Alliance Panel on Grid Resilience Wins Climate Summit Approval

UHV grid beijing

Mega-Transmission Lines in Beijing. Ice coating is said to be a significant resilience problem to China’s grid in the northern half of the country. Photo by Marjorie Sun

California is hosting the Global Action Climate Summit this September in San Francisco. It’s a sequel to COP21 in Paris.  Summit organizers asked for proposals for affiliate events. We proposed organizing an expert panel on “How to Enhance Grid Resilience?”

After weeks of waiting, we’re in!

We’ll bring together a broad range of experts (see below) for a 2-hour panel before an international audience. The purpose is to showcase the pioneering efforts in California, other states, and China, to strengthen grid resilience in the face of climate change and other shocks. These include earthquakes and cyberattacks. Panelists will share common challenges, opportunities, and best practices to accelerate equitable, innovative solutions in the public and private sectors.

Confirmed panelists so far include experts from PG&E, Southern California Edison, California Independent Systems Operators (CAISO), Cadmus Group and Origin, which is Australia’s largest energy provider and does a lot of business in China.

So mark your calendars. The panel is Friday, September 14, 10 a.m. to noon, at the law offices of Morgan Lewis, One Market, San Francisco. (The Summit itself runs September 12 to 14.) We’ll post updates on the event and ticket info soon.

 

China’s Coal at Home and Now Abroad

In China, what are the risks of a rise of 1.5 degree C and how can low carbon solutions be accelerated? These will be the key issues of a day-long conference on May 30 in Beijing. NRDC, the Natural Resources Defense Council, is organizing the meeting. Top Chinese government and academic researchers are among the speakers.

In the past, China was said to have built a coal-fired power plant every day. But those days are over. Last year, China built 25 GW of new coal-fired power capacity. That’s half of what it used to be. China’s coal production inched up by 0.4 percent last year. Demand for energy was strong mainly because the economy improved and exports boomed, according to a China energy expert in an interview earlier this month in Beijing. Among the big problems that remain is the widespread use of distributed coal.

How can China cut its coal use? China is now the world leader in installed capacity of solar and wind energy and has plans to install even more. But curtailment is still a big problem. Solving curtailment would mean China’s coal use would actually decrease, the expert said.

China has been enormously successful in implementing energy efficiency measures. By saving energy, China has slashed its energy demand by 10 to 15 percent. With such success, it will be harder in the future for China to find ways to improve energy efficiency,  the expert said.

Meanwhile, a major concern now is to what degree China is incorporating sustainability in its construction of huge infrastructure projects overseas as part of its One Belt One Road initiative, now in its fifth year. Chinese sponsored projects account for most of the new coal fired power plants being built overseas, according to an article in the New York Times last year. A policy researcher at a Chinese research institute in Beijing said in an interview that his group is working to integrate renewables into the OBOR initiative. Without these and other sustainable measures, China’s infrastructure projects overseas will undercut the gains domestically in cutting carbon emissions.

 

2017 Bright Year for Solar

The U.S. solar industry reported this month double digit growth for U.S. solar installations in 2016 and 2017. That’s great news! At the end of 2017, U.S. capacity totaled 53.3 GW.
But let’s put this in perspective. That’s less than half of China’s current installed capacity, which is more than 130 GW. China domestically installed 53 GW last year alone. Yup, that’s almost the same as total U.S. capacity. This BNEF article lays out the reasons behind–in its words–China’s “runaway” growth in solar installations.

In the U.S., the solar and wind industries account for way more jobs than the fossil fuels sector. Here are the most recent figures from the Department of Energy’s 2017 Energy and Employment Report.

The question for the U.S. now is how much the Trump Administration’s tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels will hurt the growth of solar installations and job growth here. Solar companies in Massachusetts this year have already blamed significant job losses in part on the Trump Administration’s tariffs because they’ve created financial uncertainty.