Deep dive into the Great Global Energy Transition

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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
OK, I think its fair to say that I have been a bit of a techno-optimist on renewable energy for many years. And the growth in renewable tech, and its collapse in prices has been impressive. But US and global energy demand are HUGE, populations are growing AND demand per person is also growing.

I just found this 44 page report from an analyst at JP Morgan:

I think its pretty well done. I've called BS on a lot of Oil Major 'World Energy Outlooks' over the years, and my opinions haven't changed. I would say this report emphasizes the GAP between renewable energy as it exists today, which is CHEAP, but still very small, and the difficulties of meshing its energy into an existing grid and industrial user base. It also talks about slow adoption of EVs and the behavioral limits (such as most people using their EVs as a low-mileage second car).

Take a look if you are interested.

I have one minor complaint: The use of 'primary energy' to compare renewable energy supply versus energy demand is unduly pessimistic. electrification does reduce primary energy demand, period. There is no magic way around this, I just don't care too much about small headline numbers for renewable share of primary energy.

My major takeaway: The electrical grid, fossil fuel infrastructure and built environment (houses, car fleets) grew up together and don't have a lot fo flexibility or spare capacity. Example: retrofitting a house for a different heat source, and to be >2X as energy efficient is HARD and COSTLY, compared to building a new more efficient house (marginal cost increase for efficiency). A similar issue appears when we talk about grids, or vehicles (which need to simply be replaced, but which have long service lives). So even if the costs of renewable energy tech drop through the floor, and are capable of being scaled to meet primary energy needs, which I think has/is happening right now, the transition is still slow.

The transition will be faster to the extent that people can make money and jobs on the transition. And the problem is that energy is already so cheap, that it caps how much money we can save by transitioning.

What I liked/learned:
--Oil exploration budgets are slashed. Lots of folks say that undiscovered oil will stay in the ground. On p 30 they show that projected production of existing fields has a natural decline that is waaay faster than any projected fall in demand in the most optimistic scenarios. Makes sense but wow. Author thinks oil stocks are a hold/buy.

--I have been down on 'Carbon Taxes' as an unnecessary ruse for extending FF companies business models. After looking at this, I think we WILL need much more incentives than 'cheap renewables and batteries' to drive a rapid transition (for climate reasons). And a carbon tax would both PAY for such expenditures AND induce a price signal to motivate retrofitting. That is, assuming that all carbon tax revenue was used to fund decarbonization projects, and not raided for other purposes.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,533
South Puget Sound, WA
I don't disagree, but population growth is finally slowing and in some cases, not growing. Time will tell whether this is a trend or a pandemic-caused anomaly.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
I think it is relatively easy to project:

1. Falling prices for new technology, based upon learning curve (decreasing the price over time) and the cost of raw materials and energy inputs (which put a floor under that decreasing price).

2. The scale that technology can reach based upon available renewable resources and land.

And the fact is that grid solar and onshore wind are both stupid cheap ways to make electricity in 2021, and very scalable, as I have been predicting for much of the 13 years I have been here. Both are limited by battery storage costs, bare cell costs for Lithium batteries are getting close to that of basic lead acid batteries, while having way better properties, even for non-mobile applications. But its not clear that grid batteries will get 'stupid cheap' anytime soon, given demand for their use in EVs.

So we can project that grid solar and onshore wind can grow freely up to the limits set by their intermittancy (b/c no storage), which is probably around 20-30% of energy (20% without fast ramping gas plants, maybe 30% with). Nationally, onshore wind is almost 9% and grid solar 2% of energy. Coal is uneconomic, and still provides 20% of US electrical energy. We can phase that out, replace it with cheap (fracked) nat gas and renewables can double or triple in size, all without changing much. But getting much past a 50% carbon free grid (30% wind and solar, 20% nukes) will require some heavy govt mandates or carbon tax incentives or both, to pay for grid batteries and transmission upgrades and big offshore wind projects (depending on the region of the country).

Turnover with the built environment is harder to project:

The issue with legacy tech (FF heated homes, ICE cars, etc) slowing adoption shows the power of govt efficiency regulations and building codes for new construction. If more eff (or lower carbon) tech exists, and has lower projected cost of ownership (but maybe a slightly higher upfront) then mandate it. Whether its a higher CAFE standard for vehicles, or a HPWH standard. And then if people whine about the new thing, give them a rebate (e.g. on HPWHs) until it is the 'new standard'.

I also think that as the climate 'emergency' and awareness expands, esp among young consumers, they will start shopping with their feet....if they can choose an apt complex that has EV charging in the garage or not, they will; and apt owners will pay to have their parking wired (hopefully with a govt rebate). If a young couple is looking at a 1960 vintage house that burns 1000 gals of fuel oil per year, or another one that has been retrofitted to be 'all electric' and runs on a heat pump, they will choose the latter, and then sign up for 100% renewable electricity. I guess I think there is a tipping point there, when it comes to selling your house. Its no different than going, 'Carp, I should have this radon thing fixed and the asbestos tiles taken out before I try to sell'. So maybe some retrofits get done using home equity before it goes on the market...
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,533
South Puget Sound, WA
I don't see us getting there without the help of nuclear for baseload. I'd also like to see more geothermal locally.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
I:m fine with extending existing legacy nukes for a few decades, assuming that can be done safely. Building more? I haven't seen that pencil out cost wise, but who knows.

China agrees with you, and is building new nukes that will total 6% of their electricity.
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I hate always being the pessimist, but there's a lot that needs to happen to achieve a 50% reduction of 2005 emissions by 2030 as per the Biden administration goal. US carbon emissions are about the same today as they were in 2005, I don't see any possible way that can be cut in half in 9 years. The manufacturing facilities don't even exist to build enough wind turbines, solar panels, lithium batteries etc to achieve that timeline. The US is about to throw billions at the problem, but this doesn't solve the supply problem, solar cell prices could soon be like lumber prices, driven sky high by massive government subsidies where demand caused by subsidized projects far outpaces supply.

North America needs new lithium mines, new battery manufacturing facilities (I'm thinking 5 gigafactory sized facilities would be a good start), new solar cell facilities (also tied into energy independence, relying on China for this manufacturing isn't an intelligent move), copper mines, etc. If any of these facilities have to undergo the same regulatory and environmental scrutiny that fossil fuel projects currently face then shovels should hit the dirt in about 2030. IMO 2030 is gone, Canada and the US will miss most, if not all, the emission targets for that timeframe. We need to be realistic about this and create thorough plans for the 2035 and 2040 timelines.

The other item to discuss is carbon leakage, and it needs to be ensured manufacturing doesn't leave America for un-regulated zones, just to have those products manufactured in a carbon intensive manner and then imported back into the country.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
What I liked/learned:
--Oil exploration budgets are slashed. Lots of folks say that undiscovered oil will stay in the ground. On p 30 they show that projected production of existing fields has a natural decline that is waaay faster than any projected fall in demand in the most optimistic scenarios. Makes sense but wow. Author thinks oil stocks are a hold/buy.

That's not at all what the article states. It predicts that there will be very little in the way of stranded oil and gas assets by year 2070, which is unlike the IEA sustainable development prediction that is predicting large amounts of stranded oil and gas reserves.

JP Morgan also had a bullish call on the oil and gas sector last year, and it turned out correct with large returns, on average outperforming the overall market, they are also telling investors to stay in oil and gas stocks. The have noted that the US shale oil stocks were underperformers, mainly because of poor management and a supply glut driving down revenues. I see no reason as an investor to dump oil and gas stocks, I hold 35% of my portfolio in oil and gas, I'm certain I will make very profitable returns on this investment over the coming years.

I think this is the point many need to take away from this article: "Even in the IEA’s highly ambitious Sustainable Development scenario, world oil demand in 2040 is still twice the level of supply from existing fields. Is everyone sure that we should starve this industry of capital starting now?"
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
I hate always being the pessimist, but there's a lot that needs to happen to achieve a 50% reduction of 2005 emissions by 2030 as per the Biden administration goal. US carbon emissions are about the same today as they were in 2005, I don't see any possible way that can be cut in half in 9 years. The manufacturing facilities don't even exist to build enough wind turbines, solar panels, lithium batteries etc to achieve that timeline. The US is about to throw billions at the problem, but this doesn't solve the supply problem, solar cell prices could soon be like lumber prices, driven sky high by massive government subsidies where demand caused by subsidized projects far outpaces supply.

Pessimism is the point of this thread.

Dave Roberts has a small discussion about the Biden energy plan...

It links the following table:

Screen Shot 2021-05-17 at 6.35.30 AM.png

It suggests that a 50% reduction from 2005 levels is technically and politically doable, and represents a continuation of current trends. Mostly in reduction CO2 intensity of the US electricity sector: phasing out coal, and building out renewables, both of which have already reduced CO2 intensity of the US grid 30% from 2005 levels.

You can argue that the gains of the last 16 years were easier, and not easily repeated over the next 9, but I don't think that so...in 2005 onshore wind was just getting cheapish, solar was expensive and derided, offshore wind was a fantasy, Tesla didn't exist, and Toyota engineers had decided that Lithium was not suitable for automobile applications.

You COULD argue that the light transport goals (presumably from CAFE and EVs), which comprise nearly a quarter of the needed reduction are unrealistic, since CO2 from that sector has been flat from 2005 to 2021. That will require a scaling of EVs that may or may not be practical over 9 years (esp given the slow turnover of legacy vehicles). The US electricity grid IS low enough carbon intensity that EVs on current US average grid power are running about 80 mpg CO2 equivalent. and the trend suggests that operating CO2 emissions of EVS will fall further to the point of being comparable to the embodied CO2 of EV manufacturing. The auto majors are ramping their investments in EVs, but it remains to see how much of that is real vs. posturing for a current zeitgeist that could dissipate (along with Tesla's valuation) in a few disappointing years.

Anyway, the feasibility of the 50% by 2030 goals are very much the subject of this thread, Roberts thinks they are doable and not particularly ambitious, and will come down to (unknowable) followthrough by the govt after 2022 and 2024. The US has reduced its CO2 emissions by 12% 2005 to 2019, while growing the economy significantly. It seems likely that that trend can accelerate modestly 2019-2030.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
That's not at all what the article states. It predicts that there will be very little in the way of stranded oil and gas assets by year 2070, which is unlike the IEA sustainable development prediction that is predicting large amounts of stranded oil and gas reserves.

...

I think this is the point many need to take away from this article: "Even in the IEA’s highly ambitious Sustainable Development scenario, world oil demand in 2040 is still twice the level of supply from existing fields. Is everyone sure that we should starve this industry of capital starting now?"

I think we agree that oil demand in 2030 and 2040 is going to look a LOT like oil demand in 2019. It could be a little higher in 2030 or the same. It could be a little higher in 2040 or a little lower. The peak in global oil demand is going to be very flat.

Global demand went from 85 to 99 (MMBbl/day) from 2006 to 2019, a 16% increase in 13 years, while the global population and economy grew much faster than that. But even the oil majors agree that global demand will have a soft peak in the next 10-20 years.

But it remains to be seen which producers will be providing that oil, and at what price. Over the long term, that will be those with the lowest (currency exchange corrected) cost of production. The oil majors with the highest cost of production have a shaky future business model, esp compared to 2005, where they were unassailable TINAs.

It seems likely that we will see a few more price gyrations during the next 20 years while that shakes out.

I think the JPM pdf is calling BS on the "Amory Lovins' futurists projections on collapsing oil demand, and I (grudgingly) agree based upon current tea leaves. So maybe there was some overshoot in conventional wisdom (happens) and there is a big exploration and development undershoot that spikes prices. Or maybe Saudi can open the taps a bit and cap prices to limit US redevelopment. But it is not clear that Wall Street, twice burned, is eager to pour cash on the US shale oil business the way it has in the past...

We shall see.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,533
South Puget Sound, WA
North America needs new lithium mines, new battery manufacturing facilities (I'm thinking 5 gigafactory sized facilities would be a good start), new solar cell facilities (also tied into energy independence, relying on China for this manufacturing isn't an intelligent move), copper mines, etc. If any of these facilities have to undergo the same regulatory and environmental scrutiny that fossil fuel projects currently face then shovels should hit the dirt in about 2030. IMO 2030 is gone, Canada and the US will miss most, if not all, the emission targets for that timeframe. We need to be realistic about this and create thorough plans for the 2035 and 2040 timelines.
That is assuming lithium-based batteries are the future. There are developing technologies that may make our current best lithium-ion tech passé.

 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
That is assuming lithium-based batteries are the future. There are developing technologies that may make our current best lithium-ion tech passé.


I agree, and in my mind that's part of the reason to be hesitant on the rapid upscaling of current renewable tech, an improvement such as your example renders existing technologies and entire production processes and supply chain obsolete overnight.

The unfortunate thing is I can see corporate board rooms right now planning how to take advantage of this, the switch to renewable energy is their next target to make massive profits from planned obsolescence, just like cell phones, computers and automobiles already are today.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I think we agree that oil demand in 2030 and 2040 is going to look a LOT like oil demand in 2019. It could be a little higher in 2030 or the same. It could be a little higher in 2040 or a little lower. The peak in global oil demand is going to be very flat.

Global demand went from 85 to 99 (MMBbl/day) from 2006 to 2019, a 16% increase in 13 years, while the global population and economy grew much faster than that. But even the oil majors agree that global demand will have a soft peak in the next 10-20 years.

But it remains to be seen which producers will be providing that oil, and at what price. Over the long term, that will be those with the lowest (currency exchange corrected) cost of production. The oil majors with the highest cost of production have a shaky future business model, esp compared to 2005, where they were unassailable TINAs.

It seems likely that we will see a few more price gyrations during the next 20 years while that shakes out.

I think the JPM pdf is calling BS on the "Amory Lovins' futurists projections on collapsing oil demand, and I (grudgingly) agree based upon current tea leaves. So maybe there was some overshoot in conventional wisdom (happens) and there is a big exploration and development undershoot that spikes prices. Or maybe Saudi can open the taps a bit and cap prices to limit US redevelopment. But it is not clear that Wall Street, twice burned, is eager to pour cash on the US shale oil business the way it has in the past...

We shall see.

I think much of that will be proven true in coming years. Personally I am more for supporting domestic producers and ensuring jobs, incomes, taxes etc stay within North America instead of the import of oil from foreign entities, along with the security advantage of relying on domestic production.

The other concept I think others should consider is oil and gas companies should be looked at as energy companies. While there should be a push away from oil and gas, sentencing these companies to either die a slow death or having them dismantled and sold as the sum of their parts (as many people seem to wish for) seems like a wasted opportunity. Some of these companies have existing financial resources, and engineering and technological expertise that most renewable energy businesses could only dream of. Incentives (or reduced penalties) should be created to push these corporations to enter the renewables market, the capital and sheer productive effort behind many of these big players could make the renewable transition come much faster.

Alberta has some examples of these, where oil and gas companies have been pushed to enter the renewables market, and many of our first wind farms came about through this process. TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Pipelines) is the primary investor in Alberta's first pumped-hydro-storage facility, a facility not dissimilar to the industry in which they already operate and have construction expertise. A project that surely would never have been considered if not for the large capital investment from the oil and gas sector.

 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
I feel like a broken record. If you want to decrease carbon emissions, energy used, etc, insulate the houses. Its not hard, or expensive to blow cellulose. That accomplishes insulation and air sealing in 1 job. You cut heating expenses, you cut cooling expenses. This is realized immediately.

As a side benefit, there will be a healthier population too.

How do you get people to do it? Tax credits. Remove all barriers such as owner occupied, income, wealth, etc. Dollar spent, dollar credit.

It's not as sexy as discussing power generation or batteries, but you're not going to hit your goals if thats the only thing you're looking at.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
I feel like a broken record. If you want to decrease carbon emissions, energy used, etc, insulate the houses. Its not hard, or expensive to blow cellulose. That accomplishes insulation and air sealing in 1 job. You cut heating expenses, you cut cooling expenses. This is realized immediately.

Totally agree Matt. This addresses one of the 'sticky' large FF primary energy demands the paper author is skeptical we can quickly fix: existing residential heating and cooling.

I went from >1000 gal/year fuel oil for heat to a 4 ton ASHP and 10,000 kWh of windpower for heat. Airsealing and cellulose were key to getting a 50% reduction in BTU/hr°F for my house first. Without that, I would've needed 8 tons (at least when the wind was blowing) and used 15-20,000 kWh/yr.

When I did this in 2008-2010, all the contractors thought I was crazy, all this 'oil/hydronic heat is the best' and 'you'll regret it and go back' BS. It was HARD to do this back then, bc the tech was more primitive (my installer wired the HP to turn off at 40°F outdoor temp and switch to strips, bc that was his career-long SOP, fewer callbacks, sigh). I had to almost get a certificate in building science myself to manage the envelope improvements.

What is needed is a bunch of contractors who are well trained to do these kinds of retrofits, and to electrify more residential heating to low carbon grid power. These people exist, but their numbers need to be expanded 10X.

Funding for just this IS in the infrastructure plan being discussed right now.

And honestly, getting people to do it in an age of very cheap nat gas is hard. It will not have a fast payback at all...it needs to be funded by the govt. The only alternative would be a carbon tax on nat gas, that makes it favorable to switch.
 
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EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
I wouldn't even worry about the natural gas boilers and furnaces. The insulation will require the old, inefficient units to short cycle and break. Simply require a heat loss calc to be done and an appropriately sized unit put in.

I added 50% to the size of my house by building out my attic, and was still able to go from a 115k btu to a 13-45k but unit. Tuning further decreased it to where the max heat it puts out is in the mid 20s. Repeat that and there will be a huge reduction of gas burnt.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
I wouldn't even worry about the natural gas boilers and furnaces. The insulation will require the old, inefficient units to short cycle and break. Simply require a heat loss calc to be done and an appropriately sized unit put in.

I added 50% to the size of my house by building out my attic, and was still able to go from a 115k btu to a 13-45k but unit. Tuning further decreased it to where the max heat it puts out is in the mid 20s. Repeat that and there will be a huge reduction of gas burnt.

What you are saying makes sense, but I think needs to be updated to realize near future climate goals. Current plans are to at least significantly decarbonize the US grid the next 10-15 years, which is far less than the lifetime of a FF furnace or boiler. The primer movers (wind and solar) feeding that new grid are going to be very cheap sources, marked up to an unknown degree by the costs of grid storage and expanded transmission. So a ASHP space heating solution should be cost effective to operate going forward, or even cheaper in a (future) carbon tax environment than FF heaters.

In that situation, the cost of swapping equipment becomes the impediment (before the equipment fails from age). Installing a new FF heating source is baking in emissions 20-30 years from now that could be avoided by choosing a HP in the next replacement cycle and in new construction.

I agree completely about the advantages of retrofitting the envelopes of existing houses, in particular houses built before 1990 or so. Dropping demand levels (and peak demand in leaky homes from winter winds) allows a smaller/cheaper HP to be installed, saving up front as well as operating costs. And as you pointed out, improves health and comfort. Dropping an underpowered HP in a drafty, poorly insulated house IS a comfort issue....after retrofitting, much less so.

The chart above says that Residential buildings are 10% of US CO2 emissions, and that is mostly space heating.

But older houses are only one one part of that...there are a TON of newer houses with decent insulation and air sealing that can't be easily improved by simple retrofitting. And those will need to migrate to HPs at the next replacement cycle too.

Yup. That's what I'm saying... we need to ditch FF heaters in new construction, and in lifecycle replacement in existing housing stock. Either by subsidy (tax rebates), penalties (carbon tax) or regulation (install bans). And even if we do all that, the transition will take until 2050.
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
What I really struggle with is finding justification for using renewable electricity and heat pumps is in regions that experience extreme cold. Air source pumps simply don't work here when needed most in the depths of winter, which means using resistive electric further straining the grid, or using a fossil based back up. Ground sourced would be an option, but many of our city lots (including mine) are really too small to make practical use of ground sourced heat. On a small lot it raises concern if we could create a man-made permafrost of sorts after many years of extracting heat from the ground beneath the house, creating concerns with frost heaving and such. I guess it would be possible to use solar or air based heat extractors to rewarm the ground in summer, but this is becoming a convoluted system for a single family home.

Another issue I really see is pushing our provincial grid beyond 50% renewable generation on an annual basis. In the summer achieving high renewable generation is easy, PV and wind can do the bulk of the work with batteries and pumped hydro storing excess for times of need. The winter becomes a whole other matter, it's really difficult to generate considerable energy from PV with only 1/4 the solar energy of the summer spread over an 8 hour daily window with panels covered in snow. Wind works occasionally, but again not to the same level as in the summer time. Pumped hydro can also help store excess supply, but eventually when pumping the same water back and forth between 2 reservoirs in -40 temperatures the water becomes too solid to pump.

Without Nuclear power (which there is very little public support for here) fossil fuels in the form of natural gas become the backup source. Which is for now, why I'm against the use of electric heat in our region, it really doesn't make sense to generate electricity in a 40%-60% efficient natural gas plant just to use for heating. When I can burn that same natural gas in my 95% efficient condensing forced air furnace to heat my home, with much less required infrastructure and completely avoid the energy storage issues of electricity. Now this is where it would make sense to step in and suggest a heat pump and still gain an efficiency advantage over simple hydrocarbon combustion, but back to the start of this post, I can't find justification to believe there is a system that will work effectively in the majority of homes in this climate. Never mind once the costs of the system are factored in.
 
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EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
You bring up a really good point.

I wonder if a greenhouse like enclosure around a well placed heat pump would extend their effective range? On a very cold day, in my area, -12F, if the atmosphere around the heat exchanger could be kept around 30, would the unit act as if it was a 30 degree winter day?

As a side note, we just witnessed what can happen to electric prices in TX when the weather gets bad, and gas prices/availability when the accounting office has software issues. Is it really in our best interest to have everybody on the same fuel source?
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,385
SE PA
What I really struggle with is finding justification for using renewable electricity and heat pumps is in regions that experience extreme cold. Air source pumps simply don't work here when needed most in the depths of winter, which means using resistive electric further straining the grid, or using a fossil based back up. Ground sourced would be an option, but many of our city lots (including mine) are really too small to make practical use of ground sourced heat. On a small lot it raises concern if we could create a man-made permafrost of sorts after many years of extracting heat from the ground beneath the house, creating concerns with frost heaving and such. I guess it would be possible to use solar or air based heat extractors to rewarm the ground in summer, but this is becoming a convoluted system for a single family home.

I agree completely that existing ASHPs are not currently real options for Alberta, the upper midwest or upper mountain states in the US, where a large fraction of heating BTU must be delivered at below 10°F air temp. Getting to a 100% renewable energy system requires a different portfolio of technology in different regions. And as you point out, the problem with renewables is not so much daily variation/storage as seasonal.

For example, in the 'greater NorthEast' say, East of the Mississippi and North of the Mason-Dixon line, the solar resource is dreadful during most of the heating season, bc of seasonal cloud cover. And ofc, space heating is the largest seasonal energy demand. And if there were high EV penetration, their demand ALSO peaks in the winter, by 40-60% higher kWh/mi. Yet there is enough solar in the summer to qualify as a good solar resource on an annual basis. So current solar owners can 'bank' kWhs by net metering, and 'get them back' for winter heating with ASHPs, but ofc this is NOT real seasonal storage, and not feasible in a future high solar, high ASHP penetration scenario.

There are three projected solutions to this (1) reduce winter energy demand, e.g. by insulation improvements, as Matt describes (2) have large offshore wind arrays in the mix and (3) have inter-regional long distance electrical transmission, e.g. from solar farms in the southeast US or large Hydro in Eastern Canada (if they had any seasonal excess).

Unlike the relatively simple task of increasing solar and wind up to say 30% total electrical energy, implementing the (3) ideas above on the necessary scale is hard, expensive and slow. So IMO getting to >~30% renewable US grid by 2030 IS doable, with a grid similar to what we have now, but getting to a 0% carbon grid by 2050 looks to be far more difficult.

Of those 3 solutions, demand reduction is possible, but will require lots of time, and needs to start sooner rather than later, and in conjunction with electrification of heating. US Offshore is now penciling out at $0.10/kWh, which is high, but should fall considerably with learning curve and continued upscaling of the machines by the 2030-40s. (Upscaling works for onshore too, but transport of parts limits the current size of blades/towers/etc). Inter-regional long distance transmission is a 'deus ex machina' solution IMO, and I am skeptical about it until I see it in practice at scale.

As for Alberta, I agree that geo as it currently done is not sustainable. That said, I disagree about the idea of pushing heat into the ground in the summer (and dumping the coolth). With any reasonable solar deployment, summer electricity costs would be CHEAP, and geos can easily be equipped with a small outdoor air coil and a simple controller. Seasonal heat storage is actually possible, for a zero net BTU system, and warming the ground would boost winter COP. Such systems could be engineered and at scale could have lower and more reasonable costs per ton than current 'bespoke' installs for rich clients.

But of course significant demand reduction via superinsulation would bring system costs down. And ofc ASHPs will improve...I think the best ones manage a real world COP of 2 or so at 10°F, and the thermodynamic limits are MUCH higher than that (>5). I think their current poor cold weather performance is due to lack of a market for engineering better machines.

As for renewable energy, if you don't want to buy offshore from BC, you do have a lot of real estate for onshore wind. Is that resource really so bad in the winter?

Beyond all of this, there is biomass (e.g. bulk delivery pelletized systems as in Scandinavia) or (gasp) hydrogen, which both the Germans and Japanese are betting on for seasonal storage. I think the falling prices of wind+HPs will outcompete hydrogen.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,190
SE North Carolina
We can’t efficiently size any single heating system for the coldest 14 days a year. I really don’t see thermal storage as residential solution so the green solution is resistive electric heat. The greeness relies here on building code and mandates for greener power generation. Texas this winter is going to be a very useful case study. Setting aside grid failures and just looking at how much heat they needed it looks like the weekly heating degree days for that terrible week were twice as many as the second coldest week that year. Here is the link to get the data. https://www.degreedays.net

roughly we could assume heating demand was doubled from that of the second coldest week. There is no way a correctly sized heatpump could meet that demand. I argue that if you are not a regular wood burner the best way to make up some of that demand is resistive electric. It is cheap to install and the equipment has a very long lifespan. Is it going to be to expensive run, yes but if it’s only two weeks a year we just need to come to terms with the extra cost. Make it green by using renewable power generation


Peaking power is now more critical than ever and making it green is important. Last time I read up on Australia’s battery installation the economics arguments presented were very persuasive not to mention the green side.
Energy and infrastructure policy are critical and not given enough of a priority by many governments and citizens in general. Having this be a top priority issue that outlasts any single administration is critical. Consistent and comprehensive policy and regulations are the only way to achieve this and it will be expensive up front like any efficiency improvements but will pay for itself in the long term.
Evan
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I agree completely that existing ASHPs are not currently real options for Alberta, the upper midwest or upper mountain states in the US, where a large fraction of heating BTU must be delivered at below 10°F air temp. Getting to a 100% renewable energy system requires a different portfolio of technology in different regions. And as you point out, the problem with renewables is not so much daily variation/storage as seasonal.

For example, in the 'greater NorthEast' say, East of the Mississippi and North of the Mason-Dixon line, the solar resource is dreadful during most of the heating season, bc of seasonal cloud cover. And ofc, space heating is the largest seasonal energy demand. And if there were high EV penetration, their demand ALSO peaks in the winter, by 40-60% higher kWh/mi. Yet there is enough solar in the summer to qualify as a good solar resource on an annual basis. So current solar owners can 'bank' kWhs by net metering, and 'get them back' for winter heating with ASHPs, but ofc this is NOT real seasonal storage, and not feasible in a future high solar, high ASHP penetration scenario.

There are three projected solutions to this (1) reduce winter energy demand, e.g. by insulation improvements, as Matt describes (2) have large offshore wind arrays in the mix and (3) have inter-regional long distance electrical transmission, e.g. from solar farms in the southeast US or large Hydro in Eastern Canada (if they had any seasonal excess).

Unlike the relatively simple task of increasing solar and wind up to say 30% total electrical energy, implementing the (3) ideas above on the necessary scale is hard, expensive and slow. So IMO getting to >~30% renewable US grid by 2030 IS doable, with a grid similar to what we have now, but getting to a 0% carbon grid by 2050 looks to be far more difficult.

Of those 3 solutions, demand reduction is possible, but will require lots of time, and needs to start sooner rather than later, and in conjunction with electrification of heating. US Offshore is now penciling out at $0.10/kWh, which is high, but should fall considerably with learning curve and continued upscaling of the machines by the 2030-40s. (Upscaling works for onshore too, but transport of parts limits the current size of blades/towers/etc). Inter-regional long distance transmission is a 'deus ex machina' solution IMO, and I am skeptical about it until I see it in practice at scale.

As for Alberta, I agree that geo as it currently done is not sustainable. That said, I disagree about the idea of pushing heat into the ground in the summer (and dumping the coolth). With any reasonable solar deployment, summer electricity costs would be CHEAP, and geos can easily be equipped with a small outdoor air coil and a simple controller. Seasonal heat storage is actually possible, for a zero net BTU system, and warming the ground would boost winter COP. Such systems could be engineered and at scale could have lower and more reasonable costs per ton than current 'bespoke' installs for rich clients.

But of course significant demand reduction via superinsulation would bring system costs down. And ofc ASHPs will improve...I think the best ones manage a real world COP of 2 or so at 10°F, and the thermodynamic limits are MUCH higher than that (>5). I think their current poor cold weather performance is due to lack of a market for engineering better machines.

As for renewable energy, if you don't want to buy offshore from BC, you do have a lot of real estate for onshore wind. Is that resource really so bad in the winter?

Beyond all of this, there is biomass (e.g. bulk delivery pelletized systems as in Scandinavia) or (gasp) hydrogen, which both the Germans and Japanese are betting on for seasonal storage. I think the falling prices of wind+HPs will outcompete hydrogen.

Wind speeds here in winter can really follow the temperatures. Our lowest temperatures are usually brought about by artic high pressure systems, which come with periods of atmospheric stagnation and no wind.

I'd like to say we could rely on the hydro generation of Quebec or BC, but unfortunately politics get involved here and political motives far too often displace logical decision making in these scenarios. I know there is some rumblings of a coast to coast HVDC powerline to ease the strain on some areas of the country, and better utilize renewable resources. Quebec was even offered subsidies to build transmission connections to neighboring provinces to help share their hydro power, which their utility promptly turned down, rather wanting to sell power to the US.

Hydrogen is something being tried here as well, there is a pilot project in one city where hydrogen is being mixed with the natural gas supply to lower carbon intensity.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,070
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
You bring up a really good point.

I wonder if a greenhouse like enclosure around a well placed heat pump would extend their effective range? On a very cold day, in my area, -12F, if the atmosphere around the heat exchanger could be kept around 30, would the unit act as if it was a 30 degree winter day?

As a side note, we just witnessed what can happen to electric prices in TX when the weather gets bad, and gas prices/availability when the accounting office has software issues. Is it really in our best interest to have everybody on the same fuel source?

Maybe in some areas, really depends on how insulated your greenhouse is and how much heat you get from the sun.

In my area the sun is a mere 32 degrees above the horizon at noon in December-January, there is very little heat in the short amount of daylight we get to do any appreciable heating.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,190
SE North Carolina
Maybe in some areas, really depends on how insulated your greenhouse is and how much heat you get from the sun.

In my area the sun is a mere 32 degrees above the horizon at noon in December-January, there is very little heat in the short amount of daylight we get to do any appreciable heating.
Air just doesn’t hold much heat. So if you compressor coil fan runs at say 1000 cfm ( may not be realistic but it’s easy math) a 20x20x10 green house contains 4 minutes of air. Say it takes 4 exchanges to extract all the solar heat gains your compressor can only run 16 minutes before it has moved all the heat and now it’s just like being outside.
I think energy storage is really important but we need to think on the largest scale possible. 100s of mega watt hours. Oh and insulate the crap out of our structures.