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EIA Global Outlook Predicts Gas-Fired and Renewables Rising, Carbon Intensity Falling

By Rod Walton, Senior Editor

Renewable energy’s share of global electricity generation will match coal-fired power by 2040, according to the new international outlook by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Yet both will lag somewhat behind the fast rise of natural gas, the report shows.

The EIA’s latest long-term outlook anticipates that renewable energy will account for 31 percent of worldwide electricity output as wind and solar gain market share. Coal’s overall usage, however, will remain at just more than 150 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) per year for the next few decades.

The changing mix will bring down the carbon intensity of energy output both for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations and still developing nations (non-OECD), as China begins moving away from coal and others embrace lower-emitting natural gas and non-emitting clean energies, according to the EIA.

“Energy intensity has been decreasing for a while,” said Ian Maule, who headed up the analysis for the EIA. “What’s different going forward is that carbon intensity associated with the non-OECD world is also dropping.”

The report shows that the carbon intensity of non-OECD energy use will fall from the current 65 metric tons per billion Btu to less than 60 tons per billion Btu by 2040. OECD-based carbon intensity also will fall from almost 60 to less than 50 tons per billion Btu in the same period.

This happens despite the EIA’s projection that overall energy demand will rise 28 percent globally from the 2015 baseline to 2040. Fast-moving economic development in China and India will account for much of this growth rate.

China will slowly begin ramping down its coal portion of generation beginning 2030, the EIA predicted. The nation’s 13th five-year plan set a goal of capping coal capacity at 1,100 GW by 2020 and cancelled approximately 120 GW of previously planned coal generation projects.

Renewable energy will boast the biggest percentage increase in its share of the generation mix-starting from a smaller baseline, of course-but natural gas will be the preeminent driver of new electricity capacity in coming decades, according to the EIA.

Worldwide natural gas consumption will rise 43 percent through 2040 as both developed and non-developed nations utilize the cheaper, cleaner (compared to coal) and more abundant fuel. The electric power and industrial sectors will account for nearly 75 percent of gas-fired capacity addition during that period.

“Natural gas-fired generation is attractive for new power plants because of low capital cost, favorable heat rates and relatively low fuel cost,” Maule said.

Electricity use in buildings worldwide will grow about 2 percent annually. Economic growth and infrastructure buildouts in non-OECD accounts for a higher portion of that increase, as India moves toward urbanization, in particular.

Residential energy use in developed nations remains flat through 2040, but non-OECD Asia will almost double to 20 quadrillion BTUs, according to the report.


Hydro-Quàƒ©bec Submits Clean Energy Projects to NYPA

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec has submitted two proposals to partner with New York on clean energy projects. Providing incremental hydropower in the near term and for many decades to come, these bids could expand New York’s transmission infrastructure and set the stage for collaboration in selecting new transmission to deliver clean energy resources to where they’re most needed in the state.

In June 2017, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) issued a proposal for the procurement of 1 million MWh of transmission capacity to support the development of the state’s power infrastructure and large-scale, cost-effective renewable projects.

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec submitted two projects for consideration by the NYPA:

Optimizing Existing Infrastructure for Clean Energy Progress

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec can increase deliveries into New York through a transmission infrastructure enhancement project. By upgrading an existing interconnection, Hydro-Quàƒ©bec can provide an additional 700 GWh per year of reliable, renewable energy deliveries.

New Transmission infrastructure

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec proposes to deliver large volumes of hydroelectricity-5.8 to 8.3 terawatt hours (TWh) per year-over a major new or expanded interconnection into New York from Quàƒ©bec. The company would also cooperate with U.S. developers in the design of the transmission infrastructure needed in New York and construct the corresponding transmission facilities needed in Quàƒ©bec. New York is working to have 50 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy by 2030.

Hydro-Quàƒ©bec has been providing clean power to New Yorkers for over a century. Enhancing grid integration, through new or expanded transmission facilities, will improve reliability and cost-effectiveness in New York for decades to come. Interconnected electricity markets are more efficient, using power generated from a range of resources over a broad geographic area. These features lower the cost of producing and managing electricity for the region.

“New York is at the vanguard of clean energy policy initiatives and is set to significantly cut GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions over the next decade,” said àƒâ€°ric Martel, president and CEO of Hydro-Quàƒ©bec. “As North America’s largest supplier of clean energy and a decades-long regional partner, we can offer the reliability, flexibility and strength of our hydropower system in developing solutions to meet New York’s clean energy goals.”


Electric Utilities Handle Hurricanes Best They can, but Major Rebuild to Follow

By Rod Walton, Senior Editor

Three otherwise innocuous names with furious tempers strained parts of the nation’s power grid in ways not seen in more than a decade.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively, in late August and early September. One followed the other in fairly quick fashion, bringing down power lines and causing lingering outages that impacted millions of customers.

The power grid has not endured storm damage like this since hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Weather conditions, which collided with Harvey in south Texas, resulted in a record-setting 50 inches of rain, not to mention the usual torrent of broken poles, downed lines and flooded substations.

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy crews scrambled to restore power to 900,000 customers after Harvey hit in late August. The recovery effort was complicated by what seemed like never-ending rain. AEP Texas suffered more than 200,000 outages, while Entergy Texas and numerous southern region electrical cooperatives worked around the clock to reconnect customers where they could amidst the relentless rainfall.

AEP Texas calculated that Harvey knocked down 3,100 distribution poles and 300 transmission structures in its service area. Another 200 transmission structures were damaged, the utility reported. AEP CEO Nic Akins told interviewers that their part of the grid would have to be “remade,” and others expressed similar viewpoints.

In the midst of the restoration effort, utility officials were frustrated at all the impediments caused by the unprecedented flooding.

“We can’t even get in to assess,” Entergy CEO Leo Denault told a television interviewer in September. “We have to make sure the home is still safe to take electricity.”

Less than two weeks later, another monster with a gentle-sounding name hit the Florida coastline. Irma varied between categories 3 and 5, but was consistent in her barrage of rain and wind, which also downed hundreds of lines and left millions without power.

Florida Power & Light, known as one of the most reliable utilities in the nation, suffered widespread outages that left more than 4 million customers powerless. Tampa Electric, Duke Energy and many others also were hit hard in Florida.

Outages cut service to about one million Georgia Power customers, while Duke Energy crews also were mending the grid in both North and South Carolina. Overall, close to 9 million customers lost their power in the southeast U.S.

Reconnecting the end of the line often was the most difficult work.

“At this point in the restoration, we are nearing the finish line and focusing all of our efforts on the localized level,” Florida Power & Light recorded on its website blog. “We have finished restoring the main lines that provide power to your location and are now going into neighborhoods-and in some cases going house by house. This means we are actually going deeper into the hardest-hit communities.”

Tens of thousands of lineworkers, engineers and other crews from all over the U.S. and Canada answered the call to help with Irma and Harvey. Mutual assistance pacts provided much of the emergency restoration efforts, while many utilities even farther away offered their additional manpower.

Hurricane Maria completely devastated the Puerto Rican grid, which was already struggling with huge debt. Only 5 percent of the nation’s electricity was back on by press deadline for this magazine.


Construction Begins on Cleco-Entergy Transmission Project in Louisiana

By Corina Rivera Linares, Chief Analyst, TransmissionHub

Cleco and Entergy started work on a 36-mile transmission line that is designed to strengthen service reliability for customers across southeast Louisiana.

The line-a joint effort between Cleco and Entergy Louisiana-will run from Gray to Patterson on steel structures that are designed to withstand winds of up to 150 mph, the companies said, adding that the final portions of the project are expected to be completed by fall 2018.

Construction on the Terrebonne to Bayou Vista line-which is entirely within Louisiana-began with right of way (ROW) clearing in mid-August. ROW acquisition is expected to be complete by October, and all environmental permits have been issued for the project.

Cleco’s portion of the project, which includes building 12 miles of the new line and additional related work, will cost about $48 million, while Entergy’s portion of the project, which includes building 24 miles of the new line and additional related work, will cost about $65 million, the companies said.

Cleco is building its portion of the line from its Bayou Vista substation near Patterson to a point at Bayou Boeuf near Amelia, where it will interconnect with Entergy’s line, the companies said. Entergy Louisiana is building its portion of the line from its Terrabonne substation near Gray to a point at Bayou Boeuf near Amelia, where it will interconnect with Cleco’s line, the companies said.

According to the Aug. 3 project update, work on the expansion of the Terrebonne substation began in March, and is scheduled for completion by December. Transmission line construction on acquired ROW is scheduled to be completed by April 2018, according to the project update.

The companies said in their statements that to protect wetlands, Entergy Louisiana will rely extensively on helicopters and marsh buggies to build the new line, which parallels an existing transmission line and will include erecting about 235 new structures. The steel transmission structures will typically range in height from 80 feet to 115 feet, and will be supported on one-piece steel foundations weighing as much as 20 tons, the companies noted. The largest of Entergy Louisiana’s structures will be about 195 feet tall and used in crossing Bayou Boeuf, the companies said.

“The majority of Cleco’s structures and foundations will be similar in design and size to those in the Entergy line with the exception of six structures between 198 and 239 feet tall which are required for crossing three major waterways-Atchafalaya River, Bayou Shaffer and Bayou Bouef,” Dean Sikes, Cleco’s vice president of engineering, construction and project management, said in the statement.


Energy Department Details new Solar Energy R&D Goals, Funding

In conjunction with the annual Solar Power International conference, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released new research that shows the solar power industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiative.

Largely due to rapid cost declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) hardware, the average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Given this success, DOE is looking beyond SunShot’s 2020 goals with an expanded 2030 vision for the Solar Energy Technologies Office.

“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on the secretary’s priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy.”

To further the new priorities for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Simmons announced up to $82 million in early-stage research in two areas:

  • Concentrating Solar Power (CSP): Up to $62 million will support advances in CSP technologies to enable on-demand solar energy. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a focused point where it is collected and converted into heat. This thermal energy can be stored and used to produce electricity when the sun is not shining or integrated into other applications, such as producing fresh water or supplying process heat.
  • Power Electronics: Up to $20 million is dedicated to early-stage projects to advance power electronics technologies. Such innovations are fundamental to solar PV as the critical link between PV arrays and the electric grid. Advances in power electronics will help grid operators rapidly detect problems and respond, protect against physical and cyber vulnerabilities, and enable consumers to manage electricity use.

Awardees will be required to contribute 20 percent of the funds to their overall project budget, yielding total public and private spending of nearly $100 million. The funds provided are not grants, but cooperative agreements, which involve substantial federal oversight and consist of go/no-go technical milestones that ensure attentive stewardship of projects.


Demand for Power Transformers and Monitoring Rises in Asia

Rising demand fueled by energy- intensive industrialization has pushed the Asia-Pacific region into the world’s largest market for power transformers.

“As power generating capacity ramps up across the region, and countries try to balance the demands of bringing grid electricity to their citizens and growing industries, more transformers are being installed in the network,” Pekka Ravila, vice president of industrial measurements at Vaisala APAC, said in a statement. “To ensure the expanding network is able to serve all customers, businesses and governments will need fast, accurate and reliable monitoring of power transformers.”

This growth in the size of transformer fleets will also increase pressure on monitoring and servicing teams. Asset owners will be faced with a compromise of whether to increase budgets or cut costs to service a larger transformer fleet, in which the average transformer is more remotely located.

Accurate and timely monitoring is essential, as transformer failure or extended periods of downtime due to unscheduled maintenance can prove extremely costly, as well as causing significant disruption to networks. In particular, assessing moisture levels in transformers-one of the leading causes of faults-has typically required an extensive and time-consuming manual process. Technicians are required to visit the transformer site to collect samples to be taken to a laboratory. Once in the laboratory these samples are then analyzed to confirm whether corrective action is necessary, and what kind of action that might be.

By contrast, online transformer monitoring devices provide continuous, real-time analysis of a transformer’s condition, and, as they can be directly installed into a transformer’s ball valve, there is no risk of sample contamination. Online monitoring allows technicians to know instantly what faults may or may not be developing in each transformer for which they collect data. Rather than waiting for faults to develop, plant owners and operators can proactively plan for maintenance and the replacement of faulty components, and reduce the number of required maintenance team visits to transformer sites.


Drastic Changes Ahead for Global Electricity Industry Says DNV GL

By Teresa Hansen, Editor in Chief

“The entire electricity industry and its supporting infrastructure have reached a critical watershed, and dramatic changes are in progress.” This is an excerpt from the executive summary of DNV GL’s “Energy Transition Outlook 2017, Renewables, Power and Energy Use Forecast to 2050.” Many people familiar with the industry would agree with this statement, but each person’s ideas about why the changes are occurring would likely be different.

At Solar Power International, which took place in early September in Las Vegas, Ditlev Engel, DNV GL – Energy’s CEO, talked about his company’s forecast and provided an overview of why and how DNV GL believes the energy industry will transition both globally and regionally between now and 2050.

“By 2050, more than one-half of the world’s electricity will come from renewables and the rest will come from fossil fuels, mostly natural gas,” said Engel. “The transition away from fossil fuels to renewables is already happening and it is accelerating.”

DNV GL’s findings also indicate that global energy use will plateau in 2030 and then begin to decline. Its analysis shows that the U.S. has already reached its energy usage plateau.

“For the first time in history, man’s energy demand will decrease instead of increase,” said Engel. “We are close to the tipping point-the point where humanity will start to use less energy.”

Engel said energy efficiency is one of the biggest drivers of this phenomenon.

“Both energy efficiency of products and equipment that use electricity and energy, and the efficiency of renewable electricity vs. other forms of electricity (are responsible for less energy use),” he said. “Coal is about 38 percent efficient and renewables are about 85 percent efficient.”

Engel also pointed out that DNV GL’s study predicts that less energy use does not mean nations throughout the world will see their GDP shrink. This decrease in worldwide energy use means that there will be decoupling between energy growth and GDP, the study predicts.

“We are projecting that the cost of energy will go from 5 percent GDP to 2 percent GDP by mid-century,” said Engel.

This is mainly because of the falling cost of renewables. “Renewables scale fast and cost less,” he said.

From the grid perspective, because renewable energy is increasing and its cost is down, there will be more money to spend on the grid. Money that was being spent on producing electricity will be available for moving and storing electricity, as well as improving reliability, he explained.

In addition, although DNV GL predicts a decline in energy use, it doesn’t predict a decline in electricity use.

Today, electricity provides 18 percent of world energy use, but by 2050 the world energy supply will be 40 percent electricity, said Engel.

“This growth in electricity reflects energy consumption being transferred from other sources,” he said. “Electrification of transport and heat will occur, which will also result in decarbonization of world energy supply.”

DNV GL’s Energy Transition Outlook predicts that electric vehicles (EVs) will reach cost parity with combustion engine vehicles by 2022 and will begin to substantially impact the light vehicle market just a few years later. The company forecasts that between 2025 and 2035, half of all light vehicles sold worldwide will be electric. It’s important to note that the company’s analysis expects percentages to vary greatly from region to region.

In addition, the study predicts that gas will remain an important fuel, but because of the rise of EVs, it will peak in 2038.

This Energy Transition Outlook was discussed at Solar Power International and it, therefore, made sense to discuss solar power’s position in the forecast.

“By 2050, one-third of world’s electricity will come from solar; that’s 85 times more solar than 2015,” said Raymond Hudson, DNV GL’s Global Solar Segment director. “The game changer is the cost of solar, which has come down to the point that it is cheaper than all other forms of electricity generation. And, renewables and energy storage will never be more expensive than they are today.”

Decreasing costs are just one of several things that are accelerating the growth of solar. Its ability, when combined with storage, to improve grid stability and resilience is another advantage, Hudson pointed out.

Solar does, however, pose some challenges to grid operators. The report points out that it’s hard for system operators to plan for solar integration and it’s hard for them to know how to incorporate network cost recovery into the utility business model.

“It is a threat to utility structure,” said Hudson.

Nevertheless, both Engel and Hudson are confident that solar energy (and other forms of renewable energy, especially onshore and offshore wind), often coupled with energy storage, will be substantial producers of electricity by mid-century.

Engel said that public and private partnerships and business-to-customer relationships are and will continue to drive this change. Customers are demanding a green, decarbonized source of energy.

“The world is going green,” he said.

Editor’s note: DNV-GL’s Energy Transition Outlook is available for download at https://eto.dnvgl.com/2017/.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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