Fantasy Energy League Draft Follow-Up: Breaking Down the First RoundIn late 2018, I put out the call to see how many fellow energy nerds I could gather to indulge me in combining my passion for energy analysis and clean power policy with my love of fantasy sports. By the end of January 2019, I had my cast of characters who somehow thought this idea was as fun as I did (isn't the Internet the greatest tool for finding people who share your interests?) and I released my Draft Preview. Coordinating this draft among 14 different teams with different time zones and schedules chock-full of actually helping to save the planet proved no easy task, but by the end of March we had conducted 5 rounds of picks for a total of 70 selections in this Inaugural Fantasy Energy League! If you follow me on Twitter, or any of the participants who joined me in spreading the word (and the trash talk) via the #FantasyEnergyLeague hashtag, you've already seen the results posted, but I still owed the league and our curious onlookers a review of the results and a teaser of what's to come. After a brief hiatus amid me moving to a new state and some career developments, I'm here now to deliver a mid-summer recap of the draft and preview how the rest will play out! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Background The best way to catch up on the premise and the rules is to read the draft preview article, but in short: Each participating team will assemble a roster of five state/sector combinations with the goal of acquiring selections that will see the greatest decrease in overall carbon emissions from 2016 to 2017 (2017 data being released in October 2019) Each state/sector combination can only be selected by one team Each team must have a representative from each of the five sectors and cannot have two selections from the same state The selection for each team that sees the greatest percentage drop in emissions from one year to the next will represent that team's wildcard percentage factor that will inflate their final score (e.g., a wildcard percentage factor of 30% will be a multiplier to increase the final emissions reductions achieved by that same 30%) The logical question to these rules is not necessarily to ask more clarification on how this will work, but why? Why are over a dozen very busy energy professionals taking their free time to work on this exercise? Well, what unites all those participating is a passion to work on this problem of carbon emissions. Be it through technology, markets, politics, or other means, this group is all dedicated towards enacting a clean energy transition that can prevent the worst effects of climate change. So, by approaching this very serious issue through the game-ified lens of fantasy sports, it opens up new ways to think about the problem and spread awareness. I'm thankful to all the teams who participated in the draft, and to read up on who those participants are refer to the draft preview. And without further ado, let's run through how the first round of this draft went! Round One Review In the fantasy sports world, the value of the first-round picks is so high that you must not waste them. Having your first choice is a clear advantage, and the picks from Fantasy Energy League members in Round 1 illuminate their priorities in thinking and which states and sectors they find should have had the greatest overall decrease in carbon emissions in 2017. Given the importance of this round, let's go pick by pick to figure out why certain selections may have been made and what strategies arise... Note: I don't have any inside information for why these teams made these picks, and as simply commissioner rather than participant they clearly did more research than I did. I expect there will be many reasons for their picks that I don't note in my review, so don't consider my words to be anything more than a typical fantasy commentator that typically gets proven wrong by season's end. Pick 1.1 from New Energy Equity: Illinois Electric Power Sector First overall picks are coveted, but they are by no means sure things. For every LeBron James and Peyton Manning there's a Greg Oden and Jamarcus Russell, so New Energy Equity must be sure to use this pick wisely. As the first ever pick in a Fantasy Energy League Draft, they confidently select Illinois Electric Power Sector. At first glance, there's a lot to like about this pick. Illinois can boast: leading the nation in nuclear power generation, which accounts for a majority of its electricity; a declining coal power sector that's being fast replaced by natural gas; an all-time high of natural gas generation in 2016 that has since diminished slightly; a strong wind energy sector; and a clean energy arrangement that allows Illinois to export one-fifth of its total generation to other states (which still counts towards the Illinois generation numbers). But the question to ask-- will the year-over-year numbers from 2016 to 2017 spell success? The only retirements that occurred in 2016 or 2017 in Illinois electric utilities were 12 megawatts (MW) of petroleum liquids, according to the Electric Generator Inventory from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, the genius of this pick might be the deregulated market. When looking at independent power producers in this data set, over 1,100 MW of coal were closed in mid- to late-2016 while customers were free to continue to choose cleaner energy from the deregulated market. Given the focus on climate change and renewable energy, perhaps betting on the customers themselves to move the needle will be a game-changing pick. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=2304] Photo Source: Chicago Tonight[/caption] Pick 1.2 from ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Pennsylvania Industrial Sector Representing the only team to deviate from the electric power sector in the first half of round 1, I would have maybe expected this team to jump at the transportation sector rather than industrial given their name. But owning a top two pick in a draft is a heavy responsibility, and this group did their homework. The Industrial Sector of Pennsylvania is the highest consumer of energy in the state, as the economy is built on the back of energy-intensive industries like mining, steel manufacturing, chemical production, and agriculture. As a result, Pennsylvania's Industrial Sector is the fourth largest consumer of energy among state industrial sectors, making this at least a partial play in that the greater the energy use in the sector the more of an opportunity there is to clean it up. In particular, Pennsylvania is the nation's second largest natural gas producer and overall the emissions intensity from the natural gas production industry is reported to be dropping continually and massively in the past decade. The Keystone State would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this trend, and add to that the steel industry and other industrial stalwarts in Pennsylvania swapping out coal for natural gas at a faster rate than any other sector in the state and you have an intriguing, if unexpected, #2 overall pick. Pick 1.3 from Rocky Mountain Institute Alabama Electric Power Sector Alabama might be another state that doesn't jump off the pages as the purveyor of clean power that the California-, New York-, Illinois-type states have been recently, but Rocky Mountain Institute recognizes that it's not about which state has the most clean energy in 2017, but it's about the state that made the most progress towards clean energy in 2017. According to the Electric Generator Inventory from EIA, Alabama retired five major coal-fired units in 2016. These five units, all from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), totaled 1,350 MW of capacity and were shut down in April 2016, the second greatest amount of coal capacity retired for a state in 2016. Combine that with Alabama being the nation's fourth largest generator of nuclear power, which produces about 25% of the state's electricity needs, and the carbon-intensive generation has likely been replaced with carbon-neutral generation, making this a shrewd pick. Pick 1.4 from CELI: Kentucky Electric Power Sector Whereas pick 1.3 looked good by seeing the coal closures in 2016, CELI's pick of Kentucky Electric Power Sector was the national leader in coal closures during 2017. Two coal-fired generators at the Paradise Plant, each at 704 MW of capacity, were closed in April of 2017. That timing means that CELI is looking to collect on eight full months of reduced coal production from the Kentucky utility sector, though Kentucky doesn't have the nuclear fleet that Alabama does to fill in those gaps. Rather, the natural gas sector of Kentucky accounted for over 90% of the new capacity added in 2017. While it's a shame from a climate and clean energy perspective that the massive coal closures weren't replaced via a long-term renewable or carbon-neutral solution, CELI is banking that the year-over-year replacement will still provide great value for this top-four pick since natural gas emits about half of the CO2 of coal per unit of energy generated. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=600] Photo Source: Power Technology[/caption] Pick 1.5 from Electrowinning: Indiana Electric Power Sector Another state that seems to benefit from the closing of coal plants during 2016, Indiana saw 12 coal-fired units shut down across 4 different power plants for a total of over 1,200 MW-- the third most coal-fired capacity shuttered during 2016. Three-quarters of this capacity was closed during the first half of the year, while the largest unit at 387 MW of capacity was closed in December. That late closure of such a large coal-fired unit provides great opportunity for 2017 to see year-over-year emissions reductions. While Indiana still sees a great majority of its power still coming from coal, Electrowinning must have seen these coal closures and their replacement with natural gas recently doubling over a three-year period and 2017 production additions being 60% renewable energy and 40% natural gas. This is a value pick to keep your eye on! Pick 1.6 from Emission Impossible III: Carbon Protocol: Pennsylvania Electric Power Sector With Pennsylvania being the first state to have the Industrial Sector taken off the board earlier, this pick of their Electric Power Sector indicates a feeling that some great progress is being made across the state. Looking at 'Total Electric Power Industry' generation data from EIA, early indications suggest that Pennsylvania did indeed make noteworthy headway with a 7,000,000 MWh decrease in coal-generation being offset with a 4,000,000 MWh increase in natural gas generation. The renewable energy needle didn't move any appreciable amount, but in a state trailing only Texas and Florida in total power generation just swapping from carbon-heavy coal to the so-called bridge fuel in natural gas can provide immense carbon reductions. This team seemed to suggest they thought the impossible mission was having PA's power sector lasting to them all the way in pick number six, so we'll see if that luck pays off for them in the end. Note: This pick came after Emission Impossible attempted to select Kentucky Electric Power Sector, stating with confidence it should have been the top draft pick for the year, not realizing it had already been selected four picks earlier. As Emission Impossible was a pre-draft trash talker, the rest of the league appeared to relish in this error. Pick 1.7 from Clarion Energy Women in Power: Indiana Industrial Sector With Indiana's power sector being taken just two picks earlier, Clarion Energy Women in Power reached to grab the state's industrial sector. Looking also to see for coal usage to drop, this pick is bolstered by the fact that it trails only two other states in industrially-used coal power and that said coal consumption has declined nearly every year since 2005. That decrease in coal use in industry appears like it's being slowly replaced with electricity (allowing for penetration of cleaner fuels powering the grid), as Indiana finds itself as a top-five state when it comes to electricity sales to the industrial sector. Will these facts be enough for the Clarion Energy Women in Power to take an early lead, or will they regret having to wait on their electric power sector? [caption id= align=aligncenter width=2048] Photo Source: GE[/caption] Pick 1.8 from GridLab: Texas Electric Power Sector Looking into this Texas Electric Power Sector pick, this selection appears to be less about the coal-fired generation retired (558 MW was good for fifth in the nation in 2016, but no capacity was retired in 2017), but rather it appears that this pick is the first one to dig into the strategy of 'highest population and highest energy produced provides greatest opportunity for reductions.' Texas produces more electricity than any other state, and even the states that are slow to the clean energy transition are still plodding along in the right direction and not building out massive amounts of new coal. Between Texas's rapidly increasing its amount of utility-scale wind in the past decade, the presence of two nuclear power plants that provide 10% of the state's power, and the growing amount of solar and natural gas, this pick looks to be all about the volume stats (not to mention the Texas power sector, like #1 pick Illinois, is deregulated). Let's see how that works out.. Pick 1.9 from Good Wind Hunting: Michigan Electric Power Sector Going back to EIA's Electric Generator Inventory, Michigan was the state who closed the greatest amount of coal-fired capacity in 2016, totaling almost 1,500 MW. All of those closures took place in the first half of 2016, though, so will the 2016 to 2017 year-over-year difference in utility-sector emissions drop enough to make this pick worthwhile? That will surely depend on what replaced the coal-- Good Wind Hunting must be banking that Michigan's extensive hydroelectric sector and growing wind & solar sectors will be making up much of that gap rather than new natural gas. Pick 1.10 from Powerhouse: Connecticut Electric Power Sector To this point in the draft, Connecticut is the smallest state selected-- both in size and in total power generation. Given that small size of the utility sector, Powerhouse must have some inside knowledge about how much cleaner the Connecticut utility sector got during 2017. Year-over-year data seems to show that coal generation and petroleum generation increased and nuclear generation and biomass generation decreased (both not great for this pick), but the total power demand in the Connecticut utility sector dropped about 5% in 2017. That fact could be what Powerhouse is going after, but because Connecticut is such a small state this translates to an overall generation decrease that's outpaced by 15 other states. We'll have to see where this one ends up when it all plays out. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=940] Photo Source: Record-Journal[/caption] Pick 1.11 from Kiterocket Renewables: Texas Industrial Sector Kiterocket Renewables is the third participant to dip into the industrial sector rather than the electric power sector in round 1. Texas also becomes the second state to have two sectors taken. As noted with the Texas Electric Power pick, this selection could be one that is rooted largely in volume. The Lone Star State sees its industrial sector, boosted by high energy uses like petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing, account for about half of all energy consumed in the state. Because of this industrial trend, Texas uses a lot of hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) in the industrial sector, and Texas industrial natural gas usage accounts for one-fifth of the nation's total industrial sector natural gas consumption. But most importantly, early data suggests Texas's industrial sector has decreased its coal usage from 2016 to 2017 by about 7%-- which would equal significant emission reductions given the large scale of said sector. Will this team see a payoff from waiting on the more popular electric power sector until the second round? Pick 1.12 from This CO2 Shall Pass: Ohio Electric Power Sector With their first pick of the draft, This CO2 Shall Pass goes with the third electric power sector from a deregulated state in Ohio. This pick looks to be one that might be considered an early steal of the draft, as the Buckeye State saw the second greatest capacity of coal generation retire in 2017 all from the closure of the 610 MW J.M. Stuart coal-fired generator. Not only does that spell good news for this pick, but also noteworthy is the clean energy policy trends in Ohio: the state has both an alternative energy portfolio standard (AEPS) and an energy efficiency portfolio standard (EEPS), collectively pushing power generation to 12.5% renewable energy by the end of 2026 and instituting energy efficiency measures to reduce peak demand 7.75% by 2020 and cumulative energy savings of 22% by 2027. While those are forward-looking goals, This CO2 Shall Pass clearly feels they have reason to be optimistic the numbers for 2017 will show appreciable progress to those goals. Pick 1.13 from Energy Innovation: Georgia Electric Power Sector While Energy Innovation was integral to spreading the word and excitement about the Fantasy Energy League, they got saddled with a late first round pick by the random number generator. Looking to make the best of a non-ideal situation, they grabbed Georgia Electric Power Sector. Georgia is home to the only nuclear power construction project in the United States that's actively being built, but that of course won't help in the 2016 to 2017 time frame-- so what does this pick have going for it? The state date from EIA shows that overall electric power sector production decreased over 4% year-over-year, with that decrease coming almost entirely from a 14% decrease in coal production. At the same time, the Georgia utility-scale solar sector ballooned from 881,000 MWh of generation in 2016 to almost 2,000,000 MWh in 2017. No doubt Energy Innovation is hoping the sun will shine on this late first-round pick (though the claws started to come out in trash talk at this point...) Pick 1.14 from The Windy City: Ohio Industrial Power Sector Rounding out the first ever round of the world's only (to my knowledge) Fantasy Energy League, the unlucky last pick went to The Windy City-- but rather than lean into a sector likely to be heavy in wind energy, they closed out round one by picking the Ohio Industrial Power Sector. Representing just the fourth to choose an Industrial Power Sector, this pick was also the second pick in the last three to choose Ohio. As noted in pick 1.10, leaders in Ohio are making strides to clean up the energy mix and fight climate change head-on, so The Windy City must feel that the industrial power sector will be feeling the effects of this trend. This conclusion tracks because Ohio, with its heavy industrial economy, is another where the industrial sector uses more energy than any other sector in the state. Indeed, early EIA data shows that the combined heat & power in the industrial sector of Ohio decreased by 80,000 MWh (11%) in 2017, with over 100,000 MWh (92%) in decrease coming from coal partially in favor of a 56,000 MWh (54%) increase in natural gas powering industry. As noted previously, while natural gas is itself a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases, the carbon-intensity of gas is about 50% that of coal. The Windy City might see the industrial wind a'blowing in his favor based on this data. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=1650] Photo Source: Department of Energy[/caption] Impressions from Round 1 In aggregate, it's notable that 10 of the 14 teams took electric power sectors first, though that's unsurprising given it's not only such a massive part of overall energy consumption but also because it's the area with the greatest variety of clean options. Renewable energy, nuclear power, switching from coal to gas, or energy efficiency measures can all create notable emissions reductions. The other four teams took industrial sectors, likely owing to the traditional energy intensity of these sectors that is quickly seeing natural gas being used in favor of the historical leader in coal. Another noteworthy observation from Round 1 is that many of the states traditionally associated with progressive policies on clean energy-- such as California, New York, and Massachusetts-- are still left on the board. This fact may be surprising at first, until you realize that the participants are smartly looking past sectors who have long been clean energy leaders, but rather the states that are evolving towards clean energy now. The game is not to pick the fewest emissions, it's to pick which states/sectors are making the greatest strides over this time period. Some of those greatest strides, then, will logically come from states that have traditionally lagged behind in progressing towards clean energy and have ground to make up. Rest of the Draft So that's a recap of just Round 1, but likely the most important round for teams to find their most impactful players. Because 70 picks are a ton, this first article is just meant to highlight those important picks. Stay tuned in this space where you'll see the rest of the draft review: The next article will highlight Rounds 2 and 3, in less detail than in Round 1, taking a look at trends that emerge and getting more into the trash talk that took a hold during the draft process. The last article will close out Rounds 4 and 5 in which teams start to throw darts, searching for the undiscovered gem who might lead to the greatest wildcard factor, and where I'll post the final draft board along with each team's starting emissions for 2016 data. This article will also preview how and when the results will be revealed! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To see other posts about using sports to talk about clean energy policy, see this article on the most energy and climate conscious MLB players, a dream 'green' fantasy football team, and my interview with the Green Sports Blog. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando, FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates the Chester Energy and Policy business and blog to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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Floatovoltaics: Clever Innovation or Solution in Search of a Problem?Floatovoltaics, the cute portmanteau adopted by floating photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems, have been around in idea and implementation for many years, but whenever they are discussed they elicit interestingly strong reactions. Those in favor of floating solar argue that it might be an ingenious solution to the need to expand the availability of clean energy across the world, while those who are skeptical scoff at the idea that the added complexity can really deliver results or move the needle on the world’s massive (and growing) energy needs. I always sort of assumed that floatovoltaics were somewhat akin to the futuristic idea to simply replace road pavement or sidewalk space with solar panels. For these road-based solar solutions, the idea sounded OK in principle and would sound obvious to those who were outside of the industry, perhaps asking “why isn’t this a thing!?” over a couple of beers, but the moment you dug into the science, the economics, and the practical numbers it obviously fell apart as an unrealistic solution (albeit one that sounded really cool and Jetsons-like). For floating solar, I assumed that these installations were intriguing and a clever way to find new areas for much-needed solar energy, but that they were too niche and they represented a classic ‘solution in search of a problem.’ Recently, however, I was compelled to do some deeper digging into the idea of floating solar. And as always, I thought that rather than keep that research to myself I should write up my findings. So without further ado… (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Floating Solar…What Is It? Well, the name kind of tells you the basics. But I’ll still let an official scientific publication (in this case, the Texas Water Journal), explain it clearly: “The concept of floating solar is simple: PV panels (like those used for traditional terrestrial systems) that float on water bodies. Solar PV plants use the same technologies as traditional ground-mounted PV plants.” While you may be used to seeing solar panels on rooftops or even in empty fields, harnessing the natural energy of the sun’s rays, floating solar takes that identical technology to the water-energy nexus, allowing solar power to be generated by the solar radiance that would otherwise strike bodies of water. [caption id=attachment_3226 align=aligncenter width=300] Photo Source: Daily Energy Insider[/caption] OK, What Problems Does It Solve? You may hear that and have the same thought as me: sounds cool, but is that really useful? When you dig into it, it turns out that there are several operational advantages, opportunities for systematic efficiency, and underrecognized problems that floating solar can solve. Utilizing Unused Space & Harnessing Economics of Land Prices First, one of the most beneficial aspects of floating solar comes from placing them on bodies of water that were previously unused or even unusable for anything worthwhile. These bodies of water are the aquatic equivalent of brownfields: water that is man-made (meaning ecosystem disruption is less), inland, and calm. A great use case of this type of otherwise unused body of water is the reservoir behind dams used for hydropower. Not only does this placement get PV panels placed in areas where the physical footprint is cheap (since the water would remain empty otherwise), but by co-locating the solar installation with hydropower generation the solar panels are able to optimize operational and cost efficiencies by simply tapping into the existing energy transmission infrastructure (not to mention the reduced transmission losses from being located right on-site already). Even better, if floatovoltaics are sited on the water of pumped hydropower energy storage, they can be tapped into when solar activity is the greatest and then have the energy stored to be dispatched at a later time when it’s more economical to do so. Looking at the entire setup economically, as solar cell and PV panel prices continue to fall (which they’re universally projected to do) that means that traditional solar installations will see a greater percentage of their costs going to physical land costs. So, in areas where land costs are particularly high (e.g., island nations and communities with valuable farmland), floating solar bis able to provide a new and critical avenue to implement solar power. [caption id=attachment_3227 align=aligncenter width=900] Photo Source: Miami Today News[/caption] Operational Benefits of Solar on Water A few less obvious benefits to nautically located solar panels also take hold from a scientific and operational perspective. To start, a source of electric inefficiency in solar panels comes when they get overheated. However, by placing the panels directly over water they can take advantage of the cooling effect of water. Studies find that this feature can account for an increase in average efficiency of 11% when compared with on-land panels. Additionally, an under-discussed challenge of land-bound solar is what is known as ‘soiling.’ This phenomenon occurs when dust and dirt get kicked up by the wind and other activity to effectively block the sun from fully reaching the panels. Frequent maintenance of some kind is needed to fight this, lest the solar panels lose up to $0.30 per kilowatthour of energy value. Obviously, though, being located on the water diminishes this challenge. Benefits to the Water Systems Lastly, the solar power systems aren’t the only ones to benefit, as floating solar can also create a symbiotic relationship between the panels and the water. To start, panels located above the water provide shade and cooling to the water, which naturally reduces the rate of evaporation. Such an effect is useful for water resources where scarcity is an issue, such as at Lake Mead which has recently lost 5% of its water to evaporation per year. Further, covering the surface of bodies of water also serves to minimize some of the natural methane emissions that come from standing bodies of water. This tendency of reservoirs to naturally release methane has been responsible for making the carbon footprint of such hydropower generation non-zero, but the presence of floatovoltaics can work to counter that. Lastly, the shade provided by solar panels will reduce algae bloom in the waters and thus improve water quality. This trend can again be critical in situations where water resources are scarce and thus keeping the quality of the water in those areas high is critical. [caption id=attachment_3228 align=aligncenter width=498] Photo Source: Orlando Utilities Commission[/caption] Doesn’t It Introduce New Issues? Those benefits are all well and good, you may say, but are they worth the potential new issues that siting solar panels above water would create? These questions are natural and fair, as the complexity of planning and maintenance needs get elevated by siting solar on the water. For instance, special planning must be given to how falling and rising water levels will affect the installations, especially in regions prone to heavy storms (hello Florida during hurricane season!). On the other end, winter weather can present issues when snow covers the panels and must be cleared or when the water itself freezes over. Generally speaking, as well, any installation, maintenance, and repair to solar panels have added costs and complexities when they must be performed on the water when compared with on-land installations. However, none of these are technical challenges that have not yet been overcome. The only question with these new issues is the cost they add to the energy generated and comparing those added costs to the previously mentioned benefits. If, in the end, the costs to overcome those challenges do not surpass the economic and whole-system advantages gained, then floating solar is not an ideal solution in that instance. But, as we’ll see, floatovoltaics have found plenty of areas where the math works out. [caption id=attachment_3229 align=aligncenter width=978] Photo Source: ESMap[/caption] Where Is It Being Used? Currently, the global market for floating solar has surpassed 1.1 gigawatts (GW) compared with over 100 GW of total solar energy capacity. The World Bank estimates that the global potential can reach 400 GW in capacity. When it comes to studying the current and future state of floating solar power in the United States, the recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (aka NREL, a national lab in the system of the U.S. Department of Energy) set the standard. As reported by NREL, the first U.S. installation of floating solar came over a decade ago, but despite that this type of renewable energy generation has not swelled and pervaded the U.S. energy mix. By the end of December 2018, only seven total floating solar installations were operational in the United States. Internationally, the outlook was relatively more encouraging, with 100 floating solar plants in place. Notably, 56 of the 70 largest floating PV installations were in Japan, where available land resources on the archipelago are scarce. Taiwan is another key example where real estate cost is high and maximizing land use is important, so floating solar is a convenient solution when looking hyper-locally. This dichotomy between U.S. installations and global installations reflect how floating solar is a niche ‘nice to have’ use case in the United States compared with being a necessity in other places. Looking forward, this trend feeds into estimates that North American installations are only expected to reach 50 megawatts (MW) by 2022 and that in the same period China would lead the world with 485 MW, followed by India at 216 MW, South Korea at 128 MW, and Japan at 121 MW. The international fascination with floating solar, particularly in Asia, has even resulted in a bit of hot potato of which nation holds the active title for largest floating solar installation, akin to the battle for the world’s tallest skyscraper that started in the 20th century. Focusing back on the NREL study of the U.S. market, the lab also examined the theoretical potential capacity for floating solar by tapping the market more widely. Based on what they described of a conservative estimate (i.e., only 27% of man-made bodies of water and only 12% of the surface of those bodies would be covered in solar panels), NREL found that over 24,000 U.S. reservoirs could generate 10% of the electricity needed to power America by playing host to floatovoltaics. NREL also echoed the sentiment that this strategy could be particularly valuable in areas where land constraints are an issue and land is highly valuable. In this massive floating solar scenario, about 2.1 million hectares of land would be ‘saved’ from housing solar. However, this data point is a bit misleading: wouldn’t we put solar on the optimal water and land resources where it was needed and wouldn’t we only build out the capacity at the rate at which it was needed and in the places in which it was economically viable? Nonetheless, the figure and study as a whole are quite thought-provoking. In the United States, the excitement is certainly beginning to build. “A lot of people were waiting to see if our 4.4 MW New Jersey project went as planned because it is almost ten times bigger than any other U.S. floating solar array,” claimed the national marketing lead for an engineering group diving headfirst into solar. He went on to note that they’re “nearly there and now five utilities in five states want us to develop new projects totaling 80 MW.” Indeed, a surprising (at least to me) tidbit of the NREL report was the fact that “every state has floating solar potential” despite the diversity in quantity and type of water bodies and natural solar resources. But in the end, when comparing state-by-state electricity demand, NREL found that Idaho, Maine, New Mexico, and Oklahoma could all exceed needed demand through floating solar alone (see the map below). Obviously this arithmetic comes as an oversimplified generalization (energy storage needed to enable that solar generation to cover all times would be expensive and would use up some of the energy, the solar resources would not necessarily be located directly where they were needed, etc.), but again the potential for floating solar to go through massive expansion seems to be technologically and geographically present. [caption id=attachment_3230 align=aligncenter width=604] Photo Source: ACS Publication[/caption] What’s The Final Judgment? If I’m to make the final judgment on floating solar, which I’m in no way in charge of doing, I would say after research I’ve softened my stance a bit. Floating solar still seems to have come from a place of ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we just put the solar panels on water?’ and ‘Sure, but why?’ That said, the ‘why’ question has some very useful answers in designated and specific situations, and those are valuable. Geothermal and hydropower are two renewable energy sources that have found success even though they are geographically limited in use cases, but the economics and the low carbon footprint make them obvious answers in those regions where they work. They are nice to have where it works and is necessary to keep in the tool belt, but won’t singlehandedly mobilize the masses. Floatovoltaics can and should find a way to carve out this niche and these optimal market dynamics in the same way that tidal energy can do for coastal regions. So, are floating solar installations an example of a solution in search of a problem? Perhaps. But that problem has been astutely identified and now it’s about implementation. Float on to a cleaner and cheaper energy mix in those regions. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into solar energy, see this article the Open PV Project, this assessment of the solar revolution across the United States, and an assessment of solar power use in California wineries. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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China is Leaving the United States Behind on Electric VehiclesIn a first for the Chester Energy and Policy blog, I’ll be hosting a guest post from a colleague to write on a topic they know quite well and have important ideas to share. Teague Egan is the CEO of EnergyX, a sustainability energy company that’s focused on (among other things) the importance of lithium extraction for the future of clean energy technologies—namely electric vehicle batteries and larger-scale energy storage. The pending market explosion of EVs is one that cannot be denied and is already happening much more quickly in places other than the United States. The situation with EVs evokes the classic “ready or not, here they come.” In this instance, ‘they’ are the EV manufacturers and buyers, and the entities that may or may not be ready include installations of public EV chargers, utilities that are seeing the greatest single increase to their demand load in history, and the provider of the key raw materials for EVs—chief among them being lithium for the batteries. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); With that in mind, I’m happy to run this piece by Teague about what China as a nation is doing to prepare for the EV revolution and where the United States is falling behind. If you like this piece, want to hear more from Teague, or have an idea you’d like to run as a guest post then please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter. China is Leaving the United States Behind on Electric Vehicles By Teague Egan To all Americans, when we think electric vehicles, we think Tesla. Sure, GM has the Chevy Bolt. It’s a nice all electric car, starts at $36,620 MSRP, has a 238-mile range, but Tesla started building electric cars when no one thought it could be done. Elon’s Musk’s biography, “Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” discusses how lithium-ion batteries were hitting the point of viability for usage in electric cars. However, it still took Tesla nearly 10 years to release their signature Model S sedan, and thus the revolution began. Witnessing history in the making, I bought Tesla stock back in 2013 at $40 per share. This was after tracking it jump from $20 to $40 per share in a matter of weeks. Not to be slowed, in the weeks following it jumped from $40 to $80 per share. I was able to purchase my very own Tesla Model S with the earnings, and so my love affair with electric vehicles began. Along with so many other technologies invented in the United States, it seems electric vehicles have followed suit. After Tesla proved it was possible to make EV’s and the market was growing, China replicated, mass-produced, and now dominates. Following a 126% increase in EV sales in 2018, the Chinese market was flooded with new EV startups keen on producing electric vehicles. Hell bent on taking a global lead, Beijing decided to stimulate sales after announcing a series of government subsidies back in 2010. The government funding led to the creation of 500 startups which, along with China’s manufacturing prowess led to the mass-production of EVs. Washington attempted to provide government subsidies, but we have not seen Detroit based auto manufacturers transition as readily. With Chinese policies aimed at making it easier to buy electric vehicles over their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts, buyers quickly flocked to them. Since then, however, with overproduction of electric vehicles as a result of its very competitive auto manufacturing, China is seeing a slowdown in its domestic EV market. Yet Beijing has built an impressive lead in the global EV market, doubling the United States’ production and sales. Breaking Barriers & Old Traditions Although domestic sales have dropped, China continues to outpace the US in flying colors. After surpassing the US in 2015 to become the largest electric-car market it has kept the title since. Helped by the government subsidizing purchases and spurring companies’ research efforts, annual electric-car sales in the Asian country will reach 2 million units next year, after topping 1 million for the first time in 2018. I have to ask the question: “How can the US be letting this happen again?” With a massive China vs. US trade war brewing, and the critical issue of climate change at the forefront of our attention, what are the underlying circumstances?” Part of the answer is government subsidies. Additionally, there is China’s massive and cheap labor force. But a significant factor is the supply of the battery raw material and the associated value chain. You need a mind-boggling amount of batteries and the materials to make those batteries to make a battery-powered car. In light of the recent slowdown, China announced a range of new measures primed to set the industry back on track. By revoking subsidies and increasing the qualifications needed for new companies to infiltrate the market, Beijing expects the industry to regulate itself. On top of this, the government announced a series of policy changes that will promote the sales of EVs, as it seeks to reduce the amount of internal combustion engine vehicles on its roads and the pollution they emit. Despite the Chinese EV market seeking to reduce its production rate, it is still projected to keep its top spot as a global leader through 2030. As Wharton’s John Paul MacDuffie explains: “China has been willing to pull all the policy levers available to them to jump-start the electric vehicle market. [It wanted to] stake out a claim to be not only the biggest market in the world, but the one that is accelerating the pace of the transition from internal combustion to electric.” There has been some debate as auto industry pundits try to determine when sales will stabilize, but recent studies from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Bloomberg suggests that China will continue to be a global leader in EV production and sales. [caption id=attachment_3170 align=aligncenter width=300] Photo Source: SCMP Graphics[/caption] Continued Leadership Both the IEA and Bloomberg studies show that electric vehicle manufacturing remains one of the fastest-growing sectors worldwide. With ICE sales in China expected to drop coupled with the incursion of Chinese EV manufacturers in overseas markets, major auto manufacturers in the United States and Europe have taken note of the country’s rise as a global leader. China’s production of electric vehicles has spurred competition internationally with Western nations pushing for more EVs on their roads. China sold a million electric vehicles last year - an impressive feat considering 2018 saw total global sales of EVs top 1.8 million. The United States came in second, selling 400,000 units. Experts believe the Asian nation is set to sell over two million units this year as Beijing maintains its dominance over the US and European markets. Although the United States has seen a steady increase in sales of electric vehicles over the past few years, it has been unable to compete with China’s production power. Back to the batteries the thing that makes an electric vehicle, electric. As the owner of my brand new Tesla Model S, I started to see that electric vehicles were the future. One month of zipping around with that instant acceleration, and 4.2 seconds 0-60 mph and you are instantly hooked. I became extremely curious about all things EV. Leaving the entertainment industry, I decided to start a renewable energy company focused on batteries and battery materials. This is when I came to find that Tesla, the darling of the EV revolution, sources essentially all of its lithium and battery materials from outside the US. What's Under the Hood? On top of its world-leading sales numbers, China also boasts the highest production of EV batteries and has secured the resources needed to build them. But just how big is that lead? China produces nearly two-thirds (66%) of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, compared with 5 percent for the United States. Tesla does produce its own batteries, but it sources lithium from the world’s top 5 providers, only one of which, Albemarle, is based in the United States. Albemarle produces just a tiny fraction of its lithium domestically in Nevada, which presumably goes to Tesla. Taking it further upstream, China controls most of the world’s lithium processing facilities as well. Beijing has been supporting lithium and copper mining operations globally as it seeks to satisfy its demand for EVs. It also has had a hand in funding new nickel mines, another important battery material. Japan, Australia, and the US have attempted to circumvent China’s manufacturing dominance by jointly investing in the sourcing of materials, however, Beijing’s grasp stretches globally. Tianqi and Gangfeng are the two Chinese lithium behemoths, and Tianqi owns a 24% stake in SQM, the world’s second largest lithium producer. China is crossing borders to secure all the materials needed to make batteries for it’s EVs. While China refines its manufacturing prowess and broadens its value supply chain, its EV industry will carry on leading world markets. I am hopeful the US can begin to speed up electric transition our staple Detroit auto manufacturers, but we must also explore sourcing raw materials and producing more batteries domestically. These are critical to building our sustainable energy future. ______________________________ What do you think of Teague's perspective on the EV markets and the competition between China and the United States? Are you considering an EV for your next car purchase? Would you like to see more guest posts in this space? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into the transportation sector, see this analysis of minimum fuel efficiencies and gas prices over the years and this perspective of the Tesla Roadster that was sent into space. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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Sustainability and Clean Energy Across Industries: Proposing a ‘Green New Deal’ for Various ProfessionsAfter a 35-day shutdown, the new Congressional class has finally been able to get to work on their campaign promises. While the existence of a shutdown does not affect overall electricity demand in the Washington DC area, according to previous Chester Energy and Policy analysis, the new crop of lawmakers finally get to work bring cause for excitement in the energy sector. Namely, some notable candidates who won last November campaigned strongly on concerns about climate change and calls for clean energy policy, and they're looking to deliver on those promises with the high-profile Green New Deal. [caption id=attachment_2991 align=alignnone width=800] Source: Los Angeles Times[/caption] Voter focus on energy and climate policy seems like it just might for the first time have the momentum for real movement. While some reasons persist for restrained expectations on the climate policy that will come from it, the proposed Green New Deal has taken activists, politicians, and the energy/climate communities by storm. Some of the broad tenets of the Green New Deal include: Committing to net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within 10 years; Eliminating pollution and GHG emissions as much as technologically feasible; Upgrading to smart grids; Upgrading all buildings to maximize energy efficiency; Investing in infrastructure, public transit, and high-speed rail; Investing in new energy technology R&D; Enacting trade rules that increase jobs but don't transfer pollution or emissions overseas, and much more. While only time will tell if Congress will walk the walk (though be sure to contact your representatives-- policy isn't just a spectator sport!), I thought the idea of a Green New Deal was interesting as a landscape-shifting paradigm in public policy. But that just got me pondering the question: what would a similar swing in momentum translated to real-life action look like in various other fields? The Green New Deal deals largely with the expected industries, such as electric power industry, manufacturing, and transportation. But what would a Green New Deal look like in industries you're less likely to think about in that way-- a Green New Deal for education? Or what about a Green New Deal in sports? To answer these questions, I reached out to green and sustainability experts in a number of different fields to get their perspective on what a Green New Deal in their industry would look like. The answers received were insightful and thought-provoking, but most of all they demonstrated how much work can be done in various professions-- you need not wait for politicians to make these decisions, you can push for action in whatever field may be your forte. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); The Green New Deal for SPORTS [caption id=attachment_2992 align=alignnone width=760] Source: Ensia[/caption] The first influencer of change I thought to reach out to for this exercise was Lew Blaustein, writer behind the Green Sports Blog. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lew last year about his work in the intersection of sustainability and sport, so I knew right away he would have some great suggestions about how athletics at every level could integrate much-needed actions on energy. Lew thinks the main focus in a sports-related Green New Deal should be on using the platform of sports to communicate important green and climate messages to fans. Leagues and other mega-sports rights holders (such as FIFA and the International Olympic Committee) must demand that networks who win broadcasts, cable, and streaming rights must air climate change and/or environmental public service announcements (PSAs) during events like the Super Bowl, March Madness Final Four, Olympics, World Cup, and more. Any teams, leagues, or other rights holders who do broadcast PSAs for fighting climate change receive a tax break. Stadiums and other sporting venues would receive tax breaks or subsidies for having vegan concession stands, a designated number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and other important green measures. Fans who travel to games via mass transit or drive EVs or hybrid cars would get a rebate, which would be paid for from parking revenues. Fans who get to games by walking or biking could also qualify for these rebates. This combination of public messaging and financial incentives, in Blaustein's opinion, would make for the basis of a greatly effective and important Sports Green New Deal, and perhaps this model could be implemented for actors outside the world of sports, too? The Green New Deal for HIGHER EDUCATION [caption id=attachment_2993 align=alignnone width=768] Source: Georgetown University[/caption] Institutions of higher education-- colleges, universities, trade schools, and the like-- are critical parts to the world's growing economies in both industrialized and developing nations. Ensuring these important epicenters technological advancement and overall progress embrace sustainability, clean energy, and the fight against climate change is critical. These goals are championed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), meaning this group was the perfect representative to ask about a Green New Deal in Higher Education. Julian Dautremont, Director of Programs at AASHE, responded and was kind enough to provide some input on this hypothetical, noting the following: Higher education has an essential role to play in meeting the goals of a Green New Deal. For example, it can provide the education and training to prepare displaced workers and new graduates for green jobs. It can provide the research necessary to develop new renewable energy and carbon removal technologies. It can provide a supportive test bed for piloting new sustainable technologies on campus. Many leading higher education institutions are doing some of this kind of work already but for the sector as a whole to fulfill its transformative potential, significant government investment will be needed. Funding is needed to facilitate the development of new courses and educational programs will be needed. Funding is needed to facilitate the development of new courses and educational programs as well as to expand research. On the facilities side, we would especially like to see additional resources flow to help under-resourced institutions and help them improve the efficiency of their facilities and take advantage of opportunities to deploy renewable energy on campus. Higher education, as shown by this answer, can play a unique role by not only embracing Green New Deal goals for its own sake, but also enhancing the viability and likelihood for success in grander Green New Deal goals across the country and the world. The Green New Deal for MOTION PICTURES [caption id=attachment_2994 align=alignnone width=804] Source: Vancouver Courier[/caption] While scientists and activists work tirelessly to study and assess the pending climate change crisis, an argument could be made that it isn't until these ideas permeated the motion picture industry that the mainstream public really took notice. An Inconvenient Truth effectively spread the message to a wider population who had been largely turning a blind eye, while celebrities in the movie industry such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Harrison Ford have found they can leverage their fame to speak out on behalf of important sustainability issues. Zena Harris is president of the Green Spark Group, a sustainability consultancy that serves the motion picture industry to develop sustainability practices on movie sets, in the corporate strategy of production studios, and more. As such, she was the perfect person to outline what a Green New Deal might look like for the film industry, and she was not short on ideas. Noting that the motion picture industry is a truly multi-disciplinary one (e.g., on the production side alone there's construction, transportation, food services, human resources, finance, manufacturing, and more), Zena suggests that TV and film are ideal candidates to embrace sustainability from top to bottom. If she could snap her fingers and get what she wanted (a more benevolent version of 2018 film icon Thanos), Zena would implement the following: Education on climate change and related sustainability production practices for everyone in the industry, because knowing the why behind sustainability most often leads to shift in behavior in practice (in particular, collective action from local film communities are often the best models to influence change). Modeling sustainable production practice in all media forms to demonstrate the type of world we want to live in (e.g., why do we show plastic cups on screen in commercials that are about insurance when it would be just as easy to show reusable dishware?). Consistent implementation and tracking of sustainable production practices and impacts behind the scenes on production in all departments, including use of low-impact (e.g., organic or post-consumer recycled) materials and reduced consumption-- from materials for set walls to meat in catering. Implementation of zero-emission, alternative power technologies for both vehicles and generators (such as Portable Electric battery power stations). More dialogue across the industry and with the public about sustainability on the set and beyond-- if filmmakers aren't talking about these issues then they haven't done their job as storytellers. See recent reminders of how the motion picture industry can influence cultural change in #MeToo, #StopSucking, and #TimesUp. Zena suggests a #SustainableProduction movement to push culture closer to the tipping point for widespread action. Ultimately, Harris says, she envisions a cultural shift towards a low-carbon, circular, and just economy. The sustainability message can be amplified behind the screen and on the screen. She notes: In the motion picture industry, we can create anything-- vast worlds, virtual reality experiences, stories that grab at hearts and minds and put them on the screen. We have the power to reach in and pull emotional reactions from our audiences. I believe the motion picture industry can accelerate sustainability faster than any other industry if we put our minds and our creative abilities to it. We've got the tools, we have our script, and we know what we need to do-- we just haven't stepped up to the mic yet and cranked up the amplifier. The Green New Deal for the INTERNET [caption id=attachment_2995 align=alignnone width=312] Source: Shutterstock[/caption] For any widespread activist push, the internet has become an indisputable and irreplaceable tool for spreading the message, conducting research, fostering education, and many other aspects of affecting change. But the internet is not only a tool to disseminate climate and clean energy activism, but it also represents an avenue where potential progress can be made. To find out what a Green New Deal for the internet might include, I reached out to Tim Frick, CEO of Mightybytes and author of Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services. Being ingrained in the world of energy-conscious digital products, the answer Tim ended up brainstorming inspired him so much that he ended up writing an entire blog post of his own on the topic! The main tenets of Tim's Green New Deal for the internet that he says today is the largest coal-powered machine on the planet includes the following: Green internet infrastructure, including powering all data centers with renewable energy and ensuring they run efficiently through financial incentives, public reporting on energy mix and clean energy efforts, and industry regulations. Tim notes efforts could be bolstered by a carbon tax bill, open APIs and datasets in the relevant sectors, and more. Increased sustainability UX practices, since large amounts of energy are wasted using websites not optimized for devices, closing pop-up windows, digging for buried information on websites, and generally slow and unusable websites because all those pixels require energy to run. Progress can be made through digital sustainability standards and sustainable web design jobs. Circular economy and using internet-enabled technologies to foster such principles, including in the sectors of waste management, materials processing, modular production, and enhanced connectivity. I'd recommend reading Tim's article in full, but his closing passage sums up the idea well: While a Green New Deal offers great potential to create jobs and move us more quickly toward a clean economy, it's not likely that internet-related legislation will be a part of it, however nice that might be. Digital sustainability is barely on our industry's radar, let alone policymakers. There is much work to be done. The Green New Deal for CHILDHOOD EDUCATION [caption id=attachment_2996 align=alignnone width=900] Source: Inside Climate News[/caption] Returning to the world of education, but this time for early education and childhood education, I spoke with Bobby Donohue, the man behind Planet Bonehead, an educational series that uses educational documentary videos to teach kids about environmental issues, and show them the work real companies, entrepreneurs, and scientists are doing to help our planet to prepare children today for the world of tomorrow. When pressed on what a Green New Deal for childhood education would look like in his view, Bobby noted that it would have to include all the main principles he follows in creating his show: Teach kids about environmental issues without 'doom or gloom' or a political spin. Empower kids by suggesting ways they can make a difference themselves at home and at school. Inspire kids to be a bigger part of the solution when they grow up by introducing them to some of the current industries working today. While kids today know plenty about Silicon Valley companies, they barely even know that green tech exists. Introduce the concept of social responsibility early and teach kids how to be global citizens. Teach entrepreneurial skills in school so kids are better prepared for the realities of the workforce awaiting them, whether it's in environmental fields or not. If curriculum for elementary and middle schools incorporated these principles behind a childhood education Green New Deal, the future of clean energy could shine even brighter. The idea behind a Green New Deal aims high and really seeks to implement changes that will rebuild the economy in a green and sustainable manner. While Congress's Green New Deal might falter or stumble along the way, the exercise is still valuable to push the conversation and the focus of relevant industries in the right direction. By setting ambitious goalposts, hopefully at least moderate headway can be made. Similarly, all of these leaders I spoke with are doing great work by setting aspirations high, pushing for them as hard as they can, and achieving incremental but invaluable progress. What about other industries-- do you think a Green New Deal would be necessary or successful in fields not discussed above? Do you have suggestions for what those goals would be? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more profiles of companies working on sustainability, see this interview with the CEO of KeepCool Bags, this assessment of what beer companies utilize the most renewable energy, and this profile of the WELL Building Standard. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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2019 Chevrolet Bolt: Review & Experience from an Energy Analyst Finally Making the EV LeapAs I noted in my recent articles updating the state of Chester Energy and Policy, I've recently moved to a new home, high-tailing it from Washington DC to Orlando. As with the many everyday life changes this transition encompassed, one that simultaneously excited and needled me was knowing I would now have to buy a new car. I had lived in DC for eight years after graduating college, bringing with me my time-tested 2003 Mitsubishi Galant. This noble steed had served me quite well in my college years, taking me alllll the way down I-95 from Virginia to my parents' place in Florida many times. However, by 2018 with 10 years of service to me under its drive belt, it was time to say goodbye. Living in DC, I was at that point barely driving it other than road trips or for Costco hauls, so the fuel-inefficient car was fine. That is, until all at once I ran it into the ground and the cost to park it in the city was no longer worthwhile. I sold it to CarMax (how the below specimen was ever deemed worthy of a $700 offer from them, I still don't know) My wife and I were able to happily subsist in the walking/biking/public transit haven that Washington DC is, occasionally building in short-term car-sharing options when needed and never needed to buy a car. Working tirelessly in the energy industry as I do, I knew that whenever the time came to purchase a new car that it would be an electric vehicle (EV) for me. That time came when we moved to Orlando. All that said, though, it doesn't mean that decision process was easy, and I definitely learned that EV buyers today fall squarely in the early adopter category. But now that I'm officially 75 days and 2,400 miles post-purchase, I figured it was time to provide my insights of the buying and early owning days. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Disclaimer of note: I'm only going to be speaking of my narrow experience in the following, so read this just as one data point among many when making a decision for yourself. These insights are relevant to my situation in Central Florida using my family's driving habits and priorities, and as with all opinion-pieces and advertised EV ranges: your mileage may vary. Decision Process Like I said, I knew that from a perspective of being so entrenched in the energy industry and being quite passionate about the clean energy transition and its need to embrace transportation electrification, there was no doubt this next vehicle would be electric. I couldn't talk all this talk about clean tech and not walk the walk with my own purchases. Initially, I was looking at the Chevrolet Volt as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that would give the best of both worlds of gas and electric while the transportation sector is still in the transition. We only needed one car, as we're lucky enough to both work from home at the moment, so the shorter electric range of the Volt (53 miles using just the battery before the gas tank kicks in) would be sufficient for most day-to-day driving and having a tank full of gas would quell any range anxiety and allow for ease of longer trips. But credit to my wife who pushed that perhaps if we were going to go all electric that we should go all in with a purely battery-powered EV, especially since the range of driving on the battery life is much longer compared with PHEVs. The idea was: why wait? If we intend to charge every night, if we recognize our daily driving habits are minimal, if we're willing to stop at fast-charging EV charging stations on longer weekend road trips, then why go half a step now when we could take the full leap? And in fact Chevrolet themselves were in the same line of thinking, having discontinued production of Volt's in March 2019 so they could focus their attention on entirely electric models. Looking at the pure EV options on the market, from the Tesla to the Nissan Leaf to the Chevrolet Bolt, we decided the Chevrolet Bolt (the all-electric sister to the Volt) had the most bang for the buck in high-range (EPA-estimated at 238 miles) category. And once we visited a dealer and took a test drive, we were left with no doubts: this was the car for us. The one hiccup in the decision process was finding one of these we could actually buy. Initially we wanted to save some money by purchasing used, but the stock of used Bolts for sale were minimal and the advances these EVs are making year-over-year in terms of range and battery performance are still notable enough that buying new ended up making more sense. Even still, it was rare to find a Chevrolet dealership near us that had more than one or two available to drive or purchase. When we finally came across one that was the color we wanted, had the features we wanted, and we came to an agreement on price, it seemed all was smooth sailing. We signed the paperwork and were ready to drive off the lot-- only for them to unplug it and me to recognize that this was not fast-charging capable (which I'll discuss what that means later). I had asked that question first thing, but again we're still early in the adoption phase and the salespeople are still not quite used to selling these that they erroneously told me it was fast-charging when it was not. So biggest lesson from the purchasing process that I'll impart: if you've done your research and know about EVs generally, there's a decent chance you'll be more knowledgeable about the car than the salesperson. Recognize that that may be frustrating, and be sure to look at the charging port yourself; we ended up going to a different dealership after that... Driving It Given this is a review of a car, I should probably talk about what it's like driving our new 2019 Chevrolet Bolt (which we affectionately named 'Snow White' thanks to her white coat of paint, eco-friendliness that the princess shared with her love of animals, and our close proximity to Disney World). Admittedly, though, my take on driving this car is mainly in comparison with the previous car I owned: which was the previously pictured Mitsubishi from 2003. So, any car that jumps forward 16 years in Model Years is going to impress! While I love the bevy of safety features and tech to play with (including lane assist, Apple CarPlay, in-car Wi-Fi, and more), those are not restricted to this model or EVs. But they do make this a whole heck of a lot more fun to drive than a car that was made while I was in high school! But what I will say in the actual driving of the car and comparing that whole process with having driven internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles my entire life previously, you really don't feel any difference at all and quickly forget that what's powering your car is likely different than the car next to you at the stop light. Acceleration, braking, steering, they all feel just the same. The only moments where you're reminded you're in an EV are when you start the car and realize there's absolutely no noise coming from where the engine should be and when you hop out and it's time to plug in, never to visit a gas station again. Charging It That brings me to the next part, and one of the newest aspects of the car owning experience you'll have to get used to, which is charging. Like I mentioned, I'm lucky that my wife and I both work from home and so we're not driving far distances every day. We'll drive to the grocery store, down the street to go shopping or out to dinner, or the occasional longer weekend day where we'll scoot all over town and cover 70 to 100 miles. All that's to say, we don't drive much, and we don't need to charge much. With a stated range of 238-miles, we almost never see the remaining distance drop below a level that we have to worry ourselves with charging before we return home. Even better, our home is in a forward-looking planned community, and our garage came pre-wired for a Level 2 EV charger. Now is as good a time as any for a quick guide on different levels of EV chargers: When you plug into a Level 1 charger, that's just a three-pronged plug into an outlet which will add to your battery that draws 1 kilowatt (kW) and adds about 5 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 2 charging is what you'll find at most parking garages and public chargers that are offered, which adds closer to 20-25 miles per hour of charge time while drawing about 6 kW. Lastly, Level 3, or fast chargers, come in several different forms but use direct current (instead of alternating current) and add about 90 miles of range for a half hour of charging at a power draw of 50 kW. For Level 3 chargers, though, there are a variety of different outlet types and drivers must ensure their car is compatible with a given charger type before pulling over to charge. Further, some cars don't even come equipped with the ability to be charged on a fast charger and it cannot be added on after manufacture. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=2363] Photo Source: Utah EV[/caption] So, while our home is wired for this type of charger, we would still need to purchase the charging unit (an expense of about $500) and have it mounted. But given the aforementioned lack of driving, we've put off that investment and have not been at a need for it at all. After the weekends we're usually back to full charge by Tuesday at the latest and rarely drop below 150 miles left of range. The 5 miles per hour of charge is more than enough, and so we've happily gotten along by just plugging into the wall. Combine that with two times we've plugged into a Level 3 fast charger parking lot for about 30 minutes while on longer trips and the one time we plugged into the Level 2 charger that's free and often available in front of our neighborhood pool (just to test it out), and the whole process has been way easier than I could have even hoped. We haven't visited a gas station since, and it seems like a relic of the past at this point! One note I will make about the battery and its life is that the advertised range is often not when you get in practice if you're driving long distances. EVs like the Bolt rely on regenerative braking, which means every you're coasting or braking, the momentum and the friction in the car is being converted back into energy. Put another way, the battery gets drained will accelerating or sitting idle, but the battery gets recharged (at a lower rate than is drained during acceleration, of course) when braking or coasting. When they advertise the average range of the battery, it's assuming a fair amount of braking, which you're not doing much of while driving long distances on the highway. Further, the optimal efficiency of the Bolt comes while driving at about 50 miles per hour or slower, and when you're driving at higher speeds (again, as is common on the highway) then the battery drains more quickly. Combine those factors with the obvious concept that the battery gets drained more when using the air conditioner, plugging phones in to charge, etc., and it's not safe to assume a 238-mile range means you can necessary drive to a spot 238 miles away. In practice for me, it seems the range if I'm predominantly on a highway would be closer to 150-175 miles. Energy & Emissions Impact Now for the fun part: crunching the numbers (if you think that's sarcasm, you clearly haven't read this blog before as this part has genuinely excited me waiting for me to collect enough data to really see how the numbers look!). Given that the reason for hype behind EVs are the economic and environmental savings based on using electricity instead of gasoline, let's see what my performance has been thus far and compare that with a higher-performing ICE car if I had bought one instead. For an example ICE car, let's also use a 2019 Chevrolet sedan model to be consistent: the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu, which is listed as one of the year's most fuel efficient cars, is a reasonable choice since I would prioritize those miles per gallon (mpg) had I not gone electric. Specifically, the 2019 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid (that's hybrid as in still all gasoline-powered, not hybrid as in PHEV) with a fuel economy of 46 mpg. We can also compare with a more poorly-performing (but still modern) ICE sedan, such as the 2019 Chevrolet Impala with its fuel economy of 25 mpg. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=800] Photo Source: Garber Chevrolet[/caption] Stats to Date Thanks to the handy Chevrolet app and its Bluetooth connectivity to Snow White, I can at a moment's notice locate my car, unlock it, and check the level of charge all from my phone. Even cooler, I have lifetime use statistics. As of the moment of writing this, they show that we've driven this car 2,492 miles at an average efficiency of 2.9 miles per kilowatthour (kWh). Simple arithmetic shows that means the car has used 859 kWh so far. Cost Calculations Over that time, the electricity rates charged by my local utility have been approximately $0.109 per kWh (with that not being a flat rate but accounting for the overall average that includes the service charge, fuel and non-fuel charges, and different rates for the first 1,000 kWh vs. the power used above that each month). Over the entire 859 kWh of battery use, that's $93.65 for powering the Bolt. If I add in the $21.18 I've spent during my two stops at a Level 3 fast charger, that's a total of about $114.83 spent to keep Snow White charged. Compare that with the average cost of gasoline in the state of Florida over from June through August (as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration), which was $2.47 per gallon. At 46 mpg, it would have taken the Malibu over 54 gallons of gas to travel 2,492 miles at a cost of $133.81. So thus far, I've saved almost $20 by using electricity rather than fueling the Malibu Hybrid (which would have been about $40 if I had not needed those two fast charging pit stops). If I instead was driving the 25 mpg Impala, that distance would have cost me $246.21, meaning the Bolt over Impala decision reduced my 'fuel' costs by over $130. Given that Orlando Utilities Commission gave me a $200 credit on my bill just for buying an EV, though, and the well-reported lower lifetime cost to repair an EV due to fewer moving parts that could break (meaning maintenance could be 35% to 60% cheaper for EVs), these savings only prove to climb higher and higher. Emission Calculations The other big reason someone might be looking into the Bolt is to 'go green,' but there's a lot of skepticism out there because electric cars are only as clean as the grid that's charging them. So how has my Bolt's emissions compared with the ICE alternative? To start, the Union of Concerned Scientists have a terrific EV emissions tool that take your zip code and EV model and let you know how much CO2 is emitted per mile based on the local grid's energy mix and the EV's efficiency. For a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt in Orlando, they estimate I'm producing 155 grams of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per mile driven. Compare that with the 2019 Malibu Hybrid getting 46 miles per gallon, knowing that gasoline produces 19.6 pounds of CO2 per gallon burned (which is equivalent to 8890.41 grams). That math follows through to say our highly-efficient version of an ICE car emits 193 grams of CO2 per mile. So already the emissions I'm creating are 20% less than one of the most efficient non-EVs I could have chosen, but that emissions drop will only widen as Florida's energy mix gets cleaner by moving away from coal and towards renewables. Again, going less optimistic and assuming I would be driving the 25 mpg Impala instead, the emissions would have reached 356 grams of CO2 per mile. That means my carbon footprint via the Bolt is 56% less compared with what it would have been with the Impala. Conclusion In the end, the simple result is that I do highly recommend this car, and if you're interested in EVs generally then I encourage you to explore one. If you take it for a test drive, you'll not be disappointed that you're missing out on anything, and the immediate savings to your wallet and to your carbon footprint are real. The transition from gas to electricity is not without its challenges. At every step of the purchasing process, for example, I found that the research I had done had me more knowledgeable about the function and features of the EV than those who were selling to me, which was a frustrating experience (fun fact: we signed all the paperwork on one Bolt after being assured it had the fast charging capability only to get ready to take it off the lot and notice that the charging port was the wrong one and it did not support Level 3...we ended up going to a different dealership). There's also the issue with the range being less than you expect, as I mentioned, if you're driving on a highway and using the AC. The range drops even further if you're in cold weather, though luckily I haven't had to personally deal with that. But all that means is you have to shift your thinking of what it means to fuel up and make pit stops on long drives. Use one of the many tools that helps you find EV chargers (ChargePoint, Electrify America, and PlugShare are three I recommend), and find ones on your route that allow you a stop for dinner or quick shopping. But if you re-frame how you think about and approach your driving habits, you'll realize it's not so hard. As one Twitter follower of mine recently noted: As a suburban commuter, the inconvenience goes the other way. I start every day with a full tank on my EV. When I end up driving an ICEV it's a hassle to have to think about range. Didn't I just fill this thing up last week... ugh. Now if only the HOA would allow me to get solar panels on my roof, I'd be fast tracking my green transportation double-time! But that's an article for another day... (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into the EVs, see this article on the Tesla Roadster that was sent into space and this article comparing transportation costs over time. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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Can Video Games be the Cheat Code to Get More Focus on Climate Change?UPon perusing the usual media coverage of climate change, I came across a story titled I Learned About Climate Change By Watching Fortnite on Twitch, a headline that seemed more likely to come together via Mad Libs than reality. But the author presents an effort to spread climate education that isn't quite as crazy as it might seem. Katharine Hayhoe, a lauded climate scientist, expressed incredulity that her climate science webinar had only received 10% of the views in a week compared with the views her 11-year-old son received in one day streaming himself playing the video game Fortnight: [caption id=attachment_2207 align=aligncenter width=571] Source: Twitter[/caption] UP until that point, her Tweet appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek expression of frustration about how difficult getting the climate message across can sometimes be, but energy professionals and climate scientists quickly took to Twitter to help brainstorm ways to combine the popularity of Fortnite (the unrivaled most popular game in the world today) with education on climate change. The eventual result was ClimateFortnite, a channel on the live streaming service Twitch that follows a group of climate scientists discussing the science of and solutions to global warming while playing Fortnite, an attempt to leverage the game's massive influence to put climate change in the minds of a young audience who will be the ones who feel the effects of the climate crisis the most. Henri Drake, host of ClimateFortnite, explains: It builds a community where people can ask the hard questions directly to an expert. For a topic like climate change that is steeped in misinformation, direct access to experts is critical. Some may scoff at this as a patronizing attempt to take what's popular and shoehorn in other topics, but the idea is still young and the potential remains massive. Fortnite only continues to grow in popularity and the recent IPCC Climate Report has shined a much needed mainstream spotlight on the climate crisis. Any attempt to make the complex topics behind climate change more accessible to the masses, particularly to young people, should be celebrated; of course, this coming from the guy who's used everything from Star Wars to game shows to fantasy sports to try and spread messages on energy and the climate. So, the ClimateFortnite channel has inspired me to do the same, this time with other video games. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Given that video games have already taught unwitting players on topics ranging from computer programming to rocket science, how can different popular video games be adapted to spread the critical information and education about the importance of fighting climate change? Here are my five suggestions, ranging from the silly to the more serious ideas: Mario, but all the levels are water levels Starting with arguably the world's most recognizable video game character, what would a Mario game look like if his universe were to fall victim to the perils of climate change? Perhaps the warming planet would only be a suitable climate for baddies like Dry Bones, Pokey, and Bowser. But to truly demonstrate the consequences of rampant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and climate change, I'd focus on the sea-level rise. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average sea level has risen in 22 of the past 24 years due to a combination of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and thermal expansion of seawater as it warms, with the rate of rise only accelerating as global CO2 emissions remain high. These rising sea levels matter because they threaten population-dense urban coastal areas (8 of the world's 10 largest cities are located near a coast) through flooding, shoreline erosion, and increasingly dangerous storms. Additionally, whole communities of people living in small island nations will see their entire existence in danger from the effects of rising sea levels and associated disasters. DOWN to the wire as they might be, these climate effects can be difficult to truly imagine and the consequences still feel far off. But if the Mario universe were to undergo universal seal-level rise, the effect would surely be devastating in its own right; that's right, EVERY MARIO LEVEL WOULD BE AN UNDERWATER LEVEL. I know I'm not alone in despising anytime a Mario game forces me to dive into water for the duration of the level, and being forced to play a Mario game where climate change made every level take place underwater would be a harrowing portender of the dangers that await humanity if we don't act now. [caption id=attachment_2208 align=aligncenter width=480] Source: YouTube[/caption] Call of Duty, but focused on climate-driven war DOWN the list of popularity only slightly, Call of Duty (the third-most sold video game franchise in history) comprises first-person shooter games that started out recreating World War II battles, before branching out to versions that mimic modern war settings and later envisioning futuristic wars. While popular for their multiplayer formats allowing combat against friends and strangers across the Internet, the single-player campaigns focus on historical wartime eras and have been noted for their appeal from an academic standpoint regarding public history. Adam Chapman, senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg and author of Digital Games as History, noted: Historical games have rapidly become one of the most successful contemporary forms of popular historical media...These games have similar potential to historical film and television, they can easily communicate a lot of visual information about historical environments and artefacts and they add life, movement and colour to history in a way that can be very engaging. [caption id=attachment_2209 align=aligncenter width=220] Source: Wikicommons[/caption] LEFT to the imagination of game creators, could that same educational aspect of historical wars in Call of Duty be applied to potential future wars that are influenced, or even caused by, the effects of climate change? While the games set in a future universe used the opportunity merely to imagine what weaponry might look like in the coming centuries, they could instead take a page from the historical versions of the game and provide a context to the war that feels real and engaging to the player. The backdrop to a future Call of Duty game could easily be built around climate-caused conflict to foreshadow to players the very real domino effects of a changing climate. Not only do climate issues already contribute to global conflict today, but futurists have predicted wars in a world ravaged by climate change fought over scarce water resources, food riots as crops become more expensive to produce, and uneasy conflicts expected to come with mass migrations from unlivable environments. Setting a futuristic Call of Duty game against a backdrop of any of these types of climate change conflicts would surely spark conversation among players who may have not realized the consequences of climate change could come so soon or be so tangible. EA Sports Games, where climate change upends normal function of the sports RIGHT behind the first two games in terms of audience, EA Sports has for decades created games allowing players to live out their fantasies as athletes across numerous different professional sports leagues. The game developers have found resounding success by consistently providing realistic simulators of the world's most popular sports, but if they want to be completely realistic then future iterations of those games should integrate the effects that climate change are expected to have on the world of sports: The highly popular FIFA series, replicating the world of soccer, would have to deal with problems associated with rising temperatures that real soccer teams must: increased cooling breaks, players facing extra fatigue, tournaments that must move to new locations or be shifted to the winter time, and more. When players want to simulate their golf game, they pick up the PGA Tour series, but a climate-ravaged entry might include wetter winters and coastal erosion, both of which will lead to disrupted tournaments and increasingly damaged golf courses. The wildly successful Madden NFL series often includes incidents of players getting injured on a random basis to replicate actual risks of the game, but a hotter climate elevates the threat of heat exhaustion and heat stroke on the field. Future editions of the Madden NFL series could include a nod to the world's heating trends by emphasizing these injury risks, particularly in outdoor stadiums during the warmer part of the season. The National Hockey League (NHL) is the only major sports league to have issued a sustainability report, making EA's NHL series the perfect candidate to include climate-related changes. According to the NHL, a warming climate threatens to eliminate up to one-third of the outdoor skating period in eastern Canada and one-fifth in the west. Such drops in outdoor hockey season would threaten the number of people who play hockey and diminish the quality of players, so the NHL has committed to a wide variety of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other environmental measures. Replicating this experience in the latest NHL game could put the player at the helm of the NHL with the same decision-- invest in climate-saving measures today or see the quality of players coming into the league in the future dropping significantly. [caption id=attachment_2210 align=aligncenter width=842] Source: GameSpot[/caption] Mario Kart, but add electric vehicles Returning to the universe of everyone's favorite plumber, the Mario Kart series has seen Mario and his friends competing in go-kart races for over 25 years. On top of wacky courses and the various weapons to use on opponents, these games have focused on the kart mechanics. The different difficulty levels are labeled as 50 cc, 100 cc, and 150 cc engine classes, with the use of cc (cubic centimeters) implying the use of internal combustion engines (ICE) in the karts. LEFT among the various prescriptions of the IPCC report, decarbonizing the world's transportation sector represents one of the most significant priorities, and the United States in particular lags in those efforts. So why not use a Mario Kart game to demonstrate the advantages of converting from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs)? The most recent installment in the series allows players to select which type of kart they want to use, each with their own unique statistics-- so adding in the ability to choose between an electric motor and an ICE would not be a great break from the norm. [caption id=attachment_2211 align=aligncenter width=468] Source: Super MarioWiki[/caption] RIGHT now, the different karts vary just based on aspects like weight, acceleration, and traction. Going further and providing Mario Kart racers the option to go electric would present an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of an electric car over a gasoline-powered car, while also putting the negatives of EVs in context. Racers could be given a specific budget with which to work and have to face the higher upfront costs of purchasing an electric kart, but they would quickly realize the logic of doing so as charging with electricity is cheaper than gasoline and maintenance on electric vehicles are less frequent and less expensive (plus, hopefully the powers that be in Mushroom Kingdom would extend those valuable EV tax credits). Then to be fair to the realities of EVs in today's world, Nintendo could present fewer EV options than ICE options (representing the fact that EVs are currently less customizable with fewer choices on car lots), while building in a mechanic that demonstrates the more limited range (pit stops during a race?) and longer charging times (longer load screens?). Lastly, to demonstrate how continued driving of ICE karts could lead to accumulation of CO2 emissions from the tailpipes, a certain amount of gasoline use in the game could trigger some sort of catastrophic effect-- certain courses becoming unplayable do to climate change effects on the environment, the screen going hazy with the smog of emissions, or other mayhem. Sure, some people will still want to wheel out the Ferrari-like toys on occasion, but those threats would prompt you to think twice. Civilization, where the main goal is a successful clean energy transition Based on millennia of history, this series of turn-based strategy games allows players to build their own civilization, putting them in the seat of the government of one of several competing cultures working to use exploration, economics, conquest, and diplomacy to achieve a number of 'win conditions.' The developers specifically took cues from ancient to modern history to replicate actual causes and effects of large civilizations throughout time, providing a microcosm of how humanity has successfully progressed, while occasionally setting ourselves backwards through negative actions. [caption id=attachment_2212 align=aligncenter width=220] Source: Wikicommons[/caption] A version of Civilization for classroom instruction is already in the works to provide students with the opportunity to think critically and create historical events, consider and evaluate the geographical ramifications of their economic and technological decisions, and engage in systems thinking and experiment with the causal/correlative relationships between military, technology, political, and socioeconomic development. A missed educational opportunity, though, is the failure to build a Civilization game centered on climate change and the energy transition. In response to climate concerns, ideas get thrown around about a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy or implementing a massive worldwide carbon tax immediately as solutions. But the reality that even the staunchest clean energy advocates must recognize is that there are many economic, geopolitical, technological, and cultural roadblocks that must be carefully navigated while the push to clean the world's energy mix advances. A Civilization game that demonstrates the unintended consequences of too-strong too-fast climate policies that don't take these issues into consideration, while requiring the player find an achievable solution anyway, could elucidate the difficulties in global climate policy while also demonstrating what sacrifices are necessary to reach global goals. Additionally, different difficulty settings of gameplay could see the game start at various points in society's history: if you take control at the advent of the Industrial Revolution then you would have a lot more options and preventing catastrophic climate change would be easier to achieve, a more difficult (but still largely winnable) gameplay would then have you take control at the turn of the 20th century, and each of those versions would be a piece of cake compared with taking the reins in 2018 where drastic action is needed immediately and wiggle room is minimal. A truly educational aspect could then come from the Expert Level-- waiting years from today to when little to no runway remains and every single move the player makes must be perfect or the coasts will sink into the ocean, ecosystems around the world will be destroyed, and mass casualties (from natural disaster and human conflict) will be unavoidable. Playing these different difficulty settings would serve to emphasize how important action is now compared with waiting, as researchers have calculated that the longer the world waits to transition to a zero emission economy the costs to do so increase exponentially. Having this concept play out in increasingly difficult video game settings would hammer that point home. START by resisting the urge to roll your eyes at ClimateFortnite or any of these ideas. Conveying the severity of the pending climate crisis through evolving media like video games can be effective in reaching new audiences. Consider how great it would be if the world's next great climate scientist was inspired because of a Twitch stream or even by a lesson taught through a game itself. If the message reaches and makes an impression on just a handful of kids, who knows what the potential impact could be! Do you have any other ideas on ways to integrate climate change mitigation strategies and/or consequences into popular video games? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into the energy industry, see this state-by-state analysis of the U.S. energy mix, this post on the U.S. Wind Turbine Database, and this article on how split incentives create issues in the energy field. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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That’s What She Said: Energy News for the Week of August 2 in GIFs from The OfficeThis is the first instance of a new type of post I'm going to play around with, a quick hit article in the form of GIF reactions. While there's so much going on in the world of energy policy, clean energy technology, and critical utility markets these days, I frustratingly find myself too busy to write an article on all the topics I wish I could. When that happens, I still want to put my thoughts and ideas out there. While Twitter is a common way for me to do this, and I’d love for you to follow me @ChesterEnergy, I wanted to also include some short-form blog posts just covering the basics and my rapid reaction to these stories. Through the years, I like to think I've honed a skill in conveying thoughts and feelings through themed GIFs, so I figured why not try that out for a quick energy news update format? (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); With that said, here's my reaction to some of the most relevant energy news of the week, expressed via my favorite show, The Office. Democrat Presidential Candidates to Debate Climate The past few years have seen clean energy policy initiatives experience watershed moments, both positive and negative. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that we have just over a decade left for us to take necessary action lest the effects of climate change become irreversible, leading to (among other things) the Green New Deal to take activists and mainstream politics by storm. On the other end, the United States has a President who pulled the nation out of the Paris Agreement on climate change and troublingly spreads false information about renewable energy technology, while one of the front-runners to challenge him for the White House in 2020 has been criticized by climate advocates for looking for a ‘middle ground’ on climate policy. As the Democratic field for the Presidential election in 2020 has expanded and tried to separate themselves from the pack, they've all said in one way or another they'd take action on climate. However, it’s no longer enough to simply be a candidate who touts green policy, clean energy, an environmental record, or support for climate action. This incredibly crucial moment in our time requires more than simple words and platitudes, it calls for specific plans of action. And there are different ideas for what mechanisms work best , and those specific ideas need to be debated (to learn about some of these, check out this living document I've been helping create for Solar Tribune on policy mechanisms and who supports them) For these reasons, there's been a lot of clamoring for a debate from the candidates that centered exclusively on climate and energy issues. Initially, the Democratic National Committee opposed the idea and said they wouldn't hold one. Despite immense push back from the voters and the candidates themselves, they've held to that position. CNN, however, announced they would be holding a climate crisis town hall with the eligible 2020 candidates this coming September. So for the network doing what was so desperately needed, Michael Scott and I give an exasperated THANK YOU. In Texas, Wind Generation Outpacing Coal Generation for 2019 If you pay attention to the world of energy news, every so often there are good news on the clean energy front of milestones hit, new technologies, and clean energy commitments from governments, companies, and utilities. One that got a lot of play in the past week was that Texas had generated more electricity from wind turbines than it had from coal over the course of the first half of 2019. This milestone had been a long-time coming, as the coal sector has been rapidly decreasing in the United States and Texas has long been a leader in wind power. So while this news doesn't surprise anyone watching the energy markets, it did make for a great fist pump of a headline to push out to the more mainstream audience. So while it's not enough, mission is far from accomplished, and there's lots of work to go, each win like this deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated on the way towards the ultimate goal. So, Michael Scott gives clean energy advocates the permission to raise the roof here. Coal Billionaire Looking to Exert Influence on Trump Despite the progress made in the clean energy sector, which is in part responsible for the decline in the coal industry, there are many powerful institutional forces who continue to prop up the coal industry. Bob Murray has been the face of this push to keep coal alive, having made his fortune via coal. In late 2017 and early 2018, Murray seemed to be pulling at the strings of the energy sector with his political influence, having advocated for and help craft a Department of Energy coal power subsidy proposal. While that measure ultimately got rejected by the Federal )Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Murray now appears to be at it again according to news earlier this week. Recognizing the tide is firmly turning against coal (see: previous section), the staunchest supporter of coal in the United States is again looking to pull all the stops to keep the industry afloat through government intervention. The latest attempt: appealing directly to President Trump via flattery, funding, and public praise. Murray hosted President Trump in the heart of coal country for a private fundraising event. As reported by EE News, Murray reportedly gave Trump a direct list of suggestions on what should be done to 'fix' FERC (the entity that put a stop to his efforts a year and a half ago). Afterwards, Murray publicly praised Trump (Anything that gets to him, he gets it quick and he deals with it) and his fundraising efforts are typically successful (Murray has given more than $1 million to outside groups supporting Trump). Given how much those areas are likely to win the favor, attention, and agreement of President Trump, Michael Scott and I are holding our breath for the worst. Sorting Out the NYC Blackout A big story of the past month in the utility sector was the four hours of blackouts that occurred on a Saturday night in New York City. A blackout in one of the largest world cities has the potential to be a catastrophic event, but the stars aligned for this to not be nearly as bad as it could have been. It was on a weekend night, so businesses and Wall Street weren't affected during main operating hours, no long-term damage or injuries were reported, and power was restored before the end of the night. That said, anything like this happening in the Big Apple amplifies its impact and its visibility. And in responding, the responsible utility-- Con Edison-- fumbled its response by first saying they didn't know the cause, drawing ire and frustration from Mayor Bill de Blasio. More than two weeks later, they were able to trace the issue to a faulty relay protection system, and largely the city seems to have moved on. That said, the resolution of this blackout and the potential harm it could have done should not be swept under the rug. Rather, we should be grateful that this instance happened with minimal widespread impacts while recognizing we might not be so lucky next time. Grid security needs to be a top priority, especially as the utility sector becomes more digitized and increasing numbers of gateways are opened to both fault and malice of action. Put another way, we were lucky this time-- but we still need to be at Threat Level Midnight. Coal Bailout Latched onto Nuclear Bill Last, but not least, comes the much discussed passage of Ohio H.B. 6. If you hadn't noticed, the main theme of this post is The Office, but a secondary theme might as well be the struggles of the coal industry. This bill from the Ohio legislature, that's officially been signed into law, offered funding to keep existing nuclear plants open. Such funding is great because it is done in a way that provides funding that properly values the emission-free generation from the nuclear industry, a critical part of the clean energy transition in the Buckeye State. While the economics don't make sense to build new nuclear, keeping the existing plants that have already been built operational is a worthwhile investment for this reason alone. However, that's not all that happened and attached to this bill were a few unsavory additions, demonstrating some of the most frustrating parts of the political process. In addition to a gutting of renewable and energy efficiency programs in Ohio, somehow coal hitched its 'would be bankrupt otherwise' wagon to the nuclear subsidies. While nuclear in Ohio was struggling and deemed worth saving for the 'common good' benefits that carbon-free generation brings, there's no such benefit to propping up coal-fired plants. We should of course empathize with the workers who rely on the coal industry, but rather than bolster an inevitably dying industry they should be allowed to go bankrupt and see funds go towards programs initiated to help the economic transition to a new energy economy. Instead, we got what Vox called the worst energy bill of the 21st century. Instead, coal plants in Ohio (and elsewhere) should be encouraged to follow the lead of Michael Gary Scott and loudly declare bankruptcy. How else do you see the energy industry relating to the folks at Dunder Mifflin? Do you have a request for future energy-GIF themes? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into the energy industry, see this state-by-state analysis of the U.S. energy mix, this post on the U.S. Wind Turbine Database, and this article on how split incentives create issues in the energy field. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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Fantasy Energy League Draft Follow-Up: Long Shots, Dark Horses, and Sleeper Picks from the Final RoundsIn this final recap of the Fantasy Energy League Draft, it's time to examine the leftovers. Picks in the first three rounds revealed the priorities of each of the teams, but these last two rounds find league members picking up the scraps of the sectors they'd neglected to this point and after the most obvious choices were already taken. But that's not to say there isn't a lot of intrigue and strategy to this round. In fact, the pursuit of late-round sleeper picks was made particularly intriguing by the introduction of the wildcard factor. As a reminder of that rule, the pick among each team's roster of five that sees the greatest year over year percentage drop will represent that team's wildcard factor. When scoring up the total aggregate emission drop of each team (the entire goal of this game), the total will be bumped up by this percentage drop. This wrinkle means teams can spend their late round picks not necessarily looking for the states with the greatest aggregate drop in emissions but the greatest percentage drop to nap that high wildcard factor. So, perhaps a small state with an aggregate drop in emissions that wouldn't tip the scales otherwise will come into play thanks to its wildcard potential? Let's find out! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Round 4 Review Pick 4.1 from The Windy City: Louisiana Transportation Sector Pick 4.2 from Energy Innovation: North Carolina Commercial Sector Pick 4.3 from This CO2 Shall Pass: Maryland Transportation Sector Pick 4.4 from Kiterocket Renewables: Massachusetts Residential Sector Pick 4.5 from Powerhouse: Massachusetts Transportation Sector Pick 4.6 from Good Wind Hunting: Ohio Transportation Sector Pick 4.7 from GridLab: Connecticut Transportation Sector Pick 4.8 from Clarion Energy Women in Power: California Transportation Sector Pick 4.9 from Emission Impossible III Carbon Protocol: Iowa Commercial Sector Pick 4.10 from Electrowinning: Michigan Commercial Sector Pick 4.11 from CELI: Tennessee Commercial Sector Pick 4.12 from Rocky Mountain Institute: Arizona Commercial Sector Pick 4.13 from ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Missouri Commercial Sector Pick 4.14 from New Energy Equity: Minnesota Commercial Sector So, what are the takeaways from Round 4? Commercial sector picks led the round with 7 selections, followed by transportation at 6 picks and residential with 1. At this point, all teams already locked up their electric power sectors and all but two had their industrial sector, so it makes sense that these are the sectors left from which to choose. But the selections of commercial as the leader here are interesting given that it was the last sector to have anyone pick it for the first time, and yet many teams still opted to leave transportation and residential sectors until the last round. Perhaps this trend is due to a fear that the transportation emissions are actually increasing in some states, while the smaller starting point of commercial compared with residential mean that's more likely to strike in the wildcard factor? Aside from that, though, teams are undeniably all over the board here. Geographically, selections stretch from Louisiana up to Massachusetts and from coast to coast via Maryland and California. In terms of size, the small Iowa commercial sector contrasts the massively sized California transportation sector. Teams are definitely diverging in their strategies and pathways, which is why doing this Fantasy Energy League has proven to be an interesting academic exercise. Which strategy is right? And which states and sectors are out teams betting on (at least in 2017) to do the most to stave off climate change? Round 5 Review Pick 5.1 from New Energy Equity: Virginia Transportation Sector Pick 5.2 from ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Ohio Residential Sector Pick 5.3 from Rocky Mountain Institute: Wisconsin Transportation Sector Pick 5.4 from CELI: Louisiana Industrial Sector Pick 5.5 from Electrowinning: Wyoming Transportation Sector Pick 5.6 from Emission Impossible III Carbon Protocol: West Virginia Transportation Sector Pick 5.7 from Clarion Energy Women in Power: Florida Residential Sector Pick 5.8 from GridLab: Michigan Residential Sector Pick 5.9 from Good Wind Hunting: North Carolina Industrial Sector Pick 5.10 from Powerhouse: Oregon Residential Sector Pick 5.11 from Kiterocket Renewables: District of Columbia Transportation Sector Pick 5.12 from This CO2 Shall Pass: Illinois Commercial Sector Pick 5.13 from Energy Innovation: New Mexico Transportation Sector Pick 5.14 from The Windy City: Kentucky Commercial Sector Wrapping up the draft in this fifth round, we see the selection of 6 transportation sectors, 4 residential sectors, 2 commercial sectors, and 2 industrial sectors for a bit more variety. Here we again see the pattern of picks diverge, showing perhaps people taking more shots in the dark amid the uncertainty, and maybe some candidates for leading wildcard factors? When we look at how these selections rank in 2016 data compared with other states, though, we find the following: Of the 6 transportation sectors selected, 4 (DC, WY, WV, and NM) are in the bottom 15, 1 (WI) is in the middle of the pack, and the other (VA) is in the top 15 in terms of most CO2 emissions in a state transportation sector. Of the 4 residential sectors selected, 2 (MI and OH) are in the top 6 most residential emissions in the nation, 1 (OR) is in the middle of the pack, and 1 (FL) is in the bottom 6. Of the 2 commercial sectors selected , 1 (KY) is in the middle of the pack and the other (IL) is in the top 3 for total state commercial sector emissions. Of the 2 industrial sectors selected, 1 (NC) is middle of the pack and the other (LA) is in the top 2 in industrial emissions. So, a range of strategies and a wide variety in picks, with not as many people aiming for that wildcard factor as I might have expected (though I see you, DC transportation and FL residential picks, I see you). Looking Ahead Now that I've finally dropped my Fantasy Energy League Draft reviews, we can prepare for what the conclusion will look like! To start, here's a table that summarizes the draft and every team's pick in one nice, shareable graphic: [caption id=attachment_3153 align=aligncenter width=856] Click to Enlarge[/caption] And here's that same graph that displays the starting point emissions for each selection, that is the emissions recorded in the EIA data in 2016 (remember, the goal is for each team to assemble a roster that will see the greatest year-over-year emissions reductions from 2016 to 2017): [caption id=attachment_3154 align=aligncenter width=1099] Click to Enlarge[/caption] And rearranging that table so each sector can be compared in the same column... [caption id=attachment_3155 align=aligncenter width=1099] Click to Enlarge[/caption] Our starting points have a great amount of variety in them, as low as Powerhouse starting with 66.6 million metric tons of CO2 (which is itself outpaced by more than a magnitude of two by TX/Electric Power, CA/Transportation, and LA/Industrial) all the way up to our most carbon-emitting roster of nearly 303 million metric tons of CO2 from Clarion Energy Women in Power. In individual picks, they go as low as 0.4 million metric tons for VT/Industrial (is this Emission Impossible III's play for a game-changing wildcard factor?) and as high as 213 million metric tons for CA/Transportation (hopefully Clarion Energy Women in Power is confident in 2017 sales of electric vehicles!). As an unbiased commissioner, I'll refrain from declaring a favorite, especially since we only need to wait for the release of EIA numbers for 2017 emissions in October of this year. But that doesn't stop you, reader, from making a pick! Whose team do you like best? Which team is a train wreck? And what do you think should be the prize for the inaugural winner of the Fantasy Energy League? Let's discuss in the comments below and on Twitter! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To see other posts about using sports to talk about clean energy policy, see this article on the most energy and climate conscious MLB players, a dream 'green' fantasy football team, and my interview with the Green Sports Blog. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando, FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates the Chester Energy and Policy business and blog to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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Fantasy Energy League Draft Follow-Up: Second and Third RoundsLast week I recapped the first-round picks of the energy industry's Inaugural Fantasy Energy League, highlighting some potential reasons why our 14 participants chose the picks they did as the first selections. To recap on the background and the rules of the Fantasy Energy League, be sure to check that article out first, but for now it's time to dive into the mid-round picks: Round 2 and Round 3! While a misstep in Round 1 is an easy way to lose a fantasy league, many would argue that the shrewdest of picks in Rounds 2 and 3 are where seasons are truly won. But because these later picks are less 'high-profile,' I'll go through them more quickly in list form and pause for commentary when a particular trend in picks arises, an interesting choice is worthy of discussion, or to interject one of the highlights of the draft once it got going-- the energy nerd trash talk! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Round 2 Review Pick 2.1 from The Windy City: Maryland Electric Power Sector Pick 2.2 from Energy Innovation: New Jersey Industrial Sector Pick 2.3 from This CO2 Shall Pass: California Industrial Sector Pick 2.4 from Kiterocket Renewables: Oklahoma Electric Power Sector Pick 2.5 from Powerhouse: Kansas Industrial Sector For the entirety of the first round, every selection went to the electric power sector or the industrial sector, clearly seen as the two heavy hitters where the greatest emission reductions would be felt and ignoring the residential, commercial, and transportation sectors. Unsurprisingly, then, the first five picks represent these teams just selecting within the heavy-hitting sector they missed out on in the first round. In fantasy football parallels, this would be all the teams drafting running backs in the first round going wide receiver in the second round and vice versa. Another interesting item to note here is that none of the states of these first five picks of Round 2 were states that had another sector picked in the first round. While there were a handful of repeat states within round one, an interesting takeaway from this diversity of states in the early picks is that perhaps our energy experts don't see many states dominating over the rest in terms of emissions reductions in 2017. Rather, these states appear to have progress that is being made in deliberate ways (e.g., closing some coal plants or decarbonizing a specific energy-intensive industry) rather than any overarching policy that touches on all of the policies. If a state had implemented a strict carbon price in 2017, for example, perhaps you would see a run to get all the sectors of that state early on. But given that the clean energy transition is moving more deliberately and less all-encompassing at the state level, our picks thus far appear to reflect that. Trash Talk Aside: The Windy City, upon making their first and second round picks at the same time, noted that they were delayed in making their picks because they found Energy Innovation's previous pick in their junk folder. Energy Burn! Pick 2.6 from Good Wind Hunting: New York Residential Sector Pick 2.7 from GridLab: Illinois Industrial Sector Pick 2.8 from Clarion Energy Women in Power: Iowa Electric Power Sector Pick 2.9 from Emission Impossible III: Carbon Protocol: California Residential Sector Pick 2.10 from Electrowinning: Kentucky Industrial Sector Mixed in with three more swaps of electric power/industrial from round one to two are the first two residential energy selections. Unlike the to-date selections in power and industrial sectors where picks weren't necessarily representing the states where the greatest clean energy transition overall but rather the states that had made the greatest strides from 2016 to 2017, the selections of California and New York as the first two residential sectors off the board are notable. California and New York are on opposite coasts, but they share a reputation for being a step ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to clean energy, energy efficiency, and general efforts towards sustainability. The fact that these states are the top residential representatives reflects their wide bevy of residential energy efforts, including Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and Home Energy Efficiency Programs from NY State Energy Research and Development Authority in New York, and in California the prevalence of energy efficiency programs from the state, electric utilities, and gas utilities. However, this fact also demonstrates that the states making the greatest strides in 2017 were also likely the ones making the most of a residential clean energy effort overall. While the electric power sector and industrial sector have both been the focus of reducing emissions for years, the burgeoning smart home market, personal distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, and other clean tech innovations that target households rather than power plants or factories has only just begun. Trash Talk Aside: Emission Impossible III bragged while delivering this pick that Microsoft Excel's official Twitter account was on their side, which was indeed pretty cool, but it might be going to their heads as they proclaimed this pick their attempt to continue this reign of glory. Meanwhile, Electrowinning insisted that the braggarts were indeed the Fyre Festival of the Fantasy League. Ouch. Pick 2.11 from CELI: New Jersey Transportation Sector Pick 2.12 from Rocky Mountain Institute: Texas Residential Sector Pick 2.13 from ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: California Electric Power Sector Pick 2.14 from New Energy Equity: Michigan Industrial Sector Interestingly to close out Round Two, the last four picks represent four different sectors as well as four different states. These picks all look to be volume-based picks, with Texas and California being among the largest economies and populations in the country, meaning the opportunity for energy savings in these picks is huge. Meanwhile New Jersey may be small by footprint, but having the highest population density and hordes of people commuting daily to New York City and Philadelphia presents the opportunity for great emissions reductions through electrification and improved and progressively cleaner public transit. Michigan, meanwhile, is an industrial stalwart and a move away from coal towards gas or electricity could make this last pick of the second round a steal. Trash Talk Aside: CELI didn't take too kindly to Emission Impossible III (EIP) calling themselves the superior sultan of spreadsheets and so they Tweeted out this image of their apparent Excel tool that they found would propel them to victory. Meanwhile, Energy Innovation scoffed at the selection of NJ Transportation, questioning if they've ever even used a jug-handle exit or seen the Turnpike at rush hour. Round 3 Review Pick 3.1 from New Energy Equity: Pennsylvania Residential Sector Pick 3.2 from ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Illinois Transportation Sector Pick 3.3 from Rocky Mountain Institute: Georgia Residential Sector Pick 3.4 from CELI: Georgia Residential Sector Pick 3.5 from Electrowinning: Illinois Residential Sector Pick 3.6 from Emission Impossible III: Carbon Protocol: Vermont Industrial Sector In this first batch of picks in Round 3, we see some interesting trends. First, the picks in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Georgia could all represent some more volume plays where high energy demand and high starting-point emissions could translate to some unexpectedly high emissions reductions for a third-round pick. Second, we see a few more residential selections from states that are notably targeting homeowners for efficiency and clean energy via energy efficiency and solar incentives in Pennsylvania, financial assistance for energy upgrades in Georgia, and a host of grants, rebates, loans, and incentives in Illinois. Beyond that, with these six teams now completing three picks each, I saw some interesting regional/demographic trends arising: New Energy Equity has focused on states in the Rust Belt ELECTRIFIED Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has consistently targeted high population states Rocky Mountain Institute's selections all come from the states in the south Electrowinning's picks to this point all have a Midwest tilt Emission Impossible III, meanwhile, grabbed states opposite in location and size in California and Vermont, but highlights states that share the same green spirit and clean energy vision Trash Talk Aside: Unable to go a single round without dishing out the smack, Emission Impossible III couldn't help but point out that Electrowinning incorrectly labeled their 3.5 pick as 3.4, noting it was no surprise and the competition's picks are so bad that they shouldn't start worrying about 'math' and 'numbers' at this point. 3.7 from Clarion Energy Women in Power: New York Commercial Sector 3.8 from GridLab: Florida Commercial Sector 3.9 from Good Wind Hunting: New Jersey Commercial Sector 3.10 from Powerhouse: Texas Commercial Sector 3.11 from Kiterocket Renewables: Ohio Commercial Sector The run of these next five states was interesting because they represented the first commercial sectors off the board. Every other state saw at least one selection during the first two rounds, but it seems like no commercial sector options were deemed sexy picks. However, that could be with reason, as states often have defined plans for each of the other sectors. Switching electric utilities to a more carbon-free energy mix, improving efficiency and carbon-intensity of industrial processes, helping homeowners retrofit for energy savings and integrate renewable energy on-site, and improving gas mileage in transportation while pushing electrification and public transportation. But in the commercial sector, there are fewer (but at least some) programs awaiting business and building owners, on top of it being the smallest of the five sectors with regard to energy consumption. But once Clarion Energy Women in Power broke the ice, the floodgates of commercial sector picks opened! And we saw a familiar trend here-- high population and high-volume states going off the board first. My hunch for these picks is that there wasn't as much data with which to make a decision, so players made their educated guesses. Trash Talk Aside: By this point in Round 3, things are heating up and the Twitter trash talk is getting spicy and meme-able: Pick 3.12 from This CO2 Shall Pass: New Jersey Residential Sector Pick 3.13 from Energy Innovation: Colorado Residential Sector Pick 3.14 from The Windy City: Tennessee Residential Sector Lastly, we close out round 3 with residential picks across the board. As opposed to the nation leaders picked earlier in the residential sector, these picks are perhaps less convention when compared with the California and New York picks. But they do all represent states in the upper half of total energy consumption for a residential sector in 2016, meaning for the year-over-year to 2017 data we care about they should be prime candidates for savings and emissions reductions. Trash Talk Aside: The trash talk seems to be working, as Emission Impossible III living rent-free in the head of Energy Innovation, who turned in their third-round pick with a note that they guess we should also start the clock for Emission Impossible III's next critical Tweet? Wow! Impressions from Rounds 2 and 3 and Rest of the Draft Now that we've dug into the second and third rounds, we're starting to see some real diversity in states picked, and each of the five sectors is represented by at least a handful of picks. The teams are showing their divergence of strategies, and it could honestly be anyone's game at this point! If you read the first-round recap as well as this one, you're now seen the first 42 picks. The last 28, the real sleeper picks of Rounds 4 and 5, will be reviewed in the next and final post reviewing the draft. What do you think so far-- any teams have a clear strategy you can make out? Are there front runners you'd bet the house on? Are you intrigued enough to want to participate next year? Reach out to me via contact or let me know in the comments! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To see other posts about using sports to talk about clean energy policy, see this article on the most energy and climate conscious MLB players, a dream 'green' fantasy football team, and my interview with the Green Sports Blog. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando, FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates the Chester Energy and Policy business and blog to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
22
Island Nations Take Sustainability Upon Themselves in Virtual Island SummitConventional wisdom shows that island nations have the most to lose should the effects of climate change be allowed to run rampant, but in a sad twist are among the areas least responsible for the emissions that have put the world in this situation. Among the most devastating, immediately-felt and science-backed effects that will come from climate change include rising seas (directly affecting the available land and public safety of island nations), more frequent and intense instances of extreme weather (which can cause the most damage to island nations that have the least ability to evacuate and prepare their infrastructure), and harm to growing seasons (with many island nations relying economically on agriculture exports). Each of these threats isn’t just a far-off threat that people can look at 2050 projects and lament about, these are affects that are already today being felt by these communities. However, the island nations have smaller economies, minimal industrial sectors, smaller carbon footprints, and overall have not been the ones gaining the edge on the world stage through historical and continued burning of coal and other fossil fuels for energy. Looking at the list of most emissions historically, even per capita, and the island nation communities won’t appear anywhere near the top. And yet they are still the ones that feel the impact. [caption id= align=aligncenter width=2261] Photo Source: Union of Concerned Scientists[/caption] (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); When we talk about environmental injustice, this dichotomy is an example on a macro-level. These island nations, however, have chosen not to sit on the sidelines and lament their fate, they choose to take action. Because climate change is not just an idea but is already a reality to them, they’ve been increasingly banding together to innovate, to strategize, and to identify and implement solutions. The latest example of this take charge mentality comes in the form of the upcoming Virtual Island Summit. Recognizing the reality that each of these island nations are, in fact, smaller and less likely to affect the change needed on their own, this Virtual Island Summit showcases how they can start to move the needle when they band together. Taking place from October 6 to October 10 2019, this summit will bring together climate and clean energy experts from around the world to share, discuss, and learn about sustainable practices specific to island communities. Some of the high-profile thought leaders who will serve as speakers include Australian Senator Christine Milne, world-renowned academic is Island Studies Godfrey Galdacchino, and leader of the Orkney Islands Council James Stockan. Beyond that, the over 5,000 attendees will come from island nations stretching across the globe, from Fiji to Jamaica, Greenland to Madagascar, Mauiritius to Taiwan, and many more. Former Prime Minister of Aruba, Mike Eman, also touted his excitement for this conference (at which he will also be a speaker): “The Virtual Island Summit is bringing together island communities from around the world with a shared purpose of making their islands more sustainable, more prosperous, and securing well-being for all their citizens.” These minds will be brought together to discuss topics about how to adopt practices to prevent climate change as well as mitigation and prevention topics that are relevant to all the island communities who are facing the realities of climate change today. Speakers will cover sustainable development, how geopolitics factors into these issues, the importance of cultural preservation and responsible journalism, and other topics that string together these island communities in the face of the 21st century’s greatest challenge. As if all of that wasn’t exciting enough, one of the key characteristics of this Island Summit: it’s literally virtual, all online, and free to the public. Again, leading by example these island nations are showing that great progress in industry mind-melding, critical networking, and shared learning are all possible in a conference that: Doesn’t require all attendees to hop on an airplane and increase their carbon footprint Is equitably available to interested stakeholders of all income levels Focuses on the issues important to, and the intelligent and innovative solutions coming out of, smaller island communities James Ellsmoor, who is founder of Island Innovation who’s hosting the conference and also a previous interviewee of this blog, described that the summit will “recreate an in-person conference experience to the extent possible, maximizing opportunities to exchange information between attendees. Not only that, but we are avoiding greenhouse gas emissions by moving to an online platform – demonstrating how technology can now be used to eliminate the need for much business travel.” Bringing concerned environmentalists, climate advocates, and sustainability-focused scientists together to discuss these pressing issues is surely nothing new but doing so in a zero-carbon fashion by using technological solutions rather than relying on traditional, institutional ways of doing things is leading by example. While that may not seem revolutionary on its own, this type of action can move the needle and the exciting discussions and ideas that come out of it will simply add more fuel to the fire—but rest assured that it will be carbon-free fuel! To find out more about the Virtual Island Summit, head over to the website. What are your thoughts on this new type of conference? Are you willing to see your energy- or climate-related conferences test out these approaches to walk the walk? Will you be checking out the Virtual Island Summit? Let me know these and any other items you want to discuss below in the comments or on Twitter. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To read more insights into sustainability on island nations check out my previous interview with James Ellsmoor of Solar Head of State and the push for renewable energy in Jamaica. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Orlando FL, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
10
Cryptocurrency is Heating Up, Literally: Offsetting Building Heat Needs with CryptominingIn just a few years, the interconnected relationship between renewable energy and cryptocurrency have become a trendy topic on which to prognosticate, debate, and overreact. Depending on who you ask, cryptocurrency might be catastrophic for its massive energy requirements or be uniquely positioned to revolutionize the utility industry. The cryptocurrency movement is still young and the degree to which it will become integral to the world economy, and thus its required energy needs, is still conjectural at best. But unquestionably, the energy-intensity of cryptocurrency mining and the general blockchain processes are important ones to examine as they could result in the trend sinking or swimming. Amid all this debate and speculation, the outside-the-box thinkers are instead asking how that crypto-energy can best be captured and utilized. If the computing power needs can serve dual purpose, then the mining process doesn't needed to be considered benefit or bust purely on the cryptocurrency outcomes alone. That's where the Quebec-based startup Heatmine comes in. This company places its cryptocurrency miners-- the computers used to generate Bitcoin and other digital currencies-- in strategic locations for its clients so the buildings can benefit from the heat that comes off of them during the mining process. With miners that are capable of heating 300 square meters for 24 hours per day, what was once considered waste heat from the cryptomining process (even worse, heat that required additional air conditioning to cool down the space) has cleverly been turned into an asset to supplement heating needs, minimize power requirements, and effectively maximize cryptomining profits while minimizing its footprint on the energy grid. I had the opportunity to learn more about this ingenious solution from Heatmine COO Jeremy Dahan. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); In the Beginning The idea behind Heatmine came to its inventors when Dahan and his partners realized that massive energy was being poured into cryptocurrency mining and such processing power naturally heated up the areas storing the computers. Thinking about this idea led to them to ask themselves Can something be done with this waste heat? They approached that question in the classic brainstorming strategy of no idea is dumb, bringing out such outlandish suggestions as drying clothes or even heating oil to make french fries. The team eventually stumbled upon the idea of heating warehouses and greenhouses, and this thought was the one that really stuck. In the six years since then, Heatmine has been completely self-financed and has spent much time and money to test, fine tune, and rework their combination mining/heating units to perfection. When asked about the challenges to this point, the COO indicated that the only real difficulty they've had thus far has been designing and fitting the water cooling loop onto the units in a manner that was reliably leak-free (water + computer processors = not the kind of cryptocurrency boom you want to see). [caption id=attachment_3028 align=alignnone width=307] Source: Heatmine[/caption] How It Works The key to Heatmine's successful implementation has been the realization that releasing ambient heat to its surrounding room or building wasn't efficient enough, and instead the mining units could complement a building's larger heating system. After developing prototypes and much testing, Heatmine units plug directly into existing heating systems using a hot water system. The heat generated by a Heatmine unit is used to heat up water that feeds into a building's radiators, boilers, or water heaters. Each mining unit gets built ahead of time at Heatmine's facility before being directly shipped to clients. The team from Heatmine then installs the unit outside the building (installed either on the roof or on a concrete slab next to the building) and connects directly with the air ducts or hot water loops in a surprisingly straightforward process. From there, the miners are connected to the Internet and a power supply-- neither of which require special equipment to be installed-- and the Heatmine unit is off and running. One Heatmine unit, which can be connected to any water heating system in Canada, provides 75,000 BTU per hour - which is enough to heat up to 300 square meters for 24 hours a day. [caption id=attachment_2816 align=aligncenter width=300] Source: Heatmine[/caption] Among the areas on which the development team spent a lot of time was ensuring that the units were designed with serviceability in mind. Each Heatmine unit is compartmentalized so parts or entire units can be swapped out with ease, and they are also digitally monitored constantly to ensure the quick fixing of any problems that may arise. Once in operation, a Heatmine unit will mine cryptocurrency 24 hours a day, simultaneously contributing its heat to the building's heating systems and reducing power draw from the building's heating needs. While the Heatmine units of course are a source of energy consumption, the power for them is paid entirely by Heatmine and the energy being consumed is going to the cryptocurrency mining process that otherwise would have generated wasted heat if installed anywhere else. As such, the use of Heatmine to serve the dual purposes of cryptocurrency mining and heating is a net win in energy use, energy efficiency, and associated carbon emission reductions. The Business Model Heatmine's operations aren't just innovative for the technology they've created, but the business model is quite clever as well. The relationship between Heatmine and its clients is a symbiotic one. The client receives the heat generated to offset their typical full heating needs at no cost to them, reliably saving them on their monthly power bills. For their efforts, Heatmine collects the proceeds for the cryptocurrency mining process itself (note that this setup is one that may change in the future, or Heatmine might provide additional arrangement options as they grow). This endeavor remains profitable by minimizing the overhead costs of typical cryptocurrency mining operations, from cooling all the waste heat to housing the units. By outsourcing that overhead to its client, Heatmine creates a mutually beneficial arrangement. When it comes to the cryptocurrency they're mining, Heatmine takes advantage of flexibility with the exact coin on which they choose to focus. Their research team investigates specific opportunities, selects coins, and installs the necessary software in their units. Dahan notes We mine multiple coins and can change many times in one day. A big winner lately has been Ravencoin. For their entire product and service, Heatmine is currently working on the patent process. While other companies have dipped their toes into the idea of using otherwise wasted heat from cryptocurrency in other ways, those have only completed testing in private environments and haven't shifted towards mass production like Heatmine is preparing to do. Successes with Heatmine Heatmine is only really beginning to expand and implement their two birds with one stone solution to a wider potential customer base and spectrum of applications. This season, they started their first winter test of 15 units, including deploying units at a greenhouse, private home, and several warehouses. The greenhouse application was an early success for Heatmine, touting specifically a strawberry greenhouse in Canada that benefited from the heat output of Heatmine's cryptocurrency operations. Through this partnership, the owner of the greenhouse noted that they were able to significantly reduce production costs and were as competitive on prices as Mexican strawberries. Overall, though, Dahan and his team from Heatmine recognize that there are far more warehouses than greenhouses in Canada and these will represent the area in which they can make the most impact. [caption id=attachment_3025 align=alignnone width=721] Source: Greentech Media[/caption] As with many energy efficiency and clean tech solutions, this user's positive reaction epitomizes the idea that efficiency and embracing outside-the-box sustainability solutions aren't just feel-good projects. Rather, these decisions have inherent economic benefits and can bolster the bottom line, no matter whether the intent is green for the environment or green for cash. Further, this type of heating has the capability to be extremely clean based on the energy mix of the region in which the Heatmine units are currently installed. While almost half of Canada uses gas for heating, which is a significant source of emissions, Heatmine's miners source the power entirely from the electric grid. If the energy mix of a region's grid is particularly clean, such as Quebec and its nearly 100% renewable energy, then the heating contributions from cryptomining are similarly clean. Even further, the cryptocurrency was likely to be mined elsewhere anyway, meaning without such a setup the same amount of power would be drawn elsewhere with the heat generated going to waste. Worse yet, that alternative location of mining might have been cooled with air conditioning, meaning the impact to heating energy loads is double. Future Outlook For all the excitement, it's of course worth noting that Heatmine is still a young and relatively modest operation, but they're continuing to grow and are by no means thinking small. Over the course of this next year, they're focusing on building up to 750 units, which would translate to the decentralization of 50,000 GPUs and processors-- directing their heat to where it can be utilized and offset energy demand. COO Dahan notes that Heatmine sees immense opportunity for growth in the Canadian region that's their only home right now. According to Dahan, This is our focus. For now, we don't plan to export or sell the product. What we want is to choose the perfect partner to help with our free heat. The market for this product in Canada is potentially huge, and their goals for now are to focus their entire efforts on the region. Heating is, of course, a premium need in the cold weather of Canada and Heatmine sees the warehouse heating needs being especially lucrative. [caption id=attachment_3026 align=alignnone width=696] Source: Bitcoin Exchange Guide[/caption] In the long term, Heatmine is looking to improve their assembly lines to be able to produce 10 Heatmine units per day, which would allow them to reach 15,000 units over 5 years. That sort of production could allow them to capture and offset 1% of the heat needs of the Quebec province all on their own. That figure may sound small in the grand scheme, but given the deployment of their product is a bona fide win-win (both economically and with regards to energy) that would represent an ingenious and successful implementation of sustainable solutions. Dahan closed out our discussion optimistically noting We are constantly researching how we can add revenue streams and more computing services can be built on the Heatmine network-- such as cloud computing, AI, and more! With an outlook like that, Heatmine looks to be a powerful force in the coming years. For more information on Heatmine's continued developments, visit their website for regular updates. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today. To see other posts about green energy innovators, see this interview with the CEO of Sol Voltaics, this article on sustainbly turning used tires into fuel and new raw material, and this article on a natural gas biodigester that can be used in your own backyard. About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
7
Checking in on Renewable Energy Projects in Crowdfunding, November 2018: Solar and Wind Powered Campsites & Building Green Energy Agriculture in AfricaThis article is a rehosting of the full article that first appeared on Renewable Energy World, an online outlet for the magazine that covers industry, policy, technology, finance, and markets for all renewable technologies where I contribute as a featured writer.  As the Internet serves to democratize the world and enable strangers to share everything from their spare bedrooms to their personal vehicles, the trend has made its way to renewable energy startups. Specifically, crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow innovators to break outside the traditional model of seeking out venture capital or applying for government grants. Instead, these ambitious renewable energy projects are increasingly gathering needed startup capital by splitting the risk up among many backers willing to offer up bite-sized chunks of funding. As this is the third installment in my ongoing article series on crowdfunding in energy, I'd recommend starting with the previous articles, if you've not read them yet, where I profiled the most noteworthy crowdfunding campaigns in renewable energy-- both successful projects and others that failed to meet their goals. In short, the lessons learned from past projects include the following: Treat crowdfunding not as an Internet fad, but as a unique mechanism to fill in the gaps when government funding is unavailable or private investors balk at the risks involved. Crowdfunding is much more likely to be successful when the potential audience for a project is wide. An effective crowdfunding campaign requires both a good idea and a solid marketing pitch. Those campaigns with just one or the other are doomed to flounder. Given the successful energy-related projects that have graduated from the crowdfunding universe to become prosperous products and companies, I thought it would be informative to scan the active projects out there today-- the ones currently seeking funds to get their products and services off the ground-- to see if the lessons of projects past are being followed and if we can use those axioms to predict which projects will find success. So, if you're compelled to get into the renewable energy crowdfunding game yourself, either as a backer or a campaigner, look no further to discover the must-see projects active in early November: (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Sunembrace Solar energy is  the most ubiquitous form of renewable energy found on crowdfunding websites, particularly solar powered consumer products or battery chargers. Many of these products come across as repetitive or forgettable, nothing too different than what you can already pick up from BestBuy. Sunembrace contends that they are not like the others, telling me Our project is not just a battery charger with solar panels, but much more. [caption id=attachment_2287 align=aligncenter width=199] Source: Sunembrace[/caption] Sunembrace models itself not just as a run-of-the-mill solar charger for your phone or other small devices, but as a complete solar power device necessary for use during emergencies, natural disasters, or even camping. In addition to its four solar panels that enable the charging of an internal battery as well your externally connected devices, the Sunembrace is outfitted with various tools that could prove useful in emergencies (e.g, a pocket knife, pliers, etc.) and it can also illuminate as a lantern during the night after having charged up during the day. The campaign for Sunembrace is hosted on Kickstarter and seeks to raise over $32,000 by December 16, offering backers rewards ranging from a Sunembrace keychain to a fully complete Sunembrace device of your own. Saverio Cicchini, one of the Italy-based entrepreneurs behind Sunembrace, told me that they chose crowdfunding because it provides a faster and less bureaucratic option to raise the necessary funds. In terms of their marketing pitch, Cicchini said they've received excellent feedback and practically everyone who saw the project was pleasantly surprised-- We hope that the people who watch our video will understand that dreams can come true, you just have to believe it. That said, he notes that if they don't reach their campaign goals that there is always a plan B. Green Energy Farming Investment Platform This project represents the best of socially responsible entrepreneurship that crowdfunding can foster. Noting on the campaign page that Zambia is endowed with rich fertile land, water resources, and mineral wealth---but the majority of people live in abject poverty, a problem rising form the issue that the big commercial farms and mining firms are operated and owned by foreign multi-nationals who have no vested interest in the country itself. Seeking to counter this trend, the Green Energy Farming Investment Platform will redesign the agriculture system of Zambia to create locally-owned and cooperative farming sites that will utilize a digital platform to advertise job opportunities to locals, provide trackable investment opportunities for citizens, and install renewable energy systems wherever possible (e.g., solar energy power farm equipment and farm pumps). On a grand scale, this pilot project in Zambia would be a test case for the larger plan that seeks to solve African problems from the grassroots by using eco-friendly energy sources such as solar irrigation, the power of the Internet, and simple good old-fashioned hard work targeting the 18 to 35 year old demographic by forging synergies and collaborative ventures. [caption id=attachment_2285 align=alignnone width=562] Source: Green Energy Farming Investment Platform[/caption] In an effort to raise funds to purchase everything from the land to the farm machinery to the solar powered equipment, as well as the design and development of the website/app platforms, this project looks to raise $52,100 on Indiegogo by the end of November. Echoing the sentiments of Sunembrace, Bill Siwale, the entrepreneur behind this project, told me that the traditional funding methods are notoriously difficult because of all the red tape involved...With crowdfunding, this project stands a better chance of coming to life. Through this venture, Siwale thinks he can make a huge impact on his community and on the world: Renewable energy, the power of the Internet, and agriculture, if combined and managed well to this single purpose, have the ability to reshape Africa's economic fortunes and have a huge positive impact on the environment...People are slowly realizing the damage which has been done to the environment. They are waking up and realizing that there is a huge need for renewable energy sources because of the heavy price tag (both monetary and environmental) we are paying. Unfortunately, governments and financial institutions around the world are not paying this the attention it needs, hence why investors and innovators are turning towards crowdfunding platforms to help bring their project to life. Enercamp Mobile Generator for Camping The Enercamp Mobile Generator bucks the trend of renewable energy projects on crowdfundings sites focusing just on solar power, as this project uses turbines to tap into the currents of wind and water to generate renewable energy. Similar to Sunembrace, Enercamp advertises its usefulness in situations from camping to living off grid to emergencies. [caption id=attachment_2252 align=aligncenter width=686] Source: Enercamp[/caption] Using a permanent magnet generator with a planetary gear, Enercamp boasts that their product will begin working at brief wind gusts as low as 1.5 meters per second, with a 1 kilowatt (kW), 2 kW, and 3 kW version all available. While standard turbines are heavy, require constant wind, and must be combined with rechargeable batteries to produce electricity, the Enercamp generator claims to work with just a slight gust of wind, clocks in at a manageable 6.2 kilograms for carrying on hikes, and can even be placed in water up to two meters deep to power from water currents. Enercamp's campaign, hosted on Indiegogo, is trying to raise $150,000 by December, with backers able to receive an Enercamp generator for about 30% off for their contributions. The main advantage of using such a platform, Enercamp representatives told me, is that it allows the manufacturer to have direct contact with the user. Such interactivity between manufacturer and consumer epitomizes the ability of crowdfunding to make the world a smaller place and bring together those with problems to solve and those with solutions. Do you have any opinions on which of these projects will be successful in their campaigns? Were you compelled to contribute to any of them? Do you have a renewable energy project going up on a crowdfunding website you want to be featured in a future iteration of this series? If you answered yes to any of these questions, please let me know in the comments below or on Twitter! (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); If you enjoyed this post and you would like to get the newest posts from the Chester Energy and Policy blog delivered straight to your inbox, please consider subscribing today.  To see other posts about renewable energy, see this article profiling the California wineries most utilizing solar power, this article on the U.S. Wind Turbine Database, and this article on the renewable energy targets in Jamaica.   About the author: Matt Chester is an energy analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & technology policy at the University of Virginia, and operates this blog and website to share news, insights, and advice in the fields of energy policy, energy technology, and more. For more quick hits in addition to posts on this blog, follow him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.
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