Climate Change

Zero years for procrastination

Climate scientist Peter Kalmus wrote in The Guardian:

We have zero years before climate and ecological breakdown, because it’s already here. We have zero years left to procrastinate. The longer we wait to act, the worse the floods, fires, droughts, famines and heatwaves will get.

Electrification may be a partial remedy, but public and private utilities in North America are not prepared. A recent New Yorker article by Daniel Gross explains :

Right now, the planet is getting warmer, and unprecedented heat wavesfloods, and fires are claiming lives and livelihoods. There’s hardly any time left to pivot away from fossil fuels and toward clean power sources like wind and solar. And, in this effort, there are weak points—problems that are causing many more problems.

One such area is the grid itself. There still aren’t enough lines connecting windy, sunny places to locales that need the most electricity; meanwhile, the grid is so delicately balanced that many clean-energy projects now wait about four years, in an “interconnection queue,” simply to be plugged in. The grid has become a bottleneck in the fight to protect the climate.

… it’s sometimes argued that clean-energy projects shouldn’t pool their electricity on a rickety grid in the first place, and should instead power local microgrids, such as university campuses or apartment complexes.

Transmission grids constructed decades ago were typically built for large-scale, stable energy sources. Today’s renewables — wind and solar — may be created far from old-style power generators and existing high-voltage power lines and variability of renewables requires modernization of control systems.

BC Hydro has argued that wind and solar cannot readily be integrated with its mostly hydropower system, yet a landmark analysis of the impacts of wind and solar power found no technical barriers to accommodating the integration of 35% wind and solar energy in western North America.1

BC Hydro is not alone as a utility avoiding change. Many utility companies remain stuck to existing business models and avoid use of new renewable energy sources, even those cheaper and less destructive. Utilities are resorting to dark money and bribes to resist renewables2. Some companies have little interest in distributed technologies that generate electricity at or near where it will be used.

Governments favour megaprojects because 2,500 jobs in one place is better evidence of economic activity than 25 jobs in each of 100 communities. Huge installations are convenient photo opportunities for politicians, like these ones at Site C. We can safely bet that most people in this picture had little idea at the time the project they celebrated was a costly and destructive blunder.

Regulators captured by industries often choose not to identify and measure climate damaging effects of industrial activity. This is particularly true for agencies that supervise oil and gas activities in North America.

Global methane emissions from the energy sector are about 70% greater than the amount national governments have officially reported, according to new IEA analysis

Outright denial of climate change may have lessened but gradual adaptation is now sold as a way to create resilience. On Twitter, Dr. Kalmus responded to the idea that humans can adapt to climate change and carry on life as normal:

Adapting to Earth breakdown is important, but we will only be able to adapt up to a point and we are already starting to surpass that point. A much more important call to action is to quickly end the dishonest and deadly fossil fuel industry – stop the damage and save all we can.

Another HUGE problem with the false rallying cry of “we will adapt” (which I am seeing all over the place) is that what it really means is “protect the rich and fuck the poors”

1THE WESTERN WIND AND SOLAR INTEGRATION STUDY PHASE 2: Executive Summary Debra Lew and Greg Brinkman National Renewable Energy Laboratory

2 A federal jury convicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, 63, of Glenford, Ohio, and former Ohio Republican Party chair Mathew Borges, 50, of Bexley, Ohio, of participating in a racketeering conspiracy involving political figures, lobbyists and FirstEnergy Corp.

Categories: Climate Change

4 replies »

  1. As you emphasize in the Peter Kalmus quotation: “A much more important call to action is to quickly end the dishonest and deadly fossil fuel industry – stop the damage and save all we can.”
    Along these lines, in his “The Crucial Years” newsletter Bill McKibben posted the following “seismic win” story today (Apr. 25/23): “A seismic win went almost unnoticed amidst the Tuckerstorm.”


  2. Small is Beautiful. Yet, small is often ignored. One great example of “small” is the municipal electric utility of Summerside (pop. 15,000) P.E.I. Which has successfully integrated 3 large wind turbines to its electricity supply. In terms of overall energy, the town supplies nearly 50% of its needs.
    One inspiring aspect of this example of wind power integration is that it is ongoing. We know that wind power is up and down. Summerside is working to better utilize the massive power availability when the wind is really blowing. An example of this is it’s program of electric heat plus storage which heats homes when the electricity is available and which stores that energy as heat, for times when the wind isn’t blowing as hard.
    Understandably, load management depends on a buy-in from the population, plus a certain amount of personal investment. It’s a good example of what is possible and this ongoing project also demonstrates the importance of load management in order to maximize the use of a fluctuating renewable supply.
    In BC, with its massive hydro reservoirs the output of which can be modulated quickly to cope with an integrated renewable supply, the integration of such would be far less problematic.


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