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Energy Transition Lab

COP23 Day 6

November 11, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on COP23 Day 6

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

As I write my final blog of the week, I’ll focus on two topics.

100% Renewable Energy

First, to conclude the 100% renewable energy discussion, I highlight Vaxjo, Sweden and Costa Rica, as well as an important research paper.  Vaxjo is Duluth’s sister city, and they share a similar population around 90,000 and an outdoorsy setting with beautiful lakes.  Vaxjo’s lakes were heavily polluted in the 1970’s, and the search for solutions led to a political decision in 1996 to go “fossil fuel free.”  The city now produces about 66% of its energy from renewable sources, including for heat.  Besides energy efficiency they make use of abundant forest products to produce bioenergy.

Costa Rica is on its way to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and adding other sector goals.  Minister William Calvo said they were paying fossil fuel companies not to produce power, which is an interesting approach to compensating for stranded assets.

Earlier this week the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Energy Watch Group presented a new study which models a global transition to 100% renewable electricity.  Hans-Josef Fell, a former member of the German Parliament, explained this modeling is unique in that it modeled hourly energy demand, and showed that existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050 – or sooner if a supportive policy and regulatory framework is in place.

Managing the Grid for Carbon

Today is “energy day” at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, which was funded by Michael Bloomberg to fill the gap left by the U.S. government’s absence.  This is the first COP in history in which the U.S. has not hosted a pavilion to share information with COP attendees.

This morning I learned about new software that can solve an important grid issue.  Researchers have analyzed energy data from our regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and found that even with a large and growing share of wind energy, there are many times of the day or night in which the grid emits high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.  See a recent University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment research paper on this.  This is important for users of energy storage batteries and electric vehicles.

New software can automatically program energy – for charging stationary batteries or EV’s – that is both cheap and low-carbon, using real-time automatic analysis of what marginal resource is on the grid.  As one speaker said, this is a clarion call for open data.  Without access to grid utility data, we can’t field this software.  Europe & North America have this information available to a certain extent but other countries don’t.  As India moves to ban internal combustion engines, it will make an enormous difference in meeting Paris Agreement targets whether users are charging them at low-carbon times or not.  The software developers claim that using this program in the US will be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road in terms of carbon reduction.

There is so much else I would like to write about, but I’m out of time.  This week has been an amazing amalgam of ideas, inspiration, and examples.  Today’s talk by former Vice President Al Gore covered the spectrum from the stark scientific and meteorological data – crushingly dire and depressing – to all the reasons for hope.  A global transition to clean energy is not only possible but inevitable.  This continuum describes my COP23 experience, as I depart Germany imbued with more knowledge, information, and examples, and more hope for progress.

100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

November 10, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on 100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today I spent my day at a conference at the German Environment Ministry, just 2 train stops from the COP23 meeting. “The Local Dimension of the NDCs:  100% Renewable Energy” was co-sponsored by the Ministry and organizations committed to 100% renewable energy target.  One sponsor, ICLEI, is a global network of 1500 sustainable cities including Duluth, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.

The predominant theme of the day was that local community-scale activities on carbon emissions and renewable energy are the most important strategy to reach the Paris Agreement NDC pledges, and that 100% renewable energy is an attainable target over time.  Harry Lehman, a leader in the German government who has visited Minnesota several times, commented that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 35% is an accomplishment given the challenges Germany is facing. He talked about the next challenge in renewable energy, in which “big” players could…click here to continue reading.

Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

November 9, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

There are so many different levels at which you can interact at COP23.

My goals in attending were 1) to share the story of Minnesota’s clean energy leadership as a successful model, 2) to help explain to the rest of the world that thousands of Americans at the city, state, corporate, university, and individual level are still moving forward toward the Paris Agreement goals, with or without the support of the federal government, and 3) to learn as much as I can from the incredible resource of people here, in ways that will benefit our energy transition work at the University of Minnesota.

There are some 25,000 energy and climate experts from virtually every nation in the world here and more events than you can possibly attend. Today, I...click here to read more.

 

 

Two Americas: Day Three of COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsFeatured, UncategorizedComments Off on Two Americas: Day Three of COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today we heard the views of a majority of Americans, compared to the position of our federal administration, on climate change and clean energy. We know that a majority of Americans think global warming is real, that government should take action on it, and that as a nation we should support development of clean renewable energy. (See for reference Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and recent Gallup polls, among other studies). We also know that the Trump administration plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and to send representatives to COP23 to promote fossil fuels.

In contrast, the U.S. People’s Delegation was created to give voice at COP23 to community and grassroots leaders around the United States who support not only the Paris Agreement, but also an aggressive agenda for moving to 100% clean energy. As a member of the Climate Generation delegation, I was…click here to continue reading.

ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Yesterday, IonE’s Energy Transition Lab director Ellen Anderson was a featured member of the U.S. People’s Delegation press conference. Climate Generation joined this larger coalition of delegations to help demonstrate that the United States is showing up at the talks, despite the lack of federal action on climate change. Individuals on the press conference panel shared the progress happening for climate action within their scopes, as well as the official action demands of the People’s Delegation at COP23. Among them is a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy in all cities and states, a halt to all new fossil fuel projects, the call for nations to…click here to continue reading and watch video of press conference!

The Road Map to Bonn & COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

After leaving Minnesota on Friday night, I spent almost 24 hours traveling via an Amsterdam layover, Dusseldorf, and finally Bonn, Germany. It is so different to travel in Europe after living in the Midwest. I have clocked more miles on trains and on foot in the last 48 hours than in one month in Minnesota. It is slightly more balmy here, and my charming and tiny one-room apartment overlooks a very tiny and green garden. On Sunday night, our University of Minnesota and Climate Generation delegations met up for the first time at a traditional German restaurant that was already several hundred years old when Beethoven ate there – and the menu probably hasn’t changed: sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut with good German beer.

All afternoon on Sunday, many of us found our way through Bonn’s beautiful Rhineaue Park to attend a COP23 strategy session with an international gathering of climate non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I was struck by a participant’s simple but emphatic statement – “we are not negotiators” – and therefore must focus on “what science demands of us.” This is an important distinction at a United Nations conference where all action and legal instruments are defined by the negotiating stances, and compromises, reached by nations.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website declares this year’s bold theme: “The UN Climate Change Conference 2017 aims for further, faster ambition together.”

These themes were repeated today by COP23 leaders in the opening sessions, with a combination of aspirational pep talks and dire warnings of the current state of the climate. The session kicked off with inspiring music performances, which we watched from the overflow room. First, dozens of Bonn children led a costumed parade and sang “I’m an island.” Click here to continue reading.

University of Minnesota Solar Development Roadmap

October 10, 2017Megan ButlerFeatured, UncategorizedComments Off on University of Minnesota Solar Development Roadmap

University of Minnesota Campus Development Roadmap

Solar energy provides Universities with the opportunities to expand experiential learning and research, diversity and increase the resiliency of campus infrastructure, engage alumni, donors and prospective students/faculty, advance sustainability goals, and enjoy monetary savings. In 2015, the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab created the SUN Delegation with guidance from MREA and Institute on the Environment. Between 2015 and 2017, the Delegation worked with University staff and faculty to identify pathways to invest in solar energy. These efforts were an instrumental catalyst in encouraging University decision makers to invest in solar. Since the SUN Delegation was formed in 2015 the University has taken the following steps to invest in solar:

Community Solar Gardens (CSG): In 2016, the University subscribed to two megawatts (MW) of solar power from a CSG developed by Geronimo Energy. This investment will save the University approximately $800,000 and offset ~55,300 metric tons of greenhouse gases over 25 years. In 2017, UMN subscribed to a total of 22.5 additional MW. The additional subscriptions are expected to produce 1,095,187,000 kWh of electricity and generate $35,661,070 in savings over 25 years.

On-Site Solar: Ameresco, Inc will install 2.255 MW of solar panels on the Twin Cities campus. The University’s new Bell Museum will also include several small educational solar arrays. Delegation students also developed a transportable solar testbed that students will be able to use on campus.

Duluth Campus Student Services Fee:  UMD students successfully petitioned and received $100,000 from the Duluth Campus Student Services Fee and another $50,000 from UMD’s Revolving Loan Fund. The funds will be used to install an 11kW PV array on campus in 2016.

Xcel Energy Renewable Connect: UMN recently signed up to participate in Xcel Energy’s program, which allows ratepayers to subscribe to energy produced from wind and solar.

The University recognizes this as a step forward towards sustainability and a wise financial investment.

Benefits of Solar

In addition these investments are expected to have a number of benefits over time:

Cost Savings:  Financial viability was a major factor that stakeholders at the University considered when deciding whether or not to invest in solar. The University expects to enjoy a positive ROI on solar investments. In addition, diversifying its energy portfolio allows the University to improve its resilience against foreseen and unforeseen energy price changes that may occur in the future.

Sustainability: Encouraging solar on campus has provided valuable opportunities to improve the University of Minnesota’s leadership in sustainability. The University of Minnesota recognizes climate change as one of the grand challenges humanity will have to overcome in the 21st century and is dedicated to research and is “driven to discover” new knowledge and solutions for the world. Renewable energy technology, combined with energy reduction strategies, have a huge potential to mitigate climate change without sacrificing our quality of life.

Educational Value: Solar arrays will advance research and education at the University. Data produced from a solar array and weather stations will allow researchers to create and enhance photovoltaic system models. The solar arrays would also allow educational site visits for classes and student groups across the University. In addition, this work has helped to make University of Minnesota a pioneer in university solar investment. For example, there are no case studies in existence of other universities who have a CSG subscription of more than one MW. The University of Minnesota is a pioneer in this endeavor.

Support for Research: Participation in the Solar Endowment program provided additional resources and legitimacy to students and faculty interested in solar. For example, students encouraged the University to consider opportunities for solar projects aimed at generating low carbon energy while providing valuable pollinator habitat. 

Positive Public Image: Solar investment will increase the visibility of the University’s position as a leading institution on clean energy and combating climate change. While efforts such as energy efficiency and the CHP project have also had a tremendous effect on the campus’ carbon emissions, the visibility of solar panels will help the University to demonstrate a public commitment to sustainability. This could potentially help the University recruit sustainability-minded students and donors.

The University of Minnesota Campus PV Development Roadmap describes the process that UMN students, faculty and staff undertook to investigate and invest in solar. The SUN Delegation compiled this roadmap to guide other higher education institutions considering a path to solar.

Read the Campus Roadmap
 

 

 

Midwest Energy Storage Summit 9-15-17: Video, Slides & More

The University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, in partnership with the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance, hosted the Midwest Energy Storage Summit on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Summit included over 300 participants from throughout the Midwest representing energy leaders from industry, the public sector, academia and non-profit sectors.

Thank you to all our participants and sponsors!

About the Midwest Energy Storage Summit

Our energy systems are undergoing a significant transition, and energy storage is linchpin for a more flexible, resilient, reliable, efficient, and low carbon grid.  Whether considering grid or distribution scale or customer applications, furthering deployment of storage in the Midwest will require an integrated, collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach, as well as a deep understanding of technology advancements and the market and regulatory environments.  

The goal of the Midwest Energy Storage Summit was to gather energy stakeholders from a variety of sectors in order to reach a shared understanding of energy storage trends, opportunities, and barriers in our region and nationally.  We connected Midwesterners to learn from each other and explore opportunities for regional cooperation.  Goals of the conference included:

  • Understanding MISO operations and rules relating to energy storage and current and future implications for the regional grid;
  • Learning about storage from different perspectives, including 
    • Policy and regulatory pathways,
    • The role of research in bringing technology to market, and
    • Implementation – how “doers” get projects off the ground; and
  • Capitalizing on networking and collaboration opportunities.

Click here for more information about Summit lodging and transportation 

Kilowatt Sponsors

Fresh Energy

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

PAR Energy Solutions

3M

Union of Concerned Scientists 

Supporting Partner: Midwestern Governors Association

Media Sponsor: Midwest Energy News

Become a Midwest Energy Storage Summit sponsor today! 

Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities

Energy Storage Paired with Solar Found to Be More Cost Effective in Minnesota Today than Natural Gas Peaking Plants

As federal policy on renewable energy is being rolled back, a new UMN-led report finds that when environmental benefits are considered combined energy storage and solar arrays can be a more cost-effective alternative in Minnesota – implementable today – to natural gas peaking plants, which are fired up only to meet peak demand.

It also shows that increasing the deployment of energy storage combined with renewable energy would help Minnesota meet its statutory goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050 sooner and at a lower cost than other technologies.

The report, “Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities,” is the result of months-long effort led by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Lessons learned could also be applied to other Midwest states that are in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) footprint.

“Energy storage is a linchpin for Minnesota: It has the potential to reduce our system costs, increase electric grid resiliency, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions in our broader coal-dependent region,” said Ellen Anderson, director of the Energy Transition Lab. “While the federal government questions the reliability of renewable energy, states like Minnesota are stepping up to show it’s possible to connect renewables and storage to reduce both costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining a reliable grid.”

Input from dozens of Minnesota energy experts laid the foundation for the analysis and final report.   ETL convened more than 60 stakeholders, including representatives from utilities, energy technology companies, nonprofits and government, in two Energy Storage Strategy Workshops starting in 2016 to assess the opportunities for energy storage in Minnesota and at MISO. Participants explored whether and how energy storage could be used to help Minnesota achieve its energy policy objectives, and enable greater system efficiency, resiliency and affordability. Project collaborators Strategen Consulting and Vibrant Clean Energy conducted the use-case and system-wide modeling for the analysis, with input from MISO.

In addition to showing that storage plus solar already could be more cost effective than peaking gas plants, including environmental benefits, the analysis shows that the deployment of storage in Minnesota is projected to increase the use of low-cost renewable energy generation dispatched in MISO and to reduce the need for expensive transmission investments.

Furthermore, it shows that as standalone storage becomes more economic, it will be able to compete with and displace new gas combustion turbines installed to meet peak demand. Beyond 2022, storage was found to be more cost effective than a simple cycle gas-fired peaking plant for meeting Minnesota’s capacity needs.

Connexus, Minnesota’s largest distribution cooperative, was a participant in the workshops and is already pursuing procurement of a 20MW, 40MWh energy-storage system. It will be one of largest storage projects of its kind in the Midwest. According to Connexus, responses to its Request for Proposals have been encouraging, with prices even more competitive than anticipated.

“We have been assessing energy storage to understand its potential benefits to our distribution system and members. Just like solar PV, with continuing drop in storage pricing, it is now becoming cost effective in specific applications,” said Brian Burandt, Vice President of Power Supply and Business Development at Connexus. “While we expect broad applications will be enabled with ongoing cost reductions and performance enhancements, we believe the technology is ready today for application on our system. That will save our member-owners and Minnesotans on electric costs, but in tandem, facilitate renewable energy growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The energy storage planning process was spearheaded by ETL and the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA), with support from the Energy Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Carolyn Foundation, AES Energy Storage, General Electric, Next Era Energy Resources, Mortenson Construction, Great River Energy and Strategen Consulting.

Wind and solar energy projects could bring 5,000 new jobs to rural Minnesota: Energy Transition Lab report measures the impact of federal and state policies to expand renewable energy

November 15, 2016Megan ButlerFeatured1
renewable-work

Source: Centre for Alternative Technology. (CC BY 2.0)

Minnesota has undergone a remarkable transformation in its energy landscape over the past decade. Coal, once the dominant fuel source for Minnesota’s electric utilities, has given way to new types of energy resources — wind and solar among them. While Minnesota’s state energy policies have been a large driver in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit have played a major role in shaping the state’s clean energy economy while keeping rates affordable for utility customers, according to a new report from the Energy Transition Lab.

The report “analyzes real proposed projects, not theoretical ones,” says Ellen Anderson, ETL’s executive director. “Extension of federal policies for wind and solar development are helping Minnesota residents, businesses and schools save on their energy bills and procure locally-produced wind and solar energy,” says Anderson.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • The clean energy economy is continuing to expand in Minnesota, providing low-cost energy, creating jobs and economic impact.
  • Federal and state policies, especially extension of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit, are helping Minnesota see significant new renewable energy projects, jobs, ratepayer savings and economic benefits.
  • Modeling shows that planned additions of wind and solar projects in the state will result in approximately $7.09 billion in direct investment, over 5,000 jobs related to construction alone and 3,987 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.
  • Distributed generation of solar energy has almost doubled in the past two years, with businesses citing the ITC as a major driver in their success.

“These projects will not only expand renewable energy in Minnesota, they will create more than 5,000 jobs and over $7 billion in direct economic impact in 18 mostly rural Minnesota counties,” says Anderson.

Read the Report

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Administration
The Energy Transition Lab is a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in partnership with the Law School.
Funding
Funding for the Energy Transition Lab is primarily provided by the Institute on the Environment. Other funders include McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Carolyn Foundation, US Department of Energy, Wind Energy Foundation and the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. Support for energy storage work is provided by the Minneapolis Foundation, Great River Energy, Mortenson Construction, AES Corporation, Next Era Energy Resources, and General Electric. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.