TIPPING POINTS – WHY WE SHOULD CARE
A sobering new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences raises the specter of tipping points — again — with respect to the potential impact of climate change on human civilization. Yes, that means all of us.
What are tipping points? In a recent article for Canary Media, blogger and journalist David Roberts says, “The idea behind tipping points is fairly simple and familiar: As heat accumulates in the atmosphere, Earth’s geophysical systems may not be able to simply adjust in a linear fashion alongside the incrementally rising temperature. In some cases, they may ‘tip over’ some unpredictable threshold and enter a fundamentally new state, sometimes called a ‘phase shift.’ Think of ice that has slowly begun to crack then suddenly shattering, or, proverbially, the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Roberts continues, “[T]he consequences of some oft-discussed tipping points are rather apocalyptic … Civilization-ending changes are not likely, but they’re not a zero probability either. He credits New York University economist Gernot Wagner with arguing that the right way to think about climate mitigation is not through a cost-benefit lens but instead as a kind of insurance. “We purchase insurance to cover against potentially catastrophic risks all the time, not because we think they’re likely to happen, but because the consequences would be so dire if they did.”
The paper, “Economic Impacts of Tipping Points in the Climate System,” by Wagner and a group of colleagues — Simon Dietz and Thomas Stoerk of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, and James Rising of the University of Delaware — represents a formal attempt to quantify the economic impacts of tipping point risks. Summarizing the study, Robert says, “The results are startling: The economic impact of carbon emissions is much higher than has been acknowledged, as is the value of reducing emissions.”
He concludes, “The study makes it clear that there is virtually no way we could overdo it on decarbonization … There is effectively no way for policymakers anywhere to do too much or to go too fast … We are currently underdoing it … We will almost certainly be underdoing it for the rest of the lives of everyone reading this … There’s only one direction to push: more and faster, forever and ever, amen.” Read the full article here.
ENERGY COMMUNITIES – AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
Off-grid communities, communities with unreliable grids, or simply those that don’t want to wait for their local utilities to implement renewable solutions now have a new option – to form their own renewable energy community.
As described in a recent article in Microgrid Knowledge, an energy community is made up of participants who jointly benefit from local clean energy. The communities — which generally use 100 kW to 2 MW of solar — can be based in remote villages, suburban neighborhoods, business parks, industrial parks, resorts or other locations and can include energy storage and other assets, in front of or behind the meter.
Microgrid Knowledge quotes Michael Pinto, co-founder and CEO of Cleanwatts, a software company that aggregates clean energy assets and sells them into utility markets. “Energy communities provide clean energy to participants at costs up to 40% less expensive than traditional utility power, and are especially helpful to people experiencing energy poverty,” he says.
The communities typically don’t island from the grid. Instead, their clean energy generation makes up about 40% to 70% of the community’s needs. They can include microgrids, community solar, and other community choice aggregations. Community storage — smaller batteries scattered around the community —can provide clean energy when energy costs from utilities are high and also help offset the intermittency from renewable sources. The batteries and PV installed in the communities can also to help the grid avoid brownouts and blackouts.
Read more here.