China-USA ratify the Paris Agreement. Canada coming shortly

On Saturday 3 September the World's two largest emitters of carbon dioxide ratified the Paris Agreement in Hangzhou. This is a momentous step given the size of their emissions which amount to 38 percent of the global total. Since they are first two large nations to ratify it provides an enormous boost to other counties that may be sitting on the fence:  as confirmed by Canada's actions since (see below). 

Source: Reuters. Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shake hands during a joint ratification of the Paris climate change agreement ceremony ahead of the G20 Summit at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016.

The Paris Agreement was adopted (see this blog) by 190+ countries in December after more than 20 years of effort to reach a coordinated global approach to dealing with GHG emissions.
The Agreement enters into force 30 days after it has been ratified by 55 nations representing 55 percent of global emissions. Following the US-China move; 27 countries representing 39.1 percent of global emissions have ratified. All eyes now turn to the European Union (12.1 percent of global emissions): although, according to the Financial Times, we shouldn't be holding our breath as the UK's BREXIT has thrown a proverbial spanner in the EU ratification process.  

Canada (2 percent) has yet to ratify due, according to this from the Globe and Mail, "resistance from places like Saskatchewan". Nonetheless it appears ratification is due to take place before a long-promised 'First Ministers' Meeting on a Climate Plan'. BTW it's a politically risky move for Trudeau to ratify before reaching agreement with the provinces - something Premier Wall has been quick to point out

For more information check out this handy UNFCCC site which gives the latest on progress towards to the 55 percent ratification threshold.



Alberta releases 'Renewable Electricity Program'. Firm target: 30 percent by  2030

In November the Alberta Government announced its intention that, by 2030, up to 30 percent of Alberta's electricity would come from renewables and they tasked the System Operator (AESO) with developing a plan to meet this target.

In mid-September the Government announced outline details of the plan - the Renewable Electricity Program.  Key point: November's "up to 30 percent from renewables" is now a firm 30 percent target - and most of it will come from wind.

Further details on how the program will operate will be released later this year. The program will be based on AESO recommendations to government and, of note that in compiling them, AESO "completed stakeholder consultations earlier this year". 

For those wondering if 30 percent renewables is technically achievable: you may be interested in GE's 'Pan-Canadian Wind Study' (which was released in July and found Canada could comfortably generate 35 percent of its electricity using wind turbines):



US Gov. study: 30 percent wind & solar on eastern half of Canada/US electricity grid

..and as if to provide further confirmation of the feasibility of Alberta's 30 percent renewable target: another power system study. The geographic scope of this one is shown on the image below and includes both the Eastern and Québec Interconnections. Together these two regions operate as a single highly coordinated machine and are considered to be one of the largest and most complex power systems in the world.

Source: NREL's 'Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study' August 2016. Figure 1 (Executive Summary):  The Geographic Scope of the Study

 The report - the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study with the pleasant-sounding acronym of 'ERGIS' - builds on the 2007-2011 Eastern Wind Integration Study, leverages new power system modelling techniques and employs the Department of Energy's 'Peregrine' Supercomputer. This last piece was a critical component as ERGIS consists of massive data sets: Peregrine operates at 2.5 million billion calculations a second but still requires 19 days to run the calculations.

The report concluded that 30 percent of electricity generation from wind and solar in the study area is technically achievable using the tools available today.   Significantly, and as per numerous previous power system reports, the study found; "Regulatory policy changes, market design innovation, and flexible operating procedures are critical to achieving technical potential". In other words: ossified 20th Century grid management practices won't cut it.

For those wondering about the relevance to us: note Saskatchewan was included in the study and is shown in the top left corner of the above figure.

A great summary by DRVox alternatively NREL's full report.



Iowa moves ahead with largest wind project in North America

August 26 saw Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy announce plans to move forward with their US$3.6-bn ($4.5-bn), 1,000-turbine, 2,000 megawatt, Iowa wind farm: known as Wind XI. The project, once complete, will generate more than 10 percent of Iowa's electricity and at that time the state will be generating more than 45 percent of their annual electricity needs using wind turbines. Wind XI will also generate more than US$1.2 billion in landowner easement and property tax payments over the next 40 years. Additionally, during construction, it is expected that thousands of jobs will be added to Iowa’s economy and hundreds of new permanent jobs will be added when the expansion is complete

MidAmerican announced Wind XI only five months ago (in April). The first turbines will be commissioned next year and the project will be fully operational in 2019. Three years from announcement to completion! The speed at which this project has moved ahead is breathtaking and amply demonstrates how quickly wind projects can be built if the will exists.

Source: Chaplin Wind Energy Project Environmental Impact Statement. 'Fig 1-1: Project Study Area within Southern Saskatchewan'. The red dots represent proposed locations for turbines and the yellow lines between them are permanent access roads.

For comparison: the 75 turbine, Chaplin Wind project, which would generate just under 3 percent of Saskatchewan's electricity, was awarded to Ontario's Algonquin Power in February 2012.

Four and half years later construction has yet to start. Indeed the project is likely to be relocated (and, as a consequence, substantially delayed) due to significant public concerns about its location less than 5 kilometres from a major bird reserve. 

As we demonstrate in this page; if, in the next ten years, wind energy was to be introduced in Saskatchewan at the same speed as it has been in North Dakota in the last ten years, then it would reduce SaskPower's annual GHG emissions by 3.8 million tonnes or 25 percent of their current 15.3 million tonne total. If the introduction was to be at the same speed as in Iowa; then the GHG reductions would be significantly larger. 

If you'd like to compare the speed at which wind has been introduced, from 2006 to 2016, in the top-12 US States vs. Saskatchewan: try the second graph on this page.  



Wind and Solar prices continue to fall and technology further improves

The summer months saw release of three major US Government reports on wind and solar costs. One, on wind energy, was the Department of Energy's annual 'Wind Technologies Market Report'. The two others, focused on solar costs, were from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: the Department of Energy's science lab at the University of California.

In short: all three showed continued rapid cost declines in wind and solar. Since this is a theme we've already covered extensively, we won't dwell on it. However the reports are neatly summarised in these two Vox posts: one on wind and two on solar. The common theme? Falling costs lead to explosive growth in installed capacity. No surprises there.



US voter support for wind strong and rising

A late August American Wind Energy Association release notes rapid growth in the use of wind energy has been accompanied by strong and rising support from US voters. "In Texas, home to a quarter of the nation’s wind power, 85 percent of voters favor it. In Iowa, which generates the U.S. record of 35 percent of its electricity from wind, support is even higher at 91 percent". There are some particularly interesting findings for politicians;

- Public support grows as more wind energy is deployed;
- 70 percent of registered voters nationally have a favourable impression of wind energy
- 60 percent of Republicans and Independents have a favourable impression of wind energy
- wind means a huge boost for the local tax base with benefits for schools, roads and bridges

The release also notes that America's fastest growing profession is 'Wind Turbine Technician': which is interesting as we receive several calls a week from laid-off oil and gas workers looking to transition into the wind industry. To date, given lack of clarity over Saskatchewan intentions, we have not been able to do much but direct them to Alberta, Ontario, Quebec or South of the Border. 



Construction complete on first North American offshore wind farm

Block Island is a five-turbine wind project located about five kilometres south-east of Block Island which itself is offshore the state of Rhode Island. Although the project itself is small - its significance is huge as its the first offshore wind project in North America and represents the beginning of a multi-billion dollar industry which could provide North America with a significant portion of its electricity in the not-too-distant future.  A 2008 Department of Energy wind study ('20% Wind Energy by 2030') notes the massive potential for the offshore wind industry particularly for those regions with high population densities and/or limited access to an onshore resource: notably the US North-East and California. As this Globe and Mail article notes; Block Island has also inspired Canada's nascent offshore wind industry - on both coasts as well as around the Great Lakes. 

FYI Block Island has a permanent population of just over 1,000 people and the wind turbines will supply almost all of the island's electricity. The project also means that Block Island will, for the first time, be connected to mainland electricity via a 15 kilometre subsea power cable. This new cable means the island will no longer be reliant on diesel generators and as a result will pay 40 percent less for their electricity (as well as emitting significantly less air pollutants from burning diesel). 



World's largest fund manager: "Investors can no longer ignore climate change

Blackrock, in a September research paper, said investors can no longer ignore climate change and should protect their investment portfolios "as extreme weather events become more common and as governments step up their efforts to fight global warming". They also called for a price on carbon which would "encourage businesses to adopt greener approaches and allow investors to better recognise the climate change risks embedded in portfolios". And they mean it: a couple of weeks later Blackrock announced they will join with a number of other major investors in a $2-billion legal suit against VW over their use of 'defeat devices' to manipulate emission tests. 

In case you're wondering what it takes to be the World's largest fund manager: you'll need no less than US$4.9 trillion under management. BTW that's equivalent to $6.3-trillion or 10 percent of Canada's GDP.



...and finally. A charmingly spooky timeline of Earth's temperature: 20,000 BC to today

From xkcd ('a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language') via Ed Crooks of the Financial Time.. 

AuthorJames Glennie