As we begin 2019, it is worth reflecting on the positive things that happened last year that put us on a strong footing for a bright New Year. As we have written in this blog, when it comes to the adoption of renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions, the most impactful initiatives happen at the regional level where they directly affect people’s lives.
Last week EcoWatch published their “9 Renewable Energy Highlights of 2018,” which focused on the top nine signs of renewable energy progress in the United States. We’d like to dedicate our first post of 2019 to this topic, commenting on how these signs of progress are interconnected and reflecting on where we go from here.
The bright dawn of a New Year holds promise for sustainable progress for all.
Bold Actions from Private and Public Organizations Result in Record-Low Prices for Renewables in 2018
Unquestionably, one of the top highlights of 2018 was the record-low prices for renewables. Low prices mean widespread adoption and facilitate a positive outlook for their continuation in 2019. Specifically, EcoWatch writes:
Innovation, growing economies of scale, and attractive financing continued to drive the costs down for renewables in 2018. Power purchase agreements for wind and solar projects in states like Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas have reportedly ranged between $20 to $30 per megawatt-hour, well below the cost of natural gas generation—and the technologies are positioned for further cost reductions to continue to be low-cost options even as federal tax incentives change. What’s even more exciting is that many of these low-priced projects also include energy storage components, increasing their value to the grid.
It is worth noting that these low prices were made possible by decisive actions, mostly taken either at the regional level or by the private sector. EcoWatch lists the following actions as the influential factors that aided renewable energy progress in the U.S in 2018.
At the local government level:
- California Goes All-In for Carbon-Free Electricity: Enacted legislation commits the state to source all of its electricity from renewables by 2045, with a near-term milestone of 60% carbon-free electricity by 2030.
- Several States Strengthen Their Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) Requirements: New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Nevada all committed to moving their electricity standards closer to zero carbon.
- Clean Energy Champions Win Gubernatorial Races: Voters elected several governors who campaigned on “aggressive” platforms of sustainability in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.
- PG&E Turns Down the Gas with Storage and Renewables: California’s Public Utility Commission approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) plans to use energy storage to replace retiring gas generators. EcoWatch suggests it is “the first time a utility will directly replace power plants with battery storage, which should spur many more similar projects to move forward in California and across the country and open the door for integrating much higher levels of renewable energy onto the power grid.”
At the private sector level:
- Major Utilities Commit to Low-Carbon Portfolios: Utilities continued their innovation efforts to adapt to the new energy reality. EcoWatch reports that “Xcel Energy became the first major utility to commit to a completely carbon-free electricity supply across the eight states it operates in,” joining other big utilities and “clearly demonstrating the competitiveness of clean energy technologies.”
- Corporate Renewable Energy Purchases Keep Growing: Corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Walmart, and AT&T, driven by consumer and employee demands for responsible operations and low renewable energy prices, led the private sector to purchase over 6.4 gigawatts of renewable energy in 2018. EcoWatch notes that “nearly two-thirds of Fortune 100 and nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have set ambitious renewable energy goals.”
- Offshore Wind Moves Forward: U.S. offshore wind gained momentum in 2018. As EcoWatch reports, “the winning bid for Massachusetts’ first request for offshore wind proposals to help meet the state’s offshore wind requirements passed in 2016 went to an 800-megawatt project from Vineyard Wind at a shockingly low price of about 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. In addition, the latest U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management auction for leasing parcels of water for future projects resulted in 11 bidders and $405.1 million in winning bids, both smashing previous records.”
- Storage Steps into the Spotlight: EcoWatch calls innovation in energy storage a “game changer.” They add, “In 2018, the pipeline for new storage projects doubled to nearly 33 GW as more utilities are investing in the technology, thanks largely to rapidly falling prices and growing support from state policies.” Also, “the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Order 841, which directs regional grid operators to set market rules that allow energy storage to participate on a level playing field in the wholesale energy, capacity, and ancillary services”
Thanks to the result of these and other bold initiatives at all levels in our economy, the falling price of renewables to record-low levels in 2018 puts us in a strong position to begin 2019 by continuing our collective efforts to thrive sustainably. Clean energies like hydrogen, which play well with growing renewables and storage, should also continue to experience strong growth in the year ahead.
For all of you who follow our blog, thank you for your interest and support. We wish you a joyful and prosperous New Year that builds on the sustainable progress we all made in 2018.
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