Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.



  • Weekend Video: Big Money Faces The Reality Of Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Half A Million From Solar For One School District
  • Weekend Video: To World Leaders, Re: The Paris Climate Summit





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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews


    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015


    Grid Neutrality; Five Principles for Tomorrow’s Electricity Sector

    Jenny Hu, Shayle Kann, James Tong & Jon Wellinghoff, October 2015 (Public Utilities Fortnightly)

    The electricity sector faces the most dramatic transformation in its history. Th e entire system, from infrastructure to regulation, was designed to support predictable, unidirectional power fl ows from centralized generators through transmission and distribution systems to passive customers. But the emergence of distributed energy resources (DERs), combined with increased availability of granular data and communications, presents an unparalleled opportunity to enhance and in some cases reinvent one of the most important systems in our society. Th is potential for transformation carries enormous promise. Tomorrow’s grid will be a platform interconnecting millions of devices – power plants, DERs, consumers, aggregators and more – to the ultimate benefi t of all electricity consumers.

    Achieving this aim will prove no small task. To match the promise of the next-generation grid, we will need updated infrastructure, regulation, business models, technologies, and markets. And all these changes must occur without sacrifi cing the reliability and aff ordability that is available to customers today.

    To date, most attempts at such transformation have come as a piecemeal response to short-term trends, such as the growth of behind-the-meter electricity generation, or as hasty eff ort to upgrade technology without any strategic plan for eff ective utilization. Th is shortcoming has led to widespread disappointment among the rate-paying public with the 50 million smart meters already deployed in the U.S.1 A few jurisdictions have adopted a broader approach. Yet the need remains for a set of guiding principles that can apply to all discussions that will emerge over the coming years.

    In this paper we offer a set of foundational principles that can scale with the evolving grid and inform policy and business decisions about its design and operations. These principles or tenets of “grid neutrality” relate to the more familiar recent discussions regarding net neutrality.

    Just as net neutrality seeks to maintain a fair and open Internet, the concept of grid neutrality emphasizes a fair and open electricity network. Like the Internet, the modern electricity grid serves as the backbone upon which a generation of technologies, services, and economies will be built.

    Unlike the political, business and technological interests infl uencing grid-design debates today, grid neutrality is based upon an inherent structural property of the grid itself – namely, that electricity grids are not mere conduits but rather are some of the largest, most dynamic networks in the world. We urge stakeholders to streamline decision-making in ongoing and future grid-design debates by benchmarking against the tenets that we propose here.

    This transition promises a wealth of innovation, but we won’t live to see it unless we as a nation provide for, as well as safeguard, the grid’s neutrality.

    A Changing Landscape

    Historically, the power industry has had little or no need to ensure the neutrality of the grid, especially the distribution grid. The industry developed in an era when the public agenda was primarily focused on electrifi cation, and constructing centrally located infrastructure was indisputably the most cost-effective means to achieve this end. To take advantage of the enormous economies of scale associated with this grid architecture, governments granted exclusive franchises to monopoly providers. That ensured a mostly uniform product for captive ratepayers, with patterns of electricity usage that remained largely homogenous.

    Nevertheless, this one-size-fi ts-all model no longer serves as a viable option for the 21st century, for three reasons. First, needs have changed. The focus is no longer on building more infrastructure to achieve universal access, but rather on optimizing what has already been built. Providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity is no longer enough. The public today demands cleaner energy, more resiliency, and greater customization and control.

    Second, technology has changed. Increasingly we fi nd today that distributed generation, energy storage, effi ciency upgrades, and electric vehicles can meet evolving needs more effectively than can centralized generation systems. Because of their smaller scale and modularity, DERs can deliver better targeted and faster-responding solutions – sometimes at lower cost.

    Finally, the customer also has changed. New needs and new technologies have created classes of electricity customers that have become increasingly sophisticated. Many have distinct energy-usage profi les, ever-changing end-use devices and even generating capabilities. Consumers no longer behave as mere takers from the grid. Rather, they are, becoming “prosumers,” supplying the grid with energy, capacity, and ancillary services.

    As a ready metaphor for this transition, consider the Internet.

    The power industry today is transitioning to a multidirectional and horizontally structured value chain – much like the Internet. And it is easy to forget that for much of the 20th century, the telecom industry, like today’s power industry, also operated through a top-down, vertically integrated architecture. To connect a customer to the phone network, the telephone company had to alter its network confi gurations on a case-by-case basis. Beginning in the 1960s, the FCC fi elded complaints that AT&T was not allowing end users to connect customer-premise equipment to the Bell System (such as a new low-cost device called a “modem”) because AT&T claimed that doing so would compromise “network integrity.”2

    “The Internet wouldn’t have emerged as it did…if the FCC hadn’t mandated open access for network equipment in the late 1960s,” writes Tom Wheeler, the current chairman of the FCC.3

    Today’s electricity regulators face an array of similarly thorny challenges. The regulatory model must contend with diverse and often confl icting interests, as represented by wholesale power producers, T&D asset owners, distributed energy resources and countless other parties across the energy value chain. The model then must reconcile these interests with the needs of the grid and of millions of customers – all of which can vary by time and by location.

    How will regulation align, in real time, the private interests of suppliers, consumers and prosumers with the public interest? How will it help guide decisions about deploying and dispatching supply-side resources versus demand-side resources? Who will get to deploy, own and operate these resources, and how will they be paid? How will regulators make decisions in a fair and transparent manner that doesn’t confuse public and private interests?

    Escalating debates around red herring issues like utility death spirals and grid defection reveal the limitations of prevailing regulatory models in addressing these questions. Rather, we need a set of guiding principles that can scale with evolving customer needs and provide objective benchmarks to evaluate future regulatory and grid design options.

    A Set of Benchmarks

    Grid neutrality is a set of principles that defi ne and safeguard a network’s underlying communal infrastructure, “the commons.” Interactive networks, by defi nition, comprise independent actors; these actors cannot interact autonomously unless the platform upon which they operate is as neutral as possible. By defending the neutrality of the grid’s network, grid neutrality provides a foundation by which to benchmark all current and future developments pertaining to the grid.

    We propose fi ve key tenets of grid neutrality, as listed here and defi ned further in Figure 1:

    ■ Empower the consumer while maintaining universal access to safe, reliable electricity at reasonable cost.

    ■ Demarcate and protect the “commons.”

    ■ Align risks and rewards across the industry.

    ■ Create a transparent, level playing fi eld.

    ■ Foster open access to the grid.

    We offer these tenets of grid neutrality as a proactive, rather than reactive, set of principles – standards for dealing with challenges in an increasingly dynamic and critical energy landscape.

    Grid neutrality as we defi ne it here remains consistent with the Bonbright Principles, which have long guided utility ratemaking, and does not diminish any energy services currently offered to consumers.4 Its central mandate is identical to that of the current grid: providing universal access to a safe, reliable energy service at reasonable cost. However, instead of achieving this by simply safeguarding the grid’s physical infrastructure, grid neutrality ensures universal access to electricity by also safeguarding the neutrality of the grid’s infrastructure.

    Grid neutrality frees the power industry to pursue actions that may or may not be tied to its legacy infrastructure assets. Grid neutrality’s fi rst tenet introduces a dual mandate for the grid, highlighting consumer empowerment as a fundamental element of being able to maintain universal access to electricity in a dynamic network. The second and third tenets protect the “commons” as a neutral, vital resource. The fourth and fi fth tenets expand upon neutrality by fostering the neutral conditions necessary for a dynamic network to thrive.

    The goal is not to dictate particular designs or operation of the grid, but rather to future-proof the grid with the fl exibility, resilience and scalability to meet future needs. Neutrality is a fundamental, indisputable property of the network that underpins the electricity grid. As such, the tenets of grid neutrality provide a powerful means to cut through political, technological and interest-driven grid design discussions by evaluating them against immutable principles for the future electricity grid.

    A Path Forward

    The prevailing paradigm that we know today as cost of service regulation (COSR) will prove insuffi cient to usher in the era of the networked grid.5 One reason is that COSR sets prices based on past costs, not on future potential.6 As a result, COSR lacks the frameworks needed to price the vast potential benefi ts that DERs offer – which ran the gamut from targeted grid solutions to DC-wired smart homes to Uber-style peer-to-peer models.7,8,9,10 Moreover, COSR is naturally biased in favor of minimizing harm rather than maximizing customer value. Under COSR, value is mostly a binary proposition: either you have access to electricity or you do not. And once you have access, COSR is mostly concerned with minimizing costs, outages, accidents, complaints, and inequality.

    Given these parameters, COSR alone is unable to maximize the value that DERs can offer to customers and the grid. It is relatively simple to defi ne harm, as COSR does today. But value is infl uenced by individual needs and preferences, and so cannot be defi ned objectively or universally for all customers. In other words, while existing regulatory criteria can safely determine what customers are willing to tolerate, they cannot determine what customers will pay for value.

    Current rate design methods thus are unlikely to yield a satisfactory price for distributed energy resources. The mere act of setting rates for all suppliers and consumers requires regulators to subject all grid users to a single interpretation of value. But such a static evaluation won’t likely succeed in the future, because value and cost will change constantly in response to locational and real-time constraints of supply and demand. Setting prices through slow, periodic rate cases cannot keep pace with such a dynamic grid. When regulation cannot keep up, policies and pricing will favor certain stakeholders over others.

    The problem of lagging regulation becomes most evident in disputes over the value of distributed solar and demand response. On the surface, the issue is the appropriate level of compensation for DERs. However, the real problem is that pricing mechanisms are too blunt and rigid; prevailing regulation cannot dynamically balance the benefi ts of distributed resources to the grid and grid users.11,12

    We can create a value of solar, but will we create a value of storage? A value of second-generation smart thermostats? A value of combinations of DERs (solar-plus-storage, solar-plus-load control, storage-plus-load control, etc.)? Where does it stop? Integrating grid neutrality with existing regulatory principles can mitigate disputes over the value of distributed resources. It removes the perception of regulation as being overly partial or subject to political persuasion. And it can prevent customers from using DERs to bypass regulatory policies deemed unfair or too restrictive.13 As it is, some homeowners in Hawaii have started to go off the grid or interconnect their rooftop solar systems without approval.14,15 Large companies such as Amazon, Yahoo and Walmart are increasingly sourcing energy services through non-utility suppliers.16 Last year, Microsoft opened a new data center in Wyoming that is completely off the grid.17 Recently, a group of large gaming companies and the world’s largest data center, Switch, have initiated moves to defect from their utility monopoly supplier.18

    Grid neutrality not only prevents this type of grid balk anization, but it can also help develop an integrated, self-healing energy network.

    The Power of Networks

    That neutrality should mark the cornerstone of the modern smart grid can be seen via another simple but fundamental reason: tomorrow’s dynamic, intelligent grid no longer serves simply as a conduit for electrons but as a platform – an energy network. Every node within an energy network is both a source and a sink. Hyper-effi cient, resilient and dynamic, an energy network leverages the combined capabilities of billions of nodes – consumers, devices, DERs, power plants, storage (literally anything that is plugged in) – to enable universal access to electricity. Ideally, this energy network should be able to auto-island, self-heal and coordinate an ever-changing number of nodes. Eventually, it may be able even to decide autonomously between calling on EVs parked nearby or on a more distant peaking plant to support an AC load spike.

    Today, over $600 billion worth of controllable devices – laptops, coffeepots, electric cars, building HVAC systems – is plugged into the grid at any one time. By 2020, this number will have grown to $1.7 trillion.19 As the Edison Eletric Institute has written, “The grid increasingly is becoming a multi-directional network interconnecting millions of consuming devices, fl exible distributed energy resources including DG [distributed generation], and backup generation.”20

    The electricity grid is poised to surpass the Internet as the largest connected platform in the nation. It is time for the power industry to operate the grid as the neutral, networked platform it should be.

    An Example from New York

    The grid neutrality principles are not intended to be theoretical. Rather, they provide a framework for real decision-making. Each principle upholds a structural component of the grid’s underlying nature. By reviewing which and how many of the fi ve core tenets are well served, policymakers have access to a ready framework for decision.

    As an initial example, we apply the grid neutrality framework proposed here to the New York Public Service Commission’s December 2014 decision to approve Con Edison’s Brooklyn/ Queens Demand Management Progam.

    Con Edison faced a situation common to many utilities. Electricity demand growth in Brooklyn and Queens had increased signifi cantly, threatening by the year 2018 to overload the capabilities of feeders serving two substations (Brownsville 1 & 2) by 69 MW (see Figs. 2 & 3). Historically, utilities in Con Edison’s position met similar grid needs by constructing new substations, feeders and switching stations, which in this case would result in an aggregate cost of over $1 billion.21 But this time, in July 2014, Con Edison solicited offers to fi ll this need not only in the traditional way, but also by non-traditional resources.

    In December 2014, Con Edison proposed to fi ll its infrastructure needs by deploying 17 MW of traditional utility infrastructure investment and 52 MW of non-traditional solutions on both the utility and customer sides of the meter. (The non-traditional solutions constituted the Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program, or BQDM.) The total cost of the proposed initiatives was just over $200 million. We can now evaluate the Con Ed plan using our five tenets of grid neutrality. How does it stack up?

    1. Consumer Empowerment. The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) and Con Edison had the option of meeting the projected demand growth by deploying either traditional or non-traditional technologies, or a combination of both. Deploying only traditional, centralized infrastructure such as substations would ensure the integrity of the grid. But it would also entail the risk of building more infrastructure than needed. Furthermore, centralized technologies require large capital expenditures; these sunk costs would likely strain the PSC’s and Con Edison’s ability to address other grid needs for years to come. In addition, the traditional top-down approach would largely ignore the capabilities of consumers. Thus, deploying only traditional, centralized resources would not uphold the fi rst tenet of grid neutrality to empower and respect consumer choice.

    By contrast, a non-traditional alternative that relied completely on demand-side resources would empower the consumer, but at the risk of relying heavily upon consumer choice to maintain system integrity. And building in enough redundancy to increase the reliability of demand-side resources could end up being too expensive and complex.

    In this case, however, Con Edison’s decision to deploy both centralized and customer-side solutions such as demand management and energy effi ciency upholds the dual mandate of grid neutrality. It maintains grid reliability while maintaining the grid’s position as a platform via which customers are incentivized to reduce costs for all grid users.

    2. Demarcating the Commons. While the majority of the investment in this program will be non-traditional and on the customer side, both Con Edison and the PSC demarcate the minority portion of the investment that does require traditional infrastructure investment. This portion includes 6 MW of capacitor banks and 11 MW of load transfers from the Brownsville substation area to other networks.

    In this case, Con Edison and the PSC recognized and adjusted for the operational differences of traditional and non-traditional resources. For example, Con Edison owned and controlled the monopoly infrastructure, but allocated the ownership of a majority of the distributed solutions to its customers and/or third parties. Apart from grid-based storage, Con Edison would own only those DERs needed to backstop a potential market failure and/or fi ll a grid need that consumer choice could not address. Thus, the PSC established clear boundaries for monopoly and market activities.

    3. Risk and Reward. In return for bearing the responsibility for the program’s utility-side solutions, Con Edison received both its regulated rate of return plus an added incentive of 100 basis points for its support of customer-side programs. The PSC, however, rejected Con Edison’s proposal to retain benefi ts from a 50-percent share of the customer savings associated with the BQDM program. Instead, in order to make the monopoly utility indifferent to the type of solutions procured, the PSC allocated the full share of savings due to customer and third-party-owned equipment to the customers themselves. The utility that operated non-competitive, centralized equipment would earn a regulated rate of return. The risks and rewards of the projects were thus divided among various willing and able participants.

    4. Transparency. The PSC also emphasized the importance of transparency in Con Edison’s request for proposal (RFP) and request for information (RFI) processes. It ordered Con Edison to retain an independent third party to oversee the processes and report publicly to the PSC itself. In addition, the RFP process was transparent about the specifi c grid needs and ability of various DERs to meet them. Upon implementation, Con Edison will be responsible for quarterly public reports on all program expenditures and activities. Solicitations and decisions conducted transparently reinforce grid neutrality.

    5. Open Access. In this example Con Edison will be selecting the non-traditional solutions via an open RFP process that began with an RFI that elicited 78 responses from a variety of players. Final decisions will be made based on merit and are intended to include a mix of energy effi ciency, demand management, distributed generation and other customer-side solutions. Allowing different technologies and stakeholders to prove their merit ensures an open playing fi eld and upholds grid neutrality.

    This analysis, presenting in the preceding paragraphs, shows how the New York PSC and Con Edison eventually settled on a program marked not only by an innovative structure, but commendable as well in the way that it clearly supports some degree of all fi ve tenets of grid neutrality.

    The program clearly empowers the consumer. It also seeks a balance between the needs of the consumer and those of the grid and ultimately leverages a larger, more diverse stack of resources to maintain grid integrity. Furthermore, the program aligns risks and rewards of both non-traditional and traditional resources and does its best to clearly delineate resource ownership so as to shield monopoly and competitively sourced resources from confl icts of interest.

    Let this PSC decision stand as an early example of the grid operating as an open, transparent platform. We urge industry stakeholders to apply the grid neutrality framework themselves to this and other programs currently under discussion and arrive at their own conclusions


    TROUBLED VW TURNS TO THE EV Volkswagen is pegging its fate to a major bet on electric cars

    Steve LeVine, October 13, 2015 (Quartz)

    “Volkswagen, confronting a daunting threat to its size and prestige, is making a dramatic pivot to electric vehicles. The move has seemed a likely one since mid-September, when the German company was caught running about 11 million diesel vehicles with fake emissions controls…[But it just announced] it will create a standardized electric architecture that can be used in all VW Group vehicles, and is meant to allow travel of 250 to 500 kilometers (156 to 312 miles) on a single charge. The flagship will be a retooled luxury Phaeton, an $80,000 sedan for which VW had planned only diesel and plug-in hybrid versions for the 2018 or 2019 model years. Now, the Phaeton will [challenge the Tesla S as] all-electric…The decision significantly raises VW’s profile in a coming electric-car collision at the end of the decade, when the world’s major carmakers are expected to introduce numerous electric models with lower price points and much better performance than those currently available…” click here for more

    SOLAR RESEARCH FUNDING FADING The U.S. needs a solar energy revolution. But it’s laying off solar energy researchers

    Chelsea Harvey, October 8, 2015 (Washington Post)

    “…[Fifteen solar research staff members at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were laid off] due to federal funding cuts…And another 40 to 60 staff members are expected to be lost through a voluntary separation program that the lab will initiate…Almost all of the researchers already laid off were involved in ‘next generation,’ or long-term, solar research…It’s the latest sign of a trend that experts say is undermining U.S. efforts to promote alternative energy: Federal funding for solar energy research has declined steadily over the past several years, despite emphasis from the Obama administration on continued investment in research and development of clean energy technologies…[It seems] to decline a little more every year…[T]hey have occurred despite significantly higher budget requests each year from the White House…” click here for more

    OPPORTUNITIES IN BLDG ENERGY MGMT Building Energy Management Systems Boom Due to Falling Cost and $1.4B in VC Funding; Tools to gather and analyze energy data in buildings are increasingly using SaaS models and pricing as low as $0.01/ft2…

    October 13, 2015 (Lux Research)

    “…[Building energy management services (BEMS) have benefitted from falling costs and $1.4 billion in venture funding] from 2000 to 2014, about 26% of all investment in building energy technology domains. A third of this total was in software, 27% in energy services, 25% in sensors and controls, and 13% in semiconductors…[according to Beyond the Walls: Benchmarking BEMS Software and Hardware] from Lux Research…Newly available data streams and acquisition devices mean the definition of BEMS has taken on new capabilities from low- to high-touch, such as performance benchmarking to detailed equipment performance monitoring. The cost across the spectrum ranges from $0.005-$1.00/ft2 per year, but are often less than $0.01/ft2 for low-touch tools…A flurry of activity has taken place in the hardware-centric segment, particularly by companies such as Circuitmeter that do non-intrusive load monitoring. Companies in this segment need to remain targeted on specific vertical markets…” click here for more

    Monday, October 12, 2015


    Powering the future; Leading the digital transformation of the power industry

    Marco Annunziata and Ganesh Bell, September 29, 2015 (General Electric Power and Water)

    Executive Summary

    A set of technological and macroeconomic forces is converging to trigger a deep transformation of the energy industry. The world needs more power to extend electricity access to over one billion people and to support stable growth and rising living standards for billions more. This requires developing new energy supplies, while building and upgrading grid infrastructure.

    At the same time, the convergence of digital and physical innovations, together with advances in energy technologies, has begun to impact the industry. These advances help open the way for bi-directional energy flows in the grid, for real-time demand adjustment, for a smarter combination of energy supply sources and to deliver higher electricity output from existing assets, as well as enhanced performance from future infrastructure investment.

    These trends pose a new set of complex challenges to the industry: balancing the fuel mix, ensuring the reliability of power delivery and quality, improving asset level visibility, identifying new revenue sources, integrating new technologies, neutralizing cyber security threats and coping with an aging workforce.

    These challenges also present unprecedented opportunities. The future of the power sector is a new value chain augmented and interconnected by digital technologies—one where both power and information flow in multiple directions; all actors add value; and the overall efficiency, cost-effectiveness, resilience, and sustainability of the system are enhanced through information sharing, openness, collaboration, and coordination between stakeholders through the right set of incentives.

    It will encompass three key elements: (1) a digital centralized generation pillar, relying on a mix of fossil fuel and renewable sources; (2) a digital grid, connecting generation and consumption, and enabling the multidirectional flows of energy and information; and (3) a digital consumption pillar, improving consumption patterns along with distributed generation and storage capacity.

    Energy providers will join a new breed of digital-industrial companies. This will require changing their business models to take full advantage of new digital capabilities: balancing the fuel mix through big data analytics, accelerating the adoption of natural gas and renewables; optimizing plant operation by using analytics to reduce cost and emissions while maximizing economic output; and developing new ways to interact with customers. The power grid will realize its potential as a platform, accelerating innovation and efficiency gains.

    This transformation will not be easy. It will require investing in infrastructure and new technologies; changing mindsets, public policies, and business models; investing in people through education and on-the-job skills upgrading; and developing open standards and ensuring interoperability. It will require the highest degree of cyber security against potential data privacy and system security risks.

    The opportunity is unprecedented. Imagine: A future of energy that realizes the goal of ubiquitous access to clean, reliable, sustainable and secure electricity, while fostering economic growth through the creation of new energy ecosystems. The convergence of digital and physical technologies brings this within reach…

    New challenges for energy players:

    Balancing the fuel mix. Power generation will be able to rely on an increasingly diverse and flexible range of supply sources: centralized generation through fossil fuels, nuclear or renewables, distributed generation, and stored energy. Balancing the supply mix on a real time basis will be essential to maximize the energy output and cost-effectiveness of the whole system.

    Reliability of power delivery and quality. The energy value chain will become more complex, encompassing a multiplicity of moving parts with different priorities and incentives, as well as a wider mix of supply sources. Ensuring that power can be delivered reliably, without outages or unforeseen changes in quality, will require a commensurately sophisticated effort of monitoring and control.'

    Asset level visibility. In order to achieve both of the above objectives, system operators will need to be able to monitor—in real time— the state and performance of all assets linked to the network. This will enable them to continuously assess demand and supply expressed by all elements on the system, as well as their responsiveness to price signals.

    Identifying new revenue sources/correctly valuing and allocating the cost of investments and other efforts that add value to the system. The traditional model that compensated utilities with volumetric tariffs is becoming suboptimal. The energy system of the future will need to develop a set of incentives that induces all players to add value through actions and information provision, ensuring adequate compensation for investment and incentivizing sufficient risk-taking for innovation and experimentation.

    Aging workforce and knowledge capture. Population aging in advanced economies is mirrored by the agingof the workforce across a number of industries—and the power industry is no exception. The prospective simultaneous retirement of large cohorts of experienced workers is set to create a problematic skills shortage just as the industry faces a challenging transformation. While younger generations of workers will bring new skills to the industry, it is crucial that the knowledge and experience accumulated by more senior workers is captured and embodied in the companies’ institutional memory, accessible to the new workforce. Digital innovations that facilitate communication and collaboration as well as the creation of a digital memory capturing the experience of the workforce should be used to this purpose.

    Technology integration. The management of industrial technology has traditionally been split between two separate fields: information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT). IT worked from the top down, deploying and maintaining data-driven infrastructure largely to the management side of business. OT built from the ground up, starting with machinery, equipment, and assets and moving up to monitoring and control systems. With smart machines, big data, and the Industrial Internet, the worlds of IT and OT suddenly collided. Data, once the purview of IT, is now ubiquitous on the operations floor. In order to fulfill the promise of using data to enhance productivity, IT and OT, developed separately with independent systems architectures, need to come together and find common ground to develop a new information-driven infrastructure…

    The future of energy is a new value chain augmented and interconnected by digital technologies, where both power and information flow in multiple directions, all actors add value to the system, and the overall efficiency and resilience of the system hinge on information sharing, openness, collaboration, coordination, and the right set of incentives. The end result will be a system that provides electricity in the most reliable, sustainable, and economic manner.

    It will encompass three key elements, highlighted in the chart below:

    1. a digital centralized generation pillar, relying on a mix of fossil fuel and renewable sources;

    2. a digital grid, connecting generation and consumption, enabling the multidirectional flows of energy and information; and

    3. a digital consumption pillar, which will play an important role not just in improving consumption patterns, but in adding generation and storage capacity…

    New business models…

    Energy providers will join a new breed of digital-industrial companies. 8 This will require changing their business model to fully take advantage of new digital capabilities. A first priority will be to use the insights provided by big data analytics in order to balance the fuel mix. Conventional thermal generation will remain a vital component of the energy mix for decades to come,9 but new technologies will accelerate the adoption of natural gas and renewables, requiring software to manage and optimize the generation portfolio.

    Switching from reactive to proactive and predictive maintenance so as to maximize uptime will also require a mindshift. In general, management and operations of power producers will have to adopt a “data-first” mentality, always thinking in terms of the potential insights that can be gleaned from data and analytics to improve the value of the service.

    Digital tools can also give energy providers new ways to interact with consumers. Many utilities and other energy service organizations are seeking to transition from electricity provider to trusted energy advisor. This requires utilities to work with customers in new ways to identify and tailor solutions. For example, detailed interval data as well as information from connected devices can help utilities and other service providers to develop onsite power solutions to increase reliability or efficiency retrofits to reduce spend. Social media can help utilities communicate with customers regarding outage restoration or peak demand events, or simply engage customers in a discussion around energy services or conservation.

    The electric grid as a platform

    Platforms have quickly emerged as a defining characteristic of the digital economy. Their role and value in consumer sectors is by now recognized: they are both an enabler of efficiencies and a key avenue of value monetization. Platform business models have revolutionized the way that value is created, delivered and monetized across a set of interdependent providers, users and intermediaries. As a concept, platformdriven businesses are not new. They have existed in the physical realm for centuries: a “bazaar” or “market” is a platform that brings sellers and consumers together in some central location for a trade, enabling faster diffusion of information (through physical co-location) and more efficient transactions.

    Digital-age platforms do a lot more, however. They unlock the potential of under-utilized capacity. They enable instantaneous and universal access to information through digital apps on mobile devices; they turn data into analytical insights that can dramatically increase efficiency by accelerating the feedback loop between price changes, and supply and demand responses. They also accelerate innovation and value creation. Common operating systems that enable the rapid and wide deployment of new digital consumer apps have reached the point where “there is an app for everything”. A similar proliferation will take place in the industrial world: Predix, the operating system for industrial apps, is set to spur the rapid development of an industrial app economy that will accelerate efficiency gains across industrial sectors.

    The electric grid embodies many of the platform characteristics. It connects multiple users of a network, enabling the exchange of products, services and information. Traditionally however, the platform potential of the electric grid has been limited by the very specific nature of the sector. Economies of scale, the exclusive role of centralized generation and the lack of data collection and response mechanisms dictated a very simple hub-and-spokes model, with centralized power producers supplying electricity and charging bulk tariffs regulated to allow them to cover investment and operational costs while ensuring affordable safe and reliable power access to consumers.

    With the rise of distributed generation and demand management set to complement centralized power, the electric grid has for the first time, an opportunity to become a true platform, enabling a symbiotic relationship between central and distributed resources, utilizing a wide range of data such as weather and vegetation changes, granular load projections by neighborhoods, central generation and distributed resource output capabilities, demand response capability, and grid asset health to find the optimal resource mix and power flow path to maximize grid reliability and minimize delivered electricity cost.

    These digital platforms will enable central and distributed resource providers to determine locational prices for energy and ancillary services, and consumers to determine how best and when to use energy. In the event that a reliability issue such as an outage must be handled, the digital platform will autonomously communicate with grid devices to reroute power flow, island critical loads using microgrids, and ensure that the proper steps are taken to restore the grid to proper operation safely and quickly.

    Enabling conditions

    While there will be tremendous benefit gained from further digitizing the energy sector, challenges beyond technology and policy remain. In particular, a grid with seamless interaction between central and distributed resources will require open standards and interoperability. Any platform that manages assets as critical as the energy infrastructure will need to be secure physically, but especially digitally. Finally, a new generation of personnel will be required to facilitate the industry’s transition to a digital future as a significant portion of the current workforce retires…


    The power industry has begun an exciting digital journey, one that will bring a deep transformation of the entire value chain. A set of macroeconomic and technological forces have catalyzed this transformation, creating new challenges but also new opportunities for the industry.

    Access to electricity across developed and emerging markets is critical to global growth. Today with over a billion people without electricity access and growing energy demand from rising living standards of billions more, the industry faces a formidable challenge. Supplying secure and reliable power in a sustainable manner will require investment in new generation and transmission-distribution infrastructure, making the existing system more energy efficient as well as diversifying the fuel mix.

    Advances in distributed energy technologies, energy storage, and connected devices are making it possible for consumers to also play a role in the generation and distribution of energy, opening the way for bi-directional energy flows and optimizing peak demand. Utilities are deploying digital technologies to integrate distributed technologies, manage fluctuating demand and quickly resolve outages to realize industry goals. The penetration of digital technology adoption however is limited. Operational challenges of sustained profitability, data deluge and an aging workforce still remain significant.

    The convergence of digital and physical technologies that is unfolding across industry can turn these challenges into unprecedented opportunities. The power sector needs a digital strategy that enables a new value chain augmented and interconnected by digital technologies. Our vision of this value chain links digital generation and digital consumption by a new digital energy grid that can also serve as an intelligent technology platform and a marketplace for new revenue sources, pricing schemes that incentivize innovation for existing and new players in the energy ecosystem. A digitized value chain will yield a system with greater reliability, affordability and sustainability.

    In the energy sector, machines will merge with data analytics at a scale like never before. This will result in substantial value gains starting from the planning and siting of power generation plants to their operations. Moreover it will enable a more dynamic management of central and distributed power. Meanwhile, digital consumption will become more efficient, participative and responsive to demand and power supply conditions.

    Power producers and utilities are embarking on a journey to digitize their processes. This will require not just investment in new technologies, but also a shift in mindset and business models—and the shift will need to be faster than ever before. Digital innovations rely on openness and collaboration to realize their full value. Therefore, power producers and utilities will need to break down barriers separating their organizational silos. To do so, their CEOs, CIOs and COOs need to select the right technology partners that can help them bridge the IT and OT domain expertise. Internal and external collaboration will be mutually reinforcing. As this new wave of innovations brings together very different areas of expertise at an accelerated pace, partnerships are essential to succeed.

    This transformation will need high coordination among stakeholders. Energy providers will join a new breed of digital-industrial companies, by investing in new technologies and finding new ways to provide tailored solutions to customers. It will need development of open standards and interoperability between products, the nurturing of a new generation of personnel, and the highest level of cyber security.

    The opportunity for all participants in the future of electricity is unprecedented—it is full of digital promise.


    CLIMATE CHANGE VS. PARENTS’ LOVE Parent coalition calls for 'bold action' on climate change

    Lydia Wheeler, October 12, 2015 (The Hill)

    "Climate-focused advocacy groups, made up of parents, grandparents and families, are joining forces in an international coalition aimed at pushing global leaders to cut carbon pollution…Our Kids’ Climate coalition, which includes groups like Climate Mama and DearTomorrow in the U.S. and the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign and Canadian Parents for Climate Action, is circulating an international parent petition…[calling] for a commitment to keep global temperature rise at safe levels and create a world that’s powered by 100 percent clean energy with net zero greenhouse gas emissions…the group [says] it’s had enough of ‘political passivity and profit-motivated roadblocks to bold action on climate’…” click here for more

    BILLIONS FOR MICHIGAN IN THE WIND Report: More Michigan Wind Energy Could Save Locals Billions Of Dollars

    9 October 2015 (North American Windpower)

    “Michigan households and business owners can keep more money in their pockets - and rural Michigan landowners will receive millions of dollars more a year in land lease payments - by building new wind farms that tap into more of the state's wind energy resources…[according to A wind vision for new growth in Michigan from] the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF)…[Wind] can save Michigan homeowners and businesses over $3.59 billion dollars…[and] supply enough electricity for over 710,000 homes in Michigan…[E]conomic benefits for the Great Lakes State can grow to over $11.6 million dollars in added annual property tax revenue, and Michigan landowners would be paid by wind farm owners an additional $7.6 million in lease payments a year by 2030…[Some] 4,000 jobs are supported by wind power today in Michigan, including manufacturing jobs at 33 factories producing wind power parts and supplies…[The industry] has already attracted $2.9 billion in capital investment to Michigan…” click here for more

    BREAKTHROUGH FOR ALGAE? A novel technology to produce microalgae biomass as feedstock for biofuel, food, feed and more

    2 October 2015 (EurekAlert)

    “…[A novel] and scalable technology and production process combining algal biomass cultivation, harvesting and concentration as well as extraction and fractionation of fatty acids from the biomass…[offers a] high quality feedstock for various industries in a highly competitive price…UniVerve Ltd. (UniVerve), an Israeli company, has begun scaling-up its technological process, which is expected to change the feedstock market in various industries, such as food, feed and biofuel…[UniVerve’s Hanging Adjustable V-shaped Pond uses a suspended, modular and scalable triangular structure with transparent walls that allows light to penetrate from all sides, thus increasing photosynthetic activity and enhancing yield and] provides a scalable, cost effective and sustainable solution…The oil, which can be extracted with off-the-shelf wet extraction technologies and used as an excellent feedstock for all kinds of biofuel, is expected to be produced at up to 50 dollars per barrel (equal to the current market price of crude fossil oil)…” click here for more

    Saturday, October 10, 2015

    Big Money Faces The Reality Of Climate Change

    Llloyds of London looks at the tragedy on the horizon and sees a tragedy of the commons: Nobody owns it because everybody owns it. But that means everybody working together can turn it around. From greenmanbucket via YouTube

    Half A Million From Solar For One School District

    Here’s what can be done, is being done, and will eventually be done everywhere. So why not get on with it? From SolarCity via YouTube

    To World Leaders, Re: The Paris Climate Summit

    “Please listen.” From Climate Reality via YouTube

    Friday, October 09, 2015


    China launches nationwide emissions trading scheme

    Angeli Mehta, 6 October 2015 (Chemistry World)

    “…[China will implement a national emissions trading scheme in 2017,] encourage more power generation from renewables…and made clear that a new level of ambition is needed if December’s critical climate change talks in Paris are to be successful…The timetable to implement a national trading system… sends a signal to investors in China that the government is going to properly set a carbon budget and that may be more effective in catalysing business and industry away from fossil fuels…China has pilot trading systems in seven cities – the first set up in 2011. The challenge will be bringing them all together, and success will depend on China setting [an ambitious and transparent cap]…Cap and trade is just one of a number of policies that the Chinese government is implementing to ensure its carbon emissions peak by 2030. Many observers believe it will achieve this goal earlier, perhaps even before 2025…” click here for more


    Here’s how many solar panels we’d need to provide power for the entire planet

    Kelley Hodkins, October 6, 2015 (Digital Trends)

    “…[Solar energy only provides] 0.39 percent of the energy in the US. This figure is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years with some visionaries like Elon Musk predicting solar will become the dominant energy source by 2031…[ Land Art Generator Initiative used 678 quadrillion BTUs as the predicted global energy consumption in 2030]…They converted this figure to 198,721,800,000,000 kilowatt-hours and then divided it by 400 kilowatt-hours of solar energy production per square meter of land…based on the assumption of 20 percent solar panel efficiency, 70 percent sunshine days each year, and the measurement that 1,000 watts of solar energy hits each square meter of land on the Earth…[We] would need 496,805 square kilometers or 191,817 square miles of solar panels to provide renewable power for the entire Earth…roughly equivalent to the land mass of Spain…[I]t is a small amount of land for a lot of energy…[and it] would be shocking if we didn’t fully utilize this resource in the upcoming decades.” click here for more


    AP aims 4,800 MW wind energy capacity over 5 years

    October 8, 2015 (The Hindu Business Line)

    “The Andhra Pradesh Government….plans to encourage setting up of 4800 mw wind power capacity in the State over the next [5] years with a potential investment of Rs 30,000 crore…[The government believes this provides] an excellent growth opportunity for stakeholders and private investors…[Wind energy projects will] mainly come up in rural areas would [and help generate] rural employment, boost rural economy and enhance the quality of life…[The new policy is expected to] attract additional investments and enhance the Gross State Domestic Product…[The] Indian Wind energy market has grown to a scale of 24 GW and stands 4th in the global market. The estimated wind potential in the country is over 103 GW.” click here for more


    Surf’s up for Israeli wave power; Eco Wave Power’s technology is leading the way in renewable energy, with the potential to provide electricity for thousands

    David Shamah, September 25, 2015 (The Times of Israel)

    “The wind may not blow and the sun may not shine, but waves are pretty constant…[making] wave power a better and more reliable source of renewable energy…[F]ew companies have embraced the idea of mass-producing energy using wave power than Israel’s Eco Wave Power (EWP)…[It recently became] eligible to receive a production quota and connect its wave-energy power plant and sell electricity to Israel’s power grid. This would be a first…[T]here are several wave-energy generation test systems in the US, Europe and Australia, with several commercial systems currently under development…[Studies have shown] a cluster of machines that takes up an area of less than half a square mile and that captures waves and turns them into energy…could generate over 30 megawatts of electricity, or enough for more than 20,000 households…[But wave power is] expensive to deploy, the devices used to capture waves are subject to corrosion from the saltwater, and the power transmission cables that must be installed to transport the converted energy to a generator could have a negative impact on marine life...drawbacks that are addressed by [EWP]…” click here for more

    Thursday, October 08, 2015


    Pumpkin pie may be missing by Christmas, thanks to climate change; Crop yields are down by half in the Illinois town that produces 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin, threatening to deprive Americans of their beloved pie

    Jessica Glenza, 7 October 2015 (The Guardian)

    “Crop yields are down by half in the midwestern fields that produce the bulk of pumpkins for pies, threatening to deprive many Americans of the custardy dessert this Christmas – although Thanksgiving will probably be all right…[Excessive rainfall] made planting difficult…August and September were warm and dry…[but it was too little, too late]…[A] plant pathologist at the University of Illinois said that this year’s heavy rains also brought disease to pumpkin crops…[T]ying this year’s pumpkin shortage directly to climate change is difficult. But…[the] upward trend in precipitation fits what we expect from changing climate…[There should be] enough canned pumpkin for Thanksgiving, but a tight supply around Christmas…[O]nce 2015’s crop is harvested, canned and shipped, which is expected to be in the middle of this year’s baking season, there will not be any extra…” click here for more


    5 Technologies That Could Drive Solar Energy Growth for Decades

    October 3, 2015 (The Motley Fool)

    “…[T]he world tends to look at solar energy with a fairly narrow view…[But why create] energy when it's cheapest and saving it for the time it's demanded by the market?...Here are five [energy storage technologies that could reshape solar energy…Lithium-ion batteries…Flow batteries…Liquid cooling…Hydrogen…Demand response…The reason solar energy could be affected by energy storage more than any other source of energy is the way solar energy is created. Calculations from the Land Art Generator Initiative show that it would take just 115,000 square miles of solar energy, about the size of Arizona, to replace all energy sources used in the world today…Building that much solar wouldn't be trivial, but it's well within the realm of possibility in a decade or two. But there would be a need to store that energy and save it for later use…” click here for more


    Dominion to seek new bids on offshore wind

    John Ramsey, October 7, 2015 (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

    “Dominion Resources will go through a second round of bidding to build [twin 6-megawatt turbines] off the Virginia coast while a group of state officials and industry executives lobby the General Assembly to save the offshore wind demonstration project…The initial bid for the two-turbine project came in at nearly twice Dominion’s estimated $230 million price tag…After a series of summer meetings with 87 interested parties — among them manufacturers, engineers and environmental groups — Dominion decided to break up its request for proposals into several smaller pieces…Dominion should know by the end of the first quarter of 2016 how much it will save through the new bid process…[It] asked the Energy Department for a one-year extension to use a $47 million grant for the wind project…Dominion hopes to eventually install about 300 turbines across 112,800 acres near the test site…” click here for more


    SolarCity and Temecula Valley Unified School District Announce Solar and Energy Storage Project Expected to Save the District Millions…

    Oct. 6, 2015 (Yahoo Finance)

    “SolarCity and Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) are together installing a six megawatt solar and energy storage project across 19 schools and the district’s administrative office. The project, which includes energy storage systems at five sites, required no upfront investment and is expected to save the district more than $520,000 within the first year of operation alone, and $35 million over 25 years by providing affordable power at a discount to utility rates…The project includes 18 solar carports and two ground mount solar arrays…[The 2,600 kilowatt hours of energy storage capacity…can later be intelligently dispatched during times of highest demand. TVUSD will reduce energy costs by using stored electricity to lower peak demand, further contributing to the district’s overall cost savings…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 07, 2015


    Inside the new approach to finding the true value of solar; A new SEPA-NREL paper says VOS program design could be a way out of net metering, fixed charge battles

    Herman K. Trabish, March 31, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    While solar uses continues to boom, a crucial question remains unanswered: What are its true costs and benefits to the electricity delivery system?

    The lack of an answer is not due to a lack of studies on the question. Researchers across the country commissioned by regulators, utilities, and solar advocates have and are looking for the best method to calculate a value of solar (VOS) rate. A new study takes on a less examined aspect.

    “This paper is about program design methodology instead of the rate design methodology,” explained Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) Research Manager and study co-author Miriam Makhyoun. “The question that comes out of this research is whether value of solar might offer a more comprehensive strategy to address some of the cross subsidy issues that some utilities are addressing by implementing fixed charges.”

    Most studies focus on VOS rate design, but “very little broad-based analysis has been conducted on the design of a VOS program,” according to Value of Solar: Program Design and Implementation Considerations, the report from SEPA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

    Program design and rate design

    North Carolina is a real world example of how difficult it can be to design a VOS program and rate. Both solar industry advocates and Duke Energy recently told Utility Dive that a study by Crossborder Energy, a widely recognized expert on VOS, had been determined by the North Carolina Utilities Commission to be inadequate for use in rate making.

    Design of a VOS tariff, or rate, is “about finding the sweet spot that balances the prices utilities and customers are each paying,” Makhyoun said. “There are few practical examples. Everyone is considering it and thinking about it and playing with it, but Austin Energy is the only one that has done it.”

    In a VOS program design, one of the first considerations is whether the levelized cost of solar (LCOE-PV) in the market for which it is intended is greater, about the same, or less than a calculated VOS tariff (VOST).

    Utilities and other stakeholders working on program design and implementation can draw on experience with other programs that support solar, such as net energy metering (NEM) and incentive and rebate programs, for important insights, the paper reports.

    But, to create and sustain “a robust solar market that is fair and equitable to all parties and that moves solar from a position of price-support to price-competitive, VOS programs will require sufficient design and implementation flexibility,” it concludes.

    Four vital VOS factors

    There are four key factors in program design, Makhyoun said: Transparency, predictability, a standardized VOS calculation methodology and a LCOE-PV.

    The widely-respected rate calculation methodology proposed in the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) regulator’s guidebook is needed, the new paper explains, because of the lack of consistency and transparency in other calculation methodologies performed for use in policies like NEM, fixed-rate feed-in tariffs, or incentive programs.

    Transparency begins with open rate making proceedings by state regulators, Makhyoun said, and can be furthered by clear explanations from utilities to policymakers and their customers.

    Predictability is vital, she said, because it reduces the risk associated with owning solar and makes bank loans possible.

    “Reducing risk reduces cost and that makes solar projects more attractive to investors and therefore more financeable," she said.

    Predictability is difficult because the VOST must respond to changes in retail rates. But good program design would allow for adjustments to be made on a pre-determined schedule and “would have a floor for any given year.”

    Austin Energy's VOS tariff, for instance, is adjusted annually according to market rates.

    “Once the initial incentive is set, there are a variety of ways to both trigger a reduction and to determine the amount of the reduction,” the paper explains. “Time intervals provide predictability, but if the market shifts more rapidly than planned, such as through a rapid solar panel cost reduction period, incentives may be larger than needed to encourage new projects.”

    Establishing known time periods for re-evaluation of the VOS tariff could reduce the less predictable impact of the market’s LCOE-PV, installed solar capacity, and installed solar price.

    “The ideal would be a standardized open-source VOS calculation methodology,” Makhyoun said. But a simple or easy-to-understand methodology might not be acceptable to utilities that want the many configurations of rate design to be considered. An example, she said, would be a VOS methodology with the value of real-time pricing included. It might not be simple to incorporate.

    Finally, a good VOS program design would include a consideration of LCOE-PV. That might be the easiest of the important factors because public tools, like the NREL System Advisor Model (SAM) used for the paper, offer comprehensiveness and transparency. Utilities, however, more often rely on the RFP bids they receive.

    “LCOE is often used by developers to calculate the bids they submit,” Makhyoun said, “though LCOEs have aligned with those bids pretty well over the years.”

    The controversy of 'buy-all, sell-all'

    The most controversial aspect of the paper is likely to be its use of the phrase “buy-all, sell-all“ to describe how a VOST is used.

    “There are several ways to design the transaction," the report reads. "Under the design used by Austin Energy, typically called a buy-all, sell-all transaction, self-generating customers buy all of the electricity they use at the applicable retail tariff and sell all of their PV generation to the utility at the VOS rate. The purchase of electricity for use on-site is completely decoupled from the sale of the solar generation to the utility.”

    “I am a little concerned about the legally imprecise and slightly muddled use of the ‘buy-all, sell-all’ phrase,” noted Pace Energy and Climate Center Executive Director and former Texas utilities commissioner Karl Rabago, who helped originate Austin Energy’s VOST and co-wrote the IREC paper.

    Solar industry opponents of VOS have argued its “buy-all, sell-all” structure makes it comparable to a feed-in tariff (FIT). With a FIT, rooftop solar owners are subject to income tax for what they receive from utilities for the electricity their systems send to the grid. A FIT could also put solar owners at risk of losing the federal investment tax credit (ITC).

    But considering a VOS to be a FIT is an incorrect conclusion, Rabago – who should know—insists. “A plain reading of the tariff in Austin and the law in Minnesota reveals that neither involves a legal sale of energy from the solar customer to the utility.”

    “There can be a net-metered VOS where it is only the excess energy that is trued up at the VOS rate instead of selling all the electricity produced by the system at the VOS rate,” Makhyoun agreed.

    Solar industry VOS opponents who prefer NEM emphasize an opinion memofrom Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. A VOS can be interpreted to mean that “gain from the sale of electricity in this context constitutes gross income," the attorneys found.

    Both the Skadden memo and the NREL-SEPA paper, Rabago said, “recognize that rates can be structured to incorporate value of solar analysis and still preserve tax and other benefits associated with netting methodologies.”

    The paper’s use of the “buy-all-sell-all” phrase “is not well-advised but can be understood as a rate design labeling error in a program design paper,” Rabago noted. “An actual Buy-All, Sell-All rider from the Fayetteville, AR, Public Works Commission stands in contrast.”

    A way out of the net metering debate?

    “Much of the discussion has been about net energy metering and fixed charges,” Makhyoun said. “Value of solar could be a responsible way forwardbecause it can get more at the behavior of prosumers.”

    Customer-sited solar generation will play an increasingly important role in the energy mix for utilities and consumers, and NEM policies promote that deployment, SEPA officially decided in 2013.

    But, Makhyoun said, “NEM and rate design, inherently linked, need to evolve to transparently allocate costs and benefits, compensating all parties for their value contribution. This transition will only be effective when utilities, the solar industry and customers collaborate to create a sustainable solar distributed generation market place.”

    Many of the most heated recent debates about solar focus on utilities’ concern with a cost shift. When solar allows its owners’ volumetric energy consumption to go down, the portion of their bills that covers transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure is proportionately reduced. If solar does not equally reduce the cost for T&D infrastructure, the burden for it is shifted to non-solar owners.

    Utilities have begun asking regulators to remedy this by increasing the fixed charges required of all customers, regardless of their volumetric consumption.

    “Policymakers certainly have an interest in insuring that utilities get payment for the services they provide and part of that service is maintaining the grid,” Makhyoun said. “VOS is not explicitly designed to prevent cross subsidies but it takes into account all of the costs and benefits of solar to the grid, its pluses and minuses.”

    “As long as the costs to the utility of integrating the PV system and providing T&D services are included in the VOS rate,” the paper explains, “this structure can keep the utility 'whole' and significantly reduce or eliminate cross-subsidization.”


    NEW ENERGY NOW MATCH NAT GAS Wind energy is now as cheap as natural gas, and solar is getting close; And it's only getting cheaper.

    7 October 2015 (Science Alert)

    “Wind power is now comparable in price to fossil fuels, and solar is well on its way, according to [Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which]confirms earlier predictions that renewables aren't just the best option for the environment - they’re unequivocally the smartest long-term investment you can make on energy…[I]n the second half of 2015, the global average cost of onshore wind energy will be $83 per megawatt-hour of electricity (which is down $2 from the first half of the year), and for thin film solar photovoltaics, the cost is $122 per megawatt-hour (down $7 in the past six months)…The costs as they are now, and the steady drops we’ve seen in price over the past six months alone, suggest that as the technology to eke out more and more electricity from solar and wind energy gets ever-more sophisticated, those prices can only continue to fall…” click here for more

    HUGE NEW ENERGY IN U.S. WAVES AND TIDES Riding the Waves and Tides to a Cleaner Energy Future

    Joan M. Bondareff, September 29, 2015 (Marine Technology News)

    “…For the first time progress is being made in the U.S. to develop offshore wind resources…But recently, progress is also being made in the development of tidal and wave energy resources closer to shore, which are known as marine hydrokinetic or MHK resources…[which] generate electricity from waves or directly from the flow of water in ocean currents, tides or inland waterways. Ocean thermal energy is also part of the MHK equation but has not been actively pursued…

    "The technically recoverable resource for electric generation from waves is approximately 1,170 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year which is almost one third of the 4,000 TWh of electricity used in the U.S. each year. Approximately 85,000 homes can be powered by 1 TWh/year…The technical resource potential for tidal generation is estimated to be 250 TWh/year…The technical resource potential for electric generation from ocean thermal resources is estimated at 576 TWh/year in U.S. coastal waters, including all 50 states...[But] companies are left largely on their own to develop, fund and promote MHK technologies with limited federal and state support…” click here for more

    THE PROMISE OF ENHANCED GEOTHERMAL Geothermal Energy: Is New Technology Resetting the Agenda?

    Kennedy Maize, October 1, 2015 (Power Magazine)

    “…Legendary venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who made a pile of money in information technology and computers, is…making a wager on geothermal because…[unlike the sun and wind, geothermal energy offers round-the-clock generation…[T]he fundamental geological fact is that hot rocks are ubiquitous, although not always attractive for conventional geothermal technologies…because the easiest plays—high-pressure steam from underground turning turbine generators…—aren’t plentiful…[But] AltaRock Energy, backed by Khosla personally and through his venture capital company, Khosla Ventures…aims to use a technology that has proven revolutionary…[called enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) that drills] into the deep strata to reach hot rocks. Then the operators inject cold water at high pressure into the rock, breaking the strata apart, liberating heat, and producing plentiful hot water. The hot water, and steam, then flow up the well, where they can turn a turbine generator directly or run a binary system with a heat-transfer liquid…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 06, 2015


    Utility-Scale Solar 2014; An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States

    Mark Bolinger and Joachim Seel Energy, September 30, 2015 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    Other than the nine Solar Energy Generation Systems (“SEGS”) parabolic trough projects built in the 1980s, virtually no large-scale or “utility-scale” solar projects – defined here to include any groundmounted photovoltaic (“PV”), concentrating photovoltaic (“CPV”), or concentrating solar thermal power (“CSP”) project larger than 5 MWAC – existed in the United States prior to 2007. By 2012 – just five years later – utility-scale had become the largest sector of the overall PV market in the United States, a distinction that was repeated in both 2013 and 2014 and that is expected to continue for at least the next few years. Over this same short period, CSP also experienced a bit of a renaissance in the United States, with a number of large new parabolic trough and power tower systems – some including thermal storage – achieving commercial operation.

    With this critical mass of new utility-scale projects now online and in some cases having operated for a number of years (generating not only electricity, but also empirical data that can be mined), the rapidly growing utility-scale sector is ripe for analysis. This report, the third edition in an ongoing annual series, meets this need through in-depth, annually updated, data-driven analysis of not just installed project costs or prices – i.e., the traditional realm of solar economics analyses – but also operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement (“PPA”) prices from a large sample of utility-scale solar projects in the United States. Given its current dominance in the market, utility-scale PV also dominates much of this report, though data from CPV and CSP projects are presented where appropriate.

    Some of the more-notable findings from this year’s edition include the following:

    • Installation Trends: Among the total population of utility-scale PV projects from which data samples are drawn, several trends are worth noting due to their influence on (or perhaps reflection of) the cost, performance, and price data analyzed later. For example, the use of tracking devices (overwhelmingly single-axis, though a few dual-axis tracking projects entered the population in 2014) continues to expand, particularly among thin-film (CdTe) projects, which had almost exclusively opted for fixed-tilt mounts prior to 2014. The quality of the solar resource in which PV projects are being built in the United States has increased on average over time, as most of the projects in the population (>90% in MW terms) are located in the Southwest where the solar resource is the strongest. That said, the market has also begun to expand outside of the Southwest, most notably in the Southeast. The average inverter loading ratio – i.e., the ratio of a project’s DC module array nameplate rating to its AC inverter nameplate rating – has also increased among more recent project vintages, as oversizing the array can boost revenue, particularly when time-of-delivery pricing is used. In combination, these trends should drive AC capacity factors higher among more recently built PV projects (a hypothesis confirmed by the capacity factor data analyzed in Chapter 5). Finally, 2014 also saw three new large CSP projects – i.e., two 250 MW trough projects and one 377 MW solar power tower project – achieve commercial operation; in contrast, no new CPV plants came online in 2014.

    • Installed Prices: Median installed PV project prices within a sizable sample have steadily fallen by more than 50% since the 2007-2009 period, from around $6.3/WAC to $3.1/WAC (or $5.7/WDC to $2.3/WDC, all in 2014 dollars) for projects completed in 2014. The lowest-priced projects among our 2014 sample of 55 PV projects were ~$2/WAC, with the lowest 20th percentile of projects having fallen considerably from $3.2/WAC in 2013 to $2.3/WAC in 2014. The three large CSP projects that came online in 2014 were priced considerably higher than our PV sample, ranging from $5.1/WAC to $6.2/WAC.

    • Operation and Maintenance (“O&M”) Costs: What limited empirical O&M cost data are publicly available suggest that PV O&M costs appear to have been in the neighborhood of $20/kWAC-year, or $10/MWh, in 2014. CSP O&M costs are higher, at around $40-$50/kWACyear. These numbers include only those costs incurred to directly operate and maintain the generating plant, and should not be confused with total operating expenses, which would also include property taxes, insurance, land royalties, performance bonds, various administrative and other fees, and overhead.

    • Capacity Factors: The capacity-weighted average cumulative capacity factor across the entire PV project sample is 27.5% (median = 26.5% and simple average = 25.6%), but individual project-level capacity factors exhibit a wide range (from 14.8% to 34.9%) around these central numbers. This variation is based on a number of factors, including (in approximate decreasing order of importance): the strength of the solar resource at the project site; whether the array is mounted at a fixed tilt or on a tracking mechanism; the inverter loading ratio; and the type of modules used (e.g., c-Si versus thin film). Improvements in the first three of these factors have driven capacity-weighted average capacity factors higher by project vintage over the last three years – e.g., 29.4% among 2013-vintage projects, compared to 26.3% and 24.5% for projects built in 2012 and 2011, respectively. In contrast, two of the new CSP projects built in recent years – a trough project with storage and a power tower project – generated lower-than-expected capacity factors in 2014, reportedly due to startup and teething issues. Performance has subsequently improved at both projects during the first six months of 2015 (compared to the same period in 2014). Likewise, the two CPV projects in our sample seem to be underperforming, relative to both similarly situated PV projects and ex-ante expectations.

    • PPA Prices: Driven by lower installed project prices, improving capacity factors, and – more recently – the rush to build projects in advance of the scheduled reversion of the 30% investment tax credit (“ITC”) to 10% in 2017, levelized PPA prices for utility-scale PV have fallen dramatically over time, by a steady ~$25/MWh per year on average from 2006 through 2013, with a smaller price decline of ~$10/MWh evident in the 2014 and 2015 samples. Some of the most-recent PPAs in the Southwest have levelized PPA prices as low as (or even lower than) $40/MWh (in real 2014 dollars). At these low levels – which appear to be robust, given the strong response to recent utility solicitations – PV compares favorably to just the fuel costs (i.e., ignoring fixed capital costs) of natural gas-fired generation, and can therefore potentially serve as a “fuel saver” alongside existing gas-fired generation (and can also provide a hedge against possible future increases in fuel prices).

    Looking ahead, the amount of utility-scale solar capacity in the development pipeline suggests continued momentum and a significant expansion of the industry through at least 2016. For example, at the end of 2014, there was at least 44.6 GW of utility-scale solar power capacity making its way through interconnection queues across the nation (though concentrated in California and the Southwest). Though not all of these projects will ultimately be built, presumably those that are built will most likely come online prior to 2017, given the scheduled reversion of the 30% ITC to 10% at the end of 2016. Even if only a modest fraction of the solar capacity in these queues meets that deadline, it will still mean an unprecedented amount of new construction in 2015 and 2016 – as well as a substantial amount of new data to collect and analyze in future editions of this report.