Global Insight 26: 8th January 2018

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Global Insight 26: 8th January 2018


Hottest day in 80 years

Unlike the ‘snowbomb’  hitting the USA , New South Wales, and in particular Sydney, had its hottest recorded temperatures for 80 years this weekend with the Penrith area reaching 47.3C.  Previous heat events have seen large areas losing power due to back-up generation being unavailable, whereas although 31,000 people lost power this weekend only 4 of the 42 outages were caused by overloading of the networks.  Critics have argued that the loss of power would have been much worse had the heatwave not been at the weekend and suggest that the NSW government should follow the example of other states and be investing in new storage and capacity.

ARENA open funding call for hydrogen

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) have opened a $20m funding round to explore the potential for the development of exporting renewable hydrogen.  It is expected that due to the renewable energy potential of Australia that there would be excess renewable generation.  This would then produce hydrogen which could be converted into a substance suitable for carrier use to be sold worldwide.  A possible replacement for their coal exports?


FERC rejects Secretary of State Perry’s NOPR.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday rejected a proposal from the Department of Energy to subsidize coal and nuclear plants, instead turning to regional grid operators to assess how best to enhance the resilience of the power system. The five-member FERC voted unanimously to reject the proposed rule from Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to provide cost recovery for plants with onsite fuel supplies, writing that neither the DOE proposal nor comments in the record showed that existing market rules are unjust and unreasonable. Instead, the Commission asked regional grid operators to review an extensive list of questions about improving power system resilience and report back within 60 days.

CAISO to become its own reliability coordinator

The California Independent System Operator will become its own reliability coordinator and offer these services to other balancing authorities and transmission operators in the western United States. The California ISO has given notice of its withdrawal to its current reliability coordinator, Peak Reliability, and to each of their funding members, effective September 2019. This is a blow for CAISO – given such a move is against its preferences, and against its hopes for greater interconnection with Western States it has been trying to develop.

Demand Response Falling in US despite Need for Flexibility

DSR has declined overall by about 10% in the US. The decline of demand response in wholesale markets was largely driven by new rules in PJM Interconnection that led to an almost 2,900 MW decrease in demand response capacity enrolled in its reliability program and a 900 MW decrease in economic program enrollments. The Polar Vortex winter of 2014 caused widespread generator outages – where DSR was shown to be so important in maintaining reliability – caused PJM to develop new requirements in its capacity market. The changes were meant to ensure generators would be online in extreme weather, and among the changes was a requirement that resources be available year-round. However, the CA market has also fallen. This is just at a time when the need for flexibility has been supported and is, in most places including CA, trying to be supported.

Minnesota finalizes a carbon price

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on January 3rd issued an order finalizing carbon cost estimates that utilities must use when planning new infrastructure projects, setting them at a range of $9.05 to $42.46 per ton in 2020. The order builds on a July decision that increased carbon cost values from $0.44 to $4.53 per short ton of emissions. Regulators finalized the discount rate used for the carbon values — 5% for the low end of the pricing range and 3% for the high end — and calculated value ranges for utilities to use out to 2050.The order comes as the federal energy regulators and the Trump administration abandon the use of social cost of carbon metrics developed during the Obama administration, in part over qualms with discount rates. Applying the 3% and 5% discount rates, regulators calculated values for utilities to use when planning projects all the way out to 2050.

NY Agenda to Combat Climate Change

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) unveiled on 2 January  a “comprehensive agenda to combat climate change” that calls for aggressive increases in energy storage (1.5 GW by 2025), development of at least 800 MW of offshore wind resources and new energy efficiency targets to be set later this year. The state will also work to expand the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), extending the voluntary compact beyond the current nine states and broadening regulations to include smaller, less-efficient peaking plants. Cuomo’s plan also calls for adopting regulations that phase out coal-fired power plants in New York by 2020. The governor previously called for such a step in his 2016 State of the State address. The energy package is also being framed as a boon to the state’s economy. Cuomo wants the state to employ 30,000 workers to establish New York as a home to the clean tech industry — a goal that he says could produce $2 billion in “energy value” to the state.

Webinar on the NY REV

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Summary of 2017 Solar in the US

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What future strategy for European utilities?

Marius Buchanan has an interesting analysis of the current strategies of European utilities, which have moved out of merchant generation to concentrate on retail and regulated or supported areas such as networks and renewables. The problem with this, Buchanan writes, is that networks will become much riskier and complex with the distributed energy revolution, while governments are already in the process of scaling back on support to renewables. He argues that transformed offers in the retail area, such as new digital technologies and energy services, are what will offer a sustainable future business model.

Wind provides almost 44% of electricity consumption in Denmark

Windpower in Denmark continues to edge towards generating the equivalent of half of the country’s electricity demand. Preliminary data from the TSO show wind produced 14,700 GWh in 2017, or 43.6% of consumption. This is an increase on the previous record from 2015. This record output is being produced by around 20% fewer (but larger) turbines than in 2001.

Community energy takes a backseat in EU Energy Union vision

Despite signs a year ago that the next Energy Package would have a bold vision for local community energy production and peer-to-peer trading, discussions in the European Council at the end of 2017 showed active hostility to these ideas from the likes of Spain and Germany, according to reports. An EU approach exempting small scale installations from balancing responsibilities was rejected. The approach has been criticised by Greenpeace and SolarPower Europe.

German support for the Energiewende still high 

An interesting recent survey has revealed that there is still a broad consensus of support for the Energiewende with 88 per cent of Germans supporting the energy transition across all social groups and political preferences. While a large majority support the Energiewende and think support for renewables is a good thing (84%) there was criticism regarding equity and costs with nearly half of Germans saying the Energiewende is somewhat unfair. Over 65% think that citizens bear too many of the costs while companies and the wealthy do not do their fair share. The findings suggest that politicians are likely to be able rely on broad support for the Energiewende in the future, particularly if energy policy focusses more on equity and costs.

The Social Sustainability Barometer, conducted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), investigates the social dimensions of the Energiewende in a representative survey of 7,500 households together with in-depth focus groups.

Study reveals the importance of storage, flexible demand and interconnection in future high-renewable energy systems in the UK, Germany and Nordics

A study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in partnership with Eaton and the Renewable Energy Association, has investigated the system flexibility implications of a power system dominated by renewables in the UK, Germany and the Nordics (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, analysed as a single bloc).

The study suggests that wind and solar growth is likely to lead to 63% and 74% of electrical energy being produced from renewables in 2040 in the UK and Germany respectively, and provides scenarios for the hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal flexibility needs in 2030 and 2040.

In 2040 variable renewables (wind and solar) could contribute to more than 55% of hourly demand in the UK and 65% in Germany for over half of the year. However there will still be weeks and even months where wind and solar produce little energy, so dispatchable resources (generation, storage, flexible demand, interconnectors) will be essential with similar levels of total back-up capacity required in 2040 as in 2017 in both the UK and Germany.

The report suggests this environment will be very challenging for ‘baseload’ technologies such as nuclear, coal and lignite with flexible resources such as batteries and demand side response required to solve short-term volatility issues and greater interconnection and coordination likely to be important for longer-term capacity gaps.


European Renewable Energy Target for 2030 Closer to Adoption

At the end of 2017 the European institutions reached significant, but different, conclusions on the role of renewables in Europe’s future energy mix.  In November, the European Parliament’s Industry, Trade, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee backed a binding EU wide target of 35% renewables for 2030.  The Committee also voted for a binding target that would see energy efficiency improved by 40%, also by 2030.   These proposals will be voted on in the full Parliament during the week of 15th January.

At the 18th December European Energy Council meeting a position was adopted whereby the EU would commit to a renewable target of at least 27% renewables by 2030 – which was in line with the European Commission’s original proposal and a previous Council decision of October 2014.  The Council also agreed that Member States will have to adopt measures to specifically increase the share of renewables in heat and cooling and transport.

Following the plenary vote, negotiations will take place between Parliamentarians, the Commission and Council members to reach a compromised on the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target and other elements of the Clean Energy for all Package.

China announces next step in deployment of its Carbon Market

In December the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China announced that a national carbon market would be launched.  The market is now expected to initially only cover the power sector, but will still affect 1700 companies and 3 billion tons of CO2,  and a definitive start date is still to be announced.  Despite this, the announcement was welcomed in many quarters, including the European Commission that “this announcement sends a very strong signal: the world is changing with new, broad climate leadership. With both the EU and China committed to emissions trading, two major international players are championing carbon markets to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement and curb emissions cost-effectively.”

The complexity of establishing a baseline for a trading system for the world’s largest emitter has resulted delays in the launch of the system, and some fear that it may further postpone its introduction, however, the enforcement of the emission limits is currently expected to begin in 2019 or 2020.

While setting up the system has been time-consuming and complex, as the European case demonstrates that to maintain a meaningful price of carbon requires ongoing strong political support, which creates its own set of challenges.


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