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Thank you for your article. When you mention “Using stored power will always cost more than using it directly”, what about in the current energy transition, when overnight prices of power are negative – i.e. when demand is low and coal/nuclear generators have very high shutdown/startup cost. Their negative offers represent very real power system economics, and storage technologies (be it pump hydro or batteries) are paid for their consumption, and later for their production. To the society, of course, the lifetime cost of this energy is higher (production+storage+release), yet the reality of the operational constraints of generation technologies come into the picture when assessing whether storage has a place in a modern grid. It might or it might not (and according to the market it does in some cases), but a blanket “always costs more” can be misleading. In your example of arbitrage, consider this, and also the rapidly decreasing costs and technologies in batteries. As an example, a price spread of -$30 to $40 will yield lower customer prices than a price spread of $30 to $40. Whether the value storage provide is higher than the cost is perhaps best left to the market, or whether flexibility is best suited (appropriate market products for flexibility will likely be required).
And thank-you for your thoughtful and interesting comment. Here at FORESIGHT we couldn’t agree with you more, especially about letting the market decide when and where the value of storage is higher than its added cost. That is exactly our point. Rather than governments stepping in to support uptake of storage, far better that market demand determines when storage makes overall economic sense for society.
I understand why you question our statement that storing electricity always adds cost. But as your question makes clear, cost and price are two different quantities. The cost of storing and releasing the power comes in addition to the cost of producing it. Either this cost is included in the price of electricity, or as price-support paid by consumers as taxpayers. One way or another, as you point out, it is the consumer who pays. In your example of price spreads, it strikes me as unlikely that stored green electricity will be offered at lower negative prices than electricity offered by fossil/nuclear generators. Burdened as they are by the high shutdown/startup cost you refer to, it can make financial sense to avoid this cost by paying a lesser price to offload their generation, unlike providers of stored electricity. Any generator will need to recoup its negative-price losses by jacking up the price of its product another time. The higher the loss, the higher the subsequent price. Renewable energy will also need to make up for periods of low or negative prices. All this adds cost for the consumer, costs that a narrow price spread can avoid.
If my observation of energy markets and energy policy over the past 35 years has taught me nothing else, it is that governments are wont to step in and tweak market regulations to avoid or achieve specific outcomes, whether to benefit producers, consumers or their popularity with voters. But no longer can energy be subject to the vagaries of politics and policy errors. We need holistic and far-sighted policies focused on a fast and affordable energy transition. A misguided belief in the need for storage is just one market-tweak-risk among many. Stimulating over-investment in storage services will add unnecessary cost to the energy transition. It will rob cheaper and better flexibility solutions of market opportunities. The pace of global warming does not give us the time to indulge in such expensive diversions, nuclear among them.
Lyn Harrison, special report editor
This article contains some rather questionable assertions. For example, the statement that 1) “Large scale electricity storage within
the power system is not part of the country’s plans for meeting its 100%
clean energy goal.” But does that plan not include the continued importing of large amounts of stored hydropower from Sweden and Norway? That is, please explain to me how, w/o a major biofuel breakthrough, one can truly achieve 100% renewable energy from inherently intermittent sources w/o some form of storage.
Or how about, 2) “Using stored power will always cost more than using it directly.” Are you comparing apples to oranges? That is, wind is now falling linearly but solar and battery storage costs are still falling logarithmically. So, what happens if the LCOE of solar/wind + storage drops below all fossil fuels? Would statement 2) still be true? Frankly, I don’t see how.
Moreover, nothing talks like money, but beyond current and projected market forecasts, the statement that, 3) “Even on a system entirely reliant on renewable energy, alternatives to storage are cheaper for meeting most needs.” begs the question, “Cheaper for who and how long?” For today’s utilities and investors? How about the price to sustain a techno-based civilization?
That is, we now generate a continuous 18 terawatts of waste heat, while fossil fuel combustion has altered the Earth’s energy budget enough to trap perhaps 400 continuous terawatts of excess heat. Thus, we’re living with a trapped to waste heat ratio above 20. Yet, how can one deny that the long-term ratio for a sustainable civilization is not zero? With a projected 50% increase in the world’s population w/i this century, what that ratio implies is that 75% or even 90% renewable will not suffice. So, even if storage is and will remain more expensive (a dubious claim), it looks to me like either pay now, or pay a lot more later.
Some good observations here and I would like to add on your point 1):
This is true and in reality import/export of electricity is not a viable solution in the long-term, when neighbouring countries will also have excess amounts of variable renewable generation at certain points of time.
However, the point is that at a system-scale it is cheaper to use thermal storage in Denmark (2 orders of magnitude cheaper than grid battery storage) plus there is also a possibility for the last step to use ultra cheap liquid fuel storage (produced via electrolysis and different synthesis processes, which production is still super expensive today).
But one would definitely like to charge batteries in (future) vehicles via smart charging, and not via on-demand charging. That would already significantly integrated vast amounts of variable renewable energy sources.
So my conclusion would be, storage will be needed but not necessarily in the form of grid-battery storage.
[…] Part I: The not so essential role of electricity storage […]
Yes stored energy will be more expensive than direct energy. The question is : by how much? Right now the answer is probably “a huge amount”, with no hope of a breakthrough in sight despite decades of research. So with no viable storage available, we see the recourse to imposing renewables onto unwilling consumers by subsidies and forced mandates.
So, sensibly recognising the insurmountable storage hurdle, you (Foresight) look to broad interconnectedness with smart switching in and out of sources. Fine in theory, but is it viable? Or does it too need political privileges that hammer the citizenry ?
Ergo, the many advantages of (instant, fire-free power, low or no degradation, 100% dischargeability, unlimited scalability) vanadium flow batteries for utility-scale storage may eventually overcome merely piggy backing onto a commercial pricing lead for Li-ion that’s based on mass producing automotive batteries. That is, the VFB’s lower energy density is, for stationary systems, not a deal breaker. So, the 800 MWH VFB system being built in China’s Dalian/Liaoning province may be the wave of the future. Or, maybe not. We’ll see.
[…] Note from editor: While storage is widely seen as the essential missing piece in the energy transition puzzle, FORESIGHT believes that on closer examination the case for storage is far from clear cut. Read our in-depth analysis of the issue here. […]
The joint work of architects and engineers to achieve “liveable cities” is one of the good examples of climate adaptation since it is aiming both for value and solution. Also, by using this concept city resilience will be improved in a long-term perspective. However, not only city arrangement and stormwater collecting, but also an effluent water quality at the end of the pipe should be considered before the stormwater released into the sea.
[…] NGOs cannot disclose the contents of these papers, on March 13th, Foresight Climate and Energy Business reported that one paper, co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, […]
[…] March 13th, Foresight Climate and Energy Business reported that one paper, co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, […]
[…] March 13th, Foresight Climate and Energy Businessreported that one paper, co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, […]
We should also consider the mineral recycling capacity of wastewater treatment technologies, particularly phosphorous – a key nutrient for our crops. Its reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate and, if we do not change the way we harvest and use such mineral, we’ll run out of it in short time (for more information regarding this issue please read: Prud’Homme, M. (2010). Peak Phosphorus: an issue to be addressed. Fertilizers and Agriculture, International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA). February 2010). Recovering phosphorous from municipal wastewater is a technologically feasible alternative, which can help developing a more sustainable agriculture in the future, securing food production at low costs.
As a close observer of the process of the planning of this new waste incineration facility in Copenhagen I would like to focus on an aspect which is not addressed in the discussion of the “beautiful” waste incinerator. The planning process is one of the worst cases of blind, path-dependent planning by public institutions ever seen in Denmark. The waste incinerator is planned with a too big capacity compared to the available amount of waste in the Copenhagen Region.
There was no involvement of the environmental organizations by the owning municipalities when the plans for the investment was developed. Public hearing took only place when the height of the incinerator and other details was sent into public hearing. The case illustrates the danger of understaffed public authorities, which are not involved sufficiently in the public planning by the publicly, owned companies. This problem will probably become even bigger if the present national government succeeds implementing their strategy for a more privatized supply sector.
The planning of the incinerator took place exactly at the time when it would have been timely to discuss in Denmark a reduction of the future incineration capacity and maybe a merger between the two big incineration companies near Copenhagen. Due to the discussions that was raised “in the last moment” by some politicians and NGOs the planning process was re-opened and a reduction of the plant capacity discussed. However, there was a strong lobbying taking place from the Labour Party in order to ensure the (possible) supplier of the incineration chambers more orders and increased employment by using this new incinerator as a window of exhibition.
A strange compromise was made where the size of the incinerator was kept but the company was not allowed to use the full capacity. During the process the company changed its name from “incineration company” to “resource company” and the company was forced to develop a stronger waste recycling strategy. Today the waste incineration company has huge economic problems, probably because of the too big capacity of the new incinerator it has invested in. It is now discussed to burn waste from the UK at the facility!
Very good article and it is interesting that the district cooling is being developed in the north of Europe. We should also think how to disseminate the knowledge to the souethern-european countries in an effective way as one would believe that there is a potential for district cooling even to regular buildings and flats and not only for large consumers. Hopefully the above-mentioned companies will increase their presence there, too.
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[…] my latest opinion piece in the Foresight magazine why I think that m0re gender equality would help to accelerate the energy […]
Good points. However, it is heavily inclined towards facts about EU policies and recycling. It would be nice to get a wider picture, too. What are recycling rates worldwide and how could we improve it? Will it be possible to force recycling of panels even for producers that come outside of the EU?
In the end, the point of coal pollution is very important. When we start to critisize solar photovoltaic panels, we need always think on what is the alternative. If the alternative is coal generated electricity, panels are definitely less harmful solution and that should be always emphasized.
[…] Ensure a people-centred approach, such that the gains are shared equitably and the transition is just […]
I tend to agree with the DNV conclusions about the natural gas having a bigger role in the future. While hydrogen could be an alternative, much more time will pass before the technologies of using it mature and will become widely spread. The fact that it is potentially hazardous, will make it even more difficult to be advertised for people to use. Natural gas, on the other hand, is a well known solution with all the infrastructure for using it in place. The attempt to speed up some processes (like shifting from gas to hydrogen or having 100% renewables) should be performed with extreme caution in order not to create additional problems.
By contrast, for its newly urban work force, China let developers build hundreds of millions of poorly or wholly uninsulated housing units that may last another 50 years. The world cannot allow India to do the same. We can and must all do better.
Natural lighting via skylights is a nice feature. But skylights are also the main, heat loss/gain conduit for many otherwise well-insulated, modern homes. Solar powered, thermal blinds can mitigate this defect, while incurring only a modest payback period of a few years.
While their current stake in renewables falls short of 2%, Big Oil may be the largest single source of deployable capital, and, to offset its stranded assets, has the most long term incentive. Instead of enlarging proven reserves that they’ll never be able to pump, while inveigling state subsidies for fracking and shale oil that sells below production costs, they could use their annual $10 billion+ investment budget to go green.
Yes, Shell indicates a commitment and Exxon’s recent moves may yield more than window dressing, but Big Oil remains a huge source of largely untapped capital. History opines that corporate lethargy will prevail. But if ARAMCO/Crown Prince Salman manages to lead, the other majors may be forced to follow.
[…] version of this blog post originally appeared on Foresight Climate and […]
[…] Read on Foresight Climate and Energy: https://foresightdk.com/euroace-op-ed/ […]
[…] more on this topic, read Matilda Axelson’s opinion piece for FORESIGHT on how the sector cannot, and should not, manage its clean energy transition […]
[…] FORESIGHT Editor in Chief Philippa Nuttall Jones speaks to Matilda Axelson about how good policies will allow heavy industry to drive a European clean energy economy. Watch the interview here […]
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Spot on! I absolutely support this opinion.
Those three main points is something that has risen from many different zero carbon models in the last years. I would just like to add that while energy efficiency and (smart) electrification are pretty safe bets, there are many solutions for the third point, especially taking into account a very slow development of the hydrogen technology. There are many synthetic gases that are competing right now (some of them: dimethyl ether, hydrogen, synthetic natural gas, ethanol, methanol etc), and we need more research in this field. For the last point, it is important to bear in mind that the energy penalty of producing gases and then burning them is very large, which consequently significantly increase the need for large capacity in the power sector.
[…] Lisa Fischer from think tank E3G believes the ball is now in the gas industry’s court to prove whether and how it can get “to full climate neutrality” before policy makers agree to hand over investment aimed at giving green gas a more significant role in the European energy transition. […]
[…] Read More: foresightdk.com/things-not-negotiable/ […]
Reading your article helped me a lot and I agree with you. But I still have some doubts, can you clarify for me? I’ll keep an eye out for your answers.
Excellent treatment of the subject. Electrifying transportation may require doubling the electric energy that we use today. But there is no need to triple or quadruple that amount unnecessarily. Smart charging, as described here by Jaap, is an essential key to making the most of existing investment first–before additional investments are required.
Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. Its always useful to read content from other authors and practice something from their websites.
Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, regards.
Smart Charging in a public context is clearly part of the answer. However fundamentally, a crowded terraced street such as we have in the UK requires a charge point density of not far off 1 charger per household. Even this level of density would only be 0.5 per car for many 2 car households. This will require significant investment in the next 24 months, otherwise we’ll start to create a have & have-not situation, with all the attendant social problems that this might create. Policy makers need to recognise the scale of the challenge that this presents.
I completely agree with this article. Cities need dynamic pricing for public charging in order to encourage more people to use electric vehicles.
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