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

In the UK, £18bn Hinkley Point C has been given the go ahead by the government, subject to safeguards to prevent Chinese involvement threatening national security. For more information, Carbon Brief have compiled the media reaction across the UK. 

Scotland launched the world’s first large scale tidal farm this week, with the first of four 1.5MW turbines, beginning its journey to the waters off the north coast of Scotland between Caithness and Orkney. Ultimately, Atlantis Resources hopes that the project will have 269 turbines and generate enough electricity to power 175,000 homes. 

In Sweden, Vattenfall have won a tender to build two offshore wind farms for $67.33/kWh, 20% lower than the previous record. Low costs are supported by the location (close proximity to the shore in the Danish North Sea) and reduced costs of foundations and transportation, and the project is anticipated to have a total capacity of 350MW.

While critics of renewable energy suggest that increasing growth will lead to price fluctuations, a comparison of the average price of power from 2010 to 2015 across 40 US states (20 with heavy investment in renewables and 20 without) suggests that this is not the case. The average price increase across the 20 renewable states was 4.3% when comparing the average from 2010 to 2015 with the average over the last 18 months, but 4.6% for the 20 states that had the least investment in renewable energy. Now there’s a compelling reason to boost investment in renewables, which are, in fact, outpacing demand for the first time ever, according to seven new charts complied by the Carbon Brief.  

The future of solar

While predictions around solar uptake have seemed to suggest a downturn for the rest of the 2016 following overcapacity in Q1, the latest report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ahead of Solar Power International (SPI) 2016, now anticipates the US installing over 10GW in H2, to meet the total annual forecast of 13.9GW. Utility scale PV accounted for 53% of H1 installations, and over 10GW is already under construction for the rest of the year, expecting to account for 70% of new capacity. 


However,  a panel of experts at Solar Power International (SPI) 2016 suggest that barriers in regulation, communication and technology still prevent the industry reaching the mainstream market. Perhaps the Department of Energy’s additional $107 million in funding for solar power projects under its SunShot Initiative will overcome these, with its aims to support both the technology development as well as demonstration projects. 

While rooftop PV may not be doing so well in the US, Australia hits 5.1 GW of small scale systems, with over 18,884 installations in Queensland so far this year, bringing the total number of individual systems across the country to 1.58 million. Additionally, 12 new projects, for a total of 482MW of capacity were recently awarded funding in Australia’s breakthrough utility-scale solar funding round.


Australia is making news on the storage front too. Globally, pumped hydro storage  dominates the industrial scale storage market, and now an abandoned gold mine in Australia is set to join the hundreds of pumped hydro schemes worldwide to provide grid stability. However, this will be the world’s first large scale “off-river” solution, in which the same water will cycle continuously between two reservoirs in a closed loop, minimising negative environmental impacts. 

To meet their growing need for stable power, India and China are anticipated to lead the growth of the non-hydro storage market; Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts 45 GW of non-hydro storage will be installed globally by 2024, supported by Navigant’s prediction that revenues will reach $10.8 billion by 2025, up from less than $1 billion this year, with the largest growth of up to 9.3GW in the industrial building segment in the next 10 years.  

The US is also seeing growth in the storage market, driven by falling costs and increasingly favourable markets and policy. California, Oregon, and Massachusetts have energy storage procurement goals, and procurement is being further driven by events such as back-up power needs due to superstorms in New Jersey, substation deferment in New York, and gas shortages in California. In fact, Tesla has just won a bid to supply 20MW/80MWh of grid scale power in Southern California to help prevent the shortages following the gas leak earlier this year. While most storage today has been deployed in front of the meter delivering value direct to the grid, behind the meter customer sided storage, providing value to both the customer (e.g. savings costs through reduce peak load demands) and the grid, is expected to catch up and eclipse grid installations by the end of the decade. 

And the UK wants to play catchup; speaking at ‘The Cutting Edge: developing a world-class energy storage industry in the UK’, a Westminster event organised by the  Renewable Energy Association (REA), the MP for Waveney said that the UK needs to put regulations in place to move energy storage forward to its full potential in the UK. In fact, Peter Aldous, UK Member of Parliament and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Energy Storage, believed that Brexit has given the UK an opportunity to become a pioneer for an energy storage revolution, though according to Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the REA, this mean accelerating the forthcoming call for evidence on energy storage, due to take place this Autumn.

Going beyond chemical storage, New York's Consolidated Edison are partnering with Axiom Energy in a storage project focussed on refrigeration. 1.5 MW and 2 MW of storage systems will be installed to shift 6 MWh to 8 MWh of load; by harnessing large refrigeration loads to shift cooling to off-peak hours. The system uses existing refrigerators’ excess capacity at night to freeze a tank of salt water, to provide refrigeration services during peak daytime hours.

Innovative projects

According to Navigate, three key megatrends are creating a fundamental shift in the energy sector. The decoupling of energy consumption and GDP growth in EU counties since 1990, the increasing impacts of climate change and drive toward low carbon economies, and the rise of prosumers and distributed energy resources, and forcing utilities to explore new revenue streams and business models to create shareholder value going forward. They have started to embrace DER; in Germany in particular utilities like RWE and E.ON are shedding centralized generation assets and positioning themselves as enablers and integrators of new DER resources. 

And in the US, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has recognised 5 new and innovative projects in its Solar Power Player 2016 awards. Pepco took away IOU of the year award for their online application for residential and small business customers who want to go solar, as well as their advanced system monitoring and analytic capabilities which are to be  applied in a DER integration demonstration project combining a 1.7 MW photovoltaic solar system at a local university, along with smart inverters, a 500 kW/350 kWh battery storage, and flexible load controllers. 

Hawaiian Electric Companies (HECO) took the Solar Champion award for supporting over 17% of its customers install PV, enabled largely through the use of real time data and control to monitor and manage power quality and voltage. The Village of Minster took the Public Power Utility award for their 3MW solar plus 7MW storage system providing power to the community.
Oglethorpe Power’s Green Power Electric Membership Corp (GPEMC), one in the 23-member National Renewables Cooperative Organization (NRCO) won the Electric Co-op award for supporting the growth of 38 cooperatives in Georgia by pooling the demand of small owner-members to make propositions work financially. Finally, the Clean Energy Collective took the Innovative Partner away for brining an “end-to-end” platform to the market to help community solar develop by supporting financing, legal, marketing, construction, and maintenance complexities, factors than can often be prohibitive in getting programmes off the ground.

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