Energy in the News: Friday, November 17

Friday, November 17, 2017

Ecologist says biodiversity could be planet’s “insurance policy,” but only if we act fast

Michigan Radio, feat. Brad Cardinale


It's one of those scientific terms we hear and think, "That's a good thing. We need it,” without truly knowing why it's a good thing.

A University of Michigan and Smithsonian study now helps us understand. The researchers found biodiversity is even more powerful and important than they thought it would be.

Study co-author Brad Cardinale, a University of Michigan ecologist, joined Stateside to talk about the power of biodiversity.


How the boom-bust oil cycle is playing out in North Dakota

NPR, feat. Daniel Raimi

The shale oil boom attracted thousands of oil workers to North Dakota, sending the population of some small towns soaring. In response, communities built up infrastructure projects — new wastewater facilities, schools, etc. But now they're facing hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that will take decades to pay off, not to mention continued uncertainty over whether they've built too much as they watch the boom-bust cycle of the oil patch.


Mcity is where connected cars learn to drive themselves

GearBrain, feat. Huei Peng

Autonomous vehicles are considered the transportation of the future. Testing them on the road today? That's a bit difficult as regular cars (with human drivers) are on highways and streets as well, and accidents between driverless vehicles and those with someone behind the wheel are not uncommon.

To combat these incidents, researchers and partners decided to open up Mcity, a testing center for autonomous cars that recreates the aspects of the real world in a controlled facility. Mcity sits on a 32-acre area, tucked away on the University of Michigan's (U-M) North campus, less than two miles northeast of downtown Ann Arbor, MI.

Read more

Study says swap all incandescent bulbs, keep CFLs, older LEDs

TechXplore, feat. Greg Keoleian and Kazuhiro Saitou

LED light bulbs are getting cheaper and more energy efficient every year. So, does it make sense to replace less-efficient bulbs with the latest light-emitting diodes now, or should people wait for future improvements and even lower costs?

A new study from University of Michigan researchers recommends replacing all incandescent and halogen light bulbs now with compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs.

But immediate replacement is not advised for existing CFLs and LEDs, unless one's main concern is helping to reduce power-plant emissions, according to the study published this week in Environmental Research Letters.

Read more

Visiting professor presents on alternative energy

ABC News, feat. Sarah Mills

With U.P. residents paying some of the highest power costs in the country, it’s no surprise that nearly 70 Keweenaw Residents attended a discussion Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theater to discuss alternative energy solutions.

University of Michigan Professor Sarah Mills has been conducting a statewide survey since 2013 about the public ‘s perception of different energy solutions. These solutions include wind turbines, both on and and off shore, and solar energy.

“People came out tonight to hear about opinions related to renewable energy from rural Michigan. The next step for Houghton and this region is to really think about what makes sense in each individual community because there’s no one size fits all solution,” said Mills.

Read more

Study: Cars can't yet match electric vehicles on efficiency

USA Today, feat. Michael Sivak

If you want a gasoline engine that is greener than a fully electric vehicle, you'll have to buy a car that's a lot more fuel efficient than the one you're probably driving now.

A lot more fuel efficient.

A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute finds that gas-powered vehicles need to average 55.4 miles per gallon in the United States or 51.5 mpg worldwide in order to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a battery-electric vehicle.

That's because even most electric cars aren't oil or coal free. Their batteries are charged by electricity generated at powerplants, which mostly oil or coal.  

Read more

Enbridge discloses 'dozens' more gaps on Straits of Mackinac pipeline's protective coating

Detroit Free Press

The revelations keep expanding about damaged protections on underwater oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. And state officials' ire keeps growing.

For the second time in two months, Gov. Rick Snyder called out Canadian oil transport giant Enbridge, this time after state agencies announced Monday that the company had revealed "dozens" of additional gaps in the protective outer coating that the state requires on Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

“I am no longer satisfied with the operational activities and public information tactics that have become status quo for Enbridge," Snyder said. "It is vitally important that Enbridge immediately become much more transparent about the condition of Line 5 and their activities to ensure protection of the Great Lakes

Read more

Subsidizing coal and nuclear power could drive customers off the grid

The Conversation

Within the next month, energy watchers expect the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to act on an order from Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would create new pricing rules for certain power plants that can store fuel on site to support grid resilience. This initiative seeks to protect coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are struggling to compete with cheaper energy sources.

Perry’s proposed rule applies to plants that operate in regions with deregulated power markets, where utilities normally compete to deliver electricity at the lowest price. To qualify, plants would have to keep a 90-day fuel supply on site. Each qualified plant would be allowed to “recover its fully allocated costs.”

Read more

Natural gas dependence puts new strains on power sector — NERC

E&E Energywire

Crippling a single natural gas facility in certain parts of the U.S. would likely cause power outages, according to a new report from the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

But with a bit of planning — and perhaps a few air pollution waivers — utilities can avoid major disruptions from their growing reliance on gas, NERC concluded in a special assessment.

In its study, the nation's grid overseer examined "clusters" of natural-gas-fired power plants, defined as producing at least 2,000 megawatts of electricity within a 200-mile radius. From there, NERC focused on areas leaning heavily on just one piece of natural gas infrastructure, such as a major pipeline, a liquefied natural gas terminal or a key compressor station.

Of the 24 most sensitive sites identified, NERC simulations found that 18 were at risk of "extreme generator outages" due to natural gas disruptions, barring transmission upgrades or other steps.

Read more

Toyota to re-enter electric vehicles from 2020 in China, India


Toyota Motor Corp. will introduce electric vehicles in China and India from 2020 as it accelerates a push into battery-powered autos amid rapidly tightening environmental regulations.

Japan’s biggest automaker will design its own EV for the Chinese market, and is also considering selling EVs developed by its local partners under its marque, the company’s head of China operations, Hiroji Onishi, said at a briefing at the Guangzhou auto show on Friday. Toyota signed an agreement with Suzuki Motor Corp. the same day for it to receive EVs from its smaller peer for the Indian market, according to a press release. Suzuki doesn’t currently sell an EV.

Read more

N.M. loses $27M a year to gas leaks — report

E&E Energywire

The oil and gas industry in New Mexico wastes enough natural gas to heat every home in the state, according to a report from an environmental group.

The report, issued Thursday by the Environmental Defense Fund, says the industry loses 61 million cubic feet a year, or 570,000 tons, worth about $182 million, largely through venting, fugitive emissions and flaring. The loss costs the state as much as $27 million a year in tax revenue.

An oil industry group said EDF overlooked evidence that shows methane emissions are already falling and questioned the need for more regulations.

Read more

Sunrun aims to prove solar installers can grow and make a profit at the same time

Greentech Media

Energy storage plays a key role in the company’s strategy to add value while expanding market share.

For a while there, leading residential solar installers had a one-track mind: They could grow or make money, but not both.

The national players opted for growth through the early 2010s, until the deferral of making money started to catch up with them. It took out Sungevity, at one time the No. 3 U.S. residential installer. It led to Tesla’s takeover of market leader SolarCity, and the brand’s subsequent erasure.

Sunrun still stands on its own, though, and it’s out to prove it can do two things at once.

Read more

African-Americans taking brunt of oil industry pollution: report


African-Americans face a disproportionate risk of health problems from pollution caused by the oil and gas industry, and the situation could worsen as President Donald Trump dismantles environmental regulations, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a pair of advocacy groups.

The report, issued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People civil rights group and the Clean Air Task Force, said more than a million African-Americans live within half a mile (0.8 km) of an oil and gas operation, and more than 6.7 million live in a county that is home to a refinery.

Read more

Shift to hydrogen could meet 20% of world energy needs by 2050


The most abundant element may supply almost a fifth of global energy by 2050 and eliminate enough emissions to cancel out all the pollution in the U.S., according to a group of industrial companies from Royal Dutch Shell Plc to Toyota Motor Corp.

Fuel-cell vehicles running on hydrogen, extracted from water using wind and solar power, may be used to power everything from cars to factories, according to the Hydrogen Council, a group that also includes the German automaker BMW AG, the mining giant Anglo American Plc and the French energy company Engie SA. The group estimated hydrogen has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 6 gigatons a year, more than the 5.5 gigatons the U.S. released in 2016.

Read more

Do utilities need rate design for electric vehicle charging?

Utility Dive

It’s a compelling question: Do utilities need rate design to shift electric vehicle charging times?

For many investor-owned utilities, the answer is an easy yes. If states — and some utilities — want to meet goals to put more electric vehicles on the road, proactive rate design planning is necessary to harness the flexibility of charging stations for grid services and target when customers charge the vehicles to avoid overloading the grid during peak demand. This is the thesis of a recent report released by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

"There's a nuance in the design of the rate that regulators need to be thinking about," Chris Nelder, a manager with RMI’s electricity practice, told Utility Dive at the time

Read more