The Big Picture – 2 plans that reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 top
1. Reinventing Fire (Rocky Mountain Institute, RMI) - No coal, oil, or nuclear, and less natural gas by 2050, led by business for profit, no need to consider climate change or have big acts of Congress (and not even considering energy storage which is an advancing game-changer).
- Interview with Amory Lovins of RMI - good summary (10 min video)
- Buy the book on Amazon ($21)
2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) renewable energy study (electricity only), including concise "key findings":
Solar grid parity coming soon – solar will soon be cost-competitive with coal/gas/nuclear top
- Global Data press release summarizes their report that analyzes the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for wind and solar PV by country, compared with conventional fuel sources such as coal, Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) and nuclear power. The LCOE of solar PV is expected to be lower than average retail electricity prices in the U.S., China and most places in the world from 2017 onwards.
- Solar is predicted to reach cost parity with other energy sources in 98% of the world by 2020, and in most parts of the U.S. between 2014 and 2017. Places in some countries are at parity now (Brazil, Italy, Spain, South Africa), and California and Hawaii are close.
Distributed Generation threatens Centralized Utility Model – Like the rise of cell phones and digital cameras, utilities must adapt to the inevitable distributed clean energy sources of the future or they will perish. top
- "Utility Death Spiral": The industry term for the effect of distributed (rooftop) solar on utility power demand and revenue. Solar reduces the profitable peak demand, causing the utility to raise rates to cover their costs, causing customers to install more solar and further reduce demand, causing more rate increases, and so on.
- Slightly more technical description (The Conversation)
- Battles at the State level (New York Times)
- Xcel's battle over rooftop solar in Colorado (Denver Post)
- Xcel plays dirty in fight against rooftop solar (Huff Post)
Water and Energy collision – Thermal power plants (coal, gas, nuclear), as well as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas, use massive amounts of water that will compete with the demands of population growth and food production, made worse by climate change. U.S. power plants account for more than 40 percent of freshwater withdrawals and a large share of non-agricultural freshwater consumption. Our energy choices are also water choices. The very-low-water solutions are renewable energy, and reducing electricity consumption through energy efficiency. top
- Freshwater use by U.S. Power Plants (Union of Concerned Scientists). A good summary, plus links to very complete information on the nexus of water and energy (also see this UCS page and these UCS infographics). Also see Related New York Times article.
- Much water is also used to mine coal (Bloomberg)
- Water scarcity will be a source of future wars (Al Jazeera)
Environmental and Moral considerations – climate change and our responsibility top
- Excellent Richard Somerville article on the realistic permanence of change and the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions (The Bulletin)
- Naomi Oreskes at U Kansas about Merchants of Doubt (6-part video, ~1 hour): Science historian study about the scientific consensus on global warming and the so-called "tobacco strategy" that has been used with great success to sow doubt in the American public's mind about the reality, magnitude, and level of scientific consensus about the true threat of climate change, a campaign funded by fossil fuel interests and a few uber-Libertarian oil billionaires. Also good background on the greenhouse effect. One of the most informative hours you'll ever spend.
- Well-supported rebuttal to the myth that there is no scientific consensus on global warming.
- In general, the Skeptical Science website is a great source of information on climate change myths and their rebuttal based on peer-reviewed climate science.
Grid-scale energy storage – Allows high penetration of intermittent renewables, "peak shifting", ancillary services (frequency and voltage regulation). Possible local business opportunities, public-private partnerships, new City revenue stream? (e.g., buy cheap curtailed wind at night and sell at high peak rates). top
- Solar at night! (molten salt energy storage)
- Gravity Power (pumped hydro in a can)
"Decoupling" – realigns utility incentives toward saving kWh rather than selling more kWh (promotes energy efficiency programs) - utility revenues are separated from sales by making annual rate adjustments: top
- Good explanation (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions)
- Map of states (RMI)
Restructuring / Deregulation – ConEd (NYC) embraces distributed generation as well as "restructuring", where customers can purchase electricity from multiple providers and sources (3rd parties). It's the future, and a franchise agreement would tie our hands when restructuring arrives. top
Microgrids – A "smart grid" topology consisting of interlinked networks that are normally connected but can disconnect and operate independently on internal generation if necessary ("islandable"). Scales from individual residences (lets me use my solar panels when the grid goes down), to community, town or region (e.g., "Boulder County microgrid"). top
- Lovins: How to End Blackouts Forever (Time)
- UCSD microgrid example (RMI)
- Led by the military (Smart Grid News)
Mosaic crowd-funding model for renewables – New financing options for renewables will accelerate their already-strong growth rate, such as institutional green investment funds, and "crowd source" investing like Mosaic where individuals can invest in relatively safe projects with solid returns (bond-like) of 4-6%, with investments of hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Renewables can be low-risk investments as they're very predictable (known development cost, known power production, long-term power purchase agreements). One possibility: a public-private partnership where Lafayette donates the land in exchange for a solid return, giving a brand new long-term, reliable revenue stream. top
- Mosaic website (how it works, about Mosaic, meet the team, etc.)