The Most Unlikely Eco-Warriors Of All Time
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher knew that being conservative means accepting science and conserving this good earth. From The Hole via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, October 22-23:
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher knew that being conservative means accepting science and conserving this good earth. From The Hole via YouTube
Try out one of many possible pathways to a New Energy future and lasting reliance on this good earth’s sun, winds, deep heat, and flowing waters. From Gsf Javier Romero via YouTube
The path to the New Energy future will be built by technologies people are only beginning to imagine. From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube
The path to the New Energy future will be built by technologies people are only beginning to imagine. From Siemens via YouTube
Stop waiting for a big breakthrough on climate change. This is what we’ll get instead.
Brad Plumer, October 18, 2016 (VOX)
“Global warming can sometimes feel like this big, hopelessly intractable problem that no one’s doing much about. But the first two weeks of October have seen a genuinely impressive barrage of climate action around the world…Canada got a carbon tax…The Paris climate deal went into effect…A new global deal [was cut] on aviation emissions…[And a] new global deal [was completed] to phase out HFCs…[It was] all the stuff environmental wonks have been suggesting for years…[W]e’re still not close to stopping global warming...Nor are we yet on a trajectory to do so…That’s far more difficult than anything we’ve done so far…But what the past two weeks show is that the world is starting to gesture meaningfully in the right direction…There will never be one big turning point on climate policy — just lots of stutter steps…
When the Western states that rely on the Colorado River first realized they were facing huge water shortages in the future, they didn’t all quickly agree on a deal that solved the entire problem at once. That was way too difficult to coordinate. So, instead, they started out by collaborating on much smaller issues, chipping away at this or that aspect of water policy, building trust over time. That enabled them to slowly work toward a bigger agreement on how best to divvy up and conserve the river’s scarce water…If we’re going to solve global warming, it will probably look like that. There will never be one dramatic moment…Instead, countries will plug away at small issues…Will that be enough? I honestly don’t know…The math is too brutal, the momentum too sluggish. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up…There’s always reason to push harder.”
When the Western states that rely on the Colorado River first realized they were facing huge water shortages in the future, they didn’t all quickly agree on a deal that solved the entire problem at once. That was way too difficult to coordinate. So, instead, they started out by collaborating on much smaller issues, chipping away at this or that aspect of water policy, building trust over time. That enabled them to slowly work toward a bigger agreement on how best to divvy up and conserve the river’s scarce water…If we’re going to solve global warming, it will probably look like that. There will never be one dramatic moment…Instead, countries will plug away at small issues…Will that be enough? I honestly don’t know…The math is too brutal, the momentum too sluggish. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up…There’s always reason to push harder.”click here for more
Out of China’s Dusty Northwest Corner, a Solar Behemoth Arises
September 19, 2016 (Bloomberg News)
“…[A] solar farm under construction in the Ningxia region of the [China’s] northwest takes efforts to a new level…[It is] being developed in phases by the clean energy unit of China’s biggest private investment group, will cover…slightly more than 7,000 U.S. east coast city blocks…[and will have a capacity] of 2 gigawatts…The 15.6 billion-yuan ($2.34 billion) plant will need about 6 million panels and will be the biggest the world has ever seen…Minsheng New Energy’s Ningxia plant is emblematic of China’s clean-energy ambitions. China’s solar installations more than doubled to 50 gigawatts in the two years through 2015…[and installations are projected to] more than double again to 109 gigawatts by the end of 2018…[T] he U.S. is expected to have about 41 gigawatts of solar by the end of this year…One reason Minsheng hopes the sheer scale of the project will work to its benefit: the decreasing price of solar panels, which account for a majority of total investment in the farm. Solar panel prices have averaged about 3.85 yuan a watt since construction began, but have fallen about 12 percent to 3.4 yuan a watt currently…” click here for more
For European Wind Industry, Offshore Projects Are Booming; As Europe’s wind energy production rises dramatically, offshore turbines are proliferating from the Irish Sea to the Baltic Sea. It’s all part of the European Union’s strong push away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.
Christian Schwagerl, 20 October 2016 (Yale Environment 360)
“…[In Europe, offshore wind farms] are undergoing a boom…Until 2011, between 5 and 10 percent of newly installed wind energy capacity in Europe was offshore. Last year, almost every third new wind turbine went up offshore…[The share of wind energy in the European Union’s electricity supply went] from 2 percent in the year 2000 to 12 percent today…New investments for offshore projects totaled $15.5 billion in the first half of 2016 alone…[and] offshore wind energy capacity will double to 3.7 gigawatts this year…More than 3,300 grid-connected turbines now exist in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Irish Sea, and 114 new wind turbines were linked to the grid in European waters in the first half of this year…[In the U.S. and Asia, offshore wind] is only just getting started…Newly installed wind energy capacity amounted to 13 gigawatts in 2015, twice as much as newly installed fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined…The price for a megawatt hour is now between 50 and 96 Euros for onshore wind and 73 to 140 Euros for offshore wind, compared to around 65 to 70 Euros for gas and coal. Electricity generated from onshore wind farms is now the cheapest among newly installed power sources in the U.K. and many other countries. If environmental costs are considered, the picture looks even more favorable for wind power…” click here for more
Catching the waves: it’s time for Australia to embrace ocean renewable energy
Mark Hemer, et. al., October 17, 2016 (The Conversation)
“…Australia arguably possesses the world’s largest wave energy resource, around 1,800 terawatt hours. Most of this is concentrated in the southern half of the continent…To put this in context, Australia used 248 terawatt hours of electricity in 2013-14...Waves aren’t the only renewable power source in our oceans. The daily movements of the tides shift vast amounts of water around the Australian coast, and technology for conversion of tidal energy to electricity is more mature than any wave converters…[There are also the less mature technologies of thermal energy conversion] and energy captured from our large ocean currents…To keep us on track to meet our international commitments, members of Australia’s Climate Change Authority recently proposed a target of 65% by 2030. This would require a rapid, large scale transition to alternative emission-free energy systems...Wind and solar are currently leading the way, but we’ll need other technologies…[W]ave power has only a third of the variability of wind…[and can] be forecast three-times further ahead…[T]he lifetime costs of ocean energy technologies are high…[but experience suggests that costs for wave energy will decrease…” click here for more
U.S. health insurers are in a state of denial about climate change
Ciara Linnane, October 20, 2016 (MarketWatch)
“The biggest health insurers in the U.S. show little understanding or concern about the risks to their business posed by climate change, even though warmer winters and springs are already causing spikes in conditions such as allergies, asthma and Lyme disease…[A survey of the 148 largest insurance companies in the U.S. on their response to climate risks, including severe weather events, found] that while property and casualty insurers and life and annuity insurers have made some progress in engaging with climate change and attempting to evaluate the risks to their business, health insurers appear to be in a state of denial…The companies were evaluated on five core themes, including governance, climate risk management, the use of catastrophe modeling or other modeling to evaluate and manage risk, greenhouse gas management and stakeholder engagement…Not one health insurer earned a high quality ranking and only four garnered medium quality ratings, while 89% were low quality or minimal. Yet health insurers are facing serious exposure to some of the worst climate trends, namely the impact on human health and well being…” click here for more
Wind power could supply 20% of global electricity by 2030
Cat Distaslo, October 19, 2016 (Reuters via Inhabitat)
“Although solar power gets more press, the wind power industry is growing nearly as fast…[and] 20 percent of the world’s total electricity could come from wind by as early as 2030…[T]he world’s total wind power capacity could grow by nearly five times over the next 14 years, reaching as much as 2,110 gigawatts (GW) by 2030…[According to the GWEC report, an estimated] annual investment of $224 billion would be required globally in order to grow the wind power industry to its potential capacity…[but] would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3.6 billion tons each year…China has been an unlikely leader in the wind power industry, boosting its capacity by 17 percent last year over 2014 figures for a total of 433GW. Chinese leaders still plan to add 60GW before the end of this year…” click here for more
Walking on sunshine: Could the future of energy be in solar sidewalks?
October 16, 2016 (Associated Press via CBS News)
“…[Solar Roadways recently unveiled its first public solar-powered glass pavers installation in a] northern Idaho resort town. It’s 150 square feet of hexagon-shaped solar panels that people can walk and bicycle on…[to prove the panels] are strong enough and have enough traction to handle motor vehicles, including semitrailers…Solar Roadways is among a growing number of companies embracing renewable energy as the U.S. aims to reduce carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels by 2030…[I]t is the only business receiving federal highway research money in pursuit of solar road panels, part of the Federal Highway Administration’s efforts to fight climate change…A solar bike path was built in the Netherlands in 2014, and Germany and France have announced plans to build solar roads in the future…The glass has a traction surface that is equivalent to asphalt. In tests, vehicles are able to stop in the required distance…[and] the panels can hold 250,000 pounds, three times the legal limit for a semitrailer…” click here for more
Which plug-in electric car will sell best next year? Poll results
John Voelcker, October 19, 2016 (Green Car Reports)
“Sales of plug-in electric cars were essentially flat in the U.S. last year compared to 2014, and this year isn't necessarily going to be much better...Part of that is due to product cadence: the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, two of the top-selling cars in previous years, are now relatively old vehicles…The Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is only in its second year, and it's selling adequately, but few other high-volume models have entered the market…But with the Volt's sibling the Bolt EV electric car soon to start sales in some regions, it's possible a new and higher-volume vehicle will enter the market…[An informal poll showed Twitter followers expect the Bolt EV to be] the best-selling plug-in vehicle in the U.S. for 2017...followed by the Tesla Model S…[The] Nissan Leaf—still by far the world's best-selling electric car—was chosen as next year's U.S. best seller by a mere 8 percent of respondents…” click here for more
'The future grid': How one DOE program is pushing the boundaries of aggregated DERs; ARPA-E is funding research aimed at fuller coordination of distributed resources on the grid
Herman K. Trabish, February 4, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Since it was first funded by the Obama administration's stimulus act in 2009, the Department of Energy's advanced technology research arm has doled out millions to support path-breaking research in New Energy. Now, as utilities become increasingly comfortable with new distributed energy resources, the agency is turning its sights to research on how to make all the new technologies on the grid operate as one. The DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced grants in December totaling $33 million for 12 projects aimed at creating automated systems to operate DERs through its Network Optimized Distributed Energy Systems (NODES) program.
NODES specifically looks to fund teams of experts in power systems, control systems, computer science and distributed systems aimed at improving grid efficiency, slash carbon emissions and lower energy-delivery line losses. It is about
NODES specifically looks to fund teams of experts in power systems, control systems, computer science and distributed systems aimed at improving grid efficiency, slash carbon emissions and lower energy-delivery line losses. It is aboutthe future grid. From the grid operator’s point of view, aggregated, automated DERs will look like fast response reserves, ramping reserves, or day-ahead planning reserves and provide a specific and reliable response. But like many technological endeavors, only one or two projects will be homeruns that develop into commercial successes. No one knows what the U.S. electricity delivery system will eventually look like and the uncertainty is difficult for utilities, but whatever it is, the demand for services from aggregated resources is likely to grow… click here for more
Renewable Portfolio Standards offer billions in benefits, LBNL study finds; Renewables are bringing down power prices in markets across the nation, according to a new report.
Herman K. Trabish, January 29, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Renewable portfolio standards that require state’s utilities to obtain minimum portions of their power from New Energy have shown net benefits running into the billions of dollars, according to a new Lawrence Berekley National Laboratory (LBNL) study. The new study evaluates three net benefits of RPSs in dollar terms: Greenhouse gas reductions, air pollution reductions, and water use reductions. It also assesses three impacts considered "net transfers," and are therefore excluded in the cost-benefit calucation: wholesale electricity markets effects, natural gas use and job impacts.
Reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollution resulted in about $7.4 billion in net benefits in 2013, significantly higher than the $1 billion in annual RPS costs to U.S. utilities estimated in a previous LBNL report. In 2013, as the result of renewable energy generation tied to RPSs, greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 59 million metric tons, alongside major cuts insulfur dioxide (77,400 metric tons), nitrogen oxides (43,900 metric tons), andparticulate matter (4,800 tons). Water withdrawals were reduced by 830 billion gallons with water consumption cut by 27 billion gallons. The $7.4 billion in net benefits came from 2013 numbers when renewable energy made up 2.4% of the U.S. electrical supply. But now, with renewables accounting for about 4.8% of the fuel mix, benefits would likely be significantly greater…
Reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollution resulted in about $7.4 billion in net benefits in 2013, significantly higher than the $1 billion in annual RPS costs to U.S. utilities estimated in a previous LBNL report. In 2013, as the result of renewable energy generation tied to RPSs, greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 59 million metric tons, alongside major cuts insulfur dioxide (77,400 metric tons), nitrogen oxides (43,900 metric tons), andparticulate matter (4,800 tons). Water withdrawals were reduced by 830 billion gallons with water consumption cut by 27 billion gallons. The $7.4 billion in net benefits came from 2013 numbers when renewable energy made up 2.4% of the U.S. electrical supply. But now, with renewables accounting for about 4.8% of the fuel mix, benefits would likely be significantly greater…click here for more
Powered by PTC, wind energy expected to keep booming despite Clean Power Plan stay; Demand for cheap wind may be so great that utilities build out enough to meet CPP targets regardless of the stay.
Herman K. Trabish, February 17, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Wind energy will play an increasingly vital role in the nation's power mix as a result of the extension of key renewable power tax credits, and its growth is unlikely to be significantly slowed by the judicial stay placed on the EPA's Clean Power Plan, analysts told Utility Dive. Wind industry numbers are up impressively in 2016, according to the year’s Market Reports from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The fourth quarter’s 5,001 MWs represented wind’s second biggest quarterly performance. The industry now has a cumulative installed capacity of nearly 74.5 GW, and has reduced wind’s installed cost 66% since 2008. U.S. wind builders also closed the year with a strong pipeline. There were over 9,400 MW in construction across 72 projects, including over 1,800-plus MW of construction started in Q4. There were also 4,900 MW in advanced stages of development, including 1,500-plus MW of advanced development added in the last quarter.
In December, Congress approved multi-year extensions and phase-downs of both the $0.023/kWh PTC, which had expired at the end of 2014, and solar’s 30% investment tax credit (ITC). The double punch of the extensions and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) puts the industry in position to grow well into the 2020s, with annual capacity additions topping out at an unprecedented 30 GWs in 2021, according to
In December, Congress approved multi-year extensions and phase-downs of both the $0.023/kWh PTC, which had expired at the end of 2014, and solar’s 30% investment tax credit (ITC). The double punch of the extensions and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) puts the industry in position to grow well into the 2020s, with annual capacity additions topping out at an unprecedented 30 GWs in 2021, according toa Rhodium Group analysis. The Supreme Court's decision to stay the implementation of the Clean Power Plan will increase uncertainty but the expansion in wind energy is likely to be significant. The Rhodium analysis estimates 116 GW cumulative utility scale wind and solar capacity addition due to the tax extenders and the CPP. If the Supreme Court decision only delays CPP implementation, it will shift the horizon back a year or two, but won't significantly change the capacity outlook… click here for more
Hawai‘i 2016 Energy Report Card
October 2016 (Blue Planet Foundation)
Blue Planet Foundation’s fourth annual energy report card presents a big-picture assessment of Hawai‘i’s progress toward energy independence with 100 percent clean energy. By evaluating fi ve key components—transportation, energy effi ciency, renewables, smart grid, and economics—and tracking specifi c factors that infl uence them, we can identify bright spots and opportunities to improve. These grades refl ect our clean energy progress through the end of 2015
Overall Progress: Annual Fossil Fuel Consumption
Total fossil fuel consumption in Hawai‘i is still declining, refl ecting our progress toward 100 percent clean energy. But we are falling a little short of the target. More clean energy can get us back on track for energy independence by 2040.
Primary Metric Energy Consumption Per Capita
Effi ciency is still our cheapest and easiest form of clean energy. This chart measures effi ciency by examining Hawai‘i’s per capita consumption of energy since 1990. Hawai‘i’s effi ciency grade is driven by the electricity-related factors identifi ed here as well as the factors identifi ed in the Transportation section. We are on track.
Renewable Energy As % Of Total Electricity Sales
This chart shows the state’s progress to 100% renewable electricity. We are on track, but we need continued steady progress of about 3% per year. This means laying the groundwork each and every year for renewable capacity that will be installed in the future.
What About Renewable Generating Capacity? Outlook & Opportunities Factor No.1 Renewable Generating Capacity
Existing renewable generating capacity is adapted from State of Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economics & Tourism’s 2016 Energy Facts & Figures and utility reports. The energy independence target assumes that approximately 3,055 MW of new nameplate generating capacity will be required by 2040. Population data is from the 2014 State of Hawai‘i Data Book, and assumes approximately linear growth to 2040.
Solar Power Is Leading The Charge.
In 2014 and 2015, rooftop and utility-scale solar overtook wind as the state’s top renewable resource. What’s the plan? An engineering study out of the University of Hawai‘i showed several paths to 100% renewable electricity using existing and established technologies.
Low Carbon Can Also Mean Low Cost.
According to the engineering study, this 100% mix could provide energy 17% cheaper than the average cost of oil over the last 5 years: What’s missing? Clean transportation is a key. 100% renewable electricity will probably need a large fleet of electric vehicles helping to stabilize the grid.
Hawai‘I Is Ready For A 100% Clean Transportation Target.
Rooftops are driving Hawai‘i’s clean energy success.
They Currently Provide 7 Times More Power Than Utility-Scale Solar Farms.
A University of Hawai‘i economics study estimated that household solar roofs could supply 1,100 megawatts of generating capacity. Commercial rooftops could add to the mix. Despite this potential, the growth of rooftop solar has slowed. In 2015, Hawai‘i became the fi rst state in the nation to close the netenergy metering program. The replacement program is almost full. What’s next?
Primary Metric Flexiwatts “Flexiwatts” are a measure of fl exible supply and demand that can be used to balance the grid. This chart combines fl exibility from two sources. Demand response allows the utility or its customers to momentarily dial back energy for non-essential demands. Energy storage can soak up excess renewable energy, and then inject that energy back onto the grid to serve peak demand.
What About Energy Storage? Outlook & Opportunities Batteries Are Changing The Game.
KIUC has signed on a “dispatchable solar” project that will use batteries to provide solar power at night — at a cost lower than the recent cost of fuel. Residential battery systems are also gaining traction.
Energy Storage Can Come In Many Forms. For example, Kapi‘olani Medical Center is using ice storage to charge its air conditioning system, and expects to save millions of dollars in energy and demand charges.
Battery costs are falling fast, around 20% per year. Hawaiian Electric forecasts that battery costs will decline more than 50% in the next 15 years. Lazard investment bank is projecting the same decline in the next 5 years. To capture these lower costs, we need new energy pricing signals for customers.
A University of Hawai‘i engineering analysis found that hydrogen energy storage could be a key solution for lower energy costs by balancing the seasonal changes in solar power.
What About Electric Vehicles? Outlook & Opportunities
Electric vehicle registration data compiled from the State of Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. Target trend is adapted from the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Roadmap 2011, calling for 10,000 electric vehicles by 2015 and 40,000 by 2020, and forecasts a growth curve similar to that observed for hybrid vehicles.
32% of Hawai‘i residents say that they are thinking about buying an EV. 53% haven’t already bought an EV because of perceptions about price. Yet owning the most popular ev (nissan leaf) costs less than owning the most popular gasoline passenger vehicle (Toyota Camry). Research from the University of Hawai‘i found that in a 100% renewable energy system with high EV adoption, smart ev charging can lower energy costs by more than $200 million each year. San Diego Gas & Electric is installing 3,500 EV chargers, focusing on businesses and multi-unit housing sites. 10% will be installed in disadvantaged communities. Hawai‘i can do the same.
Comparison of renewable & fossil fuel energy costs
Fossil fuel energy costs based on three-year average of fuel cost data reported in the State of Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Monthly Energy Trends, and includes only fuel costs. Cost of electricity from utility-scale renewable resources derived from prices agreed upon in recent Power Purchase Agreements approved by the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC), or prices of proposed projects refl ected in recent PUC fi lings: Wind – Na Pua Makani, O‘ahu; Geothermal – PGV Expansion, Hawai‘i; Municipal Solid Waste – HPower Expansion, O‘ahu; Solar – Proposed O‘ahu “Waiver” projects. Where applicable/available, costs include capacity charge and an assumed apportionment between on-peak and off-peak rates.
Geothermal Municipal Solid Waste Solar Wind Oil (Fuel Cost Only) Diesel (Fuel Cost Only)
In 2013 and 2014, Hawaiian Electric obtained proposals for near-term utility scale renewable energy, and selected 250 MW at record-low prices. Disappointingly, nearly all of those projects have been canceled or disapproved. This is a missed opportunity for stable energy prices. Consumers are driving the rooftop solar revolution. In the last fi ve years, these private individuals have leveraged federal support to contribute $1 billion toward clean, local, fixed-cost energy in Hawai‘i.
Cost of oil per kWh generated is a linear regression of data from State of Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism Monthly Energy Trends, and includes only fuel costs. Cost of electricity generated from distributed solar power is a linear regression of data from stated solar photovoltaic system costs compiled from City and County of Honolulu solar photovoltaic building permits and DBEDT, along with estimated solar photovoltaic capacity installed annually in the City and County of Honolulu from data in HECO net-energy metering reports. Solar photovoltaic cost per kWh is based on assumed maintenance cost totaling 15% of reported initial system cost, 18% capacity factor, 20% capacity degradation over the life of the system, and 30-year system life.
Only 5% of Hawai‘i residents think we should use the cheapest energy, no matter where it comes from. 95% think other factors are important, like protecting the environment and securing local jobs.
The Lack Of Climate Change In The Election For Clinton and Trump, There’s Little Debating a Climate Change Divide
John Schwartz and Tatiana Schlossberg, October 18, 2016 (NY Times)
“…[Climate change is missing from the list topics chosen for the third presidential debate that includes debt, immigration, foreign affairs, the economy and the Supreme Court…The fate of the planet has come up only in a single question asked by a member of the audience at the second debate, Ken Bone, who received more attention for his red sweater than for the fact that he works for a coal-fired power plant...Michael D. McCurry, a chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said that the moderator and the candidates, not the commission, set the content…Neither of the presidential campaigns responded to requests for comment...[These are the Clinton and the Trump websites on the subject]…This lack of attention might lead some observers to conclude that Americans are unconcerned about climate change, but…[most] Americans say they are interested…but they just do not hear much about it…” click here for more
Trump And Clinton On Climate Change And New Energy On Energy And Climate Change, Clinton And Trump Differ Sharply
Christopher Joyce, October 17, 2016 (National Public Radio)
“This presidential election has rarely focused on climate and energy, even though it is an area where the candidates differ sharply and climate change and energy policy are issues of deep concern to millions of Americans…[In the last debate, Donald Trump argued] the Obama administration is] ‘waging a war on coal’ …[and] putting energy companies in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania] ‘out of business’…[He wants to increase offshore oil and gas exploration along the Atlantic coast…[He] squarely backs the traditional fossil fuel industry…Clinton says she wants all of the above. She wants traditional fossil fuels, but…[she intends to make the U.S.] ‘the 21st-century clean-energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses…[She wants] to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of her first term…Donald Trump has expressed disbelief in man-made climate change…[Hillary Clinton supports the Paris Agreement, says voters should not risk] ‘putting a climate denier in the White House’…[and should elect] a president who believes in science’…” click here for more
New Energy Keeps Booming Two Charts That Show How Renewable Energy Has Blown Away Expectations
Jessica Shankleman, October 15, 2016 (Bloomberg News)
“The world’s most prominent energy forecaster will raise its outlook for wind and solar installations following a decade of underestimating growth…The International Energy Agency, which was established as a watchdog of the industry in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, will ‘significantly’ raise its estimates for renewables…The findings will feed into the World Energy Outlook report due in November, which is used by many forecasters as a starting point for trends in the industry…[but has] been criticized for publishing conservative estimates that failed to predict the rapid growth of wind and solar…The agency has been a key voice in guiding policymakers toward cleaning up the pollution blamed on global warming. Its annual outlook includes scenarios countries could adopt to keep global warming to the United Nations goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial revolution…This year’s forecasts seek to reflect the growing number of countries adopting climate change policies, as well as the global deal to curb carbon emissions and global warming…” click here for more
Innovating Urban Energy
October 2016 (Arup via World Energy Council)
This paper takes a closer look at energy in cities. Why focus on cities? First of all, more than half the global population lives in cities, and cities account for over half of global energy consumption and forty percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with the largest shares going to road transport, building heating and building electricity.
As global population increases and the urbanisation trend continues, cities will become ever more dominant consumers of energy and other global resources, and their impacts will spread ever wider. The UN estimates that 66% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050,1 while another study estimates that the global urban footprint (i.e. its physical extent) will triple over the 30 years to 2030, comprising an additional area of 1.2 million square kilometres.2 Reducing the impact of urbanisation through increasing urban energy efficiency and switching to clean, low carbon resources is clearly critical for cities to continue to thrive as engines of economic growth and human creativity
Common and distinct city challenges and opportunities
Beyond these headline figures, the physical, economic, social and political complexity of these dense communities creates distinct challenges and opportunities, compared with peri-urban, rural and industrial settings, that merit investigation into urban energy. Firstly, dense, mixed use urban forms can reduce the unit cost of transport and energy infrastructure and enable adoption of efficient transit systems and low carbon heating and cooling networks, but density can also lead to adverse effects such as urban heat island and reduce the availability of renewable resources such as solar and wind.
Secondly, cities face dynamic challenges including rapid urbanisation, demographic change and economic change. Many city governments and utility providers struggle to keep up with the pace of growth, while others in contracting economies struggle to remain viable while providing even basic services.
Thirdly, the legacies of existing urban form, buildings and infrastructure tend to “lock-in” energy consumption patterns and available sources and vectors of energy. This legacy includes complex tenancy and land ownership arrangements as well as physical patterns of development. Rapid change can only occur through highly context-sensitive initiatives.
Finally, the governance of cities – many of which have considerable authority, influence and budgetary powers – can be critical to the design and delivery of locally appropriate, effective solutions for energy systems which also deliver other city drivers – such as air quality, economy and resilience.3
Given these features, energy solutions for cities need to be highly sensitive to context, highly granular in application, and be developed as integrated technical, commercial and social packages.
Five innovations for urban energy
The challenges and opportunities briefly noted above are probably familiar to every major city in the world, and many of these were highlighted in WEC’s 2010 report on energy and cities4 . However, new solutions and opportunities are emerging which can enable cities – and energy actors in cities – to address these challenges in new and potentially more effective ways. In this brief chapter we consider a selection of emerging and potential innovations for urban energy. The innovations we consider are:
-City action networks
-Integrated energy planning
-Financing energy action
Reflecting the above diagnosis that integrated solutions are needed to deliver change in how and how much cities use energy, the innovations we survey are not all about technology: although technological change is an enabler for each, the core innovations span matters of governance, market, finance and society.
The transformation of power systems and electricity markets
Power systems today are undergoing a profound transformation, driven by the diversification and decentralization of power generation, coupled with the emergence of advanced power electronics which are capable of managing the increasing complexity and size of modern power systems. The technological changes are in turn driving changes in the ways energy is bought and sold: the twentieth century model of centralized energy production and distribution by a limited number of actors is evolving into a data-driven, multi-directional, market-based platform where divisions between roles – producer, distributor, consumer – are becoming blurred and overlapping.
This convergence of actors participating in a dynamic energy market is referred to as transactive energy (TE). TE is formally defined by the GridWise Architecture Council5 as:
A system of economic and control mechanisms that allows the dynamic balance of supply and demand across the entire electrical infrastructure using value as a key operational parameter.
Although the idea of a market operating in a dynamic balance in response to supply and demand signals may appear unremarkable in the context of many other industries, the implications for our energy systems are profound. Today, most grids are kept stable through explicit control by a central grid operator, which controls supply to meet continuously changing demand through the dispatch of generation assets in accordance with a pre-defined ranking of priority. An energy market does operate, but the market transactions are mostly undertaken well before or well after the generation-consumption event. In the short term, demand is generally uncontrollable and unresponsive to the cost of supply.
The move to a real time market-based model of electricity supply and demand means that system can no longer be “controlled” by a central grid operator. Instead, the network will migrate to an energy ecosystem which is kept in a state of dynamic equilibrium through the balancing effect of price signals established by millions of participants. The dichotomy of producers and consumers will evolve into a spectrum of roles which includes “prosumers” which act on both sides of the market, along with additional roles for ancillary grid services providers such as ramping and balancing.
The role of Transactive Energy in cities
The complexity, density and diversity of energy consumption in cities makes them potentially key drivers and major beneficiaries of the transactive energy model. This is discussed below in relation to different types of city
In many rapidly growing cities, grid capacity and reliability is a major challenge, with grid constraints and supply outages a frequent occurrence. Landlords, businesses and residents either incur losses (e.g. from lower productivity or damage to goods and assets) or higher costs to provide on-site resilience such as running diesel generators. Such local and ad hoc solutions can have other adverse impacts such as worsening air quality, odour and streetscape clutter.
These same cities have potentially the strongest value case for “leapfrogging” to a TE model. A transactive energy system could improve system reliability and efficiency and unlock new investment to meet growing demand of connected areas and to extend access to those who have no electricity grid connections at all. Such investments would focus on distributed energy systems (DES), such as renewable energy, energy storage, microgrids and demand management technologies. These systems can deliver value both locally – through cost savings and local resilience – and to the wider grid – through balancing and load control.
Recent research by Arup and Siemens, for example, indicates that the value to end users of DES investment is significant. Based on a series of modelled case studies around the world, operational cost reductions ranging between 8% and 28% and a return on investment (ROI) between 3-7 years were observed, compared to a business as usual scenario
Delivering efficient buildings
In developed cities, TE offers a significant prize of a step change in building energy efficiency. Buildings in the United States of America, for example, consume around 40% of all energy and 70% of grid electricity8 ; reducing this load is critical to the achievement of carbon reduction targets and is a potential major contributor to economic productivity, as businesses reduce operational costs and homeowners increase disposable income. Applying distributed energy systems within a transactive energy model allows urban building owners to have better information on energy consumption, the tools to control and reduce energy and the access to a market which translates the energy savings and control investments to financial returns.
Electrification of urban heat
In all cities, the transactive energy model could enable integration of the electric grid with heating to deliver even greater environmental benefits, lower carbon emissions and improved energy resilience.
In temperate countries such as the UK, energy for heating amounts to almost half of final energy consumed, and peak heating demand (i.e. on a cold winter evening) is as much five times the peak demand of electricity.9 This heating demand is today met in many cities almost entirely by natural gas supplied directly to buildings, although centralised urban heat networks have high penetration in some cities in northern Europe and North America. Transitioning away from fossil fuel heating to renewable and low carbon sources will inevitably involve a transition towards electricity as the main input energy for heating systems, especially in cities, where alternatives such as biomass and solar thermal are less suitable, due respectively to air quality impacts and the density of energy demand compared with available roofspace for solar generation.
Cities can enable the electrification of heat in a way which limits pressure on grid networks by capturing available heat sources from within cities – from ground, air and water but also from sewers, tunnels and other urban infrastructure – and carrying the heat via hot water heat networks to where it is needed.
In the most cases, with a warm heat source and low temperature receiving system, heat networks could deliver four to six units of heat output for each unit of electricity (although multipliers10 of around three are more typical as average performances across the year11). Heat storage, meanwhile, can be used to smooth peak electric loads and avoid times when grid capacity is constrained. Through these means urban heat networks can effectively enable a low carbon transition while contributing to grid balancing through a transactive energy market mechanism.
Electrification of urban transport
Like heat, the transportation sector appears to be on a rapid trajectory towards electrification, especially in cities. Although today’s stock of road vehicles is almost entirely made of liquid fuel-powered vehicles, electric vehicle (EV) penetration is rising rapidly. This is due to a mix of pull factors, including improving vehicle design, battery performance and falling prices, and push factors, including policy support for EVs and restrictions on other fuel types to improve air quality. Currently, EVs represent less than 0.1% of total passengers cars in the world, but recent research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that “continuing reductions in battery prices will bring the total cost of ownership of EVs below that for conventional-fuel vehicles by 2025.” By 2040, Bloomberg projects that EVs will represent 35% of global light duty vehicle sales. Such a volume equates to an 11% share of the global electricity demand in 2015
Such a rate of transition from petroleum- to electricity-based transport will have a profound impact on the grid. The impact will however be greatest on urban energy systems, given that EV penetration will inevitably be most concentrated in urban areas, because:
• cost and environmental benefits over conventional gasoline and diesel engines are greatest in cities;
• EV range limitations are less of an issue in cities, where most trips are only a few miles. The shorter range also makes EVs more viable for city-based medium-duty vehicles (e.g. delivery trucks and tradesman vans); and
• Urban densities mean that deployment of EV charging infrastructure is more viable in cities.
Transactive energy can provide a critical means to ensure generation and distribution infrastructure investment in cities keeps pace with the rising marginal demand of energy. TE can also provide price signals to secure premium payments from those whose need for recharging may be urgent, while rewarding those willing to postpone or spread out their recharge. Vehicle fleets may also be able to capture excess generation in low demand periods (e.g. overnight) and so increase utilisation of wind as renewables take an ever larger share of the generation mix…