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Messages - Ken Feldman

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Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 24, 2020, 12:34:51 AM »
Lazard has published the 2020 updates of their Levelized Cost of Electricity report.  Solar is the cheapest and new solar farms are cheaper than operating coal.  The cost of solar is now comparable to the operating costs of fully depreciated gas fired power plants.

It’s cheaper to build new solar than it is to operate coal plants

New analysis released by Lazard compares the levelized cost of energy for various generation technologies on a $/MWh basis and shows that renewables, specifically utility-scale solar and wind, are the economic frontrunners.
October 23, 2020 Tim Sylvia

Solar and wind are the most affordable sources of electricity, period, according to the most recent Levelized Cost of Energy comparison, released by Lazard.

The report is comprised of comparative levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis for various generation technologies on a $/MWh basis, including sensitivities for U.S. federal tax subsidies, fuel prices, carbon pricing and costs of capital. The cost isn’t represented by one concrete price, but rather a range of estimated prices given the circumstance applied.

The really telling figures come from the comparisons between the cost of construction of new renewable energy facilities vs. operating existing fossil and nuclear resources. The only type of new renewable generation asset to have a higher per-MWh LCOE than operating existing coal is unsubsidized onshore wind, which isn’t even telling the whole story. The range of LCOE for unsubsidized onshore wind is higher at its peak than the maximum LCOE for operating existing coal, but the lowest end of the ranges favor wind, which comes in at a lowest-possible LCOE of $26/MWh, as compared to $34/MWh for coal.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 24, 2020, 12:21:38 AM »
The linked article indicates that after a few decades of slow development, geothermal energy is poised for rapid growth.  This is in part due to the technological advances made by the oil and gas companies in fracking during the past two decades.

Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout

“An engineering problem that, when solved, solves energy.”
By David Oct 21, 2020

Geothermal power is the perpetual also-ran of renewable energy, chugging along in the background for decades, never quite breaking out of its little niche, forever causing energy experts to say, “Oh, yeah, geothermal ... what’s up with that?”

Well, after approximately 15 years of reporting on energy, I finally took the time to do a deep dive into geothermal and I am here to report: This is a great time to start paying attention!

After many years of failure to launch, new companies and technologies have brought geothermal out of its doldrums, to the point that it may finally be ready to scale up and become a major player in clean energy. In fact, if its more enthusiastic backers are correct, geothermal may hold the key to making 100 percent clean electricity available to everyone in the world. And as a bonus, it’s an opportunity for the struggling oil and gas industry to put its capital and skills to work on something that won’t degrade the planet.

Vik Rao, former chief technology officer at Halliburton, the oil field service giant, recently told the geothermal blog Heat Beat, “geothermal is no longer a niche play. It’s scalable, potentially in a highly material way. Scalability gets the attention of the [oil services] industry.”

Four basic types of geothermal energy technology

Once it reaches the surface, geothermal energy is used for a wide variety of purposes, mainly because there are many different ways to use heat. Depending on how hot the resource is, it can be exploited by numerous industries. Virtually any level of heat can be used directly, to run fisheries or greenhouses, to dry cement, or (the really hot stuff) to make hydrogen.

To make electricity, higher minimum heats are required. The older generation of geothermal power plants used steam directly from the ground, or “flashed” fluids from the ground into steam, to run a turbine. (The water and air pollution that has been associated with first-generation geothermal projects was all from flash plants, which boil water from underground and end up off-gassing everything in it, including some nasty pollutants.)

1) Conventional hydrothermal resources

In a few select areas (think parts of Iceland, or California), water or steam heated by Earth’s core rises through relatively permeable rock, full of fissures and fractures, only to become trapped under an impermeable caprock. These giant reservoirs of pressurized hot water often reveal themselves on the surface through fumaroles or hot springs.

2) Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)

Conventional geothermal systems are limited to specialized areas where heat, water, and porosity come together just so. But those areas are limited.

There’s plenty of heat stored down in all that normal, solid, nonporous rock, though. What if geothermal developers could make their own reservoirs? What if they could drill down into solid rock, inject water at high pressure through one well, fracture the rock to let the water pass through, and then collect the heated water through another well?

That, in a nutshell, is EGS: geothermal that makes its own reservoir.

The basic idea has always been that EGS would start off within existing hydrothermal reservoirs, where fields are relatively well-characterized. Then, as it learned, honed its technology, and brought down costs, it would branch out from “in field” into “near field” resources — solid rock adjacent to reservoirs, at similar depth. Eventually it would be able to venture farther out into new fields and deeper into hotter rock. In theory, EGS could eventually be located almost anywhere in the world.

That’s been the game plan for a decade now, and it’s still the game plan, as laid out in the magisterial 2019 GeoVision study on geothermal from the Department of Energy. The EGS industry has had trouble, though, getting all the ducks in a row. There was a burst of activity around 2010, based on Obama stimulus money and binary power plants. But by the time the drilling technology from the shale gas revolution had begun making its way over to geothermal, around 2015, capital had dried up and attention had turned away.

It’s only been in 2020, Latimer says, that everything has finally lined up: strong public and investor interest, real market demand (thanks to ambitious state renewable energy goals), and a flood of new technologies borrowed from the oil and gas industry. EGS startups like Fervo are growing quickly and bigger, established companies are running profitable EGS projects today.

Still, if the engineering and marketing challenges can be overcome, the prize is almost unthinkably large. Assuming an average well depth of 4.3 miles and a minimum rock temperature of 150°C, the GeoVision study estimates a total US geothermal resource of at least 5,157 gigawatts of electric capacity — around five times the nation’s current installed capacity.

The article goes on to detail a third type of geothermal energy, super-hot-rock geothermal, that requires technology not currently commercially available to deal with supercritical water.  It then discusses another more promising type, advanced geothermal systems (AGS).

AGS refers to a new generation of “closed loop” systems, in which no fluids are introduced to or extracted from the Earth; there’s no fracking. Instead, fluids circulate underground in sealed pipes and boreholes, picking up heat by conduction and carrying it to the surface, where it can be used for a tunable mix of heat and electricity.

Closed-loop geothermal systems have been around for decades, but a few startups have recently amped them up with technologies from the oil and gas industry. One such company, started by investors with experience in oil and gas, is the Alberta-based Eavor.

In Eavor’s planned system, called an “Eavor-Loop,” two vertical wells around 1.5 miles apart will be connected by a horizontally arrayed series of lateral wells, in a kind of radiator design, to maximize surface area and soak up as much heat as possible. (Precise lateral drilling is borrowed from the shale revolution, and from the oil sands.)

Because the loop is closed, cool water on one side sinks while hot water on the other side rises, creating a “thermosiphon” effect that circulates the water naturally, with no need for a pump. Without the parasitic load of a pump, Eavor can make profitable use of relatively low heat, around 150°C, available almost anywhere about a mile and a half down.

An Eavor-Loop can act as baseload (always-on) power, but it can also act as flexible, dispatchable power — it can ramp up and down almost instantaneously to complement variable wind and solar energy. It does this by restricting or cutting off the flow of fluid. As the fluid remains trapped underground longer, it absorbs more and more heat.

So, unlike with solar, ramping the plant down does not waste (curtail) the energy. The fluid simply charges up, like a battery, so that when it’s turned back on it produces at above nameplate capacity. This allows the plant to “shape” its output to match almost any demand curve.

One thing that might get more people talking about geothermal is the somewhat serendipitous opportunity it offers to the oil and gas industry, which is reeling from oversupply, persistently low prices, and cratering demand caused by the pandemic. Consequently, it is hemorrhaging jobs.

Geothermal is buzzing with startups that specifically need innovation and expertise in drilling technology, the very skills many oil and gas workers already have. They could put those skills to work making the planet safer for future generations. That skills match is what animates Beard’s geothermal entrepreneurship organization and the $4.65 million contest that DOE launched this year to pair geothermal innovations with partners in the manufacturing industry.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 23, 2020, 11:43:40 PM »
Alberta (Canada) is planning to diversify its fossil-fuel dependent economy by developing geothermal energy.  The same technology used for drilling gas and oil wells works for drilling geothermal wells.  This has the obvious benefit of keeping workers employed while transitioning to a carbon free economy.

Could Oil Drillers Make Geothermal Energy Go Mainstream?
By Irina Slav - Oct 22, 2020

With so much talk about offshore wind and utility-scale solar, it is easy to forget about one other abundant, emission-free energy source. Geothermal has garnered a lot less attention than the more established forms of renewable energy generation, but this is slowly changing as parts of the world increasingly focus on replacing fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives. Alberta, for example, will be promoting the development of geothermal energy as a means of diversifying its heavily oil-dependent economy. This week the province’s legislators introduced a bill seeking to promote the nascent industry by setting rules and guidelines and establishing the authority that will control land use for geothermal.

Geothermal resources are in fact abundant everywhere: the Earth’s core radiates heat outwards into the mantle and the crust. Oil and gas drillers are familiar with this heat and know that the deeper you drill, the hotter it gets. For oil and gas drilling, this could be a problem, so the industry has developed ways to solve it. For geothermal drilling, heat is the goal. The oil and gas industry is therefore in a really unique position to make the most of geothermal resources, not just in Canada.

The European Union is also interested in the heat that the insides of our planet generate. A project sponsored by Brussels, MEET, set out to tests the viability of geothermal extraction from oil wells. This is a lower-cost alternative to drilling new wells specifically for geothermal energy extraction, and costs are an issue with geothermal. The project has managed to generate electricity using the heat from oil well brine extracted from a well in France along with the crude. The result is potentially significant because the temperature of the brine was not all too high at 92 degrees Celsius. Yet it has yet to be replicated on a wider scale.

Policy and solutions / Re: Energy Efficiency: The “First Fuel”
« on: October 23, 2020, 11:00:33 PM »
Here's a story about a town in Kansas (USA) that rebuilt using sustainable methods after being destroyed by a tornado in 2007.

The town that built back green
After a tornado demolished Greensburg, Kan., it rebuilt without carbon emissions. Can its lessons help communities and economies rebound from fires, hurricanes and covid-19?

 By Annie Gowen
October 23, 2020

GREENSBURG, Kan. — After powerful tornadoes swept through Nashville earlier this year, killing 25 and leaving a trail of destruction for miles, one of the first calls officials made was to tiny Greensburg, population 900.

A wind-swept farming community in southwestern Kansas, Greensburg rebuilt “green” after an EF5 tornado — the most violent — barreled through at more than 200 miles per hour and nearly wiped it off the map in 2007.

A decade later, Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting.

Greensburg is no liberal bastion. It sits in Kiowa County, where Trump handily beat Hillary Clinton in 2016, carrying 83 percent of the vote.

But leaders there now are routinely consulted by communities around the world grappling with devastating weather events from wildfires, tsunami, earthquakes and floods — in Australia, China, Japan and Joplin, Mo. In March, the city council member in Nashville wanted to ask what kind of building codes or regulations could make its buildings more tornado-resistant going forward.

Greensburg’s efforts have gained new currency in recent months as climate catastrophes have continued to worsen and Americans struggle with a deadly pandemic that has shut down much of the economy — and begin to rethink what life might look like after a vaccine.

They held meetings in a temporary red-striped tent set up downtown, where townspeople commented on the rebuilding plan. And they stressed the practical savings of installing energy-efficient windows and insulation in new homes. According to a recent NREL estimate, energy costs for a 2,000-square-foot home with standard construction in Greensburg are about $1,820 annually. Adding more insulation, an energy-efficient furnace, LED lighting and a small solar panel system would save 70 percent of the energy use and reduce energy costs to $1,260 in the first year, which includes the additional mortgage costs for the upgrades.

More than a decade later, the town has about 400 modest, newly rebuilt homes — many of them with white-pillared front porches — centered in a small downtown where the key buildings are clustered among a few walkable blocks. There’s the city hall, hospital, courthouse, a commons building with a media center and library and school, all built with green construction features like angled windows that make the most of winter sun, cisterns to collect rainwater for irrigation and geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The green areas on the map above show where wind energy is commercially viable.

The city was able to halve its carbon footprint by shifting to 100 percent wind energy from a 10-turbine wind farm south of town that is owned and operated by Exelon Corp. The turbines, which began operating in 2010, are capable of producing 12.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 4,000 homes, according to Exelon.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 23, 2020, 10:46:08 PM »
A company in Austalia has selected the site for a 10 GW solar farm with a 30 GWh battery near Darwin.  The electricity will be sent to Singapore by subsea cables.  More large scale solar farms are planned for exporting electricity to Indonesia.

Sun Cable earmarks site for 10GW solar farm at cattle station south of Darwin
Sophie Vorrath 22 October 2020

Sun Cable’s $22 billion plans to build the world’s largest dispatchable solar and battery power station, as well as the world’s largest subsea transmission link, have taken a step forward after selecting a preferred site about 750km south of Darwin.

Sun Cable proposes to build a 10GW solar plant in central Australia combined with a battery storage system 150-times the size of the Tesla Big Battery in South Australia, and then connect this to Singapore via an undersea cable. Each part of the project would be built at an unprecedented scale.

As well as the 10GW solar plant, the project promises to build battery storage facilities of up to 30GWh, and a high voltage direct current sub-sea cable of 3,750kms – to pipe the solar power across to potential customers in Singapore.

And it’s quite possible Sun Cable won’t stop there.

In an interview with RenewEconomy’s Energy Insiders podcast in May, Griffin said the ultimate plan was for the Northern Territory project to be the first of many.

“Ultimately, we envisage a network that expands, that takes advantage of where the best renewable energy resources are, be it solar and wind in Australia, wind in New Zealand, or solar and wind in India, and we are seeing that  … the potential for load growth in the areas in between is enormous,” he said.

“Indonesia will be the fourth largest economy in the world in the 2020s. We seem to miss that in Australia – the enormity of our northern neighbours. We are absolutely developing long term plans to serve those ever-growing loads north of Australia and doing that by exploiting the renewable energy resources wherever they located, and the HVDC technology.”

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 23, 2020, 09:28:28 PM »
While the oil rig count has slowly increased from it's minimum earlier this year (up another 6 this week), it's not nearly enough to counter the steep decline in production rates from fracked oil wells.  Overall, US oil production is down again this week, to 9.9 million barrels per day.

U.S. And Canadian Oil Rig Counts Continue To Rebound
By Julianne Geiger - Oct 23, 2020

Baker Hughes reported on Friday that the number of oil rigs in the United States rose by 6 to 211.

Total oil and gas rigs in the United States are now down by 564 compared to this time last year.

The EIA’s estimate for oil production in the United States fell sharply for the second week in a row for the week ending October 16—the last week for which there is data, to 9.9 million barrels of oil per day. U.S. oil production is down 3.2 million bpd from its all-time high reached earlier this year.

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 23, 2020, 08:26:24 PM »
Guys, I feel a strong anything but nuclear attitude here. Even fossil fuels are getting support  :o

3GW of nuclear capacity with 90% capacity factor generates the same amount of electricity than 6GW of wind power with 45% CF. Of these two, only nuclear can reliably produce power at peak demand. Availability has a value also! Scheduled maintenance breaks can be arranged to take place during low demand periods such as summer holidays and maintenance time can be split between reactor units. Wind power on the other hand can vary between 5 and 100 % in a few hours.

Wind and solar can be backed up with battery storage, hydro, fossil fuels and long range transmission lines. All these have a cost which need to be added on the total cost of the energy system. Again, availability has a value. Imported energy needs to be available and it is not guaranteed to be carbon neutral. In fact peak demand power is usually the most carbon intensive because that's when also the high marginal cost fossil plants are needed.

Wishful thinking doesn't change the laws of physics. We can argue about this ad infinitum or we can take a look at what happens in neighbouring Germany. Nuclear power was phased out and Germany is now locked into long term fossil fuel investments and high per capita emissions despite enormous investments in renewables. It's only a matter of perception whether German energy mix is coal and gas supported by renewables or vice versa.

If existing nuclear reactors can operate safely, they should be allowed to do so until they reach the end of their useful life.  It's nearly carbon-free baseload electricity but it may need to be subsidized due to its high cost compared to every other form of electrical generation.  The waste can be stored on concrete slabs at the site when the reactor is decommission, so a few more dry cylinders stacked on the slab is preferable to the carbon emissions of a gas-fired power plant.

New nuclear makes no sense.  You can overbuild so much solar and wind with battery backup for the same amount of money, and even upgrade the grid interconnects, that the intermittency problems will be solved.  Throw in gas peaker plants for the lull periods until the overbuild and grid interconnects are complete or just go to geothermal for the 24 hour baseload instead.  It would still be cheaper than new nuclear plants.

And keep in mind that the entire 1.6 GW of a new APR 1000 reactor will be offline at the same time whenever it's down for refueling, maintenance or repairs, so you still need 1.6 GW of other capacity ready to fill in.  That's another expense that's often overlooked in nuclear generation.  And that 1.6 GW is currently being provided by gas peaker plants.

Consequences / Re: Places becoming more livable
« on: October 22, 2020, 12:26:18 AM »
Farmers across Africa have been regreening the Sahel and reversing desertification for decades.  Crop yields are much higher now than they were in the '80s.

The Age of Humans
The “Great Green Wall” Didn’t Stop Desertification, but it Evolved Into Something That Might
The multibillion-dollar effort to plant a 4,000-mile-long wall of trees hit some snags along the way, but there’s still hope

By Jim Morrison
August 23, 2016

It was a simple plan to combat a complex problem. The plan: plant a Great Green Wall of trees 10 miles wide and 4,350 miles long, bisecting a dozen countries from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. The problem: the creeping desertification across Africa.

Planting trees across the Sahel, the arid savanna on the south border of the Sahara Desert, had no chance to succeed. There was little funding. There was no science suggesting it would work. Moreover, the desert was not actually moving south; instead, overuse was denuding the land. Large chunks of the proposed "wall" were uninhabited, meaning no one would be there to care for the saplings.

Reij, Garrity and other scientists working on the ground knew what Wade and other political leaders did not: that farmers in Niger and Burkina Faso, in particular, had discovered a cheap, effective way to regreen the Sahel. They did so by using simple water harvesting techniques and protecting trees that emerged naturally on their farms.

Slowly, the idea of a Great Green Wall has changed into a program centered around indigenous land use techniques, not planting a forest on the edge of a desert. The African Union and the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization now refer to it as "Africa’s flagship initiative to combat land degradation, desertification and drought." Incredibly, the Great Green Wall—or some form of it—appears to be working.

"We moved the vision of the Great Green Wall from one that was impractical to one that was practical," says Mohamed Bakarr, the lead environmental specialist for Global Environment Facility, the organization that examines the environmental benefit of World Bank projects. "It is not necessarily a physical wall, but rather a mosaic of land use practices that ultimately will meet the expectations of a wall. It has been transformed into a metaphorical thing."

Reij, now based in Amsterdam, began working in the Sahel when the soil literally was blowing away during dust storms. After years away, Reij returned to Niger and Burkina Faso in the summer of 2004. He was stunned by what he saw, green where there had been nothing but tan, denuded land. He quickly secured funding for the first of several studies looking at farming in villages throughout Burkina Faso and Niger.

Over two years traveling through Burkina Faso and Niger, they uncovered a remarkable metamorphosis. Hundreds of thousands of farmers had embraced ingenious modifications of traditional agriculture practices, transforming large swaths into productive land, improving food and fuel production for about 3 million people.

Garrity recalls walking through farms in Niger, fields of grains like millet and sorghum stretching to the sun planted around trees, anywhere from a handful to 80 per acre. “In most cases, the trees are in random locations because they sprouted and the farmer protected them and let them grow,” he says. The trees can be cut for fuel, freeing women who once spent two and a half hours a day collecting wood to do other tasks. They can be pruned for livestock fodder. Their leaves and fruit are nutritious.

From 2004 on, they published a series of research papers and reports sounding the call about the transformation. Reij says that by 2011, there were more than 12 million acres restored in Niger alone. More than 1.2 million were restored in Mali, but no one knew until 2010 because no one looked.

The key, Reij says, is scaling up the effort in the drylands countries by building up grassroots efforts, addressing the legal issues (like tree ownership), and creating markets for the products of agroforestry. "We've never seen anything near this size and impact on the environment anywhere in west Africa," Tappan adds. "In our mind Niger already has its great green wall. It's only a matter of scaling it up."

Reij says the World Bank—which has committed $1.2 billion to the effort—the Global Environment Facility and others are convinced natural regeneration is an important way forward, but the approaches are up to each country. At the African Union, Elvis Paul Tangem, coordinator of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative, says that 21 countries now have projects within the framework of the initiative.

SRM does nothing to address ocean acidification, which is going to cause huge problems with the food chain.

We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below the level of natural sinks as we can as soon as possible.  And we need to implement land use changes to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  We have the technologies to replant forests, use biochar and sustainable agriculture practices to store more carbon in soils (while increasing crop yields) and even farm kelp to protect fisheries from acidification.  You can then feed the kelp to ruminants to reduce their methane emissions.

There's no need for speculative geoengineering experiments that use a lot of energy and could have unintended consequences.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 21, 2020, 06:36:46 PM »
Silicon based solar cells have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 30% and most of the panels installed now are around 15%.  Silicon solar cells have the benefit of being much cheaper than the alternative materials.

However, new advances in perovskite solar cells could change that.  New breakthroughs in research have allowed perovskite solar cells to reach an efficiency of 66%.

Another Major Breakthrough For Solar Energy
By Alex Kimani - Oct 20, 2020

Back in May, we reported that the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) had forged a public-private consortium dubbed the US-MAP for U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Perovskites Consortium, which aims to fast-track the development of low-cost perovskite solar cells for the global marketplace.

That partnership appears to be bearing fruit, with the consortium recently announcing highly encouraging advancements in perovskite technology that could boost the efficiency of perovskite solar cells from the current ceiling of ~25% to a dreamy 66%.

Silicon panels pretty much rule the solar energy sector, with more than 90% of panels manufactured using the versatile element.

Silicon PV cells have their advantages: They're quite robust and relatively easy to install. Thanks to advances in manufacturing methods, they've also become less expensive, especially over the past decade, particularly the polycrystalline panels constructed in Chinese factories.

However, they still come with a significant drawback: Silicon PV panels are quite inefficient, with the most affordable models managing only 7%-16% energy efficiency depending on factors such as placement, orientation, and weather conditions. Indeed, solar cells have been around for more than six decades, yet commercial silicon has barely scraped into the 25% range, maxing out at a theoretical 30%. This sad state of affairs is due to the fact that Si panels are wafer-based rather than thin-film, which makes them sturdier and more durable. The trade-off, however, is efficiency. 

Thin-film PV panels can absorb more light and thus can produce more energy. These panels can be manufactured cheaply and quickly, meeting more energy demand in less time. There are a few different types of thin-film out there, all of them a little different from standard crystalline silicon (c-si) PV panels.

In 2012, scientists finally succeeded in manufacturing thin-film perovskite solar cells, which achieved efficiencies over 10%. But since then, efficiencies in new perovskite cell designs have skyrocketed: recent models can reach 20%+, all from a thin-film cell that is (in theory) much easier and cheaper to manufacture than a thick-film silicon panel.

At Oxford University, researchers reached 25% efficiency; a German research team has achieved 21.6%, while a new record was set in December 2018, when an Oxford lab reached 28% efficiency.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL built composite Silicon-Perovskite cells by putting perovskites atop a silicon solar cell to create a multijunction solar cell, with the new cell boasting an efficiency of 27% compared to just 21% when only silicon is used.

And now the most significant breakthrough yet: The Oak Ridge National Lab, the Department of Energy's largest science and energy laboratory, has announced the discovery of novel hot-carrier perovskite solar cells that could achieve a conversion efficiency approaching 66%.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 21, 2020, 06:27:42 PM »
The attached article discusses short and long term trends for the fossil fuel industries.  It gives a historical perspective of the link between GDP and energy use and shows that the link has been reduced in the past decade (GDP growth requires much less energy growth now).  It then discusses prospects for a short term rebound from the Covid recession and the long term decline of fossil fuels.  It concludes that much of the money invested in fossil fuels today will result in stranded assets, and thus the money shouldn't be spent.

Oil Poised To Rebound, But What About The Long Term?
By Leonard Hyman & William Tilles - Oct 20, 2020

Oil bulls predict demand for oil will snap back quickly as global economic conditions improve. The International Energy Agency (IEA), on the other hand, expects a more muted recovery. Not surprisingly you can find any demand forecast needed for either the bull or bear case. And that’s just for short term price and demand forecasts. Longer term demand forecasts have to reckon with negative factors like the rise of electric vehicles including cars, trucks and buses as well as and the nudges of environmental-social-governance (ESG) investing. In addition, the industry faces risks from changes in government policies and competition from even newer technologies. But if we’re looking for positive demand surprises, economic growth in emerging economies in Africa or Asia could accelerate and suddenly require large increments of fossil fuels in the process (Remember China?).

After World War II energy consumption and economic activity grew in like fashion. Then in the 1970s, thanks to the Energy Crisis and geopolitical tensions in which oil prices rose dramatically, consumers became more conscious of energy usage and thereafter energy consumption lagged economic activity. At the same time the economy moved away from production of goods requiring large energy inputs to production of goods and services that depend on knowledge. (Large accounting and law firms for example use considerably less electricity than a steelmaker with comparable revenues.) The key takeaway here is that around the time of the Great Recession, energy consumption patterns declined once again and consumers use even less energy per unit of GDP (See Figure 1 for a simple approximation.)

Looking ahead vehicle electrification (transportation consumes more than half of oil production) will no doubt reduce future oil demand. Coal demand will likely hold on for a while as developing countries finish coal fired power stations that they will likely attempt to operate for a decade or two prior to abandonment. But that market could sag as lending institutions bow to increasing public pressure about lending to finance those projects and because renewable resources and relatively inexpensive LNG are making the projects less competitive. Growth in coal consumption started to decelerate around 2013. For that matter, the increase in electric generation has slowed throughout the world (electric generation makes up close to half the market for coal).

As we see it, asset ambiguity will not pay off. Investors do not like companies with two competing products and strategies—especially when they are diametrically opposed businesses like renewables and fossil fuels. We suspect this tendency may apply to customers and employees as well.

Industry managements may have to decide about the future of fossil fuels sooner than many investors realize. So we would suggest investors look beyond a likely and pleasant near term energy recovery and focus on the long term. The bull case for oil probably hinges on a gradual, multi decade energy transition where demand gradually tapers off but with occasional bursts in demand belying the secular shift.

The bear case is simply that new energy investments made today will be uneconomic long before the end of their economic lives. This makes those new investments possible stranded assets from an accounting perspective that have be written off. This is akin to throwing away money.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 19, 2020, 07:59:57 PM »
Opponents to transitioning our energy systems to carbon-free sources frequently state that it will cost trillions of dollars to do so.  They often fail to consider that replacing fossil fuel infrastructure at the end of its useful life will also cost trillions of dollars.  Daniel Yergin, an expert who has written several informative books about the oil and gas industry, is now forecasting peak oil demand in 2030 and notes that just to maintain current oil production levels, $4.5 trillion will need to be invested in oil and gas infrastructure in the next five years.

See world oil demand peaking in 2030, says IHS Markit's Daniel Yergin
Updated : October 16, 2020

Daniel Yergin, vice chairman at IHS Markit on Friday said it sees world oil demand peaking in the first half of 2030. He said the change in consumption will not happen overnight, but as incomes rise, people's energy consumption will rise.

According to Yergin, the world needs $4.5 trillion investment in oil and gas in the next five years, "If it is not there, I think we will see different oil prices than we are seeing today."

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 19, 2020, 07:45:24 PM »
China's economy is recovering from the Covid-19 shut downs, although at a slower pace than originally projected.  Oil demand hasn't recovered as quickly, mainly because international air travel is still heavily impacted by the Covid travel restrictions.

    19 Oct 2020 | 07:11 UTC Singapore

China Q3 GDP up 4.9% but ailing aviation, manufacturing sectors to cap fuel demand


Q3 growth falls short of 5.2%-5.5% expansion forecast

Q4 oil demand still expected to fall 250,000 b/d on year

Cyclical winter demand to support gas consumption

Singapore — China has reported an economic growth of 4.9% in the third quarter, paving the way for a recovery in fuel and commodities demand for Asia's biggest energy consumer, but high oil stockpiles and bleak goods and services exports outlook will likely keep industrial fuel consumption and refinery run rates limited.

The 4.9% growth in Q3, despite slower than the expected 5.2%-5.5%, put China's GDP back to the growth path of 0.7% year on year expansion for the January-September period from the 1.6% contraction in the first half, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics, or NBS, on Oct. 19.

Platts Analytics expects China's oil demand to trend lower year on year by 250,000 b/d in Q4, after two quarters of growth, due partly to a high base last year and as state-back industrial activity growth fades without further stimulus measures.

In addition, China's jet fuel consumption outlook also remains bleak despite the recent sharp recovery in domestic flight operations as international travel remains largely restricted.

Platts Analytics expects China's kerosene/jet fuel demand to remain weak and average 710,000 b/d in Q4, down year on year by 280,000 b/d.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 15, 2020, 11:18:28 PM »
The IEA report also says...

As things stand, the world is not set for a decisive downward turn in emissions…

click the image to make it readable

It looks like the report was prepared before China announced (in late September) their commitment to peak emissions by 2030 on their way to being carbon neutral by 2060.  And in early November we'll find out if the USA will be issuing a new stated policy in January 2021 that would result in emissions having already peaked on their way to being carbon neutral by 2050, with a 50% cut in emissions by 2030.

So the "Stated Policies" line in that graph should be much lower due to China's announcement and could be fairly close to the Sustainable Development line in January 2021.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 15, 2020, 09:59:36 PM »
While the news in the IEA World Energy Outlook 2020 was great for renewables, it was terrible for oil and gas.

5 Major Takeaways From The IEA's World Energy Outlook 2020
By Alex Kimani - Oct 14, 2020

A few years back, the fossil fuel sector was doing just fine while renewable and alternative energy investments were considered a wildcard because the sector was regarded as unchartered territory. But with the shift to clean energy and the war against climate change in full swing while fossil fuels continue to face their biggest existential crisis in history, the momentum has overwhelmingly shifted to lower carbon fuels. Paris-based International Energy Agency, IEA, has just released its flagship publication, the World Energy Outlook 2020, which provides a comprehensive view of how the global energy system could develop in the coming decades. The organization notes that this year’s exceptional circumstances require an exceptional approach, meaning the usual long-term modeling horizons have been retained, but the focus for the World Energy Outlook 2020 is firmly on the next 10 years, exploring in detail the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the energy sector, and the near-term actions that could accelerate clean energy transitions.

The report is decidedly bearish for fossil fuel; however, the silver lining is this: A global economy on the skids will lead to the biggest drop in CO2 emissions on record with renewables playing an even bigger role in the electricity generation mix. In fact, the projected 2.4 gigatonnes (Gt) decline in annual CO2 emissions will dial the emissions clock back to where it was a decade ago.

Other than that, the report is mostly negative for the fossil fuel industry, so brace yourself.

Bearing this in mind, here are some of IEA’s interesting findings

#1. Pandemic effects to be felt for decades

IEA says that global energy demand is set to drop by 5% in 2020, with energy investment dropping a shocking 18%.

But here’s the really bad news: In the best-case-scenario (STEP), global energy demand will not fully recover to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2023.

A slightly worse-case scenario (DRS) delays energy demand recovery by another two years to 2025.

#2. Oil becomes the next tobacco sector

This is what oil bulls probably don’t want to hear: The oil sector could very much soon face the same fate as the tobacco sector by entering a phase of terminal decline.

The IEA has reiterated pretty much what oil bears have been saying: In a not-so-distant universe, renewable energy is likely to increasingly gain ascendancy while fossil fuels take a back seat.

Even in the best-case scenarios (STEPS and the DRS), oil demand will continue to rise but hit a plateau in the 2030s.

#5. Solar becomes the new king of electricity

The IEA has reported that so far, the renewables sector has proven to be the most resilient during the ongoing crisis.

Indeed, global use of renewable energy is likely to grow 1.0% Y/Y over the course of the year, mainly due to new wind and solar PV projects completed over the past year coming online. Renewables tend to be more resilient to lower electricity demand than other sources mainly because they are generally dispatched first due to favorable regulation and/or their lower operating costs.

While wind energy, especially offshore wind, is likely to continue enjoying robust growth, solar energy is likely to come out on top.

In a STEPS scenario, renewables will meet 80% of the growth in global electricity over the next decade. So far, hydropower has remained the largest renewable source of electricity’. However, the IEA has forecast that solar will be the main driver of growth as it sets new records for deployment each year after 2022, with onshore and offshore wind taking second and third place, respectively.

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 15, 2020, 09:49:01 PM »
In the US, we're told that France has solved the long-term nuclear waste storage problem.  Turns out, no one has.

The World’s Growing Nuclear Waste Dilemma
By Haley Zaremba - Oct 15, 2020

Recently, different nuclear-powered countries around the world have been pursuing “final disposal sites” for their nuclear waste. This process consists of converting this radioactive waste into a kind of glass via a process known as vitrification. This glass will then be stored inside of stainless steel vessels that will be kept in a pool to maintain a cool temperature until they are finally transferred to their final resting place deep underground, where they will remain undisturbed until their amount of radioactivity has decreased to a level that they can be handled safely--a period of time anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 years.

o date, no country has brought one of these final disposal sites online, but a small handful are actually working on developing one. “Finland and Sweden have selected locations for construction and Finland is expected to start construction in the early 2020s,” reports the Japan Times. “France is still conducting underground surveys, while Switzerland, China, and Canada are analyzing boring samples. Belgium and Germany are at roughly the same stage as Japan.”

In Japan, however, as the Times article details, the site planning has been mired in controversy. Until nine years ago, nuclear energy represented a major part of Japan’s energy mix. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, however, Japan has largely soured on this form of power production, and citizens have become increasingly leery of the sector’s various risk factors. This discontent and distrust have recently come to a head in Hokkaido, where the Horonobe Underground Research Center, “which conducts research and development on disposal methods for high-level radioactive waste” is found, over the topic of choosing a location for Japan’s final disposal site.

The US went through all of the site surveys and actually settled on a site and began construction more than a decade ago.  Construction on that site was stopped due to political opposition, so the waste just sits in dry casks on top of concrete slabs.  The casks will need to be replaced in about a century, as they break down over time.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 15, 2020, 09:40:19 PM »
Plain old grid interconnects with "smart" controllers will solve the intermittency problem.  See what the UK does on its many windless days that NeilT constantly brings up.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 15, 2020, 05:58:41 PM »
What do superconductors have to do with renewable energy?  Aren't they needed to make the plasma containment for fusion reactors?  The discussion about superconductors would be better in the nuclear thread.

Permafrost / Re: Arctic Methane Release
« on: October 14, 2020, 08:46:35 PM »
I'm just saying don't give up.  This isn't as bad as the media makes this out to be.  Semiletov has been on 45 cruises over several decades and this is the largest seep he has found.  The subsea permafrost beneath the Arctic has been thawing since the last ice age and it will continue to do so until the next ice age.  Don't worry about something we can't control.

In contrast, leaking oil and gas wells are emitting far more methane each and every day.  Here's a news story about the latest EU proposal to deal with them.

EU considers crackdown on methane leaks from imported oil and gas
Published on 14/10/2020

An EU methane emissions standard would put pressure on suppliers like Russia and Algeria to stop polluting gas leaks and venting, but proposals lack detail

By Isabelle Gerretsen

The European Union is considering imposing binding methane emissions standards on oil and gas imports, as well as making fossil fuel companies report and repair methane leaks.

In its methane strategy published on Wednesday, the European Commission declared a commitment to tackling emissions from methane, which is the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.

The oil and gas industry could achieve a 75% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 using current technology, according to the International Energy Agency.

Methane emissions are rising rapidly, with new satellite data from technology company Kayrros revealing that they have increased by 32% in the past year. According to Kayrros, there are around 100 high-volume leaks happening around the world at any one time. Half of these methane hotspots occur in regions with coal mining and oil and gas industries. One of the worst culprits is Russia – Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas.

The EU produces 5% of global methane emissions internally but as the world’s largest importer of gas it plays a major role in influencing the climate policies of other countries, the strategy notes.

The EU imports around 47% of internationally traded gas, Poppy Kalesi, director of global energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, told Climate Home. Companies including Shell and BP have set voluntary targets to curb methane emissions, but legislative action is needed to achieve global reductions, according to Kalesi.

Permafrost / Re: Arctic Methane Release
« on: October 14, 2020, 06:10:18 PM »

Scientists studying the consequences of methane emissions from underwater permafrost in the Arctic Ocean announced this week that they found a 50-square-foot area of the East Siberian Sea "boiling with methane bubbles."

"This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe," lead scientist Igor Semiletov said Monday, using a term for methane gas bubbling up from the seafloor to the surface. "No one has ever recorded anything similar."

Semiletov is regarded as having been on more Arctic expeditions looking for methane seeps than anyone.  The most powerful seep he has been able to observe in his decades of research is 50 square feet, or about 8 feet (less than 3 meters) in diameter. Please keep that in mind when reading about the Arctic thaw.

Humans release far more methane from leaking oil wells than the Arctic releases from permafrost thaw. 

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 13, 2020, 10:39:52 PM »
The IEA has released the World Energy Outlook 2020 with updated projections for future energy use.

The big news is that the IEA is finally recognizing that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels and that the energy transition is well underway.  Solar is now projected to be the leading form of electricity generation in the future.

Renewables grow rapidly in all our scenarios, with solar at the centre of this new constellation of electricity generation technologies. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets. With sharp cost reductions over the past decade, solar PV is consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen. In the STEPS, renewables meet 80% of the growth in global electricity demand to 2030. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source of electricity, but solar is the main driver of growth as it sets new records for deployment each year after 2022, followed by onshore and offshore wind. The advance of renewable sources of generation, and of solar in particular, as well as the contribution of nuclear power, is much stronger in the SDS and NZE2050. The pace of change in the electricity sector puts an additional premium on robust grids and other sources of flexibility, as well as reliable supplies of the critical minerals and metals that are vital to its secure transformation. Storage plays an increasingly vital role in ensuring the flexible operation of power systems, with India becoming the largest market for utility-scale battery storage.

And the IEA, long an advocate for fossil fuel producers, is now calling on them to diversify if they wish to survive.

Lower prices and downward revisions to demand, resulting from the pandemic, have cut around one-quarter off the value of future oil and gas production. Many oil and gas producers, notably those in the Middle East and Africa such as Iraq and Nigeria, are facing acute fiscal pressures as a result of high reliance on hydrocarbon revenues. Now, more than ever, fundamental efforts to diversify and reform the economies of some major oil and gas exporters look unavoidable. The US shale industry has met nearly 60% of the increase in global oil and gas demand over the last ten years, but this rise was fuelled by easy credit that has now dried up. So far in 2020, leading oil and gas companies have reduced the reported worth of their assets by more than $50 billion, a palpable expression of a shift in perceptions about the future. Investment in oil and gas supply has fallen by one-third compared with 2019, and the extent and timing of any pick-up in spending is unclear. So too is the ability of the industry to meet it in a timely way: this could presage new price cycles and risks to energy security.

The IEA also recognizes that the current trends alone aren't enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to avoid exceeding the Paris targets.  They call for governments to adopt their Sustainable Recovery Plan.

A step-change in clean energy investment, in line with the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan, offers a way to boost economic recovery, create jobs and reduce emissions. This approach has not featured prominently in the plans proposed to date, except in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and a handful of other countries. In the SDS, full implementation of the IEA Sustainable Recovery Plan, published in June 2020 in co-operation with the International Monetary Fund, puts the global energy economy on a different post-crisis track. Additional investment of $1 trillion a year between 2021 and 2023 in the SDS is directed towards improvements in efficiency, low-emissions power and electricity grids, and more sustainable fuels. This makes 2019 the definitive peak for global CO2 emissions. By 2030, emissions in the SDS are nearly 10 Gt lower than in the STEPS.

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 10, 2020, 01:35:23 AM »
NeilT's capacity factors for fossil fuel plants are laughable.  Coal might get to 60% and natural gas combined cycle 55%.  In the US, nuclear gets 90+% but that's because many of the powerplants received retrofits to improve their capacity.  Globally, nuclear averages 80% capacity factors.

Capacity factors for renewables are highly dependent on where they're installed.  In the US, the national average for solar is around 25% and for wind 35%.  New offshore wind turbines can reach 60% due to being placed in areas that have consistent wind and the ability to build very large structures.

Additionally, supply and demand of electricity can lead to curtailment of some sources when supply exceeds demand.  Since the sun and wind are free, it's the fossil fuel plants that get curtailed.

Here's a webpage that explains it.

Table 2 presents the annual capacity factors for various sources of U.S. power generation. Capacity factor is the ratio of the electrical energy produced by a generating unit over a period of time considered to the electrical energy that could have been produced at continuous full-power operation during the same period. With the price of natural gas for power generation at historically low levels for several years, coal plants have experienced a decrease in capacity factors, resulting in increased cycling, while combined cycle and simple cycle natural gas generation has increased. The nuclear power fleet has maintained a fairly constant capacity factor of about 91% during this period. Table 2 also presents the national average annual price of natural gas used in power generation. There is a direct correlation between the decrease in installed capacity and capacity factors for coal-fired units, and the price of natural gas.

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 09, 2020, 08:06:51 PM »
I'm not sure where NeilT's chart comes from or what it's trying to show.  Electricity generation for the UK is measured in the terawatt hours (TWh), his chart shows gigawatts (GW).

Here is an article about the UK's changing electrical generation mix.

Britain’s electricity since 2010: wind surges to second place, coal collapses and fossil fuel use nearly halves
January 6, 2020

In 2010, Great Britain generated 75% of its electricity from coal and natural gas. But by the end of the decade*, these fossil fuels accounted for just 40%, with coal generation collapsing from the decade’s peak of 41% in 2012 to under 2% in 2019.

The near disappearance of coal power – the second most prevalent source in 2010 – underpinned a remarkable transformation of Britain’s electricity generation over the last decade, meaning Britain now has the cleanest electrical supply it has ever had. Second place now belongs to wind power, which supplied almost 21% of the country’s electrical demand in 2019, up from 3% in 2010. As at the start of the decade, natural gas provided the largest share of Britain’s electricity in 2019 at 38%, compared with 47% in 2010.

Besides the reduction in carbon emissions, there was another remarkable shift in Britain’s electrical system during the 2010s. The amount of electricity consumed fell by nearly 15% between 2010 and 2019, with the economy using 50 terawatt hours (TWh) less electricity in 2019 than it did in 2010. That’s enough electricity to power half of Britain’s cars and taxis, if they were all electric vehicles.

Since August 2018, renewables have produced more electricity than nuclear power for 17 months straight. Nuclear fell to less than a fifth of electricity generation in 2019, its lowest level since 2008 due to extended maintenance periods at six nuclear power stations. This helped the annual output of wind energy to surpass nuclear for the first time in 2019.

Science / Re: Where are we now in CO2e , which pathway are we on?
« on: October 09, 2020, 07:18:23 PM »

I was responding in the context of this thread, which uses the weekly or monthly observations of greenhouse gas concentrations and then tries to determine which of the RCPs we are closest too.

The thread got a bit confusing because they refer to CO2e in the title.  As Oren pointed out, CO2e is a way to compare the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases as they are emitted.  It doesn't really work for concentrations, because of the different lifetimes of the greenhouse gases.

As you note, methane has a short lifetime compared to CO2 (11 to 12 years versus 100+).  So the calculation for it's CO2e can range from 25 (which I think is implied by the calculations used in NOAA's greenhouse gas index) if you're looking at climate change over a century, to 80 for it's warming over 20 years.  The long term global warming for methane has been revised up to 34 in the past few years because of the feedbacks methane causes in atmospheric chemistry as it decays.

One of the shortcomings of converting a short term greenhouse gas to a CO2e is that it doesn't accurately portray the warming effects of the short term gas over time.  So a new method to calculate global warming potential, GWP*, has been proposed.  This article explains it better.

7 June 2018
Guest post: A new way to assess ‘global warming potential’ of short-lived pollutants
Dr Michelle Cain

At the moment, it is not obvious how this will be done. In a new paper published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, my co-authors and I address one of the stocktake’s key stumbling blocks – the treatment of all greenhouse gases as “CO2-equivalent”, using a metric known as “global warming potential” (GWP). This misrepresents the impact of short-lived climate pollutants, such as methane, on future warming.

We show that modifying the use of GWP, so that it accounts for the differences between short- and long-lived gases, can better link emissions to warming. This means that the true impact of an emission pathway on global temperature can be easily assessed. For countries with high methane emissions – due to, say, agriculture – this can make a huge difference to how their progress in emission reductions is judged.

Greenhouse gas emissions are commonly presented in units of billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e). The de facto way of converting non-CO2 emissions to CO2e is to multiply the gas by its GWP100 (global warming potential over 100 years). The value of GWP100 for methane (CH4) from the last IPCC assessment report is 28. This means that methane has 28 times as much “global warming potential” as CO2, so 1Gt CH4 equates to 28 GtCO2e.

This masks the fact that 1 GtCH4 has a strong warming influence when it is first emitted, which then diminishes rapidly over a few decades. This is because chemical reactions cause it to be removed from the atmosphere, with a half life of about a decade. So, at the end of that 100 years, that methane is no longer causing strong warming, because it has almost all been destroyed.

By comparison, a 28Gt “equivalent” emission of CO2 would effectively persist in the atmosphere for centuries or longer, continuing to cause warming at almost the same rate as when it was first released. This shows how the two emissions are not really equivalent, which has important consequences if GWP100 is applied to future emissions scenarios inappropriately.

For example, the figure below shows some simplified emissions scenarios for CO2 and methane, with the resulting temperature responses. If methane is held constant (middle panel), temperature will remain constant. This is because the short lifetime of methane means atmospheric concentrations will remain constant with constant sources, assuming constant sinks. (Note that this is a simplification to demonstrate the direct warming from methane. Secondary effects from carbon cycle feedbacks following a methane emission can also cause smaller amounts of additional warming.)

However, a stable CO2 emission pathway leads to year-on-year increases in warming, because the CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere. If methane emissions are simply multiplied by GWP100 to generate CO2e, this would look like a warming pathway, when it should lead to stable temperatures.

Even more pronounced is the impact when emissions are falling (right panel). For methane, falling emissions leads to cooling. Converting to CO2e would imply warming until the emissions hit zero. Ambitious mitigation scenarios could, therefore, give the impression of giving rise to warming instead of cooling from methane, if expressed using GWP100.

By using GWP*, emissions of methane expressed as CO2e relate much more closely to temperature response. This can be seen in the figure below. The top panels use GWP100, while the lower panels use GWP*. The left panels show annual emissions of CO2e (upper left) and CO2e* (lower left). In the right panels, temperature is shown in the dashed lines alongside the cumulative CO2e/CO2e* emissions in the solid lines.

Consider a power station and a herd of cows. A power station emits CO2 by burning fossil fuels. This CO2 is taxed. When it shuts down permanently, it emits no more CO2, so is no longer taxed. However, the CO2 already emitted continues to affect the climate for hundreds, or potentially, thousands of years. So even after closing down, that power station still contributes to holding up global temperatures because of the CO2 that remains in the atmosphere.

Now to the cows. A herd of cows emits methane, so the farmer is taxed for those emissions. If the herd remains the same size with the same methane emissions every year, it will maintain the same amount of additional methane in the atmosphere year on year. In terms of its contribution to warming, this is equivalent to the closed power station.

The power station pushed up global temperatures when it was running in the past, just as the farmer’s great-grandparent pushed up global temperatures when they were building up the herd of cattle. But neither a steady herd of cattle nor a defunct power station is pushing up global temperatures any more.

Science / Re: Where are we now in CO2e , which pathway are we on?
« on: October 09, 2020, 12:30:08 AM »
Thanks wolfpack513.
Do you know what methane CO₂e factor is used? It can differ hugely (ca. 20-100) and is therefore a bit arbitrary. It would be good to post that number also for clarity.
Aerosols are not included because they are spatially heterogeneous and short-lived. But it's constantly being replenished with new aerosols. I understand that a global figure is impossible, but it sure is part of integrated radiative forcing. Can a global map be made?
At what height in the atmosphere is the radiative forcing valid? Top of troposphere or at sea level?
Perhaps I've misunderstood.

Since the RCPs show the concentrations of greenhouse gases that were used to define the forcings, we can directly compare measured concentrations to the concentrations used to build the RCPs.  We can ignore the global warming potentials and assumed timeframes.

Policy and solutions / Re: Electric cars
« on: October 06, 2020, 01:12:36 AM »
EVs took 8% of the market share in Germany in September 2020.  Hybrids accounted for more than 20%.  Registrations of new gas and diesel cars fell, as did carbon emissions. This is not good news for the oil companies.

05 Oct 2020
Sören Amelang
Germany registers more than 20,000 pure electric cars in a month for first time

Clean Energy Wire

A record number of car buyers in Germany have opted for electric vehicles in September. The number of new purely electric vehicles rose to 21,188 last month, an increase of 260 percent compared to a year ago, the country's Federal Motor Transport Authority KBA said in a press release. Battery electric vehicles (BEV) now account for an 8 percent share of the car market. Registrations of hybrid cars rose 185 percent to 54,036 vehicles, resulting in a share of 20.4 percent. Of these, 20,127 were plug-ins (PHEV) – an increase of 460 percent for a total share of 7.6 percent.

Registrations of cars equipped with a petrol engine declined almost 18 percent to 120,645, but their share remained high at 45.5 percent. Diesel registrations fell 6.4 percent to 67,901, a share of 25.6 percent. Average CO2 emissions fell 13 percent compared to a year ago, to 134,3 grams per kilometre. The take-up of electric vehicles has been slow in Germany in comparison to many other markets. But thanks to new government incentives, registrations have picked up sharply in recent months. Germany has been struggling to lower emissions in the transport sector, which have remained broadly stable for decades as gains from more efficient engines have been eaten up by heavier cars.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 06, 2020, 12:43:18 AM »
Solar is now doing to natural gas what natural gas and renewables did to coal.  Kick it off the grid.

Rocky Mountain Institute Study Shows Renewables Are Kicking Natural Gas To The Curb

October 3rd, 2020 by Steve Hanley

After analyzing the most recent data from two of America’s largest electricity markets — ERCOT in Texas and PJM in the Northeast — the Rocky Mountain Institute has come to a startling conclusion. Renewables are muscling in on natural gas as the preferred choice for new electricity generation. In fact, according to RMI, what happened to coal is now happening to gas. What is needed, the organization argues, is a move away from the monopoly markets that have been the norm in the utility industry for more than 100 years and toward more open competition. Because when renewables compete head to head with thermal generation, they win hands down 95% of the time.

RMI finds that since 2018, the queue for clean energy projects has more than doubled while the queue for gas projects has been cut in half. In all, more than $30 billion worth of gas projects have been canceled or abandoned. Currently, the capacity of wind, solar, and storage projects slated for construction in ERCOT and PJM is ten times greater than for new gas projects.

Note that the above article is based on theoretical generation "nameplate capacity".  We won't know the actual shares of power generation until the projects are built and operated.  The actual operation of the power plants will also influence their capacity factors, which in theory are higher for fossil fuel plants but in practice the fossil fuel plants tend to be the first to be curtailed since renewables are cheaper to operate than coal and natural gas. (Do I need to include this caveat in every post, or can we assume people already know the standard denier arguments and the response to them?)

The politics / Re: Elections 2020 USA
« on: October 04, 2020, 03:00:10 AM »

I watched that sh*tshow and at first couldn’t figure out what Trump was doing. It dawned on me about halfway through that he was trying to trigger Biden’s stutter.

According to the polls, Trump’s performance backfired spectacularly. Most polls show Trump favored by 43 to 46% of voters. Fewer than 30% thought he won the debate.

Biden is now polling above 50% nationwide and in most battleground states. Even Iowa and Georgia are favoring Biden. This is starting to look like a landslide.

Several Senate races have tightened up too. The Democrats are now projected to win 3 to 7 seats. Three would give them a tie, so if Biden wins his legislation would pass because the Vice President breaks ties in the Senate.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 03, 2020, 12:00:37 AM »
China just connected a 2.2 GW capacity solar farm to the grid.  It took four months to build.

China's biggest-ever solar power plant goes live

The world leader in solar power this week connected a 2.2GW plant to the grid. It's the second largest in the world.
Daniel Van Boom Oct 1, 2020

The solar park has a capacity of 2.2GW. That makes it the second biggest in the world, narrowly trailing India's 2.245GW Bhadla solar park. Until now, China's biggest solar station was the Tengger Desert Solar Park, with a capacity of 1.54GW. For comparison, the US' biggest solar farm has a capacity of 579MW.

The power station also includes a storage component, as it includes a 202.86 MWh energy storage plant. Construction on the project was completed in September after just four months.

Even with a capacity factor of 25%, solar outcompetes the alternatives with higher theoretical capcity factors.  For example, nuclear power plants in the US achieve 90% capacity factors while the global average is 80%. It takes  4 to 6 years to build a nuclear power plant in China and decades in the US and Europe.  Since solar farms can be built much faster, they can start paying back their costs much sooner than competing plants.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 01, 2020, 11:33:34 PM »
The cost to clean up abandoned oil wells in Texas is estimated at over $100 Billion.

Texas Taxpayers Face $117 Billion Bill For Orphaned Oil Wells
By Josh Owens - Oct 01, 2020

The state of Texas and its taxpayers could be on the hook for paying up to US$117 billion for the cleaning-up of abandoned wells as a growing number of U.S. oil companies go bust, and the guarantees for paying for the cleanup cover only 1 percent of estimated costs, a report by climate finance think-tank Carbon Tracker showed on Thursday. 

U.S. oil and gas producing states and taxpayers may have to pay in total as much as US$280 billion in cleanup costs, with Texas leading with US$117 billion, followed by Oklahoma with US$31 billion and Pennsylvania with US$15 billion, Carbon Tracker’s report says.

The US$280-billion estimate is for 2.6 million unplugged onshore oil and gas wells in the United States, while there may be another estimated 1.2 million undocumented onshore wells, Carbon Tracker said.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 01, 2020, 01:43:57 AM »
In the US, renewables are reducing the capacity factors of coal fired power plants.

Coal plants increasingly operate as cyclical, load-following power, leading to inefficiencies, costs: NARUC


Coal plants are increasingly operating as cyclical or load-following generation units, as the power market becomes more saturated with intermittent resources, according to a Jan. 24 whitepaper from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).

Particularly in states with a high renewables penetration, such as wind-heavy Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa, coal-fired power plant operations have changed dramatically, which poses physical and financial risks to the facilities, according to the paper. Overall coal capacity factors, or how much actual power the plants generate versus how much they're capable of generating, dropped to 54% in 2018, down from 74% in 2008.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 01, 2020, 01:31:46 AM »
The linked article explains why efficiency and capacity factors are not very useful in comparing renewable energy sources to their more expensive fossil fuel competitors.

Nov 8, 2017,02:56pm EST
Is Solar Energy Less Efficient Than Non-Renewables?

Answer by Michael Barnard, low-carbon innovation analyst, on Quora:

Efficiency is an interesting concept when you talk about renewable energy. Mostly, it’s meaningless except as input to a more useful economic discussion.

Efficiency is a much greater factor for non-renewable energy sources because they have to pay for their fuel. Renewable sources don’t. The wind blows and the sun shines regardless of whether anyone puts up a solar or wind farm to capture it. The wind and sun are free resources.

Solar and wind have another factor which is important for economics. While the wind and sun are free, they don’t blow all the time and aren’t always blowing or shining hard enough to make the wind farms and solar panels generate electricity at maximum potential. Over the course of a year, the ratio of actually generated electricity to potential maximum electricity is called the capacity factor.

For solar, the capacity factor ranges from 15% to 25% depending on where you are located and whether the panels follow the sun on (more expensive) trackers or not. For modern wind farms, capacity factors range from 40% onshore to 77% one year for the best offshore site. And now the very flexible wind and solar farms are sometimes curtailed because the much less flexible nuclear and other baseload forms of generation can’t be turned down quickly even though they often have much worse economics in many cases.

But even there, lots of legacy forms of generation have lower capacity factors. Nuclear is high at 90% because it can’t actually run at less than that capacity factor and pay for itself. Coal in the USA was at 60% or so a decade ago, but now it’s at 50% for the country because wind, solar and gas are cheaper so it can’t compete. Many gas plants are at 10% simply because they only turn them on to provide peak power at highest profit.

So wind and solar don’t have to be efficient, they just have to run enough over the course of time to pay for their capital costs. Their marginal operating costs are dirt cheap, much cheaper than coal and gas plants.

Efficiency being a problem is overrated.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 01, 2020, 01:22:55 AM »

It's not intentional, I quoted from the article which was discussing installed capacity.  We won't know how much power is generated until it's actually used. 

As we've been seeing this year with lower energy demand due to the pandemic shut-ins, fossil fuel power plants have been curtailed more than renewables because the "fuel" cost of renewables is free.  That decreases the capacity factor of the fossil fuel power plants.

In China, they build coal-fired power plants willy-nilly to keep workers employed.  Then those power plants are idled due to the energy surplus and higher cost to operate them.  Although the capacity factors of the power plants could be much higher in theory, they are often run less than 50% of the time.

Installed capacity is very important, it ultimately leads to power generation.  As fossil fuel plants age out they become more expensive to operate, so they are likely to be shut down rather than refurbished if there is enough installed capacity of a cheaper alternative, such as solar power, to replace them.

New investments in renewables have been outpacing fossil fuels for the past few years.  This is showing up now in installed capacity and will eventually show up in the electricity generation data too.

The politics / Re: Elections 2020 USA
« on: October 01, 2020, 01:12:50 AM »
Trump’s efforts to discredit voting by mail is leading to a big advantage for Democrats in early voting.

Early surge of Democratic mail voting sparks worry inside GOP

By Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey
September 29, 2020

Democratic voters who have requested mail ballots — and returned them — greatly outnumber Republicans so far in key battleground states, causing alarm among GOP party leaders and strategists that President Trump’s attacks on mail voting could be hurting the party’s prospects to retain the White House and the Senate this year.

Of the more than 9 million voters who requested mail ballots through Monday in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa, the five battleground states where such data is publicly available, 52 percent were Democrats. Twenty-eight percent were Republicans, and 20 percent were unaffiliated.

Additional internal Democratic and Republican Party data obtained by The Washington Post shows a similar trend in Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

The margins are “stunning” — and bad news for Republicans up and down the ballot, said longtime GOP pollster Whit Ayres. While the Republican Party is focused on getting voters out on Election Day, he noted that older voters who have traditionally supported Republicans are most concerned about being infected with the novel coronavirus and could choose to stay home if the outbreak intensifies as the election nears.

The trend has emerged after Trump spent months assailing voting by mail, making unsubstantiated claims that it is prone to corruption and fraud — attacks that have resonated with Republican voters, polls show. State and local Republicans, fearful of losing what has long been a key turnout advantage for the GOP, spent the past few months racing to reassure voters that voting by mail was safe, despite the president’s rhetoric.

Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida who is tracking mail voting trends on his website, the United States Elections Project, noted that in some states, the number of ballots cast is already approaching 10 percent of the vote total in 2016. He added that turnout this fall could surpass that of four years ago before Election Day even arrives.

In North Carolina and Georgia, for instance, 1 in 5 voters who have cast ballots didn’t even vote in 2016, McDonald said. Requests for mail ballot are up astronomically in dozens of states; the figure is 350 percent in Michigan, for instance, when compared with 2016.

In North Carolina, 17 times more people have requested ballots than four years ago; in Wisconsin, requests were up by a factor of 12, according to internal RNC data.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: September 30, 2020, 08:03:34 PM »
Currently, three of the 50 United States have installed solar panels on unused highway land.  Up to 36 TWh of energy could be generated annually if this land was used for solar panel and the revenues could help fund transportation projects as gas tax revenues decline.

Bold shoulders: How America could boost solar power by 56% using idle highway land
29 September 2020 | By Rod Sweet

The US could harvest 36TWh of clean energy a year, worth some $4bn in revenue, if states put solar panels on the highway interchange rights-of-way (ROW) they own, a study has concluded.
Most states have more than 200 miles (322km) of ROW at interchanges, around 127,500 acres in area, that is suitable for solar development, finds a new, nationwide mapping tool developed by solar transport innovation group, “The Ray”, and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas, Austin.

Most states have more than 200 miles (322km) of ROW at interchanges, around 127,500 acres in area, that is suitable for solar development, finds a new nationwide mapping tool developed by solar transport innovation group “The Ray” and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas, Austin.

Putting solar arrays on these patches of unused land would boost America’s total solar power output, currently standing at 69TWh, by 56.5%.

The idea has already caught on, as three states are using highway property for renewable energy.

In February this year, Georgia became the third when the Georgia Power Company commercialised a one-megawatt solar array on the ROW at Exit 14 off Interstate 85 (pictured), which is known as “The Ray Highway”.

It has also piloted the use of native, flowering plants as ground cover within the array, making Georgia the first state in the nation to install pollinator-friendly ROW solar.

Policy and solutions / Re: Coal
« on: September 30, 2020, 07:56:14 PM »
Yet another US utility, this time one based in Texas and operating in Illinois, announces plans to retire coal plants early.

Texas company to close all of its Illinois coal-fired power plants, another sign the global transition to clean energy is accelerating
By Michael Hawthorne
Chicago Tribune |
Sep 30, 2020 at 5:00 AM

In a move that promises cleaner air in Chicago and other cities as far away as New York and Boston, a Texas-based company announced Tuesday it will close its Illinois fleet of coal-fired power plants within a decade.

Vistra Energy absorbed nine of the state’s coal plants during a corporate merger just two years ago. Like its predecessors, the company found it increasingly difficult to profit from burning coal amid competition from cheaper, cleaner natural gas and renewable energy.

Scuttling the Illinois plants — and three others in Ohio — is part of Vistra’s plan to gradually shift its investments to solar installations and industrial-size batteries that store power for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.


Only 15% of the electricity generated in Illinois last year came from Vistra coal plants. But the company’s fleet was responsible for nearly half the heat-trapping carbon dioxide and lung-damaging sulfur dioxide emitted by the state’s power plants during 2019, according to federal records.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: September 30, 2020, 07:31:59 PM »
In Europe, solar power is on track to be the largest power source in five years.

Solar Could Be Europe’s Top Power Source In 5 Years
By Tsvetana Paraskova - Sep 29, 2020

Solar power could be Europe’s biggest energy source in terms of installed capacity by 2025 if the European Union (EU) stays on track for its net-zero targets, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on SolarPower Europe’s Solar Power Summit on Tuesday.

According to SolarPower Europe, last year was the strongest year of solar capacity growth in the EU since 2010, with 16.7 gigawatts (GW) of installations added in the region—a 104-percent surge compared to the 8.2 GW capacity that the EU added in 2018. Spain was Europe’s largest solar market in 2019 in terms of capacity additions with 4.7 GW, followed by Germany with 4 GW, the Netherlands with 2.5 GW, France with 1.1 GW, and Poland, which nearly quadrupled its installed capacities to 784 MW.

Most recently, the European Commission laid out plans to increase the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target from the current 32 percent up to 38–40 percent.

“Solar has seen the largest cost reductions of any renewable technology, major efficiency gains and new innovations, such as floating solar and Agri-PV. This makes it a strategic technology that not only contributes to the objectives of the European Green Deal but creates jobs and development opportunities across all of Europe,” Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said, commenting on the planned new targets and the possibility of a more robust industrial strategy for advanced solar technologies.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: September 29, 2020, 11:17:54 PM »
In Maine, the northernmost of the mainland United States, solar is now comptitive with natural gas.

September 22
Solar wins big in project selection to advance Maine’s clean energy goals

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved contracts Tuesday for 17 renewable power projects as part of the state's effort to reduce fossil fuel consumption and advance climate goals.

Maine’s ambitious clean-energy and climate-fighting goals reached an important milestone Tuesday when the state Public Utilities Commission approved contracts for 17 renewable power projects – largely solar, but also wind, biomass and hydroelectric.

Taken together, the projects have a generating capacity of 492 megawatts. That represents the largest procurement of clean-energy initiated by the state at least since the 1980s and 1990s, when laws designed to reduce dependence on imported oil spawned a fleet of wood-fired, hydroelectric and waste-to-energy projects.

The process also highlighted how large-scale solar power has emerged as a cost-competitive alternative to fossil fuel generation. The average contract rate for the winning bidders was 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s near the historic market price for energy on New England’s grid, a rate typically set by natural gas-fired power plants.

The process provided further evidence of market interest in Maine, with projects representing hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment. Several developers had in recent months signaled their intent to build large-scale solar farms in Maine in the run-up to the PUC decision.

Noting new strategies to reduce climate change emissions by shifting home heating and transportation from petroleum to cleaner electricity, Payne said the projects approved by the PUC were essential to what advocates call the electrification of Maine’s economy.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy Transition and Consumption
« on: September 29, 2020, 10:35:43 PM »
I think what Ralfy fails to understand is that as long as the Energy Return on Investment is greater than 1 (which it is even if you try to put your thumb on the scales with arguments about mining, transmission, grid efficiency, etc...), then what really drives investment decisions is financial return on investment. 

And now that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, the final investment decisions on energy projects are increasingly dominated by new renewable projects.  That's why there are so many press releases available about new renewable power plants.

Report predicts major spike in renewable energy projects by 2030
DCN-JOC News Services September 3, 2020

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — A new report from Frost & Sullivan predicts that US$3.4 trillion will be invested globally on renewable energy by 2030.

The study, Opportunities from Decarbonization in the Global Power Market, 2019-2030, forecasts that coal will take a downturn in most developed markets.

By 2030, 54.1 per cent of installed capacity will be renewable (including hydropower) and 37.9 per cent will be a combination of solar and wind, the report predicts.

Falling costs and renewable-friendly energy policies adopted by several countries in the six major geographies — North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, China and India — are prominent reasons why solar photovoltaic and wind capacity projects are expected to climb this decade.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: September 29, 2020, 10:06:52 PM »
All forms of energy are subsidized to some extent.  In the USA, this is usually done in the tax code (I'm not counting nuclear here, which is so heavily subsidized by taxpayers picking up the tab for insurance, that it wouldn't exist without that subsidy). 

The EIA updated their calculations for Levelized Cost of Electricity in February 2020 and included the subsidies for solar (wind subsidies phase out) entering service in 2025.  They didn't count any other subsidies, which are substantial, for depreciation, failure to pay for pollution costs or adequate bonding for capping leaky abandoned wells when the oil and gas companies go bankrupt.

If you removed the tax credit for solar, estimated at $2.41 per megawatthour, solar would still have the lowest LCOE.

There are tables on page 6 (weighted averages by regions with proposed builds) and page 7 (unweighted averages).  It doesn't format properly when copied, so I'll just list the final results from the first table (the second is similiar and includes a few more higher cost types such as ultra-supercritical coal and advanced nuclear that are unlikely to be built due to thier high costs).

Numbers are $/MWHr

Plant Type        Levelized Tax Credit   LCOE including tax credit
Combined Cycle     N/A                                      $36.61
Geothermal            -$2.04                                   $35.44
Wind, onshore          N/A                                    $34.10
Wind, offshore          N/A                                    $115.04
Solar PV                 -$2.41                                  $30.39

So if you take away the tax credit for solar, the LCOE is still cheapest at $32.80.  And onshore wind is next cheapest with geothermal taking third.  Most types of fossil fuels aren't represented on this chart, because there are no proposed builds for those types of plants.

The State mandates were nice to have when renewables cost more than fossil fuels, but now they're irrelevant.  However, they do make it look like the politicians are doing something when they enact the mandates.  It would be far more effective to change the tax code to remove the subsidies or to require all industries, including renewable energy, to pay for their pollution.  Since renewables pollute far less than fossil fuels, the fossil fuels would complain that this would be a subsidy for renewables!

Science / Re: Where are we now in CO2e , which pathway are we on?
« on: September 29, 2020, 06:37:46 PM »

Hi sorry new to the forum. Long time lurker but had a question. The data presented in the 2.6 column it is as if we continued on the path of the current amount emissions of CO2 and Methane and then each sequential line to the right is if we were to increase in amounts being thrown into the atmosphere or is there some type of mitigation process in there i'm not seeing in 2.6 and 4.5? Clearly 8.5 is the most ambitious of them.



The RCPs are "representative concentration pathways" and each present a series of inputs for running climate simulations in models.  They're meant to represent a pattern of climate forcings, not really a forecast of future emissions.  So we'll never be entirely on one path or another.

The number at the end of the RCP is the radiative forcing in the year 2100.  So RCP 2.6 would see 2.6 watts per meter of forcing while RCP would have 8.5 watts per meter in 2100.

The pattern of forcings over the years is broadly described in each of the scenario descriptions.  RCP 8.5 assumes continued growth in fossil fuel emissions, including burning coal at an increasing rate, for the rest of the century.  RCP 2.6 assumes we began reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane, in 2011 (which we haven't), we reach a peak in CO2 emissions around 2040 and then decline and use Negative Emissions Technologies to reduce CO2 concentrations from 2050 through 2100.  RCPs 4.5 and 6.0 assume a peak of CO2 emissions in the second half of the century and then stabilization of concentrations toward the end of the century.

A good summary in easy to read format is available at at this link:

That website has some very useful graphics that show the assumed emission trajectories in each of the scenarios:

The assumed atmospheric concentrations:

One of the interesting features of all of the RCPs, which were developed about 15 years ago, is that they assumed that renewable energy would be too expensive to deploy extensively.  This is shown in another image at the skeptical science article:

Of course, wind and solar are now cheaper than coal and competitive with natural gas, so these assumptions are way too pessimistic.  By 2030, almost all new energy investment will be wind and solar (about 67% is now, with coal seeing almost no new investment the past two years), so by 2050, almost no fossil fuel power plants will be operating. 

Science / Re: Where are we now in CO2e , which pathway are we on?
« on: September 29, 2020, 02:38:47 AM »
From the 2020 Mauna Loa CO2 levels thread, Steven posted
Sunday evening [Sept. 27, 2020]- an update from Mauna Loa CO2:
Week beginning on September 20, 2020:     411.00 ppm
Now, are those IPCC numbers Ken just posted "Mauna Loa equivalent"? Or some other "average global number?  I looked it up (thanks for the guidance, Ken!): They are "global mean values".

So, what is the relationship between "global mean CO2" and Moana Loa values? 
(I guess we will have to wait for January 2021 to know the actual 2020 global mean CO2 value ...)

For 2019, NOAA reported an annual average of 411.43 ppm at Mauna Loa and 409.85 ppm for the global average.  So in 2019, Mauna Loa was about 1.6 ppm higher than the global average.  In 2018 Mauna Loa was 1.13 ppm higher and in 2017 Mauna Loa was 1.55 ppm higher. 

However, since this forum tracks Mauna Loa weekly averages, it's more complicated.

The NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory publishes both the Mauna Loa and the Global values.  The Mauna Loa values are updated weekly but often change over time as the quality control process needs data from the other observatories that collect the same data.  The global value is updated monthly and lags by several months.  Currently, they are reporting the global measurement data from June 2020 (412.62 ppm) while Mauna Loa is reporting the August 2020 monthly average measurement (412.55 ppm).  While they're pretty close now, at other times of the year they differ.

To further complicate the issue, the RCPs are based on annual average concentrations.  These aren't available on the NOAA website until April or May of the next year, and they can be updated later in the year as more quality control is done. 

Link to the global data:

Link to Mauna Loa data:

Science / Re: Where are we now in CO2e , which pathway are we on?
« on: September 28, 2020, 08:47:29 PM »
I found the data for the RCP scenario assumptions on the IPCC website.

At that webpage, click on the top link, "Climate System Scenario Tables (Annex II of IPCC 5th Assessment Report, WG1 -- as Excel workbook"

This will open a large Excel spreadsheet with many tabs.  The tabs showing greenhouse gas concentrations by year are 4-1 (CO2), 4-2 (CH4), etc...

Here is the table for CO2:
Table AII.4.1 | CO2 abundance (ppm)                                 
Year   Observed   RCP2.6   RCP4.5   RCP6.0   RCP8.5   A2   B1   IS92a   Min   RCP8.5&   Max
PI   278 ± 2   278   278   278   278   278   278   278         
2011 obs   390.5 ± 0.3                              
2000      368.9   368.9   368.9   368.9   368   368   368         
2005      378.8   378.8   378.8   378.8               378.8   
2010      389.3   389.1   389.1   389.3   388   387   388   366   394   413
2020      412.1   411.1   409.4   415.8   416   411   414   386   425   449
2030      430.8   435.0   428.9   448.8   448   434   442   412   461   496
2040      440.2   460.8   450.7   489.4   486   460   472   443   504   555
2050      442.7   486.5   477.7   540.5   527   485   504   482   559   627
2060      441.7   508.9   510.6   603.5   574   506   538   530   625   713
2070      437.5   524.3   549.8   677.1   628   522   575   588   703   810
2080      431.6   531.1   594.3   758.2   690   534   615   651   790   914
2090      426.0   533.7   635.6   844.8   762   542   662   722   885   1026
2100      420.9   538.4   669.7   935.9   846   544   713   794   985 ± 97   1142

Here is the table for CH4:

Table AII.4.2 | CH4 abundance (ppb)                                                         
Year   RCP2.6   RCP4.5   RCP6.0   RCP8.5   A2   B1   IS92a      RCP2.6&         RCP4.5&         RCP6.0&         RCP8.5&   
PI   720   720   720   720            722   ±   25   722   ±   25   722   ±   25   722   ±   25
2011 obs                        1803   ±   4   1803   ±   4   1803   ±   4   1803   ±   4
2000   1751   1751   1751   1751   1760   1760   1760                                    
2010   1773   1767   1769   1779   1861   1827   1855   1795   ±   18   1795   ±   18   1795   ±   18   1795   ±   18
2020   1731   1801   1786   1924   1997   1891   1979   1716   ±   23   1847   ±   21   1811   ±   22   1915   ±   25
2030   1600   1830   1796   2132   2163   1927   2129   1562   ±   38   1886   ±   28   1827   ±   28   2121   ±   44
2040   1527   1842   1841   2399   2357   1919   2306   1463   ±   50   1903   ±   37   1880   ±   36   2412   ±   74
2050   1452   1833   1895   2740   2562   1881   2497   1353   ±   60   1899   ±   47   1941   ±   48   2784   ±   116
2060   1365   1801   1939   3076   2779   1836   2663   1230   ±   71   1872   ±   59   1994   ±   61   3152   ±   163
2070   1311   1745   1962   3322   3011   1797   2791   1153   ±   78   1824   ±   72   2035   ±   77   3428   ±   208
2080   1285   1672   1940   3490   3252   1741   2905   1137   ±   88   1756   ±   87   2033   ±   94   3624   ±   250
2090   1268   1614   1819   3639   3493   1663   3019   1135   ±   98   1690   ±   100   1908   ±   111   3805   ±   293
2100   1254   1576   1649   3751   3731   1574   3136   1127   ±   106   1633   ±   110   1734   ±   124   3938   ±   334

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: September 28, 2020, 06:08:28 PM »
The linked article explores why nuclear is on the decline.  TL:DR it's the cost.

Why Is Nuclear Energy So Expensive?
By Haley Zaremba - Sep 27, 2020

We all knew that 2020 would be an incredibly tough year for nuclear energy. In the United States, the sector has been on the decline for years, saddled with hazardously aging infrastructure and a flood of cheap natural gas thanks to the West Texas shale revolution that the nuclear sector simply can’t compete with. As such, the domestic nuclear sector has become increasingly dependent on government handouts to stay afloat and has saddled the taxpayer with the staggeringly high cost of maintaining radioactive nuclear waste in the form of spent nuclear fuel.  COVID-19 only exacerbated the situation, by causing the bottom to fall out of energy demand and placing nuclear energy, which has largely fallen out of favor in the U.S., near the bottom of a long list of energy industries and industrial and economic sectors in general waiting for government bailouts. During the lockdown phase of the pandemic, “renewables have taken a bigger slice of the market because many nations had decided to give new green technologies priority into the grid” reported Bloomberg Green in a May article titled “Nuclear Is Getting Hammered by Green Power and the Pandemic.”

Just this week, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report summed up the state of the global nuclear industry, and it ain’t pretty. The report shows that the sector continues to stagnate while renewables are going gangbusters. “Just 2.4 GW of new nuclear generation capacity came online last year, compared to 98 GW of solar. The world’s operational nuclear power capacity had declined by 2.1%, to 362 GW, at the end of June,” PV Magazine paraphrased the report’s findings.

And, in what is perhaps the nail in nuclear’s coffin, the report shows that nuclear is now the most expensive form of power generation in the world, with the exception of gas peaking plants. $65 million dollars from the government can’t fix that in a time frame that will save the industry, no matter how innovative the researchers get. The levelized cost of energy of nuclear power production is now $155 per megawatt-hour, as compared to $49/MWh for solar power and $41 for wind. What’s more, nuclear’s increased since the last report, while solar and wind both decreased in cost.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy Transition and Consumption
« on: September 26, 2020, 01:17:09 AM »
The linked study shows that California could achieve a 10% increase in EORI by phasing out nuclear and gas turbine generation by 2030.  This would allow the state to achieve 80% renewable electricity with battery storage, 52% of which would be solar pv.

Life-Cycle Carbon Emissions and Energy Return on Investment for 80% Domestic Renewable Electricity with Battery Storage in California (U.S.A.)
by Marco Raugei, Alessio Peluso, Enrica Leccisi and Vasilis Fthenakis

Energies 2020, 13(15), 3934;
Received: 29 June 2020 / Revised: 17 July 2020 / Accepted: 19 July 2020 / Published: 1 August 2020

This paper presents a detailed life-cycle assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative demand for total and non-renewable primary energy, and energy return on investment (EROI) for the domestic electricity grid mix in the U.S. state of California, using hourly historical data for 2018, and future projections of increased solar photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity with lithium-ion battery energy storage, so as to achieve 80% net renewable electricity generation in 2030, while ensuring the hourly matching of the supply and demand profiles at all times. Specifically—in line with California’s plans that aim to increase the renewable energy share into the electric grid—in this study, PV installed capacity is assumed to reach 43.7 GW in 2030, resulting of 52% of the 2030 domestic electricity generation. In the modelled 2030 scenario, single-cycle gas turbines and nuclear plants are completely phased out, while combined-cycle gas turbine output is reduced by 30% compared to 2018. Results indicate that 25% of renewable electricity ends up being routed into storage, while 2.8% is curtailed. Results also show that such energy transition strategy would be effective at curbing California’s domestic electricity grid mix carbon emissions by 50%, and reducing demand for non-renewable primary energy by 66%, while also achieving a 10% increase in overall EROI (in terms of electricity output per unit of investment).

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy Transition and Consumption
« on: September 26, 2020, 01:09:51 AM »
The linked reference published in 2020 indicates that the Energy Return on Investment for wind and solar is higher than often claimed by skeptics, currently greater than 10 and increasing as the technology improves.

Implications of Trends in Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) forTransitioning to Renewable Electricity
M. Diesendorf, T. Wiedmann

Recent papers argue that the energy return on energy invested (EROI) for renewable electricity technologies and systems may be so low that the transition from fossil fuelled to renewable electricity may displace investment in other important economic sectors. For the case of large-scale electricity supply, we draw upon insights from Net Energy Analysis and renewable energy engineering to examine critically some assumptions, data and arguments in these papers, focussing on regions in which wind and solar can provide the majority of electricity. We show that the above claim is based on outdated data on EROIs, on failing to consider the energy efficiency advantages of transitioning away from fuel combustion and on overestimates of storage requirements. EROIs of wind and solar photovoltaics, which can provide the vast majority of electricity and indeed of all energy in the future, are generally high (≥10) and increasing. The impact of storage on EROI depends on the quantities and types of storage adopted and their operational strategies. In the regions considered in this paper, the quantity of storage required to maintain generation reliability is relatively small

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: September 23, 2020, 01:25:56 AM »
Jet fuel accounted for 8% of total global oil demand in 2019.  Aviation traffic is down by 50% and showing no signs of further recovery while the Covid pandemic rages on.

Will Jet Fuel Demand Ever Recover?
By Tsvetana Paraskova - Sep 22, 2020

Global commercial air traffic slowed its recovery pace in August, sending a warning to the oil market that jet fuel demand would likely take at least three more years to reach pre-crisis levels—if it ever did.

At peak lockdowns in Europe, when air traffic in the continent was down 89 percent from 2019 levels, air traffic management agency Eurocontrol had predicted that traffic would gradually recover to reach 15 percent below 2019 levels in February 2021. The latest estimate from Eurocontrol, however, sees traffic weakening after August and staying at 50 percent lower than 2019 in February next year.

The reduced consumer confidence amid blanket quarantine measures in many European countries, some of which were (re)imposed overnight, has played a major role in the lack of meaningful air travel recovery since July. Major European air carriers and aircraft makers are now even more pessimistic than they were during the nearly Europe-wide national lockdowns in April.

“The survival of Air France-KLM is not a given,” Dutch Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Dutch TV earlier this month. The Dutch and French governments, both of which hold minority stakes in Air France-KLM, have already helped the airline with financial aid packages. Air France-KLM and all airlines are cutting jobs and warn that those job cuts would deepen.

Germany’s Lufthansa said on Monday that it would further cut its fleet and personnel numbers as “the outlook for international air traffic has significantly worsened in recent weeks” amid “significantly lower air traffic recovery than what was expected in summer.”

France’s aircraft manufacturer Airbus told employees that layoffs were coming as voluntary redundancies would not be enough to cut costs.

The significantly lower airline passenger traffic and the significantly lower-than-expected recovery in the summer is dooming jet fuel demand for years to come.

Aviation fuel demand accounted for just 8 percent of total global oil demand in 2019, but the slump in the industry means that jet fuel will continue to be a drag on oil demand for at least another three to four years, even if demand for road transportation fuels returns to pre-pandemic levels sooner.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: September 22, 2020, 11:15:02 PM »
Skeptics of the energy transition often point to the recent past to show how little energy is currently being produced by renewables.  That is set to change quickly this decade.  Since renewables have become cheaper than fossil fuels, investments in solar farms and wind turbines has accelerated.

Even more promising is the increase in solar panel manufacturing.  There have been so many new manufacturing plants (or capacity expansions to existing plants) that it's hard to keep up with the announcements.  Here are a couple from China:

Monocrystalline module manufacturer Longi announced last night it had signed an agreement with the government of Lijiang City, in Yunnan province, for the deployment of an additional 10 GW of silicon ingot manufacturing capacity, costing RMB2.5 billion (US$369 million). The Lijiang factory will reach a total production capacity of 21 GW with the expansion, with an initial, 5 GW established in 2016 and another 6 GW operational since 2018.

Fellow module maker Trina Solar yesterday said it had secured sign-off on a new 15 GW, RMB3 billion module fab with the local authorities in Changzhou City, Jiangsu province. Half of that price tag involves the purchase of production equipment.

In the other thread, I posted several announcements of new solar panel manufacturing plants being built in the USA, India, Turkey, Iran and elsewhere.  With these new plants producing panels in the next couple of years, the number of new solar farms is set to increase rapidly.  And it takes very little time to build a solar farm (1 to 2 years), compared to a new gas power plant (5 to 6 years) or nuclear power plant (6 years to several decades).

Policy and solutions / Re: Coal
« on: September 22, 2020, 10:21:23 PM »
China is preparing their 14th five-year plan to cover 2021 - 2026.  Sources indicate that they will accelerate their plan to peak emissions from 2030 to 2025.  China will be requiring 20% primary energy use from non-carbon sources by 2025.  This would strand a lot of coal power plants that were built in the last two decades.

Coal’s Last Refuge Crumbles With China’s Renewables Plan

Beijing’s latest energy policy will sharply increase wind and solar, but can’t save the climate on its own.
By David Fickling
September 21, 2020

On that front, good news may finally be emerging. Beijing is lifting its energy-transition ambitions in its 14th five-year plan, running from 2021 to 2025, people familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg News. A plan to derive 20% of its primary energy from non-fossil fuels may be brought forward by five years from 2030 and the share of coal in the energy mix cut to 52% by the same date from 57.5% this year, according to the report.

You need to decode those numbers a little to see why such apparently modest changes are a big deal. “Primary energy” is a concept that’s a little baffling to non-specialists, including not just the power delivered as electricity but the stuff that’s burned in vehicle engines and industrial boilers. It also makes no adjustment for the fact that the relatively low efficiency of turbines means only about 40% of the primary energy that goes into a thermal power station as fuel comes out as electricity.

Adjust the figures according to those rules of thumb, and things come more into focus. Electricity accounts for about 48% of China’s final energy mix. If 20% is going to come from non-fossil fuels, that means about 42% of China’s grid in 2025 will be renewable- or nuclear-powered, up from about 32% at present.

Still, the prospect of a juggernaut of Chinese solid fuel destroying the world’s climate goals — a very real prospect, given some of the pro-coal noises that have emerged while the five-year plan has been under development — is looking more remote. China has been the world’s most important redoubt of lingering coal demand. As those defenses crumble, the prospect of keeping the world’s emissions within more manageable limits looks a little brighter.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: September 22, 2020, 08:03:16 PM »
US industrial consumption of natural gas is down due to the recession.  At the peak of the Covid shutdowns in May it was down 8% from the same time last year.

U.S. Industrial Demand For Natural Gas Drops As Economy Slows
By Tsvetana Paraskova - Sep 21, 2020

The U.S. industrial sector saw its consumption of natural gas drop as economic activity slowed with the lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday.

Industrial consumption of natural gas fell from 25.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in January 2020 to 20.1 Bcf/d in June 2020, the EIA’s Natural Gas Monthly showed.

This year, consumption of natural gas by the industrial sector hit its lowest point in May, when it slumped by 8 percent compared to the same month of last year. Industrial consumption of natural gas in May 2020 marked the largest year-over-year decline since July 2009, during the 2007–2009 recession.

This year, consumption of natural gas by U.S. industries is expected to drop by 4.4 percent year over year, according to the EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook for September 2020.

EIA expects that total U.S. consumption of natural gas will average 82.7 Bcf/d this year, down by 2.7 percent year over year, with the industrial sector posting the largest decline in consumption, according to the latest STEO.

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