Announcing The Clean Energy Corps
1000 new jobs dedicated to building New Energy. Apply! “Your planet needs you.” From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
1000 new jobs dedicated to building New Energy. Apply! “Your planet needs you.” From U.S. Department of Energy via YouTube
The problem is still ahead of the solutions. From CBS Mornings via YouTube
Rosie explains "Levelized Cost of Energy" (LCOE) and why New Energy ultimately wins. From Engineering with Rosie via YouTube
Climate Crisis Is Top Risk Facing World for Next Decade: World Economic Forum Survey
Alessandra Migliaccio (with Samuel Dodge, Demetrios Pogkas, Kailey Leinz, Matthew Miller and Craig Stirling), January 11, 2022 (Insurance Journal)
“…[Officials and business leaders surveyed for the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report for 2022 see] climate change and rising social tensions, alongside the pandemic, among their top risks…
Only one in six survey respondents from government, civil society and commerce described their outlook as optimistic, while just one in 10 thinks worldwide economic expansion will pick up speed…Worries over climate-transition failures and extreme weather conditions are among the biggest concerns, particularly in the next five to 10 years…
Short-term fears include health and social cleavages caused by COVID-19, while economic and debt-related issues are cited as medium-term dangers…Respondents would like greater coordination among leaders to try to solve the world’s problems, even as diverging recoveries from the crisis threaten cooperation…” click here for more
Here’s how to solve the UK energy crisis for the long term – store more power; Four storage solutions to help Britain keep the lights on deep into the future
Jillian Ambrose, 10 January 2022 (UK Guardian)
“…A storage boom has been forecast over the coming decade as governments race to meet their climate targets…Within the next five years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects global energy storage capacity to expand by 56% to reach more than 270 GW by 2026, driven by a growing need to create flexible electricity systems…Well-established lithium-ion batteries are expected to dominate… [Hydropower can be a form of energy storage if] electricity is used to pump water upwards into a reservoir when the market has ample power available. When electricity supplies become tight the water can be released at short notice to flow over a generating turbine to create electricity for the grid to use…
…[A new breed of pumped storage uses] a mineral-rich fluid, which has more than two-and-a-half times the density of water, projects could generate the same amount of electricity from slopes which are less than half as high…[Another option is] harnessing “gravity energy” to create electricity by using electric winches to hoist 12,000-tonne weights to the top of a disused mine shaft when there is plenty of renewable energy available, then dropping the weights hundreds of metres down vertical shafts to generate electricity when needed…
…[Concentrated solar power can be stored as heat in molten salt and] the heat is used to run a conventional steam turbine…Demand for hydrogen made from water and renewable energy is expected to boom in the decades ahead as governments plan to replace the fossil fuels used in power plants, factories and heavy transport with the clean-burning, green alternative. But green hydrogen can also be used as a form of energy storage…[‘Cryogenic’ batteries] could help store renewable energy for weeks rather than hours…[It uses renewable electricity to chill air to -196C, transforming it into a liquid that could be stored in large metal tanks for weeks. When needed, the liquid can be turned back into gas, and used to turn a turbine…” click here for more
State, federal actions show growing push for a nuclear role in reaching net zero emissions; Support is rising for proposals to keep nuclear plants in business and cut emissions.
Herman K. Trabish, September 28, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Keeping existing nuclear plants in operation remains a strategy under consideration to support working toward net zero emissions goals until new safer options like long duration storage, green hydrogen and advanced nuclear technologies become viable.
Nuclear power advocates are increasingly emphasizing the value of existing but financially struggling U.S. nuclear plants in curbing carbon emissions and addressing climate change.
Questions about nuclear power's costs and safety that kept it at 18% to 20.6% of U.S. electricity generation from 1990 to 2020 left little support for new plants. But extreme weather-driven disasters and predictions of much worse in the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are driving new thinking about existing plants.
"The economic feasibility of existing nuclear is a very different question depending on whether the power market values clean energy," said Exelon Senior Vice President of Regulatory Policy and Analysis Mason Emnett. In a power market that compensates all clean resources, "our nuclear units could compete, operate safely and reliably, and be relicensed."
"Financial incentives for zero-carbon generation are a no-brainer," said Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney, a former nuclear skeptic, Department of Energy (DOE) official, and Massachusetts utilities regulator. Unsafe nuclear plants should not be preserved, but incentives for existing and safe nuclear are better than rising emissions from increased use of natural gas generation, she added.
Growing support for new federal and state initiatives to support nuclear power shows clean energy advocates and power system analysts are confronting the possibility that the transition to net zero emissions may require investment in existing nuclear.
The changing appreciation of existing nuclear, and its role in fighting climate change, is reflected in laws enacted from 2017 to 2019 to fund zero emissions credits (ZECs) in Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. While ZEC programs differ, existing nuclear plants generally receive above the electricity market price for the power they produce based on "an established social cost of carbon" that reflects the environmental cost of emissions, a 2019 Department of Energy report said… click here for more
Solar power will account for nearly half of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2022 Elesia Fasching and Suparna Ray, January 10, 2022 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)
“…In 2002, The U.S. Department of Energy expects 46.1 gigawatts (GW) of new utility-scale electric generating capacity to be added to the U.S. power grid…Almost half of the planned 2022 capacity additions are solar, followed by natural gas at 21% and wind at 17%...[It expects] U.S. utility-scale solar generating capacity to grow by 21.5 GW in 2022. This planned new capacity would surpass last year’s [estimated] 15.5 GW of solar capacity additions…Most planned solar additions in 2022 will be in Texas (6.1 GW, or 28% of the national total), followed by California (4.0 GW)…[It expects] 9.6 GW of new natural gas-fired capacity to come online…Combined-cycle plants account for [over 84%] of the planned capacity additions…[and 88%] is located in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and Illinois…
…[In 2021, wind brought a record-high 17.1 GW of wind capacity online and another] 7.6 GW of wind capacity is scheduled to come online in 2022…[with 51% of 2022 additions] in Texas…[Utility-scale battery storage capacity is expected] to grow by 5.1 GW, or 84%, in 2022…[Drivers include] declining costs of battery storage, deploying battery storage with renewable generation, and adding value through regional transmission organization (RTO) markets…[Two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia could provide] 5% of the country’s planned electric capacity additions in 2022…” click here for more
Designing Electricity Rates for An Equitable Energy Transition
Severin Borenstein, Meredith Fowlie, and James Sallee, February 2021 (Energy Institute at Haas/University of California, Berkley)
California has achieved notable success in decarbonizing its electricity supply, now getting over one-third of its power from renewable generation and nearly two-thirds from carbon-free sources. This makes it possible to decarbonize transportation and buildings by powering them with electricity from renewable resources. Yet while the state has done well to lay the groundwork for this transition, changes to how the state and its residents pay for electricity will be needed to ensure equitable outcomes as California pursues a carbon-neutral path.
Electricity prices in California are high and rising. This poses a heavy burden for many of the state’s most economically vulnerable households. It is also a headwind in the state’s efforts to combat climate change through electrifying transportation and buildings, which many see as critical steps to a low-carbon future.
The state’s three large investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) recover substantial fixed costs through increased per-kilowatt hour (“volumetric”) prices. With nearly all fixed and sunk costs recovered through such volumetric prices, the price customers pay when they turn their lights on for an extra hour is now two to three times what it actually costs to provide that extra electricity—even when including the societal cost of pollution. This massive gap between retail price and marginal cost creates incentives that inefficiently discourage electricity consumption, even though greater electrification will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Changing the way that electricity is paid for can address this issue.
This report takes stock of the current situation facing residential customers of California’s large electricity IOUs and describes pricing reforms that could improve economic efficiency, facilitate decarbonization, and improve overall equity. The analysis includes several findings that are pertinent to ongoing conversations about affordability, decarbonization, rooftop solar, and wildfire mitigation, including:.
• California IOUs’ prices are high, by both historical and national standards. A look at national data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) shows that the average price of residential electricity in California’s three large IOUs is out of line with the rest of the country. In the least expensive territory, Southern California Edison (SCE), residential prices per kilowatt hour are about 45 percent higher than the national average. Prices for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) are about 80 percent higher, and prices in San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are roughly double the national average.
• These high prices are two to three times the cost of producing additional electricity. To reach this conclusion, this report analyzed the marginal cost of electricity—that is, the increase in cost incurred in order to deliver additional kilowatt-hours of electricity to an existing customer—and compared that cost to current rates. The authors found that the price of electricity ranged from double to triple the marginal cost in 2019. Even low-income customers who receive a subsidized rate paid prices well above marginal cost. The misalignment between price and cost creates problematic incentives.
• High prices are driven in part by a shifting burden of fixed cost recovery. Currently, 66 to 77 percent of the costs that California IOUs recover from ratepayers are associated with fixed costs of operation that do not change when a customer increases consumption. This includes much of the costs of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, as well as subsidies for low-income household and public purpose programs, such as energy efficiency assistance. In addition, greater adoption of behind-the-meter (BTM) solar photovoltaic (PV) panels—which represented more than 15 percent of the residential electricity consumption across the PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E service territories in 2019—has disproportionately shifted cost recovery onto non-solar customers adopters.
• Lower- and average-income households bear a greater burden. These households are increasingly having to cover high fixed costs from a shrinking base as wealthier customers leave for rooftop solar. Higher-income households now consume only modestly more electricity than lower-income households.1
• More equitable alternatives can be found and implemented. The report authors detail a variety of potential approaches to ensure utility revenues can be kept stable without relying on the current regressive rate model as the state looks to increase electrification.
• The report suggests the following alternatives for paying the cost of electricity in the state:
» Tax revenue: Raising revenue from sales or income taxes would be much more progressive than the current system, ensuring that higher-income households pay a higher share of the costs.
» Income-based fixed charge: A more politically feasible option could be rate reform—moving utilities to an income-based fixed charge that would allow recovery of long-term capital costs, while ensuring all those who use the system contribute to it. To make a fixed charge equitable, it would be based on income. In this model, wealthier households would pay a higher monthly fee in line with their income.
-The report offers several ways to structure an income-based fixed charge, based on three criteria: set prices as close to cost as possible; recover the full system cost; and distribute the burden of cost recovery fairly.
• Wildfire cost transparency. Finally, the report identified the need for more transparent accounting of wildfire mitigation costs, as the authors could not obtain clear wildfire-related expenditure data. This is vital as wildfire mitigation costs are likely to be a major driver of price increases in the near future.2
More detail on these findings can be found below and in the body of the report.
Retail Prices Vs. Marginal Cost
The report’s estimate of the marginal cost of electricity includes not only the cost of generating additional electricity, but also potential increases in costs for transmission and distribution capacity that scale with usage, as well as the potential need for additional generation capacity. The cost of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is also included, which is borne by society rather than the utilities to the extent that existing programs (e.g., cap and trade) only partially price this climate externality. There is no perfect way to calculate all of these costs with the available data, so a variety of alternatives is presented in the Appendix. In all cases, the marginal cost is vastly lower than current rates.
The authors’ primary estimate of marginal cost for 2019 is shown in Figure ES-1, along with estimates of the average residential price of electricity for each IOU. The price of electricity is more than double the estimated marginal cost for SCE, and it is more than triple for PG&E and SDG&E. Over 25 percent of residential customers in California pay lower rates through the low-income program, California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE), but report authors found that even CARE rates are substantially above marginal cost, as shown in the figure.
This finding is not a commentary on the appropriateness of overall costs. High total system costs in California may well be justified by conditions in the state. Rather, the implication of this finding is that by recovering total system costs through high volumetric prices, California’s IOUs are now operating a pricing scheme that sends misleading signals about the true cost to society of consuming electricity. Pricing reform that aligns the volumetric price of energy with marginal cost would dramatically reduce prices, which has the potential to spur electrification of other sectors of the economy.
Components of California Electricity Rates
The components of California’s high electricity rates are unpacked in detail in this report and are summarized for each utility in Figure ES-2a-c, which breaks down the average volumetric price facing a residential customer on a standard rate. This figure decomposes costs into five main categories: generation, transmission, distribution, pollution and a residual category that combines public purpose programs and other costs. For generation, transmission and distribution, the costs are separated into the component that is part of marginal cost and the remaining costs that do not scale with usage. Details of each item’s calculation is included in the report.
The marginal cost components are added up in the bottom staircase. Marginal cost is the combined height of the boxes representing the marginal costs of generation, transmission, distribution and greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with producing an additional unit of electricity. This is labeled here as the private marginal cost (PMC). Adding the unpriced portion of pollution damages resulting from electricity yields the social marginal cost (SMC). The other boxes represent additional system costs that do not scale with usage. These are all costs that are being recovered through high volumetric prices for standard rate customers, but they represent fixed costs that range from regular maintenance to wildfire mitigation to cross-subsidies for CARE customers and rooftop solar.
A few findings are apparent from the figure. First, the additional system costs are spread across several factors that, taken together, drive the high cost. In particular, costs associated with generation and distribution comprise a significant share of the cost recovery gap.
Second, as more and more households adopt behind-themeter (BTM) solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, cost recovery is disproportionately shifted onto the bills of solar non-adopters. In 2019, the report authors estimate that behind the meter residential solar production supplied more than 15 percent of the residential electricity consumption across the PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E service territories. The fixed costs recovered via high volumetric electricity prices are shifted— not avoided—when a residential customer installs rooftop solar. In other words, as residential solar adoption increases, system costs are being recovered from a shrinking base.
An additional finding of the report’s cost component analysis is that there is great need for a more transparent accounting of wildfire mitigation costs that could inform public debate. Despite going to considerable lengths in an attempt to delineate wildfire-related expenditures by separating them from other costs with publicly available data, it was not possible for the report authors to get clear numbers. In Figure ES-2-a-c, these costs are embedded primarily in transmission, distribution and other fixed costs. Wildfire mitigation costs are likely to be a major driver of price increases in the near future. Wildfire mitigation is a statewide priority that delivers benefits to households throughout all utility territories, regardless of the quantity of electricity they consume, suggesting that perhaps some associated costs should be borne by the state at large. Transparent and consistent data about associated costs is essential to inform decision-making about how to pay for wildfire mitigation.
Improving Equitable Pricing of Electricity
A key finding of the report’s analysis is that the current system of recovering system costs through high volumetric prices is not only inefficient; it is also far less equitable than viable alternatives. It imposes a relatively large burden on lower- and average-income households while it recovers a shrinking fraction of system costs from higher-income households because of the diffusion of rooftop solar.
The authors are in the process of constructing a detailed assessment of how the burden of cost recovery is allocated across households in the current rate system, but that analysis involves customer billing data that was not obtained in time for this report. While a forthcoming Next 10-Energy Institute study will incorporate customer billing data, this initial report relied on survey data about household expenditures in California from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which are presented in Figure ES-3. Those data show that higher-income households spend only modestly more on electricity than lowerincome households, a much smaller differential relative to differences in incomes or expenditures on most other goods, including even gasoline.
Alternative Funding Mechanisms to Ensure an Equitable Electrification Transition
To address these inefficiencies and ensure a more equitable path toward greater electrification, the state could potentially support some measures, such as public purpose programs or wildfire mitigation, directly through other tax revenue. Analysis of the survey data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that using revenue raised from sales or income taxes would be much more progressive than the current scheme of covering residual costs above marginal cost by increasing volumetric electricity prices. This is apparent in Figure ES-3, which shows that expenditures on goods subject to the sales tax rise much more steeply across the income distribution. Thus, raising electricity system revenue through the sales tax would recover far more of the costs from richer households than does the current scheme. The distribution of income rises even faster than do taxable expenditures—which means that paying for some system costs through additional revenue raised via the income tax in California would be even more progressive.
Recognizing potential political barriers to leveraging state revenue to pay for electricity system costs, the report also considered ways of reforming the electricity system that could align prices with marginal cost without imposing an additional burden on those least able to afford it. To that end, a final key finding is that an income-based fixed monthly connection charge could raise revenue to cover utility costs while maintaining a volumetric price that reflects marginal cost and improving equity outcomes. This fixed monthly charge would require income verification, but would ultimately help reduce volumetric rates while providing stable revenue to utilities. The report concludes by discussing the possible structure of an income-based fixed charge, including some possible rate structures, as well as some of the logistical and equity considerations and trade-offs that would need to be weighed in order to implement such a scheme…
All energy production comes with challenges and downsides. For now, build wind, solar, and energy efficiency and wait for innovation to find the best solutions. From The Economist via YouTube
Texas needs to rethink many things, foremost for natural gas delivery, but the management of wind and solar can also be better. And the need for much more storage is getting more evident. From KXAN via YouTube
Fear of solar projects in Iowa reproduced baseless claims that have been used against solar for two decades. Meanwhile, solar keeps growing. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
2021 Year in Review: Climate action, or blah, blah, blah?
30 December 2021 (UN News)
“…To avoid catastrophic climate change, global temperatures rises need to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, but…[science found in 2021] that the global average temperature had already risen by about 1.2 degrees, and…that, unless commitments to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions are not improved, the world is on track to warm by 2.7 degrees this century…[Extreme weather events increased] this year, such as the catastrophic flooding in several western European countries that led to several deaths in July, and devastating wildfires in Mediterranean countries and Russia, in August…
…[Global] plans mean that fossil fuel production will increase overall, at least until 2040…These findings were laid out in the latest UN Production Gap report…[Addressing the Gap] will require a lot of investment, and an overhaul of the way we interact with the natural world…[and at the most recent UN conference on climate,] nearly 500 global financial services firms had agreed to align $130 trillion – some 40 per cent of the world’s financial assets – with the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement…
…[T]he Global Clean Power Transition Statement was announced, a commitment to end coal investments, scale up clean power, make a just transition, and phase out coal by the 2030´s in major economies, and in the 2040´s elsewhere…[But] the biggest coal financers (China, Japan and Republic of Korea) did not join…‘I know you are disappointed. But the path of progress is not always a straight line… and this fight must be won. Never give up. Never retreat. Keep pushing forward,’ said the UN Secretary-General…” click here for more
Decarbonizing Electric Power: Key Challenges And Opportunities After The 2021 Global Energy Crunch And COP26 Climate Negotiations
Markit, January 4, 2022 (Seeking Alpha)
“…For the global power sector, affordability, reliability, and sustainability have rarely simultaneously caught global attention as they have this past year…[In 2022, it faces] an enormous challenge and an immense opportunity for market participants…[For deep decarbonization from 2021 to 2050, IHS Markit estimated] the world may need to add about 28,000 GW of clean generation capacity, or 5.5 times more per year than was added annually over the past 10 years…[and] a total future investment of approximately $30-40 trillion…[Four key variables include] 1) [The] supply chains for solar, wind, and battery technologies may need to increase 4- to 45-fold relative to today… complicated by mineral scarcity, shortages in processing and workforce capacity, and regional bottlenecks…
…2) Ensuring power supply reliability [is becoming more complex]…3) Expanding and upgrading transmission and distribution networks [could be costly and complicated]…4) Harmonizing the renewables industry's relationship with land and the community…[could result in] land use competition with other economic, community and environmental interests…[But] overcoming the challenges can create a "virtuous cycle of clean energy development" as solutions emerge from policies that drive] clean energy projects, in turn increasing equipment manufacturing capacity, decreasing supply chain costs, and accelerating technology improvements, all of which facilitate implementing yet more policies that favor renewables…” click here for more
CAISO Board Focuses on Near Term Needs and Long Term Ambitions
Herman K. Trabish, September 27, 2021 (California Current)
Editor’s note: Work to create a regional market is now accelerating.
The California grid operator is keeping close tabs on climate crisis-driven wildfires and outage uncertainties while looking down the road towards a regional power market.
Despite wildfires across CAISO’s region, power system conditions have been relatively stable since mid-July, but “extraordinary action” is still needed for procurement of emergency resources, California Independent System Operator President and Chief Executive Officer Elliot Mainzer reported to the power system and market operator’s board Sept. 23.
“The prolonged drought, more extreme weather, wildfires, and diminished hydro have increased reliability risks,” Mainzer said. If needed this fall, CAISO will dispatch emergency generation to protect reliability, and mitigate costs for consumers in California and other Western states
Solicitations under CAISO’s just-instituted Significant Event Capacity Procurement Mechanism produced short-term contracts for 624 MW for July, 650 MW for August, and approximately 400 MW for September, Mainzer said. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 30 emergency proclamation allows greater access to existing back-up generation on a short-term basis, waiving pollution limits, through CAISO’s emergency capacity procurement mechanism for reliability, he added.
CAISO also is putting greater urgency on transmission planning, Mainzer said. It cannot meet clean energy objectives and protect reliability without “the transmission capacity to send power where it is needed and displace older generating resources.” New processes and tools enable greater situational awareness and system operator coordination against Western Interconnection fire threats…
CAISO is also working to build regional coordination. The CAISO Board finalized approval of new governance provisions giving its Energy Imbalance Market Governing Body a bigger role. Decisions impacting both the EIM real time market and the larger CAISO day ahead market will now require majority approval from each authority. The new rules also provide procedures for settling disputes when interests diverge… click here for more
Renewable Energy Stocks Had A Mixed 2021. Will 2022 Be Better?
January 3rd, 2022 (Trefis)
“…[Renewable Energy Stocks, including U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers, lithium miners, and hydrogen fuel cell producers] had a relatively tough 2021, declining by about 5% over the year, compared to the S&P 500 which gained almost 27%...[R]elatively healthy revenue growth recently, has] been weighed down by the prospect of multiple interest rate hikes, which has made investors sour on high-growth stocks, and also by some regulatory uncertainty, particularly in the U.S. where negotiations on the Build Back Better bill, which planned spending of over $500 billion for the climate and clean energy, is currently stalled…[Some] have also been weighed down by rising commodity prices and supply-chain issues…
…[T]his recent underperformance could be a buying opportunity. Renewable energy companies stand to benefit considerably from the mounting urgency to tackle climate change. Governments worldwide are likely to accelerate regulation favoring green energy alternatives while also investing more in low-carbon infrastructure.
The addressable market for renewables is also sizable, as fossil fuels are a multi-trillion dollar industry…Albemarle stock (ALB) has been [a strong] performer over 2021, rising by about 58%. The company is one of the world’s largest producers of lithium, which is used in the batteries that go into electric vehicles and electric storage systems…Sunrun stock (RUN) has been [a weak] performer, with its stock down by about 51% during 2021. The company designs develop, installs, and maintains residential solar energy systems…” click here for more