Global Insights: 30th October 2018

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Global Insights: 30th October 2018


SA officially opens storage scheme

South Australia (SA) has officially opened its subsidy scheme for household storage.  The $200m scheme will allow households to access grants and low-interest finance to purchase battery storage and rooftop PV.  The battery storage loans are on a sliding scale dependent on the amount of storage purchased.  The SA government have also prioritised a nine week window for batteries that are built in SA to encourage households to buy from local manufacturers.

Currently SA is leading the world in percentage of households with rooftop PV which provides up to 45% of generation at certain times of the day.  It is expected that grid demand will be pushed to zero in the coming years.  The market operator is planning to use storage as a way to orchestrate grid demand using business models such as Virtual Power Plants (VPP) for grid reliability while also reducing electricity prices for all SA customers.

COAG Energy Council 20th Meeting absent of emissions policy

The COAG Energy Council – which includes the federal and state premiers and energy ministers – met last week to discuss future plans for energy in Australia.  Following the abandonment of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) the only future policy discussed was the Retailer Reliability Obligation.  This is essentially half of the NEG which had included a reliability guarantee and an emissions guarantee.

The communique states that ‘the Retailer Reliability Obligation will ensure enough of the right resources will be available to meet demand in the National Electricity Market (NEM) particularly in regions with limited access to dispatchable generation. If the right investment does not come forward to address forecast supply shortfalls, this would trigger an obligation on electricity retailers to demonstrate they can meet their share of peak demand’.  The Energy Security Board (ESB) is to report back to COAG in December with a final draft bill.

What was notably missing from the discussion was any mention of a replacement for the emissions guarantee which had been due to follow on from the Renewable Energy Target which ends in 2020.  Reliability was discussed as part of the Finkel recommendations, but Finkel also recommended that there be a Clean Energy Target – the only recommendation not agreed out of the entire Finkel review.  With a climate change denying Prime Minister and an anti-wind campaigner for Energy Minister what will be interesting to note is what is considered a ‘right resource’ for reliability when there is no emissions policy after 2020.


Puerto Rico thinking about liberalising the electricity system in wake of Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico lawmakers are thinking about ending the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) monopoly  and a move to 100% renewable energy by 2050. PREPA is bankrupt and still rebuilding after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s electric grid more than a year ago. Power has been restored but the Hurricane has prompted fundamental questions about the Puerto Rico energy system.

Post NEM Evidence beginning to emerge

The discussions around how to move on from net energy metering (NEM) have been on-going in the US for the last decade or so. As more solar is installed, and as more States have introduced new policies, the pros and cons of different  ‘successor’ models is becoming clearer from evidence.   At root, energy systems have to understand the value of distributed energy resources to the system before decisions are taken because otherwise the decisions may be seen as fundamentally ‘unfair’ to sustainable DER. In this situation, rather than end conflict, decisions can add  to disputes.

Solar saves costs in heatwave

Distributed solar reduced New England wholesale power costs by nearly $20 million dollars during a heat wave from July 1 to July 7, according to a new analysis completed by Synapse Energy Economics. During peak hours for electricity demand, distributed solar can reduce load on the New England grid by more than 1 GW, the report found, helping to reduce system-wide costs. The analysis was commissioned by SunCommon, a distributed solar provider.

Over 15 GW of coal projected to close in US in 2018 but still low% compared to many other countries in world

A study  by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has projected that 22 coal-fired power plants in 14 States across the United States are currently on track to close (15.4 gigawatts (GW)) during 2018.  Further, the IEEFA expects an additional 21.4 GW of coal-fired capacity closing over the next six years. This will bring the total coal-fired capacity closed between 2018 and 2024 to 36.7 GW — made up of 117 units. This will cut the country’s 246 GW coal-fired power fleet by 15% through to 2024. In 2018, coal plant closures have taken place or are expected to take place in Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Spanish government cancels ‘tax on the sun’

As expected, Spain’s new government is seeking to reverse a 2015 ruling that introduced a complex set of charges applied to grid-connected behind-the-meter distributed generation and storage, which chilled the nascent home generation installation market. What deterred homeowners was not the charge itself but the massive administrative burden involved in completing the paperwork. If final political agreement in the move can be reached, a flood of applications for new installations is anticipated.

EU’s innovation record on CCS and renewables criticised

The European Court of Auditors has brought out a critical review of EU demonstration projects between 2008 and 2017 in areas such as carbon capture and storage, and innovative renewables. According to the review, while ambitious targets were set, EU support of €3.7 billion achieved little in terms of projects delivered and results achieved. Two programmes – the European Energy Programme for Recovery and the New Entrants Reserve 300 (NER300) – were examined by the ECA team. According to the review, a range of factors contributed to the failure of the demonstration programmes, including uncertainty in regulatory and policy frameworks and a low carbon price after 2011, along with poor design, project selection and decision-making processes in the NER300 in particular. Looking ahead the ECA recommends adaption of the EU’s new Innovation Fund to try to improve the effectiveness of support.

EU negotiators agree ‘dynamic pricing’ and aggregator access to households

According to reports, EU legislators negotiating proposed changes to EU-wide electricity market rules in three-ways talks between Commission, Parliament and Member States.  There is agreement that larger energy suppliers would be required to offer domestic consumers with at least one offer comprising dynamic pricing tariffs. Aggregators will not have to ask consumers’ existing suppliers for prior permission to approach households with demand-side management offers. In exchange, suppliers will receive compensation for any energy lost. Details have yet to emerge.

German Coal Commission agrees post-coal strategy for mining regions 

Germany’s coal exit commission has this week unanimously agreed the first major report on dealing with the impacts of the coal phase out in coal mining regions. Proposals include the establishment of federal job agencies in affected regions together with improved transport and internet infrastructure. The report comes the week after thousands of coal workers protested outside of the commission meeting and the heads of the three lignite-producing eastern German states warned that the phase out would need to be handled with great care to avoid political instability. However a recent report suggests that Germany will need to phase coal out of its electricity sector by 2030 – earlier that the dates discussed by the coal commission so far – in order to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement. 

Berlin pilot project aims to store excess wind and solar power in steel 

A partnership between energy start-up Lumenion, Vattenfall Energy Solutions and Berlin-based housing company Gewobag is piloting the storage of excess wind and solar power as heat in steel. Excess power will be stored as heat in steel plates for less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour (at up to 650° Celsius). The heat can then be can be used directly, or converted back into electricity when needed.

German farmers sue german government for climate protection failure

Three german farmers and Greenpeace have filed a lawsuit against the German govenment for failing to take sufficient action in meeting their climate change goals.  The plaintiffs claim that the government’s failure to act interferes with their right to ‘life and health, freedom of occupation and property rights’. They say that climate change has already had a dramatic negative effect on their livelihoods by leading to extreme weather-related crop failures and a decrease in the health of livestock.

The german target of 40% reduction of GHG by 2020 will not be met and the lawsuit states that the government ‘ceased its actions…..without any legal basis and without sufficient justification’.  The lawsuit mirrors the case in the US in Oregan in 2015 in which pliantiffs claimed that ‘the right to a clean environment that doesn’t kill us all is a right inherent in the Constitution’.


International Energy Agency Market Report on Energy Efficiency

The annual report from the International Energy Agency on energy efficiency highlights its importance but notes that in 2017 global energy demand and emissions have increased, which is a break from the recent trends, and they conclude that energy efficiency could be doing much more to reverse this development.   Since 2000, according to the IEA, globally efficiency gains have prevented 12% more energy use in 2017.  However, implementing policies that deliver energy saving is slowing and the percentage of global energy use covered by mandatory energy efficiency policies and regulations in 2017 reached 34%.

The IEA highlight that the global building stock in 2040 could be 60% larger than today (in floor area) for no increase in overall energy demand, through technological improvements. However, these gains will only be achieved with policy action that applies to all buildings, new and existing, but two out of three countries lacking mandatory building energy codes and 60% of the energy use for appliances is not covered by standards. Transport is the sector with the largest global energy savings potential, whereas it has made the least efficiency progress since 2000 compared with buildings and industry. The key actions to realise this potential are improving vehicle fuel efficiency and increasing the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Regulatory measures will continue to be important but so will many other policies and supporting measures, including incentives for companies and individuals to reach greater levels of efficiency and initiatives that improve the availability of information on energy efficiency.

Blockchain – Energy evolution or Revolution?

The World Energy Council has reviewed examples of the use of blockchain in the energy sector and highlighted the challenges for its further adoption.   The report, looks at eight examples where blockchain is currently being utilised including: Flexible trading platforms, energy trading, e-mobility, tokenisation and project finance, bitcoin mining; and peer to peer (P2P) trading.  The report notes that P2P is the area of blockchain that has the most hype about it and gives two examples of where concrete developments are occurring, LO3 and Power Ledger. In the case of LO3, with its USD 6M project in collaboration with Siemens, a blockchain platform is in place to enable automated transactions over micro-grid wires between producers (mainly households with rooftop solar PVs) and consumers (households with smart meters). Power Ledger has reached full commercial implementation in Australia with their P2P blockchain trading platform application, but they also have other pilot projects in South-East Asia and North America.

The key challenges for further adoption are apathy of customers, as ‘a fully scaled P2P market is dependent on residential customers becoming prosumers’.  While this may be possible for engaged segments of society, making it relevant to most consumers will be the challenge.  The other important issue for those wanting to roll out blockchain is the need for the regulatory environment to change to cover blockchain developments.   One interviewee noted that “the regulatory framework needs to change but this change isn’t being triggered by blockchain, but in fact it is driven by the expansion of DERs [distributed energy resources] that is being enabled by the blockchain technology”.  There is still a long way to go to see how important blockchain could be for energy sector and discussing working examples and discussing the opportunities they create and the barriers for their further update will be an important step in their evolution.


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