Amid growing California-China clean energy partnerships RAEL is partnering with both research and deployment partners in China to accelerate the decarbonization agenda. In efforts with Tsinghua University, Chongqing University, and North China Electric Power University, among other academic partners, as well as with local and federal partners in China, RAEL is working to accelerate the deployment of electric transportation, address air and water pollution, and to explore alternatives to the development-environmental degradation nexus. RAEL doctoral student Anne-Perrine Avrin, who spoke on here work at a recent RAEL Lunch Seminar, is currently working with colleagues in China on electric vehicle adoption strategies (of the 2 million electric vehicles in use world-wide, 1 million are in China and over 200,000 are in California).
Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.
For the article and video, click here.
Economics, technology, and global public opinion are driving the surge in wind and solar renewable energy resources, with changes developing at a pace few had anticipated.
A “revolution” in use of renewable energy is embracing not only the electrical sector, but also, and increasingly, the transportation sector, the current Yale Climate Connection video points out.
The video portrays a range of energy experts pointing to the surge in wind and solar use – fueled by decreasing costs, improving technology, and global civil concerns over air pollution and adverse health effects. Experts point to impressive growth of renewable energy not only in China, India, and western Europe, but also in politically conservative states in “the heart of the country,” says long-time journalist Keith Schneider, senior editor with Circle of Blue.
“You cannot out-source solar and wind investments the way you can with natural gas or oil that might go off-shore,” says Dan Kammen, energy professor at Stanford University. The video shows footage of General Motors and Royal Dutch Shell executives singing the praises of renewables.
“The next buy I do is my next car, which will be an electric vehicle,” says Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurnden. “We need to be at a much higher degree of electric vehicle penetration.”
The video points to Volvo plans to phase out “conventional engines” by 2019. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins points to aggressive renewable energy plans by India, Germany, and Holland over the next two-and-a-half decades. Experts point to plans by the United Kingdom and France to ban sales of gas and diesel engines by 1940 and to growth of wind and solar energy across the U.S. Midwest.
In looking at the post-Paris climate agreement outlook, the video explores implications of the Trump administration’s withdraw from the Paris agreement. It delves into impacts on climate change, but also on likely impacts of a declining U.S. role in international diplomacy. “Problematic,” says Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan, adding that China and other countries are taking the approach that “if you don’t want to lead, then we’ll lead.”
Kammen sees U.S. companies increasingly being at a “very significant economic disadvantage” with no fixed price on carbon.
Schneider, a former environmental reporter with the New York Times, says he fears the U.S. has ceded its leadership responsibility in the coming clean-energy economy, which Hoffman says is unquestionably the market of the future. Schneider says his concerns especially involve the U.S.’s walking away from being “a big part, should be the leading part” of the 21st century global economy.
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.
RAEL looks forward to a new partnership with the Reiner-Lemoine Institute in Berlin, Germany. On August 28th, RLI and RAEL together will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the scope of their partnership. In this initiative, the partners have created the Berkeley-Berlin Energy Access Group (BBEAG) headed by Philipp Blechinger and Daniel Kammen. At RLI, Philipp is head of the research field Off-Grid Systems.
Based on the 7th UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG7) to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, RLI and RAEL have created the Berkeley-Berlin Energy Access Group (BBEAG) in order to
- jointly work on models and tools for electrification modelling and planning,
- explore new fields of sustainable energy-water-food supply and transport,
- provide advice for public and private decision-makers,
- jointly develop projects and apply for project funding,
- establish academic exchange among both institutions and other international partners.
We look forward to a fruitful collaboration, in which we will benefit from our respective areas of expertise, meet the goals developed within our partnership, and create lasting synergies.
For coverage of Prof. Kammen’s resignation from the Science Envoy position at the U. S. State Department, click here.
California has a history of going it alone to protect the environment. Now, as US President Donald Trump pulls back on climate science and policy, scientists in the Golden State are sketching plans for a home-grown climate-research institute — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
The initiative, which is backed by California’s flagship universities, is in the early stages of development. If it succeeds, it will represent one of the largest US investments in climate research in years. The nascent ‘California Climate Science and Solutions Institute’ would fund basic– and applied-research projects designed to help the state to grapple with the hard realities of global warming.
The project could be funded by revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade programme to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but its political prospects are unclear. Advocates say they have received a warm reception from California Governor Jerry Brown, but a spokesperson for Brown would say only that “discussions are ongoing”. The proposal must also clear the state legislature.
“The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice,” says Daniel Kammen, an energy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. Although the institute would focus on science to serve California, Kammen says Brown and other state leaders recognize that their work will have global impact — particularly now that Trump has promised to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate accord. “The term we often use is ‘rule from below,’” Kammen says.
And California might ultimately have some company. At Columbia University in New York City, science dean Peter de Menocal — a palaeoclimatologist — hopes to build an alliance of major universities and philanthropists to support research into pressing questions about the impacts of climate change. Potential topics include local variations in sea-level rise and the changing availability of freshwater resources and food.
De Menocal has already tested the idea on a smaller scale. Last year, he launched the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia, enlisting corporate philanthropists to fund the university’s Earth scientists. The project has raised about US$8 million. “This problem is bigger than any one institution,” says de Menocal. “What private philanthropy can do that the federal government doesn’t do is target assets to solve specific problems.”
Writ large, that is what academics in California hope to do. The proposed climate institute there has drawn support from nearly all the state’s major academic institutions, including all ten University of California campuses and private powerhouses such as Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Scientists from any institution would be eligible for grants to study topics ranging from ocean acidification to tax policy, Kammen says; priority would go to projects and experiments that engage communities, businesses and policymakers.
“The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice.” — Daniel Kammen
It would not be the first time that California has stepped up to support an area of science that has fallen out of favour in Washington DC. In 2004, the state’s voters approved $3 billion to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Oakland, after then-President George W. Bush restricted federal support for research on human embryonic stem cells; that centre has since funded more than 750 projects. The proposal for a new climate institute began similarly, as a reaction to White House policies, but its organizers say that the concept has evolved into a reflective exercise about academics’ responsibility to help create a better future.
“It almost became an inventory or indictment of ourselves,” says Benjamin Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Davis, and chair of the committee that is developing the institute proposal. “We realized we weren’t doing enough.”
Panel members aim to bring a complete plan to the California legislature this year, in the hope of persuading lawmakers to fund the effort. Kammen says that the institute’s backers would like to have the institute up and running by September 2018, when Brown is set to host a global climate summit in San Francisco, California.
But the California initiative still faces significant challenges. Severin Borenstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that academics will face plenty of competition for a limited pool of cap-and-trade revenue. He also notes that efforts to create such interdisciplinary climate institutes have struggled in the past, largely because it’s hard to rally academics from disparate fields around a common goal. Nonetheless, Borenstein favours the climate initiative, because he sees global warming as an issue on which California can have a truly global impact.
“The main way California can contribute to dealing with climate change is through innovation,” he says. “We can invent and test the technologies and processes that will allow the rest of the world to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Reference: Nature, 548, 267–268 () doi:10.1038/548267a
“Energy storage deployment and innovation for the clean energy transition” in Nature Energy.
Access at Nature Energy here.
New Study Find That Energy Storage Prices are Falling Faster than Solar PV or Wind Technology Costs, Outcompeting Coal and Natural Gas Plants
Berkeley, CA, July 31, 2017 — Storage prices are falling faster than solar PV or wind technologies, according to a new study published in Nature Energy. The fall in prices is allowing new combinations of solar, wind, and energy storage to outcompete coal and natural gas plants on cost alone.
A research team from the University of California and TU Munich in Germany found that R&D investments for energy storage projects have been remarkably effective in bringing the cost per kWh of a lithium-ion battery down from $10,000/kWh in the early 1990’s to a trajectory that could reach $100/kWh next year. The pace of innovation is staggering.
Ordinarily, public research investment and private venture capital money undergo tough scrutiny before money can be spent on research and the results from years of work are not immediately visible. However, this study shows that long-term R&D spending played a critical factor in achieving cost reductions, and a recent lack of investment for basic and applied research may miss the $100/kWh target for cost effective renewable energy projects. Modest future research investment from public and private sectors could go a long way to unlock extremely low-cost, and low-carbon electricity from solar, wind, and storage.
As Tesla moves to install a Gigafactory in Nevada and the largest lithium-ion storage facility in the world in southern Australia, new combinations of energy storage in terms of size, scale, and chemistry are emerging quicker than ever.
Tesla’s storage projects are not the only examples. Cities like Berlin have already embraced grid-scale storage. Berlin plans to install a 120 MW flow battery underground to support wind and solar efforts at integrated prices as low at 15 cents/kWh, in line with forecasts made in this paper. California is home to the first energy storage mandate on the grid, requiring utilities procure 1.325 GW of storage by 2020. These innovative policies showcase the range of storage options that may benefit clean energy, from small Powerwall batteries in the home to city-scale storage facilities providing back-up to utility-scale wind and solar farms.
There is an important co-evolution of battery developments for electric vehicle usage, grid-scale storage that supports solar and wind electricity, and other consumer applications for new electronics. To forecast future energy storage prices, the researchers compiled a new dataset looking back to prices from the early 1990’s and development of new lithium-ion batteries through international patent databases. The team also looked at how storage co-evolved with solar and wind innovations. They found that for storage technologies, investment in applied research may actually be a more effective in $/kWh cost reduction than pure economies of scale mass production.
This past year (2017) the US reached its goal of $1/W SunShot solar power three years early. However, low-cost solar is usable during the day and experiences intermittency, which causes researchers to question the reliability of solar power. That’s why energy storage makes a big difference.
The study follows a string of research investigating the relationship between research funding and deployment of new technologies for solar panels and wind turbines. The team highlights the need for more research in emerging storage technologies, as there is not a clear winner, and a diverse range of options may outlast lithium-ion batteries. There may be room for a number of different battery chemistries that all provide different services on an evolving grid, some providing voltage regulation and frequency control, and others serving long duration outages and providing back-up for buildings and communities.
The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF, 1144885), Karsten Family Foundation, and Zaffaroni Family Foundation.
Kittner, N., Lill, F. & Kammen, D. M. Energy storage deployment and innovation for the clean energy transition. Nature. Energy 2, 17125 (2017). Paper and supplemental data are available online at: https://rael.berkeley.edu/project/innovation-in-energy-storage/
Cite and access this paper directly from NATURE ENERGY in Volume 2, 17125 (2017), DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.125 | www.nature.com/natureenergy
Daniel M. Kammen, Professor of Energy, UC Berkeley, Chair of the Energy and Resources Group, and Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy; also Science Envoy for the U.S. State Department (email@example.com, 510–642-1760)
Noah Kittner, (firstname.lastname@example.org, 919–614-8825
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.
Actualizing the Vision of Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home
Roundtable at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences
November 2, 2016
On the Vatican website: click here.
Laudato Si’ is a powerful text, political and poetic, and deeply inspiring. It addresses the most critical issues of our time in vision and substance. It elucidates the necessity and means of “individual ecological conversion”, to see the “world as a sacrament of communion.”
Two of its guiding tenets are “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”, and that we have mutually reinforcing obligations to the earth and to each other. The Beatitudes provide the philosophy to shape our work of transforming and healing society and our planet. The Encyclical provides the blueprint.
The following means and principles to actualize the vision of Laudato Si’ were put forward at the 2 November 2016 Roundtable at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
- Expand the dialogue with those with influence and power (noting specifically those who drive investment decisions) on the dovetailing of environmental and social issues — “the book of nature is one and indivisible” — and its relevance and implications; toward that end establish a sustainable investment advisory committee for the Vatican’s own investment activities.
- Continued personal engagement and presence of the Pope in delivering and keeping current the message of Laudato Si’. The more Pope Francis speaks about climate change and Laudato Si’, the more he will influence public opinion around the world.
- A detailed and well resourced communication and messaging strategy for Laudato Si’, targeted to diverse audiences, which stresses the urgency of the challenge. A plan, differentiated in style, tone, pace and suggested terms of engagement for the four different generations that are active at this moment in history. The different generations should be addressed on their own terms, and with their input. Engage leaders in social media to spread and evolve the message of Laudato Si‘.
- That the institution of the Catholic Church, serving as spiritual guide and moral messenger, also serve as physical and behavioral example, modeling in microcosm, the planetary vision of Laudato Si’ by accelerating the conversion to sustainable stewardship of its own land and assets, the Church’s training programs for priests being a powerful, integral aspect.
- Promote an interdisciplinary interfaith forest, land and climate initiative — which acknowledges the “mysterious relations between things” — convened and directed by an inclusive public private partnership.
- Be aware of and address the emotional and spiritual implications and sorrow deriving from our “disfigurement” of our common home, which we have “burdened and laid waste,” and from distressing commercialism, which “baffle[s] the heart.” Laudato Si’ needs to be widely discussed, shared and acted upon in public and mental health circles, for which it has profound relevance.
Principles to incorporate in the various work of our communities, and additional points of discussion:
- Understand the relationship between “velocity” of current culture and the loss of internal, spiritual time and time for reflection, which is necessary for building a just and compassionate society.
- Recognize that energy poverty is a major impediment to equity and harmony both within and between communities and nations, and greatly impedes our progress in sustaining the Earth as our common home.
- Support grass roots activist movements and individuals, as powerful countervailing as well as spiritually enriching forces that make the need for global stewardship vibrant and accessible.
- Assure that indigenous forest inhabitants have meaningful work that arises from their values, and their relationship to the land. Assure that there are specific avenues for the wisdom of these communities to permeate our atomized civil societies.
- Encourage down to earth dialogue among faith communities and civil society on the subject of environmental market mechanisms which, like any other tool, can be used either for good or ill, remaining mindful that the Economy is a subset of Nature, and not the other way around.
- Support governments in crafting policies and laws which reflect our moral and spiritual obligations to each other and to Nature, as they translate into physical and material obligations.
- Work to establish local and national commitments to use-inspired basic research, required for sustainable energy and water systems and valuing forests. Research and innovation is a vital tool in implementing the Encyclical, will foster beneficent new technologies, narrow the gap between Nature and technology, and allow people and Nature again to “extend a friendly hand to one another.”
- We need a change of heart; we need to increase tenderness towards each other and the environment, and the way we will get there is not built solely on greater analytical insights and new policy, but also moving aesthetic experiences that raise our minds, hearts, and souls towards the good the transcendental, and the holy.
- Diets of those consuming industrially produced meat, notably cattle, require a disproportionate amount of arable land, and water. This extravagant inequity highlights that, as with what we purchase, what we eat is a moral choice. Nature’s bounty can be sufficient for all needs, but not all greed.
- Engage the spiritual infrastructure of our world geographically, and include georeligious dynamics in dialogues about environmental programs and policy. Keep the spirit of Laudato Si’ alive, repeated, and deeply ingrained in communities of faith through communications media, actionable geography-relevant materials (like maps with guided land-use and land/facility maintenance suggestions for various dioceses), and through scientific, and NGO partnerships.
- Disseminate a central lesson of Laudato Si’: that we bear moral responsibility for the full lifecycle of activity resulting from our individual economic actions. We each have personal responsibility for the environmental harm caused by the energy we use or the food we eat, any inequity or injustice in the product supply chains that provide us goods and services, and the byproducts and waste we create.
- Operationally capitalize on and expand the commonalities between religions, communities, and beliefs around the planet, a shared language that can build understanding and cooperation to support sustainability.
- Laudato Si’, explicitly and implicitly, grounds our material reality in a cosmological view of interrelatedness — in the tradition of St. Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry, among others — proclaiming the Universe a “communion of subjects,” and not “a collection of objects.” (Thomas Berry, 1999)