NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Much More Inhofe Now
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S ‘GIFT TO THE WORLD’
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, November 20:

  • TTTA Thursday-TOP REPUBLICAN DROPS CLIMATE DENIAL
  • TTTA Thursday-FORD ELECTRIC CARS FOR ‘THE MASSES’
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST SOLAR MAKES SENSE AND CENTS
  • TTTA Thursday-NEW ENERGY JOBS BY THE BAY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: THE NEW ENERGY LIFE-CYCLE CUTS EMISSIONS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 18: U.S. TAKES WORLD LEAD IN WIND; SOLAR TO SHOW MISSOURI JOBS; WAVE ENERGY ROLLING SLOWLY IN
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • 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

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    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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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

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

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  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE DOE LOAN PROGRAM PAYS OFF

    Investing In American Energy

    November 2014 (Loan Programs Office)

    Bridging The Clean Energy Financing Gap

    LPO issues loans and loan guarantees to finance deployment of innovative energy projects and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing facilities in the United States. These projects and facilities are critical to moving the United States towards a clean energy future where it is a global leader in clean energy technology, which will create economic opportunities and address the threat of climate change.

    Commercial banks and bondholders are often unwilling to finance the first few commercial-scale projects that use a new technology since there is not yet a history of credit performance or operation. As a result, the initial commercial deployment of new energy technology is often limited by a project developer’s inability to secure su cient long-term debt financing to build the project.

    LPO was established to fill this critical role in the marketplace by financing the first deployments of a new technology to bridge the gap for commercial lenders. Once the technology is proven at commercial scale through the first few projects, the Department of Energy (DOE) stops providing financing and lets the private market take over.

    An Overview Of The LPO Portfolio

    LPO works with the private markets to help deploy innovative clean energy technology and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing facilities. Every transaction supported by LPO is a public-private undertaking. While DOE issues loans and loan guarantees to provide the necessary debt financing for these projects, the project sponsor must provide significant project-level equity investments.

    Equity invested from private sources must represent at least 20% of the total cost of every project, and usually represents more. DOE will not issue a loan or loan guarantee until substantial private equity support is committed.

    LPO manages a portfolio comprising more than $30 billion of loans, loan guarantees, and conditional commitments covering more than 30 projects. These projects include some of the world’s most innovative and largest solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, and nuclear facilities, as well as advanced technology vehicle manufacturing facilities in six states producing some of America’s best-selling vehicles. Overall, these loans and loan guarantees have resulted in more than $50 billion in total project investment.

    Today, 20 projects supported by LPO are operational and generating revenue. These projects currently produce enough clean energy to power more than 1 million American homes (roughly the size of Chicago), have supported the manufacturing of more than 8 million fuel-e cient vehicles, and have avoided carbon pollution equivalent to taking more than 3 million cars on the road.

    Protecting Taxpayers And Delivering Results: The Strong Performance Of The LPO Portfolio

    LPO was created to help finance innovation, which involves a degree of technology risk, so it structures its loans to protect taxpayer interests. For each transaction, LPO’s team of financial, technical, environmental and legal professionals conducts rigorous due diligence that is comparable to, if not more stringent than, what is done in the private sector.

    The loans and loan guarantees issued by LPO are all structured to be fully repaid with interest over the term of the loan. Each project in the portfolio must begin repaying the principal and interest on its loan around the time it reaches completion. As many of LPO’s projects reached completion in the past two years, project revenues are being used to repay the loans.

    As of September 2014, LPO-financed projects have already repaid nearly $3.5 billion of principal, as well as more than $810 million in interest payments to the U.S. Treasury, which issued the loans guaranteed by DOE through the Federal Financing Bank. These amounts will continue to increase as the loans are repaid over the coming years.

    Also, LPO estimates that project borrowers, based upon the amount disbursed to date, will make more than $5 billion in interest payments to the U.S. Treasury over the full term of the notes. Nevertheless, the risk of loss exists in any lending or investment activity and the performance of any financial portfolio is dynamic, as outstanding loans are repaid and new loans are issued. LPO manages this risk through thorough due diligence, underwriting, and portfolio monitoring, which has resulted in strong portfolio performance to date.

    In the five years since LPO began financing projects, actual and estimated loan losses to the portfolio are less than $780 million or approximately 2% of the program’s loans, loan guarantees, and conditional commitments and less than 3.6% of the total funds disbursed to date.

    With these actions, LPO is achieving its mission of accelerating the deployment of advanced energy technology, while protecting taxpayer interests.

    QUICK NEWS, November 25: THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER; SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE; LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY

    THE PRESIDENT’S CLIMATE CHANGER The Audacity Of John Podesta; He’s driving the White House’s go-it-alone climate strategy, but will any of it stick after the president is gone?

    Ben Geman, November 22, 2014 (National Journal)

    “…The Environmental Protection Agency is at the center of [the White House climate-change] agenda, with its controversial rule to limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants…[It is] the administration's stated intent to go around Congress on everything from energy to immigration. And [John] Podesta is elbow-deep in it…[That] has revived the Republican criticism that Obama has a penchant for handing lots of power to people who aren't vetted by or responsive to Congress…[Podesta] has been ambitious, [but] his approach both forceful and deliberate. And he's brought to the climate agenda a level of inside clout that has been missing…But whether he has created policy that is durable—regulations and initiatives not easily unwound by a freshly anointed GOP Congress or, after 2016, a Republican president—is far less certain.

    “The White House knows this and is racing to get its new EPA rule well-enough rooted in the economy before Obama's term ends that any attempt to yank it up later would be prohibitively difficult...Podesta is on the clock, too…He has long had deep ties to Hillary Clinton, and a source close to her confirms that he's being considered for a senior role in her likely 2016 campaign…Everything shifted after Obama's reelection…[T]he White House released a broad climate policy blueprint, accompanied by…[a commitment] to imposing the long-awaited mandatory carbon-pollution standards on coal-fired power plants…To help the White House see this through…[Podesta agreed] to a short posting, which would include a strong focus on climate…[S]enior White House climate policy aide Dan Utech…credits Podesta with pushing forward the major pillars of the second-term plan…[I]ncoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising to [do whatever is possible to] throw up roadblocks…” click here for more

    SOLAR AND WIND BEAT COAL, GAS ON PRICE Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

    Diane Cardwell, November 23, 2014 (NY Times)

    The cost of electricity from wind and solar resources in some markets now beats coal and natural gas and the trend is accelerating, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest. The price of solar has fallen 70% since 2008 and the Midwest PPA price of wind fell over 50% in the last 5 years. Austin Energy recently completed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar at under $0.05 per kilowatt­hour. In Oklahoma, Grand River Dam Authority announced a PPA it said would save customers an estimated $50 million and American Electric Power tripled its wind acquisitions on the strength of low bids. Investment banking firm Lazard’s most recent levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis shows utility-­scale solar energy is as low as $0.056 per kilowatt­hour with subsidies and about $0.072 unsubsidized, wind is as low as $0.014 per kilowatt-hour with subsidies and $0.037 without, natural gas is $0.061 per kilowatt-hour, and coal is $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. The LCOE fails to include fossil fuel health and societal impacts, the economic impacts of fossil fuel price volatility or the increasing costs of climate change. For renewables, it fails to consider the costs to integrate variable resources into power markets. click here for more

    LED LIGHTING TO DISRUPT, TRANSFORM THE INDUSTRY Energy Efficient Lighting for Commercial Markets;LED, Fluorescent, HID, Halogen, and Incandescent Lamps and Luminaires in Commercial Buildings: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    4Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The ongoing sea change between fluorescent and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting technologies amounts to a significant disruption for the lighting industry…Due to the much longer lifespan of LED lamps, Navigant Research expects overall revenue from lamp sales to decrease in the coming decade. To avoid this inevitable decline, companies are broadening their offerings by expanding to lighting controls and lighting services. Just like the tech giants (e.g., Hewlett-Packard and IBM) of decades past had to make the shift from hardware to software and services, today’s lighting giants are becoming providers of complete lighting solutions rather than just the physical elements that emit light. According to Navigant Research, global lamp revenue is expected to decline from $18.5 billion in 2014 to $12.8 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Monday, November 24, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: RUNNING OUT OF GAS

    Drilling Deeper; A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom

    J. David Hughes, October 2014 (Post Carbon Institute)

    Abstract

    Drilling Deeper reviews the twelve shale plays that account for 82% of the tight oil production and 88% of the shale gas production in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) reference case forecasts through 2040. It utilizes all available production data for the plays analyzed, and assesses historical production, well- and field-decline rates, available drilling locations, and well-quality trends for each play, as well as counties within plays. Projections of future production rates are then made based on forecast drilling rates (and, by implication, capital expenditures). Tight oil (shale oil) and shale gas production is found to be unsustainable in the medium- and longer-term at the rates forecast by the EIA, which are extremely optimistic.

    This report finds that tight oil production from major plays will peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Bakken or Eagle Ford, production will be far below the EIA’s forecast by 2040. Tight oil production from the two top plays, the Bakken and Eagle Ford, will underperform the EIA’s reference case oil recovery by 28% from 2013 to 2040, and more of this production will be front-loaded than the EIA estimates. By 2040, production rates from the Bakken and Eagle Ford will be less than a tenth of that projected by the EIA. Tight oil production forecast by the EIA from plays other than the Bakken and Eagle Ford is in most cases highly optimistic and unlikely to be realized at the medium- and long-term rates projected.

    Shale gas production from the top seven plays will also likely peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Marcellus, production will be far below the EIA’s forecast by 2040. Shale gas production from the top seven plays will underperform the EIA’s reference case forecast by 39% from 2014 to 2040, and more of this production will be front-loaded than the EIA estimates. By 2040, production rates from these plays will be about one-third that of the EIA forecast. Production from shale gas plays other than the top seven will need to be four times that estimated by the EIA in order to meet its reference case forecast.

    Over the short term, U.S. production of both shale gas and tight oil is projected to be robust—but a thorough review of production data from the major plays indicates that this will not be sustainable in the long term. These findings have clear implications for medium and long term supply, and hence current domestic and foreign policy discussions, which generally assume decades of U.S. oil and gas abundance.

    Executive Summary – Key Findings

    The seven tight oil plays and seven shale gas plays analyzed in this report account for 82% of projected tight oil production and 88% of projected shale gas production through 2040 in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 reference case forecast. A detailed analysis of well production data from these plays resulted in these key findings:

    1) Tight oil production from major plays will peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Bakken or Eagle Ford, production will be far below EIA’s forecast by 2040.

    a) Tight oil production from the two top plays, the Bakken and Eagle Ford, will underperform EIA’s reference case oil recovery by 28% from 2013 to 2040, and more of this production will be front-loaded than the EIA estimates.

    b) By 2040, production rates from the Bakken and Eagle Ford will be less than a tenth of that projected by EIA.

    c) Tight oil production forecast by the EIA from plays other than the Bakken and Eagle Ford is in most cases highly optimistic and unlikely to be realized at the rates projected.

    2) Shale gas production from the top seven plays will likely peak before 2020. Barring major new discoveries on the scale of the Marcellus, production will be far below EIA’s forecast by 2040.

    a) Shale gas production from the top seven plays will underperform EIA’s reference case forecast by 39% from 2014 to 2040 period, and more of this production will be front-loaded than EIA estimates.

    b) By 2040, production rates from these plays will be about one-third that of the EIA forecast.

    c) Production from shale gas plays other than the top seven will need to be four times that estimated by EIA in order to meet its reference case forecast.

    3) Over the short term, U.S. production of both shale gas and tight oil is projected to be robust—but a thorough review of the production data indicate that this will be unsustainable in the longer term.

    These findings have clear implications for current domestic and foreign policy discussions, which generally assume decades of U.S. oil and gas abundance.

    Other factors that could limit production are public pushback as a result of health and environmental concerns, and capital constraints that could result from lower oil or gas prices or higher interest rates. As such factors have not been included in this analysis, the findings of this report represent a “best case” scenario for market, capital, and political conditions.

    Tight Oil

    The analysis shows that U.S. tight oil production cannot be maintained at the levels assumed by the EIA beyond 2020. The top two plays—Bakken and Eagle Ford—which account for more than 60% of current production, are likely to peak by 2017 and the remaining plays will make up considerably less of future production than has been forecast by the EIA. Rather than a peak in 2021 followed by a gradual decline to slightly below today’s levels by 2040, total U.S. tight oil production is likely to peak before 2020 and decline to a small fraction of today’s production levels by 2040.

    General Findings

    • The 3-year average well decline rates in the seven plays analyzed for this report (which collectively provide 89% of current U.S. tight oil production) range from 60% to 91%.

    • The high decline rates of tight oil wells in these plays means that 43% to 64% of their estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) is recovered in the first three years.

    • Field declines from the Bakken and Eagle Ford are 45% and 38% per year, respectively (this compares to 5% per year for large conventional fields). This is the amount of production that must be replaced each year with more drilling in order to maintain production at current levels (field decline is made up of all wells in a play—old and new—and hence is lower than first-year well declines).

    • Based on production history, drilling locations, and declining well quality, this report found that 98% of the EIA’s projected production from these seven plays has a “high” or “very high” optimism bias.

    • The EIA assumes that the equivalent of 100% of proved reserves and between 65% and 85% of its “unproved technically recoverable tight oil resources” will be recovered by 2040 for the plays analyzed. Considering that unproved, technically recoverable resources have no price constraints and only loose geological constraints, this is highly speculative.

    • The EIA assumes that the U.S. will exit 2040 with tight oil production at levels only marginally less than today, at 3.2 MMbbl/d. A thorough analysis of the well production data suggests this is highly optimistic.

    Forecasts for Bakken & Eagle Ford Tight Oil Plays

    • The EIA’s forecast of the timing of peak production in the Bakken and Eagle Ford is similar to this report, as is the rate of peak production.

    • The EIA forecasts a much higher tail after peak production, with recovery of 19.2 billion barrels between 2012 and 2040, as opposed to 13.9 billion barrels forecast in this report.

    • The EIA forecasts collective production from the Bakken and Eagle Ford to be a little over 1 million barrels per day in 2040. In contrast, the “Most Likely” drilling rate scenario presented in this report forecasts that production will fall to about 73,000 barrels per day by 2040.

    Forecasts of Other Tight Oil Plays

    • To meet the EIA’s forecasts, all other plays together would need to produce over twice as much through 2040 as what is projected for the Bakken and Eagle Ford.

    • The major remaining tight oil plays are the three Permian Basin plays—Spraberry, Wolfcamp, and Avalon/Bone Spring—plus the Austin Chalk and the Niobrara. EIA forecasts expect these plays to produce four to five times their historical production in the next 26 years, but this is highly questionable, considering that:

    - These plays are already 40-60 years old, with tens of thousands of wells already drilled.

    - The Permian Basin plays’ average initial well productivities are half or less the average of core counties in the Bakken or Eagle Ford.

    - The Bakken and Eagle Ford’s average estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) per well is two to more than six times higher than that of these other plays.

    Shale Gas

    The EIA now projects domestic gas production to reach nearly 38 trillion cubic feet per year by 2040, which is 55% above 2013 levels. The bulk of this production growth would come from shale gas.

    This analysis shows that simply maintaining U.S. shale gas production in the medium term—let alone increasing production at rates forecast by the EIA through 2040—will be problematic. Four of the top seven shale gas plays are already in decline. Of the major plays, only the Marcellus, Eagle Ford, and Bakken (the latter two are tight oil plays producing associated gas) are growing; and yet, the EIA reference case gas forecast calls for plays currently in decline to grow to new production highs, at moderate future prices. Although significantly higher gas prices needed to justify higher drilling rates could temporarily reverse decline in some of these plays, the EIA forecast is unlikely to be realized.

    General Findings

    • The 3-year average well decline rates in the seven plays analyzed for this report (which collectively provide 88% of U.S. shale gas production) ranges between 74% and 82%.

    • The average field decline rates for these plays ranges between 23% and 49%, meaning that between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each play must be replaced each year in order to simply maintain current production.

    • Although the EIA forecast for the Marcellus play is rated as “reasonable” and its forecast for the Bakken play is rated “conservative,” the deficit left by being “very highly optimistic” on some of the other plays makes finding and developing the gas required to meet the overall forecast unlikely.

    • Because productivity of shale wells declines rapidly, many new wells must be drilled just to maintain existing production levels. Of the top shale gas plays, only the Marcellus, Eagle Ford, and Bakken are currently seeing enough drilling to maintain and grow production.

    • Major shale gas plays are variable in well quality. The Marcellus and Haynesville are much more productive on average than the other plays analyzed in this report. Even within plays, well quality varies considerably.

    • Despite years of concerted efforts and claims that technological innovation can overcome steep well decline rates and the move from “sweet spots” to lower quality parts of plays, average well productivity has gone flat in all major shale gas plays except the Marcellus.

    • Approximately 130,000 additional shale gas wells will need to be drilled by 2040 to meet the projections of this report, on top of the 50,000 wells drilled in these plays through 2013. Assuming an average well cost of $7 million, this would require $910 billion of additional capital input by 2040, not including leasing, operating, and other ancillary costs.

    Forecasts for Shale Gas Plays

    • The EIA assumes that 74% to 110% of its “unproved technically recoverable resources” plus “proved reserves” will be recovered by 2040 for the seven major plays analyzed. Considering that unproved, technically recoverable resources have no price constraints and only loose geological constraints, this is highly speculative.

    • This analysis found that the EIA reference case forecast for the top seven shale gas plays overestimates cumulative production through 2040 in this report’s “Most Likely” scenario by 64%.

    • The EIA further estimates that in 2040, shale gas production from the seven plays analyzed will be 182% higher (nearly 3 times) than estimated in this report—and that by 2040, another 49.6 Tcf will have been recovered from other plays not analyzed in this report.

    • In this report’s “Most Likely” scenario, cumulative dry shale gas production over the 2014-2040 period is 229.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)—46% lower than the EIA Reference Case (377 Tcf).

    • In this report’s “Most Likely” scenario, shale gas production from the seven plays analyzed peaks in the 2016-2017 timeframe and declines by more than half, to 14.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) by 2040. In contrast, the EIA expects production from these plays to keep growing through 2040, with shale gas production in that year at 41.8 Bcf/d—nearly three times higher than this report finds justifiable.

    Implications

    This report shows that the EIA’s optimistic forecasts for future U.S. tight oil and shale gas production are based on a set of false premises, namely that:

    • High-quality shale plays are ubiquitous, and there will be always be new discoveries and production from emerging plays to fill the gap left by declining production from major existing plays.

    • Technological advances can overcome steep decline rates and declining well quality as drilling moves from sweet spots to poorer quality rock, in order to maintain high production rates.

    • Large estimated resources underground imply high and durable rates of extraction over decades. Actual production data from the past decade of shale gas and tight oil drilling clearly do not support these assumptions. Unfortunately, the EIA’s rosy forecasts have led policymakers and the American public to believe a number of false promises:

    • That cheap and abundant natural gas supplies can create a domestic manufacturing resurgence and millions of new jobs over the long term.15

    • That abundant domestic oil and natural gas resources justify lifting the oil export ban (imposed 40 years ago after the Arab oil embargo) 16 and fast-tracking approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals.

    • That the U.S. can use its newfound energy strength to shift geopolitical trends in our long-term favor.

    • That we can easily limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants as a result of natural gas replacing coal as the primary source of electricity production. The promises associated with the expectation of robust and relatively cheap shale gas and high-cost but rising tight oil production have also led to a tempering of investments in renewable energy and nuclear power. If, as this report shows, these premises and promises are indeed false, the implications are profound. It calls into question plans for LNG and crude oil exports and the benefits of the shale boom in light of the amount of drilling and capital investment that would be required, along with the environmental and health impacts associated with it. Conventional wisdom holds that the shale boom will last for decades, leaving the U.S. woefully unprepared for a painful, costly, and unexpected shock when the shale boom winds down sooner than expected. Rather than planning for a future where domestic oil and natural gas production is maintained at current or higher levels, we would be wise to harness this temporary fossil fuel bounty to quickly develop a truly sustainable energy policy—one that is based on conservation, efficiency, and a rapid transition to distributed renewable energy production.

    QUICK NEWS, November 24: NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN; SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS; THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR

    NEW ENERGY DOMINATES THE U.S. NEW BUILDS AGAIN Wind Energy Provides Over Two-Thirds Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In October 2014; For Eighth Time In Past Ten Months Renewables Dominate New U.S. Electrical Generating Capacity

    Ken Bossong, November 24, 2014 (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission/Sun Day)

    "…[W]ind power provided over two-thirds (68.41%) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity in October 2014…[with five wind farms] accounting for 574 MW of new capacity…[S]even ‘units’ of biomass (102 MW) [were 12.16% of new capacity] and five units of solar (31 MW) [were 3.69% of new capacity] respectively…[T]hree units of natural gas [made up the remaining 132 MW and 15.73% of new capacity, according to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects]…

    “…[F]or the eighth time in the past ten months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation…Natural gas [led in April and August]…Renewable energy sources now account for 16.39% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water - 8.44%, wind - 5.39%, biomass - 1.38%, solar - 0.85%, and geothermal steam - 0.33%. Renewable energy capacity is greater than that of nuclear (9.23%) and oil (3.97%) combined…” click here for more

    SIERRA CLUB, UNITED STEELWORKERS WANT WIND JOBS Congress must not let wind energy jobs blow away

    Sierra Club Exec Dir Michael Brune and United Steelworkers Pres Leo Gerard, November 20, 2014 (The Hill)

    "The winds that froze Americans a week after the midterm elections could [could be harnessed to create clean electrical power and family-supporting jobs and] help solve the problems voters told pollsters most concerned them – jobs and the economy…The wind industry currently employs more than 50,000 American workers…Wind energy creates good-paying jobs for the workers who build, maintain, and operate wind turbines, and who support operations…Over 500 U.S. manufacturing facilities – including some whose workers are represented by United Steelworkers – build components for wind turbines…

    “Yet Congress has created a significant headwind for the industry by failing to renew a modest tax credit called the Wind Production Tax Credit or PTC. The PTC slightly narrows the huge divide that separates wind and subsidized traditional fuels…[Many Congressional opponents of the PTC get contributions from] Koch Industries, led by Charles and David Koch. The pair of billionaire right-wing activists has fought against the PTC through their advocacy group Americans for Prosperity…Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to extend the PTC, and if they take it, we expect it to pass with a strong bipartisan vote…We urge Congress to continue to invest in a future…” click here for more

    THE ABUNDANCE OF SOLAR Report: America could power itself 100 times over with solar energy

    Chris Mooney, November 20, 2014 (The Washington Post)

    "…Staggering amounts of solar radiation strike the Earth each day; the only trick is capturing more of it…[ An Environment America Research and Policy Center report...argues that the U.S…[can] produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes…[and] every single state could generate more solar electricity than its residents currently consume…[The map] was created by comparing technical estimates of solar potential from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory with state level electricity sales data from the Energy Information Administration…35 million homes and businesses could potentially install solar on their roofs…[Not] all of this solar potential will necessarily ever be exploited…[We] only need to exploit some of it…” click here for more

    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Much More Inhofe Now

    Fact: The most adamant climate denier in the U.S. Senate will now run one of the most important committees on the environment in the U.S. Senate. From greenmanbucket via YouTube

    Jon Stewart Talks Keystone, Politics, And Jobs

    The best research concludes the low jobs numbers are the most likely ones. From Comedy Central

    Jon Stewart On How Keystone Opponents May Be Caught In Their Own Trap

    Have Keystone proponents hoisted themselves on their own petard? From Comedy Central

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    A NEW WAY TO SEE CLIMATE CHANGE

    NASA Computer Model Provides a New Portrait of Carbon Dioxide

    Patrick Lynch, November 17, 2014 (NASA)

    “An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe…Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons…[The simulation uses ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide and measurements from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite. It is] the product of a new computer model [called GEOS-5] that is among the highest-resolution ever created…[and] is the first to show in such fine detail how carbon dioxide actually moves through the atmosphere…[It] is part of a simulation called a [Nature Run that] ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates…[and runs on its own to simulate] the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates May 2005 to June 2007…” click here for more

    EU OCEAN WIND TO CUT COSTS, KEEP GROWING

    Offshore wind industry races to cut costs as subsidies drop

    Christoph Steitz and Geert De Clercq with Pravin Char, November 17, 2014 (Reuters)

    “…Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, wary of committing billions of euros when budgets are tight, have announced subsidy cuts in the past 18 months - a blow to the European offshore wind industry which [provides 1$ of European electricity and] employs nearly 60,000 people…[The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has reduced] its forecasts for installed offshore capacity in Europe to about 25 gigawatts (GW) by 2020 [about 3% of Europe’s electricity], from a 2009 forecast for 40 GW, still more than triple current capacity of about 7 GW…[U]tilities remain keen to invest…[in] the fastest-growing power technology in Europe…Unlike onshore farms, marine parks face less opposition from civil groups…[and] turn about 42 percent of the time, about double the ‘load factor’ onshore…[But] offshore parks [cost about 125 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), versus 80 euros for onshore wind,] and as the industry seeks to weather the subsidy cuts until investments pay off, companies are desperately seeking to reduce construction costs by building bigger, more efficient turbines and finding cheaper ways to construct foundations…” click here for more

    COST-COMPETIVE NEW ENERGY, GERMANY’S 'GIFT TO THE WORLD’

    Thank Germany for Falling Prices of Solar Panels and Wind Turbines

    Harold L. Sirkin, November 18, 2014 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

    “…[N]early 30 percent of Germany’s electric power comes from renewable energy sources, and the percentage is growing. This is not without a downside: Traditional electric utilities are struggling…[W]ith Russia supplying a reported 38 percent of its natural gas imports, 35 percent of its imported oil, and a quarter of its imported coal, Germany made a wise decision to move in new directions—generating electricity from wind and sun, renewable energy sources that the U.S. has been much slower to adopt…[ All the world will benefit from] Germany’s embrace of wind and solar power…[because the huge demand it created] for wind turbines and especially for solar panels…helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market…driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago…[If politicians leave things up to the market to sort out, the U.S. and other countries will inevitably move in Germany’s direction, as renewable energy becomes more cost-competitive. That, German analyst Markus Steigenberger told the [NY] Times, will be Germany’s ‘gift to the world.’” click here for more

    NEW ENERGY MATCHES COAL ON COST, CAPACITY IN TURKEY

    Turkey: Growing electricity demand can be met by renewables at the same cost as coal…

    Zachary Davies Boren, November 14, 2014 (Greenpeace)

    "Turkey could use clean energy instead of coal generation to achieve its twin aims of growing power supply and reducing natural-gas imports at roughly the same cost…[ Turkey’s Changing Power Market from Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlines] how nearly half of the country’s power demand could be met by renewable energy by 2030 in a scenario with costs comparable to the $400 billion coal-led strategy currently in place…According to the government’s plan, Turkey’s electricity demand will grow by more than 5% a year for the next 15, with coal capacity, as well as some wind and nuclear, expanding while gas power is put out to pasture…BNEF research, funded by the European Climate Foundation, commissioned by WWF-Turkey … states that the government’s projections for future power demand are inflated — and the increasing affordability of solar and wind energies represents a legitimate opportunity to introduce a modern, low carbon energy infrastructure…Bloomberg's Renewables Development Pathway (RDP) scenario would see gas generation fall by almost 20 points to 26% by 2030, coal drop to 18%, and renewables rise from 29% to an astonishing 47%...[W]ind and solar energy [make] the most gains (55% and 30% of new installations till 2030) [and] the lion’s share of clean energy would be provided by hydroelectricity — much of which is already installed…The government’s official energy strategy…is set to cost $400 billion; the BAU scenario will cost about the same; and the far preferable RDP just $6 billion more…” click here for more

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    TOP REPUBLICAN DROPS CLIMATE DENIAL

    Top Republican bows to scientists on climate change

    Stephen Stromberg, November 17, 2014 (Washington Post)

    “…[T]he country’s debate on climate change has been stuck on whether the phenomenon is happening at all, or on whether humans are responsible for it…and key GOP leaders still seem unwilling to move the discussion forward now…[but] comments from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)…offer a glimmer of hope that at least some Republicans aren’t comfortable with their party’s role…Asked about the overwhelming agreement among experts on the cause and trajectory of global warming, Thune [said:] ‘There are a number of factors that contribute to that, including human activity. The question is, what are we going to do about it and at what cost?’…[T]he number-three Republican in the Senate admitted that human activity is affecting the climate and that this concern demands a policy response…

    “…[T]he answer to the last question should be relatively simple for honest conservatives: The efficient, market-friendly approach to cutting dependence on greenhouse gases is pricing carbon dioxide emissions and allowing market forces to adapt the economy…Thune didn’t go there…Republicans have to do more than simply acknowledge that there is a risk. His statement might be merely another GOP attempt to justify doing too little without seeming anti-science…[But it] points in a sure direction: It will be ultimately untenable for Republicans to admit that global warming is a legitimate concern yet reflexively attack efforts to deal with it…[The country can do better] than President Obama’s regulatory approach…only if more Republicans ask the right question — instead of continuing to dignify those who demand that their leaders dismiss and disdain scientists’ warnings.” click here for more

    FORD ELECTRIC CARS FOR ‘THE MASSES’

    Ford To Make Electric Cars 'Attainable To The Masses;' CEO Denies Rumors Ford Is Interested In Tesla

    Kukil Bora, November 18, 2014 (International Business Times)

    "…[Ford Motor Company] intends to mass-produce affordable electric vehicles [according to CEO Mark Fields]…[He] emphasized that Ford has [a full line of electric vehicles that have performed well in the market place and] the capability to make electric cars with a strategy different from that of Tesla Motors…[that will] produce reasonably priced electric cars…Fields also said that Ford is not interested in buying Tesla, despite ongoing speculation that both Ford and General Motors Company are keen to [do so]…While Ford is currently ranked second in terms of sales in the electric car industry, the company’s Ford Focus was recently ranked as the most fuel-efficient compact car in the U.S…[ Fields said] Tesla’s approach is to cater to a high-end consumer…[but Ford will] nmake electrified vehicles ‘attainable to the masses’…” click here for more

    MIDWEST SOLAR MAKES SENSE AND CENTS

    Solar moves beyond early adopters in upper Midwest

    Andrea Johnson, November 14, 2014 (Farm & Ranch Guide)

    “…Better technology and lower prices are making solar power in 2014 achievable and more affordable [for farmers and ranchers than in the past…Two types of solar power are available – thermal collectors heat air and water; photovoltaic (photo – light and voltaic – electrical potential) systems convert light to electricity…Consumers can now purchase solar energy systems for as low as $1 per watt, with added installation costs…The federal government provides a 30 percent tax credit…[Supports are also available through USDA’s Rural Development Program Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)] and some utilities and states provide other incentives for approved solar…REAP also funds work to help producers determine how efficiently they are using energy now on their farms and ranches…

    “Those who live in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains may wonder if there is enough sunlight available to make photovoltaic (PV) cells cost effective…The answer is, yes…but we have to strategically place our solar panels…Germany has more solar power than any other country in the world, even though most of Germany sits farther north than the Dakotas, Montana or northern Minnesota…” click here for more

    NEW ENERGY JOBS BY THE BAY

    S.F. clean energy program could generate 8,100 jobs, report says

    Marisa Lagos, Novembwer 16, 2014 (SF Chronicle)

    “A renewable energy program in San Francisco could create more that 8,100 construction jobs by building $2.4 billion worth of proposed solar, wind and geothermal projects, a new report says. That refutes many criticisms made by Mayor Ed Lee when the city killed a previous version of CleanPowerSF, supporters of the plan say…The proposal, which has wide support among the city’s supervisors, would allow San Francisco to generate or purchase its own clean energy and deliver it to consumers through Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s existing transmission network…

    “Because CleanPowerSF could shake the company’s decades-long monopoly over delivering energy to San Francisco, it has met stiff opposition …To ensure that rates are competitive with PG&E’s, the report says the city will have to determine generation prices ahead of time and build a program backward from there…EnerNex also recommends focusing on local employment…The report lays out at least five large-scale solar projects that could be built in San Francisco and would create about 1,000 local construction jobs…[Such] private renewable energy projects on homes and businesses within the city also stand to help CleanPowerSF improve its green portfolio, lower costs for consumers and create even more local jobs, the report states — up to seven construction jobs for every $1 million spent on build out…” click here for more

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY

    Minnesota Renewable Energy Integration and Transmission Study Final Report

    October 31, 2014, (GE Energy Consulting, with The Minnesota Utilities and Transmission Companies, Excel Engineering, Inc., and MISO)

    Executive Summary

    Background…Study Objectives and Overall Approach…Development of Study Scenarios…Development of Transmission Conceptual Plans…Evaluation of Operational Performance…Dynamic Performance Analysis…

    Key Findings

    This study examined two levels of increased wind and solar generation for Minnesota; 40% (represented by Scenarios 1 and 1a) and 50% (represented by Scenarios 2 and 2a). In the 40% Minnesota Scenario, MISO North/Central is at 15% (current state RESs). The 50% Minnesota Scenario also included an increase of 10% (to 25%) in the MISO North/Central region. Production simulation was used to examine annual hourly operation of the MISO North/Central system for all four of these scenarios. Transient and dynamic stability analysis was conducted for Scenarios 1 and 1a but not on Scenarios 2 and 2a.

    General Conclusions for 40% RE Penetration in Minnesota

    With wind and solar resources increased to achieve 40% renewable energy for Minnesota and 15% renewable energy for MISO North/Central, production simulation and transient/dynamic stability analysis results indicate that the system can be successfully operated for all hours of the year with no unserved load, no reserve violations, and minimal curtailment of renewable energy. This assumes sufficient transmission mitigations, as described in Section 1.4, to accommodate the additional wind and solar resources.

    This is operationally achievable with most coal plants operated as baseload must-run units, similar to existing operating practice. It is also achievable if all coal plants are economically committed per MISO market signals, but additional analysis would be required to better understand implications, tradeoffs, and mitigations related to increased cycling duty.

    Dynamic simulation results indicate that there are no fundamental system-wide dynamic stability or voltage regulation issues introduced by the renewable generation assumed in Scenario 1 and 1a. This assumes:

    • New wind turbine generators are a mixture of Type 3 and Type 4 turbines with standard controls

    • The new wind and utility-scale solar generation is compliant with present minimum performance requirements (i.e. they provide voltage regulation/reactive support and have zero- voltage ride through capability)

    • Local-area issues are addressed through normal generator interconnection requirements

    General Conclusions for 50% RE Penetration in Minnesota

    With wind and solar resources increased to achieve 50% renewable energy in Minnesota and 25% renewable energy in MISO, production simulation results indicate that the system can be successfully operated for all hours of the year with no unserved load, no reserve violations, and minimal curtailment of renewable energy. This assumes sufficient transmission upgrades, expansions and mitigations to accommodate the additional wind and solar resources.

    This is operationally achievable with most coal plants operated as baseload must-run units, similar to existing operating practice. It is also achievable if all coal plants are economically committed per MISO market signals, but additional analysis would be required to better understand implications, tradeoffs, and mitigations related to increased cycling duty.

    No dynamic analysis was performed for the study scenarios with 50% renewable energy for Minnesota (Scenarios 2 and 2a) due to study schedule limitations and this analysis is necessary to ensure system reliability.

    Annual Energy in the Minnesota-Centric Region

    Figure 1-1 shows the annual load and generation energy by type for the Minnesota-Centric region. Comparing Scenarios 1 and 1a (40% MN renewables) with the Baseline,

    • Wind and solar energy increases by 8.5 TWh, all of which contributes to bringing the State of Minnesota from 28.5% RE penetration to 40% RE penetration

    • There is very little change in energy from conventional generation resources

    • Most of the increase in wind and solar energy is balanced by a decrease in imports. The Minnesota-Centric region goes from a net importer to a net exporter.

    Comparing Scenarios 2 and 2a (50% MN renewables) with Scenarios 1 and 1a (40% MN renewables),

    • Wind and solar energy increases by 20 TWh. Of this total, 4.8 TWh brings the State of Minnesota from 40% to 50% RE penetration and the remainder contributes to bringing MISO from 15% to 25% RE penetration

    • Most of the increase in wind and solar energy in the Minnesota-Centric region is balanced by a decrease in coal generation and an increase in net exports to neighboring regions • Gas-fired, combined-cycle generation declines from 5.0 TWh in Scenario 1 to 3.0 TWh in Scenario 2.

    Cycling of Thermal Plants

    Most coal plants were originally designed for baseload operation; that is, they were intended to operate continuously with only a few start/stop cycles in a year (mostly due to scheduled or forced outages). Increased cycling duty could increase wear and tear on these units, with corresponding increases in maintenance requirements. Many coal plants in MISO presently are designated by the plant’s owner to operate as “must-run” in order to avoid start/stop cycles that would occur if they were economically committed by the market.

    Scenarios S1a and S2a assumed that all coal plants in MISO are subject to economic commitment/dispatch (i.e., not must-run) based on day-ahead forecasts of load, wind and solar energy within MISO. Production simulation results show significant coal plant cycling due to economic market signals:

    • Small coal units (below 300 MW rating) could have an additional 100 to 200 starts per year, beyond those due to forced or planned outages.

    • Large coal units (above 300 MW) could have an additional 20 to 100 starts per year

    Scenarios S1 and S2 assumed almost all coal plants would continue to operate as they do today. Coal units were on-line all year (except for scheduled maintenance periods) and were not decommitted during periods of low market prices. The results of these scenarios confirmed that the coal units could remain must-run with minor impacts on overall operation of the Minnesota-Centric region. Coal plant owners could choose to continue the must-run practice to avoid the detrimental impacts of increased cycling as wind and solar penetration increases. Doing so would likely incur some additional operational costs when energy prices fall below a plant’s breakeven point. Wind curtailment would also be about 0.5% higher than if the coal plants were economically committed.

    An attractive solution to the coal plant cycling issue may exist between the two bookend cases analyzed in this study. Scenarios 1a and 2a assumed that unit commitment was determined on a day-ahead basis, using day-ahead forecasts of wind and solar energy. The result was a high number of start/stop cycles of coal plants, sometimes with down-times of less than 2 days. If the unit commitment process was modified to use a longer term forward market (say 3 to 5 days ahead), then coal plant owners could adjust their operational strategy to consider decommitting units when prolonged periods of high wind/solar generation and low system loads are forecasted. A forward market would depend on longer term forecasts of wind, solar and load energy, consistent with the look-ahead period of the market. Although such forecasts would be somewhat less accurate than day-ahead forecasts, the quality of the forecasts would likely be adequate to support such unit commitment decisions.

    This study did not examine the economic or wear-and-tear impacts of increased cycling on coal units. Further information on this topic can be found in the NREL Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 2 report7 and the PJM Renewable Integration Study report8. Combined-cycle (CC) units are better able to accommodate cycling duties than coal plants. Simulation results show that combined cycle units in the Minnesota-Centric region experience from 50 to 200 start/stop cycles per year. Cycling of CC units declines slightly as wind and solar penetration increases. This decline is primarily due to a decrease in CC plant utilization as wind and solar energy increases.

    Curtailment of Wind and Solar Energy

    In general, a small amount of curtailment is to be expected in any system with a significant level of wind and solar generation. There are some operating conditions where it is economically efficient to accept a small amount of curtailment (i.e., mitigation of that curtailment would be disproportionately expensive and not justifiable).

    Overall curtailment in the Minnesota-Centric region is relatively small in all study scenarios, as shown in Table 1-2. Wind curtailment in Baseline and Scenario 1 is primarily due to local transmission congestion at a few wind plants. This congestion could be mitigated by transmission modifications, if economically justifiable.

    Wind curtailment in Scenario 2 is due to system-wide operational limits during nighttime hours, when many baseload generators are dispatched to their minimum output levels. This type of curtailment could be reduced by decommitting some baseload generation via economic market signals. The effectiveness of this mitigation option is illustrated by comparing Scenario 2 (coal units must-run) with Scenario 2a (economic coal commitment). Wind curtailment decreases from 2.14% to 1.60% (reduction of 332 GWh of wind curtailment). Solar curtailment decreases from 0.42% to 0.24% (reduction of 12 GWh of solar curtailment).

    Other Operational Issues

    No significant transmission system congestion was observed in any of the study scenarios with the assumed transmission upgrades and expansions. Transmission contingency conditions were considered in both the powerflow analysis used to develop the conceptual transmission system and the security-constrained economic dispatch in the production simulation analysis.

    Ramp-range-up and ramp-rate-up capability of the MISO conventional generation fleet increases with increased penetration of wind and solar generation. Conventional generation is generally dispatched down rather than decommitted when wind and solar energy is available, which gives those generators more headroom for ramping up if needed.

    Ramp-range-down and ramp-rate-down capability of the MISO conventional generation fleet decreases with increased penetration of wind and solar generation. In Scenario 2, there are 500 hours when ramp-rate-down capability of the conventional generation fleet falls below 100 MW/min. Periods of low ramp-down capability coincide with periods of high wind and solar generation. Wind and solar generators are capable of providing ramp-down capability during these periods. MISO’s existing Dispatchable Intermittent Resource (DIR) process already enables this for wind generators. It is anticipated that MISO would expand the DIR program to include solar plants in the future.

    System Stability, Voltage Support, Dynamic Reactive Reserves

    No angular stability, oscillatory stability or wide-spread voltage recovery issues were observed over the range of tested study conditions. The 16 dynamic disturbances used in stability simulations included key traditional faults/outages as well as faults/outages in areas with high concentrations of renewables and high inter-area transmission flows. System operating conditions included light load, shoulder load and peak load cases, each with the highest percent renewable generation periods in the Minnesota-Centric region.

    Overall dynamic reactive reserves are sufficient and all disturbances examined for Scenarios 1 and 1a show acceptable voltage recovery. The South & Central and Northern Minnesota regions get the majority of their dynamic reactive support from synchronous generation. Maintaining sufficient dynamic reserves in these regions is critical, both for local and system-wide stability.

    Southwest Minnesota, South Dakota and at times Iowa get a significant portion of dynamic reactive support from wind and solar resources. Wind and Solar resources contribute significantly to voltage support/dynamic reactive reserves. The fast response of wind/solar inverters helps voltage recovery following transmission system faults. However, these are current-source devices with little or no overload capability. Their reactive output decreases when they reach a limit (low voltage and high current).

    Synchronous machines (either generators or synchronous condensers), on the other hand, are voltage-source devices with high overload capability. This characteristic will strengthen the system voltage, allowing better utilization of the dynamic capability of renewable generation. The mitigation methods discussed below, namely stiffening the ac system through new transmission or synchronous machines, will also address this concern.

    Local load areas, such as the Silver Bay and Taconite Harbor area, require reactive support from synchronous machines due to the high level of heavy industrial loads. If all existing synchronous generation in this region is off line (i.e. due to retirement or decommitment), reinforcements such as new transmission or synchronous condensers would be required to support the load.

    Dynamic simulation results indicate that it is critical to maintain sufficient system strength and dynamic reserves to support high flows on the Northern Minnesota 500 kV lines and Manitoba high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) lines. Insufficient system strength and reactive support will limit Manitoba exports to the U.S. Existing transmission expansion plans, as modeled in this analysis, address these issues and are sufficient for the anticipated levels of Manitoba exports.

    The Manitoba HVDC ties and the 500 kV transmission system in Northern Minnesota require reactive support from synchronous generators, the Dorsey and Riel synchronous condensers, and the Forbes static var compensator (SVC) to maintain the expected level of Manitoba exports. Without sufficient reactive reserves, the system could be unstable for nearby transmission disturbances. The current transmission plans, as modeled in this analysis, address this issue.

    Weak System Issues

    Composite Short-Circuit Ratio (CSCR) is an indicator of the ability of an ac transmission system to support stable operation of inverter-based generation. A system with a higher CSCR is considered strong and a system with a lower CSCR is considered to be weak. CSCR is calculated as the ratio of the composite short-circuit MVA at the points of interconnection (POI) of all wind/solar plants in a given area to the combined MW rating of all those wind and solar generation resources.

    Low CSCR operating conditions can lead to control instabilities in inverter-based equipment (Wind, Solar PV, HVDC and SVC). Instabilities of this nature will generally manifest as growing voltage/current oscillations at the most affected wind or solar plants. In the worst conditions (i.e., very low CSCR), oscillations could become more wide-spread and eventually lead to loss of generation and/or damage to renewable generation equipment if not adequately protected against such events.

    This is a relatively new area off concern within the industry. The issue has emerged as the penetration of wind generation has grown. Understanding of the fundamental stability issues is rapidly growing as more wind plants are being installed in regions with weak ac systems.

    Equipment vendors, transmission planners and consultants are all working to gain a better understanding of the issues. Modeling and simulation tools have already been developed to enable detailed analysis of the phenomena. Wind and solar inverter control systems are being modified to improve weak system performance.

    Synchronous machines (either generators or synchronous condensers) contribute short-circuit strength to the transmission system and therefore increase CSCR. Therefore, system operating conditions with more synchronous generators online will have higher CSCR. Also, stronger transmission ties (additional transmission lines or transformers, or lower impedance transformers) between synchronous generation and regions of wind and solar generation will increase CSCR. SVCs and STATCOMs do not contribute short-circuit current, and because they are electronic converter based devices with internal control systems similar to wind/solar inverters, their presence in a weak system region could further reduce the effective CSCR and exacerbate the control system stability issues that occur in weak system conditions.

    There are two general situations where weak system issues generally need to be assessed:

    • Local pockets of a few wind and solar plants in regions with limited transmission and no nearby synchronous generation (e.g. plants in North Dakota fed from Pillsbury 230 kV near Fargo).

    • Larger areas such as Southwest Minnesota (Buffalo Ridge area) with a very high concentration of wind and solar plants and no nearby synchronous generation

    This study examined the sensitivity of weak system issues in Southwest Minnesota. Observations are as follows:

    The trouble spots identified in this analysis are not very sensitive to existing synchronous generation commitment. While there is very little synchronous generation within the area, the region is supported by a strong networked 345 kV transmission grid. Primary short circuit strength is from a wide range of base-load units in neighboring areas, and interconnected via the 345 kV transmission network. Commitment, decommittment or outages of individual synchronous generators do not have significant impact on CSCR in these identified areas.

    Transmission outages will lower system strength and make the issue worse. When performing CSCR and weak system assessments as wind and solar penetration increases, it will be prudent to consider normal and design-criteria outages at a minimum (i.e, outage conditions consistent with MISO reliability assessment practices).

    Mitigations

    There are two approaches to improving wind/solar inverter control stability in weak system conditions:

    • To improve the inverter controls, either by carefully tuning the equipment control functions or modifying the control functions to be more compatible with weak system conditions. With this approach, wind/solar plants can tolerate lower CSCR conditions.

    • To strengthen the ac system, resulting in increased short-circuit MVA at the locations of the wind/solar plants. This approach increases CSCR.

    The approaches are complementary, so the ultimate solution for a particular region would likely be a combination of both.

    Mitigation through Wind/PV Inverter Controls

    Standard inverter controls and setting procedures may not be sufficient for weak system applications. Loop gains of internal control functions inherently increase when system impedance increases, thereby reducing the stability margin of the controllers. Developers and equipment vendors must be made aware when new plants are being proposed for weak system regions so they can design/tune controls to address the issue. Wind plant vendors have made significant progress in designing wind and solar plant control systems that are compatible with weak system applications.

    This approach becomes somewhat more difficult when there are wind/solar plants from multiple vendors in one region. The level of analysis requires detailed modeling of all affected wind plants at a level of detail that requires the use of proprietary control design information from the vendors. Vendors are very reluctant to share such data, except with independent consultants who can guarantee strict data security. However, this approach is gaining traction and a few projects have made effective implementations. The key to success is that project developers and equipment vendors must be informed beforehand that a given wind or solar plant will be installed at a weak system location. This enables the appropriate control design studies to be initiated before the project is installed.

    In the event that such control-based approaches are not sufficient, it would be possible to further improve weak system performance by employing one or more of the system-level mitigations discussed below.

    Mitigation by Strengthening the AC System

    CSCR analysis of the Southwest Minnesota region shows that synchronous condensers located near the wind and solar plants would be a very effective mitigation for weak system issues. Synchronous condensers are synchronous machines that have the same voltage control and dynamic reactive power capabilities as synchronous generators. Synchronous condensers are not connected to prime movers (e.g. steam turbines or combustion turbines), so they do not generate power.

    Other approaches that reduce ac system impedance could also offer some benefit:

    • Additional transmission lines between the wind/solar plants and synchronous generation plants

    • Lower impedance transformers, including wind/solar plant interconnection transformers

    Series capacitors on transmission lines could be used to increase CSCR and to improve the transmission system’s capability to transfer energy out of regions with high concentrations of wind and solar resources. However, series capacitors create subsynchronous frequency resonances in the transmission system which affect the performance of control systems within wind and solar plants. These resonances introduce an additional challenge to wind/solar plant control designs, which must maintain stable operation in the presence of the resonant conditions.Mitigation through “must-run” operating rules for existing generation was found to be not very effective. The plants with synchronous generators are not located close enough to effected wind/solar plants.

    QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES

    OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED Why don't some state officials want you to read this report on 'green’ energy jobs? Report on ‘green’ energy jobs was put on ice during debate

    Dan Gearino, November 16, 2014 (The Columbus Dispatch)

    “A state agency paid almost $435,000 for a survey to tally clean-energy jobs in Ohio but never released the results…The Ohio Development Services Agency says the study went unused because it was based on dubious methods and came to flawed conclusions…Others, including experts in survey methods, disagree…[Ohio Alternative Energy Job Survey Analysis]was conducted by ICF International [and Wright State University]…Among its findings…[1] Ohio had 31,322 jobs in the state’s ‘alternative energy economy’ as of 2012, a number that is larger than other commonly cited studies…[2] More than one-third of the jobs were for goods and services related to energy efficiency…[3] Solar power was tied to more jobs (5,619) than any other renewable-energy source…

    “…[Each] could have been relevant in the recent debate over Senate Bill 310…[which] puts a two-year freeze on state standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and it makes…other changes that critics say will damage the state’s green economy…[O]pponents repeatedly said that 25,000 jobs were at stake, a statistic from a 2012 study commissioned by a trade group for green-energy companies. The opponents did not know that the state had paid for a survey that says the industry is 25 percent larger…The report would have hurt the case of legislative Republicans who wanted to pass the bill…” click here for more

    SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER SunEdison and TerraForm Power Sign Definitive Agreement To Acquire First Wind For $2.4 Billion

    November 17, 2014 (MarketWatch)

    Leading global solar developer SunEdison, Inc. will become the world's biggest renewable energy development company. In partnership with global owner/operator of renewable energy power plants TerraForm Power, it acquired First Wind, one of the leading developers, owners and operators of wind projects in the U.S., for a total of up to $2.4 billion. They doubled their total addressable market and increased their total pipeline, backlog and leads to 8.0 GW, with immediate value creation for SunEdison and DPS accretion for TerraForm Power. SunEdison raised its 2015 installation guidance from 1.6-1.8 GW to 2.1-2.3 GW and accelerated timing of IDRs by approximately one year. TerraForm acquired 521 MW of operating wind and solar power plants with $72.5 million in CAFD and raised its 2015 dividend guidance to $1.30 per share, an increase of 44%. Transaction financing is fully committed and drop down growth funding is secured and there is $2.4 billion of committed bridge financing to fund the transaction, which is expected to close during Q1 2015. There is also $1.5 billion of non-recourse capital secured from six global banking institutions and First Reserve Infrastructure to fund future growth. Morgan Stanley, Barclays, BofA Merrill Lynch, Citi, Lazard, Goldman Sachs, and Marathon Capital participated. click here for more

    BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Smart City Suppliers; Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 16 Smart City Suppliers

    Q4 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “…Interest in smart cities continues to grow, driven by a range of social, economic, and technological developments that are having an impact on cities around the world…[and] the supplier ecosystem for smart cities continues to expand. Established suppliers are moving into the market from the energy, transport, buildings, and government sectors, while startups are addressing a range of emerging opportunities. This has created a complex and dynamic market that requires suppliers to be innovative in their product offerings and in the way they engage with cities and their partner networks. According to Navigant Research, the global smart city technology market is expected to be worth more than $27.5 billion annually by 2023, compared to $8.8 billion in 2014…” click here for more

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE NEW ENERGY LIFE-CYCLE CUTS EMISSIONS

    Integrated life-cycle assessment of electricity-supply scenarios confirms global environmental benefit of low-carbon technologies

    Edgar G. Hertwicha, et. al., September 3, 2014 ()

    Decarbonization of electricity generation can support climate-change mitigation and presents an opportunity to address pollution resulting from fossil-fuel combustion. Generally, renewable technologies require higher initial investments in infrastructure than fossil-based power systems. To assess the tradeoffs of increased up-front emissions and reduced operational emissions, we present, to our knowledge, the first global, integrated life-cycle assessment (LCA) of long-term, wide-scale implementation of electricity generation from renewable sources (i.e., photovoltaic and solar thermal, wind, and hydropower) and of carbon dioxide capture and storage for fossil power generation. We compare emissions causing particulate matter exposure, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and climate change for the climate-change-mitigation (BLUE Map) and business-as-usual (Baseline) scenarios of the International Energy Agency up to 2050. We use a vintage stock model to conduct an LCA of newly installed capacity year-by-year for each region, thus accounting for changes in the energy mix used to manufacture future power plants. Under the Baseline scenario, emissions of air and water pollutants more than double whereas the low-carbon technologies introduced in the BLUE Map scenario allow a doubling of electricity supply while stabilizing or even reducing pollution. Material requirements per unit generation for low-carbon technologies can be higher than for conventional fossil generation: 11–40 times more copper for photovoltaic systems and 6–14 times more iron for wind power plants. However, only two years of current global copper and one year of iron production will suffice to build a low-carbon energy system capable of supplying the world’s electricity needs in 2050.

    land use | climate-change mitigation | air pollution | multiregional input–output | CO2 capture and storage

    A shift toward low-carbon electricity sources has been shown to be an essential element of climate-change mitigation strategies (1, 2). Much research has focused on the efficacy of technologies to reduce climate impacts and on the financial costs of these technologies (2–4). Some life-cycle assessments (LCAs) of individual technologies suggest that, per unit generation, low-carbon power plants tend to require more materials than fossil-fueled plants and might thereby lead to the increase of some other environmental impacts (5, 6). However, little is known about the environmental implications of a widespread, global shift to a low-carbon electricity supply infrastructure. Would the material and construction requirements of such an infrastructure be large relative to current production capacities? Would the shift to low-carbon electricity systems increase or decrease other types of pollution? Energy-scenario models normally do not represent the manufacturing or material life cycle of energy technologies and are therefore not capable of answering such questions. LCAs typically address a single technology at a time. Comparative studies often focus on a single issue, such as selected pollutants (7), or the use of land (8) or metals (9, 10). They do not trace the interaction between different technologies. Existing comparative analyses are based on disparate, sometimes outdated literature data (7, 11, 12), which raises issues regarding differences in assumptions, system boundaries, and input data, and therefore the comparability and reliability of the results. Metaanalyses of LCAs address some of these challenges (13, 14), but, to be truly consistent, a comparison of technologies should be conducted within a single analytical structure, using the same background data for common processes shared among technologies, such as component materials and transportation. The benefits of integrating LCA with other modeling approaches, such as input–output analysis, energy-scenario modeling, and material-flow analysis have been suggested in recent reviews (7, 15).

    We analyze the environmental impacts and resource requirements of the wide-scale global deployment of different low-carbon electricity generation technologies as foreseen in one prominent climate-change mitigation scenario [the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) BLUE Map scenario], and we compare it with the IEA’s Baseline scenario (16). To do so, we developed an integrated hybrid LCA model that considers utilization of the selected energy technologies in the global production system and includes several efficiency improvements in the production system assumed in the BLUE Map scenario. This model can address the feedback of the changing electricity mix on the production of the energy technologies.

    We collected original life-cycle inventories for concentrating solar power (CSP), photovoltaic power (PV), wind power, hydropower, and gas- and coal-fired power plants with carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) according to a common format, and we provide these inventories in SI Appendix. Bioenergy was excluded because an assessment would require a comprehensive assessment of the food system, which was beyond the scope of this work. Nuclear energy was excluded because we could not reconcile conflicting results of competing assessment approaches (17). To reflect the prospective nature of our inquiry, the modeling of technologies implemented in 2030 and 2050 also contains several assumptions regarding the improved production of aluminum, copper, nickel, iron and steel, metallurgical grade silicon, flat glass, zinc, and clinker (18). These improvements represent an optimistic-realistic development t in accordance with predictions and goals of the affected industries, as specified in ref. 18 and summarized in SI Appendix, Table S1. Technological progress in the electricity conversion technologies was represented through improved conversion efficiencies, load factors, and next-generation technology adoption to achieve the technology performance of the scenarios (see SI Appendix for details).

    Results has two parts. First, low-carbon technologies are compared with fossil electricity generation without CCS to quantify environmental cobenefits and tradeoffs relevant for long-term investment decisions in the power sector. This comparison reflects the current state-of-the-art technology performance for both low-carbon and fossil systems. We examine impacts in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, eutrophication, particulate-matter formation, and aquatic ecotoxicity resulting from pollutants emitted to air and water throughout the life cycle of each technology. We also compare the life-cycle use of key materials (namely aluminum, iron, copper, and cement), nonrenewable energy, and land for all investigated technologies per unit of electricity produced. SI Appendix contains a discussion of technology-specific results. To our knowledge, this analysis is the first to be based on a life-cycle inventory model that includes the feedback of the changing electricity mix and the effects of improvements in background technologies on the production of the energy technologies.

    In the second part of Results, we show the potential resource requirements and environmental impacts of the evaluated technologies within the BLUE Map scenario and compare these results with those of the Baseline scenario. Our modeling is based on the installation of new capacity and the utilization of this capacity such that it is consistent with the BLUE Map scenario. within the BLUE Map scenario and compare these results with those of the Baseline scenario. Our modeling is based on the installation of new capacity and the utilization of this capacity such that it is consistent with the BLUE Map associated with the BLUE Map scenario over time and compare them with the Baseline scenario. We then compare results to annual production levels of these materials. In Discussion, we examine issues related to the presented work, in particular the implication of life-cycle effects on the modeling of mitigation scenarios and limitations with respect to the grid integration of variable renewable supply.

    Results

    Technology Comparison per Unit Generation. Our comparative LCA indicates that renewable energy technologies have significantly lower pollution-related environmental impacts per unit of generation than state-of-the-art coal-fired power plants in all of the impact categories we consider (Fig. 1 and SI Appendix, Table S5). Modern natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants could also cause very little eutrophication, but they tend to lie between renewable technologies and coal power for climate change (Fig. 1A) and ecotoxicity (Fig. 1C). NGCC plants also have higher contributions of particulate matter exposure (Fig. 1B). The LCA finds that wind and solar power plants tend to require more bulk materials (namely, iron, copper, aluminum, and cement) than coal- and gas-based electricity per unit of generation (Fig. 1 G–J). For fossil fuel-based power systems, materials contribute a small fraction to total environmental impacts, corresponding to <1% of GHG emissions for systems without CCS and 2% for systems with CCS. For renewables, however, materials contribute e 20–50% of the total impacts, with CSP tower and offshore wind technologies showing the highest shares (SI Appendix, Fig. S1). However, the environmental impact of the bulk material requirements of renewable technologies (SI Appendix, Table S1) is still small in absolute terms compared with the impact of fuel production and combustion of fossil-based power plants (Fig. 1). CCS reduces CO2 emissions of fossil fuel-based power plants but increases life-cycle indicators for particulate matter, ecotoxicity, and eutrophication by 5–60% (Fig. 1 B–D). Both postcombustion and precombustion CCS require roughly double the materials of a fossil plant without CCS (Fig. 1 G–J). The carbon capture process itself requires energy and therefore reduces efficiency, explaining much of the increase in air pollution and material requirements per unit of generation.

    Habitat change is an important cause of biodiversity loss (19). Habitat change depends both on the project location and on the specific area requirement of the technology. For example, PV power may be produced in pristine natural areas (high impact on habitat) or on rooftops (low impact on habitat). A detailed assessment t of specific sites used for future power plants is beyond the scope of this global assessment. As an indicator of potential habitat change, we use the area of land occupied during the life cycle of each technology (Fig. 1E).

    High land-use requirements are associated with hydropower reservoirs, coal mines, and CSP and ground-mounted PV power plants. The lowest land use requirements are for NGCC plants, wind, and roof-mounted PV. We consider roof-mounted PV to have zero direct land use because the land is already in use as a building. For ground-mounted solar power, we consider the entire power plant because the modules or mirrors are so tightly spaced that agriculture and other uses are not feasible in the unoccupied areas. Considering only the space physically occupied by the installation, the area requirements decrease by a factor of 2–3 compared with the values in Fig. 1E (8). For direct land use associated with wind power, we consider only the area occupied by the wind turbine itself, access roads, and related installations. We do not include the land between installations because it can be used for other purposes such as agriculture or wilderness, with some restrictions (20). If an entire land-based wind park is considered, land use would be on the order of 50–200 square meter-year/MWh (m2 a/MWh) (8, 20), which is higher than other technologies. We do not account for the use of sea area by offshore wind turbines.

    Cumulative nonrenewable (fossil or nuclear) energy consumption n is of interest because it traces the input of a class of limited resources. The current technologies used in the production of renewable systems consume 0.1–0.25 kWh of non-renewable e energy for each kWh of electricity produced (Fig. 1F). The situation is different for fossil fuel-based systems, for which the cumulative energy consumption reflects the efficiency of power production and the energy costs of the fuel chain and, if applicable, the CCS system…Scenario Results…

    Discussion

    Previous assessments of life-cycle impacts of electricity-generation technologies have used static LCAs (7, 11–15). Technologies are thus analyzed side-by-side, assuming current production technologies. We present an assessment based on an integrated, scenario-based hybrid LCA model with global coverage through the integration of the life-cycle process description in a nine-region multiregional input–output model. Integration of the life-cycle model, in which new technologies become part of the electricity mix and thus the life cycle of the same and other new technologies, addresses the interaction among technologies. Adopting a vintage capital model, the life-cycle stages of individual power plants are explicitly in time, also a novelty compared with current LCA practice. This previously unidentified type of modeling approach thus provides the ability to model the role of various technologies in a collectively exhaustive and mutually exclusive way. Only through this integration can the life-cycle emissions and resource use of energy scenarios be analyzed correctly. Further, we can assess the contributions of changes in the technology mix and improvements in the technology y itself to future reductions of environmental impacts, as demonstrated in ref. 24.

    The widespread utilization of variable sources such as solar and wind energy raises the question: what are the additional environmental costs of matching supply and demand? Grid-integration measures for variable supply, such as the stand-by operation of fossil fuel power plants, grid expansion, demand-response and energy storage (25–27), result in extra resource requirements and environmental impacts (28). The challenges of balancing supply and demand are not yet severe in the BLUE Map scenario, in which variable wind and solar technologies cover 24% of the total electricity production in 2050, but balancing response and energy storage (25–27), result in extra resource requirements and environmental impacts (28). The challenges of balancing supply and demand are not yet severe in the BLUE Map scenario, in which variable wind and solar technologies cover 24% of the total electricity production in 2050, but scenario, the capacity factor of fossil fuel-fired power plants without CCS is reduced from 40% in 2007 to 19% in 2050 for natural gas, and from 65% to 30% for coal for the same period, but IEA provides no information on emissions associated with spinning reserves, or ramp-up and ramp-down. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Western Wind and Solar Integration Study indicates that increased fossil power plant cycling from the integration of a similar share of variable renewables may result in only negligible increases in greenhouse gas emissions s compared with a scenario without renewables. It may also result in further reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions and increases in SO2 emissions equal to about 2–5% of the total emissions reduced by using renewables. In a study investigating an 80% emission reduction in California, electricity storage requirements become significant only at higher rates of renewable energy penetration (26). See SI Appendix for further information on grid integration of renewables. Additional research on different options for the system integration of renewables and its environmental impact is required to determine the share of renewables most desirable from an environmental perspective.

    Our analysis raises important questions. (i) What would similar analyses of other mitigation scenarios look like? Thousands of scenarios have been collected in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mitigation scenario analysis database (4). These scenarios use a combination of energy conservation, renewable and nuclear energy, and CCS. Our analysis suggests that an electricity supply system with a high share of wind energy, solar energy, and hydropower would lead to lower environmental impacts than a system with a high share of CCS. (ii) How can scenarios for a wider range of environmental impacts be routinely assessed? Endogenous treatment of equipment life cycles as considered here in energy-scenario models has not yet been achieved. Options are either to (a) include some simplified assessments in energy scenario models, using the unit-based results from our analysis in the scenario models, or to (b) conduct a postprocessing of scenario results in the manner done for this study. The advantage of option a is that life-cycle emissions could be considered in the scenario development, thus affecting the technology choice; the advantage of option b is the ability to include feedbacks and economy-wide effects in the calculation of life-cycle emissions. (iii) Will fundamental differences in energy systems such as those between mitigation and baseline scenarios lead to significant changes to the supply and demand for many products (e.g., fuels and raw materials)? It is clear that there will be effects on the supply and demand of goods both due to different energy policies (e.g., carbon prices) and because of differences in the demand and supply of resources (e.g., iron or coal) to the global economy. Such indirect effects were outside of the scope of this study, but they could be considered in a consequential analysis (29).

    Conclusions

    Our analysis indicates that the large-scale implementation of wind, PV, and CSP has the potential to reduce pollution-related environmental impacts of electricity production, such as GHG emissions, freshwater ecotoxicity, eutrophication, and particulate-matter exposure. The pollution caused by higher material requirements of these technologies is small compared with the direct emissions of fossil fuel-fired power plants. Bulk material requirements appear manageable but not negligible compared with the current production rates for these materials. Copper is the only material covered in our analysis for which supply may be a concern…

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