BNEF: Wind, Solar Competing with Fossil Fuels

According to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), this year has seen a shift in the generating cost comparison between renewable energy and fossil fuels. The report, “Levelised Cost of Electricity Update,” for the second half of 2015 based on extensive data and global projects shows that onshore wind and crystalline silicon photovoltaics – the two most widespread technologies- have both seen significantly reduced costs while costs have gone up for gas-fired and coal-fired generation.

The BNEF study shows finds that the global average levelised cost of electricity, or LCOE, for onshore wind nudged downwards from $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the first half of the year, to $83 in the second half of the year, while that for crystalline silicon PV solar fell from $129 to $122.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance logoIn the same period, the LCOE for coal-fired generation increased from $66 per MWh to $75 in the Americas, from $68 to $73 in Asia-Pacific, and from $82 to $105 in Europe. The LCOE for combined-cycle gas turbine generation rose from $76 to $82 in the Americas, from $85 to $93 in Asia-Pacific and from $103 to $118 in EMEA.

“Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs,” said Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilisation rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform.”

Levelised costs take into account not just the cost of generating a marginal MWh of electricity, but also the upfront capital and development expense, the cost of equity and debt finance, and operating and maintenance fees.

Among other low-carbon energy technologies, offshore wind reduced its global average LCOE from $176 per MWh, to $174, but still remains significantly more expensive than wind, solar PV, coal or gas, while biomass incineration saw its levelised cost stay steady at $134 per MWh. Nuclear, like coal and gas, has very different LCOE levels from one region of the world to another, but both the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region saw increases in levelised costs, to $261 and $158 per MWh respectively.

BCSE Calls for Passage of Clean Energy Programs

More than 580 companies including the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) are calling for the passage of legislation that provides the extension of expired and expiring tax incentives designed to promote the growth of clean energy and clean energy technologies. The groups submitted a letter to Congress stressing to the federal lawmakers that,”Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies.”

“Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies. Allowing the lapsed clean energy tax provisions to languish undermines investor confidence and jeopardizes continued economic and environmental benefits,” said Lisa Jacobson, BCSE President.

2015FB_1According to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and BCSE, the use of lower and zero carbon energy sources has grown rapidly over the past seven years. BCSE says the clean energy tax provisions have a proven track record of helping scale up production and drive down the cost of clean energy technologies, thereby ensuring that market-ready technologies are deployed to their full potential.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) whose organization was also a signer of the letter, said of the need for these programs to have multi-year extenders, “American wind power is building momentum right now, but Congress has yet to pass these critical tax incentives, and the clock is ticking. The U.S. wind energy industry has rebounded from the loss of 23,000 jobs in 2013 due to policy uncertainty, and we can grow to support 380,000 jobs by 2030 with stable policy. That’s why we join hundreds of other voices in the business community to call on Congress to take action now.”

Kelly Speakes-Backman, Senior Vice President of Policy and Research at the Alliance to Save Energy and also a letter signer added, “Extension of the clean energy tax incentives is a bipartisan issue. This extension will bring stability to a growing private industry, while reducing pollution from the energy sector. The Alliance endorses this business-oriented approach to strengthen our economy and encourage energy efficiency and clean technology investments.”

ConEdison Assists “Renewable” Waste Treatment

The Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Staten Island has been updated to include “renewable” energy to help power the waste treatment facility. Three new boilers – a combination of biogas and natural gas – along with a new exhaust system and a rootfop solar array. Biogas is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process and is now being captured and used to replace equipment from the 1970s that ran on heating oil. The solar array, installed by ConEdison Solutions, is expected to produce 1.6 million kilowatt hours, approximately 10 percent of the plant’s power needs. The project is part of OneNYC’s initiative to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

21218149303_ee1802d0ae_z“This $30 million investment in new technology at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant will significantly reduce pollution and result in cleaner air for New York City,” said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “Our wastewater treatment plants require a tremendous amount of electricity in order to protect public health and the environment, and we’re focused on not only reducing their demand for electricity, but also capturing and maximizing their potential for energy production.”

In September 2014, New York City committed to the goal of achieving an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050 (80×50). With buildings comprising nearly three-quarters of New York City’s overall emissions, the City has implemented an initiative to retrofit all public buildings with any significant energy use by 2025, and supporting many private buildings to do the same. In addition, in order to reduce emissions from City government operations, an program was put in place to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

“ConEdison Solutions is proud to help the New York City Department of Environmental Protection promote sustainability through this ambitious solar installation,” added Michael N. Perna of ConEdison Solutions. “Throughout New York City, both public-sector and private-sector entities are learning how to utilize renewable power as a money-saving and energy-saving asset. With these significant improvements at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant, DEP is setting an outstanding example for other facilities throughout the region.”

Survey Finds Support for Clean Energy

ClearPath Clean Energy Poll“Support for clean energy is both strong with the overall electorate and with the conservative Republicans that form a core constituency for many Republican elected officials,” according to a new survey commissioned by ClearPath. Jay Faison, ClearPath founder, noted that the survey demonstrates that, “the big, myth-busting news was how wide and deep support for clean energy policy is among conservatives.” The organization is dedicated to developing support for market-based clean energy solutions.

Key findings include:

  • 84% of registered voters, including almost three-quarters of Republicans, favor taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.
  • Energy independence, less pollution, and job growth are viewed by GOP voters as the “big 3” of clean energy benefits.
  • Solar policy enjoys enormous support among Republicans, with rooftop solar (82%) and net metering (86%) scoring highest among seven clean energy policy ideas tested.
  • Most voters – including a majority of Republicans (56%) – think the climate is changing and human activity is playing a role.
  • Among different approaches that win over voters on the issue of climate and clean energy, positive messages that emphasize what America can achieve are the most effective.
  • In particular, Republican and independent voters favor a candidate who says regardless of the debate over climate we should expand the use of clean energy because of its benefits and to mitigate risk.

The survey was conducted by Kristen Soltis Anderson of Echelon Insights in collaboration with Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies and Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research.

Soltis Anderson said of the survey findings, “Voters are looking for leaders who want to solve problems and go beyond party politics. Voters, including Republicans, want to take a step back from the politicization of energy and climate issues and pursue clean energy on its own merits.”

Grid Guru Debunks Clean Power Plan Blackouts

According to a new white paper, implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will not cause blackouts and opposers to the plan claim. Lauren Azar, former Commissioner at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and senior advisor to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, conducted a detailed review of the recent history of the power industry and found that utilities will quickly adapt to changes brought about by the CPP.

The Electric Grid 2030Using recent industry trends as the foundation, the paper demonstrates how the power sector has adapted to change in the recent past. One key indicator in the final CPP is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) estimate that there will be a need to build at most 13.6 gigawatts (GW) of new natural gas plants in the next 10 years to meet the demand for electricity as coal plants phase out. The paper notes that, from 2000 to 2010, the country added the equivalent of 237 GW in new natural gas plants as power producers seized the opportunity to capitalize on the vast supply of cheap natural gas—showing that the natural gas industry is capable of building over 13 times the amount of power plants than the EPA estimates will be needed to maintain resource adequacy.

In a similar examination of the renewable sector, the paper finds that in 2014 alone, the country added nearly 7 GW of solar and 4.9 GW of wind electric-generation, making the EPA’s estimated target of 81 to 84 GW in those renewables by 2030 a feasible task.

Recent history serves to demonstrate how the energy industry can adapt to comply with the CPP without risking additional blackouts, but the paper also notes that, in the unlikely event of a reliability issue, the CPP has several backup plans to address any grid reliability threat.

GMP & Yeloha Offer Unique Solar Sharing Program

Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Yeloha, a peer-to-peer Solar Sharing Network, have launched a unique solar sharing program, the first by a utility. The platform enables customers to generate their own solar energy and share it with other residents online whose roofs are not suited for solar panels. Customers will be offered to host the panels free of charge in exchange for sharing some of their solar power. GMP says the program represents a beacon of change for nationwide energy.

“This is a unique opportunity to empower more people to be able to harness the power of the sun,” said Mary Powell, president and CEO GMP, a B-Corp utility. “We see a tremendous opportunity in leveraging more rooftops around Vermont for the benefit of all those who may currently be renters, or own homes that are not well suited for solar. As Vermont’s energy company of the future, we are transforming the old grid system into one where power is generated and consumed closer to the home or community where it is needed. This partnership with Yeloha will help accelerate this revolution in distributed power.”

How it Works - AnnotatedYeloha is an online platform with a mission to make solar accessible to everyone, including those who don’t own a roof suitable for solar, such as renters and apartment dwellers, or those who can’t afford the panels by going solar on someone else’s roof. The platform is sometimes referred to as the “Airbnb of Solar”.

“We are pleased to join forces with Green Mountain Power, a forward-thinking energy provider, as our first utility partner,” said Amit Rosner, Co-Founder and CEO, Yeloha. “Working together, we have the unique opportunity to democratize access to clean energy; literally bringing power to the people, by the people.”

The initiative will start as a pilot in Rutland and Barre Vermont.

Senate Democrats Propose New Energy Package

A group of Senate Democrats have proposed a new energy bill to promote clean energy. If passed, the legislation would end some subsidies for fossil fuels and close some oil and gas tax loopholes; incentivize clean energy such as solar and wind through grant programs and tax incentives; and encourage carbon capture and sequestration along with continued development of nuclear energy and biofuels.

AWEA logoIn response to the proposed bill, Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) commented, “We commend Senators Reid, Wyden, Schumer, and Cantwell for putting forward a policy framework to provide domestic energy producers with greater stability so businesses can invest and bring costs down even further. The tax code has a century-long history of incentivizing American-made energy, and we must continue to ensure that we have abundant, clean, and affordable energy to power our economy. Wind energy has proven that it can deliver in these areas and it must continue to be a critical part of the U.S. energy mix. We appreciate the leadership of Sens. Reid, Wyden, Schumer, and Cantwell in trying to find common ground to ensure that the U.S. is well-suited to face the energy challenges of the 21st century by promoting a diverse energy portfolio.”

According to Senate Finance Committee staff, this legislation would save Americans at least $20 billion over the next 15 years and create/support at least 3.5 million jobs.

SEIA logo“By providing long-term, steady federal tax and energy policy, this legislation provides the stability that businesses in the solar industry need to grow – adding tens of thousands of new, well-paying solar jobs across the country, which today includes more than 174,000 Americans,” said Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We also applaud the inclusion of programs that remove barriers for low-income Americans, making it easier for everyone to access clean, affordable, reliable solar energy.”

If approved and signed into law, this legislation would temporarily extend the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), and then ease the transition afterward through the creation of long-term, technology-neutral clean energy tax incentives.

Resch added, “The United States deserves to be a world leader in cutting-edge technologies, and providing a long-term extension of the ITC will encourage massive investment in the U.S. solar industry. When you provide certainty to solar consumers and businesses with an energy tax code that promotes innovation and encourages the development of new and efficient technologies – America wins. We see this bill as a major step forward, and the solar industry looks forward to working with Congress so all solar technologies are included.”

Greenpeace Study: 100% Renewable by 2050

According to a new Greenpeace report, “2015 Energy [r]evolution,” the world could be fueled by 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The analysis, researched in collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), finds that the transition to renewables would not only create jobs but be cost competitive. The necessary investment in clean energy, the report states, would be more than covered by future savings in fuel costs.

2015 Energy Revolution“The phase out of fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy is not only needed, but can be achieved globally by mid-century,” said Greenpeace USA Climate and Energy Campaign Director Kelly Mitchell. “In the US, we must prioritize keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground while accelerating the transition to clean energy like wind and solar. Doing so would both create new jobs and ensure a healthier planet for future generations.”

All eyes will be on Paris this December when world leaders will meet to discuss ongoing efforts to curb climate change. The report finds that globally, average additional investment needed in renewables is roughly $1 trillion a year until 2050. Because renewables don’t require fuel, the savings over the same period would be $1.07 trillion a year, which more than covers the costs of the required investment states the study.

“We must not let the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. “I urge all those who say ‘it can’t be done’ to read this report and recognize that it can be done and must be done for the benefit of people around the world.”

Within 15 years, renewables’ share of electricity could triple from 21 percent to 64 percent, which would ensure almost two thirds of global electricity supply is delivered from clean energy. Despite the rapid development of countries like Brazil, China and India, CO2 emissions could fall from the current 30 gigatonnes a year to 20 gigatonnes by 2030. Continue reading

U.S. VP Joe Biden Addresses Solar Industry

Vice President Joe Biden welcomed attendees at the Solar Power International 2015 (SPI) this week. He is the first Veep to deliver remarks at a solar power conference in the U.S. He spoke during the general session and discussed the importance of solar power for America’s energy present and future.

VP Joe Biden speaks at Solar Power International 2015“Vice President Biden addressing Solar Power International shows just how far we’ve grown as an industry,” said Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Solar is now the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America thanks to the hard work and innovation of its 174,000 workers and smart, successful policies like the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Solar energy is a true American success story and we’re happy to celebrate that achievement today with the Vice President.”

SPI is the largest solar power trade show in North America with more than 15,000 attendees.

“Solar has become a mainstream resource and an increasingly important part of our nation’s energy portfolio,” added Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). “Vice President Biden’s presence at SPI underscores that fact, and demonstrates that leaders at the highest level are committed to working with stakeholders on the inevitable evolution that is happening within the energy industry.”

Continuing on its record-breaking trajectory, the United States solar industry surpassed 20 gigawatts (GW) of total operational solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity during the second quarter of this year. According to GTM Research and the SEIA Q2 2015 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the U.S. installed 1,393 megawatts of PV last quarter, signaling both annual and quarterly growth.

Alstom Supports Access to Renewable Energy

In support of offering more renewable energy to Zambians, Alstom is financing an energy kiosk project in Zambia to enable people network access through cheaper renewable electricity. Equipped with solar panels, the kiosk will be capable of autonomously producing its own energy and will enable electricity to be supplied to around 500 people from the North Kariba region.

The funds for the project were made available by the savings from the “We share the power program,” an initiative to reduce electricity consumption around the world. The energy kiosk project is being conducted in partnership with the University of Seattle and the “Kilowatts for Humanity” association.

Child-using-an-energy-kiosk-in-Kenya-300

A child using an energy kiosk in Kenya.

“Today families are using poor quality, expensive and polluting lighting, and have to travel many miles to recharge their electrical equipment,” explained Antoine Desclos le Peley, the “We share the power” project manager. He notes that because of the energy kiosk, the inhabitants of the North Kariba region will be able to charge a portable battery that will provide them with electricity at home at a lower cost. Work is planned to start in April 2016.

According to Alstom, the provision of sustainable lighting has a positive impact on families’ daily life, by enabling them to continue their activities during the evening, either to work or to study. Managed by an entrepreneur who comes from the region, the energy kiosk is also a profitable activity that contributes to the development of the local economy. In time, this type of installation will be able to supply electricity to schools or hospitals.

“This is a project designed to stand the test of time,” added le Peley. “With ‘We share the power,’ we are demonstrating that Alstom responsibly manufactures sustainable products. Beyond energy consumption management, we are also taking on another challenge, namely to promote access to energy, which is a real lever for development.”