Since NERC's (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) jurisdiction extends to a number of Canadian provinces, this new report detailing the impacts of climate change initiatives on the North American power grid system is particularly relevant. Some points to note:
1) Coal is not the future. Natural gas is.
Natural gas has increasingly been viewed as the “fuel of choice” by the electric industry as natural gas-fired generating plants are typically easier to site, have shorter construction times, and have lower carbon emissions than coal plants. Coal plants, on the other hand, have been facing increasing opposition and delays over the past several years, with over 30,000 MW of coal fired generation canceled or deferred between 2002 to 2007 (see figure) and an additional 3,500 MW cancelled or deferred in the first six months of 2008 (Figure 2).8
With that in mind, here is some rather important news you can file under "resistance to coal". Although Eli says its a little early to celebrate.
2) Clean coal is not out of the question, but not a slam dunk either.
The technology in its present form, however, requires further development before it can be relied upon as a significant portion of North America’s fuel mix. These technologies must become commercial before 2025 in order to become a viable option.
One big obstacle is, apparently, generating the extra electricity to run the carbon sequestratin' machines!
3) Cap and Trade Schemes are tricky.
Looking ahead to a potential cap-and-trade environment, managing carbon credits and allowances to permit critical coal (and gas) facilities to run will be essential to maintaining reliability. In specific reference to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast, Peter Carney, Lead Environmental Engineer at New York ISO in Rensselaer, NY commented: “Without sufficient allowances, generators cannot operate to meet bulk power system electricity needs and also comply with the RGGI program.” While it may seem to be only a matter of setting reasonable annual targets, Carney continues by explaining: “The minimum level of allowances needed in New York State will vary from year to year, depending upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, weather conditions and the availability of hydroelectric and nuclear generation. Several situations can be postulated that can result in an insufficient supply of allowances. For example, a loss of a major nuclear plant could translate into a need for an additional 10 million tons per year of CO2 allowances.”
4) Transmission, Transmission, Transmission
Existing transmission infrastructure is inadequate to reliably integrate new renewable resources to demand centers.15 Evidence of this exists today, as “transmission limitations are already imposing significant constraints on wind development, with massive interconnection queue backlogs and forced curtailments of wind.”16 Further, the transmission grid was not designed for the long distance continental transport of power, and will require enormous study to ascertain the best plan to meet potential requirements of climate change initiatives.
“areas that are rich in renewables … do not correspond with areas where the transmission system is the strongest.
And if anyone is suggesting a nuclear renaisance, the last statement applies in that case as well.
As an aside, all sorts of opportunities for NIMBYism here. You can't consistently be in favor of green power but against the power lines that are supposed to carry it.
5) The grid can be made smarter.
Lots of talk of Demand Side Management, Energy Efficiency, and the like.
6) National policies on climate change are needed
Some (Nordhaus I think) have argued that any over-arching climate change agreement should be the sum of local/regional initiatives. NERC stake-holders don't buy it.
One thing is made clear by the responses to NERC’s request for comments: legislative and regulatory uncertainty is problematic: “This uncertainty makes it difficult to determine the potential impact and risks associated with GHG emissions; to make effective, strategic capital investment decisions; and to project our costs, revenues, and profits. A clear national policy on global climate change is needed for our industry to plan for the future,” as Dan Steen, VP Environmental, FirstEnergy Service Company of Akron, OH comments. For, “while deliberations on climate change must consider economic and reliability factors, the uncertainty associated with the outcome of protracted deliberations is the most problematic issue,” as Bob Kahn, President and CEO of ERCOT in Austin, TX stated.
Because its not just about boobies here at BCLSB.