Never mind FERC, we are building the grid of the future

“As feds focus on baseload, grid modernization is sweeping the country” according to Herman Trabish’s feature story in today’s Utility Dive.

“Fifty States of Grid Modernization,” a 2017 policy update from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center reports on a trend of actions that are state-initiated.      Autumn Proudlove is lead author of the report.  The most common grid modernization action is advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).  Others include legislation or regulation that addresses smart grid, utility business model or rate reforms, or expand access to distributed energy resources.

Grid modernization map

So, never mind that FERC is proposing to provide “cost recovery to merchant coal and nuclear plants that keep 90 days of fuel supply onsite.”  There is demonstrated movement towards grid modernization with energy storage nationwide.

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Dr. Keeling’s Curve

George Shea published a video of his play (1 hour, 17 mins), Dr. Keeling’s Curve,  on YouTube in February 2017.   Based at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Dr. Keeling measured carbon dioxide levels around the earth, starting in 1958.  In plotting the graph of his findings over more than twenty years, he demonstrated it’s inexorable rise, the curve of which matched the rise in earth’s average temperature during the same time. It’s a powerful story, which isn’t hurt by the fact that Mike Farrell (M.A.S.H. fame) plays Dr. Keeling in this one-man play.  How is it that we don’t all know about this?

Keeling’s curve, and the history of carbon dioxide in the earth’s climate are expanded in videos from the  American Museum of Natural History.

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Social cost of carbon used by States in energy decisions

According to Peter Fairley, August 14, 2017, in Inside Climate News, 

                 “The climate metric, maligned by the Trump administration, helps build the cost of future climate harms into state electricity plans and markets.”




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Reliability of the grid

The National Academies Press  just published “Enhancing the resilience of the nation’s electricity system.”

Electric power transmission and distribution reliability are critical to our “safety, productivity, comfort, and convenience.”  The electric power system has vulnerabilities that we would do well to learn more about.

You can download the slides to the webinar at this site.

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Clean, dynamic, and distributed

The headline of a June 26, 2017 article in Bloomberg New Energy Finance  “Energy to 2040: Faster shift to clean, dynamic, distributed.”

Seth Henbest’s analysis of the BNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2017 summarizes the “changing economics of energy generation” with these 10 “high level messages from 2017 to 2040.”

  1. Solar and wind dominate the future of energy
  2. Solar’s challenge gets more serious
  3. Onshore wind’s costs fall fast and offshore falls faster
  4. China and India are a $4 trillion opportunity for the energy sector
  5. Batteries and new sources of flexibility bolster reach of renewables
  6. Homeowners love of solar grows
  7. Electric vehicles bolster electricity use and help balance the grid
  8. Coal-fired power collapses in US and Europe and peaks globally by 2026
  9. Gas is a transition fuel, but not in the way most people think
  10. Global power sector emissions peak in just over 10 years, then decline

The article says that the emissions prediction shows  “significant additional climate policy risk” because it is nowhere near what is needed and thus the dramatic changes we are painting to 2040 in NEO2017 may well be accelerated.”New Energy Outlook 2017


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Top economists on carbon price and decarbonization

An article from June 12 in Inside Climate News, says that “top economists,” led by Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern, report that the current average low price on carbon (less than $10 a ton) worldwide, will not achieve the transition to low carbon economies needed to meet the UN Paris Accord goals. (At least $40 to $80 per ton is needed by 2020.)

The report was published by the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s High Level Commission on Carbon Prices Report May 2017.   They are unequivocal about pricing carbon emissions.  “A well designed carbon price is an indispensable part of a strategy for reducing emissions in an efficient way… by incentivizing changes needed in investment, production, and consumption patterns…” (p. 1)

This report is indispensable if you are not an economist, but are looking for a summary of the most current international economic thought on carbon pricing.  It addresses how a carbon pricing strategy, along with complementary infrastructure and planning approaches, can “fulfill the Paris goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.” (p.50)

Carbon pricing alone is not a feasible or equitable solution to global warming. Decarbonizing electricity production; promoting electrification in housing, industry, and transportation; advancing efficiency; and land use changes (agricultural and landscape) are necessary changes worldwide. (p 6)

(Read the book Drawdown (2017), edited by Paul Hawken, for another hopeful take on these processes. KM)



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Dogs at the Zoo and the Universe too!

We enjoyed more than a hundred enthusiastic visitors at our “History of the Universe” table on April 22 at the Rally for Science ZooMT !

Citizens’ Climate Education (Billings) and Eco-Angela (a program of Angela’s Piazza in Billings) volunteers presented two activities:  a puppet show modified from        Dr. Wendy Ring of Climate911, called “Montana D.O.G.S: Dozens of Good Solutions,” and an interactive exhibit of the Scientific History of the Universe, geared toward families.

We presented the model of the 14 Billion Year history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present, by late astronomer, cosmologist, and public educator, Carl Sagan. In this model, each month covers a little more than a billion years.  The month of December covers the billion years since the earth’s atmosphere became oxygenated.  No surprise, the dinosaurs were the biggest hit!



The April 23 Billings Gazette featured the puppet show in an article on the Rally for Science, Billings Gazette.

For more information, see this article CCL News January 19, 2017.  You can request a puppet show through

Contact Kathy at about a performance in Montana!


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Climate change is a market failure

In a February 14, 2017  post, Carbon Brief blog says “Climate change is a classic market failure. The costs of burning CO2 are borne by society at large, but the benefits accrue to those burning fossil fuels.”  The Social Costs of Carbon (SCC) are currently set by the EPA at $37 a ton.

Just what those costs are was the subject of a hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on Feb. 28.  Read about it here in the Guardian.


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Exxon’s write-down

On February 24,  the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis posted on  about the recent announcement by ExxonMobil to its shareholders that at the end of 2016, it  has 19% “fewer proven and probable oil reserves.”

This is a good introduction to how  Exxon “suddenly became smaller.”  And why.


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Introduction to Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Citizens’ Climate Lobby published this introductory video on You Tube in 2016.  Your comments are welcomed!


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