Beautiful, sunny, and on track to 100 percent renewable energy – is Hawaii paradise, or what?, Xcel Energy’s consumers in Colorado get a break, and a different kind of nuclear power renaissance in the making. That’s what the advanced energy news looked like this week.
The energy system in the state of Hawaii is both a very special case and in other ways typical. Electricity prices are the highest of any state in the country because of the cost of imported fuel, and rooftop solar is more competitive there than anywhere else as a result. Hawaii is also part of a nationwide trend toward utility mergers. The merger between NextEra Energy, parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, America’s largest producer of electricity from the wind and sun, and Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) continues to clear barriers. Earlier this month, HEI shareholders voted in favor of merging with NextEra Energy. With clearance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and now the blessing of the stakeholders, the Hawaii Public Utility Commission is set to vote on the merger in August. When the merger was first announced late last year, NextEra Energy announced plans to use the merger to learn about how best to integrate distributed energy resources into the grid. Officials in Hawaii say they are happy to be the proving ground.
“Hawaii is proving to the rest of the country that renewable energy can be cheaper, cleaner and can help consumers to cut their electric bills down to near-zero,” said state Rep. Chris Lee to Utility Dive. “Moving to 100 percent renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do.”
Moving to renewable energy is just what Hawaii is doing. AEE member company SunEdison was just approved to build a 50 MW array on the island of Oahu for Hawaiian Electric Co.
Stateside, investment in advanced energy is paying off. Customers of Colorado’s Xcel Energy can expect to see significant cost savings in their energy bills: between 18 and 22 percent for residential and commercial natural gas customers and 4 percent for electricity customers. Xcel filed a notice on Monday with the Colorado PUC to adjust the cost of electricity and natural gas bills based on wholesale commodity prices.
Those commodities are cheaper, thanks to advanced energy, and not just natural gas. Back in 2013 we reported that Xcel Energy had decided to purchase wind and solar energy, not for corporate sustainability kudos or to take advantage of government subsidies, but because they were cheaper. At the time, Xcel Energy’s filing with the Colorado Public Utility Commission listed 170 MW of solar and 450 MW of wind as the cheapest energy sources available. Xcel recently announced plans to go further, increasing the renewable energy share of the electricity they provide from 21 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2030.
This is not news to us. The Brattle Group highlighted Xcel Energy in its recent report for the AEE Institute, Integrating Renewable Energy into the Grid, which demonstrated that integration of variable renewable generation sources is not only feasible, but cost effective. Download the full report by clicking the button below.
Nuclear energy has been stalled in the U.S. since the 1970s, with no new added capacity in more than three decades. A “nuclear renaissance” was anticipated a few years ago, but it fizzled out. But investors in advanced nuclear startups are betting that’s all about to change. A new report from Third Way says that dozens of investors, ranging from Lockheed Martin to Bill Gates, have pooled more than $1.3 billion behind small modular nuclear reactors as cheaper, safer, more scalable successors to the big nuclear plants of old. “Though this technology has much left to refine before commercialization,” report author Samuel Brinton writes, “the growth has been staggering.”