Global Insights: 11th December 2018

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Global Insights: 11th December 2018


South Australia Electricity report released

Last year’s increase in rooftop PV and domestic battery storage, along with increased renewable generation, are changing the dynamics of the South Australian (SA) power system.  This year’s electricity report highlights the need for system strength to be more actively managed, the increased need for fast-start and rapid-response technologies and the possibility of a new interconnector to New South Wales.  The steps taken within the report show a positive response to the large amount of variable generation.  The Hornsdale Power reserve has shown the range of services able to be supplied by large storage; the trials of VPPs for demand response services; the transmission operator installing synchronous condensers for system strength and inertia, are all complementary reactions to ensure that the SA electricity supply continues to be a reliable source of power.  Contrary to stories in some press that suggested that SA would experience loss of service due the intermittency of its generation, this year for the first time, SA became a net exporter of energy.

First hydrogen test facility opened in Canberra

EvoEnergy and the Canberra Institute of Technology have opened a new hydrogen test facility to trial the use of 100% hydrogen for use by appliances and in existing gas distribution networks.  The hydrogen will be will be produced from excess renewable energy generation and the facility will be used to understand how hydrogen gas could be used to power homes using the existing gas network.  Australia also hopes that as well as for domestic use, hydrogen will create a new energy export market.


USA publishes 4th Annual Climate Change Assessment

The US has published its 4th Annual Climate Change Assessment. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) deliver a report to Congress and the President no less than every four years that “1) integrates, evaluates, and interprets the findings of the Program…; 2) analyzes the effects of global change on the natural environment, agriculture, energy production and use, land and water resources, transportation, human health and welfare, human social systems, and biological diversity; and 3) analyzes current trends in global change, both human-induced and natural, and projects major trends for the subsequent 25 to 100 years.”1

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) fulfills that mandate in two volumes. The recently published report, Volume II, draws on the foundational science described in Volume I, the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR).2 Volume II focuses on the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change and variability for 10 regions and 18 national topics, with particular attention paid to observed and projected risks, impacts, consideration of risk reduction, and implications under different mitigation pathways. Where possible, NCA4 Volume II provides examples of actions underway in communities across the United States to reduce the risks associated with climate change, increase resilience, and improve livelihoods.

FERC New Commissioner

Incoming Commissioner Bernard McNamee helped craft a coal and nuclear bailout proposal at the Department of Energy that FERC unanimously rejected in January. There are mounting calls for McNamee to recuse himself from the resilience docket so it looks like the resilience issue may well raise its head again.


Solar home storage company Sonnen certified to provide control energy

Domestic battery producer Sonnen has been certified by the German transmission grid operator – TenneT – as a control energy provider to the grid. The company connects 30,000 households, which together form Germany’s largest ‘virtual battery’ for solar power with a capacity of 300MWh. The decentralised storage community can theoretically provide power to 120,000 homes for one hour, acting as a flexible and low carbon way to balance power grid fluctuations.

Germany backs Nord Stream 2 amidst Ukraine tensions

Germany will not withdraw its political support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Last month Russia seized three Ukrainian ships near the Crimea region that Moscow annexed in 2014 and there are increasing international calls for the ships to be released. Several German lawmakers have suggested the standoff is linked to the Nord Stream 2 project, an $11 billion pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline project aims to double capacity of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline from 2019, bypassing existing routes through Ukraine.

EU negotiations over support for coal stalled

EU legislators have so far failed to reach agreement on phase out of support for coal-fired power plants through national capacity markets, as part of reforms of European electricity markets. The Commission has proposed an emissions limit on national schemes, of 550 gCO2/kWh, which would rule out coal-fired generation. However, despite agreement on the approach, Poland is pushing hard for grandfathering of existing capacity mechanisms, which would mean that the limit would not come into force until 2035. The negotiations have also failed to reach agreement on whether individual Member States or the EU should decide on having capacity mechanisms.

European storage association calls for regulatory reform in wake of Clean Energy for All package

The Clean Energy for All package published last month mentioned energy storage for the first time as a key element in European energy strategy. “For the first time a more prominent role is given to energy storage, which is acknowledged as one of the key flexibility instruments required in the future energy system,” stated Dominique Ristori, Director General for Energy at the European Commission. Now, the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE) has called for regulatory reform to remove outstanding barriers to the growth of the storage industry. According to EASE, many barriers remain, especially lack of harmonisation of grid charges, taxes and fees applied to energy storage technologies across the EU, which leads to the double charging of storage technologies. Other barriers include energy market modelling which does not take into account intra-hour benefits (while storage provides mostly short-duration services), by a lack of clarity of existing technical, safety and environmental standards or a lack of specific standards for energy storage technologies.


Rise of the Decentralised PV Plotted by IEA

The International Energy Agency has published its latest trends report for the PV sector. The report notes that PV development has been policy driven, but now levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from PV is often close to or even below the retail price of electricity and in some cases below market prices.   Despite this, in 2017, 99% of the volume of the market is still dependent on support schemes or a supportive regulatory framework.  Globally, about 75% of the PV installations are   receiving  a pre-defined tariff for part or all their production. It reaches 83% in centralised grid connected pv systems but only 61% in the distributed PV market.  The research also shows the use of auctioning for feed in tariffs (FiTs) has increased and in 2017 was used in 11.6% of the 99 GW of new capacity – historically it has been used in less than 10% of projects.   The auctioning process resulted in some historically low bids, including $20.57/MWh in Mexico and $21.48/MWh in Chile.  The lower technology costs for solar PV has also led to an increase in the deployment of distributed installations, which in 2017 contributed 37 percent of the total.

The increase in self-consumption and the development of new digital technologies is raising the prospect of collective or virtual self-consumption.   Collective self-consumption allows the sharing of electricity generally behind the meter, to peer to peer sales, and could expand to delocalised consumption and production and opens up the possibility of different grid tariffs, whereby local production and consumption contracts would not be required to pay (or pay less) transmission charges.  Such policies are being tested in some countries such as Austria, Netherlands, France and Mexico.

China to launch renewable energy quotas in 2019

The Chinese State planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have published a plan to introduce a renewable energy quota system, which will set minimum renewable power consumption levels within each region, based on the draft legislation these ranged from 26% of power from renewables (excluding hydro) in Qinghai, to 3.5% in Shanghai by 2020.  Under the new legislation energy users will have to fulfil their obligations by buying energy certificates from producers of renewable energy – with separate certificates for hydropower and for other renewables.  If consumers haven’t accumulated enough certificates, then they will have to buy replacements.

The NDRC are also said to be seeking to reduce the electricity losses associated with the curtailment of renewables, whereby due to transmission constraints power is produced but not used. Currently, losses are said to be as high as 12 percent, with an objective to reduce losses to 5 percent by 2020.   Measures that will be introduced include a reform of the price-setting policies and to give the renewable energy sector priority access to the grid.

Concerns have been raised about the dangers of overlap and duplication with other policy goals and strategies and therefore clear co-ordination is needed.  A blog published by China Dialogue notes the key areas for co-ordination are “carbon markets, spot power markets, ancillary services markets, distributed solar markets, and policies on air pollution”.

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