California Sets the Stage for Solar
Solar Power Generation 2012 continues with a talk from Timothy Alan Simon, Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Here are some of the highlights:
Utility & consumer views: What is acceptable to pay for power in a realistic US electricity market?
California has a strong economic impact on the rest of the country, especially when it comes to setting renewable portfolio standards. That's why it's often referred to as “the largest rodent in the fight for renewable cheese in the west,” says Simon. “That's the kind of impact we have.”
Despite the topic at hand, Simon says that he is not at liberty to say what the appropriate price is to pay for renewable energy with the state of the market being in such a flux.
Most ambitious state
The California renewable energy portfolio standard was established in 2002, but it accelerated in 2006 and has since expanded to the current interpretation of achieving 33 percent, increasing the state's renewable energy goals statutorily. Currently, California is at about 17 percent with hopes of reaching 25 percent by 2016 and 33 percent 2020. So, “achieving 50 percent in the near future is no longer an outlandish objective,” says Simon.
California's RPS goals are of the most ambitious in the country, considering the load factor of the state. The CPUC and California Energy Commission are responsible for implementing that program, keeping in mind the what ratepayers can afford and what the economy can handle.
At what cost to ratepayers?
For a while, legislation had been driving the market more than actual demand and the RPS process has created a challenge for the commission. By the time projects arrive in front of the commission, it's likely that there has already been a dramatic change in the marketplace. And even if there are lower bids to choose from, the commission has a responsibility to choose the projects that offer the most long term viability.
“It's not uncommon to vote for higher priced projects, because there's a belief that there is a greater viability to them,” explains Simon. "But we will often gets tons of criticism from ratepayers for not keeping costs as low as possible."
Looking to Italy as a model for a successful distributed renewable generation system, Simon notes that they also have the highest prices for electricity in the E.U. “That concerns me in terms of the impact it could have on ratepayers in California as well as on the state's overall economy,” says Simon.
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Competition: the good and the bad
The 2011 RPS solicitation process came to a close in August, and was by far the most robust RPS process seen in California. Over 1,100 unique renewable energy projects were submitted, representing 283,000 GW hours a year of forecasted generation and 91,000 MW of forecasted capacity. The total forecasted annual generation from all the unique bids represented over 4.5 times the total demand for the entire RPS program in California needed to achieve a 33 percent renewable energy standard by 2020. “In other words, we're oversubscribed,” says Simon.
Since 2009, RPS bids are up by 250 percent and the number of sellers are up by 150 percent. Over half of the projects submitted were for solar PV, 25 percent for wind, 7 percent for biomass, 5 percent for geothermal, 4 percent for solar thermal and 3 percent for small hydro projects.
All that competition is good news for ratepayers, although a huge part of the cause has been driven by lower prices of solar PV, which have negative global implications. Some suggest turning a blind eye to those implications in order to achieve lower carbon emissions goals.
“That's short sighted,” says Simon. “The technology should be able to compete on a levelized playing field in terms of whatever subsidies are required to launch any new technologies, but when those subsidies result in job losses, then we need to balance those equities to find out how we can better stimulate job growth.”
Regardless, it will be up to the CPUC to maintain prices and choose the most viable projects—a difficult task at hand.
Natural gas: “the kissing cousin of renewables”
A huge factor in achieving aggressive renewable energy goals, while staying in line with global competition, will be exploiting the vast resource of shale gas in the US.
“President Obama's references to shale and the need to develop policies to enable leverage of this enormous game-changing energy resource are monumental,” says Simon. “In light of the strong push for more renewables, natural gas—which falls below our low carbon fuel standard in California—is going to play a critical role.”
Until the market plays out and battery storage reaches utility-scale or solar technologies, “natural gas will act as a kissing cousin of renewables,” says Simon. As many states switch from coal to natural gas as part of their greenhouse gas reduction policies, it is a growing concern if California will be able to keep up with its ambitious renewable goals without exploring shale as aggressively.
The CPUC says they are working diligently to cease the opportunity of renewable energy effectively, but Simon suggest that in order to achieve that, “we're going to have to put more pressure on streamlining the permitting process... to continue to advance this robust market.”
More discussion on the challenges the market faces as Energy Digital continues to cover the event this week...
Awesense launches digital clean energy marketplace
Awesense has launched what it claims is the only energy-focused repository of solutions built to drive the industry's decarbonization agenda.
The Awesense Marketplace aims to provide a common framework for companies to collaborate towards the future of clean energy and digital transformation, uniting applications, solutions and algorithms to solve energy and grid challenges.
Solutions listed on the marketplace cover a range of cases, and launch companies include Doosan GridTech, Kitu Systems, vadiMAP, LO3 Energy, ENGIN, Utilidata, Clir Renewables, ChargeLab, SensorLink, Exeri, Easy SmartGrid, and Athena Power.
“We are welcoming a new era in the decarbonization of energy systems,” said Mischa Steiner, CEO of Awesense. “The goal of achieving a clean energy future requires collaboration amongst key industry players in the utilities and energy sectors. Sharing resources through the Marketplace means that our customers and partners have a truly seamless approach as we work towards our common goal - ultimately, decarbonizing the world’s energy system.”
Utilities, consulting companies, and other organizations struggle to develop solutions that can be scaled across many jurisdictions due to complex data integration and the lack of a standard, open data model. Using the solutions offered throughout the Marketplace, organizations can rapidly accelerate their transition to a decentralized, decarbonized future and develop solutions that are scalable across industry. The platform will open up new revenue streams in areas such as:
Distributed energy resource integration and control
Electric vehicle charging
Demand response and smart-home management
Intelligent asset management
Advanced distribution system management
The new marketplace builds on Awesense's Digital Energy Platform, a digital twin based energy analytics platform that allows utilities to scale at the same pace as the rapidly changing technology landscape of the energy grid.
Together, the Open Energy Data Model and the Awesense Marketplace removes hurdles around data mapping and transformation, expedites data preparation and refining, and provides a common framework for companies to collaborate.
“The energy-specific data model allows utilities, technology companies, consulting firms, and other vendors to build solutions that can be easily integrated by other energy companies, to make a real impact on the industry as a whole, and develop new revenue streams for their organizations” said Steiner. “We’re looking forward to seeing the Awesense Marketplace grow as more partners committed to energy decarbonization join us.”
There are no simple solutions to putting the world on a sustainable path to net-zero emissions, according to the IEA. Reducing global CO2 emissions will require "a broad range of different technologies working across all sectors of the economy in various combinations and applications." it notes.
Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia formed
Amp Power Australia has established the Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia, a strategic portfolio of large scale integrated Solar PV, Wind and Battery Energy Storage assets located in South Australia. The hub also includes the siting of the Spencer Gulf Hydrogen Energy Ecoplex, forming part of the South Australian Government's Hydrogen Action Plan.
The portfolio, acquired from EPS, includes three large Solar PV projects totalling over 1.3 GW of generation, located at Robertstown (636 MW), Bungama (336MW) and Yoorndoo Ilga (388MW) with a total BESS capacity of up to 540MW across the portfolio.
Amp's expansion in Australia will include the implementation of Amp X, a proprietary digital energy platform 100% owned by Amp, which provides a diverse portfolio of disruptive and interoperable grid edge solutions, and includes a smart transformer, which enables real-time autonomous management and optimised dispatch of all forms of distributed generation and loads across the grid.
Palmetto recently opened its marketplace in Arizona, and is now serving 20 states across the country, claiming its proprietary technology, marketplace business model, and consumer mobile application "are all designed to democratize access to clean energy".