Recent news reports have focused on the so-called collapse of coal, which indeed is in free-fall in many nations. And it’s not limited to the news media; an International Energy Agency report said “. . . Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use.” Coal use is down to record low-levels in the United States. This decrease is also underway for oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, new solar and wind projects are up 4 percent since the start of the year, and the most affordable projects worldwide over the past three years have all been renewable energy installations. These cost trends, and the slow-down in demand for fossil-fuels that came with the COVID-19-induced recession tipped the balance in favor of clean, renewable energy – at least temporarily. But from here on in, much depends on what we do next: How will we respond to this accidental and costly emergency? Will we double-down on pollution and the racial injustices that are inherent with the use of fossil fuels? Or will we use this hiatus to craft a new, green, and job-creating economy?
California Governor Jerry Brown announced last week a new plan for reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The executive order calls on the Golden State to decrease carbon emission rates by 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030.
“I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet,” the governor told onlookers when he announced the executive order last week.
The goal sets a national precedent and is on par with the benchmark set in place by the European Union last year — the most ambitious target in the world.
Executive orders aren’t technically law, but rather set mandates around which legislation can be written.
The proposal will serve as an interim goal established by the governor as the state works toward reaching its target of reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
That’s the more long term plan laid out in Senate Bill 32, legislation introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) at the end of last year.
What does the governor’s announcement mean for the state? Getting halfway to that 2050 benchmark within the next 15 years.
Has the governor set the bar too high, or is this simply an expression of his faith in California’s climate change policy?
“This is basically saying we need a new industrial revolution,” Dan Kammen, Professor of Energy at UC Berkeley told NBC Bay Area. “The last one took about 150 years. Now we need to do it between now and 2050.”
Kammen says despite the ambitious target, the state can reach the governor’s goal, but getting there by 2030 isn’t going to be easy.
California has already begun plucking at the ‘low hanging fruit’ to bring carbon levels down, like incentivizing cleaner cars, implementing stingier fuel standards and promoting renewable energies—the state sources 24 percent of its power from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power. In light of the governor’s new demand, Kammen says California must majorly increase its use of these technologies, and leverage them in new ways.
“Finding ways to do these things together is really kind of the magic of California innovation on the technical and policy side,” he said. “Because the more we can find opportunities to do both of these things together, like electric vehicles charged up by solar, wind and other renewables, that means that you win twice over. That’s literally a win-win strategy.”
According to figures from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state’s carbon emissions dropped nearly 7 percent between 2004 and 2012, the year that data is most recently available. If the state keeps at the same rate, it will actually beat the 2020 carbon emissions benchmark set forth by CARB.
So for now, California is ahead of the game in making carbon reductions.
But the real challenge as meeting Governor Brown’s benchmark comes into action will be convincing everyday citizens to play a significant role in cutting back on emissions, said Abby Young, Climate Policy Manager at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Most of the energy nationwide — around 70 percent — is consumed in buildings, and the Bay Area is home to a number of older office spaces and residential properties. Due to their age, these types of buildings are rarely energy efficient.
While requirements have been established for new construction to meet energy efficiency standards, real progress could mean state and local governments incentivizing homeowners to jump on board with retrofitting their homes, Young said. That means installing solar panels and taking other steps to increase energy efficiency, she added.
“What’s great about the governor making this kind of bold statement is it motivates and inspires…individuals to realize how important the individual behaviors and actions they take every day are to helping the state meet this goal,” Young said.
Opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2022
To jump to the newspaper,click here.
California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045
Ten years ago, many Californians could not have imagined the climate nightmare we are living today — dark orange skies during wildfire season, heat waves in the dead of winter, mandatory water restrictions amid crippling drought.
Without urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest climate challenges — hotter summers, a shorter rainy season and more destructive wildfires — could double in intensity.
It’s against this backdrop that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) last week released a draft of our state’s scoping plan, a blueprint for combating climate change that will guide California’s policy for years. Despite the stakes for Californians, and although my research indicates the state could actually become carbon negative by 2030, the draft proposal would delay reaching carbon neutral until 2045. The barriers to a target of 2030 are political, not technical.
The draft plan calls for investment in new fossil fuel electricity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly carbon capture technologies that would lock in fossil fuel pollution. Adopting this approach would be lazy, nonsensical and racially unjust. During the current 45-day period for public review of the plan, California has the chance to choose a smarter path.
The Huntington Beach Generating Station includes a natural gas generator that began operation in 2020.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Renewable energy, even when coupled with energy storage, is cheaper than fossil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renewable energy must be prioritized before building out expensive and polluting gas power plants. Instead, California must set ambitious targets that immediately cut pollution through no-regrets strategies.
If we fall short of the climate action that science demands, Californians, and especially lower-income Californians and communities of color, will pay the price. What’s more, we could see this failed model replicated across other states and nations. It’s not hyperbole to say billions of people could be worse off if California fails to lead.
By the same token, if our state sets an ambitious but achievable goal — like carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2035 — the benefits ripple widely. Other states and nations are looking to California. If we set an ambitious target and focus future policy toward meeting it, others are more likely to adapt as well. Even when climate goals are not reached, they keep policies and investments moving in the right direction.
Last summer, when he directed CARB to examine accelerating California’s climate targets to 2035 or sooner, Gov. Gavin Newsom said “science demands we do more.” Having just announced a historic $32-billion investment in climate programs over the next five years, he must now step in and ensure that regulators live up to his call to increase climate ambition across the board.
To get this planning process back on track, regulators must start by correcting the flawed methodology that is the underpinning of their current proposal. CARB’s economic and jobs modeling fails to incorporate both the true cost of delaying emissions reductions and the full health and societal benefits from more ambitious emissions reductions. Put simply, California can create more jobs and more prosperity with renewables than we can with fossil fuels.
In developing the scoping plan, CARB staff used a measure called the social cost of carbon, which puts a dollar value on the damages created by additional greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is, these estimates vastly underestimated the costs of delaying climate action.
If we don’t begin to rapidly reduce fossil fuel pollution, the impacts on California’s healthcare system, our economy, our food supply and our communities will be orders of magnitude greater than what CARB has accounted for. Regulators can correct this by aligning with experts’ latest analysis, which calculates the true social cost of carbon at $50 per ton of pollution emitted.
As a next step, regulators need to acknowledge it is far too late in the game to gamble our state’s future on unproven carbon capture technologies that may never materialize. CARB’s draft scoping plan projects that California will use 100 million metric tons (MMT) of direct air capture in 2045. Globally, only 0.01 MMT of annual direct air capture is happening today. It is unrealistic to assume we can scale up this technology so much overnight, and foolish to direct investment to unproven experiments when affordable natural carbon removal solutions like composting and tree-planting are readily available now.
We have affordable renewable energy technologies available today that not only cut carbon emissions but also tackle our state’s air pollution crisis. California’s scoping plan should mobilize a vast expansion of renewable energy technologies. Instead, the current proposal calls for 10 gigawatts of new natural gas generating capacity — the equivalent of 33 large new gas plants.
There is still time for CARB and Newsom to deliver a bold climate blueprint that centers equity and public health and focuses on a no-regrets approach of renewable energy investment. It’s California’s legacy and lives around the world that are at stake. We cannot afford to fall short.
Daniel Kammen is a professor of sustainability at UC Berkeley. He is a former coordinating author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Kammen in currently serving in the Biden-Harris Administration as Senior Advisor for Energy & Innovation at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) @dan_kammen
China has enacted a series of policies since 2015 to substitute electricity for in-home
combustion for rural residential heating. The Electric Heating Policy (EHP) has contributed to
significant improvements in air quality, benefiting hundreds of millions of people. This shift,
however, has resulted in a sharp increase in electric loads and associated carbon emissions.
Here, we show that China’s EHP will greatly increase carbon emissions. We develop a
theoretical model to quantify the carbon emissions from power generation and rural residential
heating sectors. We found that in 2015, an additional 101.69–162.89 megatons of CO2
could potentially be emitted if EHP was implemented in 45–55% of rural residents in
Northern China. In 2020, the incremental carbon emission is expected to reach
130.03–197.87 megatons. Fortunately, the growth of carbon emission will slow down due to
China’s urbanization progress. In 2030, the carbon emission increase induced by EHP will
drop to 119.19–177.47 megatons. Finally, we conclude two kinds of practical pathways toward
low-carbon electric heating, and provide techno-economic analyses.
The world has been transformed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and its impact on global CO2 emissions is unprecedented. According to a study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the drop in emissions during the first half of 2020 is larger than what was seen during the financial crisis of 2008, the oil crisis in 1979, or even during World War II.
The researchers determined that from January to June, CO2 emissions were 8.8 percent lower compared to the same time period in 2019, with an overall decrease of 1,551 million tons.
The study is providing a much more clear understanding of how COVID-19 has affected global energy consumption compared to previous reports. The experts also highlight fundamental steps that could be taken to stabilize the climate after the pandemic.
“What makes our study unique is the analysis of meticulously collected near-real-time data. By looking at the daily figures compiled by the Carbon Monitor research initiative we were able to get a much faster and more accurate overview, including timelines that show how emissions decreases have corresponded to lockdown measures in each country,” explained Liu.
“In April, at the height of the first wave of Corona infections, when most major countries shut down their public life and parts of their economy, emissions even declined by 16.9 %. Overall, the various outbreaks resulted in emission drops that we normally see only on a short-term basis on holidays such as Christmas or the Chinese Spring Festival.”
The analysis reveals which sectors of the global economy have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Study co-author Daniel Kammen is a professor in the Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
“The greatest reduction of emissions was observed in the ground transportation sector,” said Professor Kammen. “Largely because of working from home restrictions, transport CO2 emissions decreased by 40 % worldwide. In contrast, the power and industry sectors contributed less to the decline, with -22 % and -17 %, respectively, as did the aviation and shipping sectors.” “Surprisingly, even the residential sector saw a small emissions drop of 3 %: largely because of an abnormally warm winter in the northern hemisphere, heating energy consumption decreased with most people staying at home all day during lockdown periods.”
The comprehensive research was focused on a wide range of data, including hourly datasets of electricity power production in 31 countries, daily vehicle traffic in more than 400 cities, daily passenger flights, and monthly production rates for industry in 62 countries.
The experts also found that, with the exception of the transportation industry, most economies resumed their usual levels of CO2 emissions by July after lockdown measures were lifted.
Even if emissions remained low, however, those improvements would do little to offset the harmful levels of CO2 that have accumulated in the atmosphere in the long term. With this in mind, the researchers emphasize that the only valid strategy to stabilize the climate is a complete overhaul of the industry and commerce sector.
Study co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is the founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“While the CO2 drop is unprecedented, decreases of human activities cannot be the answer,” said Schellnhuber. “Instead we need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems. Individual behavior is certainly important, but what we really need to focus on is reducing the carbon intensity of our global economy.”
In looking ahead to entirely decarbonizing the electric generation system, there is a debate about the use of nuclear generation. One school of thought argues that nuclear will be essential to successful decarbonization, while the other feels that this can be done entirely using renewable technologies, essentially wind and solar. This research investigates the role and value of using nuclear generation in decarbonizing the electric generation system. Along with generation, however, storage technologies will be needed. This study also compares the value of using batteries (expensive but efficient) to the use of ammonia (quite inefficient, but very cheap per unit of energy). Based on the Capacity Expansion Model, the study develops an analytical function to evaluate the marginal cost of carbon reduction under various scenarios of primary generation (with and without nuclear) and storage technologies (with batteries or with ammonia). The behaviors of the generators and storage determine the different components of this equation. Illustrating these behaviors gives us insight as to the role of nuclear and different types of storage in decarbonizing the system.
Alan graduated from Stanford University in 1970 with a Master’s degree in geotechnical engineering. As a civil engineer he worked in heavy construction in Alaska and Vietnam, Peace Corps in Venezuela in dam design, and in the Bay Area in earthquake analysis. He returned to Stanford and completed a PhD in Engineering Economic systems in 1983. He joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1987, working energy system economics, developing and applying modeling platforms to evaluate policies and technologies for energy generation and storage. He was also active in risk analyses for nuclear materials production and waste disposal. He is currently retired, but continues to work in energy systems economics to better understand strategies for reducing carbon emissions from the energy system.
ABSTRACT: Mobility on-demand vehicle (MODV) services have grown explosively in recent years, threatening targets for local air
pollution and global carbon emissions. Despite evidence that on-demand automotive fleets are ripe for electrification, adoption of
battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in fleet applications has been hindered by lack of charging infrastructure and long charging times.
Recent research on electrification programs in Chinese megacities suggests that top-down policy targets can spur investment in
charging infrastructure, while intelligent charging coordination can greatly reduce requirements for battery range and infrastructure, as well as revenue losses due to time spent charging. Such capability may require labor policy reform to allow fleet operators to manage their drivers’ charging behavior, along with collection and integration of several key data sets including (1) vehicle trajectories and energy consumption, (2) charging infrastructure installation costs, and (3) real-time charging station availability. In turn, digitization enabled by fleet electrification holds the potential to enable a host of smart urban mobility strategies, including integration of public transit with innovative transportation systems and emission-based pricing policies.
Mobility on-demand vehicle (MODV) services have grown explosively in recent years, threatening targets for local air pollution and global carbon emissions. Despite evidence that on-demand automotive fleets are ripe for electrification, adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in fleet applications has been hindered by lack of charging infrastructure and long charging times. Recent research on electrification programs in Chinese megacities suggests that top-down policy targets can spur investment in charging infrastructure, while intelligent charging coordination can greatly reduce requirements for battery range and infrastructure, as well as revenue losses due to time spent charging. Such capability may require labor policy reform to allow fleet operators to manage their drivers’ charging behavior, along with collection and integration of several key datasets including: 1) vehicle trajectories and energy consumption, 2) charging infrastructure installation costs, and 3) real-time charging station availability. In turn, digitization enabled by fleet electrification holds the potential to enable a host of smart urban mobility strategies, including integration of public transit with innovative transportation systems and emission-based pricing policies.