Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

"Be not dishearten'd, affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; those who love each other shall become invincible." Walt Whitman. Happy Valentine's Day.

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.








  • Weekend Video: It Is Not A Dream, It Is A Vision
  • Weekend Video: Taking A Solar Road To The Future
  • Weekend Video: What Battery Energy Storage Will Do
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews


    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns


    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart



    Your intrepid reporter


      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Saturday, February 13, 2016

    It’s Called Leadership

    This President’s fight against climate change recalls what FDR did before and during World War II. His leadership on New Energy has been powerful and unwavering. From The White House via YouTube

    Global Warming Versus Climate Change

    How wrong does Ted Cruz have to be before voters turn away from him? From greenman3610 via YouTube

    From Old Energy To New Energy And Why

    The “most massive machine humans have ever built” and what to do with it now. From The Good Stuff via YouTube

    Friday, February 12, 2016


    Why U.S. Science Teachers Struggle to Teach Climate Change; Political values influence how teachers approach the issue

    Justin Worland, February 11, 2016 (Time Magazine)

    “Science teachers in the U.S. often botch lessons on climate change, hampered by conservative values in their community and their own lack of knowledge on the topic…[ Climate confusion among U.S. teachers] found that 70% of middle school science teachers and 87% of high school biology teachers devote some class time to climate change. But the quality of those lessons can vary greatly…Nearly a third of U.S. teachers…say that the phenomenon is likely caused by ‘natural causes’ despite the fact that more than 95% of climate scientists agree that humans have driven global warming…Conservative political identity was the strongest indicator that a teacher would suggest that climate change may be rooted in natural rather than human causes…And even those who accept the science of climate change may teach about potential natural causes to avoid upsetting conservative members of the communities where they live…A lack formal education on climate change among teachers also contributes…[The debate over climate change] may be similar to the ongoing debate over teaching evolution…[that pits] religious conservatives against advocates of science…” click here for more


    China now the world leader in wind power production

    Richard Blackwell, February 11, 2016 (The Globe and Mail)

    “China has become the world leader in wind power production after constructing nearly half of all the new turbines built around the globe in 2015 [according to Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)]…China installed 30,500 megawatts of new wind power last year, compared to the world total of 63,000 MW. China now has 145,100 MW of wind power, out of the global total of 432,400 MW…Over all, there is now enough wind power installed around the world to generate electricity for about 100 million homes…China’s dramatic increase is partly due to its drive to cut smog and deal with climate change…[W]ind, in most markets, is now the cheapest renewable power supply, except for hydroelectric power. Since 2009, its cost has fallen 58 per cent because of less expensive materials and greater efficiency…Because of that, wind is competitive with other forms of power production without the need for subsidies in a number of markets…” click here for more


    Solar energy boom in Egypt

    February 10, 2016 (Africa News)

    “…[Egyptian homeowners are tapping into the sun’s power through a feed-in-tariff system created [in 2014] by the government…[Once the land of the Sun King, Egypt's new solar policies have brought the banking sector into solar finance so] the owner pays the cost…over seven years without an initial down payment...[It has enabled one developer] to finish 35 projects…[and raised state concerns about] solar power on a mega-project scale…With advancements in the energy sector, more companies are moving towards establishing a solar energy base…[The government] plans to build solar and wind power plants over three years to generate a combined 4,300 megawatts of power.” click here for more


    Game Change: Tesla And GM Announce Affordable, Long-Range Electric Cars

    Joe Romm, February 11, 2016 (Climate Progress)

    “Two of the world’s leading electric vehicle (EV) producers say that they will soon deliver 200+ mile range EVs at a game-changing price of $30,000 or less — including tax incentives…Until now, EVs have not been considered a mass-market consumer vehicle in the United States for two key reasons — high price and low range. But with battery prices continuing their unexpectedly rapid price drop, both General Motors and Tesla have announced that they can address both of those problems simultaneously in the near future. For GM, it will be the Chevy Bolt, and for Tesla, the Model 3…The average new car costs about $31,000…GM has said that its 200-mile-range Bolt will be available by the end of 2016 for ‘as low as’ $30,000 [assuming the $7500 federal tax credit]…Tesla’s Model 3…will be priced at $35,000 — before federal and state tax credits are applied…” click here for more

    Thursday, February 11, 2016


    How Obama picked up the pieces on climate change

    Devin Henry, Timothy Cama, Jordan Fabian, February 10, 2016 (The Hill)

    “…[After President Obama’s hopes for a historic cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate, he turned to] a backup plan in the works that would end up defining much of his second term…That plan was to use the president’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon dioxide from power plants, something Obama’s opponents say is so novel it’s illegal…Those power plant rules, which the administration is now rushing to complete, became leverage in Obama’s successful effort to finish an international climate deal in Paris late last year — a part of his legacy years in the making...

    "...[This is] not a completed story…[The Supreme Court just blocked] the rules from taking effect while lawsuits move forward. And they could be quickly overturned if a Republican wins the White House…Either way, Obama’s allies say a president determined to combat climate change — even as he was focused on the recession and his signature healthcare law — will have no regrets…The Clean Power Plan, along with many of Obama’s other executive actions, faces a string of legal challenges from states and deep-pocketed interest groups. But Obama and the EPA won their first victory in that fight in January, when a court panel rejected a call to temporarily suspend the rule…

    "...[President Obama] never doubted the legality or the impact of the rule…[and he has never wavered in his] personal commitment to confronting climate change…” click here for more


    The Virtuous Cycle Between Driverless Cars, Electric Vehicles And Car-Sharing Services

    Chunka Mai, February 8, 2016 (Forbes)

    “…[Tesla’s] Elon Musk spends so much time musing about driverless cars…[for] the same reason that General Motors announced its $500 million investment in Lyft just days before CEO Mary Barra unveiled the new Chevy Bolt and, a few weeks later, bought the assets of Sidecar, the failed car-sharing innovator…It is [also] why Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber, poached 40 top scientists and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University to develop Uber’s own driverless capabilities…[and] why, in addition to its massive effort to build driverless cars, Google almost bought Tesla, invested more than $250 million in Uber—and why Google’s relationship with Uber soured…These moves are part of the strategic gamesmanship underway in the colliding automotive and technology ecosystems. Numerous players are jockeying for position at the confluence of driverless cars, electric vehicles and car sharing…A virtuous cycle, however, links them…Each has the potential to reinforce the others and, together, massively disrupt the technology and business of personal mobility…[D]riverless taxis could operate at as little as 20% of the cost of individual car ownership…Some industry insiders estimate that mobility service business models could sustain driverless cars costing as much as $250,000-300,000…” click here for more


    We're One Step Closer to Creating Hydrogen Gas from Solar Energy; Solar panels of the future could produce clean-burning hydrogen gas in a one-step process.

    William Herkewitz, February 4, 2016 (Popular Mechanics)

    “…[O]ne the biggest questions facing the solar power industry…[is how to] get a solar panel to supply a reliable, steady supply of electricity…[Scientists] and engineers are increasingly…using solar power to create clean-burning hydrogen gas…[which] can be stored indefinitely, and has the highest energy density of any gas or liquid fuel…[A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley] has taken a large leap toward developing efficient solar fuel cells that transform normal water into hydrogen gas…[using a new, metal-based material to make] solar fuel cells. These fuel cells—in a one-step process—would split apart an incoming flow of liquid water into steady streams of oxygen and hydrogen gas, with nothing more than a gentle influx of sunlight…[In solar fuel cells, the] anode side rips oxygen from water in a process called solar electrolysis, and the cathode side produces the flow of hydrogen gas…Even with the new material, hydrogen-producing solar fuel cells are still too wasteful and far from commercially viable…[but provide a] conceptual framework for developing even better anode materials…” click here for more


    How much does energy storage really cost?

    David Labrador, February 10, 2016 (GreenBiz)

    “Energy storage is often hailed as a game changer for renewable energy reliability…[Financial advisory firm Lazard’s] inaugural Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis (LCOS)…is a major sign that it considers battery energy storage a critical technology that’s here to stay…[The LCOS and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Economics of Battery Energy Storage show] battery economics are usually evaluated on the basis of single-use cases; stacking multiple uses greatly can enhance battery economics; and evaluating those economics gets difficult quickly…[Batteries are] either generation or load depending on whether they’re discharging or charging. So the favorable finances of storage can use all the clarity and all the study they can get…Both reports find that the age of the battery is here, largely because costs have dropped so far, so fast…Lazard’s analysis also predicted significant cost declines over the next five years…[The] industry is focused on opening up new revenue streams and moving toward customer-sited and customer-focused services, such as demand charge management or solar-plus-storage solutions…" click here for more

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016


    Maine lawmakers propose groundbreaking way out of net metering wars; Legislators want a 'Standard Buyer' to acquire distributed generation and value it properly

    Herman K. Trabish, June 8, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    Lawmakers in Maine may have found the best solution for getting off the net metering merry-go-round since Massachusetts’ minimum bill proposal sank, clean energy advocates in the state say.

    The Maine Office of the Public Advocate and an influential state legislator led a joint committee of the Legislature to unanimous approval of a proposal that will offer solar developers at every market level an opportunity to opt out of net energy metering (NEM). Instead of retail rate NEM, they will have the choice of a new plan that allows them to capture more value for their solar.

    “We've brought stakeholders together only to find that, for different reasons, everyone is looking for renewable energy policy that will bridge us seamlessly into the future,” explained Rep. Sara Gideon (D), the House Assistant Majority Leader who helped craft the proposal.

    “In a policy area that is so often partisan and that often pits environmentalists, solar businesses, and utilities in opposition to each other, we are now working on really exciting and groundbreaking policy,” she said.

    Recent distributed energy debates in Maine look much like similar discussions surrounding the value of solar from Hawaii to Massachusetts. They center on two key aspects: How do distributed solar providers and utilities get past the looming 1% of peak load NEM reconsideration trigger that Central Maine Power (CMP), the state’s dominant utility, will soon hit? And how do legislators apply Maine’s value of solar (VOS) study, submitted earlier this year, that found solar-generated electricity’s actual value could be as high as $0.33 per kWh -- even though Maine’s retail electricity rate is around $0.13 per kWh?

    The Resolve

    In Maine, a legislative resolution is called a Resolve.

    “Resolve, To Develop an Alternative to Net Energy Billing that Fairly and Transparently Allocates Costs and Benefits of Distributed Generation to All Customers,” LD 1263, was recently approved by the Legislature’s bipartisan Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology. If approved by the full House and Senate and allowed to become law by the Governor, it would initiate a proceeding at the Maine Public Utilities Commission to answer those two key questions.

    “Solar is coming to Maine. Over time, with rising electricity rates and thefalling price of solar, we will have more solar one way or the other,” explained Maine Public Advocate Timothy R. Schneider. “The VOS study calculates what the value of solar is and we are not capturing it but we want to because that would be a good deal for ratepayers.”

    The Resolve was supported by the committee’s seven Democrats and six Republicans, representing both the lower and upper houses. It was endorsed by Revision Energy, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the energy subcommittee of the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals, which includes many solar installers.

    It is opposed by The Alliance for Solar Choice, which calls it -- without explanation -- an attempt “to keep Mainers captive to their constantly rising rates.”

    The Resolve designated a recent value of solar white paper, entitled “A Ratepayer Focused Strategy for Distributed Solar in Maine,” as the basis of the regulators’ deliberations. The white paper was commissioned by the Public Advocate’s office and written by Strategen Consulting’s Lon Huber.

    “We have found it increasingly challenging to agree on a policy that works for solar,” Gideon noted. “The basic concepts in the white paper are why we have been able to proceed as far as we have.”

    What’s next for the Resolve

    “The Legislature finds that the policy structure described in [the white paper] merits further exploration,” the Resolve declares, while specifying that the legislature does not affirm the white paper’s hypothetical numbers for installed capacity and per-kWh rates.

    “The legislature and state regulators will determine those numbers,” Schneider said.

    The Resolve instead instructs Maine’s commission to “develop an alternative to net energy billing through a stakeholder process” that captures a consensus and to report its findings to the legislature by the end of January 2016.

    The commission’s report is also to include an overview of the alternative policy, technical specifications, necessary rules and policies, a proposed timeline, technical and legal barriers, and areas where stakeholders could not agree.

    With NEM, which Maine’s investor-owned utilities are required to offer, customers get bill credit at the retail electricity rate for the electricity their on-site systems send to the grid. It is popular with customers and the solar industry primarily because, the paper explains, it is simple.

    But skyrocketing solar growth driven by the falling cost of solar and the increasing cost of electricity is undermining consensus agreement on NEM, the paper explains, because “customers are compensated at rates that do not reflect the value of the resource.”

    The problem with NEM economics, it adds, has resulted in residential customers facing changes in rate design that compromise the value proposition of their investments. NEM does not drive solar adoption by commercial-industrial customers, whose big rooftops represent a huge market opportunity, because their per-kWh charges are much lower than their demand charges.

    Utilities object to NEM because it seems to lead to a shift of costs for grid infrastructure to non-solar owners, the paper reports. And the lack of a connection between the compensation rate and solar’s actual value makes it difficult to conclusively prove its costs and benefits to the satisfaction of utilities or solar advocates.

    The white paper

    Huber’s white paper offers a new way to use the VOS study through a multi-tiered Market-based Aggregation Credit (MAC) program with five policy objectives:

    An alternative to NEM that is “fair” and “cost-conscious”

    Long-term compensation for solar that is based on the value of solar analysis and better than NEM

    A competitive reverse auction for the commercial-industrial sector and a capacity-based declining block program for residential solar — two market mechanisms designed to drive the price of solar down, while another program provision (see objective 5) captures its full value

    The potential for Maine to get to as much as 300 MW of new solar capacity by 2025, with 150 MW coming from the wholesale segment, 100 MW from the residential and commercial sectors, and 50 MW from industrial and community solar markets

    Procurement by a Standard Buyer agency that would aggregate and sell renewables-generated electricity into all available markets to monetize the full value of solar

    A reverse auction mechanism (RAM) invites developers of commercial-industrial and utility scale projects to bid competitively against other developers to provide renewables capacity. The buyer, in this case the Standard Buyer, would pick the offers that come in at the lowest prices.

    In a declining block program the price the Standard Buyer pays for residential solar would be pre-established by the commission. It might be the VOS price of $0.33 per kWh, or the direct benefit to customer price of $0.20 per kWh, or the retail rate of electricity, or the utility’s avoided cost for other generation.

    When the state achieves a commission pre-designated block of capacity, the price the Standard Buyer pays new solar owners will drop to a lower level on the assumption the higher capacity means solar needs less of an incentive and economies of scale should be at work to make unsubsidized solar more affordable.

    Perhaps the most innovative part of Huber’s program is that it will test Maine’s VOS calculations in real markets. As the Standard Buyer acquires and resells solar-generated electricity, it will be tracked. That could help illuminate debates over the value of solar in other states.

    The Standard Buyer

    Centralized management of all the customer-sited and wholesale distributed generation, procured through 20 year fixed-price contracts under the Standard Buyer, would “allow for a more efficient aggregation and sale of the different attributes solar energy can provide,” the paper explains. “The [Standard Buyer] would aggregate the energy, RECs, capacity value, and ancillary services potential and monetize these in the applicable markets.”

    The white paper uses a $0.20 per kWh rate as a “placeholder” for the price at which regulators will ultimately start the reverse auction bidding and the declining block rates, Schneider explained.

    “It is the sum of the things in the VOS that directly benefit ratepayers, including the 20 year levelized price for energy, avoided transmission and distribution, avoided generation capacity, and avoided reserve capacity,” he said.

    Revenues from sales of distributed generation into those markets by the Standard Buyer go into Maine’s stranded cost recovery mechanism and get redistributed to all ratepayers.

    “It is transparent and it is equitably allocated to all ratepayers,” Schneider said.

    The full value of the DG production is returned to the system owner as a tax-free bill credit. But the system owner pays the full retail rate for all usage. “And because the output of the solar is separately metered, that customer pays a full transmission and distribution charge so there is no shift of costs to non-DG owners,” Schneider said.

    Using Maine’s value of solar

    Maine’s legislatively-mandated Value of Solar study, overseen by the PUC, provided “a menu of values," according to Pace Energy and Climate Center Executive Director Karl Rabago, co-author of the "Maine Distributed Solar Valuation Study."

    In the Resolve, the committee asks the commission to find an alternative to NEM by using the program laid out by the white paper and values derived in the VOS study for different applications of solar.

    As a utility executive, Rabago helped create Austin Energy’s 2006 first-ever value of solar tariff. He endorsed the Maine proposal’s innovation but raised three concerns. First, if more value is returned by solar than is paid at the retail electricity rate, solar owners end up essentially subsidizing non-solar owners. Second, it seems to pass over the quantifiable system benefits solar provides to non-solar owners. Third, it asks for solar to be bid at below its full value.

    Strengths, weaknesses, and politics

    There is stakeholder consensus on using the white paper and values derived in the legislatively-mandated Value of Solar study for what will essentially be an alternate compensation mechanism to NEM, Gideon said. There is also agreement on using the residential rate declining block program and on NEM being phased out when the alternate compensation mechanism is fully phased in.

    There is concern about getting the reverse auction mechanism right to protect smaller businesses and about getting the long term contracts for grid scale solar right, she added. And there is disagreement on the numbers and the components of the alternate compensation mechanism.

    Insiders say Gideon and her allies will shepherd LD 1263 past the Democrat-controlled lower house. Its fate in the Republican-dominated upper body remains uncertain.

    Republican Governor Paul LePage is said to currently be hostile toward legislation sponsored by Democrats but has been known to let popular initiatives like this one become law without his signature.

    "I think this idea will work but some of it is brand new, which is why we are using the Resolve to send it to the PUC,” Gideon said. "We are asking them to continue to take input from all the stakeholders and then to send it back to us with an explanation of how it would really work with real numbers."


    OBAMA CLIMATE PLAN STAYED BY SUPREME COURT Supreme Court puts Clean Power Plan on hold

    Davide Savinje and Krysti Shallenberger, February 9, 2016 (Utility Dive)

    “…[A 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling] ordered the Obama administration to hold off on any efforts to implement the Clean Power Plan (CPP) until legal challenges to the regulation have played out…The ruling came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request to stay the federal carbon regulations in January. A coalition of 29 states and state agencies led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey then appealed to the Supreme Court to stay implementation of…[the regulatory package targeting] a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector nationwide by 2030…[It] will be put on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reviews the plan and any subsequent Supreme Court appeals are over. A hearing at the D.C. Circuit is set for June 2, 2016…The ruling is a big win for the opponents to the…[policy] widely considered the cornerstone of Obama's environmental legacy…” click here for more

    THE POWER OF PLAINS WIND Tapping the Power of the Great Plains to Light Up Faraway Cities

    Brian Eckhouse and Joe Ryan, February 9, 2016 (Bloomberg News)

    “There’s enough untapped wind howling across the vast plains of Oklahoma and Kansas to generate more electricity than a dozen nuclear power plants. What’s missing are transmission lines…That’s why Clean Line Energy Partners LLC plans to spend $9 billion on power transmission across the Great Plains, Midwest and the Southwest, including a 720-mile (1,158-kilometer) proposal awaiting approval from the U.S. Energy Department. It would be one of the longest high-voltage direct current lines built in a generation, and is among at least 11 proposed projects that may open up vast expanses for wind and solar farms with more than 26 gigawatts of capacity…[TransWest Express LLC is planning a $3 billion, 730-mile line from Wyoming to Las Vegas…[These projects are seen as essential to helping states comply with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan]…” click here for more

    THE THOUSANDS OF JOBS IN SOLAR’S BOOM The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2015 Finds that U.S. Solar Workforce Grew by More Than 20% for the Third Consecutive Year

    January 12, 2016 (The Solar Foundation)

    “…[The sixth annual National Solar Jobs Census from The Solar Foundation (TSF) found that the U.S. solar industry employed 208,859 Americans in 2015…[including] the addition of 35,052 solar workers over the previous year, representing 20.2 percent growth…nearly 12 times faster [growth] than the national employment growth rate of 1.7 percent…The solar workforce is larger than…the oil and gas extraction industry, which shed 13,800 jobs in 2015 and now employs 187,200 people. The oil and gas pipeline construction industry, which employs 129,500 workers, lost 9,500 jobs…The solar industry is already three times larger than the coal-mining industry, which employs 67,929 people…Solar employers surveyed expect to add more than 30,000 jobs over the next 12 months…” click here for more

    Tuesday, February 09, 2016


    Coal Computing: How Companies Misunderstand Their Dirty Data Centers

    Ory Zik and Avi Shapiro, February 2016 (Lux Research)

    Despite their sophistication about data in other contexts, leading IT and computing giants in the U.S. use crude and outdated information to calculate the carbon footprint of their data centers, missing the real picture of their emissions by about 25%. Data centers comprise the fastest growing energy buying sector, and the companies that run them have the most advanced data analytics tools at their disposal, as well as high-minded public commitments to sustainability. They should lead rather than lag, by using more accurate data to report on their emissions – and to inform the actions they take to reduce them.

    Executive Summary

    Each year, the data centers that power social media, streaming video, cloud computing, and connected devices use 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity – enough to power New York City twice over – and their consumption is still growing rapidly. While companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple profess sustainability goals and take measures to improve their energy profile, today they rely on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) to estimate their emissions. However, eGRID divides the U.S. electricity grid into just 24 broad regions, and is updated only infrequently – the most recent information available is from 2012. Our analysis, using modern statistical tools now becoming available, shows that companies are miscalculating their emissions by about 25% on average.

    The new Lux Grid Network Analysis (GNA) divides the grid into 134 regions, instead of just 24, providing more granular insight, and makes use of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data that is updated monthly, as opposed to three-year-old annual data. Applying the Lux GNA to U.S.-based data centers shows where operators are coming up short in their sustainability reporting:

    • Google misses the mark in four of out of its seven data centers. Google uses eGRID to estimate its electricity emissions, but the Lux GNA model shows that four of Google's seven major U.S. data centers rely significantly more on coal than data reported by eGRID imply. As a result, Google's emissions are likely larger than estimated by 42,000 MT CO2e per year – the equivalent of 8,500 additional SUVs on the road.

    • Amazon estimates are off in over 20 centers. Amazon is less transparent than Google about how it calculates its emissions, but the Virginia electricity grid to which 23 of about 40 global Amazon cloud services data centers are connected uses about 43% electricity from coal based on the Lux GNA – not 35% as reported using eGRID. As a result, Amazon's data centers are putting out 85,000 MT CO2e per year more than inferred using eGRID – some 5,000 households' worth of emissions.

    There is a stark contrast between the sophistication used by IT companies for monetized activities and their environmental impact analysis. While the former is done with location-based, real-time accuracy, the latter is disappointingly simplistic, based on coarse geographical estimations and with data three years out of date. As emissions become more critical to the planet, to regulators, and to the bottom line, it's time for companies to make a more rigorous reckoning of their usage and take action accordingly.

    Data Centers are Big Energy Users – But the Impact Is Poorly Understood

    As social media, streaming video, cloud computing, and ever-more-connected devices become a bigger part of our lives, the massive data centers that technology titans like Google, Amazon, and Facebook use to process and store the data are becoming a bigger part of our power grid. The 1,520 data centers in the U.S. consume 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) projects they're on track to reach 140 billion kilowatt-hours by 2020. Data centers use enough electricity annually to power all the households in New York City for two years, and they pay more than $10 billion for electricity each year, accounting for about 2.5% of total electricity revenues.

    Data centers' thirst for power also makes them a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for about 70 million metric tons of CO2 per year. As global worries about climate change and the resulting policy response – from President Obama's Clean Power Plan to the climate change accords brokered at COP21 – become increasingly serious, players like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and more tout the efforts they're taking to make their data centers more sustainable. However, in a striking irony, the most data-savvy companies in the world are relying on surprisingly crude data about their energy sources in making these vital decisions about the climate impact of their activities.

    To be sure, the challenge isn't easy. Power generation is one of the most complex sectors of the economy, and in the U.S. there are nearly 20,000 power plants and 360,000 miles of transmission lines. What's more, once the electricity is put on to the grid, it can no longer effectively be traced back to its original source. However, the data source companies use today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) is not designed for the challenge of tackling this complex system. The eGRID construct dates to the 1990s and divides the U.S. electricity grid into just 20 broad subregions in the continental U.S. (24 total including Alaska and Hawaii). It also ignores electricity transfers with Canada and Mexico, and is updated only infrequently – the latest version of eGRID uses data from 2012. This white paper describes the new Lux Grid Network Analysis (GNA) model from Lux Research that allows companies to assess their energy usage and carbon footprint with much more granular and up-to-date information – and make better decisions about their environmental impact as a result. This GNA model is a part of Lux's comprehensive Resource Intelligence for System Knowledge (RISK) platform for analyzing resource usage.

    Why Should Energy Buyers Care?

    The question of eGRID's limitations might seem a bit academic, but the consequences are very real. The broad regions in eGRID obscure significant differences between the power sources and emissions levels for different sites within those regions. Meanwhile, the utility sector is currently undergoing huge changes, as both largescale renewable installations and distributed generation from rooftop solar gain traction, meaning that outdated information is also likely to be misleading. For data center energy buyers and operators, unreliable data matters for:

    • Sustainability. Theoretically, the most environmentally friendly solution is going totally "off grid" with renewable power. However, most renewable energy solutions are intermittent, and data centers depend on reliable power. Being connected to the grid and its volatile mix of energy sources means that companies need to have a good understanding of what they're buying in order to control the sustainability of their operations.

    • Policymaking. In the U.S. and around the world, public officials from the national to local levels are trying to make better energy decisions that promote the goals of public health, fighting climate change, and ensuring security and reliability of energy supply. Having a clear view of where the power is coming from – in particular for some of the largest users like data centers – is critical for choosing policies that will have the biggest impact on those goals.

    • Business decisions. The shifting energy mix and consequent changes in the utilities business model lead to fluctuating contract prices and multiple distributed generation choices. In many markets, buyers can choose from a range of electricity providers, too, allowing customers to negotiate supply with local utilities as well as distributed generation vendors. However, doing so without accurate information leaves companies vulnerable to making costly decisions about energy sources.

    Better Data and Analytics Provide an Actionable Solution

    To give energy users a more realistic view of their electricity sources and emissions than is available from eGRID, our team of scientists analyzed the U.S. grid empirically using network modeling (see Figure 1). We first identified the smallest entities that we could obtain data for, the Power Control Areas (PCAs), which allowed us to divide the contiguous U.S. and grid-connected regions of Canada and Mexico into 134 regions (compared to the 20 eGRID sub-regions that are used today). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has opened up PCA information, aimed at allowing power stakeholders (energy buyers, utilities, distributed generation vendors, financial analysts, and policymakers) to better understand production and demand.

    However, the EIA data alone does not allow users to know the electricity mix that they consume – users can know the mix of electricity produced in any given state, but this does not tell them the mix of electricity that they actually consume, since areas also import and export electricity. We used a spatiotemporal network topology to analyze the entire grid as a dynamic, equilibrium-based supply chain, using the PCAs' monthly generation data and estimating the true consumption mix using annual inter-PCA exchange data.

    Overall, this new Lux GNA information allows a more than 80-fold increase in granularity compared to current solutions, by moving from 20 eGRID sub-regions to 134 PCAs, and monthly instead of annual data.

    Our analysis was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology, where interested readers can find more detail on the methodology. In this white paper, we applied this new tool to the energy use of data centers to determine where the real picture differs from the conventional wisdom today.

    Case Study 1: Google Underestimates Its Dependence on Coal

    Google claims that including offsets, its net carbon footprint is zero, based on its tabulation of emission from its various energy sources, including electricity purchased from the grid. According to Google Green, “For US locations (excluding those associated with green power purchase agreements), our grid renewables data are from the EPA’s eGRID.” Leaving aside the contentious issue of how well renewable energy credits (RECs) and other offsets do indeed offset emission, we looked to see what the improved Lux GNA tells us about Google's data center energy usage.

    We found that eGRID significantly underestimates the amount of coal in the electricity consumed at four out of seven of Google’s U.S. data centers (see Figure 2). While our analysis does find that Google is using somewhat less coal than it estimates at three other sites, overall its emissions are likely significantly higher than it has projected. Using average values for the emissions from various types of generation and typical data center electricity usage, we estimate that the excess of actual emissions over Google's estimates from its seven data centers over the course of a year amounts to 42,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – the equivalent of putting 8,500 additional SUVs on the road.

    Case Study 2: Amazon’s 23 Virginia Data Centers Use More Coal than Expected

    Amazon is less transparent than Google about fuel consumption at data centers and how it's calculated. However, the Lux GNA reveals Amazon would likely miscalculate its carbon footprint where it relies on grid power, particularly in Virginia (see Figure 3). While the percentage grid coal usage in Virginia is only 8% higher using the Lux GNA than eGRID, 23 of Amazon's 28 U.S. data centers (a majority of its data centers worldwide) are in Virginia, making for a significant miscalculation of the amount of coal used. Again, we can estimate that the difference in emissions from the more accurate Lux GNA over eGRID amounts to 85,000 MT of CO2e – equal to the emissions from around 5,000 households.

    The U.S. Energy Market Is in Transition, Making Accurate Information Critical

    The tech giants that operate data centers have all agreed that minimizing their carbon footprint is an important business objective, but, ironically, they haven't yet found a solid, data-driven way to do so. Making decisions about energy use based on accurate and up-to-date information is especially important given the changing U.S. electricity landscape. Investments in renewable energy and transmission are growing exponentially, while low prices are helping natural gas continue to displace coal, changing the composition of grid generation. Most importantly, the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and other changes coming globally as nations work to reduce greenhouse gas emission in line with their commitments made at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), will help provide more incentive for energy users to find cleaner ways to produce their power.

    On-site distributed generation, large-scale off-site renewable energy power purchase agreements (PPAs) for utility-scale wind and solar, efficiency improvements, investment in offsets, and other solutions will all be options for data centers and other energy users. The right prioritization of what to do where begins with better analytics – with the tools now available, it's time for data centers to bring to their energy decisions the same data-driven rigor they use in the rest of their business…


    PENTAGON TO PRIORITIZE CLIMATE CHANGE Pentagon orders commanders to prioritize climate change in all military actions

    Rowan Scarborough, February 7, 2016 (Washington Times)

    “The Pentagon is ordering the top brass to incorporate climate change into virtually everything they do…[A directive orders the U.S. Armed Forces to] show ‘resilience’ and beat back the threat based on “actionable science”…It says the military will not [otherwise] be able to maintain effectiveness…[It orders] a wide array of ‘climate change boards, councils and working groups’ to infuse climate change into ‘programs, plans and policies’…[It orders that climate change] be integrated in…Weapons buying and testing…Training…Defense intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance…Defense education and training…Combatant commander joint training with allies…[and] Joint Chiefs of Staff collaboration [with allies and partners]…” click here for more

    LIES ABOUT SANDERS WIND PLAN CORRECTED Bernie Sanders' Wind Energy Plan Falsely Attacked By Big Oil Ally, With Help From The Wall Street Journal

    Andrew Seifter, February 8, 2016 (Media Matters for America)

    “A dirty energy advocate with Big Oil ties is falsely smearing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' wind energy plan …[A February 7 Wall Street Journal op-ed attack on Sanders’ New Energy plans by Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce did not disclose that the Manhattan Institute has received at least $800,000 from ExxonMobil and millions more from foundations run by the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Unsurprisingly, given his track record, Bryce's criticism of Sanders is badly at odds with the facts…Citing anti-wind proposals in the Vermont state legislature and a few scattered examples of local opposition to specific wind energy projects, Bryce declared…[Vermont’s ‘backlash’ against wind energy is among the strongest in the country but] despite the presence of a vocal minority who oppose large-scale wind projects, support for wind energy development is actually very strong in the Green Mountain State

    “…[An April 2014 poll showed 71 percent of Vermonters support building wind turbines along the state's ridgelines, while only 23 percent oppose wind energy development…These findings are in line with other polls…Bryce's entire attack against Sanders is premised on deceptively cherry-picking several isolated incidents of local opposition…” click here for more

    DOE UPS SPENDING ON SUNSHOT U.S. DOE announces USD 21 million to lower solar energy deployment barriers

    February 8, 2016, (U.S. Department of Energy)

    “…[DOE will provide $21 million] in new funding to lower solar energy deployment barriers and expand access to solar energy to all Americans…[$13 million will] help states take advantage of falling solar prices and maximize the benefits of solar electricity through…technical and analytical support in the development and implementation of solar energy deployment plans…[$8 million more will go to funding of] innovation and technology adoption patterns in order to increase understanding of [soft costs and other] solar deployment barriers…These investments support the broader goals of the SunShot Initiative…” click here for more

    Monday, February 08, 2016


    A Pathway to the Distributed Grid; Evaluating the economics of distributed energy resources and outlining a pathway to capturing their potential value

    Ryan Hanley, February 2016 (SolarCity)

    Executive Summary

    Designing the electric grid for the twenty-first century is one of today’s most important and exciting societal challenges. Regulators, legislators, utilities, and private industry are evaluating ways to both modernize the aging grid and decarbonize our electricity supply, while also enabling customer choice, increasing resiliency and reliability, and improving public safety, all at an affordable cost.

    However, modernizing an aging grid will require significant investments over and above those seen in any recent period – potentially exceeding $1.5 trillion in the U.S. between 2010-2030.1 Given the large sums of ratepayer funds at stake and the long-term impact of today’s decisions, it is imperative that such investment is deployed wisely, cost-effectively, and in ways that leverage the best technology and take advantage of customers’ desire to manage their own energy.

    In this report, we explore the capability of distributed energy resources (DERs) to maximize ratepayer benefits while modernizing the grid. First, we quantify the net societal benefits from proactively leveraging DERs deployed in the next five years, which we calculate to be worth over $1.4 billion a year in California alone by 2020. Then, we apply this methodology to the most recently available Investor Owned Utility (IOU) General Rate Case (GRC) filing – Pacific Gas and Electric’s 2017 GRC – in order to evaluate whether DERs can cost effectively replace real world planned distribution capacity projects. Finally, we evaluate the impediments to capturing these benefits in practice, and chart a path to achieving these benefits by improving the prevailing utility regulatory and planning models. These structural impediments undermine the deployment of optimal solutions and pose economic risk to consumers, who ultimately bear the burden of an expensive and inflexible grid.

    Distributed Energy Resources Offer a Better Alternative

    This report presents an economic analysis of building and operating a twenty-first century power grid – a grid that harnesses the full potential of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar with smart inverters, energy storage, energy efficiency, and smart energy homes and buildings with controllable loads. We find that an electric grid leveraging DERs offers an economically better alternative to the centralized grid design of today.

    DERs bring greater total economic benefits at lower cost, enable more affordability and consumer choice, and improve flexibility in grid planning and operations, all while facilitating the de-carbonization of our electricity supply.

    To evaluate the potential benefits, we build on existing industry methodologies to quantify the net societal benefits of DERs. Specifically, we borrow the Net Societal Costs/Benefits framework from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)2, incorporating commonly recognized benefit and cost categories, while also proposing methodologies for several hard-toquantify benefit categories that are often excluded from traditional analyses. Next, we incorporate costs related to the deployment and utilization of DERs, including integration costs at the bulk system and distribution levels, DER equipment costs, and utility program management costs. Using this structure, we quantify Net Societal Benefits of more than $1.4 billion a year by 2020 for California alone from DER assets deployed in the 2016-2020 timeframe, as depicted in the previous figure.

    In addition to evaluating net societal benefits at the system level, we consider the benefits of DER solutions for specific distribution projects in order to evaluate whether DERs can actually defer or replace planned utility investments in practice. Specifically, we apply the relevant set of cost and benefit categories to the actual distribution investment plans from California’s most recently available GRC filing, which is PG&E’s 2017 General Rate Case Phase I filing. This real world case study assesses a commonly voiced critique of utilizing DERs in place of traditional utility infrastructure investments: that not all avoided cost categories are applicable for every distribution project, or that DERs only provide a subset of their potential benefits in any specific project. Therefore, we consider only a subset of utility-applicable avoided cost categories when assessing the set of distribution infrastructure projects in PG&E’s 2017 GRC filing; we also utilize PG&E’s own avoided cost values rather than our own assumptions. Even using PG&E’s conservative assumptions on this subset of benefits, we quantify a net benefit for DER solutions used to replace the distribution capacity investments in PG&E’s 2017 GRC

    Utility Regulatory Incentives Must Change in Order to Capture DER Benefits

    While our analysis shows net societal benefits from DERs, both at the societal and distribution project levels, under the prevailing utility regulatory model DER benefits cannot be fully captured. Instead, utilities have a fundamental financial incentive of “build more to profit more”, which conflicts with the public interest of building and maintaining an affordable grid. Under today’s regulatory paradigm, utilities see a negative financial impact from utilizing resources for distribution services that they do not own – which includes the vast majority of distributed energy resources – even if those assets would deliver higher benefits at lower cost to ratepayers. This financial incentive model is a vestige of how utilities have always been regulated, a model originally constructed to encourage the expansion of electricity access. However, in this age of customers managing their energy via DERs, this regulatory model is outdated. This report offers a pathway to removing this structural obstacle, calling for a regulatory model that neutralizes the conflict of interest that utilities face. While separating the role of grid planning and sourcing from the role of grid asset owner – such as through the creation of an independent distribution system operator (IDSO) – would achieve this objective, some states may choose not to implement an IDSO model at this time. In these instances, this paper proposes the creation of a new utility sourcing model, which we call Infrastructureas-a-Service, that allows utility shareholders to derive income, or a rate of return, from competitively sourced third-party services. This updated model would help reduce the financial disincentive that currently biases utility decision-making against DERs, encouraging utilities to deploy grid investments that maximize ratepayer benefits regardless of their ownership.

    Grid Planning Must be Modernized in Order to Capture DER Benefits

    A second structural impediment to realizing DER benefits is the current grid planning approach, which biases grid design toward traditional infrastructure rather than distributed alternatives, even if distributed solutions better meet grid needs. Combined with the “build more to profit more” financial incentive challenge, current grid planning can encourage ‘goldplating’, or overinvestment, in grid infrastructure. Furthermore, outdated planning approaches rely on static assumptions about DER capabilities and focus primarily on mitigating potential integration challenges rather than proactively harnessing these flexible assets. This report offers a pathway to modernizing grid planning, calling for the utilization of an Integrated Distribution Planning approach that encourages incorporating DERs into every aspect of planning, rather than merely accommodating DER interconnection. Additionally, transparency into grid needs and planned investments is fundamental to realizing benefits. As such, this report recommends a data transparency approach that invites broad stakeholder engagement and increases industry competition in providing grid solutions.

    Key Takeaways

    1. Distributed energy resources offer net economic benefits to society worth more than $1.4 billion per year in California alone by 2020, including benefits related to voltage and power quality, conservation voltage reduction, grid reliability and resiliency, equipment life extension, and reduced energy prices.

    2. To realize these benefits, the utility regulatory incentive model must change to take advantage of customer choices to manage their own energy. Utility incentives should promote best-fit, least-cost investment decisions regardless of service supplier – eliminating the current bias toward utility-owned investments.

    3. Utility planning approaches must also be modernized to capture these benefits. Utilization of an integrated distribution planning framework will unlock the economic promise of distributed energy resources, while widely sharing utility grid data in standard data formats will invite broader stakeholder engagement and competition.

    Recommendations and Next Steps

    Our ultimate goal is to help provide concrete evidence and recommendations needed by regulators, legislatures, utilities, DER providers, and industry stakeholders to transition to a cleaner, more affordable and resilient grid. While the exact nature of how our recommendations should be implemented will vary from state to state, we see the following as promising steps forward for all industry stakeholders in modernizing our grid:

    1. Future regulatory proceedings and policy venues related to capturing the benefits of DERs should incorporate the expanded benefit and cost categories identified in this paper.

    2. Regulators should look for near-term opportunities to modernize the utility incentive model, either for all utility earnings or at a minimum for demonstration projects, to eliminate the bias toward utility-owned investments.

    3. Regulators should require utilities to modernize their planning processes to integrate and leverage distributed energy resources, utilizing an integrated distribution planning process identified in this paper.

    4. Regulators should require utilities to categorize all planned distribution investments in terms of the underlying grid need. Utilities should make data available electronically to industry, ideally in a machine readable format.

    Call for Input

    We offer this paper as an effort to support the utilization of grid modernization investments to maximize ratepayer benefits. The cost/benefit analysis we develop here is an effort meant to expand the industry’s ability to quantify the holistic contribution that DERs offer to the grid and its customers, extending the familiar cost/benefit framework beyond PV-only analyses and into full smart inverter and DER portfolios. Building upon this analysis, we identify needed changes to utility incentives, planning, and data sharing approaches in order to realize DERs’ potential. Furthermore, we recognize that important regulatory proceedings – such as the CPUC Distribution Resource Plans (DRP) and CPUC Integrated Distributed Energy Resources (IDER) – will play an important role in giving stakeholders the tools to calculate the value of DERs.

    No single report could adequately address all the issues – engineering, economic, regulatory – that naturally arise during such a transformative time in the industry. By compiling the major issues in one place, we attempt to advance the discussion and suggest that this paper includes a “table of contents” of critical topics for regulators and industry stakeholders to consider when evaluating the full potential of distributed energy resources.

    There are many details of this paper that can be refined, including utilizing more complete data sets to inform the cost/benefit analysis. We welcome ongoing dialogues with utilities and industry stakeholders to improve the assumptions or calculations within, including sharing data and revising methodologies to arrive at more representative figures. In fact, most of the authors of this paper are former utility engineers, economists, technologists, and policy analysts, and would value the opportunity to collaborate. We welcome a constructive dialogue, and can be reached at


    CLIMATE CHANGE IN WATER COLORS Painting Climate Change

    Peter Sinclair, February 4, 2016 (Climate Denial Crock of the Week)

    "…Climate data is usually seen in pixels, spreadsheets, and maps. But watercolor paintings? Not so much. That’s what makes a growing series of paintings by Maine-based artist Jill Pelto so striking. They combine haunting imagery from the natural world with hard data showing the impact climate change is having…The message can be subtle, with the global average temperature graph tucked in a painting that shows wildfires raging…But the point is clear. Data — and the way humans are influencing that data by emitting greenhouse gases — is an essential part of the landscape and the changes that are happening…

    “…[B]y embedding that message within paintings, the works become a Trojan horse for science to reach a public that doesn’t necessarily think about data points and models…The global average temperature, sea-level rise, disappearing Arctic sea ice, and other major climate indicators have made an appearance in Pelto’s artwork. But local climate stories are also something she wants to explore more since they can make pieces even more emotionally resonant…Pelto said she’d like to collaborate with any other scientists looking to have their data become art. And eventually her own research could inform her art once she begins an earth science Master’s this fall at the University of Maine…” click here for more

    THE REAL ECONOMICS OF NEW ENERGY Is Renewable Energy Economically Viable?

    Tom Lombardo, February 8, 2016 (Engineering)

    “…Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is a commonly used metric to compare the costs of various energy generation technologies. Put simply, LCOE is the ratio of the total cost of the power source to the total energy output over its life, expressed in dollars per kWh. The total cost takes into account the initial capital investment, interest, operations & maintenance costs, and fuel expenses…[But it fails to consider environmental impacts, the reliability and availability of the energy source]……Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) shifted the discussion [about New Energy] from idealism to pragmatism in Estimating Renewable Energy Economic Potential in the United States: Methodology and Initial Results…The study showed that in all three scenarios, there are long-term economic benefits to adding renewable energy to the grid…for every region of the continental US, with different renewable sources favored in certain areas…” click here for more

    WHO SHOULD PAY FOR EV CHARGING? Who Should Pay For Electric Car Charging Infrastructure?

    Steve Hanley, February 6, 2016 (Gas2)

    “…San Diego Gas & Electric has a plan to install 3,500 Level 2 charging stations in its service area…[Many would go into] places that are traditionally under-served…[But the LA Times] criticizes the SDG&E approach, which will be paid for by a surcharge on the utility bills of all its utility customers…[asks if it is] fair that people who don’t have electric cars should be forced to pay for chargers for those who do…[The California Public Utilities Commission] approved the plan…partly because…[lower] atmospheric pollution doesn’t benefit only those driving a LEAF or a Tesla, it benefits everyone who breathes the cleaner air. But the Times worries that such plans give utility companies a monopoly in the electric car charging industry, something they say will be bad for competition in the future…Everyone agrees that a robust charging infrastructure is vital…[but not on] who should pay…No one has figured out yet how [a private sector player can] make money consistently from operating a charging network…” click here for more

    Saturday, February 06, 2016

    It Is Not A Dream, It Is A Vision

    The Tesla vision: “Humanity will advance with giant strides..” From Freise Brothers via Vimeo

    Taking A Solar Road To The Future

    France is building the road less traveled – but it could become a street paved with gold. From Colas Group via YouTube

    What Battery Energy Storage Will Do

    This will change everything – again. Affordable storage is what experts have said for decades is the “Holy Grail” of New Energy. From The Good Stuff via YouTube