India plans Renewable Energy Management Centres for Green Corridors

Existing control centres, known as state load dispatch centres (SLDCs) currently lack renewable energy forecasting systems. Flickr: Tapas GaneshExisting control centres, known as state load dispatch centres (SLDCs) currently lack renewable energy forecasting systems. Flickr: Tapas Ganesh

As part of India’s Green Energy Corridor scheme, the Ministry of Power has proposed setting up a host of Renewable Energy Management Centres (REMCs) across the country to help integrate renewables as their penetration increases. The centres will cost around INR4.09 billion (US$63.5 million).

With a 160GW target of solar and wind by 2022, the ministry is concerned about grid stability and security. It noted that seven states will account for 104GW (65%) of this capacity including: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

The newly proposed REMCs would therefore be separated into the Southern, Western and Northern regions across the seven major resource rich states and various projects of the Green Energy Corridor scheme.

Existing control centres, known as state load dispatch centres (SLDCs) currently lack renewable energy forecasting systems, scheduling, monitoring and reserve management abilities.

To alleviate this problem, India aims to emulate state-of-the-art renewables forecasting and monitoring systems already successfully operating in countries like Spain, Germany, US, Denmark, Belgium and Australia.

The REMCs’ functions include:

  • Forecast renewable energy generation at state and regional levels
  • Schedule renewable generation with real time tracking and SCADA systems
  • Coordinate with the relevant load dispatch centre

Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) has already worked on similar control centre projects and has therefore been assigned the implementation role. On completion, PGCIL will hand the REMCs over to the states.

The projects are to be implemented within 15 months of award and commissioned progressively through 2018/19.

PGCIL recently entered in to a loan agreement of up to US$500 million with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) partly for one of its Green Energy Corridor projects.

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PM Narendra Modi may step in to resolve wrangling on NITI Aayog’s proposed National Energy Policy

ঘোষণা নীতি আয়োগ-এর

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to intervene to resolve an inter-ministerial wrangling over NITI Aayog‘s proposed National Energy Policy to roll out the long-overdue power sector reforms.

Different stakeholder ministries, including those of power, coal, and new and renewable energy, have failed to come to a consensus on some points of the proposed policies, including freeing coal from price control, despite several rounds of consultations, said a senior government official who is aware of the deliberations on the matter.

“National Energy Policy is pending with PMO (prime minister’s office),” the official told ET. “The top office is now planning to convene a high-level meeting of all concerned ministers and secretaries to be chaired by the PM himself to suggest way forward to the policy,” the official said.

The first draft of the policy, framed by the Aayog after intense consultations over last one and a half year, was ready for seeking public comments by March. But that has been held back after concerned ministries raised objections with the PMO over certain proposals.

PM Narendra Modi may step in to resolve wrangling on NITI Aayog's proposed National Energy Policy



Coal ministry, for example, expressed reservations over the proposal to free up the commodity from any price control. Such a move would divest the ministry of its power to control coal prices and help maximise profit for Coal India.

However, NITI Aayog has largely stood by its reforms agenda. National Energy Policy has proposed comprehensive reforms to free sectors such as coal, electricity and fertilisers from subsidies and price controls, helping to produce more power by making electricity generation projects commercially viable for private companies.

The policy has outlined the need and measures to improve financial condition of power distribution companies (discoms), which are bogged down by debt, to make the sector profitable in the medium to long term.

Key suggestions being considered include overhauling the entire structural and functional capacity of discoms so that they operate more professionally.

In India, electricity and fertiliser sectors are heavily subsidised. The government feels there is a need to bring down subsides in such sectors and, hence, a clear roadmap for lowering subsidies and aligning their prices to that of the market has been laid out.

But this proposal hasn’t gone down well with concerned ministries.

National Energy Policy is aimed at curbing imports by increasing production of renewable energy in the country fivefold to 300 billion units by 2019 and tripling coal production to 1.5 billion tonnes. Coal imports are envisaged to come down by 10% by 2022 and by 50% by 2030.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant had earlier told ET that differences are obvious as the policy proposes far reaching reforms to transform the power sector. “Wherever there are differences, we’ll pose them before the Prime Minister and let him take a call,” he had said earlier. Prime Minister is the chairman of the Aayog.

National Energy Policy will replace Integrated Energy Policy of the UPA regime that envisioned a roadmap for sustainable growth with energy security over a reasonable period of time.

Is solar sector truly achieving grid parity?

Amplus Energy Solutions won projects across ten states in the bids conducted by Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) for rooftop solar power. The tariff offered for projects in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry and Chandigarh was the lowest in history—Rs 3 per unit of electricity. And in six other states, tariff rates between Rs 5 and 6 per unit were offered.

The bidding comes at a point where grid parity of renewable energy is being hailed as a turning point of electricity scenario in India. Grid parity is a situation when generating electricity from alternative sources of energy like renewables costs more or less the same as conventional sources.

This means renewable energy sources can generate electricity at the rate similar or equal to thermal power generation. Unfortunately, the Rs 3-per-unit-tariff is certainly not a step in that direction. The price can be achieved because the government is offering subsidies worth 70 percent of the capital cost, ranging from Rs 38,500 to Rs 52,500 in the capital expenditure model.

There is a direct infusion of subsidy for every kilowatt (kW) in the rooftop solar sector. But even the solar sector, in general, has witnessed tariff rates fall to an all time low. This is because of reverse bidding rather aggressive reverse bidding in central and state solar project auctions that has yielded tariff offer of around Rs 4.34 per unit in January by Fortum Finnsurya Energy, a Finland-based company operating out of Rajasthan.

It was beaten less than a month ago by tenders worth 750 MW of solar at Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan which benchmarked by the tariff at Rs 3.93 per unit of power generation. Again, this low benchmark cost is for a 750 MW that would receive viability gap funding (VGF) of 30 per cent. VGF is a capital subsidy to bridge the gap between the project cost dictated by the prevailing electricity rate and the price quoted by a developer. Can we deem this achievement as grid parity when the realisation of a low tariff is under the capital subsidy provided by the government when most of these projects have not seen a financial closure because banks do not consider these projects financially viable?

Not just direct capital subsidy

Apart from the capital subsidy for rooftop and VGF for larger solar projects, the government offers a tax benefit called accelerated depreciation (AD) to all the projects that are not entitled to a direct capital subsidy. AD is the depreciation of fixed assets at a fast rate early in their useful lives. This AD is tax rebate that the project enjoys for the first few years of operation.

This form of incentive is provided by the government to increase investment in any particular sector. One of the primary reasons for the development of wind sector in India is AD. Seventy percent of the 28,279.40 MW installed wind power is based on AD. The impact of AD was felt when the government discontinued the rebate in 2012, and the entire sector saw stagnation. By intense lobbying, it was reintroduced for the development of wind sector, and now the capacity installed has bounced back.

Subsidised grid parity versus unsubsidised grid parity

India has set a target to achieve 175 gigawatts (GW) renewable energy capacity by 2022. Out of this, 100 GW has been allocated to solar and 60 GW to wind. This ambition was raised in July 2015 when India announced its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to United Nations to show the strides it is willing to make to reduce carbon emissions. To meet these targets and for the development of and to attract investment in wind and solar sectors in India, there have been various forms of subsidies and tax incentives available.

The question is with subsidies and other incentives involved, can the achievement of low tariffs be termed as achieving grid parity? Should India wait for a little for the sector to be deemed competitive when thermal power produces cheaper electricity without the backing up of subsidies? When banks do not consider most of these projects economically viable to fund, and they haven’t generated and supplied electricity at this rate, how can this be an achievement for the sector?

However, India still has 237 million people who do not have access to electricity. We need to provide these people with reliable and affordable power as soon as possible. And if we have decided that renewable energy is the future of electricity, then we need to accept that today renewable energy is a little more expensive than thermal power without subsidies. We have to pay more for this clean energy and people with better paying capacity would have to share a bigger portion of this burden.

 

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How clean is solar power?

A new paper may have the answer

THAT solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide when they are generating electricity is without question. This is why they are beloved of many who worry about the climate-altering potential of such gases. Sceptics, though, observe that a lot of energy is needed to make a solar panel in the first place. In particular, melting and purifying the silicon that these panels employ to capture and transduce sunlight needs a lot of heat. Silicon’s melting point, 1,414°C, is only 124°C less than that of iron.

Silicon is melted in electric furnaces and, at the moment, most electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels. That does emit carbon dioxide. So, when a new solar panel is put to work it starts with a “carbon debt” that, from a greenhouse-gas-saving point of view, has to be paid back before that panel becomes part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Observing this, some sceptics have gone so far as to suggest that if the motive for installing solar panels is environmental (which is often, though not always, the case), they are pretty-much useless.

Wilfried van Sark, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and his colleagues have therefore tried to put some numbers into the argument. As they report in Nature Communications, they have calculated the energy required to make all of the solar panels installed around the world between 1975 and 2015, and the carbon-dioxide emissions associated with producing that energy. They also looked at the energy these panels have produced since their installation and the corresponding amount of carbon dioxide they have prevented from being spewed into the atmosphere. Others have done life-cycle assessments for solar power in the past. None, though, has accounted for the fact that the process of making the panels has become more efficient over the course of time. Dr Van Sark’s study factors this in.

Panel games

To estimate the number of solar panels installed around the world, Dr Van Sark and his team used data from the International Energy Agency, an autonomous intergovernmental body. They gleaned information on the amount of energy required to make panels from dozens of published studies. Exactly how much carbon dioxide was emitted during the manufacture of a panel will depend on where it was made, as well as when. How much emitted gas it has saved will depend on where it is installed. A panel made in China, for example, costs nearly double the greenhouse-gas emissions of one made in Europe. That is because China relies more on fossil fuels for generating power. Conversely, the environmental benefits of installing solar panels will be greater in China than in Europe, as the clean power they produce replaces electricity that would otherwise be generated largely by burning coal or gas.

Once the team accounted for all this, they found that solar panels made today are responsible, on average, for around 20 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy they produce over their lifetime (estimated as 30 years, regardless of when a panel was manufactured). That is down from 400-500 grams in 1975. Likewise, the amount of time needed for a solar panel to produce as much energy as was involved in its creation has fallen from about 20 years to two years or less. As more panels are made, the manufacturing process becomes more efficient. The team found that for every doubling of the world’s solar capacity, the energy required to make a panel fell by around 12% and associated carbon-dioxide emissions by 17-24%.

The consequence of all this number-crunching is not as clear-cut as environmentalists might hope. Depending on the numbers fed into the model, global break-even could have come as early as 1997, or might still not have arrived. But if it has not, then under even the most pessimistic assumptions possible it will do so in 2018. After that, solar energy’s environmental credentials really will be spotless.

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US targets solar at $30/MWh; UK slashes cost outlook

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The U.S. solar boom has cut system costs faster than expected. (Image credit: hxdyl)

US DOE targets solar costs of $30 per MWh by 2030

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Sunshot initiative aims to lower the cost of utility-scale solar power to $30 per MWh by 2030 as costs are already approaching the target of $60/MWh it set for 2020, the DOE announced November 14.

“In just five years the SunShot Initiative and the U.S. solar industry have achieved more than 90% of the established 2020 goal to reduce the cost of utility-scale solar PV electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour [$60/MWh]. Utility-scale solar electricity costs now average $0.07 per kilowatt-hour,” it said.

If projects can achieve the Sunshot program’s targets this could “more than double the projected amount of nationwide electricity demand that could be met by solar in 2030 and beyond,” the DOE said.

The DoE announced $65 million of new funding initiatives to accelerate cost reductions.

This will include $25 million towards improving PV module and system design, including hardware and software solutions which will speed up installations and interconnection of PV systems, it said. Some $30 million will be provided to bring new products and solutions to market and a further $10 million will be available for projects which improve the forecasting of solar irradiance and power generation.

                                US SunShot Initiative progress and targets

Source: DOE.

US implements new land leasing rules to boost development

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has introduced new land leasing regulation and financial incentives to support renewable energy development in areas with the highest generation potential and fewest resource conflicts.

“The rule’s competitive leasing provisions will help renewable energy development flourish on the 700,000 acres of public lands that have been identified in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah,” BLM said in documentation published November 10.

The new regulation introduces competitive bidding and streamlines review processes for land leasing to encourage development within designated leasing areas (DLAs). The new rules also allow the BLM to implement competitive processes outside of designated leasing areas.

The regulation aims to ensure transparency and predictability in rents and fees by giving developers the option of selecting fixed-rate adjustments instead of market-based adjustments, BLM said.

Fees have been updated in line with market conditions “which will bring down near-term costs for solar projects,” it said.

The federal Climate Action Plan calls on the Department of the Interior to permit 20 GW of renewable power capacity by 2020. The Interior has so far approved 60 utility-scale renewable energy projects for a capacity of 15.5 GW.

The BLM regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

UK slashes 2020 PV cost forecast to 67 pounds/MWh ($83/MWh)

The levelized cost of energy of U.K. utility scale solar plants is forecast to drop from 80 pounds per MWh ($98.8/MWh) in 2016 to 67 pounds/MWh ($83/MWh) in 2020, according to a new report published by the U.K. government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The cost prediction for 2020 is some 25 pounds/MWh lower than predictions made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in 2013.

“This reflects unanticipated cost reductions and technological improvements for these technologies, reduction in hurdle rates, and/or this progress occurring faster than previously estimated (for example due to accelerated global and domestic deployment),” BEIS said in its report, published November 9.

The BEIS expects utility-scale PV costs to drop to 63 pounds/MWh by 2025 and 60 pounds/MWh by 2030.

                      Levelized cost estimates for 2020 (pounds/MWh) 

Source: BEIS.

GTM Research raises global installation forecast

GTM Research has raised its global PV installations forecast for 2017 to 69 GW, representing a year-on-year decline of 7% compared with 10% in previous estimates, Greentech media reported November 16.

Global demand is expected to hit a record 74 GW this year and the latest estimates for 2017 take into account a slump in module prices, shifting pipeline estimates for utility-scale solar and rising demand in India, GTM Research said.

Analysts at GTM Research currently forecast global installations to rebound to 74 GW in 2018 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% between 2016 and 2021.

China cumulative solar capacity was 44 GW at the end of 2015 and the country is forecast to install a further 26 GW in 2016.

Germany had 38 GW of solar capacity at the end of 2015 and remains in second place behind China but Japan and U.S. lie in third and fourth place respectively and are expected to soon overtake Germany.

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Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built Across Four Continents Next Year

Solar-Panel Roads to Be Built Across Four Continents Next Year

Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.

A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.

“We wanted to find a second life for a road,” said Philippe Harelle, the chief technology officer at Colas SA’s Wattway unit, owned by the French engineering group Bouygues. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.”

As solar costs plummet, panels are being increasingly integrated into everyday materials. Last month Tesla Motors Inc. surprised investors by unveiling roof shingles that double as solar panels. Other companies are integrating photovoltaics into building facades. Wattway joins groups including Sweden’s Scania and Solar Roadways in the U.S. seeking to integrate panels onto pavement.

To resist the weight of traffic, Wattway layers several types of plastics to create a clear and durable casing. The solar panel underneath is an ordinary model, similar to panels on rooftops. The electrical wiring is embedded in the road and the contraption is topped by an anti-slip surface made from crushed glass.
A kilometer-sized testing site began construction last month in the French village of Tourouvre in Normandy. The 2,800 square meters of solar panels are expected to generate 280 kilowatt-hours at peak, enough to power all the public lighting in a town of 5,000 for a year, according to the company.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.

The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.

“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”

The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’

One square meter of the solar-panel road material currently costs between 2,000 ($2,126) and 2,500 euros, which includes monitoring, data collection and installation costs. Wattway aims to bring the price down to be competitive with ordinary solar farms by 2020.

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NTPC awards the contract for Asia’s first integrated solar thermal power plant: Thermax and FRENELL to execute the project

NTPC awards the contract for Asia’s first integrated solar thermal power plant: Thermax and FRENELL to execute the project

Thermax, an Indian energy and environment company and FRENELL, a German concentrated solar power company, (through its wholly owned subsidiary Novatec Solar Espana, S.L) have been awarded by India’s state owned utility NTPC, to execute Asia’s first integrated solar thermal power plant at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, India. The project involves the integration of a concentrated solar field into the Dadri coal fired power station. The ground breaking ceremony was celebrated on Friday, 4th of November 2016. The completion of the project is scheduled for September 2017.

The solar field will use FRENELL’s proprietary concentrated solar power (CSP) technology which is based on flat mirror Fresnel collector principle. On a surface of 33,000m2, the solar field will feed annually 14 gigawatt hours of solar thermal energy into the water-steam cycle of a 210 MW unit of the power station. The mirrors concentrate the sunlight on absorber tubes and heat the fluid up to 250°C which are the parameters required for the power station unit. The heat generated from the solar field will heat the feed water supplied to the steam generator, allowing for lower coal consumption and thereby reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

In a competitive tender process among three international EPC companies, the Fresnel technology won out over parabolic trough and solar tower technology and the contract has been awarded to the consortium of Thermax and FRENELL. Thermax will be acting as the EPC contractor to NTPC and is responsible for design, engineering, procurement and supply of the entire solar thermal plant and balance- of- plant equipment as well as for the integration of the solar field into the coal fired power station. FRENELL will deliver its CSP technology as subcontractor and will execute the turnkey manufacturing and construction of the solar field.

“This project is of high strategic importance for India as it introduces a new option for power generating companies to improve the efficiency of their coal fired power stations. This solution will also contribute to the national target of at least 3% solar share of total power generation by 2022,” says M.S. Unnikrishnan, CEO of Thermax. “Compared to green field CSP plants, this is a cost efficient application as the existing thermal power station infrastructure can be used. The total market potential of this solution in India is estimated to be 1,700 MW and Thermax is prepared to continue the lead in offering such integrated solutions,” he adds.

“We are very proud to have been selected by NTPC to deliver our CSP technology to this flagship project,” says Martin Selig, CEO of FRENELL. “We share Thermax’s view that there is a significant market potential for CSP brown field solutions in India. In order to further increase our cost advantage over competitors in future CSP tenders, we are planning to localize our solar field component manufacturing and supply chain in India. The required temperature for this project is 250°C. Our solar field is designed for up to 550°C. We are keen to show case in future projects our high temperature solution which is also capable to store high temperature energy for solar power generation during night time,” he adds.

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30.2 Percent Efficiency – New Record for Silicon-based Multi-junction Solar Cell

30.2 Percent Efficiency – New Record for Silicon-based Multi-junction Solar Cell

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with the Austrian company EV Group (EVG) have successfully manufactured a silicon-based multi-junction solar cell with two contacts and an efficiency exceeding the theoretical limit of silicon solar cells. For this achievement, the researchers used a “direct wafer bonding” process to transfer a few micrometers of III-V semiconductor material to silicon, a well-known process in the microelectronics industry. After plasma activation, the subcell surfaces are bonded together in vacuum by applying pressure. The atoms on the surface of the III-V subcell form bonds with the silicon atoms, creating a monolithic device. The efficiency achieved by the researchers presents a first-time result for this type of fully integrated silicon-based multi-junction solar cell. The complexity of its inner structure is not evident from its outer appearance: the cell has a simple front and rear contact just as a conventional silicon solar cell and therefore can be integrated into photovoltaic modules in the same manner.

“We are working on methods to surpass the theoretical limits of silicon solar cells,” says Dr. Frank Dimroth, department head at Fraunhofer ISE. “It is our long-standing experience with silicon and III-V technologies that has enabled us to reach this milestone today.” A conversion efficiency of 30.2 percent for the III-V / Si multi-junction solar cell of 4 cm² was measured at Fraunhofer ISE’s calibration laboratory. In comparison, the highest efficiency measured to date for a pure silicon solar cell is 26.3 percent, and the theoretical efficiency limit is 29.4 percent. The III-V / Si multi-junction solar cell consists of a sequence of subcells stacked on top of each other. So-called “tunnel diodes” internally connect the three subcells made of gallium-indium-phosphide (GaInP), gallium-arsenide (GaAs) and silicon (Si), which span the absorption range of the sun’s spectrum. The GaInP top cell absorbs radiation between 300 and 670 nm.

The middle GaAs subcell absorbs radiation between 500 and 890 nm and the bottom Si subcell between 650 and 1180 nm, respectively. The III-V layers are first epitaxially deposited on a GaAs substrate and then bonded to a silicon solar cell structure. Subsequently the GaAs substrate is removed, and a front and rear contact as well as an antireflection coating are applied. “Key to the success was to find a manufacturing process for silicon solar cells that produces a smooth and highly doped surface which is suitable for wafer bonding as well as accounts for the different needs of silicon and the applied III-V semiconductors,” explains Dr. Jan Benick, team leader at Fraunhofer ISE. “In developing the process, we relied on our decades of research experience in the development of highest efficiency silicon solar cells.” Institute Director Prof. Eicke Weber expresses his delight:

“I am pleased that Fraunhofer ISE has so convincingly succeeded in breaking through the glass ceiling of 30 percent efficiency with its fully integrated silicon-based solar cell with two contacts. With this achievement, we have opened the door for further efficiency improvements for cells based on the long-proven silicon material.” “The III-V / Si multi-junction solar cell is an impressive demonstration of the possibilities of our ComBond® cluster for resistance-free bonding of different semiconductors without the use of adhesives,” says Markus Wimplinger, Corporate Technology Development and IP Director at EV Group. “Since 2012, we have been working closely with Fraunhofer ISE on this development and today are proud of our team’s excellent achievements.” The direct wafer-bonding process is already used in the microelectronics industry to manufacture computer chips.

On the way to the industrial manufacturing of III-V / Si multi-junction solar cells, the costs of the III-V epitaxy and the connecting technology with silicon must be reduced. There are still great challenges to overcome in this area, which the Fraunhofer ISE researchers intend to solve through future investigations. Fraunhofer ISE’s new Center for High Efficiency Solar Cells, presently being constructed in Freiburg, will provide them with the perfect setting for developing next-generation III-V and silicon solar cell technologies. The ultimate objective is to make high efficiency solar PV modules with efficiencies of over 30 percent possible in the future.

Project Sponsorship
The young researcher Dr. Romain Cariou carried out research on this project at Fraunhofer ISE with the support of a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship. Funding was provided by the EU project HISTORIC. The work at EVG was supported by the Austrian Ministry for Technology.

 

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All bets are off: 4 takeaways on what President Trump means for the power sector

The paradigm of decarbonization that’s guided utility sector investments for the past decade is now up in the air. How will the Trump victory impact other industries? Here’s what we know about the President-elect. 

After a long election night, the American public elected real estate magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. The Republican nominee’s win shocked political commentators across the spectrum, as most election models predicted a victory for his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the hours before polls closed.

For the power sector, Trump’s election is likely an unwelcome development. U.S. utility companies gave more money to Clinton than any other candidate this election cycle, while none made sizeable donations to Trump. 

Much of that support came from the fact that Clinton is more of a known quantity to the power sector. Because they invest in multi-decade assets, utilities desire certainty and predictability out of policymaking, and the Clinton campaign laid out a full energy platform promising to build on the model of carbon regulation and renewable energy supports pushed by President Obama.

The Trump campaign, by contrast, was hard to predict: Beyond promises to roll back EPA regulations and support fossil fuels, he laid out few concrete energy policy proposals. And because energy and climate policy rarely featured on the campaign trail this cycle, the details of how a Trump administration would plan to transform U.S. energy production remain unclear. 

In the coming weeks, much effort will be spent trying to decipher who Trump will appoint and how his team will handle the specifics of energy policy. But given that President Trump will likely come into office with a GOP-controlled Congress and a vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court, there are some broad conclusions for the power sector that we can already draw. 

1. The Clean Power Plan — and other air regulations — are in danger 

One of the most immediate impacts of Donald Trump’s election is that the Clean Power Plan now appears much more likely to be struck down. 

The CPP is the EPA’s first set of federal carbon regulations and seeks to cut CO2 emissions from the power sector 32% by 2032. Though the utility industry is largely on board with the plan, a group of conservative states and fossil fuel interests challenged the rules, saying they constitute an overreach of EPA’s authority. 

Those arguments came to a head in September, when the D.C. Circuit Court held an en banc hearing on the regulations. Due to the composition of the court — six Democratic appointees and four from Republicans — legal experts largely expect the rules to be upheld there

But the Supreme Court could be a different story. No matter who prevails at the D.C. Circuit, the high court is expected to take up the Clean Power Plan next year. The justices have already shown interest in the case, placing an unprecedented judicial hold on compliance until court challenges are concluded. 

After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death earlier this year, the Supreme Court has a vacancy, and Republican senators have refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

If the Supreme Court were to hear the Clean Power Plan case with one seat vacant, energy lawyers told Utility Dive that a 4-4 split would be plausible, which would uphold the D.C. Circuit decision. But if Trump puts another conservative on the court — as he has promised — it could potentially give CPP opponents the five skeptical judges they would need to overturn the Clean Power Plan. 

Given that Trump will come into office with a GOP-controlled Senate, that judicial outcome is now much more likely. But even if the Supreme Court upholds the plan, a Trump administration and Republican Congress could still scuttle it by defunding the agency or simply halting implementation work. 

And while the Clean Power Plan is the highest-profile EPA air pollution rule at risk in a new Trump presidency, it is not the only one. Fossil fuel interests still bristle at rules like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which regulates harmful coal power pollution, and the EPA’s new source pollution rules, which govern emissions from new power plants. 

Trump has indicated that he wants to overhaul the EPA. With him in the White House, the future of any clean air or water regulation remains uncertain. 

2. Renewable energy subsidies could be on the chopping block

EPA regulations are a relatively easy way for Donald Trump to weaken President Obama’s clean energy legacy, since many of them are facing current court challenges or could simply not be enforced. 

Renewable energy subsidies would take more of an effort to revoke. At the end of last year, Congress reached a deal to extend supports for wind and solar energy into the early 2020s, with subsidy levels decreasing over time. That tax credit extension is fueling a boom in deployment, with renewables expected to add the vast majority of generating capacity for the remainder of the decade. 

That could change quickly. Though Trump hasn’t laid out a policy position on renewable subsidies, wind and solar have been the target of frequent ridicule from the president elect. In one speech designated for energy policy, Trump lambasted solar energy as “very expensive” and accused wind turbines of “killing all the eagles.” 

Because the renewable energy supports are already in place, revoking them would take a legislative effort. That’s a heavier lift than in the past, since many Republican officials have renewable energy facilities or manufacturing in their states, boosting support for the industry among conservative lawmakers. 

But there’s also appetite in some circles to get rid of renewable energy subsidies altogether. Some fossil fuel and nuclear generators complain that the production tax credit for wind lets these facilities to bid into the market at lower prices, pushing down electricity prices and preventing their baseload plants from competing. 

If Trump’s energy team will listen to clean energy opponents remains to be seen. The president elect has also said he is “for” renewable energy on many occasions, even while criticizing it in the next breath. But whether he opts for a full-frontal attack on wind and solar subsidies or will simply turn his attention to boosting fossil fuels, the future for renewables in a Trump administration does not look as bright as it would under a Clinton administration. 

3. Fossil fuels will likely get a boost

If Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about renewables, no one can mistake his support for fossil fuels. 

Trump made the plight of the fossil fuel worker a centerpiece of his campaign, lambasting EPA regulations he claims are “destroying our energy companies” and promising to put coal miners, oil drillers and power plant operators back to work. 

As elsewhere, the details of how Trump would do that are scant, but he has promised to increase U.S. production of oil, natural gas and coal.

Energy analysts point out that’s likely impossible, since coal’s decline in the U.S. is chiefly attributable to competition from cheap natural gas. But there are things Trump could do to open up new production areas, such as lifting restrictions on offshore drilling and fossil fuel production on federal lands. 

On the flip side, a Trump administration is likely to rebuff any environmentalist efforts to restrict domestic fossil fuel production or transport — a recent priority for green groups, which have sought to halt the expansion of oil and gas pipelines. 

Taken together, those two factors mean a much friendlier market for U.S. fossil fuel extraction and the generators that burn that fuel, even if the details are yet to be filled in. As one industry analyst told the Wall Street Journal this morning, “U.S. oil companies have a better future today than yesterday.” 

4. The paradigm of decarbonization may shatter

More important than any particular policy proposal is the paradigm shift that Trump’s election represents for the power sector. 

For the past few years — particularly since Obama’s reelection — the narrative for the future of the U.S. power sector was clear: Utilities would have to decarbonize their power plant portfolios quickly, first turning to natural gas as a bridge from coal and then ultimately to a greater reliance on renewables, energy efficiency and advanced technologies like storage. 

The Clean Power Plan underpins much of this narrative, pushing the states with the most coal power to shift to cleaner sources in the coming decades. Through those rules, the Obama administration sought to show the world the U.S. was serious about combating climate change and provide a stable policymaking environment for utilities to make investments. 

With the world’s largest economy committed to decarbonization, over 190 nations signed a landmark climate accord in Paris last year to limit global climate change to 2 degrees Centigrade this century. And not only did U.S. utilities sign on to support the CPP in court, they began using the temporary extension of wind and solar tax credits to make unprecedented investments in renewables. 

For the first time, it appeared a new climate consensus was forming — that U.S. and global policymakers not only accepted the realities of global warming, but were seeking to craft international efforts to stop it. 

Now, that consensus may be gone. Trump has said he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord and openly disavows the concept of human-caused climate change, once calling it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government. How Trump’s election affects other nations’ decarbonization plans remains to be seen, but his disavowal of climate policy creates deep uncertainty for the power sector. 

From plants to pipelines, utility assets last for decades, meaning the investments companies make in the next few years will shape the power mix for decades to come. Under the CPP and current renewables incentives, most U.S. utilities are opting to replace retiring coal plants with wind and solar facilities.

But without those programs, the investment situation may start to look different for many utilities. Whereas Hillary Clinton was likely to build upon existing regulations on power sector pollution, the promise of less stringent rules could increase the appeal of fossil fuel assets. 

If that happens, it could scuttle any remaining chance of meeting the Paris Accord. Already this year, Oxford researchers estimated if we want to meet the 2 degree goal, “no new investment in fossil electricity infrastructure (without carbon capture) is feasible from 2017 at the latest.” Given that the transport and industrial sectors continue to increase emissions, researchers said that “2 degree capital stock” is likely already depleted. 

In other words, scientists say the world is already behind the needed trajectory of emissions reduction to meet the Paris goal, and investments in more long-lived fossil fuel assets could commit the world to see the most catastrophic consequences of climate change if they are not retired early. 

But it may not all be bad news for renewables. Wind and solar have come down precipitously in price over the past decade, and energy storage costs are declining quickly as well. Even with Trump in the White House, renewables will likely continue to enjoy strong growth and grow their portion of the U.S. power mix. 

Even if that’s the case, wind and solar growth in the U.S. can’t make up for the possible end of a global climate consensus and the enhanced appeal of fossil fuel assets at home and abroad.

Unlike political paradigms, the scientific one won’t change when Trump walks into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on January 20.

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India Wavers on Emissions as Power Plants Balk at Price Tag

India may ease a deadline to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants blamed for causing the world’s worst air quality amid pressure from generators who say it’s too difficult to implement the $37 billion reforms.

The deadline to meet all the new standards may be pushed back beyond the original December 2017 target, said S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority and head of the panel drafting the road map for power producers to meet the new guidelines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed the limits on toxic emissions in December 2015.

The delay highlights the challenge facing Modi’s administration to provide cleaner air alongside affordable and reliable power to all of the country’s 1.3 billion people. Limiting emissions would take longer than the government’s original two-year deadline and cost as much as 2.5 trillion rupees ($37.4 billion), the Association of Power Producers, a lobby group of non-state generators, said in March.

The new goals may be implemented “in a phased manner,” Dubey said in a phone interview. “Particulate matter emissions should be addressed in the first phase. The next step would be sulfur dioxide emissions and later on oxides of nitrogen. That’s the direction we are moving in.”

The office of Federal Environment Secretary A.N. Jha, whose ministry originally proposed the standards, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment.

India’s 187 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, which generate more than 75 percent of the nation’s electricity, contribute to the air pollution that makes India home to what the World Health Organization has determined are 11 of the top 20 cities on the planet with the worst air quality. The plants account for 61 percent of its generation capacity, according to the Central Electricity Authority.

India must first establish monitoring systems at all plants to establish an emissions baseline, determine what technologies will be appropriate and then install them at the plants, said Leslie Sloss, an analyst with the IEA Clean Coal Centre, a technology cooperation program of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

“The time frame for the new norms is extremely challenging and probably not possible in practice,” Sloss said. “The new norms equate to India complying with emissions standards within a few years that Western economies have worked up to over decades. ”

Coal-fired power plants contribute to the release of about 60 percent of India’s industrial particulate matter, as much as half of the sulfur dioxide and 30 percent of oxides of nitrogen, the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment said in a report in December, weeks after the new standards were announced.

“The emission norms require capital expenditure, which will lead to an increase in tariffs and burden the already weak financials of state power retailers,” said Sachin Mehta, an analyst at Mumbai-based Centrum Broking Ltd. “The plan is fraught with challenges. It is impossible to meet the current deadline.”

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-02/india-wavers-on-emissions-goal-as-power-plants-balk-at-price-tag