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A battery storage facility for electricity generated from a solar field in Neuhardenberg, Germany. Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Hawaiian Electric Company just submitted to state regulators seven massive new solar-plus-storage contracts. If built, these would add more than 260 megawatts of solar and, more significantly, over 1,000 megawatt-hours of storage to the Hawaiian grid — more than the total cumulative amount of energy storage deployed across the U.S. between 2013 and 2017.

Why it matters: Solar plus storage is having a breakout moment. The technology allows the power generated by intermittent renewables to be better matched to times when the grid needs it most, which is critical for clean energy growth to continue. It also means that renewables may come to compete more directly with natural gas in some markets, rather than requiring more gas to balance their intermittency, as has been the case so far.

Details: All but one of these contracts came in under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). These prices are less than the existing price of fossil-fuel derived power in Hawaii (15 cents/kWh), and would dramatically undercut the cost of fossil fuel power in Puerto Rico, which exceeds (20 cents/kWh).

  • With Puerto Rico at an inflection point as it considers the possibility of a completely new power sector model amid its rebuilding efforts, it would be well advised to learn from Hawaii’s experience.

What to watch: Artificial intelligence will likely be added to more solar plus storage technology in 2019 to crunch massive amounts of incoming data. This could help make use of and discharge storage in a way that, for example, helps consumers to avoid large demand peaks (and thus demand charges) or producers to push power on the grid when it can capture the most value, from both high power prices and revenue from offering ancillary services. This is one of the most logical, and potentially transformative, early applications of AI to the energy sector thus far.

David Livingston is deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Go deeper

New Zealand prime minister announces vaccine mandate for businesses

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during an October COVID-19 briefing in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Robert Kitchin - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses as the government pushes to reach a 90% vaccination target for the country.

Why it matters: Under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework, businesses in close contact with customers must require a vaccine certificate from them. Ardern said at a briefing Tuesday that in order for these venues, which include hair salons, bars, restaurants and gyms, along with events, to operate staff must also be vaccinated.

State Department to set up new cyber bureau to combat hack attacks

Secretary of State Tony Blinken speaks on the challenges during an October conference in Quito, Ecuador. Photo:y Felipe Stanley/Agencia Press South/Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced Monday plans for the State Department to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy.

Why it matters: The establishment of the bureau and plans for a new envoy to oversee critical and emerging technology come after a series significant hack attacks and other online crimes, notably ransomware assaults on U.S. infrastructure.

Biden rejects Trump's latest executive privilege claims

Photo: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Monday rejected two more of former President Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot requested, CNN first reported.

Why it matters: Trump's legal team is seeking to block some of the panel's requests for records by invoking executive privilege, which can allow presidents and their aides to sidestep congressional scrutiny. The Biden administration has maintained that it will evaluate on a case-by-case basis.