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  • S&P's ISO Market Outlook 2022 // Moscow Might Hit Helsinki With Sanctions // Solar's "Green Halo" & Other Problems

S&P's ISO Market Outlook 2022 // Moscow Might Hit Helsinki With Sanctions // Solar's "Green Halo" & Other Problems

S&P's ISO Market Outlook 2022

S&P just released its ISO Market Outlook for 2022. You can read it here, but I wanted to touch on some key takeaways.

1. Most of the capacity that we're going to see added to the grid will be renewables. "About 41,110 MW of solar generation is expected to come online in 2022, followed by 18,956 MW of wind projects."

2. PJM and ERCOT make up for a huge chunk of the capacity additions we're going to see--almost half. ERCOT's got about 27,242 MW slated to come into the market and PJM's got about 13,400 MW.

3. As you can see above, coal's poised for a huge spate of retirements this year--about 7,716 MW's worth. The largest hit will come from Vistra's 1,333 MW Zimmer coal plant in Ohio. Natural gas has some retirements coming, but we'll net 16,036 MW.

4. California looks like it's going to have a pricey summer.

5. Nearly half of the 27 GW getting added to ERCOT this year belong to solar.

The major takeaway is that we're going to be losing a lot of reliability and gaining a lot of intermittency all over the country. Next year might be even tighter than this year.

Moscow Might Hit Helsinki With Sanctions

Finland has ended its decades-long policy of neutrality with Russia and has asked to join NATO right away.

"NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay," Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement yesterday.

Russia's foreign minister responded by saying, “Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard."

The opening retaliatory threat might be cutting off Finland's gas supply. But that seems more toothless than Russia's threats to other, more dependent countries. "Between 60% and 70% of Finland’s natural gas comes from Russia, though the country’s main sources of energy are oil, biomass, and nuclear power, with natural gas representing only 5% of the total consumption," reports Oilprice.com.

Plus, Finland's new nuclear reactor, Olkiluoto 3, is set to hit full power in July. "Once fully operational," Reuters reports, "[Olkiluoto 3] is expected to meet 14% of Finland's electricity demand, reducing the need for imports from Russia, Sweden, and Norway."

So, while Finland's in a better position than most, 5% of total energy consumption isn't nothing.

Whether NATO will fast-track Finland's membership remains to be seen, but it's undeniable that Russia is more than willing to weaponize its energy flows. It has already cut off Poland and Bulgaria. And some countries are simply too dependent to say no. Italy's Eni is set to pay for its gas in rubles by the end of the month, for example.

Solar's "Green Halo" & Other Problems

Robert Bryce just had Dustin Mulvaney on his podcast, Power Hungry. Dustin teaches at San Jose State and authored Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice. I've seen him around on Twitter and I've read parts of his book--he's always struck me as an honest dealer and this interview confirmed that. I recommend you listen to it. I learned a lot about solar and the solar industry from this interview.

But I also wanted to share some key takeaways for Grid Brief readers who might not have the time or who don't like podcasts:

  • Dustin explained how polysilicon from Xinjiang, China, where there's credible evidence Uyghurs are being subjected to slave labor, makes it into most of the supply chain: "But the other part of that too is that so 45% is coming from Xinjiang. So that doesn’t mean 45% of the solar panels have Xinjiang polysilicon, because what happens is some of that stuff is sold on the spot market. And then it’s blended with other manufacturers, many of which are probably in China, but could even be others. So the idea is that maybe 60%, 70%, or 80%, of all PV modules actually have material from Xinjiang. And even if it’s only a small percent, because they blended it with other polysilicon."

  • Dustin explains that NextEra, which was an outgrowth of Florida Power & Light, had most of its solar projects grandfathered in. This helped them duck environmental reviews when they set up their solar facilities, so they got to build no matter the cost to the land or wildlife. NextEra was alo found guilty of flagrantly violating environmental law earlier this year when it was discovered they knowingly built their wind projects near eagles' nests and killed bald eagles.

  • Dustin also did a great job of explaining the damning process of solar recycling in California. The Golden State slated solar panels as "universal waste" which means that the industry doesn't have to clean them up. Otherwise, like many other industries in California--paint for example--the solar industry would have to pay for the handling of toxic solar waste under what's called "extended producer responsibility." The taxpayers' money protects California's solar companies from their own waste. When Robert asked if that was a demonstration of the solar industry's lobbying power, Dustin replied, "Yes."

There's so much more in this brief interview, but those are the points that jumped out to me. Mulvaney's right--solar unjustly enjoys a green halo that protects it from basic environmental, economic, and practical scrutiny.

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Conversation Starters

  • Javier Blas has a recent piece out titled "US Politicians Can't Handle the Truth About OPEC." He critiques the current NOPEC bill under discussion in Washington. The hard truth is that no one else can do what OPEC does right now. And punishing them would be like drinking poison to kill someone else.

  • Siemens is quitting Russia after 170 years of doing business there. The company will take a €600m (£512m) hit in the second quarter for its full exit in protest of the Ukraine war.

  • The Southwest Power Pool says it can meet summer demand no problem. PJM says it can do the same. When asked if PJM will have exports to spare for the struggling MISO, Todd Bickel, a senior engineer in PJM's transmission operations department, said they were having internal discussions about it, but the point is that PJM is solid.

Nuclear Barbarians: Fire2Fission pt. II ft. Mark Hinaman

Mark Hinaman joined me again to talk about his vision for the Fire2Fission fund, nuclear regulation, the value of human capital, what the fossil fuel and nuclear industries can do better, and more!

Crom's Blessing

Pulling John (2009) is a documentary about American arm wrestling legend, John Brzenk. It follows his training and that of the two young guns aiming for his spot: Travis Bagent, one of the best trash talkers ever to step foot on American soil, and Alexey Voyevoda, a deeply religious competitor hellbent on victory.