Electric Cars

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Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret. #auspol 

Clean energy’s dirty secret Wind and solar power are disrupting electricity systems
But that’s no reason for governments to stop supporting them
ALMOST 150 years after photovoltaic cells and wind turbines were invented, they still generate only 7% of the world’s electricity. 

Yet something remarkable is happening. 

From being peripheral to the energy system just over a decade ago, they are now growing faster than any other energy source and their falling costs are making them competitive with fossil fuels. 

BP, an oil firm, expects renewables to account for half of the growth in global energy supply over the next 20 years. 

It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world is entering an era of clean, unlimited and cheap power. 

About time, too. 

There is a $20trn hitch, though. 

To get from here to there requires huge amounts of investment over the next few decades, to replace old smog-belching power plants and to upgrade the pylons and wires that bring electricity to consumers.

 Normally investors like putting their money into electricity because it offers reliable returns. 

Yet green energy has a dirty secret. 

The more it is deployed, the more it lowers the price of power from any source. 

That makes it hard to manage the transition to a carbon-free future, during which many generating technologies, clean and dirty, need to remain profitable if the lights are to stay on. 

Unless the market is fixed, subsidies to the industry will only grow.


Policymakers are already seeing this inconvenient truth as a reason to put the brakes on renewable energy. 

In parts of Europe and China, investment in renewables is slowing as subsidies are cut back. 

However, the solution is not less wind and solar. 

It is to rethink how the world prices clean energy in order to make better use of it.
Shock to the system
At its heart, the problem is that government-supported renewable energy has been imposed on a market designed in a different era. 

For much of the 20th century, electricity was made and moved by vertically integrated, state-controlled monopolies. 

From the 1980s onwards, many of these were broken up, privatised and liberalised, so that market forces could determine where best to invest. 

Today only about 6% of electricity users get their power from monopolies.

 Yet everywhere the pressure to decarbonise power supply has brought the state creeping back into markets. 

This is disruptive for three reasons. 

The first is the subsidy system itself.

 The other two are inherent to the nature of wind and solar: their intermittency and their very low running costs. All three help explain why power prices are low and public subsidies are addictive.

First, the splurge of public subsidy, of about $800bn since 2008, has distorted the market. 

It came about for noble reasons—to counter climate change and prime the pump for new, costly technologies, including wind turbines and solar panels. 

But subsidies hit just as electricity consumption in the rich world was stagnating because of growing energy efficiency and the financial crisis. 

The result was a glut of power-generating capacity that has slashed the revenues utilities earn from wholesale power markets and hence deterred investment.
Second, green power is intermittent. 

The vagaries of wind and sun—especially in countries without favourable weather—mean that turbines and solar panels generate electricity only part of the time. 

To keep power flowing, the system relies on conventional power plants, such as coal, gas or nuclear, to kick in when renewables falter. 

But because they are idle for long periods, they find it harder to attract private investors. 

So, to keep the lights on, they require public funds.
Everyone is affected by a third factor: renewable energy has negligible or zero marginal running costs—because the wind and the sun are free.


 In a market that prefers energy produced at the lowest short-term cost, wind and solar take business from providers that are more expensive to run, such as coal plants, depressing power prices, and hence revenues for all.
Get smart
The higher the penetration of renewables, the worse these problems get—especially in saturated markets. 

In Europe, which was first to feel the effects, utilities have suffered a “lost decade” of falling returns, stranded assets and corporate disruption. 

Last year, Germany’s two biggest electricity providers, E.ON and RWE, both split in two. 

In renewable-rich parts of America power providers struggle to find investors for new plants. 

Places with an abundance of wind, such as China, are curtailing wind farms to keep coal plants in business.
The corollary is that the electricity system is being re-regulated as investment goes chiefly to areas that benefit from public support. 

Paradoxically, that means the more states support renewables, the more they pay for conventional power plants, too, using “capacity payments” to alleviate intermittency. 

In effect, politicians rather than markets are once again deciding how to avoid blackouts.

 They often make mistakes: Germany’s support for cheap, dirty lignite caused emissions to rise, notwithstanding huge subsidies for renewables. 

Without a new approach the renewables revolution will stall.
The good news is that new technology can help fix the problem.

Digitalisation, smart meters and batteries are enabling companies and households to smooth out their demand—by doing some energy-intensive work at night, for example.

 This helps to cope with intermittent supply. 

Small, modular power plants, which are easy to flex up or down, are becoming more popular, as are high-voltage grids that can move excess power around the network more efficiently.

The bigger task is to redesign power markets to reflect the new need for flexible supply and demand. 

They should adjust prices more frequently, to reflect the fluctuations of the weather.

 At times of extreme scarcity, a high fixed price could kick in to prevent blackouts. 

Markets should reward those willing to use less electricity to balance the grid, just as they reward those who generate more of it. 

Bills could be structured to be higher or lower depending how strongly a customer wanted guaranteed power all the time—a bit like an insurance policy.

 In short, policymakers should be clear they have a problem and that the cause is not renewable energy, but the out-of-date system of electricity pricing. 

Then they should fix it.

Press link for more: economist.com

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Let’s Make a Deal #ClimateChange Put a price on pollution. #auspol 

Left & Right “Let’s Make a Deal” Put a price on Carbon Pollution #ClimateChange #auspol 

Earlier this month, conservative elder statesmen issued a “Let’s Make a Deal” on climate: Nix Obama-era regulations in return for a carbon tax and dividend.
So far, the idea has gained little traction from unretired Republicans who could actually make a deal. 

But if that changes, should Democrats and pro-environment independents accept it?

The proposal was issued with great fanfare by the newly formed Climate Leadership Council. 

Conservative economists Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw and former secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker III touted the plan in op-eds for the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 

The council launched its effort at the National Press Club the same day.
A carbon tax appeals to free-market conservatives by empowering markets to find the cheapest ways to cut emissions.

 By returning the money through a dividend, the tax would not grow the size of government. 

The council estimates the dividend would start at $2,000 for a family of four, and rise with the carbon tax.
However, the council isn’t offering something for nothing. 

Their proposal calls for ending President Obama’s climate regulations. 

Specifically, they would nix the Clean Power Plan, tougher fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks and additional regulations yet to be specified. 

Fortunately, the council is not seeking to weaken light-duty fuel economy standards, appliance efficiency standards or the hydrofluorocarbon deal signed in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.


Obama pledged under the Paris climate agreement that the United States would aim for 28 percent emission reductions by 2025 from 2005 levels. 

As I wrote last year, the U.S. had already cut emissions 9 percent by 2014. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that emissions fell another 2.2 percent in 2015.
The council estimates that continuation of Obama-era policies would leave the U.S. about 12 percentage points shy of its Paris pledge. 

That’s why 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed an ambitious agenda for further progress.

With President Trump and congressional Republicans calling to reverse Obama’s policies without replacement, we’d likely fall further behind.
To meet our Paris pledge, the council proposes a carbon tax starting at $40/ton and rising with time. 

Unlike weaker taxes discussed before, the new proposal would likely be more than sufficient for that goal. 

A recent Treasury Department analysis estimates that a $49/ton tax would far surpass the emission cuts needed for Paris.

Meanwhile, Resources for the Future modeled various sets of carbon taxes that could achieve the Paris pledge. 

As co-author Marc Hafstead explained via email, their modeling shows a tax rising to $38/ton (in year 2013 dollars) by 2025 would meet the target. 

The council’s proposal would exceed that level with its annual increases, and yield further benefits for decades to come.
Interestingly, Hafstead noted that their calculation of a $38/ton threshold for Paris compliance assumes the U.S. abandons efforts to control more potent greenhouse gases like methane. 

That may be the case, as the House voted this month to overturn rules on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
But if we don’t abandon progress on other pollutants, Hafstead estimates a tax of just $22/ton would be sufficient.
Ditching methane controls is a bad deal for many reasons. 

Methane is the leading source of ozone smog worldwide. 

That’s why researchers such as Jason West of the University of North Carolina and Arlene Fiore of Columbia University have shown that methane reductions can save tens of thousands of lives.

Leaking methane also means wasting a valuable fuel. 

Since methane is short-lived, it actually causes more warming near-term than traditional 100-year outlooks would suggest. 

Controlling methane while keeping the council’s $40-plus/ton tax proposal would accelerate U.S. progress toward its ultimate goal of 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.
Environmentalists have little to lose trading the Clean Power Plan for a carbon tax. 

As I wrote with Leah Parks last year, the U.S. is well ahead of schedule to meet the plan’s targets.

 That’s because cheaper natural gas and renewables are already displacing coal, even as the Clean Power Plan remains tied up in court.


The main importance of the Clean Power Plan is preventing a swing back to coal if natural gas prices rise. 

But a carbon tax averts that scenario. 

A $40/ton tax would add 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal electricity, but just 1.6 cents for natural gas combined cycle plants. 

Solar and wind would pay nothing.

With many coal plants already losing money, coal would quickly give way to cheaper and cleaner forms of electricity.

 Meanwhile, the tax on natural gas is comparable in size to existing tax credits for wind and solar. 

Even without those tax credits, wind and solar are already as cheap as new natural gas plants. 

Taxing natural gas would help renewables extend their recent dominance of new generation capacity without the need for subsidies.
For transportation, the effects of a carbon tax would be far milder. 

A $40/ton tax would add just 36 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 

That’s not going to convince many people to drive less or buy an electric car, especially since electricity prices would rise a bit too. 

However, with fuel economy standards set to tighten, electric car sales would continue to rise.

Looking beyond the 2025 Paris target, swapping regulations for a carbon tax becomes an even more attractive deal. 

The Clean Power Plan ends in 2030. 

However, a steadily rising carbon tax would continue to drive down emissions for decades to come.
Carbon taxes have traditionally been criticized as regressive, since the poor spend a greater share of their income on energy. 

However, by rebating the tax through a per-person dividend, the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would leave many low-income families better off.
So should Democrats and independents welcome this deal?
In a word, yes. 

Writers in The Nation, the The New York Times and Mother Jones have reached similar conclusions. 

I’d bargain for tougher methane regulations, but could accept waiting to restore those later.
Trouble is, conservative economists and retired Republican statesmen are in no position to seal this deal. 

RepublicEn, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Solutions Caucus are trying to rally Republican and bipartisan support for a carbon tax in Congress.
For now, such efforts have fallen on deaf ears from politicians who hear no evil on climate.

 If that changes, liberals and moderates shouldn’t shy away from nixing Obama-era policies to accept a market-based solution to climate change.
Dan Cohan is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University.

Press link for more: The Hill

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Clean Coal is an OXYMORON #auspol 

‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron


Rep. Ralph Watts’ Iowa View piece [Trump can bring back coal, Jan. 27] tries to support the continued use of coal by using Trump’s success to justify junk science and the status quo. 

The EPA and the open-minded can see the truth in climate change, and that we should make every effort to save our planet. 


It is ludicrous to save jobs for coal miners but in the process speed up climate change, which is caused by increasing levels of CO2 from the burning and processing of fossil fuels. 

The level of CO2 in our atmosphere has gone from 280 to 400 parts per million in my lifetime.

 That number had not been above 280 in 400,000 years.


I am a mechanical engineer and worked for our local utility on various projects at coal-fired power plants for 35 years. Clean coal is almost an oxymoron. 

To be completely pollution-free, the CO2 from burning coal would have to be captured and disposed of, and that is expensive and requires a lot of power and equipment.


Trump and his fellow travelers will set our environmental programs back more than the the four years he may be be in office. 

The effects of climate change are minor now, but the weather changes and possible anarchy 20 years from now won’t be nice. 

I’m glad I won’t be here to see it. 

What’s sad is it could be prevented.
— Tom Benge, Bettendorf

Press link for more: Desmoine Register

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Tipping point for Renewable Energy #auspol 

The tipping point for renewable energy is nearly here
Renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035
By Jonathan Woetzel and Matt Rogers

Reuters

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Renewable power is taking off around the world and fast approaching a tipping point in its development. Consider these recent developments:
Recent solar-power capacity auctions have come in at record low levels, underscoring how quickly the costs of renewable energy are falling: $0.053/kwh in India, $0.035/kwh in Mexico, $0.024/kwh in Abu Dhabi, $0.029/kwh in Chile, and $0.039/kwh in the United States.
The fastest-growing job category in the U.S. these days is that of wind-turbine service engineer with median pay around $51,050 a year.
And in January, China said it would shut 85 coal plants and instead invest $350 billion in renewable sources of energy.
A report from the McKinsey Global Institute published this week, “ Beyond the supercycle: How technology is reshaping resources ,” estimates that renewables, primarily solar and wind, could jump from 4% of global power generation today to as much as 36% by 2035, reshaping global electricity markets in the process.
Technological advances are driving these developments. The rapid growth of renewables is part of a bigger trend of rising global energy productivity. Increased energy efficiency in residential, industrial and commercial buildings, lower demand for energy in transportation due to the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles and ride sharing as well as falling costs and greater penetration of renewables is transforming the way we consume energy.
As a result of these developments, we calculate that the growth of primary energy demand worldwide will slow and could even peak in 2025 if new technologies such as robotics, data analytics and the Internet of Things are adopted rapidly. Global demand for oil and coal will most likely peak and could decline over the next two decades.

But there are regional differences. For example, the United States, China, and India are major consumers of oil. But while demand is likely to continue growing strongly in China and India due to a rapidly emerging middles class, it could slow in the U.S. due to increased energy efficiency and shifts in transport.
Renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, grew rapidly during the 2003-2015 commodities “supercycle” as people searched for alternatives to high-priced oil and gas. Since 2001, total solar generation worldwide has grown 50% annually while wind-power generation has grown at an annual rate of 24%. China is aggressively investing in renewables and is the leading investor in renewables in the world.
While government policy to diversify energy sources has driven much of this near-term growth, a sharp fall in technology costs has accelerated the deployment of renewables to the point where in some regions they now can compete with coal or gas without subsidies. The cost of solar modules worldwide has fallen 80% since 2008, and the levelized cost of energy for wind has fallen 50% since 2009. In recent power auctions for new construction in South America for example, solar photovoltaic (PV) installations have come in at below $0.03/kWh unsubsidized—about one-tenth the cost of solar plants six years ago.

American Wind Energy Association

A global tipping point could be reached in 2025, when solar PV and wind power could become competitive with the marginal cost of natural gas and coal production, accelerating the transition. Growth rates in renewable power deployment would likely accelerate after that.
Research and development has found new ways to improve efficiency, including with back contact cells for solar PVs (cells without electric contacts on the light-collecting side), improved thin film materials for solar PVs, and modulating blade position in real time for wind. Efforts are also under way to reduce material costs by creating less waste, for example with kerfless wafers, which require no saw to cut a silicon wafer off a large ingot, and to extend the lifetime of the equipment. This includes efforts to improve manufacturing quality to reduce defects in solar panels and increase use of predictive maintenance on wind turbines to ensure efficiency for as long as possible.
Soft costs associated with installing panels and turbines are likely to continue falling, too. Installers will continue to develop more efficient methods. The potential for breakthroughs in solar PV technology, such as next-generation thin film materials, reduced capital intensity of manufacturing capacity as well as continued improvements in the scale and capacity factor of wind technology means the levelized cost of energy could continue to fall.
One of the big issues for renewables are the technical limits of intermittent power in the grid—that is, power that cannot be dispatched at will and is not generated in a continuous fashion. When renewables hit those limits, the energy they produce will need to be stored.
But this is an obstacle that can be overcome, this time with technology from the consumer electronics sector. The levelized costs of storage have been declining rapidly, and a number of promising technologies are being developed to store energy in a cost-effective manner, such as through grid-scale lithium ion batteries, flow batteries, compressed air systems, and thermal storage.
Technological developments tend to outperform expectations and surprise with their upside and speed. In the case of renewable energies and the resource sector, the winds of innovation are gusting through.
Jonathan Woetzel is a director of the McKinsey Global Institute and senior partner of McKinsey, based in Shanghai. Matt Rogers leads McKinsey’s Sustainability and Resources practice and is a senior partner of the Firm, based in San Francisco. 

Press link for more: Marketwatch.com

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Global $7 Billion Renewable Energy Off-Grid Market #auspol 

Global $7 Billion Renewable Energy Off-Grid Market Analysis & Forecasts 2017-2027 – Research and Markets
DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–
Research and Markets has announced the addition of the “Renewable Energy Off-Grid 2017-2027” report to their offering.

This unique report reflects the new reality that energy harvesting – creation of off-grid electricity where it is needed, using ambient energy – is now widely deployable up to 100kW and beyond. This is resulting in dramatic new capabilities such as the rapidly growing number of land, water and air vehicles that operate entirely on sunshine and electricity becoming affordable and feasible in remote parts of Africa.
It will result in the electric vehicle that has longer range than the vehicles it replaces. It makes autonomous vehicles more feasible and shipping much more efficient. Only a global up-to-date view makes sense in this fast-moving subject embracing Google airborne wind energy (AWE), Facebook solar robot aircraft, Siemens small wind turbines and regenerative braking. There are already autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and navigation buoys that combine solar and wave power.
Energy harvesting is now a booming business at the level of 10 watts to 100 kilowatts and beyond, off-grid. That includes making a vehicle, boat or plane more efficient such as energy harvesting shock absorbers and high speed flywheels, reversing alternators and motors for instance on the propeller of a boat under sail or moored in a tidestream and regeneratively soaring aircraft and braking cars and forklifts. Similar technology now harvests the energy of a swinging construction vehicle, dropping elevator and so on and soon the heat of engines will be harvested in kilowatts and off-grid wave power will become commonplace.
High power energy harvesting also embraces off-grid creation of electricity that will be used generally such as that harnessing photovoltaics, small wind turbines and what enhances or replaces them such as the new airborne wind energy (AWE).
This is underwritten by both strong demand for today’s forms of high power EH and a recent flood of important new inventions that increase the power capability and versatility of many of the basic technologies of energy harvesting. It all reads onto the megatrends of this century – reducing global warming and local air, water and noise pollution, relieving poverty and conserving resources.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

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It only takes 10% to cause disruption. #auspol 

When I asked whether consumer choices are an act of political rebellion, I noted that it only took a 10% cut in coal demand to radically slash the coal industry’s credit worthiness.
What if we could do the same thing for oil?

There’s good reason to assume that just such a disruption is coming, and sooner than many people think. Consider these recent headlines from around the web:
— Smart cars going 100% electric in the US (Cleantechnica)

—Sydney Airport orders 40 more electric buses (Cleantechnica – again…)

—Vattenfall (a giant Swedish utility) converting entire vehicle fleet to electric

—20% of new buses in China are now electric (yours truly)
Headlines like these are coming so thick and fast these days that we have to pick and choose which ones we write about. Individually, they are all just a blip in the global picture of oil demand, but collectively it won’t be long before they really start to add up. And when they do start to add up, it won’t take too much cut in demand to radically reshape the future prospects for oil.
Of course, all of the above stories are about adoption of existing technologies at current pricing. But what if prices were to fall further, and faster, than they have so far? Wards Auto is reporting on conversations with auto industry insiders who say electric vehicle batteries should be under $100 per kilowatt hour by 2020, and $80 not long after that. That’s a figure well below the $125 per kilowatt hour that the Department of Energy set in 2010 as a target for cost parity with internal combustion engines.
And once we reach cost parity, there’s little that can be done by dropping tax credits or removing other incentives, to slow the march to electrification.
It’s important to note, of course, that electrification isn’t the only—or even the best—way to reduce oil demand. From massive investments in cycling infrastructure to growing transit ridership in many major cities, there are plenty of other trends underway that could squeeze oil demand from all sides. And once you squeeze oil demand enough, the infrastructural, political and economic advantages that Big Oil once enjoyed quickly start to melt away.
Take, for example, gas stations. In cities with high uptake of electric vehicles, decent transit and cycle infrastructure, and restrictions on polluting vehicles, how long will it be for sales to drop far enough that the current number of gas stations are no longer viable? And once gas stations start thinning out, there’s one more reason for everyone else to abandon their gas cars too.
I look forward to revisiting this topic in ten years time. I suspect we may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly things have changed. I’ll leave the last word to Tony Seba, whose ambitious predictions about oil industry disruption I’ve written about before. In response to a recent tweet from a certain Mr Musk, Seba had this to say:
All my #CleanDisruption predictions are accelerating and it looks like they’re happening ahead of 2030! #solar #EV #batteries #selfdriving https://t.co/wnA3YliOpK
— Tony Seba (@tonyseba) February 15, 2017

I, for one, am beginning to believe he is right.

Press link for more: Treehugger.com

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Renewable Energy with or without #ClimateChange #auspol 

Renewable Energy With or Without Climate Change

By Steven Cohen

Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute

The new administration in Washington is dominated by fossil fuel interests and has resumed the mantra of “Drill, baby, drill!.” 

Deep sea drilling, mining in protected and sometimes fragile environments, mountaintop removal, fracking, and massive pipeline projects are all back on the table.

 It’s America first, fast, and fossil-fueled. 

Meanwhile, Germany goes solar, China is investing major resources in renewable energy, and homeowners all over America are saving big money with rooftop solar arrays.


Burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment.

 Extracting it, shipping it, and burning it all damage the planet. 

Since almost all human activity damages the planet though, the question is, how much?

 How irreversible? 

And can we achieve the same ends with less damage? 

This last question is one of the arguments for renewable energy.

 Our economic life is built on energy. 

It has made human labor less important, human brainpower more important, and made it possible for us to live lives our great-grandparents could not have imagined. 

The energy use is not going away; most people like the way they live.

 But our use of energy needs to be made more efficient and less destructive.
Even without environmental destruction such as ecosystem damage and climate change, renewable energy is clearly the next phase of human technological evolution. 

Just as we went from human-pulled carts to animal labor and from animals to fossil fuels, the next step is electric vehicles powered by renewable energy stored in high-tech batteries. 


Part of the argument for renewables is price. 

Even without damaging the environment, and even though the technology of fossil fuel extraction is advancing rapidly, fossil fuels are finite. 

That means over time they become less plentiful. 

That time may or may not come soon, but it will come. 

Demand will continue to rise but at some point supply will drop and prices will soar.

 The technology of extracting and storing energy from the sun will become cheaper over time. We have already seen this with computers and cell phones. The price of energy from the sun remains zero, and human ingenuity and the advance of technology is inevitable. 


Someone soon is going to solve the problem of generating and storing renewable energy. 

If done correctly, the leader of that effort will be the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the next generation.
The nation that develops renewable energy that is cheaper than and as reliable as fossil fuels will dominate the world economy. 

Reducing climate change and air pollution is a beneficial byproduct of this technology, but cheaper and more reliable energy is the main outcome. 


In the past century, America’s research universities and national laboratories, funded by the federal government and often by the military, have been an engine of technological innovation: transistors, semi-conductors, satellite communications, mini computers, GPS, the internet… The list is virtually endless.
America’s scientific research dominates because it is competitive but collaborative, creative, free, peer-reviewed, and because our immigration policy and quality of life has always allowed us to recruit the best scientists from all over the world. 

Every top science department in this country is global by birth. 

We need to maintain this research capability for our own sake and for the world’s. 

Other nations may have education systems that test better, but American education and lifestyles promote creativity and innovation. 

Today, some of our best minds are working on energy: nanotechnology applied to solar cells and batteries, wind energy, geothermal, carbon capture and storage, and innovations hard to explain to nonscientists like me.

 This research is largely funded by the federal government and its defunding would be an act of national economic suicide. 


It also requires recruitment and collaboration from nations all over the world. 

An “America First” approach is self-defeating here. 

The benefits of these new technologies will not be “shared” or given away, but sold by companies like Apple, Microsoft and Tesla—or at least the next decade’s versions of these companies.
It is unfortunate, outdated, and a little idiotic to allow energy policy to be dominated by the fossil fuel industry.

 It’s an industry with a fabulous present and a declining future.

 It’s not going away anytime soon, but then again, Kodak thought that people would always want to print all their photos; AT&T used to run the telegraphs; IBM stopped making laptop computers. 

Technology marches on, and companies, even great ones, are often bought, sold, transformed or destroyed.
Climate change requires renewable energy. 

But so do does an expanding economy highly dependent on inexpensive, reliable energy. 

Technological innovation and globalization has allowed America’s economy to grow while pollution is reduced. 

The damage from fossil fuels is global and so the urgency of its replacement should be apparent. 

But since it is clearly not apparent in our congress, there remains a good argument for making our energy system renewable, decentralized, computer-controlled, and updated for the 21st century. 


We need energy too much to leave it in the hands of companies that are more concerned with protecting their sunk costs than in updating our outmoded energy system.
To update our energy system we need to fund more basic and applied energy research. 

This is a difficult time for America’s research universities, as scientists fear that the federal grant support they compete for will either shrink or disappear. 

Science spending is a tiny proportion of the federal budget, but it has enormous multiplier effects throughout the economy. 

Students are trained to conduct research. 

Knowledge is developed that in many cases will eventually be commercialized. 

The benefits dramatically outweigh the costs. 

And the federal role cannot be replaced by companies focused on quick results or even private philanthropy. Even the largest private foundations in the world cannot reach the funding scale of the U.S. federal government. 

Better knowledge of the causes of climate change, better understanding of climate impacts and adaptation strategies, and the basic science that will lead to renewable energy breakthroughs all require federal funding.
In a political world where facts themselves have become open to dispute, peer-reviewed, competitive science holds out the hope of retaining and advancing the scientific base for economic development. 

Virtually all of the economic growth America has enjoyed over the past two centuries has been the direct result of technological innovation. 

Much of that innovation takes place in businesses that find ways to monetize the new knowledge and technologies that are developed in government-funded laboratories. The relationship between university and national lab basic research and commercial innovation is well known. 

Cutting that funding would be foolish.
If America sacrifices its scientific leadership and institutions because of the political views of scientists or out of an anti-intellectual bias, our ability to compete in the technological, global, brain-based economy will be impaired. 

Coupled with limits on immigration, defunding science will virtually guarantee that some other nation or nations will fill the vacuum we will leave behind. An America without well-funded, well-functioning research universities is a nation in decline.
Climate change is a test of the vibrancy of that science establishment. 

Will we continue to learn more about climate impacts and methods of adaptation built on risk assessments and impact models? 

Will we develop and implement the technologies needed to maintain economic growth while reducing greenhouse gases? In the past, we were able to take on these grand challenges, from polio and cancer treatment to building a global communications network.
While renewable energy will go a long way to addressing the climate change issue, its development does not require a concern for climate change. 

The argument for renewable energy is that it is the logical next phase of technological development.

 It is being held back in this country by fossil fuel subsidies, propaganda, and politics. That appears to have accelerated under our new president. 

But looking back to old industries and old energy technologies for economic growth is a losing strategy. Looking forward to a new, cleaner, and sustainable energy system is a much better idea, no matter what you think about climate models and climate science.
Follow Steven Cohen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/StevenACohen

Press Link for more:Huffington Post

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Time has come for Electric Buses #auspol 

By Sami Grover

The thing about change is, it’s not linear. And it doesn’t happen in every place at the same speed.

For the longest time, we’ve been writing stories when one University system orders 20 electric buses, or when one city commits to a major electric car fleet. 

Yet the idea that all buses might soon be electric seemed like a hard-to-fathom and far off dream..


Yet last week, Cleantechnica reported on a story that 115,700 electric buses were sold in China in 2016.

 This figure apparently represents a 20% market share of all new electric buses! 

Compare that to the 1,672 electric buses that were sold in 2013, just three years earlier, and you start to understand how rapidly the landscape is changing. 

Apparently, the city of Shenzhen is planning for an all electric fleet of 15,000 buses by the end of 2017!
Now, the flip side of this encouraging story is that the rest of the world has a long way to go before it can catch up. 

In fact according to EV Sales Blog (the original source for Cleantechnica’s story), at the end of 2015 a full 98% of all the electric buses in the entire world were to be found in China.

Still, given the fact that China is rapidly becoming a world leader in clean tech industries, that it is flexing its muscle in terms of international climate leadership, and that other cities around the world suffer from the same types of diesel-driven air quality problems that China has become known for, I think we can expect China’s success story to translate into rapid adoption elsewhere.
And when that adoption happens, I believe we’ll be seeing the beginnings of the kind of disruptive demand destruction that could leave Big Oil in very serious trouble indeed.

Press link for more: Treehugger.com

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LNG, Recession,China & Wind reduce US carbon emissions (Less Coal) #auspol 

Energy Technologies, Markets, and Government Policies’ 

Major Impacts on U.S. Carbon Emissions, 2005-2016
Energy-and-Policy-Developments-rect
The U.S. continues to make fairly good progress in reducing its fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions since the mid-2000’s. 

This article updates a previously posted analysis, which detailed government policies, technologies and market factors that have most enabled the U.S. to continue reducing its total fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions.
2005-16 U.S. Carbon Emissions – U.S. carbon emissions from fossil fuels consumption peaked just before the 2007-09 Great Recession. 

Following the recession and the relatively slow economic recovery, U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions have continuously declined on average.
Figure 1


Data Source – EIA MER carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels consumption.
U.S. fossil fuels’ carbon emissions nearly peaked at 6,000 million metric tons per year (MMT/yr.) in 2005. 

Total carbon emissions have declined by 935 MMT/yr. or 16% 2005-16. 

This level of carbon emissions’ reduction represents over half of the U.S. Paris Climate Agreement pledge made late last year.
The reduction in U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions has been primarily due to a large decline in coal consumption. 

Coal consumption has declined due to the combination of ‘fuels-switching’ to lower carbon power generation sources and accelerated retirements of Coal Power plants.


 To better understand the impacts of different government policies, energy technologies and market related factors lets first review the changes of fossil fuels demand and carbon emissions for each U.S. ‘End-Use’ Sector.
Figure 2


Data source – EIA MER.

 Note: EIA data has been modified by separating the Power Sector’s carbon emissions from the four End-Use Sectors’ total emissions. 

The carbon emissions for the Transportation Sector are based on motor fuels consumption and the Power, Industrial, Residential & Commercial Sectors emissions are based primarily on heating fuels consumption.
The Power Sector’s reduction in carbon emissions is the largest contributor to total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 71% of the total reduction. 

This emission reduction is primarily due to a combination of ‘fuels switching’ to lower carbon natural gas fuel and expansion of renewable power generation. 

The Industrial Sector is the second largest contributor to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 11% of the total.

 This carbon emission reduction has been unfortunately due primarily to the decline in U.S. Manufacturing Sector’s production output and the increased imports.
The Transportation Sector’s carbon emissions declined significantly following the 2007-09 Recession, up to 2012.

 This was due to a combination of increased vehicle’s fuel efficiency (CAFE) and renewable fuels (RFS2) standards, and, reduced vehicle’s usage or decrease in average vehicle miles travelled (VMT) 2008-12. 


 Total petroleum motor fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions has unfortunately begun increasing significantly 2012-16. 

This has been due to increased vehicles purchases & registrations (largely SUV’s and Light Duty Trucks recently), increasing VMT and total increased fuels consumption by the growing U.S. population (2.3 million per year average growth 2005-16). 

Fortunately, the net Transportation Sector’s overall decline of carbon emissions contributed to 9% of total U.S. emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The Residential Sector’s natural gas and petroleum heating fuels consumptions also declined significantly over the past decade and contributed to 7% of total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 

This was due primarily to increased efficiency technologies and possibly improved Resident’s consumption behaviors.

 Increased Residential energy efficiency has been support by numerous State and Federal energy efficiency policies and programs (EERE for example). 

Although the Commercial Sector’s fossil fuels consumption should have been influenced-reduced by similar EERE policies, its reduction in carbon emissions only contributed to < 2% of total U.S. reduced carbon emissions 2005-16.
Major Contributing Factors to Reduced U.S. Carbon Emissions – Since 2005 total U.S. fossil fuels consumption and mix have changed very significantly. 

These changes have been strongly influenced by a number of factors, including market price, recent technology developments, and past-recent Government policies & regulations.
Figure 3


Data source – EIA MER.
‘Fuels switching’ from coal to lower carbon natural gas in the Power Sector has clearly been the largest contributing factor towards total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 


During 2005-16 coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has reduced total U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions by 50%.

 Major contributing factors for making the switch from coal-to-natural gas have been heating fuel market prices, shutdown-retirement of over 30% of Coal Power Plants and a 7% increase in Natural Gas Power Plants since 2005. 

The Coal Power Plant shutdowns are largely the result of substantially growing compliance costs for the EPA regulations including the Clean Air Mercury Rule and the future likely impacts of the developing EPA Clean Power Plan.
Natural Gas Power Plants ‘net generation’ has grown due to both increased utilization of available Power Plants’ capacities and construction of new-higher efficiency Power Plants.

 The major factor to increased coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has been almost a 2/3rds. drop in natural gas market prices since 2005; while coal prices remained fairly constant during the same period.
Wind Power is the next largest contributing factor towards U.S. reduced carbon emissions.


 During 2005-16, the combination of Federal and State regulations created major incentives and/or mandates for the construction, power generation, and production tax credits for new-recently built Wind Power. 

Total net Wind Power generation grew 13-fold 2005-16 and the percentage of total U.S. electric power net generation from Wind Power increased from 0.4% (2005) up to 5.7% in 2016. 

Wind Power contributed to 14% of U.S. total carbon emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The reduction in the fossil fuels and power consumption in primarily the Residential & Commercial Sectors was third largest (13% of the total) contributing factor for reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16. 

This was due to a combination of increased energy efficiency technologies installations and use, and, other factors that encouraged and/or led to reduced fossil fuels consumption by most Consumers in the Residential and Commercial Sectors. 

Part of the reduced energy consumption was likely due in-part to the relatively slow recovery from the 2007-09 Great Recession and Middle Class average wage stagnation; which limits most Residents’ discretionary income during this period.
The next factor that contributed to 11% of total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 was reduced fossil fuels and power consumption of the Industrial Sector. 

While efficiency improvements likely contributed to a small fraction of reduced fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions, the major impact was unfortunately due to reduced U.S. domestic ‘durable goods’ production & manufacture. This included slowdown of many Industries/Manufacturing facilities’ outputs such as steel production, building materials & hardware-parts fabrication, vehicles & appliances manufacturing, etc.

 These and other domestically produced-manufactured durable goods have been overwhelmingly replaced by increased imports, and trade deficits.
One factor rarely covered in the Media is the fact that U.S. Industries are among the most energy efficient and least carbon intensive compared to most off-shore sources of imported durable goods from countries such as China. 

The net result has been very significant and growing ‘carbon leakage’. 

In other words, the reduction in the U.S. Industrial Sector’s durable goods production 2005-16 may have reduced U.S. carbon emissions by about 100 MMT/yr., but at the expense of shifting these carbon emissions to other countries, primarily China.


 The full lifecycle impact of shutting down U.S. domestic durable goods production with generally lower efficiency Chinese durable goods imports, and shipping them from Asia-to-North America via marine transport, has increased ‘Total World’ carbon emissions. 

This has most likely resulted in a net-increase of World carbon emissions by an additional 25-50 MMT/yr. (added leakage) greater than if the U.S. Consumer durable goods had been produced domestically.
The next largest factor (8%) to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 has been largely due to the Transportation Sector’s compliance with Federal regulations. 

The combination of increased Renewable Fuels (blending) and CAFE standards have had the largest impacts on reducing vehicles petroleum motor fuels consumption and offsetting the growing Population’s use of transportation vehicles; lighter duty cars & trucks, and heavier duty/commercial trucks, railroad, and marine.

 To possibly further reduce future U.S. carbon emissions the EPA has substantially increased future CAFE standards and more recently began developing new efficiency regulations for heavier duty vehicles. 

Despite expanding these vehicle related carbon emission regulations, the growth in Transportation Sector vehicle fleets and usage (increased VMT), resulted in increasing petroleum consumption since 2012.
Increases in Nuclear, Solar and Hydropower+biomass+Geothermal Power net generation(s) have reduced U.S. total carbon emissions by a total of about 4%. Growth in Nuclear and Hydropower have been due to increased capacity factors or utilization of existing Power Plants. 

Growth in Solar and Geothermal has been due to increased power generation capacity construction, and, biomass is some combination thereof.
In Conclusion – The U.S. was the World’s largest emitter of carbon emissions before 2007; the year U.S. emissions from fossil fuels peaked.
 In 2007 China’s rapidly growing (and lower energy efficient) economy led to their country’s carbon emissions exceeding the U.S. and becoming the largest & continuously growing source of the World’s total carbon emissions ever since.

 Two other major events occurred beginning about 2007: the Great Recession, and the rapid development of U.S. domestic Oil & Gas ‘hydraulic fracturing’ technologies. Oil and Gas market prices peaked during the recession, then fell to 10-year lows due to increased market supply.

 Unlike crude oil which is primarily influenced by World markets (and/or OPEC), domestic natural gas prices continued to decline following the recession and most the following recovery years. 


This factor led to natural gas increasingly replacing alternative Power Section fuel sources; coal & some petroleum. 

During this same period, renewables (primarily Wind Power) and consumption efficiencies technologies continued to grow & evolve, and reduce the need for some fossil fuels.
The obvious question is: “Will the U.S. continue to make similar progress in the near future?”. 


The answer to this question is of course fairly complex, with significant uncertainties. 

Even though the new Administration has stated they plan to restore the Coal Industry, their ability to accomplish this is somewhat limited. 

Since domestic U.S. natural gas production is projected to continue growing and maintain its lower costs relative to alternative coal fuels, it’s unlikely that ‘fuels switching’ will decline in the near future. 

Also, since a large number of States have adopted regulations that mandate reducing their in-state power supplies’ carbon emissions, and even if the Federal Government temporarily cancels the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the likelihood of the Power Sector replacing recently retired Coal Power Plants in the foreseeable future is very small; i.e. too risky for most investors. 

And, as long as many States continue with their lower carbon power supplies mandates and the Federal Government continues to support Wind & Solar Power capacity growth and power generation subsidies, these renewable power sources should continue to grow significantly in the foreseeable future.
Assuming the Residential & Commercial efficiency improvements continue to expand, this should hopefully result in offsetting increased good & services consumption by the U.S.’s continually growing Population.

 Also, if the new Administration successfully grows the Economy at rates significantly > 2% (U.S. GDP average growth 2009-2016) and the Industrial Sector’s durable goods production increases (reduced imports/trade deficits), World carbon emissions should actually decline at greater rates than increased U.S. Industrial Sector carbon emissions.
Sustaining and possibly growing Nuclear and Hydropower will likely continue to be major challenges.

 If the current Administration truly supports growing the Nuclear Power Industry as stated during the recent campaign, then significantly expanding this zero-carbon technology will definitely help reduce future U.S. carbon emissions. 

Hydropower will likely still face major Environmentalist resistance, which has hindered this major-existing zero carbon power generation source for decades.
Possibly the largest future challenges to further and continuously reducing U.S. fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions will be the Transportation Sector and offsetting the continuously growing Population’s use of all modes of transportation.


 Unless accelerating the expansion of alternative lower-zero carbon transportation fuels & technologies become a reality in the near future, the U.S. could likely continue experiencing increased Transportation Sector petroleum consumption and carbon emissions. 


Electric vehicles (EV) are probably the most feasible solution to reducing and eliminating the need for petroleum motor fuels. 

Besides massively expanding light duty EV fleets, States and the Federal Government need to consider other commercial vehicle alternatives such as electric powered railroads & mass transit, medium-heavier duty on-road EV’s, and other transportation modes that can feasibly and cost effectively be powered by lower carbon electric power sources in the future.

Press link for more: The Energy Collective

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Like our Political Leaders Technology should  be Chosen on Merit #auspol 

In a speech to the National Press Club yesterday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared that the key requirements for Australia’s electricity system are that it should be affordable, reliable, and able to help meet national emissions-reduction targets. 


He also stressed that efforts to pursue these goals should be “technology agnostic” – that is, the best solutions should be chosen on merit, regardless of whether they are based on fossil fuels, renewable energy or other technologies.
As it happens, modern wind, solar photovoltaics (PV) and off-river pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) can meet these requirements without heroic assumptions, at a cost that is competitive with fossil fuel power stations.

Turnbull and his government have also correctly identified energy storage as key to supporting high system reliability. Wind and solar are intermittent sources of generation, and while we are getting better at forecasting wind and sunshine on time scales from seconds to weeks, storage is nevertheless necessary to deliver the right balance between supply and demand for high penetration of wind and PV.

Storage becomes important once the variable renewable energy component of electricity production rises above 50%. Australia currently sources about 18% of its electricity from renewables – hydroelectricity in the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania, wind energy and the ever-growing number of rooftop PV installations.
Meanwhile, in South Australia renewable energy is already at around 50% – mostly wind and PV – and so this state now has a potential economic opportunity to add energy storage to the grid.
Pushing storage
To help realise this potential, in South Australia and elsewhere, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will spend A$20 million of public funds on helping flexible capacity and large-scale energy storage projects become commercially viable, including pumped hydro and batteries.
PHES constitutes 97% of worldwide electricity storage. The retail market for household storage batteries such as Tesla’s Powerwall is growing, but large-scale storage batteries are still much more expensive than PHES. “Off-river” pumped hydro has a bright future in Australia and many other countries, because there are very many suitable sites.
Wind and PV are the overwhelming winners in terms of new low-emissions electricity generation because they cost less than the alternatives. Indeed, PV and wind constituted half of the world’s new generation capacity installed in 2015 and nearly all new generation capacity installed in Australia.


Recently, we modelled the National Electricity Market (NEM) for a 100% renewable energy scenario. In this scenario wind and PV provide 90% of annual electricity, with existing hydro and bioenergy providing the balance. In our modelling, we avoid heroic assumptions about future technology development, by only including technology that has already been deployed in quantities greater than 100 gigawatts – namely wind, PV and PHES.
Reliable, up-to-date pricing is available for these technologies, and our cost estimates are more robust than for models that utilise technology deployment and cost reduction projections that are far different from today’s reality.
In our modelling, we use historical data for wind, sun and demand for every hour of the years 2006-10. Very wide distribution of PV and wind across the network reduces supply shortfalls by taking advantage of different weather systems. Energy balance between supply and demand is maintained by adding sufficient PHES, high-voltage transmission capacity and excess wind and PV capacity.
Not an expensive job
The key outcome of our work is that the extra cost of balancing renewable energy supply with demand on an hourly, rather than annual, basis is modest: A$25-30 per megawatt-hour (MWh). Importantly, this cost is an upper bound, because we have not factored in the use of demand management or batteries to smooth out supply and demand even more.

What’s more, a large fraction of this estimated cost relates to periods of several successive days of overcast and windless weather, which occur only once every few years. We could make substantial further reductions through contractual load shedding, the occasional use of legacy coal and gas generators to charge PHES reservoirs, and managing the charging times of batteries in electric cars.
Using 2016 prices prevailing in Australia, we estimate that the levelised cost of energy in a 100% renewable energy future, including the cost of hourly balancing, is A$93 per MWh. The cost of wind and PV continues to fall rapidly, and so after 2020 this price is likely to be around AU$75 per MWh.
Crucially, this is comparable with the corresponding estimated figure for a new supercritical black coal power station in Australia, which has been put at A$80 per MWh.
Meanwhile, a system developed around wind, PV and PHES and existing hydro can deliver the same reliability as today’s network. PHES can also deliver many of the services that enable a reliable energy system today: excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control.
Ageing system

Australia’s fossil fuel fleet is ageing. 

A good example is the pending closure of the 49-year-old Hazelwood brown coal power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. An ACIL Allen report to the Australian Government lists the technical lifetime of each power station, and shows that two-thirds of Australia’s fossil fuel generation capacity will reach the end of its technical lifetime over the next two decades.
The practical choices for replacing these plants are fossil fuels (coal and gas) or existing large-scale renewables (wind and PV). 

Renewables are already economically competitive, and will be clearly cheaper by 2030.

Energy-related greenhouse gas emissions constitute about 84% of Australia’s total. Electricity generation, land transport, and heating in urban areas comprise 55% of total emissions.

 Conversion of these three energy functions to renewable energy is easier than for other components of the energy system.

Transport and urban heating can be electrified by deploying electric vehicles and heat pumps, respectively. Electric heat pumps are already providing strong competition for natural gas in the space and water heating markets. Importantly, these devices have large-scale storage in the form of batteries in vehicles, and thermal inertia in water and buildings. Well-integrated adoption of these technology changes will help reduce electricity prices further.

So wind, PV and PHES together yield reliability and affordability to match the current electricity system. In addition, they facilitate deep cuts to emissions at low cost that can go far beyond Australia’s existing climate target.
Authors: Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu, and Matthew Stocks
Source: The Conversation. 

Press link for more: Reneweconomy.com