This is a regular blog series where GPI staff share picks throughout the year of what we’re interested in right now, from podcasts to analysis (click here for our previous picks).
Renewable energy deployment is critical to achieving global emissions reduction targets and can provide broad benefits to communities. A new study on rooftop solar looks beyond the economic factors of who is benefiting from the increase in solar rooftop installations; the authors find that even when controlling for income and education, there are evident racial and ethnic disparities in rooftop solar installations, regardless of solar availability. While the authors do not identify a cause(s) of the disparities, they suggest potential factors, including the role of social diffusion (the notion that behavior can be sparked and driven by social networks, such as those that exist in neighborhoods), and the lack of diversity in the solar industry’s workforce. As we work with cities and communities and other stakeholders, from planning efforts to expanding infrastructure, it will be important to prioritize how we can address disparities in who receives economic and environmental benefits of transforming the energy system.
- Jessi Wyatt, Associate Energy Planner & Analyst
In this article, PV magazine shares what it refers to as a “bombshell” of a statement by NextEra CEO Jim Robo, who said on a recent quarterly results call that solar and wind plus energy storage will be “massively disruptive to the conventional fleet,” and that he expects the costs of wind, large-scale solar, and storage to go below today’s natural gas generation costs—and that includes post-federal tax credits. Robo noted that IRS guidance for the solar investment tax credit will also enable them to continue “substantial solar and storage growth well into the next decade.” The article provides detailed context for Robo’s remarks, including how NextEra is investing in large-scale solar and storage in the coming years, illustrated by a table of expected projects over specific timeframes. As GPI works with stakeholders on pathways to decarbonize our energy system, it is noteworthy to hear from one of the largest power companies how bullish they are on solar and storage, and to see how they’re backing those statements up with investments.
- Rolf Nordstrom, President & CEO
In late January, much of the Midwest found itself in the grips of an arctic air mass that settled in for several days. While we are accustomed to these types of cold spells (or at least resigned to them), much of our building stock was not designed nor built for this weather. As we look to reduce emissions from building energy use, energy efficiency remains to be a major strategy. Through deep energy efficiency, we allow for more flexibility in how we meet energy demand, create healthier and more comfortable indoor environments, reduce the energy burden among low-income households, and have the opportunity to create local jobs. This article highlights some of the issues that were revealed by the sub-zero temperatures and opportunities to address them.
- Abby Finis, Senior Energy Planner
Article | “‘Grid-Flexible’ Solar and Wind–What It Means for Our Future,” by Morgan Putnam (Clean Power Research), John Sterling (First Solar) & Mark Ahlstrom (NextEra Energy Resources) on the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) website
This article describes how renewable energy resource can be treated as a dispatchable, predictable form of electric generation. Dispatchable wind and solar is not necessarily a new concept, but this article takes the idea further, presenting the research and modeling that shows “grid-flexible” solar and wind is economically better for both the renewable energy industry and the power sector—and ultimately necessary for achieving high-renewables futures. One of the primary studies demonstrating this is the Minnesota Solar Pathways’ ‘Solar Potential Analysis’ managed by a Minnesota team of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, GPI, the Center for Energy and Environment, the Clean Energy Resource Teams, and working with Clean Power Research.
- Brian Ross, Senior Program Director
Carbon capture and storage can be a complex suite of technologies to track given that each component of the process involves technologies and infrastructure that range from long-established on commercial scale, such as CO2 pipelines, to carbon removal technologies that are in pilot stages. That’s why the annual Global Status of CCS report from the Global CCS Institute is such a valuable resource. The report provides the latest on major projects around the world and identifies key opportunities and challenges for increased deployment. The institute’s CEO Brad Page shared that “2018 may well go down as the year when the stars started to again align for CCS.” With the passage of the 45Q tax credit in 2018 and additional, newly introduced carbon capture legislation in this Congress, it looks like we’re continuing to move in the right direction.
- Jennifer Christensen, Managing Editor & Senior Writer