The Climate For The Fight Against Climate Change

“For four years, the Trump administration didn’t consider the fight against climate change a priority.

But just hours after taking office, President Joe Biden signed several executive orders to address climate change. In one day, the U.S. rejoined the Paris climate agreement and permits approving the development of the Keystone XL pipeline were canceled.

But how much needs to be done to reverse years of inaction on climate change? Do scientists and other experts say what the Biden administration wants to accomplish is enough to avoid the crisis’s most devatasting consequences?

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), Axios‘ Amy Harder and Christopher Clack, founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy, based in Boulder, C.O., joined us to talk about what a Biden Administration might mean for climate change”

Coordinated Deployments of Transmission- and Distribution-scale Resources Provide the Lowest Cost Electricity

“Any time you happen to glance at the electricity mix in the United States you will notice a significant transition taking place. Wind and solar power plants are being constructed and activated at an ever-increasing rate. In fact, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in the next three years the United States could deploy more wind and solar than are currently in service on the grid today. This could effectively double the capacity of wind and solar in just three years with new plants that are more efficient.

Simultaneously, the penetration of distributed solar is increasing dramatically, with each passing month seeing more panels going into service. Surely all these distributed solar projects are a distraction and make the cost of the whole system higher, while being inefficient in terms of solving climate change, right? Well, no! Vibrant Clean Energy recently released a study (see summary) that might finally “break the fever” of that thinking.”

Boiling Point: How rooftop solar could save Americans $473 billion

“With less than two weeks until Joe Biden takes office — and with Democrats taking control of the Senate — the growth of clean energy is poised to accelerate. Even if Congress doesn’t fully embrace the president-elect’s $2-trillion climate plan, there will be plenty of actions his administration can take to support renewable power and put pressure on fossil fuels.

So here’s some food for thought: If Biden’s appointees want to help consumers save money, they might consider devoting a big chunk of their efforts to solar panels and batteries that can be installed at homes across the country.

Critics have long dismissed rooftop solar as a niche product for wealthy homeowners who want to feel good about going green or are looking for security against blackouts. And it’s conventional wisdom among utilities and regulators that large solar farms have an inherent cost advantage over the rooftop alternative because they benefit from economies of scale.”

Why Local Solar + Storage Is a Pillar of the Net-Zero Grid

“This week, we finally left behind a destructive regime that thwarted environmental policy at every turn. We exchanged it for a government putting climate experts and clean-energy doers in its highest ranks in a way that no prior administration has ever done before.

What comes next?

First up this week: If Biden wants his $2 trillion climate spending plan to make a bigger impact, should he emphasize rooftop solar and small-scale batteries? A leading modeler, Chris Clack, says a local solar-storage plan could save hundreds of billions of dollars as we build out the net-zero grid.”

Want to know how to pick an energy market? Watch the Mountain West power providers

“In the race between system operators to capture power providers in the rich Mountain West energy market from New Mexico to Idaho, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) took the lead in 2020, but two competitors are at its heels.

CAISO pulled ahead of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) by adding Xcel Energy’s Colorado subsidiary to its Western real-time balancing market and filing its initial proposal for expanding to day-ahead trading during the summer. But SPP recently won approval from federal regulators for a Western real-time market to expand its regional system. And some Colorado power providers want their own market.”

Study Confirms that Investing in Inter-Regional Transmission Networks is a Win-win for the Environment and Economy

“As the costs of renewables continue to plummet, more states and utilities are committing to 100-percent clean energy goals. Still, they lack the capability to generate that inexpensive renewable electricity close to home. Meanwhile, other regions are occasionally so over-supplied with renewable energy (and faced with limited transmission capacity to meet demand elsewhere) that they have to curtail renewable generation or pay consumers to buy power. Expanding transmission networks would help connect regions with significant renewable resources to consumers and bring inexpensive power to a decarbonizing grid.

A new study written by Christopher Clack et. al of Vibrant Clean Energy LLC and Michael Goggin of Grid Strategies LLC shows that the benefits of adding transmission would be widely distributed. In the study, the authors analyze how to build grid transmission to achieve particular goals for reducing CO2 emissions and adding high amounts of wind or solar power to the Eastern Interconnect, the power grid that services most of the eastern United States. Within each of those scenarios, they can report changes in power generation, cost, and jobs. They find that adding transmission creates conditions for win-win-win scenarios for generating regions and consumers.”

Energy consulting groups value Southeast RTO potential at $384B savings by 2040

“Competitive pricing across the Southeast would save customers $17.4 billion a year and lead to the retirement of most coal plants and gas peakers in the region by 2040, according to new modeling from Vibrant Clean Energy on behalf of Energy Innovation.

The report, released on Tuesday, says a regional transmission organization (RTO) scenario would represent the maximum benefits of competition in the region, a cumulative $384 billion in savings by 2040. The analysis forecasts the impacts of a seven-state wholesale electricity market being set up in 2025, spanning Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Competitive pricing through a regional electricity market would lead to decarbonization without state policies like carbon pricing and renewable energy mandates, according to the research. If the region continues on its current path, it will add about 21 GW of new renewables and storage by 2040, but competitive pricing from a wholesale market could add 131 GW of clean resources: 52 GW solar, 42 GW wind and 37 GW storage.”

To Rid The Grid Of Coal, The Southeast U.S. Needs A Competitive Wholesale Electricity Market

“The Southeastern United States, one of the country’s only regions without a competitive wholesale electricity market, is dominated by monopoly utilities, which have favored expensive and polluting fossil fuel generation over cheap clean energy. Nearly all Southeast coal plants cost more to run than replacing them with new wind and solar, so continuing to run these uneconomic resources forces customers to foot the bill and inhale dirty air.

Incremental progress may be on the horizon. Three regional utilities – Tennessee Valley Authority (a federal entity), Southern Company SCCO +2.9%, and Duke Energy DUK +0.4% – have proposed the voluntary “Southeast Energy Exchange Market” (SEEM). But this modest proposal appears to extend rather than limit utilities’ power to retain expensive coal generation, ignoring billions in annual savings.

New research from Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy shows establishing a competitive wholesale electricity market across seven Southeastern states could save $384 billion and create more than 400,000 clean energy jobs, jump-starting an economy slowed by COVID-19 and dramatically reducing harmful air pollution.”

Colorado’s cleanest energy options are also its cheapest

“Of all the states in the US, Colorado may be the best prepared for a genuine, large-scale energy transition.

For one thing, thanks to its bountiful sunlight and wind, Colorado has enormous potential for renewable energy, most of which is untapped. The state currently generates only 3 percent of its electricity from solar and just under 18 percent from wind.

The political climate is favorable as well. As of earlier this year, Democrats have a “trifecta” in the state, with control over the governorship and both houses of the legislature. Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a promise to target 100 percent clean electricity by 2040. In their last session, he and the legislature passed a broad suite of bills meant to boost renewable energy, reform utilities, expand EV markets, and decarbonize the state economy.”

Colorado’s most powerful climate tool isn’t what you think

“The Colorado legislature has had an extraordinarily productive year so far, passing a stunning array of climate and clean energy bills covering everything from clean electricity to utilities, energy efficiency, and a just transition. The list is really pretty amazing.

Among other things, the state adopted ambitious carbon targets: From 2005 levels, greenhouse gases must fall 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030, and 90 percent by 2050. Several of the bills passed in support of that effort focused on electric vehicles, extending available tax credits and funding charging infrastructure.”

The Coal Cost Crossover: 74% Of US Coal Plants Now More Expensive Than New Renewables, 86% By 2025

“New research from Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE) shows the U.S. has officially reached the coal cost crossover point, where fast-falling wind and solar prices make simply operating three-quarters of all existing coal generation plants more expensive than building new local renewable energy

In 2018, 74% of the national coal fleet was “at risk,” meaning the plants could be replaced with new wind or solar generation within 35 miles of each plant cheaper than the combined fuel, maintenance, and other going-forward costs of running those plants. By 2025, at-risk coal increases to a whopping 86% of the entire existing U.S. generation fleet, even as federal renewable energy tax credits phase out.”

Coal is on the way out’: study finds fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind

“Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study.

The study’s authors used public financial filings and data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to work out the cost of energy from coal plants compared with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius. They found that 211 gigawatts of current US coal capacity, 74% of the coal fleet, is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.

By 2025 the picture becomes even clearer, with nearly the entire US coal system out-competed on cost by wind and solar, even when factoring in the construction of new wind turbines and solar panels.”

Closing Colorado Coal Would Save $2.5 Billion. A New Proposal Could Unlock The Coal-To-Clean Shift.

New analysis from Vibrant Clean Energy reinforces the economics of Colorado’s accelerating coal retirements. Replacing uneconomic coal generation in the state by 2025 with wind energy and solar power, backed by battery storage and natural gas, would save electric customers 5% on their electricity bills – saving more than $2.5 billion through 2040.

The modeling shows “baseload” generation is no longer needed for a cheap, reliable electricity system – variable renewable energy with energy storage and some flexible backup generation can become the backbone of an energy system.”

Colorado could save $2.5 billion by rapidly shutting down its coal power plants

“Happily, a new bit of research targets just that question. An energy research shop called Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE), headed by longtime energy systems modeler and analyst Christopher Clack, has a new paper out Tuesday detailing the financial and employment effects of shutting coal plants in Colorado.

Long story short: Through 2040, the state could capture $2.5 billion in net savings by rapidly phasing out its coal fleet, while providing reliable power, lowering customers’ power bills, improving public health, and reducing carbon emissions by more than a half-billion metric tons. “This saving is in addition to repaying all the remaining capital on the coal power plants,” VCE writes.”

Five things to know about Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘GreenNew Deal’

“While some cities, states and countries have set goals to completely switch to renewables, real-world deployments are practically nonexistent at this point.

And since the Green New Deal hasn’t been fleshed out, no comprehensive cost analysis exists.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation by Christopher Clack, a physicist who has studied rapid deployments of renewables, estimated that building out the generating capacity alone would cost at least $2 trillion.

“It’s a daunting task, and I’m not sure that the authors of the Green New Deal fully comprehend how much they’ll need,” he said.”

For the first time, a major US utility has committed to 100% clean energy

“First, we have a really good idea of how to get to 80 percent. Climate researcher Christopher Clack and his team showed in 2016 that the entire US could get to 80 percent using existing commercial technologies.

We know we can get to 80, but 80 is a long, long way off almost everywhere. There is, in other words, no reason to wait. We know more than enough to get our asses in gear.

And second, we’re not yet sure how to get that last 20 percent, so we need to keep researching new techniques and technologies in the meantime. Xcel is going to work with state regulators to try to do some ratepayer-supported R&D. That seems like a really good idea.”

Illinois can do without Vistra coal plants, greens claim

“Eight coal plants in southern Illinois, Midcontinent ISO Zone 4, can be retired without impacting reliability while also saving customers up to $14 billion, according to a report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club.

The report, prepared by Vibrant Clean Energy, shows that all of Vistra Energy Corp.’s coal plants could retire by 2025, and replacing them with wind and solar power would lead to lower electricity costs.”

Report: Illinois Can Shutter Coal Plants And Reap The Benefits Of Solar, Wind

“The report, prepared by Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE), analyzed the electricity, customer bill and pollution impacts of closing Dynegy-Vistra’s eight facilities. The report contradicts Dynegy-Vistra’s claim that shuttering its Illinois coal fleet would have negative impacts on the state’s power grid that would lead to power outages and, consequently, require a bailout from the state.”

Shell’s vision of a zero carbon world by 2070, explained

“The first bet is that we will, in fact, be able to pull massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere in the latter half of the century, atoning up for the sins of the first half. Virtually all the 2°C scenarios in circulation today rely heavily on negative emissions. I ran the Sky scenario by modeler Christopher Clack of Vibrant Clean Energy and he noted that, from 2070 forward, Shell has us burying around 11 gigatons of CO2 a year, “equivalent to 1.7 times the current total emissions from the United States, or one-third of today’s global emissions.” That’s a lot to bury.”

Can the world thrive on 100% renewable energy?

“But in June this year Christopher Clack, founder of Vibrant Clean Energy, a firm, issued a stinging critique with fellow researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal in which Mr Jacobson et al had published their findings. They argued that a narrow focus on wind, water and solar would make tackling climate change more difficult and expensive than it needed to be, not least because it ignored existing zero-carbon technologies such as nuclear power and bioenergy. “

Fisticuffs Over the Route to a Clean-Energy Future

“Professor Jacobson not only claims renewables’ share can be ramped up on the cheap to 100 percent within a few decades, but also that it can be done without bioenergy, which today contributes about half of the country’s renewable-energy production.

And yet under the microscope of the critics — led by Christopher Clack, chief executive of the grid modeling firm Vibrant Clean Energy..”

Scientists Sharply Rebut Influential Renewable-Energy Plan

“Lead author Christopher Clack, chief executive of Vibrant Clean Energy and a former NOAA researcher, described Jacobson’s accusation that the authors were acting out of allegiance to fossil fuels or nuclear power as “bizarre.” The 21 authors of the rebuttal, which features a conflict-of-interest statement, include energy, policy, storage, and climate researchers affiliated with prominent institutions like Carnegie Mellon, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Brookings Institution, and Jacobson’s own Stanford.”

A bitter scientific debate just erupted over the future of America’s power grid

““We thought we had to write a peer reviewed piece to highlight some of the mistakes and have a broader discussion about what we really need to fight climate change,” said lead study author Christopher Clack of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory. “And we felt the only way to do it in a fair and unbiased way was to go through peer review, and have external referees vet it to make sure we’re not saying anything that’s untrue in our piece.””

100% Renewables Plan Has ‘Significant Shortcomings,’ Say Climate and Energy Experts

“The lead author is Christopher Clack, a former research scientist at the University of Colorado and current CEO of the grid modeling consultancy Vibrant Clean Energy. The sheer number of co-authors suggests this is not a battle of egos. Their accumulated expertise has advanced the understanding of climate change and the system impacts of high amounts of renewable energy. They are not industry shills trying to undermine the advance of wind and solar; they are scientists who want to use evidence-based reasoning to optimize it.””

Factcheck Shows Trump’s Climate Speech Was Full of Misleading Statements

“A series of recent studies have found that the U.S. grid could operate reliably with large amounts of renewable generation. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study from last year concluded that the Eastern Interconnection could operate with 30 percent penetrations of wind and renewable generation. A 2016 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study found that the U.S. power sector could cut carbon emissions by 80 percent without increasing costs.”

Sempra backtracks on VP’s “100 percent renewable” comments

Making instantaneous fine tune adjustments are crucial and Patrick Lee was right about that, said Christopher Clack, CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy. “but that’s only the short-term variability.”

The first 80 percent renewable energy is easy, he said. “The last 20 percent is very difficult because of these longer-term events, where you could lose solar or wind for three to five days.” It is not possible to store that much energy economically today.

The Energy Interstate

“The most recent high-profile paper making this argument was published in January by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Christopher Clack and colleagues built a model to predict the long-term costs of putting all kinds of energy into the electrical system. When they imposed a constraint on their model—it couldn’t use coal—they found that the cheapest option involved a grid of transmission lines that could carry solar and wind energy from almost any part of the country to anywhere else. Other technologies—perhaps Gates’s imagined miracle—would still be required to get rid of carbon-emitting fuels altogether, but the new grid would get us quite far, reducing emissions from power plants by up to 80 percent within 15 years.”

Bill Gates, the ‘Impatient Optimist,’ Lays Out his Clean-Energy Innovation Agenda

In an interview with the New York Times, Bill Gates mentions our very own founder Christopher Clack. Check out the full transcript or video of the interview in the link below.

“A lot of the systems design that people are looking at – like Christopher Clack — even if you can get the renewables up to 80 percent, then you have a piece there probably natural gas “peakers” [power plants that run in periods of high electricity demand], at least based on current technology, are way cheaper than any [energy] storage.”

Is 100% renewable energy realistic? Here’s what we know

“Clack told me something intriguing. He said that there is enough nuclear capacity in the US today to serve as the necessary dispatchable generation in an 80 percent decarbonized grid. We wouldn’t need any big new nuclear or CCS power plants.

It would just mean a) changing market and regulatory rules to make nuclear more flexible (it largely has the technical capacity), and b) keeping the plants open forever.”

A National Power Grid: The Answer To Renewable Energy’s Storage Problem?

“It’s a conservative model, so if a similar system was actually built, it might actually cut emissions even more. “The model was deliberately a cost optimized solution,” says Clack. “That is, there was no constraint on carbon, and we did not invoke demand management or storage. Technologies will always improve, which will help reduce emissions.””

Could Hillary Clinton’s ‘Open Borders’ Energy Grid Idea Really Work?

“From a technological standpoint, the US electricity system could be reconfigured into one national grid, said Christopher Clack, founder of renewable energy consulting company Vibrant Clean Energy. The greater barrier is the state and federal red tape surrounding those decisions.

“The main constraint to connecting the US together into one grid is legislation,” he said in an email.

Even if a national grid system were possible, would it be possible to arrange international agreements to make it work? Yes, Clack said, but it would be difficult.”

Study of how renewables hurt the grid puzzles analysts

“However, one researcher noted that the jury has already rendered a verdict on the question of increasing renewables on the grid.

“It’s a bit strange that the Energy Department is ordering a study on this when those studies have already been done,” said Christopher Clack, a former electricity grid researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s an old question that’s being re-brought up.””

Clinton Wants a SuperGrid

“From a purely technical point of view, it would be possible to convert the various networks into a single, international power grid, says Christopher Clack, founder of the consulting company Vibrant Clean Energy. “This could be realistic up to the 2030s,” Clack told bizz energy. A prerequisite for this is, however, high-voltage direct- current transmission lines between the states, in order to make such a large network efficient. Added to this is legislation.”

Grid Simulation and Wind Potential

Straight talk about the world’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables with energy expert Chris Nelder. For the full 60 minute podcast featuring our founder Christopher Clack please click below.

Short excerpt from audio interview: