US Renewable Energy Grows Another 10% in First Half of 2017

Renewables grow over 10% in first half of 2017 as consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power falls.
Solar use up 39.9%; Hydro up 16.1%; Wind up 15.7%; Biofuels up 2.3%; Geothermal up 1.8%.
Nuclear power drops 3.3%; Fossil Fuels down 1.2%.
Renewables now provide approximately 42% more energy than nuclear.

From The SUN DAY Campaign

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) “Monthly Energy Review ” (with data through June 30, 2017) reveals that domestic production and use of renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) continued to show strong growth during the first half of the year as the consumption of both nuclear power and fossil fuels declined.

Renewables accounted for 13.49% of domestic energy production during the first half of 2017 compared to 12.61% during the same period in 2016 and 10.88% in 2015. During the first six months of 2017, energy produced from renewable sources was 10.29% higher than a year earlier and 21.34% higher than two years ago. On the consumption side (i.e., energy used for electricity, transportation, thermal, etc.), the pattern of growth is similar with renewables accounting for 11.89% of energy use during the first half of 2017, compared to 10.77% in 2016 and 9.64% in 2015.

Comparing the first half of 2017 to that of 2016, solar production and use has grown by 39.86%, hydropower grew by 16.13%, wind by 15.65%, and geothermal by 1.80%. In addition, U.S. production of biofuels increased by 2.99% and their use expanded by 2.30%. Only biomass energy (i.e., wood and waste) production and use dipped slightly by 0.16%.

By comparison, energy output from the nation’s nuclear power plants in the first half of 2017 was 3.27% lower than in the same period in 2016 and 2.29% lower than its 2015 level. As a share of the nation’s overall energy production, nuclear power is now less than one-tenth – just 9.44% – and even lower (8.40%) as a share of energy consumption. Moreover, energy production from renewable sources is 42.90% greater than that from nuclear power (and 41.42% greater when comparing consumption levels).

Similarly, notwithstanding a 16.06% increase in U.S. coal production, the nation’s overall consumption of fossil fuels (e.g., coal, natural gas, oil) continued its downward slide from 81.73% of total energy use in the first half of 2015 to 80.31% for the same six-month period in 2016, and to 79.46% in 2017. As a consequence, the nation experienced another small (0.59%) decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions attributable to energy consumption. In addition, the gap between coal-based energy use and that from renewable sources is rapidly closing with coal now outpacing renewables by just 15.62%.

“Notwithstanding desperate efforts by the Trump Administration to prop up nuclear power and fossil fuels, they continue to lose ground to the mix of renewable energy sources,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Mr. President!”

Source: EIA released its most recent “Monthly Energy Review” report on September 28, 2017.
The full report may be found at: http://bit.ly/EIA_MonthlyEnergyReview.

The most relevant data cited in this release may be found in, or is derived from, the following tables:

http://bit.ly/EIA_PrimaryEnergyReviewData

http://bit.ly/EIA_PrimaryEnergyProduction_SourceData

http://bit.ly/EIA_ConsumptionBySourceData

http://bit.ly/EIA_RenewableEnergyBySource

http://bit.ly/EIA_CO2EmissionBySource

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels. Contact: Ken Bossong at 301-270-6477 x11

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/us-renewable-energy-grows-another-10-in-first-half-of-2017/
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The Carbon Taxes We Already Pay

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin, 1789. Portrait painted in 1767 by David Martin (1737-1797)

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin, 1789. Portrait painted in 1767 by David Martin (1737-1797)

They have no benefit, but their price is high.

By George Harvey

We already pay carbon taxes in Vermont. Most people do not know this. But for anyone who looks, the information on how much we pay is on the record, and it is appalling.

The use of fossil fuels has costs that are only denied by people who can somehow deny that air pollution causes economic damage. And this is a cost that has been calculated for us. It comes to $1.30 for each gallon of gasoline or heating oil that is burned, according to the American Lung Association. For Vermont, with its clean air, that cost comes to roughly $1,000 per person per year, which is a figure hidden for most of us in taxes and health insurance. But for those who suffer from diseases caused directly by air pollution – lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis, cardiac issues, liver cancer – or those driven by climate change – Lyme disease, bubesiosis, West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis – the cost is also in terms of suffering.

The use of fossil fuels has costs that are only denied by people who can somehow deny that climate change has had a depressing effect on agriculture. They should talk to producers of maple syrup, whose revenues have been declining. They should check hardiness zone maps, which show an overall increase of about ten degrees on the coldest winter nights, which determine how far invasive species can penetrate. Our orchards, farms, and forests are all threatened with loss from non-native species. The costs of dealing with this are high and climbing.

The use of fossil fuels has costs that are only denied by people who can somehow deny that climate change drives stronger hurricanes. They make us believe that there was nothing unusual in the 2017 hurricane season, which is not over but has already broken a string of records. It is a position that can be supported by neither science nor economics.

Hurricane Harvey may actually have had doubled the cost of the previous record hurricane cost. In only about two weeks, it was followed by Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane on record that formed over waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In only about another two weeks, that was followed by Hurricane Maria, which had a lower central pressure than either Harvey or Irma. The total cost of these may be as much as $300 billion. In Vermont, that cost will be born by everyone who pays federal taxes or flood insurance.

Hurricane Harvey has been judged to be a 25,000 year flood event. And it was just the first of three category-four storms to hit United States territory in one month, a higher figure than we had ever had in any previous year. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump says we have had worse. (A high IQ sometimes only makes for a bigger fool.)

For anyone who is interested, the total cost of flood insurance premiums increased, over the period of 1978 to 2016 by a factor of 47. Of that increase, about 15% can be accounted for by the combination of inflation, increased population, and increased property values, relative to the dollar. That does not include increases resulting from this year’s damage.

Other costs of climate change include those associated with the droughts in California and Montana. I have read that in 2017, half the U.S. wheat crop was lost due to drought, which was worsened by climate change.

These are taxes we all pay, and their costs are high. How many people would like to be able to avoid the health costs alone, leaving an extra $1,000 per year for each person covered by the family budget?

But though we all pay the hidden taxes, there are only a tiny number of beneficiaries. We can, however, trace who the beneficiaries are, and we can do that by following a money trail.

Our congress and White House are run by people who deny science. Their campaigns were financed by people who are heavily invested in the fossil fuels industry, which is hurt by any reduction in the use of their products. These are not the 1% of Americans who are rich. They are perhaps the 0.0001%. We pay with our health and wealth. They profit. And they pay politicians to keep it that way.

We can stop paying a set of taxes that are heavy burdens, for which no one voted, no legislature debated, and no governor put pen to paper. We can do that by putting a price on carbon.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott has made it perfectly clear that it is his intention to veto any carbon tax that makes it to his desk. He needs to consider the hidden taxes we already pay, before he does that.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/the-carbon-taxes-we-already-pay/
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New Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Plan

States in the RGGI

States in the RGGI

By George Harvey

The Regional Green Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a market-based program to reduce greenhouse gases in nine states in the Northeast. The states involved are all those in New England, plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland.

The way the RGGI has functioned is to issue a quantity of allowances to emit greenhouse gases each quarter. The allowances are sold at auction four times each year, and they can be traded. Each allowance represents one ton of carbon dioxide, and every power plant in the area has to stick to the number of tons it receives.

Progress can be made on reducing greenhouse gases from the area’s power sector by regularly reducing the number of allowances sold at auction. Currently, the amount is reduced 2.5% each year. As it has done so, the allowances have been sold for prices ranging from $1.86 to $7.50 each.

The money goes to the states, and each state uses its at its own discretion. In one state, it might be used to reduce the cost of electricity, while in another it could be used to pay for efficiency measures.

The RGGI is not permanent. It has been renewed regularly at three year intervals since it began. The third of these covered the years 2015, 2016, and 2017. It also depends on overall goals that are reviewed at regular intervals. The current goals extend to 2020.

In August of this year, representatives of the RGGI states met to determine on a course of action for the future. They decided on a slightly more ambitious plan than what they had been following in the past, with an overall reduction of 30% in the years from 2020 to 2030.

There is a perception among some people that the RGGI allowances are in fact a sort of tax, and that they therefore inhibit economic growth or place a burden on the people of the RGGI states. In fact, the RGGI has lost one state, New Jersey, over such concerns.

There has been a series of economic studies indicating that there is no economic burden resulting from the initiative. Over the first ten years of the initiative, emissions from power generation in the RGGI states dropped by 40%. Meanwhile, the gross domestic products of the states in the RGGI grew apace and thousands of jobs were created in conjunction with it. An analysis of the first three-year period of operation showed net benefits in the area relating to the initiative coming to $1.6 billion, and for the second three-year period, the benefits came to $1.3 billion.

The economic benefits described in the analysis do not include health benefits. The American Lung Association has determined that burning a gallon of gasoline does $1.30 in damages relating to health costs, and getting energy from coal costs even more. We cannot trace the use of a specific gallon of gas or a lump of coal to a specific instance of lung cancer, emphysema, or asthma, but that $1.30 is paid, whether we like it or not, someplace in the market. For people who have pulmonary disease or heart conditions, each $1.30 is just another economic injury added to their suffering. But it adds to the health costs of all, to our insurance bills, and to our taxes.

When we reduce the amount of fossil fuels used, life does not just become cleaner. It is healthier, less expensive, and possibly more enjoyable.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/new-regional-greenhouse-gas-initiative-plan/
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Late Breaking News

By George Harvey

In the April edition of Green Energy Times, we had an article, “This Is Not a Tragedy – It’s the First Act of a Comedy.” Now, it looks like the second act has started. More than once in the same week, as I worked on finding news items, I broke out laughing.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry wants to subsidize coal-burning and nuclear power plants. The funny part came soon after he announced his plan, when utilities stepped up to say they were closing down coal-burning plants anyway. The Guardian ran an article, “The War on Coal is Over. Coal Lost.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the Clean Power Plan is being scrapped. The next thing a variety of utilities announced that they would continue to move away from fossil fuels and toward renewables regardless of Pruitt’s announcement. Among them were utilities in Arizona and Texas, where the Clean Power Plan would require the greatest changes.

Pruitt also called for subsidies for renewable power to be abandoned, in keeping with the conservative mantra, “Let the market decide.” Meanwhile, the CEO of the American Wind Energy Association has taken up that same mantra, because the market is moving strongly toward wind power and away from fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The fall in the costs of solar panels and wind turbines are not the only problems the fossil fuels industry faces. Electric cars and storage batteries are others. In fact, Royal Dutch Shell has indicated that it will sell all its gas stations in Italy because cars will be electric.

The disruption has begun, opening the comedy’s second act. My guess is that in the next act, some of the mighty will fall, much to the amusement of the spectators.

More News Items:

Extreme weather worsened by climate change and the health impacts of burning fossil fuels have cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion per year over the past ten years, according to a report Universal Ecological Fund. The report does not factor in this year’s record breaking hurricanes, scores of wildfires in Western states, and losses to our wheat crops due to drought, which are estimated to cost over $300 billion in total.

The US DOE has offered conditional loan guarantees worth $3.7 billion to help save efforts to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia. This brings the total federal backing for the project, which is behind schedule as well as over-budget, to $12 billion. This comes from a department whose leadership has called for elimination for subsidies for renewable energy.

A new report from the International Energy Agency said solar energy was the fastest-growing source of electric power in the world last year. It spoke of the “birth of a new era” for the renewable energy sector. Last year solar energy grew at a pace faster than wind power, natural gas, or coal.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis released a report documenting the disruption of the electricity markets by renewables, which it says is increasingly obvious. It says the price of electric power from renewable resources is a key driver of this change, and it gives eleven case studies revealing the trend.

On the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi, forty Catholic institutions announced that they were divesting themselves of ownership in the fossil fuel industry and its ancillaries. The total value of the divestments was not disclosed, but it is thought to be in the neighborhood of $5.5 trillion.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/late-breaking-news-3/
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Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2

The graph shows recent monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.

The last four complete years of the Mauna Loa CO2 record plus the current year are shown. Data are reported as a dry air mole fraction defined as the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of all molecules in air, including CO2 itself, after water vapor has been removed. The mole fraction is expressed as parts per million (ppm). Example: 0.000400 is expressed as 400 ppm.

In the above figure, the dashed red line with diamond symbols represents the monthly mean values, centered on the middle of each month. The black line with the square symbols represents the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle. The latter is determined as a moving average of SEVEN adjacent seasonal cycles centered on the month to be corrected, except for the first and last THREE and one-half years of the record, where the seasonal cycle has been averaged over the first and last SEVEN years, respectively.

The last year of data are still preliminary, pending re-calibrations of reference gases and other quality control checks. The Mauna Loa data are being obtained at an altitude of 3400 m in the northern subtropics, and may not be the same as the globally averaged CO2 concentration at the surface.

Read more at http://bit.ly/Oct-CO2.

 

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/recent-monthly-average-mauna-loa-co2/
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Let the Market Decide

By George Harvey

The world has been stood on its head.

The current administration in Washington was put there by a coalition of conservative Republicans and supporters of the “free market.” Among them, some seem to support fossil fuels, regardless of what is sacrificed to achieve this.

The conservatives want America to be great. They believe in democracy, the sanctity of the family, and expression of traditional religions. The “free market” supporters want to reduce government costs, eliminate subsidies and incentives, and cut taxes for everyone, even if it means government services vanish. The positions are not really compatible.

EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, wants to eliminate costs to the government and business, so he would stop paying for any EPA program he can. So, he is eliminating enforcing environmental regulations and has called for eliminating incentives for renewable energy. He has stopped work on the Clean Power Plan, despite the fact that the EPA was ordered to regulate carbon emissions in federal courts.

Meanwhile, we have had hurricanes, droughts, and wild fires that have cost hundreds of billions of dollars this year alone, in a trend of increasing economic costs that mirror temperature increases due to climate change. Much of corporate America is upset, being too pragmatic to believe climate change is not a real problem.

Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, has focused on the troubles of the coal and nuclear industries. Right now, there is only one nuclear plant under construction in the United States, and the owners of the only coal-burning power plant under development said they will probably give up on it. So, Rick Perry has decided we should subsidize electric plants that can store at least three month’s fuel, meaning nuclear and coal plants.

Perry’s move has been opposed by a wide number of environmental groups. But it has also been opposed by just about everyone who has no way to profit from the proposed subsidies, and this divides supporters of gas from supports of coal.

Of course, many politicians loyal to whatever fossil fuels industry financed their campaigns are still saying that the weather damage, which has been mounting rather steadily for over four decades, is just the luck of bad weather.

But the coal industry cannot recover. And the gas industry, which has been putting coal out of business, has gone into what appears to be a severe recession of its own. Over the last year, the amount of electricity generated by natural gas has been down every month from what it was in the same month the year before. The average decline is over 10%.

Most utilities seem to be supporting neither Pruitt’s position nor Perry’s, but the American Wind Energy Association has taken up the mantra: “Let the market decide.” The lowest prices for electricity in power purchase agreements from fossil fuels is about 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour. The lowest costs from solar or wind are already lower than that, even when battery backup power is included.

So, Republicans are stuck with a tough choice: Do they support their own principles, a healthy economy, and their constituents? Or do they support the fossil fuels industry?

I am sure they will let us know.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/let-the-market-decide/
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New Tesla Semi-Truck

Tesla Makes Helping Puerto Rico Job One!

The New Tesla Semi-Truck could very likely change the world’s transportation system. Photo: nikolamotor.com

The New Tesla Semi-Truck could very likely change the world’s transportation system. Photo: nikolamotor.com

By George Harvey

Tesla’s Elon Musk was all set to unveil the new Tesla Semi-Truck at an event scheduled to take place on October 26 at the Design Center in Hawthorne, California. While there were a few glitches, they were not unmanageable. The roll-out of the Tesla Model 3 was not going smoothly, and there were other problems, but Musk tweeted in satisfaction about his new semi. It has a range of 300 miles, which is impressive. And it looked sleek.

Things were still progressing until Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, producing a series of humanitarian, economic, political, and possibly technological shockwaves. While Puerto Rico may be a long way from Hawthorne, it eventually set back Tesla’s schedule by weeks. And while that may seem a disappointment for those of us who love road vehicles, what is unfolding seems definitely to be worth being excited about.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, things were already bad. The local utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, had $9 billion in debt and was already bankrupt. Years had passed since it had resources to keep infrastructure in repair. There were still 80,000 people on the island who had not gotten their power back after Hurricane Irma, about two weeks earlier. When Maria left the island, it was altogether devastated.

Governor Ricardo Rossello quickly began sending messages saying the situation in Puerto Rico was desperate. No one had electric power, and Rossello said he expected it would take months to restore it to the entire island. Water was unavailable to 60% of the people. Many roads were impassable. Food supplies were certainly going to be a problem. The only place where there was cell phone reception was for those operating on backup power.

It took President Trump ten days to appoint a lieutanant general to supervise disaster recovery. He quickly gave his administration an A+ grade on its efforts and told the Puerto Ricans that there had been worse storms. (We might mention some facts for the record. Hurricane Harvey was a 25,000-year event and the most expensive storm ever to hit the country by a wide margin. Two weeks later, we had Hurricane Irma, the most powerful storm on record to have formed over waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Two weeks after that came Hurricane Maria, the most intense of the three, in terms of central pressure.)

On October 5, an individual named Scott Stapf tweeted a question, “Could @elonmusk go in and rebuild #PuertoRico’s electricity system with independent solar & battery systems?”

Elon Musk responded on the same day, tweeting, “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.”

This produced a response from Governor Rossello within only about two hours, “@elonMusk Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.”

In very short order, Musk and Rossello were on the telephone. Their conversation lasted twenty-five minutes. But the results of the conversation have the potential to be historic.

Elon Musk soon announced that the Tesla Semi-Truck unveiling would have to wait until November 16th, while batteries were made for Puerto Rico. As this is written, several hundred Tesla batteries have already arrived, along with a number of Tesla employees, who are setting them up with solar panels to produce microgrids.

Elon Musk is a man who clearly likes to put on a good show. Delaying the Semi-Truck presentation was probably not entirely easy for him. But it seems that when he gets into something he thinks is important, he acts decisively. He donated $250,000 of his own money to Puerto Rican recovery efforts.

Elon Musk and Tesla are not the only ones helping out. Google is testing a new technology to restore internet service. Facebook has donated $1.5 million to relief organizations. Other organizations that are helping out include Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft. But Tesla’s efforts in Puerto Rico might actually result in widespread use of renewably-powered microgrids that can act independently of any fossil fuels.

As I write this, three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, only 15% of the people on the island have electric power. The federal government’s reaction to the crisis has been labeled “genocidal neglect.” And President Trump is sending tweets blaming the Puerto Ricans themselves for the humanitarian crisis and saying that federal help cannot last forever.

One Vermont installer is crowdfunding a solar system in Puerto Rico. Anyone interested can visit http://bit.ly/Puerto-Rico-fundraiser.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/new-tesla-semi-truck/
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