Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million Beyond Carbon campaign includes a goal to “stop the construction of new gas plants,” reasoning that by the time they would be built, they would be “out of date because renewable energy will be cheaper,” according to an opinion piece Mr. Bloomberg published on Bloomberg News.
Under the plan, renewables would replace 150 proposed gas units totaling 86 gigawatts of capacity, as shown in a map provided by the Sierra Club, a major partner in Beyond Carbon.
The proposed gas units are largely in five states: Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, where gas pipeline expansions are planned, and Ohio and Pennsylvania, “in the fracking areas of Appalachia,” said Sierra Club Regional Campaign Director Holly Bender in a pv magazine interview. (The map does not show proposed gas units in a given state where a site has not yet been proposed—as in North Carolina and Virginia.)
The United States currently has 530 GW of gas units, said Ms. Bender, adding that “unfortunately, new plants continue to be proposed” beyond the 82 GW now on the drawing boards.
To stop new gas plants, the Sierra Club will engage in regulatory proceedings that evaluate utility integrated resource plans and certificate of need filings, said Ms. Bender. “We need to ensure that in every venue, we’re advocating for fair modeling and fair assumptions.”
In deregulated markets, the Sierra Club will work for fair measurement of capacity needs, Ms. Bender said, and oppose proposed rules that would prevent clean energy sources from participating in the capacity market and thereby earning revenue.
The Sierra Club may also contest air permits, water permits, and siting decisions for gas-fired generators, said Ms. Bender, flagging the impacts “not just at the stack,” but also at upstream gas extraction and transportation infrastructure.
Adding that “the fracking industry now enjoys loopholes and exemptions from our major environmental laws,” Ms. Bender said “we’ll continue to work to close those loopholes, remove the exemptions, and also to fight pipelines.”
More broadly, the Sierra Club aims to “realign the narrative around gas,” to convey the message that “gas is not clean,” Ms. Bender said.
Mr. Bloomberg’s statement that renewables will be cheaper than gas draws on two analyses, said Beyond Carbon program lead Jeremiah Baumann. In the first study, Indiana utility NIPSCO found that solar, wind, storage, and energy efficiency would cost less than new gas plants, citing an Indianapolis Star news report. In the second, the Rocky Mountain Institute found that solar, wind, storage, and demand flexibility would be more cost-effective than gas plants in 3 of 4 cases, and also in the 4th case with modest further cost declines for renewables—”which are already cheaper than when the study was done last year,” said Mr. Baumann.
As Beyond Carbon may be viewed as an extension of the Beyond Coal campaign—an earlier Bloomberg/Sierra Club partnership—Ms. Bender noted the success of the coal campaign to date. She said that 289 coal-fired generators have been shut down or have an announced retirement date, and noted that utilities are no longer proposing coal-fired units. “We have to do the same thing that we’ve done on coal with gas,” she said.
Beyond Carbon has three additional goals to promote renewables: close coal plants by 2030; achieve new state-level renewables incentives and mandates by supporting elected officials and environmental groups pursuing these goals (as in Colorado); and help elect state and local climate champions, “because climate change is now first and foremost a political problem.”
The Sierra Club compiled its list of proposed gas-fired generators based on U.S. Energy Information Agency data, and utility integrated resource plans.
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The spillover benefits will be far greater that just leaving the garbage in the ground where God spent billions of years putting it so that we would not have to breathe it. A glad heart goes out to Michael Bloomberg and the Sierra Club. You inspire hope where there was only cynicism.
I find it hard to believe that much of the NG in Texas will be built. They will be facing a solar storm and will not be financially viable in 3 years. I think ERCOT has a little over 3GW with IA (interconnect agreement) but I don’t have the amount with financial security with me. 2 years ago IA for NG was (I think) 13GW. This is versus 7GW of solar with IA and 58GW of solar proposed. I think the trend is obvious. There will be no market for afternoon NG peaker plants in Texas before too long.
Fossil fuels are used in four general areas: 1. Transportation. 2. Electricity. 3. Heating. 4. Chemicals. If you were to rank the health/environmental impacts of the various fossil fuels in these four applications you’d find electricity from natural gas is the CLEANEST APPLICATION OF FOSSIL FUELS. The Sierra Club is going to have a lot of trouble trying to make natural gas out to be a dirty fuel when we’re still using FAR DIRTIER fuels to make electricity, heat our homes, drive our cars and make chemicals from. The Beyond Coal campaign has been a great success but don’t forget there is near universal agreement that cheap and plentiful natural gas in the main reason so much coal has shut down. Doesn’t it seem strange for the Sierra Club to work towards slowing down one of the most effective tools the US has against coal? There are around 10 states in the US that currently get over 50% of their electricity from coal. These 10 states are responsible for around half of the coal consumption in the US – i.e. lots of jobs in coal mining and coal power plants. We shouldn’t block states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Utah, Wyoming and Ohio from building gas plants to replace their coal plants. New natural gas plants in these places will provide cleaner air and jobs for some of the coal plant workers who are losing their current positions. The DOE (I’m assuming this is FERC data) may have 86 GW of new gas in the planning stage but only a fraction of these plants tend to get built. Something like 25 to 50 GW of new gas seems more likely. Is 25 to 50 GW that big of a deal compared to 530 GW of existing gas? Especially considering a lot of these new gas plants are Combined Cycle plants that are replacing less efficient Combustion Turbines and Steam Plants?
Advocating for fair treatment of wind/solar vis a vis capacity markets and full life-cycle assessments of gas is a better path forward than this simplistic NO NEW GAS pitch.
Are gas plants cleaner than coal? Yes.
Municipal Solid Waste? Oh yeah.
Land Fill Gas? Certainly
Petroleum Coke? Yep
If you were to charge a plug in vehicle with electricity sourced from a combined cycle natural gas plant this combination would be many times cleaner than burning gasoline in an ICE.
If you were to cook dinner or power a Heat Pump with electricity sourced from a natural gas plant this combination would be many times cleaner than burning natural gas locally.
Hey joejoe. You have made a great argument as to why natural gas is better than other carbon-based solutions but it still seems to be second-best coming up against renewables.
You state, “Advocating for fair treatment of wind/solar vis a vis capacity markets and full life-cycle assessments of gas is a better path forward than this simplistic NO NEW GAS pitch.”
Could you explain why the simplistic no new gas is a not better solution?
Hi Michael … I can’t seem to reply directly to you so I’m leaving the reply here. Do you consider MSW, Land Fill Gas and Biomass based energy renewable? The DOE and many “minded” folks consider these fuel RE.
But then you have to think… Hmmm… In the 10 days between garbage getting dumped and the installation of the land fill gas collection piping you lose upwards of 60% of the natural gas via decomposition. It would be far better to simply divert organics from the dump and processes them aerobically so they don’t produce all the methane and other disturbing emissions.
Think of MSW that gets burned to produce electricity. This fuel is also considered by many (SEE: Maryland’s recent RPS rules) to be renewable. But then you think… Hmmm… If we recycled all this paper, metal, wood and X we’d save more energy than we get from burning it. We’d also see far fewer emissions.
Biomass energy has led to extensive deforestation in Sumatra and many elsewheres. Historically biomass burning led to the near complete deforestation of the UK, much of Europe, Japan… as you can see… many elsewheres… Fortunately Biomass grows back if you leave it alone. Whew… But, that said, we should just leave it alone and not use it as an energy source.
Natural gas is cleaner than all of these renewable sources. Should we stop construction of biomass plants, land fills and garbage burners? Eventually yes… Should we prioritize shutting down these dirtier Renewable Fuels before gas? I think so.
But you were talking about wind and solar right? You’re basically saying… OK… We should replace the coal in West Virginia, Wyoming, etc… with solar and wind. Take out a map and look at where we have RPS standards and where we don’t. The specific places that we’re likely to see coal to gas conversions tend to be the places who don’t have RPS standards. Of the heaviest coal states 75% of them aren’t just a little RED… They’re… Really Really RED so it’s not likely that we can tip a few legislatures and get wind/solar going in these places.
Consider these political realities carefully. It makes no sense to tell coal country they can’t have coal AND can’t have gas. It’s like cornering a wild animal. You should allow these places to choose to use gas as a bridge if they want to.
Ultimately it’s a simply a lot smarter to squeeze coal out of the system as quickly as possible using all available technologies. Coal is Public Enemy Number One.
Hi again Michael…
Some follow up…
“Could you explain why the simplistic no new gas is a not better solution?”
As I mentioned above about half of the coal in the US is burned in states that have opposed RPS standards and/or implemented really low bar RPS goals. What I didn’t explicitly say is that these coal states have also blocked a lot of gas development.
Try to imagine how much political power coal has in these coal heavy states. Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky for example. In my opinion Bloomberg’s no new gas rule is simplistic because we’re applying a mindset from clean states on dirty states. The dirty states should be given the opportunity to use gas as a transition fuel towards RE. I think this no new gas rule sets a higher bar for transition on coal heavy states than the transition states like California or New Jersey have gone through.
Does this make sense?
Should be called beyond jobs!!!!! This guy is giving 500m bc he will make billions when the green energy he’s invested in takes their place. Stuff like this is why working people voted for Trump but some ppl will never understand that!!!!
It bugs me when Greenies ignore the CO² cost of creating renewables. You talk about storage like it’s free, but building batteries is a HEAVY mining and manufacturing process. If you have heard “The first mile in a Prius is equivalent to 80,000 miles in a Bummer, there’s truth to that. I’d like to see you calculate how much CO² is emitted from the mining, manufacturing, transportation, and construction of 80+ GW of “green” energy production. Report accurately and honestly.
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