Category Archives: Energy

Energy: Lifecycle GHG emissions from a hybrid, plug in hybrid and an EV are about the same

This graphic, from the International Energy Agency, illustrates the lifetime CO2 equivalent emissions from different types of vehicles. “BEV” is a battery electric vehicle with a 400 km range, HEV is a hybrid (like Prius), PHEV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.  This chart assumes the GHG emissions from electricity generation plants are in line with the global average. (FCEV is a fuel cell/hydrogen based system.)

Notably, BEVs are NOT zero emission vehicles and are, in general, on par with PHEVs and Prius-like hybrids when viewing their overall lifecycle emissions.

400

Source: Global EV Outlook 2019 – Analysis – IEA

The IEA’s model assumes similar sized vehicles in each category, that the EVs have a 400 km range (this determines the battery size), and that local electrical generation emits the global average CO2-equivalent for electricity generation. If the EV range were to be extended by 200 km more, add in the gray zone box above the EV column.

Energy: In many countries, hybrid gas/EVs emit lower emissions than pure electric vehicles

An average battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars using electricity characterised by the current global average carbon intensity (518 grammes of carbon-dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour [g CO2-eq/kWh]) emit less GHGs than a global average ICE vehicle using gasoline over their life cycle. But the extent ultimately depends on the power mix: CO2 emissions savings are significantly higher for electric cars used in countries where the power generation mix is dominated by low-carbon sources. In countries where the power generation mix is dominated by coal, hybrid vehicles exhibit lower emissions than EVs.

Source: Global EV Outlook 2019 – Analysis – IEA

Says the International Energy Agency.

Energy: Unplugging your cell phone charger does nearly nothing for the environment

Few people have any idea about the lifetime energy usage of popular consumer products.  50-75% of the energy and green house gas emissions for many cars occurs during manufacturing. Switching to an EV (for which much of its lifetime energy/GHGs is during manufacturing) may have little benefit to the earth.

When it comes to unplugging your cell phone charger:

Moreover, charging accounts for less than 1% of a phone’s energy needs; the other 99% is required to manufacture the handset and operate data centers and cell towers.

Source: Empty Gestures on Climate Change by Bjørn Lomborg – Project Syndicate

Energy: Over the past decade, U.S. energy predictions were way off

In 2010 the U.S. Energy Information Administration published its forecasts for 2019 on topics such as oil and natural gas production, oil imports, coal fired electricity generation, green house gas emissions and more.

And they were not just a little wrong, they were spectacularly off. For example, they predicted the U.S. would be importing over 8 million barrels of oil per day in 2019; in reality, the U.S. is a net exporter of oil in 2019. These were not small errors!

Continue reading Energy: Over the past decade, U.S. energy predictions were way off

Energy: Comparison of internal combustion engine efficiency versus EV battery packs

How many pounds of Lithium batteries do we need to replace 10 gallons of gasoline? We can calculate this out and find that we need about 1,700 pounds of Lithium-based batteries to replace about 10 gallons of fuel because of the much higher energy density of gasoline.

Read one to learn more … Continue reading Energy: Comparison of internal combustion engine efficiency versus EV battery packs

Energy: Why throwing money at climate solutions leads to no solutions

When a political leader has a choice, such as am I going to inaugurate a new solar park or wind farm, or something, and show how I care? Or am I going to spend money on some eggheads [R&D] that don’t make for good picture? The problem is the extra solar panel park is not going to do very much, but these eggheads could make a huge difference

Source: We are throwing money at the wrong solutions to climate change

I began looking at solar PV and EVs as ways to take personal action. Read my other posts about what I learned – basically, adding solar PV for some homes will reduce CO2-emissions while for others it will have not only no impact but will have spent money that will then not be available for actual CO2-emission reductions. Similarly, in some situations, purchasing an EV just transfers your CO2-emissions to the utility company and has little or no impact. And at present prices, buying an EV uses up resources that might better be spent on say, home insulation.

Longer term, we need to invest in R&D and invent new technologies. Unfortunately, we invest little in R&D while politicians are pursuing actions that have little impact. Because they do not understand what they are doing.

Energy: Should you buy carbon offsets, an EV or solar PV to reduce your environmental impact? It depends.

Some people think they should buy carbon offsets to reduce their environmental impact.

Others think that by switching to an EV, they will reduce their CO2-emissions.

And of course, some think that by installing solar PV panels, they will cut their CO2-emissions.

The reality is far more complicated. In some cases, buying an EV may increase your overall lifetime CO2 emissions especially when your electrical utility produces most or all of its electricity by burning coal and other fossil fuels. Similarly, installing solar PV panels when your utility is already 100% greenhouse free will likely increase your lifetime emissions of CO2. How? Because of the GHGs emitted during the solar PV panel manufacturing and installation and ultimately, not offsetting any GHGs because your utility is already GHG emission free.

Most people are oblivious to product’s lifetime GHG emissions, ignoring that for most products, the greatest production of GHG emissions is during the product’s manufacturing.

Continue reading Energy: Should you buy carbon offsets, an EV or solar PV to reduce your environmental impact? It depends.

Energy: To achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 requires building a new, large nuclear power plant every 2 days

Or building the equivalent of a large nuclear plant every 2 days:

So the math here is simple: to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the world would need to deploy 3 Turkey Point nuclear plants worth of carbon-free energy every two days, starting tomorrow and continuing to 2050. At the same time, a Turkey Point nuclear plant worth of fossil fuels would need to be decommissioned every day, starting tomorrow and continuing to 2050.

Source: Net-Zero Carbon Dioxide Emissions By 2050 Requires A New Nuclear Power Plant Every Day

Or

Net-zero carbon dioxide by 2050 would require the deployment of ~1500 wind turbines (2.5 MW) over ~300 square miles, every day starting tomorrow and continuing to 2050.

And

To reach net-zero by 2050, the US would need to deploy one new nuclear power plant worth of carbon-free energy about every 6 days, starting this week, and continuing until 2050. This does not include possible increases in future energy consumption.

What about net-zero by 2030, 3,746 days from today? Globally, such a target would imply, starting tomorrow, the deployment of >4 nuclear power plants per day, and for the United States, the deployment of a new nuclear plant about every other day.

The challenges are large but it is important to understand that in the context of factfulness. Or perhaps call it climate realism.

Transportation and Energy: Electric utilities push for electric vehicle (EV) expansion to grow their businesses

Many people believe EVs are zero emission vehicles. As explained here, they are not zero emission when considering their lifetime energy use. In many instances, EVs yield a smaller reduction in GHGs than one would expect. This is because much of the vehicle’s lifetime energy consumption is during the vehicle’s manufacture, and in many scenarios, the electricity for charging the vehicles is produced by coal or other fossil fuel based generation.

Electric utilities need to create growth opportunities as, surprisingly, there has been a decline in retail sales of electricity. Not surprisingly, electric utilities want to see widespread adoption of electric vehicles to kick start demand for electricity.

Between 2007 and 2013, retail sales of electricity in the United States across all sectors dropped 2%. In addition, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s energy in-frastructure a D+ grade in their 2013 report card and estimated a 3.6 trillion dollar investment needed by 2020.

“America relies on an aging electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems, some of which originated in the 1880s. Investment in power transmission has increased since 2005, but ongoing permitting issues, weather events, and limited maintenance have contributed to an increasing number of failures and power interruptions.”

Stagnant growth, rising costs, and a need for even greater infrastructure investment represent major challenges to the utility industry. To maintain our critical energy infrastructure while investing for the future, today’s electric utilities need a new source of load growth—one that fits within the political, economic and social environment. Electrification of the transportation sector is a potential “quadruple win” for electric utilities and society, and will enable companies to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs and assure the future value of existing assets.

Transportation Electrification. Edison Electric Institute. June 2014. Retrieved from https://www.eei.org/issuesandpolicy/electrictransportation/FleetVehicles/Documents/EEI_UtilityFleetsLeadingTheCharge.pdf

It’s not just about power generation. A fast charger requires a 480-volt, high capacity distribution line to be brought in to the charging station. Apartments and condo complexes, which may have dozens to hundreds of units will require massive power distribution upgrades to deliver the necessary power to charge all those vehicles when workers come home for the night.

The linked paper does not say much about how existing fossil-fuel based electric generation will be removed, or what type of new generation will be used to provide this electricity. They estimate that over the next 16 years (by 2035), an additional 112 terawatt hours of generation capacity will be required by the transportation sector.

EVs are seen as a conduit to growth in the electric utility industry.

The bottom line is that the electric utility industry needs the electrification of the transportation sector to remain viable and sustainable in the long term. While the market has started moving in this direction and the technology has been proven, there is still more to be done. Without active engagement, we may not realize the many benefits that could be derived from widespread electric-based transportation. We must continue to innovate, invest and work closely with regulators, automakers, and other partners to develop policies and best practices that will allow electric transportation to flourish. Electrifying our own fleets is an important first step in moving the industry forward. The Edison Electric Institute in partnership with and on behalf of its member companies is requesting each member utility to dedicate 5% of its annual fleet purchase plan to plug-in vehicles. In many applications, this choice already makes economic sense. The 5% ask is a starting point. It is an investment in the future of our business. We must lead by example—showing our customers the benefits and possibilities of making the switch.

Some models for handling increased electrical demand include having customers pay for the new generation by installing customer owned solar PV. This outsources the utilities capital costs to the customer. The utility then buys electricity from the customers, albeit, often at price points that may not generate a fair return on investment to the customer.

Second, they propose smart vehicle charging systems whereby vehicle batteries are turned into grid storage systems. At certain times of the day, power flows into batteries and at other times, power is drawn out of the batteries back into the grid. Again, the utility outsources these costs to the customer. Battery chemistry can only be discharged/charged some number of times before the battery needs to be replaced. Replacement costs are high (up to about $25,000 or more) and the customer will find that letting the utility use their batteries will require a more frequent replacement, at the expense of the customer. While this make financial sense for consumers?

It looks like, at least for now, the electric utilities have found a way to outsource their costs to the customers while growing their business and profits – while reducing greenhouse gases some what.

Energy: “Climate Central Solutions Brief: Battery Energy Storage” – interesting background on grid-level energy storage

Batteries are having a moment. A new Solutions Brief by Climate Central describes the rapid growth of battery storage capacity in the U.S., and how it can be used to reduce carbon emissions while making our power grid more resilient to extreme weather.

Source: Climate Central Solutions Brief: Battery Energy Storage | Climate Central

Batteries are likely to be an important component of grid-level energy systems. Solar PV and Wind are both intermittent power sources, plus their peak outputs do not necessarily align with peak demand. Energy storage is a key requirement of “renewable” energy systems for the future.

Energy storage can take many forms, not just batteries. For example, some systems may pump water uphill and release its potential energy, through generators, later. Others may store energy as heat (such as heating water or solids), or even lifting weights up high during generation, and then lower the weights to spin generators during times when generation is not available.