A Free-Market Energy Blog

Direct Use of Natural Gas: Unshackle Efficiency from Obama’s ‘Deep Decarbonization’ (Part II)

By Mark Krebs and Tom Tanton -- June 8, 2017

“The fundamentally anti-fossil fuel energy efficiency and renewable energy advocates ran with Obama’s Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, to turn ‘deep decarbonization’ theories into official public policy. The goal? Convert all consumer natural gas use to electricity by 2050.”

“In short, U.S efforts within the DDPP infrastructure are orchestrated by the United Nations through one consulting firm, reviewed by two DOE labs, and funded by Tom Steyer. How’s that for a concentration of power in opposition to a free market economy?”

“Advocacy of ‘electrify everything’ and ‘Deep Decarbonization’ are still being funded by taxpayer dollars. While we assume the Trump Administration is not fully aware of this, the fact remains: This cannot be reconciled with the President’s America First Energy Plan to “lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources.”

Yesterday we provided a bit of history relative to the war on natural gas. Part II discusses current situation and the case going forward.

The fundamentally anti-fossil fuel energy efficiency and renewable energy advocates ran with Obama’s Executive Order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade,” to turn “deep decarbonization” theories into official public policy. The goal? Convert all consumer natural gas use to electricity by 2050.

A web search of the term “deep decarbonization” leads directly to the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP).  With a little more digging from there, the following site identifies that the DDPP is sponsored by the  United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). In the United States, the DDPP is represented by the U.S. Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (USDPP). So far, the USDPP has published the following reports:

  1. Policy Implications of Deep Decarbonization in the United States [1] describes how the pace and scale of physical infrastructure changes required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050 informs the development of coherent, effective energy policy.
  2. Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States [2] assesses the feasibility and cost of a low-carbon transformation. It describes four different technology pathways to a decarbonized energy system by mid-century that meet America’s energy needs and support robust economic growth

The following series graphics are excerpted from the first study:

2014

Figure 2. U.S. Energy System in 2014

 

 Deeply Decarbonized

Figure 3. Deeply Decarbonized U.S. Energy System in 2050 (Mixed Case)

The essence of these first two graphs is that the direct use of natural gas direct use consumption within “buildings” and “industry” would need to be redirected to the indirect use of natural gas via electricity to attain the critically important state of “deep decarbonization.”  The following graph indicates (in the case of residential consumers) that this conversion process would cost them each $36 more per month on average. (Click on graphic to expand.)

Average Household

Figure 7. Average Household Spending for Energy Goods and Services, 2050 Mixed Case

The following except from their site identifies some of the main US players:

About the USDDPP

Policy Implications of Deep Decarbonization in the United States and EnergyPATHWAYS model development are the products of a research team led by Dr. Jim Williams (Director of the DDPP and Chief Scientist at Energy and Environmental Economics (E3)) along with Ben Haley and Ryan Jones (Senior Consultants, E3). Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States was a joint research effort led by E3 in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The project director was Dr. Jim Williams, with Dr. Andrew Jones (LBNL) and Dr. Haewon McJeon (PNNL) conducting GCAM modeling, and Ben Haley conducting EnergyPATHWAYS modeling. Work has been supported by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and NextGen Climate America.

In short, U.S efforts within the DDPP infrastructure are orchestrated by the United Nations through one consulting firm, reviewed by two DOE labs, and funded by Tom Steyer. How’s that for a concentration of power in opposition to a free market economy?

In November 2016, the Obama Administration basically endorsed these studies with its release of the  United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization. The purpose of this was to lay the plan for achieving the Obama Administration’s commitment to the UN-centered “Paris Agreement” for curbing climate change.

The essence of this agreement was to the above-cited reduction of greenhouse gasses by 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.  In the United States, the primary strategies for achieving this goal were through the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) along with weaning US consumers off the direct use of fossil fuels in their homes and businesses.

Part and parcel to this strategy is the implicit “deep decarbonization” assumption that all natural gas end-use energy can and should be converted to electricity because renewable forms of electricity stand ready and able to do it all; with a negligible adverse impact upon our economy. Both the CPP and Paris Agreement are now gone, however, as justification of US energy policies.

The Threat–and Where We Go from Here

Advocacy of “electrify everything” and “Deep Decarbonization” are still being funded by taxpayer dollars. While we assume the Trump Administration is not fully aware of this, the fact remains: This cannot be reconciled with the President’s America First Energy Plan to “lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources.” [3]

As evidenced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s article titled Aggressive Efficiency and Electrification Needed to Cut California Emissions,[4] this movement started in California and revealed itself in 2011.

DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), through its  “National Labs,” have helped fund efforts to bring about an electric energy monoculture as demonstrated by the aforementioned Policy Implications of Deep Decarbonization in the United States and Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States. The executive summaries in each of these publications state: “in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).” Less often mentioned is the need for highly advanced technologies, many not yet available, to maintain the grid’s stability, nor the vast ‘investments’ needed to build a capable grid.

In November of 2016, this was formally endorsed by the Obama Administration’s “United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization.”[5]

The jihad for electrifying everything is still going strong. For example, on April 14, 2017, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced its Power-Up Study: Exploring a More Fully Electrified U.S. Economy.[6] More recently, LBNL, issued the following news release titled “Berkeley Lab Helps California Get to Zero Net Energy Homes.”[7] Some key excerpts follow:

  • California has established ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption in buildings, including a policy goal for all new residential buildings to be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020. Now the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has launched two projects to help the state meet its ZNE building goals.
  • The DOE’s Building America program is also supporting the air quality project, the results of which will inform DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home program.
  • If we want to achieve deep carbon reductions then ultimately we want to sharply reduce or eliminate natural gas consumption.

Policy makers should remember that studies such as that by Berkeley Lab are about what could be, not what should be.

Like the study that Secretary Perry called for on April 14, we urge DOE to conduct a study that quantifies the benefits of the direct use of natural gas.  The results of this study could be incorporated into the announced grid reliability study and those findings could serve as the basis for a truly diversified “all the above” energy policy to best serve American consumer interests.

The alternative is that “electrify everything” and “Deep Decarbonization” advocates simply endure the Trump Administration (or co-opt it) until they can get back to implementing the UN’s new world order.

———————-

[1] Source: http://usddpp.org/downloads/2015-report-on-policy-implications.pdf

[2] Source: http://usddpp.org/downloads/2014-technical-report.pdf

[3] Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-energy

[4] Source: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2011/05/24/aggressive-efficiency-and-electrification-needed-to-cut-california-emissions/

[5] Source: https://unfccc.int/files/focus/long-term…/mid_century_strategy_report-final_red.pdf

[6] Source: http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/power-up.html

[7] Source: http://newscenter.lbl.gov/2017/05/25/berkeley-lab-helps-california-get-zero-net-energy-homes/


Mark Krebs, an engineer by training, has been involved with energy efficiency design and program evaluation for more than thirty years. He has served as an expert witness in dozens of energy-efficiency filings, which he summarized in a Public Utilities Fortnightly article, “It’s a War Out There: A Gas Man Questions Electric Efficiency” (December 1996).

Tom Tanton is Director with Energy and Environmental Legal Institute. Mr. Tanton has 40 years in energy and environmental policy, focused on enabling technology choice and economic development. Mr. Tanton has testified to numerous state Legislatures and Congress as an expert on energy policy. He formerly served as Principal Policy Advisor at the California Energy Commission.

10 Comments


  1. CMG  

    The misguided effort to implement “beneficial electrification” has moved from the federal level to regional, state, and local initiatives. The Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations Network seeks to promote beneficial electrification and the displacement of fossil fuel home heating systems. The network includes groups like NEEP, SEEA, NEEA, SPEER etc. These regional groups are essentially a mouthpiece for ACEEE and other aggressive energy efficiency advocates. Here’s how they plan to replace NG, LP, and fuel oil furnaces with heatpumps in cold climates: http://www.neep.org/sites/default/files/NEEP_ASHP_2016MTStrategy_Report_FINAL.pdf

    Here is where you can plan how to coerce utilities, local and state governments into adopting electrification policy: http://www.neep.org/events/2017-regional-strategic-electrification-summit

    In addition to these efforts, Sierra club is promoting its “mayors for 100% clean energy” program, which seeks to make cities commit to 100% clean energy: http://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/mayors-for-clean-energy Natural gas isn’t a big part of the plan.

    Reply

  2. Steve Pfeiffer  

    Why do these “greens” believe that air-to-air heat pumps are at all a “green” technology that is going to reduce GHG emissions? Especially for heating here in New England?

    Reply

    • Mark Krebs  

      I don’t know where in New England you are referring to but one such program I am aware is this:

      http://www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/renewable-energy/renewable-thermal/

      Note that in MA, air-to-air heat pumps are considered RENEWABLE (as long as they are “high efficiency”).

      As to why they think like this, I have 2 possible explanations. Take your choice:

      1. In the above link, open the following: “Commonwealth Accelerated Renewable Thermal Strategy report. Note who the author is.

      2. The units are equipped with electron filters so only the green/renewable ones get through.

      Reply

      • Steve Pfeiffer  

        Thanks! I’ll definitely have to remember that one about the “electron filters”. Coincidentally, a client just requested a proposal to convert an older building from its existing systems (gas heat, no cooling at all) to all new VRF air-source heat pumps. Said client is looking at it as a “green” project. It will be interesting to see the reaction when the “sticker shock” of the cost to implement and the annual operating cost is presented.

        Reply

  3. Mark  

    Mark and Tom,

    Your post sent me off to find a couple E3 references from a few years back as their model was used out here in CA: I was able to open the file below up this morning:

    https://www.ethree.com/public_proceedings/summary-california-state-agencies-pathways-project-long-term-greenhouse-gas-reduction-scenarios/

    Unfortunately, I received “404 – Page not found” errors at E3’s website for a bunch of references I was going to follow up on- to see how the assumptions were holding up in the real world…

    If you haven’t already downloaded the references (web link data) noted in your post you might want to do so soon as historical documents (that say denote the details and assumptions in various plans and scenarios) have a tendency to be “moved” or lost………..

    Thanks for all the wonderful references in your post!

    A couple of the technological assumptions noted in the E-3 scenario(s) I wanted to check out:

    1) “E-3 “Technology commercialization risks by scenario” slide 71 notes “high” Technology risk for most of the alternatives to FF in the “California Pathways- GHG Scenario Results.”

    https://ethree.com/documents/E3_PATHWAYS_GHG_Scenarios_Updated_April2015.pdf
    At least the likelihood of success technologically speaking in the plan were noted as “high risk”.

    Unfortunately, the media hasn’t done a good job covering the details of what this means.” (1)

    2) Interesting comment/assumption on page 74 (2)- “Additional renewables built for and absorbed by flexible grid electrolysis to fuel FCVs””

    My in their upper 70’s in-laws are on fixed incomes and it’s been my job to keep them informed on how much it will cost them for their utilities in California as the various plans to decarbonize are being implemented. I have warned my in-laws of an independent evaluation of the some of the costs:

    “Higher RPS requirements at the 50-percent level would likely additionally increase electricity rates in 2030 by a wide range, compared to the expected rates based roughly on current policies and plans: the estimated increases were from 9 percent to 23 percent, depending upon the scenario under base case assumptions. The range was 3 percent to 36 percent under different sensitivity analyses, depending upon scenarios that changed combinations of variables. These estimated rate increases in 2030 were above and beyond the already-higher rates assumed to occur by then in the base case (which are estimated to be 47-percent higher than today’s rates).” Reference-
    https://ethree.com/documents/Advisory_Panel_Report_on_the_CA_RPS_Study_FINAL_1-2014.pdf

    1) http://energyskeptic.com/2015/critiques-of-mark-jacobsons-ideas-to-run-the-world-on-renewable-energy/#comment-33189
    2) kakatoa | April 12, 2015 at 6:57 pm | https://judithcurry.com/2015/04/12/week-in-review-politics-and-policy-edition/#comment-693096

    Reply

  4. Mark Krebs and Tom Tanton  

    Thanks Mark. As far as you know do any of the E3 or other projections of rate increases (due to 50% RPS) account for the dramatic fall off in natural gas prices due to fracking? Haven’t looked at it recently, but the LOWER costs without RPS likely even more attractive, by setting a lower baseline from which to measure increase.

    Reply

  5. Mark  

    A new report is out by the IEA that you may find of interest:
    “Energy Technology Perspectives 2017
    Catalysing Energy Technology Transformations”
    http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/content/book/energy_tech-2017-en

    “…..For the first time, ETP 2017 looks at how far clean energy technologies could move the energy sector towards higher climate change ambitions if technological innovations were pushed to their maximum practical limits. The analysis shows that, while policy support would be needed beyond anything seen to date, such a push could result in greenhouse gas emission levels that are consistent with the mid-point of the target temperature range of the global Paris Agreement on climate change.”….

    I wonder how they define “maximum practical limits”……. I assume they don’t mean pushing limits as far as VW did with their innovative use of software.

    Fracking has led to increased efficiency at our house. Last year we pulled out the old kerosene heater to warm the 1920’s addition directly vs using an electric heater!!!

    Reply

    • Tom Tanton  

      It’s fairly typical for the advocates of certain technologies, as is the case of the IEA report you note, to assume technology advancements occur for their technology but no others. Of COURSE a technology may mature with “policy support [read subsidies and mandates] would be needed beyond anything seen to date” but that certainly doesn’t mean other technologies would remain stagnant. But in fact what happens is the competing technology usually exhibits greater progress ‘destroying’ claimed future competitiveness of the favored technology.

      Reply

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