Energy Forecast Sees Global Emissions Growing, Thwarting Paris Climate Accord

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By John H. Cuahman JR. for Inside Climate News – The U.S. government’s energy forecasting branch issued its formal international prognosis on Thursday, and it paints a picture of a world still so addicted to fossil fuels that emissions of global warming pollution continue to increase for the foreseeable future. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) projected that worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels would grow 16 percent by the year 2040 from the levels of 2015, the year that the nations of the world agreed to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change that is intended to reverse the trend. Absent any policy changes, the business-as-usual “reference case” findings at the heart of the agency’s International Energy Outlook 2017 report can’t be squared with the ambitions of Paris, which demand quick action to bring emissions down sharply and avoid the worst risks of a warming planet. The EIA, despite being part of the U.S. Department of Energy, conducts its analyses without regard to the policy agenda of the administration that happens to be in office. In this case, that’s the Trump administration, which the report noted has announced its intention to quit the Paris accord, has jettisoned the emission pledge presented by the Obama administration during the treaty negotiations, and has announced that it wants to rewrite the centerpiece of federal climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which is being challenged in court by the fossil fuel industry and its mainly Republican political allies.

DOE Officially Marks SunShot’s $1 Per Watt Goal For Utility-Scale Solar

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By Julia Pyper for GTM – It’s official. The solar industry has met the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative — three years early. The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released new research today that shows the average price of utility-scale solar is now under $1 per watt and below 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s higher than the record-breaking project bids we’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad in recent years. But that’s because DOE calculations for levelized cost of energy (LCOE) do not include subsidies — such as the federal Investment Tax Credit — and are based on the average climate in Kansas City, Missouri. (Note: GTM documented the sub-$1 per watt milestone earlier this year, but the department is using its own metrics.) “Our mission is to make solar affordable for all Americans, and so our goals are defined for average U.S. climates. We use Kansas City as that example,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, acting deputy director of the SunShot Initiative. “Hitting a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour target for Kansas is a more significant metric than hitting 6 cents in sunnier parts of the country.” GTM Research reported that U.S. utility-scale fixed-tilt system pricing fell below $1.00 per watt earlier this year using a different methodology.

Utilities Plot Ways To Prep Grid For Coming EV Boom

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By Herman K. Trabish for Utility Drive. California – Electrifying the transportation sector is no easy task. But, as with many innovations occurring in the power sector, California is leading the way. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved two rounds of pilot proposals to electrify transportation from the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs). These pilots will cost a combined $1.3 billion and go beyond Gov. Jerry Brown (D)’s plan to have 1.5 million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025. The pilot projects would cover the gamut of possible ways to boost electric vehicle deployment including rate designs, smart charger buildout, public education efforts, and help utilities avoid upgrade costs, said Jim Lazar, senior advisor for the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP).

Trump’s New FERC Commissioner Rob Powelson Accepted Gifts From Energy Industry

Screen shot of Robert Powelson during his FERC nomination hearing. Credit: U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, public domain

By Itai Vardi for Desmog Blog – Robert Powelson, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed commissioner to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), received both gifts and reimbursements for travel, lodging, and hospitality from the energy and utility sectors in his previous position as a state regulator. He will now regulate those sectors at the federal level. Powelson, a Republican, began his tenure at FERC last week. Documents and emails recently uncovered by the Energy & Policy Institute, a watchdog monitoring attacks on renewable energy, indicate that he maintained a close relationship with industry groups as a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. In addition, earlier this year, Powelson said pipeline opponents are engaged in “jihad,” a statement which drew criticism from activists and further solidified his pro-industry image. NFL Game and Industry Conferences. DeSmog has found that according to Powelson’s financial interest disclosures at the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, in September 2013 he accepted two tickets from NRG Energy to attend a football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Diego Chargers. Each ticket cost $105. Powelson attended the game with James Steffes, a senior vice president at NRG Energy, a large energy company operating numerous power generating stations throughout the U.S.

How Electricity Cooperatives In The US Are Paving The Way For A Renewable Future

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By Kevin Stark for Shareable – That’s exactly how the cooperative system is supposed to work, he added. It’s an example of a core tenant of electricity cooperatives: sharing ideas. “It’s a mission. It’s time for us to learn from them and do what they are doing.” Woolery said. Wynn signs on to this philosophy too. In 2017, he wrote an open invitation for any other co-op to copy the program. “It is really hard to argue against energy efficiency,” Woolery says, adding that it’s all about economic development. “We want to create jobs and opportunity and wealth that stays in Appalachia, because so much has been extracted from it.” So far, How$martKY has funneled $2.5 million to local contractors for performing efficiency upgrades on homes, but the program hasn’t reached the same scale as in Roanoke. Still, he’s worked with organizations from California to Arkansas to develop similar programs. He testified on behalf of the program at the Kentucky state legislature in the city of Frankfort. Most recently, Woolery went to the Lausitz region of Eastern Germany for a summit on how coal communities can transition to renewable energy.

Korean Unions Call For A Just Energy Transition

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By Staff of System Change Not Climate Change – In a series of landmark statements following the May 2017 election of the pro-reform President Moon Jae-in, Korean energy, transport and public service workers have called for “a just energy transition” allowing the sector to “function as a public asset under public control.” Unions support the new government’s decision to close the country’s aging coal-fired and nuclear power stations, and its planned reconsideration of two new nuclear facilities, Kori 5 and Kori 6. In a statement issued in late July, the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) and the Korean Labour and Social Network on Energy (KLSNE), a coalition of unions and civil society organizations, said, “We actively support the policy of phasing out coal and nuclear and expanding clean renewable energy.” The statement urged the development of, “A roadmap for energy transition that ensures public accountability and strengthens democratic control of the energy industry.” KPTU andKLSNE also committed “to work together with the public and civil society to achieve a just transition.”

People In The US Are Using Less Electricity Than A Decade Ago

One of five banners entitled The Worker in the New World Order, painted for the founding convention of ICEM (International Confederation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers’ Unions–now merged into INDUSTRIALL). Dedicated to then-imprisoned Nigerian oil workers. Copyright © 1995.  Mike Alewitz

By Steve Hanley for Clean Technica – This startling finding seems counterintuitive, given the rise in the number of appliances and digital devices in American homes over the last decade, but major advances in efficiency — especially in flat-screen televisions — as well as a shift to smaller and smaller devices for much of our entertainment — TVs to laptops to tablets and smartphones — mean less total electricity is being used even though the number of items powered by electricity has increased substantially. Overall, residential electricity sales declined 3% from 2010 to 2016, and 7% on a per capita basis according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Americans are watching less TV, preferring laptops and tablets instead. The use of smartphones, which use very little electricity, is also rising. Although people are spending more time online, they are using Chromebooks and tablets more frequently, both of which use less electricity than the dinosaurs that used to take up space in our living rooms. ENERGY STAR–rated appliances represent another area in which the items we rely on for refrigeration, washing, and drying of clothes use less electricity than their predecessors.

Ohio’s Anti-Wind Regulation Comes At A Serious Cost

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Wind turbines in Blue Creek Township, Ohio

By Harvey Wasserman for The Progressive – In the corporate war against renewable energy, a single Ohio regulation stands out. It is a simple clause slipped into the state budget without open discussion, floor debate, or public hearings. The restriction is costing Ohio billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. The regulation demands that wind turbines sited in the Buckeye State be at least 1,125 feet from the blade tip to the nearest property line, about 1300 feet total—nearly a quarter-mile. Ohio’s setback rule is similar to one in Wisconsin, where progress on wind power has atrophied. Lincoln County in South Dakota just passed a requirement that turbines be at least a half-mile from any residence. And Vermont is pondering a rule change to require a setback of ten times the turbine height, which in the case of a 500-foot turbine would be nearly a mile. Such regulations threaten to kill wind power, thus protecting corporate investments in nuclear power and fossil-fuel generators. The situation is Ohio is especially egregious. FirstEnergy, owner of Ohio’s two dying reactors at Perry and Davis-Besse, is now strong-arming the legislature and regulators for $4.5 billion in handoutsto sustain two money-losing nukes whose electricity is far more expensive than what would come from currently approved wind projects, and whose 1,400-odd jobs would be dwarfed by the new turbine construction.

Tesla’s Big Battery Will Change Power And Politics

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/ Elon Musk unveiling new Power Pack

By Lloyd Alter for Tree Hugger – We have written previously about how Tesla will kill the duck in Australia in 100 days or it’s free. Now more detail has come out about what is being called the world’s largest battery, that Elon Musk is building. It will store energy generated at a big wind farm and deliver power during peak hours in South Australia. Tesla said it “will help solve power shortages and manage summertime peak load to improve the reliability of South Australia’s electrical infrastructure.” Elon Musk told a press conference how his $50 million bet on the 129MWh battery will work: You can essentially charge up the battery packs when you have excess power when the cost of production is very low … and then discharge it when the cost of power production is high, and this effectively lowers the average cost to the end customer. It’s a fundamental efficiency improvement for the grid. I have complained that electric cars really don’t change all that much, but the work that Musk is doing on batteries like this is going to be world-changing. Politicians do not want to recognize this; in the USA right now, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is “studying,” as David Roberts of Vox puts it, “whether baseload power plants (mostly coal and nuclear) are being unfairly pushed off the grid, thus threatening grid reliability, national security, and our precious bodily fluids.”

350+ Groups Oppose Dirty Senate Energy Bill That Will Hasten Climate Chaos

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By Staff of Food & Water Watch – As the Senate considers a broad energy policy package that would encourage increased fossil fuel extraction and consumption, more than 350 national, statewide and local groups sent a letter to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today calling on him to lead opposition to the bill – S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 – and ultimately prevent its passage. The letter, organized by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch, states in part: “No energy legislation is better than bad energy legislation that serves to increase our dependence on dirty fossil fuel production instead of building on successful policies to expand clean energy sources… We find it astounding that any energy bill could contain a ‘Renewables’ subtitle but not include provisions on solar and wind energy.” The letter is signed by notable national organizations including: Food & Water Watch, League of Women Voters, Our Revolution, CREDO, Working Families Party, Friends of the Earth and Center for Biological Diversity. “This energy bill is long-term commitment pledge between America and the fossil fuel industry, and it will hasten our reckless advance toward climate chaos,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Renewables Generated More Power Than Nuclear In March And April

A new rate settlement in Colorado could help boost rooftop installations like this one in Boulder. Credit: Getty Images

By Eric Wesoff for GTM – Solar farms planted on an abandoned nuclear plant site or powering a coal museum or atop a strip mine offer stark images of the ascendance of renewables. But forget metaphorical images — utility-scale renewable electricity generation in March and April actually surpassed nuclear for the first time since July 1984. (Ronald Reagan was president, and “When Doves Cry” was the No. 1 hit on the radio.) Recent months have seen record generation from wind and solar, as well as increases in hydroelectric power because of 2017′s wet winter (note that these numbers, from the Energy Information Administration, do not include distributed solar). Most of the time, conventional hydroelectric generation is still the primary source of renewable electricity. But one of the takeaways from this data set is the emergence of wind in the last decade as a material slice of the energy mix. The U.S. wind industry installed more than 8 gigawatts in 2015 and did it again in 2016. The country now has over 84 gigawatts of installed wind capacity. Another takeaway is the relatively diminutive contribution from solar, which falls between geothermal and biomass in its annual contribution. The U.S. installed 14.5 gigawatts of solar last year, up 95 percent over 2015.

Our Best Shot At Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public

“Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public.” Photo by Charles Cook via Wikimedia Commons.

By Sarah van Gelder for Yes! Magazine – Mayors across the country have vowed to deliver on the goals of the Paris climate accord in defiance of President Trump’s decision to back out. But how can they, realistically, when the national government is questioning climate science and promoting coal, fracking, and pipelines? Simply put: Make energy public. Instead of privatizing city services, as some policymakers have long advocated, a new report shows that public ownership gives cities and towns the best shot at meeting renewable energy and efficiency targets. “Reclaiming Public Services: How Cities and Citizens are Turning Back Privatization,” a study by the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, challenges the ideas that governments are ineffective service providers, that private companies are more efficient, and that austerity budgeting and reductions in public service are inevitable. Cities and towns that want well-run water and sanitation services, low-cost access to the internet, and affordable housing should keep those operations public or run by local nonprofits, the report found. If these services are now private, the institute recommends “re-municipalization.” The report is based on research involving 1,600 cities in 45 countries that have chosen public ownership over corporate ownership, especially of their energy and water systems.

Nuclear Waste On Highways: Courting Catastrophe

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By Ruth Thomas for War Is A Crime – The federal government has secretly been working on a plan to transport highly radioactive liquid from Chalk River, Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC — a distance of over 1,100 miles. A series of 250 truckloads are planned by the Department of Energy (DOE). Interstate 85 is one of the main routes. Based on published data of the US Environmental Protection Agency, a few ounces of this liquid could destroy a whole city water supply. These liquid shipments are unnecessary. The radioactive waste can be down-blended on-site, making it into a solid. This has been done for years at Chalk River. Records from the past are very clear about this liquid and how it should be managed. The report “Detailed Statement on the Environmental Considerations By the Division of Material Licensing, US Atomic Energy Commission” (December 14, 1970) — which has within it Allied General’s application for the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant (Docket No. 50-332) — describes the waste generated at that facility, and describes how to manage the waste. I knew of this report because of the successful legal challenge to this facility in the 1970s in which I participated.

Electric Cars Tested As Power Grid Stabilizers

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By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News. California – In an important real-world test of whether electric vehicles could play a bigger role in backing up the green power grid of the future, a group of San Francisco-area drivers showed that they were willing and even eager to adjust their charging times for the right financial incentives. The small but sophisticated pilot test that took place over 18 months. During that time, BMW asked owners of its electric cars if they would be willing to delay recharging them by an hour on the company’s cue. An app notified the owners when a delay was coming, and they could opt out if they needed to charge at that time. “Eighteen months later, I can unequivocally state that participation was transparent, hassle-free and mind-numbingly dull to the point that I mostly forgot about it,” one participant, John Higham, wrote in a first person account of his experience for Inside EVs.

Protesters Interrupt Rick Perry’s Speech At Energy Conference

Rick Perry smiled to photographers Monday as he left Trump Tower after a meeting with the president-elect. (Photo: AP)

By Dominique Mosbergen for The Huffington Post – In an attempt to defuse the tense moment, Perry described the protester as “one of the more interesting EIA employees,” prompting laughter from the audience. Undeterred, the protester kept shouting questions at Perry, who then told her: “If you’ll sit down, young lady … I’ll finish my remarks.” “Answer my question, why will you not say that climate change is caused by carbon dioxide?” she pressed. “For your information … I didn’t say that,” Perry responded. “I said it’s not the main dial…” Perry was referring to remarks he made during an interview last week with CNBC “Squawk Box.” Perry told host Joe Kernan that carbon dioxide was not “the primary control knob” for climate change. While man is “having an effect” on climate, he said, “most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” His response is in stark contrast to overwhelming scientific consensus based on facts, which says human activity, specifically greenhouse gas emissions, is the primary driver of global warming. The American Meteorological Society skewered Perry for his comments, saying in a letter last week that he lacked a “fundamental understanding of the science” behind climate change.