Sunday, December 6, 2020

All Aircraft Could Fly on Sustainable Fuel by 2030, Says World Economic Forum Report

  • Enough sustainable feedstock supplies, such as municipal waste, agricultural residues and cooking oil waste, exist to reach production levels of 500 million tons of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) annually, meeting the projected jet fuel demand of all aviation by 2030.
  • Planned production capacity investments will, however, only yield 4 million tons annually by 2030 – approximately 1% of global jet fuel demand for 2030 – requiring the urgent stimulation of a viable SAF ecosystem to reach 2030 decarbonization targets.
  • Hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft could help the industry reach the next efficiency target, but development and deployment at scale could take 10 to 20 years.
  • The Cleans Skies for Tomorrow (CST) initiative is working on a pilot project for the creation of a SAF sector in India and plans to replicate this process in other markets.
The Sustainable Aviation Fuels as a Pathway to Net-Zero Aviation Report shows that a transition to carbon-neutral flying is possible, with SAF the most promising decarbonization option in the near term.

There are enough sustainable, renewable feedstocks to fuel all aviation using SAF by 2030. Scaling up SAF production to meet the net-zero ambition, however, depends on several new technology routes and significant multistakeholder collaboration. The main challenge will be developing appropriate commercial, financing, incentives and regulatory mechanisms.

SAF as a feasible route to net-zero aviation

In 2019, aviation accounted for 3% of human-made carbon emissions. Hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft could help the industry reach the next efficiency target, but development and deployment at scale could take 10 to 20 years and the technology will initially be limited to smaller, shorter-range aircraft.

Furthermore, in 2019, fewer than 200,000 metric tons of SAF were produced globally, a tiny fraction of the roughly 300 million tons of jet fuel used by commercial airlines.

More positively, SAF has already fuelled more than one-quarter of a million commercial flights and is compatible with existing aircraft and fuelling infrastructure.

Even following the challenge to aviation during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the CST coalition are continuing their commitment to drive energy transition in aviation towards the goal of net-zero aviation.

An economic opportunity for developing markets

Aviation delivers significant benefits globally, not least to developing markets, from where a sizeable portion of global aviation demand is expected to come. The current crisis may also present an opportunity for countries with low renewable power prices and ready access to feedstock. If these countries act now, they can benefit from energy transition in aviation and become global SAF production hubs.

“The structural changes happening in the industry are an opportunity to rebuild and transition towards a low-carbon future and meet the sustainability demands of its consumers,” said Christoph Wolff, Head of Mobility Industries at the World Economic Forum.

To this end, the CST initiative is working on a pilot project to create a SAF sector in India and plans to replicate this process in other markets that have the necessary conditions to foster a valuable SAF industry.

Building scale is key to improving cost

This report, written in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, shows that despite feedstock availability and even if all currently announced SAF projects are completed, capacity will only increase to approximately 4 million tons annually, which equates to approximately 1% of global jet fuel demand in 2030.

Currently, SAF is more than double the cost of conventional fuel. As further innovations and efficiencies of scale in production are achieved, prices will drop.

“We see the classic Catch-22 problem as in other energy transition discussions. Insufficient scale drives per unit costs high and high costs keep demand low. Some structural solutions could break this impasse – B2B contracts, prioritized aviation and airport fee structures etc. that will give fuel producers the required support to invest in production capacity,” said Daniel Riefer, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company.

Investments can accelerate promising new technologies

Fuels produced from used cooking oil and other lipids will contribute most to developing capacity in the short term. New technologies take time to mature and develop, but investment decisions, including building larger demonstration plants, are needed now.

Power-to-liquid fuels can contribute the most to SAF capacity, but will only prove effective after 2030 under current development plans. Fuels made from CO2 and green electricity will require financial support for their technology to mature and will need access to renewable electricity.

There is no silver bullet for net-zero aviation. No single feedstock will be practical in every geography or yield enough SAF to meet all demand. Even as costs fall, SAF will have higher production costs than fossil fuels, though a rising carbon price may enable parity in the 2030s.

While the report demonstrates that enough feedstocks are available globally to make SAF economically viable and scalable, several factors are required. These include supportive regulatory frameworks, measures to stimulate demand from corporate and private customers, and innovative ways to finance the transition. The CST coalition is debating how to meet these challenges and help aviation earn its right to keep growing.

Carbon offsets ... may be beneficial and airlines are on board with market-based measures such as CORSIA, which may advance global reforestation. Reforestation offsetting schemes can cost as little as $5 per metric ton of CO2  captured, but increasing demand could lead to significant cost increases over time and there remain significant risks and questions over their long-term effectiveness. Other offsetting projects include resource recovery, such as capturing methane from landfills. Geological sequestration may be the most effective option currently available, but it is expensive and is still a nascent technology. 
HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acid synthetic paraffinic kerosenes - SAFs) will likely remain the most efficient pathway through 2030. It is the most cost competitive since the proven technology requires relatively little capital investment – the main barrier is the cost of feedstock, a commodity with no big cost-reduction potential. Production costs depend mostly on the cost of feedstock, which today ranges from about $600 to $950 per metric ton. Including the cost of used cooking oil, solar-based hydrogen and operating and capital expenses, which should all decline in the years ahead, total production costs per metric ton of SAF could decrease from around $1,400 today to around $1,100 by 2050 in constant dollars, compared to a steady cost of fossil jet fuel of about $620. Due to falling production costs and availability of sustainable feedstock, by 2030, HEFA produced anywhere in the world could cover 100% of European jet fuel demand at less than 1,500 USD/t.

The 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: responding to converging crises

Executive summary
The 2020 report presents 43 indicators across five sections: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement. This report represents the findings and consensus of the 35 leading academic institutions and UN agencies that make up The Lancet Countdown, and draws on the expertise of climate scientists, geographers, engineers, experts in energy, food, and transport, economists, social, and political scientists, data scientists, public health professionals, and doctors.
5 years ago, countries committed to limit global warming to “well below 2°C” as part of the landmark Paris Agreement. 5 years on, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise steadily, with no convincing or sustained abatement, resulting in a rise in the global average temperature of 1·2°C. Indeed, the five hottest years on record have occurred since 2015.

The changing climate has already produced considerable shifts in the underlying social and environmental determinants of health at the global level. Indicators in all domains of section 1 (climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities) are worsening. Concerning, and often accelerating, trends were seen for each of the human symptoms of climate change monitored, with the 2020 indicators presenting the most worrying outlook reported since The Lancet Countdown was first established.

These effects are often unequal, disproportionately impacting populations who have contributed the least to the problem. This fact reveals a deeper question of justice, whereby climate change interacts with existing social and economic inequalities and exacerbates longstanding trends within and between countries. An examination of the causes of climate change revealed similar issues, and many carbon-intensive practices and policies lead to poor air quality, poor food quality, and poor housing quality, which disproportionately harm the health of disadvantaged populations.

Vulnerable populations were exposed to an additional 475 million heatwave events globally in 2019, which was, in turn, reflected in excess morbidity and mortality (indicator 1.1.2). During the past 20 years, there has been a 53·7% increase in heat-related mortality in people older than 65 years, reaching a total of 296 000 deaths in 2018 (indicator 1.1.3). The high cost in terms of human lives and suffering is associated with effects on economic output, with 302 billion h of potential labour capacity lost in 2019 (indicator 1.1.4). India and Indonesia were among the worst affected countries, seeing losses of potential labour capacity equivalent to 4–6% of their annual gross domestic product (indicator 4.1.3). In Europe in 2018, the monetised cost of heat-related mortality was equivalent to 1·2% of regional gross national income, or the average income of 11 million European citizens (indicator 4.1.2).

Turning to extremes of weather, advancements in climate science allow for greater accuracy and certainty in attribution; studies from 2015 to 2020 have shown the fingerprints of climate change in 76 floods, droughts, storms, and temperature anomalies (indicator 1.2.3). Furthermore, there was an increase in the number of days people were exposed to a very high or extremely high risk of wildfire between 2001–04 and 2016–19 in 114 countries (indicator 1.2.1). Correspondingly, 67% of global cities surveyed expected climate change to seriously compromise their public health assets and infrastructure (indicator 2.1.3).

The changing climate has downstream effects, impacting broader environmental systems, which in turn harm human health. Global food security is threatened by rising temperatures and increases in the frequency of extreme events; global yield potential for major crops declined by 1·8–5·6% between 1981 and 2019 (indicator 1.4.1). The climate suitability for infectious disease transmission has been growing rapidly since the 1950s, with a 15·0% increase for dengue caused by Aedes albopictus in 2018, and regional increases for malaria and Vibrio bacteria (indicator 1.3.1). Projecting forward, based on current populations, between 145 million people and 565 million people face potential inundation from rising sea levels (indicator 1.5).

Despite these clear and escalating signs, the global response to climate change has been muted and national efforts continue to fall short of the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. The carbon intensity of the global energy system has remained almost flat for 30 years, with global coal use increasing by 74% during this time (indicators 3.1.1 and 3.1.2). The reduction in global coal use that had been observed since 2013 has now reversed for the past 2 consecutive years: coal use rose by 1·7% from 2016 to 2018. The health burden is substantial—more than 1 million deaths occur every year as a result of air pollution from coal-fired power, and some 390 000 of these deaths were a result of particulate pollution in 2018 (indicator 3.3). The response in the food and agricultural sector has been similarly concerning. Emissions from livestock grew by 16% from 2000 to 2017, with 93% of emissions coming from ruminant animals (indicator 3.5.1). Likewise, increasingly unhealthy diets are becoming more common worldwide, with excess red meat consumption contributing to some 990 000 deaths in 2017 (indicator 3.5.2). 5 years on from when countries reached an agreement in Paris, a concerning number of indicators are showing an early, but sustained, reversal of previously positive trends identified in past reports (indicators 1.3.2, 3.1.2, and 4.2.3).

Despite little economy-wide improvement, relative gains have been made in several key sectors: from 2010 to 2017, the average annual growth rate in renewable energy capacity was 21%, and low-carbon electricity was responsible for 28% of capacity in China in 2017 (indicator 3.1.3). However, the indicators presented in the 2020 report of The Lancet Countdown suggest that some of the most considerable progress was seen in the growing momentum of the health profession's engagement with climate change globally. Doctors, nurses, and the broader profession have a central role in health system adaptation and mitigation, in understanding and maximising the health benefits of any intervention, and in communicating the need for an accelerated response.
Individual health professionals and their associations are also responding well, with health institutions committing to divest more than $42 billion worth of assets from fossil fuels (indicator 4.2.4)....

It is clear that human and environmental systems are inextricably linked, and that any response to climate change must harness, rather than damage, these connections.10 Indeed, a response commensurate to the size of the challenge, which prioritises strengthening health-care systems, invests in local communities, and ensures clean air, safe drinking water, and nourishing food, will provide the foundations for future generations to not only survive, but to thrive.11 Evidence suggests that being more ambitious than current climate policies by limiting warming to 1·5°C by 2100 would generate a net global benefit of US$264–610 trillion.12 The economic case of expanding ambition is further strengthened when the benefits of a healthier workforce and reduced health-care costs are considered.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Rebuilding Cities to Generate 117 Million Jobs and $3 Trillion in Business Opportunity with Nature-Positive Strategy

COVID-19 recovery packages that include infrastructure development will influence the relationship between cities, humans and nature for the next 30 to 50 years. With the built environment home to half the world’s population and making up 40% of global GDP, cities are an engine of global growth and crucial to the economic recovery.

Research shows that nature-positive solutions can help cities rebuild in a healthier and more resilient way while creating opportunities for social and economic development. The World Economic Forum’s new Future of Nature and Business Report found that following a nature-positive pathway in the urban environment can create $3 trillion in business opportunity and 117 million jobs.

“Business as usual is no longer sustainable,” said Akanksha Khatri, Head of the Nature Action Agenda at the World Economic Forum. “Biodiversity loss and the broader challenges arising from rapid urban population growth, financing gaps and climate change are signalling that how we build back can be better. The good news is, there are many examples of nature-based solutions that can benefit people and planet.”

Cities are responsible for 75% of global GHG emissions and are a leading cause of land, water and air pollution, which affect human health. Many cities are also poorly planned, lowering national GDP by as much as 5% due to negative impacts such as time loss, wasted fuel and air pollution. However, practical solutions exist that can make living spaces better for economic, human and planetary health.

The study, in collaboration with AlphaBeta, highlighted examples of projects deploying nature-positive solutions and the business opportunities they create.

Cape Town: Cape Town was just 90 days away from turning off its water taps. Natural infrastructure solutions (i.e. restoring the city’s watersheds) were found to generate annual water gains of 50 billion litres a year, equivalent to 18% of the city’s supply needs at 10% of the cost of alternative supply options, including desalination, groundwater exploration and water reuse. 
Singapore: Singapore’s water leakage rate of 5% is significantly lower than that of many other major cities thanks to sensors installed in potable water supply lines. Globally, reducing municipal water leakage could save $115 billion by 2030. Returns on investment in water efficiency can be above 20%.
Suzhou: Suzhou Industrial Park’s green development in China has seen its GDP increase 260-fold, partially through green development. The park accommodates 25,000 companies, of which 92 are Fortune 500 companies, and is home to 800,000 people. The park has 122 green-development policies, including stipulations on optimizing and intensifying land use, improvement of water and ecological protection, and the construction of green buildings. As a result, 94% of industrial water is reused, 100% of new construction is green, energy is dominantly renewable and green spaces cover 45% of the city.
San Francisco: San Francisco requires new buildings to have green roofs. The “green” roof market is expected to be worth $9 billion in 2020 and could grow at around 12% annually through 2030, creating an incremental annual opportunity of $15 billion.
Philippines: The loss of coastal habitats, particularly biodiverse and carbon-rich mangrove forests, has significantly increased the risk from floods and hurricanes for 300 million people living within coastal flood zones. A pilot project in the Philippines, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, is monetizing the value of mangroves through the creation of the Restoration Insurance Service Company (RISCO). RISCO selects sites where mangroves provide high flood reduction benefits and models that value. Insurance companies will pay an annual fee for these services, while organizations seeking to meet voluntary or regulatory climate mitigation targets will pay for blue carbon credits. 

Overall, restoring and protecting mangrove forests in human settlements can reduce annual flood damage to global coastal assets by over $82 billion while significantly contributing to fighting climate change.

The report identifies five complementary transitions to create nature-positive built environments and outlines the business opportunities and potential cost savings for programmes targeting urban utilities for water, electricity and waste, land planning and management, sustainable transport infrastructure and the design of buildings.

Office space the size of Switzerland
Global examples call out areas to be improved. For example, an estimated 40 billion square metres of floor space is not used at full occupancy during office hours – an area roughly equivalent to the size of Switzerland. The COVID-19 upheaval has prompted a surge in flexible and remote working models in many countries – greater application of such models could help reduce the need for private office space in the future.

Governments’ role to raise and steer finance
The report calls for both government officials and businesses to play their part in raising and steering finance for sustainable urban infrastructure. “Regulations in areas including urban master planning, zoning and mandatory building codes will be critical to unlocking the potential of net-zero, nature-positive cities and infrastructure,” said Khatri. “We are at a critical juncture for the future of humanity. Now is the time to treat the ecological emergency as just that. A net-zero, nature-positive path is the only option for our economic and planetary survival and how we choose to use COVID-19 recovery packages might be one of our last chances to get this right.”

The Report is available free of charge at:

The Future of Nature and Business sets out how 15 transitions across the three systems can form the blueprint of action for nature-positive transitions which could generate up to US$10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030.

COVID-19 has brought the Great Acceleration to a screeching halt. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and entire sectors of the economy have stopped operating. All because a novel zoonotic disease, possibly triggered by human disturbance of nature, became a pandemic. As of June 2020, governments and international organizations have invested close to $9 trillion to try to prevent the most immediate human and economic impacts. But despite these efforts, the global economy is expected to contract by 3% in 2020, affecting the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people. page 4
A pragmatic framework for the industry to lead the transition towards a nature-positive economy.... can unlock an estimated $10 trillion of business opportunities by transforming the three economic systems that are responsible for almost 80% of nature loss.
The first report of the World Economic Forum’s New Nature Economy Report (NNER) series, Nature Risk Rising, highlighted that $44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is potentially at risk as a result of the dependence of business on nature and its services.
Key Findings at a Glance

There is no future for business as usual – we are reaching irreversible tipping points for nature and climate, and over half of the global GDP, $44 trillion, is potentially threatened by nature loss.

Fighting climate change is essential but not enough to address the nature crisis – a fundamental transformation is needed across three socio-economic systems: food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and energy and extractives.

80% of threatened and near-threatened species are endangered by the three systems, which are responsible for the most significant business-related pressures to biodiversity; these are also the systems with the largest opportunity to lead in co-creating nature-positive pathways.

15 systemic transitions with annual business opportunities worth $10 trillion that could create 395 million jobs by 2030 have been identified that together can pave the way towards a people- and nature-positive development that will be resilient to future shocks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Why did renewables become so cheap so fast? And what can we do to use this global opportunity for green growth?

Fossil fuels dominate the global power supply because until very recently electricity from fossil fuels was far cheaper than electricity from renewables. This has dramatically changed within the last decade. In most places in the world power from new renewables is now cheaper than power from new fossil fuels.

The fundamental driver of this change is that renewable energy technologies follow learning curves, which means that with each doubling of the cumulative installed capacity their price declines by the same fraction. The price of electricity from fossil fuel sources however does not follow learning curves so that we should expect that the price difference between expensive fossil fuels and cheap renewables will become even larger in the future.

This is an argument for large investments into scaling up renewable technologies now. Increasing installed capacity has the extremely important positive consequence that it drives down the price and thereby makes renewable energy sources more attractive, earlier.... Falling energy prices also mean that the real income of people rises. Investments to scale up energy production with cheap electric power from renewable sources are therefore not only an opportunity to reduce emissions, but also to achieve more economic growth – particularly for the poorest places in the world.
Today fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – account for 79% of the world’s energy production and as the chart below shows they have very large negative side effects. The bars to the left show the number of deaths and the bars on the right compare the greenhouse gas emissions. My colleague Hannah Ritchie explains the data in this chart in detail in her post ‘What are the safest sources of energy?’.

This makes two things very clear. As the burning of fossil fuels accounts for 87% of the world’s CO2 emissions, a world run on fossil fuels is not sustainable, they endanger the lives and livelihoods of future generations and the biosphere around us. And the very same energy sources lead to the deaths of many people right now – the air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills 3.6 million people in countries around the world every year; this is 6-times the annual death toll of all murders, war deaths, and terrorist attacks combined.1

It is important to keep in mind that electric energy is only one of several forms of energy that humanity relies on....2

What the chart makes clear is that the alternatives to fossil fuels – renewable energy sources and nuclear power – are orders of magnitude safer and cleaner than fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels dominate the world’s energy supply because in the past they were cheaper than all other sources of energy. If we want the world to be powered by safer and cleaner alternatives, we have to make sure that those alternatives are cheaper than fossil fuels.

The price of electricity from the long-standing sources: fossil fuels and nuclear power
The world’s electricity supply is dominated by fossil fuels. Coal is by far the biggest source, supplying 37% of electricity; gas is second and supplies 24%. Burning these fossil fuels for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gases, causing 30% of global emissions.3

The chart here shows how the electricity prices from the long-standing sources of power – fossil fuels and nuclear – have changed over the last decade.

To make comparisons on a consistent basis, energy prices are expressed in ‘levelized costs of energy’ (LCOE). You can think of LCOE from the perspective of someone who is considering building a power plant. If you are in that situation then the LCOE is the answer to the following question: What would be the minimum price that my customers would need to pay so that the power plant would break even over its lifetime?

Site Conditions, Maintenance Costs, and Plant Performance of 10 Extensive Green Roofs in the Research Triangle Area of Central North Carolina

Compared with traditional roofing, green roofs (GRs) have quantifiable environmental and economic benefits, yet limited research exists on GR plant survival, maintenance practices, and costs related to plant performance. The objective of this study was to assess plant cover, site conditions, and maintenance practices on 10 extensive GRs in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina. Green roof maintenance professionals were surveyed to assess plant performance, maintenance practices, and maintenance costs. Vegetation cover on each site was characterized.

Relationships among plant performance and environmental and physical site characteristics, and maintenance practices were evaluated. Survey respondents ranked weed control as the most problematic maintenance task, followed by irrigation, pruning, and debris removal. No single design or maintenance factor was highly correlated with increased plant cover. Green roof age, substrate organic matter, and modular planting methods were not correlated with greater plant cover.
Results showed a trend that irrigation increased plant cover. Plants persisting on GRs included several species of stonecrop (Sedum sp.), but flame flower (Talium calycinum) and ice plant (Delosperma basuticum) were also present in high populations on at least one roof each. Green roof maintenance costs ranged from $0.13/ft2 to $3.45/ft2 per year, and were greater on sites with more weeds and frequent hand watering.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Study Finds Energy Storage Can Save Long Island Electric Customers $390 million over the Next Decade - Replacing 2,300MW of Fossil-Fueled Peaker Power Plants with Energy Storage by 2030 can save customers money, maintain electric grid reliability and reduce air pollution

A new study released by the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST), in partnership with the consulting firm, Strategen, finds that more than 2,300 MW of fossil fueled “peaking” power plants on Long Island can be cost-effectively replaced with energy storage over the next decade, saving Long Island customers more than $390 million over the next ten years and significantly reducing harmful air pollutants. The study, conducted by Strategen, examined the operations of Long Island’s aging fleet of fossil-fueled “peaker” plants, those power plants that operate primarily only during high demand or “peak” times. The analysis shows that it is technically feasible and cost-effective to replace more than 2,300 MW of Long Island’s 4,300 MW fossil-fueled peaker plants with energy storage over the next decade. It also finds that approximately half of the peaker plants, around 1,100 MW, could be retired and replaced with energy storage by 2023. The remaining 1,200 MW could be replaced by 2030, in conjunction with New York State’s plans to increase solar energy, energy efficiency measures, and offshore wind resources.

“Replacing Long Island’s oldest, least efficient, and most polluting fossil-fueled peaker plants today with lower cost, emission-free energy storage is a no-regrets solution for the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), PSEG Long Island, Long Island electric customers, the environment, and the State of New York, said Dr. William Acker, Executive Director of NY-BEST. “As we work to achieve New York’s nation-leading and mandated goals for a carbon-free electric grid by 2040, energy storage is an essential proven technology that will enable renewable energy, maintain reliability, reduce emissions and provide a resilient electric grid.”

ATehachapi Energy Storage Project, Tehachapi, California

As part of New York State’s commitment to halting climate change, the State has mandated a carbon-free grid by 2040. The study released October 28, 2020 examines the cost-effectiveness of retiring Long Island’s aging and inefficient fossil-fueled peaker fleet and replacing it with energy storage, a “low-hanging fruit” in the Island’s energy transition. The analysis shows that replacing the aged, polluting peaker fleet will reduce energy costs, create jobs, build a more resilient power system, and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in communities across Long Island, including Potential Environmental Justice Areas.

Long Island is home to 26 fossil-fueled power plants, composed of 74 individual turbine units, that seldom operate yet impose significant costs on Long Island electric customers. Of LIPA’s portfolio of 5,667 MW of fossil-fueled generators, 4,357 MW are “peaker plants” that operate at an annual capacity factor of 15% or less (i.e., roughly 15% of the time).

To maintain these peakers, LIPA customers pay an estimated $473 million annually in capacity costs, almost three times the market rate for capacity resources cleared through NYISO’s competitive markets.

Retiring and replacing these aging assets has the potential to create $10.5 million of annual savings in 2021, growing to $150 million annually in 2030. Over the next decade, fossil peaker replacements could save LIPA customers as much as $393 million, representing savings of approximately $360 per household across LIPA’s 1.1 million customers.

“This important and timely study demonstrates the significant potential and cost savings for energy storage on Long Island as we transition to 100% zero-carbon electricity,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “The findings make it clear that we can take steps today to replace many of Long Island’s antiquated and polluting fossil-fueled power plants with energy storage while saving consumers money.”

"This groundbreaking study shows that, over the next decade, fossil-fuel peakers on Long Island can reliably be replaced by cleaner and cheaper battery storage, along with renewables and efficiency investments,” said Lewis Milford, president of Clean Energy Group, a national nonprofit that works on peaker replacement issues. “In addition to its importance in this New York region, this study gives other cities and states a good roadmap on how to replace the hundreds of dirty, expensive fossil-fuel peakers that now pollute environmental justice communities in other parts of the country.”

“Fossil-fueled peaker plants are dirty, expensive and disproportionately harm environmental justice communities. This study shows what we’ve long known to be true – New York can replace its pollution emitting peaker plants with emissions-free energy storage while saving consumers money. It’s a win-win. Achieving New York’s nation-leading climate goals requires that we go all-in on clean energy solutions, and fast. Scaling-up energy storage must be part of New York’s climate strategy – not only on Long Island, but all across the state,” said Chris Casey, Senior Attorney at NRDC.

Key results of this study show: 
  • It is feasible and cost-effective to replace 1,116 MW of Long Island’s fossil-fueled peaker plants with energy storage by 2023 and over 2,300 MW by 2030.
  • Potential savings of up to $393 million of savings can be achieved for LIPA customers over the next decade by retiring and replacing aging fossil assets.
  • Replacing peakers with storage will eliminate 2.65 million metric tons of CO2, 1,910 tons of NOx, and 639 tons of SO2 of emissions annually, resulting in societal benefits of $163 million annually.
  • Of the 2,300 MW of fossil peaker plant replacements, 334 MW could be retired and replaced immediately, and another 782 MW could be phased out by 2023, coinciding with the implementation of local emission control regulations and the expiration of existing LIPA long-term contracts.
  • In the East End of Long Island there is a near-term opportunity for up to 90 MW of fossil peakers to be displaced with energy storage, and additional opportunities over time as local constraints are addressed.

The New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology (NY-BEST) Consortium is a non-profit corporation and industry-led consortium with more than 185 organizational members. NY-BEST’s mission is to catalyze and grow the energy storage industry and establish New York State as a global leader in the energy storage industry. 
Press Release dated October 28, 2020

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Lazard Releases Annual Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) and Levelized Cost of Storage (LCOS) Analyses

Lazard Ltd has released its annual in-depth studies comparing the costs of energy from various generation technologies and the costs of energy storage technologies for different applications.

Lazard’s latest annual Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE 14.0) shows that as the cost of renewable energy continues to decline, certain technologies (e.g., onshore wind and utility-scale solar), which became cost-competitive with conventional generation several years ago on a new-build basis, continue to maintain competitiveness with the marginal cost of selected existing conventional generation technologies.

Lazard’s latest annual Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis (LCOS 6.0) shows that storage costs have declined across most use cases and technologies, particularly for shorter-duration applications, in part driven by evolving preferences in the industry regarding battery chemistry.

This year’s LCOE, for the first time, includes a study of hydrogen as a supplemental fuel component for combined cycle gas generation.

“As the costs of utility-scale wind and solar continue to decline and compete with the marginal cost of conventional energy generation, the focus remains on tackling the challenge of intermittency,” said George Bilicic, Vice Chairman and Global Head of Lazard’s Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group. “For the first time, we have integrated green and blue hydrogen into our analyses, which recognizes the energy sector’s increasing appreciation of hydrogen’s potentially disruptive and strategic role in managing the intermittency of renewable power generation.”

LCOE 14.0
• The cost of generating energy from onshore wind and utility-scale solar projects fell by 2% and 9%, respectively, over the past year.
• While the reductions in costs continue, their rate of decline has slowed, especially for onshore wind. Costs for utility-scale solar have been falling more rapidly (about 11% per year) compared to onshore wind (about 5% per year) over the past five years.
• When U.S. government subsidies are included, the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar is competitive with the marginal cost of coal, nuclear and combined cycle gas generation. The former values average $31/MWh for utility-scale solar and $26/MWh for utility-scale wind, while the latter values average $41/MWh for coal, $29/MWh for nuclear, and $28/MWh for combined cycle gas generation.
• Regional differences in resource availability and fuel costs can drive meaningful variance in the cost of certain technologies, although some of this variance can be mitigated by adjustments to a project’s capital structure, reflecting the availability, and cost, of debt and equity.
LCOS 6.0
• Sustained cost declines were observed across the use cases analyzed in our LCOS for lithium-ion technologies (on both a $/MWh and $/kW-year basis). The cost declines were more pronounced for storage modules than for balance of system components or ongoing operations and maintenance expenses.
• Project returns analyzed in our “Value Snapshots” continue to evolve as hardware costs decline, and the value of available revenue streams fluctuate with market fundamentals.
• Project economics analyzed for standalone behind-the-meter applications remain relatively expensive without subsidies, while utility-scale solar PV + storage systems are becoming increasingly attractive.
• Long-duration storage is gaining traction as a commercially viable solution to challenges created by intermittent energy resources such as solar or wind.


When U.S. government subsidies are included, the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale solar is competitive with the marginal cost of coal, nuclear and combined cycle gas generation. The former values average $31/MWh for utility-scale solar and $26/MWh for utility-scale wind, while the latter values average $41/MWh for coal, $29/MWh for nuclear, and $28/MWh for combined cycle gas generation.


While the reductions in costs continue, their rate of decline has slowed, especially for onshore wind. Costs for utility-scale solar have been falling more rapidly (about 11% per year) compared to onshore wind (about 5% per year) over the past five years.

Selected regional differences (i.e., resource availability and fuel costs) can drive meaningful variance in the LCOE values of certain technologies, though some of this variance is mitigated by adjustments to a project’s capital structure to reflect market conditions that drive the availability, and cost, of debt and equity capital.

Lazard’s latest annual Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis (LCOS 6.0) shows that storage costs have declined across most use cases and technologies, particularly for shorter-duration applications, in part driven by evolving preferences in the industry regarding battery chemistry.



Saturday, November 28, 2020

Health costs of air pollution in European cities and the linkage with transport

Executive Summary
This study investigates the health-related social costs of air pollution in 432 European cities in 30 countries (the EU27 plus the UK, Norway and Switzerland). Social costs are costs affecting welfare and comprise both direct health care expenditures (e.g. for hospital admissions) and indirect health impacts (e.g. diseases such as COPD, or reduced life expectancy due to air pollution). These impacts affect welfare because people have a clear preference for healthy life years in a good and clean environment.

As a clean environment is not something that can be bought in the marketplace, however, a robust methodology is required to monetize them in order to quantify the wider public health impacts.

Environmental economists have performed numerous studies to quantify the impacts of air pollution on health and monetize these as social costs. These studies were used to develop the methodological framework adopted in the present study, which encompasses sixteen health impacts attributable to air pollution by fine particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen oxides (Table 2, Page 15). Using data on reported air quality in the Urban Audit statistics and the EEA Air Quality network, the physical impacts on human health were quantified using concentration-response functions based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). The physical impacts were subsequently monetized using a valuation framework developed in the peer-reviewed Handbook of External Costs published by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, DG MOVE. The resulting social costs incurred in a specific city were then determined from the air pollution levels reported there and the size, age structure and living standards of the population in that particular city.

For all 432 cities in our sample (total population: 130 million inhabitants), the social costs quantified were over € 166 billion in 2018. In absolute terms, London is the city with the highest social costs. In 2018, the loss in welfare for its 8.8 million inhabitants totalled €11.38 billion. London is followed by Bucharest, with an annual loss in welfare of €6.35 billion and Berlin, with an annual loss of €5.24 billion. City size is a key factor contributing to total social costs: all cities with a population over 1 million feature in the Top 25 cities with the highest social costs due to air pollution (see Table 1).

In 2018, on average every inhabitant of a European city suffered a welfare loss of over €1,250 a year owing to direct and indirect health losses associated with poor air quality. This is equivalent to 3.9% of income earned in cities. It should be noted that there is a substantial spread in these figures among cities: in the Romanian capital Bucharest total welfare loss amounts to over €3,000 per capita/year, while in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain it is under €400/cap/yr. In many cities in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland the health-related social costs are between 8-10% of income earned. Most of these costs relate to premature mortality: for the 432 cities investigated, the average contribution of mortality to total social costs is 76.1%. Conversely, the average contribution of morbidity (diseases) is 23.9%.

City air pollution stems from many sources: transport activities, household heating and a range of other activities including agriculture and industry. Without further analysis, the relative share of each source cannot be assessed with any certainty. In this study we did investigate the role of city transport in explaining these social costs using econometric methods. Although there is a severe lack of data at the level of individual cities, we do find evidence that transport policies impact the social costs of air pollution, using several proxy indicators that are available for many cities, including commuting times and car ownership.

Our results show that a 1% increase in the average journey time to work increases the social costs of PM10 emissions by 0.29% and those of NO2 emissions even by 0.54%. A 1% increase in the number of cars in a city increases overall social costs by almost 0.5%. This confirms that reduced commuting and car ownership has a positive impact on air quality, thus reducing the social costs of poor city air quality.

Comparison of our study’s findings regarding welfare losses with those from other research shows that our results are sometimes higher than previously found. To a large extent this can be explained by the more recent figures used here for valuing the adverse impacts of air pollution. Our findings provide additional evidence that reducing air pollution in European cities should be among the top priorities in any attempt to improve the welfare of city populations in Europe. The present COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored this. Comorbidities feature prominently in the mortality of COVID-19 patients and among the most important of these are those associated with air pollution.

The figures reported here are cited without uncertainty ranges. In this kind of study, uncertainty bounds are typically around 30-40%, implying that the figures reported here could be a factor 1/3 lower or 1/3 higher. Finally, it should be stressed that our study is based on reported levels of air quality, which may diverge from the actual situation, given that air quality is still relatively sparsely monitored across Europe. As a result, the social costs reported are likely to be an underestimate in some cities. If air pollution levels are in fact higher than the figures reported in official statistics, the social costs will increase accordingly.

by: Sander de Bruyn and Joukje de Vries
Delft, CE Delft, October 2020
Publication code: 20.190272.134
Client: A consortium of public interest NGOs in ten European countries ( ES, FR, DE, PL, SI, HU, RO, BG, NL, IT) led by the umbrella organisation European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) commissioned this report

Monday, November 23, 2020

Shift to electric vehicles in emerging markets will ‘end oil era’ - China leads transition that may slash growth in global oil demand by 70% – Nothing to lose but your chains: The emerging market transport leapfrog

China is leading a switch to electric vehicles (EV) in emerging markets which will save governments $250 billion a year in oil imports and cut expected growth in global oil demand by 70%, finds a new report from the financial think tank Carbon Tracker published on Friday.

It’s thought to be the first study to reveal that transport in emerging markets accounts for more than 80% of all expected growth in oil demand up to 2030, based on an analysis of the International Energy Agency’s business as usual scenario. Half of the growth is forecast to come from China and India.

But the report notes that these countries are already reducing their dependence on oil and actively supporting EVs as prices fall close to those of petrol and diesel vehicles. China leads the world in the deployment of EV and India is following the same path.

“This is a simple choice between growing dependency on what has been expensive oil produced by a foreign cartel, or domestic electricity produced by renewable sources whose prices fall over time. Emerging market importers will bring the oil era to an end.” notes Kingsmill Bond, Carbon Tracker energy strategist and report lead author.

Most governments have strong incentives to electrify their transport systems. Emerging markets – India, China, South East Asia and most of Africa – spend huge sums on oil imports every year, and two thirds (68%) is used for transport. Oil imports cost 1.5% of China’s GDP and 2.6% of India’s GDP.

Nothing to lose but your chains: The emerging market transport leapfrog calculates that a switch to EVs could save emerging markets up to $250 billion a year collectively on oil imports by 2030, more than enough to pay for the infrastructure needed to support electrified transport. Annual savings would be over $80 billion in China and over $35 billion in India.

There are also strong public health grounds to cut oil use. Pollution linked to road transport causes 285,000 deaths a year in oil-importing emerging markets, including 114,000 in China and 74,000 in India, reports the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Battery prices have fallen 20% a year since 2010, stimulating huge new markets for EVs. The next few years will see them fall from $135/KWh to below $100/KWh, the point at which EVs become as cheap to buy as conventional vehicles. By 2030 they will be cheaper still – BNEF forecasts a battery price of $61/KWh while carmakers like VW and Tesla expect $50/KWh.

Chinese central planning has supported the country’s EV industry for many years as a means to reduce oil dependency and establish a lead in the emerging technology. China’s BYD is now the world’s fifth biggest carmaker, with a larger market capitalisation than General Motors.

In 2019, EVs accounted for 61% of China’s two-wheeler sales and 59% of bus sales, and the government plans that by 2025 one in five cars sold will be an EV. President Xi Jinping’s recent commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2060 implies that all car sales in China will need to have an EV drivetrain by 2035.

Other countries are poised to follow. The Indian government plans for EVs to make up 30% of car sales by 2030, but local forecasters believe that by that date 30% of cars and 80% of two-wheeler sales could be electric.[1]

Shift to EVs will pay for itself

Countries can finance the shift to EVs from the huge savings they will make on oil imports. Carbon Tracker calculates that the cost of importing oil for the average car is ten times higher than the cost of the solar equipment needed to power an equivalent EV.[2]  The annual cost per car of imported gasoline is almost the same as the total cost of local charging infrastructure for an EV.[3]

Moreover, switching to EVs brings wider economic benefits by cutting the price of any remaining oil imports. Emerging markets are the single biggest driver of expected growth in demand for oil, so if that trend plays out it could contribute to prices falling by up to a quarter.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Lead in Drinking Water and Birth Outcomes: A Tale of Two Water Treatment Plants

The recent drinking water crisis in Newark, New Jersey's largest city, has renewed concerns about the lead-in-water crisis becoming a persistent and widespread problem owing to the nation's aging infrastructure. We exploit a unique natural experiment in Newark, which exogenously exposed some women in the city to higher levels of lead in tap water but not others, to identify a causal effect of prenatal lead exposure on fetal health. Using birth data that contain information on mothers' exact residential addresses, we find robust and consistent evidence that prenatal exposure to lead significantly raises the probability of low birth weight or preterm births by approximately 1.4 to 1.9 percentage points (14-22 percent), and the adverse effects are largely concentrated among mothers of lower socioeconomic status. Our findings have important policy implications in light of the long-term impact of compromised health at birth and the substantial number of lead water pipes that remain in use as part of our aging infrastructure.
With infant health being an important predictor of later-life outcomes, these estimates are critical towards evaluating the cost-benefit calculus of infrastructure investments, including replacing all of the nation’s lead service lines, an initiative supported by the EPA as well as many states and communities at a potential cost of between $29 to $47 billion (EPA, 2019)... The EPA (2019) noted 6.1–10 million lead service lines (LSL) nationally, with an average estimated replacement cost of $4,700 per LSL
In March 2019, Newark commenced a program to remove and replace all of the city’s lead service lines in the water system at no cost to the homeowner, at a projected public cost of $90–$180 million. With the lifetime societal economic burden of a preterm birth estimated to be approximately $66,331 2018 dollars. The Institute of Medicine (2007) estimated the societal burden of a preterm birth to be $51,589 in 2005 dollars. The societal cost of the lead crisis in Newark could amount to $1.99–$2.65 million per year, just from an estimated increase of 30 to 40 preterm births linked to the heightened lead exposure each year. [30 (or 40) preterm births×66,331 per preterm births = $1.99 million (or $2.65 million)],

Assuming a discount rate for public policy of 2 percent based on the social rate of time preference (Council of Economic Advisers, 2017), societal cost savings from averting this adverse fetal health could be between $100 and $133 million, significantly offsetting the cost of public infrastructure investment. [There is ... debate as to the appropriate discount rate to apply for public policy (see for instance, Council of Economic Advisers,2017; Li and Pizer, 2018) depending on the social rate of time preference or the social opportunity cost of capital, and the length of the time horizon under consideration. The U.S. federal guidance requires agencies to use both a 3% and a 7% real discount rate in regulatory cost-benefit analyses. Under this guidance, the societal cost savings of averting the adverse fetal health would be between $66.3 million and $88.3 million (social discount rate of 0.03) and between $28.4 million and $37.9 million (social discount rate of 0.07). Clearly, the cost implications are sensitive to the discount rate employed. With long-term real interest rates decreasing substantially over the past decade, a recent issue brief by the Council of Economic Advisers (2017) recommends lowering the estimate of the social discount rate in applications to public policy cost-benefit calculus.
by Dhaval M. Dave & Muzhe Yang
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Working Paper 27996; October 2020

Monetising the savings of remotely sensed data and information in Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) wildfire assessment

We used a value of information approach to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of using satellite imagery as part of the Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER), a US federal program that identifies imminent post-wildfire threats to human life and safety, property and critical natural or cultural resources. We compared the costs associated with producing a Burn Area Reflectance Classification map and implementing a BAER when imagery from satellites (either Landsat or a commercial satellite) was available to when the response team relied on information collected solely by aerial reconnaissance. The case study included two evaluations with and without Burn Area Reflectance Classification products: (a) savings of up to US$51 000 for the Elk Complex wildfire incident request and (b) savings of a multi-incident map production program. Landsat is the most cost-effective way to input burn severity information into the BAER program, with savings of up to US$35 million over a 5-year period.
by Richard Bernknopf, Yusuke Kuwayama, Reily Gibson, Jessica Blakely, Bethany Mabee, T.J. Clifford, Brad Quayle, Justin Epting, Terry Hardy, and David Goodrich
International Journal of Wildland Fire -
Published online: 22 October 2020 

Combining information on others’ energy usage and their approval of energy conservation promotes energy saving behaviour

Households reduced their electricity use the most when they learnt both that they were using more energy than their neighbours and that energy conservation was socially approved. This suggests that efforts to use social information to nudge conservation should combine different types of social feedback to maximize impact.

Messages for Policy
  • The content of social information messages determines their impact on energy conservation.
  • Combining descriptive information on neighbours’ efficient energy usage and injunctive social approval for energy efficiency maximizes the effectiveness of social information.
  • Delivering inconsistent descriptive and injunctive information reduces the impact of each piece of feedback.
  • Simply adding more pieces of feedback of the same type has a limited effect.
Based on J. Bonan et al. (2020).

The policy problem
Home Energy Reports (HER) are a popular means of encouraging energy conservation, reaching millions of energy utility customers across many countries. HERs typically rely on social information about the energy usage of a customer’s neighbours (descriptive feedback) and their social approval of energy conservation (injunctive feedback) to nudge recipients toward more energy-efficient behaviour. The specific content of both types of feedback depends on how the recipient’s energy usage compares to that of their neighbours (Fig. 1). Available evidence indicates that the impact of HERs on energy consumption varies significantly both across countries and across individuals. This raises the question of whether the heterogeneity in the effectiveness of HERs can be attributed to how social information feedback is conveyed. Answering this question could inform the design of more effective communication campaigns relying on social information.

Fig. 1: Home Energy Report.
a–c, Layout and content of a Home Energy Report for a user receiving three thumbs-up (a); and a user receiving two thumbs-up (b). Both versions of the report contain injunctive feedback, that is, the thumbs-up (top), and descriptive feedback, that is, the bars displaying actual energy consumption (bottom). The figure also displays the position of the randomized descriptive or injunctive norm primes, whose text is shown in (c). Reproduced from Bonan, J., Cattaneo, C., d’Adda, G. & Tavoni, M. Nat. Energy (2020). Copyright 2016-2020

The findings
Energy customers who received two different types of social feedback (descriptive and injunctive) encouraging them to save energy reduced their consumption more than low-energy users for whom conforming with the descriptive feedback would entail consumption increases, at odds with the injunctive feedback praising energy saving. The addition of a second piece of information of the same type (for example, adding a second descriptive messages that encouraged energy saving) had a limited impact. When feedback was inconsistent, the piece of feedback delivering the strongest message prevailed, where strength reflected the difference between the user’s energy consumption and that of their neighbours (descriptive feedback) and the intensity of social approval conveyed through visual cues (injunctive feedback). These results suggest the significance of synergies between different types of feedback, rather than the superiority of any one type of feedback. The results may be specific to the precise wording and graphical representations used to provide feedback in our HER (Fig. 1), and may not generalize to the whole customer base.

The study
We carried out a randomized controlled experiment in Italy in which households received HERs. We disentangled the impact of descriptive and injunctive feedback in two ways. First, we exploited the discontinuities in the injunctive feedback, which changed discretely as users’ consumption crossed certain thresholds, for instance shifting from one to two ‘thumbs-up’ as a user’s consumption dropped below the average of their neighbours. Second, we randomly assigned customers to receive a message at the bottom of the HER emphasizing either a descriptive or an injunctive norm of energy conservation (Fig. 1). Using data on the content of the HERs received by users and on their energy consumption, we were able to evaluate the impact of each piece of feedback in isolation, and when combined with others of the same or of different types.
by Jacopo Bonan, Cristina Cattaneo, Giovanna d’Adda & Massimo Tavoni 
Nature Energy Policy Brief
Volume 5, Published: 02 November 2020; Pages 832–833 (2020)

The main article "The interaction of descriptive and injunctive social norms in promoting energy conservation" by the same authors published on the same day at (pages900–909) notes
the magnitude of the average savings from the programme (−0.353%) is outside the range of those generated by similar ones in the United States (minimum = 0.88%, maximum = 2.55%), they are in line with the existing evidence from Europe. Various factors, such as lower average consumption in Europe than that in the United States, the specific features of the programme we studied or differences in beliefs across contexts, may be responsible for these differences. The heterogeneous effects, although not robust and only marginally statistically significant, are qualitatively in line with the existing evidence on the larger impact of social information on high electricity users and on the absence of boomerang effects among low users

These results provide initial, albeit weak, support for our conceptual framework. For high users, normative and injunctive feedbacks pull behaviour in the same direction, which results in a reduction in electricity almost twice as large as that in the average treatment effect. For low electricity users, conforming to the reference groups’ behaviour motivates a consumption increase (’boomerang’), but the injunctive feedback included in the eHER counterbalances the negative effect of the descriptive feedback. 

We Energies to retire 1.8 gigawatts of fossil fuel; utility adding solar, wind, battery storage

Wisconsin’s largest utility plans to replace nearly half its coal-fired generation with a portfolio of solar, wind, batteries and natural gas plants as part of a $16.1 billion spending plan that the company says will generate profits for investors and save money for ratepayers.

WEC Energy Group plans to retire 1,800 megawatts of fossil fuel generation — including the South Oak Creek coal plant near Racine — over the next five years while adding 1,500 megawatts of clean energy and storage capacity along with 300 megawatts of natural gas generation.
Oak Creek, Wis., coal-fired electrical power stations. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch
Utility chairman Gale Klappa announced the capital plan during a call with investors Tuesday, in which he said it would help WEC meet its goal of carbon neutral electricity by 2050 and achieve a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

Klappa said the spending plan, which is $1.1 billion larger than the previous five-year plan, will increase company profits by 5% to 7% a year while also saving ratepayers what amounts to $50 million a year over the next two decades.
In broad terms, the plan calls for building 800 megawatts of solar generation and 100 megawatts of wind generation coupled with 600 megawatts of battery storage, which can be used to balance those intermittent renewable resources.

“The data show that battery storage has now become a cost-effective option for us,” Klappa said.

The announcement comes as Wisconsin’s first utility-scale solar plant came online. Jointly owned by WEC subsidiary Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Madison Gas and Electric, the 150-megawatt Two Creeks Solar Farm in Manitowoc County began commercial operation Monday.

Curtis Waltz Wisconsin Public Service Corp

WEC also intends to purchase a 200-megawatt share of Alliant Energy’s new West Riverside natural gas plant and build 100 megawatts of natural gas-powered peaking plants.

The company said those acquisitions will allow it to retire the 1,100-megawatt South Oak Creek power plant, whose four generators are all more than 50 years old, in 2023 and 2024.

WEC’s oldest coal-fired plant, South Oak Creek is the single largest source of toxic metals dumped into Lake Michigan, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis of federal data.

Last year, the Department of Natural Resources gave WEC until the end of next year to stop using water to remove ash from the boilers, a process that can lead to mercury and other toxins seeping into groundwater.
Klappa said closing an older plant like South Oak Creek could save $50 million a year in operational and maintenance costs.
Consumer advocates cautioned that ratepayer savings will depend on how regulators handle the hundreds of millions of dollars WEC has invested in fossil fuel plants over the past two decades.
On Thursday the Public Service Commission approved a plan for WEC to refinance $100 million of its remaining investment in pollution controls at its Pleasant Prairie coal plant, which WEC retired in 2018 saying it would save millions of dollars for ratepayers.  The financing arrangement, known as securitization, is expected to save ratepayers about $40 million.  Consumer and environmental advocates, as well as regulators, say securitization could be a key tool for paying off plants that are no longer economic to run.

Despite attempts by the Trump administration to prop up the coal industry, South Oak Creek is the 329th U.S. coal plant targeted for retirement since 2010, according to the Sierra Club.  Over the past decade, U.S. utilities have retired or replaced 95,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity in response to tighter air pollution standards and increasingly unfavorable economics, according to the Energy Information Administration. Another 25,000 megawatts of coal capacity are expected to retire by 2025.  In the first six months of 2020, the U.S. electric power sector consumed 30% less coal than in the first half of 2019, according to recent data from the EIA.
Alliant Energy, which plans to add 1,000 megawatts of solar generation in Wisconsin, this year has announced plans to close its 415-megawatt Edgewater plant in Sheboygan by the end of 2022, while the company’s Iowa utility said last month it would also close a 275-megawatt coal plant in Lansing on the Mississippi River.

by Chris Hubbuch 
Kenosha News
November 6, 2020