Tag Archives: emissions

U.S. Energy Information Administration Projections Far from Accurate

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.

Solar PV Capacity and Projections
EIA reference case projections of U.S. utility-scale solar PV capacity and historical data (black, bold) as well as points which include planned capacity under contract in Q3 of 2016 and announced but pre-contract installations as of Q3 2016. Projection data taken from the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook, historical data taken from Solar Energy Industries Association’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Reports.

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.

History (black, bold) and annual EIA projections of U.S. coal production from 1997 to 2040. Note that the vertical axis starts at 950 million short tons for clarity. Data taken from: the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook.
History (black, bold) and annual EIA projections of U.S. coal production from 2006-2015. Note that the vertical axis starts at 950 million short tons for clarity. Data taken from: the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook.

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.

CEA Explains: What is a Carbon Budget?

Our civilization seems to be in the denial stage on that climate change thing. Even the folks that know there is a problem don’t seem to realize the speed at which we need to act to have a decent chance of avoiding some of the catastrophic effects of climate change. A good way to think about the emissions reductions required is by examining our global carbon budget, or the total remaining CO2 our civilization can emit. Listen in as we attempt to explain carbon budgets.

EPA Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards

Comment Period Extended Until May 9th, 2014

Coloradans approve of new GHG regulations. Help us show the EPA this is true Comment Now

The EPA is in the final stage of rulemaking on how they will regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new electric generation plants, including coal, natural gas, petroleum coke, and other fossil fuels. There have been over 2.5 million comments on the proposed rule, so get your voice heard and tell the EPA to ensure that the GHG emission standards are strict and properly reflect the negative health and climate impacts.

Summary of the Major Provisions of the Proposed Rules:

This action proposes a standard of performance for utility boilers and IGCC units based on partial implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as the BSER. The proposed emission limit for those sources is 1,100 lb CO2/MWh. This action also proposes standards of performance for natural gas-fired stationary combustion turbines based on modern, efficient natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) technology as the BSER. The proposed emission limits for those sources are 1,000 lb CO2/MWh for larger units and 1,100 lb CO2/MWh for smaller units. At this time, the EPA is not proposing standards of performance for modified or reconstructed sources.

For more information on the proposed rule.

Colorado Regulates Methane and VOCs from Oil & Gas Operations

Colorado is now the first state in the nation to regulate methane from the 50,000 oil and gas wells in the state. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) passed the regulations on Sunday, February 23rd with an 8-1 vote.

Now that those regulations have passed, several of the Commissioners’ terms have expired and we need strong, clean air defenders to be appointed in their stead. If you know of qualified candidates, please have them submit their interest to CDPHE. See here for more information.

Thanks to all of you who came out, phoned in, or wrote in support of the new regulations. The public support was overwhelmingly in favor of these regulations. Despite the industry’s push to have less stringent regulations outside the Denver-metro non-attainment area, the AQCC passed blanket regulations for all of Colorado.

CEA’s Meredith Roberts explained the scope of the new regulations:

The rules are long and tedious, but can be understood to address two issues. First, they will require the oil and gas industry to use better technology – technology that the big three may already be using – to reduce VOC and methane emissions. Second, the rules require the industry to inspect their infrastructure and fix leaks when they are detected.

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The Denver Post explains:

By passing rules aimed at reducing toxic emissions from oil and gas facilities, Colorado officials are trying to allow an energy boom while also protecting health and the environment. They needed to act because Front Range air already fails to meet federal health standards. The oil and gas industry is a growing source of volatile organic compounds that lead to the formation of ozone.

 

Oil & Gas Rulemaking Public Hearing & Comment Session

Come to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Public Hearing

February, 19th 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Aurora Municipal Center
15151 East Alameda Parkway, Aurora, 80012

The Colorado Legislature has declared it to be the policy of the state to “achieve the maximum practical degree of air purity in every portion of the state,” to attain and maintain Federal standards on air quality, and to prevent the significant deterioration of air quality in places where the air quality is better than federally mandated. The Air Quality Control Commission of the State of Colorado is charged with making these policies into enforceable regulations. This is a commission of 9 volunteers appointed by the Governor who care passionately about air quality. This is not the Colorado Oil and Gas Control Commission, who some see as having the interests of a small group of constituents at heart. The Commissioners of the AQCC are working hard to ensure that the air quality regulations they enact are the best possible regulations for public health.

Rewind to November, when Governor Hickenlooper stood with representatives of Environmental Defense, a former EPA Region 8 administrator, and the “big three” oil and gas developers in the state, Anadarko, Encana, and Noble Energy. These groups worked to come to a consensus on rules that will positively impact public health as well as will be attainable by the developers. Do these rules promise to allow zero oil and gas emissions to escape into the air? No. Will they go a long way toward cleaning up the VOC’s and methane that are part of today’s development? Yes. They can be stronger, but they must not be any weaker.

Over the past three months, small developers and industry groups have worked hard to attack these rules in hopes that they will be weakened. The rules are long and tedious, but can be understood to address two issues. First, they will require the oil and gas industry to use better technology – technology that the big three may already be using – to reduce VOC and methane emissions. Second, the rules require the industry to inspect their infrastructure and fix leaks when they are detected.

Continue reading Oil & Gas Rulemaking Public Hearing & Comment Session