Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Study highlights urgent need to tackle fisheries management and climate change together - More fish, food and income possible if nations act now on climate and sustainable management

A new study by EDF and leading scientists shows that tackling sustainable fisheries management and climate change together can result in significant increases of food, fish and economic activity, but nations need to act quickly to realize these gains.

The study details how the world’s oceans have the potential to be significantly more plentiful than today even with climate change, provided good management practices are put in place and warming is held to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, according to the first-of-its kind study published today in the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences’ (AAAS) journal, Science Advances.

The study shows that compared to today, estimated future global outcomes include a $14 billion USD increase in profits, 25 billion additional servings of seafood and 217 million more metric tons of fish in the sea—nearly a third more fish than exist today—, if we can meet the imperative of the Paris Climate Accord and ensure global temperatures don’t rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius. The study cautions, however, that these results depend on implementing fisheries management that addresses climate-driven changes in species productivity and geographical range distribution as well as limiting warming from emissions to that level. Inaction on fisheries management and climate change will mean net losses of fish as the planet’s population grows.

A dozen leading scientists from institutions including the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and Hokkaido University conducted the research. It is the first study to examine future fishery outcomes under both climate change projections and alternative management approaches, and demonstrates that our oceans can be highly productive for decades to come if we act now to put effective management practices in place.

Fig. 5 Difference in harvest and biomass under the Full Adaptation strategy in 2100 relative to today for RCP 6.0.
The bubble size corresponds to current MSY, and the colors indicate fishery category based on current biomass and fishing mortality rate relative to BMSY and FMSY, respectively. The fishery categories are defined as follows: Healthy (F/FMSY < 1, B/BMSY ≥ 1), Emerging (F/FMSY ≥ 1, B/BMSY ≥ 1), Recovering (F/FMSY < 1, B/BMSY < 1), and Overfished (F/FMSY ≥ 1, B/BMSY < 1). A transparent bubble indicates a decrease in maximum sustainable yield in 2100 relative to today, whereas a solid bubble indicates an increase (see fig. S2 for results under the other RCPs). MT, metric tons.
[By 2100, the study shows that compared to today, estimated future outcomes include 25 billion additional servings of seafood].

Hot Temperatures Decrease Worker Productivity, Economic Output - A new study finds hot weather may cause significant global economic losses because workers are less productive when it is warm. Air conditioning may not solve the problem.

From Montreal, Canada to Mount Washington, New Hampshire, heat records are being broken this summer in places not accustomed to sweltering temperatures. Studies have found that unusually hot weather is linked to lower economic output in countries around the world. Although several factors—from poor crop yields to heat-related illnesses—probably share part of the blame, there is also a more fundamental variable at play: When we get hot, we find it difficult to work. 

“Because human physiology is the same whether you live in India, the United States or anywhere else in the world, the connection between hot temperatures and lower productivity has fundamental implications for how we should think about the costs of climate change going forward,” says Anant Sudarshan, the South-Asia Director at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.  

In a new study, Sudarshan and his coauthors analyzed the productivity of workers in India, the world’s third largest economy. They looked at both labor-intensive and highly automated manufacturing processes. In the first category, they found that the productivity of workers engaged in cloth weaving or garment manufacturing dropped by as much as 4 percent per degree as temperatures rose above 27° Celsius (80.6° Fahrenheit). However, when studying workers in the steel industry who were operating in plants with highly automated production they found that productivity did not fall when it got hot outside. 
Daytime view of a more-or-less cone-shaped peak, perhaps reaching two hundred feet above the surrounding terrain. It is sparsely covered in poor-looking shrubs and trees; it otherwise reveals only an aspect of heated naked rock. Assorted parti-coloured blocky concrete buildings reach down from its lower slopes to a temple tank in the near foreground, around which is arrayed the more rounded and ornate temple structures.
Alwar, on the fringes of the Thar Desert, registered a temperature of 50.6 °C (123.1 °F), India's highest, until it was broken in May 2016 at Phalodi at 51.0 °C (123.8 °F), another town in the desert state of Rajasthan.
Heat did more than influence productivity at work. It also increased absenteeism. A one degree increase in the ten-day temperature average increased the probability that a worker would be absent by as much as 5 percent. Interestingly, this remained true even where the workplace used automation. Mechanization might reduce the effects of temperature on the shop floor, but may not solve the problem of employees missing work.

Less productive workers mean a less productive business, and a less productive economy. To determine if the declines in worker productivity decreased the output of factories, Sudarshan and his colleagues looked at data from almost 70,000 plants across India. They found that the value of output declined by about 3 percent for every degree above the average temperature. This loss is large enough to explain the entire reduction in India’s economic output in hot years

To adapt to hotter temperatures, businesses could install climate control measures such as air conditioning. Sudarshan and his coauthors collected data from a number of garment plants in the midst of a phased roll-out of shop floor cooling, providing the researchers with the opportunity to compare workers on the same day in nearby plants who did and did not have climate control. They found that workers in plants with climate control were more productive. But, the climate control measures didn’t remove absenteeism. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Report Confirms Wind Technology Advancements Continue to Drive Down Wind Energy Prices - Key findings indicate wind energy prices at all-time lows as wind turbines grow larger

Wind energy pricing remains attractive, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). At an average of around 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), prices offered by newly built wind projects in the United States are being driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.

“Wind energy prices ­– ­particularly in the central United States, and supported by federal tax incentives – remain at all-time lows, with utilities and corporate buyers selecting wind as a low-cost option,” said Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser of the Electricity Markets & Policy Group.

Key findings from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Technologies Market Report include:

Wind power capacity additions continued at a rapid pace in 2017. Nationwide, wind power capacity additions equaled 7,017 megawatts (MW) in 2017, with $11 billion invested in new plants. Wind power constituted 25 percent of all U.S. generation capacity additions in 2017. Wind energy contributed 6.3 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, more than 10 percent of total electricity generation in 14 states, and more than 30 percent in four of those states (Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota).

Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance. The average generating capacity of newly installed wind turbines in the United States in 2017 was 2.32 MW, up 8 percent from the previous year and 224 percent since 1998-1999. The average rotor diameter in 2017 was 113 meters, a 4 percent increase over the previous year and a 135 percent boost over 1998-1999, while the average hub height in 2017 was 86 meters, up 4 percent from the previous year and 54 percent since 1998-1999. Permit applications to the Federal Aviation Administration suggest that still-taller turbines are on the way. Increased rotor diameters, in particular, have begun to dramatically increase wind project capacity factors. The average 2017 capacity factor among projects built from 2014 through 2016 was 42 percent, compared to an average of 31.5 percent among projects built from 2004 to 2011, and 23.5 percent among projects built from 1998 to 2001.

Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs. Wind turbine equipment prices have fallen to $750-$950/kilowatt (kW), and these declines are pushing down project-level costs. The average installed cost of wind projects in 2017 was $1,610/kW, down $795/kW from the peak in 2009 and 2010.
Wind energy prices remain low. Lower installed project costs, along with improvements in capacity factors, are enabling aggressive wind power pricing. After topping out at 7 cents per kWh in 2009, the average levelized long-term price from wind power sales agreements has dropped to around 2 cents per kWh – though this nationwide average is dominated by projects that hail from the lowest-priced region, in the central United States. Recently signed wind energy contracts compare favorably to projections of the fuel costs of gas-fired generation. These low prices have spurred demand for wind energy from both traditional electric utilities and nonutility purchasers, such as corporations, universities, and municipalities.

The domestic supply chain for wind equipment is diverse. Wind sector employment reached a new high of 105,500 full-time workers at the end of 2017. For wind projects recently installed in the United States, domestically manufactured content is highest for nacelle assembly (more than 90 percent), towers (70 to 90 percent), and blades and hubs (50 to 70 percent). It is much lower (less than 20 percent) for most components internal to the turbine. Although there have been a number of manufacturing plant closures over the last decade, each of the three largest turbine suppliers serving the U.S. market – Vestas, General Electric Co., and Siemens Gamesa – has one or more domestic manufacturing facilities in operation.

The Department of Energy’s release on this study is available at

Berkeley Lab
Press Release dated August 23, 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018

Western Electric Co-ops Increasingly Able to Deliver Savings by Integrating Renewable Energy

Case-study analysis finds Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association members can save $600 million through 2030 by transitioning to renewable energy technologies

Declines in renewable energy pricing are creating opportunities for electric cooperatives in the U.S. Mountain West to deliver cost savings to their members, and simultaneously creating risks for those utilities that are slower to transition to these technologies, according to a new study from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

To illustrate the importance of this broad regional trend, RMI produced a case study of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative utility that provides power to more than 1 million consumers in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. RMI found that Tri-State’s customers could save over $600 million through 2030 if the co-op integrated more renewable energy resources into its supply mix rather than continuing to operate its fleet of legacy fossil-fuel power plants. Coal generation provided approximately half of Tri-State’s generation in 2017. Furthermore, the study found a transition to renewable energy as the primary source of electricity would mitigate the risks of member rate increases resulting from customer self-generation, exits and environmental policy changes by 30 to 60 percent.

The results of the study are consistent with the broader market trends illustrated though publicly available contract prices for new renewable resources in the Mountain West region. In Colorado, Xcel Energy has proposed retiring significant coal capacity and generating 55 percent of its energy from wind and solar resources by 2026. This would likely result in a net customer cost savings, considering the highly competitive bids for wind and solar energy received in response to Xcel’s request for proposals. The long-term fixed prices for new wind and solar projects coming into service in the early 2020s, as analyzed in the Tri-State case study, beat the operating costs of many existing coal assets in the West, let alone the cost to build and operate new coal- or gas-fired plants there, the study found.

By prioritizing utility-scale renewables and other emerging technologies such as demand response, efficiency and storage, Western cooperatives like Tri-State have the opportunity to embrace the reorientation of the region’s grid. They can also take advantage of low pricing for renewable generation—including pricing available via current tax incentives—without sacrificing reliability. And by working together to bid for and procure clean-energy technologies, Western co-ops can also guard against the potential economic and policy risks of rate increases and declining energy sales, while advancing economic development and job creation in their home communities, according to A Low-Cost Energy Future for Western Cooperatives.

The estimated $600 million savings for Tri-State members can be realized through avoiding the operating expenses and fixed costs of its fossil-fueled power plants. Operating legacy assets like these in the West has contributed to rate increases for electricity customers in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming, where rates have risen by more than five times the national average between 2007 and 2016. This is owing to the relatively high expenses of the region’s coal fleet in comparison with the lower-cost sources of electricity that much of the nation is embracing, including renewables and natural gas, according to the study.

RMI compared the cost of continuing to operate a typical coal plant at a historical run rate to the cost of retiring that facility and purchasing renewable energy and capacity at current market prices. The option that integrates more renewable energy resources would result in costs equivalent to about $32 per megawatt-hour (MWh), versus about $40 per MWh for the option that relies on the coal plant—a 20 percent reduction in operating costs, according to the analysis.
“The rapid cost declines in renewable energy projects present utilities in the West with an unprecedented opportunity,” Mark Dyson, a principal at RMI and a coauthor of the report, said. “The falling costs of these technologies compared with the costs of fossil-fuel assets allow operators to deliver lower energy bills to their customers without sacrificing reliability, all while cutting emissions, reducing risk and supporting economic development in local communities. They deserve a hard look.”

The A Low-Cost Energy Future for Western Cooperatives report can be found at:

Rocky Mountain Institute
Press Release dated August 23, 2018