Tag Archives: energy

What are the challenges to moving to clean energy?

Share of top three producing countries in extraction of selected minerals and fossil fuels, 2019.

The iea report The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions (May 2021) notes:

Alongside a wealth of detail on mineral demand prospects under different technology and policy assumptions, it examines whether today’s mineral investments can meet the needs of a swiftly changing energy sector. It considers the task ahead to promote responsible and sustainable development of mineral resources, and offers vital insights for policy makers, including six key IEA recommendations for a new, comprehensive approach to mineral security.

The executive summary has 11 charts that are all interesting. I chose the one here as it point out potential geopolitical changes. Generally speaking, countries with fossil fuels don’t seem to be the ones with the minerals.

One of the challenges:

Our analysis of the near-term outlook for supply presents a mixed picture. Some minerals such as lithium raw material and cobalt are expected to be in surplus in the near term, while lithium chemical, battery-grade nickel and key rare earth elements (e.g. neodymium, dysprosium) might face tight supply in the years ahead. However, looking further ahead in a scenario consistent with climate goals, expected supply from existing mines and projects under construction is estimated to meet only half of projected lithium and cobalt requirements and 80% of copper needs by 2030.

A great report that can certainly be used as the basis for quantitative discussion related to clean energy. If you click on the charts you can then download the related data.

How much wind power was installed in 2020?

From the eia article The United States installed more wind turbine capacity in 2020 than in any other year by Richard Bowers and Owen Comstock (3/32021):

In both 2019 and 2020, project developers in the United States installed more wind power capacity than any other generating technology. According to data recently published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, annual wind turbine capacity additions in the United States set a record in 2020, totaling 14.2 gigawatts (GW) and surpassing the previous record of 13.2 GW added in 2012. After this record year for wind turbine capacity additions, total wind turbine capacity in the United States is now 118 GW.

There are two other graphs in the article and an answer to the question of which state generates the most wind power. There are also links to the data.

Fossil fuel free shipping?

(Image credit: Jocelyn Timperley)

This is not my typical post with charts, graphs, and data, but as a fan of both wood and boats the BBC article The futuristic cargo ship made of wood by Jocelyn Timperley (11/17/2020) is one I had to share.

In a small, rustic shipyard on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, a small team is building what they say will be the world’s largest ocean-going clean cargo ship.

Ceiba is the first vessel built by Sailcargo, a company trying to prove that zero-carbon shipping is possible, and commercially viable. Made largely of timber, Ceiba combines both very old and very new technology: sailing masts stand alongside solar panels, a uniquely designed electric engine and batteries.

Ok, a little bit of data:

The global shipping sector emitted just over a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2018, equivalent to around 3% of global emissions – a level that exceeds the climate impact of Germany’s entire economy.

A major study found shipping emissions rose by 10% between 2012 and 2018, and projected that they could rise up to 50% further still by 2050 as more and more things are shipped around the world.

 

Who produces the most air travel CO2 emissions?

The statista post The Worst Offenders For Air Travel Emissions by Niall McCarthy (10/22/2019) produced the chart here. The post notes

The 12 percent of Americans who make more than six round trips by air each year are actually responsible for two-thirds of all U.S. air travel and therefore two-thirds of all its emissions. Each of those travelers emits over 3 tons of CO2 per year and if everyone else in the world flew like them, global oil consumption would rise 150 percent while CO2 from fossil fuel use would go up 60 percent. As over half of the population does not generally fly, the U.S. ranks 11th in emissions per capita from flying.

The post references the icct report CO2 emission from commercial aviation, 2018. It notes

CO2 emissions from all commercial operations in 2018 totaled 918 million metric tons—2.4% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. Using aviation industry values, there has been a 32% increase in emissions over the past five years.

At the bottom of the icct report there is a link to spreadsheet data with air travel emissions data by country.

 

What is the peak quarter for utility revenues?

The question is answered in the Census Bureau post Census Bureau Data Show Third Quarter is Peak Time for Electric and Water Utilities by Justin Jarrett (1/5/19).

During just this year, U.S. electric utility revenue (NAICS 2211) for the third quarter of 2018 was $137.9 billion, an increase of 20.1 percent (± 2.7 percent) from the second quarter of 2018.

The graph here (copied from the post) has a couple of intriguing peaks between some Q3 years.  Worth noting:

Industries that exhibit seasonal patterns, like electric and water utilities, can mask underlying economic conditions. However, seasonal adjustment produces data in which the values of neighboring quarters are usually easier to compare.

The Census Bureau has the data available on their Quarterly Services page (look under Historical Data tab).

Where will our electricity come from in next two years?

The EIA Today in Energy report, EIA forecasts renewables will be fastest growing source of electricity generation (1/18/19), provides projections for electricity generation.

EIA expects non-hydroelectric renewable energy resources such as solar and wind will be the fastest growing source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years. EIA’s January 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that electricity generation from utility-scale solar generating units will grow by 10% in 2019 and by 17% in 2020. According to the January STEO, wind generation will grow by 12% and 14% during the next two years. EIA forecasts total U.S. electricity generation across all fuels will fall by 2% this year and then show very little growth in 2020.

The good news is more renewables, but “fastest growing” can be misleading. According to the chart (copied from the article) nonhydro renewables are projected to go from 10% in 2018 to 13% in 2020, and so their share of electricity generation is still small.  This is good good discussion for a calculus class or any QL based course.  The article includes two other charts and one is a complex bar chart that could be the focus of a class period.

How much coal does the U.S. consume?

According to the EIA article U.S. coal consumption in 2018 expected to be the lowest in 39 years:

EIA expects total U.S. coal consumption in 2018 to fall to 691 million short tons (MMst), a 4% decline from 2017 and the lowest level since 1979. U.S. coal consumption has been falling since its peak in 2007, and EIA forecasts that 2018 coal consumption will be 437 MMst (44%) lower than 2007 levels, mainly driven by declines in coal use in the electric power sector.

Why the decline?

One of the main drivers of coal retirements is the price of coal relative to natural gas. Natural gas prices have stayed relatively low since domestic natural gas production began to grow in 2007. This period of sustained, low natural gas prices has kept the cost of generating electricity with natural gas competitive with generation from coal. Other factors such as the age of generators, changes in regional electricity demand, and increased competition from renewables have led to decreasing coal capacity.

EIA coal consumption data can be found on the Monthly Energy Review page and in our Calculus Projects page.  A recent Think Progress article,
More coal plants shut down in Trump’s first two years than in Obama’s entire first term – The administration’s own data reveal coal isn’t coming back by Joe Romm (1/3/19) reports on the decrease in coal consumption.

What are the sources and uses of U.S. engergy?

Every year the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Agency) updates their energy flow and consumption diagrams. They are now available for 2017 energy use and the graph here is primary energy consumption by source and sector. For example, petroleum fulfills 37% or our energy use, 72% of petroleum is for transportation, and petroleum represents 92% of our transportation energy uses. Fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal)  generated 78.1 quadrillion BTUs, which is 80% of our energy production, in 2017.  Links to this graph and the energy flow diagrams (total, petroleum, natural gas, coal, & electricity) are found at the bottom of the right side bar on the EIA Monthly Energy Review.

Past diagrams, dating back to 1996, are available at the Energy Flow Archives.  In 2016 fossil fuels generated 78.5 quadrillion BTUs, which was 81% of our energy production.  In 2008 (the first year this diagram appears) it was 83.4 quadrillion BTUs and 84%.

How many people don’t have access to electricity?

The International Energy Agency’s Energy Access Outlook 2017 has your answer. For example, the chart here answers the question for 2000 and 2015 with an interesting graphic that includes how the change occurred. In 2000, 1684 million people lacked access, 1130 million people gained access, but population grew by 557 million people, leaving 1111 million people without access in 2015. The graph is interactive on the page and breaks these changes down into four regions. There are eight other interesting charts related to electricity as well as access to clean cooking.

How do types of electricity production compare?

The Our World in Data blog post, A sense of units and scale for electrical energy production and consumption has the graph here. It provides a comparison of the scale of different types of electricity production along with comparisons to consumption. For example the Three Gorges Dam is worth 270,000 MWh while the Hoover Dam provides 11,000 MWh.  On the other hand the Alta onshore wind form generates 7,342 MWh.  The post has a nice discussion of units as well as information about the types of electricity generation they highlight in the graphic.