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US Energy Policy

US Energy Policy

Energy Policy

The incandescent lightbulb is now outlawed.[1]  This fact is a perfect metaphor for “energy policy.”  Should it be illegal in the United States to manufacture, sell, buy, and use a traditional incandescent light bulb?  Your informed answer to that question will provide deep insight into your views on hundreds of other energy policy questions.   (BTW, my answer is no, but I bet you guessed that.)

Energy is the lifeblood of our economy; it touches your life in a hundred ways each day.  Yet energy policy--the set of government rules and regulations that prescribe how energy is produced, delivered, and consumed--is a complex and even a chaotic subject.

Energy was an uninteresting subject for the average person prior to the OPEC Oil Embargo in 1973.  Oil prices had been stable at about $20 a barrel in real terms for nearly a century and electricity prices had declined from about 22 cents per kilowatt to about 13 cents from 1960 to 1973, even as consumption of electricity quadrupled from 1950 to 1973, as more and more homes and appliances used electricity and utilities became better at building large coal and nuclear plants.

But the OPEC Embargo changed everything about energy and energy policy.  Four points will illustrate this importance. 

  • President Jimmy Carter’s presidency (1976 to 1980) was dominated by energy issues which he characterized as the “moral equivalent of war.” 
  • A little more than two decades later a California governor was recalled because he botched an electricity crisis in California and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor. 
  • There is a widespread perception that the US has gone to war in the Middle East over oil issues.
  • The Pope of all people has recently declared war on climate change, most of which is laid at the feet of fossil energy.

Part of the complication in energy policy is that it must be addressed on many fronts; international, national, State, and local governments all have a role in stirring the pot. 

Many books and articles are written on very specific aspects of energy policy but most are written for other experts.  Surprisingly, few are written that cover the broad landscape of energy policy.  Even fewer of these writings take a strong market-oriented perspective; the vast majority take an interventionist approach largely for environmental and oil import reasons.  And none that I have found are addressed to the pro-market political activist who has a real job during the day and then tries to save the country in his or her spare time.  This discussion is for that heroic citizen, The Forgotten Man.

So what’s the bottom line on energy policy? 

  • First, we make energy policy much more difficult than it has to be.  Energy is a commodity just like wheat or cars or hamburgers.  Mostly, we rely on competitive markets in each of these other commodity industries to make sure that we have an adequate supply to meet the consumers’ needs at reasonable prices.  But we treat energy differently.  I venture to guess that there are only a few industries more affected by government intervention than energy.  Why is that?  Does that mean we benefit from that intervention?  Is there a better way?  The article explores these questions.
  • Second, right now energy policy is being driven by climate change.  Even if one is sympathetic to some of the claims made about climate change, many stupid actions are being taken in its name that has profoundly negative effects on energy markets. 
  • Third, oil issues get the most attention but we do not face any real danger in oil markets.  Oil trades in global markets and while there may be price fluctuations (as I write, oil is about $35 a barrel, having been over $100 in the recent past), we will never face a situation where we run out of oil.  Most countries with plentiful oil have built their economies on oil revenue and the recent drop in oil prices has created serious political problems for these countries.  They simply can’t afford not to produce oil.  But problems in oil markets can result in unnecessarily higher prices and thus we need to pay some attention to them in order to promote prosperity. 
  • Fourth and most important, electricity faces real problems that could result in catastrophic failure of the system, thus threatening not only prosperity but human life.  The major framework for electric policy was set in 1935.  That framework worked fine up to the OPEC Embargo.  Electricity can compete against oil and natural gas in many applications.  Thus adjustments were necessary to the historical framework after the Embargo.  But policymakers have only nibbled at the edges of electricity policy and have not fundamentally changed the 1935 framework.  Yet little more than additional tinkering is being done to promote an electricity industry for the 21st Century.  Many special interests are pushing and pulling on the antiquated framework for personal gain but few are fundamentally committed to a complete rethinking of the role of the electric system of the future, especially given the increasing digitalization of our economy.  And as noted above, unsound policies on climate change make electric issues even more difficult.

[1] This is a good place to make a point.  Some pointy headed academics will disagree with even this first sentence.  Technically, Congress did not “ban” incandescent bulbs in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  Rather, they set a standard that most, if not all, traditional incandescent bulbs could not achieve and established a schedule for light bulbs of different wattages to meet this standard.  So it is fair to say that Congress outlawed incandescent bulbs.  But since the accompanying Article is a synthesis of the broad topic of “energy policy” it would needlessly clutter and complicate the text to be “technically” accurate in every instance.  The size of the document would need to double and the reader would understand less of the essence of energy policy if I did not make some broad generalizations.  Nonetheless, I am sure I will receive some criticism that many of my statements are not “technically correct.”  I hope that making this point early in the article will allow for a better understanding of the content of the Article.


Gas Generation Phaseout

The US currently generates more than 500,000,000 Megawatt-hours, or approximately 25% of electric utility annual electricity production, in coal-fueled generating stations, which the Administration has said will all cease operation by 2030. The US currently generates more than 800,000,000 Megawatt-hours, or approximately 37% of electric utility annual electricity production, in natural gas fueled generating stations, which the Administration has said will all cease operation by 2035. US natural gas fueled electric generation has more than doubled over the past 10 years because of the lower cost of natural gas and the higher generating efficiency of natural gas combined cycle powerplants.

The US currently generates 338,000,000 Megawatt-hours, or approximately 8.4% of all utility-scale electric generation. This electricity is generated by approximately 60,000 wind turbines with a total nameplate capacity of 122,465 MW operating at an average capacity factor of approximately 32%.

Replacing the generating capacity of the US coal-fueled generating fleet would require installation of approximately 625,000 MW of wind turbine rating plate capacity, plus the electricity storage capacity to store the output of the wind turbines for the maximum number of days duration of a potential “wind drought”. Additional generation capacity would be required to recharge storage after such a “wind drought” while meeting the contemporaneous demand on the grid.

Replacing the generating capacity of the US natural gas generating fleet would require installation of approximately 1,000,000 MW of wind turbine rating plate capacity, plus the storage capacity required to make the wind generation reliable and dispatchable, and the additional generating capacity required to recharge storage after periods of low/no wind generation.

US wind turbine installations peaked in 2020 at 14.2 GW (14,200 MW). Installation of 625,000 MW of wind turbine rating plate capacity over the period 2022-2029 would require installation of an average of 78 GW of new wind turbine generating capacity per year, or 5.5 times the capacity added in 2020. Installation of an additional 1,000,000 MW of wind turbine generating capacity over the period from 2030-2034 would require installation of an additional 200 GW of new wind turbine generating capacity per year, or 14 times the capacity added in 2020.

The current installed cost of new wind turbine generating capacity is approximately $1.3 million per MW. Assuming anticipated cost reductions resulting from increased manufacturing volume would be offset by cost increases resulting from increased demand for the rare earth materials required for fabrication of the wind turbines, the total cost of replacing existing fossil fuel electric generation with wind generation would be approximately $2 trillion. This estimate does not include the cost of the land on which the wind turbines are installed, the cost of the storage batteries required to make the wind capacity reliable and dispatchable and the cost additional transmission infrastructure required to connect the wind farms to the existing electric grid.

The replacement of both the coal and natural gas generating capacity would be deferred toward the ends of the required decommissioning periods to assure grid reliability through the transition, as operating experience was gained with the replacement wind and storage infrastructure.


Tags: Electric Power Generation, Net Zero Emissions

US Coal Phaseout

The US currently generates more than 500,000,000 Megawatt-hours, or approximately 25% of annual electricity production, in coal-fueled generating stations. Coal generation has decreased by more than half over the past 10 years, largely replaced by lower cost natural gas in more efficient combined-cycle power plants or repowering coal plants to burn natural gas to reduce emissions.

The Biden Administration had expressed a goal of reducing US electric generation CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieving Net Zero electric generation CO2 emissions by 2035. This two-step goal dramatically changes the electric generation landscape. Essentially, all coal fueled powerplants would be required to cease operation by 2030, unless they were repowered to burn natural gas. However, since all natural gas fueled powerplants would be required to cease operation by 2035, it is not likely that many coal fueled powerplants would be repowered to extend their lives by an additional 5 years.

US electric utilities had scheduled closure of the remaining coal fueled powerplants by the end of 2048. However, Kerry’s statement appears to require that the 65 coal generators currently scheduled to be retired after 2029 would be retired early. These generators have a combined generating capacity of approximately 35,000 MW. Many of these generators are relatively new and would have been candidates for future life extension projects. These generators represent an initial investment of approximately $100 billion and would have an estimated residual value of approximately $50 billion, which would become an economic dead loss upon closure of the plants.

Termination of coal fueled generation would also strand approximately $30 trillion of coal resources in the US. The federal government might continue to permit the mining and sale of US coal to other countries, although such a decision would make no sense if the intent is to eliminate CO2 emissions from coal combustion, since the resulting CO2 would enter the same atmosphere regardless of where the coal was burned.

Current US coal generating capacity is approximately 200,000 MW. If that capacity is eliminated prior to 2030 as envisioned by Mr. Kerry, it must be replaced by equivalent dispatchable capacity consisting of renewable generators combined with massive electricity storage systems. It is highly unlikely that much, if any, of the replacement generation would be fossil fueled, since all fossil fueled generation is to be retired by 2035, unless equipped with carbon capture and storage capability.

Wind turbines are currently the leading source of renewable electricity generation in the US. Replacing current US coal generation of 500,000,000 Megawatt-hours with wind turbines would require the installation of approximately 76,000 2.5 MW wind turbines at an estimated investment of approximately $1.3 million per MW, or approximately $250 billion. However, if the coal generators were being operated in load following mode, at a grid capacity factor of approximately 40%, replacing their capacity would require installation of approximately 190,000 2.5 MW wind turbines and an investment of approximately $625 billion. The installed cost of equivalent solar photovoltaic generating capacity would be approximately the same. Neither of these system costs includes the cost of the land the systems would occupy or the storage required to make them dispatchable.

The installed cost of dispatchable wind or solar generating capacity is not possible to estimate because the battery storage technology required to store electricity for more than a few hours is not commercially available. However, a stable and reliable electric grid would require that renewable generating capacity be dispatchable and that sufficient excess generating capacity be available to recharge storage after use while meeting the demand on the grid.

Decommissioning one coal fueled electric generator each month over the next 8 years is a massive task, but it pales in comparison with the task of replacing those generators with dispatchable renewable capacity over the same period. Anticipated electric demand and consumption growth resulting from federal efforts to electrify transportation and other fossil fueled end uses would make the replacement process even more daunting.


Tags: Coal, Electric Power Generation

Renewable Design

This commentary provides a simplified overview of the process of replacing a single dispatchable powerplant with either wind or solar generation plus storage.

The powerplant to be replaced is a 1,000 MW plant, either coal or nuclear fueled. This powerplant would be capable of generating 24,000 MW Hours (MWH) of power per day as a baseload powerplant. Replacing its nameplate generating capacity with 2.5 MW onshore wind turbines would require installation of 400 turbines. However, even assuming very favorable siting, the wind turbines would be expected to generate at approximately 40% of their nameplate rating throughout the day, so replacing the generation capability of the 1,000 MW dispatchable powerplant would require 1,000 wind turbines. However, the instantaneous output of those wind turbines could vary between 2,500 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at 1,000 MW for baseload service. Storage capacity of 10,000 – 15,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

Typical electric utility load factors are approximately 40%. Therefore, if the powerplant being replaced were in load following service, 400 wind turbines operating at 40% of nameplate capacity would be sufficient to meet the typical daily load. However, the instantaneous output of those 400 wind turbines could vary between 1,000 MW and 0 MW throughout the day. Therefore, dispatchable storage would be required to stabilize the output of the storage supported wind farm at the output required to meet the current load. Storage capacity of approximately 4,000 – 6,000 MWH would be required to stabilize facility output and render it dispatchable, depending on characteristic wind conditions.

Replacing the conventional powerplant with solar generation would require a solar field with a nameplate rating of approximately 4,000 MW, assuming solar panel output of approximately 25% of nameplate rating throughout the day. The facility would require storage with a capacity of approximately 18,000 MWH to render the facility dispatchable in baseload service. In load following service, assuming 40% load factor, the nameplate rating of the solar field could be reduced to approximately 2,000 MW and the storage capacity reduced to approximately 8,000 MWH.

The above calculations are based on a single representative day with storage adequate to smooth output throughout the day. However, assuming significant variations in wind conditions from day to day would require installation of additional storage capacity. For example, accommodating one still day would require an additional 1,000 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service, or an additional 400 wind turbines and additional storage capacity of approximately 10,000 MWH. Similarly, accommodating one cloudy day would require an additional 4,000 MW of solar collector nameplate capacity and additional storage capacity of 24,000 MWH in baseload service or approximately 10,000 MWH in load following service. Each additional day of anticipated potential low/no wind or solar conditions would add an addition requirement of 24,000 MWH for baseload operation or 10,000 MWH for load following operation.

In addition, in the event stored energy was consumed to support the grid during a period of low/no wind or solar availability, the renewable facility would require additional capacity to recharge storage in anticipation of future low/no wind and solar availability conditions. The additional capacity required would be a function of the local frequency and duration of low/no wind and solar days and the required storage recharge period.


Tags: Wind Energy, Solar Energy, Energy Storage / Batteries

Highlighted Article: IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)

  • 12/2/21 at 07:00 AM


From: Master Resource

By: Robert Bradley Jr.

Date: November 11, 2021


IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)


Introduction by Lucian Pugliaresi, President, Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.

"In May of this year, Fatih Birol, speaking as head of the International Energy Agency, stated publicly that “The pathway to net zero is narrow but still achievable. If we want to reach net zero by 2050 we do not need any more investments in new oil, gas, and coal projects.” Mr. Birol’s comments notwithstanding, large parts of the world continue to rely upon a wide range of petroleum products to sustain and improve their living standards.

If such a strategy is pursued without a commensurate reduction in demand, it would inevitably lead to rapidly rising prices for fossil fuels, diminished living standards, and even potential shortages. It would also lead to serious concerns about the energy security of the member states of the IEA, which Mr. Birol heads. Oddly enough, the central mission of his organization is to promote the energy security of the developed world." ...


IEA’s Net Zero: Private to Socialist Investment (OPEC, Russia gift?)


Tags: Highlighted Article

Reckless or Ruthless

reckless (Merriam-Webster)
: marked by lack of proper caution: careless of consequences

ruthless (Merriam-Webster)

: having no pity : merciless, cruel a ruthless tyrant

The UK and portions of the EU are currently faced with rapidly rising energy prices and growing energy shortages. These issues are largely the result of government decisions to aggressively pursue “Net Zero” emissions by 2050. Numerous fossil and nuclear generators have been closed, reducing the availability of conventional generation while increasing reliance on intermittent sources of generation, predominantly solar and wind. The UK and Germany have recently experienced a “wind drought”, which drastically reduced the quantity of electric energy produced by both on-shore and off-shore wind farms. So far, surplus power from other nations, especially France, has been able to support the grid, but that situation might not persist as winter sets in.

The rising costs of energy have contributed to the closing of numerous factories in the UK, whose products have become uncompetitive in the market, with the resulting loss of jobs. This situation is expected to worsen as winter sets in. The result is increasing human inconvenience and misery. The situation was predictable, but the UK and EU governments apparently did not heed the warning signs.

The US has also begun to feel the effects of the “Net Zero” objective. Pipeline cancellations, threats of oil and gas lease freezes and terminations and pressure to transition to intermittent renewable generation have resulted in brownouts and blackouts in California and Texas, as well as increases in the prices of gasoline and natural gas nationwide. The US government has so far not heeded the warning signs either.

This situation highlights an inescapable truth regarding the intended transition from reliable, dispatchable fossil and nuclear energy to intermittent renewables.

Dispatchable electric generation cannot be replaced by non-dispatchable generation resources while retaining network reliability. Dispatchable generation must be replaced by dispatchable grid-scale storage capable of supporting the grid for the maximum period for which intermittent generation is unavailable in sufficient quantities.

Failure to acknowledge that inescapable truth has greatly contributed to the current situation and will cause the situation to become progressively worse as the fraction of intermittent generation in the generation mix increases.

It is reasonable to question whether these issues are the result of government recklessness in aggressively pursuing pieces of a plan, rather than formulating and publicizing a coherent plan, or whether they are the result of government ruthlessness in dealing with a citizenry which is unconvinced of the “climate crisis” and unwilling to voluntarily don “sackcloth and ashes” for its purported sins against nature.

Artificial shortages of energy and the resulting price increases will certainly inflict unnecessary hardship on the citizenry. These situations are not unique in the history of totalitarian regimes but are far more difficult to accept in supposed “representative republics”. While the intent might be to cow the populace into compliance with the intent of the “Net Zero’ objective, the result might well be a “throw the bums out” revolt against those seen to be responsible.


Tags: Net Zero Emissions

Highlighted Article: The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy

  • 11/11/21 at 07:00 AM


From: Energy Central

By: Schalk Cloete

Date: October 27, 2021


The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy



"Most green activists share a beautiful dream where cheap and abundant wind and solar energy mercilessly sweeps aside dirty fossil fuels. And the last decade brought plenty to cheer about.


Levelized costs of wind and solar are falling below fossil fuels in several world regions (IRENA).


"So, is the green dream finally coming true?

Unfortunately, not quite. After all these spectacular cost declines, variable renewable energy (VRE) generators still account for only about a quarter of primary energy growth (see the graph below), despite strong policy support. Why is that? Well, although more VRE deployment leads to technological learning, it also brings a host of challenges. These two conflicting forces will shape the VRE story going forward." ...


The 10 Great Challenges Facing Variable Renewable Energy


Tags: Highlighted Article

Highlighted Article: “The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”

  • 10/28/21 at 07:00 AM


From: Daily Reckoning

By: James Rickards

Date: October 12, 2021


“The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”

"What have the climate alarmists been screaming about for the past 40 years or so? Their agenda is well-known. They want to close nuclear plants; shut down coal electric generators; eliminate natural gas and oil-fired electrical plants; and substitute wind, solar and hydropower in their place.

According to the fanatics, this substitution of renewable energy sources for so-called “fossil fuels” and uranium-powered plants would reduce CO2 emissions and save the planet from the existential threat of global warming.

Everything about this climate alarmist agenda is a fraud.

The evidence that the planet is warming is slight and the effect is likely temporary with global cooling in the forecast. The contribution of CO2 emissions to any global warming is not clear and is at best unsettled science and at worst another fraud.

Most importantly, global energy demand is growing much faster than renewables can come online, meaning that oil, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear energy will be needed whether renewables grow or not." ...


“The Revenge of the Fossil Fuels”


Tags: Highlighted Article

How Much Storage?

The US electric grid was built around a combination of baseload, load following and peaking generating plants. The US nuclear generating fleet has been used primarily for baseload service because the plants were reliable, and their design was not well suited to load following. The US coal generation fleet was used for both baseload and load following service. Oil and, later, natural gas simple cycle turbines were used for peaking service because they could be brought online quickly and could respond rapidly to changing demand. Hydroelectric generation, where available, was operated primarily as baseload generation because of its low cost. The introduction of natural gas combined cycle powerplants initially replaced simple cycle turbines because of their higher efficiency and operating flexibility. Later, they began to replace coal generators because of their higher efficiency and cleaner operation.

Concerns regarding climate change, the availability of various federal and state incentives, and the availability of lower cost wind and solar generators of improved design led to the introduction of these generating technologies into the US electric generating mix. However, both wind and solar differ in fundamentally important ways from conventional nuclear and fossil generation. Neither can be relied upon to be available when required and neither can be dispatched. They offer essentially “source of opportunity power”, available to be used when the wind blows and the sun shines. As wind and solar have entered the market, their “source of opportunity power” has been backed up by coal, natural gas and hydroelectric generation.

As the installed wind and solar generating capacity increases, the requirement for conventional backup also increases since the unavailability of wind and sun results in the loss of greater total generating capacity. This arrangement has worked reasonably well early in the intended transition to renewable generation. However, the expressed intent of the government is to eliminate the coal and natural gas generation which formed the backbone of the US generation fleet. This would also eliminate the ability to use fossil generation resources to provide backup power when the wind and solar generation resources are inadequate because of low wind conditions, cloudiness and darkness.

In the absence of dispatchable backup generation resources, the source of backup must transition to energy storage. Because of topography and environmentalist resistance to pumped hydro storage, the primary storage technology will likely be storage batteries. The storage battery capacity must be large enough to store all of the electric energy which would be expected to be needed during the longest period of low/no wind and solar availability which might be expected to occur. That also means that the wind and solar generating capacity must be large enough to serve almost all of the customer load when they are in operation, plus produce the additional electricity required to charge the storage batteries for use in periods of low/no wind and solar availability, and to recharge them afterwards.

Recent experience in the UK demonstrates that “wind droughts” can persist for weeks. In the current situation, the UK is able to draw power from the EU grid, supplied by nuclear, coal and natural gas generation. However, as the share of wind and solar generation increases and these conventional generating resources are eliminated, massive grid-scale storage facilities will be required to store the required electric energy and the capacity of wind and solar generation will be required to increase to charge the storage batteries. Prudence would also require the installation of both reserve generation and storage capacity to compensate for equipment maintenance and repair requirements.

The resolution of these issues is neither “blowin’ in the wind” nor basking in the sun. They must be resolved to avoid populations “freezing in the dark”.


Tags: Electric Power Storage, Electric Power Reliability

Highlighted Article: A Coal Exit Treaty Can Radically Simplify and Accelerate Climate Policy

  • 9/30/21 at 07:00 AM


From: The Honest Broker Newsletter

By: Roger Pielke Jr.

Date: September 20, 2021


A Coal Exit Treaty Can Radically Simplify and Accelerate Climate Policy


"A focus on eliminating coal power offers a much more pragmatic approach to deep decarbonization

While there are encouraging signs that the global emissions of carbon dioxide have plateaued, achieving deep decarbonization of the global economy remains a massive challenge. In this post I’ll propose a complementary approach to climate policy that is far more pragmatic than the current architecture of global climate policy.

For decades, climate policy has focused on managing outcomes, which at various times have included the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and more recently, global average surface temperatures. Such outcomes are useful for setting goals – like the well-known 2 degree Celsius temperature target -- but are poor choices for management, because such outcomes can only be indirectly managed. Policy typically works better when focused on managing causes rather than consequences.

Climate policy, broadly conceived, includes an incredible array of issues touching upon just about every facet of policy making, but here I focus on a narrow but important element of climate policy, the emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. Here the math is incredibly simple: if the temperature targets of the Paris agreement are to be reached, then carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels necessarily ..."


A Coal Exit Treaty Can Radically Simplify and Accelerate Climate Policy


Tags: Highlighted Article

Pieces of a Plan

"A goal without a plan is just a wish." – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Biden Administration has yet to release a plan to reach its stated CO2 emission reduction goals for 2030, 2035 and 2050. However, the Administration has taken several apparently disjointed actions which provide some hint of what the plan will involve. These actions present the potential of a very inconvenient and dangerous energy future for the US.

Intermittent renewable generation provided approximately 10.7% of US electricity generated for all uses in 2020. The Administration’s stated goal is to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, or within 13.3 years. The US currently has 1,117,475 MW of generating capacity, of which 66%, or 737,534 MW is fossil fueled and would need to be replaced by clean generators, primarily wind and solar. Assuming that the current shares of solar (~20%) and wind (~80%) continue into the future, total new intermittent renewable generating capacity of approximately 2,000,000 MW would be required to replace the entire fossil fuel generating fleet.

Wind turbines would constitute approximately 80% of the new generating capacity, requiring installation of 1,475,000 MW of wind turbine generating capacity. This would require production and installation of approximately 500,000 onshore 2 MW wind turbines, approximately 100,000 offshore 14 MW wind turbines, or some combination thereof. Solar PV collectors would constitute approximately 20% of the new generating capacity, requiring installation of approximately 590,000 MW of solar generating capacity, or approximately 1,475,000,000 solar collectors of 400W capacity. Note that these calculations are based on current electricity demand and consumption and make no allowances for the additional demand and consumption which would result from conversion to electric vehicles and the replacement of residential and commercial natural gas, propane and oil fueled appliances and equipment, most of which would likely occur after 2035.

The Administration has proclaimed that this transition would result in creation of millions of high paying union jobs, which implies that the production of the wind turbines and solar collectors would occur in the US. This would require preparation of numerous environmental impact statements by potential generation developers, review and approval of those impact statements by federal and state regulators and the issuance of building permits by federal and state authorities. This is currently a long, difficult and expensive process which could extend to, and likely beyond, 2025. This would also require the design, construction and commissioning of manufacturing facilities for the wind turbines and solar collectors, which could also extend to, and likely beyond, 2025.

Assuming such a schedule, achieving the Administration goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035 would require production and installation of approximately 100 wind turbines and approximately 400,000 solar collector panels per day. Also, each MW of generating capacity would require installation of 2-4 MW of grid-scale storage capacity to support the grid during multi-day periods of little or no generation due to weather conditions.

The scale of this effort might require the return of “Rosie the Riveter”. However, at this time, it all remains a wish.


Tags: CO2 Emissions, Renewable Energy, Wind Energy, Solar Energy

Curiouser and Curiouser

Strange decisions are being made by numerous global governments which have committed under the Paris Accords to reduce CO2 emissions in an effort to limit the increase in the global average temperature anomaly to 1.5°C.

China is building numerous new coal-fired electric generating stations and plans to build numerous additional coal-fired generating stations. China is also funding construction of new coal-fired generating stations in numerous other countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa under its “Belt and Roads’ program. These new coal-fired generating stations would be expected to have useful lives of 40-60 years, suggesting either that they will continue to operate beyond the “Net Zero by 2050” timeframe or that their operation will be discontinued before the end of their useful lives, resulting in very large deadweight losses. Operation of these new coal-fired generating stations will obviously increase annual CO2 emissions, even if they are offset, in part, by emissions reductions achieved by other nations.

Russia is proceeding with construction of the Nordstream 2 natural gas pipeline, with the support and encouragement of the Western European nations which will be its customers, rather than replacing existing fossil energy consumption with renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar.

Several nations in western Europe are proceeding with plans to discontinue operation of their existing nuclear electric generating capacity, though many of those plants have not reached the end of their useful lives and the early closings will result in massive deadweight losses. This issue has the greatest potential impact in France and Germany, which have been heavily reliant on nuclear generation.

Numerous nations are encouraging a transition from gasoline and diesel vehicles to electric vehicles, though this transition would place additional pressure on electric generating systems already struggling to deal with the impacts of increasing intermittent wind and solar generation and the loss of baseload and load following generation capacity.

The actions announced by the US might perhaps be the most curious. The US Administration has committed to Net Zero electric generation by 2035. Numerous states are requiring the closure of nuclear generators, several of which have not reached the end of their useful lives. The Administration recognizes that the transition to solar and wind generation and to electric vehicles would require vast amounts of rare earth minerals but has announced that the mining of these minerals will not occur in the US, leaving the US dependent on other nations, primarily China, for these materials. The decision not to mine in the US also reduces the opportunities for the creation of “high paying union jobs” for miners displaced from high paying union jobs in the coal mining industry.

The US Administration also intends to incentivize installation of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations and announced that these charging stations would be installed preferentially in disadvantaged and rural areas, even though these areas are not where electric vehicles are being purchased and operated, or where their owners would likely choose to go to charge them.

The US Administration has apparently decided to adopt the approach of starving markets of fossil fuels to force adoption of electric end use appliances and equipment, assuming that renewable electric supply will grow rapidly enough to meet the increased demand and consumption.

What could possibly go wrong with that scenario?


Tags: Nuclear Power, Net Zero Emissions, Developing Nations Power

Electric Energy Storage

The operation of the electric grid requires continuous balance between supply and demand. Electric demand fluctuates throughout the day and these fluctuations are significantly different between weekdays and weekend days. Electric powerplant outputs are adjusted as required to match demand. The recent addition of limited grid scale electric storage facilities assists the grid operators in responding to demand fluctuations. However, these storage facilities are primarily intended to assist grid operators in responding to supply fluctuations resulting from the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, whose outputs can change very rapidly.

The principal tool of grid supply management is the natural gas combined cycle powerplant, since its output can be adjusted rapidly over a broad range. However, as the percentage of renewable generation feeding the grid increases and the percentage of fossil fueled generation decreases to reduce CO2 emissions, the availability of demand-responsive fossil fuel generation to match the expected rapid changes in renewable supply would decrease.

The intended replacement for demand-responsive generation is grid-scale storage. This storage would be configured to meet short term fluctuations in renewable generator output, intermediate term reductions resulting from multi-hour periods of overcast skies or still air conditions, overnight periods of zero solar generation and even multi-day periods when either solar or wind or both are unavailable or dramatically reduced.

The ability to use grid-scale storage to supplement renewable generation is dependent upon the availability of surplus renewable generation to charge and maintain the storage batteries as well as to compensate for the losses which occur during battery charging and discharging. The capacity of the storage system is a function of the percentage of renewable generation supplying the grid, the number of days during which there might be low or non-existent renewable generation and of the capacity factor of the renewable generation fleet.

The 30 GW offshore wind generation target established by the Biden Administration for 2030 can be used to illustrate this issue. The generators to be deployed to meet this target were assumed in the previous commentary to have a 60% capacity factor. This would be achieved over a range of possible operating scenarios from 100% capacity operation 60% of the time to 60% capacity operation 100% of the time. In the case of 100% capacity operation 60% of the time, approximately 40% of the power generated would have to be stored for use during the 40% of the time the generators were not producing power. In the case of operation at 60% capacity 100% of the time, storage requirements would be reduced, with the reduction determined primarily by the demand curves of the served customers.

Onshore wind generation has a lower capacity factor, which peaks at 40-45% in the best locations and would decrease as additional generators were installed in sub-optimal locations. Solar generators have an even lower capacity factor, which peaks at approximately 30% in optimal locations. As the capacity factor of the renewable generator fleet declines, the storage capacity required to supply grid demand during periods of low or no renewable generation increases, as does the renewable generator capacity required to meet current grid demand while providing sufficient additional generation to recharge the battery storage.


Tags: Electric Power Storage, Electric Power Generation

Tracking Climate Progress

The Biden Administration has established targets of reducing US GHG emissions by 50-52% by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions from the electricity sector by 2035. The Administration has not yet publicized a plan to achieve these targets.

Roger Pielke, Jr. recently proposed a simple, intuitive method for tracking climate policy progress which focuses on the required reduction in the number of fossil fueled electric generation plants in the US. The graph below illustrates a linear path to closing fossil fueled generating plants to achieve net zero emissions from the sector by 2035.


The Path to Net-Zero Carbon Dioxide from Electricity in the United States by 2035


While Pielke’s method is indeed simple and intuitive, it is clearly unrealistic to assume that such a linear reduction in US fossil fueled generating plants could begin immediately, or even in the near future, if electric grid reliability is to be maintained.

The Administration’s stated intent is that the solar and wind generation equipment used to repower the US electric grid would be fabricated from US materials in the US, creating union jobs. The US does not currently have the production capacity to manufacture solar collectors and wind turbines in the quantities necessary to achieve the Administration’s stated targets on the announced schedule. Therefore, additional production capacity would have to be designed, permitted, constructed and commissioned if the schedule is to be met. This would require significant time, even if the government acted to hasten regulatory approvals.
Operating this new production capacity would increase electric consumption and fossil fuel consumption in the short term, requiring continued operation of existing generating capacity at higher levels of output, until sufficient incremental solar and wind generation equipment had been fabricated, sited, installed, connected to the electric grid and placed in service to provide the incremental power requirements of this new production capacity.

The intermittent nature of solar and wind generation requires supplemental power to support and stabilize the electric grid when solar or wind generation is unavailable. This supplemental power is currently supplied by the existing fossil fueled, nuclear, hydro and geothermal generating capacity. However, net zero operation would require replacing the fossil fueled portion of this capacity with either additional nuclear, hydro or geothermal generating capacity or grid-scale battery storage.

Grid-scale battery storage technology is not yet as mature as either solar or wind technology and the costs of this storage capacity are not yet commercially viable. Early storage technology forcing could dramatically increase the cost of the transition to renewables. Therefore, grid-scale battery storage capacity would probably lag increased solar and wind capacity by several years, until storage economics improve.

Once sufficient non-fossil generating capacity and battery storage capacity have been permitted, sited, constructed and commissioned existing fossil generating capacity could be retired at the rate of approximately 1 gigawatt of rating plate fossil generating capacity per 4 gigawatts of rating plate solar generating capacity or 3 gigawatts of wind generating capacity. The availability of sufficient conventional generating capacity to support and stabilize the grid during periods of low renewable generation would reduce these rating plate capacity ratios. However, reliance on a greater fraction of battery storage would require increased renewable rating plate capacity to compensate for the inefficiency of the battery storage systems.

These considerations suggest that the number of conventional powerplants would remain relatively stable for the first several years, then decline more sharply than envisioned by Dr. Pielke in the graph above. The remaining coal fired generators would be expected to be shutdown first as their CO2 emissions per gigawatt are higher than for combined-cycle natural gas plants and they are less able to respond the fluctuating supply and demand on the grid.


Tags: CO2 Emissions, Electric Power Storage

Highlighted Article: The Green Energy Agenda vs. Long Run Strategic Planning

  • 6/24/21 at 03:00 AM


From: Master Resource

By: Robert Bradley Jr.

Date: June 8, 2021


The Green Energy Agenda vs. Long Run Strategic Planning


“All of this data leads us back to the question, can we spend trillions of dollars in support of a political-motivated soundbite that may or may not produce a net loss of carbon emissions and/or may not be feasible given the known quantities of minerals needed?”

“… the vast majority of the 195 countries cannot afford any of the Green movement. Do we print a few extra trillion dollars to bankroll them into Green compliance?”


"President Biden has set goals for the U.S. to “Achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035″, “Net-zero emissions by 2050,” and “Cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030”.  Additionally, the party in power is pushing to have a majority of US-manufactured cars be electric by 2030 and every car on the road to be electric by 2040.

In total that says to we-the-people: shut down the coal/oil/gas-fired electric producing plants and drive electric cars.

Are we to believe those statements/directives in any way represent the results of an all-inclusive long-range strategic plan (LRSP)? No; not only no, but hell no, not even close." ...


The Green Energy Agenda vs. Long Run Strategic Planning


Tags: Highlighted Article

Highlighted Article: The Sad Truth About Traditional Environmentalism

  • 6/17/21 at 03:00 AM


From: Quillette

By: Zion Lights

Date: May 31, 2021


The Sad Truth About Traditional Environmentalism


"What if you’d dedicated most of your life to trying to save the planet, but then you realised that you may have actually—potentially—made things worse?

Over the last few years this has become one of my main concerns. I’ve been active in various green groups for over a decade, from setting up the first green society at my university and getting them to switch to renewable energy 15 years ago, to being one of the leading spokespeople for Extinction Rebellion as recently as last year.

Through writing, public speaking, and taking direct action (I was arrested multiple times for climate action in the early 2000s), I have done everything in my power to fight to bring down global greenhouse gas emissions. And I have come to the stark realisation that nothing I have done has worked. Worse, emissions have continued to rise despite public concern for the environment (in the UK at least) being as high as it has ever been.

Something has gone wrong.

Many people do care about the" ...


The Sad Truth About Traditional Environmentalism


Tags: Highlighted Article
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