NewEnergyNews: 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006

NewEnergyNews

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

The new challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE MIDWEST GRID IS READY FOR 40% NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, November 19: OHIO NEW ENERGY JOBS REPORT SUPPRESSED; SOLAR GIANT BUYS WIND DEVELOPER; BUSINESS TO MAKE IT BIG IN SMART CITIES
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE NEW ENERGY LIFE-CYCLE CUTS EMISSIONS
  • QUICK NEWS, November 18: U.S. TAKES WORLD LEAD IN WIND; SOLAR TO SHOW MISSOURI JOBS; WAVE ENERGY ROLLING SLOWLY IN
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: A NEW TAKE ON THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, November 17: BIG TEST FOR SOLAR ROADS KICKS OFF; FORD TURNS TO NEW ENERGY; ADVANCED BATTERY SUPPLY CHAIN TO TRIPLE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Hearing From Idiotic Idiots And Others
  • Weekend Video: The Aussies Say It Plainly
  • Weekend Video: Living In The Wasteland Of The Free
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CLIMATE CHANGE COULD RUIN THE COFFEE MARKET
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-MORE UK JOBS FROM NEW ENERGY THAN FOSSILS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-AFRICA’S BIGGEST SOLAR POWER PLANT LIGHTS UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DENMARK AIMS FOR 100% NEW ENERGY
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, November 13:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHINA-U.S. CLIMATE DEAL
  • TTTA Thursday-DOE LOAN PROGRAM TURNS A PROFIT
  • TTTA Thursday-WEB USERS ARE WIND USERS
  • TTTA Thursday-TINKER-TOY SOLAR COULD CUT 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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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Monday, October 30, 2006

    YOU DIDN’T KNOW?

    Global Warming Could Devastate World Economy, Report Says
    Juliet Eilperin, October 30, 2006 (Washington Post)

    - Failing to curb the impact of climate change could damage the global economy on the scale of the Great Depression or either world war, according to a report issued today by the British government. The environmental devastation could cost between 5 and 20 percent of the world's gross domestic product…
    - The report by Nicholas Stern, who heads Britain's Government Economic Service, calls for a new round of international collaboration to cut greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming…
    - However, some economic experts questioned the British study's projections, noting that other analyses suggest developed countries will only suffer a modest economic hit…
    - British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been trying to convince President Bush to take a more pro-active stance on global warming, and Britain announced it had hired former vice president Al Gore to advise it on lobbying the U.S. government…

    - The issue of how to approach global warming has been a sticking point between the United States and some of its European allies since the Bush administration disavowed the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, saying it opposed requiring limits on carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels…Bush will continue putting the emphasis on research and technology rather than mandatory curbs on such carbon dioxide emissions…

    - Last month, the Bush administration unveiled its "strategic plan" for using technology to curb global warming, asserting that basic scientific research and voluntary actions such as sequestering carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere and promoting hydrogen-powered cars, can curb the greenhouse gases…Environmentalists, however, said the British analysis highlights the merits of regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, automobiles and other sources…

    Hope the Bush administration’s “strategic plan” works out better on this than…

    LNG TERMINAL OPENS IN BAJA

    Here is how the West will get gas from the Third World for the foreseeable future:

    Mexico inaugurates first liquefied natural gas terminal
    October 25, 2006 (MarketWatch)

    - Mexican President Vicente Fox inaugurated Wednesday Mexico's first liquefied natural gas terminal located at the Gulf coast port of Altamira.
    - The terminal - a joint venture of Royal Dutch/Shell, France's Total SA, and Mitsui & Co. of Japan - will supply power stations in the region with up to 500 million cubic feet a day of natural gas, the state-owned power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad, or CFE, said…
    - The LNG terminal has two tanks, each with a capacity of 150,000 cubic meters of LNG, a regasification plant, and a gas delivery system.

    - Fox also inaugurated a 1,121-megawatt power plant built by Spanish concern Iberdrola as an independent power producer, and a 130-kilometer natural gas pipeline operated by TransCanada that will carry gas from the LNG terminal to the power plant…
    - Although Mexican state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, is currently producing a record 5.3 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas, the country remains a net importer of the fuel.
    - The Altamira terminal is Mexico's first LNG import facility, although others are planned on the Pacific coast. San Diego-based Sempra Energy plans to start operations of its LNG plant near Ensenada, Baja California, in early 2008. The CFE is also tendering contracts for another down the coast at Manzanillo.

    And here is why it is big money:

    World demand for natural gas to exceed oil by 2020: report
    Xinhua, October 29, 2006 (People’s Daily Online)

    - The world demand for natural gas would increase in the coming decades and exceed the demand for oil by 4.4 percent yearly until 2020, a report issued by Kuwait- based Global Investment House said…
    - The report also predicted that the proportion of world natural gas to total global energy would rise to 28 percent in 2030 from 2005's 23.5 percent…
    - It revealed that Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states held 25 percent of the world's proven natural gas reserves as early as the end of 2005…Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait were among the 20 largest countries in natural gas reserves worldwide…

    Which means there will be a need to move the gas to big consumers, which is why LNG terminals and pipelines will be so important.

    HOW’S THEIR EROEI NOW?

    EROEI = Energy returned on energy invested. Not improved by costs like this:

    UK nuclear cleanup to cost $122 billion
    October 26, 2006 (Reuters)

    - Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, set up in April 2005 to oversee the dismantling of old nuclear power stations, said on Thursday it would cost 65 billion pounds ($122 billion) to clean up civil nuclear sites…
    - The NDA said the increase was due to an "improved understanding" of the costs involved in cleaning up the nuclear reprocessing plant Sellafield.
    - The NDA also said that current plans submitted by contractors had weaknesses that could lead to substantial changes in clean-up costs…
    - Britain's nuclear decommissioning sector is currently dominated by British Nuclear Group (BNG). The government is planning to split up the state-owned company, which is the NDA's principal customer…U.S. engineering and construction company Fluor Corp has made an offer of 400 million pounds for BNG…EnergySolutions, a U.S. private equity-backed firm previously called Envirocare, has since said it could top Fluor's offer…

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    STARBUCKS: FRIEND OR FOE OF CYCLO-COMMUTERS?

    Following his story on the latest in bikes, Forbes Bagatelle-Black reports on an emerging controversy:

    Starbucks: Friend or Foe of Cyclo-Commuters?
    Forbes Bagatelle-Black, October 26, 2006


    A recent post at BikePortland told a story which angered many cyclists. Fabian Mills, a Starbucks store manager who regularly rode his bicycle to work, showed up to a company meeting on his bicycle. District manager Frances Ericson allegedly pulled him aside and told him that commuting on a bicycle is “unprofessional” and that if he ever wanted “to get anywhere” professionally-speaking, he was going to have to “get over riding his bike.” A few days later, according to Mills, Ericson transferred him to a store sixteen miles from his home, despite the fact that there were at least twenty-five Starbucks locations within five miles of his house.

    The bike-oriented blogosphere erupted in a storm of discussion, speculating that this was just another example of corporate America showing blatant disregard for environmental and health issues. Others pointed out that Starbucks has been a major benefactor of cyclists and cycling, sponsoring events such as “Bike to Work Day.” Many Starbucks employees defended their employer as a good corporate citizen.


    Several days after, Starbucks’ Customer Relations department sent out hundreds or thousands of e-mails which stated, “The portrayal of this exchange as presented by Mr. Mills in this online article is false. The concerns raised by the district manager were regarding Mr. Mills' arriving late to a meeting and being disheveled in appearance, not about his riding a bicycle to work.”

    Starbucks’ supporters expressed their satisfaction across the internet. BikePortland posted the Starbucks response without questioning it. For most people, the case was closed.

    Less trusting than your average coffee-drinker, I called Fabian Mills. His version of events is very different from Starbucks.

    According to Mills’ he arrived at the meeting a few minutes early, but Ericson was annoyed because his bicycle created a distraction amongst the other store managers, who were impressed by Ericson’s riding fourteen miles to the meeting. The discussion evolved into talk of cycling events in the Portland area. Mills admitted he had a bit of “helmet head,” but since he is an avid cyclist, the ride had not left him sweaty or tired. Since this was a meeting of six of Mills’ peers, not upper management or customers, Mills had not felt the need to dress up. Mills also said another store manager arrived at the meeting roughly two hours late but he did not see Ericson pull the tardy manager aside for reprimand.


    It was, perhaps, just a “He said/She said” controversy until Mills disclosed important events. “After all this happened, I called the Starbucks HR ‘Ethics and Business Integrity Hotline’ and registered a complaint. I told them what Frances had said and done. They contacted me later and told me that Frances had admitted to saying what she said. HR went on to tell me that Ericson’s comments, and her request that I drive to work instead of cycling, were completely against company policy.”


    According to Mills, the HR representative then asked him what he was specifically requesting they do about the situation. He asked to be transferred to a store closer to his home, but they told him there were no openings for managers at any of the stores.

    At that point, Mills resigned from his job at Starbucks and went to work for Bank of America. “I used to be a stockbroker,” he explained, “But I got out of that because I could not stand the corporate culture. I worked for a ‘Mom and Pop’ coffee-shop for a year, then took the job at Starbucks because they had better pay and benefits, but the work environment was still good. After Frances took over as district manager, the work environment changed. I was back in corporate America, but I was getting paid a lot less than I had been when I was a stockbroker. I didn’t need that, so I left.”

    Bank of America lets Mills devote a few work hours each week to charity. They have a policy in place that actively encourages employees to commute by bicycle, public transportation, walking or carpools. He seems generally content in his current job, but he misses working for Starbucks. “I still hold Starbucks in really high regard. It’s just this manager that has to go. I think the company really stands behind its employees.”


    Is this a case of a company’s word against that of a former employee? Or are there records of complaints filed on Starbuck’s ‘Ethics and Business Integrity Hotline,’ proving Mills’ description of events and a corporate cover-up to protect an important manager in a highly profitable district? Or did the HR department simply fail to tell the media relations
    department about Mills' complaint? I sent several e-mails and left several phone messages with Starbucks’ media-relations department, telling them Mills’ version of events. Unfortunately, no one responded to my request for an interview with anything more than the “official” response described above.

    If Starbucks wants to defend its reputation as a promoter of bicycle commuters, there appear to be questions it still needs to answer regarding this issue. Will they investigate and take appropriate action? If I hear from them, I will let you know.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    THE POWER OF WIND

    Wind Energy Boom Sweeping U.S., Industry Watchers Say
    John Roach, October 25, 2006 (National Geographic News)
    - U.S. citizens are beginning to come to terms with the country's energy needs and are finding an answer blowing in the wind, according to electric power industry experts.

    - "Last year, and again this year, wind is going to be the second largest source of new power generation coming online," said Christine Real de Azua, a spokesperson for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in Washington, D.C.
    - Natural gas remains the leader in new generating capacity, but wind, which currently supplies less than one percent of the nation's energy, is booming…This year alone, the industry is on course to add 3,000 megawatts of wind power generation. The country's total wind power capacity was just 2,500 megawatts in 2000, Real de Azua says.
    - A megawatt is enough electricity to power 250 to 300 average U.S. homes…This August, U.S. wind energy generation capacity breezed over a milestone of 10,000 megawatts. That's enough electricity to power at least 2.5 million homes…[Xcel Energy renewable energy analyst] Stephen Wilson says increased awareness of the country's energy needs is helping drive the interest in wind power…"With the cost of oil, the Iraqi war going on, and natural gas prices spiking up, I think people's consciousness of our energy position has probably hit an all time high…”

    - [I]ndustry is racing to install and turn on new wind turbines before a tax incentive expires at the end of 2007…Buffalo Ridge—a range of hills that juts southwest across South Dakota, Minnesota, and into Iowa—is a shining example of the wind power boom…the electric power industry considers the region one of the best wind resources in the country, and turbines are popping up there like weeds…More than 500 towers line the ridge, and several hundred more are in the works…
    - Power companies have plans to add an additional 150 megawatts of capacity in the region…Xcel Energy is in the midst of a 160-million-U.S.-dollar update to the region's transmission lines to export an additional 500 megawatts of wind energy from the rural ridge to urban centers…transmission capacity needs to grow to deliver the wind energy.

    - Today, almost half of all U.S. electricity is generated from coal, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. Nuclear and natural gas account for nearly 20 percent each.
    - Wind itself makes up less than one percent of the total mix, but its "potential is vast," Real de Azua said…there is enough harvestable wind blowing across the country to meet the twice the current total energy demand…even states that appear to have little wind are installing new wind generation capacity…
    - California currently has 2,323 megawatts of wind power installed, and until this summer it had the highest wind power capacity in the country. Texas squeaked past California in July, reporting 2,370 megawatts installed…

    GREENPEACE: NO NUKE?

    Following reports in the NYTimes and elsewhere that Greenpeace favored new nuclear energy, this might signal a significant position reversal:

    Greenpeace asks Romania not to build nuclear plants
    25 October 2006 (Reuters)

    - Environment group Greenpeace urged Romanian authorities on Wednesday not to build two new nuclear reactors for the Cernavoda plant because of greater risks in case of a terror attack.
    - Bucking a trend in Europe, Romania plans to inaugurate its second reactor early in 2007 and has set a deadline for binding bids to build and operate a third and a fourth reactor for end-2006.
    - "A major nuclear accident due to technical causes or following a terror attack will be devastating ... such as an accident at the Belene and Kozloduy plants in Bulgaria," Anamaria Bogdan, a spokeswsoman for Greenpeace in Romania, said…
    - "Nuclear energy is one of the worst options to solve Romania's energy (needs)," Jan Haverkamp, an expert with Greenpeace was also quoted…
    - Works at Cernavoda plant, designed to have five reactors, began 30 years ago under the former communist regime. Construction stopped in 1990 when a survey revealed some of the equipment was in poor condition and the welding was faulty.
    - The plant's first reactor went on stream in 1996 and accounts for more than 10 percent of the country's power generation.

    A MATTER OF PROPORTION: $187.5 BILLION VS $100 MILLION

    Massive capital for renewable power
    Xie Chuanjiao, October 26, 2006 (China Daily)

    - China will invest 1.5 trillion yuan (US$187.5 billion) to increase the ratio of renewable energy consumption, said Wu Guihui, vice-director-general of the Bureau of Energy under the National Development and Reform Commission.
    - Currently, 7.5 per cent of China's energy comes from renewable sources. The country's goal is to make it 10 per cent by 2010 and 16 per cent by 2020, revised from its initial goal of 20 per cent.
    - "Within 10 years, we will see a population of 30 million, in all the remote rural areas, have access to electricity, mainly from renewable energy-powered projects," Wu told the Great Wall World Renewable Energy Forum & Exhibition…
    - Furthermore, the country will push the development of the renewable energy industry, introducing advanced foreign technology and further developing technology with proprietary intellectual property rights…

    - From 2002 to 2004, China poured 4.7 billion yuan (US$587.5 million) into small-scale hydropower systems intended for rural areas…
    - [T]he capacity of biomass power will reach 5.5 million kilowatts in 2010 and 30 million kilowatts in 2020…
    - [W]ind power…will be 5 million kilowatts in 2010 and 30 million kilowatts in 2020…
    - As the world's leader in the use of solar cells, China intends to increase the total area of cells in use to 300 million square metres by 2020…

    VS

    DOE Awards $100M in Fuel Cell Grants
    October 24, 2006 (Associated Press via Houston Chronicle)
    - The Department of Energy on Tuesday announced $100 million in grants to fund 25 hydrogen fuel cell research and development projects designed to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy.

    - Research laboratories and universities received about half of the grants, but 3M Co., GrafTech International Ltd., Plug Power, and a unit of industrial conglomerate United Technologies Corp. also received awards.
    - The department will spend $100 million over four years on the projects, which seek to overcome cost and durability barriers associated with hydrogen fuel cell research. The applicants will provide another $27 million.
    - 3M, maker of Scotch tape and furnace filters, received a total of $17.3 million, while UTC Power was awarded $8.4 million. GrafTech, maker of graphite electrodes, was awarded a $2.3 million grant, and energy products provider Plug Power received $8.6 million.
    - Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity, with only water and heat as byproducts and are up to three times more efficient than traditional internal combustion technologies, according to the Energy Department. But the cells are currently more expensive than internal combustion engines, and have difficulty maintaining performance…

    DOE is apparently counting on the private sector to pay the price and reap the reward. Or maybe China will pay the price and reap the reward. Private sector—China—private sector—China…What’s that about all the private sector investment in China?

    BIG SUN

    Giant Photovoltaic Module to be Built
    October 24, 2006 (UPI)
    - Ascent Solar Technologies Inc. and PermaCity Solar, of Los Angeles, will develop jointly the world`s largest flexible photovoltaic module…

    The companies…expect the largest of the new modules will be three to four feet wide and nearly half a football field in length, and that it should provide roughly 100 times the power of the largest silicon module available in the market today.
    - The 'products are expected to generate between 100 watts and 5,000 watts of power per module, depending upon size…the modules will reduce the cost of electricity generated with today`s silicon-based photovoltaic systems by a factor of two, and feature 'cost levels comparable to today`s fossil fuel power plants.'

    Currently working this story…

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    WASH POST ENDORSES SOLAR

    It's a good investment. That's what matters, right?

    For Solar Energy Firms, Future May Be Brighter
    Jane Spencer, October 25, 2006 (Washington Post)

    - Shares of solar energy companies in the United States and Asia have fallen about 25 to 50 percent in recent months as declining oil prices have cooled interest in renewable-energy stocks. But analysts who see long-term growth potential in the $10 billion global solar equipment industry say the recent pullback is creating a buying opportunity.
    - The prospects for solar power may be particularly strong in Asia, which is rapidly becoming a production hub for photovoltaic cells…
    - Asian expertise in high-tech manufacturing, combined with low production costs, could turn some companies into industry powerhouses. The region's mushrooming energy needs, coupled with growing concern about environmental problems, are also likely to fuel the global market for clean, renewable energy sources…
    Japanese electronics giants Sharp Corp. and Kyocera Corp. and China's Suntech Power Holdings Co. are among the world's largest producers of photovoltaic cells…But a number of smaller Asian companies, many of them based in Taiwan, are experiencing rapid growth…. Taiwan's Motech Industries Inc., E-Ton Solar Ltd. and Sino-American Silicon Products Inc., and Hong Kong-listed China Solar Energy Holdings Ltd.

    - Solar-generated power accounts for less than 0.1 percent of the world's electricity supply. But the global solar equipment industry has grown by 30 percent annually over the past five years…Demand for solar panels is expected to boom in the next few years as dozens of countries approve new subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives to promote use of renewable energy sources. Historically, the price of solar stocks has been closely correlated with the price of energy sources such as oil, coal and natural gas…When high energy prices spark concern about energy security, investors tend to pour money into renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power as a hedge against the price of crude. This year has been no exception…But analysts say the historic pattern is about to change, and solar stocks might still be a decent long-term bet, even if oil prices continue to fall…

    - Some analysts who are less enthusiastic about solar power say subsidies are masking a long-term problem in the industry: Solar power isn't yet a cost-effective energy source because of the high price for panels…many energy companies in other industries receive government support…

    NYTIMES DISSES PLUG-IN HYBRID

    Somebody has got to talk to this guy Hermance.

    Still Miles to Go for the Plug-In Vehicle
    Matthew L. Wald, October 24, 2006 (NY Times)

    - THE electric system runs mostly on coal, natural gas and uranium, all relatively plentiful. Cars run mostly on oil, oil and oil, which lately has been expensive. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect the two?
    - Commercially available batteries will not store enough electricity to move a full-size car more than about 60 or 70 miles, enough to meet most drivers’ needs on most days but not a very attractive candidate in the auto showroom. So what about a car with enough battery power for its first few dozen miles, and a gasoline engine to handle the rest?

    - Enter…the concept of a plug-in hybrid. The idea is to expand on the gasoline-electric hybrids already on the road, which charge the battery from the gasoline engine. With a bigger battery pack, charged from an electric outlet, drivers could go the first few gallons’ worth every day on electricity instead…
    - Comparing total miles driven with the gasoline consumed, advocates say the plug-ins will travel 80 miles or more on a gallon. The rest of the energy will come from coal or natural gas, or, ideally, wind turning a windmill or water spinning a hydroelectric turbine…

    - At $2.50 a gallon, a vehicle that gets 20 miles to the gallon costs 12.5 cents a mile to run. But a car that goes four miles on a kilowatt-hour would cost just over 2 cents a mile to run, at the national average retail electricity price. But the price might be lower than average because electric companies could tap into cheap nighttime generation, getting new use from equipment that is usually idle for half the day.
    - Yet…engineers say there is no prospect of this happening in the near future.
    - At Toyota…David Hermance, the executive engineer for environmental engineering, is horrified…plug-ins are “not yet ready for prime time.”
    - …DaimlerChrysler is downright reluctant, even though it has built four test models…But both companies, as well as General Motors, have said that they are looking at the technology…
    - A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, while praising the plug-in goal, cast severe doubt on its practicality. When gasoline costs $3 a gallon and the driver goes 12,000 miles a year, the report said, a year’s fuel is about $1,200 in a conventional car, but a Prius at 50 miles a gallon saves $480 of that. If the hybrid costs an extra $3,500, then the payback period is seven years, the report said.
    But if the plug-in goes four miles on a kilowatt-hour, and does its first 40 miles on electricity, the incremental cost would be about $20,000, but the saving is only about $15 a year larger than for the Prius-type vehicle. The car could be registered as an antique before the owner earned back the additional investment…
    - Felix Kramer, the founder of the California Cars Initiative, an advocacy group, pointed out a parallel in the energy world. “People will say it’s worth paying a little more to get wind and solar into the marketplace…”

    - And batteries could improve…[the Electric Power Research Institute]…has visions of a “smart grid,” in which a plug-in hybrid, or pure electric, can plug in anywhere. The utility system will recognize it, charge it up and bill the owner of the car, not the owner of the outlet. The arrangement would be somewhat like a person with a telephone credit card using any phone at his own expense…
    - “The cost-benefit relationship has got to be there,” said Mr. Hermance of Toyota. “If you can’t sell them, they can’t do anybody any good.”

    THESE THINGS DON’T HAPPEN ANYMORE, IV

    The latest in a continuing series of events chronicled here and here and here.

    Nine of Sweden's 10 nuclear reactors back online
    October 25, 2006
    - Nine of Sweden's 10 nuclear reactors, including four that were taken offline last July over flaws in their backup systems, were Wednesday back online, according to the state Nuclear Power Inspectorate.

    - The decision to take the reactors offline was made after one of the four reactors at Forsmark, north of Stockholm, shut down late July after a short circuit in a switchyard outside the plant.
    - When the reactor shut down, two of four emergency generators failed to start. Several other systems partly malfunctioned, sparking a debate over nuclear safety although the nuclear watchdog SKI said the incident did not harm the reactor.
    - Operators of the Forsmark plant have been ordered by SKI to present daily reports of operations as part of tightened security measures, and on Tuesday restarted the last of their reactors that was offline.
    - One reactor at the Oskarshamn plant in south-eastern Sweden would remain shut down till the end of the year as part of planned overhaul…

    MAKING MONEY SO FAST THEY CAN’T COUNT IT

    Oil prices bloat service company profits
    Doris Leblond, October 20, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)
    - The global oil service and equipment (OS&E) industry is continuing to surf on the wave of high oil prices that are expected to push up 2006 exploration and production expenditures by 21% to $266.9 billion…The irruption of new players attracted by high oil prices—national oil companies, Indian firms, and small independent companies— however, is making it difficult to reliably assess investments…

    - [H]alf of the upstream investments do not translate into higher E&P expenditure but are absorbed by the higher cost of services and equipment due to high raw material prices and the shortage of trained personnel and available onshore and offshore drilling rigs. Also, overflowing order books are lifting prices.
    - [W]orld oil production likely would increase to 98 million b/d by 2010 compared with International Energy Agency's estimate of demand at 92.5 million b/d…
    - E&P investments are made primarily in areas where there are no barriers to entry. This is why the share of both North America and the North Sea in world E&P investments increased to 48% in 2006 from 45% in 2005, reaching $90 billion in North America and $36.7 billion in the North Sea…In Latin America, 2006 investments should increase by 21% over 2005 to reach $35 billion. In Russia they should grow at the same world rate to meet the government's production target exceeding 10 million b/d. Investments in China, at 22%, are slightly below world average growth…

    - 2007 investments [growth]…will hover between 20% and 25% to $320-335 billion—almost twice as much as in 2004—with tensions on the service and equipment industry likely persisting until 2008…
    - All sectors of the OS&E industry are benefiting from the investment flurry…Seismic work has been on a growing trend…All indicators for drilling this year are strong…The utilization rate for offshore drilling rigs also kept climbing this year…

    SHELL PRES PREACHES GREEN

    But what does he practice?

    Shell's Hofmeister: US needs broad-based energy strategy
    Nick Snow, October 24, 2006 (Oil and Gas Journal)

    - Shell Oil Co. Pres. John D. Hofmeister called for a broadly based US energy strategy that pursues every option from increased access to potential oil and gas resources to increasing energy efficiency and developing alternate fuels…

    What he means by “every option” is drilling everywhere, LNG plants wherever, oil shale, oil sands, gestures toward development of carbon capture and renewables, preaching conservation for the masses and hoping somebody can figure out how to stop the greenhouse effect destruction before its too late.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    DOE = DELAY ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY

    Energy Efficiency Meets A Lower Bar
    Mark Clayton, October 24, 2006 (Christian Science Monitor via CBSNews.com)

    - Under pressure to find new ways to save energy, the U.S. Department of Energy is speeding adoption of new efficiency standards for devices ranging from pool heaters to microwave ovens. President Bush is apparently on board, too, pushing the need for energy conservation in a speech earlier this month.
    - That's good news for energy advocates…But in the three standards it has proposed itself, the department has set a far lower bar than efficiency advocates had wanted. Two of the standards are so low that even some industry officials are complaining. Earlier this month, DOE surprised nearly everyone by nixing, on technical grounds, a proposal for home boilers backed by industry and consumer groups…

    - Such moves are causing many observers — from efficiency advocates to members of Congress — to question how deeply DOE is committed to energy efficiency, despite Mr. Bush's rhetoric…
    - Deep-sixing the home-boiler standard has caused the most surprise. Home boilers are used in hot-water and steam heating systems. The efficiency standard that industry and consumer groups had negotiated would have saved users of those systems a total of some $2.6 billion in energy costs through 2030. But…DOE…proposed a lower standard expected to save consumers an estimated $1.2 billion through 2030.
    - Efficiency advocates were upset. So was industry…Admittedly, setting standards is complex, because it involves balancing many factors…

    - On the same day the DOE rejected the boiler standard, for example, it also rebuffed a tough proposed standard for home furnaces…Some analysts say the department's choices may be the best possible given the pressure from industry and sniping from energy advocates…
    - Other analysts, however, note that it took the Bush administration six years to propose its first efficiency standard — for transformers, in August. Even there, the DOE sidestepped several tough standards that were much more energy- and cost-effective than the one it proposed…

    - Executives of nine large electric utilities upbraided the department for not taking a tougher stand…Utility executives were joined by New Mexico's two senators, Republican Pete Domenici and Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who sit on a committee that oversees the DOE…
    - Frustrated by the DOE's pace, Congress itself rammed through efficiency standards on clothes washers, ceiling fans, and more than a dozen other appliances as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005…

    Being weaker on conservation than Senator Domenici and the US Congress is truly sad.

    HEY WALL STREET: ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

    Canadian wind energy seen adding C$1 bln to GDP
    Marcy Nicholson, October 24, 2006 (Reuters via Yahoo News)
    - Wind energy is expected to contribute more than C$1 billion ($890 million) to Canada's gross domestic product in 2006, up from C$736 million in 2005…

    - Canada's current wind energy capacity is more than 1,200 megawatts, up from approximately 700 MW in 2005…Wind energy currently generates approximately 0.5 percent of the country's electricity…

    - The recent halt of federal funding for wind energy, however, is causing the industry some concern. In 2001, Ottawa started an incentive program that provided long-term certainty for investors and triggered provincial governments to put their own aggressive wind targets in place…"If you add up all of the provincial obligations, we will be going up to stock capacity of 10,000 MW by 2015. That development is really contingent on the continued strong federal signal that they want to invest in wind and they want to build this industry," [Canadian Wind Energy Association spokesman Sean Whittaker] said…

    HYPOCRISY, HYPE OR THE RIGHT THING?

    Celebs Who Claim They're Green but Guzzle Gas
    October 18, 2006 (tmz.com via Drudge Report)
    - Hybrid cars are all the rage in Hollywood. Celebrities drive them like they're a badge of honor. You save a few gallons of gas, you save the planet. Right? Well, not when you hop on a private jet and burn enough fuel to propel NASCAR through 2050.

    - Of course, the stars need to go here and there. The location shoots, the fabulous vacations, etc. But that's why God created United Airlines. G-IV's, on the other hand, were created in the image of precious celebs…
    - Julia Roberts…drives a Prius, which gets (at best) 60 miles to the gallon, shaving 30 miles off a normal car's mpg…Chicago/LA, 1,749 miles in a private jet, the route she took with Rupert Everett while shooting "My Best Friend's Wedding"…
    - Jennifer Lopez…tools around in her 60 miles-per-gallon Prius…LA /New York, 2,475 miles in a private jet…

    - George Clooney…favors a Tango, an electric car that gets a whopping 135 miles to the charge…Los Angeles/Tokyo, 5500 miles in a private jet…
    - Brad Pitt…another Prius-lover, and he reportedly has several hybrids in his stable…Los Angeles/Namibia, 9,400 miles in a private jet…
    - Leo DiCaprio…drives a Toyota Prius…flies just like us folk -- commercial, unless he positively must fly private because of scheduling…

    These are not examples of hypocrisy. These are examples designed by Leo DiCaprio’s management to make him look a little different than the others. But:
    1. “My Best Friend’s Wedding” was made in 1996-97 and the Toyota Prius wasn’t available in the US until 2001.
    2. YOU commute to Namibia by commercial airliner.
    3. People like Lopez and Clooney and DiCaprio don’t work and travel in ways commercial flights are scheduled. Like DiCaprio, most travel according to the dictates of their schedule and available transport.

    Kudos to people who use their affluence and fame to publicize something better than bling!

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    CARBON CAPS ARE COMING

    Power execs see carbon emission caps
    Brad Foss, October 21, 2006 (Associated Press via MercuryNews.com)

    - When Duke Energy Corp. CEO James E. Rogers considers global warming, he sees more than a costly quagmire for the U.S. power industry; he sees grand monuments. Notre Dame in Paris, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome…Rogers has adopted what he calls "cathedral thinking," a view that tackling climate change is a chance for the industry to leave a proud environmental legacy for future generations.
    - This philosophy may not deliver results as quickly as environmentalists would like, or sit well with all his counterparts, but it does aptly describe an approach toward reducing greenhouse gases that a small but growing number of power executives are embracing…Rogers and many other executives are convinced the United States is likely to join Europe in placing limits on carbon dioxide emissions - believed by scientists to cause global warming - perhaps as early as next decade. This rising expectation of mandatory carbon caps is reviving interest in nuclear power, accelerating the use cleaner coal-burning technologies and spurring investment in alternative fuels such as wind and biomass.
    - Some of the country's biggest power producers are even setting voluntary greenhouse-gas reduction goals now in hopes of gaining a competitive edge down the road…
    - Despite good intentions, however, it will likely be several decades before any meaningful progress is made on reducing carbon emissions, according to experts on energy and the environment. That is because half the country's electricity comes from burning coal - by far the largest industrial source of carbon dioxide - and the most promising technology for capturing these emissions and sequestering them underground is still in the experimental phase.
    - Meantime, the Edison Electric Institute, the industry's main trade association, is lobbying to prevent mandatory carbon caps, calling them an unnecessary financial burden at a time when the power industry needs to invest billions just to meet anticipated demand…
    - U.S. electricity demand is expected to rise by about 1.5 percent a year, resulting in a 50 percent increase from current levels by 2030. Factor in the anticipated industrialization of China, India and other developing nations, and the global rate of growth for electricity demand is even higher…global carbon dioxide emissions will more than double by 2050 to 80 billion metric tons a year. The U.S. already accounts for more than 7 billion tons a year.
    - Increasing energy efficiency standards and deploying "improved versions" of today's power plants would substantially slow the rate of growth…But in order to actually reduce annual global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, EPRI estimates that nearly half of the world's electricity would need to come from carbon-free fuels, such as nuclear, wind and solar. Today, carbon-free fuels account for a third of global power generation…some U.S. power executives vow to fight carbon limits unless the constraints are carried out worldwide…

    - [But] there is enough momentum at the state level that a critical mass of pragmatists say it would be foolish to ignore the writing on the wall in terms of eventual federal legislation.
    _ In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month signed legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants to 1990 levels by 2020.
    _ In the Northeast, a regional "cap and trade" system of buying and selling emissions allowances is being developed to cut greenhouse gases from Maine to Delaware.
    _ And more than 20 states require utilities to buy a share of their electricity from renewables such as wind, solar and geothermal energy.
    - Some opponents of mandatory carbon caps say the power industry would be better off with one federal standard than a hodgepodge of state regulations with which to comply. But, either way, the basic principle of putting a price on carbon is gaining traction: the Congressional Budget Office said last month that any cost-effective U.S. policy on global warming will require emissions taxes or a cap and trade system similar to Europe's…
    - The growing long-term appeal of carbon-free power in the U.S. is exemplified by the phenomenal growth of wind power, which has quadrupled since 2000 to more than 10,000 megawatts nationwide. That said, wind still represents less than 1 percent of all U.S. power capacity…
    Perhaps more telling is the resurgence of interest in the U.S. for nuclear power…

    - While nuclear presents a significant opportunity in the fight against carbon emissions, the country's unbridled dependence on traditional coal is a major obstacle…Even these so-called coal gasification plants will not solve global warming overnight. While they are far more efficient than older coal plants, the real promise rests in their compatibility with emissions-capture equipment. Unfortunately, "a laundry list of technical challenges" could take a decade or more to resolve…
    - The dearth of simple carbon-free solutions leaves an executive like Duke's Rogers in a difficult position. Sure, he is making plans to add nuclear and coal-gasification power plants, but an important aspect of "cathedral thinking" is a recognition that addressing global warming requires immediate action…"Hope," he said, "is not a plan."

    SOLAR NO BUBBLE

    Analysis: Solar or Bubble?
    Leah Krauss, October 23, 2006 (United Press International)

    - This year's solar energy boom might have capital market theorists and skeptics seeing bubbles, but many prominent investors are saying the solar market really isn't too good to be true…
    - The difference between solar, which seems too good to be true, and the dot-com boom, which was a bona fide bubble, lies in the fundamentals, New Energy Fund Managing Partner Mark Townsend Cox said…Solar…is a tangible product that is hardly new and is proven to work.
    - Photovoltaics have been around since the earliest days of the space program, and the technology may even be over-engineered for terrestrial use, solar experts say.
    - The key in understanding the market's stability and potential for growth, according to Cox, is to look at the economy from a "holistic" perspective.

    - When investors consider the cost of nuclear energy's damage to the environment, or the number of cancer patients that pollution creates, or the high incidence of respiratory disease, fossil fuel-driven energy starts to look more and more costly, Cox said.
    - "The costs are more than the community can bear," he stressed.
    But like all investors, Cox is aware of the importance of the bottom line, and he says solar delivers on that front…companies whose focus is something other than solar are entering the solar market…"Companies like (oil giants) BP and Shell may be doing it to improve their image, but companies like General Electric and Dupont have nothing to (prove) -- they just see the potential to make money," he said…
    - One highly placed expert in the solar industry told UPI that he fears "bad actors" will enter the market…That would give the entire industry a bad name, and could scare investors away…
    - "The industry needs certification," Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told UPI.
    - He called this certification and product rating process "critical" for the industry, whether the program be national or international, voluntary or mandatory…

    ACTIVISTS SAVE RARE EV’S

    Who'll Save the Electric Car?
    Forbes Bagatelle-Black, October 19, 2006 (EV World)

    - It was a star-studded event…the cast of the recent film Who Killed the Electric Car? Chelsea Sexton, Paul Scott, and Alexandra Paul were there, along with Doug Korthof, J. Karen Thomas, Colette Devine, Linda Nicholes and many others…It was the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners' Hearing on October 17, 2006. The electric vehicle advocates were there to urge the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to keep their fleet of seventy four electric Toyota RAV4s on the road.

    - EV activist Nate Vanderschaaf…brought a check for $1,850,000, money he borrowed from Tom Dunn, a realtor in Colorado…Dunn and Vanderschaaf stand to make a lot of money if they go into the business of buying and selling RAV4 EVs as various fleet leases end over the next few years…
    - Sexton, who was also acting in her role as Executive Director of the EV advocacy group Plug In America (PIA), supports Vanderschaaf in his efforts…PIA wants to see the LADWP RAV4 EVs stay on the road…
    - Paul Scott, another founding member of PIA, was a bit more skeptical about leaving LADWP and Toyota to their own devices…All the speakers urged them to sell the RAV4 EVs to Vanderschaaf or to take other actions to keep the vehicles on the road. Doug Korthof passed around a letter from US Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, urging LADWP to work with PIA on this matter. Richard Kelly was especially persuasive, describing how he had recently bought an electric Chevrolet S-10 pickup from LADWP. He told the commissioners that it was the best vehicle he had ever owned…
    - LADWP commissioners who were present voiced their support…However, the commission decided to defer the question of selling their RAV4 EVs to Vanderschaaf or anyone else. Instead, LADWP will re-lease all the vehicles which are deemed "viable" after a thorough inspection. Commissioners indicated that initial inspection suggests that fifty nine of the seventy four are likely to be considered viable. Many of the remaining fifteen vehicles had been damaged in accidents. Commissioners suggested that they would look into the repairs required to make these fifteen vehicles roadworthy again.

    - Vanderschaaf called the commission's decision "a stay of execution." Sexton called it a "victory." While many PIA members did not consider the outcome a complete success, all agreed that it was much better than sending the RAV4 EVs to the crusher.

    HOME FUEL CELL

    Fuel cell ‘could slash bills’
    22 October 2006 (fuelcellworks.com)

    - Electricity bills could be slashed by up to 40 per cent thanks to a new home generator the size of a CD…The mini domestic power station replaces the pilot light in an everyday boiler and can generate heat and electricity at a fraction of the cost of normal power…The super-green device will also more than double energy savings, its British developer, Ceres Power, claims…The generator can do all this mainly by using cheaper materials at more efficient temperatures.
    - Instead of components put together with expensive platinum, the cells are made largely from stainless steel and ceramics, using fairly standard low-cost manufacturing techniques…Fuel and air create a chemical reaction at an optimum temperature of 550C, generating enough electricity in the average home to make power stations obsolete…
    - Conversion of domestic boilers is said to be straight-forward, and cost about…the same as a conventional premium boiler.
    - Although natural gas and oil can be used to power the cells, other fuels, including hydrogen, can be used, producing water rather than carbon dioxide as a by-product.

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