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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.



“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”, Antoine de St.Exupery

“I love it when a plan comes together.”, John (Hannibal) Smith

The Biden Administration has announced a series of goals, leading to an overall goal of a Net Zero US economy by 2050. The intermediate goals include eliminating coal-fired electric generation by 2030, eliminating gas-fired electric generation by 2035, ceasing production of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 and moving to an “all-electric everything” energy economy by 2050. These goals are to be accomplished through a combination of executive fiat and regulatory restriction. One key planning element in support of these goals involves starving the oil and gas industries of supply through cessation of drilling and production permits and blocking of new pipeline construction, thus destroying legal industries and their participants and depriving their customers of future supply. Another key planning element in support of these goals involves incentivizing and subsidizing wind and solar generation, electricity storage and electric vehicles.

What is lacking in this picture is a comprehensive plan. For example, the goals of eliminating coal generation by 2030 and gas generation by 2035 are not accompanied by a plan element intended to assure that adequate wind and solar generation, electricity storage and transmission infrastructure are in place to maintain grid reliability and resilience as the conventional generators are removed from service.

There is also no plan element intended to assure that, as natural gas supplies deplete as the result of production constraints, sufficient natural gas remains available to supply the expected increased natural gas demand for power generation as coal generation capacity is removed from service. There is also no plan element intended to assure that sufficient natural gas remains available to meet residential, commercial and industrial customer demand during the transition to the “all-electric everything” energy economy.

There is no plan element intended to assure that electric generation, transmission and distribution capacity increase timely to accommodate the growth of electric demand and consumption resulting from economic and population growth and the transition to the “all-electric everything” energy economy by 2050.

There is also no plan element intended to assure that sufficient gasoline and diesel fuel remain available to supply the needs of the range of ICE vehicles remaining in service post 2035, when the goal is to terminate ICE vehicle production.

These missing plan elements appear crucial to the successful accomplishment of the Administration’s goals. It appears that the Administration plans to rely on the function of a regulated and constrained energy market to deal with these missing elements of the plan as the market rapidly transitions from a multi-fuel market with regulated competition to a renewable generation plus storage regulated monopoly.

The schedule for this transition appears to assume that the currently non-existent technology required for the Administration’s goals to be achieved will become available timely. This technology includes medium-duration and long-durations electricity storage and what are referred to a Distributed Emission-Free Resources (DEFRs) for electric generation, as well as fossil-free technologies for iron, steel and cement production.

If there is no Plan “A”, is there likely to be a Plan “B”?

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”, Helmuth von Moltke


Tags: Net Zero Emissions, Power Grid, Clean Power Plan, Renewable Energy

Fauci, Fear, Balance and the Grid - Highlighted Article

  • 5/25/23 at 07:00 AM


From: Climate Etc.

By: Russ Schussler

Date: May 8, 2023


Fauci, Fear, Balance and the Grid

Reflecting on the U.S. response to the covid pandemic, Dr. Fauci provides some important insights on managing complex risks – with relevance to climate change and the electric grid transition.

Dr. Fauci discussing past covid measures was recently quoted as saying,

“(W)e looked at it from a purely public-health standpoint. It was for other people to make broader assessments—people whose positions include but aren’t exclusively about public health. Those people have to make the decisions about the balance between the potential negative consequences of something versus the benefits of something.”

I was surprised to hear that Dr. Fauci did not think that public health should have been in total control of the pandemic response.  But he is right. We needed diverse experts providing input and impacting policy choices – some who worry about public health, others who worry about individual health, others who worry about children, and others well versed on the economic impacts of it all.  Doing everything possible to stop the spread of covid, all other costs and consideration be damned, should have been expected to reduce the overall well-being of society and provide grossly suboptimal outcomes.  Focusing solely on covid risks was likely counterproductive even for those most at risk from covid.

In the U.S., the balanced path Dr. Fauci is now advocating was not seriously pursued during the pandemic. With the Covid panic, it seemed public health took over with one over-riding goal.  Advocates for individual health and individual health care found few available forums and inroads to appeal to and  impact policy makers. Appearing to be against the central narrative of those in power may have had severe consequences for individuals and organizations. In hindsight, many see that balancing competing views and values would have better served us all. In focusing so exclusively on the threat of covid, we increased our risk from so many other threats.  Many now understand that our “best” scientific understandings should be subject to challenges.  It certainly seems we needed “other people” to speak up, but those voices did not find the platforms they would need to influence policy and direction. (continue reading)


Fauci, Fear, Balance and the Grid


Tags: Highlighted Article

Silence of the Grid Experts - Highlighted Article

  • 5/18/23 at 07:00 AM


From: Climate Etc.

By: Russ Schussler

Date: May 3, 2023

Silence of the Grid Experts

There are many reasons why grid experts within the electric utility industry have not spoken out when unrealistic “green” goals were being developed and promoted over the last 20 years or so. A more open debate during this period might have helped provide a  more realistic foundation for future development.  This posting describes some reasons as to why at the corporate level electric utilities did not speak out more in defense of grid reliability.  Collectively these factors tended to eliminate grid experts from playing any role in the development of policies impacting the grid.

Speaking Out Risked Negative Consequences

Utilities have many stakeholders with varying degrees of power.  Utilities depend on good relations with Public Service Commissions, other regulators, consumers and policy makers. The stereotype of electric utilities as uncaring, selfish, greedy destroyers of the environment tends to make utilities very cautious and careful in critiquing anything perceived as “green”.  The media and press attention from any such statements would likely not be favorable.

Utilities need support to acquire right-of-way, for financing, for cost-recovery and to avoid adverse legislation. Poor press and the associated public disapproval loomed as strong disincentives for speaking out.  Furthermore, as will be discussed later, expressing concerns over emerging reliability issues, could be interpreted by some as implying that perhaps you were not as capable as others appear to be. (continue reading)


Silence of the Grid Experts


Tags: Highlighted Article

Renewable Experts: Undeterred and Unmoved by Failed Ideas - Highlighted Article

  • 5/11/23 at 07:00 AM


From: Climate Etc.

By: Russ Schussler

Date: April 17, 2023

Renewable Experts: Undeterred and Unmoved by Failed Ideas

“Green” ideas and their proponents can create problems.  Like the antagonist in Terminator 2, green arguments and proponents don’t go down easily.  With serious challenges, they retreat, hibernate sometimes, morph, transform and come back.  It’s hard to argue with many “green” energy ideas.  They are often huge in scope but severely limited in details.  Focusing on a couple key factors and ignoring  or leaving so much to be worked out later.  Painfully naïve or unaware of so many factors associated with the provision of energy, feedback and often even human behavior.   They see the flaws in current efforts, but are blind to the drawbacks which will necessarily emerge from their proposals.  The offer conjectures with a lot of dots to still be connected. They speak of things that may be possible, without any handle on the probabilities.

Usually, “green” ideas are packaged with threats of doom, promises of superior technology or both.   The media are drawn to both those themes and many policy makers are attracted as well.   Attention is a great thing for new ideas.  The themes of urgency and the scope of change,  gives these ideas more weight and seeming gravitas.  Unfortunately, the needed incentives to dig down and look critically as these ideas are generally lacking. Woefully, those promulgating “green” ideas don’t have much incentive for engaging with their critics or broadening their understandings. They generate the feeling that we need to move forward with the big, new important thing – no time for distractions. (continue reading)


Renewable Experts: Undeterred and Unmoved by Failed Ideas


Tags: Highlighted Article

Paths to Net Zero - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Numerous potential paths to net zero annual CO2 emissions have been identified and discussed, including:

  • Renewables plus storage
  • Massively overbuilt renewables and transmission
  • Renewables plus Dispatchable Emission-Free Resources (DEFR)

Each of these paths faces massive technological hurdles.

The renewables plus storage path requires short, medium and long duration storage. Short duration storage (~4 hours) is available with lithium batteries, but at very high cost. Medium duration storage (~8-16 hours) is under development, but is not yet commercially available and its cost is unknown. Long duration storage (weeks) is currently available only with pumped hydro, but its availability is very limited and there has been strong resistance to expanding it.

The cost and availability issues with storage have led some to propose a path based on massive overbuilding of renewable generation combined with massive additional transmission capacity. This approach assumes that there would always be excess renewable electricity available somewhere which could be moved to areas with inadequate renewable generation output resulting from adverse weather conditions or equipment failure. Ultimately, this approach would require development of a massively interconnected national grid with the ability to move power multi-directionally over far longer distances than is common today.

The renewables plus DEFR path relies on the availability of generation technology which is as yet undefined, no less developed and commercialized. There is no indication of when this technology would become available, not is there any information regarding its cost.

The US Administration is currently focused on renewables and has only recently placed any focus on storage. The Administration’s approach combines incentives for renewable generation, storage and transmission infrastructure with mandates to terminate operation of fossil-fueled generation. The Administration has also taken steps to progressively deprive the market of access to oil and natural gas, causing their prices to increase. The Administration also provides incentives for electric vehicles, combined with a ban on new fossil-fueled vehicle sales after 2035. There are also incentives for purchase of electric appliances and equipment, which are made more attractive by the increasing prices of oil and natural gas resulting from the Administration’s actions.

The Administration approach involves substantial risks, created primarily by the hard deadlines for elimination of coal generation (2030) and natural gas generation (2035). There is no assurance that sufficient renewable generation, electricity storage and transmission infrastructure will be operational by these hard deadlines to replace this dispatchable capacity, as well as to provide the additional capacity required to meet normal market growth and the approximate tripling of current demand by 2050 resulting from electrification of current fossil fueled end uses.

The Administration, while it has not carefully planned this transition to all-renewable “all-electric everything”, has carefully positioned itself to blame any failure to achieve its goals, as well as electricity price increases and loss of grid reliability on others, since it has established timelines and provided generous incentives.

There has not yet been a comprehensive demonstration of an energy system such as the Administration demands, though there have been several notable failures of partially implemented systems in Germany, UK, California and Texas.

Don’t begin vast programs with half-vast ideas.


Tags: Electric Power Generation, Electric Power Dispatchable, Energy Storage / Batteries

Capacity Factors - ORIGINAL CONTENT


The US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration chart below is arguably accurate but inarguably misleading.


Capacity Factor by Energy Source in 2020


The capacity factors shown for both wind and solar, while they are the actual percentage of rating plate capacity delivered to the grid in 2020, are also approximately equal to the limiting capacity factors of the generators as installed, since the output of both wind and solar generation have priority access to the grid.

The nuclear generation capacity factor shown above is the rating plate capacity of the nuclear generators less an allowance for downtime for maintenance and refueling. Otherwise, nuclear generators typically operate base loaded at rating plate capacity because of their low operating costs.

Geothermal generation provides a constant source of energy as required and is typically dispatched when available, with a downtime allowance of approximately 25% for maintenance and repair.

Hydroelectric generation capacity factor is largely dependent on water availability behind the dams as well as water demand downstream of the dams. A portion of the hydroelectric generation capacity is reliable, while the remainder is “source of opportunity” capacity based on water availability.

Coal and natural gas generators are typically operated in load-following mode, providing the difference between renewable and nuclear generation output and grid demand. They also typically represent the utilities’ capacity reserve margin on peak, available in the event of a failure of the utilities’ largest single generation resource. The capacity factors shown in the chart above are the actual percentage of rating plate capacity delivered to the grid in 2020. However, those generators have real capacity factors of approximately 85% for coal generation and 90% for natural gas combined cycle generation.

Of the generation sources shown in the graphic, only wind and solar are not dispatchable. Their availability is dependent upon wind and sun conditions. When they are available, they displace the output of dispatchable generators. However, the capacity of the dispatchable generators must still remain available to meet grid demand during periods of low/no wind and solar availability.

As the fraction of wind and solar generation increases, the percentage utilization of the generating capacity of coal and natural gas generators would decline, to the extent the decline is not offset by increasing grid demand or the permanent closure of these generators as a function of age, operating cost or government edict. Grid demand is expected to increase at a more rapid pace, driven by the Administration’s focus on “all-electric everything”, which would ultimately approximately triple grid demand by 2050.

The assumption is that increasing grid demand would be served by increased wind and solar generation. However, the intermittency of these generators means they would continue to require support during periods of low/no wind and solar availability. This support is now provided primarily by dispatchable fossil-fueled generators, but might also be provided by electricity storage capacity in the form of batteries or pumped storage. These storage resources would have to be in place and operating before the scheduled closure of the remaining coal generating capacity in 2030 and the remaining natural gas generating capacity by 2035.


Tags: Electric Power Generation

Energy Security is National Security - Highlighted Article

  • 4/27/23 at 07:00 AM


From: Institute for Energy Research

By: Thomas Whackman

Date: April 2023

Energy Security is National Security


Energy security is national security. One cannot exist without the other, and a lack of either can have serious ramifications. For evidence of this, look no further than Europe, where Germany is reeling from the twin blows of ill-conceived domestic energy policies and wholesale energy dependence on its chief geopolitical adversary: Russia.

The German case is but one example of the many pitfalls a nation faces when it fails to secure its energy supply. American policymakers would do well to take this cautionary tale to heart – and soon – as the Biden administration’s plans to force a complete energy transition away from fossil fuels may lead America down the long and painful road of energy dependency.

Due in large part to government intervention, the United States is becoming progressively more reliant on electric vehicles (EVs) and nonnuclear renewable energy sources for its transportation and energy needs. These technologies rely on a large input of rare earth metals and other mined elements, particularly lithium and cobalt, the supply of which is dominated almost entirely by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). These same minerals are also key inputs in the production of many advanced weapons systems, like fighter jets and ballistic missile defenses, that are critical for a robust national defense.

This, along with the current administration’s ongoing war against domestic hydrocarbon production, puts America’s energy security, and its national security, in real jeopardy. It is therefore incumbent to unpack just what energy security means, its relationship to national security, what that means for the United States, and the consequences that can occur when leaders attempt to ignore the fundamental physical realities that create the context in which statecraft resides. (continue reading)


Energy Security is National Security


Tags: Highlighted Article

The contradictory Green policies to limit CO2 emissions - Highlighted Article

  • 4/13/23 at 07:00 AM

From: edmhdotme

Date: April 4, 2023

The contradictory Green policies to limit CO2 emissions


Currently the burning of Biomass is designated as “CO2 neutral” by Western Nations to give the appearance of reducing CO2 emissions and thus controlling Climate Change.

The designation of Biomass burning as Carbon neutral is essentially self-defeating as:

burning Biomass massively increases the instantaneous output of CO2 emissions.
those instantaneous CO2 emissions from burning Biomass effectively cancel out  any and all potential CO2 emissions savings from the deployment of Weather-Dependent “Renewable” technologies
is hugely destructive of natural environments and habitats wherever harvested at the necessary industrial scale.
Germany and the UK are leaders in the development of “Renewable” Energy in Europe. This post uses 2019 hourly generation datasets showing the scale of various generation technologies over the year.  It combines that power output data with data on the CO2 emissions of different fossil fuels to show the extent of CO2 emissions in 2019. (continue reading)



The contradictory Green policies to limit CO2 emissions


Tags: Highlighted Article

Dispatchable Wind & Solar - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Electricity demand fluctuates continuously, over a range of 2.5-3 to one. Electric utility operators control the output of numerous generation resources over their acceptable range of operation to match the contemporaneous demand of the grid. Current grid generation resources include nuclear, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass, wind and solar. With the exception of wind and solar, these generation resources are dispatchable, meaning that they can be brought into service, as required, to meet grid demand. Wind and solar availability are controlled by time of day and weather conditions. Regulation typically requires that their output be used whenever available in preference to other resources and that the output of other generating resources be adjusted to accommodate their output.

Electric utilities will continue to require the ability to dispatch generating resources as required to match grid demand as the electricity generating fleet transitions from primarily fossil fueled generation to predominantly intermittent renewable generation. Nuclear generation is typically base loaded, while hydro, geothermal and biomass generation can be modulated to follow load. However, these generation sources would represent less than 10% of the generation required to meet peak demand in the “All-Electric Everything” future beyond 2050. Therefore, wind and solar generation must be rendered dispatchable to maintain grid reliability and stability.

Current US wind generation has capacity factors ranging from approximately 24-46%, with the lower capacity factors in July, August and September. Therefore, 1 GW of dispatchable wind capacity would require up to 4 GW of wind generator rating plate capacity, plus storage capacity of approximately 3 GW to store electricity for use during the periods of low capacity. Additional storage capacity would be required to compensate for daily generation fluctuations around the monthly average. Additional storage capacity would also be required to provide dispatchable output through days of low/no wind generation availability.

Current US solar generation has capacity factors ranging from approximately 17-33%, with lower capacity factors in November, December, January and February. Therefore, 1 GW of dispatchable solar capacity would require up to 6 GW of solar generator rating plate capacity, plus storage capacity of approximately 5 GW to store electricity for use at night and during periods of low capacity. Additional storage capacity would be required to compensate for daily generation fluctuations around the monthly average. Additional storage capacity would also be required to provide dispatchable output through days of low/no solar availability.

The Administration’s goal would result in a grid in which approximately 90% of the electricity generated would be generated by intermittent renewable generation, supplemented by nuclear, hydro geothermal and biomass generation. The rating plate capacity of the intermittent renewable generators would be 4-6 times the expected average capacity and the intermittent renewable generation capacity would require at least equal rating plate storage capacity and perhaps several times that capacity, depending on the number of consecutive days of low/no generation which might be experienced.

Such a system would require a significant factor of safety in its design, since if storage were discharged during a generation outage, recovery would be a long term process.


Tags: Electric Power Generation, Electric Power Dispatchable, Electric Power Reliability, Electric Utilities



The US Energy Information Administration Annual Energy Outlook 2022 does not reflect the Administration’s Net Zero by 2050 goal, as shown in the graph below. It also does not reflect the Administration’s “All-Electric Everything” by 2050 goal.


U.S. electricity generation from selected fuels AEO2022 Reference case


The Net Zero goal would require that both coal and natural gas be replaced as electricity generation fuels, coal by 2030 and natural gas by 2035. The “All-Electric Everything” goal would require increasing US electricity generation from approximately 5,400 billion kilowatthours to approximately 17,000 billion kilowatthours, to replace the current end uses of coal, oil and natural gas with renewable generated electricity and possibly some nuclear generated electricity.  A rough approximation of the transition over the period 2021-2050 is shown in the graph below.



All-Electric Everything



The electricity generation in 2050 would average approximately 2 billion kilowatthours per hour, but the peak hourly generation requirement would be approximately 5 billion kilowatthours per hour. The EIA AEO 2022 estimates that the renewable generation in 2050 would be approximately 60% solar and 40% wind, which is a significant shift from the 2021 ratio of 70% wind to 30% solar.

Current utility renewable generation capacities vary seasonally, with wind experiencing a capacity factor range of approximately 24 - 43% and solar a capacity factor range of approximately 18 - 33%. Therefore, based on the EIA projection of a 60% solar, 40% wind share of intermittent renewable generation, the average capacity factor of the solar and wind generator fleet would be approximately 28%. Therefore, generation of 17,000 billion kilowatthours annually would require intermittent renewable generating capacity of approximately 7 billion kilowatts. However, peak hour generation of approximately 5 billion kilowatthours per hour would require approximately 18 billion kilowatts of generation, or a combination of generation and long-duration storage. Storage or generation oversizing would be essential since solar experiences its minimum capacity factor during the winter peak period, while wind experiences its minimum capacity factor during the summer peak.

Solar generating capacity of approximately 11 billion kilowatts at 0.3 kilowatts per panel would require installation of approximately 35 billion solar panels over an area of 17 million acres, or 27,000 square miles. This area is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. Wind generation capacity of approximately 7 billion kilowatts would require installation of approximately 3 million 2.5 MW onshore wind turbines, or some combination of onshore and offshore wind turbines. The administration has a goal of installing 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, which would represent approximately 0.4% of the projected 2050 wind generation fleet capacity requirement.

The US currently has approximately 136 GW of solar capacity and 140 GW of wind capacity installed, or approximately 1.5% of the generating capacity required to meet peak demand in the “all-electric everything” scenario. The bulk of this existing capacity has been installed over the past 30 years with the assistance of generous federal and state incentives. Installing the remaining approximately 98.5% of the required capacity over the next 28 years appears to be a daunting task.


Tags: Net Zero Emissions, Electric Power Generation


The Biden Administration has set a goal of achieving Net Zero US annual CO2 emissions by 2050. To accomplish this goal, the Administration has decreed that all coal-fired electric generation would cease by 2030; and, that all natural gas fueled electric generation would cease by 2035. The Administration has also decreed that all new vehicles sold in the US after 2035 would be electric vehicles. There is also an effort underway to end the use of natural gas for applications other than electric generation, including virtually all residential, commercial and industrial end uses. Incentives have been put in place for EVs and electric appliances and equipment, as well as for wind and solar generation and electricity storage.

Achieving the Administration’s goals would result in a US energy economy based solely on electricity, generated by a mixture of renewable generation sources including hydro, biomass, geothermal, wind, solar and possibly some nuclear generation.

However, the US Energy Information Administration, an agency of the US Department of Energy, in its Annual energy Outlook 2022 (AEO  2022) projects a very different US energy future, as shown in the graphs below.


U.S. electricity generation and shares from selected fuels and renewable sources


EIA projects that US electricity generation will increase by approximately 32% through 2050, or approximately 1% per year. Natural gas electricity generation would increase to approximately 1,800 billion kilowatthours, or by approximately 20%. Coal generation would decrease to approximately 530 billion kilowatt hours. Renewable generation would increase to approximately 2,400 billion kilowatthours, or nearly 500%.

Virtually all the growth in renewable generation would consist of wind and solar. Wind generation would increase from approximately 344 to approximately 750 billion kilowatthours, though its share of generation would decrease from 43% of renewable generation to approximately 31%. Solar generation would increase from approximately 450 billion kilowatthours to approximately 1,200 billion kilowatthours and its share of renewable generation would increase to approximately 51%. EIA projects virtually no growth for geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass generation.

These EIA projections are fundamentally inconsistent with the Administration’s goals of Net Zero CO2 emissions and an all-electric energy economy by 2050. Coal generation decreases, but not to zero. Natural gas generation increases, rather than decreasing to zero. The projected 1% per year growth in US electricity production is consistent with historical electricity demand growth, driven by increasing population and GDP, but not with a major transition to an all-electric energy economy.

EIA’s projections regarding natural gas show an approximate 20% increase in consumption in the Reference case, and approximately 50% in the High Supply case, as shown in the graphs below.


U.S. renewable electricity generation, including end use AEO2022 Reference case


The EIA projections do not contemplate the effects of the Administration’s push for all-electric everything, which would require expansion of electricity generation from the projected 5,400 billion kilowatthours in 2050 to approximately 17,000 billion kilowatthours. Growth of this magnitude would require not only increases in generation, but also massive increases in and expansion of transmission infrastructure and major upgrades to existing distribution infrastructure to accommodate the increases in individual customer demand and consumption.


Tags: Electric Power Generation, Net Zero Emissions, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy

Feasibility for achieving a net zero economy for the U.S. by 2050 - Highlighted Article

  • 3/23/23 at 07:00 AM

From: Climate Etc.

By: Michael J. Kelly

Date: March 4, 2023

Feasibility for achieving a net zero economy for the U.S. by 2050

I imagine that I have been appointed the first CEO of a new agency set up by the Federal Government of the United States of America with the explicit goal of actually delivering a Net Zero CO2 Emissions Economy by 2050. My first task is to scope the project and to estimate the assets required to succeed. This is the result of that exercise, and includes a discussion of some consequences that flow from the scale and timescale for meeting the target.

Executive summary

The cost to 2050 will comfortably exceed $12T (trillion) for electrification projects and $35T for improving the energy efficiency of buildings, a work-force comparable in size to the health sector will be required for 30 years, including a doubling of the present number of electrical engineers, and the bill of specialist materials is of a size that for the USA alone is several times the global annual production of many key minerals. On the manpower front one will have to rely on the domestic workforce, as everywhere else in the world is working towards the same target. If they were not so working, the value of the USA-specific target is moot. The scale of this project suggests that a war footing and a command economy will be essential, as major cuts to other favoured forms of expenditure, such as health, education and defence, will be needed. Without a detailed roadmap, as exemplified by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors that drove the electronics revolution after 1980, the target is simply unattainable. (continue reading)


Feasibility for achieving a net zero economy for the U.S. by 2050


Tags: Highlighted Article

Lessons Learned? - ORIGINAL CONTENT

The past two years have provided unpleasant lessons for several electric utilities and their customers. The challenge remains for those utilities and the utility industry to learn from those lessons and take actions to prevent their recurrence. Because of the nature of the electric utility industry, these lessons must also be learned by state and federal utility regulators who largely control the utilities' actions.

California utilities are dealing with aggressive state efforts to transition the state utility grid from fossil and nuclear generation to wind and solar generation with energy storage. However, the state has pushed for rapid shutdown of natural gas and nuclear generators before storage was available to replace the output of those generators during periods when wind and/or solar generator output was reduced. The result has been insufficient conventional capacity to replace the output of wind and solar generators, particularly during periods of peak demand.

Texas utilities experienced a very cold period in early 2022. The cold caused freezing of water in gas lines supplying gas turbine generators, freezing of coal piles at coal generating stations and icing on the blades of a significant portion of the state’s wind generation capacity. The combination of these effects resulted in a significant grid failure which took several days to resolve. The issues with the gas and coal plants are relatively easily resolvable with improved maintenance and insulation, but preventing icing of the wind turbine blades would require a major refitting with blades which could be heated.

The US Southeast experienced extremely cold weather on Christmas Eve, 2022. Duke Power in North Carolina was forced to institute rolling blackouts to keep the grid from failure. The shortage of generating capacity was the result of control failures at two natural gas plants and one coal plant, aggravated by the fact that the coldest period occurred in the very early morning, before sunrise, so no solar generator output was available. Again, the issues at the fossil fuel plants are relatively easily resolvable. However, dealing with the solar issue would require significant storage. Duke’s problem was exacerbated by the failure of neighboring utilities to provide power for which Duke had contracted, since those utilities were also affected by the extreme cold.

TVA also experienced problems during that very cold period with both coal and natural gas generators. TVA experienced demand approximately 35% higher than on a typical winter day, its highest demand ever. This forced rolling blackouts by some of the utilities TVA serves at wholesale. Again, the issues with the fossil fuel plants are relatively easily resolvable with improved maintenance and insulation.

Each of these situations highlights the necessity for high level maintenance of utility infrastructure, particularly during periods of expected peak demand. The California, Texas and North Carolina experiences also highlight the importance of backup generation during periods of low/no wind and solar generation availability. As intermittent renewable generation capacity increases, it will be necessary to develop new contract arrangements to assure that natural gas is available in sufficient quantities for the natural gas generators.


Tags: Backup Power, Electric Power Reliability, Electric Power Dispatchable

Reliable vs. Intermittent Generation: A Primer (Parts I and II) - Highlighted Article

  • 3/16/23 at 07:00 AM

From: Master Resource

By: Bill Schneider

Date: March 1, 2023


Reliable vs. Intermittent Generation: A Primer

Part 1     ---     Part 2

“Why should a thermal plant spend money in a government-rigged market that threatens a reasonable profit? Why should the plant even remain in the market under these conditions?”

“For IVREs it’s a no-risk deal, with markets guaranteed and taxpayers country-wide adding profits. But what about the need for reliable power?”


This two-part post (Part II here) is a follow-up to Robert Bradley’s recent IER article, “Wind, Solar, and the Great Texas Blackout: Guilty as Charged.” His article discussed how regulatory shifts and subsidies favoring Intermittently Variable Renewable Energy (IVRE) producers resulted in prematurely lost capacity, a lack of new capacity, and upgrade issues with remaining (surviving) traditional capacity. These three factors–“the why behind the why”–explain the perfect storm that began with (or was revealed by) Storm Uri.

Part I below describes how the market was originally meant to work–but has not worked given the governmentally redesigned power market, beginning with generation. The change was caused by:

Investment monies lured away from developing baseload capacity by government subsidies and special tax incentives, and
Operating opportunities lured away by “first-use” mandates. First-use mandates are especially pernicious as grid operators must purchase from IVREs whenever they are producing, leaving the reliable generators idle. (continue reading)


Reliable vs. Intermittent Generation: A Primer

Part 1     ---     Part 2


Tags: Highlighted Article

Net Zero or Good Enough? - Highlighted Article

  • 3/2/23 at 07:00 AM


From: Climate Etc.

By: Russell Schussler and Roger Caiazza

Date: February 9, 2023

Net Zero or Good Enough?

This good enough plan may get you to net zero before the more ambitious ones.  It is likely to have less carbon emissions than the more aggressive plans over time.  It certainly will be more reliable and affordable.

Electric generation plans need to be well crafted and carefully considered. Because of concerns around  climate change many politicians have become galvanized to hastily enact legislation to target  net-zero anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  The authors argue that the more seriously you take climate change, the more important it becomes that you have a good plan for electric generation in the near and midterm planning arena.  Taking foolish actions in the near to mid-range time periods will not help with CO2 reductions or climate change and may be far worse than doing nothing.  Maybe we all could compromise and find a less grand strategy that has more likely benefits with far fewer threats to reliability, affordability, and overall environmental impacts.

The authors have both been writing about the proposed net-zero transition by 2050 for years.  Schussler (aka the Planning Engineer) has been writing about the challenges of “green energy” since 2014 at the Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. blog.  Caiazza has focused on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York blog since 2017.  Since the original proposal for New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) in 2019, he has written over 280 articles about that plan to transition to net zero by 2050. (continue reading)


Net Zero or Good Enough?


Tags: Highlighted Article
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