Energy and global warming news for January 11, 2011: Edison signs deals for seven new solar power plants; China moves toward CO2 trading to boost efficiency and competitiveness; Spill panel recommendations

Edison signs deals for seven new solar power plants

Southern California Edison has signed contracts with two companies for the construction and operation of seven solar power plants in the state, including one that the utility said would be among the largest single solar photovoltaic installations in the U.S.

The facilities, when completed by 2016, would add a total of 831 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity, enough to power 540,000 homes, the Rosemead utility said Monday. That represents a significant increase in Edison’s ability to deliver power from the sun and other renewable sources.

“This is an unprecedented time for solar photovoltaic,” said Marc Ulrich, vice president for renewable and alternative power for Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International. “We’re seeing growth in technological advances and manufacturing efficiencies that result in competitive prices for green, emission-free energy for our customers.”

In 2009, Edison obtained 13.6 billion kilowatt-hours of power from renewable sources, about 17% of its overall power generation. That renewable electricity was generated by 3,296 megawatts of wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and small hydropower facilities, with solar representing only 382 megawatts of capacity, according to the utility’s website. Edison spokeswoman Vanessa McGrady said the megawatt total for solar and overall renewable power had increased since then, but she was unable to be more specific.

China Moves Toward Carbon Emissions Trading to Improve Energy Efficiency and Competitiveness

When professor Chen Hongbo tried to promote carbon trading in China three years ago, he found himself under fire. As developing countries like China aren’t obliged to limit the byproduct of their economic growth, opponents argued vehemently that they saw no need to motivate Chinese industries to either emit less greenhouse gases or pay for their emissions.

Today, China is still free of that obligation, but the internal dispute seems to have ended. In its proposed development plan for the next five years, the government has for the first time revealed its interest in building a domestic carbon market.

“Everybody now agrees this is a must,” said Chen, an associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a key government think tank in Beijing.

What silenced the dispute, according to Chen, was the recognition that carbon trading not only tightens a valve on China’s greenhouse gas emissions, but also goes hand in hand with another primary concern — energy efficiency.

To make local businesses more competitive and ensure national energy security, the Chinese government has been scrambling for ways to reduce the country’s energy use. But its previous attempts — such as simply shutting down inefficient factories — cost jobs and couldn’t be scaled up.

Carbon trading, however, may serve the mission better. In a nation where nearly 70 percent of the power supply comes from coal, a high carbon-emitting fuel, putting a price on carbon could drive businesses to use energy more wisely.

Oil spill panel recommends tighter rules, money for Gulf Coast

The presidential oil-spill commission said Tuesday that the federal government should require tougher regulation, stiffer fines and a new industry-run safety organization, in its final report released as part of an effort to prevent a repeat of the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

The report suggests strengthening the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), calling it “underfunded” with personnel who are “often badly trained.

Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), one of the commission’s two co-chairs, said the Deepwater Horizon accident was “both foreseeable and preventable,” and reflected a failure on the part of both three individual companies and the federal government.

“I am sad to say that part of the answer is the fact that our government helped let it happen,” Graham said. “Our regulators were consistently outmatched.”

The panel proposes several safeguards aimed at strengthening regulators’ control over the oil and gas industry, including establishing an independent safety agency within the Interior Department that would be headed by someone for a fixed term in order to insulate the appointee from political interference. Graham said such a person should have “a background of both science and management.”

It also calls for funding the regulatory agencies that oversee offshore drilling with fees from the companies who are tapping into the nation’s petroleum resource, saying in its executive summary, “Funding sources could include a regulatory fee on new and existing leases or an increase in the inspection feeds already collected by the Department of Interior.”

William K. Reilly, the commission’s other co-chairman, emphasized that it would be a mistake to focus just on the three companies involved in last year’s accident. “The solution to the problem has to be industry wide.”

A Marshall Plan for Nature: How to Protect Endangered Species from Climate Change

If your house were on fire, what would you save? Where would you even start? What if not just your house, but your whole planet was on fire?

That is the scenario we face today. Climate change has arrived. No longer clouds gathering in the distance, the firestorm is here now–melting titanic glaciers, drying mighty rivers and setting deserts ablaze.

With our new report, It’s Getting Hot Out There: The Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World, the Endangered Species Coalition and our member groups attempt to answer the question: To save endangered species from climate change, where do we begin?

Threatened and endangered species, already in a precarious position, are the most vulnerable to additional pressures. For that reason, the vast and far-reaching impacts of global warming are a game changer for these plants and animals. In one stroke, climate change has introduced a new threat to edge a tremendous number of imperiled species ever closer to extinction.

So, if we are serious about our commitment to save our natural heritage for future generations, our response also must be a game-changer. We need a Marshall Plan for nature. The good news is that it is not too late to save endangered species from climate change, but we need to get to work now.

Duke Energy to Buy Progress Energy for $13.7 Billion

Duke Energy Corp. will buy Progress Energy Inc. for $13.7 billion in stock, creating the largest U.S. utility and increasing its ability to build new power plants to meet future greenhouse-gas emissions limits.

Holders of Progress Energy will get 2.6125 shares of Duke for each of their shares, the companies said today in a statement. The purchase values Raleigh, North Carolina-based Progress at $46.48 a share, 3.9 percent more than its Jan. 7 closing price, the companies said.

Duke, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, will assume about $12.2 billion in Progress Energy debt. The purchase would add power plants that operate near Duke’s service territories in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Progress’s Florida subsidiary. The company would serve about 7.1 million customers in six states.

Together, the companies will be better able to afford investments in new power plants, including nuclear reactors, to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, William Johnson, chief executive officer of Progress, said in a phone interview. With some plant retirements expected, “we’re going to have to replace those with something and of course nuclear is an option that is more feasible for a company this size.”

India Solar Program Passes Milestone But Hurdles Remain

India has passed a milestone in its push to become one of the world’s biggest producers of solar power, but executives warn investment could dry up if concerns including low returns and credit access aren’t resolved.

India is embracing renewable energy as it faces up to rising emissions growth caused by reliance on coal for power generation. Energy insecurity is also driving the change as India has few resources of its own to meet its rapidly growing economy and is dependent on energy imports from abroad.

Last month, India auctioned 620 megawatts of solar projects to 37 companies, an early step in a program that aims to have 20 gigawatts of solar generating capacity by 2022. Achieving this goal would see India outpace many nations in installing solar power–the International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will have 17 GW of solar capacity by 2020.

India has committed to a feed-in tariff for solar power–a preferential policy that allows generators of renewable energy to charge more for their output because it is more expensive than traditional electricity production. Around 50 countries have a feed-in tariff policy to encourage renewable energy development.

23 Responses to Energy and global warming news for January 11, 2011: Edison signs deals for seven new solar power plants; China moves toward CO2 trading to boost efficiency and competitiveness; Spill panel recommendations

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Joe and interns:

    There seems to be a trend toward utility scale PV, as opposed to solar thermal. What do you think is driving it? Do they anticipate price drops with PV and not with thermal? I’m surprised, because the PV numbers I’ve seen have been lower than a couple of years ago but still higher than thermal/boiler operations, and you can’t store with PV.

    [JR: Oh, I think we are seeing a lot of CSP, but PV has a long head start. Utilities simply have more experience with it, as do PUCs.]

  2. Will Koroluk says:

    In light of the piece yesterday updating the needed fixes for climate change, this item about a farmer in southern Saskatchewan might be interesting.

  3. paulm says:

    All those in favor of nuclear power, please site the reactors in your neighbourhood…

    Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant Faces Dim Prospects For Staying Open

    The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant’s initial 40-year license expires March 21, 2012, less than 15 months from now. And despite a safety and performance record no worse than many of the other 61 reactors that have won 20-year license extensions from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Vernon power plant’s future looks short.

    The Vermont Senate voted 26-4 last February against letting the Public Service Board issue the new state license. That vote came a month after it was revealed that Vermont Yankee was leaking tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, into soil and groundwater surrounding the reactor on the banks of the Connecticut River. It also followed revelations that senior plant personnel had misled state officials about whether Vermont Yankee had the sort of underground pipes that carried radioactive tritium.

  4. Leif says:

    Great Find, thank you Will, @2.

  5. Rabid Doomsayer says:
    Queensland floods are getting worse.

    Worse than the worst ever 1974 Queensland floods, the area affected is huge. NSW, is being affected also.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes Rabid#5, but the authorities are still tying themselves in knots to deny any role for climate disruption. In the sneakily denialist ‘The Guardian’, their environment editor has a column where the first 90% is all the ‘It’s entirely La Nina’ spiel, followed by two paras at the end, if you have read that far, acknowledging that a warmer world will be a wetter world and that sea temperatures off Australia’s east coast are at record levels, all couched in the ‘we must do more research’ cop-out.
    These floods are like Pakistan’s. Unprecedented in extent and, in many places, in degree. The intensity of the rainfall has been like Pakistan, beyond anything seen before, save in isolated occasions associated with cyclones. The flash flood in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley may have killed scores-the grim task of going through the ruins awaits the fall in the waters. It just makes you wonder what natural disaster, what extreme weather event or series of them will make the public wake up, or are they just too frightened to do so.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    With that merger, Duke Energy will be able to afford the cost of building
    at an estimated cost of $4766/MW; a bit pricey.

  8. paulm says:

    6 Mulga, too late to wake up now really.

    The level of extreme weather events we now see at 1998, 2005 and now 2010 temp levels mean world civilization is toast.

    This temp level basically means chaos and we are not even anywhere near 2C.

    The frequency is trending to every 5yrs and it wouldn’t surprise me if these conditions now start occurring yearly before 2020. A run of 2010 temps is very likely even now, with 2012 being hotter than 2010 (Hansen).

    In fact were are just touching 1C – this appears to be the threshold of modern global civilization.

    Russia, Parkistan and Queensland will not recover before the next ultra-extreme event hits. More and more regions will experience this fury over then next few years and they also will not be recovering.

    Its the Great Decline I am afraid.

    (The fact that world leaders aren’t recognizing this, much less doing something about it is astonishing. Must see talk…he goes in to some good reasons why this is so.

    Humanity’s survival depends on an 80% reduction in energy use
    Dr. William Rees, UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning

  9. paulm says:

    Coal shortage threatens Qld power

    People across flood stricken south east Queensland are facing further electricity cuts, as power stations run low on coal stocks.

    The floods have closed mines, and cut transport links; including rail lines, leaving power stations struggling to get enough coal.

    CS Energy’s Swanbank power station west of Brisbane, which supplies power to a million homes in the city, has three weeks supply left.

  10. Bill Woods says:

    Mike Roddy (#1): “There seems to be a trend toward utility scale PV, as opposed to solar thermal. What do you think is driving it?”

    PV satisfies renewable power mandates as well, and is cheaper.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    (Reuters) – Thousands of residents of Australia’s third-largest city evacuated homes on Wednesday as massive floods began to inundate the financial district, sparked panic buying of food and left authorities despairing for more than 90 people missing.

    The biggest floods in a century have so far killed 14 people since starting their march across the northern mining state of Queensland last month, crippling the coking coal industry, destroying infrastructure, putting a brake on the economy and sending the local currency to four-week lows.

    With a flood surge expected to peak in the state capital of Brisbane, a city of two million, on Thursday, residents pushed shopping carts laden with food through flooded streets as supermarkets ran out of staples such as milk and bread.

    At one business center, people waded in shoulder-high water trying to rescue possessions.

    Rescue crews took advantage of rare sunshine to look for 90 people still missing from tsunami-like flash floods that tore through townships west of the city this week.

    “We can take no comfort from that blue sky,” Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh told reporters, predicting that almost 20,000 homes could be flooded at the river’s peak in what she called Queensland’s worst natural disaster.

    “The water and the rain have already done their damage. This is a deeply serious natural disaster.”

    The worsening floods are forcing economists to raise estimates of the economic impact, with one central bank board member quoted on Wednesday as saying the disaster could cost as much as 1 percent of economic growth — equal to almost $13 billion, double the previous highest estimate.

  12. Michael T. says:

    Floods enter Brisbane, 20,000 homes in danger

    BRISBANE, Australia – Deadly floodwaters that have cut a swath across northeast Australia seeped onto the streets of the nation’s third-largest city Wednesday, forcing people to flee both suburbs and skyscrapers.

  13. Michael T. says:

    Australia floods may cut GDP by A$13 billion

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Floods inundating Australia’s northern state of Queensland could cut up to 1 percentage point from economic growth, according to a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s board — the largest estimate yet for the potential damage.

    The comment knocked the Australian dollar down over half a U.S. cent to a four-week low of $0.9803 and reinforced expectations that a further increase in interest rates was now unlikely for months to come.

    Warwick McKibbin, an academic and a member of the central bank’s policy making board, was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday as saying a fair chunk of Queensland’s economy had just stopped.

    “If you look at the infrastructure damage and all the networks that have been broken, a hit to the economy of 1 percent is not out of the question,” McKibbin said.

    A percentage point of Australia’s A$1.3 trillion in annual gross domestic product (GDP) is equal to around A$13 billion.

  14. Solar Jim says:

    “Together, the companies will be better able to afford investments in new power plants, including nuclear reactors,”

    A strange thing happened on the way to the economically unsound atomic bonfire of the vanities corporate merger. According to the AP, a mother of three who was formerly chief of staff for Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and who was working as a lobbyist for Progress Energy was found dead recently in a burning car. Her name was Mrs. Ashley Turton.

    What’s with that?

  15. David B. Benson says:

    Bill Woods @10 — Thanks for the link, article is quite helpful.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    paulm #8,9-you are so correct, old boy. We are well stuffed. No coal because mines are flooded, means no power. The collapse will be self re-inforcing, synergistic in ways we can hardly guess at, ineluctable and, I fear, brutally quick. The only question is do we have the determination to silence the liars and lunatics, and their neo-fascist masters, and move to war-time mobilization? The time we don’t have, so even here I am engaging in ‘magical thinking’ and expecting a miracle. I believe you blokes talk of ‘Hail Mary passes’ where you bet the house on one last, wild throw of the dice. Well we need hundreds of Hail Marys, but wouldn’t it be exhilarating to just try, instead of sitting back in a state of ‘learned helplessness’ ground down by lies and the braying of the Dunning-Kruger hyenas? Even if we failed and went into that ‘good night’ for our species, at least we would go down fighting, raging heroically.

  17. CW says:

    Two articles linked to here for you. It will be very interesting to see if the farmers’ claims become substantiated with time. As noted at the end of the video, this threatens work/research in the carbon capture and storage area that is supported by billions of dollars of public money.

    Carbon capture project leaking into their land, couple says, Globe and Mail

    VIDEO: Farmer says land fizzing with CO2, Canadian Press :: Globe and Mail

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    Manila, Jan 12 (IANS) At least 40 people have been killed and over one million displaced in flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains in central and southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Heavy rain causes havoc across Victoria

    Catchment authority GWMWater spokeswoman Helen Friend said rainfall of up to 170mm in the region ………… The State Emergency Service (SES) says up to 150mm of rain is likely to fall over the next three days.

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    West of Brisbane, the city of Ipswich is being swamped by flood waters in a situation described as “total chaos”.

    The paper quoted city council flood modelling as predicting that 40,000 properties would be affected.

    Thousands of Brisbane residents have taken refuge in a number of specially-set evacuation centres.

    Brisbane is facing a combined surge of water from the flooded Lockyer Valley and the Wivenhoe Dam, which is so full that it has been forced into controlled releases.

    High tides – known as king tides – will exacerbate the problem on Thursday.

    The forecast is for more rain to come for some areas, and there are reports of flooding in neighbouring New South Wales, with the Clarence River expected to peak at 7m.

  21. spiritkas says:


    @10 The economics of PV vs CSP are quite interesting in that article, I wish it had more historical rates of costs and a Y-axis on those graphs. I would like to know when PV dropped in price below CSP, assuming it was more expensive. And I’d like to see coal costs, natural gas costs, etc. I think they are right that utilities will try to cash in as much as possible early on with green credits for the cheapest option and barring technological breakthroughs and utility scale electricity storage, CSP will come back into the market again when intermittency begins to destabalize a utilities ability to have consistent power. Though if CSP’s learning curve to reduce prices is a bit retarded by its reduced market share; then sadly it is possible the cheapest thing could be natural gas plants for baseload in some areas that fire off whenever there is a cloudy day…still that means building a lot more nameplate capacity vs. generation ability than you’d have to with CSP. All of this of changes if you could count on electricity storage or if wind or wave/tidal power could be used. I think wave/tidal is also geographically limited and perhaps there isn’t enough of it for baseload over a majority PV system. Maybe electric cars will fix it all by storing energy in a PV system…still people will want to use their cars and rushour could = drops in available energy if that is the case. I think batteries can be cheap enough for cars and in fact are nearly cheap enough atm for mass adoption, but molten salt might continue to be cheaper still, we’ll have to see how the economies of scale play out.

    @16 I hope australia and QLD will see this catasrophe as an opportunity to rebuild differently. Multi-stage dams for better river water control and hydropower come to mind, but also getting off those coal plants who can run out of coal. We don’t ever seem to run out of wind or sunshine and you don’t have to truck and ship it to your power plants. Considering the security and consistency needed for electricity in an uncertain and changing climate, that good old intermittent wind and solar might be a lot more reliable ;). Also desal plants at rivermouths where we can capture water that is already mostly fresh reducing the salt reduction necessary; though this will be unpopular from a fisheries and luxury home viewpoint which the Fairfax group seems fixated on reporting all day long.