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

Cooperation between China and Africa on renewable energy deployment has seen remarkable progress, most recently with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week on collaboration with the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI). The MOU was signed by the China-Africa Renewable Energy Cooperation and Innovation Alliance, a coalition of financing institutions, smart grid providers, and core manufacturers, and it will enable the two parties to work on joint projects for renewable energy generation in Africa. Pilot projects include both microgrids in African villages and large-scale power construction.
These developments follow on China’s announcements earlier this year that it would invest US$360 billion in renewable energy by 2020 and halt plans to construct 85 coal-fired power plants. China’s progress this year also includes reports that the country is exceeding targets for energy efficiency, carbon intensity, and clean energy deployment, as well as its energy regulator’s roll-out of new measures to reduce the country’s dependence on coal. 
In the US, utility-scale wind is now cost-competitive with fossil fuel output in many regions, and ongoing reliability reforms will offer a wider role for flexible wind farms. This is especially the case as the Production Tax Credits (PTCs) for wind are set to expire in 2020, which will require wind farms to become more integrated with wholesale markets and grid services.
Tesla has started production of cells for its solar roof tiles at its factory in Buffalo, New York. The company has already begun installing its solar roofs, but it will look to expand production with several hundred employees now working at the 1.2 million-square-foot factory. Tesla’s partner Panasonic will manufacture the solar cells, and Tesla employees will combine these into modules that fit into roof tiles. The company aims to reach 2 GW of cell production annually at the Buffalo plant.
In the UK, the last of the 67 wind turbines at the Dudgeon wind farm off the British coast are now in place, according to an announcement from Statoil. The project was completed on time and below the US$1.9 billion budget, and at peak capacity, the facility will provide service for 410,000 average British homes, though households have already been receiving electricity from the project since February.
Construction has begun on the largest wind farm in Peru, Wayra I. The project, developed by Enel subsidiary Enel Green Power Peru, will have a total capacity of 132 MW once completed. The wind farm is in the district of Marcona, in the Ica region, and it will provide annual consumption needs for the equivalent of 480,000 Peruvian homes.

Electric vehicles

China is working on a timetable to end sales of fossil-fuel-based vehicles, the country’s vice minister of industry and information technology told an industry forum this weekend. China would join Norway, France, and the UK as the only countries to plan a phase-out date for conventional combustion vehicles. And India, which is due to overtake Germany and Japan to become the third largest auto market globally by 2020, aims to have electric vehicles share 44% of its total market by 2030.
While these and other countries’ governments are taking the lead on electric vehicle deployment, companies are also driving global adoption. Volkswagen recently announced it will offer an electric version of all 300 of its models by 2030 and will double investment in zero-emission vehicles to €20 billion. Audi aims for a third of its vehicles to be all-electric by 2020, while Jaguar Land Rover has also announced that all its vehicles will be either electric or hybrid by the same year. Even some utilities are diversifying into electric car manufacturing, as Mumbai-based JSW Energy will open a consumer business in electric vehicles, batteries, and charging infrastructure with the aim of rolling out its first electric vehicle by 2020.
Despite these promising developments, a new study suggests that poor marketing, long delivery periods, and limited choice are undermining the electric vehicle market in Europe. There are just 20 models of battery electric vehicles on sale in Europe, compared to 417 petrol and diesel models. The study notes that on average across Germany, France, UK, Italy, Spain, and Norway, only 2.1% of automakers’ marketing budget was spent on zero-emission vehicles and just 1.6% on hybrid models.
While global adoption of electric vehicles seems poised for rapid growth in the coming years, surveys show that worries about charging, sometimes called “range anxiety”, are one of the biggest impediments to consumers going electric. But range improvements and technological developments that enable faster and more convenient charging are both part of the growing electric vehicle infrastructure that may soon make range anxiety irrelevant for electric vehicle owners.

Energy storage and security

According to a new survey from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), 71 US utilities, about half of the 155 survey respondents, had at least one energy storage installation deployed in their service territory at the end of 2016. Additionally, 80% of utilities surveyed said they’re currently implementing or considering energy storage to defer grid investments. SEPA reported that the storage capacity added by utilities totaled 75.5 MWh (out of 257 MWh) in 2016, with 68.2 MWh going to non-residential customers. The US behind-the-meter storage market also set a record in the second quarter of 2017, with 32 MW of capacity deployed.
The growth of storage in the US has added significance and benefits for grid resiliency, especially considering severe power disruptions that occurred and are on-going due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. In Texas, roughly 300,000 customers lost power during hurricane Harvey’s peak impact while hurricane Irma reportedly knocked out power to around 7.4 million homes and businesses. The substantial human and financial costs of power outages due to extreme weather highlights the need for local, distributed energy systems and microgrids in the US and other countries exposed to risks from similar climate impacts, and energy storage is key to making these systems more resilient.
Energy security and grid resilience are not just at risk from extreme weather. Symantec, a US-based firm that provides cybersecurity services, says a group called Dragonfly 2.0 have gained unprecedented access to companies that supply the US power grid. Researchers at other firms have tied this network to the Russian government, but attributing hacks to specific groups or foreign actors remains difficult. What is particularly worrying about this latest security breach is that the attacks have been aimed at gaining high-level credentials for operational systems so that the attackers can remotely operate the system.

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