The “Dazzling Dozen” is not just a clever name for the twelve states that are leading the way in solar photovoltaic installations; they are an example to be followed in the move from fossil fuels towards a renewable energy utility of the future. On July 23rd, 2013, Environment America Research and Policy Center released a report, “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” describing the benefits of solar energy and some of the related policies.
The Dazzling Dozen are ranked by the highest per capita solar electricity capacity, and include the states of Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Maryland. Arizona ranked first, producing 167 Watts per person of solar electricity, while Colorado ranked eighth, producing 52 Watts per person. These twelve states account for only 28% of the population, but 85% of installed solar photovoltaic systems in the United States. Continue reading The “Dazzling Dozen” Lead the Way in Solar Installation→
Boulder City Council released a report on February 21st, 2013 updating the progress on research devoted to the creation of a municipal electric utility. The research analyzed six different options, decided upon by the City Council, with the goal of achieving the community’s energy targets. Out of the six options, one was a control (i.e., to stay with Xcel Energy), and the other five options analyzed creating its own utility. The latter determined whether parting from Xcel Energy would eliminate regulation and control from Xcel, while remaining cost effective.
The Boulder community has been forthright throughout the decision-making process about what conditions they have deemed necessary for such a transition. These provisions included an energy portfolio that focused on reducing its dependence on fossil fuels through the use of renewable technologies, while providing rates and reliability comparable to or better than those provided by Xcel Energy. Furthermore, the people of Boulder have voiced that they want more transparency and control over the energy decision-making process.
The report concluded that a shift from a private to a municipal utility company could: lower utility rates (for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors) projected over an estimated 20 year span, maintain levels of system reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent through an increase in renewable energy production (by more than 54 percent). Further information regarding this report can be found at www.boulderenergyfuture.com.
A conference telephone call designed to focus on rates and reliability from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 (please register in advance)
Further questions of the options on the city’s new digital town hall platform, Inspire Boulder
Attend the community open house that will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at the West Senior Center, 909 W. Arapahoe Ave. This open house will explore the pros and cons of each of the modeled options.
On Tuesday April 16th, a public hearing will be held and a council vote will take place on the publicly viewed strategies.
Could it be possible to have renewable energy sources powering a large grid system up to 99.9% of the time at costs comparable to energy rates today? A new research report by the University of Delaware and the Delaware Technical Community College demonstrates how this system could exist by 2030. Through a combination of wind power, solar power, and storage in batteries and fuel cells, an almost completely renewable energy grid could be established.
The scientists developed a computer model that considered 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms. Each combination tested historical hourly weather data and electricity demands over a four year period. Using the historical data, the model was able to determine when energy would not be produced by renewable sources, and would tap into storage devices during those periods of time. When energy generation was in excess, the model would first refill storage devices, then use the remaining to replace natural gas usage, and would only waste excess generated energy afterward. A press release from the University of Delaware on the new report discussed one of the several outcomes of the model with co-author Cory Budischak, the instructor in Energy Management Department at Delaware Technical Community College, “’For example, using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today would meet a need of 72 GW, 99.9 percent of the time, using 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of inland wind’”.
The model was not only required to maintain demand as needed through renewable energy generation and storage, but was also expected to minimize costs. A discussion of how costs were determined was also included. Costs of each model combination were determined by calculating true cost of electricity without subsidies, elimination of renewable generation subsidies, and inclusion of fossil fuel pollution externalities, costs which are currently paid for by third parties. The scientists determined that 90% of the load hours can be met at prices below today’s electric costs under these conditions.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is at it again, trying to roll back state renewable energy standards nationwide. The argument behind their model bill, entitled the Electricity Freedom Act, is that renewable energy is simply too expensive. The Skeptical Science blog offers a good short debunking of this claim, based on the cost of electricity in states with aggressive renewable energy goals, and how those costs have changed over the last decade. And this is before any social cost of carbon or other more traditional pollutants is incorporated into the price of fossil fuel based electricity.
States with a larger proportion of renewable electricity generation do not have detectably higher electric rates.
Deploying renewable energy sources has not caused electricity prices to increase in those states any faster than in states which continue to rely on fossil fuels.
Although renewable sources receive larger direct government subsidies per unit of electricity generation, fossil fuels receive larger net subsidies, and have received far higher total historical subsidies.
When including indirect subsidies such as the social cost of carbon via climate change, fossil fuels are far more heavily subsidized than renewable energy.
Therefore, transitioning to renewable energy sources, including with renewable electricity standards, has not caused significant electricity rate increases, and overall will likely save money as compared to continuing to rely on fossil fuels, particularly expensive coal.