Friday, February 28, 2014

Record Fact: Biodiesel Production Sets Annual & Monthly Records

December 2013 was an historic and record month for biodiesel production. A monthly record of 135 million gallons was produced in December, capping off a record year in 2013.

Biodiesel production topped 1.3 billion gallons in 2013, up about 35% from 2012 and smashing the previous annual record.  More growth in biodiesel production is fully possible since existing biodiesel capacity can produce more than 2 billion gallons per year.

Biodiesel is a domestic fuel, with a strongly positive energy balance, unlike gasoline. As such it is good for our economy and environment.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pennsylvania's Carbon Emissions Fall To 34 Year Low And Are Rare Good News Carbon Story

Carbon emissions continue to increase rapidly around the world.  The world's emission facts are grim, and finding major examples of declining emissions is, indeed, hard to do.

But those hunting for good carbon news should look at carbon trends in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a good news exception to oceans of bad carbon data. Indeed, few countries or states have cut carbon emissions more than Pennsylvania, since 1980, 1990 or 2005.

Pennsylvania's carbon emissions in 2011 were lower than in 2005, 1990, and 1980, according to the most recent state emission data from the Energy Information Administration.

EIA reports that Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were down to 244.7 million tons in 2011 from 272.9 million tons in 2005. That's a bit more than a 10% decline in 6 years.  Additionally, Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were lower in 2011 than in 1990 or 1980, when they totaled 292 million tons.

As of 1980, Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were more than 2% of the world's emissions. But, as of 2011, the Commonwealth's carbon emissions are now closer to 0.75% of the global total.

Big reductions from burning coal and oil are responsible for Pennsylvania's sharply declining carbon emissions. The Commonwealth's carbon emissions from burning coal have fallen from 153 million tons in 1980 to 140 million tons in 2005 to 114 million tons in 2011, as both nuclear and natural gas displaced large amounts of coal generation as well as petroleum combustion.

Apart from large changes over the last 30 to 50 years in how Pennsylvania generates electricity, Pennsylvania's decline in carbon emissions also reflects a structural shift in its economy from heavy industrialization to an economy now based on education, health care, and services.

All those reductions make Pennsylvania one of the best carbon reduction stories in the world over the last 34 years.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Georgia Nukes Prove Building Nuclear Plants Requires These 6 Conditions, Including $8.3 Billion Of Federal Loan Guarantees

What does it take to build a new nuclear power plant?  Massive government interventions, huge subsidies, and a utility management ready to bet its customers' wallets that it can avoid disastrous cost overruns are all required. Here are the big 6 requirements needed to build a nuke:

First, building a new nuke requires a utility to have an ironclad monopoly that makes its customers captives of the utility and the state regulators so that Wall Street is confident that the huge, costly investment made will be paid back by customers who cannot walk away from the debts incurred.

Second, and related to the first requirement, competition laws must not exist in a state for a nuclear plant to be built. Retail electricity generation competition or laws allowing customers to choose their electricity generation competition kill new nuclear plants, because Wall Street will not make capital available for nuclear construction if a utility must compete to keep customers.

Third, a law limiting liability of the plant's owners in the event of a nuclear meltdown or catastrophic accident is needed.  The federal government obliged by passing such a law

Fourth, subsidies and tax breaks of all kinds that add up to billions of dollars must be paid. Again, the federal government obliged.

Fifth, the federal government must offer massive guarantees of loans made. In the case of two new nuclear units in Georgia, the federal government is offering as much as $8.3 billion in guarantees.

Sixth, building a new nuclear plant requires a utility management willing to put at risk the utility's financial health and regulators who still underestimate the financial risks to customers.  Construction and budget overruns always happen with nuclear plants, and they can be financially disastrous for customers who get stuck with the bill or for utility shareholders or both.

One thing not required to build a new nuclear plant is a permanent place to store the highly toxic nuclear waste that plants generate throughout their operations.

These 6 requirements to build a new nuclear plant are all in place in Georgia, where the utility is building two new nuclear units that will each have a capacity of 1,100 megawatts.  But Georgia and the Southern Company are proving to be the only place in the America, where all 6 requirements needed to build a nuclear plant do exist.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dangerous Fact: North Dakota Crude Is World's Most Volatile/Explosive, According To WSJ Analysis

Kudos to Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal for his important article reporting on a comparative analysis done of the volatility of various kinds of crude from around the world.  Of 86 types of crude tested, the analysis concludes that North Dakota crude is the most volatile! Watch out!

This WSJ analysis is consistent with and explains the horrendous explosions that have resulted, when trains transporting North Dakota crude have derailed. One such explosion killed 47 people in Canada.

Despite the especially explosive, dangerous characteristics of North Dakota crude, the New York Times reports North Dakota crude is still being transported in non-puncture resistant tankers.

According to the NYT, neither the railroads nor crude producers are willing to make sure that North Dakota crude is transported in only puncture-resistant tankers. Meanwhile, possible federal regulatory changes, that would mandate North Dakota crude be transportant only in modern, puncture-resistant tankers, are moving at a snail's pace.

Industry resistance  and slow regulatory response means that virtually every train transporting North Dakota crude remains today a disaster waiting to happen.  For those of living in Pennsylvania that is particularly disturbing, because about 20% of North Dakota's crude rolls through our communities. Yet, Governor Corbett continues to do nothing to protect the safety of Pennsylvanians, even as the response of the industries involved and federal regulators is completely inadequate.

The WSJ analysis of the volatility of North Dakota crude is now powerful evidence and facts that the risks posed by transporting North Dakota crude in non-puncture-resistant containers are unacceptably high!

Non-Hydro Renewable Sources Triple Electricity Output In Last Decade

Led by astonishing increases in wind and solar, non-hydro renewable energy sources have tripled the amount of electricity they generate in the last decade.  Wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass electrical generation now provides 6.24% of America's power, while hydro provides another 6.63%.

The boom in wind and solar continued in 2013, with wind jumping 19% and solar soaring 113%.  Wind alone now provides more than 4% of all of our electricity.

As impressive as the surge in non-hydro renewable power output has been over the last decade, 2014 will be another strong, even record year.  Record amounts of wind and solar will be built this year, insuring that non-hydro power production will keep growing and soon will surpass the amount of power coming from America's substantial hydro generation.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Short Era Of Cheap Gas Ended In January: Has It Gone For Ever?

Natural gas cost $13 for a thousand cubic feet in July 2008 and then plunged for 4 years, until bottoming at less than $2 in April 2012.

Ever since April, 2012, natural gas prices have been marching upward and have reached record highs in some areas of the country.  The Energy Information Administration reports that natural gas spot market or daily prices averaged $22 in the Boston market from January to February 18th.

Spot market prices are always volatile and affected substantially by weather, but new record highs in an era of the shale gas supply boom is still notable. Non-spot prices have also increased significantly--by 150% to 200% from the April 2012 low--but have not approached record prices.

The era of cheap gas that stretched from 2011 to 2013 has ended. Has it gone for ever?

Surprise Fact: NOAA Reports January Globally Was Fourth Warmest!

Those of shivering through a long, cold winter may not believe it, but this January was the fourth or third warmest globally, since temperature records have been kept.

Don't believe it. NOAA says so!

Indeed, January, 2014 was a full 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average January in the 20th century.  Don't expect to see these facts on Fox News or on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.  Instead, at those outlets, viewers and readers will get a steady diet of misinformation created by a stew of omissions, fringe opinion, and outright falsehoods.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Colorado's Marijuana Tax Revenues Are Rocky Mountain High, Beating Expectations

A major reason Colorado voters legalized Marijuana was to take it out of the underground economy and start taxing it to raise revenues.  Projections were made, but actual tax revenues are higher than what supporters of legalization projected.

The Associated Press reports:

"DENVER (AP) — Colorado's legal marijuana market is far exceeding tax expectations, according to a budget proposal released Wednesday by Gov. John Hickenlooper that gives the first official estimate of how much the state expects to make from pot taxes."

The AP goes on to state that Colorado is including $99 million of new Marijuana tax revenue in its next budget. That tax revenue is generated from taxing a Marijuana market that will already exceed $600 million.

Pennsylvania is more than two times the size of Colorado and could generate $200 million in new revenue from legalizing and taxing Marijuana.  By doing so, it could eliminate also eliminate $300 million in marijuana policing, prosecution, jailing costs.  The total in new revenues and eliminated costs is $500 million per year!

My full Marijuana policy is available at:

Retirement Of 20% Of The US Coal Fleet May Not Mean A Decline In Coal Power Production

The Energy Information Administration's 2014 Energy Outlook projects that 60,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation, or nearly 20% of the total, will retire by 2020 and very little more thereafter.

Interestingly, the EIA forecast of coal retirements is considerably higher than the approximately 40,000 megawatts generation owners have so far reported will be retired. As of 2013, less than 20,000 megawatts of coal capacity had actually retired.

Yet, even if one assumes that the EIA forecast is correct and that 60,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation retires by 2020, the total amount of coal-fired electricity generated may not fall by a substantial amount as a result of the retirements.  Why?

Many coal plants that are not going to be retired have relatively low capacity factors. Indeed, the average capacity factor of the coal fleet in 2012 was just 56%. As a result, many of the coal plants that will not retire can and will produce more electricity and replace some of the power that the retired coal plants once produced.

Two factors will substantially determine whether coal plant retirements actually lead to less coal-fired power production. The price of natural gas and whether electricity demand rises or falls will directly impact whether the large amount of remaining coal-fired capacity runs more often and longer.  Right now, these two factors are pushing coal-fired electricity output in different directions.

Electricity demand is shockingly forecasted to actually fall through 2016 in the Midwest and is soft in other areas, as a result of the energy efficiency and distributed solar revolutions. Lower power demand will push downward both coal-fired and natural gas generation.

While softening demand is bearish for coal generation, rising natural gas prices is bullish for coal power. In fact, if natural gas prices remain above $4 for a thousand cubic feet, coal plants are going to run more and displace gas plants, as they have been doing recently.

The bottom line is that the large, coal retirements that will take place in the next few years do not mean falling coal-fired electric output.  It is quite possible that the remaining coal plants that constitue 80% or more of today's coal fleet will run more often and longer.   And so, in some cases, coal could replace coal.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shock Fact: Midwest Power Demand To Decline Annually Through 2016 Even As Economy Grows!

A sure thing in the electricity business for decades was that demand would increase each and every year. Annual increases of 1% or more around the country were guaranteed.

But shockingly, the days of ever increasing electricity demand are over, gone, dead, thanks to the energy efficiency revolution and rapidly increasing large amounts of solar distribution. The power of energy efficiency and distributed solar to drive down electricity demand from the grid is powerfully demonstrated by the news that power demand in the Midwest will fall for the next three years.

Indeed, the Midwest grid operator is now forecasting annual power declines of about 0.75% through 2016. The new forecast replaced the previous projection that demand would rise nearly 1% per year.

To be clear, the forecast of declining power demand is not driven by economic contraction. Indeed, the economy is forecasted to grow, even as demand from the grid falls. That is a stunning turn of events within the electricity industry!

Key Fact: Coal Plants Average A 56% Capacity Factor And That Surprising Fact Has Major Implications

A common misperception is that coal plants operate around the clock at maximum output and so have high capacity factors of 90% or more.  While the perception that coal plants have high capacity factors is common, the facts are quite different.

Coal plants across the United States had an average capacity factor of just 56% in 2012.

Why is the average capacity factor of coal plants well below 90%?  Forced or unplanned outages, scheduled maintenance outages, and economics. Coal plants often do not run, because their operating or production costs are more expensive than alternative sources of generation--wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and natural gas in 2012, when spot natural gas prices averaged an incredibly low $2.77 per thousand cubic feet.

As EIA reports, the capacity factor of the 10,214 megawatts of coal plants that were retired in 2012 averaged just 35%. The coal plants that run least are the ones that are the oldest, smallest, and highest production cost.

As the least competitive plants retire, the average capacity factor of the remaining coal fleet will marginally improve.  Rising natural gas prices almost certainly lead to higher coal plant capacity factors in 2013 and 2014, as coal plants displaced natural gas generation to a degree.

Paradoxically, even though about 20% of the coal fleet will retire in the next few years, coal consumption may well not fall and could even increase, as the capacity factors of the remaining coal plants could rise.  Simply put, in the next 5 years, America will have fewer coal plants, but the remaining plants may well run more.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Coal's Happy Days: US Coal Consumption Rose 3.5% In 2013 and Projected 4.1% Increase In 2014

Coal continues to win the "war on coal," with coal consumption rising in 2013. Coal's rise last year was fueled by higher natural gas prices.  And gas prices have risen still higher in 2014; so coal consumption is projected to grow 4.1% in 2014.  Below is the EIA most recent data:

"U.S. Coal Consumption.  EIA estimates total coal consumption for 2013 to be 920 MMst, a 3.5%
increase over 2012. The increase was primarily a result of increased consumption in the electric
power sector due to higher natural gas prices.  Projected consumption grows 4.1% to 958 MMst
in 2014 as electricity demand grows and natural gas prices continue to rise.

US coal consumption is almost completely driven by coal-fired power plants, and so coal consumption in 2015 will depend on whether coal generation's market share. In turn, the amount of coal combusted at power plants hinges on the price of natural gas.

In short, if the price of natural gas in 2015 is the same or higher than it was in 2014, US coal consumption will likely remain stable or grow. Conversely, if natural gas prices fall below $4 in 2015, coal consumption will fall too.

In truth, the so-called "war on coal" is a war between gas and coal.

Stunning Fact: Bloomberg Reports World Energy Efficiency Investment Is Just $14.9 Billion

Is it right? Could global investment in energy efficiency be just $14.9 billion? That's the total Bloomberg reports the world spent on energy efficiency in 2013.

The Bloomberg piece focuses on China surpassing the US in energy efficiency investments, a change of international position that is notable. But more startling is the report that global investment in energy efficiency is just $14.9 billion, as of 2013.

That amount of capital spending is equal to about 2 nuclear plants or about 14,000 megawatts of natural gas plants in the USA or about 7,000 megawatts of wind energy in the USA.  In short, it is a very small amount compared to global investment in generating new electricity supply.

What counts for Bloomberg as an energy investment is not clear to me? Is it just utility and government expenditures?  Looks like it does.

Or does the Bloomberg number also include purchases of energy efficient products by families and businesses. Probably not. In which case, the Bloomberg number understates substantially the scale of global energy efficiency investment.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EIA Projects Renewable Generation Will Not Increase Market Share In 2014 But 2015 Looks Bright For Renewable Gains

The market share of renewable energy generation has been steadily rising on the strength primarily of the wind boom, with a recent assist from an explosion of solar power.  But the biggest source of renewable generation power remains hydro, and droughts are cutting hydro power production.

EIA forecasts that the cut in hydro production will be enough to stop any market share gain for renewable energy this year. All renewables are forecasted to provide 12.9% of our power in 2014, the same as they cumulatively generated in 2013.  See page 9 of the EIA report below:

The 2014 stall in renewable generation gains will be temporary. America will install record amounts of new wind and solar capacity this year, and that new capacity will generate an amount of power equal to  5 to 8 nuclear plants. That surge in new wind and solar may be combined with a more normal hydro production total next year.

And so, 2015 should see the total amount of renewable energy generation increase, and its generation market share also rise.

Coal Generation To Rise Above 40% Market Share For First Time Since 2011

As recently as 2008, coal's generation market share was 48%.  Then it collapsed to 37% in 2012, as a glut of natural gas crashed the gas price and caused a large move from coal generation to natural gas.

Since its 2012 low, coal rebounded to 39% in 2013.  And 2014 looks like another year of market share gains for coal, with its market share going above 40% for the first time since 2011. EIA states:

"Natural-gas-fired generation accounts for a 27.0% share of total generation during 2014, down from 27.5% in 2013 as a result of rising natural gas prices.  In contrast, the share of generation fueled by coal increases from 39.0% in 2013 to 40.3% in 2014.  Renewable energy sources, including hydropower, account for 12.9% of total generation this year, the same as in 2013."

EIA projects no total increase in renewable energy generation, despite big gains for wind and solar, because major droughts will cut hydro production.

Rising natural gas prices are good for coal, as coal and natural gas continue to be locked in a fierce almost daily battle for generation market share. One consequence of the rising market share for coal generation in 2014 is another year of increasing carbon emissions.  This year will likely be the second year in a row of rising coal generation market share and increasing US carbon emissions.

As for coal's prospects in 2015, EIA forecasts a loss of market share, with more coal plants closing next year.  That forecast's accuracy, however, depends heavily on natural gas prices in 2015. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Key Fact: Electric Rates Fall In Top 11 Wind States But Increase In Other 39 States

A new report documents that wind power is pushing down electricity prices in those states with substantial wind generation. Electricity prices actually fell in the top 11 wind power states from 2008 to 2013 but rose nearly 8% in other states, as is documented in the paper below.

Wind farms lower electricity prices in a number of ways that are discussed in the linked to paper above. For example, in competitive power markets, wind farms displace the most high-priced power plants and lower the total market price by doing so, creating large savings for all consumers of electricity.

In utility service territories, where consumers are captured monopoly customers, wind power avoids the large fuel costs for coal, gas, oil, and uranium that are otherwise charged dollar for dollar to consumers.

Wind power is also a tremendous hedge against fossil fuel price volatility that is certain over medium to longterm periods.

Wind's consumer benefits are really adding up in the 11 states, where wind already provides 7% or more of their electricity. That's a powerful fact that will be increasingly hard to ignore.

Stunning Facts: PA Loses 1,100 Solar Jobs Even As Solar Jobs Increase 16% Nationally

Solar jobs are booming around the nation, with a national increase of 23,600, and solar jobs doubling in 18 states during 2013. The boom pushed America's solar jobs to more than 142,000 at the end of 2013.

The solar jobs news is good nearly everywhere but not in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania actually lost 1,100 solar jobs during 2013, leading the nation in destroying solar jobs.

Tom Corbett's drill-baby-drill energy policy and his austerity economics has caused Pennsylvania to be a jobs creation disaster. In 2010, the last year of Governor Rendell's term, Pennsylvania added 87,000 jobs. By 2013, the third year of Governor Corbett, job creation fell to 18,000, and the Commonwealth ranked 48th.

The 1,100 lost solar jobs in Pennsylvania during 2013 is part of Corbett's and Pennsylvania's terrible jobs record. Instead of losing 1,100 solar jobs, Pennsylvania should be part of the solar boom and would be with the policies that I support at

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wind Power Saves Oklahoma Utility Consumers $53 Million In First Year And Makes America Competitive

If you read faithfully the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, as I do, you will get a regular dose of columns and editorials bashing wind. Without fail, those columns are anti-wind and normally no better than poor propaganda, featuring faulty assumptions, factual inaccuracies, factual omissions, and outright falsehoods.

A common theme of the WSJ's anti-wind propaganda is that wind power allegedly drives up utility rates or power prices.  In fact, all over America wind power applies downward pressure to wholesale electricity prices, helps to limit retail rates, or actually cuts prices paid by utility consumers in some cases.

That is the case for utility consumers in Oklahoma, where wind power cut rates by $53 million.

That $53 million rate cut this year was just the first of several that wind power will deliver.  Wind power has always cut fuel costs that utility consumers must pay for coal, oil, gas, or uranium. Now wind's capital costs are also often lower than those of other power sources. And the huge amount of wind pumping into most wholesale electricity markets pushes down prices.

Wind power saves consumers money and makes America competitive.

Solar Record: China Installs 12,000 Megawatts Of Solar In 2013

China installed last year an incredible 12,000 megawatts of solar power.  That's more solar than the total amount of solar (approximately 10,000 megawatts) that has been installed in America.

In fact, no country has ever before installed 12,000 megawatts of solar in a single year. The Chinese, therefore,  have the record for the most solar installed in a year

In 2013, America installed more than 4,000 megawatts of solar--a big number for sure. But the Chinese solar build proves that installing 10,000 megawatts or more of solar in a single year is fully possible.

Indeed, doing so will soon be a regular feature of the global energy world, as the solar tsunami reshapes it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Coal Slurry Spill Blackens 6 Miles Of Field Creek In WVA & 2 Gas Wells Explode

Coal spills and discharges of varying sorts happen thousands of times everyday somewhere in America.  While the toll on rivers and streams is high, virtually none of the daily discharges of acidic water and other pollutants make the news.

Yesterday, a coal slurry spill in West Virginia blackened 6 miles of Field Creek, and that did make the news, at least in WVA. Here is the link to the story:

Coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power must all be strongly regulated, zoned, and taxed, because they all impact the environment and pose safety risks. Indeed, yesterday a natural gas well exploded in a fireball in Pennsylvania, causing a fatality and injuries. Another exploded in North Dakota.

Yesterday was one more of our daily reminders why renewable energy and energy efficiency must be accelerated.

Key Fact: Wind Turbine Prices Fall 35% From 2009-2013

Why is new wind power now competitive with new natural gas plants in increasing areas of America?

Here is the answer provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance:

"Global turbine prices declined by roughly  35%  over 2009-13 (Figure  49). Keeping all other cost
components equal,  this  decline in turbine prices equates to a  23% decline in the  levelized cost of
electricity (LCOE) for wind. Turbine performance has also improved, particularly for those purposed
for low wind speeds; this effectively improves the capacity factor, further lowering the LCO."

Wind is competitive with gas, because the wind industry has crashed the price of wind turbines and made them more productive at the same time. The result is the cost of electricity produced by a new wind farm in 2013 was the lowest in the modern history of wind power. Moreover, the cost of wind power will be still lower in 2014.

Wind power is an engineering and economic triumph!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Texas Wind Will Generate Next Year More Electricity Than Nuclear Power Does In 48 States

How big is the electricity generated by Texas' wind farms? To answer that question, let's compare wind production in the Lone Star state to nuclear generation around the country.

Even in 2013, Texas wind generated more electricity than nuclear did in all but 7 states!;

Yet, Texas right now is adding another 7,000 megawatts of wind capacity to its current wind fleet of approximately 11,000 megawatts. And so, by the end of 2014, Texas will have more than 18,000 megawatts of wind capacity.

That 18,000 megawatts of wind capacity will produce about 60 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2015, when it operates for a full year, or more electricity than nuclear produces in all but 2 states--Illinois and Pennsylvania.

You read that correctly. Stunningly, by next year, Texas wind will produce more electricity than nuclear does in all but 2 states. Amazing!!

And it won't be that long before Texas wind passes the number 2 nuclear production state--Pennsylvania.

Finally, wind production--that is now about 10% of Texas' power--drives down power prices and helps keep the lights on, during periods of tight power supplies. In fact, power prices in Texas would jump without all the wind electricity in the its grid.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stunning Fact: Nation's Largest Solar Installer Adds 1 New Employee Every Day For Last 6 Years

Solar City is the nation's largest solar installer. Its stock price has exploded and so has its workforce.

Solar City has added the equivalent of 1 employee every day for 6 years or more than 2,000! Solar jobs are booming, and they pay well.  Solar installers are paid on average $23.63 per hour.

That's not Walmart or poverty wages.

Stunning Fact: Utility Scale Solar Provided 12% Of California's Power At Noon On February 7th!

It is often said that, if California were a separate country, it would be the 8th biggest economy in the world. Stunningly, solar is increasingly powering California's big and growing economy.

On February 7th at noon, utility scale solar provided 12% of California's electricity. Wow! And that stunning 12% does not include the massive amount of distributed solar deployed on roofs all over the Golden state.

Counting only big solar farms or utility scale solar facilities, solar now is generating at some peak hours as much as 12% of the electricity used in California.  Just amazing!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Shortage Of Natural Gas Caused Electricity Supply Problems In California

Critics of renewable energy often attack wind and solar for being intermittent, as though plants that burn fuel or split the atom run all the time and without interruption. The idea that fossil fuel an nuclear plant are not "intermittent" is a great myth.

Yesterday, California was reminded that gas plants have many vulnerabilities. They unexpectedly break down; must be out of service for maintenance; and sometimes don't have the gas they need to run.

The cold around the country led to curtailment of gas to some power plants in California, and that caused a significant reduction in power supply.  The reduction was big enough that the grid operator had to urge consumers to cut their electricity usage.

Yesterday reminds once again that all power plants are intermittent. All have strengths and weaknesses. A reliable power grid will have a diverse power portfolio that should include renewable energy sources.

Solar Jobs To Jump 16% In 2014 To 165,000 Nationally

Solar jobs are hot. They skyrocketed 20% in 2013 and are projected to jump another 16% in 2014.
Here is the chart from the latest Solar Foundation report:

Stunning Fact: California Drought Slashes Hydropower & Causes 34% Rise In Natural Gas

The California drought impacts substantially how the Golden State powers itself.

In 2011, California got 21.3% of its electricity from hydro. With drought slashing river flows, hydro now generates 13.8% of its power. Ouch!

Falling hydro production must be replaced by something else. And natural gas generation has provided the replacement.

The fall in hydro production causes a sharp rise in natural gas generation that has shot up from 45% to 61% of California's total electricity.  In other words, the share of its electricity that comes from gas has increased 34%, as a result of the drought.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Stunning Fact: Bloomberg Finance Finds Utility Scale Solar Now Costs $1.55/Watt

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports in its 2014 Factbook these startling facts:

"Prices of solar modules have declined by 99% since 1976 and by about 80% since 2008. Total system costs for global, best-in-class utility-scale solar installations are now $1.55/W and expected to continue falling. As a result, power-purchase agreements (PPAs) for projects that are expected to be completed around 2016 have featured prices below $70/MWh."

Total installed solar costs are now $1.55 per watt.  Incredible!  Solar power purchase agreements are being signed for the equivalent of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, at a time when new natural gas plants cost 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Utility scale solar is already competitive and attractive, especially given that its fuel costs are fixed for 30 years. But even lower solar costs are ahead. Indeed, the $1 per watt Holy Grail for solar pricing will now be achieved.

Both utility scale and distributed solar are a combined tsunami of low-cost, zero-fuel cost, easily-built qualities that will smash business-as-usual in power generation markets.

Coal Spill Pollutes Another River, As 82,000 Tons Of Coal Waste Pour Into NC River

With the possible exception of oil, coal causes more and more serious water pollution than any other fuel source.  The coal chemical spill in West Virginia remains in the news, with a grand jury conducting a criminal investigation.

But the damage done to water resources in America as a result of coal production, unfortunately, is not a rare, one-time occurrence. Everyday discharges from old coal mines of highly acidic water and runoff from coal piles cause kill all aquatic life in streams in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  The cost of stopping these perpetual discharges runs into the tens of billions of dollars or more. And so most of these discharges into streams and rivers go on and on with no treatment whatsoever!

Then there is the coal ash waste pollution threat to water. Coal ash is the waste product left after coal is combusted to make power.  It is hard to store safely for decades and is often kept in big lagoons or ponds. There are many documented instances of the waste leaching into the ground and contaminating groundwater. In the worst cases, coal ash ponds suffer a catastrophic failure and large amounts of pollution hit rivers and surface waters.

An example of such a catastrophic failure is the spill of 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina. The coal ash came from the coal-fired power plants operating in North Carolina.

This sure does make energy efficiency, wind, solar look better and better.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

November Generation Scoreboard: Nuclear, Wind, Solar, Gas Up But Coal, Hydro Down

The November electric generation scoreboard had two surprises. Nuclear generation jumped 14.6%, compared to November 2012, while coal plants output dropped 5.7%.

As for natural gas, gas plants produced 3.7% more in November 2013. For the year, gas generation remains down and coal up.

As is almost always the case, the big winners on the November generation scoreboard are wind and solar. Wind's output increased 36.4%, and solar soared 117%.  While wind and solar soared, hydro production plunged 15.7%.

Eagles Lead 6 NFL Stadiums With Biggest Solar System At 3 Megawatts

The Eagles remain the champions of solar production in the NFL, with their 3 megawatt solar system.

The runners up to the Eagles are the Redskins and Patriots, with their 2 and 1 megawatt solar systems.

The Eagles have a tremendous record of environmental stewardship that includes clean energy production but much more like recycling and environmental education.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stunning Facts: PA Job Creation Drops From 87,000 to 18,000 Jobs During 2010-2013

Today, Governor Corbett submit's his fourth budget to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. His first three budgets and years were disastrous for job growth. Absent a complete reversal of his failed conservative policies, Corbett's fourth, and hopefully final, budget will add to the damage below:


The Jobs Record Of Corbett And Rendell Shows Corbett's Conservative Policies Are Toxic To Job Growth

It is said that the 50 states are the laboratories of democracy. In the last 4 years, Pennsylvania has been a a jobs laboratory, testing two competing and different policy prescriptions for the creation of jobs.

Governor Rendell famously made investments in education, infrastructure, health care, and clean energy top priorities. He thought bond financing produced growth, as long as the projects financed with debt were productive and interest rates were low.  He even raised modestly the state's personal income tax to pay for education and other investments.

Rendell's last year was 2010, and his successor is Tom Corbett.

Governor Corbett has pursued conservative budget and economic policies. He cut the use of bond financing, signed the Grover Norquist no tax pledge, refused to expand Medicaid and accept $4 billion per year of federal funding for hospitals, neglected or attacked clean energy, and proposed big cuts to education from kindergarten to higher education.  Also, he has cut taxes to favored business constituencies. Moreover, he has put all his eggs in the gas drilling basket, opposing a tax on gas drilling.

So, what are the results of the Pennsylvania jobs laboratory, where the Corbett and Rendell policy approaches have been tested?

In 2010, the last year of Governor Rendell's term, Pennsylvania created 87,000 jobs, while having an unemployment rate well below the national unemployment rate. Pennsylvania actually ranked 7th in jobs creation in 2010, according to the Jobs Growth Index run by Arizona State University.

Governor Corbett now has served for 3 years and his jobs record is the following:

2011--45,000 jobs added

2012--35,000 jobs added

2013--18,000 jobs added

Corbett's conservative policies are so toxic to jobs and growth that the Commonwealth's unemployment rate has been steadily above the national average since the summer of 2012. That's the facts!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Stunning Fact: PA Ranks 48th In Job Creation During 2013 & New York Creates 5 Times More Jobs

The latest job numbers confirm once again the jobs disaster in Pennsylvania that is now 3 years long.  Pennsylvania ranks 48th in jobs growth, for the period December 2012 to December 2013.

A truly awful 18,600 jobs were created during 2013 in the Commonwealth.  That stinks!

How badly does it stink? Well, without drilling one shale gas well, New York created 96,700 jobs during 2013, or more than 5 times as many as Pennsylvania.

Read Pennsylvania's jobs trend from 2010 to 2013 here and then weep:

2010--87,000 additional jobs created.

2011--45,000 additional jobs created.

2012--35,000 additional jobs created.

2013--18,600 additional jobs created.

Governors affect job creation. Ed Rendell's last year was 2010, when the Commonwealth added 87,000 jobs. 

Governor Corbett's first year was 2011, when job creation crashed to 45,000 jobs.  And the number of jobs created in the Commonwealth has kept crashing the longer Governor Corbett serves.

In addition to trailing New York in job creation, Pennsylvania under Corbett badly trails Delaware and Maryland, two more neighboring states with Democratic Governors. Delaware ranks 6th in job creation and Maryland 23rd.

Again Governors matter to job creation.

The cause of Pennsylvania's terrible job creation is Corbett's commitment to a conservative mixture of austerity policies for education, infrastructure, health care, economic development programs, and clean energy, while pursuing ineffective subsidies and tax cuts for favored constituencies.  That policy mixture has proven toxic to jobs creation in Pennsylvania.

2014 Wind Boom: A Record 12,000 Megawatts Of Wind Now Under Construction

After a poor year for adding new capacity in 2013, the wind industry is in the midst of another historic wind boom. A record 12,000 megawatts of wind capacity is now under construction. Wow!

How big is that wind boom?  It will generate enough power to supply 3.5 million homes or an amount of power 4 to 5 new medium-sized nuclear power plants would generate!

Texas is the epicenter of the wind boom, with an incredible 7,000 megawatts being constructed. The Lone Star state will be the first in the nation to reach the 20,000 megawatt wind mark, a truly extraordinary level.

With turbines being constructed at a record pace, 2014 will break the record set in 2012 for new wind capacity. It will be interesting to see by how much the 2012 record is broken.