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

  • TODAY’S STUDY: THE NEWEST CLIMATE SCIENCE (SPOILER: NOT GOOD NEWS)
  • QUICK NEWS, July 27: WIND’S HOPE IN THE WATER; ALABAMA WANTS ROOFTOP SOLAR; NEW ENERGY BILL WOULD BOOST GEOTHERMAL
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: 200th Coal Plant Shuttered!
  • Weekend Video: IKEA And YAHOO! Make The Business Case For Wind
  • Weekend Video: Reprise: The Drought, The Blob, And The Coming El Nino
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ISIS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SOLAR POWERED TRAINS IN INDIA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SPANISH WIND GOES GLOBAL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ICELAND GEOTHERMAL LOOKS TO ETHIOPIA
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, July 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE FIVE SIGNS OF DENIAL
  • TTTA Thursday-CORPORATE BUYERS MOVE TO RENEWABLES AS PRICE HEDGE
  • TTTA Thursday-A WAY INTO SOLAR FOR UTILITIES
  • TTTA Thursday-SWEET HOME GEOTHERMAL
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT ELECTRIC RELIABILITY IS ACTUALLY WORTH
  • QUICK NEWS, July 22: NEW ENERGY IS 70% OF 2015 NEW U.S. BUILD; SENATE FINANCE VOTE BACKS WIND INCENTIVE 23-3; SOLAR MONEY NEEDS STANDARDS
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: THE COST OF BIG SOLAR VS THE COST OF ROOFTOP SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, July 21: THE PROMISE OF SOLAR’S NUMBERS; LIVING GEOTHERMAL HOBBIT-LIKE; SMART THERMOSTAT BIZ LEADERS
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      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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  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: DRIVERS OF THE U.S. CO2 EMISSIONS 1997–2013

    Drivers of the US CO2 emissions 1997–2013

    Feng, Davis, t. al., July 21, 2015 (Nature Communications)

    Abstract

    Fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the United States decreased by B11% between 2007 and 2013, from 6,023 to 5,377 Mt. This decline has been widely attributed to a shift from the use of coal to natural gas in US electricity production. However, the factors driving the decline have not been quantitatively evaluated; the role of natural gas in the decline therefore remains speculative. Here we analyse the factors affecting US emissions from 1997 to 2013. Before 2007, rising emissions were primarily driven by economic growth. After 2007, decreasing emissions were largely a result of economic recession with changes in fuel mix (for example, substitution of natural gas for coal) playing a comparatively minor role. Energy–climate policies may, therefore, be necessary to lock-in the recent emissions reductions and drive further decarbonization of the energy system as the US economy recovers and grows.

    The CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are the primary cause of anthropogenic climate change1, and the United States emits more CO2 each year than any other country except China. In the decade before 2007, US CO2 emissions grew by an average 0.7% per year. However, beginning in 2007, US emissions decreased, reaching a minimum of 5,284 Mt CO2 in 2012—12% lower than 2007 levels and 5% lower than 1997 levels2. This recent decline is good news and is consistent with the Obama administration’s stated goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 17% in 2020 and 83% in 2050 relative to 2005 levels3. Assuming no change in emissions outside the power sector, the new rules proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency in June 2014 to limit CO2 emissions from power plants will require US emissions to decrease to 4,200 Mt CO2 in 2030—a further 20% reduction from 2013 levels4.

    Coinciding with the post-2007 decline in emissions, innovations in hydraulic fracturing technology have dramatically increased domestic supplies of gas5,6. Commentators in the scientific community and media have linked the two trends, celebrating the climate benefits of the gas boom7–9. Recently, the Third National Climate Assessment of the United States Global Change Research Program also adopted this conclusion, stating that the decrease in US CO2 emissions was ‘ylargely due to a shift from coal to less CO2-intensive natural gas for electricity production’10. Yet, despite potentially significant implications for US climate and energy policy, there has been no quantitative analysis of whether the gas boom and changes in the fuel mix of the power sector are indeed driving the decrease in US CO2 emissions.

    Here, we use input–output structural decomposition analysis (SDA) to assess sources of change in US CO2 emissions over a decade of mostly increasing emissions, 1997–2007, and then over the period of mostly decreasing emissions, 2007–2013. Our analysis quantifies the contribution of six different factors to changes in US emissions. These factors are: population growth; changes in consumption volume caused exclusively by changes in per capita consumption of goods and services; shifts in consumption patterns or the types of goods and services being consumed; adjustments in production structure or the mix of inputs (for example, labour, domestic and imported materials) required to produce US goods and services; changes in fuel mix as reflected by the CO2 emitted per unit of energy used; and changes in energy intensity or the energy used per inflation-adjusted unit of economic output. The SDA in this research is based on the additive decomposition of the changes in emission determined by six multiplicative factors acting as accelerators or retardants of the emission dynamics. Each term in the decomposition is a product of the change in one explicative factor and the level values of the other five factors, and thus represents the contribution of one explicative factor to the total change in emission. For example, in the term where population is the explicative factor, the values of consumption volume, production structure, consumption patterns, energy intensity and fuel mix are held unchanged and only population varies. In this way, the SDA method allows us to quantify the contribution of each of the assessed factors to the trend in emissions. Details of our methodology and data sources are in the Methods section (including Supplementary Methods). We find that before 2007, rising emissions were driven by economic growth: 71% of the increase between 1997 and 2007 was due to increases in US consumption of goods and services, with the remainder of the increase due to population growth. Concurrent with the global economic recession, 83% of the decrease during 2007–2009 was due to decreased consumption and changes in the production structure of the US economy, with just 17% related to changes in the fuel mix. During the economic recovery, 2009–2013, the decrease in US emissions has been small (o1%), with nearly equal contributions from changes in the fuel mix, decreases in energy use per unit of GDP, changes in US production structure, and changes in consumption patterns. We conclude that substitution of gas for coal has had a relatively minor role in the emissions reduction of US CO2 emissions since 2007.

    Results

    Growing emissions from 1997 to 2007. Between 1997 and 2007, US emissions increased by 7.3% (Fig. 1, black curve). Our analysis shows that the main factor behind this increase was an increase in consumption volume caused by growth in per capita consumption of goods and services in the United States. Indeed, increases in such consumption volume correspond to a contribution of a 21.8% increase in emissions over this decade (Fig. 1, red curve). The next most important factor influencing CO2 emissions over the same period was population growth. Immigration and natural growth have resulted in steady population growth at a rate of B1% per year since 1997. These population gains contributed to an 8.9% increase in emissions between 1997 and 2007 (Fig. 1, yellow curve).

    However, other factors slowed the growth of emissions between 1997 and 2007: decreases in the energy intensity of GDP; changes in the consumption patterns of US consumers; shifts in production structure; and decreases in the use of coal as an energy source. For instance, over this period, the energy used per dollar of economic output decreased by 17% (Fig. 2a, black curve), the share of consumer spending on manufactured goods decreased by B4% (Fig. 2b), the share of imported inputs to the US industry sectors increased (for example, imports to petroleum and coal products sector increased by 6.7%, and imports to the chemical products, primary metals and textile sectors increased by 2.7%, 2.5% and 2.1%, respectively)11, and the share of US electricity generated from coal decreased by B5% while the share generated from natural gas increased by 8% (Fig. 2c). All of these trends exerted a downward influence on emissions. Between 1997 and 2007, changes in energy intensity, consumption patterns, production structure and fuel mix contributed to retarding emissions of 7.4, 6.9, 4.9 and 3.6%, respectively (Fig. 1, purple, green, blue and orange curves, respectively).

    Declining emissions from 2007 to 2013. US CO2 emissions stopped growing in 2007, and decreased by B11% between 2007 and 2013 (Fig. 1, black curve). Looking at this time period in aggregate, the only factor which acted to increase emissions over the period was continued and steady population growth ( þ 3.7%) (Fig. 1, yellow curve). However, the upward influence of population growth was overwhelmed by the downward influence of changes in production structure ( 6.1%), fuel mix ( 4.4%), consumption volumes triggered by per capita consumption ( 3.9%), energy intensity of GDP ( 0.5%) and changing consumption patterns ( 0.4%; Fig. 1, blue, orange, red, purple and green curves, respectively).

    Although all of the analysed factors except population contributed to the decrease in emissions during 2007–2013, different factors dominated over shorter periods. Figure 3 subdivides 2007-2013 into 2-year periods, showing that emissions fell by 9.9% from 2007 to 2009, increased by 1.3% between 2009 to 2011 and decreased again by 2.1% between 2011 and 2013.

    More than half (53%) of the initial and most substantial decrease in emissions, between 2007 and 2009, was due to a sharp drop in the volume of consumed goods as a result of reduction in per capita consumption during the global economic recession (Fig. 3, red bar). In particular, Fig. 4 shows that sharp decreases in the volume of capital expenditures and exported goods between 2007 and 2009 drove down associated emissions by 25% and 18%, respectively. Changes in the production structure of the US economy (that is, the volume and type of intermediate goods demanded) and the fuel mix of the energy sector contributed 30% and 17% of the initial (2007–2009) decrease in emissions, respectively, while increases in the energy intensity of the US economy and changing consumption patterns exerted modest upward influences on emissions during the same period.

    As the US economy had slowly recovered from the global economic recession, between 2009 and 2013, the average annual change in US emissions was small: a 0.2% decrease. Economic recovery is reflected by the upward influence of the volume of goods consumed on emissions during both 2009–2011 and 2011–2013. Between 2009 and 2011, rising consumption volume, population growth, and increasing energy intensity urged emissions up by a combined 4.0% (2.2%, 1.5% and 0.3%, respectively), which was only partly offset by the changes in consumption patterns ( 1.1%), production structure ( 1.0%) and fuel mix ( 0.6%), resulting in an actual increase in emissions of 1.3% (Fig. 3). However, between 2011 and 2013, the upward influence of consumption volume and population on emissions was less ( þ 1.2% and þ 1.2%, respectively) and the energy intensity of the economy decreased ( 2.1%). When combined with changes in the fuel mix of the energy sector ( 1.2%) and shifting consumption patterns ( 0.2%), the net effect was a 2.1% decrease in emissions during 2011–2013 (Fig. 3).

    Increases in the supply of natural gas affect two of the factors in our analysis: the fuel mix of the energy sector and, to a lesser extent, the energy intensity of the US economy. By decreasing gas prices, abundant gas encourages a shift in the fuel mix from more carbon-intensive coal to gas. In turn, a shift to gas may contribute to decreased energy intensity because gas-fired power plants are on average 20% more efficient at converting fuel energy to electricity than coal plants12.

    The boom of natural gas from breakthroughs in hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits had only just begun to affect US gas supplies in 2009 (ref. 5). Thus, the decrease in emissions from changes in the fuel mix of the energy sector prior 2009 reflects an independent and longer-term trend of the declining use of coal in the US energy sector (see, for example, Fig. 2c). However, as seen in Fig. 3, changes in the US fuel mix from 2007 to 2009 alone would not have caused a decrease in US emissions.

    Although the decreases in emissions since 2009 have been relatively small, the influence of shale gas is visible. For example, about half of the 2.1% decrease in emissions during 2011–2013 is related to changes in the fuel mix of the energy sector ( 1.2%, orange bar in Fig. 3). Yet the decrease in the energy intensity of the US economy was nearly twice as strong an influence on emissions over the same period (purple bar in Fig. 3).

    Although a drop in the energy intensity (exajoule per dollar output) of the energy sector in 2013 accounts for roughly a third of the observed decrease in US energy intensity in 2011–2013, the remaining two-thirds relate to changes in energy used by the transport and service sectors (Fig. 2a). Three unrelated trends underlie the decreasing energy intensity of these sectors. First, high gasoline prices during 2011–2013 (the average price of gasoline had remained above $3.40 per gallon during this period, in contrast to the average price of $2.50 per gallon in 2005) have contributed to both a reduction in per capita miles driven (Supplementary Fig. 1a) and an increase in average fuel efficiency of vehicles (Supplementary Fig. 1b), and thus a 33% decrease in US gasoline consumption during 2011–2013. Second, a mild winter in 2012 meant less energy was used for heating and thus reduced energy intensity of the service sector (households also used less energy for home heating, which accounts for part of the drop in consumption volume)13 (Supplementary Fig. 2). Last, there is evidence that manufacturing in the United States became more energy efficient: energy use by manufacturing was nearly constant 2011–2013 despite average annual growth in GDP of 2.3% per year over the same period.

    Shifts in the production structure of the US economy between 2007 and 2013 have consistently exerted a downward influence on US emissions, as the volume and type of intermediate goods used by various industry sectors has evolved and become more efficient (blue bars in Fig. 3). Yet this structural shift also reflects the progressive offshoring of emissions-intensive industries to China and other developing countries over the analysed period14. For instance, between 2009 and 2011, when changes in domestic production structure exerted a downward influence on US CO2 emissions ( 1%, blue bar in Fig. 3), we calculated that the net import of emissions embodied in US trade increased by 32% (Supplementary Fig. 3). Trade data for the 2011–2013 period is not yet available.

    Between 2009 and 2013, the share of US consumption of manufactured goods increased relative to services (Fig. 2b), but the net effect of changes in consumption patterns was to decrease emissions (by 1.1% between 2009 and 2011 and by 0.2% between 2011 and 2013; green bars in Fig. 3). This result reveals that changes in the types of goods being consumed over time can have a significant impact on emissions15,16, and that it is not as simple as the balance of manufactured goods and services…

    Decomposing Final Demand. Because changes in the volume of goods and services consumed were the single most important influence on US emissions between 1997 and 2013, we also analysed four separate components of final demand to assess the trends in emissions related to each category as well as the important influences on emissions in each case. Figure 4 shows the emissions associated with different final demand (consumption) components: household consumption (Fig. 4a), governmental expenditure (Fig. 4b), capital formation (Fig. 4c) and exports (Fig. 4d).

    Between 2007 and 2013, emissions associated with household consumption decreased by 11.0%, which was almost entirely driven by changes in fuel mix and production structure, especially between 2009 and 2013, since consumption volume was constant (Fig. 4a). Emissions associated with government expenditures in the same time period decreased by 4.8%, and it was largely driven by changes in energy intensity and production structure (Fig. 4b). In contrast, emissions related to capital formation decreased by 24.4% between 2007 and 2013, primarily due to a huge decline in the volume of capital investment (Fig. 4c, red curve). However, changes in emissions related to exports between 2007 and 2013 were almost entirely the result of changes in the volume of exports, with the other factors cancelling each other out (Fig. 4d).

    QUICK NEWS, July 28: THE CLIMATE CHANGE OPINION PREDICTOR; CLINTON TALKS NEW ENERGY; THE GOP FIELD AND CLIMATE

    THE CLIMATE CHANGE OPINION PREDICTOR This Factor Predicts What People Think About Climate Change; Education affects climate change beliefs differently if you live in the U.S.

    Justin Worland, July 27, 2015 (Time Magazine)

    “Around the world, people with higher levels of education are more likely to understand climate change than their less-educated counterparts, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change…Using data collected by Gallup from 119 countries, researchers found that education level was a key determinant of climate change risk perceptions in 62% of countries around the world. But all bets are off when it comes to education and views of climate change in the United States, along with a select few English speaking countries. Political party and ideology predicted views of climate change in the U.S., not education alone…[Different regions had vastly different levels of awareness…Two-thirds of people in Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria, for instance, had never heard of climate change…The lack of climate change awareness in developing countries should be of particular concern because…[p]ublic support for an agreement will help countries to follow through on commitments…” click here for more

    CLINTON TALKS NEW ENERGY Hillary Clinton pushes renewable energy with focus on solar

    Dan Merica, July 27, 2015 CNN

    “…[A]s president, [Hillary Clinton said,] she would put the United States on a path toward generating enough renewable energy to power every home in the country by 2027 - ten years after she would hypothetically take office…Clinton knocked Republicans for refusing ‘to accept the settled science of climate change’ and cast her push as a fight for children and grandchildren…Clinton's plan focuses largely on residential power usage and is buoyed by a focus on solar. By the end of her hypothetical first term as president, Clinton promised that the United States would have more than 500 million solar panels installed across the country…The presidential candidate also stressed building an energy grid more focused on renewable energy, particularly solar, by the end of the decade…[A] Clinton presidency would hope to increase output of solar energy by 700% by the end of the decade…” click here for more

    THE GOP FIELD AND CLIMATE The Most (And Least) Extreme Republican Presidential Candidates On Climate Change

    Ryan Koronowski, July 26, 2015 (Climate Progress)

    “…It’s an extremely safe bet that the Republican nominee will not take more action to confront climate change than President Obama has. The question is more how much of the president’s climate agenda the nominee would reverse, repeal, or ignore…Pope Francis just told the world through the Vatican’s latest encyclical that climate change is happening, caused by humans, and requires ‘urgent’ policy…[H]ere is the GOP presidential field, ranked by how far they would walk back President Obama’s climate agenda, from least to most: 17. George Pataki…16. Lindsey Graham…15. John Kasich…14. Carly Fiorina…13. Chris Christie…12. Jeb Bush…11. Jim Gilmore…10. Ben Carson…9. Rand Paul…8. Marco Rubio…7. Bobby Jindal…6. Rick Perry…5. Mike Huckabee…4. Scott Walker…3. Donald Trump…2. Rick Santorum…1. Ted Cruz…” click here for more

    Monday, July 27, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE NEWEST CLIMATE SCIENCE (SPOILER: NOT GOOD NEWS)

    Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 ◦C global warming is highly dangerous

    Hansen, et. al., July 23, 2015 (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics)

    Abstract

    There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 ◦C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by 5 combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 10 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic 15 as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time 20 scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 ◦C global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly danger- 25 ous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric.

    Introduction

    Humanity is rapidly extracting and burning fossil fuels without full understanding of the consequences. Current assessments place emphasis on practical effects such as increasing extremes of heat waves, droughts, heavy rainfall, floods, and encroaching 5 seas (IPCC, 2014; USNCA, 2014). These assessments and our recent study (Hansen et al., 2013a) conclude that there is an urgency to slow carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions, because the longevity of the carbon in the climate system (Archer, 2005) and persistence of the induced warming (Solomon et al., 2010) may lock in unavoidable highly undesirable consequences.

    Despite these warnings, global CO2 emissions continue to increase as fossil fuels remain the primary energy source. The argument is made that it is economically and morally responsible to continue fossil fuel use for the sake of raising living standards, with expectation that humanity can adapt to climate change and find ways to minimize effects via advanced technologies.

    We suggest that this viewpoint fails to appreciate the nature of the threat posed by ice sheet instability and sea level rise. If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters. The economic and social cost of losing 20 functionality of all coastal cities is practically incalculable. We suggest that a strategic approach relying on adaptation to such consequences is unacceptable to most of humanity, so it is important to understand this threat as soon as possible.

    We examine events late in the last interglacial period warmer than today, called Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5e in studies of ocean sediment cores, Eemian in European 25 climate studies, and sometimes Sangamonian in American literature (see Sect. 5 for timescale diagram of Marine Isotope Stages). Accurately known changes of Earth’s astronomical configuration altered the seasonal and geographical distribution of incoming radiation during the Eemian. Resulting global warming was due to feedbacks that amplified the orbital forcing. While the Eemian is not an analog of future warming, it is useful for investigating climate feedbacks, the response of polar ice sheets to polar warming, and the interplay between ocean circulation and ice sheet melt.

    Our study relies on a large body of research by the scientific community. After intro- 5 ducing evidence concerning late Eemian climate change, we analyze relevant climate processes in three stages. First we carry our IPCC-like climate simulations, but with growing freshwater sources in the North Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Second we use paleoclimate data to extract information on key processes identified by the modeling. Third we use modern data to show that these processes are already spurring 10 climate change today…

    Summary implications

    Humanity faces near certainty of eventual sea level rise of at least Eemian proportions, 15 5–9 m, if fossil fuel emissions continue on a business-as-usual course, e.g., IPCC scenario A1B that has CO2 ∼ 700 ppm in 2100 (Fig. S21). It is unlikely that coastal cities or low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, European lowlands, and large portions of the United States eastern coast and northeast China plains (Fig. S22) could be protected against such large sea level rise.

    Rapid large sea level rise may begin sooner than generally assumed. Amplifying feedbacks, including slowdown of SMOC and cooling of the near-Antarctic ocean surface with increasing sea ice, may spur nonlinear growth of Antarctic ice sheet mass loss. Deep submarine valleys in West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin of East Antarctica, each with access to ice amounting to several meters of sea level, provide gateways 25 to the ocean. If the Southern Ocean forcing (subsurface warming) of the Antarctic ice sheets continues to grow, it likely will become impossible to avoid sea level rise of several meters, with the largest uncertainty being how rapidly it will occur.

    The Greenland ice sheet does not have as much ice subject to rapid nonlinear disintegration, so the speed at which it adds to 21st century sea level rise may be limited. However, even a slower Greenland ice sheet response is expected to be faster than carbon cycle or ocean thermal recovery times. Therefore, if climate forcing continues 5 to grow rapidly, amplifying feedbacks will assure large eventual mass loss. Also with present growth of freshwater injection from Greenland, in combination with increasing North Atlantic precipitation, we already may be on the verge of substantial North Atlantic climate disruption.

    Storms conjoin with sea level rise to cause the most devastating coastal damage. 10 End-Eemian and projected 21st century conditions are similar in having warm tropics and increased freshwater injection. Our simulations imply increasing storm strengths for such situations, as a stronger temperature gradient caused by ice melt increases baroclinicity and provides energy for more severe weather events. A strengthened Bermuda High in the warm season increases prevailing northeasterlies that can help 15 account for stronger end-Eemian storms. Weakened cold season sea level pressure south of Greenland favors occurrence of atmospheric blocking that can increase wintertime Arctic cold air intrusions into northern midlatitudes.

    Effects of freshwater injection and resulting ocean stratification are occurring sooner in the real world than in our model. We suggest that this is an effect of excessive small 20 scale mixing in our model that limits stratification, a problem that may exist in other models (Hansen et al., 2011). We encourage similar simulations with other models, with special attention to the model’s ability to maintain realistic stratification and perturbations. This issue may be addressed in our model with increased vertical resolution, more accurate finite differencing method in ocean dynamics that reduces noise, and 25 use of a smaller background diffusivity.

    There are many other practical impacts of continued high fossil fuel emissions via climate change and ocean acidification, including irreplaceable loss of many species, as reviewed elsewhere (IPCC, 2013, 2014; Hansen et al., 2013a). However, sea level rise sets the lowest limit on allowable human-made climate forcing and CO2 , because of the extreme sensitivity of sea level to ocean warming and the devastating economic and humanitarian impacts of a multi-meter sea level rise. Ice sheet response time is shorter than the time for natural geologic processes to remove CO2 from the climate system, so there is no morally defensible excuse to delay phase-out of fossil fuel emissions as 5 rapidly as possible.

    We conclude that the 2 ◦C global warming “guardrail”, affirmed in the Copenhagen Accord (2009), does not provide safety, as such warming would likely yield sea level rise of several meters along with numerous other severely disruptive consequences for human society and ecosystems. The Eemian, less than 2 ◦C warmer than pre-industrial 10 Earth, itself provides a clear indication of the danger, even though the orbital drive for Eemian warming differed from today’s human-made climate forcing. Ongoing changes in the Southern Ocean, while global warming is less than 1 ◦C, provide a strong warning, as observed changes tend to confirm the mechanisms amplifying change. Predicted effects, such as cooling of the surface ocean around Antarctica, are occurring 15 even faster than modeled.

    Our finding of global cooling from ice melt calls into question whether global temperature is the most fundamental metric for global climate in the 21st century. The first order requirement to stabilize climate is to remove Earth’s energy imbalance, which is now about +0.6 W m−2 , more energy coming in than going out. If other forcings are unchanged, removing this imbalance requires reducing atmospheric CO2 20 from ∼ 400 to ∼ 350 ppm (Hansen et al., 2008, 2013a).

    The message that the climate science delivers to policymakers, instead of defining a safe “guardrail”, is that fossil fuel CO2 emissions must be reduced as rapidly as practical. Hansen et al. (2013a) conclude that this implies a need for a rising carbon 25 fee or tax, an approach that has the potential to be near-global, as opposed to national caps or goals for emission reductions. Although a carbon fee is the sine qua non for phasing out emissions, the urgency of slowing emissions also implies other needs including widespread technical cooperation in clean energy technologies (Hansen et al., 2013a).

    The task of achieving a reduction of atmospheric CO2 is formidable, but not impossible. Rapid transition to abundant affordable carbon-free electricity is the core requirement, as that would also permit production of net-zero-carbon liquid fuels from electricity. The rate at which CO2 emissions must be reduced is about 6 % yr−1 to reach 5 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 by about 2100, under the assumption that improved agricultural and forestry practices could sequester 100 GtC (Hansen et al., 2013a). The amount of CO2 fossil fuel emissions taken up by the ocean, soil and biosphere has continued to increase (Fig. S23), thus providing hope that it may be possible to sequester more than 100 GtC. Improved understanding of the carbon cycle and non-CO2 10 forcings are needed, but it is clear that the essential requirement is to begin to phase down fossil fuel CO2 emissions rapidly. It is also clear that continued high emissions are likely to lock-in continued global energy imbalance, ocean warming, ice sheet disintegration, and large sea level rise, which young people and future generations would not be able to avoid. Given the inertia of the climate and energy systems, and the grave 15 threat posed by continued high emissions, the matter is urgent and calls for emergency cooperation among nations.

    QUICK NEWS, July 27: WIND’S HOPE IN THE WATER; ALABAMA WANTS ROOFTOP SOLAR; NEW ENERGY BILL WOULD BOOST GEOTHERMAL

    WIND’S HOPE IN THE WATER Offshore Wind Farm Raises Hopes of U.S. Clean Energy Backers

    Diane Cardwell, July 23, 2015 (NY Times)

    “…[O]ff the coast of Block Island, part of Rhode Island, a small flotilla [of crane vessels, tugboats and barges just] began installing the 1,500-ton foundations of the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm…It’s a moment that its supporters have long anticipated, billing it as nothing less than the dawn of a new clean energy future for the United States, which lags Europe and China in harnessing ocean gusts for electricity…Only five turbines will spin in the waters off Rhode Island…But its backers see it as one that could lend credibility to other efforts…[P]olicy experts and business executives warn that without stable subsidies and mandates — and coordination among the states — offshore wind development will be limited to a few small demonstration projects. Along with Cape Wind, projects are stalled near Delaware, New Jersey and New York…How far and fast the market develops depends, analysts and experts say, on how strong of a commitment the country makes…” click here for more

    ALABAMA WANTS ROOFTOP SOLAR Alabamians Overwhelmingly Ask for Freedom to Choose Solar Energy

    Kyle C. Grider, July 23, 2015 (Triple Pundit)

    “Alabamians are overwhelmingly in favor of their utilities boosting the use of solar energy to generate electricity, and they are nearly unanimous in their opposition to penalizing solar by tacking on fees, according to a new survey…The strength of the survey response leaves little doubt…[Out of more than of 1,600 responses,] 78 percent picked solar as one of the top two sources of energy that they would like to see their utility use more of in Alabama. Wind came in second [with 34 percent] …A study conducted several years ago by researchers at Arizona State University placed Alabama eighth nationally in terms of states that would benefit the most from expanding solar energy deployment. Alabama currently ranks 48th in both installed solar capacity and the total number of solar jobs per capita…Alabama is one of only four states in the nation without ‘net metering’ policies…” click here for more

    NEW ENERGY BILL WOULD BOOST GEOTHERMAL Senate Energy Bill Would Help Achieve the Nation’s Geothermal Potential, Industry Leaders Say

    July 24, 2015 (Business Wire)

    “…[T]he U.S. geothermal industry applauded U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alas., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., for…[The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, a broad, bipartisan bill with five titles covering energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation that would]…set a 50,000-MW National Geothermal Goal…direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development…allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power…facilitate new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and…provide geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances…” click here for more

    Saturday, July 25, 2015

    200th Coal Plant Shuttered!

    The 200th coal plant was just shuttered since The Sierra Club started its Beyond Coal campaign in 2010. From NationalSierraClub via YouTube

    IKEA And YAHOO! Make The Business Case For Wind

    This is no longer only about doing good. It’s about doing well by doing good.

    Reprise: The Drought, The Blob, And The Coming El Nino

    The El Nino now forming could drench drought-plagued California – but scientists don’t know what the impact of “the blob” will be. The warmer-than-average Pacific waters could drop a 1997-like torrent but nobody knows how the blob’s warm curents could change things. From YouTube via Climate Denial Crock of the Week

    Friday, July 24, 2015

    ISIS AND CLIMATE CHANGE

    The Link Between Climate Change And ISIS Is Real

    Joe Romm, July 23, 2015 (ThinkProgress)

    “Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley linked climate change to the rise of ISIS earlier this week. Conservatives pounced. Score this round for O’Malley…For three years now, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Indeed, Retired Navy Rear Admiral [and former Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance David Titley, a meteorologist, said Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought] identifies ‘a pretty convincing climate fingerprint’ for the Syrian drought…[T] he science underpinning what O’Malley, Admiral Titley, and others have said [stands up well to scrutiny]…The bottom line: Homo sapiens is currently on track to make drought and extreme drying the normal condition for the Southwest, Central Plains, the Amazon, southern Europe, the entire region around the Mediterranean, and many other key areas post-2050 [and there will likely be situations in the future our security forces may have to respond to]…” click here for more

    SOLAR POWERED TRAINS IN INDIA

    Indian Railways Opts For Solar Energy Powered Coaches

    Jagdish Kumar, July 21, 2015 (Breaking Energy)

    “…[Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest railway network, rolled] out its solar energy powered coaches. The solar panels were installed on its roof of a non-AC coach of Rewari-Sitapur passenger train operated by Northern Railway (NR) to meet the coaches’ requirement…Costing about $6124 (Rs 3.90 lakh) for setting up solar panel on the non-AC coach of Rewari-Sitapur passenger train, Indian Railways will save $1947 (Rs 1.24 lakh) per year in power cost. The solar panels generate about 17 units of power in a day which enables the lighting system in the coach…The project is part of the pilot study done by railways to harness solar power …As per the studies conducted by Indian Railways, a train using solar power can reduce diesel consumption by up to 90,000 litres per year and also bring down the carbon dioxide emission by over 200 tonnes…Indian Railways has also chalked out plans to procure 1000 MW solar power in the next five years…” click here for more

    SPANISH WIND GOES GLOBAL

    Gamesa Secures Fresh Wind Energy Order Of 250 MW In India

    Smiti Mitai, July 23, 2015 (Clean Technica)

    “Independent [India] power producer Orange Powergen Limited has placed an order for 250 MW of wind turbines with [Spain’s] Gamesa for 3 separate wind energy projects, set to be located in 2 different states…Gamesa will supply 125 of its G97-2.0 MW Class S wind turbines to the projects. The wind turbines are ‘tailor-designed for the Indian market with a view to maximising turbine performance at low wind speed sites’ [according to Gamesa]…The turbines will be supplied to a 100 MW project…in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh and is set to be commissioned by March 2016. The state of Madhya Pradesh will host the other 2 projects, of 50 MW and 100 MW capacities each, both of which are expected to be operational by Q2 2016…Last year, Orange Powergen also secured a $40 million equity investment from AT Capital, a Singapore-based private equity fund…[and has] pledged to add 1.4 GW of wind energy capacity over the next 5-7 years.” click here for more

    ICELAND GEOTHERMAL LOOKS TO ETHIOPIA

    Ethiopia: Iceland Investors Keen to Engage in Geothermal Energy Dev't in Ethiopia

    19 July 2015 (The Ethiopia Herald via AllAfrica)

    “Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland said his government will support investors from Iceland to engage in the development of geothermal energy in Ethiopia…[Like Iceland, Ethiopia] has abundant geothermal energy potential…[Reykjavik Geothermal Ltd (RG), has] engaged in the development of geothermal energy in Ethiopia with 4 billion USD…[and expects to] generate 1, 000 MW…With its [recent history of a] durable peace and security, [Icelandic developers see Ethiopia as] conducive for investment…[C]ompanies from Israel and England are [also studying Ethiopian geothermal development]…” click here for more

    Thursday, July 23, 2015

    THE FIVE SIGNS OF DENIAL

    The 5 telltale techniques of climate change denial

    John Cook, July 22, 2015 (CNN)

    “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that humans are causing global warming…[but] a small proportion of the population continues to deny the science…[including] half of the U.S. Senate...[A]ll movements that deny a scientific consensus, whether it be the science of climate change, evolution or vaccination, share five characteristics…1. Fake experts…[but] few climate scientists…2. Logical fallacies…[in which the] premise does not lead to the conclusion…3. Impossible expectations…[Climate models are not unreliable if they don't make perfect short-term predictions…4. Cherry-picking…[Single slices of our climate system ignore] the many warming indicators…5. Conspiracy theory…[Legitimate investigations show scientists have] conducted their research with robust integrity…” click here for more

    CORPORATE BUYERS MOVE TO RENEWABLES AS PRICE HEDGE

    HP to Power Texas Data Centers With Wind Energy

    Diane Cardwell, July 21, 2015 (NY Times)

    The list of corporate purchasers of wind is expanding rapidly. Last week, Hewlett-Packard announced a 12-year contract for 112 MW from a SunEdison Texas wind project. And a long term contract with Amazon Web Services allowed Iberdrola Renewables to break ground on the 208 MW Amazon Wind project in North Carolina, the Southeast’s first utility-scale wind installation. In February, Kaiser Permanente signed a 20-year contract for 153 MW of California wind and solar. In March, Dow Chemical contracted for 200 MW of Texas wind. Some 60 non-utility entities have contracted for wind, including IKEA, Facebook, Google, Mars, and Anheuser-Busch. They are buying renewables to meet corporate sustainability goals but also because, like utilities, they see the long term, fixed price contract as a hedge against fossil fuel price volatility. click here for more

    A WAY INTO SOLAR FOR UTILITIES

    Minnesota utility co-op devises new business model for solar energy projects

    David Shaffer, July 21, 2015 (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

    “A Minnesota electric cooperative has devised a unique business model for solar power: install the panels on city-owned properties and, in return, the city government gets discount-priced electricity…In the first deal of its kind, the Wright-Hennepin Electric Cooperative Association has agreed to give the city of Rockford a 7 percent discount on its electricity for 25 years. The city is giving the utility no-cost leases at two sites where 331 solar panels will be installed later this year…If the pilot project is successful in Rockford…[Wright-Hennepin] intends to offer similar deals to cities, school districts and other interested large customers in its northwest metro ¬service area…Other co-ops around the country are watching…Projected savings are relatively small — $5,200 per year on the city’s electric bills — but there are no upfront costs. The deal also contains an option to expand the solar arrays…” click here for more

    SWEET HOME GEOTHERMAL

    NCSEA Study Reveals Impacts, Opportunities for Energy Efficient Geothermal Industry; Hidden Gem of North Carolina’s Clean Energy Economy a $143M Industry…

    July 22, 2015 (North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association)

    “Energy efficient geothermal technologies are benefiting North Carolina in the form of jobs, energy savings and long-term utility bill savings, according to [ North Carolina’s Geothermal Industry] from the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA)…Geothermal systems have a strong installed presence throughout the state, with geothermal businesses taking in an estimated $143 million in revenues last year…Geothermal customers across North Carolina are benefiting particularly from ground source heat pump (GSHP) technologies, which use constant neutral temperatures found at the ground level to heat or cool buildings. The technology is over 45% more efficient than conventional heating and cooling technologies and provides customers a strong return on investment in the form of utility bill cost savings…” click here for more

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT ELECTRIC RELIABILITY IS ACTUALLY WORTH

    What electric reliability is actually worth and what it means for utilities; LBNL’s new numbers on the value of service reliability are revealing

    Herman K. Trabish, February 25, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    The cost of outages to utility customers is not always adequately included in utility planning, according to experts at calculating those costs.

    But Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southern Company, two very different types of investor owned utilities, are among the most advanced atincluding the cost into their planning. That raises a very interesting question about the way utilities spend money.

    “Utilities usually plan to certain minimum requirements or only consider their own costs and benefits,” according to Nexant Utility Services Managing Consultant Josh Schellenberg, co-author of the just-released report, "Updated Value of Service Reliability Estimates for Electric Utility Customers" from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

    “By providing a meta-analysis to understand the customer benefits associated with various types of reliability interruptions,” Schellenberg said, “this report helps address one of the barriers to utilities incorporating the customer perspective.”

    Incorporating customer interruption costs into planning, which is known as "value-based reliability planning," leads to a much better assessment of the societal costs and benefits, Schellenberg said.

    Often the utility is comparing multiple investments, he added. If it looks only at utility costs and benefits and doesn’t incorporate the customer perspective, it could make the wrong decision because “the customer may benefit greatly from one investment and not much from another investment.”

    Who gets the costs and benefits?

    Utility benefits from reliability investments include operations and maintenance savings and lower restoration of service costs. Though the utility incurs costs for reliability investments, those costs are generally recovered from ratepayers in time.

    “Power interruptions can be incredibly costly to customers, especially to commercial-industrial customers,” Schellenberg said. “Ignoring the potential benefits to customers in the cost-benefit assessment of reliability investments can undervalue them.”

    The LBNL survey provides three key metrics for planners:

    the cost for an individual interruption for a typical customer

    the cost per average kilowatt (kW)

    the cost per unserved kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is the expected amount of unserved kWhs for each interruption and is relatively high for a momentary interruption because the unserved kWhs in a 5-minute period is relatively low.

    The national average price of residential electricity for 2014 was $0.1246 per kWh, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The average commercial electricity price was $0.1071 per kWh and the average industrial price was $0.0703 per kWh.

    The values derived from the survey, soon to be publicly acessible through the Department of Energy ICE Calculator, show customers value their electricity at “orders of magnitude larger than what they pay for the electricity,” Schellenberg said. "That shows interruptions can be highly costly to customers and utilities should incorporate those costs into planning.”

    The electricity not provided that a medium to large commercial and industrial (C&I) customer otherwise would have consumed, the survey shows, is valued at $21.80 per kWh. For the small C&I customer, the value for a one hour outage is $295 per kWh. For the residential customer, it is $3.30 per kWh.

    How to use the numbers

    Demonstrating the high value customers place on reliability to regulators can be a power lever in justifying utility spending, Scehllenberg acknowledged.

    “Tell me something a utility does that doesn’t affect reliability,” he said. "Tree trimming is about reliability. Demand response affects reliability. Distributed batteries and solar can affect reliability. Improving the call center could affect reliability.”

    PG&E incorporated interruption costs into many of their proposals for reliability investments on the transmission and distribution side in their last rate case, Schellenberg said. Southern Company has incorporated interruption costs into their generation planning for about 20 years.

    “There are two basic kinds of outage,” explained Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) Senior Advisor Jim Lazar. RAP is a global, non-profit team led by former regulators that provides guidance on power sector economic, environmental, reliability and benefit allocation issues.

    Outages from a shortage of generation are “very very unusual,” Lazar said. “Transmission and distribution system failures are far more common. The average customer experiences one of those per year.”

    There is a supply curve for reliability services, Lazer went on.

    “The cheapest are things that can be delayed or done without for a few hours," he said. "At the high end of the scale is building utility scale generation, plus transmission, plus distribution upgrades for reliability that is only needed a few hours per year."

    Regulators must understand the supply curve and “figure out the best way to acquire the options at the cheap end of the curve,” Lazar said. "Utility scale generation, transmission, and distribution is a very, very expensive solution. It is an appropriate expenditure for providing thousands of hours of service per year but inappropriate for one hour every ten years.”

    The key question to ask about Southern Company’s use of the costs and benefits to customers of outages to justify expenditures for new generation is whether they are necessary if “substantially all outages are distribution-related and virtually none are generation related,” Lazar suggested.

    PG&E’s use of the customer perspective to justify transmission and distribution spending “is more logical,” Lazar said, “because that is where the interruptions – even the biggest ones – are coming from, and not from an insufficiency of generation.”

    QUICK NEWS, July 22: NEW ENERGY IS 70% OF 2015 NEW U.S. BUILD; SENATE FINANCE VOTE BACKS WIND INCENTIVE 23-3; SOLAR MONEY NEEDS STANDARDS

    NEW ENERGY IS 70% OF 2015 NEW U.S. BUILD Mid-Year Report: 70% Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In First Half 2015 Is From Renewables…Wind + Biomass + Solar = 97% Of New Capacity In June

    Ken Bossong, June 22, 2015 (Sun Day)

    “…[R]enewable sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for nearly 70% (69.75%) of new electrical generation placed in service in the United States during the first six months of 2015…[according to] the recently-released Energy Infrastructure Update…FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal…For the month of June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97% of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW)…Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27% of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water - 8.61%, wind - 5.84%, biomass - 1.40%, solar - 1.08%, and geothermal steam - 0.34% (for comparison, renewables were 16.28% of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013)…” click here for more

    SENATE FINANCE VOTE BACKS WIND INCENTIVE 23-3 Senate committee votes 23-3 to extend federal tax credits…strong bipartisan support for American wind power, renewable energy tax incentives

    July 21, 2015 (American Wind Energy Association)

    “…[The U.S. Senate Finance Committee voted] overwhelmingly to extend over 50 tax policies through 2016, including the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that incentivize the building of more U.S. wind farms. The committee on a final vote of 23-3 reported out a ‘tax extenders’ bill preserving language that allows wind farms to qualify so long as they start construction while the tax credits are in place…Those credits expired at the start of this year, again throwing the future of American wind energy into doubt once projects currently under construction are completed… In 2013, after the renewable energy tax credits were allowed to expire even briefly, installations of new wind farms fell 92 percent, causing a loss of 30,000 jobs across the industry that year. After Congress renewed the PTC, the U.S. wind energy industry added 23,000 jobs the following year, bringing the total to 73,000 at the end of 2014…” click here for more

    SOLAR MONEY NEEDS STANDARDS Solar Energy Finance Association emerges on the scene

    Lea Lupkin, July 22, 2015 (GreenBiz)

    “...[Where solar] assets produce reliable cash flows, backed by the good credit of customers…[they] can be pooled and traded as liquid capital. In order to profit from this great opportunity for solar growth, investors and consumers demand standards and consistency from the industry…The Solar Energy Finance Association [SEFA] is one of several leaders shepherding in an era of solar standards…[and] the only association that focuses on solar distributed generation (DG) finance. Its flagship initiative involves overseeing [standard lease and power purchase agreement (PPA) contract documents]…The association consists of around 36 members and represents a majority of players in the market in terms of number of installations…[including] SolarCity, SunRun and Clean Power Finance…All of the major DG installers and facilitators in SEFA have adopted the standard contracts…[but] it will take a while to integrate across the businesses…” click here for more

    Tuesday, July 21, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE COST OF BIG SOLAR VS THE COST OF ROOFTOP SOLAR

    Comparative Generation Costs of UtilityScale and Residential-Scale PV in Xcel Energy Colorado’s Service Area Bruce Tsuchida Sanem Sergici Bob Mudge Will Gorman Peter Fox-Penner Jens Schoene,

    July 2015 (The Brattle Group)

    Executive Summary

    Electricity generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has become a significant source of carbon-free power in the United States over the last decade. Compared to other solar-electric technologies, solar PV systems are unique in that they are highly scalable and may be deployed in configurations ranging from just a few kilowatts (kW) (residential-scale) to hundreds of megawatts (MW) (utility-scale). This report examines the comparative customer-paid costs of generating power from equal amounts of utility- and residential-scale solar PV panels in the Xcel Energy Colorado system. The report was prepared by consultants at The Brattle Group for First Solar, with support from the Edison Electric Institute. Xcel Energy Colorado provided data and technical support.

    The analysis in this report looks at the Xcel Energy Colorado system in 2019 and compares the per-megawatt hour (MWh) customer supply costs of adding 300 MW of PV panels (measured in W-DC) either in the form of: (1) 60,000 distributed 5-kilowatt residential-scale (rooftop) systems owned or leased by retail customers; or (2) 300 MW of utility-scale solar power plants that sell their entire output to Xcel Energy Colorado under long-term purchase power agreements (PPA).

    Using a Reference Case and five scenarios with varying investment tax credit (ITC), PV cost, inflation, and financing parameters, the study finds that customer generation costs per solar MWh are estimated to be more than twice as high for residential-scale systems than the equivalent amount of utility-scale PV systems. The projected 2019 utility-scale PV power costs in Xcel Energy Colorado range from $66/MWh to $117/MWh (6.6¢/kWh to 11.7¢/kWh) across the scenarios, while residential-scale PV power costs range from $123/MWh to $193/MWh (12.3¢/kWh to 19.3¢/kWh) for a typical residential-scale system owned by the customer. For leased residential-scale systems, the costs are even larger and between $140/MWh and $237/MWh (14.0¢/kWh to 23.7¢/kWh). The generation cost difference between the utility- and residential-scale systems owned by the customer ranges from 6.7¢/kWh to 9.2¢/kWh solar across the scenarios. To put this in perspective, national average retail all-in residential electric rates in 2014 were 12.5¢/kWh.

    The large gap in per-MWh costs between utility- and residential-scale systems results principally from: (a) lower total plant costs per installed kilowatt for larger facilities; and (b) greater solar electric output from the same PV capacity (300 MW-DC) due to optimized panel placement, tracking and other economies of scale and efficiencies associated with utility-scale installations.

    Additionally, the analysis finds that residential-scale PV systems cost $195 million more than the utility-scale systems under the Reference Case on an NPV basis over 25 years. If the same amount of residential-scale PV systems (1,200 MW) were installed in 2019 as in 2014, they would cost customers roughly $800 million more in NPV than a comparable purchase of utilityscale systems, under conditions assumed for the Reference Case.

    These cost results include only the customer-paid costs for the generation from equal amounts of PV capacity deployed in two configurations in one utility service area. A complete tally of the differences between equal amounts of the two types of PV capacity would require that these two resource options be alternatively embedded in a complete, subsequently optimized integrated resource plan (IRP) for Xcel Energy Colorado or other systems of interest, which would better reflect the effects of each PV option on system costs and potential benefits such as savings on transmission and distribution outlays and ancillary service costs. However, as discussed below, we evaluate avoided and/or increased transmission and distribution costs between the two types of PV plants, as well as externalities, and conclude that including these added or avoided costs is unlikely to change our conclusion.

    Additionally, while the results of this analysis apply solely to the Xcel Energy Colorado system and should not be transferred to other areas without attention to comparative insolation levels and other cost drivers that vary by region, the authors believe that the general relationship between costs is likely to hold true for most of, if not all, U.S. utilities with significant solar potential. The authors also find through the sensitivity cases that the results are robust to changes in federal tax credits, inflation, interest rates, and changes in PV costs than we project in our Reference Case.

    Overall, the findings in this report demonstrate that utility-scale PV system is significantly more cost-effective than residential-scale PV systems when considered as a vehicle for achieving the economic and policy benefits commonly associated with PV solar. If, as the study shows, there are meaningful cost differentials between residential- and utility-scale systems, it is important to recognize these differences, particularly if utilities and their regulators are looking to maximize the benefits of procuring solar capacity at the lowest overall system costs. With the likely onset of new state greenhouse gas savings targets from pending EPA rules, the options for reducing carbon emissions and the costs of achieving them will take on an even greater importance.

    Simply stated, most of the environmental and social benefits provided by PV systems can be achieved at a much lower total cost at utility-scale than at residential-scale…

    Conclusions

    This report has examined the comparative customer-paid costs of generating power from equal amounts of utility- and residential-scale PVs in Xcel Energy Colorado’s area. Our results indicate that customer generation costs per solar MWh are estimated to be more than twice as high for residential-scale systems, than the equivalent amount of utility-scale PVs.

    Projected 2019 utility-scale PV power costs in Colorado range from $66/MWh to $117/MWh across our scenarios, while residential-scale PV power costs range from $123/MWh to $193/MWh for a typical residential-scale system owned by the customer. For leased residentialscale systems, the costs are between $140/MWh and $237/MWh. Based on the Reference case and remaining five Scenarios we analyzed, residential-scale PVs costs $87 million to $195 million more than the utility-scale on an NPV basis over 25 years. In 2014, 1,200 MW of residential-scale PV systems were installed in the U.S. If the same amount of residential-scale PV systems (1,200 MW) were installed in 2019, these PV systems would cost customers roughly $800 million more in NPV than a comparable purchase of utility-scale systems, under conditions assumed for the Reference Case.

    These results apply to the Xcel Energy Colorado system and should not be transferred to other areas without attention to comparative insolation levels and other cost drivers that vary by region. However, we believe that the general relationship between costs is likely to hold true for most of, if not all, U.S. utilities with significant solar potential. We also find that our results are robust to changes in federal tax credits, inflation, interest rates, and changes in PV costs than we project in our base case.

    As noted earlier, our specific quantitative results apply only to the generation portion of electric power service. In order to evaluate the complete customer cost differences between the two types of PV power, it is essential to evaluate these options in an optimized integrated resource planning framework that incorporates all the comparative monetized non-generation cost and benefit differences, such as transmission and distribution system impacts. However, as explained in Section IV, a review of the literature suggests that the total customer costs of PV power within a fully optimized power system will be substantially less expensive for equal amounts of utilityscale compared to residential-scale PVs in the vast majority of cases. Nevertheless, a full evaluation of these considerations would have to take place in the context of an optimized integrated resource plan, which we have not undertaken here.

    Finally, we have briefly examined non-monetized social benefits that could potentially offset the costs. Among the main categories, water, fuel price hedge, energy security, and emissions, social benefits are roughly proportional to the amount of solar generation and are therefore higher for utility-scale PVs. Resilience benefits may be higher for some residential (and community) systems, and jobs benefits are ambiguous.

    Overall, our findings demonstrate that utility-scale PV system is significantly more cost-effective than residential-scale PV systems when considered as a vehicle for achieving the economic and policy benefits commonly associated with PV solar. If, as we have shown, there are meaningful cost differentials between residential- and utility-scale systems, it is important to recognize these differences, particularly if utilities and their regulators are looking to maximize the benefits of procuring solar capacity at the lowest overall system costs. With the likely onset of new state greenhouse gas savings targets from pending EPA rules, the options for reducing carbon emissions and the costs of achieving them will take on an even greater importance. Simply stated, most of the environmental and social benefits provided by PV systems can be achieved at a much lower total cost at utility-scale than at residential-scale.

    QUICK NEWS, July 21: THE PROMISE OF SOLAR’S NUMBERS; LIVING GEOTHERMAL HOBBIT-LIKE; SMART THERMOSTAT BIZ LEADERS

    THE PROMISE OF SOLAR’S NUMBERS Two Numbers: Solar Energy's Price Drop, Ahead of Schedule, Could Help Save the Planet

    Zoe Schlanger, July 15, 2015 (Newsweek)

    “…[The just-announced White House series of measures intended to make solar power more accessible to low- and middle-income households would have been unthinkable not long ago] because solar was too expensive. But the price in the U.S. has plummeted 70 percent since 1998, from nearly $86,000 for a 5-kilowatt installation (the average residential solar array) to just $26,000 in 2014…That translates to a massive drop in per-month energy costs…[from $76.67 a watt to 60 cents per watt while the average retail price of electricity in the U.S.] is $1.26 a watt…Many predict that as the price of solar technology continues to fall, and the pressures on nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions mount, the sun will provide a major share of the world’s future energy mix. A report by the International Energy Agency last year predicted solar could be the world’s main source of energy as soon as 2050.” click here for more

    LIVING GEOTHERMAL HOBBIT-LIKE These Geothermal Mountain Dwellings Look Like They Belong In The Shire; Built Into A Mountain In Japan, The Miyawaki Gurido Complex Is Temperature Controlled Thanks To The Mountain's Geothermal Properties.

    Meg Miller, July 17, 2015 (GizModo via Fast Company)

    “In Japan, a country whose territory is almost three-quarters mountainous, developing new property outside of the densely packed urban areas can be problematic—unless you're willing to work with the terrain instead of against it…[Architect Keita Nagata] built Miyawaki Gurido, a Shire-ready housing complex that is literally buried into the side of the mountain…[S]ince the complex is surrounded by the mountain's soil, geothermal energy stabilizes the indoor temperature to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating and cooling tubes below the dwelling capture fresh air through an air-supply tower and pump it into the house to regulate the temperature as needed…[R]ent ranges from around $500 for the smaller units to $1,080 for the larger ones…” click here for more

    SMART THERMOSTAT BIZ LEADERS Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Smart Thermostats; Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 12 Smart Thermostat Hardware, Software, and Services Vendors for Utility and Commercial Markets

    3Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “The market for communicating and smart thermostats has exploded with activity…[The technology has evolved] into a stable and growing market. The year 2015 has seen…conclusive evidence of cost-effectiveness [in collaborations between ecobee and Carrier and Nest and solar provider SolarCity, as well as continued expansion of global marketing on behalf of Nest and tado…Heightened awareness of residential energy management and growing interest in particular devices, such as the Nest and ecobee smart thermostats, have fueled an end-consumer-based spike in the smart thermostat market…Despite challenges such as the affordability of energy…[newer] players like tado have given longtime vendors, such as Honeywell and Carrier, some additional competition…[and] disrupted the status quo by going direct to consumers, attracting early adopters and a few mainstream consumers…” click here for more