The need for transitioning towards low-carbon energy systems, and the recent boom in available data, allows for a constant re-evaluation of global electricity sector decarbonization progress, and its underlying theoretical assumptions. Arguably, the existing decarbonization literature and institutional support frameworks focus on top-down supply side mechanisms, where policies, goals, access to financing, and technology innovation are suggested as the main drivers. Here, we synthesize eleven global datasets that range from electricity decarbonization progress, to quality of governance, to international fossil fuel subsidies, and environmental policies, among several others, and use methods from data mining to explore the factors that may be fostering or hindering decarbonization progress. This exercise allows us to present numerous hypotheses worth exploring in future research. Some of these hypotheses suggest that policies might be ineffective when misaligned with country specific motivators and inherent characteristics, that even in the absence of policy there are particular inherent characteristics that foster decarbonization progress (e.g., relatively high local energy prices, foreign energy import dependency and the absence of a large extractive resource base), and that the interaction ofcountry-specific enabling environments, inherent characteristics, and motivations is what determines decarbonization progress, rather than stand-alone support mechanisms. We present the hypothesis that existin gsupport mechanisms for decarbonization may be relying too much on blanket strategies (e.g., policies, targets),and that there is a need for support mechanisms that encompass a wider diversity of country-specific underlying conditions.
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.
Xiaoli is a PhD student in the School of Environmental & Natural Resources, Renmin University of China
She has a range of research interests, including the Low-carbon transition pathway of China’s power sector, the job creation potential of the new green energy economy, and the role of energy storage in decarbonization in China and Europe.
She will be a visiting research student at RAEL from October 2019 - August 2020.
Natalie is an Energy Engineering (https://engineeringscience.berkeley.edu/energy-engineering/) major at UC Berkeley. Her studies focus on integrating power system analysis with data science, optimizing resource use and studying the outlook of renewable technology adoption in various parts of the world.
In RAEL, Natalie is currently engaged in the SWITCH China project. She works on modeling grid expansion for China, looking at how decarbonization pathways and electric vehicle grid integration will affect the future energy mix. Her topics of interest include long-term power system planning, applications of international energy policy, projecting energy demand, and storage technology adoption.
Hao is a postdoctoral researcher in RAEL as well as in the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University. She holds a double-degree Ph.D. from Beijing Normal University and Aalborg University, specializing in environmental economics and environmental planning respectively. Hao’s research applies interdisciplinary methods to analyze the pollution sources, health impacts and external cost of air pollution in China.
Hao is deeply interested in environmental policies and their effectiveness at balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability. She is currently collaborating with Professor Zhang Qiang, Professor Liu Zhu and Professor Daniel Kammen. Her postdoctoral research investigates energy consumption in developing countries and its impacts on CO2 emissions and human health.
She is lead researcher in the UC Berkeley-Tsinghua U-Duke University partnership on the health impacts of decarbonization of the power sector in China, California, and elsewhere.
For her publications: click here.
Patricia Hidalgo-Gonzalez was today named a 2019-2020 Siebel Scholar in Energy Science!
Joining a community of graduate student Siebel Scholars, Paty is now part of The Siebel Energy Institute, global consortium for innovative and collaborative energy research.
The Institute funds cooperative and innovative research grants in data analytics, including statistical analysis and machine learning, to accelerate advancements in the safety, security, reliability, efficiency, and environmental integrity of modern energy systems.
Paty's work is on power systems theory, including both analytic work and the development of the SWITCH modeling tools, and practice, with research foci in the US, Chile, and China, and on basic power system reliability, and deep decarbonization of the sector.
From The Daily Californian, Tuesday, October 8. Click here to go direct to that link, or here for the BerkeleyBlog version.
Voting for a Just Transition
Daniel M Kammen
Each fall at UC Berkeley I teach ‘Energy and Society’, a very unusual course that covers the science, politics, and policy angles needed to understand – and to change – our energy system from one that is now rapidly degrading the planet, to a sustainable, healthy, and equitable one. The best feature of this class is that it is a melting pot not only of different majors, but also of undergraduate and graduate students working together to master the material
The first thing we cover, using basic chemistry that has been well known to science for over 100 years,is that endlessly emitting greenhouse gases will warm the planet. We have known scientifically since the 1990s that climate change is already impacting ecosystems, crops, and both human and environmental health. We have known for almost two decades that we have already warmed the planet by one degree Celsius, and that at two degrees Celsius, dramatic changes to the earth will be everyday events.
Instead of becoming a rallying cry for innovation as were the responses to disease (“the war on polio”), food, poverty and nutrition (“the Green Revolution”) or the desire to reach space (“the Apollo program”), climate change has become, arguably, the most divisive issue in the United States. Where we used to see challenge as an opportunity, this one, inexplicably has become a proxy-war for economic insecurity and class division.
After all, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, launched under Republican President Nixon and passed through House and Senate Committees in 1970. TheClean Air Actbecame law in 1970, where it passed the Senate without a single ‘no’ vote. Only one representative voted against the bill. Against expectations, George H. W. Bush featured the environment prominently in his campaign, and in 1988 his presidency saw an expansive update to the Clean Air Act which the Senate passed with bipartisan support.
Since then, however, things have deteriorated, with attention and investment in environmental quality at local, to national, and at global levels becoming the ‘third rail’ of U.S. politics.
This is where local action by Cal students is so critical. As the acknowledged top public university in the world, Cal students, staff, faculty and alumni have helped to make California the remarkable energy and climate leader that it is, but have also found a myriad of ways to spread those experiences across the country and around the world. That reach has never been more important than now as we approach the most important mid-term election in decades.
At the Climate Action Global Summitin San Francisco last month I heard an approach that harkened back to the bipartisanfounding of the U.S. EPA.. This new vision was stated most clearly and eloquently not by politicians, orators, or scientists, but by high-school and college students who gathered in a series of youth summits organized within and around the official meetings.
What is most ironic is that climate change is actually one of the most interesting issues and opportunities we as a country have ever faced because its solution creates economic opportunities. Every bit of coal, gas, or oil that we replace with energy efficiency and clean energy is a shift away from mining resources to investing in companies and investing in people. After all, when the fuel is free, creating new technologies and building social institutions and policies are all ways to invest in ourselves and to both create employment and to use data and institutions to grow the economy. My laboratory here at UC Berkeley has been researching and documenting the green jobs ‘dividend’ and has been doing work witha series of students, many of whom are alumni of ‘Energy and Society’.
The clean energy opportunity is aligned with core values – at least those stated on paper – by both the Democratic and Republican parties. Instead of one of the few places for bipartisan action, however, it has become an area where even the most basic facts are endlessly debated. As research launched at Berkeley has shown, investments in mass transit and for those who need cars, electric vehicles are not only cheaper to operate than gas-powered cars, but they also lead to dramatic reductions in urban air pollution, a hallmark of California policies since the 1970s.
As inequality has grown across America, UC-based research has continued to highlight the many examples of well-meaning policies (such as subsidizing electric vehicles for the affluent) that exacerbate the growing national economic divide. Instead, efforts launched here to invest in more affordable homes and apartments by integrating energy efficiency, solar, power, and both better mass-transit and electric vehicles for low-income Californians offers a sustainable path to social equity.
Of particular note is that California’s landmark climate legislation, SB32which governs our state decarbonization from 2020 – 2030, calls for 35% or more, of our greenhouse gas cap and trade revenues (now in the $10 billion/year range) to be spent on underserved minority communities. I’ll wager that when we look back this bill, it will be this investment in social justice, not the climate target that will be its most important legacy.
This is where the Cal students can play a most immediate and hugely impactful nationwide role: by reaching out to fellow students, parents, and friends both across California and across the country to highlight how doubling down on equitableclean energy projects offers a rare and genuine ‘win-win’ at a time when the country is more divided than ever.
Daniel Kammen is professor and chair of the Energy and Resources Group, and Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, and in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He served in the Obama Administration as Science Envoy for the State Department. Twitter: @dan_kammen
Daniel Kammen, Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, will present, "An Energy Plan the Earth Can Live With," at 4 p.m. Monday, May 7, in Guyot Hall, Room 10.
Kammen is the eighth and final speaker in the Challenges in Environmental Sciences Seminar (CHESS) Series organized by PEI in cooperation with campus partners.
Kammen will look in overview at clean-energy projects at scales from off-grid solar-energy systems to mini-grids and decarbonization efforts in the United States, China, Nicaragua, Kenya and Southeast Asia. He will review a number of specific areas of energy-system innovation, including in energy storage and information management systems for mini-grid operation. He will examine how analytic and practical field-based efforts both decarbonize communities across scales and establish frameworks to meet the Paris climate accord.
Kammen was appointed the first Environment and Climate Partnership for the Americas Fellow by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in April 2010.
Kammen has served as a contributing or coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1999. Th IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
From 2010-2011, he was the World Bank Group's chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency, in which he helped enhance renewable-energy and energy-efficiency activities and expand the institution's role in promoting cleaner, more sustainable energy.
Before joining UC-Berkeley, Kammen was an assistant professor of public and international affairs at Princeton, as well as director of the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) and PEI associated faculty. He received his doctorate in physics from Harvard University in 1988.
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.