What The Oceans Give, What They Need
Earth is seen as a blue ball from space because it is mostly ocean but “for too long, we have taken the ocean for granted” and “we have pushed past its limits…” From NRDCflix via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT WEDNESDAY, January 22:
Earth is seen as a blue ball from space because it is mostly ocean but “for too long, we have taken the ocean for granted” and “we have pushed past its limits…” From NRDCflix via YouTube
There is a very clear link… From PBS NewsHour via YouTube
The major media is finally noticing what NewEnergyNews has been reporting for two years: Big business sees the unmatchable deal New Energy offers and is buying in. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
California's dream of a regional power market faces the risks of a Trump FERC; Can a proposed regional plan’s protections for state policy be trumped by federal authority?
Herman K. Trabish, March 20, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: AB 813 did not get out of committee in the recently completed California legislative session. Supporters say it will be brought back in January and argue the state’s new 100% by 2045 zero emissions goal cannot be reached without a regional grid.
Opponents of the California grid operator’s ambition to expand its market across the West fear the state's energy and environmental priorities could collide with a conflicting White House agenda. Supporters, including several environmental advocates, say it would expose California to no more risk of federal control than what the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is now subject to. Some stakeholders have suggested a middle ground is available through an expansion of the voluntary CAISO energy imbalance market (EIM), which now serves portions of eight states and is rapidly adding to its six utility participants. EIM-member utilities outside California support the CAISO effort. A regional power grid market could generate $1 billion to $1.5 billion in annual benefits to California ratepayers, recent studies for CAISO have found. It could also, by 2030, provide between 9,900 jobs and 19,400 jobs throughout the West, reduce California greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 8% to 10%, and reduce Western region GHG emissions 3% to 4%.
Opponents are skeptical of the forecasted benefits and argue regionalization would make California’s hard-won climate goals vulnerable to other states’ dirtier power mixes and make California vulnerable to the authority of the Trump-appointed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Proponents respond California is now subject to limited FERC control and argue provisions in the new version of AB 813 — legislation to expand the grid — will protect CAISO independence. Currently, the California grid operator oversees 26,000 miles of transmission and a $10 billion-plus annual market that delivers 80% of the state’s electricity. Opponents are concerned that expandiing it into an integrated western states transmission system and marketplace moves protections of California climate and environmental values away from the governor-appointed, state Senate-confirmed CAISO board. Proponents say the increased availability of low-cost renewables in the regional market would expand the impact of the market forces that are already driving Old Energy out… click here for more
On the duck's 10th birthday, here's how to keep it from eating the power system; In 2008, the Duck Curve revealed the high solar penetration threat; has it been met?
Herman K. Trabish, March 22, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: New Energy over-generation has increased since this story ran but work to make the grid more flexible in managing it have also accelerated.
A fat, slow-moving, 10-year-old duck threatens the U.S. power grid, despite the many engineering minds that have been and are still hunting it. Ten years ago, researchers began thinking about the impact of rising renewables penetrations on the power system. They noticed solar creates a unique challenge because it can take over for less variable generation during the day but fades just when demand peaks in the evening. Where solar photovoltaic (PV) penetrations rose fastest, power system operators and researchers saw increasing reason for concern. It led them to discover new levels of grid flexibility that are still taking shape. Graphs were derived by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers in February 2008. Their paper's simulations revealed how supply and demand curves would be affected by a then purely theoretical high solar growth. By 2013, California was working toward its 33% renewables by 2020 mandate and California Independent System Operator (CAISO) engineers had done more detailed studies. They named the resulting graph the "Duck Curve" because the deep dip in midday demand for system power looked like a duck's belly when followed by a sharp evening demand spike that looked like a duck's neck and bill. ..
On Feb. 18, California's duck had its fattest belly ever when minimum demand dropped to a record-setting 7,149 MW midday low. On March 4, the duck held its head higher than ever with a record-setting three-hour evening ramp of 14,777 MW. This is crucial because CAISO had projected no more than a 13,000 MW ramp and no less than a 12,000 MW minimum demand by 2020. The new numbers show the over-generation has gotten greater and the ramp has gotten steeper at much faster rates than the CAISO anticipated. This doesn't mean the duck will eat the power system. Forward thinking engineers are successfully devising ways to control its appetite by discovering new power system possibilities. The next solutions will come when demand response and flexible loads like electric vehicles and storage are more fully deployed to draw on consumer market forces to smooth the exaggerated midday rise in solar and evening drop-off…click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
Global Climate Action From Cities, Regions, And Businesses; Individual actors, collective initiatives and their impact on global greenhouse gas emissions Angel Hsu, Amy Weinfurter, et. al., August 2018 (Data Driven Yale, NewClimate Institute, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)
Since the Paris Climate Agreement solidified an “all hands on deck” approach to climate change, cities, regions and businesses have become key contributors to mitigation, adaptation and finance efforts. These actors are pledging a range of actions, from directly reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions footprints, to building capacity for climate adaptation and resilience to providing private finance. They are also working together to collectively deliver systemic impacts across sectors and economies. This report aims to inform the Sept. 2018 Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, which convenes city, region, business and civil society representatives from around the world to discuss their contributions to global climate action. The conclusions and recommendations we provide in the report are broader, however, and could also inform international discussions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Talanoa Dialogue which, among others, seeks to include non-Party stakeholders such as regions, states, cities and business in global climate governance.
In this report, we evaluate individual climate mitigation commitments made by nearly 6,000 cities, states, and regions representing 7 percent of the global population and more than 2,000 companies with a combined revenue of over 21 trillion USD – nearly the size of the U.S. economy. This report quantifies for the first time the combined impact of these actors’ recorded and quantifiable greenhouse gas mitigation pledges on global greenhouse emissions in 2030, focusing on 9 high-emitting countries – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United States – and the European Union. The individual efforts of the evaluated states, cities and businesses, however, represent only a snapshot of the full picture of non-state and subnational climate action occurring globally. We also evaluate international cooperative initiatives, where regions, states, cities, businesses – frequently in partnership with national governments and civil society – collectively commit to climate goals.
Both individual commitments made by regions, states, cities, businesses and international cooperative initiatives have the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions significantly beyond what is currently expected from national policies alone, assuming their commitments and goals are fully implemented and accounting for overlap between actors. As we are not able to quantify the coordination effects between national governments and other actors, we assume additional reductions take place for each actor group (regions, cities, companies), if their aggregated reductions relative to 2015 are higher than reductions implied by national policy implementation. Also, we assume that both national governments and other actors do not change the pace of their existing climate policies and actions in response to these subnational and non-state efforts.
Collective impact of individual commitments by regions, cities and businesses
Implementation of individual city, region and business commitments would bring the world closer to a global pathway compatible with the full implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which were submitted as part of the Paris Agreement. The initial results presented in this report suggest that individual city, state, region and business commitments represent a significant step forward in bringing the world closer to meeting the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, but it is still not nearly enough to hold global temperature increase to “well below 2°C” and work “towards limiting it to 1.5° C.
Accounting for overlaps between actors’ commitments, global emissions in 2030 would be around 1.5 to 2.2 GtCO2 e/year lower than they would be with current national government policies1 alone, if the recorded and quantified commitments by regions, cities and businesses are fully implemented and if such efforts do not change the pace of action elsewhere (Figure 1). This additional impact would result in global GHG emissions of between 54.5 – 57.1 GtCO2e/year in 2030. These reductions could be higher, as some actor commitments could not be quantified, or others are not recorded and therefore not considered in this analysis. But overall reductions could also be lower even if these individual commitments are fully implemented, if the recorded actions change the pace of national government action or other actors without commitments.
Assuming that countries’ climate proposals under the Paris Agreement – their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – are also fully implemented in addition to current policies (an “NDCs plus individual actors’ commitments” scenario), global greenhouse gas emissions could be between 0.2 to 0.7 GtCO2 e/year lower in 2030 than they would be with NDCs alone (Figure 1). This added mitigation impact is smaller than compared to a current national policy scenario because the NDCs already include some of these city, region and business contributions.
Collective impact of cooperative initiatives’ goals
Numerous national, regional and local governments, businesses, and civil society partners work together, often across national boundaries, to address climate change through international cooperative initiatives (ICIs). Global emissions in 2030 would be around a one-third (15-23 GtCO2 e/ year) lower than they would be with current national government policies2 alone, accounting for overlaps between initiatives, assuming all analyzed ICIs meet their goals of increased membership and implementation of targets, and such efforts do not change the pace of action elsewhere. This impact translates to remaining global GHG emissions of between 36– 43 GtCO2 e/year in 2030.
Assuming that countries’ NDCs are also implemented (a “NDCs plus initiatives’ goals” scenario), global greenhouse gas emissions could be even lower. Combined, ICIs and fully-implemented NDCs would bring global emissions in 2030 into a range that is consistent with the long-term temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
The potential emissions reductions of these initiatives are significant yet uncertain. They critically depend on the initiatives’ full implementation and achievement of their goals, supported and adopted by all members and in some cases prospective members.
Comparing individual commitments and initiatives’ impacts
The potential mitigation from cities’, regions’ and business’ individual commitments appears small (1.5-2.2 GtCO2 e/year) compared to the impact of cooperative initiatives’ goals (15-23 GtCO2 e/year in 2030). The estimated impact of the cooperative initiatives is much larger for various reasons:
• Goals are longer-term visions about the aims that a cooperative initiative tries to accomplish, in some cases making assumptions about growth in membership, while individual city, region and company targets are analogous to national level pledges (e.g, the NDCs) that represent more concrete steps to possibly realize the longer term goals.
• Analyzed initiatives include emission reduction targets in globally significant and ambitious sectors, such as the forestry and nonCO2 greenhouse gases, which yield a combined 6-8 GtCO2 e/year in reductions alone. Recorded and quantified individual actions are primarily focused on the energy sector.
• Almost all initiatives count national governments among their members. Therefore, their impact is not exclusively attributable to non-state and subnational actors alone, but to the combined efforts and synergies across a diverse range of participants.
The large range of impact between committed individual city, region, and business emission reductions and the goals of international cooperative initiatives shows that there is an urgent need to operationalize the full scope of ambition and translate these into on the ground commitments.
The report features the impact of subnational and non-state actors and ICIs in 9 high-emitting countries and the EU, which collectively were responsible for 68 percent of global emissions in 2014 (WRI CAIT, 2018). Expected reductions from reported individual commitments are high in the US, but smaller in other analyzed countries.
• In China, the additional impact from the full implementation of recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (between 0 and 155 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). These actions play a critical role in the implementation of national goals but do not add ambition. The full implementation of the goals of selected international cooperative initiatives, in particular those focused on buildings, subnational commitments and energy efficiency, could additionally lower the emissions below current national policies (between 2,270 and 2,440 MtCO2 e/year in 2030).
• In the United States, the additional impact from the full implementation of recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is significant compared to current national policies. They could reduce emissions at least half way (670 and 810 MtCO2 e/year in 2030) to what would be needed to meet the US original target under the Paris Agreement. Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives, particularly those focused on subnational governments and on renewable energy, could significantly lower the emissions expected from current national policies (by between 1,080 and 2,340 MtCO2 e/year in 2030).
• In the European Union, the additional impact from the full implementation of the recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (between 230 and 445 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives, particularly those focused on renewable energy, non-CO2 greenhouse gases and buildings, could lower the emissions significantly from current national policies (to between 980 and 1,970 MtCO2 e /year in 2030).
• In Brazil, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Africa, the additional impact from the full implementation of the recorded and quantified individual city, region, and business commitments is relatively small compared to current national policies (together, between 625-765 MtCO2 e/year in 2030). Selected analyzed international cooperative initiatives are still significant, potentially lowering the total emissions for these countries together from the current national policies by 2,220 – 3,380 MtCO2 e/year in 2030.
Implications for national governments
The level of ambition from some cities, regions and businesses as found in our analysis is encouraging and could accelerate or increase implementation of national policies and national climate proposals under the Paris Agreement, particularly in the United States. International cooperative initiatives’ climate goals are encouraging and illustrate the potential for deeper emissions cuts when national governments partner with non-state and subnational actors. Their full implementation would narrow, and perhaps even close, the gap between the world’s current emissions pathway and the emissions reductions needed to reach the longterm goals of the Paris Agreement. Delivering on this promise requires the implementation of individual actors’ commitments and the cooperative initiatives’ goals.
Three Steps To Get Ahead Of Climate Change Governments Are Failing Their Citizens on Climate Change. Here’s How They Can Fix It
Borge Brende, September 24, 2018 (Time Magazine)
“…A climate comeback story is possible…[That is why business leaders] put extreme weather events and failure to adapt to climate change at the top of the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report this year…[Now policymakers] should implement three measures to make emitters pay the social cost of carbon…[First, energy], environment and finance policies should no longer $100 billion in subsidies to the production, and use, of fossil fuels, and…forest-destroying agricultural expansion…Second, introduce carbon-pricing mechanisms…[Almost 40 countries, including China, have] carbon “cap-and-trade” mechanisms…Finally, make emitters pay for the true social cost of carbon…[Rules reform] put European emission allowances at 18 euros ($21)…The real challenge is to get this market price even more in line with the actual societal cost: either directly through taxes, or indirectly by further limiting allowances…[MIT researchers have put the costs] at $75…[A]fter the last few years of climate fire and fury, we know there is a high price to pay for non-action…” click here for more
Getting Rooftop Solar Green-Lighted Gets Streamlined Solar Industry Unveils Campaign to Streamline Solar Permitting
September 24, 2018 (Solar Magazine)
"...[T]he U.S. solar industry is taking a major step toward alleviating one of the biggest hurdles to installing solar on homes and businesses – cumbersome and inconsistent permitting and inspection processes...the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative...will streamline permitting and slash the cost of solar installations...The multi-tiered plan proposes...[a] safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small-commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, laws, and industry practices, thus eliminating the need for a traditional multi-step permitting process...[a] standardized online platform that will be provided to local governments at no cost...[a] list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects...system design standards...[a] model instantaneous permitting regime...[and a] program administrator..." click here for more
Truth meets rage. Hilarity ensues. From Justyn Miller via YouTube
This joyous story is dedicated to the 3,000+ who some A-hos say were not lost to Hurricane Maria. As long as the sun keeps shinin’ on the survivors, they’ll keep cookin’… From NationalSierraClub via YouTube
Wind’s riches can keep communities funded. From greenmanbucket via YouTube
On the Attack Against Climate Change
Alina Tugend, September 21, 2018 (NY Times)
Thousands of organizations around the world are trying in big ways and small to confront the challenges of climate change…[I]n 2016, a marine heat wave was estimated to have killed about a third of the shallow corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef…[Conservation organizations] are using an innovative approach to address the problem: helping coral reproduction…[A group in Puerto Rico is developing and installing solar plus battery microgrids in]… areas with high-density, low-rise housing and [installing them] on rooftops of community centers that typically serve 3,000 to 4,000 people…
[To restore the ability of the soil ecosystem, pilot programs are] focused on reducing or eliminating the amount of tillage done on farms…[Numerous cities around the world have embraced] cool roofs, which is simply painting dark rooftops with a reflective white paint or wrapping them with a light membrane that reduces the absorption of heat…[to address] the “urban heat island” effect…[and] decrease strain on electric grids and alleviate air pollution…[To stop plastic before it gets to the ocean, collectors are paid to] pick it up around canals, waterways and other areas that lead into the ocean…[T] he plastic is then reused. That cuts down on the emissions that cause greenhouse gasses used to make new plastic…[The Osukuru United Women Network is identifying and funding] local groups working on environmental issues…[with small projects like paying for oxen to help with tilling]…
Peatlands cover only 3 percent of the global total land area, but emit twice as much carbon dioxide as the world’s forests, which cover more than 30 percent…Wetlands International, along with its partners under the International Climate Initiative of the German government, began a major restoration of the peatlands…[A] partnership of federal agencies, education-focused nongovernmental organizations, teachers and scientists wrote “The Essential Principles of Climate Literacy,” a curriculum guide for teachers…[In rural African hospitals, nighttime surgeries are being done under lights powered by] a Solar Suitcase with solar equipment that is easy to transport, install and use in areas where power supplies are unreliable…[A Chilean] supermarket chain called Jumbo has become the first in the country to adopt new refrigeration technology…[that] uses transcritical CO2, which is a refrigerant that has a much smaller effect on the ozone layer and global warming…” click here for more
Global renewable energy trends; Solar and wind move from mainstream to preferred
Marlene Motyka, Andrew Slaughter, Carolyn Amon, September 13, 2018 (Deloitte Insights)
“Having only recently been recognized as a “mainstream” energy source, renewable energy is now rapidly becoming a preferred one. A powerful combination of enabling trends and demand trends—evident in multiple developed and developing nations globally—is helping solar and wind compete on par with conventional sources and win…Wind and solar have reached grid price parity and are moving closer to performance parity with conventional sources…
Beyond the leading countries, wind and solar price parity is also within sight worldwide as the cost gap widens between these and other generation sources…Utility-scale solar and wind combined with storage are increasingly competitive, providing grid performance parity in addition to price parity…Utility-scale grid parity is not the only factor, as distributed renewables such as rooftop solar are reaching socket price and performance parity…The intermittency challenges of wind and solar may be overstated…Wind and solar place downward pressure on electricity prices…Growing shares of wind and solar pair with greater grid reliability and resilience…Wind and solar can become important grid assets…” click here for more
DNV GL Predicts Global Energy Demand To Peak In 2035
Joshua S. Hill, September 13, 2018 (Clean Technica)
“…[G]lobal spending on energy — as a proportion of economic output — will slow dramatically as the world’s energy demand peaks in 2035 and slows thereafter, while GDP will continue to increase…[T]he world will be spending 44% less on energy by 2050 as a percentage of GDP due in large part to the rapid electrification of the energy mix due to the increase in renewable energy technologies, and the inherent increase in efficiency that stems from these new technologies [according to the annual Outlook from DNV GL. As] renewables increase their share of the energy mix and investment in energy declines, fossil fuel spending will drop by around a third through 2050.
All these factors will result in oil peaking in 2023 and natural gas becoming the largest single source of energy generation from 2026 accounting for 25% of supply by 2050 — coal, according to DNV GL, has already peaked…[B]y mid-century, fossil fuels and renewable energies will equally share the energy supply, with fossil fuels falling from its current level of 80%...These trends will naturally impact energy investment…[It] will fall to 3.1% of global GDP, down from its current level of 5.5% of global GDP. Spending on fossil fuel will fall by around a third to $2.1 trillion. Renewable energy, however, will see investment levels triple its current levels to $2.4 trillion, while grid expenditure will increase to $1.5 trillion…” click here for more
Climate Change Chronicles
September 2018 (Science News for Students)
“Nearly 4.5 billion years ago, our planet formed from a cloud of gases. Those gases solidified. A thin outer crust formed, and an atmosphere developed. Since its birth, Earth has been morphing in ways big and small. And ever since the first inklings of life arose, some 3.8 billion years ago, Earth’s organisms have been adapting to this ever-changing world…No single species has ever been responsible for big changes on Earth. Until now. Human activities — particularly the burning of fossil fuels — have emerged as a driving force in changing the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere…Earth’s seas have become slightly more acidic. And it has warmed the average temperatures near the planet’s surface and in its upper oceans. Those temperature changes have, in turn, altered climate worldwide. And in response, species have begun to change where and how they live…This year-long series will investigate those changes…” click here for more
3 Top Renewable Energy Stocks to Watch in September; These investors are keeping an eye on the shares of NextEra Energy Partners, First Solar, and Brookfield Renewable Partners. Here's why.
Tyler Crowe, Matthew DiLallo, And Reuben Gregg Brewer, September 15, 2018 (The Motley Fool)
“[New Energy] will generate 50% of the world's electricity by 2050, which means trillions of dollars in investment…[Motley Fool contributors] are keeping a close eye on NextEra Energy Partners (NYSE:NEP), First Solar(NASDAQ:FSLR), and Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE:BEP)…[Clean energy company NextEra Energy Partners] anticipates that it can increase its 3.7%-yielding dividend at a 12% to 15% annual rate through at least 2023…[Solar panel manufacturer First Solar’s sales were down more than 45%...and gross margins on panels sold slipped into negative territory…[But solar is becoming] more cost competitive by the day and is already less expensive than fossil fuels in many cases on an unsubsidized basis…[First Solar has the resources to] position itself to be stronger for when the winds for solar shift in its favor again…[Brookfield Renewable got 75% of its Q2 revenue from] hydroelectric plants…[That gives it] a solid foundation on which to grow…It’s shares are down but its yield] is a robust 6.3%...[and it expects its investments and acquisitions in wind and solar] to support 5% to 9% annual distribution growth…[The] recent price drop is an opportunity for income investors to pick up a high-yield renewable power company…” click here for more
Opinion: Red states love renewable energy, so why does Trump bash it? Wind and solar jobs continue to grow — while Trump doubles down on coal
Paul Brandus, September 14, 2018 (MarketWatch)
“…Coal may have been king once upon a time. But all across coal country — in states like Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming — there’s a growing realization that the future lies elsewhere. As recently as 2000, for example, half of America’s electricity was generated by coal. Now, about a third is…The CEO of Murray Energy, the biggest privately held coal mining firm in the United States, told [the president during a White House meeting last year that coal jobs simply aren’t coming back...The total coal mining industry employs about 160,000…The U.S. wind and solar industries together employ about 475,000 Americans…
…[The top two U.S. industries for job growth through 2026] are in renewable energy. Jobs for solar-panel installers will double, growing 105%, while employment for wind-turbine technicians will nearly double, growing 96%…Why [does the president] bash wind and solar?...Their work forces are comprised of tons of blue-collar workers — a big part of [his] base…[and] four of the five biggest wind-power states—Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas—gave him 57 electoral votes two years ago…And yet the president bashes wind energy every chance he gets…[and tariffs imposed by the White House could eliminate 23,000 solar] jobs this year alone…” click here for more
Is a residential three-part rate the way to a modern grid or bad news for utility customers? Policymakers struggle toward common ground on new rate designs
Herman K. Trabish, March 13, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Work on new rates that will align customer demand and system needs is accelerating from Hawaii to Maine.
Rising penetrations of energy efficiency (EE) and other distributed energy resources (DER) are adding to the downward pressure on utility revenues by allowing customers to generate their own electricity or reduce their usage. Utilities find themselves caught between their customers' demand for DER and their own need to cope with reduced electricity sales.They are responding with requests to utility regulators for rate increases that slow the DER growth. “Forging a Path to the Modern Grid: Energy-Efficient Opportunities in Utility Rate Design,” released in February by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), proposes a different solution. ASE developed principles and recommendations under a Rate Design Initiative, with price signals to guide customer-sited EE and DER to when and where utilities need them.
Utilities say such rate designs could work if the outcome is revenues that match their costs to serve customers. Rate design experts agree that price signals might meet the challenge — if they are specific enough. To slow the growth of energy efficiency and other DER, many utilities have asked regulators for higher fixed residential customer charges and demand charges that deliver revenues regardless of a customer's kWh consumption, according to Autumn Proudlove, manager of policy research for the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC). Regulators have largely rejected these utility proposals, which suggests they expect “something better,” Proudlove said. ASE used ideas from the wide range of stakeholders in its Rate Design Initiative to provide something better in the form of a new rate design… click here for more
In the New South, customer demand is showing utilities the dollars and sense in solar; Once reluctant Southeastern utilities now see solar as a deal they can’t refuse
Herman K. Trabish, March 15, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: A new push is coming to finish off coal in the South and replace it with New Energy.
The remarkable transition that utilities in the Southeast are undergoing is a powerful indicator of the profound changes happening in the nation’s power sector. The Southeast had 200 MW of solar capacity in 2012, but led by North Carolina’s Duke Energy utilities and Georgia Power, it had 6 GW at the end of 2017, according to Solar in the Southeast, released in February by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Even utilities not aggressively building solar now realize customers want solar, are finding it is affordable, are finding ways it can serve utility purposes, and are capturing the economic opportunity in a solar resource second only to sun in the desert Southwest in the United States.
Existing contracts and commitments promise over 10 GW of solar capacity in the Southeast by 2019 and as much as 15 GW by 2021, according to SACE. But, to date, utilities in the conservative Southeast have taken little notice of solar beyond its ability to meet growing residential and commercial customer demand at increasingly attractive prices. A newer factor, which has emerged only recently in the wake of climate change-driven extreme storms and power outages, is solar's potential resilience value. The biggest obstacles to growth, highly evident in the Southeast, are the absence of supportive policy and diminishing utility load. They are reasons only about an eighth of today’s 6 GW in the Southeast is distributed solar, according to SACE Solar Program Director and report lead author Bryan Jacob. Many of the region's utilities, facing flat or declining load growth, oppose strong supports for customer-sited solar. But new laws and policies, put forward by lawmakers responding to popular demand, are laying the groundwork across the region for more changes…click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
The Economics of Electrifying Buildings
Sherri Billimoria, Leia Guccione, Mike Henchin, Leah Louis-Prescott, August 2018 (Rocky Mountain Institute)
Seventy million American homes and businesses burn natural gas, oil, or propane on site to heat their space and water,1 generating 560 million tons of carbon dioxide each year—a tenth of total US emissions.2 Now, with an increasingly low-carbon electric grid comes the opportunity to meet nearly all our buildings’ energy needs with electricity,i eliminating direct fossil fuel use in buildings and making the gas distribution system—along with its costs and safety challenges— obsolete. Further, electric space and water heating can be intelligently managed to shift energy consumption in time, aiding the cost-effective integration of large amounts of renewable energy onto the grid. And reaching “deep decarbonization” goals of 75% or greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will require eliminating most or all of the CO2 produced by furnaces and water heaters across the country, alongside other measures across the economy.
Achieving this vision will require massive market transformation, including discontinuing the expansion of the gas distribution system, widespread adoption of new appliances in homes and businesses across the country, and new markets for intelligent devices to provide flexible demand to the grid. Eleven million households burn oil or propane for heat—the most carbon intensive and costly fuels—and another 56 million burn natural gas.3 The most efficient electric devices—heat pumps for space and water heating— have small market share today; many homes need additional electrical work to accommodate them; and consumer awareness of this heating technology option is low.
In this paper, we analyze the economics and carbon impacts of the electrification of residential space and water heating both with and without demand flexibility— the ability to shift energy consumption in time to support grid needs. We compare electric space and water heating to fossil fuels for both new construction and home retrofits under various electric rate structures in four locations: Oakland, California; Houston, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island; and Chicago, Illinois. We focus on the residential sector, which makes up the majority of carbon emissions from buildings’ fossil fuel use,4 but a similar market transformation will be needed in commercial buildings to meet deep decarbonization targets. Cooking, clothes drying, and other end uses are assumed to be electric in all cases.
In many scenarios, notably for most new home construction, we find electrification reduces costs over the lifetime of the appliances when compared with fossil fuels. However, for the many existing homes currently heated with natural gas, electrification will increase costs at today’s prices, compared to replacing gas furnaces and water heaters with new gas devices. We find electrification is cost-effective for customers switching away from propane or heating oil, for those gas customers who would otherwise need to replace both a furnace and air conditioner simultaneously, for customers who bundle rooftop solar with electrification, and for most new home construction, especially when considering the avoided cost of gas mains, services, and meters not needed in all-electric neighborhoods. Customers with existing gas service face higher upfront costs to retrofit to electric space and water heating compared with new gas devices, and either pay more for energy with electric devices—in the case of colder climates in Chicago and Providence—or save too little in energy costs to make up the additional capital cost—in the case of Houston and Oakland. Figure 1 illustrates this result, described in more detail in the body of the report.”
Many factors could improve the cost-effectiveness of electrification compared to gas in the future. The purchase price of heat pump devices is expected to decline as the market grows and manufacturers realize economies of scale. The value of electric demand flexibility is likely to increase as variable renewables grow on the system, increasing the price spreads in electricity markets—customers’ ability to capture this value with intelligent devices can reduce the lifetime costs of electrification but depends on new rate designs and utility programs. Carbon pricing or other climate policy may impose additional costs on natural gas supply. Or gas commodity prices may change in unpredictable ways in the future.
Electrification already reduces carbon with today’s electric grid in all but the most coal-heavy systems. This is true in comparison to not only heating oil and propane, but also to natural gas. Figure 3 illustrates this result, showing emissions reductions in Oakland, Houston, and Providence. Because the electric grid serving Chicago has coal power as its marginal generator most of the year, the short-term impact of electrification increases carbon emissions.iii With continued retirement of coal plants, however, the long-term impact is expected to swing in favor of electrification in Chicago and nationally.
Summary Of Recommendations
Electrification of space and water heating presents a viable pathway to deep decarbonization, already reduces carbon in all but the most coal-dominated regions, can support renewable energy integration with the proper control strategies, and is lower cost than fossil fuel alternatives in several key scenarios including new construction and retrofit from propane or heating oil. Even regions that are coal-dominated today are seeing rapid retirement of coal plants, making electrification more attractive. There were almost 7 GW of coal retirements and no new coal plants in 2017,5 and more than 11 GW of coal plants are scheduled to retire in 2018.6 However, many households currently heated with natural gas will not find it cost-effective to switch from furnaces to electric heat pumps at today’s prices. To capture the near-term benefits of fuel switching where most beneficial, and to prepare for a long-term approach that includes widespread cost-effective electrification, we offer five recommendations for regulators, policymakers, and utilities:
1. Prioritize rapid electrification of buildings currently using propane and heating oil in space and water heating. Although these represent less than 10% of US households, they account for more than 20% of space and water heating emissions. Electrification is very cost-effective for propane customers, and has a comparable cost to heating oil depending on local pricing. Electrifying these homes in the near term can build scale and market maturity to support even more widespread electrification in the future.
2. Stop supporting the expansion of the natural gas distribution system, including for new homes. This infrastructure will be obsolete in a highly electrified future, and gas ratepayers face significant stranded asset risk in funding its expansion today. Furthermore, electrification is a lower-cost and lower-carbon solution than extending natural gas, either to new or existing homes.
3. Bundle demand flexibility programs, new rate designs, and energy efficiency with electrification initiatives to effectively manage peak load impacts of new electricity demand, especially in colder climates that will see increased peaks in winter electricity demand with electrified heating.
4. Expand demand flexibility options for existing electric space and water heating loads. Only 1% of the 50 million existing electric water heaters in the US participate in demand response. As widespread electrification adds loads, particularly in winter, effective demand management will mitigate system costs and aid renewables integration.
5. Update energy efficiency resource standards and related goals, either on the basis of total energy reduction across both electricity (in kWh) and gas (in therms), or on the basis of emissions reductions across both electric and gas programs. Otherwise, successful electrification could penalize utilities for not reducing electricity demand, even when it provides cost and carbon benefits.