Global Insight 25th April 2016
Upturn in German Solar and storage sectors
The solar sector in Germany is in a buoyant mood once more, as falling technology costs are driving deployment, leading to a growing domestic market for the first time since 2012. The solar industry now claim that that costs of solar production are now half what residential or even commercial customers pay for their electricity. This lead to an 80% year on year increase in domestic solar pv installations during the 2nd half of 2016. The cheaper costs of solar energy production are also accelerating the deployment of electricity storage for self-consumption. In 2016 20 00 new storage systems were introduced, taking total to 52 000, with industry expects that in 2018 this total could exceed 100 000.
Global renewable investment falls, but largest ever increase in installed capacity in 2016
The annual UNEP/Bloomberg New Energy Finance renewable investment report, showed important trends for global clean energy deployment. Most positive was that 138.5 GW of new solar, wind, biomass, waste to energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine renewable energy sources was installed in 2016, an increase over 2015. This equates to 55% of the total of new electricity generating capacity globally. However, the investment in 2016 was 23% lower, at €241.6 billion, than the previous year, due to falling technology prices and slowdown of investment in Asia, particularly China and Japan.
Dutch community wind farms at utility scale
Dutch cooperatives have announced the completion of financing of the world’s largest community wind farm, at over 100 MW. Another group, in Flevoland, is now planning a 350 MW farm. Why does Dutch community renewables sometimes happen on such a large scale? Energy Transition has the full story, but in a nutshell it is because landowners recognise the sense in including neighbours who live locally in the benefits, and the willingness of local and regional governments to get everyone to sit down and negotiate a mutually satisfactory deal.
The Australian Senate has passed a motion for a change in the settlement period for the National Electricity Market (NEM)
The NEM currently operates an energy-only gross pool market with 5-minute spot prices averaged for half-hourly periods. This has led to fossil fuel companies being able to withhold capacity and thus push up prices. New rules to change this to 5 minutes will be introduced over the next three years. It is expected that these new rules will encourage technologies with faster response times such as aggregated distributed storage and demand management which will complement the rise in intermittent renewables within the NEM. It is expected that the new rule will help eliminate the price spikes seen in recent years but the statement from the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) also highlights that this may reduce the expected revenue for the new services.
Rooftop solar is now Queensland’s biggest power station
In March, after adding an extra 25MW of domestic and business rooftop solar, Queensland’s rooftop solar capacity has now reached 1,805MW. The next largest power station is the coal fired Gladstone Power Station at 1680MW. This is now the second NEM state to achieve this after the Australian Capital Territory. It is expected that Western Australia will soon follow, and then South Australia after the retirement of the Torrens Island A gas fired generator.
New York REV’s New Regulator
One of the most forward States in USA is New York State, where the NY Reforming the Energy Vision has been pushed by Governor Cuomo, alongside multiple agencies. The lead Regulator – the NY Public Service Commission – was powerfully led by Audrey Zibelman, who has now left to join the Australian Electricity Market operator in Australia. She has been replaced by John Rhodes, ex head of the NY State Energy Research Development Authority; ex researcher at NRDC and ex-COO of Good Energies.
Hawaii 100% Renewable Energy System Operation
But all States are different, and all provide lessons. For example, Hawaii has a target of 50% renewable power by 2020, and 100% by 2040. Hawaii is made up of multiple islands, and has lots of wind and solar but it also has some very dense island populations, whilst others are relatively unpopulated. This requires innovative system operation, and Hawaii is moving a system operation with high levels of storage, electric vehicles and demand side response. It is developing a Power Supply Improvement Plan (PSIP), a variant on the NY Distribution system implementation plan (DSIP), which is outlining a plan to reach the 100%.
Platform Based Energy Systems
Some of the USA individual State’s energy systems are examples of rapid innovation towards more sustainable and cost-effective regulation. A recent blog by the Rocky Mountain Institute sets introduces the various changes within distribution utilities in various States, and their various names: distribution system operator (DSO); distribution system provider (DSP) and so on. What is becoming clear is that whilst there are differences in name and functions, the general move is towards more platform based grids because of the increased efficiency of supply and lower system / infrastructure costs for customers. Distribution utility innovation is happening and is a very positive move within energy systems.