Today (Aug. 12) the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Administrator Adam Sieminski announced that renewable electric generation including wind, solar and biomass, has outpaced the amount of generation coming from hydropower in the U.S. At the same time a new report from Black and Veatch finds that going forward not all the large, old power plants, like coal plants, need to be replaced—largely because of solar power and distributed generation. Both are good harbingers for clean energy like solar power.
“For the first time ever, the amount of U.S. electricity generated from wind, solar and other nonhydropower renewables is on track in 2014 to exceed the level of electricity produced from electric-generating dams and other hydropower on an annual basis,” Sieminski said. “Renewable sources, including hydropower, biomass, wind, solar, and geothermal energy, are expected to generate 13 percent of U.S. electricity supplies in 2014.”
Unfortunately overall this year coal generation is expected to jump slightly in 2014 since natural gas prices were up in the first half of the year. As such, coal-fired electric generation is expected to rise to 41 percent of the nation’s energy supply in 2014, up from 39 percent last year, according to Sieminski.
However, in Black & Veatch’s the 8th annual Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry, the consulting company finds that many retiring nuclear and coal power plants may not require a watt per watt replacement. It says that distributed generation (DG), new technologies as well as soft energy demand growth are allowing utilities to consider replacing retiring electric power plants with potentially smaller plants.
“This year’s Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry report finds many utilities at a crossroads,” says Dean Oskvig, president of Black & Veatch’s energy business. “The influx of new technologies, new energy sources and new generation approaches, create immense challenges and opportunities for utilities. What has not and will not change, however, is the mandate to deliver the ‘always on’ reliable electric service the industry has provided for more than 100 years.”
“Every kilowatt that is now being produced by a third party or a consumer is a kilowatt not being sold by the utility,” says John Chevrette, president of Black & Veatch’s management consulting business. “At the same time, utilities still carry the burden of building, maintaining and operating the bulk of the power delivery system. Given the high cost of maintaining these assets, we expect to see more utilities making the case with regulators to adjust their business models.”
However, the report also finds that DG is becoming more of a challenge for utilities. Particularly those with high solar renewable portfolio standards. That’s because they have to be able to raise and decrease the amount of energy they put on the grid based on the fluctuations of solar power because of weather and other factors. Gas however, which most utilities are considering for new generation, is among the most capable technology of ramping up and down production based on need. Another alternative to ramping up generation in response to rising and falling energy levels is using energy storage to smooth out the grid, but it is still expensive.Tweet