Hawking On Trump’s Misguided Climate Policy
R.I.P. Great Spirit, Great Mind. From BBC News via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, March 17-18:
R.I.P. Great Spirit, Great Mind. From BBC News via YouTube
This quick piece offers a great way to think about the path to the best deal a homeowner can get. From CSUExtension via YouTube
Wind is a new, household budget-saving crop for struggling farmers and ranchers all across the country. From YaleClimateConnections via YouTube
20,000 scientists give dire warning about the future in 'letter to humanity' – and the world is listening; The paper is now one of the most discussed scientific works ever and has been signed by a huge number of experts
Andrew Griffin, 7 March 2018 (UK Independdent)
“A dire warning to the world about its future, which predicts catastrophe for humanity, is continuing to gain momentum…[The November 2017 Letter to Humanity] has now been signed by around 20,000 scientists…[The letter argues] scientists and economists need to switch their focus from encouraging growth to conserving the planet…[because of critical environmental limits to resource-dependent economic growth…[ Oregon State University Professor of Ecology William Ripple, the letter’s lead author, said] scientists’ warning to humanity ‘has clearly struck a chord’ with both the global scientific community and the public…The publishers of the letter now say that the letter is the sixth most-discussed piece of research since Altmetric records, which track publications’ impact, began…[and] has prompted speeches in the Israeli Knesset and Canada’s BC Legislature.” click here for more
Green energy still no closer: WEF study
David Fogarty, March 15, 2018 (The Straits Times)
“Most of the world's energy systems have become more accessible and more secure but not any greener…[Fostering Effective Energy Transition looked at the energy systems of 114 countries which accounted for more than 98 per cent of global gross domestic product, focusing on their electricity grids as well as fuels for transport and cooking…[It concludes there is a slowdown in global progress towards environmental sustainability, which is whether energy systems, and particularly electricity production,] is becoming more environmentally friendly over time by steadily reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and improving air and water pollution…Globally, the energy system, through burning fossil fuels, is responsible for more than two-thirds of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions. Burning coal in power stations and steel-making is by far the single largest source of CO2 that scientists say is heating up the planet. So [seizing the economic opportunity in taking on the huge challenge of] cutting emissions, particularly from the electricity sector, will be crucial in limiting global warming…” click here for more
Wind farm proves it can provide cheaper, more precise grid security than gas generators
Giles Parkinson, 13 March 2018 (ReNew Economy)
“…[Results are in on the ground-breaking first trial using a wind farm to provide frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) to the Australian grid. It shows the Hornsdale 2 wind farm, part of the huge 315MW Hornsdale wind complex that includes the Tesla big battery officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve,] had cut prices and delivered a more ‘precise’ service to the market operator…[It was also significant because] it coincided with a major ‘peak’ FCAS event – caused by maintenance work on the inter-connector to Victoria – that would have sent prices to $9,000MW or more in normal circumstances…[T]he intervention of the Hornsdale wind farm, along with the Tesla big battery, slashed those prices to $300/MW…It was the first concrete sign of how new technologies could break up the fossil fuel cartel that had been extracting high prices from the grid for years…[The FCAS delivered by the Hornsdale turbines over the trials delivered greater response precision, when compared to conventional generators, and provided an ‘enhanced stabilisation’ of the electricity grid…” click here for more
Desert Sun to Power Upper Egypt With $2.8 Billion Solar Park
Salm El Wardany, March 14, 2018 (Bloomberg News)
“Egypt inaugurated the first solar power plant at a remote desert complex where the government plans to generate as much as 1.8 gigawatts from the sun, cutting the most populous Arab nation’s reliance on dirty and expensive fossil fuels… The 64-megawatt facility is the first of 32 units that the government targets for construction at Benban Solar park in southeastern Aswan province. The project, with all the plants, is to be completed next year at a cost of $2.8 billion…Egypt currently produces more than 90 percent of its power from oil and natural gas…Benban Solar park, along with other projects in planning, should help Egypt scale back its use of hydrocarbons as the country targets generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2022…Formerly a gas exporter, Egypt must now import liquefied natural gas, or LNG, at a high cost to meet its energy needs…[New gas fields] should help the country close its supply gap, trim its import bills and maybe even resume exports. Solar and wind projects [buoyed by a restructured incentive program] will help transform the country’s menu of energy options…” click here for more
Schwarzenegger planning to sue oil companies for 'knowingly killing people all over the world’
Rebecca Savransky, March 12, 2018 (The Hill)
“Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is planning to sue oil companies, alleging they are ‘knowingly killing people all over the world.’…[H]e is still working on the timing for his push, but he is now speaking with private law firms…[He argues the climate issue is like the smoking issue in that the] tobacco industry knew for decades that smoking would kill people…[and hid] that fact from the people and denied it…[but, when taken to court,] had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars…[He said the oil companies knew from 1959 on, through internal studies, that climate change caused by fossil fuels] would kill…[He added that, like cigarettes, products that burn] fossil fuels should have warning labels…” click here for more
U.S. Solar Market Adds 10.6 GW of PV in 2017, Community Solar Soars
March 15, 2018 (Solar Energy Industries Association)
“…[T]he solar industry installed 10.6 gigawatts (GW) of new PV capacity in 2017, led by strong growth in the corporate and community solar segments...[O]verall growth was down from the 15 GW installed in the record-shattering 2016…[but it was a] 40 percent growth over 2015’s installation…Key findings on 2017 [by the newly released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2017 Year-in-Review from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)] include: …30% of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the U.S. came from solar, ranking second during that period only to natural gas…The residential PV sector fell 16% from 2016…[T]he non-residential sector grew 28% year-over-year, primarily driven by regulatory demand pull-in from looming policy deadlines in California and the Northeast, in addition to the continued build-out of a robust community solar pipeline in Minnesota…Voluntary procurement, rather than state-mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards, will continue to be the primary driver of new utility PV demand, anticipated to drive 1/3 of utility build-out in 2018…” click here for more
Wind Energy’s Carbon Footprint
Vanessa Schipani, March 14, 2018 (FactCheck.org)
“…Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke claimed the ‘carbon footprint on wind [energy] is significant.’ In fact, wind power’s carbon footprint is among the smallest of any energy source…Coal’s carbon footprint is almost 90 times larger…and the footprint of natural gas is more than 40 times larger…Zinke also said wind energy kills ‘as many as 750,000 birds a year.’ This estimate is high, but not impossible. However, oil fields could kill up to 1 million birds a year [and domestic cats kill billions of birds a year]…In 2017, wind energy made up about 6.3 percent of the United States’ total electricity generation…compared with about 30 percent each for coal and natural gas and 20 percent for nuclear energy… Solar energy made up only 1.3 percent…[Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from solar, wind, and nuclear technologies are considerably lower and less variable than emissions from technologies powered by combustion-based natural gas and coal...” click here for more
Charging An Electric Vehicle Is Far Cleaner Than Driving On Gasoline, Everywhere In America
Silvio Maracci, March 14, 2018 (Forbes)
“…New data shows that in every corner of the United States, driving an EV produces significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than cars powered only by gasoline, regardless of the local power mix. Today, an average EV on the road in the U.S. has the same greenhouse-gas emissions as a car getting 80 miles per gallon (MPG). That’s up from 73 MPG in 2017, and far greater than the average gas-powered car available for sale in the U.S., which hit a record 24.7 MPG in 2016…Average EV emissions have continued to decline over time thanks to accelerating coal plant closures and the decarbonization of America’s power sector (down 28% since 2007), so while burning gasoline won’t get much cleaner, driving on electricity can get cleaner every year – saving billions in health expenses and climate impacts along the way…[according to the Union of Concerned Scientists EV emissions analysis. Transportation] sector emissions supplanted power plant emissions as America’s top source of emissions for the first time in 2016, while electricity emissions continued a decade-long decline…” click here for more
California utilities plot ways to prep grid for coming EV boom; Utilities are rolling out comprehensive pilot programs to integrate EVs onto the grid and prepare for the coming load
Herman K. Trabish, Aug. 22, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: California regulators just approved the smaller, 1-year proposals described here. Their ruling on the bigger, longer-term proposals is expected any time.
Electrifying the transportation sector is no small task. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved a first round of pilot proposals to electrify transportation from the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs). A second, bigger round of proposals is pending. These pilots will cost a combined $1.3 billion and go beyond Gov. Jerry Brown (D)’s plan to have 1.5 million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025. The approved and proposed pilot projects would cover the gamut of possible ways to boost electric vehicle deployment including rate designs, smart charger buildout, public education efforts, and help for utilities to avoid upgrade costs. These new proposed projects are not just focused on cars — they also focus on school and transit buses as well.
This shift toward electrification of new types of transportation follows the innovation in passenger vehicles already well under way. In the first quarter of 2016, 97 makes and models of plug-in hybrid and battery EVs had entered the market. By the end of 2018, at least 181 models are forecast. The pilot projects proposed by California utilities include $553.8 million for SCE’s medium- and heavy-duty charging infrastructure buildout; $225.9 million for SDG&E’s residential charging; and $233.2 million for two projects for PG&E. These investments are expected to seed significant growth, allow utilities to be prepared for the transition to transportation electrification, and could pave the way for utilities across the U.S. to boost deployment while leveraging the grid benefits from managed EV charging…
How rural co-ops are shifting to a cleaner power mix; Driven by wind credits, low gas prices and consumer demand, rural co-ops are finding new ways to grow renewables
Herman K. Trabish, Aug. 21, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Economics continue to drive the exciting power mix transition described here but it has slowed in response to the uncertainty created by federal anti-New Energy policies.
The generation mix of rural electric cooperatives is changing at the same swift pace as the rest of U.S. power system. The biggest changes are in wind energy and natural gas investment. Wind was the biggest non-hydro renewable resource deployed by cooperatives in 2017 and an estimated 850 MW of new wind capacity was planned by the end of 2018, accounting for nearly two-thirds of planned additions in that period, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). To make room for the new generation resources, co-ops shuttered or converted 700 MW of coal between 2014 and 2016, and are expected to shutter or convert up to 1,344 MW more by 2028, eliminating roughly 8% of co-op coal capacity.
The main growth drivers for co-ops, just as for the market at large, is the federal production tax credit (PTC) and state renewables mandates, according to NRECA. Another major factor are rapidly falling costs for new technologies. The combination of these factors has driven power purchase agreement (PPA) prices from an average $70/MWh in 2009 to an all-time lows of below $20/MWh this year, making wind an offer co-ops can’t refuse. And low gas prices have spurred a shift from coal-fired generation, which has typically dominated co-ops' power mixes. But those are not the only solutions co-ops are examining to achieve a cleaner power mix. Some co-ops are advocating for policy changes to encourage investment in electric vehicles and water heaters, to obtain more system flexibility… click here for more
NO QUICK NEWS
2018 Factbook – Sustainable Energy in America
February 15, 2018 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)
The massive and historic transformation of the U.S. energy sector clicked into a higher gear in 2017, despite some new headwinds including policy uncertainties. Renewable deployment grew at a nearrecord pace. Energy productivity and GDP growth both accelerated, demonstrating that the U.S. economy can grow at a reasonable rate even as total energy consumption actually declines. Liquefied natural gas export capacity expanded, allowing the U.S. to become a serious player in global exports for the first time. Power and gas infrastructure build continued to support grid performance and natural gas delivery. All of this combined to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a 25-year low while creating jobs and keeping costs in check for consumers. We draw out the key highlights below. New U.S. wind and solar build, combined with an easing drought in the West, drove renewable generation up from 15% to 18% of the total electricity mix in one year, while contributions from natural gas and coal tapered modestly.
• Renewable generation (including hydropower) soared 14% to an estimated 717TWh in 2017, from 628TWh in 2016. The expansion brought renewables to 18% of total U.S. generation – double their contribution a decade ago. Renewables achieved new heights partly due to a rebound in hydro (up 13%, or 36TWh) as reservoir levels on the West Coast recovered after a severe, prolonged drought. At the same time, a chart-busting number of wind and solar projects built in 2016 (nearly 23GW worth) had their first full year of operation in 2017, bolstering non-hydro renewable generation by 15% to 413TWh. The surge further establishes renewables’ critical role in the U.S. power mix – renewable technologies now contribute nearly as much electricity as the nuclear fleet.
• With 18.4GW of new additions, 2017 marked another boom year for renewables build, second only to 2016’s record of 22.7GW. Overall, renewables have contributed 55% of total build in the past 10 years. Non-hydro renewables continued to represent the largest share of all U.S. new installations, hitting roughly 62% in 2017.
• Build in other renewable sectors (biomass, biogas, waste-to-energy, geothermal, and hydro) continued to stall without long-term policy support. Geothermal added only 24MW through one new project. Large-scale biomass, biogas and waste-to-energy combined added 176MW, while hydro commissioned 208MW.
• Renewables’ rise came as natural gas-fired generation decreased by an estimated 8.1% (113TWh). This brought gas’ share of total U.S. generation down from 34% in 2016 to 32% in 2017. Recovering gas prices, as well as a 1.7% year-on-year fall in total generation (including estimates for distributed solar), may have also contributed to the drop in natural gas-fired generation.
• Nonetheless, natural gas retained its position as the number one producer of U.S. power, as electricity production from coal slipped as well (although to a smaller extent – 37TWh, equivalent to a 3% decline). Continued changes to the structural make-up of the U.S. fleet will likely cement its role here for some years: natural gas build boasted its best year since 2005, as new installations reached 10.7GW in 2017. Further, by end-2017, owners of coal plants – which directly compete with gas in many areas of the country – had announced 12.5GW of planned retirements for 2018, foreshadowing the largest year for coal decommissioning since the 15GW of retirements in 2015.
Consumers devoted a smaller share of their spending towards electricity than at any time ever recorded, while the total share of household expenses dedicated to energy costs also hovered near an all-time low. Power and natural gas prices remain subdued across the country, and contract prices for wind and solar continued to plunge.
• American consumer spending on electricity shrank slightly in 2017 to 1.3% of personal consumption expenditures, down from 1.4% in 2016. Greater energy efficiency and the continued availability of cheap fuels likely contributed to keeping electricity costs a modest part of total consumer expenditures. Spending on natural gas also remained muted, as consumers directed just under 0.4% of their outlays to this resource, similar to 2016 levels.
• A rebound in spending on other energy goods, especially gasoline and motor fuels, counterbalanced the drop in the share of expenditures devoted to electricity bills. Households put 2.1% of their total consumption towards gasoline and motor fuels, up from 1.9% in 2016. However, overall, Americans continue to direct just under 4% of their outlays to energy-related costs – only 2016 has seen a smaller share.
• Retail power prices remained subdued in the U.S. But unlike 2016, when prices fell across the country (on the back of waning wholesale power prices), average retail prices rose modestly in 2017 across most regions. They picked up by 0.5% in New England and the Northwest; around 1% in New York, MISO and the Southeast; 1.2% in SPP; 1.5% in the Southwest; 3.5% in California; 4.8% in Florida; and 6.4% in Alaska. However, average retail prices also dipped by roughly half a percent in PJM and ERCOT.
• In the wholesale power market, average prices rallied in 2017 across the U.S. on the back of natural gas prices, which rose 18% to average $2.96/MMBtu at Henry Hub.
• Electricity offtakers secured renewables at ever cheaper price points. The most competitive power purchase agreements (PPAs) came in at just over $20/MWh for solar, while wind PPAs executed in the U.S. wind belt averaged an estimated $17/MWh in 2017. Utility-scale PV capex costs in the U.S. have declined 49% since 2013 to $1.1m/MW from $2.2m/MW, with projects in regions such as the Southeast breaking through the symbolic “dollar-per-watt” threshold. Wind turbine prices have descended to an estimated $0.99m/MW, down 21% over the same time period. At the same time, taller turbines and improved capacity factors have boosted the productivity of new wind facilities, driving down prices in $/MWh terms at an even faster clip.
• Natural gas has become increasingly affordable for consumers. Retail prices for the commercial sector averaged just $8/mcf in 2017, down 42% over the past decade and near the recent trough observed in 2016. Gas prices for the industrial sector have followed a similar trajectory but continue to undercut commercial rates, averaging just over $4/mcf in 2017.
The U.S. remains competitive globally for energy-intensive industries, thanks to low industrial power prices.
• Industrial power prices in the U.S. have historically been among the most affordable in the world (averaging 6.76¢/kWh in 2016, according to the EIA). The U.S. remained competitive even as exchange rate fluctuations—and market reforms, in the case of Japan—brought down the dollar cost of energy for industrial consumers in China, Japan, and Mexico. Canada, with its strong stock of cheap legacy hydro, hovered at or below U.S. prices. (Canada averaged 5.46¢/kWh in 2016.) These two countries offered the least expensive electricity for industrial users out of the G7 countries.
The renewable, energy efficiency, and natural gas sectors employed approximately three million Americans in 2016. Energy efficiency was the top employer within the sustainable energy sectors, and solar was the fastest growing job-creator among all electricity generation technologies.
• Energy efficiency provided 2.2 million jobs in 2016, according to the January 2017 report from the Department of Energy. Efficiency was the top employer within the sustainable energy segments tracked in the report.
• Among sectors associated with electricity generation, solar employed the highest number of workers in 2016. The solar job count topped nearly 374,000, more than double those from fossil generation, which numbered 151,000 for coal, natural gas, and oil-fired sources combined (not counting employment associated with fuel supply). Solar is still a labor-intensive field and one where a boom in new installations is driving employment.
• Solar also added almost 74,000 jobs from 2015 to 2016, marking a 25% growth year-on-year and again taking top place out of all electricity generation sectors. Wind was second in terms of employment growth, adding 24,650 jobs.
• Fossil fuel-fired generation also creates upstream employment (i.e., jobs related to the extraction, production and transportation of fuels). For natural gas-fired generation, the vast majority of jobs are actually upstream; accounting for these positions brings employment tied to natural gas to an estimated 362,000, up from around 52,000 for downstream jobs at natural gas power plants.
• The electricity storage sector also supported nearly 91,000 jobs in 2016, with just over half affiliated with battery storage. Storage is a burgeoning sector: in 2017, the U.S. added an estimated 251MW in non-hydropower storage capacity, which drove up total commissioned capacity by 33%.
American economic growth is picking up steam – without a parallel jump in energy consumption.
• The U.S. economy advanced 2.3% in 2017, up from 1.5% in 2016. At the same time, U.S. total energy consumption dipped 0.2% to 97.2 quadrillion BTU. Energy productivity, which is the amount of GDP produced by a unit of energy, climbed 2.5% in 2017 as economic growth continued its long-term trend of decoupling from energy use. Since 2008, energy usage has shrunk 1.7% even as GDP has accelerated by 15.3%.
• Annualized electricity consumption, excluding consumption of distributed energy resources, fell 2.6% in 2017 despite stronger economic growth. From 1950 to 1990, demand for electricity increased at an annual average rate of 5.9%. From 1990 to 2007, that dampened to 1.9% growth per year. Since 2007, electricity demand has actually contracted by an average of 0.2% per year.
• Energy efficiency has clearly contributed to this ongoing trend; however, the growth in utility spending on efficiency for electricity has slowed, advancing only 1.6% in 2016 (the latest year for which data is available) to $6.3 billion. This slowdown comes in part because fewer states are introducing new energy efficiency resource standards, while other states’ existing mandates have matured.
• Investments to boost the efficiency of natural gas usage have also paid off. The number of residential customers using natural gas expanded 21% to 69 million in the 20 years from 1998 through 2017. But consumption stayed roughly the same during that period, likely due in part to efficiency gains
Emissions from the electricity sector plummeted again, allowing transportation to retain its place as the largest-emitting sector for the second year in a row.
• U.S. GHG emissions fell to their lowest levels since 1991, shrinking to an estimated 6.4GtCO2e in 2017 after contracting another 1.4% year-on-year. The power sector continues to drive the economy’s de-carbonization – emissions from this sector ebbed 4.2% in 2017, this time on the back of declining load and greater renewable generation (rather than coal-to-gas switching, a primary driver of 2016’s 5.8% downturn).
• Power-sector emissions now sit 28% below their 2005 peak, which puts the U.S. only 4 percentage points away from achieving its former Clean Power Plan target of 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. The rapid emissions reduction in the power sector has also helped to bring the U.S. halfway to its abandoned Paris Agreement target of slashing economy-wide emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
• In 2016, the transportation sector overtook power as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, thanks mostly to lower power-sector emissions and an absence of abatement opportunities within the transportation sector. It expanded the lead to 108MtCO2e in 2017, up from 21MtCO2e in 2016. Power and transportation account for approximately 60% of emissions, with agriculture, industry, and the commercial and residential sectors typically accounting for the other 40%.
The U.S. is solidifying its role as a global liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, and for the first time was a net exporter of natural gas for every month of the year.
• Export activity stepped up at the Sabine Pass LNG terminal, which doubled its capacity in 2017 to 2.5Bcfd. LNG exports totaled 625Bcf from January through November 2017, a value of roughly $2.8 billion (out of a $90 billion/year global LNG market). The U.S. now exports LNG to 25 countries, with Mexico, South Korea, China, and Japan serving as lead offtakers. A second export terminal opening in Maryland (Cove Point) is scheduled to begin commercial operations in early 2018.
• Average pipeline exports to Mexico also rose, climbing 11% to 1,407Bcf as of end-November, compared to 1,265Bcf over the same period in 2016. Together, LNG and natural gas pipeline exports to Mexico have elevated average net export volumes to 2Bcfd as of end-November 2017, compared to an average 0.03Bcfd of net imports for the same period in 2016.
• The growth in foreign demand came as domestic gas demand dipped 2.8% year-on-year, in large part due to the 7.2% drop in natural gas used for gas-fired power generation. Strengthening exports helped to propel an estimated 1.5% uptick in total gas demand from 2016 to 2017.
Utilities and independent developers continue to invest in infrastructure to improve grid operations and support the growth of clean energy.
• Investor-owned utilities and independent transmission developers spent an estimated $22.9 billion on electric transmission in 2017, according to figures collected by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). This represents a 10% rise above the $20.8 billion spent in 2016, and a 91% boost over 2011’s levels. Investments have targeted replacing aging equipment, improving reliability, and bringing renewable generation to end-use consumers, among other purposes.
• The Midwest’s system operator, MISO, is overseeing a large build-out of its wires infrastructure, seeking to replicate Texas’ success in reducing wind curtailment rates. The construction of the Texas Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines brought wind produced in breezy west Texas to demand centers farther east, slashing curtailment rates from a peak of 17% in 2009 to under 2% for 2016. MISO, alongside New England, experiences curtailment rates of around 4%, some of the highest currently seen in the U.S. Five of the 17 transmission projects under development through MISO’s Multi Value Project have already come online, alleviating bottlenecks and cutting curtailment rates by 21% between 2015 and 2016.
• Gas transmission infrastructure is also set to expand, after protracted delays on several major pipelines caused by the lack of a FERC quorum, project-specific setbacks, and regulatory hurdles. An estimated 14Bcfd of capacity was completed in 2017. Although this undershot the 33Bcfd developers originally planned to complete, it was a notable step up from the five preceding years, in which gas transmission build ranged from 5Bcfd to 9Bcfd a year. The pipeline expansions in 2017 included 4.1Bcfd in takeaway capacity from the Appalachian Basin; however, only 1% of this went towards relieving the natural gas constraints in New England.
• Investment in midstream gas infrastructure (e.g., transmission, distribution and storage) climbed 19% from 2015 to 2016, with distribution accounting for nearly half of the escalation in spending. Total investment in distribution hit its highest level yet at $13.4bn, a 16% expansion from 2015 levels.
• On the consumer side, smart metering infrastructure has reached 51% of U.S. households, although regional penetration rates vary widely. As regulators and utilities begin to undertake more activity on grid modernization and dynamic retail tariffs, even players who have traditionally stayed away from smart meters are beginning to assess the technology’s benefits. Utilities have also begun to offer rebates to incentivize the adoption of smart thermostats, which can be used to control peak demand. In 20 states, over half of households are eligible for rebates on smart thermostat purchases.
Global clean energy investment rebounded to the second-highest amount on record. U.S. investments tracked 2016 levels but saw a shift in capital deployment.
• Global new investment in clean energy advanced to $333 billion in 2017, second only to the $360 billion spent in 2015. A 24% escalation in Chinese investment more than offset the 26% contraction in European flows, while the U.S. contribution held its ground at $57 billion, or about 17% of the global total.
• The relatively stable headline figure for U.S. clean energy investment masked shifts in how capital was deployed. Solar investment slumped 20% as policy uncertainty delayed projects and leading residential solar vendors pulled back from the market. Meanwhile, energy smart technologies attracted 25% more funding in 2017 than in 2016 and wind investment expanded 19%.
New sales of battery, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles accelerated, driven especially by new, longer-range versions of existing models. Meanwhile, the price of lithium-ion battery packs, a key cost component for battery electric vehicles, plummeted 23% year-on-year.
• U.S. sales of electric vehicles (EVs), including battery electric vehicles (BEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), jumped to over 194,000 units in 2017, up 23% from the year prior. PHEV sales leapt 24% year-on-year on the back of affordable, longer-range offerings like the Toyota Prius Prime. BEV sales surged 22%, also as a result of longer-range affordable models, including the Chevrolet Bolt, and offerings in new car segments such as the Tesla Model X. In all, EVs made up 1.1% of new vehicle sales in the U.S. in 2017, up from 0.9% in 2016. It is estimated that around 749,000 EVs are on the road in the U.S. as of end-2017.
• On a subsidized, lifetime basis, BEVs can cost up to one-third less than equivalent vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines (ICE). PHEVs, on the other hand, tend to cost more than midsized ICE vehicles. This results from a combination of higher prices and fuel costs, as well as lower subsidies.
• The price of lithium-ion battery packs, a key driver of BEV pricing, crashed 23% in 2017. Pack prices tumbled 65% between 2013 and end-2017, bringing average prices down to $209/kWh. Cells, which contribute roughly 70% of the total cost of a pack, experienced a more rapid decrease (26%) last year than the other cost components, thanks to economies of scale, increasing energy density, and transitions to more efficient chemistries.
• Retail gasoline prices rallied 13% over the course of 2017, finishing at an average of $2.50/gallon compared to $2.21/gallon at end-2016. But prices remained historically low, and consumption ticked up by an estimated 0.7% relative to the previous year.
• Start-stop technology, which cuts vehicle fuel use and idling emissions by automatically shutting off the car engine when the car is stopped, continued to gain traction in the auto industry. The share of vehicles sold with this system in the U.S. leapt to 16.8% in 2017, up 75% from the penetration rate in 2016.
The federal government backtracked from national and international engagement on climate change issues, prompting greater climate commitments from sub-national and private sector players. Federal-level actions ranging from trade cases to tax reform also caused uncertainty in the market for clean technologies.
• On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, an international, non-binding climate change accord signed by 195 other countries and jurisdictions. In October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also proposed to rescind and replace the Clean Power Plan. On the transportation front, President Trump ordered EPA to reconsider the upcoming tightening of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, covering model years 2021-2025.
• In response to the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and fading federal-level climate action, sub-national actors have created alliances to support continued progress on the U.S. greenhouse gas reduction targets. The “We Are Still In” movement involves 2,642 mayors, governors, CEOs, college presidents, faith organizations, and tribal leaders (as of the time of this writing). Another group, the U.S. Climate Alliance, includes 16 governors representing over 40% of the U.S. population and $7.4 trillion in economic output. Separately, the U.S. Climate Mayors (founded at the signing of the Paris Agreement) saw its membership swell after the U.S. withdrew from Paris. It now encompasses 383 cities covering 23% of the U.S. population, half of which are in states that have not additionally joined the U.S. Climate Alliance. Together, these entities represent 2.7Gt in emissions (for comparison, total U.S. emissions stood at 6.4Gt for 2017). However, the level of ambition between different entities’ emissions reduction commitments, plus the voluntary nature of such commitments, render it difficult currently to assess the expected impact from the movement. The America’s Pledge initiative will aggregate the commitments made under these initiatives and attempt to measure their impact across the U.S.
• In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested that the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) create rules to subsidize “secure-fuel” power plants within competitive power markets that maintain 90 days’ worth of fuel supplies on site. This would have mostly benefited coal and nuclear plants. FERC ultimately declined to implement the proposed rulemaking, citing insufficient evidence that price distortions or retirements were affecting resiliency or reliability in the targeted power markets. The DOE itself had previously reported that, while there might be challenges to come, wholesale power markets have ensured reliability to date, even as the electricity sector has transformed rapidly due to factors such as flattening demand, growing natural gas penetration, and policy interventions (including renewables support). FERC did ultimately call on system operators to study grid resiliency – that is, power systems’ ability to recover from major service interruptions.
• In January 2018, President Trump instituted a 30% tariff on imported crystalline silicon solar modules and cells, which is scheduled to step down to 15% by 2021. The safeguard measure was imposed in response to a trade complaint submitted by two bankrupt domestic solar module manufacturers. The case, lodged by Suniva and SolarWorld, alleged unfair competition from Chinese manufacturers, but the resulting tariffs will apply to practically all countries of origin. These tariff will increase all-in project costs by an estimated 4-10%.
• Tax reforms passed near the end of 2017 also promise change for clean energy. While the EV, wind, and solar tax credits remain unchanged from prior law, the corporate tax rate dropped down to 21% from 35%. This tax cut raises after-tax earnings for renewable projects, but also reduces the supply of tax equity available for supporting renewable build. Additionally, the tax cut may free up utility money for infrastructure investments or for lowering retail electricity rates. Further, under the new law, multinationals with overseas profits are now required to pay a minimum level of taxes on foreign transactions under the so-called “BEAT” provision. Although this can also limit tax equity supply, the negative impact is curbed by a provision that allows corporations to use 80% of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and Production Tax Credit (PTC) to offset BEAT. Finally, the introduction of immediate, 100% depreciation of most capital expenditures can benefit providers of long-lived assets such as energy saving building materials or technology.
• In February 2018, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act, which impacted a range of energy incentives. Energy efficiency credits and non-wind PTC technologies (biogas, biomass, waste to energy, active geothermal, hydropower, marine and hydrokinetic) received one-year retroactive extensions. Several non-solar ITC-eligible technologies (fiber-optic solar, microturbines, fuel cells, combined heat and power, and small wind) received five-year extensions with phase-downs. The budget law also lifted the end-2020 in-service deadline for nuclear plants to qualify for the nuclear production tax credit. In addition, it expanded credits for qualified carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) facilities.
• States also explored reforms to some of their renewables support programs in 2017. Most customers in 40 states, plus DC, could access net metering at the full retail rate as of August 2017. But states across the country are looking at potential reforms to the scheme: over the past year, Arizona, Indiana, and Maine finalized plans to move away from net metering. The replacement options vary but generally offer lower compensation rates or set a deadline by which small-scale PV owners can still qualify for net metering.
Corporations are playing a stronger role in the energy transformation, increasingly demanding cleaner energy and seeking to capture gains from energy efficiency.
• Corporations continued to turn their attention to sustainability in 2017. The “EP100”, an initiative launched in 2016 through which companies promise to double their energy efficiency, has gained 13 pledgees. On the renewables front, 119 companies globally had pledged by end-2017 to source 100% of their energy from renewables under the “RE100” initiative. In the U.S., corporate clean energy deal volumes for off-site PPAs rose to 2.9GW in 2017, the second highest on record behind the 3.2GW of new contracts signed in 2015. Companies have also looked increasingly to source clean energy in the same service territory as their load, leading to new engagement with utilities via green tariff programs. These contributed 19% of corporate procurement in 2017
It’s Official – Feds Find Humans Are Causing Climate To Drastically Change The government is nearly done with a major report on climate change. Trump isn’t going to like it
Chris Mooney, March 12, 2018 (Washington Post)
“The country’s top independent scientific advisory body has largely approved a major climate report being prepared by scientists within the Trump administration — suggesting that another key government document could soon emerge that contradicts President Trump’s skepticism about climate change and humans’ role in driving it…The U.S. National Academies on Monday released a public peer review of a draft document called the U.S. National Climate Assessment, a legally required report that is being produced by the federal Global Change Research Program…The final version is expected later this year…[The process highlights how despite the changing political context] technical government studies of climate science continue…The report, 1,506 pages long in draft form, says U.S. temperatures will rise markedly in coming decades, accompanied by many other attendant effects. It predicts that Northeastern fisheries will be stressed by warmer ocean waters, that the Southeast will suffer from worsening water shortages, that worse extreme-weather events will tax water and other types of infrastructure, and far more…” click here for more
New Energy Is Winning In The Free Market Is The Corporate Demand For Solar Energy Stronger Than Trump's Tariffs?
Ken Silverstein, March 12, 2018 (Forbes)
“…[The corporate push for renewables may be] more powerful than current federal policies and especially just-imposed solar tariffs…[Their] efforts that have not escaped even the most cynical politicians…While the movement started with Silicon Valley’s tech giants like Amazon and Apple, it has now gained a lot of traction among major retailers like CostCo., Wal-Mart and Target. And companies long a part of the American fabric are also active…[like] General Motors and General Mills…Building up the brand to appeal to environmentally-aware consumers is one reason. But so too is economics and free markets: Indeed, wind costs have fallen by 67% since 2009 while utility-scale solar has dropped by 86% since that time…Santa Barbara-based Wiser Capital has said that 83% of the small-to-mid-size company managers that it surveyed will be investing in solar energy projects by 2020…[PriceWaterhouseCoopers found 72% of surveyed companies] are pursuing renewables…[O]ne thing will remain a constant no matter who occupies the White House — the free market, which is led by consumer demand and economic opportunities. And that will eventually trump the current obstacles…” click here for more
Big $$$ Goes To MA Ocean Wind Jobs Vineyard Wind to develop nation-leading offshore wind labor pool in Massachusetts
Michelle Froese, March 12, 2018 (Windpower Engineering)
“…Vineyard Wind’s $2 million Wind Workforce initiative will recruit, mentor, and train local, Massachusetts residents for high-skills careers in the offshore wind industry. The program, which will be undertaken in partnership with vocational schools, community colleges, and other local organizations, is part of Vineyard Wind’s proposal to construct a large, utility-scale wind energy project off the coast of Massachusetts…[and support the Massachusetts legislature’s goal to make the state the nation’s leading center for offshore wind farm development…[It is expected that development] of offshore wind will bring billions of dollars of private investment into Massachusetts, helping to diversify and grow the region’s economy through modernization of local ports, new services such as transport vessels, ongoing research offshore, and skilled workforce training…Vineyard Wind’s proposal to construct an 800MW wind farm approximately 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard includes plans for up to 3,600 new jobs, including 1,000 new hires before 2022…” click here for more
Climate Change & Food Systems: Assessing Impacts and Opportunities
Meredith Niles, Jimena Esquivel, Richie Ahuja, Nelson Mango, November 2017 (Meridian Institute)
Food and agriculture are significant contributors to, and heavily impacted by, climate change, but they also offer opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Despite a growing body of literature about climate change and agriculture, relatively little analysis and focus has been put on climate change and food systems, more broadly. The narrower focus on climate change and agricultural production prevents consideration of a broad range of mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as the systems-level effects of narrowly targeted interventions. A broader food systems perspective creates opportunities to explore the feedback loops and multiplier effects of specific mitigation opportunities and to identify opportunities for systems transformation. Approaching climate adaptation and mitigation in the context of food systems broadens the range of opportunities to achieve mitigation and adaptation goals and facilitates the consideration of systemslevel effects and interactions. A food systems perspective also enables engagement of the full range of stakeholders that should be involved in food systems transformation. Such a perspective is critical to addressing climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover multiple sectors that are linked by food.
This report was written by a team of subject matter experts with input from a diverse advisory committee. Meridian Institute coordinated the development of the report, and funding was provided by members of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. The objectives of the report are to:
-review and synthesize peer-reviewed literature that examines the mutual impacts of food system activities and climate change, and identify knowledge gaps in that literature;
-illustrate how applying a food systems perspective to climate change mitigation actions can be used to drive transformation and help policymakers anticipate effects from specific mitigation and adaptation opportunities; and
-document opportunities (available online) for incremental changes that support climate mitigation while efforts to drive broader system transformation are pursued.
Food systems include the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items. These systems include pre-production activities such as developing and delivering inputs (e.g., fertilizers, seeds, feed, farm implements, irrigation systems, information, and research and development); the production of crops, fish, and livestock; post-production activities such as storage, packaging, transportation, manufacturing, and retail; consumption activities either in supermarkets, homes, or dining establishments; and the loss (preconsumer), waste (consumer level), and disposal (post-consumer) that occurs throughout the system. Food systems operate within and are influenced by social, economic, political, and environmental contexts. People are involved throughout these systems as producers; information providers; policymakers and regulators; workers in the fields of health, forestry, trade, and finance and in companies; and consumers.
The following key messages emerged from the literature review and discussions with leading food and agriculture experts who work on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The key messages highlight critical considerations for identifying and evaluating actions for climate change mitigation and food systems transformation.
1. Food systems have significant, adverse effects on climate change, and climate change impacts food systems in many complex ways.
2. A food systems perspective is required for transformative change.
3. Immediate action is possible and needed as a stepping stone to food system transformation.
4. Equity issues should be central to creating fair, sustainable, and resilient food systems.
5. Actions need to consider local, Indigenous, and practitioner knowledge.
6. More peer-reviewed, systems-level information and research is urgently required.
7. More research on the impacts of food system interventions is needed, in particular in low- and middle-income economies.
8. New approaches and decision-support tools are required.
9. Food system transformations require the engagement of a broad range of stakeholders.
10. Governance and institutional innovations are required for system transformation.
The majority of the world’s countries have included mitigation and adaptation actions related to crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture in their Nationally Determined Contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Low-income countries put a strong emphasis on these sectors, given the importance of agriculture to their economies and the predominance of their emissions resulting from agriculture. These actions are heavily focused on agricultural production. However, pre-production and post-production activities also contribute significantly to climate change, and as more economies develop we can expect proportionately more emissions from post-production activities overall. More mitigation alternatives for pre-production and post-production should therefore be developed in low-, middle- and high-income countries. For example:
-Pre-production activities have impacts such as energy and water use for agrochemical production as well as packaging and transportation. Preproduction mitigation opportunities should include research, development, and the promotion of climate-positive agricultural practices.
-Post-production emissions are largely associated with energy use. Processing – including milling and removing water – is energy intensive. Packaging and food waste can be a significant component of municipal waste. Transportation contributes less than commonly assumed, with the exception of many vegetables, fish, seafood and livestock products for which time-sensitive distribution involves airfreight. The cold chain, or refrigeration throughout the supply chain, contributes substantially to emissions, and its use is growing.
-Diets and consumption patterns also affect climate change, and their impacts differ across low-, medium-, and high-income countries. In high-income countries, diets tend to negatively affect both the environment and health. Dietary shifts in these countries that include reducing the consumption of meat and processed foods and balancing energy intake and output could drive more sustainable agriculture systems that have the potential to restore natural resources, climate resilience, and human health.
-Waste management should be improved along food systems. Roughly one-third of food – about 1.3 billion tonnes per year – is lost or wasted globally. Waste and loss occur throughout the food supply chain and mostly involve the waste of edible food by consumers in medium- and highincome countries and loss during harvest, storage, and transport in lower-income countries.
To support stakeholders’ engagement in developing food system transformation strategies and identifying adaptation and mitigation opportunities through a food systems lens, the report offers eight key Climate Change Food Systems Principles. These include (1) interconnectedness, (2) equity, (3) resilience, (4) renewability, (5) responsiveness, (6) transparency, (7) scale, and (8) evaluation.
In addition, the report provides three examples to illustrate how specific mitigation or adaptation opportunities may have implications, benefits, or unintended consequences in the various parts of the food system. The first example shows how diets impact the environment and health. Generally, the research suggests that diets that are healthier for humans (e.g., higher in plant-based ingredients) also have lower GHG emissions. But there are possible downsides. For example, while reducing red meat consumption could reduce dietary GHG emissions, it could have profound negative impacts on nutrition and livelihoods in low-income countries. Therefore, reducing meat consumption to reduce dietary emissions is a strategy mostly relevant to high-income or some middle-income countries – providing an illustration of how actions should be context-specific.
The second example explores the ways carbon pricing policies affect different stakeholders, including farmers, suppliers, traders, and transporters. Some stakeholders suggest that placing a price on carbon and gradually increasing the cost of carbon dioxide emissions are important tools to direct investments toward climate-neutral or climate-positive activities. However, pricing carbon has to be accompanied by strong social safeguards, and it may not be appropriate in all types of economies. For instance, many are concerned about the impacts of carbon pricing on farmers and low income consumers.
The final example, on soil carbon sequestration, illustrates tradeoffs. No-till agriculture offers soil organic carbon gains, but it is often used in combination with genetically engineered crops and herbicides for weed control, with implications for equity and sustainability. Some tradeoffs are political or economic, such as potential large-scale land acquisitions (land grabs) for carbon offsets. But soil carbon sequestration also has many co-benefits such as improved soil health and water management and offers great potential for climate mitigation.
Due to the complexity and diversity of food systems, food system governance emerges as a central challenge that needs to be addressed. This report can contribute to the development of governance approaches by identifying relevant literature, gaps, and opportunities across varying scales for policy approaches.
Overall, the report offers a broad perspective on food system activities and seeks to help stakeholders explore new partnerships, share knowledge, and identify diverse communities, sectors, and other stakeholders that have roles to play in support of changes needed within their food systems. We hope the report will contribute to a deeper understanding of food systems and climate change and the thoughtful review and development of actions that will – ultimately – contribute to sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems.
The Right Climate Change Question Getting Climate Change Right: In Light Of The Stars
Adam Frank, March 9, 2018 (National Public Radio)
“…With the right question, we could finally see how the climate crisis looming over our fate is actually a harbinger. It's the signpost of a transition for humanity as a true planetary species…The right question, however, can only be seen in light of the stars…[In the popular consciousness, this question — "Did we change the Earth's climate?" — still] feeds off political polarization and tribal inclinations…[The right question is] "What else did we expect to happen?" …In light of the stars, meaning in light of what we've learned from the universe's many, many worlds (including our own), we can see that planetary climates are a kind of vast machine. They have their own rules based on physics and chemistry…Of course we triggered climate change. We've been using planetary-scale amounts of energy to build and maintain this amazing planetary-scale project of civilization. Of course the Earth noticed…Are we to join the universe's winners who met their climate challenge and moved forward — or will we fade away with the cosmic losers too stubborn to see the truth before their eyes?” click here for more
New Energy Is Minnesota’s 2ND-Biggest Power Study: Renewable energy now Minnesota's 2nd-largest electricity source
Elizabeth Dunbar, March 1, 2018 (Minnesota Public Radio)
“Renewable energy is overtaking nuclear as Minnesota's second-largest source of electricity generation, while coal remains the largest source…Coal made up 39 percent of the energy Minnesota generated inside its borders in 2017. That percentage is expected to go down dramatically in the next decade after Xcel Energy retires a large portion of its Sherco coal plant in Becker…When hydroelectric was added to wind and solar generation in 2017, it surpassed what Xcel's two nuclear plants produced [according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance]. And while nuclear capacity is static, Minnesota has been adding new wind and solar capacity every year…Policy incentives for new solar energy facilities have been and will continue to be important to the growth of solar…Unlike solar, wind energy is at the point where it's cheaper than coal, even without subsidies. Natural gas prices also remain low…Minnesota is also importing less electricity from other states, thanks to the growth of wind and solar capacity.” click here for more
NY To Put $1.4BIL Into New Energy NY Gov Cuomo Announces $1.4 Billion in Awards for 26 Large-Scale Renewable Energy Projects, the Largest Single Commitment to Renewable Energy by a State in U.S. History
March 9, 2018 (Office of the NY Governor)
“…[Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the single largest commitment to renewable energy by a state in U.S. history at $1.4 billion, which will advance 26 large-scale renewable energy projects across New York. The competitive awards, driven by the Governor's Clean Energy Standard mandate, are expected to generate enough clean, renewable energy to power more than 430,000 homes and create over 3,000 short- and long-term well-paying jobs. In the face of a concerted federal assault from Washington, New York is taking aggressive action…” click here for more