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Natural Gas To Surpass Coal As Source Of CO2

Natural gas is expected to soon surpass coal as a source of CO2.  As natural gas continues to replace coal as a fuel for the production of electricity for the nation’s electric grids, the total amount of emissions coming from natural gas activity will pass that of coal in 2016.

coal nat gas and CO2

Energy related CO2 emissions from natural gas are expected to exceed that of coal by 10% in 2016.  The total amount of electricity generated by natural gas reached record highs in the U.S. in July of 2016.  The nearly 5,000 gigawatts per day surpassed the previous record in 2015 by around 9%.  This was due partially to high temperatures as well as the continuing price advantage of natural gas over coal.  For the year, electricity from natural gas is expected to account for around 34% of power output compared to 30% for coal.

As ever tightening federal mandates force coal plants to either modernize or shut down, coal based electricity output has been in a multi-year down trend in the US.  This is expected to continue in the years to come. Much of this lost production has been replaced by renewable sources of power such as solar and wind.  The latter is particularly the case in Texas.

This all comes on top of another trend that has seen overall electricity sales declining thanks in part to greater energy efficiency in residential construction as well as federal energy efficiency mandates.  Lower peaks in electricity demand tend to favor cleaner sources of power. Coal and natural gas are considered more responsive sources of power generation and more likely to be ramped up in times of greater peak demand.

Electricity Rates

The gradual shift of electricity production away from coal and toward natural gas and renewable sources of power has not put upward pressure on electricity rates.  The national average for electricity for July 2016 was 13.0 cents per kwh.  By comparison, a 12 month electricity plan can be found for 6.3 cents per kwh in the Dallas, Texas area as of the time of this writing.

 

Biomass And Biogas Energy Explained

When you think of renewable energy, the wind and sun are probably the first places your mind goes. While solar and wind power are easy to see and understand in the form of panels and turbines, biomass and biogas are two energy forms also powering your everyday life. Clean-tech research and development firm Clean Edge released a 2012 study showing the biofuel industry grew to more than $95 billion in 2012, up more than $12 billion from the previous year. Here’s what to know about this growing industry:

Biomass Renewable Energy

Biomass energy is derived from organic matter that comes from living plants, crops and trees. Most of the energy works by converting the carbohydrates contained in the plant matter into a usable form, as Clean Edge notes. If you’ve ever cooked on a campfire, you’ve used a type of biomass energy. However, there’s a fine line between a renewable energy source and a destructive energy source.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports biomass power, when done correctly, is a good source of renewable energy. Some states, such as Massachusetts, focus on selecting biomass sources that won’t contribute to pollution and other harmful issues. If this type of careful selection is not used, it ends up being harmful to the environment. Fast-growing plants and trees are the best type of material, since they replenish faster than they’re being used. If the energy is produced using resources that cannot renew themselves in a reasonable time frame, it is counterproductive to the renewable energy goal.

Biomass energy is used for nearly five percent of energy in the United States, reports the Institute for Energy Research. This is not as high as other types of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, but it provides a great alternative for locations that don’t receive high wind or lots of sunlight. If you’re looking to get into producing biomass energy, the first step is to determine whether you have a good source of biomass on hand before you dive in head-first. You also want to compare energy suppliers for deals on an electric company that supports you augmenting your energy output.

Biogas Renewable Energy

Biogas energy might make you think companies are trying to extract energy from the methane emissions produced by livestock. However, the gas that it’s actually referring to is the gas that is generated when organic matter breaks down when oxygen is not available, according to The Insititute for Energy Research. Either anaerobic bacteria or a fermentation effect breaks down the organic material.

Common organic matter used for biogas generation includes manure, plants and crops. It can be used in a variety of ways, such as renewable fuels, natural gas, electric production, heating, and transportation. Biogas is a renewable energy source that can be easily used in a residential setting. You use a digester to store your organic material, cover it with water to limit the oxygen, and then seal the container up tight. The average energy usage of a family requires a 200-gallon biogas generator, although you can start smaller if you want to get used to the process.

 

Wind Industry’s Desperate Move to Retain Federal Subsidies

The wind power industry is so desperate to maintain its lifeline of federal subsidies that it has put forth a plan to phase out the wind energy tax credit in the next several years in exchange for an immediate extension of the current production tax credit into 2013. 

The wind energy sector has benefited substantially for years from a federal tax credit paid to companies that produce electricity from wind and sell it to the grid.   The credit equals 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour and has been essential to the growth of the industry. 

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Production Tax Credit “has succeeded in incentivizing an average of $15.5 billion a year in private investment in U.S. wind farms over the past five years.”

However, the tax credit is set by law to expire at the end of 2012 and despite a long battle, proponents of the credit have failed to get an extension of the subsides passed in to law.  As a result, the federal money will run out on December 31st, 2012,  leaving the economics of electricity generated from wind substantially changed.

With time running out and Fiscal Cliff debate dominating the agenda in Washington, the proposal by AWEA is a Hail Mary attempt to get an extension of tax credits passed in some form and perhaps buy more time to secure a more favorable deal for the industry at a later time.

The proposal would sunset the tax credit in 2018 after slowly reducing it for the next several years.

For projects put in service in:

  • 2013 – 100% of the 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour
  • 2014 – 90%
  • 2015 – 80%
  • 2016 – 70%
  • 2017 – 60%
  • 2018 – 60%
  • 2019 – Subsidy ends for projects coming on line this year and beyond.

Clearly the new proposal is not the kind of deal the wind energy industry would prefer.  But these are desperate times for an industry that despite years of government subsidies is not able to compete with other energy sources on a purely economic basis. 

Texas is the largest producer of wind electricity in the United States despite the fact that extremely low natural gas prices have meant cheap electricity for the state in recent years.  With electricity rates being so low, the state has struggled to insure there will be enough capacity to meet future demand for power.  This loss of federal subsidies for wind could further hinder the state’s efforts to gain more capacity.