Thousands of photovoltaic panels across the UK generate 8.7GW, smashing previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month
Utilities that need to build new power generation facilities or replace old ones are going to have a hard time justifying anything but renewable energy in 2017 and beyond. Investment bank Lazard recently released its 11th analysis of the cost of new electricity generation, titled Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, and showed that wind and solar energy are now cheaper than diesel, nuclear, coal, and in most cases natural gas.
Utilities and regulators are going to be hard-pressed to justify anything but renewable energy generation in the future. From Maine to Hawaii, the U.S.’s energy future is renewable.
The table below shows Lazard’s analysis of the cost, on a per kWh basis, to build new power plants with different fuel sources and technologies. You can see that the lowest cost option is wind at 3 cents per kWh, followed by gas combined cycle that’s as cheap as 4.2 cents per kWh, and solar, which costs between 4.3 cents and 5.3 cents per kWh.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.6 cents per kWh||5.3 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.3 cents per kWh||4.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||3 cents per kWh||6 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6 cents per kWh||14.3 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||4.2 cents per kWh||7.8 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||12.2 cents per kWh||18.3 cents per kWh|
|Diesel||19.7 cents per kWh||28.1 cents per kWh|
What you’ll also notice is that the range of costs is much wider for fossil fuels like natural gas. That’s because construction costs can be different depending on the state, fuel prices, and how often the plant is being used. Renewable energy, on the other hand, gets to cut to the front of the line on the grid, meaning nearly 100% of its electricity production is used, allowing for predictable electricity pricing.
What’s clear is that diesel, nuclear, and coal are all higher cost than both wind and solar energy on a per kWh basis. No matter how you slice it, renewable energy is winning versus fossil fuels on economics.
I’ll also point out that there’s no fuel cost risk for renewable energy. The wind and sun are zero-cost fuel sources, unlike extracted fuels, which could conceivably spike from current levels.
It wasn’t long ago that Lazard’s analysis wasn’t so favorable to renewable energy. In 2010, version 4.0 of Lazard’s levelized cost of energy study had wind costs at 6.5-11.0 cents per kWh and solar at 13.4-19.4 cents per kWh. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear all beat solar on a cost basis, and in some cases beat wind.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||15.4 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||18.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||6.5 cents per kWh||11.0 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6.9 cents per kWh||15.2 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||6.7 cents per kWh||9.6 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||7.7 cents per kWh||11.4 cents per kWh|
Clearly, the tides have shifted in the energy industry. Fossil fuels is at best flat and in some cases getting more expensive, while renewable energy costs are coming down every year. There’s no indication these trends will reverse course, and investors need to consider whether they’re using renewable energy’s growth as a tailwind for their portfolio or fighting the clear trends in energy. If these charts are any indication, fossil fuels’ days may be numbered.
A total of 210,000 gallons of oil leaked Thursday from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, said.
Bonn, Germany, 10 Nov 2017 – Leaders from a wide range of sectors came together on Friday at Energy Day at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn to announce a new set of initiatives to transition to renewable energy and to show that more ambitious clean energy development can quickly become a bigger part of national climate plans submitted under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
“With the price of renewable and storage technologies tumbling, and greater understanding on how to set the policy table for a cleaner energy mix and more integrated energy planning, the question before decision makers is, why wait?” said Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All.
Success stories, action and new commitments shared during Energy Day at the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference from businesses, states, cities and forward-thinking countries continue to show ambition to ensure the clean energy transition is not only underway but is irreversible.
“Our pledge to leave no one behind is a critical component of the Paris Agreement. The energy transition that we can see is underway and must be a transition towards energy systems around the world that secure sustainable energy for all,” said Ms Kyte.
“This means placing energy efficiency first, adopting a laser like focus on ending energy poverty and using the renewable energy revolution to achieve universal access and a bending of the emissions curve. With each year, each COP, the health and economic impacts of carbon pollution are better documented and the science of what awaits us, if we continue on our current path, mounts,” she said.
Adnan Z. Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General said: “Two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from energy production and use, which puts the energy sector front and centre of global efforts to combat climate change. Our analysis shows that renewables and energy efficiency can together provide over 90 per cent of the mitigation needed in the energy system by 2050 to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, while also boosting the economy, creating jobs and improving human health and well-being.”
“We have a large, untapped, and affordable renewable energy potential waiting to be developed. Revising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) gives countries an opportunity to take a fresh look at how to harvest this potential, not only for mitigation, but in light of the multiple socio-economic benefits of renewables, also for adaptation,” said Mr Amin.
Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director, said: “The transition of the energy sector in the next decades will be critical to meeting shared climate and sustainable development goals. Widespread action by governments and private sector alike has helped keep global energy-related emissions flat the last three years. Our analysis shows we can meet climate goals while achieving energy access and improving the environment.”
The central goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress much further and faster with the global clean energy transformation.
Energy Day is organized by The Climate Group, IEA, IRENA and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) as part of a series of thematic action days held under the auspices of the Marrakech Partnership.
The global community has coalesced around the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, one of which is to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible. The longer we delay the peak — the point when global emissions switch from increasing to decreasing — the more difficult it will be to limit global warming. Yet global GHG emissions are still rising and are expected to continue to climb through 2030.
The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline — especially those of major emitters like the United States and China — is critically important in determining whether we can avoid the most dangerous climate impacts.
Although the timing of when global GHG emissions need to peak is well documented, there has been less research on when individual countries’ emissions have peaked. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) new paper, Turning Points: Trends in Countries Reaching Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions Over Tim e, fills this gap by analysing which countries’ emissions peaked in the past and which countries have emissions- reduction commitments that imply peaking in the future.
The paper documents steady progress in the number of countries reaching peak emissions over time. By 1990, 19 countries had peaked (representing 21 per cent of global emissions), and by 2030 this number is likely to grow to 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions). Among the 57 countries that have peaked already or have a commitment that implies a peak by 2030 are some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.
Peaking Progress by Decade
19 countries, representing 21 per cent of global emissions (based on 1990 emissions data), reached peak emissions in 1990 or earlier. Sixteen of them were former Soviet republics and/or economies in transition. The economic collapse after the break-up of the Soviet Union resulted in several former Soviet republics’ emissions declining sharply. Germany and Norway also peaked by 1990, and the European Union as a whole reached peak emissions by 1990.
By 2000, 33 countries’ emissions peaked, representing 18 per cent of global emissions (based on 2000 emissions data). Many of the countries peaking in the 1990s were European nations such as the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland. Costa Rica also reached peak emissions levels in 1999.
The number of countries that peaked by 2010 grew to 49, representing 36 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data). This includes several more European countries such as Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, as well as Brazil (which peaked in 2004), Australia (which peaked in 2006), and the United States and Canada (both of which peaked in 2007).
53 countries representing 40 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2020 projections) peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2020. Countries with commitments to peak as part of their Copenhagen Accord pledges for 2020 include Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malta, and New Zealand. By 2020, almost all developed countries are expected to have peaked. 42 of the 43 Annex I countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are expected to peak — all except for Turkey.
China, the Marshall Islands, Mexico and Singapore have unconditional climate pledges under the Paris Agreement that imply a peak in emissions by 2030 (China’s commitment is for CO2 emissions only). This brings the number of countries that have peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2030 to 57, representing 60 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2030 projections).
To be conservative, our analysis only considers countries with unconditional targets as having a target that implies a future peak. Additional countries that have targets that imply an emissions peak by 2030 but are contingent on receiving international support include Bhutan, Botswana, Ethiopia, Grenada and South Africa. The inclusion of these countries would increase the per cent of global emissions covered by peaking countries from 60 to 61 per cent in 2030.
Accelerating Climate Commitments
While this trend is encouraging, it’s not enough. Research suggests that to have a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit for the least cost, global GHG emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest. The world’s ability to limit warming to 1.5 or 2˚C depends not only on the number of countries that have peaked over time, but also the global share of emissions represented by those countries; their emissions levels at peaking; the timing of peaking; and the rate of emissions reductions after peaking.
Countries must make and achieve commitments to peak their emissions as soon as possible, set their peaks at lower emissions levels, and commit to a significant rate of emissions decline after peaking.
Countries can make these commitments when communicating or updating their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement in 2020. Doing so will help ensure that countries’ emission reduction commitments bring global emissions to the level needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
So … that was fast. US natural gas stakeholders barely had time to congratulate themselves for pushing coal out of the power generation market, and it looks like karma is already getting the last laugh. Low-cost renewable energy is beginning to nudge natural gas aside. In the most recent and striking development, California’s massive 262-megawatt Puente gas power plant proposal has been shelved, perhaps permanently.
One key element is consumer pushback. At first glance, the proposal doesn’t seem overly controversial. The proposed plan, a project of NRG Energy, does not involve constructing a new facility. It would have replaced two existing gas units at the company’s existing Mandalay power generation facility in Oxnard, California.
All things being equal, the proposal would provide at least some degree of environmental benefit, because the new units would use 80% less water for cooling than the existing ones.
However, criticism of the new gas project was intense. Penn sums it up: earlier this month, a two-member review committee of the California Energy Commission took the rare step of issuing a statement recommending that the full Commission reject the plans after receiving “hundreds of messages protesting the project as another potential pollution threat to a community already overwhelmed by electricity-generating plants.”
Aside from concerns about local air quality, Penn also cites an LA Times investigation indicating that the state’s energy policy has over-estimated the demand for natural gas power plants, resulting in artificially high rates:
“The commissioners’ recommendation followed Los Angeles Times investigations that showed the state has overbuilt the electricity system, primarily with natural gas plants, and has so much clean energy that it has to shut down some plants while paying other states to take the power California can’t use. The overbuilding has added billions of dollars to ratepayers’ bills in recent years.”
According to Penn, NRG officials maintain that older plant retirements by 2021 make replacement imperative to build up now.
At current costs, local ratepayers won’t get much relief if old power units are replaced with wind or solar.
Land use issues and environmental justice issues also come into play. NRG’s Mandalay power generation facility is located on the beach, and as NRG acknowledges, in 2014 the City of Oxnard enacted a moratorium on coastal development.
That complicates development plans within the power plant site, though NRG emphasizes that the final decision rests with state-level regulators.
Among those objecting to the plant from outside the local community is billionaire investor Tom Steyer, who co-authored an op-ed about the proposed facility raising the environmental justice issue:
“…in our state, not all beaches are created equal. That becomes painfully clear if you drive 50 miles north of Los Angeles to Oxnard, where the beaches have been seized by corporate polluters, marred by industrial waste and devastated by three fossil-fuel power plants that sit along the shoreline.
“Oxnard has more coastal power plants than any other city in the state, and not coincidentally, its population is predominantly Latino and low-income….”
Oxnard residents — and no doubt, real estate developers — are looking forward to transitioning coastal property out of industrial use altogether. Here’s LA Times reporter Dan Weikel on that topic:
“Many residents of this predominantly Latino city with a population of 205,000 say they are fed up with the degradation. Their growing dissatisfaction with the condition of large sections of beach has coalesced into an effort to deindustrialize and restore the shoreline of this city that is framed by Ventura and Camarillo and wraps around the town of Port Hueneme.”
The Puente project has been suspended, not canceled. However, chances of revival are slim. Although the most recent study affirms that renewable energy is a more expensive choice currently, Steyer points out that the redevelopment of Oxnard’s beachfront could be balanced out by new economic activity related to tourism and recreation.
That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, as waterfront development typically drives up the cost of housing, squeezing former residents to outer rims with longer commutes and fewer resources.
Sticking to the energy cost issue, the basic problem comes down to local energy vs. long distance transmission.
NRG makes the case that local energy generation is more reliable. That’s a fair assessment as a general principle, as the old model of centralized power plants falls out of favor. Local and on-site generation is becoming a consensus argument among energy experts, regardless of the power source.
On the other hand, the risk involved in transmitting electricity from remote wind farms and solar power plants could be offset by local storage sites, where the growing microgrid movement would come into play.
New tools for financing energy efficiency improvements could also help tamp down local energy demand and ease the way for a more interactive grid that enables consumers to tweak their electricity consumption to help prevent outages.
Cities like Oxnard can also tap into a growing renewable energy knowledge base that leverages local opportunities for renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements.
Most of all, the Trump administration’s willy-nilly approach to oil and gas development — for example, a new proposal involving drilling along the Pacific coast — raises the stakes for citizens far outside of the communities dealing with local land use issues, leading to a groundswell of support for alternatives.
Solar power has broken new records in the UK by providing nearly a quarter of the country’s electricity needs, thanks to sunny skies and relatively low summer demand.
National Grid said the thousands of photovoltaic panels on rooftops and in fields across the UK were generating 8.7GW, or 24.3% of demand at 1pm on Friday, smashing the previous high of 8.48GW earlier this month.
Experts said the unprecedented share for solar energy meant about 60% of the UK’s power was low carbon, taking into account Britain’s wind farms and nuclear power stations too. That figure is normally around 50%.
National Grid, which is tasked with ensuring a match between supply and demand for electricity, said it was excited but unfazed by the challenge of accommodating “significant volumes” of renewables.
JAMAICA CONTINUES to occupy positions of influence in the global architecture designed to work in the interest of climate change security for all, and in particular developing countries.
Just over a month ago, Dr Orville Grey, senior technical officer responsible for adaptation in the Climate Change Division, was elected co-chair of the Executive Committee (Excom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM).
He, along with Monika Antosik of Poland, was elected at the fifth meeting of the Excom, held in Bonn, Germany, between March 21 and 24.
The WIM was established at the 19th meeting of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Warsaw in 2013.
Its mandate is “to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change, including extreme events and slow onset events, in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”, according to the UNFCCC website.
Its specific functions include:
– Enhancing knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including slow onset impacts;
– Strengthening dialogue, coordination, coherence and synergies among relevant stakeholders; and
– Enhancing action and support, including finance, technology and capacity building, to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change.
Clifford Mahlung, a meteorologist and seasoned climate change negotiator, representing small-island developing states, has been appointed co-chair of the Adaptation Committee.
The Adaptation Committee was established in 2010, as part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework “to promote the implementation of enhanced action on adaptation in a coherent manner under the Convention”.
Its functions include:
– Providing technical support and guidance to the parties to the UNFCCC and sharing relevant information, knowledge, experience and good practices;
– Promoting synergy and strengthening engagement with national, regional and international organisations, centres and networks; and
– Considering information communicated by parties on their monitoring and review of adaptation actions, support provided and received.
“Jamaica is doing its part to ensure that the bodies of the convention and now the Paris Agreement will work to the full benefit of the parties and that we have our interest being represented at the highest level,” Mahlung told The Gleaner.
Added Grey: “It continues to show Jamaica as a leader on important issues. In this context, it is something related to climate change and provides us with an opportunity to shape what is happening in that debate and gives first-hand options to include something from loss and damage into our own national policies.”
Neither would take any personal credit for their appointments.
“It shows the confidence that has been placed in me by my developing country colleagues, in particular the members of the SIDS, who I represent, and the developing countries on the whole who appointed me to be elected as their co-chair,” said Mahlung, whose appointment also became effective in March.
Grey indicated that his new role is indicative of “the confidence of SIDS in championing the case of something that is critical to our future, which is the impact of loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change”.
JAMAICA’S Professor Michael Taylor has made the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team, tasked to deliver what is a vital report for the Caribbean and other small island developing states (SIDS), in the fight against global climate change.
Taylor was invited to serve as one of three coordinating lead authors for the third chapter of a special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius as a global greenhouse gas emissions target.
The IPCC was mandated to produce that report, largely through lobby efforts led over years by SIDS, in the race to curtail emissions that fuel the changing climate that could devastate them.
“Chapter three merges what happens with the physical impacts of climate change, like changes in temperature, rainfall, and so on, with the impacts on ecosystems, natural systems and on human beings,” Taylor, a celebrated local physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, told The Gleaner on Tuesday.
“It is actually the first time they are merging those two things in one chapter. Normally, it would be Working Group I (WGI) looking at the physical side and WGII on the physical impact. Chapter three now will look at both the scientific basis for 1.5 and what are the impacts on managed systems as well as human beings,” he added.
Taylor is joined by two other coordinating lead authors and a team of 20 lead authors to deliver that chapter.
“We will also coop contributing authors with special expertise as needed to lead the authorship of that chapter,” noted the head of the Physics Department at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
Taylor’s research interests include understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change.
Quizzed as to his feeling on being asked to serve, the scientist said: “It is a real honour; I appreciate the honour.
“It is not just an honour for me personally, but also for Caribbean science that it is being recognised in such a way. But it is an overwhelming task that is being asked so I also feel extremely overwhelmed but extremely grateful for the recognition,” he added.
The historic Paris Agreement, which charts the course for the global response to climate change, looks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.
The inclusion of 1.5 was hard-fought-for by Caribbean and other SIDS aided by the regional campaign dubbed “1.5 To Stay Alive”.
The campaign run primarily in the lead-up to and during the 2015 climate talks in Paris where the agreement was adopted involved regional players such as the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, communication NGO Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Saint Lucia Ministry of Sustainable Development, the Regional Council of Martinique, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
Among other things, it saw the establishment of a website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote Caribbean negotiating positions and to expose the region’s climate challenges all the while calling for the holding of temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A theme song the collaborative effort of Caribbean artistes, including Panos’ Voices for Climate Change Education’s singer Aaron Silk was also released.
“The 1.5 is a kind of threshold of viability for small islands going into the future. So this report, I think, the small islands have a special interest in because it will be the report that evaluates whether the case they are making is a good case,” Taylor said of the review work to be done in the coming months.
“And the case they are making is not just for them, but a global case. This is the report that is kind of the backbone of the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement,” he added.
Nobel laureate Professor Anthony Chen, who was recognised for his own contributions to climate research through the IPCC, had high praise for Taylor.
“Professor Taylor is an excellent person to lead the project and I have every confidence in him,” said Chen, a mentor to the professor, whom he taught at university and who succeeded him as head of the Climate Studies Group Mona.
“I was very glad for him. He had asked me what I thought and I told him, ‘go for it’. It puts the Caribbean on the map that they should be for the 1.5 project. This is sort of a late registration of that fact,” he added.