NewEnergyNews: 01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

While the OFFICE of President remains in highest regard at NewEnergyNews, this administration's position on climate change makes it impossible to regard THIS president with respect. Below is the NewEnergyNews theme song until 2020.

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Big Bonus From Plugging Cars In
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: What About Nuclear?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Renewables Mandate To Beat The Peak
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Global New Energy Now
  • QUICK NEWS, June 20: What Power Mix Will Beat Climate Change (Part 1)?; What Power Mix Will Beat Climate Change (Part 2)?; New Energy Is NO Threat To U.S, Grid
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Why The U.S. Needs A Western Energy Market
  • QUICK NEWS, June 19: More Artists Join The Climate Fight; U.S. Power Just Hit 10% Wind And Solar; The Dangers Of Oil And Gas Drilling, Detailed
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Bill Maher Talks Jobs In Coal And The Real Problem
  • Weekend Video: A Farmer Defends WindPower
  • Weekend Video: The Secret To EV Success Is Charging Stations
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, June 15:

  • TTTA Thursday-Climate Change Stops Climate Study
  • TTTA Thursday-Survey Shows Millennials Back New Energy Boom
  • TTTA Thursday-Drinking Water From The Sun
  • TTTA Thursday-Ocean Wind Unites Hard Hats And Greens
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Debates About Solar Get Bigger, More Interesting
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Wind And Solar Sidestep Politics
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Utilities Respond To Customer Demand For Distributed Energy
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, June 22:

  • What Does Exxon’s Carbon Tax Mean?
  • The Rump Flails Factlessly At Wind
  • New Energy To Get Bigger And Cheaper
  • EVs To Be Cost-Competitive By 2025

    Saturday, January 30, 2016

    Which Climate Change Denier Will Iowa Pick?

    Shot or poisoned – either way, the Republicans will be led by a candidate who is wrong on climate change. From The Late Show With Stephen Colbert via YouTube

    Here Comes Solar Plus Storage

    What is happening is storage now is what happened in solar 10 years ago. By the mid-2020s – or sooner – homes will be able to be self-supplying. From the U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube

    How Ted Cruz Manipulates Climate Data

    This is a 9 minute master’s course that anybody can understand. Peter Sinclair turns the Ted Cruz debate gymnastics into facts that contradict the politician’s manipulations. From greenman3610 via YouTube

    Friday, January 29, 2016

    REALITY BITES CLIMATE DENIERS

    How reality silenced the climate change deniers

    Ryan Cooper, January 28, 2016 (The Week) “The data came in last week…[2015 was] the hottest year ever recorded — whether you ask NASA, NOAA, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, the UK's Hadley Centre, or Berkeley Earth — beating the previous record set only last year…The press and climate scientists gave these their typical examination, and…[concluded they were] certainly caused by humanity's release of greenhouse gases…One traditional part of this routine was missing, however: the usual chorus of climate deniers and trolls nitpicking the data and/or loudly accusing the entirety of the scientific establishment of fraud…[T]hey were notably quiet, particularly compared to previous denier frenzies like the [2009-2010] ‘Climategate’ mess…Google Trends shows a marked decline in searches for "global warming hoax," (in blue below) somewhat but only partially offset by a slight rise in "climate change hoax" (in red)…[Several papers] have found that it's basically impossible to talk somebody out of believing conspiracy theories…But reasoned argument, citation of authority, or sheer fright aren't the only ways…[Denial needs] faux-intellectual toeholds, and is palpably harmed when they are blown to smithereens [by reality]…[T]his shows that denial is not irreversible…[S]ome combination of argument, ridicule, and counter-mobilization, buttressed by undeniable empirical reality [might]…” click here for more

    IRISH WIND CAN BEAT NAT GAS

    Wind energy 'could become cheaper than gas'

    Linda Stewart, 27 January 2016 (Belfast Telegraph)

    “Onshore wind energy could become cheaper than new gas generation [in Ireland] by 2020 if the policy and regulatory conditions are right…[but the Irish renewables industry is warning] that investment and jobs will only come if the Northern Ireland Executive delivers a sustainable, secure energy system for all…Last year, one fifth of Northern Ireland's electricity was generated by wind…[It] is an economic success story that could bring even more investment and jobs…Agreement and coordination between the Executive and UK Government is also needed…” click here for more

    INDIA’S SUN BEATS COAL

    For The First Time In Modern India's History, Solar Energy Is Cheaper Than Coal

    Kunal Anand, January 27, 2016 (India Times)

    “India’s latest solar auctions have given India something to cheer about – solar energy prices have reached a record low of 4.34 rupees/kWh, and energy minister Piyush Goyal has stated that it is now cheaper than coal-fired energy generation…[The auction tender of 420MW of solar capacity [was] conducted by the Rajasthan government, and the record bid was made by Finnish group Fortum Energy (4.34 rupees/kWh for a 70MW solar PV plant)...This can provide a boost to India’s vision for 100GW generated by solar energy in 2022…The bid isn’t a fluke – it was matched by Rising Sun Energy (4.35 rupees for two blocks), France’s Solairedirect (4.35 rupees a unit for two blocks) and Yarrow Infrastructure (4.36 rupees for a 70MW plant)…” click here for more

    SO. KOREA BUYS OCEAN ENERGY PILOT

    Bureau Veritas issues OTEC approval

    29 January 2016 (ReNews)

    “Bureau Veritas has issued its first 'Approval in Principle' for the 1MW Ocean Thermal Energy Converter [OTEC] developed by the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering…The OTEC will be built for installation off the coast of South Tarawa in Kiribati in the South Pacific Ocean…It consists of an octagonal 6700-tonne four deck floating platform 35 metres across moored 6km offshore in a water depth of 1.3km…A 100-metre pipe 1.2 metres in diameter will be used to pump cool water up from the depths to be fed to process plant on the platform…[Bureau Veritas said] the OTEC design is…feasible, achievable and contains no technological show-stoppers…TEC produces electricity from the difference of temperature between deep cold and warm surface seawater…A working fluid is successively vaporised and condensed in a thermodynamic cycle, with the gas phase driving a turbo-alternator producing electricity…” click here for more

    Thursday, January 28, 2016

    FLA’S PUSHBACK AGNST RUBIO CLIMATE STANCE

    Florida Mayors Tell Marco Rubio to Take Climate Change Seriously; 'Ignoring climate science and doubling down on fossil fuels will only make the climate crisis more rapid and expensive'

    Justin Worland, January 28, 2016 (Time Magazine)

    “Mayors from 15 of Florida’s largest cities are calling on Senator Marco Rubio to support measures that address climate change in an open letter sent to the GOP presidential candidate…The state of Florida is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change including rising sea levels that cause coastal flooding and extreme storms. Areas in the south of the state most threatened by rising sea levels are home to more than $130 billion in real estate as well as two nuclear plants and more than 70 airports. Miami, the state’s second largest city, already faces frequent flooding in city streets…Rubio, who has gained backing from many in the Republican establishment, [continues to express] skepticism at instituting policies to address climate change saying that they would hurt the U.S. economy…” click here for more

    WIND READY TO GO GIGANTIC

    Sandia National Laboratories: A 50-MW turbine requires a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than existing wind blades

    January 28, 2016 (Network World)

    “US researchers at Sandia National Laboratories say they are working on a design for gigantic wind turbine blades that are longer than two football fields which could support 50-megawatt-- more than six times the power output of the largest current turbines --offshore wind farms in the future…[M]ost US wind turbines produce power in the 1- to 2-MW range, with blades about 165 feet (50 meters) long, while the largest commercially available turbine is rated at 8 MW with blades 262 feet (80 meters) long. A 50-MW turbine requires a rotor blade more than 650 feet (200 meters) long, two and a half times longer than any existing wind blade…Such exascale blades could be cost-effectively manufactured [and transported] in segments…The exascale turbines – called Segmented Ultralight Morphing Rotors (SUMR)-- would be positioned downwind, unlike conventional turbines that are configured with the rotor blades upwind of the tower…” click here for more

    INVESTING IN SOLAR

    How To Add Solar Energy To Your Portfolio

    January 27, 2016 (Zacks Investment Research)

    “…The social and political [climate change] debate brings about a global movement searching for cleaner forms of energy, making oil as a fuel obsolete…The solar sector currently has a Zacks Industry Rank of 26 out of 265 (top 10%)…Investors have many different choices…but I've narrowed it down to two ETFs and three top ranked Zacks stocks…Guggenheim Solar (NYSEARCA:TAN) is an ETF that corresponds to the MAC Global equity index…The fund has a 0.70% expense ratio with a 1.6% yield. The ETF is down over 50% from its 2015 highs and provides an opportunistic entry point here at $24…Market Vectors Solar Energy (NYSEARCA:KWT) is an ETF that replicates the price and yield of the Market Vectors Global Solar Energy Index…The top three holdings [in both] are SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY), First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR)…First Solar (FSLR) is Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)…JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO) is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)…8point3Energy (NASDAQ:CAFD) is Zacks Rank #1…” click here for more

    WHY DRIVERS LOVE THE PLUG

    What EV Buyers Love About Electric Cars

    Zachary Shahan, January 27, 2016 (Gas2)

    “…[In Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want, respondents detailed the reasons they] are interested in EVs…[and] some of the ways greater interest in EVs could be inspired in the masses…Many early adopters, aka “pioneers,” are attracted to EVs because they help to combat global warming, reduce pollution, and reduce our dependence on oil...[But the two things that make this a disruptive technology] are instant torque (which means excellent acceleration from a complete stop) and the tremendous convenience of home charging. Not too far behind these are the large fuel and maintenance financial savings that typically come with EVs…[There are clear differences in the non-owner/lessee survey]…” click here for more

    Wednesday, January 27, 2016

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: INSIDE GEORGIA POWER'S MOVE INTO THE RESIDENTIAL SOLAR MARKET

    Inside Georgia Power's move into the residential solar market; The utility says it will offer solar through an unregulated business, but installers fear possible anticompetitive impacts

    Herman K. Trabish, June 11, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    If somebody wants to buy distributed generation, I want to sell it to 'em," Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning recently said in talking about Georgia’s new solar law.

    The Solar Power Free Market Financing Act, HB 57, legalizes in Georgia the third party ownership (TPO) residential solar finance plan that has skyrocketed solar growth nationally.

    Georgia Power (GP), the state’s dominant electricity provider and a subsidiary of national utility powerhouse Southern Co., is readying plans for a rooftop solar business to be added to the utility scale development it already does.

    The strategy behind the move is clear. As Fanning told other utility CEOs at a panel discussion this week, “If distributed generation is eroding your growth, own distributed generation!”

    “We expect to have a new customer solar program ready by July 1, 2015, where we will sell solar installation services to customers through an unregulated business unit,” Georgia Power Spokesperson John Kraft said. “We don’t expect leasing to be a part of this offering.” But, Kraft added, the program’s structure and payment options are still in development.

    Solar advocates backed the law’s passage because it allows Georgians to install solar “using a financing mechanism of their choice, including financing mechanisms such as leases and solar energy procurement agreements, in which payments are based on the output of the system,” according to Steve O'Day, head of the Environmental and Sustainability Practice at Georgia law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell.

    It also limits residential third party financed systems to 10 kW and TPO commercial installations to no more than 125% of the host site’s peak demand,O’Day explained. And it makes clear that third party owners who transfer the solar generation to system hosts are not electric utilities.

    Installers approve of the law

    SolarCity applauded the law’s finalization. “We think third party ownership is an important building block for any mature solar market,” said the company's Deputy Director of Policy Aaron Kraus.

    The most important thing about the law is that it opens the solar market to entities without tax liability that could not previously take advantage of the tax incentives, said Sam Hilley, a spokesperson for Georgia engineering, procurement, and construction firm Radiance Solar. The company focuses not on residential solar but on larger commercial-industrial scale installations.

    Many would-be customers have been “on the fence about solar but couldn’t capture the full amount of the federal investment tax credit and accelerated depreciation associated with solar projects or it didn’t fit their return on investment model,” Hilley explained.

    “We can now go to a school or another non-profit entity and put solar on the facility at no upfront cost, sell the power under a fixed cost long term PPA, and, since solar has no fuel cost, offer immediate savings on what they pay for electricity.”

    But those solar endorsements of the law should not be confused with support for Georgia Power's move into residential solar. To companies focused on the residential market, Hilley acknowledged, a Georgia Power selling residential solar installation services “would definitely be a competitor,” he said. “It remains to be seen how the new legislation works out. We are preparing to adapt to whatever we need to.”

    How will Georgia Power enter the market?

    “The law is a step in the right direction,” agreed Tyson Grinstead, spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a solar advocacy group. But “Fanning's play is about ownership and control of the market so that customers are beholden to the utility's rates and are prohibited from making their own choices."

    Fanning’s remarks were troubling, Kraus added. “We support utilities getting involved in the distributed generation market. If an unregulated entity competes on an open playing field with other providers and does not get unfair treatment from a regulated parent, that’s fair and reasonable. But if there is significant involvement from the regulated entity it is a real cause for concern.”

    The new law prevents utilities from interfering with customer solar except to perform their required interconnection duties and fulfill their “public safety, power quality, and system reliability” responsibilities, according to O’Day.

    But it does allow utilities and affiliates “to finance onsite solar projects for customers within their respective territories,” O’Day added, as long as they don’t violate “restrictions on discriminatory rules and ratemaking.”

    Any electric service provider or affiliate is authorized to become “a solar financing agent,” concurred Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) Senior Attorney Kurt Ebersbach. “That means they can engage in the business of leasing, financing, or installing solar technology.”

    Some speculate GP will ask the PSC for permission to recover the cost of its solar investment from customers through a rate increase but “rate basing rooftop solar is, of course, unfair,” Kraus added. Rate basing investments, however, would mean that the utility would have to work through its regulated business, and not its unregulated subsidiary, as Kraft indicated it plans to do.

    HB 57 sponsor Representative Mike Dudgeon said the intent was not to give Georgia Power or any regulated entity an unfair advantage, according to Kraus. “SolarCity and the rest of the solar industry expect that intent to be adhered to.”

    The law covers Georgia Power as well as the electric cooperatives and municipal utilities that are not regulated by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), he added, but “doesn’t speak to whether a regulated utility like Georgia Power could rate base a solar program. That will be a key debate.”

    GP’s most likely strategies, both Ebersbach and O’Day agreed, would be to go into the solar business through Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power, GP’s unregulated affiliate, or to create a new unregulated affiliate.

    The PSC would likely have a real problem with GP asking “to put the cost of the program into rate base and then recover it from ratepayers,” Ebersbach said. “They would not be likely willing to give a utility monopoly that sort of power.”

    They already have market advantages like captive customers, the ability to recover costs, and a high guaranteed return on equity, Ebersbach said. “Allowing them to compete in the market against other companies would be a perversion of the regulatory compact.”

    PSC consent would not be necessary if GP decides to work through Southern Power or its own unregulated affiliate, Ebersbach added.

    The Act does not provide for whether or not Georgia Power could rate base its rooftop solar investments but that would require regulatory consent, something Georgia’s commission is unlikely to give, O’Day agreed. The most likely interpretation of Fanning’s remarks, he thought, is that Southern Company is planning to use its unregulated Southern Power arm to compete in the Georgia solar market.

    Georgia Power's Kraft confirmed speculation that GP plans at this time to work through an unregulated affiliate, which means it could not rate base solar investments, but he could not offer specifics because the program is not yet finalized.

    Other regulatory dilemmas

    Both Kraus and Grinsted are equally concerned that GP might use other leverage.

    “There are other tangible and intangible benefits that a regulated utility has with incumbent customers,” Kraus said. Examples are using the utility’s data to streamline customer acquisition by cherry picking the most likely solar purchasers or cross-marketing products through utility-customer contacts that have a credibility inaccessible to new market entrants.

    “Those should be concerns for regulators because they should be ensuring fair and competitive markets and that no one firm has an unnatural advantage in the market,” Kraus said.

    There is a line GP cannot cross, Ebersbach explained. If the regulated company tries to funnel customers to the unregulated affiliate, the PSC would likely find that an abuse of monopoly power and anti-competitive. But the law permits an unregulated affiliate to operate independently in solar installation.

    “We have a good Public Service Commission here,” Ebersbach said. “The commissioners are committed to free market principles. The debate on the solar financing law focused on not allowing utility monopoly rights to interfere with the right to have rooftop solar. Any anti-competitive behavior would raise alarms and the commission and its staff would not let that happen.”

    Kraft's remarks suggested GP is aware of the pitfalls and regulatory barriers, but would offer no specifics as to how the utility would approach the issue. But on the issue of whether a utility owning rooftop solar is fair, his parent company CEO's opinion is clear. As Fanning put it at the EEI annual convention, Southern Co. sees distributed generation as a "natural evolution" of central station power. If customers want to buy it from a trusted name like Georgia Power, Fanning said, then he will try to sell it to them. Not only that, but the utility can better optimize the grid system if it is the solar installer, he said, because only it knows where and how to position solar panels to ensure reliability.

    Other policy issues

    Solar growth in Georgia has so far been primarily utility scale, like Georgia Power’s Dalton installation, but a lot of the developers will likely now start looking at the rooftop market, Ebersbach expects.

    “I would like to think that Georgia Power’s announcement will bring national installers in because they believe their experience gives them a market advantage," he said.

    But the Georgia rooftop solar market will not reach its potential until there is fair compensation for solar exports because that is fundamental to the solar value proposition, Ebersbach said. That is why the SELC is pushing for a value of solar docket at the PSC. “The remuneration rate for exports needs to change from a utility’s avoided cost to something more like a value of solar.”

    Georgia policy “is not where it needs to be yet,” Grinsted agreed. “It is a work in progress.”

    The state also has burdensome personal property tax rates, Kraus said. Without tax reform and net metering, the TPO bill was fundamental and an important first step but not sufficient to create a full market.”

    Presumably, the net metering and tax obstacles would challenge Southern Power as well, Kraus added. “If an unregulated affiliate of a regulated utility is making things work when no other company can, that would be a situation regulators should look into.”

    QUICK NEWS, January 27: SOLAR-POWERED MARS ROVER ROLLS ON; NEW ENERGY’S FUTURE IS JUST A SET OF WIRES AWAY; COST OF BATTERY STORAGE CAN DROP 70%

    SOLAR-POWERED MARS ROVER ROLLS ON NASA's Mars Opportunity Rover Sets Longevity Milestone With Assist From the Sun

    Alyssa Newcomb, January 26, 2016 (ABC News)

    “…Opportunity, the solar-powered Mars rover that has exceeded its planned three-month life span, [just] celebrated its 12th birthday…NASA said the golf cart-sized Opportunity had a ‘very active’ winter since the bot, which uses solar energy, was able to receive cleaner solar rays -- even during the dark Martian winter. Martian years are 1.9 times longer than Earth years, making this Opportunity's seventh winter on Mars…Opportunity has spent the past few years exploring a 14-mile-wide crater named Endeavour…Using its robotic arm, Opportunity has been able to examine the composition and texture of the rock's interior. NASA credited Opportunity's surprising longevity -- 48 times longer than planned -- to choosing north-facing slopes in the winter that allow Opportunity's solar panels to collect energy…NASA predicts Opportunity will have plenty of sunlight to keep it going through the year.” click here for more

    NEW ENERGY’S FUTURE IS JUST A SET OF WIRES AWAY The US could slash energy-production emissions by 78% in just 15 years, report shows; This could be us, but you're playing.

    Fiona MacDonald, 27 January 2016 (ScienceAlert)

    “The US could cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production by an incredible 78 percent below 1990 levels within just 15 years - AND keep up with growing energy demand in the process, according to [Future cost-competitive electricity systems and their impact on US CO2 emissions] from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…[I]f it wanted to, the US could be getting most of its electricity from existing solar and wind technology by 2030, at hardly any extra cost to consumers. All it'll take is the construction of 'electron superhighways' to transmit electricity across the country…[B]ased on technology that already exists, it would be totally feasible for wind and solar to power the majority of the country – the only thing we need to improve is how we move that electricity around the country...[E]ven if the price of renewable energy doesn't decrease as predicted, the US could still cut its CO2 emissions by 33 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and could deliver electricity at 8.6 cents per kilowatt hours - cheaper than the 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour Americans paid in 2012…” click here for more

    COST OF BATTERY STORAGE CAN DROP 70% E-storage: Shifting from cost to value 2016

    January 2016 (World Energy Council)

    “…[Energy] Storage is often perceived as too expensive because of the way the calculations are done which do not fully take into account the value it brings to certain situations…[ World Energy Resources Report 2016, E-storage: Shifting from cost to value 2016 – wind and solar applications concludes] that a narrow focus on levelised cost alone can be misleading…[The report] estimates that with the many new technologies in the pipeline, storage costs of energy will fall by as much as 70% over the next 15 years. Solar storage will become more competitive as new battery technology drives prices down, and wind storage more attractive as technical advances in areas such as composite materials enables the power generated by wind turbines to increase…[The right policies to drive these changes must]…Go beyond just costs…Examine storage through holistic case studies…Work with operators and regulators to accelerate the development of flexible markets…Establish supporting policies and an enabling regulatory framework…Consider storage as a key component for grid expansion or extension…” click here for more

    Tuesday, January 26, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE BIG NEW ENERGY TRENDS

    Trends to watch in alternative energy; Firmly entrenched in the mainstream, alternative energy’s momentum accelerates

    January 2016 (Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions)

    In recent years, there has been much discussion of alternative energy moving into the mainstream. While it hasn’t yet shed the “alternative” label, alternative energy’s shift to the mainstream is largely complete and likely irreversible. Despite continuing uncertainty over policy incentives and competition from historically low natural gas prices, alternative energy’s momentum continues to accelerate. In the case of wind and solar power, growth is regularly outpacing projections. Alternative energy sources still face the aforementioned roadblocks and perhaps a few emerging ones, but the industry continues to move forward and the overall outlook for growth is strong due to both longstanding and new trends.

    As we detail in the following pages, new sources of support are broad-based. Innovative business models like community solar are widening the addressable market and attracting potential new customers and providers. New state and utility imperatives to ensure electric grid resiliency are encouraging adoption of distributed renewable generation. Corporations are increasingly doing their part by pledging to generate as much as 100 percent of their power from renewable sources in the coming years. And federal and state governments are introducing policies– such as the Clean Power Plan and New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision”–that pave the way for further growth.

    Of course, as the share of power generated by intermittent sources like wind and solar grows, concerns about utilities’ ability to maintain power quality and reliability on the electric grid increase, but technological advances are easing this transition. For alternative energy companies themselves, rapid growth may prompt questions such as whether they are prepared for the organizational implications around learning and development, culture, performance management, and workforce readiness that result from rapid growth. Their success is also bringing another kind of attention, with wind and solar power asset acquisitions steadily growing and more potential purchasers waiting in the wings.

    1-Renewable acquisition activity gaining steam

    In 2015, renewable energy assets continued to attract attention from Wall Street and other influential buyers, driving deal count up 42 percent from the prior year, to 163 deals. Total capacity acquired rose 17 percent, to nearly 19.7 gigawatts (GW). Renewable assets established a greater presence in publicly traded financial markets through YieldCo-related activity. Furthermore, large corporations eager to lock in future electricity rates entered into long-term contracts with solar and wind developers, boosting investor confidence in the sector.

    Solar emerged as the most active subsector in 2015 with 115 deals, nearly doubling deal count compared to 2014. This compared to 48 wind transactions. However, given the typically larger size of wind plants, the amount of wind capacity acquired still beat solar, at 11.3 GW versus 8.3 GW for solar. Developers sought opportunities to monetize the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) prior to its scheduled 2016 stepdown, which was postponed at yearend with multi-year extensions of both the solar ITC and the Production Tax Credit for wind. Additionally, the declining cost of solar gave both utilities and independent power producers (IPP) with historically wind-dominated renewable portfolios the opportunity to add solar capacity.

    One of the top drivers of IPP renewable acquisitions early in 2015 was the need to feed YieldCos. However, stock market volatility impacted YieldCo values toward the end of the third quarter, driving them to sell off assets. As a result, financial institutions and utilities saw an opportunity to acquire 7.6 GW of solar and wind capacity in the second half of 2015.

    The renewables sector ended the year on a very high note, primarily due to the extension of federal tax credits and a heightened global interest in low carbon energy sources following the December 2015 United Nations conference on climate change (COP21). Utilities will likely continue to demonstrate a strong appetite for solar and wind assets due to regulatory directives and attractive economics. These drivers coupled with developers’ robust project pipelines will continue to propel merger and acquisition activity through 2017.

    2- Community solar broadens market for solar power

    Community solar programs allow customers who do not own their homes or have strong credit scores, available capital, or adequate roof space to invest in solar power by sharing the resource with others in their vicinity. Each installation typically generates one to two megawatts (MW), making them large enough to tap project financing and other efficient sources of capital. These funding sources can reduce the cost by as much as 50 percent compared with individual rooftop solar installations.1

    Community solar programs—which include a wide range of offerings from utility-owned projects to rate-based programs and “virtual net-metered installations”— can reduce costs for consumers and help states meet Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) goals. Such programs typically provide credits on customers’ bills equal to their subscription rate or ownership stakes in the project. In addition, the federal government has supported using these programs to bring solar power to low-income communities and areas in which households and businesses either rent or do not have adequate roof space.

    Backed by such support, community solar has gained a foothold in the US market during the past five years and its growth shows no signs of slowing. In 2010, only two shared solar projects existed. By 2015, there were more than 50 projects across 19 states, with a combined capacity of more than 170 MW. That capacity could grow to as much as 11 GW by 2020 depending on how many states adopt community solar and net-metering legislation, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.2 Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted various shared renewables policies.3

    In some states, utilities and regulators have expressed concern that large industrial customers may use the program to offset their electricity costs, which would socialize their higher bills among residential customers and undermine the cost savings of shared solar programs.4 How states manage and support the development of community solar projects through legislation will be critical to future growth.

    3- Grid integration advances help accommodate more renewables

    Many wind, solar, and other variable alternative energy resources are not owned or controlled by utilities. As these intermittent resources are connected to the electric grid, utilities and system operators must integrate power output while balancing supply and demand in real time and avoiding unanticipated voltage fluctuations or circuit overloads that could trigger blackouts or other service disruptions. To address these issues, utilities are developing more accurate forecasting tools and planning processes, and adopting new technologies and applications such as grid automation, smart inverters, sensors, advanced analytics, forecasting, and electricity storage.

    With these improvements, utilities and grid operators can accept higher levels of renewable generation. Five years ago, they were reluctant to allow renewables on the grid to exceed 10 percent of overall capacity. Now, the level is 20 percent or more, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory predicts it could exceed 50 percent by using more supply and demand flexibility options. Germany, Australia, and Hawaii can already handle variable loads of 25 percent or more.

    Hawaii has passed legislation requiring the state to get 100 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2040. After it worked with solar installers to upgrade the software for inverters, Hawaiian Electric was able to increase circuit thresholds from 120 percent of the daytime minimum load to 250 percent, more than doubling the hosting capacity of circuits for integrating rooftop solar.

    4- Renewable energy sees expanded role in resiliency

    Renewables have changed ways of thinking about resiliency. While resiliency efforts used to focus on preventing outages, states and utilities are realizing that alternative energy sources can speed recovery times after an outage occurs. Consumers and commercial users are recognizing that with renewables and other distributed generation facilities combined with electricity storage and linked through micro grids, they can more effectively protect themselves from outages.

    Increasing outages from severe weather have brought reliability and resiliency to the forefront for many states and utilities, which are deploying clean, resilient power technologies that can keep the power on at critical facilities during grid outages caused by extreme weather events.

    Many are incorporating wind, solar, and other alternative energy sources into their resiliency plans because these technologies, combined with energy storage, can provide electricity during outages as well as valuable grid services year-round.

    Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan initiated a sweeping redesign of its energy policy to improve resiliency in the wake of natural disasters such as earthquakes. An assessment of the feasibility of a 100 percent renewable energy electricity system by the year 2030 showed it could achieve greater resiliency than Japan’s current system. It would employ wind and solar coupled with batteries, pumped hydro, or compressed air storage to smooth supply and demand fluctuations.6 Deployment of storage technologies is advancing fastest in Asia and Europe, where electricity costs tend to be higher than in the US, making storage a more viable option for stabilizing the grid.

    Meanwhile, in the US, states hammered by “Superstorm Sandy” in 2012 are turning to microgrids—a combination of a generator and storage devices linked by a control system that is isolated from the main grid. Microgrids, which tend to serve a small geographic area such as a college campus, hospital, or downtown area, can be separated from the main grid if a disruption occurs. This independence improves both grid resilience and local ability to deal with an emergency. Connecticut leads the nation in developing microgrids, with projects underway in several cities, in part thanks to its use of innovative financing mechanisms.

    5- EPA’s Clean Power Plan supports renewable growth

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), finalized in October 2015, calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the US electricity sector from their 2005 level by 32 percent by 2030. The expansion of renewables is one of the plan’s three key pillars. The plan targets carbon reductions in electricity generation by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, and shifting from coal generation to existing natural gas plants and new renewable sources like wind and solar.7 The US Energy Information Administration estimates that under the CPP, renewables will account for as much as 400 GW of generation by 2040, a projection some analysts in the industry see as conservative.

    The ruling requires that states develop their own plans to cut carbon pollution, allowing them to customize procedures for achieving the goals. These plans must be submitted by September 2016 and enacted by 2022. While the CPP is likely to be litigated in the courts, it will nonetheless move the industry toward renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other low- or no-carbon emission alternatives. This ruling and other environmental legislation is already affecting some corporations’ decisions about energy use by encouraging them to address carbon reduction sooner than they otherwise might because they believe a price on carbon is increasingly inevitable.

    6- Regulatory reform driven by states

    While the CPP will likely promote renewable growth, overall federal support for renewables has been inconsistent in recent years, and states have increasingly stepped in to fill the void. In 2014 and 2015, many states continued to expand their programs to encourage renewable energy development, and in some cases, states are developing new regulatory frameworks to accommodate changes in the traditional utility business model.

    The most extensive of these new regulatory frameworks is New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision.” Adopted in 2014, it proposes overhauling the state’s energy grid and utility regulatory system to achieve system-wide efficiency, reliability, resiliency, fuel diversity, affordability, carbon reduction, and increased customer choice and value. At the same time, it would promote greater use of wind and solar power and reshape the utility business model to deploy more distributed energy resources.

    While state responses to the growing use of renewable energy vary, there is little doubt that their efforts, combined with federal and local incentives and policies, have helped trigger dramatic cost declines that have encouraged more people to invest in solar and wind. As many states approach RPS targets, a few have increased their goals in an effort to encourage further renewable development. California, for instance, upped its RPS from 33 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030.8 Vermont raised its target from a nonbinding goal of 20 percent by 2017 to 75 percent by 2032, and Hawaii boosted its goal from 40 percent by 2030 to 100 percent by 2045.9 Electricity storage mandates, like California’s 2013 rule requiring the state’s three largest electric utilities to deploy 1.3 GW of electricity storage by 2024,10 are also promoting renewable growth because storage mitigates wind and solar intermittency.

    State and regional cap-and-trade systems like California’s, implemented in 2012, and the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative also support the growth of renewables. And state tax credits for renewables, such as the 35 percent solar tax credit in North Carolina, have also been critical to growth.

    7- Corporations go all-in on renewable energy

    According to Deloitte’s annual Resources Study, in 2014, companies favored conventional solutions to energy management, such as switches that automatically power off equipment when it is not in use. However, in 2015, companies began embracing more capital-intensive measures. Thirty-nine percent reported installing solar panels or other electricity-generating assets at their facilities and 26 percent said they had installed batteries to store electricity as a hedge against peak demand times, when prices are higher.11

    Companies such as Apple Inc., Intel, and Kohl’s are leading a movement among major corporations to generate all of their energy from renewables in the next two decades.12 Meanwhile, Amazon, General Motors, and Facebook have made commitments to step up purchases of renewable power. In one of the biggest renewable energy deals outside of the utility sector so far, Google recently unveiled an ambitious plan to power all of its operations with renewable energy. The company plans to buy electricity from wind and solar farms worldwide that have a combined capacity of 842 MW.13

    As of November 2015, corporations had signed power purchase agreements for large-scale, off-site renewables covering 2 GW of power, up from 1.2 GW for all of 2014.14 Others were studying ambitious programs to increase on-site generation.

    Increasingly stringent environmental rulings and proposals have convinced some companies that carbon pricing is imminent and encouraged them to develop plans for reducing carbon rather than waiting for government mandates. Meanwhile, corporate renewable energy goals are becoming intertwined with other policies, such as sustainability programs. Despite the advances, many companies continue to struggle with renewable energy initiatives.15 For every successful corporate deal to source energy from large-scale off-site renewables projects, 5-10 deals fail or experience significant delays, according to estimates from the Rocky Mountain Institute.16

    8- Fast growing companies focus on people to sustain growth

    The days are dwindling when alternative energy companies were confined to startups. As the industry makes way for large, scalable enterprises, companies are starting to grapple with organizational questions tied to their exponential growth.

    The Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 Report has identified the preeminent people-related issues that keep energy executives up at night: learning and development, organizational structure, culture, performance management, and workforce readiness.17 Alternative energy companies looking to sustain their forward momentum should be asking the following critical questions.

    “Do the right people have the right skills for the right jobs?” Alternative energy companies that are anticipating growth or change must assess their competency structures and needs as well as their current learning offerings and create a strategy that supports and engages all employees at the right levels both now and for the future.

    “Do we have the right structure in place to scale and accommodate our vision?” An organizational design needs a clear business strategy to guide specific decisions. Effective design requires an understanding of the potential impact and significance of proposed organizational changes on your people, their ways of working, and your customers.

    “How can we consciously retain or create our organizational culture through all this change?” Creating a sustainable culture that incentivizes the right behaviors and dis-incentivizes the wrong ones is really, really tough. But it can be done with solid data and active engagement.

    “Is the talent model and performance management process the right one to support growth, and does the current talent pipeline meet the future needs?” Leaders of alternative energy companies need to define the capability framework for talent selection, assessment, development, and succession that meets the leadership needs of today and tomorrow.

    QUICK NEWS, January 26: OIL PRICE DIVE DRIVES EV INNOVATION; MILITARY LIKES GEOTHERMAL; A SOLAR INVERTER INVESTMENT

    OIL PRICE DIVE DRIVES EV INNOVATION Tesla boss sees bumpy road ahead for electric cars

    January 26, 2016 (PhysOrg)

    “Electric car manufacturers will have to design futuristic vehicles to entice buyers in order to ride out the challenge of plunging oil prices, Tesla co-founder Elon Musk said…The luxury all-electric US car maker, founded in 2003, rose to prominence as oil prices soared and made alternative energy vehicles more tempting…Now the fledgling industry is under pressure…[and Tesla] saw shares dive…Tesla is looking to recruit 1,600 software engineers to help develop ‘Autopilot,’ its autonomous car IT system…aims to have a fully self-driving car by 2018…[and] is taking orders for its new Model X…[which has]…some self-driving facilities…[Musk] predicted all cars would be autonomous within the next 15 years—with steering wheels eventually just a distant memory…Such promises have kept investors firmly behind the California company, even though it has continued to lose money while the big carmakers in Detroit rack up profits in the booming US auto market.” click here for more

    MILITARY LIKES GEOTHERMAL Camp Ripley: Geothermal project brings Minnesota National Guard closer to 'net zero'

    Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey, January 21, 2016 (Brainerd Dispatch)

    “…[R]enovations on the Garrison Headquarter building at Camp Ripley began] in early 2015…[They replace] the less efficient, traditional boiler and rooftop cooling units with a geothermal system designed to reduce usage costs and improve the environmental footprint of the installation…Geothermal heating systems installed in troop billeting structures in late 2011, reduced energy consumption by 45 percent. Through 2014 and 2015, three additional buildings, were converted to geothermal energy with similar results…The upgrade to the garrison headquarters building involved the replacement of traditional 20-year-old systems that were becoming out-of-date within the next few years. The renovations covered nearly 60,000 square feet of space in all major departments of the building…The field built to sustain heating and cooling, in addition to the upgraded boiler, is spread out over an area the size of four football fields.” click here for more

    A SOLAR INVERTER INVESTMENT Enphase Energy - An Overlooked And Undervalued Solar Energy Company

    Stephen Buchwalter, January 21, 2016 (Seeking Alpha)

    “…Enphase stock has been pummeled, down 73% in 2015…[Its] technology and business model are different from that of SolarCity and its partners…[but, in] many ways, the Enphase approach is superior to its competitors…[T]here will be multiple winners in the renewable energy space…Enphase should be considered as a great opportunity…Its principal products have been microinverter modules that are used to convert direct current (DC) from each solar panel to alternating current…[I]t is often compared to [power optimizer maker] SolarEdge Technologies…These components are not equivalent…[Distributed storage will be a future adjunct to distributed power generation and] Enphase's approach, their announced AC Battery, is different from that of the main competition, the Tesla PowerWall, to be used by SolarCity…It is important for investors to understand the advantages and disadvantages of these two offerings…[T]he precipitous drop in Enphase stock is largely attributable to its lack of glamour and media attention when compared to SolarCity and the related company Tesla…[This] has falsely skewed the stock market's relative valuation [and opportunity in] Enphase…” click here for more

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON WITH DISTRIBUTED NEW ENERGY

    Addressing the Challenge of Distributed Energy Resource Growth and Keeping the Lights On; How the Electric Utility Industry is Coping with the Rise of Distributed Energy Resources

    January 2016 (West Monroe Partners)

    Executive Summary

    The rise of distributed energy resources (DERs) is an exciting and interesting opportunity for customers, and a challenge and opportunity for the utilities and the organizations that regulate them. DERs is a category of solutions that is inclusive of distributed generation sources like combined heat power (CHP), solar, and wind, as well as energy storage such as batteries. In this white paper, West Monroe Partners takes a comprehensive look at how consumers, utilities and regulators are approaching – or resisting – this energy evolution. This research examines the present and future state of DERs through multiple lenses: customer adoption and awareness; utilities’ adoption challenges and opportunities, and support and planning initiatives; and regulatory commissions’ actions, obstacles and perceptions.

    We found that while the presence of DERs among residential, commercial and industrial sites is still limited, customer interest is increasing and adoption is on the brink of booming in many states across the U.S. And though utilities and regulators alike acknowledge this potential shift, in many states they have yet to settle on clear and collaborative ways to prepare for it. Factors from technology availability and cost, to public policy drivers, to pivoting business models, are contributing to the obstacles slowing DER penetration across the U.S. These issues continue to impede the industry’s ability to smoothly accommodate new energy technologies and gain acceptance. By illuminating the gaps between customer needs, utility plans and regulators’ perceptions, it is evident that these audiences must form a more united front before meaningful change can truly occur in their state.

    Introduction

    The electric utility industry is accelerating toward a crossroads. Cost-averse and environmentally conscious customers are reducing their dependence on traditional utility generation and creating increased demand for distributed energy resources (DERs). If the market’s recent growth is any indication, DERs will become a more important part of the generation portfolio mix in the future.

    Between the U.S. federal government’s enactment of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) almost a decade ago and launch of the SunShot Initiative in 2011, the cost of solar energy installations has plummeted more than 73 percent. This trend is aided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision to double down on its support for renewable energy research and development and materials manufacturing. While technology costs continue to decline and efficiencies rise, rest-of-system costs are coming down as well, making photovoltaic (PV) solar more affordable. Federal support, along with utility and state-sponsored financial incentives for purchases and leasing of rooftop solar PV systems, has accelerated adoption of DERs by residential, commercial, and institutional customers.

    In the last few years, the barriers to DER adoption have decreased significantly in many areas in the US. Solar generation is competitive with retail electricity prices in many parts of the country, and comparable to avoided transmission and distribution system upgrades in some utility jurisdictions. Cost reductions in DER implementation and interest in such systems apply across rooftop, utilityscale, and recently in community solar installations, providing opportunities for broad business and customer adoption. In 2014, a new solar project was installed every two-and-a-half minutes in the U.S.1

    As business and residential customers continue to seek more economical and sustainable energy solutions and utilities require cleaner energy power solutions to satisfy various regulatory requirements, distributed energy adoption does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. General Electric predicts that annual distributed energy capacity additions will grow from 142 gigawatts (GW) worldwide in 2012 to 200 GW in 2020, an annual growth rate of more than four percent.2 Though this shift carries benefits for customers and the environment, it is forcing the utility industry and regulators to rethink the traditional utility business model and the sanctity of the utility franchise. As electricity generation becomes more decentralized and located closer to load, utilities are beginning to identify ways to maintain revenue and provide greater value to customers through alternative rate design, new utility business solutions, and creation of unregulated business enterprises.

    Methodology

    West Monroe Partners surveyed nearly 2,000 customers, 109 utility executives and managers in major markets across the country, and interviewed dozens of regulatory commission chairpersons, commissioners and senior staff. The goal of this research was to understand customer attitudes toward DER adoption, the broader impacts DERs will have on U.S. utility operations, and what both utilities and regulatory bodies are doing (or plan to do) to accommodate DERs from strategy, process, technology and system integration perspectives. Key findings from the study include:

    82% of utility executives say residential customers are adding DERs to their systems, more so than commercial and industrial users or the utility itself.

    80% of utilities report having DERs on their systems, but only 37% have services, systems or technologies in place to support them.

    49% of utility leaders feel DERs will reach a significant tipping point impacting operations when they account for 11 to 25 percent of their system generation; 75% of regulators feel the tipping point threshold is 1 to 10 percent.

    48% of residential customers are considering installing DERs for their homes in the next two years.

    59% of utility executives say their organizations plan to make no or minimal investments to support DERs on their systems, unless mandated to do so.

    The Impact of DERs

    Distributed energy resources present a new layer of complexity to utilities’ operations, while at the same time promising to inject new life into the traditional business model. Eighty percent of utilities in our survey reporting have DERs on their systems, but executives and regulators do not share a common vision when it comes to how regulations currently (or should) impact DER support and ownership. Today, three percent of customers have renewable energy sources serving their homes, and 48 percent are considering doing so in the next two years. Only one percent of customers are enrolled in distributed generation programs through their local utility. The rapid rise of DERs on utility systems is also creating difficulties for utilities to enroll customers and manage the interconnection process. Many utilities and regulatory commissions are looking at electronic enrollment and interconnection software to improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

    Seventy-nine percent of regulators feel that the current regulatory model allows and encourages utility ownership of DERs, compared to just over half (53%) of utility executives. This indicates a discrepancy between what utilities think they need in order to encourage and support DER ownership and implementation, and what regulators think utilities need. In certain markets, regulatory commissions think the regulatory paradigm supports DER deployment; however, they might lack the resources necessary to thoroughly investigate the regulatory changes needed to support utility investment and ownership.

    Despite the number of utilities that report having DERs on their systems, only 37 percent offer DER-specific support services, systems or technologies. In the same way that smart grids have enabled utilities to transform how they distribute and bill for electricity, DERs open the door for utilities to capitalize on new business opportunities, including backup generation, load balancing capabilities, differentiated pricing regimes, and solar marketplace services such as vendor identification, financing, and maintenance. Many utilities, however feel the cost of creating these services outweighs the returns: 59 percent of executives say their utility plans to make no or minimal investments to support DERs on their systems unless mandated by regulators.

    Early Reactions to the Rise of DERs

    The majority of utility executives harbor mixed feelings about how DERs will affect their business. Regardless of how executives feel, an uptick in adoption is inevitable. Two-thirds (66%) of executives feel DERs are both a threat and opportunity for their businesses, three percent feel they are only a threat, and nearly a third (31%) feel they present an opportunity. Understandably, many executives seem confused or feel it is too early to claim that DERs will or will not wreak havoc on their operations. As discussed later in this report, executives’ actions reveal that most utilities treat DERs primarily as a threat.

    Today, more than two-thirds (69%) of customers do not know if their utilities offer distributed generation enrollment, and 94 percent say their providers haven’t approached them about alternative energy options. This can lead to uncertainty and confusion about customer-sited DERs. As DER adoption grows, more customers will demand specific accommodations such as efficient distributed generation (DG) enrollment processes and management, and accessible DER diagnostics. Utilities that fail to provide a sufficient DER customer experience may suffer business and compliance consequences, and as a result, more oversight from regulators. Certain regulatory authorities (including the New York State Public Service Commission) are starting to require utilities to offer electronic DER enrollment to decrease customer effort and increase transparency around the DER interconnection process.

    Regulators are already modifying their requirements and compliance paradigm to support DER integration. Regulators cited a handful of concerns driving the proposed changes: Given the inherently polarizing nature of large-scale policy changes, utilities’ responses to regulatory modifications have been surprisingly positive. Two-thirds (67%) of regulators feel utilities have been responsive to regulatory changes, and half believe utilities are proactively adjusting their behaviors.

    Breaking Down DER Implementations

    The selection of available distributed energy options is expanding. Utility executives and regulators agree that solar resources stand to have the greatest impact on utility operations and revenue streams, more than other emerging resources such as electric vehicles and microgrids.

    There are several reasons for this, including solar’s proximity to load, ease of permitting and installation, and market awareness by non-utility and utility market participants relative to other renewable energy resources. Ninety percent of customers that have adopted renewable energy sources in their homes use solar systems, followed by wind turbines (7%) and hydropower systems (3%).

    Who’s Really Fueling DER Adoption…Accounting for Known Unknowns & Planning for the Future…Barriers to Accommodating DERs…Utilities Planned Charges to Account for DERs…How Regulators are Evolving to Support DERs…

    Conclusion

    Greater adoption of distributed energy resources is more a question of “when” than “if.” Utilities and regulators agree that they must collaborate in order to address the challenges to DER investment, protect utility revenue streams, and support customers interest in DER. Residential customers’ DER adoption may not seem remarkable now in many parts of the U.S., but this audience is clearly positioned as a major driver of renewable energy’s future growth.

    On a positive note, utilities and regulatory commissions are not sitting idly by waiting for DER adoption to grow; they’re considering and implementing changes to support and accommodate such resources. For example, the New York State Public Service Commission is rethinking the traditional role and purpose of regulated utilities in its recently announced “Reforming the Energy Vision” initiative, a strategy intended to promote clean energy innovation and improve the utility customer experience.4 The California Public Utility Commission has also proposed a slate of innovative plans to accommodate DERs as part of its Distribution Resource Plan proceeding.5 The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has required utilities to prepare a business case for proposed grid modernization plans encompassing a wide-range of technologies, including DERs.6

    Other commissions across the country are actively addressing issues such as net metering, increasing or lifting the cap on net-metered loads, looking to capture the value of solar credits, and considering support for community solar systems. All of these initiatives, while rebranded or called something different, are an extension of the “utility of the future” and “utility 2.0” work started a decade ago. As the industry’s DER knowledge base grows and technologies proven, businesses, customers, and regulators will continue to look for ways to unlock value from these markets. Likewise, the promulgation of final rules implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon emissions from power generation is requiring a fresh look at how DERs might support CPP carbon reductions.

    Still, there’s more work to be done. Regulators need a better approach to understanding utilities’ challenges in order to create and adjust policies in ways that eliminate the barriers to DER support. This may start with more closely weighing the merits of utility versus non-utility DERs ownership. Specifically, regulators must focus less on rates and more on costs, and identify methods to help utilities address reliability and resiliency as generation occurs closer to load. They should also investigate new risk and revenue-sharing mechanisms to foster innovation, unlocking value from the utilities’ trove of real-time information and the potential of performance-based ratemaking.

    Part of the burden to evolve falls on utilities as well. Utility leaders need to start treating DERs as an opportunity more than a threat, concerning themselves as much with customer satisfaction as with revenue protection. From the utility provider perspective, it is not enough to have DERs on the grid. Given intensifying concerns about grid reliability, utilities can pursue new revenue streams by integrating DERs more closely into their systems and honing their distribution services. Utilities have a chance to expand their business model and strengthen customer relationships by delivering continuous DER support, and simplifying the DER application, integration, and support process.

    As utilities struggle to plan for and incorporate DERs into their existing resource plans, it is important to realize that a crop of alternative business models is emerging. There are several avenues for utility leaders to explore, from investing in third-party projects to managing community solar projects in lieu of disaggregated rooftop solar assets. Another route gaining traction throughout the sector is to invest in DERs via unregulated subsidiaries, as AES did through its acquisition of Main Street Power, or Duke Energy through its investment in REC Solar.

    The utility industry’s status quo has reached an inevitable turning point. If utilities and regulators make a concerted effort to confront these changes, everyone – including customers – can endure the growing pains and realize economic, social, and environmental benefits.

    QUICK NEWS, January 25: A DYING ASTRONAUT’S THOUGHTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE; SANDERS, CLINTON TRADE TWEETS ON CLIMATE

    A DYING ASTRONAUT’S THOUGHTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE Cancer and Climate Change

    Piers J. Sellers, January 16, 2016 (NY Times)

    “I’m a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer…Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide…[if spending my remaining time thinking] about climate change worth the bother…I concluded that all I really wanted to do was spend more time with the people I know and love, and get back to my office [at NASA] as quickly as possible…It’s doubtful that we’ll hold the line at 2 degrees Celsius, but we need to give it our best shot. With scenarios that exceed that target, we are talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise….increasing the likelihood of unforeseen, disastrous events.

    “…[I]t will be up to the engineers and industrialists of the world to save us. They must come up with the new technologies and the means of implementing them. The technical and organizational challenges of solving the problems of clean energy generation, storage and distribution are enormous, and they must be solved within a few decades with minimum disruption to the global economy…

    “What should the rest of us do? Two things come to mind. First, we should brace for change. It is inevitable. It will appear in changes to the climate and to the way we generate and use energy. Second, we should be prepared to absorb these with appropriate sang-froid. Some will be difficult to deal with, like rising seas, but many others could be positive. New technologies have a way of bettering our lives in ways we cannot anticipate. There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks. History is replete with examples of us humans getting out of tight spots. The winners tended to be realistic, pragmatic and flexible; the losers were often in denial of the threat…

    “As for me, I’ve no complaints. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had on this planet. As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future...And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.” click here for more

    SANDERS, CLINTON TRADE TWEETS ON CLIMATE Twitter fight! Bernie and Hillary battle it out over who has the better climate plan

    Ben Adler, 22 January 2016 (Grist)

    “…[T]he Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigns talked smack to each other on social media, fighting for the hearts of climate hawks…[ Sanders, Clinton, and O’Malley are all actively competing to be the strongest on climate change. It’s a noticeable shift from years past when climate change was considered too low of a priority to become a policy battleground. The candidates are convinced that the Democratic base is fired up about climate change and looking for real vision]…

    “Sanders — who last month released a very ambitious, but legislatively focused, climate plan — challenged Clinton to detail her own plans…[Clinton has recently moved] left on a couple of key climate issues…[She] came out against [the Keystone Pipeline shortly before President Obama rejected it…[and] took a stance against Arctic drilling and released a plan with high targets for renewable energy generation...But Clinton has not laid out a comprehensive agenda…[or] called for a carbon-pricing system, like Sanders’ carbon tax proposal. It isn’t clear how she would reach her clean energy goals. And she has adamantly refused to join Sanders in calling for a full ban on fossil fuel leasing on federal land…[though she has] said she would charge more than the current below-market rates for federal fossil fuel leases…So the Sanders campaign issued a statement bragging about his climate agenda and…asking if she will make the same commitments…[to] oppose the Bakken crude oil pipeline that cuts through Iowa and three other states…[and] the Northeast Direct pipeline in New Hampshire…[and] support a carbon tax…[and] continue President Obama’s moratorium on all new coal leases on public land…[and ban] fossil fuels extraction on public lands…[and oppose fracking and] offshore drilling…Where is Secretary Clinton’s climate plan?

    “Clinton campaign chair John Podesta tweeted a snappy rebuttal…[pointing] to a post he had published on Medium…[and accusing the Sanders campaign of failing to search effectively for answers]…He went on to highlight Clinton’s comments throughout the campaign on the importance of combatting climate change…[and] the promises she has already made…to fully implement Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants…[and asking how Sanders will back out of] international climate deal that President Obama reached with the rest of the world in Paris…[which Sanders opposed]…Sanders has the better of this argument. Coming out against Keystone right before Obama rejected it and promising to complete implementation of your predecessor’s plans isn’t much of a bold new climate agenda…[and Podesta did not answer the Sanders campaign’s] policy questions…” click here for more

    Saturday, January 23, 2016

    Bill Maher Talks To Al Gore

    A chat about “the issue of our time.” Apologies for the quality of this video but HBO is blocking the original. From Justin Bernard via YouTube

    A DOE Primer On How Electricity Is Delivered

    A short, simple explanation of how the grid is going through “a major evolution” to support “shorter power outages, clean energy, and energy efficiency…” From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube

    Leo DeCaprio Talks Climate Change

    This guy could just throw money at the cause but he's putting himself on the front lines. That makes a difference. From Charlie Rose via YouTube

    Friday, January 22, 2016

    DID CLIMATE CHANGE SAVE EARTH FROM ALIENS?

    The aliens are silent because they are extinct

    21 January 2016 (Australian National University)

    “…In research aiming to understand how life might develop, [astrobiologists from ANU Research School of Earth Sciences] realised new life would commonly die out due to runaway heating or cooling on their fledgling planets…[Because the universe is probably filled with habitable planets, it] should be teeming with aliens…[but early life is fragile and] rarely evolves quickly enough to survive….Most early planetary environments are unstable. To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable…About four billion years ago Earth, Venus and Mars may have all been habitable…[but] Venus turned into a hothouse and Mars froze into an icebox…[Early microbial life there probably] failed to stabilize…A plausible solution to [what scientists call] Fermi's paradox…is near universal early extinction, which they have named the Gaian Bottleneck…” click here for more

    HOW GLOBAL BATTERY ENERGY STORAGE WILL GROW

    Market Data: Advanced Batteries for Utility-Scale Energy Storage; Lithium Ion, Sodium-Metal Halide, Sodium Sulfur, Flow, and Advanced Lead-Acid Batteries: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    1Q 2016 (Navigant Research)

    “…Battery energy storage solutions and energy storage system (ESS) components have demonstrated that value can be delivered…Regional transmission and distribution (T&D) system organization and power market regulators…are enacting new rules to allow battery ESSs to participate…[N]ew business models and associated financing instruments are coming together to invest capital…The emergence of a new generation of advanced batteries that are safe, low cost, and efficient enough to allow for storage on the grid is instrumental to the further development…Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries have emerged as the leader…Flow batteries have the potential to deliver long-duration energy storage applications at lower costs, while advanced lead-acid batteries have proven to be excellent performers in power-intensive applications. The Asia Pacific region is expected to see the highest growth in advanced batteries for utility-scale applications during the next 10 years, though growth is also forecast to be strong in North America and Western Europe. According to Navigant Research, global revenue for advanced batteries for utility-scale storage is expected to grow from $231.9 million in 2016 to $3.6 billion by 2025...” click here for more