In a year characterized by extreme weather, avid handwashing, and increasingly remote interactions, access to electricity is more important than ever. But 12 months into the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a basic right on which thousands of Navajo Nation members are still waiting. “What it’s like to be without electricity? I don’t know how to describe it because we never had it before,” said Navajo elder and Black Mesa, Arizona, resident Percy Deal. “It’s always been this way, so we’re used to it. Until last year when this pandemic came in; that’s when we began to realize that these utilities are very important.” Electricity has long been a contentious issue for Navajo Nation residents. Of the roughly 55,000 Indigenous households located on Navajo lands, which stretch across large parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, ~15,000 do not have electricity. And yet the reservation is an energy-exporting hotspot, having until recently been home to the Navajo Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S, as well as many coal, uranium, oil, and fracking operations. - Grist
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 is 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. Chris Clack sees things differently. In a fascinating report released last month, Clack and his coauthors estimated that eliminating nearly all planet-warming pollution from electricity generation would be $473 billion cheaper with dramatic growth in rooftop solar and batteries.
That calculation is based on Clack’s exhaustively detailed model of the U.S. electric grid, which he says includes 10,000 times more data points than traditional models and allows for a better accounting of rooftop solar’s costs and benefits to the grid. The model is such a complex beast that Clack built his own computers to help run the simulations, which can take five days to complete.
Researchers...looked out to 2050 and projected how electricity costs would change under a national policy requiring emissions to fall by 95%. When they mimicked traditional models that favor large solar and wind farms, they found that consumers would collectively pay $385 billion more for power over the next 30 years. Not an unreasonable price tag for taking a huge bite out of climate change, but still not the preferred direction if we can help it.
When they optimized for smaller-scale solutions...they found the cheapest way to reduce emissions actually involves building 247 gigawatts of rooftop and local solar power (equal to about one-fifth of the country’s entire generating capacity today). In this scenario, consumers would save $473 billion, relative to what electricity would otherwise cost.
The results come down to simple dollars and cents. - LA Times
Royal Dutch Shell, one of the multinationals that defined the oil industry, is slowly turning away from the fossil fuel that made its fortune over the decades but also worsened a global climate crisis. The company said Thursday that its production of oil peaked before the coronavirus pandemic and will fall steadily as it attempts an ambitious pivot toward less polluting forms of energy. It's a milestone for the company and reflects the urgency facing governments and companies to reduce climate-warming emissions. Shell unveiled new plans for reaching its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 that include a 1% to 2% drop annually in oil output. It will eliminate seven of its 13 refineries and aims to cut production of gasoline and diesel fuel by 55% over the next decade. The plan is part of a wider push, particularly among European oil companies, to overhaul their operations to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming while still making money. BP said last year that it wants to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions from its operations and the oil and gas it sells to customers by 2050. - ABC News
Editor's Note - I am including links to significant podcasts related to geology, energy, and the environment. The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder, is an excellent source of information from experts related to..well... energy transition.
Methane (natural gas) is a greenhouse gas with a much more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide, so finding and eliminating gas leaks is an important part of addressing the climate challenge. But until now, we’ve had poor information about gas leakage within cities, as well as how to correctly attribute the leakage all along the chain from well to consumer.
We discuss a study, The Gas Index, with two of its authors. It is the first study that has provided granular estimates for life cycle methane leakage for a large number of cities, and the first to draw together recent assessments of leakage within cities, including leakage that occurs within buildings. It shows that cities’ gas systems are leaking about 72% more than had been previously estimated by the EPA. We also consider the role of natural gas in the energy transition, and some of the tradeoffs we will have to consider as we deal with the problem of methane leakage. - Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder
I started a CGCC Facebook page in May of '20 to share geo-environmental news but had concerns about FB's issues with accuracy. This page, GeoNews, is a response and partial solution, sharing a few items from reliable sources each week.