Research, reports, press statements, government communications and other important documents about energy and climate.
Studies and Reports.
A Recent Rocky Mountain Power Institute Analysis Offers Clear Support for IECG's Climate Strategy
Rocky Mountain Power Institute
June 8, 2020
A recent Rocky Mountain Power Institute analysis offers clear support for IECG’s climate strategy. RMI examined the 48 contiguous states to determine whether electrification make sense now and found that air-source heat pumps, compared to natural gas furnaces, would reduce emissions today in 46 out of 48 states (99 percent of U.S. households). RMI states “[w]hen compared to fuel oil, there is no question that heat pumps are a cleaner source of heat.” Only in Wyoming and Nevada, both still heavily reliant on coal for electricity, are the emissions benefits of heat pumps still questionable.
“[T]here is no need to wait to install heat pumps. … In most states today, converting from a gas furnace to a heat pump will reduce emissions on day one; but we must also consider the total emissions over the lifetime of the furnace. For a gas furnace, the emissions will always be roughly a pound of carbon dioxide gas for every 10 cubic feet of gas burned, every year, for as long as you use the furnace. But the story with electric heating is different. As the grid gets greener, electric heating will produce less carbon over time. Even if the grid isn’t clean enough until 2025, buying a heat pump today will still reduce emissions when considering the lifetime emissions from 2020 to 2035.”
ISO New England, 2020 Regional Electricity Outlook
ISO New England
February 28, 2020
“As the states’ plans become more formalized and the transportation and heating sectors decarbonize, they will turn to the region’s power grid for electricity: to keep our plug-in electric vehicles moving and to keep As a result, the demand for carbon-free electricity will likely increase over the coming decades and the power grid will become even more important than it is today because every sector of the economy will be dependent on it.”
“Even with substantial investment made to modernize the transmission system and enable the free flow of low-cost power, additional transmission (and distribution) system upgrades will be needed to accommodate large amounts of diverse clean- energy sources—from large-scale offshore wind, remote Canadian hydropower, and hundreds of thousands of distributed solar and storage sources. Think of the grid as the superhighway for moving the clean-energy that ultimately will be fundamental to reliably converting millions of vehicles and heating systems in buildings to electricity.
ISO New England has no authority over siting processes or permits, and because of local opposition and other factors, transmission investments can take a long time to come to fruition in New England. To achieve decarbonization goals, the region must be proactive in developing infrastructure that aligns with supply growth and is available when needed. Regional coordination may not alleviate local opposition but may help make the siting process more successful.”
“Pricing carbon within the competitive market structure is the simplest, easiest, and most efficient way to rapidly reduce GHG emissions in the electricity sector. Moreover, placing a realistic price on carbon would enable consumers to pay accurate, competitive prices without the risk of paying for stranded costs. However, New England state policymakers and other stakeholders responsible for putting this approach into motion have not pursued a carbon-pricing option that effectively reflects decarbonization goals, neither economywide nor in the electricity sector.”
ISO New England, NESCOE 2019 Economic Study - 8,000 MW of Offshore Wind Results
ISO New England
February 20, 2020
ISO-NE found that adding 8,000 MW of offshore wind to the New England grid would reduce regional electric generation CO2 emissions by one-third, from about 26 million short tons to about 18.5 million short tons. Offshore wind could be critical to beneficial electrification because EVs and heat pumps consume more energy during the evening winter peak, when offshore wind resources produce more energy. As offshore wind is developed over the next decade, it will be important to efficiently integrate the energy into the New England grid so that it can optimally power EVs and heat pumps (or be cost-effectively stored) rather than having to be “spilled” as surplus electricity.
Rewiring Britain for a net zero future: Ofgem publishes Decarbonisation Action Plan
February 3, 2020
On February 3, 2020, the U.K. energy regulator Office of Gas and Electricity Markets released a decarbonization action plan (Rewiring Britain for a net zero future: Ofgem publishes Decarbonisation Action Plan) that calls for building a system to support the roll out of 10 million electric vehicles by 2030 and the development of an offshore grid to achieve net-zero emissions.
MIT, Two-Way Trade in Green Electrons: Deep Decarbonization of the Northeastern U.S. and the Role of Canadian Hydropower
MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
A recently released study from MIT finds that Hydro-Quebec’s reservoir dam system can be a critical “virtual battery” in decarbonizing New England’s electric grid, but more transmission lines like the NECEC will need to be built. Rather than viewing transmission lines connecting Canadian hydropower to New England as providers of baseload energy, the study suggests a two-way system that will balance intermittent wind and solar and decarbonize the grid at a lower cost.
Efficiency Maine Trust, Beneficial Electrification: Barriers and Opportunities in Maine
Efficiency Maine Trust
January 31, 2020
Maine will need to decarbonize its transportation and building heating sectors to meet newly adopted GHG emission limitations, while the electricity sector has already been largely decarbonized, according to EMT’s beneficial electrification report. EMT notes, “Maine has thus far focused much of its GHG reduction efforts on increasing renewable electricity supply and improving energy efficiency.” “These policies have significantly decarbonized Maine's electric generation sector,” but by contrast, direct fossil fuel use in transportation and buildings continues to contribute the vast majority of Maine's GHG emissions. EMT describes three “key electrification technologies” -- heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and electric vehicles – that “can play a significant role in curbing a large portion of the state’s overall emissions,” and suggests the prospect of adding over 1.1 million passenger EVs and 1.5 million heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters.
Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2020
January 29, 2020
The EIA predicts that with no new laws or regulations, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will decrease through the early 2030s before leveling off and remaining at 4% below the 2019 level by 2050. The initial decrease will occur overwhelmingly in electric power, as uneconomic coal is replaced by new renewables, mostly solar and wind. Transportation, however, will continue to emit more than electric power, industrial, or any other sector between 2019 and 2050, with virtually no progress. Emissions from the residential and commercial sectors will also remain flat.
In sum, U.S. energy-related emissions are similar to Maine’s, with two notable exceptions: (1) the precipitous reduction in electric power emissions predicted to occur in the U.S. has already occurred in Maine; and (2) Maine’s high and increasing transportation sector emissions are a much larger share of Maine’s total emissions compared to the U.S.
The Potential Impact of Offshore Wind Energy on a Future Power System in the U.S. Northeast
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
In January of 2020, the National Renewable Energy Lab released a technical report titled The Potential Impact of Offshore Wind Energy on a Future Power System in the U.S. Northeast.
Description: This study aims to understand and quantify the potential impact of offshore wind on a future electricity system in the U.S. Northeast. In this analysis, a detailed representation of the Northeast power system is adopted, using a generation portfolio for 2024 paired with offshore wind nameplate capacities of 0 gigawatts (GW), 2 GW, and 7 GW. The analysis identifies points of offshore wind interconnection in the ISO-New England and New York Independent System Operator control areas and uses hourly wind profiles from the Wind Integration National Dataset Toolkit. Hourly simulations of the 2024 power system operations show an ability to accommodate the prescribed offshore wind capacities by adapting the system's generation dispatch. Curtailment levels of offshore wind range between 4% and 5%. Offshore wind generation displaces primarily natural-gas combined-cycle generation; however, requires increased flexibility from combined cycles through more frequent start-ups. The number of hours with transmission congestion increases because of offshore wind injection, with varying impact on a sub regional level. Offshore wind's capacity credit was found to be 14.5%-28.3% and is lower than estimated in other large-scale power system studies, in part because this study considered a different weather year and a power system representation with higher shares of solar PV and onshore wind. The reliability contribution of resources is a topic area identified for more research and collaboration. The 7-GW scenario shows a reduction in locational marginal price of 11%, with production cost savings of up to 18% compared to the 0-GW scenario.
Maine State Energy Profile
Energy Information Administration
June 20, 2019
Nearly two-thirds of Maine households use fuel oil as their primary energy source for home heating, a larger share than in any other state.
In 2018, about three-fourths of Maine's net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, with 31% from hydroelectricity, 22% from biomass (mainly wood products), and 21% from wind.
Petroleum provides for the largest share of Maine’s energy and accounts for half of the energy consumed in the state.
Although forest products and paper manufacturing have contributed to Maine’s economy for decades, less energy-intensive service industries like finance, insurance, real estate, and tourism have grown in importance and now contribute the largest share to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Maine leads New England in wind-powered generation and ranks sixth in the nation in the share of its electricity generated from wind.
California Energy Commission, Deep Decarbonization in High Renewables Future: Updated Results from the California Pathways Model
California Energy Commission
“To achieve a 100% zero-carbon electricity system, affordable, zero-carbon and long-duration dispatchable resources would be necessary to maintain resource sufficiency and reliability during sequential days of low renewable energy availability. Low carbon electricity is critical for achieving economy-wide decarbonization in concert with electrification of end-uses in other sectors; it is important that low-carbon electricity is accompanied by affordable electric rates, so as not to discourage electrification.”
“For 2030 and 2050, key renewable integration solutions necessary to contain the costs of high levels of renewable energy on the grid include: 1) increased reliance on flexible loads and demand-shifting, particularly in electric vehicle charging, but also in buildings and industry; 2) regional markets and regional procurement of renewable energy; 3) market-based renewable curtailment, combined with using supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, to allow renewable curtailment as a low-cost strategy to manage variable renewables on the grid, and 4) cost-effective grid storage including hydroelectric, battery, and chemical storage.”
We agree that regional (i.e., de facto large-scale) renewables and all forms of storage, including hydroelectric, are necessary to contain costs as part of a beneficial electrification strategy. NECEC is an example of both that Gets Climate Right.
Beneficial Electrification: Ensuring Electrification in the Public Interest
Regulatory Assistance Project
“For electrification to be considered beneficial, it must meet one or more of the following conditions, without adversely affecting the other two: 1. Saves consumers money over the long run; 2. Enables better grid management; and 3. Reduces negative environmental impacts.”
Electrification & Decarbonization: Exploring U.S. Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Scenarios with Widespread Electrification and Power Sector Decarbonization
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
“Aggregating effects to the economy level, we find that electrification of end uses, when coupled with power sector decarbonization, has the potential to substantially reduce economy-wide emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) associated with fossil fuel combustion. Specifically, we find that, by 2050, electrification and simultaneous power sector decarbonization can achieve reductions of nearly 74% below the 2005 level of economy-wide fossil fuel combustion emissions. Furthermore, even in the absence of policies to lower the emissions intensity of electricity generation, electrification alone can have a significant impact on GHG emissions. We find that electrification, in the absence of any additional power sector carbon policy, can result in 41% reductions (below 2005 level) in economy-wide fossil fuel combustion emissions.”
Policies for California’s Energy Future: Electricity Pricing and Electrification for Efficient Greenhouse Gas Emissions
California Council on Science and Technology
“As California proceeds toward its long-run 2050 goal for permitted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it will be necessary for electricity to become more decarbonized. It will also be necessary for some activities that are now fossil-fueled to run partially or fully on the cleaner electricity—a process referred to as electrification. Improved pricing policies are necessary to make decarbonization and electrification decisions effectively and efficiently.”