REN21: Renewables Leading The Way

Renewable electricity capacity achieves new record level, increasing more than  8 % in 2013, accounting for more than 56% of net additions to global power capacity; renewables meet almost one-fifth of world final energy consumption.
Highlights from the report include:
  • Overall last year, renewables accounted for more than 56% of net additions to global power capacity.
  • Hydropower rose by 4% to approximately 1,000 GW in 2013, accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year. Other renewables collectively grew nearly 17% to an estimated 560 GW.
  • Renewable energy provided 19% of global final energy consumption in 2012, and continued to grow in 2013. Of this total share in 2012, modern renewables accounted for 10% with the remaining 9% coming from traditional biomass the share of which is declining.
  • Useful heat energy from modern renewable sources accounted for an estimated 4.2% of total final energy use; hydropower made up about 3.8%, and an estimated 2% was provided by power from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, as well as by biofuels.
  •  For the first time, more solar PV than wind power capacity was added worldwide accounting for about one-third of renewable power capacity added during the year
  • Even as global investment in solar PV declined nearly 22% relative to 2012, new capacity installations increased by more than 32%. The solar PV market had a record year, adding more than 39 GW in 2013 for a total of approximately 139 GW. China saw spectacular growth, accounting for nearly one third of global capacity added, followed by Japan and the United States.
  •  China’s new renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time.
  • In the European Union, 2013 marked the sixth consecutive year in which renewables represented the majority of new electricity generating capacity. The 72% share in 2013 is in stark contrast to a decade earlier, when conventional fossil generation accounted for 80% of new capacity in the EU-27 plus Norway and Switzerland.
  • Renewables are achieving high levels of penetration in several countries. For example, throughout 2013, wind power met 33.2% and 20.9% of electricity demand in Denmark and Spain, respectively; in Italy, solar PV met 7.8% of total annual electricity demand.
  • Growing numbers of cities, states, and regions seek to transition to 100% renewable energy in either individual sectors or economy-wide. For example, Djibouti, Scotland, and the small-island state of Tuvalu aim to derive 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Among those whom have already achieved their goals are about 20 million Germans who live in so-called 100% renewable energy regions.
  • Uruguay, Mauritius, and Costa Rica were among the top countries for investment in new renewable power and fuels relative to annual GDP.
  • Wind power was excluded from one of Brazil’s national auctions because it was pricing all other generation sources out of the market.
  • More than 35 GW of wind power capacity was added in 2013, totalling just more than 318 GW. However, despite several record years, the market was down nearly 10 GW compared to 2012, reflecting primarily a steep drop in the U.S. market. Offshore wind had a record year, with 1.6 GW added, almost all of it in the EU.
  • Heating and cooling from modern biomass, solar, and geothermal sources account for a small but gradually rising share of final global heat demand, amounting to an estimated 10%.
  • Denmark banned the use of fossil fuel-fired boilers in new buildings as of 2013 and aims for renewables to provide almost 40% of total heat supply by 2020.
Renewable energy is now the dominant source of new capacity and growth in the developing world and significantly altering the economics of energy worldwide.

Battery Swapping: Never Say Never

John Voelcker at Green Car Reports, in an article today argues it will never happen. () . John is a very smart, well read and well respected writer on Green Cars, but, I have to say
“Never, say Never”.  Battery swapping for EV’s won’t happen right now, but, it will likely happen in the next 7-10 years.
Voelcker very correctly points out that today, batteries are proprietary, custom and individualized.  That’s driven because Battery
technology is still immature relative to the problems of EVs.  An EV is a very tough problem for a battery, they need high discharge currents,
to accelerate and brake, they need big energy storage, ideally up to 100 KWH, they need high charging rates, L-3 or better, they need to be
affordable ( <$250/KWH) they need to withstand broad environmental challenges ( Florida, Arizona, Alaska) and Rough roads, impacts,
shock, and to be maintainable by technicians not surgeons.
The Problem is EV battery Technology is still below the performance level that customers can utilize or absorb.
EV battery is on the Blue Line well below the average performance demands of customers. We are all EV fans, but
lets be honest, when we are talking to our friends, family members or strangers, they say “EVs cost too much” or “EV’s dont’
have enough range” or “I need a vehicle that can tow my boat”.  Those are all valid, reasonable statements by Median
consumers.  EV drivers today are early adopters, willing to accept higher prices and lesser performance for some new
feature. Wether that new feature is “Cool”, “Quiet”, ” Tech”, “Clean”, “Green”, “Torque” Current EV drivers are
on the blue line on the early part of a sustaining innovation curve.
Electric Vehicle batteries as shown above, are still above the Median Performance Demand curve. That means
to improve the user experience the battery, Charger, Vehicle, must be heavily integrated in order to meet the total user demand.
Wether that was a Cabinet Hi-Fi, a Mainframe Computer from IBM or a Tesla Model S or an Apple iPod in 2002,  the providers
needed to integrate the user experience, with extensive customer support, and system integration.  Back in the 1950’s when you
bought a Hi-Fi stereo, technicians from the dealer would come to your home and tune the speakers to your room acoustics. In the 1960’s IBM
was noted for the extensive customer support provided by the IBM field organization and Apple provided a glorious
customer experience with the iPod and iTunes.  Tesla has captured this dynamic with their Tesla stores and Supercharger Network.
Now none of this is cheap.  IBM, Apple, Tesla, these were the high end, high margin companies and products chasing the top end.
Judging by Bloombergs public statements, this chase will be on full bore at least until 2020.  We will see things like GM struggling
to increase the all-electric range of the Volt, Nissan trying to improve price/performance of the Leaf, Tesla moving out new models.
However as volumes increase and performance overshoot begins to happen, price points will have to decline.
That will push EV manufacturers to drive battery manufacturing into more of a commodity business.  Suppliers will produce
Modular, commoditized batteries just as Intel began producing Modularized, commoditized CPU chips and memory chips.
It will become less and less competitive to be vertically integrated and vehicle manufacturers will move to a standard modular
When that happens, then Battery swapping can become a reality. It’s possible High End specialty manufacturers will grow
an ecological niche sufficiently large to support a proprietary swapping station, but, the main stream application of this will
happen sometime 2020 or beyond.  At that point, Shai Agassi will no doubt receive a well deserved bottle of champagne
from John Voelcker.

The Perovskite Moment

The Silicon Solar PV industry has achieved miraculous cost reductions moving the cost per watt of PV down 100X in 35 years,
for which they have been rewarded with a enormous growth in the industry and consumer base.  Solar PV has moved from a niche
(serving calculators, watches, spacecraft, remote equipment) to being main stream on housing and offices.  However, new technologies
have always been considered as possibilities to alter the fundamental economics of the business. Organic Films, Dye Sensitive printing
have been considered front runners but the efficiency has always been low compared to PV making the Balance of Systems cost high.
Recent news in Perovskites may change that.  Perovskites are a low cost mineral able to
be mixed with dye sensitive films.  Recent demonstrations have hit 15 % efficiency which now becomes truly disruptive for
application in bulk PV.
While these are Laboratory breakthroughs, and it is typically 5-10 years before product moves out, we will no doubt see more results
from both Academic and Industrial labs over the next few years.  If this becomes the underlying technology, Perovskite PV may be
too cheap to meter.