Author, entrepreneur, Stanford educator, international thought leader on disruptive change in energy systems, and recipient of the Clean Energy Action 2017 Sunshine Award:
The effort to decarbonize Colorado’s largest electricity supplier, Xcel Energy, advanced in Denver last month as Coloradans lined up to speak at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearing on Xcel’s 2016 Electric Resource Plan. Members of CEA led Coloradans from all walks of life in voicing their concerns about Colorado’s electricity future.
The hearing room at the Public Utilities Commission was overflowing as the people of Colorado addressed the three PUC Commissioners. They expressed a host of concerns about Xcel’s plan, and asked for more focus on the abundance of cost-effective renewable energy available in Colorado, in accordance with Colorado’s laws and regulations.
Issues raised during the public testimony included the need to:
- Consider climate change and the urgency of reducing carbon emissions
- Increase the reliance on renewable energy in order to reduce both emissions and costs
- Accelerate the adoption of storage technologies to support the integration of higher levels of renewable energy
- Begin contingency planning in the event of future coal bankruptcies and potential coal supply constraints
- Allow new, cleaner resources to replace energy generation from older, dirtier, more expensive fossil fuel resources
Citizen witnesses also discussed the need to analyze the choices between renewable energy (with no future fuel costs) and fossil fuel resources (with billions of dollars of future fuel costs) using lower discount rates. A lower discount rate will show increased savings from cost-effective renewable energy because future fuel costs won’t be so heavily discounted.
More details on Xcel’s Electric Resource Plan and the key issues, including the importance of the choice of discount rate, are available in the public comment filing made by Clean Energy Action Board member Leslie Glustrom.
CEA is grateful that the new appointees to the Colorado PUC , Chairperson Jeff Ackerman and Commissioner Wendy Moser, along with Commissioner Frances Koncilja, are dedicated to hearing from the public and that the public is well enough informed to provide useful and compelling testimony!
You can also check out Christi Turner’s comprehensive article in Boulder Weekly and learn more about this important step froward in the fight for cheaper, cleaner power.
The solar industry is growing rapidly in the U.S. and becoming increasingly popular among U.S. citizens as an obvious solution for clean, affordable power.
However, Environment America and Frontier Group recently released this report which reveals that at least 17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities are working aggressively to slow the growth of the solar industry by undermining key environmental policies.
This work is well funded and being done largely behind the scenes, making it very dangerous, but hopefully state decision-makers will resist these efforts in favor of progressive legislation which serves the burgeoning solar industry.
A refreshing report published by the Overseas Development Institute this month concludes that:
“The evidence is clear: a lasting solution to poverty requires the world’s wealthiest economies to renounce coal, and we can and must end extreme poverty without the precipitous expansion of new coal power in developing ones.”
Read the full report here.
EIA projections missed unprecedented growth in solar PV installations and a sharp downturn in coal production over the last decade.
For a more detailed analysis of inaccuracy in the EIA’s projections, see CEA’s white paper on the topic here.
Policymakers, utility commissions, investors, and energy companies rely on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) data for a wide range of energy analyses and while the historical data provided by the EIA has been extremely useful in many arenas, the EIA’s projections of future trends are often far from accurate. Our research summarizes a few examples of previously reported inaccuracies in EIA projections (for example, here, here, and here), but also provides what we believe to be the first look at the EIA’s inaccurate projections of U.S. coal production in almost a decade.
The projections published in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) have invariably overestimated the cost of renewable electricity generation and fallen sadly short of predicting new additions of wind and solar capacity. For example, Figure 1 shows that the projections published in the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook repeatedly underestimated U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity from 2011 to 2015 and continue to predict that solar installations will largely stall through about 2025.
In reality, however, solar PV capacity is growing at an unprecedented rate. The Solar Energy Industries Association reported that by the third quarter of 2016, the cumulative U.S. utility-scale solar PV capacity (including capacity which was under contract but not yet operating) exceeded the AEO2015 projection for capacity in 2039. Accounting for planned capacity which had been announced but was not yet under contract by Q3 2016 indicates that utility-scale solar PV capacity will soon far surpass all AEO projections for 2040.
In addition to missing the sharp rise in solar photovoltaic installations, EIA projections also missed a dramatic downturn in coal production over the last decade. They failed to pick up on the trend year after year and still predict flat or rising coal production through 2040, as shown in Figure 2.
Disruptive innovations tend to precipitate new market trends that are notoriously difficult to predict. Just as the invention of the personal computer led to an abrupt decline in the typewriter industry in the late 1900’s, a massive transition toward renewable resources is transforming U.S. energy markets and so far EIA projections have failed to keep up with this transition. Every year, EIA forecasts predict a return to the trends of the 90’s, but the technological and political landscapes surrounding the U.S. energy industry are changing rapidly and historical precedent suggests that energy markets may never return to those of past decades.
For more details, readers are encouraged to download the full CEA White Paper here.