Industry News

BP Forecasts Shared, Autonomous EVs Will Help Drive to Peak Oil Before 2040

GreenTech Media - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:15

BP's latest Energy Outlook sees peak oil on the horizon for the first time -- driven by the rise of shared and autonomous electric vehicles.

Under the Evolving Transition (ET) scenario, which assumes that policies and technology continue to evolve at a similar speed to that seen in recent past, oil demand slows and eventually plateaus in the late 2030s.

At the same time, the total passenger vehicle fleet will nearly double to 2 billion cars by 2040 -- including more than 320 million EVs, up from roughly 3 million today. This represents a significant increase over previous forecasts.

In the ET scenario, there are nearly 190 million electric cars by 2035, which is nearly double the 100 million EVs forecast in the base case of last year’s Energy Outlook. The stock of electric cars is projected to increase by an additional 130 million in the subsequent five years, reaching the total of 320 million cars by 2040.

Several other energy research groups have upped their EV forecasts in recent years. However, BP's latest projection ranks among the most ambitious.

By the end of BP's Outlook period, the number of EVs will have grown to around 15 percent of the total car fleet. But the number of EVs doesn't tell the whole story. When it comes to understanding the future energy mix, it also depends on how vehicles are used.

In a divergence from previous reports, BP examined vehicle kilometers traveled while powered by electricity to account for the combined impact of vehicle electrification, shared mobility and autonomous driving. EVs are expected to supply the vast majority of shared, autonomous transportation due to lower maintenance costs and lower emissions profile. 

Because they're used with much higher intensity, EVs will account for 30 percent of passenger vehicle kilometres by 2040, up from just 2 percent in 2016. According to BP chief economist Spencer Dale, the average EV will be driven about two and a half times more than an internal combustion engine (ICE) car.

"This higher share reflects the importance of EVs in shared mobility, where the lower costs per km of EVs make them more competitive than ICE cars, as shared-mobility cars are used much more intensively," the report states. "In particular, the sharp fall in the cost of car travel associated with fully autonomous cars, which start to become available in the early 2020s, leads to a substantial increase in shared mobility (and use of EVs) in the 2030s."

Increasing prosperity in developing countries is expected to more than double the demand for travel by passenger cars over the coming decades, under the ET scenario. But increased vehicle fuel efficiency stemming from tighter emissions standards, combined with the trend toward electrification and shared mobility, will largely offset the impact of increased car travel on liquid fuel demand.

By the end of the Outlook, these changes will actually begin to make a dent in oil use. Liquid fuel demand from the car fleet is forecast to hit to 18.6 million barrels per day in 2040, down slightly from 18.7 million barrels per day in 2016.

Oil will continue to dominate across all segments of the transportation sector through 2040, despite the rise of alternatives.

Demand for oil and other liquid fuels, including biofuels, grows over much of the Outlook. However, it gradually slows in the later years of the forecast, and by the late 2030s BP expects oil demand to decline for the first time.

Efficiency gains in passenger and freight transport, as well as aviation and marine, will increase energy use in transport by only 25 percent over the Outlook, which is far less than the 80 percent increase during the previous 25 years.

The non-combusted use of oil and gas, while currently accounting for just 10 percent of global demand, will become the largest contributor to oil and gas growth from 2030 on. Oil majors, including BP, Shell and Total are banking on sustained petrochemical growth. But like transportation, this sector also faces the possibility of disruption. 

BP notes that increasing environmental pressures could dampen demand for some petrochemical products, particularly single-use plastics. Strict new policies on plastics consumption could curb oil demand by as much as 2 million barrels per day, which is roughly the same impact forecast from EVs.

In Wood Mackenzie's forecast for carbon constrained world, petrochemical feedstock demand growth is positive in the near-term, but slows markedly to 2035.


Greater prosperity, particularly in developing economies, will continue to drive growth in energy demand. By 2040, global energy consumption is set to increase by roughly one third.

But, as in the transportation sector, overall growth will be slower than in previous years. Global energy demand in the ET scenario grows at around 1.3 percent over the Energy Outlook period, down from over 2 percent in the previous 20 years.

"This slowing in demand growth is largely due to energy intensity (energy used per unit of GDP) falling more quickly than in the past: global GDP more than doubles over the Outlook, but energy consumption increases by only 35 percent," the report states.

Economies will become more efficient as they continue to electrify over the next two decades. At the same time, they'll become increasingly powered by renewables. 

BP revised it's renewable energy forecast up in the latest Energy Outlook, projecting renewables will increase their share of total power generation from 7 percent today to around 25 percent by 2040. Renewables will be the fastest growing power resource over that period -- and any similar period. "The closest parallel is the rapid build-up of nuclear power in the 1970s and 1980s," the report states.

In 2035, global solar power is more than 150 percent higher than in the base case of the 2015 Energy Outlook. This reflects solar costs falling faster than anticipated. BP now projects solar will be widely competitive by the mid-2020s -- 10 years earlier than previously expected.

As renewable energy sees greater adoption, China and other parts of the developing world will take over from the EU as the primary engine of growth. Over the Outlook period, China will add more renewables than the entire OECD combined. 

Looking beyond power generation to primary energy consumption, natural gas will grow rapidly over the course of BP's forecast. Coal consumption, meanwhile, will broadly remain flat, with its share in primary energy declining to 21 percent -- the lowest share for coal since the industrial revolution.

"The energy mix by 2040 is the most diversified ever seen," according to BP.

In the power sector, however, coal will remain king.

Coal accounts for just 13 percent of the increase in power over the Outlook compared to more than 40 percent over the previous 25 years. Even so, it remains the largest source of energy for power generation in 2040, with a share of almost 30 percent.

Overall carbon emissions will also continue to rise through 2040, "signalling the need for a comprehensive set of actions to achieve a decisive break from the past."

If world leaders choose to take a different tact, the outlook could look very different. 

Categories: Industry News

Europe Can Double Renewable Energy Share by 2030, IRENA Says

Renewable Energy World - Solar - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 11:34

The European Union can boost the share of renewables to 34 percent of its energy mix by 2030, triggering hundreds of billions euros in investment and accelerating reduction of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Categories: Industry News

Local Balancing Is the Key to California’s Clean Energy Future. Regionalization Isn’t

GreenTech Media - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 06:00

California needs a sustainable and affordable energy system that can deliver an all-renewable energy supply and manage that supply cost-effectively.

Instead of creating an interstate entity that may not be aligned with California’s renewable energy goals, we should build an energy system that provides the modern grid California will actually need going into the future -- one that relies on coordinated local energy, modern grid operations, and balancing authorities to efficiently use the resources in our own backyard.

Regionalization is touted as a cost-saving effort that would bring renewable energy from across half the continent to California to even out the variability in energy production from renewables. But the call for regionalization ignores the tremendous progress that is already being made in utilizing clean local energy resources -- an approach that provides a trifecta of economic, environmental and resilience benefits, while avoiding the high costs in both dollars and governance associated with regionalization.

Theoretically, if the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) obtained energy from outside of the state when in-state renewable energy resources weren’t producing enough to meet California’s demand, California could meet its needs more cheaply than it would by building a lot more renewable energy plants. In principle, variability in renewable energy generation can be offset when resources are integrated over a wide enough area, because “the wind is always blowing somewhere.” However, the real question is whether regionalization is the most effective or cost-efficient approach to resolving these issues.

Regionalization would introduce new costs and risks. Relying on a continent-scale transmission grid would mean building many long transmission lines. Such continent-scale transmission is expensive and would unavoidably damage the environment it crosses.

Relying on distant energy sources increases vulnerability to disruptions across a larger grid. Operational error, extreme weather, natural disasters, or sabotage all pose greater risks with a large grid spanning dry and fire-prone western North America.

In addition, without effective federal energy policy and emissions markets, regionalization could increase carbon emissions as existing renewables are dispatched from other states for California load, and coal plants in those states fill the gap. Meanwhile, investment in renewables projects in California would be suppressed, along with the associated jobs and revenues, as projects to serve California load are built out of state.

The economic risks are exacerbated by the fact that CAISO and California’s three big investor-owned utilities currently charge the same delivery fees for energy carried over hundreds of miles of expensive transmission lines as for energy delivered from down the street. This practice has already created distorted price signals that have led to inefficient markets, negatively impacted development and failed to contain the rapid rise in transmission costs. Using California ratepayer funds to subsidize energy imports and push development out of the state is not good policy.

Under some governance proposals for a Regional Transmission Operator (RTO), California could become subject to the influence of coal state officials or utilities. California, which represents half of the population of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) area and over half of its economy, would have only a small fraction of the governance authority -- placing California’s leading efforts at risk should they conflict with regional policies.

Distributed energy resources (DER) under a local balancing authority can meet these same needs more effectively -- without the downside risks that regionalization would bring.

First, the volatility and increasing complexity of the grid is happening in large measure at the distribution end of the grid, not the transmission end. Therefore, it should be managed first at the distribution level. All loads are local, and while local DER can add complexity, they also allow loads to be locally managed and balanced, reducing volatility to the system overall.

Through a network of dedicated Distribution System Operators (DSOs) to manage collections of DER at the distribution level, aggregated DER, such as solar-plus-storage and demand response, would use complementary local technologies to balance local load and generation, providing a well-behaved load profile to the transmission grid at the transmission-distribution interface. Thus, rather than looking to an ever-larger central grid to provide control, a DSO-based energy system can manage load and generation locally to integrate complementary renewable technologies and optimize use of the resources already in place.

Second, using local power and local balancing would contain the ever-increasing costs associated with expanding transmission. In California, transmission costs have been increasing faster than inflation for decades, even as the cost of generation has fallen.

Today, delivery charges threaten to surpass the cost of generation as the major cost of energy. This trend is likely to continue as long as utilities and Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are incentivized to procure remote generation. If the full costs of delivery are included in energy procurement -- by having transmission charges reflect the use of transmission infrastructure -- DER can often provide energy more cheaply than remote generation, leading to overall cost savings for ratepayers.

Finally, DER deliver greater reliability, because robust local generation from multiple sources is less subject to impacts from the failures of one or two components. For example, during the recent Thomas Fire emergency in Southern California, many of the areas that maintained power did so with microgrids including solar and storage resources, as regional transmission lines failed to deliver energy.

Transitioning our grid to a fully renewable energy system will require a mix of approaches. The foundation needs to be laid first at the local level with DER managed by DSOs to make the transmission grid manageable. Some of this is already being done by the California Public Utilities Commission and local utilities. Only if it is determined that our needs will not met with cost-effective local and in-state resources should we consider the costly infrastructure and legal commitments required to import energy.

This approach will ensure we rely on out-of-state resources only as needed, rather than creating a new entity that looks first to ultra-remote power as a solution. This DSO-based system of grid management would not create a regional ISO, but would instead supplement the existing and successful Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) to incorporate a day-ahead market that would manage energy imports and exports for mutual benefit -- but without the deeper entanglements with coal states that will endanger our clean energy economy.

Ultimately, California needs an energy system that meets our clean energy goals primarily with local generation and solutions. And one that looks to distant, expensive and potentially dirty energy only as a last resort. We should certainly use the transmission system we already have to help local balancing areas support one another, but we must consider all the costs and implications of increasing our reliance on distant resources and losing control of our energy future.


Doug Karpa is the policy director for Clean Coalition, a nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid. 

Categories: Industry News

Long Tail Solar Consolidation: Soligent Acquires Installer Network Repower America

GreenTech Media - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 05:00

The residential solar sector just saw an acquisition that, bucking a recent trend, had nothing to do with bankruptcy or retreat.

Solar equipment distributor Soligent acquired Repower America Wednesday, taking on the latter's network of local rooftop solar installers backed by a central support platform. The combined companies hope to fuel profitable solar growth across the nation by helping local installers do their job more effectively.

In recent years the national, vertically integrated rooftop installers have largely gone out of business or faded from dominance (with the exception of Sunrun, which also leverages a network of installer partners). Smaller installers, known collectively as the long tail, are seeing more growth than the market leaders, and several platform plays have asserted a new theory of how to make money in this segment.

They posit that a cash-light startup can tackle the tasks that benefit from scale and software know-how, leaving the site visits and physical installation to the local workers who know the territory. In theory, this arrangement brings in more profit for both installer and platform company and provides a path for sustained solar growth.

"Everyone in the industry is realizing that a lot of the growth is coming from and will come from the long tail," said Alison Mond, an analyst at GTM Research covering the residential solar market. "Everyone’s trying to find how they can best partner with those companies and enable them to be successful."

Though nationwide expansion has thwarted the likes of SolarCity and Sungevity, Soligent CEO Jonathan Doochin thinks he can avoid the same pitfalls. He won't worry about trading profits for growth, because, he said, Soligent is already operating profitably in 50 states.

"We’re not saying when we reach 1 gigawatt of volume, then we’ll be lightweight," Doochin said, referencing the capital-light aspiration of solar companies past. "We're actually lightweight and profitable today."

A break in the clouds

Soligent runs a 39-year-old solar equipment distribution business serving some 5,000 installers. Repower America provides a "solar business in a box," training new installers in everything from marketing to selling,  permitting and installing; it supports 200 companies and 50 franchises, which take on Repower branding and lead generation. Both are based in northern California.

The merger will give Soligent's dealer partners access to higher levels of assistance, should they choose it. Instead of simply buying products, a Soligent customer can sign on for help with a single skillset like marketing or project management, or stack a few, or go the full-stack franchise route. This represents an expansion of the value chain that Soligent tackles.

Repower's existing customers will gain a partner with decades of experience delivering solar equipment. For Repower itself, this offers a shot at scaling that would have been much more difficult without a large corporate patron.

The news comes after a series of tough breaks for the residential sector, both internally and externally inflicted.

Over the past year, frontrunner SolarCity cut back installations and lost its identity within Tesla; top-five installer Sungevity went bankrupt; NRG Home Solar pulled out of the business, as did Direct Energy Solar.

In just the last month the industry reeled from import tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and the news that solar employment had declined for the first time since tracking began, a development very much related to the string of bankruptcies and uncertainty around the tariffs.

For Soligent's and Repower's leadership, that turbulence offered an opportunity to double down on their core thesis.

"We both believe in empowering the long tail and bringing them resources to be successful," Doochin said. "We see an opportunity with some of the larger, integrated businesses struggling to strengthen the tail."

Fortune hasn't been kind to rooftop solar in the past year. Soligent hopes to change that narrative. (Source: GTM Research U.S. Residential Solar Finance)

Changes afoot

Repower specializes in getting fresh-faced market entrants ready to do business within 90 days.

"We don’t see many competitors out there providing that," said CEO Mahesh Mansukhani.

The group will retain that training hub role at Soligent, but its responsibilities extend further, to the daily work of helping its franchises operate successfully. 

The Repower America name will persist as a division within Soligent, the executives said, because membership in the national brand drives a lot of value for local installers. Its headquarters will move to Soligent's base in Petaluma.

The executives declined to disclose the terms of the acquisition. That said, it clearly wasn't a fire sale, and there was palpable excitement crackling in the conference room where they had gathered to discuss the news.

The combined companies will be able to offer a platform covering the full range of services an installer needs, Mansukhani said. That should give an edge over companies that provide a few of the needed solutions, forcing installers to contract in several different places.

As it expands its volume nationally, Soligent won't face the same kinds of costs that made the vertically integrated plays untenable.

"If you look at SolarCity or others, they were betting on themselves installing and executing what is fundamentally a local business," said Repower COO Daniel Rubin. "We’re enabling the long tail. We’re not going to have trucks and install."

It's worth emphasizing that a platform play alone does not guarantee success.

Sungevity spent its final year touting a "capital light" platform strategy; the venture-funded startup does the work that can scale, but avoids the costs of maintaining a fleet of workers across the nation. The company spent a few hundred million dollars before it could achieve that promise, and went bankrupt last March. 

Others are trying their own versions, like Complete Solar, which makes it easier for sales teams and installers to specialize in their strengths without having to do everything.

If the "revenge of the long tail" thesis holds, the coming months will feature a land grab as the various platform companies race each other to bag new local partners.

Having one platform gain the resources of a large corporate parent may make it harder for smaller ones to compete. But then again, the nature of the long tail is that it's varied and vast; it won't be tapped out any time soon.

Categories: Industry News

Solar-Storage for Homes: PetersenDean Partners With SolarEdge and LG

GreenTech Media - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 18:05

Solar module-level power electronics maker SolarEdge has been quietly putting its own solar-battery inverter control system, dubbed StorEdge, into the field over the past couple years. But energy storage still makes up only a tiny fraction of its growing share of business in the highly competitive global solar inverter industry. 

On Tuesday, SolarEdge announced a big new partner in the solar-storage space that could change that equation.

PetersenDean Roofing & Solar, the largest privately-held U.S. solar and roofing company, announced that it’s pairing the StorEdge systems with 9.8 kilowatt-hour LG Chem batteries to provide homeowners “an affordable path to solar ownership and energy storage.” 

It’s not the first solar-storage partnership for PetersenDean -- the company has worked with Sunverge and Sonnen in the past. CEO Jim Peterson has called solar-storage the “new backbone for the future of our nation’s electric power and renewable energy industries,” indicating the company’s interest in finding a cost-effective way to bring the combination’s full array of capabilities to market. 

While Tuesday’s announcement didn’t reveal pricing, an August 2017 review of the StorEdge-LG system Greentech Media priced a typical system at $9,950 -- $5,550 for the battery, $2,600 for the inverter, and the rest for the meters, transformers and communications systems. That’s a hefty premium over a simple rooftop solar system, and quite a bit more than the cost of a backup generator that could provide homeowners a similar level of security against grid blackouts. 

But Petersen noted in Tuesday’s announcement that customers will “save substantially in the long term,” by storing excess solar energy to draw upon later, whether to avoid “unnecessary fees and taxes,” or providing “flexibility in an ever-changing utility landscape.”

To make that possible, the StorEdge-LG system is designed to work in both off-grid and grid-tied modes, Peterson noted. With the proper predictive analytics and controls, these systems could store excess solar energy during midday, and use it to reduce their own load later in the day, when grid demand is peaking and time-of-use prices are rising, for example. 

This kind of payback potential implies an economic and regulatory structure that doesn’t exist in much of the country, of course. To date, residential solar-storage systems have primarily been sold as emergency backup power, rather than as grid assets. (This is changing, however, as Emma Foehringer Merchant outlined in her recent Squared column.)

Residential still makes up a relatively small share of the overall market for behind-the-meter battery systems, which is dominated by large commercial, industrial, government and institutional customers. That’s because most markets don’t offer customers the incentives need to cover the additional cost.

But last year saw a bit of a boom in residential energy storage, driven by policies in California and Hawaii. According to the most recent GTM Research-Energy Storage Association U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, nine new grid-connected home energy storage systems were deployed per day through the third quarter of 2017, totaling 4.2 megawatts, or growth of 202 percent year-over-year.

In Hawaii, home of the highest electricity rates in the nation, solar-storage is making economic sense under the state’s Customer Self-Supply Program. In California, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), with its carve-out for residential storage systems, has helped drive growth. 

Other states and utilities are trying out models that spread the costs of batteries and power electronics over time. In Vermont, utility Green Mountain Power is offering Tesla Powerwall batteries (and SolarEdge inverters) to be paid in monthly installments through their utility bills, in exchange for being able to use them to manage its own system needs. 

Last week, SolarEdge reported fourth-quarter revenue of $189.3 million, up 70 percent year over year, and full-year revenues of $607.0 million, up 24 percent from 2016. This strong performance has given the company the chance to invest in research and development -- fourth-quarter R&D expenses were $16.4 million, up 50 percent from the same quarter last year. 

CEO Guy Sella highlighted SolarEdge's R&D goals in last week's earnings conference call. "We are working extensively on growing the range of three phase inverters in order to reach very high sizes. None of these will happen over one year. Those are developments that spread over 18 to 30 months programs, but we have projects running of almost any size of inverter," he said. "We keep developing ASICs [application-specific integrated circuit] to control more and more of the black component, the ASIC component in our product. We are investing heavily in next generation and generation after next of optimizers.”

But energy storage was mentioned only once, as a tag-end to a long list of R&D initiatives. Some time soon -- although not this year -- “we’ll come with a next generation of storage product, which will be a step ahead of what you can find today in the market,” he said.

Categories: Industry News

Homeowners Get New Tesla Batteries in Utility Trial

Renewable Energy World - Energy Storage - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 13:59

Nova Scotia Power has installed Tesla Powerwall batteries at 10 of its customers’ homes in a trial that the utility says will help it meet a 40 percent renewables by 2020 goal.

Categories: Industry News

South Korea Strengthens Grid to Take On More Renewables

GreenTech Media - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 13:50

South Korea took action this month to strengthen its grid in preparation for a major boost in renewable energy generation.

At the beginning of the month, the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) picked U.S. infrastructure provider GE Power to build a 4-gigawatt high-voltage DC (HVDC) transmission link from the east of the country to the capital, Seoul, in the northwest.

The $320 million contract “will increase the stability and reliability of the Korean electrical transmission grid by adding new routes for power supply,” said GE Power in a press release.

The project will be delivered through KAPES, a joint venture that Kepco set up with GE in 2012 to carry out HVDC and flexible AC transmission system work in South Korea and beyond.

KAPES and GE are due to design and supply a 500-kilovolt HVDC bipole with two converter stations, including valves, cooling, converter transformers, filters, switchyards and control systems. It is GE’s fourth major HVDC contract in South Korea.

In the late 1990s, GE built a 300-megawatt, 101-kilometer (63-mile) point-to-point submarine HVDC interconnection linking South Korea’s Jeju Island with the mainland. In 2009, the company supplied converter stations for a 400-megawatt HVDC scheme. 

In 2014, through KAPES, GE built a 1.5-gigawatt, 35-kilometer HVDC connection to transmit energy from South Korea’s coal-fired Dangjin power plant to the city of Pyeongtaek and the Seoul metropolitan area. The project is due to be completed at the end of 2019.

GE said South Korea’s energy demand has grown by almost 35 percent in the last decade.

The latest HVDC project follows the December publication of a power supply plan that will see gas and renewables gradually replacing coal and nuclear in South Korea's generation mix between 2017 and 2031.

Coal and nuclear account for more than 70 percent of the country's electricity supply, with renewables making up just 6 percent. Wind and solar each contribute about 1 percent to the power mix today. 

Under the new plan, South Korea aims to meet 20 percent of its total electricity consumption with renewable energy resources by 2030, Reuters reported.

The transition will see the coal total falling to deliver 36.1 percent of electricity supply by 2030, and nuclear covering a further 23.9 percent.

“To achieve that goal, Asia’s fourth-largest economy aims to increase its installed capacity of renewable power to 58.5 gigawatts by 2030, from 11.3 gigawatts this year,” said Reuters.

The country plans to add 30.8 gigawatts of solar to its generation portfolio, along with 16.5 gigawatts of wind.

“As South Korea plans to increase the renewable power generation to 20 percent under the 8th National Electricity Plan, the grid infrastructure needs to be upgraded," said Rishab Shrestha, an analyst at GTM Research.

Large projects, generally not close to load centers, will account for around 60 percent of the capacity expansion plan. “That's a considerable addition of variable generation to the existing grid, which is dominated by coal and nuclear at the moment,” said Shrestha.

Although it is unclear if this month’s announcement relates to the same initiative, in March last year Kepco and GE signed a memorandum of understanding on an HVDC build-out in Bitgaram Energy Valley, Naju City, near Gwangju, and South Jeolla Province, in the southwest.

“The Bitgaram Energy Valley in that region has several industrial complexes and Kepco's headquarters around it, and is intended to be an innovative ecosystem for research,” Shrestha said.

The region also has plans to install around 1.8 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020 and to build up to 5 gigawatts of onshore and offshore wind by 2030. “There would be synergies with electricity production and transmission to the load center in Seoul,” Shrestha observed.

Beyond keeping the lights on at home, it is likely Kepco’s interest in HVDC is driven by the potential for business overseas. The company is involved in plans to create an Asian supergrid stretching from Vladivostok and Tokyo in the east to New Delhi and Mumbai in the west.

Kepco is also a member of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, based in Beijing, China, which is dedicated to promoting the sustainable development of energy worldwide.  

Categories: Industry News

How to Make Corporate Sustainability a Priority

Renewable Energy World - Solar - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 13:33

The attitude towards corporate sustainability is shifting. What once started as “greenwashing” annual reports, is increasingly framing and shaping operating models, business processes, and even core products — sometimes driving the enterprise to new markets with unexplored opportunities.

Categories: Industry News

Australian Renewable Giant Snowy Hydro Mulls Raising A$2 Billion

Renewable Energy World - Energy Storage - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:00

Snowy Hydro Ltd., Australia’s largest hydropower producer, is considering raising as much as A$2 billion ($1.6 billion) by the end of 2018 for a project expansion, which will boost its 4,100 megawatt capacity by as much as 50 percent.

Categories: Industry News

In Nigeria, a Template for Solar-Powered Minigrids Emerges

GreenTech Media - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:46

On a sticky November day in the small Nigerian village of Gbamu Gbamu (pronounced, bomb-ou, bomb-ou), Akinola Oduola clambers down a wooden ladder propped against a minaret that overlooks a tight cluster of adobe, wood and concrete homes.

“This is my work,” Oduola says by way of introduction, gesturing toward the mosque that is taking shape nearby.

This is not hyperbole. Oduola has spent the past three years single-handedly willing this mosque into existence. Hard work is the norm for those who call Gbamu Gbamu home. When he’s not building his mosque, Oduola is a welder and motorcycle repairman -- a wise profession in a town where the bulk of the population travels to and from Gbamu Gbamu along a deeply rutted, ten-plus kilometer dirt road.

For Oduola, it’s the price of doing business: his welding depends on a generator that slurps between 30 and 35 liters of diesel per week.

But things are about to change dramatically for Oduola and a large percentage of his 3,000 fellow villagers, thanks to a construction project that has taken shape far quicker than the mosque. From nearly any vantage point in Gbamu Gbamu, one can look upward to see newly installed utility poles and wires.

This new distribution system will soon be delivering continuous power from a 30-kilowatt installation of solar panels located on a nearby hillside that the local government happily donated to the project’s developers, Lagos-based Rubitec Solar. At night, a trailer full of batteries will keep the electricity flowing, and a large generator will provide backup power in case the combination of solar and batteries are ever unable to satisfy demand.

Akinola Oduola works on a motorcycle in Gbamu Gbamu. Photo credit: Winrock International/Bobby Neptune

Powering a better life

It’s hard to overemphasize what a change this newly installed minigrid represents to a rural village in Nigeria. Access to power is one of Nigeria’s most common and challenging chasms, a dividing line that determines a community’s quality of life and prospects.

But by embracing a solar-powered minigrid, Gbamu Gbamu is set to vault past much larger, grid-connected urban areas in terms of reliable access to electricity. “This fills an enormous unmet need in Nigeria. Half of the country is not on the electrification network. The half that is connected receives very little electricity, usually just a few hours each day. And the other half may not be connected for a decade, if ever,” says James Lykos, deputy director of the Office of Economic Growth and Environment at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Nigeria mission, which has supported the development of Gbamu Gbamu’s minigrid.

“When you have electricity, you can engage in better economic opportunities and it helps resolve poverty. This can have a transformative impact on rural communities and indeed the country as a whole,” says Lykos.

Developing minigrids throughout Nigeria, including the one at Gbamu Gbamu, is one of the main components of the Nigerian Energy Support Program (NESP), which is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German government and is being implemented by GIZ, the technical arm of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. In addition to Gbamu Gbamu, five other minigrids have been developed during the first phase of NESP. USAID partnered with GIZ to support two of the minigrids, including the one in Gbamu Gbamu.

A minigrid model for Nigeria

In a country with an estimated population of 186 million, a single solar-powered minigrid that is transforming a few thousand rural lives could understandably be ignored as a happy novelty. But there’s something more profound taking shape.

The innovation, collaboration and persistence required to develop and construct these minigrids has established a template that Nigeria can follow to deliver the benefits of electrification to millions of people around the country.

Enthusiasm for minigrids is simply an acknowledgement of the economic and logistical realities of Nigeria’s power grid.

“Extending the grid is very expensive. There are many communities -- most, actually -- where extending the grid is a net present value losing proposition. You will never get enough money out of these communities to justify doing this,” says Javier Betancourt, the chief of party for the USAID-funded Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (REEEP) in Nigeria, which is being implemented by the U.S.-based NGO Winrock International.

“You can’t electrify everybody using the grid or large-scale generation. The best solutions are minigrids. This is the future. But there needs to be a template in Nigeria for how this is going to evolve,” says Betancourt.

Devising and implementing a replicable template has been the core mission of REEEP since its launch in 2013. The challenges and roadblocks have been daunting.

While minigrids may be the best and only solution for electrifying Nigeria, their development has been stunted for a host of reasons, including the lack of technically competent minigrid designers and solar installers.

“There’s a very large problem in Nigeria with faulty installations that have created this perception problem,” says Betancourt. “There are all these dead solar systems all over the place that have given people the impression that solar doesn’t work, and it’s usually due to shoddy installation work.”

To address this immediate problem and build a skilled workforce, REEEP and GIZ worked with dozens of international experts to develop a rigorous and standardized curriculum that is now used at 13 training institutions across Nigeria.

Alabi Abiodun of Rubitech Solar shows off the batteries powering the Gbamu Gbamu minigrid. Photo credit: Winrock International/Bobby Neptune.

Budding Nigerian minigrid developers and investors also needed assistance figuring out which communities could feasibly support a minigrid. In part, that meant finding villages that were far enough away from the power grid that there was no chance that it would be extended any time in the near future. More importantly, developers and investors needed to know which villages had sufficient population and economic activity to make the investment required to build a minigrid worthwhile.

“Are there productive activities going on to show that they have the capacity to pay for the cost of electricity?” says Anayo Okenwa Nas, the CEO of Nayo Tropical Technology Ltd., a developer of minigrids in Nigeria. “Is it a fishing community? A timber community? An agrarian processing community?”

To help developers focus their attention and resources on viable sites, GIZ performed geographic information system (GIS) data analysis in five Nigerian states to locate which villages had sufficient load to justify a minigrid. This work has resulted in a tool that will soon be launched by the Nigerian Ministry of Power that developers and investors can use to streamline their efforts. “If I want to set up a project in Nigeria, I can quickly see whether it makes sense to invest and where,” says Ina Hommers, who heads up NESP for GIZ. “This is something we want to expand because no investor has time or money to do this from scratch.”

The biggest hurdle of all: money

Of all the obstacles standing in the way of solar-powered minigrids delivering the benefits of electricity to millions more Nigerians, none has been as complicated and challenging to address as financing. Anyone considering building a minigrid would have to find money to pay for both the solar panels and batteries required to generate and store electricity as well as the poles, wires and meters necessary to distribute it to homes and businesses.

These combined costs make it impossible for minigrid developers to attract investors. But it’s also not a financial burden that generation companies around the world are typically expected to cover. “They never pay for their own distribution,” says Betancourt. “If you think about it fairly, nobody in any country has ever paid for their own grid. Generation companies get the grid through a subsidy or the government or someone comes in with a grant and gives the thing away.”

To address this challenge, REEEP and GIZ devised what Betancourt describes as the “split asset model.” Instead of trying to convince banks and other financial institutions to invest in a minigrid project as a whole, REEEP separated the distribution and generation components. For the first five minigrid projects in Nigeria, including in Gbamu Gbamu, GIZ provided a grant to cover the distribution costs, which account for roughly half of the total project expenses.

REEEP and GIZ initially turned to Nigeria’s central bank and commercial banks to provide funding that developers needed for the solar panels, batteries and other generation components required for the minigrids. Because renewable energy is a nascent industry in Nigeria, this first meant educating bankers about how to evaluate potential minigrid projects.

“We provided training with banks on small renewable energy projects. Banks don’t usually understand the rationale of such projects,” says GIZ’s Hommers. “You can’t really count on the experience of other projects because the sector is so young. To banks, that is very high risk.”

Though there’s optimism that the extensive outreach and education REEEP and GIZ provided to Nigerian banks and other investors will facilitate project financing in the future, an economic collapse and devaluation of the country’s currency in 2015 quickly halted all the progress that had been made. “Everything came crashing down exactly when we were going to get our first minigrid financed,” says Betancourt. “For two years, we were stumped on how to get them financed.”

Crowdfunding to the rescue

But that all changed when Betancourt met a representative of the German crowdfunding platform Bettervest at an event in Lagos. Bettervest allows individuals to invest and earn a return on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the world. The crowdfunding platform was exploring an entry into the Nigerian market and had formed a partnership with GIZ to help it understand the unique dynamics at play in the country. “Bettervest had a very strong interest to pilot two projects before deciding if they wanted to enter the Nigerian market for other activities,” says Hommers.

Though GIZ was eager to find financing for the pilot minigrids, it was also reluctant to expose Bettervest’s investors to any unnecessary risk. “We lack the financial ability to say this is safe and sound,” says Hommers. Instead, GIZ relied on the financial expertise of REEEP’s Betancourt. Betancourt had worked previously as an investment banker, a financial regulator for the Mexican government and for NGOs like Winrock, where one of his specialties over the past decade has been improving access to finance in the developing world.  

Betancourt applied all of that experience to help Bettervest lower (though not eliminate completely) the risk faced by its investors. “I do the financial due diligence for them here. I provide Bettervest the credit reports, the tax clearances, the reputational checks and the document verification,” he says. “GIZ helped them with lawyers to get contracts and together we lowered their entry costs. That is how we got them to finance our minigrid projects.” Once actually posted to the Bettervest website, it took 106 days for investors to pony up the 224,100 Euros (around $260,000) required for Rubitech to build the generation component of the project. Bettervest investors are expecting a 10 percent return on their investment in Gbamu Gbamu.

A sustainable model for the future?

Though the pilot minigrid projects GIZ and REEEP have helped shepherd into existence will clearly have a big impact on the communities where they are located, the obvious question is whether this development approach can be scaled up. Though REEEP is coming to an end in early 2018, GIZ has already committed to provide grants that will cover the distribution costs of 20 more minigrids.

Obviously, GIZ and other donors can’t supply grants for the thousands of minigrids Nigeria will need to bring clean and reliable electricity to all of its citizens. Betancourt has been working with both the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency as well as individual state governments to explore ways to take funds typically devoted to extending the central grid and use it instead for minigrids.

“Each state government gets a grid extension budget from the federal government each year to extend the grid,” Betancourt says. “What they can do now is use that budget to give grants to the project developers for the distribution and the metering and the Nigerian minigrid developers do the rest on a purely commercial basis.”

In other words, it’s a way to utilize the so-called “split asset model” to develop the minigrid in Gbamu Gbamu over and over again. “We believe these minigrids strongly prove there is private sector interest. This is a bit of a game-changer in Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Hommers.

There are certainly challenges ahead. The risk of devaluation of the Nigerian currency, the Naira, is always a worry for investors. Corruption also remains a major problem. Training legions of skilled solar installers and minigrid designers will be of little use if there aren’t projects for them to work on. “A lot of this will atrophy if the people who were trained don’t get to utilize their skills and work and bring renewable energy projects to completion,” says USAID’s Lykos.

The new distribution system in Gbamu Gbamu. Photo credit: Winrock International/Bobby Neptune.

In many ways, though, the future of solar-powered minigrids in Nigeria will depend on the success of people like Bolade Soremekun. Soremekun is the CEO of Rubitech Solar, the company that built the Gbamu Gbamu minigrid. Soremekun got his MBA at New York University and spent years working for big multinational corporations like Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline. But he always wanted to come home to Nigeria. “I wanted to achieve and do things in Nigeria,” he says.

For years, working in solar meant organizing conferences, an admittedly time-consuming and money-losing hobby to Soremekun’s successful pharmacy business. “My pharmacy staff once called a meeting and said, stop, stop this crazy thing you are doing about organizing conferences,” he says. “You are promoting solar good but you are not making money.”

Lately, though, solar and minigrids are looking more and more attractive. It used to be that meetings with banks would frustrate Soremekun because they would either not offer financing at all, or would only offer it at exorbitant interest rates. That has already started to change. Soremekun believes it will change faster once bankers see the reliable cash flow that will be generated when customers in Gbamu Gbamu prepay their electricity bills using mobile money accounts.

“I think if the pilots go well, and I hope they do, they are going to start a momentum towards minigrids,” he says. “I think financing will be easier. The banks are going to see the cash flow right there in front of them and they’ll say, OK, we want to do the next minigrid and then the next minigrid.”

Rubitech already has plans to do between five and 10 minigrids over the next two years, with 100 other potential sites already pinpointed. With more and more projects, Soremekun believes minigrids will become easier to do. “What attracts investors to minigrids is scale. They don’t want one minigrid, they want hundreds of them. Then it becomes a good business,” he says. “Solar is the best space to be in right now in terms of business, I think. There are so many huge opportunities.”

B minigrids has allowed Soremekun to make the kind of difference that brought him back to Nigeria. At first, people in Gbamu Gbamu didn’t really believe the minigrid would actually be built. “There are too many promises that are not fulfilled,” he says. “They have just accepted their fate, to live their lives as best they can. This changes that. Their lives could be better. That’s why I get up every morning excited.”

Chris Warren is a freelance writer based in Arkansas. The reporting trip to Nigeria was funded by Winrock International.

Categories: Industry News

The Future of Power-to-Gas Couldn’t Be Brighter

Renewable Energy World - Energy Storage - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 09:13

The objective of PtG technology is to enable the balance of supply and demand for power in electricity networks with renewable energy. Importantly, as the use of renewable energy continues to grow there will be an ever-increasing need to support ramping and smoothing of renewables and to enable storage of the over-production via transfer of PtG on an as-needed basis.

Categories: Industry News

Mexico’s Solar Market Is Booming, But Still Has Key Hurdles to Clear

GreenTech Media - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 05:40

Mexico's solar industry shot out of nowhere to become a world leader within the last three years.

Now everyone involved is trying to take a step back and figure out what happens next. The combination of tangible opportunities with abundant unknowns animated GTM's Solar Summit in Mexico City last week, hearkening back to the beginnings of the U.S. solar heyday a decade ago.

By now, the major questions of the U.S. solar industry have been worked out, and companies are fine-tuning their execution (and responding to unanticipated setbacks, like presidentially imposed import tariffs). In Mexico, the open questions abound, and developers, suppliers, government and financiers are racing to decipher the answers and leverage the support needed to keep the growth rolling.

Like guacamole dusted with spiced grasshoppers, there's a lot to chew on here, but these are the key takeaways.

Crazy low prices are both a joy and a peril

Mexico enjoys the magical combination of a massive solar resource with low cost of labor. 

That potential has finally been unleashed by a recent energy system reform that makes it easier for private companies to participate in a grid long dominated by a single state utility. As part of the reform, Mexico has held three annual solar auctions that saw successive plunges in average bid price.

The third round added another nine solar projects totaling 1.7 gigawatts, and now holds the record for cheapest average solar bids in the world.

As companies race to tap this solar gold mine, they benefit from the work that has already been done elsewhere to bring down module costs and streamline project design and delivery. That said, there's still a lot that must be worked out anew within Mexico, which had hardly any capacity even five years ago.

The big question is whether the industry can actually deliver on its rock-bottom bids and make money doing so.

The panelists at Solar Summit Mexico brought a healthy dose of skepticism. The auction structures incentivize aggressive bidding to get a piece of the early action; we have yet to see many developers deliver. Indeed, many of the awarded projects have yet to close on financing, an ominous sign as the months and years pass by.

The energy reforms also have opened up a market for bilateral contracts between energy producers and large corporate consumers. Now the aggressive auction pricing puts pressure on the budding commercial solar market to offer comparably cheap deals.

That won't really be possible, because distributed solar is more expensive per unit than utility-scale, and because the policy framework for the commercial offtakers is still being fleshed out.

The onus is on developers to turn their flashy bids into real megawatt-hours. Business model innovation has already begun (see Enel's big flip, below). Developers I spoke to hinted at their own special sauce for making it work, but nobody wanted to talk details with a journalist just yet.

Fighting for financing

The wild west marketplace that could make this market lucrative also deters many sources of financing that could help the industry grow.

The aggressive bidding in the auctions has forced developers to branch out in the hopes of salvaging their margins. Many projects now diversify their revenue among an auction PPA, clean energy certificates and the wholesale markets. 

The PPA with utility CFE is considered solid, but the risk associated with the value of the certificates and wholesale markets has financiers worried. The wholesale marketplace offers average prices about three times larger than the recent auction PPAs, so there's considerable profit potential. But the marketplace is still a toddler, so there's no long term data to examine for projecting revenue into the future.

This creates a great deal of merchant risk, further complicated by the interplay of U.S. natural gas in the northern grid, precisely where most of the solar development is concentrated.

All of this drives up the cost of capital, if it doesn't scare away lenders altogether.

Much of the early financing has been led by development banks and multilaterals, whose missions empower them to take more risk than commercial banks for projects that serve a social goal. Even these institutions, though, have limits to how much of their portfolio they can dedicate to a risky emerging industry.

If they can help the industry build up a bit more of a track record, commercial banks and foreign investors may come in with greater volumes of cash. But foreign investors in particular need to build up more trust in this market.

New World, Old World

Speaking of foreign investment, another dynamic that's shaping Mexican solar is the interplay of European clean energy giants and smaller, locally grown companies.

Enel made waves by grabbing about 1 gigawatt of capacity in the early auctions, which it then turned around and sold to pension funds in Canada and Mexico. 

The global renewables heavyweight leveraged its scale to derisk the investment -- the large solar play was just one part of a much broader renewables portfolio. And the corporate giant access much lower cost of capital than its upstart competitors.

Even so, Enel decided it made more sense to cash out on the projects rather than hold onto them and try to eke out a profit on the tight margins. 

Newly formed Mexican developers don't have the same room to maneuver as companies like Enel, Engie and Canadian Solar. They have to deal with expensive capital and a small portfolio, where any one project could make or break them.

The domestic developers do have local familiarity on their side, which could come into play when figuring out optimal sites and navigating the local politics. There has already been some friction with solar development and local communities concerning archeological sites and other land-use questions.

Where a corporate giant can go for scale and small margins, smaller developers can look for high value, chasing sites in isolated regions that really need the power.

Mexican storage: Not here yet

I led a panel on the role of energy storage in the Mexican solar market, which was hard because there isn't any storage there yet.

There is a 10-megawatt project going in with a solar plant in Baja California, which is essentially a grid island because it's so far removed from the mainland. And there's a lot of interest in storage as the solar market picks up steam. But significant hurdles stand in the way.

Those auction prices, again, make life difficult. If a developer has to compete against the lowest solar prices in the world, how do they get away with the premium required to throw in batteries?

There are no clear policy drivers to govern the deployment of storage just yet, and no government incentives to get initial deployments going. Something along those lines will be important for Mexico's energy agencies to figure out.

Industry may be getting more organized to advocate for this. During the panel, leaders from GE's energy storage team and Fluence, though competitors in large-scale storage development, expressed interest in teaming up to make the case for storage on the Mexican grid. The bigger the pie, the bigger each of their slices. We'll be watching to see if that conversation grows into Mexican energy storage industry group, which could serve as a counterpart to solar group ASOLMEX.

In addition, two officials from government energy agencies -- SENER and CFE -- stressed that storage is a top priority in the next phases of market reform.

Storage projects will make sense first in remote locations, like Baja Sur and the Yucatan Peninsula, where it's more expensive to transmit energy. But it will become more broadly valuable once solar generation spikes and Mexico gets its own version of the duck curve. Based on the auction commitments, that could come as soon as 2021.

Lingering uncertainties

With great newness comes great unpredictability. Here are key unknowns to decipher in the months to come:

  • Wholesale markets. Getting more data will be crucial for calculating returns on merchant solar sales, which could be key to the auction projects succeeding.
  • Presidential election. Mexico will pick a new president this July, and one of the leading candidates doesn't like the energy reform. Left-leaning candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador told Bloomberg he'd like to hold a popular referendum on the policy, and if the people reject the electricity system overhaul, he'll set about undoing it. Panelists at Solar Summit reiterated that the market reform rests on a strong legal framework and they believe it will proceed, but there's a non-zero risk of political interruption.
  • Distributed solar success. There's great potential for rooftop and commercial solar if the industry can sufficiently verify customer credit to secure financing from domestic and international sources. Corporate offtakers may also become vital to Mexico's utility-scale market.
Categories: Industry News

Hawaii Solar Permits See Sharp Decline in 2017

GreenTech Media - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 17:29

The number of rooftop solar permits issued in Hawaii fell significantly in 2017. But solar advocates say they're are cautiously optimistic the market will soon turn a corner despite ongoing struggles. 

On the island of Oahu, the state’s largest solar market, a total of 2,993 PV system permits were issued last year, according to data collected by Marco Mangelsdorf, president of Hilo-­based ProVision Solar. That number compares to 4,591 permits issued in 2016 and 7,493 permits issued in 2015 -- representing declines of 34 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

The all-time peak for solar permits issued on Oahu was in 2012, when the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting processed 16,715 applications. Compared to that banner year, the figure for 2017 was 82 percent lower.

Other islands also saw permits plummet year-over-year. Permits fell by 28 percent on Hawaii’s Big Island (from 1,256 in 2016, to 906 in 2017) and by 59 percent on Maui (from 1,657 in 2016, to 676 in 2017). Last year’s total on Maui was down a whopping 80 percent from 2015.

The change stems from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission’s decision to end the net energy metering (NEM) program for Hawaiian Electric Co. utilities, including the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) on Oahu, the Maui Electric Company (MECO), and the Hawaiian Electric Light Company (HELCO) on Hawaii Island.

“Hawaii rooftop PV peaked in 2012-2013 and has been losing solar steam ever since,” Mangelsdorf wrote in an email. “With the elimination of NEM by our PUC in October 2015, one of the main incentives to go PV has been diminished as lesser attractive interconnect programs (Customer Grid Supply and Customer Self Supply) were introduced.”

Kauai, which is served by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, saw the smallest drop-off in solar permits among Hawaii counties last year. KIUC ended its retail-rate net metering program in 2009 and switched to compensating rooftop PV customers at wholesale electricity rates, which has allowed for more market stability relative to other islands, according to Mangelsdorf.

Hawaiian Electric utilities, meanwhile, are still in the thick of enacting policy changes.

Hawaii introduces two new solar tariffs

On October 17, the PUC issued an order updating Hawaii’s existing interconnection programs. Regulators also created two new tariff programs for distributed energy resources: Smart Export (SE) and Customer Grid Supply Plus (CGS+).

Under SE, customers who install rooftop solar and home energy storage have an option to export excess power captured during the day during the non-daytime hours from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. Under the CGS+ program, customers can install solar without adding energy storage, but have to allow their utility to control how much energy flows from that solar system to grid.

On February 20, the Hawaiian Electric companies will go live with the two new PUC-mandated interconnect programs. Customers will be able to sign up for SE and CGS+, although many of the technical details are still being worked out.  

Under the CGS+ tariff, for instance, Hawaiian Electric will have the ability -- for the first time ever -- to disconnect new rooftop solar PV systems when grid conditions the curtailment of renewable energy feeding into the grid, according to Mangelsdorf. One of the requirements for potential CGS+ customers is that they have an “acceptable telemetry interface” to allow for communication between the PV system and the utility-supplied “smart production meter.” In simpler terms, if Hawaiian Electric decides a customer’s cell phone signal isn’t strong enough, the homeowner is out of luck.

If the utilities establish strict guidelines it will disenfranchise no small number of potential CGS+ adopters, especially on the Big Island and other rural areas of Oahu and Maui, Mangelsdorf said. The PUC and the solar industry will be paying very close attention to the information Hawaiian Electric provides this week with respect to new CGS+ systems.

“Hawaiian Electric has long wanted greater control over roof-top PV,” he said. “Now they’re getting it…and trying to figure out exactly how it’s going to work in the real world of inconsistent wireless coverage across our chain of islands.”

“We will find out more details tomorrow just how HECO et al. expect to implement the required communications and control systems to achieve this feat,” Mangelsdorf said. “Once again, cue the Star Trek music, [we’re] going where no utilities have gone before.”

A brighter solar future?

While 2017 saw solar permitting lag, the outlook for rooftop solar in Hawaii is beginning to look stronger.  

The number of solar permits on Oahu last month saw an 18 percent increase over January 2017, according to Mangelsdorf’s data. Of the 229 PV permits issued on Oahu in January, 122, or 53 percent, included energy storage. That number is expected to grow as more and more self-supply systems come online.

Solar permits issued on the Big Island were also up last month, from 46 in January 2017 to 102 solar permits in January 2018. Greater access to home energy storage is one of the primary driving factors. Coupled with the introduction of new solar tariffs, Hawaii’s rooftop solar market could begin to turn a corner in 2018, Mangelsdorf said.

The CGS+ and SE tariffs could open up a combined 84 megawatts worth of capacity space across the Hawaiian Electric service territories. Battery storage, meanwhile, has a potential new customer base of more than 80,000 existing grid-tied PV systems across the islands.

Outlook for Customer Grid Supply Plus and Smart Export Tariffs

A recent report by Hawaii's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) recorded an 18-fold increase in the number of permits issued for battery storage projects coupled with rooftop solar in the city of Honolulu. City data finds 731 residential energy storage projects received permits last year, compared to just 40 in 2016.

New solar tariffs will continue to make energy storage attractive. If passed, new legislation that would establish energy storage tax credits in Hawaii (SB 2016) would give batteries an additional boost.

“As more and more storage goes live, one of the juiciest questions is when and how will storage installed at the sites of customer-generators begin to provide greater resilience within the grid,” said Mangelsdorf. “One need look no further than Puerto Rico, where 40 percent or more of residents are still without reliable electricity more than five months after Hurricane Maria, to see what can happen to an island grid without adequate redundancy and resiliency."

How permits compare to installations

Permits are just one of the solar market story in Hawaii; installations are another. And when it comes to installations, the story is a little more complex.

According to Hawaiian Electric, the number of rooftop solar systems connected or approved in 2017 increased 3.6 percent from 2016. Including utility-scale projects, HECO, MECO and HELCO collectively saw their largest year-to-year increase of installed solar since 2013 -- with 695 megawatts of cumulative installed solar, up 109 megawatts from 2016.

Due to that growth, 20 percent of residential customers at both HECO and MECO have rooftop solar installed or approved for installation, up from 17 percent at both companies in 2016. At HELCO, 16 percent residential customers have solar installed or approved, up from 15 percent in 2016.

This 2017 success story doesn’t seem to fit with data showing the number of permits has progressively declined in recent years. But that’s because there’s a significant lag between permitting a PV system and it when actually comes online and is recorded by the utility company as new distributed energy capacity, said Mangelsdorf. Put another way: a fair amount of the PV added capacity recorded by the utility companies in 2017 represents legacy NEM systems that were permitted in 2016.

By that logic, rooftop PV installations are likely to see uneven growth through 2018 due to the low permitting numbers from 2017.

The discrepancy between permitting and installing also appeared in solar deployment figures for January 2018. The number of rooftop solar systems Hawaiian Electric utilities brought online last month showed a slight improvement over January 2017, according to data collected by the Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA). But the market is still “a far cry” from where it was in years prior and where the state needs to be to achieve its 100 percent renewable energy target, according to Will Giese, HSEA executive director.

Solar Permitting Figures for January 2016/2017/2018

While solar installations were up year-over-year, the outlook is less positive. Solar contractors “pull permits” when they anticipate developing a project in the near future, and over the past few years that number has been in decline.

“These figures are absolutely unsustainable over the long term,” said Giese. “Declining trends of this nature will result in lost local jobs and an inability for consumers to choose cheap, renewable energy.”

Categories: Industry News

How Solar Can Become the World’s Dominant Source of Energy—or How It Can Stall

GreenTech Media - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:13

Nothing can stop solar's growth trajectory -- except maybe solar itself.

This week, we have a deep discussion on the future of solar photovoltaics. Solar is exploding around the world, but have we grappled with the technology and market limitations that could stop the next order of magnitude in growth for PV?

On this week's episode of The Interchange, Shayle Kann sits down with Varun Sivaram, author of the new book, Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet.

Shayle and Varun examine every angle of the solar transition. They consider numerous possible futures, good and bad, for the technology: "If we do not take the right actions and urgently in innovation today, I warn that in the medium term we might run into a penetration ceiling for solar. And by the time that happens, it might have been too late to start investing in these long-term innovations that only pay off after you've invested for a little while," explains Varun.

Varun Sivaram is the Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.

This podcast is brought to you by Fiveworx, a turnkey customer engagement platform for utilities. Find out more about how Fiveworx can help your customer engagement program succeed -- and get you beyond the meter.

Recommended reading:

  • GTM: To Become Truly Mainstream, Solar Will Need to Cost 25 Cents per Watt by 2050
  • GTM: Do We Really Need Solar That’s Too Cheap to Meter?
  • Bloomerg View: Solar's Bright Future Is Further Away Than It Seems

Subscribe to The Interchange podcast via Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher or wherever you find your audio content.

Categories: Industry News

Puerto Rico School Ditches Grid for Solar-plus-Storage

Renewable Energy World - Solar - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 09:29

Classrooms at the SU Matrullas school in Orocovis are now entirely powered by solar panels and battery storage systems supplied by Sonnen GmbH and local developer Pura Energia. 

Categories: Industry News

Puerto Rico School Ditches Grid for Solar-plus-Storage

Renewable Energy World - Energy Storage - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 09:29

Classrooms at the SU Matrullas school in Orocovis are now entirely powered by solar panels and battery storage systems supplied by Sonnen GmbH and local developer Pura Energia. 

Categories: Industry News

Patagonia Takes Corporate Giving to the Next Level for Climate Action

Renewable Energy World - Solar - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:27

In this minicast, Patagonia launches an online platform in support of local action on climate change and visits one of the greenest U.S. cities to help introduce the new platform, called Action Works.

Categories: Industry News

Patagonia Takes Corporate Giving to the Next Level for Climate Action

Renewable Energy World - Energy Storage - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 07:27

In this minicast, Patagonia launches an online platform in support of local action on climate change and visits one of the greenest U.S. cities to help introduce the new platform, called Action Works.

Categories: Industry News

Solar Powered Cold Storage Provides Relief During Humanitarian and Natural Disasters

Renewable Energy World - Solar - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 14:18

A 50-year old company has a solution to provide clean drinking water and power for regions that were hard-hit by the hurricanes last fall. Aldelano Solar Cold Chain solutions is providing off-grid refrigeration, water generation and power generation equipment to Antiqua, Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands.


Categories: Industry News


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