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Energy in the News: Friday, October 5

Barry Rabe discusses his book Can We Price Carbon? Moderated by John Milewski. October, 2018.

-This week’s Energy Economics Briefing: China New Energy. Learn more about the briefings, and sign up to receive them each week, here.

University of Michigan president sets sights on net carbon neutrality

MLive

While the University of Michigan has had some struggles in its pursuit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus, President Mark Schlissel says he won’t back down from his goal of making UM a greener campus.

He upped the ante Thursday, Oct. 4 during a leadership breakfast, announcing a new target of achieving net carbon neutrality on campus, and plans to appoint a presidential commission tasked with developing the plan.

Schlissel said he hopes to include UM experts from the School for Environment and Sustainability and the university’s Graham, Erb and Energy Institutes.

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Additional coverage of this topic:

U of M President announces new carbon neutrality goal, Michigan Radio, Read more

Climate researchers: More green space, less biofuel

United Press International, feat. John DeCicco

When burned, many low-carbon biofuels have a much smaller impact on the atmosphere than fossil fuels. But the development or conversion of land for the production of biofuel crops can negatively impact the environment.

“Current policies advancing bioenergy contribute to the pressure to convert natural land into harvested forest or cropland,” DeCicco said in a news release. “But high quality land is a limited resource. For reducing atmospheric CO2, the most efficient use of ecologically productive land is to leave it alone, or reforest it. Let it act as a natural, long-term carbon sink.”

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From ponds to power: $2M to perfect algae as diesel fuel

University of Michigan News, feat. Andre Boehman and Brad Cardinale

With $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Michigan researchers aim to make the long-touted promise of algae as a biofuel source for diesel engines into a reality.

Their goal: create biofuels that work with existing diesel engines and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent, compared with normal diesel fuels. To do that, they will work with colleagues at Penn State University on a three-year project to perform an end-to-end evaluation of how best to grow algae, transform it into a diesel fuel and maximize its performance during the combustion process.

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Applications for energy assistance to be open all year starting Oct. 1

Michigan Radio, feat. Tony Reames

Applications for energy assistance in Michigan will be open all year round starting Monday, October 1.

Until now, people could only apply for the assistance between November and May — the state’s designated energy crisis season.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will also start processing all applications, in the hope that this new system will streamline the application process and give their grantee organizations the ability to focus on helping recipients become self-sufficient.

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Nearly $200k mobility grant awarded to Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority

MLive, feat. UMTRI

Mobility gaps for seniors, people with disabilities and veterans are the focus of a grant going to The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

AAATA, or TheRide, was awarded $187,000 of the $8 million Michigan Mobility Challenge grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The grants were announced on Friday, Sept. 28.

TheRide is partnering with the Center for Independent Living, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and Q’Straint, a global leader in manufacturing wheelchair securement systems, to use its grant funds for testing autonomous securement of wheelchairs on 10 of its buses.

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Enbridge to build $350M tunnel to protect Line 5 in Straits of Mackinac

Bridge MI

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has ended months of speculation and about the fate of Line 5, Enbridge Energy’s oil and gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac and a magnet for environmental concerns.

Tunnel it is.

Enbridge plans to swap out the 65-year-old Straits section for new pipe to be buried hundreds of feet below the lake surface — and the Canadian pipeline giant would fund it under a deal with the State of Michigan signed Wednesday and subject to other regulatory approvals.

The agreement would also bolster protections for vulnerable water crossings outside of the Straits, state officials said.

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Additional coverage of this topic:

Enbridge deal would replace a troubled Great Lakes pipeline, but when? InsideClimate News, Read more

For now, at least, the world isn’t making enough batteries

Bloomberg

Data on the global supply of batteries is hard to come by, but close observers of the industry have noticed evidence of the shortfall. “We’ve never seen such demand,” said Yayoi Sekine, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg NEF. “But the supply is struggling to keep up.”

Oddly, however, lithium-ion battery-rack prices have continued their annual decline, even in the face of constrained supply and expectations of ever-growing demand.

To get a clear sense of the near future, consider battery-powered cars: Today, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide; by 2025, Volkswagen AG alone plans to build as many as 3 million electric vehicles per year. Those vehicle batteries—in addition to storage batteries for homes, businesses and utilities—will have to come from somewhere.

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Microgrids slowly make inroads in Midwest, with Illinois taking the lead

Energy News Network

“In terms of capacity, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota are the only three Midwestern states that are in the top 25 of U.S. states,” said Johnathon de Villier, a Navigant research analyst.

The number one barrier facing microgrids — especially utility-scale microgrids — in the region is the low cost of power.

“The Midwest is a real barren wasteland for microgrids,” David Chiesa, senior director global business development at S&C Electric, an electric power systems company based in Chicago. “If you look at the cost of power in the area — 8 or 9 cents per kilowatt hour is your residential average. If you are a large power user, they don’t even charge you as much as that.”

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EnergySage finds $236 million tax on solar due to Section 201 tariffs

PV Magazine

The report outlines that the $236 million tax on solar is a reflection of both the section 201 tariffs and the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (USITC’s) finding of injury to U.S. solar manufacturers in September 2017. In the two months following the ruling, EnergySage found in their marketplace a $0.07 spike in the average cost-per-watt of a residential system. And, while there has been a decline total solar costs since that peak point in November at 0.5% per month, it has been much slower than the anticipated pre-ruling decline.

EnergySage found that customers during this half-year period saw installation prices 5.6% higher on average than they would have expected without the tariffs and USITC decision. This works out to a $0.16 per-watt increase for the average customer over this time, which, when applied to the typical 6kW residential system, becomes a $960 tax on new residential solar systems.

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Climeworks has opened a third plant capturing carbon dioxide from the air

Quartz

Climeworks has built and operated DAC plants for more than a year. In May 2017, it launched its first one, capable of capturing 900 metric tons annually, in Zurich, Switzerland. The carbon dioxide captured was fed to a greenhouse, which boosted the growth of the plants inside it. Last year, the company began operating the second, capturing 50 metric tons each year, near a geothermal power plant in Hellisheidi, Iceland. The captured gas is injected underground along with water, where it reacts with basalt rocks and turns into rock in less than two years.

Today, Quartz can report for the first time, Climeworks has launched a third plant in Troia, Italy. Each year, it will capture 150 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which will be converted to methane—a major component of natural gas—and used to power trucks running on “green gas.” The process requires hydrogen, which is produced by splitting water using electricity generated by solar panels.

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EPA MATS rollback threatens DOE carbon capture priorities, critics warn

Utility Dive

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rewrite of mercury emission rules for coal plants could increase costs for the generators to use carbon capture, backers of the pollution-reducing technology warned Tuesday.

The cost increase would be a secondary impact of the EPA’s changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), sent to the White House for review last week. Critics say the plan could threaten separate administration efforts to make carbon capture more accessible for struggling U.S. coal plants.

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Trump signs bill to speed up nuclear reactor development

Post Register

A bill meant to speed up the development of advanced nuclear reactors is now law.

President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act on Friday. The bill, which was sponsored by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, directs the U.S. Department of Energy to open its research infrastructure to national laboratories, academia and the private sector.

The bill also creates a program where DOE and national laboratories will support the testing and demonstration of reactor concepts that are proposed and funded by private companies.

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Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100

The Washington Post

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed. The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly four degree Celsius or seven degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming, the analysis states. And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

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