Top 10 2015 Smart City Energy Stories – part 2

2015 has been another year of dramatic change in the energy landscape. Technologies such as renewable energy or electromobility continue their unstoppable growth, and new organizational models in the energy business are beginning to happen. We have made a selection of the top events last year related to energy and the grid that have influenced the future life in cities. Here the second part!

5. Opower $90M contract

I am a great fan of Opower and other companies that are shaking the energy landscape from inside. In May 2015 they signed a contract worth $90M with California’s PG&E to takeover their customer engagement activities. This is not the only company using Opower’s services, but is the largest contract they signed till date.

Opower’s vision of targeting user’s behavior to achieve energy efficiency objectives is very inspiring, a really innovative approach to demand management. Probably, energy users in cities in the following decades will be doing what Opower and other similar companies are inventing today.

4. NY REV

One of my favorites. I am an advocate for the shift in power business, and the Reforming the Energy Vision Initiative led by the State of NY is one of its most revolutionary drivers.

REV pursues to rebuild the electricity market in the state through the creation of Distributed Service Platforms that put together energy services providers and customers in a marketplace, where the latter select their “energy menu” and whom to purchase it. Besides, its goal is to achieve social objectives such as transparency, equity and optimization of public investments, while the market is deregulated.

REV was announced in 2014, but it started gaining coherence in 2015. It is an example of top-down transformation, seeking to shape the electricity market from the public sector side. It is ground-breaking both because of its goals and the way chosen to do so, through a participatory process involving the whole society of NY.

3. Grid Parity

As repeated through the years by cleantech apostles, renewable energy resources are approaching grid parity. But could it have been finally reached in 2015? There are so many scenarios, technologies and combinations that we will never be able to say that, but one study released this year exemplified the change: Utility-Scale Solar Prices decline 50% since 2009 and reach Cost Parity with Natural Gas at 5¢/kWh on average.

However, incentives are still alive (and as said, necessary in many scenarios). This year President Obama signed the extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar other 3 years, and the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind will also be extended through 2016.

2. Tesla Powerwall

Tesla_PowerwallOn April, Tesla announced the release of its Powerwall Energy Storage system. Although technically it is not a great revolution, its price (the 7 kWh model costs $3,000, proving that storage technology could get now affordable for a wider audience) and Tesla’s reputation as innovation star company gave it global echo. Will it mean a complete change in the energy business in our cities? Surely not by itself, but it forecasts a near future where citizens are active in that market, opening it to other actors different from utilities, such as startups, entrepreneurs and the like.

You can find more information here: Understandsolar.com

1. Cop21

The Paris agreement was signed by 195 countries in Le Bourget, France. It means the most serious effort against Climate Change. However, it could end halfway, if not confirmed by at least 55 countries to become legally binding. Among its ambitious measures:

  • To keep global temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels through the year 2100 and to “endeavour to limit” them to 1.5 degrees Celsius
  • To balance carbon source and carbon sinks in the second half of this century
  • To review each country’s emissions reduction contribution every five years so that it can be scaled up
  • For rich countries to help poor countries by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change

Even if the objectives are not completely fulfilled, the agreement portrays that the commitment of the international community in the fight against Climate Change is finally real. Sustainable energy generation and consumption is key, and cities will play a role in its transformation by including citizens in this effort.

Top 10 2015 Smart Cities Energy Stories – part 1

by Alberto Quintanilla

2015 has been another year of dramatic change in the energy landscape. Technologies such as renewable energy or electromobility continue their unstoppable growth, and new organizational models in the energy business are beginning to happen. We have made a selection of the top events last year related to energy and the grid that have influenced the future life in cities.

EXPO Milano 201510. World Expo, Smart Grids year

A World Expo was held in Milano in 2015. Enel provided a Smart Grid to efficiently realize load control, energy flow optimization, integration of renewable energy and storage, and lighting management.

Probably just a promotional announcement, but also a sign of how Smart Grids became ubiquitous in our lives.

9. YieldcCos

YieldCos were a great financial instrument, extensively used by renewable energy companies since 2013 to fund their future plants developments. They went public in stock markets and the earnings were used by parent firms to pay for the new plants. No need for banks.

Everything worked fine until Fall 2015. Losses went as far as 50% from July for some of them, investments rates downgraded. Is this the end of Yieldcos? As always, maybe it is not a matter of the tool but the management. Could some parent companies be misusing their yieldcos? The bubble popped, let’s see if they recover (maybe with the help of ITC and PTC extensions).

8. US demand response court ruling order 745

Some more bad news in 2015. US Supreme Court finally ruled against Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order 745. This order basically allowed the administrations or the utilities to pay for demand response. In my opinion, cancelling Order 745 (and any other attempt to limit demand response) delays progress toward a more efficient grid and a more sustainable economy.

Progress is unstoppable though. A pivot to real-time prices for consumers could mitigate damage and will end up as a better solution for harnessing flexible demand.

7. Tesla new Model X and GigaFactory

Tesla shows up in our ranking for the second time. It is not for one single action, I want to acknowledge the growing importance of the electric vehicle in city mobility and Tesla´s leading role in its expansion. Not happy with that, they are horizontally hopping to the energy storage sector, and shaking it hard. In 2015 they launched a new model (Tesla Model X) and announced the erection of their new Gigafactory in Nevada to boost their capacity up to 500k cars a year, and produce lithium batteries. In the future, we hope they solve some issues like their still not booming sales figures and the unaffordable prices of their cars.

6. Doubts on China’s commitment with green energy and the future of their cities: they are burning more coal than ever

Not all are good news. In the context of their own financial crisis, emerging countries struggle to go green. However, this is not always possible. Despite their bet for green energy, last year China reported it is burning 17% more coal in their power plants and factories than they previously admitted. No need to say what this means for air quality in cities and the health of Chinese people. We hope it turns much better in 2016.

Next week you will discover the top 5!