Batteries

img_2384-6

Wind & Solar cheaper than Coal or Gas. #auspol 

A new study by energy experts from the Australian National University suggests that a 100 per cent renewable energy electricity grid – with 90 per cent of power coming from wind and solar – will be significantly cheaper future option than a coal or gas-fired network in Australia.

The study, led by Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu and Matthew Stocks, suggests that with most of Australia’s current fleet of coal generators due to retire before 2030, a mix of solar PV and wind energy, backed up by pumped hydro, will be the cheapest option for Australia, and this includes integration costs.
The report says that wind is currently about $64/MWh and solar $78/MWh, but the costs of both technologies are falling fast, with both expected to cost around $50/MWh when much of the needed capacity is built. 

With the cost of balancing, this results in a levellised cost of energy (LCOE) of around $75/MWh.
By contrast, the LCOE of coal is $80/MWh, and some estimates – such as those by Bloomberg New Energy Finance which adds in factors such as the cost of finance risk – put it much higher.
Blakers says his team did not need to dial that higher price of coal into the equation: “We don’t include a risk premium or carbon pricing or fuel price escalation or threat of premature closure because renewables doesn’t need any of this to compete,” he says.
Nor do his estimates include any carbon price, which will further tip the balance in favour of renewables.

 Nor do they include future cost reductions in wind and solar.

 “There is no end in sight to cost reductions,” Blakers says.
“Much of Australia’s coal power stations will reach the end of their economic life over the next 15 years. 

It will be cheaper to replace these with renewable energy.”

The two key outcomes of this modelling is that the additional cost of balancing renewable energy supply with demand on an hourly basis throughout the year is relatively small: $A25-$A30/MWh (US$19-23/MWh), and that means that the overall cost of a wind and solar dominated grid is much lower than previous estimates.
Indeed, the ANU team suggest that less storage is needed than thought. 

The optimum amount of pumped hydro is 15-25 GW of power capacity with 15-30 hours of energy storage.
blakers 100This is based on more wind than solar. 

If Hwind and PV annual energy generation is constrained to be similar then higher power (25 GW) and lower energy storage (12-21hours) is optimum.
Total storage of 450 GWh +/- 30% is optimum for all the scenarios. This is equivalent to the average electricity consumed in the NEM in 19 hours.
At this stage it should be pointed out that Blakers is a long time proponent of pumped hydro, and this modelling appears designed to support that technology.


For instance, the modelling avoids any “heroic” assumptions about technologies that have not been deployed at scale – meaning battery storage and solar thermal and storage are not included, and neither is geothermal or ocean energy.
Nor does the modelling – which looks at every hour of the year based on data from 2006-2010 – assume other opportunities such as demand management, when consumers agree and sometimes get paid for reducing their load at critical moments on the grid.
The modelling shows that a large fraction of the balancing costs relates to “periods of several successive days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years.”
Substantial reductions in balancing costs are possible through contractual load shedding (as occurred in Tomago aluminium smelter and BHP’s Olympic Dam recently), and the occasional use of legacy coal and gas generators to charge pumped hydro reservoirs if needed.
Another option is managing the charging times of batteries in electric cars.
“Although we have not modelled dynamical stability on a time scale of sub-seconds to minutes we note that pumped hydro) can provide excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control,” the authors write.
Pumped hydro has become a focus of attention in recent weeks, advocated by the Coalition government and others, seemingly in the absence of any consideration about the falling costs of battery storage.
EnergyAustralia last week announced a study into a large 100MW pumped hydro facility on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsular.

 This work includes contributions from the ANU team.
So, how much does all this cost? 

The ANU team estimates $184 billion, or $152 billion at future prices of wind and solar. 

But before the Coalition and others start to hyperventilate about the billions to be spent, the ANU team also point out that this means no fuel costs in the future.
That’s why the key number is $75/MWh, which is around one third of the price that Queenslanders have been paying so far this year for their coal and gas power, making the investment in a 116MW solar farm by zinc producer Sun Metals, which is looking to expand its facility, as a good idea.
Some other interesting points from the study:
+ A sensitivity analysis has been performed on the baseline scenario by varying the following cost- components by +/- 25%: PV, wind, PHES, HVDC/HVAC, system lifetimes and discount rate. 

The effect on LCOE is less than +/- $2/MWh except for system lifetimes, for which the effect is +/- $5/MWh, and wind capital cost and discount rate, for both of which the effect is +/- $10/MWh (about 10%).
+ Large scale deployment of electric vehicles and heat pumps would increase electricity demand by up to 40%. 

Importantly these devices have large scale storage in the form of batteries in vehicles and heat/cool in water stores and the building fabric. 

This storage may substantially reduce LCOB in the future.
+ The LCOB (levellised cost of balancing) calculated in this work is an upper bound.

 A large fraction of LCOB relates to periods of several days of overcast and windless weather that occur once every few years. 

Substantial reductions in LCOB are possible through reduced capital and maintenance costs, contractual load shedding, the occasional.
+ In most scenarios the modelling meets the NEM reliability standard of no more than 0.002% of unmet load (4 GWh per year) without demand management.” 

However, in other scenarios we assume that demand management is employed during critical periods, which are typically cold wet windless weeks in winter that occur once every few years.
“During these periods the PHES reservoirs run down to zero over a few days because there is insufficient wind and PV generation to recharge them, leading to a shortfall in supply.

 The amount of PV, wind and PHES storage could be increased to cover this shortfall. However, this substantial extra investment would be utilised only for a few days every few years.”
One suggestion is to relax the reliability standards: “A portion of the savings in investment in PV, wind and PHES would be available to compensate certain consumers for partial loss of supply for a few days every few years.

 For example, reducing the overall cost of electricity supply by $2/MWh by allowing an unmet load of 336 GWh per 5 years would save $2 billion per 5 years, which is equivalent to $6,000 per unmet MWh.
Hmmm, but just imagine the headlines.

Press link for more: Renew economy

img_2385-2

Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret. #auspol 

Clean energy’s dirty secret Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems
But that’s no reason for governments to stop supporting them
ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. 

Yet something remarkable is happening. 

From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. 

BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. 

It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. 

About time, too. 

There is a $20trn hitch, though. 

To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers.

 Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. 

Yet green energy has a dirty secret. 

The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. 

That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. 

Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.


Policymakers are already seeing this inconvenient truth as a reason to put the brakes on renewable energy. 

In parts of Europe and China, investment in renewables is slowing as subsidies are cut back. 

However, the solution is not less wind and solar. 

It is to rethink how the world prices clean energy in order to make better use of it.
Shock to the system
At its heart, the problem is that government-supported renewable energy has been imposed on a market designed in a different era. 

For much of the 20th century, electricity was made and moved by vertically integrated, state-controlled monopolies. 

From the 1980s onwards, many of these were broken up, privatised and liberalised, so that market forces could determine where best to invest. 

Today only about 6% of electricity users get their power from monopolies.

 Yet everywhere the pressure to decarbonise power supply has brought the state creeping back into markets. 

This is disruptive for three reasons. 

The first is the subsidy system itself.

 The other two are inherent to the nature of wind and solar: their intermittency and their very low running costs. All three help explain why power prices are low and public subsidies are addictive.

First, the splurge of public subsidy, of about $800bn since 2008, has distorted the market. 

It came about for noble reasons—to counter climate change and prime the pump for new, costly technologies, including wind turbines and solar panels. 

But subsidies hit just as electricity consumption in the rich world was stagnating because of growing energy efficiency and the financial crisis. 

The result was a glut of power-generating capacity that has slashed the revenues utilities earn from wholesale power markets and hence deterred investment.
Second, green power is intermittent. 

The vagaries of wind and sun—especially in countries without favourable weather—mean that turbines and solar panels generate electricity only part of the time. 

To keep power flowing, the system relies on conventional power plants, such as coal, gas or nuclear, to kick in when renewables falter. 

But because they are idle for long periods, they find it harder to attract private investors. 

So, to keep the lights on, they require public funds.
Everyone is affected by a third factor: renewable energy has negligible or zero marginal running costs—because the wind and the sun are free.


 In a market that prefers energy produced at the lowest short-term cost, wind and solar take business from providers that are more expensive to run, such as coal plants, depressing power prices, and hence revenues for all.
Get smart
The higher the penetration of renewables, the worse these problems get—especially in saturated markets. 

In Europe, which was first to feel the effects, utilities have suffered a “lost decade” of falling returns, stranded assets and corporate disruption. 

Last year, Germany’s two biggest electricity providers, E.ON and RWE, both split in two. 

In renewable-rich parts of America power providers struggle to find investors for new plants. 

Places with an abundance of wind, such as China, are curtailing wind farms to keep coal plants in business.
The corollary is that the electricity system is being re-regulated as investment goes chiefly to areas that benefit from public support. 

Paradoxically, that means the more states support renewables, the more they pay for conventional power plants, too, using “capacity payments” to alleviate intermittency. 

In effect, politicians rather than markets are once again deciding how to avoid blackouts.

 They often make mistakes: Germany’s support for cheap, dirty lignite caused emissions to rise, notwithstanding huge subsidies for renewables. 

Without a new approach the renewables revolution will stall.
The good news is that new technology can help fix the problem.

Digitalisation, smart meters and batteries are enabling companies and households to smooth out their demand—by doing some energy-intensive work at night, for example.

 This helps to cope with intermittent supply. 

Small, modular power plants, which are easy to flex up or down, are becoming more popular, as are high-voltage grids that can move excess power around the network more efficiently.

The bigger task is to redesign power markets to reflect the new need for flexible supply and demand. 

They should adjust prices more frequently, to reflect the fluctuations of the weather.

 At times of extreme scarcity, a high fixed price could kick in to prevent blackouts. 

Markets should reward those willing to use less electricity to balance the grid, just as they reward those who generate more of it. 

Bills could be structured to be higher or lower depending how strongly a customer wanted guaranteed power all the time—a bit like an insurance policy.

 In short, policymakers should be clear they have a problem and that the cause is not renewable energy, but the out-of-date system of electricity pricing. 

Then they should fix it.

Press link for more: economist.com

img_2428-1

Tipping point for Renewable Energy #auspol 

The tipping point for renewable energy is nearly here
Renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035
By Jonathan Woetzel and Matt Rogers

Reuters

.

Renewable power is taking off around the world and fast approaching a tipping point in its development. Consider these recent developments:
Recent solar-power capacity auctions have come in at record low levels, underscoring how quickly the costs of renewable energy are falling: $0.053/kwh in India, $0.035/kwh in Mexico, $0.024/kwh in Abu Dhabi, $0.029/kwh in Chile, and $0.039/kwh in the United States.
The fastest-growing job category in the U.S. these days is that of wind-turbine service engineer with median pay around $51,050 a year.
And in January, China said it would shut 85 coal plants and instead invest $350 billion in renewable sources of energy.
A report from the McKinsey Global Institute published this week, “ Beyond the supercycle: How technology is reshaping resources ,” estimates that renewables, primarily solar and wind, could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035, reshaping global electricity markets in the process.
Technological advances are driving these developments. The rapid growth of renewables is part of a bigger trend of rising global energy productivity. Increased energy efficiency in residential, industrial and commercial buildings, lower demand for energy in transportation due to the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles and ride sharing as well as falling costs and greater penetration of renewables is transforming the way we consume energy.
As a result of these developments, we calculate that the growth of primary energy demand worldwide will slow and could even peak in 2025 if new technologies such as robotics, data analytics and the Internet of Things are adopted rapidly. Global demand for oil and coal will most likely peak and could decline over the next two decades.

But there are regional differences. For example, the United States, China, and India are major consumers of oil. But while demand is likely to continue growing strongly in China and India due to a rapidly emerging middles class, it could slow in the U.S. due to increased energy efficiency and shifts in transport.
Renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, grew rapidly during the 2003-2015 commodities “supercycle” as people searched for alternatives to high-priced oil and gas. Since 2001, total solar generation worldwide has grown 50% annually while wind-power generation has grown at an annual rate of 24%. China is aggressively investing in renewables and is the leading investor in renewables in the world.
While government policy to diversify energy sources has driven much of this near-term growth, a sharp fall in technology costs has accelerated the deployment of renewables to the point where in some regions they now can compete with coal or gas without subsidies. The cost of solar modules worldwide has fallen 80% since 2008, and the levelized cost of energy for wind has fallen 50% since 2009. In recent power auctions for new construction in South America for example, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations have come in at below $0.03/kWh unsubsidized—about one-tenth the cost of solar plants six years ago.

American Wind Energy Association

A global tipping point could be reached in 2025, when solar PV and wind power could become competitive with the marginal cost of natural gas and coal production, accelerating the transition. Growth rates in renewable power deployment would likely accelerate after that.
Research and development has found new ways to improve efficiency, including with back contact cells for solar PVs (cells without electric contacts on the light-collecting side), improved thin film materials for solar PVs, and modulating blade position in real time for wind. Efforts are also under way to reduce material costs by creating less waste, for example with kerfless wafers, which require no saw to cut a silicon wafer off a large ingot, and to extend the lifetime of the equipment. This includes efforts to improve manufacturing quality to reduce defects in solar panels and increase use of predictive maintenance on wind turbines to ensure efficiency for as long as possible.
Soft costs associated with installing panels and turbines are likely to continue falling, too. Installers will continue to develop more efficient methods. The potential for breakthroughs in solar PV technology, such as next-generation thin film materials, reduced capital intensity of manufacturing capacity as well as continued improvements in the scale and capacity factor of wind technology means the levelized cost of energy could continue to fall.
One of the big issues for renewables are the technical limits of intermittent power in the grid—that is, power that cannot be dispatched at will and is not generated in a continuous fashion. When renewables hit those limits, the energy they produce will need to be stored.
But this is an obstacle that can be overcome, this time with technology from the consumer electronics sector. The levelized costs of storage have been declining rapidly, and a number of promising technologies are being developed to store energy in a cost-effective manner, such as through grid-scale lithium ion batteries, flow batteries, compressed air systems, and thermal storage.
Technological developments tend to outperform expectations and surprise with their upside and speed. In the case of renewable energies and the resource sector, the winds of innovation are gusting through.
Jonathan Woetzel is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute and senior partner of McKinsey, based in Shanghai. Matt Rogers leads McKinsey’s Sustainability and Resources practice and is a senior partner of the Firm, based in San Francisco. 

Press link for more: Marketwatch.com

img_2384-4

Global $7 Billion Renewable Energy Off-Grid Market #auspol 

Global $7 Billion Renewable Energy Off-Grid Market Analysis & Forecasts 2017-2027 – Research and Markets
DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Renewable Energy Off-Grid 2017-2027” report to their offering.

This unique report reflects the new reality that energy harvesting – creation of off-grid electricity where it is needed, using ambient energy – is now widely deployable up to 100kW and beyond. This is resulting in dramatic new capabilities such as the rapidly growing number of land, water and air vehicles that operate entirely on sunshine and electricity becoming affordable and feasible in remote parts of Africa.
It will result in the electric vehicle that has longer range than the vehicles it replaces. It makes autonomous vehicles more feasible and shipping much more efficient. Only a global up-to-date view makes sense in this fast-moving subject embracing Google airborne wind energy (AWE), Facebook solar robot aircraft, Siemens small wind turbines and regenerative braking. There are already autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and navigation buoys that combine solar and wave power.
Energy harvesting is now a booming business at the level of 10 watts to 100 kilowatts and beyond, off-grid. That includes making a vehicle, boat or plane more efficient such as energy harvesting shock absorbers and high speed flywheels, reversing alternators and motors for instance on the propeller of a boat under sail or moored in a tidestream and regeneratively soaring aircraft and braking cars and forklifts. Similar technology now harvests the energy of a swinging construction vehicle, dropping elevator and so on and soon the heat of engines will be harvested in kilowatts and off-grid wave power will become commonplace.
High power energy harvesting also embraces off-grid creation of electricity that will be used generally such as that harnessing photovoltaics, small wind turbines and what enhances or replaces them such as the new airborne wind energy (AWE).
This is underwritten by both strong demand for today’s forms of high power EH and a recent flood of important new inventions that increase the power capability and versatility of many of the basic technologies of energy harvesting. It all reads onto the megatrends of this century – reducing global warming and local air, water and noise pollution, relieving poverty and conserving resources.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

img_2436

It only takes 10% to cause disruption. #auspol 

When I asked whether consumer choices are an act of political rebellion, I noted that it only took a 10% cut in coal demand to radically slash the coal industry’s credit worthiness.
What if we could do the same thing for oil?

There’s good reason to assume that just such a disruption is coming, and sooner than many people think. Consider these recent headlines from around the web:
— Smart cars going 100% electric in the US (Cleantechnica)

—Sydney Airport orders 40 more electric buses (Cleantechnica – again…)

—Vattenfall (a giant Swedish utility) converting entire vehicle fleet to electric

—20% of new buses in China are now electric (yours truly)
Headlines like these are coming so thick and fast these days that we have to pick and choose which ones we write about. Individually, they are all just a blip in the global picture of oil demand, but collectively it won’t be long before they really start to add up. And when they do start to add up, it won’t take too much cut in demand to radically reshape the future prospects for oil.
Of course, all of the above stories are about adoption of existing technologies at current pricing. But what if prices were to fall further, and faster, than they have so far? Wards Auto is reporting on conversations with auto industry insiders who say electric vehicle batteries should be under $100 per kilowatt hour by 2020, and $80 not long after that. That’s a figure well below the $125 per kilowatt hour that the Department of Energy set in 2010 as a target for cost parity with internal combustion engines.
And once we reach cost parity, there’s little that can be done by dropping tax credits or removing other incentives, to slow the march to electrification.
It’s important to note, of course, that electrification isn’t the only—or even the best—way to reduce oil demand. From massive investments in cycling infrastructure to growing transit ridership in many major cities, there are plenty of other trends underway that could squeeze oil demand from all sides. And once you squeeze oil demand enough, the infrastructural, political and economic advantages that Big Oil once enjoyed quickly start to melt away.
Take, for example, gas stations. In cities with high uptake of electric vehicles, decent transit and cycle infrastructure, and restrictions on polluting vehicles, how long will it be for sales to drop far enough that the current number of gas stations are no longer viable? And once gas stations start thinning out, there’s one more reason for everyone else to abandon their gas cars too.
I look forward to revisiting this topic in ten years time. I suspect we may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly things have changed. I’ll leave the last word to Tony Seba, whose ambitious predictions about oil industry disruption I’ve written about before. In response to a recent tweet from a certain Mr Musk, Seba had this to say:
All my #CleanDisruption predictions are accelerating and it looks like they’re happening ahead of 2030! #solar #EV #batteries #selfdriving https://t.co/wnA3YliOpK
— Tony Seba (@tonyseba) February 15, 2017

I, for one, am beginning to believe he is right.

Press link for more: Treehugger.com

img_2385-1

Time to bring Wind & Solar together. #auspol 

WANT TO IMPROVE WIND AND SOLAR POWER? BRING THEM TOGETHER.

Intro image

What’s keeping solar and wind power from fully taking over the electric grid? 

For starters, the sun only shines during the day. 

Wind blows intermittently, is seasonally variable, and is not always blowing when the energy is needed. 

But what if solar and wind work together?

 “Wind resource tends to complement solar resource,” says Sarah Kurtz of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

 “Here in Colorado, for instance, the windiest time is during the winter and spring months. 

In winter, we don’t have as much sunshine, but we tend to get more wind and stronger wind.”

A handful of enterprising renewable energy developers are now exploring how solar and wind might better work together, developing hybrid solar–wind projects to take advantage of the power-generating strengths of each — with the two technologies in tandem serving as a better replacement for climate-warming fossil fuels than either could be alone.
Tacking on Solar
On the rolling plains just west of Australia’s Great Dividing Range, construction is expected to begin on a 10-megawatt solar farm adjacent to 73 wind turbines that are already online. 

According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency — ARENA, a governmental agency tasked with increasing deployment of renewable energy — which has invested A$9.9 million in the project a couple hours’ drive southwest of Sydney, the co-location of solar and wind provides more continuous energy generation than having either technology working alone.
Co-locating wind and solar plants can save money on grid connections, site development and approvals.But that’s not the only benefit. 

Co-locating wind and solar plants can save money on grid connections, site development and approvals, says ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

 By building the Gullen Solar Farm adjacent to the existing wind project, Frischknecht estimates savings as high as A$6 million — reducing the cost of the project by a full 20 percent.
Frischknecht hopes that the Gullen Range project will serve as a model for how tacking solar onto existing wind farms can boost its application.

 “Scale isn’t as important for competitiveness when plants are co-located, meaning the approach could also unlock new markets for medium-scale solar PV projects,” he says. 

And just how big could these new markets be? 

Frischknecht points to an ARENA-funded study that found an estimated 1,000 MW of solar generating potential at existing wind farms in Australia — enough, ARENA calculates, to power 700,000 homes.
“The lessons learned at Gullen Range will be invaluable, as this is the first project of its type in Australia,” Frischknecht says. “It has the potential to cement industry confidence in the approach and provide a blueprint for similar projects to follow.”
Battery Boosters
Expanding power production and saving money on installation aren’t the only benefits that can come from combining wind and solar. 

When applied to microgrid systems — local energy grids that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously — combined solar and wind can help cut battery costs as well, says NREL’s Kurtz.
According to Kurtz, microgrids are finding application in places like Hawaii and India where utility prices are exorbitantly high or where communities are too remote to be tied into the macrogrid.
Microgrids powered by photovoltaics require battery storage, since people need power when the sun isn’t shining. The problem is, batteries are still quite expensive. 

Adding wind can help cut the battery costs, since the wind can (and often does) blow when the sun doesn’t shine.
“If you’re in a location where the wind does blow, and especially where the wind complements solar, until the batteries get cheaper than the wind power itself, you’re going to be better off adding wind [than batteries],” Kurtz says.
The microgrid will still need some form of storage, “because there will always be a night when the wind isn’t blowing,” she adds. 

But the solar and wind combination “can make battery demand much smaller.”
Combining solar photovoltaics and wind turbines at the same location can actually yield up to twice the amount of electricity as having either system working alone.

As these types of hybrid systems are just now coming online — ARENA hopes that the Gullen Solar Farm will start producing power in July 2017 — there isn’t yet a lot of empirical data about how well they actually perform. 

But solar developers have been wary that the shadows cast by wind turbines could potentially stunt the production of solar power.
Research, however, is allaying some of those fears.

 Simulations conducted in 2013 by the Reiner Lemoine Institut and Solarpraxis AG, both in Germany, showed that shading losses would be as low as 1 to 2 percent on average. 

They also suggested that combining solar photovoltaics and wind turbines at the same location can actually yield up to twice the amount of electricity as having either system working alone in the same land area. 

The Gullen Range project, for its part, avoids shading losses altogether by locating the photovoltaics on a northern facing slope beyond the range of any turbines’ shadows.
Virtual Hybrids
In Texas, the Defense Logistics Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense is getting around any potential downsides of co-locating the two technologies another way — by taking a more “virtual” approach to hybrid wind and solar. 

The agency is working with developer Apex Clean Energy to meet 100 percent of Fort Hood’s electricity needs with onsite solar PV panels that are complemented by additional energy wired in from a wind farm in Floyd County, more than 300 miles northwest of the facility.

Major General John Uberty, Fort Hood deputy commanding general, showcased the U.S. Army post’s new solar and wind renewable energy project at a groundbreaking ceremony in January. 

U.S. Army photo by Kelby Wingert, Fort Hood Public Affairs

Apex put the solar onsite because the Army wanted the grid security provided by local generation that isn’t vulnerable to power outages and other transmission constraints, Apex director of public affairs Dahvi Wilson explains. But Apex and the Army chose to site the turbines where the wind resource was the strongest. The setup illustrates the point that “[a] hybrid project does not necessary have to be co-located,” Wilson says.
Wilson is enthusiastic about how the projects helps make these renewables make sense from an economic as well as environmental standpoint.
“Wind energy offers the cheapest option for new energy construction currently available in the U.S., while solar energy can be more expensive to develop and install,” Wilson explains. 

“By combining the costs into one product, the blended cost is competitive with other new sources of energy.” 

Press link for more: Ensia.com

Ensia finals

Now we need to build it. #auspol #climate 

When you look to the year ahead, what do you see? 

Ensia recently invited eight global thought leaders to share their thoughts.

 In this interview with Ensia contributor Lisa Palmer for Ensia’s 2017 print annual, Christiana Figueres, former executive sectretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, responds to three questions: 

What will be the biggest challenge to address or opportunity to grasp in your field in 2017? 

Why? And what should we be doing about it now?

A host of trends threatens to undermine the stability and security of our communities, including widening inequality, record youth unemployment, rapid urbanization, increasing pressure on resources, commodity price volatility and, exacerbating all of this, an increasingly unpredictable and extreme climate.
In 2015, the world came together and agreed we would not let these trends run rampant through our societies — that, instead, we would work toward a common set of positive goals.

 The Sustainable Development Goals, Paris climate change agreement and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction together provided us with a common vision for a more peaceful and resilient world.


Now we need to buckle down and build it, even if we encounter unexpected resistance or challenges to our agreed goals.

That means ensuring that every decision we take as a society is aligned with the goals we have set.

 Our fiscal and monetary policy, our infrastructure and planning decisions, our social welfare provision — all of this must point in one clear direction, so that no flank of our actions undermines the rest.

We will not be able to build more peaceful and resilient communities if in the pursuit of our objectives we run roughshod over each other’s priorities and concerns. 

Instead, we must come together to, for example, understand what actions we take to limit temperature rise to 1.5 °C (3.6 °F) mean for how we use our land, how they can be harnessed as opportunities to reduce youth unemployment and deliver more inclusive prosperity, how they can offer opportunities to bring energy access and economic opportunity to the remotest of places through technologies such as decentralized solar.

 Not only is opening up this wider invitation to a world of opportunity the right thing to do — it is our best insurance against alienation, anger and violence. 

Press link for more: ensia.com

img_2399-1

Coal-fired generators have no future. #auspol 

The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia

By Ian Verrender

An investment of that magnitude also requires huge amounts of project debt 
Govt may fund coal power

Treasurer Scott Morrison says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation could be used to fund new clean coal power stations.

What it found was that none of the new technologies can deliver power as cheaply as our current batch of carbon belching coal plants.
When it came to renewable energy, wind was the winner while among the new-generation fossil fuel plants, gas-fired combined cycle plants and supercritical coal-fired generation came out on top.


In a nutshell, the study explains that renewable energy has high upfront costs but is extremely cheap to run, given the fuel — wind and sun — comes at no cost. 

Gas plants are cheaper to build, but have higher running costs.
But there’s one crucial cost that weighs heavily on the minds of investors and bankers. 

And that’s carbon.
According to the CSIRO, if a carbon price was introduced, the economics of power generation shifts in favour of renewables, although a relatively high price is required. 

Wind is competitive with new-generation coal at $30 a tonne of carbon dioxide, solar at $70 a tonne.
Carbon storage, the kind of technology the Government is now looking at, can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to up to $70 a tonne.

The simple truth: Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia

 Barnaby Joyce holds a lump of coal in the House of Representatives

PHOTO: The debate over carbon emissions and electricity couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate time. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Maybe it’s the heat, or the unprecedented run of searing temperatures scorching the continent.
Whatever the cause, the torrid debate in Parliament over carbon emissions and electricity in recent months couldn’t have occurred at a more appropriate moment.
The only problem is that every politician, state and federal, has always clung to the truism that power begets power or, perhaps the inverse; that whoever delivers blackouts gets booted out of office.
Turnbull’s turnaround

The man who lost the leadership by fighting to introduce a carbon price is now against renewable energy, Stephen Long writes.

As the finger-pointing over higher prices nationally, blackouts in South Australia and threatened disruptions across the eastern states escalates, any notion over rational debate on how best to address the nation’s long-term energy challenges has evaporated.
Put aside the irony that the recent run of misfortune on the national electricity grid is the direct result of a savage uptick in extreme weather conditions, a trend the vast bulk of climate scientists have been warning of for decades.
The simple truth is that, despite the entertaining theatre of insults in the national capital, Australia’s future power needs overwhelmingly will be provided by renewables and gas. 

Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia.
That is a trend driven by energy generators and consumers, both of which have abandoned hope of policy leadership from Parliament.
Generators jettisoned the idea of coal years ago, at least when it comes to building new power stations, because they carry too much risk.

 You’re looking at upwards of $1 billion for a large-scale coal-fired generator that would be expected to last around 50 years.
No rational businessperson is willing to commit that kind of funding over that period, in an electoral cycle that lasts just three years.

 And that’s just the equity side.
An investment of that magnitude also requires huge amounts of project debt and, faced with the prospect of stranded assets and non-performing loans, financiers have wiped their hands of the idea of coal-fired electricity.
Consumers, meanwhile, have plunged into renewables, with Australians among the world’s fastest adopters of rooftop solar.
Renewables v coal
Sadly, much of the debate about our future power generation has become mired in political point-scoring and simplistic arguments designed to inflame and outrage; where ignorance dominates academic research. 

The recent power outages in South Australia are a prime example.
While it has become fashionable to denigrate scientists, particularly when related to climate or energy, it’s worth reading through the CSIRO’s 2015 report into Australia’s future energy needs.
“Electricity grids are complex systems and the largest machines ever developed by humans,” it notes.

With that in mind, it attempted to compare the costs of various forms of power generation, from traditional fossil fuel plants to the renewable technologies and everything in between.
Govt may fund coal power

Treasurer Scott Morrison says the Clean Energy Finance Corporation could be used to fund new clean coal power stations.

What it found was that none of the new technologies can deliver power as cheaply as our current batch of carbon belching coal plants.
When it came to renewable energy, wind was the winner while among the new-generation fossil fuel plants, gas-fired combined cycle plants and supercritical coal-fired generation came out on top.
In a nutshell, the study explains that renewable energy has high upfront costs but is extremely cheap to run, given the fuel — wind and sun — comes at no cost. Gas plants are cheaper to build, but have higher running costs.
But there’s one crucial cost that weighs heavily on the minds of investors and bankers. And that’s carbon.
According to the CSIRO, if a carbon price was introduced, the economics of power generation shifts in favour of renewables, although a relatively high price is required. Wind is competitive with new-generation coal at $30 a tonne of carbon dioxide, solar at $70 a tonne.
Carbon storage, the kind of technology the Government is now looking at, can also be expensive, ranging from $5 to up to $70 a tonne.

 Scott Morrison holds a lump of coal in Parliament

PHOTO: “On this side of the house you will not find a fear of coal,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said. (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Carbon pricing is inevitable
Although early attempts at pricing carbon emissions have failed, no-one in the power industry, or those that finance it, is under any illusion that emissions will be free forever.
It is the same in mining. 

Every major corporation views carbon pricing as inevitable and includes a range of prices when determining the economics of long term projects.
Why is everyone talking about a carbon tax?

These are the five things you need to know about the debate over carbon pricing.

Given the significant costs levied on those putting waste into landfill and the prohibition on disposing of noxious materials into our waterways, it’s remarkable that to this day, the atmosphere is freely used as a garbage dump at no cost.
Last week, a study commissioned by the Minerals Council claimed that renewable energy in Australia was the beneficiary of huge subsidies.
Large-scale renewable projects, it claimed, were on the receiving end of $1.8 billion in direct subsidies last year alone. That’s a claim rejected as simplistic and incorrect by those in the renewables industry.
Whatever the number, there is no doubt that renewable energy has been on the receiving end of vast subsidy handouts both for large scale and home generation here and around the globe.
But it’s equally true that, in the absence of a carbon price, high-polluting industries have been getting a free ride, not only by avoiding the cost of damage to the environment and the planet, as the science overwhelmingly points to, but through the damage to the health of countless millions of people.
It’s also worth noting that every Australian coal-fired power plant was built with taxpayer money. As were the electricity distribution systems.

 And while many since have been sold to private interests, the sales processes have thrown up some interesting numbers.
When the NSW government sold its electricity generation assets for $1.5 billion, the deal was hailed a breakthrough.

 But the Tamberlin Inquiry in 2011 discovered about $4 billion worth of taxpayer subsidies to the generators in the form of cheap long-term coal contracts.
Coal-fired generators also use huge amounts of water, much of which — unlike farmers — is gifted to them.

 Then, of course, there are the would-be new coal miners up in the Carmichael Basin — most notably the Adani family — with their hands out for about $1 billion in taxpayer-funded infrastructure.
What’s the solution?
From an economic perspective, it would be far more efficient to eliminate subsidies altogether and to put a price on carbon that reflected its true cost.

 Private investors then would be able to choose which technology was most efficient.
One of the great drawbacks of renewables has been the intermittent nature of its generation. As a famous politician once noted wryly:
“If the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, there is no power being generated.”

That’s true. 

But energy storage, particularly batteries, is the game changer that could rectify that shortcoming.
Just as the cost of solar panels has plummeted in recent years, as production technology has improved and the huge demand from households and business has improved economies of scale, the same can be expected from energy storage technology systems.
That will create a new set of technical headaches and cost challenges on how best to maintain a national power network, for which we appear to be entirely unprepared.

Press link for more: ABC.net.au

img_2384-1

India coal free by 2050 #auspol 

India optimistic of being coal-free by 2050

India will not need to build another coal power plant after 2025 if renewables continue to fall in cost at their current rate, according to a report that suggests that carbon levels could be cut significantly beyond parameters agreed at the Paris climate talks.

A report published on Monday by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) in New Delhi suggests that as long as renewables and batteries continue getting cheaper, they will undercut coal in less than a decade.
If that happens, it will reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 600m tonnes, or 10 per cent, after 2030, the report said.
India is the world’s fastest growing major polluter, and its ability to curb carbon emissions will be vital in capping the rise in global temperatures. The report suggests that if the Indian ministers get their policies right, they will be able to go much further than they have already promised, and even eliminate coal-fuelled power entirely by the middle of the century.
Ajay Mathur, director-general of Teri, said: “This is perfectly achievable if government gets its policies right. India’s power sector could be coal-free by 2050.”
India is currently the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind China and the US, contributing about 4 per cent of the world’s total.
But its emissions are growing rapidly as its economy expands by more than 7 per cent a year. In 2014, the country became the biggest contributor to global emissions growth after emitting 8.1 per cent more than the previous year. In 2015, it increased by another 5.2 per cent.

Much of the growth is being driven by the country’s increased use of electricity, with Narendra Modi, the prime minister, having made providing reliable power to everyone in the country a priority.
About 60 per cent of India’s electricity is currently fuelled by coal, and despite ambitious targets to build more renewables, many more coal-fired power stations are also expected to be built. The country is planning to build an extra 65 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity in the next few years, equivalent to 20 large nuclear power plants.
There are already disputes about how much of the extra capacity is needed. India currently has 308GW of capacity, even though the highest amount ever used at once was 156GW.

Renewables and batteries are on track to undercut coal in less than a decade, according to The Energy and Resources Institute © AFP

According to Teri’s research, coal-fired power plants under construction will be built, but no more will be needed after 2025, provided two things happen.
First, the cost of both renewables and battery storage need to keep falling at their current trajectories. If they come down to half their current price by 2025, according to Mr Mathur, they will undercut coal, something he said he was confident would happen.
Second, the government needs to put in place policies to make it viable to run a system mainly off renewables. For example, ministers will have to allow companies running the electricity grid to buy power in an instant.
Mr Mathur said: “If a cloud comes over a large solar farm, the grid should be able in an instant to buy power from a stored source — most likely batteries.”
Ministers will on Monday signal their implicit backing for the conclusion by attending the report’s launch.
If companies cease building new coal power plants after 2025, the last one is likely to close somewhere around 2050, leaving one of the world’s biggest electricity users running its electricity grid almost solely with renewables.

Press link for more: Financial Times

img_2364-1

Reliance on fossil fuel particularly coal is unsustainable! #auspol 

Memo to federal politicians: get on with renewable energy plan

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis 

There is a consensus that reliable, affordable and environmentally sustainable electricity is crucial to the wellbeing of our growing population, and to the economy as a key factor of production.

There is widespread agreement that the historic reliance on fossil fuels, particularly coal, is unsustainable, as it is a major cause of dangerous global warming, and thus that there should be a transition to renewable energy sources.
There is, too, agreement that such a transition requires business investment, which in turn depends on confidence government policy will not unduly chop and change, as it has here in the past decade. 

The electricity industry itself has long been calling for a price on carbon emissions as a pivotal part of creating certainty, as well as a market incentive to expedite the shift to renewables, a journey being made cheaper and easier by rapid progress in storage technology.
So, there is an evident and urgent commonality of interests across our society and throughout the world that energy policy be well managed. 

Providing fresh and compelling evidence of this commonality is a group letter released by organisations representing electricity suppliers and consumers, big and small business, environmental advocates, researchers and the union movement.

On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see such a well co-ordinated and community-wide clarion call to lawmakers to put aside petty politics and broker a bipartisan approach to energy policy. 

On the other, though, it is dispiriting we are in this situation as long as a decade after then prime minister John Howard took a market-focused carbon price to the 2007 election, as did the victor of that encounter, ALP leader Kevin Rudd.
The letter exhorts all politicians to “stop partisan antics and work together to reform Australia’s energy systems and markets”.

 It says politicking has made energy investments “impossibly risky”, which has squeezed supply, shoving prices up and shackling change.

 “The result is enduring dysfunction in the electricity sector.”
Yet the government argues that price hikes and recent supply crises, particularly in South Australia, primarily reflect a failure of renewable energy. 

In recent days it has run the line with vehemence, dubiously seeking to besmirch the federal ALP for events that are clearly well beyond its control.
The government’s misappropriation and distortion of the South Australian situation looks particularly flimsy in light of a revelation by Fairfax Media that it is ignoring advice from its own independent advisors that blackouts are not being caused by that state’s relatively high renewable energy target, but by failures in the network, and damage caused by extreme weather.
Coal-dependent states are having supply woes, too, after all. 

The government has so far failed to make a convincing case for its renewed enthusiasm for coal. 

We believe it will be unable to do so, and should capitalise on the opportunity to help lead a bipartisan plan to advance the transition to renewable energy.
Historically, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been an unambiguous supporter of using a price on carbon as we transition to renewable energy. 

In 2010, he said Australia “cannot cost-effectively achieve a substantial cut in emissions without putting a price on carbon”.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, too, supports pricing carbon.

 Most policy thinkers support it in principle.

 The power industry supports it. Community support is widespread.
It is hard to think of a core issue on which there is more agreement, yet less policy progress.

 And, like the reliance on fossil fuels, it’s unsustainable and fraught.

Press link for more: The Age