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Utilities Closed Nearly 30 Coal Plants In 2017 Because Of Economics. Here Are The 6 Most Important

Utility coal power closures driven by market economics were a regular occurrence throughout 2017. While President Donald Trump’s “Energy Dominance” agenda gave the false impression that federal efforts could revive coal, 27 coal-fired plantstotaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity were announced for early closure or conversion in 2017 – roughly one every 15 days since Trump’s election.

U.S. electricity generation economics have completely reversed. Building new coal is more expensive than building new renewable energy across the U.S. and in many parts of the country, keeping existing coal plants open is more expensive than building new wind turbines (and solar, in some places). From 2007 to 2016, 531 coal units representing 55.6 GW of capacity were retired across the U.S., at an increasingly rapid pace.

Retired coal generation in U.S. from 2007-2016, via Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

 

The coal plants announced for early closure in 2017 are younger in age and larger in size than ever before, and utilities are replacing shuttered capacity with clean energy. The reasons why utilities are choosing to close coal plants are just as informative as how they’re choosing to replace them. Six specific closures show why this trend will continue into 2018 despite Trump’s bluster.

Public Service Company of New Mexico Decides To Go Coal-Free

New Mexico’s largest utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), released its 2017-2023 integrated resource plan (IRP) in April to examine future scenarios and determine which power mix could meet its expected demand at lowest cost. The results were surprising for a utility that served its 510,000 customers with 56% coal in its total generation portfolio in 2015: PNM’s best option for low-cost and reliable power was to start retiring coal in 2022, completely end coal generation by 2031, and replace it with solar energy, natural gas, and energy storage, along with expanded transmission to cheap wind power in eastern New Mexico.

PNM estimates that by 2035 its most cost-effective portfolio would be composed of nearly 36% renewables and 33% natural gas, up from 11% and 6% respectively in 2017. PNM cites improved grid flexibility under this approach, compared to an alternative portfolio which continues burning coal, where customers would be exposed to higher costs and the utility would risk declining revenue as it ran its coal plants less and less. PNM also began studying the benefits of joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which has generated nearly $200 million in savings to utilities and customers since late 2014, to help enable its shift to a coal-free future.

We Energies Closes 1.2 GW Prairie Plains, Will Build Wisconsin’s Largest Solar Array

We Energies is Wisconsin’s largest utility, with more than 2.2 million customers, and coal supplied 50.6% of its total generation capacity in 2015. This November, the utility decided to close its 1.2 GW Pleasant Prairie coal plant in early 2018, despite having only been in operation since 1985 and undergoing $325 million on pollution controls in recent years. The plant routinely operated at reduced capacity in recent years, and did not operate at all for three months this spring.

Under the closure, We Energies will replace part of the plant’s generation capacity with Wisconsin’s largest solar array, a 350 megawatt (MW) plant expected to go online by 2020. For comparison, the state had 25 MW installed capacity at the end of 2016 and its largest planned array will have a 100 MW capacity. For We Energies, solar makes more sense than coal. “We are looking for a clean, reliable energy future for our customers,” said a company spokeswoman.

Luminant Shutters 4.1 GW Worth of “Economically Challenged” Texas Coal Plants

In early October, competitive power provider Luminant, which operates nearly 18 GW of Texas generation, announced it would close the 1.8 GW Monticello Power Plant by January 2018 due to ERCOT’s “unprecedented low power price environment.” A week later, Luminant announced it would close two “economically challenged” coal plants with 2.3 GW capacity due to low wholesale power prices, abundant renewables, and low natural gas prices. All told, within a week, Luminant decided to close 4.1 GW installed coal capacity – roughly 12% of Texas’ total coal power capacity.

Luminant’s closures significantly underscore the economic reality facing coal in Texas’ wholesale power market, where consumers have saved billionsby shifting to clean energy and coal closures occur without threatening grid reliability. 2016 researchclassified two of the Luminant plants as at risk of closing and emblematic of how coal power was “unlikely to recover in the face of rising competition from other energy sources.” ERCOT says installed Texas wind capacity could pass 21 GW by the end of 2017, forecasts 14-27 GW of solar will be added statewide by 2030, and approved the three closures after determining they would not impact grid reliability.

Ameren to Retire Half Its Missouri Coal Fleet for $1 Billion New Renewables

Missouri’s largest utility, Ameren Missouri, announced in late September it would invest $1 billion in 700 MW of new wind capacity and 100 MW new solar by 2020 while closing half its coal fleet as part of an initiative to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. Coal power currently makes up 5.3 GW of Ameren’s 10.2 GW generation capacity, and the utility only has 11 MW total renewables capacity today. “We expect this tremendous growth in wind generation to provide great value to our customers, who will save money on energy costs,” said CEO Michael Moehn.

Ameren’s plans recognize clean power can save customers money without risking grid reliability. The utility’s carbon cutting initiative also includes using energy efficiency to reduce demand by 570,000 megawatt-hours within three years and expanding customer-connected microgrids.

Xcel Continues Closing Colorado Coal on “Fundamental Economics” of Renewables

In late August Xcel Energy, which relies on coal for 46% of its Colorado power supply, announced it would close two units of the Comanche Generation Station totaling 660 MW of capacity by 2025. Xcel will replace that generation with up to $2.5 billion investment in 1 GW of wind and 700 MW of solar, along with other resources. This trend is not new for Xcel – the utility has closed multiple Colorado coal plants totaling 1.1 GW since 2011 – but what is new is that these closures happened for economic reasons, not environmental.

“It is really about the economics,” said Xcel President David Eves. “From the company’s perspective, this plan is a response to our customers.” In 2016 financial modeling showed that building new wind was cheaper than operating existing coal power in Colorado and 6,000 gigawatt-hours of coal generation could be replaced with 2 GW of wind at less cost to consumers without threatening reliability. In addition, financial tools proposed in 2017 would allow utilities to retire uneconomic coal power in Colorado and generate millions in dedicated transitional funding for communities affected by the closures.

One Of America’s Biggest Polluters Could Close Two Decades Early

In September, a consortium of utilities edged closer to closing Montana’s 2.2 GW Colstrip Power Plant – one of America’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters – by 2027, nearly two decades earlier than the plant’s owners estimated just five years ago. Unlike most other coal plant closures announced in 2017, Colstrip’s looming closure results from customer demand in primary plant owner Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) Oregon and Washington State service territory.

Natural gas and renewable energy are expected to make up for the closed generation capacity, and PSE would dedicate $10 million to help the affected community transition through Colstrip’s closure, both with just a .9% rate increase to cover costs. State regulators subsequently approved PSE’s plan to end its financial involvement in Colstrip in December.

FPL coal plant implosion image via Flickr user Captain Kimo

 

Consumer Benefits Accelerate Apace of Coal Closures

In every corner of America – even conservative states without pro-renewable policies – utilities are choosing clean energy because closing coal saves customers money, improves their bottom line, and boosts grid flexibility. Presidential rhetoric can’t trump market economics – coal-fired plant closures will continue in 2018.

By Silvio Marcacci, Communications Director at Energy Innovation, where he leads all public relations and communications efforts.

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Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 21, 2017

Great recap of the most import coal closure announcements.

I particularly like the 4.1GW Texas annoucement. Good first step in eliminating coal from TX power mix by 2030.

greggerritt greggerritt's picture
greggerritt greggerritt on December 21, 2017

Now lets start closing gas facilities too.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on December 22, 2017

I’m not sure Americans understands the proportions here. The US is at more than 4x the average energy use of the rest of the world, in per capita terms.

Assuming the high US energy consumption is to be sustained, assuming AGW is a thing and need to be fixed by lower emissions, and assuming the US doesn’t have some exceptional right to emit more CO2 per capita than the rest of the world, there is simply no room for significant shares of fossil energy in the US energy mix.

Thus, moving from coal to natgas + RE is simply not ok. An energy mix, for instance, with no oil, no coal, no nuclear, 75% renewables and 25% natgas is out of the question. Scaled to the world using similar energy consumption patterns and 10 billion population, such a 75% RE scenario would not decrease global CO2 emissions.

We are currently abandoning nuclear power and are locking in enormous amounts of natgas in a push for renewable energy. At best, if people are aware of the proportions I laid out, this is gambling the climate on a storage revolution.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 22, 2017

YTD in the US coal is one 1.5% AND Natural Gas is down 11%. No reason we can’t continue to see both dropping. By the way, total electricity consumption is also down 2.5%

Let’s get rid of the coal first and then see what happens. Out West in states where coal has almost disappeared like NV and CA – Nat Gas use has peaked and is now declining. In CA the state PUC is asking utilities to look into replacing NG plants that are being kept alive for backup with storage.

Nuclear is hanging on in the US and I think will keep a decent share of electricity going forward. Of course at some point some new nuclear will need to be built to replace existing plants.

CO2 from electricity will be down at least another 50M Metric tons this year to below 1,770M tons, This is below 1990 levels and CO2 from electricity in the US is headed for 1980 levels over the next few years.

CO2 from electricity in the US is now below CO2 from transportation and it will continue to decline dramatically in the near future. The focus in the US needs to shift to transportation.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 22, 2017

Replacing coal in NM.

PNM’s best option for low-cost and reliable power was to start retiring coal in 2022, completely end coal generation by 2031, and replace it with solar energy, natural gas, and energy storage, along with expanded transmission to cheap wind power in eastern New Mexico.

In a related announcement on Wednesday– PNM has taken another big step in shutting down coal in New Mexico by closing two units at San Juan. The remaining two units are scheduled to close in 2022.

In 2005, coal made up 86% of NM electricity generation. Coal will be gone by 2031 -with a likely fuel mix at that time being 50% NG and 50% renewables.

Generation from wind is up 20% YTD in NM and generation from solar is up 72%YTD.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on December 22, 2017

“Then see what happens” means gambling. It means playing Russian roulette with the climate. I disagree that you should shift focus to transportation. The electrification of transport is happening anyway. However US electricity won’t decarbonize itself. That’ll needs serious work and planning.

I don’t see any point in having 20% nuclear. If RE handles the 80% with storage, it could just as well go 100%. However, if RE needs 30% gas “backup”, let’s say, then 20% nuclear will take shares proportionally so we’ll have a 20-56-24 nuke-RE-gas mix instead of 70-30 RE-gas. That’s simply not that meaningful. So either nuclear is the bulk of production, like in a 65-10-20-5 scenario with nuke-hydro-solar-biomass/waste, or it could just as well be zero.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on December 22, 2017

“So either nuclear is the bulk of production, like in a 65-10-20-5 scenario with nuke-hydro-solar-biomass/waste, or it could just as well be zero. [instead of 70-30 RE-gas]”

Well sure, if that’s the end-point.

But with today’s transitional grid (fossil fuel majority), and our generation clearly failing catastrophically at decarbonizing the grid (i.e. France decarbonized its grid in little more than a decade, but our renewable+gas strategy has little to show after 30 years), it is important to preserve all option for the next generation. A nuclear revival will be much easier and faster with an existing workforce and supplier base.

Even in a renewable-rich nearly decarbonized grid, a 20% nuclear component is valuable. Combined with district heat networks, nuclear heat (from heat-only plants or combined heat & power) is more likely to replace fossil gas space heating in northern cities than is hydrogen or heat pumps with clean electricity.

Also, nukes can brink energy jobs to regions (like the US south east) whose poor renewable resources would otherwise make them net-energy importers (without the fossil fuel crutch, cloudy days will impose a much larger cost penalty on non-desert solar than we see today). This is very important, since regions which don’t agree to zero fossil fuel use can break the CO2 budget for everyone.

Regarding future storage options, I think thermal energy storage at high temp Gen IV nuclear plants could eventually be the dominant storage system in solar-rich systems. Wind-dominated systems will prefer hydrogen/ammonia storage (few cycles per year), but with solar daily cycling is the norm, so batteries, pumped hydro, and thermal storage are preferred. Batteries are much more economical at the 4 hour point than for 14 hour applications; thermal storage gets cheaper at longer runs, plus is much cleaner for waste production.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 22, 2017

Glad to hear that you think transportation will happen anyway. We are in very early days of EVs but it certainly appears that learning curve for batteries will drive costs for EVs substantially below ICEs.

If battery production keeps improving as it has in the past few years then we will also see very cheap storage by 2030. Probably not enough for seasonal storage but definitely enough for states like CA and TX to cut NG and move their daily renewables well north of 50%.

The annual drop in US CO2 from electricity has been averaging over 60 Metric tons over the last decade. There are many indicators that this will continue into the foreseeable future. So, current emission would be below 1,000M Metric tons by 2030. This would be below 1970 levels.

“Then see what happens” means gambling. It means playing Russian roulette with the climate.

A lot of things will change in the next decade. Technology will continue to improve. Prices may go up or down, I’m a big believer in continuous improvement vs. trying to plan 30 years ahead to the ultimate goal. Keep improving, keep evaluating, keep researching vs. trying to decide now how things should be in 30 years.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 22, 2017

Jesper, can’t agree more. “Let’s see what happens” has been the mantra of the fossil fuel industry for more than fiity years, as nothing happens but for atmospheric carbon continuing to climb.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 22, 2017

Of course at some point some new nuclear will need to be built to replace existing plants.

Interesting, Joe. What is the basis of your opinion existing nuclear plants need to be “replaced”?

With no evidence existing nuclear can’t continue to operate indefinitely, safely and economically, the only calls I’ve heard to “replace” it are from fossil fuel interests eager to sell methane instead. To disastrous environmental effect.

Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on December 22, 2017

Glad to hear that you think transportation will happen anyway.

My thinking is that BEVs are commodities that the entire world is into, and since the US has been lagging behind both Europe and China in deployment, cost curves aren’t contingent on US involvement.

Energy however, if I’m right that nuclear is needed, then the US has to decide to make them cheap. Dithering does nothing, even if it’s not entirely unthinkable that Asia will eventually commoditize nukes too and let the US import them. But we’re farther from that.

So, current emission would be below 1,000M Metric tons by 2030.

Electricity is at 4300 TWh. To go below 1 Gton, the carbon intensity must be below 230 g/kWh. And that’s assuming electricity demand stays flat in the face of a 10% population increase and continued electrification. That’d mean at most 46% natgas and the rest non-fossil generation, which would mean a natgas increase from 1400 TWh to 2000 TWh. It’s possible, I guess, but still very inadequate from an AGW perspective.

I’m a big believer in continuous improvement vs. trying to plan 30 years ahead to the ultimate goal. Keep improving, keep evaluating,

Sounds reasonable, so around two nuclear construction starts per year would be prudent to begin with, along with regulatory efforts to encourage and remove obstacles to industrial learning.

It’s pretty strange, btw, to have an existential threat hanging over you and a proven solution to it, and then disregard that in favor of continuous improvements in some other technologies that may or may not eventually be good enough. There is no urgency, which makes me think you don’t really understand.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 23, 2017

Bob, Good to hear that the plants in current US nuclear base are immortal.

Oyster Creek – the oldest of the currently running US plants will hit 50 in Sep 2019… or as you would say 100 in 2069.

https://www.iaea.org/pris/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=US

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 23, 2017

Bob you said:

Jesper, can’t agree more. “Let’s see what happens” has been the mantra of the fossil fuel industry for more than fiity years, as nothing happens but for atmospheric carbon continuing to climb.

Of course I actually said – “Let’s get rid of the coal first and then see what happens.”

As of latest EIA monthly report we still have 262GW of coal capacity. So getting rid of that coal will be a big “happening”.

Coal at 1,251MMT was two thirds of US CO2 emissions from Electric power in 2016. With coal gone, US emissions will be less than 850MMT – down from the peak of 2,425MMT in 2007.

The shutdown of coal in US going to happen. The “then see what happens” applies to which technology will eliminate the remaining 850MMT.

Meanwhile, US transportation emissions are at 1,900 MMT.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 25, 2017

Joe, we don’t have time to “get rid of coal first then see what happens – it won’t happen fast enough (five catastrophic hurricanes in 2017 should be sufficient evidence). And getting rid of coal first by replacing it with natural gas only replaces one problem with another.

That’s what is happening, and will continue to happen as long as renewables activists insist on eliminating existing nuclear. We’ve been hearing what “will” happen from them and their fossil fuel sponsors for half a century; they’ve been consistently and definitively wrong.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 25, 2017

Joe, every US nuclear plant forced into decommissioning has been a casualty of the overwrought fears of antinuclear activists, and the determination of their fossil fuel sponsors.

Otherwise, they’re capable of being maintained and upgraded indefinitely (or as you would say, immortally) – a far less expensive option.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on December 25, 2017

No Joe, coal in New Mexico won’t “be gone by 2031”. A lawsuit challenging a 25-year extension for Units 4 & 5 of Four Corners has been dismissed, authorizing 1,540 MW of operation through 2040. The Plains Escalante plant (233 MW) is going nowhere.

Solar, in 2016, generated a whopping 2.8% of New Mexico’s electricity during the daytime. Though it wasn’t a substantial contribution to the state’s electricity, it likely helped to pull coal from the ground at the Four Corners mine.

At nighttime solar, of course, generates nothing. Efficiency and energy storage always generate nothing, and wind sometimes generates nothing – making New Mexico entirely dependent on burning fossil fuel for the foreseeable future.

Engineer- Poet's picture
Engineer- Poet on December 26, 2017

Power-to-gas isn’t “storage”.  It’s “greenwashed wastage”.

Consider an advanced electrolyzer operating at 73% efficiency.  Producing 1 kg of H2 requires 46 kWh.  Reacting CO2 with H2 to make 1 kg of methane (50 MJ LHV) plus water requires 4 H2 molecules per CO2:

CO2 + 4 H2 -> CH4 + 2 H2O

This reaction requires .5 kg H2 (23 kWH) to make 1 kg of methane (50 MJ/13.9 kWh LHV).  Burn this methane in a CCGT at 60% efficiency and your net output is 8.33 kWh(e).  This is 36.2% round-trip efficiency, not including whatever energy you had to expend to capture the CO2.

When you’re losing 64% of your input energy before you get it out again, you’re doing more wasting than storing.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on December 26, 2017

Bob,

I agree, there is a reasonable chance that Escalante wlll still be open after 2031 and NM might still have 247MW of coal capacity remaining.

Here is the math for NM coal capacity:

  • 2013 – Has 4,031 MW of coal at Year End
    2014 – Units 1-3 at Four Corners close – YE at 3,471 MW
    2017 – 2 units(837MW) at San Juan close – YE at 2,634 MW
    2022 – last two units(847MW) at San Juan close – YE at 1,787MW
    2031 – last two units at Four Corners(1540MW) close – YE at 247MW
  • As for your idea that remaining two units at Four Corners will remain open. One of the remaining owners of Four Corners after the first three units closed – El Paso Electric – recently sold it’s 7% share
    .
    However, they didn’t get much money out of that sale. Why?

    El Paso Electric didn’t get most of that money because it had to pay Arizona Public Service $27.8 million in future costs tied to closing the plant — now predicted for 2031. That includes $20 million to help clean up the nearby coal mine supplying the plant after the plant closes, he said.

    Another current owner of Four Corners is PNM from New Mexico. In their most recent IRP they state:

    The analysis found that exiting PNM’s 13% share in the Four Corners Power Plant (FCPP) after the coal supply agreement expires in 2031 would also save money for PNM’s customers. This action would eliminate all coal-fired generation from PNM’s resource portfolio. 


    Wind and solar will destroy the economics of any remaining coal in NM.

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on December 26, 2017

    Joe, what wind and solar will never do is match coal’s dispatchability – the ability to generate electricity when people need it.

    Do you feel humans will one day be willing to cede a reliable supply of electricity to placate renewables activists; that even if solar was free, it would be worth turning off their bigscreen TVs at night; that environmentalists will give up protecting the environment and settle for a mix of renewables and fossil fuel? <emNever.

    When it comes to providing clean, grid-scale electricity for everyone “renewables” (ironically) are destroying themselves – and it can’t happen fast enough.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on December 26, 2017

    Here are the CO2 totals from Electricity sector.

    2017 totals will have about 1,220MMT from coal and 530MMT from NG. That coal number is down from 1,987MMT in 2007 and headed towards zero.

    So primary question is – how much does the NG number need to increase to replace coal? I happen to think it won’t take much. Definitely in Western US – NG will stay flat while coal drops to zero. Eastern US – especially NorthEast is probably a different story.

    Sounds reasonable, so around two nuclear construction starts per year would be prudent to begin with, along with regulatory efforts to encourage and remove obstacles to industrial learning.

    It’s pretty strange, by the way, to have an existential threat hanging over you and a proven solution to it, and then disregard that in favor of continuous improvements in some other technologies that may or may not eventually be good enough.

    As I am sure you are aware the US is composed of multiple markets and multiple utilities. These are generally not public. So how do you suggest getting two nuclear starts per year? Where will these starts occur? As of Jan 2018 this is pure fantasy.

    My method – push for the elimination of coal and try to replace it with as much renewables as possible. Take advantage of battery learning curve to replace NG peakers with storage. Cut CO2 emissions every year. Get emissions down by at least another 50% by 2030. Keep investing in nuclear research and provide tax credits to any modular nuclear projects.

    Your method – hope that nuclear projects magically start occurring at the rate of two per year. Next new nuclear after Vogtle might start producing by 2028-2030. In the meantime, coal keeps putting out it’s 1,200MMT per year.

    Who has the sense of urgency? Who doesn’t really understand?

    Engineer- Poet's picture
    Engineer- Poet on December 27, 2017

    I’m sure you’ve occasionally given thought to the round trip efficiency of the once through “cycle” of sunlight to fossil fuels to power.

    No real point in doing that.  The efficiency of sunlight to biofuels is of interest because we can change it; we can change nothing about the formation of fossil fuels.

    It’s only very recently that we’ve got used to the idea that we can actually do better.

    Nonsense.  When you put a bushel of corn into a silo, you expect to get a bushel of corn out.  You get fairly good efficiency in conversions such as grain to beer.  Losing 2/3 of your input isn’t acceptable unless the product is some specialty, like barley to scotch whiskey.

    Electric power is a commodity.  You can’t afford specialty pricing for it.

    I suspect power to gas will very likely be adopted regardless of its inefficiency.

    Amortization costs don’t go away just because the power input does.  Low duty cycle makes the product more expensive even if the inputs are free.  At some price point the customers can’t afford the product, and hiding costs with subsidies doesn’t improve the overall economics.  You can have cheap retail prices and still have economic malaise from the distortion of supply and demand.

    If there are other forms of “dispatchable demand” which make a better business case

    I am certain there are.  Plasma gasification is energy-positive, for example.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on December 28, 2017

    Bob
    You said:

    Joe, what wind and solar will never do is match coal’s dispatchability – the ability to generate electricity when people need it.

    When it comes to providing clean, grid-scale electricity for everyone “renewables” (ironically) are destroying themselves – and it can’t happen fast enough.

    NM is gonna to go from 85% coal share in 2005 to almost zero by 2030. The rest of the Western US(with possible exception of WY) will also be near zero coal by early 30’s. No need to turn off the 80 inch TV sets.

    We don’t need coal and it’s generation share will be replaced by renewables. The numbers are right in from of you.

    By the way Bob, CAISO is now showing daily battery storage usage for the grid on its supply page. Still a tiny amount but it illustrates nicely the beginning of the end for CA duck curve.

    CA is also looking into replacing NG peakers and some NG “backup” plants with storage. Here is PUC report.

    Recent CO2 news for CA electricity production.
    – Coal imports from San Juan stop Dec 2017
    – NG based electricity production down 10% in 2017 after a 20% drop in 2016.
    – Storage begins to get integrated into CAISO grid

    Not bad.

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on December 28, 2017

    You’re right, Joe. Not “bad” – pathetic.

    CAISO’s daily battery storage borrows the time-honored renewables scam of measuring generation or energy storage in “watts”. Both you and I know using a rate to measure storage is a pointless exercise (one akin to measuring the capacity of a gas tank in “MPG”). Can CAISO’s storage deliver 19MW for one hour, or one minute? That’s what matters, and what’s being deliberately obscured from public view.

    Meanwhile, Calpine’s NG peakers are not being replaced by storage of clean renewable electricity, but storage of a grid mix which is primarily natural gas generation. In so doing, they’re making it 10-15% dirtier by resistance losses – but clean electricity was never the point. The point of storage is to save PG&E the hassle and expense of building enough CCGT to provide customers with sufficient generation as it’s needed.

    All on behalf of Jerry Brown’s Fossil Fuel Mafia and their transparent effort to end nuclear in California forever.

    Jesper Antonsson's picture
    Jesper Antonsson on December 29, 2017

    So primary question is – how much does the NG number need to increase to replace coal? I happen to think it won’t take much.

    The long-term NG trend says otherwise. And you’re assuming that NG can stay at 33% of generation while coal is swiftly zeroed and nukes slowly die off. That shows some great faith in your ability to handle RE intermittency.

    So how do you suggest getting two nuclear starts per year?

    The same way the AP1000-constructions got started, but a little more of it if necessary: Federal loan guarantees, tax incentives.

    As of Jan 2018 this is pure fantasy.

    Well, I’m just saying what should be done. If everybody just give up with “it’s not being done, so it’s fantasy”, nothing new would ever happen.

    My method – push for the elimination of coal and try to replace it with as much renewables as possible.

    Yeah, that method locks in natgas at unsustainable levels.

    Get emissions down by at least another 50% by 2030.

    And then you’ll be close to current EU/China per-capita levels, right? Which is so bad it’s almost unbelievable.

    Keep investing in nuclear research and provide tax credits to any modular nuclear projects.

    The public funding for nuke research in the US is laughable. Sure, tax credits to modular nuclear projects is a good idea, but why not fast-track them from a regulatory perspective? The nuscale time-line and regulatory effort is already unconscionable.

    Your method – hope that nuclear projects magically start occurring at the rate of two per year.

    That’s not my method. I’m saying the federal government should make sure that happens.

    Next new nuclear after Vogtle might start producing by 2028-2030. In the meantime, coal keeps putting out it’s 1,200MMT per year.

    No need to stop solar yet, it should go to 10% or so to handle current peak hours, and natgas could keep increasing to reduce coal. You should probably not do more wind, though. Summer should be restarted and new nuclear fast-tracked, so next new should rather be 2025, two every year for 5 years, then more every year.

    Engineer- Poet's picture
    Engineer- Poet on December 29, 2017

    No need to stop solar yet, it should go to 10% or so to handle current peak hours

    Actually, solar PV is part of the problem.  The peak load is in the evening, when PV has largely shut down.  This leads to the “duck-belly curve” of net demand which is so hard for even NG-fired turbines to ramp fast enough to follow.

    Ultimately, curing this is going to require PV (and wind) to either provide their own backup directly, or pay for it either in cash or in kind.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on December 29, 2017

    Bob ,
    The x-axis of the chart is time of day. Pretty straightforward. The batteries are either charging – negative on graph – or discharging – positive on graph.

    By end of next year – this chart will show batteries shaving 1GW or more off of duck curve during early evening hours.

    Meanwhile, Calpine’s NG peakers are not being replaced by storage of clean renewable electricity, but storage of a grid mix which is primarily natural gas generation. In so doing, they’re making it 10-15% dirtier by resistance losses – but clean electricity was never the point. The point of storage is to save PG&E the hassle and expense of building enough CCGT to provide customers with sufficient generation as it’s needed.

    Wrong.Electricity produced by zero carbon sources exceeds NG on the CAISO grid.

    Also one of those Calpine plants – Metcalf – is a CCGT.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on December 29, 2017

    Jesper – you said.

    The same way the AP1000-constructions got started, but a little more of it if necessary: Federal loan guarantees, tax incentives.

    This might get a few more projects started – maybe 3-4 over the next decade. Although it is still hard to say who might actually be the lead developer/investor in the projects. Maybe Southern Company would do another?? Who else?

    Would any nuclear get built in NorthEast, in Texas, in CA? No.

    Jesper Antonsson's picture
    Jesper Antonsson on December 29, 2017

    Oh, yes. Just increase the incentives until you get the desired result.

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on December 29, 2017

    Wrong.Electricity produced by zero carbon sources exceeds NG on the CAISO grid.

    Nice try. Zero carbon sources, in 2016, did exceed “natural gas” (methane) – alone. The majority of California’s generation came from carbon-emitting sources, others even dirtier than methane. And the entire mix is, and always will be, made dirtier by batteries.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on January 1, 2018

    If you really think that could happen in current day US – why wouldn’t you just:

    Put a large carbon tax out there and let the market figure it out.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on January 1, 2018

    Bob, I assume you are using this source for 2016 CA electricity data.

    Here are the calculations:

    Zero Carbon = Renew + Large Hydro + Nuclear
    25.45% + 10.21% + 9.18% = 44.84%

    Fossil Fuel = NG + Coal
    36.48% + 4.13% = 40.61%

    That leaves us with 14.39% of specified sources.
    9.25% of this came from Northwest.
    5.14% came from the Southwest.

    As the report states:

    Generally, the unspecified energy category would be comprised of short-term market purchases from those power plants that do not have a contract with a California utility. Much of the Pacific Northwest spot market purchases are served by surplus hydro and newer gas-fired power plants.

    The Southwest spot market purchases would be comprised of new combined cycle energy and some coal-based energy.

    Hydro was over 4x NG in the NW for 2016 so I think I am being conservative in saying that at least 2/3 of the NW unspecified came from Hydro. So let’s say 6.17% from Hydro and 3.08% from NG. Add the 6.17% onto the 44.84% we had earlier and:

    That puts zero carbon at 51% Bob. So Zero carbon beats out fossil fuel for CA electricity mix in 2016.

    What about 2017? The numbers are in for the CAISO grid and NG dropped another 13% in 2017 vs 2016.

    So in 2017, the Zero Carbon total for CA will be over 55%. The Renew + Large Hydro + Nuclear alone should be at 50% without counting zero carbon share of unspecified import.

    The Total System Energy report for 2017 comes out next June/July. Let’s see how I match up.

    Jesper Antonsson's picture
    Jesper Antonsson on January 2, 2018

    I haven’t said anything about any likelihoods, I’m just saying what should be done.

    A large carbon tax may very well do the trick, but since we have warm supply chains for solar wind and devastated supply chains for nuclear, along with adversarial nuclear regulation, I’m not sure you won’t get stuck in a local optimum.

    Rex Berglund's picture
    Rex Berglund on January 2, 2018

    Thanks Joe, good news is always welcome.

    BTW, looks like TX is going to have more power from wind than coal by year’s end: ERCOT’s wind capacity is projected to reach 24.4 GW by the end of 2018. Given current capacity factors and coal retirements, that means wind will surpass coal as a fuel source for electricity by 2019. Coal generation accounted for 32.2% of the ISO’s production last year, compared to wind’s 17.5%.

    Bob Meinetz's picture
    Bob Meinetz on January 2, 2018

    Joe, you’re right. I don’t get to say that often, but you’ve squeaked by, as renewables advocacy does from time to time, by cherry-picking the second rainiest season in modern California history to rely on hydroelectric power.

    Given the “wet season” of 2017-2018 has every indication of disappointing like 2013-2014, when closure of San Onofre combined with scant hydro forced Californians to burn 35% more natural gas; given long-term predictions of eveyone but renewables investors and their financiers have natural gas increasing through 2050, you’d do better betting your life savings on a craps table in Vegas than bet on renewables to make fossil fuel to go away. Ever.

    Since Galileo, replacing optimism and prayer with fact-based analysis has served the world well. Similarly, I and others feel replacing statistical legerdemain and rain dances with predictable clean energy will best serve global power and environmental needs. Let’s see how we match up.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on January 2, 2018

    Thanks Bob. Happy New Year.

    2016 – was just an ok year for Hydro – so actually I squeaked by on an average Hydro year. However, like you said 2017 was a big Hydro year and because of that NG dropped further. NG should recover somewhat in 2018 – especially because in the next year or two solar growth will be slow.

    I’m guessing that CA CO2 from Electric Power in CA dropped from the 84 MMT reported in 2015 dropped to around 60MMT in 2017. Not bad.

    Also as an FYI – here is a new report from one your favorite companies – SCE. They show a scenario where CA CO2 drops from that 84MMT in 2015 to 28MMT in 2030. Check out Figure 4.

    Low CO2 from the electric power industry in CA is on a very good pathway. Time to shift focus to transportation and other source.

    Joe Deely's picture
    Joe Deely on January 2, 2018

    Rex,

    Yep coal is on a death spiral in TX. Joshua Rhodes – UT scientist quoted in your link is a smart guy.

    I have 2020 or 2021 as the year that wind generation passes coal.

    By the way wind generation passed Coal in OK last year –
    https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/#/topic/0?agg=2,0,1&fuel=vt...

    With wind increasing in OK and coal decreasing this gap will only increase in coming years. Good template for what will soon happen in Texas.

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