NY is Changing Utilities and FaceBook and Microsoft join forces

May Cleantech Roundup

Clean Energy Trust’s monthly cleantech roundup recaps the most relevant information on the cleantech sector, from policy changes to technology updates and investment news. It’s all things clean energy, finance, policy, and technology.

Today, companies and individuals are looking for more ways to get their power from renewables.  Direct purchasing of power is becoming much more common for larger power users who believe that their utility’s efforts for renewable procurement are moving too slowly.

Wealthy families trending away from traditional managed funds towards investments that more reflect their goals like cleantech energy solutions. Average citizens are also now able to invest directly with new equity crowdfunding rules–See a great breakdown about how it will affect cleantech from my colleague Ian, here.

Unfortunately, lots of the policy news revolves around the lack of productive activity in the Midwest. In comparison, New York’s future looks bright as REV continues to move forward.

Technology

While wind power generation has grown rather dramatically the industry is always looking for stronger, steadier winds to be able to produce more power more reliably.  Much of that high-quality wind is found offshore, far enough out that turbines can’t be rooted in the sea-floor–it’s just too deep.  So wind has started to borrow technology from floating oil rigs to tap into the valuable wind resources. In fact, Statoil ASA, a Norwegian energy company, has now been granted a lease to build the first floating offshore wind farm.

Harvard Professor of Energy Daniel G. Nocera has engineered a bacteria that will convert CO2 in the air into alcohol that can be used as a fuel. Dr. Nocera has been previously active in the cleantech space, selling his flow battery company Sun Catalytix to Lockheed Martin in 2014

Investment

Wealthy families are looking for more control over their assets and moving towards direct management and eschewing traditional managed funds.  This is creating opportunities for longer view investing and investments that reflect goals of the family.

SolarCity continues the growing push for more solar-plus-storage. With their most recent projects in Connecticut, SolarCity is showing off new financing mechanisms–necessary to get these projects off the ground.

Increasingly, companies are trying to meet their sustainability goals by directly purchasing renewable power.  However, many do not have the knowledge-base and the opportunities are often hard to find.  To help alleviate that issue Facebook and Microsoft have joined forces with environmental groups  to promote the development of 60 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025–enough to replace all coal plants projected to go offline in the next four years.

Oracle is set to buy Opower for $532 million.

Policy

In an effort to align incentives, New York approves restructuring the utility revenue model. The hope is that these efforts will encourage utilities to move towards cleaner, more distributed, and more flexible power production systems.

Ohio is considering Freezing or eliminating efficiency and renewable portfolio standards. This would continue to hamper renewable energy growth in the state and potentially cost ratepayers billions.

Illinois faces its own policy struggles as the state will close the legislative session on May 31st. This will mean the state not have a budget for the second straight year. The impasse means that the state’s RPS will remain broken while the question of Exelon’s struggling nuclear plants remains unresolved.

Recommended Reading

David JC MacKay’s Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air (2009) is an incredibly clear-eyed breakdown of how to be realistic when transitioning to sustainable generation and the sacrifices that it will take.

By Alex Foucault | June 1, 2016