Monthly Archives: April 2021

Halfway to zero: in search of virtual emission decreases

And now for something completely different. Via Watts Up With That I learned about a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study titled “Halfway to zero: progress towards a carbon-free power sector“. The conclusion of the study is that the US power sector is already halfway to zero carbon emissions. This is their overview graphic with all the gains that were made since 2005:

Halfway to zero: emissions: bau vs actual trajectory

They didn’t look at actual emission decreases from 2005, but compared current emissions to emission projections made in 2005.

They exhausted this technique in the rest of the study. Another example is the statement that the total electricity bill in 2020 is 18% less than projected. Mind you, this again is not an actual decrease. Consumers don’t see their electricity bills drop by 18% since 2005, it was projected in 2005 that the electricity bill would be higher in 2020 than what it actually was in 2020.

That is a pretty neat technique, they basically show that things could be worse and can then declare this as a gain.

I am in a cheeky mood right now, so let me try to apply this technique in my own life and see how much gain I can squeeze out of it…

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“Cheap” batteries to the rescue?

The conclusion of the report titled “Fast Erosion of Coal Plant Profits in the National Electricity Market” (see previous post) is that a surge of cheap renewable power capacity could force some coal fired power plants to close earlier. The authors attribute this to “low bids on the wholesale spot market” due to “lower operational cost”. Solar and wind are bidding at low or even at negative prices and coal fired power plants are now competing for those moments when solar and wind can’t produce (much) power, pushing those that are the most expensive to operate out of the market.

The report states a number of things that are not included in that analysis and one of them is the need for backup capacity. The report did however mention several possible backup strategies and it seems that the authors believe the most in batteries as backup strategy, although they did not look into the economic effects of this strategy. To emphasize the viability of batteries, the claim is made that batteries are among the cheapest backup sources and battery costs are expected to decline substantially over the coming decade.

There are two graphs in the report that illustrate this point. The first one is a graph comparing the average short run marginal cost of different generation types (page 16):

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