Negative Energy Pricing Becoming More Common as Clean Energy Outdoes Fossil Fuels

Imagine living in a world where one of the most significant threats in the decades ahead is for the most part not being properly addressed, and is in many ways being exacerbated. The threat is climate change, and for one thing, it’s being exacerbated by having massive fossil fuel subsidies instead of massive clean energy subsidies. This is of course despite clean energy already regularly outcompeting fossil fuels.

Bright and breezy days are becoming a deeper nightmare for utilities struggling to earn a return on traditional power plants.

With wind and solar farms sprouting up in more areas — and their power getting priority to feed into the grid in many places — the amount of electricity being generated is outstripping demand during certain hours of the day.

The result: power prices are slipping to zero or even below more often in more jurisdictions.

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Periods with negative prices occur when there is more supply than demand, typically during a mid-day sun burst or early morning wind gust when demand is already low. A negative price is essentially a market signal telling utilities to shut down certain power plants. It doesn’t result in anyone getting a refund on bills — or in electric meters running backward.

Instead, it often prompts owners of traditional coal and gas plants to shut down production for a period even though many of the facilities aren’t designed to switch on and off quickly. It’s left the utilities complaining that they can’t earn the returns they expected for their investment in generation capacity.

The Potential Carbon Bubble of the Future — Possibly Immense Damage to the Global Economy If It Bursts

Another reason to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible. Bubbles can drive economies forward and actually produce some positive results (which was seen with the investment boom from the stock bubble in the 1990s in the U.S.) due to the increase in the wealth effect generating more demand, but if that demand isn’t compensated for with the burst of large bubbles, recessions happen. There is today a tremendous amount of wealth directly because of fossil fuels, and if that wealth sharply drops in value and isn’t replaced, there might be a shock to the world economy.

Several major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed. But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’. So far, this prospect has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because many believe that climate policies will not be adopted, or at least not in the near future.

However, and crucially, researchers now show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future. New climate policies would only aggravate the impact. Continuing investment in fossil fuels is therefore creating a dangerous ‘carbon bubble’ that could burst, with massive economic and geopolitical consequences.

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The scientists conclude that further economic damage from a potential bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonising early. “Divestment is a prudential thing to do. We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money.”

First Electrified Road for Charging Vehicles is Now Open in Sweden

An amazing innovation that should be deployed much more broadly to drastically reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The world’s first electrified road that recharges the batteries of cars and trucks driving on it has been opened in Sweden.

About 2km (1.2 miles) of electric rail has been embedded in a public road near Stockholm, but the government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion.

Sweden’s target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030 requires a 70% reduction in the transport sector.

The technology behind the electrification of the road linking Stockholm Arlanda airport to a logistics site outside the capital city aims to solve the thorny problems of keeping electric vehicles charged, and the manufacture of their batteries affordable.

Energy is transferred from two tracks of rail in the road via a movable arm attached to the bottom of a vehicle. The design is not dissimilar to that of a Scalextric track, although should the vehicle overtake, the arm is automatically disconnected.

Hans Säll, chief executive of the eRoadArlanda consortium behind the project, said both current vehicles and roadways could be adapted to take advantage of the technology.

In Sweden there are roughly half a million kilometres of roadway, of which 20,000km are highways, Säll said.

“If we electrify 20,000km of highways that will definitely be be enough,” he added. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45km and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged. Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000km.”

At a cost of €1m per kilometre, the cost of electrification is said to be 50 times lower than that required to construct an urban tram line.

Säll said: “There is no electricity on the surface. There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimetres down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.”

National grids are increasingly moving away from coal and oil and battery storage is seen as crucial to a changing the source of the energy used in transportation.

World Added Much More Solar Power Capacity Than Fossil Fuel Capacity in 2017

It’s somewhat encouraging evidence as the existential threat of climate change has been continually becoming worse in recent years. Some people still fail to view climate change as a serious threat, which is one of the unfortunate aspects about this crazy world.

The world installed a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity, far more than the net additions of any other technology — renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear.

Solar power also attracted far more investment, at $160.8 billion, up 18 per cent, than any other technology. It made up 57 per cent of last year’s total for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion, and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, estimated at $103 billion.

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“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

Overall, China was by far the world’s largest investing country in renewables, at a record $126.6 billion, up 31 per cent on 2016.

There were also sharp increases in investment in Australia (up 147 per cent to $8.5 billion), Mexico (up 810 per cent to $6 billion), and in Sweden (up 127 per cent to $3.7 billion).

A record 157 gigawatts of renewable power were commissioned last year, up from 143 gigawatts in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70 gigawatts of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period.

“The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined,” said Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. “This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.”

Some big markets, however, saw declines in investment in renewables. In the United States, investment dropped 6 per cent, coming in at $40.5 billion. In Europe there was a fall of 36 per cent, to $40.9 billion, with big drops in the United Kingdom (down 65 per cent to $7.6 billion) and Germany (down 35 per cent to $10.4 billion). Investment in Japan slipped 28 per cent to $13.4 billion.

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Global investments in renewable energy of $2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 (11 years inclusive) have increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro from 5.2 per cent to 12.1 per cent.

The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided — roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire U.S. transport system.

Micro-Scale Nuclear Fusion Produced by Laser-Heated Nanowires

This could be such an important development for the massive generation of energy that it’s difficult to make a brief statement on it. Nuclear fusion’s potential brings with it immense potential for harm or benefit though — its power will have to be controlled appropriately.

Nuclear fusion, the process that powers our sun, happens when nuclear reactions between light elements produce heavier ones. It’s also happening — at a smaller scale — in a Colorado State University laboratory.

Using a compact but powerful laser to heat arrays of ordered nanowires, CSU scientists and collaborators have demonstrated micro-scale nuclear fusion in the lab. They have achieved record-setting efficiency for the generation of neutrons — chargeless sub-atomic particles resulting from the fusion process. Their work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications, and is led by Jorge Rocca, University Distinguished Professor in electrical and computer engineering and physics. The paper’s first author is Alden Curtis, a CSU graduate student.

Laser-driven controlled fusion experiments are typically done at multi-hundred-million-dollar lasers housed in stadium-sized buildings. Such experiments are usually geared toward harnessing fusion for clean energy applications.

In contrast, Rocca’s team of students, research scientists and collaborators, work with an ultra fast, high-powered tabletop laser they built from scratch. They use their fast, pulsed laser to irradiate a target of invisible wires and instantly create extremely hot, dense plasmas — with conditions approaching those inside the sun. These plasmas drive fusion reactions, giving off helium and flashes of energetic neutrons.

In their Nature Communications experiment, the team produced a record number of neutrons per unit of laser energy — about 500 times better than experiments that use conventional flat targets from the same material. Their laser’s target was an array of nanowires made out of a material called deuterated polyethylene. The material is similar to the widely used polyethylene plastic, but its common hydrogen atoms are substituted by deuterium, a heavier kind of hydrogen atom.

The efforts were supported by intensive computer simulations conducted at the University of Dusseldorf (Germany), and at CSU.

Making fusion neutrons efficiently, at a small scale, could lead to advances in neutron-based imaging, and neutron probes to gain insight on the structure and properties of materials. The results also contribute to understanding interactions of ultra-intense laser light with matter.

Solar Energy Now Creates More Jobs Than Any Other American Industry

The Trump regime has placed a tariff on solar panels because the regime serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Making solar panels less competitive is unjustified assistance to the harmful fossil fuels companies that should be replaced by clean energy such as solar power.

Solar energy isn’t just a tool to reduce emissions and help slow climate change – it’s a job creator.

According to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census published by The Solar Foundation, the industry creates more jobs than any other sector in the US.

According to the census, solar energy adds jobs 17 times faster than the overall economy in the United States.

In 2010, there were only 93,000 jobs in solar. The sector has seen a steep rise and six years later 260,077 people were employed in the field.

This means that in 2016 one in every 50 new jobs was in the solar industry, and analysts expect the trend to continue.

Although the figures presented in the census were originally criticised for underestimating the number of workers operating in the solar industry, The Hill now reports that “the Census is widely recognised as the most authoritative and comprehensive analysis of the US solar workforce.”

The problems from the incredibly regressive tariff imposed by the Trump regime are already being seen. The Trump government is such a cruel joke at this point — if it really cared about providing good jobs, it would (among other measures) create a public works program for solar energy.

President Donald Trump’s decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on all solar technology imports has claimed its first victims in the fast-growing solar energy job market.

The California-based company SunPower announced Friday that as a result of the tariffs, it will hold off on a $20 million plan to expand its operations in the U.S., including hiring hundreds of Americans.

“It’s not hypothetical,” CEO Tom Werner told Reuters. “These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

Two foreign-owned solar companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, lobbied for the tariffs, arguing that cheap imports from China have caused their panel prices to fall since 2016. But after it was announced earlier this week, Trump’s decision caused concern in the U.S. solar energy industry.

“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

Renewables Set to Strongly Outcompete Fossil Fuels in the Years Ahead

By several important metrics, renewables are already much less costly than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contribute to an estimated $4.6 trillion in annual pollution costs and another report states that $5 trillion — 6.5 percent of world GDP — is spent on annual fossil fuel subsidies. Also, if the world keeps burning high levels of fossil fuels for decades, there probably won’t be much of a civilization remaining, and that’s the biggest, priciest cost of all.

A new report showing that renewable prices may soon out-compete fossil fuels offers just the latest evidence to bolster demands that oil, gas, and coal to be left “in the ground.”

The cost analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for delivering electricity was presented Saturday at the opening of the organization’s Eighth Assembly in Abu Dhabi.

Prices are already falling for renewable power generation, the publication notes, and says that wind and solar power will be on par with—or even cheaper than—the cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity by 2020.

Among the “remarkable” price reductions has been for utility-scale solar PV which have dropped 73 percent since 2010, the report says.