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24/365 Power - what would you pay?

Doug Houseman's picture
Visionary and innovator in the utility industry and grid modernization Burns & McDonnell

I have a broad background in utilities and energy. I worked for Capgemini in the Energy Practice for more than 15 years. During that time I rose to the position of CTO of the 12,000 person...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Jun 23, 2022

If you could buy a 5 Mega-watt, 10 year power supply that was GHG free and provided a 5 MW baseload that could be throttled, What would you be willing to pay for the installed power supply?

What would your concerns be?

Interested to know what you think.

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Doug: As you likely know, electricity from utility scale solar projects in the United States is currently being sold for around 3 cents per kWh.  With the storage to create completely dispatchable power, the price jumps to roughly 5.5 cents per kWh.  At that rate, solar investors are seeing a minimum of a 15% rate of return which makes for a not too shabby investment.  There is a vast amount of private money out there looking for this type of investment opportunity.  As a result, there is very little motivation for any entity public or private to lay out their own capital to buy energy production technology. 

Bryan Leyland's picture
Bryan Leyland on Jul 5, 2022

To provide the energy needed for a 5MW base load supply you will need about 30 MW of solar cells (includes an extra 5MW for battery losses). Then you need batteries capable of absorbing 25MW when the sun is shining so that the 5 MW can still be delivered during the longest sequence of cloudy days ever recorded.

It won't be cheap.

Nuclear is the obvious answer and it would be cheaper than solar with batteries.

If nuclear power cost $.20/kWh it would be a better deal.

A. K. Shyam, PhD's picture
A. K. Shyam, PhD on Jul 14, 2022

You are indeed right.  What I provided was just an outline with still the intricate details need be worked out. But, the way world is switching to renewables, you will have no choice as digitalization demands uninterrupted power supply. Look forward to your keen observations, Dr. Bryan, please.

It is indeed common sense that the demand for electricity is increasing and is not possible to reduce consumption. This however cannot continue as there have been serious warnings not only from ‘Nature’ but even to switch to sensible options – called Green Energy.  It is presumed that sources like, sun, wind and water never exhaust.

If one opts for Green Energy, understandably it would not only change the supply pattern but even tariff as well.  Could this happen the way power generators wish or is it a complicated exercise is what needs to be addressed.  What are green tariffs that industries and other sectors use and how affordable are they?  They are provided by Pollution Under Control (PUC) authorities which indirectly would allow your participation in arresting environmental pollution not only at the local but even at the national and global levels.

Utilities who, provide green energy need to check whether they are eligible in the first place.  If so, the next important issue is the suitable option – wholesale rate, connection to programs directly connected to process of generation or power purchase agreement for a fixed period.  This means either you get power directly or buy and then receive. The second type of suppliers buy Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) certification from the market which, is issued based on MW produced per hour.  They work together with other companies helping in the process of renewable energy generation.

Understandably no supplier produces 100% renewable as yet and they provide details based on the percentage of renewable energy that they produce.  Depending upon this we find three types of tariffs – Greenest Tariff, Moderately Green Tariff and Greenwash.  The first one holds 100% renewable and possesses REGO certification – they are bound to supply same amount of renewable as they were getting earlier.  The second one banks on collaboration with other suppliers and do not promise 100%.  The last category belongs to some companies or suppliers who buy these certification and provide renewable energy to customers.

As can be seen from above, it is not a simple and straight forward calculation for the customers / industries to pay for green energy.  This depends not only on the type of suppliers but also the quantity supplied by them.  Again, this varies from sector to sector in the sense, domestic or industrial which again has to be different.

Most importantly it is after all, the amount of GHG reduction through such practice which is different for different countries depending upon a. their commitment b. mix of renewable and the sector (domestic/Industrial) they supply energy.  It has been stated that the solar and wind tariffs hit all-time low of Rs. 1.99 and Rs. 2.43 per unit in India respectively.  India is also slated to achieve 175 GW of renewable capacity including 100 GW of solar under the clean energy program by 2022.  India has committed to net zero carbon emission by 2070.

It would therefore be different slabs for different sector – even domestic – could be small or big establishment (consumption depends on that); Industrial – small or big. Ultimately, it is the supplier who works out these parameters to determine the extra amount that one has to pay by virtue of Green Power Generation as it is not only the responsibility of suppliers but all the players involved in the game of power (electricity) utilizers.

In my opinion, I am sure that no one would hesitate paying a little more than the current tariff when it serves the global cause of reducing GHG emissions.


Bryan Leyland's picture
Bryan Leyland on Jul 7, 2022

You haven't responded to the question.

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