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Energy Transition Lab

COP23 Day 6

November 11, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on COP23 Day 6

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

As I write my final blog of the week, I’ll focus on two topics.

100% Renewable Energy

First, to conclude the 100% renewable energy discussion, I highlight Vaxjo, Sweden and Costa Rica, as well as an important research paper.  Vaxjo is Duluth’s sister city, and they share a similar population around 90,000 and an outdoorsy setting with beautiful lakes.  Vaxjo’s lakes were heavily polluted in the 1970’s, and the search for solutions led to a political decision in 1996 to go “fossil fuel free.”  The city now produces about 66% of its energy from renewable sources, including for heat.  Besides energy efficiency they make use of abundant forest products to produce bioenergy.

Costa Rica is on its way to 100% renewable electricity by 2030, and adding other sector goals.  Minister William Calvo said they were paying fossil fuel companies not to produce power, which is an interesting approach to compensating for stranded assets.

Earlier this week the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Energy Watch Group presented a new study which models a global transition to 100% renewable electricity.  Hans-Josef Fell, a former member of the German Parliament, explained this modeling is unique in that it modeled hourly energy demand, and showed that existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050 – or sooner if a supportive policy and regulatory framework is in place.

Managing the Grid for Carbon

Today is “energy day” at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, which was funded by Michael Bloomberg to fill the gap left by the U.S. government’s absence.  This is the first COP in history in which the U.S. has not hosted a pavilion to share information with COP attendees.

This morning I learned about new software that can solve an important grid issue.  Researchers have analyzed energy data from our regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and found that even with a large and growing share of wind energy, there are many times of the day or night in which the grid emits high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.  See a recent University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment research paper on this.  This is important for users of energy storage batteries and electric vehicles.

New software can automatically program energy – for charging stationary batteries or EV’s – that is both cheap and low-carbon, using real-time automatic analysis of what marginal resource is on the grid.  As one speaker said, this is a clarion call for open data.  Without access to grid utility data, we can’t field this software.  Europe & North America have this information available to a certain extent but other countries don’t.  As India moves to ban internal combustion engines, it will make an enormous difference in meeting Paris Agreement targets whether users are charging them at low-carbon times or not.  The software developers claim that using this program in the US will be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road in terms of carbon reduction.

There is so much else I would like to write about, but I’m out of time.  This week has been an amazing amalgam of ideas, inspiration, and examples.  Today’s talk by former Vice President Al Gore covered the spectrum from the stark scientific and meteorological data – crushingly dire and depressing – to all the reasons for hope.  A global transition to clean energy is not only possible but inevitable.  This continuum describes my COP23 experience, as I depart Germany imbued with more knowledge, information, and examples, and more hope for progress.

100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

November 10, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, Featured, UncategorizedComments Off on 100% Renewable Energy: COP23 Day #5

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today I spent my day at a conference at the German Environment Ministry, just 2 train stops from the COP23 meeting. “The Local Dimension of the NDCs:  100% Renewable Energy” was co-sponsored by the Ministry and organizations committed to 100% renewable energy target.  One sponsor, ICLEI, is a global network of 1500 sustainable cities including Duluth, St. Paul, and Minneapolis.

The predominant theme of the day was that local community-scale activities on carbon emissions and renewable energy are the most important strategy to reach the Paris Agreement NDC pledges, and that 100% renewable energy is an attainable target over time.  Harry Lehman, a leader in the German government who has visited Minnesota several times, commented that Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 35% is an accomplishment given the challenges Germany is facing. He talked about the next challenge in renewable energy, in which “big” players could…click here to continue reading.

Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

November 9, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Drinking from the Firehose: COP23 Day #4

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

There are so many different levels at which you can interact at COP23.

My goals in attending were 1) to share the story of Minnesota’s clean energy leadership as a successful model, 2) to help explain to the rest of the world that thousands of Americans at the city, state, corporate, university, and individual level are still moving forward toward the Paris Agreement goals, with or without the support of the federal government, and 3) to learn as much as I can from the incredible resource of people here, in ways that will benefit our energy transition work at the University of Minnesota.

There are some 25,000 energy and climate experts from virtually every nation in the world here and more events than you can possibly attend. Today, I...click here to read more.

 

 

Two Americas: Day Three of COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsFeatured, UncategorizedComments Off on Two Americas: Day Three of COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Today we heard the views of a majority of Americans, compared to the position of our federal administration, on climate change and clean energy. We know that a majority of Americans think global warming is real, that government should take action on it, and that as a nation we should support development of clean renewable energy. (See for reference Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and recent Gallup polls, among other studies). We also know that the Trump administration plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and to send representatives to COP23 to promote fossil fuels.

In contrast, the U.S. People’s Delegation was created to give voice at COP23 to community and grassroots leaders around the United States who support not only the Paris Agreement, but also an aggressive agenda for moving to 100% clean energy. As a member of the Climate Generation delegation, I was…click here to continue reading.

ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

November 8, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, FeaturedComments Off on ETL Featured Member of US People’s Delegation Press Conference at COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

Yesterday, IonE’s Energy Transition Lab director Ellen Anderson was a featured member of the U.S. People’s Delegation press conference. Climate Generation joined this larger coalition of delegations to help demonstrate that the United States is showing up at the talks, despite the lack of federal action on climate change. Individuals on the press conference panel shared the progress happening for climate action within their scopes, as well as the official action demands of the People’s Delegation at COP23. Among them is a just and equitable transition to 100% renewable energy in all cities and states, a halt to all new fossil fuel projects, the call for nations to…click here to continue reading and watch video of press conference!

The Road Map to Bonn & COP23

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

After leaving Minnesota on Friday night, I spent almost 24 hours traveling via an Amsterdam layover, Dusseldorf, and finally Bonn, Germany. It is so different to travel in Europe after living in the Midwest. I have clocked more miles on trains and on foot in the last 48 hours than in one month in Minnesota. It is slightly more balmy here, and my charming and tiny one-room apartment overlooks a very tiny and green garden. On Sunday night, our University of Minnesota and Climate Generation delegations met up for the first time at a traditional German restaurant that was already several hundred years old when Beethoven ate there – and the menu probably hasn’t changed: sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut with good German beer.

All afternoon on Sunday, many of us found our way through Bonn’s beautiful Rhineaue Park to attend a COP23 strategy session with an international gathering of climate non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I was struck by a participant’s simple but emphatic statement – “we are not negotiators” – and therefore must focus on “what science demands of us.” This is an important distinction at a United Nations conference where all action and legal instruments are defined by the negotiating stances, and compromises, reached by nations.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website declares this year’s bold theme: “The UN Climate Change Conference 2017 aims for further, faster ambition together.”

These themes were repeated today by COP23 leaders in the opening sessions, with a combination of aspirational pep talks and dire warnings of the current state of the climate. The session kicked off with inspiring music performances, which we watched from the overflow room. First, dozens of Bonn children led a costumed parade and sang “I’m an island.” Click here to continue reading.

Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

November 2, 2017Barb JacobsEnergy Transition Blog, UncategorizedComments Off on Preview of COP23 – UN Climate Change Conference 2017

This blog was originally posted on Climate Generation’s website. The Energy Transition Lab’s Ellen Anderson is a member of UMN’s official delegation, as well as a member of the Climate Generation delegation, to COP23.

It’s an honor to attend the COP23 in Bonn, Germany as a member of the University of Minnesota’s official delegation and as a member of the multi-sector Climate Generation delegation. At the U we have official “observer” status for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, as a research institution, and this means we can attend official negotiations. Kind of like at the State Capitol, the official meetings are public, but as the high-level negotiators get closer to final decisions, some sessions are closed. Climate Generation is an education-oriented non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on climate literacy and education along with youth and community engagement, and their mission aligns with our mission at the Energy Transition Lab.

I am attending week one (Nov. 6-10) of the COP23, or the 23rd Conference of the Parties, to focus on energy and climate policy. My goal is to understand the role the United States plays in international climate negotiations in today’s political and policy landscape, to learn from the 197 other countries participating how they are tackling the energy transition, and to share Minnesota’s story of transitioning to a clean energy economy.

It is important for the world to know that the people of the United States are moving forward on climate leadership and clean energy – with or without the support of the federal government. There is hope that we will continue to make progress despite President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Recent analysis shows that the US will likely meet President Obama’s targets of 26-28% carbon reduction under the Clean Power Plan – even if Pres. Trump repeals it. That’s because the clean energy economy is roaring ahead, wind and solar are now the cheapest energy source, and Americans from all sectors are stepping up to fill the vacuum on national action.

Leadership is coming from the bottom up, led by cities, states, companies, universities and individuals –hundreds & hundreds of them have pledged to uphold the Paris Accord targets. In our state of Minnesota, our policies in the last decade have resulted in 23% renewable electricity and cutting coal powered electricity in half, and we are only getting started. Our largest utility, Xcel, plans to be 85% carbon free and generate 60% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 (or sooner). We have already met the Clean Power Plan targets, and have demonstrated that we can do this at a low cost while maintaining reliable power. Minnesota is leading the way for the “heartland” of America, showing that you can cut carbon, build out renewable energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and save money by shifting to a clean energy economy. In preparation for our trip, many of our Minnesota delegation recently met with Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith (as pictured above). She said our state is completely committed to this clean energy transition, and feels a sense of urgency to move forward faster.

In Minnesota, like elsewhere, we have a lot of work to do to reach state goals of 80% carbon reduction by 2050, or beyond. As we stand with virtually every other country of the world to face this challenge, we acknowledge the urgency and need for greater ambition.

As the COP23 approaches, a very big question looms: what will the official U.S. federal government participation look like? U.S. officials have said they will play a “constructive and positive role.” According to E & E News Service (10/31/17), the U.S. government plans to send a delegation led by a career diplomat, Thomas Shannon, who has called climate change “one of the world’s greatest challenges.” It remains to be seen how the delegation will represent a president who has expressed contrary views.

As I leave for Germany later this week, I will be contemplating the role of policy and leadership in solving the Grand Challenge of climate change and energy transition. Democracy requires elected officials to lead and citizens to hold them accountable, but good citizenship also asks each of us to do our own part. It is remarkable to see how bottom up leadership adds up to make a compelling difference!
For another pre-COP23 perspective, watch my interview with WCCO Anchor Esme Murphy and meteorologist Mike Augustyniak here.

ETL at UN Climate Change Conference Nov 6-11

Energy Transition Lab’s Director Ellen Anderson will be attending the UN’s Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany from November 6-11. Over 195 countries will come together to negotiate climate change policy and implementation strategies of the Paris Agreement, and Ellen is an official delegate for the University of Minnesota and a member of Climate Generation’s delegation.

There are several ways to keep up-to-date on what’s happening at COP23. Ellen will be blogging daily, which will be posted on ETL’s website, so check back regularly! You can also sign up to get updates from the whole Climate Generation delegation.

We also invite you to join Ellen and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy’s Leigh Curry for a live webinar on Thursday, Nov 9 from 12:00-1:00 PM central time (7:00 PM in Bonn, Germany). More details on how to login to follow!

Follow along on social media with #MNCOP23 and #USPeoplesDelegation at @climategenorg on
Twitter and Facebook.

Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities

Energy Storage Paired with Solar Found to Be More Cost Effective in Minnesota Today than Natural Gas Peaking Plants

As federal policy on renewable energy is being rolled back, a new UMN-led report finds that when environmental benefits are considered combined energy storage and solar arrays can be a more cost-effective alternative in Minnesota – implementable today – to natural gas peaking plants, which are fired up only to meet peak demand.

It also shows that increasing the deployment of energy storage combined with renewable energy would help Minnesota meet its statutory goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050 sooner and at a lower cost than other technologies.

The report, “Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities,” is the result of months-long effort led by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Lessons learned could also be applied to other Midwest states that are in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) footprint.

“Energy storage is a linchpin for Minnesota: It has the potential to reduce our system costs, increase electric grid resiliency, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions in our broader coal-dependent region,” said Ellen Anderson, director of the Energy Transition Lab. “While the federal government questions the reliability of renewable energy, states like Minnesota are stepping up to show it’s possible to connect renewables and storage to reduce both costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining a reliable grid.”

Input from dozens of Minnesota energy experts laid the foundation for the analysis and final report.   ETL convened more than 60 stakeholders, including representatives from utilities, energy technology companies, nonprofits and government, in two Energy Storage Strategy Workshops starting in 2016 to assess the opportunities for energy storage in Minnesota and at MISO. Participants explored whether and how energy storage could be used to help Minnesota achieve its energy policy objectives, and enable greater system efficiency, resiliency and affordability. Project collaborators Strategen Consulting and Vibrant Clean Energy conducted the use-case and system-wide modeling for the analysis, with input from MISO.

In addition to showing that storage plus solar already could be more cost effective than peaking gas plants, including environmental benefits, the analysis shows that the deployment of storage in Minnesota is projected to increase the use of low-cost renewable energy generation dispatched in MISO and to reduce the need for expensive transmission investments.

Furthermore, it shows that as standalone storage becomes more economic, it will be able to compete with and displace new gas combustion turbines installed to meet peak demand. Beyond 2022, storage was found to be more cost effective than a simple cycle gas-fired peaking plant for meeting Minnesota’s capacity needs.

Connexus, Minnesota’s largest distribution cooperative, was a participant in the workshops and is already pursuing procurement of a 20MW, 40MWh energy-storage system. It will be one of largest storage projects of its kind in the Midwest. According to Connexus, responses to its Request for Proposals have been encouraging, with prices even more competitive than anticipated.

“We have been assessing energy storage to understand its potential benefits to our distribution system and members. Just like solar PV, with continuing drop in storage pricing, it is now becoming cost effective in specific applications,” said Brian Burandt, Vice President of Power Supply and Business Development at Connexus. “While we expect broad applications will be enabled with ongoing cost reductions and performance enhancements, we believe the technology is ready today for application on our system. That will save our member-owners and Minnesotans on electric costs, but in tandem, facilitate renewable energy growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The energy storage planning process was spearheaded by ETL and the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA), with support from the Energy Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Carolyn Foundation, AES Energy Storage, General Electric, Next Era Energy Resources, Mortenson Construction, Great River Energy and Strategen Consulting.

MESA Hot Topic: What can MN learn from the West Coast?

May 1, 2017Barb JacobsEvents, MESAComments Off on MESA Hot Topic: What can MN learn from the West Coast?

Recently, the Energy Transition Lab led a Minnesota delegation on a week long tour of energy storage and microgrid projects in California and Washington. On 5-15-17, the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance hosted a Hot Topic event focusing on the experiences and lessons-learned from this group, comprised of University of Minnesota, Public Utilities Commission, NGO and Utility representatives.

You can watch a recording of the event by clicking here.

You can access the slides shown at the presentation here.

The discussion, facilitated by Ellen Anderson, executive director of the Energy Transition Lab, featured:

  • Commissioner John Tuma, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • Mike Kaluzniak, Facilities Staff, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • Alison Hoxie, Professor, University of Minnesota-Duluth
  • Amy Fredregill, Resource Planning and Strategy Manager, Xcel Energy
  • Erick Van Meter, Assistant Director for Utility Operations, University of Minnesota
  • Jodi Slick, CEO, Ecolibrium3
  • Joel Tallaksen, Renewable Energy Research Scientist, West Central Outreach and Research Center, University of Minnesota
  • Shane Stennes, Director of Sustainability, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • Troy Goodnough, Director of Sustainability, University of Minnesota-Morris
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Administration
The Energy Transition Lab is a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in partnership with the Law School.
Funding
Funding for the Energy Transition Lab is primarily provided by the Institute on the Environment. Other funders include McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Carolyn Foundation, US Department of Energy, Wind Energy Foundation and the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. Support for energy storage work is provided by the Minneapolis Foundation, Great River Energy, Mortenson Construction, AES Corporation, Next Era Energy Resources, and General Electric. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.