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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.




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  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge


    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here ( Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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


    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



    Your intrepid reporter


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


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

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  • Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Talking With The Redwoods

    “…All of a sudden there were humans and all hell broke loose…” From ConservationDotOrg via YouTube

    Evangelicals Confront Climate Change

    These evangelicals, having confronted the human face of climate change, join a growing movement concerned with “creation care.” From EvangEnviroNetwork’s channel via YouTube

    Living The Platinum Rule: Making The Best Invention Of All Time Better

    How to make batteries dirt cheap: Make them from dirt. From Alger via YouTube

    Friday, October 24, 2014


    EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030; Climate commissioner hails ‘strong signal’ ahead of global Paris summit but key aspects of deal left vague or voluntary

    Arthur Neslen, 23 October 2014 (UK Guardian)

    “European leaders have struck a broad climate change pact obliging the EU as a whole to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030…But key aspects of the deal that will form a bargaining position for global climate talks in Paris next year were left vague or voluntary, raising questions…{t]two 27% targets were [also] agreed – for renewable energy market share and increase in energy efficiency improvement. The former would be binding only on the EU as a whole. The latter would be optional, although it could be raised to 30% by a review in 2020…With an eye on the haggling expected ahead of a global climate summit in Paris next year, the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said the agreement was an important step for the whole world…But a clause was inserted into the text that could trigger a review of the EU’s new targets if other countries do not come forward with comparable commitments in Paris…The Brussels summit was dominated by arguments over energy savings and climate policy, with countries from Poland to Portugal pleading special circumstances and threatening to veto any breakthrough unless their demands were met…” click here for more


    First plant in Morocco solar mega-project to open in 2015

    October 19, 2014 (AFP)

    “...[P] art of a multi-billion-euro project the oil-scarce kingdom [of Morocco] hopes will satisfy its growing energy needs…[the Nour 1 Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) piece of the Ouarzazate Solar Complex, the biggest solar complex in Africa, will be operational in 2015]…The North African country is aiming to [get 42 percent of its total power by 2020] and is eyeing the chance to export clean electricity to nearby Europe…Morocco expects to build five new solar plants by the end of the decade with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW) and at an estimated cost of seven billion euros ($9 billion)…The Nour 1 plant cost 600 million euros and is expected to have a capacity to generate 160 MW…A consortium led by Saudi developer ACWA Power won the contract to build the plant…The World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank are helping to finance…[Winners of contracts for Nour 2 and 3 will be announced by the end of 2014, with construction to] begin at the start of next year…[An announcement about a] third and final construction phase at Ouarzazate will be announced [soon]…” click here for more


    Norway Approves First Direct Power Link to Germany

    Stefan Nicola, October 13, 2014 (Bloomberg News)

    "Norway approved the construction of the first direct electricity cable to Germany and granted a license for a link to the U.K. to aid power trading between the nations…Norway’s government granted power-grid operator Statnett SF the necessary licenses for the country’s portion of the Nord.Link project…DC Nordseekabel GmbH, which is owned by TenneT TSO GmbH and KfW Group, will carry out construction on the German side…Germany has already granted all necessary permits…The cable would be the first direct power link between the nations and have a capacity to transmit 1.4 gigawatts starting in 2018 or 2019…It would allow the countries to trade hydropower from Norway and wind electricity from Germany…[The] 1.4-gigawatt interconnector to the U.K. that’s scheduled to be completed in 2020…would link Kvilldal in Norway to Blyth in Northumberland and may bring low-cost renewable energy to the U.K. for an investment of more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion)…Norway is already linked with the Netherlands through NorNed, a 700-megawatt subsea cable that began operating commercially in 2008. It also has connections with Denmark and Sweden.” click here for more


    Turkish Geothermal Power Plants Use Industrial Internet to Help Analyze Data and Save Water with GE Automated Solution

    18 October 2014 (The Financial)

    “Three geothermal power plants in Turkey, owned by Kipaş Holding, have significantly reduced water usage, lowered CO2 emissions, decreased corrosion and are using the Industrial Internet to analyze data…[Kipaş Holding was given GE’s Return on Environment (ROE) award for expansions] [at] three of its existing Maren Enerji geothermal plants…[It] is constructing one new plant—all with GE water treatment technology [which is saving $500,000 annually]. The three existing plants, together, produce a total of 68 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The new facility will produce 24 MW…[T]he Maren Enerji geothermal plants in Aydin, Turkey, are using GE’s InSight* Knowledge Management Solution, a remote monitoring and diagnostic platform, to monitor the performance of the water treatment systems at the power plants…[The] Web-based platform…maximize[s] the plants’ reliability through real-time visualization and diagnostics related to keeping the water systems’ performance and the contributing parameters on track…GE also provided an automatic chemical solution preparation unit…The geothermal power plants have one of the world’s longest underground piping networks to deliver the chemical to the geothermal wells…” click here for more

    Thursday, October 23, 2014


    Evangelical Christian pastors frame environmentalism in religious terms

    Kelsey Dallas, October 18, 2014 (Deseret News)

    “For the past five years, Mitch Hescox has served as president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. For 18 years before that, he served as a local church pastor. And for 14 years before that, he worked in America's coal industry…[He believes] "creation care is the greatest cause in the world today…And it's the easiest way to tell the story of God to new generations of young people." [He] is among a growing number of evangelical Christian pastors who are making headway with their followers on the topic of environmental stewardship…[O]nly evangelical Protestants [among Christians] showed significant growth in environmental concern from 1993 to 2010…[E]vangelical leaders like Hescox have found a way to bring religious values into a conversation once dominated by secular, political claims…Among all Christian respondents [in a recent study], 44.4 percent reported being concerned by air pollution caused by cars in 2010, a 6.1 percent drop from 1993. Similarly, there was a 6.7 percent drop in willingness to pay higher prices to improve the environment and a 7.9 percent drop in willingness to pay higher taxes…[E]vangelical opinions…showed statistically significant increases in four of the 10 pro-environmental categories…” click here for more


    Minnesota wind energy firm Sheerwind looking to test technology in Hawaii

    Duane Shimogawa, October 16, 2014 (Pacific Business News)


    Google-owned Makani to test wind technology on Hawaii's Big Island

    October 9, 2014 (Pacific Business News)

    “…SheerWind Inc., which has developed a patented technology [called the INVELOX system] that captures, accelerates and concentrates wind energy, ultimately [outperforms traditional wind turbines and reduces] costs, may help solve major problems that have plagued the industry, including low turbine reliability, intermittency issues and environmental impacts…Makani, a wind-power startup owned by Google that is developing an energy kite to generate electricity at high altitudes, plans to be testing its technology on the Big Island of Hawaii by this time next year..[It] tested a smaller version of the product on Maui…[and] plans to test a wind kite that flies more than 1,000 feet from the ground on the end of a tether…mimics the motions of a wind turbine blade…[and] can generate enough electricity to power 300 homes.” click here for more


    Tea party pushing for Florida to step up solar energy efforts

    Ivan Penn, October 17, 2014 (Tampa Bay Times)

    “Florida's investor-owned utilities have a new, unexpected opponent…[The Tea Party Patriots plan] to push for more solar in the Sunshine State as she has in challenge the monopoly control of Florida's major utilities…[through the new Florida] group Conservatives for Energy Freedom…Florida's investor-owned utilities have enjoyed what many see as a lock on Tallahassee's Republican-dominated political world...An uprising from within the Republican Party could alter the course of the state's energy policy at a time when a growing number of grass roots groups have been stepping up their efforts…The nation's power companies already are increasingly under pressure as solar's price continues to fall, solar panels become more efficient and solar companies offer programs that make it easier for homeowners and businesses to install…Combined with more energy-efficient products, solar is helping electricity customers envision the kind of personalized service that technology has brought to the communications, media and music industries…What the rest of the world admiringly calls renewable energy and "energy efficiency,'' the utilities call "disruptive'' technologies…” click here for more


    What's Holding Back Electric-Car Sales? Many Consumers Don't Know Much About the Vehicles or Available Incentives

    Yuliya Chernova, September 28, 2014 (Wall Street Journal)

    “…Research suggests [electric car sales are lower than predicted because of] a basic lack of familiarity, a high price tag, misconceptions about the cars—and ineffective government incentives…In a survey by researchers from Indiana University and the University of Kansas, respondents couldn't correctly answer basic factual questions about plug-in electric vehicles more than 60% of the time. Some 75% of wrong answers underestimated the beneficial aspects of the vehicles…Many respondents didn't realize that all-electric cars require less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars. Oil changes aren't necessary, for example, and there are fewer breakable parts. The study also found that people often underestimated the fuel savings electric cars offer…Obstacles cited in [a National Research Council] report included high prices, few model choices, limited driving range on a single charge, the lack of a widespread charging infrastructure, and the inconvenience of installing charging stations at home…The report suggested that helping people learn more about electric cars, including through demonstrations at locations such as sports stadiums, office parks and malls, would go a long way to changing their attitudes…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014



    SAVINGS FOR SCHOOLS FROM GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS Using Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems in Schools; Some schools in the United States and Europe have begun to use geothermal energy to cut down on energy consumption and provide an energy-efficient education.

    Sharon Gamson Danks, October 2014 (Mother Earth News)

    “…The temperature of the earth…[at a depth of six feet remains between 45 degrees f and 75 degrees f] throughout the year even when the air temperature experiences wide fluctuations from winter to summer…Geothermal heating and cooling systems are designed to take advantage of this thermal constant by pumping air or water into the ground to be heated or cooled to the earth’s stable temperature…The conditioned air or water may then be used [with little energy expenditure] in radiant heating or cooling systems embedded in the building’s floors, or as part of the building’s HVAC (climate control) systems…[These systems] could save schools a substantial amount of energy [and money and have reasonably short payback periods, generally take up less room in the school than conventional heating and cooling equipment, and run quietly…” click here for more

    BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS Production Begins at Second U.S. Cellulosic Biofuel Facility

    Jeremy Martin, October 17, 2014 (National Geographic)

    “…Spanish company Abengoa is bringing another big cellulosic biofuel facility online in Hugoton, a small community in the Southwest [Kansas]…This is the second big plant starting up this year, showing that after some predictable yet highly scrutinized delays, the cellulosic fuel industry is truly beginning to establish itself and making critical contributions to oil savings and climate goals…The Abengoa plant will double the production capacity on line for cellulosic ethanol, and do it without consuming a kernel of corn…Major companies from all over the world have come to the U.S. to invest in cellulosic biofuel…Yet the U.S. is certainly not the only place that cellulosic biofuels are coming on line. There is also a major cellulosic biofuels facility in Italy, and a cellulosic biorefinery just started up in Brazil…The cellulosic plant that opened in Iowa in August is a collaboration of Poet, a major US ethanol company, and Royal-DSM, a company from the Netherlands…Another major player in cellulosic biofuels is Danish firm Novozymes…[Beta Renewables] just started the cellulosic facility in Brazil…The Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increasing biofuels production steadily over time, is central to [U.S.] plans…” click here for more

    ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING Energy Storage Tracker 3Q14; Global Energy Storage Installations: Market Share Data, Industry Trends, Market Analysis, and Project Tracking by World Region, Technology, Application, and Market Segment

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “Government funding, subsidies, and regulatory reforms in energy storage and related areas continue to encourage market growth. Lithium ion (Li-ion) technology has emerged as the global leader…[F]lywheels and flow batteries are also making significant headway. North America continues to move the market forward…[Western Europe] is also leading the market with utility-scale advanced battery and power-to-gas installations and announcements…Key vendors in the industry continue to specialize as systems integrators in the supply chain. In some cases, integrators are entering the sector from other industries. This is a critical time …[M]ore systems integrators are needed…[Navigant Research estimates] 362.8 MW of energy storage projects have been announced globally in the 2013-2014 period with an almost equal distribution between North America (103.3 MW), Asia Pacific (100.5 MW), and Western Europe (91.1 MW)…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014


    The National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study (NOWEGIS)

    September 2014 (U.S. Department of Energy)


    SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS SolarCity Offers Bonds Online to Ordinary Investors

    Diane Cardwell, October 15, 2014 (NY Times)

    “SolarCity, the country’s leading installer of rooftop solar systems, began selling bonds online to ordinary investors…joining a handful of companies that are using crowdfunding to finance solar development…The company will issue up to $200 million in the bonds, whose maturities range from one to seven years and carry interest rates of 2 percent to 4 percent…The company has moved aggressively to raise money to finance its fast-growing business, including several debt offerings for institutional investors, like one begun last month to raise as much as $575 million. But this new effort is open to any United States citizen, 18 or older, with a domestic bank account who makes a minimum investment of $1,000…Several companies, like Mosiac, are already using crowdfunding to funnel money into solar projects. But those largely pool money from investors to provide loans for small- and medium-scale projects. SolarCity’s platform will instead pay back the bonds it issues with the income from the monthly solar electricity payments made by its customers, which include homeowners, schools, businesses and government organizations…[T]hey hope to appeal to people who want to help finance the growth of clean energy but desire the security of bonds…” click here for more

    NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND Measure Ratchets Up Targets For Nj’s Offshore-Wind Industry; Backers say bill, which calls for 4,500 megawatts by 2050, isn’t meant for the Christie administration but for one friendlier to renewable subsidies

    Tom Johnson, October 15, 2014

    “…A bill (S-2444) being considered by the [New Jersey] Senate Environment and Energy Committee would require 3,000 megawatts of generation from offshore wind projects by 2030 and 4,500 megawatts by 2050 be delivered to customers. That is far more than the 1,100 megawatts that would be required by 2020, a goal few think will ever be met. In fact, the measure eliminates the 1,100-megawatt target…The proposal is part of a bill that would require 80 percent of New Jersey’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2050. But even its advocates acknowledge the legislation stands little chance of being approved anytime soon, although they hope to lay the groundwork for passage in the next administration…Both the Christie administration and the Legislature once viewed offshore wind as an opportunity to develop a new green industry off the coast, a move that would create thousands of well-paying jobs and provide a needed spur to the state’s economy…[but] rising costs of subsidies to support renewable energy have become an increasing concern…[A]dvocates of the bill say opponents’ arguments about the costs fail to reflect the benefits of moving to cleaner ways of producing electricity in a state long-burdened with air pollution problems that affect public health…” click here for more

    SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE Residential Energy Efficient Lighting and Lighting Controls; Incandescent, Halogen, Fluorescent, and LED Luminaires and Lamps and Intelligent Controls: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The global residential lighting market is on the verge of a major transformation…Extremely energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lamps are being adopted at an astonishing rate while remote control of connected lights is on the cusp of becoming much more commonplace…[and] all-encompassing home energy management (HEM) and home automation…is steadily gathering pace…Increasingly, homeowners are being drawn to the range of new use cases that controllable and networked LEDs bring. The ability of these devices to communicate with other popular connected devices is likely to prove particularly popular…[and bring] about energy savings automatically. According to Navigant Research, global revenue associated with the installation of residential lighting controls is expected to grow from $2.4 billion in 2014 to $4.6 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Monday, October 20, 2014


    Market Resource Alternatives: An Examination of New Technologies in the Electric Transmission Planning Process

    Julia Frayer and Eva Wang, October 2014 (London Economics International)


    WIRES commissioned London Economics International LLC (“LEI”) to provide a report on market resource alternatives (“MRAs”). The purpose of this Report is to provide external parties with a clear understanding of MRAs, and compare their features - advantages and shortcomings - relative to transmission. In addition, based on analysis of how MRAs have been examined by planners and regulators, LEI also proposes a set of analytical tools and techniques that can be used to effectively evaluate MRAs alongside transmission investment. The Report consists of four chapters: the first chapter addresses the question “what are MRAs and why do we need to analyze them?”; the second chapter discusses how MRAs are considered in federal and regional policy; the third chapter shows how MRAs are used in organized markets in the U.S. through a case study analysis; and the fourth chapter provides a proposed ”toolkit” of analytical tools and techniques that would allow for the effective evaluation of MRAs within the transmission planning environment.

    Executive Summary

    WIRES commissioned London Economics International LLC (“LEI”) to provide a Report on market resource alternatives (“MRAs”). Specifically, WIRES asked LEI to determine whether and when MRAs can augment and/or replace transmission, and how MRAs and transmission can be evaluated on equal footing in the system planning context. The purpose of this Report is twofold. First, we seek to provide readers with a clear understanding of MRAs and their features - advantages and shortcomings - relative to transmission. Second, drawing on analysis of how MRAs have been examined by planners and regulators to date, we propose a set of analytical tools and modeling techniques (which we refer to as the “toolkit”) that can be used to effectively evaluate MRAs alongside transmission investment.

    An understanding of MRAs and how they can be compared to and evaluated alongside transmission investment is critical given the increasing attention being paid to MRAs and as a result of advancements in technology, policy evolution, and the basic need for transmission investment to maintain, modernize, and expand the grid. System planners are required to consider reliability, market outcomes, and transmission congestion as well as public policy as they work to develop a robust power grid. MRAs are increasingly being put forth as possible solutions in lieu of transmission infrastructure. However, based on the characteristics of MRAs today, MRAs are rarely a complete substitute to transmission, and individual MRAs typically provide only a partial suite of the services that transmission provides. Nevertheless, MRAs (either individually or in combination) can provide specific benefits and can serve as complements to transmission, and vice versa. Furthermore, MRAs have the potential to delay the timing for needed transmission investment. An understanding of what services MRAs can and cannot provide, and the benefits and challenges associated with MRAs is therefore critical for system planners, who must ultimately be able to evaluate viable MRAs and transmission projects side-by-side and select a solution that best addresses the needs of the electric power system and customers.


    Through our research and case studies, LEI developed key observations about MRAs and transmission investment.

    • Transmission provides a variety of services and offers a broad range of potential benefits. Understanding the types of services and benefits transmission can provide is necessary as MRAs will be evaluated in terms of the services and benefits they can provide when compared to transmission.

    • An MRA generally is able to provide only a partial suite of services that transmission provides. MRAs may provide some of the services that transmission can provide, but they cannot perfectly replace transmission. Furthermore, the services each MRA can provide vary.

    • Comprehensively measuring the benefits and costs to customers is necessary in order to distinguish among the feasible solutions and the various services that MRAs and transmission can provide; relying on least cost analysis is not sufficient. In the analysis of MRA policies regionally, federal guidelines, and specific case studies involving MRAs, we have found that such a comprehensive analysis is rarely performed.

    • It is important to consider both the magnitude and breadth of benefits of MRAs compared to transmission. One must consider the ability of a solution - be that MRAs or transmission - to provide benefits and services to various customer classes and over what geographic and time dimension. Different MRAs provide benefits of varying magnitude and breadth. Transmission, on the other hand, is typically built to provide benefits to the larger regional system over a long period of time.

    • Operational uncertainty is an important consideration for MRAs. We have found that there are often high levels of operational uncertainty associated with MRAs, especially in the longer term. Given the technical and operational characteristics of transmission system planners historically have not had to give significant weight to operational uncertainty in their analyses.

    • A comprehensive analysis must include consideration of negative and positive externalities associated with potential costs and benefits. Externalities can be positive; there are examples of strong complementarity between transmission and some MRAs, where transmission opens up further opportunities for MRAs, and vice versa.

    Externalities can be negative; some MRA installations require additional investment to maintain system reliability.

    Recommended Tools and Techniques

    We recognize that system planners have their own analytical approaches and planning processes that have been developed over the decades to provide an extremely reliable and affordable electric system. We are not attempting to specify an approach. We recognize that transmission planners and ISOs/RTOs may have specific processes in place that are unique to their situation. Rather than a “one-size fits all” analytical approach, we are recommending a “toolkit” for system planners with various suggested modeling tools and analytical techniques that can be deployed to analyze transmission and MRAs.

    The analysis deployed by system planners should be inclusive, and consider all feasible solutions – transmission and MRAs. The analysis should be sufficiently detailed and comprehensive so as to distinguish between the feasible solutions’ traits and defining characteristics and benefits. We suggest several guidelines that will provide for an effective analysis of MRAs and transmission:

    • MRAs should be judged on the same criteria for reliability and economic benefits as proposed transmission;

    • Technical feasibility should be a requirement for any solution, not an option; the ability of MRAs to consistently meet the technical (reliability) needs of the system are sometimes overlooked for the sake of policy;

    • MRAs and transmission are not equals in the services and benefits they provide, therefore, the evaluation framework must be able to assess a broad set of benefits and costs to fairly compare MRAs and transmission;

    • A robust cost-benefit analysis should measure and quantify the uncertainties and risks associated with MRAs and transmission;

    • Economic cost-benefit analysis should consider the dynamic evolution of the system; such an analysis may show potential for complementarity between transmission and certain MRAs, which could justify the need for more investment.

    A successful analytical framework, consistent with these guidelines, should

    1. Identify all the benefits and costs and gather them under the umbrella of a cost-benefit analysis,

    2. Use the right set of tools to measure both those benefits and costs and the risks and uncertainties involved, and

    3. Conduct analyses that specifically address the identified challenges for evaluating both MRAs and transmission in an efficient manner.

    If one evaluates MRAs and transmission technically to the same specified “needs” criteria, across the same categories of benefits and over the appropriate geographical and time dimensions, the most robust and efficient investments can be chosen.

    Understanding MRAs

    MRAs can be broadly defined as a group of solutions to identified electric system needs that do not involve traditional transmission infrastructure. MRAs are often referred to as non-transmission alternatives (“NTAs”), a misleading convention that incorrectly implies that MRAs are always a substitute for transmission. MRAs can in fact be complements to transmission infrastructure and should be thought of as one element in a portfolio of infrastructure elements that together are necessary for the efficient and reliable provision of electricity to customers.

    Indeed, the electric system would not be able to operate and provide services to customers if there were only investment in either transmission or MRAs in isolation. MRAs come in a variety of forms and can include supply-side resources (for example, conventional generation and distributed generation or advanced generation-like technologies such as batteries and storage) and demand-side resources (such as demand response and conservation/energy efficiency programs), or a combination of resources that are not conventionally associated with transmission. Discussions of MRAs occurring in wholesale power markets and at state regulatory commissions generally focus on six categories of MRAs: energy efficiency; demand response; utility-scale generation; distributed generation; energy storage; and smart grid technology.

    Services provided by transmission and MRAs

    In order to put the capabilities and benefits of each MRA in context, it is first important to understand the types of services that transmission provides. Transmission provides for the transportation of electric power from producers (generators) to customers (load), often times over long distances. Transmission can also help to ensure resource adequacy because it allows generators located in an isolated area to serve customers in another area of the power grid (in this way, transmission effectively provides capacity). In addition to facilitating the delivery of energy and capacity, transmission can provide other benefits. For example, transmission system reinforcements can reduce system losses and improve overall system efficiency.

    Transmission can also provide support to the electric power grid through the provision of certain ancillary services, which are used to keep the grid operating smoothly. Transmission can provide insurance against uncertain future market events and the costs of such unforeseen events on customers. For example, if in the future a generator were to unexpectedly go off line, transmission lines could allow other generators on the system to serve customers.

    Transmission can also reduce production costs of energy through expansion of a market (and increased competition from other existing resources) as well as provision of market access to new resources. As a consequence of expanding access to market for existing and new resources, transmission can also help to reduce the emissions footprint of the market as a whole and curb harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    It is important to consider to what extent MRAs can produce these same services, over what time dimension they can be counted on to provide these services, and for what geographical area. In many cases, MRAs may have shorter economic lives (or less certain longevity in terms of the market benefits that they create) than transmission, and provide benefits to a smaller or more localized geographical segment of customers.

    In Figure 2 below, we have prepared a visual comparison of the services that various current MRA technologies can provide relative to transmission. This comparison is meant to reflect the relative abilities of generic MRAs and generic transmission investment to provide broad classes of services. In reality, the specific services will vary with the characteristics of the individual project (i.e., proposed solution) and the underlying “need.” Furthermore, the comparative charts of transmission and MRAs in the following sections reflect the overall experience of LEI and WIRES members with the technologies as they exist today. We recognize that technology (both MRAs and transmission) is evolving rapidly and that MRAs and transmission will likely be able provide a more extensive list of services in the future. Finally, we recognize that this type of comparative chart can simplify the relationship between transmission and MRAs. As mentioned earlier, transmission and MRAs are interconnected – a system comprised of one or the other would not be functional. In this sense, transmission can only provide energy and capacity if there is a generator connected to the grid able to generate the energy and capacity.

    Likewise, generation can only provide energy and other services if there is a transmission system that connects the generator to customers. Nevertheless, the comparison of relative abilities under current technology provides a high level consideration of relative strengths and weaknesses of different MRAs, from which benefits can be evaluated. Such a comparison of services is also a useful cross-check for the toolkit, which needs to contain tools and techniques that can capture such differences in services provided, technical characteristics, and ultimately economic costs and benefits.

    We observe that individual MRAs are generally not capable of providing all of the same services that transmission provides for the same tenure and geographical dimension. Furthermore, there is considerable variety among MRAs in their ability to provide services.

    With the exception of utility-scale generation in limited circumstances, no single MRA is a workable substitute for transmission. However, in certain instances, depending on the identified needs of the system, other MRAs (either individually or in combination) can be beneficial and can serve as complements to transmission, and vice versa.

    Given the characteristics of transmission, it tends to provide a broad array of benefits that accrue to a wide variety of parties over a large geographical dimension. That is, the benefits accrue at a micro or local level (for example, to the investor or a particular community), but transmission also directly benefits a broader set of customers in the electricity sector and indirectly creates benefits for society as a whole, for example through achievement of public policy and macroeconomic benefits (see Figure 11).

    When considering if and how MRAs are able to provide the equivalent benefits of transmission, it is important to understand any challenges or limitations to the ability of MRAs to deliver these benefits (or for system planners and operators to take advantage of these benefits). Not only is it important to understand which of these benefits MRAs can provide, but also to consider the magnitude and breadth of the benefits.

    Transmission delivers its services and provides benefits throughout its long lifecycle. And once built, a transmission asset is a fixed element of the power system and therefore its existence is not dependent on market dynamics. In contrast, some MRAs such as generation (either utility-scale or distributed) or demand response may decide to exit the market and close operations if market conditions are not attractive. The permanent nature of transmission - once in service - means that system planners have reasonable certainty that transmission would provide services and benefits would accrue over the transmission asset’s life. Experience has shown that there is a higher degree of uncertainty associated with MRAs, both in terms of the services and the benefits they can provide.

    Finally, when considering the benefits of transmission or MRAs, it is important to consider the optionality associated with the investment. These can be either positive or negative: for example, if a solution can provide an option to delay other investments or an option for future expansion, that would have a positive value to customers and system planners alike. On the other hand, if a solution requires additional incremental investment to come online (perhaps in the form of additional infrastructure), that cost should also be considered.

    Practical Experience with MRAs

    Practical experience with MRAs is relatively limited. FERC’s Order 1000, issued in 2011, requires consideration of MRAs in the regional transmission planning process. However, it does not establish any requirements as to which MRAs should be considered or what the appropriate metrics for evaluating MRAs against transmission solutions would be. We found that MRAs appear to generally be considered in the transmission planning process in Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations (“ISO/RTOs”) although the timing of an analysis varies on a RTO-to-RTO basis. Generally, evaluation of MRAs completed to date appears to be targeted and localized, rather than comprehensive. This is not surprising as economic analysis of transmission is also a relatively nascent but evolving component of the system planning process.

    We selected four case studies that cover a variety of MRA technologies and investment needs, apply varying levels of analytical techniques for consideration of MRAs and transmission solutions, and highlight different aspects of the interplay between MRAs and transmission investment. Specifically, we considered the following case studies in our review of MRAs: Boothbay Smart Grid Reliability Pilot project in Maine, I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Transmission Project by Bonneville Power Administration (“BPA”), PATH and MAPP transmission projects in PJM, and Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project in California.



    Zachary Shahan, October 16, 2014 (PlanetSave)

    "…[The disadvantage of solar energy is that] the sun doesn’t shine 24/7…[The advantages of solar energy] everybody should know…Solar energy can (probably) save you money…is better for our health...fights global warming and catastrophic climate change…makes the grid more secure…cuts the need for a lot of transmission…comes at times of very high demand…protects us from fuel price volatility… is renewable…is extremely abundant…is a great job creator…[and] needs very little water…” click here for more

    YAHOO BUYS WIND Yahoo Signs Long Term Power Purchase Agreement with OwnEnergy; Tech Leader's Purchase of Wind Energy Will Expand Sustainability Efforts

    Oct. 16, 2014 (PRNewswire)

    “…Yahoo!, Inc. [has entered into a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with OwnEnergy to purchase half the wind power output from the 48 megawatt Alexander Wind Farm in Kansas] which will be used to offset much of Yahoo's energy usage in the Great Plains region…OwnEnergy partners with energy entrepreneurs across the country to develop wind projects. The company's local partners are leading members of wind-rich communities who play an active role in project development and receive a share of project ownership in return…While Yahoo is one of the first tech companies to embrace this model of community-centric partnership, the trend for corporate purchasers to buy wind directly from wind farms is gaining pace…OwnEnergy is the national leader in mid-sized wind energy development [with a pipeline of 25 projects representing 2,000 megawatts in 23 states. It]…enables landowners and communities to build and profit directly from their own local wind farms…” click here for more

    SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE Smart Thermostats; Communicating Thermostats, Smart Thermostats, and Associated Software and Services: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The market for communicating and smart thermostats has exploded with activity since 2013…The year 2014 has seen significant business activity in the form of mergers and acquisitions, international expansion, technological growth, and more conclusive evidence of cost-effectiveness…In North America and Europe, interest in smart thermostat technology is growing among utilities and energy retailers, as well as consumers…[S]mall businesses are increasingly adopting solutions originally intended for residences…[to manage] heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. For other regions, the technology remains nascent…According to Navigant Research, global revenue for communicating and smart thermostats and associated software and services is expected to grow from $146.9 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    The Ocean Speaks Out

    “…I’m what they crawled out of…It’s not their planet anyway. It never was. It never will be…” From ConservationDotOrg via YouTube

    Adapting To The Inevitable

    It is now necessary now to prepare for the unavoidable – and avoid the catastrophic. From Scripps Oceanography via YouTube

    The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun

    It’s all about plugging in New Energy. From YaleClimateForum via YouTube