NewEnergyNews: Holiday Reading: California’s Big Utilities at 20.6 Percent Renewables in 2011; Do Renewable Energy Standards grow solar and wind?

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: THE GREEN TRANSITION – MONEY KEEPS COMING TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 17: THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND; BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST; WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE BENEFITS OF PUMPED HYDRO STORAGE CALCULATED
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 16: THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE; A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES; ADVANCES IN WATER POWER
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: RENEWABLES IN THE COMING ARAB WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 15: SOLAR SUCCEEDING ON PRICE; EVEN MORE WIND THAT HONDA EXPECTED; THE HUGE UNRECOGNIZED BENEFITS OF EFFICIENCY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Climate Change For The Birds
  • Weekend Video: The Evidence Mounts
  • Weekend Video: Colbert On Birds And Climate Change
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NOW CO2 TOO HIGH FOR PLANTS AND OCEANS TO ABSORB
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NEW ENERGY IS THE WORLD’S BEST OPTION
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SWEDEN WINNING SCANDINAVIAN WIND RACE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA DISPLAYS SOLAR'S VERSATILITY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 11:

  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING GREEN BY MIXING RED AND BLUE
  • TTTA Thursday-PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS’ CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE RACE FOR EV DOMINANCE
  • TTTA Thursday-THE BIG FUTURE FOR ZERO ENERGY BUILDINGS
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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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  • Wednesday, January 02, 2013

    Holiday Reading: California’s Big Utilities at 20.6 Percent Renewables in 2011; Do Renewable Energy Standards grow solar and wind?

    Holiday Reading: California’s Big Utilities at 20.6 Percent Renewables in 2011; Do Renewable Energy Standards grow solar and wind?

    Herman K. Trabish, July 24, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    The newest numbers show that California’s three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) were at 20.6 percent renewables at the end of 2011. With approximately 17 percent at the end of 2010, they fell somewhat short of meeting the state’s 2002 mandate that they obtain 20 percent of their power from renewables by the end of 2010.

    Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown and the majority of the state’s lawmakers were encouraged enough to institute a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring all state electricity providers obtain one-third of their power from renewables by 2020. It will certainly grow California renewables.

    But will the new, more ambitious RPS continue to grow the use of wind, solar and other renewables?

    The Clean Energy Race; How Do California’s Public Utilities Measure Up?, an analysis of the 2010 numbers from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), showed an even better response to the 20 percent mandate on the part of California’s ten biggest publicly owned utilities (POUs). POUs generate approximately 25 percent of the state’s electricity but, because they are locally governed, were given flexibility in the 2002 RPS.

    Nevertheless, the POUs outdid the state’s IOUs in the shift to renewables. The combined thirteen biggest utilities -- three IOUs and the ten POUs -- provided 87 percent of California’s retail electricity in 2010. About 52 percent came from fossil sources. The ten POUs cumulatively grew their sales of RPS-eligible, renewables-generated retail electricity from 4.1 percent in 2003 to 18.8 percent in 2010.

    Other shifts in the ten POUs’ sources in the same 2003 to 2010 period: Nuclear decreasedfrom 10 percent to 7 percent, large hydro decreased from 19 percent to 12 percent, and coal decreased from 38 percent to 31 percent. Natural gas increased from 29 percent to 34 percent.

    To be RPS-eligible, the electricity must come from “wind, sun, geothermal heat, biomass, biogas, fuel cells using renewable fuels, hydropower [of no more than 30 megawatts], municipal solid waste [under certain conditions], or wave or tidal power,” according to the UCS report. It must also come from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) transmission region.

    Almost half of the POUs’ renewable additions (43 percent) came from “long-term investments in new renewable energy resources built after the original RPS was enacted,” the UCS reported.

    But, it pointed out, “the POUs still relied on electricity from fossil fuels for two-thirds of their retail sales.”

    The RPS was especially effective at stimulating the growth of solar, wind and biofuels. While much of the geothermal and hydro in the 2010 renewables portfolio was in service before the enactment of the 2002 RPS, the UCS report noted, relatively large quantities of wind, solar and biofuels were added afterwards.

    The UCS described Silicon Valley Power, Turlock Irrigation District, and Modesto Irrigation District as “sprinting ahead.”

    Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Riverside Public Utilities, Anaheim Public Utilities, Sacramento Municipal Utility District were “on the right track, but must keep moving.” Roseville Electric, Burbank Water and Power, and Imperial Irrigation District, according to the UCS report, have had a “false start.”

    Because the POUs did better than the IOUs, the UCS recommended three changes inrenewables standards that guide their practices.

    To give renewables developers the kind of increased certainty intended by a standard, the standard should increase focus on long-term contracts.

    Modesto, for instance, obtained nearly all of its 17.8 percent renewable sources through long-term (ten or more years) contracts, whereas Roseville got well over half its 17.5 percent from short-term (less than four years) contracts.

    Because renewables projects are not immune to delays and failures, utilities should include assumptions in their planning to account for them. They should, the UCS report advised, “sign contracts for more than the minimum amount of electricity required.”

    On the other, the UCS report said, “IOUs had to obtain CEC [California Energy Commission]certification for all their RPS-eligible facilities, while the POUs did not. That means the POUs counted electricity for their RPS programs that the IOUs may not have been able to purchase. In fact, the CEC would not have certified 13 percent of the POUs’ RPS investments in 2010 because the electricity was generated by facilities that were outside the state.” The acceptability of another 15 percent was questionable.

    Finally, “transparent reporting leads to accountability,” the UCS reported. Utilities should provide “publicly available plans [and] progress reports that document their investments.”

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