NewEnergyNews: Do Wind and Solar Add More Benefit to the Grid Than Cost? “No evidence that would support any net renewable resource integration cost.”

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: A CHRONICLE OF EXTREME CLIMATE IMPACTS
  • QUICK NEWS, July 29: OFFICIAL FORECASTS OVERLOOK NEW ENERGY; NEW ENERGY NEEDS NEW TRANSMISSION; BRITISH COLUMBIA EMISSIONS TAX SUCCEEDING
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: MORE AND SMARTER MEDIA COVERAGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2014
  • QUICK NEWS, July 28: CLIMATE SKEPTICS REACHING ‘CATASTROPHIC’ NUMBERS; THE COST OF THE EPA EMISSIONS CUTS; GEOTHERMAL DRILL SKILL ADVANCES
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: John Oliver On Visiting Antarctica
  • Weekend Video: Warmest May And June Ever And Non-Stop Record Heat
  • Weekend Video: Meet The Microgrid
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- STAR WARS PLANET TATOOINE’S CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-BIG NEW THREAT TO CLIMATE FROM COAL-TO-GAS IN CHINA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA VILLAGE OF 2,400 GOES 100% SOLAR WITH BATTERIES, MICROGRID
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-GERMANY IS WORLD’S MOST EFFICIENT MAJOR ECONOMY
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 24:

  • TTTA Thursday-CLIMATE FACTS VERSUS CLIMATE CULTURE
  • TTTA Thursday-MONEY IN WIND UP FOR QUARTER, DOWN FROM 2013
  • TTTA Thursday-MIDWEST BIOFUELS CAN BE NEW ENERGY – UCS STUDY
  • TTTA Thursday-TESLA CHAMPIONS THE PLUG AND THE CAR
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: EUROPE’S OFFSHORE WIND PROGRESS THIS YEAR
  • QUICK NEWS, July 23: NEW ENERGY WAS 55% OF 1H 2014 U.S. NEW BUILD; EV SALES LEAP; OCEAN ENERGY’S FINANCES UNDER SCRUTINY
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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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  • Monday, October 29, 2012

    Do Wind and Solar Add More Benefit to the Grid Than Cost? “No evidence that would support any net renewable resource integration cost.”

    Do Wind and Solar Add More Benefit to the Grid Than Cost? “No evidence that would support any net renewable resource integration cost.”

    Herman K. Trabish, June 15, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    Following a June 4 workshop at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), a former utility official with over 40 years of experience in energy policy confided his impressions of the workshop’s conclusions. For balance, GTM asked Mark Rothleder of the California Independent System Operator (ISO) Corporation, one of the workshop’s key presenters, for his perspective.

    “The last big makeover we had in the West for electricity production was when the nuke building program got shut down in the 1970s,” the unnamed former utility official said. “Everybody turned to coal. From a grid perspective, that was a real challenge because these coal plants were out in the boonies [and] connected to the grid by long, skinny radials.”

    It changed the grid, he said. “There were some mistakes made. There were blackouts [and] they had to do some fixes. They had to spend money to add reinforcement to the grid in certain places. They had to come up with new rules. Any time you dramatically change the resource base on the grid, you’re going to have to go through that exercise. You can plan for it and you can run models, but you’re going to get some surprises and you’re going to have to fix them. They did that in the '80s.”

    Now, he said, “we’re in the middle of another dramatic makeover of the grid. It’s not just the33 percent renewables. We’re retiring some 18,000 megawatts of once-through coolingplants.”

    Once again, he said, “people are going to have to change their minds about how they do things, [because] we’re very good at fixing the grid for these big old coal plants out on the end of the line and we’re not very good at dealing with wind and solar and variable resources that come on and go off with nature and as the sun rises and sets.”

    “I am not familiar enough with the 1980 transition from nukes to coal,” Rothleder responded. “But I believe this is a more significant transition.” Nukes and coal, he said, “are similar base-loaded resources. The 33 percent transition is much different in that it is adding a significant amount of variable generation. Also, this transition is different in that we are also potentially retiring a significant amount of the existing once-through cooled resources.”

    Perhaps the most important finding of the workshop, the unnamed official said, was that the changes will add up to the need for approximately 3,200 megawatts of “dispatchable, flexible generation [and] it needs to be on-line before we can retire these other things, by 2017. So we better get moving."

    At the workshop, he said, the ISO presented “four separate scenarios for how you get to 33 percent” and they all showed, he contended, that generation capacity beyond the stipulated 3,200 megawatts will be unnecessary. Two further models, one which assumed 10 percent greater load growth by 2020 than is predicted by the California Energy Commission and one that assumed natural gas would replace renewables, suggested there could be the need for 1,200 additional megawatts.

    The California grid can “handle the 33 percent,” the utility official explained, because “we weren’t stupid. We didn’t build all of one [type of] thing. A diverse portfolio,” he said, “is much better than all of one thing. And it is better than all gas.”

    “But the point is, we’re not arguing about having to build a bunch of new stuff to integrate solar and wind,” he said. “We can do that and on a net-net basis, and retire at least 8,000 megawatts” of out-of-date gas generation capacity.

    “The operational relevant scenario,” Rothleder responded, is “the high load scenario” in which “results indicate there is a strong potential need for residual capacity beyond the 3,200 megawatts of local resources.”

    The “default assumption” about the 3,200 megawatts, the utility official said, “is that it is gasand it has to be flexible. It can’t be base-load gas. It has to be capable of starting up and shutting down on command. And it has to be in the right place.”

    “There may be options for natural gas to consider,” Rothleder said.

    “The bottom line is,” the utility official concluded, “there is no evidence that would support any net renewable resource integration cost.” The studies “don’t show the need for any new resources to balance the variable renewables” he said, adding, “net-net, there are significant system savings in both capital and operating costs to be subtracted from RPS costs.”

    “I have not quantified the benefits and costs of renewables,” Rothleder responded.

    People, the utility official explained, “have prejudices and biases against new things, and these guys especially. If you’re a transmission planner and there is a blackout on your watch, that is a career-defining moment. So you get really passionate about some of this stuff and you don’t like change.”

    That the ISO called their results “counterintuitive,” the utility official said, is not surprising. “People postulate gloom and doom and then they run studies and the studies say ‘Relax, it’s OK.’ So they say, ‘The study must be wrong’ and get somebody to do another study.” But, he said, “they keep coming up with the fact that there are some lessons to be learned andstuff to do, but by and large, this is no big deal.”

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