NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • Weekend Video: Obama On Climate Change At The UN
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HIGH WATER RISING – EVERYWHERE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-MOROCCO WIND BOOM COMING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA BOOSTS ITS SOLAR BUILD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ABU DHABI BUYS A PIECE OF NORWAY’S STAKE IN UK OFFSHORE WIND
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 25:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE PRIVATE SECTOR FACES CLIMATE CHANGE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR WILL POWER SCHOOLS, EARN MONEY FOR TEACHERS
  • TTTA Thursday-A RIDE IN TOMORROW’S CAR
  • TTTA Thursday-A LOOK AT SEE-THROUGH SOLAR
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: FREEING THE NATIONAL TREASURE IN U.S. NATIONAL LABS
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 24: ROCKEFELLERS DIVEST OIL FOR NEW ENERGY; BOLD $8BIL WIND BUILD-TRANSMIT-STORE PROJECT; CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: WHERE OFFSHORE WIND IS IN THE WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 23: THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION; THE MATTER OF WIND IN KANSAS; MICROGRID TECHNOLOGY MARKET TO QUADRUPLE
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY TO BE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST AND BEST ENERGY BY 2030
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 22: BIG NEW WHITE HOUSE BACKING FOR SUN, EE; DOE BOOSTS RESEARCH ON BIGGER WIND; TEXAS CONSIDERS SPREADING GRID COSTS
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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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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Monday, September 29, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: ADDING UP THE CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS

    Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality; Low Carbon Economy Index 2014

    September (PricewaterhouseCoopers)

    Heading for four degrees?

    The PwC Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) calculates the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy that is needed to limit warming to 2°C. We base our analysis on the carbon budget estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for 2°C.

    Emissions per unit of GDP fell in 2013 by 1.2%, marginally better than the average decrease of 0.9% since 2000. But with such limited progress in decoupling emissions growth from GDP growth, the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running. The average annual rate of decarbonisation required for the rest of this century for us to stay within the two degree budget now stands at 6.2%. This is double the decarbonisation rate achieved in the UK during the rapid shift to gas-fired electricity generation in the nineties.

    While negotiations focus on policies to limit warming to 2°C, based on the decarbonisation rates of the last six years, we are headed for 4°C of warming in global average temperature by the end of the century, with severe consequences identified by the IPCC for ecosystems, livelihoods and economies.

    The mounting challenge of decarbonisation

    PwC’s Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) has looked at the progress of the G20 economies against a 2°C global carbon budget since 2009. Currently, economic growth is closely coupled with carbon emissions and increased greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. The IPCC’s latest assessment report (AR5) has reinforced the message that, without the rapid decoupling of GDP and emissions, climate change will present widespread threats to business and society.

    AR5 sets out four carbon budgets that correspond to different degrees of warming by the end of the 21st century. The current consensus target by governments, convened under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is to limit global average temperature increase to 2°C. To meet this warming scenario (known as RCP2.6 in AR5), cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2100 need to be no more than 270GtC (or around 990GtCO2).

    But while all governments at the UNFCCC reiterate the goal of limiting warming to 2°C, implementation has fallen short of this goal. Current total annual energy-related emissions are just over 30 GtCO2 and still rising, a carbon ‘burn rate’ that would deplete the carbon budget for the entire century within the next 20 years. The IPCC has warned that our current trajectory will lead to warming estimated to range from 3.7 -- 4.8°C over the 21st century. It anticipates severe adverse impacts on people and ecosystems through water stress, food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts and species extinction on land and sea. At the higher levels of warming, the IPCC states that these impacts are likely to be pervasive, systemic, and irreversible.

    Against this backdrop of gloom, the decarbonisation results reported in this years’s LCEI bring a glimmer of hope, with growth in absolute emissions of only 1.8%, the slowest rate of emissions growth since 2008-2009, when carbon emissions fell as a result of the global recession. The reduction in carbon intensity is also the highest since 2008, standing at 1.2%, compared to 0.8% in 2012. Nevertheless it is still only one fifth of the decarbonisation rate required. Currently, the LCEI shows the global economy would need to cut its carbon intensity by 6.2% a year, every year from now to 2100, more than five times its current rate.

    The stakes are high

    The physical impacts of climate change will vary from country to country, and some countries may find that the impacts within its own borders are relatively limited or in some cases benign. But in a highly globalised economy, no country is likely to be spared as the impacts of climate change ripple around the world, affecting interdependent supply chains and flows of people and investment.

    Indirect impacts of climate change

    The UK, for example, will face adverse domestic impacts in the form of extreme weather events such as flooding, storms and heat waves, as well as some negative impacts on agricultural production. It is also projected to see some benefits, through increased agricultural yields for some produce, and lower winter mortality. But the international impacts of climate change to the UK could be an order of magnitude larger than domestic threats and opportunities. The UK for example, holds around £10 trillion of assets abroad, with the flow of investment by the UK into other countries exceeding £1 trillion in 2011 alone. Physical or economic damages in the countries that the UK has invested in will therefore flow back to the UK – and some of the sectors that the UK has invested in have already identified vulnerability to climate impacts, for example food and beverages, mining and power generation. Many of the UK’s largest retailers are now conducting risk assessments of long-term climate trends and the implications for their supply chains and business operations. Other sectors, such as manufacturing and financial services, could be affected by both the physical impacts of climate change and regulatory pressures on carbon-intensive assets. Extreme weather-related events beyond UK borders in the past year alone have shown that these losses can be significant.

    Progress in 2013

    In last year’s LCEI we calculated that the global economy needed to reduce carbon intensity (the amount of carbon emissions per unit of GDP) by 6.0% a year to limit warming to 2°C. Overall, we have fallen far short of the global target for the sixth successive year, achieving only a 1.2% reduction in 2013. Having failed to achieve the global decarbonisation rate of 6.0%, the global challenge we face going forward is now tougher still. The path to 2100 requires an annual global decarbonisation rate averaging 6.2%. But the global result masks striking variations in performance at the national level.

    An unexpected champion surpassed the decarbonisation target – Australia recorded a decarbonisation rate of 7.2% over 2013, putting it top of the table for the second year in a row. Three other countries – the UK, Italy and China – achieved a decarbonisation rate of between 4% and 5%. Five countries, however, increased their carbon intensity over 2013: France, the US, India, Germany and Brazil.

    One glimmer of hope lies in the performance of emerging markets, with this year seeing the reversal of an emissions trend between the G7 and E7 economies. Since LCEI analysis started, the G7 has consistently outpaced the E7 in reducing carbon intensity, but in 2013, for the first time, the E7 averaged a 1.7% reduction in carbon intensity, while the G7 managed only 0.2%. This indicates the possibility of the E7 maintaining economic growth while slowing the rate of growth in their emissions. As the main manufacturing hubs of the world, the E7 economies currently have total carbon emissions 1.5 times larger than that of the G7, a figure expected to grow. This possibility of the E7 decoupling of growth from carbon is vital for global progress towards carbon targets.

    Ups and downs: Analysing the results…Can renewables compete with coal by the 2020s?..

    Promising three degrees…How the pledges currently stack up…Commitments vs. progress by the largest emitters…Weak G7 progress towards 2020 targets…Continued rising carbon emissions from E7…Politically not scientifically driven…

    Delivering two degrees

    So what is needed?

    The international negotiations leading up to Paris 2015 are a critical chance to ensure collective agreement on targets to keep temperature increases within 2°C. The foundation of a successful deal will be a set of emissions pledges that are adequate to maintain global temperature increases below 2°C.

    The IPCC, and others such as UNEP, have estimated the required carbon emissions levels under the different concentration pathways. The IPCC’s latest report on mitigation has also put forward, based on a range of models, a possible breakdown of the carbon budget by regions14. The UN initiative referred to as the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project also considered plausible decarbonisation pathways for 15 countries15.

    What does this look like in more detail?

    The LCEI takes these breakdowns as a basis to outline the potential reductions required by these countries, and their ongoing decarbonisation rates. The challenge is considerable.

    Overall, to stay within the global carbon budget, annual energy-related emissions by the G20 bloc need to fall by one-third by 2030 and just over half by 2050. Much of the debate in climate negotiations has centred on responsibility and how to share the burden between developed and developing countries, as defined in 1992 in the UNFCCC. Regardless of how the carbon budget is split, it is clear that both developed and emerging economies face the challenge of growing their economies whilst radically curbing emissions.

    The timeline is also unforgiving. The IPCC and others have estimated that global emissions will need to peak around 2020 to meet a 2°C budget. This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.

    Specifically, to stay within a 2°C budget, the G7 needs to further reduce its absolute carbon emissions by 44% by 2030 and 75% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels. Even if the 2020 pledges are met, this means its carbon intensity needs to fall by 5.9% from 2020 to 2030, and by 6.0% from 2030 to 2050.

    For the E7 economies, meeting the 2020 pledges is just the first step. The required carbon emissions reduction from 2020 to 2030 will have to be sharp and immediate, equivalent to a carbon intensity reduction of 8.5% per annum. If this is achieved, then further carbon intensity reductions of about 5.3% a year to 2050 could take the E7 to emission levels compatible with limiting climate change to a 2°C warming. In this case, carbon intensity levels will be comparable to those of the G7 by 2050…

    G7 (incl EU) historical energy-related emissions and targets…G7 carbon intensity reality and ambition…E7 historical energy-related emissions and targets…

    Betting on Paris 2015…Expectations and necessity…The critical role of national targets…

    Smoke signals to look for before Paris

    With timing of the essence, there are a number of developments to watch out for ahead of the climate talks in Paris 2015 that look to be preconditions of success:

    • Big footprint leadership: The outcome of the New York UN Climate Leaders’ Summit, hosted by Ban Ki-moon on September 23 2014, will be highly influential. Strong attendance by heads of state, and strong calls for increased ambition and action – whether jointly or individually – will provide legitimacy to the efforts of their negotiating teams in Lima and beyond, while encouraging governments to put forward more ambitious targets.

    • INDC pledges: The emissions reduction pledges submitted by countries by March 2015 are the building blocks of a deal. How the renewed pledges add up will shape the likely carbon emissions trajectory for the world for the next decades. These pledges can be increased after Paris, and a new UN process would likely be introduced to enable this, but the INDCs will demonstrate the short-to-medium term willingness of governments to decarbonise.

    • ‘Draft decisions’ papers: laying down the policy foundations: Specific policies, what’s in and what’s out, will be the battleground for negotiators in the next months. The more that is locked down before Paris, for example in the 2014 summit in Lima, Peru, the more likely it is that there could be an international deal. Draft decision papers that secure at least a high level policy consensus will therefore be critical. Working groups of the UNFCCC process are gearing up activities by making public some possible options for the Paris 2015 deal.

    • A change in the carbon rhetoric? Above all, as some renewables appear to approach cost parity, and as the costs of climate inaction – from flooding to food insecurity - appear to grow, the strongest determinant of success will be the broadening of the emerging recognition by both business and political leaders that taking decisive action to mitigate climate change is not a cost, it is a pre-condition for sustained economic growth.

    The next two annual UN climate summits in Lima and Paris will indicate the direction in which the world is headed on climate change. Where we are now is clear: inadequate pledges, inadequately implemented. If these four indicators above of success are met, though, the picture could start to look different. The stage is then set for one meeting to take us off the path to 4°C, beyond the present promises of 3°C, towards a policy framework for a future where warming is limited to 2°C.

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 29: PRES SAYS YES TO CLIMATE ACTION, SENATE STUCK; FLAWED NEW PLAN FOR NEW ENERGY IN CALIF; SOLAR PANELS GET BETTER

    PRES SAYS YES TO CLIMATE ACTION, SENATE STUCK Obama gives good speech on climate change, and Congress shrugs

    Greg Sargent, Sept. 23, 2014 (Washington Post)

    “At the United Nations today, President Obama gave a decent speech about climate change. He hit a number of key points…[saying that climate change is ‘the most important and consequential issue of the 21st Century’ and though the science is undeniable], we are dangerously close to condemning the next generation to a future that is ‘beyond our capacity to repair’ …[and, more importantly, acknowledging that] ‘there will be interests that will be resistant to action’…[and concerns that] ‘if we act and other countries don’t, that we will be at an economic disadvantage’…[the U.S. will act but it] can only succeed in combating climate change ‘if we are joined in this effort by every nation, developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass…’

    “…And yet, because any international climate treaty requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate, the administration is reduced to exploring ways of pursuing a treaty that isn’t legally binding and wouldn’t require Senate ratification…Environmentalists have worked hard to prove that climate can matter in electoral politics, but…[the Senate] will probably be unstable and closely contested, with very narrow majorities in either direction, for years to come…” click here for more

    FLAWED NEW PLAN FOR NEW ENERGY IN CALIF Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan released

    Sammy Roth, Sept. 23, 2014 (The Desert Sun)

    “…[The 8,000 page] long-awaited Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan…could reshape the desert's energy landscape and set aside millions of acres…The plan is likely to transform how solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects are sited across the desert. It designates zones for renewable energy development and conservation across more than 22.5 million acres of public and private land in the Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran deserts, spanning seven California counties…The plan's ‘preferred alternative’ sets aside more than 2 million acres for renewable energy development in an effort to provide space for up to 20,000 megawatts of new generation by 2040. Solar, wind and geothermal projects would be fast-tracked…[through] streamlined environmental review and permitting processes…

    “…[It also] designates more than 6.1 million acres as federal conservation lands, on top of the more than 7.6 million acres of pre-existing conservation lands within the study area. Renewable energy development would be prohibited or extremely limited in these areas…[The plan outlines] six potential roadmaps [including a preferred alternative] for land use in the desert…[Few areas were opened to new wind overall and could end wind development in the state, according to California Wind Energy Association Director Nancy Rader, while environmental groups asked if 20,000 megawatts of new renewable energy development in the desert will be needed]…” click here for more

    SOLAR PANELS GET BETTER Panels that never lose their focus

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    "The high-cost and low efficiency of solar cells could partly be overcome with new designs by Glint Photonics which focus and capture more incoming sunlight to generate electricity…[S]elf-tracking solar concentrators can change their reflectivity depending on the direction of incoming sunlight. As the sun moves and the direction its rays come in from also changes, the concentrators track this…and remove reflectivity in just that region of their surface, enabling the light to…be concentrated and trapped to reach a solar cell…[This is usually done] with specially constructed and placed mirrors and lenses which need to be constantly moved as the sun rises and descends across the sky…Removing their need and increasing the amount of sunlight captured could dramatically reduce the cost of solar power…The design is currently a proof-of-concept and the team are working on improving efficiency…” click here for more

    Saturday, September 27, 2014

    Obama On Climate Change At The UN

    From Bloomberg News via YouTube

    Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change

    From Comedy Central

    Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”

    From Comedy Central

    Friday, September 26, 2014

    HIGH WATER RISING – EVERYWHERE

    New Analysis Shows Global Exposure to Sea Level Rise

    Sept. 23, 2014 (Climate Central)

    “Every global shore touches the same ocean, and the ocean is rising…147 to 216 million people live on land that will be below sea level or regular flood levels by the end of the century, assuming emissions of heat-trapping gases continue on their current trend. By far the largest group — 41 to 63 million — lives in China…But even these figures may be two to three times too low, meaning as many as 650 million people may be threatened…[Using more state-of-the-art methods], we found that global elevation data led to [underestimates by a factor of 3 to 4], whereas global population data led to overestimates by a factor of 1.6 to 1.8. The net effect of global data was underestimation by a factor of 2 to 3…[That could mean] 300 to 650 million people live on land that will be submerged or exposed to chronic flooding, by 2100, under current emission trends. Higher-quality global data — and in particular, elevation data — is needed to help resolve those figures…” click here for more

    MOROCCO WIND BOOM COMING

    Moroccan energy farm to use GE wind turbines

    Hannah Raven, Sept. 23, 2014 (Construction Week Online)

    “General Electric Company will supply wind turbines for a renewable energy project in North Africa. Developed by Energie Eolienne du Maroc (EEM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nareva Holding, the 100MW wind farm will be located near Akhfennir, southern Morocco…The 56 wind turbines will help meet the country’s renewable energy goals, while offering EEM economic returns…The contract complements the government of Morocco’s [Renewable Energy Law and] Integrated Wind Energy Project, which aims to generate 2000MW of wind power by 2020…Authorities have earmarked $3bn for the project…The power generated by the plant is intended to support industrial companies under Morocco’s Power Purchase Agreement…Akhfennir is one of the wind farms in the first phase of the Moroccan Integrated Wind Energy project to produce over 720MW…Five new sites are being planned to utilise Morocco’s strong potential in wind power, estimated at 25,000MW…” click here for more

    INDIA BOOSTS ITS SOLAR BUILD

    India Plans an Upgrade of Its Solar-Energy Infrastructure; New Delhi to Work With State Governments to Develop Solar Parks

    Biman Mukherji, Sept. 21, 2014 (Wall Street Journal)

    “…[India’s] federal administration in New Delhi and five state governments will work to set up 25 solar parks, which could increase the total installed solar capacity by nearly 10 times nationwide to about 20,000 megawatts…At least 10 of the parks are likely to be set up over the next year, along with supporting infrastructure including transmission lines, while the remaining 15 are expected to be completed in the next four or five years…Blessed with an abundance of sunshine, India has accelerated its solar-power plan since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who oversaw one of the country's most successful solar programs in the western state of Gujarat…Solar power accounts for about 1% of India's energy mix, according to the government, and faces challenges including land acquisition. Power generation costs exceed those of thermal coal, though they have fallen sharply over the past three years. With its plans to develop solar parks, the government is betting that removing some of the pain of buying land will attract investors…” click here for more

    ABU DHABI BUYS A PIECE OF NORWAY’S STAKE IN UK OFFSHORE WIND

    Masdar Buys Half Statoil Stake in U.K. Offshore Wind Farm

    Alex Morales, Sept. 24, 2014 (Bloomberg News)

    “Masdar Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co. agreed to buy half of Statoil ASA’s stake in the 402-megawatt Dudgeon wind project off the coast of eastern England as it steps up its investments in wind power…[Masdar will have] a 35 percent stake in the project valued at 525 million pounds ($860 million)…Statoil, which will operate the plant, retains a 35 percent stake, and fellow Norwegian company Statkraft AS owns the remainder…Dudgeon is the second offshore wind investment for Masdar in the U.K., where it also owns a 20 percent stake in the 630-megawatt London Array…

    “Statoil and Statkraft said on July 1 they would proceed with the 1.5 billion-pound Dudgeon project after the government awarded it a contract guaranteeing the power price the wind farm will get. Offshore construction is due to begin in 2016, with the project set for commissioning the following year…Britain is the biggest offshore wind market, with more installed turbines at sea than the rest of the world put together. The government says capacity may grow to 10 gigawatts by 2020 from about 3.6 gigawatts now, and it’s relying on the technology to help bring down emissions and meet its European Union target…” click here for more

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    THE PRIVATE SECTOR FACES CLIMATE CHANGE

    Companies Are Taking the Baton in Climate Change Efforts

    Justin Gillis Sept. 23, 2014

    "With political efforts to slow global warming moving at a tortuous pace, some of the world’s largest companies are stepping into the void, pledging more support for renewable energy, greener supply chains and fresh efforts to stop the destruction of the world’s tropical forests…Forty companies, among them Kellogg, L’Oréal and Nestlé, [just] signed a declaration…pledging to help cut tropical deforestation in half by 2020 and stop it entirely by 2030. They included several of the largest companies handling palm oil, the production of which has resulted in rampant destruction of old-growth forests, especially in Indonesia…At a United Nations climate summit in New York this week, companies are playing a larger role than at any such gathering in the past — and issuing a blizzard of promises.

    “Several environmental groups said they were optimistic that at least some of these would be kept, but they warned that corporate action was not enough, and that climate change could not be solved without stronger steps by governments…The corporate promises are the culmination of a trend that has been building for years, with virtually every major company now feeling obliged to make commitments about environmental sustainability…[Companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Cargill, and Unilever] have found that pursuing such goals can often help them cut costs, particularly for energy…” click here for more

    SOLAR WILL POWER SCHOOLS, EARN MONEY FOR TEACHERS

    U.S. schools quickly climbing learning curve in solar power

    Daniel Cusick, Sept. 19, 2014 E&E Publishing

    The 3,752 solar-equipped K-12 U.S. schools’ 490 megawatts of installed capacity is the result of (1) a 53% average system price drop between 2010 and Q2 2014, (2) schools’ high daytime load and plentiful rooftop and grounds space, and (3) champions like the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and the National Solar Schools Consortium, according to a new report from The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Between 40% and 60% of the 125,000 U.S. schools could profit from installing solar, the report found, and 450 U.S. school districts could each save more than $1 million over 30 years with solar, including some that could save tens of millions of dollars to invest in new teacher hires and educational materials. The National Solar Schools Consortium’s goal is to have 20,000 solar installations producing at U.S. K-12 and post-secondary schools by 2020. click here for more

    A RIDE IN TOMORROW’S CAR

    Meet Stella, the Electric Family Car That Goes 500 Miles on a Charge and Is Powered by Sunshine; We take a ride in the road-ready solar sedan built by a team of Dutch students.

    Todd Woody, Sept. 23, 2014 (TakePart)

    “…The Stella [is a tadpole-shaped electric sedan covered in and powered solely by solar modules and] can go nearly 500 miles on a single charge. That’s almost double the range of the [Tesla] Model S…[Y]ou rarely would even need to plug the car into an electrical outlet given that its 1.5 kilowatt solar array continuously charges the lithium-ion battery pack—as long as the sun is shining…A [suburban rooftop] solar panel system typically generates three to five kilowatts…

    “…[The Stella] is billed as the world’s first solar-powered family car, carrying four people in a low-slung cabin. Lift up the solar panels on the car’s fishtail trunk, and there’s room for groceries. The Stella, which has a top speed of about 75 miles per hour, is packed with high-tech novelties such as a steering wheel that expands in your hands to signal that you’re exceeding the speed limit or contracts when you’re driving too slow. To activate the turn signals, you just squeeze the appropriate side of the steering wheel…[Built by a group of students at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Stella] meets Dutch safety standards…[T]he team drove the car from Los Angeles to San Francisco…powered almost entirely on sunshine…” click here for more

    A LOOK AT SEE-THROUGH SOLAR

    Solar power with a view

    Sept. 18, 2014 (CNN)

    “A new solar concentrator has been developed which can be placed over windows to create solar energy -- without obstructing your view. The most efficient solar cells to date are often colored to absorb the sun's rays more efficiently, but if made transparent they could become a lot more versatile…[B]eing developed by Richard Lunt's team at Michigan State University…[t]he solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules which absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight such as ultraviolet and near infrared. These in turn are made to 'glow' at another wavelength in the non-visible infrared which is guided to photovoltaics on the edges for conversion into electricity, whilst maintaining transparency…The technology is at an early stage and very little energy is currently converted into electricity, but it has the potential to be scaled…” click here for more

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: FREEING THE NATIONAL TREASURE IN U.S. NATIONAL LABS

    Going Local: Connecting the National Labs to their Regions for Innovation and Growth

    Scott Andes, Mark Muro, and Matthew Stepp, Sept. 2014 (Metropolitan PolicyProgram at Brookings)

    Summary

    Since their inception in the 1940s, the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories have been in the vanguard of America’s global research and development leadership. However, the national innovation system has changed in the past 70 years. Today, much technology development and application occurs in the context of synergistic regional clusters of firms, trade associations, educational institutions, private labs, and regional economic development organizations. Unfortunately, legacy operating procedures limit the DOE labs’ ability to engage fully with the regional economies in which they are located. This lack of consistent engagement with regional technology clusters has likely limited the labs’ overall contributions to U.S. economic growth.

    This brief argues that, in order to improve the impact of the national labs, DOE, states, and Congress should:

    ➤ Improve the labs as an economic asset

    ➤ Open labs to small- and medium-sized businesses

    ➤ Increase labs’ relevance to regional and metropolitan clusters

    ➤ Provide greater flexibility in oversight and funding

    Introduction

    U.S. economic prosperity revolves around the competitiveness of the nation’s advanced industry sector: innovation- and science-technology-engineering-mathematics (STEM) worker-intensive industries focused on advanced production and services.1 Central to the competitiveness of these critical industries is the U.S. innovation ecosystem, which functions most dynamically in U.S. metropolitan regions. Cities and their surrounding metro areas support innovation through concentrated knowledge flows, specialized workers, and dense supply chains that improve firm productivity through highly adaptive and specialized technology clusters.2 As such, the nation’s regional clusters are important sources of national problem-solving, innovation, and prosperity.

    Located throughout the country, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 17 national labs (labs) stand as potentially pivotal institutions in many metropolitan economies and for overall national innovation, growth, and competitiveness. As centers of basic and applied technology research and development (R&D), the labs are well-positioned to serve as unique focal points for technology exchange among regional firms, universities, and economic development intermediaries. However, to date, the labs have made neither technology commercialization nor regional cluster participation a top priority.3 As a result, they have been unable to optimally connect to the broader U.S. innovation ecosystem and deliver on their responsibility to contribute to national economic growth.

    Recently, though, a number of lab system leaders—as well as policymakers—have become increasingly interested in optimizing the role of the labs as engines of national and regional growth. Congress has taken up bipartisan legislation to enhance lab flexibility when engaging with the private sector.4 Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has made lab reform a priority.5 And a congressionally-mandated commission is assessing potential areas of reform, including technology transfer, lab management, private sector engagement, and budget consolidation.6 What these developments have in common is a new recognition that regional economic development can (and ought to) be an important adjunct to- and expression of—the lab system’s larger national mission.

    In keeping with these discussions, this report describes several barriers to—and opportunities for – DOE lab engagement within regions and suggests a number of possible policy responses to improve the labs’ connections to metropolitan economies. To be sure, the current level of regional engagement varies from one lab to the next, particularly given their diverse research missions; as such, not all critiques outlined here apply universally. Nevertheless, it would be generally beneficial overall for DOE, Congress, and state governments to take steps to ensure that the entire system becomes more attentive to those economic regions where the labs are located. As they did in the years following World War II, the labs must pivot once more to embrace a new mission that includes more active engagement with regional innovation systems within which they are located. Such engagement will not substitute for the labs’ critical national mission, but will instead complement and advance it…

    Moving Forward

    Making progress on this agenda will not be easy, but it should be possible if all relevant actors are enlisted. To that end, DOE leadership, lab managers, Congress, and state and regional governments should all rethink their approach to the lab system in order to facilitate better engagement with the nation’s regional clusters.

    Many of this paper’s administrative recommendations can be addressed by DOE. In particular, DOE should clearly prioritize the economic development mission of the labs and consider system-wide incentive structures for regional engagement. DOE management is also well positioned to scale technology transfer best practices amongst labs and streamline contracting procedures to better align with the economics of small firms.

    At the same time, Congress is ultimately responsible for the funding silos that remain a binding constraint on the lab system, and will need to address them accordingly. Without better funding mechanisms that free lab managers to coordinate research efforts with regional technology clusters and work with SMEs and regional firms, the labs will likely remain inflexible and largely disconnected from their regional economies.

    For their own part, lab managers do retain significant discretion in the overall direction of lab research. Some lab operators have prioritized regional engagements and actively worked with state and regional governments to create opportunities for researchers to support local businesses. Others, by contrast, have tended to discount calls for regional collaboration, claiming each lab is too distinct to learn from system-wide best practices. Given that, progressive managers should continue to develop new ways to situate lab research within a regional economic context (and seek greater discretion to do so), while other operators should take a new look at some of the emerging best practices.

    Finally, state and local governments can do a lot to “pull” technologies out of the labs. By working with their labs to establish microlabs near local universities or business incubators, or by developing their own voucher programs, states can proactively partner with labs in their regions to amplify the exposure of lab research to the private sector.

    Conclusion

    DOE and the national labs have a history of excellence in meeting national missions, making revolutionary scientific discoveries, and developing breakthrough technologies. However, the structures, incentives, and cultural norms that define the nation’s lab system must be updated to meet the new realities of the 21st-century innovation economy. In the years following World War II, the national labs were considered to have met their objective by producing technologically superior weapons for the United States and its allies. Yet, instead of closing their doors as war-time relics, the United States doubled down on the labs as national assets of innovation and economic advantage. Today, the labs must pivot once more to embrace the new economics of geography and engage more in the innovation systems within their home regions.

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 24: CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024; BOLD $8BIL WIND-WIRES-STORAGE PLAN; ROCKEFELLERS DIVEST OIL FOR NEW ENERGY

    ROCKEFELLERS DIVEST OIL FOR NEW ENERGY Divestment Statement

    Sept, 2014 (Rockefeller Brothers Fund)

    “…[In 2010, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF)] board of trustees approved a commitment of up to 10 percent of the endowment to investments…[in] clean energy technologies and other business strategies that advance energy efficiency, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the effects of climate change…Given the RBF’s deep commitment to combating climate change, the Fund is now committing to a two-step process to address its desire to divest from investments in fossil fuels. Our immediate focus will be on coal and tar sands, two of the most intensive sources of carbon emissions…[W]e are committed to reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014…[We] will work with the RBF Investment Committee and board of trustees to determine an appropriate strategy for further divestment over the next few years…[O]ur divestment from fossil fuels, which is now underway, will be accomplished through a careful process of evaluating our exposure and a phased approach that proceeds as quickly as is prudent…” click here for more

    BOLD $8BIL WIND-WIRES-STORAGE PLAN Duke Energy joint venture part of $8 billion bid to supply green energy to Southern California

    John Downey, Sept. 23, 2014 (Charlotte Business Journal)

    Duke Energy’s Duke-American Transmission will join with Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, Magnum Energy, and Dresser-Rand to propose a ground-breaking $8 billion wind energy and wind storage system for the Southern California Public Power Authority. The plan calls for Duke to ante up $1.3 billion and build a 525 mile, $2.6 billion, high voltage transmission line to Utah for Wyoming wind energy-generated electricity, where an existing line can deliver the power to Los Angeles and, through California’s transmission system, across the state. Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy will build a $4 billion, 2,100-megawatt Wyoming wind farm and Pathfinder, Magnum Energy, and Dresser-Rand will build a $1.5 billion, 1,200 megawatt, 41 million cubic foot compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility in four salt formations in Utah. CAES has been used for wind energy storage in Germany since 1978 and in Alabama since 1991 and projects are planned or under construction in Texas, the UK, and Iowa but it has yet to be proven economically practical. click here for more

    CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024 California Leading on Emissions as Brown Signs New Laws

    Michael B. Marois and Alison Vekshin, Sept. 23, 2014 Bloomberg BusinessWeek

    California Governor Jerry Brown signed 11 new bills into law and announced a new goal to get 1.5 million zero-emission cars on California’s roads in the next ten years. California had 709,766 hybrids in 2013, up from 337,881 in 2009, and, thanks to a $5,000 state tax rebate for electric and zero-emission cars, now has 60,988 electric vehicles, 40% of the U.S. plug-in fleet, and has spent $158 on rebates since 2010. Polls show Brown in a very strong position for re-election and an unprecedented second two-term governorship. California’s 2002 law requiring a cut in vehicle carbon dioxide after 2009 set a standard subsequently enacted by the federal government in 2012. Zero-emission vehicles are: battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles. click here for more

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: WHERE OFFSHORE WIND IS IN THE WORLD

    Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis 2014 Annual Market Assessment

    Michael Hahn, Patrick Gilman, August 27, 2014 (Navigant Research for the U.S. Department of Energy)

    Executive Summary

    The U.S. offshore wind industry is transitioning from early development to demonstration of commercial viability. While there are no commercial-scale projects in operation, there are 14 U.S. projects in advanced development, defined as having either been awarded a lease, conducted baseline or geophysical studies, or obtained a power purchase agreement (PPA). There are panels or task forces in place in at least 14 states to engage stakeholders to identify constraints and sites for offshore wind. U.S. policymakers are beginning to follow the examples in Europe that have proven successful in stimulating offshore wind technological advancement, project deployment, and job creation.

    This report is the third annual assessment of the U.S. offshore wind market. It includes the following major sections:

    • Section 1: key data on developments in the offshore wind technology sector and the global development of offshore wind projects, with a particular focus on progress in the United States

    • Section 2: analysis of policy developments at the federal and state levels that have been effective in advancing offshore wind deployment in the United States

    • Section 3: analysis of actual and projected economic impact, including regional development and job creation

    • Section 4: analysis of developments in relevant sectors of the economy with the potential to affect offshore wind deployment in the United States

    Section 1. Global Offshore Wind Development Trends

    There are approximately 7 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind installed worldwide. The majority of this activity continues to center on northwestern Europe, but development in China is progressing as well. In 2013, more than 1,700 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity was added globally, with the United Kingdom alone accounting for 812 MW (47%) of new capacity. In total, capacity additions in 2013 showed a roughly 50 percent increase over 2012, finally surpassing the pace of installations achieved in 2010. It appears that near-term growth will continue, with more than 6,600 MW of offshore wind under construction in 29 projects globally, including 1,000 MW in China. While this upward trend is encouraging, uncertain political support for offshore wind in European nations and the challenges of bringing down costs means that the pace of capacity growth may level off in the next two years.

    Since the last edition of this report, the U.S. offshore wind market has made incremental but notable progress toward the completion of its first commercial-scale projects. Two of the United States’ most advanced projects – Cape Wind and Deepwater’s Block Island project – have moved into their initial stages of construction. In addition, continued progress with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) commercial lease auctions for federal Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) has contributed to more projects moving into advanced stages of development. In total, 14 U.S. projects, representing approximately 4.9 GW of potential capacity, can now be considered in advanced stages. 1 A map showing the announced locations and capacities of these advanced-stage projects appears in Figure ES-1.

    On the demonstration project front, the DOE announced continued funding for Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) to three projects in May 2014. Fishermen’s Energy, Dominion, and Principle Power were each selected for up to $46.7 million in federal funds for final design and construction of pilot projects off New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon, respectively, from an original group of seven projects that were selected in 2012. Two of the other original seven, the University of Maine and the Lake Erie Economic Development Company of Ohio, will receive a few million each, under separate awards, to continue the engineering designs of their proposed pilot projects.

    Overall, offshore wind power project costs may be stabilizing somewhat compared to their recent upward trend. Notably, for those projects installed in 2013 for which data were available, the average reported capital cost was $5,187/kW, compared to $5,385/kW for projects completed in 2012. While it appears that the stabilizing trend may continue for projects completed in 2014, a lack of data for projects anticipated to reach completion in 2015 and 2016 makes it difficult to assess whether the trend will continue. Note that all such capital cost data are self-reported by project developers and are not available for all projects globally; therefore, it may not be fully representative of market trends.

    Globally, offshore wind projects continue to trend farther from shore into increasingly deeper waters; parallel increases in turbine sizes and hub heights are contributing to higher reported capacity factors. While the trend toward greater distances helps reduce visual impacts and public opposition to offshore wind, it also requires advancements in foundation technologies and affects the logistics and costs of installation and maintenance. On the positive side, the trend toward higher-capacity machines combines with increasing hub heights and rotor diameters to allow projects to improve energy capture by taking better advantage of higher wind speeds.

    The average nameplate capacity of offshore wind turbines jumped substantially from 2010 to 2011 as projects increasingly deployed 3.6 MW and 5 MW turbines. Since then, however, average turbine size has plateaued around 4 MW. This leveling off of average turbine size will likely continue over the next two years as previously ordered 3.6 MW machines are deployed and Asian manufacturers work to catch up with their European counterparts. The upward trend in average turbine sizes will likely resume toward 2018 as developers begin deploying more 5.0 MW and larger turbines. The average turbine size for advanced-stage projects in the United States is expected to range between 5.0 and 5.3 MW, indicating that U.S. projects will likely utilize larger offshore turbines rather than smaller turbines that have previously been installed in European waters.

    The shift to more distant locations and larger capacity turbines, along with a desire to minimize tower top mass, has driven continued innovation in drivetrain configurations; however, the majority of installed turbines continue to use conventional drivetrain designs. Other configurations, such as direct-drive and medium-speed drivetrains, have been limited to a combined 3 percent market share of cumulative installed capacity. Deployment of turbines with alternative drivetrain configurations will likely increase significantly over the next several years, as the new 5 to 8 MW class turbine models from Siemens, Vestas, Areva, Alstom, and Mitsubishi are installed at commercial projects.

    The past year has seen a continued trend for substructure design innovations, as the challenges of installing larger turbines, siting projects in deeper waters, and the need to reduce installed costs persist. While much of the focus in recent years has been on alternatives to the conventional monopile approach (due to various limitations), the advent of the extra-large (XL) monopile (suitable to a 45 m water depth) may have somewhat lessened the impetus for significant change. Regardless, the optimal type of substructure (and the potential for innovation) is largely driven by site-specific factors, and plenty of opportunity remains for new designs that can address developers’ unique combinations of needs. In the near-term, monopiles will continue to comprise the majority of new installations, with multi-pile (jacket and tripod) designs showing notable increases. In addition, the industry continues to explore the potential for floating foundations, with several demonstration-scale projects currently operating and additional installations planned.

    Section 2. Analysis of Policy Developments

    U.S. offshore wind development faces significant challenges: (1) the cost competitiveness of offshore wind energy;2 (2) a lack of infrastructure such as offshore transmission and purpose-built ports and vessels; and (3) uncertain and lengthy regulatory processes. Various U.S. states, the U.S. federal government, and European countries have used a variety of policies to address each of these barriers with varying success.

    For the U.S. to maximize offshore wind development, the most critical need continues to be stimulation of demand through addressing cost competitiveness and providing policy certainty. Key federal policies expired for projects that did not start construction by year-end 2013: the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC), and the 50 percent first-year bonus depreciation allowance. However, the Senate Finance Committee recently passed an extension of both of the PTC and ITC through 2015, maintaining the same new definition of commencing construction, as part of a comprehensive tax extenders bill covering 51 other industries and there is some chance that the full Senate and House will adopt this before the end of 2014.

    Furthermore, the DOE announced three projects that will each receive up to $47 million to complete engineering and construction as the second phase of the Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Program. On the state level, Maryland began promulgating rules for Offshore Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs) for up to 200 MW, and the Maine Public Utility Commission approved a term sheet with a team led by the University of Maine for a pilot floating wind turbine project. Increased infrastructure is necessary to allow demand to be filled. Examples of transmission policies that can be implemented in the short term with relatively little effort are to designate offshore wind energy resources zones for targeted offshore grid investments, establish cost allocation and recovery mechanisms for transmission interconnections, and promote utilization of existing transmission capacity reservations to integrate offshore wind. In 2014, there were few tangible milestones in this area, although long-term plans for offshore transmission projects such as the Atlantic Wind Connection and the New Jersey Energy Link progressed steadily in their development efforts. Regulatory policies cover three general categories: (a) policies that define the process of obtaining site leases; (b) policies that define the environmental, permitting processes; and (c) policies that regulate environmental and safety compliance of plants in operation. In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced additional competitive lease sales for renewable energy off Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey.

    Section 3. Economic Impacts

    Our estimated installed costs have dropped 6% since our 2011 work. This is driven by: new data from European projects, revised design assumptions and more refined estimates from U.S. projects in planning stages. Expected installed costs for a 500 MW farm are $2.86 Billion or $5,700/kW.

    Current U.S. employment levels could be between 550 and 4,600 full-time equivalents (FTEs), and current investment could be between $146 million and $1.1 billion. The ranges are driven by Navigant’s uncertainty about from where advanced-stage projects are sourcing components. As the advanced-stage projects start construction, employment levels will likely double or triple to support equipment transport and installation.

    Section 4. Developments in Relevant Sectors of the Economy

    The development of an offshore wind industry in the U.S. will depend on the evolution of other sectors in the economy. Factors within the power sector, such as the capacity or price of competing power generation technologies, will affect the demand for offshore wind. Factors within industries that compete with offshore wind for resources (e.g., oil and gas, construction, and manufacturing) will affect the price of offshore wind power.

    Factors in the power sector that will have the largest impact include natural gas prices and the change in coal-based generation capacity. As electricity prices have historically been linked to natural gas prices, a decrease in prices of the latter can lead to a decrease in the price of the former. Natural gas prices declined from above $4 per million British thermal units (MMbtu) in August 2011 to below $2/MMbtu in April 2012, largely due to the supply of low-cost gas from the Marcellus Shale. Lower resulting electricity prices can make investment in other power generation sources such as offshore wind less economically attractive. However, natural gas prices have been rising steadily since then and have remained above $4/MMbtu since late 2013 with periods exceeding $6/MMbtu3 and may continue to rise with three new liquefied natural gas export terminals recently approved.

    In terms of coal, Navigant analysis reveals executed and planned coal plant retirements through 2020 of nearly 40 GW. As this capacity is removed from the U.S. electric generation base, it will need to be replaced by other power generation resources, including but not limited to natural gas and offshore wind. As such, continued coal plant retirements could increase the demand for offshore wind plants in the United States.

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 23: THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION; THE MATTER OF WIND IN KANSAS; MICROGRID TECHNOLOGY MARKET TO QUADRUPLE

    THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION The coming era of unlimited — and free — clean energy

    Vivek Wadhwa, Sept. 19, 2014 (Washington Post)

    “In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones…[but] there are billions now…Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford [one]…The experts [skeptical] about solar energy now…They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies. They too are wrong. Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are…[S]olar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping…[and] is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs…[I]nexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years…In places such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Southwest United States…it costs no more in the long term to install solar panels than to buy electricity from utility companies…By 2020, solar energy will be price-competitive with energy generated from fossil fuels on an unsubsidized basis in most parts of the world. Within the next decade, it will cost a fraction of what fossil fuel-based alternatives do…[T]here will be disruption of the entire fossil-fuel industry…The challenge for mankind will be to share this abundance, ensuring that these technologies make the world a better place.” click here for more

    THE MATTER OF WIND IN KANSAS A Kansas twister: Wind energy politics complicate governor’s race; Gov. Brownback is caught in the middle of fans of this green energy source and his conservative allies

    Jonathan M. Katz, Sept. 19, 2014 (AlJazeera U.S.)

    “…At full capacity [Kansas] would generate more wind energy than any other state except Texas…[and about] three-quarters of the total electricity generated by all energy sources in the United States last year. Despite growing investment that has nearly tripled Kansas wind-energy production since 2010, the state’s producers generated only 9,430 gigawatt hours last year — 0.3 percent of the potential…[in part because the] Koch-funded advocacy group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is leading the fight to repeal a federal tax credit for wind energy producers…In Kansas such arguments are having little effect. Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (another major recipient of Koch money) spent months trying to get the Republican-controlled state legislature to repeal a state renewable-energy standard…But the legislature refused…Caught in the middle is the state’s Republican governor, Sam Brownback, who is locked in a tough re-election fight against state House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Brownback has close ties to the anti-wind forces…Koch Industries was the top donor throughout the governor's 16-year career in the U.S. Congress…But Brownback also recognizes the economics that make wind energy appealing…[H]e has found himself in the uncomfortable position of boasting about wind energy’s growth in the state — a source of several thousand much-needed jobs during his term — while trying to oppose the regulatory environment that has fostered that growth…” click here for more

    MICROGRID TECHNOLOGY MARKET TO QUADRUPLE Microgrid Enabling Technologies; Distributed Generation, Inverters, Energy Storage, Load Controls, Electric Vehicles, and Software Networking: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “…[A] much greater emphasis is now being placed on the economic value microgrids bring to [advanced energy storage and to] the entire utility-led macrogrid…[N]ew business models designed to support full commercial implementation of microgrid systems [are being investigated]…[M]icrogrid enabling technology (MET) options…[include] technologies and services related to smart buildings, demand response, distribution and substation automation, and smart meters. The leading market opportunity within the realm of microgrids is with different forms of distributed generation (DG), including diesel generators, natural gas generators, and other forms of renewable DG…[But] advanced energy storage will represent the single largest investment category among MET options by 2023, though DG investments as a whole will still be larger. According to Navigant Research, global annual DG vendor revenue is expected to grow from $1.8 billion in 2014 to $9.6 billion in 2023…” click here for more

    Monday, September 22, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: NEW ENERGY TO BE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST AND BEST ENERGY BY 2030

    REthinking Energy; Towards A New Power System

    September 2014 (International Renewable Energy Agency)

    Executive Summary

    An alignment of economics, demographics, climate change and technology has set in motion an ongoing transformation of the global energy system.

    Growing populations, with improved living standards and increasingly concentrated in urban centres, have dramatically raised the demand for energy services. At the same time, a growing consensus over the dangers posed by climate change has prompted people and governments worldwide to seek ways to generate that energy while minimising greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

    Rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs, a better understanding of financial risk and a growing appreciation of wider benefits, means that renewable energy is increasingly seen as the answer. REmap 2030, a global roadmap developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), shows that not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply, while contributing to limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius – the widely cited tipping point for climate change.

    A technology once considered as niche is becoming mainstream. What remains unclear is how long this transition will take, and how well policy makers will handle the change.

    REthinking Energy, a new series by IRENA, will explore how renewable energy is financed, produced, distributed and consumed, and will chart the changing relationships it is bringing about between states, corporations and individuals.

    This first volume focuses upon the power sector. It tells a story – about the trends driving this change, how the technology is evolving, who is financing it, and the wider benefits it will bring. Finally, it examines what an energy system powered by renewables might look like and how policy makers can further support the transformation.

    Why the world of energy is transforming

    At the heart of the energy transformation lies demand, the aim to strengthen energy security and the imperative of a sustainable future.

    Over the past 40 years the world’s population grew from 4 billion to 7 billion people. An increasing proportion is middle class and living in cities. During the same period, electricity generation grew by more than 250%.

    This growth will continue. In 2030 there will be more than 8 billion people, with 5 billion in urban conglomerations. Global spending by the middle classes is expected to more than double, from USD 21 trillion in 2010 to USD 56 trillion in 2030. World electricity generation is forecast to grow by 70% from 22,126 terawatt-hour (TWh) in 2011 to 37,000 in 2030.

    But this energy is coming at a cost. There is growing consensus on the threat of climate change brought on by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, prompting worldwide efforts to reduce emissions.

    If business continues as usual, these efforts will not succeed. The average emissions intensity of electricity production has barely changed over the past 20 years. Gains from the increasing deployment of renewables, and less intensive fossil fuels such as natural gas, have been offset by less efficient power plants and the rising use of coal. Without a substantial increase in the share of renewables in the mix, climate change mitigation will remain elusive.

    REmap 2030 shows that under current policies and national plans (business as usual case), average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will only fall to 498 g/kWh by 2030. That is insufficient to keep atmospheric CO2 levels below 450 parts per million (ppm), beyond which severe climate change is expected to occur. A doubling in the share of renewables could help mitigate climate change by reducing the global average emissions of CO2 to 349 g/kWh – equivalent to a 40% intensity reduction compared to 1990 levels, as seen in the figure below.

    There is also increasing concern about the direct health impact of burning fossil fuels as fast-growing economies confront rapidly declining air quality and a sharp rise in respiratory disease. The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently found that ill health caused by fossil fuels nationally costs between USD 362 billion and USD 887 billion annually. The European Union’s Health and Environment Alliance found that emissions from coal-fired power plants cost its citizens up to EUR 42.8 billion in yearly health costs. Localised catastrophes, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the United States, or the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, are becoming global news with profound implications. Governments have taken note.

    Countries are increasingly looking to reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels. By reducing energy imports, countries are striving for greater energy independence; avoiding potential supply disruptions (for example, in case of conflicts or disasters), high energy prices and price fluctuations.

    There is growing pressure, meanwhile, to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people currently without electricity access, many in remote areas, for whom traditional large-scale power plants and transmission systems have not yet provided an answer. Also, 2.6 billion people rely on traditional biomass and cook using traditional stoves that cause severe health impacts.

    These trends have prompted a widespread conviction that something has to change. Fossil fuels powered the first industrial revolution, but even in the new era of shale oil and gas, questions remain about their compatibility with sustainable human well-being. The stage is set for the era of modern renewable energy that is cost competitive, mainstream and sustainable.

    The cost of renewable energy plummets as deployment increases

    Large-scale hydro, geothermal and biomass power have been competitive for some time, but for many years wind and solar power struggled to compete with coal, oil and natural gas. Over the past decade, however, and in particular over the last five years, that picture has changed dramatically.

    Renewable energy technologies have grown more robust and more efficient and are increasingly able to generate power even in suboptimal conditions such as low wind speeds and low solar irradiation. Energy storage technologies are improving fast. Buoyed by state support in Europe and the United States, and boosted by the rise of new manufacturing powerhouses such as China, costs have plummeted. These trends are illustrated in the graphic below which charts the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for different forms of utility and off-grid power.

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have fallen by 80% since 2008 and are expected to keep dropping. In 2013, commercial solar power reached grid parity in Italy, Germany and Spain and will do so soon in Mexico and France. Increasingly, solar PV can compete without subsidies: power from a new 70 megawatt (MW) solar farm under construction in Chile, for example, is anticipated to sell on the national spot market, competing directly with fossil fuel-based electricity. The cost of onshore wind electricity has fallen 18% since 2009, with turbine costs falling nearly 30% since 2008, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in a wide and growing range of markets. More than 100 countries now use wind power. Offshore wind is also expected to grow rapidly as costs fall, with the United Kingdom leading the market with 4.2 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity as of mid 2014.

    These and other developments have made renewables increasingly attractive in many more markets. In 2013, for the first time, new renewable capacity installations were higher in countries not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). China’s deployment of solar PV and wind in 2013 was estimated at 27.4 GW: nearly four times more than the next largest, Japan.

    Worldwide, renewable power capacity has grown 85% over the past 10 years, reaching 1,700 GW in 2013, and renewables today constitute 30% of all installed power capacity. The challenge has moved on from whether renewable energy can power modern lifestyles at a reasonable cost – which we now know it can – to how best to finance and accelerate its deployment.

    Financing renewables is getting cheaper, and easier

    Renewable energy is competitive on a cost per kilowatt-hour basis. As most renewable technologies have a relatively high ratio of upfront to operating costs, their viability is particularly sensitive to the cost of capital. That is why government financial support has traditionally been critical for promoting renewables. However, as the technology has grown more competitive and pressure on budgets has increased, governments have been reducing their support.

    The good news is that private finance is increasingly ready to step in. Due to growing experience, developers are getting better at forecasting cash flow and financiers are more able to accurately assess risk. The cost of capital is falling and products are being tailored for a wider range of investors, from small-scale communities to large institutions. Crowdfunding initiatives can also be used to attract capital, especially in developing countries where cost of capital is traditionally high. The figure below shows how sources of renewable energy investments evolve with increasing maturity of technologies and markets.

    At the other end of the scale, institutional investors are also starting to get interested. They are increasingly taking into account the risk attached to fossil fuels and new long-term, low-risk instruments are being created to encourage them to invest in renewables. Early-mover private developers in this space attracted USD 11 billion in 2013, up 200% in 12 months.

    Large non-energy corporates are also becoming involved. For example, IKEA’s turbines and solar panels now produce 37% of its energy consumption, and Google has invested over USD 1.4 billion in wind and solar – in most cases because of attractive financial returns.

    But these positive trends are not yet enough. Total investment in renewable energy rose from USD 55 billion in 2004 to USD 214 billion in 2013 (excluding large hydropower). This falls short of the USD 550 billion needed annually until 2030 to double the global share of renewable energy and avert catastrophic climate change.

    Policy makers have an important role to play. If they make it clear that renewable energy will be a larger part of their national energy mix, and commit to long-term, non-financial support mechanisms, they could reduce uncertainty and attract more investors. In emerging markets, public financing will remain important as domestic structures to support the deployment of renewables are developed. In this context, international cooperation and financial flows play an increasingly prominent role. With increasing competitiveness, financial support can gradually and predictably be scaled back, focusing instead on grid improvements, education and industry standards, which strengthen the market as a whole.

    There is also an opportunity for traditional power utilities to do more. Joint projects between large utilities, small developers and clients could be a way forward, as business models adapt to the changing market conditions.

    The wider benefits of renewable energy

    There is growing evidence that renewable energy has a positive ripple effect throughout society, simultaneously advancing economic, social and environmental goals. Its costs and benefits are best understood not within traditional policy silos, but as part of a holistic strategy to promote economic prosperity, well-being and a healthy environment.

    Renewables are good for a country’s economy. A recent Japanese study, looking at a 2030 target of 14%-16% renewables, found the benefits were 2-3 times higher than the costs – including savings in fossil fuel imports, CO2 emissions reductions and economic ripple effects. Spain’s use of renewables avoided USD 2.8 billion of fossil fuel imports in 2010, while Germany saved USD 13.5 billion in 2012. For fossil fuel-exporting countries, deploying renewables at home makes more resources available for sale overseas.

    The benefits are felt through the value chain as renewable energy stimulates domestic economic activities and creates employment. In 2013, it supported 6.5 million direct and indirect jobs – including 2.6 million in China, as illustrated in the figure below.

    Renewables can also bring electric power to people currently left off the grid, promoting productive uses, spurring education, allowing access to modern communications and offering a host of new opportunities.

    The environmental benefits are just as compelling, on both local and global levels. Most renewables do not deplete finite resources (although water may be needed for cleaning and cooling, which can be a challenge in arid countries). Renewables also reduce the risk of ecological disasters.

    Crucially, they offer a route to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a major cause of global warming. Electricity alone accounts for more than 40% of man-made CO2 emissions today. Solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal and bioenergy are, across their lifetime, 10-120 times less carbon intensive than the cleanest fossil fuel (natural gas) and up to 250 times lower in carbon than coal. REmap 2030 estimates that doubling the share of renewables in the energy mix, coupled with greater energy efficiency, can keep atmospheric CO2 below 450 ppm – the level beyond which catastrophic climate change would occur.

    A new industrial paradigm?

    As the share of renewable energy grows, the structure of the industry and the nature and role of power producers are undergoing change. A sector once dominated by large utilities is becoming more decentralised, diverse and distributed. In Germany, almost half of all renewable energy is now in the hands of households and farmers, and only 12% of renewable assets are owned directly by utilities.

    New storage technologies, and smart technologies to support better demand-side management, will grow in importance – creating a whole new ancillary industry of smart appliances. In many emerging markets, renewables are already the most economic power source for off-grid and mini-grid systems. As with the shift from fixed telephony to mobile phones, many countries have an opportunity to leapfrog the development of a fixed network by moving to a flexible system of multiple, interconnected mini-grids.

    These and other trends require a different way of thinking about energy, shifting from a system dominated by a few centralised utilities, to a diverse, distributed system, where consumers are also producers, with far more control over how and when they use energy.

    Policy makers can do much to either promote or hinder this vision. Renewable energy investors need stable and predictable policy frameworks, which recognise the system-level benefits renewable energy can bring. They need a level playing field, including cutting back on the substantial subsidies currently enjoyed by fossil fuels worldwide. And they need a supportive grid infrastructure, including more regional interconnections to take advantage of synergies between different forms of renewable power.

    Rethinking energy means policy makers need to consider the benefits of renewable energy as a whole, linking areas previously considered unrelated – such as healthcare, rural development and governance. Herein lies the biggest change: adopting a truly holistic approach, which not only takes into account the interests of short-term growth, but provides the opportunity of sustainable prosperity for all.

    The changes at hand offer the potential for a new industrial revolution – creating a renewables-based system, which enhances access, health and security, creates jobs and safeguards the environment. The technology is ready to deploy. People, businesses and governments must now embrace its potential.

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