Power Partners
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Non-Fossil Generation


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Table of Contents

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Major Topic Sections

Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

Related topics in this section

Nuclear Energy
Wind Power
Solar Thermal Elec.
Biomass Power
Geothermal Energy
Pumped Storage
Green Pricing
Green Tag Pgms.


 Power Generation from Non-Fossil Sources


By far the greatest share of the greenhouse gases emitted by the electric power sector is from the CO2 emitted in the consumption of fossil fuels. Technologies to improve the efficiency of fossil fuel use are valuable in reducing GHG emissions But since the amount of CO2 emissions is generally proportional to the amount of fuel consumed (by type of fuel), the amount of GHG reductions is limited to the percentage improvements in efficiency, at least until carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies become commercially available.

Although fossil fuels account for most of the electric power generation in the U.S., several non-fossil generating technologies are available and used. Chief among these are nuclear power and conventional hydropower, which account for approximately 20 percent and 8 percent of total U.S. generation, respectively. Other non-fossil sources include wind power, photovoltaics, solar thermal, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, and others. Increasing the use of non-fossil power generation lowers greenhouse gas emissions and emissions intensity, conserves fossil fuels, and frequently reduces emissions of pollutants.

Many non-fossil power sources are considered to be “renewable energy,” coming from sources that are essentially inexhaustible. These energy supplies can be endless resources such as the sun, the wind, and the heat of the Earth, or they can be replaceable fuels such as plants. In contrast, fossil fuels oil, coal, and natural gas form so slowly in comparison to our rate of energy use that they are considered finite or limited resources.

Nuclear power units are typically large and run in baseload, generating power continuously for long periods. In contrast, many of the renewable energy sources are intermittent, operating only when the wind blows or the sun shines. While intermittent resources are more variable in their output, the output characteristics of many intermittent renewable energy technologies (RETs) often tend to match peak load periods for summer peaking utilities, thus displacing some of the peaking fossil fuel generation.

Further, some RETs are modular and adaptable for distributed use near load centers, providing support to the distribution system, reducing line losses, and decreasing needed spinning reserves. Distributed sources of generation may have an increasing importance relative to large, centralized power generation due to strategic homeland security considerations; i.e. overall power grid reliability and recoverability.

Inclusion of RETs into utility operations can take many forms:

  Dispersed small-scale generation, either utility-owned or customer-owned
  Larger central  “farms” and groups of generators, e.g., windpower farms
  Stand-alone facilities
  Repowering existing facilities
  Co-firing in new or existing facilities
  Incorporating small-scale generation, e.g., photovoltaics, into buildings and other existing or new infrastructure
  Specialized niche applications, e.g., remote non-grid connected loads

RETs as a group have a wide range of performance characteristics, from intermittent to easily dispatchable. In addition, resources required for economic use of RETs are not geographically uniform. An important part of incorporating RETs into electric power operations is the measurement and inventory of available renewable resources to help determine whether RETs are cost-effective, where they should be located, and what role they can best play in power operations.

A wide variety of tax and other financial incentives are available for renewable energy technologies. These incentives may vary by ownership status (e.g., investor-owned utility vs. publicly-owned or independent power producer). Additionally, a number of states offer various incentives for the construction and operation of renewable energy facilities.

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 Power Partners Projects

Note: Most Power Partners
projects within this section will likely be listed under one of the specific topics. Projects described below are those that relate to the section contents more broadly.

Members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) currently receive 11 percent of their power from renewable resources, with more than 700 co-ops offering renewable energy from solar wind, hydroelectric, and biomass generation. To support the growing interest in renewable energy, NRECA provides outreach to electric co-ops through grants from DOE’s Wind Powering America and GeoPowering the West programs. NRECA also conducts conferences and Webinars, and provides expert advice to its members. The newly enacted Clean Renewable Energy Bond program, which helps to offset the higher cost of renewable energy, is leading to the development of 78 new cooperative-owned projects for solar wind, landfill gas, open-loop biomass, and hydropower facilities.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data

Resources and links specific to individual topics within this section are listed separately for that topic’s web page. The Resource links shown below are more cross-cutting, and relate to non-CO2 power generation in general. Additional resources are provided for the specific topic areas indicated by the link bar on the left of this page.

Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development & Climate, "Welcome to the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate,"

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate brings together seven major Asia-Pacific countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Korea, and the United States – that collectively account for more than half of the world’s economy, population, and energy use. The Partners are cooperating in an effort to address increased energy needs and the associated issues of air pollution, energy security, and climate change. An innovative public-private sector effort, the Asia-Pacific Partnership was established to achieve these objectives in ways that promote economic development, reduce poverty, and accelerate the development and deployment of cleaner, more efficient technologies. The Partnership has established eight public-private sector Task Forces, three of which –Cleaner Fossil Energy Task Force, Power Generation and Transmission Task Force, and Renewable Energy & Distributed Generation Task Force – relate specifically to the electric power sector. At this website, each of the Task Forces presents information on events, activities, and resources.

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)

CESA is a multi-state coalition of clean energy funds working together to develop and promote clean energy technologies and to create and expand the markets for these technologies.

GreenTech News

GreenTech News (formerly Green Power magazine) is a product-and-service information resource for managers of enterprise sustainability and green programs who are responsible for their organizations’ sustainability-related programs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, facility design and operation, green materials and products, and green manufacturing and packaging. The publication covers the latest products and services to accomplish enterprise sustainability and green program objectives. Readers are managers in business and government organizations, managers of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and operations, environmental managers and professionals involved in green programs for manufacturing, facility design and management, packaging, lighting, transportation and product development.

Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s mission is to accelerate the sustainable utilization of renewable energy sources and technologies in and through state and local government and community activities. IREC, formed in 1982 as a non-profit organization, supports market-oriented services targeted at education, coordination, procurement, the adoption and implementation of uniform guidelines and standards, workforce development, and consumer protection. IREC's members include state energy offices, city energy offices, other municipal and state agencies, national laboratories, solar and renewable organizations and companies, and individual members. IREC focuses on some of the current and often difficult issues impacting expanded renewable energy use such as rules that support renewable energy and distributed resources in a restructured market, connecting small-scale renewables to the utility grid, developing quality credentials that indicate a level of knowledge and skills competency for renewable energy professionals, and getting the right information to the right people.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Learning About Renewable Energy: Renewable Energy Basics”

An overview of renewable energy. Links to separate sections for more in-depth information on solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen, geothermal, ocean, and hydropower.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), "Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS)", March 2006

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) provides electric cooperatives and public power systems with the ability to issue “Clean Renewable Energy Bonds” (“CREBs”). CREBs deliver an incentive comparable to the Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) that is available to private developers and investor-owned utilities (“IOUs”). A CREB is a special type of bond, known as a “tax credit bond,” that offers cooperatives the equivalent of an interest-free loan for financing qualified energy projects for a limited term.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), "Renewable Energy: A Co-op Point of View," PowerPoint presentation by Jay Morrison, NRECA, July 20, 2005

A 2005 resolution stated that "NRECA supports power developed from renewable resources that naturally replenish, utilize residual materials, or recycle waste . . . The use of these resources can be beneficial to our environment and assist rural economies throughout much of the U.S."  Co-ops are encouraged to support the responsible development and use of cost effective renewable resources on their own systems and through the political process; develop appropriate policies on consumer-owned generation, including renewable energy such as DG interconnection contracts, procedures, and rates; and develop outreach programs to educate state policymakers, local communities and members about renewable energy.

Nuclear Energy Institute

The home page for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an extensive website with news and information resources on nuclear technologies, public policy issues, statistics, and more.

The Renewable Planet.com

The Renewable Planet is a free and accessible resource that highlights the number and variety of renewable energy projects from around the world. Using links with Google Maps, the website provides interactive maps and search features to access details about renewable energy projects around the world. The projects dynamically represented include solutions in the Solar, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal, Microhydro, Ocean Energy and other renewable energy areas. Photos and direct links are provided for each project for easy access to further information. TheRenewablePlanet.com gives visitors the opportunity to add their project to the growing database of projects.

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration. “Annual Energy Outlook,” DOE/EIA-0383(2009), March 2009

The Annual Energy Outlook presents a midterm forecast and analysis of US energy supply, demand, and prices through 2030, including power from nuclear energy and renewable sources. The projections are based on results from the Energy Information Administration's National Energy Modeling System. The AEO includes the reference case, complete documentation, and additional cases examining energy markets.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE)”

The DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and selected federal incentives that promote renewable energy.

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Website prepared for the Edison Electric Institute
and the Electric Power Industry Climate Initiative

Prepared by Twenty-First Strategies, LLC.
Copyright © 2009.  All rights reserved.
Last revised: Dec. 11, 2009.