News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, September 14

– “A Review on Energy, Environmental, and Sustainability Implications of Connected and Automated Vehicles” was accepted by Environmental Science and Technology last week, featuring Ming Xu.

– This week’s Energy Economics Briefing: Shining a Light on Coal Consumption. Learn more about the briefings, and sign up to receive them each week, here.

-Congratulations to Shima Nazari, Jason Siegel and Anna Stefanopoulou for receiving the Best Paper Award in the 2018 IEEE Vehicle Power and Propulsion Conference for their paper titled “Optimal Energy Management for a Hybrid Electric Vehicle With a Power Split Supercharger.”

Got news to share? Drop us an email to be featured in Energy in the News.


Correction: Carbon fee-Washington story

The New York Times, feat. Barry Rabe

Voters in Washington state will be asked this fall to do what state and federal leaders have been reluctant to: charge a direct fee on carbon pollution to fight climate change.

If the ballot measure passes, it will be the first direct fee or tax charged on carbon emissions in the U.S.

Experts say it will prove states can take action even if the Trump administration doesn’t, and nudge other states to follow.

Initiative 1631 would charge industrial emitters that use or sell fossil fuels in the state for every metric ton of carbon emissions. The fee starts in 2020 at $15 per metric ton and increases $2 a year. It stops in 2035 if the state meets its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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How a battle to build the best weather model impacts everyone on Earth

Gizmodo, feat. Richard Rood

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most destructive storms in US history. But beyond the catastrophic losses of life and property, the storm also dealt a blow to the American weather modelling community. The American weather model whiffed on the initial forecast, but its European counterpart was dead on.

Nearly six years later and the phrase “the Euro nailed Sandy” is still a running joke in the meteorological community, shorthand for both the continued superiority of the European model’s ability to predict major weather events like hurricanes while also mocking people who obsess over a model that has its own deficiencies and occasional high profile whiffs. Behind the scenes, though, the weather modelling arms race is heating up with the American model getting a major upgrade early next year.

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The Colorado River is evaporating, and climate change is largely to blame

Mashable, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

An hour’s drive from Las Vegas stands America’s Hoover Dam, a commanding barrier of concrete holding back the trillions of gallons of Colorado River water held inside Lake Mead.

The dam is a proud place, built by thousands of hands and with 5 million barrels of concrete. Its golden elevator doors, Gotham-esque pillars, and stoic guardian angel statues line the lofty walkways atop the structure. A U.S. flag beating patriotically over the desert gets swapped out every few days, and then put out for sale in the visitor center.

Yet, in the 80 years since the great dam’s completion, the 1,450-mile Colorado River – which sustains some 40 million Americans in places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles — has been gradually growing weaker, and the water level beyond the noble dam has fallen considerably over the last two decades. The writing is easily spotted on the steep rocky walls of the Lake Mead reservoir, where a bathtub-like ring shows where the water once sat during more fruitful times.

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More from Jonathan Overpeck this week:

Less snow prompts push to lengthen Grand Canyon visit season, The Washington Post, feat. Jonathan Overpeck, Read more

Winds confound scientists’ ability to predict Hurricane Florence, The Wall Street Journal, feat. Jonathan Overpeck, Read more

Environmental group raises concerns over new natural gas turbine

The Michigan Daily, feat. Adam Simon

With a new natural gas turbine in the works at the University of Michigan, environmentalists have expressed concerns over the University’s continued investment in fossil fuel-based energy.

The Board of Regents approved an $80 million expansion to the Central Power Plant in March 2017, which serves as the main source of heat and energy for the Central and Medical Campus buildings. The project includes the addition of a natural gas turbine to the plant, which the University says will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80,000 metric tons a year.

According to the University press release last year, the installation would help get the University halfway to its 2025 goal of reducing campus emissions by 25 percent.

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In Review: Summer research tackles fake news, gun violence, autonomous vehicles

The Michigan Daily, feat. Huei Peng

Lastly, this June U-M researchers launched the first driverless shuttle on North Campus. The University’s Mcity analyzes user behavior research and data collection to further autonomous vehicle research. Mcity Director Huei Peng, a professor of Mechanical Engineering, said the project’s data collection will help researchers to better understand vehicle performance, roadway interactions and passenger attitudes.

“The ultimate goal is long-term deployment of driverless shuttles in the real world,” Peng said.

The two Mcity shuttles roaming around North Campus have advanced technology to help the vehicle drive safely and smoothly. The shuttles are equipped with interior and exterior sensors as well as cameras to capture passenger behavior and maintain security. Mcity conducted 500 hours of training and about 1,000 test runs, according to University press release.

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The week in energy: Dirty oil, clean oil

Financial Times, feat. Catherine Hausman and Daniel Raimi

All forms of oil production contribute to global warming, but some contribute more than others. Producing, transporting and refining crude oil typically accounts for 15-40 per cent of the total greenhouse gases released by transport fuels, and different reserves can be associated with very different levels of emissions. Heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands is sometimes described as “the dirtiest oil on earth”, in part because of the large volumes of carbon dioxide emitted when it is extracted and processed.

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Schools nationwide grapple with costly fixes to lead-tainted drinking water

The Detroit Free Press, feat. Thomas Lyon

Meanwhile, neither federal law nor many states require schools to test their water. The EPA regulates public water systems, requiring they control the corrosivity of the water and collect tap samples from some sites. But there is no federal law that requires schools that rely on these systems to test their water, according to a July report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report estimated — based on the results of a survey conducted in 2017 — that 43 percent of schools in the nation had tested their water for lead in 2016 and 2017, after the Flint water crisis grabbed national headlines. Of the rest, 41 percent hadn’t tested and 16 percent didn’t know whether tests had been done.

Of those that did test, 37 percent found elevated lead.

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You’ve heard of outsourced jobs, but outsourced pollution? It’s real, and tough to tally up

The New York Times

Dr. Hasanbeigi is an author of a new report on the global carbon trade, which estimates that 25 percent of the world’s total emissions are now being outsourced in this manner. The report, written with the consulting firm KGM & Associates and ClimateWorks, calls this a “carbon loophole,” since countries rarely scrutinize the carbon footprint of the goods they import.

That may be changing. Last fall, California’s lawmakers took an early stab at confronting the issue by setting new low-carbon standards on the steel the state buys for its infrastructure projects. But dealing with imported emissions remains a thorny problem.

Some environmentalists see it as the next frontier of climate policy.

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Moniz group launches ‘substantial’ CO2 air capture project

E&E Greenwire

A think tank led by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced today it is developing a federal plan to promote technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Energy Futures Initiative’s air-capture project aims to bring new focus and dollars to an idea that proponents say is necessary to hit long-term climate targets. Supporters say carbon-removal strategies are an important step toward decarbonizing the energy sector by the end of the century.

The goal, EFI said, is development of a proposal “that is housed at the federal level and includes a research portfolio, organization and management arrangement and budget planning to implement a robust multi-agency technological CDR [carbon dioxide removal] initiative that can develop and demonstrate new technological options and lead to a significant reduction in atmosphere concentrations.”

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Michigan utility moves forward with gas plant amid legal challenge

Energy News Network

As DTE Energy prepares the site for a new $1 billion natural gas power plant near Detroit, several questions remain for the contested project.

A legal appeal by environmental groups could send the 1,150 megawatt project back to the Michigan Public Service Commission for reconsideration, which might affect the project’s timeline — and potentially its viability.

The Blue Water Energy Center would be built in St. Clair County near the company’s Belle River coal plant. DTE says it will be the most fuel-efficient combined cycle gas power plant in the state once it’s operational in 2022.

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Coal is the most-used electricity generation source in 18 states; natural gas in 16

U.S. Energy Information Administration

Electricity generators that use fossil fuels continue to be the most common sources of electricity generation in most states. In all but 15 states, coal, natural gas, or petroleum liquids were the most-used electricity generation fuel in 2017. Since 2007, the number of states where coal was the most prevalent electricity generation fuel has fallen as natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectricity have gained market share.

In 2017, coal provided the largest generation share in 18 states, down from 28 states in 2007. Natural gas had the largest share in 16 states, up from 11 in 2007. Petroleum remained the largest generation share in only one state—Hawaii—providing 62% of the state’s electricity generation in 2017. For the United States as a whole, natural gas provided 32% of total electricity generation in 2017, slightly higher than coal’s 30% share.

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Utility solar procurement booms as the residential market stabilizes in Q2 2018

Greentech Media

The U.S. solar market has experienced a tumultuous few quarters since the government last year began considering tariffs on imported solar modules and cells, but data for the second quarter of 2018 show signs of a turnaround in the market.

Utility solar project procurement soared in Q2 2018 as component prices declined and home solar installations steadied after a 15 percent contraction last year, according to the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (previously known as GTM Research) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

This is the first quarter where the data clearly show that tariffs took a bite out of the solar market. Some previously-announced projects were canceled or delayed due to the tariffs. In Q2 2018, the U.S. market installed 2.3 gigawatts (DC) of solar PV, a 9 percent year-over-year decrease and a 7 percent quarter-over-quarter decrease, despite the fact that module prices fell sharply in Q2 due to lower demand in China.

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China’s Tesla wannabe tests investor taste for electric cars

E&E Energywire

The global excitement about electric cars faced a test in New York yesterday. So far, it’s off to a bumpy start.

China’s NIO Inc., which seeks to take on the likes of Tesla Inc., started trading on the New York Stock Exchange after raising about $1 billion selling American depositary shares at $6.26 apiece. The electric-car maker, backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., priced the stock near the low end of its offering amid the tumult in Tesla shares, a global trade war and investor qualms over its manufacturing capabilities and profitability.

The shares opened in New York trading at $6 and quickly dropped as low as $5.35 before rebounding. The shares traded at $6 again at 10:51 a.m.

The sale, which initially valued NIO at about $6.4 billion, will test investor appetite for electric-car makers vying to become a homegrown answer to Tesla in China, where government incentives have helped the country become the world’s biggest market for clean-energy vehicles. The IPO may also be a bellwether for a clutch of Chinese startups such as Byton and Xpeng Motors Technology Ltd., which intend to compete with BMW AG and Daimler AG in convincing customers to switch to battery-powered cars.

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Q&A: Why cement emissions matter for climate change

Carbon Brief

If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world.

In 2015, it generated around 2.8bn tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 8% of the global total – a greater share than any country other than China or the US.

Cement use is set to rise as global urbanisation and economic development increases demand for new buildings and infrastructure. Along with other parts of the global economy, the cement industry will need to dramatically cut its emissions to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. However, only limited progress has been made so far.

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Bipartisan senators seek to revive nuclear energy investment

Utility Dive

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced a nuclear energy bill with a group of bipartisan senators Thursday, seeking more action from the Department of Energy (DOE) in support of advanced nuclear energy goals.

The bill would extend the maximum length for federal power purchase agreements (PPA) from 10 years to 40, to accommodate the long life and costs of nuclear plants.

The bill also seeks to enhance federal investment in the nuclear industry, establishing facilities to test and develop advanced nuclear reactors and to develop domestic capabilities to produce the type of uranium needed for advanced reactors.

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