Say hello to Project Drawdown #Climate Solutions 101 #ActOnClimate

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Your climate solutions journey begins now. Filled with the latest need-to-know science and fascinating insights from global leaders in climate policy, research, investment, and beyond, this video series is a brain-shift toward a brighter climate reality.

Climate Solutions 101 is the world’s first major educational effort focused solely on solutions. Rather than rehashing well-known climate challenges, Project Drawdown centers game-changing climate action based on its own rigorous scientific research and analysis. This course, presented in video units and in-depth conversations, combines Project Drawdown’s trusted resources with the expertise of several inspiring voices from around the world. Climate solutions become attainable with increased access to free, science-based educational resources, elevated public discourse, and tangible examples of real-world action. Continue your climate solutions journey, today.

Guest essay: What Joe Manchin Cost Us: “Mr. Manchin’s grandchildren will grow up knowing that his legacy is #climate destruction” — The New York Times (Lean C. Stokes) #ActOnClimate

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

Click the link to read the essay on The New York Times website (Leah C. Stokes):

Over the last year and a half, I’ve dissected every remark I could find in the press from Senator Joe Manchin on climate change. With the fate of our planet hanging in the balance, his every utterance was of global significance. But his statements have been like a weather vane, blowing in every direction. It’s now clear that Mr. Manchin has wasted what little time this Congress had left to make real progress on the climate crisis.

Since early 2021, congressional Democrats and President Biden have worked relentlessly to negotiate a climate policy package. When Build Back Better passed the House last fall, it included $555 billion in clean energy and climate investments. After four decades of gridlock in Congress, the Democrats were poised to finally pass a major climate bill, with agreement from 49 senators. But yesterday, one man torched the deal, and with it the climate: Mr. Manchin.

By stringing his colleagues along, Mr. Manchin didn’t just waste legislators’ time. He also delayed crucial regulations that would cut carbon pollution. Wary of upsetting the delicate negotiations, the Biden administration has held back on using the full force of its executive authority on climate over the past 18 months, likely in hopes of securing legislation first.

The stakes of delay could not be higher. Last summer, while the climate negotiations dragged on, record-breaking heat waves killed hundreds of Americans. Hurricanes, wildfires and floods pummeled the country from coast to coast. Over the last 10 years, the largest climate and weather disasters have cost Americans more than a trillion dollars — far more than the Democrats had hoped to spend to stop the climate crisis. With each year we delay, the climate impacts keep growing. We do not have another month, let alone another year or decade, to wait for Mr. Manchin to negotiate in good faith.

The climate investments in the bill ranged from incentives for clean power like wind and solar, to support for electric vehicles. They were essential to meeting President Biden’s goal of cutting carbon pollution in half from its 2005 levels by 2030 — the United States’ contribution to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Congress’s failure to act means that, under the best case scenario with the policies we already have in place, we will only get 70 percent of the way there.

After months of stop-and-start discussions, with Mr. Manchin repeatedly walking away from the negotiations, Congress has largely run out of time. Democrats need to pass their reconciliation package this summer, and despite weeks of round-the-clock effort from Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and his team, Mr. Manchin has now refused to agree to vote for spending on climate. While he claimed on a West Virginia talk show on Friday that it wasn’t over, that “we’ve had good conversations, we’ve had good negotiations,” this is doublespeak; he simply doesn’t want to be held accountable for his actions. He has consistently said one thing and done another.

Mr. Manchin’s refusal to agree to climate investments will hurt the economy he claims he wants to protect. The package would have built domestic manufacturing, supporting more than 750,000 climate jobs annually. It would have also fought inflation, helping to make energy bills more affordable for everyday Americans. This is particularly ironic since Mr. Manchin said inflation was the chief reason he was uncomfortable with supporting tax incentives for clean energy right now.

Over the past year, Mr. Manchin has taken more money from the oil and gas industry than any other member of Congress — including every Republican — according to federal filings. A Times investigation found that he also personally profited from coal, making roughly $5 million between 2010 and 2020 — about three times his Senate salary. Coal has made Mr. Manchin a millionaire, even as it has poisoned the air his own constituents in West Virginia breathe.

As Upton Sinclair put it: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

But one thing I have never understood about Mr. Manchin is how he looks his grandchildren in the eye. While he may leave his descendants plenty of money, they will also inherit a broken planet. Like other young people, Mr. Manchin’s grandchildren will grow up knowing that his legacy is climate destruction.

Governor Polis Takes Additional Steps to Improve Air Quality for Coloradans

Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis urged the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and other state agencies to take additional steps to improve air quality for Coloradans.

In a letter to key leaders within his administration at the agency level, the Governor wrote: “Clean air is critical to the Colorado way of life. We value protecting our environment, ensuring environmental justice, and promoting better health for all Coloradans. This past legislative session we made substantial progress toward improving our air, including:

Wildfire smoke and ozone have been a daily blur for long range views along the Front Range this summer [2021]. Photo credit: Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline
  • A significant investment over three years to increase resources available to our Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) to right size and modernize the Division. Recent expansion in core responsibilities specifically related to the EPA Ozone non-attainment did not come with adequate resources. These investments now empower the Division to expand monitoring and emissions work, accelerate the transition to cleaner technologies across various industries, and to more thoroughly engage with communities across the state, particularly those most affected by air pollution.
  • West Grand School District electric school bus. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best
  • Hundreds of millions of dollars of state money to clean up our transportation system, including resources to position Colorado as a national leader in the electrification of our school bus fleet; substantial resources to decarbonize the industrial and aviation sectors above and beyond current and future greenhouse gas emissions rules; saving people money on transit with free and reduced-cost fares, and significant investments to reduce pollution from the buildings sector.
  • New plating at the Glenwood Springs water intake on Grizzly Creek was installed by the city to protect the system’s valve controls and screen before next spring’s [2021] snowmelt scours the Grizzly Creek burn zone and potentially clogs the creek with debris. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)
  • Expanded capabilities across the State to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to disasters such as wildfires, mudslides and flooding and other devastating impacts of climate change.”
  • The Governor acknowledged that CDPHE and the Air Quality Control Commission have an ambitious agenda over the next 12 months to establish new plans, and standards to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and reduce paperwork for Colorado businesses.

    The Governor also urged CDPHE and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to take steps to improve air permit modeling, the permitting process, and oil and gas emissions reporting, evaluate cumulative impacts, reduce emissions from heavy duty off-road engines, improve collaboration between COGCC and APCD, and provide greater access to air quality information for the public.

    A huge pivot for Xcel and #Colorado — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    Colorado’s largest electrical utility has halved its coal generation since 2005 and will achieve effectively zero by 2030. Surely this investment ranks as among the biggest, most important of the last century

    A cliché seems like a terrible way to begin a story that strives for deeper analysis of this milestone in Colorado history, but I’m not clever enough to come up with my own simile or metaphor, so here goes:

    Colorado’s reinvention of its energy system is like trying to rebuild an airplane in mid-air. Plans by Xcel Energy, by far the state’s largest utility, to revamp its electrical generation constitute the most compelling exhibit.

    Colorado has been flying a plane using technology and infrastructure from the 1970-1990s. The rebuilding has been underway for awhile now, particularly since 2016, after prices of wind, in particular, had plummeted, and utilities satisfied themselves that they could integrate renewables without endangering reliability.

    Now comes the giant stride. This coupled with new transmission could yield investment of up to $10 billion.

    I’d suggest that Colorado has had few singular rivals in the last 100 years in terms of investment in public and quasi-public infrastructure. The splurge of roadbuilding unleashed by the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 certainly surpasses this. I’d single out the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Arguably construction of DIA, too. Buy me a beer, and we can chew through this at length.

    But by whatever yardstick you choose, this is – and you knew I had to say this – a Big Pivot. This represents Colorado’s most muscular turn yet from centralized power generation from fossil fuel sources to more dispersed renewables.

    Click the image to go to Xcel’s project page and the interactive map.

    The landscape of eastern Colorado can be expected to look substantially different by the end of 2025. The plans — approved conceptually in a series of meetings during recent weeks by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission —will yield thousands and thousands of new wind turbines during the next few years scattered across eastern Colorado, likely massive amounts of solar, and game-changing amounts of storage. I can’t cite precise numbers, because they are yet to be worked out.

    More clear is the transmission needed for this farm-to-market delivery of renewable energy: up to 650 miles of high-strung wires looping around eastern Colorado in a project called Power Pathway. Also possible is a 90-mile extension from a substation north of Lamar to the Springfield area.

    Driving this hurried, gold rush-type of development in Colorado’s wind-rich regions is the state’s determination to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical generation during this decade. It aims to do this even as it displaces use of fossil fuels in transportation and for space and water heating in buildings.

    A hard deadline is imposed by the expiration of federal tax credits for wind and solar at the end of 2025.

    An Xcel representative, Amanda King, had testified to the importance of completing the first two Power Pathway transmission segments sooner rather than later. The PUC commissioners cited that testimony in their June 2 decision approving the transmission lines:

    “The company asserts that by having these segments in-service by the end of 2025, wind and solar developers will be able to interconnect resources prior to the expiration of the production tax credit and step-down of the investment tax credit, which would represent cost savings of approximately $300 million per (gigawatt) of interconnected wind capacity and $100 million per (gigawatt) of interconnected solar capacity, in net present value, to customers,” the decision said.

    “It’s a pretty amazing amount of infrastructure that needs to go into the ground in a really short time,” says one individual, a stakeholder in the PUC process, speaking on condition of confidentiality.

    Because of that exigency, a written decision is likely in July, no later than August. Appeals by Xcel or other stakeholders could delay the actual green light, but not for long.

    For some, this represents a triumph of arguments going back almost two decades.

    “It helps unleash the innovation we need to build the 21st century electrical system,” said Leslie Glustrom, who wears various hats but was speaking as a representative of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society the day I talked with her.

    She uses the metaphor of inheritance vs. income. In this case, fossil fuels are the inheritance. In the future we must live off the income of renewables.

    “If you were lucky enough to have a big inheritance you could buy three houses and five condos,” she said. Living off income poses a major challenge, she says, especially if you haven’t acquired the skills you need.

    “We can do it,” she adds, “especially if we are better at matching our demands to the times when we have an abundance of wind and solar.”

    Risk is inherent in this process of transition. But risk cuts both ways, as pointed out by Gwen Farnsworth, senior policy advisor for Western Resource Advocates. The PUC deliberations are focused on how to evaluate those risks of relying upon fossil fuel generation in terms of system reliability and climate change. The commission, she says, is “pushing Xcel so that its future resources are cleaner, more flexible and more reliable.”

    With this triumph also comes anxiety. The three commissioners used the word “uncertainty” maybe a dozen times when they deliberated during a long afternoon on June 10.

    Eric Blank. Photo via Big Pivots

    “We are making decisions about billions of dollars of investments under conditions that may have unprecedented uncertainty,” said Eric Blank, the chair, while mentioning climate change, inflationary pressures, rising labor costs, and supply chain disruptions.

    Renewables won’t be the steal they were in 2018. Demand has grown. This is the gold rush. California alone wants to add 8,000 megawatts of renewable generation.

    Closely related is the growing concern about “resource adequacy” mentioned by Commissioner Megan Gilman and also Commissioner John Gavan. Can Xcel keep the air conditioners on during a really, really hot day—or, as in February 2021, on a very cold day?

    After, I talked with Jeffrey Ackermann, the chair of the PUC for four years prior to Blank, to get his big-picture assessment of what this represents.

    “I think everyone – regulators and utilities, but stakeholders, too – are eager to move forward while also realizing that you can’t get it mostly right. It has to be 100% right.”

    Ackermann was referring to the greater complexity of the electrical grid being assembled with its more diverse resources and greater interplay between utilities and consumers. The stakes have also elevated.

    Jeffrey Ackermann. Photo via Big Pivots

    Overlay that onto the burgeoning Western markets that are still taking shape, which provokes new questions about resource adequacy and reserve margins. What if the interconnected utilities from Montana to New Mexico get struck by a heat wave at the same time?

    In the PUC handling of this complex case, Ackermann commends his successor, Blank.

    “I like how this chairman has sequenced the conversation,” he said. “It affirms the complexity of this and also the uncertainty. At the same time it doesn’t shy away from realizing that some tough decisions need to be made now if you want to achieve 2030 goals and beyond. It’s a tough balance.”

    Ron Lehr, who chaired the PUC beginning in 1983, concedes the complexity, acknowledges the uncertainty – although pointing out that in 1983, interest rates stood at 18%. (I can confirm; I was suffocating that year, paying 21% interest on my loan for a purchase of a trailer in Granby).

    Colorado’s planning process, says Lehr, deserves credit. For outsiders, it’s maddeningly complex and anything but transparent. Even those deeply engaged in the process sometimes get frustrated with the filing system at the PUC. Joe “Schmo,” public citizen? Fuggedaboutit.

    Despite these shortcomings, Lehr argues the process itself has been very effective and has improved over time. It creates a forum for diverse voices to exchange ideas.

    That process yields some crackpot ideas, he said, “but you weed through them. Then you can diversify your thinking and create a lower-risk template that can attract investment from the private sector.”

    Colorado’s process, he added, has drawn national attention for yielding lots of bids for electrical generation — and lower prices.

    “The more inclusive and integrated our planning and the more far-sighted the planning, the better we can handle the uncertainty,” he told me.

    The story about moving on from coal is the easy story here, but Lehr thinks a side story – about the impacts of Winter Storm Uri on natural gas prices in Colorado — will move the needle past natural gas, too.

    “Gas is a bankrupt long-term strategy. You don’t have it when you need it.”

    Back to the metaphor of rebuilding the airplane in mid-flight. It was given to me by Mike Kruger, the chief executive of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, and in a far more colorful way than I’ve articulated here.

    We wouldn’t be remodeling this plane in flight if it wasn’t necessary, he says. Yes, uncertainties exist, and likely new uncertainties will become apparent. But the status quo of centralized fossil fuel generation isn’t working.

    “We have to try something.”

    Despite its cumbersome aspect, he believes Colorado’s legal structure and the stakeholders – Xcel but also the business, consumer, environmental, government, and other groups – have enough flexibility to respond rapidly if necessary.

    “If in two and a half years we find we missed the mark on something, I would be surprised if the industry and the environmental and labor groups and Xcel would not be able to figure how to correct it quickly.”

    Segments of wind turbine towers at the former Vestas (now CS Wind) factory in Pueblo with the smokestacks of Comanche Generating Station in the background, unit 3 on the left. Photo/Allen Best

    That brings up Colorado’s newest coal plant, not quite a dozen years old, and also its largest, at 750 megawatts: Comanche 3.

    (Some refuse to call it by that name in the belief that it besmirches tribal people. I couldn’t help note that almost invariably in the PUC discussions it was referred to as unit 3 or Pueblo unit 3.” Maybe Leslie Glustrom’s rants on this are being heard).

    When the plant was formally approved in 2005, Colorado’s first major wind farm, Colorado Green, located near Lamar, had just begun producing electricity. It was the future, not coal, but most utilities had not yet gotten that memo. Tri-State was about to start spending $100 million on a humongous coal plant downstream along the Arkansas River in Kansas—a decision from which it has not fully recovered. And, of course, Comanche 3 cost upwards of $1 billion in today’s dollars. Xcel still had humongous debt, a central issue in how soon it is retired.

    Coal’s rapid fall from favor and competitiveness is told in these numbers. The fuel produced 66% of Xcel’s electricity for Colorado retail and wholesale customers in 2005. Last year It had fallen by more than half, to 32%. It should be close to zero by 2030. (Xcel may still buy some power from the market that will come from coal plants).

    As Noah Long of the Natural Resources Defense Council pointed out in a May 25 posting, this electric resource plan being approved could put Xcel on track to achieve approximately 90% carbon emissions’ reductions as compared to 2005 when Comanche closes, no later than New Year’s Eve of 2030.

    Actually, the plant will likely close before then, perhaps long before.

    Operations of Comanche will be determined, in part, by a new filter, the social cost of carbon, as specified by new Colorado laws in the last several years.

    Another element of the plan being approved by the PUC will create a performance-incentive mechanism (PIM, in the acronym-heavy soup of PUC discussions) to give Xcel financial incentives to steer the plant with decarbonization goals in mind.

    The PUC commissioners are going beyond the settlement agreement submitted to them in May by Xcel and the various stakeholder groups. At the suggestion of Blank, the commissioners plan to adopt an additional review governing operations and management that is to be tripped if another major investment is needed to continue operations of the plant.

    At issue is how much money will be poured into propping up what one person close to these proceedings described as a “dog.” The analogy is to a car. At what point do you just walk away from it?

    “Five years down the road we may have another turbine-bearing outage, and it just isn’t worth it,” said Commissioner Gavan, alluding to the cause of the most recent outage that has had “Pueblo unit 3” off-line for most of 2022 (it’s back in operation now). It was also off-line for most of 2020.

    It seemingly has been cursed with problems since it began operations in the summer of 2010. The latest evidence was the deaths of two men in a slide of coal outside the plant on June 5. Their bodies were found under about 60 feet of coal.

    A sharper definition of the closing should come into view during a “Just Transition” proceeding that begins in 2024. That proceeding will consider another round of new generation, presumably renewables, likely with a preference for those that can be added to property tax rolls in Pueblo County, to compensate for the loss of property tax there as the coal plants get retired.

    The Pawnee Power Plant near Brush is to be converted to natural gas, but with retirement of some components of the coal-burning operation. Photo/Allen Best

    In all this, the PUC has much balancing to do. Xcel is ultimately responsible for reliability of electricity, the PUC in protecting the interests of ratepayers. At least in theory – and I believe in practice – both have an interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while Xcel has the additional motivation of delivering profits to investors.

    This gets into a complex area of cost-recovery. As Glustrom points out, “these are not insignificant numbers.” The Colorado Renewable Energy Society documented undepreciated assets of the Hayden coal units of somewhere around $70 million, the Pawnee plant at Brush of $170 million, Comanche 3 even more.

    Glustrom has long argued that state regulators allow Xcel and its investors unreasonably large returns on their investments. The authorized rate of return is 9.3%. If the utility’s decisions are risk free, then the return on equity should be below 5%, she says. Most everybody else is inclined to be more generous to Xcel than Glustrom.

    What almost certainly will come into play is a concept called securitization. It’s fundamentally a way for an investor-owned utility to shuffle its debt into lower-interest long-term bonds. This will be part of the process going forward and, once again, could alter the retirement date of Comanche 3.

    This area of cost recovery, almost certainly will be controversial – and might trigger an appeal by Xcel.

    Three of the many additional elements of this deserve mention.

    Pre-construction development

    One is the idea advanced by Blank to give Xcel some leeway to begin planning and incurring expenses for gas-fired generation, but also wind, solar, and storage – with the expectation that the company will be able to recoup costs short of actual commissioning construction of the assets. It’s called “pre-construction development assets.”

    This provision reflects the concern about the uncertainties and fluidities that Blank talked about in the June 10 meeting. This gives the company some rope to move forward but only so far.

    Yampa River. Photo credit: Yampa River
    Integrated Water Management Plan website

    Status of water

    Another new element never seen before in Colorado – and perhaps no other state, either – is a provision that Xcel must report the status of its water rights associated with its retiring coal plants. Think particularly of Hayden, although Xcel has an interest in the coal plants at Craig, too. And then there is Comanche 3.

    At first glance, this seems like a strange requirement. After all, Colorado state government already has a Division of Water Resources. Why does the PUC need to poke its nose into water?

    That was essentially Xcel’s argument. The PUC commissioners, though, hesitated not at all in embracing this requirement

    The idea had been advanced by Western Resource Advocates. WRA’s Ellen Howard Kutzer explains the expansive view here: Water is an essential component of the coal-fired steam plants built by the monopoly to create a public good, the production of electricity. As the coal plants go, the PUC should have some purview over the disposition of those assets. And Xcel has the staff that can provide the essential information in a way that is understandable to PUC staff.

    True, the state water agency gets the same information. But the water world gets weirdly wonky at times. So, Xcel’s water staff can translate it for non-water-wonks. It won’t be a major imposition.

    Five coal-burning units at Craig and Hayden now require water, but by 2030 those uses of Yampa River water will crease. Future uses remain unclear. 2020 photo/Allen Best

    But why does this information matter?

    Xcel likely has not decided, and certainly has not disclosed, what it will do at Hayden. It has talked about molten salt but has not dismissed the possibility for green hydrogen or other technologies that may – or may not – be ready for prime time. They can involve water.

    The way Western Resource Advocates sees the water, it should be considered as part of the just transition process for Yampa Valley communities. The water that is kept there will most benefit the local communities.

    The fear here is of water export, particularly to the Front Range. I dove deeply into this in late 2019 and early 2020 on behalf of Aspen Journalism. Geography matters entirely here. Exporting the water would require pumping it over two mountain ranges. That’s a big lift. That said, money has surfaced recently to reanimate the even bigger stretch of exporting water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range, so who knows.

    Just how much water is involved in water for the coal plants? I forget the precise volumes, but they are not as much as you might think, but neither were they insignificant. Importantly, they have relatively high seniority.

    WRA’s position, Howard Kutzer said, is that it’s not right to leave the utility to do with the water entirely what it pleases.

    “They used these public resources to create a public good, so ultimately — not now, but in the future — the PUC should be able to say whether transferring those water rights is in the public interest.”

    Level playing field for storage

    Finally, the PUC affirmed their support for the treatment of storage proposed by Colorado Solar and Storage.

    “Storage will be a critical path to getting the grid of the future that we want,” said Gilman at the June 10 meeting of the commissioners in endorsing the recommendation of the trade group.

    The critical issues here are of the value assigned to storage and the role of private operators in providing that storage as opposed to company-owned storage. The limitations of storage are well known. Lithium-ion batteries currently can store reserves for about four hours. Because of that, Xcel Energy wanted to assign a lower value, but others wanted a higher value. This outcome favors higher value and hence greater incentive for private developers to propose projects.

    Fred and Kay Lynn Hefley arranged to have a wind turbine erected on their farm near Walsh, in southeastern Colorado, to record the wind speeds and durations. 2021 photo/Allen Best

    Other elements of this plan being approved could deserve mention. An entire story could be written through the lens of Pueblo County (and maybe I will—later).

    Or through the lens of Akron, or Cope or Walsh, places on the eastern plains near which these new transmission lines will be draped, along with wind turbines. I hear diverse voices. Some resent the coming wind turbines, an intrusion into rural life to benefit city residents. Others – more commonly those who will directly benefit from lease payments – welcome the development of wind and solar resources.

    This won’t solve all the problems of eastern Colorado, where mechanization has left farmers arguably more prosperous but it’s the main street of towns ever more anemic. Many, like Yuma County, had larger populations 100 years ago than they do today. Several times in recent years, I’ve had young people from eastern Colorado say to me, “I just wish Kit Carson had two or three restaurants,” or “It would be nice if Lamar was just a bit bigger.”

    This won’t make that happen, but it will at least slow some of the erosion.

    What’s next in this transition? So many things are up in the air. Rules are being drawn up governing the minimized use of natural gas in buildings (and boy, is that stuff tedious).

    Then there will be the question of demand-side management and energy efficiency. Xcel is expected to submit its plans for that and for beneficial electrification of buildings on July 1. Expect a lot of push and pull here, as there has been over Comanche 3. The environmental community believes Xcel has vastly under-estimated what it can do in terms of reducing demand and shaping demand to better correspond with this vast fleet of renewables soon to take shape on Colorado’s High Plains.

    There’s good cause for high-five’s, but there will be little time to dawdle.

    The good #climate news of today (June 30, 2022): Even as SCOTUS deals blow to efforts to fight climate change, a Southwestern coal plant shuts halfway down — @LandDesk #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

    The San Juan Generating Station in mid-June of this year. The two middle units (#2 and #3) were shut down in 2017 to help the plant comply with air pollution limits. Unit #1 shut down today and #4 will shut down on Sept. 30 of this year. Jonathan P. Thompson photo.

    Click the link to read the article on The Land Desk website (Jonathan Thompson):

    By now I suspect most of you are aware of the bad news of the day when it comes to the federal government’s power to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. That power has been taken away by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, which is on a rampage lately.

    The case, West Virginia v. EPA, concerned the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in a manner that aimed at phasing out coal-fired power plants altogether — albeit not immediately and, some might say, not quickly enough. The Court ruled, 6-3, that only Congress can limit carbon dioxide emissions to a level that forces a nationwide transition away from coal, which is to say: Given that most of Congress is owned by corporations and so will do nothing, this ruling essentially gives corporations free rein to spew climate changing pollutants into the atmosphere. “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy,” noted Justice Elena Kagan in her dissent. “I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

    Yeah, same here. I haven’t delved too deeply into the decision and all of its intricacies yet. But, from what I can tell, we aren’t doomed entirely by this decision, alone. That’s because it leaves a lot of tools intact that can be used to limit other pollutants, aside from carbon dioxide, from coal power plant stacks. And because in most places coal is being phased out anyway, thanks to economics, to years of tenacious environmentalists’ efforts, to state-level regulations, and, in some cases, thanks to corporate shareholders actually pushing companies to clean up their act.

    This is where we get to today’s good news. Today (June 30) Public Service Company of New Mexico shut down one of two remaining units on the coal-burning San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. In three months, PNM will abandon the entire plant and, if all goes according to plan, it will be demolished, the accompanying mine will shut down and be reclaimed, and a major solar array will be constructed nearby to utilize the capacity on the high-voltage transmission lines that spoke out across the West from the Shiprock Substation.

    The smokestacks will cease emitting thousands of pounds of sulfur dioxide, mercury, arsenic, nitrogen oxides, and other harmful pollutants along with millions of tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide each year. The plant will stop gulping up more than 5 billion gallons of San Juan River water annually, leaving that water for other uses or to stay in the river for the fishes’ sake. And it will no longer dump millions of tons of toxic coal combustion waste in the mine and in settling ponds nearby. (The Four Corners Power Plant, a dozen miles away, will continue to burn coal and emit pollution).

    And, to help offset the economic pain from losing one of the region’s biggest employers and tax payers, PNM will pay the affected communities tens of millions of dollars to develop their economies and help and retrain workers.

    Yes, there is a hitch or two standing in the way of cleaner air and a diversified economy.

    For starters, an obscure company called Enchant Energy has teamed up with the City of Farmington in a long-shot bid to take over ownership of the plant and keep it running as is until it can scrape up $1.4 billion or more to install carbon capture equipment on the plant. It’s a long-shot for a number of reasons, most of which are outlined in a story I wrote for the Energy News Network. But to sum up the obstacles:

  • Enchant has not lined up investors or financing for the project, in part because the only thing making the project remotely economically feasible are federal tax credits for capturing carbon;
  • Enchant has not secured water rights, transmission capacity, a coal contract, or any of the permits it would need to continue running the plant, let alone construct carbon capture and sequestration infrastructure;
  • PNM doesn’t want to buy electricity from the plant, and even if it did, New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act wouldn’t allow it to due to emissions limits;
  • New Mexico’s environment department is about to implement a rule that would prohibit the plant from running without carbon capture starting Jan. 1 of next year;
  • While Enchant might be able to sell power from the plant in the near-term, since many utilities are facing generation crunches this summer and next summer, it’s unlikely that many utilities are going to be willing to purchase dirty coal power in the future;
  • The idea of installing carbon capture on aging coal plants in order to keep them running is insane. If you’re really concerned about preserving jobs and tax revenues, why not invest that $1.4 billion (probably more like $1.7 billion, at least) directly into the affected communities? Why spend so much damned money just to keep polluting? And yes, even if the carbon capture equipment were ever installed, the plant would continue to spew out other pollutants at the current rate. Carbon capture may have a place on cement plants, for example, or even natural gas plants. Not on coal plants.
  • Most environmentalists I’ve spoken to are optimistic about Enchant, which is to say they are pretty confident that their attempt to keep the plant running after PNM leaves is not going to fly.

    I hope they’re right. However, I can imagine a scenario in which Enchant and city leaders leverage the region’s deep ties to and reliance upon fossil fuels, along with the Biden administration’s apparent zeal for carbon capture, to lure federal subsidies to the project, maybe get some exemptions from state or federal agencies, and so forth, if only to keep dragging this scheme out for years. Maybe they’ll even switch gears and team up with the governor to create some sort of blue hydrogen production plant.

    But I’m not going to let those unlikely scenarios get me down. I’m going to celebrate. I’ll wait a few days for the air to clear, then I’ll go up to a favorite high spot of mine atop the McElmo Dome and look out onto the landscape. And so long as there’s no wildfire smoke blowing through, I should be able to see it more clearly than I ever have before. And it should only get better.

    Kit Carson Electric crosses finish line — @BigPivots

    Taos Mesa Solar Array June 3, 2022. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best:

    New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was among those who helped snip the ribbon at the Taos Mesa Solar Array on June 3.

    Altogether the cooperative now has 41 megawatts of solar capacity within its service territory in addition to 15 megawatts of battery storage.

    This is sufficient to meet the daytime needs of the 7,500 homes within the service territory of Kit Carson in northern New Mexico.

    Kit Carson set out to develop its solar capacity in 2002, long before solar was competitive. In 2016, though, directors as well as Luis Reyes Jr., the long-time chief executive, were clear about the future. They negotiated an exit fee of $37 million from wholesale provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission and realigned with a new wholesale provider, Guzman Energy.

    Kit Carson is scheduled to make its final payment to Tri-State on June 30.

    What is Kit Carson’s carbon mix? Reyes says he doesn’t know, and Guzman does not disclose that information.

    Inaugural #Wyoming #Climate Summit encourages local, collective action — WyoFile #ActOnClimate

    Bryan Shuman, University of Wyoming professor of paleohydrology, paleoclimatology and paleoecology, coaxes audience members to behave like molecules while explaining atmospheric CO2 concentration levels June 25 at the Lander Community and Convention Center. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    Click the link to read the article on the Wyofile website (Dustin Bleizeffer:

    Frustrated by state and federal inaction on climate change, community organizers have begun taking action in several Wyoming towns by showing the cost savings of energy efficiency measures and nudging municipal leaders toward small-scale renewable energy.

    It’s a start, but not enough, Lander resident Ariel Greene said. The conversation about how climate change is already transforming Wyoming landscapes and threatening communities must become more inclusive and prominent, he told attendees of the inaugural Wyoming Climate Summit.

    Signs posted at the inaugural Wyoming Climate Summit June 25 at the Lander Community and Convention Center. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    “The good news is that we have a fair idea about how to do this and much of the technology is available to do it,” said Greene, co-organizer of the summit. “It’s just that we’re not prioritizing the need to act now, collectively, and at speed and scale. We need many more people working on this problem.”

    About 200 people attended the Saturday event, organized by the Lander Climate Action Network. The summit featured discussions on initiating and sustaining local climate action, as well as strengthening ties between climate science and community sustainability through traditional Native American ecological knowledge.

    “[Traditional ecological knowledge] helps engage communities and science partnerships,” said Margaret Redsteer, an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington. “When people see that their own observations are being acknowledged and that their own observations aren’t just something of a fluke that they happen to see, it is really, really a powerful thing.”

    Turning frustration into action

    The same frustration with inaction spurred the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and regional scientists to study the current and projected impacts of climate change in and around Yellowstone National Park.

    Bryan Shuman, director of the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Center in Grand Teton Park co-authored the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment. The study, published in 2021, confirms critical changes already underway in six watersheds due to declining snowpack and warming temperatures. Using such information to encourage conversations at the local level is as important as the science itself, according to Shuman.

    “This is exactly why we did the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment — to facilitate discussions like this,” Shuman told Wyoming Climate Summit attendees.

    The hydrological and ecological changes that are already occurring in the region will only intensify, Shuman said. To what degree, however, depends on local policies and actions that must be part of a global response.

    “We’re not totally doomed here,” Shuman said, adding that the far range of global temperature modeling can be avoided. “We’re going to face change, that’s unquestionable. But we have a lot of choices before us as to how to approach [climate change]. I think the biggest uncertainty about the future isn’t the physics of the climate system — it is what are our choices going to mean.”

    Hope and local knowledge

    Cody Pitz, a coordinator for the Jackson chapter of the Sunrise Movement, said a lot of young people he talks with about climate change are frustrated to the point of giving up. However, messages he heard at the Wyoming Climate Summit gave him more hope.

    Wyoming Climate Summit attendees watch a demonstration of automation capabilities during the event’s electric vehicle car show June 25 in Lander. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    “It’s clear to me, based on politics and society, that we will not reach the levels [limiting global temperature rise] that a lot of us would like to, to have a more livable planet,” Pitz said. “But it’s clear to me that doing something is better than nothing, and I think that’s really motivating.”

    The climate conversation must include and prioritize Indigenous people — a realization that is gaining traction among those advocating for climate action, Redsteer said. Indigenous people all over the world have adapted to changing ecosystems, and their responses are rooted in community and living sustainably with what each landscape offers.

    “There’s nobody more resilient than a tribal community,” Redsteer said. “One of the things about Indigenous and local knowledge is it really is focused on living within the natural world and all of our relations to the ecosystems in the land and animals — all of the beings around us.”

    Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

    Battling #ClimateChange with #solar, #hydro and a shifting fleet Denver Water is cutting its carbon footprint, while preparing for a drier, hotter future — News on Tap #ActOnCLimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Denver Water website (Todd Hartman):

    Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

    Rising temperatures, long-term drought and less dependable snowpack are all making the job of providing water to 1.5 million people tougher.

    Denver Water’s administration building is powered by solar panels. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    In response, the utility is preparing for a future with a less consistent water supply for its customers, through innovations including greater efficiency, One Water and new storage projects such as the Gross Reservoir expansion.

    Learn more about how the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project makes us more resilient in the face of climate change with greater water security.

    The utility also is moving aggressively to cut its own carbon footprint, striving to meet goals for producing renewable energy and reducing dependence on energy sources tied directly to warming temperatures.

    In 2020, Denver Water met an organizational goal for “net zero” annual energy consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying it produced as much or more energy than it consumed, and that its energy was generated using carbon-free sources: hydropower and solar power.

    To be precise, the utility produced roughly 1.5 million more “kilowatt-hour equivalents” than it used in 2020.

    The utility’s solar power panels and hydropower generators produced enough clean energy to account for not only its electricity use but also the natural gas it uses for heat. Natural gas burned to supply heat is an energy category that’s not always factored into “net zero” calculations, but Denver Water made a point of including it to create a stretch goal for its effort.

    Denver Water’s solar panels generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. Photo credit: Denver Water

    “Several years earlier, we had set a goal to hit ‘net-zero’ as a benchmark for our sustainability efforts,” said Kate Taft, Denver Water’s sustainability manager. “Hitting that in 2020 was the result of a lot of focused, dedicated work across the organization and represents an important milestone in the utility’s long history of environmental progress.”

    Net-zero is a big deal in the era of climate change.

    Learn more about how Denver Water has leaned into the challenge of climate change and how its work to track emissions has been recognized by outside experts.

    Many major corporations are striving to attain the status, including companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors. Many companies and governments have set net-zero goals for 2030 and 2040, for example.

    Denver Water got there sooner. Though, to be sure, Denver Water benefits from — wait for it — water in this endeavor.

    Water spills from Williams Fork Reservoir in 2019. The power of moving water is a major source of emission-free electricity for Denver Water. Photo credit: Denver Water

    Hydroelectric power is generated at seven locations in Denver Water’s 4,000-square-mile collection area. That includes power generated at reservoirs but also at places like Roberts Tunnel, where the energy of water moving downhill through a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide creates electricity.

    All told, Denver Water’s hydropower operations generate about 65 million emission-free kilowatt-hours per year. That translates to about the amount of electricity consumed by 6,000 homes for a year.

    While Denver Water generated hydropower for decades and is continuing to look for additional opportunities to generate power from moving water, including at its Northwater Treatment Plant currently under construction near Golden, the addition of solar power to its renewable energy portfolio is more recent.

    At the utility’s newly redeveloped Operations Complex, completed in 2019, solar power panels on the roof of the Administration Building and atop parking structures generated more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2020. That offset the Administration Building’s use with more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours to spare.

    Crews install solar panels on top of Denver Water’s administration building in 2019. Photo credit: Denver Water

    That’s extra clean electricity that can go back into the grid for use by others.

    And in Denver Water’s new sustainability goals issued in 2021, the utility set a new target for itself: to increase its capacity to generate renewable energy by 1 megawatt and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from a 2015 baseline.

    How much is that 1 megawatt? Roughly, it would be like adding another solar array about the size of the one at the Operations Complex. Or, like adding the hydropower capacity that now exists at Strontia Springs Reservoir, situated 6 miles up Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver.

    Even as it works to add more green power, Denver Water may not always be able to meet its net-zero goal, at least in the short term.

    That’s because maintenance projects at times take hydroelectric facilities off-line or reduce their capacity. For example, for the next five years, Gross Reservoir will generate less power because its storage space for water will be cut by about one-third while a dam-raising project proceeds.

    Students learn about the hydroelectric plant at Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver. Hydroelectricity at Hillcrest and six other sites is key to the utility’s ability to meet its net zero energy goals. Photo credit: Denver Water

    However once that project is completed, and the capacity of the reservoir is tripled, the location is expected to be a greater source of clean energy, increasing its production capacity by nearly 15% compared to its capacity before the project.

    In 2021, too, Denver Water fell short of its goal due in part to work on the hydroelectric facility at Roberts Tunnel. Work to upgrade the hydro facility at the tunnel kicked off in 2019.

    Finally, while Denver Water focuses on offsetting electricity and heat generated by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, its net-zero calculations don’t currently count gasoline burned by its fleet vehicles or propane needed at some remote sites.

    “As we make a long-term shift to cleaner energy sources, there will be bumps in the road,” Taft said. “We still, inevitably, will depend on more traditional sources at times and in certain locations. But we are relentlessly pushing to generate more of our own green energy and cut emissions associated with natural gas, coal and vehicles.”

    Learn more about how Denver Water has constructed a low-energy heating and cooling system and its long history of environmental stewardship.

    As part of its effort to cut emissions, Denver Water is beginning the long transition to electric fleet vehicles.

    The utility already has six Ford F-150 hybrid trucks and hopes to test the use of some all-electric pickups in 2023, pending supply chain challenges.

    And as the utility continues to look at other electric vehicle options, it is partnering with analysts at Drive Clean Colorado and Xcel Energy’s Fleet Electrification Advisory Program to help guide the process.

    “Getting this right will take time and a constant push forward,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s chief administrative officer. “But it is the right thing to do. We are a water utility, and providing reliable, safe, clean water isn’t possible without protecting the natural environment from which it flows.”

    Donated 3.5-megawatt engine supports clean-energy #hydrogen fuel research at #Colorado State University

    The 3.5-megawatt turbine was donated to Colorado State University by San Diego-based Solar Turbines and will support hydrogen combustion research at the CSU Energy Institute.
    Photos by Allison Vitt.

    Click the link to read the release on the Colorado State University website (Allison Vitt):

    Colorado State University’s Energy Institute is revving up its hydrogen and natural gas research capabilities with the recent arrival of an industrial turbine generator slated to be installed at the Powerhouse Energy Campus. The acquisition positions CSU among just a handful of academic institutions across the U.S. that have similar engines for conducting large-scale research and testing.

    San Diego-based manufacturer Solar Turbines donated the turbine, which will be stationed in the Powerhouse’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory. Solar Turbines is a subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of diesel and natural gas engines.

    The turbine’s arrival at the Powerhouse this past spring marked the beginning of its new life in higher education research.

    Capable of producing 4,700 horsepower and 3.5 megawatts of electricity, the massive turbine will dwarf the existing research engines at CSU – and at nearly any other academic institution – by a long shot: In just one hour of runtime, the generator could produce enough energy to power the average U.S. household for more than three months.

    “We have a track record of working with Caterpillar on large-scale energy solutions over several decades, and now this collaboration with Solar Turbines and the equipment they’ve provided will allow us to expand our work on clean turbine technology even further,” said Bryan Willson, Executive Director of the CSU Energy Institute.

    The Energy Institute’s 30-year history partnering with Caterpillar on engine research projects has resulted in numerous applied solutions for improving engines and decreasing emissions across industries, he said.

    “This new turbine will provide truly unparalleled access for faculty and students to advance their research on these critical greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies and develop solutions around combined hydrogen and natural gas power generation,” Willson said. “It will be an incredible addition to the facility and our research capabilities.”

    The turbine being delivered to the Powerhouse Energy Campus on April 4, 2022. Photo credit: Colorado State Universtiy

    Hydrogen combustion research
    Bret Windom, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is leading CSU’s team of researchers developing kinetic models of hydrogen combustion. This work is part of a larger four-year, $4.5 million U.S. Department of Energy project led by Solar Turbines to develop a retrofittable dry, low-emissions gas turbine combustion system that can run on 100% hydrogen as well as blends of hydrogen and natural gas. Researchers from University of California-Irvine, Energy Research Consultants, Ltd., and the Southwest Research Institute are also contributors to the project.

    “We’re currently in phase one of this project, where we’re developing combustion models and supporting computer-aided engineering of the combustor design,” Windom said.

    In collaboration with Solar Turbines, Windom’s team will also be studying the turbine’s potential to run on varying fuel blends of natural gas and hydrogen and what, if any, modifications need to be made to the equipment to account for the enhanced reactivity of hydrogen and its unique combustion behaviors. This research could play a key role in advancing hydrogen-powered turbine technology, work that could have scalable impacts on decarbonization in the industrial and power generation sectors, he said.

    “We have a track record of taking solutions from the laboratory and getting them into the field at-scale, and the addition of the turbine in our lab facility is going to allow us to do that now,” Windom said.

    For CSU student Miguel Valles Castro, the addition of the turbine will bring more than just new equipment into the lab; it will broaden opportunities for students to develop and apply their research skills in a real-world setting. Valles Castro is a mechanical engineering doctoral student, graduate research assistant and Cogen Renewable Energy Fellow working with Windom on internal combustion engine modeling.

    “The Energy Institute at CSU has many years of experience in internal combustion engines and other renewable energy devices to reduce emissions,” Valles Castro said. “The arrival of the turbine is exciting because it expands our areas of expertise.”

    Large differences among the recent increases in the cost of powering gasoline, diesel, and electric vehicles — Green Car Congress

    Leaf charging in Edwards September 30, 2021.

    Click the link to read the article on the Green Car Congress website (Michael Sivak). Here’s an excerpt:

    This post examines the recent changes in the costs of powering gasoline, diesel, and electric vehicles. The expectation was that the cost of electricity had recently increased much less than the costs of gasoline and diesel. The reason is that, in the United States, oil is used to generate less than 1% of electricity. Therefore, the recent jump in oil prices (because of the war in Ukraine), should have only a relatively small indirect effect on the cost of electricity.

    The raw data—the retail prices of regular gasoline, on-highway diesel, and residential electricity—came from the Energy Information Administration. The gasoline and diesel prices are already available through May 2022, while the electricity prices are currently available only through March 2022.

    The table below shows all available average monthly prices for 2022. Also shown are the calculated changes for each month compared with the January prices.

    Average monthly prices for 2022. Graphic credit: Michael Sivak

    The #Climate Fight Isn’t Lost. Here Are 10 Ways to Win — Rolling Stone Magazine #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Rolling Stone website (Jeff Goodell). Here’s an excerpt:

    The clock is running on the climate crisis, but we have the tools and knowledge — and the crickets — that we need

    The climate crisis is here, and heartbreak is all around us. The early promise of dramatic action from President Biden is sinking in the old mud bog of fossil-fuel politics. Meanwhile, despite 40 years of warnings from scientists and the decline in the cost of clean energy, carbon pollution is still increasing and the world is heating up as fast as ever. The final sentence of last February’s U.N.’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of that warming is stark and unequivocal: “Climate change is a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.” Or as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres put it after an IPCC report on the mitigation of climate change was released this month: “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

    […]

    1. Tax carbon.
    In February, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse took to the Senate floor for his 280th “Time to Wake Up!” speech about the climate crisis. The centerpiece of Whitehouse’s plan was the need for a tax on fossil fuels. It is an argument that speaks to a truism of economics: to make something scarce, tax it…

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

    2. Electrify everything.
    In the U.S. there are roughly 290 million cars and trucks, 70 million fossil-fueled furnaces, 60 million fossil-fueled water heaters, 20 million gas dryers, and 50 million gas stoves. What if all those were electrified? Saul Griffith, an Australian American engineer and author of Electrify: An Optimist’s Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future, thinks electrification can reduce 80 percent of U.S. emissions by 2035…

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

    3. Go local with solar.
    It’s now obvious: The future is solar on homes, solar on apartment buildings, solar on malls, solar on parking lots, solar on fast-food joints, burrito stands, and strip clubs. With the sun, small is beautiful. Wasted space becomes a platform for power generation. With solar, cost has always been a problem, but that is ending now as the price of solar panels has plummeted over the past decade. Nobody pretends that you are going to make steel from solar, or that it will be the best way to generate power in every situation,but it is clean and reliable and won’t go down in a blackout like the one in 2021 that left 11 millions Texans freezing in the dark for days and was responsible for as many as 700 deaths…

    Xcel Energy proposes to close two of its coal-fired generating units at Comanche, indicated by smokestacks at right. The stack at left, for the plant completed in 2010, provides energy for a portion of Aspen and for the Roaring Fork and Eagle valleys. In the foreground is the largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains at its opening. Photo/Allen Best

    4. Buy out coal plants.
    Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, responsible for 30 percent of global carbon emissions. The biggest coal burner is China, which consumes more coal than the rest of the world combined. Here in the U.S., coal is slowly being displaced by cheap gas, wind, and solar. But there are still 179 active coal plants, generating 20 percent of U.S. electricity. Shutting them down and replacing them with cleaner, cheaper energy is the fastest way to lower carbon emissions and slow the climate crisis. “The transition beyond coal is inevitable,” says Justin Guay, director for global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project. “But the timeline on which it happens isn’t.”

    […]

    Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

    5. Start telling the truth about the climate crisis.
    How much is that $2 million house on the beach going to be worth when there’s an octopus swimming through the living room? What’s going to happen to all those refineries on the Gulf Coast as the demand for oil plummets? Banks and corporations face huge financial risks as the age of climate disruption accelerates. One just-published report found around $343 billion in weather- and climate-related economic losses in 2021 alone, the third-costliest year on record. A 2019 study concluded that 215 of the world’s largest companies face nearly $1 trillion in climate-related risk as soon as 2024. Very little of this is disclosed in corporate financial reports. “The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks,” Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s nominee to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, wrote in The New York Times. “Climate change poses the next big threat.”

    […]

    Denver Water’s planned new administration building via the Denver Business Journal

    6. Build denser, fairer, more humane cities.
    Urban life is far gentler on the planet than suburban life. People who live in cities spend less time stuck in traffic in their SUVs; they have better access to local food; they live in buildings that are more efficient. But cities need a climate upgrade too: more bikes, better public transit, more green space…

    Bears Ears Protest in Salt Lake December 2, 2017. Photo credit: Mother Jones Magazine

    7. Get loud and hit them where it hurts.
    The biggest roadblock to climate action has always been the cowardice and complicity of our political leaders. For many, the lack of significant accomplishments at last year’s Glasgow climate talks and the failure of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda have been a brutal awakening. “Activists have become jaded because there’s been a lot of promises from politicians without a lot of action to back it up,” says Dana Fisher, an environmental-activism expert at the University of Maryland and author of American Resistance. “A lot of young people are looking at other tactics now.”

    […]

    Graphic credit: The Nature Conservancy

    8. Fund small-scale geo-engineering research.
    Maybe Dr. Evil wants to deliberately fuck with the Earth’s climate, but nobody else does. Nevertheless, it’s probably inevitable, given the risks we face. There are many potential forms of geoengineering, from brightening clouds to stabilizing glaciers, but the technology that gets the most attention is solar engineering, which amounts to scattering particles in the stratosphere to reflect away sunlight and cool the Earth. Scientists know it works because it’s essentially what volcanoes do (particles injected into the stratosphere from Mount Pinatubo, which erupted in 1991, cooled the planet 0.6 C for more than a year, until they rained out of the sky)…

    Deep-fried house crickets (Acheta domesticus) at a market in Thailand. By Takeaway – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26774492

    9. Eat crickets!
    America’s (and, increasingly, the world’s) appetite for meat is barbecuing the planet. Livestock eat up a lot of land, drive deforestation, and are carbon-intensive in their own right. Without reforming industrial agriculture and reducing meat consumption, it will be virtually impossible to limit warming to 2 C, much less 1.5 C…

    Protest against Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. Photo: Dio Cramer

    10. Fight and win the culture war.
    Much has been said about the failure of Big Media to cover the climate crisis. It’s too often pigeonholed as an environmental issue rather than a slow-rolling planet-wide catastrophe. Or it’s infused with “both-sidesism,” in which journalists are duped into the false idea that there is any real debate about the fundamentals of climate science. Or it’s just not discussed at all. When Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast late last summer, six of the biggest commercial TV networks in the U.S. — ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, and MSNBC — ran 774 stories about Ida, an analysis by the watchdog group Media Matters found. Only 34 of those stories mentioned climate change. Mark Hertsgaard, the executive director of Covering Climate Now, an initiative dedicated to improving climate reporting, calls it “media malpractice.”

    Air-source heat pumps at the home of Joe Smyth and Kristen Taddonio in Fraser, Colo. Photo/Joe Smyth

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    The coldest temperature this winter at the new home of Joe Smyth and Kristen Taddonio was 17 below. They live in Fraser, the Colorado town that used to get far, far colder.

    Still, that February night was cold enough to test the design and technologies employed in construction of the couple’s 1,176-square-foot house. They insulated carefully, of course, and have solar panels. Even after charging their electric car, their house produces more energy than it consumes.

    An air-source heat pump was central to their mission in creating a net-zero home, one gutted of emissions from fossil fuels. It extracts heat from outside, even on chilly nights, to warm the interior.

    The Mitsubishi model used at the Fraser house promises to deliver the necessary indoor heat even when outside temperatures dip to 13 below. To supplement the air-source heat pump should temperatures dive to 30 below, as was once common, the couple also installed electrical-resistance heating. It wasn’t needed.

    Colorado needs many more air-source heat pumps — and fewer carbon emissions from buildings — to meet its mid-century decarbonization target goals of 90%.

    Getting this right during housing construction costs less in the not-very-long term. Building permits for 48,200 housing units, both single-family and multi-family, were issued last year, according to the Colorado Business Economic Outlook. That’s like adding a new Greeley each year along with a few small towns.

    Retrofitting our older buildings is laborious and expensive. I know, because my house was built in 1889. You don’t swap out buildings the way you would computers or cars.

    Several bills working their way through the Colorado Legislature this spring would nudge Coloradans toward low- and no-carbon technologies. All cost more upfront, but save money, sometimes lots of it, over time, while reducing or eliminating emissions.

    Carrots would be offered by SB22-051 to those who purchase air- and ground-source heat pumps. Purchasers would be allowed income-tax exemptions of up to 10% of the purchase price.

    Other provisions in the bill approved by the House Energy and Environment Committee offer tax incentives for energy storage and buildings materials with low levels of embodied carbon.

    Christine Brinker, representing the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, testified that her family’s air-source heat pump paid for itself in six years because of lower energy costs. Air-source heat pumps help residents of Geos, a project in Arvada, to pay as little as $6 a month in energy costs.

    “It is just more efficient to move heat than to create heat,” said Rep. Mike Weissman, a Democrat from Louisville and a bill supporter. “I think we can do some good here by amending that pay-off time curve just a little bit. That’s something that we need to do to facilitate our transition” from fossil fuels.

    Air-source heat pumps can also move heat from inside buildings during summer, effectively becoming air conditioners. Even in Winter Park, real estate buyers expect air conditioning.

    The second bill, HB-1362, would require towns, cities, and counties to adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code before 2025. This latest code advances efficiency 8% to 9% compared to the 2018 iteration.

    Natural gas will still be allowed, but air-source heat pumps more efficiently meet the 2021 code’s elevated standards.

    The Colorado Municipal League objected to loss of local control. Two representatives of rural areas described it as onerous for small towns despite $3 million earmarked for training. Homebuilders argued that the advanced standards would make already expensive housing less affordable.

    Howard Geller, representing the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, cited a study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that found the latest code would indeed add $200 to the cost of an average mortgage in Colorado built to this latest code. Lower energy costs will more than recoup that extra cost, he said, even in the first year.

    Rep. Tracey Bernett, a Democrat from Longmont whose district includes nearly half the 1,084 homes destroyed by the Marshall Fire, said she sponsored the bill with full confidence it will help, not harm, her constituents.

    These bills both moved from the House committee on strictly party-line votes, Democrats in support. A third bill, HB22-1381, has bipartisan sponsors — and bipartisan support. It would allocate $20 million for grants to further geothermal development by tapping the year-round heat of 55 degrees found 8 to 10 feet below the surface.

    As with air-source heat pumps, sponsors said the market needs to be nudged to adopt technology that costs more upfront than installing natural gas infrastructure but pays off in the long term. “This is something we don’t do enough of,” said Rep. Hugh McKean, a Republican from Loveland, who is installing geothermal in a house he is constructing.

    “I really like this bill,” said Perry Will, a Republican from New Castle, citing the experiences of family members with the technology at Rulison and elsewhere.

    A sharper pivot for Xcel Energy — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Pawnee, a coal-burning plant near Brush, in northeastern Colorado, would be converted to natural gas no later than 2026, according to a proposal submitted to state regulators yesterday., It’s located a mile from where this writer and photographer emerged into the world. Photo/Allen Best

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    A settlement agreement proposes an earlier coal plant retirement and a way way to evaluate need for new natural gas plants. It also punts some key decisions.

    An agreement filed Tuesday with state regulators proposes a sharper, faster pivot by Colorado’s largest electrical utility from coal to renewables and alternative technologies.

    The settlement agreement filed by Xcel Energy and other parties calls for retirement of Comanche 3, the state’s youngest and most powerful coal plant, “no later than” Jan. 1, 2031. Retirement could actually occur sooner.

    As for new natural gas generation, the agreement calls for a new measuring stick: How cost-effective can the gas plant be if it operates only 25 years?

    This could potentially result in Xcel Energy reducing carbon emissions from its electrical generation 88% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. As of 2021 Xcel’s electrical generation in Colorado was 39% carbon free.

    But the proposal would also kick some major decisions down the road to 2024 and 2025. “The modeling and technologies need just a little more time to improve,” said Gwen Farnsworth, managing senior policy advisor in Colorado for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates.

    Among the items almost certain to be taken up in 2024 are questions of whether new programs and business models can be used to configure demand for electricity to better match supplies. For example, can batteries of electric cars be charged during the middle of night, when wind turbines in eastern Colorado most reliably whirl? Can peak demand be shaved more on hot summer afternoons? Such strategies and new technologies could reduce need for new generation, both fossil and renewables,

    Those decisions include when exactly Comanche 3 needs to close. When the $1 billion plant opened in 2010, it was projected to operate until 2070. It has had a troubled history, a largely unreliable source of electricity with massive amounts of debt remaining. The 750-megawatt plant has been idled – again – since January, with no certain date for reopening.

    Noting that lack of reliability, two of the three PUC commissioners in March indicated that they saw no good reason for the plant to remain operational beyond 2029.

    Xcel last year proposed continuing operations to 2040, then agreed to a 2034 closing. This moves up the no-later-than date to the end of 2030.

    “No-later-than is a key phrase, because it allows for flexibility and even improving the results of this settlement over time,” said Farnsworth. She said the accelerated retirement of Comanche 3 by just four years will save Xcel ratepayers up to $39 million.

    And having Comanche off-line this year has helped save money because otherwise production from wind farms and other renewable generation would have been curtailed.

    As for new natural gas, Xcel originally proposed 1,300 megawatts of “dispatchable” resources, meaning natural gas or other fossil fuels. Dispatchable resources can – at least in theory – be turned on quickly to meet demand. In practice, it’s more complicated. See Comanche 3.

    How much natural gas?

    Some of Xcel’s plans for natural gas remain. The coal-burning Pawnee Power Plant near Brush, about 90 miles northeast of Denver, is to be converted to natural gas no later than January 2026. Still in question is how much additional natural gas generation Xcel will acquire.

    Xcel could still propose new burn natural gas plants to go on line in 2030, for example, but they would have to cease producing emissions by 2050.

    But the settlement agreement also will result in new modeling that the Sierra Club’s Anna McDevitt says will allow battery storage coupled with renewable generation to better compete with natural gas in giving Xcel the confidence it can meet demands. Previous modeling used what the Sierra Club believes were flawed assumptions that favored natural gas.

    “There is much in the settlement that will result in less likelihood of building new gas plants,” she said.

    Xcel, in a presentation to investors in November 2021, estimated its Colorado division, would spend $9.9 billion from 2022 through 2026, not quite two-thirds for electric distribution and transmission but almost a quarter for natural gas.

    Another major component of the plan calls for Xcel to continue property tax payments to Pueblo and Pueblo County districts from 2031 through 2040, the previous retirement date.

    The proposal would have Xcel continue tax payments to Pueblo and Pueblo County until 2040.

    Holy Cross Energy, the electrical cooperative serving the Vail and Aspen areas, owns 8% of Comanche 3. That translates to a potential 60 megawatts of production.

    The agreement specifies that Holy Cross will be able to continue to use Xcel Energy’s transmission lines from eastern Colorado for an equal amount of electrical production, either from the resources owned by Holy Cross or from the new generating resources being brought on-line by Xcel in coming years.

    Xcel’s plans for new generation, to be determined by competitive bidding, are estimated to include 2,400 megawatts of new wind, 1,600 megawatts of large-scale solar, 400 megawatts of energy storage, and nearly 1,200 megawatts of distributed solar resources.

    “In a way, we are held harmless by the early retirement” of Comanche 3, said Bryan Hannegan, the chief executive of Holy Cross.

    Holy Cross is currently projected to pay off its portion of the Comanche 3 debt in 2042.

    Sedalia-based CORE Electric Cooperative, the state’s largest electrical cooperative, which serves Castle Rock and other suburban and exurban communities on the south flanks of metropolitan Denver, owns 25% of Comanche 3.

    Hannegan and many others credited Xcel with a major achievement in getting a diverse set of parties – Boulder, Pueblo and other cities, as well as labor and business groups, environmental organizations, and still others – to come to a compromise.

    Release of the agreement was accompanied by press releases from many organizations with a chorus of hosannahs.

    “This agreement is a significant step toward meeting Colorado’s climate goals,” said Will Toor, chief executive of the Colorado Energy Office. “We’re so proud to lead the charge on reducing carbon emissions in Colorado,” said Alice Jackson, president of Xcel’s Colorado division. The Natural Resources Defense Council’s Noah Long also saluted a future of “savings for Xcel Energy customers and cleaner skies for Colorado.”

    Farnsworth, of Western Resource Advocates, offered similar praise, but also pointed to a strong motivation: “I think the parties all made it possible because there’s a common understanding of the urgency of addressing climate change and also the urgency of moving this resource planning process forward in time to benefit from the federal tax credits for wind and solar.”
    That, she added, made everybody want to reach compromise and avoid litigation.

    The key word used by many was “flexible.”

    Forward movement, but…

    Not all were equally enthused. “Any date for shutting Pueblo unit 3 that isn’t 2022 is the wrong date,” said Leslie Glustrom of Boulder-based Clean Energy Action, referring to Comanche 3. “The climate crisis now clear to everyone.”

    The Colorado Renewable Energy Society policy committee members were miffed that the social cost of methane was not used in the agreement as they had advocated.

    “A big move forward, but there are pieces missing,” said the group’s Laurent Meillon. He charged that the plan still favors Xcel building generating facilities – that it can then use to justify higher rates to customers than necessary.

    CH4 trend: This graph shows globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites since 1983. Values for the last year are preliminary. (NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory)

    “Xcel is orienting itself toward the construction of unnecessary gas plants, thus maximizing its investments and profits, right before it becomes entirely too obvious that only renewables and efficiencies are worthy of more investments. A repeat of its profitable coal mistakes, despite the current early coal closures with decades left to amortize those stranded assets,” he wrote in an e-mail.

    CRES members, Glustrom and others say that Xcel must more aggressively pursue strategies that shave peak demands. Others involved in the agreement said they believe that those programs will become a central component of discussions in the middle of this decade. Xcel is beginning an update this summer of the thinking behind its programs.

    All in all, how might this settlement be seen in a broader context – say, the United States? Farnsworth offers what must be considered a hometown view but one worth considering.

    “Colorado might be on a smaller scale than some other states, but Xcel and this settlement are really on the leading edge.”

    Solar installation in the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Western Resource Advocates

    Click the link to read the release on the Western Resource Advocates website (
    Julianne Basinger):

    Western Resource Advocates signed on to a revised settlement agreement filed today in Xcel Energy’s Electric Resource and Clean Energy Plan proceeding before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The new settlement includes accelerated dates for retiring the Comanche 3 coal unit, helps avoid building unnecessary and potentially stranded new fossil gas generation, and establishes commitments to achieve interim carbon emission reductions in 2024 and 2027.

    “If approved, this settlement secures the next stage of Colorado’s energy transition, ensuring commitments from Xcel to reduce its harmful fossil-fuel emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Gwen Farnsworth, Western Resource Advocates’ managing senior policy advisor in Colorado. “The earlier date for retiring Comanche 3, plus cutting the assumed lifetime for any new fossil gas generation and establishing interim targets for reducing carbon emissions, will all help Colorado reach its climate goals. Important provisions also extend community assistance to the Pueblo community for 10 years and will help in the transition to new economic opportunities as the coal-fired Comanche unit closes.”

    These are all key improvements to the settlement WRA has advocated for during the commission proceeding on Xcel’s plan. WRA opposed a previous version of the settlement signed by other parties late last year. Specifically, the new settlement calls for Xcel to:

  • Retire Comanche 3 by January 1, 2031 — four years earlier than the original settlement, which will avoid an additional 3.5 million tons of carbon emissions compared to the original settlement filed in November and will cut toxic local air pollutants in Pueblo;
  • Commit to interim reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, with targets of a 50% reduction by 2024 and 65% by 2027, compared with the utility’s 2005 levels;
  • Cut the modeled lifetime for any new fossil gas generation to 25 years; and
  • Expand Xcel’s Just Transition Plan, by extending the community assistance benefits for Pueblo to 10 years.
  • The settlement overall will provide more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions reductions. Reducing these fossil-fuel emissions will help curb the harmful effects of climate change. The Comanche generating station is also responsible for over 80% of all toxic chemicals released into the surrounding community of Pueblo.

    Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    Several provisions in the revised settlement reduce the utility’s expected future reliance on fossil-fuel gas generation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reducing methane emissions from fossil-fuel gas is one of the biggest and fastest strategies for slowing climate change.

    The Xcel settlement today follows the utility’s February 2021 announcement of its Clean Energy Plan committing to achieve an 85% reduction in carbon emissions and 80% renewable energy generation by 2030, as well as 100% clean energy by 2050. A 2019 Colorado law requires Xcel to reduce its emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature also passed House Bill 1261, requiring the state to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    Home court for #Colorado #climate lawsuits — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Suncor refinery Commerce City. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    San Miguel County and Boulder lawsuits against two oil companies will be heard in Colorado. That helps. But these cases will still have an uphill struggle to prove damages that might seem obvious.

    Colorado has abundant evidence of destruction caused by the warming, and more volatile, climate. Wildfires, ever larger and more destructive, now happen year-round, including the ghastly Marshall Fire of late December and the much smaller fires of recent weeks. Rising temperatures have robbed flows from the Colorado River, from which Boulder and Boulder County get substantial amounts of water. Air conditioning has become more necessity than luxury.

    But can Boulder and other jurisdictions show harm from burning of fossil fuels — the primary cause of warming — in their climate liability lawsuits against oil companies?

    Marshall Fire December 30, 2021. Photo credit: Boulder County

    In 2018, Boulder (both the city and the county) as well as San Miguel County sued two oil giants, ExxonMobil and Suncor. These Colorado cases are among more than 20 climate lawsuits now in courts from Hawaii to Massachusetts. They’re the only cases from an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change — and after a recent legal victory, they could be among the first where substantive arguments are heard in court. (Only Honolulu’s case is on a faster track.)

    Despite all the evidence of climate destruction, the legal case will be challenging, according to Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.

    “In a court of law, you have to prove by the preponderance of evidence and you have to convince the jury, all 12 of them,” says Parenteau, who has advised some parties who filed similar lawsuits, but is not currently involved directly in the litigation.

    He points to the difficulty of pinning health impacts on tobacco companies in the 1990s. “Cigarettes kill people. Global warming, per se, kills people: Heat waves kill people. High tides kill people.”

    Proving responsibility in a courtroom will be the tricky part. “There are multiple links in the causal change that you have to prove with climate change,” Parenteau says. “It was difficult enough to prove with tobacco. It never was proven [in court]. It was just settled. Just imagine how difficult it is for climate change.”

    Suncor operates a refinery in Commerce City northeast of downtown Denver that processes 98,000 barrels of oil daily. “We purchase crude oil from the Denver-Julesburg Basin, process it in Commerce City, and sell nearly 95% of our products within the state,” Suncor’s website says.

    Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

    Exxon has no refinery in Colorado, but it does sell fuel in the state.

    “They are the two most consequential oil companies in Colorado, given their local operations,” says Marco Simons, the lead attorney with EarthRights International, the organization representing the three jurisdictions in Colorado.

    So far, the arguments in the Colorado cases (and others) have been about process, namely where the cases should be tried.

    In legal cases, as in basketball, home court matters. This is likely why Exxon and Suncor wanted lawsuits filed against them by Boulder and San Miguel heard in federal courts instead of Colorado district courts.
    “Basically, their argument was that you can’t let state law allow these people to seek remedy before climate change injury when federal law doesn’t provide that remedy,” Simons explains.

    The oil companies lost that round. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled on Feb. 8 that the two lawsuits should be heard in Colorado. The court then ordered, on March 2, for that mandate to take effect.

    “The court is basically saying there’s nothing wrong with using ordinary state law to hold oil companies accountable to their contribution to climate change,’” says Simons. “That does not in any way violate federal law. It’s not something inappropriate for states to do.”

    arenteau agrees there is value to the climate cases being heard in state courts. The empirical evidence is clear: “Where do the states and cities find the best success? It’s in their own courts. The faster these cases get back to state courts from federal courts, the better.”

    Colorado’s cases, originally filed as one, have been separated. San Miguel County’s case is to be heard in Denver District Court, and the Boulder and Boulder County case in Boulder County District Court.

    Telluride. San Miguel County alleges damages to its skiing economy at Telluride. The case will be heard in Denver District Court.

    Home-court advantage goes only so far. Attorneys for EarthRights International must now prove that the fossil fuels sold by Suncor and ExxonMobil in Colorado have produced damages from a changing climate to the local jurisdictions.

    While many legal analysts say that will be difficult to prove, some observers think the Colorado lawsuits could be successful, even short of total courtroom victories.

    One of those making that case is Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment, a program embedded in the law school at the University of California Los Angeles. She has coordinated with counsel for several jurisdictions in California that filed climate change lawsuits in 2017, but is no longer involved in those other climate liability cases.

    “On an even more deep level, one goal that the plaintiffs have across the set of cases is undermining the social license of the corporations to do what they have been doing for decades,” says Horowitz. “They just need one good victory to hang their hats on.”

    That could help supporters of these suits win verdicts in the court of public opinion.

    Neither Suncor nor Exxon responded to requests for comment, but the premise of the fossil fuel companies is that they have been doing nothing wrong by peddling gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuel products.

    Climate change-related lawsuits have been filed since the mid-1980s. Early lawsuits generally sought to force actions by state governments and federal agencies. The most notable such case is Massachusetts v. EPA, which resulted in the Supreme Court’s landmark 2007 decision that gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. Other lawsuits, such as Connecticut vs. American Electric Power in 2011, targeted energy companies. For complex legal reasons, these cases using federal courts have struggled to go forward.

    Investigative reports in 2015 by Inside Climate News and independent work by the Los Angeles Times about ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company, were important in triggering the wave of lawsuits of the last five years. The journalists showed that the oil giant misled the public about what it knew about climate change and the risks posed by fossil fuel emissions decades ago. The investigative series were based largely on the company’s internal records.

    Since then have come a wave of lawsuits by state and local governments.

    California jurisdictions — first Marin and San Mateo counties along with the city of Imperial Beach in July 2017, followed by Oakland and San Francisco that September — were at the forefront of suits by state and local governments. Currently pending are lawsuits filed by seven states and the District of Columbia and 19 by cities and counties, according to the Center for Climate Integrity.

    These lawsuits fall into primarily two overlapping buckets. The two cases in Colorado fall into both.

    In one bucket of lawsuits are claims of fraud and deception by oil companies, primarily by Exxon. The second bucket consists of suits alleging the oil companies have created “nuisances” that have caused damages. In the Colorado cases, local governments have suffered harm as a result, the lawsuits say.

    “It’s about fundamental principles of tort law that basically boil down to, ‘If you harm someone, you have to pay for it,’” explains Simons, the EarthRights attorney.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck.

    The 2018 lawsuits for the Colorado jurisdictions cite many climate impacts from fossil fuels. Rising temperatures will affect water supplies. Emergency management services will have to be ramped up because of increased wildfires, heavy rainfall and other extreme weather events. Warmer temperatures will worsen the already problematic ground-level ozone in Boulder County.

    This car in Superior was among the victims of the Marshall Fire in late December 2021 that burned 1,084 homes and caused 30,000 residents of Superior and Louisville to flee. Photo/Allen Best

    Some increased costs have already occurred, the lawsuit filed by the three Colorado jurisdictions in 2018 says. It points to the West Nile virus spread by mosquitoes amid rising temperatures. Prior to 2002, Boulder had no mosquito control program. That was the year the virus first appeared in Colorado. After that, costs of mosquito abatement grew steadily. By 2018 mosquito management nicked the city budget roughly $250,000. In Boulder County, the cost approached $400,000.

    Buildings will have to be modified, the lawsuit says. “Due to the expected continued heat rise in Boulder County, a place that historically rarely saw days above 95 degrees, Boulder County and the City of Boulder are expected to see increased public health heat risks, such as heat stroke, and their associated costs,” the lawsuit filed in 2018 says.

    This increasing heat, the lawsuit continues, will drive up costs, such as that of cooling infrastructure for buildings. “Cooling centers that are available during heat waves, and/or assisting with home air-conditioning installation, could cost Boulder County and the City of Boulder millions of dollars by mid-century.”

    The lawsuit cites the $37.7 million of a $575.5 school construction bond for the Boulder Valley School District used for air-conditioning and better ventilation.

    How the Colorado cases are different

    Colorado’s lawsuits were the first filed in an interior state. Even now, the only other states without coastlines to have filed climate change lawsuits against oil companies are Minnesota and Vermont. They claim fraud. That makes the Colorado cases the only ones claiming damages.

    This duality, an inland state claiming actual damages from climate change, sets Colorado’s cases apart from all others.

    “It’s easy to imagine a city like Miami or other coastal cities being imperiled by climate change,” says Horowitz, the UCLA law professor. “The Boulder case is helping to illustrate that even inland cities, cities in the middle of America, are being harmed by climate change.”

    One long-sought goal of the litigation is getting to what in courts is called the discovery phase. That’s the stage where documents, emails, other correspondence and information related to the suits could reach the public and prove devastating to the company. (That is essentially what happened to the tobacco industry, with the release of memos and documents in discovery.)

    Horowitz, the law professor in Los Angeles, expects the filings and rulings to accelerate. “You will start to get state court decisions sooner rather than later, by which I mean probably in the next year,” she says. Appeals will follow, but these Colorado cases — and those similarly proceeding in other states — will move along.

    “I wouldn’t think it will take five to 10 years,” she says.
    And the fact that Colorado has no beach-front property could spur other similar cases. Sea level rise is not imminently threatening Boulder the way it is in Imperial Beach, a city of 26,000 people near San Diego that has also filed a climate change lawsuit.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if more jurisdictions realize they will need help in funding climate change adaptation,” Horowitz says, “and the fossil fuel companies are logical places to look as sources for that funding.”

    This story was prepared in collaboration with the Boulder Reporting Lab, whose editing and suggestions enormously improved the story.

    Putin’s war shows autocracies and #FossilFuels go hand in hand. Here’s how to tackle both — The Guardian #ActOnClimatae

    Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

    Click the link to read the article on The Guardian website (Bill McKibben). Here’s an excerpt:

    Democracies are making more progress than autocracies when it comes to climate action. But divestment campaigns can put pressure on the most recalcitrant of political leaders

    At first glance, last autumn’s Glasgow climate summit looked a lot like its 25 predecessors. It had:

  • A conference hall the size of an aircraft carrier stuffed with displays from problematic parties (the Saudis, for example, with a giant pavilion saluting their efforts at promoting a “circular carbon economy agenda”).
  • Squadrons of delegates rushing constantly to mysterious sessions (“Showcasing achievements of TBTTP and Protected Areas Initiative of GoP”) while actual negotiations took place in a few back rooms.
  • Earnest protesters with excellent signs (“The wrong Amazon is burning”).
  • But as I wandered the halls and the streets outside, it struck me again and again that a good deal had changed since the last big climate confab in Paris in 2015 – and not just because carbon levels and the temperature had risen ever higher. The biggest shift was in the political climate. Over those few years the world seemed to have swerved sharply away from democracy and toward autocracy – and in the process dramatically limited our ability to fight the climate crisis. Oligarchs of many kinds had grabbed power and were using it to uphold the status quo; there was a Potemkin quality to the whole gathering, as if everyone was reciting a script that no longer reflected the actual politics of the planet.

    Now that we’ve watched Russia launch an oil-fired invasion of Ukraine, it’s a little easier to see this trend in high relief – but Putin is far from the only case…

    The cost of energy delivered by the sun has not risen this year, and it will not rise next year…

    As a general rule of thumb, those territories with the healthiest, least-captive-to-vested-interest democracies are making the most progress on climate change. Look around the world at Iceland or Costa Rica, around Europe at Finland or Spain, around the US at California or New York. So part of the job for climate campaigners is to work for functioning democratic states, where people’s demands for a working future will be prioritized over vested interest, ideology and personal fiefdoms. But given the time constraints that physics impose – the need for rapid action everywhere – that can’t be the whole strategy. In fact, activists have arguably been a little too focused on politics as a source of change, and paid not quite enough attention to the other power center in our civilization: money. If we could somehow persuade or force the world’s financial giants to change, that would yield quick progress as well. Maybe quicker, since speed is more a hallmark of stock exchanges than parliaments.

    And here the news is a little better. Take my country as an example. Political power has come to rest in the reddest, most corrupt parts of America. The senators representing a relative handful of people in sparsely populated western states are able to tie up our political life, and those senators are almost all on the payroll of big oil. But money has collected in the blue parts of the country – Biden-voting counties account for 70% of the country’s economy. That’s one reason some of us have worked so hard on campaigns like fossil fuel divestment – we won big victories with New York’s pension funds and with California’s vast university system, and so were able to put real pressure on big oil. Now we’re doing the same with the huge banks that are the industry’s financial lifeline. We’re well aware that we may never win over Montana or Mississippi, so we better have some solutions that don’t depend on doing so. The same thing’s true globally. We may not be able to advocate in Beijing or Moscow or, increasingly, in Delhi. So, at least for these purposes, it’s useful that the biggest pots of money remain in Manhattan, in London, in Frankfurt, in Tokyo. These are places we still can make some noise.

    One Last #Climate Warning in New IPCC Report: ‘Now or Never’ — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    A forest fire next to the Bitterroot River in Montana. UCLA-led research revealed that larger fires tend to be followed by larger increases in streamflow. | Photo by John MacColgan/Creative Commons

    Click the link to read the article on the Inside Climate News website (Bob Berwyn). Here’s an excerpt:

    The world will probably burn through its carbon budget before the global climate panel issues its next update on mitigation

    Whatever words and phrases the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may have been parsing late into Sunday night, its new report, issued Monday, boils down to yet another dire scientific warning. Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2025 to limit global warming close to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), as targeted by the Paris Agreement, the report says. In a way, it’s a final warning, because at the IPCC’s pace, the world most likely will have burned through its carbon budget by the time the panel releases its next climate mitigation report in about five or six years. Even with the climate clock so close to a deadline, it’s not surprising that the IPCC struggled to find consensus during the two-week approval session, said Paul Maidowski, an independent Berlin-based climate policy researcher and activist. The mitigation report may be the most challenging of the three climate assessments that are done every five to seven years under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, he said.

    The first two reports of each IPCC assessment cycle, one on the physical basis of climate science, and another about impacts and adaptation, are mostly based on unyielding physics, like how much global temperature goes up for every added increment of CO2, and how fast and high sea level will rise based on that warming.

    But the mitigation report, which outlines choices society can make to affect the trajectory of climate change, has to reconcile those scientific realities with economic and political assumptions that are not constrained by physics, Maidowski said. Other researchers have described the IPCC report as a mechanism to determine what is politically possible, he added. If those assumptions—for example about future availability of carbon dioxide removal technology—don’t materialize, “then you are left with illusions, essentially,” he said. The IPCC has “blinded itself” to deeper questions of sustainability and is thus asking the wrong questions, like how to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, he added. Instead, it should be more up front about acknowledging the physical limits of the planet, and start asking how to downscale current resource consumption to a sustainable level.

    The report found that “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C is beyond reach.”

    On the hopeful side, the panel noted that renewable energy costs have dropped by as much as 85 percent in the past decade, and that new policies in many countries have accelerated deployment of wind and solar power.

    As EV Sales Soar, Automakers Back Higher Fuel Standards

    Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

    Click the link to read the article on the Yale 360 website:

    Sales of electric cars are surging in the U.S. and Britain, a reflection of growing interest in plug-in vehicles and a response to high gas prices, analysts say. And as EV sales boom, automakers are backing the Biden administration’s new, more stringent fuel standards.

    While the U.S. saw an overall dip in car sales in the first quarter of 2022, all-electric brands such as Karma, Polestar, and Tesla made significant gains, with sales of Teslas up 87 percent over the first quarter of last year. Major automakers also saw a significant EV uptick, with Ford reporting a 38 percent growth in EV sales over last year.

    This trend was even more pronounced in the U.K., where automakers sold more electric cars in the month of March than they did in all of 2019, despite overall March car sales hitting their lowest point in 24 years. The growth of electric cars comes as oil prices soar, owing to problems in the supply chain and sanctions on Russia, a major oil producer, over its invasion of Ukraine.

    “There was already massive growth in this segment and, if anything, the demand for vehicles is now even stronger as prices at the pumps rise on the back of the Ukraine crisis,” Ian Plummer, a director at car sales website AutoTrader, told The Guardian.

    As EV sales rise, automakers are backing more stringent fuel standards recently announced by the EPA, Reuters reported. Texas and 15 other states are suing to block the new regulations, which call for a 28 percent cut in vehicle emissions by 2026. But the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents nearly every major automaker, has sided with the EPA, saying in a court filing that it wants to make sure “critical regulatory provisions supporting electric vehicle technology are maintained.”

    Comanche 3’s shaky reason to exist: Xcel Energy wants to keep Colorado’s youngest coal plant operating until 2034. But what is the evidence it can deliver power when it’s needed? — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Comanche Generating Station. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    For all electrical utilities, R is the first letter of the alphabet. Reliability, keeping the lights on, comes before A, affordability.
    Colorado’s utility regulators soon will decide the role of Comanche 3, the state’s youngest but most unreliable coal-fired power plant, in ensuring reliability, and whether more natural gas generation will be required.

    Xcel Energy, the operator and primary owner of the 750-megawatt coal plant, wants to keep the plant operating on limited, then seasonal-only, terms until 2034. It says the plant will meet peak demands during winter and summer. Several state agencies plus other groups have concurred.

    Evidence for Comanche 3 serving this purpose is thin. All fossil fuel plants must occasionally be idled for repairs and maintenance. Comanche 3 has been first in this class. A 2021 report by the Public Utilities Commission staff found the coal unit from 2010 to 2020 “had the lowest availability” of all of Xcel’s coal and gas-fueled units in Colorado.

    Comanche 3 was down for most of 2020. It’s down again this year, and until June at the earliest it won’t be generating any more electricity than a solar panel at midnight. At least the solar panels that now surround the plant on the edge of Pueblo generate electricity when the sun shines.

    This should provide no comfort to people in Grand Junction, Denver, and other cities who expect air conditioning if temperatures soar to 116 degrees as happened in Portland last summer.

    In a March meeting, two of the three PUC commissioners reported seeing no good argument for the plant operating beyond 2029. John Gavan, the commissioner from Paonia, was adamant in that. Megan Gilman, the commissioner from Edwards, was more inclined to kick the decision down the road until next year. Eric Blank, the chair of the PUC, who is from Boulder, observed that requiring the early retirement would in effect make the PUC responsible for ensuring reliability.

    What may matter immensely is that Comanche 3 still hasn’t been paid off.
    How different from just 18 years ago, when Comanche 3 was approved unanimously by a different set of PUC commissioners. Utilities and their regulators in 2004 saw a future that looked much like the past, giant coal plants gobbled coal delivered by a virtual conveyor belt from mines in Wyoming and Colorado. The plant that PUC commissioners approved was expected to continue operations until 2070.

    Colorado Green, located between Springfield and Lamar, was Colorado’s first, large wind farm. Photo/Allen Best

    Winds of change were even then picking up. Colorado Green, the state’s first wind farm, had begun operations between Lamar and Springfield earlier that year. That November, voters approved the state’s first renewable portfolio standard. Xcel easily met that initial 10% requirement years in advance of the deadline.

    Today, Comanche 3 looks like a billion-dollar blunder. If ensuring winter lights or summer chillers is the goal, the relative grandfathers of Xcel’s coal-burning fleet, Hayden 1 and 2, completed in 1965 and 1976 respectively, might be better options for ensuring reliability. They’re currently scheduled to close in 2027 and 2028.

    Xcel and other Colorado utilities now say with confidence they can achieve 80% carbon-free energy by 2030. Nobody, however, claims complete confidence in existing technologies and business models to go even higher than 90%. Holy Cross, the electrical provider for the Aspen and Vail areas, has a goal of 100%. Inconveniently, it also owns 8% of Comanche 3.

    Xcel wants more natural gas generation to ensure reliability. This could potentially result in the better part of $1 billion in new infrastructure. But would those assets be stranded by new technology in another 20 years?

    A decision may not be immediately necessary. In 2016, the last time Xcel submitted a plan to state regulators, it also wanted a ton of new natural gas generation. When it went shopping, it got bids for renewable generation in late 2017 that dropped jaws across the nation. The economics of renewables had become compelling.

    Now, reliability remains a concern, but many ideas are percolating. Homes will likely become energy sources, the batteries of electric vehicles supplying household needs when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The grid increasingly will be two-way and with dispersed energy sources. Today’s electric grid that relies on a few big coal plants in a decade will look as quaint as a desk phone from … well, 2004.

    By late next year we’ll have a much better idea whether new natural gas plants will be needed for reliability. As for Comanche 3, if it were a car, it’d already be in the automotive graveyard.

    Scientists To Biden: Don’t Ramp Up #FossilFuels — Food & #Water Watch #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the release on the Food & Water Watch website (Mark Schlosberg):

    In recent weeks President Biden and his administration have moved to increase fossil fuel production and infrastructure. These actions fly in the face of climate science, which mandates a transition off of fossil fuels right away. Now scientists are speaking out, imploring President Biden to follow through on his commitments. As a candidate, Biden promised to listen to science, but his recent actions suggest the opposite.

    The increased drought, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods that we’ve experienced recently would have been reason enough to curb this plan. But the Ukraine crisis has brought into full view the dangers of continued reliance on fossil fuels. Europe is planning for dramatic cuts in Russian gas and looking toward new sources. Rather than going all-in on renewable energy, Europe wants increased U.S. gas imports — for over a decade to come. This is a recipe for climate disaster.

    A Broken Promise — President Biden Moves to Increase Fossil Fuel Production and Infrastructure

    When President Biden ran for office, he pledged to listen to science. He also pledged to stop new drilling on federal lands, and initiate a transition off of fossil fuels. He was already falling massively short on these promises before the Ukraine crisis, but now he has reversed course completely. He and his administration have urged increased fossil fuel production, rush approvals of its infrastructure, and ramped-up exports to Europe. And his plan envisions a huge increase of gas exports by 2030 — more than tripling a big increase this year.

    What these exports mean for the U.S. is more drilling, fracking, pipelines through communities and massive, polluting industrial facilities. These come with a litany of safety risks and local pollution, which have devastating environmental justice and health impacts.

    It also will have monumental climate impacts, according to the most recent IPCC scientific report. Global emissions continue to increase and the very narrow window to avoid even 2 degrees of warming is rapidly closing. Building more infrastructure will certainly lock us into decades of more emissions.

    As UN Secretary-General António Guterres said upon the release of the IPCC report: “Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”

    Failing on Climate: Lies From Leaders Will Be “Catastrophic”

    The Biden approach to climate is, unfortunately, not unique. As the IPCC report highlights, governments worldwide have broken prior commitments even though those fell far short of requirements.

    The only way to avert even worse impacts is to embrace scientific reality and adopt policies matching the rapidly escalating climate emergency. This means confronting hard truths and paying the crisis more than lip service. The only way to really achieve energy independence and security is to move off of fossil fuels. That means making quick, bold investments in renewable energy and immediately halting and rolling back fossil fuels and its infrastructure. To do otherwise fails to confront what is happening. Secretary-General Guterres said: “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another…Simply put, they are lying, and the results will be catastrophic.”

    Scientists Implore Biden to Reverse Course Before It’s Too Late

    While President Biden has charted a perilous course, there’s still time to reverse and confront the reality of the climate crisis. Over 275 scientists wrote Biden to implore him to act. This is directly in response to his announced plans to double down on fossil fuels and the IPCC report release. They urged him to instead take bold action to move off fossil fuels and infrastructure and reject the mad dash to increase production and exports.

    The initiative for this letter is led by scientists Bob Howarth, Mark Jacobson, Michael Mann, Sandra Steingraber, and Peter Kalmus. The message is prophetic and clear in its call to action. It concludes:

    “As scientists who look at data every day, we implore you to keep this promise and listen to what the scientific community is saying about fossil fuels and the climate crisis. Do not facilitate more fuel extraction and infrastructure. The impacts of climate change are already significant and we have a very narrow window to avoid runaway climate chaos. We urge you to lead boldly, take on the fossil fuel titans, and rally the country towards a renewable energy future.”

    Help amplify this call to action. Join them, and all of us at Food & Water Watch in calling on President Biden to reject fossil fuels — now.

    4 #Colorado Companies Awarded For Slashing Pollution — 303 Magazine

    Leprino Foods headquarters in North Denver April 22, 2020.

    Click the link to read the article on the 303 Magazine website (Ellie Sullum). Here’s an excerpt:

    Every year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honors companies nationwide for significant progress in pollution prevention This year, the EPA awarded four Colorado-based companies for their contributions to the state’s sustainability efforts…

    Taco Star

    A Thornton staple, family-owned Taco Star now has four locations in the Denver Metro Area. The Colorado fast-food chain updated its infrastructure to feature LED lighting, low-flow sink aerators and sustainable commercial refrigerators. Refrigeration is the leading source of energy misuse, making Taco Star’s transition a vital step towards energy conservation within Colorado’s sustainability work. Overall, Taco Star’s activities have contributed to an annual cost savings of $4,695, 32 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent avoided and 13,000 gallons of water conserved…

    Leprino Foods Company

    Based in [Denver], Leprino Foods Company is a leading dairy manufacturer. With over 5,000 employees in multiple locations, they specialize in producing mozzarella cheese and popular dairy products. Conventional dairy production is a leading polluter industry. To reduce the company’s footprint, Leprino Foods installed sustainable equipment to limit greenhouse gas and water use. They also implemented cleaning and production process improvements to lower waste brine…By overhauling its equipment and systems, the company modeled water conservation processes for others in the industry to follow…

    Management and Engineering Services

    Headquartered in Longmont, Management and Engineering Services LLC provides business consulting services. They specialize in consulting with government agencies and private companies that operate on public lands. Over a three-year span, the company installed water reduction equipment, stopped stocking disposable office products and implemented renewable energy throughout the building. They also promoted a bike-to-work program and provided bicycles for employees. Through their efforts to improve Colorado’s sustainability, Management and Engineering Services embodies the purpose of their own work in environmental business solutions.

    Learn more about the 2021 EPA Region 8 Pollution Prevention (P2) Award Program here.

    Governor Polis, Legislative Leadership & Community Leaders Take Bold #Climate Action, Unveil Transformative Legislation to Fight for Clean Air & a Healthier, Cleaner #Colorado #ActOnClimte #KeepItInTheGround

    West Grand School District electric school bus. Photo credit: The Mountain Town News/Allen Best

    Click the link to read the release on Governor Polis’ website:

    Today, Governor Polis joined legislative leadership, bill sponsors, and community leaders to unveil comprehensive legislation to preserve and protect Colorado’s air quality, and ensure Coloradans are healthy, safe, and can thrive. The Polis Administration has made record investments to improve air quality since day one, and the newly unveiled legislation is a critical step forward towards achieving a healthier, cleaner Colorado.

    “We are fighting for a cleaner, healthier Colorado. I am proud that in partnership with the legislature, we are moving forward on a comprehensive plan for clean air that will benefit Colorado for years to come while helping save people and businesses money. The time is now for bold action,” said Gov. Polis.

    The historic package of bills includes record investments in clean transportation, energy efficient buildings, and air quality monitoring, regulation, and incentives. The electrification of school bus fleets will protect Colorado kids from harmful pollutant exposure and save Colorado schools money on both expensive fuel and maintenance costs.

    Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

    “Cleaning up our air and building a healthier Colorado requires all hands on deck,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “That’s why we’re taking a comprehensive approach to ensure every Coloradan, particularly communities who have historically borne the brunt of air pollution, can breathe clean air. With transformative investments to reduce industrial emissions, initiatives to clean up our transportation system, and plans to improve air monitoring, we’re putting Colorado on the path to a cleaner future for all.”

    The newly introduced legislation supports good-paying jobs for drivers, mechanics, and construction workers with bold investments in expanded public transit service and energy efficient buildings.

    “This legislation will improve our air quality, save people money and create jobs in Colorado,” said Rep. Alex Valdez, D-Denver. “By investing in new technologies, we will reduce harmful industrial emissions, and our air will be cleaner. Our kids deserve a smog free ride to school, and electric school buses will reduce emissions and protect students’ health. I’m excited that we are taking significant action to reduce pollution and create good jobs in critical industries.”

    “Every Coloradan deserves safe and healthy air to breathe, but too often we are exposed to dangerous emissions and high ozone levels that threaten our health and hit disadvantaged communities the hardest,” said Senator Julie Gonzales, D-Denver. “This legislation represents an important step toward reducing those harmful emissions and achieving true environmental justice for all.”

    “Last summer Colorado had the worst air quality in the world, and we must take immediate action to address it,” said Senator Faith Winter, D-Westminster. “That’s why I am proud to bring this legislation to reduce local air pollution by offering free transit rides during peak ozone season. This commonsense bill will encourage transit ridership, reduce harmful emissions, and help us further our climate goals while giving Colorado families cleaner, healthier air to breathe.”

    “The future is coming, and we want Colorado homes to be ready so consumers don’t have to spend thousands retrofitting their properties for the technologies we know are going to be commonplace in just a few years,” said Rep. Tracey Bernett, D-Louisville. “Our building codes need to be forward looking, and with this bill, new homes are going to be ready for clean heat, solar power and electric vehicles. With these codes in place, Coloradans will benefit from cleaner indoor air and save money on their utility bills.”

    “For too long, we’ve suffered from unhealthy, unsafe air in Colorado, and it’s only getting worse. That’s why I am proud to champion this legislation that will help upgrade our homes and buildings to reduce emissions throughout Colorado,” said Senator Chris Hansen, D-Denver. “This $22 million investment will help families, businesses, and communities improve buildings to reduce energy use and pollution, improve our indoor air quality, and help give more Coloradans a cleaner, healthier future.”

    #Wyoming prepares to ‘electrify’ roadways: WYDOT will host a series of public meetings to pinpoint where to install dozens of new electric-vehicle charging stations across the state — WyoFile #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    A Tesla Model X 100D hitched to a camper in Sinks Canyon outside of Lander. (Patrick Lawson)

    Click the link to read the article on the WyoFile website (Dustin Bleizeffer):

    Patrick Lawson of Riverton was in the driver’s seat of a Tesla Model S 100D Ludicrous between Rawlins and Laramie on Interstate 80 last week, but it was the car that was doing the driving.

    “It’s passing a semi truck right now because [the semi is] going too slow,” Lawson told WyoFile.

    Cross-winds of up to 60 mph were chewing into mileage, Lawson said. But after departing from home in Riverton with a full battery he’d topped it off at a “high-speed” EV charging station during a stop in Rawlins. A full charge will propel the Tesla over 300 miles of road, he said.

    However, relying on an electric vehicle in Wyoming can be challenging. There are many “dead zones” — especially in the central portion of the state, Lawson said. Also, most all the existing charging stations available to the public are exclusively designed to charge Tesla vehicles.

    That will soon change, thanks to a new federal EV infrastructure initiative. Wyoming has access to nearly $24 million in federal dollars to begin “electrifying” its roadways, beginning with the three interstates in the state.

    “We need more fast-charging stations that are open to all brands,” Lawson said.

    Going EV in Wyo

    There are other considerations besides battery-draining wind when piloting an EV in Wyoming. Driving up mountains, hills and long inclines will reduce mileage — the same for petrol-propelled vehicles, Lawson said. The benefit of an EV, however, is as long as you have enough juice to crest an incline, the vehicle gains mileage on the decline by recharging the battery.

    He learned that lesson the hard way during a drive through Utah when his vehicle ran out of power near the top of a climb just outside a town with EV charging stations. He had to call for a tow.

    “It was kind of embarrassing,” he said.

    Yet for all of the elevation, wind gusts, extreme weather and long distances between charging stations, Wyoming is a good place to be an EV owner, said Lawson, who boasts being part of an “all-EV” family. His wife drives a 2017 Tesla Model X 100D and his son drives a 2012 Nissan Leaf. His mother and sister also drive EVs in Wyoming. The bottomline for Lawson is EVs save money.

    It costs around $10 to add 200 miles of range, according to Lawson. That’s less than a third the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle, at $3 per gallon. His home charging station cost less than $2,000 to install, and he estimates the extra power load nudged up his home electric bill by about $50 per month.

    “It’s worth it for me because I drive a lot of miles,” said Lawson, who serves as executive manager for Wind River Internet.

    However, Wyoming needs a major buildout to shorten the distance between EV charging stations. Another urgent need is for charging stations to accommodate all brands and models of EVs. There’s an all-brand EV charging station in Jackson. The Harley-Davidson dealership in Cheyenne has a charging station for Harleys. But almost all other existing EV stations in Wyoming are designed exclusively for Tesla vehicles because Tesla paid for them.

    Tesla installed a series of electric charging stations in Wyoming, including this one in Sheridan. But the stations only work for Tesla vehicles. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

    That’s one of the mandates of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program that’s driving billions in federal dollars to states. Wyoming already has a federal NEVI allocation of $3.9 million, and will receive another $5 million each year for the next four years. The Wyoming Department of Transportation just released its draft Zero Emission Vehicle Strategy under the NEVI program, and will launch a series of public meetings across the state to fine-tune the strategy, beginning [April 4, 2022] in Cheyenne.

    “We want to know, how do we make this plan better?” Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner said.

    Electrifying roadways

    There’s only 460 EVs currently registered in Wyoming, and about 360 of those are Teslas, according to WYDOT. But tens of thousands of EVs — of all varieties — travel Wyoming roadways, and the numbers are quickly increasing for both commercial and tourism traffic.

    “Tourism is our second-largest industry in terms of the state’s economy,” Reiner said. “So it’s really important for us to set the conditions to allow tourists with electric vehicles to visit our great state and to see the sights.”

    The federal NEVI program mandates states to first “electrify” main corridors. “In order, that’s [Interstate] 80, I-25 and I-90, that’s how we’re going to tackle that,” Reiner said. Along those routes charging stations must be within 50 miles of each other, must accommodate a minimum of four simultaneously charging vehicles, and must be located within a mile of an interstate exit.

    Other federal priorities for Wyoming include main tourism routes to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, which mostly rely on public input to determine. Secondary routes for general connectivity across the state rank third in the list of federal EV infrastructure priorities. WYDOT is going to “stretch” the federal NEVI dollars as far as possible, Reiner said, but there are other funds available to continue the EV infrastructure buildout.

    “Discretionary” grants are available via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Plus, Wyoming has access to more than $8 million from the Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement. Those programs include various matching requirements, but communities can already apply for the funds, which is an important option, Reiner said. The NEVI program mostly focuses on the installation of charging stations along corridors and routes, not necessarily within cities and towns.

    WYDOT will begin accepting proposals from contractors within the year, Reiner said. The EV infrastructure effort is another example of a federal program that provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to specialize in a growing industry, and Reiner said he hopes some of those businesses will be located in Wyoming.

    Another vital piece of the NEVI program is broadband, Reiner said. Charging stations must be connected to the internet — that’s how customers pay for the electricity.

    Given the recent gasoline price shock spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lawson said he expects EVs will quickly become more socially acceptable in Wyoming. Especially as carmakers produce more trucks and SUVs with towing power, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Rivian R1T.

    Lawson said his company, Wind River Internet, has been shifting its fleet from petrol to electric vehicles.

    “It’s great because we were spending a fortune on gas,” he said. “We drive 100 miles a day and we were spending like $500. Now we’re spending like $50 or $60 on electricity.”

    Rapid Growth of #Wind and #Solar Could Help Limit Warming to 1.5 degrees C — Yale Environment 360 #ActOnClimate

    NREL researcher Jordan Macknick and Michael Lehan discuss solar panel orientation and spacing. The project is seeking to improve the environmental compatibility and mutual benefits of solar development with agriculture and native landscapes. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

    Click the link to read the article on the Yale Environment 360 website:

    If wind and solar power continue the rapid growth they achieved over the last decade, rising by 20 percent annually until 2030, the global electricity sector will do its part to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, according to a new report from climate think tank Ember.

    In 2021, solar power grew by 23 percent worldwide, while wind power grew by 14 percent, close to the 20 percent average yearly growth seen in recent years. The Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam saw the biggest renewable energy gains last year, with solar growing by 337 percent in Vietnam.

    “If these trends can be replicated globally, and sustained, the power sector would be on track for 1.5 C,” the report said. “But those shifts aren’t happening fast enough across all countries, and we’re far off-track in reducing power sector emissions. The result in 2021 was coal’s rise, at a time when it needs to be falling rapidly.”

    The pace of renewable energy growth needed to stay on track for 1.5 degrees C of warming. EMBER

    Coal power grew 9 percent last year, its biggest gain since 1985, as a swift economic recovery drove up demand for power, and a spike in natural gas prices made coal more cost-competitive.

    To keep warming under 1.5 degrees C, wind and solar will need provide 40 percent of the world’s power by 2030 and close to 70 percent by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Today, they supply just 10 percent of the world’s electricity.

    Dave Jones, global lead at Ember, said that “with sustained high gas prices amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, there is a real risk of relapse into coal, threatening the global 1.5 degrees climate goal. Clean electricity now needs to be built on a heroic scale.”

    A new study finds that the world can make the changes needed to keep warming under 1.5 degrees C while also maintaining economic growth. In one scenario modeled by researchers, renewables provide seven times as much power by the end of this century as they did in 2010, with the global economy growing by a little less than 2 percent a year from now until 2100. The paper was published in the journal Oxford Open Energy.

    “Continuing global economic growth is clearly compatible with achieving the temperature target in the Paris Agreement,” said Paul Ekins, an economist at University College London and lead author of the study. “Governments now need to step up to put in place the policies to stimulate the investments that are required to turn these projections into reality.”

    A turbine whirls on a farm east of Burlington, Colo. Colorado’s eastern plains already have many wind farms—but it may look like a pin cushion during the next several years. Photo/Allen Best

    #Climate misinformation still reigns in @GOP Senate primary amid #Colorado #drought, fires — Colorado Newsline #ActOnClimate

    Temperature changes around the world 1901 thru 2021. Credit: Hawkins

    Residents in Big Thompson Canyon east of Estes Park became the latest Coloradans to flee their homes in fear of a nearby wildfire on Monday, just hours after the NCAR Fire forced evacuations and closures 30 miles to the south in Boulder.

    It’s been three months since the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left two people dead, and nearly two years since Colorado’s three largest wildfires on record burned in the summer and fall of 2020, razing mountainsides, choking the skies with haze and eventually causing mudslides that killed four people in Larimer County and left Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon shut down for weeks.

    The increasingly tangible impacts of the climate-driven “megadrought” that has affected much of Colorado since 2000 — stressed water supplies, more intense wildfires, losses in the agricultural and tourism sectors — have served as a rallying cry for Democrats who highlight the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the 2022 campaign season has brought little sign of a change in Colorado Republicans’ long-running pattern of denying or downplaying human-caused climate change.

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    In the crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate, misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories still dominate candidates’ rhetoric on climate and energy issues.

    State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, the race’s only sitting lawmaker, said earlier this month that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to “emasculate” the American economy.

    Eli Bremer, a first-time candidate and former Olympic pentathlete, has spread debunked claims that wind power emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

    And Gino Campana, a former Fort Collins city councilman who once supported the city’s emissions-cutting programs and co-founded a clean-energy startup, has joined other Republicans in blasting Democrats for holding back domestic energy production — an assertion belied by the oil and gas industry’s own statements.

    Ahead of the state GOP assembly next month, climate change has rarely come up in debates and other campaign events featuring Republican Senate candidates. Several leading contenders ignored repeated requests from Newsline to comment on climate issues, and none have detailed a plan to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that an overwhelming scientific consensus says is necessary to avoid increasingly catastrophic effects. Other GOP candidates who filed to run for the Senate seat include Joe O’Dea, Deborah Flora and Peter Yu. Observers generally name Hanks, Bremer and Campana among the frontrunners.

    “Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability,” wrote 270 scientists in the latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month. “The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.”

    ‘It’s called weather’

    A Colorado College poll released last month found that 82% of Centennial State voters agreed that climate change is a serious problem, up from 60% in 2011. Nearly 7 in 10 Coloradans say they’re supportive of climate action, including efforts to transition to 100% clean energy within “the next ten to fifteen years,” the school’s annual State of the Rockies poll found.

    Republican voters, however, are much more evenly split on the issue, with about half declaring climate change “not a problem,” according to poll results across an eight-state Western region. And despite periodic predictions of a Republican shift on climate issues from pollsters and pundits, little about party leaders’ views has changed over the last decade.

    During his six-year U.S. Senate term, former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner acknowledged that “the climate is changing” but consistently cast doubt on the extent to which warming is human-caused. The same position is held by many Republicans in the state Legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, who said of “so-called climate change” during a floor debate last year: “I do not believe that it is man-made.”

    In fact, virtually all of the 1.07 degrees Celsius average global temperature increase observed since 1850 has been the result of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations “unequivocally caused by human activities,” IPCC scientists wrote last year. Non-human drivers like solar and volcanic activity and natural variability have had no quantifiable long-term effect.

    Hanks, a first-term lawmaker who was present at the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and a leading proponent of conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 election, staked out the primary’s most extreme position on climate change at a candidate forum earlier this month.

    Asked how he would respond to concerns about climate change in a general election matchup with incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Hanks replied that Republicans need to “start marketing the truth.”

    “I don’t want to sit here and pretend climate change is a real issue. It’s called weather,” Hanks said to laughter and applause, according to video posted by his campaign.

    Echoing baseless claims made by former President Donald Trump, Hanks called climate change a “serious effort from China to emasculate us” by impeding domestic manufacturing and economic growth.

    Bremer, a onetime chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, is among the only candidates in the primary to have publicly addressed the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Our approach should be led by data, science, and common sense rather than tilting to the political winds of the day,” reads a section devoted to environmental policy on his website.

    But Bremer’s recent claims about emissions from renewable energy sources like wind turbines are contradicted by a vast body of existing research.

    “On the yardstick of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental policies fail … If you look at windmills, there’s a lot of greenhouse gas emission cost that we gloss over,” Bremer said in a March 23 Fox News interview, claiming that the emissions resulting from the manufacture and construction of wind farms offsets their lower operating emissions. “Virtually every expert that I’ve talked to believes that the overall return is negative.”

    In fact, a 2021 analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden concluded that even when “total life cycle” emissions are calculated wind energy projects produce only a tiny fraction of the emissions of fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation. Evaluating the results of hundreds of previous studies, researchers concluded that the 13 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour produced by wind generation — nearly all the result of one-time construction emissions — are 77 times smaller than the emissions from a typical coal plant and 37 times smaller than emissions from a natural gas plant.

    From smart-grid investor to ‘unleash Colorado energy’

    Campana, a wealthy real estate developer who served a term on the Fort Collins City Council between 2013 and 2017, has attracted establishment support for his Senate candidacy, including endorsements from former Trump administration figures like Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Kellyanne Conway, who joined Campana’s campaign as an advisor last month.

    During his city council term, Campana frequently aligned himself with Fort Collins’ ambitious emissions-cutting efforts. In 2014, he voted to approve an update to the city’s climate action plan, which aimed to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, and endorsed another resolution calling for the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2016, he also expressed support for the “objectives” of a legal brief filed by city officials in support of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, though he didn’t vote in favor of it. The Trump administration later gutted the policy.

    Years earlier, Campana had been one of four founders of Windsor-based Ice Energy, a manufacturer of thermal energy storage systems. Experts say so-called “smart grid” technologies are a key part of the transition to a fully renewable electric grid, helping improve efficiency and offset the intermittency of wind and solar resources.

    In 2010, Ice Energy received millions in government funding in the form of tax credits authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the same stimulus bill under which California-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra received a $535 million federal loan guarantee that became notorious among conservatives after the firm went bankrupt a year later. Campana reported income from Ice Energy in a financial disclosure as late as 2013; the company later moved out of Colorado and declared bankruptcy in 2019.

    In a financial disclosure filed earlier this year, Campana estimated his net worth at between $44 million and $141 million, and detailed an extensive list of corporate stock holdings that include tens of thousands of dollars invested in both fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum and clean-energy firms like Tesla and Vestas Wind.

    As he looks to win support from the GOP base ahead of next month’s state assembly — and fight off attacks from opponents who say his city council record makes him a “tax-and-spend-liberal” — Campana has positioned himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry, calling on policymakers to “unleash Colorado energy.”

    “Biden and Bennet are stifling America’s energy production, costing us jobs and higher gas prices,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this month. That’s a widely repeated GOP attack line that’s contradicted by the thousands of approved drilling permits held by oil and gas producers in Colorado and beyond, and the repeated assurances companies have made to investors to limit production growth.

    On his website, Campana touts his “background in environmental engineering” and endorses an “all of the above energy strategy” that he says can lead to reduced emissions.

    Scientists, however, warn that plans for continued fossil fuel production by governments around the world are “dangerously out of sync” with the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which called for limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

    “The research is clear: Global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the 2021 U.N. Production Gap report, said upon the report’s release last year. “However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”

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    Film: Craig, America — @AmericanRivers #YampaRiver #ActOnClimate

    Learn more about the Yampa River at https://www.americanrivers.org/river/…
    Read about one person’s first trip down the Yampa – https://www.americanrivers.org/2016/0…
    Support American Rivers and our work across the country – https://act.americanrivers.org/page/2…

    A story of transition and renewal in the rural west, Craig, America shares the many perspectives that encompass a community upheld by coal but looks towards a future without it. It brings to life the unique story of Craig, Colorado, and how its people, economy, and community are both resilient and adaptive.

    Craig, Colorado is a small town in Northwest Colorado, about 40 miles west of Steamboat Springs. While Craig lies in the high mountain plains above the meandering Yampa River, it is a case study as a town, and region, that is in transition. Craig has traditionally been a town defined by the extraction of fossil fuels and ranching. There are multiple coal mines, and energy generating stations (power plants) in the area. Under pressure from environmental groups and government agencies state-wide and nationally, the owners of Craig Station voted unanimously to close all three units of Craig Station, one of Colorado’s largest coal-fired power plants, by 2030. The decision to close the plant will send waves of change across the city of Craig and surrounding Moffat Country for decades to come, costing the region hundreds of high-paying jobs, removing an estimated 60% of the town’s tax revenue, and forcing a reckoning with its future.

    Fortunately, Craig sits in a region of abundant beauty, and accessible opportunities for outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing, rafting, hiking and mountain biking and other pursuits or plentiful. As the recreation economy grows, Craig is in an ideal position to make that transition as well. As Jennifer Holloway, the new Executive Director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce puts it, “Craig is a community with a lot of opportunities, and in a unique moment to seize them.” As the town reckons with the closure of the plant and surrounding mines, a growing coalition of leaders and community advocates are working to save their town and move from a extraction based economy to one focused in recreation, tourism, and that centers the health and well being of our planet and its inhabitants.

    This situation in Craig is one in which we are currently seeing across the United States. As renewable sources of energy continue to grow in demand and the profitability of coal continues to plummet in tandem with its role in climate change, small towns and cities that depend on these industries are questioning their future. The story of Craig can be a moment of hope for many regions across the country, and potentially a guidepost for how they can embrace the natural beauty of their regions, rather than think of them only for extraction and consumption.

    In a World on Fire, Stop Burning Things: The truth is new and counterintuitive; we have the technology necessary to rapidly ditch #FossilFuels — @BillMcKibben in the @NewYorker

    The coal-fired Tri-State Generation and Transmission plant in Craig provides much of the power used in Western Colorado, including in Aspen and Pitkin County. Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office has a plan to move the state’s electric grid to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read this important article that’s running on the New Yorker website (Bill McKibben). Here’s an excerpt:

    On the last day of February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most dire report yet. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had, he said, “seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.” Setting aside diplomatic language, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” and added that “the world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” Then, just a few hours later, at the opening of a rare emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly, he catalogued the horrors of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and declared, “Enough is enough.” Citing Putin’s declaration of a nuclear alert, the war could, Guterres said, turn into an atomic conflict, “with potentially disastrous implications for us all.”

    What unites these two crises is combustion. Burning fossil fuel has driven the temperature of the planet ever higher, melting most of the sea ice in the summer Arctic, bending the jet stream, and slowing the Gulf Stream. And selling fossil fuel has given Putin both the money to equip an army (oil and gas account for sixty per cent of Russia’s export earnings) and the power to intimidate Europe by threatening to turn off its supply. Fossil fuel has been the dominant factor on the planet for centuries, and so far nothing has been able to profoundly alter that. After Putin invaded, the American Petroleum Institute insisted that our best way out of the predicament was to pump more oil. The climate talks in Glasgow last fall, which John Kerry, the U.S. envoy, had called the “last best hope” for the Earth, provided mostly vague promises about going “net-zero by 2050”; it was a festival of obscurantism, euphemism, and greenwashing, which the young climate activist Greta Thunberg summed up as “blah, blah, blah.” Even people trying to pay attention can’t really keep track of what should be the most compelling battle in human history…

    …the era of large-scale combustion has to come to a rapid close. If we understand that as the goal, we might be able to keep score, and be able to finally get somewhere. Last Tuesday, President Biden banned the importation of Russian oil. This year, we may need to compensate for that with American hydrocarbons, but, as a senior Administration official put it,“the only way to eliminate Putin’s and every other producing country’s ability to use oil as an economic weapon is to reduce our dependency on oil.” As we are one of the largest oil-and-gas producers in the world, that is a remarkable statement. It’s a call for an end of fire.

    We don’t know when or where humans started building fires; as with all things primordial there are disputes. But there is no question of the moment’s significance. Fire let us cook food, and cooked food delivers far more energy than raw; our brains grew even as our guts, with less processing work to do, shrank. Fire kept us warm, and human enterprise expanded to regions that were otherwise too cold. And, as we gathered around fires, we bonded in ways that set us on the path to forming societies. No wonder Darwin wrote that fire was “the greatest discovery ever made by man, excepting language.”

    Three Myths About #RenewableEnergy and the Grid, Debunked — Yale Environment 360 #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Yale Environment 360 website ( Amory B. Lovins and M. V. Ramana):

    Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean.

    As wind and solar power have become dramatically cheaper, and their share of electricity generation grows, skeptics of these technologies are propagating several myths about renewable energy and the electrical grid. The myths boil down to this: Relying on renewable sources of energy will make the electricity supply undependable.

    Last summer, some commentators argued that blackouts in California were due to the “intermittency” of renewable energy sources, when in fact the chief causes were a combination of an extreme heat wave probably induced by climate change, faulty planning, and the lack of flexible generation sources and sufficient electricity storage. During a brutal Texas cold snap last winter, Gov. Greg Abbott wrongly blamed wind and solar power for the state’s massive grid failure, which was vastly larger than California’s. In fact, renewables outperformed the grid operator’s forecast during 90 percent of the blackout, and in the rest, fell short by at most one-fifteenth as much as gas plants. Instead, other causes — such as inadequately weatherized power plants and natural gas shutting down because of frozen equipment — led to most of the state’s electricity shortages.

    In Europe, the usual target is Germany, in part because of its Energiewende (energy transformation) policies shifting from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to efficient use and renewables. The newly elected German government plans to accelerate the former and complete the latter, but some critics have warned that Germany is running “up against the limits of renewables.”

    In reality, it is entirely possible to sustain a reliable electricity system based on renewable energy sources plus a combination of other means, including improved methods of energy management and storage. A clearer understanding of how to dependably manage electricity supply is vital because climate threats require a rapid shift to renewable sources like solar and wind power. This transition has been sped by plummeting costs —Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that solar and wind are the cheapest source for 91 percent of the world’s electricity — but is being held back by misinformation and myths.

    Myth No. 1: A grid that increasingly relies on renewable energy is an unreliable grid.

    Going by the cliché, “In God we trust; all others bring data,” it’s worth looking at the statistics on grid reliability in countries with high levels of renewables. The indicator most often used to describe grid reliability is the average power outage duration experienced by each customer in a year, a metric known by the tongue-tying name of “System Average Interruption Duration Index” (SAIDI). Based on this metric, Germany — where renewables supply nearly half of the country’s electricity — boasts a grid that is one of the most reliable in Europe and the world. In 2020, SAIDI was just 0.25 hours in Germany. Only Liechtenstein (0.08 hours), and Finland and Switzerland (0.2 hours), did better in Europe, where 2020 electricity generation was 38 percent renewable (ahead of the world’s 29 percent). Countries like France (0.35 hours) and Sweden (0.61 hours) — both far more reliant on nuclear power — did worse, for various reasons.

    The Bungala Solar Farm for is at this point the nation’s largest operation solar PV plant. Image: Enel Green Power

    Thus all sources of power will be unavailable sometime or other. Managing a grid has to deal with that reality, just as much as with fluctuating demand. The influx of larger amounts of renewable energy does not change that reality, even if the ways they deal with variability and uncertainty are changing. Modern grid operators emphasize diversity and flexibility rather than nominally steady but less flexible “baseload” generation sources. Diversified renewable portfolios don’t fail as massively, lastingly, or unpredictably as big thermal power stations.

    The purpose of an electric grid is not just to transmit and distribute electricity as demand fluctuates, but also to back up non-functional plants with working plants: that is, to manage the intermittency of traditional fossil and nuclear plants. In the same way, but more easily and often at lower cost, the grid can rapidly back up wind and solar photovoltaics’ predictable variations with other renewables, of other kinds or in other places or both.This has become easier with today’s far more accurate forecasting of weather and wind speeds, thus allowing better prediction of the output of variable renewables. Local or onsite renewables are even more resilient because they largely or wholly bypass the grid, where nearly all power failures begin. And modern power electronics have reliably run the billion-watt South Australian grid on just sun and wind for days on end, with no coal, no hydro, no nuclear, and at most the 4.4-percent natural-gas generation currently required by the grid regulator.

    Most discussions of renewables focus on batteries and other electric storage technologies to mitigate variability. This is not surprising because batteries are rapidly becoming cheaper and widely deployed. At the same time, new storage technologies with diverse attributes continue to emerge; the U.S. Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database lists 30 kinds already deployed or under construction. Meanwhile, many other and less expensive carbon-free ways exist to deal with variable renewables besides giant batteries.

    The first and foremost is energy efficiency, which reduces demand, especially during periods of peak use. Buildings that are more efficient need less heating or cooling and change their temperature more slowly, so they can coast longer on their own thermal capacity and thus sustain comfort with less energy, especially during peak-load periods.

    A second option is demand flexibility or demand response, wherein utilities compensate electricity customers that lower their use when asked — often automatically and imperceptibly — helping balance supply and demand. One recent study found that the U.S. has 200 gigawatts of cost-effective load flexibility potential that could be realized by 2030 if effective demand response is actively pursued. Indeed, the biggest lesson from recent shortages in California might be the greater appreciation of the need for demand response. Following the challenges of the past two summers, the California Public Utilities Commission has instituted the Emergency Load Reduction Program to build on earlier demand response efforts.

    Some evidence suggests an even larger potential: An hourly simulation of the 2050 Texas grid found that eight types of demand response could eliminate the steep ramp of early-evening power demand as solar output wanes and household loads spike. For example, currently available ice-storage technology freezes water using lower-cost electricity and cooler air, usually at night, and then uses the ice to cool buildings during hot days. This reduces electricity demand from air conditioning, and saves money, partly because storage capacity for heating or cooling is far cheaper than storing electricity to deliver them. Likewise, without changing driving patterns, many electric vehicles can be intelligently charged when electricity is more abundant, affordable, and renewable.

    The top graph shows daily solar power output (yellow line) and demand from various household uses. The bottom graph shows how to align demand with supply, running devices in the middle of the day when solar output is highest. ROCKY MOUNTAIN INSTITUTE

    A third option for stabilizing the grid as renewable energy generation increases is diversity, both of geography and of technology — onshore wind, offshore wind, solar panels, solar thermal power, geothermal, hydropower, burning municipal or industrial or agricultural wastes. The idea is simple: If one of these sources, at one location, is not generating electricity at a given time, odds are that some others will be.

    Finally, some forms of storage, such as electric vehicle batteries, are already economical today. Simulations show that ice-storage air conditioning in buildings, plus smart charging to and from the grid of electric cars, which are parked 96 percent of the time, could enable Texas in 2050 to use 100 percent renewable electricity without needing giant batteries.

    To pick a much tougher case, the “dark doldrums” of European winters are often claimed to need many months of battery storage for an all-renewable electrical grid. Yet top German and Belgian grid operators find Europe would need only one to two weeks of renewably derived backup fuel, providing just 6 percent of winter output — not a huge challenge.

    The bottom line is simple. Electrical grids can deal with much larger fractions of renewable energy at zero or modest cost, and this has been known for quite a while. Some European countries with little or no hydropower already get about half to three-fourths of their electricity from renewables with grid reliability better than in the U.S. It is time to get past the myths.

    Amory B. Lovins is an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and co-founder and chairman emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute. M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

    2022 #COleg: Filling in #Colorado’s decarbonization gaps — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    Legislators are considering how to nudge emissions from buildings, clean up Front Range air, and bring agriculture into the decarbonization effort

    Conventional wisdom holds that politicians shy away from major initiatives in election years. Some think that is at play in Colorado this year. After all, inflation is at work, energy prices are rising, and analysts predict a rough election year for Democrats in Congress.

    But if Colorado’s 2022 climate and energy legislative agenda certainly won’t match that of 2019, nor of 2021, it’s shaping up as an impressive year to advance the work on achieving economy-wide decarbonization goals of 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

    “This is probably not going to be a session filled with transformation legislation on climate change as 2019 and 2021 were, but there are some really good bills,” says Jacob Smith executive director of Colorado Communities for Climate Action, a coalition of 40 local governments.

    An all-electric house. Credit: REWIRING AMERICA

    Legislators are considering bills that seek to advance Colorado’s efforts to reduce emissions associated with buildings, clean up the crappy air quality along the northern Front Range, and bring the agriculture sector into the decarbonization effort.

    Courtesy of Microgrid Knowledge

    Others address microgrids, the potential for carbon storage, and funding for the state’s Office of Just Transition, the agency crafted in 2019 for coal communities and workers to reinvent themselves.

    Legislators in 2019 adopted a remarkable set of bills that essentially pivoted Colorado’s energy system in a way that had never been done. Most prominent were the economy wide decarbonization goals.

    Only 2004, when Colorado voters adopted the first renewable energy portfolio standard, comes close to the same pivot in energy.

    The 2019 tsunami was made possible by heightened worries about climate change but also a shift in the Colorado Senate that gave Democrats majorities in both chambers. This came concurrently with the arrival of Jared Polis as governor after his campaign on a platform of 100% renewable electricity by 2040.

    Then came 2020—and the covid shutdown, followed by the flood of even more powerful bills in 2021, including several that targeted methane from extraction to end-use in buildings. At least one of the ideas adopted in 2021 had been first proposed in 2007 but never got close to the finish line.

    Now is catch-up time, a filling in of the gaps.

    “Last year we essentially had two legislative sessions in one, and we accomplished a lot, and now we need to work on the implementation of it,” says Mike Kruger, chief executive of Colorado Solar and Storage AssociationThat won’t require as much legislation,” he points out. “That’s more regulatory work.”

    Still, even as they waited the governor’s signature on many of the 30-plus bills that had been passed, state legislators indicated they knew there was still major work ahead. State Sen. Steve Feinberg, then the majority leader (and now the Senate president), said a major priority in the 2022 session would be legislation to improve air quality along the Front Range. Sen. Chris Hansen said he was thinking about how to integrate agriculture into Colorado’s decarbonization.

    In September, Hansen revealed at a fundraiser that he intended to introduce legislation that would set interim decarbonization targets for Colorado. Those new targets—for 2028 and for 2040—are intended to create a steady trajectory for Colorado’s decarbonization efforts, to avoid the tendency to punt the decarbonization can down the road until a last-night cram session before the test.

    When did Hansen decide this was needed?

    “I think it was part of what I do essentially every summer and fall, which is really try to think about the important gaps, where they are and which ones, if you were to address them, you’d get the most bang for the buck when it comes to decarbonization,” said Hansen in an interview.

    “So I’m always trying to think about that supply curve, of carbon abatement opportunities, let’s do the cheapest, easiest ones as fast as we can. And that is really kind of driving my policy development process.”

    Meanwhile, in Boulder, State Rep. Edie Hooton was thinking about microgrids, and in Longmont, Rep. Tracey Bernett was thinking about both air quality and buildings.

    This week, the bills having to do with buildings.

    See: Colorado’s carrots and sticks for buildings

    Next week, air quality, agriculture and other bills.

    #Colorado’s new transmission authority: Directors appointed for the ‘transmission developer of last resort’ — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Colorado State Capitol. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click the link to read the article on the Big Pivots website (Allen Best):

    The inaugural members of the new Colorado Electric Transmission Authority have been identified. The board was created by a 2021 law, SB21-072 “Public Utilities Commission Modernize Electric Transmission Infrastructure.” It was authorized to select a transmission operator to finance, plan, acquire, maintain, and operate eligible electric transmission and interconnected storage facilities.

    This new authority has been called the “transmission builder of last resort.” It’s preferable that utilities build transmission, but if they don’t, Colorado may have reasons for wanting the transmission. This may become important as Colorado looks to build out renewable energy in more difficult places currently lacking transmission.

    One such place is the San Luis Valley, rich with solar potential, among the best in the nation, but lacking transmission capacity. Louis Bacon, who owns large land amounts in the area of La Veta Pass, the logical corridor for export, blocked plans by Tri-State Generation & Transmission in years past.

    Another potential application is from Craig to Wyoming, the better to integrate Colorado’s electric resources into a regional transmission organization, or RTO, and tap the resources of other areas.

    A third application may be in the cases of small utilities who need transmission but do not have the capacity to build it themselves. The vulnerability of Holy Cross Energy, for example, was exposed in 2018 when the Lake Christine Wildfire came within one already-burning wooden transmission pole of being able to provide power to Aspen during the July 4th weekend, typically one of the busiest of the year in that resort community.

    The law specifies that the 9-member board is to consist of:

  • 2 members appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate;
  • the director of the Colorado Energy Office or his/her designee;
  • 3 members appointed by the president of the Senate;
  • 3 members appointed by the speaker of the House
  • The law also requires expertise among the appointees. For example, one must represent the interests of organized labor, another must have knowledge of renewable energy development, and one must represent the interests of commercial or industrial customers of electric utilities.

    Those appointed to 4-year terms are:

    Chris Caskey melds science and business in innovative new ways. He has a Ph.D. in applied chemistry from the Colorado School of Mines and worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for a few years. It gets more interesting yet. He now operates Delta Brick Co. and has a lead role in Vessels Coal Gas, the company that operates the methane-to-electricity operation near Paonia. His resume is far more diverse than even this suggests. Oh, and he assisted a man attacked by an octopus.

    Karl Rabago is the principal of Rabago Energy, a consulting firm. Before 2019 he directed the Pace Energy & Climate Center. His experience in energy goes back decades and includes such diverse stints as being a public utility commissioner in Texas to being an energy program manager for the Environmental Defense Fund.

    Roger Freeman is an attorney who specializes in energy and environmental law. He is the chair of the board of directors for the Colorado Solar and Storage Association among other organizations. His father, the late Dyson Freeman, was a seminal thinker in the energy transition, and Roger Freeman has had pieces published in both the Sacramento Bee and in Big Pivots.

    Michelle Zimmerman directs development at SunShare, with previous experiences in the renewable energy sector.

    Rich Meisinger is the business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 111. He told Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine in 2020 that the union has 4,225 members.

    Leia Guccione is an engineer and now is the managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free Electricity division.

    The RMI website says this: “Leia currently leads a body of work to inform utility regulators of policy solutions for a clean energy future, as well as provide them with unique process design and facilitation as they develop and execute reform initiatives to implement these solutions.”
    Oh, and before joining RMI, she served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer. She continues to serve in the Navy Reserves.

    Kathleen Staks has is the director of Western Freedom, a group advocating for a regional transmission grid and briefly before that had a public relations firm. Staks was most recently director of external affairs for Guzman Energy, a new and disruptive wholesale power provider. Before that, she was executive director of the Colorado Energy Office during the administration of Gov. John Hickenlooper. She also held other posts in Colorado state government.

    Will Toor manages the Colorado Energy Office. He has the authority to designate another individual from within his agency to be part of the authority’s activities. A physicist by training with a Ph.D., Toor previously worked for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, managing that organization’s transportation program, and before that was a Boulder County commissioner and mayor of Boulder. His life’s travels included spending part of one very cold winter in Moffat County as a sheepherder.

    Tom Figel is the senior director of policy and business development at GRID Alternatives, a national organization devoted to the renewable energy transition as a way to drive economic growth and environmental benefits in communities most impacted by underemployment, pollution, and climate change. He manages the community solar program and leads utility relations and advocacy efforts for GRID Colorado. He has prior experience in marketing, strategy, and utility relations for software and battery storage startups.

    The Latest IPCC Report: What is it and why does it matter? The UN released a new #climate report—here’s what it says, and what we can do about it — The Nature Conservancy #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the article on the Nature Conservancy website:

    The IPCC released a new climate report. But what exactly is the IPCC? What does this report mean? How is this report different from the previous reports? Is our situation as grim as some of the news headlines make it sound?

    We’ve prepared this guide to help you understand what this new climate report is, what its findings mean for our world and what we can do about them.

    What is the IPCC and what do they do?

    IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is the scientific group assembled by the United Nations to monitor and assess all global science related to climate change. Every IPCC report focuses on different aspects of climate change.

    This latest report is the second part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment report (AR6 WGII). It compiles the latest knowledge on climate change, the threats we’re already facing today, and what we can do to limit further temperature rises and the dangers that poses for the whole planet. This report focuses on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

    What should I know about the latest IPCC report?

    This most recent IPCC report shows some similar things as the last reports which you may already know about: that climate change is already causing more frequent and more severe storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and other extreme weather events.

    What makes this report different is that it includes more recent science, allowing it to describe the effects of climate change with greater accuracy. The increased frequency and severity of these events threaten the health and safety of millions of people around the world, both through direct impacts and by making it harder to produce food and access clean water.

    What’s particularly troubling about the latest IPCC report is that the scientists say that warming temperatures are leading to more “compound extremes.” This is when multiple climate hazards (such as extreme temperature and precipitation) occur simultaneously in the same place, affect multiple regions at the same time, or occur in a sequence. For example, sustained higher temperatures can decrease soil moisture, which will suppress plant growth, which in turn reduces local rainfall, which leads to more drought in an escalating feedback loop.

    Is there any hope then?

    Yes. Climate change is here today, reshaping our world in ways big and small. But that doesn’t mean our future is predetermined. Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference when it comes to the future impacts of climate change. We still have the ability to limit further warming, and to help communities around the world adapt to the changes that have already occurred. Every action counts.

    What can we do to stop climate change?

    When every fraction of a degree counts, we must use every tool available to us. That means accelerating the global transition to clean energy and doing more to leverage nature’s ability to fight climate. It also means finding more climate-friendly ways to produce food and creating climate-resilient water sources.

    We also need to learn how to adapt to the effects of climate change that are already here—and provide assistance to the marginalized communities that are hit the hardest. Doing all of this requires more investments in climate action—both through greater public funding and through innovative private funding strategies, such as the use of carbon markets.

    What can I do about climate change as an individual?

  • Learn how to talk about climate change: We can all help by engaging and educating others. Our guide will help you feel comfortable raising these topics at the dinner table with your friends and family. Download our guide to talk about climate change.
  • Share your thoughts: Share this page on your social channels so others know what they can do, too. Here are some hashtags to join the conversation: #IPCC #ClimateAction #NatureNow
  • Join collective action: By speaking collectively, we can influence climate action at the national and global levels. You can add your name to stand with The Nature Conservancy in calling for real solutions now.
  • Keep learning: Educate yourself and share the knowledge—you can start with some of these articles, videos, and other resources.
  • #ClimateChange: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet. Taking action now can secure our future — @IPCC #ActOnClimate

    Click the link to read the release from the IPCC:

    Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released today.

    “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

    The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements.

    The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was approved on Sunday, February 27 2022, by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that was held over two weeks starting on February 14.

    Urgent action required to deal with increasing risks

    Increased heatwaves, droughts and floods are already exceeding plants’ and animals’ tolerance thresholds, driving mass mortalities in species such as trees and corals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have exposed millions of people to acute food and water insecurity, especially in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, on Small Islands and in the Arctic.

    Daytime high temperatures across the western United States on June 23-28, 2021, according to data from NOAA’s Real-Time Mesoscale Analysis/URMA. Climate.gov animation based on NOAA URMA data.

    To avoid mounting loss of life, biodiversity and infrastructure, ambitious, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. So far, progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks, the new report finds. These gaps are largest among lower-income populations.

    The Working Group II report is the second instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.

    “This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments,” said Hoesung Lee. “It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”

    Safeguarding and strengthening nature is key to securing a liveable future

    There are options to adapt to a changing climate. This report provides new insights into nature’s potential not only to reduce climate risks but also to improve people’s lives.

    A healthy riparian corridor includes native trees and minimal disturbance within 100 feet of the streambank. Waccamaw River photo by Charles Slate.

    “Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change and provide life-critical services such as food and clean water”, said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner. “By restoring degraded ecosystems and effectively and equitably conserving 30 to 50 per cent of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean habitats, society can benefit from nature’s capacity to absorb and store carbon, and we can accelerate progress towards sustainable development, but adequate finance and political support are essential.”

    Scientists point out that climate change interacts with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development.

    “Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts.

    “In this way, different interests, values and world views can be reconciled. By bringing together scientific and technological know-how as well as Indigenous and local knowledge, solutions will be more effective. Failure to achieve climate resilient and sustainable development will result in a sub-optimal future for people and nature.”

    Cities: Hotspots of impacts and risks, but also a crucial part of the solution

    North American Drought Monitor map January 2022

    This report provides a detailed assessment of climate change impacts, risks and adaptation in cities, where more than half the world’s population lives. People’s health, lives and livelihoods, as well as property and critical infrastructure, including energy and transportation systems, are being increasingly adversely affected by hazards from heatwaves, storms, drought and flooding as well as slow-onset changes, including sea level rise.

    “Together, growing urbanization and climate change create complex risks, especially for those cities that already experience poorly planned urban growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a lack of basic services,” Debra Roberts said.

    Water-efficient garden, in Israel. Photo: Paul Andersen/Aspen Journalism

    “But cities also provide opportunities for climate action – green buildings, reliable supplies of clean water and renewable energy, and sustainable transport systems that connect urban and rural areas can all lead to a more inclusive, fairer society.”

    There is increasing evidence of adaptation that has caused unintended consequences, for example destroying nature, putting peoples’ lives at risk or increasing greenhouse gas emissions. This can be avoided by involving everyone in planning, attention to equity and justice, and drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge.

    A narrowing window for action

    Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

    Climate change is a global challenge that requires local solutions and that’s why the Working Group II contribution to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) provides extensive regional information to enable Climate Resilient Development.

    The report clearly states Climate Resilient Development is already challenging at current warming levels. It will become more limited if global warming exceeds 1.5°C (2.7°F). In some regions it will be impossible if global warming exceeds 2°C (3.6°F). This key finding underlines the urgency for climate action, focusing on equity and justice. Adequate funding, technology transfer, political commitment and partnership lead to more effective climate change adaptation and emissions reductions.

    “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner.

    For more information, please contact:

    IPCC Press Office, Email: ipcc-media@wmo.int IPCC Working Group II:
    Sina Löschke, Komila Nabiyeva: comms@ipcc-wg2.awi.de

    Photo credit: Elisa Stone via the World Weather Attribution

    Click the link to read “Humanity has a ‘brief and rapidly closing window’ to avoid a hotter, deadly future, U.N. climate report says: Latest IPCC report details escalating toll — but top scientists say the world still can choose a less catastrophic path” from The Washington Post (Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis). Here’s an excerpt:

    Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory August 7, 2021.

    Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will raise sea levels several feet, swallowing small island nations and overwhelming even the world’s wealthiest coastal regions. Drought, heat, hunger and disaster may force millions of people from their homes. Coral reefs could vanish, along with a growing number of animal species. Disease-carrying insects would proliferate. Deaths — from malnutrition, extreme heat, pollution — will surge.

    These are some of the grim projections detailed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body dedicated to providing policymakers with regular assessments of the warming world…

    Low-income countries, which generate only a tiny fraction of global emissions, will experience the vast majority of deaths and displacement from the worst-case warming scenarios, the IPCC warns. Yet these nations have the least capacity to adapt — a disparity that extends to even the basic research needed to understand looming risks.

    “I have seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement. Noting the litany of devastating impacts that already are unfolding, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

    […]

    Yet if there is a glimmer of hope in the more than 3,500-page report, it is that the world still has a chance to choose a less catastrophic path. While some climate impacts are destined to worsen, the amount that Earth ultimately warms is not yet written in stone.

    The report makes clear, however, that averting the worst-case scenarios will require nothing less than transformational change on a global scale.

    Denver City Park sunrise

    The world will need to overhaul energy systems, redesign cities and revolutionize how humans grow food. Rather than reacting to climate disturbances after they happen, the IPCC says, communities must more aggressively adapt for the changes they know are coming. These investments could save trillions of dollars and millions of lives, but they have so far been in short supply.

    The IPCC report is a warning letter to a world on the brink. The urgency and escalating toll of climate change has never been clearer, it says. Humanity can’t afford to wait one more day to take action — otherwise we may miss the “brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

    Do you want to keep up with the evolving energy news in #Colorado? — Subscribe to @BigPivots

    A turbine whirls on a farm east of Burlington, Colo. Colorado’s eastern plains already have many wind farms—but it may look like a pin cushion during the next several years. Photo/Allen Best

    From email from Big Pivots (Allen Best):

    Big Pivots 52 has been posted, and you can download the e-journal by going here.

    This issue is rich with content about our giant energy pivot underway in Colorado and beyond, the one made necessary—despite the cold and snow today—of the climate crisis.

    In this issue are 15 stories, from Lamar to Craig, some short and some long, about transmission lines loping across eastern Colorado’s wind-swept prairies, La Plata Energy’s “monumental” pivot in southwestern Colorado; batteries and buildings in Aspen, and other topics. Some are already posted at http://BigPivots.com; others will be soon.

    Also in this issue is a story about Comanche 3, which is down—again. Will this coal plant, still a relative youngster, remain standing to 2034, even with reduced operations? It sure looks like a stranded asset.

    How will coal-dependent towns and cities transition to life beyond? The proponent of a nuclear study made the case to a Colorado legislative committee this week that modular nuclear reactors can help Colorado achieve 100% emissions-free electricity while easing those coal communities to a life beyond. Be assured, all the answers in this energy pivot have not arrived, as that state senator observed.

    Now a question before state regulators is how best to avoid stranded assets as we nudge emissions from fossil fuels burned for heating and other purposes in buildings. The 2021 laws requiring this are relatively clear, but the precise pathway far from certain. PUC commissioners, led by Megan Gilman, have been asking good questions as they conferred with representatives of utilities, unions, and others engaged in creating solutions.

    Sparking the most interest is the proposal to end the subsidies for extension of natural gas lines. Right now, if you live in a new subdivision, you’re not paying the full cost of the extension of the natural gas line. It’s being financed by existing customers. The cost is socialized. This is a hot issue—and will get hotter. The optics on this are really, really interesting. Boulder argues against socialism and Grand Junction argues for it (along with Aurora, by the way). Some of this will be hashed out in a special day-long session of the PUC on March 7.

    Meanwhile, we have a $24-$25 million natural gas line proposed to the Sloans Lake area west of downtown Denver that, under normal depreciation schedules, will not be paid off until after 2050—when Colorado’s economy is supposed to be substantially decarbonized.

    Comanche 3 was approved 18 years ago, and we’re 28 years away from that decarbonization target.

    Do trust Big Pivots to keep following this and other conversations.

    Also, I ask you respectfully to encourage others to join the “subscription list by signing up here. Want off this mailing list for Big Pivots? Let me know.

    Allen Best
    Big Pivots
    https://bigpivots.com

    720.415.9308
    allen.best@comcast.net

    A win-win in Southwestern #Colorado: Why La Plata Electric thinks splitting only one sheet with Tri-State Generation and Transmission is the best way forward — @BigPivots

    Costs of a full vs. a partial buyout.

    Click the link to read the article on Big Pivots (Allen Best):

    Tim Wheeler may have had the best line among the directors of La Plata Electric Association after they unanimously approved a resolution that firmly puts them on a path to a half-a-loaf arrangement with their current electrical provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

    Even in the 1990s, he explained, he had begun asking why they couldn’t provide more electrical generation locally in a way that could lead to a lower cost and with a greater benefit to the existing climate.

    “I am very mindful of people who told me along the way for 25 yeas that this couldn’t be done,” he said. “I want to thank them for being wrong.”

    The case for the new arrangement was laid out in a video-conference town hall held by La Plata last week.

    La Plata’s existing contract with Tri-State allows the Durango-based cooperative to generate just 5% of its own power. Under a new contract approved conceptually in October 2020 by Tri-State’s members, individual members will be able to provide up to 50% of their own electricity, either through their own generation or purchases from others.

    In this case, La Plata is eyeing a contract with Crossover Energy Parnters, a relatively new energy supplier financed by the Wall Street firm KKR. Crossover would provide 71 megawatts of generation and Tri-State 71 megawatts.

    Dan Harms, the vice president of grid solutions for La Plata, said the cooperative and Tri-State have agreed to a final partial contract payment arrangement that will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval. Because of the sensitivity of the negotiations, he said, details could not be divulged.

    Dan Harms.

    La Plata hopes to enter this new 50-50 future beginning January 2024, he said. If this happens—the deal still isn’t final—then La Plata will immediately reduce its carbon footprint 50%.

    Why a partial-requirements contract instead of a full buyout? Harms cited several reasons. It meets La Plata’s climate goal, which is to decarbonize 50% by 2030 as compared to 2018. It also uses Tri-State’s transmission infrastructure that will allow La Plata to tap Tri-State’s more regional generational resources.

    By staying with Tri-State on a half-time basis, though, La Plata avoids some of the headaches of being a solo operator, he said, if not in quite as many words. A full buy-out would require La Plata to cover costs of regulatory compliance, transmission access and other elements.

    “With partial buyout, we still have access to a lot of the benefits and services that Tri-State provides,” he said.

    The case for a partial

    The most compelling evidence in the hour-long session was a chart (see top) showing costs of a full vs. a partial buyout. That chart showed much larger savings from the partial requirements.
    The partial requirements contract will save La Plata $7 million a year.

    Given that La Plata currently spends $68 million buying electricity, even 1% cut can make a big difference, Harms said.
    None of the options are off the table permanently. It can go to a full exit later, said Harms.

    The coop’s existing all-requirements contract was approved in 2006, a time when most coop directors could not envision the rapid dive of renewable prices.

    La Plata began showing discontent with its contract with Tri-State in 2017. In early 2018 it began investigating its alternatives. It formally notified Tri-State later that year what it was up to and also asked what it would cost to get out of its contract.

    Kit Carson Electric, a member in New Mexico, had left in 2016 after paying $37 million. Delta-Montrose Electric, a Colorado member, was then negotiating with Tri-State for its exit, which later was tabulated at $62 million. And United Power had also indicated it wanted to explore options.

    The Colorado Public Utilities Commission likely would have determined the exit fee for La Plata had not Tri-State, by then under the leadership of Duane Highley, used a legal strategy to move such deliberations to FERC, the federal agency in Washington D.C. Much of this legal shuffling occurred during the dark of the covid lockdowns in 2020.

    Tri-State has submitted methodologies for determining both buy-downs and buy-outs. They’re called and buy-down payments (PDPs) and contract-termination payments (CTP). FERC has not yet approved either methodology.

    Mark Pearson, of the Durango-based San Juan Citizens Alliance, called the partial buy-out “a great step forward.”

    “It’s a great way for us to accelerate our transition to a much less carbon-intensive electricity supply, and hopefully all 50% of La Plata’s generation will be local renewable energy,” he said. He also sees value in exploring the benefits of a full buyout, once that methodology has been approved by FERC.

    Lee Boughey, communications officer for Tri-State, said he expects FERC to conduct a hearing on the contract termination methodology in May. He said Tri-State directors will not need to take any additional actions on this or other partial requirements contracts filed with FERC.

    Tri-State last year announced a pool of 300 megawatts of generation available to its 42 member cooperatives. Three of the coops bid in what Tri-State calls the open season, La Plata among them. The other two were not identified. Tri-State will conduct another open-season in May.

    Tri-State looks like a very different electrical supplier than it was in 2017. Then, it was still dragging its feet on embracing changes. La Plata was itching to make them.

    Duane Highley via The Mountain Town News

    Since Duane Highley arrived as chief executive in April 2019, Tri-State has promised to achieve 70% renewables in the electricity it delivers in Colorado by 2030. That’s an 80% reduction compared to 2005 levels.

    The wholesale provider has also stopped raising rates and is now lowering them, 2% last year with another 2% reduction schedule for this fall. It is working with La Plata to install a 2-megawatt community solar project.

    At the same time, it has failed to placate its single largest member, Brighton-based United Power, which has 105,000 members, nearly twice as many a La Plata. In December, United announced it had made up its mind. It wants out—and Mark Gabriel, the chief executive, said at a recent conference that he’s counting the days.

    The precise numbers of this partial buy-down have not been revealed, which is likely what directors and chief executives at other cooperatives will want to see. At least six others have indicated they are studying their options.

    What’s in this for Tri-State? Even after Highley arrived, the wholesale provider seemed to be desperate to hold onto members. The initial buy-outnumbers [Tri-State] provided La Plata and United Power were preposterous.

    Pat Bridges, a senior vice president and chief financial officer at Tri-State, said at the town hall meeting last week that this agreements will be a win-win for Tri-State because the 50% contract will help it pivot from coal plants to renewables.

    It will “actually allow us to move faster in that regard,” he said. There are upfront costs in the energy transition, he added.

    Good questions 15 years ago

    Win-win was also a phrase frequently used by board members in Durango on Wednesday.

    Bob Lynch, a board member, called it a “monumental thing.” The board’s approval brings it “as close as you get without hooking up new power.”

    Lynch also pointed to the changed leadership, both in the chief executives of La Plata and Tri-State, in moving the discussion along. “We have the right leaders in place.”

    He also credited a former board member, Jeff Berman, with “starting the discussion and starting the argument” about green power.

    Berman, who let the board 5 years ago, told Big Pivots that he listened for a couple of years during his 12 years on the board before he started asking basic questions about power sources, costs and alternatives. “It’s a shame it took 17 years, but better to move forward now and do it right,” he said.

    He remains in Durango, having become a licensed engineer and is now “laser focused on actually building solar power and battery storage.”

    Rachael Landis, a board member, pointed out that despite the national division and diversities among the directors themselves, they had thought critically about how to keep the best interests of La Plata customers in mind.

    Joe Lewandowski shared that as recently as a year and a half ago, even after Tri-State had new leadership, he was discouraged. “It just didn’t look like we were going anywhere with Tri-State.” He, too, called it a win-win.

    This is from Big Pivots 52. Please consider subscribing. Even better, toss some bills in the collection plate.

    On the brink of yes in #Colorado: State regulators give preliminary OK to Xcel Energy for $1.7 billion in transmission as it pivots to low-carbon electricity — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Tri-State Generation and Transmission has a power-purchase agreement for 104 megawatts of generating capacity from the Crossing Trails Wind Farm, a wind farm between Seibert and Kit Carson, in eastern Colorado, on October 3, 2021. Photo: Allen Best/Big Pivots

    Click on the link to read the article on Big Pivots (Allen Best):

    Transmission that will be critical to delivering wind energy from farms and ranches in eastern Colorado to electrical consumers along the Front Range was tentatively approved by the Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 11.

    Click the image to go to Xcel’s project page and the interactive map.

    The PUC commissioners will again take up the proposal by Xcel Energy on Feb. 23 to work through more details of what will likely produce $1.7 billion of transmission in a gigantic, 560-mile loop around eastern Colorado called the Pathway Project. Slightly less certain is approval of a 90-mile extension to wind-rich Baca County in the state’s southeastern corner. The cost tag of that extension is $250 million.

    Some testimony had been filed with the PUC arguing that the massive investment as prposed was unneeded for Xcel to achieve its mandated carbon-reduction goals of 80% by 2030 as compared to 2005. PUC commissioners were not persuaded. They quickly concluded that Xcel had indeed delivered the evidence that the proposed 345-kV double-circuit transmission line will be needed—and soon.

    “Time is of the essence. We don’t know what impediments might creep up as the project proceeds,” said John Gavan, one of the three commissioners.

    “I also think it’s important to realize that this project will support generation beyond our planning with the current electric resource plan,” he added, referring to Xcel’s separate but concurrent proposal for new wind and solar projects, as well as natural gas plants and storage.

    The PUC’s two other commissioners shared similar thoughts about urgency.

    “They’ve met their burden (of proof) here,” said Megan Gilman. “I don’t want perfect to be the enemy of the good,” said Eric Blank, the commission chairman.

    For detailed profiles of Xcel’s routing ideas, go to Xcel’s Power Pathway website.

    Xcel’s plans for transmission coupled with a concurrent proposal for new wind, solar, and other resources could deliver investments approaching $9 billion in coming years. This will allow Colorado’s largest electrical utility to close coal plants and likely will slow rate increases or possibly halt them altogether. Some utilities have actually been able to lower rates as they have pivoted to renewables.

    “A really big moment in my career,” says Mark Detsky, an attorney who represents the Colorado Independent Energy Association, an organization of wind and other energy developers.

    Many states have struggled to build the transmission necessary to more fully develop renewable resources. Texas and California have been exceptions, and Colorado will join them, says Detsky.

    “There have been many, many studies that have shown that this is what the United States needs to do to meaningfully decarbonize,” he says.

    “It has to have massive transmission infrastructure that maximizes the wind and solar resources across a wide geographic range.”

    If Xcel’s plans get approved as proposed, the company’s renewable generation portfolio will double by 2030 as compared to the growth in renewables in the previous 17 years.

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

    To pull the trigger on that generation, though, the company needs transmission. In the past, both in Colorado and elsewhere, the two have gone forward on almost entirely separate paths. In this case, they’re separate but concurrent.

    “It is one of the first times in Colorado, if not nationally, that this chicken-and-egg transmission problem has hopefully been addressed,” said Ellen Howard Kutzer, a senior staff attorney with Western Resource Advocates, an advocacy organization that participates in most utility cases before the PUC.

    “We are being thoughtful about the needs of the next 5 to 10 years but also building transmission for future needs as well,” she said. “That’s something that I heard in the deliberations.”

    The proposal for Colorado’s Pathway Project was submitted to the PUC in March 2021. Xcel was bolstered by a non-unanimous but comprehensive settlement agreement filed in November by a variety of environmental, labor, and state agencies, including the staff of the PUC. That agreement indicated broad support for Xcel’s plans.

    Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Colorado’s second largest utility, which is also proposing a sharp pivot in its generation, filed testimony with the PUC that showed that in every case its own plans for more renewable generation will benefit from the new transmission in eastern Colorado.

    Consumer groups had different advice: Go slower. The Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate and others argued that only one of the five segments proposed by Xcel, the 160-mile leg from near Brush-Fort Morgan to the Burlington area, could be justified at this time, as it would deliver nearly the same benefits but at a fraction of the costs.

    The PUC commissioners agreed only to the extent that they want to see that segment and another shorter segment to a substation north of Lamar, a total of 225 miles, get done first. This will allow the wind projects to get federal tax credits that are scheduled to end, although such tax credits have been extended many times in the past. The three other segments closer to the Front Range have slightly less pressing need.

    Uncertainty about the future of federal tax credits, both production and investment, also has the PUC commissioners fretting about what to do about the 90-mile extension to Baca County.

    Studies by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and others have shown southeastern Colorado to have the steadiest, strongest winds in all of Colorado. That should perhaps not be a surprise, as it was at the heart of the Dust Bowl during the 1930s. Xcel has proposed the $250 million extension from its Colorado’s Pathway Project loop. And consumer groups, if skeptical about other segments, are willing to see conditional approval.

    The most resistant voice to approving the extension is perhaps the individual in the proceedings who knows most about the plentitude of wind in the Springfield area. As a wind developer in 2007, said Blank, he had investigated development opportunities in Baca County. He knows the potential, he said.

    As an attorney, though, he worries about procedure if the PUC approves the May Valley-Longhorn extension into Baca County. Xcel, he said, had failed to document the benefits. “They didn’t even try,” he said. “There’s nothing in this record to quantify the benefit.”

    Gavan pushed back. He said the extension from May Valley will be a “building block for the future.” He said he will support a conditional approval—and it needs to be understood as an approval that can save Xcel customers money in the long run. An earlier, rather than later, conditional approval helps open the door for development aided by the federal tax credits.

    The federal tax credits are set to expire late this year. If Congress does not renew them, then the projects that are bid later will come in at a higher cost.

    The three commissioners will be working this over hard with the aid of PUC staff members before their Feb. 23 meeting.

    They’ll also be working over what are called performance-incentive mechanisms, or PIMs. Most people would call this the bag of carrots and sticks. The goal is to get the transmission built without unnecessary cost.

    Transmission at a recent conference was described as difficult but doable. “Transmission is hard to build on one hand, and on the other hand it’s really not,’ said Mark Gabriel, the chief executive of Untied Power, Colorado’s second largest electrical cooperative. It costs a “ton of money,” he explained, and “permitting is a pain in the butt.” That said, it can get done.

    This is from Big Pivots 52. Please consider subscribing. Even better, toss some bills in the collection plate.

    In this case, the scale matters. PUC staff member Dan Greenberg told the commissioners that Xcel will have to work with 700 landowners as it puts together the transmission segments that go on-line, the first segments in 2025 and the remaining three segments by the end of 2027. There will be environmental issues, such as habitat of the lesser prairie chicken, uncertainty over price of materials—and more.

    All three commissioners have backgrounds in business, with Blank and Gilman both having careers in renewable generation and Gavan in information technology prior to their appointments. They sometimes drew on personal experience in balancing bonuses and penalties so that Xcel gets the transmission built in time for Colorado to meet its decarbonization goals and without wasting money along the way. There is much talk about avoiding “cliffs.” Speed bumps and flying lights weren’t discussed, but you get the idea.

    Another decision, but this one without footnotes, is about undergrounding. Lots of people would like to see transmission lines go underground, but Xcel had testified that the cost would increase 20-fold. That persuaded the PUC commissioners.

    Undergrounding, however, might conceivably be involved some day in exporting electricity generated by solar panels in the San Luis Valley, Colorado’s richest area for solar. The commissioners are receptive to opening a miscellaneous proceeding late this year. That means nothing will necessarily happen, although it does represent a victory for the Colorado Solar and Storage Association.

    A turbine whirls on a farm east of Burlington, Colo. Colorado’s eastern plains already have many wind farms—but it may look like a pin cushion during the next several years. Photo/Allen Best

    The final major issue decided at least tentatively by the PUC commissioners was how much stock to put into the testimony of Larry Miloshevich, a Lafayette resident who has been conducting a deep investigation of evolving technology for electrical transmission. In the acronym-rich discussion, it was called ATT, or advanced transmission technologies.

    Gavan gushed about the promise of such technologies, particularly one called carbon-core conduits that he said could eliminate upwards of 500 transmission towers. He pointed out that North Dakota-based Basin Electric used the technology on a 27-mile, 230-kV transmission line. If Basin, a distinctly conservative generation and transmission association, could embrace the technology, he argued, then certainly it should behoove Xcel Energy with its reputation for being one of the nation’s most progressive utilities, to do the same.

    Blank, the chairman and an attorney, was resistant. He wanted stronger evidence for the record before he was willing to make it a conditional requirement of approval.

    This most certainly will be discussed again. “I strongly support that it could really transform this world, but we just want to be careful about creating a (legal) mess,” said Blank.

    Afterward, Miloshevich said he was pleased with the interest shown in his studies about advanced transmission technology, especially the use of advanced carbon-core conductors as a superior alternative to traditional aluminum-conducted steel-reinforced conductors.

    “Carbon-core conductor (technology) in general has a 20-year history and a solid performance record” aside from fragility issues during installation, which have now been addressed, he wrote in an email.

    Miloshevich said he believes a more careful combing of his testimony will demonstrate to the satisfaction of PUC commissioners that there is sufficient evidence to justify making it a requirement.

    End in sight for natural gas bridge?: Filings by #Colorado’s two largest utilities reveal debate about how much longer natural gas will be vital to ensuring reliable electrical deliveries — @BigPivots

    Hydrocarbon processing in the Wattenberg Field east of Fort Lupton, Colo., on July 2, 2020. Photo/Allen Best

    From Big Pivots (Allen Best):

    Natural gas a decade ago was being called the bridge fuel. Burning it produces half the emissions of coal, yet it can be tapped to ensure reliable delivery of electricity. It was the bridge to a low-emissions future.

    Today, natural gas is where coal was 10 or 15 years ago. We still need it for electrical generation, but the bridge no longer seems endless. But will new natural gas plants end up being like many coal plants, assets stranded long before the debt is paid?

    The role of natural gas in Colorado’s energy future is being sorted out in proposals submitted to state regulators by Colorado’s two largest electrical utilities: Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Together, they deliver 71% of electricity.

    These utilities expect to achieve 80% and even higher reductions in emissions associated with electrical generation by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels. Both the technology and economics of renewables and now storage align with these goals.

    The preferred plan by Tri-State, the wholesaler for 17 of Colorado’s 22 electrical cooperatives, takes a wait-and-see position about new natural gas-fired generation during the next few years.

    In a September filing, Lisa Tiffin, the senior manager for analytics and forecasting, explained that this will “allow emerging technologies to become more competitive in the interim and potentially displace the need” for new natural gas generation.

    Most people, when buying a house, take on a 30-year mortgage. An agreement filed with state regulators last week by Tri-State, along with environmental groups, state agencies and others, calls for a shorter depreciation of just 20 years when evaluating the cost of any potential new natural gas plant.

    This makes new natural gas much more difficult to justify. This shorter timeline also accords with Colorado’s statutory timeline for achieving a 100% near carbon-free electrical generation by 2050.

    But what will be needed to meet demand if, for example, Colorado has a heat dome type of event in 2030 similar to that which baked people to death in Portland last June? Air conditioners would be blasting — and the wind turbines may be motionless.

    That’s a central question in the plans for Xcel Energy. In addition to its own customers, the utility delivers wholesale power to utilities that serve Aspen, Vail, plus Steamboat Springs and Craig.

    Xcel wants to install natural gas generation at an existing coal plant in Pawnee, which is in northeastern Colorado, beginning Jan. 1, 2026. Environmental groups are on board with this, although some want an even earlier switch.

    Western Resource Advocates and other environmental groups, however, are not on board with Xcel building other new gas plants. Xcel estimates it will invest $1 billion in natural gas capacity. Those gas plants, it says, will be used rarely but necessarily to ensure reliability.

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Association supports Xcel’s plans and wants to see no time wasted. Natural gas, it said in a filing last week, will “play this critical reliability and resilience role that makes renewable energy possible.”

    The industry group also supports Xcel’s argument that the natural gas infrastructure can later be adapted to use green hydrogen, if and when that technology becomes affordable. Renewable energy and water are used to create green hydrogen, which can be stored. COGA and Xcel say another potential path is to use natural gas plants retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technology. That technology also cannot yet compete in cost or scale.

    Environmental groups argue instead for battery storage, already part of Xcel’s plans, playing an even larger role. Interwest Energy Alliance, representing primarily wind developers, accused Xcel last week of old-school thinking: “The technological changes that are coming to the entire utility industry are unfathomable to those stuck in the central station combustion thought paradigm.” Batteries, though, remain an imperfect solution.

    The Colorado Energy Office wants Xcel to be required to invest in demand-response programs, shifting demand and suppressing it through energy efficiency. This, it points out, will be less expensive than Xcel investing in up to 300 megawatts of additional gas generation.

    What all agree is that Xcel’s filing constitutes a landmark. Perhaps never before has the state’s Public Utilities Commission seen a proposal for so much rapid change. One example: the social cost of carbon is being used for the first time to evaluate proposals. Xcel, in a related proposal, wants to spend $2 billion alone on new transmission. The energy landscape has changed — and likely will change just as dramatically in the next decade.

    The state’s three PUC commissioners are expected to issue a decision sometime in March about both the Tri-State and Xcel pivots. Part of those big decisions will be about the role of natural gas.

    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.