April 22, 2018

Mexico Grows as World Leader on Energy Reform and Renewables

Mexico’s liberalized energy markets present huge potential for wind and solar. But how do Mexico’s reforms fit into the wider energy picture?

By the end of 2018, Mexico's oil and gas industry will be completely open to private investment from domestic and foreign companies across the value chain — from oil exploration to gas stations. Since liberalizing its energy markets Mexico has become something of a model for countries that wish to encourage investment, innovation and competition across their energy sectors.

April 20, 2018

Wind Forecast: Doubling Global Capacity by 2027 Will Be a Breeze

MAKE predicts 65 gigawatts more wind per year over the coming decade.

Global wind capacity is set to double by 2027, driven by a rush to capture tax subsidies in the U.S., the rise of emerging markets, and a coming surge for offshore wind.

New projections from MAKE Consulting show wind power additions averaging 65 gigawatts a year from 2018 to 2027, equal to a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent.

April 19, 2018

America Leads Global Energy Storage Development, But China’s Catching Up

A look at how energy storage is expanding across the world.

Energy storage has gone global, but in a lumpy and heterogeneous way.

That's the upshot of new report on worldwide storage deployments from GTM Research.

The U.S. and Australia led the pack in 2017, thanks to several mega-projects coming online, and market drivers that reward storage investment. Germany and Australia thrive in the residential storage segment, which hasn't achieved significant scale in the U.S.

April 18, 2018

The US Wind Sector Toasts Trump’s New Love of Offshore

The Secretary of Interior said offshore wind will play “a big role” in energy policy.

The U.S. wind industry is celebrating after the Trump administration last week appeared to lend wholehearted support to the development of offshore projects. 

Announcing two wind energy leasing areas totaling nearly 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the administration "supports an all-of-the-above energy policy and using every tool available to achieve American energy dominance."

April 17, 2018

Australian Utility Explores Solar-Plus-Storage and Demand Response for Substation Deferral

Evoenergy is exploring numerous ways to manage demand through virtual power plants.

Australian utility Evoenergy is carrying out one of the most comprehensive demand management trials ever in Australia, using a combination of batteries and traditional demand response.

One of them, a virtual power plant used to avoid a substation upgrade, could save Evoenergy around AUD $2 million (USD $1.6 million).

April 16, 2018

New Jersey Passes Nuclear Subsidies, Boosts Renewables Target to 50%

The RPS bill includes a 2 gigawatt energy storage target and sets higher goals for solar. The nuclear bill includes a lot of controversy.

The New Jersey state legislature passed three bills on Thursday that are designed to maintain and enhance access to low-carbon resources in the Garden State.

One piece of legislation (A3723/S2314) boosts New Jersey’s renewable portfolio standard to 35 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030 — putting the state in line with clean energy leaders, New York and California. The same bill also increases New Jersey’s solartarget, enables the launch of a community solar program and establishes a process to deploy 2 gigawatts of energy storage by 2030.

April 15, 2018

Illinois Case Could Help Other Utilities Seeking to Fund Microgrids

A recent Illinois decision could make it easier for utilities else where to pass costs for microgrid projects on to ratepayers

Energy experts and consumer groups are monitoring the recent Illinois decision to allow ComEd to build a microgrid and recoup the $25 million cost from a broader group of ratepayers.

But while a bill to authorize similar cost recovery is in motion in Pennsylvania, most observers plan to wait for details on how the Chicago microgrid performs before pushing similar regulatory changes.

April 13, 2018

Trump Targets Chinese Wind, Battery and EV Imports, With Limited US Impact

Solar products were not included on the administration’s list of products that could be subject to new tariffs.

The U.S. solar industry breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when Chinese-made solar cells and modules were not included on a list of products that could be subject to new Trump administration tariffs. Inverters were also absent.  

Other clean energy technologies did make the list, but the U.S. market impacts appear to be modest. 
The U.S. Trade Representative published the catalog Tuesday, naming some 1,300 Chinese imports the administration plans to hit with a 25 percent tariff under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.

Industrial robots, communication satellites and aircraft parts were among the products covered by the proposed tariffs, which are framed as retaliation for Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property and other unfair trade practices.

Certain Chinese wind power and battery products could also be subject to trade sanctions, as well as a motor cited as “primary source of mechanical power for electric vehicles.” However, USTR trade data shows these products make up a relatively small share of the U.S. market.

In the first case, the administration is specifically targeting “wind-powered electric generating sets.” According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Trade Policy Information System database, Chinese-made wind products included on the tariff list made up 25 percent of U.S. imports in 2017, representing just $53.3 million.

The USTR document does not specify if the tariffs apply specifically to wind turbines or wind generators. However, the $53 million figure generally aligns with the value of wind turbines imported to the U.S. from China in 2017, said Aaron Barr, principal consultant at MAKE Consulting. That amounts to between 30 and 75 turbines, depending on scope and size.

Chinese manufacturers have been angling to enter the U.S. market for several years. However, MAKE data shows imported Chinese turbines have only contributed 330 megawatts cumulatively to date, which represents less than 0.5 percent of the total U.S. fleet.

It’s a similar story for batteries.

“The impact on the battery industry will be minimal, as the parts included in the list are mostly related to primary (non-rechargeable) batteries,” said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research.

The specific energy storage imports that could be subject to new tariffs are: nickel cadmium batteries; lead acid batteries; and battery parts, including separators.

According to Manghani, nickel cadmium batteries are primarily used in power tools and consumer electronics and have been largely phased out of other applications. Tariffs on lead acid batteries would have a fairly significant impact on companies like Johnson Controls and Exide, but are less of a concern for the cleantech sector.

The administration’s proposed tariffs on battery parts would apply to most lithium-ion battery parts, said Manghani. However, per U.S. trade data, China only supplies 3.15 percent of all U.S. imports in this category, totaling $45 million in 2017.

That’s a pretty small number, Manghani said. Plus, U.S. manufacturers have multiple alternatives from Japan and South Korea.

The Energy Storage Association issued a statement Wednesday noting that the inclusion of Chinese battery components in the Trump administration’s proposed Section 301 tariffs will “likely represent a negligible impact on the growth of the energy storage market.” However, ESA is concerned the battery tariffs will still create unnecessary uncertainty.

“If these tariffs are adopted, the companies and people who plan, build and service battery storage facilities will be faced with risk that may inhibit storage deployment, even as the U.S. looks to strengthen its energy infrastructure and enhance resilience,” said ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman. 

EVs are another cleantech sector that could be affected by new tariffs, with a proposal to include imports of DC motors with an output of less than 75 kilowatts. The USTR noted these products are used for mechanical power in electric cars. However, that market appears to be very small and likely applies only to small vehicles like golf carts. China provided 63 percent of imports of these DC motors in 2017, which represented just $3 million.

The Section 301 investigation, which is now open for public comment, has contributed to rising tensions between the U.S. and China. Beijing responded to the Trump administration’s tariff product list Wednesday by announcing similar duties on key American imports including soybeans, planes, cars and chemicals. The Trump administration has since proposed launching trade talks.

Earlier this year, the president slapped import tariffs on solar panels under a Section 201 trade case brought by Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. That case continues to play out as U.S. companies that rely on foreign-made products seek tariff exemptions. 

The White House also announced tariffs on steel and aluminum, which stands to negatively impact the solar, wind and energy storage industries. Automakers will be among the hardest hit, which could cause vehicles, including EVs, to become more expensive.

April 12, 2018

Why the Northeast Could Soon Rival California on Energy Storage

Experts say a recent FERC decision and falling prices are creating an opportunity for Northeast states to aggressively adopt energy storage.

While California and other solar-heavy states are leading on energy storage targets, experts say New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland could quickly close the gap, with political support.

“Legislators in those states are putting everybody on notice that ‘We’re going there,’” said Mike Jacobs, a Cambridge, Mass.-based senior managing analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It might not be as lucrative as you want or as scary as you feared, but we’re going there.”

April 11, 2018

More ‘Subsidy-Free’ Offshore Wind Emerges in Europe

The Netherlands will have zero-subsidy offshore wind by 2022, but it still remains a special case.

"Subsidy-free" offshore wind is getting a lot of attention after contracts in Germany and the Netherlands were signed without direct government incentives. However, experts say these zero-subsidy offshore wind farms won't become the norm anytime soon.

Swedish developer Vattenfall won a tender to build up to 750 megawatts of offshore wind capacity in the Netherlands over the next five years, split across two adjacent sites 14 miles from the coast.

April 10, 2018

Illinois Commerce Commission Order a Victory for Solar, Advocates Say

Solar advocates cheered an order approved Tuesday by the Illinois Commerce Commission that defines crucial aspects of how the state will meet its ambitious goals for exponentially increasing solar capacity under the Future Energy Jobs Act.

On three different key points, the commission changed a proposed order from an administrative law judge in ways that solar advocates and consumer groups had recommended. If the proposed order had been implemented unchanged, advocates had feared that many rural and lower-income residents would have been excluded from solar incentives, and that the state might rely too heavily on renewable energy credits from out-of-state and existing projects as opposed to new in-state construction.

April 9, 2018

Iowa Tax Reform Bill Puts Solar Tax Credit on the Chopping Block

The state’s solar tax credit is set to begin phasing out next year, but a massive tax bill passed by the state Senate last week would end the program on July 1.

A tax credit that’s helped motivate many fiscally conscious Iowa farmers to install solar panels would see an early demise under a sweeping tax reform bill that cleared a major legislative hurdle last week.

Iowa is the only state in the Midwest and one of just a dozen nationally that still offers a state solar tax credit. The Iowa Legislature created the 15 percent tax credit in 2012. Since then it’s provided a total of $21.6 million in incentives for nearly 4,000 projects.

April 8, 2018

How California Taught China to Sell Electric Cars

California wants 5 million emission-free cars on the road by 2030. China, with a far larger population, wants 7 million electric vehicles by 2025. California has a cap-and-trade program to limit emissions from power plants, factories and fuel suppliers. China is launching a cap-and-trade system to lower fuel consumption and cut reliance on oil imports.

While the liberal and authoritarian politics of California and China are a study in contrasts, both places are taking a top-down approach to combating climate change by forcing a shift in energy and transportation. China, in fact, has modeled its electric car mandate on California’s program, following years of collaboration between officials on opposite sides of the Pacific.

April 3, 2018

Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target “SMART” Incentive

Current Massachusetts solar policies are changing and the current SREC program is being replaced by a new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target “SMART” program which is expected to be implemented by March 31, 2018.  If you are already in the SREC program, you will remain in the program, with no changes to your SREC account.

April 2, 2018

NJ Offshore Wind Farm Gets Closer to Cranking Out Megawatts

Long-delayed pilot off Atlantic City gets OK from legislative panel, but some environmentalists argue it’s time to move directly to full-scale projects

A legislative panel has advanced a bill to allow a small pilot offshore wind farm off Atlantic City to move forward despite concerns from a couple of organizations that usually back such efforts.

The bill (A-2485) would revive the Fishermen’s Energy proposal, a $210 million, 24-megawatt project three miles off the city’s coast. During the Christie administration, it was rejected twice by a state agency over fears it would spike bills for electricity customers.

March 30, 2018

New Law Aims to Cripple Initiative Pushing for Higher Renewable Energy Standards

A new law quickly pushed through the Arizona Legislature and backed by Arizona Public Service Co. and other business interests is aiming to gut an initiative drive on renewable energy production before it makes it onto the ballot.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Friday that would seek to penalize companies that don't meet the state's renewable energy standards between $100 and $5,000, according to the Arizona Republic.

March 29, 2018

Bill Adds Wood to R.I.'s Renewable-Energy Portfolio

Rhode Island seems to have a thing against trees. Although preserving trees is considered one of the most effective methods for sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change, state laws and incentives continue to favor cutting them down. As a result, trees are being clear-cut in Rhode Island to build an office park, a casino and large solar energy farms. 

March 28, 2018

US Southeast Is Finally Becoming a Hot Spot for Solar

The reason why the sunny U.S. Southeast resisted solar power for years is the same reason that explains its about-face: cost.

The region was long the country’s smallest solar market, in part because state regulators argued it was just too expensive. Now that prices have come down sharply, area utilities are embracing power from the sun.

March 27, 2018

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 841 On Electric Storage: A Landmark Game- Changing Decision for Emerging Technologies in Organized Power Markets

By Jehmal Terrence Hudson, Esq.
The electric power industry is going through a major transformation through advancements in technology and changing consumer preferences. New technologies can further optimize the electric grid by enabling greater balance of supply and demand. Consumers’ expectations are changing as they use new technologies to gain greater control over their electricity consumption and generation. Utilities, corporations, states, local entities, and other industry participants recognize the need to address and integrate new technologies to meet consumers’ demand and preferences. Energy technologies affecting electricity generation, transmission, and distribution include energy storage, microgrids, energy management systems, distributed generation, demand-side management, smart meters, smart appliances, and other intelligent grid technologies.

March 25, 2018

Lawmakers Pass Spending Bill With Funds for Clean Energy

UPDATE: On Friday after threatening to veto the bill, which would have caused a government shutdown, President Trump signed the bill. "There are a lot of things that I'm unhappy about in this bill," he said. "I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again." 

Congress cleared a spending bill Friday for the 2018 fiscal year that allocates $1.3 trillion. Despite the Trump administration’s requests for drastic cuts, lawmakers set aside increased funds for clean energy programs. Trump tweeted Friday that he may veto the bill. 

March 24, 2018

How Pumped Storage Can Make a US Comeback

Across the U.S., state and local governments continue to set aggressive renewable energy goals. Solar and wind power are often used to help meet these new standards — whether because of favorable tax incentives or quick deployment timeframes. But as the growth of intermittent resources increases, it is clear that these resources need to be combined with a reliable backup.

That’s where technologies like hydropower pumped storage can be an ideal addition to a renewable energy portfolio. It’s like a “water battery” that balances energy production when intermittent renewables aren’t generating power or there is more generation on the grid than is needed. By storing renewable energy resources for later use, such as during peak demand times, pumped storage serves as a highly flexible resource for keeping the energy grid running smoothly.

March 23, 2018

MA Governor Embraces ‘Clean Peak’ Policy to Encourage Renewables Paired With Storage

Governor Baker’s proposed bill would leverage the state’s renewable power at peak hours, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and system costs.

Gov. Charlie Baker has introduced a bill to use more clean energy during Massachusetts’ hours of peak grid demand.

The governor included language in a proposed bill to allocate $1.4 billion toward climate adaptation and environmental stewardship. The so-called Clean Peak Standard would require a minimum level of clean energy to supply the most expensive 10 percent of grid hours each year.

March 22, 2018

Arizona Regulators Freeze New Gas Plants, Demand More Clean Energy Planning From Utilities

Arizona’s energy future took an unexpected turn this week.

At a hearing Tuesday for the routine assessment of major utilities’ long-term resource plans, regulators rebuked the proposals and instituted a nine-month moratorium on new gas plants larger than 150 megawatts.

The commissioners are in the midst of examining an energy system overhaul to pursue 80 percent clean energy with a focus on energy storage to meet peak power with clean sources. The building freeze will prevent near-term investments in gas infrastructure that could become stranded assets if the grid overhaul comes into force.

March 21, 2018

Global Wind Power Capacity Grows by 52.6 GW

The Global Wind Energy Council released its annual market statistics last week in Brussels. The 2017 market remained above 50 GW, with Europe, India and the offshore sector having record years. Chinese installations were down slightly—‘only’ 19.5 GW—but the rest of the world made up for most of that. Total installations in 2017 were 52,573 MW, bringing the global total to 539,581 MW.

Beyond the statistics, however, is the fact that wind power is in a rapid transition to becoming a fully commercialized, unsubsidized technology; successfully competing against heavily subsidized fossil and nuclear incumbents. The transition to fully commercial market-based operation has left policy gaps in some countries, and the global 2017 numbers reflect that, as will installations in 2018.

March 20, 2018

The Most Important Thing California Can do with its Clean Energy Could be to Share it

Not often is running the electric grid as simple as applying lessons from childhood. Right now it is ─ California is learning to share with its neighbors. A bill currently in front of the Legislature from California Assemblymember Chris Holden, AB 813, aims to build a better trading platform to share California’s extra solar power with nearby states like Oregon, Washington, and Nevada, which would then share their extra wind, solar, and hydropower resources with California.

It is like the lunch table you sat around as a kid – one where you can trade that banana pudding that overflows at your house for one of your neighbor’s chocolate chip cookies. It’s a delicious deal, where everybody wins.