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.
The University of California believes it can go carbon neutral by 2025. That means zero carbon emissions from powering its buildings and vehicles on all ten campuses. But according to a recent report and related commentary by experts from across the system in the journal Nature, it could be a tough goal to reach. That’s a position shared by Berkeley professor and energy expert Dan Kammen, who was not affiliated with the report. “We’re not actually on pace for our 2025 goal,” he said—more like 2035 or 2040. “We need to accelerate. That’s one of the key things.”
To be fair, the goal—like the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and AB 32 before it— is an ambitious one. The university is specifically looking to light the way for large institutions the world over as well as the entire state of California, which is considering its own carbon neutrality target of 2045.
UC has a long way to go. From 2009 through 2015, the report shows, the university reduced electricity demand system wide through efficiency retrofits to offices, restaurants, residences, and more, netting UC more than $20 million a year. But it barely moved the needle on carbon emissions: 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually in 2009 to 1.1 million in 2015.
Figure 1.4 from University of California Strategies for Decarbonization: Replacing Natural Gas
To bring that number down to zero over the next seven years, the university will need to “bend the curve,” the report concludes. Even with renewable energy coming online that wasn’t available a few years ago, the university must ramp up its efforts—rapidly.The authors of the report and commentary suggest a three-step approach. First is making buildings and other facilities even more efficient, which could net another $20 million in savings per year by 2025, the authors project.
Next is an interim measure, switching to biogas for campus power plants. Produced through the breakdown of plant matter in an oxygen-controlled environment, biogas is chemically identical to natural gas yet considered carbon-neutral. Although the fuel is already in use to a small extent on some campuses and more is planned, the authors note that due to supply limitations, it isn’t a solution that can scale up to national use. And while the move to biogas could put a huge dent in UC carbon emissions—almost all of which are currently associated with natural gas combustion—the fuel isn’t without risk. Leakage from gas infrastructure could significantly hinder UC’s efforts by releasing methane directly into the atmosphere, Kammen says.
The final step requires phasing out gas altogether. That means electrifying every campus from top to bottom—from the heating system in Dwinelle Hall to the maintenance truck parked out back—and purchasing power from only zero-emissions sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.
Campus electrification is straightforward enough for new buildings and domestic water heating, says Karl Brown, deputy director of the Berkeley-based California Institute for Energy and Environment and one of the report’s 27 authors. It’s much more difficult with existing buildings and high-temperature end uses, such as sterilization of lab equipment in, since that requires complete retrofits and likely removal of gas-burning facilities.
Camille Kirk, who directs UC Davis’ Office of Sustainability and was not involved in the report, says the 2025 goal is still feasible as long as the university makes the proper financial investments; receives full support from faculty, alumni, and the government, particularly around infrastructure renewal; and doesn’t insist on full electrification by 2025.
And while the authors of the report caution that UC’s leadership in this arena won’t mean much if others don’t follow suit, the specifics of its approach “[don’t] need to directly translate to spur other institutions’ thinking and creativity about solutions that might be better for them,” Kirk said.
Ultimately, the authors note, “bending the curve more sharply requires both academic and practical insights,” which is exactly what the university hopes to bring to the problem.
For the original article, click here.
Consumption-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventories have emerged to describe full life cycle contributions of households to climate change at country, state and increasingly city scales. Using this approach, how much carbon footprint abatement potential is within the control of local governments, and which policies hold the most potential to reduce emissions? This study quantifies the potential of local policies and programs to meet aggressive GHG reduction targets using a consumption-based, high geospatial resolution planning model for the state of California. We find that roughly 35% of all carbon footprint abatement potential statewide is from activities at least partially within the control of local governments. The study shows large variation in the size and composition of carbon footprints and abatement opportunities by ∼ 23,000 Census block groups (i.e., neighborhood-scale within cities), 717 cities and 58 counties across the state. These data and companion online tools can help cities better understand priorities to reduce GHGs from a comprehensive, consumption-based perspective, with potential application to the full United States and internationally.
We review passenger car deployment trends in China until 2050, which are used to develop a model to explore deployment scenarios for New Energy Vehicles (NEV: plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles) in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, costs, and electricity demand. We find that, investing in large-scale NEV deployment minimizes overall costs over the 2050 horizon. However, far more aggressive short-term policies designed to decrease near-term technology cost trends will be needed to encourage a rapid transition to NEV deployment.
Click here for a direct link to the paper, published in Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T).
Fast growing and emerging economies face the dual challenge of sustainably expanding and improving their energy supply and reliability while at the same time reducing poverty. Critical to such transformation is to provide affordable and sustainable access to electricity. We use the capacity expansion model SWITCH to explore low carbon development pathways for the Kenyan power sector under a set of plausible scenarios for fast growing economies that include uncertainty in load projections, capital costs, operational performance, and technology and environmental policies. In addition to an aggressive and needed expansion of overall supply, the Kenyan power system presents a unique transition from one basal renewable resource− hydropower− to another based on geothermal and wind power for ∼ 90% of total capacity. We find geothermal resource adoption is more sensitive to operational degradation than high capital costs, which suggests an emphasis on ongoing maintenance subsidies rather than upfront capital cost subsidies. We also find that a cost-effective and viable suite of solutions includes availability of storage, diesel engines, and transmission expansion to provide flexibility to enable up to 50% of wind power penetration. In an already low-carbon system, typical externality pricing for CO2 has little to no effect on technology choice. Consequently, a “ zero carbon emissions” by 2030 scenario is possible with only moderate levelized cost increases of between $3 and $7/MWh with a number of social and reliability benefits. Our results suggest that fast growing and emerging economies could benefit by incentivizing anticipated strategic transmission expansion. Existing and new diesel and natural gas capacity can play an important role to provide flexibility and meet peak demand in specific hours without a significant increase in carbon emissions, although more research is required for other pollutant’ s impacts.
Dr Alan Lamont holds BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering and PhD in Engineering Economic Systems, all from Stanford
He is recently retired from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he was an engineer for 29 years. His work included economic analysis of energy systems, along with risk and decision analysis for infrastructure, nuclear facilities and repositories, and weapons design. As part of his work in energy systems, he developed the META-Net economic modeling platform for partial equilibrium analysis of energy systems. His work focuses on the impacts of policies, economic value of energy technologies, and their effects on the balance of the system and on carbon emissions. Prior to joining the Lab, he was an engineer for 17 years with Woodward Clyde Consultants working in geotechnical engineering, and risk and economic analysis of engineering projects.
This study develops a model of electric generation system that is simple enough to illustrate the overall design space of an electric generation system in a 2 dimensional diagram. Using this approach, we can illustrate the the efficient design pathways to reducing carbon, the economic and mathematical drivers that determine the pathways, the effects of technology assumptions, and the effects of policies. This talk will emphasize the development of the model, the effects of carbon intensity of the baseload, and the requirements and costs for storage across the design space
This paper presents the first detailed long-term stock turnover model to investigate scenarios to decarbonize the
residential water heating sector in California, which is currently dominated by natural gas. We model a mix of
water heating (WH) technologies including conventional and on-demand (tank-less) natural gas heating,
electric resistance, existing electric heat pumps, advanced heat pumps with low global warming refrigerants and
solar thermal water heaters. Technically feasible policy scenarios are developed by considering combinations of
WH technologies with efficiency gains within each technology, lowering global warming potential of refrigerants
and decreasing grid carbon intensity. We then evaluate energy demand, emissions and equipment replacement
costs of the pathways. We develop multiple scenarios by which the annual greenhouse gas emissions from
residential water heaters in California can be reduced by over 80% from 1990 levels resulting in an annual
savings of over 10 Million Metric Tons by 2050. The overall cost of transition will depend on future cost
reductions in heat pump and solar thermal water heating equipment, energy costs, and hot water consumption.
The Washington Post,
October 13, "We’re placing far too much hope in pulling carbon dioxide out of the air, scientists warn"
In the past decade, an ambitious — but still mostly hypothetical — technological strategy for meeting our global climate goals has grown prominentin scientific discussions. Known as “negative emissions,” the idea is to remove carbon dioxide from the air using various technological means, a method that could theoretically buy the world more time when it comes to reducing our overall greenhouse-gas emissions.
Recent models of future climate scenarios have assumed that this technique will be widely used in the future. Few have explored a world in which we can keep the planet’s warming within at least a 2-degree temperature threshold without the help of negative-emission technologies. But some scientists are arguing that this assumption may be a serious mistake.
In a new opinion paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, climate experts Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester and Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research have argued that relying on the uncertain concept of negative emissions as a fix could lock the world into a severe climate-change pathway.
“[If] we behave today like we’ve got these get-out-of-jail cards in the future, and then in 20 years we discover we don’t have this technology, then you’re already locked into a higher temperature level,” Peters said.
Many possible negative-emission technologies have been proposed, from simply planting more forests (which act as carbon sinks) to designing chemical reactions that physically take the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The technology most widely included in the models is known as bioenergy combined with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS.
In a BECCS scenario, plants capture and store carbon while they grow — removing it from the atmosphere, in other words — and then are harvested and used for fuel to produce energy. These bioenergy plants will be outfitted with a form of technology known as carbon capture, which traps carbon dioxide emissions before they make it into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide can then be stored safely deep underground. Even more carbon is then captured when the plants grow back again.
The idea sounds like a win-win on paper, allowing for both the removal of carbon dioxide and the production of energy. But while more than a dozen pilot-scale BECCS projects exist around the world, only one large-scale facility currently operates. And scientists have serious reservations about the technology’s viability as a global-scale solution.
First, the sheer amount of bioenergyfuel required to suit the models’ assumptions already poses a problem, Peters told The Washington Post. Most of the models assume a need for an area of land at least the size of India, he said, which prompts the question of whether this would reduce the area available for food crops or force additional deforestation, which would produce more carbon emissions.
When it comes to carbon capture and storage, the technology has been used already in at least 20 plants around the world, not all of them devoted to bioenergy. In fact, carbon capture and storage can be applied in all kinds of industrial facilities, including coal-burning power plants or oil and natural gas refineries. But the technology has so farfailed to take off.
“Ten years ago, if you looked at the International Energy Agency, they were saying by now there would be hundreds of CCS plants around the world,” Peters said. “And each year the IEA has had to revise their estimates down. So CCS is one of those technologies that just never lives up to expectations.”
This is largely a market problem, according to Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer and carbon capture expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“There’s no doubt you can do it,” he said. “We have coal plants that do CCS, you can have biomass that can do CCS — the technology’s not a big deal. The question is the economics.”
Because it’s more expensive to produce energy with carbon capture than without it, there’s little incentive for the private sector to invest in the technology without a more aggressive policy push toward curtailing emissions, he pointed out. A carbon price, for instance, would be one way of creating a market for the technology.
It’s not that the modelers have no reason for incorporating BECCS so heavily, though. Over a long enough time period, and at the scale needed to make a dent in our global climate goals — especially assuming a high enough carbon price in the future — it may be the cheapest mitigation technology, Peters said. But this may not be enough for policymakers to invest in its advancement now.
“Decision-makers today don’t optimize over the whole century,” he said. “They’re not asking: What technology can I put in place now to make a profit in 100 years? So the sort of strategic thinking in the model is different from strategic thinking in practice.”
Additionally, the models that are commonly relied on to project future climate and technological scenariosassume that the CCStechnique works perfectly within the next few decades, when it’s only just emerging.
“The models don’t have technical challenges; they don’t run into engineering problems; the models don’t have cost overruns,” Peters said. “Everything works as it should work in the model.”
The bottom line, he and Anderson note in their paper, is that all these assumptions make for a huge gamble. If policymakers decide we’re going to meet our climate goals only with the aid of negative-emission technologies, and then these technologies fail us in the future, we will already be locked into a high-temperature climate scenario.
In this light, the authors write, “negative-emission technologies should not form the basis of the mitigation agenda.” Indeed, they conclude, nations should proceed as though these technologies will fail, focusing instead on aggressive emissions-reduction policies for the present, such as the continued expansion of renewable energy sources.
Other scientists agree. Daniel Kammen, an energy professor at the University of California in Berkeley and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, has published several recent papers on BECCS technology, and agrees that it is “nowhere near ready to be considered a component of a viable carbon reduction strategy.”
For Kammen and RAEL's papers on BECCS using both the SWITCH model and based on a chemical engineering feasibility assessment, see: the RAEL publications link, here.
“The paper is right,” he continued in an emailed comment to The Washington Post. “A run to endorse BECCS as a key component of the needed 80 percent or greater decarbonization we need by 2050 is unproven, premature and potentially costly. It is worth research, but has a ways to go before it can enter the realm of a solutions science for climate change.”
Herzog also agreed that “the focus of today should be on mitigation as opposed to worrying about negative emissions sometime in the future.” In the future, he said, as we approach the end of our decarbonization schemes, negative emissions could still have a place when it comes to offsetting carbon from those last activities it’s most difficult or most expensive to decarbonize.
But Herzog added that, in his opinion, we’ve likely already overshot a 2-degree temperature threshold, to say nothing of the more ambitious 1.5-degree target described in the Paris climate agreement. At the very least, he noted, a reliance on renewables alone would be unlikely to get us there, if it were still possible. Indeed, multiple recent analyses have suggested that the combined pledges of individual countries participating in the Paris Agreement — very few of which have even considered negative emissions — still fall short of our temperature goals.
“I think what you’re going to see in the long run is a mix of technologies coming in to help solve the problem,” he said. “You need a mix of renewables, efficiency, nuclear, CCS, lifestyle changes — just a whole litany.”
We explore the operations, balancing requirements, and costs of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council power system under a stringent greenhouse gas emission reduction target. We include sensitivities for technology costs and availability, fuel prices and emissions, and demand profile. Meeting an emissions target of 85% below 1990 levels is feasible across a range of assumptions, but the cost of achieving the goal and the technology mix are uncertain. Deployment of solar photovoltaics is the main driver of storage deployment: the diurnal periodicity of solar energy availability results in opportunities for daily arbitrage that storage technologies with several hours of duration are well suited to provide. Wind output exhibits seasonal variations and requires storage with a large energy subcomponent to avoid curtailment. The combination of low-cost solar technology and advanced battery technology can provide substantial savings through 2050, greatly mitigating the cost of climate change mitigation. Policy goals for storage deployment should be based on the function storage will play on the grid and therefore incorporate both the power rating and duration of the storage system. These goals should be set as part of overall portfolio development, as system flexibility needs will vary with the grid mix.
A video abstract for the paper is available here.
The global carbon emissions budget over the next decades depends critically on the choices made by fast-growing emerging economies. Few studies exist, however, that develop country-specific energy system integration insights that can inform emerging economies in this decision-making process. High spatial- and temporal-resolution power system planning is central to evaluating decarbonization scenarios, but obtaining the required data and models can be cost prohibitive, especially for researchers in low, lower-middle income economies. Here, we use Nicaragua as a case study to highlight the importance of high-resolution open access data and modeling platforms to evaluate fuel-switching strategies and their resulting cost of power under realistic technology, policy, and cost scenarios (2014–2030). Our results suggest that Nicaragua could cost-effectively achieve a low-carbon grid (≥80%, based on non-large hydro renewable energy generation) by 2030 while also pursuing multiple development objectives. Regional cooperation (balancing) enables the highest wind and solar generation (18% and 3% by 2030, respectively), at the least cost (US$127 MWh−1). Potentially risky resources (geothermal and hydropower) raise system costs but do not significantly hinder decarbonization. Oil price sensitivity scenarios suggest renewable energy to be a more cost-effective long-term investment than fuel oil, even under the assumption of prevailing cheap oil prices. Nicaragua's options illustrate the opportunities and challenges of power system decarbonization for emerging economies, and the key role that open access data and modeling platforms can play in helping develop low-carbon transition pathways.