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The Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter highlights the lab's analysts and analysis activities in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are having an impact on U.S. energy goals. The newsletter features recent publications and websites, updates to our models and tools, and staff activities. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter monthly by email.

August 2014

GHGs from Electricity Produced from Shale Gas on Par with Conventional Natural Gas, but Verified Measurements Still Needed

The cover of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that features the Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation paper.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences re-analyzes existing estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity generated from shale gas and finds they are similar to those from conventionally-produced natural gas—and that both energy sources, on average, emit approximately half the GHG emissions of coal-powered electricity. However, under particular circumstances, the emissions for conventional and shale gas electricity can reach levels approaching best-performing coal-fired plants.

"Harmonization of Initial Estimates of Shale Gas Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Electric Power Generation" uses a meta-analytical technique called harmonization to compare existing studies estimating life cycle GHG emissions from shale gas, conventionally-produced natural gas, and coal. "With a more 'apples-to-apples' comparison provided by harmonization, a clear tendency emerges in the published literature. We see that life cycle GHG emissions from electricity generated from shale gas are similar to those from conventionally-produced natural gas," said study lead author Garvin Heath. Patrick O'Donoughue of NREL and Douglas J. Arent and Morgan Bazilian of JISEA also contributed to the work.

The PNAS article, like a recently published NREL article in Science, emphasizes the importance of actual measurements to understanding impacts of energy options, many of which are underway and should be available in the near future. "Verified measurements of emissions from components and activities throughout the natural gas supply chain, and robust analysis of lifetime well production and the prevalence of practices to reduce emissions, should follow our current analyses to help create a more robust understanding of our energy options," said Arent. "This study confirms findings of prior estimates, but estimates cannot replicate the accuracy of actual measurements."

This study has been cited recently in SNL Financial (subscription required), Carbon Brief, Advanced Biofuels USA, and Mail & Guardian Online, among many others.

DOE, Automakers Tap Into NREL-built Database to Advance Electric Vehicle Adoption

A screenshot of the recently updated Laws and Incentives database web page from the State and Local Energy Data website.

DOE and automakers are tapping into the recently updated Laws and Incentives database to create consumer-targeted web portals and other applications that can help inform vehicle purchase decisions and streamline the process of policymaking related to alternative fuel vehicles. A component of the Alternative Fuels Data Center, the Laws and Incentives database allows consumers, policymakers, and others to find federal and state laws and incentives for alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics.

Led by Warren Lyndes, the recent update included new keyword search and download functionality, as well as an API/web service that allows other developers to use the laws and incentives data in their applications. DOE's State and Local Energy Data tool uses the data, and various automakers are incorporating the laws and incentives data in portals targeted to their electric vehicle consumers.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

"We are going to need a lot more renewables before you see the point where
it makes sense to store it."

— Paul Denholm quoted in an NBC News article titled "Big Batteries Are
Starting to Boost the Electric Grid

Indiana Public Media is among those reporting on NREL's report Economic Impacts from Indiana's First 1,000 Megawatts of Wind Power.

Recent Publications

Journal Article: Ensuring Benefits from North American Shale Gas Development: Towards a Research Agenda
Authors: Morgan Bazilian, Adam Brandt, Lynn Billman, Garvin Heath, Jeff Logan, Margaret Mann, Marc Melina, Patricia Statwick, Doug Arent, and Sally Benson

Investors, policy makers, and other stakeholders need greater clarity to make decisions in today's dynamic natural gas sector. This paper discusses elements of a long-term interdisciplinary research effort to ensure social, economic, and environmental benefits from the North American unconventional natural gas "revolution."

Journal Article: Developing a Pre-retrofit Energy Consumption Metric to Model Post-retrofit Energy Savings: Phase One of a Three-phase Research Initiative
Authors: Kate Goldstein, Michael Blasnik, Mike Heaney, Ben Polly, Craig Christensen, Les Norford

This paper aims to identify the most predictive pre-retrofit energy consumption metric in a model in order to predict the energy savings that will occur post retrofit. The goal of this research is to envisage a home's candidacy for retrofit using only a combination of demographic and U.S. residential home characteristics data.

Journal Article: Planning for Algal Systems: An Energy-Water-Food Nexus Perspective
Authors: Ariel Miara, Philip Pienkos, Morgan Bazilian, Ryan Davis, and Jordan Macknick

In this study, authors examine algal systems within the context of the energy-water-food nexus, specifically looking at requirements for large-scale algal system planning and commercialization. The authors consider key resource inputs and outputs for algal biofuels compared with alternative biofuel pathways, provide examples of current global practices and impacts, and discuss potential opportunities and tradeoffs in applications of algal systems.

NREL Report: An Overview of Aviation Fuel Markets for Biofuels Stakeholders
Authors: Carolyn Davidson, Emily Newes, Amy Schwab, and Laura Vimmerstedt

Targeted to biofuels stakeholders interested the U.S. aviation fuel market, this report summarizes the state of the aviation fuel industry and evaluates the potential of biofuels in aviation. The report includes trends in jet fuel price, airline responses to fuel price increases and volatility, and environmental goals for aviation fuels in relation to the potential for biofuels.

NREL Report: Validation of Multiple Tools for Flat Plate Photovoltaic Modeling Against Measured Data
Authors: Janine Freeman, Jonathan Whitmore, Nate Blair, and Aron Dobos

This report expands upon previous work by the same authors that was published in the 40th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists conference. This study examines photovoltaic modeling tools and finds performance estimates across tools to be broadly consistent.

NREL Report: Methane for Power Generation in Muaro Jambi: A Green Prosperity Model Project
Authors: Kristi Moriarty, Michael Elchinger, Graham Hill, Jessica Katz, and John Barnett

Part of the Millennium Challenge Corporation's Compact with Indonesia, this study evaluates electricity generation from the organic content of problematic wastewater (palm oil mill effluent) at a palm oil mill in Muaro Jambi, Sumatra. The report uses average Indonesia data from the study to determine the economic viability of methane capture at a palm oil mill and also evaluates technology, social, and environmental impacts of the project.

NREL Report: Impact of Generator Flexibility on Electric System Costs and Integration of Renewable Energy
Authors: David Palchak and Paul Denholm

Based on information from two balancing areas in the western United States, this study employs a commercial production cost model to measure the impact of generator flexibility on the integration of wind and solar generators.

NREL Report: Advanced Methods for Incorporating Solar Energy Technologies into Electric Sector Capacity-expansion Models: Literature Review and Analysis
Authors: Patrick Sullivan, Kelly Eurek, and Robert Margolis

This report highlights the major challenges of incorporating solar technologies into capacity-expansion models (such as modeling non-dispatchable technologies, determining which solar technologies to model, incorporating a solar resource assessment, and accounting for solar generation variability and uncertainty) and offers examples of how specific models address those challenges.

NREL Report: Economic Impacts from Indiana's First 1,000 Megawatts of Wind Power
Authors: Suzanne Tegen, David Keyser, Francisco Flores-Espino, and R. Hauser.

The magnitude of Indiana's available wind resource indicates that the development of wind power infrastructure has the potential to support millions of dollars of economic activity in the state. According to this analysis, the first 1,000 MW of wind power development in Indiana (projects built between 2008 and 2011) supported employment totaling more than 4,400 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs in Indiana during the construction periods; supports approximately 260 ongoing Indiana jobs; supported nearly $570 million in economic activity for Indiana during the construction periods; generates more than $8 million in annual property taxes; and generates nearly $4 million annually in income for Indiana landowners who lease their land for wind energy projects.

For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis website. You can also subscribe to the Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter using our simple online form.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.