NewEnergyNews: 03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Risk Of Natural Gas Vs. The Risk Of Wind
  • QUICK NEWS, April 24: The Health Impacts Of Climate Change; New Energy Is Everywhere; Study Shows LA Does Not Need Aliso Canyon
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: How To Win Friends For New Energy
  • Weekend Video: The Electric Vehicle Highway
  • Weekend Video: Wind And The Economy
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A Deeper Look At The Heat
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Wind Gets Market Tough
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-UK Gets Utility-Led Solar Plus Storage
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Germany’s VW Talking Its EV To China
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, April 20:

  • TTTA Thursday-U.S. Military Affirms Climate Change-War Link
  • TTTA Thursday-Solar Plus Hydro Drive Wholesale Power Cost Sub-Zero
  • TTTA Thursday-Wind Boom Goes On Growing Midwest Wealth
  • TTTA Thursday-More Kentucky Jobs In New Energy Than In Coal
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Rocky Mountain compromise: Inside Xcel's landmark Colorado solar settlement
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Fixed charge battle looms in Texas as regulators tackle rate design reform
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: No time to think: How utilities are handling the deluge of grid data

    THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Resource Diversity And Grid Reliability
  • QUICK NEWS, April 18: Study Puts 10-Year Timer On Climate Change; The War Between Wall Street And Solar; New Energy To Power Healthcare
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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.

  • ---------------
  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, April 25:

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Way To Grow EVs
  • QUICK NEWS, April 25: Private Sector Takes Over The Climate Fight; How Sea Level Rise Would Change The Map; Wind Jobs Top 100,000 As Wind Energy Booms

    Thursday, March 31, 2016

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Grids Trends That Will Impact The Home

    Grid Edge Live 2015: The trends behind the explosion in distributed resources; The new distribution grid will enable 'things we haven’t even imagined yet'

    Herman K. Trabish, June 29, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    The explosion in distributed energy resources (DERs) poses reliability threats to utilities' systems, but the option to avoid change is quickly disappearing.

    Change-inducing technologies are exploding into the marketplace. By 2018, the U.S. solar plus storage market is expected to reach $1 billion and the U.S. energy storage market alone will hit $1.5 billion, according to GTM Research. The North American distributed energy resources management systems market will be $110 million and the U.S. demand response market will be $1.5 billion.

    These markets are driven by the growth of DERs, but they are also being driven by “the adapting utility,” Grid Edge Director Steve Propper said in kicking off Greentech Media’s Grid Edge Live conference for 2015.

    “We are not here to talk about threats to the utility business, but about what the business opportunities are and how utilities are adapting to them," he said, framing the discussions for a nationwide group of utilities and DER companies that came together in San Diego last week.

    The most transformative emerging trend perceived by Pacific Gas and ElectricCorporate Strategy Officer Elizabeth Brinton, she said following Propper’s presentation, is the recognition that the utility distribution grid represents an opportunity “to make an incredible machine come to life.”

    Over the next 15 to 20 years, Brinton expects to see the distribution grid turn into a platform that enables “things we haven’t even imagined yet.”

    Such utility insights are informed by three main trends, Propper said. One is changing regulatory structures such as those proposed in New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding and California’s AB 327 proceeding. Another is utilities moving beyond electricity sales and to new revenue opportunities. The third is moving DERs from alternative to core generation status.

    Regulatory drivers

    California’s three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are required to file detailedDER plans by July 1, Propper noted. Representatives of two IOUs in the state told Utility Dive those filings are being reviewed with unprecedented attention at the highest levels of management.

    “The filings may not have an immediate impact on how the utilities do business but they will likely influence how utilities think about theirintegrated resource planning,” Propper said. “That will certainly impact DER markets.”

    Across the nation, the New York process is “upending” thinking about the regulated utility’s role, he added, and Maine’s Market-based Aggregation Credit initiative could change how market mechanisms impact DERs.

    In Hawaii, three separate iniatives are testing the limits of utility performance. The legislature just enacted a 100% renewables by 2045 mandate. The Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), the state’s dominant electricity provider, has initiated regulatory proposals for performance-based rates and other new utility compensation models. And ratepayers are pushing local leaders to explore alternative municipal and cooperative utility structures.

    Beyond kilowatt-hours: The 'consumerization of everything'

    “The most important thing happening in the space is the consumerization of everything,” said NRG Home President/CEO Steve McBee in an exchange with PG&E's Brinton. “The fundamental takeaway is the extent to which technology has destroyed longstanding centralized provider-driven service models and replaced them with decentralized, demand-driven service models that have empowered customers in ways that are totally unprecedented.”

    Interviews with Duke, Exelon, APS, PG&E, and other major utilities found them looking at a variety of ways to move “beyond kilowatt-hour sales,” Propper said.

    They are studying their customers’ needs and how to provide services to meet them, Propper explained. They are also thinking about how to leverage the things they already do well, like reaching customers and creating relationships with them and serving them.

    Utilities are also building new services around their “professional and sector knowledge,” Propper said. They are thinking about how to monetize the wireless and other in-house technology intelligence they have accrued from advanced meter rollouts. They are also consulting with solution providers who have value-added services.

    Some utilities are discovering ways to leverage their vehicle fleets and field teams to provide services for their large commercial and industrial customers ranging from building retrofits to landscaping.

    Others are beginning to examine ways to monetize physical assets. “Their poles and pipes and wires are there to provide electricity,” Propper said. “But those things could be used for other products and services and regulators are becoming more open to that in some states.”

    DERs in the business model

    Several new business models that incorporate DERS into utility generation are emerging, Propper said. Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power have announced plans to sell rooftop solar with installer partners. Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power is about to announce a rooftop solar program it will market through an unregulated partner.

    Through Duke Energy’s partnership with REC Solar, it will invest $225 million to own and operate DERs on the utility side of the meter in its service territories. Southern California Edison and HECO have programs in which they manage customer-owned behind-the-meter grid-connected DER assets.

    “Our analysts believe that as more grid-connected behind-the-meter storage comes online, there is a role for utilities in the space and there will be a lot of action there,” Propper said.

    Customers are demanding DERs and the grid delivers their value, explainedCPS Energy VP Raiford Smith in the conversation following Propper’s presentation. To manage the complexities of a distribution grid incorporating those DERs requires the deep and instantaneous application of sophisticated data analytics. “This is a virtuous cycle that is connecting customer, grid, utility, and third party providers.”

    At least 21 states have a regulatory or legislative initiative proposing rate reform and/or changes to net energy metering, or a value of solar or value of DER tariff, Propper concluded. Those initiatives could significantly change utility compensation, customer engagement in their own energy use, and the utility business model. That, in turn, will affect the dynamics of the markets.

    “We expect that over the next couple of years, more of these proceedings will come into the public arena and have a role in shaping what this market looks like,” Propper said.

    'The time is now'

    “To provide a platform for interconnecting all these energy technologies, utilities will require new ways of looking at planning, operations, marketing, and market transactions,” said Oracle Industries VP Bradley Williams in conversation with the utility leaders. “That starts with we plan our grid going forward to support this exponential growth of grid edge energy technologies.”

    “Business as usual for the utility cannot continue,” Brinton said near the end of the conversation. “There is urgency for us to recognize disruption is an opportunity.”

    “The energy industry has not been super imaginative in how they deliver products and services over the last hundred years," McBee said.

    “We totally agree,” Brinton said. “This is urgent. The time is now.”

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Why A Big Energy Provider Restructured

    What happened when NRG Energy disrupted its own business model; Its biggest new subsidiary, NRG Home, is building a business around empowering customers

    Herman K. Trabish, July 1, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    Editor's note: NRG Energy has turned back to a more traditional business model since this piece was written but NRG Home continues to grow its New Energy efforts.

    NRG Energy, the biggest U.S. independent power producer, made the bold choice last year to challenge utility sector disruption by disrupting itself.

    Having concluded by early 2014 a “distributed generation-centric” future fostering consumer empowerment and energy customer choice was inevitable, President/CEO David Crane decided on a corporate reorganization. It was designed to leverage NRG’s considerable capabilities, accrued through its success in power generation and retail electricity markets, to capture the emerging opportunities.

    Two things informed Crane’s decision, Steve McBee explained to Utility Dive on the sidelines at Greentech Media’s Grid Edge Live 2015. McBee is the man chosen to lead the NRG Energy’s charge into distributed generation as President and CEO of NRG Home.

    “One is that climate change is the challenge of our time and NRG, as a major player in the independent power space, has a major moral obligation,” he said. “The other is that any business that relies on the grid as a very centralized, antiquated machine to deliver their products in a world that is becoming decentralized and digital is in trouble.”

    The $12 billion corporation was reorganized into three divisions, McBee explained. NRG Energy remains the core wholesale power generation business with a 49,400 MW total generation capacity. NRG Renew covers utility-scale renewables, with 1,300 MW of solar and 3,200 MW of wind, as well as the company’s micro-grid business.

    NRG Home

    NRG Home is “about a $6 billion company,” McBee said, with $620 million in unadjusted earnings, 3.5 million customers, and 5,000 of the corporation’s 10,000 employees.

    The NRG Home division’s value proposition is in its two-sided “platform.” On one side is the large competitive retail electricity business with 2.7 million customers in Texas and the Northeast. On the other is a constellation of “much smaller but much faster businesses” in residential solar, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, portable power and power on the go, home security and connected homes, and natural gas.

    The retail electricity businesses provide a “very steady, value play, EBIDA business that prints a lot of cash and grows incrementally,” McBee said. Most of the smaller businesses are still losing money, “but are growing at super high rates in markets that have massive ceilings.”

    Together, they allow NRG Home to unite “the entire ecosystem of the consumer energy space in one place,” McBee said. “The real unique opportunity we have is to cross-walk the growth businesses into that 2.7 million retail customer channel and offer those customers, in addition to theretail electricity we are selling them from a single point, sometimes unsustainable, and fairly conventional energy solution, a portfolio of energy solutions curated to their lifestyles that is more sustainable and cheaper.”

    The organizing principle is the customer, McBee said. The company’s strategy, value proposition, and value creation are aimed at figuring out what he or she wants “as opposed to pushing a one-size fits all solution into the totality of our business.”

    While new technology and new gadgets themselves get a lot of attention, fewer notice they have destroyed the “centralized provider-driven service models and replaced them with decentralized, demand-driven service models that have empowered customers in ways that are totally unprecedented,” McBee explained.

    Companies that don’t understand what is happening are struggling, companies that are empowering consumers are seeing success, and that is “great news for agile energy providers,” he said. NRG Home customers will get “more imaginative solutions and services” that will be “cleaner and more sustainable.”

    By 2018 or 2019, consumers, particularly millennials, will be a huge market force, McBee believes.

    “They will expect from their energy providers what they expect from all their other consumer providers, which is products that are reliable, affordable, sustainable, and highly tailored to what they need to make the energy part of their lives work,” he said.

    Hand picked by David Crane

    Before his post at NRG, McBee was running a Washington, D.C., advisory firm for over a decade when the worsening climate crisis, resource depletion, population growth, and urbanization issues compelled him to try to influence the policy process.

    “In a perfect world, you would address those issues through progressive policy,” he said. But he quickly realized the political system would not respond to the gathering crises.

    McBee concluded they would only be addressed “if large companies with scale and bandwidth could view these huge problems as huge opportunities,” he said. If they saw the challenges as a means to create shareholder value through new products and new services, it would also drive the social change.

    “The capital markets and the corporations were the places where these problems were going to be addressed,” he concluded.

    NRG Energy was among the clients his business took on in seeking ways to drive this change. “When David Crane briefed me on NRG Home, I said we needed to find a really great CEO to run this business,” McBee said. “I thought it was the best expression of what I was thinking about that I had ever seen.”

    From thousands of names proposed to run the company, Crane – who was looking for a non-traditional candidate – picked McBee. He accepted because “it is by far the best positioned company in the market to take advantage of the disruption coming," he said. "If it was done well and at scale, it could make a little difference in the world.”

    Solar

    NRG Home has rooftop solar operations in the nine states (Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, California, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) where the economics work out, McBee said. But the economics will get better elsewhere.

    Texas sun is ample but solar is not cost-effective for NRG Home’s 1.7 millionReliant retail electricity customers in the state because policies are not supportive and the price of electricity is very low, McBee explained.

    On the other hand, the trajectory of solar cost curves foretell aggressive adoption rates that will likely drive industry prices down and Texas solar should reach economic competitiveness by 2018, with or without incentives, he believes. His challenge for now is sequencing, or putting the right products together in the right way until solar reaches parity.

    In states where it is competitive, NRG Home’s primary solar offering is through a 20 year lease. NRG Energy’s NRG Yield recently announced it would back further growth with a $150 million fund.

    The yieldco initially invested in NRG Home’s existing portfolio of over 2,200 leases across 9 states representing some 17 MW of capacity. It then went to an in-development portfolio of over 6,000 20-year leases across at least 10 states representing a capacity of about 48 MW. Within 12 months, the fully invested fund will back over 15,000 leases representing some 65 MW.

    NRG Home offers a residential solar loan in states like North Carolina where the third party ownership financing provided by the yieldco is not legal.

    The yieldco will also periodically monetize the residential lease investment, providing cash to reinvest.

    Residential solar adoption levels, cost curves, technology advances, finance innovations, and supply chain efficiencies – combined with a vastly under-penetrated market and high customer interest – explain “why the growth forecasts are so fat,” McBee said.

    His only concern is the “uncertainty” around net energy metering (NEM). “I would trade certainty for some potential modification to the net metering rules,” he said. He is open to a predictable, gradual phase out of NEM similar to that coming for the 30% federal investment tax credit (ITC).

    But most utilities are coming into the NEM debate “hot and with a very zero-sum outlook,” McBee said. It is an approach that precludes compromise and means fighting.

    “As much as I prefer compromise, I don’t mind fighting because the fights will take many years to resolve,” he said. “By that time it won’t matter because solar will be economic without subsidies.”

    The ITC, which has cost taxpayers far less than the subsidies provided to traditional generation resources, got solar off the ground, McBee said. But its scheduled reduction to 10% at the end of 2016 will be nothing more than a “speed bump” for the solar industry, he added.

    “We are selling 90% of our solar systems to customers because they are cheaper," he said. "That is our value proposition."

    Community solar

    NRG Home is also making plans to develop community shared solar, which GTM Research recently called “the biggest solar opportunity in the U.S. in the next five years.”

    Community shared solar allows developers to build central arrays and sell shares of the output to those without solar suitable roofs, which are 74% of his solar-interested customers, McBee said. “That is a lot of solar sales we aren’t making.”

    Widespread growth of the sector is currently being blocked by a dearth ofenabling legislation. But a customer who wants solar and is willing to pay for solar should not be prevented from getting it by a failure of political leadership, McBee believes.

    Community shared solar will be especially good for NRG, he said, because the company can offer a “vertically integrated community solar solution.” NRG Renew can do project development, NRG Home can do the marketing, and NRG Yield can do the financing.

    Building electric vehicle charging infrastructure

    “We are trying to turn the building of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure into a two-way race with Tesla,” McBee said.

    NRG says its eVgo program, currently in 26 cities, is the biggest and fastest-growing public DC fast charging network in the country. Residential customers and businesses looking to offer charging to employees can purchase Level 2 chargers or sign up for a subscription plan. NRG Home plans to take the programs into 70 new markets in 2016.

    “If you are investing for the long term, this has to be one of the biggest no-brainers in the history of the world,” McBee said. “We all know how this story ends. It is just a question of whether we are on chapter 2 or almost at the end of the book.”

    Internal studies have shown the electricity used in EV charging will not be all that meaningful in boosting demand for NRG’s utility-scale generation.

    “We are investing in this business because there are incredible cross-sell opportunities," McBee said.

    EV owners are among the customers most likely to want rooftop solar, green premium utility plans, and solar-powered portable power devices, he explained. "That makes them highly valuable customers because of the potential multiple revenue streams and because that customer isn’t likely to go to a different provider."

    Finally, McBee said, driving an EV can transform the typical utility customer who never thinks about electricity consumption.

    “When you get an electric vehicle, you are dialed in to where the charge is at all times,” he said. “You are monitoring the charge on the app and gaming it for maximum efficiency. When people are in the habit of doing that, it is a major behavioral change.”

    They begin to think about other aspects of their energy use similarly and that fits the NRG Home intention, McBee said, “to allow people to generate and manage and share their own energy and to allow them to access it from wherever they are for whatever they need it for, for however long they need it.”

    NO QUICK NEWS

    Wednesday, March 30, 2016

    An Animal-Free Diet For The Planet

    How a Vegetarian Diet Could Help Save the Planet; And Save Trillions of Dollars

    Justin Worland, March 21, 2016 (Time Magazine)

    “…[T] the widespread adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets [improves human health and] could save millions of lives and trillion of dollars [according to Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change from the University of Minnesota]…Researchers assessed four different scenarios with humans consuming varying levels of meat to evaluate the links between diet, health and the environment. The lowest level of meat consumption—widespread adoption of the vegan diet—could help avoid more than 8 million deaths by 2050 [saving up to $1 trillion annually]…A vegetarian diet would save 7.3 million lives…The environmental impacts of a dietary shift could be just as dramatic…Livestock alone account for more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions…A vegan or vegetarian diet could cut those emissions by 70% and 63%, respectively [and saving up to $30 trillion annually]…” click here for more

    How The Obama Climate Plan Will Grow New Energy

    How the Clean Power Plan Can Accelerate Renewable Energy and Efficiency

    Jeff Deyette, March 24, 2016 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    “…New wind and solar development outpaced fossil fuels in 2015 for the second straight year, and both technologies are on track to reach new heights this year…[and] power generation at U.S. coal plants in 2015 was at its lowest levels than any year since 1984…Now, a new UCS analysis highlights how the Clean Power Plan can help states accelerate this transition…Under the CPP National Trading Case, renewable energy accounts for 21 percent of the power supply in 2030, while savings from energy efficiency investments are equivalent to 7 percent of total electricity sales…Diversifying the power supply with more renewable energy and efficiency also limits the consumer impacts from increases in fossil fuel prices…By setting a carbon cap and issuing allowances equal to state CPP targets, auctioning those allowances, and participating in an interstate carbon trading program, states can generate a combined average annual revenue of $17.8 billion from 2022 to 2030…These revenues could then be used to offset higher near-term consumer electricity bills or be reinvested for public benefit…Newly extended federal tax credits for wind and solar can work together with the CPP to generate even greater near-term consumer, economic, and health benefits…” click here for more

    The Good That Wind Does

    $7.3 billion in public health savings seen in 2015 from wind energy cutting air pollution; U.S. wind fleet reduces power sector CO2 emissions more than six percent

    March 29, 2016 (American Wind Energy Association)

    “U.S. wind farms reduced electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 132 million metric tons in 2015…[which is] equal to that from 28 million cars, or more than six percent of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from U.S. electricity generation last year…Wind energy also greatly reduces a variety of health-harming air pollutants, including smog-causing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which helps reduce rates of asthma and other respiratory issues…representing $7.3 billion in avoided health costs last year alone…[T]he American Lung Association has adopted as one of its goals the transition to a clean energy future…At the start of 2016, there were 9,400 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity under construction, which is expected to reduce another 23 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year when operational, and cut overall power sector CO2 emissions by an additional one percent…” click here for more

    Solar Ups Home Resale Values

    Study: Home values increase when solar panels get installed; Research considers appraisal values of homes across six states

    Kelsey Ramirez, March 29, 2016 (Housing Wire)

    “…[H]omes that use solar panels are sold at a premium [according to An Analysis of Solar Home Paired Sales across Six States]…Some homeowners showed concern that solar energy would cost more than they could get back, however several studies now reveal that there is demand from homebuyers for solar energy homes, finding that buyers consistently have been willing to pay more for homes that use solar energy…The average premium for all study areas is $14,329, which is 3.74% of the average sale price and equates to $3.78 per watt for the average-sized solar panel system…The report suggests that lending appraisal guidelines and expectations should align with this reality and allow other forms of premium estimates when comparable sales are not available.” click here for more

    Tuesday, March 29, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: All About The Community Solar Potential

    Unlocking the value of community solar; Utilities find opportunity in the inevitable growth of distributed energy resources

    March 2016 (Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions)

    Executive summary

    US electric utilities of all types, from investor-owned to municipal to cooperatives (co-ops), are defining their own paths forward to bring solar to their customers. Community, or “shared,” solar programs are an increasingly popular option. These programs allow customers who do not own their homes, possess strong credit scores, or have adequate roof space to buy solar power, or in some cases, to invest in solar assets. While community solar is often discussed in the context of program design and customer demand, this report will analyze the market from a different angle by unpacking the unique opportunities and challenges posed to each utility type: co-ops, municipal, and investor-owned utilities (IOU). For co-ops, their member-owners’ interest in community solar has enabled them to develop more programs than any other utility type. Municipal utilities have creatively leveraged state and local government incentives to bring shared solar projects to fruition. And IOUs, largely in response to state-level legislative directives, are partnering with experienced industry players to implement new types of program models.

    Shared 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. Today 77 utilities administer 111 projects across 26 states, accounting for a combined capacity of about 106 megawatts (MW).1 As innovation takes its course, shared solar business models are continuing to evolve, and the opportunity is becoming more evident. Utilities are finding that shared solar allows them to grow their solar generation portfolios, developers are seizing the opportunity to expand their business offerings, and more customers have the chance to buy solar power. By unlocking value in each segment of the supply chain, community solar is evolving into a growth engine for distributed solar resources.

    What is community solar?

    Community solar presents an opportunity for residential or commercial utility customers to invest in a solar array or receive credits on their electricity bill for solar power not located at their home or business. Program models are constantly evolving to fit the needs of both customers and utilities. Identifying an optimal program design is not without its challenges; models vary significantly based on market and utility type. However, electric power industry players are quickly innovating to overcome barriers and utilities are increasingly seizing the business opportunity that shared solar represents.

    What’s in it for the customer?

    Shared solar programs offer a convenient and cost-effective option to utility customers who want to buy electricity from a low-carbon, renewable resource.

    The rapid growth of the rooftop solar PV industry has demonstrated that where there’s a will to “go solar,” there’s a way. Of the more than 1,500 household utility decision makers surveyed in the annual Deloitte Resources 2015 Study, 64 percent ranked “increasing the use of solar power” among the top three energy-related issues most important to them, up from 58 percent in 2014 and 50 percent in 2013.2

    As interest in solar trends upward, utility customers seek cost effective options to buy electricity from solar resources. Installing rooftop solar is a popular way for consumers to reach this goal. However, owning or leasing a home PV system may only be realistic for people who own their home, have a creditworthy FICO score (typically over 680), and live in a state with net energy metering policies. According to Greentech Media’s US Community Solar Market Outlook 2015 – 2020 report, 77 percent of US residential households are likely ineligible for rooftop installations according to these parameters, and are thereby potential candidates for community solar program participation.3

    For those customers who are deciding between installing rooftop solar and participating in a shared solar program, both the upfront cost of the system and the approximate payback period typically weigh into their decision. Since 2010, the upfront cost of community solar participation has declined 43 percent from an average of $5.13 per watt to $2.92 per watt in 2015.”4 GTM Research estimates that the average price of a residential rooftop solar installation in 2015 was $3.53 per watt.5 Based on upfront cost alone, community solar would seem to be the leading option. However, the time it takes for the customer to make back the total cost of the system by offsetting their electricity bill is a key consideration, especially for those customers who are eligible for “no money down” financing, which often has a payback period of 10 years or more. Because customers’ compensation for solar production is highly dependent upon retail electricity prices and net metering policies–which vary across the US–the payback period for rooftop vs. community solar is difficult to compare.

    Another factor affecting the upfront cost of these investment options is the availability of the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). The federal solar ITC for residential property has long been claimed by individual taxpayers with rooftop solar, but its availability for owners of shared solar programs is less clear. A private letter ruling released by the Internal Revenue Service in September 2015 held that an individual that purchased PV panels and a joint interest in related property (e.g., inverter, racking equipment) for installation in a ground-mounted off-site array with panels owned by other individuals qualified for the ITC with respect to the cost of the equipment and installation services.6 The power generated was delivered to the local public utility that served the taxpayer’s residence under the terms of a net metering arrangement.

    What’s in it for the utility?

    The opportunity that shared solar represents to investorowned, municipal, and co-op utilities is less straightforward, but increasingly significant. While primarily developed to address customers’ interest in “going solar,” these programs can also be leveraged to bundle other products and services. Grid optimization and Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) compliance are two other ways that utilities can benefit.

    Community solar programs not only allow utilities to offer their customers a venue for buying solar directly, they can also provide a sales channel for other services. For example, the Minnesota-based co-op, Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric (SWCE), is pioneering an innovative bundled service offering that benefits both the utility and its customers. As part of the SWCE community solar program, customers can opt to buy their portion of the shared solar facility at a discounted rate if they also install a new electric water heater in their home.7 The customer uses the excess power generated by their solar array during the day to heat their hot water heater, allowing them to avoid pulling that electricity from the grid during “peak load” in the early evening. This allows the customer to effectively “store” the excess solar power generated from their array. It also helps the utility to reduce peak demand, which is highly beneficial for the reasons described below. Other products and services utilities might consider wrapping into their programs include appliance upgrades, efficiency retrofits, and compensation for participating in demand response programs.

    Utility-administered community solar programs allow the utility to make key decisions regarding the placement and design of the solar array, enabling them to optimize valuable grid resources. For example, a utility might build the array with the panels facing west to boost output late in the day during periods of peak demand. This practice, commonly referred to as solar “peak shaving,” can reduce costs by avoiding deploying expensive “peaker” plants designed to meet high demand. All consumers benefit from this approach, not only those who have invested in the array. Utilities may also choose to install tracking systems so that they can move the panels to align generation output with supply and demand. Additionally, strategically placed shared solar arrays might help utilities defer or avoid the cost of upgrading transmission and distribution assets by reducing their use and prolonging their useful life.

    Finally, utilities can use community solar programs to comply with state-level RPS requirements. Utilities that are subject to an RPS may directly generate renewable energy credits (RECs) or indirectly purchase RECs from third party developers. When utilities own the solar array, they should consider structuring their program so that they, not the subscriber, claim the environmental benefits of the credits in order to apply them toward their RPS requirement.

    What’s in it for the developer?

    As community solar adoption gains momentum amongst utilities and customers alike, several US developers have begun to build projects. Large developers see an opportunity to unlock previously unreachable solar demand while small developers are beginning to offer niche, à la carte services that align with utilities’ needs.

    SunEdison, Inc. launched its first program in National Grid’s Massachusetts territory in September of 201510 and NRG Energy, Inc. partnered in the same year with other solar firms to develop projects in both Massachusetts and Colorado.11 Residential solar developer, SolarCity, Inc., also announced a shared solar program in 2015.

    Despite the entry of these big hitters, smaller, more specialized developers continue to dominate the market. Companies such as Clean Energy Collective (CEC) were among the first to offer project development services with billing technologies that work with utility infrastructure. This allowed utilities without previous experience to offer shared solar.

    According to Tom Hunt, Vice President of Corporate Development at CEC, “It’s a big leap to go from single to multiple offtakers. It adds a lot of complexity.” These added layers might include remote meter program tracking as well as customer acquisition and billing software. Services such as these are growing into a significant business opportunity for CEC. With its proprietary Community Solar Platform, CEC has developed a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model that provides developers and utilities with the necessary tools for on-time market deployment. “We’re not going to be the most cost effective developer in every market. It’s too much of a local game. So CEC is now partnering with solar developers that specialize in their respective markets to offer a SaaS product that enables community solar programs,” said Mr. Hunt. This offering has begun to soften one of the most significant barriers for developers looking to enter the community solar market. As more firms innovate to offer these types of services, previously unreachable solar demand could create an opportunity for more large-scale developers to grow their shared solar businesses…

    Conclusion

    The evolution of community solar is a classic case of business model innovation turning a challenge into an opportunity. Foreseeing the inevitable growth of distributed energy resources, utilities are deploying these programs to get ahead of the game and to capture the benefits that distributed resources provide to the grid. Often utilities also aim to further engage their customers and, when applicable, comply with state-level regulations. Though the design of these programs varies greatly by market and utility type, this growing trend of shared solar adoption represents how a highly regulated industry can leverage technology and policy to adapt to a changing business climate. Strong consumer demand for solar and innovative program design will likely propel US shared solar growth for years to come.

    QUICK NEWS, March 29: H-u-u-u-u-u-ge U.S. Solar Potential; Big Wins For Wind As It Gets Bigger; At The Verge Of The EV Future

    H-u-u-u-u-u-ge U.S. Solar Potential New NREL study details US rooftop solar PV potential at 1,118GW plus

    Mark Osborne, March 28, 2016 (PV Tech)

    “…[There is significantly more potential for US building rooftops to generate electricity from solar PV (photovoltaics) systems than previously estimated, according to Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment from the U.S. Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It shows]…the technical potential of 1,118GW of capacity and 1,432TWh of annual energy generation was possible, equivalent to 39% of current US electricity sales. This is almost double (664GW - 800 TWh) the previous analysis undertaken and reported in 2008…The significant difference was said to be attributed to increases in PV module power density, improved estimation of building suitability, higher estimates of the total number of buildings, and improvements in PV performance simulation tools that previously tended to underestimated production…NREL indicated that the latest total technical potential capacity analysis assumed a module efficiency of 16% to represent a mixture of various technology types…” click here for more

    Big Wins For Wind As It Gets Bigger Momentum building behind U.S. wind energy; For the first time ever, federal government uses congressional authority to join wind power program.

    Daniel J. Graeber, March 28, 2016 (UPI)

    “…[In a victory for U.S. wind energy advocates, the Department of Energy for the first time used authority mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to foster cooperation between the private and public sectors on new electricity transmission projects by joining a line…[being developed by Clean Line Energy Partners to deliver] up to 4,000 megawatts of power generated from wind in Oklahoma and Texas through a 705-mile power line that would serve the energy needs of up to 1.5 million homes in the [the Southeast]…Data released last week from the U.S. Energy Department show wind power accounted for 41 percent of all new electric generation capacity last year. On a state-by-state basis, Texas and Oklahoma were among those states leading the way…” click here for more

    At The Verge Of The EV Future After the Tesla Model 3 launches this week, the world will know if Elon Musk called the electric-car future correctly

    Steve leVine, March 28, 2016 (Quartz)

    “…Over the last dozen years, [serial entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk has accomplished] the improbable—erecting a globe-spanning automobile company from scratch. His Tesla Motors is the only such success in at least a half-century…[But what drove Musk into autos in 2004] was to trigger the birth of a new, mainstream [electric car] industry…Last year, Tesla sold about 51,000 cars. Musk hopes to deliver another 93,000 vehicles this year…It would equal a mere 4% of the approximately 1.9 million cars sold in 2015 by both BMW and Mercedes…On March 31, Musk will finally unveil [the Model 3, a $35,000 sedan that will go at least 200 miles on a single charge]…It’s around the average cost for new cars in the US; and the distance is thought sufficient to alleviate most cases of so-called range anxiety…[P]redictions call for the Model 3 to be crammed with technology including autonomous functionality, and to feature Musk’s usual exquisite styling…[T]he first batch of Model 3 cars aren’t likely to reach our roads until 2019…The stakes are the highest ever for Musk. If motorists buy the Model 3 in the hundreds of thousands, he will have delivered on his vow to make an electric for the general public…” click here for more

    Monday, March 28, 2016

    TODAY’S STUDY: Global Trends In Renewable Energy Investment 2016

    Global Trends In Renewable Energy Investment 2016

    March 2016 (United Nations Environment Program/Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

    Key Findings

    -2015 produced a new record for global investment in renewable energy. The amount of money committed to renewables excluding large hydro-electric projects rose 5% to $285.9 billion, exceeding the previous record of $278.5 billion achieved in 2011. This record was achieved despite exchange rate shifts that depressed the dollar value of investments in other currency zones, and despite sharp falls in oil, coal and gas prices that protected the competitive position of fossil fuel generation.

    -Even more striking was that the amount of generating capacity added in wind and solar photovoltaics last year came to 118GW, far above the next highest annual figure, 2014’s 94GW. Overall, renewables excluding large hydro made up 53.6% of the gigawatt capacity of all technologies installed in 2015, the first time it has represented a majority.

    -Global investment in renewable power capacity1, at $265.8 billion, was more than double dollar allocations to new coal and gas generation, which was an estimated $130 billion in 2015. However, the huge weight of conventional generation capacity already built meant that new, clean technologies only accounted for just over 10% of world electricity last year, as Chapter 2 shows. However, this did prevent the emission of some 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2015.

    -Even though 2015 produced a record for overall investment, the sky is far from entirely blue. The United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December 2015, known as COP21, produced an unprecedented agreement among 195 countries to act for zero net emissions in the second half of the century. Nevertheless, the global emission trend remains worrying, as energy-related emissions are not forecast to peak until the late 2020s, at the earliest.

    -Last year was also notable as the first in which investment in renewables excluding large hydro in developing countries outweighed that in developed economies. The developing world including China, India and Brazil committed a total of $156 billion, up 19% on 2014, while developed countries invested $130 billion, down 8%. A large element in this turnaround was China, which lifted its investment by 17% to $102.9 billion, or 36% of the world total.

    -However, other developing countries also raised their game – India saw its commitments rise 22% to $10.2 billion, while Brazil ($7.1 billion, down 10%), South Africa ($4.5 billion, up 329%), Mexico ($4 billion, up 105%) and Chile ($3.4 billion, up 151%) all joined it in the list of the top 10 investing countries in 2015. The list of developing countries investing more than $500 million last year also included Morocco, Uruguay, the Philippines, Pakistan and Honduras.

    -Investment in Europe slipped 21% to $48.8 billion, despite that continent’s record year for financings of offshore wind, at $17 billion, up 11%. The US enjoyed a 19% bounce in renewable energy commitments to $44.1 billion, its highest since 2011, with solar accounting for just over two thirds of that total. Japan attracted $36.2 billion, almost the same as in 2014, thanks to its continuing boom in smallscale PV.

    -Renewable generation costs continue to fall, particularly in solar photovoltaics. In the second half of 2015, the global average levelised cost of electricity for crystalline silicon PV was $122 per MWh, down from $143 in H2 2014. Specific projects are going ahead at tariffs well below that – the record-breaker so far being a 200MW plant in Dubai being built by ACWA Power International, awarded a contract in January 2015 at just $58.50 per MWh.

    -Public market investment in renewable energy totalled $12.8 billion in 2015, down 21% on the previous year’s figure but close to the average for the years since 2008. The 2015 figure was unusually lopsided, however, with North American ‘yieldcos’ and European quoted project funds accounting for $6.2 billion of new equity, and US manufacturer and project developer SunEdison issuing $2 billion of convertibles. The US yieldco equity raising spree came to an almost complete halt after July as a result of a sharp share price correction. Overall, clean energy shares edged down 0.6% in 2015, in line with the US S&P500 index.

    -Policy support for renewables remains fickle. A less friendly turn by the new UK government after the May 2015 election has been one example, and another may be the US Supreme Court’s decision in February 2016 to allow all legal objections to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to be heard before it can be implemented. It is also possible that the recent big fall in coal, oil and gas prices may tempt some developing countries to keep relying on fossil-fuel capacity for longer.

    -There is rising interest in battery storage as an adjunct to solar and wind projects and to small-scale PV systems. In 2015, some 250MW of utility-scale electricity storage (excluding pumped hydro and lead-acid batteries) were installed worldwide, up from 160MW in 2014. Announced projects reached 1.2GW. The potential for storage to help balance variable renewable electricity generation, in both developed countries and remote developing country locations off the grid, is this year’s Focus topic and is discussed in Chapter 3.

    Executive Summary

    Renewable energy set new records in 2015 for dollar investment, the amount of new capacity added and the relative importance of developing countries in that growth. All this happened in a year in which prices of fossil fuel commodities – oil, coal and gas – plummeted, causing distress to many companies involved in the hydrocarbon sector. So far, the drivers of investment in renewables, including climate change policies and improving cost-competitiveness, have been more than sufficient to enable renewables to keep growing their share of world electricity generation at the expense of carbon-emitting sources.

    Last year saw global investment in renewables1 rise 5% to $285.9 billion, taking it above the previous record of $278.5 billion reached in 2011 at the peak of the ‘green stimulus’ programmes and the German and Italian rooftop solar booms. Figure 1 shows that the 2015 total was more than six times the figure set in 2004, and that investment in renewables has been running at more than $200 billion per year for six years now. Over the 12 years shown on the chart, the total amount committed has reached $2.3 trillion…

    Developing World Ahead

    Renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar used to be seen by some critics as a luxury, affordable only in the richer parts of the world. This has been an inaccurate view for a long time, but 2015 was the first year in which investment in renewables excluding large hydro was higher in developing economies than in developed countries. Figure 4 shows that the developing world invested $156 billion last year, some 19% up on 2014 and a remarkable 17 times the equivalent figure for 2004, of $9 billion.2 Developed countries invested $130 billion in 2015, down 8% and their lowest tally since 2009.

    A large part of the record-breaking investment in developing countries took place in China. Indeed that country has been the single biggest reason for the near-unbroken uptrend for the developing world as a whole since 2004. However, it was not just China – India also raised its commitment to renewables in 2015, and developing countries excluding China, India and Brazil lifted their investment by 30% last year to an all-time high of $36 billion, some 12 times their figure for 2004.

    Among those “other developing” economies, those putting the largest sums into clean power were South Africa, up 329% at $4.5 billion as a wave of projects winning contracts in its auction programme reached financial close; Mexico, 105% higher at $4 billion, helped by funding from development bank Nafin for nine wind projects; and Chile, 151% higher at $3.4 billion, on the back of a jump in solar project financings. Morocco, Turkey and Uruguay also saw investment beat the $1 billion barrier in 2015…

    Energy Abundant, Competition On Costs

    The global energy sector has changed out of all recognition since the summer of 2014. Oil, as measured by the Brent crude contract, fell in price from a high of $115.71-a-barrel on 19 June of that year, to $27.10 on 20 January 2016, a decline of 76%. The ARA coal contract dropped from $84-a-tonne on 28 April 2014 to $36.30 on 17 February 2016, intensifying a downward trend that has been unfolding since its high of $135 in 2011. The US Henry Hub natural gas price slid from around $4.50 per MMBtu in June 2014 to $1.91 in mid-February 2016…

    QUICK NEWS, March 28: Artists Drive Climate Dialogue; DOE Backs New Wires For Wind; Michigan Debate On New Energy Heats Up

    Artists Drive Climate Dialogue Talk about climate change ‘heats up’ with Percolator exhibit

    Joanna Hlavacek, March 27, 2016 (Lawrence Journal-World)

    “… [Art isn’t data-driven or objective by nature. That is why the Lawrence Percolator’s “Heating Up: Artists Respond to Climate Change”] offers room for different voices and different ways to engage the viewer in an often-politicized issue, program organizers say…[The exhibition] is part of a month-long series of cultural and educational events scheduled throughout March and April. Sponsored by the Lawrence Ecology Teams United in Sustainability (LETUS) and Lawrence field office of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, ‘Heating Up’ has been more than a year in the making…[T]here’s a nuance to this conversation that isn’t in the broader conversation happening right now. It’s not black or white. Our hearts are in it too, [one of the artists said]…Artists of varying experience and training, among them professors and students, have contributed works varying from paintings, prints and drawings to sculptures, handmade books and installations [including Geraldine Emily Walsey’s ‘Pathetique’]…” click here for more

    DOE Backs New Wires For Wind Feds join wind energy transmission project

    Devin Henry, March 25, 2016 (The Hill)

    “The Department of Energy (DOE) will join a renewable energy company in planning and developing a 705-mile wind power transmission line project…The agency signed off on the Clean Line Partners' [Plains and Eastern Clean Line because]…it met all the standards necessary for a federal partnership under a 2005 law….[The line] will deliver up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power generated in Oklahoma and Texas to parts of the Mid-South and Southeastern United States. The DOE plans to help developers get the project up and running, the first time the agency has done so since Congress gave it the power to partner with transmission companies in the Energy Policy Act of 2005…[Several proposed Clean Line transmission projects] have run into local opposition [that DOE backing will help bypass]…” click here for more

    Michigan Debate On New Energy Heats Up Michigan Energy Policy Overhaul Pits Power Companies Against Solar Advocates

    Sam Ross-Brown, March 28, 2016 (The American Prospect)

    “…The battle between Michigan electric utility companies and renewable-energy advocates over a proposed state energy policy overhaul could deal a severe blow to the state’s small but growing solar-power sector. The regulatory overhaul, which mirrors changes being considered in states nationwide, would slash payments for solar consumers who sell excess energy back to utility companies while also significantly weakening the state’s clean-energy mandates…DTE Energy and Consumers Energy [Michigan’s two largest electrical utilities] have together spent more than $3 million over the past year on a massive media and lobbying campaign featuring media buys, campaign contributions to state lawmakers, and lobbying by industry representatives…But environmental advocates warn that the changes could decimate the sector [if lawmakers shift net metering payments from a higher retail rate to a lower wholesale rate]…” click here for more

    Saturday, March 26, 2016

    Deepwater Horizon – The Movie

    The Hollywood version of the devastation of the Gulf of Mexico by the oil industry. From Lionsgate Movies via YouTube

    Hansen’s Bad News

    The U.S.’s foremost climate scientist delivers the truth and the truth is indeed inconvenient. From greenman3610 via YouTube

    The Carbon Cycle Explained In The Simplest Possible Terms

    Why CO2 is like “a pound of poop every mile” and how the Green Ninja, the climate action superhero, can come to the rescue. From Vanessa Warheit via Vimeo

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Why To Bring A Baby Into A Changing Climate

    How Do You Decide to Have a Baby When Climate Change Is Remaking Life on Earth? Any child born now could, by midlife, see massive storms inundate coastal cities and the Great Plains turn to dust. Could I have one, knowing I might not be able to keep her safe?

    Madeline Ostrander, March 23, 2016 (The Nation)

    Editor’s Note: This a long and profound think piece. Click thru and give it it’s due.

    “…[M]y friends of childbearing age tended to be writers and activists, scientists and scholars. When considering kids, they weighed not only their desires and finances but the state of the world. Many of them had read grim prognoses of what climate change would do to life on Earth. Even in the restrained language of science, the future holds unprecedented difficulties and disasters. For many people, these problems were an abstraction, but as an environmental journalist, I knew enough to imagine them in front of me…By 2050, when still in her 30s, [my child] could witness global wars waged over food and land…Sometimes when I considered the question [of having a child], the sadness nearly suffocated me… Throughout the winter, I sank deeper into my grief. I slept fitfully and clenched my teeth as I dreamed. I still worked, but barely, as if in a kind of daze. Then I awoke one morning in February to the opening of plum-tree blossoms in my backyard and walked among the decayed remains of last year’s leaves. In the woods nearby, the salmonberries had begun to open their green buds. Last year, spring came early and warm, followed by a summer of record-breaking heat that lit the Pacific Northwest’s forests on fire. Now that it was spring again, I wondered if I would try once more to conceive…” click here for more

    World’s Big Money Bets On New Energy

    Worldwide Renewable Energy Investment Hits A New Record

    Alejandro Davila Fragoso, March 24, 2016 (ThinkProgress)

    “Renewable energy investment set a new world record in 2015, with emerging economies led by China topping the investment of developed nations for the first time, according to [Global Trends In Renewable Energy Investment 2016 from the United Nations Environment Program. The] world invested $286 billion in green energy — some 3 percent more than the last record set in 2011 — mostly on wind and solar…On the other hand, coal and gas-fired electricity generation drew less than half the investment made in solar, wind, and other renewables…China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is responsible for about a third of worldwide investment, or $102.9 billion. The United States, the second largest emitter, is a distant second with $44.1 billion — 20 percent less than it invested in 2014…Were it not for renewables — excluding hydro energy — annual global CO2 emissions would have been about 1.5 metric gigatons higher in 2015...[but forecasting organizations say a peak in power sector CO2 emissions this decade is unlikely, and there’s doubt about a peak in emissions happening even early in the next decade…” click here for more

    Ireland Charges Ahead With Ocean Energy

    Irish wave and tidal sector surging along

    Andrew Williams,11 March 2016 (Maritime Journal)

    “Ireland is rapidly emerging as a key player in the development of wave and tidal energy technologies…[The country's marine energy market could be worth €15bn to Ireland's economy by 2050…[Last year, the government] awarded funding to the tune of €4.3 million for the further development and testing of three domestically produced marine energy technologies…[A] fully developed island of Ireland ocean energy sector, feeding into both home and export markets, could produce a total Net Present Value (NPV) of around €9 billion and provide…many thousands of jobs to both the Irish and Northern Irish economies…A key driver in the ongoing development of the wave and tidal energy sectors in Ireland has been the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP)…” click here for more

    China’s New Energy Boom

    China plans to dominate clean tech race

    Shin Wei Ng and Jonathan Gaventa, 17 March 2016 (E3G)

    “In March 2016, China published its official 13th Five-Year Plan, which sets out their development pathway from 2016 to 2020. This Plan builds upon the previous five years and aims to create a strong foundation for China’s green, robust and resilient economy over the next two decades…China has caught up to and overtaken the EU across a range of low carbon economic sectors, including clean energy investment, R&D spending, power transmission grids and production and sales of electric vehicles…The new 5 year plan accelerates these trends. China plans to more than double its wind energy capacity, nearly treble its solar capacity, and increase electric vehicles by a factor of 10…” click here for more

    Thursday, March 24, 2016

    Climate Change In 20 Presidential Debates

    Primary Debate Scorecard: Climate Change Through 20 Presidential Debates

    Kevin Kalhoefer, March 23, 2016 (Media Matters For America)

    “With 20 presidential primary debates now completed, debate moderators have only asked 22 questions about climate change, which is just 1.5 percent of the 1,477 questions posed…[and] moderators were more than twice as likely to ask a climate question to a Democratic candidate than to a Republican candidate…[T]hey have not asked a single climate question to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination. Nearly one-third of the climate questions were asked in the two most recent debates in Miami, following a bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors urging the networks to address the issue…Among the ten networks that have hosted presidential primary debates, the moderators on Univision have asked the highest percentage of questions about climate change…Nine of the 20 presidential debates have not included a question about climate change. Fox News, CNN, and ABC each moderated two debates that did not include a question about climate change, while Fox Business, PBS, and CBS each moderated one debate that did not feature a climate question…” click here for more

    Midwest Jobs Boom From New Energy

    Welcome to the 2016 Clean Jobs Midwest Survey: an in-depth look at Clean Energy Employment in the Midwest; 568,979 workers are employed in clean energy sectors.

    March 2016 (Clean Jobs Midwest)

    “…[12 Midwestern states currently employ over half a million workers in sectors including renewable energy generation, clean transmission, energy efficiency, clean fuels, and advanced transportation. The clean energy economy is growing in every Midwestern state – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin…Clean energy employment in the Midwest spans both traditional and emerging industries, shaping existing businesses and bringing new opportunities to the region…Not only does the clean economy employ hundreds of thousands, the region’s clean energy employers also project a growth rate of approximately 4.4% over the coming 12 months, for an additional 25,000 jobs…This is compared to the national average employment growth around 0.5 % per year over the next 10 years…” click here for more

    Govt. Preps For CA And NY Ocean Wind

    U.S. Moves to Develop Wind Energy Projects Off California and New York

    March 23, 2016 (gCaptain)

    “The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has made two major steps recently in the development of offshore wind energy projects in federal waters off the coasts of New York and California… BOEM announced its first step toward potential leasing for commercial wind energy development off California…[by announcing an unsolicited lease request from Trident Winds, LLC to develop a floating wind farm offshore Morro Bay, California…meets all the criteria…[BOEM also] made a major step towards potential commercial wind energy development offshore New York by defining a wind energy area about 11 miles south of Long Island…To date, BOEM has awarded eleven commercial wind energy leases in federal waters off the Atlantic coast…” click here for more

    New Energy Could Be The Difference In November

    New Poll: Solar Energy Could Push Independent Voters in Critical Swing States

    March 22, 2016 (The Alliance For Solar Choice/PR Newswire)

    “Independent voters in key swing states would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who vocally supported solar energy, according to a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies. When asked about the impact of a Republican candidate showing more vocal support for solar, over a quarter (27%) of voters who are notoriously hard to move said this would make them more likely to support that candidate. Polling shows that both Democratic candidates currently have an edge over Republican frontrunner Donald Trump…Fully 90% of voters polled favor increasing the use of solar energy, while just 7% oppose it. More than half (58%) strongly favor increasing the use of solar energy…Public Opinion Strategies conducted the survey of 600 independent voters in eleven key swing states…” click here for more

    Wednesday, March 23, 2016

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: How California plans to integrate distributed resources into its ISO market

    How California plans to integrate distributed resources into its ISO market; CAISO will be the first to open its market to rooftop PV, batteries, EVs and more

    Herman K. Trabish, June 24, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    A new era of grid operations is about to begin in California.

    The state's grid operator is preparing to offer aggregators of distributed energy resources (DERs) the opportunity to sell into its marketplace, the first in the nation to do so. The plan has the full attention of the state’s utilities and its solar and energy storage providers.

    “Small DERs cannot be treated the same as a large resource,” explainedCalifornia Independent System Operator (the ISO or CAISO) Sr. Public Information Officer Steven Greenlee.

    DERs are “the resources on the customer side or the distribution grid side of the electric system, such as rooftop solar, energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles, and demand response,” reports the ISO’s Distributed Energy Resource Provider (DERP) Draft Final Proposal. They are typically below the 500 kW minimum size required to sell into the ISO system.

    But with “proper aggregation” they will offer multiple operational benefits and the ISO is working to facilitate the participation of the DER provider (DERP) in wholesale markets consistent with reliable system operations.

    The plan “allows the aggregator, which could be a utility or any other entity, to have access to the ISO electricity market,” Greenlee said.

    Stakeholder buy in so far

    The “straw proposal,” an early draft of the ISO’s DERP initiative, was published last November to give stakeholders an opportunity to comment. Many of them found the original plan to be too convoluted.

    Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) “generally supports” the initiative and “largely agrees” with its aims, it said in its comment. Like other stakeholders, its clearest ask was for clarification of details this year rather than, as indicated by the straw proposal, in 2016.

    This would, PG&E officials wrote, coordinate the ISO’s program with related initiatives and California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) proceedings on distributed ersources. The utility also asked for an avenue for demand response participation and recommended a distinction between power from energy storage sources and generation sources.

    Southern California Edison (SCE) filed more specific and serious concernswith the straw proposal’s complexity. “Portions of this proposal, while allowing for aggregation, fundamentally show a distrust of such aggregation,” it asserted.

    The rules could turn out “so difficult to navigate that they serve as barriers to integration,” SCE officials wrote.

    SCE’s heightened sense of urgency is likely driven by its greater exposure to distributed resources. The utility bought more than 260 MW of energy storage last year when it contracted for 1,892 MW of power to fill its 2014 Local Capacity Requirements (LCR). It will replace generation lost from the shuttering of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and planned closures of natural gas plants required by water conservation measures.

    “The LCR storage contracts are likely to be the first examples of operational multiple use applications in California (outside of pilot programs),” explaineda joint filing on the ISO’s straw proposal by Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS), SolarCity, and Stem.

    Of the behind-the-meter storage acquired by SCE in its LCR buy, 50 MW were from AMS and 85 MW were from Stem. Under CPUC administration, “there are strict deadlines for commercial operation,” their joint filing said. “This initiative should prioritize the clarification and enablement of this configuration ahead of other multiple use applications.”

    Stem will have “hundreds” of distributed storage sites in operation by the end of this year, AMS will have 10 MW in operation next year, and SolarCity “has deployed over 300 energy storage systems for residential and commercial customers across California,” they report.

    “Few companies feel the urgency around resolving barriers for aggregated behind-the-meter resources as we do.”

    CAISO's final plan

    The final draft of the ISO's plan answers many of the stakeholder concerns, with a focus on details of expanded metering and telemetry, the communications and counting methods, and the technologies the grid operator will need.

    In today's California market, all of CAISO's centralized generators have aresource identity (resource ID) and are required to have “revenue quality metering.” That can be via a direct interaction between the ISO and the resource ID, or it can be through a scheduling coordinator that mediates between the ISO and the resource ID. But for distributed resources, assigning a resource ID to each one is not feasible.

    “We can’t put an ISO meter on every rooftop solar installation,” Greenlee said. “The cost would be prohibitive.”

    To solve that issue, the proposal allows a scheduling coordinator to take administrative control of aggregated distributed energy accounts and meter them with any technology, including any online technology, that suits their purposes, Greenlee explained. The aggregator can be its own scheduling coordinator or can hire a third-party.

    A directly connected interface between the ISO and the aggregator is no longer required, and any communication network or protocol that providesthe necessary data in a timely way is acceptable, Greenlee said. “It is up to the scheduling coordinator to give us settlement quality data and audit it and ensure accuracy if the ISO audits.”

    With the issue of counting the DERPs clarified, the proposal takes up the question of how the ISO can keep track of the multiple sources and types and locations of DERs with which it will have to deal.

    “There are some 4,900 market pricing nodes (PNodes) on the ISO system," Greenlee said. The system is also divided into load aggregation points (LAPs) that follow the territories of the state’s three investor-owned utilities. They are subdivided into sub-LAPs.

    Under the new proposal, “there can be multiple small resources across multiple PNodes but they can only be in one sub-LAP,” Greenlee explained.

    Within that sub-LAP, “aggregations that span multiple PNodes have to be the same type of resource and they have to be doing the same thing. We can’t have one resource sending electricity to the grid and another taking electricity from the grid.”

    One PNode, one sub-LAP

    “Several stakeholders expressed concern that DERP aggregations will be limited to a single sub-LAP,” the final draft notes, but “the ISO proposes to retain this design element.”

    Stakeholders object because this seems to needlessly limit aggregators geographically. But from a system reliability standpoint, the ISO thinks the limits could be necessary.

    “We are concerned it would impact our ability to assess congestion and identify critical constraints,” if DERP aggregations could bridge sub-LAPs, Greenlee said.

    “If in a market run a constraint is identified between these two sub-LAPs, then the DERP aggregation would be simultaneously on the ‘right’ side and on the ‘wrong’ side of the constraint,” the final draft explains. “The potential exists that a dispatch instruction issued to this DERP aggregation to alleviate a constraint between these two sub-LAPs may actually exacerbate the problem.”

    In layman's terms, that means that if there is some sort of energy supply or frequency issue between two sub-LAPs, the ISO wants to be able to call on distributed resource aggregations to alleviate that constraint. But if the group of DERs spans across both sub-LAP regions, then one group can't balance out the other.

    It is simpler for the ISO if all the resources are in one PNode and one sub-LAP, Greenlee said. The aggregator can mix and match resources at that point because the impact from the ISO’s perspective would be of a single, unidirectional flow at that PNode.

    “The ISO can know precisely the location of the DERP aggregation’s response to dispatch and hence can evaluate its effect on congestion management,” if aggregations don't span multiple sub-LAPs, the final proposal reports.

    Mixing DERs

    Because “many stakeholders expressed concern that the ISO proposal will not permit mixing of sub-resource types in a DERP aggregation,” the final proposal acknowledges, the ISO will only retain this limitation for DERP aggregations of sub-resources “across more than one PNode.”

    For aggregations across multiple PNodes, “all sub-resources must be homogenous and all sub-resources must move in the same direction as the ISO dispatch instruction,” the final proposal states.

    Homogenous aggregations are those in which all sub-resources are generation, energy storage acting together in charge or discharge only, or are load. For aggregations of energy storage, all sub-resources must be operating in the same mode (i.e., charging or discharging, but not a mix of the two) in response to an ISO dispatch.

    The ISO performs network analyses to make certain the system is receiving what the market is selling into it. Sub-resources in an aggregation across multiple PNodes can cause distribution variability. But the PNode distribution variability must be minimized or “the congestion impacts estimated in the network analysis will be off.”

    Until the ISO has enough operational experience to know whether thedistribution variability would be a problem, it wants to limit DER aggregations “to those that move in the same direction as the ISO dispatch instruction.”

    This is especially relevant to aggregated solar-plus-storage technologies that might be producing both load and generation, the final draft acknowledges. “The ISO recognizes that there is great interest in aggregating mixtures of rooftop solar, energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles, and demand response across multiple PNodes, without all the limitations required in this proposal. The ISO plans to examine such options in subsequent initiatives.”

    Wait ‘til next year

    Several stakeholders suggested provisions be made for demand response(DR) in aggregations of distributed resources, but the ISO chose to limit its role.

    A separate Proxy Demand Resource (PDR) and Reliability Demand Response Resource (RDRR) framework uses a baseline methodology performance measure to bring resources that reduce load into the marketplace.

    Stakeholders suggested including in the DERP final proposal both the alternative baselines for PDR, and the alignment between distribution level interconnection and the ISO New Resource Implementation process. They are part of a separate energy storage initiative.

    These suggestions were declined. To facilitate bringing aggregated DERs into its marketplace, the ISO wants to include initially only those that can be directly metered under the specified terms.

    It also declined PG&E’s request for a draft of the DERP agreement. It did promise to provide a draft fo the agreement further into the stakeholder process. It also committed to developing more details about DER tariffs in conjunction with stakeholders during implementation.

    Stakeholder reactions & the road ahead for CAISO

    Both PG&E and SCE are withholding judgment on the final draft.

    “Until we know more, our comments speak for themselves,” a PG&E statement said. "We are supportive of the initiative and we do look forward to being part of the stakeholder process.”

    “At this time, SCE is evaluating the latest draft,” its statement said.

    “The ISO is doing a great job and we are happy this is happening but we are anxious to get to full functionality,” said Alex J Morris, who wrote the straw proposal comments filed by the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA). DERs need to be brought into the ISO marketplace in conjunction with the implementation of the CPUC’s energy storage mandate, he insisted.

    There is no reason to put off alternative metering methods that accommodate multiple resources at the same site until 2016. The technology fixes that would allow “being able to aggregate multiple resources across multiple PNodes” is within reach, Morris said.

    “We understand their concerns about congestion but we believe they can figure this out,” he said. "If the ISO will share more about what they can and cannot do, we can support them in reaching full functionality.”

    “At a high level, the DERP final draft is a solid step forward,” agreed Stem’s Ted Ko, who co-authored the joint SolarCity-AMS-Stem filing. Changes in the handling of heterogeneous resources “are necessary and useful but we don’t know yet whether they’ll be sufficient to create a new market opportunity.”

    The cost of direct metering and the rules and requirements imposed by the final draft could be too burdensome for DER aggregators, he noted. Before the program is implemented, he urged, the ISO should consider ways “to aggregate load control resources that can’t be direct metered economically.”

    The ISO will take formal comments on the final draft through June 24, Greenlee said. If approved by the Board in mid-July, the ISO will probably file by early autumn with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That approval will require at least 60 days.

    While optimistic stakeholders have early next year earmarked for when the market will be up and running, “it is undetermined at this time when the program will be implemented,” Greenlee said.