Friday, January 31, 2014

New Generation Capacity Falls 54% In 2013, As New Wind Plunges

Every year America retires old generation and builds new power plants. In 2012, the amount of new generation built was among the top years for new capacity.

But the amount of new generation built in 2013 declined sharply. New generation fell to 14,207 megawatts from 29,710 megawatts in 2012, with a plunge in wind mainly causing the decline.

New wind construction hit all time records of more than 12,000 megawatts in 2012, but last year was one of wind's weakest. Just 1,129 megawatts of new wind came on line during 2013.

Wind will rebound in 2014 and may even challenge its record 2012 levels.  Also, solar will set another annual record this year.

The combination of higher amounts of new wind and solar generation insures that America will build more new generation in 2014 than in 2013. And a majority of it will produce zero air emissions and have zero fuel costs! That will make America cleaner and more competitive.

Willie Nelson Is Smiling: Biodiesel Continues Boom, With 8 Straight Months Above 100 Million Gallons Mark

Biodiesel production is booming, and Willie Nelson, a huge biodiesel booster, is smiling.  Until recently, production rarely reached the 100 million gallons per month mark or about 1 billion gallons for a full year.

By contrast, starting in April 2013, biodiesel production has been well above 100 million gallons per month for 8 straight months. In November 2013, production reached 128 million gallons.

Current biodiesel production is reaching an annualized level of 1.5 billion gallons or 50% higher than the previous annual record. The next stop in the biodiesel boom is 2 billion gallons per year!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Stunning Fact: Solar Installation Jobs Average $23.63 Per Hour

Someone looking for a good paying job should consider the booming solar installation industry. The solar jobs growth rate is about ten times faster than the growth rate of jobs in the overall economy, so finding a solar job is getting easier and easier.

The solar industry has a wide variety of positions, and good-paying solar installation jobs are among them.  In fact, solar installations jobs average an impressive $23.63 per hour!

Stunning Fact: Wind Provided 9.9% Of Texas' Electricity During 2013

Wind power provided 9.9% of Texas's electricity, during 2013. Wow!

The portion of Texas's electricity generated by wind continues to rise. During 2012, wind generated 9.2% of the Lone Star's power.

This year wind is likely to hit double digits, generating 10% of electricity in Texas.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Natural Gas Goes Over $5, Up 180%, And Reminds Why Wind And Solar Are So Valuable

It has been a long time since natural gas last hit $5 per thousand cubic feet, but it happened this week once again.  Falling to below $2 in April 2012, natural gas has been heading up since that bottom.

In fact, from that bottom, natural gas prices are up about 180%.

That big jump, still rising natural gas prices, and prices over the $5 mark are healthy reminders that natural gas remains a volatile commodity. Nobody really knows what gas prices will be a month, a year, or certainly 25 years from now.

But everyone knows how much hydro, wind and solar will cost 25 years from today.  Free fuel means price certainty.  Consumers of hydro, solar or wind can today lock in their price of power for decades ahead.

The 180% jump in gas prices reminds just how valuable is the price stability offered by hydro, wind and solar. After decades of price reductions, of course, wind and solar now offer competitive prices, in addition to price certainty of power produced over decades.

The combination of a low and certain price makes hydro, wind and solar best values in the power markets, even without pricing the pollution avoided by them!

Public Approval Of Obamacare Bounces Up: 47%-48% In Washington Post Poll

Republican political strategists and many pundits agree that the 2014 Congressional elections will turn on public opinion of  the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Count me as a skeptic of this piece of political conventional wisdom, but the Washington Post poll finds the country evenly split on Obamacare.

Among registered voters, 47% approve and 48% disapprove of the program.

Public support for the Affordable Care Act fell significantly, during the disastrous rollout of the federal website (14 states have their own websites).  Support, however, has been growing again, as the Washington Post poll documents.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lax Regulation Is The Real Cause Of Both West Virginia Chemical Spill And Oil Train Explosions

Those screaming always about too much regulation have some explaining to do.

The chemical spill in West Virginia that polluted the drinking water of 300,000 people and the North Dakota oil train explosions have the same root cause: too little and too lax regulation.

In the West Virginia case, the tanks that stored two chemicals that leaked into the Elk river had been never inspected. Never!

And that accident waiting to happen was not an accident.  Apparently, West Virginia law gave no authority to environmental and regulatory agencies to inspect the storage tanks, even had state officials wanted to do so.

The same pattern of lax regulation is apparent in the big business of transporting North Dakota crude by oil. Four oil trains transporting North Dakota crude in tankers that are old and not-puncture resistant have exploded in fireballs. Forty-seven people are dead so far.

And why is so much volatile North Dakota crude transported in non-puncture resistant tankers? Various railroad interests have successfully delayed regulations and deadlines that would have phased out the use of non-puncture resistant oil tankers.

The disasters in West Virginia and on our rails show the high economic and environmental price of too little and too lax regulation.  We have been reminded once again that regulatory failure makes sure that accidents are just waiting to happen.

Stunning Fact: Solar Jobs Soar 20% to 142,000 In 2013

The solar jobs machine is humming, actually booming. Solar jobs soared 20% in 2013.

With an additional 24,000 in 2013, solar jobs now total 142,000 across America.  That already about 1 of every 1,000 jobs in the country.

Your odds of living near a home with solar and someone working in the solar industry are rising rapidly.

The growth rate of solar jobs was about ten times faster than the 1.9% job growth rate for the entire economy during 2013. Yet, the best news is that the solar jobs boom is only getting started.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stunning Fact: 92,000 Oil Train Tankers Are Not Puncture Resistant

The more I learn about the risks of transporting volatile North Dakota crude by train the more that I worry. The facts are ugly, really scary.

For example, 92,000 rail oil tankers transporting crude are not puncture resistant!

In one derailment, 18 of 20 tankers that derailed punctured and exploded. This is scandalous!

Another scandal is the chemical spill in West Virginia that polluted drinking water to 300,000 people. The West Virginia chemical spill and oil train explosions have a common cause--too little and too lax regulation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

US Wind Incentives Among Lowest In World

Around the world, wind power enjoys broad public support, and that support has led to national governments offering financial incentives for the construction of wind farms.

Currently, the wind production tax credit has lapsed in the USA, but it was among the lowest incentives in the world, even when it was available.  The chart below tells the tale:

Stunning Fact: Solar Will Provide 11% of Power For One Of America's Largest Utilities By 2020

Today, solar provides about 0.2% of America's electricity but it is exploding. The size of the solar explosion is driven home by this incredible solar number:

Solar will provide 11% of  Pacific Gas & Electric by 2020.  Just wow!

Pacific Gas & Electric is one of California's two biggest utilities and one of America's biggest. That makes astonishing the fact that solar will provide 11% of its power in about 6 years!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stunning Facts: 20% Of North Dakota Trained To PA But Gov. Corbett Does Not Strengthen Regulation Of Oil Trains

The American Petroleum Institute knows the danger posed by oil trains transporting volatile North Dakota crude in old, unsafe tankers that puncture easily. The API is demanding federal regulators take strong actions to strengthen regulation of oil trains carrying North Dakota crude.

While the API is demanding strong and swift regulatory action, Governor Corbett sleeps.  The Governor trots out a spokesperson to say that no action is being taken to protect the safety of Pennsylvanians living and working by oil trains rumbling through their communities.

The Governor's response in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to the oil train derailment in Philadelphia on Monday that follows 4 oil train explosions in America and Canada is disappointing and worrying.

Pennsylvania is the destination of 20% of all North Dakota crude. It all arrives in the Commonwealth by rail. And so, there are a lot of oil trains rolling through Pennsylvania, and a great deal of the volatile, explosive North Dakota oil is being transported in tankers that are old and puncture easily.

Those facts worry--a great deal--the American Petroleum Institute and me. Yet, Governor Corbett does nothing. That is the height of irresponsibility!

PA Wind Turbine Collapses, Reminding Why Wind Is Best Even At Its Worst

Opened in 2001, the Mill Run Wind farm in Fayette County, Pennsylvania was one of the Commonwealth's first wind farms. It had 10 turbines, each with 1.5 Mw of capacity.

I say it "had" 10 turbines, because on January 15th one collapsed--one could say that it had a meltdown.  The cause of the collapse is unknown at this time.

A collapse of a wind turbine is as bad as it gets at a wind farm. But wind at its worst does not cause 300,000 customers to lose water service. It does not cause a fireball that levels homes and kills 47 people sleeping in their homes, as happened with an oil train explosion in Canada.  Wind at its worst does not cover vast portions of the Gulf of Mexico with oil.

The turbine collapse in Pennsylvania is wind at its worst. Yet, another of wind's strengths is that, when wind is at its worst, the consequences do not threaten the health safety of thousands and vast areas. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Governor Corbett Must Take 4 Emergency Actions To Increase Dramatically Oil Train Safety

Unsafe oil trains, loaded with volatile North Dakota crude, are rumbling through Pennsylvania and around America. Four trains have already exploded in America and Canada. Then, during the early morning hours of Martin Luther King day, an oil train derailed in the City of Philadelphia and closed a major highway there. Catastrophe is tapping us on the shoulder!

Regulation of these oil trains is so lax and the danger posed so serious that the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, is demanding regulators take action.  While the federal government fiddles, states must act immediately to protect their citizens.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett must take 4 emergency steps to strengthen greatly regulation of oil trains.  First, he must require that railroads transporting North Dakota crude in Pennsylvania use modern, puncture-resistant tankers and not old, unsafe tankers that are being phased out. 

Second, he must make sure that the rails over which these trains travel are immediately inspected and the rate of rail inspections be greatly increased.

Third, Governor Corbett must establish new, lower speed limits for oil trains and make sure those limits are enforced.

Fourth, the Governor must impose a fee on each oil train to raise revenues that will be dedicated to paying for emergency preparedness and responses to oil train accidents. 

These four actions must be taken immediately and this issue requires strong leadership from the Governor. It is already late, and it was nearly too late on Monday to avoid a catastrophe.

It Was Snowing In Hershey Yesterday But NOAA Declares 2013 4th Warmest Year On Record

When the polar vortex visited the United States in January, climate deniers had a field day.  The very people who say more intense hurricanes, longer droughts, and rising temperatures mean nothing were even ready to say that the bone-chilling temperatures meant that the global climate was cooling.

While unseasonably warm temperatures followed the global vortex's last visit, we now have another round of snow in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and so more clownish denial of global warming is assured.  And the cynical game of misleading good people will be played once more.

Yet, the scientific record grows, with NOAA just declaring 2013 the fourth warmest!

In its own words, NOAA says this about 2013:

  • The year 2013 ties with 2003 as the fourth warmest year globally since records began in 1880. The annual global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F). This marks the 37th consecutive year (since 1976) that the yearly global temperature was above average. Currently, the warmest year on record is 2010, which was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above average. Including 2013, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the 134-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013.

That's science, not foolish denial.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

American Petroleum Institute Sounds Alarms On Oil Trains, Attacks Lax Regulation, As Oil Train Derails

Has hell frozen? That was my first reaction, when the Wall Street Journal wrote in its January 17th edition about a meeting between the American Petroleum Institute, railroad companies, and federal regulators the following:

"The oil industry went further, blaming the railroads for failing to prevent derailments, and blasting regulators for not imposing new safety rules. 'The DOT needs to do more than just host meetings,' said Eric Wohlschlegel, director of media relations for the API."

API's Wohlsclegel then said this: "We're calling on the DOT to take action."

The API is rightly sounding the alarm about the lax safety of oil trains, loaded with flammable, explosive North Dakota crude.

One such train exploded in Canada, destroying blocks of a small town and killing 47 people, many of them in their sleep.  Three more oil train fireballs have taken place since then, though fortunately not next to homes. Despite the volatility of the North Dakota crude, these oil trains frequently transport the crude in tankers that are being phased out, because they too readily rupture.

The oil trains that transport the North Dakota crude often move through major metropolitan areas like the Philadelphia region. And during the early morning hours of Monday night an oil train actually derailed in Philadelphia near a river and closed a major road for hours.

The combination of the flammable, explosive North Dakota crude in old tankers that rupture too easily when derailed traveling within yards of homes and businesses is what has the API screaming for more regulation. Right now!

Let me join the chorus! The United States Department of Transportation must act strongly now. But more must be done by state officials charged with protecting the public safety of their citizens.

In Pennsylvania, I call on Governor Corbett to convene an emergency meeting to protect the safety of Pennsylvanians. The meeting must include state officials, railroads transporting North Dakota crude in the Commonwealth, municipal officials through which the trains now travel, emergency response personnel, American Petroleum Institute and others.

The Governor should insist that the rails over which these trains travel be carefully and immediately inspected. He should further insist that trains carrying North Dakota crude in Pennsylvania transport it in modern, puncture resistant tankers and not ones that are being phased out as unsafe. He also must make sure that new, strict low speed limits for these trains be set and enforced.

I also call for a fee to be enacted on each tanker of crude that is transported in Pennsylvania that would help pay for the equipment and training first responders must have so that they can respond effectively in the event of an oil train explosion.

Yesterday's train derailment in Philadelphia provides one more warning. It warns that the risks of a mass casualty disaster are far too high, in many communities, as a result of an oil train derailment and explosion. There is no time to waste in order to protect public safety.

Electrifying Facts: More Than 25,000 Teslas On Road & Tesla Sets Sales Record In 4th Quarter

Sometimes long shots win. The odds three years ago of Tesla reaching the levels of success it has already obtained were small, even miniscule.

Today, more than 25,000 Teslas are powering around the world's roads and Tesla's sales soar.

Sales hit the record level of 6,500 cars in the fourth quarter of 2013. Weekly production is now about 600 cars.

Tesla has won a growing place in the world's luxury car market. But can it move into the mass automobile market.

At this point, the odds of Tesla successfully moving down market with more affordable cars are probably no better than 50-50. But, in Tesla's world, those are good odds!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Stunning Facts: Toyota's Total Hybrid Sales Rise To 6 Million & 1 Million In Last 9 Months

Toyota is the father and leading manufacturer of hybrid vehicles, with the now iconic Prius being the first in 1997.  Since 1997, Toyota has sold 6 million hybrids, a big success over the last 17 years.

Over that period, Toyota hybrid sales averaged about 350,000 cars per year.  But the pace of Toyota's hybrid sales is exploding.

In the above story, Sebastian Blanco reports that Toyota has sold 1 million hybrids in the last 9 months. That works out to a sales rate 4 times faster in the last 9 months, compared to the rate over the last 17 months.

Toyota hybrid sales are accelerating like a Tesla. Wow!!

Stunning Fact: Deutsche Bank Projects 56,000 Megawatts Of Solar To Be Installed In 2015

The global solar industry is going to build the equivalent of 14 new nuclear plants just next year, according to Deutsche Bank.  And any surprise would be an upside one.

Deutsche Bank specifically forecasts a global solar build in 2015 of 56,000 megawatts.

That number is truly extraordinary. But as big as 56,000 megawatts of solar is, it will be eclipsed in 2016 and the years thereafter. Just amazing facts!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

EPA Texas Case Shows Why PA Needs New Office To Independently Investigate Drilling Complaints

Bloomberg News has a story about EPA relying on the gas company whose practices may have contaminated water wells to perform the water tests central to its investigation. The case is from Texas, involves Range Resources, and is highly controversial.

The regulatory practice of relying on the drilling company who is being investigated for possibly contaminating water wells must come to an end.  These investigations are complex and difficult. They simply cannot be managed appropriately, without fully independent testing of the water.

And so, I have called for a new office in Pennsylvania that will conduct professional, independent testing and investigations of complaints about gas drilling. The EPA should do the same at the federal level.

Scientific Fact: 1 Peer Reviewed Paper Of 2,258 In Last 14 Months Rejects Man-Made Global Warming

It's been a bad 14 months for global warming denial in the scientific literature. The graphic below tells the tale:


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NRG's Chief Executive Takes Apart 60 Minutes, Declaring Solar & Wind Now Low Cost Sources

David Crane runs a big energy company that owns many traditional power plants--coal, gas, nuclear.

But Crane is not a typical traditional energy executive and proves it by positioning his company to prosper also in an energy world turned increasingly upside down by distributed generation, energy efficiency, electric cars, and zero-carbon power.

In a remarkable piece, taking apart a 60 Minutes infotainment done two Sundays ago, Crane states two disruptive facts that are still not widely understood in large parts of the energy world.

First, wind is now the lowest cost source of new electricity power in wholesale markets.

Second, rooftop solar is cheaper than retail grid power already in more than 20 states.

When delivered by those in the environmental community, these facts are discounted. Perhaps, the message conveyed by David Crane will be heard more broadly, though it flies in the face of the propaganda spun by 60 Minutes, which is becoming a relative of Fox And Friends.

Marijuana Fact: Legal Sales To Hit $2.34 Billion This Year

As more states legalize Marijuana, legal sales are climbing to more than $2 billion this year.

Legal sales drain the underground market of revenue, create tax revenues, and avoid enormous costs to arrest and prosecute hundreds of thousands of people.

Charting the growth of the future Marijuana market is highly speculative. But that does not stop such speculation. In the above story, one analyst forecasts the legal Marijuana market will exceed $10 billion in 5 years.

My Marijuana legalization and taxation plan is available here: The plan could stop wasting about $300 million per year spent on arrests and prosecutions and could generate as much as $200 million in new revenue.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WVA Republican Says Right Before Chemical Spill: "We Are Regulated To Death."

Just hours before an essentially unregulated business in West Virginia spilled chemicals into the Elk River, a Republican member, Mr Azinger, of the West Virginia Legislature said: "We are regulated to death."

That's impossible to make up.  Will Bunch has the story here:

"Freedom Industries" (you again cannot make this up) has 13 tanks that can store 4 million gallons of chemicals right next to the Elk River, a principal drinking water source for at least 300,000 West Virginians who have been told not to use their public water supply for anything other than flushing toilets.

The no-drink, no-wash, no-bathe order resulted from Freedom spilling the chemicals it supplies to the coal industry for cleaning coal (again you cannot make this stuff up) into the Elk river and polluting drinking water.

So when was the last time environmental regulators inspected Freedom's operations? Since Mr. Azinger screams about regulation-to-death, surely recently and frequently would be the answer.

Well, no.

The last time Freedom was inspected by environmental regulators was apparently 1991!

This West Virginia case shows how important strong regulation is to public safety and a good economy. Also, it demonstrates the folly of putting toxic material storage right by rivers and without proper leak and spill protections to compound the danger.

Finally, Freedom Industries proves that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rightly struck down Act 13 and restored the right of municipalities to separate industrial activity from residential areas, if they wish.

Powerful Facts: Regional Wholesale Power Prices Shoot Up And Vary By Nearly 100%

A key economic variable in the financing of wind farms and other power plants is the wholesale price of electricity.  Wholesale prices skyrocketed to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 and then plummeted to 4 cents or less by 2012.

But 2013 was a different story. Wholesale prices are up across the country but especially so in the New York and New England markets.

Indeed, the regional variation in wholesale prices during 2013 were truly super-sized. Power prices were lowest in the South and highest in New England and New York.  Prices ranged from 3.4 to 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, creating winners and losers as well as possibly future opportunity.

Importantly, the wholesale power prices in New England and New York are just about high enough for wind farms to be financed on a merchant basis, if they were to continue.  But will they?

Time will tell whether the region has shifted to wholesale power prices above 6 cents or will revert to prices in the 4 to 5 cents range. If they have shifted to 6 cents and higher, look for a rush of wind farms into New York and New England.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stunning Fact: NY Creates 4 Times As Many Jobs As PA Without 1 Shale Well

You have heard it from some quarters--the story that New York's economy is a mess, in part because of its refusal to drill shale gas wells.  These critics of job creation in New York often also say that jobs are plentiful in Pennsylvania, where gas production indeed has boomed. Even journalists not toeing the conservative media line have offered versions of this tale of two, neighboring states.

But the tale that New York is a jobs desert, while Pennsylvania is riding a natural-gas jobs boom, is fiction and not fact.

In fact, New York created 4 times as many jobs as Pennsylvania from November 2012 to November 2013.

Over that period, New York created 128,000 new jobs, without one shale gas well, while Pennsylvania produced a paltry 32,000 new jobs.  Job creation has collapsed in Pennsylvania since 2010, when the Commonwealth added 87,000 jobs and ranked 7th in jobs growth.

Now what happened at the end of 2010? Your hint is that Governors and their policies matter.

Good News: Exhaustive Study In MA Finds Wind Has No Impact On Housing Values

These are bad days for critics of wind power. Wind is America's lowest cost source of new electric power in large areas of the country. Wind power continues to grow strongly. And arguments used to attack wind keep getting knocked down by stubborn facts.

For example, a common claim is that wind turbines depress home prices. To some, that claim is plausible. But what do the facts show?

Done by researchers from the University of Connecticut and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a study looked at 122,000 transactions in Massachusetts near wind turbines from 1998 to 2012.

The study is exhaustive and impressive.  It's findings are clear.  Wind turbines do not impact housing prices or the rate at which homes sell.

Will this or other similar studies stop critics attacking wind and falsely asserting that wind turbines hurt home values? Probably not.

But hope springs eternal that policymakers and media will know better than to take seriously such claims.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Record Fact: US Solar Industry Installs 1,400 Megawatts In 4th Quarter!

The sun has never shined more strongly on the US solar industry. It has set records for capacity installed in a year and in a quarter--4,200 and 1,400 megawatts respectively!

These are stunning numbers. They mean the solar industry already is each year generating an additional amount of electricity equal to a new nuclear plant. They mean that the solar industry is employing ever more people. Indeed, the solar industry already employs considerably more people than there are coal miners in America. That is an extraordinary transformation.

But the good news for solar power in America is just getting started. This year will bring new records.

Stunning Fact: Cuomo Announces $1 Billion, 3,000 Megawatts Solar Initiative

New York is not drilling shale gas wells, but it is going big into solar. In his budget address, Governor Cuomo announced a $1 billion boost for the NY-Sun Initiative.

The $1 billion investment will be made over ten years and will build 3,000 megawatts of new solar capacity. That works out to a state subsidy of about 33 cents per watt or about 10% of the national  average installed cost for solar in 2013.

Even as recently as 2010, a state subsidy of 33 cents per watt would have hardly made a difference to demand, because the total installed cost was about $6 per watt. Yet, in the last 3 years, the price of solar has fallen rapidly and now a subsidy of 33 cents per watt will spur demand.

Governor Cuomo's $1 billion solar program is a big deal and yet one more reason why the EIA 2040 solar capacity forecast is way, way, way off!

As New York bets on solar, here is another question: which state has produced more jobs since 2011--New York or Pennsylvania?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stunning Fact: Cold Knocks Out 36,600 Megawatts Of Power Generation In PJM Proving That No Power Plant Is 100% Dispatchable

Critics of renewable energy often point to coal, gas, and nuclear plants and assert that they operate whenever power systems are at peaks.  They suggest that renewable plants are "intermittent" and not reliable, but coal, gas, and nuclear plants are fully dispatchable and, therefore, are reliable.

Well, no!

No power plant operates all the time.  They are shutdown for planned maintenance often for weeks every year.  And power plants also breakdown, like a car not starting, when you need it to run.

In the vicious cold of the last few weeks, winter demand soared to a record within PJM to more than 138,000 megawatts. That demand was high but fortunately much less than the system's total capacity.

An incredible 36,600 megawatts of supposedly fully dispatchable capacity--nearly all coal, nuclear and gas--broke down in the cold. Some gas plants could not run, because they had no gas to burn.

PJM's cold weather experience reminds that no generation technology can absolutely guarantee that it will be able to run at periods of daily, monthly, annual or historic peak demands.  In truth, all power plants, not just wind and solar capacity, are "intermittent."

Coal's Generation Market Share Rises To 39.1% In 2013 And May Break 40% In 2014

As recently as 2008, coal had a generation market share of 48%, and then cheap gas caused coal's market share to collapse to 37% by 2012. Coal lost an incredible 22% of its power generation market share in just 4 years!

But gas prices started rising in the second-half of 2012 and have continued rising through early 2014. With rising gas prices, coal's decline in power market share reversed and rose to 39.1% in 2013, though coal's market share was below 40% for the last 2 years.

What lies ahead for coal in 2014? And beyond?  Here is what EIA says:

"... the share of generation fueled by coal increases from 39.1% in 2013 to 40.2% in 2014. As the retirements of coal power plants pick up in 2015 in response to the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, EIA expects the share of coal to fall to 38.6% of total generation while the
natural gas share rises back to 27.6%."

Again fueled by rising gas prices, EIA expects coal to have another good year in 2014, with its market share breaking above 40% for the first time in two years. But coal's good times looks to be brief.

EIA expects coal will lose market share once more starting in 2015, when substantial coal capacity will retire rather than install pollution controls to limit mercury and other toxic emissions.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Key Fact: US Carbon Emissions Increase 2.1% In 2013 And May Rise Again In 2014

Uncle Sam had been on a carbon diet for most of the last 6 years, as carbon emissions declined. The brief era of regularly declining carbon emissions, however, ended in 2013, when carbon emissions rose 2.1%. EIA also forecasts that emissions will rise modestly again this year.

Here is what the EIA states:

"EIA estimates that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels increased by 2.1% in 2013 from the previous year. Emissions are forecast to rise 0.7% in 2014, followed by no change in 2015. The increase in emissions in 2013 primarily reflected growth in coal use for electricity generation in response to higher natural gas prices relative to coal. Coal emissions are projected to decline by 2.5% in 2015 as the power sector
responds to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations by increasing coal plant

Coal generation's market share increased from 37% in 2012 to 39.1% in 2013 and is projected to reach 40.2% in 2014, before declining to 38.6% in 2015. The rise in coal generation increases carbon emissions.

Tough Power Generation Times For Gas As Its Generation Market Share Falls To 27.5% And EIA Forecasts Another Fall In 2014

The rising price of natural gas is costing it considerable electricity generation market share--about 10% of its 2012 market share by 2014. Indeed, in 2013, natural gas's market share dropped from 30% to 27.5%.  Gas's market share loss has been coal's gain.

EIA forecasts that the 2013 trend of gas losing market share will continue in 2014. Here is what EIA states: "Natural-gas-fired generation accounts for a 26.8% share of total generation during
2014, down from 27.5% in 2013 as a result of rising natural gas prices."

Only by 2015 does EIA project that gas will start gaining again.  "EIA expects the share of coal to fall to 38.6% of total generation while the natural gas share rises back to 27.6%."

Why does EIA project a reversal of fortune for gas in 2015? Significant coal retirements will take place by 2015 as a result of the EPA's rule regulating mercury and other toxic air pollutants that take affect that year.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Key Fact: Annual Electric Vehicle Sales Jump to 96,000 in 2013 From 53,000 in 2012

Thanks to the fact that Tesla does not release monthly sales numbers, we actually don't know precisely how many electric vehicles were sold in the USA during 2013. But Green Car Reports does an excellent job of gathering and extrapolating data, and it calculates that electric vehicle sales were approximately 96,000 for all of 2013, a big jump from 53,000 in 2012.

Monthly sales of electric vehicles now are regularly above 9,000 cars and so are selling at an annual rate above 100,000.  Sales in 2014 will almost certainly be higher than in 2013.

But how much higher will be impacted heavily by four factors--the price of gasoline, the deployment of public electric charging stations, pricing of electric vehicles, and the progress in extending electric vehicle range. The pricing of electric vehicles and their range depend substantially on battery advances. Those advances are being made but they are incremental when measured year-to-year.

In sum, 2013 was an important year for electric vehicles that saw more models introduced, more buyers, and better vehicles. The trend is up and 2014 promises to be another year of progress.

Record Fact: Nissan Leaf Has Record Sales In December and 2013, As It Challenges The Volt For Top EV Spot

This blog pays close attention to electric vehicle sales, because the electric vehicle revolution is one of the most important manufacturing, economic, environmental, and national security stories that is unfolding. No energy story is more important to America's future than getting off of oil and so oil substitutes and the products that use them are pivotal.

That brings us to the Nissan Leaf. It is an all-electric vehicle, one of the few cars that does not operate in some hybrid mode that includes a gasoline engine. The Leaf is also an American manufacturing story, as it is manufactured both in Tennessee and Japan.

While there are now 16 either all electric or plug-in hybrid models available for purchase, the Leaf is the leading all-electric vehicle that has about 21% of the combined electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid market. It, therefore, important to the electric vehicle revolution.

The Nissan Leaf had its best sales month ever in December, selling 2,529 cars. In all of 2013, Nissan sold 22,601 Leafs, up 126% from its 2013 sales total of 9,819.

Indeed, the Leaf's big gains compare to the market leading Volt's approximately 2% sales decline in 2013. The combination of the Volt's flat sales and rising sales for the Leaf  makes the Leaf the favorite to be in 2014 the EV sales leader.

The Leaf has a range of about 75 miles on a single charge, making it an ideal commuter car for many Americans, and costs between $21,000 to $26,000. Federal tax credits also are available.

Depending on you lifestyle and whether you have a second car, the Leaf just might be a great buy for you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Stunning Fact: US Solar Installer Now Has $4.9 Billion Market Value

You know the stereotype.  The solar business, especially solar installation, is a small, almost cottage industry.  Time to think again.

Solar City is America's largest solar installation business that has 80,000 customers and a stock capitalization value of $4.9 billion, according to an excellent NYT story that follows.

The NYT reports that Solar City's stock has increased 7-fold, but notes that the company has revenues but no profits to date. Time will tell whether or not the stock market has gauged accurately Solar City's future. This company may or may not be successful.

No matter the fate of Solar City, the stock market understands correctly that the solar boom is real and just getting started. This industry's US sales are going to double and possibly triple during the next 3 to 5 years.  That industry boom gives companies of all sizes in the solar installation business a great opportunity to turn a profit.

Fun Fact: 1 of America's 220 Biodigesters Is Fueled By 1,000 Pound PA Farm Show Butter Sculpture

Renewable energy has many strengths because it is diverse and flexible, with zero or low-cost fuel. Another strength is renewable energy can be built at homes, businesses, and farms.

Distributed generation is proliferating across America and uses a variety of technologies from solar to biodigesters on farms. As of 2013, 220 biodigesters were operating on farms across America. In 2012, they generated 625 million kilowatt-hours, enough power for 62,500 homes.

Biodigesters need fuel. In Pennsylvania, that fuel includes a sculpture made from 1,000 pounds of butter that is a feature of the annual Farm Show.  Once the show ends, the sculpture is taken to a Pennsylvania farm with a biodigester, where the butter provides 3 days of energy for the farm.

Another example of booming renewable energy is biodigesters proliferating at a rapid rate, increasing more than 20% since 2011, when 180 were operating.

Going forward, a great opportunity to improve farming and our environment is to accelerate the deployment of biodigesters.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sun Power: California Doubles Rooftop Solar Capacity In 2013!

In the 30 plus years up to 2012, California installed about 1,000 megawatts of solar capacity. Then, Kaboom!

Last year, California installed another 1,000 megawatts of rooftop, distributed solar, more than doubling it, in just 12 months to a total of 2,000 megawatts.

According to the California Solar Energy Industries Association, California now has more than 4,000 megawatts of combined utility-scale and rooftop solar capacity. Totally amazing!

Stunning Fact: North Dakota Ranks First But Pennsylvania Ranks 48th In Population Growth

Both Pennsylvania and North Dakota have fracking booms, but only one has a booming population.

North Dakota ranks first in population growth in 2013, according to new data from the United States Census Bureau. Its population is up 3.1%, the most in the nation, or 22,000.

Unlike North Dakota to which people are flocking, Pennsylvania ranks 48th in population growth during 2013, though Pennsylvania now ranks second in natural gas production.

Pennsylvania's population barely grew at all, up less than 0.1% or 9,000 people.

The longer that Tom Corbett serves as Governor the worse Pennsylvania's jobs and population performance is. That is a stunning fact. And why is it so?

The Governor does not understand our economy or energy. He does not grasp that gas drilling will never provide much more than 2% of the 6.5 million jobs the state needs to be at full employment. His economic vision insures failure.

For Pennsylvania to grow and prosper, Pennsylvania must strongly regulate, zone, and tax the gas industry. For Pennsylvania to grow and prosper, Pennsylvania must have a jobs plan that features more than one industry.  Health care, education, clean energy, tourism, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing must be prospering for Pennsylvania to prosper and grow!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Top Ten Energy Facts Of 2013

These are remarkable energy times, with tremendous change rapidly taking place, creating environmental and economic winners and losers.  In the USA, renewable energy and energy efficiency are rising rapidly. Yet, the biggest change of all is in the carbon concentration of our atmosphere.

In one post, here are The Top Ten Energy Facts Of 2013:

10. Electricity Demand Falls In 5 Of Last 6 Years

9. Gas Industry Flares 30% Of Gas In North Dakota

8. New York City's Air Is Cleanest In 50 Years, Saving 800 Lives Per Year

7. Nuclear Power Production Falls Below 2010 Peak For Third Year In A Row

6. Marcellus Gas Provides 18% Of America's Gas

5. Electric Car Sales Breakthrough To 100,000 Plus

4. Plummeting Solar Costs Build 5,000 Megawatts Of Solar In US & 35,000 Globally

3. Wind Power Becomes Cheapest Energy Source In Growing Parts Of America

2. Atmospheric Carbon Concentration Passes 400 PPM, Highest In 800,000 Years

1. Coal Is World's Fastest Growing Fossil Fuel, Usage Rising 2.3% Per Year

Record Facts: Biodiesel Production Sets New Annual & Monthly Records

Add biodiesel to America's energy boom! Biodiesel production is on a tear, up about 25% this year and setting records.

Monthly production reached in October a record 132 million gallons. And, for the first time ever, America has produced more than a billion gallons of biodiesel in a calendar year. Indeed, the 1 billion gallon mark was passed in October, leaving 2 more months to add to the annual record mark.