June 21, 2017

Lack of Clear Rules on Renewables Stalls Wind Development in the Philippines

Lack of clear-cut policies on the renewable energy sector hinder the further development of the wind sector in the Philippines, according to Vestas of Denmark, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer.

In a position paper, Vestas said the development of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, is nearly at a standstill in the near-term due to the current policy vacuum, which follows the full allocation of the first two rounds of feed-in tariff (FIT) and the freeze of an expected third round of FIT.

June 20, 2017

AEE Applauds Gov. Rick Scott for Signing Senate Bill 90 and Ensuring the Growth of Solar, Renewable Energy in Florida

Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) applauded Florida Governor Rick Scott for signing into law Senate Bill 90 (SB 90), "Renewable Energy Source Devices," which extends a property tax exemption for renewable energy installations, including solar, wind, and geothermal, on both commercial and residential properties. The legislation implements the Amendment 4 ballot initiative passed by Florida voters in the statewide primary last August, with 73 percent voting for approval, well above the 60 percent needed to adopt an amendment of the state constitution. Gov. Scott's signature follows unanimous approval of SB 90 in both chambers of the Florida legislature. The legislation goes into effect July 1, 2017.

June 19, 2017

Solar Advocates Upset Sandoval Rejected Community Solar, Higher Renewable Standard

Solar energy made what appears to be a bright turnaround in the Nevada Legislature this year, despite Gov. Brian Sandoval's Friday night veto of two bills.

Businesses, community leaders and clean-energy advocates said the vetos of a stronger clean energy standard and community solar gardens for Nevada was a serious misstep on Sandoval's part, but would not stop the state from developing a vital clean energy economy.

Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 206, a measure that would have increased the percentage of clean energy Nevada generates to 40 percent by 2030. 

June 13, 2017

Lawmakers Propose Overhaul To NC Solar Energy Regulations

State lawmakers are quickly advancing a bill that would overhaul North Carolina's regulations on solar energy production. 

It's a wide-ranging measure that's getting rare support from both utilities like Duke Energy and renewable energy advocates. Sponsors of the bill say it's the product of nearly a year's worth of negotiations between the two.
The proposal ends the state's ban on third-party energy sales. Homeowners and businesses would be allowed to lease rooftop solar panels, rather than buy them. And it would set up a competitive bidding process for solar companies to sell power to utilities.  

June 12, 2017

Germany, Belgium and Denmark Sign Agreement to Deploy More Offshore Wind in Europe

The governments of leading offshore wind markets, Germany, Belgium and Denmark have signed a Joint Statement to further the deployment of offshore wind energy in Europe.

The signing ceremony took place this morning (6th June) at the opening of Offshore Wind Energy 2017, the industry event co-organised by WindEurope and RenewableUK in London. The signatory governments reaffirmed their commitment to deploy a significant volume of offshore wind power in Europe between 2020 and 2030 and were represented by Marie-Christine Marghem, Minister of Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, Belgium; Rainer Baake State Secretary for Energy, Federal Ministry of Economy and Energy, Germany and Kristoffer Böttzauw, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Denmark.

June 11, 2017

DNV GL to Support the Development of Offshore Wind Technical Standards in China

The independent energy experts and certification body DNV GL has announced it is part of a consortium selected by the World Bank to support the development of new technical standards for offshore wind in China.

The consortium of which DNV GL is a part also consists of ECIDI and CREEI. The three new standards will include offshore wind turbine support structures, offshore substations and offshore wind farm power cables. At present DNV GL is the only foreign-owned company engaged by the Chinese government in the developing of the new standards. The company will be advising the Chinese government on project financing and risk management as part of the project.

June 9, 2017

More NC Homeowners Could Have Rooftop Solar Panels With Leasing Deals

North Carolina homeowners and businesses could soon be able to install rooftop solar panels without prohibitive upfront costs under a sweeping energy proposal moving through the state legislature this week.

The bill would let residents lease solar panels on their rooftops rather than owning them outright, a financing arrangement popular in other states but long considered a nonstarter here. The leasing arrangement would remove a major financial barrier to solar energy by eliminating the down payment for homeowners – typically ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

June 8, 2017

California Senate Passes Bill Mandating 100% RPS

California has moved a step closer to adopting a 100% clean energy standard.

The State Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would require California load-serving entities to obtain all of their electricity deliveries from renewable resources by 2045 (SB 100).

Sponsored by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat, the bill passed 25-13 along party lines. It now moves to the State Assembly.

“When it comes to our clean air and climate change, we are not backing down,” de León said in a statement. “Today, we passed the most ambitious target in the world to expand clean energy and put Californians to work.”

June 7, 2017

A Deep Look at Sacramento’s Groundbreaking Use of Distributed Energy and Customer Data

This utility is integrating smart meter data and customer insights for a holistic approach to DERs and grid planning.

Utilities traditionally haven’t had to consider the vagaries of consumer behavior as a big part of their grid investment and power procurement plans.

But with the rise of customer-owned solar PV, plug-in electric vehicles, demand response, behind-the-meter batteries and other distributed energy resources (DERs), leaving the customer out of the equation is no longer an option -- at least, not for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. 

In fact, the utility DER projects that its customers and third-party companies are financing total around $150 million to $200 million per year. That’s more than what SMUD spends on all the utility-scale solar and wind energy it's procuring to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard, indicating how important a role they will play in the utility's carbon and green energy goals. 

These DERs are largely outside utility control. But they have an increasingly important impact on how SMUD operates and invests in its grid and procures power for future years.

At the same time, there are also opportunities for utilities to explore new financial structures and business models.

This week, SMUD, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and engineering firm Black & Veatch released a report that could lay out a new model for utilities struggling to bring DER-equipped customers into their long-range plans. It’s based on more than a year of work integrating dozens of different sources of data about customers, and then using it to predict just how different neighborhoods will adopt DERs at different rates over the next decade or so.

Black & Veatch has been working with SMUD on this new approach for two years now, and this approach has now been described as part of SEPA’s “Beyond the Meter” research into how utilities can plan proactively for a distributed energy future. The latest report, the fifth in the series, is the first time SEPA has been able to apply its new concepts to a real-world utility. 

“In terms of how this compares to what other utilities have done, SMUD is, at least in our opinion and experience, on the cutting edge in terms of DER planning, and putting a lot of different pieces together,” said Dan Wilson, manager at Black & Veatch. 

Utilities around the country are exploring DERs as grid assets. California’s investor-owned utilities have created DER capacity maps for their distribution grids, and are in the process of enumerating their localized values. New York is doing the same under the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative. And big utilities in Hawaii, Arizona, Vermont and other states are doing pilot projects to see how solar, batteries, EVs and building energy controls can be aggregated for local and system-wide benefits. 

But as Wilson noted: “What I think is interesting about SMUD, and what makes this study kind of unique, is combining these pieces together using the same set of data through the whole process." Those pieces include customer adoption forecasting, distribution grid impacts, bulk power system planning, and broader utility financial modeling.

SMUD has incorporated all three elements of SEPA’s protocol for dealing with DERs -- evaluating them as grid assets, integrating customer insights, and reconfiguring the utility’s standard operating practices to make use of these new sources of data. Unlike most traditional utility distribution grid planning, however, this process begins not with power flow models or engineering estimates, but with customer data. 

SMUD has done a lot of work on the customer engagement and data analysis front, from the efforts to design its time-of-use rates, to its work with solar-plus-storage net-zero-energy projects in Sacramento. But like many utilities, these efforts were often set up in ways that made their data sets different from one another, requiring a lot of cleaning up to integrate into a single database, Wilson noted. 

The results have yielded a smorgasbord of data to use in modeling and forecasting DER adoption, he said. This includes consumer marketing-type data on historical solar adoption, customer behavior, demographics and segmentation, including PRIZM data from Nielsen, as well as key building attributes such as ownership, square footage, age and unit size. 

SMUD’s smart meters, meanwhile, yield granular electricity usage data, along with the critical location data to integrate into the utility’s distribution grid management system. All of this comes together in maps that can give utility planners address- and neighborhood-specific data on load shapes, the presence of DERs, and future investment needs, as shown below. 

According to this forecast, SMUD has some big potential for DER growth, specifically in solar PV. While its 2030 high adoption case sees about 500 megawatts coming on-line, its technical potential is 3,000 megawatts of rooftop solar, as well as 4,600 megawatts on commercial parking lots. 

For demand response, SMUD sees a technical potential of 1,220 megawatts, although its 2030 Adoption Case only predicts 360 megawatts. Energy storage predictions, meanwhile, are largely based on linking batteries to help smooth and shift solar power, with the potential for 40 megawatts of customer-owned storage and 160 megawatts of utility-owned storage. 

For the next step in its analysis of DERs' distribution grid impacts, SMUD and Black & Veatch turned to Landis+Gyr’s GRIDiant software platform.

While there were some limitations to the study -- specifically, it used 2013 power flow models, which are unlikely to be accurate for predicting impacts on a much different grid in 2030 -- the analysis did yield an estimated mitigation cost of $50 million to $100 million for “unmanaged DERs” by 2030. That adds up to about 8 cents per watt for solar PV and $100 per electric vehicle.

This was mainly driven by EV adoption putting increased stress on transformers, and variable solar PV output requiring investment in voltage regulation equipment. 

This figure shouldn’t be taken as a given, however, Wilson noted. Not only is it based on an old grid model and very specific assumptions, it also doesn't include the potential benefits of "managed DERs" -- batteries, EVs and demand response -- that SMUD can control in some fashion to help serve grid needs.

Meanwhile, the analysis of bulk power system impacts of DERs yielded some interesting, and even counterintuitive, results, he said. High DER scenarios through 2030 did lower annual retail electricity sales, as one might expect. But they also reduced peak load by 10 to 20 percent, reduced carbon emissions and power purchases, and led to a flatter net load profile, the report noted. 

Still, according to the financial impact piece of the analysis, most unmanaged DERs have a negative net value to SMUD, given today’s rate structures. And while demand response is generally cost-effective, energy storage is not “at least without additional revenue streams or dramatically lower costs than those modeled; modified rates could change these results.”

The financial impact results are the most uncertain of the study’s findings, Wilson noted. “It was a very broad-brush first attempt, I would say. It doesn’t include cost or benefits at the distribution level, and that’s a big thing.”

Nor does it consider the potential for electric vehicles to boost electricity sales to make up for revenues lost to solar PV or energy efficiency. 

The report goes into great detail about what SMUD intends to do next to fine-tune their approach to DER integration, as well as what its findings mean for the utility sector more broadly.

One main point is that utilities should look at distributed energy not only as a threat, but also as an opportunity to “improve customer engagement, maximize the net benefits of DERs, and offer new products and services that can lead to new revenue streams.” 

June 6, 2017

Biomass Power Plant to Bridge Gap Between Farmers and Miners in Australia

Remote mining projects in farming areas could soon access baseload electricity from biomass plants powered by straw.

Yorke Biomass Energy is building a demonstration plant in South Australia to illustrate how a straw burning generator can provide miners with a competitively priced power source for the first 10-20 MW of power.

The plant, expected to be operational next year, is in the heart of Yorke Peninsula, a major grain-growing region with a rich mining history.

June 5, 2017

Trump Says US Is ‘Getting Out’ of Paris Agreement, But Will Negotiate a Fair Deal

In a statement today from the White House, President Donald Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.

“We’re getting out, but we’ll start to negotiate, and we’ll see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” he said.

The Paris Agreement, approved in December 2015, committed nearly 200 countries to work to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

June 4, 2017

California Senate Approves Bill for Energy Storage Rebate Program

The California Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would create a 10-year rebate program for the state’s local energy storage market.

According to a bill analysis from the California legislature, SB 700 directs the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), by Dec. 1, 2018, to establish a program called the Energy Storage Initiative (ESI) to provide rebates to customers of California’s investor-owned utilites for the installation of customer-sited energy storage systems that are dispatch capable to achieve market transformation.

May 31, 2017

US Wind Adopts a ‘New Attitude’ to Confront a Looming Downturn

AWEA unveils a new strategy for growth beyond 2020, as some fear the effects of Trump’s “fossil fuel fetish.”

Wind works. That's the overarching message -- and the Twitter hashtag -- at the American Wind Energy Association's annual Windpower conference and exhibition this past week in Anaheim, California.

The industry has followed through on its promises, said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan in his opening remarks on Tuesday. Wind companies said they could reliably add more wind to the grid, and now five U.S. states are getting more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind energy year-round. At times last year, ERCOT and the Southwest Power Pool delivered more than 50 percent of their electricity from wind. 

May 30, 2017

Spain Seeks $4.3BN Investment to Meet EU Clean Energy Goal

Spain is seeking to lure investment of as much as 3.9 billion euros ($4.3 billion) through its biggest auction yet for contracts to supply electricity from clean-energy sources, part of an effort to meet European Union targets.

The government on Wednesday will seek bids to supply at least 2 GW and as much as 3 GW of power in time to meet the its EU goals for 2020. This is expected to cost 2.4 billion euros to 3.9 billion euros, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Bidders can offer wind, solar or other forms of electricity generation so long as it’s a form of supply that doesn’t increase carbon emissions.

May 29, 2017

Idling Wind Power Facilities: A Serious Issue Facing China’s Wind Sector

The average curtailment rate among wind power facilities across China remains a serious issue, at 17 percent, while full-year capacity of the idling facilities stood at 49.7 billion kWh for 2016, according to data from the China National Energy Administration. 

Curtailment rates in Gansu province, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Jilin province were up to 43 percent, 38 percent and 30 percent last year, respectively. The average across the country as a whole stood at 16 percent, while the capacity of idling wind power facilities reached 13.5 billion kWh in 1Q17. 

May 28, 2017

Arizona Utility Buys Solar Power at ‘Historically Low Price’

Arizona utility Tucson Electric Power (TEP) said this week that it will buy solar energy at a historically low price from a new local system large enough to power 21,000 homes.

The 100-MW solar array and an accompanying 30-MW energy storage system are expected to be in service by the end of 2019. TEP said that, excluding the cost of storage, it will buy the system’s output for 20 years for less than $0.03/kWh — less than half as much as it agreed to pay under similar contracts in recent years.

May 26, 2017

Storage and Solar Finance: Programs for the Rising Behind-the-meter Markets in the US, EU

There’s a clear uptick in distributed energy resources, so where are these markets finding the financing to expand?

The global energy storage industry will expand rapidly in the next few years, as it moves to support solar and other infrastructure that is growing more and more complex.

May 23, 2017

Drastic Changes in Renewable Energy Laws Trigger Damages Award

In an award dated 4 May 2017 (publicly available in Spanish only) issued in Eiser Infrastructure Limited and Energia Solar Luxembourg S.à.r.l v The Kingdom of Spain (ICSID Case No. ARB/13/36), an arbitral tribunal found that Spain’s legislative changes in the renewable energy sector adopted in 2013 breached its obligations under the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) to accord fair and equitable treatment (FET) to foreign investments. This is the first publicly available award in a string of investor-State arbitrations arising from Spain’s sweeping legislative changes enacted in 2013. In 2016 another arbitral tribunal ruled in Charanne B.V. and Construction Investments S.à.r.l v Kingdom of Spain that less intrusive changes enacted in 2010 did not breach Spain’s ECT obligations.

May 22, 2017

California: 'We Are Just Getting Started'

If you thought California’s lead as an energy storage market might fade in the face of upstarts such as Australia or Germany, then think again. Recent moves might see new gigawatts of capacity being installed across the state by 2020.

The most significant development was the recent reopening of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) with more than US$448m in funding dedicated to energy storage.

May 21, 2017

New Virginia Law Expands Solar Energy Development Authority to Include Energy Storage

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe yesterday signed a bill authorizing the expansion of the state’s Solar Energy Development Authority to include energy storage.

The legislation is part of a series of bills signed by McAuliffe that promote wind, solar and energy storage technologies.

SB 1258, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin, expands the purpose of the new Solar Energy and Battery Storage Development Authority to include positioning the state as a leader in research, development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of energy storage technology. The powers of the authority are expanded to include

May 19, 2017

Stranded Utility Renewables — A Competitive Challenge for Early Adopters

Figures for the deployment of utility-scale renewable energy projects in the U.S. over the past decade are truly breathtaking. Installed utility-scale wind power capacity in the U.S. has increased nearly sevenfold since 2007, reaching a cumulative level of more than 80,000 MW in 2016. Deployment of utility-scale solar has been even more impressive, reaching a cumulative level of more than 10,000 MW in 2016 from less than 160 MW in 2007.

May 18, 2017

Maryland Awards Renewable Energy Credits to Two Offshore Wind Projects

The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), in a May 11 decision, awarded offshore wind renewable energy credits (OREC) to two projects to be built off the coast of Maryland.

The decision will allow U.S. Wind and Skipjack Offshore Energy to construct 368 MW of capacity.

“The approval today of the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind projects bring to fruition the General Assembly’s efforts to establish Maryland as a regional hub for this burgeoning industry,” Kevin Hughes, PSC Chairman, said in a statement. “We have taken great care to ensure that this decision maximizes economic and environmental benefits to the state while minimizing costs to Maryland ratepayers.”

May 17, 2017

Wind Power Grows While U.S. Electricity Prices Drop

Last month former Texas Governor and new Energy Secretary Rick Perry tasked his staff with looking at America's power grid. Secretary Perry wants to know how federal policies are impacting energy sources that are vital for ensuring the grid's long-term reliability, resilience and affordability. Recently, I wrote that Perry is asking the right question. As the governor who oversaw the transformation of Texas into a wind power leader, Perry is going to like what his staff finds.

Here's why. In his memo, Secretary Perry laid out three critical yardsticks he wants to assess with his 60-day review. I will offer my take on each of these — from a wind industry perspective — in three columns leading up to our annual WINDPOWER conference in Anaheim, Calif., on May 22-25.

Power Markets and Price

Perry’s first key metric is the marketplace. He wants to know how policies and a changing fuel mix are changing wholesale electricity markets.

It’s an important question because the business reality has moved past decades-old assumptions about how the grid operated when it was powered largely by coal, gas and nuclear.

But what has kept pace is the ability of the grid to adapt to a different energy mix, with widespread switching from coal to gas, and the addition of large amounts of economically competitive renewable energy.

Wind in particular is winning in the marketplace, because of its proven grid reliability and market-beating cost. Wind power costs are down 66 percent since 2009, as low-cost wind has joined low-cost natural gas as a market leader.

Indeed, across much of the nation, wind is now the cheapest source of new electric-generating capacity, attracting utilities such as Xcel Energy and MidAmerican Energy, and corporate buyers such as Amazon, Google, Home Depot and GM.

And as wind has increased its market penetration almost five-fold since 2008, overall U.S. wholesale power prices have dropped more than 60 percent. That is no coincidence.

In fact, in 2016 wind exceeded hydro as the No. 1 U.S. renewable energy in total capacity, enough to power 24 million homes. Wind capped a second straight year at more than 8,000 MW installed and beat both natural gas and solar in new U.S. utility-scale capacity for 2015-2016 combined, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The market has adapted and built up tremendous momentum behind its lowest-cost energy sources. Today, customers' preferred U.S. energy choices are wind, gas and solar, based on the latest levelized cost of energy (LCOE), as reported by Lazard.

Not surprisingly, these three home-grown energy sources accounted for more than 90 percent of new U.S. utility-scale electric-generating capacity last year. And in the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. wind industry installed nearly 1,000 new wind turbines, for its strongest 1Q since 2009.

Let the Marketplace Decide

Some may not like this new economic reality, but it remains a reality nonetheless. And it's a reality that powers a workforce of more than a half a million U.S. jobs today, and well over a million U.S. workers in years to come.

Federal and state policies have an important role in encouraging innovation without excessive regulation, ensuring a level playing field for competition based on price, eliminating barriers to entry and connecting supply with demand centers, and enabling investment with a predictable business environment.

Ultimately, however, it is up to the marketplace to decide winners and losers, based on price.

Those who oppose wind power’s role in reducing prices are arguing to turn back the clock to higher electricity costs for consumers and businesses.

That’s not a winning proposition.

May 16, 2017

Platform-Based Electric Grids Are Coming, but the Transition Is Proving a Challenge

The complexities of building a DSO system are becoming more evident, writes Dan Cross-Call of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Platform business models have redefined the modern economy. From titans of personal computing and e-commerce like Apple and Amazon, to ubiquitous financial services that we use with hardly a second thought (such as ATMs and credit cards), industries everywhere have reoriented from one-directional pipeline delivery systems to multisided platforms via which information and services flow in many directions between actors.

May 15, 2017

Dutch Open 'World's Largest Offshore' Wind Farm

Dutch officials on Monday opened what is being billed as one of the world's largest offshore wind farms, with 150 turbines spinning in action far out in the North Sea.

Over the next 15 years, the Gemini windpark, which lies some 85 kilometres (53 miles) off the northern coast of The Netherlands, will meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people.