Get Energy Smart! NOW!

Blogging for a sustainable energy future.

Get Energy Smart!  NOW! header image 1

When it comes to renewable energy forecasting, Japan’s forecasting follows world lead

January 19th, 2018 · No Comments

While many reasons exist for this, a simple reality: every single major forecasting institution (both public and private) has consistently, since roughly the turn of the century, under forecast future progress in solar and wind energy. (See after fold for a sampling of the literature on this.) Forecasts have consistently (and often quite significantly) projected much higher costs and much lower deployments than what has occurred in the real world.

While too many simply think of these problems as esoteric ‘energy-geekdom’, these forecasts have real impacts on decision-making in the public and private sectors.  One, not very small, example is a  big news item this week: General Electric is potentially going to be broken up.  One of the key underlying factors behind this might just have been energy forecasts of growing thermal power in the decades to come — forecasts that are turning out to have been wildly off mark.  And, GE made significant bets (in acquiring Alstom and Baker-Hughes), apparently, due to senior executives (and Board of Directors) myopically relying on these forecasts without paying attention to the serious critiques about forecasting. (Again, see below for a taste of those criticisms.)

The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan is one of those doing public long-range energy forecasts that can (will) influence public and private investment decision-making. Here is their fall World Energy Outlook 2018. The IEEJ Chairman, Masakazu Toyoda, gave a quite interesting presentation on this study at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Within the study and in the presentation, many worthwhile takeaways and insights.

As an example of a perhaps self-evident item that too many simply ignore but which Toyoda made quite clear in his presentation: it’s China and India, stupid. Writ large, over the next 35 years, China will add the equivalent of US energy demand to its power sector and India will add the equivalent of an European Union. Want to understand (and, inherently, influence) what will happen globally, in terms of energy demand and supply (including carbon implications), these are the two places meriting the most focus.

Forecasts are useful for helping frame understanding for the future and to help shape decision-making — not through the specific forecasted numbers, but about the potential implications from differences and commonalities across scenarios in terms of investment requirements, policy options, and otherwise. As per above, however, a consistent pattern of significantly under-forecasting renewable energy has had serious real-world impact and continuation of pessimistic forecasting against clean energy options will likely to continue to create problems.

IEEJ 2018 Scenario parameters (Institute for Energy Economics Japan)

The IEEJ forecast has three core scenarios. A reference (base-line), a peak oil demand (think electrification with electric vehicles), and an advanced technologies (investment to address climate change).  To the right is a slide (from another presentation) that appeared in CSIS talk that lays out some of the high-level assumptions for each scenario.

Focusing solely on solar,

  • The “reference” case has 0.2 to 1.5 terrawatts (TW) of solar PV capacity deployed from 2015 to 2050.
  • The (aggressive) “Advanced Technologies” case has 2.5TW.

That does seem like a significant, even aggressive, jump from that baseline (what will occur if we don’t do things differently) and to the advanced technologies (there is a dedicated aggressive effort to invest to address climate change) scenarios.

What is actually happening, however, in the world and what are others projecting:

  • In 2017, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), there was 98 gigawatts (GW) of solar deployments with “a minimum” of 107GW projected for 2018.
    • (Note: this post is aggregating, for simplicity, all solar deployment with a comparison against PV. A large-scale forecast, like IEEJ’s, that is aggregating ‘clean’ should have ‘all solar’ in electricity generation (e.g., including CST plants) and not ‘just’ photovoltaic in its scenario assumptions.)
  • In 2016, according to IEA, solar accounted for 43 percent of global net additional electricity generation capacity, the majority in 2017, and those trends will continue.
  • Solar (and wind) prices are plummeting so much, according to IRENA, that they will be at the low end OR below fossil prices by 2020.
  • Actual contract offerings of solar are showing this trend. Just released Colorado bids for solar PLUS storage were far below the offered prices for coal and, in fact, are below the prices of electricity from already existing coal-fired plants.

Assuming that there will be zero growth year-to-year in solar deployments (which is a laughably bad assumption for any planner), 33 years of solar deployments at the BNEF ‘minimum’ projection for 2018 (107GW) would give a total additional deployment by 2050 of 3531GWs (3.5TW) or 1TW more than IEEJ’s aggressive Advanced Technologies forecasting scenario (which, btw, went from 2015 to 2050: adding 2015-2017 adds more than 200GWs to this simple comparative calculation).*

A simple question (okay, not so simple to answer) asked of Toyoda at CSIS with that background as to actual solar deployments versus IEEJ’s projection:

Considering (a) how forecasting has been so uniformly pessimistic about renewable technology and (b) the significant implications of erroneous forecasts, did IEEJ consider doing an actually aggressive solar/wind forecast.

In response to the question and in conversation after the session, the answer might be summarized two-fold:

  • solar is really complicated and not uniform across the globe (yes),
  • perhaps that is a good idea to consider.

Trying to forecast such a dynamic arena as solar pv deployment is not easy, with the challenges of trying to understand/model innovation (technological, business), policy priorities and change, financial issues (global economic situation, financing costs, …), social priorities, etc … It seems clear, on the face of it, that IEEJ’s ‘aggressive’ solar forecast radically understates what a reasonable “aggressive” scenario would look like.  To understand what an ‘aggressive’ forecast re 2050 deployment might look like, here are four (very simplistic approach) examples:

  • Indefinite growth at 10 percent per year from 2018 through 2050
  • Indefinite growth at 5%/yr
  • 10%/yr growth through 2027, 5%/yr 2028-2037, 2.5%/yr 2038-2050
  • 5%/yr through 2027, 2.5%/yr 2028-2037, 1.25%/yr 2038-2050

By the way, before anyone might consider 2017-2018 potential growth an anomaly, a 10 percent year-to-year change is dramatically lower than what has been occurring with a compounded annual PV deployment growth rate (CAGR) of about 30% in the 2010s and above 40% in the decade before.

What, in terms of additional solar capacity, results from the above simplistic assumptions for feeding into a forecasting scenario:

  • 10%/yr = 23.8TW
  • 5%/yr = 8.6TW
  • 10% and then slowing:  11.4TW
  • 5% and then slowing: 6.3TW

There is a radical difference between 6.3TW-23.8TW and 2.5TW for use in an ‘aggressive’ forecast scenario to help understand options moving forward and to help drive energy forecasting.

Due to the range of problems with the above (assuming zero retirements over time, doesn’t account for any questions of materials supplies, would expand from 2014 total grid-connected electricity capacity (roughly 6.5TW), etc, etc, etc …), these aren’t hard figures to include into a forecast. On the other hand, this approach provides a framing to understand that the IEEJ ‘aggressive forecast’ might be an order-of-magnitude (or more) below what a plausible “solar-heavy” future could look like.

Analysts and analysis are there to provide a framework for and to assist decision-makers have the potential for making better decisions.  Even the best analysis can’t survive a bad decision-maker.  It takes an exceptional decision-maker to make optimum decisions when provided faulty analysis.  From the EIA to IEA to IEEJ to …, the world’s energy analysts own decision-makers far better when it comes to forecasting plausible clean-energy futures.


[

→ No CommentsTags: analysis · economics · Energy · Energy Forecasting · energy information administration · solar

“Renewable Energy: the closer you look, the better the news gets!

January 17th, 2018 · 1 Comment

For decades, those advocating for a clean-energy revolution had to advocate for better analysis and calculations to demonstrate that going clean (solar, wind, efficiency) was the better, smarter choice.  Traditional financial structures and analysis favors dirty solutions: emphasizing upfront (rather than life-cycle costs), discounting heavily future benefits, stove-piping analysis without considering systems implications, discounting (typically ignoring) risks (such as potential fuel price fluctuations), ignoring ‘co-benefit’ steams, leaving negative externalities out of the equation, and …  Within those traditional approaches, the deck was stacked against choosing the clean solution.  Analysts focused in this arena, trying to find paths to enable the right choice to be the preferred and easy choice laid out many paths.

  • Focusing on life-cycle costs is a better economic approach …
    • Purchase prices come with associated long(er) term costs which are frequently (far) higher than that purchase price — across all of the economy.  Focusing on sticker price can, often, lead to a less optimal longer-term cost structure.
    • Don’t focus on CtB (cost to buy) but on CtO (cost-to-own), whether this is in deciding whether to buy an electric taxi, ‘green’ a school, lighting in a condominium building, or in purchasing a desk lamp: understand not just that purchase price, but the full costs of owning/operating that ‘system’.
    • ‘Going clean’ might cost more upfront, but that the long-term costs for a cleaner options would be better.
  • Understand and incorporate co-benefits
    • Job creation
    • Increased productivity (in government, business, and education)
    • Reduced maintenance costs
    • Improved health
    • Increased capability
  • Incorporate risk calculations
    • Price fluctuations/uncertainty
    • Supply/service disruption
    • Policy change
  • Consider systems benefits, value externalities
    • Incorporate/understand how ‘paying more’ for one part of a system can reduce costs elsewhere … leading to same or lower purchase price for better long-term payoff.
    • Benefits (reduced local temperatures, reduced run-off, etc …)
    • Price in pollution costs
      • e.g., end the hidden subsidies to polluting options by privatizing the costs into the transaction (rather than leaving these socialized, to be born by all, even those not involved in the transaction).
  • And, well, so on …

When doing such fully-burdened cost-benefit analyses (whether for an individual home (accounting for “home performance and comfort” rather than simply “energy costs”) or designing schools or climate action across an entire economy), the return-on-investment for ‘clean’ almost always came out powerfully better than traditional, polluting ways.

Whether for the individual looking at a light-bulb purchase price at the hardware store, the CFO deciding how to invest Corporation resources, or the School Board making decisions on school construction, this sort of ‘comprehensive’ robust analysis — that fell outside typical ‘green-eyeshade’ accounting norms, practices, and rules — was a long haul. There were/are such decision-makers ready to think that way — but most people don’t calculate and compare across six options a decade of energy costs when buying a television and few CFOs think about work force productivity when making energy-efficiency investment decisions.

A frustration — what, financially (and societally) would be ‘the right choice’ wasn’t ‘the easy choice’ and simply wasn’t easily evident as ‘the right choice’ to decision-makers at many levels across the economy.

Well, ‘the times, they are a changin ...’*

Increasingly, across economies and across different levels of decision-makers, this environment is changing — quite radically. (Seemingly convoluted and) Complicated analyses are, increasingly, no longer required as the simplest of (traditional) financial calculations are now, often, showing that the clean choice is the better financial choice.

For example, the Google calculation of RE<C (renewable energy costing less than coal) is increasingly becoming reality. When proposed a decade ago, this seemed a lofty objective — to drive down the price of new renewables (like solar and wind) to well below the price of new coal plants. In market after market, renewables (especially solar and wind) are blasting through that target: it isn’t just cheaper to install new wind and/or solar electricity than coal (and, often, natural gas), that new build wind and solar is cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal facilities.  This new reality is why, around the globe, renewable electricity is the vast majority of new electrical generation capacity with new coal plants disappearing from planning and existing coal plant retirements (or conversions to natural gas) occurring on an almost daily basis.

Colorado’s recent bidding for electricity is making real news and providing (yet) another blunt signal that the renewable revolution is real and even accelerating. As part of a long-term plan, XCEL Energy put out a request for proposals for new electricity generation. Released on about the slowest news moment, 29 December, solar and wind prices blew away polluting electricity options without requiring any form of the considerations above. And, including in storage still left the wind and solar costs far below coal costs — even existing coal generation costs.

With numbers like these, any fiscally sensible planner won’t just be buying clean energy for new generation but considering paths toward retiring out more expensive fossil fuel generation — as fast as possible. As Joe Romm put it, this is how coal dies — super cheap renewables plus battery storage.

Solar, wind, and battery prices are dropping so fast that, in Colorado, building new renewable power plus battery storage is now cheaper than running old coal plants. This increasingly renders existing coal plants obsolete.

Solar and Wind underbid fossil fuels in Colorado

As David Roberts points out, what is key here is that this is real world, not some theoretical analytical game.

Usually, when we talk about how renewable energy will evolve in the next five years, we rely on analysts and projections. This is different.

When a utility puts out a request for proposals (RFP) — asking developers to bid in for the chance to build new energy resources — the developers who respond aren’t guessing, or boasting. They are laying down a marker that might get called. They are promising only what they are confident they can deliver.

That makes the responses to an RFP a clear snapshot of the state of the industry, relatively unembellished by ideology or public relations spin.

The real world — the people doing green-eyed calculations — are stating that they can deliver not just RE<C, but renewable energy far less expensively than coal. That matters.

And, in a post filled with many key points, this point cannot be emphasized enough:

This particular snapshot reveals that, on the ground, renewable energy costs are falling faster than even the most optimistic analyst had projected.

While there is constant discussion of the problems of IEA and EIA forecasting when it comes to renewable energy, even the most aggressive analysts (okay, there might be some exceptions … but, well, I don’t know them) have been pessimistic about the course of clean energy options. Wind (onshore and offshore), solar (especially pv), storage, smart grid, and … are blowing through predictions of penetrations and costs.

Let’s face it: In most areas of life, when you look past the hype at the real numbers, it’s depressing. Renewable energy is one area where that typical dynamic is diverted. The closer you look, the better the news gets!”

David Roberts

When it began under Secretary Chu, the Department of Energy’s SunShot program had a target of 5 cents per kilowatt hour for industrial solar in the desert Southwest by 2020.  That was clearly seen as a stretch goal and, well, many thought it a stretch too far.  That 5 cents is more than double the median solar bid in Colorado. (Note, yes, bids are for 2023 but this is meant as exemplary.)

Analytical groups like Lazard and Bloomberg New Energy Finance do excellent work, with massive data analysis, and strive hard ‘to get it right’.  And yet, the prices bid in Colorado — and in project after project around the world — are a fraction of their projected prices decades from now.  As Roberts highlights,

The financial advisory firm Lazard issues a much-watched analysis each year of the “levelized cost of energy (LCOE),” a measure that purports to directly compare energy sources based on total costs. Its 2017 analysis estimated that solar+batteries has an LCOE of $82/MWh. You might notice that the median Xcel bid for solar+storage is less than half that. …

Saudi Arabia recently saw bids for utility-scale solar at under $20/MWh, which is less than half Lazard’s lowest estimate for the range of solar LCOE ($46/MWh).

At an auction in Chile last year, a solar+storage project won at $34.40/MWh, which is a third lower than the lowest Lazard LCOE estimates for solar alone.

A company called ViZn Energy Systems, which uses flow batteries rather than lithium-ion, is promising $27/MWh solar+storage by 2023, when the Xcel projects are scheduled to be online. By comparison, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects an average LCOE of a little higher than that for solar alone in 2030.

Now, as Roberts does explain, there is lots of complexity in calculations and the individual situations around each project (subsidies, quality of renewables, etc …) but the real world is increasingly showing that the lowest cost option within traditional financing calculations is renewable.

The Xcel RFP in Colorado is a relatively small signal, but it is one of many sending the same message: renewable energy is not “alternative” any more. Costs are dropping so fast it’s difficult to keep track. It is the cheapest power available in more and more places, and by the time children born today enter college, it is likely to be the cheapest everywhere. That’s a different world.

All that analytical effort for ‘fully-burdened’ isn’t irrelevant in this “different world” even as it is less required to enable decision-makers to make a cleaner, better for humanity choice when seeking to make the best choice within their ‘stove-piped’ calculations.  If — IF — that broader analysis is incorporated, as well, it will even further accelerate moves toward clean energy solutions.

[

→ 1 CommentTags: analysis · economics

How will you handle Trump’s #SOTU? Here is a #climate leaders’ approach

January 16th, 2018 · No Comments

On 31 January, Trump will mouth a State of the Union speech. Expect — if he doesn’t go off script too much — that much of the traditional media (The Village) will gush about how he stayed on message, that maybe this is a new Trump, that …

Bluntly, it is revolting to consider that a man who should be yelling at the TV in his underwear eating McDonald’s food with wrappers on the floor around him in a retirement home treating him for developing dementia is, instead, the one to be yelled at when he is on TV.

For me, I dealt with this conundrum, in 2018, by volunteering to be a judge in a High School science fair: give a little back to the community rather than have my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels live tweeting an event that, well, is one of the millions of things of the Trump/GOP kakistocracy* that simply shouldn’t be occurring.

I made that commitment before learning of something perhaps more appropriate … a DC event to educate and mobilize on climate.  Here is that climate event at George Washington University, in DC, as ‘response’ to Trump’s State of the Union.

Wednesday January 31, 2018 8:00 PM
After Trump’s first State of the Union, join us for Fossil Free Fast:

The Climate Resistance. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben of, Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement, Rev. Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP, and many more will deliver the state of the climate movement.

They will share stories on the urgency of the current political and climate crisis, and how we can resist the Trump Administration’s attacks on our climate.

This truly does sound like a worthwhile event to attend and pay attention — something far better than listening to pundits wax rhapsodically over Trump’s oratory.

* Kakistocracy: A key term to know. One of the very few ‘pleasures’ and benefits of the Trump presidency is learning new language and terms to capture what is going on.

: Word of next four years? kak·is·toc·ra·cies. Govt. by least qualified/most unprincipled citizens.

[

→ No CommentsTags: Energy

See, hear, say no evil: #Climate #science disappearing from USG websites

January 11th, 2018 · 3 Comments

Within seconds of the outrageous nightmare scenario being announced as reality, scientists around the world started to mobilize to capture key science information and data from US government websites to maintain knowledge in what some suspected would be a Dark Ages period. Some thought this is absurd, that the Trump-istas just wouldn’t go there.

They’ve been going there. By mid 2017, thousands of climate references had disappeared from US government websites.

In the intervening months, the climate zombies have extended their reach and extended the darkness.

The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative has just released a report Changing the Digital Climate documenting “how climate change web content is being censored under the Trump Administration”. As Vice put it, Trump is hiding climate change.

Anyone looking at the official websites of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, or the White House might be under the impression that climate change isn’t a threat.

That’s because the Trump Administration has been systematically scrubbing its online references to climate change,

This isn’t an issue of ‘just’ Polluting Pruitt at EPA or Zinke at EPA, but is one of the few things that Team Trump looks to be effective at across the board.

the words “climate change” and “carbon” have been stripped from government websites across a wide range of agencies, including the departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation, the Interior, Energy and State, the report found. They have been replaced with vaguer terms like “sustainability” and “emissions.”

The group also found a wide swath of alterations to climate change webpages.

  • The White House no longer lists climate change as a priority.
  • EPA, along with the departments of State and Energy, removed language related to U.S. international obligations to address climate change.
  • Hundreds of pages at the EPA site that were designed to help local and state governments mitigate the effects of climate change have been removed.
  • The Interior Department scrubbed a website for tribal climate programs of the word “climate change.”
  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences dropped a link to an educational fact sheet about climate change and human health.
  • the Bureau of Land Management altered and removed language and links about climate change, renewable energy and the overall mission of the agency and took down its climate change webpage without replacing it.

When it comes to climate science:
“We’re sorry, that page can’t be found.”

Every day is pretty good until we remember that these destructive fossil fools are in control of the U.S. government. And, from promoting polluting fuels to damaging the development of science to reducing data collection to disappearing basic science from government websites, Team Trump is choosing to #ActOnClimate: to act to make the climate situation worse.


→ 3 CommentsTags: Energy

Sharing: one objective to drive transforming transportation

January 11th, 2018 · No Comments

Ongoing at the World Bank is the joint World Resources Institute and World Bank annual Transforming Transportation conference.  When it comes to Transportation, Sustainable Mobility for All has four core objectives:

  • Universal Access
  • Efficiency
  • Green Mobility
  • Safety

Robin Chase, founder of Zip Car and author of Peers Inc, expressed an ‘epiphany’ during the first panel.

Rather than four objectives, which can be hard to absorb and retain, I just had an epiphany that one word can capture this.


Sharing enables access.

Sharing drives efficiency, with fewer vehicles on the road, greater usage of each built item, and less pollution per mile traveled.

Sharing drives and enables safety, as the most dangerous element of the transportation system is the personal vehicle.

Sharing reduces pollution impacts and help drives greater electrification of transportation.

Sharing … the one word to capture the needs for driving a better 21st century transportation system.

NOTE: See Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities.

→ No CommentsTags: Energy

Global Warming is a hoax: I froze on the soccer field in record cold temperatures

January 8th, 2018 · No Comments

Refereeing youth soccer: a way to clear my mind, get some exercise, interact with people, contribute to society, and to get yelled at by people who don’t have a clue about actual rules and regulations but who, because their child is on the field, is the world’s leading expert.

In early November, refereeing a tournament — game after after game — was a stunningly chilling experience.  Actually, in terms of pure refereeing, this ‘All Stars’ tournament was actually a good experience. From the coaches and players in 11 games over two days, a lot of positive feedback (the sincere ‘it was against us but you made the right call’ sort of comments are nice to get in that end of game handshake) along with some complicated situations requiring actual judgment about how best to manage the game, to protect players while enabling them to play …

The tournament was — as above — stunningly chilling.  Not normal to tell players, before a game, ‘it is cold — I don’t care if you are wearing winter coats, gloves, or hats as long as your jersey is on top, it is clear to all which team you’re on, and I can see your number …’

It was cold enough to — as Donald Trump would like you to understand — to prove that climate change is simply a Chinese Hoax.

After all, Saturday cold set D.C. record, for first time this century in Nov.,Dec., Jan.

it was the first time that a record for lowest temperature had been set or matched in Washington for any date in November in this century.

Nor has a coldest-day record been set here this century in December or January, either.

D.C. dips to a record low, first in November in four decades and one of many across the Northeast

While the broader Northeast has been visited by many record highs over recent years, a record low is much less common these days. For instance, this is the first record low in November for Washington since 1976. It is the first record low overall in the city since February 2015. That one was the first since May 2002.

Right, a great day to be out on fields with essentially no wind breaks for a good 12 hours of so.  Was quite happy to have some hot liquids at home afterwards each day.

Now, those Post articles had a sad element to it that is all too common when it comes to The Washington Post discussions of extreme weather situations: climate change is absent. That failure, sadly, is all too common across US media where underreporting climate change is all too common a case. Virtually no record low temperatures for an extended period — when there are lots of high temperature records — is, well, … without explanation as to potential (actual) causes?

Guess readers are supposed to read between the lines to ‘know’ that this is the case.

Now, that was back in November.  This past week, with the Polar Vortex bomb, the entire US East Coast has been hit with terrifying cold temperatures that make that November day look like a heat wave. In reading and watching news coverage of the East Coast’s beyond (below) frosty start to 2018, that gap is just as stunning. The primary driver of ‘this relates to climate change’ were the rare reactions to Trump’s tweeting and certainly not a major portion of the press coverage.

And, for those living under severe cold, there is little coverage telling them that the rest of the world is hotter than normal. Alaska is missing winter. California is dry, hot, and still smoldering from massive fires. And, well, Australia is almost literally burning up with highways literally melting.


In the northeastern United States, temperatures dipped far into the negatives this week.

The streets of Boston were flooded with icy waters that carried dumpsters away. Cars in nearby Revere, Mass., were nearly buried in frozen floodwaters. Wind chills in parts of New Hampshire could hit 100 degrees below zero (That’s not a typo, as the New York Times points out).

In Australia, however, it’s summer — and a remarkably hot one. So hot that part of a freeway in Victoria on Australia’s southeastern coast was “melting.” Several hundred miles northeast, in the greater Sydney area, Australians spent Sunday in the most sweltering heat in nearly 80 years.

Such is the extreme weather greeting 2018 from opposite ends of the globe

So reads an online post from the Capital Weather Gang, The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang.  The article points out these extremes and — unlike so many other Post pieces — actually has a discussion mentioning climate change.

Australia’s heat wave — and the United States’s bomb cyclone — both come on the heels of the second-warmest global year on record since the 1800s.

A new report, pointing to signs of climate change such as thawing of Arctic ice and wildfires, says the global average surface air temperature in 2017 exceeded 14.7 degrees Celsius (58.46 Fahrenheit), making last year a bit cooler than 2016, the warmest on record. But 2016 included the tail end of a strong El Niño in the tropical Pacific, and that bumped up temperatures that year, as well as in 2015

We all naturally focus on our own backyard — or our own soccer field/football pitch. “Global Warming”, climate change, is a global event. With global temperatures continuing their upward path, if (when) it is unusually cold in your backyard it is very likely that it is unusually hot in others’ backyards.

In any event, with temperatures barely cracking the teens in the past few days in my backyard, quite glad to be in front a roaring fireplace than out refereeing a tournament.


→ No CommentsTags: Energy

Climate Change & Security: 2018 Iranian edition

January 3rd, 2018 · 3 Comments

Iran is in turmoil.

People are protesting in the streets — calling for more openness and, even more strongly, policies to boost economic performance. As to the latter, for example, calls to end Iran’s major support for various militant and military forces (Syria, Hamas, otherwise ..>) and use that money at home.

The protests are serious.

There have been a variety of crackdowns, with at least several dozen killed so far.

It is serious enough that the Tweeter in Chief, @RealDonaldTrump, has spoken up.

As to the last, amid Trump’s apparent belief that ice cubes in the freezer disprove climate science, Team Trump is unlikely to recognize how human-driven climate change is a serious contributing factor.

A 14-year drought has emptied villages …

A 14-year drought caused, in part, by human-driven climate change is a major contributing factor to the unrest in Iran.

Let’s be clear: just one can’t say ‘the Syrian Civil War was created by human-driven climate change’, climate change is just one of many factors driving today’s unrest in Iran. Bad government economic policies, few jobs for young people, continued efforts to suppress openness, massive increases in smart phone ownership (with less fettered access to the world and each other), and … there are a multitude of factors at play in this complex situation. But one cannot (unless rejecting realities, like Trump and his #alternativefacts supporters) deny that human-driven climate change,

  • is helping drive the disruption/unrest in Iran (with a 14-year drought), and
  • is disrupting international security and creating increased risks for upheaval, refugee movements, conflict.


For photographs of

The Impacts of Climate Change in Iran,

see Ako Salemi’s work.

“Fishermen at a small port in Sistan, Iran are looking into the dried Hamoon lake, where once was a place for fishing but after big drought in last decade they lost their jobs and most of them have immigrated to large cities around. December 2016” Ako Salemi (

[

→ 3 CommentsTags: Energy

Romping through RCPs: powerful CliFi from Tobias Buckell

January 2nd, 2018 · 1 Comment

Tobias Buckell is a prolific and thought-provoking science fiction writer with a number of CliFi (climate fiction) books and short stories. For example, the Arctic Rising series‘ first book is described thusly:

Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it’s about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.

Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Buckell has just posted a relatively short piece (<10,000 words) that easily rates as one of the top CliFi pieces that I’ve ever read. Easy for a reader to get caught up in the action, with serious science implied, serious ethics suggested, and a stunningly powerful inherent case for us (the US and all of us) to choose to #ActOnClimate seriously.

In a “world to die for,” Buckell presents us with a future where (a very few) people are leveraging technology to move between parallel universes, parallel Earths.  The core difference between these alternatives: humanity’s ability to coalesce for climate action. The starting world is an electrified version of Mad Max: very violent and with degrading systems as ‘nothing is being built’ and climate catastrophe looms eminent. A second world is functioning, with police and helicopters and sweet air to breath in. The third is truly horrific, climate catastrophe has occurred and breathing air without protection is close to a death sentence. And, the last one readers encounter is “a world to die for … a world to fight for”.

These worlds are described on an “RCP scale”.  RCP stands for Representative Concentrative Pathways, four trajectories of greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations used by the 2014 IPCC report to frame analysis

The pathways are used for climate modeling and research. They describe four possible climate futures, all of which are considered possible depending on how much greenhouse gases are emitted in the years to come.

Buckell’s four worlds are the notional result across the four RCPs.

That ‘world to die for’ represents, in essence, the most optimistic scenario: the one where (despite the Donald Trump’s, Scott Pruitt’s, Koch Brothers, and other climate-science denying power brokers in the world) humanity gets its act together for a World War II-like mobilization to shift the economy toward lower carbon, to carbon neutral, and then to negative carbon as quickly as possible.

Looking across Buckell’s alternative futures — captured in an well-framed, even powerful, story — there really isn’t a choice as to which humanity (with perhaps rare exception) would like to end up even as there are powerful forces seeking to derail progress that might get us there.

As to that ‘world to die for,’ many of us are fighting for that world.

→ 1 CommentTags: climate change · climate disruption · Global Warming

Solar for Puerto Rican Hospital: part of end-of-year donations rush …

December 31st, 2017 · 1 Comment

Like all too many Americans, part of New Year’s Eve rushing around always seems to be getting in just a few more donations. Thanks to the GOP Tax Scam, along with millions, that end-of-year rush is, well, even rushier. (We always try to clean out and donate useful stuff and that, generally, is a ‘whenever’ activity. The #TaxScam pressured us to do a clean sweep last week — and, well, we weren’t the only ones as there was a long line to donate to Goodwill …)

Many of my donations, as per the focus of this blog, go into clean energy, climate, environmental, and related spaces.

A just made donation covers many arenas. Just completed a donation for helping put up a solar microgrid at a Puerto Rican Hospital. While such measures should have been core to a major and ongoing US government response to Hurricane Maria and the tribulations of 3.5 million American citizens on the island, such a Disaster 4R response simply wasn’t in the cards with the Trump regime and its seeming disdain for the plight of so many Americans.

It is not every donation that seems to hit so many arenas of concern:

  • Clean Energy future: Helping put up clean energy systems, that will displace diesel fuel, my family’s donation will help Puerto Rico’s transition to a clean energy future and reduce climate impacts from the hospital’s operations.
    • Puerto Rico has an expensive, highly polluting, and — even before Maria — unreliable electricity system.
  • Disaster resiliency: The solar microgrid system will help provide resiliency in the face of a future disaster — and even help keep the power on during the all-too-often intermittent outages.
  • Helping Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans post Maria: Our fellow citizens have nearly disappeared from the concerns of too many — including from those running the Federal Government.  They need our assistance — and this is a useful path.
  • Medical care: Okay, clean energy solutions helping save people’s lives directly … that is a pretty good combo.
  • Etc …

The project I donated to, a crowdsourcing being run by acquaintances of acquaintances seeks “to install a 6 kilowatt solar emergency microgrid on the Migrant Health Center in the western region of Maricao, Puerto Rico”, is just a small drop into the ocean of Puerto Rico’s needs.  If you wish to look elsewhere and have something ‘more’ than a crowdsourcing re solar & Puerto Rico, the Solar Foundation is helping move money to projects–go to see their very appropriately named site: Solar Saves Lives.  The project I donated to, in fact, is being done in coordination with the Solar Foundation. From the organizer:

“Right after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, I read that FEMA was asked if they were going to put in solar panels and they said no. They were just tasked with rebuilding Puerto Rico‘s electricity grid the way it was before. Their budget to rebuild was $5 billion and they were going to rebuild the antiquated, dysfunctional dirty grid transmission and distribution infrastructure. PR electricity comes from 98% fossil fuels and 2% renewables. This is tragic! It’s up to us to help move the needle to a clean energy system.
I am working with The Solar Foundation in DC which is serving as the project manager. Solar Foundation is coordinating equipment donations, equipment purchases and contractors to install solar photovoltaics and batteries. There are many companies that are willing to reduce their equipment prices, donate equipment or donate their time to help Puerto Rico. Feels like a barn raising.
Solar Foundation had a list of 62 medical clinics, mobile clinics and hospitals and identification of how much solar PV and energy storage they need to continue operations when there is a blackout. I asked them for a small, rural clinic that otherwise would not be helped for years. Policlinica Jayuya is the site we chose. Solar Foundation is working with New Energy to engineer and install the installation pro bono.”

2017 has been a very difficult year — on so many levels, in so many ways, for so many people.

Ending the year taking a step to help put solar systems into Puerto Rico is, well, a good way to end that difficult year.

→ 1 CommentTags: renewable energy · solar

.@RealDonaldTrump tweets #climate #science denial day after @WashPost @CapitalWeather warns of this standard denial idiocy

December 28th, 2017 · 2 Comments

The classic climate science denial line: it’s cold outside, we really could use some of that global warming … It is such a standard tactic that the Washington Post’s Capital Weather gang, in association with warnings of serious (record-breaking (in many cases)) cold descending on the East Coast, warned against this.

If anyone on the US East Coast asks “where’s that global warming”, the rest of the world is answering: HERE!

Much of the US is incredibly cold — while the rest of the world isn’t … but let’s say Global Warming doesn’t exist …

To be clear, one moment’s weather situation doesn’t prove climate change … just like a cold weather snap in part of the world doesn’t prove it doesn’t exist.  Winter still happens, cold weather records still occur … but winters, globally, are shorter and not as cold. And, when it comes to weather records, they should be roughly balanced between hot and cold weather records — with human-driven climate change, high temperature records (including high lowest temperature) are blowing past cold records to the order of 10-1 globally decade to decade.


This isn’t ‘normal’ but the result of humanity putting its thumb (or 7 billion thumbs) on the climate scale.

Rational thinking, listening to experts, understanding science are far from the hallmarks of @RealDonaldTrump.

With perhaps dismay at having to wear a sweater while playing golf for something over the 100th time since he occupied the Oval Office, Trump tweeted out …

In addition to ignoring science and celebrating his science denial, its clear that Trump doesn’t follow the Capital Weather Gang and didn’t realize that he was providing the straight man idiot to prove their point yesterday.

From my perspective, a response to Trump:

Along with literally billions of other thinking humans around the world, as of 6 November 2016, I thought such idiocy was being relegated where it should be — to the dustbins of history. Instead, thank you to abysmal media practices, Republican abusive practices (voter suppression), Russian interference, and …, these anti-intellectual, anti-expert, anti-science fossil fools are occupying the US Federal government and damaging humanity’s ability to set a path to tackle climate change and foster a way forward to a prosperous, climate-friendly future.

The shallow ignorance arrogantly demonstrated by Trump might have been been amusing if coming from a powerless old man sitting yelling at his TV … sadly that is not the case and I am not amused …


  1. Did not have time/energy to take on Trump’s deceit re Paris Accords (“going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS”) — in short, false on so many levels. (1) other countries investing too; (2) “pay” assumes no return, when the ROI would (will) be multiple times larger than the investment cost due to multitudes of factors other than simply reduced climate risks; and (c), (d), (e), …
  2. See after fold for a number of related tweets/items. Among other things, others similarly warned that deniers would make hay of cold weather … such as climate scientist MIchael Mann.
  3. Of particular value, see WashPost’s Dino Grandoni’s After chilly forecast, Trump tweets U.S. ‘could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming’ for some history re Trump’s climate science denial tweets and discussions of the idiocy of Trump’s tweet today.
  4. For a relevant earlier discussion, see “Where’s the Global Warming?” thought Buffalonian; then they looked at a map.
    “Yes, Buffalo is having a massive, massive snowstorm. (And, I do not envy — sympathize greatly with — those who are trying to deal with its impacts — from shoveling massive amounts of snow, to worrying about whether your home will cave in, to …) For too many, that (beautiful) white stuff somehow is a disproving item when it comes to climate change science. To try to explain that, in fact, the snow is related to climate change opens the door for ill-educated mockery. Yet, it is …”
  5. UPDATEs: The outrage/engagement re Trump’s tweet is impressive … 1000s engaging. Two excellent ones.

[

→ 2 CommentsTags: climate zombies · science denial · Trump · Trump Administration