NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

While the OFFICE of President remains in highest regard at NewEnergyNews, this administration's position on climate change makes it impossible to regard THIS president with respect. Below is the NewEnergyNews theme song until 2020.

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Proven – New Energy Is NO Threat To The Power System
  • QUICK NEWS, June 26: What Climate Change Really Means; New Energy Now Bigger Than Nuclear; The Rump Angers Iowa With Ignorant Wind Remarks
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Al Franken Explains Climate Science To Secretary Perry
  • Weekend Video: John Oliver On Coal Jobs Absurdishness
  • Weekend Video: Coal King Sues John Oliver For Defamation
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Al Gore On The Morality Of The Climate Fight
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Solar In Latin America Can Boom
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Scotland Buys Into Kite Wind
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Tesla Eyes The China EV Market
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, June 22:

  • TTTA Thursday-What Does Exxon’s Carbon Tax Mean?
  • TTTA Thursday-The Rump Flails Factlessly At Wind
  • TTTA Thursday-New Energy To Get Bigger And Cheaper
  • TTTA Thursday-EVs To Be Cost-Competitive By 2025
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Big Bonus From Plugging Cars In
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: What About Nuclear?
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Renewables Mandate To Beat The Peak
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Global New Energy Now
  • QUICK NEWS, June 20: What Power Mix Will Beat Climate Change (Part 1)?; What Power Mix Will Beat Climate Change (Part 2)?; New Energy Is NO Threat To U.S, Grid
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, June 27:

  • TODAY’S STUDY: 100% New Energy Can Work
  • QUICK NEWS, June 27: Now Is The Time, We Are The Ones; The Many Other Ways To Use Solar; New Energy Is The New Way To Run The Grid

    Tuesday, June 27, 2017

    TODAY’S STUDY: 100% New Energy Can Work

    D=927103126008002091101027122080092011118033030042010043122092076030065117094089119010026005017013006005055070123097120008107094055066031061002124121118121086092089116004008057000085107099026123065123065097121125087093079015012105088125099099067027022092&EXT=pdf The Economic And Institutional Foundations Of The Paris Agreement On Climate Change: The Political Economy Of Roadmaps To A Sustainable Electricity Future

    Mark Cooper, January 2016 (Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School)

    Abstract Three recent “roadmap” analyses outline routes to a low-carbon economy that model the decarbonization of the electricity sector and the pervasive electrification of the transportation and industrial sectors. Two of these also impose a pollution constraint on electricity resources that rejects the use of nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage. Using independent cost estimates and sequentially “relaxing” the constraints on resource selection, this paper compares the resource costs of the resulting portfolios of assets needed to meet the need for electricity. Reflecting the continuing decline of the cost of renewable resources, the paper supports the claim that the long run costs of the 100% renewable portfolios are not only less than business-as-usual portfolios, but that the “environmental merit order” of asset selection is quite close to the “economic merit order.” Neither fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage nor nuclear power enters the least-cost, low-carbon portfolio. As long as a rigorous least-cost constraint is imposed on decarbonization, the pollution constraint is superfluous. The paper evaluates the Paris Agreement on climate change in light of these findings. The Agreement is described as a progressive, mixed market economic model with a governance structure based on a polycentric, multi-stakeholder approach for management of a common pool resource. The paper argues that this approach reflects the underlying techno-economic conditions and the fact that national governments have authority over local energy policy. It also notes that the political economy of the Agreement is consistent with current academic analysis of policy responses to the challenges of climate change and management of a large, focal core resource system…

    Charting The Route To A Decarbonized Electricity Sector

    1-Refining The Route To Deep Decarbonization

    Minimal Cost Saving from Relaxing Environmental Constraints

    In the above analysis, when we indicate that there could be competition at the margin for the final spots in the resource portfolio if either of the environmental constraints are relaxed, that does not mean that the “environmental merit order” would be more costly than a business-asusual approach. Quite the opposite is the case because the cost of the resources that make up the first three-quarters to nine-tenths of the “environmental merit order” are so much lower. In every case, building the resource portfolio with the renewable building blocks – efficiency, wind, solar (overwhelmingly CSP) – would be less costly. The competition at the margin is only about how large the cost savings will be.

    The outcome is uncertain because it depends on how much the low-cost resources could expand, if one or both of the constraints is lifted. At one extreme, it can be argued that the environmental and economic “merit orders” are so close and leave such a small amount of competition at the margin that one or more of the lower cost resources will expand to occupy the space left. Cost might go up, but not very much.

    At the other extreme, one can argue that there would be no expansion, as shown in Figure V-1. In the Jacobson et al. analysis for the U.S., the marginal resource needed would be nuclear, which would increase the cost savings by 10% because of the extremely low assumed cost of nuclear and the relatively large role of offshore wind. At Vogtle costs, the marginal resource would be coal with carbon capture and the cost savings would be 5%. The result is similar with the higher costs of Hinkley or North Anna. If both the carbon and pollution constraints were relaxed, the marginal resource would be coal and the marginal savings would be about 11%.

    In the global analysis, the relaxation of the pollution constraint would lower costs about 5%, again because of the unjustifiably low nuclear cost projected, while eliminating the carbon constraint would lower costs by 10%, because of the smaller role of offshore wind. At the Vogtle cost of nuclear, the marginal resource is coal with carbon capture and storage and the additional savings are even smaller. Thus, relaxing the constraint on other pollutants results in minimal cost savings.

    Cost Savings from Increased Energy Efficiency

    While we will not explore the space between the extremes of assuming that other resources would fill the gap of relaxing the constraints entirely, or not at all in detail, one area between the extremes that is compelling and worthy of comment is the amount of efficiency that is assumed. Given the way efficiency is treated in the larger Jacobson et al. analysis and the fact that only modest gains in end use efficiency are assumed, it seems reasonable to project a larger contribution from efficiency, not only in the analysis of the lifting of constraints, but even in the base renewable case. Combining the business-as-usual and the transformation scenario, the total improvement in end use efficiency is about 20%. The economic potential is larger than that today and the technical potential is much larger. Moreover, the active management of demand in the transformation of the system has a dividend in reduced demand in the range of 10% to 20%.

    Therefore, it can be argued that higher end use efficiency savings should be assumed and priced into the overall analysis. Although assuming an additional 10% of efficiency and pricing it into the analysis is conservative, as shown in Figure V-1, it has a large impact on the cost of the portfolio of assets.

    Figure V-1 compares estimates for the impact of assuming a relatively modest ten percentage point increase in efficiency from the base case. We find that it not only fills a large part of the gap created by removing the carbon or pollution constraints, it also more than offsets any cost increase associated with the constraint, compared to savings that would result from lifting the constraint. Of course, one can argue that policy could achieve efficiency independently of the constraints, so that the overall price would be even lower, but the difference is extremely small.

    Thus, contrary to loud complaints that dealing with climate change will cause a disastrous increase in electricity costs, a rigorous, least-cost approach prevents such an outcome and may even result in a reduction in the total cost of energy services, taking into account the cost of more efficient capital equipment powered by electricity and the very large potential for passive approaches to energy services.

    Other Factors And Considerations

    Environmental and System Factors

    Having reached this conclusion on the basis of the direct cost of the resources, we would be remiss in not mentioning other costs and factors that have economic implications. Jacobson et al. have quantified the large public health and environmental benefits of shifting to low-carbon, low-polluting resources. There have been quantitative and qualitative efforts to assess and rank the resources in terms of their environmental impacts and sustainability.

    Figure V-2 combines qualitative and quantitative approaches to demonstrate the nature of these considerations. The upper graph shows two quantitative assessments. The lower graph correlates these with Jacobson et al.’s ranking of environmental impacts. The quantitative and qualitative ranks yield similar results that support a clear set of conclusions:

    • The selection of resources on the basis of their environmental and sustainability characteristics would be almost identical to a selection based on their economic cost.

    • Renewables have much smaller impacts.

    • Nuclear and natural gas are quite close to one another.

    Simply put, the environmental and economic “merit orders” fit hand in glove based on these considerations. In fact, the recent Australian cost study included a qualitative assessment of many of the factors considered by Jacobson et al.

    One other impact of the transition to a low-carbon economy that deserves special attention is the energy-water nexus. Water is an essential need for human life, a critical input to agriculture and has been an important input for electricity generation. The electricity sector is a huge consumer of water.60 Electricity generating technologies have impacts on water from both the consumption and contamination points of view, which have been recognized in the broader environmental evaluations of resources.61 Climate change and the response to it are also likely to magnify the importance of the energy-water nexus.62 As shown in Figure V-3, the examination of water reinforces the earlier conclusions.

    Bioenergy (represented in the upper graph of Figure V-3 as ethanol) and hydro power are very large consumers of water. This supports the Jacobson approach, which excludes biomass on environmental grounds and includes no increase in hydro generation. Comparing the remaining resources, we find that the renewable alternatives are clearly preferable.

    The Timing and the Task

    A final factor that must be taken into account is time. Indeed, the urgency expressed in the Paris Agreement suggests it should be the first factor. Although we have shown similar “merit order” results in the short- and long-term analyses, there is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and pollution as quickly as possible. All of these road maps require significant change in the technologies used to produce and consume energy, essentially a transition to intelligent energy services that includes active management and passive design to meet the much greater need for electricity required by the electrification of the industrial and transportation sectors. Given the current state of technological developments, some technologies can deliver much sooner than others in response to the urgency of the challenge.

    As shown in Figure V-4, wind and solar, which will be the core technologies of the future global energy system, can deliver the needed power in large quantities more quickly. The capacity projections in Figure V-4 are adjusted for load factors, using current experience. The variable nature of wind and solar is reflected in an assumed 35% factor for wind, 25% factor for solar and 70% for CSP with thermal energy storage. Nuclear is assumed at 90% and fossil fuels at 85%. Over the course of the next decade and a half, the load factors for wind and solar are likely to go up as the technologies improve and they are combined with increasingly economic storage. Indeed, there are many deployments of these technologies that already exceed the load factor levels assumed above. This is all the more likely since, according to the economic “merit order” approach, much of the global deployment of renewable resources would be in virgin territories with rich resources. Since the Deep Decarbonization Project covers nations that emit three-quarters of global carbon, their projected resource mix, which includes nuclear and carbon capture, is scaled up in Figure V-4 to represent the decarbonization of 100% of the global electricity system.

    The analysis of Deep Decarbonization without the environmental constraint ends up claiming a significant contribution from fossil fuels and nuclear. However, that contribution comes much later and results in electricity costs that are much higher. Though 2030, there is little contribution for new nuclear reactors and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage. The Deep Decarbonization Pathways assume increasing contributions from nuclear and carbon capture in later years.

    Both fossil fuel-based technologies and nuclear power, however, are much more costly and would require long research, development and deployment processes to get those costs down. Both would also have to solve significant environmental problems. The analysis of cost trends presented above suggests that an economic revolution in the traditional technologies is not likely in the near- or mid-term. The real world experience of nuclear reactor construction does not support a claim that it can be brought online quickly. Construction periods in the U.S. increased throughout the history of the industry and average a decade. Current nuclear construction is well behind schedule throughout the world. Globally, nuclear construction periods are not quite as long as the U.S., but they are far longer than other technologies. Globally and in the U.S., nuclear construction periods are six times as long as renewable construction periods. The extreme urgency of climate change means that nuclear will miss the critical period of the next decade, particularly if new nuclear technologies that are still on the drawing board are needed.

    The comparison in Figure IV-4 also challenges the claim that technologies based on fossil-fuels with carbon capture or nuclear power are necessary to deal with climate change. The Greenpeace “revolution scenario” projects a level of low-carbon generation that equals the Deep Decarbonization Project projection with carbon capture but without nuclear. Both the Greenpeace “advanced scenario” and Jacobson et al. projects a level of carbon reduction that exceeds the Deep Decarbonization Projection without either fossil fuels or nuclear.

    Conclusion

    Resource Economics of a Low-Carbon Electricity Sector

    This paper demonstrates that the “economic merit order” of resource acquisition is quite close to the “environmental merit order.” Applying least-cost criteria in the context of a carbon constraint achieves the goal of pollution reduction.

    • In the long-term, the economic and environmental “merit orders” are almost identical. Because the cost of the low-carbon, low-pollution technologies has plummeted and their cost is expected to continue to decline, the shift away from baseload resources (fossil fuels and nuclear power) to reliance on flexible renewable resources – linked with active management of supply and demand – will lower the cost of electricity.

    • Even in the mid-term, the “economic merit order” follows the “environmental merit order” to a large extent (75%-90%, depending on costs used). Because the deviation of the “environmental merit order” is so small and the economic benefit of pursuing a 100% renewable electricity sector is so large, it does not seem worthwhile to relax the carbon or the other pollutant constraints.

    • In the short-term, the main resources of the 100% renewable approach are currently less costly and widely available. Therefore, there is no reason to hesitate in pursuing the low-carbon, low-pollution path. Given that this analysis assumes the massive electrification of the whole economy, the much smaller task of decarbonizing the electricity sector to meet the “traditional” need for electricity would be quite manageable. The technologies are in hand; we “merely” need to deploy them. The constraints are in the transportation and industrial sectors, where the necessary technologies are not as far along. The economic resource savings achieved by utilizing lower cost low-carbon, low-pollution resources largely “pays for” the transformation of the other sectors. The environmental and public health benefits of the transformation are surplus savings.

    The Paris Agreement

    This paper concludes that the political economy chosen for responding to climate change in the Paris Agreement fits the underlying techno-economic nature of the available resources. It is also consistent with the terrain of political authority and responsibility of the Parties to the underlying United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The political economy of the Agreement reflects the combination of techno-economic conditions and environmental goals.

    • The progressive, mixed market economic model is driven by the need for a rapid, least-cost decarbonization that supports sustainable development of the global economy.

    • It also recognizes vast differences in resource endowments and the dramatic differences in level of economic development between the Parties.

    • The multi-stakeholder, commons approach to governance reflect the diversity of circumstances and the authority of nations over local energy policy.

    The Final Word on Nuclear Power

    At this moment, nuclear power demands attention as a subtheme of the analysis because its advocates claim it must be a part of the solution. Indeed, some go so far as to call for a 100% nuclear future. Because these claims are made in spite of nuclear power’s extremely high cost, abysmal and continuing record of cost overruns and construction delays, serious environmental and public health impacts, and fundamental incompatibility with renewable resources, it merits at most a footnote in the analysis, a footnote that merely explains why nuclear power should not be included as an asset in the long-term, low-carbon portfolio.

    • To match the economic cost of renewables, nuclear power would need a technological revolution that has eluded it in its half century of commercial deployment.

    • Such an improbable revolution is very unlikely to take place in the time frame deemed critical to the fight against climate change.

    • Nuclear power is equally unlikely to overcome its other severe environmental problems.

    Once the direction of a least-cost route to a decarbonized economy is set by the superiority of renewables, it becomes impossible for nuclear power to participate in the ultimate portfolio. The idea of pursuing an “all-of-the-above” scenario runs afoul of the fundamental differences between the 20th century, baseload fossil fuelapproach and 21st century, renewable energy approach. The two technologies simply do not mix very well because nuclear is not flexible. The vigorous attack on the renewables launched by advocates of nuclear power in their effort to secure favorable treatment of aging reactors is testimony to the incompatibility between the two.63 Gas has also fought renewables over market share. Much the same can be said of fossil fuels with carbon capture.

    The structure of the Paris Agreement gives individual nations the authority and responsibility to develop local decarbonization strategies within the parameters endorsed by the Parties. The Parties cannot be ordered not to pursue nuclear, but the goal of rapidly developing and deploying a least-cost, economically and environmentally sustainable decarbonized electricity sector argues strongly against nuclear power. To the extent that collaborative and coordinated actions are necessary and undertaken to accomplish the goals of the Agreement, they should be devoted to promoting progress along the 100% renewable route to a decbarbonized economy. The reference to renewables in the Agreement in the context of promoting access to affordable, sustainable electricity and building local capabilities, suggest that, here too, the Agreement got it right.

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    QUICK NEWS, June 27: Now Is The Time, We Are The Ones; The Many Other Ways To Use Solar; New Energy Is The New Way To Run The Grid

    Now Is The Time, We Are The Ones An Especially Good Time to Address Climate Change; People Are Taking Action and Raising Hope that We Will Win the Climate War

    Deborah L. Williams, June 25, 2017 (Santa Barbara Independent)

    “…Given the compelling scientific evidence about the existence and impacts of human-caused climate change, it seemed tragic that the United States would [pull out of the Paris climate agreement and] turn its back on the world and future generations…[Americans oppose the move] by a 2-to-1 margin…[But] there are many reasons for hope, as well as opportunities for meaningful action…[Individuals, communities, and states have a larger and more impactful role than ever to play as stewards of the earth and guardians of inter-generational equity…

    Many cities, states, and individuals recognize that inaction is not an option, and are stepping up…At the individual level there has never been a better time to conserve wherever possible…[Communities] can and should adopt the 100 percent Renewable Energy Resolution…[California is showing what can be done at the state level. Despair is not] an option…For the sake of our children and grandchildren, our natural heritage, our national security, our economy, our health, and our moral responsibilities, there has never been a better time to act…” click here for more

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    The Many Other Ways To Use Solar 11 Ways To Use Solar Energy Besides The Home

    Jenna Cyprus, June 2017 (Earth911)

    “…[Solar panels on rooftops can save thousands a year but that] is not the only place they can be applied…Some smartphone cases come with solar panels on the back… [S]ome boats have been designed to run entirely on solar panels and accessories…[Solar-friendly devices for campers include] solar-powered tents, charging stations, cook stoves and more. There’s no more need for propane tanks…[Flashlights] store solar energy…[Portable solar panel chargers can] charge your laptop, camera or tablet…Solar panels can be installed onto a pool’s cover, insulated pool sheets can retain heat in the water, or solar tubes can] heat the water…[Fitness trackers will soon be] solar-powered…[Cities are] using photovoltaic (PV) energy to partially power trains, subways, buses, cars, planes and even roadways…Cities, commercial properties and residential areas are using outdoor solar-powered] lighting…[Space heaters and water heaters are also now] solar-powered…[And any sign that uses flashing lights or backlighting, such as school zone signs or billboards, can now be operated using solar panels…[I]ncredible uses of solar power can reduce our environmental impact one charger at a time.” click here for more

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    New Energy Is The New Way To Run The Grid Report: “Baseload” an Outdated Term for Today’s Changing Electricity Grid; Flexibility key to delivering cost-effective & reliable service

    June 26, 2017 (Natural Resources Defense Council)

    “The nation’s electricity grid operators are increasingly turning to more flexible resources and low-cost renewable energy options like wind and solar, rendering outdated the notion that ‘baseload’ generating plants are required to reliably power America’s homes and businesses…[Advancing Past “Baseload” to a Flexible Grid: How Grid Planners and Power Markets Are Better Defining System Needs to Achieve a Cost-Effective and Reliable Supply Mix found the term ‘baseload’ is outdated because today’s] grid planners increasingly value] resource flexibility to make it easier to balance supply and demand in real time…[B]aseload plants are limited in providing this flexibility because they cannot be easily turned on and off without incurring significant costs…Portfolios of different resource types [including flexible conventional power, variable renewables, distributed generation, energy efficiency, demand response, and emerging technologies like battery storage] can reliably and cost-effectively serve customers’ needs…” click here for more

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    Monday, June 26, 2017

    TODAY’S STUDY: Proven – New Energy Is NO Threat To The Power System

    Electricity Markets, Reliability and the Evolving U.S. Power System

    Paul Hibbard Susan Tierney Katherine Franklin, June 2017 (Analysis Group)

    Executive Summary

    It is a common occurrence for the issue of reliability to be raised when market, technology or policy changes are affecting the financial outlook of different segments of the electric industry. This phenomenon has occurred several times over the past two decades, as the prospect of new industry and market structures, technological advancement, air pollution controls and customer-driven changes stood to alter the operations and economics of various types of power plants on the electric system. Sometimes these warnings spring from genuine concerns, such as the need to address the localized reliability impacts of potential plant closures; other times they reflect a first line of defense by opponents of the changes underway in the industry.

    Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some have suggested that federal and state policies supporting renewable energy are the primary cause of the decline in financial viability. The evidence does not support either hypothesis.

    There is little doubt that the transition under way in the industry will lead to a power system resource mix and consumption patterns quite different from the ones to which the industry has grown accustomed in recent decades. The ongoing diversification of generation supply (See Figure 1) has lowered wholesale electricity costs in most parts of the U.S. and has contributed to recent declines in consumers’ overall cost of living.

    Yet the nature and pace of change have raised two fundamental questions in public debates among electric industry participants, regulators, stakeholders and practitioners:

    First, what exactly are the primary drivers of the transition underway in the electric industry?

    Second, are the changes impacting the mix of generating resources in a way that could undermine power system reliability?

    In this Report we evaluate both questions. Based on our review, we arrive at the following observations and conclusions:

    1. Market Forces are Driving the Change in the Generation Mix, to the Benefit of Consumers

     Fundamental market forces -- the addition of highly efficient new gas-fired resources, low natural gas prices, and flat demand for electricity -- are primarily responsible for altering the profitability of many older merchant generating assets in the parts of the country with wholesale competitive markets administered by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs). As a result, some of these resources (mostly coal- and natural gas-fired generating units, but also many oil-fired power plants and a handful of nuclear power plants) have retired from the system or announced that they will do so at a future date.

     Other factors -- such as rapid growth in newer energy technologies (whose costs have declined significantly in recent years), and state policies and consumers’ actions that support such technologies -- also contribute to reducing the profitability of less economic assets. These are, however, a distant second to market fundamentals in causing financial pressure on merchant plants without long-term power contracts. In the PJM regional market, which accounts for a large share of the nation’s coal plant retirements, decreases in natural gas prices have had a much larger impact on the profitability of conventional generators than the growth of renewable energy, as illustrated in Figure 2.

     The retirement of aging resources is a natural element of efficient and competitive market forces, and where markets are performing well, these retirements mainly represent the efficient exit of uncompetitive assets, resulting in long-run consumer benefits.

    2. The Transition Underway in the Electric Resource Mix is Not Harming Reliability

     Although some commentators have raised concerns that the declining financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like coal and nuclear power plants) that operate as merchant units in several wholesale electricity markets may be jeopardizing electric system reliability, there is no evidence supporting that conclusion. In fact, a recent reliability review by the National Electric Reliability Council (NERC) -- the nation’s designated reliability organization - - shows that the changes in regional wholesale markets are not leading to lower bulk-power system reliability metrics.

     Many advanced energy technologies can and do provide reliability benefits by increasing the diversity of the system. The addition of newer, more technologically advanced and more efficient natural gas and renewable technologies is rendering the power systems in this country more, rather than less, diverse. These newer generating resources are also contributing to the varied reliability services -- such frequency and voltage management, ramping and loadfollowing capabilities, provision of contingency and replacement reserves, black start capability, and sufficient electricity output to meet demand at all times -- that electric grids require to provide electric service to consumers on an around-the-clock basis. As a result, increasing quantities of natural gas and renewable generation are increasing the diversity of the power system and supporting continued reliable operations.

    Introduction and Overview

    A common occurrence in the electric industry is for observers to raise reliability concerns when policy changes -- combined with technology or market trends -- are affecting or may affect the financial outlook for different segments of the electric industry. This phenomenon has occurred several times over the past two decades. Such concerns about electric system reliability were voiced in the mid- 1990s, for example, when changes in efficient co-generation technologies, combined with high rates in certain states, led large industrial customers to call for retail choice and many states to begin to restructure the industry. Such concerns were raised when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states began to implement Title IV of the Clean Air Act, which controlled sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants. More recent examples include the debates over reliability impacts in the period leading up to EPA’s adoption of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) and the Clean Power Plan, all of which would have affected air emissions from various fossil-fuel power plants.

    The maintenance of power system reliability is a fundamental necessity for the protection of public safety, health and welfare, as well as to support the nation's economy and standard of living. Expressions of concern over power system reliability are thus common whenever there is major change underway or anticipated in the industry. Sometimes the warnings spring from genuine concerns, such as the need to address localized reliability impacts of potential plant closures; other times they reflect a first line of defense by opponents of the changes underway in the industry, or those potentially adversely affected.

    There are many sound reasons why policy and/or market changes rarely, if ever, actually end up adversely affecting electric system reliability. A vast network of entities and organizations, and a robust set of reliability laws, rules, practices, and procedures, ensures this outcome. Nevertheless, these discussions play an important role in focusing the attention of the industry on taking the steps necessary to continue to ensure reliable electric service to Americans.

    Over the past decade, the electric industry has witnessed significant transitions. The changes result from a combination of forces: dramatic increases in the production of domestic natural gas and the resulting decreases in the price of natural gas; displacement of coal-fired generation with output at gas-fired power plants that had previously been underutilized; flat demand for electricity; continued improvements in the efficiency, capabilities, and costs of new gas-fired generating technologies and of both grid-connected and distributed solar and wind generation; widespread and growing adoption of small-scale, decentralized generating technologies on customers’ premises; requirements that coal plants without adequate controls on mercury and other toxic pollutants adopt modern equipment; and other forces. These changes have lowered wholesale electricity costs in most parts of the U.S., and have contributed to recent declines in consumers’ overall cost of living.

    These changes challenge the economics of older fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants in many parts of the country and are driving a steady transition in the nation's resource mix towards more gas-fired and renewable resources. This raises two fundamental questions that have found their way into the discourse among electric industry participants, regulators, stakeholders, and practitioners:

    First, what exactly are the primary drivers of the transition underway in the industry?

    Second, are the changes impacting the mix of generating resources in a way that could undermine power system reliability?

    This Report attempts to answer both questions. Regarding the first question, we review the fundamental economic and policy factors that affect the profitability of various types of generating sources competing in today's electricity markets. Further, we show how various factors -- changing fuel costs, demand for electricity and various policies -- have influenced the evolving resource mix in various regions. This analysis is presented in Sections III and IV.

    Next, we review the evolving resource mix through the lens of power system reliability. This section evaluates the specific contributions of various technologies -- dispatchable and non-dispatchable power plants offering slow-ramping and quick-ramping capabilities, and so forth -- to providing the essential reliability services needed to keep the lights on. We evaluate whether the overall mix of resources resulting from economic and regulatory drivers may somehow degrade power system reliability. This review is presented in Sections V and VI.

    Finally, in Section VII we present our observations based on the analysis…

    Observations and Conclusions

    While the nation's mix of electric generating resources has always changed over time, it is increasingly evident that the U.S. electric power system is now going through a major transition. The current changes have been driven by several things: fundamental shifts in the prices of fuels for power generation (in particular, natural gas); improvements in traditional and renewable generating technology cost and performance; the rapid emergence of distributed resources including energy efficiency; and state and federal policies promoting the development and commercialization of advanced energy technologies.

    These changes take place in the context of some important continuities: the electric industry’s successful maintenance of power system reliability. Even so, a common occurrence in the industry is for observers to raise reliability concerns whenever technology, market or policy trends or events are affecting or may affect the balance of resources on the system. Such reliability concerns have been raised regularly over decades in the face of industry changes. It is a particularly powerful tool in public discussions, because reliability simply cannot be jeopardized. Sometimes the warnings spring from genuine concerns, such as the need to address localized reliability impacts of potential plant closures; other times they reflect a first line of defense by opponents of the changes underway in the industry, or those potentially adversely affected. Yet in every case, the prospect of change has led to reliability assessments, careful evaluations of new and upcoming challenges, and steps taken to avoid reliability problems from actually coming to fruition.

    There are many sound reasons why policy and/or market changes rarely if ever actually end up adversely affecting electric system reliability. A vast network of entities and organizations, combined with a complex set of reliability laws, rules, practices, and procedures, ensures this outcome. Nevertheless, these discussions play an important role in focusing the attention of the industry on taking the steps necessary to continue to ensure reliable electric service to Americans.

    There is little doubt that the transition under way in the industry will lead us to a power system resource mix and consumption patterns quite different from what the industry has grown accustomed to in recent decades. The recent changes result from a combination of forces, have lowered wholesale electricity costs in most parts of the U.S., and have contributed to recent declines in consumers’ overall cost of living. Yet the nature and pace of change have raised two fundamental questions in public debates among electric industry participants, regulators, stakeholders and practitioners:

    First, what exactly are the primary drivers of the transition underway in the electric industry?

    Second, are the changes impacting the mix of generating resources in a way that could undermine power system reliability? In this Report we have evaluated both questions. Based on our review, we arrive at the following observations and conclusions:

     Fundamental market forces -- flat demand for electricity, low natural gas prices and the addition of highly efficient new gas-fired resources -- are primarily responsible for altering the profitability of many older, merchant generating assets in the parts of the country with wholesale competitive markets administered by RTOs. As a result, many such resources (mostly coal- and natural gas-fired generating units, but also many oil-fired power plants and a handful of nuclear power plants as well) have retired from the system or announced that they will do so at a future date.

     Other factors -- such as rapid growth in advanced energy technologies and state policies supporting such technologies -- also contribute to reducing the profitability of less economic assets, but such factors are secondary to market fundamentals in causing financial pressure on merchant plants without long-term power contracts.

     The retirement of aging resources is a natural element of efficient and competitive market forces, and where markets are performing well, these retirements mainly represent the efficient exit of uncompetitive assets, and will lead to lower electricity prices for consumers over time.

     Recently, some observers have raised concerns that the transition prompted by market and policy factors may be undermining the financial viability of certain existing generating units that use conventional power plant technologies (like coal and nuclear power plants) that provide ‘baseload’ power supply, and in so doing, may be jeopardizing electric system reliability. There is no evidence supporting that conclusion. In fact many advanced energy technologies can and do provide reliability benefits by increasing the diversity of the system and by providing important reliability services to the grid. The addition of newer, technologically advanced, and more efficient natural gas and renewable technologies is rendering the power systems in this country more, rather than less, diverse. The evolving power system is tending to increase fuel diversity, technology diversity, size diversity, and geographic diversity of power supply. NERC's own analysis suggests that the trend in reliability performance is increasing rather than decreasing in all regions. Further, newer generating resources are contributing diverse reliability services, too: frequency and voltage management, ramping and load following capabilities, provision of contingency and replacement reserves, and black start capability. Given the many attributes associated with a reliable electric system, the term "baseload resources" is an outdated term in today’s electric system which sees gas-fired resources and renewable capacity together capable of providing both around-the-clock power and the flexibility to cycle and ramp as needed to meet and sustain bulk power system reliability objectives.

     The electric system will inevitably continue to change in the future as it has in the past, as new technologies and investments come about through innovation, market forces, consumer preferences, and policy signals and directives from states and the federal government. As this occurs, it will be important to continuously evaluate the reliability implications of a power system that is transforming in truly fundamental ways. Fortunately, existing FERC, NERC, ISO/RTO, state, and utility planning and regulatory functions ensure that evaluation will occur and that reliability will be maintained.

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    QUICK NEWS, June 26: What Climate Change Really Means; New Energy Now Bigger Than Nuclear; The Rump Angers Iowa With Ignorant Wind Remarks

    What Climate Change Really Means How Climate Change Will Transform the Way We Live

    Laura Entis, June 25, 2017 (Fortune Magazine)

    “…[Nearly 50 flights out of Phoenix were cancelled as the heat rose past the airline’s 118 degrees maximum operating temperature…It’s difficult not to connect the delays to climate change—scientists estimate the planet’s overall temperature has increased by 1.8 degrees since preindustrial times. Last year was the hottest on record, followed by 2015, followed by 2014…[Here are a few other ways scientists expect climate change to] impact day-to-day life in the U.S. within the next century…[S]ummer will take place indoors…[because it will be] unsafe to go outside for extended periods of time…Roads and train tracks will melt and buckle under the heat…Those with resources, particularly residents of first-world countries, will be spared the most serious repercussions, at least at first. But for the billions of poor people living in developing nations, global warming has already proven deadly...[Scientists urge action, even if it’s minor things like driving less, turning down your thermostat, or reducing your meat intake, because we] can’t afford to not think this is a problem…” click here for more

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    New Energy Now Bigger Than Nuclear Renewables Now Provide More Electricity Than Nuclear Power; 2nd Month In A Row: Solar + Wind Top 10%, Now Surpassing Hydropower…

    June 25, 2017 (Sun Day)

    “…[F]or the first time since the beginning of the nuclear era - renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar - inc. small-scale PV, wind) are now providing a greater share of the nation's electrical generation than nuclear power…For the first third of this year, renewables and nuclear power have been running neck-in-neck with renewables providing 20.20% of U.S. net electrical generation during the four-month period (January - April) compared to 20.75% for nuclear power. But in March and April, renewables surpassed nuclear power and have taken a growing lead: 21.60% (renewables) vs. 20.34% (nuclear) in March, and 22.98% (renewables) vs. 19.19% (nuclear) in April…While renewables and nuclear are each likely to continue to provide roughly one-fifth of the nation's electricity generation in the near-term, the trend line clearly favors a rapidly expanding market share by renewables. Electrical output by renewables during the first third of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 has increased by 12.1% whereas nuclear output has dropped by 2.9%...In fact, nuclear capacity has declined over the last four years…” click here for more

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    The Rump Angers Iowa With Ignorant Wind Remarks Trump made Iowans really mad by ranting about wind energy

    Jeva Lange, June 23, 2017 (The Week)

    “…[The president] is a little bit obsessed with the evils of wind energy, a topic that did not go over so well at his rally in Iowa…where the rapid growth of the state's wind energy industry has been a bipartisan success story…[E]nvironmentalists and politicians said the president's suggestion that wind is unreliable was outdated and off-base…Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), a longtime supporter of wind energy in his state, said that [the president’s] anti-wind ambitions would only be enacted ‘over my dead body’…[And the president’s ignorant remarks about wind’s threat to bald eagles were completely uninformed. Just 134,000 to 327,000 birds of any kind] die in wind turbine collisions annually compared to a minimum of 365 million that die from collisions with windows of towering buildings like urban hotels]…” click here for more

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    Saturday, June 24, 2017

    Al Franken Explains Climate Science To Secretary Perry

    Sen. Franken reveals Energy Secretary Perry as the dolt he is on climate science. “100% of peer-reviewed scientists have reached the consensus that this is happening.” From Reflect via YouTube

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    John Oliver On Coal Jobs Absurdishness

    The sad truth about the coal lies this president is selling, told in a funny way. From Last Week Tonight With John Oliver via YouTube

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    Coal King Sues John Oliver For Defamation

    A few relevant facts about why John Oliver called out King Coal. From Washington Post via YouTube

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    Friday, June 23, 2017

    Al Gore On The Morality Of The Climate Fight

    Al Gore: battle against climate change is like fight against slavery; Former US vice-president says green revolution is bigger than industrial revolution and happening at faster pace than digital revolution

    Damian Carrington, 21 June 2017 (UK Guardian)

    “The fight against global warming is one of humanity’s great moral movements, alongside the abolition of slavery, the defeat of apartheid, votes for women and gay rights, according to the former US vice-president and climate campaigner, Al Gore…The battle to halt climate change can be won, he said, because the green revolution delivering clean energy is both bigger than the industrial revolution and happening faster than the digital revolution…Gore has played a major global role in raising awareness of the dangers of climate change…[His] new film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is released this summer…Gore told his London audience he was optimistic of success, despite the recent US withdrawal from the global Paris climate accord [because no] one person can stop the climate movement or the sustainability revolution…” click here for more

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    Solar In Latin America Can Boom

    Shaping the Future of Solar Energy in Latin America; Solarplaza and the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) convened over 150 international investors, project developers and solar energy experts from more than 30 countries

    23 June 2017 (Solarplaza)

    “Solarplaza and the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC) convened over 150 international investors, project developers and solar energy experts from more than 30 countries…The IIC, a member of the IDB Group, has pioneered large-scale solar PV energy financing in Latin America and the Caribbean and plans to approve $1 billion in energy deals in 2017…[Attendees explored strategies to overcome financing hurdles to] bankable solar PV projects…[and] shape the future of solar power in the region…[Since IIC started working with Chile in 2008, it has gone from less than 20 MW to 4,000 MW of non-conventional renewable energy…[The IIC has] 16 solar energy projects outstanding in the region valued at over $500 million…” click here for more

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    Scotland Buys Into Kite Wind

    Scottish bank invests in Kite’s novel technology for wind energy sector

    23 June 2017 (Energy Business Review)

    “Kite Power Systems (KPS), a UK-based company developing a disruptive technology for the wind energy sector has secured a £2m equity investment from the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB)…The company’s new kite power technology developed in Scotland is claimed to have the potential to transform the offshore wind generation industry throughout the world…[with] low manufacturing costs and lesser requirement of construction and installation materials…Its power system comprises two kites which have the ability to fly up to a height of 1500ft. By using tethers, the kites are attached to a winch system that produces electricity as it spools out…KPS has been carrying out flight tests of its 40kW system in Scotland…[and got] planning consent for the deployment of a new 500kW power system…[I]ts power technology can be deployed both offshore and onshore. Power generation through its kite technology would not need subsidies from governments owing to the lower capital and operational costs it is associated with…[SIB joins E.ON, Schlumberger, and Shell Technology Ventures with a total investment of £7m]...” click here for more

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    Tesla Eyes The China EV Market

    Tesla moves a step closer to building electric cars in China

    Norihiko Shirouzu and Paul Lienert w/Jake Spring, Marguerita Choy, Bernadette Baum, June 22, 2017 (Reuters)

    “…[Tesla’s exploratory talks with the Shanghai municipal government moves it] a step closer toward establishing an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China…Tesla has said it wants to build electric cars in China to avoid a 25-percent tariff on imported vehicles…[but has not provided] a timeline for setting up a China plant…China's central government requires foreign companies such as Tesla to have a Chinese partner in new auto manufacturing ventures, with the foreign company owning no more than 50 percent...Tesla did not say which companies it might partner with, sparking rampant online speculation…[about] Shanghai Electric Group Co (601727.SS), Shanghai Lingang Holdings Co (600848.SS) and Tianjin Motor Dies Co (002510.SZ)…Much of the speculation has centered on Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), the internet giant that is China's largest company. Earlier this year, Tencent acquired a five-percent stake in Tesla for $1.8 billion…” click here for more

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    Thursday, June 22, 2017

    What Does Exxon’s Carbon Tax Mean?

    Groups Slam Exxon for Deceptive Support of Carbon Tax Plan

    Lorraine Chow, 20 June 2017 (EcoWatch)

    “Environmental organizations are calling foul on a carbon tax and dividend plan supported by ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and other influential businesses, individuals and organizations…[The Climate Leadership Council, developed by former cabinet members James Baker and George Shultz, would] fight climate change by taxing carbon emissions and then redirecting that levy to taxpayers…[But the free market, conservative climate solution also calls for rolling back] Obama-era climate regulations and shields polluting companies from lawsuits over their contribution to climate change…[Environmentalists say Exxon backs the carbon tax proposal because it knows it is politically non-viable and is a distraction] from the ongoing investigations into whether the company lied to the public and its investors about climate change…” click here for more

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    The Rump Flails Factlessly At Wind

    Trump attacks wind power in state that gets nearly third of energy from wind

    Jacqueline Thomsen, June 21, 2017 (The Hill)

    “…[The President ignorantly blasted wind power during a rally in Iowa, which gets] nearly a third of its power from the alternative energy source…[He said he was bringing back coal because he does not] want to ‘just hope the wind blows’ and did not mention that Iowa gets over 36% of its electricity and over 8,000 jobs from wind…During last November’s election campaign, the rump told Iowans ‘wind kills all your birds’ despite the fact that wind causes less than 0.01% of human-related bird impacts and is the least impactful on wildlife of all utility-scale forms of power generation…” click here for more

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    New Energy To Get Bigger And Cheaper

    Solar and wind energy set to get cheaper

    Denisse Moreno, 21 June 2017 (International Business Times via Raw Story)

    “…[Solar energy costs will fall] 66 percent by 2040…[as onshore costs] decrease by 47 percent…[and offshore wind costs plunge] by 71 percent…The decrease in the cost of solar and wind power will undercut the majority of existing fossil power stations by 2030… [A new forecast] predicts $7.4 trillion will be invested in new renewable energy plants by 2040…[which is] nearly three-quarters of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generating technology…Solar power is expected to be cheaper than coal in China, India, Mexico, the U.K. and Brazil by 2021…[Coal will] see a 51 percent reduction in generation by 2040. In its place, gas-fired electricity will rise 22 percent, and renewables 169 percent…” click here for more

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    EVs To Be Cost-Competitive By 2025

    Electric cars will cost less to buy than regular cars by 2025: analysis

    Sean Szymkowski, June 21, 2017 (Green Car Reports)

    “…[Electric vehicles have a number of strikes against them in the minds on consumers, including range anxiety, the lack of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, awareness,] and high purchase prices…[But a new study forecasts EVs will cost less than a normal, gasoline-powered car] as soon as the year 2025…[The biggest factor will be the plummeting price of batteries which, by 2030,] is expected to have decreased 77 percent…By next year, the lifetime cost of ownership in Europe of an electric car is expected to dip below a conventional, internal-combustion engine vehicle…[and 14 percent of new car sales are forecast to] be electrified vehicles in 2025…” click here for more

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    Wednesday, June 21, 2017

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Big Bonus From Plugging Cars In

    How California utility regulators are turning electric vehicles into grid resources; Harnessing the power of electric vehicles will be critical to the state’s renewable energy and climate goals, but big questions remain about how to spur adoption

    Herman K. Trabish, Nov. 21, 2016 (Utlity Dive)

    Editor’s note: California is leaving other states in its dust as it moves to capitalize on electric vehicles.

    New numbers show California’s peak demand will stress its grid more than previously thought, and in response policymakers are pushing ahead with an unexpected solution: electric vehicles. In 2015, California’s grid needed as much as 10,091 MW of quick-responding resources to meet a three-hour load spike in the late afternoon and early evening. As soon as 2019, that demand spike could be almost 14,000 MW, according to a recently-released report from analyst ScottMadden. Using natural gas peaker plants to meet that load would impede the state’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And stationary storage, even with California's landmark storage mandate fully met, would provide insufficient ramping capacity. But electric vehicles (EVs) — already a benefit to utilities for the power demand they provide — could offer the grid something more.

    If EV sales rise fast enough to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of putting 1.5 million zero emissions vehicles into service by 2025, EV battery storage could be an answer to the challenge of peak demand, according to a paper from California’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle regulatory proceeding. According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) white paper, EV batteries plugged into smart charging stations can be “fast acting resources” to meet grid needs nicknamed the “duck curve” because a theoretical graph of them devised in 2011 looked like a duck, with the sharp, late-day ramp up in load as the neck. The need to respond to that fast ramp is now more than theoretical. EVs plugged into smart charging stations are flexible load, especially with electricity price signals that influence when and how charging is done. Utilities can use that flexibility instead of natural gas peaker plants to manage the duck… click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: What About Nuclear?

    Without the Clean Power Plan, are nuclear plants essential to combat climate change?; A new report sees emissions skyrocketing if nukes retire, but PG&E says that's not a given

    Herman K. Trabish, Nov. 30, 2016 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: Since this story ran, the new administration’s disdain for the environment has become clearer, making the question raised here more important.

    Renewables and distributed resources can help the U.S. significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. But a big debate remains over the role of nuclear power in that transition, especially without the Clean Power Plan. A 100% renewables power mix without nuclear is possible for nearly every nation by 2050, according to Stanford professor Mark Jacobson's Solutions Project. But renowned climatologist James Hansen, billionaire Bill Gates, and a roster of other voices say only an energy mix that includes nuclear power can beat climate change. A new paper from Rhodium Group found the closure of the most vulnerable nuclear plants in the U.S. fleet will likely drive greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) up in 2030, despite a renewables boom.

    In the face of higher operating costs and lower electricity prices, the economic viability of the nation's nuclear fleet — supplier of 19% of U.S. electricity — is now increasingly in doubt. Older plants are being scheduled for retirement when operators say they could be authorized to run decades longer. If that happens, the paper finds, greenhouse gas emissions will rise, particularly if the Trump administration throws out the Clean Power Plan, as expected. Nuclear advocates say keeping the vulnerable plants going is the only practical choice. California, as usual, has a different idea. Its climate and energy policies are making baseload generation less relevant and less economic and placing an increasing premium on flexible generation… click here for more

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