Tag Archives: Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

Publicly owned utilities ‘not a panacea’ but can produce customer benefits

By Tom Perkins, Energy News Network

As California officials consider a public takeover of PG&E, the concept has already shown results in other places.

OPPD’s [Eric] Williams said he agrees that the public model is “not a panacea,” and said OPPD is contending with legacy costs and long-term investments. But the public model is better suited to respond to the public’s growing demand for clean energy, he added, in part because there aren’t layers between the policymakers and customers, as there are with investor-owned utilities, state governments, and utility commissions.

“At OPPD, board members are directed by customer-owners to meet the needs as we’re setting policy,” he said. “Quite frankly, if the customer-owners don’t feel the board is doing what’s best, then there’s a direct mechanism for them to respond — the next election.” Read the entire article here.

Also Published by Energy News Network

Nebraska Also In The News Here

Hormel Wraps up Solar Project at California Meat Production Facility, Twin Cities Business Magazine
In April, Hormel announced a purchase power agreement with Kinect Energy Group for an upcoming wind farm in Nebraska. Once that project is completed, Hormel’s nationwide operations will be powered by 50 percent renewable energy, according to the company.

Previously Posted

Photo Credit: Oran Viriyincy / Flickr / Creative Commons

New money: Green banks and green bonds are bringing billions to utilities for the energy transition

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

Hundreds of billions of dollars in untapped new money can finance the U.S. power system’s transition away from legacy fossil assets to renewables and distributed generation. Utilities like Duke Energy and Xcel Energy have issued billions in green bonds to fund renewables development. Green banks in New York, Connecticut and other states are backing investments in distributed resources and energy efficiency. It appears much more institutional money wants in on the green opportunity. Congress is considering proposals for a National green bank, which can help propel the energy transition if it can win the acceptance that major utilities told Utility Dive it deserves. Read more here.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MIDWEST SOLAR ADVOCACY STORIES

From green-minded business owners to political activists: an industry shift in the Midwest, Solar Power World. For many Midwest solar companies, taking on advocacy roles in an industry just getting off the ground has been a necessary responsibility. Here is a look at solar policy in three Midwest states and how local solar installers have taken matters into their own hands.

CLIMATE ACTION GOALS & PROGRESS

MORE EV NEWS

MORE INDUSTRY NEWS

  • Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough, CNN
    Heliogen, a clean energy company that emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday, said it has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that it generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. The breakthrough means that, for the first time, concentrated solar energy can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass and other industrial processes. In other words, carbon-free sunlight can replace fossil fuels in a heavy carbon-emitting corner of the economy that has been untouched by the clean energy revolution.
  • Old dog solar panel manufacturer, Panasonic, learning new home storage tricks, PV Magazine
    Panasonic recently launched their EverVolt home energy storage system, with an AC and DC coupled unit that easily can scale up to 34 kWh and, when coupled with their HIT solar modules, can power your home indefinitely if the grid goes down.
  • Target in energy milestone — ahead of schedule, Chain Store Age
    During the past five years, Target has installed more solar systems than any other company, according to data from SEIA’s Solar Means Business report. The chain is also a four-time Energy Star Partner of the Year. 
  • Wind output to jump 37% because of climate shift — study, E&E News

FEATURED GREEN CAMPUS

Award spotlights UI’s energy efforts, Champaign/Urbana News- Gazette
Five years after it opened, the $98 million Electrical and Computer Engineering Building at the University of Illinois has been awarded “platinum” certification under the LEED environmental rating system. Designed to someday be a “net zero” energy user, the building has a $3 million rooftop solar array with 950 panels that generate renewable electricity for the building and, on sunny days, contribute to the campus-wide power grid. The building also uses power from campus solar farms.

TRACKING THE SUN REPORT

US Solar Panel Prices Continue Dropping, Solar+Storage Increasing — Tracking The Sun Report, CleanTechnica. Tracking the Sun (PDF) is an annual report from Berkeley Lab on installed solar panel prices and other trends among grid-connected, distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States.

SOLINATOR VIDEO

Midlands Voices: OPPD moving too fast with power plan

By John Crabtree, Omaha World-Herald. The writer, of Fremont, Nebraska,
is the campaign representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

After stating a desire to engage the public in its on-going decarbonization planning, OPPD has presented a plan of its own without engaging stakeholders in a meaningful way. “Power with Purpose” was first introduced at the Oct. 17 board meeting. A timeline was established for consideration of the proposal at the Nov. 14 meeting and specifying that OPPD would receive public input on the proposal through Nov. 8. Having touted the intention to get feedback about the plans, OPPD is now pushing through a plan to spend what would amount to half billion dollars of ratepayer funds while only offering a few weeks for the public to process. Read more here.

Related

More power needed: OPPD plans to build Nebraska’s largest solar farm, plus natural gas plants, Omaha World-Herald. Construction on the new solar farm and natural gas plants is expected to begin in 2020. The solar farm could be completed in 2022 or 2023. The natural gas plants could be built by 2023 or 2024.

Previously Posted Reports & News Stories

Energy Efficiency

Nebraska’s growth potential for developing our communities’ energy-efficient economies is enormous, which would reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and keep more of our energy dollars in our state. Nebraska ranks 43rd on the 2019 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy State Scorecard. The Scorecard demonstrates that energy efficiency is “a key resource nationwide, with utilities spending approximately $8 billion in 2018 for efficiency programs and saving 27.1 million MWh of electricity:” Resource Link: 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard – 13th Edition

Nebraska’s Energy Efficiency Scorecard

Other State Rankings

  • Colorado: 14th
  • Iowa: 23rd
  • Kansas: 46th
  • Massachusetts: 1st
  • Minnesota: 8th
  • Missouri: 30th

Carbon Footprints / Environmental Impacts Of Solar & Wind Energy Versus “Cleanest” Natural Gas Power Plants

  • An introduction to the state of wind power in the U.S., by Philip Warburg, environmental lawyer and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Published by Yale Climate Connections. As a non-carbon-emitting technology, wind power has a big environmental advantage over its leading fossil fuel competitors. Onshore and offshore wind has a life cycle carbon footprint of 20 grams or less of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. The “cleanest” natural gas power plants – those that use combined cycle technology – produce more than 400 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Supercritical coal plants – the least polluting in the industry – generate close to 800 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
  • Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photovoltaic (PV) solar has a life cycle carbon footprint of 40 grams or less of COequivalent per kilowatt-hour.

Report says new storage capacity increasingly included in IRPs

By Paul Ciampoli, American Public Power Association Blog

“Of the 45 states taking grid modernization actions during the quarter, 40 took actions related to energy storage,” said Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and Senior Manager of Policy Research at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC). “Utility integrated resource plans are increasingly including new energy storage capacity, while states continue to evaluate how energy storage is addressed in resource planning rules.” Other key grid modernization trends in the third quarter highlighted by the center are utilities filing innovative rate design proposals and states and utilities planning online energy data portals. The executive summary for the report is available here. Read the entire article here.

Additional Recommended Reading 

  • Engie’s renewables chief on scaling corporate contracts, hydrogen hopes and offshore wind, GreenBiz. Many new renewable contracts Engie intends to sign will include clauses for making sure renewables are available 24/7, which means they’ll be hybrid arrangements that include a mix of clean (or cleaner) power sources such as solar, wind and hydro and, increasingly, some sort of storage — Engie has big aspirations in green hydrogen. Heather Clancy interviews Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet, executive vice president in charge of the global renewables and green hydrogen business line for Engie, and president and CEO of the Engie North America operation.
  • EDF’s Energy Storage Ambitions Come Out of Hibernation, Greentech Media
    After something of a hiatus, EDF has acquired Pivot Power — along with its 2-gigawatt storage pipeline and its unique approach to the market. “EDF has made a lot of noise with ambitions to be a leader of the global energy storage market announced last year,” said Rory McCarthy, senior storage analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “However, they haven’t [followed through on] this with anything in the U.K. market — until now.”
  • Previously Posted: Huge Battery Investments Drop Energy-Storage Costs Faster Than Expected, Threatening Natural Gas, Forbes. The global energy transition is happening faster than the models predicted, according to a report released by the Rocky Mountain Institute, thanks to massive investments in the advanced-battery technology ecosystem.

Bipartisan Legislation

Energy Storage Tax Credit – H.R.2096/ S. 1142: Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019.

Actions: Introduced in House April 4, 2019

Battery Recycling

OPPD proposes changes that focus on large-scale utility solar

By Jason Kuiper, The Wire

OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke said the new generation, the details of which would become clearer after requests for proposal are answered, is needed in light of a changing generation and customer landscape.

At their November meeting, the board could approve a final recommendation and authorize management to negotiate and enter into contracts. The stakeholder process, where customers can provide feedback on the proposal, will be open until Nov. 8 at oppdlistens.com.
Read more here.

Additional Recommended Reading & Viewing 

Previously Posted 

  • OPPD Laying The Groundwork For A Bright Energy Future, OPPD News Release, June 20, 2019
    Initiatives will include a long-term study to address the long-term balance of load generation, along with decarbonization options for the district’s generation mix. Vice President Mary Fisher spoke to the topic, noting that the energy generation landscape is changing rapidly. Fisher said the drivers are primarily improving renewable technology, and environmental considerations around carbon emissions and climate change, “something our customers clearly care about.”
  • With new board members, Omaha utility making moves toward low-carbon future, Midwest Energy News

Data on Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Renewable Energy Versus Fossil Fuels 

  • An introduction to the state of wind power in the U.S., by Philip Warburg, environmental lawyer and former president of the Conservation Law Foundation. Published by Yale Climate Connections. As a non-carbon-emitting technology, wind power has a big environmental advantage over its leading fossil fuel competitors. Onshore and offshore wind has a life cycle carbon footprint of 20 grams or less of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. The “cleanest” natural gas power plants – those that use combined cycle technology – produce more than 400 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour. Supercritical coal plants – the least polluting in the industry – generate close to 800 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
  • Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Solar Photovoltaics, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photovoltaic (PV) solar has a life cycle carbon footprint of 40 grams or less of COequivalent per kilowatt-hour.

Rocky Mountain Institute Study

Related News Story

  • The Stranded Asset Threat to Natural Gas, Greentech Media
    There are $70 billion worth of natural-gas-fired power plants planned in the U.S. through the mid-2020s. But a combination of wind, solar, batteries and demand-side management could threaten up to 90 percent of those investments. New modeling from the Rocky Mountain Institute shows that more than 60 gigawatts of new gas plants are already economically challenged by those technologies. And by the mid-2030s, existing gas plants will be under threat. How severe is the threat? Could we eventually see tens of gigawatts of stranded gas plants? RMI set out to answer that question in two reports on the economics of gas generation and gas pipelines. The tipping point is now, it concludes. 

What are “stranded assets?”

Stranded assets are now generally accepted to be fossil fuel supply and generation resources which, at some time prior to the end of their economic life (as assumed at the investment decision point), are no longer able to earn an economic return (i.e. meet the company’s internal rate of return), as a result of changes associated with the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Source: Carbon Tracker Initiative

The University of California system is ending its investment in fossil fuels

By Umair Irfan, Vox

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

The University of California system, which educates more than 280,000 students and employs 227,000 faculty and staff, announced late Tuesday it is divesting from fossil fuels. It’s the single largest action to date in the growing movement of institutions withdrawing their financial stakes in the industry that’s the principal driver of climate change. “We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk,” wrote Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the UC’s chief investment officer, and Richard Sherman, chair of the UC Board of Regents’ Investments Committee, in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. By the end of September, the UC’s $70 billion pension fund and $13.4 billion endowment will no longer hold any stakes in companies involved with extracting fossil fuels. Read more here.

Related 

  • Study Warns that Gas Plants Could become Stranded Assets, Microgrid Knowledge
    Utilities, investors and regulators should stop the rush to natural gas and choose clean energy portfolios (CEP) made up of combinations of solar, wind, storage, efficiency and demand response, warns a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). If they don’t, many gas plants will become stranded assets, raising the specter that ratepayers will have to pay for them, said Chaz Teplin, a manager in RMI’s electricity practice. “We’re hoping that regulators, utilities and investors think really hard about whether new gas plants are wise investments,” said Teplin.
  • Previously Posted: The growing concern over stranded assets, GreenBiz

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

MORE ON CORPORATE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROCUREMENT

THE TERRATON PROJECT

Mission: Remove a trillion tons of carbon from the atmosphere, GreenBiz
The Terraton Initiative embodies one specific goal — to remove 1 trillion metric tons of carbon from Earth’s atmosphere. Indigo Agriculture, an agricultural technology company based in Massachusetts, founded and runs the project.

GLOBAL ENERGY STORAGE REPORTS

Nothing standing in the way of energy storage’s ‘explosive growth’: Navigant, Utility Dive
“Nothing really does seem to be standing in the way of its explosive growth,” Ricardo Rodriguez, research analyst for distributed energy storage at Navigant Research, told Utility Dive. The market research company in its latest report identified close to 2,100 energy storage projects globally. And international storage markets are anticipated to grow exponentially over the next decade, a second report from Rethink Technology Research found.

Consulting firm sees U.S. wind market adding 14.6 GW in 2020

By Paul Ciampoli, American Public Power Association

The U.S. wind market will add 14.6 gigawatts of capacity in 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie’s latest North America wind power outlook. The record-setting mark underlines the strength of the 23 GW pipeline Wood Mackenzie has identified as currently under construction or contracted for commercial operation in 2020, the consulting firm said on Sept. 12. The phase out of the Production Tax Credit beginning in 2021 has developers rushing to complete projects in 2020, driving major bottlenecks in both logistics and interconnection queues, Wood Mackenzie said. Continue reading here.

How Much Power is 1 Gigawatt?,
 U.S. Department of Energy

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

NEW RMI REPORT

A New Economic Reality: Renewable Energy Is Now Cost-Competitive With New Gas, Solar Industry

The economics guiding U.S. investments in electricity generation have reached a historic tipping point: Combinations of solar, wind, storage, efficiency and demand response are now less expensive than most proposed gas power plant projects, claims new research from independent nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). According to an RMI report, The Growing Market for Clean Energy Portfolios, portfolios of these clean energy resources can provide the same energy and reliability services as traditional gas power plants; the difference is they cost less.

EV NEWS

Why building owners should take charge of EV adoption, GreenBiz
The electric vehicle revolution is well underway. According to Bloomberg NEF’s “Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019” report, United States-based EV sales will grow from 2 percent in 2019 to nearly 60 percent in 2040. And more electric cars were sold in the first half of 2018 than all of 2016. Unlike conventional vehicles that refuel only at gasoline stations, EVs charge at many locations, such as at home, at work or in public spaces. But what does EV growth mean for commercial building owners?

INSPIRING EXAMPLE: MIDWEST NET-ZERO ENERGY SCHOOL

Local school becomes only net zero school building in Midwest, WLWT

ENERGY GANG PODCAST

How America Thwarted a Giant ‘Extension Cord’ for Renewables, Greentech Media
Our guest this week is Russell Gold, author of a new book, “Superpower,” about wind energy pioneer Michael Skelly’s attempt to build one of the most ambitious energy infrastructure projects in recent history — and how he faced nearly every obstacle imaginable. What does Skelly’s journey tell us about America’s diminishing ability to do great things?

JOBS ANNOUNCEMENT

QuickBOLT is hiring salespeople in Midwest and East Coast markets, Solar Power World

Banks Are Finally Starting to Account for Climate Change Risk

By Saijel Kishan, Bloomberg/Quint

Behind the scenes at some of the world’s biggest banks, small teams of employees are busy trying to calculate what might prove to be one of the most important numbers any financial institution will ever disclose: how much the assets on their balance sheet are contributing to global warming. Read more here.

Flickr Photo

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

GLOBAL NEWS

Southwest Power Pool moves to boost reliability, storage amid CEO resignation

By Julia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) Board of Directors on Monday approved 21 stakeholder policy recommendations on critical issues, such as enhancing reliability and cost allocation for new transmission. The SPP’s Holistic Integrated Tariff Team (HITT), made up of 15 stakeholders, offered recommendations to prepare the regional transmission operator for the grid of the future, including improvements to the wholesale energy market.

The transmission operator’s generation portfolio has changed dramatically over the past decade, with 50 GW of wind, 28.5 GW of solar and 5.7 GW of storage in its interconnection queue as of June. Stakeholder recommendations focused on this reality, asking SPP staff to create a white paper on energy storage and the future impacts of a battery storage buildout. Read more here.

MORE NEWS, OPINION & RESOURCES

How to view the purchase of wind power by Vail Resorts

By Allen Best, Mountain Town News

By any measure, the Vail Resorts power play announced in November was big. Vail’s virtual power-purchase agreement will give it 310,000-megawatt-hours of production annually from the Plum Creek Wind Project near Wayne, Neb., beginning in 2020. That’s sufficient, says the company, to meet the company’s projected fiscal year 2019 electricity use at its North American operations. With this, the company will have achieved 100 percent net-zero emissions a decade ahead of its 2030 goal.

Others in corporate America have been hurrying to make the same claim. The Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy think tank, reported in October that corporate purchases were expected to surpass five gigawatts of power in 2018. That’s roughly a 1,600 percent increase from 2013. Among the big buyers: Facebook, AT&T, Walmart, and Microsoft. Continue reading here.

This story, with slightly different text, was originally published in the January-February issue of Ski Area Management.

About the Author
Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. View all posts by Allen Best.

About Vail Resorts Corporation

Lincoln Clean Energy photo of the partially-completed Plum Creek Wind Farm in Wayne County, Nebraska. Once operational, the project will create high-paying local jobs and will result in over $3 million in local community benefits annually in the Wayne County area. This includes much needed property tax revenues, with some of the largest beneficiaries being the Norfolk and Winside school districts.

Additional Recommended Reading
Transforming Electric Supply for Small-Town and Rural America, Microgrid Knowledge
The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Kevin Brehm, Madeline Tyson and Jeff Waller offer takeways on how rural electric cooperatives are transforming electric supply with distributed energy resources (DERs).