Clean Power electric grid network shutterstock_165054980

Published on February 8th, 2016 | by Glenn Meyers

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SolarCity Study Calls For Revamped Electric Grid

February 8th, 2016 by  

A revamped electric grid could yield huge cost savings, states a SolarCity study.

electric grid network shutterstock_165054980Reacting to the California-based study, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said Californians could save $1.4 billion a year if modern technologies are better incorporated into the way electricity is stored and delivered.

Rive added if states revamp the utility business model to fit 21st century technology, they would find the argument rooftop solar harms the disadvantaged isn’t true.

“There is no cost shift,” he said in an LA Times article. “It’s a trade, and it’s a fair trade. It’s only a cost shift if the utility never values solar and the service that it provides.”

The 28-page report contends the current utility model works against consumer interests by encouraging utilities to build more power lines, substations and other parts of the electric grid. .

“Utilities have a fundamental financial incentive of ‘build more to profit more,’ which conflicts with the public interest of building and maintaining an affordable grid. This financial incentive model is a vestige of how utilities have always been regulated, a model originally constructed to encourage the expansion of electricity access.”

grid-engineering-3SolarCity has proposed creating an independent body which manages localized electricity generation, such as rooftop solar and battery storage. Utilities would manage and maintain the grid, generating revenue from providing distribution services rather than making money from building more.

Strained relations between utilities and solar industries have intensified, especially with solar power gaining traction in the residential and commercial marketplaces.

The California Public Utilities Commission has backed the solar industry in its January decision to continue a net metering policy of granting rooftop solar owners a dollar-for-dollar exchange for power they generate versus what they consume from utilities. Commissioners added some fees to the new rules they approved but largely left the key benefit of the compensation policy intact.

In reacting to the growth of solar distributed energy, utility companies have contended rooftop solar owners don’t pay a fair share for maintaining the electric grid, leaving those who can least afford it to cover grid system costs.

As reported by Utility DIVE, the design and operation of the new distributed power grid presents a major opportunity for partnering across the energy industry. Collaboration across utilities, grid operators, regulators, national laboratories, philanthropists, environmentalists, distributed energy resource providers, energy service providers and customers is paramount to meeting the challenge of modernizing the grid.

In modernizing the 21st century electrical grid SolarCity indicates it hopes to transition the electricity infrastructure to one using clean distributed energy resources that are proliferating across the industry.

Image: Electric network power lines via Shutterstock

Graphic via SolarCity

 
 
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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.



  • Jens Stubbe

    The grid is not an enemy and billions of people simply do not have the space or resources required for self proficient energy production. Storage of electrons is also not needed for a reliable fully renewable grid in USA. Just expand the HVDC grid and over provision with renewable electricity and use surplus electricity to produce Synfuels. The conversion of excess CO2 and abundant water into Methanol can now be performed with 79% efficiency. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jacs.5b12354

    This means that renewables soon can go head on with fossil to supply liquid fuel.

    • Dan

      Meh, electric cars outperform liquid fuel. I don’t have much interest in synthetic liquid fuels except as an interesting bit of chemestry. I suppose it is a closed loopish sort of emmisions cycle so… idk. Electron storage isn’t as big of a deal as people repeat that is it is. Batteries are improving and global production is scaling up big time. If nearly every roof had solar and one modest battery in the garage with smart grid shared access for centralized grid management (utilities), we could have 100% renewables through a mix of other large scale renewables like wind, geothermal, hydro, wave/tidal, and I suppose your biogas could play a role too.

      • Jens Stubbe

        You cannot replace all liquid fuel uses with batteries and the poor of this world cannot afford the transition and the charger infrastructure is currently impossible for most people due to the short range and the long charge time and lack of home charge opportunities for the majority that lives in cities. Also a BEV does match and EREV based on Synfuel.

        I do not think you have done the numbers. If you combine all the batteries ever produced today Tesla expects to be producing the same capacity on an annual basis by 2020 and to sell 500.000 cars.

        All the batteries ever produced in the history of mankind amounts to a few minutes of storage capacity.

        To balance renewable production you need the following:
        1. Dispatchable renewables like biomass and hydropower
        2. Baseload renewables like geothermal and OTEC
        3. Peak shaving renewables like solar
        4. High capacity factor renewables like wind
        5. Strong HVDC grid backbone
        6. Smart meter thinking
        7. Synfuel production
        8. Electrification of everything possible
        9. Over provision of renewables

        In grid context batteries buy cheap and sell expensive but as more batteries are added (and also if the grid performs better with less demand/supply mismatch for any other reason – see above) less profit can be made simply because the margins between buying cheap and selling expensive narrows.

        Future renewable cost drop means that less and less value will cycle through batteries. I assume that everyone also knows the recent past and the potential for solar and wind where solar approach $0.03kWh by 2025 and wind $0.02kWh on an unsubsidized basis.

        The worst fact for the battery storage hype is however that if batteries was ever to balance a 100% renewable grid then they would also have to do deep cycle storage and the more deep cycle storage the less cycles in and out of the batteries and the more cost per delivered kWh.

        I think the conclusion is clear the economics of grid scale storage is fast becoming unattractive despite the fast improvement of battery technology. Batteries will find excellent markets in unstable grids (plenty of those) and behind meters. Also in the sunbelt where solar is likely to dominate the energy production the case for battery storage might make sense. But as the key driver for renewable expansion or especially as a requirement for 100% renewable grids just forget about batteries – they are not needed and not economical.

        • Bob_Wallace

          To the extent that the poorest parts of the world rely on used cars from the richer parts there will be a move to EVs. If the richer parts quit purchasing ICEVs there will be no used ICEVs to be sold.

          If there’s a need for electricity to charge EVs then that will be built. Assuming synfuels will price out at roughly the level of petroleum it will make sense to go the much cheaper wind/solar route in areas where money is tight.

          We don’t need #7. Synfuel is not a requirement for making grids 100% renewable. They may be useful, it will depend on their cost.

          When you talk about batteries do remember that flow batteries are also batteries and have the potential to store large amounts of energy for a low price. Comparing flow batteries an synfuels for ‘deep storage’ needs, synfuel needs production infrastructure, storage, and infrastructure to turn the fuel back into electricity. Flow batteries can use the infrastructure they use on a daily basis for short term needs to do both jobs. They need only the additional tankage and chemicals to extend their capacity.

          • Jens Stubbe

            Synfuel can of cause be turned into electrons but is mainly a strategy to force fossils out of the market and in the process provide a market for excess electricity, which paves the way for vastly greater RE penetration – and we all know that deployment is the best strategy to lower cost.

            Thousands of distributed small CHP generators in Germany are controlled as a giant virtual power plant that convert between 35% and 45% into electricity and between 40% and 45% into usable heat.

            The first net energy producing water treatment plants are now operating with CHP generation and in agriculture millions of biogas plants are now in operation. These biogas plants are like hydropower dispatchable and if they are hooked up to the grid and the natural gas net then they could burn Synfuel if need be.

            Greenpeace envision Synfuel methane as a first Synfuel because it is a drop in substitute for fossil methane with complete infrastructure including transmission, storage, billing system and customers.

            Opposite you I expect plugin hybrids to expand rapidly and I expect that will be part of a giant virtual power plant you can call upon if need be.

            US research recently published show that Methanol can be produced as a Synfuel with 79% power conversion efficiency. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jacs.5b12354

            One of my business partners has worked with batteries for 50 years and met with Elon Musk in Copenhagen last year he agrees whole heartedly with you on the subject of flow batteries. Organic flow batteries are a hot topic. The main differences between flow batteries and Synfuel is that you can produce as much Synfuel as you want and store and use it in existing infrastructure whereas flow batteries needs new infrastructure and the fluids insofar are expensive.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I can see a route for plugin hybrids expanding rapidly.

            It could happen if only Tesla and Nissan were willing to build large numbers of desirable EVs, other companies produced PHEVs in numbers, and the price of fuel returned to about double what it is now. Demand for electric cars could boom, Tesla and Nissan could have 2+ year waiting lists, and people would turn to PHEVs as the ‘almost as good’ option.

            Short of something strange like that I don’t see it happening.

            What we need is one of the top 20 volume car manufacturers to release a 200+ mile range EV and offer a rapid charging solution. That happens and the other car companies would be forced to market their own EV challenger. Just GM solving the charging problem and stating that they will manufacturer as many as the market desires would probably be enough.

            Let BYD announce plans to build battery and car factories in Europe or North America.

            PHEVs won’t drive industry to synfuel. Dropping gasoline use by 85% will be more than enough to keep gas use low and prices low.

            There’s at least one flow battery company that claims to be using low cost chemicals.

            Synfuel probably has its best chance as airplane fuel. If it can make enough of an inroad there to get the industry scaled up then it can push into other markets.

        • Dan

          It’s more a matter of necessity. People may say it is uneconomical, but so is global warming. It think there will be many tangential benifits to a decentralized smart grid that you are not taking into account. I also think the energy storage and solar technology is improving faster than you realize. When it becomes culturally accepted that our lives depend on making this transition, we will overcome the obstacles you listed. I actually think most of us already have…

          Imagine if the U.S. military became heavily concerned with becoming 100% renewable. They have an enormous budget. That one sector transition could be a huge catalyst. And, it can hardly be argued that anything they do makes economic sense. They do what they do with incredible waste, all in the name of “defense spending”.

          So yes, I believe we could defend ourselves from pollutants and global warming by making a decisive transition to renewables.

  • Uncle B

    Moreover: America and the world must realize the huge natural resource savings and higher efficiencies possible in shifting to a more current, updated frequency of operation and voltage of operation! An example: aircraft using 400Hz and higher voltages can use very much lighter wiring, very small motors, and cheaper switching systems! Imagine Solar at D.C. converted to these higher values! Whole independent systems that run cheaper cooler, and more efficient with the latest insulation on their wiring!

    • GCO

      400 Hz was implemented for aircrafts to reduce the weight of transformers, not as an efficiency measure in itself.

      Higher voltage, yes, but that’s already being used for transmission.
      For household devices, going to 300 ~ 600 V DC from today’s American unfortunate 110 ~ 120 V may offer small benefits; higher, we’d relatively quickly reach the point where safety concerns and the burden of the required extra insulation offset all gains from the thinner house wiring…

  • Otis11

    But why would anyone like Tesla?

    They set their sites way to low (https://www.teslamotors.com/node/2528?no_cache=1455052115)

    And never push themselves – always taking the easy way out instead of doing it the ‘right way’ (http://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/10/gigafactory-renewable-energy-plans-slip/)

    They completely stifle innovation and attempt to crush their competitors (http://lawstreetmedia.com/news/tesla-releases-patents-enough-jump-start-electric-vehicle-production/)

    It’s led by a man that fails at everything (http://www.biography.com/people/elon-musk-20837159#early-life)

    And has no respect among his peers (https://www.quora.com/What-could-Elon-achieve-in-his-lifetime-if-Larry-Page-donated-a-large-portion-of-his-wealth-to-Elon-upon-his-death)

    As if that weren’t enough – they can’t even make a good car (http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/09/autos/tesla-model-s-consumer-reports/)

    Much better to believe our politicians and ban (or at least severely restrict) all of these dangerous technologies that might destabilize modern society as we know it. (http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/03/30/ipcc_2014_u_n_climate_change_report_warns_of_dire_consequences.html)

    Oh, wait…

    Note: If you’re not getting the sarcasm… start clicking the links.

  • eveee

    Good for you. Great job. And thanks from all the rest of us. I have been at it since I was a teenager too. And I am just about retired, LOL.

  • eveee

    Shifting costs to solar owners? What costs? The low cost energy solar provides during hot afternoons powers the solar rooftop owners needs and maybe those of his neighbors right when peak demand happens in the summer. That reduction in peak demand reduces the number and amount of generators purchased to provide electricity all year long next year. That sets electricity rates for the coming year. Solar lowers rates for everyone

    The utilities are lying. Solar lowers the costs. What they are not telling you is that if they invest (rate base) in FF generation they are guaranteed a rate of return. If a rooftop owner cancels out their bill with rooftop solar or efficiency, the utility loses.
    Why? They already invested big in central generation. They still have to pay back the loan. Thats why the utility wants ratepayers to keep consuming and paying. If they figured that electricity demand would rise and they bought more generation, they expect you to pay for it. But when they figure wrong and demand is lower, they have to find a way to boost the bill. The PUC figures how much the rate case should be for the number of ratepayers. Utility and PUC both make the same wrong calculation. They both did not figure on that much solar so soon.

    That leaves the utility with too much generation (loan) to pay back compared to the rate. Then the PUC OKs a rate increase to make up the difference.

    Utility death spiral, here we go.

    What they mean by its not fair is that if they raise the rate, rooftop solar owner still won’t pay as much as everyone else, because they use less electricity . Then they want to add a fixed fee for solar because they cannot get the money back from them by charging higher rates for everyone. Its an attempt to cover their fixed costs. The utility is saying, foul, ratepayers are supposed to use more energy and pay for it. When they don’t they are not doing their part, like we want them to.

    They literally want to penalize ratepayers that use too little electricity. Thats stupid.
    The whole meme about transmission costs is nonsense. Solar reduces the need for transmission. What else would solar caused reduced demand do?

    In truth, its backwards. Solar users and people that conserve are shouldering the burden for large users. Industrial and commercial users get lower rates.

    In truth, utilities give lower rates to big users, because if they don’t, the business will go elsewhere. There may be rate decoupling for small residential, but not for all users.

    The logic of it is mind boggling. You use less, you pay more. You use more, you pay more.

    Truth is, once the PUC approves it, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. The money is spent and the damages are done.

    Its part of a dysfunctional system that says, you spend, PUC approves, ratepayer pays. And the utilities are so used to the entitlement that they are outraged when it comes to an end, even spending money to lobby against their customers best interests. So much for utilities operated as a monopoly for the “common good”. It has morphed to investors taking advantages of being shielded from competition, building projects, and getting guaranteed rates of return approved by PUC personnel in a revolving door relationship with their former employers.

    • Dan

      Exactly. We have to stand up to this. What do you think about new storage options and microgrids to completely sidestep the utilities monopoly? Could we just create enough competition for these practices to implode their business?

      • eveee

        Its happening, but I would rather go direct and put pressure on the politicians to stop it. A bill was introduced in Congress about what is happening in Nevada and its an election year. We ought to be talking about it and voting on it. Change things. Its time.

      • Bryan

        Nobody is going to implode anybody’s business with today’s storage pricing.

      • Bob_Wallace

        We do not want to implode utilities. Anyone who wishes that is wishing for a massive economic implosion. I’m afraid some people let their emotions override their cognitive processes.

        We want utilities to transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. We want the cleanest, lowest cost electricity possible and that means very wide capture nets with as many varied inputs as feasible.

        Installing enough solar panels and batteries to carry you house 24/365 is not a wise solution. Much better to have access to inexpensive wind when the wind is blowing and the Sun not shining. And access to hydro when neither wind and solar are producing.

        Plus there are many, many people who are not in a position to create their own standalone utility company. They need the grid.

        • Dan

          Yeah, your right Bob. I’m honestly outraged over the Nevada utility controversy and everything you said is correct. My anger and frustration is clouding the real solution that the utility has to offer by working with people to value solar appropriately and develop the distributed generation grid you described.

          Unfortunately the PUCN and NV Energy has caused many people to feel the same as I do and their reputation is pretty damaged by this. I can only hope other utilities and NV Energy can learn from this and that awareness of available smart grid techniques and solutions becomes more commonplace. Energy storage is going to play an important role as the months and years move forward.

          The customer sited shared access model with financing that the rocky mountain institute describes seems like it has huge potential and is possibly cost competitive right now. The gigafactory is ramping up and other energy storage companies are getting a lot of attention for the publicity that the powerwall has garnered. Our culture is embracing the transition although the major news outlets and establishment continues to… lag.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The transition from fossil fuels to renewables will not be smooth. Some people are going to be financially harmed. We can expect them to resist. Other people simply don’t like change, don’t see the need to change.

            But the transition is likely to ratchet up. It’s not a two steps forward and one step back thing. No one is shutting down wind or solar farms and building coal to take their place. Once wind or solar are in place they will be used for economic reasons.

            Those who fight the transition will likely have only temporary success. Look at what happened in Australia. An anti-RE government got into power (largely with wholesale lying), did some damage, and then was voted out.
            Nevada? Time to have a come to Jesus exchange with the decision makers there. If they want to keep their jobs they probably need to reconsider their actions.

          • Dan

            89% of constituents disapproving of the PUCN decision is no laughing matter for any elected official. Australia has had a great change in policy. Thanks for pointing that out. I remember feeling similarly about their gov policies but far more removed from them. It is really great to be seeing progress on that expansive sunny continent.

            I’ll keep calling my legislature 😉
            Illinois has slowed their progress for the past few years. We haven’t been building wind turbines like we were for a while there… The Clean Jobs Bill sounds good to me although I don’t know much about the specifics.

            This Nevada dealio has really sharpened my understanding of how the utility grid, rates, and regulators work (or don’t work).

            I left a message for my state representative today mentioning the supreme court ruling on Demand Response, thinking it should be a part of their considerations for the Clean Jobs Bill. I mentioned net metering and the net benifit solar provides the grid that this article makes a case for too.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I think Republicans are coming around. We’ve clearly seen that with local and state officials supporting wind in the windy states. There’s the Green Tea Party that is advocating for solar.

            Then I just read an interesting piece about people asking climate change questions in Republican campaign events and getting a lot of support from others at the campaign stop.
            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gop-climate-change_us_56b8fdd8e4b08069c7a85a83?ir=Green&section=us_green&utm_hp_ref=green

          • Dan

            I liked that article. It is encouraging to see the Republican base coming around even if they’re leaders are in the lobbyists pockets. At the end of the day, if people get out to vote we have the final say.

          • Frank

            Nice to see. When renewable prices dropped into the we can make money saving the world range, their position stopped making sense.

          • Frank

            Need to make it illegal for the monopoly part to own generation or sell electricity. The problem is a conflict of interest that we have created in some places with bad laws. If the distribution can’t sell electricity, they won’t care who’s electricity they deliver.

        • Hans

          They should not implode, they should explode (in a controlled way), such that only the grid will remain a monopoly independent of production or retail. This way there is no incentive for the grid operator to sabotage renewables and/or distributed power.

          Yes, I know. I sound like Marco Rubio at a republican primary debate. But there are are so many articles here that bring up the issue of vertically integrated utilities abusing their monopoly to pester PV system owners, and so many readers that seem to accept this situation as a god given fact, that I cannot help myself from bringing the gospel of the utility splitting.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually you sound like an unrealistic progressive. Just wave some undefined magic wand and utilities get out of the generation business. Problem solved.

            Splitting distribution from generation would likely be better for getting us through the fossil fuel to renewable transition. But there’s no movement afoot to split up utilities, it’s on the agenda of no political movement as far as I know. It would probably take a decade of hard work to get the general public informed enough to make them care and a decade from now this problem will have likely disappeared.

            Now, if you feel strongly about divesting utilities and forcing them to sell off their generation holdings have at it. Form an organization and start doing the hard work.

            Personally I think it a waste of effort. Renewables are becoming less and less expensive and will force fossil fuels off our grids, especially if we have the EPA tightening up on them at the same time.

            Distributed generation, I assume you mean end-user wind and solar, will likely have to stand on its own. I can see no logical argument for requiring utilities to pay more than the wholesale rate for electricity sent to the grid.

            If someone can put panels on their roof and use that power to offset their own purchases during sunny hours then we’ll see more end-user solar. Perhaps storage will get cheap enough for some people to store their own production. We’ll have to wait to see if that happens.

            I think you’re misusing the word distributed. Solar farms and wind farms spread over the area of a grid is distributed. Very large plants such as coal and nuclear plants are centralized.

          • Hans

            1) The Marco Rubio remark of course referred to the repetition of my message.

            2) It says something about the state of US politics that you are called a progressive when you call for free markets.

            3) No magic or vagueness is involved in splitting up the utilities, it has been done in “socialist” Europe and even in some US states.

            4) So you are not allowed to have an opinion unless you do a lot of hard work on a political movement. You should delete 99.99% of all comments on CT then. Anyhow, being a European it will be a bit difficult to start a political movement in the US. But maybe I can sow some seeds, like the poor mans version of a think-tank.

            5) Like I have written elsewhere, I agree that net-metering is not sustainable in the long term and should gradually change into a market based system. But with the current states of politics made it a binary issue: net-metering, or a really shitty deal. And as long as there is a vertically integrated monopoly, small PV system owners will get a shitty deal. Result will be that only systems with lot’s of self-consumption will be cost-effective, which in turn means a very ineffective use of good storage.

            6) Not all renewables are distributed, (you cannot call a 1000 MW offshore windpark distributed anymore) and not all distributed power is renewable (for example micro CHP ).

          • Bob_Wallace

            The label “progressive” has come to be self-applied one part of the liberal/left wing of American politics. A group that wants what most liberals want, but they want it now!

            US progressives view the free market as a source of evil.

            There is no meaningful movement to break up utilities in the US. Starting one would take more than wishes.

            If anyone ever builds a 1 GW offshore wind farm in the US it could be called non-distributed. But overall wind and solar farms are distributed.

      • Matt

        If you are a developer setting up a new development, you might sneak into a loop hole and have a micro-grid for your development and only one connect to grid. Then handle billing across that connection at commercial rates. But for an existing location where utility already owns the wires, it is a lot harder. For a new office complex, since most load is daytime, a micro-grid with ability to island would appear as a good option.

        • Uncle B

          Co-op Wind Turbines? Ownership spread across various investors/consumers?

      • Uncle B

        Imagine if you went to higher voltages, higher frequencies!

        • Dan

          I would love to learn more about those options. A more efficient grid means every watt of clean energy goes further.

    • jeffhre

      “Shifting costs to solar owners? What costs?”

      Yes, solar owners have already paid the costs for clean renewable generation – hence they are called owners of those assets. And have been paying for grid and transmission assets for the past 133 years.

      “The logic of it is mind boggling. You use less, you pay more. You use more, you pay more.”

      LOL, ironic isn’t it. No adjusting to market conditions, no changing with the times, no competitors, just collect capital under a government monopoly while saying people that have invested thousands of dollars to generate clean energy are “stealing from the poor.” The poor utility company executives who refuse to build rational business models that incorporate clean, distributed energy.

      Must be a wonderful world from the perspective of an IOU executive. Is California now the only state PUC not buying their spiels hook line and sinker?

      • eveee

        With all the layers of bs, its hard to get down to understanding what is really going on.
        I was just reading about some apartment dwellers who were upset, because their utility billing was based on the block of apartments they were in, not individual metering. So even if someone else was an energy hog and they conserved, they still paid.
        Thats analogous to the “common good” utility rate model. Everyone pays. So the PUC takes the average number of users, takes the full costs, and divides everything up and makes an average rate.
        What does that do? It should make it so that conservers pay less. But no. Why? The utility already spent the money for generation and transmission. It has to be paid even if its not used. Well why don’t those that caused the need for more generation and transmission pay for it? Because everyone pays the same rate, no matter how much they caused next years rate to go up.
        Same as the apartment example. Its inherent in the monopoly utility system. Adding a PUC is just a band aid. But if generation costs went down, would rates go down? Forget it.
        CPUC is not perfect either. They resisted renewables and got NG instead.
        Prompted a stern letter from the legislature.

      • Uncle B

        Decentralization of Germanies whole power system is afoot as we speak! I propase taking it one step further: go to 400Hz and 400 volts at the same time to reduce size and cost of motors, transformers, wiring, et al.

        • Jens Stubbe

          I visited Grundfos last year and they told me that just changing all pumps to new Grundfos pumps would save energy to the equillant of 7% of the total global electricity usage. When EU finally legislated agains standby power consumption the resulting effect was a 5% electricity power consumption drop. I work with lighting and display technology and the not yet realized potential for electricity saving in those fields can shave 20% of the total electric energy consumption worldwide.

          I can see your idea will work and I suppose there are numerous ways of introducing more energy efficient technologies. The energy spending in USA is nearly double up relative to Europe. You just marvel when you stay in a modern luxury Hotel in Sunny California with single glazing window and the room aircon unit on – how the hell can they not worry about the stupid added cost, let alone the overconsumption and pollution.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “That reduction in peak demand reduces the number and amount of generators purchased to provide electricity all year long next yea”

      The post-solar hours peak still has to be covered. Roughly the same amount of capacity has to be in place.

      Solar lowers the cost of electricity for all because it cuts fuel use. And it can reduce the settle price for electricity in merit order pricing systems.

      But since NG plants may not produce revenue when the Sun is shining then they will want to jack up their rate for the non-solar hours in order to recover fixed expenses. We could see prices drop during the sunny hours and rise during the early/late day peaks in TOU systems. Probably a bit of drop overall, but investment cost recovery pushed into the remaining peak hours.

      • Matt

        Also people should not fight a fair TOU system. That is what will support batteries coming on line. Or some people moving their panels to more east or west facing. Since maximum return will be when the power is needed. But it will require more that 2 or 3 slots a day.

      • eveee

        Taking a look at the annual demand curves for PJM, it looks like about a 10% reduction in peak demand. I suspect that differential is greater in hotter climates with more air conditioning than in the New England with its longer, colder winters.

        http://c1cleantechnicacom.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2015/12/daily-demand-new-england-iso.jpg

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQpsQx_r1as

        If TOU is implemented that follows wholesale, early evening will be the new premium time, and daytime premium will be removed. If solar reduces the daytime peak enough, the peak shifts to early evening, with a lower peak.

        I think Ronald showed some graphs in Australia showing the resulting duck curve post solar integration. In Australia and Germany, the reduction in peak demand has idled a whole lot of coal power plants.

        CPUC is instituting TOU which should cause a premium in the early evening. That should spur demand response , V2G, and storage.

      • Hans

        “We could see prices drop during the sunny hours and rise during the early/late day peaks in TOU systems.”

        And with a time of day pricing this would stimulate PV system owners to us to install storage, and pure consumers to shift their demand. For example with ACs that produce ice when electricity is cheap.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Yes, but utilities can also install storage. And because of economies of scale they can install storage at a lower cost. A modest amount of storage might wipe out the expensive peaking supply needed for the hours after the Sun goes down.

          I am not saying that it will make no sense to generate and store your own power.

          I am not saying that it will make no sense to generate and store your own power.

          I am not saying that it will make no sense to generate and store your own power.

          I am saying that the future is not as clear as some suggest. Solar is getting cheaper for utilities, not just for end-users. Storage is getting cheaper for utilities. The cost curve is going to shift and we’re not sure how it will play out.

          The average monthly electricity bill in the US is $100. Renewables and storage might shrink that monthly average bill to $75. That means that most people couldn’t save very much by installing their own system.

          • Hans

            1) there is more than just households
            2) If you have a TOU your bill will get larger than the $100 you mention, and lower if you shift your demand to non-peak hours, or do your own storage
            3) If there is also a time of day pricing for the electricity you export to the grid and you happen to have storage as well, your savings could be much bigger.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We were discussing households.

            If the average electricity bill is $100 then one would expect some people to pay more and some to pay less.

            If electricity prices drop the economic incentive to purchase storage decreases.

      • Frank

        The more competition for those peak times, the better. Storage, demand management, increased grid capacity. Let the dollars decide. We need to minimize the monopoly part to get efficiency.

    • Uncle B

      Dilemma!

  • Harry Johnson

    Besides the huge solar potential in the desert SW, the twelve central plain states could easily power the entire nation many times over because of the incredible wind resources. Four states routinely have an average capacity factor of 40% which is as good as many offshore wind farms at a quarter of the cost to build and maintain.
    But getting all that new energy to the coasts needs new transmission lines. If Quebec hydro power can connect NYC with a HVDC cable buried in the Hudson River, then Interstate Highway corridors can become energy corridors too. Burying new HVDC lines in a trench along the ditch costs more but there is no NIMBY gridlock or leasing payments to landowners. A small Federal utility tax would easily pay for a power grid upgrade that is critical to our economic and military security.

    • Uncle B

      Hydro Quebec are World Leaders in these matters . . .

    • Jens Stubbe

      Do not be too dismissal about offshore. It is a steep learning curve granted but just these days the very first offshore wind park is being decommissioned after the planned 25 year design life. The 450kW onshore turbines used then are roughly 18 times smaller than the largest commercially deployed offshore turbines.

      The most recent offshore FIT auction had a winning bid at DKK0,77/kWh for the first roughly 9 years and then in the following 16 years of the design life they get what can be fetched at the Nordpool spot market. This equates to an unsubsidized cost of electricity at $0.06/kWh assuming stable Nordpool prices.

      The unsubsidized wind PPA as per 2014 in USA is on average $0.035/kWh so offshore wind power has to decline a further 40%.

      The North Sea has sufficient wind resources to power the entire grid for all Europeans including full electrification of the entire transport sector.

      The offshore – onshore gap is narrowing and offshore extreme challenges also benefit onshore turbine technology development.

      Ps. When the infamous Lomborg inspired governing party recently again resumed power they cancelled a huge coastal offshore area where the FIT was identical to onshore and the unsubsidized cost of electricity actually would have been lower than Danish onshore, which is comparable with US onshore average.

      • Harry Johnson

        I agree. The North Sea is like Western Europe’s Great Plains of wind. We can do both onshore and offshore. We have no choice.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Offshore does not have to become as cheap as onshore in order to be successful. Offshore, in some places, produces more electricity during peak hours that does onshore. Production during peak demand has more value.

        In the US the best onshore is in the middle of the country. To get that power to the urban centers on the coasts there is a transmission cost for onshore while offshore is, well, just offshore.

        • Jens Stubbe

          You are right if we talk immediate market expansion possibilities. However Europe is marginally bigger than USA but 742 million people lives here so to go all renewable offshore is extra important for us. The added benefits are higher capacity factors, no nimby, marine life improvement and advancing wind technology.

          Europe is further to the north than USA making solar a less stable contributor so Europe is probably going to depend more on wind than on solar.

          The long term competitive position of regions is tightly coupled with the accessibility and cost of energy. USA is far better situated in that relation than Europe, which is probably why we are much more preoccupied with offshore wind. And yes ultimately cost matters a lot.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Right of way for HVDC is important. USA needs to expand the HVDC grid and to modernize the grid infrastructure.

  • Dan

    Yeah! California leading the way yet again. I would ever so like for Nevada to grow into a clean energy leader as well with exactly these approaches to grid modernization….

    • eveee

      We need to remind a few Nevada politicians that Tesla and SolarCity are connected. The pols are pushing the we are the tech leader in batteries, while messing up solar in Nevada with NEM. Thats backwards and foolish. Grandfather existing NEM and value solar properly. If NEM isn’t the right way, institute TOU and due a value of solar. Too much of this smacks of utility interference via lobbying.

    • Bryan

      California would have lead the way if they would have left the existing net metering policy alone. By adding new fees and requiring solar users to sign up for time of use, the PUC has squashed any future success for the solar lease and PPA companies in California.

      • Dan

        Link?

        • Bryan

          Contact CALSEIA. They’ll fill you in.

      • Marion Meads

        It is actually excellent that solar leasing and PPA gets squashed in California. All the deals are a rip-off, you are spending 3 times more money for the guaranteed life of the panels compared to shopping around for owning the system!

        PPA’s and leasing are guaranteeing the income of the solar companies that do it at your expense. Yeah, they give you some savings, a paltry savings with electricity price a little below the red line, and when the laws change, you’re left holding the bag, there is just no leeway for you, they have maximized their rip-off profits!

        • Bryan

          I totally agree Marion.

        • Otis11

          I completely agree that PPAs and Solar leasing are Heavily suboptimal for the recipient… but as an air-breathing citizen who likes fresh food and clean water (not to mention a strong economy), I have to question whether this is something to fight.

          Do PPAs and Solar leases not get more panels installed on more roofs?

          • Martams

            That’s where the PACE and Hero program comes in! The only attraction of PPA’s and Leases are their zero down. Now you can own solar PV through the PACE and Hero financing programs!

          • Martams

            Also the PACE or Hero programs allows you to shop around, and often you’ll get way better deals than SolarCity for owning the system, and regularly it would be in the neighborhood of 30%-50% cheaper than SolarCity. SolarCity has been pricing their system so high to steer you into their more lucrative PPA or leases, but with easy financing from PACE or Hero, kiss SolarCity goodbye for their highest priced system!

          • Otis11

            Can I like this more than once???

            (I’ve had to explain that one more than a few times… thanks for the addition!)

    • Uncle B

      Any Wind Power in Nevada? We know you have huge Solar assets!

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