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.”

An investment to rival those of I-70 and #Denver International Airport — @BigPivots

I-70 on Vail Pass. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

Most of the $9-$10 billion that Xcel Energy will spend in the next few years will be spent on Colorado’s eastern plains. Why is this such a big deal for Colorado?

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

Colorado will soon embark on a change with few rivals in the last 100 years. Think of the dismantling of geography by construction of Interstate 70 through the tunnels, over Vail Pass, and through Glenwood Canyon. Think of Denver International Airport. Think of the arrival of electricity to farms and small towns in the 1930s and 1940s.

Within a decade, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electrical utility, will retire all its coal plants, convert one to burn natural gas, and add massive amounts of wind on Colorado’s eastern plains and solar generation, some of it in the Western Slope’s Grand Valley, along with batteries nad perhaps other storage, as it pursues a mid-century goal of net-zero carbon. Combined with potentially 740 miles of new transmission lines looping around eastern Colorado, this investment in new generation could hit $9 billion to $10 billion. Xcel will likely get its final green light from state regulators in the next month, maybe two.

This has repercussions beyond Xcel Energy, which sells more than half the electricity in Colorado. It also delivers wholesale sales to some municipalities and cooperatives, including Holy Cross Energy, Yampa Valley Electric, and Grand Valley Power.

Is this money well spent? If you’re a climate hawk, as I am, convinced we must dramatically reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, this represents a giant step forward. We must immediately reduce emissions from electrical generation and also displace fossil fuels in transportation and buildings.

True, China’s emissions keep growing. But Colorado can lead the United States by example, and the United States can lead the world.

Some people, even champions of this transition, disagree with the precise pathway. For example, if demand were shaved through energy efficiency and other programs, will less investment in new generating resources be needed, says Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group.

From Colorado eastern plains, already dotted with wind turbines, come other complaints about cluttered skylines. This is not universal. Other plainsmen (and women) welcome the property taxes local governments will realize and the lease payments to land owners.

Nuclear power represents another question. Colorado’s lone experiment with nuclear power, at the St. Vrain plant near Greeley, went seriously awry. But now come efforts with presumably smaller and hence lower-risk modular reactors, such as are being planned in Idaho and also Wyoming. Cost, more than safety, is the fulcrum for the debate. Nuclear has had exorbitant cost overruns. Will this new technology be better?

Comanche 3, a coal plant in Pueblo, has become the symbol for this energy transition. It was approved 18 years ago by Colorado regulators, a $1 billion investment (in today’s dollars). Utilities had been building ever-bigger coal-fired coal plants, abetted by natural gas plants to meet peak demands, for a half-century. Few were willing to give credence to the vision of renewable energy. I remember in about 2008, a geologist in Meeker who still hoped for the dream of milking hydrocarbons from the oil shale of northwestern Colorado. “We can’t run a civilization on windmills,” he fumed.

We still can’t. And as somebody pointed out to me, even wind turbines need oil and grease and so forth. But we can do far, far more than Xcel or most others thought just 18 years ago.

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

This has come in increments. Almost simultaneous with approval of Comanche 3 came Colorado’s first renewable energy mandate. Xcel fought it. Then it set out to comply. Costs of wind tumbled dramatically, and then so did solar. Something of the same thing is now happening with lithium-ion batteries.

It’s not yet possible on a large scale to affordably eliminate all emissions. But also note this. In 2005, when Xcel began building Comanche 3, about two-thirds of its electricity came from coal plants. Within a decade, it will be close to zero. We’re moving fast, because we can and because we must.

Will there be adverse consequences beyond altered prairie vistas on the Great Plains? Quite possibly. With I-70, what once was close to a full-day journey from Grand Junction to Denver was shortened to a long morning. But the highway has made mountain valleys a little less lovely and far more noisy.

This course correction in our energy foundation may also prove to have flaws that may require further altering. And in 18 years we may look back and wonder if we should have held off just a little longer for a technological breakthrough instead of making Colorado’s eastern plains look like Paul Bunyan’s playground for Erector Set creations.

What we cannot afford is to do nothing. Given what we know today, about the cost of energy and the cost of climate change, this massive investment soon to happen looks to be the wisest path forward.

Say hello to Project Drawdown #Climate Solutions 101 #ActOnClimate

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

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

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

Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Blank. Photo via Big Pivots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Ackermann. Photo via Big Pivots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have to try something.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three of the many additional elements of this deserve mention.

Pre-construction development

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

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

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

Status of water

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

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

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

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

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

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

But why does this information matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Level playing field for storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

Denver Water sits on the front lines of climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Denver smog. Photo credit: NOAA

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

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

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

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

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

    An all-electric house. Credit: REWIRING AMERICA

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

    Courtesy of Microgrid Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    When did Hansen decide this was needed?

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

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

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

    This week, the bills having to do with buildings.

    See: Colorado’s carrots and sticks for buildings

    Next week, air quality, agriculture and other bills.

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

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

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

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

    What is the IPCC and what do they do?

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

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

    What should I know about the latest IPCC report?

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

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

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

    Is there any hope then?

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

    What can we do to stop climate change?

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

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

    What can I do about climate change as an individual?

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

    Click the link to read the release from the IPCC:

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

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

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

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

    Urgent action required to deal with increasing risks

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

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

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

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

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

    Safeguarding and strengthening nature is key to securing a liveable future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    North American Drought Monitor map January 2022

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

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

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

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

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

    A narrowing window for action

    Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.

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

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

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

    For more information, please contact:

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

    Photo credit: Elisa Stone via the World Weather Attribution

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

    Atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory August 7, 2021.

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

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

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

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

    […]

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

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

    Denver City Park sunrise

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

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

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

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

    From email from Big Pivots (Allen Best):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Allen Best
    Big Pivots
    https://bigpivots.com

    720.415.9308
    allen.best@comcast.net

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

    Costs of a full vs. a partial buyout.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dan Harms.

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

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

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

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

    The case for a partial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Duane Highley via The Mountain Town News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good questions 15 years ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From Inside Climate News (Dan Gearino):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Largest-Ever U.S. #Climate Investment Clears U.S. House of Representatives: Build Back Better Act includes major investments in clean energy, climate action — Nature

    Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging in the Town of Kremmling Town Park August 21, 2017.

    Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy (Eric Bontrager):

    The following is a statement by Kameran Onley, director of North American policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy, after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act that includes the United States’ largest-ever investment in climate action:

    “The Build Back Better Act would help us achieve the emissions cuts and nature gains we need to ensure a cleaner, healthier, safer future. It includes $555 billion in climate investments and stronger policies to address the climate crisis than we’ve ever seen before.

    “These are vital investments for supporting a strong economy, a healthy population and a sustainable, resilient natural world.

    “This bill would bring unprecedented investments in clean energy, climate-smart forestry and agriculture initiatives and a civilian climate corps. All are substantial and much-needed advances that would also create jobs and improve our quality of life. These are vital investments for supporting a strong economy, a healthy population and a sustainable, resilient natural world.

    “Today’s progress on this bill, along with the newly enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill, gives us a healthy dose of the momentum and hope we need to fully tackle the twin climate and nature crises. They are also a promise to the world that the United States will live up to its climate commitments and lead the way on providing solutions. Together with recent international commitments to reduce methane emissions and global deforestation, this collective movement to get serious on climate action can make a tremendous difference and energize us for continued progress.

    “As the bill heads to the Senate for consideration, we look forward to working with congressional leaders to ensure the final Build Back Better Act contains robust and effective climate provisions.”

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

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

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tri-State, Xcel, #Colorado eye #YampaRiver water for “green #hydrogen” projects — @WaterEdCO #ActOnClimate #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Yampa River. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From Water Education Colorado (Allen Best):

    Utilities with goals of producing 100 percent renewable energy in Colorado must figure out how to reliably deliver electricity when relying upon resources, primarily wind and sunshine, that aren’t always reliable.

    The answer may lie in water, and some of that water may come from Colorado’s Yampa River.

    Colorado’s two largest electrical utilities, Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, are talking about the potential for green hydrogen and other possible storage technologies associated with their existing coal-fired power plants, at Hayden and Craig, in the Yampa Valley. Both plants are scheduled to shut down, with Hayden slated to close by 2028 and Craig by 2030.

    Duane Highley, the chief executive of Tri-State, told member cooperatives in a meeting Aug. 4 that Tri-State and the State of Colorado have partnered in a proposed Craig Energy Research Station.

    Hydrogen has been described as the missing link in the transition away from fossil fuels. It can be produced in several ways. Green hydrogen, the subject of the proposal at Craig, is made from water using electrolysis. The oxygen separated from the H2O can be vented, leaving the hydrogen, a fluid that can be stored in tanks or, as is in a demonstration project in Utah, in salt caverns. The hydrogen can then be tapped later as a fuel source to produce electricity or, for that matter, put into pipelines for distribution to fueling stations.

    How much water will be required to produce green hydrogen isn’t clear. But the Yampa Valley’s existing coal-fired plants have strong water portfolios that could be used to create green hydrogen or another storage technology called molten salt. The latter is the leading candidate at the Hayden plant, co-owned by Xcel Energy and its partners.

    Craig Generating Station in 2021 is projected to use 7,394 acre-feet of water, according to a Tri-State filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. By 2029, the last year of coal generation at Craig, Tri-State projects water use will decline to 4,270 acre-feet.

    Xcel Energy also has water rights associated with its somewhat smaller two-unit Hayden Generating Station.

    When Tri-State first announced last year its plans to close its coal units, some hoped the utility would allow the water to continue downstream, aiding fish and habitat in the Yampa Valley. The Yampa, arguably Colorado’s least trammeled river, since 2018 has been plagued by drought. In early August, water managers placed a call on the middle section of the Yampa River for only the third time ever.

    Western Resource Advocates, which works in both energy and water, has supported the green hydrogen proposal. But there’s also hope that a water dividend will still be realized in this transition, resulting in more water available for the Yampa, which is a major tributary to the Colorado River.

    “If we do it right, we have the chance to equitably share the impacts and solutions to climate change all across Colorado and the West, with benefits for communities, economies and the environment,” says Bart Miller, director of the Healthy Rivers Program for Western Resource Advocates.

    Green hydrogen, similar to wind and solar in the past, has a cost hurdle that research at Craig, if it happens, will seek to dismantle. The federal government’s Energy Earthshots Initiative announced in June hopes to drive the costs down 80% by the end of the decade. That is the program in which Tri-State hopes to participate.

    Tri-State’s Highley suggested at the meeting last Thursday that the Craig site should swim to the top of the proposals, because it is an existing industrial site, and the Craig and Hayden units also have high-voltage transmission lines. This is crucial. Those lines dispatch electricity to the Front Range and other markets but they can also be used to import electricity from the giant wind farms being erected on Colorado’s Eastern Plains as well as solar collectors on rooftops and in backyards.

    In addition, Craig and Hayden have workforces that, at least in theory, could be transitioned to work in energy storage projects.

    Western Resource Advocates, in a June 30 letter to the Department of Energy, made note of that consideration. “A green, zero-carbon hydrogen project at Craig Station is an opportunity to demonstrate how the clean energy transition can also be a just transition for fossil fuel-producing communities,” said the letter signed by Erin Overturf, the Clean Energy Program director.

    Several state agencies will likely play a role, said Dominique Gomez, deputy director of the Colorado Energy Office, including the Office of Just Transition that was established in 2019 and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

    Craig Station in northwest Colorado is a coal-fired power plant operated by Tri-State Generation & Transmission. Photo credit: Allen Best

    At Craig, the vision is “to provide researchers access to the key resources necessary to perform their research, including water, transmission and site space,” Tri-State spokesman Mark Stutz said in an e-mail. “As the initial step, Tri-State and the state plan to engage a group of stakeholders to facilitate the development of the center.”

    The Department of Energy has not indicated when it expects to announce the finalists or grant funding.

    Hayden Station. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    At Hayden, where the coal units are scheduled to close in 2028, Xcel Energy says it is in the early stages of studying potential for molten salt, the leading energy storage technology at this time, but also green hydrogen.

    Water use will depend upon the size of the projects, said Xcel representative Michelle Aguayo in a statement. “It’s important to remember the amount of water used in power generation in Colorado is relatively small, representing 0.3% of water diversion in the state.”

    Xcel already participates in a hydrogen pilot project in Minnesota, its home state for operations, and has proposed natural gas plants in North Dakota and Minnesota that are to be designed to use hydrogen technology when it becomes viable and cost-effective.

    “As we’ve said before, we’re focused on identifying and exploring technologies that will allow us to bring our customers carbon-free energy by 2050, technologies that are not available or cost effective today,” she said.

    Long-time Colorado journalist Allen Best publishes Big Pivots, an e-magazine that covers the energy and other transitions in Colorado. He can be reached at allen@bigpivots.com and allen.best@comcast.net

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

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

    Download the report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Authors and Clean Energy Futures Team

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


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

    Matthew Lackner, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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

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

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

    So how do they work?

    Three main ways to float a turbine

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

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

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

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

    There are three main types of platforms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why do we need floating turbines?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More information about this historic legislation is available here.

    #ColoradoSprings Utilities looking to boost resiliency through microgrids — The Colorado Springs Gazette #ActOnClimate

    Courtesy of Microgrid Knowledge

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

    Small subsets of the electrical grid, or microgrids, that can stand alone in an emergency and keep critical services or businesses going, could be integrated into the Colorado Springs Utilities system in the coming years.

    Utilities is working with Quanta Technology to identify the best locations for microgrids that could keep community services such as fire stations or wastewater treatment plants operational in a larger power outage, said Gabriel Caunt, principal engineer for the demand side management and distributed energy group within Utilities. The microgrids could also serve businesses with data centers that suffer major financial ramifications in a power outage, he said. Microgrids have been employed by military bases like Fort Carson for years to ensure power is available even when the larger grid goes down.

    Fort Carson, which is home to several solar power projects, has a battery bank on the post that can supply power for several hours if electricity goes out.

    The Utilities study will help determine “where the community can gain true resiliency value” from such grids, he said.

    The microgrids include stand-alone generation, such as a solar array and battery, to provide power when the other parts of the grid are down.

    The systems’ can also ensure excess electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, don’t have to be cut back because it is not meeting an immediate demand, Caunt said. Instead the electricity generation could be stored in batteries, he said.

    Storing renewable electricity for peak demand times, such as when everyone is running their air conditioners, can help limit the need to build new power plants, said Keith Hay, director of policy and the Colorado Energy Office. As electric cars become more common, their batteries could help store electricity generated from renewable sources until it’s needed, he said.

    Utilities granted Quanta a $398,000 contract to develop the Community Microgrid and Distributed Generation Plan by October and as part of that work the company will identify five candidate sites for a microgrid and design one, Caunt said. The work will be partially paid for by a $150,000 grant, said Natalie Watts, a spokeswoman for Utilities.

    The city-owned utility has set an ambitious goal to cut its carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 and that could be reached without new microgrids, Caunt said. But the smaller grids will help Utilities make the most of solar panels that private companies are installing to meet their own sustainability goals.

    Paths to a 100% clean energy grid — The Mountain Town News

    Transmission towers near Thornton. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    To decarbonize grid, keep the nukes, say 2 Colorado researchers

    Two Colorado researchers on renewable energy have a recommendation that might surprise some who embrace goals of 100% renewable or, at least, emission-free electricity.

    Keep the existing nuclear reactors on line as long as possible, say Charles Kutscher, a fellow at the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Jeffrey Logan, the associate director of the institute.

    Writing in The Hill, the two Coloradans say that creating an emissions-free electric grid in the United States won’t be easy. 2020 was a record year for new U.S. wind and solar electricity capacity additions, but to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2035, annual installations of solar and wind must double or triple.

    They also urge wringing as much efficiency out of transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors, hence lessening the amount of electricity that will be needed. But they also say it’s important to keep the existing nuclear fleet operating for as long as it’s safe to do so.

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

    They note that many analysts see a clear path to achieving 80 to 90% renewable electricity grid.

    “Addressing that last 10 to 20% will also likely require long-term storage as well as grid modernization including improved market design.”

    But if there are challenges and difficulties, they say, mostly it’s a matter of doing.

    “Although some observers have called for a massive R&D effort to develop innovative solutions to the climate crisis, the truth is that we already have the technologies we need to solve most of the problem, and our chief focus must be on enabling and deploying them.”

    What new NREL study says about achieving 100% renewable grids

    While we might all like a definitive answer on what it will take to achieve an emission-free grid, a new study produced by 17 researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, both federal labs, offers a more squishy answer.

    The study carefully works through the challenges, identifying three key ones:

    1) the short-term variability problem, which has largely been solved;

    2) the diurnal mismatch problem, which is partially solved, so further research is needed; and

    3) the seasonal problem remains largely unsolved although some pathways have been proposed. Additional research is also needed.

    Locally, yes, deep, deep penetration is possible, but getting close to achieving 100% renewables at a national scale for all hours of the year—well, there are significant unanswered questions.

    “There is no simple answer to how far we can increase renewable deployment before costs rise dramatically or reliability becomes compromised,” said Paul Denholm, the principal energy analyst at NREL and lead author of the paper that was published in Joule, an energy journal.

    “As far as the last few percent’ of the path to 100%, there is no consensus on a clear cost-effective pathway to address both the Balance Challenge and the Inverter Challenge at the national scale,” he said in a statement distributed by NREL.

    “Studies have found no specific technical threshold at which the grid ‘breaks,’ and we can’t just extrapolate from previous cost analyses because, when it comes to the future, there are many non-linearities and unknown unknowns—things we don’t even know we don’t know yet.”

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

    Projected GHG emissions by sector in the Colorado EPS BAU Scenario

    From Forbes (Silvio Marcacci):

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

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

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

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

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

    Cheap clean energy empowers decarbonization – but policy still needed

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

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

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

    Colorado could reap billions in economic growth from its climate ambition

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

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

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

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

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

    A policy pathway for Colorado to achieve its climate goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s the release from the International Energy Agency:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Click here to read the report.

    2021 #COleg: #Climate, congestion and compromise in #Colorado transportation bill — The Mountain Town News

    Truck on I-70 at sunset. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    The social cost of carbon is mentioned twice in the 196-page transportation bill that was introduced into the Colorado’s legislative session in early May. It’s not clear exactly how it will have any more effect than the 55-mph speed limit on one of the interstate highways through Denver. Likely, if this bill passes, it’s part of a bigger puzzle.

    But the mention frames transportation differently than ever before in Colorado. Transportation always was about the balance between mobility and the ding to the public treasury, the taxes we pay. This adds a new metric to the discussion, a new dimension of costs.

    I wouldn’t advise wading through the 107-word sentence in Senate Bill 21-260 where social cost of carbon is first mentioned. It’s not exactly the sort that Gabriel Garcia Marquez would craft. The gist is that our vehicles pollute, and the pollution has a social cost. It goes on to instruct the methodology of the social cost of carbon be employed, to get an assessment of the environmental costs over time and put into dollar figures. Alone, this does not alter Colorado’s path on transportation, but it does set a new tone.

    More telling is “greenhouse,” a word that shows up 42 times in the bill along with 3 mentions of “ozone,” a component greenhouse gas and part of the unhealthy air found along the northern Front Range.

    A mountain jam near Telluride. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    This is a climate bill. It has to be. Transportation will become the No.1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado as the big coal-fired power plants begin closing in 2022. Gina McCarthy, speaking at the recent 21st Century Energy Transition Symposium, called transportation the “big kahuna.” She was speaking from her federal perch as Biden’s climate advisor, but it’s also true in Colorado.

    Colorado has taken steps to produce small waves in decarbonization of transportation. Now it needs a big wave, say those involved in transportation efforts, and this is it.

    It’s also a congestion bill. I’m guessing I heard the word “congestion” used or alluded to a dozen times when Gov. Jared Polis, legislators, and several others spoke on the interior steps of the Capitol on May 4. Alec Garnett, the House speaker, talked about the ability to immediately tell you’re leaving Utah or Wyoming when entering Colorado. This bill provides for new funding sources that aim to deliver more asphalt and concrete.

    The bill is also a compromise, as was best described by Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, a Republican. He talked about highway expansions he wants to see in Colorado Springs, the widening of Powers Boulevard and more. “These simply cannot be accomplished without a much greater infusion of state and federal dollars,” he said. Suthers, a former state attorney general in Colorado, also said he is a political realist—suggesting compromise is inevitable.

    “Transportation can’t be a partisan issue. It’s too important to the quality of life of our residents in Colorado Springs,” he said.

    Kevin Priola, a Republican state legislator from the Brighton area, also spoke on behalf of the bill. He’s been a big booster of transportation electrification in Colorado, showing up at a bill signing with Gov. Jared Polis in 2019 near East High School in Denver.

    At the Capitol, he spoke about congestion on Interstate 76, now bumper to bumper instead of the occasional car that he saw from his grandfather’s farm when he was a boy. But highway widening cannot be the whole answer. “We can’t just continue to bulldoze mountains and widen lanes,” he said.

    Most bills run 10 to 20 pages. This one runs to 196 pages. This is Longs Peak, not Rabbit Mountain outside of Lyons. Or, for those in Durango, Engineer Mountain instead of Perins Peak. It’s sweeping, with a little bit for everybody, most fundamentally new ways to collect revenue. But there’s a distinct shift in direction, a big pivot, if you will.

    Are there comparable pivots? Others might point to funding changes of the last 30 years, including 1992, the last time Colorado passed a gas tax increase. A case may be made for 1973, the year when the first bore of the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel Complex was opened, followed by the second bore in 1978.

    This is from the May 12, 2021, issue of Big Pivots, an e-journal. To sign up, go to http://BigPivots.com

    I’d make the argument for 1930. That’s the year that the state began plowing snow on Berthoud Pass, a clear recognition of the ascendancy of the automobile. Before, there was no way to drive across the Continental Divide during winter.

    Now the pivot is toward electrification and, more broadly yet, decarbonization through a variety of pathways. And, in an odd reversal of my thesis about 1930, it opens the door partway to the idea of a Front Range passenger train. Carl Smith, representing the railway workers’ union, pointed out that rail workers losing their jobs on ferrying coal from mines to markets could transfer their skills to passenger rail.

    Elise Jones, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, emphasized electrification of transportation. The bill proposes to put more than $730 million toward electric vehicle solutions. That, she said, represents “one of the biggest investments in transportation electrification by any state anywhere in the country.”

    The bill, said Jones, recognizes the scale of the challenge as Colorado seeks to expand the number of electric vehicles – currently 36,000 on state highways – to nearly a million by the end of the decade.

    “To support these new EVS, Colorado will need 111 times more charging stations by 2030, and this bill would put a significant down payment on that infrastructure,” she said.

    Part of the Amazon fleet at a warehouse along I-70. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    Jones also noted the funding proposed by the bill for all types of electric mobility, from electric bikes and transit to school buses and trucks, but also rideshare vehicles like Uber and Lyft. “It includes money to replace the dirtiest vehicles on the road with zero-emissions buses and delivery trucks.”

    Travis Madsen, who runs the transportation program at SWEEP, elaborated on this theme when I talked to him. “I think the bill is an essential piece of achieving Colorado’s climate targets,” he said.

    “We need to step up the pace, and this bill will provide some needed juice to get this (transition) moving faster,” he said.

    Madsen directed my attention beyond our cars to the fleets of trucks and delivery vehicles. Section 11 of the bill proposes a clean-fleet enterprise within the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment – the agency given the most significant responsibility for creating rules to decarbonize the economy – to provide incentives for the shift in fuels. This new clean-fleet enterprise will be allowed to “impose a delivery fee to be paid” by those getting the goods by delivery of motor vehicle. Nudge, nudge.

    A personal aside here: I live on the edge of one of metropolitan Denver’s small but up-and-coming commercial areas. There’s a daily parade of diesel-powered trucks delivering wine, beer, fruits, and all other manner of items to be consumed in the restaurants of Olde Town Arvada. Moreover, I have wheeled around the warehouse districts along I-70 and I-76 on Denver’s east and north side. The size of the fleets of Amazon and others astound me.

    But then there’s the issue of how we wheel about on a daily basis. In September 2020 the Denver Regional Council of Governments issued the 2019 Annual Report on Roadway Traffic Congestion in the Denver Region, which noted that vehicles miles traveled per capita had actually declined in 2019, a second straight year. On weekends, the VMT per person was down to 25.4 miles.

    Of course, with population growth of 1.4%, there was just as much travel.

    Some people seem to think covid will dent this, perhaps permanently. I’m skeptical.

    This transportation bill aims to deliver leverage. Section 28 would require the Colorado Department of Transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (think RTD) to “engage in an enhanced level of planning, analysis, community engagement, and monitoring with respect to transportation capacity projects and specifies what that entails and also requires CDOT to conduct a road usage charge study and an autonomous vehicle study.”

    To me, this doesn’t say I’ll have to ditch my car. But there’s some jostling here.

    Madsen sees this as a crucial section, along with the AQCC rulemaking on transportation emissions that is expected this summer. “I think there’s going to be a lot of push and pull over whether and how Colorado invests in transportation differently to reach the GHG roadmap targets,” he says. He points out that the state roadmap calls for growth in vehicle travel to be cut in half.

    In Denver itself, densification is rapidly underway. Some people don’t feel the need to have their own cars. “That will be an important way we can accommodate more people without causing a dramatic increase in everyone driving,” says Madsen.

    I’m skeptical—not about the goals, but whether local governments can be nudged into making land use decisions that actually impact greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. I’ve been hearing this conversation for decades with no real gain.

    Middle-class mini-mansions at Leyden Ranch, in Arvada. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain News

    A couple of weeks ago I drove to the western precincts of Arvada amid the rolling hills just short of Highway 93, the road between Golden and Boulder. These huge projects — Candelas and Leyden Ranch—have wonderful open spaces and uplifting views, exactly what people from elsewhere expect in Colorado. (If you don’t mind some wind occasionally).

    These housing projects are also absolutely car centric. They’re VMT disasters. In this, they are more typical than not among the 40,000 to 50,000 houses being built in Colorado annually, the number of which have been going up during the last 4 or 5 years.

    The bill got its first legislative hearing on [May 10, 2021], dragging on for 7.5 hours in the Senate Finance Committee before being passed, with amendments, on a 4-3 party-line vote. So much for Sutherland’s pitch for bipartisanship.

    The social cost of carbon mention remained intact. Colorado first began using that metric as a result of 2019 legislation, which requires the Public Utilities Commission to evaluate electrical generation projects with the federal social cost of carbon, which was then $46 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions. This tilts the table against coal generation, although as a practical matter, the table is heavily tilted toward lower cost renewables. Two other bills being considered by legislators this session would also add social cost of carbon to the PUC matrix when evaluating programs that would reduce natural gas use in buildings and elsewhere.

    But the practical effect of social cost of carbon in the transportation bill?

    In response to my questions, Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, said the goal of the social cost of carbon is to provide “a consistent approach across relevant agencies. We are ensuring that we are doing cost benefit analyses and accounting using an appropriate social cost of carbon and making sure in multiple pieces of legislation that we use the same social cost of carbon at the PUC, C-DOT, CDPHE, etc.”

    Madsen—who took Toor’s job at SWEEP when Toor joined the Polis administration in early 2019—said he thinks the practical effect will depend on a future rulemaking at the Air Quality Control Commission. That may occur later this year.

    “The social cost of carbon will help illustrate the value of reducing emissions (either through transportation and land-use planning to reduce overall vehicle travel, or through electrification measures),” he said.

    Have a different take on this transportation bill? Happy to publish other viewpoints. allen.best@comcast.net.

    2021 #COleg: SB21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice) — Scott Fetchenhier (Guest Column in The #Durango Herald) #ActOnClimate

    Scott “Fetch” Fetchenhier came to Silverton in 1980 in a 1969 GTO and thirty five dollars in his pocket and worked for a couple of small mining companies as a geologist and surveyor. He also worked at the Sunnyside mine as a nipper, trammer, and slusherman in the early 1980’s. He has always been fascinated by Silverton’s geology and history and has written numerous articles on the subjects and also a book on the Old Hundred mine, “Ghosts and Gold”. His hobby of exploring old mines the past three decades makes for some fascinating stories. Photo credit: Fetch’s Mining and Mercantile

    Here’s a gust column from Scott Fetchenhier that’s running in The Durango Herald:

    State leaders need to take action to protect the places in Southwest Colorado that we know, love and call home from the pollution that threatens our air, water and climate.

    I live in and represent San Juan County, where my constituents and I are reliant on Tri-State Generation and Transmission for our electricity. As the second largest electricity provider in the state, Tri-State is a key player in reducing greenhouse gas pollution in our state, which is why we need Senate Bill 200.

    SB21-200 (Reduce Greenhouse Gases Increase Environmental Justice) is designed to make sure the entire state of Colorado, and our electric utilities, actually stay on track and meet the commitments they have made to cut greenhouse gas pollution that is wreaking havoc on our state.

    Our rural mountain communities are dependent on bold steps toward climate pollution reductions for our visitor-based, snow-reliant economies. We have seen the impacts of climate change in our county: unprecedented beetle kill, the 416 Fire in 2018 and the Ice Lake Fire in October 2020. Wind-blown dust from the Four Corners lands on our snowpack and causes the snow to melt off more quickly. We often see rain in December and March instead of snow because of higher temperatures.

    We know that without big actions to reduce emissions, we will continue to see increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters.

    With these impacts in mind, it’s great that Tri-State seems to have heard its members’ calls for carbon reductions of at least 80% by 2030. Last fall, Tri-State announced a commitment to 80% carbon reductions by 2030 from electricity delivered to Colorado customers as part of its Responsible Energy Plan. This Responsible Energy Plan is a big step in the right direction for Tri-State and the communities it serves, and we want to make sure it happens. However, the plan is currently only a voluntary commitment and my constituents need certainty that Tri-State will honor that commitment.

    In fact, last fall San Juan County passed a county resolution urging state leaders to hold Tri-State accountable to 80% emissions reduction by 2030. Part of that resolution reads: “The evidence of climate change is impacting daily lives in San Juan County with near-historic drought, unprecedented smoke from fires across Colorado and the U.S., and rapidly increasing temperatures, and the urgency for our electric utility to take bold, immediate steps toward reducing emissions couldn’t be more clear.”