Friday, December 2, 2022

Accelerating the Transition to a Renewable-Energy Economy


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Scientific progress has made available a series of technologies capable of supplying the energy necessary to carry out daily activities without compromising the ecosystem. Thanks to a growing awareness of the importance of protecting the environment, these technologies are now spreading all over the world.

These forms of energy, known as renewable energy, come from non-depleting sources, such as the sun, wind, or heat from the earth. Unlike fossil sources, the exploitation by man of renewable sources (Figure 1) does not deplete the available stocks and therefore does not prevent future generations from using the same sources. Furthermore, their use generally does not lead to the emissions of pollutants and carbon dioxide, which is considered the main cause of the greenhouse effect and climate change.

Among the organizations that have contributed most to the diffusion of renewable energy is the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

Figure 1: Types of renewables (Source: Shutterstock)

ACORE’s mission

ACORE was established in 2001 with the goal of accelerating the shift to a renewable-energy economy. ACORE prides itself on bringing the renewable community together to really tackle the opportunities and challenges across the entire spectrum of the renewable-energy marketplace.

“Founded over 20 years ago, ACORE is a member-based nonprofit organization,” said José Zayas, executive vice president of policy and programs at ACORE. “What makes us unique is that we bring technology, policy, and the finance community together.”

José Zayas, ACORE’s executive vice president of policy and programs

As Zayas pointed out, the challenges to be solved are the products needed, how we get them to market, and the vehicles that are going to make those opportunities achievable. Since its establishment, over 260 GW of renewable energy have been deployed and about $600 billion has been invested thanks to ACORE, the first organization devoted to growing the U.S. green economy. Over two-thirds of the annual renewable-energy capacity deployed in the United States is accomplished by the organization’s members.

ACORE’s membership includes top developers and producers, institutional investors, significant corporate offtakers, and the nation’s most progressive utilities. Therefore, all elements of the renewable-energy market are represented.

“If you look at our membership, it has a very strong presence from the financial sector,” said Zayas. “Our members include banks, financial institutions, and investors, alongside technology developers as well as project developers.

“It is a wide distribution of companies that are trying to fully take the opportunity that renewables have provided to help decarbonize the U.S. infrastructure,” he added.

ACORE’s events

Annual conferences on renewable-energy policy, renewable-energy financing, and the electric grid are held in New York and Washington, D.C., by ACORE. These are the three key areas that influence and accelerate the innovation and growth of renewable energy in America.

ACORE and Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG) have joined forces to launch the Macro Grid Initiative, which encourages investment in a 21st century transmission infrastructure (Figure 2) that increases dependability, boosts efficiency, and provides more affordable clean energy.

The main objective of this initiative is the creation of a macro grid. Increased interregional transmission through a U.S. macro grid that more effectively links the most populous cities with the most affordable renewable resources will improve grid dependability, save consumers billions of dollars, result in significant job creation, and significantly lower carbon emissions.

Utilizing nearby power sources allows us to move power from where it is available to where it is needed, increasing resilience and threat mitigation. Operators of power systems affirm that a wider geographic footprint reduces the fluctuation of energy supply and demand and enhances system performance.

Figure 2: The grid infrastructure (Source: Shutterstock)

Energy leaders met at the ACORE Grid Forum, held in Washington, D.C., last October, to discuss opportunities and challenges for a fundamental transformation of America’s grid.

“The grid is an area that ACORE and many others think is critical to fully realize the opportunities that renewables have,” said Zayas.

The U.S., like many other countries in the world, is provided with very diverse renewable options, including solar and wind energy. How we get those resources to the high-load centers becomes an infrastructure question involving the grid.

“Like many countries, we can say we have underinvested in our infrastructure, which might not be as ready or as robust or as reliable or as connected as we wanted it to be to make sure that we get from the high-resource centers to the high-load centers,” said Zayas.

If we look at it in terms of wind, we know it is everywhere in the U.S. but with a high concentration in the Midwest. Similarly, solar energy is everywhere but particularly robust in the Southwest. Other forms of renewables, like geothermal, are mainly concentrated in the Southwest as well.

“When you think about that distribution of resources, it clearly puts a focal point on the transmission of energy and what we need to do to expand our transmission—that’s what this forum is all about,” said Zayas.

An important milestone for the future of sustainable energy in America was the recent approval of the Inflation Reduction Act. The wind, solar, and battery storage industries will experience substantial cost reductions, accelerating the switch to renewable energy, thanks to long-term tax policy certainty. However, a significant increase in the nation’s electrical transmission capacity will still be necessary to provide the most affordable power to businesses and homeowners.

Because it enables higher-quality energy resources and better utilization of those resources, including less wind and solar power curtailment, transmission is the primary enabling technology for a clean electrical system. It aids in reducing the variability of both the supply and the demand for power over vast geographic areas and a range of timescales. Large-scale regional and interregional transmission can boost dependability by boosting coordination over greater geographies and increasing electricity imports and exports.

“Last year for the last six months, 24% of our utility-scale energy came from renewables, which is a great achievement,” said Zayas. “A quarter of our electricity came from renewables, and that’s just during a six-month period, so the potential of renewables is huge.”





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