NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • Monday Study – The Policy Debates Over Solar Go On
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Insurrectionists, Mask Burners And Climate Crisis Deniers
  • Weekend Video: The Situation Right Now
  • Weekend Video: Corporate Powers Support Biden New Energy Plan
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Net Zero Emissions And The Climate Crisis
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-World’s Standard-Setting Green Cities
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT WEDNESDAY, May 5:

  • TTTA Wednesday-ORIGINAL REPORTING: Hawaii PBR Would Change Entrenched Power System Business Model
  • TTTA Wednesday-Efforts In Grid Modernization Leap Ahead
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • Monday Study: Getting All The Way To New Energy
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    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish

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

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

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  • THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT WEDNESDAY, May 12:
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Reaching California’s Zero Emissions Goals
  • The Transportation Policy Battleground Right Now

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Reaching California’s Zero Emissions Goals How High California Must Jump to Top Zero Emissions Bar

    Herman K. Trabish, Oct. 13, 2020 (California Current)

    Editor’s note: There is a huge challenge and an exciting opportunity ahead.

    California can achieve a zero-emissions economy by 2045 with existing technologies, but only if the state adds a lot more solar, wind, and battery storage each year. It specifically requires that over the next 25 years, annual build outs of these resources exceed their single biggest growth year to date, according to a draft joint agencies report on SB 100 previewed last month.

    It also concluded that California must keep its natural gas fleet in place, while slowly dialing down reliance as the renewables come online.

    California’s biggest annual solar build to date was 2.67 GW. Going forward, therefore, requires annual solar capacity additions of 2.7 GW, the report’s High Electrification scenario stated. Wind’s best year added nearly 1 GW, thus nearly 1 GW of wind must be added every year. But batteries must nearly double. Battery storage’s top year produced about 1 MW, and now 2.2 GW of new battery storage annually is necessary.

    The total cost to meet these renewable load increases will be between $62 billion and $70 billion through 2045. It will have an average electricity cost of $0.148/kWh to $0.171/kWh electricity cost, the joint agencies reported.

    A resource mix more diverse than the high electrification scenario will more quickly achieve the zero greenhouse gas goal, but it comes with a higher cost. More solar, wind, battery storage, and zero carbon firm resources, like geothermal and hydrogen, could further reduce natural gas reliance but would produce “an $8 billion increase in total resource cost,” California Energy Commission spokesperson Michael Ward said.

    The report fills a gap by providing California’s first definition of a zero-carbon emission resource, Jessie Knapstein, a senior consultant with Energy and Environmental Economics, said. E3 supports modeling and planning by the agencies. A resource contributes toward SB 100’s 2045 goal if it is renewable portfolio standard-eligible, according to the CEC guidebook, or if it has zero onsite emissions. The latter includes large hydropower and nuclear power from Palo Verde…This work could allow the agencies to conform their planning efforts with “uniform reference points and assumptions,” making future analyses “apples to apples comparisons,” Knapstein said… click here for more

    The Transportation Policy Battleground Right Now

    The 50 States of Electric Vehicles: State Lawmakers Focus on Incentives, Fees, and Government Procurement in Q1 2021

    May 6, 2021 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center [NCCETC])

    “…[The NCCETC Q1 2021 50 States of Electric Vehicles] finds that 48 states and the District of Columbia took actions related to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure during Q1 2021…[The greatest number of actions related] to rebate programs, additional fees for electric vehicles, and state procurement of electric and zero-emission vehicles. A total of 521 electric vehicle actions were taken…[The most active states were] Massachusetts, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Hawaii…[Three trends taken were] (1) utilities requesting approval for new electric vehicle program portfolios, (2) state lawmakers considering road usage fees and taxes on electricity used for vehicle charging, and (3) policymakers addressing government procurement of electric vehicles…

    …[Five of the top policy developments were] New Jersey regulators approving electric vehicle programs for Atlantic City Electric and PSE&G New Jersey…Virginia lawmakers approving electric vehicle rebate and grant programs…The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approving a modified transportation electrification plan for Xcel Energy…The Oklahoma State Legislature adopting a tax on electricity used for vehicle charging at certain types of charging stations…and Kansas and North Dakota legislators exempting charging stations from public utility regulation…” click here for more

    Monday, May 10, 2021

    Monday Study – The Policy Debates Over Solar Go On

    The 50 States of Solar: Q1 2021 Quarterly Report

    April 2021 (North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center [NCCETC])

    Executive Summary

    PURPOSE

    The purpose of this report is to provide state lawmakers and regulators, electric utilities, the solar industry, and other stakeholders with timely, accurate, and unbiased updates on state actions to study, adopt, implement, amend, or discontinue policies associated with distributed solar photovoltaics (PV). This report catalogues proposed and enacted legislative, regulatory policy, and rate design changes affecting the value proposition of distributed solar PV during the most recent quarter, with an emphasis on the residential sector. The 50 States of Solar series provides regular quarterly updates of solar policy developments, keeping stakeholders informed and up to date…

    Actions

    Included This report series focuses on cataloging and describing important proposed and adopted policy changes affecting solar customer-generators of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and large publicly-owned or nonprofit utilities (i.e., those serving at least 100,000 customers). Specifically, actions tracked in these reports include:

    • Significant changes to state or utility net metering laws and rules, including program caps, system size limits, meter aggregation rules, and compensation rates for net excess generation

    • Changes to statewide community solar or virtual net metering laws and rules, and individual utility-sponsored community solar programs arising from statewide legislation

    • Legislative or regulatory-led efforts to study the value of solar, net metering, or distributed solar generation policy, e.g., through a regulatory docket or a cost-benefit analysis

    • Utility-initiated rate requests for charges applicable only to customers with solar PV or other types of distributed generation, such as added monthly fixed charges, demand charges, stand-by charges, or interconnection fees

    • Utility-initiated rate requests that propose a 10% or larger increase in either fixed charges or minimum bills for all residential customers

    • Changes to the legality of third-party solar ownership, including solar leasing and solar third-party solar power purchase agreements (PPAs), and proposed utility-led rooftop solar programs

    In general, this report considers an “action” to be a relevant (1) legislative bill that has been passed by at least one chamber or (2) a regulatory docket, utility rate case, or rulemaking proceeding. Introduced legislation related to third-party sales is included irrespective of whether it has passed at least one chamber, as only a small number of bills related to this policy have been introduced. Introduced legislation pertaining to a regulatory proceeding covered in this report is also included irrespective of whether it has passed at least one chamber.

    Actions Excluded

    In addition to excluding most legislation that has been introduced but not advanced, this report excludes a review of state actions pertaining to solar incentives, as well as more general utility cost recovery and rate design changes, such as decoupling or time-of-use tariffs. General changes in state implementation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and subsequent amendments, including changes to the terms of standard contracts for Qualifying Facilities or avoided cost rate calculations, are also excluded unless they are related specifically to the policies described above. The report also does not cover changes to a number of other policies that affect distributed solar, including solar access laws, interconnection rules, and renewable portfolio standards. Details and updates on these and other federal, state, and local government policies and incentives are available in the NC Clean Energy Technology Center’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, at www.dsireusa.org.

    OVERVIEW OF Q1 2021 POLICY ACTION

    In the first quarter of 2021, 42 states plus DC took a total of 155 actions related to distributed solar policy and rate design (Figure 1). Table 1 provides a summary of state actions related to DG compensation, rate design, and solar ownership during Q1 2021. Of the 155 actions cataloged, the most common were related to DG compensation rules (51), followed by community solar (33), and residential fixed charge and minimum bill increases (23)

    TOP FIVE SOLAR POLICY DEVELOPMENTS OF Q1 2021

    Five of the quarter’s top policy developments are highlighted below.

    Connecticut Regulators Approve Net Metering Successor Tariff Designs The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued a decision in February 2021, approving two net metering successor tariff options: (1) a buy-all, sell-all tariff with a fixed compensation rate and (2) a netting tariff using a monthly netting interval and an export credit rate set at the applicable retail rate. Both tariffs will include a 20-year term, and utilities are to file proposals for non-bypassable charge designs by January 2022.

    New Mexico Lawmakers Enact Community Solar Legislation New Mexico lawmakers passed community solar legislation during the quarter, which authorizes community solar projects up to 5 MW, with an initial annual program cap of 100 MW until November 2024. Subscriber bill credits are to be derived from the utility’s total aggregate retail rate minus the cost of approved distribution cost components. The legislation requires that 30% of annual program capacity be reserved for low-income customers or service organizations.

    California Utilities and Stakeholders File Net Metering 3.0 Proposals

    In March 2021, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison filed their joint proposal for California’s Net Metering 3.0 tariff design. The utilities are proposing a net billing structure with time-varying credits based on an avoided cost rate. The proposal also includes a monthly grid benefits charge based on system capacity, as well as a fixed monthly charge. Many other stakeholders have also filed their proposed tariff designs for Net Metering 3.0.

    Kansas Regulators Reject Evergy’s Proposed Distributed Generation Fees

    Kansas utility regulators issued a decision on Evergy’s proposal to replace its distributed generation customer demand charge with a grid access charge based on system capacity or a minimum bill, rejecting both of these options. The Commission took issue with the method used to calculate the grid access charge and found that a minimum bill could negatively impact lower-income customers. The Commission noted that it is not opposed to the idea of a grid access charge in principle.

    West Virginia Lawmakers Pass Legislation Authorizing Third-Party Solar PPAs

    The West Virginia State House passed legislation in March 2021 authorizing the use of thirdparty power purchase agreements (PPAs) for solar systems that are designed to meet the electrical needs of the premises. The State Senate later passed the bill in April, and the legislation is awaiting action by the Governor. West Virginia is currently one of seven states where third-party PPAs are known to be disallowed.

    THE BIG PICTURE: INSIGHTS FROM Q1 2021

    Fees Based on Distributed Generation System Capacity Gaining Traction

    Activity related to fees based on distributed generation (DG) system capacity (often termed “grid access charges”) continues to increase, with California’s major investor-owned utilities requesting approval for a new system capacity-based charge as part of its Net Metering 3.0 tariff proposal. In South Carolina, net metering successor tariff proposals put forward by Duke Energy and Dominion Energy both include monthly DG capacity-based fees as well. The Kansas Corporation Commission rejected Evergy’s proposed grid access charge based on DG capacity, which would replace the utility’s DG customer demand charge. However, the Commission noted that it is not opposed to grid access charges in principle, if based on a different methodology. New York regulators approved a Customer Benefit Charge based on DG capacity last year, and utilities filed their fee calculations during Q1 2021.

    States Revisiting Net Metering Successor Tariffs

    Several states that have adopted net metering successor tariffs have later revisited these decisions and made further changes to these tariff designs. Notably, the California Public Utilities Commission is in the midst of developing its Net Metering 3.0 tariff to succeed the Net Metering 2.0 rules adopted in 2016. Hawaii regulators are also evaluating changes to distributed energy resource tariffs, including program caps and rate design. In Michigan, regulators approved a successor tariff design in 2019, but are now considering changes to this design through a working group process. Mississippi, which never had a retail rate net metering policy, but adopted a net billing program in 2015, is now also considering modifications to this program. Past examples of states revisiting successor tariff decisions also include Maine and Nevada, where state legislators opted to restore retail rate net metering.

    States Increasing Net Metering System Size Limits and Aggregate Caps

    Several states have recently taken steps to expand the availability of net metering by increasing system size limits or aggregate capacity limits. In Maryland, lawmakers passed a bill doubling the net metering aggregate cap, and Massachusetts legislators enacted a bill exempting Class II and III net metering systems from the private (non-government) aggregate cap. Hawaii regulators also recently increased the program cap for the Customer Grid-Supply Plus tariff. The Montana State House has passed legislation increasing the non-residential system size limit from 50 kW to 350 kW, and Colorado Springs Utilities recently increased its net metering system size limit. Proposed legislation increasing net metering aggregate caps or system size limits was considered in at least 12 states during Q1 2021.

    Saturday, May 08, 2021

    Insurrectionists, Mask Burners And Climate Crisis Deniers

    Research is not to confirm biases. Sometimes the truth hurts and takes time to understand. From Yale Climate Connections via YouTube

    The Situation Right Now

    The UN called this “facing the abyss.” From World Meteorological Organization via YouTube

    Corporate Powers Support Biden New Energy Plan

    Over 400 of the biggest U.S. companies seeing more opportunity than cost in the proposed investments and support the Biden plans.From CNBC Television via YouTube

    Friday, May 07, 2021

    Net Zero Emissions And The Climate Crisis

    Explainer: Will global warming ‘stop’ as soon as net-zero emissions are reached?

    Zeke Hausfather, 29 April 2021 (Carbon Brief)

    “…[W]arming is likely to more or less stop once carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reach zero, meaning humans have the power to choose their climate future…Even in a world of zero CO2 emissions, however, there are large remaining uncertainties associated with what happens to non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as methane and nitrous oxide, emissions of sulphate aerosols that cool the planet and longer-term feedback processes and natural variability in the climate system…[But] temperatures are expected to remain steady rather than dropping for a few centuries after emissions reach zero, meaning that the climate change that has already occurred will be difficult to reverse in the absence of large-scale net negative emissions…

    …[Combining all uncertainties,] the best estimate of the effects of zero CO2 is around 0C +/- 0.3C for the century after emissions go to zero, while the effects of zero GHGs and aerosols would be around -0.2C +/- 0.5C…Finally, while current best estimates suggest that temperatures will stabilise in a zero-emissions world, that does not mean that all climate impacts would cease to worsen…Melting glaciers and ice sheets and rising sea levels all occur slowly and lag behind surface temperature warming. A zero-emissions world would still result in rising sea levels for many centuries to come, with some estimates suggesting that at least 80cm of additional sea level rise is “locked in”…To stop these impacts may, ultimately, require reducing global temperatures through net-negative global emissions, not just stopping temperature from rising by reaching net-zero.” click here for more

    World's Standard-Setting Green Cities

    These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future

    Charlotte Edmond, 7 April 2021 (World Economic Forum)

    “…A billion people lived in a city with a renewable energy target or policy in 2020…and cities contribute around three-quarters of the carbon dioxide emissions from global final energy use…[Cities] have an important role to play in helping curb greenhouse gas emissions…[Adelaide, Australia’s] municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020. The city gets energy from wind and solar farms as part of a long-term commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2025…

    …[It is also developing energy-efficient buildings…[supporting] hybrid and electric vehicles…[and investing in] energy storage technologies…[and] biogas from wastewater treatment plants…[Seoul, Republic of Korea’s] strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 built around five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management…[I]t has two interim goals – achieving 40% emission reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 (compared with 2005 levels)…[and is] adding solar capacity…

    …[Cocody, Ivory Coast’s plans] to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030…[despite] rising energy demand driven by rapid urban development and economic growth…[It has] a reforestation and carbon sequestration programme…[and plans for] using solar energy…[Malmö, Sweden’s] Western Harbour District has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012,,,[and] plans to run entirely on renewables by 2030…[Cape Town, South Africa] is exploring the use of biofuels [and electric buses] in transport…[and has seen a surge] of PV panel installations …” click here for more

    Wednesday, May 05, 2021

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: Hawaii PBR Would Change Entrenched Power System Business Model

    Hawaii finalizes utility regulation considered potential template for US power system transformation; Stakeholders agree the final performance-based regulation order from the state's regulators includes opportunities and safeguards that can be lead to a new regulatory paradigm.

    Herman K. Trabish, Jan. 19, 2021 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: Policymakers across the U.S. have tested changes to the century-old regulatory paradigm but Hawaii may break through.

    A Dec. 23 order by Hawaii's utility commission may lead to the most significant change in power system regulation in U.S. history by giving Hawaiian Electric new control over its future, proceeding participants said.

    Hawaiian Electric will become the first U.S. investor-owned utility to transition away from cost of service (COS) regulation. Over five years, it will move from earning revenues based on capital expenditures to Performance Based Regulation (PBR) and financial stability, based on limited rate-based revenues and rewards for achieving public policy goals and cutting customer costs.

    The commission's order, developed over an almost three-year stakeholder proceeding, aligns "the company's actions, the customers' experience and Hawaii's ambitious clean energy goals," Hawaiian Electric spokesperson Jim Kelly said in a statement. It provides "the right incentives to aggressively move ahead with modernizing our company and Hawaii's energy system."

    Hawaii's regulators and stakeholders acknowledged they are asking a lot of their electricity provider. "The utility has faced more regulatory innovation in the last ten years than over the prior century, and this holds its feet to the fire," said Murray Clay, president of the Ulupono Initiative, which led advocacy for a key PBR component. COS regulation "has protected Hawaiian Electric and this asks it to act more like it is in a competitive environment."

    To support the utility through this unprecedented transition, the order includes reviews, opportunities to revise, and allowances for limited guaranteed returns. But the commission asserted its intention to make PBR work and "not to return" to traditional regulation.

    If successful, this PBR framework could be a template for U.S. power system transformation, said commissioners from the mainland who helped design the framework. The PBR order accomplished three guiding principles set out in the first phase of the proceeding (Docket 2018-0088) to align utility and customer interests and state policy goals, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chair James Griffin told Utility Dive. It offers "day 1 customer savings," streamlines the utility's "regulatory burden," and provides safeguards to protect the utility's finances and credit ratings… click here for more

    Efforts In Grid Modernization Leap Ahead

    The 50 States of Grid Modernization Q1 2021: Grid Modernization Sees Busiest Quarter Yet, Driven by State Legislative Activity

    April 28, 2021 (The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center [NCCETC])

    “…[NCCETC’s Q1 2021 50 States of Grid Modernization on] state regulatory and legislative discussions and actions on grid modernization, utility business model and rate reforms, energy storage, microgrids, and demand response…[found] that 47 states, as well as the District of Columbia, took actions related to grid modernization…[The greatest number of actions related] to energy storage deployment (62), utility business model reforms (31), energy storage interconnection rules (30), smart grid deployment (29), data access policies (27), and distribution system planning (25)…

    A total of 502 grid modernization actions were taken…New York, Texas, California, Minnesota, and New Jersey took the greatest number of actions…[Three trends in grid modernization actions taken in Q1 2021 were] (1) states focusing on improving grid resilience; (2) state lawmakers considering financial incentives for grid modernization; and (3) states examining permitting, decommissioning, and recycling requirements for energy storage facilities…

    …[The quarter’s top five policy developments] were…North Carolina regulators approving deferral treatment for Duke Energy’s proposed grid investments; The Maine Public Utilities Commission launching a grid modernization proceeding; National Grid filing advanced metering and grid modernization proposals in Rhode Island; Virginia lawmakers enacting a series of energy storage bills; and Connecticut regulators releasing an energy storage incentive straw proposal…” click here for more

    Monday, May 03, 2021

    Monday Study: Getting All The Way To New Energy

    Pathways to Build Back Better: Investing in 100% Clean Electricity

    John Larsen, Ben King, Hannah Kolus, and Whitney Herndon, March 23, 2021 (Rhodium Group)

    The electric power sector accounts for 28% of the United States’ net greenhouse gas emissions and is the second highest emitting sector after transportation. While reducing emissions from the electric power sector is only part of what’s needed to decarbonize the US economy, the power sector is where the fastest and cheapest emission reduction opportunities reside. Over the past 15 years, carbon emissions from the electric power sector in the US have dropped by 40%—more than any other US sector. As part of its Build Back Better plan, the Biden administration has a goal to get to 100% clean electricity in 2035— effectively getting the electric power sector all the way to zero emissions within the next 15 years. At the same time, the Biden administration is expected to step up regulation of fossil fuel-fired electric plants in order to cut pollution that endangers public health.

    With the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill enacted, the Biden administration and congressional leaders are now turning their attention to a major infrastructure investment package, which may include new infrastructure investment in clean energy. In this note, we explore ways in which congressional clean energy investments in the electric power sector can help accelerate decarbonization and put the sector on a path to zero emissions. We then consider how these investments can complement new power plant regulations that could be put in place in President Biden’s first term.

    We find that a combination of investment and regulations can achieve CO2 emission reductions of 69-76% below 2005 levels in 2031, accelerating progress towards the 2035 goal. This can be done without imposing new costs on households while also cutting conventional pollutants by up to 84% in just the next five years. To achieve this, Congress will need to enact long-term incentives for new and existing clean generation and inducements to retire carbon-intensive generation. All of these investments can complement other decarbonization policy efforts such as a clean electricity standard or a carbon price.

    Decarbonization to date and the need to accelerate progress

    Over the past 15 years, CO2 emissions from the electric power sector have dropped by just under a billion tons, 0r 40% below 2005 levels (Figure 1). In both absolute and relative terms, that’s more than any other major emitting sector in the US. These gains are the result of state and federal policies, rapidly declining costs for renewable generation, and persistently cheap natural gas, which together have undermined the market dominance of carbon-intensive coal plants.

    However, this 40% cut does not put the electric power sector on track to zero emissions by 2035. Under current policy, progress on decarbonization will stall out in the next few years (Figure 1).1 Renewables will continue to grow but continued cheap natural gas will increasingly drive the retirement of zero-emitting nuclear plants, canceling out gains in emission reductions. At best, the electric power sector maintains emissions in the range of 46%-50% below 2005 levels in 2030 without additional action, which is nowhere near a straight-line path towards the goal of zero emissions in 2035.

    The Biden administration and congressional leaders have announced plans to pursue a major infrastructure investment package this year. While we don’t know exactly what will be in the legislation, we do know that budget reconciliation is a potential procedural path for the effort. Under reconciliation, all measures must have a direct effect on the federal budget. Taxes, tax credits, and direct spending are all clearly in bounds. New policies such as a clean electricity standard (CES) may also be in play.

    While reducing emissions from the electric power sector is only part of what’s needed to decarbonize the US economy, the power sector is where the largest and cheapest emission reduction opportunities reside. In order to help assess potential pathways to decarbonizing the electric power sector, in this note we quantify the extent of emission reductions that are achievable through just federal spending on its own and in combination with pollution regulations that a Biden EPA may pursue.

    An investment approach and a CES are not mutually exclusive. If a CES or other decarbonization policy does get enacted, the spending initiatives we consider here can complement those programs. If other policies are not enacted this year but a robust spending package is, investment can buy time and build support for future more ambitious action.

    Reintroducing the GREEN Act: the starting point for clean energy investment

    The House has already put forward legislation to increase clean electricity investment. H.R. 848, the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act, sponsored by Michael Thompson and co-sponsored by all Democratic members of the Ways and Means Committee, extends and expands existing tax credits in all major energy sectors. Focusing on just the electric sector, the bill contains an array of tax credit extensions and other provisions including:

    Renewable energy production tax credit: Extension through 2026 of the Section 45 production tax credit (PTC) for wind, solar, biomass, municipal solid waste, and certain water power sources. Wind continues to claim the credit at 60% of its statutory level. Business energy investment tax credits: Extension through 2028 of the Section 48 investment tax credit (ITC) for solar, offshore wind, fuel cells, and a handful of other clean technologies, plus new ITC eligibility for energy storage and geothermal. Solar and geothermal begin to phase down the size of the ITC in 2026.

    Residential energy efficient property tax credits: Extension through 2028 of the Section 25D residential energy efficient property tax credits for investment in distributed solar, small wind, geothermal heat pumps, and fuel cells, plus new eligibility for battery storage technologies. Like the Section 48 ITC, this credit also begins to phase down in 2026. Carbon capture tax credit: Extension through 2026 of the Section 45Q credits for investments in capture and use or storage (CCS) of CO2.

    Public traded partnerships for clean energy: Extends to renewables and carbon capture special tax rules currently available to oil and gas producers and transporters. Direct pay in place of tax credits: Allows ITC, PTC, and 45Q eligible projects to take direct payment instead of tax credits at 85% of the value of the applicable credit. Workforce development: Provides a bonus credit to projects that meet certain labor requirements such as paying prevailing wages.

    To assess the impact of the GREEN Act on emissions and electric power generation, we modeled the GREEN Act in RHG-NEMS. RHG-NEMS is a version of the National Energy Modeling System created by the Energy Information Administration as modified and maintained by Rhodium Group. As our baseline, we used the current policy scenario detailed above, which relies on our Taking Stock 2020 V-shaped macroeconomic recovery scenario, coupled with the latest mid and low technology cost assumptions from National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    The GREEN Act has a small impact on emissions

    We find that Congress will need to do more than pass the GREEN Act to get the electric power sector on track for zero emissions. Looking out over the next ten years, the GREEN Act increases average annual wind and solar additions to the grid by 5% and total utility-scale storage additions by 28% compared to current policy. This new generation primarily displaces natural gas and nuclear, depending on tech cost assumptions, leading to almost no change in CO2 emissions in 2026 and reductions of 15-53 million tons compared to current policy in 2031 (Figure 2). ,p> The results are far smaller than reduction estimates from our analysis of a previous version of the GREEN Act. Why are we not seeing larger reductions from renewable energy tax credits? There are several reasons. Under current policy, more than half of the current coal fleet retires by 2030 because of low growth in electric power demand, cheap natural gas, and cheap renewables. Remaining coal plants are more competitive and largely not displaced by additional renewables from the GREEN Act. The impact of the additional renewable generation driven by the GREEN Act is smaller than we’ve previously seen with other tax extenders proposals since it is displacing more lower-emission natural gas and zero-emission nuclear instead of coal.

    Another reason is the fact that wind and solar are commercially mature technologies. A vast amount of new renewable capacity is already set to come online over the next decade. That’s in part because renewables are cost-effective even if they aren’t deployed at levels needed to decarbonize the grid. Any extension of credits means the federal government will subsidize some projects that will get built anyway. This dynamic has always been in play, but it becomes more significant as technologies get cheaper and more mainstream. One way to counter this is to increase the value and duration of tax credits. The bigger the incentive, the more likely it is that we’ll see more clean energy get built than will happen anyway.

    The four Rs of electric power decarbonization

    More broadly, the GREEN Act focuses on just two of the four key actions that need to happen to decarbonize electric power generation. We call them the four Rs of decarbonization:

    1-Redouble the pace of clean capacity additions: Renewable energy deployment reached a record in 2020 of nearly 30 GW. However, recent studies suggest the annual average pace may need to be double that to fully decarbonize the US economy. Down the road, advanced nuclear and advanced fossil plants with near 100% carbon capture may also play a role in decarbonization.

    2-Retire as much uncontrolled fossil capacity as possible: In 2019, nearly 220 GW of coal was connected to the grid. Under current policy, that number will be cut by more than half by 2030. In order to get to zero emissions, much of the remaining 100 GW of competitive coal plants as well as the hundreds of GW of existing and soon-to-be-built natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants will need to retire.

    3-Retain existing clean capacity: Getting to zero will be easier and happen faster if existing clean generators such as hydro and nuclear plants stay on the grid longer. Last year none of the nuclear plants in the nation’s largest power market made money. Under current policy more than half of the nuclear fleet will retire by 2030, leaving a huge gap. Policies that support retention of plants that have community support and safe operations also help to make sure that new renewables displace fossil capacity, maximizing emission reductions.

    4-Retrofit the fossil capacity that remains: Persistently cheap natural gas for the foreseeable future means existing and new NGCC plants will continue to play a major role in the electric system without requirements or incentives to install carbon capture technology. There’s no room for a vast fleet of uncontrolled fossil plants in a 100% clean power system.

    The GREEN Act primarily incentivizes the first R, redoubling new clean capacity but at levels that don’t accelerate additions to the scale that’s needed. It also incentivizes the fourth R, retrofitting fossil capacity through the section 45Q carbon capture tax credit, but again not at levels sufficient to change the system. Meanwhile, existing clean resources are not retained and coal generation is largely unaffected. The result is a 2031 generation mix that is almost the same between the GREEN Act and current policy.

    Investing in decarbonization

    Can a clean energy investment package make a difference? To answer this question, we constructed a potential investment package scenario that draws from existing and draft policy ideas currently in play in this Congress. The package focuses on programs that push progress on all four Rs and relies on spending mechanisms that can fit within budget reconciliation. The scenario assumes Congress puts in place a 10-year spending package that starts in 2022 and goes through 2031. The scenario is intended to illustrate the potential of spending to decarbonize the electric sector. There are certainly alternative pathways that could be pursued. This specific package is comprised of four key components:

    Tech-neutral tax credits for new clean capacity: An ITC of 30% or a PTC at $25/MWH (67% higher than the current wind PTC) is available for any zero emitting capacity that enters into service before the end of 2031. Fossil capacity with carbon capture, including new retrofits, qualify and get a discounted credit depending on the level of capture. Developers can choose the ITC or PTC, whichever suits them best.

    Existing coal retirement incentive: Any coal plant owned by a rural cooperative can have its federal Rural Utility Service loans written off if the plant is retired by the end of 2025 and the energy is replaced with clean generation. We estimate that up to 30 GW of coal could be eligible, which wouldn’t retire under current policy. These plants have an associated outstanding federal debt of roughly $10 billion.

    Existing clean retention incentive: An incentive is available for any existing nuclear capacity to stay online at least through 2031. The incentive can be made available to all generators or scaled based on need, similar to a recent proposal by Senators Whitehouse and Barrasso. We assume the incentive is sufficient to prevent roughly 50 GW of economic nuclear retirements that we see in our current policy scenario.

    Extension of carbon capture incentives: New and retrofitted fossil plants equipped with carbon capture that enter into service by the end of 2031 can claim the section 45Q carbon capture tax credit of $50/ton if coupled with storage and $35/ton if coupled with utilization or EOR. Developers cannot claim both this and the tech neutral credit.

    We find that a robust, long-term spending package that focuses on all aspects of decarbonization can make meaningful progress on electric power emission reductions. This investment package gets emissions on a straight-line path to zero at least through 2025, and by 2031 emissions are 66-74% below 2005 levels when accounting for clean energy technology cost uncertainty (Figure 4). That’s a major step forward.

    1-Which issues are currently most important to your organization? Renewables, sustainability, or the environment 45% Reliability of retail distribution grid 29% Climate change impacts and resilience 28% Bulk power system reliability 27% Aging grid infrastructure 26% Cybersecurity and physical security 24% State regulatory model reform 21%...

    2-Which approaches are most effective in decarbonizing the power system? Financial incentives for renewable energy development 50% Strong federal decarbonization policy, backed up with clear targets, regulation and enforcement 45% Updated transmission infrastructure 43% Performance-based rates or other strategies to shift the utility business model 37%

    3-What is the best way to get more renewables on the grid? Extending federal tax credits 17% Facilitating the build of new transmission infrastructure 15% Incentivizing and simplifying the addition of energy storage resources to the grid 14% State mandates 12% 4-What has your utility done to prepare for, or to support increased adoption of, electric vehicles? Pilot or test projects for EV charging 55% Feasibility studies for providing EV charging infrastructure 50% Deployed public charging stations in partnership with third-party networks 37%

    The long-term tax credit for new clean capacity with flexible election of the ITC or PTC in the investment package scenario hypercharges renewable energy deployment. With the tax credit in place, in our mid tech cost case, average annual renewable capacity additions are 33 GW per year through 2031, just over 10% more than the 2020 record. In our low tech cost case, average capacity additions are double that, at 66 GW a year. This new renewable capacity displaces fossil generation, both coal and natural gas, thanks to the nuclear retention incentive. Without the nuclear retention incentive, electric power sector emissions would be 23-28% higher, up to 188 million metric tons more in 2031. Looking at the fossil fleet, we find clean energy and coal retirement incentives combined lead to an additional 34-38 GW of coal retirements in 2031 compared to current policy. Extending the section 45Q carbon capture tax credit does not drive deployment of more plants equipped with carbon capture. The incentive is not high enough for the technology to compete.

    All together, the aggregate impact of the investment package leads to a dramatically different electric power generation mix in 2031 than under current policy. Under the investment package, wind and solar nearly double their contribution to total generation, and nuclear generation more than doubles. The net effect is that total zero emitting generation gets as high as 67% in the low tech cost case. This clean generation plus the coal retirement incentives cut coal generation by one-half to two-thirds compared to current policy and NGCC generation by 30-43% (Figure 5).

    Budget implications of investment

    The decarbonization and generation shifts in the investment scenario come in at up to double the current $10.5 billion the government spends annually on clean energy tax credits. We estimate that the average net annual budget outlay from 2022-2031 is $14.9-$20.3 billion depending on technology costs. The coal retirement incentive represents 5-7% of total outlays while the nuclear retention incentive makes up 28-38%. More than half of total outlays—55%-67%—are associated with new renewable energy deployment.

    Potential complements to investment

    There are other potential policy ideas not included in our scenario that could complement our results depending on overall policy goals. For example, a tax credit for high voltage transmission could unlock more renewables. A bonus credit for projects that meet fair labor practices can help boost worker wages. Spending programs could be put in place to drive additional renewable investments in low-income and historically disadvantaged communities. All of these programs can change the total budgetary costs as would any other provisions beyond what we’ve considered.

    Another key design element we consider is whether developers can receive a direct payment instead of a tax credit as contemplated in the GREEN Act. At the moment, developers often require tax equity financing partners to fully monetize tax credits. The tax equity market was able to accommodate the record renewable builds of 2020, but at times some developers struggled to find tax equity partners. Since we find renewable builds under the investment scenario may far surpass 2020 levels, and since there may be demand for tax equity from other energy tax credits, it may be prudent to provide developers with more financing flexibility through some sort of direct pay or refundability provision. Otherwise, there is a real chance that the tax equity market may become a bottleneck to accelerated decarbonization. It is not at all guaranteed that tax equity can scale at the same pace and as clean energy deployment in our scenarios.

    Investment combined with public health regulations can accelerate progress Just as clean energy investment can complement a federal clean electricity standard, a carbon price or other comprehensive climate policy, spending can support common sense public health regulations on fossil power plants. A combination of investment & regulations can achieve even faster decarbonization as well as bigger and faster conventional pollutant reductions. Investments can also blunt any potential ratepayer impacts from regulations.

    While the Biden administration has not outlined its plans for regulating conventional pollutants and CO2 from power plants, we have constructed a scenario based on our experience analyzing Obama-era regulations, which we consider to be a plausible first-term agenda.[2] We couple our investment scenario with a series of regulations modeled on Obama administration rules targeting toxics, NOx, SO2, particulate matter, coal ash, effluent, CO2, and other pollutants primarily at coal plants. We also assume that EPA requires all new coal and NGCC plants to be equipped with carbon capture starting in 2023. These regulations steadily increase coal plants’ operating costs, leading to lower coal generation and more coal plant retirements. NGCCs end up having a reduced role as well. Power plant regulations can drive progress on the retrofit and retire components of the four Rs of decarbonization.

    Investment & regulations can cut pollution by more than half compared to 2020 levels

    Investment can help regulations achieve even larger conventional pollutant reductions. Here we focus on NOx and SO2, two of the primary pollutants from electric power plants. Both pollutants cause asthma in children, as well as other respiratory diseases and premature death. While EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act have led to huge progress in cutting emissions of these pollutants to date, we find that an investment package coupled with a new round of regulations can catalyze dramatic new gains. We find that five years from now, in 2026, investment & regulations can cut NOx emissions by 52-62% compared to 2020 levels. The same combination can cut SO2 by 81-84% (Figure 6). This is at least 10 percentage points more than what investments can do alone and represents more than double and nearly double the reductions achieved under current policy for NOx and SO2 respectively. While these national level results don’t necessarily reflect the conditions on the ground for all front-line communities, on the whole this progress should provide a wide range of health benefits across the country.

    The pollution reductions achieved from investment & regulations are due not just to a surge of renewables but also a reduction in fossil generation. With both regulations and investment, in 2031 renewables contribute 41-52% of all generation depending on technology costs (Figure 7), slightly more than under the investment scenario alone. Meanwhile, coal represents just 2% of total generation, more than a 90% reduction from 2020 levels. NGCCs contribute as little as 25% of generation and, importantly, no new uncontrolled NGCCs are built after 2023 thanks to the EPA regulatory requirements for carbon capture. This is important for limiting stranded assets in the 2030s. Finally, the carbon capture requirements coupled with incentives don’t drive a surge in carbon capture. 3-5 GW of new advanced gas plants with carbon capture are in operation in 2031 in the investment & regulations scenario. This represents 0.2-0.3% of total installed electric power capacity in 2031. The additional clean capacity in this scenario pushes the budgetary costs up slightly relative to the investment only scenario.

    The major shift away from fossil and towards clean generation due to a combination of investment & regulations furthers progress towards decarbonization beyond the investment scenario alone. Emissions can get below a straight-line path to zero in 2035 through the first half of the 2020s and stay within the range of that path as far as 2028 (Figure 8). This results in 2031 emissions that are 69-76% below 2005 levels. If no other policies get through this Congress, a combination of investment & regulations can still achieve progress and build support for more ambitious action down the road.

    Decarbonization does not have to raise electric bills

    One fear often stoked during clean electric policy debates is that ratepayers will have to bear the brunt of the costs of emission reductions through higher bills. We find that this is not the case. In fact, we find that in 2031, national average household electric bills are no more than $1 per month higher under the investment or investment & regulations scenarios than under current policy (Figure 9). Moreover, bills are lower than what households paid in 2020. Renewables have become so cheap (and continue their cost declines through this window), so the impact of accelerated deployment on electric bills is small. In addition, federal investment shifts the cost of decarbonization from ratepayers to the federal government, resulting in negligible changes in bills even when regulations add costs to the electric system. While there will certainly be regional differences in bill impacts, they are unlikely to be large due to these dynamics.

    Next step: Congress

    It’s clear that federal clean energy spending, especially when coupled with public health regulations, can lead to substantial pollution reductions and major progress towards a 100% clean electric sector. A well-crafted investment package passed by Congress, possibly through budget reconciliation can get the sector on track for long-term deep decarbonization. We plan to monitor developments in Congress to see how the next wave of legislative proposals addresses the four Rs of decarbonization. Watch this space for more on how leading proposals stack up.

    [1] Our current policy scenario takes into account all state and federal policies as of May 2020, plus the clean energy tax extenders included in the December 2020 federal tax package. Scenarios considered in this analysis assume all electric power market actors behave rationally and optimize for least cost operations over the long-term. [2] While we consider this scenario to be plausible, it should not be interpreted as an estimate of the maximum or minimum level of regulation that EPA could pursue. The Biden administration could potentially go far further in regulating electric power sector pollutants than we consider in this analysis.

    Saturday, May 01, 2021

    Climate Tipping Points Approaching

    Earth’s lungs are going as the heat rises and the ice melts. It’s on.From CBS This Morning via YouTube

    Moms Take On The Climate Crisis

    Moms are in the fight now, so the climate crisis hasn’t got a chance.From Science Moms via YouTube

    Ocean Wind Is Coming

    Offshore wind is about to take a big place into the New Energy power mix. From American Clean Power Association via YouTube