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It’s Time for Biden’s New Energy Division to Reject Fossil Fuels

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The late November news out of the White House was filled with pomp and promise. A new energy division within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) would contribute to climate change policy, and Sally Benson, a prominent energy expert out of Stanford, would take on the role of deputy director for energy and chief strategist for the energy transition at OSTP. This lead author on global climate policy would assist the Biden administration to achieve targets of a 50-52% reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030, a carbon pollution-free electricity system by 2035, and a net-zero emissions economy no later than 2050.

Just a week or so later, however, a report by Public Citizen said that the Biden administration had auctioned off the right to drill offshore on 1.7 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, locking in more fossil fuel drilling — and carbon emissions — for decades.

The move is a slap in the face to Biden-Harris supporters.

As a candidate, Biden pledged to advocate for “no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period.”

What changed?

Could it be, as Bloomberg Intelligence’s survey last month indicated, only 2% of investors responding said that oil demand would peak before 2025, and fewer than 40% said that it would peak before the end of the decade. More than a third of investors responding expect demand to peak between 2025 and 2030, but nearly the same number see that peak happening later, between 2030 and 2035. Plus, their findings suggest that 71% of the 122 respondents see the OPEC+ alliance remaining in place through 2025, while 41% think the group will be forced to maintain active supply management forever in response to sluggish demand.

Is the Biden administration looking ahead to the 2024 election with trepidation that powerful fossil fuel allies will rally against the Biden-Harris ticket unless there is a warmer (pun intended) reception to Big Oil? It was also last month that Vice President Kamala Harris said she and President Joe Biden have not been discussing the 2024 election. Uh huh. It was also in November that it was revealed, in a hypothetical 2024 rematch, former President Donald Trump led President Joe Biden in Iowa by 11 percentage points. That news was published via a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

On November 26, NPR reported that the Biden administration had recommended an overhaul of the nation’s oil and gas leasing program to limit areas available for energy development and raise costs for oil and gas companies to drill on public land and water.

What is going on with all the contradictions about clean energy versus fossil fuels?

What’s The New Energy Division Charged With Accomplishing?

The passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill contains $47 billion designated for climate resilience. The objective is to better prepare the US for extreme fires, floods, storms, and droughts — tangible symbols of the current economic and social climate crisis havoc. The new energy division will help implement those energy provisions in the infrastructure bill.

The formation of the administration’s new energy division, according to the White House press release, is intended to “reinforce the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to using science-based approaches to reduce emissions and scale-up a clean and equitable energy system.”

Elements of that plan are to:

Ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation
Map the path to get the US to net-zero emissions by 2050
Do things once thought impossible with smart grid technologies, clean hydrogen, and fusion power
Make carbon-neutral energy the cheapest energy, so it’s always the easy choice
Drive the virtuous cycle of invention and deployment that brings down costs
Move toward an emission-free future where clean electricity is the cheapest and most reliable electricity
Enable equitable access to clean energy services to everyone across the country

In an interview with The Washington Post, Benson said that one of her top priorities is ensuring that the swift transition to a clean energy economy benefits all Americans, rather than leaving behind some workers in the oil and gas sector and other polluting industries. “We have a 120-year-old energy system that was built over a long time period, and we’re talking about very quickly changing that to a new system,” she said. “And this is a huge opportunity for American industry, for American workers, to lead.”

Benson says she intends to work toward securing supply chains for the materials needed to make electric vehicles, solar panels, and other clean energy technologies.

More Executive Office Announcements About A Zero Emissions US Economy

This week, an Executive Order was released with the focus on catalyzing clean energy industries and creating jobs through federal sustainability.

Through a coordinated whole-of-government approach, the Federal Government says it shall use its scale and procurement power to achieve:

100% carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030, including 50% 24/7 carbon pollution-free electricity
100 %  zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027
A net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50% emissions reduction by 2032
A 65% reduction in scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by the Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance, from Federal operations by 2030 from 2008 levels
Net-zero emissions from Federal procurement, including a Buy Clean policy to promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions
Climate resilient infrastructure and operations
A climate- and sustainability-focused Federal workforce

We’ll be hearing a lot more about this Executive Order in the days to come. By proclaiming that exactions and investment required to achieve these goals will “protect the environment, drive innovation, spur private sector investment, improve public infrastructure, and create new economic opportunity,” the Biden-Harris administration has committed to policies that will combat the climate crisis; help American businesses compete in strategic industries; create and sustain well-paying union jobs that allow workers to thrive; maximize the use of American goods, products, materials, and services; and promote a secure, just, and equitable future for all in the US.

So how can the administration continue to support oil and gas drilling? It makes no sense.

Final Thoughts

In response to the new energy division announcement, James Carafano, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank who was the lead author of a 2016 report recommending the elimination of OSTP, sputtered, “In addition to all the other federal agencies involved, now you’re going to have another layer of bureaucracy that’s going to be involved in policy decision-making.” Carafano served on the transition teams at the Department of Homeland Security and State Department under President Donald Trump. “I think the whole zero-emission thing is literally nonsense. It’s a political agenda; it’s not a science agenda.”

A Biden-Harris administration is far, far better than a Trump administration for the environment, the climate crisis, transition to renewable energy, equal rights for all, and so much more. But the Biden-Harris administration is full of inconsistencies — the administration’s stutter steps on fossil fuels must come to a halt.

The climate crisis math of the Biden administration is not adding up. You cannot approve massive oil drilling projects if you want to swiftly reach net-zero emissions. While rising gasoline prices have adversely affected millions of working people in the US, the world’s biggest fossil fuel corporations have benefited immensely, raking in a combined $174 billion in profits during the first 9 months of this year.

The administration has claimed it is simply complying with a court order as it continues to approve drilling leases, which last year allowed for the extraction of 246 million tons of coal, 314 million barrels of oil, and 3.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the analysis. The action to approve more drilling leases is much more than a marketing snafu; the Biden administration needs to set a clear path toward zero emissions, or else it will be, as Carafano exclaimed, little more than a political agenda to please a segment of the Democratic party base.

Photograph retrieved from NOAA/public domain


 

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Tesla’s Policy Lead Testifies at PUCT Open Meeting As Tesla Focuses on Supporting the Texas Grid

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Tesla’s US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, was recently asked to testify at a Public Utility Commission of Texas Open Meeting. A photo of Frank wearing an LFDECARB tee shirt popped up on Twitter. The tee shirt itself is a message focused on decarbonization by the group Bros for Decarbonization. You can learn more about the group here.

Frank confirmed that it was an impromptu request to testify. She also shared exactly what she talked about.

The document Frank shared was a filing receipt for supplemental comments from Tesla signed by Frank. There’s also a video of her testimony which you can watch here. In the document, Tesla said that it appreciated the opportunity to share its comments regarding PUCT’s discussions that were held on June 16, 2022 — the open meeting regarding Tesla’s proposal OBDRR041 as well as its prior work demonstrating how virtual power plants (VPPs) work.

I recently published an article about Tesla’s VPP workshop, which was related to OBDRR041. Tesla also said that it appreciated the Commission’s comments related to its Distributed Energy Resource (DER) pilot projects. Tesla especially supported the conversation between Commission representatives and the staff at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), as well as with the market participants. The conversation covered the real implementation of the system through a pilot as opposed to a task force approach. The latter, Frank noted, could unnecessarily create delays in implementing a grid service solution for DERs.

Looking At The Document & Tesla’s Statements

The Commission’s decision to encourage ERCOT to get stakeholders together and develop a pilot project allowing the market solution of exports from VPPs to be tested is also something Tesla expressed its appreciation for. This allowed for addressing issues raised by utilities and other market participants that have concerns about the potential impacts of site-exporting DERs on distribution facilities. It also allowed for a discussion of the net impact and benefits to the transmission grid.

Tesla also clarified and provided information as a response to a few discussion topics and questions that were raised at the open meeting. These topics included the OBDRR041 status, the ERCOT Pilot Proposal, and a question posed to Tesla by Chairman Lake at the open meeting.

OBDRR041 status

Tesla noted that since the OBDRR041 is currently tabled at the ERCOT Technical Advisory Committee, it would not seek a vote until there was further development of issues and positions from ERCOT and the potential members of the committee.

“At this time, Tesla believes that OBDRR041 may remain tabled at the Technical Advisory Committee pending consideration of the feasibility of a Virtual Power Plant pilot as the Commission proposed at the Open Meeting.”

ERCOT Pilot Proposal

Tesla expressed its views on the formal ERCOT Pilot Proposal that was introduced at the Open Meeting. Tesla noted that for a formal ERCOT pilot approach to be a feasible alternative to OBDRR041, a pilot should :

Have ERCOT’s support and the market’s acceptance and approval from ERCOT’s governing board.
Be amenable to commercialization in that sufficient participants could be aggregated across sufficient distribution service areas (more than one, but in capped quantities, in each service area as described in a proposed pilot framework).
Adequately capture data addressing clearly identified distribution utility concerns, in parallel to or as part of the pilot’s scope.
Have provisions to ensure market services compensation commensurate with grid services provided by pilot participants
Have an identified “start date” and “end date” which are technically feasible for involved parties.

In addition to that last point, Tesla added that the following are requirements in Section 25.361 (k) regarding pilot development and approval:

“ERCOT may conduct a pilot project upon approval of the scope and purposes of the pilot project by the governing board of ERCOT. Proposals for approval of pilot projects shall be made to the governing board only by ERCOT staff, after consultation with affected market participants and commission staff designated by the executive director.

“The ERCOT governing board shall ensure that there is an opportunity for adequate stakeholder review and comment on any proposed pilot project.”

Tesla noted that pilot  project proposals approved by the ERCOT governing board should include the following:

The scope and purposes of the pilot project;
The designation of temporary exceptions from ERCOT rules that ERCOT expects to authorize as part of the pilot project;
Criteria and reporting mechanisms to determine whether and when ERCOT should propose changes to ERCOT rules based on the results of a pilot project.
An estimate of costs ERCOT will incur attributable to the pilot project.
An estimated date of completion of the pilot project.

Tesla’s Response To Chairman Lake

Tesla expressed its appreciation for Chairman Lake, who stated that “nothing teaches like experience, so the sooner you get something in the field, the more you learn faster.”

Tesla also responded to a question posed by the chairman and said that it’s concerned that it will not be able to scope a pilot program in a Non-Opt-in-Entity (NOIE) area. Currently, Texas homeowners are unable to participate in VPPs due to the law. Tesla said:

“Primarily, this approach may not be economically rational as it could mean a substantial resource investment in a pilot that is not scalable to a commercial retail offer where Tesla could continue to directly serve those customers and grow the program’s strength and viability.

“The customers in a pilot should be able to continue to benefit from the value for their systems beyond the end-date of the pilot, in a commercially viable solution – but with a NOIE-only pilot, Tesla would have no control, legally or otherwise, over the continued participation of such customers once the pilot closes, even if a viable market participation framework is implemented following that pilot’ s conclusion.

“Any formal program participation of those customers would be solely at the option of the NOIE serving those customers. More simply, the purpose of a pilot is to study a solution that can be scaled following adoption of market rules based on pilot learnings. To build a program off the learnings of a pilot, the customer base involved in the pilot should be able to continue service under that formalized program, so that parties involved are not running the risk of raising a wholly new set of unstudied issues in a new distribution system type that was not part of the pilot.”

Frank also shared a link to over 60 pages of data from Tesla. Deep dive coming soon.

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Coalition Calls for EU Hydrogen Quota for Shipping

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Energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs call on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030

A broad coalition of energy providers, shipping companies and NGOs — including Siemens Energy, Viking Cruises, Green Power Denmark and Brussels-based organisations Hydrogen Europe and Transport & Environment (T&E) — has called on the EU to introduce a minimum quota of 6% sustainable and scalable hydrogen fuels by 2030.

Last year the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, proposed a shipping fuel law (FuelEU Maritime Regulation) aimed at increasing the uptake of alternative marine fuels. Unfortunately, the law fails to guarantee the competitiveness of sustainable and scalable e-fuels, and risks promoting cheaper, unsustainable fuels. The coalition therefore calls on the European Parliament and EU Council to improve the proposal by including a dedicated e-fuels sub quota in the proposed regulation.

Delphine Gozillon, sustainable shipping officer at T&E, said:

“An ambitious shipping fuels law will be key to set the shipping sector on course for full decarbonisation. Sustainable e-fuels are currently too expensive compared to other alternatives such as fossil LNG and biofuels, holding back investments in production facilities, refuelling infrastructure in ports and zero-emission ships. However, with a bit of a push e-fuels produced from renewable hydrogen can be scalable. That’s why we need a quota to get the ball rolling and encourage companies to start investing in clean shipping fuels. Shipping does not need to be a dirty industry forever.”

A list of all the coalition’s demands can be found here.

Download the letter.

Courtesy of Transport & Environment.

Featured image courtesy of Maersk.

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Diving Into Tesla’s 60+ Pages of PUCT Filings (Mostly Data)

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Tesla has over 60 pages of Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) filings that have recently been shared publicly, and we’re about to dive into them. Grab some water and a coffee and let’s go.

Tesla and its team, including its US Energy Markets Policy Lead, Arushi Sharma Frank, have been working hard to help Texan Powerwall customers be able to take part in virtual power plant (VPP) pilot programs. In May, Tesla held a VPP workshop for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Frank was one of the key leaders hosting the meeting.

Recently, Frank was asked to testify at an open meeting of the PUCT, and there she shared Tesla’s comments and statements addressing questions and other concerns relating to VPPs.

Frank tweeted a thank you to the PUCT for the opportunity of allowing Tesla to provide comments. In addition, she followed up with two more tweets, with one mentioning her favorite part of the filings — Tesla describing a phenomenon called “clumping.” Clumping is a reference to capturing the full value of distributed energy renewables capacity in an aggregate load resource (ALR).

63 Pages Of Data For PUCT

In total, there were 63 pages. I’m only going to go over some of the data briefly. I think it’s important to highlight Tesla’s hard work because if Texas allows its residents who own Powerwall batteries systems to participate in VPPs, this opens the door for other states in the Deep South to at least consider clean energy solutions for various problems, especially grid-related. Texas is well known for its grid instability, and if it allows Tesla Powerwall customers to take part in VPPs, this could mean saving lives during disasters.

Included in the filings were comments from Tesla, a request from Tesla that the Commission direct ERCOT to prioritize several actions such as allowing ALRs (Aggregated Load Resources) to provide injection capacity from individual sites in a framework by December 2022, an informal narrative of Tesla’s VPP demonstration in ERCOT, and 47 slide pages detailing the ERCOT/Tesla ancillary service demonstration.

I think the most important part for us outsiders observing here is the 47 slides, because they highlighted a lot of data that shows just how the Texas grid will benefit from VPPs. The 47 slides showed several key meetings between Tesla and ERCOT about the demo program.

Key Meeting Between Tesla & ERCOT Shows Tesla Has Been Working Hard Trying To Convince Texas To Allow VPPs

In March, there were four meetings in which Tesla defined clumping, Frank’s favorite part, as well as two telemetry signal approaches. Following that were weekly meetings around the demo results with the last demo result being April 15, 2022. On April 9, Tesla and ERCOT revisited clumping and the two telemetry signals approach.

This tells me and anyone paying close attention that Tesla has been quietly working with ERCOT to help the Texas grid for quite some time. This, I think, is a good thing, especially for Texas.

Tesla Seeks To Register The First ALR In ERCOT

According to the documents, Tesla wants to register the first ALR in ERCOT and participate in services that are currently unavailable. These services include non-spin and sCED load reduction dispatch. Tesla wants to do this with the full value of grid services that injecting devices can provide in an ALR.

Tesla said that it will lead efforts to modify the utility’s ALR Policy Other Binding Document to make it fit with practical operational, registration, and qualification issues. It clarified that ERCOT can exchange two telemetry points with an aggregation-qualified scheduling entity (QSE).

Tesla ERCOT Demo Tests

Tesla’s first demo looked at the comparison of battery and premise-level telemetry. Below is a chart showing the initial conditions, test steps, data collected, and pass criteria.

Table courtesy of Tesla

This first test results show that VPPs work beautifully in Texas. According to the results, the load decreased during the evening while in the morning it decreased while exporting to the grid. And during the daytime, the exporting of energy to the grid only increased. Tesla explained further:

“Discharging from the customer’s battery using a step function can clearly be identified in the premise-level data.

“At different times of day, premise-level data will look differently, depending on the current load:

1. Evening time: during the evening peak, user load is typically high, and discharging the battery will show up as a decrease in premise-level load.

2. Morning time: during the night/morning time, user load is typically lower, and discharging the battery will both decrease load, and export energy to the grid.

3. Daytime: during the daytime, solar is exporting to the grid, and discharging the battery will increase the export.”

You can view the full demo, test results, and all of Tesla’s comments here.

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