ORIGINAL REPORTING: New NatGas plants or New Energy?
Gas plants or renewables? New LBNL study helps utilities compare the risks; A financial tool based on probabilities could make generation investments easier for utilities and IPPs
Herman K. Trabish, June 29, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, California and other states have begun looking at higher renewables penetrations and the question of how much natgas is needed has become even more critical.
With wholesale power prices low and federal power regulations in limbo, choosing the right generation investments has never been trickier — or riskier — for utilities and independent power producers. In 2016, natural gas provided 42% of U.S. power capacity and led all resources with 34% of total generation. Solar, however, led in capacity added with more than 14,700 MW, accounting for 39% of the U.S. total. And wind energy accounted for 30% of the capacity installed since 2012. In 2016 its total installed capacity reached above 82 GW in the U.S. In deciding between renewables and natural gas generation, a utility wants the most economic and reliable choice. Using Probability of Exceedance to Compare the Resource Risk of Renewable and Gas-Fired Generation from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) offers a new way to compare them, showing that renewable resources have added value as hedges against natural gas price volatility.
The study’s ‘statistical concept’ quantifies the probable risks of each resource and factors them into a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) comparison, according to LBNL Researcher and paper co-author Mark Bolinger. Probability of exceedance is commonly used by independent power producers and utility planners to describe the uncertainty of wind and solar projects’ output and can be used to make projections about natural gas prices.” Statisticians label the mid-range case P50, but calculate a probability for all possibilities from P1 to P99. The LBNL study quantifies the risk at each P-level of expected renewables output levels and natural gas prices. The statistical conclusion is that h0igher-than-expected gas prices are likely riskier to ratepayers than lower-than-expected wind or solar output, according to Bolinger… click here for more