Wind and solar costs continued to tumble in 2021, throwing off volatile global supply chains and commodity markets to drive installation of some 163GW of clean energy plant at prices undercutting fossils
Wind and solar power costs continue to tumble despite supply chain crisis and volatile commodity markets, with almost two-thirds of newly installed renewables capacity, some 163GW, in 2021 being brought online at a lower price than the cheapest coal-fired plants in the group of G20 countries, according to new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).
The agency, in its latest Renewable Power Generation Costs report, calculated the average levellised cost of energy for onshore wind fell by 15% year-on-year to $33/MWh, offshore by 13% to $75/MWh and PV by 13% to $48/MWh, noting that current high fossil fuel prices meant renewables added to international grid in 2021 will save around $55bn from global energy generation costs in 2022.
“Renewables are by far the cheapest form of power today,” said Irena director-general Francesco La Camera. “2022 is a stark example of just how economically viable new renewable power generation has become. Renewable power frees economies from volatile fossil fuel prices and imports, curbs energy costs and enhances market resilience – even more so if [the current] energy crunch continues.”
“While a temporary crisis response might be necessary in the current situation, excuses to soften climate goals will not hold mid-to-long-term. Today’s situation is a devastating reminder that renewables and energy saving are the future. With the COP27 in Egypt and COP28 in the UAE ahead, renewables provide governments with affordable energy to align with net zero and turn their climate promises into concrete action with real benefits for people on the ground.”
The report, La Camera said, confirms the “critical role that cost-competitive renewables play in addressing today’s energy and climate emergencies” by accelerating the energy transition toward meeting the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goals.
“Solar and wind energy, with their relatively short project lead times, represent vital planks in countries’ efforts to swiftly reduce, and eventually phase out, fossil fuels and limit the macroeconomic damages they cause in pursuit of net-zero.
Renewables investment continues to return “huge” dividends in 2022, highlighted the Irena report, with 109GW of additions last year in non-OECD countries costing less than the least expensive fossil fuel-fired newbuild, and having the potential to save at least $5.7bn annually for the next 25-30 years.
“High coal and fossil gas prices in 2021 and 2022 will also profoundly deteriorate the competitiveness of fossil fuels and make solar and wind even more attractive,” said the Irena report authors.
“With an unprecedented surge in European fossil gas prices for example, new fossil gas generation in Europe will increasingly become uneconomic over its lifetime, increasing the risk of stranded assets,” they said, pointing to calculus that suggests fuel and CO2 costs for existing gas plants could average four to six times more in 2022 than the lifetime cost of new solar PV and onshore wind commissioned in 2021.
“Between January and May 2022, the generation of solar and wind power may have saved Europe fossil fuel imports in the magnitude of no less than $50bn, predominantly fossil gas.”
Irena flagged concern over pressures on the renewable energy industry supply chains that could come as materials cost increases eventually percolate through into equipment prices and total project development capital expenditure.
“If material costs remain elevated, the price pressures in 2022 will be more pronounced. Increases might however be dwarfed by the overall gains of cost-competitive renewables in comparison to higher fossil fuel prices,” said the agency.
Deepak Garg, Forbes Councils Member has in a Forbes INNOVATION article elaborated on building the connected energy and water future. Here it is :
Building The Connected Energy And Water Future
We have read about many versions of our planet’s future: some good, some bad, some urgent and some distant.
In all versions, collective humanity is responsible for either the downfall or the reconstruction of the planet. Collective responsibility is fascinating. How do we mobilize billions of people toward a common goal? It is equally challenging and thrilling, as grand as it sounds and as aspiring as it can be.
Thinking about today and tomorrow, I imagine the possibilities: a world where energy and water are sustainable and abundant—a world where billions are connected and empowered. And I believe this is happening. We are gradually moving toward a connected energy and water future, with utilities, smart cities and governments playing a crucial role. They are reinventing human experiences, helping people make smart decisions about optimizing energy and water use every day.
There’s no new playbook or secret mantra to this success; the digital platforms and capabilities we’ve built have brought forth a sea of change. With them, utilities worldwide are uniting people around a common goal.
Connection Is Key
By connecting people with new technology for meaningful interactions and with front-line workers to ensure better two-way communication, utilities have started to build a digital ecosystem, enabling them to meet customer expectations and improve responsiveness.
From streamlining billing and payments to being available 24/7, providing personalized omnichannel interactions, advising on programs that help in saving energy and water and giving real-time updates, customers are getting the right assistance at every step from their utilities.
On the other hand, utilities are also enabling their field workforce with digital platforms, thus providing real-time updates, predictive insights, automation and collaboration for them, establishing a direct 1-to-1 connection with the people.
This connection is the key in mobilizing the right stakeholders to achieve sustainable goals.
So, what are we looking at? Right in front of us, we see:
• Digital utilities are changing the way we work. By blending digital investments with sustainability goals, utilities are delivering measurable outcomes.
• The mesh of IoT, AI, analytics, automation and cognitive techniques is improving predictions, personalization and service delivery. This is done by enabling decentralized work and changing how utilities engage with customers and drive workforce efficiencies.
• The next-gen customer experience is here! Utilities are shifting from a static, one-way consumer relationship to one that is dynamic, context-driven and personalized.
• Power lies first in data, then assets. Utilities are developing a long-term approach to field workforce management by reevaluating what role is played by their workforce and technologies—giving more and more to front-line workers, empowering them with data insights to manage operations remotely and engage with customers on a real-time basis.
• Investment is key. To meet their ambitious plans of moving ahead, utilities are prioritizing digital-first investments, reimagining the utility-consumer relationship and restructuring operations.
We have exciting years ahead, marked by decarbonization and decentralization agendas, changing consumer behaviors, evolving expectations and mobile field workforces. These digital-first and human-centric changes deserve applause as we march ahead to a connected future.
The Future Of The Connected Ecosystem
The connected future will be seen in our smarter homes and smarter cities as we become resource savvy citizens. We, as in billions of people, will see the rapid adoption of renewables, distributed energy resources (DERs), electric vehicles (EVs) and more, and we will see our demands for new energy and water services met. In the future, connected ecosystem utilities will achieve ambitious climate targets—not just net-zero but absolute zero. They will build an intelligent and mobile workforce on the ground using the power of predictive and preventive management to meet customer needs and manage assets.
This is the version of our planet’s future that I am most excited and passionate about.
How Do We Move Forward?
It is difficult to pin down exact steps for how utilities can meet these future needs simply because goal posts are shifting, and we never know when the next disruption will occur. However, lessons that we have learned from the past provide a good reference for how we need to adapt.
Broadly, to build a connected energy and water ecosystem, we would need the following:
1. Utilities must adopt a platform mindset that transcends simple service delivery. Utilities are and will become platform businesses that offer bundled services. For example, a digital marketplace enables customers to buy efficient products. Utilities understand their customer, and when they operate as a platform, they transform the way people consume energy and water.
2. Customers and the citizens need to sit at the center of utility operations. What they need today and will need tomorrow will guide connected experiences. They need savings today, and tomorrow, that will evolve into smart home and EV management. Only a truly customer-centric company will fruitfully engage with customers to adapt to this shift.
3. Building a robust technological foundation with pilot projects in emerging areas will help utilities become more agile and innovative. This also encourages further evolution, where business leaders become tech leaders. Tech leaders will evaluate how current processes can be automated and performed intelligently and how silos can be removed, and teams will then be able to collaborate and work toward a common goal.
4. Lastly, lessons from peers and other industries are always helpful. Keeping a close tab on what other companies are doing helps in widening our perspective and avoids tunnel vision.
I am elated by how much the energy and water industry has evolved in the past couple of years. I’m eager to see where these ambitions will lead them in the coming years.
As anyone who visits Egypt between the months of May to September can attest, the weather gets hot, often uncomfortably so.
That is especially true in Cairo—a megacity home to nearly 22 million people—where the mercury can hit 40°C. Those sky-high temperatures are partially a product of the so-called ‘heat island effect,’ which sees buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s warmth more than natural landscapes.
Research shows that things will only get worse for cities due to the climate crisis. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that by the year 2100, many cities across the world could warm as much as 4°C if greenhouse gas emissions continue “at high levels,” – a potential health hazard for inhabitants.
With millions of people in need of air conditioning, it’s no surprise that so much of the power consumption in Cairo is related to cooling. “During the peak summer months, 50 per cent of the electric power goes to air conditioning,” said Alaa Olama, a UNEP consultant, the Head of the Egyptian District Cooling Code and the author of the book District Cooling: Theory and Practice.
Egypt is currently building 22 ‘smart cities’, making the country an ideal location for state-of-the-art cooling technologies, said Olama. Many of those efforts have focused on developing city-wide cooling systems that do not rely on electricity from fossil-fuel-fired power plants.
This is particularly important in the fight against climate change because cities contribute greatly to global warming. Rising global temperatures and warming cities create a vicious cycle where increased demand for cooling systems adds to carbon dioxide emissions that further contribute to global warming and create the need for even more cooling.
According to the International Energy Agency, cooling produces more than 7 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and these emissions are expected to roughly double by 2050. Amidst rising temperatures, the number of air conditioners in use is expected to rise to 4.5 billion by 2050 from 1.2 billion today.
To help break this cycle, UNEP is working with governments to adopt more climate-friendly cooling practices. For example, UNEP recently concluded a feasibility study on a district cooling system called the Seawater Air-conditioning system for New Alamein City, on the north coast of the country.
Here is how the Seawater Air-conditioning system works: Coldwater taken from deep in the Mediterranean Sea is pumped into a cooling station and passed through a heat exchanger, where it absorbs heat from buildings. Cool air generated from the cold water is used to maintain comfortable temperatures in the buildings, while the warm water is sent back into the sea.
Initially, the project would consist of a single district cooling plant to be built over two years, with 30,000 Tones of Refrigeration (TR) capacity, sufficient to cool entire neighborhoods. The Seawater Air-conditioning system is estimated to cost US$117 million in building production facilities and a further US$20-25 million for the distribution network.
With this cooling system, the city would reduce refrigerants emissions by 99 per cent and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 per cent. This is particularly important because these reductions will help Egypt meet its requirements to phase-down hydrofluorocarbon emissions established by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This landmark multilateral environmental agreement regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals called ozone-depleting substances.
The feasibility study to assess the potential for district cooling in New Alamein City will be published in late May 2022. It is expected to analyze whether it would be financially and technically viable to build a district cooling solution that would reduce or avoid using hydrofluorocarbons.
The study was initiated through the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol, and UNEP supported the development of an institutional framework. The efforts are being elevated through UNEP District Energy in Cities Initiative, which is taking the study to the level of execution.
UNEP’s support for the study is part of a larger effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that come with cooling.
In Egypt, UNEP’s OzonAction team is also supporting the development, update, enactment and enforcement of specialized nation-wide codes for ACs, district cooling and refrigerant management, as well as green procurement processes.
The UNEP-led Cool Coalition is helping cities in India, Viet Nam and Cambodia develop environmentally-friendly cooling strategies. It is also supporting the construction of networks of freezers, known as cold chains, that can hold everything from farm produce to COVID-19 vaccines.
The concept of using cold water to provide cooling for cities has taken root globally. For instance, in Canada’s largest city, Toronto, the local government implemented the largest lake-source cooling system in the world. Commissioned in 2004, Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system uses cold lake water as a renewable energy source. Similar large-scale projects have also been built in the United States and France.
This technology, which was pioneered in the West, has in recent years become popular in the East in the Gulf and Emirate States, which boast the greatest number of district cooling technologies. “It’s an important solution for new cities,” said Olama.
Hosted by Sweden, the theme of World Environment Day on 5 June 2022 is #OnlyOneEarth – with a focus on ‘Living Sustainably in Harmony With Nature’. Follow #OnlyOneEarth on social media and take transformative, global action, because protecting and restoring this planet is a global responsibility.
UNEP is at the forefront of supporting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2°C, and aiming for 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. To do this, UNEP has developed a Six-Sector Solution, a roadmap to reducing emissions across sectors in line with the Paris Agreement commitments and in pursuit of climate stability. The six sectors identified are: Energy; Industry; Agriculture & Food; Forests & Land Use; Transport; and Buildings & Cities.
America is in a fast pursuit toward achieving President Biden’s stated goal that “we are going to get rid of fossil fuels” to achieve the Green New Deal’s (GND) pursuit of wind turbines and solar panels to provide electricity to run the world, but WAIT, everything in our materialistic lives and economies cannot exist without crude oil, coal, and natural gas.
Everything that needs electricity, from lights, vehicles, iPhones, defibrillators, computers, telecommunications, etc., are all made with the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.
The need for electricity will decrease over time without crude oil. With no new things to power, and the deterioration of current things made with oil derivatives over the next few decades and centuries, the existing items that need electricity will not have replacement parts and will ultimately become obsolete in the future and the need for electricity will diminish accordingly.
The Green New Deal proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and focus on electricity from wind and solar, but why? What will there be to power in the future without fossil fuels?
Rather than list the more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, I will let the readers list what is NOT dependent on oil derivatives that will need electricity. They can begin listing them here ______ ________ _______.
And by the way, crude oil came before electricity. The electricity that came AFTER the discovery of oil, is comprised of components made with those same oil derivatives from crude oil. Thus, getting rid of crude oil, also eliminates our ability to make wind turbines, solar panels, as well as those vehicles intended to be powered by an EV battery.
Today, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels are all the rage with big banks, Wall Street firms, and financial institutions, to divest in all 3 fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil. Both President Biden and the United Nations support allowing banks and investment giants to collude to reshape economies and our energy infrastructure toward JUST electricity from wind and solar.
A reduction in the usage of coal, natural gas, and crude oil would lead us to life as it was without the crude oil infrastructure and those products manufactured from oil that did not exist before 1900, i.e., the decarbonized world that existed in the 1800’s and before when life was hard, and life expectancy was short.
Ridding the world of crude oil would result in less manufactured oil derivatives and lead to a reduction in each of the following:
The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range merchant ships that are moving products throughout the world.
The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range jets used by commercial airlines, private usage, and the military.
The number of wind turbines and solar panels as they are made with oil derivatives from crude oil.
The pesticides to control locusts and other pests.
The tires for the billions of vehicles.
The asphalt for the millions of miles of roadways.
The medications and medical equipment.
The water filtration systems.
The sanitation systems.
The communications systems, including cell phones, computers, iPhones, and iPads.
The number of cruise ships that now move twenty-five million passengers around the world.
The space program.
Before we rid the world of all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, the greenies need to identify the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep the world’s population of 8 billion fed and healthy, and economies running with the more than 6,000 products now made with manufactured derivatives from crude oil, along with the fuels manufactured from crude oil to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of more than 50,000 jets and more than 50,000 merchant ships, and the military and space programs.
Open government policies should be focused on reducing our usage, via both conservation and improved efficiencies, to REDUCE not ELIMINATE crude oil, and reduce its footprint as much as practical and possible, is truly the only plan that will work.
Wind and solar may be able to generate electricity from breezes and sunshine, but they cannot manufacture anything. Again, what is the need for the Green New Deal’s electricity from breezes and sunshine when you have nothing new to power in the future?
Ronald Stein, Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California.
Solar Appreciation Day 2022: Here’re Some Unique Use of Solar Technologies Worldwide to Combat Energy Crisis
India’s budget for FY2022-23 clearly highlights the country’s priority to double down for ‘green’ and renewable energy, particularly solar, to combat climate change and meet the emission reduction targets set for 2030.
Moreover, as the Ukraine-Russia war continues, coal and natural gas prices are surging sharply across the globe. With the soaring power bills, several European and Asian countries are seeking alternatives to Russian supplies. And using technologies based on solar energy is a comparative quick fix to the energy crisis.
Meanwhile, Solar Appreciation Day 2022 is here, which is celebrated globally on every second Friday of March. The day has become all the more significant amid the ongoing climate and energy crisis. On this day, here are some unique solar technologies that demonstrate the immense potential of solar technologies to address the needs of the modern world.
Solar trolley invented by a farmer from Haryana
Pradeep Kumar, a farmer from Haryana, has built a mobile solar plant with panels mounted on a trolley that can be moved on demand. The trolley is custom made as per the user’s requirements.
In an interview with The Better India, Pradeep said, “the devices come in two sizes and carry solar panels which provide electricity of 2 HP and 10 HP. The trolley can also be mounted to the back of a tractor and has sturdy wheels that allow it to move over uneven surfaces.”
The cost-effective technology has benefitted over 2000 farmers so far.
Bihar’s floating solar power plant
The Mithila region in North Bihar is called the ‘Land of Ponds’ and is taking complete advantage of its gift. A floating solar plant is set to be commissioned in the region, consisting of 4,004 solar modules. Each module lodged in a pond can generate 505-megawatt peak (MWp) electricity and nearly 2 MW of green and clean energy. The plant can supply electricity to 10,000 people in the state.
The main benefit of a floating solar power plant is that the water cools the solar panels, ensuring their efficiency when temperatures rise, resulting in increased power generation. It also minimises evoporation of freshwater and aids fishery.
This innovation has hit two birds with one stone: producing green energy from solar panels and promoting fish farming underwater.
South Korea’s solar shade
In South Korea, a highway runs between Daejon and Sejong and its entire bike lane on the 32 km stretch is covered with solar roof panels. Not only do they generate sufficient electricity, but they also isolate cyclists from traffic and protect them from the sun.
The two-way bike lane is constructed right in the middle of the road, while there are three other lanes for vehicles to travel on either side. This also obstructs the high beam lights of oncoming cars.
Using the technology, the country can intern produce clean, renewable energy.
Solar-powered desalination technique by Chinese and American researchers
Desalination process is considered to be among the most energy-intensive activities. Now researchers have developed a solar desalination process that can treat contaminated water and generate steam for sterilizing medical instruments without requiring any power source other than sunlight itself.
The design includes a dark material that absorbs the sun’s heat and a thin water layer above a perforated material that sits atop a deep reservoir of salty water such as a tank or a pond. The holes allow for a natural convective circulation between the warmer upper layer of water and the colder reservoir below and draw the salt from the water.
Not only is the solar-powered desalination method efficient but also highly cost-effective.
Saudi Arabia’s goal of sustainable development using solar technology
Dry-climate arid regions are prone to droughts and often face water scarcity. While local food production would have been a distant dream for countries that host mostly deserts, scientists in Saudi Arabia have developed a unique solution using solar technology.
In an experiment, they designed a solar-driven system that could successfully cultivate spinach using water drawn from the air while producing electricity. This proof-of-concept design has demonstrated a sustainable, low-cost strategy to improve food and water security for people living in dry-climate regions.
“Our goal is to create an integrated system of clean energy, water, and food production, especially the water-creation part in our design, which sets us apart from current agrophotovoltaics,” says senior researcher Peng Wang.
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