News and Events

The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) increases the impact of its analysis by staying engaged in and helping to shape the global energy dialogue. News about JISEA, JISEA leadership, and JISEA partners is highlighted below.

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GHG from Electricity Produced from Shale Gas on Par with Conventional Natural Gas, Lower than Coal on Average

Study Published in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences

July 21, 2014 — A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says estimates of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity generated from shale gas are similar to those from conventionally-produced natural gas, and both energy sources, on average, emit approximately half the GHG emissions of coal-powered electricity. However, under certain circumstances, the emissions for conventional and shale gas electricity can reach levels approaching best-performing coal-fired plants.

Published on July 21, "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.

"Published studies and articles about greenhouse gas emissions have come to widely differing conclusions; harmonization helps to clarify the existing knowledge on this important topic," National Renewable Energy Laboratory Senior Scientist and lead author Garvin Heath said. "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. Both energy sources, on average, emit approximately half the GHG emissions of coal-powered electricity when considering emissions from the smoke stack and those upstream through the supply chain. Further, through development of novel probability distribution functions, we find assumptions about lifetime production of wells and the practice of liquids unloading to have the greatest influence on the results."

Study authors—Heath and Patrick O'Donoughue of NREL and Douglas Arent and Morgan Bazilian of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis—emphasized the importance of actual measurements of GHG emissions to advance understanding of energy options.

"Harmonization of prior estimates of GHG emissions provides greater precision, but does not fully address the questions of accuracy of our knowledge of GHG emission sources in the natural gas supply chain, questions we highlighted in our recent article in Science magazine synthesizing 20-plus years of research on methane leakage from natural gas systems," Arent said. "As called for in that article and this one, 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, can help create a more robust understanding of our energy options."

The study team screened hundreds of published life cycle assessments for quality and modern relevance, including dozens related to conventionally produced natural gas and shale gas. In addition, the team conducted sensitivity analysis on three important activities in the production of shale gas—well completion, well recompletion, and liquids unloading. Previous research had found these activities to be significant to life cycle GHG emissions. When considering these additional factors, shale gas life cycle GHG emissions could approach the range of best-performing coal-fired generation.

JISEA conducts leading-edge interdisciplinary research and provides objective and credible data, tools, and analysis to guide global energy investment and policy decisions. JISEA is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, on behalf of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.

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Visit JISEA online at http://www.jisea.org/

Media may contact:
Heather Lammers, 303-275-4084
heather.lammers@nrel.gov

JISEA Announces IRAAP Call for 2014/15 Proposals

June 2014 — The Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) announces its 2014/15 research funding opportunity, the Innovative Research Analysis Awards Program (IRAAP). The call for pre-proposals opens on July 7 and closes August 4, 2014. Accepted projects will focus on analytical research that works toward a more sustainable global energy economy with a focus in one of the following topic areas:

  • Energy Security — exploring new ways to quantify the wide set of impacts related to areas as diverse as reliability, resiliency, import dependence, geopolitics, and infrastructure
  • Nexus of Energy and Water / Food / Land Use/ Climate Change — understanding the interdependencies of energy and water / food / land use / climate change
  • Integrated Energy Systems — optimization of energy systems across multiple pathways and scales, including the nexus of natural gas and renewable energy.

JISEA's IRAAP provides funding for collaborative teams from our founding partner institutions: the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, and Colorado State University.

A pre-proposal is required; only invited teams will be asked to submit full proposals. Invited full proposals will be due Friday, September 26, 2014. Participating teams must be collaborative, consisting of at least one NREL principal investigator and at least one principal investigator from one other JISEA partner institution. Learn more about submitting a proposal to IRAAP.

White House Enlists JISEA to Help Bolster Co-Investment in Renewable Energy and Natural Gas

April 2014 — The White House honored solar energy deployment Champions of Change from across the United States during a full-day event April 17. The event featured panels discussing the successes of community leaders, innovators, educators, and organizers in creating opportunity for solar power and in driving policy changes at the local level to advance solar deployment in the United States. Arent moderated a panel focused on how solar, along with other renewable energy technologies, can work synergistically with natural gas to advance our nation's energy portfolio, and facilitate the path toward a clean energy future. During the panel it was announced that JISEA would host a series of workshops focused on the unique opportunities for greater synergistic use of natural gas and renewable energy. The workshops—part of a larger White House initiative supporting solar deployment and jobs—will be held in four locations: New York, Washington DC, Texas, and California. To learn more about the JISEA workshops, contact the JISEA Coordinator.

Arent a Lead Author on IPCC Report on Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability

Image of Doug Arent talking with a participant at the IPCC.

JISEA's Doug Arent at the 10th Session of IPCC Working Group II, held 25 – 29 March 2014 in Yokohama, Japan.

March 2014 — The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

The report, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks.

JISEA's Doug Arent was coordinating lead author of chapter 10 of the report. A total of 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the report. The authors and editors were selected in 2010 from a pool of more than 1,200 nominations.

The report concludes that responding to climate change involves making choices about risks in a changing world. The nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, though climate change will also continue to produce surprises. The report identifies vulnerable people, industries, and ecosystems around the world. It finds that risk from a changing climate comes from vulnerability (lack of preparedness) and exposure (people or assets in harm's way) overlapping with hazards (triggering climate events or trends). Each of these three components can be a target for smart actions to decrease risk.

Learn more.

Download the Summary for Policymakers.

New Article Discusses Cyber Security and Critical Energy Infrastructure

March 2014 — A new article published in The Electricity Journal examines the implications of increased cyber attacks on companies providing critical energy infrastructure. As power networks and, to a certain extent, oil and gas infrastructure, are becoming increasingly integrated with information communication technology systems, they are growing more susceptible to cyber attacks.

Read the report.

Study on Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Systems Indicates New Priorities
Study findings published in Policy Forum of Journal Science

February 2014 — A new study published in the journal Science says that the total impact of switching to natural gas depends heavily on leakage of methane (CH4) during the natural gas life cycle, and suggests that more can be done to reduce methane emissions and to improve measurement tools which help inform policy choices.

Published in the February 14 issue of Science, the study, "Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems," presents a first effort to systematically compare North American emissions estimates at scales ranging from device-level to continental atmospheric studies. Because natural gas emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than other fossil fuels, it has been looked to as a 'bridge' fuel to a lower carbon energy system.

"With this study and our larger body of work focusing on natural gas and our transforming energy economy, we offer policymakers and investors a solid analytical foundation for decision making," said Doug Arent, executive director of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and a co-author to the study. "While we found that official inventories tend to under-estimate total methane leakage, leakage rates are unlikely to be high enough to undermine the climate benefits of gas versus coal."

The article was organized by Novim with funding from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation and led by Stanford University's Adam Brandt. It was co-written by researchers from Stanford University, JISEA, Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Calgary, U.S. State Department, Harvard University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

"Recent life cycle assessments generally agree that replacing coal with natural gas has climate benefits," said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist at the NREL and a lead author of the report. "Our findings show that natural gas can be a bridge to a sustainable energy future, but that bridge must be traversed carefully. Current evidence suggests leakages may be larger than official estimates, so diligence will be required to ensure that leakage rates are actually low enough to achieve sustainability goals."

Among other key findings of the research:

  • Official inventories of methane leakage consistently underestimate actual leakage.
  • Evidence at multiple scales suggests that the natural gas and oil sectors are important contributors.
  • Independent experiments suggest that a small number of "super-emitters" could be responsible for a large fraction of leakage.
  • Recent regional atmospheric studies with very high emissions rates are unlikely to be representative of typical natural gas system leakage rates.
  • Hydraulic fracturing is not likely to be a substantial emissions source, relative to current national totals.
  • Abandoned oil and gas wells appear to be a significant source of current emissions.
  • Emissions inventories can be improved in ways that make them a more essential tool for policymaking.

Business Opportunities for Uniting Natural Gas and Renewables Abound at System and Sector Levels

February 2014 — To support the U.S. need for cleaner energy sources now and in the long term, a new study by the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) identifies compelling business models that build from the synergies of two abundant, domestic forms of energy: natural gas and renewable energy.

"Natural gas and renewable energy each contribute to economic growth, energy independence, and carbon mitigation, sometimes independently and sometimes collectively," said Douglas Arent, JISEA Executive Director. "With this paper and a larger line of study, JISEA is examining ways these two domestic forms of energy can work in greater concert."

The paper, Exploring the Potential Business Case for Synergies between Natural Gas and Renewable Energy, identifies revenue opportunities that emerge from systems-level perspectives in "bulk energy" (large-scale electricity and natural gas production, transmission, and trade) and four "distribution edge" subsectors: industrial, residential, commercial, and transportation end uses. Example areas of potential business collaboration include transmission corridors that serve both technologies, and flexible fuel turbines that allow for fuel diversification, added energy security, and reduced price risk.

"To advance a cleaner, decarbonized energy system, we have to look at energy and economic systems in new ways. With this study, JISEA provides a valuable and unique perspective on collaboration rather than competition between natural gas and renewables, and practical insights that can help spur the clean energy economy," said former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, director of the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University. CNEE and JISEA co-hosted a workshop to gather expert input on the business models for gas and renewables.

"Some of the synergies at the commercial level can be illustrated through an example of a big box store that generates, consumes, stores, and sells energy and provides energy services," said Jaquelin Cochran, lead author of the study. "In this example, we identified numerous potential revenue opportunities for the utilities, energy providers, car manufacturers, municipal waste firms, and many other businesses and service providers. This analysis could potentially inspire entrepreneurial action to transform our energy system."

JISEA conducts leading-edge interdisciplinary research and provides objective and credible data, tools, and analysis to guide global energy investment and policy decisions. JISEA is operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, on behalf of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.

JISEA Deputy Director Contributes Forward to Energy Architecture Index

December 2013 — JISEA Deputy Director Morgan Bazilian contributed a forward to the World Economic Forum's annual Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report, which ranks the energy systems of 124 countries according to economic, environmental, and energy security indicators.

Read the report.

NPR Interviews Arent for Report on Energy and Climate Change

December 2013 — In a report airing December 2 on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, JISEA's Doug Arent discussed findings of NREL's Renewable Electricity Futures Study, which he co-authored.

The report aired on the eve of a release of a new National Academies of Science report on climate change, and examined changes in energy systems that would be needed to curb it.

While fossil fuels still comprise the bulk of the world's energy diet, RE Futures looked at a scenario in which the United States relies on wind, solar and other renewable energy supplies for at least 80 percent of electricity needs by the middle of this century.

"Our results, from a technical nature, show that you could meet demand every hour of the year, with up to 80 percent of it coming from renewable resources," said Arent. "What we found was that there were many pathways, and there wasn't a red flag that said it was impossible, at least at the level that we looked at it."

The story also featured Stanford University's Sally Benson, a frequent collaborator with JISEA.

"I think there's lots of good news on the technology side, and I think [many of] the smartest engineers and scientists at universities around the world … are focused on this challenge," Benson said. "And the students love this. This is what they want to devote their life to. So from that perspective, I am quite optimistic."

Read or listen to the full story.

JISEA-funded Analysis Published in Scientific Journals

October 2013 — Two new works funded through JISEA's Innovative Research Analysis Award Program (IRAAP) have been published in scientific journals.

"Renewable energy potential on marginal lands in the United States," authored by a team from NREL and Stanford University, appears in the January 2014 issue of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. This study identifies several marginal land categories suitable for renewable energy development, and calculates the technical potential for various technologies on these lands.

"Power systems balancing with high penetration renewables: The potential of demand response in Hawaii," authored by a team from NREL and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears in the December 2013 issue of Energy Conversion and Management. This analysis indicates that demand response has the potential to smooth power system operation in Hawaii with high RE penetration, and that production cost savings could arise from improved thermal power plant operations and increased wind production.

Through IRAAP, JISEA funds collaborative, multi-disciplinary research that works toward a more sustainable global energy economy.

Paper Reviews Wholesale Electricity Market Design for 21st Century Power Systems

October 2013 — Doug Arent is among the authors of a new, multi-institutional report for the 21st Century Power Partnership—Market Evolution: Wholesale Electricity Market Design for 21st Century Power Systems.

Variable renewable energy resources comprise an increasing share of electricity generation globally. At the same time, opportunities for addressing the variability of renewables are being strengthened through advances in smart grids, communications, and technologies. A key challenge of merging these opportunities is market design—creating incentives and compensating providers justly for attributes and performance that ensure a reliable and secure grid.

This report reviews the suite of wholesale power market designs in use and under consideration to ensure adequacy, security, and flexibility in a landscape of significant variable renewable energy.

Authors from China National Renewable Energy Center, Energinet.dk, Global Green Growth Institute, IBM, International Copper Association, NREL, Universidad de Castilla La Mancha, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland also contributed to the report.

Read the report or learn more about the 21st Century Power Partnership.

Morgan Bazilian Named to JREF Information Network

October 2013 — JISEA Deputy Director Morgan Bazilian has been named to the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation's Innovation Network.

The JREF Innovation Network was established in 2012 to facilitate the exchange of information and proposals geared toward the evolution of Japan and the world into a sustainable society based on renewable energy. Network members are experts in renewables, energy efficiency, and climate change policies.

Learn more about JREF and see Bazilian's Information Network profile.

Annual Report

Annual Report

Learn more about JISEA's role and work in a transforming energy economy.

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