Climate & Energy

The center can't hold

A collection of Venerable Old White Guys weighs in on the energy challenge

High Broderism has finally and fully descended on the energy debate. The AP reports that a “bipartisan group of 26 elder statesmen” (that sound you …

NYC government plans 30 percent carbon cuts by 2017

Energy efficiency is cornerstone of ambitious plan

Everyone's favorite McKinsey study suggests that America can shed a huge chunk of its emissions through costless measures, primarily in the realm of energy efficiency. The fly in this delicious low-carbon ointment is that the freebie cuts haven't so far happened by themselves, and it's never entirely clear how well an analyst's report is going to translate into reality. How nice, then, that New York City is gearing up to provide the proof point we've all been waiting for. Mayor Bloomberg's office recently released a plan to drop the carbon emissions of the municipal government 30 percent from 2006 levels by 2017. The plan will cost about $2.3 billion, but the city expects to recoup these costs by 2015 -- an average payback of less than eight years across a large portfolio of projects.

Al Gore details plan for exclusively carbon-free electricity in U.S. by 2018

In a speech in Washington, D.C., today, climate activist Al Gore called for the United States to move toward using electricity that comes exclusively from …

2.6 million acres opened to drilling in Alaska, Dems introduce Drill Act to spur production

The U.S. Interior Department announced it’s opening up some 2.6 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A) to exploratory drilling. A decision …

The economics of power plant construction

A brief primer on variable vs. fixed costs

For those of us in the power industry, media discussions of the economics of power generation reveal an almost complete misunderstanding of how power is priced. Depending on our vested interests, we may find this either frustrating or beneficial -- but in all cases, it's false. Herewith I attempt to explain from whence the confusion arises -- and why it is so critical for the clean energy community to understand this math and its consequences ... and to more accurately articulate the economics of those options we prefer.

Climate change: still bad

Report from EPA and U.S. Climate Change Science Program highlights risks of warming world

Scientists from the U.S. EPA and U.S. Climate Change Science Program issued a new report today documenting the effects of global climate change on human …

You say that like it's a bad thing

Minnesota utility plans wind farm over coal reserves

Story at Wind Watch: A Minnesota utility said it's planning its own mega wind farm in Oliver County, meaning Oliver and Morton counties could some day be home to as many as 1,000 new wind turbines across the hilltops.At the same time the turbines are capturing mile after mile of wind, they could cover up substantial coal reserves along that southern stretch of Coal Country ...

A New England auction

Can the West match the Northeast?

Next week, the Western Climate Initiative will release a proposal outlining the program's cap-and-trade design.* In the proposal, we should expect to learn what share of carbon permits will be auctioned (and will therefore generate public revenue) and what share will be given away for free to emitters. Auctioning is important -- extremely important -- because, among other virtues, it is the best way to promote fairness for people with moderate incomes. We've had lots to say about auctioning in the past, and we'll have lots to say about it in the future. In the meantime, for comparison purposes, I thought it might be helpful to share the auctioning percentages [PDF] from the cap-and-trade program in the Northeast, called RGGI: Connecticut.................91 percent Maine........................100 percent Maryland.....................90 percent Massachusetts.............99 percent New Hampshire.........100 percent** New Jersey................100 percent** New York..................100 percent Rhode Island..............100 percent Vermont.....................100 percent RGGI sets a good standard, one that WCI should strive hard to match or exceed.

Nice gigawatt if you can get it

Low-carbon energy solutions in India may depend on Tata

Amid analysis of the G8's latest climate pronouncement, the announcement of India's first national climate action plan received less attention than it otherwise might have. Even in the Indian media, the plan was also overshadowed by the release of a McKinsey & Co. report that projects massive power demand growth in the country -- 100 gigawatts more demand in the next 10 years than previously estimated. Yet the very same day, the government's Investment Commission called the "Ultra-Mega" coal plants that are central to India's strategy to meet that demand a "main reason for persistent capacity shortfalls." As reported by India's Financial Express, the climate change "National Action Plan" consists of a laundry list of programs to be initiated -- or more likely, repackaged -- on solar power, energy efficiency, agriculture, and a few others. Based on previous performance in the power sector, agriculture seems to be the most promising of those programs (especially considering the Indian government's success in raising productivity during the Green Revolution). One can hope India will have the same success, and be able to utilize the same distribution mechanisms, in efforts to create seed varieties adaptable to drier climatic conditions. If McKinsey is right, India's demand will soar to 315-335 GW by 2017, from 120 GW installed capacity today. To supply that demand reliably would require over 415 GW of installed capacity -- that's triple what the creaky Indian power sector produces now. And about 10 times what even the dozen planned Ultra-Mega plants could hope to supply.