October 21, 2014

Germans love renewable energy

Germans generated one third of their electricity from renewable sources while enjoying unusually low wholesale electricity rates, one of the most reliable electricity grids in the world with only 16 minutes of power outages a year (15x more reliable than the US), due to a national policy for coordinating distributed generation. 

In addition, support for renewables remains very high among the German public with over half the renewable energy capacity in Germany owned by local citizens who benefit from the renewable energy production. [Climate Progress]

GAO: US not doing enough to address ocean acidification

The federal government agencies tasked with studying, monitoring, and preventing the widespread acidification of our oceans have not been doing their job as well as they could be, according to a report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, and NASA have indeed been spending money on efforts to study ocean acidification, a phenomenon that happens when oceans absorb the carbon dioxide humans emit from power plants, deforestation, manufacturing, and driving. But more of that money needs to go toward actual strategies to mitigate and stop ocean acidification if detrimental impacts to ocean ecosystems, and by extension the U.S. economy, are to be avoided, the GAO said.

"GAO recommends the appropriate entities within the Executive Office of the President take steps to improve the federal response to ocean acidification," the report said. "[That includes] estimating the funding that would be needed to implement the research and monitoring plan and designating the entity responsible for coordinating the next steps in the federal response."

Ocean acidification is one of the biggest and least-talked-about effects of global warming. More than 25 percent of all human-made carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, and because of that, their acid levels have increased by a staggering 26 percent over the last 200 years, according to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.


Pentagon: Climate Change poses an immediate threat

Pentagon: Global Warming is a "threat multiplier" and poses an 'Immediate Risk' To National Security 

The 20-page “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” said the U.S. Department of Defense is “already beginning to see” some of the impacts of sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, rising global temperatures, and increased extreme weather — four key symptoms of global warming. These symptoms have the potential to “intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict” and will likely lead to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe,” the report said.

Tar Sands Pipeline spill clean up finally complete - 4 years and $1 billion later

More than four years after an oil leak was discovered July 26, 2010 near Marshall, the Canadian pipeline company Enbridge has completed its cleanup and restoration of the Kalamazoo River.' [MLive

Enbridge Inc. was required to clean up the mess from a pipeline leak that sent an estimated 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the river, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, "Enbridge Energy Partners LLP (Enbridge) reported a 30-inch pipeline ruptured on Monday, July 26, 2010, near Marshall, Michigan. The release, estimated at 843,000 gallons, entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary. Heavy rains caused the river to overtop existing dams and carried oil 35 miles downstream on the Kalamazoo River."
The EPA  mobilized an Incident Management Team made up of federal, state and local agencies and the spill was contained approximately 80 river miles from Lake Michigan.
Four years later, all sections of the river are once again open for public use, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Weekly Fish Report of Oct. 9.

Mountain Top Removal Linked to Cancer

"As more than 60,000 cancer cases has been estimated to correlate with MTM [mountaintop removal] activities in West Virginia, this finding on the cancer promoting effect of [particulate matter] and related epidemiological data are crucial to raise public health awareness to reduce cancer risk," the study's authors write. [Climate Progress]

The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, looks at the carcinogenic potential of the particulate matter that enters the air during mountaintop removal mining, a form of surface mining that blasts the tops of mountains away so that underground coal reserves can be accessed. The study found "new evidence" that breathing in this particulate matter over an extended period of time can lead to lung cancer, confirming previous research that has found increased cases of lung cancer in communities that live near coal mining operations in Appalachia. That research noted that smoking rates in these communities are likely also contributing to the lung cancer risk, making exposure to mining operations only one of the variables involved, but this week's research confirms, for the first time, that dust from mining operations can drive up a person's risk of lung cancer.

"It's a risk factor, with other risk factors, that increases the risks of getting lung cancer," study co-author and West Virginia University cancer researcher Yon Rojanasakul told the Charleston Gazette. "That's what the results show."
The researchers exposed lung cells to dust from mountaintop removal operations over a three-month period. They found that the dust had "cell-transforming and tumor-promoting effects" — it led to certain changes in the cells that promoted lung cancer development.

Hottest September on Record

Last month was the warmest September the globe has experienced since record-keeping began in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA also found that September's record-breaking average temperature continues a trend set this year: average temperatures for the January through September 2014 period tied with 1998 and 2010 as the warmest January-September on record. [Climate Progress]

October 2, 2014

Solar Rate Parity is Happening in Massachusetts - Right Now!

I put together this chart that shows the trends for solar photovoltaic (PV) Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) compared to utility rates in Massachusetts over the last 15 years. The top curve shows the Levelized Costs of Energy for solar assuming 25 year expected life and based on the average output of solar panels installed in Massachusetts based on DOER data. The green curve is the PV LCOE including the value of federal and state incentives. Capital costs go from $10 a watt to $3.25 a watt. 

The black curve on the bottom is Massachusetts historical electricity rates and the brown curve adds in the external health care costs from coal pollution and the effects on climate. The health care costs of coal comes from Paul Epstein's "Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal" Harvard Medical School paper and the climate costs are about 2.3 cents / kWh based on social cost of carbon numbers released by the White House last year. 

The two lines are getting closer together as Massachusetts continues to transition to cleaner electricity. 
The big jump in utility electricity rates is based on National Grid's recently approved 50% rate hike starting November 1, 2014 - which the utility attributes to the region's over dependence on natural gas.