Category Archives: Electrical Power Generation

The latest push for fossil fuels – rhetoric or reality? Part 1 – Coal

By W. H. Luyties, editor OWOE. With the election of Donald Trump as president of the US and control of all 3 branches of the government in the hands of Republicans, who have historically been strong supporters of fossil fuel interests, one lightning rod topic has been the push to increase coal and oil production in the US. This has energized both proponents of fossil fuels, who see an opportunity to possibly save their industries (coal) or increase production (petroleum), and opponents, who fear the environmental consequences of such a change. But is this a real threat to the global move away from fossil fuels, or is it simply rhetoric to energize a political base? Continue reading The latest push for fossil fuels – rhetoric or reality? Part 1 – Coal

Net Metering: A brilliant concept whose time has passed?

There is no doubt that the practice of net metering for residential solar photovoltaic systems has been a key enabler of the rapid growth of rooftop solar generation in the United States (see OWOE: How does net metering encourage private investment in home solar systems?). But has it outlived it usefulness? Or, has it even become a barrier to greater renewable penetration into the marketplace?

Net Metering (Illustration by Andy Warner)

Continue reading Net Metering: A brilliant concept whose time has passed?

Peak Oil vs Peak Coal

Last month’s OWOE blog “Did the World Hit Peak Oil in 2015 and Nobody Noticed?” generated some interesting discussion. One follower raised a very good question regarding whether we have compared the fate of the oil industry with the fate of the coal industry in terms of the effect of oil and gas as disruptive technologies. Since it’s been some time since we touched on coal, now is an ideal time to use this question as a lead-in to the broader subject. The simple answer is “yes”, as the relatively recent rapid decline in coal production and usage has been a demand driven phenomenon caused by many of the same issues as we are seeing with coal. If we look only at the US, peak coal occurred in 2008, as illustrated in this figure from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

US Quarterly Coal Production
US Quarterly Coal Production

Continue reading Peak Oil vs Peak Coal

A real world case for renewables – Puerto Rico

Islands represent unique challenges for supply of energy. By nature they tend to be distant from conventional, large scale energy sources, and they tend to lack natural resources necessary to produce power locally, which is particularly true for small islands. A case in point is Puerto Rico. This month my wife and I traveled to Puerto Rico for the first time for a much-needed vacation. Dealing with, or even thinking about, energy was one of the furthest things in our mind. However, two days into our stay, energy became the most important aspect of our vacation. Continue reading A real world case for renewables – Puerto Rico

Toxic Nature of Energy Dialogue in the US

Aerial view of Aliso Viejo gas leak
Aerial view of Aliso Viejo gas leak

A perfect example of the toxic nature of the energy dialogue in this country arose last week in Southern California. There has been a long running environmental disaster north of Los Angeles involving a methane gas leak from an injection well at the Southern California Gas storage facility near the town of Aliso Viejo and the community of Porter Ranch. Continue reading Toxic Nature of Energy Dialogue in the US

Recent Controversy over Renewable Energy Credits

As another example of the complexities of energy in today’s world, we have the latest controversy surrounding Renewable Energy Credits, (RECs – pronounced “wrecks”). A REC is a financial tool in the form of a certificate that represents the generation of one megawatt-hour of electricity from a renewable energy source. RECs are not tied to the physical delivery of electricity and can be bought and sold on the open market. For example, a utility that has been mandated to generate a minimum level of electricity from renewable sources can buy RECs as opposeWhat is a RECd to developing their own sources or purchasing green power from another provider. A company that produces renewable power earns RECs and can then sell them. The benefit to the purchaser is to be able to take credit for the green power and meet their commitments at an acceptable cost, while the benefit to the seller is receiving income to offset the cost of their investment. Continue reading Recent Controversy over Renewable Energy Credits

Paris Climate Change Agreement and More

December has been  another big month for the environment with the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (also referred to as the Paris Climate Talks and COP21) ending in a broad, world-wide agreement to reduce greenhouse gasses in an attempt to combat global warming. The agreement confirmed the target of keeping the rise in temperature from the pre-industrial world to below 2°C, which scientists believe is necessary to prevent a global catastrophe.  The agreement even establishes for the first time, that the world should be aiming for a rise of only 1.5°C to protect island states, which are the most threatened by the rise in sea levels. The Paris agreement requires all countries to review their contributions every five years from 2020; they will not be able to lower their targets and are encouraged to raise them. In addition, countries will aim to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century. See CPO21 for more information. Continue reading Paris Climate Change Agreement and More

MIT Plan for Action on Climate Change

On October 21st the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) issued its Plan for Action on Climate Change. This document was the culmination of a year of discussions within the MIT community on the risks of climate change and the role that MIT should play as a leader on climate sciences and energy innovation. MIT’s position is that overwhelming evidence shows that the world is warmer than it was in the pre-industrial age, and that present-day climate change is due to human activity, in particular the emission of greenhouse gasses. MIT supports the 2C Challenge which aims to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and sees the need for a world-wide, aggressive but pragmatic transition plan to achieve a zero-carbon energy system. Continue reading MIT Plan for Action on Climate Change

California – 50% renewable energy by 2030

On Wednesday California’s Governor Jerry Brown dramatically increased California’s climate-change goals by signing a bill that commits the state to use renewable energy for half its electricity and make existing buildings twice as energy-efficient by 2030. California already has some of the world’s toughest air quality standards, and in 2006, under Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, mandated that renewable energy should make up one-third of its electricity by 2020. The state is well on its way to meet that goal with 25% of electricity coming from renewables last year, driven by significant increases in solar and wind power.  Continue reading California – 50% renewable energy by 2030

One Month into the Clean Power Plan

Approximately one month ago President Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan as the United State’s regulatory tool to address climate change. The plan’s primary focus is on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants with key goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the power industry to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In OWOE’s August 10th blog, we identified the 4 critical issues toward achievement of the Plan’s goals that will be battled in the coming months/years. While  legal, political, and economic issues are interesting and will provide most of the drama surrounding the Plan, the technical issues are the ones that OWOE feels are most challenging. Two studies issued subsequent to the Plan present some key issues: Continue reading One Month into the Clean Power Plan