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Decarbonization Dilemma: My Top 10 Predictions for 2020

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Dan Delurey's picture
President Wedgemere Group

Dan is the President of Wedgemere Group. Established in 2002, "" Wedgemere is a DC-based consulting group with a focus on demand response and distributed energy and a...

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  • Jan 28, 2020

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2020-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

OK......Full disclosure.....These are not exactly predictions. My draft blog called "Holiday Wish List" got stuck in my pre-holiday drafts folder! So now it is the first full week in January, but it still seems like I am in the media window to make predictions - or in my case to convert my wish list into wishful predictions. 

I would love to have feedback from you as to whether you think any of them can come true in the new year we find ourselves in.  

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Here are the top ten "Things I Wish I Could Predict for 2020": 

1. Clean Energy gets defined as zero-GHG energy. Nuclear and Hydro don't get tossed out of that basket on the face of it. (More about Hydro is coming in a future blog post).  

2. The idea of natural gas as a bridge to the future collapses. Natural gas (and associated methane) becomes fully understood to be a carbon-laden fuel that should not be considered clean energy. Building natural gas-fired power plants becomes a non-starter, and investment in other types of natural gas investments drops off rapidly. Utilities and others start to think twice about creating future stranded investment.  

3. Energy efficiency benefits from a wake-up call, and broad recognition develops that energy efficiency is not on auto-pilot, and not even close to being fully tapped (as evidenced by the recent report by ACEEE and other organizations). New efforts are undertaken across the board on EE, including in some areas that are not always front-and-center in the minds of policymakers and the general public.  

Also, Demand Response gets recognized as being a dynamic type of EE, and not something totally separate from it. The concept of Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings (GEB) becomes firmly embedded in the way that the nation's building stock is constructed, renovated and modified. 

4. Political leadership develops in a most states on a push for time-based pricing. A broad assemblage of NGOs provides active support, realizing that all of the evidence from research, pilots and full implementations show that customers of all stripes will be OK with such pricing.  

5. Leaders and stakeholders from all political persuasions conclude that carbon pricing is a market-based option for GHG mitigation, and therefore it is acceptable to enact in a bipartisan manner.  

6. States and other jurisdictional bodies develop, and require others to develop, resiliency plans. Resiliency evaluations become required for all new energy projects. The White House's current proposal to modify the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and eliminate climate change considerations from environmental impact statements does not come to pass. 

7. The brains of policymakers are jogged such that they remember that infrastructure investment is a bipartisan no-brainer for the most part, and that modernization of the electricity grid infrastructure is key to both climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. They also remember how long it takes to actually build things, and thus move quickly on the infrastructure front.  

8. Policymakers as well as all of the rest of us remember what we learned in Statistics 101, and start viewing data in context. For example, those focused on emissions, or who feel good about the growth rate of renewable energy, also realize that in 2019 the U.S. was the world's leading country for oil and gas production.  

Everyone begins to focus not just on data silos, but on what the collective data for clean energy vs non-clean energy indicates in terms of the next 10 years. 

9. Climate change becomes a true voting issue, i.e. people cast their vote next November based on what the candidates, including the current President, will do over the next four years. But it also becomes a voting issue at the state and local level, as the power of those type of policymakers to address mitigation and resiliency in a disaggregated yet meaningful manner is realized. 

10. Climate change becomes a persistent topic at dinner tables, in bars and restaurants, and anywhere friends congregate. This reinforcement via discussion leads us to do what we can as individuals and groups to ensure a sustainable future for our descendants.  

So.....what's on your own "I wish these were my predictions" list?  

What do you think about mine? 

Any that you think are too much to hope for? If so, why? 

Any that you think are simply not achievable? 

Any that you think will actually happen? 

I would love to hear from you. Like I said in #10 on the list.....We all need to talk.

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Dan Delurey's picture
Dan Delurey on Jan 28, 2020

Many provided me with interesting feedback on this post and there are some areas that I want to say something about. 

Some people noted that I did not have electrification and e-mobility on my list of "wishful predictions". Those were indeed candidates for that list, but I wanted to stay at 10, and I also was focused on things that I thought were not being thought of enough in the right way. I think those two are more self-understood. That is not to say they don't have challenges and barriers, and I hope to write about those soon. 

Another commenter said that while I talked about efficiency, I did not talk about reductions in energy use. I have for years (decades?) equated the two. That makes me ask - in a decarbonization driven context does energy reduction (separate from energy efficiency) need its own standing? Hmm... 

One thing that happened since my last post pertains to one of the items you saw on the list. You may remember it as the "Statistics 101" item. Last week a new report showed that overall emissions for the U.S. were down for 2019, compared to a rise in 2018. But the report also showed that emissions were up for all sorts of areas that those of us in the energy space can relate to, such as emissions from buildings. And the report showed that while emissions dipped down slightly, they were nowhere near what is needed per annum to meet the Paris goals (which in turn are not enough to meet certain temperature targets anyway). So it is good news that emissions went down, but don't forget to keep your eye on the forest and not merely on the trees. 

I mentioned in that same "Stats" item something that may have been a surprise to some, i.e. that the U.S. is the largest fossil fuel producer. Last week, another new report added a different look at that stat. Oil and Gas-related Industries (companies that extract or refine oil and gas, export liquefied natural gas, or manufacture petrochemicals, plastics, or fertilizers) are predicted to show a 30 percent rise by 2025 over what they emitted in 2018.  

That predicted rise for that sector may be why it has launched a massive new communications campaign, including a lot of TV, showing how important and essential it is. If any of you have any thoughts on that campaign, I would like to hear them.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 28, 2020

Last week a new report showed that overall emissions for the U.S. were down for 2019, compared to a rise in 2018. But the report also showed that emissions were up for all sorts of areas that those of us in the energy space can relate to, such as emissions from buildings. 

To be frank, the year-over-year emissions numbers in the U.S. are so tied to the weather for the year (and associated HVAC load it brings) that seeing 'slight rise' or 'slight drop' from one year to the next doesn't give you a whole lot of information. Like you said, looking at individual emissions areas is important, and more important than year-over-year data is the direction it's trending over the recent years as the weather impacts average out. When you do, you are indeed left with the impression that not nearly enough is being done. 

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