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Off-Grid Solar Energy Use Is About to Explode Thanks to These Key Regions

Employment could triple by 2020. 

(Source: https://www.inverse.com/article/56710-off-grid-solar-energy-is-set-to-surge-as-isolated-communities-get-connected?refresh)

Solar Panels at Jensen Farms
Filed Under EnergyInfrastructure & Power

Off-grid solar energy is about to experience a rapid rise in employment as isolated communities rush to get connected, a new report Thursday revealed. The technology enables power generation without traditional infrastructure, a benefit that could fuel the drive toward near-universal electricity access.

 

The renewable energy industry employed 11 million people globally in 2018, around 700,000 more than last year. Solar accounted for a third of those jobs, while the three million solar workers in Asia represented around 90 percent of the total solar industry. The data was published in the annual jobs review from the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Those are impressive figures, but the real standout of global solar industry growth is what’s happening off-grid. For the first time in its annual reports, the agency estimated that around 372,000 people in South Asia and parts of Africa are working in off-grid solar. That figure is expected to triple in the space of just four years.

“Rising off-grid solar sales are translating into growing numbers of jobs in the context of expanding energy access and spurring economic activities in previously isolated communities,” the report reads.

Off-grid solar is set to expand rapidly over the coming years.
Off-grid solar is set to expand rapidly over the coming years.

Historically, power generation has depended on a large plant providing energy for a wide area. That also meant building a grid system that could ferry energy from a coal plant, for example, to homes and businesses. That also meant some people in remote areas of the world went without power as it proved too costly or difficult to build that infrastructure.

Renewables are changing this dynamic. A solar panel can sit basically anywhere with sunlight, scaling up to provide as much power as needed. An earlier report from the same agency revealed that, thanks to technologies like these, the number of people in the world without power fell below one billion for the first time in 2016.

 

“Off-grid renewable energy systems have transformed our ability to deliver secure, affordable electricity to rural communities all over the world, and are playing a vital role in breaking a cycle of energy poverty that has held back socio-economic progress for hundreds of millions of people,” Adnan Z. Amin, director-general of the agency, stated in the previous report.

Off-Grid Solar: How It’s Changing the Dynamic

Off-grid solar is expected to rapidly expand. The agency claims that the number of people benefitting from off-grid renewables jumped sixfold from 2011 to 2016 to reach 133 million people. Renewables are expected to account for 60 percent of all new electricity access by 2030, and around half of that will come from off-grid.

“Large parts of Africa skipped landline telephony in favor of cellular networks,” Anders Arvidson, project leader at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, told ESI Africa. “Now we do the same in the energy sector.”

The agency announced in February 2019 a $50 million solar capacity expansion in Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique. The project, which could provide energy for up to 15 million people, would help people run businesses, charge their phones, keep food cool, and study throughout the night.

In Asia, off-grid solar runs is used in situations ranging from powering individual lights to complete homes. Research from GOGLA showed around a quarter of off-grid products sold globally in 2016 were sold in South Asia. Countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, where around a third of the population has electricity access, will benefit the most from this shift.

 
tesla solar power puerto rico
Workers in Puerto Rico adding more solar panels for Tesla batteries.

It’s not just Africa and Asia that are seeing the benefits. In North America, where solar is surging in popularity, consumers are considering kitting their homes with solar panels to protect against hurricanes. Tesla CEO Elon Musk made headlines when he announced a series of solar projects in December 2017 to get Puerto Rico back online.

With a battery in the basement, consumers can store up energy and use it throughout the day independent of the grid. Vikram Aggarwal, CEO of EnergySage, told Inverse in 2017 that these issues have caused people to rethink the “hub-and-spoke” structure of energy grids.

Data from the World Bank shows around 76 percent of the world’s rural areas had electricity in 2018. In edition to providing a near-zero-emissions alternative to traditional sources like coal and gas, solar is also enabling the remaining 24 percent to get connected. Thanks to these efforts, the United Nations’ goals of universal access by 2030 is increasingly within reach.

Battery power’s latest plunge in costs threatens coal and gas

 
LCOE global de referencia: fotovoltaica, eólica y baterías. Fuente BNEF. / Global LCOE benchmarks – PV, wind and batteries. Source: BloombergNEF.

Two technologies that were immature and expensive only a few years ago but are now at the center of the unfolding low-carbon energy transition have seen spectacular gains in cost-competitiveness in the last year. The latest analysis by research company BloombergNEF (BNEF) shows that the benchmark LCOE for lithium-ion batteries has fallen 35% to $187 per megawatt-hour since the first half of 2018. Meanwhile, the benchmark LCOE for offshore wind has tumbled by 24%.

Onshore wind and photovoltaic solar have also gotten cheaper, their respective benchmark LCOE reaching $50 and $57 per megawatt-hour for projects starting construction in early 2019, down 10% and 18% on the equivalent figures of a year ago.

BNEF’s analysis shows that the LCOE per megawatt-hour for onshore wind, solar PV and offshore wind have fallen by 49%, 84% and 56% respectively since 2010. That for lithium-ion battery storage has dropped by 76% since 2012, based on recent project costs and historical battery pack prices. Looking back over this decade, there have been staggering improvements in the cost-competitiveness of these low-carbon options, thanks to technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.

 

The most striking finding in this LCOE Update, for the first-half of 2019, is on the cost improvements in lithium-ion batteries. These are opening up new opportunities for them to balance a renewables-heavy generation mix. Batteries co-located with solar or wind projects are starting to compete, in many markets and without subsidy, with coal- and gas-fired generation for the provision of ‘dispatchable power’ that can be delivered whenever the grid needs it (as opposed to only when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining).

Electricity demand is subject to pronounced peaks and lows inter-day. Meeting the peaks has previously been the preserve of technologies such as open-cycle gas turbines and gas reciprocating engines, but these are now facing competition from batteries with anything from one to four hours of energy storage, according to the report.

Offshore wind has often been seen as a relatively expensive generation option compared to onshore wind or solar PV. However, auction programs for new capacity, combined with much larger turbines, have produced sharp reductions in capital costs, taking BNEF’s global benchmark for this technology below $100 per MWh, compared to more than $220 just five years ago.

Although the LCOE of solar PV has fallen 18% in the last year, the great majority of that decline happened in the third quarter of 2018, when a shift in Chinese policy caused there to be a huge global supply glut of modules, rather than over the most recent months.

Source: BloombergNEF

Zambia on track to energy surplus following major boost in electricity production

05/02/2019

Zambia’s constant power cuts are now a thing of the past. Thanks to a robust hydraulic and solar power generation industry in recent years, the country is now self-sufficient in energy.  And, there is even better news for citizens of the South African nation- electricity production could soon be in surplus.

Zambia generates practically all its energy production from its own primary resources: biomass, coal and hydroelectricity, with flagship plants such as the power station near the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam, in the south-east of the country, taking centre stage.

The $375 million Itezhi-Tezhi hydroelectric generating station became operational in 2016. The plant has a 120-megawatt capacity and is the fruit of the first public-private partnership project in the Zambian energy sector. Its primary objective has been to produce enough power to end the crippling daily blackouts and meet consumer needs of the country’s 17 million inhabitants.

 

Zambia stopped electricity imports in early 2018

Itezhi-Tezhi power plant has already increased the country's power generation capacity by 7.5% and supplied an extra 50,000 people with electricity. In the first quarter of 2018, and for the first time in its history, Zambia stopped importing electricity from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique.

As far back as September 2017, national operator Zesco's head of power transmission, Webster Musonda, told Ecofin agency: "Zambia's power generation capacity has improved and will now be able to largely meet its energy needs." "Overall, we will be able to meet demand and routine energy imports will cease [...] but we will continue to import energy to meet occasional peaks in demand."

 

The next step for the Government of Zambia includes plans for an energy surplus over the next two years. To meet this goal, it is exploring renewable energy, such as solar power.

The country’s new hydropower stations at the Musonda, Lusawaki and Kafue Gorge dams are important developments and in September 2018 the government inaugurated a 50 MW power plant at a cost of $60 million. An even more ambitious programme is under way, involving the construction of mini solar plants with an eventual overall capacity of 600 MW at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.

The African Development Bank which is championing its High 5 development priorities, such as the "Light up and power Africa, initiative under which this project falls, contributed $55 million to the Itezhi-Tezhi plant.  Additional funding has been provided by international donors including the Netherlands Development Finance Company, the Development Bank of South Africa and Proparco France.

The Bank’s portfolio in Zambia currently includes 23 ongoing projects, amounting to an investment of one billion dollars, in three main sectors: transport, water and sanitation and agriculture.

Cross-border collaboration

A strong partnership with Zimbabwe has been the key to Zambia’s success. The two southern African neighbours are working on a major energy project on the Zambezi River, which marks their common border. The 2750 km long river is the fourth-largest on the continent.

The project, which has a projected output of at least 2400 MW, is to be built upstream of the Kariba dam, close to the famous Victoria Falls, at a cost of $3 billion.

Electricity output will be shared equally between Zambia and Zimbabwe, with excess production sold on to other member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SACD), according to the project's initiators.

(Source: https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/zambia-on-track-to-energy-surplus-following-major-boost-in-electricity-production-18969/)

Battery Power’s Latest Plunge in Costs Threatens Coal, Gas

London and New York, March 26, 2019 – Two technologies that were immature and expensive only a few years ago but are now at the center of the unfolding low-carbon energy transition have seen spectacular gains in cost-competitiveness in the last year.

The latest analysis by research company BloombergNEF (BNEF) shows that the benchmark levelized cost of electricity,[1] or LCOE, for lithium-ion batteries has fallen 35% to $187 per megawatt-hour since the first half of 2018. Meanwhile, the benchmark LCOE for offshore wind has tumbled by 24%.

Onshore wind and photovoltaic solar have also gotten cheaper, their respective benchmark LCOE reaching $50 and $57 per megawatt-hour for projects starting construction in early 2019, down 10% and 18% on the equivalent figures of a year ago.

Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF, commented: “Looking back over this decade, there have been staggering improvements in the cost-competitiveness of these low-carbon options, thanks to technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.

“Our analysis shows that the LCOE per megawatt-hour for onshore wind, solar PV and offshore wind have fallen by 49%, 84% and 56% respectively since 2010. That for lithium-ion battery storage has dropped by 76% since 2012, based on recent project costs and historical battery pack prices.”

The most striking finding in this LCOE Update, for the first-half of 2019, is on the cost improvements in lithium-ion batteries. These are opening up new opportunities for them to balance a renewables-heavy generation mix.

Batteries co-located with solar or wind projects are starting to compete, in many markets and without subsidy, with coal- and gas-fired generation for the provision of ‘dispatchable power’ that can be delivered whenever the grid needs it (as opposed to only when the wind is blowing, or the sun is shining).

Electricity demand is subject to pronounced peaks and lows inter-day. Meeting the peaks has previously been the preserve of technologies such as open-cycle gas turbines and gas reciprocating engines, but these are now facing competition from batteries with anything from one to four hours of energy storage, according to the report.

Tifenn Brandily, energy economics analyst at BNEF, said: “Solar PV and onshore wind have won the race to be the cheapest sources of new ‘bulk generation’ in most countries, but the encroachment of clean technologies is now going well beyond that, threatening the balancing role that gas-fired plant operators, in particular, have been hoping to play.”

Offshore wind has often been seen as a relatively expensive generation option compared to onshore wind or solar PV. However, auction programs for new capacity, combined with much larger turbines, have produced sharp reductions in capital costs, taking BNEF’s global benchmark for this technology below $100 per MWh, compared to more than $220 just five years ago.

Giannakopoulou said: “The low prices promised by offshore wind tenders throughout Europe are now materializing, with several high-profile projects reaching financial close in recent months. Its cost decline in the last six months is the sharpest we have seen for any technology.”

Although the LCOE of solar PV has fallen 18% in the last year, the great majority of that decline happened in the third quarter of 2018, when a shift in Chinese policy caused there to be a huge global supply glut of modules, rather than over the most recent months.

BNEF’s LCOE analysis is based on information on real projects starting construction and proprietary pricing information from suppliers. Its database covers nearly 7,000 projects across 20 technologies (including the various types of coal, gas and nuclear generation as well as renewables), situated in 46 countries around the world.

[1] LCOE measures the all-in expense of producing a MWh of electricity from a new project, taking into account the costs of development, construction and equipment, financing, feedstock, operation and maintenance.

 SourceL BloombergNEF

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About BloombergNEF

BloombergNEF (BNEF), Bloomberg’s primary research service, covers clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials and commodities. We help corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.

Available online, on mobile and on the Terminal, BNEF is powered by Bloomberg’s global network of 19,000 employees in 176 locations, reporting 5,000 news stories a day.

February 05, 2019

Most Utilities Executives Agree Risk of Consumers Going Largely Off-Grid Will Increase Significantly in Next Two Years, According to Research from Accenture   Stagnant electricity demand growth in the short term expected to turn around beyond 2025, as transport and heating electrification accelerates

  NEW YORK; Feb. 5, 2019 – Ninety-five percent of utilities executives agree that the risk of electricity consumers going largely off the grid and only using it as occasional backup will increase significantly in the next two years, according to a study from Accenture (NYSE: ACN), conducted as part of the company’s Digitally Enabled Grid research program.   The deployment of distributed generation (DG) technologies like rooftop solar is increasing faster than utilities can build new grid capacity to handle it in high-demand areas, according to the vast majority (95 percent) of the 150 executives surveyed across 25 countries. In fact, almost half (48 percent) of the respondents said that parts of their grid will reach maximum capacity in three years or less, with only 1 percent believing it will take longer than five years.   The proportion of both residential and commercial consumers with rooftop solar photovoltaics in the markets modelled could even exceed 15 percent by 2036 in some markets, such as California. This trend will likely continue to affect net electricity demand growth for the foreseeable future.

The study also notes that increased deployment of DG will complicate utilities’ operations, requiring distribution utilities to act now to avoid the excessive grid-reinforcement spending required to host new DG energy flows.
 
According to Accenture modeling, some markets could generate substantial capital reinforcement cost savings simply through better identification of local constraints on the distribution network. A 10 percent improved accuracy in DG forecasts, resulted in projected savings of 15-28 percent in New York, 14-18 percent in California, 14-15 percent in Australia, and 11-12 percent in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
 
In fact, DG integration was ranked as the second-highest priority area as a cost-saving opportunity, selected by 59 percent of respondents as one of their top 5 choices. The top priority, chosen by 61 percent of respondents, was reducing supply chain unit costs through improved forecasting of materials and service requirements.
 
“Distribution businesses have had a tough time in recent years with weak demand, which is one reason why grid operators’ profits have been squeezed,” said Stephanie Jamison, a managing director at Accenture who leads its Transmission and Distribution business. “The proliferation of DG changes electricity demand profiles, potentially diminishing total demand without necessarily reducing peak demand. Successful DG integration will require substantial investments in new connections and grid reinforcement to modernize the network and sustain the same level of reliability and safety and secure operations.” 

While DG presents a challenge to distribution utilities, it’s also an opportunity, with 95 percent of respondents saying that DG and storage-services provision will be a major profit growth area for distribution companies beyond 2025. More than half of respondents globally also identified owning each of the following assets as an opportunity for their business going forward: large-scale DG; grid-connected storage; small-scale prosumer DG; and community storage.
 
Electrification of transport and buildings will bolster electricity demand growth after 2026
Accenture modeling predicts that, following a period of stagnation, electricity demand could grow by 31 percent between 2026 and 2036. The study and modeling partly attribute the growth to the meaningful impact that electric vehicles (EVs) and building heating electrification will have on demand growth starting around 2025.
 
The modeling revealed that the total percentage of plug-in electric vehicles in the overall vehicle stock is forecast to grow relatively slowly, from 1 percent this year to 3 percent by 2025, but could rise to 37 percent by 2040, led by municipal buses, scooters and small commercial vehicles.
 
This trend could translate to substantial new electricity demand. Indeed, while the electricity consumption of EVs is expected to represent just over 1 percent of the annual peak demand hour by 2025, it is forecast to rise almost fourfold in the markets modelled by 2040, to 4 percent. In some markets like France and California, forecasts are even higher by that year (10 percent and 8 percent, respectively).
 
The decarbonization of buildings is also likely to push up electricity demand in the long term, with 96 percent of utilities executives agreeing that decarbonization efforts will substantially reduce residential and commercial natural gas demand by 2040.
 
Just the combined effects of transport and heating electrification could push peak demand up significantly, with Accenture modeling suggesting that the average electricity consumption during the peak demand hour could rise by around 63 percent from 2016 in 2040.
 
“Mass adoption of electric vehicles and the electrification of building heating is poised to alter demand growth and load shape in the longer term,” Jamison said. “This suggests high growth potential for utility distributors, but it will also put pressure on grid stability. The key will be to navigate this disruption by making the grid more resilient through greater use of smart technologies and utilizing all sources of flexibility including on the demand side, adopting a more customer-centric approach.”
 
Research Methodology
Accenture’s annual Digitally Enabled Grid research evaluates the implications and opportunities of an increasingly digital grid. For the most-recent research, Accenture surveyed 150 utility C-suite and Senior Vice-President level executives from 25 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China (including Macau and Hong Kong), Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States; the quantitative online survey was conducted in February and March 2018. In addition, Accenture developed a geographic-level electricity demand impact model to quantify the forecast combined hourly impact of individual electricity demand drivers for a selected sample of 18 countries (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and five of the most-populous U.S. states (California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois).
 
About Accenture
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions ? underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network ? Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With 469,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.

(Source: https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/most-utilities-executives-agree-risk-of-consumers-going-largely-off-grid-will-increase-significantly-in-next-two-years-according-to-research-from-accenture.htm)

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