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What can (or should) we take away from Germany’s renewable energy experience?

What can (or should) we take away from Germany’s renewable energy experience?

By Jürgen Weiss

Germany’s transition from nuclear and coal-fired generation and toward greater reliance on renewable resources and efficiency thus far has been mostly positive in terms of system reliability and maintaining a strong economy.  The US would do well to follow developments there carefully. 
G

ermany has committed itself to closing its remaining nuclear power plants by 2022 and to essentially eliminating fossil fuels from its power sector by 2040-2050. To implement the latter, Germany has been aggressively supporting the deployment of renewable energy since about 2000. With over 37 GW of solar PV, Germany is now the world leader in installed capacity, one of the top countries with respect to renewable capacity in absolute and relative terms more broadly, and more or less on track to meet its goals.

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Nuclear Winter

Nuclear Winter

By Robert McCullough, Garrett Oursland, and Rose Anderson

The problems facing the nuclear industry are national in scope and appear to be enduring in effect. Only a major change in the economics of the industry is likely to avoid market-based nuclear plant closures in years to come.

The State of Play

C

an existing nuclear power stations be economically viable in a market increasingly dominated by zero short term marginal cost renewables and low natural gas prices?  On that question the jury is still out – and will be for years to come.  But the evidence indicates that a number of existing units have out-of-pocket costs that are greater than today’s market prices.

Download a PDF of this article? Click here.

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Rate Design Pathways to Fair Utility Rates for Solar PV in a Distributed Energy Age

Rate Design Pathways to Fair Utility Rates for Solar PV in a Distributed Energy Age

By Jim Kennerly

Technological innovation and declining costs in solar PV have created irreversible momentum.  A timely, clear-eyed national conversation concerning how electricity providers and consumers alike may thrive in such an environment is essential.

Introduction: The state of play

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fter experiencing significant cost declines over the past decade, 64% of the cost of rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) is now associated not with the cost of the physical system hardware, but with non-hardware “soft” costs. Thus, high soft costs constitute the major remaining cluster of barriers to cost-effective rooftop solar PV.

As PV has experienced dramatic cost declines, however, electric utilities have concurrently experienced persistent cost pressure due to a sluggish economy, offshoring of manufacturing, new investments in their energy delivery infrastructure, the increasing commodity cost of coal and, to an increasing degree, customer-initiated actions to save energy and money.  Some industry observers have correctly noted that these factors, if they persist and spread, could undermine the basic structure and incentives built into the regulated utility business model.  This is especially true if a large amount of utility fixed costs are recovered through variable “energy” rates.[1]

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A New Energy Efficiency Manifesto: California Needs a More Integrated, Cost-Effective Approach

A New Energy Efficiency Manifesto:        California Needs a More Integrated, Cost-Effective Approach

By Cynthia Mitchell

Our energy efficiency programs are not adequate to meet grid-scale and local distribution service challenges. This requires a new urgency to find more robust approaches to financing and scaling efficiency — not just in California, but across the country.
A

 powerful verse from the Book of Ecclesiastes was turned into a moving song by Pete Seeger and popularized by The Byrds as “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season).  It seems an appropriate anthem for the utility industry today.  The electric power industry in California is at a crucial season of change: meeting state and federal environmental initiatives; planning and implementing diverse resources to continue meeting the energy needs of its people and its economy, cleanly and at lowest cost; and answering novel operational challenges previously unseen in the industry.

Download a PDF of this article? Click here.

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Policies to Build a Flexible Power System

Policies to Build a Flexible Power System

By Bentham Paulos

A power system with large amounts of wind and solar power requires flexibility to maintain reliability.  While the flexibility toolbox is well known to grid operators, policies and financial incentives to apply them to integrating renewables are sometimes lacking.
T

he world is heading into the next phase of a global Energiewende, the transition from fossil energy to a highly-efficient, renewable, and low carbon future.  As renewable energy technologies become more mature and cost-competitive, policies to promote their use need to adapt.

Download a PDF of this article? Click here.

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Electricity Daily

Envtl. group calls for comprehensive EIS, says FERC is working with industry

Envtl. group calls for comprehensive EIS, says FERC is working with industry

January 27, 2015 -- An environmental group accused FERC of working closely with the natural gas industry to build pipelines out of the Marcellus and Utica shales and called on FERC to conduct a wide-ranging environmental impact statement of commission policy before approving any more projects. “It is clear that FERC is engaged in long-term regional gas infrastructure planning and development relat...

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Rooftop solar + smart inverters = regulation for Calif. distribution grid

Rooftop solar + smart inverters = regulation for Calif. distribution grid

Rooftop solar power systems will soon provide regulation for California’s distribution grids. Right now, the state’s PV panels simply generate electricity, but in a few months in some systems they will also start acting as grid regulators—“a role that could keep them busy even after the sun goes down,” says Peter Fairley’s article in IEEE Spectrum . This California development is the result of Decem...

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Obama’s India trip yields potential big benefits for nuclear, renewables, climate

Obama’s India trip yields potential big benefits for nuclear, renewables, climate

President Obama’s fence-mending visit to India seems off to a flying start, with warm exchanges between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the president, and accords announced in the areas of nuclear power, renewable energy, and a shift in India’s posture on climate change, as the end-of-year climate meeting in Paris looms. The New York Times reported that a five-year impasse melted away Sunday, as Ind...

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SunZia’s $2 bn., 3,000 MW 500 kV renewables line to West wins US approval

SunZia’s $2 bn., 3,000 MW 500 kV renewables line to West wins US approval

The proposed $2 billion SunZia transmission line that would carry renewable energy generated in New Mexico and Arizona to markets to the West is a step closer to reality after it  cleared its final federal hurdle  Saturday. US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was on hand with other officials to tout the project as job-creating and a win for the environment and the economy. The Bureau of Lan...

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Huge pwr. outage cripples Pakistan grid, Baluchistan separatist group blamed

Huge pwr. outage cripples Pakistan grid, Baluchistan separatist group blamed

Pakistani officials said widespread outages that blacked out most of that country early Sunday was caused by an attack by militants on a transmission line that resulted in short-circuiting the country’s electricity grid. It was a heavier blow following chronic power shortages that have plagued the country, causing rationing and unpredictable outages. Emergency efforts to end the blackout, widely des...

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ISO New England’s van Welie sees tight winter electricity supply for several years

ISO New England’s van Welie sees tight winter electricity supply for several years

January 26, 2015—ISO New England President and CEO Gordon van Welie said Wednesday that New England is in a transition of tight generating capacity, particularly during the winter. The region faces “at least three or four more winters,” he said, in which a lack of electric transmission capacity and natural gas pipeline capacity—the latter being the principal fuel used in running power plants in the ...

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Editorials

Three cheers for state regulators, in Connecticut and elsewhere

Three cheers for state regulators, in Connecticut and elsewhere

State utility regulators are a hard-working lot. They have a tough job and an underappreciated one.

State commission budgets and staff aren’t what they should be. Their resources are unequal to those of the companies they’re supposed to regulate.

The mind-numbing details buried in rate cases, and planning and mergers and other proceedings are not light reading.

Thus, ill-tempered remarks  from Connecti...

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Digging deeper: Competition at the distribution level

Digging deeper: Competition at the distribution level

The pro-competitive reforms introduced into the bulk electricity transmission grid by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over the past two decades and more, culminating in FERC Order No. 1000, have transformed what was once a patchwork of transmission monopolies into something more resembling a common carrier system.

Today, as innovation has crept into the local level, with both supply- and d...

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Why should we be concerned with India?

Why should we be concerned with India?

Yesterday we published three articles that concerned India. You may ask why (aside from the dearth of interesting US news). There are several reasons.

  • One story announced US-based SunEdison’s plans to build a $4 billion solar manufacturing factory with an Indian company.
  • A second concerned plans of Rajasthan, one of the largest of India’s 29 states, and the sunniest, to develop 655 MW of solar as th...

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On ‘Nuclear Winter’ …

On ‘Nuclear Winter’ …

Robert McCullough and his associates have written “ Nuclear Winter ,” just published on our website .  Their paper is a sober, fact-based assessment of the predicament facing the owners of today’s nuclear power plants, particularly those that must deal with the unyielding structure of organized wholesale power markets. It concludes that at least seven of the reactors now operating—Callaway, Diablo Can...

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Wholesale demand response: The D.C. Circuit panel majority got it wrong

Wholesale demand response: The D.C. Circuit panel majority got it wrong

There is more than one problem hanging over wholesale power markets, in spite of the attention that’s understandably focused on FERC Order No. 745, now trapped in legal purgatory, neither dead—as generators would prefer—nor alive—as demand-side advocates and consumers desire.

There's a second market problem, a twofold one. Conventional generating plants in organized markets face potentially devasta...

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What was Google thinking?

What was Google thinking?

When Google engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork worked on the company’s ambitious, unfocused, and now shuttered RE<C effort to assess the potential of renewable energy, they later decided to document the experience in an article for IEEE Spectrum. The resulting media frenzy was predictable. For some, the takeaway was simple: renewables can’t match coal. Which happens to be wrong.

But what em...

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