Energy & Technology

C2ES: Losing nuclear power makes it harder to meet U.S. climate goals

Press release

April 28, 2014

Contact: Laura Rehrmann, rehrmannl@c2es.org, 703-516-0621

 

C2ES: Losing nuclear power makes it harder to meet U.S. climate goals

WASHINGTON – Further closures of U.S. nuclear power plants will make it harder for the United States to reduce carbon emissions and meet its climate goals, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) says in a new policy brief.

The brief, "Climate Solutions: The Role of Nuclear Power,” examines the role of the existing U.S. nuclear fleet as a zero-carbon energy source, and why power companies have announced the unexpected retirement of five nuclear plants.

Nuclear power currently supplies the lion’s share -- more than 60 percent -- of zero-carbon electricity in the United States. Unlike other zero-carbon sources such as wind and solar, which are intermittent, nuclear provides “baseload” power available 24 hours a day.

“Losing more of our existing nuclear fleet will make it that much tougher to meet our carbon reduction goals,” said C2ES President Eileen Claussen. “We need to keep ramping up renewables, but they can’t meet our need for reliable power 24/7. Nuclear is a baseload source and it’s carbon-free – two things we need.”

The new brief was released today at a C2ES event with government, industry, and policy leaders at the National Press Club.

According to the C2ES brief, replacing the generation being lost from the five announced nuclear shutdowns would require 16 (400 MW) natural gas combined cycle power plants, which would provide baseload power but emit 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Replacing the same capacity with renewables would require about 7,600 (1.5 MW) wind turbines or about 3.7 million (5kW) solar rooftop panels, which are carbon-free but can’t currently provide baseload power.

The United States has set a goal of reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Although emissions had declined about 7 percent, they have begun rising again, and additional policies are needed to meet the 2020 goal. Electricity accounts for about a third U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

“These plants are shutting down early for a variety of reasons, including lower power prices, higher operating costs, and the way our regional power markets work,” said C2ES Senior Energy Fellow Doug Vine, who co-authored the brief.

Lower natural gas prices and increased wind power generation – which both have climate benefits – are contributing to lower wholesale electricity prices. At the same time, maintenance activities and mandated post-Fukushima safety enhancements are adding to nuclear power plant costs. Wholesale power markets operate strictly on price – and don’t value zero-carbon or baseload sources more than their alternatives – and some nuclear facilities are finding it harder to remain competitive.

“The best way to advance low-carbon solutions, including nuclear power, is to put a price on carbon,’’ Claussen said. “A comprehensive national approach is unlikely any time soon. But if well designed, the carbon standards EPA will soon propose for existing power plants could drive market-based programs at the state and regional level that could help maintain the existing nuclear fleet.”

Speakers at today’s C2ES event included Peter Lyons, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy; Carol Browner, Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow and former EPA Administrator; Bill Mohl, President of Entergy Wholesale Commodities; David Brown, Senior Vice President of Federal Government Affairs at Exelon Corporation; Kimberly Clark, Chief Commercial Officer, North America, AREVA; and Susan Tierney, Senior Advisor at the Analysis Group.

Read the brief at: http://bit.ly/C2esnclr

An infographic is available for publication at: http://bit.ly/C2esinfo

About C2ES
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address the twin challenges of energy and climate change. Launched in 2011, C2ES is the successor to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Learn more at www.c2es.org.

Replacing Lost Nuclear

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Nuclear power supplies more than 60 percent of the nation’s zero-carbon electricity. The planned retirement of five nuclear reactors could make it tougher to meet U.S. climate goals. A C2ES brief examines the pressures on the nation’s nuclear fleet and possible climate implications of future retirements.
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Natural gas power plant with CCS is a positive step for the climate

The increased availability of natural gas is leading to its expanded use worldwide. Substituting natural gas for coal as a fuel for generating electricity helps reduce the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change because burning natural gas emits only about half as much carbon as burning coal.

But half isn’t zero.

That’s why it’s important to note the recent announcement in the United Kingdom of the next step in building the first full-scale commercial natural gas power plant using carbon capture and storage (CCS).

In the Peterhead CCS project, international oil company Shell and British utility Scottish and Southern Energy Company are teaming up to retrofit a 385 MW natural gas power plant to capture post-combustion carbon dioxide (CO2). Pipelines will take the CO2 to permanent storage in a depleted hydrocarbon reservoir two kilometers under the North Sea. When the project, which received U.K. government incentives, comes online in 2018, it will be able to capture and store 1 million tons of CO2 each year for 10 years.

Water for Energy and Energy for Water: Challenges and Opportunities for Utilities

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 
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2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.Webinar 1: An overview of water/energy issues from national and federal perspectivesSee video here. View slides here.

Webinar 1: An overview of water/energy issues from national and federal perspectives

May 8, 2014

2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET

Dr. Craig Zamuda from the Department of Energy (DOE) will present key findings from DOE’s recently released water/energy nexus report, attempting to distill some of the key issues and risks of which water and electric utilities should be aware. Dr. Kristen Averyt, Associate Director for Science for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and Director of the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, will present her research regarding water-energy challenges that exist currently and are on the horizon.

See video here. View slides here.

Energy in the News

Each week, C2ES provides a roundup of top energy news. Each headline below links to the full story at the original news outlet, which is solely responsible for its content.  Additional links to relevant C2ES resources are also provided.

Week of June 15, 2015

  •  Record year for renewable power; heat, transport stay fossil (New York Times)
    In its new Global Status Report on renewables, REN21 reports that the growth of renewable energy outpaced that of fossil fuels in the electricity sector in 2014, with a record 135 gigawatts of capacity added worldwide from wind, solar, hydropower and other natural sources.
  • EU on track to meet its 2020 renewable target (The Guardian)
    A status report from the European Commission finds that the EU-28 is on track to source 20 percent of its energy from renewables such as wind, solar and biomass by 2020. Most countries are on track to meet their individual targets. Notably, the UK, France and the Netherlands are currently off track.
    More from C2ES on renewables
  • Report offers strategy to peak global energy emissions (International Energy Agency)
    A peak in global energy-related emissions could be achieved as early as 2020 and at no net economic cost by implementing five key policy measures, according to the International Energy Agency in its new World Energy Outlook Special Report on Energy and Climate Change.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Dozens of U.S. companies bet on nuclear power revolution (Reuters)
    A new report from Third Way finds that dozens of companies are collectively betting more than $1.3 billion that a new wave of advanced nuclear power can be a force to fight climate change.
    More from C2ES on nuclear

Week of June 8, 2015

  • U.S. oil production expected to decline through 2016 (Energy Information Administration)
    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged almost 9.6 million barrels per day (b/d) in May 2015 – the highest level in 44 years. However, in its latest Short-Term Energy Forecast (STEO), EIA expects U.S. crude oil production will begin to decline in June, with continuing declines through early 2016, when total production is forecast to average 9.2 million b/d in the first quarter.
  • Pace of Canadian oil production projected to slow (Wall Street Journal)
    In its latest forecast, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers expects Canadian crude output—mostly from Alberta’s oil sands—to reach 4.96 million b/d by 2025. That forecast is less than the previous estimate of 5.6 million b/d and the 6.0 million b/d it had forecast back in 2013. The lower forecast is the latest sign of a global retrenchment in oil and gas investment that has hit the most expensive forms of extraction the hardest, including oil sands and shale oil production in North America.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Fueled by Growth in Residential Solar, US Installs 1.3GW of PV in Q1 2015 (Greentech Media)
    According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA), the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts of solar PV across all market segments in Q1 2015. The United States residential segment of the market grew 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, installing a record-breaking 437 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) in the first three months of 2015.
    More from C2ES on solar
  • World needs to ramp up battery use, energy storage to meet climate targets (ClimateWire - subscription)
    A new report from the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) finds that energy storage will be a vital element for utilities and grid operators in order to double the amount of clean energy produced by 2030. The "Renewables and Electricity Storage" technology road map estimates construction of 150 gigawatts of battery storage and 325 GW of pumped hydro storage will be needed.
    More from C2ES on electric energy storage
  • Chinese greenhouse gases projected to peak earlier than pledged (Bloomberg)
    A new report from former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern suggests that Chinese greenhouse gas emissions could peak around 2025.

    More from C2ES on international climate agreement

Week of June 1, 2015

  • Big oil’s plan to become big gas (Bloomberg)
    Oil companies that have pumped trillions of barrels of crude from the ground are now saying the future is in their other main product: natural gas, a fuel they’re promoting as the logical successor to coal.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Global growth in natural gas lower than previous forecasts (International Energy Agency)
    In its latest update of the Natural Gas Medium-Term Market Report, the International Energy Agency finds that weaker than expected demand growth in Asia leads global demand to rise by only 2 percent per year by the end of the five-year forecast period, compared with the 2.3 percent projected in last year’s outlook. The report also notes that capital-intensive, liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are likely to be adversely impacted (delayed or cancelled) in the medium-term by lower oil prices.
  • PJM gas capacity exceeds coal for the first time (Argus)
    Natural gas has edged out coal as the fuel with the most installed generating capacity in the PJM Interconnection, the largest U.S. wholesale power market, for the first time.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • Exelon to decide fate of Illinois nuclear plant in September (Platts)
    As the Illinois General Assembly fails to pass legislation creating a low-carbon portfolio standard this session, Exelon CEO Christopher Crane said the nation's largest nuclear generator will decide in September whether to close its money-losing, 1,824-MW Quad Cities merchant nuclear plant in Illinois.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • Japanese PM to pledge 26 percent greenhouse gas cut (Australian Financial Review)
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that he would pledge (by the end of July) a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2013 levels by 2030 as his country’s contribution to an international climate agreement expected later this year.
    More from C2ES on international climate agreement

Week of May 26, 2015

  • Renewables share of U.S. energy consumption highest since 1930s (Energy Information Administration)
    Renewable energy (e.g., wood, hydroelectric, waste, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) accounted for 9.8 percent of total domestic energy consumption in 2014. This marks the highest renewable energy share since the 1930s, when wood was a much larger contributor to domestic energy supply.
    More from C2ES on renewables
  • U.S. wood pellets can provide 'viable GHG reduction strategy' for E.U. (ClimateWire - subscription)
    A new analysis from Duke University concludes that the use of wood pellets manufactured in the U.S. Southeast to fuel energy production in the European Union "could represent a viable [greenhouse gas] reduction strategy" for the bloc if recommended sustainability guidelines are followed.
    More from C2ES on biomass
  • Iran cuts gasoline fuel subsidies (AP)
    Last week, Iran increased the price of subsidized gasoline by nearly 40 percent from around $0.90 to $1.28 per gallon. The average U.S. price is $2.66 per gallon; the UK price is $6.84 per gallon. A 2013 report by the International Energy Agency found that accelerated action towards a partial phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies would reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 360 million metric tons in 2020.
  • Forget 'peak oil.' Is the world's economy heading toward 'peak demand'? (Energywire - subscription)
    Projections by some energy analysts, government organizations and even major international oil and gas companies suggest global oil demand may plateau in the next 25 years.
    More from C2ES on oil

Week of May 18, 2015

  • EIA models the Clean Power Plan (Energywire - subscription)
    Analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds that the proposed Clean Power Plan would more than double the amount of coal plant retirements (87 GW, rather than 41 GW) from its business-as-usual scenario, raise electricity prices 4.9 percent above their current trajectory, and trim 293 million metric tons of electricity-related carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, among other things.
    More from C2ES on Modeling EPA’s Clean Power Plan
  • ACEEE releases city energy efficiency scorecard (ACEEE)
    A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks 51 large U.S. cities on what they are doing to save energy in five areas: local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings, energy and water utilities, and transportation.
    More from C2ES on efficiency
  •  32 companies generate a third of world's man-made greenhouse gases (ClimateWire - subscription)
    According to a report from Thomson Reuters, using data from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Climate Accountability Index (CAI), one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the operations of 32 energy companies and the use of their products.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Minnesota PUC approves transmission line (Star Tribune)
    Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved the Great Northern Transmission Line, which will facilitate the transmission of Manitoba (Canada) hydropower to Minnesota and Minnesota wind power to Canada. The line is expected to go into service by 2020.
    More from C2ES on Canadian Hydropower and the Clean Power Plan
  • U.S. crude oil rig count slows (Wall Street Journal)
    After 23 consecutive weeks of declines, the U.S. oil rig count fell by just eight last week to 660. The number of rigs, a proxy for activity in the oil industry, has fallen sharply since prices headed south last year. There are now about 59 percent fewer rigs working since a peak of 1,609 in October 2014.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Japan approves third nuclear plant for restart (Reuters)
    Japan’s nuclear regulator has signed off on the basic safety of Shikoku Electric Power Co’s Ikata nuclear power station (890 MW) in southwestern Japan. The consent of local authorities and additional operational checks are required before the reactor can restart. Two other nuclear plants operated by Kansai Electric Power and Kyushu Electric Power have also passed through the first stage of regulatory checks.
    More from C2ES on nuclear power

Week of May 11, 2015

  • Natural gas and coal generation temporarily converge in April, May (EIA)
    According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), electricity generated with coal and natural gas are expected to make up 31.7 percent and 30.7 percent, respectively, of total generation in April, and for May, EIA expects coal to make up 33 percent of all generation and gas to account for 31.6 percent. Milder weather in the first quarter of 2015, lower natural gas prices and coal plant retirements due to tougher emission rules are driving down coal consumption. The EIA expects coal’s share of the U.S. electricity generation mix to fall from 38.7 (in 2014) to 35.8 percent in 2015.
  • Coal plant retirements to hit peak in 2015 (SNL)
    Approximately 4,600 MW of U.S. coal-fired generation has already retired this year through April and another 7,700 MW will close in the rest of 2015 as utilities work to comply with the U.S. EPA's new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, which took effect last month.
    More from C2ES on coal
  • Natural gas prices hit four-month high (Wall Street Journal)
    Bolstered by rising demand from the power sector, natural gas prices climbed back above $3 per million BTUs last week.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • OPEC sees oil prices below $100 for the next decade (Wall Street Journal)
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) expects that oil prices will remain consistently below $100 through 2025. This is in-line with the recent outlook by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • “Always-on” devices waste $19 billion in energy annually (Utility Dive)
    A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Fund finds that “always-on” appliances and electronics cost U.S. households about $165 per year on average.
    More from C2ES on home energy consumption

 

Week of May 4, 2015

  • Solar has great potential, but technical and policy changes are needed (MIT)
    In a new report, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finds that solar energy has great potential to meet our energy needs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The study emphasizes the need for federal research and development support to advance low-cost, large-scale energy storage technologies, and policies that reward solar energy production, among other things.
    More from C2ES on solar energy
  • DOE grants permission to export LNG from Maryland facility (Natural Gas Inter)
    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has granted Dominion Cove Point LNG final authorization to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to non-free trade agreement (FTA) countries. The Calvert County, Maryland facility is authorized to export up to 0.77 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) for a period of 20 years. According to ClearView Energy Partners, including Cove Point’s export volumes, the cumulative amount of LNG approved by DOE for export thus far to non-FTA countries stands at 6.51 Bcf/d.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • Grid improvements could help states reduce emissions (Energywire - subscription)
    Inefficient transmission lines are responsible for the loss of more than 6 percent of U.S. electric power. Available technologies could help mitigate those losses and reduce U.S. carbon pollution. Additionally, smart grid technologies would help realize the full potential of renewable generation, demand response, and distributed energy investments, while improving grid resilience and reliability.
  • LED street lighting: high up, low hanging fruit (Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership)
    A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) found that switching municipal street lights in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic from less efficient technologies to light emitting diodes (LED) with advanced controls could reduce energy consumption by 1.76 TWh or 55 percent annually. The report highlights the technical, financial and regulatory barriers to installing LED, which include, among other things, utility ownership of the street lighting.
    More from C2ES on lighting efficiency
  • New Tennessee reactor nearly complete (Energywire - subscription)
    The Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor set to come online later this year will be the first new U.S. reactor in nearly 20 years. The reactor’s 1,150 MW will replace power from coal plants that TVA plans to retire.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • India overachieves on renewable energy targets (Clean Technica)
    India added more than 4,000 MW of renewable energy capacity over its 2014-15 fiscal year ending March 31. It exceeded targets for wind, small hydro and solar power; to date, it has installed nearly 36,000 MW of grid-level renewable power.
    More from C2ES on renewables

Week of April 27, 2015

Week of April 20, 2015

  • DOE releases first installment of Quadrennial Energy Review (Department of Energy)
    The Department of Energy released its first-ever review of the nation’s energy infrastructure, which seeks to identify vulnerabilities in the system and proposes major policy recommendations and investments to replace, expand, and modernize infrastructure where appropriate.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Global natural gas leakage rate around 3.2 percent (Forbes)
    A new report from the Rhodium Group found that more than 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas escaped into the atmosphere as a result of global oil and gas operations in 2012. Russia, the United States, Uzbekistan, Canada and Mexico were the largest emitters.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • Gains for natural gas in short-term outlook (Energy Information Administration)
    U.S. power generators are using more natural gas than last year, primarily because of lower natural gas prices compared with coal prices. The use of natural gas-fired generation is projected to average 30.4 percent of total generation in 2015 compared with 27.4 percent during 2014. U.S. coal production is expected to fall by 7.1 percent in 2015, as natural gas displaces coal for power generation.
    More from C2ES on coal
  • Canada will be challenged to meet its climate target (The Globe and Mail)
    A report to the UN from Environment Canada shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have now risen by 4 percent since 2009 and it is unlikely to meet its intended 2020 target. The rising emissions have been driven by higher oil and gas production.
    More from C2ES on key country policies
  • China pours money into Pakistan, opens new trade routes (Wall Street Journal)
    China plans to invest more than $45 billion in Pakistan on energy and infrastructure projects. Among other things, it aims to develop the Pakistani port of Gwadar, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, and create a 2,000 mile economic corridor between the port and northwest China, including roads, rail links and pipelines crossing Pakistan.
    More from C2ES on energy

Week of April 13, 2015

  • EPA releases U.S. annual greenhouse gas inventory (Environmental Protection Agency)
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks for the year 2013. In 2013, the U.S. released 6.673 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a 2 percent increase from the previous year, but 9 percent below 2005 levels.
    More from C2ES on global warming facts and figures
  • EIA releases Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (Energy Information Administration)
    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released a pared down version of its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) this year with just six scenarios. U.S. energy consumption is expected to grow just 0.3 percent per year from 2013 to 2040 in the Reference case, far below the projected economic growth rate of 2.4 percent per year. The EIA plans to release an additional case in May that will consider the effect of the Clean Power Plan.
  • Grim forecast for global energy demand (Energywire - Subscription)
    The International Monetary Fund and other international institutions see slowing growth in developing and developed countries, implying that living standards may improve more slowly in the future and energy demand may increase more slowly.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Mercury standards go into effect (Greenwire - Subscription)
    EPA standards for mercury and other toxic air pollutant emissions (also known as MATS or Mercury Rule) from power plants went into effect on Thursday. Affected facilities could have requested a one-year compliance extension from last week’s deadline. It is expected that around 13 GW of coal-fired electric generating capacity will retire in 2015 as a result of the rule.
    More from C2ES on coal
  • Japanese court rejects bid to restart nuclear reactors (Washington Post)
    Citing safety concerns, a Japanese court issued an injunction ordering two Japanese nuclear reactors to stay offline. The government would like to restart many of the country’s 48 reactors that were powered down after the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.
  • Japanese emissions on the rise (Reuters)
    Japanese greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.2 percent from a year ago to 1.408 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – the second highest level on record.
    More from C2ES on nuclear

Week of April 6, 2015

  • U.S. largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, again (Energy Information Administration)
    In 2014, the United States produced more petroleum and natural gas than Russia or Saudi Arabia. In 2014, petroleum production increased by an average of 1.6 million barrels per day from the previous year, and natural gas production has increased by 13.9 billion cubic feet per day over the past five years.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • U.S. natural gas resource reaches a record high (Penn Energy)
    The Potential Gas Committee’s latest biennial assessment indicates that the United States’ technically recoverable resource base of natural gas has increased to 2,515 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) at the end of 2014, an increase of 131 Tcf from the previous assessment in 2012.
  • FERC approves LNG export facility expansion (Natural Gas Intel)
    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the expansion of Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Louisiana. The facility, which was initially authorized for exports back in 2012, is expected to begin exporting LNG later this year.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • Hudson River power line faces challenges (Capital New York)
    A 333 mile 1,000 MW high-voltage direct current power transmission line from Quebec to New York City still needs final permits and key federal energy market exemptions before construction can begin.
    More from C2ES on hydropower
  • 2015 will be a watershed year for US power sector (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)
    In 2015, the United States is likely to set new records for new renewable builds, coal plant retirements and for natural gas use in the power sector.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Japan expected to announce climate treaty target in June (Reuters)
    Japan, the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, is expected to announce in June its contribution to an international climate agreement in December. Japan is considering a pledge to cut its emissions 20 percent by 2030 from 2013 levels. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan had pledged a 25 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.
    More from C2ES on international

Week of March 30, 2015

  • US pledges emissions cuts of up to 28 percent (The Guardian)
    The United States announced its “intended nationally determined contribution” or INDC to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Country-submitted INDCs will form the basis of a new international agreement on climate change expected in December.
    More from C2ES on international
  • Leaks from natural gas distribution systems have shrunk (New York Times)
    A new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology finds that methane leaks from 13 urban natural gas distribution systems are 36 to 70 percent less than estimated by the 2011 EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory. System upgrades since the 1990s have contributed to curtailing emissions.
  • General Electric unveils new natural gas turbine (Bloomberg)
    General Electric’s new HA (high-efficiency, air-cooled) natural gas turbines, which will be available in July, are capable of efficiencies (converting fuel to electricity) greater than 61 percent in a combined-cycle configuration – the highest in the world. This translates into an emission rate of around 650 lbs CO2/MWh.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • EIA reporting on crude-by-rail (Energy Information Administration)
    The U.S. Energy Information Administration is now reporting on monthly movements of crude oil-by-rail (CBR). Total CBR movements in the United States and between the United States and Canada were more than 1 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2014, up from 55,000 b/d in 2010.
  • U.S. oil and natural gas rig counts drop (AP)
    According to oilfield services company Baker-Hughes, 1,028 rigs were exploring for oil and natural gas last week, down by 20 from the previous week and 790 from a year ago.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Passive homes are under development in New York City (New York Times)
    In New York City, interest is resurfacing in passive homes, which use around one-quarter of the energy of traditionally powered homes. Worldwide, buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of carbon emissions, but in New York City, it’s closer to 71 percent.
    More from C2ES on building envelope

Week of March 23, 2015

  • Crude export ban hurting U.S. producers (Fuel Fix)
    A new study from Rice University finds that the United States’ 40-year ban on crude oil exports benefits a handful of domestic refiners, but hurts all U.S. producers.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Bipartisan push to solve nuclear waste issue (Utility Dive)
    Last week, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced bipartisan legislation to safeguard and permanently dispose of the nation’s stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel, which are currently accumulating at separate sites across the country.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • California achieves solar electricity milestone (Energy Information Administration)
    In 2014, California became the first state to generate more than 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar power. Its solar resource generated 9.9 million megawatt-hours, an increase of 160 percent from the previous year. During 2014, California completed nearly 1,900 MW of new utility-scale solar capacity.
    More from C2ES on solar
  • California drought affects hydropower output (Fierce Energy)
    The multi-year California drought has reduced hydroelectric power output and increased the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (and electricity rates), as natural gas has been running more often to make up for the shortfall.
    More from C2ES on hydro
  • China’s carbon emissions drop for the first time since 2001 (Bloomberg)
    In 2014, total carbon dioxide emissions fell by 2 percent compared with the previous year. Coal demand is slowing, while other fuels including oil, natural gas and renewables are growing.
    More from C2ES on international

Week of March 16, 2015

Week of March 9, 2015

  • U.S. shale oil output grinding to a halt (Platts)
    According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), shale oil production is only expected to increase by 1000 barrels per day from March to April 2015. Flat to declining production is projected in most areas with only the Permian and Utica shale plays increasing slightly.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Federal energy subsidies have declined since 2010 (Energy Information Administration)
    According to a new report from the EIA, federal financial interventions and subsidies in energy markets decreased by 23 percent, reflecting changes in the type of subsidies offered and fuels that received support.
    More from C2ES on energy
  • Military services tout renewable energy and efficiency (E&E Daily - Subscription)
    Military services have been increasingly relying on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency to reduce energy bills and increase energy security.
  • Utility-scale solar generation doubled last year (Utility Dive)
    Between 2013 and 2014, output from large-scale solar projects (in the electric power, commercial and industrial sectors) increased by 102 percent.
    More from C2ES on renewables
  • Nuclear power gains traction in China (Wall Street Journal)
    China has approved construction of two new nuclear reactors in the country’s northeastern Liaoning Province. Currently, China operates 24 reactors and 25 are under construction.
    More from C2ES on nuclear power

Week of March 2, 2015

Week of February 23, 2015

  • Obama vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline bill (USA Today)
    On Tuesday, President Obama rejected a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Meanwhile, the State Department permit application process, which was initiated in September 2008, continues with no stated timeline for a final decision.
    More from C2ES on Keystone XL Pipeline
  • Illinois lawmakers introduce pro-nuclear bill (Energywire – Subscription, Utility Dive)
    Legislation
    filed in the Illinois House and Senate would replace the state’s renewable energy standard with a low-carbon portfolio standard requiring 70 percent of electricity used in areas served by large investor-owned utilities to come from low-carbon sources of generation.
  • Washington State lawmakers mull small reactors (The Olympian)
    Washington Senator Sharon Brown has introduced bills aimed at advancing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in the state’s future energy mix.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • EU proposal to merge energy markets (European Commission)
    The European Union Commission has approved a long list of proposals to assist climate goals, improve energy security and create a single European energy market.
    More from C2ES on international
  • Defense contractors expanding energy businesses (USA Today)
    Lockheed Martin and other large defense contractors are growing their energy businesses, developing innovative energy technologies and providing energy-efficiency services.
    More from C2ES on energy

Week of February 17, 2015

Week of February 9, 2015

  • IEA releases Medium-Term Oil Market Report (International Energy Agency)
    In the Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2015, the International Energy Agency expects global oil demand will increase by 6.6 million barrels per day from 2014 – 2020, a growth rate of 1.2 percent per year, which is below its 2001 – 2007 growth trend of 1.9 percent per year.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Desert Sunlight Solar Farm formally dedicated (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    The 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm located in Riverside County, California was formally dedicated by the Interior Secretary last week. The facility is currently tied with the Topaz Solar project, also in California, for the title of largest solar plant in the world.
  • Duke Energy buys major stake in REC Solar (Utility Dive)
    Duke Energy, currently the largest U.S. electric utility, acquired a majority stake in commercial solar installer REC Solar, continuing a trend of large utilities moving into the commercial solar arena.
    More from C2ES on renewables
  • Natural gas prices expected to be lower in 2015 (Energy Information Administration)
    In its latest Short-Term Energy Forecast, the Energy Information Administration predicts that Henry Hub (U.S. benchmark) natural gas prices will average $3.05 per million Btu in 2015 – 30 percent lower than average 2014 prices.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • EU installs more wind in 2014 than coal and gas combined (Fierce Energy)
    Europe added around 11.8 GW of new wind power capacity in 2014, an increase of 3.8 percent compared to 2013. It now has 128.8 GW of wind power capacity across 28 countries; Germany’s share is 30 percent and Spain represents nearly 18 percent of the total installed capacity.
    More from C2ES on wind

 

Week of February 2, 2015

  • Oil prices rebound (Wall Street Journal)
    Responding to reports of fewer U.S. rigs drilling for oil and lower spending plans by major oil companies (among other things), Brent crude prices (the global benchmark) have surged nearly $10 per barrel over the past 10 days.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • U.S. solar capacity increased 55 percent in 2014 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)
    With around 7.2 GW of new solar capacity added in 2014, cumulative capacity now exceeds 20 GW in the United States. This was responsible for around 19 TWh of generation or 0.5 percent of total U.S. generation in 2014.
    More from C2ES on renewables
  • Carbon capture and storage project canceled (Quincy Herald-Whig)
    The Department of Energy suspended development funding for FutureGen 2.0, a 200 MW coal-fired carbon capture and storage project in Meredosia, Illinois. Coal companies working with the government to develop the facility said they had no choice but to shut down the project.
    More from C2ES on carbon capture and storage
  • Kerry offers no timeline for KXL (The Hill)
    On Monday, federal agencies reported to the State Department on whether the Keystone XL Pipeline is in the nation’s interest. At a press conference, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the State Department would “analyze and address” the information, but gave no indication for when a final decision might come.
    More from C2ES on Keystone XL Pipeline
  • Energy-pinching Americans pose threat to power grid (Wall Street Journal)
    Utility experts fear that as Americans use less power, electric companies will not have the required revenue to maintain the vast network of power plants and transmission lines.
    More from C2ES on energy

Week of January 26, 2015

  • Obama administration plans to open Atlantic to offshore drilling (Washington Post)
    The Obama administration announced plans to allow offshore oil drilling in the waters off the East Coast from the southern Chesapeake to Georgia.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Georgia reactor’s schedule slips again (Energywire - subscription)
    In its latest filing, Georgia Power said that its Plant Vogtle Unit 3 nuclear reactor would commence operations in the second quarter of 2019 with Unit 4 starting up one year later – around 3 years behind its original schedule.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • Wind has a good fourth quarter (Climate Wire - subscription)
    Wind power added 4,850 MW of new capacity in 2014 due to a flurry of activity in the fourth quarter. There is now more than 65,000 MW of installed wind capacity in the United States.
    More from C2ES on wind power
  • EPA power plant rule will boost natural gas (Climate Wire - subscription)
    A semiannual report from consultants Black & Veatch, forecasts that natural gas combined cycle power plants will be responsible for nearly half of U.S. power generation by 2038, due in part to upcoming EPA greenhouse gas regulations for existing power plants.
    More from C2ES on EPA Clean Power Plan
  • Report sees signs of slow demand growth in China (Energywire - subscription)
    Consultants Wood Mackenzie in a new report say that energy demand growth slowed significantly in China in 2014 – “compared to 2013, power demand growth fell by almost half, gas demand growth fell by more than 8 percent; coal demand barely grew; and diesel demand actually contracted for the first time in more than a decade."
    More from C2ES on energy
  • China’s coal production drops (Xinhua News)
    For the first time since 2000, China’s year-on-year coal production has dropped. The China National Coal Association estimated that 2014 coal production was 2.5 percent lower than in 2013. Sluggish demand, overcapacity (large stock piles), and large imports were factors contributing to the reduced production.
    More from C2ES on coal

Week of January 19, 2015

  • Crude exports would raise production, lower prices – study (Fuel Fix)
    A study from Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the Rhodium Group finds that lifting the ban on crude exports could raise U.S. production an additional 1.2 million barrels per day by 2025, which would lower the price of gasoline and other petroleum products by up to 0.12 cents per gallon.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Tennessee reactor on track for 2015 startup (Nuclear Energy Institute)
    The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor is scheduled to commence commercial operations later this year, becoming the first new nuclear plant in the United States to start up in nearly 20 years.  There are currently 4 other reactors under construction in Georgia and South Carolina.
    More from C2ES on nuclear
  • Texas wind power’s share of generation exceeds 10 percent (Houston Chronicle)
    According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), wind power was responsible for 10.6 percent of power generation in the state in 2014 – a record share of the electricity mix.
    More from C2ES on wind power
  • State Department gives federal agencies deadline to weigh in on KXL (Washington Post)
    The State Department is giving eight federal agencies (Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency) until February 2 “to provide their views on the national interest with regard to the Keystone XL Pipeline permit application.” There is no explicit timeline for the permit process beyond the February 2 date.
    More from C2ES on Keystone XL
  • Algeria backtracks on plans for shale gas (AP)
    Algeria has put on hold its plans to exploit its shale gas resource. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Algeria has the world’s third largest technically recoverable shale gas resource.
    More from C2ES on natural gas
  • India to reveal climate goal in June (The Economic Times)
    India, the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, is expected to reveal its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) in June. INDCs provide information about a country’s particular climate targets. These targets will form the basis of a global climate deal expected to be signed in Paris in December.
    More from C2ES on International

Week of January 12, 2015

  • South Korea launches cap and trade system (The Hill)
    Last week, South Korea launched the world’s second largest cap-and-trade system, behind Europe, covering 525 companies. The country pledged in the 2010 Cancún Agreements to reduce emissions 30 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020; the carbon market is a key piece of its strategy.
    More from C2ES on International
  • Suncor cuts jobs and spending amid oil price collapse (Bloomberg)
    Suncor, Canada’s largest oil company, will cut 1,000 jobs and reduce its 2015 capital budget by 13 percent due to the recent slide in oil prices. Specifically, the company plans to defer the second phase of its MacKay River oil sands project and the White Rose Extension project offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.
    More from C2ES on oil
  • Wholesale electricity prices were higher in 2014 (Energy Information Administration)
    According to data from SNL and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wholesale electricity prices increased at major trading locations across the United States last year, primarily due to increases in natural gas prices and high energy demand caused by cold weather in the beginning of 2014.
    More from C2ES on electricity
  • EIA issues U.S. coal production forecast (Energy Information Administration)
    In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that 2014 U.S. coal production will rise around 1 percent above 2013 levels to 994 million short tons. However, this is around 15 percent lower than the U.S. peak production level in 2008. The EIA projects that production will fall to 977 million short tons in 2016.
    More from C2ES on coal
  • New turbine technology will open Southeast to wind development (Utility Dive)
    New maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which incorporate taller wind turbine heights, show that the Southeast United States could produce wind energy at much higher capacity factors.
    More from C2ES on wind power

Week of January 5, 2015

  • Nebraska court clears hurdle for KXL (Wall Street Journal)
    The Nebraska Supreme Court threw out a lower-court ruling, and found that the law passed by the state legislature, granting the governor the power to review and approve certain major pipelines, including Keystone XL was constitutional. The Obama administration put the State Department led Keystone XL approval process on hold in April 2014, pending the outcome of this court challenge.
    More from C2ES on Keystone

  • Illinois identifies options to support existing nuclear power (Energywire - Subscription)
    Four Illinois agencies produced a report outlining a range of policy actions that could be taken to help support three in-state nuclear plants that are struggling economically. The options range from relying solely on changes in federal regulation and regional wholesale markets to drive change to a cap-and-trade policy, carbon tax and making nuclear energy part of a low-carbon portfolio standard.
    More from C2ES on nuclear power

  • PJM seeks permission to postpone plant closures (Greenwire - Subscription)
    PJM, the operator of the nation’s largest wholesale power market, has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permission to pay plant owners to keep generating beyond their scheduled retirement dates. PJM is concerned about system reliability, particularly in the event of severe weather such as the polar vortex.
    More from C2ES on electricity

  • IEA releases medium-term coal report (International Energy Agency)
    According to the IEA’s latest report, coal is the fastest growing fossil fuel in the world. However, the annual rate of coal consumption growth is slowing, especially compared to the 10-year average. Coal is expected to grow at a rate of 2.1 percent per year over the next 5 years, down from 2.3 percent per year in last year’s forecast.
    More from C2ES on coal

  • 5. Russian oil production hits a post-Soviet high (Reuters)
    According to the Energy Ministry, Russian oil output averaged 10.58 million barrels per day in 2014, an increase of 0.7 percent over the previous year. The International Energy Agency expects production to fall by 1 percent in 2015.
    More from C2ES on oil

  • India launches energy conservation program (Times of India)
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a plan to distribute two subsidized, energy efficient LED light bulbs to all registered electricity consumers.
    More from C2ES on energy efficiency – on-bill financing

Older Stories

Electric vehicle consumers - beyond early adopters

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States nearly doubled last year—and with consumer acceptance broadening, sticker prices dropping, new models on the way, and policy support growing, the outlook is even better for 2014.  

In 2013, EVs increased their market share by 70 percent from 2012 levels, while all-vehicle sales grew 8 percent to reach a six-year high. Still, EV sales continue to lag forecasts made when these cars hit the market in late 2010, accounting for less than 1 percent of new light-duty vehicle sales. The strong growth in vehicle sales is mostly due to rising sales of gas-guzzling pickup trucks.

Optimism for EV market expansion is warranted, however, not only due to steady sales growth but also due to three key developments in 2013.

'60 Minutes' story on clean tech omits climate change

A recent "60 Minutes" story highlighted the demise of a few high-profile clean-tech companies that received federal funding. The story neglected to report why clean technology is vital to the future of our economy and environment in the first place, and therefore why it makes sense for the government to promote the development of wind and solar energy, electric vehicles, and other clean tech. Simply put, the goal is to transform our economy from one based on fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping gases to one based on clean energy that won't contribute to global climate change.

Meeting our energy needs

The United States is moving toward meeting all of its energy needs from domestic resources even faster than was predicted just a year ago.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said last year that the U.S. would become the world’s largest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia, by 2017. Its new World Energy Outlook moves that up to 2015. The U.S. is already the world’s top producer of natural gas, a position it reached in 2012 thanks to an expanding supply of shale gas. The IEA sees the United States holding both top spots at least until the early 2030s and being energy self-sufficient by 2035.

This huge shift didn’t happen by accident, and it will have implications for both the economy and the environment.

The opportunities of distributed generation

When the vast majority of Americans turn on the lights, the electricity is coming from a centralized, fossil fuel power plant.

However, there is a big change on the horizon that will alter that - distributed (also called decentralized) generation. This is when power is produced much closer to where it is used, such as with rooftop solar panels or natural gas-fired combined heat and power systems, including fuel cells and microturbines.

Currently, less than 7 percent of U.S. electricity is generated outside a centrally located power plant. Expanding distributed generation will bring exciting opportunities to increase efficiency, improve our resilience to extreme weather, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It will also bring challenges for our existing grid on which we must continue to depend.

These opportunities and challenges were the focus of a discussion I participated in this week at the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy annual conference with WADE Executive Director David Sweet, Duke Energy Chairman James Rogers, and PSEG President Ralph LaRossa.

Efforts to limit aviation emissions advance at ICAO

The United Nations’ body that oversees civil aviation has reached an important milestone in international efforts to craft effective and equitable solutions to climate change from this fast-growing sector. And this success last week in Montreal should send a hopeful signal to other UN organizations as they grapple with the challenges of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

At the 38th General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), governments endorsed a comprehensive set of actions aimed at achieving an aspirational mid-term goal of zero carbon emissions growth for the aviation industry beginning in 2020. The October 4 accord brings together a number of measures being developed by ICAO, including: a certification requirement for a global CO2 efficiency standard for aircraft; support for an updated, more efficient air traffic control regime; continued development of sustainable biofuels; and updating national action plans laying out country strategies to reduce emissions.

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