Racing to Catch Ludicrously Fast Model 3 Production Ramp, U.S. Automakers Grew EV Sales by 102 Percent in June 

Early on, Tesla recognized that responses to climate change were necessary — not just from individuals and governments, but also from industry. And Tesla realized that, when mated with wind and solar energy, electrical vehicles could become a powerful force for driving an energy transition capable of rapidly cutting global carbon emissions.

(Reduction in coal burning and lower than predicted demand for fossil fuels has helped to generate a carbon emissions plateau during 2014 to 2016. Rapid additions of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and electrical vehicles provides a potential to begin to bend down the global emissions curve near term and reduce the damage that is now being locked in by fossil fuel based carbon emissions. Image source: IEA.)

Tesla’s Market-Driven Response to Climate Change

Electrical vehicles possess a number of key sustainability advantages that aren’t widely talked-about in the public discourse. Electrical motors are considerably more efficient than ICE engines — so broadening EV use lowers energy consumption in transportation while at the same time allowing EVs to draw power from traditional and newly emerging renewable sources. The massive batteries housed in EVs and sold after-market also have the capacity to become a major solar and wind energy storage asset that could ultimately enable the removal of peaking, high emissions, coal and gas plants.

In light of these opportunities, back in the mid 2000s, Tesla made a bold, necessary move. Its leadership decided that it would attempt to become a major automaker dedicated solely to electrical vehicle sales. This business plan would hitch Tesla’s economic future entirely to the success or failure of clean energy ventures. Unlike most present automakers, Tesla would not suffer from divided loyalties to harmful incentives linked directly to fossil fuel based economies. It decided to make its clean energy break by producing top of the market, high-quality electric-only vehicles and, then, by leveraging loyalty to a superior brand, move vertically down into broader market segments.

(If Tesla’s planned Model 3 production ramp to 5,000 vehicles per week by end of 2017 holds true, then the all-electric automaker’s quarterly deliveries are about to go exponential. Image source: EV Obsession.)

Such a disruptive end run on the world’s energy and vehicle markets was bound to encounter stiff resistance and loud detractors. However, if successful, Tesla would force traditional energy and transport players to make a tough choice — follow in Tesla’s footsteps and try to compete, or face dwindling customer bases as a massive wave of innovation completely upended markets. The automaker decided that the best way to goad a broader transition toward electrical vehicles in western markets was to lead it. And that’s exactly what Tesla has been doing.

Major EV Sales Growth on Tap for 2017 Due to Automaker Shift + Model 3 Sales

In the U.S., during 2017, the trend of an emerging industry reaction to Tesla is becoming quite clear. The major automakers are all in a scramble as the imminent arrival of the Model 3 nears. The vehicle, which begins production this month, aims to provide very high quality, Tesla’s trademark swift acceleration, top-notch tech, groundbreaking automation, and 215+ miles of all-electric range for a 35,000 dollar base price. An offering that is disruptive due to quality and accessibility alone. But add to it the 400,000 + preorders that Tesla has accumulated and you’ve got what basically amounts to a volcanic eruption in the global auto market.

In large part, as a response to Tesla’s market-transformation plan, a number of major automakers are deciding to provide their own competing offerings. This year, GM beat the Model 3 to the start line with the 200+ mile range, high-quality Chevy Bolt. Toyota, launched its competitively-priced Prius Prime plug-in hybrid. Nissan redoubled efforts to position its best-selling Leaf all electric vehicle even as it announced plans for a 200+ mile range version in 2018. Meanwhile, Volvo plans to electrify all its vehicles by 2019.

(Increasingly attractive EVs and plug in hybrids like the Chevy Bolt, the Prius Prime, and the Nissan Leaf helped to boost U.S. electrical vehicle sales in June as automakers gear up to compete with Tesla’s Model 3. Image source: InsideEVs.)

This activity has generated considerable growth in sales as customers discover electrical vehicles of ever-increasing variety, value and capability. During June of 2017, all-electric vehicle sales from major automakers in the U.S. market (excluding Tesla) increased by more than 100 percent over June of 2016 on the back of the entry of attractive, highly-capable models like the Bolt. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid sales grew by 11.5 percent. Total U.S. EV and plug in hybrid sales for the month from major automakers + Tesla hit a new record in June of 17,182 on the back of major automaker sales growth (a total growth of about 16 percent for the entire U.S. market).

Tesla, on the other hand, showed slightly lower June 2017 sales vs June 2016 in U.S. markets as it experienced a hiccup in 100 kw battery pack production. But with the Model 3 nearing launch, an explosion of EV sales from Tesla is in the offing over the coming months. According to statements by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the ground-breaking vehicle is expected to trickle into the market by adding about 30 sales in July. By August, deliveries are expected to triple to 100. By September, another 1,500 or so Model 3s are expected to arrive. Production will then, according to Musk, swiftly ramp up to 20,000 per month by December.

If these ambitions bear out, and if about half of Model 3 sales are in the U.S., then the U.S. could see north of 40,000 EVs and plug in hybrids sold in the U.S. during December. This would represent a 60 percent + jump over the all-time record EV sales month of December 2016. But even if Tesla’s extraordinarily ambitious production ramp-up goals for the Model 3 aren’t reached by December, the excitement surrounding the vehicle is likely to continue to spur growth and competition in the larger EV market through the period. And that’s a bit of much-appreciated good news for those of us who are increasingly concerned about climate change.

Links:

Big Auto’s Fully Electric Car Sales Up 102% in USA

Plug-in Electric Sales Report Card

Next Generation Leaf to Have 215 to 340 Mile Range

Volvo Electrifying All Models By 2019

CO2 Emissions Flat for Third Straight Year

EV Obsession

The Race to End Fossil Fuel Based Vehicle Emissions is On — Tesla Model 3 to hit 500,000 Preorders, Dutch Motions to Ban Petrol, and Shell’s Shilling for Biofuels

This week Shell and Volkswagon banded together in a big EU lobbying push. Their goal — to promote biofuels as a ‘bridge fuel’ to EVs in what some say has become a rather obvious bid to delay the entry of electric vehicles in large numbers to fleets across Europe. An effort that some analysts are concerned may represent yet one more push to kill the electric car.

(Unofficial Tesla advertisement streamed over a famous speech by Nikola Tesla. A combination of increasingly accessible electric vehicles and renewable energy sources like wind and solar provide hope that human beings can rapidly reduce carbon emissions over the coming years. But the still powerful and established fossil fuel industry continues to attempt to delay progress through its vast monetary power and equally vast legislative, advertising, and public relations based influence. Can we free the captive fossil fuel consumer? Video source: Not a Dream.)

According to analyst for the Transport and Environment’s Carlos Calvo Ambel:

Carmakers, oil companies and biofuels producers are making a desperate bid to dissuade Europe from undertaking fuel efficiency standards for cars, vans and trucks, a push for electric vehicles and many of the other badly needed actions in the transport sector.

Shell recently acquired an interest in Brazil based biofuels industries and it appears that Shell may be using its new biofuels interests as leverage to divide support for a rapidly expanding access to zero-carbon emitting electrical vehicles. If this is true, it wouldn’t be the first time that the fossil fuel industry has lobbied against renewables, attempted to play divide and conquer with renewable energy supporters, or conducted deceptive advertising and public relations campaigns in an effort to retain energy market dominance — negative climate consequences be damned.

In what has become an ever-expanding context of industry deception and manipulation, Exxon Mobile is now under increasingly intense investigation over its active funding of climate change denial organizations in an effort to confuse the public even after its own scientists identified threats posed by fossil fuel emissions as far back as the 1960s. The Koch Brothers, who are heavily invested in oil pipelines, are identified as funding yet one more multi-million dollar advertising attack on renewables — this time against electric vehicles. And in the legislative bodies throughout the western world, politicians receiving the highest levels of campaign funding support from fossil fuel industry sources are the ones most likely to deny the existence of human caused climate change and to oppose legislative efforts promoting renewable energy expansion and related carbon emissions reductions.

Nethernlands Motion to Ban Petrol and Diesel, Germany Promises 1 Billion Euros For Electric Vehicles

The new Shell/Volkswagon effort comes as the lower house of Parliament in the Netherlands is pushing a measure to ban both petrol and diesel use in that country by 2025. The measure would rely on a rapid transition to electric vehicles and would basically outlaw fossil fuel based automobile use by that time.

A low-lying nation, the Netherlands stands to lose much if sea level rise due to a human-forced warming of the globe starts to rapidly ramp up. A risk that grows as more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. And with about 50 percent of household carbon emissions coming from vehicle use, a transition to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy could help to dramatically curb both individual and national emissions totals. Currently, the Netherlands is one of the regions of the world featuring the highest rates of EV sales — with ten percent of all automobile sales taken up by electric cars in early 2016.

In Germany, a country to which Netherlanders displaced by sea level rise may be forced to migrate, news was much the same as Parliament approved a 1 billion euro subsidy to support increased sales of electric vehicles there. An ambitious effort that it is hoped will push Germany’s current 50,000 car EV fleet to more than 1 million by 2020.

Tesla Model 3 Preorders Expected to hit 500,000 This Year

Among the world’s big car producers, there’s only one major automaker that sells only all-electric vehicles and that’s Elon Musk’s Tesla. A company that is now known not only for its ability to field cutting-edge electric automobiles, but also for its track-record in producing some of the highest quality, highest performance vehicles in the world. Not only do all Tesla cars require no oil, gas or other fossil fuels to run, not only do they produce zero tailpipe emissions or provide the opportunity to produce zero driving emissions when their batteries are charged by renewables like wind and solar, but Tesla autos are also some of the fastest, most luxurious vehicles in the world.

And until now this seemingly contradictory combo of sustainable systems and consumer oriented products has been very pricey. The Model S, Tesla’s flagship offering, starts at $70,000 — a price that puts it in competition with top of the lines Mercedes, BMWs, and Audis. Include all the frills, and a Tesla Model S could sell for well over $100,000.

Tesla's supercharging network

(Tesla’s charging station network provides free EV charging to Tesla owners. It’s a network that continues to expand along major travel routes in North America. Image source: Tesla Supercharger.)

Sales for Tesla’s high-price, high-quality electric cars have been very respectable. Last year, Tesla sold more than 50,000 EVs worldwide. And while these sales rates are enough to make any luxury vehicle manufacturer envious, Tesla is driving for a huge market expansion over the coming years. Its strategy for triggering this expansion hinges on the success of the economically more accessible Model 3. A vehicle that’s half the starting price of the S at around $35,000. That’s still not a cheap car. But with Tesla providing all the vehicle fuel for free in the form of an increasingly widespread network of EV charging stations, with many nations around the world providing EV incentives in an effort to reduce both emissions and oil dependency, and with Tesla as one of the highest quality and performance vehicles around, the price often presents a very tempting offer.

Use of direct sales allows Tesla to gauge customer interest by offering its models for pre-order. And at the time of the Model 3’s launch in early April, CEO Elon Musk is reported to have expected about 100,000 pre-orders (requiring 1,000 dollars to hold a Model 3 reservation) in total. But the enthusiasm surrounding the Model 3 defied all expectations. The 100,000 pre-order mark was breached in just one day and by now Model 3 preorders are estimated to have hit about 400,000. Overall, Musk now expects pre-orders to easily reach 500,000 by later this year. That’s half a million expected sales of just one single electric vehicle model.

The Race Against Catastrophic Climate Change is Now On

Though Tesla is not the only major manufacturer of electric vehicles, it is the notable leader. That said, a number of other manufacturers are entering increasingly competitive options into the race. Chevy, for example, is producing the 200 mile range Bolt EV for sale this year and its Volt plug in electric hybrid now gets more than 50 miles on a single change before switching to gasoline. Nissan will be again upgrading its Leaf to exceed a 200 mile range in the next two years. And along with the 215 mile range Model 3 there are an expanding number of additional high quality, long range EV options now becoming available. Taking the expanse of new offerings into account, it appears that a tipping point in EV quality and access will be reached during the period of 2017-2019.

As a synergy exists between low cost, high power and efficiency batteries used to run electric vehicles and energy storage options used for renewable energy sources like wind and solar, there is growing hope that these energy sources can be used to more and more rapidly replace current fossil fuel based energy systems. Wind, solar, and battery systems have all been shown to improve in price and efficiency with economies of scale. So expanding use of these energy systems makes it easier and easier for more and more people to access them. A synergy that has a potential to snowball renewable energy access during a time in which rapid reductions in carbon emissions are now desperately needed.

With the effects of catastrophic climate change now starting to ramp up, it appears that the world is in a very real and dire race between the crucial mitigating influences of renewable energy systems and the expanding and worsening impacts of global warming. Any delays to a necessarily swift energy transition that are achieved by the fossil fuel special interests will result in more and more climate harm being locked in. So action by Shell and Volkswagon this week to delay European EV expansion efforts are very counter-productive to any push to fully and swiftly address the problem of human-forced warming.

Links:

Shell and Volkswagon Try to Block Push for Cleaner Cars

Netherlands Lower Parliament Pushing for Petrol and Diesel Ban by 2025

Germany Pushing for 1 Million Electric Vehicles by 2020

Tesla has Received 400,000 Model 3 Preorders So Far

DCI Group Subpeonaed in Expanding Exxon Mobile Climate Change Denial Investigation

CO2’s Role in Global Warming Has Been on the Oil Industry’s Radar Since the 1960s

The Kochs are Plotting a Multi-Million Dollar Assault on Electric Vehicles

Non-Official Tesla Ad Crosses Mad Max with 1984

The Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model 3

The Chevy Bolt

The Chevy Volt

Nissan Leaf to have 200 Mile Range in 2017

200 Mile Electric Cars We’re Looking Forward to

Hat Tip to Cate

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

“A Harbinger of the End of the Fossil Fuel Era” — Coal Production, Exports Plummet as Peabody Energy Declares Bankruptcy

“Peabody Energy’s steep decline toward bankruptcy is a harbinger of the end of the fossil fuel era … Peabody is crashing because the company was unwilling to change with the times, — they doubled down on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and investors backed their bet, as the world shifted toward renewable energy. They have consistently put profit over people, and now their profits have plummeted. Our world has no place for companies like Peabody.” — Jenny Marienau, U.S. Divestment Campaign Manager of the environmental group 350.org, in a recent statement.

****

Jenny Marienau of the climate disaster prevention group 350.org is certainly right about one thing. A healthy world. A world full of life and of prospects for all people, all living things. A world that avoids the worst impacts of a terrible climate disruption on the road to a hothouse mass extinction. In this, far more hopeful, world there is no place for companies like Peabody Energy. Companies whose profit-making and related accumulation of a corrupting political power and influence is entirely dependent on locking in an ever-worsening global crisis.

STRIP_MINING_ON_INDIAN_BURIAL_GROUNDS_BY_PEABODY_COAL_CO_-_NARA_-_544109

(Peabody became infamous for its destructive strip mining efforts that transformed beautiful and treasured lands into toxic, lifeless moonscapes. Here, a Peabody crane scoops coal out of the Nara strip mine which was also the location of a sacred Native American burial ground. Continued fossil fuel burning will ultimately have a similar beauty and life-denuding effect on the whole of the global environment. Image source: Commons.)

Coal’s Moral and Economic Bankruptcy

Today that company, representing the largest coal interest in the Western World, declared bankruptcy. An optimistic announcement that comes amidst a swift sea change and a precipitous contraction in the global coal industry. One that, if world-wide public, private, protest action, and individual efforts to reduce carbon emissions on the back of 200 nations reaching a landmark global climate agreement in Paris continue in force, may well be a beginning of an end to the fossil fuel energy era.

With each passing day, that start of an end becomes more and more visible in what appears to be an ongoing global coal industry collapse and retrenchment. In three of the world’s largest coal producing and consuming regions — India, China, and the US — production, imports and exports are down. In the US, coal production has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2008. Meanwhile US coal exports plummeted by 23 percent in 2015 alone. In China, coal consumption is reported to have dropped during both 2014 and 2015. This drop comes as this world’s largest current greenhouse gas emitter has announced an expanding array of bans on coal burning for its highest polluting power plants and a cessation of coal plant construction in 15 of its provinces. In India, one region that coal backers had looked to for expanding consumption, coal imports are also down.

The broadening contraction in coal has forced bankruptcies not just for Peabody, but for other major American coal players like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. A devastating wave for a climatologically destructive industry that appears less and less likely to survive in any form resembling its former might.

The Supertrend That’s Driving Coal’s Downfall — Mass Protest, Divestment, The Rise of Renewables, Policy Push to Prevent Climate Change, and The Switch To Gas

It’s all a part of an emerging supertrend that is being reinforced along many fronts. The first of which involves a broad global protest action against new coal plant construction and wider fossil fuel based energy itself. Led by key groups like 350.org, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club, these critical actions have targeted construction sites, pipelines, railways and mines. In addition, a comprehensive divestment campaign spear-headed by 350.org has targeted capital flows to the fossil fuel special interests. In this campaign, investing firms and institutions are faced with a call to moral action. A call to shift resources away from the fossil fuel-based companies that profit by locking in the ever-worsening impacts of climate change. In most cases, coal divestment is seen as the low-hanging fruit in these efforts. The coal companies produce the highest level of fossil fuel based carbon pollution per ton of fuel burned, are among the biggest threats to clean air and clean water, and are the most financially at risk entities among the fossil fuel based polluters.

Such campaigns against coal would be toothless without readily available alternative energy sources. And during recent years, clean substitutes for coal like solar and wind energy have become more and more accessible. Market prices for both resources have plummeted to the point where either can now compete directly with coal in most major markets. A fact that was brought into stark contrast this year when the cost of a newly constructed Indian solar power station fell below the cost of a newly constructed Indian coal plant fueled by imports. Solar energy in particular has been surging by leaps and bounds with India alone planning 100 gigawatts of new solar powered generation in just six years — a level of construction that will inevitably take a big bite out of what appears to be the last remaining major energy market where coal could potentially expand. In effect, what we are seeing is coal being crowded out by far more benevolent and increasingly competitive wind and solar based energy systems.

US Coal Production Eports Down

(US coal production has plummeted since 2008 in the face of rising renewables, increased use of gas, and falling overseas demand. Global trends seem to indicate that the US coal market is a microcosm of the larger shift in the international energy trade — one that has been driven by a broad-based effort to reduce carbon emissions and impacts related to a human-forced warming of the world. Image source: Clean Technica. Data source: US EIA.)

In many nations, drives to increase the rate of renewable energy adoption have been put at logger-heads with the special-interest funded bodies supporting polluting legacy fossil fuel generation. In the US, republicans have become infamous for their pro-coal, drill-baby, drill, anti-renewables, climate change denial political stance. But despite a well-funded effort by fossil fuel industry to lock in carbon pollution and climate disruption by stacking the political deck, policies aimed at confronting climate change have continued to advance. The Paris Climate Summit, though the object of much criticism, produced the strongest global climate treaty yet. And the broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has now been reinforced by a growing number of cities, states, and nations who now realize that continuing the current massive carbon emission is a hazard to their ongoing existence. Coastal cities and nations facing worsening sea level rise, states in expanding drought zones, regions stricken by water insecurity and increased crop damage, cities, states and nations dependent on healthy oceans for tourism and seafood, regions confronting waves of persons displaced from drought-stricken nations, and cities, states, and nations in the path of increasingly severe weather have all both quietly and loudly fought back — pushing the necessary cuts in hothouse gas emissions forward. These key stakeholders — who basically represent all of the rest of the non-fossil fuel interest world — are starting to realize that the carbon industry, though excessively influential, is not all-powerful. And they are starting to more effectively wield their own, far more just, influence in an attempt to reduce the climate harm that is now setting in.

Within the fossil fuel ranks there is also division. Even among the fossil fuel players there appears to be an acceptance that coal is on its way out. Messaging coming from the fossil fuel industry appears to have shifted to support of the still very harmful natural gas and for a new global fracking campaign. In essence, what we observe is that the oil and gas interests, including the new fracking interests, have basically maneuvered in a way that effectively throws coal under the climate change response bus. Coal is tougher to greenwash than natural gas and the spearhead campaign against coal as the worst of the worst among carbon polluters has proven undeflectable. This has been especially true in the UK where even conservatives are aiming to shut down coal plants (while continuing their harmful efforts in support of fracking and aimed at suppressing rates of renewable energy adoption).

Preventing Ever-Worsening Harm — Why The Fossil Fuel Era Must End as Soon as Possible

With today’s Peabody bankruptcy declaration, and in light of these observed trends, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the global energy game has changed and that the political and economic power of coal is fading. A positive shift to be certain. One that will help to reduce global carbon emissions. But we should remember that the current human greenhouse gas emission is now ten times faster than during the last hothouse mass extinction event 55 million years ago. And the only way to greatly reduce that terrible spewing of heat trapping gasses is to not only completely cut out the coal emission, but to also remove the major atmospheric carbon contributions coming from a massive burning of both oil and gas. To this point, we should work as hard as we can to help make Jenny’s prediction above a reality. For we desperately need the end of the fossil fuel era to happen soon.

Links:

A Harbinger of the End of the Fossil Fuel Era (Please Support 350.org)

The Western World’s Largest Coal Company Declares Bankruptcy

US Coal Production Continues Plunge

China Expands Coal Ban

Sans a Swift Switch to Renewables, Dangerous Climate Change May Be Imminent

COP 21

Greenpeace

The Sierra Club — Beyond Coal

350.org — Divestment

US Energy Information Administration

Peabody Strip Mining on Indian Burial Grounds

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

If You Live in Arizona, Salt River Project Wants You Shackled to Fossil Fuels For Decades to Come

Remove all the empowerment. All the individual benefit and pride that comes from owning your own energy-producing resource. Remove all the financial benefit — all of the increasing opportunities for middle class families to cut energy costs, to increase property values, and to expand their economic opportunities. Remove all the added benefit of expanding US energy independence — both for the US nation and for individuals.

Remove it all, and you still end up with the staggering singular opportunity that home solar energy generation provides — to cut individual and family carbon emissions through electricity generation to net zero.

Arizona-Solar-Energy

(Solar neighborhoods like these are popping up all over Arizona. Monopoly utility Salt River Project wants to stop that through the imposition of fees. Image source: GOYO.)

It’s a staggering empowerment in that it gives each and every homeowner the opportunity to say no to a future in which the world is dragged further and further into a global warming nightmare. It’s a right. In essence, a basic human right, to be given a choice to avoid such a terrible outcome and to play a personal role in making responsible choices for the future benefit of ourselves, our spouses, our children.

And, just a few days ago, a major Arizona utility — the state-sanctioned monopoly Salt River Project — did everything they could to take that choice away from homeowners. To shackle them, for decades, to devastating, carbon-emitting energy sources.

The Salt River Project — Green Washed, Carbon Fueled

The Salt River Project is an old, mostly smoke-stack driven, utility. Having existed for more than 100 years, it now provides power for more than 1 million customers — primarily in the Phoenix metro area.

Of the power SRP generates, about 85 percent comes from dirty sources. Though hydroelectric dams are among its assets, though solar energy accounts for 120 megawatts of its generation, though wind accounts for about the same, SRP is primarily powered by fossil fuel sources. It owns stakes in nine massive fossil fuel generating stations — half of which are coal, the other half gas. As a result, SRP is responsible for many millions of tons of carbon emissions each year. All emissions it generates and dumps into the atmosphere — scot-free of costs for the harm it is continuing to inflict on the world’s atmosphere, oceans, glaciers, and weather.

Coal power plant SRP

(The Four Corners coal power plant and associated strip mine — one of many coal plants operated wholly or in part by SRP. SRP’s stifling of renewable energy adoption by homeowners would ensure the continued use of dirty plants like this for decades to come. SRP pays nothing for the harm plants like these inflict on the global climate system. Image source: High County News.)

But all this damage doesn’t come without its own share of greenwash. The Salt River Project touts goals of reaching 20 percent renewable capacity by 2020. It also hosts a home solar project which funds 12.5 megawatts of solar energy capacity for the current year (May 1 2014 to April 30 2015). A rate of adoption that would take 300 years to remove its fossil fuel generation even if energy consumption levels remained flat.

At best, given the amazing achievements of renewable energy on cost, ease of use, and access (especially for wind and solar), the energy transition efforts by Salt River Project (SRP) can be described as foot-dragging. An effort far too paltry and slow to be an effective mitigation to the damage resulting from human-caused climate change.

The glacial pace of energy transition for this massive utility is bad enough on its own. But, even worse, SRP has leveled one of the most heinous attacks on individual renewable energy ownership now ongoing in the United States. And it is with this action that it has basically nullified even the paltry progress it has made toward reducing carbon emissions from its own generation sources.

A State-Supported Monopoly Assaulting Home Solar Ownership

For as of this year, SRP has decided to levy a $50 monthly fee (we could well call it a fossil fueled tax of 600 dollars per year) on home solar owners for use of grid services. The fee directly targets home solar users for discrimination, penalizing them for their choice of power source.

The fee is so high as to have stifled solar energy adoption in the Salt River Project territory. Last year, users in the SRP grid region installed nearly 40 megawatts of home solar energy (four times that proposed by SRP). This year, installations could have hit as high as 60 megawatts or more — equaling half the total SRP solar generation capacity installed within just one year.

But rumor of the fee alone was enough to snuff out new solar adoption. The monthly rate of installation swiftly fell from more than 600 homes per month last year, to less than 10 per month this year.

Though Salt River Project is not alone in adding ‘grid maintenance fees’ for solar energy users, it is the first to set the fee high enough to stifle solar energy adoption. Other fees range from 5-25 dollars per month — well less than half what SRP charges and the net effect has not been so great as to reduce solar adoption. Arizona Public Service, for example, leveled a 5 dollar fee and home solar adoption has continued at the rate of nearly 8,000 per year in its region of control.

Homeowners in the SRP region simply have no other choice. SRP is the only grid services provider. And its policies, as a government-private partnership, are sanctioned by Arizona state legislation. SRP has thus used its monopoly status to snuff out individual solar adoption in its area of operation. And this, in itself, is an egregious stifling of the individual rights of energy choice and energy freedom.

Lawsuits, Massive Public Backlash

Salt River Project’s suppressive action is already very unpopular. At the board meeting in which solar fees were assigned an angry crowd of over 500 people gathered. As SRP announced decisions on solar fees, they were met with loud boos from constituents.

But the stifling of public solar adoption hasn’t just inflamed the grass roots — it’s also bringing some of the heaviest hitting solar corporations and public alliances into the ring. Today, Elon Musk’s Solar City Corporation joined Solar Alliance (a solar interest consortium) in suing SRP for anti-trust violations. The Solar City statement is one of historic significance and reads as follows:

Last Thursday, [SRP] approved a new pricing plan designed to punish customers who choose to go solar. Under the new plan, SRP customers who generate their own power have to pay additional ‘distribution charges’ and ‘demand charges’ that other SRP customers do not. These discriminatory penalties add up to hundreds of dollars per year, and make a competitive rooftop solar business impossible within SRP territory . . . SRP has sabotaged the ability of Arizona consumers to make this choice if they happen to live in SRP territory. We can already see the intended effects: After the effective date of SRP’s new plan (December 8 of last year), applications for rooftop solar in SRP territory fell by 96%. (Emphasis Added).

Recent filings by Solar City and Solar Alliance are likely the first of many. For SRP’s action is so egregious as to materially impact anyone who previously desired or planned to install solar, effectively removing their economic ability to do so.

Such removal of choice is anti-competitive by nature and will likely end up with SRP facing off not only against environmentalists, Tea Party activists interested in individual energy choice, solar leasers, installers, financiers and homeowners alike, but also against the US Department of Justice’s Anti-Trust Division.

Like SRP, many utilities hold but often do not so punitively wield monopoly powers over their regions of control. The current struggle by SRP to suppress home solar energy adoption highlights a potential abuse of power by many utilities going forward. Utilities are, therefore put on notice, solar energy providers and users will not be bullied by fossil fuel special interests into reducing adoption rates. Any actions to suppress adoption are anti-competitive and amoral. They will be challenged accordingly.

Links:

Arizona’s New Solar Charge ‘Unsupportable by any Economic Analysis’

Solar City Sues Arizona Utility for Antitrust Violations

Rooftop Billing Issues Far From Settled

The Salt River Project: Commons

Solar in the Desert — PV to Bury Fossil Energy on Price Before 2025

DCIM101GOPRO

(Sunlight in the Desert. Dubai solar park produces electricity at 5.98 cents per kilowatt hour, displacing a portion of the UAE’s natural gas generation. By 2025, solar systems that are less expensive than even this cutting-edge power plant will become common. By 2050, large scale solar, according to Agora, will cost less than 2 cents US per kilowatt in sun-blessed areas. Image source: International Construction News.)

*   *   *   *

Anyone tracking energy markets knows there’s a disruptive and transformational shift in the wind (or should we say sun?). For as of this year, solar has become cost-competitive with many energy sources — often beating natural gas on combined levelized costs and even edging out coal in a growing number of markets.

Perhaps the watershed event for the global energy paradigm was the construction of a solar plant in Dubai, UAE that priced electricity for sale at 5.98 cents (U.S.) per kilowatt-hour. Even in the US, where grid electricity regularly goes for 9-12 cents per kilowatt-hour, this price would have been a steal.

But the construction of this plant in a region that has traditionally relied on, what used to be, less expensive diesel and natural gas generation sources could well be a sign of things to come. For though solar can compete head-to-head with oil and gas generation in the Middle East now, its ability to threaten traditional, dirty and dangerous energy sources appears to be just starting to ramp up.

Solar’s Rapid Fall to Least Expensive Energy Source

A new report from Berlin-based Agora Energiewende finds that by 2025 solar PV prices will fall by another 1/3, cementing it as the least expensive energy source on the planet. Further, the report found that prices for solar energy fall by fully 2/3 through 2050:

Solar to be least expensive power source

(Solar is at price parity in the European Market now and set to fall by another 1/3 through 2025 according to a report by Berlin-Based Agora Energiewende.)

In Europe, solar energy already costs less than traditional electricity at 8 cents (Euro average) per kilowatt hour. And at 5-9 cents, it is currently posing severe competition to energy sources like coal and natural gas (5-10 cents) and nuclear (11 cents). But by 2025, the price of solar is expected to fall to between 3.8 and 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour (Euro), making it the least expensive power source by any measure. By 2050, solar energy for the European market is expected to fall even further, hitting levels between 1.8 and 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour — or 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of fossil and nuclear power sources.

These predictions are for a combined market taking into account the far less sunny European continent. In regions where solar energy is more abundant, the report notes that prices will fall to less than 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s 2 cents (US) for solar in places like Arizona and the Middle East come 2050.

IEA Shows Solar Ready For Battle Against Carbon-Emitting Industry

Already, solar energy adoption is beginning a rapid surge. As of this year, it is expected that 52 gigawatts of solar capacity will be built. But as prices keep falling this rate of build-out could easily double, then double again. By 2025, the IEA expects that solar PV alone could be installing 200 or more gigawatts each year. And by 2050 IEA expects combined solar PV and Solar Thermal Plants (STE) to exceed 30 percent of global energy production, becoming the world’s largest single power source.

Solar Parking Lot

(Parking lots and rooftops provide nearly unlimited opportunities for urban and suburban solar panel installation. Image source: Benchmark Solar)

Considering the severe challenges posed to the global climate system, to species, and to human civilizations by rampant carbon emissions now in excess of 11 gigatons each year (nearly 50 gigatons CO2e each year), the new and increased availability of solar energy couldn’t come soon enough. We now have both an undeniable imperative to prevent future harm coupled with increasingly powerful tools for bringing down world fossil fuel use and an egregious dumping of carbon into the atmosphere and oceans. But we must implement these tools — wind, solar, EVs, efficiency, biomass, geothermal, biogas, tidal and others — as swiftly as possible if we are to have much hope for avoiding the worst impacts of human-caused climate change.

Links:

Solar Energy Emerging as Cheapest Power Source

Solar at 2 Cents per Kwh

Solar Seen as Unbeatable

Dubai Solar Bid Awes Energy Market Players

2014 Hottest Year on Record Amidst Ocean Heat Spikes and Arctic Wildfires

According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, 2014 set new inauspicious marks as the hottest year in the global climate record since measures began in 1891.

Temperatures rocketed to 0.27 C above the 1981-2010 average, 0.63 C above the 20th Century average and showed a severe pace of warming of 0.70 C per Century. By comparison, the end of the last ice age featured century scale warming at the rate of 0.04 to 0.05 C every 100 years. So the current rate of warming, according to the JMA measure, is 14-17 times faster. A rapid warm-up driving increasingly severe weather and geophysical changes.

2014 Hottest Year on Record

(JMA measure shows 2014 was hottest year on record. Image source JMA.)

NOAA is also expected to show 2014 as hottest year on record. NASA is likely to show 2014 as 1rst, 2nd or 3rd hottest.

2014, according to JMA, was the first record breaker since the super El Nino year of 1998 with 2014 beating out 1998 by 0.05 degrees C. However, the JMA measure also showed that all ten hottest years on record occurred since 1998. Perhaps more telling is the fact that the JMA measure reveals no hiatus in the pace of global atmospheric temperature increase with all years since 1998 at or above the trend line.

Ocean Heat but No El Nino

World ocean surface temperature spikes were the primary driver of the new global surface temperature record with NOAA’s measure showing a majority of months as hottest ever recorded for the world ocean. North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean temperatures were particularly hot — with a West Coast heat pool driving ocean dead zone events and starfish die-offs alike. In this region and off the US East Coast, Ocean temperature anomalies regularly topped 4 degrees Celisus above average. An extraordinary degree of heat that, in some cases, saw tropical fish species heading into Arctic waters for solace from the record warmth.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly global August 29, 2014

(Extraordinary Sea Surface Temperature spikes occurred in late August and mid October, with most of 2014 showing extreme ocean heating. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

El Nino threatened throughout much of the year. But despite a warming near the Equatorial Pacific temperature thresholds failed to fully tip into El Nino. An ominous sign considering that El Nino is the hot phase of atmospheric and surface temperature variability — which may mean that the next El Nino will drive a global high temperature departure even more extreme than 2014’s record setting value.

Severe Weather, Climate Extremes During Hottest Year

2014 also featured some of the worst weather on record with the US experiencing extraordinary dipole anomalies coincident with polar vortex collapse events and severe Arctic warming. Across the Atlantic, the UK experienced both its stormiest winter on record and its hottest year on record. A year hotter than any since 1649 for that nation.

Throughout the world severe droughts ravaged wide regions with the US Southwest still in the grips of the worst multi-year drought in 1,200 years. This year’s California drought was the most recent iteration of this severe event featuring a ridiculously resilient high pressure ridge that has continued to rob California of much of its typical seasonal moisture.

Amazon drying and wildfires also made news this year amidst a severe drought gripping the Sao Paulo megalopolis in Southeastern Brazil. The ongoing drought has shut off monsoonal moisture, forced residents to ration water, and threatens to put city water officials in the position of turning to use of mud for municipal water supplies.

Glaciologists identified massive sections of Antarctic land ice that had reached the point of irreversible collapse. Many of these researchers pointed toward an expanding pool of warm bottom water undermining sea facing glaciers as the culprit for this increasingly rapid glacial melt. A set of circumstances that creates a higher risk of more rapidly rising seas.

To this point, the City of Miami began a combined program of installing pumps to rid streets of flooding at times of high tide and has assessed a property tax to begin its efforts to fight the surge of waters set off by human caused climate change. New studies also found high risk areas such as Hampton Roads in Virginia now featured tens of thousands of properties under such serious threat of flooding that only FEMA will provide them with insurance — a number that will continue to increase along with the sea levels (globally at 3.3 millimeters of increase per year but as high as 7-8 mm per year in some regions).

Ominous Signs the Permafrost is Starting to Disgorge its Carbon Store

Sections of Siberia and Canada experienced extraordinary warmth during winter and spring of 2014 — setting off severe early season wildfires that raged well into late summer. These megafires continue the trend of recent years in which massive blazes rip through the Siberian tundra region disgorging methane and CO2 laden smoke plumes that then encircle the Northern Hemisphere.

For the Northwest Territories of Canada, this past summer represented its worst fire year ever recorded with massive blazes forming towering pyrocumulus clouds over vast burning regions of Arctic permafrost. A fitting backdrop for the Mordor-like activities of Alberta tar sands extraction.

very-intense-fires-burning-in-yakutia

(Very intense wildfires, some the size of smalls states as seen above in the LANCE MODIS shot from July of 2014, raged through Siberian tundra this summer. For reference the bottom edge of frame is 120 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In all, about 1,300 gigatons of carbon are stored in the now thawing permafrost, a region Joe Romm is calling the permamelt (perhaps permaburn is a better term). And a human enhanced warming of the Arctic appears to be speeding that carbon’s rate of release into the atmosphere. An impact that could further accelerate human-caused warming. An ignominious circumstance leading to more record warm years and related global climate extremes to come. One that adds urgency to the need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuel burning and human activities that dump massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere.

Links:

JMA Global Average Surface Temperatures Reach New Record in 2014

2014 Was The Hottest Year By Far

Met Office Confirms 2014 was Hottest Year on Record for UK

LANCE MODIS

2014’s Unprecedented Arctic Wildfires

The Climate Reanalyzer

World CO2 at 396.8 PPM and Climbing; May Break 400 PPM This Year

According to the most recent report from the Mauna Loa Observatory, world CO2 concentrations reached a record 396.8 PPM in February.

Considering that we have three more months of seasonally increasing world CO2 values, it is possible that 2013 will see CO2 levels break 400 PPM for the first time in at least 3 million years.

The last time CO2 levels were this high was during the Pliocene epoc. This geological period, occurring about 2.5-5.3 million years ago, exhibited CO2 averages in the range of 365 to 410 ppm.

During the Pliocene, no ice covered Greenland or West Antarctica. Sea levels during the Pliocene were about 75 feet higher than they are today.

For February 2013, world CO2 levels were 3.26 PPM higher than CO2 levels in February of 2012. On average, world CO2 levels are increasing at a rate of 2.2 parts per million each year (but ramping higher). At this rate of increase, it will be less than five years before world CO2 levels exceed that of the Pliocene and begin to enter a range prevalent during the Miocene of around 400-600 ppm CO2.

Early Miocene was a time when no glaciers covered the poles. So pushing world CO2 values out of the range of the Pliocene and into that of the Miocene presents a serious amplification of already challenging climate difficulties.

Links:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

Human CO2 Emissions Continue to Play Russian Roulette with Clathrate Gun: New Study Shows East Coast Methane Hydrates Destabilizing

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, increasing ocean temperatures combined with changes in the structure of the Gulf Stream are causing the rapid destabilization of large amounts of methane off the US East Coast. What the study shows is that the Gulf Stream is getting warmer due to human-caused global warming and that the warmth is pushing deeper and deeper into the ocean. As the warmer waters encounter the Continental Shelf they begin to affect massive frozen reserves of methane called methane hydrates or clathrates on the sea bed.

Clathrates are a frozen combination of methane and water. The substance is very unstable and, once disturbed, can rapidly transition from its frozen state to methane gas. Hundreds of gigatons of methane lie trapped in clathrate in the region affected by the Gulf Stream. If even a fraction of these clathrates were to destabilize, it could result in a powerful amplifying feedback to global warming, ocean and atmospheric anoxia (oxygen loss) and worse.

The study postulates that ocean warming of 5 degrees Celsius may have caused a massive release of methane about 50 million years ago resulting in a large release of methane that caused both wide-spread ocean acidification and a major increase of about 5-7 degrees Celsius in world temperatures. The sea bed in the region in question is  shown to have warmed by about 8 degrees Celsius since the last ice age with rapid warming occurring since the advent of human greenhouse gas emissions.

The study found than an area of 10,000 square kilometers off the East Coast showed rapidly destabilizing clathrates. The total volume at immediate risk of destabilization was 2.5 gigatons. Because methane is many times as potent as carbon dioxide, a single release of methane of the size estimated would triple or quadruple the amount of heat forcing produced by human greenhouse gas emissions in one year. Futhermore, this study focused only on the US East Coast as a potential methane source. Other studies have found large methane releases coming from the Alaskan Continental Shelf, the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, and other regions of the Arctic. This was the first major mid-latitude study and it is also likely that vulnerable methane deposits exist in other continental shelf zones around the world.

In total, the East Coast methane store of about 300-500 gigatons of methane clathrate adds to another 1000-1400 gigatons of Arctic clathrate, 1000+ gigatons of methane stored in permafrost and at least 100 gigatons of methane stored beneath Antarctica. This total contains more carbon than all the world’s remaining conventional fossil fuels and has a very large potential to greatly enhance human-caused warming. Furthermore, unknown amounts of methane hydrate lie in wait in other world ocean regions.

Continued human CO2 emission creates an added forcing that is likely to increase the risk of a large methane release from frozen permafrost and from clathrates. It has been hypothesized that large releases of this kind caused a major temperature spike and mass extinction in the ocean about 50 million years ago. A larger release of methane about 250 million years ago called the Permian extinction event is thought to have caused a major die off of 96 percent of ocean species.

Russian Arctic researcher Shakhova has estimated that it is possible for as much as 50 gigatons of Arctic methane to be released in single large events called pulses. Such large events, if they were to occur, would have terrible regional, local, global and oceanic impacts. Large regions of the ocean would be stripped of oxygen. The local atmosphere, as well, would be at risk of becoming anoxic. Areas where atmospheric concentration of methane exceeded 5% (5000 ppm) would be at risk of severe firestorms.

But even a more gradual release of the methane would be devastating, causing an amplifying feedback to human CO2 emission that could raise world temperatures by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. The difference between Shakhova’s large pulse and the more gradual release expected by other scientists is the difference between a flash fire or a slow bake. But the end result is the same — a world that really isn’t livable for human beings or for many other creatures either.

The Recent changes to the Gulf Stream causing widespread gas hydrate destabilization study shows that the Arctic Ocean is no longer the only region of concern for rapid methane release due to human climate forcings. Now, the Eastern Continental Shelf of the United States is shown to contain a substantial methane reserve and that 2.5 gigatons of this methane is undergoing rapid destabilization. And all of these studies, when taken into context show that continued human greenhouse gas emission is a severe and unconscionable risk. Each year, as more of these gasses enter the atmosphere, there is more and more risk of a catastrophic methane release event. Each year, as the heat builds up, we are at greater risk of entering an age when the heat content of the atmosphere is so great that large methane releases continue to occur for centuries and may result in a world that is devastated and unlivable for humans.

So for each year that we continue to emit CO2 we continue to play a game of Russian Roulette with the largest weapon on the planet — the Clathrate Gun. We know the bullet is in the chamber. We have found evidence for it in the Arctic, the Antarctic and now just off the US East Coast. But we don’t quite know whether this year’s trigger pull of another 30+ gigatons of human CO2 emission will spark a series of unstoppable and terrible events. Or if it will be next year. Or the year after.

Only one thing is certain. If we pull the trigger enough, that terrible gun is bound to go off. The best course of action is to stop pulling the CO2 trigger. To put the gun down and step away from the burning of fossil fuels which have become so very dangerous.

Links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v490/n7421/full/nature11528.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20121025

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_gun_hypothesis

https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/arctic-sea-ice-melt-methane-release-shows-amplifying-feedbacks-from-human-caused-climate-change/

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Wakening_the_Kraken.html

Natural Gas: Better Than Coal, But No Solution to Global Warming

The good news? CO2 emissions for the US have fallen to levels not seen since 1992.

This is amazing progress and is due to a number of positive steps taken by the US since 2007 when CO2 emissions peaked at 6 billion metric tons per year. Since that time the US has enacted efficiency policies and provided incentives to increase electricity production from wind and solar energy sources. We have added 500,000 barrels per day of biofuels production and we have cut coal use by 20%.

Wind and solar energy installations have multiplied to such an extent that states like Colorado, at times, have seen as much as 50% of electricity production coming from alternative energy sources.

Now for the bad news: the cuts to coal burning in the US, a major factor in lessening US CO2 emissions, have come in large part due to an increase in supply of low-cost natural gas.

It is worth noting that natural gas is far less toxic an energy source than coal. Coal pumps masses of poisons, including mercury into the air and water supply. It also emits two times the level of CO2 when compared to natural gas. Sadly, the result for US coal has been that, though plants have idled here, much of our coal is being shipped overseas to places like China who burn it instead. So what would seem to be a net decrease in carbon emissions is merely a shifting of carbon emissions to another place on the globe.

Natural gas is also still a significant carbon emitter. And the process by which the gas is extracted, increasingly, relies on a fracking technology that pumps extra methane into the atmosphere. Methane is twenty times more potent than CO2 as a global warming source and many studies have shown that volumes coming from fracked wells are significant.

But perhaps most importantly, increasing use of natural gas risks continuing fossil fuel dependence at a time when it is absolutely necessary to begin reducing carbon-based energy use overall.

The International Energy Agency, the world’s premier energy watch-dog, noted:

“Natural gas is not the answer to this problem. Gas-fired plants may emit only half as much carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour generated than coal-fired plants, but by 2025 the amount emitted will be higher than the average for the entire electric system.”

Natural gas dumped on the US market may have the net effect of crowding out renewable energy sources at the exact moment when it is necessary to rapidly build them. Gas has been labeled the ‘crack cocaine’ of the utility sector. Prices tend to be volatile. During boom times, like now, utilities tend to gobble up all the low cost gas they can find, going on a binge of overbuilding gas generators and neglecting other, more stable, energy sources. Over time, demand increases, drawing up the boom’s slack. Eventually, demand pushes up against supply and prices skyrocket. The result is that utilities are left with a glut of natural gas infrastructure and idle plants as they scramble for other energy sources. And the most readily available substitute for gas happens to be coal, completing the crash phase of a vicious and destructive energy cycle.

This crack-cocaine, high-low effect can have some pretty terrible economic consequences for utilities, especially if they fail to predict the booms and busts.

Some have said that the shale gas boom is different. But, already, new gas supply has leveled off and prices have stabilized. With demand for natural gas still rising, it seems likely that costs will rise over the next few years. The potential exception is that enough renewable energy infrastructure could displace the need for natural gas, continuing to push prices down.

And this brings us to a serious problem. If we are to adequately address the issue of climate change we must have mechanisms in place that prevent low-cost fossil fuels from flooding the market and increasing CO2 emissions. To this point, despite the fact that US CO2 emissions have fallen, world CO2 emissions keep rising every year. A shift to natural gas in the US will only serve to increase the overall world production of CO2. So policy measures that increase the cost of carbon, to reflect its damage to the climate, will need to be put in place lest we rapidly find ourselves in a situation we can’t back out of.

Boom and bust natural gas, for this very reason, is a false path to reducing CO2 long-term. It results in net increases in emissions and continued dependence on the very fossil fuels we need to ween ourselves from.  And it threatens to undermine the more stable and economically viable long-term energy sources like wind and solar.

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