China could use an expected boom in electric vehicles to stabilize a grid that depends heavily on wind and solar energy, officials from an influential Chinese government planning agency said Monday in Washington D.C.
“In the future we think the electricity vehicle could be the big contribution for power systems’ stability, reliability,” said Wang Zhongying, director of the China National Renewable Energy Center and deputy director general of the Energy Research Institute at China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
The Chinese do not see the cost of renewable energy as a significant obstacle to its widespread adoption, Wang told a lunchtime gathering at Resources for the Future, a non-partisan environmental research organization in the Capitol.
“The biggest challenge for renewable energy development is not economic issues, it is technical issues. Variability. Variability is the biggest issue for us,” said Wang, who explained variability like so: “When we have wind we have electricity; when we have sun we have electricity. No wind and no sun, no electricity.”
But if the Chinese deploy enough electric vehicles—which could mean up to five million new electric vehicles in Beijing alone—the array of distributed batteries could collect energy when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and feed it back to the grid when the skies are dark and the air is still.
Wang directed a study released this week, the “China 2050 High Renewable Energy Penetration Scenario and Roadmap Study,” which plots a route for China to drastically reduce reliance on coal, derive 85 percent of electricity from renewables, and cut greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent by mid-century .
The study gets there by relying on what has become known as Vehicle-to-Grid technology, which has emerged as almost a surprise side effect of inexpensive solar panels and clean-energy policies in places like California and Germany.
The Chinese have been watching the same developments, the report reveals, as clean energy experts in the West like Daniel Kammen, who described unexpected effects of the solar-energy boom last week in an appearance at the University of Chicago.
“Now in places with the greenest energy policies, there is a huge peak in afternoon power on the grid, exactly where power used to be the most expensive and the dirtiest,” he said. “We actually want people to charge up now in the late afternoon. It sounds very chaotic, it’s not what we thought at all, but in fact it represents what low-cost solar is now bringing to many parts of the world.”
Electricity consumers can store this abundant afternoon energy until supply goes down and demand goes up and then sell it back to the grid. And if they own electric vehicles, they needn’t buy extra equipment to do so.
“You can put a big battery in the basement of your home or business, but you can also have your electric vehicle, with its mobile storage system that you drive around and use as your car. They’re called Nissan Leafs, they’re called Chevy Volts, they’re called Teslas, they’re called Priuses, they have a variety of names. And now you can sell power back to the grid.”
An electric car with a range of 250 km can store 40 kWh of electricity, Wang said. Five million of those cars could stabilize Beijing’s grid to counteract variations in wind and sun, he said, and the number of automobiles in Beijing is expected to blossom from six million now to 10 million by 2030.
If the range of electric cars doubles to 500 km, he added, they will store enough electricity that only two million will be needed.
The cost of electric vehicles—about $40,000 in China, according to Wang—remains a hurdle, but China may slash the price by subsidizing vehicle batteries.
China’s High Renewable Energy Roadmap resembles several U.S. Dept. of Energy studies that have plotted the route for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent by 2050.
The U.S. studies anticipate that solar and wind will provide half of U.S. power needs by 2050, using pumped hydro and compressed-air storage systems to offset variability.
Bulk battery systems were deemed too expensive to be viable, said Samuel Baldwin, chief science officer in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, but the U.S. studies did not anticipate the “distributed storage” option offered by electric vehicles.
“I expect that battery storage like the Chinese study, with electric vehicles or stationary storage, is going to play a more important role,” Baldwin said.
It remains uncertain, however, how important a role it will play in China. The country’s first priority is economic development, said Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, also an arm of the National Development and Reform Commission.
By 2049, the centennial year of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese want to achieve a standard of living comparable to the most developed countries.
“China wants to be among the developed countries by 2050,” Li said. “That’s the first priority.”
China’s High Renewable Energy Roadmap is a “visionary scenario,” according to Joanna Lewis, an associate professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University. But it remains to be seen whether China’s Politburu shares the vision of its National Development and Reform Commission.
“We hope our study can influence the government’s 13th five-year plan and 2050 energy strategy,” said Wang. “That’s very important.”
Despite Its Oil-Industry Past, Energy Transitions Commission Foresees A Full-Renewables Futureby Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago. Follow Jeff McMahon on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, or email him here.
Renewables could provide nearly all the power in some regions in less than 20 years, reliably, and at a cost competitive with fossil fuels, according to a report released today by the Energy Transitions Commission.
The report's striking confidence in solar and wind is likely to surprise not only critics of those technologies but also environmentalists, who greeted the commission with skepticismwhen it was founded in 2015. The commission was launched by Royal Dutch Shell and includes executives from Shell, GE Oil and Gas, Australia's BHP Billiton, Norway's Statoil and other traditional-energy companies.
"We believe that close to zero-carbon power systems with very high levels of intermittent renewable penetration (up to 98% in countries like Germany) could deliver reliable power in many countries at a maximum of $70 per MWh by 2035," the commission states in its flagship report.
In 2015, Carbon Tracker's Anthony Hobley criticized the ETCbecause of its initial goal to study how to fuel half the power sector with zero-carbon energy sources by 2050, a path that Hobley said would put the world on course for 4˚C of warming. The ETC appears to have raised its ambitions since.
Worldwide, zero-carbon sources could represent 80 percent of the global power mix by 2040, the commission now says, with solar and wind comprising the majority of that. That still leaves 20 percent of the world power market to fossil fuels. But that's a big drop from the current state of affairs, in which fossil fuels provide about 80 percent of primary energy production.
“We are ambitious but realistic," said commission chairman Adair Turner, a British businessman, via email. "Despite the scale of the challenges facing us, we firmly believe the required transition is technically and economically achievable if immediate action is taken.”
When I contacted Carbon Tracker Monday, Hobley had not had an opportunity yet to review the report or comment.
The report calls for reducing CO2 emissions more rapidly than the Paris Agreement. Its reliance on solar and wind depends in part on its projection that the cost of batteries will continue to drop. But it stresses there are cheaper means than battery storage to smooth out the intermittent performance of solar and wind. It cites a suite of technologies and techniques, including:
demand management, especially of industry
flexible electric vehicle charging
load shifting between regions
automated load shifting
better grid management
large-scale heat storage
distributed thermal storage in the built environment
compressed air storage
The commission modeled the use of these technologies in California and concluded that if California builds a power system that relies nearly entirely on solar and wind, these lower-cost options could offer the system reliability for almost half the cost of the traditional method of achieving reliability—turning on gas-turbine plants.
University of Berkeley energy professor Daniel Kammen has been outlining a similar scenario:
"The dramatic ramp up in solar resulted in the dramatic realization that a diverse, decentralized system can provide the same critical features that we think about with a baseload highly centralized system," Kammensaid last summer. "Not tomorrow, but in the time frame that we need it, it's absolutely there."
It's easier to see how zero-carbon sources can conquer 80 percent of the energy market, the commission concedes, than the last 20 percent. If the world is to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 2º C, the report says, four energy transitions have to be pursued simultaneously in each country:
Decarbonization of the power sector combined with electrification of transportation, buildings and industry.
Decarbonization of activities that cannot be affordably electrified, by using biofuels or hydrogen for heating or by capturing carbon emissions.
Improvements in energy productivity and efficiency.
Optimization of fossil fuels within the constraints of the world's overall carbon budget, including the continued replacement of coal with natural gas, an end to methane leaks and methane flaring at oil fields, and development of carbon capture and storage.
To achieve these transitions, the world needs to change the way it finances energy, and it needs "coherent and predictable" policy from governments, the report says, recommending a price on carbon.
"A meaningful carbon price would help drive a faster and more certain transition."
Imagine a world in which every home and building is a miniature power plant, with solar panels on the roofs and electric vehicles and stationary battery banks in the garages.
Meters and software would manage the flow of power, allowing homeowners and businesses to seamlessly buy and sell electricity at the best prices, simultaneously lowering their costs and raising the amount of green energy on the grid.
That’s the long-term vision behind the plan that Elon Musk described late Tuesday, explaining the rationale for Tesla to acquire SolarCity and create the “world’s only vertically integrated energy company.’’And it may very well become reality, whether in years or decades, and whether Mr. Musk’s version of the vision is one that proves viable.
Still, if Mr. Musk and his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, can trounce the competition and surmount their financial woes — and those are very big ifs — the integrated company they are trying to assemble could be in a position to dominate.
“This is an effort to build the Apple of clean energy,” said Daniel M. Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “That really is part of the new wave of companies that could make this decarbonization addressing climate change really work.”
Wall Street, at least for the moment, is not on board.
SolarCity’s stock, which has been trading at roughly a quarter of its peak value in recent months, rose after the announcement. But Tesla’s has tumbled. Several analysts and investors have questioned the wisdom of adding to both companies’ financial pressures — between them the companies lost more than $1.6 billion last year — and potentially distracting Tesla from building its enormous battery factory in Nevada and bringing its first moderately priced car to market next year.
Even some energy analysts say the proposed acquisition is at least as much about helping Mr. Musk’s personal investments as furthering his green agenda. But, some energy experts and investors say, there is logic in combining Tesla, where Mr. Musk is chief executive, and SolarCity, where he is chairman.
Describing Tesla automobiles as “batteries wrapped in a car,” Shawn Kravetz, founder of the solar power investment company Esplanade Capital, said that the energy storage business was likely to become colossal. “And so you can see,’’ he said, ‘‘how the electricity to power those batteries can be an essential part of this.”
The two companies have been moving toward a closer partnership for some time. SolarCity began installing Tesla batteries in pilot projects for residential and commercial customers about four years ago. Last year, Tesla announced its move to market rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs that could mount to a home garage wall, as well as battery blocks large enough to power commercial and industrial customers and serve in utility-scale installations to smooth out fluctuations in the grid.
At the same time, SolarCity, after years of challenging the utility industry to innovate or die, started acting more like a utility itself. It began a program aimed at cities, remote communities, campuses and military bases to design and operate small, independent power networks called microgrids. At the time, Peter Rive, one of the company’s founders and its chief technical officer, called the system “a template that can be scaled up to basically be the next-generation grid.”
As the leading rooftop solar provider in the country, SolarCity is thought to have the largest collection of data on how solar customers use energy at every minute of the day. With that data — especially if combined with information from electric cars, chargers and stationary batteries — the combined company could be well suited to creating products and services based on customer needs.
“They deeply understand what the customer’s usage patterns are,” said Swapnil Shah, chief executive of FirstFuel Software, which provides energy management services to buildings. He compared the potential to Amazon’s ability to adapt and customize online shopping to buyer’s behavior.
“They’re creating unique personalized profiles of your habits,’’ Mr. Shah said, “and they use that to identify what is the next click for the next product.”
And yet, while SolarCity was building the infrastructure for a new, decentralized approach to power production known as distributed generation, while earning a reputation for aggressive attacks on the old-school utility industry, Mr. Musk was turning Tesla into “the brand that everyone wants to buy,” Mr. Kammen said. That brand burnishing is something that could benefit SolarCity, he said.
But a big challenge for Tesla, said Shayle Kann of GTM Research, which focuses on clean energy industries, is that it is not the only company with such a grand vision. Utility industry stalwarts like Edison International and Con Edison are developing energy services and consulting divisions, while technology giants like General Electric, Oracle, Google and even Apple are getting into the business of providing or managing power.
Of course, the merger plan may not go through, if other investors balk and because of the corporate governance and other issues arising from Mr. Musk’s roles in both companies. He also owns more than 20 percent of each. But maybe a merger isn’t necessary to achieve the larger goals.
“Do you have to own things in order to leverage or even to a certain extent control them?” Mr. Kravetz of Esplanade Capital asked. “I think the answer is no. You don’t have to own the cow to get the milk.”
It was just last summer that SunEdison was a Wall Street darling, the very air around the fast-growing company seeming to shimmer with potential.
SunEdison was, after all, a red-hot company in a red-hot space — renewable energy. Its market capitalization reached nearly $10 billion, putting it on a par with the likes of Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas. Among the believers betting on its stock was the hedge-fund heavyweight David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital. With plans to buy Vivint Solar for $2.2 billion, SunEdison appeared unstoppable.
And then the company went supernova. Its shares fell from around $32 last summer to 34 cents this week. Mr. Einhorn furiously tried to dump his stake in recent weeks. In early March, Vivint said, “thanks, but no thanks” and exited the deal with SunEdison.
On Thursday, to the surprise of no one, SunEdison filed for bankruptcy — one of the largest in a series of recent green-energy failures.
There is a timeless element to SunEdison’s swift demise: an executive with an Icarus complex chasing a fast-growing market embarks on an aggressive strategy fueled by cheap debt. Soar. Crash. Burn. Repeat.
Yet the collapse raises a bigger question: Can renewable-energy companies be profitable? Can green make green?
The answer, of course, is yes. Just as soon as they cross over a fundamental hurdle: finding a strategy that actually works.
“We haven’t totally figured out exactly what the business models are going to look like, for who wins and who loses,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
Significantly, though, the sudden decline in oil prices isn’t largely to blame. The difficulties run much deeper, echoing industrial collapses of earlier eras — the telecom-industry boom and bust of the 1990s and early 2000s, and disruptive cycles before that.
On the surface, the various green-energy companies all seem to be pursuing different strategies. But there is a unifying problem they have yet to overcome: Finding enough customers to support the costly infrastructure they must first build.
SunEdison is far from being the only troubled green-energy business.
Abengoa, which grew from a small electrical equipment company in Seville, Spain, to a multinational solar and biofuel giant, is in restructuring proceedings in the United States and abroad. Solazyme, a once-promising maker of algae-based biofuels, has abandoned the energy markets and changed its name in favor of focusing on ingredients for personal care and food products for companies like Unilever and Hormel. And NRG has pulled back from its headlong rush into alternative energy as it restructures to focus on its conventional operations after the ouster of its chief executive, David Crane.
What’s remarkable is that these leading energy companies are struggling at a time when regulatory, public and investor support for the renewable-energy industry has arguably never been greater.
On Friday, world leaders are signing the Paris agreement on climate change, a sweeping commitment to lower carbon emissions that practically requires that renewable development be steeply ramped up. At the end of last year, American lawmakers extended important tax credits for green energy several more years, while in recent days, the Senate approved a broad energy bill that would further promote clean power.
Moreover, investors around the world sank hundreds of billions of dollars into clean-energy technologies last year even as the prices of competing fossil fuels — oil and natural gas — tumbled.
Though development in renewable energy climbed in the last 15 years, the industry is still widely considered to be in its early stages. Nonetheless, there has been a race among companies to develop, commercialize and eventually prosper from what many see as one of the largest tectonic economic shifts in decades.
Last year, China started construction on a massive solar farm in the Gobi desert that is expected to generate enough power to light up one million homes. Dong Energy is developing a multibillion-dollar wind farm off the Yorkshire coast that could eventually power even more.
And in the United States, the federal government recently approved a major new transmission line to move wind-generated electricity east from the Great Plains.
But all good bubbles burst. What is happening in renewable energy now has similarities to the telecommunications bubble of the 1990s. Led by hard-charging executives seeking big paydays, giants like WorldCom, Global Crossing and Adelphia started far-reaching acquisition and capital-expenditure programs — burning through billions of dollars — to buy cable companies or bury long-haul fiber-optic cable under land and sea. They were all chasing expected high demand and soaring revenues from the dawn of the Internet.
Those revenues eventually materialized, but they came too late for the first movers of the revolution. After creating a broadband glut, and buried under mountains of debt — let’s not forget the various accounting scandals and frauds — the many companies collapsed into bankruptcy.
But the infrastructure they created lived on. Last weekend, when you binge-watched the fourth season of “House of Cards” or streamed your own cooking show on Facebook Live, chances are better than not that your data zoomed through at least some of those networks.
In that case, it turned out that if you build it, they will indeed come. But as many renewable energy companies are learning, building it costs dearly.
Even before SunEdison, the landscape of green energy companies was littered with failed strategies.
Dozens of solar-focused companies around the globe have disappeared, through bankruptcy, insolvency or just shutting their doors, since 2009 when prices for solar panels plunged as competition from China increased.
Among the high-profile failures was that of Solyndra, a solar module manufacturer, which became a symbol of green energy ambitions gone awry for the Obama administration after it burned through $527 million in government loans.
Part of the conundrum for these companies is that the most effective way to cut costs has been to grow, to take advantage of economies of scale, certain forms of financing and generous subsidies that were set to expire.
But with all that growth has come debt, and an inability to show a profit, even if the companies are creating value.
“Clearly in a market that has had a lot of growth, you are going to have some companies — and in this case many companies — that try to do too much, too fast,” said Shawn Kravetz, founder of Esplanade Capital, which invests in solar power. “We’re going to continue to see a shakeout.”
The vulnerability to shifting conditions has been evident for industry leaders like SolarCity and SunPower, companies whose stock prices can swing wildly with energy markets and policy changes.
But it is especially the case at SunEdison, where its chief executive, Ahmad R. Chatila, set about expanding, seemingly in all directions at once.
With roots in making components for solar panels, SunEdison aimed to become the world’s largest renewable energy development company. It bought ventures in wind and energy storage, looked to increase manufacturing, entered big new markets and created new subsidiaries known as yieldcos to help it raise cheaper financing by buying the projects it developed.
That strategy was further complicated by questionable accounting and opaque financial reporting — SunEdison has received an inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a subpoena from the Justice Department — that confounded even experts in the field.
”This is going to be a big industry globally, but we’re stumbling and bumbling to get there,” said Erik Gordon, a clinical assistant professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. “If they weren’t trying to beat each other to the next rooftop they wouldn’t be needing to do this financial engineering.”
Still, industry analysts and executives say that despite the fall of SunEdison, the future for renewable energy is bright.
Indeed, there are a few stalwarts in the renewable-energy race.
Take First Solar. The company, which supplies solar panels and develops solar farms, has had its share of troubles. It has been the target of shareholder lawsuits claiming it hid big problems and misrepresented its prospects. Its stock, at $62 a share, is a far cry from its bubble-peak of $311 in the spring of 2008.
But by adopting a slower-growth strategy and reducing debt, First Solar is a rarity in the green-energy industry. It is profitable. Last year, the company made $546 million on $3.6 billion in revenue.
For now, First Solar may be an anomaly, particularly amid uncertainty around the presidential election and the policy stances of candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump on renewable energy sources. Some warn that a lull could settle over the industry in the short term.
“The Secretary Clinton perspective on lots of distributed clean energy couldn’t be more different than the Trump view,” said Daniel M. Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “That could mean hugely different things for the growth of the industry.”
Berkeley Student Blog (Clog)
What are you doing this summer? Taking a class online? Interning from 9 to 5? Traveling a little? This summer, the California-Renewable and Adaptive Energy, or CAL-RAE, team will be helping with the construction of a solar microgrid system in Uganda.
UC Berkeley students Jalel Sager, Jonathan Lee and Austin Cappon will install the first stage of the microgrid in Kitobo, a fishing island in Lake Victoria, Uganda. The core members staying in Berkeley will continue to work on research and fundraising efforts.
The club has benefited from the help of campus professor Daniel Kammen, who, according to Cappon, has been instrumental with his “blend of global insight and encouragement of practical, local-scale development engineering approaches.”
You might be thinking, “What is a solar microgrid system? Why does Uganda need one? Why do I need to know about this now, in the middle of the summer?” To answer these questions, we at the Clog asked Cappon, Kammen and Krina Huang to discuss, in an email, CAL-RAE and its current microgrid project in the Lake Victoria community.
The Daily Clog: Why did you decide to start your project in Uganda? Are there other places that are more in need of energy in the world?
Austin Cappon: In 2013, we won a (United Nations) SEED (Initiative) Award (under our former name, SEA-RAE). One of the fellow SEED Award winners based in Kampala, Uganda, learned of the microgrid system design we were working on at the time and introduced to the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria.
The communities in the Lake Victoria region are both deserving and eager for modern energy. In our pilot community for the region, residents will use the new electricity to power homes, health clinics, and new business ventures.
DC: What is a microgrid system?
AC: A microgrid is a small-scale electricity system that uses distributed resources to produce power. In our case, this resource is solar power. Solar power is harvested on top of “Solar Trees” installed throughout the community, that power is then routed back to a battery bank for storage. This storage allows for uninterrupted access to electricity, even after dark. Microgrids allow communities to reduce reliance on external resources like diesel and kerosene that are often difficult and expensive to source in remote locations.
DC: Is this solar energy considered to be clean energy? How so?
AC: Our system harvests renewable energy from the sun, using solar panels. The system will replace fossil fuel-burning diesel generators and kerosene lamps. Lake Victoria has many small islands that don’t have access to conventional electricity grid services. They are forced to pay expensive rates for poor quality electricity, if they want power. The abundance of sun, and eagerness for modern electricity makes the region ripe for development of renewable power systems.
DC: How does the new power grid affect the economy?
AC: The new microgrid will open doors for community businesses to use new machines that have until now not been available. These are devices like pumps and refrigerators that would overtax the weak diesel generators the community uses currently. Generally, the system will translate to substantial cost savings for users of the electric grid, that currently pay about six times the average California rate per unit of energy. The microgrid will likely reduce business for the vendors of kerosene and diesel fuel.
Want to get involved? Contact Huang, one of the undergraduate members of the group. After joining CAL-RAE, you’ll have the opportunity to choose to be a part of one of the three departments of CAL-RAE: technical, social media and economic analysis.
For additional information, visit the CAL-RAE Facebook page or send Cappon an email in order to be added to the Listserv.
An analytical job creation model for the US power sector from 2009 to 2030 is presented. The model
synthesizes data from 15 job studies covering renewable energy(RE), energy efficiency (EE), carbon
capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power. The paper employs a consistent methodology of
normalizing job data to average employment per unit energy produced over plant lifetime. Job losses in
the coal and natural gas industry are modeled to project net employment impacts. Benefits and
drawbacks of the methodology are assessed and the resulting model is used for job projections under
various renewable portfolio standards (RPS), EE,and low carbon energy scenarios. We find that all non-fossil fuel technologies (renewable energy, EE, low carbon) create more jobs per unit energy than coal
and natural gas. Aggressive EE measures combined with a 30% RPS target in 2030 can generate over 4
million full-time-equivalent job-yearsby 2030 while increasing nuclear power to 25% and CCS to 10% of
over all generation in 2030 can yield an additional 500,000 job-years.
From Forbes Magazine, December 7, 2016Article link.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. decided to close its Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant because its baseload power—often cited as nuclear's best asset—doesn't fit into the dynamic grid California is developing, a PG&E executive said today at the U.S. Energy Storage Summit in San Francisco.
Steve Malnight, PG&E's senior vice president for regulatory affairs, was speaking specifically of market conditions in California, but many consider California a trailblazer for the nation on energy and climate issues, so his comments will resonate in the ongoing debate over nuclear's role in a clean-energy future.
"Considering a shutdown was a difficult decision for us," Malnight said, "but as we really looked at the changing dynamics in California, given the choices we’ve made in California, and the policy direction in California, there was a clear recognition that Diablo was not going to be a good fit for the future needs of the system."
Figure caption: Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California. (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Nuclear advocates argue that nuclear plants can provide reliable power to balance the variability of renewables, but baseload power turned out to be Diablo's Achilles' heel.
"With 50 percent renewables on the system, the idea of a large baseload generator that runs pretty much all the time, every day, 24 hours a day, just doesn’t have as good a fit to the market conditions we expect to see," Malnight said.
PG&E announced this summer it would close Diablo's two reactors after their operating licenses expire in November 2024 and August 2025, replacing the plant with a suite of greenhouse-gas-free technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, and energy storage. Today, Malnight said half that job is already done.
"When we looked forward, what we really saw is that only about half of Diablo Canyon in terms of the generation that came out of that facility was even going to be needed. In other words, half is already effectively being replaced with the policies we’re marching down on clean energy and on different energy choices that our customers are making," Malnight said.
"When you looked at the other half that needed to be replaced, baseload generation just wasn’t a good fit. The plant would be turning on and turning off all the time. And in a marketplace with really abundant resources in the middle of the day, that’s not a good way to run a nuclear plant."
PG&E intends to "buy" the renewables, efficiency, and storage that will replace the plant soon, so that they're in place before it closes. He told the audience of energy-storage interests that the storage purchase would have been necessary even if Diablo stayed open.
"We anticipate we’re going to need to bring on more storage onto the system to help integrate those diverse resources. Which, by the way we would have needed if we kept Diablo running, too."
Malnight did acknowledge the seeming irony of closing a nuclear plant during a frantic quest to develop an energy system free of carbon emissions.
"As a company we’re really committed to achieving the state’s—and hopefully the world’s—ambition for carbon reduction, and Diablo is a vital resource for us today in our existing fleet for how we are able to deliver as much clean energy as we do." But, he said, it proved too awkward a piece of the puzzle in an energy future based on a diverse, dynamic, decentralized set of resources.
PG&E's decision supports an argument articulated by Berkeley Energy Professor Daniel Kammen in a debate this summer [to watch the debate, click here] with former Energy Secretary Steven Chu: "The dramatic ramp up in solar resulted in the dramatic realization that a diverse, decentralized system can provide the same critical features that we think about with a baseload highly centralized system," said Kammen.