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
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.

Feed In Tariffs–Germany Shows They Work; California Study Underscores the Promise

Submitted by Leslie Glustrom on July 15, 2010 – 6:58pm

Feed In Tariffs are the policy that Germany has used to drive a very robust wind and solar market in a country that has very little sunshine! Now over 60 countries are proceeding with Feed in Tariff policies and these are leading to almost miraculous levels of renewable energy installations and investments.

The name derives from the “tariff” or rate that is paid for small generators to “feed-in” renewable energy to the grid. The development of Feed In Tariff or FIT policy has allowed the development of renewable energy to become a business proposition–instead of just a desire to do what is right.

Wind pioneer Paul Gipe has followed the development of FIT policies around the world and keeps an excellent catalogue of developments on his website at http://www.wind-works.org/articles/feed_laws.html.

One article on Paul Gipe’s website notes that using FIT policy, Germany installed more solar photovoltaic systems in the first quarter of 2010 (714MW)than the United States installed in all of 2009 (approx 435 MW)! That is just one of the examples of the power of FIT policy. Go here to read the details.

Also, on July 7, 2010 a study from Daniel Kammen’s group at the University of California-Berkeley underscored the benefits that a FIT policy for California would have–for meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard, for creating jobs, for increasing state revenues and for stimulating new economic development. Read the summary of the California study here.

Information on FITs can also be found on the website of the Alliance for Renewable Energy.

In Colorado, a group has begun discussing the development of FIT policies for Colorado, holding meetings, workshops and posting key studies. Workshops on Feed In Tariffs are being hosted by Community in Power. An evening talk and all day workshop are scheduled for July 21-22, 2010 in Boulder and should be very informative. Your attendance is encouraged, or if you can’t make it (as I can not) then try reading some of the articles at the above links. They will make you smile–and perhaps drool…:)

Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy