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⚡"Surveying the Renewables Landscape"

Renewable Energy SmartPod

Photo by Gustavo Quepón / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Sean McMahon
Guest: Michael Rucker | Founder & CEO | Scout Clean Energy
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

[5:30] “On the positive side, […] what we've seen is decades of improvements in efficiency of the technologies we use. Solar PV costs have dropped about 90% in the last decade, wind about 70%. The delivered cost of energy from both of these technologies are really the most competitive on the grid. For the first time last year, we really saw renewables consistently below the long term cost of energy for coal, which is a significant milestone. Also, we've seen a rise in storage technology. And we'll only see that continue as we try to integrate more of these renewables into the grid. On the market side, corporate interest has been a major trend. […] Traditionally, when I started in the industry, [it] was primarily an all utility market.”

[6:28] “Negatives [are that] we're seeing oversubscribed transmission queues throughout the United States. So the grid is basically just bloated with interconnection requests. I understand that about 750 gigawatts of projects seeking to interconnect at some place on our grid. And what we're seeing are long queues, very expensive cost allocations for interconnections, and really the threat of slowing down the growth that we've seen in renewable deployment, unless it's addressed.”

[7:03] “I'm pretty excited about a few of the policy initiatives that we're seeing coming up. Maybe the most significant one is the infrastructure package, […] which should pass later this year. That has about $73 billion in federal funds targeted for investment in the transmission grid. And that's significant. But the truth is, we've had no lack of capital in the industry that would be excited to invest in a transmission project. It's really about transmission planning and cost allocation. And part of that bill is actually creating what's going to be called a grid deployment office, which isn't heavily well defined right now. But could evolve into something that would help us […] integrate that long term planning into the planning process between the various independent system operators in the US.”

[16:52] “Generally landowners in most of the country are very open to wind and solar energy. Wind in particular, is very compatible with the traditional land use that they've had on the sites over the years. So that could be ranching or farming. We use a very, very small footprint of the land that's dedicated to the wind farm,  and the rest can just kind of go on as it was before. So landowners really appreciate the revenues from that, over time, stakeholders, likewise, in the community. In many places where we arrive, we become one of the largest taxpayers in the county […]. And that money flows down, you know, typically to schools, to counties, to hospitals, which creates a higher standard of living, potentially, in places where wind energy and solar energy has been deployed.”

[21:55] “I'm more of a fan, […]  of a carbon tax, […] monetizing the price of carbon, which would be technology neutral, and also create a durable incentive that's market based over time [that I’m a fan of carbon credits]. So it will build efficiency into that equation. And the most efficient technologies would be deployed in most instances. And as technologies ebb and flow, we'll have new entrance, more efficient technologies applied and the carbon tax would also encompass things like […] energy efficiency, which I think is a very important, and maybe the lowest cost option, we have to reduce emissions in the short term. So I'm more focused on our carbon tax from a purely economic perspective, but there are a lot of challenges in instituting that nationwide.”

[22:57] “The Reconciliation and Human Interest Bill does have the potential of bringing a clean energy standard into effect across the United States. And this isn't really a new concept. We have 32 states that actually have what we call renewable portfolio standards, which were just focused on renewable energy. We have 8 states that already have 100% zero carbon reduction goals, in the form of clean energy standards. […] There are about 13, others that have 100%, zero carbon goals, not necessarily enforceable standards, but they're definitely trending in that direction. And they're about 6 more that are considering it. So but if this were able to come about through the Reconciliation Bill, we’ll have the potential very quickly on the demand side, starting to build demand in areas of country where we haven't necessarily seen strong incentives for utilities and retail buyers to invest in renewable purchases. […]And that I think, is really ultimately a more efficient policy measure than tax credits.”

[24:29] “What's changed is renewable technologies have become the most predominant new generation source plant in the United States. When I started in the industry, it was a niche. […] Also, there's more capital available in the industry than I've seen in my whole career as well in terms of investors that are excited about fueling energy transition by investing in companies like mine […]. What hasn't changed is […] it's a people business. No project ever went forward without a landowner supporting it. We need to make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves, just we have to make sure that we bring these communities along with us. And they buy into this, so they can be part of the energy transition, and they see how it benefits them, and their children and future generations. And I think, as we install more renewable energy around the US, I think that's becoming clearer and clearer in a lot of communities. But that's a process that we haven't completed. There's a lot left to do there.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 29 min | 🗓️ 09/22/2021
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