California orders 11.5 GW of new clean power; White House bans solar imports from Xinjiang supplier

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California orders utilities to buy 11.5 GW of new renewable power

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has ordered utilities to procure 11.5 GW of new renewable energy or demand management measures to reduce supply crunches from extreme weather events and meet California's clean energy goals.

The order replaces a previous proposal that included new fossil fuel capacity.

"This represents the largest capacity procurement ordered at a single time by the CPUC, and is the largest requiring only clean resources," the commission said June 24.

The new resources must come online between 2023 and 2026 and will replace 3.7 GW of retiring gas-fired capacity and Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s 2.2 GW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, due to be shut down in 2024-2025. Several GWs of new capacity are already set to come online in 2021-2023 following earlier procurement orders.

Above-normal temperatures are predicted across large parts of the US this summer and California has the highest risk of power shortages, the federal grid regulator North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) said last month.

Hot temperatures prompt a surge in power demand as households and businesses turn up air-conditioning devices. Last August, a heatwave led to rotating power interruptions across California and grid operator CAISO urged consumers to conserve electricity during afternoon and evening periods. California's vast solar fleet is unable to meet power demand after sundown and additional issues included unplanned stoppages of gas-fired plants, swinging wind resources and a lack of imports from neighbouring states suffering similar temperatures.

In the aftermath, California's energy agencies pledged to accelerate the installation of new power capacity and adapt resource planning to take into account the growing impact of climate change.

Some 2 GW of additional capacity will be available during peak demand periods this year and the power authorities would look at ways to add a further 1.5 GW by the summer, CAISO said in its latest summer outlook.

At the same time, California faces lower hydroelectric supplies than last year due to an ongoing drought, CAISO warned. Other summer risks include a reduction of power imports into California if there are wider shortages across the western US and disruption to supplies from wildfires, it said.

"The 2021 forecasted peak demands are about the same as last year under normal weather conditions," CAISO said. "However, extreme heat events are becoming more likely."

      California forecast peak power capacity by fuel type - summer 2021


Source: CAISO's 2021 summer loads and resources assessment, May 2021

White House bans solar imports using Hoshine silicon

The Biden administration banned imports of solar panel material from Chinese group Hoshine Silicon Industry Co on June 24 after it found the company used forced labour in the Xinjiang region to manufacture its products.

"Personnel at all US ports of entry have been instructed to immediately begin detaining shipments that contain silica-based products made by Hoshine or materials and goods derived from or produced using those silica-based products," the White House said in a statement.

Separately, the US added five companies including Hoshine to its economic blacklist due to their participation in forced labor in Xinjiang and for contributing to human rights abuses against the native Uyghur people. Under this action, US companies will not be allowed to export "commodities, software, and technology" to Hoshine, Xinjiang Daqo New Energy, Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals, Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology and XPCC, the government said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the import bans on polysilicon and solar products made with forced labour would not hamper the Biden administration's clean energy goals, Reuters reported. Biden aims to decarbonise the power sector by 2035, requiring a massive deployment of solar and wind power.

"Our environmental goals will not be achieved on the backs of human beings in a forced labour environment," Mayorkas said at a press briefing. "We're going to root out forced labor wherever it exists."

Beijing has dismissed accusations of genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang as lies.

The US solar industry welcomed Biden administration's move, despite the potential disruption to the supply chain.

"The fact is, we do not have transparency into supply chains in the Xinjiang region, and there is too much risk in operating there," the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) said in a statement.

"For that reason, in October, we began calling on solar companies to leave the region and we provided them a traceability protocol to help ensure there is not forced labor in the supply chain."

FERC, utility commissioners to tackle transmission hurdles

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) have formed a joint federal-state task force to streamline the development of new transmission infrastructure, the groups announced June 17.

The task force will tackle issues regarding the payment of new transmission and shared regulatory processes. NARUC will nominate up to 10 state regulators for the team.

A lack of interstate transmission build, costly grid connection procedures and interconnection delays are slowing the deployment of renewable energy. President Biden's pledge to decarbonise the power sector by 2035 requires a massive buildout of solar and wind and grid investments are lagging far behind.

The task force will explore the use of FERC planning processes by state-level authorities and the coordination of states to develop regional transmission solutions.

The team will also identify potential reforms to FERC rules on transmission planning, cost allocation and interconnection processes.

The group will also study new mechanisms that ensure transmission investment is cost effective, "including approaches to enhance transparency and improve oversight of transmission investment," FERC and NARUC said.

Electric vehicles to spearhead job growth in Canada

Canada is forecast to create 208,700 new clean energy jobs in 2020-2030 as rapid growth in clean transport roles eclipse the 125,800 positions that will be lost in the fossil fuel sectors, according to a new report from Clean Energy Canada and Navius Research.

Canada's clean energy sector employed 430,500 people in 2020 and this will rise to 639,200 under the federal government’s new climate plan announced in December, the report said. The plan includes wide-ranging support for electric vehicle networks, green hydrogen, energy efficiency, electricity infrastructure such as smart grids and an extension of carbon pricing.

Canada aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government recently pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, compared with a previous target of 30%.

The fastest growth in clean energy jobs will be in transport where employment in the electric vehicle sector will hike 39% per year to 184,000 by 2030, the report said.

"Another industry expected to take off is hydrogen consumption technology, with jobs expected to grow 27% per year between 2025 and 2030, employing 21,900 workers by 2030," it said.

By 2030, Canada will employ 363,700 workers in clean transportation and 111,100 in the clean power sector, which includes nuclear as well as renewable energy resources. There will also be 29,900 jobs in clean grid infrastructure, 110,600 in clean building roles and a further 24,000 in the industrial sector, the report said.

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