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Welcome to the weekly roundup from the Oxford Martin Programme on Integrating Renewable Energy.
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Clean energy around the globe

World leaders will convene in Hamburg, Germany, this week for the annual G20 summit, and climate is set to be a key issue, but a new report from the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth U.S., and WWF European Policy Office shows that G20 countries still provide US$71.8 billion in public finance to support overseas fossil fuels. The report, Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments are Financing Climate Disaster, also found that G20 governments are providing nearly four times more public finance for fossil fuels than for clean energy.
 
In the U.S., wind power deployment will face a significant challenge, not in terms of supply or demand for wind energy, but in terms of limited existing transmission infrastructure.  According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), wind power development may have to be curtailed by as much as 15.5% in some areas unless additional transmission lines are built and upgrades are made to existing infrastructure. Curtailment could be cut to 8% if four currently proposed transmission projects are built, but transmission projects face lengthy permitting processes that can vary from state to state.
 
Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity announced that its electricity production deficit has turned into a surplus for more than 11 months and is now up to about 5,000 MW. Germany, France, and the U.S. all have a 15% surplus to achieve balance and stability, and Egypt will now look to export some of its own surplus. Egypt’s National Strategy for Electricity includes a goal of producing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2022 and sets a target of 55% by 2050.
 
Germany has broken a green energy record by generating 35% of its power from renewables in the first half of 2017, up from 33% last year. Germany aims to phase out its nuclear plants by 2022, and it has been getting up to 85% of its electricity from renewable sources on some days. The government has pledged a target of 80% renewables for gross power consumption by 2050.  
 
As Germany pursues ambitious targets for clean power, one of the key challenges it will face in integrating renewables is coordination between the transmission system operator (TSO) and the distribution system operator (DSO). TSOs operate the system in Germany quite efficiently, but due to the rapid growth of renewables in the country, curtailment of renewable energy has increased significantly—in 2013, about 555 GWh of electricity production from renewables was curtailed. The costs of redispatch and feed-in management accounted for more than €715 million in Germany in 2015. TSO and DSO coordination can aid in stabilising the electricity system, and there are a number of potential models for how this would work, including several identified in a recent paper authored by the project SmartNet.  
 
In the UK, researchers at Swansea University have developed a substance to kill water pollutants using solar power. Nearly 300,000 tonnes of pollutants get diffused with water in world water bodies every year, and the researchers’ solution was the development of a new non-toxic substance that can enhance the breakdown of harmful synthetic dye pollutants by almost ten times using visible light in a process known as “photo-catalytic degradation”.
 
In China, a new solar power plant aims to promote clean energy to the country’s youth, and its design is inspired by China’s most famous and revered animal—the giant panda. Two types of solar panels, white thin film PV cells and black monocrystalline silicon PV cells, are used to give the 50 MW plant located in the province of Shanxi in northern China its distinct look, and another panda plant is planned for the site, which will bring the project to 100 MW when completed. The project was built by Panda Green Energy, which is expanding to Fiji and the Philippines and hopes to build over 100 panda-shaped plants in the next five years.

Energy storage

A new report from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Institute for Electric Innovation predicts a major boom in sales of plug-in electric vehicles over the next several years. The groups project 7 million zero-emissions vehicles will be on the road by 2025—up from 567,000 at the end of 2016. The report also predicts about 5 million charge ports will be required to support those vehicles, which will make up 3% of all cars and light duty trucks in the U.S.
 
California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and BMW recently completed a pilot programme testing experimental vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology to see if electric cars could actually support the grid. The programme returned high participation rates, and at the end of the pilot, PG&E said it had dispatched 209 demand response signals to BMW and i3 drivers, delaying 19,500 kWh of use during peak demand periods.
 
Tesla’s Elon Musk announced via Twitter this week that the Tesla Model 3 was two weeks ahead of schedule, and the first of the more affordable electric vehicles would be rolled of the production line on Friday of this week. Musk also announced that Tesla would produce 100 Model 3s in August, over 1,500 in September, but up to 20,000 in December, which would be enough to meet its delivery promises to 400,000 customers who have pre-ordered the Model 3. Despite the good news surrounding the launch of the Model 3, Tesla’s stock plummeted on Thursday, falling 20% below its record high achieved at the end of June. The stock hit occurred after Musk provided an update on Sunday that second quarter Tesla deliveries were below Wall Street estimates, which Musk indicated was due to a severe battery production shortage.

Smart electricity networks

The introduction of smart technology and intelligent infrastructure has not only transformed the way energy suppliers can, and will, manage energy and carbon emissions, but also continuously delivers consumption and efficiency data directly to the suppliers themselves. It is for this reason that the adoption of big data analytics is a key trend in the energy sector, especially for utilities and energy industry players hoping to reduce costs, improve security, and better integrate renewable power sources.
 
Leaders from the data centre industry and electric utilities recently met for DCD Energy Smart, the first in a series of events to explore ways for these two industries to better collaborate. The discussion identified challenges, including IT companies’ growing demand for renewable electricity and massive investment by data centres and cloud operators for backup power infrastructure in case utilities can’t meet their demand. One of the lasting difficulties is a lack of communication between the two industries, especially in terms of data centre participation in demand response schemes.  
 
Mitsibushi Electric has developed a virtual power plant (VPP) concept that uses a smart automation and control interface to better manage power plants of all sizes and types. A transition to smaller, local power generation sources will only work and will only benefit industry stakeholders and consumers if intelligent systems can increase the efficiency of smart grid operations on both a macro and micro scale, which Mitsibushi Electric hopes its new tools will help make possible.

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