Monday, October 1, 2018

State Corporation Commision: Virginia could save $1.7B with more solar, efficiency resources

Independent analysis of Dominion Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan shows opportunity for ratepayer savings with addition of solar and energy efficiency resources, reducing energy imports

On September 24, 2018 Virginia Advanced Energy Economy (Virginia AEE) testified that Virginia Electric and Power Company's (Dominion Energy's) long-term energy resource plan misses key opportunities to reduce ratepayer costs and out-of-state energy imports to the Commonwealth by investing in renewables and energy efficiency.

In his testimony before the State Corporation Commission (SCC), Virginia AEE Executive Director Harry Godfrey shared highlights of independent analysis using assumptions and forecasts from the utility’s submitted 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). He reported that, by allowing for more low-cost solar and energy efficiency resources, Dominion’s electricity system costs would drop between $700M and $1.7B, providing cost savings for residential and business customers. Also, advanced energy options had the added benefits of reducing energy imports and supporting a framework for participation in future carbon reduction programs. Godfrey’s testimony drew from formal comments* submitted to the SCC on Dominion’s IRP.

“Our analysis definitively shows that Dominion has limited its opportunities to save ratepayers money by not allowing for the development of more least-cost resources like solar energy and energy efficiency,” said Harry Godfrey, Executive Director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy (Virginia AEE). “By lifting the utility’s overly restrictive limits on renewables and energy efficiency, we can reduce costs by up to $1.7 billion for residents and businesses and reduce energy imports from out of state.”

For its analysis, Virginia AEE hired 5 Lakes Energy, an expert consulting firm focused on economic and energy policy. 5 Lakes’ employed the State Tool for Electricity Planning (STEP), a least-cost resource-planning tool specifically tailored to Virginia, to analyze five possible policy scenarios that Dominion used in its IRP. 5 Lakes consultants employed the same set of assumptions employed by Dominion, as well as the utility’s projections regarding future load growth, fuel prices, and emission allowances.

“Our analysis presents a no-regrets option for all Virginians, whereby we can save ratepayers up to $1.7 billion over the next 15 years while producing secure, clean, affordable energy,” said Godfrey. “By sourcing more energy resources in the Commonwealth, we gain the associated economic impact, including sustaining and growing the nearly 100,000 advanced energy jobs here in the Commonwealth.”

In August, Virginia AEE released a fact sheet showing that Virginia has 97,700 people working in advanced energy across the state, and are expected to increase by 5% this year. This represents more than those employed by groceries and supermarkets (75,133), and twice as many as those at hotels, motels, and resorts (45,777) across the state. Virginia advanced energy jobs were led by those in energy efficiency and energy generation resources such as solar, nuclear and wind. The U.S. has a total of 3.4 million working in advanced energy jobs across the nation.

Virginia AEE members have identified five policy priorities that could further accelerate this growth and positive economic impact:
  • Improving Energy Productivity
  • Expanding Market Access
  • Driving Transportation Electrification
  • Accelerating Renewable Energy Deployment
  • Building a 21st Century Energy System

Godfrey’s testimony came at the start of two days of hearings on Dominion’s 2018 IRP before the State Corporation Commission. The Commission is expected to deliberate on the matter and issue a final ruling in the months ahead.
solar facility (farm) built by Community Energy Solar in Accomack County
solar facility ("farm") built by Community Energy Solar in Accomack County
Source: VA Dep't  of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, Energy in the New Virginia Economy: Update to the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan

Virginia, Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a group of businesses that are making the energy we use secure, clean, and affordable which seeks to drive the development of advanced energy to boost the state’s economy and competitiveness by working to remove policy barriers, identify market growth opportunities, encourage market-based policies, establish public and private partnerships, and serve as the voice for companies innovating in the advanced energy sector.
Press Release dated September 24, 2018

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Municipal wastewater treatment costs with an emphasis on assimilation wetlands in the Louisiana coastal zone

• Cost for assimilation wetlands averaged $0.60/gallon of treatment capacity.
• 2° and 3° treatment costs averaged $4.90 and $6.50/gallon, respectively.
• Wetland assimilation is less sensitive to cost increases than traditional systems.

In recent decades, water quality standards for wastewater treatment have become more stringent, increasing costs and energy required to reduce pollutants. Wetland assimilation is a low-cost and low-energy alternative to traditional tertiary wastewater treatment where secondarily treated and disinfected municipal effluent is discharged primarily into freshwater forested wetlands in coastal Louisiana. In this paper, costs per gallon of treatment capacity for conventional secondary and tertiary treatment were compared to those for assimilation wetlands. Cost analysis reports were used to determine costs per gallon of treatment capacity for conventional wastewater treatment facilities, including costs for conveyance between the collection system and the assimilation wetland site, and between the treatment and disposal sites if they could not be co-located. Capital and operation and maintenance costs were considered. Because all wastewater treatment plants are required to treat at least to secondary standards, costs for primary and secondary treatment were combined. If necessary, these costs were adjusted for inflation to 2017 dollars using an average inflation rate of 2.19 percent and a cumulative inflation rate of 50.84 percent. To determine costs per gallon of treatment capacity for assimilation wetlands, actual costs provided by the project engineer were used when available. To simulate the future costs of facility construction and compare the replacement costs of conventional secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment facilities and treatment wetlands in the context of energy prices, U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) data for the price index for inputs to construction were used, as were the Energy Information Administration (EIA) data for the price of crude oil to model future wastewater treatment plant construction and operation costs. The cost for the Mandeville assimilation wetland included $1 million for the price of the land. Future costs of treatment facility construction and operation were modeled relative to average price of construction inputs between 1998 and 2015 using the projected price of crude oil. When treatment costs were compared among secondary, tertiary, and assimilation wetlands, mean cost for assimilation wetlands was $0.60 per gallon (>1 MGD capacity) compared to $4.90 and $6.50 per gallon for secondary and tertiary treatment, respectively. The lower total costs and energy requirements for assimilation wetlands result in lower variability in the price of construction and operation. Wetland assimilation is more economical than conventional wastewater treatment, especially compared to advanced secondary and tertiary treatment. It is likely that energy costs will increase significantly in coming decades. Because conventional secondary and tertiary treatment are energy intensive, increases in energy costs will significantly increase the costs of these treatment systems. Treatment systems that combine lower technology (e.g., oxidation ponds) secondary treatment with wetland assimilation are less likely to be impacted by rising energy costs than traditional wastewater treatment.
by Rachael G.Hunter 1, John W.Day 1 and 2, Adrian R.Wiegman 3, Robert R.Lane 1
1. Comite Resources, Box 66596, Baton Rouge, LA 70896, USA
2. Dept. of Oceanography and Coastal Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA1
3. Rubenstein School of Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
Ecological Engineering
Available online 25 September 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Country-level social cost of carbon

The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a commonly employed metric of the expected economic damages from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Although useful in an optimal policy context, a world-level approach obscures the heterogeneous geography of climate damage and vast differences in country-level contributions to the global SCC, as well as climate and socio-economic uncertainties, which are larger at the regional level. Here we estimate country-level contributions to the SCC using recent climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations and socio-economic projections. Central specifications show high global SCC values (median, US$417 per tonne of CO2 (tCO2); 66% confidence intervals, US$177–805 per tCO2) and a country-level SCC that is unequally distributed. However, the relative ranking of countries is robust to different specifications: countries that incur large fractions of the global cost consistently include India, China, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

by Katharine Ricke, Laurent Drouet, Ken Caldeira & Massimo Tavoni 
Nature Climate Change
Volume 8, Published: 24 September 2018; pages 895–900

which appeared in Inside Climate News Stacy Morford notes that the future economic costs within the U.S. borders are the second-highest in the world, behind only India."
The results suggest that the U.S. has been underestimating how much it benefits from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and that the country has far more to gain from international climate agreements than the Trump administration is willing to admit.
"Our analysis demonstrates that the argument that the primary beneficiaries of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions would be other countries is a total myth," said lead author Kate Ricke, an assistant professor at the University of San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Some smaller countries are expected to lose significantly larger portions of their economies to climate change. But the authors found, after modeling hundreds of scenarios, that the U.S. consistently faces among the costliest damages, as measured by what economists call the social cost of carbon....
The U.S.'s share of the global damage, about 12 percent according to the study, is slightly less than its share of the global emissions. But India's share of the damage is four times higher than its contribution.
Countries' share of global social cost of carbon vs. share of global emissions
The case of Russia shows how some of the major emitters could even gain from rising temperatures, as a warming Siberia would benefit Russia economically in the short term, according to the findings, (though the estimates don't account for longer-term impacts the country will face, such as damage to Arctic ecosystems and the rising ocean). Northern Europe and Canada also could have low costs or even short-term net benefits from CO2 emissions, according to the estimates.
If these countries only considered the current economic impact within their borders, they would appear to have little incentive to cut their emissions.
The U.S. government uses a social cost of carbon in its cost-benefit analyses when it designs new environmental regulations or rewrites old ones, but its numbers are much lower than those in the study.
The Obama administration set its median social cost of carbon at about $42 per metric ton for 2020. It based that on calculations of the global harm being created by each ton of U.S. emissions. When the Trump administration came in, it argued that the social cost of carbon should only address the impact on the U.S., and it wanted a higher discount rate. When the Trump administration issued its cost-benefit analysis for rolling back the Clean Power Plan, it cited numbers closer to $3 per ton.
Looking just at the impact within U.S. borders, the new study estimates the U.S. social cost of carbon emissions is nearly $48 per ton.
That wouldn't support the Trump administration's plans for weakening the Clean Power Plan and energy efficiency standards.

SAFE Issue Brief Highlights Military Cost of Protecting Global Oil Supply

According to the calculations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the cost to the United States of defending the global oil supply is zero. This zero-cost estimate comes from the methodology used by the U.S. government budgets for national defense. Since it is difficult to assign a cost to the oil protection mission—and since the Department of Defense (DoD) would realize no savings if this mission were not pursued—EPA and NHTSA conclude that it is pointless to assign any value above zero for this activity. This approach fails to account for the large opportunity costs of protecting the global oil supply.

To more accurately assess the military cost to the U.S. of protecting global oil supplies—and therefore understanding the military cost/benefit of the Fuel Economy Standards (FES) program—SAFE conducted an extensive review of the existing literature that analyzes the military cost of U.S. oil dependence. In addition, SAFE carried out a series of interviews with military members of its Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC) as well as other leading experts in this field.
  • At minimum, approximately $81 billion per year is spent by the U.S. military protecting global oil supplies. This is approximately 16 percent of recent DoD base budgets. Spread out over the 19.8 million barrels of oil consumed daily in the U.S. in 2017, the implicit subsidy for all petroleum consumers is approximately $11.25 per barrel of crude oil, or $0.28 per gallon. A more extensive estimate by two highly-regarded economists suggests the costs could be greater than $30 per barrel, or over $0.70 per gallon.
  • America’s dependence on oil as the primary transportation fuel has costs beyond those directly shown at the gas pump. SAFE and its ESLC strongly believe based on first hand experience that the military cost of oil dependence is substantially greater than zero, and argue that a cost of at least $0.28 per gallon should be used by EPA and NHTSA in their military cost/benefit analysis for the FES program.
  • Reducing oil use in the transportation sector allows for the possibility of shifting U.S. military priorities toward more critical strategic threats. “If we reduced our oil consumption by half, [the U.S. military] would act differently,” says ESLC member Admiral Dennis C. Blair, the former Director of National Intelligence and Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. General Duncan McNabb, the former commander of the U.S. Transportation Command and also a member of SAFE’s ESLC stated: “If we can reduce our dependence on oil, we could reduce our presence in the Gulf and use the funds for other critical military priorities, like cybersecurity or hypersonic weapons. The same funds could support different security priorities. We would make different choices, that would make us safer and more secure.”
The full report can be found here.

Securing America's Future Energy
Press Release dated September 20, 2018
via/hat tip "We now have a dollar value for one of oil’s biggest subsidies - Defending the oil supply costs a lot of money" By David Roberts@drvox

Friday, September 28, 2018

Japanese knotweed knocks £20bn off value of UK property market - It is estimated that up to 900,000 UK households are affected by the weed, which the Environment Agency describes as one of the ‘most aggressive, destructive and invasive plants’

Japanese knotweed has knocked £20bn off the total value of the UK property market, according to new research, with many mortgage lenders refusing loans for properties affected by the weed.

Japanese knotweed is an ornamental plant that first came to the UK in the 1850s. Now it is one of “the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plants” according to the Environment Agency, due to its ability to spread through tarmac, concrete, driveways and drains.

A recent survey by YouGov and Environet UK, which specialises in removing the weed, found that around 5 per cent of UK houses are currently affected by knotweed, either directly or indirectly (when a neighbouring property is affected).
According to the latest Land Registry price index, the average UK house costs £228,000. The presence of Japanese knotweed has diminished the value of affected houses by 10 percent, creating an average loss of £22,800 to property owners.

It is estimated that between 850,000 and 900,000 UK households are affected by the Japanese plant....
File:Fallopia japonica - Japanese knotweed, Japanintatar, Parkslide C IMG 6997.JPG
Japanese knotweed also appeared in several high profile legal cases this year, as landowners were successfully sued for allowing the plant to spread into neighbouring properties.

Marc Montaldo of Cobley’s Solicitors, who specialises in Japanese knotweed litigations, said: “In legal cases relating to diminution in value due to knotweed, we typically see claims for around 10 perent of the property’s value. This is due to the stigma attached to knotweed impacting its future sale price.”

Sellers are now required to inform future buyers whether the property is or has been affected by Japanese knotweed even if it the plant has been removed.

Furthermore, mortgage lenders will usually refuse to give out loans unless property owners have a knotweed management plan with an insurance-backed guarantee in place.
by Cristian Angeloni
The Independent
September 28, 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Berkeley Lab’s “Utility-Scale Solar” documents an expanding U.S. market

... The 2018 edition of Berkeley Lab’s Utility-Scale Solar report ... presents [an] analysis of empirical project-level data from the U.S. fleet of ground-mounted solar projects with capacities exceeding 5 MW-AC.... [The] report explores trends in deployment and project design, installed project prices, operating costs, capacity factors, power purchase agreement (PPA) prices, and the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) among both utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) projects.

Key findings from this year’s edition of this annual report series include:
  • The utility-scale PV market continues to expand geographically across the United States, with 33 states home to one or more utility-scale solar projects at the end of 2017.  For the first time in the history of the U.S. market, the lion’s share (70%) of new solar capacity added in 2017 is located outside of historical strongholds California and the Southwest, with the Southeast in particular accounting for 40% of all new capacity.  
  • Projects that track the sun throughout the day continued to dominate fixed-tilt projects, with nearly 80% of all new utility-scale PV capacity added in 2017 employing single-axis tracking.
  • Median installed project prices declined to $2.0/WAC (or $1.6/WDC) in 2017, with the lowest 20th percentile priced at or below $1.8/WAC (or $1.3/WDC). 
  • Project-level capacity factors vary widely, from 14%-35% (on an AC basis), based on a number of factors, including insolation, tracking vs. fixed-tilt, and inverter loading ratio. On an average fleetwide basis, AC capacity factors have stabilized at around 27% in recent years as the increasing use of tracking compensates for the build-out of lower-insolation sites.
  • PPA prices continued to decline, to below $40/MWh on average and with a few as low as $20/MWh (levelized, in 2017 dollars).

  • These falling PPA prices have been offset to some degree by declining wholesale market value within a few high-penetration markets like California, where an abundance of mid-day solar generation has suppressed wholesale power prices (see the text box on page 37 of the full report).
  • Adding battery storage to shift a portion of this excess mid-day solar generation into evening hours is one way to partially restore the wholesale market value of solar. Recent PPAs for PV plus battery storage projects suggest that this technology combination has become significantly cheaper than it was just a year ago, and is increasingly attractive in high-penetration areas (see text box on page 38 of the full report).
The full Utility-Scale Solar report, along with an accompanying summary slide deck, a data file, and a number of interactive data visualizations, can be found at

In addition, a free webinar summarizing key findings from the report will be held on Thursday, September 20 at 10 AM Pacific/1 PM Eastern.  Register for the webinar here.

For questions on the report, feel free to contact Mark Bolinger ( or Joachim Seel ( at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Lawrence Berkeley Lab Electric Policy Markets Group

Also see which points to the following
  • Installation and Technology Trends:  The use of solar trackers dominated 2017 installations with nearly 80% of all new capacity.  In a reflection of the ongoing geographic expansion of the market beyond California and the high-insolation Southwest, the median insolation level at newly built project sites declined again in 2017.  While new fixed-tilt projects are now seen predominantly in less-sunny regions, tracking projects are increasingly pushing into these same regions.  The median inverter loading ratio grew to 1.32 in 2017, allowing the inverters to operate closer to full capacity for a greater percentage of the day.
  • Installed Prices:  Median installed PV project prices have steadily fallen by two-thirds since the 2007-2009 period, to $2.0/WAC (or $1.6/WDC) for projects completed in 2017.  The lowest 20th percentile of projects within our 2017 sample were priced at or below $1.8/WAC, with the lowest-priced projects around $0.9/WAC.  Overall price dispersion across the entire sample has decreased steadily every year since 2013; similarly, price variation across regions decreased in 2017.
  • Operation and Maintenance (“O&M”) Costs:  PV O&M costs were in the neighborhood of $16/kWAC-year, or $8/MWh, in 2017. These numbers include only those costs incurred to directly operate and maintain the generating plant.