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E.On to expand board for integration of innogy

Immediately after the takeover of innogy, E.On’s Supervisory Board is to be expanded by six to 20 members – for a limited period until its new election in 2023. 

“For a successful integration, we will also need experience and knowhow from innogy in the Supervisory Board of the new E.On on both the shareholders’ and employees’ side,” said Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the E.On Supervisory Board.

At E.On’s request, three additional shareholder representatives will initially be appointed by court order shortly after completion of the innogy transaction. Their confirmation is scheduled for the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in 2020.

The three additional employees’ seats are to be appointed by representatives of today’s innogy. “It is very important to us that the approximately 40,000 employees of today’s innogy as well as shareholder representatives are represented on the Supervisory Board of their new company as soon as possible and thus already during the ongoing integration,” said E.On CEO Johannes Teyssen.

E.On’s Annual Stockholders’ Meeting on May 14, 2019 will decide on the joint proposal of the board of management and the supervisory board to expand the supervisory board. In 2023, the size of the supervisory board is to be scaled down to twelve members.


U.S. solar market tops 10 GW in 2018, again

For the third year in a row, the U.S. solar industry installed double-digit gigawatts (GW) of solar PV capacity, with 10.6 GW coming online in 2018, according to the latest statistics from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

It’s a 2 percent decrease from 2017 but forecasts indicate the market rebounding in the years ahead, said the groups. SEIA’s president and CEO, Abby Hopper said the 2 percent decrease was due to “growing pains” which can be attributed to solar tariffs.

“The total amount of solar installed in America is on track to more than double in the next five years, proving solar’s resiliency and its economic strength.  It’s clear, this next decade is going to be one of significant growth,” she added.

2019 looking good, especially Texas and Florida

Total installed PV capacity in the U.S. is expected to rise by 14 percent in 2019 with annual installations reaching 15.8 GW in 2021. In addition to a market outlook, the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie released a report that details how the industry performed in 2018 in each segment.

In 2018, non-residential PV saw an annual decline of eight percent due to policy transitions in major markets. Utility-scale solar underwent a seven percent contraction in 2018, largely related to Section 201 tariffs.

Yet, while annual growth fell in both the non-residential and utility-scale solar sectors, residential solar growth stabilized in 2018 after the previous year’s contraction. The U.S. residential solar market has now seen five consecutive quarters of modest growth, and the fourth quarter of 2018 was the largest quarter for residential solar in two years. Nearly 315,000 households added solar in 2018.

Texas and Florida, two states with generally low solar penetration, stood out in 2018, adding more capacity than some of the highest penetration states. These emerging solar markets are poised to become the engines of growth for residential solar in the U.S.

Solar was 29 percent of new electricity capacity in 2019

In total, solar PV accounted for 29 percent of new electricity generating capacity additions in 2018, slightly less than in 2017 due to a surge in new natural gas plants. However, in 2018, 13.2 GW of utility-scale solar power purchase agreements were signed, pushing the contracted project pipeline to its highest point in the history of U.S. solar.  

Wood Mackenzie also increased its five-year forecast for utility PV by 2.3 GW since Q4 2018. This was the result of a large volume of project announcements, the inclusion of more solar in long-term utility resource planning and an increase in project development driven by renewable portfolio standards and growing corporate interest.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • In Q4 2018, the U.S. solar market installed 4.2 GWdc of solar PV, a 139 percent increase from Q3 2018 and a 4 percent increase from Q4 2017. This brought the annual total to 10.6 GWdc, 2 percent lower than 2017.
  • For the sixth straight year, solar was one of the top two sources of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S.
  • Cumulative operating solar photovoltaic capacity now stands at 62.4 GWdc, about 75 times more than was installed at the end of 2008.
  • After a year in which residential solar experienced 15 percent contraction, 2018 marked a year of rebound as the market grew by 7 percent. Q4 was the largest quarter for the residential solar segment in two years, a sign that the residential market is stabilizing. In total, 314,600 new residential PV systems were installed in 2018.
  • Non-residential PV saw an annual decline of 8 percent, largely due to policy shifts in states like California and Massachusetts.
  • There were 6.2 GWdc of utility solar installed in 2018, accounting for 58 percent of total U.S. annual capacity additions.
  • After the uncertainty of the Section 201 tariffs passed, 13.2 GWdc of utility solar PPAs were signed in 2018, though mostly with expected commercial operations dates in years after the tariffs have stepped down. The contracted pipeline peaked in Q3 2018 at 25.3 GWdc, the highest in the history of U.S. solar.
  • Wood Mackenzie forecasts 14 percent growth in 2019 compared to 2018, with over 12 GW of installations expected.
  • Total installed U.S. PV capacity will more than double over the next five years, with annual installations reaching 15.8 GWdc in 2021 prior to the expiration of the residential federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and a drop in the commercial tax credit to 10 percent for projects not yet under construction.

New York utility installing battery to reduce peaks in non-wires alternative plan

This week, ConEdison subsidiary, Orange & Rockland Utilities (O&R) and Key Capture Energy (KCE) announced that O&R has selected KCE, an Albany-based, independent developer of utility-scale battery storage projects, will plan, design, install and operate O&R’s new battery storage project in Pomona. 

The battery for Pomona will connect to the O&R system through O&R’s overhead distribution lines. The project will allow O&R to delay building costly new infrastructure that’s designed to accommodate energy use at its peak — an event that occurs only a few times during the year.

In the RFP for the project, O&R said it was seeking a distributed energy storage system that could provide load relief of 2 MW of power for a total discharge period of six consecutive hours (12MWh) from a single or combination of locations and providers.

The battery storage project is part of O&R’s Pomona Non-Wires Alternative (NWA) Project, a program designed to help O&R maintain reliable service for customers and reduce emissions from power plants. This program is comprised of an array of strategies designed to provide smarter energy management. O&R said that new energy products and services, such as the Pomona battery storage project, provide the region with environmental benefits, while also creating new jobs and economic opportunity. This project supports New York State’s initiative to install 1,500 megawatts (MW) of battery storage throughout the state by 2025.

“New technologies give us new options,” said O&R Vice President – Operations Francis W. Peverly. “Using those options, we can build a more resilient energy system while minimizing future costs to our customers. Working with third-party developers, we are incorporating world-class solutions to meet the local needs of our energy system and our communities.”

From Data Centers to Demand Curves, Experts mull over the Future of Energy

HOUSTON-The power generation picture used to be like a non-Dorian Gray portrait. Static, predictable and rarely changing.

Well, that portrait has gotten snap-chatted endlessly, cut into pieces and now evolving all the time. It may require years to truly understand where it’s all going.

CenterPoint Energy’s Gary Hayes predicted that a spirit of “coop-etition” among utilities and partners which will be most responsible for the shape of this next-generation electricity mix. He was talking about banding together during a panel on “The Future of Energy” last week at ABB’s Customer World event in the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

The event drew close to 10,000 people, and a sizable portion of those listened to Hayes and the other panelists describe the various challenges from several fronts in the new and ever evolving power generation dynamic.

The group covered a lot of ground, from utilities to vendors to end users and regulators. It included Hayes, who is chief information officer at Houston-based CenterPoint; Joe Kava, vice president of data centers for Google; former Energy Department Assistant Secretary Charles McConnell; and Claudio Facchin, president of the Power Grid division for ABB.

Innovation and speed will carry the day toward victory, as always, but this uncertain future makes it difficult for energy companies. This sector is not always quick to give out a do-over.

“It’s very difficult to innovate in the energy space, because it’s an incredibly capital-intensive business,” said McConnell, who was DOE’s assistant secretary for fossil energy for several years ending in 2013, later to become executive director of Rice University’s Energy and Environment Initiative. “That’s why the industry has a tremendous burden on itself.”

Kava represented the environmentally conscious corporate element which is also very conscious of its buying power. Google is committed to powerful its vast, energy-hungry data centers with 100 percent renewables and likes the certainty of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs)

The company, whose parent Alphabet’s market capitalization is comparable to Microsoft and Amazon, demands clean energy options but possesses the buying power to make major wind and solar projects happen at scale. Google has engineered deals in Tennessee, Alabama and even Taiwan lately to spur creation of utility-scale wind and solar farms.

“You can either partner with us or be left behind,” Kava said. “For the ones who partner with us it works out.”

Accounting for every cost makes it in a company’s best interest to know what its long-term fuel costs will be. To which he added. “And as far as I know the sun and the wind are still free.”

Of course, it’s not that simple. Utilities must deliver reliable, quality power and know how to smooth out the intermittencies of weather-related energy sources. This brings other factors into play such as digitization, control technologies, energy efficiencies and, yes, traditional resources such as coal and gas-fired generation.

“It’s not a race to renewables; it’s a race to lower carbon emissions,” the former regulator McConnell noted. “We’re not going to throw the coal out with the baby and bathwater.”

The power generation mix’s “all of the above” approach is not going to evaporate in the short term, he pointed out. The economics are tilting in clean energy’s favor for the time being, however, and utilities are retiring coal-fired plants, while also building units fueled by low-cost natural gas.

Plants and equipment are still at the heart of capital projects. ABB’s Facchin underlined that historical point, while noting that the game changer in operations is software, analytics and emerging technology such as artificial intelligence.

“No doubt that mission-critical physical infrastructure and investing in technology is at the core,” Facchin said. “We need copper and iron to transform the electrons” and breakers that come with embedded intelligence to optimize the capex.”

No matter how much is spent on what, the coming generation mix will be more diverse than ever, not only in resource but point of origin. This would include rooftop solar power moving through a bi-directional grid, as well as utility-scale conventional and renewables. That energy could move from turbine to substation to customer, or from peer to peer via blockchain-activated transactions.

“We look to move from an energy grid to an energy internet,” CenterPoint’s Hayes said.

(Rod Walton is content director of Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177).



Weak El Nino Phase Persisting

The weak El Nino phase in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean is persisting as sea-surface temperatures continue to be slightly warmer than average for the most part. The latest long-range climate models suggest that this weak El Nino will remain in place throughout the rest of the spring season and then may gradually weaken back to a neutral phase as we head toward the summer months.

As for the April temperature outlook, parts of the Pacific Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast are forecast to see temperatures average slightly above normal. A monthly deficit of late-season heating degree days of between 20 and 40 is projected across these regions of the country.

Late-season energy costs with respect to heating may also be a little lower in these areas during the month of April. On a whole, temperatures are predicted to be closer to normal across much of the Plains, Rockies, Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast during the month of April.


Why Broadband is a Better Bet than Coal for Rural America

In my years as CEO of two different power-supply electric coops, one in Kentucky and the other in Colorado, I came to deeply appreciate the hardworking coal miners whose tough jobs had always been so indispensable to power generation.

I felt for those miners as the forces of regulation and economics shifted our coal-powered industry toward natural gas. Across coal country, proud and vibrant small towns suffered enormously as mines closed and good-paying jobs faded. They suffer still.

For those mining towns, it would be wonderful if coal could once again be king. The truth is that no amount of political rhetoric can alter a fundamental reality of the U.S. energy system: Coal has no chance of competing with natural gas. Not only is natural gas cheaper and cleaner than coal, but gas-fired generating plants also are easier to permit and faster to build.

Fortunately, a movement is growing that actually could make a real difference for overlooked rural communities. According to a report published this past January by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), more than 100 electric co-ops now aim to provide broadband to rural communities in which this infrastructure is desperately needed. Citing statistics from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and academic researchers, the authors note that:

·         6.3 million households in electric co-op service areas lack broadband Internet access (25 megabits per second download speed, 3 megabits per second upload speed);

·         these households will lose $68 billion in economic value over the next 20 years alone due to this lack of connectivity;

·         30 percent of rural Americans have no access to broadband, compared to just 2 percent in urban areas;

·         40 percent of all U.S. schools lack high-speed Internet access, and more than three-quarters of these are in rural areas or small towns, and

·         60 percent of healthcare facilities outside of metro areas lack broadband.

Discouraging as these numbers may sound, we may not actually know the full extent of the problem, according to Jeffrey Sural, director of the broadband infrastructure office at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. Writing for the Triangle-focused news site WRAL TechWire, Sural argues that FCC data on rural broadband has led to a “wildly inaccurate” map for both North Carolina and the country as a whole. That’s because ISPs provide the FCC with data on broadband access based on sweeping generalizations about entire census blocks of American households. “If there are 100 homes in a census block and one of those homes can receive Internet service at broadband speeds ” the other 99 homes are counted as having access to that same service even if they don’t,” Sural explains.

NRECA’s analysts sum up the state of affairs this way: “Millions of rural Americans are locked out of the modern economy simply because of their ZIP code ” These rural families and businesses are fighting an uphill battle in the digital economy.”

Of course, this type of divide is hardly unprecedented. Back in the 1920s, people in rural areas were still using candles and kerosene even though the average American city had already been electrified. Even as late as 1932 power lines ran to just 10 percent of the countryside.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt made this issue part of his 1932 presidential campaign and worked with Congress to establish the Rural Electrification Administration (REA),” wrote historian Harold D. Wallace. “Rather than simply build power systems, the REA made loans to electric cooperatives that were repaid over 30 years. Country folk came together, organized cooperatives, and provided labor to build the systems that they ultimately came to own.”

Given this history and legacy, it would be particularly poignant for America’s rural electric coops to bridge the broadband divide, too. Some are already moving forward with plans to do so. For example, the 24,000-member Tipmont REMC reportedly is rolling out high-speed Internet access to the rural Indiana communities it serves, and a subsidiary of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative will reportedly spend $38 million on high-speed Internet in northwest Alabama.

Lawmakers in states like Georgia and Mississippi are working to give coops explicit legal and regulatory permission to get into the broadband business. My home state of Tennessee (I grew up on a farm in Cookeville) took precisely such a step by passing the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017. Newly elected Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee used his first executive order this past January to call for accelerated rural development in the state. Lee is a staunch supporter of broadband expansion.

The availability of $950 million in new federal incentives for rural broadband is part of the reason for the increased momentum. While these incentives represent an encouraging start, the consensus is that much more investment is needed for this national project to truly take off.

In its report, NRECA calls for grants and loans of at least $40 billion over 10 years. Cognizant of the problems with the FCC’s map of U.S. broadband access, the association also recommends more accurate reporting: “FCC Form 477 data is self-reported by industry and unverified, resulting in over-estimating broadband availability,” the analysts wrote. Lastly, NRECA recommends putting a priority on projects in low-density areas and that steps be taken to make sure federally funded broadband systems keep pace with evolving data needs over time.

Rural coops have an obligation to contribute to the quality of life of their members. They rose to that challenge in the 1930s by pulling off one of our society’s greatest accomplishments—the electrification of rural America. A successful effort to roll out rural broadband could bolster communities that have been hard hit by the loss of family farms, the declining demand for coal, rampant closure of rural hospitals, struggling school systems, the onset of the opioid crisis and many other challenges. In past eras, major employers seeking to open a new facility made no secret of their need for power, water, natural gas and transportation. High-speed Internet access is now on that list as well. Broadband availability can be a critical factor in whether a particular rural community lands a new car factory or solar panel manufacturing plant. It enables schoolchildren to do their online research and tests at home instead of having to find a public place with high-speed Internet access, and it greatly expands healthcare options by connecting doctors and patients at a distance.

Investing in rural broadband will pay dividends for millions of Americans for decades to come. The expense represents a major challenge, to be sure, and there are many other logistical issues to be resolved, such as the need to avoid cross-subsidization of revenues from the power side of the business.

Still, those electric utilities that have not yet explored their options with respect to rural broadband should consider doing so. The effort could include working with counsel to determine the legal, financial and regulatory issues in play; launch broadband subsidiaries; file applications for federal funds (deadlines are rapidly approaching); and explore the logistics of working with expert third parties. They could also consider supporting the lobbying and educational efforts by NRECA and others seeking to promote rural broadband.

By all accounts, rural America feels disconnected from the wired, populous and prosperous coasts. A major investment in rural broadband could literally and metaphorically reconnect these communities with the rest of the country.

About the author: Roy M. Palk is Senior Energy Industry Advisor for national law firm LeClairRyan. A 45-year veteran of the power business, the Glen Allen, Va.-based attorney was President and CEO of the East Kentucky Power Cooperative. His past roles also include serving in several top positions for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA); roy.palk@leclairryan.com


Germany vows to be completely coal-free by 2036

Renewable, energy efficiency groups mount united front vs. Trump budget

Energy efficiency programs, clean energy and environmental regulations could take deep cuts if President Trump’s proposed budget gets everything what he wants, although it’s politically likely that he will not.

The administration’s fiscal 2020 budget would trim the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office by $1.6 billion, or 70 percent of the fiscal 2019 appropriation. Overall, the DOE requested a $31.7 billion budget, an 11-percent decrease.

The Environmental Protection Agency budget request totaled $6.1 billion, a 31-percent cut from the nearly $9 billion allocated for fiscal 2019, according to reports.

“President Trump’s budget supports the Department’s vast mission in a fiscally responsible way, and makes clear that success will be measured not by the dollars spent but by the results achieved on behalf of the American people,” reads the DOE statement announcing the budget. “It calls for strategic investments in our energy security and national security, supporting America’s continued rise as an energy independent nation. Under President Trump’s leadership we have empowered American energy, with the U.S. becoming the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, and now exporting LNG to 34 countries across five continents. The budget request also focuses on moving America forward by investing in transformational science, innovation, and technology. The Department of Energy’s National Labs are the crown jewels of America’s innovation and this funding will continue to support their work from Artificial Intelligence to renewables, clean coal and Advanced Nuclear technology. The budget proposal also funds the modernization of our nuclear stockpile, the aging infrastructure that supports it, and ensures a safe and effective system for our nuclear Navy for years to come.”  

The statement said funding would continue to support the DOE’s National Labos programs, including work on artificial intelligence, clean coal and renewable energy. It also allocates money for support advanced nuclear energy technology.

Trump’s overall administration budget cut across all fronts except military spending. It also allocated about $8 billion toward building a wall along the border with Mexico.

Energy efficiency took a huge hit. One detail noted by critics of the budget proposal was that, under the plan,  the EnergyStar appliance program would be funded entirely from user fees. It could cut the EPA’s vehicle emissions program completely, according to reports.

“This proposal, if enacted, would cause Americans’ energy costs to rise, while killing jobs around the country,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of advocacy group The American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy, in a statement. “Energy efficiency directly supports 2.3 million U.S. jobs and indirectly many more. In addition to putting these jobs at risk, these cuts run counter to the administration’s own goals of promoting economic growth and reducing wasteful spending. We hope Congress will stand up for business owners, workers, and consumers by blocking the proposed 2020 budget cuts.”

The ACEEE statement also said that the DOE’s appliance standards, vehicle emissions and building codes programs will save Americans billions of dollars through 2030.

Trump’s budget must go through a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, in which all appropriations bills must begin. In previous years the presidential administration has proposed major cuts to EPA and clean energy programs beyond even what was announced this week.

For instance, two years ago the newly installed Trump Administration proposed 31 percent cuts to EPA funding for fiscal 2018, but the Republican-controlled Congress approved an $8.1 billion budget that kept the agency level with fiscal 2017.


Storage system built at world’s biggest solar park

An energy storage system has been installed at the largest single-site solar park in the world.

The battery storage facility has been built at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai and marks the first storage system to be twinned with a PV plant at a grid-scale level in the United Arab Emirates.

NGK Insulators supplied the batteries and electrical engineering company Ingeteam was responsible for the supply of a 1.2 MW power conversion system with its medium voltage components, plus the power plant controller.

UAE utility Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) want to trial the storage system to evaluate its effectiveness in stabilizing grid fluctuations caused by intermittency of renewables.

The storage system will be also used for energy time shifting, frequency control and voltage control by using the large capacity of the batteries.

The solar park is being built in phases, has a planned capacity of 1000 MW by 2020 and 5000 MW by 2030 and will use both photovoltaic and concentrated solar technologies.

The 13 MW first phase became operational in 2013 using PV panels, with a 200 MW second phase launched in March 2017. A further 800 MW of PV will be online by 2020.

The fourth phase of the solar park will be a concentrated solar park and will feature the tallest solar tower in the world at 260 metres.

Germany vows to be completely coal-free by 2036

Germany is vowing to turn its back on coal power generation, announcing a plan to close all of its 38 coal-fired plants within 19 years.

Stories in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere reported that a German national commission announced that conclusion after a marathon meeting this weekend. Germany generates 40 percent of its electricity from coal and plans to bring that percentage to zero by 2038.

The move will surely cause economic pain in the nation’s coal-heavy regions, so the government is planning to spend some $45 billion on mitigating that damage, according to the report. Germany’s coal-mining industry is among the world’s largest for the time being.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is expected to approve the plan. German leaders hope to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030, so the nation will likely add renewable energy projects to replace the coal-fired retirements.

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times story”