• EnergyMIT energy conference speakers say transformation can happen fast

    By David L. Chandler

    The pace of advances in key clean energy technologies has been growing faster than many experts have predicted, to the point that solar and wind power, combined with systems for storing their output, can often be the least expensive options for new types of power-generating capacity. In fact, a radical transformation of the world’s energy landscape is well-underway, experts say.

  • Energy securityKeeping the lights on if the world turns to 100% clean, renewable energy

    Researchers propose three separate ways to avoid blackouts if the world transitions all its energy to electricity or direct heat and provides the energy with 100 percent wind, water, and sunlight. The solutions reduce energy requirements, health damage, and climate damage. “Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” says one researcher.

  • EnergyPhasing out coal: Announcing CO2-pricing triggers divestment

    Putting the Paris climate agreement into practice will trigger opposed reactions by investors on the one hand and fossil fuel owners on the other hand. It has been feared that the anticipation of strong CO2 reduction policies might – a “green paradox” – drive up these emissions: before the regulations kick in, fossil fuel owners might accelerate their resource extraction to maximize profits. Yet at the same time, investors might stop putting their money into coal power plants as they can expect their assets to become stranded. Now, for the first time, a study investigates both effects that to date have been discussed only separately. On balance, divestment beats the green paradox if substantial carbon pricing is credibly announced, a team of energy economists finds. Consequently, overall CO2 emissions would be effectively reduced.

  • Climate threatsClimate change changing Earth’s landscape

    Climate change will replace land use change as the major driver of changes in Earth’s biosphere in the twenty-first century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, new research suggests. Historically, human land use change, like urban development and agricultural expansion, has been the primary cause of anthropogenic ecosystem change. But now, due to rising greenhouse gas levels, climate change has become a growing threat to ecosystems. The rapid pace of climate change is making it difficult for species to adapt to changes in temperature, water cycles, and other environmental conditions that affect life on Earth.

  • Energy securityRejection of subsidies for coal and nuclear power is a win for fact-based policymaking

    By Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

    Energy Secretary Rick Perry has repeatedly expressed concern over the past year about the reliability of our national electric power grid. On 28 September 2017, Perry ordered the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to revise wholesale electricity market rules, implicitly suggesting that the federal government would give subsidies to owners of coal and nuclear power plants, to compensate them for keeping a 90-day fuel supply on-site in the event of a disruption to the grid. On Monday, the independent five-member commission – four of whose members have been appointed by President Trump — unanimously rejected Perry’s proposal. FERC’s 5-0 decision shows that policymaking based on evidence won the day. Perry’s proposal, which critics said was aiming to prop up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets, had the potential to affect millions of electricity customers, as well as power markets and the environment. FERC deserves congratulations for putting evidence before action.

  • Climate change threatsClimate action window could close as early as 2023

    As the Trump administration repeals the U.S. Clean Power Plan, a new study underscores the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions—from both environmental and economic perspectives. For the U.S. most energy-hungry sectors—automotive and electricity—the study identifies timetables for action, after which the researchers say it will be too late to stave off a climate tipping point. And the longer the nation waits, the more expensive it will be to move to cleaner technologies in those sectors—a finding that runs contrary to conventional economic thought because prices of solar, wind and battery technologies are rapidly falling, the study’s authors say.

  • Energy security139 countries could be powered by 100 percent wind, water, and solar energy by 2050

    The latest roadmap to a 100 percent renewable energy future from twenty-seven experts is the most specific global vision yet, outlining infrastructure changes that 139 countries can make to be entirely powered by wind, water, and sunlight by 2050 after electrification of all energy sectors. Such a transition could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity; a net increase of over twenty-four million long-term jobs; an annual decrease in 4-7 million air pollution deaths per year; stabilization of energy prices; and annual savings of over $20 trillion in health and climate costs.

  • Nuclear powerWhy the withering nuclear power industry threatens U.S. national security

    By Michael E. Webber

    These are tough times for nuclear power in the United States. Power plants under construction are facing serious delays, halts and cost overruns. Utilities in South Carolina abandoned a project to complete construction of two power plants in August, while the cost of the only nuclear plant now under construction has ballooned to $25 billion. While the environmental and reliability impacts of the closures are well-understood, what many don’t realize is that these closures also pose long-term risks to our national security. As the nuclear power industry declines, it discourages the development of our most important anti-proliferation asset: a bunch of smart nuclear scientists and engineers. There are already strong economic, reliability and environmental reasons to keep nuclear a part of the national fuel mix. Enhancing our national security makes the argument even more compelling.

  • Energy securityWind energy: Technology advancements, improved project performance, low prices

    Wind energy pricing for land-based, utility-scale projects remains attractive to utility and commercial purchasers, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy. Prices offered by newly built wind projects in the United States are averaging around 2¢/kWh, driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.

  • EnergyCoal's decline driven by technology, market forces – not policy

    Many people – and many politicians — attribute coal’s decline to the clean-air policies of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through rules that the agency applied to electricity generation plants. A new study points out that largely because of court challenges, EPA clean-air regulations did not change until 2015 — twenty-five years after President G. H. W. Bush signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1980. For eighteen years following new EPA rules, coal continued to thrive — until 2008, when its production peaked and then declined 23 percent in the next seven years. The study found that the decline is correlated with the shale revolution that began to be fully felt in 2007-2008, after which cheap natural gas outcompeted coal markedly.

  • EnergyStoring renewable energy underground for a reliable, affordable national grid

    A common criticism of a total transition to renewable energy — wind, water, and solar power — is that the U.S. electrical grid cannot affordably store enough standby electricity to keep the system stable. Researchers propose an underground solution to that problem. The researchers use data from single-state calculations of the number of wind, water, and solar generators potentially needed in each state to show that these installations can theoretically result in a reliable, affordable national grid when the generators are combined with inexpensive storage and “demand response” — a program in which utilities give customers incentives to control times of peak demand.

  • Infrastructure protectionImprove cybersecurity in energy delivery

    Cyber networks support many important functions within energy delivery systems, from sending data between a smart meter and utility to controlling oil or gas flow in a pipeline. However, they are vulnerable to disturbances. According to the ICS-CERT Monitor, a publication of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a third of the 245 reported cyber incidents in industrial control systems that happened in 2014 occurred in the energy sector. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) initiative awards $28.1million to a consortium of eleven universities and research organizations, with the goal of improving computer/communication networks for energy delivery systems like power grids and pipelines.

  • EnergyCost of coal greater than it seems

    The cost of coal use is greater than it seems and policies geared toward subsidizing its use must be reformed quickly, before countries invest in coal-fired plants, a new study says. Governments around the world heavily subsidize fossil fuels, and in 2013 pretax subsidies amounted to about $550 billion worldwide. These substantial subsidies not only drain funds that could be used for other purposes, such as sanitation and poverty reduction, but discourage investments in low-carbon alternatives.

  • EnergyWhere does solar energy stand, where does it need to go to fulfill its potential?

    Most experts agree that to have a shot at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, we need to extricate our society from fossil fuels and ramp up our use of renewable energy. The sun’s energy is unlimited, free and clean, and the amount that hits Earth in one hour is equal to the amount of energy used in one year by the entire planet. Yet, although installed global photovoltaic capacity increased almost nine-fold and the price of solar panels dropped by two-thirds between 2008 and 2013, only 1 percent of U.S. and global electricity generation come from solar energy. Where does solar energy stand today, and where does it need to go in order for us to make the transition to renewable energy?

  • EnergySouth Australia needs to look beyond wind for its clean energy

    South Australia cannot complete its move to clean energy through a continued focus on wind energy. This is the conclusion of the most comprehensive review to date of renewable energy in the state, conducted by researchers in the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute. The success of wind power (27 percent of the state’s energy and 3-4 percent nationally) is a credit to SA’s proactive approach and should continue, the review says. However, that success has relied on the reliability of the national grid. There remains no answer to the inherent limitations of wind because of the mismatch between supply variability and demand.