August 8, 2018

Renewable Energy in Minnesota Receives a Battery Boost with Connexus Project

Connexus project marks a new step in Minnesota for renewable energy.

Renewable energy in Minnesota is about to take a potentially big step forward.

Connexus Energy is building two electricity “storage” systems — solar-panel arrays connected to big batteries. Each battery can store up to two hours of power, allowing Connexus to inject renewable energy into the grid on command.

August 7, 2018

Mass. Lawmakers Set Storage Target, Raise RPS, Overturn Rooftop Solar Demand Charge

It was a big day for distributed energy. But the solar industry didn’t get everything that it wanted.

The Massachusetts legislature passed a compromise energy bill Tuesday evening with several wins for the clean energy industry.

The bill raises the renewable portfolio standard, such that the state’s renewable energy supply will need to increase by 2 percent annually from 2020 through 2029, before reverting back to 1 percent. The language also authorizes the study of an additional 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind.

August 6, 2018

In Pennsylvania, Legislature and Public Utility Commission Pave the Way to Innovative Ratemaking

In recent years, many states have grappled with the challenge of balancing the interests of regulated energy utilities to earn revenue by selling power with the public policy goal of reducing energy consumption.  To meet this challenge, more than 30 states in the U.S. have successfully used innovative utility rates, termed “alternative ratemaking,” to better align utility financial incentives with the public policy goal of increasing energy efficiency and distributed energy resources. Research by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows that states with alternative ratemaking policies achieve 50% higher savings from their energy efficiency programs.  Following two recent actions, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is now poised to take advantage of these tools as well.

August 5, 2018

Top 10 Utility Regulation Trends of 2018 – So Far

With half of 2018 already in the rearview mirror, we check in on the top public utility commission (PUC) actions and trends so far this year.

Not surprisingly, the challenges PUCs are grappling with are diverse: moving toward a cleaner grid, adopting foundational electric vehicle policies, investigating utility business model reforms, exploring the integration of new technologies such as energy storage, and increasing customer choice when it comes to sourcing their energy, just to name a few. Without further ado, here is a status check on the top 10 matters before PUCs in 2018 so far.

July 25, 2018

Energy Storage Gets Its Day in Congress

The House Energy and Commerce Committee invited experts to testify on what federal storage policy should look like.

Energy storage experts got to ask what their country could do for them Wednesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee convened a hearing on “the role of energy storage in the nation’s electricity system,” which gave industry insiders the rare chance to share what they’ve been thinking before a national audience.

July 24, 2018

New Report Highlights the Benefits and Drawbacks of Regionalizing California’s Grid

A controversial plan to expand grid markets throughout the Western U.S. gets a generally positive review in a new report—but with important warnings attached.

 Should California expand its energy markets to incorporate the rest of the Western United States? 

This vital question for California’s energy future has been the subject of vigorous debate for years now. Supporters say it will allow California to access ever-cheaper wind and solar power from across the region, driving down energy costs and boosting jobs and the economy, while pressuring uncompetitive fossil-fuel-fired power plants to shut down. 

July 23, 2018

No Longer a Novelty, Clean Energy Technologies Boom All Across the US

A new report documents the democratization of renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles in America.

 It was 1997, and stakeholders were working hard to help craft the first renewable energy standard in the State of Massachusetts, which ultimately passed as part of an electric utility restructuring act. At that time, the notion that Massachusetts would be one of the top solar states in the country was almost laughable, recalls Rob Sargent, who currently leads the energy program at Environment America.

Today, renewable energy is taking off in virtually every state in the nation.

July 19, 2018

Home Storage Sales Rocket as Australia Moves Towards Standardisation

Australia’s energy and environment minister has hailed the country’s accelerating residential energy storage sales as a report has emerged from Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel which says the “financial equation is straightforward” for adding batteries to home PV systems.

Finkel’s office produced reports during 2017 which advised the government on the power market, opportunities and challenges for renewables and decarbonisation and the role of clean energy technologies in boosting the resiliency of energy networks across Australia. At the tail end of the year, he also published a report on the “transformative role” of energy storage.    

July 18, 2018

Large-Scale Solar Blossoms in Africa

After years of unconverted pipelines, stale financing and cost barriers, utility-scale solar PV in Africa has started to spring up across the continent. The worldwide decline in equipment prices has of course been a pivotal influence, but Sub-Saharan Africa also now hosts a number of support schemes backed by development banks that are driving significant project sizes in a number of countries. 

July 17, 2018

UK: 50% Renewable Power at No Added Cost: National Infrastructure Commission Backs 2030 Power Mix

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has stressed that the UK could meet half its power demand from renewables by 2030, and urged the government to ditch new nuclear plans as a result.

The recommendation, included within a wider National Infrastructure Assessment – the country’s first, has been made by the NIC amidst other suggestions relating to electric vehicles and the wider energy mix.

July 16, 2018

Ireland Prepares Further Support for Climate Change Ambitions

A Climate Action Fund is to be launched by the Irish government seeking to fund large-scale projects currently outside of the country’s wider support mechanisms, delivering €500 million (~£441 million) by 2027.

Applications will be accepted for two weeks starting from 17 September for projects seeking at least €1 million to commence development in 2019 or 2020. Successful projects will have proved that they contribute towards Ireland’s climate and energy targets ‘in a cost effective manner’ and could not be built without support from the fund.

July 15, 2018

Wind Power Overtakes Nuclear Energy in UK for First Time Over Last Three Months

Record comes as MPs warn of 'dramatic and worrying collapse' in clean energy investment

Windfarms provided more electricity than Britain’s nuclear power stations in the first three months of 2018, the first time it has ever done so across a quarter. 

Between January and March, wind power produced 18.8% of the UK’s energy needs, compared to nuclear’s 18.76%. Gas was still the dominant source of the country’s electricity, at 39.4%. 

July 13, 2018

The Regulatory Body Steering Puerto Rico’s Energy Future Is in the Midst of a Makeover

Will the commission remain a “powerful, strong, and independent energy regulator” amidst the changes?

One month after José Román Morales left his position as interim chair of Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission (PREC), the body that regulates its utility and energy policy, his departure looks to mark the beginning of a period of more extensive change for the commission.

Two laws passed in late June will update responsibilities for PREC.

July 12, 2018

Coal-Heavy Poland Moves to Renewables, Finally

But coal will be king for a long time.

Poland, Europe’s biggest exporter and second-biggest consumer of coal, is cautiously embracing renewables to improve the security of its energy supply and meet European Union targets.

At the end of last month, the country’s upper house of parliament approved the removal of clean power investment roadblocks within a new renewable energy law aimed at putting Poland back on track to meet its EU commitment of 15 percent renewables by 2020. 

July 11, 2018

Electric Cars: Charge Points Could be Requirement in New Build Homes

New homes in suburban England would need to be fitted with electric car charging points under a government proposal to cut emissions.

Ministers also want new street lights to come with charge points wherever there's on-street parking.

Details of a sales ban on new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 are also expected to be set out.

July 10, 2018

Arizona Regulator Seeks Efficient Path for 80% Clean Energy Rule

Arizona regulator Andy Tobin has filed a set of proposed rules that would implement his Arizona Energy Modernization Plan to put utilities on a course to supply 80% renewable or nuclear power by 2050.

Tobin's proposal is to merge his plan with the state's existing Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST), which he says would create no new credits or other rulemaking dockets.

July 8, 2018

California Lawmakers Push 100% Clean Energy Bill Closer to Governor's Desk

  • A California Assembly committee voted 10-5 in favor of raising the state's renewable energy target to 100%, giving new life to a proposal that had stalled last year.

  • Senate Bill 100 would require the state to utilize only renewable and zero-emission energy sources, including nuclear, by 2045. If Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signs it, the bill would raise the state's current 2030 target of 50% renewables to a 60% interim target.

  • Hawaii is currently the only state with a 100% renewable energy mandate, but the state's unique geography, small population and abundant solar energy make it a poor comparison with California, which boasts the world's sixth largest economy.

Dive Insight:

By the end of 2017, about 43% of California's total electric system generation came from gas, followed by renewables at nearly 30% and large hydro at about 18%, according to the California Energy Commission. But the state's utilities are looking to avoid new gas plants or replace existing ones, adding further momentum behind the push to clean energy in the state.

Several other states are considering 100% clean energy mandates, including Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania, according to Lauren Navarro, senior policy manager for Environmental Defense Fund's California programming. So far, only Hawaii has put such a goal into law.

Hawaii's goal of utilizing all renewable energy is an enormous task, but the ubiquitous sunshine and comparatively small size and population make it unique. California has 40 million residents — more than 10% of the country's population — and a 100% goal is evidence government leaders have confidence in the rapid advancement of clean energy.

The 100% renewables bill made progress in spring 2017 but stalled in the fall, facing pushback from utilities and lacking support in the Assembly. The Senate approved the measure last year in a 25 to 13 vote.

Bill author and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, took to Twitter to praise the latest development. "We’re closer than ever to unlocking a clean-energy economy," he wrote.

The state's environmental goals and renewables targets are already aggressive, De León wrote. But rapid advances in green energy technology "shows that we have set the bar too low," he added.

Two years ago, California had 73% of the nation's solar capacity and produced 71% of the nation's utility-scale electricity generation from solar thermal resources, according to EIA. But the state still uses natural gas as its primary energy source. Nuclear energy also plays a significant role in California, but the state has charted a course to phase out all of its plants.

SB 100 now heads to the Assembly floor for consideration.

July 4, 2018

DOE Awards $21M in Grants to Cut Costs of Solar Thermal Desalination

The Energy Department sees massive potential to use the sun’s heat to purify seawater and industrial wastewater—but it needs new technologies to bring down the costs.

The Department of Energy sees big potential for solar thermal desalination technologies. But only if the costs can be brought down — way down.

July 3, 2018

Polish Parliament Approves Changes to Green Energy Law

Poland’s upper house of parliament approved an amendment to the renewable sources of energy law on Friday meant to remove obstacles to green energy investment and help Warsaw meet EU renewable energy targets.

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party won the 2015 election partly with promises to sustain the traditional coal industry. In 2016, the government banned construction of new wind farms close to dwellings and imposed new taxes on investors that made many wind farms loss-making.

June 29, 2018

Department of Energy Issues Recommendations for Post-Maria Puerto Rico

The federal government suggests more clean energy is a good option.

On Wednesday the Department of Energy (DOE) released a report detailing its vision for rebuilding a resilient energy system in Puerto Rico. It suggested hardening infrastructure, as well as integrating clean energy technologies such as solar and energy storage into the island’s energy portfolio.

June 28, 2018

Forget the Duck Curve. Renewables Integration in the Midwest Is a Whole Other Animal

What is the Upper Midwest’s energy mascot? Fresh Energy’s Andrew Twite presents: the Smilin’ Gator Curve.

In the Great Plains, wind energy is cheap. Crazy cheap.

With the lowest levelized costs approaching $10 per megawatt-hour and thousands of megawatts being procured for under $20 per megawatt-hour, PPAs for new wind farms cost less than just the fuel required to run existing coal or natural gas plants.

June 27, 2018

California Tries Again With 3 Landmark Clean Energy Bills. This Time Things Are Different

The energy landscape has changed and last year’s obstacles may have shifted for 100 percent clean energy, grid expansion and a storage program.

The road ahead looks clearer for clean energy bills that stalled in Sacramento last year.

California has championed clean energy and climate change mitigation, but legislators last year failed to pass SB 100, a 100 percent clean energy bill authored by Senate leader Kevin De León and supported by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill would increase the state's renewable energy goal to 60 percent by 2030, and require entirely carbon-free electricity by 2045.

June 26, 2018

IRS Issues Favorable Tax Credit Guidance for New Solar Projects

“In the absence of this commence-construction guidance, tax equity partners were growing cautious about project risk.”

The Internal Revenue Service released a new guidance Friday that establishes when the construction of a solar facility starts to qualify for the solar Investment Tax Credit.

The guidance, Notice 2018-59, provides two methods for determining the "commence-construction" date: 1) starting physical work of a significant nature or 2) meeting the "5 percent safe harbor test" by incurring 5 percent or more of the total cost of the facility in the year that construction begins.

June 25, 2018

Nevada’s 2.3-Cent Bid Beats Arizona’s Record-Low Solar PPA Price

NV Energy’s portfolio of solar and solar-plus-storage takes the low-price competition up a notch.

Records don't last long in the cleantech business. 

Just days ago, we were reporting that the Central Arizona Project (CAP) had secured the lowest confirmed solar price in the U.S., when it approved a 20-year power-purchase agreement at $24.99 per megawatt-hour. That's setting aside an Austin Energy PPA from December that could be lower, but has more ambiguous terms.

June 24, 2018

Distributed Energy Poised for ‘Explosive Growth’ on the US Grid

With distributed resources set to double by 2023, GTM Research lays out the challenges facing U.S. utilities in managing integration.

Distributed energy resources are poised for “explosive growth” across the United States over the next five years. U.S. utilities “need to change, and are slowly changing,” how they plan, operate and maintain their distribution grids to adapt.