On-demand automotive fleet electrification can catalyze global transportation decarbonization and smart urban mobility
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.
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.
Ryan Jones & Ben Haley: Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project energyPATHWAYS: an open source model for exploring economy wide deep decarbonization pathways
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.
As governments and non-state actors strive to minimize global warming, a primary strategy is the decarbonization of power systems which will require a massive increase in renewable electricity generation. Leading energy agencies forecast a doubling of global hydropower capacity as part of that necessary expansion of renewables. While hydropower provides generally low-carbon generation and can integrate variable renewables, such as wind and solar, into electrical grids, hydropower dams are one of the primary reasons that only one-third of the world’s major rivers remain free-flowing. This loss of free-flowing rivers has contributed to dramatic declines of migratory fish and sediment delivery to agriculturally productive deltas. Further, the reservoirs behind dams have displaced tens of millions of people. Thus, hydropower challenges the world’s efforts to meet climate targets while simultaneously achieving other Sustainable Development Goals. In this paper, we explore strategies to achieve the needed renewable energy expansion while sustaining the diverse social and environmental benefits of rivers. These strategies can be implemented at scales ranging from the individual project (environmental flows, fish passage and other site-level mitigation) to hydropower cascades to river basins and regional electrical power systems. While we review evidence that project-level management and mitigation can reduce environmental and social costs, we posit that the most effective scale for finding balanced solutions occurs at the scale of power systems. We further hypothesize that the pursuit of solutions at the system scale can also provide benefits for investors, developers and governments; evidence of benefits to these actors will be necessary for achieving broad uptake of the approaches described in this paper. We test this hypothesis through cases from Chile and Uganda that demonstrate the potential for system-scale power planning to allow countries to meet low-carbon energy targets with power systems that avoid damming high priority rivers (e.g., those that would cause conflicts with other social and environmental benefits) for a similar system cost as status quo approaches. We also show that, through reduction of risk and potential conflict, strategic planning of hydropower site selection can improve financial performance for investors and developers, with a case study from Colombia.
Leverage the IRA for Global Clean Energy Leadership
David Williams & Daniel M Kammen
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a profound step in advancing climate leadership particularly from a deeply divided nation. Now is the time to show how this step leads to progress, profits and jobs where we are not divided: advancing US overseas engagement and climate leadership. To do, Congress could extend the IRA tax credits for US firms working internationally.
The US has much work at home to do to usher in the clean energy revolution. We need to act globally, however, or domestic progress will mean very little. We can achieve this by extending proven tax incentive tools to unlock the necessary investment across Africa, Asia and Latin America. This will build markets and create jobs for the clean energy sector in the US. Developers will have an entirely new pool of sophisticated investors and the capital necessary to match the scale of the climate challenges.
While many bemoan the dominant role China plays in investing in emerging economies, extending US tax credits for clean energy projects provides US companies a means to build markets and accelerate global decarbonization. Take a look at the opportunities in Africa.
The number of unelectrified Africans has remained nearly unchanged at over 600 million for over a decade, despite efforts aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG7) to provide global energy access by 2030. At COP26 in Glasgow last November, the international community made a commitment of $100 billion to industrializing nations. This is an order of magnitude smaller than what is needed on an annual, ongoing, basis to build decarbonized, affordable, and resilient energy future. Clean energy is now cheaper to build and simply operate than existing fossil fuel projects. Africa needs massive and sustained financing for new, bankable projects.
The Africa electrification story is complex because ‘bankable’ projects are dependent not only on designing good projects but also on the twin constraints of sustaining capital from investors and then also able to navigate complex local regulatory issues. Sub-Saharan African projects are often held up because of a lack of ‘First loss capital’ (high risk) funding that leverages bank and central government investments.
Providing risk-tolerant ‘first-loss’ capital at scale leverages hundreds of billions in a global renewables industry. Operationally this could be done by extending the IRA to specific projects in Africa. This would strengthen investment by US firms and support the geopolitical goals of the US. This tax credit would afford the same incentives across to the border that already include investments in solar, wind, geothermal, sustainable hydropower, energy efficiency upgrades, and transmission and distribution projects.
Tax incentive investing works. The US Investment Tax Credit is responsible for the dramatic successes of solar across the US since its launch in the Energy Policy act of 2005. The program has been highly popular and an economic engine creating over 230,000 jobs in every state with an annual private investment of over $30 billion all while making renewable energy more affordable than conventional energy sources. The program has challenges but is resoundingly successful by relying on private companies to make good investments.
The economic needs for African energy are tremendous and aid is simply not enough. At COP26 the US and European Partners committed $7.5 billion in aid for the ailing South African energy sector. Nigeria has publicly stated a request for a comparable amount. These investments are critically needed to upgrade or build grid transmission assets, invest in new clean energy projects, reduce methane (CH4) fugitive emissions, invest in energy access, and launch electric vehicle markets. $400 billion are needed beyond business as usual for each country to achieve a clean energy transition. That is almost a trillion dollars of investment opportunity for US companies to support Just Energy Transitions in just two nations. Rewarding US companies for investing in commercial clean energy projects in Africa will enable a transition that cannot be achieved with public sector funds alone.
This can be launched quickly and can be in place soon after the November COP27 meeting in Egypt. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Polity found that at least 55 of the largest corporations in the US paid no federal corporate income taxes on their 2020 profits. Over $8 billion in avoided tax a year is in complex offshore structures. The tax incentive we propose correct this by providing the private sector a clear means to back up their public statements of commitment to a Just Energy Transition via direct investments in the neediest and fastest growing markets.
This ‘simple’ solution requires only a modest change to the US investment Tax Credit program to extend eligibility to certain international projects. The US direct aid and web of supporting wrap-around services certainly make a difference but are not enough. Extending proven US policy would be a significant catalyst for capital directed to industrializing energy markets. In the past year we have seen multi-billion-dollar investments in solar, storage, and electric vehicles in Angola, plans in Kenya to move from a 4 GW national grid to 100 GW by mid-century, and both Nigeria and South Africa commit to going carbon-free if investment flows to solar, wind, energy storage, electrified transportation, and green hydrogen. The markets are there, the time is now, and what is most needed is a means to move capital.
The world’s climate-vulnerable are susceptible to the impacts of climate change, and are the most affected by weaponizing energy. This is a unique moment where political will can bring incremental tax code changes that democratize, de-carbonizes, and decreases the conflict costs of energy around the world. This just might be the match that lights renewable solutions for the rest of the world.
The impetus for buildings to decarbonize and move towards radical energy and water efficiency is increasingly strong and identified as a priority within the green building sector. The tiny house movement offers an opportunity to both address the challenges of affordable housing and contribute to residential building decarbonization. Tiny houses de-emphasize mass consumption and excessive belongings and have potential to address equity issues such as gentrification by providing living spaces to lowincome residents in desirable housing locations. This paper analyzes the Tiny House in My Backyard (THIMBY) project, investigating building sustainability concepts through the design-build-occupy process in a three-year-old structure. THIMBY demonstrates energy and water efficiency technologies inside an award-winning small living space (18.5 m2). THIMBY was designed to reduce energy and water use by 87 and 82% compared to California residential averages. In practice, it has reduced site energy by 88% and has emitted 96% fewer carbon emissions than a 2100 square foot California Energy Commission 2016 Title 24 minimally compliant home. We discuss the differences between design and performance of energy and water systems, which we find offer important lessons for the further expansion of the tiny house movement and other alternative and micro green housing types. We find that optimizing such houses through integration of energy and water saving technologies, home energy management systems, and strong communication between modelers, builders and occupants will be essential to achieving dramatic energy (87%), water (82%), and carbon (96%) savings.
Guangyu joins us for a year from North China Electric Power University, where he has already worked on clean energy markets and wind energy forecasting. At RAEL (and LBL) he will be working on aggressive decarbonization pathways for China, and the expansion of clean energy services in heavy industry. His recent paper on day-ahead wind forecasting is available on the RAEL publications pages. To take a look, click here. Send him note and welcome & get to know Guangyu!
For the May 2021 original in Breakthroughs Magazine of Rausser College of Natural Resources: click here.