Sustainability Mid-Year Trends in Charts
At the begining of July, after all the fireworks have celebrated our nation’s founding, it is time to evaluate the mid-year trends in sustainability.
From events and presentations around the industry, several slides have popped up again and again. A few might even be iconic charts that describe the current energy trends and potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
From the BP Statistical Review of World Energy — here’s a painful reminder of what we pay at the pump. It’s a chart of Crude Oil Prices From 1861 to 2010:
Contrast the BP estimates with the Price Trends in Solar Modules in this slide with data from IPCC and Paula Mints of Navigant. We’ve gone from $60 per watt to $1.50 per watt. What will it be in 2020?
On a related note, the U.S. used less coal, petroleum, and natural gas in 2009 than in 2008, and increased its use of wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, according to the Lawrence Livemore National Laboratory. This probably has as much to do with reduced economic activity as it does a shift in energy sources.
EPRI’s Prism Chart. EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, is almost entirely funded by incumbent power companies, so their information has to be viewed through that lens. Nevertheless, the “Prism” slide has found its way into many greentech presentations, mine included. It conveys the challenge involved in reducing CO2 emissions from the electric sector down to 1990 levels. According to EPRI, this task will require significant amounts of CCS (Carbon Capture and Sequestration), as well as another 64 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030.
Carbon Wedges. Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative and the NRDC can both play the EPRI CO2 reduction game, as well. The NRDC, though, does it without the nuclear wedge.
The Keeling Curve. Regardless of the flaws of An Inconvenient Truth, the movie, or those of Al Gore, the man, the movie and the man present this CO2 data in a variety of compelling ways. The graph shows the variation in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere over the last fifty years based on Charles Keeling’s measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Even if you don’t subscribe to the theory of anthropogenic global warming, this chart is pretty stark evidence that something is happening and it’s happening fast.
This slide from the CEC illustrates the “Rosenfeld Effect.” California’s per-capita electricity consumption stayed flat while consumption in the rest of the U.S. went up. Why? Largely because of the California Energy Commission leadership of Art Rosenfeld. During his tenure, California instituted utility efficiency programs, appliance standards and building standards that saved the state billions of dollars, millions of kilowatt-hours, and avoided the building of a large number of power plants. It’s not all about high technology.
The wind power flying spaghetti monster. If you’ve ever attended an event pertaining to energy storage, it’s not unheard of for every presenter to flash this one. It’s originally from a 2007 CAISO (California Independent System Operator) report on Integration of Renewable Resources and shows the scary variable nature of wind power. It speaks volumes on the intermittent nature of wind and the challenges of integrating renewable energy onto the grid without energy storage or fossil-fuel backup.
This type of variability and ramp up / ramp down strikes fear in the heart of every ISO (Independent System Operator). Read what Jim Detmers, formerly of CAISO had to say here.