smarter, automated, bi-directional grid that is hyper-efficient. This will take time but I give the advantage to the larger electric utilities who are uniquely positioned to both steer the smart grid design and deployment and then efficiently phase their participation in the new energy economy accordingly.Share this:
Everything you need to know about attracting mainstream capital to clean energy solutions.
A great read by Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, innovator of the solar power purchase agreement model and former CEO of the Carbon War Room. With real world examples in many energy related industries, Jigar outlines how entrepreneurs and investors can unlock the enormous potential that climate change represents. And how this can be done utilizing existing, commercial off-the-shelf technologies combined with new and innovative business models.
According to the International Energy Agency, $10 trillion can be invested profitably—today—in the world’s existing technologies, making Jigar’s plan of 100,000 companies each generating $100 million in sales a reality in catalyzing a new economy in the process.
A quote from the book that sums a large issue facing the solar industry, ““The utilities are playing this wrong, saying you’re with us or against us. It’s not the solar industry that’s the problem — it’s their refusal to recognize the benefits of new technologies.” I remember Jigar telling me years ago that the utilities where in trouble as distributed generation plants like solar are going to put an enormous pressure on them in the very near future. I was skeptical that the utility monopoly would be in trouble anytime soon.
Fast forward today and the writing is on the wall. With the exception of few forward thinking utilities, the majority are fighting back instead of embracing distributed generation and morphing their models to this new technological and business model. But this makes sense as the electric utilities have made large capital infrastructure and business investments with long amortization horizons and would of course fight for their profitability. Government regulators and the utility industry need to work on a coordinated and long road map fashion to transition to the rapidly evolving distributed generation model.Utility business model innovation can’t happen in a vacuum or without government guidance as its always been highly regulated contrary to the free market fundamentalist’s claims.
“Imagine fuel without fear. No climate change. No oil spills, no dead coalminers, no dirty air . . . .
. . . . no devastated lands, no lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. No leaking nuclear wastes or spreading nuclear weapons. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about. Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, forever.
That richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is possible, practical, even profitable-because saving and replacing fossil fuels now works better and costs no more than buying and burning them.”
This is the lead in from the book “Reinventing Fire – Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era” by Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute. Mr. Lovins is a noted and award winning physicist and leading authority on energy. With this book, he provides a compelling road map for transitioning the energy mix in transportation, industry, residential and commercial buildings profitably and with great societal and economic gain. He demonstrates that it’s not just dreaming but its already happening with technology, business models large amounts of willing finance capital already established. As a global society we just need the political and economic will to make it happen. A great read. A TED talk by Amory Lovins on this book can be found here.Share this: