IEA: “Era Of Expensive Renewables Is Over”

After a record breaking year in 2016 for solar PV, the IEA overhauled its forecast for the next five years, significantly raising the projected growth profile for renewable energy.In its new report, Renewables 2017, the IEA argued that it now sees renewable energy as a serious global force, increasingly taking market share away from coal and natural gas. The Paris-based energy agency cited 2016 as a watershed moment, a year in which 164 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity came online around the world, more than triple the amount of new gas-fired power plants, and more than twice the volume of coal.

Source: IEA: “Era Of Expensive Renewables Is Over” | OilPrice.com

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Per capita residential electricity sales in the U.S. have fallen since 2010

July 26, 2017

graph of U.S. annual residential electricity sales and sales per capita, as explained in the article text


Following sustained growth through 2010, U.S. residential electricity sales have declined in both absolute and per capita terms. Although changes in the weather are a key driver of year-over-year fluctuations, energy efficiency improvements and economic factors have contributed to the decline in per capita residential electricity sales since 2010. Residential electricity sales per household declined even more than the absolute or per capita declines, decreasing 9% between 2010 and 2016.

At the state level, per capita residential electricity sales in 2016 ranged from a high of 6,619 kilowatthours (kWh) per person in Alabama to 1,828 kWh/person in Hawaii. These two states were also the highest and lowest, respectively, in 2010. Although not every state reached its peak per capita residential sales in 2010, only nine states have exceeded their 2010 levels of per capita sales in any year since then.

Weather is a significant driver of variation in residential electricity sales in many states. Warm weather increases electricity demand as houses use air conditioners, fans, dehumidifiers, and other equipment to maintain comfortable temperatures. The extent to which cold weather influences residential electricity demand depends on heating fuel choices, but many homes use some form of electric heating in winter months.

Several of the states with the highest residential electricity sales per capita, such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, are in the South census region, where electricity is more likely to be the main space heating fuel. About 60% of Southern homes heat primarily with electricity compared with 22% outside the South.

Degree days, used as indicators of heating and cooling energy demand, represent temperature deviations from a base temperature, typically 65 degrees Fahrenheit. For example, a day with an average temperature of 45 degrees would represent 20 heating degree days. Population-weighted heating degree days for the United States declined 13% and population-weighted cooling degree days increased 9% between 2010 and 2016, reflecting both warmer temperatures and population migrations to warmer areas.

Some of the states with the largest percentage decline in per capita residential electricity sales were also those with the largest changes in winter weather between 2010 and 2016. Southern states such as South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama had 25% to 30% fewer heating degree days in 2016 compared with 2010, and each saw double-digit percentage declines in per capita residential electricity sales.

graph of changes in electricity sales per capita, and heating degree days, as explained in the article text


Investments in energy efficiency have contributed to longer-term declines in residential electricity use. On average, from 2013 through 2015, electric utilities, energy efficiency program managers, energy service providers, and other entities provided an annual average of $3.92 in energy efficiency incentives per person, according to EIA’s survey of electric power sales, revenue, and energy efficiency.

In 2013 through 2015—the most recent years with data on direct investments in energy efficiency programs—annual residential energy efficiency spending per person ranged from about $18 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to 4 cents in Alaska. EIA information for 2016 energy efficiency spending is expected to be available in October.

More stringent energy efficiency standards for household equipment such as heat pumps, air conditioners, and lighting are also reducing electricity use in residences as older household equipment is replaced by devices that use less energy. For example, residential lighting generally shifted from less energy-efficient lighting, primarily incandescent bulbs, to more energy-efficient lighting, including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), as suggested by data from EIA’s two most recent Residential Energy Consumption Surveys (RECS), conducted in 2009 and 2015.

In 2009, 58% of all households used at least one energy-efficient bulb indoors. In the 2015 RECS, which was administered from August 2015 to April 2016, 86% of households reported using at least one CFL or LED bulb. Nationwide, 18% of households responding to the latest RECS reported that they had no incandescent bulbs in their homes.

graph of changes in electricity sales per capita, and heating degree days, as explained in the article text


Rapid growth in the adoption of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in states such as Hawaii and California has contributed to the recent decline in some states’ retail electricity sales. Small-scale solar PV systems, often installed on residential rooftops, offset the amount of electricity that consumers need to buy from the electric grid. In 2016, residential distributed PV generation was equivalent to 15% of electricity consumption in the residential sector in Hawaii, 6% in California, and 3% in Arizona.

Other factors, such as income growth, have affected retail electricity sales, especially in states such as North Dakota. North Dakota experienced significant economic growth as crude oil production from the Bakken region increased from 2008 to 2015. Annual new housing permits in North Dakota increased from fewer than 4,000 units in 2010 to more than 12,000 units in 2014. As the size of new houses increased and residents who experienced rapid income growth likely increased their home use of electricity, per capita residential electricity sales in North Dakota grew by 12% from 2008 to 2014, the most rapid growth in the nation during this time.

With the decline in oil prices starting in mid-2014, per capita real gross domestic product in North Dakota fell by 12% from 2014 to 2016, with new housing permits falling to less than 4,000 units in 2016. During this period, North Dakota’s per capita electricity consumption declined from a peak of 7,241 kWh in 2014 to 6,149 kWh in 2016.

graph of per-capita residential electricity sales and GDP, as explained in the article text


More information about electricity sales in the residential sector is available in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly, and additional information about state-level energy data is available in EIA’s State Energy Data System.

Principal contributor: Meera Fickling

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Tesla, Porsche And Mercedes Developments Signal Sizeable Switch To Electric

The three winning drivers take a selfie with their Porsche 919 Hybrid race car after winning the 85th Le Mans 24-hours race on June 18, 2017. Porsche will leave Le Mans for Formula E. Photo byJEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images

In the last week, three hugely important things transpired to signal a seismic shift towards electric cars, and much sooner than many experts predicted.

On Friday last week, Tesla delivered the first batch of its long-awaited, affordable, pure electric Model 3 cars to customers in the U.S. Meanwhile, in Germany, the 2017 Le Mans winner Porsche was announcing its decision to leave the world of fossil fuel-powered World Endurance Championship – including the ‘Le Mans 24-Hours’ – in favour of the all-electric Formula E series.

With its new mass-marketed model finally landing in showrooms, Tesla will be offering the Model 3 at prices starting from $35,000 for a car with a 220-mile range. Or you can go for the 310-mile version for $44,000. Finally reaching its goal of offering a reasonably priced EV to the masses, the only problem Tesla faces is meeting its self-inflicted aggressive production schedule of 400,000 units by the end of 2018.

Customers wait in line to put a USD 1,000 deposit on the Model 3, outside the Tesla store in Santa Monica in early 2016. Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Adding a kick in the pants to future gasoline and diesel powered racing on the previous Monday, Mercedes Benz confirmed its move into Formula E and exit from the German Touring Car Championships (DTM). The company will of course continue to run its successful F1 team in its chase for a fourth consecutive constructor’s title.

At the end of last year, Audi pulled out of the WEC racing series, of which Le Mans is an integral part, to focus on Formula E. With both Audi and Porsche gone from Le Mans racing, Toyota will now be seriously weighing its options in this prototype form of motor sport, especially after its CEO, Akio Toyoda recently announced that his company would return to Le Mans next year.

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi drives the Toyota TS050 Hybrid race car during this year’s Le Mans 24 hours. Toyota said it will return to Le Mans in 2018. Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

More on Forbes: Tesla To Get Serious Competition From Volvo And Porsche In Electric Battle

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Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?

Bloomberg’s renewable energy affiliate forecasts that wind and solar power will make major inroads into the market share of natural gas within a decade.  This might be a useful scenario to consider, but it is still likelier that coal, not gas, faces the biggest risk from the growth of renewables. A recent story on Bloomberg […]
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An Antidote to the Utility-Versus-Renewables Conflict

A New York Times analysis this month tallied the states that recently rolled back net metering and other policies to encourage distributed solar, attributing the developments in large part to a well-funded network of utility lobbyists.

In much of the nation, though, the solar-versus-utilities dynamic has given way to a more nuanced give-and-take over the future of the grid.

Although the political tensions are acute in many regions of the country, both parties can often get much more done as partners than as enemies. Earlier this year, I got to watch that process play out in real time.

Every year, the Rocky Mountain Institute convenes an eLab Accelerator, which brings in professionals from around the distributed energy industry and groups them with utility staff, politicians and other community stakeholders to tackle real world energy challenges. (I observed under Chatham House rules, meaning I can report topics discussed, but not attribute comments to individual participants.)

The teams hashed out their differences over several days at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, tucked away from Wi-Fi and anything resembling a typical office environment. When they emerged, they reported a newfound understanding of the diverse perspectives at play beyond their own organizations.

"Not only are we bringing people together outside a formal proceeding or other legal process, but the way we bring them together is designed to create trust and transparency and equity in the conversation," said Leia Guccione, the principal at RMI who oversees design and execution of the Accelerator, in an interview after the event.

This produces more than good feelings.

A gathering of Illinois energy experts at the first Accelerator, in 2014, created kernels of agreement that led to the state’s bipartisan 2016 clean jobs bill. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities produced a staff white paper on microgrids directly influenced by a partnership between the city of Hoboken and utility PSE&G. Design work by New York City, utility Con Ed, and others last year spawned an electric-vehicle RFI.

The list goes on. Something about the process gets results.

Beyond technical expertise

The design of the eLab stems from a simple premise: Improving the grid is not fundamentally an engineering challenge.

"When you look at what it’s going to take to transform not just the U.S. electrical system but probably any system in the world, it’s much more than just a technical challenge," Guccione said. "You have institutions and organizations and all these financial and legal and regulatory and social issues that are also part of reinventing the system, so we need to take approaches that are equal to that challenge."

Tackling one of those issues but not the others can doom a project.

In one case this year, Duke Energy had a plan for a new combined-heat-and-power plant to be hosted on Duke University’s campus. The costs penciled out, it stacked value streams and addressed electrical needs on site and in the nearby distribution grid. But it didn’t have popular support on campus. Even the high-level backing of the university administration couldn’t stop that popular opposition from putting the project on hold.

Several teams at this year’s Accelerator explicitly focused on local engagement as a core tenet of their project.

Duke Energy teamed up with the City of Charlotte and other local stakeholders to brainstorm how to deliver a microgrid to fortify the city’s Public Safety Campus. Since this project could serve as a model for other utility-led microgrids, the team’s discussions led to a deeper discussion around how to balance local benefits, like resilience, with value delivered to ratepayers, like grid services and renewable energy integration.

A team from Washington, D.C. took a similar grassroots approach to planning non-wires alternatives for reducing peak load growth as the city’s population rises.

A team from Oakland, California endeavored to meet grid reliability needs while replacing a peaker plant with distributed energy resources and respecting and advancing the local needs of the residents.

Another group deliberated on how to place solar-plus-storage microgrids throughout Portland, Oregon to serve as hubs in the event of a major earthquake.

The teams toiled to prove whether the fix would work for the community it was meant to serve — not just work technically.

Level the hierarchy

Pulling top grid thinkers away from stale conference rooms and into a remote setting helps them focus more intensely on the conversation at hand, Guccione said.

"It helps people step back from the smaller problems that are consuming them in their day-to-day lives and reconnect with the fundamental things that are motivating them to do the work they do," she said.

The Wild West landscape also changes the way people interact. Much of the business of grid evolution unfolds in the highly formalized, quasi-judicial world of state regulatory proceedings. The RMI process pulls individuals out of their own workplace hierarchies, and sits them down next to similarly unmoored counterparts from other organizations. The flat power structure attempts to remove differences between groups, and to generate insights that the participants wouldn’t encounter in the usual way of doing business.

"It’s neutral territory," Guccione said. "Nobody has the upper hand at this kind of venue."

As night falls at the Sundance Mountain Resort, the slant glint of light on mementos from owner Robert Redford’s role in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hints at the possibilities of unlikely partnerships.

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Britain To Ban Fossil Fuel Vehicles By 2040

Great Britain will ban all new diesel and gasoline-powered automobiles after 2040, according to Environment Secretary Michael Gove. In an announcement Wednesday morning, Gove confirmed that vehicles powered solely by fossil fuels will no longer be sold in Britain, and will instead be replaced by electric vehicles (EVs). The post, Britain To Ban Fossil Fuel Vehicles By […]
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Study Finds Advanced Reactors Will Have Competitive Costs

It uses extensive data from eight leading innovators with products under development.  It merged “apples & oranges data sets” to draw comparisons. Washington, DC – A new study of contemporary nuclear industry cost projections, previously unavailable to the public, provides new insight into a potential path breaking cost trend for the next generation of advanced […]
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Falling Costs Push Renewable Investment Ahead Of Fossil Fuels

According to the IEA’s World Energy Investment report, investment in electricity finally surpassed investment in oil and gas in 2016, for the first time in recorded history. As spending on new fossil fuel projects fell twenty-six percent in 2016, continuing a trend of declining investment that began with the collapse of prices in 2014, investment in electricity networks, energy efficiency and renewable energy output rose.

Source: Falling Costs Push Renewable Investment Ahead Of Fossil Fuels | OilPrice.com

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Oil Fields Pumping a Third of Supply Die Fastest in 24 Years

The tussle for supremacy between OPEC and U.S. shale drillers is killing off older oil fields at the fastest pace in almost a quarter century. That could hurt the industry once the current glut has faded.The three-year price slump triggered by the battle for market share choked off funds for aging deposits elsewhere, accelerating their decline. Output at older fields from China to North America — making up a third of world supply — fell 5.7 percent last year, the most since 1992, according to Rystad Energy AS. It’ll drop about 6 percent in 2017 if oil stays at current prices, the consultant said.

Source: Oil Fields Pumping a Third of Supply Die Fastest in 24 Years – Bloomberg

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Renewables Generated More Power Than Nuclear in March and April 

Solar farms planted on an abandoned nuclear plant site or powering a coal museum or atop a strip mine offer stark images of the ascendance of renewables.   But forget metaphorical images — utility-scale renewable electricity generation in March and April actually surpassed nuclear for the first time since July 1984. (Ronald Reagan was president, and “When Doves Cry” was the No. 1 hit on the radio.)Recent months have seen record generation from wind and solar, as well as increases in hydroelectric power because of 2017’s wet winter (note that these numbers, from the Energy Information Administration, do not include distributed solar). Most of the time, conventional hydroelectric generation is still the primary source of renewable electricity.

Source: Renewables Generated More Power Than Nuclear in March and April | Greentech Media

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