Morgan Stanley says the low prices of wind, solar, and grid/battery storage is making “peaker” plants uneconomical

August 16th, 2017 by  on Clean Technica. Source: Forbes 

 A new report authored by Stephen Byrd, a utility and cleantech analyst at Morgan Stanley, and Adam Jonas, its auto analyst, shows that they are bullish on the market for grid storage products. “Demand for energy storage from the utility sector will grow more than the market anticipates by 2019–2020,” the pair says.

They predict the demand for grid-scale storage will increase from less than $300 million a year today to as much as $4 billion in the next 2–3 years. Byrd and Jonas believe there will soon be demand for up to 85 gigawatt-hours of storage — worth about $30 billion a year. 85 GWh would be enough to supply most of New York City for a year.

cells for grid storageTheir report, entitled “An Underappreciated Disruptor,” claims that the low price of wind and solar energy together with the falling price of grid storage products has created a situation in which renewable energy is now reliable enough to be considered a mainstay of the utility industry and not just a specialty player, such as on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

Demand for electricity peaks in the morning and late afternoon. Traditionally, that’s when so-called “peaker plants” get brought online to handle the extra load. But firing up and then shutting down those facilities costs utility companies lots of money. If they have access to grid-scale storage, they can access it instantaneously and save substantial sums of money.

Owners of those peaker plants will be squeezed by an increase in grid-scale storage capacity. “Storage effectively provides a low-cost source of power, eliminating the need for the highest cost, least efficient conventional power plant,” says the report. “We think utilities could deploy storage as a way to enable the growth of renewables and/or defer costly transmission and distribution projects,” says Byrd.

More grid-scale storage will also promote a more distributed grid architecture, one that employs a “plug and play” model that better suits the needs of utility companies, rooftop solar customers, and electric vehicle owners. “The grid of the future is becoming more complex, necessitating improved grid infrastructure to accommodate a proliferation of distributed energy resources,” Byrd and Jonas suggest in their report.

Meanwhile, in China… (also from Clean Technica)

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has revealed that China has currently halted construction on new coal-fired power plants in an effort to avoid building over-capacity while simultaneously hoping to promote a cleaner energy mix.

The Chinese Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday that China had halted construction on a total of 150 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power generation capacity between 2016 and 2020 — the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan period. Xinhua reported on a statement released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which stated that “New capacity will be strictly controlled” and that “All illegal coal-burning power projects will be halted.”

Further, not only is the Chinese government halting future development, the NDRC added that it will be eliminating 20 GW worth of outdated capacity, while nearly 1,000 GW of coal capacity will be upgraded to producer fewer emissions, use less energy, and better coordinate with future energy development.

Overall, the Chinese government is aiming to keep the country’s total coal power capacity below 1,100 GW by 2020.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the NDRC’s move “followed an ongoing campaign to downsize bloated heavy industries, especially coal mining and steel smelting” in which “Solid progress has been made to shut down inefficient coal mines, and more measures are in the pipeline.”

China’s coal capacity has long been under close scrutiny given the country’s significant greenhouse gas emissions. However, in recent years, China has also been the country making the biggest moves to curtail its reliance upon coal — though this is something of a false narrative, considering that China simply had the largest amount of coal, and any curtailment would be considered huge. China reported towards the end of 2014 that its coal use had dropped by 1.28% — the first time coal use had declined in China this century. Not long after, China’s coal consumption and CO2 emissions were reported to both have dropped in 2014. This was the beginning of a trend which we have seen play out over the last few years. Figures over the first few months of 2015 showed that coal use only continued to fall, inevitably leading to a coal consumption decline in 2016 of 3.7%.

This most recent announcement to curtail development of coal and dial back existing coal infrastructure isn’t a new step for China, either, having in the past 12 months made significant steps to halt construction on its future coal plans. Towards the end of 2016 and over the first few months of this year, China announced the cancellation of 30 large coal-fired power plants amounting to 17 gigawatts (GW), followed soon after by the cancellation of 104 more under-construction and planned coal projects amounting to 120 GW. Unsurprisingly, therefore, China’s coal use declined further in 2016, down by 4.7% over 2015 levels, while coal’s contribution to overall energy consumption declined by 2% to 62%.