NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

Every day is Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, April 17:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3
  • TTTA Thursday-THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4
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    THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY POSSIBILITIES – THE MICHIGAN EXAMPLE
  • QUICK NEWS, April 16: THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY; BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE MONEY IN NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, April 15: WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014; NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER; MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THIS COULD BE THE REAL VALUE OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, April 14: DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS; THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR; TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Bill Maher On What’s Happening In The Oceans
  • Weekend Video: The Human Disharmony In The Climate System Symphony
  • Weekend Video: A Few Thoughts About Solar 2.0
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- THE CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT MOVES DOWNTOWN
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SHIFTING AND GROWING AMONG GLOBAL SOLAR LEADERS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-UK OFFSHORE WIND SETTING RECORDS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-MICROGRIDS RISING AROUND THE WORLD
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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  • Friday, April 18, 2014

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 5 (continued from yesterday)

    So what happened after science finally discovered the secret...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    5-So what happened [after science finally discovered the secret of photovoltaics]?

    The semiconductor revolution began at Bell Laboratories that started with the discovery of the transistor and took silicon electronics from theory to working device led to the great breakthrough that we are celebrating this year. Serendipitously, Gerald Pearson, a Bell scientist, took one of the first silicon transistors and applied light to it. To his surprise, he recorded an efficiency of almost six times greater than any other solar cell had ever produced. Like Archimedes, he ran down the hall at the lab, shouting to a colleague, Daryl Chapin, who was working with selenium at the time for a remote telephone power project, “Don’t waste another moment on selenium!,” and gave him his piece of doped silicon. So began the Bell Solar Battery project that a year later in 1954 produced the most significant breakthrough in solar history and perhaps, the history of electricity – a solar cell capable of converting enough sunlight directly into electricity for useful purposes. click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 6

    What was the reaction of the world...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    6-What was the reaction of the world to the Bell discovery?

    The day after Bell executives presented the first practical solar cell to the world at a press conference on April 25, 1954. The following day The New York Times noted on page one, that the Bell solar cell “…may mark the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.” U.S. News and World Report came out with a story as full of hope as the Times’ piece with the title: “Fuel Unlimited,” exclaiming that the silicon solar cells “may provide more power than all the world’s coal, oil and uranium…Engineers are dreaming of silicon powerhouses. The future is limitless.” click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 7

    Why didn’t the silicon solar cell immediately...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    7-Why didn’t the silicon solar cell immediately take off?

    First, its price was an obstacle. One watt cost $286. More importantly, at the moment of the solar breakthrough, the Eisenhower Administration, to counter worldwide anti-nuclear protests, initiated the Atoms for Peace program, to give nuclear a happy face. Subsidies and funding for nuclear ran into the billions. There was no parallel Solar for Peace program despite that the Bell breakthrough happened at the same time. Selling the peaceful atom as the world’s future energy source had become America’s number one priority. The nuclear dream eclipsed any consideration of solar development. Newsweek judged "the sun's diffuse radiation" as "paltry" when compared with what nuclear could do. The best solar enthusiasts could hope for, according to the prevailing wisdom of the middle and late 1950’s, was to plan for far-off energy needs. The New York Times best articulated this point of view, predicting in an editorial, "Electricity from the atom will keep industry turning and homes lighted for centuries in the future. And the energy of the sun...will be available after the last atomic fuel is gone." click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 8

    What happened to the Bell solar cell?

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    8-What happened to the Bell solar cell?

    After such high expectations, the inventors could not help but wonder, “What to do with our new baby.” Desperate to find commercial applications, solar cells found their way powering novelty items such as toys and transistor radios. Then the space race came. The first two sputniks went dead after several weeks in space as they ran on battery power alone. No one could go up and recharge or replace them. For the same reason fuel-powered engines were ruled out. Any satellite that had to function for more than three weeks or so on solar cells appeared to be the perfect source of power. The first solar-run satellite – the Vanguard - went up in March, 1958. It kept on transmitting data over the next six years. The success of solar on the Vanguard led engineers and scientists working with satellites to accept the solar cell as one of the critically important devices in the space program since they provided the only practical power source for long-term missions. The urgent demand for solar cells above the earth opened an unexpectedly large and lucrative business for manufacturing them. Locked into the space race with the Russians, the American government poured millions into solar cell research and development. As solar-cell pioneer contends, “The onset of the Space Age was the salvation of the solar-cell industry.” click here for more

    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 1

    Bell executives presented the first practical solar cell to the world...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    1-Bell executives presented the first practical solar cell to the world at a press conference on April 25, 1954.

    At the time of Bell’s announcement in 1954, all the solar cells in the world delivered less than one watt. Today, more than 120 gigawatts of generating capacity of photovoltaics have been installed worldwide. This year not only marks the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell but also the beginning of reaching the Holy Grail solar scientists have only previously dreamt of before – entering the Era of Grid Parity, where solar panels begin to generate power at costs equal to or less than electricity produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy….What does this mean? Simple! Massive amounts of cleanly produced electricity will become a reality in our lifetime.

    In fact, on April 26, 1954, The New York Times noted on page one, that the Bell solar cell “…may mark the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams – the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.” U.S. News and World Report came out with a story as full of hope as the Times’ piece with the title: “Fuel Unlimited,” exclaiming that the silicon solar cells “may provide more power than all the world’s coal, oil and uranium…Engineers are dreaming of silicon powerhouses. The future is limitless.”

    On April 18, 2014, a formal celebration will take place in Palo Alto, CA to mark the milestone of 60 years of practical PV. Palo Alto is becoming a living demonstration that we’ve come a long way since that first Ferris wheel was lit up by solar technology in 1954, and that in fact, whole cities can be powered by solar and other renewables. The City of Palo Alto recently started covering its entire community’s power demand through renewable purchases and credits and is on track to procure 100% renewable power by 2017. Solar is expected to make up 18% of that portfolio. click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 2

    How and when was the photovoltaic effect discovered...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    2-How and when was the photovoltaic effect discovered in a solar cell?

    In 1872 British engineer Willoughby Smith published a paper on the photo¬¬-sensitivity of selenium. The article led English scientists William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day to further experiment with the material. In one of these trials they lit a candle an inch away from same bars of selenium that Smith had used. The needle on their measuring device reacted immediately. Screening the selenium from light caused the needle to drop instantaneously. The rapid response ruled out the possibility that heat from the candle’s flame was the cause, because when heat is applied or withdrawn in thermoelectric experiments, the needle always rises or drops slowly. “Hence,” the investigators concluded, “it was clear that a current could be started by the action of light alone.” They wrote that they had discovered a completely new phenomenon – that light had caused a flow of electricity through a solid material. Adams and Day called current produced by light “photoelectric.” Today, we call it “photovoltaic.” click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 3

    So why didn’t photovoltaics take off...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    3-So why didn’t photovoltaics take off in the nineteenth century?

    American inventor Charles Fritts did put together selenium modules and placed a test array on a New York rooftop in the mid 1880s. He optimistically predicted that soon his modules would compete on the market place with the new electric power plants established by Thomas Edison. Europe’s Edison, Werner von Siemens, called photovoltaics to be “scientifically of the most far-reaching importance,” and the world’s leading physicist of the nineteenth century, James Clerk Maxwell, called Adams and Day’s discovery as “a very valuable contribution to science.” But the science of the nineteenth century lacked the wherewithal to explain the direct transformation of light into electricity. The rejection by Adams and Day of a thermal effect producing the electricity from the selenium bars led most to dismiss the discovery as heretical as the science of the day believed that only heat could produce power. click here for more

    THE SOLAR CELL TURNS 60, Part 4

    So how did the scientific community come to accept photovoltaics...

    For the 60th anniversary of the silicon solar cell, PV60 – History Becoming the Future, is being organized by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto on April 18, 2014. To join the celebration, NewEnergyNews will run, on April 18 and 19, eight questions and answers about the silicon solar cell’s history from John Perlin, the author of Let It Shine: The 6,000 Year Story Of Solar Energy.

    4-So how did the scientific community come to accept photovoltaics as a legitimate area of study? And did scientific acceptance lead to practical developments?

    Einstein’s new understanding of light combined with the late nineteenth-century discovery of the electron uncovered the secret of photovoltaics: light consists of packets of energy, according to the new science, capable of setting electrons into motion whose orderly movement is electricity…Scientific acceptance led to a flurry of activity in the photovoltaic field. But try as they may, no one could construct a solar cell efficient enough for everyday power needs. As one scientist lamented in 1949, “It must be left to the future whether the discovery of materially more efficient cells will reopen the possibility of harnessing solar energy for useful purposes.” click here for more

    Wednesday, April 16, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: NEW ENERGY POSSIBILITIES – THE MICHIGAN EXAMPLE

    Charting Michigan’s Renewable Energy Future; Accelerating the transition to clean, affordable, and reliable power

    Sam Gomberg, Jeff Deyette, Sandra Sattler, March 2014 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    Michigan took an important first step toward a clean energy future…

    …when the state legislature passed Public Act 295 in 2008. The law, known as the Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act, established a renewable electricity standard (RES) that requires electricity providers in Michigan to supply 10 percent cent of the state’s electricity with renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and bioenergy by 2015.

    More than five years later, the RES has been a success. Michigan utilities are ahead of schedule in bringing clean energy resources online to meet the 10 percent standard, and they are doing it at a lower cost and with better-performing technologies than originally expected. These investments in renewable energy are creating jobs, boosting local economies, and delivering clean electricity to homes and businesses throughout the state (Quackenbush, Isiogu, and White 2013). But with the RES set to level off in 2015, momentum in renewable energy development is already being lost. Stronger policies are needed to help Michigan take the next steps toward a clean energy future.

    At the end of 2012, Governor Rick Snyder launched a year-long initiative to analyze the condition of Michigan’s electricity sector, collect information from stakeholders, and explore potential paths forward for the state (Snyder 2012). In November 2013, the governor’s final report concluded that Michigan can cost-effectively and reliably achieve at least 30 percent renewable energy with in-state resources (Quackenbush and Bakkal 2013a).

    Following the report’s release, Governor Snyder announced four energy goals for the state: affordability, reliability, protection of the environment, and adaptability. He acknowledged that increasing Michigan’s commitment to renewable energy would be an important component of achieving these goals. While the governor has not discussed specific policy recommendations, the process has laid the groundwork to strengthen and expand Michigan’s RES.

    This report explores Michigan’s energy future and the role that renewable energy policy can play in transitioning to a clean energy economy. We first look at Michigan’s current shift away from its historical overreliance on coal-fired generation and the state’s experience in meeting its current 10 percent RES. Next, we describe Michigan’s potential to meet more of its electricity demand with in-state renewable energy resources. Then, using the Regional Energy Deployment System model developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we examine the impacts on consumers, the economy, and the environment of three potential pathways for meeting Michigan’s future electricity demand:

    1. Continuing with the current law that maintains Michigan’s RES level at 10 percent from 2015 onward, with no new policies in place that would further increase renewable electricity generation

    2. Increasing Michigan’s RES to 17.5 percent in 2020

    3. Increasing Michigan’s RES to 32.5 percent in 2030—a 1.5 percent rate of growth in the annual requirements that would keep Michigan utilities on about the same pace as the current RES for the next 15 years

    Our findings show that Michigan can affordably meet 32.5 percent of its electricity needs with in-state renewable energy resources by 2030 while maintaining reliability in the electricity system. Doing so will spur billions of dollars of investment in Michigan, cut power plant carbon emissions, and reduce the risks of an overreliance on coal or natural gas by further diversifying Michigan’s mix of electricity sources. Pursuing a less robust RES—17.5 percent by 2020— significantly reduces the benefits that accrue to Michigan from developing its renewable energy resources without reducing the costs to consumers.

    According to our analysis, establishing a 32.5 percent by 2030 RES in Michigan means:

    • Sustained and robust development of Michigan’s renewable energy resources. Michigan’s renewable energy y industries would add an average of more than 550 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy capacity per year, totaling more than 11,000 MW by 2030.1 Without policy support beyond 2015, renewable energy development in Michigan would remain largely stagnant from 2014 to 2030.

    • Significant economic benefits. The development of Michigan’s renewable energy resources would drive more than $9.5 billion in new capital investments from 2016 to 2030. By 2030, renewable energy facilities would also add nearly $570 million in operation and maintenance payments and more than $21 million in land lease payments annually.

    • Minimal impact on consumers. Electricity sector costs would increase by just 0.3 percent between 2014 and 2030 under a 32.5 percent by 2030 RES compared with the scenario that includes no policy changes. In some years, average retail electricity prices would be lower under the 32.5 percent RES scenario than they are under the other scenarios.

    • Reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Reduced dependence on coal and natural gas would lower CO2 emissions by more than 65 million tons from 2014 to 2030—equivalent to the annual emissions of 15 typical-size size (600 MW) coal plants.

    • A more diverse electricity supply for Michigan. Renewable energy development, led primarily by wind energy, would displace both coal and natural gas in Michigan’s electricity generation mix, leading to lower risks to con sumers resulting from an overreliance on fossil fuels to meet electricity demand.

    Michigan’s Current Shift Away from Coal-fired Generation

    Like many states in the Midwest and throughout the country, Michigan’s electricity sector is going through a historic transformation. While coal plants are still the largest source of the state’s electricity, coal’s economic competitiveness has been eroding for years. From 2008 to 2012, coal-fired generation in Michigan declined from 60 percent to 49 percent as lower-cost resources such as natural gas and wind have replaced higher-cost electricity from Michigan’s old, inefficient coal plants.

    There are several reasons why the use of coal is declining in Michigan. The state is home to one of the oldest coal power plant fleets in the nation: 87 percent of the state’s coal capacity is more than 30 years old, while nearly a third of the state’s coal capacity began operation more than 50 years ago. Most of the state’s old coal plants lack essential modern pollution controls, and utilities face important near-term decisions about whether to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades or to retire the plants. Our recent assessment of the viability of the U.S. coal fleet determined that more than half of Michigan’s total coal power capacity (6,719 MW) is economically vulnerable—meaning it will have a difficult time competing with other resource options—and should be considered for closure. This is a greater amount than for any other state (Fleischman et al. 2013).

    Coal prices also continue to increase in Michigan, adding to coal’s economic vulnerability going forward. The average price that Michigan utilities pay for coal has increased by nearly 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, from $37.67 to $55.22 per ton. Because Michigan does not have any in-state coal resources, it must import 100 percent of its coal from other states—sending $1.2 billion out of state in 2012 alone (UCS 2014).

    To date, much of the decline in coal use has been replaced with natural gas (Figure 1). Because of the current low costs of natural gas and its abundant supplies nationally, natural gas generation in Michigan more than doubled from 8 percent in 2008 to 20 percent in 2012 (EIA 2013a). While switching from coal to natural gas offers some benefits of near-term air quality and cost, there is growing evidence that an overreliance on natural gas poses significant and complex risks to consumers and the economy, public health and safety, land and water resources, and the climate (Fleischman, Sattler, and Clemmer 2013). For example, a recent cold snap across the nation led to spiking electricity and natural gas prices in the Northeast as natural gas demand for heating and electricity generation exceeded supplies (Jacobs 2014). In addition, as with any fossil fuel, burning natural gas for electricity generation results in the release of CO2 and thus contributes to global warming. While natural gas emits considerably less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant at the smokestack, a natural gas–dominated electricity system would not cut emissions sufficiently to meet U.S. climate goals (Fleischman, Sattler, and Clemmer 2013)…

    Renewable Energy Is Working for Michigan

    Most of the recent growth in Michigan’s renewable energy industry is attributable to the state’s successful RES policy. The 2008 Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act requires all of Michigan’s electricity suppliers to gradually increase the contribution of renewable energy sources to 10 percent of the state’s electricity supply by 2015 (up from about 1 percent in 2008). The state’s two largest power providers—DTE and Consumers Energy—have an additional renewable energy capacity requirement of 500 and 600 MW by 2015, respectively…

    Michigan’s Robust Renewable Energy Resources

    Michigan has vast in-state renewable energy resources, enough to generate annually several times the state’s total 2012 electricity demand (Table 1). Not all of Michigan’s renewable energy potential can or should be tapped due to conflicting land use needs, cost considerations, transmission constraints, and other hurdles, but the magnitude of the resource gives the state a high degree of latitude in selecting the optimal technologies and locations for development. Even after accounting for these constraints, Michigan has a strong and diverse pool of renewable energy resources to support the state’s continued transition to a clean energy future…Onshore wind…Solar…Bioenergy…Offshore Wind…

    Renewable Energy’s Role in an Affordable, Clean, and Reliable Energy Future

    A commitment to greater investments in renewable energy, particularly when paired with strong energy efficiency programs (see the box, p. 8), will help put Michigan on a path toward achieving each of Governor Snyder’s goals for the state’s electricity sector: affordability, reliability, protection of the environment, and adaptability…

    Results of the Modeling

    In brief, our analysis comparing the three scenarios fi nds that Michigan can aff ordably strengthen its investment in renewable energy and that doing so creates a more diverse electricity portfolio for Michigan. We fi nd that a longer-term, more ambitious policy maximizes the benefi ts to Michiganders. Meeting a 32.5 percent-by-2030 RES requirement increases the economic benefi ts of renewable energy investments in Michigan and reduces power-sector CO2 emissions more substantially than the other cases modeled, and these benefi ts accrue to Michigan with little to no increase in average retail electricity prices…

    Recommendations

    Michigan’s electricity demand can be met in a variety of ways over the coming decades, and we support the governor’s process and his goals of increasing affordability, reliability, protection of the environment, and adaptability. The view that Michigan’s energy future should include an extended and strengthened commitment to renewable energy resources has support from several quarters: information provided through the governor’s process, our modeling analysis, and the state’s real-world experience of successfully meeting Michigan’s current RES policy.

    Governor Snyder and the Michigan legislature should be working in 2014 toward an extended and strengthened commitment to renewable energy resources and should pass an RES policy for Michigan that includes achieving at least 30 percent renewable energy by 2030. Delaying legislative action only means delaying a cleaner, more reliable, more economically beneficial energy future for Michigan. Enacting a more modest, shorter-term standard delivers fewer benefits at similar or even higher costs for consumers. Based on our analysis and the information available to date, we recommend the following:

    1. An extended, strengthened ReS. Governor Snyder and the Michigan legislature should pass in 2014 an extension of and a strengthening of Michigan’s current RES, requiring Michigan utilities to achieve at least 30 percent renewable energy by 2030.

    2. long-term power purchase agreements. Governor Snyder and the Michigan legislature should enact policies that will encourage or require utilities’ signing of long- term power purchase agreements to lock in low prices for renewable electricity for 20 years or more. This will ensure more affordable electricity for consumers over the long term and help protect against volatility in fossil fuel prices.

    3. A strong commitment to energy efficiency. Michigan’s energy efficiency resource standard should be increased, requiring utilities to reduce electricity demand by 2 percent each year—ramping up from the current standard of 1 percent annually to 2 percent annually by 2020 and each year thereafter. Aggressively developing Michigan’s energy efficiency resource will hasten the state’s transition to a clean energy economy and make the transition even more affordable.

    4. the adoption of supporting clean energy policies. To ensure a successful transition to a sustainable energy infrastructure, Michigan should also boost state incentives for clean energy, adopt stronger energy efficiency codes for buildings, and implement efficient and transparent processes for planning, siting, and approving clean energy projects.

    5. the establishment of a comprehensive, long-term energy resource planning process for Michigan’s utilities. The Michigan legislature should instruct the MPSC to establish an ongoing, transparent, and comprehensive planning process for Michigan’s utilities that includes a robust cost/benefit analysis of all available options—including renewable energy and energy efficiency—for meeting the state’s electricity needs. Any decisions on electricity sector investments, particularly those that would extend the lifetime of Michigan’s aging coal plants, should be considered in the context of a comprehensive strategy that meets electricity demand over the long term and minimizes the costs and risks to Michigan’s residents and businesses.

    In the last several years, Michigan has built strong momentum in its transition toward a clean energy economy. The state’s current RES has been a success, cost-effectively driving new renewable energy development and providing important economic, public health, and environmental benefits in the process. Absent further action, however, this momentum will stall. Michigan’s vast renewable energy resources would remain largely untapped, and the state would find itself increasingly vulnerable to the many risks associated with an overreliance on coal and natural gas. Michigan has the resources, technologies, skills, and experience needed to be a national leader in renewable energy. With thoughtful and determined political leadership, Michigan can maintain a reliable power supply, ensure affordable electricity for its residents and businesses, and maximize the economic returns and the public health and environmental benefits that a clean energy future brings.

    QUICK NEWS, April 16: THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE; THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY; BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE

    THE RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE IPCC: Mitigating Climate Change More Challenging Than Ever

    Eli Kintisch, 13 April 2014 (Science)

    “Global greenhouse emissions are skyrocketing. Emissions cuts required to avoid dangerous impacts of climate change are steep. And despite decades of talk, world governments have made paltry efforts to address the problem...That’s the grim picture painted by…[the latest climate change report from] the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…The report also describes the daunting work required to sidestep climate dangers…Economists have compared the task of lowering the world economy’s carbon footprint—now the equivalent of about 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year—to turning a cruise ship. But the report says the ship is firing full steam ahead…[and tackling global emissions on such a massive scale will be pricey, the report finds…” click here for more

    THE FAST RISING POTENTIAL OF U.S. NEW ENERGY Report Challenges EIA's Renewable Energy Projections; Says Renewables Could Hit 16% of U.S. Electrical Generation in Five Years, Not 27 Years as EIA Forecasts

    Ken Bossong, April 16, 2014 (SUN DAY Campaign)

    “…[T]he SUN DAY Campaign challenges assertions by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that renewable energy sources will provide only 16% of the nation's net electrical generation by the year 2040. Using EIA's own previously published data, the analysis shows that it's more likely the 16% level could be reached within five years…EIA's own published data…that the percentage of the nation's net electrical generation represented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9% in 2004 to nearly 13% in 2013…Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13% to 16%...[EIA's forecast] is simply wrong…[I]f the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5% of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4% in 2015, to 15.3% in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0% no later than 2018…[or, at worst,] by 2020…” click here for more

    BIG TEXAS WIND SHRINKS ELECTRICITY MRKT PRICE Power Prices in Texas Fall as Wind Generation Above Forecast

    Harry R. Weber, April 14, 2014 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

    “Spot wholesale electricity in Texas slid as generation from wind was above expectations…Wind power on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. network averaged 8,778 megawatts for the hour ended at 10 a.m. local time, above the day-ahead forecast of 8,425 megawatts…Spot power at the Texas North hub, which includes Dallas, fell $6.52, or 18 percent, to average $30.59 a megawatt-hour for the hour ended at 10 a.m. versus the same time April 11…Houston hub prices declined $6.29, or 17 percent, to $30.64…New York City power rose $2.43, or 6.2 percent, to average $41.71…while Boston power gained $2.03, or 5.4 percent, to $40.12…” click here for more

    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE MONEY IN NEW ENERGY

    2013 Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?

    April 3, 2014 (Pew Charitable Trusts)

    Overview

    For the past five years, Pew has tracked investment and finance trends in the world’s leading economies. Over that period, the clean energy industry has been buffeted by a global recession, broad changes in energy markets, and uncertainty surrounding international policies on clean energy and climate change. Despite these challenges, the clean energy sector is now an annual $250 billion component of the world economy.1

    Although global clean energy investment in renewable sources, biofuels, smart energy, and energy storage fell 11 percent in 2013, to $254 billion, a number of developments indicate a promising future for clean energy. First, the prices of leading technologies such as wind and solar have dropped steadily for decades; they are increasingly competitive with century-old and more financially volatile conventional power sources. Second, clean energy manufacturers are moving forward and have effectively weathered withering competitive pressures, consolidations, and policy changes. Investor confidence about the long-term future of renewable energy was reinforced in clean energy stock indexes in 2013, which rose sharply over the year. Third, markets in fast-growing, developing countries are prospering; these economies see distributed generation as an opportunity to avoid investments in costly transmission systems, comparable to the deployment of cellphones instead of costly landline infrastructure. Even in the contracting markets of Europe and the Americas, which have affected the overall industry, policymakers are recalibrating rather than abandoning clean energy policies.

    Worldwide investment dips for 2nd straight year

    Over the past two years, clean energy investment has declined 20 percent from a 2011 record of $318 billion. Although investment in non-G-20 markets grew by 15 percent, with promising sectors emerging in such places as Chile and Uruguay, investment in the larger and more established markets of G-20 countries2 declined by 16 percent. Only three G-20 countries—Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom—had increased levels in clean energy investment in 2013.

    Asian investment grows steadily, Europe slides sharply

    Clean energy investment in the European region, which is comprised of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, slid sharply for the second year in a row. It fell 42 percent, to $55 billion, less than half the region’s 2011 record of $115 billion. Investment levels declined sharply in once-vibrant markets, with levels in Germany down 55 percent and Italy 75 percent. In contrast, the Asia and Oceania region continued to grow steadily in 2013, with levels increasing 10 percent, to $102 billion. China continued to be the leading regional and global market, attracting $54.2 billion in 2013. Japan experienced the fastest investment growth in the world, increasing 80 percent, to almost $29 billion.

    Investment levels decreased in the Americas for the second year in a row to $52 billion, 8 percent lower than in 2012. Most notably, the largest markets in North and South America—the United States and Brazil—were down by 9 and 55 percent, respectively. For the first time, clean energy investment in Brazil was less than the combined total for the rest of Latin America. Canada was the second-fastest growing market in the G-20, increasing 45 percent, to $6.5 billion.

    Wind investment holds steady as solar slips

    Wind sector investments held relatively steady in 2013, falling 1 percent, to $73.5 billion, and accounted for 39 percent of the G-20 total. Financing dropped significantly in Turkey and Brazil, but those losses were offset by gains in Canada and the United Kingdom. China continued to attract the largest share of wind energy investment, accounting for 38 percent of the global total.

    For the fourth year in a row, solar energy technologies garnered the largest share of G-20 clean energy investment—52 percent of the total. Nonetheless, investment in solar technologies fell by 23 percent in 2013, to $97.6 billion. Steep drops in Germany and Italy were among the reasons that collective investment in the solar sector fell below the $100 billion mark for the first time in seven years.

    Energy efficient/low-carbon technologies, which include smart meters and energy storage devices, constituted the only clean energy sector with rising investment levels, growing 15 percent to $3.9 billion. G-20 investment in biofuels sank by 41 percent, to just under $3 billion. Other renewable energy technologies, including geothermal, biomass, and waste-to-energy, dropped by 31 percent, to $10.7 billion.

    Asset financing declines, but clean energy stocks soar

    Investment in small-distributed capacity, which is residential-scale solar projects of less than 1 megawatt, declined 29 percent in 2013, as did financing for large-scale assets. Together, these two classes account for more than 80 percent of clean energy investment. Asset financing decreased 14 percent in 2013, to $123.7 billion. China maintained its wide lead in asset financing for large projects, attracting $53.3 billion—more than 40 percent of the total.

    In line with falling solar investments overall, residential and small commercial solar capacity investments fell to $52.5 billion, the lowest level recorded in the past four years. Japan garnered 44 percent, or $23 billion of small-distributed capacity investments.

    Venture capital/private equity investment levels in the G-20 declined for the fourth consecutive year, falling 32 percent, to $4 billion. The United States continued to play a leading role in the venture capital/private equity category, accounting for 55 percent of 2013 investments.

    Stock market investors’ confidence in the clean energy sector grew in 2013. Stock prices on the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index, or NEX, which tracks leading renewable energy stocks, rose by 54 percent over the year—outpacing gains in major stock indexes such as the Standard & Poor’s 500. Consistent with rising stock prices, public market financing for company scale-ups across the G-20 increased by 176 percent, to $9.8 billion.

    Solar takes the lead in annual capacity additions

    For the first time in more than a decade, solar outpaced all other clean energy technology in terms of new generating capacity installed. Solar capacity additions increased by 29 percent compared with 2012 even though investment in the sector declined by 23 percent. This was due in part to ongoing price reductions, including significant cuts in manufacturing costs, but it was also a result of investment shifting from small-scale projects to less expensive large-scale ones. All told, a record 40 gigawatts of solar generating capacity was installed in 2013. By comparison, less than 40 GW of solar was installed from 2001 to 2010.

    Installations in the wind sector were 40 percent less than a year earlier, declining by 21.6 GW. The United States accounted for more than 56 percent of that drop, as wind installations collapsed in light of delayed renewal of the production tax credit. Nonetheless, with 27 GW of capacity added worldwide in 2013, cumulative wind installations surpassed 307 GW in 2013—more than 40 percent of the world’s clean energy capacity.

    On a regional basis, installations in 2013 dropped 48 percent in the Americas and 22 percent in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Installations in the latter region were down for the first time in more than 10 years. By contrast, clean energy capacity in the Asia and Oceania region increased by 64 percent, with more than 50.1 GW of capacity installed. More than a third of Asia’s gains in capacity were in the Chinese and Japanese solar sectors, which added a total of 18.8 GW. Japan added 6.7 GW, and China’s addition of 12.1 GW of solar far outpaced forecasts—setting a one-year record for solar deployment by any country.

    On a global basis, 87 GW of clean power was added in 2013, and cumulative installed capacity now surpasses 735 GW.

    China holds a wide lead in the clean energy race

    Although overall clean energy investment declined 6 percent in 2013, China solidified its leadership position in the global clean energy race by attracting $54.2 billion. Its clean energy sector is reorienting from an exclusive focus on exports toward greater domestic consumption, as evidenced by China’s dramatic growth in solar power capacity in recent years. Solar deployment increased almost fourfold in 2013, to an unprecedented 12.1 GW, besting its record of 3.2 GW in 2012. In addition, for the fifth year in a row, China deployed more than 10 GW of wind power. In total, China installed more than 35 GW of clean generating capacity in 2013, a record. In terms of investment, China led in the wind category with $28 billion and was second in the solar sector with $22.6 billion. Almost all of China’s investment was in the asset financing category, with $53.3 billion recorded, more than 40 percent of all G-20 asset financing.

    The U.S. clean energy sector is in a holding pattern as the second-largest world market. The fulfillment of state-level renewable portfolio standards, the lack of progress on national energy policy, and uncertainty about the direction of policies on global warming pollution has dampened investor interest in the sector. Overall, clean energy investment in the United States declined 9 percent in 2013, to $36.7 billion. The United States remained the second-leading destination for wind energy investments, attracting $14 billion. It was third in solar energy investments, with $17.7 billion. As has been the case for several years, the United States continued to garner world-leading investment levels in the biofuels and energy efficient/ low-carbon technology subsectors. The United States also remains the dominant recipient for public market and venture capital/private equity investments, attracting $6.8 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively, in 2013.

    U.S. wind installations in 2013 were down more than 90 percent, from a record installation of more than 13 GW of wind in 2012 to less than 1 GW in 2013. When the production tax credit was renewed in early 2013, slight changes in the law appear to have slowed a sharp drop in investment--deferring deployment of new wind capacity into 2014, when a strong rebound in capacity additions is forecast. Solar sector generating capacity continued to grow significantly, as it has in recent years. A record 4.4 GW of solar was added in the United States in 2013, 30 percent more than came online in 2012. Lower technology prices overall, and completion of a number of larger, less-expensive, utility-scale plants, fostered deployment growth despite lower investment totals.

    Japan jumped from fifth to third place among G-20 nations for overall clean energy investment, reflecting a priority since the Fukushima nuclear disaster for new energy alternatives. In 2013, Japan became the fastest-growing clean energy market in the world, growing by 80 percent, to $28.6 billion. Most striking was a near doubling of investment in Japan’s solar sector, which received $28 billion in 2013, almost 30 percent of the G-20 total.

    The United Kingdom defied the clean energy contraction that gripped the rest of Europe in 2013. Although clean energy investment in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France dropped by 40 percent or more, the United Kingdom experienced 13 percent growth in 2013. The U.K. was one of three G-20 countries to have investment gains last year, and it ranked fourth among G-20 nations. Most of this growth came in the wind sector, where investments increased by nearly 50 percent to $5.9 billion, on the strength of offshore projects and greater activity in public market financing. The world’s largest offshore wind project, the 630-MW London Array, was completed in 2013, and major financing was secured for the 210-MW Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Farm.

    Investment levels in Germany were highly sensitive to clean energy feed-in tariff3 reductions in 2013. Financing fell 55 percent from 2012 levels, to $10 billion, and the country dropped from third to sixth place among G-20 nations. Wind investments were down by 16 percent, to $5.1 billion, and solar financing declined by more than $10 billion, to $4.8 billion. The recalibration of German clean energy policies also affected deployment levels. Wind capacity additions totaled 3.4 GW in 2013. New solar generating capacity additions were down 50 percent, to less than 4 GW, after record additions of almost 8 GW in 2012. Germany has the most installed solar of any country in the world, with 35.5 GW.

    Strong clean energy investments in 2013 catapulted Canada up five spots to seventh place in the G-20. Investment grew by 45 percent, to $6.5 billion. The wind sector was especially strong, with financing increasing by more than 40 percent, to $3.6 billion. In Ontario province, a number of backlogged projects were permitted and several others were completed, such as the 270-MW South Kent Wind Farm and the 299-MW Blackspring Ridge project. The solar sector also recorded impressive growth, attracting $2.5 billion.

    South Africa’s clean energy sector garnered $4.9 billion in 2013, and it moved up from the 10th–largest to ninth-largest market in the G-20. Although investment levels were down 14 percent last year, South Africa’s market has grown the second fastest in the G-20 over the past five years. Sixty percent of the country’s clean energy investment in 2013, $3 billion, went to the solar sector in conjunction with Phase II of its carefully planned reverse auctions. An additional $1.9 billion was invested in the wind sector.

    Key Findings

    Worldwide clean energy investment falls a 2nd year

    Globally, public and private investment in solar, wind, and other technologies fell 11 percent in 2013, to $254 billion. Last year’s decline follows a 9 percent drop in 2012, and investment declined by one-fifth from the 2011 record of $318 billion.

    Although investment in non-G-20 markets grew by 15 percent, with promising sectors emerging in such places as Chile and Uruguay, it dropped in the larger, established G-20 markets by 16 percent. In 2013, clean energy investment rose in only three G-20 countries: Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

    The results from 2013 indicate several ongoing developments affecting the clean energy marketplace. Investment has fallen in recent years in response to mutually reinforcing economic and political pressures in developed markets. Governments in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere have initiated fiscal austerity measures and curtailed certain clean energy incentives. The political environment surrounding climate change has also evolved in these countries, as domestic negotiations drag on and it remains uncertain whether the international community can agree on a comprehensive framework for reducing carbon emissions. Recent technological advancements in oil and gas recovery also have directed some investment back toward more traditional energy sources.

    In response to these developments, the clean energy sector has experienced some consolidation—shuttering less-competitive companies and forcing the industry overall to become more efficient and capable of competing in a less-subsidized marketplace. It is a measure of the sector’s resilience that worldwide financing and investment have totaled more than $250 billion four years running. Moreover, impressive levels of deployment have been sustained as the prices for wind, solar, and energy-smart technologies have fallen. In view of industry maturation, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects a 2014 rebound in worldwide investment and installation of renewable energy.

    Investment in European market plummets

    Clean energy investment in the region that encompasses Europe, the Middle East, and Africa declined sharply for the second year in a row, falling 42 percent in 2013 to levels not seen since the mid-2000s. This region had been the world’s most attractive clean energy market over the past decade, garnering a record $115 billion in 2011. But investment has since plummeted, tumbling to $55 billion in 2013, less than half that of 2011 levels. Most of Europe’s major clean energy markets decreased considerably in 2013, with year-over-year investments down 55 percent in Germany, 75 percent in Italy, and 84 percent in Spain. Investment increased only in the United Kingdom, as a few large offshore wind projects gained significant financing and several were completed. Overall, declines in the European region accounted for much of the reduction in global clean energy investment.

    In contrast, steady, uninterrupted growth in clean energy investment in the Asia and Oceania region continued apace in 2013, with overall levels increasing 10 percent, to $102 billion. This was the only region to experience rising investment last year. China continued to dominate regional and global markets, attracting $54.2 billion in 2013, a decrease of 6 percent from 2012. But China’s decline was more than offset by gains in the Japanese market, which grew by 80 percent, to almost $29 billion.

    Investment levels fell in the Americas for the second year in a row, to $52 billion, 8 percent lower than in 2012. Most notably, the region’s largest markets in North and South America—the United States and Brazil—were down 9 and 55 percent, respectively. For the first time, clean energy investment in Brazil was less than the combined total for the rest of Latin America. The Brazilian market slowed, as auctions for wind power flagged and only 600 MW of new capacity was added. In North America, significant new wind energy investments in Canada led to a 45 percent increase in 2013.

    Solar investment falls sharply but maintains lead

    For the fourth consecutive year, solar energy technologies attracted the largest share of G-20 clean energy investment, accounting for 52 percent of the total. Nonetheless, investment in solar technologies fell by 23 percent in 2013, to $97.6 billion, registering below $100 billion for the first time in four years. Solar investments drecreased by more than $10 billion in both Germany and Italy, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the overall decline.

    Wind sector investments held relatively steady in 2013, slipping 1 percent, to $73.5 billion, and accounting for 39 percent of the G-20 total. Wind energy investment did not change appreciably in most major markets, except for a drop of more than 30 percent in Brazil. China continues to attract the largest share of wind energy investment by a wide margin, accounting for 38 percent of the global total.

    Energy efficient/low-carbon technologies, which include smart meters and energy storage devices, constituted the only clean energy sector with rising investment levels, growing 15 percent, to $3.9 billion. More than two-thirds of the energy efficient/low-carbon technology investments were in the United States. Advanced energy efficiency products such as the Nest thermostat and promising energy storage and fuel cell technologies, such as those developed by Bloom Energy, have helped boost this sector. Bloom Energy raised $130 million to expand operations through a private equity investment.

    G-20 investment in biofuels declined by 41 percent in 2013, to just under $3 billion. Other renewable energy technologies (geothermal, biomass, small hyrdro, and waste-to-energy) fell by 31 percent, to $10.7 billion. (See Figure 3 for a breakdown of investment by technology.)

    Asset finance, small-distributed capacity investments decline

    Investment in clean energy assets for larger plants and small-distributed capacity, which account for more than 80 percent of total clean energy investment, both fell. Asset financing dropped 14 percent in 2013, to $123.7 billion. China attracted a world-leading $53.3 billion worth of asset financing, more than 40 percent of the G-20 total, and the United States $19.8 billion.

    Consistent with declines in the solar sector, investment in residential and small commercial solar capacity dropped 29 percent, to $52.5 billion, the lowest level recorded in the past four years. Japan garnered 44 percent of small-distributed capacity investments for a total of $23 billion, as its residential solar market expanded significantly.

    Venture capital/private equity investment levels in the G-20 declined for the fourth consecutive year, falling 32 percent, to $4.0 billion. This kind of early-stage investment in innovative new clean energy companies has decreased since funding for capital-intensive solar companies has waned and clean-tech companies have not produced the rapid windfall payouts that many venture capitalists seek. The United States continued to play a leading role in venture capital/private equity, accounting for 55 percent of 2013 investments, with key financings for Bloom Energy (fuel cells), Joule Unlimited (biofuels), and Fluidic (energy storage).

    Research and development investments made by governments and corporations worldwide rose by 1.2 percent, to $29.2 billion. In an encouraging development, investors signaled growing confidence as reflected in the stock prices of the NEX, which rose by 54 percent, outpacing gains in major stock indexes such as the Standard & Poor’s 500. Consistent with rising stock prices, public market financing for company scale-up across the G-20 increased by 176 percent, to $9.8 billion. Innovative financing models helped spur public market financing. NRG Energy, a U.S. utility, raised $430 million from investors interested in its portfolio of wind, solar, and other natural gas generating capacity. Other prominent public market transactions included initial public offerings by Pattern Energy Group, a wind project developer, and Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital in the United States, Foresight Solar Fund in the United Kingdom, and TransAlta Renewables in Canada.

    Among the prominent bond offerings were those proffered by SolarCity and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy, which issued an $850 million bond to help finance a major solar photovoltaic project in California. (For a full description of the financing categories explored in this report, see Figure 14 on Page 22.)

    Solar capacity soars, installed wind surpasses 300 GW

    In 2012, falling prices for wind and solar technologies allowed installed capacity to increase even though worldwide clean energy investment dropped. This was not the case in 2013. Prices continued to slide in 2013, especially for permitting and other “balance of system” costs, but investment was insufficient to prevent slippage in annual installed capacity. Overall investment was down 11 percent globally, but annual capacity additions in 2013 fell by only 1 percent, to 87 GW.

    For the first time in more than a decade, more solar generating capacity was installed than any other clean energy technology. Solar capacity additions grew by 29 percent annually even though investment in the sector declined by 23 percent, compared with 2012. This was due in part to ongoing price reductions, but also to an investment shift from small-scale projects to less-expensive large-scale ones. At year’s end, a record 40 GW of solar generating capacity was installed in 2013; less than 40 GW of solar was installed from 2001 to 2010.

    Installations in the wind sector declined by 21.6 GW (44 percent) in 2013, compared with the previous year. In the United States, wind installations were down more than 12 GW, as deployment sank 90 percent in response to uncertainty in 2012 over renewing the country’s production tax credit. Nonetheless, with 27 GW of capacity added in 2013, cumulative wind installations surpassed 307 GW, accounting for more than 40 percent of the world’s clean energy capacity.

    On a regional basis, installations in 2013 dropped 48 percent in the Americas and 22 percent in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Installations in this region were down for the first time in more than 10 years. By contrast, clean energy capacity in the Asia and Oceania region increased by 64 percent, with more than 50.1 GW of capacity installed. Almost half of Asia’s gains in capacity were logged in the Chinese and Japanese solar sectors, which added a total of 18.8 GW. Japan installed 6.7 GW, and China’s addition of 12.1 GW of solar far outpaced forecasts and was a one-year record for solar deployment by any country.

    QUICK NEWS, April 15: WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014; NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER; MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY

    WORLD WIND TO BOOM THRU 2014 Wind Power Projects to Rise to Record in 2014, Lobby Says

    Alex Morales, April 9, 2014 (Bloomberg News)

    “Wind-power installations will climb to a record this year, driven by resurgent U.S. demand and growth in developing nations from Brazil to China, the Global Wind Energy Council predicted…Worldwide installations will probably surge 34 percent to 47.3 gigawatts in 2014…That follows a drop by more than a fifth to 35.3 gigawatts last year that was fueled by crashing U.S. demand after a tax credit to the industry expired…[Developing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa] will spur new wind power demand for the next five years…The U.S. will also see a rebound, because of the structuring of the industry’s [production tax credit (PTC)]…” click here for more

    NAT GAS AND SOLAR WERE 75% OF U.S. 2013 NEW POWER Solar And Gas Provided Nearly 75% Of All New U.S Capacity In 2013

    8 April 2014 (Solar Industry)

    “Capacity figures compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that natural gas and solar are providing the vast majority of the nation's new electricity generating resources. Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for just over 50% of new utility-scale generating capacity added in 2013. Solar provided nearly 22%, a jump up from less than 6% in 2012. Coal provided 11% and wind nearly 8%...In total, a little over 13.5 GW of new capacity was added in 2013, less than half the capacity added in 2012…Solar photovoltaic added 2,193 MW of capacity in 2013…Distributed solar PV capacity additions also grew in 2013, with estimated non-utility additions of 1,900 MW…” click here for more

    MAINE OFFICIALLY AFFIRMS SMART METERS’ SAFETY Maine Public Utilities Commission: Smart Meters Are Safe

    March 31, 2014 (Renew Grid)

    “Smart meters are not a health risk, finds a report by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC)…[in answer to a 2012] court-ordered review…After the commission approved Central Maine Power Co.'s plan to install smart meters for the utility's 620,000 customers in 2009, objections began to mount. Soon thereafter, activists…[argued] the commission failed in its legal obligation to ensure the safety of utility customers…[and contended] the radio frequency emissions and wireless networks related to smart meters endanger human health. The MPUC's report refutes such assertions and will serve as a guideline for the commission as it decides how to handle the alleged health issues, a determination that is expected to come later this year…[T]he MPUC] accepted thousands of pages of expert testimony for its report…[and] concluded that there is no credible, peer-reviewed research to support a direct link between smart meters and health problems…The MPUC also found that the radio frequencies emitted by smart meters meet federal safety standards…[N]o regulatory entity or health agency in the U.S. or Canada has ruled smart meters to be unsafe…” click here for more

    Monday, April 14, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THIS COULD BE THE REAL VALUE OF SOLAR

    Minnesota’s Value of Solar; Can a Northern State’s New Solar Policy Defuse Distributed Generation Battles?

    John Farrell, April 9, 2014 (Institute for Local Self Reliance)

    Executive Summary

    In March 2014, Minnesota became the first state to adopt a “value of solar” policy. It may fundamentally change the financial relationship between electric utilities and their energy- producing customers. It may also serve as a precedent for setting a transparent, market- based price on solar energy. This report explains the origins of value of solar, the compromises made to get the policy adopted in Minnesota, and the potential impact on utilities and solar energy producers.

    The Value Of Solar Concept

    The basic concept behind value of solar is that utilities should pay a transparent and market-based price for solar energy. The market value of solar energy is based on:

    •Avoiding the purchase of energy from other, polluting sources

    •Avoiding the need to build additional power plant capacity to meet peak energy needs

    •Providing energy for decades at a fixed price

    •Reducing wear and tear on the electric grid, including power lines, substations, and power plants

    Value of solar is not like net metering, where producing energy reduces your electricity bill just like turning off a light. Figure A illustrates the difference between net metering and value of solar in Minnesota. It also highlights a few key features of the adopted value of solar policy, including the 25-year contract, and the use of bill credits rather than a separate cash payment.

    Minnesota’s Value of Solar

    As adopted, Minnesota’s value of solar formula includes all of the basic components of the theoretical policy. The following chart shows the relative value of the various components, and the total value, based on early estimates filed during the proceedings at the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

    A Caution

    Although Minnesota’s value of solar policy is a precedent, the adopted policy had some good elements that were lost in the legislative process, elements that other states may want to revive…

    The Impact on Utilities and Customers

    Value of solar offers something for everyone. For utility customers, a 25-year contract at a fixed price makes solar financing much easier, and as the cost of solar continues to fall, quite lucrative.

    For utilities, the transparency of the market price means no concerns about cross-subsidies between solar customers and non-solar customers. It means a payment for solar energy uncoupled from the retail electricity price. It may also mean a potential for cost recovery on payments made to solar producers, something not allowed with net metering. In Minnesota’s case, it also means free access to solar renewable energy credits, at a substantial savings compared to credit prices in states with competitive credit markets, i.e. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, etc.

    Will Value of Solar End Battles Over Distributed Generation?

    If Minnesota utilities report favorably on the value of solar, it may change the debate on other state battlegrounds over distributed generation (Figure D).

    The value of solar delivers a transparent, market-based price for solar. It solves problems for utilities and for utility customers around compensation for distributed renewable energy generation. But its ultimate success lies in whether electric utilities can be convinced that accommodation of customer-owned power generation is in their best interest, or whether any concession of their market share is a deadly threat to their economic livelihood.


    Introduction

    On March 12, 2014, Minnesota became the first state to give utilities and distributed solar power producers a new way to negotiate power supply contracts, a method called the “value of solar.” If adopted by utilities, it will fundamentally change the relationship between solar- producing customers and their electric utility.

    Until now, producing on-site energy from a solar panel has been treated much like any other activity reducing electricity use. Energy produced from solar is subtracted from the amount of energy used each month, and the customer pays for the net amount of energy consumed. This “net metering” policy has guided the growth of distributed solar power in the United States to an astonishing 13 gigawatts (GW) by the end of 2013.

    But net metering has now become the focal point for the utility war on the democratization of the electric grid and the expansion of distributed solar. The numerous attacks by utilities around the country are a phenomenon made possible by enormous reductions in the cost of on-site power generation from solar. The following map illustrates the many states where utilities have sought to undermine policies and/or incentives supporting distributed renewable energy generation.

    The potential transformation of the grid and the improving economics of self generation have utilities crying foul (or fowl) because as more and more customers use net metering, it reduces electricity sales. Combined with increasing energy efficiency and an economic downturn, this has utilities feeling that their business model is evaporating.

    Increasing evidence suggests that the overall economic benefits to the utility’s electric grid may outweigh the loss of revenue, but this benefit is not transparent because on-site power generators are paid based on the cost of using electricity, not the value of their energy production.

    The new value of solar policy creates a market price for distributed solar energy in an effort to answer utility concerns, but also to reinforce the notion that on-site power generation benefits the customer, her neighbors, and the electric grid. Interestingly, Minnesota’s rigorous formula suggests that in crying “foul,” utilities may have been crying “wolf.” That’s because the initial estimates of the market value of solar peg it at more than the retail electricity price. In other words, Minnesota utilities have been getting a sweet deal on solar power, reaping its benefits for their ratepayers and shareholders.

    Does that mean that the value of solar will be better than net metering for solar producers? For utilities? For ratepayers? Perhaps.

    This brief will explain the current standard for distributed solar – net metering – the value of solar option, the recent development and approval of the policy in Minnesota, and the implications for the continued expansion of distributed renewable energy.

    The Old Standard: Net Metering…The New Option: Value of Solar…The Principle…Minnesota’s Value of Solar Law…Will it Work for Solar Producers?...Will it Work for Utilities?...Who Wins?...

    What’s Next?

    The hope is that value of solar can help defuse many of the state policy battles in progress over distributed generation. As shown in Figure 1 (page 2) from the introduction, local power generation policy is under attack by utilities in many states.

    If Minnesota utilities adopt the approved value of solar methodology and see it as a success, then it may encourage utilities in other states to support the option. Similarly, if solar and distributed generation advocates in other states see value of solar as a successful tool for growing on-site power generation, they’ll be willing to come to terms with utilities.

    The key to success is not just the policy, however, but the process of adoption and implementation. Minnesota’s value of solar wasn’t without significant controversy, and key provisions in the original law (e.g. customer choice) were lost before the process of setting the methodology. Even some of the enacted options (e.g. local economic development benefit) were left out of the approved methodology. Other states may find that these components are essential to getting all parties to approve of the value of solar.

    Additionally, Minnesota had a very robust stakeholder process that was led by a very competent government agency and guided by two superb teams of experts from Clean Power Research and Rocky Mountain Institute. Without a similar process and expertise in another state, the process may not result in a similar level of buy-in. (Indeed, at this report’s publication date, no utility had filed for value of solar in Minnesota yet).

    Ultimately, value of solar is a promising policy opportunity, a way to address concerns of utilities and distributed renewable energy advocates with a transparent and robust market price. We’ll see if it lives up to the promise.

    QUICK NEWS, April 14: DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS; THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR; TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS

    DE-RISKED RENEWABLES HAVE MORE INVESTORS THAN DEALS Solar, Wind Reaping Cheaper Capital, SunEdison Founder Says

    Ehren Goosens, April 8, 2014 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

    “Developers of solar and wind power projects can now access capital at a lower cost, paving the way for continued growth, Jigar Shah, founder and former chief executive officer of SunEdison said…Capital costs are now often less than 6 percent to 7 percent thanks to financing sources and greater investor comfort with financing renewable energy projects, Shah said…New financing methods such as yield companies -- separate businesses that own power plants being pursued by Abengoa SA (ABG) and NRG Energy Inc. (NRG:US) -- and increased participation in the industry by pension funds make sense because the cost of making those projects is fixed…‘The question is: can developers develop enough projects to satiate the money?... Can this industry really deliver the deals now that the money isn’t an issue? Can you feed the beast? We are long money and short deals.’” click here for more

    THE MYTH OF CONSOLIDATION IN SOLAR Solar PV Consolidation: Fact or Fiction?

    Finlay Colville, March 21, 2014 (SolarBuzz)

    “…Looking at cell production only (including c-Si cell and thin-film) - and specifically in-house cell production – a fairly good picture can be obtained about whether or not there is consolidation…The analysis uses annual in-house cell production for 2010 to 2013 (actual) and then adds NPD Solarbuzz forecasts (done bottom-up by each producer) for 2014…If there was consolidation going on, then the percentage of the market each year supplied by the top-10 and top-20 would show a strong uptick. This would then be carried forward across the other ranges, out to the top-100…[T]his is clearly not happening. In fact, the share from the top-10 is actually going down, not up, from 43% in 2010 to 38% in 2014…” click here for more

    TEXAS BREAKS MORE WIND RECORDS Market Snapshot: Already leading US in wind power, ERCOT breaks more records in 2014

    Emily Reynolds, April 7, 2014 (SNL)

    “Wind power remains one of the fastest growing sources of new electric generation in the country, breaking records all across the U.S. over the past couple of years thanks to transmission upgrades and new wind development..[W] ind energy capacity in the U.S. grew more than 140% over the past five years…[E]lectricity generated from wind turbines climbed about 200%...[W]ind power has more than tripled since 2008 and is now the fifth largest [U.S.] electricity source…In 2013, Texas became the leader in the wind industry…[W]ind generation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc., or ERCOT, grew more than 140% since early 2009, closely following the rapid growth in all of the U.S…Upgrades to transmission lines in Texas in early 2014 have allowed several records to be set for wind generation…with the latest record of 10,296 MW set March 26…” click here for more

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