US: Renewables to rise above coal and nuclear says FERC

US renewable

Image credit: Stock

Renewables are estimated to add nearly 50,000 MW, being more than a quarter of the total capacity according to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data, issued last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

According to the report, the mix of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 57.26% of new U.S. electrical generating capacity added in 2019 – swamping that provided by coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power combined

FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through to December 31, 2019) reveals renewable sources (i.e. biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 11,857 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity by the end of the year. That is a third more (33.97%) more than that of natural gas (8,557 MW), nuclear (155 MW), oil (77 MW), and coal (62 MW) combined.

Renewables have now also surpassed 22% (i.e., 22.06%) of the US’ total available installed generating capacity – further expanding their lead over coal capacity (20.89%). Among renewables, wind can boast the largest installed electrical generating capacity – 8.51% of the U.S. total, followed by hydropower (8.41%), solar (3.49%) [2], biomass (1.33%), and geothermal (0.32%). Thus, wind and solar combined now account for 12.0% of the nation’s electrical generating capacity.

Moreover, the FERC foresees renewables dramatically expanding their lead over fossil fuels and nuclear power in terms of new capacity additions during the coming three years (i.e., by December 31, 2022). Net generating capacity additions (i.e., “proposed additions under construction” minus “proposed retirements”) for renewable sources total 48,254 MW: wind – 26,403 MW, solar – 19,973 MW, hydropower – 1,460 MW, biomass – 240 MW, and geothermal – 178 MW.

By comparison, net additions for natural gas total 21,090 MW while the installed capacities for coal, nuclear, and oil are projected to drop by 18,857 MW, 3,391 MW, and 3,085 MW respectively. In fact, FERC reports no new coal capacity in the pipeline over the next three years.

Thus, while net new renewable energy capacity is projected to be nearly 50,000 MW greater within three years, that of fossil fuels and nuclear power combined will decline by over 4,200 MW. Between now and the end of 2022, new wind capacity alone will be greater than that of natural gas while that of wind and solar combined will more than double new gas capacity.

Moreover, if FERC’s data prove correct, then by the end of 2022, renewable sources will account for more than a quarter (25.16%) of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity while coal will drop to 18.63% and that of nuclear and oil will decrease to 8.29% and 2.95% respectively. Natural gas will increase its share — but only slightly – from 44.67% today to 44.78%.

As the Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, I believed that the rapid growth of renewables and corresponding drop in electrical production by coal and oil in 2019 provides a glimmer of hope for slowing down the pace of climate change. In addition, renewables’ continued expansion in the near future – as forecast by FERC – suggests that with supportive governmental policies, these technologies could provide an even greater share of total U.S. electrical generation. SOURCE


Statistics presented in this article can be found here. Read the full FERC report.

A Win-Win Climate Solution Awaits

A Win-Win Climate Solution Awaits, Below2C

The year 2019 ended the hottest decade on record by being the year of climate emergency declarations. Globally, “one in ten people now live in a place which has declared a climate emergency,” reports The Verge. Canada declared a climate emergency in June of 2019.

Canada is locked-in to a Fossil-Fuel-Expansion Obsession

In spite of declaring a climate emergency, Prime Minister Trudeau continues to be all-in the for the fossils. Canadian taxpayers bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion in 2018 and are now footing the bill for an expansion project whose cost estimates have ballooned to $12.6 billion from $7.4 billion. And it gets even worse.

Trudeau is now poised to announce the approval of the Teck Frontier project, a new giant Tar Sands mine—the largest ever—which will dump more than 4 million tonnes of carbon per year into the atmosphere until the 2060s. And yet just a few months ago in Madrid, Canada promised it will be at net-zero-emissions by 2050. This is very agonizing to watch. “They know [Trudeau and his cabinet] — yet they can’t bring themselves to act on the knowledge. Now that is cause for despair,” wrote Bill McKibben in TheGuardian.

Climate Solution? Energy Transition is the Answer

On January 3, 2020, Ottawa-based Abacus Data released a poll titled, “Energy transition: a widely accepted concept; Canadians want governments to work on it, not against it.” The poll shows that “75% say it [transition] is a global trend, beneficial for Canada in the long term. Most feel it is necessary and will happen.”

Yet business-as-usual persists, with most governments slow to announce bold emission control measures, and with some even in denial.

The Trudeau Government, caught in a bind between the fossil fuel economy and the need to transition to renewables, is not acting as quickly as Europe and Asia.

Europe has discovered that shifting a fossil fuel company to renewable energy can be surprisingly simple, because many of the needed technical and management skills are the same.

All of Norwegian oil giant Statoil’s wind energy department, for example, was recruited internally. Little was needed to retrain its engineers. If Statoil moved its offshore wind business into a separate company, it would be one of the 15 largest companies on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

And if the solar division of French oil company Total SA were separated from its parent company, it would be one of the world’s largest solar businesses.

With increasing divestment and the falling demand for oil, transition to ever-cheaper renewables is in the best interests of the industry.  Instead of buying pipelines and giving billions in fossil fuel subsidies to shore up an economically non viable “zombie” industry, Canadian citizens, through their governments, could take a smarter tack.

That is to give the industry government subsidies only on condition that it publish plans to transition to renewables at the rate of 8.5% a year. Compounded, the transition would be complete in 10 years, by 2030.

What about Alberta?

There are 60,000 old oil wells in Alberta with geothermal energy waiting at the bottom. And Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan form the sun belt of Canada, receiving over 2375 hours of sunlight a year. They could switch broadly to free unlimited solar energy, including concentrated solar power, which now serves communities in the US, Spain, Morocco, India and China.

Transforming the energy grid to upload all this power could be modeled loosely on FDR’s depression-based Rural Electrification Administration, still operating, and being copied in other countries.

All this development would stimulate the economy and increase employment.

Further procedural information is available on The Climate Mobilization website, and from daily Twitter reports of exciting worldwide innovations from Canada’s Mike Hudema (@MikeHudema), Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson (@mzjacobson), and Singapore’s green energy CEO, Assaad Razzouk (@AssaadRazzouk).

A Win-Win Situation for Climate

A win-win situation awaits us all: it simply requires political will, knowledge of existing solutions, and Canadian savvy and can-do.  We can and must collectively urge our governments to act quickly and dynamically to meet the emergency. SOURCE

 

Microsoft will invest $1 billion into carbon reduction and removal technologies

Microsoft executives.

Microsoft plans to establish a $1 billion fund dedicated to “carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies,” amid a broader commitment to clean up the software giant’s emissions across its corporate history by 2050.

It’s one of the largest funding commitments ever to methods of sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, which most research shows will be a necessary part of any plan to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming. Funding for direct-air-capture startups like Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat have been climbing but have been limited to the tens of millions of dollars range to date.

In a statement to MIT Technology Review, Microsoft stresses the money will go to more than direct air capture, adding that it will fund the build-out of projects as well as research and development. The money will be invested over the next four years.

The company’s language leaves room for many other possible investment areas, including natural systems for removing and storing carbon dioxide, such as forestry projects, or technologies that prevent it from escaping power plants in the first place. For that matter, the phrase “carbon reduction” in the announcement means some of the funds could simply go to solar, wind, and other renewables projects as well.

Microsoft's pathway to carbon negative by 2030.
COURTESY: MICROSOFT

Microsoft didn’t specify its total historic emissions, but said its operations will pump out 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide this year, directly or indirectly. The company says it will offset its climate pollution stretching back to 1975 through a combination of direct air capture and natural systems—including tree plantings, new soil management practices, and a largely theoretical approach known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.

Experts say that natural systems can play a big role in drawing down greenhouse gases, but it’s notoriously difficult to account for them in an accurate and reliable way.

Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180, and other observers says Microsoft’s announcement on Thursday goes well beyond the standard carbon neutrality commitments of other major corporations, because it incorporates historic emissions, sets specific benchmarks for reductions, and puts a large amount of money behind the efforts. SOURCE

Bernie Sanders Unveils $16 Trillion ‘Green New Deal’ Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Green New Deal” climate policy plan calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

Credit: Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday will release a $16.3 trillion blueprint to fight climate change, the latest and most expensive proposal from the field of Democratic presidential candidates aimed at reining in planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Mr. Sanders’s proposal comes one day after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who made climate change the central focus of his campaign, announced he was dropping out of the 2020 race. Mr. Inslee’s absence could create an opening for another presidential aspirant to seize the mantle of “climate candidate.”

Mr. Sanders was an early supporter of the Green New Deal, an ambitious but nonbinding congressional plan for tackling global warming and economic inequality. He is bestowing that same name upon his new plan, which calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

It declares climate change a national emergency; envisions building new solar, wind and geothermal power sources across the country; and commits $200 billion to help poor nations cope with climate change.

Mr. Sanders said in an interview Wednesday night that his proposal would “pay for itself” over 15 years and create 20 million jobs in the process.

There is no broadly agreed-upon figure of how much needs to be spent to decarbonize the United States economy, but one study estimated that as much as $4.5 trillion could be needed just to modernize the nation’s power grid.

Still, the Sanders plan’s eye-popping price tag is several times bigger than those of his leading opponents. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has called for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has a $2 trillion green manufacturing plan. Other candidates, including former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, have also put forth ambitious proposals. MORE

 

Alberta Can Transition from Oil and Gas and Have a Strong Economy. Here’s How

‘Tens of thousands’ of people would be put to work immediately in high-skill jobs, say advocates.

LliamHildebrand.jpg
Lliam Hildebrand: Alberta’s workers need to escape the oil boom-and-bust cycle. Renewable energy can help. Photo from Iron & Earth.

What will a transition away from oil and gas mean for workers in Alberta?

Perhaps greater job security than in the boom and bust heydays of the oilsands, comparable wages and less time apart from family.

This is not a utopian pipe dream. Over the past month The Tyee spoke with experts across the province and the country who said Albertans have the skills and desire to build the sustainable energy system necessary to address our climate emergency.

“A lot of the people that support the pipeline are also very pro-renewable energy,” said Lliam Hildebrand, who spent years working in the oilsands and now runs a group called Iron & Earth that advocates for policies connecting oil workers to the millions of jobs required to build a low-carbon economy in Canada.

Decades of employment for laid-off Albertans could be unlocked by our political leaders in a matter of days.

Mike Nickerson: We must adapt to the limits of our planet.

Dramatic change is needed.

man wears blue crew-neck t-shirt holding toddler wears black hooded jacket near ocean under blue sky at daytime
We have long had the knowledge and ability to provide everyone with viable, satisfying lives far into the future.

Enmeshed as we are in a vast, expanding mechanical network, it is hard to imagine living in a culture where our lives are the core substance. Nevertheless, such a cultural shift offers an enduring and satisfying relationship with the Earth.

As a species, we have to shift from our long childhood growth phase to a stable adult form. In society’s late adolescence such cultural change may seem illusive. Step by step, however, the following can turn what is initially unimaginable into a clear possibility.

The first step is developing renewable energy. Wind, solar, hydro and other renewable energy development can be part of the end goal, while the process of putting them in place remains well within the familiar pattern of resource intensive development.

The second step is to focus on education and health care. These lead directly to increased capability and quality of life while using minimal amounts of material resources. Education is almost entirely knowledge and good will. Health-care is the same at the level of knowing how to lead our lives so as to maximize health. Experience shows, in country after country, that populations spontaneously stop growing when local economies are managed in a way that provides people with basic education, health care and old age security.

brown grass field under white cloudy sky

The third step is for human aspiration to focus on what we can do with life rather than on consuming material goods and expanding our use of energy.

The desire to grow is firmly rooted in our characters. Throughout our formative years and well beyond, growth is a preoccupation. To be able to crawl, to reach the water tap or to have our own way all require getting bigger. The residual urge to grow has been harnessed to stimulate the expansion of material consumption. The dilemma is that, while each of us wants to grow, collectively we have already grown to confront the limits of our planet. The solution has a well established precedent in each of our individual lives. For the most part, our physical growth comes to an end as we become adults. Physical growth is replaced by the development of our understanding, skills, relationships and appreciation of what life offers.

Voluntary simplicity is easier to promote when it is clear that it offers abundant opportunities for growth. Life-based pursuits, or the ‘3 L’s’ — Learning, Love and Laughter — as they are referred to for our sound bite world, offer boundless frontiers. The development of skills, scholarship, art, music, sport, dance, friendship, spiritual aspiration, parenting and service were the essence of human culture before the commercial era pressed acquisition to its current place of prominence. The saturation of landfill space, problems with pollution and painful experiences with finite natural resources bid us re-consider the emphasis we place on the pursuit of our human birthright.

In the same way that a developing embryo goes through the stages of evolution, civilization will likely follow the pattern of individual maturation. As a culture we are in late adolescence. We have grown big enough to accomplish anything which life requires of us. Now, as self-centeredness gives way to responsibility, our rapid physical growth can transmute into the growth of the remarkable qualities with which people are so abundantly endowed.

We could be appreciating life so deeply that we wouldn’t have time to impact the Earth at a dangerous level.

We have long had the knowledge and ability to provide everyone with viable, satisfying lives far into the future. It is not as sexy as solutions based on shiny industrial products, and it is unlikely to make a lot of money. Nevertheless it could save civilization.  MORE

What’s the Difference Between a Low-Carbon and Zero-Carbon Future? Survival

Governments, media and industry use ‘low-carbon economy’ frame to continue business as usual.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan celebrating LNG Canada’s investment decision as an investment in the low-carbon economy. They’re missing a critical point: we need a zero-emissions economy. Photo: BC Government Flickr

In a recent Vancouver Sun column describing the introduction of enabling legislation for the Shell LNG Canada project in the B.C. legislature, Vaughn Palmer ends with these words:

“The finance ministry reckons that even with the estimated $6 billion in relief over 40 years, the province would still reap $22 billion in revenues over the same period. Without the project, returns would, of course, be zero.”

It’s a compelling comparison. With the project we can pay for schools, hospitals and poverty reduction. Without it, we have nothing.

Yet it is fallacious, a comparison promoted by Big Oil and adopted by most governments. It takes our minds off alternatives.

The correct comparison is between revenues generated from $40 billion invested in fracking and fossil fuel production versus revenues generated from $40 billion invested in renewable energy, such as solar, wind and thermal.

Two similar-sounding phrases lie at the heart of this issue. One has gained predominance, the other relegated to the margins of climate change discourse. The first is “low-carbon economy,” an economy in which even fracking and liquefied natural gas have a role. The second is “zero-carbon economy,” an economy in which no more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. In this second framing, the goal must be an economy fuelled entirely by renewable, non-carbon-emitting sources. MORE

Trudeau government promises electric car subsidies, public transit support, wind and tidal power

Bill morneau and trudeau
© ADRIAN WYLD,MIGUEL MEDINA,SEAN KILPATRICK/AFP/Getty Images/ Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau in happier times

Now if only he can keep his job in the fall election.

Up in Canada, the Trudeau government’s new budget includes C$ 300 million to provide a C$ 5,000 incentive toward the purchase or electric or hydrogen-powered cars that cost under C$ 45,000. According to the budget:

Transportation accounts for about one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, mainly coming from gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks. The future of transportation lies in the increased use of zero-emission vehicles—cars and trucks powered by rechargeable electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. While these vehicles are not yet common in communities across Canada, they can provide a cleaner, more efficient way to transport people and goods and, over the long run, help Canadians reduce the everyday cost of transportation.

That is why Canada has set a target to sell 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with sales goals of 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030 along the way. By becoming an early adopter of this new technology, Canada will help the Canadian zero-emission vehicle market advance, making zero-emission vehicle options more readily available and affordable for more and more Canadians.

London Bicycle Café 🚲⚡☕️@LdnOntBikeCafe

Meanwhile, e-bike, and electric cargobike sales have gone astronomical in Europe without government subsidy. Continuing to subsidize the auto industry while *adding* taxes to electric bikes (13% at the border…) doesn’t help solve our biggest problems. 🚲⚡️

National Observer@NatObserver

The Trudeau government is proposing to help subsidize the cost of buying an electric car by up to $5,000, but has declined to establish a more stringent sales mandate, opting instead for voluntary targets. #Budget2019 https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/03/19/news/budget-proposes-rebates-electric-cars-voluntary-sales-mandate #cdnpoli

Now I could argue about the hydrogen, but they will never cost less than $C45k so they are a moot point. The recognition that there are other forms of low-carbon transport, like subsidies for electric bikes and transit fares, would also be nice, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. MORE

The Coming EV Revolution

 

Image result for disruption

“Disruption” is a term that tends to be used casually when attempting to describe an industry or technological change on the horizon. Although the term may be overused in many contexts, it is hard to formulate a better word to describe the looming disruption that is certain to emanate from the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Because EVs have far fewer moving parts than an ICE engine (roughly 20 moving parts in an EV as opposed to over 2,000 in an ICE), the lifetime maintenance costs are cheaper for an EV as compared to an ICE vehicle.  Because of this phenomenon alone, fleet-based companies are beginning to transition their fleet vehicles from ICE to EV-based technologies. For example, last year, IKEA announced that they will transition 100% of their home delivery fleet to EVs by 2030.

As transformative as this coming transition will be on the automotive industry, its impact across the energy industry will be hard to overstate. Most directly, the decrease in demand for refined gasoline will have ripple effects across the traditional oil and gas business. Also, even though the “energy trade” of a gallon of gasoline for a kilowatt hour of electricity is not 1 to 1, there will certainly be a much higher demand for electricity (as a fuel source) and for power infrastructure (as a distribution network). Add on the expectation for fully autonomous driving (which is already being beta tested in many jurisdictions), and the disruptive impacts become even larger.

Ironically, many doomsayers predicted the looming death of the traditional electric utility due to the rapid increase of renewable energy, reasoning that the uptick in grid integration of wind and solar generation resources would damage utilities. Now, the automotive industry could end up being the knight in shining armor to save the electric utility business, which will have to build (and charge customers for) increased infrastructure and power generation capacity to meet increased EV demand. Since EVs will be dispersed throughout the grid ecosystem, it is expected that more demand for generation (namely, solar generation by day, and wind generation by night) will be needed as the most cost-effective marginal unit of electric generation. So although rooftop solar and wind generation was once viewed as a potential death knell to the traditional utility, the coming EV revolution could end up making utilities the largest renewable energy developers and proponents due to the same factor that will drive the trend towards EV adoption: money. MORE

Watch this great Green New Deal explainer video from The Leap

You’ve been hearing a lot about the Green New Deal, but you’re wondering what it’s all about? If you want a quick and chatty explainer, check out this video put together by the folks at The Leap, a climate action group.

The Leap Manifesto predates the Green New Deal, but the group has eagerly taken up the mantle. Here’s the central core of the Manifesto:

We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.

We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.

MORE