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 and Costa Rica, as well as an important research paper. Vaxjo is Duluth’s sister city in Sweden, 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 is currently adding other sector goals. Minister William Calvo said they were paying fossil fuel companies not to produce power, which is an interesting approach to compensate 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; it modeled hourly energy demand, showing 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 EVs – 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 and 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 U.S. will be equivalent to taking eight 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.