The future is in the hands of bankers

World’s Largest Public Bank Ditches Oil and Coal in Victory for the Climate Movement

From an Article by Eoin Higgins, Common Dreams, November 15, 2019

Climate activists celebrated Thursday the decision of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to stop funding most oil and coal projects by 2021, part of a bid to be the world’s first “climate bank.”

The bank’s board made the decision at a meeting on Thursday, CNBC reported. “Truly amazing win,” tweeted environmentalist Bill McKibben.

In a statement following the news, Friends of the Earth Europe fossil free campaigner Colin Roche said the bank’s decision was a big one. “Today’s decision is a significant victory for the climate movement,” said Roche. “Finally, the world’s largest public bank has bowed to public pressure and recognised that funding for all fossil fuels must end—and now all other banks, public and private must follow their lead.”

Nonetheless, Roche cautioned against complacency. “But 2021 is still too late if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown, the EIB needs to reject any fossil fuel projects and close its loopholes for gas, and not wait till 2021,” Roche said.

As Common Dreams reported, a previous commitment from the bank would have ended fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020.

According to Reuters, the new policy does not outright ban all fossil fuel projects, but makes most of them impossible under the new parameters:

Under the new policy, energy projects applying for EIB funding will need to show they can produce one kilowatt hour of energy while emitting less than 250 grams of carbon dioxide, a move which bans traditional gas-burning power plants.

Gas projects are still possible, but would have to be based on what the bank called “new technologies,” such as carbon capture and storage, combining heat and power generation or mixing in renewable gases with the fossil natural gas.

“This is an important first step, this is not the last step,” EIB vice-president for energy Andrew McDowell told the BBC.

The news was welcomed by climate advocacy group 350 Action. In a statement, the group’s Germany campaigner Kate Cahoon called the decision “the beginning of the end of climate-wrecking fossil fuel finance” but warned there was still work to do.

“The gas lobby has unfortunately managed to get Germany and the European Commission to insert some loopholes into the policy, which leave the door open for funding of dangerous fossil gas projects,” said Cahoon. “They had better take note of the growing list of pipelines, terminals, and fracking wells that are scrapped thanks to local opposition and the unprecedented masses of people mobilizing for climate justice.”

The bank’s move was seen by 350′s France campaigner Clémence Dubois as an example for other financial institutions across the globe.

“This is a clear signal to financial institutions in Europe and around the world that they must take rapid, transformative action to change their financial models, keep fossil fuels in the ground, and support a just transition to sustainable forms of energy for all,” said Dubois.

NOTE: Click on the graph above to display the traces.

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Battery Storage Facilities Make Alternative Energy Feasible

by Duane Nichols on November 16, 2019

Batteries even out the flow of electricity over a daily cycle

Battery storage could be a key to cutting emissions. What’s Virginia doing about it?

From an Article by Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Mercury, November 15, 2019

The age of the battery dawned with a dead frog, but its next chapter may be all about keeping one alive.

That link isn’t as obscure as it might seem. The first frog, after all, was quite literal: in 1780, Italian scientist Luigi Galvani laid the groundwork for the creation of the battery when he observed that electricity flowing through two wires attached to a frog cadaver made the amphibian’s leg twitch. From that experiment would sprout the legions of double-As that still illuminate millions of flashlights and power remote controls around the nation.

The second frog, however, is metaphorical — ever since scientists grasped the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change, they have turned to the parable of the frog slowly being boiled to death in ever-warming water to explain the situation in which humans now find themselves. In this account, because climate shifts occur slowly enough for people to adapt to them, by the time nations are galvanized to action, it will be too late.

So what does that have to do with battery storage? Quite a lot, it turns out.

With recent advances in technology and swelling political will, energy storage is increasingly becoming a key part of states’ efforts to cut emissions and curtail continued damage from climate change. A Climate Central brief released this week reported that since 2014, large-scale battery storage has more than quadrupled in the U.S.

California, unsurprisingly, is leading the pack when it comes to installation of this technology, with 262 megawatts as of this August (by comparison, Dominion’s natural gas-fueled Bellemeade Power Station in Richmond produces 267 megawatts, enough to power about 57,000 homes). Filling out the rest of the top five are Illinois, Texas, Hawaii and West Virginia.

So just what is Virginia doing when it comes to battery storage? And with a new Democratic majority set to lead the General Assembly for the first time in a generation, what (pardon the pun) might be in store for the commonwealth as it seeks to transform its electric grid?

Here’s four basic things to know:

1. Virginia utilities have used energy storage technologies for almost 60 years …

Energy storage might be having a moment, but it’s actually as Virginian as Smith Mountain Lake.

The lake, which was constructed in the early 1960s by Appalachian Power Company’s parent company, American Electric Power, was built as a giant energy storage project.

At its most basic, energy storage is just the process of taking energy produced at one time and then holding it in reserve for later. For years, power producers have done that using systems of reservoirs and hydroelectric dams like those at Smith Mountain Lake. During times when energy demand is high — such as daytime — electricity is generated by releasing water from one reservoir through the dam into the second reservoir.

Then, when demand drops at night and electricity becomes less expensive, the power company pumps the extra water in the second reservoir back into the first, and the cycle begins all over again.

In the U.S., 93 percent of all energy storage comes from pumped hydroelectric projects. Power companies like pumped hydro because of its flexibility: whenever electricity is needed, they can open up the dam and produce energy virtually immediately — unlike a gas or coal plant that takes time to fire up. Furthermore, these projects produce no emissions (although their pumps often rely on electricity from facilities that do produce emissions), and people tend to like or at least not complain about living near bodies of water.

Dominion has aggressively pursued pumped hydro storage in Virginia. The utility’s Bath County Pumped Storage Station is the world’s largest storage facility of its kind, with a capacity of over 3,000 megawatts, enough to power 750,000 homes. This summer Dominion also announced its interest in developing another major pumped hydro storage project in Tazewell County in Southwest Virginia.

2. … but they’ve only dipped a toe into battery storage.

Pumped hydro, however, isn’t the only way to store energy. Today, industry watchers see the most potential in battery storage, which can be used almost anywhere on the grid (not just where rivers flow, sun shines or wind blows). Batteries can also vary considerably in size and have become far cheaper over the past few years.

The General Assembly has taken notice: among the many sweeping provisions of the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act was the requirement that Appalachian Power and Dominion both establish battery storage pilot programs capable of generating up to 10 and 30 megawatts of power, respectively.

This August, Dominion filed plans to build just over half of its goal through four battery storage projects in Powhatan, Hanover and New Kent counties that would be able to store 16 megawatts of energy. The pilots are expected to cost $33 million and must still gain approval from the State Corporation Commission.

Beyond these projects, however, as an August 2019 Energy Storage Study conducted for the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority found, “there is no clear path.”

3. Supporters see energy (and battery) storage as a way to strengthen the electric grid and foster the development of more wind and solar.

While the batteries of yesteryear were seen as a solution to individual problems, a way to get products like cars, cell phones and appliances to work, today they’re seen increasingly as a vital part of infrastructure.

On a grid level, batteries can help decentralize power centers and build in backups that can be used if a primary power source stops working. That may become more crucial as increasingly extreme weather puts greater strain on the nation’s — and Virginia’s — power grid, making failures more likely, as the U.S. Army War College warned in a recent report on “Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army.”

The main attraction of battery storage, however, lies in its ability to replace fossil fuel energy. Renewable energies like wind and solar have one major weakness: they can’t generate power 24/7. As Virginia State Corporation Commissioner Mark Christie is fond of pointing out, the sun can’t shine and the wind can’t blow 100 percent of the time.

It’s precisely because wind and solar are intermittent, available only when nature pleases, that utilities have argued to keep fossil fuel plants running or even build new ones. Dominion, for example, recently issued a request for proposals for “dispatchable” facilities that can provide 1,500 megawatts of energy. These facilities, which would almost certainly be fueled by natural gas, would be used at times of peak demand “when solar and wind aren’t generating enough due to lack of sunlight and/or low wind speed.”

Battery storage could be one less financially and environmentally costly solution, the Virginia Energy Storage Study found. Using stored energy to meet peak demand, the authors found, could serve state energy and emissions goals by “eliminating the need for seldom used peaking plants and better integrating renewables” into Virginia’s energy portfolio.

4. Without new legislation, there’s little incentive for utilities to invest in energy storage.Yes

The Virginia Energy Storage Study offers a host of recommendations for policymakers looking to ramp up the state’s energy and battery storage. Among the most important: the need to set a statewide energy storage target and to establish incentives for storage development.

California, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and New Jersey have all set goals for energy storage development, which the Energy Storage Study found “have been key factors in the rapid commercialization and growth of the storage market,” driving down costs. The authors’ recommended target? 1,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. One way to do that quickly, according to the authors, is to “bypass” more pilot projects and instead “leverage lessons learned from existing pilots deployed elsewhere” in the U.S. where storage is already flourishing.

At the same time, the Energy Storage Study points out that without any incentives or requirements to develop energy storage, utilities may be unlikely to invest in such projects, particularly if they replace major capital projects — like the building of new natural gas plants — that could reap rewards for shareholders. Consequently, “regulatory or legislative reforms,” like the establishment of a mandatory renewable portfolio standard committing utilities to derive a certain portion of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, may be needed.

>>> Source for Graphic Plot: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report; Form EIA-860M, Monthly Update to the Annual Electric Generator Report. Note: Data for 2019 are preliminary.

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CANCER ALLEY #1. Will EPA Require Reductions in Ethylene Oxide

November 15, 2019

EPA to reduce emissions of carcinogenic ethylene oxide, at 13 Louisiana plants From an Article by Mark Schleifstein, New Orleans Times – Picayune, November 8, 2019 New rules proposed this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could mandate a reduction in emissions of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing compound produced by many chemical manufacturers in [...]

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“Climate Change” is NOT Natural Climate Variability!

November 14, 2019

Global Warming Is Not Part of Natural Climate Variability – Scientific American, November 2019 Text by Mark Fischetti & Graphics by Pitch Interactive, Scientific American, page 86, November 2019 People who dismiss climate change often claim that the earth’s warm-up is simply part of “natural climate variability.” A paper published in July in Nature puts [...]

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FBI Investigating Approvals of Mariner East Pipeline by State of Penna.

November 13, 2019

FBI eyes how Pennsylvania approved Mariner East pipeline From an Article by Marc Levy, Associated Press Exclusive News, November 12, 2019 PHOTO — In this Oct. 22 photo, pipes lay along a construction site on the Mariner East pipeline in a residential neighborhood in Exton, Pa. The 350-mile (560-kilometer) pipeline route traverses those suburbs, close [...]

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FIVE (5) Challenging Aspects of Climate Change for Society

November 12, 2019

Five reasons climate change is the worst environmental problem the world has ever faced From an Article by Christopher Knittel, Los Angles Times, October 28, 2019 Even now that most of the world has acknowledged that climate change is real and caused by humans, combating it has proved daunting. Why? There are five features that [...]

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WVSORO Says Orphaned Oil & Gas Wells Need to be Plugged

November 11, 2019

Orphaned Wells: The Widespread Problem and the Potential Solutions From WVSORO, Orphan Well Study, Charleston, WV, October 10, 2019 The West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization (WVSORO) believes that the most widespread property rights and pollution issue in West Virginia is orphaned oil and gas wells. There are 4,500 already on property owners across the [...]

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L.N.G. “BOOM” then “BUBBLE” — Multiple Risks And Uncertain Future

November 10, 2019

As Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) booms, some fear a “bubble” will form From an Article by James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, November 7, 2019 WASHINGTON – For years, LNG developers have sold investors on multi-billion dollar export projects based on the premise of the world’s insatiable appetite for natural gas. But three years after Cheniere Energy [...]

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FERC and Gov’t Agencies Must Wake Up to Climate Change

November 9, 2019

We cannot allow FERC to ignore our climate crisis From an Opinion Article by Adam Carlesco, The Hill, October 24, 2019 As the agency responsible for permitting interstate natural gas pipelines and electric transmission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the gatekeeper of America’s transition to a carbon-free future — a future desperately needed, [...]

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‘Climate Emergency’ is Here NOW — There is Plenty We Need to Do

November 8, 2019

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’ From an Article by Andrew Freedman, Washington Post, November 5, 2019 A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals [...]

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