Peter is co-founder of NorthBridge Energy Partners and has more than 25 years experience in the international energy industry. You can follow Peter at: @PKayDee
2020 was a tumultuous year, but despite the turmoil, significant progress was made in decarbonizing our global energy economy. Yes, there is a long way to go, and tens of trillions remain to be spent to accomplish this global transition – the largest effort humanity has ever collectively attempted. At the end of this year, it’s a good time to take stock, assess what was accomplished in the energy sector (with a focus on electricity), and to attempt to prognosticate what we will see in 2021.
In early October, the three agencies charged with overseeing and coordinating California’s electric grid provided a preliminary report to Governor Newsom on the causes of the electric blackouts of August 14th and 15th.
These blackouts were not the result of sudden and unexpected faults. Rather, they were preemptive rotating power outages launched by California’s grid operator in order to avoid a much larger and potentially system-wide problem. On August 14th, the early evening blackout lasted as long as 150 minutes and affected 492,000 customers. The following evening’s event left 321,000 customers without power for as long as 90 minutes.
In April of this year, Google announced that it is taking the next step in making its data centers greener and cleaner. The company indicates that it has been carbon-neutral since 2007, and it has covered its energy consumption with 100% renewables since 2017.
Many large corporations have undertaken similar commitments, covering the equivalent of their total electricity use with renewable energy from Power Purchase Agreements (PPSa). These PPAs match their total electricity consumption to the output of a new “additional” renewable facility built on their behalf. However, only the total volumes match, not the actual physical flows of power. For example, if a company were to offset its 100 megawatthours (MWh) of consumption with 100 MWh produced by a solar facility, then at times unused surplus solar would be sold into the market while at other moments (nights, for example) the company would be buying system power from the grid at whatever carbon intensity the grid was offering at that moment.
In June, workers finished pouring the 9,000 cubic meters of concrete for the base for the UK’s 3,200 MW Hinkley C nuclear power station, set to come online in 2026.
Looking at power availability as one goes up the I-95 corridor from Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts there are some issues worth examining if one is thinking of situating a datacenter these days.
The Brexit divorce has now been pushed off until at least October 31 of this year, and as with any impending separation, it creates a good deal of uncertainty for all parties involved. For datacenters, there are two key issues of concern: 1) the ability to ensure a stable and affordable supply of electricity post-Brexit; and 2) issues relating to data and privacy. Being energy-focused, we will spend more time discussing the former.
As the data economy grows, green leases are a welcome solution for energy intensive data centers. However, those owning - or colocating within data centers might want to think creatively, go a step further, and consider moving their data requirements to power grids that are both cheaper and cleaner
The Dutch data center industry is crucial to the economy of the Netherlands, but its growth may be hindered by challenges to the local power supply infrastructure. In a recent letter to the Netherlands Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, the Dutch Data Center Association (DDA) warned about limitations to the Dutch energy infrastructure, especially in Schiphol Rijk, Amsterdam Zuidoost and the Amsterdam Science Park.
Headlines over the past several months addressing energy use and Bitcoin mining would have one believe the world’s supply of power is about to be devoted solely to large computers trying to solve complex algorithms in the global pursuit of profit. Is this really the case?
For years, data centers have been haunted by the threat of power outages and the associated costs of such events. This situation is getting worse, with the most recent numbers from a 2016 report by the Ponemon Institute indicating that the average costs of a data center outage rose from $505,500 in 2010 to over $740,000 in 2015, while the maximum cost increased from $1.0 million to $2.4 million. How can next generation energy storage solutions help?
In July last year, we wrote about Iceland’s sizeable renewable resources, and the philosophy of responsible entrepreneurialism, specifically as it applied to an integrated geothermal industrial park and the intensive energy industries that utilise such a abundant and sustainable power profile.
The costs of renewable energy continue to fall at a remarkable rate in markets across the globe. This opens up new buying opportunities for energy intensive companies that want to meet sustainability goals or – in an increasing number of instances – simply lock in cost effective power prices through long term contracts.