Solar Costs at `Jaw-Dropping Lows`; `No Evidence That Changing Power Mix Endangers Electric System Reliability`

From GTM:

`Solar Moves in a Curious Direction Since Trump Quit Paris Deal: Up

There is “[n]o evidence that the changing power mix endangers electric system reliability”. Two reports:

Also see Bigger is Not Better: Grid Modernization and the Antiquated Concept of ‘Baseload’, and in particular the comment by Gene Grindle to that post.

And “Henbest: Energy to 2040 — Faster Shift to Clean, Dynamic, Distributed”:

As some of the coal and nuclear plants face retirement decisions, focusing on their status as “baseload” generation is not a useful perspective for ensuring the cost-effective and reliable supply of electricity. Instead, system planners, market administrators such as regional effectively and efficiently defines and measures system needs and (b) develops planning tools, scheduling processes, and market mechanisms to elicit and compensate broad range of resources
that have become available to meet those needs. Fortunately, planners and operators have been hard at work at such innovations and have moved past the concept of “baseload” to focus on the attributes of resources and the services they provide to the system that help the modernized electricity system operate more reliably, efficiently, and nimbly. While coal and nuclear power plants—as well as a broad range of other resource types—are recognized for providing a wide range of reliability services to the grid, the traditional definition of power supply resource adequacy is being revisited by some system operators and planners. Still, additional work is needed in planning and markets to better recognize and compensate resources for the value they provide to the system, and to incorporate the environmental impacts of electricity generation, including resources’ ability to reduce the system’s greenhouse gas emissions, consistent with public policy goals.

Coal and nuclear plants do not provide unique operational services that are specifically identified by or correlated with the term “baseload” generation. The term does not reflect the broader range of services that various resources can provide. As system planning and electricity market design are modernized, it is becoming increasingly clear that the services and attributes most under-recognized by today’s markets are greenhouse gas emissions in some jurisdictions and operational flexibility. A resource is considered flexible when it can react to operational signals to ramp its power generation up and down to help meet the needs of the system over multiple hours and minute-to-minute. Flexible resources can cost-effectively assist with meeting changing system loads and integrating the variable output of renewable resources. These flexibility needs are rapidly expanding as a result of numerous industry trends: (a) recognition by policymakers that renewable energy resources are needed to meet long-term emissions reductions goals; (b) customers’ increasing desire to voluntarily procure renewable energy or generate electricity on-site; and (c) substantial technological improvements that have driven down the cost of renewable resources to the point where, even before accounting for tax incentives, they are the lowest-cost option for new generating plants in some regions of the country.

(From Advancing Past “Baseload” to a Flexible Grid)

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4 Responses to Solar Costs at `Jaw-Dropping Lows`; `No Evidence That Changing Power Mix Endangers Electric System Reliability`

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    My only discomfort here is this ubiquitous meme of “Bigger is Not Better”. Sorry, but bigger IS better if the goal is ultimately to keep the price of RE as low as possible. There is a lot to be said about economy of scale, about the power of Federal policy and financing; the power of the Federal bidding system; and the power of placing large efficiently-sited projects on land and properties already owned by the Federal government.

    • If, some day, local solar + storage, unsubsidized, is cheaper than $0.03 per kWh, and given that transmission costs before generation are $0.05-$0.07 per kWh (here they are current $0.08 per kWh, excluding other miscellaneous fees), what do you think will happen?

      Quote from Edmund Burke

      • Gingerbaker says:

        What is the lifespan of a battery,a storage system, a transmission line, HVDC electrical components? Can we reasonably assume 100% of all local needs, everywhere, can be met with that theoretical solar plus storage?

        What is we wanted to provide dynamic charging along Interstates? What if we used Interstates to lower the cost of transmission? How low could transmission costs be in future? Since we only build transmission lines once, essentially, is it worth a small premium?

        It sure seems to me that there will always be a large benefit to interconnectedness; a large benefit to solar power generation from the west when the east is in darkness. We will have to pay for and maintain a smart grid anyway, will we not?

        We have (at least) two competing philosophies, but only one of them – local & storage – is being heavily promoted, because this is the approach beloved by entrepreneurs. The other system – transmission and interconnectedness – is beloved by socialists.

        • Connectedness, yes, of course. What I object to is the network topology, which is currently hub-and-spoke. I’d rather see a tree-like or full network topology, with decentralized centers sharing among themselves, and avoiding a center except when necessary.

          It is inevitable, of course, that in such a topology, the needed size of the center will be much smaller than today. Indeed, it probably does not need to be provisioned with as many (e.g.) explosive methane pipelines as it even does now. What that means for the owner-investors of such pipelines is probably pretty negative, but, then, like fossil fuels, there’ll be a lot of assets stranded. The latest risk for such investors is that refinancing or future loans will be at much higher premiums, because the creditors can’t be sure they’ll ever get their monies back.

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