NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: The Wires New Energy Needs

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    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish

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  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, July 18:

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Is cap and trade the climate solution? The jury's still out
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Why are the newest distribution system buzzwords 'hosting capacity analysis'?

    Monday, January 22, 2018

    TODAY’S STUDY: The Wires New Energy Needs

    Keys To Meeting Large Customer Demand For Renewable Energy

    January 2018 (David Gardiner and Assoc. and Wind Energy Foundation)

    Introduction

    This report examines the opportunity to meet large customer demand for renewable energy through transmission upgrades and expansion. The need for this report is driven by two key emerging trends: (1) demand from large corporations is growing rapidly, as many are choosing renewable power to meet their existing needs as well as supply new demand; and (2) renewable energy is more affordable than ever, but customers’ access to this affordable energy is constrained by inadequate transmission planning.

    The report examines opportunities across four key Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs): the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the PJM Interconnection (PJM), and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). These four RTOs are of particular interest because they span geographic regions with high on-shore wind resources (especially ERCOT and SPP), as illustrated in Figure 2.1 The Wind Energy Foundation commissioned this report on behalf of its A Renewable America campaign.

    Executive Summary

    This report examines the need to expand and upgrade U.S. transmission lines to meet the significant renewable energy demand of large non-utility customers, especially from Fortune 500 companies.

    Investment in transmission infrastructure is essential to support not only significant additions of renewable generation to meet corporate and other demand, but also for the longer-term electrification of transport, heating, and cooling. We found that: (1) renewable energy commitments from large corporations are growing rapidly and will lead to significant renewable energy procurement through 2025; (2) most of the best renewable energy resources are in a 15-state MidAmerican region, while load growth is highest outside the region; (3) expanded and upgraded transmission is needed to unlock new low-cost renewable energy for corporate and other consumers; and (4) transmission planners should account for corporate demand.

    Key Findings

    Corporate commitments to procure renewable energy are growing rapidly and are projected to continue to do so.

    • Renewable energy procurement from large institutional buyers, including many Fortune 500 companies, has increased considerably in recent years and is one of the most dramatic recent changes in electricity markets.2 Since 2013, U.S. corporations have signed nearly 9 gigawatts (GW) of long-term wind and solar power contracts (equal to over 16 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power over 7.5 million homes).3

    • The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), representing more than 100 U.S. corporate buyers, set a goal to deploy 60 GW of new renewable energy capacity in the U.S. by 2025 —equal to 32 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power 50 million homes.4 Considering the 9 GW of renewable energy already procured by corporate purchasers since 2013, there is at least 51 GW remaining in this goal.

    • These companies have a variety of reasons for increasing their demand for renewable energy, such as lower costs, price risk reductions, and corporate environmental initiatives.

    Transmission expansion and upgrades are needed to spur enough renewable energy development to meet this growing demand, and can provide other benefits.

    • The strongest and often lowest-cost renewable energy resources are located in the Mid-American region, 15 states between the Rockies and the Mississippi River: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

    • This region accounts for 88 percent of the country’s wind technical potential and 56 percent of the country’s utility-scale solar photovoltaic technical potential, yet is home to only 30 percent of projected 2050 electricity demand (see Section IV). This finding suggests that future transmission is needed to export this electricity from this high-production region to the growing demand outside of this region.

    • Transmission upgrades and expansion provide large non-utility customers access to low-cost renewable energy through power purchase agreements (PPAs).

    • Increasing the supply of renewable energy through transmission can deliver cost savings, grid reliability benefits, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions to all customers.

    • Upgrading and expanding the existing transmission network would also relieve congestion problems and could lower costs for non-PPA consumers.5

    Transmission planning fails to account for the rapid increase in corporate and other institutional demand and does not focus adequately on the need to transmit renewable electricity from the central U.S. region to the rest of the country or on remote high-quality renewable resource areas within each region.

    • Current transmission planning accounts for predicted customer demand, known power plants and their locations, grid reliability issues requirements, and public policy requirements, such as state and federal environmental and clean energy standards.

    • Transmission planners may, in rare instances, account for voluntary goals, such as statements by Governors, but do not account for the growing voluntary demand from large corporate purchasers.

    • Transmission planning is performed in fragmented sub-regions of the country, mainly through the Regional Transmission Organizations. Large amounts of potential wind and solar energy are lost every day in America’s heartland due to the lack of interregional transmission planning to deliver them to markets in the East and West. There are particular challenges associated with transferring electricity from the Eastern Interconnection to the Western Interconnection, which can be done today through limited direct-current interconnections, but future improvements could enable a unified national power grid.

    Key Recommendations:

    Corporate buyers and other large institutional customers should:

    • Encourage transmission planners and state Public Service Commissions to increase access to affordable, renewable energy by approving upgrades and expansion to transmission lines;

    • Participate in regional and inter-regional transmission planning conversations to ensure future transmission infrastructure meets customer demand for renewable energy; and

    • Urge FERC to continue work to improve the interregional planning processes consistent with Order 1000.

    Operators of Regional Transmission Organizations and others involved in transmission planning should:

    • Incorporate voluntary, large customer demand in transmission planning.

    • Strengthen planning across RTOs and other regional planning authorities to ensure efficient interregional transmission…

    Conclusion

    Our analysis finds that upgrading and expanding transmission is essential to deliver significant amounts of new renewable energy to large customers. Four key findings arose from this analysis:

    1. Corporate demand for cheap, clean renewable energy is growing.

    2. Renewable energy production and potential is concentrated in the central U.S. region, far from most future electricity demand.

    3. New transmission is needed to meet this growing demand.

    4. Transmission planners are typically not incorporating this rising tide of voluntary corporate renewable energy demand into plans to build new transmission.

    Based on these findings, we recommend that corporate buyers and other large institutional customers:

    • Encourage transmission planners and state Public Service Commissions to increase access to affordable, renewable energy by approving upgrades and expansion to transmission lines;

    • Participate in regional and inter-regional transmission planning conversations to ensure future transmission infrastructure meets customer demand for renewable energy; and

    • Urge FERC to continue work to improve interregional planning processes consistent with Order 1000.

    We recommend that operators of Regional Transmission Organizations:

    • Incorporate voluntary, large customer demand in transmission planning.

    • Strengthen planning across RTOs and other regional planning authorities to ensure efficient interregional transmission.

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