U.S. Wind Power price is down to $0.04 per kWh – U.S. Dept of Energy

by Zachary Shahan  — Special to JBS News

wind turbines
Image courtesy: reneweconomy.com.au

Anyone who tells you wind power is expensive is bad-shit crazy. Wind power is the cheapest option for new electricity generation in many, if not most places in the world, including much of the U.S. That would indeed help to explain why the U.S. installed more wind power capacity — than power capacity from any other source in 2012, 42% or 43%, of all new power capacity in the country.

In announcing a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Berkeley Lab actually noted that,

“The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged $40/MWh for projects negotiating contracts 2011 and 2012, spurring demand for wind energy.”

That’s $0.04 per kWh. Even if you add in the $0.022 Production Tax Credit (PTC), that’s $0.062 per kWh.

As the reader who shared this with me aptly emphasized; “This is a low number. It’s not just the LCOE of wind. It includes real estate, transmission, taxes and profits. It’s the ‘delivered to the door’ cost of electricity, not just the generation price.”

Another point worth noting, highlighting even, is that some “energy experts” are downright horrible at projecting the future cost of new and new-ish (wind power isn’t that new) technologies.

“The EIA is predicting $0.0866 in 2018 and that does not include real estate costs, profits, and taxes,” our reader adds. “EIA predictions stink.” Well, I think many of us who follow the industry already knew that, but what an excellent forecast to highlight.

By the way, Silvio did an excellent job covering the new DOE/Berkeley Lab report, 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report, right after it was released. For a lot of interesting and fun facts and maps, as well as additional context that is highly important, be sure to check out his piece, Rollercoaster Policy Threatens US Wind Energy’s Record-Setting Pace.

We just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss this exciting U.S. wind power price statistic, and the note about how ‘off’ the EIA’s wind power price forecasting is.

Why are Environmentalists excited about the Natural Gas boom?

Why are Environmentalists excited about the Natural Gas boom? | 18/03/13
by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the cleanest fossil fuel of all?

You guessed it! Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel – and by significant margins as data from the Environmental Protection Agency illustrates in the chart below.

Fossil Fuel Emission Levels in pounds per billion Btu of energy input. Source: EPA Natural Gas Issues and Trends 1998
Fossil Fuel Emission Levels in pounds per billion Btu of energy input. Source: EPA Natural Gas Issues and Trends 1998

Natural gas, as the cleanest of the fossil fuels, can be used in many ways to help reduce the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.

Burning natural gas in the place of other fossil fuels emits fewer harmful pollutants, and an increased reliance on natural gas can potentially reduce the emissions of many of the most harmful pollutants. — naturalgas.org

After investigating the externalities associated with conventional sources of energy and cognizant of their commitments towards clean air, many nations have begun to embrace natural gas as a stepping stone towards a cleaner energy future.

In the U.S.A., as far back as 2003 when coal supplied more than 50% of America’s electrical power, coal-fired plants have been retired more quickly than new ones have come online. By 2012, coal supplied only 38% of U.S. electricity.

Nine gigawatts of U.S. coal-fired power generation was shut-down in 2012 alone, and replaced by an almost equal amount of natural gas power generation. Emission levels from those comparably-sized replacement natural gas power plants are less than half of those retired coal-fired plants!

Many more U.S. coal-fired power plants are scheduled for complete shutdown, or conversion to natural gas over the next few years totalling 35 GigaWatts (GW) according to the experts.

Chart courtesy of the U.S. Energy Information Administration — shows carbon emissions dropping as a result of switching from coal to natural gas,  2005-2012.

U.S. Carbon Emissions by Sector. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
U.S. Carbon Emissions by Sector. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Carbon emissions of all end-use Sectors have decreased since 2005 in the United States.

The largest reductions appear to be due to the Electric Power and Transportation sector’s emissions, followed by the Industrial, Residential and Commercial sectors.

[Of all sectors] “the largest reduction to carbon emissions is due to coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ and construction of higher efficiency power plants. 

Expansion of renewable power, overwhelmingly due to expanded wind power, has been the second largest factor to reduced Power Sector carbon emissions.” – theenergycollective.com

Many expert studies show CO2 emissions dropping as a result of the combined effects of many countries switching from coal to natural gas and/or renewables, 1990-2100.

Chart depicts probable CO2 levels, depending on the choices we make. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell 'New Lens Scenarios'
Chart depicts probable CO2 levels, depending on the energy choices we make. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell ‘New Lens Scenarios’

The change-up to renewable energy will vary by country as OECD nations continue to take the lead in renewable energy between now and 2100. Even so, total worldwide emissions will drop dramatically and the switch from coal to natural gas is one big step towards a cleaner environment.

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Energy & Climate: The regulatory climate is changing too!

by John Brian Shannon

For several decades, U.S. environmental regulators have been the tall, silent type.

These highly-educated people worked for the government, but alongside industry, to craft energy regulations reflecting the ecological notions of their particular era. For most of the 20th century politicians favoured regulations which worked to promote the rapid growth of the economy and to advance the use of energy – particularly fossil-fuel energy.

But now, a new generation of regulators are actively contributing to the debate and they are doing so in significant ways. So much has changed and with little media coverage considering the scope of the changes which are now becoming apparent.

Such are the recent regulatory changes in the U.S.A. that people are now openly wondering if another coal-fired powerplant will ever be built in the United States!

Coal, which produced a majority of America’s electrical energy in 1997,  has since dropped to 36% of total electrical energy production.

The average share of electricity generated from coal in the US has dropped from 52.8% in 1997 to 45.0% in 2009.[1] In the first quarter of 2012, the use of coal for electricity generation has declined substantially more, declining 21% from 2011 levels. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 27 gigawatts of capacity from coal-fired generators [are] to be retired from 175 coal-fired power plants between 2012 and 2016.[8] Coal’s share of electricity generation dropped to just over 36%. – Wikipedia

The explanation for this sea-change is both simple and complicated. EPA regulators attempted to enforce the new for 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule regulations (read other important CSAPR information here) due to go into effect on 7/7/11, but that act was struck down in appeals court on 21/8/12 for contravening another set of regulations called The Clean Air Act. Happily, another act (but with lower standards) called the Clean Air Interstate Rule automatically resumed as the prevailing regulatory framework until the CSAPR could be re-written so as not to contravene The Clean Air Act.

In the meantime, EPA bureaucrats set to work on changing the regulations for natural gas extraction, including fracking, which helped to make electricity produced by natural gas much cheaper than electricity produced by coal — and as a result, coal-fired plants are closing down far faster than if the CSAPR had been enacted and not struck down. (Moral: Never argue with the bureaucrats).

Yet more changes lay ahead due to upcoming proposed regulatory changes. A good example of this is Tina Casey’s post “Texas Wind Power Up, Nukes Down” which describes how the nuclear powerplant operator Exelon is shifting away from nuclear to wind energy.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last week, the CEO of energy giant Exelon, Christopher Crane predicted that the influx of low cost wind power would lead the company to start shuttering its nuclear plants.

Though wind and other renewables only account for about three percent of the company’s capacity now, that could change pretty fast.

Exelon’s first commercial wind farm only started operating in January 2012, and the company already has 44 wind projects operating in 10 different states. Tina Casey (Cleantechnica.com)

Coal is now being undercut by lower priced natural gas-fired electricity — and nuclear power is being undercut by lower priced wind-powered electricity, causing a historic shift in America’s energy makeup. We are just at the beginning of that road.

What happens if regulators decide to drop the huge subsidies the government pays to both the coal industry and the nuclear industry?

Even if regulators decided to bring subsidy levels for sustainable energy up to the same levels that coal and nuclear now enjoy – the changes we have seen thus far will seem microscopic.

fossil-fuel-subsidies

In the U.S.A., Oil and Gas receives 13 times more in historical subsidies than clean energy.

Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas got 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much.

“Nuclear spent an average of about $3.3 billion a year, oil and gas about $1.8 billion, and renewable energy just under half a billion,” DBL Investors Managing Partner Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey recently wrote in “What would Jefferson do?” – Cleantechnica

energy-subsidies-percentages

The energy regulatory climate is changing in the U.S.A., and we have only seen the beginning of these changes. By 2020, America’s energy regulations will have changed significantly to reflect what a large percentage of voters want. Clean energy, delivered on a (subsidy) level playing field.

us_fuel_subsidies

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