Category: Alternative Energy

Wind and solar energy are the lowest cost options in most of the U.S., and that’ll make it very hard to stop the renewable energy freight train from running over fossil fuels.

Utilities that need to build new power generation facilities or replace old ones are going to have a hard time justifying anything but renewable energy in 2017 and beyond. Investment bank Lazard recently released its 11th analysis of the cost of new electricity generation, titled Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, and showed that wind and solar energy are now cheaper than diesel, nuclear, coal, and in most cases natural gas.

Utilities and regulators are going to be hard-pressed to justify anything but renewable energy generation in the future. From Maine to Hawaii, the U.S.’s energy future is renewable.

Solar farm with wind turbines in the background. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

How renewable energy costs stack up today

The table below shows Lazard’s analysis of the cost, on a per kWh basis, to build new power plants with different fuel sources and technologies. You can see that the lowest cost option is wind at 3 cents per kWh, followed by gas combined cycle that’s as cheap as 4.2 cents per kWh, and solar, which costs between 4.3 cents and 5.3 cents per kWh.

Energy source Low-End Estimate High-End Estimate
Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV 4.6 cents per kWh 5.3 cents per kWh
Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV 4.3 cents per kWh 4.8 cents per kWh
Wind 3 cents per kWh 6 cents per kWh
Coal 6 cents per kWh 14.3 cents per kWh
Natural Gas Combined Cycle 4.2 cents per kWh 7.8 cents per kWh
Nuclear 12.2 cents per kWh 18.3 cents per kWh
Diesel 19.7 cents per kWh 28.1 cents per kWh
DATA SOURCE: LAZARD’S LEVELIZED COST OF ENERGY ANALYSIS–VERSION 11.0.

What you’ll also notice is that the range of costs is much wider for fossil fuels like natural gas. That’s because construction costs can be different depending on the state, fuel prices, and how often the plant is being used. Renewable energy, on the other hand, gets to cut to the front of the line on the grid, meaning nearly 100% of its electricity production is used, allowing for predictable electricity pricing.

What’s clear is that diesel, nuclear, and coal are all higher cost than both wind and solar energy on a per kWh basis. No matter how you slice it, renewable energy is winning versus fossil fuels on economics.

I’ll also point out that there’s no fuel cost risk for renewable energy. The wind and sun are zero-cost fuel sources, unlike extracted fuels, which could conceivably spike from current levels.

Trends are working against fossil fuels

It wasn’t long ago that Lazard’s analysis wasn’t so favorable to renewable energy. In 2010, version 4.0 of Lazard’s levelized cost of energy study had wind costs at 6.5-11.0 cents per kWh and solar at 13.4-19.4 cents per kWh. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear all beat solar on a cost basis, and in some cases beat wind.

Energy source Low-End Estimate High-End Estimate
Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV 13.4 cents per kWh 15.4 cents per kWh
Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV 13.4 cents per kWh 18.8 cents per kWh
Wind 6.5 cents per kWh 11.0 cents per kWh
Coal 6.9 cents per kWh 15.2 cents per kWh
Natural Gas Combined Cycle 6.7 cents per kWh 9.6 cents per kWh
Nuclear 7.7 cents per kWh 11.4 cents per kWh
DATA SOURCE: LAZARD’S LEVELIZED COST OF ENERGY ANALYSIS–VERSION 4.0.

Clearly, the tides have shifted in the energy industry. Fossil fuels is at best flat and in some cases getting more expensive, while renewable energy costs are coming down every year. There’s no indication these trends will reverse course, and investors need to consider whether they’re using renewable energy’s growth as a tailwind for their portfolio or fighting the clear trends in energy. If these charts are any indication, fossil fuels’ days may be numbered.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico is asking for project proposals, including renewables and battery storage, designed to help reach its coal-free goal by 2031.

It’s an ambitious, audacious goal.

In its 20-year 2017 Integrated Resource Plan submitted to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC)earlier this year, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) announced its intentions to be coal-free by 2031. Now it’s taken the first steps toward reaching those goals.

Last week, the state’s largest utility issued a request for proposals (RFP) for 456 MW of new generation resources, including renewable resources and battery storage. The RFP is predicated on the assumption that the utility’s San Juan Generating Station does not continue to operate post 2022.

The inclusion of battery storage in the RFP is part of a new NMPRC mandate that all the state’s utilities include those options in their future plans. The mandate was implemented in August.

In its August decision, the NMPRC said the original 2008 regulation that mandated IRPs didn’t take storage into account because the technology wasn’t sophisticated enough, and what did exist was too expensive. Now the technology is more easily deployable, adding them to the list of requirements makes far more sense – and PNM has taken the commission’s requirements into consideration with its new RFP.

But with new technologies available and prices coming down, the NMPRC decided the time was right to add it to the data requirements included in the reports.

PNM wants proposals that will help its portion of the grid provide the necessary reliability requirements and minimum operating resources that will meet North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) criteria.

PV Magazine 

A joint study by Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology and Energy Watch Group presented on the sidelines of the COP23 talks in Bonn demonstrates that a global transition to 100% renewable electricity could be achieved by 2050, and would be more cost effective than the current electricity system.

Longi Solar

The study, ‘Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy – Power Sector’ was presented during the Global Renewable Energy Solutions Showcase event, a sideline to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP23 currently underway in Bonn.

The study’s key overall finding is that a global shift to 100% renewable electricity is feasible with current technology, and would be more cost effective than the current system led by fossil fuels and nuclear generation.

The study found that in a projected scenario for energy demand in 2050, 100% could be met by current renewable technologies, at a global average LCOE of €52/MWh, compared with 2015’s average LCOE of €70.

In EWG’s 2050 scenario, solar PV covers 69% of electricity demand, wind 18%, hydro 8% and bioenergy 2%. The study predicts that wind will briefly overtake solar in the 2020s, before further price drops put solar back in the lead.

Storage is outlined as the key supporting technology for solar, with around 31% of total demand covered by storage technologies. 95% of this is projected to come from short term storage provided by batteries, with power to gas conversion providing seasonal storage.

“There is no reason to invest one more dollar in fossil or nuclear power production,” exclaims EWG President Hans Josef. “All plans for a further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil have to be ceased. More investments need to be channeled in renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure for storage and grids. Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming.”

The report is based on an original model developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology, which calculates the most cost-effective mix of technologies based on available resources in 145 regions for a full reference year. The full study is published here.

Only time will tell whether this study’s recommendation will translate into reality. As lead author Christian Breyer sums up: “Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will.”

PV Magazine

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados government says independent power producers interested in supplying electricity to the national grid will be able to apply for licences by early next year. Energy Minister Darcy Boyce said that recommendations on licensing systems for these producers should be in hand by the end of the year and that proposals for pricing of renewable energy would also go before the Fair Trading Commission early next year.

“We can give certainty to investors of what they will earn,” he said, adding that the recommendations on pricing will be made after stakeholder consultations.

Boyce was speaking at a signing ceremony between the Division of Energy and Enermax Limited to facilitate the installation of solar photovoltaic systems at 28 community centres and nine polyclinics.

The project, which will be implemented over the next three months, forms part of the Disaster Risk and Energy Access Management (DREAM) Project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) with project support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Its primary objectives are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable energy and to strengthen Barbados’ disaster risk response by promoting decentralised photovoltaic electricity generation with battery back-up.

Boyce said that eventually he would like to see all community centres, polyclinics, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and all schools with renewable energy systems.

He said this would result in a reduction in electricity costs, provide critical battery support when there were outages and ensure that communities and schools were not impacted in carrying out their programmes because of high electricity bills.

Jamaica Observer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica must capitalise on the availability of renewable energy. He explained that the country would be in a far better position if it could convert naturally occurring forces into energy.

“It is possible for Jamaica to go to approximately 50 per cent of its energy needs provided by alternatives,” Holness declared during a tour of BMR Jamaica Wind Limited in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, on Wednesday.

BMR Jamaica Wind Limited is the builder, owner and operator of Jamaica’s largest privately funded renewable energy project. The 36.3MW wind-generating facility has been in operation since July 1, 2016. At a cost of US$89.9 million, this represents a major investment in the parish of St Elizabeth.

LOCAL ENERGY A PREFERENCE

“From a policy perspective, we would much prefer to have more of our energy locally generated, and from that perspective, renewables are very important to us,” said Holness.

He pointed out that there is great potential between the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth for an expansion in wind-generating plants and that the significant investment made by BMR Limited is an indication that there can be even greater investment in wind energy in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that the Government is doing an integrated resource plan which will project what are the country’s future needs. In addition, the plan will incorporate how the country can supply those future needs integrating renewables, in particular wind and solar.

PROBLEM WITH SUPPLY

“Of course, the problem with renewables is the intermittency of the supply, and even that can be overcome with battery technology, which has increased and improved, and so I hold a very optimistic view of the future of energy supply in Jamaica. We are now looking at expansion in solar,” added the Prime Minister.

According to Holness, another solar plant will be opened very soon and the Government is also examining waste energy as a solution.

The BMR Jamaica Wind project holds the distinction of being the first project funded in Jamaica by the Overseas Private Investment Company (OPIC). US$62.7 million was provided by OPIC and US$20 million from the International Finance Company (IFC).

The project is the recipient of the OPIC impact award 2016, as well as, the CREF Wind Project of the Year 2017.

Gleaner

UN CLIMATE CHANGE PRESS RELEASE / 10 NOV, 2017

The global community has coalesced around the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, one of which is to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible. The longer we delay the peak — the point when global emissions switch from increasing to decreasing — the more difficult it will be to limit global warming. Yet global GHG emissions are still rising and are expected to continue to climb through 2030.

The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline — especially those of major emitters like the United States and China — is critically important in determining whether we can avoid the most dangerous climate impacts.

Although the timing of when global GHG emissions need to peak is well documented, there has been less research on when individual countries’ emissions have peaked. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) new paper, Turning Points: Trends in Countries Reaching Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions Over Tim e, fills this gap by analysing which countries’ emissions peaked in the past and which countries have emissions- reduction commitments that imply peaking in the future.

The paper documents steady progress in the number of countries reaching peak emissions over time. By 1990, 19 countries had peaked (representing 21 per cent of global emissions), and by 2030 this number is likely to grow to 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions). Among the 57 countries that have peaked already or have a commitment that implies a peak by 2030 are some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.

Peaking Progress by Decade

19 countries, representing 21 per cent of global emissions (based on 1990 emissions data), reached peak emissions in 1990 or earlier. Sixteen of them were former Soviet republics and/or economies in transition. The economic collapse after the break-up of the Soviet Union resulted in several former Soviet republics’ emissions declining sharply. Germany and Norway also peaked by 1990, and the European Union as a whole reached peak emissions by 1990.

By 2000

By 2000, 33 countries’ emissions peaked, representing 18 per cent of global emissions (based on 2000 emissions data). Many of the countries peaking in the 1990s were European nations such as the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland. Costa Rica also reached peak emissions levels in 1999.

By 2010

The number of countries that peaked by 2010 grew to 49, representing 36 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data). This includes several more European countries such as Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, as well as Brazil (which peaked in 2004), Australia (which peaked in 2006), and the United States and Canada (both of which peaked in 2007).

By 2020

53 countries representing 40 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2020 projections) peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2020. Countries with commitments to peak as part of their Copenhagen Accord pledges for 2020 include Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malta, and New Zealand. By 2020, almost all developed countries are expected to have peaked. 42 of the 43 Annex I countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are expected to peak — all except for Turkey.

By 2030

China, the Marshall Islands, Mexico and Singapore have unconditional climate pledges under the Paris Agreement that imply a peak in emissions by 2030 (China’s commitment is for CO2 emissions only). This brings the number of countries that have peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2030 to 57, representing 60 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2030 projections).

To be conservative, our analysis only considers countries with unconditional targets as having a target that implies a future peak. Additional countries that have targets that imply an emissions peak by 2030 but are contingent on receiving international support include Bhutan, Botswana, Ethiopia, Grenada and South Africa. The inclusion of these countries would increase the per cent of global emissions covered by peaking countries from 60 to 61 per cent in 2030.

Accelerating Climate Commitments

While this trend is encouraging, it’s not enough. Research suggests that to have a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit for the least cost, global GHG emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest. The world’s ability to limit warming to 1.5 or 2˚C depends not only on the number of countries that have peaked over time, but also the global share of emissions represented by those countries; their emissions levels at peaking; the timing of peaking; and the rate of emissions reductions after peaking.

Countries must make and achieve commitments to peak their emissions as soon as possible, set their peaks at lower emissions levels, and commit to a significant rate of emissions decline after peaking.

Countries can make these commitments when communicating or updating their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement in 2020. Doing so will help ensure that countries’ emission reduction commitments bring global emissions to the level needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Jamaica Observer

A federal trade panel is recommending that Trump impose tariffs as high as 35 percent on solar power technology.

Jamaica, AOSIS formalise position ahead of COP23

 Jamaica’s climate negotiators, who are in Germany for the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), are reporting a good first day of the preparatory meetings leading up to the global climate change conference which runs from November 6-17.The negotiators — led by retired meteorologist Clifford Mahlung and Senior Technical Officer Dr Orville Grey as well as principal director of the Climate Change Division Una May Gordon left the island on Sunday and had their preparatory meeting yesterday. The rest of the 22-member delegation is expected to depart the island next Sunday.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) — the bloc with which Jamaica and other Caricom states negotiate — met to formalise its position going into the conference. The Group of 77 and China will have its preparatory meetings on Thursday and Friday, while Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for round-table discussion.

“The meeting was a success,” Gordon told the Jamaica Observer from Bonn. We had the AOSIS prep then met with the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice chair.”

At the top of the agenda for AOSIS, and by extension Jamaica, is long-term climate financing, without which, it contends, small islands which are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change will not be able to survive.

Developed country parties committed to jointly mobilising US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation. Climate Policy Initiative reported in 2015 that global finance flows reached at least US$391 billion in 2014 as a result of a steady increase in public finance and record private investment in renewable technologies.

Jamaica is currently benefiting from one of the climate financing initiatives, having recently received a grant for US$300,000 under Green Climate Fund’s Readiness Programme. The funds are earmarked to develop its physical, technological and human resources to tackle the immense challenges posed by climate change, by strengthening the capacity of the Climate Change Division, the national designated authority in Jamaica. The country has also been approved to receive another grant which the Government says will be used to strengthen the capacity of the private sector to access resources for climate action.

That type of capacity-building, Gordon argued, is critical if the country is to implement strategies to effectively deal with climate change

“Funds are available for climate change adaptation and mitigation, but if we don’t increase and strengthen our capacity to target and access these funds they are going to pass us by,” she said at a consultation with climate change interests in Kingston a week ago.

We recently joined 59 developing countries around the world which have access to funds.

She explained that adapting to and mitigating the threats posed by climate change will require significant outlays of funds, not only for infrastructural projects, but for human resource development as well as for investment in technical and technological advances.

Speaking at that consultation, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz said the impacts will be felt not only in the agriculture industry, but also in tourism, real estate, timber, and equity portfolios. He referenced a UN-ECLAC study, which estimates that the cumulative losses due to loss of marine ecosystems by storm damage and other factors up to 2050 may average as much as US$366 million per year, and pointed to Citigroup data, which showed that global warming could adversely affect the gross domestic product of countries around the world by up to $72 trillion.

“Mitigation costs alone could be in the range of US$140-US$175 billion per year by 2030,” said Vaz.

“Climate change has far-reaching implications for our future, particularly in terms of lives, livelihoods, and the country’s sustainable development goals. As a Government, many of the decisions that we must make in this country must take into consideration job creation, economic growth, and competitiveness, [but] climate change has the potential to disrupt our plans, programmes and projects.

“Long-term financing, therefore, remains one of the critical areas on the agenda of SIDS as we prepare to go into the discussions in Bonn,” he said.

The annual global climate talks are coordinated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Jamaica Observer

Minister without portfolio with responsibility for water, works and housing Dr Horace Chang says the housing sector must be governed by regulations and practices that are sustainable, climate-resilient and will ensure the safety and security of Jamaicans.

He made the comments ahead of the regional housing conference to be hosted by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, October 18-20 at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Hotel, Montego Bay.

The inaugural conference, themed ‘Providing Safe, Legal and Affordable Housing for All: From Policy to Implementation’, is expected to expose some of the issues and, where possible, bring solutions to the housing market. It will also identify best practices that can be used to improve service delivery and innovative approaches to housing.

Areas to be discussed include housing costs and financing, building technology within a changing environment, housing and land tenure, and housing sector management.

“The conference comes at an opportune time given the need to ensure that our houses are built with the best quality materials, which are environmentally friendly, structurally sound and climate-resilient,” stated Minister Chang.

He said these considerations are even more important considering recent devastating hurricanes which have impacted several islands in the Caribbean.

“This need is even more urgent in the face of climate change as our construction industry must adapt to the new realities, and must ensure that our buildings are robust and can withstand the more intense impacts of climate change, with its extreme weather events,” he explained.

In the meantime, Chief Technical Director at the MEGJC with responsibility for water, works and housing Doreen Prendergast said the regional conference has received overwhelming local and international support.

She indicated that representatives from St Lucia, Barbados, Guyana, World Bank, IDB, Cities Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and a representative from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development are scheduled to attend, and in some instances make presentations.

“There is a great need for this type of forum because of the challenges within the housing sector,” said Prendergast. “Challenges pertaining to governance, security of tenure, and housing need and demand that are not being satisfied.”

The ministry has received 26 abstracts from academia for the conference, which are intended to provide an avenue for academia to help chart the policy and planning of the sector.

Jamaica Observer