Save on your hotel -

Archive for May, 2017

Predictions About Global Energy Efficiency Since the 1980s Have Been Wildly Conservative

Save on your hotel -

Pointing out the chronic underprediction of clean energy growth rates has become something of a sport in analyst circles.

The International Energy Agency and Energy Information Agency take most of the heat from critics. Throughout the last decade, the two influential organizations have faced growing criticism for their conservative projections on wind and solar growth. 

Skip Laitner, a renowned energy-efficiency expert, is the latest to weigh in. Turns out, efficiency is also wildly underestimated.

After reviewing dozens of scenarios for growth in global primary energy consumption and comparing them to actual consumption, Laitner found a widening gap between past assumptions and current reality. 

“With a long, ongoing review, I’ve concluded that energy models mostly get it wrong. Both historically and today,” wrote Laitner on his LinkedIn page.

“It turns out that energy efficiency is a much bigger productivity resource than is generally understood. And it is the ‘ace in the hole’ — as a meaningful climate solution, and also as a catalyst for a more robust and sustainable economy. But we need smarter policies and more productive investments to make it happen.”

Laitner didn’t create the graphic in order to shame other forecasters. But his years of following projections made him aware that they were off — by a lot.

“The infograph was not intended to ‘fault’ the EIA or other forecasts; rather, the critical insight is that we have tended to underestimate the large-scale impact and opportunity of energy efficiency and/or energy productivity. As we publish those ‘supply-side’ projections, we tend to lock out the very large demand-side opportunities,” he wrote.

Laitner has published other surprising data on efficiency. In a 2013 analysis, he concluded that energy efficiency has provided three times more economic services than new energy production since the 1970s. In other words, the U.S. economy’s productivity is actually more closely tied to efficiency improvements than new resource extraction.

There’s a growing class of analysis devoted to pointing out the shortcomings of “conventional” analysis from IEA and EIA.

For example, a 2015 report from Meister Consultants Group showed that Greenpeace’s “energy revolution” scenario in 2006 actually came closest to predicting the surge in wind and solar around the world. 

MJ Shiao, head of Americas research at GTM, once called EIA’s accounting of solar “irresponsibly wrong” because of its underreporting of third-party-owned distributed projects. “This data potentially misleads solar entrepreneurs and corporates considering how to build, maintain, manage and otherwise invest in gigawatts of new and existing distributed solar,” he wrote.

When it comes to projections, both EIA and IEA say their outlooks (which are still highly anticipated) assume growth rates under a business-as-usual scenario. But critics say technologies and project economics are changing far too quickly, making such scenarios obsolete as soon as they’re published — and fooling policymakers about the rate of change underway in the energy sector. 


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - May 31, 2017 at 6:55 am

Categories: General   Tags:

A Sneak Peek at Uber’s Electric Vehicle Strategy

Autonomous, shared and electric vehicles are expected to dominate the roads in the coming decades. Some projections show these vehicles becoming the primary mode of passenger transportation by 2031.

Bringing the autonomous, shared and electric mobility trifecta to fruition is a goal that is within reach. But how, exactly, will we get there?

That’s what I’ll be discussing with Adam Gromis, Uber’s public policy manager for sustainability and environmental impact, during a June 28 session at GTM’s upcoming Grid Edge World Forum conference and expo in San Jose.

Uber is pushing ahead with its self-driving vehicle research in the U.S., despite a recent legal challenge from Alphabet, the parent company of Waymo, formerly Google’s former self-driving vehicle unit. The lawsuit is a testament to just how competitive this space is and how much potential companies see.

In the same vein, Mark Fields, former CEO of Ford Motor Company, was reportedly pushed out of his leadership role earlier this month for failing to reposition the company to succeed in a new mobility future.

While self-driving cars aren’t required to be electric, electric drivetrains offer a quieter ride and lower maintenance costs, and can provide a seamless refueling experience with wireless charging. That’s in addition to the fact that EVs do not produce tailpipe emissions, which is becoming less of niche environmental consideration and more of a mandate as cities become more densely populated and vehicle emissions verge on becoming recognized as a serious health risk — which is already the case in some places.

With a wildly successful shared vehicle platform up and running and autonomous vehicle development well underway, Uber is now exploring the third element of the sustainable transportation trifecta: electrification.

In mid-April, the company launched its first electric vehicle program in the U.S., based in Portland, Oregon. The initiative includes partnering with Drive Oregon to expand EV education and creating new incentives to promote EV adoption, similar to a program Uber launched in London. The company has also run EV pilots in Lisbon, Madrid, Johannesburg and Paris.

There are currently around 100 EV drivers among Uber’s roughly 6,000 active drivers in the Portland metro area, which already represents a higher percentage of EV drivers than in the general public. The goal of the new initiative is to add hundreds more through a vehicle-leasing option, an EV Ambassador program and a public outreach campaign, among other things. 

“We think we can be helpful as Portland and other cities try to figure out how to move toward more sustainable mobility and drive electrification in the vehicle fleet,” said Gromis, in an interview. Uber also has tools that can help “extend the benefits of zero-emissions travel to more people, to low-income communities and other segments of the population that need mobility,” he said.

A typical passenger car sits idle 96 percent of the time. Uber has the technology platform to maximize the use of those resources.

“It’s less about a government or nonprofit or utility thinking, ‘How do I get an EV in every household?’ and more about getting people to go places in EVs more on a miles and trips basis,” Gromis said.

If Uber and other mobility companies don’t move into vehicle electrification, autonomous and shared vehicles could actually worsen carbon pollution by making personal vehicle travel easier and more convenient.

How Uber and others will do this is still playing out. Uber doesn’t own the vehicles that use its platform, but the company can still play a major role in getting more EVs on the road and in using its public-facing brand and giant user base to build demand for electrified mobility. Uber has already found through programs in Europe and Africa that EV drivers are rated higher than drivers who use conventional gas-powered cars, and the EV drivers themselves are more engaged on the Uber platform. The company is now thinking about how to leverage these insights to further EV adoption.

Uber could also play a more technical role in the EV ecosystem. The company has access to mountains of data that could inform the placement of charging stations and could help manage the impact EVs have on the electric grid. At the same time, utilities have a unique opportunity to partner with members of the transportation sector, like Uber, and play a pivotal role in shaping the future of mobility.

Gromis will detail how Uber is working with partners to expand vehicle electrification on the “Building an EV Infrastructure Market” panel at Grid Edge World Forum in San Jose, taking place June 27-29.

“We’re absolutely plugged in and looking for ways to be moving toward that dreamy future of high-efficiency mobility that includes lots of components — from ride-sharing to autonomous drive and electric mobility,” he said.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:45 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Energy Jobs: Tesla, Proterra, Ford Motors, Eos, SEIA, AWEA, FERC, EV-Box, Apollo Fusion

Another week brings more moves and shifts at the upper levels of the renewable energy industry.

Tesla has hired Gaby Toledano, previously an executive at video game giant Electronic Arts, to replace Arnnon Geshuri, VP of human resources. Toledano joins Tesla as “chief people officer,” leading HR and facilities and reporting to Elon Musk. Prior to EA, Toledano led HR at Siebel Systems. According to Tesla’s blog, Geshuri “helped transition Tesla from a small car company that many doubted would ever succeed, to an integrated sustainable energy company with more than 30,000 employees around the globe.”

One of the challenges facing the newly hired Toledano will be the issue of labor unions.

Automotive News reports: “Workers at Tesla Inc.’s Fremont, Calif. assembly plant have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the company of illegally surveilling and coercing workers seeking unionization.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed “unionization would be antithetical to Tesla’s mission.”

VC-funded electric-bus builder Proterra added former Rocket Fuel SVP and general counsel JoAnn Covington as chief legal officer, according to her LinkedIn profile. Proterra recently closed an “oversubscribed” $140 million funding round and claims to have had “exceptional sales growth” in the first half of this year.

Ford Motors will replace CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, the head of its Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary responsible for developing autonomous cars, according to the New York Times. Fields has been blamed for the firm’s decline in share price since he became CEO. TechCrunch reports: “Despite its investments in self-driving cars, which also includes $1 billion poured into a joint venture with Argo AI, Ford has struggled to balance the cost of creating new technology with declining auto sales.”

As GTM’s Jeff St. John reported, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will soon have a quorum. President Donald Trump has nominated Neil Chatterjee, an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Rob Powelson, a Pennsylvania utility commissioner, to fill two of three vacant seats at FERC.

Pending Senate approval, the two men will restore the agency’s power to rule on matters ranging from natural gas and transmission policy to how large-scale wind and solar are valued in interstate grid markets. Powelson has criticized states like Maryland that have proposed bans on fracking, and has called the Clean Power Plan a “disconnect” between federal and state authority.  

The board of the American Wind Energy Association elected Tristan Grimbert of EDF Renewable Energy as its chair. Grimbert succeeds Chris Brown, president of Vestas Americas, as chair.

Also elected were chair-elect Steve Lockard, CEO of TPI Composites; Treasurer Ray Wood, head of global power and renewables, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Secretary Doug Fredrickson, VP at Blattner Energy. Newly elected to the board are Carole Barbeau, president, Energy Advisory for the Americas, DNV GL; Buzz Miller, CEO, Southern Power; and Susan Nickey, managing director, Hannon Armstrong. Added as one-year special advisers are Brian Janous, director of energy strategy, Microsoft, and Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy, General Motors.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, notes that “wind is on track to supply 10 percent of U.S. electricity by the end of the decade.”

Sibu Janardhanan, previously with Gexpro Energy Solutions, has joined EV-charging station developer EV-Box as SVP North America. EV-Box is looking to expand geographically after being bought by energy provider Engie in March of this year. Native to the Netherlands, the firm has provided 26 countries and 980 cities with more than 48,000 charging stations. 

Jeffrey Wiener, former director of sales for energy storage at General Electric, has joined Eos Energy Storage as SVP of global sales. Chris Gerlach, former VP of finance at SolarReserve, has joined Eos as CFO. The startup’s core product is a 1-megawatt/4-megawatt-hour battery system employing Eos’ aqueous zinc-based technology.


Enertech Search Partners, an executive search firm with a dedicated cleantech practice, is the sponsor of the GTM jobs column.

Among its many active searches, Enertech is looking for a VP of Sales — Energy Efficiency

This client empowers energy value chain participants by providing them the power of foresight, leveraging advanced machine learning capabilities to deliver accurate, granular predictions, which are crucial for tackling the rising challenges of today’s energy industry.

The client is seeking a VP of Sales who will directly report to the CEO and become a member of the company’s executive team. You should be a sales leader who has at least four or more years of experience in hiring and managing a world-class sales team that is aggressive, disciplined and results-oriented.


Apollo Fusion claims to be developing “hybrid reactor technology with fusion power.” The startup was launched by Ben Longmier, the founder of Aether, a high-altitude research gear builder (acquired by Apple), and Mike Cassidy, previously VP at Alphabet’s X research lab.

Michael Maulick, CEO of solar tracker and mounting supplier SunLink, is also serving as vice chairman of the board at Solar Energy Industries Association

Marco Terruzzin, previously with Stem, is now director of energy storage at E.ON Climate and Renewables North America.

Livio Filice, formerly with Sonnenbatterie, now has a business development position at Mercedes-Benz Energy.  

From the previous jobs column:

Francesco Venturini, the CEO of Enel Green Power, is now heading the new Global E-Solution division of the Enel Group. After three years of running EGP, Venturini has been requested by Enel Group CEO Francesco Starace to head this new unit with a focus on e-mobility, V2G, recharging infrastructure, energy efficiencies and batteries. 

Olivier Jacques was promoted to executive VP of USA and EMEA at microinverter builder APsystems. Prior to joining APsystems in 2015, he served as managing director, EMEA at Enphase Energy

Trump’s expected pick for top USDA scientist, Sam Clovis, has never taken a graduate course in science, as reported by Talking Points Memo. 


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:35 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Add Nitrous Oxide to the List of Permafrost Melt Concerns

Melting permafrost is among the biggest climate change issues. That’s because it contains billions of tons of carbon that, if it melts, will be released in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas.

Less studied is what happens to the 67 billion tons of nitrogen stored in the currently frozen soil. New research shows that a permafrost meltdown could cause that nitrogen to be released as nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that’s nearly 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. That would crank up the planetary heat even further, and with it, the risks posed by sea level rise, increasingly extreme weather, and other climate change impacts.

Permafrost peatland in the Arctic.
Credit: Tarmo Virtanen

“Until recently, nitrous oxide emissions from Arctic soils were believed to be negligible,” Carolina Voigt, a PhD student looking at Arctic soil chemistry at University of Eastern Finland, said.

But new research that Voigt and her colleagues published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that understanding might be wrong.


The scientists extracted cores from frozen peatlands that reflected a variety of conditions found in the Arctic. They then thawed them out in the lab and monitored nitrous oxide emissions, one of the first times researchers have used the technique to study those types of emissions.

While nitrous oxide emissions from wet and vegetation-covered permafrost didn’t change much as they thawed, bare permafrost released up to five times more nitrous oxide when warmed. The results are the latest surprising twist in a rapidly changing Arctic.

“Because permafrost ecosystems have such low levels of nutrients, we’ve always expected them to hold onto whatever nutrients are available,” Ben Abbott, a postdoctoral studying permafrost at Michigan State, said. “We are learning that as permafrost thaws, it becomes leaky to nutrients, which can flow into streams and lakes or, in this case escape to the atmosphere.”

Researchers extracting a permafrost core in Finnish Lapland.
Credit: Carolina Voigt

The barren peatlands that are most vulnerable to releasing nitrous oxide cover about a quarter of the Arctic. Rapid warming in the region is all but certain to continue, raising the odds of releasing more nitrous oxide, which would continue to warm the world for decades after it’s released.

“In the near future it is likely that permafrost thaw will cause a gradual deepening of the active layer (i.e. the seasonally thawed layer of the soil), without abrupt changes in moisture conditions,” Voigt said. “Thawing under these drier conditions would promote nitrous oxide release.”

The study stopped short of estimating just how nitrous oxide emissions might change, though, because it’s unclear what the future could hold for the region in terms of vegetation and precipitation. Both are factors that could blunt just how much nitrous oxide is produced as permafrost thaws.

Regardless of the magnitude of the release, the results show that the changes taking place in the Arctic can have an impact that extends well beyond the sparsely populated northern tier of the world. It also underscores the need to get a handle on human carbon pollution before its impacts spiral out of control.



Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:30 am

Categories: General   Tags:

GRDA sells power from new Mitsubishi Hitachi natural gas unit

Achieving reliable power generation output means the Grand River Dam Authority is now able to sell electricity to the grid


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:25 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Xcel Energy cuts carbon emissions 30 percent

Company reports progress delivering a more sustainable energy future for communities


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:15 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Trump adviser says coal 'doesn't really make that much sense'

The New York billionaire has frequently celebrated his popularity in coal country


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:05 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Exelon: Three Mile Island to close in 2019 without bailout

Exelon Corp.’s announcement comes after what it called more than five years of losses  


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:00 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Global Clean Energy Funding: The Good News and the Bad News

Investor appetite for cleantech remains strong following the Paris climate agreement. But experts at the World Bank’s Innovate4Climate conference in Barcelona, Spain said that funding levels are still not high enough to reach global emissions targets.

“I think that since COP21, there has been a visible increase in the interest and appetite in investing in this sector, from more general investors,” said Jonathan Taylor, vice president of the European Investment Bank (EIB).

“You see an increasing number of investors using ESG [environmental, social and governance] metrics as part of their investment decisions. COP21 is making us think, ‘These guys really mean it.’ And I haven’t seen this change significantly since the U.S. election in November,” said Taylor. 

Institutional investors are also becoming more wary of putting money into fossil-fuel ventures that may end up as stranded assets, he said.

For example, AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) last month announced that it will pull cash out of companies that get more than half of their revenues from coal-related activities. 

“This decision is consistent with our ambitions for continued and greater ESG integration across AXA IM,” said company CEO Andrea Rossi in a press release. “It is also in line with our belief that asset managers have an important role to play in helping the global transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The EIB makes sure at least 25 percent of its annual lending goes toward projects related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. In 2016, this lending rose to 26 percent, totaling €19 billion (USD $21 billion).

Of this, €8 billion ($9 billion) went to climate-friendly transport, €3.9 billion ($4.4 billion) to renewables, €3.6 billion ($4 billion) to energy-efficiency measures, €1.8 billion ($2 billion) to research and innovation, and €1.2 billion ($1.4 billion) to climate change adaptation. 

The bank also has a policy of not lending to energy projects that will emit in excess of 550 grams of carbon-dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour, which restricts it from supporting coal- or lignite-fired plant proposals unless the plants are equipped with carbon capture and storage.

So far, no such projects have been put forward, Taylor said. Neither have any new nuclear projects, although these could conceivably be funded.

The EIB expects to lend $100 billion to climate-related initiatives over the next five years,  “which is consistent with the number for last year,” said Taylor.

He said the bank would also remain committed to green bonds, which it pioneered 10 years ago. So far, the EIB remains the world’s largest provider of the instruments, having issued €16 billion ($18 billion) in Climate Awareness Bonds across 11 currencies.

A World Bank study released during Innovate4Climate showed the number of carbon-pricing initiatives worldwide has nearly doubled in the last five years. And the growing appetite for carbon-related investments is forcing the EIB to shift its loan strategy, Taylor told GTM.

Previously, the bank focused on large-scale projects, such as the Noor Ouarzazate solar power complex in Morocco or the Lake Turkana wind project in Kenya. Now it is looking to support aggregated small-scale initiatives, such as building-efficiency plans.

“What we’re now doing is, we’re spreading out to do smaller-size lending, [especially] inside Europe,” Taylor said. “It is a change in business model for us.” 

Other development finance bodies also see their role becoming more important.

At an Innovate4Climate side event organized by the Global Green Growth Institute, Jiwoo Choi, the Green Climate Fund’s private-sector facility acting head, said $250 million in junior equity investments by the fund had helped attract around $30 billion for 200 projects globally.   

However, financing still needs to increase by a lot.

Assaad Razzouk, CEO of Sindicatum Sustainable Resources Group, worried that global lenders aren’t on a path to achieving the trillion-dollar-level annual investments needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

“The gap to how you get to the trillion [dollars] is the critical issue,” he said. “If you don’t get to the trillion in time, we’re not going to build a global clean economy. I’m talking about how we get ahold of another $640 billion per year. It’s a huge number.” 

Razzouk’s concerns echoed those of Dr. Stephan Singer, senior adviser for global energy policies at Climate Action Network International, who this month wrote in the London Financial Times that change was not happening fast enough to curtail climate change.

To achieve the step change in investment that is needed, said Razzouk, cleantech must do more to court the world’s capital markets. “We have to be very careful not to give the private sector the idea that we’re addicted to aid,” he warned.

“We’re not going to plug the $640 billion gap without the participation of the stock markets. The stock markets, local and global, are simply not participating,” said Razzouk.


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - May 30, 2017 at 6:18 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Why Solar Developer 8minutenergy Is So Excited About the Energy Storage Market

With duck curves on the prowl and curtailment on the rise, there are dangers stalking utility-scale solar’s natural habitat.

Solar developer 8minutenergy wants to ward off these threats with large-scale energy storage. The company spent the past year quietly picking up staff with years of experience developing storage at California utilities, and recently revealed the new practice, with a pipeline of 1 gigawatt already in place. That quantity, though not yet finalized, dwarfs the 221 megawatts deployed across the U.S. last year.

8minutenergy worked its way up to 10th place on GTM Research’s list of U.S. utility-scale solar developers. Now the team wants to incorporate storage into its expertise with wrangling land rights, interconnection and utility offtakers. Initial geographical targets include California, the Southwest, ERCOT and the Southeast.

“It’s really kind of an ideal storm with much lower prices, so these systems are much more cost-effective,” said Steve McKenery, vice president of storage solutions. “We can do a solar-plus-storage project now at less than the cost of a new combustion gas turbine. That was not the case a few years ago.”

The company likes to focus on solar projects with 100 megawatts or more, to capture economies of scale. Going forward, a typical 100-megawatt PV project might come with 100 megawatts/400 megawatt-hours of storage.

In fact, for the last year or so, all 8minutenergy developments have been designed to incorporate storage if desired; having land rights and interconnection already taken care of can speed up the storage deployment process.

The primary market will be pairing storage alongside new solar projects. This captures the ITC for the storage, and makes the solar generation dispatchable. That serves the offtaker by guaranteeing clean power for several hours of peak demand, but it also serves to future-proof 8minutenergy’s core product against increasing curtailment rates in California.

If the company can deliver on that gas turbine-beating promise, it could open up lucrative capacity market revenue. There’s also value to offer utilities in offsetting gas consumption for spinning reserves, said Carl Stills, vice president for storage integration.

In a previous job working on storage at the Imperial Irrigation District, he saw how utilities spend thousands of dollars a day on gas to maintain spinning reserves. Storage can remain ready for instantaneous response without burning fuel.

Storage on a major solar farm also serves a utility by increasing utilization of transmission infrastructure.

“Utilities that build transmission lines out for solar areas really use the capacity for that eight hours a day,” Stills said. “If you want to expand that out to include storage, if the price is right, you now are able to load up that line and optimize your transmission capacity. The clustering effect is huge.”

The company is also competing for standalone storage contracts where it serves a particular customer need. 

“We can utilize our land and interconnection status that we have on 8minutenergy-developed projects to have a place to build the storage project and interconnect it to the grid fairly quickly and at a competitive price,” McKenery said.

In the developer role, 8minutenergy will stay technology- and vendor-agnostic. The initial focus is on lithium-ion batteries from proven, bankable suppliers like LG Chem and Samsung SDI.

The company maintains its own internal test facility, though, to verify the marketing claims of alternative solutions, like flow batteries and flywheels.

“Lithium-ion is the technology for the next three to five years,” McKenery said. “Beyond that, who knows? I hope somebody is able to come up with a better product for half the price.”

The storage team is examining ways to integrate batteries into the solar plan most efficiently. One idea is to employ DC-to-DC architecture, which would feed the solar output into the batteries before going through an inverter to reach the grid. This could potentially save on equipment costs and reduce round-trip efficiency losses compared to an AC architecture.

The addition of energy storage expertise generates a new basis of competition among the small group of companies operating at the 100-megawatt PV scale, said Colin Smith, a utility-scale solar analyst at GTM Research.

“This is what the industry’s now demanding. If you look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, this is the landscape putting new forces and pressure on companies to change,” he said. “It’s become a forced differentiator in the industry.”


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Editor - at 6:05 am

Categories: General   Tags:

Next Page »