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News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

Pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than levels shown in government lab tests, a new study says. That extra pollution translated to another 38,000 deaths from soot and smog in 2015, the researchers estimated. The work published Monday in the journal Nature was a follow-up to the testing that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Researchers compared the amount of key pollutants coming out of diesel tailpipes on the road in 10 countries and the European Union to the results of government lab tests for nitrogen oxides. They calculated that 5 million more tons (4.6 metric tons) was being spewed than the lab-based 9. 4 million tons (8.5 million metric tons). Governments routinely test new vehicles to make sure they meet pollution limits. Experts and the researchers don't accuse car and truck makers of cheating, but say testing is not simulating real-world conditions. "The paper shows how much human failure costs," said Jens Borken-Kleefeld, a transportation scientist at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria who wasn't part of the study. The researchers included a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, that arranged the testing that first showed VW diesel cars were rigged to cheat on emissions tests. They used previously published tests of pollutants coming from thousands of vehicles, all models, to calculate the extra pollution in 2015. Worldwide, three-quarters of that extra pollution is from trucks and buses. Other research connects soot and smog to heart and lung diseases, with pollution killing more than 4 million people every year around the world, said lead author Susan Anenberg, a researcher at Environmental Health Analytics and a former U.S. government scientist. The researchers calculated that the extra nitrogen oxides were responsible for about 31,400 deaths in 2015 because of tiny soot particles in the air and 6,600 deaths from extra smog. The European Union, which has mostly diesel cars, had an extra 11,500 deaths; China, 10,600; India, 9,300; and the United States, 1,100. In Europe, new truck regulations are working and much of the excess pollution is coming from cars, said study co-author Ray Minjares of the clean transportation group. Study authors and outside experts said the solution to the problem is stronger enforcement, regulations and testing. "I do not find these results surprising, but they are significant because the extent of the problem has been underappreciated, and it's one that too many policymakers prefer to sweep under the rug," University of Michigan Energy Institute's John DeCicco said in an email. "So most of what is going on is not cheating but rather inadequate testing and enforcement." Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the U.S. industry group Diesel Technology Forum, said it's impossible to design a lab test that could cover all real-world driving possibilities but industry officials and regulators are working on it. "It's important to understand that diesel has been a technology of continuous improvement, meaning that today's generation of new diesel technology is lower in emissions and more efficient than one built 10 or even five years ago," Schaeffer said in a statement.


News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

(AP) — Pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than levels shown in government lab tests, a new study says. That extra pollution translated to another 38,000 deaths from soot and smog in 2015, the researchers estimated. The work published Monday in the journal Nature was a follow-up to the testing that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Researchers compared the amount of key pollutants coming out of diesel tailpipes on the road in 10 countries and the European Union to the results of government lab tests for nitrogen oxides. They calculated that 5 million more tons (4.6 metric tons) was being spewed than the lab-based 9. 4 million tons (8.5 million metric tons). Governments routinely test new vehicles to make sure they meet pollution limits. Experts and the researchers don't accuse car and truck makers of cheating, but say testing is not simulating real-world conditions. "The paper shows how much human failure costs," said Jens Borken-Kleefeld, a transportation scientist at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria who wasn't part of the study. The researchers included a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, that arranged the testing that first showed VW diesel cars were rigged to cheat on emissions tests. They used previously published tests of pollutants coming from thousands of vehicles, all models, to calculate the extra pollution in 2015. Worldwide, three-quarters of that extra pollution is from trucks and buses. Other research connects soot and smog to heart and lung diseases, with pollution killing more than 4 million people every year around the world, said lead author Susan Anenberg, a researcher at Environmental Health Analytics and a former U.S. government scientist. The researchers calculated that the extra nitrogen oxides were responsible for about 31,400 deaths in 2015 because of tiny soot particles in the air and 6,600 deaths from extra smog. The European Union, which has mostly diesel cars, had an extra 11,500 deaths; China, 10,600; India, 9,300; and the United States, 1,100. In Europe, new truck regulations are working and much of the excess pollution is coming from cars, said study co-author Ray Minjares of the clean transportation group. Study authors and outside experts said the solution to the problem is stronger enforcement, regulations and testing. "I do not find these results surprising, but they are significant because the extent of the problem has been underappreciated, and it's one that too many policymakers prefer to sweep under the rug," University of Michigan Energy Institute's John DeCicco said in an email. "So most of what is going on is not cheating but rather inadequate testing and enforcement." Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the U.S. industry group Diesel Technology Forum, said it's impossible to design a lab test that could cover all real-world driving possibilities but industry officials and regulators are working on it. "It's important to understand that diesel has been a technology of continuous improvement, meaning that today's generation of new diesel technology is lower in emissions and more efficient than one built 10 or even five years ago," Schaeffer said in a statement. Follow Seth Borenstein at http://twitter.com/borenbears and his work can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sethap


News Article | May 15, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2015, file photo, a 2013 Volkswagen Passat with a diesel engine is evaluated at the emissions test lab in El Monte, Calif. Real world pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than what government lab testing says it should be. And that translates to an extra 38,000 deaths worldwide from soot and smog, a new study say. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File) WASHINGTON (AP) — Pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than levels shown in government lab tests, a new study says. That extra pollution translated to another 38,000 deaths from soot and smog in 2015, the researchers estimated. The work published Monday in the journal Nature was a follow-up to the testing that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Researchers compared the amount of key pollutants coming out of diesel tailpipes on the road in 10 countries and the European Union to the results of government lab tests for nitrogen oxides. They calculated that 5 million more tons (4.6 metric tons) was being spewed than the lab-based 9. 4 million tons (8.5 million metric tons). Governments routinely test new vehicles to make sure they meet pollution limits. Experts and the researchers don't accuse car and truck makers of cheating, but say testing is not simulating real-world conditions. "The paper shows how much human failure costs," said Jens Borken-Kleefeld, a transportation scientist at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria who wasn't part of the study. The researchers included a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, that arranged the testing that first showed VW diesel cars were rigged to cheat on emissions tests. They used previously published tests of pollutants coming from thousands of vehicles, all models, to calculate the extra pollution in 2015. Worldwide, three-quarters of that extra pollution is from trucks and buses. Other research connects soot and smog to heart and lung diseases, with pollution killing more than 4 million people every year around the world, said lead author Susan Anenberg, a researcher at Environmental Health Analytics and a former U.S. government scientist. The researchers calculated that the extra nitrogen oxides were responsible for about 31,400 deaths in 2015 because of tiny soot particles in the air and 6,600 deaths from extra smog. The European Union, which has mostly diesel cars, had an extra 11,500 deaths; China, 10,600; India, 9,300; and the United States, 1,100. In Europe, new truck regulations are working and much of the excess pollution is coming from cars, said study co-author Ray Minjares of the clean transportation group. Study authors and outside experts said the solution to the problem is stronger enforcement, regulations and testing. "I do not find these results surprising, but they are significant because the extent of the problem has been underappreciated, and it's one that too many policymakers prefer to sweep under the rug," University of Michigan Energy Institute's John DeCicco said in an email. "So most of what is going on is not cheating but rather inadequate testing and enforcement." Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the U.S. industry group Diesel Technology Forum, said it's impossible to design a lab test that could cover all real-world driving possibilities but industry officials and regulators are working on it. "It's important to understand that diesel has been a technology of continuous improvement, meaning that today's generation of new diesel technology is lower in emissions and more efficient than one built 10 or even five years ago," Schaeffer said in a statement. Follow Seth Borenstein at http://twitter.com/borenbears and his work can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sethap


News Article | May 17, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Pollution from diesel trucks, buses and cars globally is more than 50 percent higher than levels shown in government lab tests, a new study says. That extra pollution translated to another 38,000 deaths from soot and smog in 2015, the researchers estimated. The work published Monday in the journal Nature was a follow-up to the testing that uncovered the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Researchers compared the amount of key pollutants coming out of diesel tailpipes on the road in 10 countries and the European Union to the results of government lab tests for nitrogen oxides. They calculated that 5 million more tons (4.6 metric tons) was being spewed than the lab-based 9. 4 million tons (8.5 million metric tons). Governments routinely test new vehicles to make sure they meet pollution limits. Experts and the researchers don't accuse car and truck makers of cheating, but say testing is not simulating real-world conditions. "The paper shows how much human failure costs," said Jens Borken-Kleefeld, a transportation scientist at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Austria who wasn't part of the study. The researchers included a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, that arranged the testing that first showed VW diesel cars were rigged to cheat on emissions tests. They used previously published tests of pollutants coming from thousands of vehicles, all models, to calculate the extra pollution in 2015. Worldwide, three-quarters of that extra pollution is from trucks and buses. Other research connects soot and smog to heart and lung diseases, with pollution killing more than 4 million people every year around the world, said lead author Susan Anenberg, a researcher at Environmental Health Analytics and a former U.S. government scientist. The researchers calculated that the extra nitrogen oxides were responsible for about 31,400 deaths in 2015 because of tiny soot particles in the air and 6,600 deaths from extra smog. The European Union, which has mostly diesel cars, had an extra 11,500 deaths; China, 10,600; India, 9,300; and the United States, 1,100. In Europe, new truck regulations are working and much of the excess pollution is coming from cars, said study co-author Ray Minjares of the clean transportation group. Study authors and outside experts said the solution to the problem is stronger enforcement, regulations and testing. "I do not find these results surprising, but they are significant because the extent of the problem has been underappreciated, and it's one that too many policymakers prefer to sweep under the rug," University of Michigan Energy Institute's John DeCicco said in an email. "So most of what is going on is not cheating but rather inadequate testing and enforcement." Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the U.S. industry group Diesel Technology Forum, said it's impossible to design a lab test that could cover all real-world driving possibilities but industry officials and regulators are working on it. "It's important to understand that diesel has been a technology of continuous improvement, meaning that today's generation of new diesel technology is lower in emissions and more efficient than one built 10 or even five years ago," Schaeffer said in a statement.


News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

Elon Musk has built a formidable personal brand on futuristic visions of driverless cars and space travel. But the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Tesla CEO could soon make a very real impact in a much-nearer future—and much closer to home—simply by helping U.S. homeowners harness the power of sunlight. This summer Tesla aims to begin installing solar cell roof tiles that look and act like ordinary shingles. Tesla says the tempered glass tiles let light reach the solar cells embedded within them but can take a hit from a hailstone traveling 100 miles per hour. The design costs more than the solar panel assemblies already perched atop many homes, but the company hopes the tiles’ slicker aesthetics—they come with choices like “textured” or “smooth”—will win over reluctant customers. Technical details are scarce, but experts say the tiles appear to rely on the latest solar cell technology wrapped in a package that attempts to be more aesthetically appealing than standard-issue home arrays. Home solar energy appeals to both environmental concerns and the desire to “get off the grid,” and metering laws also let U.S. homeowners sell excess solar power back to utility companies. But the allure of going green and saving money is not always enough for those who dislike the sometimes clunky look of traditional rooftop solar panels. “What Tesla has done is to make the shingles blend in with the rooftop," says Barry Cinnamon, founder of Cinnamon Solar, a home solar installation company that is unaffiliated with Tesla. “Everybody would love to have that if the price is not high.” Expense certainly does cloud the issue. Companies that previously tried offering rooftop solar tiles have stumbled over steep manufacturing costs and more operational glitches than traditional panels. But Tesla is charging in, officially acquiring SolarCity, a developer and installer of solar power for residential and commercial customers, in November 2016. Tesla also finalized a solar cell–manufacturing partnership with Panasonic in December of the same year. The company's moves may have benefited from timing; the cost of manufacturing solar cells has dropped by 60 percent in the past decade. Tesla says the preliminary price for its solar roof comes to about $22 per square foot based on the expected mix of solar and ordinary tiles or about $42 if only solar tiles are used. There is a lifetime warranty for the glass tiles and 30 years for the cells embedded in them. That pricing is more likely to attract customers paying for new home construction in the luxury market rather than average homeowners reroofing existing houses, Cinnamon says. Still, he expects to see costs come down if Tesla and other companies can ramp up sales and production in the next five to 10 years. “Tesla has a track record of announcing something and then selling it to the luxury market at the beginning,” Cinnamon says. “Once you have high volume [sales and production], you can sell it at a lower price. Tesla offers a price calculator that purportedly accounts for how much sunlight reaches a home’s location; the house's square footage and number of floors; the average monthly utility bill; and the percentage of solar tiles in the overall mix. It also includes the federal investment tax credit that currently gives homeowners a one-time credit—usable for directly paying off income tax—equivalent to 30 percent of the total cost of buying and installing solar power. For example, equipping a sample Colorado home with traditional solar panels generating 5.6 kilowatts would have cost $16,408 without the federal tax credit savings in 2016, says Ran Fu, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. He says he calculated that a Tesla solar roof generating the same amount of power for a similar-size home would cost $26,700. That does not figure in an additional $7,000 for a Tesla Powerwall battery (to store extra power)—nor the tax savings. When those kick in, a Colorado homeowner would save a total of $2,600 over 30 years—about a 2.5 percent return on the initial investment. Some homeowners could come out further ahead whereas others could possibly lose money on the investment, depending on their circumstances. Tesla's calculator does not factor in local and state policies that reward investments in solar power, however. States such as New York and California offer additional tax credits. And some states have more generous net metering laws that determine the payments homeowners get from selling excess power back to the utilities. (Utility companies have pushed back against these payments in some states such as Arizona.) In 2016 solar power became the number-one source of new electric-generating capacity in the U.S. for the first time, accounting for 39 percent of new capacity. By the end of that year the number of U.S. homes with solar power had reached 1.3 million, despite a slowdown in growth compared with 2015. The overall power generation capacity of home rooftops, however, still pales in comparison with large-scale solar plants built and run by utilities. But U.S. residential solar power has still been rising steadily, with 46 percent growth between 2010 and 2015. “Solar rooftops are one of the big remaining opportunities to integrate large amounts of renewable energy into the United States without increasing the footprint because the houses and buildings are already there,” says Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. As the industry gains traction, Tesla's foray could help boost the number of homes with solar rooftops. Experts seem cautiously optimistic that the famously flamboyant company’s residential shingles represent the broader trend of the future. But one uncertainty is whether the federal government and individual states will continue rewarding homeowners for adopting solar power. Another question is how fast overall solar power manufacturing and installation costs will fall. Tesla will eventually have to “significantly lower costs” of the solar tiles to compete with more traditional panels on price, says David Feldman, senior financial analyst for the NREL’s Washington, D.C. office. But in Tesla's favor, Feldman pointed to the tiles as just one part a larger suite of services that includes home batteries and electric cars. He also noted the company’s efforts to emulate what he called an “Apple Store” model by selling the solar roof to customers shopping for cars in Tesla stores. “They’re expanding the pool of possible solar power customers while potentially having some synergies with the way their sales team operates and the other things they sell,” he says.


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

The renewable energy industry and its proponents regularly draw attention to the industry’s job creation potential. For example, the American Wind Energy Association reported that the US wind industry supported 88,000 jobs at the start of 2016, a 20% increase in one year. The Solar Foundation announced there were over 260,000 solar workers in 2016, which was a 25% increase over the prior year. By contrast, the coal extraction employed only 74,000 workers in 2016, and coal power plants employed another 86,000 workers. The creation of so-called “green jobs,” such as those in wind and solar, is often cited as a justification for promoting renewable energy through tax credits, renewable portfolio standards and net energy metering. I recently had the privilege to moderate a panel discussion on green jobs at the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative’s (BERC) Energy Summit. The panelists were the Energy Institute’s Reed Walker; Carol Zabin, Director of the UC Berkeley Labor Center’s Green Economy Program; and Anna Bautista, Vice President of Construction & Workforce Development at Grid Alternatives. Many economists remain skeptical of green job claims as a motivation for policy. Severin Borenstein has emphasized that job creation claims usually cherry pick data. To understand the effects of a policy on employment one needs to consider the effects throughout the economy. If a policy is promoting a more expensive form of energy, it could very well be destroying jobs on net. Our panel discussion didn’t address these issues. Instead, the discussion explored equity issues surrounding green jobs. Who benefits? Who doesn’t? Are green jobs “good” jobs? I left the discussion doubtful that policymakers should view the growth in the number of green jobs as a solution to job losses in other, less green, parts of the energy sector. Green Jobs Not Much Help to Displaced Coal Miners At the same time as solar and wind employment is skyrocketing, coal industry jobs are plummeting. Energy Information Administration data shows a 25% drop in coal mining employment from 2008 to 2015. In 2015, 94 coal-fired power plants with a capacity of nearly 14,000 Megawatts closed. Read more about the decline of coal here. Reed Walker has done research showing just how painful job losses can be to workers. His research looked at how the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments affected workers in newly regulated firms and industries. The basic idea is to compare workers’ earnings trajectories in newly regulated sectors compared to similar workers in other sectors, before and after the regulations went into place. While many workers were unaffected by the regulatory change, the present-discounted earnings losses for displaced workers after the policy change exceeded their pre-regulation annual earnings. When workers lose their jobs and have to find employment in another industry, their incomes drop significantly, on average. A recent US Department of Energy report explains why moving from coal mining to renewable energy would be an especially painful transition for workers: First, the coal job losses and renewable job gains are happening in different places. This means relocation costs pose a significant barrier to workers switching from coal to renewables. Second, renewable energy jobs pay less. The median wage for solar installers is 20% below that of coal miners. Third, the skills needed in an extractive industry like coal mining are very different from those needed in a construction industry like solar or wind. Putting forward green job creation as the solution to coal industry workers’ woes is unlikely to be well received by miners. Green Jobs Not Necessarily a Path to the Middle Class While coal miners might not be landing green jobs, other workers are. Are green jobs sustainable opportunities for these workers? Analysis suggests the reality is mixed. The majority of green jobs in solar are construction jobs, that is, installing systems. A 2016 report from UC Berkeley’s Labor Center by Betony Jones, Peter Philips and Carol Zabin analyzes differences between construction jobs in the utility-scale segment of the renewable energy industry and jobs in the rooftop solar industry. The study finds that in California most workers in the utility-scale segment earn wages and benefits, and receive training that can sustain a middle class lifestyle. The report attributes this to the fact that utility-scale projects in California employ workers who belong to labor unions or receive equivalent wages and benefits to union members. Jobs in rooftop solar, on the other hand, pay lower wages and offer more limited benefits. The Solar Foundation jobs report shows that most solar installers (69%) work on these lower paid residential and commercial distributed solar projects, not on the higher wage utility-scale projects. The report stops short of arguing that renewable energy policy should favor utility-scale renewable energy over roof-top solar. However, in a separate blog, Jones and Zabin cite one of Severin Borenstein’s blogs and point out that environmental and economic objectives provide a rationale for policymakers to favor utility-scale projects over rooftop solar. Green jobs may not be the solution to coal country’s woes or an inevitable path to the middle class. Yet these jobs are providing meaningful opportunities for thousands of people. In 2016, solar ranked second in employment among energy sectors behind oil/petroleum, but ahead of natural gas. Wind ranked seventh, ahead of nuclear. Groups like Grid Alternatives are trying to increase the accessibility of renewable jobs to the highest need communities. Grid Alternatives is a non-profit organization that trains people coming from low income and minority communities to work in the rooftop solar industry. Rooftop solar jobs may not be as attractive as utility-scale jobs, but Grid Alternatives’ success in recruiting candidates show that these jobs are still desirable to some workers. The growth in the green jobs sector has been extraordinary, and many people have benefited, but green jobs do not cure all energy sector job woes. I worry that proponents of green jobs have set expectations too high. Policymakers and advocates should honestly address the challenges presented by trends in the energy industry. Displaced workers need a sufficient social safety net and workforce training to prepare them for the jobs they are most suited for and most interested in. These may not be green jobs, and that is ok. Meanwhile, where green jobs are being created, workforce training that connects a wide range of workers to these jobs makes sense. This will help put more green in the hands of people who need it most.


News Article | April 5, 2017
Site: www.labdesignnews.com

Description: Developing a dry room for an advanced lithium-ion battery production lab is a precise task requiring ultra-low dew point levels. The task becomes monumental when that lab project also required renovating an existing space, isolating it from the rest of an occupied building and placing needed mechanical equipment two floors above. Working together, the teams from Scientific Climate Systems, Munters and Innovative Air Systems provided the expertise needed to design and develop a world-class lab and ensure consistent and accurate conditions were met. The setting for this complex assignment—the University of Michigan Energy Institute's Battery Lab in Ann Arbor, Mich. The facility offers university researchers, materials scientists and engineers, as well as suppliers and manufacturers, state-of-the-art equipment to develop less expensive and longer lasting energy-storage devices for grid storage, transportation and consumer products. Houston-based Scientific Climate Systems, which specializes in designing and installing precise low humidity environmental conditions for dry rooms, with more than 200 installations worldwide, was selected to design and build the dry room. The work encompassed a complete integration, mechanical systems, controls for monitoring and adapting to ambient conditions and all the equipment needed to achieve design requirements. Developing the 700 sf lab presented several unique challenges. For one, the project required converting an existing, second story space in a three-story building into a dry room. Second, the mechanical equipment had to be located on the roof and connected to the second floor of the building without disturbing occupants on the third floor. In addition, all of the equipment had to be specified to fit on the available roof space and designed to operate with minimal sound and visual impact. The design of the lab took more than a year with several meetings to review design concepts and details to the installation schedule and coordination with a local contractor to arrange space on the roof and use of an industrial crane to lift the mechanical equipment in place. Where there were other functional areas within the building, multiple small access hatches were required in the dry room to adjust utilities associated with these rooms and other labs. These had to be gasket sealed along with the room enclosure to maintain conditions. With proper sealing in place, the dry room requires only 200 CFM of positive pressure to avoid moisture infiltration that would affect conditions inside. To achieve this level of control required a large amount of mechanical equipment, including an advanced dehumidification system, all strategically placed on the building’s rooftop.


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

The event, titled "Preparing for the Future of Energy – Thriving in Complex and Uncertain Times," heard that historic questions of global hydrocarbon supply were no longer an issue due to the explosive growth of the U.S. shale sector. This has impacted on the rest of the world and globalized American business through a revamped export policy. It could also play a positive role in future U.S. detente. In his keynote address to a record event audience of more than 200 oil and gas industry professionals, Kenneth Hersh, CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center and co-founder and advisory partner of NGP Energy Capital Management, said: "This wonderful industry is at the epicenter of change. It is a change that has been dramatic and it is not going back to the way it was. It has increased opportunity, economic activity and has democratized what was a world of scarcity into a world of abundance." Mr. Hersh said the new look oil and gas industry operating in an era of supply abundance had to face the same pressures as any other commodity. "We grew up with axioms around scarcity but now we have entered a different realm. The North American unconventional game has changed the industry and has had knock on effects around the world," he said. "It is no longer about finding hydrocarbons. It's about whom we are competing against, what does our customer want, what does our distribution channel look like, what is our price point. Who are the winners? The consumers. The losers will be the high-cost producers and people playing the old game." Referencing political instability in the Middle East and Russia's growing influence, Mr. Hersh added supply abundance at home, which released the U.S. from reliance on imports, may impact on future foreign policy decisions. The Energy Symposium featured two panel sessions: 'Forces Shaping the Future of Energy – Global and U.S. Big Picture' and 'Challenges and Opportunities in the U.S.' Energy Institute board of advisors members Mike Stice and Bruce Stover moderated both panel sessions. The sessions focused on the impact of technology and innovation in areas such as global supply and demand, issues related to induced seismicity, the treatment and disposal of water and the impact of carbon emissions on global warming. Attendees heard that while the U.S. onshore shale industry has seen a rapid return to growth, technological developments and innovative risk-reducing business models in the offshore sector, had lowered operating costs and would enable it to follow suit in the next two years. Natural gas was forecast as one of the largest areas for growth, while the export of U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), particularly to Asia, could create benefits from a geopolitical perspective. In welcoming delegates to the Energy Symposium, Daniel W. Pullin, dean, Price College of Business, called on U.S. energy leaders to "thrive not just survive" in the low price environment. "Energy in all its forms drives humanity forward," he said. Dr. Dipankar Ghosh, executive director of the Price College of Business Energy Institute, said: "The international energy industry faces many challenges today, but it was clear from the high quality debate at the Energy Symposium that very real opportunities for growth exist. "It was encouraging to hear the positivity and enthusiasm expressed by delegates and the many examples of how the energy industry is embracing the changes required today to meet the demands of tomorrow." To view the video shared at the Energy Symposium, please visit http://www.realenergyleaders.com/blog/a-portrait-of-a-real-energy-leader. Guest speakers at the Energy Symposium were: About the Price College of Business Energy Institute: The Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma has become Oklahoma's leading graduate business program. For more than 50 years, education and research in energy management have been central to the college's purpose. In 2011, the Price College of Business added to its leading position in energy by forming the Energy Institute: a platform for thought leadership and intellectual exchange. Tightly coupled with its education in energy programs, the Energy Institute's research informs policy and business strategy, while its outreach programs foster meaningful dialogue amongst energy professionals worldwide. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-energy-industry-is-changing-the-world-300440534.html


News Article | July 6, 2017
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

Extend effective programs to low income households, but scrap the bad ones for everyone. Energy programs for low-income households are on the chopping block. President Trump’s proposed federal budget would eliminate energy programs including the $270 million per year Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The WAP program pays to make the homes of low-income households more energy efficient. Low-income households already receive a smaller share of government and utility spending on energy programs than higher income households, but the proposed budget cuts would make matters worse. Energy Institute at Haas research illustrates just how regressive programs for rooftop solar systems, energy efficiency and clean vehicles already are. For example, in a 2015 Energy Institute at Haas Working Paper, Severin Borenstein analyzed participants in the California program that subsidized rooftop solar installations. He estimated that between 2007 and 2013 the top 40% earning households participated in the program at three times the rate of the lowest 40% earning households. This means the federal tax breaks and utility incentives for rooftop solar, which averaged $10,000 to $20,000 per household, were heavily skewed toward higher income households. The same pattern shows up in energy efficiency programs. California households with more than $100,000 in annual income have participated in energy efficiency programs at twice the rate of households earning less than $50,000, according to analysis of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The picture is even starker for clean vehicle tax credits. Taxpayers with incomes greater than $75,000, roughly the top 20% of taxpayers, received about 90% of federal tax credits for plug-in electric vehicles between 2006 and 2012. Should we be concerned if these policies are regressive? Some argue that policies like these can encourage innovations and cost reductions that will make cleaner energy technologies more commercially viable. Elon Musk has articulated this progression in the “master plan” for Tesla, the electric vehicle company: start by selling a low volume, expensive car, then incorporate the learning to make progressively more affordable cars. Subsidy policies could accelerate this process by encouraging more private money to, in effect, co-fund the technology development process. But some state policymakers aren’t satisfied with these arguments. They want fairer programs now. In California the legislature is particularly concerned with inequality in energy. This isn’t surprising since the state has among the nation’s highest levels of income inequality – ranked #4 based on 2015 Census survey data. The main thrust of policymaking to address inequities has been to spend more on programs for low-income households. Households living in areas that experience high levels of pollution have received special attention. This has included earmarking 25% of the state’s revenues from selling greenhouse gas cap-and-trade permits to programs that benefit “disadvantaged” communities. Disadvantaged communities are identified based on an index that takes into account pollution- and poverty-related factors. In effect, these are the subset of low-income communities that are also exposed to high levels of pollution. As part of this effort California has budgeted a cumulative $174 million since 2014, so far, for weatherization and solar in these low-income communities. Is ramping up spending on energy efficiency and solar for low-income communities the best approach? It depends. If the policies are cost-effective, then yes. But, if the low-income policies are not cost effective then increasing spending won’t benefit low-income households or society. In fact, there are likely cases where the best way to achieve equity is to cut back the subsidies going to higher income households rather than increasing the subsidies for lower income households. Research suggests that residential home upgrade programs may be a good place to aim the microscope. In a 2017 working paper released by the E2e Project, Hunt Allcott and Michael Greenstone examined programs in Wisconsin that offered subsidized audits and home upgrades. The programs were open to participants at any income level. They found the programs had a negative rate of return of 4%. Among the challenges, many households who took subsidies for the audits did not implement any energy savings measures, and the households that did take action after the audits were influenced by aesthetic and other non-energy factors. As a result they collected significant subsidies for upgrades that saved very little energy. A previous study by Meredith Fowlie, Michael Greenstone and Catherine Wolfram of a low-income home upgrade program in Michigan also found poor results. Ineffective programs such as these should be eliminated or radically redesigned, not expanded for low-income households. In other cases, however, programs targeted at low-income households could generate significant benefits. Judson Boomhower and Lucas Davis evaluated energy savings from a program that subsidized energy efficient central air conditioners in southern California. They evaluated how energy savings varied based on household demographics. Consistent with other energy programs, households in lower income zip codes participated at only half the rate of higher income zip codes, making this another highly regressive energy program. The analysis also pointed to opportunities. The households in lower income zip codes that participated saved just as much energy as those in higher income zip codes. As Boomhower and Davis pointed out previously, this program saves energy at peak times, when energy is particularly valuable. This suggests that policymakers should find ways to increase these valuable upgrades in lower income households. Program expansion could be funded by eliminating the least effective parts of the program. Specifically, households in milder zip codes could be excluded. A full 80% of participants lived in these areas, in which energy savings were modest or non-existent. If the subsidies paid out between 2010 and 2014 in the milder zip codes had instead gone to additional participants, including low-income participants, in the hotter regions, energy savings from the program would have more than doubled. More rigorous analysis of energy programs is needed, as is better demographic data on program participation and impact. The California Energy Commission has highlighted the need for better demographic data in their recent report summarizing barriers to energy programs for low-income households. Advocates for greater equity in energy programs should use the upcoming federal budget debate to push for more spending on effective programs for the poor and less spending on ineffective programs for everyone.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: cleantechnica.com

The question of scale economies in solar has been both a technological and an economic one. As mentioned before, the contention in the late 2000s was that concentrating solar thermal power plant technology would outstrip solar photovoltaics (PV) because the latter was marginally more efficient (at the point of generation) and could incorporate energy storage. Below is part two of our Is Bigger Best? report, a report released in September 2016. Conventional wisdom suggests the biggest wind and solar power plants will be cheapest, but where they deliver power, and who will own them, matters more. Be sure to read part one and come back for part three next week. Frequently left out of that argument were the cost and loss of energy in transmission. In 2010 comments to the California Public Utilities Commission on the now­-constructed Ivanpah concentrating solar power plant (called the Genesis Solar Energy Project at the time), transmission and generation expert Bill Powers explained that the cost of electricity from Ivanpah was likely to be higher than from distributed solar PV. “There is no justification for…using an obsolete cost assumption to eliminate large­-scale distributed PV as an alternative to the Genesis Solar Energy Project…The assertion that the high distributed generation case is significantly higher cost than the reference case was incorrect in June 2009 and is definitively obsolete in June 2010.” With energy losses varying from an average of 7% to a peak of 14%, the marginally better solar resource at its remote location was lost in transmission, especially when there was ample rooftop space to accommodate local distributed solar. The Ivanpah plant finally came online in January 2014, supplying power at 20¢ per kilowatt-­hour, although to date supplying less than two­-thirds of its anticipated output. For comparison, the 20-­year cost of energy from a distributed solar PV project completed in 2013 would have been 14.0¢ per kilowatt-hour with a 15% profit margin. It’s also worth noting that the higher output from a concentrating solar thermal power plant is in part due to the use of natural gas to ramp up plant output in the morning. The Ivanpah facility consumed nearly 744,000 thousand cubic feet of natural gas in 2014, about what 8,400 Minnesota homes use in a year. Another, often overlooked, issue with concentrating solar thermal is water use. As with traditional power plants, concentrating solar thermal power is using heat to make steam, and steam to turn turbines to generate electricity. In a 2011 post, ILSR noted that concentrating solar power used nearly twice as much water as a coal-­fired power plant if wet cooled, and nearly as much as a natural gas power plant even if dry cooled. Solar PV, on the other hand, uses no water to generate electricity because sunlight is converted directly into electric current. Over time, the cost parity of solar thermal electricity and solar PV disappeared, as the following chart shows. While PV costs have fallen rapidly, the cost of concentrating solar has not followed suit. The prospects for continued reduction in solar PV prices remain good, given impressively lower costs in Germany and Japan. At least half of the differences can be explained by the gap in deployment, with three times the amount of solar deployed in Germany and Japan relative to the US. Other differences include “installation labor; permitting, inspection, and interconnection; [and] customer acquisition,” according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. The availability of energy storage was (and is) another touted advantage of concentrating solar thermal, but it’s unclear that it can offset the significantly higher prices. Thermal storage at concentrating solar power plants is much cheaper per megawatt-­hour than batteries, and plants commonly have from three to six hours of storage. But since the thermal energy has to heat water and create steam, the response time from energy storage to useful electricity is in minutes rather than seconds. Early use of batteries, however, tend to be in providing “ancillary services,” such as maintaining a consistent voltage on the grid. These services require a relatively small amount of total capacity, but require a quick response. Shifting production from day to night has not proven economical. On the other hand, as the prevalence of solar PV in California is shifting the electricity peak into the later evening hours, thermal storage at concentrating solar plants could become more valuable. So far, however, the challenges and costs of concentrating solar thermal have spurred a shift toward solar PV, even for large projects, resolving the technology debate in favor of mass­-produced solar PV. The scale issue, however, remains a fight within the technology of solar PV. As mentioned in the introduction, the Brattle Group last year fired the latest salvo in the utility­-scale versus distributed solar debate. The group argues that resources should be disproportionately invested in utility­-scale PV, since it can produce electricity at half the cost of distributed PV. In a set of 2016 reports on solar, Berkeley Labs and the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative provided data on distributed and utility­-scale solar costs. This chart combines the two analyses, and shows that the sweet spot for low­-cost solar development is in the middle, rather than at the ends of the size spectrum. In the chart of upfront costs above, the largest utility­-scale projects are nearly as costly as rooftop commercial­-scale solar projects. However, utility­-scale projects typically use panels that track the sun, with commensurately higher electricity output. The following chart, of the inflation­-adjusted levelized cost of electricity, offers a more accurate picture. We used the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s System Advisor Model to generate a real, levelized cost of electricity for a $2.50 per Watt solar array of 6.71¢ per kilowatt­-hour (including the 30% higher federal tax credit), and adjusted accordingly for the other capital costs. Utility­-scale projects (those 5 megawatts and above) are assumed to have tracking, with 30% higher output and therefore 30% lower levelized energy costs. This chart seems to support the Brattle Group’s contention that bigger solar is better, aside from projects exceeding 100 megawatts. But what’s still missing in this analysis is the price of competition. As noted in an ILSR analysis from 2015, utility­-scale may cost less, but it’s also worth less to the electric grid because of its remote location. The following chart replicates the levelized cost chart, but adds in the market price against which these various sources of solar compete.3 This chart shows that at most smaller sizes, solar favorably competes with the retail electricity price. The national average residential electricity price used for this chart is close to 12¢ per kilowatt-hour, but this price is 15¢ in California (and even higher in some states in the Northeast). Commercial scale solar also competes relatively well against average commercial retail electric prices of 10¢ per kilowatt-hour.4 Megawatt­-scale projects, connecting and competing into the wholesale market, compete against other new power generation, like natural gas, that produces electricity for 5¢ to 8¢ per kilowatt­-hour. Worthy of note, the rise of community solar projects looks to hit that sweet spot of cost and benefit, with projects typically between 250 and 1000 kilowatts, providing a cost­-effective way for those without a sunny rooftop (or enough capital to finance their own solar project), a way to participate. While solar at nearly any scale is competitive, the price of solar from large scale solar projects does not include the cost of transmission for delivery, relevant for most projects over 5 megawatts. Writ large, the cost of transmission is rising. In California, transmission costs for the three major investor­-owned utilities have been rising by nearly 10% per year. In contrast, there is a lot of available capacity on the distribution grid for smaller­-scale solar projects. From the same post as the chart above (emphasis mine): A 2015 Energy Institute at Haas working paper, described here, performed a detailed analysis of Pacific Gas & Electric’s distribution grid and concluded that solar penetration equal to 100% of capacity on all circuits would require only small cost to accommodate [less than 1/1000th of a percent of the utility’s operations and maintenance budget]. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has estimated that their grid can accommodate about 1,000 Megawatts of distributed generation. That’s equal to around 20% of the utility’s peak demand. So big solar projects might produce somewhat cheaper electricity, but unlike your Amazon Prime membership, there’s no free delivery. And comparing utility­-scale and distributed­-scale solar misses an important point: they do not compete with each other on price. A final contention in the size debate is whether, driven by the urgency of climate change, it is possible to most quickly deploy wind and solar in small chunks or big ones. Although we can’t definitively answer this question, we offer two powerful anecdotes that suggest that big changes in renewable energy deployment come in packages of any size. Prior to 2007, Germany had installed about 2,900 megawatts of solar. Prior to 2011, the US had installed a similar amount. Over the next five years, Germany installed 22 gigawatts of solar, with 75% of the projects smaller than 500 kilowatts. In a similar timeframe, 2011-2015, the United States installed over 23 gigawatts of solar capacity, with just 42% smaller than 1 megawatt. In other words, in scaling up solar, the size (of individual projects) didn’t matter. While the total capacity was similar, Germany’s focus on local ownership meant that much more of the economic benefit of its new solar capacity accrued to ordinary citizens, instead of incumbent utilities. In Denmark, electricity had long been the province of cooperatives, so when the “feed-in tariff” program offered a guaranteed grid connection and a fair price on a 20-year contract for wind power in the early 1990s, many Danish citizens became part of wind power cooperatives. Wind energy capacity surged from around 500 megawatts to over 3,000 megawatts, and 80% of this wind energy was owned by 150,000 Danish citizens (3% of the population). On a per-capita basis, this would be the same as adding 150,000 megawatts of wind power in the US (twice the total installed capacity at the end of 2015). In the Danish example, wind power grew much faster when connected to local ownership, even though typical projects were just 3 to 7 turbines, each about 500 kilowatts in size. Full report available at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update. Check out our new 93-page EV report. Join us for an upcoming Cleantech Revolution Tour conference! Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech daily newsletter or weekly newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

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