Bad news. Santa Claus is bringing coal this year. Many. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects production from coal to reach a new world record by the end of 2021. This is of course the opposite of what proponents of coal want. microgrids. The goal is a cleaner, not dirtier, electrical system.
So how did we get there?
The IEA blames the post-pandemic economic recovery. The demand for electricity is growing rapidly and there are not enough clean energy sources to make up the difference. So more coal is used.
Globally, the consumption of coal for electricity production is up 9% to a historic global peak of 10,350 TWh.
Need for “strong and immediate” action
China, already responsible for half of the world’s coal-fired electricity production, and India, will reach historic highs. The United States and Europe will see an increase of almost 20%, which will always keep them below an earlier, but still significant, high.
“Coal is the largest source of carbon emissions in the world, and the historically high level of coal-fired power generation this year is a worrying sign of the world’s distance in its efforts to bring emissions down. net zero, ”said Fatih Birol. , Executive Director of the AIE. “Without strong and immediate action by governments to tackle coal emissions – in a way that is fair, affordable and safe for those affected – we will have little or no chance of limiting global warming to 1, 5 ° C. “
Are you not rebuilding better?
Sadly, “strong and immediate” government action seems elusive in the United States – at least as of this writing – after Sen. Joe Manchin (R-WV) announced this week that he will not support the project. Bill Back Better from President Joe Biden. Manchin, who represents the coal mining country, holds the decisive vote to decide the fate of the legislation, which includes $ 555 billion in climate spending.
Microgrids are a key technology in the fight against the climate and Build Back Better is opening up a way to make them more affordable. The bill provides for a range of clean energy boosters, including a 30% investment tax credit for microgrids. If the micro-grids followed the solar model, the tax credit would overload the installations. The solar industry has grown by 10,000% since its tax credit was enacted in 2006, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).
However, even with such massive growth, solar only represents 2.3% of American electricity production.
So how do we get more renewable energy into the system so that the next time the United States sees an increase in demand for electricity, coal doesn’t see a corresponding increase?
Renewable energy policy helps, but it doesn’t go any further. The mechanisms for producing renewable energy require rethinking the way we manage energy, as wind and solar produce energy on a different schedule than conventional thermal or nuclear power plants.
The emerging grid requires a new level of software intelligence and flexibility. That’s why microgrids – the smartest form of distributed energy – are the keystone. When the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, microgrids can quickly inject electricity into the grid.
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Balancing the grid in this way is one of the services microgrids provide to help create a cleaner and more efficient network when they are not providing another of their key services: the power supply when the grid is down. Out of order.
On their own, these capabilities – grid strengthening services and energy reliability – make microgrids essential to creating a grid that can depend less and less on coal-fired power generation.
But there’s also another major benefit of microgrids, which we discuss in a recently released vision paper by Think Microgrid, a subsidiary of Microgrid Knowledge. Usually small and easy to locate, microgrids can be built now. This distinguishes microgrids from large wind, solar and hydroelectric projects that may require the construction of long-distance transmission lines to send their energy to population centers – a process that can take decades.
“> Because they are built close to those they serve, microgrids also bring a new level of efficiency to the network. Electricity dissipates when it travels long distances on wires. Any “line loss»Exists with microgrids.
So, my apologies for the gloomy news about coal for your Christmas storage and the micro-grid tax credit seemingly on the ropes. It is not all bad. As 2021 has shown us, the US microgrid industry is booming. If you scan Microgrid Knowledge’s 2021 coverage, you’ll find that investment is pouring into the industry, new projects are multiplying, pro-microgrid policies are advancing, and more businesses, institutions and even residences are embracing the technology.
Survey shows Americans prefer microgrids
Seventy-nine percent of Americans now support increasing use of microgrids in our electricity grid, up from 67% last year, according to a recent report survey by Lake Research Partners, Institute of Civil Society and VJBreglio. Layla Zaidane, President and CEO of the Millennial Action Project, describe microgrids “as a one-time solution in a generation”.
Indeed, the IEA views the increase in coal this year as “a blow” to the United States and Europe, where net zero efforts will reduce its long-term use. (Asia may be another story – See the IEA Coal 2021 report.)
Meanwhile, Guidehouse forecasts that in the United States alone, the capacity of renewable micro-grids will increase from 4,668 MW in 2021 to 32,750 MW in 2032. And with that growth will come jobs – 3.4 skilled jobs for every $ 1 million invested in renewable microgrids and $ 500,000 in additional economic benefits.
Coal may have won in 2021, but microgrids are the technology on the rise.
Interested in micro-grids? Join us for Microgrid 2022: Microgrids as Climate Heroes, June 1-2 in Philadelphia, PA. Registration is now open for early risers.