Stranded assets: utilities and energy companies plan to invest $112 billion in new gas plants by 2025, as well as $32 billion in infrastructure to transmit the gas

Sunrun just announced that it nailed down a “landmark contract” with California’s East Bay Community Energy board of directors to to install home solar and battery systems on low income housing. The work will enable the area’s decades-old Oakland Power Plant to stop burning jet fuel during peak demand hours.

On cautionary note, looked at the prospects for replacing natural gas power plants with renewables and energy storage, and found cause for alarm: Regardless of the price comparison, to stave off the most catastrophic effects of climate change, scientists anticipate the U.S. and other countries will need to leave gas-fired electricity behind by the middle of the century. At the same time, utilities and energy companies plan to invest $112 billion in new gas plants by 2025, as well as $32 billion in infrastructure to transmit the gas…

In other words, the race is on to replace natural gas before those new construction plans get cemented in stone.

The US Department of Energy continues to cheerlead for natural gas, but last month the agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory put its finger on the scale in favor of energy storage. NREL studied the idea of using storage instead of “peaker” power plants and came up with this:

…We find that the addition of renewable generation can significantly increase storage’s potential by changing the shape of net demand patterns; for example, beyond about 10% penetration of solar photovoltaics, the national practical potential for 4-hour storage to provide peak capacity doubles. The impact of wind generation is less clear and likely requires more detailed study considering the exchange of wind power across multiple regions.

It looks like the onshore and offshore wind sectors have some more homework to do, but NREL is also looking into new technology that would enable long duration energy storage into the 10-hour range. CleanTechnica is reaching out to the lab for some insights on that score, so stay tuned.