Unintended Consequences of Renewable Energy: Problems to be Solved (Green Energy and Technology)

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Blended finance concessionary and conventional financing schemes, coupled with subsidies and grants is playing a role in achieving low tariffs. Governments must analyze solar prices against the macro-economic forces and other aforementioned factors to get to a realistic range of the actual cost to finance and deploy solar power.

The South African government was under pressure from some groups to renegotiate the prices on the 27 renewable power projects recently signed, in part because those groups had thought that the prices should be even lower.

To the credit of the South African government, it honored the previously negotiated prices. The South Africans also recognized that project developers had invested millions of dollars in development costs that would not be recovered if these projects did not move forward.

Unintended Consequences of Renewable Energy | SpringerLink

It is possible that South Africa might have saved some money on some of these particular projects over time by trying to negotiate down the prices, but the South Africans rightly concluded that they had a legal obligation to move forward AND the cost of alienating investors across many sectors simply comes with a significant cost to the overall economy.

Such investors might include pension funds, who sometimes are willing to receive a lower rate of return than private equity investors, which will drive down the cost of investment in not just the power sector, but in many sectors, in the future.


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That benefit will accrue to the customer. Headlines touting low prices for bids sound great, but delivering actual low price power is better. A reliable and affordable energy supply is a foundational requirement for business investment, with increasing energy availability directly linked to increased GDP-growth. How much GDP is lost during those years when not enough power is produced? Power Africa strongly encourages countries to pursue competitive tendering to enhance transparency and get the best prices, and we are supporting competitive processes across the continent through Scaling Solar, the U.

Can solar power prevent wildfires?

We all must face the practical reality, though, that competitive tendering takes time. In many countries, reputable companies have proposed to build reasonably priced power projects and are ready to get to work now. A solar project can be built and start producing power in 14 months, as Gigawatt Global and Scatec Solar did in Rwanda — the very first Power Africa project. Other examples of government incentives include waiving taxes or licensing fees or providing the construction site no real estate cost!

Development banks and institutions also provide incentives through concessional financing, risk guarantees, grants, and technical assistance. The development institutions, despite best intentions, sometimes distort the market — often in a positive way, but sometimes in a negative way, depending on who is benefiting from the incentive. There may be times when grants are appropriate from a development standpoint to drive down the price of a project, but it is important to remember that these grants can distort the true market price — especially when the true market price could be passed on to consumers who can pay down the cost of a power project over its year life cycle.

The Engineering Challenges of Renewable Energy: Crash Course Engineering #30

Subsidizing power projects excessively also can cause harm by establishing a misleading benchmark price of power for one technology which is not replicable, with that benchmark price getting applied to other projects or technologies that may not enjoy those subsidies. These pricing issues threaten to derail otherwise solid, financially viable, market-based projects. In the search for lower power prices, some governments have turned to an investment model that appears on the surface to offer a good solution: inexpensive sovereign loans to hire inexpensive companies to build power projects, using inexpensive equipment, inexpensive materials, and inexpensive labor.

While some of these projects result in positive outcomes, each of the elements described above can come at a significant cost. Some companies do not adhere to international standards, which can lead to social unrest and permanent environmental damage. They may not employ best engineering practices and may cut corners, which impacts quality. There also are numerous examples of companies failing to complete projects because they run out of money, of inexpensive equipment breaking down quickly, and of governments getting saddled with expensive repair and maintenance costs.

Importing cheap labor does little to build a local skills base — especially when operations and maintenance manuals are written in a foreign language. IPPs offer a sustainable alternative accompanied by significantly reduced debt burden for the government. IPPs in relatively high risk markets often require some sort of guarantee. A guarantee generally means that a country or development agency or multilateral bank only needs to set aside a percentage of the total privately funded loan amount in a reserve fund in anticipation of potential defaults across a larger portfolio.

If priced below system cost recovery levels, IPPs offer countries a path to emerge from debt to multilaterals and other countries and successfully achieve the needed energy and other infrastructure investments their economies need to grow. Projects that get built will be fair for African governments and their people when those governments and people are as well informed and confident in managing both competitive procurement programs and negotiated contracts, as the reputable, decent and capable developers and investors they select to work with on the other side.

But that’s no reason for governments to stop supporting them

For this reason, Power Africa builds local capacity for Africans to develop, negotiate, own, manage and operate projects themselves. Energy ministries across the continent use these free books that international experts, including Africans, with diverse economic interests drafted to pursue transparent, successful, and commercially sustainable private-sector power projects.

Power Africa also recognizes the importance of community engagement. After watching a power project get derailed for not having had an adequate community engagement plan in Kenya, Power Africa, along with several of its civil society partners produced a Guide to Community Engagement for Power Projects in Kenya that can be modeled in other countries, as well.

Power Africa is helping create a level playing field of information and experience for all sides: African governments and IPP developers and investors.

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The level playing field creates the foundation for good contracts and high quality projects that will endure. Government departments and agencies, and 17 bilateral and multilateral institutions. We will continue to work together to find tools to provide solutions as quickly as possible. But we will only be successful if our African government counterparts make quick and sustainable decisions to help the market solve the energy deficit.

Sign in. The PQube 3 power analyzer installed in a sensitive process factory, has generated color map of the conducted emissions. The color map indicates periods of significant emissions and their corresponding frequencies. Until recently, high-frequency conducted emissions in the kHz range could remain under the radar of power quality investigations, due to lack of field measurement tools and data.

Advancements in technology have led to new generations of ultra-precise instruments that continuously monitor the quality of AC and DC power, and detect and record all types of disturbances over time at an affordable cost. The image above shows a measurement graph automatically generated using an ultra-precise power analyzer.

This is a time-based color map of high-frequency conducted emissions across a full day. Intermittent emissions at kHz can be clearly identified. In this troubleshooting example, the periods of emissions activity coincided with observed failures on the shop floor of a factory. The minute granularity of the color map enabled the factory operator to conclusively confirm a strong correlation between those specific emissions and the equipment failures. Once the source was identified, the power maintenance engineer selected and installed a specific filter to protect the sensitive equipment.

The equipment has since been operating reliably, without any issues. The mitigation of high-frequency emissions must be coupled with development of industry standards that will provide guidance for both grid operators compatibility and equipment manufacturers immunity. The IEC standard Ed. IEC provides guidance on immunity levels for equipment connected to an electrical network.

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But there is, unfortunately, no real guidance as yet on emissions levels and their severity within factories i. In June , California generated 27 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, on its way to a mandated 50 percent renewables by Maui Electric Company currently receives more than 37 percent of its energy from renewables, with a statewide goal of percent renewables by In fact, more than 35 other states have renewable portfolio standards calling for greater use of clean energy sources.

As DER penetration increases, especially in islanded grids and microgrids, power quality and the methods that we use to detect and analyze it will need to remain top of mind for energy users. Stephane Do has 20 years experience in the power quality business and is a global product manager at Power Standards Lab.

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