Change in Global CO2 Emissions (2000-2017)
With respect to CO2 emissions and climate change, the greatest concern is in the Asia-Pacific where economies have developed on fossil fuels for the past twenty years and coal plants remain in their forward planning. From 2000-2017, global CO2 emissions increased 9,821 mmtons, with 8,643 mmtons (88% of global total) derived from Asia-Pacific countries. Of this, China emitted 5,883 mmtons and India 1,381 mmtons. During this same period, U.S. CO2 emissions decreased 639 mmtons. The issue is global climate, yet the GND scope is limited to the U.S. This isn’t an issue of right vs. wrong or which country is to be blamed—it’s a pragmatic matter of policy focus.
Eisenhower’s Nuclear Legacy Holds Steady At Vogtle
(Full Op-ed is in the Augusta Chronicle)
America’s nuclear power enterprise, arguably the best in the world in the 20th century, wasn’t the result of a natural course of laissez-faire U.S. innovation, even though America certainly had the science and engineering expertise to do so. Rather, the development of a nuclear power program of this magnitude and scale required a public-private partnership whereby the inherent risks of research and development would be shared to reach a strategic objective–a national security objective. The rationale being, nuclear energy was of such national security importance that it couldn’t be left to market forces alone since markets couldn’t recognize national security value. Both the Republican and Democratic parties understood that U.S. leadership in nuclear science, engineering and technology was a matter of national security, as evidenced by their respective 1956 party platforms where both sought the mantle of U.S. nuclear champion.
America needs to regain that innovative, bipartisan vision from the days of President Eisenhower and shore up its nuclear science, engineering and technology enterprise to be competitive in the 21st century.
Currently, that vision is holding steady in Georgia, at Plant Vogtle Units 3&4.
Link to full Op-ed
A Call for Bipartisanship and Urgency in U.S. Nuclear Power Policy
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
Recent developments around the death of Jamal Khashoggi have prompted a bipartisan response calling for President Trump to break off talks with Saudi Arabia over a potential US-Saudi civil nuclear agreement. The claim being that Saudi Arabia’s actions “raise serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decision makers in
The U.S. is facing strong competition from China, Russia, South Korea and France for the engineering, procurement and construction of the first two of sixteen planned reactors in Saudi Arabia. Consequently, a disruption in negotiations could quell U.S. hopes of establishing a behind-the-fence presence in Saudi Arabia’s nuclear enterprise, thus limiting American influence in the development of Saudi Arabia’s overall nuclear culture.
There’s little argument that the issue of a nuclear program in Saudi Arabia is complex and that the death of Khashoggi presents the U.S. with a diplomatic challenge. But such has been the challenge to U.S. leaders from the beginning.
Link to full op-ed.
Georgia’s Monthly Electricity Costs in Context
A few months back Wallet Hub published a report ranking each state on monthly energy costs. The categories included total energy cost, monthly electricity cost, monthly natural gas cost, monthly fuel cost and monthly home heating cost. Georgia was ranked as having the third highest monthly energy cost—a point that has gotten some attention the past few weeks, yet deserves context and clarification.
I’ve been very forward in pointing out that the state of Georgia has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country and that the new units under construction at Plant Vogtle are critical long-term assets for keeping those rates affordable while maintaining reliability and hedging against a future carbon tax (Figure 1; Gattie Link 1; Gattie Link 2; Gattie Link 3; Gattie Link 4). Consequently, I’ve had a few folks ask how these low electricity rates result in Georgia having the third highest energy costs among all states, as reported in the Wallet Hub study. It’s a fair question, but it needs to be clarified that the characterization of Georgia having the third highest monthly energy costs is in reference to total energy consumption. This includes electricity, natural gas, home heating oil and gasoline. When considering electricity only, the Wallet Hub report lists Georgia as having the fourth highest monthly electricity costs. However, the Energy Information Administration reported in its November 2017 compilation of average monthly residential bills that Georgia ranked as having the ninth highest monthly electricity bills (Table 3, at end of this blog). Nonetheless, a more detailed explanation is warranted given the fact that Georgia does indeed have, and historically has had, residential rates that are consistently below the national average and below those in other states with high GDPs (Figure 1, below; Gattie Link 5).
Figure 1. Electricity rates for the current top 15 GDPs since 1990.
Continue reading “Georgia’s Monthly Electricity Costs in Context”
Vogtle Units 3 & 4: Critical Assets for Georgia’s Energy Infrastructure
The state of Georgia has consistently provided some of the lowest electricity rates in the country over the past three decades, particularly among the top 10 GDP states in the U.S. (Figures below). Central to this has been Georgia’s vertically-integrated regulated market structure. This regulated structure has allowed Georgia’s Public Service Commission
and electric power sector to develop long-term integrated resource planning that takes into account the ever-changing economic, political and regulatory landscapes along with technology changes, all of which impact energy costs in the near- and long-term. In terms of carbon reduction alone, Georgia’s nuclear power generation capacity has been a critical asset by directly avoiding over one billion metric tons
. Had it not been for nuclear power at Plants Hatch and Vogtle over the past forty-plus years, Georgia would be facing a nearly impossible path toward an affordable low-carbon future.
Georgia is well-positioned today with low-cost low-carbon electricity in large part because of past decisions to build nuclear power capacity. With a future that will require even lower carbon electricity and in order to keep the state economically competitive with the rest of the country, the completion of Vogtle Units 3&4 isn’t just an option–it’s a necessity.
U.S. Nuclear Power: Too Strategic to Fail
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
The advances by China and Russia in nuclear power are daunting. Both countries are fully engaged in the construction of nuclear plants, loading fuel into reactors, connecting nuclear plants to the grid, developing programs for closing the fuel cycle, conducting research and development on advanced reactors and, in order to sustain these cycles of activity, securing decades-long nuclear construction deals throughout the world. In a word, “strategic” characterizes China’s and Russia’s approaches to civilian nuclear power.
Meanwhile, the lone nuclear construction project in the U.S., at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia, remains on schedule to begin loading fuel in October of 2019 even though it was recently announced that construction costs would increase by $1.1 billion. While it has been suggested that Vogtle may have become “too big to fail”, the issue of nuclear power in the U.S. extends beyond Vogtle. as the disparity that separates the U.S. from China and Russia is not the international order of nuclear science, engineering and technology envisioned by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and the early framers of U.S. nuclear policy. Moreover, this disparity in progress is a consequence of a disparity in strategy.
… (Full Op-ed in The Hill) …
The issue at hand is not so much a question of whether nuclear projects in the U.S. are too big to fail. It’s much larger and more systemic than that. The issue is that nuclear power in America is too strategic to fail. And two of the steps necessary to ensure that it doesn’t fail are the completion of Vogtle and the development of a robust public-private partnership dedicated to developing advanced nuclear technologies and keeping the U.S. competitive on the global civilian nuclear stage.
Energy Policy for the U.S. Power Sector Must Include Stability And Nuclear Power
The marginalization of nuclear power is arguably the most egregious development to come out of environmental organizations that claim to be concerned about climate change. While historical opposition to nuclear power can be attributed to a range of social, political and environmental concerns, current efforts to exclude this zero-carbon resource are a travesty of environmentalism. It’s long past time to allow the U.S. nuclear industry to do its part to help us meet climate and economic objectives. [Full Commentary Here]
Georgia Magazine, a publication of Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, recently published my commentary on U.S. energy policy as it pertains to the U.S. power sector. Our efforts to address economic and climate issues at the U.S. and global levels will be greatly improved by incorporating stability in our energy policy but will be impossible without nuclear power.
How Can Someone Who is Concerned About Carbon Emissions and the Potential Impacts of Climate Change Be Opposed to EPA’s Clean Power Plan?
[A version of this post entitled, “U.S. Missing the Mark on Climate Policy” was published in GeorgiaPol as a guest Op-Ed]
The old expression, “Every little bit helps”, doesn’t hold true for global CO2 emissions if the little bit that helps in one country doesn’t translate and scale up to something systemic and impactful in emerging economies throughout the world where billions live in energy poverty and more energy is needed, not less. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is such an example as it gives the appearance of commitment to addressing climate change issues, yet will have little-to-no impact on the actual issues of energy, carbon, and climate at the scale of concern: the global scale. We don’t need this sort of regulatory greenwashing to respond to an issue of this magnitude.
We can do better than this…we have to.
Top 15 GDP’s in the world (based on 2015) ranked by CO2 intensity Continue reading “EPA’s Clean Power Plan: We Can Do Better”
Pragmatism and Stability in Energy Policy for
the U.S. Electric Power Sector
This is a summary of a paper (In-Press Article Here)that will be published in the January-February 2017 issue of The Electricity Journal. The final published version of the paper is here.
The 2016 U.S. presidential election has generated concern within the environmental community, particularly with respect to climate change, as President-elect Trump has conveyed his intent to address what he considers regulatory overreach in the U.S. energy sector and unleash an energy revolution in America (Trump, 2016a). This includes expanding U.S. oil and natural gas development, reviving the coal industry, rolling back EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement (Mufson and Dennis, 2016; Schoof, 2016; Trump, 2016a). All combined, this would extract from current U.S. energy policy the core of President Obama’s climate agenda and effectively put the Obama climate legacy into hibernation—a legacy that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would have likely kept intact and expanded upon (Clinton, 2016). How this projects forward remains in question. What is clear is this: the election of Donald Trump has triggered what will be an ideological shift in energy policy. While this may bode well for upstream and midstream oil and gas sectors in the near-term the impact on the power sector is not as certain (Rapier, 2016). Continue reading “Pragmatism and Stability in Energy Policy for the U.S. Power Sector”
Nuclear and Renewables:
Georgia is Zeroed-In on Zero-Carbon
Good news on nuclear and renewables coming out of Georgia as the Georgia Public Service Commission voted to preserve nuclear energy as a future option for the state by approving Georgia Power Company to conduct preliminary studies at a site in Stewart County, GA that has been proposed as the location for a potential nuclear plant. The Commission also approved Georgia Power to move forward on 1,600 MW of renewable energy projects, which includes utility-scale solar, distributed generation, wind and energy efficiency. Georgia Power also received approval to retire one coal unit and three combustion turbines. This is a wise, long-term move on nuclear power along with smart, calculated incremental steps on renewables. Continue reading “Nuclear and Renewables: Georgia is Zeroed-In on Zero-Carbon”