From hot-water heaters to a school bus: Shaving peak demand in #Durango — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

From Big Pivots (Allen Best):

Beginning with about 30 hot-water heaters, La Plata Electric Association intends to begin exploring how to shave peak demand to reduce costs.

The Durango-based electrical cooperative plans to install 30 air-source heat pump water heaters in the Animas View Mobile Home Park. Also done at the same time will be installation of other energy and water-efficient measures, including LED lighting, low-flow faucets and window weather stripping.

The water heater project will allow La Plata to test the viability of grid-integration technology to manage the local power demand. In rare events, during time of peak demand, such as hot summer afternoons, La Plata will be able to remotely manage the water heaters.

Dan Harms, the vice president of grid solutions for La Plata, explains that La Plata will be able to interrupt electricity used by the air-source heat pumps to warm water. This will be temporary and resident will still have hot water in their tanks.

The air-source heat pumps will replace natural gas in warming water. That builds demand for electricity from renewable sources and reduces emissions from the manufactured housing units.

The principle is the same as when Xcel Energy offers discounts to those with air conditioning units in their houses for the ability to turn off the units for relatively brief periods during hot summer afternoons. It’s cheaper than buying power or building plants that will be used only a few hours a year.

La Plata has been busy on other fronts, too. In December, the electrical cooperative and the Durango School District launched Colorado’s first vehicle-to-grid-enabled school bus. The electric bus will travel about 75 miles per day but will have enough charge to travel 150 to 200 miles. When empty, the bus takes 3 to 4 hours to charge its 155-kWh battery.

La Plata will be able to draw on the battery of the bus when electricity prices are high. When fully charged, the bus stores enough electricity to power 30 average single-family homes, or 100 energy-efficient homes, for a few hours.

“V2G installations are the future because they enable our grid to operate with a higher degree of flexibility,” explains Jessica Matlock, the chief executive.

The bus was purchased with aid of a $328,803 grant through the ALT Fuels Colorado program augmented by $120,000 from La Plata for charging infrastructure.

The air-source hot water heater project was enabled by a $50,000 grant from Tri-State Generation and Transmission and the Beneficial League.

Another information source from Tri-State coop members

A group of rural electric cooperative members has relaunched website, Members4Reform.org, to provide information and tools to inform the discussion about Tri-State Generation & Transmission.

Originally created to bring together member-owners of coops in seven western Colorado counties, the creators of the website decided there was need to expand this to include all of Tri-State’s 18 member cooperatives in Colorado. Tri-State has 42 members, 18 in Colorado.

“We’ve felt for so long like we were operating in the dark and didn’t have a voice in decisions that affect a huge swath of Colorado, from the West Slope to the Eastern Plains,” said Mason Osgood, executive director of Telluride-based Sheep Mountain Alliance and a member-owner of San Miguel Power Association.

“Tri-State is moving slowly in the right direction, but there are so many of us who want to see the transition to clean energy happen more quickly and to have the barriers Tri-State is putting up removed. This website is meant to give co-op members a new tool for creating change.”

While planning to close its coal-fired units in Colorado (as it already has in New Mexico), Tri-State plans to continue its operations at two other plants, one in Arizona and the other in Wyoming.

Many of the decisions that will dictate whether Tri-State can be pushed in a new direction are playing out now before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which oversees Tri-State’s electric resource planning, or ERP, process.

“Energy generation, transmission and distribution are complicated topics. It’s often difficult to follow along and participate in proceedings like the ERP,” said Becky Henderson, who lives in Pinewood Springs, a hamlet located in the foothills northwest of Longmont. It is served by Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.

United Power collaborating with national group to deliver EV charging stations

United Power has joined the National Electric Highway Coalition in an effort to provide accessible electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Brighton-based United serves more than 10,000 members on the northern flanks of metro Denver, including areas with high adoption of EVs. Two interstate highways, I-25 and I-76, traverse the service territory.

Last year, United opened its second fast charger in Keenesburg, filling the gap for those driving EVS between Brighton and Fort Morgan.

The Clean Energy Transition Enters Hyperdrive: Researchers argue that the shift to carbon-free energy is gaining momentum, largely because of economic benefits — Inside #Climate News

A solar-covered parking lot at the plant of Anhui Quanchai Engine Co., Ltd. in Chuzhou, China. IMAGINECHINA VIA AP IMAGES

From Inside Climate News (Dan Gearino):

After decades in which governments and industry groups have often assumed that the shift to renewable energy will be a financial burden, economists and analysts are increasingly making a case that the opposite is true: The transition will lead to cost-savings on a massive scale that will add to its momentum.

A recent paper by University of Oxford economists and mathematicians finds that a rapid transition to renewable energy would lead to global savings of $26 trillion compared to the costs of maintaining the current energy mix.

Another recent paper, published by the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, looks at previous technological revolutions to help understand the implications of rapid growth and falling costs of renewable energy.

The findings are providing some analytical heft to ideas that clean energy advocates have long argued about how the transition will lead to vast economic benefits as renewable energy continues to get cheaper.

The researchers who wrote the Oxford paper looked at how wind and solar power have gone from some of the world’s most expensive energy sources to some of the cheapest, and extrapolated those results to chart a future in which prices continue to plummet…

The paper’s authors sought to understand why so many high-profile forecasts have underestimated the pace of cost decreases for renewable energy, especially solar power. They found that most economic models do not adequately grasp the tendency of technologies to get much cheaper at times of rapid expansion and competition, and that models tend to be built in ways that are more likely to show gradual change.

The underlying idea is based on Wright’s Law, a concept developed by engineer Theodore Wright in the 1930s who wrote about how the costs of a technology declines as production increases.

“The more you deploy, the more the costs come down,” said Matthew Ives, an Oxford economist and co-author of the paper. “You get a feedback dynamic, which is runaway change.”

Forecasts that show a slow and expensive transition are harmful because they help to reinforce the idea that fossil fuels will continue to dominate our global energy supply for decades, Ives said. This idea can steer decisions for governments, companies and institutional investors.

Ives and three of his colleagues wrote the paper for the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School. It is a working paper, which means it has not yet gone through peer review.

Why Putting #Solar Canopies on Parking Lots Is a Smart Green Move — Yale Environment 360 #ActOnClimate

A solar-covered parking lot at the plant of Anhui Quanchai Engine Co., Ltd. in Chuzhou, China. IMAGINECHINA VIA AP IMAGES

From Yale Environment 360 (Richard Coniff):

Solar farms are proliferating on undeveloped land, often harming ecosystems. But placing solar canopies on large parking lots offers a host of advantages — making use of land that is already cleared, producing electricity close to those who need it, and even shading cars.

Fly into Orlando, Florida, and you may notice a 22-acre solar power array in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head in a field just west of Disney World. Nearby, Disney also has a 270-acre solar farm of conventional design on former orchard and forest land. Park your car in any of Disney’s 32,000 parking spaces, on the other hand, and you won’t see a canopy overhead generating solar power (or providing shade) — not even if you snag one of the preferred spaces for which visitors pay up to $50 a day.

This is how it typically goes with solar arrays: We build them on open space rather than in developed areas. That is, they overwhelmingly occupy croplands, arid lands, and grasslands, not rooftops or parking lots, according to a global inventory published last month in Nature. In the United States, for instance, roughly 51 percent of utility-scale solar facilities are in deserts; 33 percent are on croplands; and 10 percent are in grasslands and forests. Just 2.5 percent of U.S. solar power comes from urban areas.

The argument for doing it this way can seem compelling: It is cheaper to build on undeveloped land than on rooftops or in parking lots. And building alternative power sources fast and cheap is critical in the race to replace fossil fuels and avert catastrophic climate change. It’s also easier to manage a few big solar farms in an open landscape than a thousand small ones scattered across urban areas.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it smarter. Undeveloped land is a rapidly dwindling resource, and what’s left is under pressure to deliver a host of other services we require from the natural world — growing food, sheltering wildlife, storing and purifying water, preventing erosion, and sequestering carbon, among others. And that pressure is rapidly intensifying. By 2050, in one plausible scenario from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), supplying solar power for all our electrical needs could require ground-based solar on 0.5 percent of the total land area of the United States. To put that number in perspective, NREL senior research Robert Margolis says it’s “less land than we already dedicate to growing corn ethanol for biofuels.”

It works out, however, to 10.3 million acres. Because it is more efficient to generate power close to customers, some states could end up with as much as five percent of their total land area — and 6.5 percent in tiny Rhode Island — under ground-based solar arrays, according to the NREL study. If we also ask solar power to run the nation’s entire automotive fleet, says Margolis, that adds another 5 million acres. It’s still less than half the 31 million acres of cropland eaten up in 2019 to grow corn for ethanol, a notoriously inefficient climate change remedy.

Despite the green image, putting solar facilities on undeveloped land is often not much better than putting subdivisions there. Developers tend to bulldoze sites, “removing all of the above-ground vegetation,” says Rebecca Hernandez, an ecologist at the University of California at Davis. That’s bad for insects and the birds that feed on them. In the Southwest deserts where most U.S. solar farms now get built, the losses can also include “1,000-year-old creosote shrubs, and 100-year-old yuccas,” or worse. The proposed 530-megawatt Aratina Solar Project around Boron, California, for instance, would destroy almost 4,300 western Joshua trees, a species imperiled, ironically, by development and climate change. (It is currently being considered for state protected status.) In California, endangered desert tortoises end up being translocated, with unknown results, says Hernandez. And the tendency to cluster solar facilities in the buffer zones around protected areas can confuse birds and other wildlife and complicate migratory corridors.

A solar parking facility at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, with an output of 8 megawatts of electricity.

The appeal of parking lots and rooftops, by contrast, is that they are abundant, close to customers, largely untapped for solar power generation, and on land that’s already been stripped of much of its biological value.

A typical Walmart supercenter, for instance, has a five-acre parking lot, and it’s a wasteland, especially if you have to sweat your way across it under an asphalt-bubbling sun. Put a canopy over it, though, and it could support a three-megawatt solar array, according to a recent study co-authored by Joshua Pearce of Western University in Ontario. In addition to providing power to the store, the neighboring community, or the cars sheltered underneath, says Pearce, the canopy would shade customers — and keep them shopping longer, as their car batteries top up. If Walmart did that at all 3,571 of its U.S. super centers, the total capacity would be 11.1 gigawatts of solar power — roughly equivalent to a dozen large coal-fired power plants. Taking account of the part-time nature of solar power, Pearce figures that would be enough to permanently shut down four of those power plants.

And yet solar canopies are barely beginning to show up in this country’s endless acreage of parking lots. The Washington, D.C., Metro transit system, for instance, has just contracted to build its first solar canopies at four of its rail station parking lots, with a projected capacity of 12.8 megawatts. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport is now building its first, a 12.3 megawatt canopy costing $56 million. Evansville (Indiana) Regional Airport, however, already has two, covering 368 parking spaces, at a cost of $6.5 million. According to a spokesperson, the solar canopy earned a $310,000 profit in its first year of operation, based on premium pricing of those spaces and the sale of power at wholesale rates to the local utility.

Rutgers University built one of the largest solar parking facilities in the country at its Piscataway, New Jersey campus, with a 32-acre footprint, an 8-megawatt output, and a business plan that the campus energy conservation manager called “pretty much cash-positive from the get-go.” A new Yale School of the Environment study finds that solar canopies on parking lots could provide a third of Connecticut’s power, help meet the governor’s target of a zero-carbon electric sector by 2040, and incidentally serve environmental justice by reducing the urban heat island effect. So far, however, few such canopies exist in Connecticut, according to Kieren Rudge, the study’s author.

One reason such facilities are still scarce is that building solar on developed land can cost anywhere from two to five times as much as on open space. For a parking lot canopy, says Pearce, “you’re looking at more substantial structural steel with a fairly substantial concrete base.” It’s like putting up a building minus the walls. For a public company fixated on quarterly results, the payback time of 10 or 12 years can also seem discouragingly long. But that’s the wrong way to look at it, says Pearce. “If I can give you a greater-than-four-percent return on a guaranteed infrastructure investment that will last for 25 years minimum,” that’s a smart investment. It’s also possible to avoid the upfront cost entirely, with a third-party business or nonprofit paying for the installation under a power purchase agreement.

One other reason for the persistent scarcity, according to Blocking The Sun, a 2017 report from Environment America, a Denver-based coalition of state environmental groups, is that utility and fossil fuel interests have repeatedly undermined government policies that would encourage rooftop and parking lot solar. That report described anti-solar lobbying by the Edison Electric Institute, representing publicly-owned utilities; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group known for inserting right-wing language into state laws; the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity; and the Consumer Energy Alliance, a fossil fuel-and-utility front group, among others.

Throwing Shade, a 2018 report from the Center for Biological Diversity, gave a failing grade to 10 states for policies that actively discourage rooftop solar. These states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — represent a third of the nation’s rooftop solar potential, but delivered just 7.5 percent in 2017. They typically make it difficult for homeowners or property owners to install solar and connect it to the grid, or they prohibit a third party from paying for the installation. Most also lack a net-metering policy, or otherwise limit the ability of solar customers to feed the excess energy they produce by day into the grid, to be credited against what they take back at other times. Most also lack renewable-portfolio standards, which would require utilities to generate, or purchase, a portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

Floating solar panels in Da Mi, Vietnam. SIPA VIA AP IMAGES

It’s possible to overturn such rules. In 2015, a Nevada power company pushed the public utility commission to approve measures penalizing rooftop solar. A voter backlash soon drove the legislature, in a unanimous vote, to override the commission and restore pro-solar regulations. Voters could also go a step further and push state and local governments to encourage smarter solar power siting, with tax breaks for rooftop and parking solar, and also, says Rebecca Hernandez, for solar installations that incorporate multiple technical and ecological benefits.

That could mean added state incentives to build solar farms on brownfields, closed landfills, or degraded farmland, and not on more fragile or productive ecosystems. According to a 2019 Nature study, U.S. degraded lands now cover an area twice the size of California, with the solar potential to supply more than a third of the nation’s electrical power. It could also mean incentives for new technologies. For instance, “floatovoltaics” — solar panels floating on inland canals, wastewater lagoons, and other water bodies—are cheaper to build and more efficient because of natural cooling. In some circumstances, they also benefit wildlife, attracting herons, grebes, cormorants, and other waterfowl, probably to feed on fish attracted to the shade underneath.

Smarter incentives could also apply to working farms — for instance, in the dry, unprofitable corners of fields with huge, center-pivot irrigation systems, or in fields planted with shade-tolerant crops. Massachusetts already has the first such incentive program, targeting solar farms paired with pollinator plantings, or designed for grazing by sheep, as well as in other dual-purpose categories.

It’s possible zoning restrictions on solar farms could follow, especially in areas already anxious about the loss of farmland to subdivisions. But it’s unlikely. States are more likely to follow the example of California, where “net-zero energy” building codes, together with economic practicalities, now dictate that almost all new commercial and residential buildings incorporate solar power from the start. In that scenario, parking lots, long a drain on retail budgets and a blight on the urban landscape, will instead belatedly begin to play their part in generating power — and shading the world, if not saving it.

Richard Conniff is a National Magazine Award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and other publications. His latest book is House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth. He is a frequent contributor to Yale Environment 360.

The Power Grid: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Transmission tower near Firestone. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

John Oliver discusses the current state of the nation’s power grid, why it needs fixing, and, of course, how fun balloons are.

Guest Opinion: Will Toor: There’s a lot being done in #Colorado to address climate crisis — The #Boulder Daily Camera

Leaf charging at the Beau Jo’s charger in idaho Springs August 23, 2021.

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Will Toor):

Right now, leaders from across the world are gathered in Scotland for the latest UN climate conference, seeking to address the climate crisis. Here in Colorado, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, with the largest wildfires in state history, air quality impacts from wildfires across the west, and the closure this summer of I-70 due to mudslides following last year’s Glenwood Canyon fires.

Luckily, there is a LOT being done here in Colorado to address these challenges. Three years ago, Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a platform of 100% clean electricity generation by 2040 and bold climate action, and in the intervening period the state has vaulted to the forefront of climate action. Through legislation, regulations, public investment and partnerships with local government, unions and the private sector, we have made real progress on an equitable transition towards a low carbon, clean energy future — all while strengthening the economy, addressing inequities, and working to improve local air quality.

Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office via State of Colorado.

In 2019 Gov. Polis signed legislation establishing science-based targets to reduce GHG pollution 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050. For a sense of scale, this means cutting annual GHG pollution by 70 million tons by 2030. We immediately got to work on both implementing obvious “no regrets” strategies and developing a strategic GHG roadmap to determine the most important actions to take to achieve the 2030 targets.

The first big area we focused on was electricity generation, one of the two largest sources of GHG pollution. We got commitments from utilities representing 99% of the fossil fuel generation in the state to achieve at least 80% reduction in pollution by 2030. We have locked these commitments in through legislative requirements and action by state air and utility regulators. In practice, it looks like we will exceed these targets. Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state, filed a plan at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to achieve 85% by 2030, and based on our analysis, we are advocating for the PUC to approve a plan that gets to 90%. The second largest utility, Tri-State, has a plan to close every coal plant they have in Colorado and replace them primarily with wind and solar. All of this is enabled by the remarkable advances in cheap renewables, in which the cost per kilowatt hour of NEW wind and solar is often about half the cost for just operating and maintaining EXISTING coal plants.

We also worked with the Colorado Legislature this year to pass binding requirements on industry to achieve the sector-specific targets set in the GHG roadmap. State air regulators are now required to adopt new rules that will reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry by 60%, and from the rest of industry by 20% by 2030. State air regulators are already in the process of adopting rules for oil and gas, and a first set of industrial rules focused on steel mills and cement plants. And regulators have already adopted a phaseout of superpolluting hydrofluorocarbons.

Burning natural gas in buildings is another one of the top sources of GHG pollution. Legislation passed this year will expand gas and electric utility programs to help their customers electrify heating and improve efficiency, require large commercial buildings to improve their energy performance, expand investment in low income weatherization, and create new financing tools for building upgrades. Tying all of this together is a first in the nation requirement for gas utilities to develop “clean heat plans” that will achieve at least 22% reduction in pollution by 2030.

Transportation is the largest single source of GHG pollution. The state has already adopted low and zero emission vehicle regulations, and has taken major steps on supporting the transition to electric cars, trucks and buses, including through the legislation requiring utility investment in EV infrastructure, and to invest new state transportation revenue in EV infrastructure and incentives. Together, these will invest about $1 billion in EV infrastructure and programs, to support a million EVs on the road by 2030. And the state is adopting an innovative new GHG pollution standard which will require state and regional transportation plans to shift funding towards public transit and walkable, bikeable communities.

The net effect of these policies is projected to achieve 95 % of the 70 million ton target, while improving air quality. And we have big plans to do more in the coming year. We need to work with local governments to reform exclusionary zoning that keeps housing out of our prosperous cities, harming low and middle income workers while forcing far longer drives that contribute to pollution. The governor is proposing a half-a-billion dollars of investments in this year’s budget to improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions – accelerating adoption of electric school buses, supporting industrial emissions reduction, rebates for Ebikes, expanding public transit, making fares free during the high ozone season, and more. We will be finalizing the state clean trucking strategy this winter, and considering zero emission vehicle standards for trucks next spring. This just touches the surface — there is action on carbon capture, green hydrogen, improved building codes, natural and working land… this is an all-of-government effort.

The work isn’t over. In many ways, it is just beginning: addressing climate change is the great work of our time, and will be an ongoing effort through our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes. But I couldn’t be prouder of the innovation and leadership of the state of Colorado over the last three years.

Will Toor is Executive Director of the Colorado Energy Office. It’s mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs by advancing clean energy, energy efficiency and zero emission vehicles to benefit all Coloradans.

From Homes to Cars, It’s Now Time to Electrify Everything — Yale Environment 360

Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

From Yale Environment 360 (Saul Griffith):

The key to shifting away from fossil fuels is for consumers to begin replacing their home appliances, heating systems, and cars with electric versions powered by clean electricity. The challenges are daunting, but the politics will change when the economic benefits are widely felt.

For too long, the climate solutions conversation has been dominated by the supply-side view of the energy system: What will replace coal plants? Will natural gas be a bridge fuel? Can hydrogen power industry? These are all important questions, but, crucially, they miss half the equation. We must bring the demand side of our energy system to the heart of our climate debate.

The demand side is where humans, households, and voters live. It is where we use machines on a daily basis, and where the choices about what kind of machines we use — whether powered by fossil fuels or electricity — make our climate actions and climate solutions personal. We don’t have a lot of choice on the supply side, but we have all of the choice on the demand side. For the most part, we decide what we drive, how we heat our water, what heats our homes, what cooks our food, what dries our laundry, and even what cuts our grass. This constitutes our “personal infrastructure,” and it is swapping out that infrastructure that will be a key driver of the global transition from fossil fuels to green energy.

According to an analysis by Rewiring America, a nonprofit think tank I co-founded that focuses on electrifying our lives, if we redraw our emissions map around the activities of our households, we see that about 42 percent stem from the decisions we make around our kitchen tables. It gets close to 65 percent if we include the offices, buildings, and vehicles that are connected to the commercial sector and the decisions we make from our office desks.

The supply-side climate challenge is a question of a relatively small number of giant machines, including coal mines, LNG terminals, pipelines, refineries, and natural gas- and coal-fired power plants, all of which are owned by corporations. The demand-side climate challenge involves a very large number of relatively small machines. In the United States, it’s our 280 million cars and trucks, our 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves, ovens, and cooktops.

The traditional storyline for what we can do in our own lives has been an “efficiency-first” narrative that was born of the 1970s oil crisis. During that time, we needed to adjust to a reduction in foreign oil supplies, which led to more efficient cars with better gas mileage and more efficient appliances. That gave us efficiency as policy, such as federally mandated vehicle fuel standards, and led to Energy Star appliances.

But now we’re facing a completely different kind of energy crisis. To address global warming in time to keep the Earth livable, we need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible. It should be obvious that we can’t “efficiency” our way to zero and that we need to transform our way to no emissions. Starting on the demand side, this leads to a clear conclusion: We must electrify everything. And quickly. And we must supply all those new electric machines on the demand side with cleanly generated electricity on the supply side.

How quickly? At roughly the rate at which we replace these things. Cars often last around 20 years. Water heaters average 12 to 15 years; furnaces and home heating solutions, around 20; kitchen and laundry appliances, 10 to 15 years. The best climate outcome we can achieve is to upgrade all of these demand-side machines to higher performing electric machines at their next retirement. This needs to be in combination with increasing the electricity supply to power these machines, and to do so with clean renewables, while also retiring coal plants and other heavy emitters ahead of schedule.

An all-electric house. Credit: REWIRING AMERICA

I have been talking publicly about climate change and what solutions need to look like for nearly 20 years. It’s been a learning journey about how to tell a story that can motivate people in the face of what seems insurmountable. I worry that nihilism will soon grip us on this issue, unless we can paint a picture of what success looks like. And that picture needs to be simple, the actionable steps achievable. People want to see themselves in the solution, but not at the expense of sacrificing the things they love and the conveniences of modern life.

We still have a slim chance of keeping global warming under 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), without changing entirely the fabric of everyday living. It may not be everyone’s version of climate success, but it is possible to help avoid extreme warming with a substitution of the machines in our lives. To do so, we need to achieve a close to 100 percent adoption rate of the right technologies as we replace the fossil-fueled machines we use today.

Fortunately, technologies now exist for the majority of these things. Electric cars currently have sufficient range, and are close enough to cost-parity at the dealership, that we can imagine that transition. The cost per mile drops significantly, too. Air-source heat pumps have such high performance now that they beat traditional furnaces and boilers in many climates. The modern induction cooking experience is better than cooking with gas. It is not yet true in the U.S. that rooftop solar is the cheapest energy source, but it is true in Australia, and the difference has to do with regulations.

Solar modules themselves are incredibly cheap, around 30 cents a watt. Australia ran a certification and training program for building a workforce that also certified the installers as inspectors. This made the process of purchasing and installing solar in Australia simple and doable in a matter of days. The installed cost ends up being around $1 per watt. In the U.S., the process takes 60 days and includes complicated permitting and inspection requirements. The result is that the installed cost winds up being $3 per watt. We need to look around the world for the best practices and implement them everywhere; Norway’s rapid adoption of electric vehicles is another example.

If you could cover the average U.S. rooftop in solar at the Australian installed price, put two electric vehicles in your driveway as easily as you can in California or Norway, install the best Japanese heat pumps, and cook on the best German induction cooktops — and then back it all up with a household battery tied to a smart main panel connected to an enlightened grid that encourages consumers to self-generate power and to store and shift loads — we’d be a long way toward the success we need.

In the U.S., there are a billion of these machines that need to be replaced and installed across the nation’s 121 million households. This creates an enormous economic opportunity to manufacture all or most of these machines in America. And because the cost of all these things is falling further, and the performance is increasing with every passing year, by around 2025 people will be saving money by making these choices about the infrastructure of their daily lives.

Solar panels on a residential building near Philadelphia’s downtown. ARIELLA MARON via Yale Environment 360

It isn’t the entire solution to climate change, but it is the solution to much of it, and it is a solution we can start deploying everywhere today. Yes, for a few more years we’ll need government subsidies and incentives, like those proposed by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) in his Zero-Emission Homes Act that is currently included in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan being debated in Washington — and that needs to be fully funded. Heinrich’s bill, and a House companion, would offer point-of-sale rebates for heat-pump hot water heaters, heat pump HVAC systems, electric cooking appliances, and electric clothes dryers. The goal is to remove the upfront barrier for homeowners to replace a fossil-fueled appliance with a cleaner alternative.

In the long run, electrifying our lives will save everyone a lot of money on energy bills — up to $2,500 per household, according to Rewiring America’s Household Savings Report. But these clean energy appliances come with higher up-front costs to deliver the savings over time. That means we will need low-cost financing.

Low-interest “climate loans” would allow everyone to afford the up-front costs of these clean technologies. Diverse households have different financing needs so we need to pull every policy lever at the federal and state levels, as well as engage in public-private partnerships to enable this. If banks step in, the role of governments will be to make sure that all families can afford it. For many families it will be simple enough to make these investments alongside their household mortgage. For other families, federal policies already exist that enable people to pay as they go as part of their utility bill and own the upgraded appliances in the long run. These incentives and mechanisms need to be available when people purchase new electric appliances and machines.

Critics will argue that this will hit political hurdles. And it will. But if we remain constrained by what we think is politically possible, then we’ll never have a sufficiently ambitious climate agenda. We must change the politics, and the politics will only change and become bipartisan when the economic benefits are felt in every household. Rooftop solar is no longer political in Australia because families of all political stripes have felt the positive effect on cash flow of having cheaper electricity. It can’t be understated how important it is that the Ford F-150, a cultural icon and the most produced vehicle ever, is going electric. Once households red, blue, and purple are enjoying the lower cost of ownership of an electric F-150, the politics of this whole issue will change. Norwegians of all stripes support the rapid adoption of electric vehicles in that country, and it is no-longer a political issue. Politicians are still able to sell a story of fear of change and loss around this transition in 2021. Increasingly, that won’t be possible because the economics will shift.

This needed electrification will halve the total amount of energy required in the economy, but triple the amount of electricity that needs to be delivered. It is critical, obviously, that this electricity be cleanly generated. Ten percent to 30 percent can be generated locally on rooftops and over commercial buildings and parking lots. The rest will need to be produced by wind farms, utility-scale solar farms, and geothermal, hydroelectric, and nuclear facilities. All of those facilities will need to be connected by long-distance transmission lines.

Leaf charging at the Beau Jo’s charger in idaho Springs August 23, 2021.

Of course, none of this is simple, nor politically easy, but with each passing year the inevitability of this solution becomes more so and the cost competitiveness higher, and our motivations to fight climate will increase with each season of climate disruption. The only question is if our sense of urgency will grow fast enough to mitigate the climate disaster before it is too late. My optimism stems from the fact that the scale of the transition lowers the cost enough to make the transition an economic slam dunk, which will change the politics markedly.

The long-term economic benefits of household electrification are not only in energy savings, but in creating jobs. Mass electrification in the U.S. would create up to 25 million new jobs — across every ZIP code — as the national energy infrastructure is modernized, according to a Rewiring America analysis. Most of these jobs — installing solar panels and wind turbines, upgrading the grid, and replacing dirty heaters with clean ones — would necessarily be local. You can’t outsource clean energy. You can’t offshore the installation of an induction stovetop. Those jobs would have a multiplying effect, as the woman who gets a good job as a solar installer is going to spend money in her local community.

Meantime, we should stop pretending there are going to be other miracle technologies that will change the game. Most of the solution will be electrification. Hydrogen and nuclear are both electric technologies at the end of the day, too.

The electrify everything drive will need the type of focus that the U.S. had in World War II when the wartime production board prioritized Liberty ships, Liberator bombers, Jeeps, and munitios. This time around it will be batteries instead of bullets, wind turbines instead of aircraft, and electric vehicles instead of tanks.

Once we make the trade to clean energy, we’ll find that we’ll be able to enjoy all the comforts of home we’re used to — warmth and cooling, zippy cars, hot water, radiant heat — but with lower costs and cleaner air.

This is a critical moment, but it can also be a great one for the economy, our families, and the environment if we take smart action. We have one last chance to address climate change: Electrify everything.

Saul Griffith is the author of Electrify: An Optimist’s Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future. An inventor, engineer, and MacArthur fellow, he is founder and chief scientist of Rewiring America and Otherlab.

#Colorado’s difficult journey of building decarbonization: If nobody in the world has done this at scale before, Colorado must if it is to achieve its goals of reducing emissions — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From Big Pivots (Allen Best):

Led by Berkeley, several dozen jurisdictions in California and other states have forbidden new natural gas connections to buildings. Colorado has embarked on a gentler, more complex but still firm approach to reducing emissions from buildings.

The state’s path is outlined in a 62-page decision issued by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on Oct. 1. The decision explains why existing regulations governing Xcel Energy and the three other investor-owned utilities must be revised but also expanded. The utilities deliver natural gas to heat homes, warm water, and for cooking.

PUC commissioners and staff will be addressing “really big questions and really big challenges,” says Justin Brant, co-director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project’s utility program. He calls this effort “ground-breaking,” a description echoed by others.

Other states – particularly California, Massachusetts, and New York, but also Minnesota, Nevada, and Washington – have been having broad conversations about the future of natural gas utilities and decarbonization of buildings. And in Europe, some countries, particularly the Netherlands, have created a framework for decarbonizing gas networks across the country. But none have gotten very far yet. With the work now underway, Colorado ranks among the nation’s leaders, Brant and others say.

Utilities must reduce the carbon intensity of the fuels they provide 22% by 2030, which they can do by providing alternative fuels. Another strategy is to improve efficiency of buildings, so that they require less natural gas to warm.

Colorado’s journey to decarbonization of buildings began with a 2019 law that specified 50% economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gases by 2030. That same law targeted a 90% reduction by 2050.
(See also: State Sen. Chris Hansen, a key architect of Colorado’s decarbonization agenda, says this pace needs to be picked up. See: State senator says climate change demands Colorado elevate its decarbonization goals.)

Transportation and electrical generation are the top two sources of climate-warming pollution, according to the “Colorado Greenhouse Gas Reduction Roadmap.” But “fuel use in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings is not far behind,” added the document.

A pie chart in the document suggests that buildings, both commercial and residential, cause about 10% of the state’s emissions.
Decarbonization of electricity is already well underway. Coal combustion as a source of Colorado’s electricity dropped from 68% to 36% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2030, utilities plan to close all but one coal-burning unit in Colorado. Xcel Energy wants to operate that final coal plant, Comanche 3, at only one-third of capacity.

Colorado also has 23 natural gas-fired plants that generate electricity, but they are expected to be used selectively as electric utilities expand their use of renewables to at least 75% and conceivably 100% in the coming decade.

Buildings, with their dependence on natural gas or, in rural areas, propane, pose arguably a far greater challenge. Unlike a handful of coal plants, there are perhaps a million buildings in Colorado. Nor is this as simple as trading in a car with an internal-combustion for one with an electric motor—not that that is particularly simple, at least not yet.

Technologies exist, among them air-source heat pumps, as an alternative to gas-burning furnaces ordinarily found in basements. The replacements will be costly, though.

Easier will be to cease installing natural gas pipelines, stoves, and hot-water heaters in new buildings. That has started to happen, but most of the 30,000 or more houses built each year are connected to natural gas pipelines. That compounds the problem, as depreciating the infrastructure can take decades.

“The issues are complex and they are new, as no one in the world has decarbonized a gas system, but that is what needs to happen one way or another,” says the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Mike Henchen, who specializes in building decarbonization.

“This is a big transition that nobody has done yet,” he says. The goal will be to create a transition that works for everyone. “We want the system to be decarbonized, but we don’t want to do it in a way that raises people’s bills. That might require some creative solutions that go beyond what we typically see.”

Colorado’s approach to decarbonizing buildings was defined by two laws adopted in June.

SB21-264, sometimes called the clean-heat law, requires the state’s four regulated gas utilities to submit clean heat plans that show how they will reduce emissions 22% by 2030 as compared to the 2015 baseline.

The law assigns responsibility to the PUC to oversee this process governing the private gas utilities with an Oct. 1 deadline for launching the rule-making process. Municipal utilities that provide gas will be governed by the state’s Air Quality Control Commission. The AQCC has until September 2022 to kick off its process. Yet another provision applies to the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry.

A second law, HB21-1238, orders regulated gas utilities to institute demand-side management programs to reduce need for natural gas, such as by improved insulation in homes or other efficiency measures. In evaluating such programs, the PUC must use metrics that favor work that, if more expensive in the short term, provides long-term savings.

[Two] other bills also address building energy use. SB21-246, the beneficial electrification law, directs the PUC to oversee energy saving targets by regulated electric utilities that use efficient electric equipment in place of less efficient systems that burn fossil fuels. HB21-1286 addresses energy performance of buildings 50,000 square feet and larger.

Three of the five laws order that the social costs of carbon and methane be used in evaluations of programs by utilities.
PUC commissioners and staff will have to work through many issues while consulting with environmental groups, consumer advocates, and the utilities themselves.

One major issue will be that of stranded assets. If we’re going to abandon some of the existing natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure, who pays? Do natural gas customers pay for that infrastructure that is no longer needed but which hasn’t been fully depreciated? Or do the electricity customers pay for this transition through their rates?

This transition challenges the existing business model of gas utilities. Installation of pipelines to new housing developments and other buildings typically assume a payback of up to 50 years, explains RMI’s Henchen. Existing customers, through their rates, subsidize this extension of natural gas lines to new customers.

A closely related question is why do we add natural gas infrastructure, including the pipelines that underlie most residential streets, if we’re going to start abandoning them?
Colorado gas utilities during the last decade has added an average of 20,500 residential, 7,000 commercial, and 350 industrial customers of natural gas per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It now has 1.8 million residential gas customers.

Hydrogen will also be part of the discussion. Can green hydrogen, made from water and renewable energy, displace natural gas? Can it be blended with natural gas? Or can hydrogen made from natural gas and the carbon sequestered underground be used? A study, “Opportunities for Low-Carbon Hydrogen in Colorado: A Roadmap,” by the consulting firm E3 recommends developing a pilot project.

Costs will invariably be an issue. The clean heat bill, SB21-264, caps the increase on customer bills caused by this transition at 2.5%.

Among those already carefully monitoring the proceedings is the Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate. The state agency has the statutory responsibility to represent residential, small-business, and agriculture consumers in proceedings before the PUC.

“It’s huge,” Cindy Schonhaut, the director of the agency, says of this building decarbonization effort now underway. The challenge, she says, will be “how can we decarbonize our natural gas system in a way that is cost-effective and that minimizes imposing costs on consumers?”

Consumers will pay for this transition, says Schonhaut. “It’s a question of how much.”

Schonhaut also points to a dramatic shift in the business model of gas utilities. The utilities currently must deliver natural gas to new customers in their service territories. This conflicts with the goal of decarbonization.

Too, she sees a safety issue that differentiates this natural gas transition from electric resource planning. “For example, abandoning a pipeline isn’t a matter of simply turning off the valves, because gas will remain in the pipe,” she explains. If a contractor using a backhoe broke a pipe, there could be mayhem. Decommissioning pipelines will involve many questions.

Looming over this decarbonization are rising prices of natural gas. In September, prices surged above $5 per million Btu, about double the price of six months ago, and the highest September price since 2008, Inside Climate News reported.

Not least in the months and years ahead will be the question of what happens to the natural gas utilities themselves as they decarbonize. The journey will perhaps be most difficult for Atmos Energy and Colorado Natural Gas, the two investor-owned utilities in Colorado who do nothing but sell gas. Two others, Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy, sell both gas and electricity, if not always in the same places.

“They have invested millions of dollars in the ground in Colorado, as has happened across the country,” explains SWEEP’s Brant. “If we are to meet the state’s roadmap decarbonization goals, there will be a need to change the business model of natural gas. Underlying a lot of these decisions will be how do you do that in an equitable manner?”

Both the gas utilities and the PUC commissioners have been preparing for this process even before the laws were adopted in 2021.
In September 2020, Black Hills Energy issued a 109-page analysis conducted by the Gas Technology Institute titled “Assessment of Natural Gas and Electric Decarbonization in State of Colorado Decarbonization Sector.”

That analysis argued for a core focus on energy efficiency, with a special emphasis on creating tight building envelopes, to help reduce energy use. But the analysis warned of rising overall energy costs by electrifying and warned of the intense energy use of space heating.

“There is no evidence wind or solar resources can address prospective seasonal energy-intensive space heating electricity peaks during Colorado winters,” the Black Hills study concluded.
Xcel Energy in November 2020 also issued a report, “Transitioning Natural Gas for a Low-Carbon Future.” That 27-page paper urged a go-slower approach, one devoid of mandates, because of the need for technological breakthroughs plus the need for time to create the electrical infrastructure needed to replace natural gas on a broad scale.

Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

The paper was one for all eight states in which Xcel operates. In Colorado, it lost that argument about mandates. But perhaps it scored points in the pacing.

The PUC commissioners have also been prepping themselves. Beginning in November 2020, they heard from experts in such diverse topics as leak detection, coal-mine methane, and hydrogen pipeline gas in an effort to better get their minds wrapped around the challenge of methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

Commissioners have been told that baseline information that will be needed for evaluating progress remains scarce. Even basic definitions have yet to be worked out.

Environmental groups are eager to begin wrestling with the challenge.

“As daunting as these issues appear, it’s really important to take them on now,” says RMI’s Henchen. “There are steps that make sense to get us started, like cutting back on spending on expanding the gas system, targeting funding to help the most vulnerable customers shift to cleaner and more stable alternatives than gas, and piloting new approaches to ‘non-pipe solutions’ instead of replacing old pipes with new pipes.”

Opinion: #Colorado has a strong vision for #ElectricVehicles. It needs stronger policies to achieve that vision — The Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate

Leaf charging at the Lionshead parking facility in Vail September 30, 2021.

From The Colorado Sun (Jessica Goad and Silvio Marcacci):

Dangerous air quality is Denver’s new summertime normal, setting an ominous new record of 65 Ozone Alert Days between June and August. While worsening wildfires mostly beyond Colorado’s control — along with oil and gas drilling — often are blamed for our toxic air, a major culprit for this issue is the hazardous air pollution pouring from cars and trucks.

Research shows fossil fuels burned by cars and trucks is making Colorado’s air worse. So, we must cut tailpipe pollution for Denver — and all of Colorado — to breathe cleaner air. Fortunately, solutions to curb this pollution are available if Gov. Jared Polis, our state government, and the General Assembly act now.

In 2019, Colorado set nationally-leading targets of 50% greenhouse-gas emissions reductions by 2030, and 90% by 2050, becoming the first oil- and gas-producing state beyond California to put such reductions into state law. In 2021, the Polis administration released a Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap to achieve the goals.

But cutting transportation emissions is where the rubber meets the road. As Colorado Energy Office Director Will Toor told the state Air Quality Control Commission on September 17, reducing transportation emissions is the “most complicated” piece of Colorado’s climate puzzle.

The Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan has set a target of 940,000 electric vehicles statewide by 2030, but with just under 41,000 on our roads today, the task seems daunting. And while the Colorado Department of Transportation is proposing new rules to cut transportation emissions, the current draft falls short of Gov. Polis’ own Climate Roadmap goals. And the rules also should address environmental justice considerations by directing clean investments into disproportionately impacted communities to reduce pollution.

The Climate Roadmap recommends accelerating the shift to electric vehicles while cutting “vehicle miles traveled” by changing transportation and land-use planning, but it doesn’t carry the power of law. So how do we reach this clean transportation future?

Transportation emissions keep rising as more gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles get on our roads, so Colorado should prioritize policies that accelerate vehicle electrification while investing in public transit and other non-driving options.

Independent modeling by Energy Innovation and Boulder-based RMI shows existing state policies such as electric-vehicle tax credits and partnerships to build charging stations simply aren’t sufficient to meet our state’s emission-reduction goals.

An important first step for Colorado is increasing the stringency of its zero-emission vehicle policies. In 2019 state policymakers joined 14 other states and Washington, D.C., in adopting zero-emission vehicle requirements for light-duty vehicles. Since then, California set a goal of 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035 en route to a clean, electrified transportation future. Colorado should forge ahead by passing our own strong sales targets for zero-emission vehicles, and adopting an advanced clean-trucks policy to electrify large diesel trucks and tractor trailers.

The Energy Innovation-RMI modeling shows a strong electric vehicle sales standard is the most effective way to reduce transportation emissions, and we should ensure this policy does not leave lower-income families behind. Our leaders should carve out electric vehicle and charging infrastructure incentives for these households, and expand incentives to cover used electric vehicles, as proposed in the federal reconciliation bill.

Colorado also must prioritize alternatives to passenger-car travel through policies enabling people to use public transit, walk, and bike. Increasing public transit expands affordable transportation options and can provide much-needed relief from local air pollution in frontline communities located closest to highways. The Energy Innovation-RMI modeling found policies such as these could cut passenger-car travel, and its corresponding pollution, 20 percent by 2050.

Third, while Gov. Polis’ Climate Roadmap targets reducing statewide vehicle-miles traveled by 10% by 2030, the proposed CDOT rule doesn’t include that target, despite forecasts that such a target could deliver $40 billion in economic benefits by 2050. Incorporating the governor’s target into the state’s official transportation policy, then adding policies to reduce vehicle-miles traveled, is a common-sense move that will benefit all Coloradans.

While Colorado can’t single-handedly prevent wildfires burning across the Western U.S. from clouding our skies, we can keep transportation pollution from choking our air by switching to electric vehicles and giving Coloradans more non-driving transportation options to reduce the miles we drive.

What we can control, we must. We want kids to be able to play outside without harming their health. As climate advocates with decades of experience, we know cutting tailpipe emissions strengthens our economy and benefits consumers’ pocketbooks. As Coloradans who vote, we urge our elected officials to act now and clean our air.

Decarbonizing transportation is critical to hitting the state’s own emissions reduction targets. Gov. Polis, our state public health and transportation agencies, and the General Assembly must accelerate their efforts. Our air will be cleaner and our economy will be stronger for it.

Jessica Goad, of Lakewood, is deputy director of Conservation Colorado. Silvio Marcacci, of Denver, is communications director for Energy Innovation.

Opinion: A clean electricity grid is possible, if Colorado and federal lawmakers follow through — The #Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

The Dixie Fire destroys a home in the Plumas County town of Greenville, Aug. 4, 2021. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

Here’s a guest column from Maria Nájera that’s running in The Colorado Sun:

Across Colorado and the West, the intensifying effects of climate change are evident, from record-breaking heat to prolonged drought, erratic weather patterns, intense wildfires, and toxic air pollution that blots the sunlight and catches in our throats. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of global scientists convened by the United Nations, noted in its major new report released in September that some of the devastating impacts of climate change cannot be averted, due to our decades of fossil-fuel use.

But we still have a small window of time to act and take steps that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate crisis.

Colorado and the rest of the nation must shift away from fossil-fuel reliance and cut the harmful carbon emissions that are heating our planet. Colorado has taken important steps to address climate change, and federal support for clean energy and climate action will help Colorado achieve its science-based climate goals.

The Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan is a much needed, pivotal set of federal actions and includes significant provisions we need to address climate change.

Tesla Power Wall.

A crucial part of Build Back Better is the American Jobs Plan’s Clean Electricity Standard, which would put the United States on a path to achieving, by 2035, a clean and reliable electricity system, by which we mean one free of greenhouse-gas emissions, and preferably powered by renewable sources. A June survey by Data for Progress and Western Resource Advocates shows that a large majority of Colorado voters support the key climate and clean energy provisions in the American Jobs Plan, and 73% of those voters support the plan’s provisions to transition to a 100% clean electricity grid.

The Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, a Colorado bill signed into law in 2019, sets science-based targets of reducing statewide greenhouse-gas pollution 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050 from 2005 levels. Earlier this year, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis released his Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap outlining a plan to reach those targets. And Colorado legislators this year passed measures to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution from most electricity production 80% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, as well as cut energy waste and power homes and businesses with clean electricity.

But further emissions reduction work at Colorado’s regulatory agencies and in future legislative sessions is needed to get the state on track to reach its climate goals. Complementary federal action will help Colorado achieve its climate commitments.

The Build Back Better plan aims to invest in creating a resilient grid, lowering energy bills for middle class Americans, improving air quality, and creating good-paying jobs on the path to achieving carbon-free electricity by 2035. Importantly, the plan would provide tax credits to incentivize the building of high-capacity power transmission lines that would help make the grid stronger.

Communities that have disproportionately borne the effects of climate change would benefit from billions of federal dollars as part of a framework called Justice40 – a plan that prioritizes investing in communities impacted by environmental racism. Under the initiative, the federal government would ensure 40% of climate and clean energy investments are directed to communities that have historically been marginalized. This includes funding for programs to clean up hazardous brownfield and Superfund sites, replace lead pipes, and invest in zero-emission public transit. Workers and communities who have relied on fossil-fuel extraction and power generation would have a path forward to new economic opportunities through the plan’s job-creation provisions.

Wind turbines on the Cheyenne Ridge. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

Colorado and the West need significant federal investment to accelerate our clean energy transition. While Colorado has passed some important legislation and regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas pollution, a substantial gap remains between our current emissions and our science-based climate goals.

Federal funding can support and accelerate state efforts, by providing necessary resources to supplement state and local budgets for activities like constructing clean energy projects, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, or building electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Significant federal spending also can speed deployment of emerging technologies, which brings down costs for everyone through economies of scale.

We face the increasing and devastating effects of climate change every day, and the science is clear: We must act now to protect Colorado.

We urge our federal lawmakers to take the courageous action needed in these pivotal times. Passage of the Build Back Better plan’s provisions would provide a much needed tailwind to accelerate Colorado’s existing efforts and address the climate challenges ahead.

Maria Nájera, of Denver, is government affairs director for Western Resource Advocates.

Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure, Grand Valley edition — Homeward bound #ActOnClimate

Buffalo Mountain from the Frisco Town Center September 30, 2021.

I left Grand Junction with a full charge after a short wait using the DC Fast charger at the Stop and Shop on Horizon Drive. I decided to use Old Highway US-6 when I could to conserve charge avoiding the 65 m.p.h. and 75 m.p.h. speed limit on I-70. That turned out to be a great decision.

The first leg was from the free Level 2 charger at the DeBeque Fire District facility to the next charge in Rifle where there are multiple DC Fast Chargers at the Kum & Go. US-6 parallels the interstate pretty much until Rifle and from there to just before Glenwood Springs. I missed getting back on US-6 at Dotsero but rejoined it at Gypsum.

There are multiple DC Fast charging facilities from Gypsum to Vail where I charged for the climb over Vail Pass to Frisco and you can stay on US-6 until just before Vail.

Charging in Frisco and Silverthorne is only Level 2 for EVs that have a CHAdeMO connector. You’re okay at Walmart if you have a CCS/SAE connector but the Electrify America’s CHAdeMO was out of service (The Glenwood Springs Electrify America CHAdeMO was also out of service.). The best setup is at the Frisco Town Center with five free Level 2 charging stations, where a Volvo and Tesla were also charging. The facility is convenient to a retail shopping area.

There is a lot of extra time added to a drive like this looking for charging facilities and charging. Level 2 charging takes more time. The battery in my Leaf is not representative of EVs on the market today and it is nearly five years old so my range is more limited and that equals more time spent at the charger. During charges I incorporate stuff that I would be spending time on anyway like doom-scrolling through Twitter, processing my email, or getting a meal.

The ride up US-6 along the Colorado River and the Eagle River was great, irrigation infrastructure, hay fields, cool old farmhouses and town buildings. The fall foliage display this year is pretty amazing.

The two-lane US-6 six route had an extra bonus — Loveland Pass with a dusting of snow. It was worrisome when I used 40% of my charge to get to the top of the pass, but thanks to the regenerative breaking system I only used 10% more charge all the way home to Denver on I-70 and US-6 along Clear Creek. EV car owners love downhill stretches and much as bicyclists do.

Leaf charging at the Lionshead parking facility in Vail September 30, 2021.

Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV Adventure, Grand Valley edition

Buffalo Mountain from the Frisco Town Center September 30, 2021.

I’m in Fruita this morning. I’ll be heading for a nice bicycle ride along the Riverfront Trail to Colorado Mesa University for the Colorado River District’s seminar today, “Wake up Call on the Colorado River.”

I drove the EV over to check out the charging infrastructure available for my Leaf and its nearly 5-year old battery. The addition of DC Fast charging made the trip much more convenient than it would have been. The pull over the Continental Divide of the Americas from Idaho Springs was a concern but I pulled into Silverthorne with charge to spare thanks to the regenerative braking system in the Leaf. The only DC Fast charger in Frisco was down (Electrify America) so I was using the Level 2 chargers at the Frisco Town Center (Chargepoint).

Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

Vail has DC fast chargers at the Lion’s Head Parking facility, also Chargepoint.

Leaf charging at the Lionshead parking facility in Vail September 30, 2021.

I bumped the charge at the DC fast charger (Chargepoint) in Edwards for the longish run to Rifle.

Leaf charging in Edwards September 30, 2021.

The Rifle Chargepoint installation is sweet and very fast. The run from there into Grand Junction went well.

Leaf charging in Rifle September 30, 2021.

I did check out the charger at the Debeque Fire District (Level 2) where it started raining. The beautiful rain continued all the way to Fruita. The final charge was on Horizon Drive in Grand Junction but I didn’t get a photo since it was dark and raining.

Colorado National Monument from the Riverfront Trail near Fruita September 2018.

Are ‘water positive’ pledges from tech companies just a new kind of greenwashing? In response to historic droughts, Google and Facebook say they want to use less water at their data centers — Popular Science #ActOnClimate

Google Data Center, The Dalles, Oregon. By Visitor7 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16564116

From Popular Science (Angely Mercado):

Corporate America is making a new kind of climate pledge. In recent months, multiple tech giants have pledged to use their reach and resources to join the fight for water conservation. Facebook made an announcement at the end of August declaring their efforts to “be water positive by 2030.” And just this week, Google made a similar announcement to make its data centers more efficient and support water security in the communities it operates in.

Google, Facebook, and several other companies have promised to put more water back into the environment than they pipe in—an exchange they call “water positive.” This means they plan to cut the amount of water needed to run their facilities, while protecting natural waterways and preserving access to clean drinking water in drought-prone areas. The math is based on the number of gallons they want to restore, not newly produced H2O. Both Facebook and Google have also promised to share their conservation research and tech with others…

Given the current state of the planet, it’s only fitting that corporations like Facebook and Google change how they use up water and other vital resources, says Pamela Chasek, a professor and chair of the political science department of Manhattan College, who has also commented on past corporate climate pledges…

A 2020 report by Data Center Knowledge found that Google operates more than 20 data centers around the world. Facebook, meanwhile, has seven data centers in the US. The social media company has also announced that it will open more data centers this year.

“The typical data center uses about 3-5 million gallons of water per day—the same amount of water as a city of 30,000-50,000 people,” Venkatesh Uddameri, professor and director of the Water Resources Center at Texas Tech University told NBC News earlier this year. Much of it is used to chill the giant servers, machine learning systems, and other hardware the companies run around the clock.

Both Facebook and Google say they’re testing out ways to cut down the water used to cool these data centers. “For example, we deployed technology that uses reclaimed wastewater to cool our data center in Douglas County, Georgia,” Google Sustainability Officer Kate Brandt writes in an email to PopSci. “At our office campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area, we worked with ecologists and landscape architects to develop an ecological design strategy and habitat guidelines to improve the resiliency of landscapes and nearby watershed health.”

In its pledge post, Facebook noted that it uses “onsite recycled water systems” at some global offices. The company also stated that it’s developed technology that enables “data centers to be cooled with outside air,” allowing them “to operate 80 percent more water efficiently on average compared to the industry standard.”

For the other end of the “water positive” equation, both companies say they’ve sought out local partners to meet their new water sustainability goals. Google writes that it’s “working with the Colorado River Indian Tribes project to reduce the amount of water that is withdrawn from Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River in Nevada and Arizona.” Meanwhile, Facebook points out that it’s providing funding “to the Rio Grande Water Fund to restore the connection between the stressed Cedro Creek and its historic floodplain.”

Water usage has long been a concern as large tech offices and data centers compete with area residents (people and wildlife) over limited water supplies in drought-prone areas. The friction has only intensified in recent years. In 2017, multiple South Carolina-based conservation groups criticized Google for its plans to draw more than a million gallons of water per day from the depleted Goose Creek watershed. The corporation ultimately struck a deal to draw 5 million gallons per day from another aquifer.

When asked if the water pledges felt like greenwashing, Chasek says it’ll depend on how Facebook and Google are held accountable and how transparent both companies are when implementing the actions behind their promises.

“One of the interesting things with the Facebook project is that they’re working with NGOs and other organizations in terms of partnerships,” she explains. “These partnerships can determine where best to do water-restoration work, [which] is one piece of that accountability. How are they investing in these water restoration projects … particularly like in the western US where we’re seeing the highest amount of water stress? Those projects need to see a lot of scrutiny.”

Jim Murphy, an assistant professor and the environmental advocacy clinic director at the Vermont Law School, agrees that major tech companies should be held accountable for their sustainability claims by outside organizations or even governmental agencies. But he argues that while it makes sense for powerful industries to help with water management, policy is the best way to manage responsible use of natural resources, especially in communities hard hit by climate change.

“The problem with private companies, even if they’re publicly owned … is they have certain obligations to their shareholders,” he says. “These are not accountable entities or entities that are created [through] public interest.”

That kind of decoupling is especially important as fossil fuel companies like BP, which helped to exacerbate climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, launch “water positive” campaigns of their own.

“Making sure that we properly protect the entire watershed from pollution and destruction is paramount,” Murphy continues. “The Biden administration has taken some steps in this direction, and they really need to continue that through.”

To Meet Paris Accord Goal, Most of the World’s #FossilFuel Reserves Must Stay in the Ground — Inside #Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From Inside Climate News (Nicholas Kusnetz):

A new study in Nature reports that oil, gas and coal production must begin falling immediately to have even a 50 percent chance of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

After a summer of weather extremes that highlighted the urgency of limiting global warming in starkly human terms, new research is clarifying what it will take to do so. In order to have just a 50 percent chance of meeting the most ambitious climate target, the study found, the production of all fossil fuels will need to start declining immediately, and a significant majority of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves will have to remain underground over the next few decades.

While the research, published Wednesday [September 8, 2021] in the journal Nature, is only the latest to argue that meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement goals to limit warming requires a rapid pivot to clean energy, it lays out with clear and specific figures exactly how far from those targets the world remains.

“The inescapable evidence that hopefully we’ve shown and that successive reports have shown is that if you want to meet 1.5 degrees, then global production has to start declining,” said Daniel Welsby, a researcher at University College London, in the United Kingdom, and the study’s lead author. As part of the Paris Agreement, nations agreed to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The study found that nearly 60 percent of global oil and gas reserves and about 90 percent of coal reserves must be left unexploited by 2050, though a portion of those fuels could be produced in the second half of the century. Total oil and gas production must begin declining immediately, the research said, and continue falling at about 3 percent annually through 2050. Coal production must fall at an even steeper rate.

While the authors noted a few signs of change, including that coal production is already on the decline, the current course is far off what’s needed. In March, the International Energy Agency warned that oil production was on track to rebound from a pandemic-driven dip and would surpass 2019 levels within a couple of years. That projection came on the heels of a separate report in December by the United Nations Environment Program, which said energy producing countries are set to expand fossil fuel output for years.

The new paper builds on these studies and other related work to estimate the “unextractable” portion of the fossil fuel stores that are currently considered profitable to exploit—so-called proven reserves. Put another way, the research effectively says that most of the fossil fuels that energy companies currently list as financial assets, or that governments report as strategic ones, would be rendered worthless if the world is to have a shot at limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Click to enlarge.

Drake Power Plant shutdown marks latest step in #Colorado’s shift off #FossilFuels — The #Denver Post #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Martin Drake Coal Plant Colorado Springs. The coal plant in downtown Colorado Springs will be closed by 2023 and 7 gas-fired generators moved in to generate power until 2030. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Eighteen coal-fired power plants down. Another dozen to go as Colorado shifts its electricity supply system off fossil fuels.

The latest shutdown at the massive Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs last week brings the share of electricity generated by burning coal statewide to less than 36%, federal Energy Information Administration data shows. That’s down from 68% a decade ago, though Colorado still lags behind the national 19% share. The state’s remaining coal plants are scheduled to close by 2040.

“If we can do this in the heart of the West, in a state that used to be one of the most reliant on coal generation, states across the nation can do it too,” Colorado Energy Office director Will Toor said.

A growing reliance on solar and wind energy alternatives “can be leveraged,” Toor said, for electric vehicles and electric-powered heating of buildings.

Air along Colorado’s Front Range no longer will be infused with the pollution that for nearly 100 years has risen from Drake’s towering chimneys. This means 201 tons a year less sulfur dioxide, 25 tons less lung-clogging particulates, 257 tons less carbon monoxide, and 1,007 tons less nitrogen oxides that lead to ozone smog, according to data from state air quality control officials.

Drake emitted more than 1.3 million tons a year of pollutants overall, including carbon dioxide and smaller amounts of benzene, hydrogen chloride, sulfuric acid and chloroform, state data shows.

Shifting beyond coal “will help improve air quality nearby and across the state,” Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said.

Drake for decades has loomed as one of the nation’s last urban industrial coal plants. City-run utility crews relied on coal, burning up to 3,000 tons a day, to handle up to a third of local electricity demands. For now, utility workers are focusing on a delicate transition. They’ll supply electricity temporarily using portable natural gas generators, along with coal-fired power from the Ray Nixon power plant southeast of the city. The coal unit there isn’t scheduled to close until 2029…

America The Beautiful Park, photo by James Van Hoy via The City of Colorado Springs

Dismantling Drake will open about 50 acres along Fountain Creek in the heart of Colorado Springs, where leaders have created the America the Beautiful Park, a new soccer stadium and the Olympics Museum just north of the plant.

Future uses of that site depend on cleanup, followed by land and creek habitat restoration. When the chimneys come down, contractors will inject bleach 18 inches deep in the ground, and soil will be imported to the site, Colorado Springs Utilities chief executive Aram Benyamin said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state health officials and community groups for years have pressed Colorado Springs leaders to cut pollution from Drake, particularly the sulfur dioxide. But government agencies never ordered a shutdown. In the end cost as well as the environment played a role, as city council members last year voted to close Drake ahead of their previously scheduled deadline of 2035.

#ClimateChange is an infrastructure problem – map of electric vehicle chargers shows one reason why — The Conversation


While a gas station might be 72 miles away, an EV charger may be much farther.
Pgiam via Getty Images

Paul N. Edwards, Stanford University

Most of America’s 107,000 gas stations can fill several cars every five or 10 minutes at multiple pumps. Not so for electric vehicle chargers – at least not yet. Today the U.S. has around 43,000 public EV charging stations, with about 106,000 outlets. Each outlet can charge only one vehicle at a time, and even fast-charging outlets take an hour to provide 180-240 miles’ worth of charge; most take much longer.

The existing network is acceptable for many purposes. But chargers are very unevenly distributed; almost a third of all outlets are in California. This makes EVs problematic for long trips, like the 550 miles of sparsely populated desert highway between Reno and Salt Lake City. “Range anxiety” about longer trips is one reason electric vehicles still make up fewer than 1% of U.S. passenger cars and trucks.

This uneven, limited charging infrastructure is one major roadblock to rapid electrification of the U.S. vehicle fleet, considered crucial to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

It’s also a clear example of how climate change is an infrastructure problem – my specialty as a historian of climate science at Stanford University and editor of the book series “Infrastructures.”


The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Over many decades, the U.S. has built systems of transportation, heating, cooling, manufacturing and agriculture that rely primarily on fossil fuels. The greenhouse gas emissions those fossil fuels release when burned have raised global temperature by about 1.1°C (2°F), with serious consequences for human lives and livelihoods, as the recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demonstrates.

The new assessment, like its predecessor Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, shows that minimizing future climate change and its most damaging impacts will require transitioning quickly away from fossil fuels and moving instead to renewable, sustainable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal power.

That means reimagining how people use energy: how they travel, what and where they build, how they manufacture goods and how they grow food.

Gas stations were transport infrastructure, too

Gas-powered vehicles with internal combustion engines have completely dominated American road transportation for 120 years. That’s a long time for path dependence to set in, as America built out a nationwide system to support vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

Gas stations are only the endpoints of that enormous system, which also comprises oil wells, pipelines, tankers, refineries and tank trucks – an energy production and distribution infrastructure in its own right that also supplies manufacturing, agriculture, heating oil, shipping, air travel and electric power generation.

Without it, your average gas-powered sedan wouldn’t make it from Reno to Salt Lake City either.

Lines of cars wait for gas pumps at a busy station.
Gas-powered vehicles have dominated U.S. road transportation for 120 years and have a web of infrastructure supporting them.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Fossil fuel combustion in the transport sector is now America’s largest single source of the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Converting to electric vehicles could reduce those emissions quite a bit. A recent life cycle study found that in the U.S., a 2021 battery EV – charged from today’s power grid – creates only about one-third as much greenhouse gas emissions as a similar 2021 gasoline-powered car. Those emissions will fall even further as more electricity comes from renewable sources.

Despite higher upfront costs, today’s EVs are actually less expensive than gas-powered cars due to their greater energy efficiency and many fewer moving parts. An EV owner can expect to save US$6,000-$10,000 over the car’s lifetime versus a comparable conventional car. Large companies including UPS, FedEx, Amazon and Walmart are already switching to electric delivery vehicles to save money on fuel and maintenance.

All this will be good news for the climate – but only if the electricity to power EVs comes from low-carbon sources such as solar, tidal, geothermal and wind. (Nuclear is also low-carbon, but expensive and politically problematic.) Since our current power grid relies on fossil fuels for about 60% of its generating capacity, that’s a tall order.

To achieve maximal climate benefits, the electric grid won’t just have to supply all the cars that once used fossil fuels. Simultaneously, it will also need to meet rising demand from other fossil fuel switchovers, such as electric water heaters, heat pumps and stoves to replace the millions of similar appliances currently fueled by fossil natural gas.

The infrastructure bill

The 2020 Net-Zero America study from Princeton University estimates that engineering, building and supplying a low-carbon grid that could displace most fossil fuel uses would require an investment of around $600 billion by 2030.

The infrastructure bill now being debated in Congress was originally designed to get partway to that goal. It initially included $157 billion for EVs and $82 billion for power grid upgrades. In addition, $363 billion in clean energy tax credits would have supported low-carbon electric power sources, along with energy storage to provide backup power during periods of high demand or reduced output from renewables. During negotiations, however, the Senate dropped the clean energy credits altogether and slashed EV funding by over 90%.

Of the $15 billion that remains for electric vehicles, $2.5 billion would purchase electric school buses, while a proposed EV charging network of some 500,000 stations would get $7.5 billion – about half the amount needed, according to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

As for the power grid, the infrastructure bill does include about $27 billion in direct funding and loans to improve grid reliability and climate resilience. It would also create a Grid Development Authority under the U.S. Department of Energy, charged with developing a national grid capable of moving renewable energy throughout the country.

The infrastructure bill may be further modified by the House before it reaches President Joe Biden’s desk, but many of the elements that were dropped have been added to another bill that’s headed for the House: the $3.5 trillion budget plan.

As agreed to by Senate Democrats, that plan incorporates many of the Biden administration’s climate proposals, including tax credits for solar, wind and electric vehicles; a carbon tax on imports; and requirements for utilities to increase the amount of renewables in their energy mix. Senators can approve the budget by simple majority vote during “reconciliation,” though by then it will almost certainly have been trimmed again.

[Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

Overall, the bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like a small but genuine down payment on a more climate-friendly transport sector and electric power grid, all of which will take years to build out.

But to claim global leadership in avoiding the worst potential effects of climate change, the U.S. will need at least the much larger commitment promised in the Democrats’ budget plan.

Like an electric car, that commitment will seem expensive upfront. But as the recent IPCC report reminds us, over the long term, the potential savings from avoided climate risks like droughts, floods, wildfires, deadly heat waves and sea level rise would be far, far larger.The Conversation

Paul N. Edwards, William J. Perry Fellow in International Security, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

After a century, no more #coal burning in downtown #ColoradoSprings. But what comes next? — @BigPivots

Martin Drake Coal Plant Colorado Springs. The coal plant in downtown Colorado Springs will be closed by 2023 and 7 gas-fired generators moved in to generate power until 2030. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From Big Pivots (Allen Best):

The Martin Drake Power Plant will burn its last load of coal this Friday, Aug. 27, ending more than a century of coal-burning near downtown Colorado Springs for electrical generation.

Closing of coal plants will become a regular thing in coming years. By decade’s end, only one plant, Comanche 3, is scheduled to remain in operation in Colorado, if at much reduced capacity. Even that limited use scenario remains in doubt.

What will replace the electricity generated by coal combustion in times when neither the wind blows nor the sun shines or—increasingly problematic—the dams that produce hydroelectric generation whither to dead pool?

The answers remain unclear. In the case of Colorado Springs, six natural gas-burning units have been erected at the power plant along Interstate 25. But as Colorado Springs Utilities has made clear, these units costing $100 million, are to be temporary, while energy technology and economics shift further.

Like Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission and other utilities, Colorado Springs continues to wait for technological and perhaps political breakthroughs.

Coal has been a mainstay for the last century. At first, the plants were small. A practiced eye can see those brick buildings erected along rivers in Fort Morgan and Fort Collins.

Cameo power plant circa 2010. Photo via Big Pivots

Then, coal plants became larger and then larger yet. Cameo Station, located along the Colorado River east of Grand Junction, had generating capacity of 73 megawatts when it went on line in the late 1950s. At Hayden, the two units that went on line in the ‘60s and ‘70s together have 441 megawatts of capacity. Then came the true behemoths at Craig and Pueblo, the former with 1,283 megawatts of generating capacity and the latter, called Comanche, with 1,410 megawatts.

Now, the closings have started. The smaller and older ones came first, and Cherokee, located north of downtown Denver, was converted from coal to burn natural gas. Hayden will be shut down by 2028 and Craig by 2030.

What a lot of change. In 2010, utilities were still very tentatively clinging to the past, unsure how much renewable generation they could absorb and still ensure your refrigerator had juice. Too, renewables were still expensive.

Then came 2014-2018, during which a profound shift occurred as wind generation became the lost cost resource, but solar prices rapidly declined, too, both aided by federal tax policies. And now coal has become the expensive fuel in almost all cases.

Utilities also were learning to integrate higher levels of renewables without sacrificing reliability. This was easier done in the middle of the night, when wind was blowing hard across Colorado’s eastern plains, but it applied to all hours of the day, too.

A hallmark of this progression came in December 2018, when Xcel Energy assembled Colorado’s political leaders, reporters and others at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to announce a goal worthy of national attention. The company said it would cut carbon emissions from its electrical generation 80% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.

Days later, directors of Platte River Power Authority—the power provider for Fort Collins, Longmont, Loveland and Estes Park—announced a 100% goal for 2030, if with a list of caveats.

Tri-State, Colorado’s second largest electrical distributor, with 18 member cooperatives from Cortez to Holyoke, in January 2020 announced closings that will allow it to reduce emissions 80%.

Colorado Springs is a microcosm of this expansion of more than a century and now rapid shrinking of coal-based electrical generation. Electricity was introduced into the town in the 1880s, a light bulb at the end of a dangling cord representing the ritziest convenience in the city, a later brochure said. It was enormously expensive to operate, 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Demand was small: a 60-kilowatt-generation plant met the needs of the 350 customers.

In 1968, when the Drake plant was dedicated, cost of electricity has declined to 2 cents per kilowatt hour, but demand had grown, as a brochure noted, to include everything from color TVs to electric blankets.

In June 2020, Colorado Springs Utilities announced that first Drake and then the Ray Nixon Plant, the latter a newer power plant, would close. The passage of Drake will be marked Friday afternoon with remarks by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Aram Benyamin, the chief executive of Colorado Springs Utilities since 2015.

Colorado Springs has been adding solar and wind generation but, at least during the coming decade, expects to remain reliant on natural gas. Natural gas in 2020 was responsible for 49% of electrical generation. In 2030, according to the municipal utility’s current plan, it will still be 42%. But on that, refer back to 2011 when some utilities were still theoretically planning to build more coal plants. It is, at this point, a placeholder.

What will it take to decarbonize electricity completely? Xcel says it believes it can hit 100% emissions-free energy by mid-century if the answers are not yet clear about that last 10% to 20%. Holy Cross Energy, the electrical cooperative serving Vail, Aspen, and Rifle areas, made its goal of 100% by 2030 unconditional.

Answers must be found. The vulnerability of the electrical grid was exposed by the windless days of February. That winter storm paralyzed Texas, exposing the fallacy of short cuts no matter what the fuel source. Colorado was not immune, though. Xcel Energy spent $600 million buying suddenly expensive natural gas. Tri-State spent only $11 million in extra costs, but turned to burning fuel oil when wind farms that produced an average of 51.2 megawatts of electricity fell to just 0.9 megawatts.

Storage has become the Holy Grail of the 100% quests. Lithium-ion batteries, which have about a four-hour storage life, will be inadequate when the wind doesn’t blow several days in a row on the Eastern Plains.

A regional transmission organization that allows Colorado to use electricity being generated in California or Arizona or even wind from Iowa, might help a lot. Tri-State wants such an organization. So does Holy Cross Energy—and, it would appear, Colorado Springs Utilities. In 2021 Colorado legislators approved a bill that requires integration of the state’s utilities into such an organization within a decade. One energy attorney, Mark Detzsky, calls it the most important energy or climate bill among Colorado’s 30-plus bills adopted in the 2021.

Other storage technologies may deliver the answers. Xcel Energy says molten salt tops the list of storage technologies when it closes its coal units at Hayden in 2027 and 2028. It also is considering green hydrogen, which can use electricity—presumably from renewable sources—to create hydrogen from water (venting the oxygen into the atmosphere). That technology faces cost and other hurdles.

Tri-State has the backing of Colorado’s state government in seeking to make the power plant at Craig a demonstration site for research and development of green hydrogen, as I explained in some detail in a recent story. See: Will green hydrogen research at Craig be part of the answer to the big question?

As for Comanche 3, Colorado’s youngest coal plant, completed in 2010, and also its largest. Xcel Energy wants to keep it operating until 2040 at about a third of capacity or just seasonally. Pueblo and Pueblo County have also registered their support. They want the tax base.

But will a new energy storage technology make Comanche 3 obsolete? Maybe not, but that’s a bet I’d take.

Coyote Gulch’s excellent EV adventure 2021

Leaf charging at the Beau Jo’s charger in idaho Springs August 23, 2021.

I’m in Steamboat Springs for the Colorado Water Congress’ Summer Conference. I drove the Leaf over because there are now 2 DC Fast Charger installations in Middle Park: One in the Town of Fraser and one in the Town of Granby. Also, the free Level 2 chargers are still around in Kremmling for that boost over Rabbit Ears Pass.

Leaf at the Berthoud Pass summit August 23, 2021.
Leaf charging at the Town of Fraser August 23, 2021.
Leaf charging at the Kum & Go in Granby August 23, 2021.
Leaf charging at the Kremmling Town Park August 23, 2021.

An 80×30 Clean Electricity Standard: Carbon, Costs, and Health Benefits — Harvard Chan C-CHANGE/Clean Energy Futures #ActOnClimate

Here’s the release from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

Download the report

This report analyzes the energy, economic, environmental, and health outcomes of an illustrative clean energy standard (CES) design that reaches 80% clean electricity by 2030, and offers important information on the costs and benefits of such a policy.

The analysis is the first to map at a county scale the changes in air quality and related health benefits for the lower 48 states. It compares an 80×30 policy scenario to a range of alternative policies for reducing carbon from the energy sector and finds it is the top performer in terms of net climate benefits (climate benefits minus costs) and total health benefits. The analysis is also the first to look at the health impacts of projected air quality improvements by racial and ethnic groups.

The analyses in this brief were conducted over the last two years as part of the Clean Energy Futures project, an independent collaboration with researchers from Syracuse University; the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Georgia Institute of Technology; and Resources for the Future.

Key Takeaways
The 80×30 CES has the largest net benefits of the 8 policies examined
: The illustrative 80×30 CES has the largest estimated total and climate-related net benefits of other policies analyzed in the Clean Energy Futures project

Nationally, the estimated climate benefits of an 80×30 CES are large and outweigh the costs: Estimated climate benefits are $637 billion; estimated costs are $342 billion and include the cost of fuel, building new capital projects and retrofitting existing facilities, and operating energy facilities.

The additional health benefits from cleaner air would be immediate, substantial, and widespread.

  • Estimated 317,500 lives saved from 2020-2050 from reduced exposure to fine particulate matter and ozone
  • 9,200 premature deaths avoided in 2030 when the policy reaches 80% clean electricity
  • Estimated $1.13 trillion in health savings due to cleaner air between now and 2050
  • Air quality improvements occur in every state by 2030
  • Air quality improvements are projected to occur for all racial and ethnic groups. Nationally, non-Hispanic Black people are estimated to experience the largest reductions in average population-weighted pollution exposures.
  • Top Ten States for Premature Deaths Avoided in the Year 2030: Ohio (771), Texas (737), Pennsylvania (582), Illinois (529), Florida (463), North Carolina (453), Indiana (441), Tennessee (424), Michigan (396), Georgia (377)

    Authors and Clean Energy Futures Team

  • Charles Driscoll*, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Syracuse University
  • Kathy Fallon Lambert*, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Center for Climate Health, and the Global Environment (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE)
  • Peter Wilcoxen*, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
  • Armistead (Ted) Russell, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Dallas Burtraw, Resources for the Future
  • Maya Domeshek, Resources for the Future
  • Qasim Mehdi, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
  • Huizhong Shen, School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology
  • Petros Vasilakos, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • California is planning floating wind farms offshore to boost its power supply – here’s how they work — The Conversation


    Equinor’s Hywind Scotland became the world’s first floating wind farm in 2017.
    Øyvind Gravås/Woldcam via Equinor

    Matthew Lackner, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    Northern California has some of the strongest offshore winds in the U.S., with immense potential to produce clean energy. But it has a problem. Its continental shelf drops off quickly, making building traditional wind turbines directly on the seafloor costly if not impossible.

    Once water gets more than about 200 feet deep – roughly the height of an 18-story building – these “monopile” structures are pretty much out of the question.

    A solution has emerged that’s being tested in several locations around the world: making wind turbines that float. In fact, in California, where drought is putting pressure on the hydropower supply and fires have threatened electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, the state is moving forward on plans to develop the nation’s first floating offshore wind farms as we speak.

    So how do they work?

    Three main ways to float a turbine

    A floating wind turbine works just like other wind turbines – wind pushes on the blades, causing the rotor to turn, which drives a generator that creates electricity. But instead of having its tower embedded directly into the ground or the sea floor, a floating wind turbine sits on a platform with mooring lines, such as chains or ropes, that connect to anchors in the seabed below.

    These mooring lines hold the turbine in place against the wind and keep it connected to the cable that sends its electricity back to shore.

    Most of the stability is provided by the floating platform itself. The trick is to design the platform so the turbine doesn’t tip too far in strong winds or storms.

    An illustration of each in an ocean, showing how lines anchor it to the sea floor.
    Three of the common types of floating wind turbine platform.
    Josh Bauer/NREL

    There are three main types of platforms:

    • A spar buoy platform is a long hollow cylinder that extends downwards from the turbine tower. It floats vertically in deep water, weighted with ballast in the bottom of the cylinder to lower its center of gravity. It’s then anchored in place, but with slack lines that allow it to move with the water to avoid damage. Spar buoys have been used by the oil and gas industry for years for offshore operations.

    • Semi-submersible platforms have large floating hulls that spread out from the tower, also anchored to prevent drifting. Designers have been experimenting with multiple turbines on some of these hulls.

    • Tension leg platforms have smaller platforms with taut lines running straight to the floor below. These are lighter but more vulnerable to earthquakes or tsunamis because they rely more on the mooring lines and anchors for stability.

    Each platform must support the weight of the turbine and remain stable while the turbine operates. It can do this in part because the hollow platform, often made of large steel or concrete structures, provides buoyancy to support the turbine. Since some can be fully assembled in port and towed out for installation, they might be far cheaper than fixed-bottom structures, which requires specialty boats for installation on site.

    People stand next to a small wind turbine held by a crane. Just the base is three times higher than a human.
    The University of Maine has been experimenting with a small floating wind turbine, about one-eighth scale, on a semi-submersible platform. It plans to launch a full-scale version with corporate partners in 2023.
    AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

    Floating platforms can support wind turbines that can produce 10 megawatts or more of power – that’s similar in size to other offshore wind turbines and several times larger than the capacity of a typical onshore wind turbine you might see in a field.

    Why do we need floating turbines?

    Some of the strongest wind resources are away from shore in locations with hundreds of feet of water below, such as off the U.S. West Coast, the Great Lakes, the Mediterranean Sea, and the coast of Japan.

    In May 2021, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to open up parts of the West Coast, off central California’s Morro Bay and near the Oregon state line, for offshore wind power. The water there gets deep quickly, so any wind farm that is even a few miles from shore will require floating turbines. Newsom said the area could initially provide 4.6 gigawatts of clean energy, enough to power 1.6 million homes. That’s more than 100 times the total U.S. offshore wind power today.

    Map showing offshore wind potential
    Some of the strongest offshore wind power potential in the U.S. is in areas where the water is too deep for fixed turbines, including off the West Coast and offshore from Maine.
    NREL

    Globally, several full-scale demonstration projects are already operating in Europe and Asia. The Hywind Scotland project became the first commercial-scale offshore floating wind farm in 2017, with five 6-megawatt turbines supported by spar buoys designed by the Norwegian energy company Equinor.

    While floating offshore wind farms are becoming a commercial technology, there are still technical challenges that need to be solved. The platform motion may cause higher forces on the blades and tower, and more complicated and unsteady aerodynamics. Also, as water depths get very deep, the cost of the mooring lines, anchors, and electrical cabling may become very high, so cheaper but still reliable technologies will be needed.

    Expect to see more offshore turbines supported by floating structures in the near future.The Conversation

    Matthew Lackner, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Cities Confront #Climate Challenge: How to Move from Gas to Electricity? — YaleEnvironment360 #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From Yale Environment 360 (Jonathan Mingle):

    Ending the use of fossil fuels to heat homes and buildings is a key challenge for cities hoping to achieve net-zero emissions. Nowhere is that more evident than in Philadelphia, where technical and financial hurdles and a reluctant gas company stand in the way of decarbonization.

    In 1836, Philadelphians mostly used whale oil and candles to light their homes and businesses. That year, the newly formed Philadelphia Gas Works caused a stir when it lit 46 downtown street lamps with gas made from coal in its plant on the Schuylkill River. By the end of the Civil War, public thoroughfares and private dwellings in the core of most large Eastern cities were illuminated by gas, supplied through cast iron pipes buried beneath the busy streets — and the whale oil lighting industry was nearly dead.

    Philadelphia’s own pipe network has expanded over the past 185 years to encompass 6,000 miles of gas mains and service lines. But today, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) — the largest municipal gas utility in the country — is the incumbent business staring down existential threats, facing challenges from new technologies, upstart rivals, and a quickening 21st-century energy transition that aims to convert many buildings from gas to electricity.

    In recognition of these forces and the city’s own climate action plan, Philadelphia has commissioned a “diversification study” to find a new low-carbon business model for the nation’s oldest gas utility, which delivers natural gas to 510,000 customers.

    Earlier this year, Philadelphia announced a target of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “There’s just no way that can happen without PGW changing,” said Tom Shuster, clean energy program director of the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter, which advocates for wider building electrification. Gas sold by the utility is the single biggest source of the city’s climate-warming pollution, accounting for 22 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.

    Charting a path forward that ensures both PGW’s survival and the city’s carbon neutrality will be a heavy lift, many advocates acknowledge. The task is even more daunting when considered on a national scale. While many cities are adopting or considering rules that require new construction to be all-electric, the much thornier problem is how to get fossil fuels out of existing buildings, which account for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

    Of the country’s 120 million households, about 58 percent are heated primarily with natural gas. To zero out carbon emissions from those homes, all of their furnaces, water heaters, and other appliances will have to be fueled with “green molecules” (such as biogas, hydrogen, and synthetic gases) instead of fossil gas, or swapped out for heat pumps and other devices powered by renewable electricity.

    Several states have already begun formally planning their long-term transition away from natural gas. Last June, the attorney general of Massachusetts petitioned the state’s utility regulators to investigate how to transition away from natural gas. Spurred by their own climate action goals, California and New York have launched similar efforts. New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan has set a goal of electrifying 90 percent of buildings’ heating and cooling demand by 2050.

    The menu for building decarbonization includes heat pumps powered with renewable electricity, geothermal systems, hydrogen fuels, and biogas generated from organic waste. Some of these solutions are in the early stages of development and deployment. Air-source heat pumps are the most mature technology, with decades of use in parts of Europe and Japan, and in the U.S. South, where heat pumps make up more than 20 percent of building heating systems. A few gas utilities are experimenting with blending hydrogen into their gas mix and testing how appliances handle it, in the hopes that “green hydrogen,” created with renewable electricity, will help them wring the carbon out of their operations. And Eversource, New England’s largest energy utility, is partnering with Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit focused on cutting emissions from the building sector, to build an innovative pilot geothermal district heating and cooling system in the Boston area this summer.

    Students flip the switch to turn on rooftop solar installed on a rowhouse as part of the Solarize Philly program in 2018. JARED PIPER/PHLCOUNCIL via Yale Environment 360

    In any scenario, a massive transformation of the way we use energy in buildings will be required to meet ambitious city, state, and federal emissions targets. Perhaps nowhere are these challenges as stark as in older cities in the Northeast, which remain heavily reliant on natural gas for heating and have some of the oldest, least energy-efficient housing stock.

    In Philadelphia, overhauling PGW entails navigating a thicket of competing imperatives beyond cutting greenhouse gas emissions: plugging dangerous methane leaks, retaining or retraining the utility’s 1,600-strong workforce, and ensuring that the most vulnerable Philadelphians aren’t left carrying the burden of propping up an increasingly expensive gas grid.

    Even before the pandemic led to a recent spike in unpaid bills, many Philadelphians faced an energy affordability crisis. Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate of any major U.S. city; roughly one third of PGW’s customers are low-income. To be equitable, any transition for the utility must “make sure every last person reliant on natural gas has a way to keep warm in winter, cook their food, and heat their water,” said Elizabeth Marx, executive director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, which represents the interests of low-income utility customers. “If you’re talking about shifting away from a system that’s been built out with ratepayers for decades, you can’t shift away easily without leaving people behind.”

    As more affluent customers abandon gas to install heat pumps and other clean-energy upgrades with higher upfront costs, many advocates for a “just transition” worry that lower-income ratepayers will be left to foot the bill for maintaining PGW’s aging gas infrastructure.

    “What you want to avoid is the situation where you have to maintain and spend money on the whole system, even while you sell less gas,” said Mike Henchen, who leads the building decarbonization program at the energy thinktank RMI.

    Meanwhile, some of that maintenance can’t wait, for safety and environmental reasons. In December 2019, a leak from a 92-year-old gas main caused an explosion that killed two people and leveled five rowhouses in South Philadelphia. The methane in those leaks is also a potent climate-warming agent; a 2019 study that sampled air over Philadelphia and five other East Coast cities found methane levels 2.5 times higher than suggested by emissions inventories from the Environmental Protection Agency.

    “Gas utilities are in a difficult bind,” said Audrey Schulman, the founder and co-executive director of HEET, the nonprofit that initiated the Massachusetts geothermal project. “At the same time that they have to decarbonize, they have to replace these aging gas pipes.”

    The larger dilemma for Philadelphia’s officials — and for other municipal leaders around the country — is how long, and how much, to keep spending on gas infrastructure before “leapfrogging” to wider building electrification.

    When Philadelphia Gas Works applied for an increase in its base rate to the state’s Public Utility Commission last year, the Sierra Club intervened, claiming that spending on pipe maintenance beyond what’s required by immediate safety concerns is unwise. “You’re asking for money to replace this entire system,” said the Sierra Club’s Shuster, “but in doing so you are likely putting in infrastructure that will not see the end of its useful life before it’s taken offline.”

    The city commissioned the diversification study to address those kinds of tough tradeoffs. “There’s no clean silver bullet,” said Christine Knapp, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability. “It will probably wind up being a piecemeal strategy that gets us to our goals — a certain amount of renewable natural gas, geothermal, electrification, and weatherization, for example, that add up to having a bigger impact.”

    Philadelphia Gas Works did not respond to requests for comment. But in testimony at a 2019 City Council hearing about the proposed diversification study, a PGW official emphasized regulatory and legal limits on the utility’s ability to evolve beyond its narrow mission of delivering natural gas. Through its own direct advocacy and its membership in the American Gas Association, an industry trade group, the utility has opposed the updating of building codes that would have encouraged state and city governments to require more efficient appliances and electrification-ready wiring.

    In one of the paths being studied, PGW would keep its pipe-based system and simply add more low-carbon gas molecules to its fuel mix. For instance, SoCalGas, the nation’s largest gas utility, has heavily pushed the promise of wider use of biogas (also known as “renewable natural gas”) made from organic waste as a rationale for preserving and expanding gas infrastructure, and for resisting calls to ban the use of gas in new construction. Many other gas utilities have been promoting their nascent efforts to decarbonize by blending biogas and hydrogen into their natural gas supply.

    But that path would still mean pumping molecules of climate-warming methane through leak-prone pipes. And there are physical and financial limits on how much hydrogen and biogas could substitute for fossil gas. Various estimates peg the total potential supply of renewable natural gas at anywhere from 2 to 12 percent of total natural gas demand. Renewable natural gas and hydrogen are also still expensive fuels to manufacture.

    Several recent studies have found that fully electrifying buildings is a lower-cost way to decarbonize than going the “green molecules” route. In one, researchers estimated that the monthly cost of running a heat pump would range from $34 to $53, whereas running a gas furnace on renewable natural gas would cost $160 to $263. Heat pumps’ appeal to both homeowners and policymakers is on the rise even in the cold Northeast: Maine, for example, has a mandate to install 100,000 heat pumps in homes and businesses by 2025.

    But even if operating a heat pump is likely cheaper over the long run than firing a furnace with biogas, the upfront cost of buying and installing one — including upgrading wiring and circuit breakers to handle heavier loads — remains high relative to a conventional gas heater. Those costs are still well beyond what many Philadelphians can afford.

    One company is advancing a new way to overcome that hurdle. BlocPower is a Brooklyn-based startup that specializes in energy retrofits of large urban buildings, with a focus on converting affordable housing and multi-family buildings from fossil fuel heating to renewably powered heat pumps. With over 1,000 building retrofits in New York under its belt, BlocPower is expanding to cities across the country, including Los Angeles and Chicago. The company sees Philadelphia as fertile terrain.

    “Philadelphia has many pre-war-era walkups and multifamily buildings in dense areas that we deem to be very similar and applicable to the work we’ve been doing to date,” said Ian Harris, BlocPower’s business manager.

    Solar panels on a residential building near Philadelphia’s downtown. ARIELLA MARON via Yale Environment 360

    BlocPower began working with Philadelphia in 2014, participating in a multi-family housing pilot project led by the Philadelphia Energy Authority. This month it plans to launch BlocMaps Philly, a software tool that helps city planners and individual building owners model the potential for reducing both emissions and energy bills by installing air-source heat pumps and other systems, such as batteries and solar microgrids. Within the next 12 months, the company aims to complete 500 projects in Philadelphia.

    BlocPower manages every stage of the project, from design to installation, and offers building owners the option to lease the system. BlocPower’s model seeks to remove the traditional barriers to greening low-income urban housing, including the challenge of securing loans. The company uses algorithms to estimate a building’s potential energy savings, and then uses those projected savings to secure financing from institutions like the New York Green Bank and Goldman Sachs. It aims to demonstrate that investors can earn stable, long-term returns on investments in urban heat pumps, not unlike what they would expect from municipal infrastructure bonds.

    “We see a great opportunity to transition as many as people as possible off fossil fuels in Philadelphia,” said Harris.

    Others still see a role for pipes in the city’s energy future. This summer, Eversource Gas, the investor-owned private utility in the Boston area, will break ground on the first demonstration of HEET’s innovation. The nonprofit has developed a concept called the GeoMicroDistrict, which would link buildings on a given street or block into a networked geothermal energy system. The system is powered by ground-source heat pumps, extremely energy-efficient devices that use water as a medium for sharing thermal energy between buildings, sending heat where it’s needed and away from where it isn’t. The geothermal districts tap the constant temperature of the ground, and can themselves be further linked together into larger networks.

    The biggest upfront costs are associated with installing the system, including the drilling of shallow, six-inch-wide boreholes; after that, operating costs are low. Utilities like PGW could absorb those steep capital costs and spread them out over time and over their wide user base, taking advantage of economies of scale, said Zeyneb Magavi, the co-executive director of HEET. The geothermal pipes could be laid in the same rights-of-way already used for gas pipes. Geothermal systems could also preserve more jobs, she added, leveraging the expertise of utility workers, many of whom are trained to install the same kind of plastic pipes.

    “We have to work with the pieces we have,” said Magavi. “The fastest way forward is to flip utilities’ financing mechanisms and customer networks, all these pieces that we can redirect toward building a better energy system.”

    Whatever decarbonization path Philadelphia chooses, as a first step Mike Henchen of RMI would like to see PGW identify one segment of the city’s gas network — a neighborhood, a street, a discrete block of buildings — to shut off. “They can work to support every building served by that portion to convert to a carbon-free alternative to gas, and then decommission an actual pipe in the ground,” Henchen said. “Close the valve.”

    This kind of strategic abandonment, he argues, would be the most transformative step that PGW could take — one that would acknowledge that a smaller gas delivery system is needed in any likely scenario, and that would signal to city, state, and utility leaders around the country where the future is heading for the entire gas distribution industry. “If they could do that,” said Henchen, “that would really be ground-breaking.”

    Reporting for this story was made possible through a grant from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.

    Here are 8 easy ways to save money by going green — CNBC #ActOnClimate

    From CNBC (Greg Iacurci):

  • The U.S. has the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions of any other country, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
  • Americans can take easy steps to cut planet-warming emissions like carbon dioxide and simultaneously save money.
  • Efficient households can save $1,560 a year on natural gas and utility costs over a 50-year period, according to a University of Michigan analysis.
  • 1. Use LED lightbulbs

    LED lightbulbs use at least 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Households can save $75 on energy costs a year by swapping out just five of their most frequently used bulbs with Energy Star-certified LEDs, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

    (LED stands for “light-emitting diode.”)

    By 2027, widespread use could save more than a cumulative $30 billion at today’s electricity prices, the Energy Department said.

    Replacing all bulbs in a household would be the equivalent of removing roughly 5.3 million to 6.4 million cars from the road, according to an estimate from Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

    “The basic problem we have is often our default [choice] is not the best, and not necessarily the cheapest,” Hayhoe said. “It’s just the default.”

    (As a practical note: Choose LEDs between 2700 and 3000 kelvins to match the soft, yellow-white light of old bulbs; 4000K to 6500K bulbs will have a cooler or bluish light, according to the Consumer Federation.)

    2. Unplug devices

    Energy consumed by electronic devices in standby mode accounts for 5% to 10% of household energy use — adding up to an extra $100 a year, on average, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    The Center recommends unplugging devices when not in use or plugging them into a power strip and turning off the power strip.

    The Center recommends unplugging devices when not in use or plugging them into a power strip and turning off the power strip.

    3. Change the thermostat

    Households can reduce their heating and cooling bills by resetting their thermostats when asleep or away from home. A programmable thermostat does this automatically according to a pre-set schedule.

    Here’s the concept: Set the temperature lower in colder weather and higher in warmer weather, which uses less energy.

    This may be easier now that Americans who’d been working from home during the Covid pandemic are heading into the office more frequently.

    Households can save up to 10% a year by turning the thermostat 7°F to 10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, according to the Energy Department.

    Savings can total roughly $90 a year, according to Mel Hall-Crawford, director of energy programs at the Consumer Federation of America.

    4. Use cold water

    Running a dishwasher and washing machine with cold instead of hot or warm water could save on energy bills, according to environmental experts.

    “Heating water is one of the more expensive things that we do,” according to John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

    For example, washing clothes with cold water once a week can reduce a household’s emissions by over 70 pounds annually, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    That’s the equivalent of the emissions from driving the average passenger car 80 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Households can also consider using a drying rack instead of a drying machine, experts said. Drying is responsible for 71% of the electricity required to wash and dry a load of clothes, according to an estimate from the Sustainability Consortium.

    Individuals can also ensure a dishwasher is full before running it, and even setting a timer in the shower to avoid overuse of hot water, experts said.

    5. Cut down on plastic

    Replacing single-use plastic with reusable alternatives has become easier than ever for households, said Eberhardt of the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Consumers can replace Ziploc bags with silicon bags; Saran wrap with beeswax wrap; plastic water bottles with reusable bottles or a water filter; and plastic straws for portable, reusable ones, experts said.

    (The same applies for single-use, non-plastic items like paper towels — which come wrapped in plastic and could be replaced with dish towels or sponges.)

    “You’re really cutting your weekly grocery costs and it’s better for the planet,” Eberhardt said.

    Top 10 sources of plastic pollution in our oceans.

    More than 95% of plastic packaging is made from fossil fuels, Hocevar said.

    And most isn’t recyclable — a commonly misunderstood fact about the plastic Americans toss in blue bins, he said. Even plastic that can be recycled is often only recycled once.

    It’s then burned or put in a landfill, both of which contribute to the release of planet-warming gases, he said.

    Buying non-perishable items in bulk is also generally cheaper and cuts down on plastic packaging, Hocevar added.

    6. Tweak your diet

    The food Americans eat can vary greatly in terms of its carbon footprint.

    Generally, eating a more plant-based diet and cutting red meat intake can be cheaper, more environmentally friendly and healthier — which could help cut long-term medical bills, experts said.

    “Diet is very personal and cultural,” Keoleian said. “But people should know they can save money and really reduce their carbon emissions.”

    For example, beef has about seven times the emissions of fish (farm-raised) and 10 times those of chicken according to some sources. The difference is even starker relative to plant-based foods and proteins — beef has been found to have a carbon footprint 230 times higher than nuts or root vegetables, for example.

    Storm clouds gather as cows graze at the USDA-ARS Central Plains Experimental Range near Nunn, Colo.
    Photo by David Augustine/USDA-ARS via the Fence Post

    Those emissions may come from sources like food production, transportation and packaging. Cows, for example, generate a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s much more potent than carbon.

    Families can consider “meatless Mondays,” for example, to reduce their consumption of red meat, Eberhardt said.

    About 1 in 4 Americans reported eating less meat (beef, pork or chicken) over the past year, according to a Gallup poll from early 2020. The environment was their No. 2 reason for doing so, behind health.

    Trade groups representing farmers and beef producers — the American Association of Meat Processors, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and North American Meat Institute — didn’t return CNBC’s requests for comment on this article.

    Jerry Bohn, a Kansas cattleman and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, recently pushed back on the notion of decreased consumption of red meat for Americans.

    “U.S. farmers and ranchers are the best in the world when it comes to producing safe, wholesome and sustainable high-quality beef for American families, and doing it with the smallest possible footprint and we’re committed to continuing on that path of improvement,” he said in April.

    Families should also try reducing the amount of food they throw away, Eberhardt said.

    About 30% to 40% of food produced in the U.S. isn’t consumed, with that waste largely on the consumer end — which then produces greenhouse gas as it decays, Eberhardt said. Her family creates a basic meal plan at beginning of every week to avoid buying excess food.

    7. Buy efficient appliances

    Consumers should replace old household appliances with energy-efficient options to help lower their electric bill.

    Those can be anything from refrigerators to dishwashers, microwaves and air conditioners. (Efficient machines will carry an Energy Star label.)

    This might be a longer-term decision for consumers — but doesn’t have to be.

    “Many people think you want to extend the service life [of the old appliance] to save money,” Keoleian said. “You’re actually hurting your wallet by doing that because they are so inefficient.”

    Refrigerators are among the largest users of household appliance energy, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems. (In 2015, the average household emissions from refrigeration equaled about 820 miles of driving.)

    But switching other appliances could have a big difference, too. If all clothes dryers sold in the U.S. were Energy Star-certified, Americans could save more than $1.5 billion a year in utility costs and prevent emissions similar to about 2 million vehicles, according to Energy Star.

    Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging at the City of Thornton’s Infrastructure Maintenance Center August 31, 2019. Charging infrastructure partially paid for with a grant from the Colorado Energy Office.

    8. Change how you get around

    Consumers can also replace older cars with electric vehicles, for example — which may make sense especially for those who drive closer to home and don’t have “range anxiety” related to recharging.

    FuelEconomy.gov can help consumers identify and compare efficient vehicles.

    There are other, potentially easier steps consumers can take, too. For example, about a fifth of vehicle trips are shopping-related — but combining errands (“trip-chaining”) can help avoid unnecessary driving, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems.

    Even making sure tires are inflated properly can play a role. Fuel efficiency decreases 0.2% for each 1 pound-per-square-inch decrease, according to the Center.

    Carpooling or telecommuting once a week to cut down on driving (and associated costs) may help, too.

    American Lithium Obtains 82% Lithium Extraction Using Roasting and #Water Leaching on TLC Claystones #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    That’s how a Li-ion battery charges and discharges. Graphic credit: Volkswagen https://www.volkswagen-newsroom.com/en/stories/is-lithium-replaceable-4808

    Here’s the release from American Lithium:

    American Lithium Corp. (“American Lithium” or the “Company”) (TSX-V:LI | OTCQB: LIACF | Frankfurt:5LA1) is pleased to provide details of a recent breakthrough on process development at its Tonopah Lithium Claims Project (“TLC”) located close to Tonopah, Nevada.

    Highlights:

    • Ongoing process work at Hazen Research Inc. has shown that roasting TLC lithium bearing claystones with sulfate and chloride salts, followed by water leaching, results in 82% of lithium being extracted with a significantly lower impurity load as compared to acid leaching.
    • This alternative processing method will be investigated further at both Hazen Research Inc. in Golden, Colorado (“Hazen”) and at TECMMINE in Lima, Peru (“TECMMINE”).
    • Test work at Hazen has so far utilized non-upgraded TLC claystones. Additional work will also commence on mechanically upgraded TLC claystones with even better results anticipated.
    • Full roasting / water leaching results will be compared to results for sulfuric acid leaching to ascertain which method is best from an economic and environmental perspective.
    • TLC claystone mineralization continues to demonstrate exceptional ability to be concentrated and amenable to multiple process options with lithium carbonate having already been produced.
    • This latest round of process work is focused on optimizing flow-sheet design to deliver strong environmental and economic benefits to enable a robust Preliminary Economic Assessment.

    Dr. Laurence Stefan, COO of American Lithium, states, “The early success of roasting demonstrates once again the robust nature of the TLC lithium resource and its processing versatility. This new metallurgical approach opens the door widely to produce either lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide or both from the TLC project. The extremely low level of impurities in the leachate provides many advantages over the successful sulfuric acid leaching technique that has been the focus to date. We are excited to investigate the roasting route further and will be comparing the overall environmental and economic profiles of each route to make the best decision for the project moving forward.”

    American Lithium Provides TLC Process Update:

    The TLC project has previously shown that its Li-rich claystones are amenable to rapid sulfuric acid leaching, with lithium extraction in sulfate solution reaching 92% in 10 minutes, for some of the samples. While the flowsheet for sulfuric acid leaching has been successful and is being further optimized, an alternative roasting / water leaching technique has demonstrated early success and will be investigated with additional laboratory test work.

    Experiments performed at Hazen Research Inc. in Golden, Colorado, demonstrate that roasting the lithium bearing claystones at 900°C with sulfate and chloride salts (sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, and/or gypsum – calcium sulfate dihydrate) and then leaching in 60°C water for 2 hours, results in 82% of the lithium being extracted into aqueous solution. This roasting process followed by water leaching not only increased the final pH of the solution to 8.5, making the eventual final lithium carbonate or hydroxide precipitation much easier, but also produced an astonishingly low level of impurities, when compared to sulfuric acid leaching.

    Heavy elements such as iron, aluminum, and manganese in the leachate are below detection limit (<10 ppm), with magnesium extraction below 1% (54 ppm) and calcium extraction below 3% (500 ppm). As expected, sodium and potassium are leached in greater quantities, but still at manageable levels (Na 78%; K 52% extraction in aqueous solution). Test work at TECMMINE shows a good rubidium extraction of 63%. The high extraction of potassium and rubidium presents the opportunity to produce saleable by-products such as potash as fertilizer and rubidium hydroxide for industrial applications. The overall impurities level in the aqueous solution obtained to date, through roasting and water leaching, presents a legitimate alternative route to producing battery-grade lithium chemicals from TLC claystone mineralization.

    Additional test work is underway to build on these initial results and further investigate the roasting process-route at Hazen and at TECMMINE and the results will be fully compared to sulfuric acid leaching once sufficient data is compiled. American Lithium plans to compare the roasting option to acid leaching both in terms of capex, opex, environmental footprint and economic performance.

    As previously announced on March 23, 2021, TLC claystones can be upgraded by up to 66%, in terms of lithium grades, using hydrocyclones and centrifuges. The preliminary test work on roasting was performed on non-upgraded claystones and further progress and efficiencies are anticipated from testing upgraded samples.

    In parallel, hydrochloric acid leaching test work has started with TECMMINE. TECMMINE was instrumental in optimizing the leaching and precipitation of battery grade lithium from the Company’s high-grade Falchani project in Peru and will be a key player in the optimization of flowsheets for TLC.

    Dr. Laurence Stefan, COO of American Lithium, concluded “As we continue to optimize processes for the extraction of lithium from TLC claystone mineralization, we will be comparing overall environmental and economic performance for all relevant routes. American Lithium is fortunate that we have so many excellent options from which to produce battery grade lithium compounds from TLC which will enable us to select the best overall route for feasibility and to have other options if needed in the future. We currently anticipate finalizing this process this Fall.”

    2021 #COleg: #Colorado First State to Pass Labor-Backed #Electrification Policy — Natural Resources Defense Council

    Top view of an induction cooktop. By Erik1980, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1835324

    Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

    Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed SB21-246 [Electric Utility Promote Beneficial Electrification] today, making his state the first in the nation to pass an electrification policy with support from organized labor. The Colorado BlueGreen Alliance-backed legislation will help Coloradans upgrade to efficient electric appliances, furnaces, and water heaters that keep their bills low and air clean.

    “Colorado has done a great job setting up tools for building owners to make their homes and businesses more efficient and climate-friendly,” said BlueGreen Alliance Director of Colorado and State Economic Transition Policy Chris Markuson. “The Colorado Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, which allows homeowners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, is another great example of our state making it easy to upgrade. This bill will make efficient electric appliances even more affordable and help households and businesses connect with local qualified contractors to get the job done.”

    The Colorado BlueGreen Alliance unites 20+ labor unions and environmental organizations committed to creating clean energy jobs and preserving a healthy and livable climate. SB21-246, which was sponsored by Senator Stephen Fenberg and Representatives Alex Valdez and Meg Froelich, works toward these goals in 3 key ways:

  • Saving money: SB21-246 will direct utilities to create incentives for households and businesses to upgrade to efficient electric appliances that reduce their bills—especially critical support for low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes
  • Reducing air pollution: By choosing to upgrade their appliances, households and businesses can eliminate a major source of indoor air pollution that is uniquely harmful for children, the elderly, and people with asthma
  • Creating good jobs: When households and businesses take advantage of these new incentives, they will support local family-sustaining jobs at a time when the economy needs them the most
  • “Colorado union members are hard at work fitting Colorado homes and businesses for the climate-friendly, cost-saving technologies of the future,” said Colorado AFL-CIO Executive Director Dennis Dougherty. “Because this legislation ensures that Coloradans participating in new upgrade programs work with licensed contractors who adhere to strong workforce standards like good training programs and livable wages, we can create new union jobs and new work for our existing union members at the same time.”

    “The success of new climate-friendly technologies such as heat pumps and other heat transfer systems hinges on quality installation,” said Pipefitters Local 208 Business Manager Gary Arnold. “Pipefitters and plumbers have been helping Coloradans improve their household energy efficiency and reduce their utility bills for many years. This bill will help us bring our technical expertise to support even more homeowner investments, ensure optimal performance, and continue to guide the state in the transition to the clean energy economy.”

    “The transition to pollution-free buildings is a once-in-a-generation job creation opportunity for our members,” said IBEW Local 68 Business Manager Jeremy Ross. “As businesses and industry take advantage of new rebates and incentives to upgrade to modern and clean electric systems, they create demand for local, qualified electrical workers.”

    “Apprenticeship programs and living wages are two building blocks of a qualified local workforce,” said International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 9 Business Manager Dwayne Stephens. “With this legislation in place, businesses looking for efficient and electric heating, cooling, and ventilation systems can trust that we’ll have a qualified contractor on the job.”

    “Our members are ready to rebuild Colorado for a clean energy future,” said Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council Business Manager Jason Wardrip. “We’ve been equipping local homes and businesses with efficient electric appliances for a while now, and we feel confident that the new incentive programs and labor protections in this legislation will kick our work into high gear.”

    “Partnerships between clean energy advocates and organized labor are essential for bold climate action,” said NRDC Building Decarbonization Advocate Alejandra Mejia Cunningham. “Climate policy is job creation policy, and climate progress relies entirely on the workers who are swapping out our old appliances, improving our energy efficiency, and producing the homegrown clean energy we need to power our future. When we coordinate with our partners in organized labor to write worker protections right into the legislation—from guaranteeing family-sustaining wages and benefits to creating workforce development opportunities—we can make sure our transition to pollution-free homes and buildings best serves Colorado’s rapidly-growing clean energy workforce.”

    More information about this historic legislation is available here.

    [Natural] “Gas should be stopped in new developments…We have to learn to live in fully electric homes” — Norbert Klebl #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Photo credit: Geos Neighborhood

    From Colorado Public Radio (Sam Brasch):

    The Geos Neighborhood packs dense, energy-smart homes against a forested creek in Arvada. Some of its green design elements are obvious. Unlike hulking mansions nearby, the units are long and narrow, so large windows can soak up winter sunshine. Each roof boasts a solar array. A herd of goats even grazes a shared open space…

    Less noticeable is the complete lack of natural gas hookups. Klebl smiled as he opened the door to the utility closet in his townhome. Inside is an all-electric climate control system, which the Austrian-born engineer designed and perfected himself.

    “Gas should be stopped in new developments,” Klebl said. “We have to learn to live in fully electric homes.”

    Many energy experts have come to a similar conclusion. To meet international climate goals, a recent International Energy Agency report found almost all gas appliances must be replaced with electric alternatives. The thinking is electric stoves and water heaters can take advantage of renewable energy. Without rapid development of technologies like “renewable natural gas,” anything with a burner tip guarantees emissions.

    Klebl said the Geos Neighborhood shows the transition is possible, but some recent events at the housing project show it won’t be easy. A divorce forced Klebl to sell the 25-acre site last year, where he has only built 28 of 282 planned homes.

    The new developer has committed to carry out Klebl’s vision with one major exception. Despite objections from residents, the remaining units will likely include natural gas hookups.

    An All-Electric Community

    Jim Horan, a retired [fuel] cell researcher who lives in the Geos Neighborhood, said the concerns about natural gas hookups started after another resident spotted a worker with Xcel Energy. A conversation revealed the utility was looking for the best place to bring in gas lines.

    Residents and Klebl quickly sought answers from the new developer.

    Peak Development Group, a Denver-based housing developer, bought the land. In a press release last November, owner Chad Ellington said he planned “to build upon the project’s sustainability-driven vision” by building additional net-zero homes.

    A group of residents wrote Ellington a letter last May to express their frustration. In correspondence shared with CPR News, Ellington explained he had conducted an “exhaustive process” to survey the market for home builders. All required natural gas to be part of the development.

    He also noted the addition would not violate the design book used for the initial block of homes, which he had committed to follow. While it said the neighborhood should aspire to avoid fossil fuels, nothing in the standards forbids natural gas lines.

    “The very passionate existing residents were apparently misled by the prior developer about what are ‘requirements’ vs. ‘goals,” Ellington later wrote in an email to CPR News.

    Ellington added Dream Finders, a major national homebuilder, had been selected to build the remaining homes. Matt Childers, a vice president for the company’s Colorado division, declined to explain why the company had insisted on natural gas service but said it would include other green-building elements like solar panels and south-facing windows.

    Many of the residents aren’t convinced all builders would require new natural gas hookups. In the last few weeks, they have pushed Ellington to consider some smaller local home builders, but he said those companies lack the “financial capacity” to take on the project.

    Can natural gas be eased, not shoved, from buildings in #Colorado? — The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    State utility regulators study options

    Big Pivots

    In squeezing natural gas from the built environment, Colorado is unlikely to adopt hard mandates, as have been enacted by local governments in California and a few other states. But can Colorado figure out a gentler approach that achieves the same results?

    Members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission didn’t get any simple instructions along the lines of “just-add-water” during a meeting on May 20 with experts from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Regulatory Assistance Project, two national organizations engaged in the transition from natural gas.

    ”I am sorry I am not giving you a simple answer,” they were told at one point by Meghan Anderson of the Washington state-based Regulatory Assistance Project. “There are lot of things coming together.”

    That was in response to a question from Commissioner John Gavan. He had alluded to SB21-200, the bill submitted by Sen. Faith Winter and others that would give the state’s Air Quality Control Commission more authority to achieve greenhouse gas reductions through new regulations.

    Environmental groups have insisted that Colorado needs to move more rapidly in wringing out greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s economy. A 2019 law specified targets of 50% by 2030 and 90% by mid-century.

    Gov. Jared Polis has vowed to veto the bill if it lands on his desk. Despite running on a platform of 100% renewables, Polis argues for an approach that is not seen as heavy handed regulation. He’s not against prodding the market, as was evident in a legislative hearing on the same day as the PUC meeting. Will Toor, the director of the state energy office, testified in support of a bill that would steer state funding toward building materials with lower carbon emissions embedded in their production or extraction.

    “We have this raging battle going on in Colorado on that issue, do we do it through mandates or market forces?” Gavan said at the PUC session. “What do you see from around the country and the world?”

    Colorado most certainly needs both mandates and market forces, Christie Hicks, the lead counsel for energy markets and utility regulation with the Environmental Defense Fund, said in response to the question by Gavan. She emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability in a stakeholder processes with utilities and others.

    In Washington state, demand for natural gas has actually dropped, the result of improved energy efficiency, more stringent building codes, and deliberate efforts to displace fossil fuels in buildings with electricity.

    This house in Candelas, a development in Arvada, is among the 40,000 a year being constructed in Colorado, very nearly all of them connected to natural gas lines. Photo/Allen Best

    Colorado’s largest gas-distribution utility, Xcel Energy, said in a PUC filing that it expects a 1% annual growth in demand for natural gas for building use. Xcel, in a November position paper titled “Transitioning Natural Gas for a Low-Carbon Future,” also argued against too aggressively transitioning from natural gas to electricity, even though it will sell more electricity.

    For Colorado to meet its decarbonization targets, it must shut down coal plants and aggressively electrify transportation. More difficult yet will be the weaning of buildings from their dependence on natural gas—and, in some places, propane—for space heating, warming of water and appliances such as kitchen stoves.

    The PUC commissioners were told that natural gas combustion in buildings causes 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

    Eric Blank, the PUC chairman, asked the same question in a different way. Even before joining the PUC, he has been talking about the 40,000 to 50,000 housing units being built each year in Colorado along with perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 commercial units, virtually all with natural gas hookups.

    Even beyond what the PUC can do, he asked, do you have any advice about what Colorado can do as we begin shifting toward all-electric, particularly with deployment of incentives?

    Colorado very definitely is not California, he said, a reference to the natural gas bans in new construction by local governments in California, led by Berkeley beginning in 2019.

    “It’s just not how Colorado operates,” said Blank.

    Education will be foundational, answered Natalie Karas, also of the Environmental Defense Fund. She pointed to a website-based planning device created by a utility in New York that can instantly spit out the emissions associated with fuel decisions.

    And can the natural gas lines be repurposed, say to hydrogen? “We have a 50- or 60-year gas system, and to keep that system safe requires hundreds of millions of dollars of ongoing investment in coming months and years,” Blank pointed out. “Is there any clean energy value in those assets going forward in terms of using it for hydrogen or other clean energy molecules?”

    Blank got an indirect answer. “It’s all about meeting end uses,” said Megan Anderson of the Regulatory Assistance Project. The question, she said, is whether it’s good idea to make upgrades or are there better ways to meet customer needs.

    This is from Big Pivots, an e-journal that tracks the energy and water transitions in Colorado and beyond. To subscribe, go to http://BigPivots.com.

    PUC Commissioner Megan Gilman, who assembled the session, asked a central question about motivations and accountability. Current models used in Colorado and elsewhere reward investor-owned utilities with returns based on investments they make in energy generation and distribution. That gives utilities incentives to make investments that don’t necessarily align with climate goals. “That’s a fundamental problem,” she said.

    Hicks said the best example of using regulation to achieve broad societal goals can be found in the electric sector, where states have been nudging utilities firmly to abandon coal-fired generation in favor of those that cause less pollution.

    One technique is called performance-based ratemaking. Rates the privately-owned utilities are allowed to charge customers depend upon utilities achieving social goals. In this case, the allowed utility revenues would be tied to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Hicks also urged a wholistic view of energy systems, seeing natural gas along with electric—which, in a way, is exactly what the Xcel position document issued in November urged.

    The EDF’s Karas talked about the need for “rigorous analysis” of “every new piece of gas infrastructure being put into the ground. The experts all talked about the importance of planning.

    See also:

    Colorado’s debate about natural gas March 11, 2021

    Natural gas under the microscope October 16, 2020

    Colorado’s natural gas pivot July 31,2020

    Natural gas questions and tensions July 14, 2020

    Replacing natural gas in Denver July 8, 2020

    Cost and comfort emphasized instead of climate as natural gas lines stubbed March 25, 2020

    The future of energy illustrated by Basalt Vista October 19, 2019

    Also explored during the session was the question that Blank described as the “economic rock.” In short, how does this transition from natural gas in buildings occur across all economic sectors, not just among the well-heeled or, for that matter, not just in new homes and buildings?

    The Xcel paper in November also drew attention to this problem. The scenario is what if only those of most modest means, unable to retrofit their homes, are left holding the bag of the stranded asset and hence required to pay much higher cost.

    If there are no easy answers, the best equity will be borne of both well-crafted.

    #Colorado’s Untapped $7.5 Billion Economic Opportunity: Ambitious #Climate Policy — Forbes #ActOnClimate

    Projected GHG emissions by sector in the Colorado EPS BAU Scenario

    From Forbes (Silvio Marcacci):

    Colorado has some of the United States’ most ambitious climate goals, targeting 50% remissions reductions in 2030 and 90% emissions reductions by 2050. These goals are bolstered by sector-specific policies enacted in 2019 including legislation requiring the state’s dominant utility Xcel to cut emissions 80% by 2030, along with tax credits and partnerships to build charging stations and accelerate the zero-emission vehicle transition.

    But new research shows the state’s existing policies, excluding those that are planned but not enacted as part of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Roadmap, will only reduce emissions 18% by 2050 – falling far short of Colorado’s climate ambition.

    Colorado straddles one of the fastest-warming regions in the U.S. and climate impacts like record wildfires, dwindling snowpack, and severe drought are already harming its economy and communities. With less than a decade left to avoid locking in the worst climate damages, state policymakers must move quickly to cut emissions and transition to a clean energy economy.

    As debate intensifies around Colorado’s next steps on climate policy, new modeling from Energy Innovation and RMI shows implementing stronger policies, many of which are included as part of the state’s GHG Roadmap, can be a climate and economic boon. Ambitious decarbonization of the state’s electricity, transportation, industry, building, and land-use sectors can help limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius while adding more than 20,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity per year by 2030 – and up to 36,000 jobs and $7.5 billion annually by 2050.

    The time between rainfalls has become longer and the rains occurred more erratically in the Southwest during the last 50 years.. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

    Cheap clean energy empowers decarbonization – but policy still needed

    Colorado embodies the clean energy transition accelerating across the U.S. – a state where fossil fuels once underpinned energy supply and economic activity, but where fast-falling clean energy prices have made decarbonization the cheapest option.

    Wind energy has been cheaper than coal for years, and building new renewables now costs less than continuing to operate six of Colorado’s seven remaining coal plants. Plummeting battery prices have now made owning an electric vehicle cheaper for consumers compared to internal combustion engines, and living in an all-electric home presents thousands in savings on up-front costs and utility bills compared to fossil-fueled homes in Denver.

    Those favorable economics have made Colorado’s climate ambition possible, but the state is now embarking on the tougher task of determining how to achieve its emissions reductions goals..

    Colorado could reap billions in economic growth from its climate ambition

    So how can Colorado meet its climate action goals and build a clean energy economy? New modeling using the Colorado Energy Policy Simulator (EPS) developed by Energy Innovation and Colorado-based RMI outlines a policy package that can decarbonize the state’s economy and put it on a pathway to achieve the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommended target of limiting warming to 1.5°C – while generating sustainable economic growth. Some of these policies overlap with those outlined in the state’s GHG Roadmap.

    The free, open-source, peer-reviewed Colorado EPS empowers users to estimate climate and energy policy impacts on emissions, the economy, and public health through 2050 using publicly available data. All model assumptions, key data sources, and scenario development used by the EPS are documented online for full transparency. EPS models have been developed for nearly a dozen countries and several subnational regions, including California, Minnesota, Nevada, and Virginia. The Colorado EPS is one of at least 20 planned state-level EPS models being developed by EI and RMI…

    Fortunately, the Colorado EPS finds implementing stronger policies across the state’s electricity, transportation, buildings, industrial, land-use, and agricultural sectors can put it on a 1.5°C -compliant pathway that meets Colorado’s emissions reductions goals. The associated air pollution reductions would also prevent 350 deaths and more than 10,000 asthma attacks per year by 2030, and more than 1,400 deaths and nearly 44,000 asthma attacks per year by 2050 – even with a conservative estimate, these monetized health and social benefits reach $21 billion annually by 2050.

    This low-carbon transition would supercharge the state’s economy, generating more than 20,000 new jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity per year by 2030, and adding nearly 36,000 new jobs and more than $7.5 billion to the economy per year by 2050. These jobs would be created by building new solar and wind projects, retrofitting buildings, installing vehicle charging infrastructure, and more. Increased economic activity would come from new jobs paying wages 25% higher than the national media wage, as well as savings from reduced expenditures on volatile fossil fuel supplies.

    Projected changes in jobs relative to BAU in the 1.5°C Scenario

    A policy pathway for Colorado to achieve its climate goals

    The 1.5°C policy package introduced by the Colorado EPS incorporates all existing state policy that has been enacted into law, legally enforceable power plant retirements, improvements in building and transportation energy efficiency, and electric vehicle adoption; it then goes further to address the state’s unique emissions profile.

    While electricity and transportation lead emissions in most states, industry generates the largest percentage of emissions with 32 percent, primarily from oil and gas production. A mix of electrification, energy efficiency, hydrogen fuel switching, and methane leak reduction drive industrial emissions reductions under this 1.5°C Scenario. Several regulations have been proposed and legislation has been introduced in the state legislature to address these sectors, particularly methane leak reduction and beneficial electrification.

    Rapid decarbonization of the state’s electricity sector is foundational to reducing emissions across all other sectors as an increasingly clean grid powers electrification of demand from buildings, industry, and transportation. The 1.5°C Scenario implements an 80% clean electricity standard by 2030 which rises to 100 percent by 2035. This would expand Xcel’s 80% emissions reduction target to cover all state utilities, accelerate the target date from 2035, and make the target legally enforceable – in line with Biden administration efforts to implement an 80% by 2030 clean energy standard. Under this scenario battery storage would increase seven-fold over existing state targets, transmission capacity would double, and additional demand response capacity would increase grid flexibility and reliability.

    Colorado is already targeting a 40% reduction in transportation emissions by 2030, which would add 940,000 light-duty electric vehicles on the road. The 1.5°C Scenario would go even further, primarily by requiring all new passenger car and SUV sales be electric by 2035 and all new freight truck sales be electric by 2045. These goals align with ambitious zero-emission light-duty vehicle goals adopted by 10 states as well as the multi-state agreement targeting zero-emission medium- and heavy-vehicles signed by 15 states (including Colorado) and the District of Columbia, would add nearly 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2030, and ensure most on-road vehicles are electric by 2050.

    Buildings would be transitioned away from fossil fuels through increased efficiency targets for new buildings and deep efficiency retrofits of existing buildings, along with a sales standard requiring all new building equipment sales be fully electric by 2030 to shift gas heating and cooking equipment to highly efficient electric alternatives.

    This wedge chart aggregates some policy levers to improve figure readability; a full interactive wedge graph is available on the Colorado EPS

    Pathway to critical and formidable goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is narrow but brings huge benefits, according to IEA special report

    Here’s the release from the International Energy Agency:

    World’s first comprehensive energy roadmap shows government actions to rapidly boost clean energy and reduce fossil fuel use can create millions of jobs, lift economic growth and keep net zero in reach

    The world has a viable pathway to building a global energy sector with net-zero emissions in 2050, but it is narrow and requires an unprecedented transformation of how energy is produced, transported and used globally, the International Energy Agency said in a landmark special report released today.

    Climate pledges by governments to date – even if fully achieved – would fall well short of what is required to bring global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to net zero by 2050 and give the world an even chance of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C, according to the new report, Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector.

    The report is the world’s first comprehensive study of how to transition to a net zero energy system by 2050 while ensuring stable and affordable energy supplies, providing universal energy access, and enabling robust economic growth. It sets out a cost-effective and economically productive pathway, resulting in a clean, dynamic and resilient energy economy dominated by renewables like solar and wind instead of fossil fuels. The report also examines key uncertainties, such as the roles of bioenergy, carbon capture and behavioural changes in reaching net zero.

    “Our Roadmap shows the priority actions that are needed today to ensure the opportunity of net-zero emissions by 2050 – narrow but still achievable – is not lost. The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 °C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “The IEA’s pathway to this brighter future brings a historic surge in clean energy investment that creates millions of new jobs and lifts global economic growth. Moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation.”

    Building on the IEA’s unrivalled energy modelling tools and expertise, the Roadmap sets out more than 400 milestones to guide the global journey to net zero by 2050. These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects, and no further final investment decisions for new unabated coal plants. By 2035, there are no sales of new internal combustion engine passenger cars, and by 2040, the global electricity sector has already reached net-zero emissions.

    In the near term, the report describes a net zero pathway that requires the immediate and massive deployment of all available clean and efficient energy technologies, combined with a major global push to accelerate innovation. The pathway calls for annual additions of solar PV to reach 630 gigawatts by 2030, and those of wind power to reach 390 gigawatts. Together, this is four times the record level set in 2020. For solar PV, it is equivalent to installing the world’s current largest solar park roughly every day. A major worldwide push to increase energy efficiency is also an essential part of these efforts, resulting in the global rate of energy efficiency improvements averaging 4% a year through 2030 – about three times the average over the last two decades.

    Most of the global reductions in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 in the net zero pathway come from technologies readily available today. But in 2050, almost half the reductions come from technologies that are currently only at the demonstration or prototype phase. This demands that governments quickly increase and reprioritise their spending on research and development – as well as on demonstrating and deploying clean energy technologies – putting them at the core of energy and climate policy. Progress in the areas of advanced batteries, electrolysers for hydrogen, and direct air capture and storage can be particularly impactful.

    A transition of such scale and speed cannot be achieved without sustained support and participation from citizens, whose lives will be affected in multiple ways.

    “The clean energy transition is for and about people,” said Dr Birol. “Our Roadmap shows that the enormous challenge of rapidly transitioning to a net zero energy system is also a huge opportunity for our economies. The transition must be fair and inclusive, leaving nobody behind. We have to ensure that developing economies receive the financing and technological know-how they need to build out their energy systems to meet the needs of their expanding populations and economies in a sustainable way.”

    Providing electricity to around 785 million people who have no access to it and clean cooking solutions to 2.6 billion people who lack them is an integral part of the Roadmap’s net zero pathway. This costs around $40 billion a year, equal to around 1% of average annual energy sector investment. It also brings major health benefits through reductions in indoor air pollution, cutting the number of premature deaths by 2.5 million a year.

    Total annual energy investment surges to USD 5 trillion by 2030 in the net zero pathway, adding an extra 0.4 percentage points a year to global GDP growth, based on a joint analysis with the International Monetary Fund. The jump in private and government spending creates millions of jobs in clean energy, including energy efficiency, as well as in the engineering, manufacturing and construction industries. All of this puts global GDP 4% higher in 2030 than it would reach based on current trends.

    By 2050, the energy world looks completely different. Global energy demand is around 8% smaller than today, but it serves an economy more than twice as big and a population with 2 billion more people. Almost 90% of electricity generation comes from renewable sources, with wind and solar PV together accounting for almost 70%. Most of the remainder comes from nuclear power. Solar is the world’s single largest source of total energy supply. Fossil fuels fall from almost four-fifths of total energy supply today to slightly over one-fifth. Fossil fuels that remain are used in goods where the carbon is embodied in the product such as plastics, in facilities fitted with carbon capture, and in sectors where low-emissions technology options are scarce.

    “The pathway laid out in our Roadmap is global in scope, but each country will need to design its own strategy, taking into account its own specific circumstances,” said Dr Birol. “Plans need to reflect countries’ differing stages of economic development: in our pathway, advanced economies reach net zero before developing economies. The IEA stands ready to support governments in preparing their own national and regional roadmaps, to provide guidance and assistance in implementing them, and to promote international cooperation on accelerating the energy transition worldwide.”

    The special report is designed to inform the high-level negotiations that will take place at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention in Glasgow in November. It was requested as input to the negotiations by the UK government’s COP26 Presidency.

    “I welcome this report, which sets out a clear roadmap to net-zero emissions and shares many of the priorities we have set as the incoming COP Presidency – that we must act now to scale up clean technologies in all sectors and phase out both coal power and polluting vehicles in the coming decade,” said COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma. “I am encouraged that it underlines the great value of international collaboration, without which the transition to global net zero could be delayed by decades. Our first goal for the UK as COP26 Presidency is to put the world on a path to driving down emissions, until they reach net zero by the middle of this century.”

    New energy security challenges will emerge on the way to net zero by 2050 while longstanding ones will remain, even as the role of oil and gas diminishes. The contraction of oil and natural gas production will have far-reaching implications for all the countries and companies that produce these fuels. No new oil and natural gas fields are needed in the net zero pathway, and supplies become increasingly concentrated in a small number of low-cost producers. OPEC’s share of a much-reduced global oil supply grows from around 37% in recent years to 52% in 2050, a level higher than at any point in the history of oil markets.

    Growing energy security challenges that result from the increasing importance of electricity include the variability of supply from some renewables and cybersecurity risks. In addition, the rising dependence on critical minerals required for key clean energy technologies and infrastructure brings risks of price volatility and supply disruptions that could hinder the transition.

    “Since the IEA’s founding in 1974, one of its core missions has been to promote secure and affordable energy supplies to foster economic growth. This has remained a key concern of our Net Zero Roadmap,” Dr Birol said. “Governments need to create markets for investments in batteries, digital solutions and electricity grids that reward flexibility and enable adequate and reliable supplies of electricity. The rapidly growing role of critical minerals calls for new international mechanisms to ensure both the timely availability of supplies and sustainable production.”

    The full report is available for free on the IEA’s website along with an online interactive that highlights some of the key milestones in the pathway that must be achieved in the next three decades to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Click here to read the report.

    “Electric cars have no lag when you step on the accelerator, making highway entrances a sport instead of a nightmare” — The #Colorado Sun

    Leaf Byers Canyon August 21, 2017.

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    And the “coaches,” websites and dealers need to emphasize how much consumers’ annual operating costs will drop when they’re not paying $3 a gallon for gas, changing the oil every six months, and handling thousand-dollar repairs of combustion engines.

    Reliability and performance. Some of the EV-curious still seem to think, advocates say, that storage batteries spontaneously combust, or that the complex electronics are always going haywire, or that their relatively small vehicle will drive like a low-powered sewing machine. That’s where the marketing and education side need to double down on the lower costs of long-term maintenance in EVs, which have far-fewer moving engine parts than their gas cousins.

    Moravcsik and others like to emphasize the drivability of EVs — and not just the sportier Teslas. Even the smallest EV sedans and hatchbacks on the market have far-faster and more-responsive acceleration than a comparable gas engine. Electric cars have no lag when you step on the accelerator, making highway entrances a sport instead of a nightmare.