March 24 News: Energy Sec. Chu sees “wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel” by 2020

Wind, solar becoming cost competitive: Chu

Clean sources of energy such as wind and solar will be no more expensive than oil and gas projects by the end of the decade, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Wednesday.

President Barack Obama’s administration has been encouraging companies to invest in green growth, calling it a new source of jobs and fearing that other nations — led by China — are stealing the march.

“Before maybe the end of this decade, I see wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel,” Chu told an event at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“So the country and the companies who develop those renewable energy and resources that become cost competitive without subsidy all of a sudden have a world market. And, boy, we can’t lose that world market,” he said.

Japan atomic crisis may mean tougher time meeting climate pledge, EU says

The nuclear crisis in Japan may prompt the government to say that it may have difficulty delivering on a pledge to cut emissions by 25 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels, said Artur Runge-Metzger, director for climate strategy and negotiations at the European Commission.

Runge-Metzger spoke in an interview during a climate seminar in Budapest yesterday.

Japan made the emissions-reduction pledge last year as part of a political accord reached during United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.

“It will certainly affect the debate in terms of technology choices. I’m sure there will be a debate, in particular with our Japanese colleagues. In policy terms, you’ll probably see the biggest fallout in Japan, which is really hit by the nuclear crisis.”

“They will probably revisit their energy policy, and that may have some implications for international negotiations. They will have to look at the alternatives. If you don’t have almost carbon-free nuclear energy, what else can you use?”

EPA air chief faces tough crowd

Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency’s top air regulator, will come face-to-face with her critics Thursday at a House Energy and Commerce Committee field hearing in Houston, Texas.

The hearing of the Energy and Power subcommittee will include testimony from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw, among others.

EPA and Texas have had a rocky relationship in recent months. The agency decided in December to take over greenhouse-gas permitting in Texas, much to the chagrin of state officials there. The decision came after TCEQ said it would not issue greenhouse-gas permits.

Expect a lot of discussion from Texas officials and Republicans on the committee about what they say will be major economic consequences of EPA’s pending climate regulations.

EPA pursues Michigan’s largest coal-fired plant

A Michigan utility spent $65 million last year replacing key parts at the state’s largest coal-fired power plant. When regulators found out, they hauled the company into court for what it didn’t do: Spend millions more at the same time to greatly eliminate air pollution.

The fight with DTE Energy isn’t an isolated one. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department are aggressively suing electric utilities across the Midwest to get them to install the latest technology to capture smog-causing emissions.

The legal action is the latest shot in a decades-long conflict over bringing the utilities in line with the Clean Air Act. When Congress passed tougher standards in 1977, it allowed the industry to wait until older plants underwent a major overhaul before acquiring new anti-pollution equipment. The idea was that upgrades would be made gradually.

But more than three decades later, about half of U.S. coal-fired units “” roughly 600 “” lack advanced controls, EPA says. And years have been consumed in clashes among utilities, regulators and environmental groups over exactly what constitutes an overhaul and what is merely maintenance.

EPA watchdog sinks teeth into nuclear crisis, Hill budget brawl

As the triple disaster in Japan turns a spotlight on the U.S. capacity to respond to a similar crisis at home, U.S. EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins is contemplating taking another look at parts of his agency’s emergency response preparations that have raised red flags in the past.

For example, with a Japanese nuclear reactor spewing radioactive particles into the atmosphere, the White House and EPA have relied heavily on the national Radiation Ambient Monitoring System — which continuously checks U.S. air for radiation — to determine if exposure in the United States should warrant concern. But an EPA IG report from January 2009 found that the full implementation of the RadNet system was behind schedule and that further delays were possible to allow time to modify some monitors.

“As a result, the agency may have less information about the levels of radiation should a national radiological or nuclear emergency occur,” the report stated.

Coast Guard suspects Anglo-Suisse well in Louisiana spill

The U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday that oil that has recently washed onto Louisiana beaches is similar to crude that leaked over the weekend from an oil company’s idle offshore platform. But the company, Houston-based Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners LLC, begs to differ.

Initial tests show that oil fouling a half mile worth of beaches, spread over 30 miles of shoreline, and a crude release from the Anglo-Suisse platform “are a close match,” Chief Petty Officer John Edwards told Dow Jones Newswires. But Anglo-Suisse said through a spokeswoman that fewer than five gallons of oil spilled from the well, which it was trying to permanently seal over the weekend; the company says it has begun an investigation in order to prove that the crude that began washing ashore is not its fault. The well, drilled in shallow water, is located 30 miles offshore.

In a written statement, Anglo-Suisse said it was “surprised by this suggestion” that its oil could have ended on the shore, but the company said it was nevertheless helping clean up the spill.

The spat further muddles the mystery about the origin of the crude, a hard puzzle to solve in a region that’s full of underwater pipelines, platforms and wells, many of them decades old. Anglo-Suisse’s willingness to help despite its misgivings also illustrates the heightened sensitivity that has followed every potential oil spill since BP PLC’s Deepwater Horizon disaster last year. The Coast Guard has downplayed the theory that the oil that just washed ashore could come from the Deepwater Horizon spill, saying that it isn’t weathered enough.

Federal probe of BP spill: Blowout preventer failed because of faulty design, bent pipe

The blowout preventer that should have stopped the BP oil spill cold failed because of faulty design and a bent piece of pipe, a testing firm hired by the government said Wednesday in a report that appears to shift some blame for the disaster away from the oil giant and toward those who built and maintained the 300-ton safety device.

At least one outside expert said the findings cast serious doubt on the reliability of all the other blowout preventers used by the drilling industry.

The report by the Norwegian firm Det Norske Veritas is not the final word on the Deepwater Horizon disaster last April that killed 11 workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from a BP well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

But it helps answer one of the lingering mysteries nearly a year later: why the blowout preventer that sat at the wellhead and was supposed to prevent a spill in case of an explosion didn’t do its job.

Gov. O’Malley proposes amendments to revive offshore wind energy bill

Gov. Martin O’Malley on Wednesday proposed some changes to try to revive his bill to develop offshore wind energy in Maryland.

The governor has struggled to advance his idea to make state utilities enter into 25-year contracts to buy energy generated by wind turbines planned for 12 miles off the coast on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they are concerned with any increase in how much homeowners would pay each month on their utility bills

O’Malley “” looking to salvage a cornerstone of his legislative agenda before lawmakers leave town in less than three weeks “” gathered a group of union members and environmentalists at Annapolis’ City Dock. Standing by three model wind turbines, O’Malley led the group in a chant: “Pass the bill! Pass the bill!”

“Little Delaware, little Delaware “” Roughly what? One-eighth the size of Maryland, I think, they have one Congressional district “” Delaware has already done this,” O’Malley said. He was referencing a long-term contract Delmarva Power signed in 2008 to buy energy generated by wind turbines off that state’s coast.

12 Responses to March 24 News: Energy Sec. Chu sees “wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel” by 2020

  1. Aaron Lewis says:

    Take the cost subsidies to the fossil fuel industry out, and renewable is cost competitive today.

    We do not charge people for dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, and that is a huge subsidy to the fossil fuel industry that is not commonly in the accounting. It should be. All the costs of AGW should be in the accounting.

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    There is a huge amount of snow on the ground in North Dakota along the tributaries of the Red River, thanks to fall precipitation that was 150% – 300% of normal, and winter snows that have dumped up to 400% more precipitation than usual. If one were to melt this snow, it would amount to 4 – 6 inches of rain. If heavy rains occur at the same time that the snow melts, there is the potential for the greatest flood in history to affect the cities of Fargo and Grand Forks, the largest and third largest cities in North Dakota. NWS is giving a 35% chance that Fargo will see its greatest flood in history this spring, up from the 20% chance they gave in their February spring flood outlook.

    The situation is similar in Minnesota, which has received about double its normal precipitation over the past 3 to 4 months, resulting in the 5th snowiest winter on record in Minneapolis. Snow depths are in excess of 20 inches over wide swaths of of the state, and this snow has a very high water content equivalent to 4 – 6 inches of rain. NWS is giving a 95% chance that the Mississippi River at St. Paul will exceed major flood stage this spring.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    There is no doubt that climate change is affecting many ecological events, such as flowering and reproduction seasons in animals. In the case of birdlife, there is growing evidence that this effect is particularly profound.

    New research by the Royal Society of Biological Sciences has been shown that the frequency of spring rainfall is affecting the timing of breeding in the Mauritius Kestrel. The birds tend to breed later in wetter springs and since spring rainfall has increased by 60% since 1962, the kestrel is now breeding as late as September. As a result, fewer eggs and young chicks are making it through the cyclone season.

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    To Dr. Chu:

    If you think wind and solar are going to be competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, it would appear to be a goal that you are not supporting. I’m referring to the $54 billion nuclear loan guarantee, the recent huge expansion of coal mining in Wyoming, and the apparent drift into fracking produced natural gas power.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    It seems the EIA doesn’t agree with Secretary Chu:

    Levelized Cost of New Electricity Generating Technologies
    has been recently updated.

    [JR: Please, tell me you are joking. NOBODY serious links to IER. And EIA has never made an accurate prediction in its existence.]

  6. Ziyu says:

    David B Benson, looking at that chart, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal will already be cost competitive with coal and gas by then and that’s in 2016 (less than a decade) and this is coming from the EIA, which ALWAYS downplays renewables. Seeing that from the EIA should be a clear message that solar and other renewables will be competitive by 2020, assuming fossil fuel subsidies are rescinded…

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Ziyu — Unfortunately, biomass is now and alwas will be a boutique solution; too small an amount to matter that much. Hydro is all legacy there being no place to put more than some more boutique. That leaves wind. Contrary to your opinion and that of our blog host, I have other sources of data which indicate the EIA estimate of 9.7 cents/kWh is not bad; a small wind farm recently negotiated a 20 year contract with Idaho Power @ 9.0 cents/kWh.

    Now comes the interesting part (the small print stuff): Idaho Power now pleads with the Idaho Utility Commision not the require Idaho Power to but any more wind derived power! I assume the is because they have no means to act as balancing agent for any more, in part because of the relicensing restrictions on minimum stream flows at Brownlee Dam.

    So Idaho Power can, on its own, only have boutique amounts of wind until such time as they choose to acquire some (more?) combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) enabling them to act as balancing agent. But it would be cheaper (if EIA is to be believed) just to run the CCGTs and forget the wind; I doubt the Idaho Utility Commission is much concerned about CO2 emissions, just the current relative shortage of power in southern Idaho.

  8. Kota says:

    Anyone know if this is still in the game?

    It was suppose to be an inexpensive solution for everywhere there were rivers and coasts.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Correcting my #7, th3e contract with Idaho Power levelizes @ 9.2 cents/kWh.

    In any case the EIA figures for the nation as a whole do not appear to be much different from the analysis for the next 20 years in WA, OR, ID & MT given in Chapter 6 of
    [This is the Northwest Power & Conservation Council which provides general planning which Bonneville Poweer Adminsitration is obligated to follow.]

  10. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Aaron @1 – and the full storage costs for spent fuel need to be counted for nuclear, as well as the CO2 emissions from mining uranium.

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    40 % of all power reaching an American home is wasted, Frank Sesno on PBS tonight. If we just would starting mining this American waste, we could light the world.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Rush Limpball’s time in hell , is going to be spent with me, I’m going to follow the fat fucker forever. A fitting punishment for both of us.