The 3% Renewable Energy ‘Tipping Point’.

Definition of tipping point

: the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place

Merriam-Webster

I fail to see a “critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place” anywhere in this pile of greenschist…

COMMENTARY > THE MONITOR’S VIEW

Renewable energy at a ‘tipping point’

A SHIFT IN THOUGHT Washington may be showing less interest in alternative fuels, but the worldwide picture is dramatically different.

The Monitor’s Editorial Board

JUNE 26, 2017 —Should the world promote economic growth or fight climate change? That model of “either/or” thinking may be losing its validity faster than even some experts have imagined.

While fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – still generate roughly 85 percent of the world’s energy supply, it’s clearer than ever that the future belongs to renewable sources such as wind and solar.

The move to renewables is picking up momentum around the world: They now account for more than half of new power sources going on line.

[…]

Christian Science Monitor

“While fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – still generate roughly 85 percent of the world’s energy supply,” it’s clear that wind (1.6%) and solar (0.6%) are part of the “other renewables” that accounted for 3% of global primary energy consumption in 2016.

tippingpoint01

Figure 1.  2016 primary energy by source (l).  1965-2016 primary energy consumption and % solar/wind (r).  Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017

Now there does seem to be a ‘tipping point’ in this passage, a logical ‘tipping point’:

President Trump has underlined fossil fuels – especially coal – as the path to economic growth. In a recent speech in Iowa, a state he won easily in 2016, he dismissed wind power as an unreliable energy source.

But that message did not play well with many in the Hawkeye State, where wind turbines dot the fields and provide 36 percent of the state’s electricity generation – and where tech giants such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google are being attracted by the availability of clean energy to power their data centers.

CSM

If “that message did not play well with many in the Hawkeye State,” how did Trump “easily” win Iowa?  Could it be that many in the Hawkeye State are also fond of coal-fired electricity because it’s cheap?

QUICK FACTS

  • Iowa, the largest producer of ethanol in the United States, had 25.9% of the nation’s fuel ethanol manufacturing capacity in 2016.
  • Iowa ranked third among the states in consumption of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) in 2014, in part because of heavy use of LPG in the industrial sector for such as activities as drying corn crops and in the residential sector for heating.
  • Coal’s share of net electricity generation in Iowa declined from 76% in 2008 to 47% in 2016, but coal is still the state’s largest source of net electricity generation.
  • In 2016, Iowa ranked second among the states in net electricity generation from wind and third in net electricity generation from all nonhydroelectric renewable energy resources.
  • Wind provided 36.6% of Iowa’s total electricity generation in 2016, a larger share than in any other state. Wind was second only to coal as an energy source for electricity generation in the state.

Last Updated: March 16, 2017

US EIA

I wonder how the “tech giants such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google” will power their Iowa data centers with “clean energy,” when nearly half of it comes from coal?

The question “what happens when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine?” has provided a quick put-down for skeptics. But a boost in the storage capacity of batteries, and a dramatic drop in their cost, is making their ability to keep power flowing around the clock more likely.

CSM

And Santa Claus is coming to town.  We’ll put batteries in the speculative future ‘tipping point’ category.  With an up-front price $200/kWh, batteries need a much deeper “drop in their cost” because the “ability to keep power flowing around the clock” needs to actually be certain, not just “more likely.”

Is it just an inability to conjugate verbs with these people?

The advance is driven in part by vehicle manufacturers, who are placing big bets on battery-powered electric vehicles. Although electric cars are still a rarity on roads in 2017, this massive investment could change the picture rapidly in coming years. China, whose cities are choked by air pollution, may lead the way.

“Renewables have reached a tipping point globally,” sums up Simon Virley, who studies the world’s energy markets for the international accounting firm KPMG.

CSM

“Could change the picture rapidly in coming years” does not equate to having “reached a tipping point globally.”  Furthermore, “battery-powered electric vehicles” aren’t going to put a dent in oil consumption for two reasons

  1. Growth in oil demand for petrochemicals, aviation, freight and maritime use will dwarf any savings in passenger cars, buildings and power generation.
  2. The growth in electric vehicle sales has been spectacularly linear with no indications of acceleration.
170327oildemandbysector

Figure 2. Growth in oil demand for petrochemicals, aviation, freight and maritime use will dwarf any savings in passenger cars, buildings and power generation. (Source IEA)

 

us_world_pev_sales

Figure 3. US and global PEV sales.

2011 US PEV Sales

2012-2016 US, 2014-2016 World PEV Sales

Even ARS Technica is starting to catch on:

According to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2016 was a record year for electric vehicle (EV) sales. More than 750,000 EVs were sold worldwide last year, compared to 547,220 sold in 2015.

But the gains are overshadowed by the distance that electric cars still have to go—although more than 2 million EVs now travel the world’s roads, they only make up 0.2 percent of the total light-duty passenger vehicle share around the world. And the growth of the number of electric cars on the roads actually slowed in 2016 compared to 2015 (60 percent in 2016 versus 77 percent in 2015), leaving policy makers and sustainable growth advocates wondering how to continue to grow the global fleet to meet climate change mitigation goals.

ARS Technica

It’s estimated that 600 million EV’s will be needed by 2040…

Still, electric vehicles only made up 0.2% of total passenger light-duty vehicles in circulation in 2016. They have a long way to go before reaching numbers capable of making a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In order to limit temperature increases to below 2°C by the end of the century, the number of electric cars will need to reach 600 million by 2040, according to IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives. Strong policy support will be necessary to keep EVs on track.

IEA

The average U.S. vehicle is driven 15,000 miles per year. The average PEV consumes 30 kWh per 100 miles.   This works out to 4,500 kWh/yr per PEV.  600 million PEV’s would consume 2.7 million GWh/yr of electricity.  This is equivalent to 62% of the average total U.S. electricity generation from 2010-2016.  There are about 263.6 passenger vehicles in the U.S.  If the entire U.S. fleet was converted to PEV’s, it would consume the equivalent of 27% of our current annual electricity generation:

PEV% of Pass. Cars  PEV’s  PEV (GWh)  % US GWh
1%                                      2,636,000                  11,862 0.3%
2%                                      5,272,000                  23,724 0.5%
4%                                    10,544,000                  47,448 1.1%
8%                                    21,088,000                  94,896 2.2%
16%                                    42,176,000                189,792 4.4%
32%                                    84,352,000                379,584 8.7%
64%                                 168,704,000                759,168 17.4%
100%                                 263,600,000            1,186,200 27.3%

Adding 27% to the load while degrading the reliability of the grid… You literally can’t make this up.

While there’s a long way to go, the trend lines for renewables are spiking. The the pace of change in energy sources appears to be speeding up – perhaps just in time to have a meaningful effect in slowing climate change.

CSM

“The trend lines for renewables are spiking”… Where?

tippingpoint02

Figure 4. Primary energy consumption (million tonnes of oil equivalent). Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017

Even if a plot a logarithmic y-axis, “the pace of change” doesn’t appear “to be speeding up.”

tippingpoint03

Figure 5. Primary energy consumption (million tonnes of oil equivalent) logarithmic y-axis. Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2017

Having failed to find anything resembling a ‘tipping point’ in the CSM article, I expanded my research horizon and found the answer… ‘Tipping point’ is just a journalistic cliche.

Opinions

200 journalism cliches — and counting

By Carlos Lozada February 27, 2014

Identifying journalistic cliches has become a favorite Washington parlor game. But might it not also open a rare window onto the struggles of writers and editors trying to think outside the box?

Over the past few years, some colleagues at The Washington Post and I have played our own parlor game, assembling a list of verbal crutches, stock phrases, filler words, cliches and perpetually misused expressions that we should avoid in The Post’s Sunday Outlook section — or at least think hard about before using. The initial list received some attention last year on the media blog Romenesko, triggering many more nominations.

Below is the latest, expanded version, which reached 200 entries on July 10, 2014. Feel free to suggest new entries (or arguments for why something should be taken off the list) in the comments section, or tweet at us: @CarlosLozadaWP or @PostOutlook. We’ll keep adding to it.

And believe me — this is not your father’s list of journalism cliches.

The Outlook List of Things We Do Not Say

[…]

Hastily convened

Much ballyhooed

ill-advised

Shrouded in secrecy

Since time immemorial

Tipping point

Inflection point

Point of no return

The [anything] community

If history is any guide

If past is prologue

The devil is in the details

[…]

WaPo

 

 

 

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