Monday, May 28, 2018

A Cost Benefit Analysis of an Active Travel Intervention with Health and Carbon Emission Reduction Benefits

Abstract: Active travel (walking and cycling) is beneficial for people’s health and has many co-benefits, such as reducing motor vehicle congestion and pollution in urban areas. There have been few robust evaluations of active travel, and very few studies have valued health and emissions outcomes. The ACTIVE before-and-after quasi-experimental study estimated the net benefits of health and other outcomes from New Zealand’s Model Communities Programme using an empirical analysis comparing two intervention cities with two control cities. The Programme funded investment in cycle paths, other walking and cycling facilities, cycle parking, ‘shared spaces’, media campaigns and events, such as ‘Share the Road’, and cycle-skills training. Using the modified Integrated Transport and Health Impacts Model, the Programme’s net economic benefits were estimated from the changes in use of active travel modes. Annual benefits for health in the intervention cities were estimated at 34.4 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and two lives saved due to reductions in cardiac disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory disease. Reductions in transport-related carbon emissions were also estimated and valued. Using a discount rate of 3.5%, the estimated benefit/cost ratio was 11:1 and was robust to sensitivity testing. It is concluded that when concerted investment is made in active travel in a city, there is likely to be a measurable, positive return on investment.

by Ralph Chapman 1,2*; Michael Keall 2,3;, Philippa Howden-Chapman 2,3; Mark Grams 1; Karen Witten 2,4; Edward Randal 2,3; and Alistair Woodward 2,5
1. Environmental Studies Programme, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
2. NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities, Wellington 6242, New Zealand
3. Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington 6242, New Zealand
4. Massey University, SHORE and Whariki Research Centre, Auckland 1141, New Zealand
5. School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland 1142, New Zealand
* Correspondence:; Tel.: +64-21-725-742
International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health
2018; Volume 15, Issue 5, 962
Published: 11 May 2018

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Assessing the costs and benefits of US renewable portfolio standards - IOPscience

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) exist in 29 US states and the District of Columbia. This article summarizes the first national-level, integrated assessment of the future costs and benefits of existing RPS policies; the same metrics are evaluated under a second scenario in which widespread expansion of these policies is assumed to occur. Depending on assumptions about renewable energy technology advancement and natural gas prices, existing RPS policies increase electric system costs by as much as $31 billion, on a present-value basis over 2015−2050. The expanded renewable deployment scenario yields incremental costs that range from $23 billion to $194 billion, depending on the assumptions employed. The monetized value of improved air quality and reduced climate damages exceed these costs. Using central assumptions, existing RPS policies yield $97 billion in air-pollution health benefits and $161 billion in climate damage reductions. Under the expanded RPS case, health benefits total $558 billion and climate benefits equal $599 billion. These scenarios also yield benefits in the form of reduced water use. RPS programs are not likely to represent the most cost effective path towards achieving air quality and climate benefits. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that US RPS programs are, on a national basis, cost effective when considering externalities.

Figure 3.
Range of benefit and cost estimates for the Existing RPS Policies and High RE scenarios, relative to the Reference scenario. Note that negative values in the figure indicate increased costs and that the central values for the air quality and the climate damage benefits are highlighted with a bolded marker.

by Ryan Wiser 1 and 3, Trieu Mai 2, Dev Millstein 1, Galen Barbose 1, Lori Bird 2, Jenny Heeter 2, David Keyser 2, Venkat Krishnan 2 and Jordan Macknick 2
1. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720, United States of America
2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 15013 Denver West Parkway, Golden, CO 80401, United States of America
3. Author to whom any correspondence should be addressed
Environmental Research Letters via
IOPscience, Volume 12, Number 9 Published 26 September 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

IEEFA Report: Costly and Unreliable, Two Multibillion-Dollar American Coal-Gasification Experiments Prove the Case Against Such Projects - Institute for Energy Economics

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) today published a report describing how coal-to-gasification technology for electricity-generation purposes remains commercially unviable.

The report—“Using Coal Gasification to Generate Electricity: A Multibillion-Dollar Failure”—concludes that two long-running marquee American Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), projects, Duke Energy’s Edwardsport plant in Indiana and Southern Company’s Kemper plant in Mississippi, prove the case against such investments.

“Efforts to gasify coal for power generation have been major failures, technologically and financially,” writes David Schlissel, the author of the report and IEEFA’s director of Resource Planning Analysis. “Both Kemper and Edwardsport have been economic disasters for consumers and investors alike, and a number of important and painful lessons have emerged from Kemper and Edwardsport.”

The report concludes further that coal-gasification technology is an especially poor bet today given the declining costs of solar and wind resources and the expectation that natural gas prices will remain low for the foreseeable future.

Among the report’s findings:
  • Modern IGCC plants are far more expensive to build than proponents have been willing to publicly acknowledge.
  • Such plants take much longer to construct than proponents typically assert.
  • The sheer expense of operating an IGCC plant prevents makes them wholly uncompetitive.
  • IGCC plants have proven unreliable due to problems with modern coal-gasification technology.
  • The technology is not an economically feasible option for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide emissions.
  • IGCC plants cannot compete with wholesale market power prices or with falling prices for wind- and solar-generated electricity.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Brexit standards bonfire could mean £90 on electricity bills

Scrapping energy waste standards on domestic appliances and lightbulbs could add £90 to household electricity bills if less efficient Chinese products flood the UK market after Brexit.

Currently, British appliances are using energy ever more efficiently owing to progressively higher European Union standards – standards of which nearly nine in 10 Britons approve. However, there have been calls for the UK to scrap such standards when we leave the EU, allowing supposedly cheaper non-European models to come into the market. China would be the most likely source.

New analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) of just seven best-selling appliances and light bulbs shows if all homes opted for less efficient models available on the Chinese market, annual electricity consumption would jump by around 3.5%. For comparison, EDF’s £20 billion-plus Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant will provide around 7% of the UK’s annual power demand.

Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said:
Once outside the EU, Britain will be able to set its own standards on the efficiency of our fridges and hoovers, but heeding calls to throw current standards on a regulation bonfire could leave UK homeowners with an unexpected hike on their bills. Behind the scenes, successive British governments have led the way in shaping these standards, driving industry to make innovative, less wasteful products and so saving UK bill payers cash. The proof is in the lightbulb which will now last for decades and cost as little as 98p thanks to LED technology.
Despite more electrical appliances in our homes, households are wasting less electricity with use having fallen to a level last seen before 1970. Higher fossil fuel prices over the past decade have driven up the price of energy, but £290 has been taken off the average dual fuel bill since 2008 thanks to Government energy efficiency measures and EU standards. Electricity consumed by old-style incandescent light bulbs has fallen by 97% as more efficient bulbs have replaced them.
Polling conducted by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes and the ECIU in 2015 found nearly nine out of ten (87%) British people support regulations to increase the energy efficiency of domestic appliances such as ovens and fridges, while a more recent 2017 survey of Conservative voters showed 85% were in favour of maintaining or improving energy efficiency of household devices.
From 1st September new EU standards will reduce the maximum wattage of vacuum cleaners to 900w. Which? provoked a media ‘storm’ around the introduction of a previous standard urging consumers to “buy now if you’re looking for a powerful vacuum cleaner” but a year and a half later concluded “energy use has dropped drastically…while the average cleaning performance on carpet has remained relatively stable over the same period.”

Despite generally becoming more efficient during this time, the upfront cost of appliances has also been falling with the price of a washing machine down by a quarter between 2004 and 2014.

An influential Select Committee of MPs has warned that the UK “could become a dumping ground for energy inefficient products” were formal standards to diverge from those in Europe [10].

The report, Made in China: importing higher energy bills, is available here.

Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)
24 August 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Updates Baseline Cost and Performance Data for Electricity Generation Technologies

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released the 2017 Annual Technology Baseline (ATB), updating a key source of reliable electricity generation technology cost and performance data used to support and inform electric sector analysis in the United States. Now in its third year, the ATB documents technology-specific information on a broad spectrum of electricity generation technologies, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, coal, natural gas, and nuclear.
Graph titled 2017 ATB LCOE range by technology for 2030 based on current market conditions.
ATB LCOE range by technology for 2030 based on current market conditions.
Levelized cost of energy LCOE values calculated using macro-economic indicators (e.g., interest rates) estimated for 2017 in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2017. The ATB focuses on electricity generation technology capital cost, operating costs, and energy production. It does not include time-varying macro-economic indicators. Values shown in 2015 U.S. dollars; hydropower is classified as non-dispatchable because most new hydropower generation would operate in run-of-river mode. LCOE captures the energy component of electric system planning and operation, but the electric system also requires capacity and flexibility services, typically associated with dispatchability, to operate reliably.

The ATB synthesizes current and projected data from various sources into a highly accessible and widely referenced resource for energy analysts. The 2017 ATB is available in a new interactive website at and will be featured in a webinar on August 29.

“In addition to aggregating the most reliable, timely cost and performance data spanning the full range of energy technologies, the Annual Technology Baseline highlights key trends and makes projections out to 2050,” said NREL Senior Analyst Maureen Hand. “For energy analysts and others tasked with communicating relevant electricity technology cost and performance trends that have a bearing on energy markets, the ATB serves as an indispensable go-to resource that greatly facilitates and streamlines the work involved.”

For example, the ATB illustrates how solar photovoltaic (PV) capital costs have declined recently and are projected to continue to decline.  Similarly, land-based wind capital costs have fallen while capacity factors have increased. These are trends that are both projected to continue and make wind increasingly competitive with new generation from natural gas combined cycle plants in the near term.  The ATB provides three different levels of future technology cost and performance through 2050 to support analysis of future U.S. electric sector scenarios.

The ATB, which is supported by the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, incorporates NREL analysis, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and information from a variety of published reports into two primary products for energy analysts. The Annual Technology Baseline spreadsheet documents detailed current and projected cost and performance data for electricity generation technologies. This year, a new interactive website describes each of the technologies and provides additional context for their treatment in the workbook. For each technology, the website provides:

  • Historical trends, current estimates, and future projections of three primary cost and performance factors: capital expenditures, capacity factor, and operations and maintenance cost
  • Documentation of the methodology and assumptions used to develop the projections of future cost and performance under high-, mid-, and low-cost cases
  • A calculated levelized cost of energy to illustrate the combined effect of the primary cost and performance factors.
The Annual Technology Baseline, which is supported by hundreds of literature citations, will be highlighted in a webinar on August 29, at 11 a.m.–1 p.m. MDT (1-3 p.m. EDT). Presenters will describe analytical products in detail, share examples of how they have been used, and provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. Register for the webinar at

A Quarter of India’s Energy Demand Can Be Met with Renewable Energy - Increasing India’s renewables would save 12 times more than it costs

India can raise its renewable energy use to meet a quarter of the country's total final energy demand by 2030, according to the findings of a report presented today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable energy prospects for India, a study from IRENA’s REmap programme, outlines action areas that can unlock India’s vast renewable energy potential, ensure clean and sustainable energy for generations to come, and enable the country to fulfill its pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Renewable energy prospects for India describes how solar energy will play a vital role representing the second largest source of renewable energy use with 16 per cent, followed by wind at 14 per cent, and hydropower at 7 per cent of the country’s total final renewable energy use by 2030. Biofuels — which can be used across the end demand spectrum, such as for transport, electricity generation and heating — would account for 62 per cent. The country could potentially increase its share of renewable power generation to over one-third by 2030.

“With one of the world's largest and most ambitious renewable energy programmes, India is taking a leading role in the energy transformation both regionally and globally,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “India possesses a wealth of renewable resources, particularly for solar and bioenergy development, which can help meet growing energy demand, power economic growth and improve energy access, as well as boost overall energy security.”

Increasing renewable energy deployment could save the economy twelve times more than its costs by the year 2030, creating jobs, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and ensuring cleaner air and water, with savings on health-related costs. Furthermore, the renewable energy technologies identified in the report would lower the demand for coal and oil products between 17 per cent and 23 per cent by 2030, compared to a business as usual scenario.
India has some of the world’s most competitive levelised costs of electricity (LCOE), even for wind, where the quality of the local resource is lower than in other regions. Financing costs, however, are somewhat higher than in neighbouring countries like China, and this has an impact on the LCOE. Figure 17 gives an overview of ranges and weighted averages for renewable power technologies commissioned or proposed between 2013 and 2015. Hydropower is still the lowest-cost renewable power generation option, with weighted average costs of between USD 0.04/kWh and USD 0.05/kWh for small- and large-scale projects, respectively. Large-scale wind projects have average costs of around USD 0.08/kWh, with a range between USD 0.045/kWh and USD 0.11/kWh, with small-scale