South Australia to have a new Liberal government
This weekend South Australia (SA) went to the polls and elected a new Liberal (conservative) government to be led by Steven Marshall. The previous Labor (centre-left) government had been in power in the state since 2002. In 2011 Jay Weatherill took over the party leadership and has since been instrumental in the push for renewables in SA.
Previous to the election the Labor government had pledged that SA would have 75% renewable generation by 2025. Although the Liberal’s had pledged to slash this target, this is a pledge that is going to be hard to renege due to the large amount of solar and wind projects in the current pipeline. These projects alone take SA virtually up to the 75% mark. Labor had also signed a deal with Tesla for a Virtual Power Plant Trial, initially with 1,100 social housing homes, but would eventually include up 50,000 social housing and residential properties. The initial part of this project has been signed off and as such will continue. The final part will need investment from private sources. The new Liberal government are promising $100,000m subsidy for loans up to $2,500 for domestic storage which will be needed to be paid for by taxpayers, as appose to the Labor plan which is to be financed privately.
The Liberal win is seen by some as a win for coal and the death of solar and wind in the state. The interest here comes from whether the momentum from the previous government’s push for renewables is unstoppable and, if so, how the energy system and it’s governance reacts.
ARENA announces DER fund
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $12.5m fund for projects and research into the incorporation of distributed energy resources (DER) onto the grid. The funding has two streams, one for demonstration projects helping to lower the impact of DER on network and one for studies into the challenges of grid management.
US States ranked for Support in Community Energy
The 2018 Community Power State Scorecard. Each year, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance provides a score for each state’s energy policies based on how they help or hinder local clean energy action. In 2018, 21 states had a failing grade, 17 were mediocre, 11 had a passing grade, and just 2 excelled at enabling residents to act individually and collectively to take charge of their energy future. The scoring methodology is on the Community Power Map site. The top 5 States were Massachusetts (1); NY (2); CA (3); Illinois (4) and New jersey (5).
Storage to compete against traditional supply in wholesale markets
Three weeks ago, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that so-called energy-storage companies such as Tesla Inc. and AES Corp. can compete against traditional power plants in U.S. wholesale markets by the end of 2020.
New costing methodologies for US Utilites
Utility Earnings in a Service Orientated World by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute sets out a number of alternative utility costing methodologies which they argue may better suit a decentralising, decarbonising and digitalising energy system. Utilities are worried that they are going to lose revenues to other providers – this report highlights ways that utilities can become neutral to this.
DSR preferred to new gas by Minnesota’s largest customers
Amongst a dozen of Minnesota Power’s largest energy customers are opposing the utility’s plan to partner on a new natural gas plant, instead saying demand management strategies should be employed to avoid building capacity. Minnesota Power, along with Dairyland Power Cooperative, want to construct a 525 MW to 550 MW gas-fired plant in Superior, Wis. The utility says the new plant will help boost the amount of wind and solar on the system, but Minnesota Power customers argue the new generation is unnecessary. A group of 11 companies filing as Large Power Intervenors has suggested to Minnesota regulators that interruptible rates might be used to reduce demand at peak times.
Various utilities offer rebates for electric vehicles.
Customers of Pacific Gas & Electric or Southern California Edison shopping for a new vehicle could save more than $20,000 off the cost of a new 2017 or 2018 BMW i3 or i3s electric vehicle, when a hefty discount associated with the utility is combined with other state and federal incentives. PG&E announced this month that customers could use a $10,000 discount on the electric BMWs through to May 31st, in addition to two years of free charging at some locations. SoCal Edison announced much the same discount in February, and San Diego Gas & Electric ran a similar offer last year. The steep discounts aim to help California meet its aggressive goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. At the same time, the car manufacturer can possibly snag a larger share of the emerging market.
E.On and RWE swap to create renewables giant
Germany utilities RWE and E.On are making a complex exchange of assets which will create a new giant renewables company. RWE is selling its major stake in Innogy, which it spun off in 2016, to E.On, but will keep hold of Innogy’s renewable assets, which it will then combine with those of E.On, who will take Innogy’s other assets and €1.5bn in cash. The deal continues the break-up of E.ON and RWE, which were two vertically integrated utilities before they split their renewables and grids from their thermal generation assets. This will make RWE Europe’s second largest producer of renewable energy, while E.On will become Europe’s largest energy retailer. This reverses an earlier move by RWE to pull out of renewables.
The Chief Executives of both E.ON and RWE stressed that the deal was about making the energy transition across Europe a success. However E.ON also warned that its takeover of Innogy could lead to up to 5000 job losses across the group as they seek to make savings of €800m a year.
Engie moves into energy storage and demand side management
French energy firm Engie (previously GDF Suez) has acquired a majority stake in Electro Power Systems (EPS), a storage and micro-grid company with projects across the world. This follows Engie’s declaration in 2016 that its strategy would be ‘to become the leader of the world energy transition’. It also comes on the heels of similar buy-outs by major European utilities in 2017. EPS’s main focus is on replacing diesel with clean energy in remote locations in the developing world, with 93 per cent of its microgrid capacity in Asia, the Pacific and Africa, but it also has projects in Australia and Bosnia.
Will we see an Amazon of energy soon?
Energy is becoming increasingly digitised and smart consumer interfaces are now becoming a reality, just as demand flexibility is gaining new value in systems with increasing amounts of intermittent renewables and the need to constrain peaks on networks. These changes are creating new opportunities for platforms offering new energy services. Experience elsewhere in data-intensive industries has shown that scale and utilisation of big data can give a company advantage, which they can then use to squeeze out competitors. This has been seen in a range of service areas from Amazon in retailing, to Facebook in social media and Google in internet search. The question is then whether and when we will see similar giant platforms in energy services. Energy finance specialist Gerard Reid argues that such a development is inevitable, and has been held back so far only by regulatory barriers. However, these models of course bring their own problems of quasi-monopolies and huge concentrations of influence and power.
German energy policy in new hands
On 14 March the German federal parliament, the Bundestag, re-elected Angela Merkel for a fourth term as German chancellor. The official voting in of Merkel followed the centre-left Social Democratic Party voting to form another ‘grand coalition’ government with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and ended almost six months of uncertainty in German politics. All ministers in the new government have now been named with the SPD’s Svenja Schulze, former science minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, appointed as Germany’s next environment minister, responsible for climate and nuclear policy. The CDU has appointed Peter Altmaier, formerly chief of the Chancellery, to become the next economy and energy minister. Altmaier has a controversial history with the Energiewende as he supported cuts to feed in tariffs and challenged national climate targets. However he is also respected by both industry and campaigners for his ability to engage in complex issue and mediate agreements. He will be tasked with delivering on the energy commitments of the coalition agreement, including establishing a commission to set an exit date for coal-fired power generation by the end of 2018; enshrining the 2030 sector emission goals into a climate protection law in 2019; and accelerating the expansion of renewable power to reach a 65-percent share by 2030, while making sure power grid development keeps pace.
German large-scale battery storage set to grow 81 per cent in 2018
An advisory report has suggested that large battery storage capacity will expand in Germany to 323 MW in 2018, up from 178 MW last year and from 143 MW in 2016. Up to another 110 MW could come on stream in 2019. There are now also 85,000 home storage power batteries in Germany, mostly owned by solar rooftop generators. Domestic-scale storage could reach a capacity of 385 MW this year, up from 280 MW in 2017 and 185 MW in 2016.
Carbon Disclosure Project highlights growth in renewable energy use reporting in cities
The UK based NGO the Carbon Disclosure Project has published its latest assessment of the use of renewable energy in cities, with over 100 reporting that at least 70% of their electricity is from renewables, including Auckland, Nairobi, Oslo, Seattle and Vancouver. This is an increase from 40 cities who reported in 2015.
According to the World Bank, 54% (about 4 billion people) of the global population now live in the urban environment, an increase from 42% in 1990, which is expected to increase to 66% by 2050, which could add 2.5 billion to the total, with the largest growth expected in China, India and Nigeria. Therefore, meeting their energy needs sustainably will be vital to meet global greenhouse gas targets as cities are already responsible for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions. Recognising this 7,000+ mayors have signed up to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and have pledged to act on climate change.
There are now 40 cities on the CDP list that are already powered 100% by renewable electricity including: Burlington in the USA, which is Vermont’s largest city and now obtains 100% of its electricity from wind, solar, hydro, and biomass; Reykjavik, in Iceland which sources all electricity from hydropower and geothermal, and is now working to make all cars and public transit fossil-free by 2040; and Basel, Switzerland which is 100% renewable powered by its own energy supply company. Most electricity comes from hydropower and 10% from wind.
Coals contribution to China’s energy mix falls in 2016
The National Bureau of Statistics of China has published its 2017 assessment of the National Economic and Social Develop, which includes headline assessments of energy consumption. In 2017, the Chinese economy grew by 6.9% an increase of 0.2% over the previous year. In 2017, total energy consumption increased by 2.9%, leading to a decrease in energy intensity of 3.7%, while carbon intensity fell by 5.1%. This was in part due to an increase in the use of non-coal and oil sources, which the statistics group together (natural gas, nuclear, hydro and other renewable sources), an increase to 20.8% of the energy mix, an increase of 1.3%. Since 2013, the contribution of these sources have risen from 15.5%. In 2017 the installed capacity of solar increased by 52.8 GW and of wind by 19.5 GW. Air pollution remains a key driver of change in the energy mix, of 338 cities at prefecture level and above, 29.3 % reached the air standard but 70.7 % failed to do so.
Overseas direct investment in 2017 by Chinese companies in the electricity, heat, gas and water sectors increased by 26.5%, the second largest sector rise (behind construction) compared to an overall decline of 29.4%. The total ODI by Chinese investors (excluding banking, securities and insurance) was US$ 120 billion.