Boulder’s SmartGridCity: A Meltdown?

Boulder was chosen as Xcel’s SmartGridCity and implementation of the project began in 2008.  As the SmartGrid project unfolds, though, considerable challenges and cost-increases are being encountered and citizens are wondering if the SmartGridCity is, in fact, a meltdown.

Key points pulled from filings to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission regarding Xcel’s request for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) resulted in the compilation of the following points and allegations related to Xcel’s Smart Grid:

— Xcel didn’t file a CPCN before the project started in 2008 because they didn’t think they needed to for what they deemed a research project.

–Without a CPCN there was no opportunity for the PUC or other interested parties to consider capping costs to protect ratepayers

–A traditional cost-benefit analysis wasn’t performed prior commencing the project

–The original $15.3 million project estimate soared to $27.9 million and at last report to $44.8 million due to higher costs of permits, tree trimming, software and negotiations; and to the amount of rock they had to drill through for fiber optic lines.

–Several key Xcel project executives left early last year

–Xcel asked the PUC last year to OK a rate increase to recoup some of its project costs. That’s when the commission decided Xcel needed a CPCN to prove the project is prudent and in the public interest

–As the project nears completion, only 43% of Boulder residents have smart meters, which the company says allows a side-by-side comparison

–The metering system is not providing as many in-home benefits anticipated as part of a Smart Grid program

 

A Realistic Look at Coal Reserves Yields Grim Results

Submitted by amyguinan on August 19, 2010 – 10:30am

The current issue of the scientific journal Energy contains “A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis,” by Tad Patzek and Gregory Croft which discusses the latest research on coal reserves.  Based on scientific modeling, global coal production is expected to peak in 2011, which does not mean that coal will run out, but that economically-feasible, easily reached coal will run out.  Carbon dioxide emissions related to coal burning are also expected to peak in 2011 and decline as production of coal declines.

Key findings from the study include:

1. Global coal production is likely to peak in the year
2011
2. The global CO2 emissions from coal will also peak in 2011,
3. The estimated CO2 emissions from global coal production will
decrease by 50% by the year 2050
4. Between the years 2011 and 2050, the average rate of decline of
CO2 emissions from the peak is 2% per year, and this decline
increases to 4% per year thereafter
5. It may make sense to have carbon capture and sequestration
(CCS) to alleviate the highest CO2 emissions between now and
the year 2020 or so.

A link to the Patzek/Croft study.

Governor’s Energy Office releases report detailing Colorado’s 65 gas and electric utilities

Submitted by amyguinan on August 19, 2010 – 9:48am

The Governor’s Energy Office released their 2010 Colorado Utilities Report, a first-of-its-kind document, that compiles key utility data collected from the utilities themselves, federal agencies and regulatory authorities, and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission into one document.

The report includes profiles of the 65 Colorado gas and electric utilities complete with a breakdown of their generation fuel mix, rate information, policy perspectives towards climate change, and incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Furthermore, the report explains the three main categories of electric utilities in the state – investor-owned, municipal and rural electric cooperatives.

The report joins a series of GEO reports providing first-time compilations of information critical to understanding energy to ensure Colorado meets Gov. Bill Ritter’s Climate Action Plan.

National Academy of Science Underscore Seriousness of Climate Change

As the heat of the summer is upon us and if you are wondering if it is truly getting hotter or if this is just natural variability, yet another summary of the science reminds us that climate change is real, that it is caused largely by our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases and that the risks to societies and ecosystems are significant.

The recent report by the National Academy of Sciences entitled America’s Climate Choices summarized the science on climate change and once again concluded that

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.

The reports on America’s Climate Choices can be accessed here.

For those giving talks or writing papers on climate science, the chapters have many useful figures that can be copied and incorporated into presentations. Here are a few chapters that I’ve used:

Chapter 2–What We Know

Chapter 6-Changes in the Climate System

Chapter 7–Sea Level Rise

Chapter 9–Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Chapter 10–Agriculture and Food Production

Chapter 11–Public Health

The news is serious indeed. The technology exists for reducing our CO2 emissions. All that is needed is the continued strengthening of our resolve to move quickly.

Increasing Levels of Renewable Energy Possible–Levels Above 30% Now Being Considered

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom on July 15, 2010 – 7:57pm

As Colorado and other states increase the levels of renewable energy on their system, it raises the question of how much renewable energy can be accomodated on the grid given issues of variability and uncertainty. A recent detailed analysis gives an optimistic answer and outlines what needs to be done.

After two and a half years of study, a large team of researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden along with other utilities and industry experts, released the long-awaited Western Wind and Solar Integration Study which concluded that for a group of Western utilities known as “West Connect” it is possible to accomodate up to 30% wind and 5% solar energy if additional efforts are made to increase the level of cooperation between what are known as balancing areas and to incorporate state of the art forecasts and other tools that will allow the grid to respond as renewable energy increasingly displaces fossil fuel generation.

The Western Wind and Solar Integration Studies can be accessed here. The Executive Summary is attached below.

Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy