Say hello to Geospatial Energy Mapper

Click the link to go to the GEM website:

GEM is an interactive web-based decision support system that allows users to locate areas with high suitability for clean power generation and potential energy transmission corridors in the United States. Browse and download data layers, or create a custom suitability model to identify areas for energy development.

Save public lands: Put #solar on Walmart! — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate

Click the link to read the article on the High Country News website (Jonathan P. Thompson):

On a sunny day in early December, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland stood on a dais outside the Phoenix exurb of Buckeye, Arizona, where about 3,000 acres of desert had been scraped clean and leveled to make way for the Sonoran Solar Project, which will soon provide power to some 91,000 homes. 

Haaland came with good news for utility-scale solar and climate hawks: The Bureau of Land Management would review three massive solar projects proposed in Arizona and hoped to expedite permitting for solar energy on federal lands in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. “Solar energy projects on public lands will help communities across the country be a part of the climate solution, while creating good-paying jobs,” Haaland said. 

But these projects could also potentially uproot imperiled Joshua trees and cactus, kill or displace threatened desert tortoises, block wildlife migratory paths and harm local communities. This puts conservationists and policymakers in the difficult position of having to choose between saving the desert — or the planet. 

There are other ways, however, and other locations for solar panels, from residential rooftops to farm fields fallowed by drought. France, for instance, recently required large parking lots to be covered by solar canopies that shade cars and provide up to 11 gigawatts of new generating capacity, equivalent to about 10 times the three proposed projects in Arizona. 

This inspired us to ask: How much power could be generated by slapping solar panels not only over the West’s vast parking lots, but also on its 21,000 big-box store rooftops? We did the math, and this is what we found out. 

1,155 megawatts
Estimated generating capacity if solar panels covered all 370 miles of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, as LA officials propose.

37,500 gigawatt-hours per year
Energy output of solar canopies if all of Phoenix, Arizona’s 12.2 million parking spots were covered. 

139
Number of desert tortoises relocated to make way for the Yellow Pine Solar Project in southern Nevada in 2021. Within a few weeks, 30 of them were killed, possibly by badgers.

4,200 (215,000 acres)
Grazing leases bought and retired in the Mojave Desert in California by Avantus this year to protect wildlife habitat and Joshua trees. The Onyx Conservation Project is a partnership with federal and state land management agencies to “offset” the impacts of the company’s developments elsewhere in the region.

1.3 million
Estimated number of Joshua trees destroyed by the 2020 Dome Fire, thought to be exacerbated by climate change, in the Mojave National Preserve in California. 

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

Note: We worked from two figures that were calculated by Greta Bolinger and Mark Bolinger in “Land Requirements for Utility-Scale PV: An Empirical Update on Power and Energy Density,” published in the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics in March 2022:

Power density: .35 megawatts per acre for utility-scale, fixed-tilt photovoltaics. Most residential solar systems are about 400 watts, or .0004 megawatts. 

Energy density: 447 megawatt-hours per year per acre for utility-scale fixed-tilt photovoltaics. An average American household uses about 10 megawatt-hours of electricity annually. 

We used Environment America’s figures and Google Earth’s measurements to determine that an average big-box store has 3.25 acres of rooftop. We used American Planning Association calculations to estimate that one acre contains about 145 parking spaces. 

Additional sources: BLM, EIA, Basin & Range Watch, UC Davis, Berkeley Lab, Avantus, Primergy, American Planning Association, USGS, Environment America, Google Earth.

Infographic by Luna Anna Archey/High Country News

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of Sagebrush Empire: How a Remote Utah County Became the Battlefront of American Public Lands. 

Want to solve #ClimateChange? This #California farm kingdom holds a key — The Los Angeles Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Southern California’s Imperial Valley. Ted Wood/The Water Desk

Click the link to read the article on The Los Angeles Times website (Sammy Roth). Here’s an excerpt:

…welcome to the Imperial Valley. Wedged in California’s southeastern corner, it’s one of the most important places you’ve probably never been. To one side of [Ralph] Strahm’s farm is the Sonoran Desert at its most stark, where creosote-studded washes give way to glimmering sand dunes and craggy mountain peaks. To the other side is an astonishingly productive agricultural empire. Nearly half a million acres of lush green fields sprawl into the distance, popping out lettuce, sugar beets, onions, cattle feed and more…

But keeping the vegetable aisle stocked comes at a cost. Imperial County farm barons use more Colorado River water than the rest of California combined. And as the planet heats up, there’s less and less water to go around…

Clean energy advocates see Imperial as an ideal place for solar farms and battery projects that can help solve the American West’s energy and water crises. The land is flat; the sunlight, abundant. The Colorado River desperately needs relief. And Imperial is one of California’s poorest counties, its agriculture-heavy economy practically crying out for diversification and higher-paying jobs But resistance to change runs deep, particularly among the few hundred families who own all the farmland. Agriculture is the only way of life many of them have known, and they’re raring to defend it. Their ancestors settled here a century ago, staking an early claim to the Colorado and carving canals to carry its riches through the desert. Again and again, they’ve faced pressure to sell water to coastal cities. They’re ready to pounce on anything that smells like a water grab. And to some of them, solar power smells like a water grab…

Lurking beneath these battles are urgent questions with no easy answers: What is the land’s best use? Who gets to decide? And how do we balance water conservation, food production and clean power generation in an era of climate emergency?

A solar farm off CO 17 in Alamosa County. The San Luis Valley produces 10 percent more power per solar panel than anywhere else in the state due to its base elevation of 7,500 feet and more days of sun than the Front Range and anywhere else in Colorado. Photo by Owen Woods via The Alamosa Citizen

CRES history Part 7: Next steps? #Colorado is briskly decarbonizing electricity, but huge challenges remain. What is the role for a grassroots group like CRES? — @BigPivots

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

In Colorado’s energy transition, some work has advanced at a remarkable pace in the last 15 years. Other aspects are as perplexing now as in 2011 when Dave Bowden interviewed Matt Baker, then a Colorado public utilities commissioner, for a documentary film commemorating CRES’s accomplishments on its 15th anniversary.

Baker described a two-fold challenge. One was to achieve the legislative mandate of getting 30% of electricity from renewables while keeping the cost increase below 2%.

Check that box. In 2021, renewables provided 35% of Colorado’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration, even as costs of wind, solar and batteries continue to decline. And utilities now say they can achieve at least 70% by 2030 (and some aim for 100%).

With its sunny days and its windy prairies, Colorado has resources many states would envy. Plus, it’s nice to have NREL in your midst.

Clean energy technologies can and must ramp up even faster. At one time, the atmospheric pollution could be dismissed as unpleasant but worth the tradeoff. That debate has ended. The science of climate change is clear about the rising risks and unsavory outcomes of continuing this 200-year devotion to burning fossil fuels.

Big, big questions remain, though. Some are no more near resolution than they were in 2011 when Baker, who now directs the public advocates office at the California Public Utilities, identified the “desperate need to modernize the grid,” including the imperative for demand-side management.

Leave that box unchecked. Work is underway, but oh so much remains to be figured out.

For example, how much transmission do we need if we emphasize more dispersed renewable generation? Can we figure out the storage mechanisms to supplement them? Might we need fewer giant power lines from distant wind and solar farms? This debate is simmering, on the verge of boiling.

In buildings, the work is only beginning. Colorado has started, in part nudged by the host of laws adopted in 2021, among them the bill that Meillon had worked on for a decade.

John Avenson took a house with strong fundamentals, most prominently southern exposure, and tweaked it until he was confident that he could stub the natural gas line. Photo/Allen Best

Others had been working on the same issue in a different way. Consider John Avenson. Now retired, he was still working as an engineer at Bell Labs when he began retrofitting his house in Westminster to reduce its use of fossil fuels.

The house had a good foundation. It was built in the early 1980s in a program using designs created in partnership with SERI, the NREL precursor. It was part of a Passive Solar Parade of Homes in 1981. And unlike about 80% of houses in metro Denver according to the calculations of Steve Andrews, it faces south, allowing it to harvest sunshine as needed and minimizing the need for imported energy.

Avenson then tweaked and fussed over how to save energy here and then there. Finally, in 2017, he convinced himself that he no longer needed natural gas. He ordered the line stubbed.

To those who want to follow the same path, Avenson has been generous with his time. He can commonly be seen pitching in on other, mostly behind-the-scene roles, for CRES and affiliated events.

CRES’s membership is full of such individuals, people committed to taking action, whether in their own lives or in making the case why change must occur in our policies.

Graphic credit: The Nature Conservancy

But what about the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere? Can it be mopped up just a bit? Certainly, it’s better to not emit emissions. But we’re cornered now. Focus is growing on ways to return carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. Revised and rewarded agricultural practices may be one way. That will be a component of a major bill in the 2023 Colorado General Assembly climate change docket.

This is also a topic that Larson, since his time in Africa after the Reagan administration short-sheeted the solar laboratory in Golden, has avidly promoted. In 2007, the idea got a name: biochar. It is one technique for restoring carbon to soils. Today, it remains an obtuse idea to most people. It may be useful to remember that a renewables-powered economy sounded weird to many people in 1996, if they thought about it at all.

CRES has been regaining its financial health. “Through disciplined and lean operations, we have been able to slowly grow our annual income to nearly $40,000 a year,” said Eberle, the board president at a 25th anniversary celebration in October. “We have a solid financial base to not only maintain our current programs but consider new opportunities.”

The question lingers for those deeply engaged in CRES about what exactly its role can be and should be.

Always, there are opportunities for informed citizens such as those who are the lifeblood of CRES. Mike Kruger made this point clear in a CRES presentation in October 2022. As the executive director of COSSA, he routinely contacts elected officials and their staff in Washington D.C.

“The same thing happens at the State Capitol,” he said. Two or three phone calls to a state legislator has been enough to bring to their attention a particular issue or even change their vote.

And that takes us to the big, big question: What exactly has CRES achieved in its 26 years?

In this history you have read about a few salient elements:

  • the shove of Xcel into accepting Colorado Green;
  • the passing of Amendment 37, which raised Colorado’s profile nationally and set the stage for the election of Bill Ritter on a platform of stepped-up integration of renewables;
  • the work in recent years to revamp the calculations used in evaluating alternatives to methane.

Teasing out accomplishments, connecting lines directly can be a difficult task. Perhaps instructive might be a sideways glance to other major societal changes. Much has been written about the civil rights movement after World War II that culminated in the landmark federal legislation of the mid-1960s.

There were individuals, most notably the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and, in some contexts, his key lieutenants, John Lewis and Jessie Jackson.

But there were others. Consider the march from Selma to Montgomery. There were strong-willed individuals such as Amelia Boynton Robinson and, at one point in the Selma story, the school children themselves who took up the cause as their parents and other elders hesitated.

Civil rights and the energy transition have differences. The former had a deep moral component that was not yet clearly evident in energy when CRES was founded in 1996. The seriousness of climate change was not at the same level then, although arguably it is now.

Now Colorado has emerged as a national leader in this energy transition. For that, CRES deserves recognition. It’s not a singular success. CRES has had teammates in this. But it can rightfully take credit.

Other installments in this series about the history of CRES:

Part 1: A coming together of minds in Colorado.

Part 2: Why note wind?

Part 3: Why note wind?

Part 4: The path to the governor’s mansion

And also: How Bill Ritter rode wind

Part 5: Growth, a stumble, then new chapters

Part 6: Influence in the Polis years

Or download the whole series in one e-magazine of Big Pivots 64.

Lawmakers will begin the 2023 session next week with Democrats holding historic majorities — The #Denver Post #COleg

Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Nick Coltrain and Seth Klamann). Here’s an excerpt:

Clean air and eyes on water

[Steve] Fenberg said members are working on several bills to reduce ozone emissions and aiming to boost air quality in the state . First, officials need to separate out what is in state control and what isn’t, while also balancing that regulations come with economic and personal costs. Fenberg cited the temporary closure of the Suncor refinery specifically: It may lead to cleaner air for a few months, but it may also mean people already under the thumb of inflation may pay more for energy. Lawmakers will also continue to look at the oil and gas industry, though Fenberg said those details aren’t yet finished. He mentioned incentivizing the electrification of drill rigs to tamp down on pre-production drilling emissions as one likely effort. Regulators have also been working on new rules for energy production, a product of 2019’s Senate Bill 181, and lawmakers will be watching to see if it accomplishes what they wanted, he said.

“I want to be careful and make sure the appropriate things are at the regulatory side so that we’re not over-prescribing at the legislative level,” Fenberg said.

Water remains a defining aspect of life in the West, and Colorado’s water crisis remains as acute as ever. Fenberg called it “a bit of an existential threat” to the state’s economy and its communities. Conservation, drought resilience and infrastructure efforts will be big aims, though the legislative leaders did not have specific policies yet.

“One of the biggest frustrations when we talk about water quantity is certainly the diverse interests that come to the table,” McCluskie said. “This isn’t a Republican and Democrat issue, this is a Western Slope and eastern slope issue. It is an ag economy, a tourist economy and outdoor recreation economy interest.”

Right now, the goal is to convene stakeholders to find common ground across those sometimes disparate interests, she said. And the bevy of new lawmakers also need time to brush up on the dissertation-worthy topic of western water law. McCluskie said state Rep. Karen McCormick, who will chair the Agriculture, Water and Natural Resources Committee, has been putting together a “water boot camp” for her members.

Growth, a stumble, then new chapters: CRES history Part 5 — @BigPivots

Patty Limerick. Photo credit Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.

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

The organization grew and then decided to spread its wings. It didn’t work out, raising questions of how a group like CRES should operate. What it did do was expand with two new chapters in Colorado.

CRES has had its ups and downs, its time of growth and expanding influence and then times of retraction.

Annual conferences have been held but with some lengthy gaps. The first, held in 1998 at Snow Mountain Ranch, between Granby and Fraser, was regarded as a splendid retreat. However, CRES leaders decided it would be better to hold conferences in places more accessible to the broader public and with greater geographic diversity. Accordingly, the 2002 conference was held in Colorado Springs with Amory Lovins as the featured speaker. The next was in Montrose, followed by the University of Denver, with still others in Fort Collins, Pueblo, and then again in Montrose.

Remarks made by speakers at the conference in Steamboat Springs in June 2007 reveal the rapid change during the last 15 years.

Organizers had recruited Stan Lewandowski, then general manager of Intermountain Rural Electric Association (now called CORE Electric Cooperative) to explain himself. He was known for his embrace of coal and for his financial contribution to Pat Michaels, a climate scientist who argued global warming will cause relatively minor and even beneficial charges. Renewables, said Lewandowski, were expensive, and he refused to socialize their cost to the detriment of elderly people on fixed income.

Now, that same cooperative—under new leadership—is hurrying to get out of its ownership in what will likely be Colorado’s last operating coal plant, Comanche 3.

Chuck Kutscher, then an engineer at NREL (and now a member of the CRES policy committee), also spoke, stressing the importance of the “beef” of energy efficiency to the “sizzle” of renewables. Paul Bony, who was then with Delta-Montrose Electric Association, told about the 100 ground-source heat pumps whose installation he had overseen.

Keynote speaker at the 2007 conference in Steamboat Springs was Patty Limerick, a historian from the University of Colorado-Boulder, who talked about energy conversions of the past 200 years. She warned against expecting immediate change. Even adoption of fossil fuels, if “astonishing in its scale and scope of change,” did not arrive as “one, coherent sequential change.” Fossil fuels, she noted, had lifted women out of household drudgery.

Amory Lovins has harvested bananas 61 times from his solar-passive house near Aspen since the early 1980s. Amory Lovins spoke at the 2002 CRES annual conference held at Colorado College in Colordo Springs. He also spoke at the annual gathering in 2010 held in Montrose Photo used with permission, ©Judy Hill Lovins via The Mountain Town News.

And she left listeners to ponder this thought: “The most consequential question of the early 21st century is who controls the definition of progress.”

Membership in CRES grew from 200 to 2,000 during the 21st century’s first decade. Sheila Townsend, executive director from 2001 to 2011, deftly managed all of CRES’s events, including fundraising, the group’s annual conference, Tour of Solar Homes, and annual party, supported by well-staffed teams of volunteer members over the years.

The Tour of Solar Homes has been an annual event since the beginning of CRES—and an important money raiser, too. Starting in 1996, the tour was focused on Golden but then expanded to the Denver metro area under the umbrella of New Energy Colorado. The tours are part of ASES’s national network, conducted over many years, to showcase green-built and sustainable homes.

From its roots in Golden, driven largely by SERI/NREL employees who sought a greater public impact for renewables, CRES also added new chapters elsewhere in Colorado. Some had lasting power, others not so much. For example, chapters had been created in Durango and Montrose in the early 2000’s. They didn’t survive. The populations were relatively small, and the distances to other population centers too great.

The chapter founded in Pueblo in 2003 had greater success. Tom Corlett and Judy Fosdick founded SECRES (for South East) with the hope of advancing distributed generation and helping develop support for Amendment 37. In time, the chapter gravitated to Colorado Springs, where its current organizer Jim Riggins points with pride to outreach efforts with youngsters in local schools as well as some collaborations with the local military institutions. “Our goal is to inform and educate in a fashion as unbiased as we can and let people make their own decisions based on facts,” he says.

NCRES (for Northern) has cut a notable swath in Larimer County. Jim Manuel had been active in CRES in Jefferson County and other precursor groups in Denver, including the Energy Network, before moving to Loveland. There and in Fort Collins he found kindred spirits who would sometimes meet at restaurants, other times at Colorado State University.

Manuel says he began thinking that it would make sense to be formally affiliated with CRES in an organizational structure similar to that of the Colorado Mountain Club. That latter group has its largest membership in Denver but has chapters at various locations around Colorado. One advantage was avoiding the necessity of duplicating non-profit status by forming a different 501(c)(3).

Alex Blackmer was asked if his off-the-grid solar home in Redstone Canyon, west of Fort Collins, could be included in the 1998 solar tour. His friends who organized that event then started attending NCRES gatherings at the Odell Brewery.

“The meetings were always great networking events and gave me a range of valuable business contacts that have served me to this day,” says Blackmer, who later became a state board member. “In fact, I met my two current business partners through my NCRES interactions. We now a run a nation-wide solar financing company (Solaris Energy) that has been a player in the exponential growth of the solar industry in the last 10 years,” he says.

“I think that my work with NCRES and CRES added greatly to my ability to grow Solaris by making the personal connections and contacts necessary to put all the pieces together.”

Blackmer says that without CRES, he’s not sure Solaris would ever have grown into the successful business that it is. “And it would not have had the national impact that it is now having,” he adds.

Broad influences of NCRES and other chapters can be hard to document. Peter Eberle, the current chair of the state board of directors as well as the leader of NCRES, believes that NCRES, working in concert with other groups, has nudged Fort Collins toward its ambitions to redefine energy. The community’s energy deliberations have drawn national attention, sometimes eclipsing Colorado’s better-known university town.

Blackmer concurs, citing the “steady pressure from the bottom to move the city in the direction of more renewable energy.”

Wade Troxel, a mechanical engineering professor at Colorado State University who has been personally and professionally involved in pushing that transition, confirms being influenced by CRES programming. He sometimes attended NCRES meetings, occasionally asking questions. “I was very aware of NCRES,” says Troxell, who was mayor from 2015 to 2021.

The 501(c)(3) non-profit status for CRES is formally based in Fort Collins in conjunction with Colorado State University’s Powerhouse Energy Campus. That’s where postal mail goes.

A stumble, then a rebirth

Still sensitive more than a decade later is the 2010 decision to spread the organization’s wings by hiring a full-time director. In the eyes of at least some of its members, the organization tended to be “clubby.” Everybody knew everybody else, and the atmosphere was collegial.

But in terms of impact? Well, board members believed CRES could step up its game.

Carol Tombari was among the board members who voted to hire Tony Frank, the clear favorite because of his experience at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

She describes the times around 2010 as difficult. Yes, there had been substantial wins: Colorado Green in 2001, Amendment 37 in 2004, and the 57 bills passed during the Ritter Administration. But public policy was a slog. Advocates were finding it difficult to make their case.

“We did not want to hire somebody who was like us, because we clearly had not succeeded,” says Tombari, now retired from NREL and living in Texas. “We needed somebody who had much more of an entrepreneurial approach than we did. Some of us were academics, some of us were scientists. We weren’t entrepreneurial.”

Tony Frank emerged as the clear favorite. He wanted an office, so a lease was negotiated for space at a cost of $3,000 per year in a former school in North Denver repurposed for non-profit office space. A salary of $55,000 per year was negotiated along with modest insurance and other benefits. The bill, including office space, for the new director came to $68,590 for his first year.

The director was to raise the profile of CRES in the Legislature and elsewhere. CRES was to become the go-to organization for renewable energy in Colorado.

CRES became a partner in creating what was then called the Denver Sustainability Park in the Five Points neighborhood. From his previous experiences with non-profit organizations, Frank was able to introduce CRES volunteers to key state legislators.

But the executive director—this is crucial—was required to figure out how to pay his or her salary. This happened, but not enough. Possibly a factor was that Frank was hired even as the effects of the 2009-2010 recession lingered. When he resigned in February 2012 after nearly two years at the helm, the treasury had drawn down to $59,000. He was replaced by a part-time executive director.

‘We all knew it was risky,” says Tombari. “We felt it was a risk worth taking. It just didn’t work out.”

What lessons can be drawn from this? The simplest takeaway is that CRES over-reached.

The deeper question, though, is what does it take to create an organization with impact? The education that has always been front-and-center of CRES has impact, and grassroots activism has impact. But volunteerism usually needs to be anchored by staff to achieve deeper leverage.

Michael Haughey arrived on the board in 2010 after the decision had largely been made to hire a full-time director. He says he counseled fellow members against the hiring without first creating a better plan to raise money.

“The expectation was that the new director would raise the profile of CRES and money will come. That was the hope, but it didn’t work.”

In a recent interview, he cited the Colorado chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which created a book of instruction on LEED certification. It sold nationally and continues to sell—creating the revenue to pay the salary of full-time director. With its arsenal of videos, CRES might now have something similar, he says.

Larry Christiansen, another board member at the time, applauds the effort to professionalize CRES and to add muscle to its mission. To be taken seriously, he says, an organization needs full-time staff working from offices.

While CRES temporarily elevated, it didn’t get far enough along to make a legitimate “ask” for funding. Neither the executive director nor board members felt comfortable in making that ask.

“We did not have a board that was able to go out and ask for money or bring money to the table,” he says. “To get an organization off the ground, you need some fundraisers on the board.”

Here’s a question to ponder:

So, why do some organizations immediately spread their wings and others do not? The comparison that may be most relevant is Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project [SWEEP]. It was founded in 2001, five years after CRES. It now has a staff of 18 spread out across Colorado as well as other Southwestern states. SWEEP definitely gets invited to the table for policy discussions.

The difference?

Howard Geller, its founder, had previously been in Washington D.C., where he had established a reputation. That likely made fundraising easier.

Two new chapters

Distributed energy has been one theme for the transition to renewables. That has also been the model for CRES. From three chapters, CRES has grown to five strong chapters during the last decade

Boulder’s chapter, called BCRES, was organized in Boulder in 2014. Kirsten Frysinger, one of the three co-founders, had graduated in 2013 from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a masters’ degree in environmental studies. When Roger Alexander, then the board chair, asked for volunteers from the Boulder area to start the chapter, she enthusiastically raised her hand. She had a strong motivation.

“I needed to find work,’ says Frysinger. “I needed to network with people.”

It took a few years, but she succeeded. Having coffee with CRES member Leslie Glustrom, she learned of a job opening at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project for an operations manager. She applied for the job at SWEEP and was hired.

The BCRES meetings, which were commonly attended by 50 to 100 people before covid, always begin with an invitation to job-seekers to announce themselves, their qualifications, and hopes. Job providers were then given time. At a September 2022 meeting, the first in-person gathering since covid, half of attendees were seeking jobs.

In Denver, MDCRES (for metro Denver) has become a significant player. A prominent figure there—and in the CRES policy and other groups—has been Jonathan Rogers. He arrived in Colorado in 2018 as an energy consultant. In that capacity he began seeking out professional groups. CRES emerged on that landscape. What he found was a refreshing change from Washington DC.

“It was all talk,” says Rogers of his time in Washington. “It was decades-long research and development, everybody was a consultant, and the only real buyer was the government. So we had the same conversations over and over again.”

Somewhat around the same time as Rogers joined CRES he took a job as the City of Denver’s representative in regulatory affairs. It was his job to build relationships with legislators and get immersed in affairs of the PUC, which operates in mostly arcane ways that can test the patience even of lawyers.

It’s one thing to pass a bill, he observes, but another yet to execute it. That, as the cliché goes, is where the rubber meets the road.

The covid pandemic caused MDCRES to shift its programming to online. Attendance jumped to 70 attendees, but then slackened in 2022 as other activities resumed. If convenient, online sessions deprive attendees the pleasure of face-to-face networking. CRES chapters altogether have been trying to strike the right balance.

Bill McKibben, right, conferring with Land Institute founder Wes Jackson at the 2019 Prairie Festival, has strongly motivated many, including some CRES members. Photo/Allen Best

In Jefferson County, Martin Voelker arrived to continue the thread of prior meetings at the Jefferson Unitarian Church. A native of Germany, Voelker had been a journalist before emigrating to the United States in 1997 with his wife, a college professor. In Boston, while his wife taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Voelker interviewed progressive speakers.

In 2004, the Voelker family moved to Golden where his wife had secured a professorship at the Colorado School of Mines. With the lower-priced real estate of Golden compared to that of Boston, there was enough financial comfort that Martin decided he did not need to chase a paycheck. Beginning in 2015, he began pouring his energy into assembling monthly programs for JCRES.

Voelker traces his epiphany, his desire to get more active, to the appearance in Boulder by Bill McKibben. Voelker had actually interviewed McKibben when in Boston, but he was galvanized by McKibben’s speech in Boulder during McKibben’s national tour following his compelling 2012 essay in Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

“Knowing stuff is fine and dandy, and if you don’t do anything about it, what is it really worth?” says Voelker.

Securing speakers has never been a problem for Voelker, given the proximity of NREL to other institutions in the Denver-Boulder area. He has filmed and edited dozens of the group’s events, building up a large on-line library of CRES and other presentations.

Other installments in this series:

Part 1: A coming together of minds in Colorado.

Part 2: Why note wind?

Part 3: Why note wind?

Part 4: The path to the governor’s mansion

And also: How Bill Ritter rode wind

Or download the whole series in one e-magazine of Big Pivots 64.

Voters have their say: CRES history Part 3: Failing at the #Colorado Capitol, advocates took their case directly to voters: The outcome — the first voter-initiated renewables mandate — was national news — @BigPivots

Contracted workers clean mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Project in Nipton, California. In 2017, the facility employed over 65 workers and created 2,600 jobs during it’s three year construction period. Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory via The High Country News

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

The story so far. Triggered by the oil embargoes of the 1970s, Colorado became a forum for explorations of alternative futures for energy. One outcome was creation of a grassroots organization called the Colorado Renewable Energy Society was created in 1996. The organization aimed to provide education, but it also part of a team effort early on to show why Colorado’s largest utility should buy wind power at a project called Colorado Green.

The 2004 success of Amendment 37, Colorado’s first renewable energy mandate, was preceded by nearly a decade of failure. Mark Udall, a Democratic state legislator from Boulder County in the 1990s, had sponsored legislation that proposed to give consumers rights to choose clean energy. He couldn’t get it across the legislative finish line. After Udall went to Congress in 1998, his mission was taken up by what some might have seen an unlikely source, a Republican legislator from rural Colorado.

That legislator, Lola Spradley, the first female speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, had grown up on a farm in Weld County. There, when crops failed, production royalties from “stripper” oil wells—those nearing the end of their productive life—paid the farm’s property taxes. She saw wind turbines being the equivalent of oil wells, a way to secure income for rural landowners in years of crop failures. Lehr says she told him that she also understood the power of a large monopoly because she had worked for AT&T when it was called “Ma Bell” in Colorado and enjoyed a monopoly on telecommunications. She said she understood irrational monopoly behavior toward suppliers and their general aversion to change.

Spradley, representing rural areas of southern Colorado, three times beginning in 2001 proposed the minimum renewable energy standard along with Democratic colleagues from Boulder County. Votes were narrow, but she always fell short.

Rick Gilliam, then with Western Resource Advocates, tells about rising frustration with the legislative process. But although popular accounts have always fingered Xcel Energy as the stick in the renewable mud, he tells a more nuanced story.

“Really it was the coops that stopped it,” he says. “And here’s the thing: It didn’t even apply to them. It would not have applied to any of the coops. They talked about how dangerous renewables would be. In fact, I remember a guy (likely the individual who then directed the Colorado Rural Electric Association) who testified during a committee hearing in the third year we made a run about this. He was arguing against rooftop solar. ‘If you pass this bill, people are going to die,’ he said. I almost laughed out loud, because it was so ludicrous to go to that extreme to try to scare people. I don’t think many of the legislators took him seriously. But it showed how worried and maybe even scared the coops were.”

Finally, that third year, Matt Baker—who was then head of Environment Colorado—proposed a back-up plan. If legislators said no again, then they would make their case directly to voters through a ballot initiative.

That’s what they did. They needed 68,000 signatures to get on the ballot. The allied environmental groups and CRES delivered 115,000. Baker and Gilliam became the most prominent public faces for the advocates.

Gilliam had a wealth of experience on several sides of the energy equation. His first job out of college was with the Federal Energy Regulatory commission in Washington D.C. After six years there, he was offered a position with the Public Service Co. He immediately fell in love with Colorado. He stayed with the company for 12 years and acquired an education in how investor-owned utilities operate and their relations with state regulators. In addition to energy efficiency and demand-management programs, he helped figure out how to shut down St. Vrain, then a trouble-plagued nuclear reactor, and replace it with natural gas-fired generation.

In 1993, he made another career move, this time going to work for Western Resource Advocates. His recruiter there was Eric Blank, who is now chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Gilliam agreed to a year-long term that turned into 12.

During his time while still at Xcel he had also begun thinking about an alternative energy paradigm. A pivotal experience was leading a tour of Pawnee, the coal-fired power plant near Brush that began operations in 1984. He remembers the dirtiness of coal, wondering if there was a better way. Reading the works of Amory Lovins in Sierra Club bulletins and elsewhere, Gilliam became persuaded by solar energy in particular.

“I always thought it was the coolest technology. It is lovely because it has no moving parts. You just put it out there and it generates electricity.”

On the campaign trail that summer, Gilliam and others found a mostly receptive audience along the Front Range. Fort Collins, for example, had already adopted renewables requirement for its city utility, requiring that 15% of its power come from wind sources by 2015, double what was being proposed for Colorado.

In rural Colorado, the reception was mixed. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union favored the initiative, and the Farm Bureau opposed it.

For some audiences Spradley had a colorful analogy. She described the wind turbines as upside down oil wells. Her view was that it would “keep people on the farm.”

Later, Gilliam and other advocates learned that Xcel had had a strong conversation within its corporate ranks about what position to take. In the end, says Gilliam, the utility seems to have been persuaded by Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Colorado’s second largest utility, about the need for a united front.

“Don’t downplay their opposition too much,” he says. “But they didn’t feel internally near as strongly as Tri-State did.”

Advocates lined up 1,000 volunteers – including many members of CRES. Video scenes for the campaign commercials were provided by Dave Bowden, president of CRES in 2004, who led the group’s fundraising and voter education efforts for the ballot initiative.

Early polling showed 70% to 75% of Colorado voters favoring Amendment 37.

Advocates secured funding for $500,0000 (including $10,000 from CRES), mostly for TV commercials. Xcel, Tri-State, and Washington-based utility trade groups raised $1.5 million, outspending the advocates three to one. Had they started earlier, they might have defeated the initiative. It passed 53.4% to 46.6%. It was the nation’s first voter-initiated renewable-energy standard and a huge victory for CRES and Colorado’s clean energy champions.

Momentum was building: First Colorado Green, then Amendment 37.

What followed soon after was Colorado’s first gubernatorial campaign built on the premise of renewable energy. Its proponent? A one-time farm boy named Bill Ritter Jr.

Next: Next: Bill Ritter was in a tight race until he fired his advertising team and made a commercial that he wanted standing in front of the wind turbines in southeastern Colorado..

What you may have missed in this series:

Part 1: A coming together of minds in Colorado.

Part 2: Why note wind?

Or download the whole series in one e-magazine of Big Pivots 64.

A History of the #Colorado #Renewable Energy Society (CRES) Part 1: A coming together of minds — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Community solar garden in Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

Colorado in the late 1970s had a convergence of people who thought there had to be another way to power a civilization. Among them were the founders of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

Cleve Simpson was one of two state legislators who attended the Colorado Renewable Energy Society’s annual conference in 2022. The reason was not immediately obvious.

The second legislator was scheduled to receive an award that afternoon at the sunshine-dappled Unitarian Church between Golden and Wheat Ridge. But why was Simpson, a Republican who represents the San Luis Valley as well as southwestern Colorado, there to hear about microgrids, agrivoltaics, and other presentations?

Since its founding in 1996, the Colorado Renewable Energy Society has been a fount of educational programming about solar, wind, and other subjects related to energy.

The organization has often provided grassroots and sometimes grasstops—some members are unusually well connected—advocacy for taking steps to achieve this deepening penetration.

Simpson, a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines, is listed on the General Assembly website as being a “farmer/rancher.” That description falls short of his resume. He was a mining engineer who worked 20 years in the lignite coal fields of Texas as well as in Australia before returning to his roots. He’s a fourth-generation farmer in the San Luis Valley.

And farming in the San Luis Valley has a very fundamental challenge. Current levels of water extraction cannot be sustained. Land must necessarily be trimmed from production. Simpson attended the CRES conference, he confided later, because he was interested in how renewable energy–solar, in particular–can leave his farming-based communities economically whole. He was at the meeting to inform himself for his work as a state legislator but also as director of the Rio Grande Water Conservancy District, the agency that must oversee those cuts in water.

Irrigation in the San Luis Valley in August 2022. Photo/Allen Best

Just how the CRES conference may influence Simpson in his duties as a state legislator cannot be said. Only occasionally can dots be directly connected. But he was there, listening intently.

That has been the role of CRES from its founding in Golden during a time when solar was still expensive and the near-term risks of climate change not as clearly defined. It has been, first and foremost, an educational forum, but also a place for people focused on renewable energy to connect and sometimes take direct action, as in advocacy on behalf of the nation’s first voter-initiated renewable energy mandate. At times, CRES has also articulated visions that have resulted in the bills considered and then passed by state legislators.

Many of the challenges that 25 years ago seemed so imposing have now been surmounted. Renewable energy has become the first, not the last, option in electrical generation.

Has CRES outlived its purpose? Certainly not. If old arguments against renewables about cost and integration have been dismantled, renewables must still be scaled even more rapidly than has now occurred if the worst of climate change impacts are to be avoided. There are questions about the impediments to transmission and the proper role of large and central renewables vs. local renewable resources such as rooftop solar. There are questions about the role of storage and its formats, the role of nuclear—if any, and how agriculture can be integrated into decarbonization.

Too, the atmospheric situation has deteriorated so rapidly that the question of mechanisms to draw carbon dioxide from the sky has become legitimate.

Colorado is well on its way to achieving penetration of renewables that was unimaginable even a decade ago. That summit is within sight. But beyond lie many other mountains yet to be climbed. No, CRES has not outlived its purpose.

Coming together of minds

Colorado was a logical place for solar supporters to gather. The state’s 300 days of sunshine is a cliché that happens to be true. It ranks sixth among the 50 states in average annual sunlight.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory also played a major role ithe creation of CRES. The laboratory was established in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute, or SERI, whose second director was Denis Hayes. As president of the student body at Stanford University in 1970, Hayes helped organize the first Earth Day.

Creation of SERI brought others to Colorado who then figure into the creation of CRES and, more broadly, Colorado’s emergence as a national leader. One of them was Ron Larson, a figure with deep and continuous presence in CRES since its founding in 1996.

In 1972, though, Larson was a young professor of electrical engineering in Atlanta at Georgia Tech who focused on a narrow component of electromagnetics with implications for capabilities of the U.S. military.

Larson wanted more, to scratch a career itch. He applied and was then chosen to represent IEEE, the professional engineering and technology association, as a Congressional fellow. He planned to return to Georgia after a year in Washington. He did not. Something happened during his first week in Washington that profoundly altered his career path—and that of the nation. Arab oil producing states in the Mideast announced an embargo of exports to the United States.

Priorities in Washington shifted dramatically. Larson went to work for the House Science Committee, where he was assigned to work on two solar bills.

Solar photovoltaics, which now has capacity to generate electricity for less than $1 a watt, with prices still descending, then cost 100 times as much. That expense limited its use primarily to exploration of space. The federal budget for research was small, just $4 million to $5 million, but there was strong, bipartisan enthusiasm to pursue solar research. The oil embargo fueled even greater interest, mostly in solar heating for space and water.

“Barry Goldwater wanted solar energy,” says Larson, referring to the U.S. senator from Arizona who was also the 1964 Republican presidential candidate. “Renewable energy then was bipartisan. Everybody was for it.”

A law quickly passed in 1974 authorized creation of SERI. Golden, Colorado was chosen for the site. With a position secured at the laboratory, Larson and his wife, Gretchen, arrived July 5, 1977.

When the Larsons arrived, another young man in Colorado was already devoted to advancing use of solar energy. Morey Wolfson had been a graduate student at the University of Colorado in 1970 when he organized the nation’s third-largest Earth Day celebration. Soon after he set out to learn what was known about solar energy. The Denver Public Library had 35 books on squirrels, he discovered, but just one book on solar. That book had been checked out just once in the six years after being published in 1964.

The takeaway conclusion of that book, “Direct Use of the Sun’s Energy,” by Farrington Daniels, was that there “was no technical reason why direct use of the sun’s energy cannot be the basis for the energy needs of an advanced economy.” [ed. emphasis mine]

From 1973 to 1983, Wolfson operated the Solar Bookstore in Denver at Colfax Avenue and York Street. The store was devoted to renewable energy, and the mail-order business patronized by architects and others kept it afloat, if barely. Wolfson also helped found various environmental groups in Denver before closing the bookstore and joining the staff of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in 1985. At the PUC, among other assignments, Wolfson was executive assistant to the three commissioners.

Among the commissioners was Ron Lehr, an important figure in Colorado’s energy transition. Lehr’s first glimpse of the issues with which he has been engaged occurred in 1965 when his sister and a friend rafted down the soon-to-be submerged Glen Canyon in southern Utah. She was outraged at the imminent sacrifice of such a beautiful canyon, which the Sierra Club had been working to preserve. The club’s position included the argument that the hydroelectric production from Glen Canyon Dam was unneeded because coal was plentiful on the nearby Kaiparowits Plateau. “It’s important to be humble over time,” Lehr observes wryly.

In 1976, the writings of Amory Lovins, a MacArthur Genius Award prize-winner, captivated Lehr. Reacting to the oil embargo had inspired Lovins to fundamentally rethink the energy equation to include demand as well as supply. His 1976 essay in Foreign Affairs, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken,” changed energy debates permanently.

The path Lovins advocated “combines a prompt and serious commitment to efficient use of energy, rapid development of renewable energy sources matched in scale and in energy quality to end-use needs, and special transitional fossil-fuel technologies. This path, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, diverges radically from incremental past practices to pursue long-term goals.”

The message from Lovins, then revolutionary, today remains profound in its implications. “You read it and the world shifts,” says Lehr of Lovins’s essay. “Thinking about energy could never be the same.”

Lehr downplays his contributions since then. Others say he has been a pivotal figure.“I just happened to be standing there,” he says. “My life has been like that. I have been close to those insights and have been able to pick them up and repeat them and help to make change happen.”

The Colorado in which Denver natives Lehr and Wolfson came of age and to which Larson arrived in the 1970s was blessed– some would say cursed–with fossil fuels of all kinds. It had hydrocarbons in various chemical forms and geological settings, along with methane and coal. Too, it was proximate to the vast inland sea of hydrocarbons in Wyoming and Montana called the Powder River Basin. But it also had outstanding wind and solar resources and intellectual capital.

As Colorado’s population between 1960 and 1980 expanded from 1.8 million to 2.9 million, demand for electricity grew even more robustly. Utilities responded with ever-larger coal-burning plants, the last (until Comanche 3 in 2010) completed in 1984. Coal was cheap, the pollution it produced accepted as a cost of progress as it had been since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

As for solar – well, it was the stuff for space missions, not for earthly tasks. Or so went the conventional logic.

Telling was the fate of the institute that had drawn Larson to Colorado. After Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he dismantled the solar panels on the White House that his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, had erected. Carter had also traveled to Colorado in 1978 to dedicate the new solar energy research institute. Reagan’s administration three years later slashed the budget from $130 million to $50 million.

The solar research didn’t cease, but it slowed through the Reagan years.

Hayes, the director, told Rolling Stone magazine’s Jeff Goodell in a 2020 interview that the day he got that news was the most horrible day of his life. “It was harder than the days my parents died,” he said. “I spent much of the next year writing letters of recommendation for people, many of whom I had lured out to this thing, and then they suddenly had their lives shattered.”

Steve Andrews was among the contractors who was let go. He remembers well the remarks of Hayes in announcing the news. Hayes called the Department of Energy administrators “dull gray men in dull gray suits thinking dull, gray thoughts.” Instead of taking a scalpel to the skin, he added, the Department of Energy had taken a meat-ax to the muscle of the SERI staff.

“My recollection is that after those remarks, he was required to leave the building a few hours sooner than had been planned,” say Andrews. “The DOE dudes didn’t want more scorched earth salvos delivered by Denis.”

Larson also left. His next career move was to Khartoum, in the African country of Sudan, on an assignment by Georgia Tech as part of a U.S. Administration for International Development mission. Later, he returned to Golden but never to Georgia.

The birth of CRES

CRES was preceded by several grassroots organizations in the Denver area with the same general mission.

The Denver Solar Energy Society, which was later reorganized as the Denver Energy Resource Center, was similar to CRES in that it had monthly educational meetings. It even had paid staff for a time as interest surged in solar during the early 1980s because of federal tax credits adopted in 1977. As many as 400 people attended meetings. Tours of solar homes were conducted, aided by 40-page brochures.

Then, in 1985, federal tax credits expired. Solar enthusiasm vanished.

A national advocacy group, the American Solar Energy Society, or ASES, obviously saw a more prominent role for solar, as did those working at the laboratory in Golden that had been defunded. By 1991, the tide had turned again. President George H.W. Bush visited Golden that year to mark the designation of the solar laboratory as a national laboratory with a broader mission. It became NREL.

Larson says CRES was launched at the instigation of ASES, using funds inherited from the then-defunct Denver solar organization. In its very earliest years, it had a huge crossover in membership with NREL employees. It still has crossover, if not quite as much.

That interplay with NREL was reflected in the initial leadership of H.M. “Hub” Hubbard. He had arrived in Colorado to lead SERI after Hayes was fired.

“Hubbard was a very well-known solar expert in the mid-1990s,” says Larson. “I was behind him in line for dinner and asked him if he would be willing to be chair of CRES, and he said yes. We could not have had a more important person for the first year. In my mind, we might not have been a success without Hubbard.”

Hubbard gave CRES instant credibility and facilitated NREL as the meeting place for several years. Wolfson—who left the PUC in 1999—helped coordinate some of that CRES programming in his new job at NREL. Many of those presenting informational sessions then—and continuing today—were researchers from NREL. Meetings were attended by 20 to 50 people.

Volunteerism was at the core of CRES. Notable was the effort by CRES co-founder Paul Notari, who had been head of the Technical Information Branch at SERI and then NREL. For 14 years he was the publisher and editor of CRES News, a lively newsletter for members from the founding until 2010. Notari was instrumental in early CRES outreach. He identified and contacted almost 500 people in the Denver area who were interested in solar. He wrote news releases and proposed story ideas to local media. In this and other ways, Notari helped knit together disparate individuals and topics into a fluid but somewhat cohesive whole.

Doug Seiter remembers getting involved with the new organization soon after arriving in Colorado in 1997 as an employee of the Department of Energy. Later, he served two terms as president of the board of directors.

“It was the choir, for the most part, people already engaged in the industry or very much interested in doing something in renewable energy,” he says. This collection of like-minded people helped build enthusiasm and coalesce motivation.

Larry Sherwood, the executive director of ASES from 1988 to 2001, concurs that Colorado’s solar conversation in the 1990s revolved around NREL. CRES provided an outlet “for some brilliant minds at NREL to engage in policy or educational types of activities that they were interested in but weren’t part of their research at NREL,” says Sherwood, who would later become a member of the board of directors for several terms. “I think CRES definitely benefitted from those people.”

CRES also has advocacy in its DNA. That was manifested relatively soon after CRES was organized in a case before state utility regulators about a potential wind project in southeastern Colorado. It was likely the first time that the costs of integrating wind into utility operations were decided in a public record.

Coming next:: A team approach by advocates of renewable energy yields a victory when a compelling case is made for a major wind farm in southeastern Colorado.

Or download Big Pivots 64 with the full story.

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

The global energy crisis has triggered unprecedented momentum behind renewables, with the world set to add as much #renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the past 20 — IEA

Click here to read the report. Click the link to read the release on the IEA website:

The global energy crisis is driving a sharp acceleration in installations of renewable power, with total capacity growth worldwide set to almost double in the next five years, overtaking coal as the largest source of electricity generation along the way and helping keep alive the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C, the IEA says in a new report.

Energy security concerns caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have motivated countries to increasingly turn to renewables such as solar and wind to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, whose prices have spiked dramatically. Global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow by 2 400 gigawatts (GW) over the 2022-2027 period, an amount equal to the entire power capacity of China today, according to Renewables 2022, the latest edition of the IEA’s annual report on the sector.

This massive expected increase is 30% higher than the amount of growth that was forecast just a year ago, highlighting how quickly governments have thrown additional policy weight behind renewables. The report finds that renewables are set to account for over 90% of global electricity expansion over the next five years, overtaking coal to become the largest source of global electricity by early 2025.

“Renewables were already expanding quickly, but the global energy crisis has kicked them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth as countries seek to capitalise on their energy security benefits. The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the previous 20 years,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system. Renewables’ continued acceleration is critical to help keep the door open to limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.”

The war in Ukraine is a decisive moment for renewables in Europe where governments and businesses are looking to rapidly replace Russian gas with alternatives. The amount of renewable power capacity added in Europe in the 2022-27 period is forecast to be twice as high as in the previous five-year period, driven by a combination of energy security concerns and climate ambitions. An even faster deployment of wind and solar PV could be achieved if EU member states were to rapidly implement a number of policies, including streamlining and reducing permitting timelines, improving auction designs and providing better visibility on auction schedules, as well as improving incentive schemes to support rooftop solar.

Beyond Europe, the upward revision in renewable power growth for the next five years is also driven by China, the United States and India, which are all implementing policies and introducing regulatory and market reforms more quickly than previously planned to combat the energy crisis. As a result of its recent 14th Five-Year Plan, China is expected to account for almost half of new global renewable power capacity additions over the 2022-2027 period. Meanwhile, the US Inflation Reduction Act has provided new support and long-term visibility for the expansion of renewables in the United States.

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

Utility-scale solar PV and onshore wind are the cheapest options for new electricity generation in a significant majority of countries worldwide. Global solar PV capacity is set to almost triple over the 2022-2027 period, surpassing coal and becoming the largest source of power capacity in the world. The report also forecasts an acceleration of installations of solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops, which help consumers reduce energy bills. Global wind capacity almost doubles in the forecast period, with offshore projects accounting for one-fifth of the growth. Together, wind and solar will account for over 90% of the renewable power capacity that is added over the next five years.

Cheyenne Ridge, located between Burlington and Cheyenne Wells, near the Kansas border, is one of many wind projects on Colorado’s eastern plains. Soon, new transmission will enable far more wind and solar projects. Photos/Allen Best Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

The report sees emerging signs of diversification in global PV supply chains, with new policies in the United States and India expected to boost investment in solar manufacturing by as much as USD 25 billion over the 2022-2027 period. While China remains the dominant player, its share in global manufacturing capacity could decrease from 90% today to 75% by 2027.

Total global biofuel demand is set to expand by 22% over the 2022-2027 period. The United States, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia and India make up 80% of the expected global expansion in biofuel use, with all five countries having comprehensive policies to support growth.

The report also lays out an accelerated case in which renewable power capacity grows a further 25% on top of the main forecast. In advanced economies, this faster growth would require various regulatory and permitting challenges to be tackled and a more rapid penetration of renewable electricity in the heating and transport sectors. In emerging and developing economies, it would mean addressing policy and regulatory uncertainties, weak grid infrastructure and a lack of access to affordable financing that are hampering new projects.

Worldwide, the accelerated case requires efforts to resolve supply chain issues, expand grids and deploy more flexibility resources to securely manage larger shares of variable renewables. The accelerated case’s faster renewables growth would move the world closer to a pathway consistent with reaching net zero emissions by 2050, which offers an even chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.

#SanLuisValley poised to become a hub of renewable #solar generation — @AlamosaCitizen #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

A solar farm off CO 17 in Alamosa County. Photo by Owen Woods via The Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Chris Lopez):

WHEN you drive across the expansive high mountain desert that is the San Luis Valley, you see acreage once irrigated through groundwater pumping wells now lying fallow. It’s a sight particularly evident in the central and western end of the Valley through Alamosa, Rio Grande and Saguache Counties, where the unconfined aquifer of the Upper Rio Grande Basin struggles from depletion due to overpumping of groundwater and decades of drought.

It’s one reality of the changing landscape that is on the minds of county officials and state leaders who represent the Valley and are trying to address ways the six-county region can at least partially replace some of its lost agricultural economy.

Another reality on the minds of local leaders is the fact that the San Luis Valley remains vulnerable to natural disasters and large-scale emergencies because there is no redundant power source to keep the Valley moving.

The vulnerabilities were demonstrated most recently both during the Spring Creek Fire in 2018 and the Boulder County fire of last December. In both situations the Valley lost critical power transmission and had no redundant system for backup power generation.

These realities are pushing local leaders to step before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this month to say the San Luis Valley is interested in joining efforts of utility companies and the state to generate more renewable energy.

The clock to get involved is running, with the CPUC setting a Dec. 30 deadline to hear from interested parties on renewable energy and transmission development. Alamosa County, for one, is planning to step forward and raise its hand to let the Colorado Public Utilities Commission know that it has an interest in renewable solar generation and transmission development in the San Luis Valley.

“If we miss this and don’t act now, we will no longer be in the discussion and that’s actually what’s happened in the past,” said Alamosa County Commissioner Lori Laske.

“My concern is the redundancy and the safety of our Valley,” Laske said. “Second is with a larger (transmission) line to export our solar because right now we are maxed out with what we have.”

State Sen. Cleave Simpson and the local office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet have been convening local leaders this fall to work through initial conversations and to understand the opportunity the CPUC has created through what is known in the bureaucracy as a miscellaneous docket proceeding.

“The PUC is saying there’s value in evaluating the potential for solar generation and transmission in the Valley,” Simpson said.

The business case to be made is that from a solar perspective, the San Luis Valley produces 10 percent more power per solar panel than anywhere else in the state due to its base elevation of 7,500 feet and more days of sun than the Front Range and anywhere else in Colorado.

That’s according to Mike Krueger, president and CEO of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association, a nonprofit that is working with Valley leaders to get in front of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

“The Valley is the single best place in the state to produce those electrons,” Krueger said. 

“If you had the ability to export the generation from the Valley, you’d see I would suggest thousands of acres across the six counties that would be able to support solar down there. Literally the only thing stopping people is you can’t get the power out.”

A solar farm off CO 17 in Alamosa County. The San Luis Valley produces 10 percent more power per solar panel than anywhere else in the state due to its base elevation of 7,500 feet and more days of sun than the Front Range and anywhere else in Colorado. Photo by Owen Woods via The Alamosa Citizen

KRUEGER figures landowners could command lease payments anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per acre for solar development. Simpson said at that price, there would be a market in the Valley to generate more solar power.

In the Valley there is plenty of nonproductive ag land as a result of groundwater wells being permanently shut down in recent years, and more on the way.

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board of Directors is working through a set of criteria to help local farmers and ranchers apply for money to permanently retire more groundwater wells through the Groundwater Compliance Fund established through state legislation sponsored by Simpson.

Valley irrigators are expecting to tap into $30 million set aside through the state Groundwater Compliance Fund that could retire another 10,000 to 20,000 acres of irrigated farm land. It’s the need to permanently retire groundwater wells and continue to reduce the amount of crops produced in the San Luis Valley that has Simpson and others searching for alternatives.

“This community should come together and say to the PUC ‘This is a huge resource, we want this resource to be developed, you decide where it should go. Where’s the most benefit to the state of Colorado and the (power) system?’” Simpson said.

It’s a consensus that he and the local staff to Sen. Bennet have been working to build. Alamosa County is expected to formally get involved and take the Valley’s case to the CPUC.

“The cards are all lined up to go ‘Colorado has this expectation of being carbon-free, so does Tri-State, so does Xcel, and you have this resource here, we just don’t have any place to go with it,” Simpson said. “I think this is a window of opportunity that isn’t going to be here forever.”

Once you generate and store the solar, and you’ve established a redundant system of power for the San Luis Valley itself, it’s then transmitting the renewable solar energy for Xcel and Tri-State to use that makes the proposition tricky and challenging.

That’s a battle for down the road. For now it’s signaling to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that the San Luis Valley wants to be involved in generating renewable energy and new transmission routes out of the Valley.

Krueger calls it YIMBY: A move to say “Yes In My Back Yard.”

San Luis Valley. Photo credit: The Alamosa Citizen

After COP27, all signs point to world blowing past the 1.5C degrees #GlobalWarming limit – here’s what we can still do about it — The Conversation #ActOnClimate

Young activists have been pushing to keep a 1.5-Celsius limit, knowing their future is at stake. AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty

Peter Schlosser, Arizona State University

The world could still, theoretically, meet its goal of keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, a level many scientists consider a dangerous threshold. Realistically, that’s unlikely to happen.

Part of the problem was evident at COP27, the United Nations climate conference in Egypt.

While nations’ climate negotiators were successfully fighting to “keep 1.5 alive” as the global goal in the official agreement, reached Nov. 20, 2022, some of their countries were negotiating new fossil fuel deals, driven in part by the global energy crisis. Any expansion of fossil fuels – the primary driver of climate change – makes keeping warming under 1.5 C (2.7 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times much harder.

Attempts at the climate talks to get all countries to agree to phase out coal, oil, natural gas and all fossil fuel subsidies failed. And countries have done little to strengthen their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the past year.

There have been positive moves, including advances in technology, falling prices for renewable energy and countries committing to cut their methane emissions.

But all signs now point toward a scenario in which the world will overshoot the 1.5 C limit, likely by a large amount. The World Meteorological Organization estimates global temperatures have a 50-50 chance of reaching 1.5C of warming, at least temporarily, in the next five years.

That doesn’t mean humanity can just give up.

Why 1.5 degrees?

During the last quarter of the 20th century, climate change due to human activities became an issue of survival for the future of life on the planet. Since at least the 1980s, scientific evidence for global warming has been increasingly firm , and scientists have established limits of global warming that cannot be exceeded to avoid moving from a global climate crisis to a planetary-scale climate catastrophe.

There is consensus among climate scientists, myself included, that 1.5 C of global warming is a threshold beyond which humankind would dangerously interfere with the climate system. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/temperature-anomaly?time=earliest..latest

We know from the reconstruction of historical climate records that, over the past 12,000 years, life was able to thrive on Earth at a global annual average temperature of around 14 C (57 F). As one would expect from the behavior of a complex system, the temperatures varied, but they never warmed by more than about 1.5 C during this relatively stable climate regime.

Today, with the world 1.2 C warmer than pre-industrial times, people are already experiencing the effects of climate change in more locations, more forms and at higher frequencies and amplitudes.

Climate model projections clearly show that warming beyond 1.5 C will dramatically increase the risk of extreme weather events, more frequent wildfires with higher intensity, sea level rise, and changes in flood and drought patterns with implications for food systems collapse, among other adverse impacts. And there can be abrupt transitions, the impacts of which will result in major challenges on local to global scales. https://www.youtube.com/embed/MR6-sgRqW0k?wmode=transparent&start=0 Tipping points: Warmer ocean water is contributing to the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier, a major contributor to sea level rise with global consequences.

Steep reductions and negative emissions

Meeting the 1.5 goal at this point will require steep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, but that alone isn’t enough. It will also require “negative emissions” to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide that human activities have already put into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for decades to centuries, so just stopping emissions doesn’t stop its warming effect. Technology exists that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air and lock it away. It’s still only operating at a very small scale, but corporate agreements like Microsoft’s 10-year commitment to pay for carbon removed could help scale it up.

A report in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that meeting the 1.5 C goal would require cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 50% globally by 2030 – plus significant negative emissions from both technology and natural sources by 2050 up to about half of present-day emissions.

A direct air capture project in Iceland stores captured carbon dioxide underground in basalt formations, where chemical reactions mineralize it. Climeworks

Can we still hold warming to 1.5 C?

Since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015, countries have made some progress in their pledges to reduce emissions, but at a pace that is way too slow to keep warming below 1.5 C. Carbon dioxide emissions are still rising, as are carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

A recent report by the United Nations Environment Program highlights the shortfalls. The world is on track to produce 58 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 – more than twice where it should be for the path to 1.5 C. The result would be an average global temperature increase of 2.7 C (4.9 F) in this century, nearly double the 1.5 C target.

Given the gap between countries’ actual commitments and the emissions cuts required to keep temperatures to 1.5 C, it appears practically impossible to stay within the 1.5 C goal.

Global emissions aren’t close to plateauing, and with the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, it is very likely that the world will reach the 1.5 C warming level within the next five to 10 years.

With current policies and pledges, the world will far exceed the 1.5 C goal. Climate Action Tracker

How large the overshoot will be and for how long it will exist critically hinges on accelerating emissions cuts and scaling up negative emissions solutions, including carbon capture technology.

At this point, nothing short of an extraordinary and unprecedented effort to cut emissions will save the 1.5 C goal. We know what can be done – the question is whether people are ready for a radical and immediate change of the actions that lead to climate change, primarily a transformation away from a fossil fuel-based energy system.

Peter Schlosser, Vice President and Vice Provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, Arizona State University

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

A biggest ever in #Colorado for battery storage — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Tiny now, like a pebble, lithium-ion battery storage in Colorado will soon be like a boulder. What else is needed to complete this emissions-free jigsaw puzzle? Photo credit: Allen Best

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

The 13,500 solar modules sandwiched by hillsides of sagebrush, piñon and juniper near Glenwood Springs capture the eyes. It’s the four shipping containers of lithium-ion batteries, capable of five megawatts of storage, that will briefly set a new high mark for Colorado.

Battery storage is coming on in Colorado. This project narrowly eclipses the previous record in Colorado set four years ago. Late next spring, the 275 megawatts of battery capacity planned by Xcel Energy at Pueblo and in Adams County will dwarf this record of 5 megawatts. More yet will be coming after that.

We need storage to complement the intermittency of the renewables but also because this makes economic sense. This transition to an energy system with fewer emissions has so far slowed or stopped increased costs in prices of electricity. If only we could be so lucky with organic food.

Storage capacity within Colorado will rise significantly in the next five years. Imagine driving on Interstate 70 across the Great Plains into Denver. In the city’s western suburbs, the highway rises slightly. In this analogy with battery storage, we’re still in the suburbs. Lying immediately ahead is the sharp rise to Floyd Hill with plenty of uphill beyond.

Mike Kruger, the chief executive of Colorado Solar and Storage Association, a trade organization, rejects this analogy. Instead of uphill struggle, he describes downhill glide. Lithium-ion storage will expand, he explained, because of rapidly declining costs that parallel those of solar panels a decade before.

In his view, we’re about to descend from Loveland Pass.

“Imagine the tiniest thing you can think of,” Kruger said at a Colorado Renewable Energy Society webinar. “That’s storage in Colorado today. Now think of the biggest thing you can think of. That will be energy storage in the future.”

All of Colorado’s larger utilities plan significant storage but in somewhat different ways. Platte River Power Authority recently received 31 bids for various non-carbon generation and storage proposals in and near the four communities it serves in northern Colorado. For example, Estes Park, whose frightened residents had to flee in 2020 as two megafires approached, might need both storage and solar panels if power deliveries get interrupted.

Wildfire threat also figures into the solar and storage at the college campus near Glenwood Springs. Should outside power be cut off, students could shelter in place.

Colorado Springs Utilities, the state’s fourth largest utility, is soliciting bids for batteries with 400 megawatt-hours of storage to become operational in 2024. Utilities spokesman Steve Berry predicts growing importance of battery storage as long as the technology becomes increasingly cost-effective, efficient and reliable.

“Battery storage will help us better manage the intermittent characteristics of renewable energy, but it will also provide greater grid resiliency, help insulate customers from market volatility, and help us modernize our grid for emerging technologies,” he says.

We are also beginning – just beginning – to see batteries in homes and businesses. In a program called Power+, Holy Cross has assisted in placing batteries at 68 homes and businesses. Supply chain issues have 122 still on the waiting list. It is doing this partly to learn how to draw on these batteries to meet peak demands, such as when the snowmaking guns at Aspen and Vail power up as temperatures dive during November evenings.

Now come state and federal programs that Kruger describes as a “really amazing confluence of incentives” via tax rebates. A new Colorado law will award an income tax credit equal to 10% of the purchase price for storage systems purchased in 2023 and 2024. The systems are also exempt from sales tax. The federal Inflation Reduction Act provides an even bigger tax incentive of 30%.

Xcel customers will be eligible for additional incentives next year: $500 per kilowatt of storage up to 50% of the cost of the battery and $800 per kilowatt for Income-qualified (up to 75% of the cost of the battery)

Supplies of batteries remain tight, but manufacturing capacity has been ramping up and prices should fall. Globally, capacity grew by a third last year to reach 600 gigawatt-hour in manufacturing capacity. Wood Mackenzie, a consultant, reports 3,000 gigawatt-hours being planned or under construction.

In “The Big Fix,” Aspen-reared Hal Harvey and co-author Justin Gillis describe how scaling up of industrial process has caused prices of everything from Model T’s to computer chips to tumble. They call it “the learning curve.” The most recent examples were wind and then solar.

Cheaper lithium-ion batteries alone will not alone allow Holy Cross and other utilities to realize their goals of 100% emissions-free electricity by 2030. We also need longer-term storage. Options include molten salt, hydrogen and pumped storage-hydro, the latter a technology use in Colorado since the 1950s that remains the state’s largest “battery.” Nuclear and geothermal are other options. All will take time to deploy. Likely a decade.

For now, it’s time to charge the batteries.

Many miles from #LakeMead, rural electric utilities struggle with #ColoradoRiver shortage — The #Nevada Independent #COriver #aridification

From Moapa Valley, looking east towards the Mormon Mesa. By Bvburnes, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1028056

Click the link to read the article on Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit newsroom the Nevada Independent website (Daniel Rothberg):

In between the towns of Pioche and Caliente, pumps draw water from underground aquifers to irrigate crops. The water is heavy, and running those pumps depends on electricity — a lot of it. 

For years, these Lincoln County farms received all of their energy from power generated miles away at Hoover Dam, which holds Lake Mead. But less water in the reservoir has meant less low-cost hydropower for rural towns, forcing them to purchase more expensive power in energy markets. 

Lincoln County is not alone. Power from Hoover Dam — and other Colorado River dams — is delivered to about five million people across the Southwest. Many of the customers buying this power are small rural electric nonprofit utilities, tribal nations and local government agencies. 

“Water is obviously a super important issue and deserves to be talked about,” said Dave Luttrell, general manager of Lincoln County Power District No. 1. “But sometimes I feel, as probably the most hydropower-dependent utility in the Southwest, and a small one at that, kind of the lone wolf out here saying ‘We need to pay attention to hydropower production.’”

Residents in Lincoln County and other rural communities across the state might not get their water from the Colorado River. Yet many rural communities rely on power created by the massive dams — from Wyoming to California — that hold back Colorado River water. 

Many rural towns get their power from customer-owned cooperatives. Unlike investor-owned private utilities, rural co-ops operate as nonprofits and help bring energy to remote areas. 

Over the past two decades, Lake Mead has dropped to historic lows amid a prolonged Colorado River drought, worsened by a warming climate. The crisis is now so severe that states across the Southwest are facing difficult negotiations over painful water cuts needed to stabilize Lake Mead, Lake Powell and an interconnected system of reservoirs along the Colorado River.

Even with Lake Mead at 28 percent capacity, Hoover Dam can physically continue to produce some hydropower. If Lincoln County is “lucky” next year, Luttrell said, it will get 60 percent of its Hoover Dam power allocation. But if the reservoir continues falling toward “dead pool” — the point at which no water can pass the dam — that slice of the pie will grow even smaller.

“Hydropower is not coming back,” Luttrell said. “The days of Lincoln County Power getting 100 percent of its need from hydropower are in the rearview mirror, and they’re never coming back.”

The immediate future, he and others said, is going to be one of less low-cost hydropower. And small rural utilities, with fewer resources than large investor-owned utilities, are looking for ways to adapt. There are solutions, but they can be expensive. And in some cases, these rural communities and tribal nations are feeling the shortage doubly hard. 

With less hydropower, utilities have had to purchase more expensive power on the open market, where prices can peak to extremely high levels on hot days. Simultaneously, their contracts with the federal government, which sells the hydropower, keep them on the hook for fixed fees used to operate and maintain dams — as well as fund fish recovery programs on the Colorado River.

“You pay for what you don’t get, and you go buy more expensive stuff to replace it,” Luttrell said. 

These contracts are signed with an important, if little known, federal agency: the Western Area Power Administration. The Department of Energy agency, known as WAPA, helps funnel power from the Colorado River’s dams to rural utilities and tribal communities across the West. 

“The drought in the West is one of our largest concerns,” WAPA spokesperson Lisa Meiman said. “Each one of our projects is working with their customers to identify the best path forward.”

In Nevada, WAPA sells power to the Colorado River Commission, which in turn distributes the water to rural co-ops and other buyers. WAPA also contracts with the Nellis Air Force Base, the Nevada National Security Site, and four tribal communities: the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, the Ely Shoshone Tribe, the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe and the Yomba Shoshone Tribe. But exactly where this hydropower comes from can vary, making the contracting very complicated.

Some have contracts to get their power from the Colorado River Storage Project, upstream of the Hoover Dam. The project includes Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell, a reservoir that fell below a critical threshold this summer. Others get their power from Hoover Dam. And some buy electricity from power plants at Parker and Davis dams downstream.

The terms of the contracts vary depending on where power is purchased, but in general, WAPA operates as an at-cost organization, Meiman said. About 95 percent of its funds come from the revenues generated off of power and transmission sales. That means it charges customers for expenses including operations and maintenance, investments and environmental compliance.

The structure seems to work when the water is there, even in cases where there are small shortages. Yet unprecedented water shortages on the river have strained the system, especially for customers who have generally seen an increase in hydropower rates. And it raises major questions about the future, with grim water forecasts for Lake Mead and Lake Powell.

Lake Powell, just upstream from Glen Canyon Dam. At the time of this photo, in May 2021, Lake Powell was 34% full. (Ted Wood/The Water Desk)

Upstream of Hoover Dam, for instance, costs for the Glen Canyon Dam and other projects are split among water and power customers. Right now, about 75 percent of the costs are borne by power users. Irrigators, for the most part, are expected to pick up the rest of the tab. But a provision in federal law says that power revenues could cover costs “beyond the irrigators’ ability to pay.” As a result, Meiman said, power revenues pay for about 90 percent of the upstream infrastructure.

Fixed costs are only one part of the equation. Less hydropower generation has a cascade of consequences. Energy experts stress that hydropower brings reliability to the grid in the West, especially when demand peaks in the summer. Power revenues have additionally helped to pay for environmental programs, including two recovery programs aimed at restoring fish species, including the humpback chub, bonytail chub, pikeminnow and razorback sucker.

For utility managers like Mendis Cooper, these impacts are hardly theoretical. Cooper, who leads Overton Power District No. 5, said most rural electric co-ops are operating without the flexibility that a big power provider might have. That means higher hydropower costs — and the need for replacement power — often have a large impact on rates, which are then passed along to rural businesses and farmers who are already operating on tight margins. 

“All of us that are rural utilities are all not-for-profit,” he said. “We don’t have margins. We don’t have margins from previous years that we can carry over to make up for these types of things.”

Hydropower, Cooper said, accounts for about one-quarter of the power used by the Overton Power District, which serves the Moapa Valley, the Moapa Band of Paiutes and Mesquite. To mitigate an increase in rates, the power district can defer capital projects, but only for so long.

“Our rates keep going up and up,” he said. 

The future — and what happens next — comes down to water. Cooper, who also serves as president of the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, said he is watching the negotiations and efforts to stabilize Lake Mead, which sits just outside of Overton. 

“We’ve seen this coming,” Cooper said of the water shortages. “We’ve seen the lake levels drop over the last 20 years. But it’s still amazing that something that big can go down that fast.”

In addition to buying replacement power on the open market, some rural electric utilities are looking for long-term alternatives to fill the gaps created by the drought. Lincoln County, for instance, has been working closely with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) to help fund a multi-phase solar project, according to Luttrell, who runs the local utility.

“We feel like we’ve got to solve this problem ourselves,” Luttrell said. 

Once built, the solar project could cover about half of the power district’s customer demand. Luttrell said Lincoln County is working with rural co-ops in Arizona to source some of its power from natural gas when neither hydropower nor solar is available. Similarly, the Overton Power District recently signed a contract to install a solar plant, hoping to offset the loss in hydropower. 

Still, Cooper warns: “We cannot replace that role hydropower plays on the entire grid.”

The hydropower challenge “means that these utilities have to be creative,” said Carolyn Turner, executive director of the Nevada Rural Electric Association. Efforts to bring more power online, she noted, could be aided by the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows non-taxable entities, such as local governments, schools and nonprofit utilities, to take advantage of solar energy credits.

As more rural utilities grapple with this issue, a looming question remains — what role should the federal government play in replacing lost hydropower and preparing for a drier future? By law, the only power source WAPA markets is hydropower, Meiman said.

But, she added, the agency is working closely with the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water along the Colorado River, to find long-term solutions and to make the current operations more efficient. Already, WAPA has pushed for changes to when water is released at dams, as it is more beneficial for power customers if water is released at times of peak electricity demand.

Today, Lincoln County has a population of about 4,500 residents, and farming is a key part of its economy. Bevan Lister, an irrigator, a county commissioner, and the president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, has watched Colorado River water use over the past three decades.

For farms that rely on groundwater, the electricity that drives their pumping can make up about 15 to 20 percent of the budget. The power district, Lister added, has done a good job of managing costs in the past. But he said that irrigators are looking at more expensive electricity rates next year.

Farming in Nevada, he said, “has a lot of challenges, both climate wise and cost wise. So any time those costs are increased, it challenges the viability of [farming] businesses.”

Water on the Colorado River, Lister argued, “has to be managed in a different way” to keep the reservoirs stable, and he said hydropower remains an important part of the equation. 

“Hydroelectric power is extremely valuable to the agricultural industry, both in Lincoln County and across the West,” Lister said. “Dependable and cost-efficient electrical systems provide for a tremendous amount of our agricultural production in the West.”

A photograph of Nevada Solar One (at right), and Copper Mountain Solar 1 (at left): taken from a commercial jetliner in Fall 2011. By Michael Adams, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23131135

Here’s what else I’m watching this week:

The “power of place:” For years, renewable developers have looked to the Great Basin and Mojave Desert as prime land to site energy projects. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada docket list is increasingly filled with notices of new developments. Many of these would go on public land, managed by the federal government. Where these projects go matters a great deal. The sprawling projects can conflict with sensitive habitats, migration corridors, recreation areas, culturally significant land and competing uses, including grazing rights and mineral claims. 

Last week, The Nature Conservancy released a regional report looking at renewable project siting, and what it would take to avoid the most sensitive landscapes and ecosystems. The takeaway: It can be done, but it will require planning. The Los Angeles Times’ Sammy Roth took a look at the report in his newsletter earlier this month and what it might mean for the energy transition. 

The federal government is launching a program to pay irrigators for conserving a portion of their Colorado River water. But will prices be enough of an incentive to move the needle? More from KUNC’s Alex Hager, who writes that “the funding represents a rare infusion of federal money for a climate change-fueled crisis that is plaguing the Southwest’s water supply.”

“We end up referring them out and sending them hundreds of miles out of their way just to get care that we should be able to provide here.” That’s a quote from Serrell Smokey, the chairman of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California in a recent story published by Kaiser Health News. Reporters Julie Appleby and Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez look at the ways in which wildfires, made worse by climate change, are affecting health care where access is limited. 

Just how many mines are needed for the energy transition? That’s a question that Jael Holzman of E&E News looks at in a piece this week. This is a must-read for understanding the potential impact of the energy transition in mining-friendly jurisdictions, including Nevada. 

Where the Las Vegas pipeline stands: Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Colton Lochhead and photojournalist Ellen Schmidt produced an important story about the proposed Las Vegas pipeline now that the project has been shelved — and the relief it’s brought to eastern Nevada.

The Associated Press‘ Scott Sonner looks at the similarities between a case involving a rare toad in Dixie Valley and a landmark Endangered Species Act case.

“Forever chemicals” are here and everywhere. POLITICO reports on a new study/map.
And Nevada has a new trail map, via the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

@GretaThunberg on the #climate delusion: ‘We’ve been greenwashed out of our senses. It’s time to stand our ground’ — The Guardian

Greta Thunberg via her Twitter Feed

Click the link to read the guest column on The Guardian website (Greta Thunberg). Here’s an excerpt:

Governments may say they’re doing all they can to halt the climate crisis. Don’t fall for it – then we might still have time to turn things around

Maybe it is the name that is the problem. Climate change. It doesn’t sound that bad. The word “change” resonates quite pleasantly in our restless world. No matter how fortunate we are, there is always room for the appealing possibility of improvement. Then there is the “climate” part. Again, it does not sound so bad. If you live in many of the high-emitting nations of the global north, the idea of a “changing climate” could well be interpreted as the very opposite of scary and dangerous. A changing world. A warming planet. What’s not to like?

Perhaps that is partly why so many people still think of climate change as a slow, linear and even rather harmless process. But the climate is not just changing. It is destabilising. It is breaking down. The delicately balanced natural patterns and cycles that are a vital part of the systems that sustain life on Earth are being disrupted, and the consequences could be catastrophic. Because there are negative tipping points, points of no return. And we do not know exactly when we might cross them. What we do know, however, is that they are getting awfully close, even the really big ones. Transformation often starts slowly, but then it begins to accelerate.

The German oceanographer and climatologist Stefan Rahmstorf writes: “We have enough ice on Earth to raise sea levels by 65 metres – about the height of a 20-storey building – and, at the end of the last ice age, sea levels rose by 120 metres as a result of about 5C of warming.” Taken together, these figures give us a perspective on the powers we are dealing with. Sea-level rise will not remain a question of centimetres for very long.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting, as are the “doomsday glaciers” of west Antarctica. Recent reports have stated that the tipping points for these two events have already been passed. Other reports say they are imminent. That means we might already have inflicted so much built-in warming that the melting process can no longer be stopped, or that we are very close to that point. Either way, we must do everything in our power to stop the process because, once that invisible line has been crossed, there might be no going back. We can slow it down, but once the snowball has been set in motion it will just keep going…

“This is the new normal” is a phrase we often hear when the rapid changes in our daily weather patterns – wildfires, hurricanes, heatwaves, floods, storms, droughts and so on – are being discussed. These weather events aren’t just increasing in frequency, they are becoming more and more extreme. The weather seems to be on steroids, and natural disasters increasingly appear less and less natural. But this is not the “new normal”. What we are seeing now is only the very beginning of a changing climate, caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Until now, Earth’s natural systems have been acting as a shock absorber, smoothing out the dramatic transformations that are taking place. But the planetary resilience that has been so vital to us will not last for ever, and the evidence seems to suggest more and more clearly that we are entering a new era of more dramatic change.

Climate change has become a crisis sooner than expected. So many of the researchers I’ve spoken to have said that they were shocked to witness how quickly it is escalating.

Opinion: #Colorado is failing on #climate goals. What did you expect? The transportation sector is the state’s biggest greenhouse gas emissions source. And it’s the area in which the state is most falling short — Colorado Newsline

Smoke from the massive Hayman Fire could be seen and smelled across the state. Photo credit to Nathan Bobbin, Flickr Creative Commons.

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Quentin Young):

A new progress report on Colorado’s greenhouse gas emission reductions shows the state is not on track to meet key goals. And anyone could have seen it coming.

The goals are set by statute, yet state officials haven’t taken climate action with sufficient seriousness to do right by the law, let alone public health and the planet. One hopes the new report inspires urgent action, though state officials have approached the climate emergency with a maddening combination of strong rhetoric and weak action for years.

Colorado residents will pay the price.

State lawmakers three years ago enacted House Bill 19-1261, a landmark achievement that requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution compared to 2005 levels by goals of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. As part of the effort to meet those targets, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission in 2020 established a regime to track and ensure progress on emission reductions. It set targets for a handful of sectors that are to blame for the most emissions, including electricity generation, oil and gas production, transportation, and residential and commercial building energy use.

The state has since made some notable strides toward hitting the targets. State law now requires electric utilities to file clean energy plans and work to reduce emissions. While renewable energy is becoming much cheaper to produce, and market forces rather than state action has much to do with the green transition, Colorado’s last coal plant is expected to close by the beginning of 2031, and utilities in the state are expected to see a roughly 80% reduction in emissions by 2030.

In 2019, the state adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard that requires an increased percentage of cars available for sale in Colorado to be electric-powered. The modest measure, which does not require drivers to actually buy electric cars, is expected to boost from 2.6% three years ago to 6.2% in 2030 the proportion of zero-emission vehicles sold in Colorado.

Officials recently enacted standards that require state and local transportation planners to meet a series of greenhouse gas reduction targets. And during the most recent legislative session, the General Assembly enacted a package of climate-friendly measures, the largest climate investment being a $65 million grant program to help school districts buy electric buses.

But for every climate advance in Colorado there’s often a planet-threatening failure.

As Newsline’s Chase Woodruff reported last year, the administration of Gov. Jared Polis abandoned one of its own top climate-action priorities, an initiative called the Employee Traffic Reduction Program, which would have required big Denver-area businesses to reduce the number of their employees commuting in single-occupant vehicles. The initiative was dropped following “intense opposition from business groups and conservatives, many of whom spread misinformation and conspiracy theories,” Woodruff reported.

Earlier this year the administration frustrated environmentalists again when it delayed adoption of an Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which would impose emissions standards on medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

This is all aligns with the governor’s insistence on a “market-driven transition” to renewable energy and a preference for voluntary industry action.

Is it any surprise then that the transportation sector accounts for Colorado’s most grievous instance of greenhouse gas negligence? What makes this especially troubling is that, with all those internal combustion engines buzzing around Colorado roads, transportation is the state’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Additional strategies for reducing emissions from the transportation sector will be needed” to meet state targets, the recent progress report concludes.

Emissions from transportation in Colorado have in fact grown in recent years, contributing greatly to the state’s overall off-track status.

The average temperature in Colorado keeps trending up. Denver this year experienced its third-hottest summer on record. The city’s four hottest summers have occurred in the last 10 years, and 3 of 4 of its hottest summers have occurred in the last three years.

Climate change is contributing to the aridification of the Southwest, it’s depleting water resources and it’s fueling more frequent and ferocious wildfires. It’s killing people, and it’s getting worse.

Polis, a Democrat, sits in the governor’s chair, so he shoulders the most responsibility, but Republicans would no doubt exacerbate the crisis were they in his position. Heidi Ganahl, the Republican nominee for Colorado governor, recently released her proposed transportation policy, which is almost entirely about investing in highways and almost exhaustively dismissive of climate change.

State officials, to safeguard the wellbeing of present and future generations of Coloradans, must take urgent steps to meet the 2025 emissions reduction targets. The progress report shows they’re failing to do so.

Credit: Colorado Climate Center

The #ColoradoRiver’s alfalfa problem: Growing less hay is the only way to keep the river’s #water system from collapsing — @HighCountryNews #COriver #aridification

A hayfield near Grand Junction, irrigated with water from the Colorado River. Under demand management pilot programs, the state could pay irrigators to fallow fields in an effort to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the High Country News website (Jonathan Thompson):

The West has an alfalfa problem.

It’s time for hay farmers to come to the Colorado River water-conservation table  

In June, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton told the Colorado River Basin states that they needed to reduce water consumption by 2-to-4 million acre-feet — or as much as 30% of the seven states’ total use — to save the system from collapsing. It was an enormous ask, unprecedented in scope, and probably the first time a Reclamation official’s words ever went viral.

A few weeks later, I stood on a dusty trail in Page, Arizona, looking out at Glen Canyon Dam and wondering whether such huge cuts were even possible, without, say, shutting off every irrigation canal into California. And how could the states possibly manage such a huge reduction while also fulfilling their legal obligation to deliver an equally large amount of additional water to the 30 tribes in the Colorado River Basin?

Part of the answer lay right in front of me: The trail I was hiking followed the edge of the local golf course, an emerald green carpet on the parched red earth. I wondered how much water you could save by cutting off every golf course in the West. Then I started ticking off other water-saving measures

– Tear up the turf lawns;

– Shut down water-guzzling coal power plants;

– Drain private swimming pools, and ban new ones;

– Shut off those Las Vegas fountains*;

– Halt new housing growth;

– Make water recycling the norm;

– Plug the leaks in water-distribution systems;

– Ban water-guzzling data centers in arid areas;

– Structure water rates in a way that discourages waste;

And put water-flow restrictors on LA-area celebrities’ homes to keep them from wasting water.

Surely that would do it. Especially the last item, given that Kim Kardashian was just busted for using 232,000 gallons more than she was supposed to — and doing so in just one month. (Sylvester Stallone was equally guilty.) But when I sat down to tally up the savings all this added up to, I still came up short. Way short.

459 acre-feet
Average annual water used to irrigate a golf course in the Southwest, according to the U.S. Golf Association. (1 acre-foot = 325,851 gallons)

300
Number of golf courses in Arizona, according to Golf Arizona

145 million gallons
Daily consumptive water use of power plants in Colorado River Basin states, which amounts to about 162,000 acre-feet per year. 

Now, 2 million acre-feet is a huge amount of water: enough to fill more than 1 million Olympic-size swimming pools. To get to Touton’s upper goal, you’d need to drain 2.2 million monster-sized pools. Hell, you could shut off every water tap in Las Vegas, and you’d still come up 2-million-swimming-pools’-worth short — or about 1 trillion gallons. In fact, you could halt all municipal water consumption in the Colorado River Basin — dry out Phoenix and Tucson lawns, deprive Los Angeles and Denver of showers and toilet flushing — and it still wouldn’t be quite enough.

“There’s not 2 million acre-feet of municipal use within the Lower Basin (Nevada, California and Arizona) and probably just above that if you look basin-wide,” said Colby Pellegrino, a deputy general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority in an executive roundtable in August. “To think this problem can just be solved by cities just is wrong,” she continued. “Agriculture has to step up to the table.” 

But I come from a long line of western Colorado farmers, and my instinctive reaction to this kind of talk is: Them’s fighting words! We Upper Basin folks learn early on about “first in time, first in right,” and that if you don’t put all of your allotted water on your fields, it’ll run downstream to overflow Las Vegas’ lavish fountains, the swimming pools of Phoenix and Hollywood celebrities’ private forests. The notion of “buying and drying” farms so the cities can keep growing is anathema. 

2.6 million acre-feet
Amount of Colorado River water California’s Imperial Irrigation District is expected to consume this year, most of which goes to agriculture. 

244,635 acre-feet
Amount of Colorado River water Nevada is expected to consume this year. That’s less than half the amount of water that evaporates off of Lake Mead each year. 

75%
Portion of Utah’s Colorado River use consumed by agriculture in 2018.

But once I calmed down, I realized that Pelligrino has a point. See, if you want to cut water consumption, you have to tackle the biggest water users. And the biggest user of Colorado River water, by far, is not lawns, not Vegas golf courses (mostly irrigated by recycled wastewater), not the Bellagio fountain, not even Kardashian or Stallone. It’s agriculture, which historically has accounted for up to 80% of all consumptive water use in the Colorado River Basin. Not only do crops need more water than houses, but in most cases, farmers have senior rights to the bulk of the water. And of all the crops grown in the region, alfalfa and hay fields collectively are the thirstiest. 

That’s not just because alfalfa uses a lot of water, though it does — about 1.5 million gallons per acre per year, rivaled only for thirstiness by almonds and pistachios. It’s also because so much of the West’s agricultural land is devoted to growing alfalfa. Colorado, Utah and Arizona farmers irrigated about 4.1 million acres of crops in 2017, and nearly half of those acres were in alfalfa. The Colorado River Basin’s largest single water consumer is the Imperial Irrigation District in Southern California, which draws some 2.6 million acre-feet from the river each year, nearly all of which goes to crops. About one-third of the district’s irrigated acreage is devoted to alfalfa, which annually consumes at least 400,000-acre feet of Colorado River water — more than Nevada’s entire allotment. 

3 to 6 acre-feet
Amount of water needed annually to irrigate an acre of alfalfa. The amount is greater in hotter, drier climates. 

3 million
Acres of irrigated agricultural land in Western states (including the Colorado River Basin) planted with alfalfa grown for forage (hay), grazing or seed in 2022. 

$880 million
Value of hay shipped overseas last year from Colorado River Basin states, most of which went to China, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

If the Rocky Mountains’ winter snowpack is like a huge reservoir that feeds the Colorado River system, then the alfalfa fields stretching from western Colorado to Southern California comprise a sort of anti-reservoir, sucking up a good portion of the water in order to feed beef and dairy cattle in the U.S., China, even Saudi Arabia. If you were to stop filling up the alfalfa anti-reservoir, or fallow all of the alfalfa fields in the Colorado River Basin, you’d come up with Touton’s desired cuts and then some fairly quickly. It’s simple math. 

Which is not to say doing so would be pretty, painless, politically palatable or even possible. Buying and drying up small farms en masse would threaten rural economies and cultures. Many farmers grow alfalfa or other hay as a side crop — it’s reliable, relatively easy to care for, provides multiple harvests during the long growing season and gains value during drought. If farmers were forced to get rid of their hay, their operations might no longer be viable, and the cost of beef and dairy products would certainly go up. Gone would be the experience of rolling down the windows on a summer’s eve and inhaling the poignant aroma of a freshly cut field. Gone the bucolic sight of the long sunset shadows cast by the bales — all replaced by patches of dusty, noxious-weed-breeding ground or yet more residential sprawl.

Most of us can probably agree that farms should not be dried to allow cities to grow heedlessly, or to allow urban folks to water big lawns or enable Kim Kardashian to do whatever the heck she does with all that water. In the past, Phoenix’s sprawl has gobbled up citrus groves and cotton fields, and Colorado’s Front Range cities have bought and fallowed distant farms to accommodate houses and lawns. That, too, must stop. The goal here is not to transfer the water from farms to cities, but from farms and cities back to the river itself — or, rather, to the rivers, plural. The Klamath River in southern Oregon and Northern California is in crisis as well, and the Great Salt Lake is rapidly shrinking. Alfalfa fields are a primary culprit in both cases.

So, banning alfalfa is not the answer. But piping Mississippi River water over the Rockies or building billion-dollar, energy-intensive desalination plants to enable farmers to continue dumping water on hundreds of thousands of acres of cattle fodder is simply insane. It’s time for agriculture, and especially Big Alfalfa, to step up and give up a portion of its water either by becoming more efficient, switching to less water-intensive crops or fallowing more fields. The growers will be compensated: Congress just authorized $4 billion in the Inflation Reduction Act for that very purpose.

Industrial-scale farmers are currently growing and irrigating some 85,000 acres of alfalfa in California’s Imperial Valley. Cover all of that land with solar panels instead, and you’d save desert land from industrialization, generate enough power to replace Glen Canyon Dam’s hydroelectricity output several times over — and maybe even stave off the Colorado River’s collapse. 

Pushback on building emissions: A law passed by #Colorado legislators in 2021 requires natural gas utilities to start squeezing emissions from buildings. This could get very interesting — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround #COleg

The downtown Denver skyline from Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

To be very clear, this is the biggest energy story of the year in Colorado, in my read.

State legislators in 2021 adopted several laws that will, in various ways, begin squeezing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

Now comes the implementation as the three commissioners from the Public Utilities Commission do their required public engagement in meetings held in various locations in Colorado. All available evidence suggests to me that this will come close to fist-swinging before it’s all done, at least of the wordy type. From what I hear, it already has.

I attended the second of the six meetings, the one at Montbello Community Center in Denver. It was a bilingual meeting structure designed for consumption by people who had mostly never heard of the PUC much less clean heat plans.

In Montrose a week later, people had heard of the clean heat plans – or least that an effort was underway to remove natural gas from buildings. According to a report in the Montrose Press, many were not in the least bit happy. “Public Utilities Commission gets an earful over Clean Heat Plans,” was the headline.

SB 21-264, which we’ll call the clean-heat law, requires Colorado’s four privately owned natural gas utilities – Xcel Energy, Black Hills Energy, Atmos and Colorado Natural Gas – to reduce greenhouse gases 4% by 2025 and then 22% by 2030. This is compared to emissions of 2015.

How can they do this? The law provides four ways for the utilities to do so in the heat-clean plans they must submit:

1) Demand-side management programs, especially including improved energy efficiency.

2) Beneficial electrification, meaning that gas use in buildings for space and hot water heating is replaced by electricity. One way of doing that is through addition of air-source heat pumps or, in original construction, ground-source heat pumps.

3) Improved efforts to reduce methane leaks from the natural gas infrastructure.

3) Recovered methane, such as from landfills, to supplement the methane extracted from wells;

4) Green hydrogen, which means made from renewable resources and after (but not natural gas);

5) Pyrolysis of tires, the recycling of tires to extract heat and energy, as is being considered at Fort Morgan.

The latter two are likely more difficult than the first three.

The PUC commissioners have until December to draw up the rules governing the review of these clean-heat plans.

I see four very, very big issues here:

First, this is a lot of work in a short time. “A heavy lift for utilities,” John Gavan, the PUC commissioner who presided at the Montrose meeting, said.

A Black Hills representative at the Montrose meeting said that the required reduction coming on top of demand growth means that instead of a 4% reduction it’s more like a 25% reduction. Nigh on to impossible, said Mike Harrigan, the Black Hills rep.

Second, the gas utilities are being required to radically change their business models and, in the case of three of them, to essentially make themselves less relevant. Xcel Energy will sell more electricity as it sells less gas. For Black Hills, which sells both gas and electricity, the trade-off is not as easy. It sells gas in Aspen, for example, but not electricity.

One of the attendees at Montrose summarized it in this way: “Let me get this straight,” said David Combs, speaking to the Black Hills Energy representatives. “The products you sell, you make money on, you’re trying to reduce and you’re giving people money to use less of it?”

There always has been a strange tradeoff between regulated utilities. They enjoy monopolies in their service territory in return for regulation. This was once reliable money. Utilities are now being required to be far more inventive.

Third, builders and real estate developers have been enjoying a subsidy as they build new subdivisions, the gas lines that are laid being subsidized by existing natural gas customers. At the end of the day, this may be the defining issue. High-spirited filings with the PUC began in December 2021.

Fourth, there are equity issues here as we squeeze out natural gas, replacing it with electricity. Who will pay for the aging natural gas systems? Like so many things, it’s likely to be those who can least afford to pay.

The meeting in the Denver neighborhood of Montbello was conducted in both Spanish and English. Photo/Allen Best

I mentioned the Montbello meeting. It was designed to reach out to an area that met the definition of a disproportionately impacted community. I can’t disagree, but I must say that I felt very marginalized. I struggle to hear well normally, and the choice of room configuration left me with my back to the speakers and trying — and almost entirely failing — to hear the English translation of what was being said in Spanish. My impression was that the meeting was designed with the intent of honoring the law, and it did achieve that. But one meeting alone will not achieve the real purpose with this particular group.

A meeting in Grand Junction was somewhat boisterous, I heard, which did not surprise me. The first filings of opposition to clean-heat plans in the PUC docket in this case were submitted by real-estate agents and others from the Grand Valley and Montrose. Weeks later they started arriving from places like Aurora.

Again, as Gavan identified in the Montrose meeting, the key issue here is the subsidy for gas lines to homebuilders. Nobody likes to lose their subsidy.

Sandy Head, executive of the Montrose County Economic Development Corp. told the Press that the cost of extending a gas line to a new house was previously $250 to $300 but will now cost $800.

This led to charges that it would become too expensive to live in a place like Delta County – which, with the exception of now pricey Paonia, remains one of Colorado’s least expensive places to live west of I-25.

Also balled up into this issue is the high cost of natural gas and the failure of Xcel Energy to adequately prepare itself for what happened in February 2021. Xcel ended up paying $600 million extra for high-priced natural gas. But there’s also the issue of Texans going without power – which some people, apparently, still think can be blamed on the dependency on wind turbines. (It was a part of the problem, but only a small part).

“We’re not going to shut off fossil fuel generation in the form of gas overnight,” Gavan replied, as per the Montrose Press account. “No, our plan is to add another gigawatt of combustion technology to back up renewables. It’s a balancing mix. As we transition, the resource mix will change. It will become very different, more intelligent.”

Say hello to Project Drawdown #Climate Solutions 101 #ActOnClimate

Click the link to go to the Project Drawdown website:

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.

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.

    Beneath #Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity Sprout Low-Impact Development of Solar Installations Could Be Win-Win-Win for Food, #Water, and #Renewable Energy — NREL #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Click the link to read the article on the NREL website (Harrison Dreves. Photos by Dennis Schroeder. Video by Josh Bauer):

    Low-Impact Development of Solar Installations Could Be Win-Win-Win for Food, Water, and Renewable Energy

    On a humid, overcast day in central Minnesota, a dozen researchers crouch in the grass between rows of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Only their bright yellow hard hats are clearly visible above the tall, nearly overgrown prairie grasses—which are growing exactly as expected.

    Bent over white, square frames, some of the researchers catalog the number and type of native plants growing on a square foot of land. Others press double-forked meters into the ground, measuring the soil moisture below the solar panels and in open ground. Nearby, beekeepers check on the health of local hives.

    Their research is part of an ongoing study to quantify the benefits of a new approach to solar installations: low-impact solar development.

    To better understand the benefits of—and barriers to—low-impact solar development, the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project brings together researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory, universities, local governments, environmental and clean energy groups, and industry partners. The project is funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.

    Credit: NREL

    Bees Benefit—and That’s Just the Beginning

    Traditionally, large solar installations are deployed on land that is first leveled, removing much of the topsoil and vegetation. After the mounting racks and solar panels are installed, the ground is covered in gravel or turf grass. With low-impact solar development, the ground may also be leveled in some places, but the topsoil is preserved. After the panels are installed, native and other beneficial vegetation—often friendly to bees and other pollinators—is planted.

    A greener way to go green—NREL Analyst Jordan Macknick and Jake Janski of Minnesota Native Landscapes survey the Aurora Solar Project’s low-impact installation (left). Compare that to a traditional solar installation at Ft. Carson Army Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado (right). Photo credit: NREL

    The deep roots of native vegetation retain more water than turf grass and gravel during heavy storms and periods of drought. They also help retain topsoil and improve soil health over time, even in “brownfield” areas with polluted soils.

    Perhaps most importantly, native and flowering vegetation provides a habitat for native species, especially pollinators and other beneficial insects that can improve yields at nearby farms.

    Native solitary bee. Photo: The Xerces Society / Rich Hatfield

    “One surprising thing is how rapidly and significantly pollinator-friendly solar has taken off in the states,” said Jordan Macknick, NREL’s lead energy-water-land analyst and principal investigator for the InSPIRE project. “Every state we work with wants more information on pollinator-friendly solar.”

    At several InSPIRE sites, local beekeepers and university and national laboratory researchers are tracking their bees’ visits to the pollinator-friendly vegetation under the solar panels. The goal is to determine how vegetation at solar sites can benefit insect populations and to understand the extent to which pollinator-friendly solar installations can boost crop yields at surrounding farms.

    The low-impact approach also benefits solar developers. For example, skipping the removal of topsoil reduces site preparation expenses. As prices continue to fall for solar panels and other hardware, nonhardware costs (including site preparation) will soon account for 20% of total utility-scale solar costs. Native vegetation, if selected appropriately, also requires less ongoing maintenance than traditional gravel or turf grass approaches, as there is less of a need for mowing or spraying.

    Photo credit: NREL

    Flourishing vegetation can even boost energy production from solar panels. Warmer temperatures can reduce the efficiency with which PV cells convert sunlight into electricity. The ground shading and increased evaporation provided by a healthy layer of undergrowth can actually cool solar panels, increasing their energy output.

    So, why isn’t low-impact solar development more widely adopted?

    “In a risk-averse industry, this is perceived as a risky practice because there haven’t been any studies and there isn’t any data to say that this works or that there can be benefits to the solar project,” said Macknick. “That’s why we are doing the first systematic and robust research on low-impact solar development—to see what works and to quantify costs and benefits.”

    Low-Impact Solar Saves More Than Soil

    At the Minnesota test site, Macknick and his colleagues have planted nine different seed mixes and are studying their impact on temperatures, soil moisture levels, energy production, and maintenance over several years. At sites in six other states, representing the country’s diverse climates, similar research is underway.

    To ensure research stays abreast of current industry practices, an InSPIRE stakeholder group called ASTRO (Agriculture and Solar Together: Research Opportunities) brings together researchers, solar developers, and government agencies to share the latest data and best practices. Ultimately, InSPIRE’s research should yield actionable suggestions for the solar industry, answering questions such as “What seed mixes do we plant to minimize maintenance costs in certain climates?” or “How frequently do we mow?”

    Photo credit: NREL

    At InSPIRE’s Massachusetts, Arizona, and Oregon sites, the team is testing a particular low-impact approach that adds food to the mix: agrivoltaics. Growing agricultural crops under the shade of solar panels uses water much more efficiently while shielding plants from the worst of the midday heat.

    Agrivoltaics probably won’t be feasible for large-scale, single-crop farms that rely on heavy machinery. But preliminary results already suggest it can significantly boost the yields of certain plants in hotter-than-average years. At the Arizona site, cherry tomato yields are doubled and require less water when grown in the shade of solar panels.

    The solar energy generation also offers farmers a steady, additional source of income—a valuable assurance in a potentially volatile agriculture industry.

    For states and municipalities with limited farmland, agrivoltaics offers another benefit. Gerry Palano, an energy program coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, has been working with cities and farmers to ensure new solar projects strike a balance between meeting the state’s renewable energy goals and maintaining local agriculture.

    Agrivoltaics could help offset the impacts of extreme weather by reducing water use, increasing food yields, and limiting the negative effects of heat on solar panels.

    Low-impact solar development does require additional up-front planning and expenditures, but—according to the data gathered by InSPIRE researchers so far—offers surprisingly robust benefits over time.

    Perhaps most importantly, low-impact solar development can make solar projects more responsive to the priorities and concerns of local communities.

    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 “Inside Clean Energy: Yes, There Are Benefits of Growing Broccoli Beneath Solar Panels” on the Inside Climate News website (Dan Gearino). Here’s an excerpt:

    Despite being “yucky” according to some picky eaters, broccoli is well-suited to grow alongside solar panels, according to a new study.

    The research from Chonnam National University in South Korea is part of the growing field of “agrivoltaics,” in which agronomists and energy experts look for opportunities for solar power and agriculture to exist on the same land in an effort to meet the world’s needs for both energy and food.

    The findings, published in the journal Agronomy, show that shade provided by solar panels helps to make broccoli a deeper shade of green, which makes the vegetable more appealing for grocery stores and consumers without a significant loss of the crop’s size or nutritional value.

    But the greatest financial benefits for farmers come from producing energy. Income from solar was about 10 times the income from broccoli, which indicates that farmers already growing the vegetable are missing out on an opportunity by not having solar panels in the same fields, according to the study. The authors include Kang Mo-Ku, a horticulture professor.

    The paper is “a great case study,” said Jordan Macknick, a lead analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, whose work deals with agrivoltaics.

    His main caveat is that the results only apply to one crop being grown in one region. He said the paper provides evidence that should encourage additional research in other places and with other crops.

    He would know. His team at NREL has several projects involving solar alongside carrots, chard, kale, peppers and tomatoes, among others.

    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.

    Will electricity supplies keep pace with the warming #climate? — @BigPivots #ActOnClimate

    Northern Colorado on July 9, 2021, sunset with Longs Peak in the background. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

    This late-June coolish spell in Colorado is unusual. The trend is toward hot and hotter. Denver in June matched a record set just a few years ago for the earliest time to hit 100 degrees. Grand Junction last year set an all-time record of 107.

    What if the heat rises to 116 degrees, such as baked Portland a year ago? Could Xcel Energy deliver the electricity needed to chill the air?

    It can in 2022, the company says, but it has less confidence for 2023 and 2024 after it shuts down a coal plant. Xcel frets about disruption to supply chains necessary to add renewable generation.

    Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Colorado’s second-largest electrical supplier, also foresees supply-chain issues as it replaces coal-fired generation with renewables. It has extended the deadline for bids from developers of wind, solar, and storage projects by more than two months, to Sept. 16.

    Colorado has hit a bump in its energy transition. The climate sends ever-louder signals that we must quit polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases. After a sluggish response, Colorado has been hurrying to pivot. Now, inflation and other problems threaten to gum up the switch.

    The glitch is significant enough that Eric Blank, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission chair, asked Xcel representatives at a June 17 meeting whether it might be wise to keep Comanche I, the aging coal plant in Pueblo, operating beyond its scheduled retirement at the end of 2022.

    “It kills me to even ask this question,” said Blank, a former developer of wind and solar energy projects.

    In northwestern New Mexico, the aging San Juan Generating Station has been allowed to puff several months past its planned retirement because of problems in getting a new solar farm on line. Even so, the utility predicts rolling blackouts, as has happened in other states.

    No blackouts have been predicted in Colorado. Xcel has a healthy reserve margin of 18%.

    But even if Xcel wanted to keep Comanche 1 operating beyond 2022, it lacks the permits to do so, company representatives told PUC commissioners at a June 17 meeting devoted to “resource adequacy.”

    In addition to the supply chain disruptions, Xcel failed to adequately foresee demand growth. Residential demand was expected to decline as people returned to offices after the covid shutdown. They have, but less than expected. Too, demand from Xcel’s wholesale customers – it provides power for Holy Cross Energy but also some other utilities – has grown more than projected.

    “We can’t go into the summer of 2023 with less than 10% reserve margins,” said Blank. “We just can’t.”

    Old technology, though, isn’t always a sure-fire answer. Coal plants routinely must shut down for maintenance. Then there are the fiascos. Problems have repeatedly idled Comanche 3, the state’s youngest and largest coal plant, during its 12 years. Cabin Creek, Xcel’s trusty pumped-storage hydro project at Georgetown, has also been down.

    The electrical grid now being assembled will be more diverse, dispersed, and flexible. Many homes will have storage, the batteries of electric vehicles will be integrated into the grid, and demand will be shaved and then shaped to better correspond with supplies. Megan Gilman, a PUC commissioner from Edwards, pointed out that this strategy could be a key response to tightening margins between supplies and demands. Xcel has had a small-scale peak-shaving program but will soon submit plans for expanded demand management.

    Meanwhile, it gets hotter and hotter. Russ Schumacher, the state climatologist, says Colorado’s seven of the nine warmest years on record have occurred since 2012. We haven’t had a year cooler than the 20th century average since 1992. Air conditioning has become the new normal for high-end real estate offerings even in Winter Park, elevation 9,000 feet. It’s not just the heat. There’s also the matter of smoke, as more intense wildfires grow larger and expand across the calendar, too. For weeks, sometimes months on end, opening the windows is no option.

    Colorado’s record temperature of 115 degrees was set in 2019 near Lamar, in southeastern Colorado. Nobody yet has made public modeling of the potential for that kind of heat in Front Range cities, where 90% of Coloradans live. Last year the deaths of 339 people were attributed to heat in the Phoenix area, where nighttime temperatures sometimes stay above 90.

    Power outages in Texas during February 2021 were blamed — mostly without merit — on wind farms. Nobody in Colorado wants to see any plausible excuse to blame renewables. The best way to avoid that is to keep the air conditioners running.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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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    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    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.”

    Oligarchs and #Pueblo’s steel mill — @BigPivots

    Putin crony Roman Abramovich’s ownership of London’s Chelsea soccer club has been crimped by sanctions levied by the U.K. The Colorado steel mill of which he is a major owner is operating as usual—for now. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

    In the early 20th century Pueblo’s steel mill was owned by American oligarchs, John Rockefeller Jr., the descendants of Jay Gould, and others. Might ownership of that steel mill—and Colorado’s largest solar array—revert to American ownership as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine?

    Now called Evraz, the steel mill is owned primarily by Russian oligarchs, with Roman Abramovich having the largest stake.

    The United States has not yet imposed sanctions on Abramovich, unlike the United Kingdom and Canada. That leaves his ownership stake in the Pueblo steel mill intact as well as his ownership of two houses in Snowmass Village.

    In Pueblo, there are doubts that the mill could end up being cut off from its Russian owners because the product is for the domestic consumption, not for export.

    But then Chelsea, the soccer club in London that Abramovich owns, is no longer selling tickets, the result of sanctions applied last Thursday by the United Kingdom. As long as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues, ownership of the plant in Pueblo will remain an active question.

    Evraz North America, which operates the steel mill, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Evraz, a company incorporated under laws of the United Kingdom, with shares traded on the London Stock Exchange—until last Thursday.

    In sanctioning Evraz, the British government accused Roman Abramovich, the largest shareholder, of being a “pro-Kremlin oligarch” who has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Russian government and “is or has been involved in destabilizing Ukraine and undermining and threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”

    The statement also accused Evraz of “potentially supplying steel to the Russian military, which may have been used in the production of tanks.” In response to a Financial Times inquiry, the company insisted it only made steel for the “infrastructure and construction” sectors, the Financial Times reported.

    The Financial Times last Friday also reported that 10 members of Evraz had resigned after the United Kingdom’s action.

    Canada last Friday also imposed sanctions on Abramovich, and on Tuesday so did the European Union.

    Within hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States imposed actions against several Russian oligarchs and institutions, but not Abramovich nor Evraz.

    Five Russians own two-thirds of Evraz’s shares. Second to Abramovich in holdings is Alexander Abramov, a former scientist who founded Evraz in 1992. The other three are also Russian oligarchs, reported the Pueblo Chieftain in a March 5 story.

    An oligarch is defined as a very rich business leader with a great deal of political influence. An oligarchy is a country ruled by oligarchs. Forbes in 2021 ranked Abramovich as 12th wealthiest among Russia’s billionaires, with a net worth of $14.5 billion.

    Evraz also has steel, mining, and vanadium operations in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Kazakhstan.

    In the United States, Evraz has mills in Pueblo, which has 1,100 employees, and in Portland, Ore. It also has five mills in Canada, three in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan, according to its website.

    This is from Big Pivots 54. Please consider subscribing to get issues of the e-journal.

    Evraz also has scrap operations, including one along the South Platte River north of downtown Denver.

    Nowhere has there been even a suggestion that the Pueblo steel mill or other operations in North America have directly supported the Russian war effort.

    The Pueblo mill primarily uses recycled steel to make its products, which requires a lower temperature than is necessary when using iron ore and other raw resources. Foundry operations became electrified in the early 1970s, the result of construction of the nearby Comanche 1 and 2 coal-burning units.
    Early last November, a 298-megawatt solar farm was completed on land owned by Evraz between the steel mill and beyond the Comanche units. This allowed the steel company to proclaim that it had become the first solar-powered steel mill in the world, as Big Pivots explained. Financial and other details of that claim have never been made public.

    The investment in the solar farm hinged upon plans to go forward with construction of a $500 million mill that will make quarter-mile rail segments that Union Pacific, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, and other railroads want. The construction project employs 400 to 500 people.

    Jeffrey Shaw, chief executive of the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation, says the impact to Pueblo and the steel mill there appears to be nil.

    “We have asked what the impact of the global geopolitical front will be to the facility, and the answer we have gotten back (from Evraz) is—consistent with what has been reported—that they are moving forward with the facility,” he says. He also points that the market for the products of the steel mill is domestic, not foreign.

    Driving by the mill, construction work continues with no evidence of slowdown. “We’re very optimistic that it will carry on” as planned, he added.

    The Pueblo Chieftain story by editor Karin Zeitvogel reported no changes evident at the steel mill in early March. “We haven’t seen anything yet, and everything is just like it was a week ago,” said Eric Ludwig, president of the United Steelworkers 2102 Union, a week after the invasion.

    The Evraz annual report for 2021 noted the cloudy global horizon, referring to Ukraine five times and potential for sanctions nine times. The report mentions the “worsening situation relating to Ukraine and heightened risk of the economic sanctions.”

    In modeling, the company also described a “severe downside scenario” that could cause it to reduce capital spending by $500 million a year.

    Might that include the work on the new Pueblo mill? No mention there.

    Abramovich was the focus of a lengthy New York Times article on Sunday that explored his ties with the United States and other western countries. An orphan who grew up in a town along the Volga River, he dropped out of college and then emerged from the Red Army in the late 1980s just as the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was opening new opportunities for private enterprise. Abramovich, says the Times, thrived as a trader—of almost anything and everything, it would seem.

    The big break for Abramovich came in the mid-1990s, when he and a partner persuaded the Russian government to sell them a state-run oil company for $200 million. In 2005, he sold his stake back to that government for $11.9 billion.

    His holdings include the Chelsea soccer team in London, which he bought in 2003 and which he was frantically trying to sell last week before the UK sanctions. The sanctions prohibit the club from selling tickets to matches.

    The Times said leaders of cultural, educational and medical institutions, along with a chief rabbi, had sent a letter urging the United States not to impose sanctions on Abramovich, a major donor to Jewish and other causes.

    A request to the American ambassador to Israel “reflects the extraordinary effort Mr. Abramovich, 55, has made over the last two decades to parlay his Russian fortune into elite standing in the West,” said the Times, going on to describe his houses, his art works, his yachts, his private 787 jet, and more.
    That includes real estate in Colorado’s most elite resort community. The Aspen Times on March 1 explained that Abramovich has owned two houses in Snowmass Village since 2008. One 12,859-square-foot house has 11 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms and sits on 200 acres of land. The smaller 5,492-square-foot house sits on 1.8 acres of land.

    Abramovich’s name is also prominent in Aspen, reported Rick Carroll of the Aspen Times. Lettering on the outside of a synagogue on Main Street in Aspen suggests Abramovich and his now ex-wife Dasha were major donors.

    Russia’s oligarchs have “used their ill-gotten gains to try to launder their reputations in the West,” Thomas Graham, a Russian scholar from the Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times. “But the message of these sanctions is, that is not going to protect you.”

    Michael McFaul, an American ambassador to Moscow during the Obama administration, described disingenuous behavior on several sides. He told the Times that while Putin’s government claimed to despise the United States and its allies, his foreign ministry was constantly trying to help the oligarchs around him, including Abramovich, obtain visas so they could ingratiate themselves with the Western elite.

    “On our side, we have been playing right along,” he said, overlooking ties of the oligarchs to Putin and welcoming them and their money.

    Sources also told the Times that the relationship that Abramovich and other oligarchs enjoyed with Putin cut both ways. After Putin was inaugurated president in 2000, he quickly moved to dominate the billionaires who had profited from privatization, sending a message by jailing the richest and most powerful oligarch. Abramovich is one of the few early elites who remained in Putin’s circle.

    Putin’s display of force, however, also gave oligarchs freedom to establish ties in the West—as potential places to land.

    As for Pueblo, it’s had ups and downs in the last 141 years it has been making steel. The mill was a consequence of Pueblo having rail connections, water, and proximity to coal, iron ore, and limestone. Coal mines at Crested Butte, Redstone, and elsewhere supplied the smoke-belching mill that was then called Colorado Fuel & Iron.

    Much of the old CF&I plant at Pueblo remains standing even as a new long-rail mill goes up. Photos/Allen Best

    CF&I was owned by American-born oligarchs of their day. A smaller figure was John Cleveland Osgood and the larger names were John Rockefeller Jr. and Jay Gould.

    Ruins of the Ludlow Colony near Trinidad, Colorado, following an attack by the Colorado National Guard. Forms part of the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress. By Bain News Service – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID ggbain.15859.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10277066

    There have been downsides for Pueblo, too, including a bloody strike in the coalfields south of Pueblo in 1913-1914. The strike culminated in the deaths of 21 miners and their families, including 2 women and 11 children in what is remembered as the Ludlow Massacre. In 1921, a flood killed at least 78 and likely many more while swamping the downtown district and other low-lying areas.

    The steel mill at one time employed 12,000 people and, by the 1970s, paid handsomely and gave months-long vacations to employees with greater seniority. Going into 1990, CF&I teetered into bankruptcy. It was acquired by Oregon Steel in 1993 and the name was changed to Rocky Mountain Steel Mills. In 2007, it and other Oregon Steel holdings were acquired by Evraz for $2.3 billion.

    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.

    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