The Vulnerability Of The System
”We oughtta be able to do better…” From greenmanbucket via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, August 18-19:
”We oughtta be able to do better…” From greenmanbucket via YouTube
This virtually indestructible technology looks like it could change the battery market. From NOVA PBS Official via YouTube
Enough with the fairy tales about the Paris agreement. It's time for facts; A select and uninformed few have been railing against the Paris objectives. Let’s debunk some of their tallest tales
Erwin Jackson, 15 August 2018 (UK Guardian)
“…[The Paris climate change agreement, signed in 2015, is] the first truly universal agreement among nations to tackle climate change…[In response to it] and the falling cost of zero emissions technology, more and more countries, businesses and investors are implementing policies to drive the transition to cheap and clean renewable energy. In 2017 alone, around 70% of new power generation installed globally was renewable energy, with more solar PV capacity being added in 2017 than that of coal, gas and nuclear combined…
…[The agreement’s objectives are] to keep global warming “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels…[and] to “pursue efforts” to keep warming to 1.5°C. This means global emissions must fall to zero by around 2050…[The agreement requires action from all countries that] strengthen through time…[It] also involves a system of transparency and accountability…Fact: Countries are imposing penalties on their major emissions sources to meet Paris targets…Fact: Paris does apply to all countries and action is occurring…Fact: More, not less, needs to be done to meet Paris objectives…” click here for more
Renewables are primed to enter the global energy race; solar and wind power could soon compete with oil and gas on scale and cost
Sam Arie, August 13, 2018 (Financial Times)
“In 2010, using solar power to boil your kettle would have cost you about £0.03. By 2020, according to estimates by our research team at UBS, the cost will have fallen to half a penny. By 2030, the cost could be so near to zero it will effectively be free…Abundant, cheap, clean power can be put to many uses — not just making tea…[It] is contributing to a wave of corporate action in the energy sector…[About a dozen major European utilities have recently announced] acquisitions, divestments or takeovers that could substantially reshape their business…Until recently, wind and solar in most parts of the world relied on generous subsidies — meaning renewables could only grow at the speed governments were prepared to pay for them. But in the past year large wind and solar projects have appeared that are viable without any subsidy or tax break at all. This means renewables can start to grow as fast as technology development allows, rather than at the pace that the world’s energy ministers decree…
…[Governments have been turning the screw on cost. Where subsidies are available, companies must now bid for them in competitive auctions, and when the subsidies run out the companies may still bid against each other to secure the best sites for projects. This auction model is driving innovation and efficiency at a level nobody expected. In the UK, tendering has cut the cost of offshore wind by more than half in just three years. In Germany it has helped to shrink the premium for renewable energy by roughly half since 2015…[This] is pushing the developers towards a new, global race for scale…[W]ind and solar farms are getting bigger…[and the companies] are getting bigger…[This means] the structure of the industry will need to change…In the future, it may become more similar to the oil and gas industry with a smaller number of larger companies competing for global market share…[Few companies] will have time to relax and put the kettle on.” click here for more
Off-grid Renewables are Growing, Bringing Socio-economic Benefits to Millions; New IRENA brief highlights positive momentum for off-grid renewable energy, and its transformative impact as a key pillar of Sustainable Development Goal 7
14 July 2018 (International Renewable Energy Association)
“Off-grid renewable energy has witnessed spectacular growth over the last decade. Since 2008 capacity has trebled and the number of people in rural communities served by the technology has witnessed six-fold growth. [According to Off-grid Renewable Energy Solutions, Global and Regional Status and Trends, from the International Renewable Energy Association], up to 133 million people are receiving life-changing access to low-cost, secure renewable energy and benefit from the socioeconomic impact access delivers. Global off-grid investments in 2017 reached USD 284 million…
[Off-grid renewables are becoming] a mainstream solution to the expansion of electricity services all over the world, contributing to sustainable development goal 7 (SDG 7) by broadening the reach of electricity beyond existing grid infrastructure…Africa has emerged as a dynamic, fast-moving hub for off-grid renewables. The development of solar lighting solutions and innovations in deployment and financing models, such as pay as you go options and mobile payment platforms have contributed to Africa’s rapid advances. The continent’s off-grid industry now serves around 53 million people – the equivalent of the entire population of South Africa – up from just over two million in 2011…” click here for more
Capitalism can crack climate change. But only if it takes risks; Anglo-Saxon capitalism’s drive to maximise profits in the short term won’t save the planet. Perhaps the Chinese model can?
Larry Elliott, 16 August 2018 (UK Guardian)
“…The struggle to combat climate change brings out the best and worst of capitalism. Decarbonisation of the economy requires alternatives for coal and cars that run on diesel, and that plays to capitalism’s strengths. Innovation is what capitalism is all about, and there has been staggeringly rapid progress in developing clean alternatives to coal, oil and gas. The cost of producing solar- and wind-powered electricity has collapsed. Great advances are also being made in battery technology, which is vital for the new generation of electricity-powered vehicles. Humans are endlessly creative. In the end, they will crack climate change…[But capitalism] has trouble thinking beyond the here and now. People running big corporations see their job as maximising profits in the short term, even if that means causing irreparable damage to the world’s ecosystem…
The Paris agreement in 2015, which committed the international community to restricting global warming to well below two degrees centigrade, shows that the issue is taken more seriously than it was two or three decades ago, but that doesn’t mean that it is top priority…The good news is that in Beijing and New Delhi, policymakers have woken up to the idea that green growth is better growth…But the bad news is that progress towards decarbonisation is still not fast enough…Winning the race against time requires political leadership…[that sees] the world needs to wage war against climate change. Powerful vested interests [and deniers] will say there is plenty of time to act…These people need to be called out…” click here for more
Midterm Primaries: Clean Energy Advocates Secure Nominations
Lorraine Chow, August 15, 2018 (EcoWatch)
“…[E]nvironmental advocates were relieved to see a number of climate champions emerge from Tuesday's midterm primaries…A number of high-profile winners even signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge…which demands politicians and their campaigns not accept contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives or front groups of oil, gas, or coal companies…[Signatories among the pledge’s 200 signers who won primaries include] Ilhan Omar, who is poised to be one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress after winning the Democratic primary in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District…Randy "IronStache" Bryce, who is seeking to fill House Speaker Paul Ryan's Wisconsin district seat…Vermont Democrat Christine Hallquist, a former energy company executive, became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship…U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who won the Democratic nomination for Minnesota attorney general…Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Vermont's Democratic Senate primary…Climate policy has emerged as a divisive issue between the Democratic Party's progressive wing, which is urging a speedy transition to 100 percent renewable energy, versus those who are sympathetic to labor groups…Two months after the Democratic National Committee unanimously prohibited donations from fossil fuel companies, the committee voted 30-2…on a resolution that critics say effectively reverses the ban…” click here for more
What Red State Kansas Can Teach Blue State Mass. About Renewable Energy
Philip Warburg, August 14, 2018 (WBUR)
“…[Kansas displays unbending opposition to gun control and abortion, and strong support for President Trump, but…Kansas today produces 36 percent of its electricity from wind, enough to meet the needs of 1.7 million homes. It ranks second only to Iowa in wind’s share of statewide power generation…[while Massachusetts gets less than 20 percent of its electricity from all renewables…[Most Kansas wind advocates] don’t seem motivated to invest in renewable energy as a way to fight climate change. Some don’t even believe in global warming. But they are bullish about renewable energy’s importance to their community…[W]ell-trained wind technicians find jobs easily…[Massachusetts should be in awe. Its track record is undeniably anemic, with a mere 113 megawatts of installed wind capacity…[Its] onshore winds are no match for those that sweep across the Kansas prairie. Offshore, though, wind is finally taking hold…[It is far enough offshore to eliminate aesthetic complaints and its price has fallen to competitive levels. Ocean] winds are a renewable energy frontier that we would be foolish to forego…” click here for more
How leading utilities are planning for distributed energy resources; DER growth can be a blessing or a curse. New software platforms can help with preparation.
Herman K. Trabish, Feb. 6, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Technology is accelerating system operators’ capabilities and expanding their options. Storage-plus-New Energy is now becoming a reality.
New solutions are emerging for how utilities can plan for customer-sited distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, home battery systems and electric vehicles. Allowing customers to take greater control of their electricity usage and potentially replace some traditional grid infrastructure is a big change for an industry that, for a century relied on its own customer-financed infrastructure. Planning for the a coming expansion of DER is critical. Between 2018 and 2022, U.S. distributed solar installations will grow from today’s roughly 2.0 million to almost 3.8 million, according to GTM Research. Behind-the-meter battery storage is expected to grow in that period from around 200 MW to nearly 1,400 MW. And EVs will go from today's 1% of new car sales to over 50% by 2035, Energy Innovation forecasts.
Few utilities are seeing DER penetrations today that threaten reliability or revenues. But most are beginning to prepare, entering regulatory discussions about grid modernization, DER compensation and other associated issues. Newly emerging software tools can help utilities get ahead of DER adoption, forecasting not just customer adoption, but financial and operational impacts of the new resources. As utilities push into the distributed energy future, tools like these are likely to be crucial to maintaining the reliability and affordability of electric power. Emerging distribution analysis platforms "more fully evaluate the impacts and benefits of [rooftop solar] and other DER," according to a recent study of distribution system planning from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). Keys to the most accurate and complete analysis are "automated planning steps, advanced algorithms, and high-performance cloud computing," it added… click here for more
The 'small miracle' that may lead to California's net metering successor; Stakeholder talks show surprising support for net billing as a real possibility – in time.
Herman K. Trabish, Feb. 8, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, states have begun putting in place some of the proposed options.
At the close of the January 2016 sessions in California’s Net Energy Metering 2.0 proceeding, California Public Utilities Commissioner Carla Peterman warned the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and New Energy advocates that the commission would make a final ruling in 2019 on a new compensation to replace the net energy metering retail rate in the landmark NEM 2.0 docket (14-07-002). Since Commissioner Peterman's ultimatum, stakeholders have worked at many ways to value that generation, but have reached only a range of possible formulations.
Utilities assert that more than 725,000 California electricity customers with net metered distributed generation shift costs for the system’s infrastructure and maintenance to non-distributed generation owners. Solar advocates argue the perceived cost shift disappears if all distributed generation's values are included in the cost calculation. Since Commissioner Peterman’s ultimatum, stakeholders in proceedings on distributed energy resources (DER) have wrestled with the value question. Yet disagreement remains over what factors belong in the locational net benefit analysis (LNBA).
The LNBA is a comprehensive and complex methodology for valuing generation. It assumes generation at some locations, like where there is grid congestion, is of greater value to the system. California think tank Gridworks leveraged the influence of members like former CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio, who voted against the 2016 decision to extend NEM, to hold informal stakeholder talks on a successor tariff. It centered on five options to replace NEM in 2019. Gridworks Executive Director Matthew Tisdale, a former CPUC staffer who led commission DER initiatives, authored “Sustaining Solar Beyond Net Metering,” based on those discussions. Participants told Utility Dive the talks resulted in an increased understanding of one another's positions in the debate. There was significant agreement among participants that NEM drives customer adoption but does not optimally align supply and demand,” Tisdale told Utility Dive… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
Losing Earth: The Decade We; Almost Stopped Climate Change
Nathaniel Rich, August 1, 2018 (NY Times)
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge.
Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.
Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado. An entire subfield of climate literature has chronicled the machinations of industry lobbyists, the corruption of scientists and the propaganda campaigns that even now continue to debase the political debate, long after the largest oil-and-gas companies have abandoned the dumb show of denialism. But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.
Nor can the Republican Party be blamed. Today, only 42 percent of Republicans know that “most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” and that percentage is falling. But during the 1980s, many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes. Among those who called for urgent, immediate and far-reaching climate policy were Senators John Chafee, Robert Stafford and David Durenberger; the E.P.A. administrator, William K. Reilly; and, during his campaign for president, George H.W. Bush. As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of the president’s Council for Environmental Quality, told industry executives in 1981, “There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.” The issue was unimpeachable, like support for veterans or small business. Except the climate had an even broader constituency, composed of every human being on Earth.
It was understood that action would have to come immediately. At the start of the 1980s, scientists within the federal government predicted that conclusive evidence of warming would appear on the global temperature record by the end of the decade, at which point it would be too late to avoid disaster. More than 30 percent of the human population lacked access to electricity. Billions of people would not need to attain the “American way of life” in order to drastically increase global carbon emissions; a light bulb in every village would do it. A report prepared at the request of the White House by the National Academy of Sciences advised that “the carbon-dioxide issue should appear on the international agenda in a context that will maximize cooperation and consensus-building and minimize political manipulation, controversy and division.” If the world had adopted the proposal widely endorsed at the end of the ’80s — a freezing of carbon emissions, with a reduction of 20 percent by 2005 — warming could have been held to less than 1.5 degrees.
A broad international consensus had settled on a solution: a global treaty to curb carbon emissions. The idea began to coalesce as early as February 1979, at the first World Climate Conference in Geneva, when scientists from 50 nations agreed unanimously that it was “urgently necessary” to act. Four months later, at the Group of 7 meeting in Tokyo, the leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest nations signed a statement resolving to reduce carbon emissions. Ten years later, the first major diplomatic meeting to approve the framework for a binding treaty was called in the Netherlands. Delegates from more than 60 nations attended, with the goal of establishing a global summit meeting to be held about a year later. Among scientists and world leaders, the sentiment was unanimous: Action had to be taken, and the United States would need to lead. It didn’t.
The inaugural chapter of the climate-change saga is over. In that chapter — call it Apprehension — we identified the threat and its consequences. We spoke, with increasing urgency and self-delusion, of the prospect of triumphing against long odds. But we did not seriously consider the prospect of failure. We understood what failure would mean for global temperatures, coastlines, agricultural yield, immigration patterns, the world economy. But we have not allowed ourselves to comprehend what failure might mean for us. How will it change the way we see ourselves, how we remember the past, how we imagine the future? Why did we do this to ourselves? These questions will be the subject of climate change’s second chapter — call it The Reckoning. There can be no understanding of our current and future predicament without understanding why we failed to solve this problem when we had the chance.
That we came so close, as a civilization, to breaking our suicide pact with fossil fuels can be credited to the efforts of a handful of people, among them a hyperkinetic lobbyist and a guileless atmospheric physicist who, at great personal cost, tried to warn humanity of what was coming. They risked their careers in a painful, escalating campaign to solve the problem, first in scientific reports, later through conventional avenues of political persuasion and finally with a strategy of public shaming. Their efforts were shrewd, passionate, robust. And they failed. What follows is their story, and ours.
1.‘This Is the Whole Banana’Spring 1979
2.The Whimsies of The Invisible WorldSpring 1979
3.Between Catastrophe and ChaosJuly 1979
4.‘A Very Aggressive Defensive Program’Summer 1979-Summer 1980
5.‘We Are Flying Blind’October 1980
6.‘Otherwise, They’ll Gurgle’November 1980-September 1981
7.‘We’re All Going to Be the Victims’March 1982
8.‘The Direction of an Impending Catastrophe’1982
1.‘Caution, Not Panic’1983-1984
2.‘You Scientists Win’1985
3.The Size of The Human ImaginationSpring-Summer 1986
4.‘Atmospheric Scientist, New York, N.Y.’Fall 1987-Spring 1988
5.‘You Will See Things That You Shall Believe’Summer 1988
6.‘The Signal Has Emerged’June 1988
7.‘Woodstock For Climate Change’June 1988-April 1989
8.‘You Never Beat The White House’April 1989
9.‘A Form of Science Fraud’May 1989
10.The White House EffectFall 1989
11.‘The Skunks at The Garden Party’November 1989
Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., has a habit of asking new graduate students to name the largest fundamental breakthrough in climate physics since 1979. It’s a trick question. There has been no breakthrough. As with any mature scientific discipline, there is only refinement. The computer models grow more precise; the regional analyses sharpen; estimates solidify into observational data. Where there have been inaccuracies, they have tended to be in the direction of understatement. Caldeira and a colleague recently published a paper in Nature finding that the world is warming more quickly than most climate models predict.
The toughest emissions reductions now being proposed, even by the most committed nations, will probably fail to achieve “any given global temperature stabilization target.” More carbon has been released into the atmosphere since the final day of the Noordwijk conference, Nov. 7, 1989, than in the entire history of civilization preceding it. In 1990, humankind burned more than 20 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. By 2017, the figure had risen to 32.5 billion metric tons, a record. Despite every action taken since the Charney report — the billions of dollars invested in research, the nonbinding treaties, the investments in renewable energy — the only number that counts, the total quantity of global greenhouse gas emitted per year, has continued its inexorable rise.
Like the scientific story, the political story hasn’t changed greatly, except in its particulars. Even some of the nations that pushed hardest for climate policy have failed to honor their own commitments. When it comes to our own nation, which has failed to make any binding commitments whatsoever, the dominant narrative for the last quarter century has concerned the efforts of the fossil-fuel industries to suppress science, confuse public knowledge and bribe politicians.
The mustache-twirling depravity of these campaigns has left the impression that the oil-and-gas industry always operated thus; while the Exxon scientists and American Petroleum Institute clerics of the ’70s and ’80s were hardly good Samaritans, they did not start multimillion-dollar disinformation campaigns, pay scientists to distort the truth or try to brainwash children in elementary schools, as their successors would. It was James Hansen’s testimony before Congress in 1988 that, for the first time since the “Changing Climate” report, made oil-and-gas executives begin to consider the issue’s potential to hurt their profits. Exxon, as ever, led the field. Six weeks after Hansen’s testimony, Exxon’s manager of science and strategy development, Duane LeVine, prepared an internal strategy paper urging the company to “emphasize the uncertainty in scientific conclusions.” This shortly became the default position of the entire sector. LeVine, it so happened, served as chairman of the global petroleum industry’s Working Group on Global Climate Change, created the same year, which adopted Exxon’s position as its own.
The American Petroleum Institute, after holding a series of internal briefings on the subject in the fall and winter of 1988, including one for the chief executives of the dozen or so largest oil companies, took a similar, if slightly more diplomatic, line. It set aside money for carbon-dioxide policy — about $100,000, a fraction of the millions it was spending on the health effects of benzene, but enough to establish a lobbying organization called, in an admirable flourish of newspeak, the Global Climate Coalition.
It was joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 14 other trade associations, including those representing the coal, electric-grid and automobile industries. The G.C.C. was conceived as a reactive body, to share news of any proposed regulations, but on a whim, it added a press campaign, to be coordinated mainly by the A.P.I. It gave briefings to politicians known to be friendly to the industry and approached scientists who professed skepticism about global warming. The A.P.I.’s payment for an original op-ed was $2,000.
The chance to enact meaningful measures to prevent climate change was vanishing, but the industry had just begun. In October 1989, scientists allied with the G.C.C. began to be quoted in national publications, giving an issue that lacked controversy a convenient fulcrum. “Many respected scientists say the available evidence doesn’t warrant the doomsday warnings,” was the caveat that began to appear in articles on climate change. Cheap and useful, G.C.C.-like groups started to proliferate, but it was not until international negotiations in preparation for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit began that investments in persuasion peddling rose to the level of a line item. At Rio, George H.W. Bush refused to commit to specific emissions reductions. The following year, when President Bill Clinton proposed an energy tax in the hope of meeting the goals of the Rio treaty, the A.P.I. invested $1.8 million in a G.C.C. disinformation campaign. Senate Democrats from oil-and-coal states joined Republicans to defeat the tax proposal, which later contributed to the Republicans’ rout of Democrats in the midterm congressional elections in 1994 — the first time the Republican Party had won control of both houses in 40 years. The G.C.C. spent $13 million on a single ad campaign intended to weaken support for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which committed its parties to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 5 percent relative to 1990 levels. The Senate, which would have had to ratify the agreement, took a pre-emptive vote declaring its opposition; the resolution passed 95-0. There has never been another serious effort to negotiate a binding global climate treaty.
The G.C.C. disbanded in 2002 after the defection of various members who were embarrassed by its tactics. But Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) continued its disinformation campaign for another half decade. This has made the corporation an especially vulnerable target for the wave of compensatory litigation that began in earnest in the last three years and may last a generation. Tort lawsuits have become possible only in recent years, as scientists have begun more precisely to attribute regional effects to global emission levels. This is one subfield of climate science that has advanced significantly since 1979 — the assignment of blame.
A major lawsuit has targeted the federal government. A consortium of 21 American children and young adults — one of whom, Sophie Kivlehan of Allentown, Pa., is Jim Hansen’s granddaughter — claims that the government, by “creating a national energy system that causes climate change,” has violated its duty to protect the natural resources to which all Americans are entitled.
In 2015, after reports by the website InsideClimate News and The Los Angeles Times documented the climate studies performed by Exxon for decades, the attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York began fraud investigations. The Securities and Exchange Commission separately started to investigate whether Exxon Mobil’s valuation depended on the burning of all its known oil-and-gas reserves. (Exxon Mobil has denied any wrongdoing and stands by its valuation method.)
The rallying cry of this multipronged legal effort is “Exxon Knew.” It is incontrovertibly true that senior employees at the company that would later become Exxon, like those at most other major oil-and-gas corporations, knew about the dangers of climate change as early as the 1950s. But the automobile industry knew, too, and began conducting its own research by the early 1980s, as did the major trade groups representing the electrical grid. They all own responsibility for our current paralysis and have made it more painful than necessary. But they haven’t done it alone.
The United States government knew. Roger Revelle began serving as a Kennedy administration adviser in 1961, five years after establishing the Mauna Loa carbon-dioxide program, and every president since has debated the merits of acting on climate policy. Carter had the Charney report, Reagan had “Changing Climate” and Bush had the censored testimony of James Hansen and his own public vow to solve the problem. Congress has been holding hearings for 40 years; the intelligence community has been tracking the crisis even longer.
Everybody knew. In 1958, on prime-time television, “The Bell Science Hour” — one of the most popular educational film series in American history — aired “The Unchained Goddess,” a film about meteorological wonders, produced by Frank Capra, a dozen years removed from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” warning that “man may be unwittingly changing the world’s climate” through the release of carbon dioxide. “A few degrees’ rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps,” says the film’s kindly host, the bespectacled Dr. Research. “An inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi Valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water.” Capra’s film was shown in science classes for decades.
Everyone knew — and we all still know. We know that the transformations of our planet, which will come gradually and suddenly, will reconfigure the political world order. We know that if we don’t act to reduce emissions, we risk the collapse of civilization. We also know that, without a gargantuan intervention, whatever happens will be worse for our children, worse yet for their children and even worse still for their children’s children, whose lives, our actions have demonstrated, mean nothing to us.
Could it have been any other way? In the late 1970s, a small group of philosophers, economists and political scientists began to debate, largely among themselves, whether a human solution to this human problem was even possible. They did not trouble themselves about the details of warming, taking the worst-case scenario as a given. They asked instead whether humankind, when presented with this particular existential crisis, was willing to prevent it. We worry about the future. But how much, exactly?
The answer, as any economist could tell you, is very little. Economics, the science of assigning value to human behavior, prices the future at a discount; the farther out you project, the cheaper the consequences. This makes the climate problem the perfect economic disaster. The Yale economist William D. Nordhaus, a member of Jimmy Carter’s Council of Economic Advisers, argued in the 1970s that the most appropriate remedy was a global carbon tax. But that required an international agreement, which Nordhaus didn’t think was likely. Michael Glantz, a political scientist who was at the National Center for Atmospheric Research at the time, argued in 1979 that democratic societies are constitutionally incapable of dealing with the climate problem. The competition for resources means that no single crisis can ever command the public interest for long, yet climate change requires sustained, disciplined efforts over decades. And the German physicist-philosopher Klaus Meyer-Abich argued that any global agreement would inevitably favor the most minimal action. Adaptation, Meyer-Abich concluded, “seems to be the most rational political option.” It is the option that we have pursued, consciously or not, ever since.
These theories share a common principle: that human beings, whether in global organizations, democracies, industries, political parties or as individuals, are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations. When I asked John Sununu about his part in this history — whether he considered himself personally responsible for killing the best chance at an effective global-warming treaty — his response echoed Meyer-Abich. “It couldn’t have happened,” he told me, “because, frankly, the leaders in the world at that time were at a stage where they were all looking how to seem like they were supporting the policy without having to make hard commitments that would cost their nations serious resources.” He added, “Frankly, that’s about where we are today.”
If human beings really were able to take the long view — to consider seriously the fate of civilization decades or centuries after our deaths — we would be forced to grapple with the transience of all we know and love in the great sweep of time. So we have trained ourselves, whether culturally or evolutionarily, to obsess over the present, worry about the medium term and cast the long term out of our minds, as we might spit out a poison. Like most human questions, the carbon-dioxide question will come down to fear. At some point, the fears of young people will overwhelm the fears of the old. Some time after that, the young will amass enough power to act. It will be too late to avoid some catastrophes, but perhaps not others. Humankind is nothing if not optimistic, even to the point of blindness. We are also an adaptable species. That will help.
The distant perils of climate change are no longer very distant, however. Many have already begun to occur. We are capable of good works, altruism and wisdom, and a growing number of people have devoted their lives to helping civilization avoid the worst. We have a solution in hand: carbon taxes, increased investment in renewable and nuclear energy and decarbonization technology. As Jim Hansen told me, “From a technology and economics standpoint, it is still readily possible to stay under two degrees Celsius.” We can trust the technology and the economics. It’s harder to trust human nature. Keeping the planet to two degrees of warming, let alone 1.5 degrees, would require transformative action. It will take more than good works and voluntary commitments; it will take a revolution. But in order to become a revolutionary, you need first to suffer.
Hansen’s most recent paper, published last year, announced that Earth is now as warm as it was before the last ice age, 115,000 years ago, when the seas were more than six meters higher than they are today. He and his team have concluded that the only way to avoid dangerous levels of warming is to bend the emissions arc below the x-axis. We must, in other words, find our way to “negative emissions,” extracting more carbon dioxide from the air than we contribute to it. If emissions, by miracle, do rapidly decline, most of the necessary carbon absorption could be handled by replanting forests and improving agricultural practices. If not, “massive technological CO₂ extraction,” using some combination of technologies as yet unperfected or uninvented, will be required. Hansen estimates that this will incur costs of $89 trillion to $535 trillion this century, and may even be impossible at the necessary scale. He is not optimistic.
Like Hansen, Rafe Pomerance is close to his granddaughter. When he feels low, he wears a bracelet she made for him. He finds it difficult to explain the future to her. During the Clinton administration, Pomerance worked on environmental issues for the State Department; he is now a consultant for Rethink Energy Florida, which hopes to alert the state to the threat of rising seas, and the chairman of Arctic 21, a network of scientists and research organizations that hope “to communicate the ongoing unraveling of the Arctic.” Every two months, he has lunch with fellow veterans of the climate wars — E.P.A. officials, congressional staff members and colleagues from the World Resources Institute. They bemoan the lost opportunities, the false starts, the strategic blunders. But they also remember their achievements. In a single decade, they turned a crisis that was studied by no more than several dozen scientists into the subject of Senate hearings, front-page headlines and the largest diplomatic negotiation in world history. They helped summon into being the world’s climate watchdog, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and initiated the negotiations for a treaty signed by nearly all of the world’s nations.
It is true that much of the damage that might have been avoided is now inevitable. And Pomerance is not the romantic he once was. But he still believes that it might not be too late to preserve some semblance of the world as we know it. Human nature has brought us to this place; perhaps human nature will one day bring us through. Rational argument has failed in a rout. Let irrational optimism have a turn. It is also human nature, after all, to hope.
Talkin’ Climate Change The Best Ways to Communicate Climate Change
Heather Goldstone and Elsa Partan, August 13, 2018 (WCAI/National Public Radio)
“…[Fear is an avoidance emotion, and doesn’t necessarily lead to motivation becausepeople tend to become overwhelmed and shut-down.] Often it can lead to increased skepticism…[According to the University of Utah’s Meaghan McKasy, who won the International Association for Media and Communication Research’s 2018 Climate Communication Award,] facts are the most important part of disseminating climate information…[But it must be presented in a way that increases] people’s understanding and motivation…[It is important to] leave people with the notion that they can do something…[and] present people with tangible actions…[Emotions can inhibit or increase] motivation…[While fear can cause shut down, anger] is trickier…[It can lead to impulsive decisions, but it] can also lead people to more buy-in…[The whole strategy is engage] but be respectful. Stick to facts. And don’t overload the facts…” click here for more
By 2030, New Energy Could Be Free Analyst: Renewable energy will be ‘effectively free’ by 2030
Bryan Clark, August 13, 2018 (TNW)
“Analysts at Swiss investment bank UBS believe that by 2030, we could all be living without much of a carbon footprint — at least at home…[because by 2030, [New Energy] costs will be so low they will [‘effectively be free…’ With the increased popularity of New Energy among consumers and energy providers and the economics of scale of bigger and more efficient solar and wind projects, the prices are becoming too low] to ignore…[Approximately a dozen major European utility companies] have announced significant changes to their previous business models — most of which relied on coal or natural gas during the past century — that could usher in a new era of clean, renewable energy. As demand increases and prices continue to fall, it’s hard to imagine a trend reversal in the near future…[Places] with plentiful sun like California and Florida have seen precipitous drops in the cost of installing solar panels. In some areas, the hardware and installation are now free, with the companies providing the materials profiting from selling excess energy back to the grid. In these places, the bulk of new construction features renewable energy sources, and solar in particular…” click here for more
The 50 States of Electric Vehicles: Q2 2018
August 7, 2018 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center [NCCETC])
The purpose of this report is to provide state and local lawmakers and regulators, electric utilities, the electric power industry, the transportation industry, and other energy stakeholders with timely, accurate, and unbiased updates about how states are choosing to study, adopt, implement, amend, or discontinue policies associated with electric vehicles. This report catalogues proposed and approved legislative, regulatory, and utility rate design changes affecting electric vehicles during the most recent quarter, as well as state and investor-owned utility proposals to deploy electric vehicles and charging infrastructure…
The authors identified relevant policy changes and deployment proposals through state utility commission docket searches, legislative bill searches, popular press, and direct communications with stakeholders and regulators in the industry.
This report addresses several questions about the U.S. electric vehicle landscape, including:
• How are states addressing barriers to electric vehicle and charging infrastructure deployment?
• What policy actions are states taking to grow markets for electric vehicles and related infrastructure?
• How are utility companies designing rates and electric vehicle supply equipment companies designing charging equipment and controls to influence charging behavior of electric vehicle owners?
• Where and how are states and utilities proposing to deploy or pay for electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging infrastructure?
This report focuses on cataloguing and describing important proposed and adopted policy changes related to electric vehicles. For the purpose of this report, the definition of electric vehicle includes all-electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), and plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs). In order to explore all policy actions related to electric vehicles, this report catalogs and describes actions related to the deployment of electric vehicle charging equipment, which is often referred to as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Additionally, the electric grid is impacted by electric vehicle charging, so legislative and regulatory actions related to electric utilities are included in this report.
In general, this report considers an “action” to be a relevant (1) legislative bill that has been introduced, (2) executive order, or (3) regulatory docket, utility rate case, or rulemaking proceeding. Only statewide actions and those related to investor-owned utilities are included in this report. Specifically, actions tracked in this issue include:
Studies and Investigations
Legislative or regulatory-led efforts to study electric vehicles specifically, or electric vehicles as part of a broader grid modernization study or investigation.
Changes to state rules related to electric vehicles, including registration fees, homeowner association limitations, and electricity resale regulations affecting vehicle charging.
Utility Rate Design
Proposed or approved changes to investor-owned utility rate design for electric vehicles, including new electric vehicle tariffs and significant changes to existing electric vehicle tariffs.
New state policy proposals or changes to existing policies aimed at growing the electric vehicle market.
New state or investor-owned utility incentive programs or changes to existing incentive programs for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.
State and Utility
Utility-initiated requests, as well as proposed legislation, to deploy electric vehicles or charging infrastructure. Actions Excluded This report currently excludes actions taken by utilities that are not state-regulated, such as municipal utilities and electric cooperatives in many states. The report also excludes actions related to grid modernization without an explicit electric vehicle component, as well as actions related to general time-varying rates not specific to electric vehicle charging; these types of actions are tracked in the 50 States of Grid Modernization report series.
Q2 2018 ELECTRIC VEHICLE ACTION
In Q2 2018, 36 states plus DC took a total of 274 legislative and regulatory actions related to electric vehicles. Table 1 provides a summary of state and utility actions occurring during Q2 2018. Of the 274 actions catalogued, the most common were related to Regulation (72), followed by Financial Incentives (60), and Market Development (56).
TOP ELECTRIC VEHICLE ACTIONS OF Q2 2018
Five of the quarter’s most notable electric vehicle actions are noted below.
California Regulators Approve $738 Million for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
In May 2018, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision on major electric vehicle charging investment proposals from Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. The approved projects totaled $738 million in investment and include a combination of direct utility deployment, financial incentives for deployment by customers and third parties, and rate structures to encourage off-peak charging.
New York Governor Announces Up to $250 Million for Electric Vehicle Expansion
The Governor of New York announced the creation of a new program – EVolve NY – in May 2018, which aims to accelerate electric vehicle adoption in the state. The program dedicates $250 million in state revenues through 2025 to expanding the state’s electric vehicle market, with the first phase including $40 million for fast charger deployment along interstates and at airports, as well as a program to create model electric vehicle communities.
Alabama and New Orleans Regulators Address Commission Oversight of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Utility regulators in both the State of Alabama and the City of New Orleans declared in Q2 2018 that electric vehicle charging station owners and operators will not be classified as public utilities, subject to Commission regulation. This issue remains unaddressed in many states, with this issue also under consideration in Q2 2018 in Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
Public Utilities Commission of Nevada Permits NV Energy to Own Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
As part of a decision approving rules for NV Energy’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration program, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada ordered that NV Energy is allowed to own, operate, and rate base electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Any investments will be reviewed in a future rate case, and the Commission will regulate rates charged for the use of utility-owned charging facilities.
Vermont Legislature Initiates Electric Vehicle and Charging Investigation
Pursuant to H.B. 917, enacted in May 2018, the Vermont Public Utility Commission opened an investigation into electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging in July 2018. The legislation includes many specific topics to be addressed in the investigation, including Commission jurisdiction over charging stations, the appropriate role of utilities, and barriers to electric vehicle charging.
TOP ELECTRIC VEHICLE POLICY TRENDS OF Q2
2018 States Diverge on Regulatory Oversight of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Regulatory oversight of electric vehicle charging stations is an issue being addressed by many states across the country, with different conclusions often being reached. In Q2 2018, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada ruled that NV Energy may own and operate electric vehicle charging stations, and that the rates charged for the use of the utility’s stations will fall under Commission jurisdiction. On the other hand, the Delaware Public Service Commission denied a staff petition last year to regulate charging station operators and set rates for their customers until the state legislature addresses the issue. In Q2 2018, the Delaware Commission Staff and Public Advocate requested a stay of Delmarva Power’s proposed electric vehicle charging infrastructure deployment, suggesting that if the legislature does act to deregulate charging infrastructure, Delmarva’s guaranteed source of cost recovery puts it at an advantage in the market. Among the topics to be considered in an investigatory proceeding on electric vehicles in Vermont are the appropriate role of utilities in deploying and operating charging infrastructure, the scope of Commission jurisdiction over charging stations, and whether charging station operators should be free to set the rates for use of their facilities.
Expanding Electric Vehicle and Charging Access to Low-Income Communities
Several states and utilities planning transportation electrification projects are working to ensure that low-income and disadvantaged communities directly benefit from these efforts. In California, San Diego Gas & Electric will provide bonus incentives for installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to customers living in disadvantaged communities, while a North Carolina proposal would have provided support for charging station deployment at multi-unit buildings within low-income communities. Bills pending in both California and New Jersey would provide additional electric vehicle incentives and outreach to low-income customers, while another California bill would fund zero-emission vehicles to provide transportation services to seniors and the disabled in rural counties. States are also considering investments in electric buses, which can help extend the benefits of electrified transportation to those without the means to purchase an electric vehicle.
Concentration of Electric Vehicle Activity in Particular States and Regions
While over half of states took at least one action related to electric vehicles during Q2 2018, the majority of electric vehicle activity was concentrated in a relatively small number of states. Of the 274 total actions taken during Q2 2018, over half took place in only seven states – New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Minnesota. Over half of U.S. states took two or fewer actions related to electric vehicles during the quarter, while the most active state took 32 actions. Electric vehicle activity is also showing some regional concentration, with the ten states located between New Hampshire and Maryland, plus DC, taking approximately half of the total actions tracked during Q2 218…
Utility Giant’s CEO Talks Fires And Climate Change Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change
Mark Chediak, August 13, 2018 (Bloomberg News)
“…[California authorities don’t yet know the cause of some of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires], but the region’s giant utility, PG&E Corp., sees a culprit at work -- climate change. The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires. ‘Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,’ Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email. ‘And we are living with it every day.’ Scientists tend to agree…But California’s biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment. State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes…It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin -- its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires -- unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company’s problem is, in fact, a climate change problem…” click here for more
A Buyer’s Market For New Energy It's a buyer's market for renewable energy procurement
Heather Clancy, August 3, 2018 (GreenBiz)
“…[B]usinesses already have disclosed at least 31 transactions for solar, wind and other renewable generating sources this year…[That is] more contracts for clean power in the first half of 2018 than for all of 2017, according to ongoing research by the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center…One model that many companies are especially eager to see mature is aggregation — deals in which multiple companies come together in order to sign up for the power generated by a new solar or wind project. The notion is that this sort of deal structure will enable more midsize and smaller organizations to more directly procure renewable energy…[The offtake requirements are much smaller, less than 20 MW, and the tenure requirements are] shorter…” click here for more
”He lives in this world, too.” Well, sort of. From Jimmy Kimmel via YouTube
The tax revenues from rural wind development are keeping schools in those communities going. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
The previous video showed how wind helps fund rural education. This one shows why funding education is so important. From Alliance for Climate Education via YouTube