Australian DER now stands at 2 million households
The success of the solar industry in Australia has now reached new heights with the Clean Energy Council announcing on Monday that 2 million Australian households now have solar installed on their roofs (there are approximately 9 million households in total). There is an average of six panels per minute being installed just with small-scale solar (if including large scale this jumps to 10-20 panels per minute). What is also of interest is where the solar systems are being installed and what this means politically.
Two articles this week (available here and here) have highlighted the political side of small-scale solar. Two million households have a lot of voting power. The top five solar postcodes in Queensland and Western Australia are held by the Liberal-National Party at both state and federal levels. The Liberal-National Party, and the new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have been particularly vocal about their support of coal. With a federal election looming next year, if politicians keep ignoring the views of their constituents towards climate change and renewable energy, there could be a few upsets at voting time as recently happened in Victoria.
AEMC speech outlines the rule makers focus for 2019
The Australian Energy Market Commission’s (AEMC) commissioner, Dr Brian Spalding, announced the forward plans for 2019, amongst other things, at the New South Wales Annual Electric Energy conference this week. Key changes to rules in the National Energy Market (NEM) in the next year include a demand response mechanism for the wholesale market for all energy users, which includes enhancements to the reliability and emergency reserve trade scheme (RERT); changes to the regulatory framework regarding transmission upgrades; a review of the regulatory arrangements for standalone power systems and to progress the development of the retailer led reliability obligation (RO). The RO was initially part of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) which also included an emissions target. The NEG has now been shelved but to carry on with the RO with no emissions policy may see fossil fuels generation being bought by retailers to guarantee their reliability standards.
New energy bill passed in D.C.
The District of Columbia have unanimously voted to pass the CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 this week. The amendment sets a 100% renewable energy mandate by 2032 and that all public and private-hire vehicles (including Uber and Lyft) in the city to be zero-emission vehicles by 2045. D.C. now joins more than 90 U.S. cities and towns that have committed to sourcing their electricity from 100% renewable energy. The bill will direct the states regulator to consider utility investments in electric vehicle charging stations in support of the 2045 goal.
‘Technology neutral’ tax credit bill aims to boost energy innovation
Republican Tom Reed has proposed a new tax credits scheme in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The proposed bill would see credits available for emerging energy technology not already covered by the Investment Tax Credit or Production Tax Credit (such as wind and solar). Reed expects the policy to encourage battery storage but there are no specifics on other resources that would be covered by the new policy.
Germany pledges to double UN climate change fund donation
Ahead of the COP24 climate change conference – which starts this week – Germany has pledged to double funding to the UN Green Climate fund. The fund supports developing countries to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The pledge commits the German government to paying an additional €750 million into the fund over the next two years, having already paid in a previous pledge of the same sum. World leaders established the fund in 2010 and so far nearly €10 billion has been pledged from public and private sources. The sum falls far short of the $100 billion annually that countries had pledged to contribute by 2020.
France overtakes Germany as most attractive G20 country for renewables investment
France has replaced Germany as the G20’s most attractive market for renewable energy investments, the Climate and Energy Monitor 2018 report indicates. The UK and Italy rank third and fourth respectively. However, the authors stress that ‘despite high scores for several countries, no single country is yet close to becoming a role model’ for others to illustrate successful implementation of Paris Climate Agreement commitments.
Just transition in Germany could help counter populism
In an interview with CleanEnergyWire.com the German Environment Ministry Secretary of State – Jochen Flasbarth – has suggested that if Germany can manage its coal exit in a socially fair way it could help to counter far-right populism in the country. He also suggested that a fair transition could serve as a model for states like Saudi Arabia and Russia, which face even bigger upheavals due to the global decarbonisation.
French government goes for renewables AND nuclear, while carbon tax sparks street protests
France’s President Emmanuel Macron outlined his energy transition strategy last week, ahead of the COP24 in Poland. The overarching objective, fitting in with Europe’s ambitions, is to be carbon neutral, or net zero emissions, by 2050. The strategy in electricity will involve a huge expansion in wind and solar – by a factor of about five by 2030, but also maintaining 50% of the country’s nuclear energy capacity. However, the challenges of climate policy have been drawn into stark relief by the ‘gilet jaunes’ demonstrations across France, sparked initially by a climate-related tax in diesel fuel (at a time of rising underlying prices).
Storage investments lead to plummeting frequency responses service prices
Big investments by utilities in battery storage over the last two years have led to sharp reductions in prices for frequency response as new supply outstrips demand. German frequency response market auction prices have dropped from €23/MWh in 2016 down to €8/MWh in July 2018. The UK has also seen large growth in storage, but future investment may be hit by increased uncertainty with Brexit, and costs have already risen due to the related depreciation of sterling.
Risk of stranded assets in gas, warns EU Energy Commissioner
Presenting the European Commission’s 2050 vision for a climate neutral economy last week, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete pointed to the central role of electricity in the vision, saying that power from renewables “will be the backbone” of the future decarbonised energy system, with big implications for gas networks. Cañete went on to say that: “the role of gas will not be the same in 2050 than today”, and that assets must be managed “very cleverly” to avoid stranding. The EC has been highly critical of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline, which it argues will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. There will be a place for hydrogen in the future, argued Cañete, but technologies for production of renewable gases are still way off.
Global Decarbonised Power System will be 90% Renewable
The Energy Transitions Commission has published its latest review on the decarbonisation of the energy sector, in their report, ‘Mission Possible, Reaching net-zero carbon emissions form harder-to-abate sectors by mid-century’. The Energy Transitions Commission is comprised of key actors from across the energy landscape, including: energy producers, energy users, equipment suppliers, investors, non-profit organizations and academics from the developed and developing world.
The report stated that ‘Renewable electricity is increasingly cost-competitive with fossil-fuel-based power. It will be possible, within 15 years, to run electricity systems in which 85-90% of power demand is met by a mix of wind and solar, combined with batteries for short-term back-up and with the remaining 10-15% met by dispatchable peak generation capacity (e.g. dispatchable hydro, biomass or fossil fuels with carbon capture)’. This is an important statement on the dominant role for renewables in the power sector on the short term. However, what makes it all the more powerful is that less than three years ago the Commission assumed a much larger role in the decarbonised power sector of both nuclear and CCS. In their 2016 report the Commission stated, ‘we need to radically reduce the average carbon intensity of the global energy supply, increasing the percentage that comes from zero-carbon sources. Included here are renewables, nuclear, biomass, and fossil fuels if and when their use can be decarbonized through CCS/CCU’.
This move towards a fully renewable power sectors means that pace of renewable deployment needs to be accelerated and the Commission notes that solar and wind would need to increase by more than 10% per year (i.e. double every 7 years). The IEA in their Renewable Energy Market Report forecast that solar PV will grow by 16% per year over the next five year and onshore wind by 8%.
Energy Majors Launch New Block Chain Based Energy Trading Platform
Blockchain or distributed ledger technology is being developed to facilitate new business models for the use of distributed energy in the power sector and representatives of major electricity companies, such as Centrica, TEPCO, and Engie and engaged with one of the most significant players in the debate, Energy Web Foundation.
In November a new blockchain-based oil trading platform run by a company called Vakt and developed by a consortium involving BP, Equinor and Shell began operating. The consortium behind Vakt also includes trading houses Gunvor and Mercuria, as well as Koch Supply & Trading. The platform was financially backed by Dutch ABN Amro, ING, and French Societe Generale. The company says that VAKT has created a secure, real-time blockchain-based digital platform. The platform manages physical energy transactions from trade entry to final settlement, eliminating reconciliation and paper-based processes.