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.
New paper looking at the opportunities for dramatic decarbonization of water heating, published in Energy Policy, by joint RAEL-Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory team, Shuba Raghavan, Max Wei & Dan Kammen.
Despite Its Oil-Industry Past, Energy Transitions Commission Foresees A Full-Renewables Futureby Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago. Follow Jeff McMahon on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, or email him here.
Renewables could provide nearly all the power in some regions in less than 20 years, reliably, and at a cost competitive with fossil fuels, according to a report released today by the Energy Transitions Commission.
The report's striking confidence in solar and wind is likely to surprise not only critics of those technologies but also environmentalists, who greeted the commission with skepticismwhen it was founded in 2015. The commission was launched by Royal Dutch Shell and includes executives from Shell, GE Oil and Gas, Australia's BHP Billiton, Norway's Statoil and other traditional-energy companies.
"We believe that close to zero-carbon power systems with very high levels of intermittent renewable penetration (up to 98% in countries like Germany) could deliver reliable power in many countries at a maximum of $70 per MWh by 2035," the commission states in its flagship report.
In 2015, Carbon Tracker's Anthony Hobley criticized the ETCbecause of its initial goal to study how to fuel half the power sector with zero-carbon energy sources by 2050, a path that Hobley said would put the world on course for 4˚C of warming. The ETC appears to have raised its ambitions since.
Worldwide, zero-carbon sources could represent 80 percent of the global power mix by 2040, the commission now says, with solar and wind comprising the majority of that. That still leaves 20 percent of the world power market to fossil fuels. But that's a big drop from the current state of affairs, in which fossil fuels provide about 80 percent of primary energy production.
“We are ambitious but realistic," said commission chairman Adair Turner, a British businessman, via email. "Despite the scale of the challenges facing us, we firmly believe the required transition is technically and economically achievable if immediate action is taken.”
When I contacted Carbon Tracker Monday, Hobley had not had an opportunity yet to review the report or comment.
The report calls for reducing CO2 emissions more rapidly than the Paris Agreement. Its reliance on solar and wind depends in part on its projection that the cost of batteries will continue to drop. But it stresses there are cheaper means than battery storage to smooth out the intermittent performance of solar and wind. It cites a suite of technologies and techniques, including:
demand management, especially of industry
flexible electric vehicle charging
load shifting between regions
automated load shifting
better grid management
large-scale heat storage
distributed thermal storage in the built environment
compressed air storage
The commission modeled the use of these technologies in California and concluded that if California builds a power system that relies nearly entirely on solar and wind, these lower-cost options could offer the system reliability for almost half the cost of the traditional method of achieving reliability—turning on gas-turbine plants.
University of Berkeley energy professor Daniel Kammen has been outlining a similar scenario:
"The dramatic ramp up in solar resulted in the dramatic realization that a diverse, decentralized system can provide the same critical features that we think about with a baseload highly centralized system," Kammensaid last summer. "Not tomorrow, but in the time frame that we need it, it's absolutely there."
It's easier to see how zero-carbon sources can conquer 80 percent of the energy market, the commission concedes, than the last 20 percent. If the world is to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 2º C, the report says, four energy transitions have to be pursued simultaneously in each country:
Decarbonization of the power sector combined with electrification of transportation, buildings and industry.
Decarbonization of activities that cannot be affordably electrified, by using biofuels or hydrogen for heating or by capturing carbon emissions.
Improvements in energy productivity and efficiency.
Optimization of fossil fuels within the constraints of the world's overall carbon budget, including the continued replacement of coal with natural gas, an end to methane leaks and methane flaring at oil fields, and development of carbon capture and storage.
To achieve these transitions, the world needs to change the way it finances energy, and it needs "coherent and predictable" policy from governments, the report says, recommending a price on carbon.
"A meaningful carbon price would help drive a faster and more certain transition."
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.”
Imagine a world in which every home and building is a miniature power plant, with solar panels on the roofs and electric vehicles and stationary battery banks in the garages.
Meters and software would manage the flow of power, allowing homeowners and businesses to seamlessly buy and sell electricity at the best prices, simultaneously lowering their costs and raising the amount of green energy on the grid.
That’s the long-term vision behind the plan that Elon Musk described late Tuesday, explaining the rationale for Tesla to acquire SolarCity and create the “world’s only vertically integrated energy company.’’And it may very well become reality, whether in years or decades, and whether Mr. Musk’s version of the vision is one that proves viable.
Still, if Mr. Musk and his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, can trounce the competition and surmount their financial woes — and those are very big ifs — the integrated company they are trying to assemble could be in a position to dominate.
“This is an effort to build the Apple of clean energy,” said Daniel M. Kammen, the director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “That really is part of the new wave of companies that could make this decarbonization addressing climate change really work.”
Wall Street, at least for the moment, is not on board.
SolarCity’s stock, which has been trading at roughly a quarter of its peak value in recent months, rose after the announcement. But Tesla’s has tumbled. Several analysts and investors have questioned the wisdom of adding to both companies’ financial pressures — between them the companies lost more than $1.6 billion last year — and potentially distracting Tesla from building its enormous battery factory in Nevada and bringing its first moderately priced car to market next year.
Even some energy analysts say the proposed acquisition is at least as much about helping Mr. Musk’s personal investments as furthering his green agenda. But, some energy experts and investors say, there is logic in combining Tesla, where Mr. Musk is chief executive, and SolarCity, where he is chairman.
Describing Tesla automobiles as “batteries wrapped in a car,” Shawn Kravetz, founder of the solar power investment company Esplanade Capital, said that the energy storage business was likely to become colossal. “And so you can see,’’ he said, ‘‘how the electricity to power those batteries can be an essential part of this.”
The two companies have been moving toward a closer partnership for some time. SolarCity began installing Tesla batteries in pilot projects for residential and commercial customers about four years ago. Last year, Tesla announced its move to market rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs that could mount to a home garage wall, as well as battery blocks large enough to power commercial and industrial customers and serve in utility-scale installations to smooth out fluctuations in the grid.
At the same time, SolarCity, after years of challenging the utility industry to innovate or die, started acting more like a utility itself. It began a program aimed at cities, remote communities, campuses and military bases to design and operate small, independent power networks called microgrids. At the time, Peter Rive, one of the company’s founders and its chief technical officer, called the system “a template that can be scaled up to basically be the next-generation grid.”
As the leading rooftop solar provider in the country, SolarCity is thought to have the largest collection of data on how solar customers use energy at every minute of the day. With that data — especially if combined with information from electric cars, chargers and stationary batteries — the combined company could be well suited to creating products and services based on customer needs.
“They deeply understand what the customer’s usage patterns are,” said Swapnil Shah, chief executive of FirstFuel Software, which provides energy management services to buildings. He compared the potential to Amazon’s ability to adapt and customize online shopping to buyer’s behavior.
“They’re creating unique personalized profiles of your habits,’’ Mr. Shah said, “and they use that to identify what is the next click for the next product.”
And yet, while SolarCity was building the infrastructure for a new, decentralized approach to power production known as distributed generation, while earning a reputation for aggressive attacks on the old-school utility industry, Mr. Musk was turning Tesla into “the brand that everyone wants to buy,” Mr. Kammen said. That brand burnishing is something that could benefit SolarCity, he said.
But a big challenge for Tesla, said Shayle Kann of GTM Research, which focuses on clean energy industries, is that it is not the only company with such a grand vision. Utility industry stalwarts like Edison International and Con Edison are developing energy services and consulting divisions, while technology giants like General Electric, Oracle, Google and even Apple are getting into the business of providing or managing power.
Of course, the merger plan may not go through, if other investors balk and because of the corporate governance and other issues arising from Mr. Musk’s roles in both companies. He also owns more than 20 percent of each. But maybe a merger isn’t necessary to achieve the larger goals.
“Do you have to own things in order to leverage or even to a certain extent control them?” Mr. Kravetz of Esplanade Capital asked. “I think the answer is no. You don’t have to own the cow to get the milk.”
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.
http://news.sciencemag.org/climate/2015/05/analysis-boosting-climate-goals-california-daring-others-followMarianne Lavelle, 1 May 2015 3:30 pm
When California Governor Jerry Brown announced earlier this week that he was ratcheting up his state's already ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target, he put his state in a familiar place: trying to set the regulatory pace for the rest of the nation, and even the world. And although some critics warn that California’s aggressive effort to cut emissions will harm its economy, Brown’s allies say there are plenty of data to suggest the state could cash in on curbing climate change.
[caption id="attachment_1113" align="alignnone" width="640"] CA State Senator Fran Pavely introduces SB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act to take California from 2020 - 2050. Kammen at right.[/caption]
[For Kammen's testimony on this bill, see the publications list for April 29, 2015]
California has a long history of pushing the envelope on environmental regulations. It created the world's first vehicle exhaust limits in the 1960s, the first appliance energy efficiency regulations in the 1970s, and the first low-carbon fuel standard 8 years ago. Now, the state—which boasts the world’s eighth largest economy—wants to lead efforts to keep global warming below 2°C.
Brown's executive order Wednesday builds on a landmark law that California enacted in 2006 to cut its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, in part by creating its own cap-and-trade market. That law survived court challenges and a hard-fought, well-funded voter referendum to repeal it. Since implementation, the law has resulted in 100 million tons of greenhouse gas reductions (roughly equivalent to taking 20 million cars off the road), bringing the state halfway to its 2020 goal. Policy debates in California increasingly have been focusing on what comes after 2020.
Brown answered that question with what he billed as "the most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target in North America." In fact, it is in line with the most aggressive goal unveiled by any country in the run-up to an agreement on a new international agreement on climate change expected to be finalized at a December meeting in Paris. Specifically, California now aims to cut carbon emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030—a goal on par with that adopted by the 28-nation European Union for Paris.
Of course, California won't be sitting at the negotiating table in Paris. But the Golden State's $2.2 trillion economy dwarfs that of all but a few of the nations that will be forging the new climate change deal.
Those familiar with the U.N. process say California can now serve as an important lodestar for the Paris effort, especially because—unlike Europe—it has been able to generate jobs even as it has slashed carbon emissions.
"An aggressive standard by a healthy economy that is technologically at the cutting edge sets a benchmark," Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist at Princeton University, told ScienceInsider. "It represents a confidence that there are economic opportunities in getting ahead of the curve."
Brown and his allies will be able to summon plenty of data to back his decision, say close observers of the governor's long-telegraphed move. Whether assessing energy, economics, or politics, the governor has the numbers to show that new, higher goals are achievable and desirable. The key question is whether California's tech-heavy, low-coal economy makes it unique and whether it can indeed serve as a model for transforming more carbon-dependent states and nations.
A key study bolstering Brown's executive order—the PATHWAYS project commissioned by the state's energy regulators—came out earlier this month. In it, San Francisco–based consulting firm Energy + Environmental Economics (E3) used conservative assumptions about how fast new technology would develop to model several ways California could achieve 26% to 38% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. All involve ratcheting up renewables from 25% to at least 50% of California's electricity mix, as well as aggressive deployment of LED lighting and other steps to curb energy use. Also key: a major transformation in automobile fueling, with heavy emphasis on electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Significantly, E3 found that such measures would add no more than $18 per month to the average household energy bill and could actually wind up saving Californians money if U.S. gasoline prices rise in the future. That would not be new for California. Already, California ranks near the bottom of all states in the amount of money spent on energy per capita. Thanks to strong energy efficiency programs as well as moderate weather, energy consumed per capita by Californians is about 36% below the U.S. average.
"It shows we already have the technical know-how to achieve ambitious targets while continuing robust economic growth," said Erica Morehouse, senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund in Sacramento, who has been working on "beyond 2020" issues in California.
The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, has similarly been modeling potential pathways to deeper decarbonization of the state's economy. It has modeled 13 options for the state, from accelerating its already nation-leading solar program to ramping up nuclear power. Both options are "technically achievable and economically reasonable," says energy expert Daniel Kammen, the director of the lab. Some pathways would cost California consumers less than they would pay if the state had no carbon target at all, he said.
The move to cleaner energy could also create more jobs in California than sticking to fossil fuels, Kammen says his lab’s research has found. And he and others argue that idea has been borne out by California's recent experience. The state led the United States in job growth over the past year, adding nearly 460,000 new payroll positions over 12 months, ending in March. Many new jobs have direct ties to the state's climate change program—including major transit projects—and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (an alliance of labor groups) has supported proposals for increasing California's goals for cleaner energy.
"It comes down to a simple, but intellectually deep concept," Kammen says. "Every time you stop burning a fuel and start investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, you're investing in people and companies and innovation instead of pouring money into a nonrenewable resource."
Kammen argues that California's go-it-alone policy has already had an influence on international talks. He points to both last fall's bilateral climate change deal between the United States and China, and Mexico's recently announced plan to cut its emissions 25%, regardless of what other nations pledge. "Those are exactly in the California intellectual model," Kammen said, "It's 'We are going to forge ahead, and the green jobs will go to those who act.' "
Still, some argue that California's economy may yet suffer because of its aggressive effort on climate change. Last fall, for instance, Loren Kaye, president of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education, a think tank affiliated with the California Chamber of Commerce, warned that Californians could rebel when a gas surcharge related to cutting carbon emissions began directly to hit the state's motorists this year. So far, however, there hasn't been great shock, because average pump prices initially fell around the United States this year due to falling global oil prices.
In an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee last fall, Kaye repeated a warning that opponents have sounded since California's climate action effort began: California will lose businesses and jobs to other states and nations that don't adopt similarly stringent reductions on carbon emissions. "Leadership isn’t just being ahead of the pack—it’s getting the rest of the pack to follow," Kaye wrote.
Both boosters and critics of Brown's targets can agree on one thing: Because California accounts for less than 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, the state’s effort will only help address global warming if it inspires others to take a similar plung.