WEEKEND VIDEOS, January 19-20:
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Getting To Higher Levels Of New Energy
History will see today’s advent of affordable storage as the moment the New Energy transition reached “speed.” From Yale Climate Connections via YouTube
Climate Changing Real Estate Values In Miami
This one will give the real estate entrepreneurs something to ponder. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
Friday, January 18, 2019
Globalization 4.0 And Climate Change
Globalization 4.0 will help us tackle climate change. Here’s how
Klaus Schwab, 14 January 2019 (World Economic Forum)
“…Climate change – arguably humanity’s most existential challenge – requires urgent global action…[E]nvironmental crises – notably a failure to tackle climate change – are among the likeliest and highest-impact risks that the world faces over the next decade. Indeed, 2018 saw record levels of costs due to extreme weather events… [October’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming at 1.5°C concluded] we have just 12 years to act if dangerous climate change is to be avoided…[But the] urgent scientific message on climate change finds it hard to cut through the news cycle and the competing agendas of our ever more complex world. The effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the economy, employment and national security, for example, capture much of the attention…Rising uncertainties about the future of jobs and growth are forcing many politicians to turn inward for quick fixes to domestic insecurities, rather than lean outward to cooperate on more complex global issues such as climate change…
…[The good news is that many studies show that] shifts in our economy are not only possible, but will also create jobs and secure better growth for the future…[T]o make this transition happen, a new combination of action is required. This will include, for example, building new forms of alliances within and between the private and public sectors; forging new clubs of like-minded governments, cities, states and provinces; and building new leadership platforms for policy experimentation and public-private action, each targeted to suit different industrial, national and regional agendas…With the rapid technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will also be able to harness new means of monitoring, verifying and reporting the progress (or lack thereof) of global, regional and industry actions on climate, potentially through radical new forms of distributed information transparency and real-time disclosures…[and] heighten the pressure to act…” click here for more
Big Money Keeps Going To New Energy
Clean Energy Investment Exceeded $300 Billion Once Again in 2018
January 16, 2018 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)
“Global clean energy investment totaled $332.1 billion in 2018, down 8% on 2017. Last year was the fifth in a row in which investment exceeded the $300 billion mark…There were sharp contrasts between clean energy sectors in terms of the change in dollar investment last year. Wind investment rose 3% to $128.6 billion, with offshore wind having its second-highest year. Money committed to smart meter rollouts and electric vehicle company financings also increased…[But] the most striking shifts were in solar. Overall investment in that sector dropped 24% to $130.8 billion. Part of this reduction was due to sharply declining capital costs…[T]he cost of installing a megawatt of photovoltaic capacity fell 12% in 2018 as manufacturers slashed selling prices in the face of a glut of PV modules on the world market…
…The biggest solar projects financed included the 800MW NOORm Midelt PV and solar thermal portfolio in Morocco, at an estimated $2.4 billion, and the 709MW NLC Tangedco PV plant in India, at a cost of about $500 million...Offshore wind was a major recipient of clean energy investment last year, attracting $25.7 billion, up 14% on the previous year. Some of the projects financed were in Europe, led by the 950MW Moray Firth East array in the North Sea, at an estimated $3.3 billion, but there were also 13 Chinese offshore wind farms starting construction, for a total of some $11.4 billion…Onshore wind saw $100.8 billion of new asset finance globally last year, up 2%, with the biggest projects reaching go-ahead including the 706MW Enel Green Power South Africa portfolio, at an estimated $1.4 billion, and the Xcel Rush Creek installation in the U.S., at $1 billion for 600MW…Global venture capital and private equity investment jumped 127% to $9.2 billion, the highest since 2010…” click here for more
China Could Be The New Energy Superpower
Will China Be The Superpower In A World Transformed By Renewable Energy?
Adnan Z. Amin, January 12, 2019 (Newsweek)
“…The untold story of renewables is that they’re transforming the global energy system at a speed no one predicted. In recent years, technological advances and falling costs have made renewables genuinely commercially competitive. Price trends suggest that by 2020, the average price of electricity generated by solar and wind sources will be at the lower end of fossil fuel prices…The other critical factors in this quiet revolution have been agreement on the imperative to counter climate change, leading to ambitious renewable energy targets; action by investors; and a global public opinion increasingly supportive of renewables…Nimble players have already seized the opportunity not only to secure their own future energy supplies but to become new energy leaders…
China has put itself in pole position to be the world’s renewable energy superpower. It is the world’s largest producer, exporter and installer of solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, and accounted for over 45% of global investment in renewable energy in 2017. In Europe, Germany generated 40% of its electricity through renewable sources in 2018…Shipping routes will become less important; those countries with the best connectivity, networks and ‘grid infrastructure’ (power lines, storage facilities, virtual interconnections) will hold the strategic advantage in controlling energy supply routes. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through infrastructure, is significant…Countries may also seek to integrate their grids with those of neighbouring countries; for example, in the proposed Asia Super Grid… The New Energy Age will help shape a very different world…” click here for more
Thursday, January 17, 2019
U.S. Emissions Went The Wrong Way In 2018
Preliminary US Emissions Estimates for 2018
January 8, 2019 (Rhodium Group)
“…US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose…by 3.4% in 2018. This marks the second largest annual gain in more than two decades…surpassed only by 2010 when the economy bounced back from the Great Recession. While a record number of coal-fired power plants were retired last year, natural gas not only beat out renewables to replace most of this lost generation but also fed most of the growth in electricity demand. As a result, power sector emissions overall rose by 1.9%. The transportation sector held its title as the largest source of US emissions for the third year running, as robust growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offset a modest decline in gasoline consumption…
…The buildings and industrial sectors also both posted big year-on-year emissions gains. Some of this was due to unusually cold weather at the start of the year…[but the sectors have made limited progress in] decarbonization strategies…[Energy-related US emissions peaked in 2007 and dropped an average 1.6% per year through 2015…Since 2016, the pace of US emissions decline has slowed, from 2.7% in 2015 to 1.7% in 2016 to 0.8% in 2017…[which risks] putting the US emissions reduction goal under the Paris Agreement — a 26-28% cut below 2005 levels by 2025 – out of reach…” click here for more
Wind Gets Bigger, Better, Cheaper
Wind Energy -- Where Bigger Is Better; Wind turbines are getting big, and that's great news for the industry.
Travis Hoium, January 11, 2019 (Motley Fool)
“…[Wind turbines are] reaching almost 10 megawatts (MW), enough to power 2,210 homes (using 221 homes per MW). A solar farm with only a few wind turbines could produce enough power for a small town and a big one, like the 1,550 MW Alta Wind Energy Center in California, could generate enough power for a small city…As wind turbines get bigger, their costs continue to come down, which should help the industry grow…One of the largest production wind turbine today is a 9.5 MW offshore turbine produced by Vestas Wind Systems…[But Vestas] recently announced a 10 MW turbine that will be ready for installation in 2021…[General Electric is investing $400 million to develop] a 12 MW offshore wind turbine that will be 260 meters high…[Siemens is] lagging with just an 8 MW offshore wind turbine…
[Manufacturers and wind farm developers are] more cost-effective…[The capacity factor] of wind turbines in the U.S. rose to 34.6% in 2017, up from 32.4% in 2013, as turbines got bigger and more efficient…[but GE estimates] its 12 MW turbine will be able to achieve a 63% capacity factor…[Economies of scale also make large wind farms] less expensive to build than smaller ones…[The result is that wind offshore can] open many more untapped markets. Coastal areas are typically where the highest electricity demand lies, but it's often farthest from the windy locations, particularly in the U.S…[The new scale] will help grow the global wind addressable market from $157 billion in 2017 to $254 billion in 2024…” click here for more
Solar Plus Storage Bests NatGas Peakers
Solar plus batteries aim to retire natural gas plants in 2019
Michael J. Coren, January 11, 2019 (Quartz)
“…[Plans are being] halted plans for natural gas plants…[due to] the plummeting prices of solar panels and battery storage. Natural gas plants are the historical go-to choice for ‘peaker plants,’ which provide electricity during times of highest demand. While rarely used (just a few days per year on average), they’re critical to preventing blackouts…Now, solar project developers are moving into that territory…[by] bidding prices for new electricity capacity lower than natural gas plants even after adding batteries…
US energy-storage installations, mostly lithium-ion batteries, are taking off, having risen 57% to 338 MW in 2018 over the previous year…Globally, 6 gigawatt-hours have been installed worldwide…GE and Siemens have been trying to offload their natural gas turbine businesses as sales tumble. In May 2018, GE cut its sales forecast for its heavy-duty natural gas power plant business by more than half, saying demand would stay at the reduced level through 2020.” click here for more
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
ORIGINAL REPORTING: Does transmission planning make transmission building too hard?
Has FERC's landmark transmission planning effort made transmission building harder? Some say Order 1000 planning is too costly, but others say a need for wires is coming.
Herman K. Trabish, July 17, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Current and former FERC commissioners, along with two of the largest regional grid operators, are increasingly critical of Order 1000 — a landmark Obama era order on competitive transmission siting — and are pushing a new look at the initiative. Former commissioner Tony Clark’s April whitepaper argued the red tape added to the planning process by Order 1000 has kept some developers from completing new projects. Former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff, who led the commission when it approved Order 1000 in 2011, said the changes in the national power system since the order was put in place have delayed its effectiveness. It would be better to let the system catch up to what Order 1000 offers, he told Utility Dive. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a member of the current FERC, agreed with Wellinghoff but told Utility Dive there are pathways by which Clark's objections can be addressed and added that parts of the order are worth taking a new look at.
Order 1000 was issued in July 2011, a result of concerns about emerging demands on the nation's aging power infrastructure. Load flattened after the 2008 economic recession, but by 2011, it was clear transmission was inadequate to serve the renewables generation beginning to replace outdated fossil fuel-burning power plants. The order was intended to drive a transmission building renaissance. It revised rules on transmission planning, on allocating costs for transmission, and on competitive bidding. New transmission has come online in the interim, but 70% of the system is still over 25 years old and replacing it remains a challenge. Order 1000 has been "a mixed success, with less change-making than we hoped for," Commissioner LaFleur said. But its benefits may end up outweighing its costs over the longer term, as technologies advance and the power sector moves to renewable and distributed generation… click here for more
ORIGINAL REPORTING: Net zero energy homes and solar communities
Rise of net zero energy homes could boost utility-led community solar; Modeling of new energy-efficient home developments found community solar offers system advantages not available from rooftop solar.
Herman K. Trabish |July 19, 2018 (Utility Dive)
The newest partnership to come from the rise of distributed generation could be between utilities and new home developers. Customer demand for distributed energy resources (DER) has already created new partnerships for utilities with their customers and with DER providers. Policies to support state climate and clean energy goals are aimed more and more at increasing customer access to DER. Among them are net zero energy (NZE) initiatives for new homes. A new approach to NZE, validated in research released May 1 by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), could put new renewable resources to work and form the foundation for new uses of community solar and new partnerships between utilities and NZE homebuilders.
The new partnerships could mean big new opportunities for the utilities, homebuilders and developers of community solar and other distributed renewables. Support for the NZE concept produced 1,153 NZE projects in the U.S. in 2017, an increase of 56% over 2016, according to the 2017 Net Zero Energy Coaliton report. That included 6,059 NZE buildings, up 49% from 2016, and 13,906 NZE units, up 70%. California accounted for 5,279 units, far more than second-place Arizona's 1,021 units. Units would be part of small NZE multifamily apartment and condominium complexes. They could also be units in larger housing projects. A landmark addition to California's building code, approved in May 2018, mandates that all new homes built from 2020 include advanced energy efficiencies and solar. It was widely credited as an important boost for rooftop solar. But a little-noticed provision allows developers to use community solar instead of rooftop solar if they so choose… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
TODAY’S STUDY: The Compelling Case For Transportation Electrification
The future of transportation is electric; The case for electrification in North America is compelling, and it goes far beyond EVs
December 2018 (ABB)
The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is just beginning but electrification of transportation (e-mobility) goes well beyond passenger vehicles to include fleet vehicles (cars and trucks), mass transit buses, light rail, ships and even non-road vehicles like forklifts.
The rationale is simple: electric vehicles have lower cost of ownership than their conventionally powered peers, they emit less pollution, and they enable emerging mobility business models.
This paper outlines the benefits of transportation electrification, explains why EVs are likely to overtake internal combustion engine vehicles, and identifies targeted actions that governments can take to support the e-mobility transition.
E-mobility is already here
Transportation electrification is well underway. From its origins with light rail and subway systems, electrification is expanding to incorporate more vehicle types and applications.
• Subways and light rail – New technologies like wayside energy storage systems (WESS) that capture braking energy and store it for use in powering other trains as they accelerate will make passenger rail systems more efficient and economical.
• Buses – Overhead power lines will likely be replaced with onboard batteries charged in bus depots and with on-route “flash chargers.” ABB demonstrated flash charging technology with TOSA, an electric bus line in Geneva, Switzerland that entered commercial operation in December 2017.
• Electric fleets – EVs are appealing to fleet operators because their lower lifetime maintenance and fuel costs deliver a payback that offsets the initial higher purchase price of the vehicle, though those prices are falling as well. Cost advantages will increase as the energy density of batteries increases and battery management technologies advance.
• Ships and ports - Diesel-electric hybrid ships have been operating since the 1990s thanks to electric propulsion’s improved fuel economy, superior maneuverability, reduced noise and vibration, and added flexibility in hull design. In 2000, ABB introduced the world’s first shore-toship power connection that allows docked vessels to draw power from the local power grid rather than running their engines.
Light-duty vehicles There are two main cost categories where electric vehicles have significant benefits: maintenance and fuel. Unlike internal combustion engines, electric drivetrains have few moving parts—about 20 compared to the typical car’s 1,500 to 2,000 — and can last for decades. Their durability, reliability and relatively low maintenance costs have been well-proven over a century in rail transit and the toughest of industrial applications.
Fuel costs for EVs are also markedly lower. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that the cost of electricity, per mile of driving, is less than one-third that of gasoline . And electricity rates are much less volatile than gasoline prices. The combination of lower fuel and maintenance costs brings the total cost of ownership (TCO) of EVs below that of comparable ICE vehicles, despite a higher purchase price.  Meanwhile, the cost of electric drive continues to decline as battery energy density increases and cost-per-kWh falls.
Several municipal transit operators have conducted trials of electric buses, providing a growing body of data to support the business case for going electric. A 2016 study by New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and Columbia University found that, while electric buses presently cost about $300,000 more than the diesel alternative, “annual [operating cost] savings are estimated at $39,000 per year over the 12-year lifetime of the bus.”  The result is a reduction in total lifecycle cost of more than $150,000 per bus.
Reduced maintenance and fuel costs make EVs particularly attractive to fleet owners who have very high vehicle utilization rates. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) in rideshare applications, for example, are projected to be on the road 40% of the time , racking up as many as 70,000 miles per year. Whether it’s local delivery, field service vehicles, ridesharing or other businesses, all fleets face cost pressures, making EVs particularly attractive. Underscoring these cost benefits, electricity prices have been historically stable, while gasoline prices have often demonstrated high volatility. Electrification of fleets represents more predictable business model with lower risk where profitability is not subject to the whims of highly uncertain fuel costs.
2. Environmental impact
Air pollution is a global but also highly localized concern. For example, in the areas around ports there are higher concentrations of harmful emissions from marine diesel engines, and people who live nearby suffer higher rates of respiratory problems and other illnesses related to poor air quality.  Ships that plug into the local grid while in port virtually eliminate those harmful emissions by using grid power instead of running their engines.
Canada has funded projects to develop power from shore at seven of its ports.  The U.S. currently has 10 ports with high-voltage connections available for container ships and cruise vessels, and another six with low-voltage systems serving tugs and fishing boats. 
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions The transportation sector accounts for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US  and 24% in Canada.  While fuel efficiency standards keep rising, ICE vehicles have inherent limitations. Further, the environmental performance of even the most fuel-efficient conventional vehicle today will decline over its lifetime, even with regular maintenance. EVs, on the other hand, get cleaner as the power supply behind them becomes more sustainable and less carbon-intensive.
Corporations increasingly focused on emissions
Regulation of CO2 emissions is only increasing. Corporations and the financial community are already pricing the costs of complying with CO2 regulations into their investments and businesses. Shell, for example, has used an internal carbon price of $40 to $80 per metric ton since 2000 to evaluate investment decisions, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.  Mining giant BHP uses a “shadow price” of $24 to $80 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify its portfolio for a carbonconstrained future.
Meanwhile more firms are shifting to electricpowered shipping. Walmart Canada, for example, has committed to convert 20% of its fleet to electric drive by 2020, and to using 100% alternatively powered vehicles by 2028. 
3. Future technology enabler
Autonomous vehicles have captured the public imagination as the technology for driverless cars continues to evolve. Nearly all of the manufacturers developing AVs have opted to use electric vehicles as the platform, and for good reason. First, EVs are mostly “drive-by-wire,” which are easier than mechanical linkages for computers to control. Their large batteries also make EVs capable of supporting the power-hungry sensors and control systems needed for autonomous driving.
Second, fuel economy and emissions requirements will only increase over time and EVs essentially take those issues off the table. Still, the bottom line is cost, and as noted earlier electric cars boast lower operating costs and lower TCO than their ICE equivalents. This is particularly important for fleet operators whose vehicles will spend every minute they can on the road. In the case of ridesharing, the evolution toward autonomous vehicles will create a use case that demands the lower cost profile and higher reliability that EVs offer.
According to some industry observers, like Navigant senior analyst Sam Abuelsamid, this fact alone might be enough to drive further development of the EV market even absent a significant jump in demand from consumers.
Challenges facing e-mobility, and their solutions The obstacles to wider adoption of electrified transport are challenging, but they are also addressable.
• Technology & government leadership – The world is converting to electric mobility, but while much of the technology is already here, the US and Canada lag other countries in deployment. North America must work harder to provide the private sector the certainty needed for investments in e-mobility solutions and also to encourage the deployment of e-mobility technologies, like electric transit buses and fleets, port electrification, and charging infrastructure. If we don’t, we will be left to import those technologies from nations that do (e.g., China).
• Infrastructure deployment – DC fast chargers already provide a full charge in 15-60 minutes and up to 125 miles of driving in as little as 8 minutes. However, support for further research, development, testing and deployment of fast charging technologies is needed and is an example of where government could make an impact. Canada has committed to building a nation-wide network of EV fast chargers and, like the U.S., is currently working with Volkswagen to expand its reach.
• Standards – Open charging connection standards for AC charging (J1772) and DC fast charging (CCS and CHAdeMO) have EVs covered. For other segments of the market such as electric buses and other medium or heavy duty vehicles, the charging systems currently available present a few solutions, some open and some proprietary. The industry is working to address this, with major EV standards bodies now solidifying open, interoperable high-power charging solutions.
• Electric grid – The North American power grid is already capable of handling millions of EVs.  These vehicles could also provide services back to the grid (e.g., absorbing excess solar generation during the day and easing the rampdown of solar in the evening by delaying the start of their charging cycle). Southern California Edison is presently conducting a pilot study of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications with a fleet of cars at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Policy prescriptions and opportunities
Ensuring competitiveness in e-mobility will take competency and leadership. There are a number of things that governments can do to ensure they are not left behind in the global e-mobility transition. These include:
• Supporting EV markets via government procurement
• Directing funding for public transit to electrified transportation technologies
• Carving out tax incentives to encourage businesses and individuals to choose electric vehicles
• Tuning regulatory frameworks to support wider deployment of charging infrastructure, especially high-power facilities (e.g., by providing relief for demand charge tariffs for fast charging stations)
• Supporting R&D activities to advance e-mobility technologies in both passenger vehicles and in other applications
Ultimately, the shift to a transportation sector based on electric drive will be motivated by an economic imperative. We are seeing evidence of this now in public transit where lifecycle costs for electric buses are already lower than dieselpowered alternatives. In the passenger vehicle market, EVs still sell at a premium, but their cost of production, and critically their cost of ownership, are declining. The U.S. and Canada both enjoy abundant resources, talent and manufacturing resources. With the right governmental support, both nations will be well positioned to benefit from the switch to electrified transport.
QUICK NEWS, January 15: A Plan To Attack Climate Change; New Energy Is Reshaping The Power System
A Plan To Attack Climate Change Seven-point plan to help tackle growing threat of climate change: Report
January 14, 2019 (The Economic Times)
A seven-point plan may help policy-makers devise new, coherent and collaborative strategies to fight the greatest global environmental threats…[P]oliticians and legislators can develop a new way to tackle the growing threat of climate change…[in response to the recent IPCC report showing] that the human impacts on the environment are already tipping the world into…[the Anthropocene, a] new era is defined by the effect human-kind has already caused on Earth, from mass extinctions of plant and animal species to polluted oceans and altered atmosphere…
[The paper argues] there also needs to be a new way to tackle the geographical, boundary, spatial, ecological and socio-political complexities of the issue…[because] there are multiple threats to the resilience of the Earth systems…[It offers no 'simple solutions', but outlines] seven guiding principles to help tackle the growing environmental threat brought by man-made climate change. These include selecting existing, robust policies to help formulate policy decisions, the need for decisions to be made consistently across regional, national and global boundaries, and a more conclusive look at the true extent that the environment is being impacted…” click here for more
New Energy Is Reshaping The Power System Renewable Energy Boom Is Pushing The Grid To Its Limits, Prompting Operators To Reinvent Themselves
Jean-Marc Ollagnier, January 14, 2019 (Forbes)
“…[The earnings growth of many electricity distribution utilities will likely] remain under severe pressure until around 2025. The ever-growing amount of distributed energy resources (DER), such as renewable energy sources like home solar photovoltaics and energy storage, are making the grid more difficult and costly to manage for operators…[and] stagnant or even decreasing total electricity demand in some geographies is also putting additional pressure on earnings…[The 2018 Digitally Enabled Grid research] found that 95 percent of respondents agree that deployment of distributed generation is increasing at a more rapid rate than distribution companies can build needed hosting capacity in high demand areas. In addition, 99 percent of respondents believe that parts of their grid will have reached maximum capacity in the next five years…
[…In the longer term, electric] distribution utilities have the potential for a bright future, both as profitable businesses and playing a key role as a pivotal component in the future power system…[because, according to 97 percent of respondents,] earnings will grow beyond 2025, thanks to expected improvements in process efficiency and network performance as well as new sources of revenue from additional services…The key to adapting to this new landscape is for distributors to develop greater operational agility to further drive cost savings, and to pursue potential new business opportunities by tapping into digital technologies [like advanced analytics, robotics, digital twins and drones] and implementing new business models…[We advise process optimization --by implementing digital asset management, deploying smart infrastructure and supporting more connected workers…” click here for more
Monday, January 14, 2019
TODAY’S STUDY: The U.S. Power Sector Right Now
2019 power and utilities industry outlook
Scott Smith, December 2018 (Deloitte)
Power sector transformation continues as regulatory initiatives strive to keep pace As the US power and utilities industry continues on the path to transformation, the traditional utility regulatory structure is taking time to catch up. But some more flexible regulatory initiatives are emerging that may bring new opportunities to utilities in 2019 and beyond.
In my 2018 Outlook, I highlighted that the power business was well into a period of transformation and profound change driven by technological and competitive forces, as well as changing customer expectations. As these forces accelerate, electric power companies are tapping new technologies to serve increasingly sophisticated customers conditioned by other industries to expect the hightech digital experiences that have become the “new normal.” New technologies are also expanding opportunities to improve operational efficiencies and prompting experiments with new business models. But regulatory structures are taking time to catch up. Change has begun, but it will need to spread faster for regulated utilities to meet evolving customer expectations. If they aren’t positioned to capture value from the shift toward distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar, battery storage, electric vehicles, and smart thermostats and appliances, they risk losing revenue. As we move into 2019, I want to take stock of how far and fast the industry is changing and what we should be looking out for in the new year.
But first, let’s take a brief look at the fundamentals. Continuing the post-recession trend, US electricity consumption is still characterized by relatively slow growth, although data through the third quarter of 2018 saw an acceleration over the previous year, largely due to an unusually hot summer.1 If confirmed by market data through year-end, this would be welcome news for an industry that has grown accustomed to low load growth and therefore a need to focus primarily on asset utilization and reliability to sustain margins. On the generation side, the three dominant trends also seem to be a continuation of recent years—that is, displacement of coal-fired generation, steady growth in natural gas, and rapid growth in wind and solar generation. The drivers for this trend are a powerful combination of economics, customer preference, and an increasingly central role for carbon footprint reduction along the electricity value chain.
Other significant events in 2018 remain partially unresolved, such as whether additional mechanisms at the federal or state level might be established to support generation assets under economic stress—for example, some of the coal-fired and nuclear fleet. And severe weather events continue to drive utilities to improve their response and recovery capabilities and regulators to accommodate mitigation options. For example, in response to the California wildfires, regulators have worked with utilities on a new operating and regulatory model that enables utilities to curtail power when winds exceed specified speeds in order to reduce the risk of equipment potentially contributing to wildfires.
So, with forces of change accelerating in a business that has experienced stability and continuity for many years, what can we expect in 2019?
Electricity customers are accustomed to a “new normal” and demanding to be heard Power companies are listening, and many are beginning to respond to what customers are saying with innovations that give them more control over energy usage.
Every year, when Deloitte undertakes its annual Resources Study, 3 a survey of residential and business electricity customers’ attitudes and preferences, we have found a growing appetite and expectation for more involvement and control over electricity purchasing and use, as well as a desire to interact with their providers in new ways. This is partly generational—younger users have become very comfortable with apps, social media, and always-on connectivity. And it’s also partly a spin-off from the increasing ubiquity of e-commerce in all spheres, for products, services, and entertainment. These developments are coming from all directions, not just the big-tech giants that are household names. And it all adds up to a “new normal” in customer experience. We’re seeing evidence of this new normal in electricity customer preferences—the desire for choice, in rate plans, in sources of delivered electricity and in options to tap into behind-the-meter or localized sources of generation, or to integrate electricity with other home services. Commercial and industrial customers are looking to combine more cost and utilization control with opportunities to self-generate and while setting themselves and their suppliers ambitious targets to reduce emissions from their energy use.
Utilities are listening, and many are beginning to respond to what customers are saying by developing apps to give customers more control over energy usage; to manage energy use from their smartphones (heating/cooling, lighting, window blinds); to shop online for rooftop solar installations; to view monthly bills and monitor energy use in real time; to receive alerts if bills are higher than normal; or to receive outage alerts with estimates of restoration time, crew arrival time, and more. Such outage and restoration communications are particularly critical in areas prone to severe storms.
For electric utilities, although this may look very different from their traditional arm’s-length relationship with customers, it is their way of adapting to the “new normal” set by companies in other industries. We expect to see such initiatives proliferate in the near future and begin to be adopted by a greater diversity of utilities, not just the large ones. Customer retention is no longer just a question of reliability and cost; it is now a question of providing options, being connected, and allowing customers more control over their energy use.
Technology is expanding opportunities to improve operations…Pockets of business model experimentation are emerging…Will regulatory change come fast enough for utilities to meet evolving customer expectations?... While the traditional cost-of-service regulatory structure may not encourage innovation, some more flexible regulatory initiatives are emerging that may bring new opportunities…More flexible regulatory initiatives are emerging…
And continuity coexists with change
While these forces of change are moving forward, let us not forget that electric power companies have to continue their core business of delivering reliable and affordable power. To meet this need, capital expenditures in the power and utilities sector continue to rise, with an estimated increase in 2018 of 14 percent, to reach an all-time high of $133.8 billion for the 50 electric and gas utilities S&P Global tracks annually.11 Further increases are expected in 2019, covering multiple needs in generation, transmission, and distribution—grid modernization, building in resilience to weather events and cyberthreats, and deploying new technologies such as digital capabilities or storage are all examples of this. How power companies balance investment in ongoing operations versus planning for more transformational change will be fascinating to watch.
By definition, the future is uncertain, so we know there will be surprises along the way. The electric power business has proved increasingly resilient to some kinds of surprises, like hurricanes or snowstorms. Other kinds of surprises, from technology and new competition to customer expectations, may require more deep-seated cultural change. 2019 promises to be an interesting year.
QUICK NEWS, January 14: Cliches Changed By Global Weirding; Coal Country Facing The Change
Cliches Changed By Global Weirding Idioms Updated for Climate Change
Ginny Hogan, January 21, 2019 edition, (The New Yorker)
“…[Some clichés need to be rewritten now. They include] • A rising tide floods all houses…• A bird in the hand is worth more than it used to be because they’re going extinct…• She vanished into oddly thick air!...• Stop and smell the flower…• A rose by any other name would wilt and die without water, which we’re running out of…• Can we please address the elephant in the room? Why has this elephant been displaced from Africa? It doesn’t belong in New York City…• Ugh, she’s giving me the tepid shoulder again…• There’s got to be at least one other fish left in the sea…
• Let’s save it for a rainy day—and by that I mean let’s never, ever do it…• You can lead a horse to a dried-up reservoir, but you can’t make it drink dirt…• Who let the cat out of the bag? Please be more careful with her. She’s our last cat…• You’re on thin ice, buddy. In fact, we all are. If there’s a part of the world that still has thick ice, we need to know about it immediately…• You killed two birds with one stone! Unfortunately, those were the only two birds we had left…• Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss—damn it, we missed. Well, humans had a good run. Better luck next time…” click here for more
Coal Country Facing The Change West Virginia can lead in renewable energy too
Editorial, January 11, 2019 (West Virginia Gazette)
“Americans use energy…We think more of it should come from West Virginia…West Virginia is the nation’s fifth largest producer of U.S. energy, according to the EIA’s State Profile using 2016 figures; second in coal, seventh in natural gas, 15th in crude oil…But any developer who proposes a new energy generation or transportation project faces strong opposition from one group or another…[H]ydropower is one of the world’s oldest sources of energy…With industrialization, humans learned how to capture the energy embedded in carbon based fuels of coal, oil and natural gas…Despite climate change concerns, the world will continue to rely on fossil fuels…But every form of energy has a cost, both financially and environmentally…
Humans won’t go back to the old ways of horsepower. We’ve got to continually develop and improve energy production, transmission and distribution…For generations, thousands of West Virginians have made their livelihood supplying energy to the nation and the world. That can and should continue. Young West Virginians have opportunities to go into the traditional energy industries of coal, oil and natural gas, and also into renewable green energy…The challenge now is to learn how to design and build energy infrastructure that is accepted in today’s social environment of opposition…But West Virginians are up for it. Hats off to the many mountaineers — past, present and future — who take on the challenge…” click here for more
Saturday, January 12, 2019
What Is A Green New Deal?
Climate Change In The Heartlands
For agriculture, it’s a whole new game. From Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe via You Tube
Elon Musk Offers A New Energy Answer
This is how batteries make New Energy the low cost solution. From Comedy Central