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   PoliticsThe Exxon Free Environmental Thread

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From: Eric9/24/2014 11:35:05 AM
   of 40947
Developers Plan Huge $8 Billion, 2.1-GW Wind Plus Storage Project in California

Ehren Goossens, Bloomberg

September 24, 2014

NEW YORK -- Four energy companies are proposing an $8 billion renewable energy project that would supply Los Angeles with more than twice the power generated by the Hoover Dam.

The project includes a 2,100-megawatt wind farm in Wyoming, a 525-mile (845-kilometer) power line and a $1.5 billion storage facility, the developers said today in a statement. Duke- American Transmission, a joint venture of Duke Energy Corp. and American Transmission Co., Dresser-Rand Group Inc. and two others will propose the project to the Southern California Public Power Authority by early 2015.

“This project would be the 21st Century’s Hoover Dam — a landmark of the clean energy revolution,” Jeff Meyer, managing partner of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, said in the statement. Magnum Energy Inc. is the fourth developer.

Energy demand in Los Angeles is projected to rise by as much as 18 percent by 2024, according to the California Energy Commission. Southern California is seeking proposals for renewable power to meet a state requirement for green energy.

Pathfinder will build and operate a $4 billion wind farm near Chugwater, Wyoming, 40 miles north of Cheyenne. A Dresser- Rand facility near Delta, Utah would use air injected into underground salt caverns to store power.

Duke-American would build a $2.6 billion transmission line stretching through Colorado linking the wind farm and storage unit that is expected to be completed in 2023. An existing 490- mile line would deliver power from Utah to Los Angeles.

The Hoover Dam, completed on the Colorado River on the border of Arizona and Nevada in 1936, has a power generating capacity of 2 gigawatts.

The dam produced an annual average of 4.2 gigawatt-hours of electricity from 1999 to 2008. The Pathfinder project with power storage would produce about 9.2 gigawatt-hours a year.

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From: Eric9/24/2014 11:45:58 AM
   of 40947
UN Climate Summit Heats Up Discussion on Global Warming, Carbon Emissions

From the 400,000+ People's March to the Rockefeller's divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewables, the UN Climate Summit in NYC scored big attention.

Vince Font, Contributing Editor

September 24, 2014

Utah, USA -- More than 100 world leaders converged upon New York City today to discuss international efforts to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. The list of speakers at the UN Climate Summit included U.S. President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, French President François Hollande, and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

Obama and Gaoli both shared the hot seat as representatives of the countries who rank at the top of the list of guiltiest greenhouse gas emitters (China is first, the U.S. is second). In consecutive speeches, both men gave indication that more work is needed to effect impactful change and slow the rate of environmental damage.

“We recognize our role in creating this problem,” Obama said. “We embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part. And we will help developing nations do theirs.”

Gaoli followed Obama’s comments by reiterating China’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions some 40 to 45 percent (over 2005 levels) by the year 2020. According to Gaoli, China’s carbon intensity has already come down 28 percent (again, from 2005 levels). He also emphasized that renewables now make up 24 percent of China’s installed energy capacity.

Interestingly enough, it was a speech from a marquee icon that appears to have resonated far beyond those made by any world leaders. Speaking in his official capacity as United Nations Messenger of Peace, actor Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the gathered heads of state, stressing the importance of follow-through. “You can make history or you will be vilified for it.”

DiCaprio added, “This is not about telling people to change their light bulbs or buy a hybrid car. This is now about our industries and our governments around the world taking decisive, large scale action.”

400,000 Turn Out for People’s Climate March

Two days earlier, DiCaprio joined other celebrities and political leaders, including former Vice President Al Gore and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for the People’s Climate March, which drew in some 400,000 demonstrators – roughly four times the number that had been expected – and officially made it the largest and most successful climate march to date.

Kicking off Sunday near Central Park, the march at one point stretched in excess of four miles and included over 1,500 different groups and organizations determined to let their voices be heard, and their signs seen.

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement, “The more than 400,000 people in New York and many, many more across the globe who marched on Sunday represent a broad, engaged, and powerful climate movement demanding jobs, justice, and a prosperous clean energy economy free of fossil fuels. We have the momentum and will use it to ensure that our leaders’ words today are matched by effective action.”

Rockefellers Announce Clean Energy Investments

Demonstrations of commitment to change were not limited to public marches, as evidenced by an announcement from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In what may go down in history as one of the most pleasingly ironic philanthropic decisions, the heirs to the Rockefeller dynasty announced that the family organization – which amassed its fortune through investments in oil under the watch of John D. Rockefeller – will divest itself of its fortune in fossil fuel assets to pursue new investments in clean energy.

“We embrace the irony in the fact that John D. [Rockefeller] made his money through oil,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Wayne added that she believes the foundation’s decision to pursue investments in alternative investments is “smarter” and “more moral.”

According to Wayne, more than half of the nonprofit foundation’s $860 million charity fund is already directed toward sustainable investments. “It just made sense for us to have our endowment supporting the work that we’re doing with our grantees in sustainable development.”

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is among a growing number of global philanthropic organizations that have pledged to purge their fossil fuel assets in favor of new energy economy reinvestment, to a current running tally of $51 billion in divestments. The Global Divest-Invest movement, which reportedly saw its start on college campuses several years back, has to date received support from approximately 180 institutions and 650 individual philanthropists.

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From: Eric9/24/2014 11:56:17 AM
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Mobile Hybrid Technology to Bring Cheaper Power to Billions

Ideal Power and EnerDel Alliance Will Reduce Generator Diesel Consumption by Over 70 Percent

Vince Font, Contributing Editor

September 23, 2014

Utah, USA -- According to statistics, roughly 20 percent of the world population — some 1.3 billion people — exist without access to an electrical grid. The vast majority live in developing nations and rely on diesel generators to provide primary power. This is a costly proposition, considering the lengthy supply chain involved in getting the necessary fuel. The recent announcement of a partnership between Ideal Power and EnerDel hopes to make life both easier and more affordable for that billion-plus population.

“We think there’s an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering electricity to these underserved billions,” said Ideal Power's President and Chief Marketing Officer Paul Bundschuh.

Ideal Power is an Austin-based power conversion technology developer that, in a strategic alliance with Indianapolis-headquartered EnerDel, recently announced they are working together on the development of a Mobile Hybrid Power System (MHPS). The system will incorporate a hybrid converter and lithium-ion batteries to result in a diesel generator that will require dramatically less fuel to operate.

The 30-kW hybrid converter, which integrates DC and AC ports to facilitate PV harvesting and energy storage, is Ideal Power’s baby; the lithium-ion batteries and proprietary control systems are EnerDel’s. Together, these technologies hope to reduce diesel fuel consumption among MHPS users by greater than 70 percent.

Bundschuh calls the partnership “a game changer” that will bring people in developing nations “much more flexibility and independence” where it comes to the high cost of acquiring diesel fuel.

Ideal Power’s 30-kW hybrid converter has won innovation awards for its ability to significantly improve efficiency while also reducing size, weight and cost. In previous efforts, EnerDel worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop MHPS units that resulted in a 70 percent reduction in diesel fuel consumption. Bundschuh is optimistic the combined efforts of Ideal Power and EnerDel will result in even greater results, with a notably short payback time for users.

“We expect a typical two-year payback period,” he said, stressing the economically attractive nature of the proposed technology. Plans are to announce the first product by year’s end, with initial units expected to see installation in early 2015.

Emphasizing the continued need for diesel generators to provide much needed electricity to “off-grid” world citizens, Bundschuh said combining energy storage with intermittent PV and a small but dispatchable conventional fossil fuel generator is “a highly attractive combination” that will reduce fossil fuel requirements and cut back on the amount of fuel consumed by end users.

“We have a lot of work to do in educating the world that this is possible,” Bundschuh said. “This is a giant market and it’s going to take a while for people to learn what this technology is capable of doing.”

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From: Eric9/24/2014 12:03:58 PM
   of 40947
The Biggest Battery in North America Gets Unveiled by SCE Today

It’s a 32-megawatt-hour lithium-ion energy storage project in a region with a potential 4.5 gigawatts of wind.

Eric Wesoff
September 24, 2014

Although there are plenty of grid-scale energy storage procurement and deployment announcements being made, the truth is that utilities are still figuring energy storage out. While the grid-scale energy storage industry aspires to enter commercialization, utilities might still be rooted in the demonstration stage.

Southern California Edison's demonstration project at the Monolith substation in the Tehachapi Mountains, unveiled today, happens to be the largest battery project in North America and one of the largest battery storage projects in the world. Other battery storage projects in this size range include the Duke Energy Notrees wind farm in west Texas and the 8-megawatt-hour Laurel Mountain Wind Farm. (The DOE has a database of global energy storage projects here.)

Southern California Edison has been working with LG Chem on the 8-megawatt, 32-megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery system since 2010. The Tehachapi Mountains, where the project is sited, is an area with the potential to produce up to 4.5 gigawatts of wind energy by 2016.

Here are some stats on the project:
  • 8 megawatts with 4-hour duration, 32 megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery energy storage system
  • LG Chem provided the batteries, ABB provided the balance of plant
  • The battery system comprises 604 battery racks, 10,872 battery modules and 608,832 individual battery cells, according to SCE
  • A 6,300-square-foot building houses the energy storage system
  • The substation is on the 66-kilovolt Antelope-Bailey system
  • The cells are the same lithium-ion cells installed in battery packs supplied to GM for the Chevrolet Volt
  • The $53.5 million demonstration is funded by SCE as well as federal stimulus money from the DOE as part of 2009's ARRA
Still, the storage industry and utilities continue to search for how to make a business case in energy storage.

“This installation will allow us to take a serious look at the technological capabilities of energy storage on the electric grid,” said Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at the DOE, in a release. “It will also help us to gain a better understanding of the value and benefit of battery energy storage.”

Doug Kim, director of advanced technology at SCE, said, “This demonstration project will give us a significant amount of insight into the operational capabilities of large-scale, lithium-ion battery storage.”

As GTM reported earlier this year, the 50-megawatt Southern California Edison Los Angeles Basin Energy Storage RFQ reveals a California utility industry getting its head around deploying big energy storage. The SCE solicitation was notable for the effort taken to identify the true value of grid-scale energy storage. In the words of John Zahurancik, VP of deployment and operations at AES Energy Storage, "The Edison RFQ is the first formal recognition by a state that [energy storage] absolutely has value."

Not everyone accepts that storage is the magic bullet for renewables on the grid. According to the Brookings Institution, grid-scale energy storage is not the key to a renewable energy future, citing renewable energy policy and trends in Germany and Japan in its newly released report, “Transforming the Electricity Portfolio." According to the report, transmission system operators in Germany find that storage is still too expensive, and that transmission is a lower-cost option. Citigroup has concluded that Germany won't require storage until renewables double to 45 percent to 50 percent penetration.

In a discussion with with SCE's Doug Kim on Tuesday, he said, "Here's the way we think about energy storage: we really look forward to these costs coming down." He noted that despite the protestations of vendors, "There is no such thing as a turnkey system today." Kim spoke of vendors struggling with integration in the space.

He also rattled off the usual list of thirteen distinct operational use cases for storage that the utility will explore, including grid stabilization, smoothing, shifting, frequency regulation, decreasing transmission losses, voltage support, and others.

Kim noted that this system had a full CAISO interconnection agreement and that the system was fully operational technologically and ready to start functioning in the market.

He added that SCE is mandated to procure a significant amount of storage in the coming years -- 580 megawatts, to be exact, with half of that, 290 megawatts, owned by the utility. There are decisions to be made about what type of storage technology will be selected and how to integrate the technology into the system.

He said that the Tehachapi storage project "will help us make the right choices."

Aerial view of Monolith substation (Google Maps)

This boring building houses the biggest battery in the U.S.

Battery racks

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From: Eric9/24/2014 12:09:40 PM
   of 40947
Another Giga Plant Underway: SolarCity Strikes a Deal With New York for Solar Manufacturing Plant

The projected economic boost is good news today. Will it continue well into the future?

Stephen Lacey
September 23, 2014

In the aftermath of a climate march that brought more than 300,000 people onto the streets of New York City, many are asking whether yet another demonstration, even one so large, was really all that effective.

The politics certainly won’t change on a national level. But New York state is demonstrating that a firm commitment to a climate-focused economic policy -- which includes attracting large clean energy technology companies -- can certainly change an industry.

Today, SolarCity came to an agreement with New York state on an incentive package that will help the leading residential installer build a solar manufacturing plant capable of producing a gigawatt of panels per year. In June, SolarCity, bought the high-efficiency solar manufacturer Silevo for $200 million, with another $150 million set aside if production targets are achieved, in the hopes of further dominating residential solar through vertical integration.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, New York has agreed to give SolarCity $750 million in tax breaks and cheap power deals in order to build the production facility, as well as develop another R&D facility somewhere in the state.

The announcement comes weeks after Tesla -- which has boardroom connections with SolarCity through Elon Musk -- officially announced it was building a $5 billion Giga factory in Nevada to produce lithium-ion batteries for cars and grid storage applications.

SolarCity said it would spend $5 billion over the next decade in New York through both manufacturing and installation.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Buffalo today to help officially break ground on SolarCity’s plant. The governor’s office said that 2,850 jobs would be created through direct construction and local supply agreements. SolarCity said that it would create another 2,000 jobs in New York over the coming years through expanding solar installations across the state.

Over the last year, SolarCity has acquired a leading racking company and a lead generation firm in order to drop installation costs and make customer acquisition more efficient. Executives at the company say they will pursue any option to help it scale.

"Anything that will reduce our total installed cost, we will be interested in acquiring,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive in a call with investors after the Silevo announcement.

By getting into solar manufacturing, SolarCity hopes to guarantee a steady supply of panels to install “tens of gigawatts” of solar per year in the U.S. SolarCity executives also hinted at integrating inverter manufacturing at the site.

New York officials are celebrating a positive economic announcement today. But does SolarCity’s strategy stand a chance well into the future? As recent history has shown, solar manufacturing, particularly in higher-cost markets like the U.S., is not an easy business.

In July, GTM Research's Lead Upstream Analyst Shyam Mehta wrote a mildly skeptical article about Silevo, but said market timing and cost structure may make work in its favor.

"Silevo is not a guaranteed success story. And it's unclear if the acquisition really even makes sense for SolarCity. But unlike with Solyndra, whose prospects we were skeptical of even during the best of times, there is legitimate cause for optimism in Silevo's case," wrote Mehta.

Listen to the Energy Gang debate whether SolarCity’s move makes sense:

Below are some takeaways from SolarCity's call with investors in June after the acquisition was announced.


Musk explained that SolarCity plans to install “tens of gigawatts per year” over the next decade. But the company won’t be able to reach its expected scale without a steady supply of modules. “If we don’t do this, we thought there was a risk of not having solar panels in the long term,” he said.


Although manufacturers are starting to boost idle production to match increasing global solar demand, SolarCity isn’t interested in conventional crystalline-silicon panels. “We’re seeing high-volume production of basic panels, but not high-volume production of advanced panels,” said Musk.

After looking at more than twenty manufacturers, the Silevo high-efficiency technology was “the best-performing” and offered the ability to scale most quickly, said Peter Rive. He also said that the company would spend much more on technology R&D over the coming years, but could not quantify how much.

Full integration

It’s no secret that SolarCity sees vertical integration as the fastest way to lower the cost of solar energy. But the company wants to go deeper than any other competitor by potentially adding power electronics and battery storage into its production strategy.

Lyndon Rive hinted at future acquisitions of inverter suppliers and a strategy to add storage into the production facility. “Anything that will reduce our total installed cost, we will be interested in acquiring,” he said.

Unsubsidized solar

If there are any worries within SolarCity about the looming expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit, the team did not show it. Rather, they expressed a deep confidence that a manufacturing strategy could make them competitive without tax benefits over the coming years.

“The goal is to be competitive with no subsidies at all,” said Lyndon Rive. “With the Silevo acquisition, that’s what we believe we can do.”

Musk also described the need for deeper integration in order to stay competitive: “We’ll be actively looking at additional companies to acquire, as well as building up engineering to achieve that goal.”

Unprecedented scale

The planned 1-gigawatt cell and module facility in New York may be unprecedented, but SolarCity executives said it’s “just the start” of even bigger scaling plans.

“The crazy thing is that the gigawatt plant will almost be a pilot,” said Musk. Musk and Lyndon Rive said that 10 gigawatts of production capacity could feasibly be in the works, assuming the company grows the way they think it will.

Ultimately, SolarCity is not investing in Silevo as part of a short game. Lyndon Rive described the need to think about position in the market over the coming decades, not just over the next few years.

“We can now control the installed cost per kilowatt-hour. If you do that, the market is infinite for the next 30 or 40 years,” said Rive.

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From: Eric9/24/2014 12:32:18 PM
   of 40947
A Landmark Plan for Renewable Energy Development in the California Desert

Helen O'Shea, NRDC

September 24, 2014

Today, when the Department of Interior and the California Department of Natural Resources released a draft of the long-awaited Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), the agencies set the stage for a first-of-its-kind project — in more ways than one. Not only does the DRECP have the potential to serve as a blueprint for conservation and clean energy development in the California desert, it could become a model for how federal, state, and local agencies can work together … and how those collaborations are better overall for everyone involved.

‘Smart from the Start’ Planning

The DRECP is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management, the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to plan for conservation and renewable energy development across 22 million acres of private and public lands. And it’s the result of a public process that NRDC, fellow conservation groups, renewable energy companies and many other stakeholders have been engaged in for more than four years.

But what people might not know is that the framework for the DRECP was developed with a number of “smart from the start” planning hallmarks that NRDC has advocated for years now, including:
  • Landscape-level planning that identifies areas that should not be developed
  • Guiding development to low-conflict areas
  • Strategic, regional mitigation to offset impacts from energy development
NRDC has long believed that land management and permitting agencies should guide renewable energy development to areas with low environmental and wildlife risk, high energy potential, and close proximity to necessary infrastructure like transmission. Planning efforts like the DRECP, if designed and implemented correctly, can help achieve these goals.

Just as important, “smart from the start” planning must also identify areas that should be set aside because they are too ecologically valuable to be developed. And the planning process must also include mitigation measures that will result in the lasting protection and conservation of wildlife and sensitive areas.

Desert Conservation Opportunities

The DRECP presents a unique opportunity to build a strategic conservation reserve with lasting and meaningful protections for some of the desert’s most imperiled species and special landscapes. It also offers a chance to help protect important wildlife corridors that will be critical in the face of climate change. As we review the DRECP we will be looking for strong, science-based strategies for realizing these important conservation opportunities.

Fighting Climate Change

As I get ready to review the draft document, it’s my hope that the DRECP will be the roadmap we need to preserve the desert’s special places and species and provide a balanced approach to large scale renewable energy development — wind, solar, and geothermal on both private and public lands. As we move forward with pursuing our climate goals as aggressively as we can, it’s important to use all the tools at our disposal — the DRECP is one piece of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change that includes energy efficiency, conservation, distributed generation, and modernizing our electric grid to handle more renewables from both sides of the meter.

What Happens Next?

It is critical that the upcoming comment period for the DRECP include a robust, open, and transparent public process for all stakeholders so that the final plan reflects the values and needs of diverse constituencies. We understand that once the draft plan is released, 11 workshops will be held to solicit feedback. People will also be able to submit written comments for 90 days. More information on future workshops and how to submit written comments will be posted on the official DRECP website.

Given that the draft EIS is expected to total as many as 12,000 pages, it will take some time to closely review the plan and all its components. NRDC will work with our partners to provide the most detailed and thoughtful comments we can on this landmark document, and we are hopeful that draft plan will point us in the right direction for developing the lasting framework that we need for balancing our clean energy and natural resource protection goals in the desert.

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From: Eric9/24/2014 12:39:45 PM
   of 40947
Japan poised to top 8 GW solar installations this year


Japan's surging solar sector will only be surpassed by China's in 2014

Government-driven incentives will see Japan add 5.1 GW of PV in the second half of the year, say analysts GlobalData.

Pro-solar initiatives laid down by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will add more than 8 GW of solar PV capacity this year, according to research by consulting firm GlobalData.

In the company's latest report, titled H1, 2014 Global Solar Market – Policy – The Be All and End All for the Growth of Solar Market, GlobalData argue that METI's recent review of Japan's feed-in tariff (FIT) led to a favorable revision of the country’s solar strategy – a revision that should see some 5.1 GW of PV capacity added in the second half of 2014.

GlobalData's project manager for alternative energy Ankit Mathur remarked that previous delays companies encountered in acquiring licensing and construction approvals for PV developments have largely been eradicated by METI’s recent actions.

"Previously, these delays were also aggravated by developers waiting for further cost reductions in components," Mathur said. "As a consequence, some developers neither finalized sites nor agreed a contract for purchasing equipment for PV power plant construction."

Earlier this year, METI was moved to annul many FIT-granted projects that had previously been found to have purposefully held back development in the hope that component costs would fall, a move that has helped free-up pipelines. METI also introduced a clause that stated any projects approved in 2014 must have a finalized site and equipment contract within 180 days.

"These steps have created an immediate opportunity for module suppliers, although the installed cost of PV systems in Japan is generally higher than in other matured markets," added Mathur. "From April 1, 2014, sales tax rose by 3%, making the total tax levy on solar PV systems around 8%."

Japan's solar landscape is not only growing but diversifying, concluded Mathur, pointing to an increase in the number of large-scale solar PV projects that have been completed in the country over the past few months. At the same time, the residential sector appears to be slowing. Future obstacles to growth could be "Japan's mountainous terrain and lack of connectivity between regional grids," warns the analyst.

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From: Eric9/24/2014 12:47:05 PM
   of 40947
The Benefits of Easing Climate Change

SEPT. 23, 2014

On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to open a climate summit meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes will provide momentum to a new round of negotiations toward a global environmental agreement to be signed in Paris next year.

You’re forgiven if you hold your applause. World leaders have been trying without success to cut such a deal for almost two decades, crashing time and again into the fear that slowing the emissions of carbon that are inexorably changing the climate carries an economic cost that few are willing to bear.

This time, though, advocates come armed with a trump card: All things considered, the cost of curbing carbon emissions may be considerably cheaper than earlier estimates had suggested. For all the fears that climate change mitigation would put the brakes on growth, it might actually enhance it.

Whether this can tip the balance toward the global grand bargain that has eluded world leaders so many times depends on a couple of things. The first is to what extent it is true. The second is whether this is, in fact, the issue that matters most to the people making the decisions.

The most recent salvo came in “The New Climate Economy,” a report issued last week by an international commission appointed by a handful of rich and poor countries to take a new look at the economics of climate change.

President Obama with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, and General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, after Mr. Obama’s U.N. address. Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press

“There is now huge scope for action which can both enhance growth and reduce climate risk,” it reads. Efficient investments could deliver at least half of the emission cuts needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures in check. And they could do so while delivering extra economic gains on the side.

At first blush, the proposition that replacing fossil fuel with more expensive energy could produce a net economic gain seems implausible. Until now, even many supporters of tough action accepted the idea that there would be a necessary price to pay initially to achieve the long-term goal of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

But the new thinking turns that on its head by taking more careful account of the hidden benefits of mitigating climate change.

“The cost of action is well known,” said Helen Mountford, director of economics at the World Resources Institute, which worked on the “New Climate Economy” report. “The co-benefits, like reduced health costs, are less known.”

The findings are not isolated. Research published this month by Ian Parry and Chandara Veung of the International Monetary Fund and Dirk Heine of the University of Bologna concluded that almost every one of the top 20 carbon emitters would reap economic gains by imposing a hefty carbon tax, if they deployed the revenue to reduce taxes on income.

A tax of $63 per ton of CO2, for instance, would not only cut China’s emissions by some 17 percent, it would also cut the number of Chinese sickened or killed by pollution from coal. If Beijing used the money to cut other taxes, it would increase economic efficiency, adding up to a net economic gain — on top of any climate impact — of more than 1 percent of China’s gross domestic product.

This finding does not depend on any technological breakthroughs. It happens whether solar energy is cheap or expensive.

“It’s only recently that policy makers are beginning to appreciate the power of fiscal instruments like environmental taxes,” Mr. Parry told me. “And it’s only fairly recently that we’ve been able to value the health and other environment impacts so we’ve only recently got some sense of the substantial and pervasive undercharging for environmental damages.”

While this is all theory, some empirical research also supports the finding.

In 2008, for instance, the Canadian province of British Columbia unilaterally imposed a carbon tax that rose from 10 Canadian dollars per ton of CO2 in 2010 to 30 dollars in 2012, using the money to reduce personal and corporate income taxes.

An assessment of the experience published last year by economists at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that fuel use declined, but economic growth remained on the same trajectory as the rest of Canada’s. Notably, British Columbia ended up with the lowest income tax in the country.

Could this new understanding change the debate over climate change?

At the very least, the belief that there is a climate-related free lunch out there might provide welcome harmony to negotiations that usually end in acrimonious finger-pointing. The new research might even help move the debate away from the failed strategy of seeking legally binding emissions targets on every country, providing a blueprint for countries to voluntarily take on ambitious goals because it is in their own self-interest regardless of what other nations do.

Not everybody buys the math, though. And even those who do acknowledge that these efficient pathways to a low-carbon future are very narrow indeed. “Not all climate policies are win-win, and some trade-offs are inevitable,” notes “The New Climate Economy.”

For even if every country reaped net benefits from embracing a low-carbon development path, governments still must allocate costs and benefits within individual economies, mediating between winners and losers.

“Health is a social benefit that is not included in the accounts of private investors,” noted Zou Ji, deputy director of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy, a research institute affiliated with the government’s National Development and Reform Commission. “But abatement costs will be felt by private investors.”

Navigating these distributional issues will be tricky. Getting it wrong can be expensive. For instance, Mr. Parry and his co-researchers found that if carbon revenue was not used to reduce other income taxes, the net gain from a carbon tax evaporated and became a net cost.

Germany — perhaps the country most committed to developing an economy powered with renewable energy — has struggled with the trade-offs. First it exempted its export-oriented, energy-intensive industries from the surcharges levied to pay for subsidies to solar and wind generators. More recently, alarmed at the rising cost of power, it has begun reducing its subsidies for renewables, which has led to a drop in the rollout of solar power.

So maybe it’s no surprise that few countries have been willing, at least so far, to commit to take the promised high growth/low carbon path.
Last July, Australia’s newly installed conservative government repealed the carbon tax introduced by the Labor government before it, and the country’s carbon emissions quickly shot up.

“If the Chinese and the Indians found it much more economically efficient to build out solar, nuclear and wind, why are they still building all these coal plants?” asked Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank focused on development and the environment.

China’s CO2 emissions increased 4.2 percent last year, according to the Global Carbon Project, helping drive a global increase of 2.3 percent. China now accounts for 28 percent of the world’s total emissions, more than the United States and the European Union combined.

“I don’t think the Chinese and the Indians are stupid,” Mr. Nordhaus told me. “They are looking at their indigenous energy resources and energy demand and making fairly reasonable decisions.”

For them, combating climate change does not look at all like a free lunch.

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (21959)9/24/2014 12:55:46 PM
From: Eric
   of 40947
Wet, wet and wet in Western Washington overnight:

Observations at SEATAC (KSEA)

Northwest reporting stations:

I'm rolling up the outside yard hoses when it stops raining and storing them away in the garage for next spring or summer.

The "wet season" has begun..

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From: Eric9/24/2014 1:05:05 PM
   of 40947
Portland Will Still Be Cool, but Anchorage May Be the Place to Be

On a Warmer Planet, Which Cities Will Be Safest?


Where in the United States might you find the most protection from future climate change? Clockwise, from top left: Detroit, Miami, Norfolk and Seattle may weather global warming very differently. Credit Andrew Burton/Getty Images; Joe Raedle/Getty Images; The' N. Pham/The Virginian-Pilot, via Associated Press; Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Alaskans, stay in Alaska. People in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, sit tight.

Scientists trying to predict the consequences of climate change say that they see few havens from the storms, floods and droughts that are sure to intensify over the coming decades. But some regions, they add, will fare much better than others.

Forget most of California and the Southwest (drought, wildfires). Ditto for much of the East Coast and Southeast (heat waves, hurricanes, rising sea levels). Washington, D.C., for example, may well be a flood zone by 2100, according to an estimate released last week.

Instead, consider Anchorage. Or even, perhaps, Detroit.

“If you do not like it hot and do not want to be hit by a hurricane, the options of where to go are very limited,” said Camilo Mora, a geography professor at the University of Hawaii and lead author of a paper published in Nature last year predicting that unprecedented high temperatures will become the norm worldwide by 2047.

“The best place really is Alaska,” he added. “Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century.”

Under any model of climate change, scientists say, most of the country will look and feel drastically different in 2050, 2100 and beyond, even as cities and states try to adapt and plan ahead. The northern Great Plains states may well be pleasant (if muggy) for future generations, as may many neighboring states. Although few people today are moving long distances to strategize for climate change, some are at least pondering the question of where they would go.

“The answer is the Pacific Northwest, and probably especially west of the Cascades,” said Ben Strauss, vice president for climate impacts and director of the program on sea level rise at Climate Central, a research collaboration of scientists and journalists. “Actually, the strip of coastal land running from Canada down to the Bay Area is probably the best,” he added. “You see a lot less extreme heat; it’s the one place in the West where there’s no real expectation of major water stress, and while sea level will rise there as everywhere, the land rises steeply out of the ocean, so it’s a relatively small factor.”

Clifford E. Mass, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington, writes a popular weather blog in which he predicts that the Pacific Northwest will be “a potential climate refuge” as global warming progresses. A Seattle resident, he foresees that “climate change migrants” will start heading to his city and to Portland, Ore., and surrounding areas.

“The Pacific Ocean is like our natural air conditioning,” Professor Mass said in a telephone interview. “We don’t get humidity like the East Coast does.”

As for the water supply? “Water is important, and we will have it,” Professor Mass declared. “All in all, it’s a pretty benign situation for us — in fact, warming up just a little bit might be a little bit welcome around here.”

Already, he said, Washington State is gearing up to become the next Napa Valley as California’s wine country heats up and dries out.

“People are going crazy putting in vineyards in eastern Washington right now,” he said.

There may be other refuges to the east. Don’t count out the elevated inland cities in the country’s midsection, like Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Detroit, said Matthew E. Kahn, a professor of environmental economics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I predict we’re going to have millions of people moving to those areas,” he said in a telephone interview.

In his 2010 book “Climatopolis,” Professor Kahn predicts that when things get bad enough in any given location — not just the temperatures and extreme weather, but also the cost of insurance and so forth — people will become “environmental refugees,” fleeing cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego. By 2100, he writes, Detroit will be one of the nation’s most desirable cities.

That assertion came as a surprise to Rachel Burnside-Saltmarshall, a former president of the Detroit Association of Realtors.

“I haven’t come across that,” Ms. Burnside-Saltmarshall said diplomatically, adding that there were more immediate municipal concerns. “Like crime — tell me when that’s going to go down.”

A report by United Van Lines looking at relocation trends in 2013 found that its customers were moving primarily for economic reasons — a new job, lower costs of living — or quality-of-life considerations that were not climate related, such as public transit or green space. Coincidentally, Oregon — a predicted climate-change winner — topped the list of inbound moves, followed by South Carolina, North Carolina, the District of Columbia and South Dakota. The top states for outbound moves were New Jersey, Illinois, New York, West Virginia and Connecticut.

“What we see is that people are actually moving into harm’s way,” said Thomas C. Peterson, principal scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. “They’re moving from relatively safe places in the Midwest to places along the Florida coast, where the risk has been increasing.”

In May, Miami was named one of the nation’s most vulnerable cities in the National Climate Assessment, the third in a series of federal reports on how global warming will play out across the country. The week the report was released, Miami Beach residents were wading through ankle-deep waters on some of their main thoroughfares.

As sea levels rise in the decades ahead, said Professor Mass of the University of Washington, “if there’s ground zero for where you don’t want to be, Florida is it.” Other particularly vulnerable places are the low-lying cities of the East and Gulf Coasts, he noted.

As for New York City, the nation’s most populous city, Professor Mora at the University of Hawaii projects that 2047 will be the “year of climate change departure” — when weather that seems extraordinarily hot and catastrophic by today’s standards will become the norm.

“The coasts are all going to be facing very hot temperatures,” Professor Mora said. Washington, D.C., will reach its tipping point the same year, under his model; Los Angeles has until 2048; San Francisco, 2049 and Chicago, 2052. Detroit has until 2051, and Anchorage, 2071.

Some climate experts are optimistic that major cities will plan, adapt and ward off catastrophe. “New York has such a concentration of wealth and assets that I expect we will invest to defend the region from sea level rise and flooding, and there’s already movement in that direction,” said Mr. Strauss of Climate Central, a New York City resident.

But even in the places that are expected to come out ahead, the picture does not look entirely rosy.

“Summer in Minnesota is projected to be like the climate is in northern Oklahoma — the trees and the forests there, the crops that farmers plant,” said Dr. Peterson of NOAA, citing the 2009 National Climate Assessment. “You build houses differently in Minnesota versus Oklahoma, you lay railroad tracks differently.”

All in all, Dr. Peterson said, the changes will be highly disruptive, particularly over time. “We often talk about the climate from now ’til the end of this century, because that’s kind of a nice model,” he said, “But it’s not going to end there — it’s going to keep changing.”

My comments:

I'll have to "tease" my ol friend Cliff Mass about being mentioned in The New York Times.


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