By - Jim Vess

States take the initiative on energy policy and legislation while gridlock reigns in Washington

Energize Weekly, October 11, 2017 Energy policy, legislation and initiatives are alive and bipartisan in the state houses across the country even as they are bogged down in the nation’s capital, according to the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. More than 12,500 energy bills were introduced in state legislatures between 2013 and 2016, with 1,926

By - Jim Vess

The battery market for industrial and commercial facilities is growing across the country

Energize Weekly, October 4, 2017 The use of battery storage by business and industry to help manage electricity bills is growing rapidly and could potentially be used by millions of commercial customers across the country, according to a recent analysis. Utilities are also installing storage, sometimes coupled with solar or wind installations and sometimes in place of substations, to enhance

By - Jim Vess

Wave of pollution control installations as EPA deadline approached favored activated carbon technology

Energize Weekly, October 4, 2017 A wave of mercury control technology installations—mainly lower-cost activated carbon systems—were made at coal-fired power plants just before the final April 2016 compliance deadline for new emission standards, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA’s preliminary annual electric generator survey shows that there was an increase in installations just before the initial

By - Jim Vess

Sharp drop in 2017 solar module prices imperiled by Suniva trade case ruling

Energize Weekly, September 27, 2017 Driven by falling solar module prices, the cost of utility-scale photovoltaic installations have dropped 30 percent this year, but a federal trade ruling issued Sept. 22 could jack those prices up again. The quarterly solar benchmark study by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found the cost of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays declined

By - Jim Vess

The cost of wind power could be cut in half with better modeling and management, NREL study says

Energize Weekly, September 20, 2017 Technological improvements could cut the generating costs of wind power in half, making it as economical as natural gas generation—and the key isn’t just a new turbine, blade or tower, but a supercomputer. A new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in Golden, Colo., outlines an approach to maximizing wind farm efficiency through

By - Jim Vess

Residential solar market set to have its first annual decline in 2017

Energize Weekly, September 20, 2017 Solar installations were at near-record levels in the second quarter of 2017, but the rooftop solar market was weak. The forecast is that residential solar will see its first down year ever. The analysis comes from the quarterly market study by GTM Research, a Wood Mackenzie company, and the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry

By - Jim Vess

Transmission investment rises spurred by aging infrastructure and a changing grid, survey finds

Energize Weekly, September 13, 2017 Transmission investment has become a growing focus among utility industry executives, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “Long-term investment, reliability and aging infrastructure are three of the industry’s top five fundamental concerns,” according to the annual Strategic Directions survey done by the Overland Park, Kans.-based engineering and consulting group. The two other concerns

By - Jim Vess

Researchers increase solar cell efficiency by more than 50 percent—cost is the big hurdle

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 Swiss and American researchers have developed a silicon-based solar cell with efficiencies as high as 36 percent—a 50 percent increase over the best performing cells on the market. The cells were developed by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and École Polytechnique

By - Jim Vess

Xcel Energy proposes replacing two coal-fired plants with mix of wind, solar and natural gas

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 Xcel Energy is proposing closing two Colorado coal-fired plants and adding wind, solar and natural gas-fired generation—raising its proportion of renewable electricity production in the state to 55 percent by 2026. “We are very committed to decarbonizing when the technology and policy choices make it possible to do so,” said David Eves, president of Xcel’s

By - Jim Vess

Four trends will reshape the global power sector, says GTM analysis

Energize Weekly, September 6, 2017 The global power sector is being transformed by four potent trends—decarbonization, electric vehicles, decentralization and extending energy access—according to an analysis by the cleantech marketing and consulting group, GTM Research. “The power sector is constantly evolving, but rarely in modern history has it seen such rapid change as it faces today,” Shayle Kann, who leads

By - Jim Vess

Cities push for 100 percent renewable electricity—whether the goal can be met still debatable

Energize Weekly, August 30, 2017 The push to reach 100 percent renewable electricity generation, led by U.S. cities, is sweeping the nation, but what that means and whether it can be done is still a subject of intense debate. Forty cities have set some sort of 100 percent renewable goal. In 2015, Hawaii adopted a renewable power target of 100

By - Jim Vess

Lawrence Berkeley study finds wind and solar may be saving lives and dollars

Energize Weekly, August 23, 2017 Wind and solar generation, in addition to becoming economically competitive, have also provided billions of dollars’ worth of clean air, decreased pollution-related deaths and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study. The study—which calculates the reductions in air pollutants linked to wind and solar replacing fossil fuels between 2007

By - Jim Vess

Solar in tandem with battery storage gaining traction among utilities

Energize Weekly, August 23, 2017 The hottest couple in the utility industry these days may be photovoltaic solar generation and battery storage. The pair is being seen all over the country. Drawbacks to photovoltaic (PV) panels include their intermittent production and the difficulty of matching that production to demand. When the sun isn’t shining, utilities opt for alternative generation. When

By - Jim Vess

The future of the robust U.S. wind market is uncertain as subsidies and mandates end

Energize Weekly, August 16, 2017 The wind energy market is being spurred by declining prices and rising efficiency, but faces a challenging future with the loss of federal subsidies, competition from other types of generation and weak wholesale power markets, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report. The study, 2016 Wind Energy Technologies Market Report, was done by researchers

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities get ready for a solar power blackout during coming total eclipse

Energize Weekly, August 8, 2017 The total solar eclipse set to sweep across the sky on Aug. 21 is going to knock out power from photovoltaic solar panels, and nowhere will the darkness have more impact than in the West. The eclipse will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow across the country affecting solar arrays from Oregon to South Carolina, briefly turning

By - Jim Vess

Corporate power purchase agreements are rapidly growing

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 Corporate power purchase agreements, initially the domain of high-visibility, multi-billion-dollar enterprises, are increasingly being used by smaller companies, as well as municipalities and non-profit institutions. The use of the agreements, or PPAs, has soared in the last two years and is on pace for another robust year, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables

By - Jim Vess

New York announces $440 million transmission project to boost renewable energy generation

Energize Weekly, August 2, 2017 A $440 million project to upgrade a 75-year-old transmission line to carry renewable energy was announced last week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The rebuilt 78-mile transmission line—the project has been dubbed the Moses-Adirondack Smart Path Reliability Project—will help carry wind and hydropower from northern New York to the populated areas downstate. The plan

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota study shows solar-storage tandem becoming an alternative to peakers

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 Solar arrays linked to energy storage could be an economic and environmental alternative to natural gas peaking plants in Minnesota by 2023, according to a study submitted to the state’s Public Utilities Commission. The study, Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities, was developed by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the

By - Jim Vess

As natural gas prices rise, coal-fired electricity generation takes the lead

Energize Weekly, July 26, 2017 After natural gas-fired generation slipped ahead of coal as the main source for U.S. electricity for the first time in 2016, rising natural gas prices are giving coal new life this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2016, natural gas supplied about 34 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, while coal,

By - Jim Vess

Western utilities eye joining Southwest Power Pool, state regulators are wary

Energize Weekly, July 19, 2017 The Mountain West Transmission Group, which represents utilities in eight western states, is considering joining the Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) wholesale market, a move that is raising cost and reliability questions among state officials. More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity moves through regional wholesale markets, operated by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) or Independent

By - Jim Vess

New analytical tool measures generation costs on price of natural gas, strength of the wind and sun

Energize Weekly, July 12, 2017 Utilities across the country, when building new generation, are opting for natural gas-fired plants, wind farms or solar installations. The three have dominated industry investment and a new analytical tool could aid utility executives in deciding which to build. The electricity industry is already planning to increase natural gas-fired generating capacity by 36.6 gigawatts in

By - Jim Vess

Suniva trade cash could slash solar installations, company challenges those estimates

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 The push by an U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer to have tariffs slapped on imported solar cells could lead to more than a 50 percent drop in new solar installations between 2018 and 2022, according to analysis by GTM Research. The company seeking the tariff, Norcross, Ga.-based Suniva Inc., said GTM Research has gotten the figures

By - Jim Vess

Minnesota is adopting a methodical approach to grid modernization

Energize Weekly, July 5, 2017 Minnesota—unhampered by the pressures facing some other states—is taking a step-by-step approach in planning and developing a smart grid, one that could be a template for others. The biggest initiatives in grid modernization are in states like New York, where in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there were serious reliability issues, or California and Hawaii,

By - Jim Vess

Colorado Utilities Commission approves Xcel grid modernization plan and revenue decoupling

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took two steps toward modernizing the state’s electricity system June 21 by “decoupling” Xcel Energy revenues from the sale of kilowatt-hours and approving a $612 million grid modernization program. The commission endorsed a five-year decoupling pilot under which the PUC will set an annual revenue target for Xcel, the

By - Jim Vess

More than $10 billion to be spent on new generation worldwide—most of it on renewables

Energize Weekly, June 28, 2017 The world’s energy mix is continuing to evolve with wind and solar projected to account for 82 percent of the installed generation capacity by 2040, as the role of coal and even natural gas decline, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast. Installed solar capacity will increase 14-fold and wind capacity fourfold by

By - Jim Vess

Price of solar falls below $1 a watt, but future prices imperiled by trade case

Energize Weekly, June 21, 2017 The federal SunShot Initiative set a goal of an installed price for photovoltaic solar modules of less than $1 a watt by 2020. It looks like the future is now as module prices in 2017 have dipped below $1 a watt. “The price for a module dropped much faster than anyone expected,” said Ben Gallagher,

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired plants cheapest to build, wind farms the cheapest to operate, EIA data shows

Energize Weekly, June 14, 2017 The cost of building new electricity generation is coming down across the board with the biggest strides in natural gas-fired plants, according to construction surveys by the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). From 2013 to 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, the cost of a natural gas plant dropped 28 percent

By - Jim Vess

States and utilities across the country are moving on grid modernization, survey finds

Energize Weekly, June 7, 2017 Actions to modernize the nation’s electric grid—some small, some sweeping—are underway this year by utilities, state regulators and legislators in 37 states and the District of Columbia, according to a new survey by the NC Clean Technology Center. “We are still at an early stage,” said Autumn Proudlove, a senior policy analyst with the center.

By - Jim Vess

As renewable electricity is added to the grid, are power markets misfiring?

Energize Weekly, May 31, 2017 When increasing megawatt-hours of variable solar and wind energy began coursing through the grid, the initial concern was an operational one—could grid reliability be maintained. But it turns out those megawatt-hours are creating market challenges, as well. What needs to be done to right the markets? Travis Kavulla, vice chairman of the Montana Public Service

By - Jim Vess

Xcel grid modernization gets wary reception at Colorado utilities commission

Energize Weekly, May 24, 2017 A proposed $612 million grid modernization program by Xcel Energy for its Colorado system came under sharp questioning from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) at a hearing May 16. The plan is contained in a unanimous settlement agreement between Xcel and 10 parties, including the commission staff, big industrial customers, representatives of the solar

By - Jim Vess

Colorado legislation seeks to retire aging plants while softening local job and tax impacts

Energize Weekly, May 3, 2017 The utility industry is going through a time of transformation as it moves away from older generating units—coal-fired and in some cases, nuclear—to newer technologies such as combined-cycle natural gas and renewable resources. With that change can come not only expense, but economic and social dislocations as communities lose tax base and jobs. In Colorado,

By - Jim Vess

Lawrence Livermore energy flow charts show renewable energy increase, energy efficiency down

Energize Weekly, April 19, 2017 Renewable energy resources are growing in the U.S., but overall energy efficiency is flagging, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The flow charts track the sources of energy for the nation and where it is used. Comparing 2016, the most recent year available, with 2011 showed

By - Jim Vess

Demand charges seen as a barrier to the growth of public EV charging stations

Energize Weekly, April 12, 2017 The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) and the charging stations they need is often described as a “chicken-and-egg” problem—but the prospects for adding stations is being scrambled by high electricity rates, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). The analysis of 230 California stations run by EVgo, the nation’s largest operator of

By - Jim Vess

NREL study finds battery storage expensive, but future prospects bright

Energize Weekly, April 5, 2017 A new federal study seeking to get beyond “the hype” on residential energy storage and set baseline costs puts the price of including a home battery with a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at $12,000 to $14,000. “There has been a lot interest recently and a lot of hype,” said Kristen Ardani, principal author of the

By - Jim Vess

Growth of distributed renewable generation poses challenges for bulk electricity market

Energize Weekly, March 29,2017 The growth in renewable energy resources—particularly ones distributed across the grid—provide both an opportunity and a management challenge for the wholesale bulk-power market, according to a report from the ISO/RTO Council or IRC. The report by IRC’s Emerging Technologies Task Force identifies three key areas that operators of these regional power systems must deal with: integrating

By - Jim Vess

Wind and Solar dominate a big year for new generating capacity in 2016

Energize Weekly, March 22, 2017 The broad shift in U.S. electricity generating capacity—as coal declines while natural gas and renewable resources rise—has been easy to see in the overall numbers, but a federal analysis has drilled down in the data, offering stark illustrations of what is going on. The percentage of electricity from coal-fired generation declined to 33 percent in

By - Jim Vess

Solar PV sets a record in 2016 and is top choice for new generating capacity

Energize Weekly, March 15, 2017 The U.S. solar market—led by utility-scale projects—set a record in 2016, doubling its previous high and adding more generating capacity than wind or natural gas for the first time ever, according to a new report. A total of 14,762 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) came online in 2016 or 39 percent of all the

By - Jim Vess

National Grid’s REV demonstration project, an interview with lead project manager Jonathan Nickerson

Energize Weekly, March 1, 2017 In July 2015, National Grid launched the Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar REV Demonstration project, which will install photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays on as many as 100 homes in a low-to-moderate-income neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. The solar systems will be owned and operated by the utility and put power directly onto the grid rather than into

By - Jim Vess

Batteries seen as a more than $2 billion market by 2020, but challenges remain

Energize Weekly, February 22, 2017 Battery storage has been getting a big boost from financial and market analysts who see revenues reaching more than $2 billion by 2020. Still, some renewable energy experts caution that there remain a number of hurdles the technology must overcome. In early February, Morgan Stanley issued a report saying that the growth of battery storage

By - Jim Vess

Black & Veatch: DER the single biggest accelerator of change

Energize Weekly, February 15, 2017 The major concerns of utility executives remain traditional ones—reliability, security, infrastructure and environmental rules—but new technologies and distributed generation are roiling the industry, according to a survey by Black & Veatch. “It’s the arrival of environmentally conscious microturbines, fuel cells, photovoltaics, wind turbines, improved energy storage and other advanced power technologies—all pushing distributed generation toward

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas-fired generation set to grow rapidly in U.S. fueled by low gas prices

Energize Weekly, February 8, 2017 The utility industry is set in the next two years to add 36.6 gigawatts of natural gas-fired generation—the most in more than a decade, according to data from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). If all the proposed projects come online, it would increase natural gas generating capacity 8 percent over the capacity at the

By - Jim Vess

Natural gas and wind are cheapest clean generation technologies, Texas study finds

Energize Weekly, February 1, 2017 Natural gas and wind are the lowest cost options for new electricity generation in the vast majority of the United States when health and environmental impacts are factored in along with traditional costs, according to a University of Texas study. Wind energy dominates in the core of the country—home to a high-wind corridor—from north Texas

By - Jim Vess

Corporate energy plans are playing a bigger role in the renewable energy market

Energize Weekly, January 25, 2017 Big companies—from Google to the candy maker Mars—have become big players in the renewable energy market, which has until now been dominated by utilities. In 2105, large corporate customers contracted for a record 3.2 gigawatts of renewable energy, including the majority of wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) for the year, and another 1.6 gigawatts was

By - Jim Vess

Renewable electricity could overtake coal-fired by 2040 according to federal forecasts

Energize Weekly, January 18, 2017 In the next two decades, the nation’s utility sector faces a transformation in which natural gas and renewable energy could become the dominant sources of electricity generation, according to projections from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). Among renewable generation sources, both wind and solar generation will surpass hydropower, which has historically been the main

By - Jim Vess

Solar installations led by utility-scale projects poised to set a record for 2016

Energize Weekly, December 21, 2016 Installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in the United States reached a record 4,143 megawatts in the third quarter of 2016—double the previous quarter and up 191 percent compared to same quarter in 2015, according to a study by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar accounted for 60 percent of all the

By - Jim Vess

Connecting renewable generation to the grid faces technological and regulatory challenges

Energize Weekly, December 14, 2016 A wave of renewable energy generation construction has swept the nation, accounting for the majority of new capacity over the last two years, and that has led to a new challenge—getting it all on the grid in the most efficient way. “The competitiveness of wind and solar has made them a go-to option,” said Aaron

By - Jim Vess

Big utility projects can present big challenges in dealing with the public

Energize Weekly, December 7, 2016 Big utility projects—wind farms, power houses and transmission lines—often spark big public opposition or at a minimum, public concern. Addressing these issues is a key step in getting the projects off the ground, utility executives say. When it comes to transmission lines, Arlee Jones, project manager for Tampa Electric, said, “The biggest concerns we hear

By - Jim Vess

NREL Data Book charts growth of renewable-electricity generation in 2015

Energize Weekly, November 30, 2016 Renewable energy generation continued to grow in the U.S. even as demands for electricity decline, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2105 Renewable Energy Data Book. The Data Book  issued this month is compiled by NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy. “Since it was first released in 2009, the Renewable Energy Data

By - Jim Vess

Colorado utility commission approves sweeping Xcel rate and solar plans

Energize Weekly, November 16, 2016 The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week approved a sweeping settlement agreement for Xcel Energy that will boost solar energy and introduce new rate structures for the state’s largest electricity provider. “Unlike some other states in the country, we were able to break the stalemate between the utility industry and the solar industry,” said

By - Jim Vess

Xcel plans for large, low-income solar energy program in Colorado

Energize Weekly, November 2, 2016 The growth in solar energy has been dramatic in the U.S., but for the most part, low-income households unable to afford rooftop arrays or shares in solar gardens have been left out in the cold—that may be about to change in Colorado. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, is proposing a plan for nearly

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