Tri-State Generation & Transmission, the regional power provider for rural electric co-operatives across several western states, has been facing increased scrutiny recently about its resistance to allowing more sustainable local power generation. This pressure is compounded by the continued decline of coal markets and higher costs of coal generation.
Clean Energy Action has urged Tri-state to be more responsive to local requests and more supportive of local clean energy. Check out this new video by Jared Nast for more information about Tri-State and how you can support clean rural power. Share with your friends!
Read the report mentioned in Jared’ piece for more details.
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.
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.
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.
Tell the House Committee that Utilities Should be Rewarded (or Penalized) Based on their Carbon Emissions
March, 25th, 1:30 pm
Colorado State Capitol, Room 0112
200 E. Colfax Ave, Denver
The Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee will decide whether to move forward with HB 15-1250, which seeks to initiate an investigation into performance-based ratemaking. Tell the legislature that performance-based ratemaking should reward the utilities for reducing their carbon emissions.
Currently, most utilities’ profits are determined by how much capital they deploy, plus their allowed rate of return on that capital. In other words, the more they spend on their infrastructure, the more they are able to make. The idea behind performance-based ratemaking is to regulate the utilities’ profits according to how well they meet goals that we set for them. The goals or metrics can range from increasing reliability of the grid to reducing costs to increasing energy efficiency to reducing carbon emissions.
Once the metrics are determined, the utility either gets rewarded or penalized based on how well they adhere to the goals, as opposed to how much capital they deploy. The tricky part is making sure the goals explicitly include things that are important to us, like reducing their carbon emissions.
Colorado State Representative Max Tyler has introduced a bill that would require the PUC to investigate performance-based ratemaking based on a variety of metrics, including reducing carbon emissions. We are happy to see that reducing carbon emissions is included in the list of metrics. It is crucial that minimizing carbon emissions remains a top priority.
If this bill passes, it will be the beginning of a process that can integrate metrics beyond short-term costs into the ratemaking process, including climate.
Tell the committee that regardless of whether or not they go forward with this bill, we need to integrate climate and public heath impacts into our electricity planning.
Mark Z. Jacobson, Director of the Atmosphere Energy Program , Stanford University
February 20th, 2014, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Bechtel Collaboratory, Discovery Learning Center
Engineering Dr, Boulder, CO 80302
50 State plans for powering the U.S. with wind, water, and solar power for all purposes
Global warming, air pollution, and energy insecurity are three of the most significant problems facing the world today. This talk discusses the development of technical and economic plans to convert the energy infrastructure of each of the 50 United States to those powered by 100% wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) for all purposes, including electricity, transportation, industry, and heating/cooling, after energy efficiency measures are accounted for. The plans call for ~80% conversion by 2030 and 100% by 2050 through aggressive policy measures and natural transition. Wind and solar resources, footprint and spacing areas required, jobs created, costs, air pollution mortality and climate cost reductions, methods of ensuring reliability of the grid, and impacts of offshore wind farms on hurricane dissipation are discussed. More information can be found here.
Mark Z. Jacobson is Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment and Senior Fellow of the Precourt Institute for Energy. He received a B.S. in Civil Engineering with distinction, an A.B. in Economics with distinction, and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, in 1988. He received an M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences in 1991 and a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences in 1994 from UCLA. He has been on the faculty at Stanford since 1994. His work relates to the development and application of numerical models to understand better the effects of energy systems and vehicles on climate and air pollution and the analysis of renewable energy resources. He has published two textbooks of two editions each and 135 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles. He received the 2005 American Meteorological Society Henry G. Houghton Award for “significant contributions to modeling aerosol chemistry and to understanding the role of soot and other carbon particles on climate,” the 2013 American Geophysical Union Ascent Award for “his dominating role in the development of models to identify the role of black carbon in climate change,” and the Global Green Policy Design Award for the “design of analysis and policy framework to envision a future powered by renewable energy.” He co-authored a 2009 cover article in Scientific American with Dr. Mark DeLucchi of U.C. Davis on how to power the world with renewable energy, served on the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, and recently appeared on the David Letterman Show to discuss converting the world to clean energy.
Accelerating the transition from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy