Global Insights: 18th September 2018

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Global Insights: 18th September 2018


AEMC finalises decision on distributed energy resources register

The Australian Energy Market Commission has made a final rule that will allow the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to establish a register for distributed energy resources which includes household PV and storage.

The rule will not come into effect until 1st December next year with information guidelines for the register published in June.  The register will allow the market operator visibility of DER, especially home storage.  Currently there are no schemes or subsidies in place for home storage which means AEMO is unable to see the location and density of storage making predicting demand difficult. The battery storage market is growing at a rapid pace in Australia.  How current installations and those installed before the December deadline will be included, and also  whether registering will be obligatory is unclear, which means that predicting demand will still be difficult for AEMO.

New Energy Minister claims renewable generation will cause de-industrialisation 

The new Australian Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, commented in an interview this week that introducing more renewables would cause de-industrialisation and the loss of jobs.  He also said that new renewables would push out baseload power and cause reliability issues on the grid.  This is in direct contrast to the current situation in South Australia which has seen companies such as Sonnen investing in new manufacturing plant and other industrialists, such as Sanjeev Gupta, using renewable generation and storage to power their plants.  It is also contradictory to the findings of AEMO’s Integrated System Plan which has found no reliability issues for the future of the grid even taking into account the state’s independent renewable energy targets.


German coal exit continues to be divisive 

The coal exit, and particularly the ongoing conflict regarding coalmine expansion in Hambach forest, continue to play a central role in German politics. The 12th September plenary debate in the German Parliament about the 2019 national budget for environmental policy was dominated by the coal exit with Environment Minister Svenja Schulze suggesting both RWE and protestors need to be more open to discussion. The conflict has highlighted the deep divisions in both the governing coalition and the coal commission with a CDU-CSU spokesperson suggesting that the approach cannot be ‘we reach our climate targets; what happens to people [in the affected regions] is secondary’.

In the coal commission, mining union and industry representatives have been defending RWE’s plans to fell areas of the forest in order to proceed with mine expansion whilst Greenpeace accused the German government of standing by and allowing ‘RWE to dangerously fuel the social conflict’ in Hambach forest, even as the coal industry was in its death throes. 

German government to set up commission to address building efficiency and heat. 

Building on a commitment in the coalition treaty the German government is preparing to launch a commission to increase building energy efficiency and decarbonise heat. The slow progress of heat decarbonisation has been receiving increased attention and the commission is expected to be made up off around 20 members from academia, civil society, and the building industry. The first meeting will be held in October.

Heatwave sees solar power hit records across Europe

A long hot summer has led to record levels of electricity generated form solar PV across European countries. “Across Europe, records came tumbling down,” observed SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson. Solar Power output was up 75% over last year in the Netherlands, and up 33% in Denmark. Solar also hit new highs in the UK and Germany. At the same time, the resource continues to grow, with EU installed capacity now 107 GW. Costs are expected to fall following the European Commission’s decision earlier this month to let anti-dumping measures against Chinese solar panel imports to lapse.

Smart city hype fails to kick-start major projects

The smart city agenda in Europe goes back at least 5 years, when the European Commission launched a European innovation partnership on smart cities and communities (EIP-SCC) that aimed to facilitate investment of least €100 billion by the end of 2019. However, the record to date is that most funding has come from the public sector, via the European Energy Efficiency Fund (EEEF), and projects have remained fragmented and limited, with many focusing on areas such as street lighting. According to Lada Strelnikova, who heads up the EEEF, “the main challenge presented by smart city projects is their complexity, and the capacity required to formulate and elaborate the project. For example, we know that there is a lot of interest from the industrial players in participating in smart city projects, but it’s not really happening yet because of the coordination efforts required with public authorities and technical complexity.”


Human Rights and Renewable Energy

As renewable energy expands into the mainstream and dominates new power capacity, so its impact on and across wider society interests increases, through the employment it creates, the social standards of companies and the environmental and resource impacts of its manufacturing.  A recent report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre looks at the human rights commitments of the largest companies in the solar, bioenergy and geothermal sectors. The report complements a 2016 analysis that looked at the wind and hydropower sectors.    The headline conclusion of the 2018 report is that “companies’ human rights policies and practices are not yet strong enough to ensure this [energy] transition is both fast and fair.” The report argues alongside the moral imperative, companies can also avoid significant legal risks, project delays and financial costs by introducing rigorous human rights due diligence policies.

The key findings of the report are that there are insufficient human rights commitments by companies in the biggest renewable energy markets.  For example, in Europe, out of the 17 companies researched 8 do not have public human rights commitments in place, while in the United States out of the 6 companies headquartered in the US in this research, 4 have a public human rights commitment in place while two do not.   Furthermore, even though China accounts for 45% of global investments in renewable energy, only one out of 5 Chinese solar companies included in this research has a commitment to human rights.

Dutch report on Smart Integrated Decentralised Energy Systems shows Potential for Microgrids

The Dutch Government sponsored a report, published by Metabolic, to assess the potential for Smart Integrated Decentralised Energy (SIDE) systems, a highly sustainable and resilient subset of microgrids, to contribute to the renewable energy transition by increasing the flexibility of the energy system from the bottom-up.  This was in recognition that to meet the Netherland’s 2030 renewable energy goals –   a 20% share of renewable energy sources (RES) and a share of 51% (of which 46% solar PV and wind) of electrical renewable energy sources (RES-E) – , a transformation of the energy sector will be needed.  This will require massive and costly adaptations to the energy infrastructure, while the utilisation of assets (e.g. transmission lines and existing power plants) is expected to reduce from 55% to 35% by 2035. The transition also brings the need for complex new control, market and ownership models, as well as to necessitate new regulations to facilitate these models.

The report highlights that bringing citizens together in local energy cooperatives can help drive the energy transition by improving competition, providing local investment and increasing renewable energy production. According to another Dutch research paper, by 2050, almost half of all EU households will be producing renewable energy, of which more than a third is participating in a local energy community.   Some of the key takeaways from the Metabolic report are:

  • Based on energy storage alone, batteries are still a factor 3-10x too expensive to incorporate in SIDE systems economically, depending on the extent of the feed-in tariff. However, their economic feasibility may increase if there is a need for other services the battery can provide, such as backup power supply, power quality management, or offering flexibility to the power market. By 2030, their business case should be solid.
  • Electric vehicles are an essential component of any sufficiently advanced SIDE system, as they allow for substantial local energy management. Smart charging algorithms can greatly increase the self-consumption of renewable energy
  • Local energy trading allows for a modest increase in self-consumption and can help incentivise smarter energy systems, provided that regulatory barriers can be overcome. Ideally, smart-grid technology will allow for a real-time local energy price, similar to the stock market.

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