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Microsoft, Google, Nucor partner on initiative to spur emerging 24/7 clean power technologies

The Advanced Clean Electricity initiative aims for widespread commercial deployment of advanced nuclear, next-generation geothermal and long-duration storage by the early 2030s.

  • On March 19, Nucor, Microsoft and Google announced the Advanced Clean Electricity request for information, or RFI, a joint initiative to stimulate development and deployment of reliable, low- or zero-carbon electricity generation technologies like advanced nuclear, next-generation geothermal and long-duration energy storage.
  • The initiative aims to aggregate the three companies’ demand for clean electricity in a way that “accelerate[s] the development of first-of-a-kind and early commercial projects,” the companies said in a news release provided by Nucor.
  • Eligible projects have until April 12 to respond to the RFI. The companies will notify selected projects of their intent to proceed by mid-June, with power purchase agreements to follow in early 2025, the news release said.

Each of the Advanced Clean Electricity partners aims to zero out its carbon-equivalent emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Nucor is working toward its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 in part through a $15 million strategic investment in NuScale Power, which includes an agreement to supply low-emissions steel for NuScale projects and possible colocation of NuScale SMRs at Nucor steel mills.

Google’s and Microsoft’s emissions-reduction goals are more ambitious than Nucor’s. Google is aiming for net-zero emissions from company operations and a 50% reduction in Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions from a 2019 baseline by 2030. Microsoft aims to be “carbon negative, water positive and zero waste by 2030,” to match 100% of its electricity generation at all times with zero-emissions resources by 2030 and to remove the equivalent of all its historical emissions by 2050, according to the Advanced Clean Electricity RFI’s website.

Though all three partner companies have invested heavily in building efficiencysolar panels and renewable energy power purchase agreements, those efforts may not be enough to achieve their sustainability goals. The 24/7 resources sought in the RFI can “fill gaps in wind and solar production and support grid reliability … needs that today are still being met by fossil fuel generation,” according to the RFI’s website.

The Advanced Clean Electricity initiative aims to spur the growth of new energy-generation technologies that might otherwise stall due to high upfront development costs and uncertain commercial demand.

“We hope that our work will catalyze similar initiatives amongst other key offtakers in the energy market or inspire others to join us down the line,” the initiative’s representatives said in an email to Utility Dive.

The partner companies expect to sign offtake agreements for technologies that are not yet cost-competitive compared to existing commercial power sources, lobby policymakers and regulators for favorable “ecosystem improvements,” and partner with utilities and energy providers on supportive rate design, the news release said.

Those ecosystem improvements could include reforms to expand transmission and reduce interconnection bottlenecks, the initiative’s representatives told Utility Dive.

“Interconnection delays could create a risk, but we are committed to working with all stakeholders, including utilities and [grid system operators], to maximize the odds of success and reduce system-level roadblocks,” the representatives said.

The initiative’s website cites 14 evaluation criteria for clean energy technologies, including maturation of technology, potential capacity factor above 50%, project capacity above 50 MW or the ability to aggregate smaller projects to achieve equivalent output, the ability to trace electricity output and produce hourly Energy Attribute Certificates, the potential to scale the technology’s total output beyond 100 GW by 2040, and a pathway to cost-competitiveness with existing generation technologies over a similar timeframe. Projects must be located in the U.S., “with a preference for projects in [the] PJM” region, according to the website.

“If there is a project or technology that can meet the criteria specified in the RFI to provide the clean, firm power we need, we are eager to hear from them,” the initiative’s representatives said

Source: Utility Dive