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Top Ten RMI Blog Posts of 2015

As we start 2016, we thought we’d look back at all the exciting stories from the past year as told through our blog site. Here we list the top ten viewed RMI blog posts from 2015.

10. The Finance Industry on DERs: Solar and Batteries are Coming

RMI’s 2014 report The Economics of Grid Defection assessed when and where distributed solar-plus-battery systems could reach economic parity with the electric grid, creating the possibility for defection of utility customers. RMI’s 2015 report, The Economics of Load Defection, showed customers won’t completely leave the grid, but their load will, defecting from grid supply to behind-the-meter, grid-connected solar PV and batteries. The Finance Industry on DERs: Solar and Batteries are Coming detailed how banks also expect solar-plus-storage to present a threat to the traditional utility/customer relationship as we have known it until now.

9. The Distributed Energy Storage Industry in One Chart

Battery-based energy storage can play a valuable enabling role when it comes to renewable energy adoption, but storage can also do much more. Services such as peak shifting, backup power, and ancillary grid services are a small subset of the larger matrix of potential future values batteries can provide, but storage is still too expensive to cost-effectively provide these services in most U.S. markets. In The Distributed Energy Storage Industry in One Chart, RMI illustrates the two major challenges the energy storage industry is currently facing: high costs and limited avenues for capturing value.

8. New York and California are Building the Grid of the Future

RMI has been working with electricity stakeholders for years on how to integrate significantly higher amounts of distributed energy resources (DERs) onto a grid historically built around centralized assets like large power plants, and currently, New York and California are leading the charge. While both states want to improve system resilience and customer opportunities, and recognize the importance of fundamental changes to the regulated investor-owned utility business model and distribution planning process, they have different existing levels of DER adoption, electricity policy objectives, history, and market structures. How New York and California are Building the Grid of the Future details how the two states are betting big in different ways on distributed energy resources.

7. How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually

Today’s vehicles are overdesigned, underutilized, underloaded, inefficient, polluting, and—thanks to the drivers behind the wheel—dangerous. In the United States our cars alone produce one quarter of all U.S. carbon emissions. But that’s about to change. How the U.S. Transportation System Can Save $1 Trillion, 2 Billion Barrels of Oil, and 1 Gigaton of Carbon Emissions Annually shows how a paradigm shift in our transportation system can save big for the both the public and the planet.

6. Report Release: The Economics of Load Defection

In April, RMI released The Economics of Load Defection, a report that analyzes how grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems will become cost competitive with traditional retail electric service; why it matters to financiers, regulators, utilities, and other electricity system stakeholders; and possible paths forward for the evolution of the electricity grid. The blog post explains why just because defecting from the grid may become an economic option as solar and battery costs decline, the more likely scenario of grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems could represent an even greater challenge.

5. An Alaskan Island Goes 100% Renewable

As most Alaskans can attest, energy in The Last Frontier is expensive. The average residential electricity rate of more than 18 cents per kWh is a full 50 percent higher than the national average, ranking among the highest in the country. That’s in part because outside the 50 hydro plants throughout the state, most of Alaska’s rural communities rely on imported diesel for their electricity. But as An Alaskan Island Goes 100% Renewable explains, the folks of Kodiak Island (pop. 15,000) in southern Alaska—powered almost 100 percent with renewable energy—have a different story to tell.

4. Hawaii just ended net metering for solar. Now what?

In October, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a ruling ending net energy metering (NEM) for all new solar customers in the state. Now, new customers will have a choice to make between two new tariffs: a “grid-supply” option and a “self-supply” option, neither of which is as favorable to solar PV as the net energy metering tariffs of today. However, Hawaii just ended net metering for solar. Now what? explains how these new tariffs could open the door for technology and business models that leverage demand flexibility and battery storage potentially enhancing the value of PV for new customers.

3. The Ten Things Likely To Be Missing From Tesla’s Stationary Storage News

In April, Tesla Motors made a major announcement about new stationary storage offerings—both a home battery and a very large utility-scale battery.  Tesla’s announcement was another proof point that cost-effective, customer-sited solar-plus-storage systems are coming. However, for batteries to be truly transformative—for customers and the grid—we need to recognize the full range of values they can provide beyond cheap storage. The Ten Things Likely To Be Missing From Tesla’s Stationary Storage News discusses the ten other ways customers can use Tesla’s stationary batteries.

2. Tesla Hitting the Battery Accelerator

Tesla’s announcement about the Tesla Powerwall battery took the world by storm (see above). Not only is it sleek, modular, and high quality, but it’s also cheap—much cheaper than anyone was expecting. In Tesla Hitting the Battery Accelerator we explore how many more customers will be able to adopt energy storage systems in the near term due to the dramatically lower price point.

1. A Caribbean Island Says Goodbye to Diesel

Bonaire, a small island off the coast of Venezuela, is famous for its beautiful marine reefs, which are visited by 70,000 tourists every year. What many of the tourists don’t realize is that the majority of the electricity powering their needs comes from renewable energy. A Caribbean Island Says Goodbye to Diesel documents how Bonaire, which originally relied on imported diesel fuel to generate electricity, went through an electricity system transformation.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.