Solar = 6¢ per kilowatt-hour, beating Obama’s goal by 3 years


Formerly the largest piggery in Massachusetts

❝ The Department of Energy has announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit cost targets set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule. Those targets reflect around $1 per watt and 6¢ per kilowatt-hour in Kansas City, the department’s mid-range yardstick for solar panel cost per unit of energy produced (New York is considered the high-cost end, and Phoenix, Arizona, which has much more sunlight than most other major cities in the country, reflects the low-cost end).

Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on “the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware,”…

❝ The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a DOE-funded lab that assesses solar panel cost, wrote that, compared to the first quarter in 2016, the first quarter in 2017 saw a 29-percent decline in installed cost for utility-scale solar, which was attributed to lower photovoltaic module and inverter prices, better panel efficiency, and reduced labor costs. Despite the plummeting costs for utility-scale solar, costs for commercial and residential solar panels have not fallen quite as quickly — just 15 percent and 6 percent, respectively…

❝ Now that utility-grade solar panels have crossed the finish line almost three years early, the DOE says that it’s setting a new goal line for 2030…Through the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, the federal department says it will start funding early stage projects focusing on “grid reliability, resilience, and storage.”

Too bad – for the moment – we’re saddled with an administration, White House, Congress and all – wholly committed to pimping for fossil fuel extraction and energy industries. Hopefully, the American electorate will learn to skip over idjits who prefer pimps to progress and elect some useful folks in 2018 and 2020.

Milestone: In 2016, wind generated more power than coal in the UK

❝ During most years since the industrial revolution, the UK has relied on coal to produce the lion’s share of its energy (in the past 10, gas has been top some years, and coal others). But in just three years the dominance of the most polluting energy source has declined to such an extent that full-year figures for 2016 show it was overtaken by wind power for total power generation…

❝ The change is momentous, and by no means accidental. European policy has mandated for the closing or retrofitting of many coal plants, with the UK recently announcing all its plants would close by 2025. Some plants, like the UK’s Drax, the biggest coal power station in Europe, have responded by moving to the burning of wood — which has its own issues. The replacement of coal with cleaner ways of generating power is a key part of the global effort to fight climate change.

❝ In most countries with large populations, renewables still can’t provide enough constant “baseload” power to allow them to replace older technologies. Many countries, the UK included, are therefore moving heavily from coal to gas. Gas is still a fossil fuel, but it’s much less damaging to the environment than coal, so planners hoping to deploy more renewables can use it as a “bridge” to an even cleaner future. Other countries, like France, have invested heavily in nuclear as a means to move away from emissions-heavy power…

❝ And for its part, China is investing massively in renewable energy. It’s still heavily reliant on coal power, but it overtook all other countries to become the biggest spender on renewable technology in 2014, and recently pledged to spend $361 billion on the technologies by 2020.

Advancing such progress in the United States will come to a halt for the next four years – as far as federal projects and the Trumpublicans are concerned. That doesn’t mean a halt to progress. Cities, states and individuals will continue to demonstrate good sense – both in terms of environment and common $ense.

Clean energy costs continue to fall

The Department of Energy just released Revolution Now, an annual update on its progress in accelerating clean energy. Specifically, it focuses on advances in five technologies: wind power, utility-scale solar power, distributed solar power, electric vehicles, and LEDs…

revnow2016-total

Since Obama entered office, these key technologies have dropped in cost between 41 and 94 percent.

Innovation in clean technology has come as a result of a concerted and diverse policy effort, from advanced research to tax credits, loans, pollution regulations, prizes and awards, and performance standards.

The bulk of the policy effort has come in blue states and at the federal executive level. After 2010, the GOP Congress refused Obama any legislative help, on anything…

Reasonable people would like to see these cost savings continue to improve. Depending on how folks vote – and that means all the way down-ticket to Congress-critters – good sense may prevail. Or not.

Progress building clean power in the USA even while conservatives drag their feet

❝ As the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hear challengers’ arguments against the Clean Power Plan on September 27th, the most up-to-date analysis shows that the Clean Power Plan’s goals have become even more readily achievable as the electricity sector is already shifting to clean energy. Many power companies are not waiting for the courts to resolve the legal challenges. Instead, they are accelerating the shift to clean energy, assisted by the rapid cost declines of renewable technologies. This steady and continuing shift in our power sector makes clear that the goals set forth by the Clean Power Plan are eminently attainable.

❝ The Clean Power Plan — the centerpiece of U.S. action on climate change — places the first-ever limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source of the dangerous pollution that drives climate change…In fact, the pace of investments in clean energy is accelerating in the power sector, continuing the strong climate progress of the last several years…Several recent studies have projected that renewable energy may double from 2015 levels by 2021…

❝ Dynamic maps in the article show the dramatic renewable energy progress that has been made across the country over the past several years. In the span of just five years, solar generation in Nevada increased more than seven-fold, and North Carolina has seen its solar generation increase five-fold in the past two years alone. Iowa and Texas, which were already leaders in wind power back in 2010, have both nearly doubled their wind generation over the past five years, and both states are expected to continue their shift to a clean energy future over the next several years.

The Clean Power Plan reinforces and builds on these market trends by embracing the kind of flexible strategies that the industry already employs. The CPP gradually phases in the required emissions limits starting in 2022, and by 2030 is projected to result in carbon cuts of roughly 32 percent below 2005 levels, or 19 percent below 2012 levels. Even though the CPP emissions limits don’t go into effect for another six years, carbon emissions from the power sector have already fallen by more than 5 percent since 2012. That means that in the past three years alone the power sector achieved more than one-quarter of the pollution cuts required by 2030…

The benefits are economic as well as environmental, they affect our public health as much as our economic health. Progress towards the time when global energy is dominated by renewables is no longer a dream but an obvious and growing reality. RTFA and take a look at those maps chugging along. Reflect upon the fact that the do-nothing, know-nothing Congress has been owned by fossil fuel industries so long they may as well change the name of the building to the Koch Bros. Lobbying Center. Yet, change is upon us all. Costs continue to reduce through the economies of scale, design and research.

Put some folks into elective office with backbone and principle. Who knows how much more will be accomplished?

We used up a year’s worth of Earth’s resources — by August 8th


Andrey N Bannov/Shutterstock

As of Monday August 8, humans will have officially used up all the resources Earth can regenerate in a year.

The day is known as ‘overshoot day’, and this year it’s happening five days earlier than in 2015 – which means we just burnt through a sustainable amount of resources in less time than ever before…

Overshoot day is calculated by the Global Footprint Network each year, using United Nations data on thousands of economic sectors, such as fisheries, forestry, transport, and energy production.

When we talk about resources, it’s not just water, land, and food – it also refers to things like carbon storage, so we’ve now reached a point where we’re pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere than can be reabsorbed by forests and oceans…

The network has calculated Earth’s overshoot day dating back to the 1960s, and has shown that, up until 1970, we were only using as many resources as the planet could sustainably reproduce. In fact, in 1961, we were only using three-quarters of our annual resources.

But in 1970, we burnt through our annual resources by 23 December, and every year since then it’s become earlier and earlier.

The good news is that society is finally weaning itself off of fossil fuels. Last year, Costa Rica managed to power the entire country with 100 percent renewables for 75 days in a row.

Germany was powered by 95 percent renewable electricity last year, and Portugal was able to run for four straight days without any fossil fuels. In many countries, renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels.

It’s not just CO2 emissions that are on the decline. China has also committed to reducing its citizens’ zealous meat consumption by 50 percent by 2030, which is estimated to stop the equivalent of 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. And many cities are making big steps towards getting rid of single-use plastic waste.

Maybe next year will become the first year in more than four decades that we push that overshoot date back a few days.

Think so?

Massachusetts is on the verge of greater energy independence

In case you missed the news, the Massachusetts House and Senate…did something big that we should all celebrate. By passing major energy bills, they have set the Bay State on a path of reduced reliance on fossil fuels while propelling our state towards a clean, affordable, and reliable energy future in which up to 50 percent of our electricity will come from hydropower, onshore and offshore wind turbines, and solar arrays. These actions will also drive investment in energy storage and continued gains in energy efficiency.

The two bills share some important features. Both seek to have Massachusetts tap into abundant renewable energy sources available in the region — mainly hydropower and land-based wind power — through long-term contracts that will stabilize energy costs and capture added benefits for Massachusetts. Both look to kick-start offshore wind, a potential job creator. And both address the issue of leaky natural gas pipes under the streets of our cities and towns…

These requirements have many benefits, starting with saving residents money on their electric bills. In fact, a recent study by the Massachusetts Clean Electricity Partnership—a coalition of hydropower, wind, and transmission companies—showed that expanded hydro and wind power could save Massachusetts homes and businesses more than $170 million annually by lowering wholesale energy costs and reducing demand for natural gas…

These bills move the state in the right direction at a faster pace by diversifying our energy supply, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and creating jobs and careers in new industries. By combining the most ambitious parts of the Senate and House bills, Massachusetts can blaze a trail to a clean energy future that others across the country and the world will follow.

I’m not surprised that Massachusetts demonstrates leadership in reforming energy use and abuse, generation and alternatives. They did the same in healthcare. They did the same for decades in disciplines as far afield as fighting slavery and, yes, kicking-off a certain revolution against colonial masters.

The equivalent of those colonial masters now have names like the Koch Brothers instead of King George. They still consider the working people of this land to be nothing more than wage slaves to be “guided” to producing the greatest profits in return for the least return needed to sustain life.

States like Massachusetts – with sufficient courage and ingenuity – can move the whole nation forward by example. As they have done in the past.

Germany just had a day with so much renewable energy it had to pay people to use electricity


Click to enlargedIlmari Karonen/WikiMedia

On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%.

Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.

Last year the average renewable mix was 33%, reports Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank. New wind power coming online should push that even higher.

“We have a greater share of renewable energy every year,” said Christoph Podewils of Agora. “The power system adapted to this quite nicely. This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine.”

Critics have argued that because of the daily peaks and troughs of renewable energy—as the sun goes in and out and winds rise and fall—it will always have only a niche role in supplying power to major economies. But that’s looking less and less likely. Germany plans to hit 100% renewable energy by 2050, and Denmark’s wind turbines already at some points generate more electricity than the country consumes, exporting the surplus to Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Germany’s good news demonstrated they’re still lacking flexibility. Any enterprise – even a public utility – hates to pay back consumers for being hooked-up.

Not bad news for consumers, though. Even the corporations that benefitted.

Thanks, Honeyman

The Brits are breathing cleaner air — Guess why?

Plummeting coal use in 2015 led to a fall of 4% in the UK’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to government energy statistics published on Thursday. Coal is now burning at its lowest level in at least 150 years.

The closing of old polluting coal-power stations and the rapid rise in renewable energy meant coal consumption fell by 22% compared to 2014, the biggest drop ever seen outside of miners’ strikes, according to analysts at Carbon Brief. Production of coal in the UK also fell to a new record low, dropping by 27% due to mines closing.

The rapid decline in coal use is continuing in 2016, with four more stations closed in the last fortnight, including Longannet, Ferrybridge and Eggborough, leaving six operational. The government has pledged to close all coal plants by 2025 to help meet climate change targets…

Renewable electricity generation surged in 2015, rising by 29%, allowing it to claim a record 25% share of all electricity. Most of this came from wind power and bioenergy, the latter being boosted by the continued conversion of Drax – once the UK’s biggest coal plant – to burning wood pellets…

Solar power increased by 50% in 2015 to make up 9% of all renewable electricity. The government has been repeatedly criticised for cutting support for renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes.

❝ “If anything is to blame for tight margins, it’s previous governments’ history of incoherent energy policy,” said Paul Massara, former CEO of “big six” energy company RWE npower. “Investors need long-term clarity on policy, and they simply have not been getting it.”

“Look outside the UK and it’s clear that the direction of travel in is only in one direction, towards primarily low-carbon, flexible, smart energy systems,” said Andrew Garrad, senior consultant at DNV GL energy. “It’s been accelerated by the Paris climate agreement, and Britain is by no means ahead of the pack in this transition.”

Climate change deniers who turn their backs on truth will now add life’s day-to-day realities to the mix. Life is getting better, The air is getting cleaner. And I guess they will claim that lowered emissions, less pollution, is somehow bad for us.

Bad for their wallets? A few. Maybe.

Americans have just begun to use the power of rooftop solar

It seems like every few weeks there’s some new measurement of how successful solar power is in the United States. In early March, industry analysts found that solar is poised for its biggest year ever, with total installations growing 119 percent by the end of 2016. This week, federal government analysts reported that in 2015, solar ranked No. 3 – behind wind and natural gas – in megawatts of new electricity-producing capacity brought online…

Which makes you wonder: Is there a limit to that growth? According to a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federal research outfit, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news: Yes, there is a ceiling for solar power in the United States. The good news: We’re not even remotely close to reaching it. In other words, solar’s potential has barely been tapped.

The report is the deepest dive on solar’s potential since NREL conducted a similar analysis in 2008. The new report’s estimate is much larger than the older report’s, mostly because of vast new troves of satellite imagery data of the country’s rooftops and computer models that are better able to calculate how much power each panel can produce. The analysis leaves behind policy and cost considerations. Instead, the only question is: How much power could we really get if we slathered every roof in America with solar panels? The answer: about 39 percent of the country’s electricity consumption, at current levels.

It’s important to note that the report looks only at rooftop panels, as opposed to utility-scale solar farms. Utility-scale solar provides about twice as much power as rooftop panels, so the full potential of solar is likely even higher than what NREL describes in this report. Even 39 percent, though, would be a revolutionary change from where we are now; despite solar’s rapid growth in the last several years…Coal, which is still the nation’s No. 1 energy source, commands about 32 percent of the market. So the future that NREL is envisioning here would basically flip our energy makeup on its head.

If Americans were to stand up on their hind legs to battle for democratic representation in our state legislatures as well as Congress and the White House – a big IF – that would be the kind of change in circumstances that could not only bring about this kind of energy change, it would accelerate the process.

Believe me. The stodgiest of political hacks would want to get on board the renewable energy train just to keep their seat.