Dong Energy plugs offshore wind farm into world-first battery system

(www.telegraph.co.uk)

Offshore wind giant Dong Energy has become the first to plug an offshore wind farm into a battery system to store power to be used as needed.

The world-first hybrid system has powered up on the Merseyside coast to store electricity generated from the first phase of Dong Energy’s 90 megawatt (MW) Burbo Bank wind farm in order to help to balance the frequency of the power grid.

The new 2MW battery system helps to combat criticism that renewable power could lead to flickering light bulbs, or even blackouts, by disrupting the normal power grid frequency of around 50 hertz.

Richard Smith, National Grid’s head of networks, said the system operator plans to call on Dong Energy to release electricity into the grid to help stabilise the frequency.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the Dong Energy solution of storage connected to the offshore wind farm will provide services to help us respond to day-to-day operational challenges,” he said.

Benj Sykes, Dong Energy’s UK boss, told The Telegraph last month that battery storage technology is “a game changer” for the booming offshore wind market.

Mr Sykes was speaking ahead of the launch of the second phase of the Burbo Bank offshore wind project which uses the world’s largest operating wind turbines to produce almost 260MW of power.

“There is still a long way to go with storage but when I look at the pace of innovation in offshore wind I’m very confident that this will all come, and it’ll be faster than I think any of us can imagine,” he said.

The company’s share price bounced up almost 3pc to DKK305 on the Copenhagen exchange this morning after HSBC lifted its rating for the renewables developer ahead of an expected boom in the sector.

The bank said recent subsidy auctions which have resulted in lower than expected winning bids are likely to spark interest within countries along the Baltic coast and will deepen the commitment within other major markets.

HSBC said Dong “should be a prime beneficiary” of the market growth given its size and experience in the burgeoning sector.

A fresh report from Renewable UK has found that that the UK’s offshore wind capacity could expand to almost five times its current level by the end of the next decade.

The independent study, commissioned by the trade body WindEurope, claims that a total capacity of at least 25 gigawatts could be installed in UK waters by 2030, more than one and a half times the capacity of the UK’s existing fleet of 15 nuclear reactors.

RenewableUK’s Emma Pinchbeck, said: “The Government can help us by continuing to hold fiercely competitive auctions for financial support, as well as putting offshore wind at the heart of its upcoming Industrial Strategy. Clear, bold, modern energy policy will attract billions of pounds of investment”.

Santa Barbara Joins Clean Energy Revolution, Commits to 100% Renewables

(www.ecowatch.com)

Santa Barbara, California became the 30th city in the country to commit to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy. The Santa Barbara City Council approved a measure Tuesday that establishes a community-wide goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The resolution also commits the city to transition all municipal buildings and operations to 50 percent clean energy by 2020. Santa Barbara represents the first city on California’s Central Coast to make this commitment.

“President Trump may be withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, but cities are stepping up and re-committing to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate goals,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said. “I’m proud that Santa Barbara just adopted a 100.”

In April, Mayor Schneider became one of the first mayors in the U.S. to join the new Mayors for 100 Clean Energy initiative and endorse a vision of powering her community with 100 percent renewable energy. The passage of the measure reinforces how mayoral leadership in cities across the U.S. is accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent clean energy. Mayor Schneider is joined in Mayors for 100% Clean Energy by Central Coast mayors Fred Shaw of Carpinteria, John F. Johnston of Ojai and Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo.

“We salute Santa Barbara for their leadership on 100 percent clean energy,” Katie Davis, chair of the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara group, said. “To meet our international climate goals, we must transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. Moving to 100 percent renewable energy isn’t just the right thing to do for our climate, it’s the smart thing to do for our local economy. Renewable energy costs have decreased dramatically and are now cost competitive with fossil fuels, and Santa Barbara County already has eight times more jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency than in the oil industry. The transition to 100 percent clean energy is represents a better and more prosperous path forward for our community.”

Coming on the heels of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Santa Barbara’s commitment to 100 percent clean, renewable energy showcases how cities can lead the transition away from fossil fuels. On Thursday, just hours after Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Paris agreement, the Portland, Oregon and Multnomah County councils committed to transition all of Portland and Multnomah County to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050.

“Today marked a significant victory—one that was over a decade in the making,” Sigrid Wright, executive director of Community Environmental Council, said. “I take incredible inspiration from the thousands of individuals and business leaders who stepped up to support—to demand—a rapid shift to cleaner, healthier renewable energy. We’re proud of our City Council for emphasizing California’s commitment and leadership.”

Other California cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy include San Diego, San Francisco, South Lake Tahoe, Del Mar, and Palo Alto.

World renewable energy production increases by record levels in 2016 – enough to power half of Western Europe

(www.independent.co.uk)

The world added enough renewable energy capacity to power every house in the UK, Germany, France and Italy combined last year, according to a new report. The record figure of 161 gigawatts cost about £187bn, but this was a staggering 23 per cent cheaper than it would have cost in the previous year.

And, in a further sign of the tumbling price of low-carbon electricity, Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates are all now receiving supplies at less than five US cents (about 4p) per kilowatt-hour, “well below” fossil fuels and nuclear.

The Renewables 2017 Global Status Report, published by international renewable body Ren21, found solar panels made up nearly half, 47 per cent, of the extra capacity added, followed by wind on 34 per cent and hydro-electric schemes on 15.5 per cent.

In a statement, Ren21 said: “Renewables are becoming the least cost option. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at $0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less. This is well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity in each of these countries.

“Winners of two recent auctions for offshore wind in Germany have done so relying only on the wholesale price of power without the need for government support, demonstrating that renewables can be the least cost option.”

Christine Lins, executive secretary of REN21, said the “world is in a race against time”.

She added: “The single most important thing we could do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions quickly and cost-effectively, is phase-out coal and speed up investments in energy efficiency and renewables.”

“When China announced in January that it was cancelling more than 100 coal plants currently in development, they set an example for governments everywhere: change happens quickly when governments act – by establishing clear, long-term policy and financial signals and incentives.”

In total, more renewable capacity was added that the total extra capacity from all fossil fuels combined.

However, the transition to a zero-carbon economy is still not happening quickly enough to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

And investments in new renewable energy installations fell by 23 per cent between 2015 and 2016.

“Investment continues to be heavily focused on wind and solar PV, however all renewable energy technologies need to be deployed in order to keep global warming well below 2C,” the Ren21 statement said.

“Transport, heating and cooling sectors continue to lag behind the power sector. The deployment of renewable technologies in the heating and cooling sector remains a challenge in light of the unique and distributed nature of this market.

“Renewables-based decarbonisation of the transport sector is not yet being seriously considered, or seen as a priority. Despite a significant expansion in the sales of electric vehicles, primarily due to the declining cost of battery technology, much more needs to be done to ensure sufficient infrastructure is in place and that they are powered by renewable electricity.

“While the shipping and aviation sectors present the greatest challenges, government policies or commercial disruption have not sufficiently stimulated the development of solutions.”

In the UK, the number of new solar installations fell by 81 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the average for 2016.

The industry has complained that government policies – including a massive business rate hike of up to 800 per cent, subsidies reduced to minimal levels while fossil fuels enjoy lavish taxpayer support, and red tape – have severely hampered the sector.

The Government has also withdrawn any kind of support for onshore wind scheme, even though this, along with solar, is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation.

Renewable energy generation in the US dramatically exceeds 2012 predictions

(www.arstechnica.com)

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released numbers on US electricity generation for the first quarter of 2017, and renewable energy numbers are coming in big.

According to the EIA, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power accounted for 10.68 percent of total electricity generation in the first quarter of 2017. If you include electricity from conventional hydroelectric plants, renewables made up nearly a fifth of total electricity generation—as much as 19.35 percent.

The striking part about that number is that the EIA, a statistical department within the Department of Energy, couldn’t foresee how dramatically renewables’ share of the electricity mix would increase just five years ago. In 2012, the administration predicted (PDF, page 87) that electricity generation from renewable sources would increase “from 10 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2035.” Even by 2015, the administration predicted (PDF, page ES-6) that “The renewable share of total generation grows from 13 percent in 2013 to 18 percent in 2040.”

Non-profit organization Sun Day Campaign said in a statement that, if the EIA were to extend its 2012 renewable growth forecast further out into the future, “renewables would not be expected to reach 19.35 percent until roughly the year 2057.”

The renewable energy numbers for the first quarter of 2017 include about 4.786 TWh of residential and small-scale solar electricity, as well as 9.2 TWh of utility-grade solar electricity. In the previous year’s first quarter, utility-grade solar generated only 6.67 TWh of electricity, meaning utility-grade solar electricity generation increased 38.5 percent year over year.

The EIA’s projections didn’t foresee the explosion of solar installations caused by compelling federal tax incentives combined with plummeting photovoltaic costs. Instead, five years ago, economists were predicting that “most of the growth in renewable electricity generation comes from wind and biomass facilities.”

Wind certainly contributed a major proportion of renewable energy in the first three months of 2017 (67.64 TWh), but biomass faltered, with wood and wood-derived fuels losing 1.2 percent of the total electricity generation year over year. “Other biomass” lost 2.3 percent of the share it had in 2016.

For the entire year, the renewable energy portion of total electricity generation won’t track exactly with the first quarter of the year. Solar might increase as the days get longer and sunnier, while hydro could fall behind if any reservoirs experience droughts. Depending on where you are in the country, wind can become more variable in the summer.

Outside of renewable energy, nuclear power plants provided 1 percent less electricity, year-over-year. Older nuclear facilities have been facing retirement (like the recently-announced planned retirement of Three Mile Island in 2019), while newer and proposed nuclear plants have faced stiff competition from cheap wind and natural gas. Earlier this year, the status of three proposed nuclear plants was thrown into question as Westinghouse, the reactor builder owned by Toshiba, declared bankruptcy.

Coal also saw a 5-percent bump in the first quarter of 2017 from the first quarter of 2016, but it was a bump that was largely expected by economists due to demand for natural gas. Natural gas has been incredibly cheap, driving up demand. As demand goes up, some electricity purchasers have turned back to coal in the short term. But the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says that bump is short-lived, barring dramatic policy intervention.

World Bank announces project to bring renewable energy to 45,000 people in Vanuatu

(www.cnbc.com)

The World Bank has announced that 45,000 people in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu are set to get access to renewable energy.

In an announcement on Wednesday, the World Bank said its board of executive directors had approved $4 million for the Vanuatu Rural Electrification Project II, or VREP II, which will be co-funded by the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program and the government of New Zealand.

The World Bank added that the project would partially subsidize solar home and micro grid systems for 8,400 households, and also contribute to the construction of five mini grid systems, which in turn would benefit 550 households. The systems will be able to power refrigerators, lights and office equipment, the World Bank said.

“The government of Vanuatu is working hard with the support of the World Bank to deliver affordable, reliable and renewable energy to 100 percent of the population by 2030,” Ham Lini Vanuarora, Vanuatu’s minister for climate change adaptation, said in a statement.

“Energy is crucial to our nation’s continued development – boosting economic opportunities, allowing access to essential communications and information technology, and improving health services and education delivery, including in rural areas,” he added.

Breaking the figures down, the World Bank said that VREP II would be financed via $2 million in credit and a $2 million grant from the World Bank’s International Development Association fund; a grant of $6.77 million from the Climate Investment Funds’ Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program; and $3.4 million from the government of New Zealand via the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility.

“Access to electricity is a crucial part of building safer homes and communities, and creating new economic opportunities,” Michel Kerf, country director for the World Bank in Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, said.

“This project will deliver real benefits for people living in rural Vanuatu, and we are proud to be supporting the government of Vanuatu to help achieve 100 percent renewable access by 2030,” Kerf added.

World’s First Commercial Carbon Sucking Machine Turns Greenhouse Gas Into Fertilizer

(www.ecowatch.com)

A revolutionary plant that can suck carbon dioxide right from the air was unveiled on top of a waste recovery facility near Zurich on Wednesday.

Swiss company ClimeWorks is capturing CO2 from the air with the world’s first commercial carbon removal technology. Its Direct Air Capture plant is capable of removing 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere a year.

Here’s how the technology works, per Fast Company:

“At the new Swiss plant, three stacked shipping containers each hold six of Climeworks’ CO2 collectors. Small fans pull air into the collectors, where a sponge-like filter soaks up carbon dioxide. It takes two or three hours to fully saturate a filter, and then the process reverses: The box closes, and the collector is heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which releases the CO2 in a pure form that can be sold, made into other products, or buried underground.”

The extracted greenhouse gas will be sent to nearby greenhouses as a fertilizer for tomatoes and cucumbers.

The company boasts that its technology could extend to other markets, including carbonation for soft drinks or the production of climate-neutral fuels.

Climeworks, founded by engineers Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, has a goal of capturing one percent of global emissions by 2025. The company said 750,000 shipping container-sized units would be needed to fulfill this goal.

While that might sound like a lot, as Wurzbacher told Fast Company, the same number of shipping containers pass through the Port of Shanghai every two weeks.

Gebald commented that his company’s CO2 collectors can be easily scaled up, and noted that carbon capture technology is essential to achieving net zero emissions by the end of the century, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.

“It is clear today that we won’t be able to achieve zero gigatonnes by the end of the century without the use of carbon removal technologies,” Gebald said.

Three Mile Island Nuke Plant Closure Strengthens Call for Renewable Energy Future

(www.ecowatch.com)

Tuesday’s announcement that the Three Mile Island Unit One nuclear plant will close unless it gets massive subsidies has vastly strengthened the case for a totally renewable energy future.

That future is rising in Buffalo, and comes in the form of Tesla’s massive job-producing solar shingle factory which will create hundreds of jobs and operate for decades to come.

Three Mile Island, by contrast, joins a wave of commercially dead reactors whose owners are begging state legislatures for huge bailouts. Exelon, the nation’s largest nuke owner, recently got nearly $2.5 billion from the Illinois legislature to keep three uncompetitive nukes there on line.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy is begging the legislature for $300 million per year for the money-losing Perry and Davis-Besse reactors, plagued with serious structural problems. That bailout faces an uphill battle in a surprisingly skeptical legislature. FirstEnergy is at the brink of bankruptcy, and says it will sell the reactors anyway.

To make matters worse, Ohio lawmakers have imposed unique spacing restrictions on the state’s wind industry, blocking at least $1.6 billion in investments poised to build eight wind farms now waiting in the wings. Those turbine developments would go far in providing jobs to those who will inevitably lose them at FirstEnergy’s uncompetitive nukes.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a staggering $7.6 billion for four uncompetitive upstate reactors. That bailout is being challenged in court by environmental groups and by industrial players angry about unfair competition and soaring rates. Their owners concede these old nukes can’t compete with renewables or gas, and have wanted to shut most or all of them.

Now, Three Mile Island’s owners say without millions more in handouts from Pennsylvania rate payers, the reactor will close in 2019. A battle over the handout will be upcoming in the Pennsylvania legislature. Ironically, the Quad Cities plant in Illinois, which is in line for huge subsidies, could not compete with gas or renewables at a recent power auction, and may have to shut despite the handouts.

Meanwhile, coming on line this year, Tesla’s Buffalo Billion gigafactory has the power to transform our entire national economy.
It’s the core of a plan to fulfill America’s direst needs—a reliable supply of safe, cheap energy, and a base of good long-term employment for the nation’s battered working class.

Costing about $750 million, it will bang out solar roofing shingles by the end of this year. It will directly create at least 500 high-paying, clean, safe jobs that will last for decades and turn our energy economy green. Another 1,440 jobs are slated to come from spin-offs. Still more will be created by lowered electric rates and increased clean energy production.

The Buffalo factory joins Tesla’s new plant outside Sparks, Nevada—housed in the biggest building in the world—now producing a new generation of batteries. They will bridge the green energy gap when “the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.”
These two job-producing powerhouses are at the core of the Solartopian revolution. Solar panels, solar shingles, wind turbines, high-efficiency LED lighting and advanced batteries are key to our global survival and prosperity. Along with the hardware needed for tidal energy, ocean thermal, geothermal, advanced conservation and other renewable industries, gigafactories producing these technologies will be the engine for the 21st century economy.

If Gov. Cuomo’s $7.6 billion bailout ask went instead to build seven gigafactories like the Buffalo Billion, New York would gain thousands of jobs directly and thousands more through the industry powered by lower electric rates. They would be safe, secure, clean, good-paying jobs that could transform the state’s energy and employment situation.

Cuomo’s bailout plan, however, would raise rates on New Yorkers far outside their upstate service area. That even includes Long Island—hundreds of miles away—whose angry citizens rose up decades ago to kill the infamous failed $7 billion Shoreham reactor, which Cuomo’s father Mario helped bury when he was governor.

Ferocious opposition to this bailout has arisen throughout New York. A critical court case will open on June 5. Support for this litigation can be sent to Rockland Environmental Group, LLC 75 North Middletown Road, Nanuet, NY 10954.

New developments at Sempra and other major electric utilities now make it possible for renewables to sustain a central grid 100 percent of the time, without the fluctuations critics claim make a green-powered future difficult to achieve.

So we can bail out Three Mile Island, Perry, Davis-Besse and a rising tide of our 99 obsolete, dangerously decayed atomic dinosaurs at a cost of untold billions? Do we want to escalate the risk of reactor disasters, create tons more radioactive wastes and temporarily preserve a few thousand dead-end jobs?

Or do we want to bang out these Buffalo Billion plants and join Germany, Switzerland, India and other major nations soaring to a Solartopian future.

Is there really a choice?

From coal to solar, India’s energy landscape is almost too hard to keep up with

(www.QZ.com)

In 2010, India was experiencing a massive boost in coal power—but not everyone was benefitting.
Those in the Siddhi community, spread across the foothills of the Western Ghats, were almost entirely left in the literal dark. Francis Wilson relied entirely on kerosene lamps since the power grid didn’t cover his area. Mohan Appu had no direct connection to electricity because he had no documents to prove ownership of the house he had lived in for years. Residents of this rural community would have to travel almost 13 miles to charge a mobile phone.

This scenario, which plays out often across pockets of rural areas in the country, reflects the curious situation of India’s energy landscape. For the past two years, there’s been an overabundance of coal power, even though 240 million people in India still have little to no access to electricity. Meanwhile, over the last five months, the price of renewable energy has plummeted so low that analysts have hailed it as both “record-breaking” and “unsustainable” in the same breath. In fact, the pace of change in the country’s energy infrastructure has been so swift that even researchers are scrambling to keep a steady pulse on a constantly developing beat.

As China slowly cut down on its own coal infrastructure, the International Energy Agency in 2015 projected India to be the next coal center in the near future. It stated that “half of the net increase in coal-fired generation capacity worldwide [through 2040] occurs in India.” Nearly a year later, in July 2016, the non-profit CoalSwarm put out a report that found 370 proposals for coal plants in the works across the country.

The findings revealed a pretty explosive conclusion: that India’s outsized plans for coal energy would wipe out climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement. Merely a few months after the report, the researchers at CoalSwarm were surprised by a new twist. In December 2016, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) laid out an electricity plan that said no new coal plants, beyond those already under construction, are needed for at least the next decade. The CEA also put forth new renewable energy goals—a production of 275 gigawatts (GW) generated from solar, wind, and hydro by 2027.

This means that the majority of the plants that CoalSwarm tracked are now going to be shelved. It’s also a show of India’s push towards reforming its energy infrastructure: the country added more renewable power than thermal in the 2016 fiscal year. “It was hard to keep up,” says Christine Shearer, a senior researcher at CoalSwarm and lead author of the report. “The country is supposed to be at the heart of coal plant growth, but it’s interesting to see the tide go against what we often hear about China and India—that they’re going to keep building coal plants—when actually, they’re both stalling production.”

The glut of power doesn’t mean that every corner of the country is electrified—rather, it gestures strongly towards inertia, uneven distribution, and redundancy. “There are many coal plants which aren’t functioning at full capacity,” says Ashish Fernandes, a senior campaigner at Greenpeace. This under-utilisation, he points out, has led to an abundance of stale power contained inside state-owned distribution companies.

Another reason for the overabundance: rural areas that lack electricity can’t seem to afford the price of it. The cost can range from around Rs120 ($1.86) to Rs500 ($7.75) per month for domestic utilities, depending on the state. “If [residents] can’t afford the power, it doesn’t matter what fuel they use,” says Tim Buckley, a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “You’ve got to solve energy poverty, education, and employment to address that problem,” he adds. “You can’t keep building expensive coal-fired power plants that pollute the country and think there’s going to be demand—[some residents] just can’t afford it.” Even when data shows an area as having electricity, it may not mean much, Fernandes says. “We need to look at individual households that have power. According to the government data, if you have one building or streetlight in a rural area that has power, the entire town is considered to be connected,” he adds.

A report by Greenpeace published in October 2016 identified 65GW of coal power stations under construction in India and an additional 176GW of projects at various stages of obtaining permissions. The report forecast that 942022, representing a waste of $49 billion in investments. This could partly explain why a $150 million coal plant in the state of Maharashtra is currently sitting idle, with a lack of demand from power generators. And it could also explain why another state in India, Gujarat, has walked away from a $4 billion coal plant of 4000 megawatts this month. “There is no financial investment to fund coal in the Indian market because they’re simply not competitive against solar energy prices right now,” says Buckley.

As prospects for India’s coal sector are falling, so is the price of renewable energy. In turn, the country’s future outlook, if all goes accordingly, is pretty good news for the planet. India first set a record-low price in February this year when a kilowatt-hour of solar energy was selling at Rs2.97 ($0.046). This month, the country hit another record low—the price of solar dropped 12 further, currently selling at Rs2.62 ($0.041) per kilowatt-hour. “To spell it out, new solar is 15. No one, anywhere in the world, was expecting solar to get that cheap for at least a decade,” Buckley says, “and India just got there this year.” It’s a marked shift for India—which, in a matter of months, went from potentially thwarting global climate goals to possibly saving them. According to a study released last week by the Climate Action Tracker, India and China are on pace to “overachieve” their climate goals by 2030.

Out of the world’s top three carbon transmitters, the US is the only one at risk of missing its target goal, the Climate Action Tracker report concludes. An energy blueprint released this week by the Indian government predicts that 57 of total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027—exceeding the Paris Agreement’s target of 402030. Currently, almost 33 of the country’s total energy comes from non-fossil fuel, which makes the Paris target relatively unambitious—it looks like India is almost three-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
The research is undoubtedly positive and the numbers trumpet a new standard being set by two unlikely countries. But in terms of large-scale implementation, neither solar nor coal are easy options in India. For solar energy to be reliable and widespread, the country would need to build grid infrastructure on an unprecedented scale. The dwindling prices of non-fossil fuel energy is encouraging, and the slow-but-steady withdrawal from coal is optimistic, but is it enough to plug the gaps? Fernandes doesn’t think so. “The biggest threats to renewable expansion are the distribution companies,” he says, adding that this is the root of the problem. “Unless the distribution model is overhauled, the same issues will be transferred.”

Solutions like off-grid solar panels are one kind of sustainable technology that could address the distribution problem, says Harish Hande, co-founder of SELCO, an enterprise that introduced off-grid solar energy in the Siddhi community in 2010. Within a year, 100 homes in the area were connected to power in the Western Ghats region. SELCO has been nationally awarded for its energy work in under-served households and areas—but, as Hande points out, a long-standing solution has to go beyond the mere mechanics of the supply chain. “It’s much larger than providing electricity,” he says, “and there have to be enough public-private partnerships that cross over education, health, and the bigger ecosystem for sustainable energy services to become more accessible.”

Renewable Energy Jobs Reach 10 Million Worldwide

(www.probonoaustralia.com.au)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a report on Wednesday, providing the latest employment figures of the renewable energy sector and insight into the factors affecting the renewable labour market.

The report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2017, found more than 9.8 million people were employed in the sector in 2016, which could rise to 24 million by 2030.

According to IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin, falling costs and enabling policies have driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when around seven million people were working in the sector.

“In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled,” Amin said.

“Renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition.

“As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”

Clean Energy Council spokesperson Mark Bretherton told Pro Bono News that renewable energy projects could also create employment across Australia.

“Renewable energy is extremely popular and is a change which the majority of Australians want. The good news is that renewable energy projects create jobs, investment and additional work for contractors, equipment suppliers and local businesses such as cafes, motels, backhoe operators and pie vans,” Bretherton said.

“There is a lot of potential for renewable energy to create employment across Australia, particularly in regional areas of the country where most wind and solar projects are located.

“It has taken a while, but we are almost mid-way through a year that is set to be the biggest in the history of the Australian renewable energy industry.

“More than 30 major projects are either underway or will start in 2017, creating more than $7.5 billion worth of investment and more than 4,100 direct jobs. And this is just the beginning, with these projects creating many indirect jobs as well through flow-on benefits.”

According to the IRENA report, solar photovoltaic (PV) was the largest employer in 2016 globally, with 3.1 million jobs — up 12 per cent from 2015.

China, Brazil, the United States, India, Japan and Germany accounted for most of the renewable-energy jobs.

In the United States, jobs in the solar industry increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5 per cent from the previous year to more than 260,000.

It comes as Australia has moved up the rankings of the most attractive countries for renewable energy investment.

EY’s Renewable Energy Attractiveness Index – published twice a year – put Australia at number five across the globe, which marks a big jump from number 11 in October last year.

China and India took the top two placings, displacing the US which has slipped since the election of Donald Trump. Germany was fourth ahead of Australia, with Chile, Japan, France, Mexico and the UK making up the rest of the top 10.

Bretherton said Australia had a national large-scale Renewable Energy Target which provided an “extra incentive” to build the cheapest kind of renewable energy – which at the moment means wind and solar power.

“Renewable energy such as wind and solar is now the cheapest kind of power it is possible to build right now – less than new gas plants, and much less than new coal power plants,” he said.

“Solar in particular is now almost half what it was just a couple of years ago thanks to targeted support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

“Australia’s major power companies declared earlier this year that new coal plants are ‘uninvestable’, and this sentiment is echoed by many fund managers who are reluctant to take a long-term investment risk on coal for a large variety of reasons.”

How New York Is Building the Renewable Energy Grid of the Future

(www.insideclimatenews.org)

New York State is making a $5 billion bet that by making its power cleaner, it can become a magnet for the clean energy jobs of the future.

Its efforts stand out among the many states racing to integrate more renewables into their power grids—such as Massachusetts, Hawaii and California—not necessarily for the technology but because of what’s happening behind the scenes: New York has launched a Herculean effort to turn around an antiquated system that has deterred innovation for generations by rewarding utilities for selling more electricity.

To get utilities to embrace a changing electricity system, the state is establishing ways for the companies to be reimbursed for some of the savings from energy efficiency programs that are reducing demand for their services. It also is allowing them to reap more return on their investments in equipment needed to bring more renewable energy into the grid. And it is investing in entrepreneurs who are inventing the technology to make it all work.

The state is so gung-ho that its rules require utilities to come up with demonstration projects that test out a new business model, in partnership with at least one private sector company.

The result, say the state’s regulators, is that New York is already attracting hundreds of innovative companies of all stripes. The plum opportunities are not only in installing wind turbines and solar panels, which are generating new employment opportunities across the country, they are also in emerging technologies related to smart grid management and storage. These jobs are largely invisible to the public and, in some cases, didn’t even exist a few years ago.

While the state hasn’t yet projected overall how many jobs are in the new energy economy, they have released enticing tidbits. In January, the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a report projecting that by 2030, New York’s energy storage industry could realize annual revenues between $5.6 billion and $8.7 billion, with total job growth between 17,300 and 26,800 employees. Jobs in the energy storage industry already grew by 30 percent between 2012 and 2015 to 3,600.

“We are now the leading market for energy storage companies,” boasts John Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA, pointing to companies like NOHMs Technologies in Rochester and BessTech in Troy. “And probably microgrid technology as well.”

One of the companies that has been drawn to New York’s new markets is Opus One Solutions. New York’s vision relies on distributed, independent power operations that ramp up and down with the intermittent sunshine and wind, as well as with the fits and starts of demand for power. Opus One has software that can understand how those waves of power from distributed resources interact with traditional power flows. Just as important, its software can make real-time price estimates for the value of those local power sources.

“Why New York?” asks Alison Smith, the start-up’s director of markets, gazing out at the Manhattan skyline from a conference room at the Urban Future Lab, a state-sponsored incubator for start-ups.

“It is the most forward-thinking state in North America in considering how we build the critical elements of a distributed grid,” she answers.

Incubating Clean Energy Innovation

Three years ago, New York announced that it would spend $5.3 billion toward meeting its goal of having 50 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. (The state only had 24 percent renewable generation in state this year.) Mandates related to these standards have resulted in significant additions of wind and solar to the grid—but that is just the most readily visible part of the changes New York is undergoing.

According to Richard Kauffman, the state’s chairman of energy and finance, it didn’t take long to figure out that “New York cannot cost effectively make this transition just by bolting wind and solar onto the grid of Westinghouse and Tesla,” referring to two of the original creators of the grid, George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla. Instead, New York wants a new “hybrid grid” that integrates intermittent and distributed resources like wind or solar or microgrids.

At the core of the problem to getting that grid was a stodgy, legacy financial model for utilities that didn’t support innovation. Utilities have historically been rewarded with 9 percent rate increases when they add capital expenditure for transmission and distribution to new central power stations, which in New York are historically gas and coal with some nuclear and hydro. The result is that New York has added so much base load capacity to meet peak demand (largely in these traditional forms of energy generation) that on an average day the state uses just 54 percent of generation capacity.

“Technology is not what is holding us back,” said Kauffman. “Could I tomorrow install smart meters in every home and save energy? Absolutely. But until now, there has been absolutely no financial incentive to do this.”

So, New York began changing regulations to reward utilities for integrating new business models that support advances like battery storage that are needed to scale up wind and solar. It has mandated the demonstration projects. Seventeen are already up and running and another dozen or so are in the works for approval.

It is also offering other stimulants such as grants and assistance through incubators like the Urban Future Lab.

Every few weeks, the state announces another competition. In February, it gave $15 million to develop renewable heating and cooling technology. In March it gave $11 million in grants to winners of a microgrid contest. In April it made $15.5 million available to support the most promising energy storage projects.

New York is distributing this money with the idea of leveraging as much from the private market as possible. Since 2009, NYSERDA says, it has invested $14 million in six clean energy incubators where clean tech start-ups get a boost by being connected to utility officials and investors. The return to the state on that $14 million investment: 155 of the new and emerging companies coming from those incubators have attracted over $284 million in private investment.

There is broad consensus that New York’s financial game plan is particularly sophisticated in theory. “New York is not the only one grappling with grid modernization,” said Lisa Frantzis, a senior vice president with Advanced Energy Economy, a business group working on alternative energy. “I can tell you that many states are dealing with the same issues but no one is dealing with it as holistically as New York.”

However, some clean energy advocates are not sure if the execution yet meets the ideals of the plan.

Jamie Howland, director of the Climate and Energy Analysis Center at the Acadia Center, an advocacy organization, said this is all still a work in progress. “It is going to take some time to know how well it’s working.”

Meanwhile, he worries about what New York hasn’t done to prime the economy. “New York has to import all its fossil fuels, so for every dollar spent on energy efficiency, the economy grows by five dollars. And New York can clearly do more on energy efficiency. It is lagging states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island.”

In Buffalo, from Hospitial to Clean Energy Producer for the Region?

The partnership between Opus One and National Grid is a prime example of how the new demonstration model is supposed to open up New York’s power grid to innovation that speeds renewable energy.

Last year, the company was looking to aggressively expand operations out of Canada and into the United States. The key was to find a home base with utilities that were both able and willing to integrate radical new technologies.

For the highly regulated industry, it was a tall order. But because of those mandates that utilities partner with third parties, New York fit the bill.

And, in fact, no sooner had Opus settled on New York State than it was picked in September 2016 by National Grid, the utility for greater Buffalo, to partner on a two-year project on cutting-edge technology that could help Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus expand its back-up energy supply to include an expansive portfolio of renewables.

With seven institutions on 120 acres and 17,000 employees, the medical campus is practically a small town. Like all critical care facilities, BNMC is required by law to have a backup power generation system, and like many hospitals, it has relied on one of the dirtiest forms of fuel: diesel.

As BNMC considers how to upgrade its power structure, one option is to invest beyond its own needs and become a clean power producer for the local region.

“There is no doubt to us now that the technology is out there to provide energy from zero-emissions sources,” said Paul Tyno, director of energy investments for BNMC. “The question is the economic feasibility of it.”

“We need to know what kind of return we will get for our investments,” he said.

This is where Opus One comes in. Opus can take just a few limited pieces of information from the grid and, using advanced computer modeling, show comprehensive power flows in real time—as well as accurately predict them in the future.

The transparency also allows Opus to calculate demand for supply and then come up with prices for energy based on where it is being distributed. This is potentially a big breakthrough. One of the problems states like California and Nevada have faced is that they have not yet calculated what they should be paying individual customers for the solar power they generate.

National Grid asked Opus to work on a demonstration project with BMNC to provide a model of a real-time market for its distributed clean power.

“This demonstration is essential in providing us with a better understanding of the technical requirements required to integrate, operate and fully optimize a distributed system,” said Carlos Nouel, vice president of National Grid’s New Energy Solutions group. If it works, he added, there is potential to scale to the entire area.

Tyno said that New York’s insistence on pilot projects is the foundation of all this experimentation.

“To me, the ability for a customer asset to provide relief to the central grid strengthens that central grid,” he said. “If you’ve got a strong grid that is consistent and reliable and has manageable costs in this day and age, I think you are going to attract business to your area.”