Jon Stewart Finds A New Climate Change Impact
This may not look like it is about climate change but just hang on for the punch line. From Comedy Central
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
FRIDAY WORLD, March 22:
This may not look like it is about climate change but just hang on for the punch line. From Comedy Central
“It really challenges you to be clear about what we know is true…” From greenmanbucket via YouTube
This one empowers the generation that will inherit this good earth. “Make a difference.” From greenman3610 via YouTube
Climate change blamed as thousands die in Indian heat
Victor Mallet, May 29, 2015 (Financial Times)
“For the wealthy of India, the annual heatwave before the monsoon is inconvenient…For the poor, however, daytime temperatures approaching 50C in the shade can be fatal…Indian officials have reported about 2,000 heat-related deaths in recent days, many of them in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with victims succumbing to heatstroke and dehydration and hospitals struggling to cope with a surge of emergency admissions…Surfaces of some roads in Delhi have melted in the sun…Heat stress, defined by using a combined measure of temperature and humidity, is expected to rise sharply by mid-century…In India’s vast cities, the crisis is worsened by the “heat island” effect, in which concrete buildings and paved roads absorb and retain more heat than trees or other plants…The Centre for Science and Environment said that human-induced global warming had made 2014 the hottest year on record, and urged India’s governments to adapt to climate change…” click here for more
Offshore Wind Policy Drivers in Europe & China
May 2015 (Global Wind Energy Council)
“The four year long FOWIND (Facilitating Offshore Wind in India) project has…reviewed progress in the sector to date and…drawn out the following key recommendations for India: 1. Set a clear offshore wind target and roadmap to convey the vision to industry…2. Clearly articulate and affirm energy policy objectives to maintain industry confidence…3. Ensure managed progression from demonstration to commercial projects…4. Provide strong initial public investment and utilise Public-Private partnerships where possible…5. Ensure sufficient volume, delivered in a smooth pipeline, and design risk-informed support mechanisms to drive cost reduction…” click here for more
Focusing on CSP, Saudi Arabia to Add 41GW Solar Power by 2032
Aisha Abdelhamid, May 18, 2015 (PlanetSave)
“Significantly boosting electricity generation from renewable sources in the upcoming years, Saudi Arabia is expected to experience robust growth in its solar power market, with a special focus on Concentrated Solar Power technology…With a plan for adding 54 GW of power generation capacity from renewable sources, 41 GW of solar power will contribute to the mix of renewables in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by 2032…Representing an investment of USD109 billion by 2032, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) has introduced a renewable energy program to meet the kingdom’s growing energy demand…” click here for more
China prepares three marine hydrokinetic test sites as part of US$163.4 million program
Gregory B. Poindexter, May 28, 2015 (HydroWorld)
“China is planning to construct marine hydrokinetic (MHK) test sites by 2016 off the coasts of three provinces -- Shandong, Zhejiang and Guangdong -- financed in part by a US$163.4 million fund created in May 2010 for renewable energy…[It] has supported 96 renewable energy programs…Weihai will be a “shallow-water” test site and Zhoushan and Wanshan test sites will focus on tidal and wave energy respectively…The State Oceanic Administration said China has an estimated 1.58 billion kWh marine energy reserve, with the potential to harness 650 million kWh. Proponents for the test sites think developing commercially viable MHK energy processes would help ease China’s power shortage in the coastal areas…” click here for more
Texas flooding puts Cruz, GOP in bind on climate change
Alexandra Jaffe, May 27, 2015 (CNN)
"The heavy flooding that's overwhelmed Texas and killed more than 30 people has put [Republican climate change deniers] in a bind…[Some] have shown an openness to acknowledging and offering proposals to combat climate change, while others continue to question the scientific consensus that humans are contributing to it…[M]ost in the Republican Party have in recent history virulently opposed government regulations meant to tackle climate change…Republicans could find themselves in a bind on climate change this cycle, caught between coal-country voters and energy industry players, typically some of the GOP's biggest supporters, and a building national and scientific consensus that climate change is real and the government needs to do something about it…A New York Times/Stanford University poll in January found that an overwhelming majority of Americans, and fully 48% of Republicans, said they were more likely to back a candidate that supports fighting climate change…That bind will only become tougher to navigate if natural disasters, like the flooding in Texas, continue…” click here for more
Weak wind resources in 1st quarter look like 'aberration,' developer says
Michael Copley, May 26, 2015 SNL
Weather pattern-caused weaker winds in the Western and Southwestern U.S. have caused wind-generated electricity to drop 20% to 50%, forcing power producers to turn to alternative resources and electricity markets. Weather analysts, which wind investors increasingly rely on, say the diminished resource is from an early-2015 change in weather patterns while the changing climate is likely to cause increased wind productivity. tronger winds are expected in the West and Southwest for the rest of 2015 and 2016, associated an El Niño weather pattern. NRG Yield reported lower than expected Q1 earnings and reduced 2015 expectations. Pattern Energy Group’s Q1 available cash fell nearly 48% year-on-year. Southern California Edison was forced to buy electricity on the open market after Q1 wind production fell 50%. click here for more
Duke Energy Corp To Provide Solar Power To Disney World; Duke Energy is making its latest solar investment by constructing a solar power facility in Florida
Michael Kaufmaan, May 28, 2015 (Bidness-Etc)
"…Duke Energy plans to build a solar power facility in Epcot, one of the four theme parks at Disney World in Florida…Under the terms of [a 15 year] agreement, Duke will lease the land from Walt Disney Co…while the latter will purchase the solar power from the former…[The 5 megawatts of solar generated electricity is] expected to come online as early as the end of 2015…[and will be] the largest solar-power project at Disney World…” click here for more
NC officials warn more near Duke ash pits not to drink water
May 21, 2015 AP via Winston-Salem Journal
The water in 191 wells, 90% of those tested within 1,000 feet Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash pits, proved unsafe to drink or cook with, according to the latest report from North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The wells’ water failed to meet state groundwater standards. Many showed high levels of toxic heavy metals such as lead, vanadium and hexavalent chromium. The tests were performed in compliance with the North Carolina law instituted after the disastrous 2014 spill of coal ash from a Duke storage pond into the Dan River. Duke Energy just pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act committed by three of its subsidiaries in the Dan River spill and agreed to pay $68 million in fines that cannot be passed to customers, and $34 million for environmental projects. click here for more
Hawaiian Electric's plan to end solar net metering, explained; The utility says it needs a new valuation scheme to fairly compensate distributed generation
Herman K. Trabish, January 26, 2015 (Utility Dive)
Hawaiian Electric, the Aloha state's dominant electricity provider, has proposed to end retail net metering by April, replacing it with an alternative tariff structure. The much-watched utility says the changes are necessary to ensure grid reliability and a fair cost distribution for its customers, but solar advocates worry the new valuation scheme is an attempt to tamp down on the spread of distributed generation.
“We are entering into a brave new frontier in terms of DG penetration on this isolated island grid,” said Marco Mangelsdor, president of installer ProVision Solar. “How much DG can today’s grid, not the smart grid of the future, accommodate? No one knows. It is a step-by-step groping through the dark and hoping that things won’t blow up in our faces.”
Hawaii's solar conundrum
Hawaii has over 51,000 solar owners, with penetration rates ranging from 9% to 12% on the several islands. By contrast, he national average solar penetration level was 0.5% in December 2013.
Also important is that Hawaii’s net energy metering (NEM) policy has “88% of the utility’s ratepayers subsidizing the 12% who have net energy metered systems,” Mangelsdorf said. He believes utility’s concern about that shift of costs for system maintenance is reasonable. “The cost of NEM was $38 million in 2013 and it is estimated at $53 million in 2014. These are not trivial dollars.”
The plan submitted to state regulators last fall by the Hawaii Electric Companies (HECO), serving the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii, calls for getting 65% renewables, tripling distributed solar, and cutting customers’ bills 20% by 2030.
To resolve the challenges of meeting those and other ambitious goals, HECO filed a Transitional Distributed Generation (TDG) program Jan. 20 with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. The plan, according to HECO spokesperson Darren Pai, “focuses on a number of different issues that will help us grow rooftop solar in a safe, sustainable way that is fair to all customers."
To meet the cost burdens imposed by the NEM policy, the TDG program includes a cut in the value of the credit solar owners earn for the electricity their systems send to the grid. Instead of being credited at the retail electricity rate of $0.295 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), Oahu solar owners would get a TDG-estimated tariff rate of $0.147 per kWh; on Maui, solar owners would go from $0.351 per kWh to $0.223 per kWh; and on Hawaii, the credit would drop from $0.359 to $0.18.6 per kWh.
HECO says it will honor NEM agreements with current rooftop solar owners and those with pending interconnection applications.
To deal with high levels of solar penetration, the TDG program includes the introduction of new inverter and distribution system technology.
“We are prepared to increase the circuit threshold from 120% of daytime minimum load (DML) to 250% of DML,” Pai said. “This is unprecedented.”
Solar industry unhappy with proposal
Despite the promise to expand the daytime minimum load threshold, many solar installers are smarting over the HECO tariff plan.
“We are deeply concerned about the proposal,” said Robert Harris, Public Policy Director for Sunrun, a leading national rooftop solar funder and installer. “HECO appears to be following the national utility playbook of trying to stop competition from solar.”
Hawaii does have the highest level of PV penetration and the highest cost of electricity in the U.S., Harris acknowledged. “But HECO has filed two rate cases in the past two years and did not bring the cost shift issue up in either,” he said.
When cost shift concerns have been raised in other states, Harris pointed out, “they have gone through a public process of analyzing the costs and benefits of distributed generation in a rate case or a separate proceeding. That hasn’t happened in Hawaii. The new tariffs are clearly not the result of a cost-benefit analysis.”
Research done in partnership with SolarCity, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has dispelled HECO’s technical argument limiting rooftop solar to 120% of system circuits’ MDL,” said SolarCity Spokesperson Amanda Myers.
HECO is now “pivoting to an economic argument.” But its claim of a cost shift “doesn’t make it so,” she added. “We welcome the opportunity to work with HECO to develop a process based on hard data and evidence.”
“The two most troubling things about the Hawaiian Electric filing,” saidRegulatory Assistance Project Sr. Advisor Jim Lazar, “are (1) the apparently just wrong treatment of purchased power in the tariff and (2) there are no time of use [TOU] rates.”
The tariffs: How is solar value calculated?
“The tariff numbers have no rationale or explanation. Only an objective cost-benefit analysis based on complete data would provide that,” Harris said.
Hawaii PUC Docket 2014-0192, Instituting A Proceeding To Investigate Distributed Energy Resource Policies, was opened in August 2014 to examine such concerns, Harris said. A follow-up on a January 2014 preliminary study of Hawaii renewables policy by Energy plus Environmental Economics (E3) would be part of that docket.
“The preliminary E3 study proposes higher numbers — in the 24 cents per kWh range,” Harris said.
“HECO's calculation of its proposed tariff that will substitute for NEM is based on base fuel energy charge plus energy cost adjustment," Pai explained, quoting from the filing.
“It is modeled on the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) Schedule Q, though it is not the same.”
It sets the credit “at the customer’s cost of electricity — or the cost we charge to customers for energy, excluding any operations, maintenance or other administrative costs,” according to Pai.
“Base fuel energy charge” and “energy cost adjustment (ECA)” are categories of energy charges in the HECO bill. From data on the utility’s website, Lazar determined that the first is $0.136 per kWh and the second is $0.011 per kWh on Oahu. That is how the $0.147 per kWh tariff was calculated, he believes.
But to set the tariff at the actual charge for energy, as was done in the calculation of KIUC’s Schedule Q, HECO should have included a “purchased power” price of $0.031 per kWh “because HECO purchases about a third of its power from a coal plant and an oil plant,” Lazar said. That exclusion “is a fundamental flaw.”
Including TOU rates would make the proposal more equitable, Lazar believes. New net metered customers could be charged peak prices for peak demand period electricity consumption and credited at peak prices for electricity sent to the grid during peak demand periods. “That they did not put TOU rates on new net metered customers is living in the past.”
The TDG program has multiple mentions of energy storage but offers no incentives to develop it, Lazar added. “TOU would be an incentive to have on-site energy storage.”
“As an installer, I wish the tariffs were higher,” Mangelsdorf said. “But I am glad they are not as low as avoided cost.” And, he added, the payback period for a rooftop solar PV system is affected more by three other still favorable factors:
-the dramatic decrease and still falling installed cost of PV
-the federal investment tax credit that will remain at 30% through the end of 2016
-the Hawaii tax credit of 35% of system cost or $5,000, whichever is less, that has no sunset date
HECO estimates the current 5 year payback period for a typical Oahu rooftop residential system will become 9 years, Pai said. On Hawaii, HECO expects the current payback period of 4 years to become 7 years with the new tariffs; on Maui, the current 4 year period will go to 6 years.
Those paybacks are based, according to the filing, on HECO’s assumption that only a quarter of the solar energy-generated electricity will be consumed on site.
“If the customer can shift their loads to use more power during peak solar generating hours to minimize surplus, they would maximize the value of those solar kWhs,” Mangelsdorf noted.
Going from 125% MDL to 250%
HECO is pushing for expedited PUC approval so it can begin instituting theinverter and distribution system technology upgrades that will allow circuit threshold increases from 120% to 250% of Daily Minimum Load, Pai said.
“We are going to argue that the MDL advances should move forward absent action on the filing by the PUC,” Harris said. “Bundling this with an economic issue is startling and perhaps a ploy to slow down solar.”
Interconnection limits have always been resolved by the utility, he said. “We will ask that the PUC not take on that additional authority but instruct the utility to apply its normal reliability and safety standards.”
Mangelsdorf does not share what he calls the “presumption of bad faith” of which many in Hawaii’s solar community accuse HECO. But even so, he is concerned about the new interconnection plan.
“The change in the MDL from 120% to 250% is a big thing,” he said. “But the HECO filing implies they are planning to do that on circuit after circuit. They can’t. It can’t even be most of the 400-plus circuits because at that level of surplus generation, there will be significant effects on grid stability.”
The filing also requires a remote controllable PV disconnect on every new system and gives HECO broad discretion to determine when disconnects are necessary, Mangelsdorf noted.
“Some might take this as a way for HECO to curtail when they want to. If I was in HECO’s position, I would want to do the same thing. But it is a risk, a liability, for a system purchaser and for all the leasing and PPA companies,” he said.
What will the PUC do?
Net metered solar owners’ billing arrangements will be unchanged, Pai said. “This only applies to new customers who interconnect but we are asking the PUC to make a decision within 60 days.”
The PUC is unlikely to respond that quickly or to agree to HECO’s request that a decision be made without hearings, Lazar and Harris agreed.
“I do not think the PUC will act on this motion until a cost-benefit analysis is completed,” Harris speculated.
If the purchased power issue is squared away, HECO’s proposal is not unreasonable, Lazar said. It could make an interim ruling and then hold hearings.
The entire filing represents an interim action, according to HECO. “The Transitional Distributed Generation program would remain in effect while the PUC works on a permanent replacement program,” a statement said.
With electricity use declining, PV penetration increasing, and costs being shifted, “it is unrealistic to expect that the high growth in distributed solar PV capacity additions experienced in the 2010 - 2013 time period can be sustained, in the same technical, economic and policy manner,” HECO quoted from anApril 2014 PUC Order.
“From HECO’s perspective it is reasonable to request an expedited decision-making,” Mangelsdorf said. “There are real and substantive issues both on a per-circuit basis and on a system-wide basis and a greater sense of urgency now than there was even a year ago. HECO is saying to the commission this it not something that wait for a six month debate.”
Technical obstacles have already driven solar sales down. “The total number of interconnection permits was down 50% from 2013 to 2014, 2013 was a reduction from 2012, and it looks like January will be the lowest month for permits issued in three years” Mangelsdorf said. “As much as I would like to, I can’t come up with any factors that lead me to believe this will change.”
The Kicker: Oil prices
Because so much of Hawaii’s power is generated from burning oil products, the plunging price of oil introduces another challenge to solar. It will bring the ECA part of the tariff down, probably a lot. It could, according to calculations from Lazar based on HECO data, bring the overall value of the credit to solar owners down to the $0.10 per kWh range. That would certainly add new urgency to an already crucial question.
BUFFETT’S NEW ENERGY DIVISION BUYS MORE Berkshire buys more wind projects
May 22, 2015 Lincoln Journal Star
BHE Renewables, a subsidiary of the Berkshire Hathaway Energy company that is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., acquired two wind projects and seven solar projects from Geronimo Energy, including the 400 MW Grande Prairie Wind Farm, Nebraska’s biggest wind installation, the 255 MW Walnut Ridge Wind Farm in Illinois, and seven solar projects in Minnesota that are part of the 400 MW of community shared solar for which Xcel Energy has taken applications. Construction for all the wind and solar is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2016. When Warren Buffett was reminded last year that Berkshire Hathaway Energy had invested $15 billion in renewables, he replied “there’s another $15 billion ready to go, as far as I’m concerned.” click here for more
MINNESOTA CUTS EV CHARGING RATES Minnesota regulators approve special off-peak power rates for plug-in vehicle charging; State regulators have approved lower rates for overnight electric vehicle charging.
David Shaffner, May 21, 2015 Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered the state’s investor-owned utilities to provide new, reduced rates for the state’s estimated 3,000 electric vehicle owners who charge their cars during the off-peak nighttime hours. The new rates, which become available in about two months, could reduce the cost of charging EVs by 40%. EV penetrations are expected to increase in Minnesota by 2017 when battery ranges exceed 200 miles, a distance today’s Tesla is capable of. Some estimates put the cost of driving a plug-in at the equivalent of paying $0.40 per gallon to $0.50 per gallon for gasoline. Renewables in Minnesota largely means wind and wind is plentiful and therefore cheap at night. Night charging with renewables is seen as particularly effective at reducing the 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions generated by the transportation sector. click here for more
ALASKA COMMUNITY GOES 99.7% NEW ENERGY An Alaskan Island Goes 100% Renewable
Laurie Guevara-Stone, May 19, 2015 Rocky Mountain Institute
Kodiak Island got relief from Alaska’s $0.18 per kwh electricity price by substituting wind power for the annual 2.8 million gallons of diesel fuel it has burned at an annual cost of $7 million. With 80% hydro power, its electricity supply now meets its 26-plus MW peak demand with 99.7% renewables. The 15,000 person southern Alaska island’s Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) installed six 1.5 MW GE wind turbines, 3 MW of battery storage, and added a 10 MW hydroelectric turbine to existing facilities. The island’s electricity rates, which are now 2.5% below 2001 levels, brought in new economic activity and jobs in construction and the fishing industry, and increased tax revenues, making a strong case for the state’s 50% by 2025 renewables mandate. click here for more
Understanding the Impact of Electric Choices on North
Ivan Urlaub and Kacey Hoover with Jim Kennerly
May 2015 North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
North Carolina’s Electric Industry In North Carolina, there are three types of electric power providers that sell electric power to retail customers: investor‐owned utilities (IOUs), electric membership corporations, and municipally‐owned utilities. North Carolina has a highly‐regulated electricity industry where at least 67% of electric customers are provided service by IOUs. 1 North Carolinas’ IOUs include Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC), Duke Energy Progress (DEP), and Dominion North Carolina Power (Dominion). The merger of Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress (formally known as Progress Energy), approved by the NC Utilities Commission in 2012, made Duke Energy the largest electric power holding company in the United States, supplying and delivering power to approximately 7.2 million U.S. customers in six states.
North Carolina’s IOUs generate, transmit, distribute, and sell electric power to consumers across the state. In exchange for an exclusive service territory, IOUs can design rates to recoup operating expenses and capital costs necessary to meet their obligations to provide reliable, available, and affordable energy to their customers.
The utilities’ generation portfolios include a mix of resources, with different operating and fuel characteristics, to meet customer demand. In 2014, coal, nuclear and natural gas made up 79% and 91% of DEC and DEP’s existing electric generation and non‐renewable purchased power, respectively. The remainder was supplied by other generation resources such as hydroelectric, long term purchased power agreements from the wholesale market, and renewable energy. Table 1 below illustrates the current capacity by resource type for DEC and DEP, as reported in their most recent Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs), a long‐range planning document that provides insight into the utilities’ current and conventional and clean energy infrastructure that could meet electricity demand.
You, the Consumer
For more than a decade, retail electric rates in North Carolina have been on the rise. The cost to build, finance, maintain and operate electricity generation is reflected in electricity prices to consumers. There are several factors that influence the cost of electricity prices including, but not limited to: the cost of maintaining and using the transmission and distribution systems to deliver electricity, the cost of constructing, operating, and maintaining power plants, and fuel costs that go up and down over time.
In reality, the cost to generate and supply electricity changes by the hour, minute and second. However, most residential customers pay flat monthly rates, so they do not see this variability in costs when paying their bill. Customers on the common flat rate who want to see when they use the most electricity during the day cannot, because they do not have modern electricity meters installed and cannot easily access their electric usage information through their utility. Most North Carolinians take some sort of action each year to reduce their electricity use, but improving meters and customers’ ability to easily see when they are using the electricity they pay for could make saving energy and money much easier.
To better understand the cause of the rise in rates and residential customer bills, the NC Sustainable Energy Association examined recent orders issued by the NC Utilities Commission where increases and decreases in rates have been approved. NCSEA is providing this service to residential customers so they can see what has caused the average residential customer’s monthly bill to rise since 2001.
Clean Energy and Your Electric Bill
It’s understood that everything has a cost, and for the average rate payer the cost of electricity generation, moving electricity, and consuming or saving electricity adds up to the amount of your monthly electric bill. Many customers are under the misconception that clean energy resources are simply an added cost. However, without these resources the utilities would need to invest in additional conventional technologies to meet that same demand, some of which costs more and some less. In order to understand the drivers of electric rates, this report breaks down the factors as the following:
1. Conventional Energy and Plant costs: The cost of purchasing fossil and nuclear fuel (coal, fuel oil for starting up coal plants, gas and uranium) and pollution control materials for coal‐fired power plants. Also, the cost of purchasing electricity from third parties, including non‐renewable energy from wholesale power plants;
2. Renewable Energy Purchased Power costs: The cost of purchasing electricity from third parties, including renewable energy from independently developed projects at “avoided cost” rates previously approved by the Commission. (The “avoided cost” is the cost the utility would have charged customers anyway if it had produced the electricity themselves with other resources.);
3. Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) costs: The incremental costs associated with compliance with the REPS; and
4. Demand‐Side Management and Energy Efficiency (DSM/EE) costs: The cost of the utility’s DSM/EE programs that reduce individual customer energy costs and produce energy savings for all utility customers. For the purposes of this report, the drivers are evaluated as separate line items to illustrate the nominal cost impact of clean energy resources as compared to conventional energy costs. A discussion of costs must begin and end with this accurate information.
Driver #1 – Conventional Energy and Plant
As we see in Table 1, the utilities have made large, long‐term investments in conventional energy resources to provide reliable, available and affordable energy to their customers. Since the costs of these investments are passed on to their customers, it can be easily understood that conventional resources are the primary driver of utility rates. For instance, in DEC’s 2013 rate increase application, the Commission summarized the primary drivers for a need to increase rates as:
• “Capital investments for plant modernization, environmental compliance, and other capital additions;
• Fleet modernization efforts of retiring, replacing, and upgrading generation plants and transmission and distribution systems; and
• Other capital investments including: (1) the new Cliffside Unit 6, a state‐of‐the‐art advanced coal technology plant; (2) the Dan River Combined Cycle [natural gas] plant; (3) the uprate project at the McGuire Nuclear Station; and (4) the NRC‐mandated Tornado/High‐Energy Line Break (HELB) Project at the Oconee nuclear station.” 4
By analyzing key North Carolina Utilities Commission proceedings, it was uncovered that the cumulative changes to monthly residential bills were driven primarily by investments in conventional energy sources (coal, natural gas, and nuclear). Figure 2 and Figure 3 below show the overall residential bill increase on an inflation‐adjusted basis for each component of DEC and DEP residential rates from 2001 to 2014. 5 The data shows that investments in conventional energy sources (coal, natural gas, and
Driver #2 – Renewable Purchased Power
The second driver of utility rates is the cost of renewable energy investments made by the utilities under Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). PURPA requires North Carolina’s electric utilities to purchase energy from developers with renewable energy projects connected to the grid. For such purchases, utilities are required to pay rates which are just and reasonable to their customers and adequately reflect the value of these projects. To finance these agreements, utilities pay “avoided cost” rates that are reflective of the cost they’d otherwise pay to generate or purchase from other resources.
While these investments do have a short‐term rate impact (see Figure 2 and Figure 3), most of the investments themselves are explicitly designed to curb future utility costs for all customers, because they are for long‐lasting infrastructure built in North Carolina. These investments provide North Carolina’s utilities with a unique opportunity to meet customer demand with low‐cost clean energy resources.
Driver #3 – The REPS
Similar to renewable energy purchased power, the third and fourth drivers of residential utility rates are designed to avoid future costs for all customers.
Passed in 2007 with bipartisan support, Senate Bill 3 created North Carolina’s REPS law, in addition to other clean energy provisions. Under the REPS, electric utilities are required to meet a portion of their electricity sales through renewable energy and energy efficiency resources. Utilities have several options for complying with the REPS, including:
• Using renewable resources to generate power at new or existing power plants6 ;
• Purchasing bundled or unbundled power and renewable energy certificates, known as “RECs”, from renewable energy facilities; and
• Implementing energy efficiency measures to reduce demand.
Under the oversight of the Commission, the utilities are allowed to recover costs associated with complying with the REPS from their customer classes: residential, commercial, and industrial.7 As noted in Section III and Section IV to follow, the average customer experiences a small REPS credit or charge on their bill – less than a dollar per month in 2014. Furthermore, utilities’ compliance with the REPS is providing customers with cost savings both now and in the future. (See Figure 5)
Driver #4 – DSM/EE
Senate Bill 3 also authorized utilities, like DEC and DEP, to create customer‐funded DSM/EE programs. DSM refers to activities, programs, or initiatives undertaken by an electric power supplier to shift the timing of its customers’ electricity use from periods of high‐energy demand to periods of low demand. The total cost of DSM/EE programs can be passed on to customers if and only if the programs actually save customers more money than they cost in the first place. The Commission must review and approve each program and its associated costs to ensure customers’ money is used prudently and is actually used to reduce energy consumption. The utilities recover costs associated with DSM/EE programs separately from the REPS. Since 2007, the cost of renewable energy technologies have significantly declined and DSM/EE programs have remained a low cost resource.
As we see in Figures 2 and 3, North Carolina utility customers are predominately paying for conventional resources to keep the lights on in their homes and businesses. Unlike with renewable energy, these resources require costly, regular maintenance to keep pace with consumer demand – and many of them rely on finite fuel sources at fluctuating costs to continue running properly. Renewable energy
The Average North Carolina Monthly Residential Bill
Since 2001, residential customers of DEC and DEP have experienced increases in their electric bills. As we see from the preceding analysis, this is largely due to the fact that the utilities have made large, long‐ term investments in increasingly expensive conventional energy technology. (See Figures 2 and 3)
According to Commission‐reported rate information, the average monthly residential bill is estimated by the Commission to be $107.04 and $106.67 for DEC and DEP customers, respectively. Within this total, monthly REPS charges are nominal: $0.39 and $0.83 per month, respectively.
While a portion of our electric bills can be attributed to clean energy resources like renewables and energy efficiency programs, clean energy costs have largely been shown to either reduce residential customer bills, or to help customers avoid an equal amount of future utility cost increases in the future.
Since 2001, North Carolina electric ratepayers have seen their monthly bills steadily rise. In response, public curiosity and dialogue on the topic has also become amplified, with fingers pointing in many directions towards the blame.
This report sheds light on what’s behind these increases, and uses nonpartisan, reputable sources to help readers navigate the assumptions heard in today’s swirling public discourse about electricity costs. The trends documented in this report – namely, that conventional costs are rising and clean energy costs are nominal – equip all North Carolina customers with accurate information about where their electric bill charges come from.
Even though customers see a line item on their monthly bill for investments in clean energy resources, they are saving a great deal more in current and future utility costs. (See Figure 5)
We can conclude that while rates have risen in the last decade, they would be higher without renewables and energy efficiency – Drivers 2, 3 and 4 – in North Carolina’s energy mix. The result of these clean energy line items is of benefit to rate payers statewide: $162 million in cost savings with clean energy in our state’s balanced energy mix since 2007, and an estimated additional $489 million to be saved by 2029.
What goes into our electric bill costs is a complex matter. At the same time, this report proves that understanding is possible – for the North Carolina home owner, for the small business owner and for the legislator in Raleigh influencing energy policy. We hope the findings outlined here will increase awareness and empower customers to continue advancing the most beneficial long‐term energy decisions for their own property and for North Carolina.
OBAMA V. J. BUSH ON CLIMATE Barack Obama vs. Jeb Bush: The Climate Change Edition
Michele Richinck, May 21, 2015 (Newsweek)
“To President Barack Obama, climate change is a threat to national security. To Jeb Bush, a likely Republican presidential candidate, it's not clear how much humans are to blame for the Earth's fluctuating climate…While saying climate change hasn't necessarily caused conflicts around the world, [President Obama] noted that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group. And he said it's believed that drought, crop failures and high food prices played a part in fueling unrest in Syria…Bush hit back at the president, saying that…the issue shouldn't be ignored and that the Earth's climate is changing, but said research doesn't explicitly show the extent of human responsibility…Last year, the United Nations found the increasing threat of climate change will continue to grow if greenhouse gas emissions aren't brought under control…” click here for more
Ken Bossong, May 26, 2015 (Sun Day)
“…[R]enewable energy sources once again dominate in the latest federal monthly update on new electrical generating capacity brought into service in the United States…[W]ind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April…[W]ind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas…Renewable energy sources now account for 17.05% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S…” click here for more
INTEL BUYS MINI-WIND Intel catches the wind with rooftop micro-turbine array
Pete Carey, May 21, 2015 (San Jose Mercury News)
“Intel is turning the roof of its Santa Clara headquarters into a mini-wind farm with what it says is one of the largest micro-turbine arrays in the country…The V-shaped formation of 58 wind-powered [Zefr] turbines…is expected to generate about 65 kilowatt-hours of power that will be used to provide electricity to the conference center in the rambling Robert Noyce Building…The chipmaker called the micro-turbines a "proof of concept" project…The micro-turbines are 6 to 7 feet tall, weigh about 30 pounds each and are positioned at the roof's edge where they can gather the most [8mph to 9mph] wind…” click here for more
How the Just Energy-CPF partnership is changing the rooftop solar game; The alliance could shake up utility and installer business models
Herman K. Trabish, January 22, 2015 (Utility Dive)
The pressure just went up on utilities to move to a business model that includes rooftop solar and more home energy services.
The Just Energy Group, one of the biggest U.S. independent power providers with some 1.6 million customers, will partner with Clean Power Finance (CPF), one of the leading U.S. providers of third party financing for solar, to offer rooftop solar in deregulated U.S. electricity markets. The result could shake up business models for both utilities and solar installers.
“CPF’s platform and tool allows Just Energy to go to market with standard financial offerings for consumers,” explained CPF CEO Nat Kreamer. “Once they’ve sold the customer, we make sure the system installation is done by one of the verified members of our installation network to the expectations Just Energy has set.”
“We’re focused on bringing things to customers that wouldn’t be easy to get or that would add value, like our green bundled products with electricity, natural gas for heating, and a smart thermostat to get better efficiency," explained Just Energy Co-CEO Deb Merril.
Just Energy tried the commercial-industrial solar sector through a now-divested subsidiary. This is its first effort in residential solar.
“We did a lot of the individual pieces in that first solar model ourselves, and we are not experts at that,” Merril said. “We’re good at managing the energy sales process, bundling products, and managing energy risk and the customer service experience.”
CPF’s business-to-business platform brings together experts at selling, installing and financing solar, Kreamer explained. “Just Energy knows how to acquire, manage, and service customer relationships. It can take solar out to literally millions of customers. We bring capital and installation services to the table.”
Using the CPF unlabeled platform, Just Energy can sell and deliver a solar system branded as its own product, using a finance plan chosen by its representative and the customer. The solar can also be part of a package of services that include the right energy efficiency and home energy management services available to the customer.
Deregulation brings innovation to a market as new players offer products that customers can’t get through regulated utilities, Merril said. “This partnership adds solar to that mix and hopefully accelerates solar adoption.”
Business models old and new
Vertically integrated utilities will increasingly need to provide similar products to compete, Kreamer added.
“There are three options,” he explained. In the first and most common, the utility provides commodity electrons and the transmission and distribution (T&D) system that delivers them.
In the second option, an independent provider like Just Energy obtains the power and delivers the electrons via the utility’s T&D system.
In the just-emerging third option, the customer gets electrons from Just Energy and from a rooftop solar installation. A portion of the electrons come through the utility’s T&D system and may be net metered. But Just Energy replaces the entire bill except for the interconnection fee and T&D charges, Kreamer said.
The power industry, like the telecommunications industry before it, is moving to open markets that offer choice and service and value to consumers, Kreamer said.
“Utilities can choose to play, especially in deregulated markets where they’re providing service," he said. "But the hangover of being a monopoly is you don’t build competitive muscles. Solar has competitive muscles and retail energy providers like Just Energy have big competitive muscles.”
“The energy retailer of the future will have to flex its competitive and innovative muscles,” Meril said. “Those left standing will be the ones who embrace innovation and pull it into their product portfolios.”
CPF will make it easier for Just Energy to add solar to its portfolio by taking care of the complexities of financing and installation and allowing Just Energy to focus on acquiring solar customers, Kreamer added.
New rate designs
Particular regulatory constructs, like net energy metering or rate designs, may change over time, Kreamer said, but what won't change is "the need to go out and get that customer."
“Utilities aren’t good at customer acquisition and conversion," he said. "They tend to have very expensive cost structures and specific regulatory and tax challenges. This partnership will allow Just Energy and CPF to go out and bring in customers and provide them with high quality systems that deliver reliable power.”
CPF presently works with unregulated and wholesale arms of regulated utilities, providing them a similar opportunity to invest in owning residential solar assets outside their monopoly territories. As the market changes, Kreamer saiid, there might be T&D service providers interested in offering solar. “Fundamentally, it’s about being able to flex you competitive muscle at scale.”
Some regulated utilities are challenging solar growth by asking regulators to increase fixed fees to cover T&D costs. That is not necessarily a threat to Just Energy, Merril said.
“As long as it’s a level playing field and all energy providers and utility customers pay the same charges, we’re relatively indifferent to it,” she explained. “If it’s not good for the consumer, we may not like it, but as long as there is a level playing field, that’s when markets work best.”
Why utilities across the nation are embracing community solar; The shared renewables movement is catching on from coast to coast
Herman K. Trabish, January 22, 2015 (Utility Dive)
2015 could be community solar’s year. Utilities and private sector players are immersed in plans. Regulators from California to the District of Columbia are working on program designs.
“The biggest trend for solar at utilities is community solar,” said Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) Senior Research Manager Becky Campbell, co-author of the report "Expanding Solar Access Through Utility-led Community Solar."
“It seems to be resonating at every utility I talk to,” she said.
“We have seen a massive shift,” concurred Clean Energy Collective (CEC)Chief Management Officer Bart Rupert. “Eighteen months ago, most of the utilities we reached out to weren’t even aware of what community solar was. Today, most utilities are starting to see the best way to deploy solar in their territory is through community solar.”
CEC is the leading private sector community solar developer. It has developed 37 megawatts of capacity in 51 projects involving 19 separate utilities across 8 states, using a business model based on an up-front payment for panels from subscribers. It just won what appears to be major backing from First Solar, one of the world’s biggest solar developers.
SunShare is coming on strong, having just moved into Minnesota, its second state, and partnered with Mortenson Construction, one of the biggest U.S. renewables engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractors. Instead of an upfront payment from subscribers, its business model is based on a contracted amount of electricity at a per kilowatt-hour rate.
“CEC understands the needs and constraints of the utility business model,” Rupert said. “Utilities see self-generation running rampant in their territories and they don’t yet know how to incorporate solar. They are asking themselves how they can stay relevant.”
In Colorado, SunShare Founder, President and CEO David Amster-Olszewskisaid utilities were somewhat overwhelmed with how different the concept was but reconciled themselves to the changes when they realized it was a way to offer solar without losing their customers.
“Duke Energy sees community solar as an opportunity to bring renewable energy to customers who may not have direct access to solar power,” spokesperson Randy Wheeless reported. “We are actively looking at ways to incorporate it into our system.”
Community solar defined
Community solar is a shared renewables program which allows “multiple customers to share the economic benefits from one renewable energy system via their individual utility bills,” according to "Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs," a report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the Vote Solar Initiative.
Community solar is “a program through which individual members of a community have the opportunity to ‘buy in’ to a nearby solar installation…[and] receive a proportional share of the financial or energy output of the system,” according to SEPA. “Community solar programs may be offered by electric utilities or through third-parties or community groups.”
“Only 22% to 27% of residential rooftop area is suitable for hosting an on-site photovoltaic (PV) system,” according to the 2010 Guide to Community Shared Solar from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Community solar options expand access to solar power for renters, those with shaded roofs, and those who choose not to install a residential system on their home for financial or other reasons.”
Community solar in action
Among the at least 58 programs counted by SEPA in 22 states, Campbell said, the business model based on a contracted per kilowatt-hour rate and more affordable upfront costs seems to be working best for utilities.
CEC has succeeded using the up-front payment for panels model, but when a utility does it, she explained, they often neglect to provide financing. When they tweak the program to offer a low interest loan or on-bill installment plan to offset the up-front cost, she said, interest from customers leaps.
When Grand Valley Power switched from a high upfront payment to a $15 per month, five year, on-bill installment plan, it “doubled program subscriptions within six months,” the SEPA paper reports.
“That is part of why CEC acknowledges an active utility partner is important,” Campbell said. “That billing piece is always going to be owned by the utility.”
A partnership with CEC can also serve a utility. When staff and/or in-house expertise is lacking, “the only way they can do community solar is to work with an external administrator,” Campbell said.
SunShare’s automated system informs the utility of its array’s output and the percent of that output contracted for by each subscriber, Amster-Olszewski explained. Each subscriber gets a bill from the utility detailing usage, credits earned for the solar array’s output, and the various other utility charges, like those for transmission and distribution system maintenance.
Each subscriber also gets a bill from SunShare, based on a fixed 20-year per-kilowatt-hour contract rate and the month’s electricity usage, Amster-Olszewski said. The rate is at or under the utility rate, with a 2% to 3% inflation escalator. It protects subscribers from the EIA-estimated 4% to 5% national average annual power price increase.
The principles of community solar legislation
“The two biggest markets for community solar right now are Colorado and Massachusetts,” explained CEC spokesperson Tim Braun. “Historically, community solar has done well in any market that has legislation supporting it, but it is also doing well elsewhere.”
“SEPA does not think legislation is necessary to spur the development of community solar,” Campbell disagreed. “As long as a utility is willing to initiate a program, there isn’t usually a need for legislative action.”
California is about to add community solar legislation. Regulators must see that customers get “full and fair value for the long term grid benefits,” said VoteSolar Western Region Director Susannah Churchill, “or we will not see the utilities delivering on the enormous promise of the model.”
The IREC-Vote Solar paper lays out four principles central to a good community solar program:
-It should expand renewable energy access to a broader group of consumers, including those who cannot install it on their own properties
-Participants should get tangible economic benefits on their utility bills
-It should be flexible enough to account for different consumers and applications
-It should be additive to and supportive of existing renewables programs and not undermine policies like net energy metering and state or local renewables mandates
CEC adds that community solar regulations should:
-allow for a competitive market
-allow interconnection ahead of full subscription to drive financing but also give developers incentives to build
-allow a bill credit deduction dedicated to the very high and typically unprepared-for costs of operations and maintenance
-require disclosure of costs, benefits, and responsibilities to consumers
Real world community solar legislation
Controversial details proposed by California’s utilities for the new program could mean “shared solar customers may have to pay a third more on their power bills to participate,” Chruchill said. “It is up to the CPUC to decide whether to stand with the utilities or the customers.”
“Too many so-called community solar programs are not true ‘community’ solar because they are run through utilities and only a tiny amount of solar is allowed each year,” noted NC WARN Energy Expert Nancy LaPlaca. “In Germany, over half the installed renewables are owned by local businesses and homeowners — real community solar.” CEC Vice President Tom Hunt specified four examples of successful community solar legislation:
Colorado’s Solar Gardens Act, passed in 2010, which has produced contracts for over 18 MW since 2012, with between 6.5 MW and 30 MW more awaiting approval, and “has been used as a model in many states.”
Minnesota’s Community solar gardens bill, passed in 2013, which is similar in structure to Colorado. Its capacity is uncapped but there is still debate over whether it will use the state’s Value of Solar Tariff or an Applicable Retail Rate.
Washington, D.C.’s Community Renewable Energy Act, passed in 2013, which is similar to Colorado and Minnesota but the value is “largely driven” by SRECs currently at $500 per MWh that are expected to drop to $50 per MWh in 2023.
Massachusetts’ Virtual Net Metering and SREC programs, which are driving the fastest growing U.S. community solar programs, including SolarPerks, CEC’s newest offering. With SolarPerks, CEC is moving to a SunShares-like plan in which subscribers pay nothing upfront, contract with CEC for kilowatt-hours, are credited by the utility for their share of the array’s output, and pay 95% of that credit to CEC for owning and maintaining the array.
“The subscriber automatically gets a 5% reduction with no upfront cost,” Braun said. “Savings of 5% to 10% off the utility bill is about where the electricity price and the cost of solar are in most of the country right now. But as electricity goes up, the subscriber will never be victim to an increasing electricity bill.”
CEC has two SolarPerks projects online in Massachusetts, several more coming in the next few weeks, and “upwards of 40 megawatts of capacity in its Massachusetts pipeline,” Braun said.
“Community solar will not for the foreseeable future be a significant part of the utility generation portfolio,” Rupert said, “but most utilities within the next several years will consider community solar as a core offering because if they don’t offer it, another utility will.”
“Utilities look at community solar as adding equality because it balances their residential solar rebate programs,” Campbell said. “They want to be fair and offer options to all their customers and treat them equally. Community solar is a way to do that because all customers can subscribe.”
From The Carbon Brief via YouTube
Time will show how wrong-headed these panelists are. It wouldn't be so sad if it wasn’t coming from people who are making crucial decisions. They repeat over and over the Koch brothers-propagated meme that climate change “has always happened” without ever confronting the fact that it is happening exponentially faster than at any time in global history and too fast for the earth’s human population to adjust to it. Voices in the last 2 minutes bring some balance. From NaturalResourcesDems via YouTube
Follow the bouncing panda. From WWF International via YouTube
Global news organisations agree to share climate change content; The Guardian, El País, Le Monde and China Daily are among 25 publishers aiming to raise awareness in the runup to the next UN summit
Mark Sweney, 21 May 2015 (The Guardian)
“An unprecedented alliance of news publishers including the Guardian, El País, Le Monde and China Daily have agreed to share climate change content to raise awareness in the runup to the next UN summit…More than two dozen publishers from around the world – from the Sydney Morning Herald to India Today and the Seattle Times – have agreed to scrap licensing fees for climate change content so that members of the alliance can freely republish articles…[The Climate Publishers Network] aims to create a global pool of content to provide a resource for publishers to widen coverage…” click here for more
This will give you hope: Developing countries are racing to install wind and solar
Chris Mooney, May 19, 2015 (Washington Post)
“…[I]f you want news that will give you hope, [ Power Shifts – Emerging Clean Energy Markets] from Pew’s Clean Energy Initiative…finds that the world stands to install more than 5,500 gigawatts worth of electricity capacity between now and 2030 — spending some $ 7.7 trillion in energy investments [and two thirds of the investment will be] in clean energy…[T]wo thirds of new energy capacity will also be devoted to powering developing countries, which stand to install a monstrous 4,100 gigawatts of new capacity by 2030, more than double the current 2,800 gigawatts…The world is set to see tremendous growth in wind and solar energy installations in particular, and renewable installations between 2012 and 2030 will see [increase 594% worldwide]…” click here for more
Renewable Energy Employs 7.7 Million People Worldwide, Says New IRENA Report; Employment in the renewable energy industry increased by more than one million jobs in the last year
19 May 2015 (International Renewable Energy Agency)
…More than 7.7 million people worldwide are now employed by the renewable energy industry, according to [ Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015 ] from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). This is an 18 per cent increase from last year’s figure of 6.5 million…Jobs in the renewable energy sector are increasingly being created in Asia, with five of the 10 countries with the most renewable energy jobs now located in…China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Bangladesh…[T]he European Union and the United States now represent 25 per cent of global renewable energy jobs, compared to 31 per cent in 2012…” click here for more
The International Geothermal Market At a Glance
May 2015 (Geothermal Energy Association)
“…[T]he international geothermal market continues to grow at a steady pace. Having sustained a 5% annual growth rate in the last three years, the global market currently comprises 12.8 GW of operating capacity dispersed among 24 countries, with 11.5-12.3 GW of capacity additions (as of the end of 2014) and over 630 projects dispersed throughout 80 countries. GEA forecasts, as outlined in the 2015 Annual U.S. & Global Geothermal Power Production Report, that the global market will reach 14.5-17.6 GW by 2020, with the international market thus far having only tapped 6.5% of total global potential for geothermal power, based on current geologic knowledge and technology…” click here for more
Climate change threatens electric power supply in California, report warns; By 2050 extended years of drought could lead to an electricity shortage as well as a water shortage…
Rose Hackman, 18 May 2015 (The Guardian)
“…By 2050, extended years of drought in the state could lead to an electricity shortage as well as a water shortage, according to [Impacts of climate change on electric power supply in the Western United States] in the journal Nature Climate Change…[A]uthors Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester found that almost half (46%) of 978 electric power stations in the western US should expect to face a decrease in electricity generating capacity by…[2040 to 2060], due to climate change…Worse, the study warns that current plans looking at electricity generating facilities in the western US have not taken into account the effects of climate change on productiveness, meaning they may have grossly overestimated the region’s preparedness…” click here for more
DOE: Bigger Turbines Could Unlock Wind Energy Potential In All 50 States
19 May 2015 (North American Windpower)
“Larger wind turbines could allow the U.S. to access untapped, stronger wind resource areas across the country and lead to wind energy development in all 50 states, according to [Enabling Wind Power Nationwide from] the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)…[T]he new report highlights the potential for technical advancements [like taller turbine towers of 110 and 140 meters and larger rotors] to tap wind resources in regions with limited wind development today, such as the Southeast. These new regions represent an additional 700,000 square miles - or about one-fifth of the U.S. - bringing the total area of technical wind potential to 1.8 million square miles…” click here for more
More evidence that Apple is working on an electric car, and possibly a breakthrough battery
Michael Graham Richard, May 19, 2015 (TreeHugger)
“…New court documents from a lawsuit that A123 Systems, a battery company that filed for Bankruptcy in 2012, has filed against Apple…[show] Apple has ‘poached’ some of its employees, including its former Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Mujeeb Ijaz...[who] was in charge of the technical side at A123, making $294,000 per month, guiding a team of engineers to try to make the best electric car battery yet…Getting him to change employers probably required dangling not just money in front of his face, but a big exciting project too…Before working at A123, Ijaz was at Ford, so he's an automotive guy as much as a battery guy…Apple has also hired battery experts that previously worked at Toshiba, LG, Samsung, and Panasonic…It would be rather strange for Apple to hire all these people with automotive background if they had no plans to use their skills…An electric car would certainly fit with Apple's renewed interest in all things green, and the automotive industry is one of the few large markets that could move the needle for the largest public company on Earth.” click here for more
America Is Finally Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm. Conservatives Are Trying to Make Sure It’s the Last.
Rebecca Leber, May 14, 2015 (New republic)
“…Europe has at least 70 complete [offshore] wind farms and 2,300 turbines in its waters. The United States is just getting started…If all goes according to plan, the Block Island wind farm [off Rhode Island] will begin generating power by fall 2016…[C]onservatives like to propose funding only for research, which doesn’t help businesses take the leap into entry—the nascent [offshore wind] energy source is still several times more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, like oil and gas, that have benefited from over a century of government subsidies…The industry requires some taxpayer help to overcome the initial costly barrier to entry…” click here for more
How new turbine technology will open up the Southeast to wind development; New NREL maps, fact sheets reveal an 82,000-plus MW opportunity in the region
Herman K. Trabish, January 15, 2015 (Utility Dive)
Wind turbine technology is about to open up an almost untouched sector of the U.S. market.
With over 82,000 MW of coal, natural gas, and nuclear capacity in the region being generated by infrastructure that is over 40 years old, the economic opportunity could be enormous.
“A new set of resource maps show the impact of turbine technology on the viability of wind in the southeast,” explained Southeastern Wind Coalition President Brian O’Hara. “The present looks a lot better than the past but the future looks even better.”
The past map assumes the last generation of wind technology’s 80 meter hub height and not much wind potential shows up in the Southeast, O’Hara said. “That’s why there hasn’t been much wind development in the region.”
The present map assumes today’s more common 110 meter hub height. “The trend in machines has been to taller towers and longer blades, which can be productive in lower wind speed areas,” O’Hara said.
The future map reflects turbine manufacturers’ plans for wind technology in the coming 5 years to 10 years. “Hub height goes to 140 meters and blades will be longer,” O’Hara said. “That really lights up regions on maps of the Southeast that could produce wind at a 35% or higher capacity factor.”
What the maps mean to utilities and developers
The maps won’t change wind developers views, O’Hara said. “They know what is available.”
What is available is lower costs and a big market advantage.
Even in the short term, explained Renewable Energy Systems Americas CEO Glen Davis, the recent downward trend in wind’s cost is likely to continue from increased deployment of the newer turbines because they supply more power at the same cost.
Power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind-generated electricity at a twenty year fixed rate can also be a very important hedge against fossil fuel price volatility, according to a recent Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) study.
In North Carolina, both Iberdrola Renewables’ proposed 300 MW Desert Wind project and Apex Clean Energy’s proposed 300 MW Timbermill Wind projectare on hold until the developers can interest a utility in a PPA. Apex also has proposed projects in South Carolina and Tennessee that are unlikely to advance without PPAs.
The fact sheets and maps, developed by research scientists at the U.S Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), are tools intended “to restart the discussion,” O’Hara explained.
The fact sheets show the data behind the maps. They highlight things like the current electricity mix, the current age of generators in the states, and the supply chain for wind in the states, he explained.
“For regulators and utilities not familiar with how much and how quickly the technology has changed," he said, "the message is that wind energy could be a more significant generation opportunity in this region than you thought.”
For policymakers, both on the state and local levels, the maps and fact sheets will challenge old assumptions and re-open the discussion about wind energy as a viable energy generation option and economic development opportunity, O’Hara said.
For officials at the county and municipal level, O’Hara added, the message is tostart educating yourself for when the opportunity presents itself.
Advantages for wind in the Southeast
Besides the 82,000 MW potential opportunity from aging fossil and nuclear infrastructure, there will be opportunity in the region's rising electricity demand. Southeastern states have 5 of the 6 fastest growing populations and 5 of the 6 biggest electricity markets on the East Coast. They already account for62% of the total East Coast electricity consumption.
Because the costs for building new fossil and nuclear generation are dominated by federal emissions and safety regulations while building new wind is largely a matter of development and construction costs, the Southeast’s lower labor and materials prices are likely to advantage wind.
The Southeast’s vertically integrated, regulated utilities will play a critical role in the region's wind growth, according to the Southeastern Wind Coalition. Utilities will see opportunity in owning projects. That will allow for longer-term, more stable development planning that avoids boom-bust cycles. It will also drive larger-scale deployment that will streamline the emergence of a stable supply chain and job market and grow economies of scale that drive costs down further and faster.
First looks at Southeastern wind
After Southern Company subsidiaries Alabama Power and Georgia Power signed PPAs for Oklahoma wind that proved more advantageous to the utilities than expected, the Georgia Public Service Commission approved expenditures for further investigation of the in-state resource, O’Hara said. As one of the first on-the-ground resource assessments in the region, it will be crucial to see if results match the NREL projections.
Georgia Power also issued a Request For Information (RFI) to investigate wind options.
Responses were due in early January and will be reported to regulators late in February. Wind PPA prices have reached “all-time lows” and the “relative competitiveness of wind” has continued to improve in comparison to wholesale electricity prices, according to LBNL’s most recent Wind Market Technologies Report. But LBNL was only able to evaluate six contracts and one installation in the Southeast.
Because of the new technology, that will sooner or later change. “The maps and fact sheets highlight this technology trend that is already under way,” O’Hara said. “The future maps light up pretty broad swaths of the states.”
Development in the Southeast will, however, not be “anywhere and everywhere,” O’Hara added. “Developers will only go where it is appropriate to site projects and generally developers only want to develop where they are welcome.”