Following the Least-Cost Pathway to CO2 Cuts

The least-cost pathway concept acknowledges that as annual electric-sector emissions of CO2 approach zero tons per person, the cost per ton reduced increases.

The least-cost pathway concept acknowledges that as annual electric-sector emissions of CO2 approach zero tons per person, the cost per ton reduced increases. (Image source: IHS Markit)

Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased steadily as China, India and other countries bring new coal-powered electric plants online, but the United States has bucked the trend. In the U.S. electric power sector, CO2 emissions declined 20% between 2007 and 2015.

One might think that California, which is re-restructuring its electric power system to reduce carbon emissions, played a major role in that accomplishment. But it didn’t. In fact, even as the Golden State boosted wind and solar output from 2 percent to 14 percent of in-state electricity production over that period, CO2 emissions held steady. The reason: The share of natural gas-fired generation grew from 50 percent to 60 percent.

Explains IHS Markit, a purveyor of market intelligence and analysis: “This was needed to back up and fill in for intermittent renewables, replace output from prematurely closing nuclear plants, and offset declining hydroelectric generation.”

The economics of CO2 reduction are complex, and not all CO2 reduction strategies are created equal — either in terms of cost or in terms of emissions reduced. As IHS Markit notes in a Wall Street Journal advertorial today, there are more cost-efficient ways to cut greenhouse gases than mandating renewables. “The reductions achieved via [California’s] wind and solar mandates cost 10 times more than the ones achieved through its cap-and-trade programs.”

The idea that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a compelling national goal is far from universally accepted. Not everyone embraces the more cataclysmic predictions of temperature rise, not everyone believes that an atmosphere richer in CO2 will lead to universally baleful effects, and not everyone agrees with the proposition that cutting CO2 emissions is the best way to respond to a warming climate. But let’s set those reservations aside for a moment and assume that combating global warming and cutting CO2 emissions is a global imperative, and that we’ve all got to do our bit to turn the tide.

IHS Markit employs a concept it calls “the least-cost pathway” to CO2 reduction, which ranks CO2 reduction strategies for the electric power industry by cost-effectiveness — essentially by dollars-per-ton of CO2 saved.

The lowest-cost approach is replacing coal, which emits a large volume of CO2 per unit of electricity generated, with natural gas, which emits about half the volume. That approach is so cost-effective that it has already occurred on a large scale, driven largely by market forces (and Environmental Protection Agency rules that cracked down on emissions of toxic metals from the combustion of coal).

Thanks to the fracking revolution, which has expanded the supply of natural gas and pushed down the price, U.S. electric utilities have shifted dramatically from coal to gas. That’s the reason U.S. CO2 emissions have declined so dramatically. While this approach has not totally run its course, the rate of gas-for-coal substitution is likely to slow significantly, as only the newest, cleanest, most cost-efficient coal plants remain in operation.

Extending the life of aging nuclear power plants is somewhat more expensive, and building new nuclear facilities is significantly more expensive. On the positive side, nukes have zero carbon emissions and they provide a reliable base-load capacity. IHS Markit sums up the pros and cons: “Nuclear power plant extension is cost-effective early on, and new nuclear plants become cost-effective as the curve moves into deeper reduction.”

Energy efficiency is part of the equation, says IHS Markit. However, “encouraging efficiency investments beyond what consumers would do themselves involves increasing costs.”

As for wind and solar, they, too, are part of the solution. “But not as the primary source of generation. … Wind and solar costs are not reaching grid parity when the need to align power output to when consumers want electricity is taken into account. Battery technologies are improving but are still not a cost-effective way to manage variations in electricity demand.”

The comparative economics get murkier when we look into the future. Will natural gas prices increase, and by how much, as the most productive wells are depleted and exports of Liquified Natural Gas soak up excess supply? Will the cost of solar panels and battery technologies continue to decline as in the past, or will the pace of innovation slow? Will the price of building new nuclear plants remain breathtakingly high, or will some combination of new technologies (mini-nukes, anyone?) and relaxation of excessive safety regulations bring down the cost?

As IHS Markit concedes, there is little consensus. Still, the market-intelligence company provides a useful framework for looking at Virginia’s energy future: We should pursue the least-cost pathway to CO2 emissions.

The devil is in the details, of course. We can haggle endlessly over the cost-effectiveness of any given approach. But the idea makes more sense than pre-supposing that any particular approach — coal, gas, extending old nukes, building new nukes, wind, solar, energy conservation — is the way to go. Different energy sources have their own place in the fuel mix as Virginia’s electric power sector moves up the least-cost pathway.

There are currently no comments highlighted.

25 responses to “Following the Least-Cost Pathway to CO2 Cuts

  1. so what happens if it is determined that gas is a bigger contributor of CO2 that coal?

    you’d tallying up dollars here on a premise.. about gas being “better” than coal but is it and if not, then what?

  2. re: ” The reductions achieved via [California’s] wind and solar mandates cost 10 times more than the ones achieved through its cap-and-trade programs.””

    I think this is wrong twice.

    1. how is wind/solar more expensive?

    2. for cap & trade, there has to be some agreement on what the total reduction should be then you can set up cap and trade. Do we have agreement on how much total reduction we need?

    If we do not then what in the world is cap and trade? Just “capping and trading” with no top number is meaningless..

    • Make sure you understand what the study is saying. It’s not saying that wind and solar are ten times more expensive than the cap-and-trade programs. It’s saying that the CO2 emissions reduced — measured on a cost per ton of CO2 basis — is ten times more expensive. They’re measuring impact on the environment, not impact on rate payers.

      • you’re making a claim here and not backing it up.. provide something that backs up what the claim is beyond just making the claim.

      • The statement in the article is, “California pays more than necessary to reduce its emissions. The reductions achieved via the state’s wind and solar mandates cost 10 times more than ones achieved through its cap-and-trade program.” So I think you are right about what is being measured, Jim, but that leaves a lot of uncertainty about exactly how they came up with that 10x figure.

        For example, what solar costs are being linked to the emissions reductions from solar? Just the developer’s cost (investment carrying cost + O&M cost)? Just the direct cost to the State: CA tax benefits paid to the developer? Or both costs (to the developer plus CA)? Less credit for the electricity sold? Less credit for sales of renewables RECs? Calculated from sales prices determined how (from what market, wholesale or retail)? What about grid impact costs (i.e., the added cost and emissions from operating, stopping and starting gas-plant fired units in cycling mode to back up solar versus more efficiently in base-load mode)? And how is the comparison cost determined from the cap-and-trade market?

      • TH says, “The point I am trying to make is that as long as various interest groups use a different economic calculus it will be nearly impossible to reach a consensus on the “least-cost pathways”. Those with the most economic or political power will carry the day.” This is absolutely right. In the many regulatory proceedings I’ve sat through, the first essential task is to get everyone using the same terminology, same definitions, same timeframe, same qualifiers — so that other differences can be discussed rationally, or the impact of those restrictions isolated. See my comments above on the LACK of clarity here! I’m not impugning the honesty of the authors of this infomercial to say, if they are going to claim that solar CO2 reductions in CA cost 10x those from cap/trade, they should at least explain that calculation publicly (not only to “subscribers”). I am disappointed that the WSJ didn’t insist on it.

  3. The article starts off talking about global greenhouse gas emissions and then shifts back to talking about CO2 emissions declining in the US electric power sector. These are not the same thing. If you talk only about CO2 the replacement of coal units with natural gas has reduced CO2 output in the US electric power sector. If you consider the total contribution to GHGs, the shift to natural gas has kept the contribution the same or perhaps increased it.

    If we are going to posit that climate change is a given, then we should always speak about all greenhouse gasses, not just CO2. This remarkably changes the discussion and the choices about natural gas. The industry has cleverly altered the discussion to focus on CO2, but the atmosphere does not care about our semantics. If we choose to have a discussion about electricity generation and climate change, it should always be on the basis of total greenhouse gasses not solely CO2.

    “As IHS Markit notes in a Wall Street Journal advertorial today, there are more cost-efficient ways to cut greenhouse gases than mandating renewables. “The reductions achieved via [California’s] wind and solar mandates cost 10 times more than the ones achieved through its cap-and-trade programs.”

    I am as skeptical as Larry on this one. I would like to see the data. Worldwide cap-and-trade programs have been a financial boon to the financial speculators but have had minimal effect on generation choices. The direct incentives on renewables have been the major influence to establish the renewable market. Greater numbers of units sold allowed the technological learning curve to reduce prices of renewables.

    “encouraging efficiency investments beyond what consumers would do themselves involves increasing costs.”

    This is accurate, but nonsense. You would never invest in energy efficiency as a consumer if it increased your cost. Energy efficiency saves money, there is no net cost, so efficiency is by far the lowest cost option for reducing GHGs and CO2.

    Currently, energy efficiency contributes a greater share to our electricity sector than does nuclear power and could contribute up to 40% of our generation capacity within the next 20-30 years or so (at a net negative cost). Rocky Mountain Institue has shown that a mix of energy efficiency and renewables can be cost-negative while supporting a 158 percent larger economy while cutting carbon emission by 80% by 2050. This is the lowest cost pathway.

    I am sorry, but the arguments against renewables are misguided, saying that they do not align to when customers want electricity. At today’s prices, solar could generate electricity cheaper than the intermediate and peaking units fueled by fossil fuel in Virginia. Let’s say that perhaps 60-80% of the year solar could offset this fossil generation between 8 am and 4 pm. If the solar generation is cheaper and it avoids the emissions from these units much of the year, how is this not a cost-effective solution to climate change (and a contributor to lower-cost energy)?

    It is the same theme that many espouse that solar has no value today because it cannot provide economic baseload generation. Maybe not yet, but it does have real value right now.

    The nuclear industry is now trying to hang their hat on “zero carbon emissions” to keep hopes alive. But the economics still do not work. The article says, “Nuclear power plant extension is cost-effective early on, and new nuclear plants become cost-effective as the curve moves into deeper reduction.” I don’t see any evidence of this. Nuclear plants are continuing to close throughout the US because they cannot be economically dispatched. Some plants have successfully obtained a 20-year license renewal (including the nukes in Virginia). But any retrofit requirements will make the old units uneconomic. New nuclear units are prohibitively expensive and the small modular units that are still on the drawing board are more expensive yet.

    Nuclear is out of phase with the direction of our energy system. We will be using less electricity in a system with a declining cost of production and a greater need for rapid, dynamic responses in supply. Nuclear does not fit in that scenario.

    There is little consensus on this issue because most of our current energy planners still see the solutions in 20th-century terms – increasing supply to meet demand. A mind shift to a shift-demand-to-meet-supply outlook reveals many lower-cost, zero emission opportunities.

  4. “The lowest-cost approach is replacing coal, which emits a large volume of CO2 per unit of electricity generated, with natural gas, which emits about half the volume…”
    Not true for total Green House Gases. Gotta add methane emissions to gas generation and the result is that electricity generated from gas is just as bad for the climate.

    “On the positive side, nukes have zero carbon emissions and they provide a reliable base-load capacity. ”
    Not everywhere … From Utility Dive …”You can see it in New York, where existing, carbon-free nuclear generation needs help from the state to keep running. In Ohio, generators are selling coal plants after failing to win financial support. In Texas, the nation’s largest organized market, where even combined-cycle gas plants have come under pressure. … Last week, Mauricio Gutierrez, the president and CEO of NRG, called the independent power producer model “obsolete and unable to create value over the long term.” NHis company owns a dozen coal, gas and nuclear plants in Texas, and generation revenues for that region dropped more than $90 million last year, primarily because of lower power prices in the state.”

    “Wind and solar costs are not reaching grid parity when the need to align power output to when consumers want electricity is taken into account. ”
    Not sure what that means … grid parity is based on today’s costs, not just time of generation and leaves out our distribution networks. From a Barclays 2014 report:
    “In the 100+ year history of the electric utility industry, there has never before been a truly cost-competitive substitute available for grid power. We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organization and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade.”

    RMI has a recent blog post that challenges the premises that are used when low renewable predictions are reached … such as in a recent RIT report. There have been lots of critics writing about the use of historical models and their inability to predict during times of technology change. The RMI blog refers to their earlier paper about the ‘Economics of Grid Defection’.
    http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2017_03_02_why_we_need_to_discuss_grid_defection

    Here is the CA duck curve with increasing solar. It shows that a focus only on today’s cost misses the implications that a big portion of the ~$100 billion per year of utility capital investment today could be stranded by future customer investment. Major investment banks, among others, have also seen this potential danger to the current utility business model if present trends continue.

    Didn’t paste …?

    From Utility Dive … Capacity markets, where they exist, are not working … The power industry’s high fixed costs and relatively low marginal costs are making it difficult for some generators to compete. But without a way to reliably recover fixed costs, one of two things happen, said Gifford: “Either all go bankrupt, or the capital formation never happens in the first place.”

    FERC, with authority over power markets, will ultimately have to take up the issue. The commission issued notice of a technical conference to take place May 1 and 2, “to discuss certain matters affecting wholesale energy and capacity markets operated by the Eastern Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs).”

    RMI also says other policy possibilities are ignored in many future cost comparisons. “A comparison of customer costs under a limited set of solar power scenarios (e.g., net-metered PV versus complete grid defection) ignores other DER options that are potentially more likely.”

    Conclusion … It’s complicated … “reforms in electricity tariffs, utility business models, and utility regulations are crucial to arrive at an integrated, resilient, and cost-optimal grid.”

  5. First of all, re: first paragraph, we need more information on 2016 CO2 trends: US and global. I thought I heard somewhere US took a further major decline in CO2 in 2016, and I am thinking the global increase may have leveled off.

    Re: California CO2 increase, I have not heard that either, but I do know they have closed down some nukes. But CA imports coal power from out-of-state, as well as cheap hydro from OR/WA, so I’d be surprised if CO2 per capita was really higher, maybe in-state generation. If CO2 per capita is up in CA, we may need to tell them electric cars (50% are sold in CA mandated for the purpose of CO2 abatement) are making CO2 worse.

    • EVs are not making CO2 worse in CA where the electricity generation is becoming more and more carbon free. Legislators in both California and Massachusetts have introduced bills that would require their states to go all-in on renewables, by 2045 and 2035 respectively.

      I read that EVs will use about 8% of electricity generation … Last month, Chevron posted its first loss in decades, while Exxon saw its smallest quarterly profit in 17 years: Most striking, it also wrote off $2 billion in gas fields—finally admitting it was not immune to stranded assets.
      Shell itself says that oil demand will likely peak within the next five years followed by precipitous declines as electric vehicles come on-line en masse.

  6. Cap and Trade would be manipulated by Wall Street. It would soon be just like the price of oil, which often has been disconnected from supply and demand.

  7. this “‘article” border on propaganda in my view… and it typifies the narratives we are seeing now.

    re: ”
    Explains IHS Markit, a purveyor of market intelligence and analysis: “This was needed to back up and fill in for intermittent renewables, replace output from prematurely closing nuclear plants, and offset declining hydroelectric generation.””

    who says the closing the closing of the “nuke plants was “premature”?

    isn’t that an opinion and not “analysis”????

    you’ll find more of this in the “narrative” and to my way of thinking it betrays a bias … not objectivity… and not any kind of “objective analysis”.. just another subjective viewpoint… and basically one that attacks wind and solar … and promotes fossil fuels.. would not surprise me at all that this article is an industry “plant”….

    • Larry, I don’t see how you can label the IHs Markit study as “propaganda” without having even seen it…. unless everything you disagree with is propaganda.

      I built a blog post around the study because I think IHS Markit is probably an objective and credible source. (I asked for a copy of the study, but they wouldn’t share it with me. I have to be a “member,” or subscriber to their services.)

      I’m not familiar with the organization other than what I read in the WSJ advertorial and on its website. But the company appears to belong to a genre of business intelligence companies that make their living doing forward-looking market analysis. It makes money by identifying new market opportunities and making accurate forecasts, not telling clients what they want to hear. These business intelligence companies draw upon a wide range of industry and government sources and develop in-depth knowledge of their industry verticals.

      That doesn’t necessarily make them right in their assessment of the relative merits of gas, nuclear, renewables, etc. But they are a credible source — certainly a lot more objective than either a utility company or an environmental group — and their analysis cannot be dismissed simply because you don’t like the implications of their findings.

      • I read the article Jim –

        and it’s biased and not objective ..on the facts..

        and yes… VERY CONVENIENT – you can’t seem to get the “study” itself!

        This is obviously a point of view – not an objective statement of facts – instead what they believe.

        you chose to NOT highlight this comment from TomH:

        ” If we are going to posit that climate change is a given, then we should always speak about all greenhouse gasses, not just CO2. This remarkably changes the discussion and the choices about natural gas. The industry has cleverly altered the discussion to focus on CO2, but the atmosphere does not care about our semantics. If we choose to have a discussion about electricity generation and climate change, it should always be on the basis of total greenhouse gasses not solely CO2.”

        re: ” That doesn’t necessarily make them right in their assessment of the relative merits of gas, nuclear, renewables, etc. But they are a credible source — certainly a lot more objective than either a utility company or an environmental group ”

        good grief – what part of “advertorial” do you not get?

        ad·ver·to·ri·al
        ˌadvərˈtôrēəl
        noun
        a newspaper or magazine advertisement giving information about a product in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article.

        WHO paid for this? do we know?

  8. I’m amused… check out the speakers for CERAWEEK… look for the ones that would speak to renewables… 😉

    https://ceraweek.com/speakers/

  9. Here is EIA discussion of 2016 USA CO2, first half of year was lowest CO2 since 1991 due in part to mild weather. Presumably Year End 2016 will continue the trend, but we’ll have to wait to see those numbers.

    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=28312#

    • Again, the important point is total greenhouse gasses, not just CO2. If you ignore the methane leaks you are making distorted decisions regarding natural gas use. The CPP and industry news releases created a false notion of natural gas being a “climate savior”.

      But as I have said before, if we just choose the lowest cost sources of energy (energy efficiency, renewables, demand side management, and 21st-century grid improvements), we will create the most jobs and take care of many of the climate issues related to the electricity sector. What is slowing the adoption of these lower cost options is the 20th-century regulatory schemes for our utilities. Currently, what is good for us is not good for them.

      Change the rules for our utilities and many of the solutions will unfold naturally as the market and our citizens select what is best for them.

      • Tom, ultimately the point of the post was not to endorse a particular view on which particular energy solution is the most effective, but to endorse the concept of a “least cost pathway.” Surely you don’t dispute that some energy solutions are more cost-effective — deliver more CO2 reduction per dollar invested — than other solutions. If you accept that proposition, then why would we not want to promote the lower cost strategies…. if we could figure out what they are?

        • Jim,

          I agree. However, if we are trying to consider the “least-cost pathways” to aid with climate change, we should consider them in terms of their effect on greenhouse gasses, not just CO2. Otherwise, we will make uninformed choices about natural gas infrastructure and we will not achieve the end we seek.

          Today, many of the options that have been discussed are being selected primarily by utility companies. Currently, many of the least-cost options from a societal perspective are not good economic choices for them. If they are the primary selector it is unrealistic to assume utilities will select the least-cost choice for society if it works against their economic interest.

          I am suggesting that we revise our current regulatory system so that what is good for the citizens and ratepayers of Virginia is also good for the utilities. Then an evaluation of the “least-cost pathways” can be evaluated from different perspectives but with the same underlying economic ground rules.

          Let’s take a non-climate related issue as an example. Utility holding companies want to build pipelines because of the extraordinarily high rate of return and the long-term stream of revenues. This makes shareholders happy and props up the stock price. According to tariffs filed by the owners of the pipeline, ratepayers in Virginia and North Carolina would pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year because it costs more to transport gas in new pipelines compared to using existing ones.

          A neutral observer, the Department of Energy, says there is ample capacity in existing pipelines and we should use what we have before building something new.

          If the financial incentive to “build” was removed, the local electric utility would elect to use the connection to existing pipelines because it provides exactly the same benefits but at a lower cost to ratepayers.

          The point I am trying to make is that as long as various interest groups use a different economic calculus it will be nearly impossible to reach a consensus on the “least-cost pathways”. Those with the most economic or political power will carry the day.

          Aligning economic interests will allow a more objective evaluation of the various options. We won’t have to deal so much with the issue of “least-cost for whom?”.

          • We agree conceptually that the U.S. should follow the least-cost pathway.

            The challenge is determining what that least-cost pathway is. You seem pretty firmly convinced that solar and energy-efficiency are relatively low cost. I’m agnostic. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not yet convinced that you’re right.

            “Energy efficiency” is a grab-bag of strategies and programs, some of which are very cost-efficient (and are being implemented in the market without government intervention) and some of which deliver much less bang for the buck. My sense is that some EE initiatives are worth pursuing, others aren’t. We need to be disciplined about distinguishing between the two.

            The calculations for solar are subtler. In Virginia, there is no expectation that large-scale solar deployment is more economical than the gas-fired alternative now, just that it will be in the not-too-distant future. That view might be correct, but it is based upon certain assumptions about what will happen to the price of natural gas and upon the conviction that solar and batteries will get cheaper in the future. The more distant time period discussed, the greater the room for error.

            Tom, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of the time value of money. A dollar saved today is worth more than a dollar saved 10 years from now. Even if solar becomes cheaper than gas in 10 years, it still may make sense today to build a gas-fired power plant with a 30-year life span because today’s savings are worth more than savings accrued in 2037. It all depends on what discount rate you apply, which, of course, is a somewhat arbitrary judgment.

            With each passing year, I expect, the formula will shift in favor of solar and uncertainty will diminish. I expect we’ll be having a very different conversation in five years.

          • Jim, TomH, I tried to comment here but good ole WordPress posted it higher in this comment string — I won’t post again but please take a look.

  10. “The challenge is determining what that least-cost pathway is.”

    Yes! This is definitely the crux of the issue.

    I am convinced that energy efficiency is the low-cost option because as an energy planner I would not invest in any energy efficiency projects that produce savings that cost more than 2-4 cents/kWh. There is no new conventional generation option that is close to that. New combined cycle plants are in the 6-8 cents/kWh range and will only get more expensive as fuel costs increase.

    The grab-bag of energy efficiency strategies that you refer to have been mostly utility sponsored programs that were never intended to be more than window dressing for PR purposes. With current regulations, utilities do not want to reduce revenues.

    I agree that solar calculations are somewhat uncertain. But there have been several decades of cost declines that have allowed the calculation of a technology cost curve that creates a 16% per year cost decrease for solar technology. Technology cost curves are well-established tools, especially in industries that utilize some silicon-based or integrated circuit-based technologies such as computers and cell phones. Solar is a silicon wafer, integrated circuit-based technology.

    But let’s use Dominion’s numbers. In their 2016 IRP, Dominion has a table titled Costs of Selected Generation Sources (Figure 5.5.4.3). They identify the cost of 20 MW of fixed tilt solar at 7.6 cents/kWh and 80 MW of fixed tilt solar at 8.3 cents/kWh. In the same chart, they list the cost of a generic 3×1 combined cycle unit as 9.6 cents/kWh.

    Let us assume the cost is 8 cents per kWh for both solar and natural gas choices. The solar unit will generate electricity at 8 cents/kWh for the next 35 years, guaranteed. Most observers, including Dominion, agree that it is unlikely that cost of gas will go below the sub-$2 range it has been in for the past two years so energy costs from the combined cycle unit will only go up over time.

    It is also likely that the solar would not be installed in one 1600 MW lump as would the combined cycle unit. Rather, it would be spread out over 5 years, let’s say. The cost of solar at the end of that 5 years will be one-half the price it was in year one, based on documented price declines over the past five years. However, let’s ignore any possible price decline for solar. If the price is the same today, gas units will produce more expensive electricity over time, while solar costs will stay the same. During the lifetime of the solar facility, there will be zero greenhouse gas emissions, while the gas plant will be no different from the coal plant it replaced in terms of its effects on climate.

    I am very familiar with the time value of money and the use of discount rates in making investment decisions. It results in a very slippery slope especially when generation choices might have a short-term economic advantage which is emphasized with this technique and extensive long-term environmental and human health consequences that are severely undervalued with this method.

    We have had a prolonged period of low interest rates so our decisions have not been as greatly skewed as they have been in the past. Let’s assume gas-fired plants are slightly cheaper than solar today. Using your example, you would favor a slight saving over the first 10 years, but be exposed to the possibility of the plant becoming a stranded asset any time during the next thirty years.

    You are not wrong. This has been the conventional technique used for decades. However, it does not fit the shift we are seeing in our energy system. This is precisely the point I have been warning about. In 5-10 years the bottom will fall out and the ratepayers will bear most of the risk. That is why we cannot wait that long to have the conversation.

    The energy future we are facing is not some slight alteration in the trends of the past thirty years (Dominion’s assumption). It is a discontinuous change that cannot be dealt with using old assumptions and inappropriate analytical techniques. What you are saying is exactly what I would expect my friends at the utility company to say. And that inability to see the shifts will harm us all.

    The future is uncertain, perhaps more than ever. That is all the more reason to hold the line on load growth using a little bit of energy efficiency until the fog clears. We should not be rushing forward making decisions about projects that will take forty years to pay off. Especially, if they offer no economic or environmental benefits.

  11. The “least-cost” deal is pro-forma for how we have taken into account – the damage a choice might cost – to the environment.

    that damage is almost never in the analyses before-hand … over history

    … until now – … where the “damage” could be so catastrophic that instead of polluting some river or superfund site – the earth’s atmosphere and thus our own survival might be at stake..

    but yet – we continue to use the same approach – but essentially using the “least cost” approach by ignoring the role of methane… and potentially other equally more potent greenhouse gases than CO2.

    My question is – why do we do this?

    and why, on top of that, we create narratives that portray non-polluting (or far less so) technologies as “higher-cost” than other “paths”?

    I may well turn out to be that vehicles – automobiles may also be major contributors to Greenhouse gases… AND that converting them to electricity might be … an imperative… but if that electricity is coming from the use of a fuel that is even a more potent generator of greenhouse gases then what?

    Go back to that “Advertorial” and ask yourself if it is addressing that bigger issue in a proper context or is it basically doing cheerleading for a path the industry has chosen – that satisfies their profits and can be PRed to the public to make it look like they’re on board with “protecting” the environment and reducing greenhouse gases?

    I say they are serving no real interests other than their own – and it’s a disservice to everyone to portray their “work” as anything but self-serving – to the potential harm of real objective analysis of the bigger problem of greenhouse gases.

    it’s certainly NOT “objective” in the larger context – at all…

Leave a Reply