Search Results for 'energy storage'

RAEL Lunch — November 14, Sara Mulhauser, “Do utility ownership structures impact energy storage diffusion rates?”

Mulhauser Sara is an architect who delved into distributed generation while developing fuel cell projects for Bloom Energy. She became interested in the energy industry in general, and specifically the regulatory and finance conditions that make markets more open to uptake of innovative technologies. While her focus is in energy, she is also interested in how other major infrastructure areas are similar and different with respect to technology uptake. Sara has a BA in Architecture from Berkeley.

Energy storage deployment and innovation for the clean energy transition

This publication website supports the new paper, in press at Nature Energy, titled: Energy storage deployment and innovation for the clean energy transition as a site where users can download the Excel versions of the data sets used i that paper, whose authors Noah Kittnera,b, Felix Lillb,c and Daniel M. Kammen*a,b,d a Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA b Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA c Center for Digital Technology and Management, TU Munich, Munich, Germany d Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA give permission for open (but cited) use of these materials.

Forbes: China: Electric Vehicle-​​To-​​Grid Technology Could Solve Renewable Energy Storage Problem

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2015/04/21/china-electric-vehicle-to-grid-tech-could-solve-renewable-energy-storage-problem/ 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.

“Massive amounts of solar power coming online in California, in Bangladesh, in Germany, in Italy, has meant the world has been turned on its head,” Kammen said.

“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.”

June 7, 2020 — The Daily Nation (Kenya) “Covid-​​19 locks Kenya’s future in green energy”

For the original June 7, 2020, piece in The Daily Nation (Nairobi, Kenya), click here. image

By Daniel Kammen & Khadija Famau & Joseph Odongo
On May 28 the World Bank, International Energy Agency, World Health Organization, and the International Agency for Renewable Energy all issued a joint statement.That does not happen very often, and their announcement is big for Kenya and East Africa. These institutions wrote that the real lesson from Covid-19 is that investments in renewable energy, both for homes and business, have remained profitable, while those in fossil fuel projects have tanked. Already, natural gas investment worldwide lost three per cent, petroleum four per cent, and coal is the big loser, down almost 10 per cent in the last three months, globally. There are many reasons for this, but all clearly show that the proposed Lamu coal plant would be a disaster for Kenya. As Kenyans struggle to stay healthy and earn their daily bread, we don’t know when the health and economic situation will improve. This pandemic only adds to existing challenges such as food insecurity, unemployment, electricity outages, floods and locust invasions. A coal plant will only make us more vulnerable. First, coal projects are large, slow, and expensive, whilst the best energy options are nimble, scalable, and work well with other energy sources. The pandemic puts into sharp focus the peril of signing inflexible contracts for large fossil fuel power plants such as Lamu coal. Even before the pandemic, coal energy didn’t make economic sense. To justify Lamu coal plant, proponents argued that energy demand in Kenya will grow by 11.5 per cent to 15 per cent per year. But in reality Kenya’s energy demand has been growing at about six per cent for over a decade. Even in 2019, The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) concluded that Lamu coal plant would be “grossly underutilised should demand grow moderately” and cause electricity prices to “rise rapidly to reach Sh16.86/kWh by the year 2024”. Now, any justification for Lamu coal has evaporated. Lamu coal plant would be left to idle - and become a dirty drag on the economy for decades. This is not how Vision2030 should turn out. Covid-19 is profoundly changing the global economy. When the pandemic fades and energy demand does return, economic activity will spring up in unexpected areas and new sectors. Who knows what businesses will survive and which will change or die? UNFAVOURABLE TERMS Lamu coal plant’s financial obligations and risks would burden the country until 2045. The draft contracts were published on Treasury’s transparency website, revealing the unfavourable terms for the Kenyan public. The project can still be easily called off, but it is still in the pipeline. Why? A coal plant won’t fix the outages and intermittency the country faces today. Kenya already produces enough electricity to meet demand, yet these problems persist. What we need is a better managed, responsive system that addresses problems and inefficiencies. Renewable energy projects provide flexible energy - and rapid deployment just where the nation needs it. All this leads to a wonderfully simple and nationally important bottom-line: Solar, wind, and geothermal power in Kenya are just plain less costly than coal. The country has been researching and writing about this for a long time, and now it is perhaps time to listen and act. That should be the end of the argument, but still some dinosaurs persist, largely because of backroom deals and outdated ideas about how unreliable renewable energy can be. Kenya is the world leader today in installing the most reliable form of renewable energy - geothermal - and there’s potential for much more. Energy storage is now so cheap and available that solar or wind plus storage is still cheaper than coal. And diversifying our renewable sources will provide us with continuous and affordable electricity. Clean and reliable - fancy that. ENVIRONMENTAL RUIN All this is before we get to the long-term damage that coal will bring: environmental ruin. The coal plant would saddle us with unavoidable environmental and health harms, from pollution and ecosystem destruction. As Bitange Ndemo stated, “Studies show that inhaling dirty air makes Covid-19 more lethal… There is no doubt that pollution causes diseases.” Coal energy already didn’t make sense. Now it’s crystal clear: it’s dangerous, as well as a risky investment. Lamu coal plant would also permanently disfigure one of the most beautiful and culturally unique seaside communities. When travel and tourism return after Covid-19, to have a disfigured Lamu is a sad, short-sighted slap in the face of every Kenyan. There is another way. We can choose to stay on a low-carbon path to a future of least-expensive, reliable, renewable energy. As President Kenyatta has boasted, we are already 93 per cent there. Even as we navigate this pandemic crisis, we are in control of how we pursue economic recovery. We can choose to create a new normal that’s better for everyone than what we had before. Reliable clean energy and a growing energy jobs sector are what the nation needs and deserves. Instead of getting locked into coal, let us invest in power projects that benefit local host communities and Kenya at large. Clean energy is a win-win-win. It provides us with affordable and flexible electricity, protects our health and environment, and supports an economy that can recover to work for more Kenyans. _______________ Daniel Kammen is a Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley where he has also served since 1999 as a Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He has also worked in Kenya for 25 years on energy and environmental projects. Twitter: @dan_kammen Khadija Shekuwe Famau is the Program Coordinator for community sustainable development organization Save Lamu and a board member of Lamu County Municipality. Twitter: @SaveLamu Joseph Odongo is the Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator, Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT).                                                 Twitter: @makodongo2

How renewable energy could emerge on top after the pandemic

For the original posting in Grist and Yale Environment360click here.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, renewable energy was growing steadily — but still not fast enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s carbon reduction goals, let alone to make the further strides needed to keep climate change from spiraling out of control.

Now, the virus-induced economic shock is likely to slow the expansion of wind, solar, and other clean power sources, at least temporarily, experts say. But while lockdowns, social distancing requirements, and financial uncertainties have put some new projects on ice, the underlying strengths of renewables remain strong, and analysts expect their economic advantage over volatile fossil fuels will only increase in the long term.

Leaders must seize the opportunity to design economic recovery packages so they accelerate a shift toward wind and solar power, rather than propping up the fossil fuel economy, said Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body.

“The only thing we have to be afraid of,” he said, “is that governments can be pushed by lobbyists to bail out sectors that belong to the past. And this is the real danger.”

As shutdowns aimed at stemming the viral spread have caused global energy demand to plummet, renewable sources have accounted for an increased share of power generation. That is in part because the low cost of solar and wind power means they are often dispatched to grids before other sources such as coal and nuclear power. The huge drop-off in demand, for both electricity and transportation fuels, has also pushed oil and gas prices to historic lows, and left fossil fuel companies struggling to find storage space for huge gluts of product.

In the short term, however, analysts say that the global economic fallout from the pandemic will almost certainly also be a drag on the growth of renewables. Stay-at-home orders halted production at factories making solar panels and wind turbine parts, and shipping delays have exacerbated supply problems. Construction on some big arrays stopped, and social distancing requirements have forced home solar companies to postpone rooftop installations and sales visits.

“The industry needed installations to be speeding up rather than slowing down at this point” for countries to bring carbon-cutting realities into line with their promises under the Paris Agreement, said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of clean power research at analysis firm BloombergNEF, or BNEF. “Anything that makes that gap bigger is hugely problematic from an emissions perspective.”

BNEF has scaled back its projections for 2020 installations by 12 percent for wind and 8 percent for solar, compared to what it anticipated before the pandemic. Renewables growth has been steady in recent years, and last fall, the International Energy Agency, or IEA, predicted the world’s renewable power supply would grow by 50 percent over the next five years, adding new power generation equivalent to the entire existing electricity capacity of the United States.

VCG / Getty Images

“We were expecting a boom year” in 2020, said Heymi Bahar, the IEA’s senior renewables analyst. “So this becomes very bad timing.”

The bigger question, experts say, is what happens as countries reopen. With cash tight, and economic troubles expected to keep energy demand below pre-COVID-19 levels, new wind and solar projects may find financing hard to come by.

Auctions in which companies bid to build such projects have been postponed. Altogether, more than 40 percent of wind and solar capacity that was scheduled to be commissioned from April to the end of this year has been delayed, said Goldie-Scot. “That’s an immediate setback.”

Home solar took a bigger hit than utility-scale projects. Those rooftop sales are likely to continue struggling, as the slowdown forces homeowners and small businesses to restrict spending on big-ticket items like solar arrays, even if, in the long run, they generate substantial savings.

Still, analysts agree the renewable energy sector’s fundamentals are strong. A lot has changed since the last global meltdown, the financial crisis of 2007-08. Technologies have matured and prices dropped, to the point where renewables in most cases provide cheaper energy than fossil fuels. Battery storage, key to making clean power steady and reliable, is improving rapidly.

“Renewable generation sources have become extraordinarily competitive from an economic standpoint,” said Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research at consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. “It’s a terrific story. Do we expect any of that to change in the near term? No, I don’t think so.”

Indeed, with oil companies in a tailspin, clean energy’s steadiness also increases its appeal to investors, in Shreve’s view. “Folks looking for a safe haven in a very turbulent market may continue to turn to this sector,” he said.

Even the breathtaking drops in oil and gas prices may not be enough to undermine wind and solar. While oil is central to transportation, it doesn’t play a direct role in power generation. And its low price will mean drilling is scaled back. Since natural gas — which does go up against wind and solar in electricity markets — often flows from the ground along with oil, its supply is likely to decline too, bringing its price back up.

“Which means it won’t be competitive with renewables,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Indeed, Shreve said nuclear and coal-fired power plants faced far stiffer headwinds than renewables. “That’s been the case for the last five years. It was expected to be the case for the next five years, regardless of the Covid crisis,” he said. Early retirements of such plants, particularly the ones for which finances were already in trouble, could pick up pace, he said.

Another sector likely to take a hit is electric cars. That has less to do with low oil prices than with unemployment slowing sales for all cars, Jaffe said. “If you believe that people were going to have the next car they buy be an electric vehicle, if you delay by two or three years the next time they’re going to buy a new car,” that will slow the transition, she said.

Fewer electric cars means less power demand, which hurts the renewables outlook. But Jaffe said the pandemic could hasten the economy’s electrification in other ways, including a long-term increase in remote working, which would likely shift energy demand away from oil-based transportation needs, and toward residential use, which is more heavily electric.

Deng Heping / VCG via Getty Images

In the bigger picture, what comes next depends on the virus, the economy, and the path governments decide to chart. With vast amounts of stimulus money likely to be poured into economies around the world, clean power advocates say it’s a historic opportunity to speed the growth of a sector whose fortunes are central to hopes of stemming climate change. La Camera said the renewable energy sector’s big-picture strengths, and its resilience through the crisis so far, make him hopeful.

“My impression is that we are going to have a future that will be more decarbonized than we could have imagined three months ago,” he said. “And in the end, this health and economic crisis will push us to a cleaner path forward.” Risks in the other direction include not just direct government support to oil firms, but also regulatory loosening like the Trump administration’s decision to essentially suspend enforcement of air and water pollution rules, or to relax limits on mercury and other toxic power plant emissions. Such moves save the industry vast sums it would otherwise have to spend reducing pollution, said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Even without a push to help fossil fuel companies, COVID-19 could bump climate change down the list of leaders’ priorities.

For now, most governments are still focused on immediate response to the health and jobs crisis. Longer-term measures will come next, and countries including South Korea and New Zealand are already talking about incorporating climate action into recovery plans. The European Union may combine parts of its Green Deal — a plan for transforming nearly every sector of its economy to cut carbon and improve quality of life — with efforts to repair the pandemic’s damage. In the U.S., the fate of any ambitious renewables plan depends largely on whether President Trump is reelected in November.

For the most part, countries’ interest in green stimulus plans aligns with their pre-coronavirus stance on climate action. “We think they are more likely in countries where there was already broad-based support,” such as China and much of Europe, Goldie-Scot said.

What might green recovery efforts entail? Given clean power’s competitiveness, companies don’t really need direct subsidies anymore, experts say. They would benefit from upgrades that make power grids smarter and more flexible, and therefore better able to utilize renewables. Spending to expand electric vehicle charging networks is essential, too, the analysts say.

The U.S. and China both have year-end deadlines when important tax and price incentives for renewables expire.

Access to credit will also be crucial, Bahar said. While it easily competes with fossil fuels on cost, “the renewables industry just doesn’t have as deep pockets,” added Kammen.

Policy changes matter, as well. National, long-term carbon-cutting commitments would provide some certainty in frightening times. In the shorter term, the U.S. and China both have year-end deadlines when important tax and price incentives expire; extending those would help projects delayed by the pandemic, analysts say.

Green stimulus advocates say climate action is well-suited to creating jobs, and if done right can also help remedy the stark economic, social, and racial inequalities the virus has exposed so vividly, particularly in the U.S.

A shift to cleaner energy promises health gains too. Many have taken note of the better air quality lockdowns have brought, and Shreve said that could help people see the benefits of finding lasting ways to reduce fossil fuel use.

“The one bright spot in this crazy crisis is to have been able to walk outside in places that have been notorious for air pollution, and seeing clean skies, and having a dose of what could be,” he said.

Kammen said he is hopeful the pandemic would ultimately speed the move to a cleaner economy.

“Covid gives an opportunity for governments and companies to make that switch more strongly,” said Kammen. “I don’t think this is going to be an easy goodbye, but I would definitely say we’re in the long goodbye to fossil fuels.”

 

Yale Environment360: How Renewable Energy Could Emerge on Top After the Pandemic

  Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 11.32.46 AM

The short-term prospects for wind and solar power look rocky amid the economic upheaval of the coronavirus. But long term, renewables could emerge stronger than ever, especially if governments integrate support for clean energy into COVID-19 economic-recovery programs.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, renewable energy was growing steadily — but still not fast enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s carbon reduction goals, let alone to make the further strides needed to keep climate change from spiraling out of control. Now, the virus-induced economic shock is likely to slow the expansion of wind, solar, and other clean power sources, at least temporarily, experts say. But while lockdowns, social distancing requirements, and financial uncertainties have put some new projects on ice, the underlying strengths of renewables remain strong, and analysts expect their economic advantage over volatile fossil fuels will only increase in the long term. Whether the pandemic ultimately puts clean energy on a faster track than before, though, depends to a large extent on the choices political leaders make now, analysts say. Which means 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal moment for renewables — and the world’s hopes of checking warming. Leaders must seize the opportunity to design economic recovery packages so they accelerate a shift toward wind and solar power, rather than propping up the fossil fuel economy, said Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental body.
Some 40 percent of wind and solar capacity that was scheduled for the rest of 2020 has been delayed.
“The only thing we have to be afraid of,” he said, “is that governments can be pushed by lobbyists to bail out sectors that belong to the past. And this is the real danger.” As shutdowns aimed at stemming the viral spread have caused global energy demand to plummet, renewable sources have accounted for an increased share of power generation. That is in part because the low cost of solar and wind power means they are often dispatched to grids before other sources such as coal and nuclear power. The huge drop-off in demand, for both electricity and transportation fuels, has also pushed oil and gas prices to historic lows, and left fossil fuel companies struggling to find storage space for huge gluts of product. In the short term, however, analysts say that the global economic fallout from the pandemic will almost certainly also be a drag on the growth of renewables. Stay-at-home orders halted production at factories making solar panels and wind turbine parts, and shipping delays have exacerbated supply problems. Construction on some big arrays stopped, and social distancing requirements have forced home solar companies to postpone rooftop installations and sales visits. “The industry needed installations to be speeding up rather than slowing down at this point” for countries to bring carbon-cutting realities into line with their promises under the Paris Agreement, said Logan Goldie-Scot, head of clean power research at analysis firm BloombergNEF (BNEF). “Anything that makes that gap bigger is hugely problematic from an emissions perspective.” BNEF has scaled back its projections for 2020 installations by 12 percent for wind and 8 percent for solar, compared to what it anticipated before the pandemic. Renewables growth has been steady in recent years, and last fall, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted the world’s renewable power supply would grow by 50 percent over the next five years, adding new power generation equivalent to the entire existing electricity capacity of the United States.
A worker installs solar panels on a house in Hayward, California amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A worker installs solar panels on a house in Hayward, California amid the coronavirus outbreak. AP PHOTO / BEN MARGOT

“We were expecting a boom year” in 2020, said Heymi Bahar, the IEA’s senior renewables analyst. “So this becomes very bad timing.” The bigger question, experts say, is what happens as countries reopen. With cash tight, and economic troubles expected to keep energy demand below pre-COVID-19 levels, new wind and solar projects may find financing hard to come by. Auctions in which companies bid to build such projects have been postponed. Altogether, more than 40 percent of wind and solar capacity that was scheduled to be commissioned from April to the end of this year has been delayed, said Goldie-Scot. “That’s an immediate setback.” Home solar took a bigger hit than utility-scale projects. Those rooftop sales are likely to continue struggling, as the slowdown forces homeowners and small businesses to restrict spending on big-ticket items like solar arrays, even if, in the long run, they generate substantial savings. Still, analysts agree the renewable energy sector’s fundamentals are strong. A lot has changed since the last global meltdown, the financial crisis of 2007-08. Technologies have matured and prices dropped, to the point where renewables in most cases provide cheaper energy than fossil fuels. Battery storage, key to making clean power steady and reliable, is improving rapidly. “Renewable generation sources have become extraordinarily competitive from an economic standpoint,” said Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research at consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. “It’s a terrific story. Do we expect any of that to change in the near term? No, I don’t think so.”
“Folks looking for a safe haven in a turbulent market may continue to turn to [the renewables] sector,” says one analyst.
Indeed, with oil companies in a tailspin, clean energy’s steadiness also increases its appeal to investors, in Shreve’s view. “Folks looking for a safe haven in a very turbulent market may continue to turn to this sector,” he said. Even the breathtaking drops in oil and gas prices may not be enough to undermine wind and solar. While oil is central to transportation, it doesn’t play a direct role in power generation. And its low price will mean drilling is scaled back. Since natural gas — which does go up against wind and solar in electricity markets — often flows from the ground along with oil, its supply is likely to decline too, bringing its price back up. “Which means it won’t be competitive with renewables,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations. Indeed, Shreve said nuclear and coal-fired power plants faced far stiffer headwinds than renewables. “That’s been the case for the last five years. It was expected to be the case for the next five years, regardless of the COVID crisis,” he said. Early retirements of such plants, particularly the ones for which finances were already in trouble, could pick up pace, he said. Another sector likely to take a hit is electric cars. That has less to do with low oil prices than with unemployment slowing sales for all cars, Jaffe said. “If you believe that people were going to have the next car they buy be an electric vehicle, if you delay by two or three years the next time they’re going to buy a new car,” that will slow the transition, she said. Fewer electric cars means less power demand, which hurts the renewables outlook. But Jaffe said the pandemic could hasten the economy’s electrification in other ways, including a long-term increase in remote working, which would likely shift energy demand away from oil-based transportation needs, and toward residential use, which is more heavily electric.
A wind turbine blade being built at a manufacturing plant in Haimen, Jiangsu province, China in 2019.

A wind turbine blade being built at a manufacturing plant in Haimen, Jiangsu province, China in 2019. FEATURECHINA VIA AP IMAGES

In the bigger picture, what comes next depends on the virus, the economy, and the path governments decide to chart. With vast amounts of stimulus money likely to be poured into economies around the world, clean power advocates say it’s a historic opportunity to speed the growth of a sector whose fortunes are central to hopes of stemming climate change. La Camera said the renewable energy sector’s big-picture strengths, and its resilience through the crisis so far, make him hopeful. “My impression is that we are going to have a future that will be more decarbonized than we could have imagined three months ago,” he said. “And in the end, this health and economic crisis will push us to a cleaner path forward.” Risks in the other direction include not just direct government support to oil firms, but also regulatory loosening like the Trump administration’s decision to essentially suspend enforcement of air and water pollution rules, or to relax limits on mercury and other toxic power plant emissions. Such moves save the industry vast sums it would otherwise have to spend reducing pollution, said Daniel Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley. Even without a push to help fossil fuel companies, COVID-19 could bump climate change down the list of leaders’ priorities. For now, most governments are still focused on immediate response to the health and jobs crisis. Longer-term measures will come next, and countries including South Korea and New Zealand are already talking about incorporating climate action into recovery plans. The European Union may combine parts of its Green Deal — a plan for transforming nearly every sector of its economy to cut carbon and improve quality of life — with efforts to repair the pandemic’s damage. In the U.S., the fate of any ambitious renewables plan depends largely on whether President Trump is reelected in November. For the most part, countries’ interest in green stimulus plans aligns with their pre-coronavirus stance on climate action. “We think they are more likely in countries where there was already broad-based support,” such as China and much of Europe, Goldie-Scot said. What might green recovery efforts entail? Given clean power’s competitiveness, companies don’t really need direct subsidies anymore, experts say. They would benefit from upgrades that make power grids smarter and more flexible, and therefore better able to utilize renewables. Spending to expand electric vehicle charging networks is essential, too, the analysts say.
The U.S. and China both have year-end deadlines when important tax and price incentives for renewables expire.
Access to credit will also be crucial, Bahar said. While it easily competes with fossil fuels on cost, “the renewables industry just doesn’t have as deep pockets,” added Kammen. Policy changes matter, as well. National, long-term carbon-cutting commitments would provide some certainty in frightening times. In the shorter term, the U.S. and China both have year-end deadlines when important tax and price incentives expire; extending those would help projects delayed by the pandemic, analysts say. Green stimulus advocates say climate action is well-suited to creating jobs, and if done right can also help remedy the stark economic, social, and racial inequalities the virus has exposed so vividly, particularly in the U.S. A shift to cleaner energy promises health gains too. Many have taken note of the better air quality lockdowns have brought, and Shreve said that could help people see the benefits of finding lasting ways to reduce fossil fuel use. “The one bright spot in this crazy crisis is to have been able to walk outside in places that have been notorious for air pollution, and seeing clean skies, and having a dose of what could be,” he said.
Kammen said he is hopeful the pandemic would ultimately speed the move to a cleaner economy. “COVID gives an opportunity for governments and companies to make that switch more strongly,” said Kammen. “I don’t think this is going to be an easy goodbye, but I would definitely say we’re in the long goodbye to fossil fuels.” For a link to the original story in Yale Environment360click here.

Renewable power surges as pandemic scrambles global energy outlook, new report finds

Science Magazine covers the Green Stimulus. Click here for the original.

The pandemic-induced global economic meltdown has triggered a drop in energy demand and related carbon emissions that could transform how the world gets its energy—even after the disease wanes, according to a report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The precipitous drop in energy use is unparalleled back to the Great Depression of the 1930s. But not all energy sources are suffering equally. Efforts to shift toward renewable energy could be hastened as fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil, have borne the brunt of the decline. Use of renewable energy, meanwhile, has risen thanks to new projects coming online and the low cost of turning wind turbines or harvesting sunlight.

“The energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before,” predicts Fatih Birol, executive director of the Paris-based IEA.

Screen Shot 2020-05-04 at 10.08.27 AM

The numbers spell out the changes rattling the energy world:

  • Global energy demand is expected to drop by 6% in 2020, compared with the previous year. That’s a seven times bigger drop than in the wake of the 2008 recession. The biggest change is predicted for the most developed economies, with a 9% decline in the United States and 11% in the European Union.
  • Carbon emissions from the energy sector are expected to fall by 8% for the year—almost 2.6 gigatons. That makes it the largest drop ever recorded and six times the decline caused by the last recession.
  • Demand for renewable energy is expected to grow 1% over the year, driven by a 5% increase in use of renewable electricity. That contrast with fossil fuels stems largely from the low fuel costs for generating electricity from wind, sunlight, or hydroelectric dams.

Yearlong forecasts could change, depending on how long economies remain locked down by a combination of government and private efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. But the first 3 months of 2020 already tell a tale of swift and dramatic change. Global energy demand fell an estimated 3.8%, with much of that coming in March, as the virus spread and countries imposed tighter limits on businesses and movement, according to the new report.

Countries with strict lockdowns have seen a 25% drop in week-to-week energy demand as factories are shuttered and people stay home. Demand fell 18% in nations with partial lockdowns. Demand for electricity—a subset of total energy—has fallen as much as 20% in locked down countries, and daily patterns of electricity consumption resemble those usually seen on a typical Sunday.

Coal suffered the biggest losses in the first quarter of the year, with an almost 8% drop compared with the start of 2019. Major contributors to the decline included: the lockdown in China, a heavy coal user; competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy; and mild winter weather. Demand for oil fell by 5%, as car traffic was cut in half and air travel by 60% by the end of March. Renewable energy use, in contrast, rose 1.5% in the first 3 months of the year.

The pandemic is revealing downsides to fossil fuels, such as the need for extensive storage systems and supply chains to move fuel from its source, says Daniel Kammen, an energy policy expert at the University California, Berkeley. “Those costs are always there,” Kammen says. “But when there’s so little demand for fossil fuel, what you’re seeing is the infrastructure to move it around has been overwhelmed.”

The new report noted that new renewable energy projects could slow if construction is slowed by lockdowns or problems getting needed equipment.

It’s less clear what will happen once the pandemic recedes and economies sputter back to life. Birol noted that greenhouse gas emissions resumed their upward march following the last economic downturn. He urged governments to put clean energy technologies “at the heart of their plans for economic recovery.”

Some countries have already shown signs they want to head down that path. In South Korea, the ruling Democratic Party, which won a landslide victory in mid-April elections, recently called for clean energy investment as part of its economic plan. German and U.K. officials have also said environmental concerns should inform recovery efforts.

Kammen, who is co-author of a proposal for a “green stimulus” initiative in the United States, hopes the current success of renewable energy, coupled with people’s experience of cleaner air as less fossil fuel is burned, will help win support for such a shift elsewhere. “One version of the coronavirus crisis is it all eases and we go back to what we were doing before,” Kammen says. “The other version of it is people say, ‘Wow, I hadn’t realized how bad things were.’”

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