NewEnergyNews: 03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009

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

  • THE STUDY: WHERE U.S. OFFSHORE WIND WILL CONNECT
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 21: SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS; NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND; SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 16:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE MILITARY FALLS FOR THE HOAX
  • TTTA Thursday-FORTUNE 100 BUSINESSES BOOST SUN
  • TTTA Thursday-IOWA UTILITY BUYS WIND TO CUT COSTS
  • TTTA Thursday-GETTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FROM THE CLOUD
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: NEW ENERGY BECOMES PRICE COMPETITIVE
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 15: NEW NUMBERS SHOW BIG OCEAN WIND POWER; SOLAR TURNS IN A NEW DIRECTION; FUEL CELL MARKETS TO VARY, GROW
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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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  • Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    NEW ENERGY AND RECESSION, OPPOSING FORCES

    Cost Works Against Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources in Time of Recession
    Matthew L. Wald, March 28, 2009 (NY Times)

    SUMMARY
    Economic circumstances may significantly impact Congressional willingness to act (spend) on New Energy and climate change.

    Some authorities believe spending to build New Energy and spending to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) will drive electricity prices up, not a favored political strategy during a long, deep recession.

    The Obama administration, however, is committed to climate change action. It’s EPA has begun to move on cutting GhGs. (See EPA TO MAKE BIG MOVE ON EMISSIONS IN MID-APRIL )

    Democrats in Congress remain committed to legislation that institutes a U.S. cap&trade system and legislation creating a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring utilities to obtain 10% of their power from New Energy sources by 2012 and 25% by 2025.

    The assumptions working against New Energy are that (1) making GhGs more expensive will make the cost of burning coal higher and, at least in the short term, lead to higher electricity prices; and (2) even if climate change legislation makes coal more costly and leads to price parity among energy sources, New Energy will still be expensive and therefore the RES will play in role in higher electricity prices.

    The fallacy in these assumptions is the implicit assumption that coal-generated electricity is cheap when in fact it is already costing ratepayers severely in human health and environmental degradation. Calculating such costs is problematic because coal companies, feeling growing pressure, conceal much.

    One set of comparative costs puts the electricity generation per-kilowatt-hour costs at 7.8 cents for modern coal, 10.6 cents for natural gas and 10.8 cents for contemporary nuclear power. Wind is 9.9 cents per-kilowatt-hour. If the calculation for wind includes extra natural gas generation to compensate for wind’s intermittency – a rather bizarre way to do the calculation – wind’s cost could be put at 12 cents.

    The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a utility-sponsored nonprofit, predicted in November 2008 that by 2015 wind would cost nearly 1/3 more than coal and ~14% more than natural gas. EPRI said solar power plant costs would be 3 times coal and 2 times natural gas.

    These estimates may be more accurate. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    The price of fossil fuels and nuclear power is much higher than the retail price ratepayers see on their bills but that cost is folded into their health insurance, property insurance and taxes. It is really impossible to have a complete discussion about comparative prices without taking those "external" costs into consideration. Nevertheless, the article suggests some parameters. It is not especially accurate.

    The piece suggests power price estimates vary in favor of whatever energy source is preferred. The truth is, there are a wide variety of factors that figure into the per-kilowatt-hour price of power generation. These figures (7.8 cents for coal, 10.6 cents for natural gas, 10.8 cents for nuclear, 9.9 cents or 12 cents for wind) are not unreasonable but are also not in any way fair or final, though the article suggests they are.

    One of the biggest mistakes made in comparing prices is to take the cost of EXISTING coal and nuclear plants against the cost of building NEW wind, solar and geothermal. While the numbers put forward may have validity, it is an incontrovertible fact that the marketplace has, for the last 2 years, chosen NEW wind and natural gas over NEW coal and nuclear.

    click to enlarge

    It is particularly odd to add the cost of building new natural gas plants to the cost of building new wind. It sounds sort of logical the way it is presented: Intermittency requires extra generation. But why not more wind? Studies show wind spread over a wide enough region and connected by adequate transmission can eliminate problems of intermittency. And why not add the cost of the back up built for nuclear plants (for when safety-oriented incidents trip them offline)? And the cost of building back up for coal (for when ranmping causes delays in bringing them up to grid demand)?

    Another set of price estimates belying the Times' figures. (click to enlarge)

    Speaking of intermittency, how about the intermittent dependability of natural gas prices? Last summer they were through the ceiling. Now they are affordable. How long will that last? Wind, by comparison, is solid is a rock.

    Also, it is worthwhile to consider which way the proffered prices are going. While wind, solar and geothermal are just barely beginning to achieve the economies of scale that will drive costs down, coal and natural gas will soon be forced to incorporate the price of GhG emissions or the price of emissions-capture (if it ever becomes workable) into their costs, a stipend that will continue to rise. Nuclear at present offers no solution for the disposal of radioactive waste, an expensive proposition that apparently will take at least as long to deal with as the threats of weapons proliferation and security.

    Finally, New Energies generally require modest, if any, water resources for operation, while fossil fuels plants and nuclear plants put a tremendous strain on ever more precious and therefore expensive water supplies.

    Bottom line: On those EPRI costs for 2015, how will the prices compare in 2020? 2025? Because most nuclear plants begun now won’t come on line until nearly 2020. And most coal plants begun now won’t come on line until there is a way to capture and store GhGs safely at commercial scale, something that may not happen before 2030.

    The longer an investment takes to pay off, the more expensive the capital is. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Barry Moline, executive director, Florida Municipal Electric Association: “Consumers right now are extremely price-sensitive…”

    click to enlarge

    - Jonathan Mir, co-head of North American utilities, Lazard investment bank: “There are great benefits to the use of alternative energy…If it is deployed in an uneconomic way…it is quite regressive in nature.”

    NEW ENERGY HOT IN HIGHER ED

    College students flocking to 'clean energy' studies; Climate change is a concern among undergraduates, driving a surge of interest in science and engineering on campuses nationwide.
    Jim Tankersley, March 29, 2009 (LA Times)

    SUMMARY
    Courses and majors pertaining to New Energy are in demand among college undergraduates, according to authorities at a variety of schools including Arizona State University, Indiana University, the University of Colorado, UCLA and USC.

    Growing interest in global climate change solutions is at the heart of the demand. The economic downturn has also had an impact, cooling the graduate business school ambitions of budding entrepreneurs.

    Is New Energy the new Big Sport on campus? (click to enlarge)

    At the same time, there is a growing need for new U.S. scientists and engineers.

    The new wave of commitment to New Energy has not yet reached the graduate school level although innovative research is unlikely to come without training in science or engineering well beyond the undergraduate level.

    The Obama administration’s legislative and policy initiatives include funding for New Energy research and development (R&D). The stimulus bill assigned $20 billion to support basic and applied science research. Much of that work is done by graduate students. The federal budget would triple graduate research fellowships.

    U.S. graduate engineering program enrollment dropped more than 5% from 2003 to 2005 while China and South Korea increased the size and quality of their programs. Enrollment in U.S. graduate programs in science has doubled over the last 2 decades but more than half the students are foreign nationals and more and more of them are returning home when they graduate.

    The retirement rate of U.S. scientists and engineers is also expected to triple in the next 10 years, adding to the need for a replacement force.

    Without such a replacement workforce, the quality of U.S. innovation could suffer.

    The solutions: (1) Get more U.S. undergrads into science and engineering. (2) Keep the foreign science and engineering students who come here for educations in the U.S. workforce.

    The lure for both: Innovative graduate research leads to patents and patents lead to wealth and entrepreneurial power.

    This is the impulse. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    Some observers compare the interest in New Energy on college campuses to the time in the late 1950s when the Soviet Union’s launch of its Sputnik satellites sparked a rush to science and engineering careers on U.S. college campuses.

    The current New Energy excitement reminds others of the post-9/11 increase in undergraduate military and law enforcement enlistments, a trend that quickly leveled off and then faded.

    The current trend, however, may be more substantial.

    To begin with, an idealistic commitment to New Energy is unlikely to get a kid killed. This helps keep the pool of talent at least alive.

    The Obama administration is committed to funding a doubling of U.S. New Energy capacity in the next 3 years. It is also serious about passing climate change and energy legislation with incentives sure to spark a boom in New Energy. All this adds up to career opportunities for undergrads who prepare themselves accordingly.

    The career opportunities are even greater because of a dearth of candidates and a workforce rapidly reaching retirement age.

    This is the cause. (click to enlarge)

    Effective innovation in New Energy will be crucial to bringing costs down and resolving the storage obstacle.

    Keeping foreign students in this country is as easy as attaching citizenship papers to graduate degrees. What country wouldn’t want the cream of the foreign crop, bright enough to get into U.S. schools and courageous enough to face the journey and cultural challenges? Studies suggest they are exactly the people most likely to succeed.

    Bottom line: The news is good. Solutions are available, funding is coming and “sustainability” is one of the most popular buzz words on campus these days.

    The Obama administration is turning this around. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Vijay K. Dhir, dean of the engineering school, UCLA: "We have a shortfall of people to do cutting-edge research and do the innovations we need…[But] the potential is there."
    - President Obama, in a recent statement to academics and energy entrepreneurs visiting the White House: "…innovators like you are creating the jobs that will foster our recovery."
    - 2008 National Science Board report: "[Without a replacement workforce] the rapid growth in [research and development] employment and spending that the United States has experienced since World War II may not be sustainable…"

    He's still spreading the audacity. (click to enlarge)

    - Karen Harbert, executive vice president and managing director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy: "The most critical challenge over the long-term is people and brainpower…"
    - Yannis C. Yortsos, engineering dean, USC: "In the past, very talented kids would go into business school, to Wall Street, get big bonuses…That may not be the case for a while. They may go into engineering instead."
    - Loni Iverson, 21, mechanical engineering senior, USC: "I became an engineer because of alternative energy and the potential it had…"
    - Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, former U.C. Berkeley professor: "[There is] a new cadre of idealistic people who want to work on [energy] in any way they can…You have to start the long-term now…The long-term is being aware that a lot of students want to study science and engineering for this issue, to support them. That requires patience."

    MORE NEWS, 3-31 (OBAMA GETS U.S. IN CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT; H2 BREAKTHRU BUT H2 STILL JUST A CONCEPT; DOE TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH NUKE WASTE)

    OBAMA GETS U.S. IN CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT
    Obama calls major economies climate change meeting
    Jeff Mason, March 28, 2009 (Reuters via Yahoo News)

    "President Barack Obama is launching a 'Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate' to help facilitate a U.N. agreement on global warming…Leaders from 16 major economies have been invited to a preparatory session on April 27 and 28 in Washington to "help generate the political leadership necessary" to achieve an international pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions later this year…[to] spur dialogue among developed and developing countries about the issue, 'and advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.'

    "The major economies include: Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States…Denmark, which is hosting a U.N. meeting at the end of this year to forge a pact that would take over from the Kyoto Protocol, and the United Nations were also invited."


    click to enlarge

    "The group's preparatory sessions are to culminate with a major meeting on the subject in La Maddalena, Italy in July, hosted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi…

    "Obama, a Democrat, has taken an aggressive stance toward fighting climate change, in a break from his predecessor, former Republican President George W. Bush…Bush also spearheaded a 'major economies' initiative on the issue, but many participants were skeptical of the process and concerned it was his administration's way of circumventing broader U.N. talks to forge an international deal.

    "The White House made clear in its statement that Obama's initiative would aim to augment U.N. talks…[and] the international pact… slated to be agreed in Denmark in December…Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions by roughly 15 percent back to 1990 levels by 2020 -- tougher than Bush, who saw U.S. emissions peaking as late as 2025."



    H2 BREAKTHRU BUT H2 STILL JUST A CONCEPT
    Researchers Create Catalysts for Use in Hydrogen Storage Materials
    24 March 2009 (Virginia Commonwealth University via Newswise)

    "A team of scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and the Savannah River National Laboratory have identified that carbon nanostructures can be used as catalysts to store and release hydrogen, a finding that may point researchers [one step closer to] developing the right material for hydrogen storage for use in cars…

    "According to [Puru Jena, Ph.D., distinguished professor in the VCU Department of Physics], complex hydrides are a class of materials that have shown promise for the storage of hydrogen. Because complex hydrides are not reversible and removing hydrogen from them is difficult at temperatures less than 100°C, catalysts are needed to improve the reaction rates. However, previous studies indicate that the addition of catalysts creates defects in the hydrides."


    Good research project. But "maybe someday" is a real problem in a world that needs answers now...(click to enlarge)

    "The experimental group led by Ragaiy Zidan, Ph.D., a researcher at the Savannah National Laboratory, developed a solvent technique which allowed the introduction of carbon fullerenes and nanotubes without introducing any defects and also functioned as catalysts. Jena and the team at the University of Uppsala led by Rajeev Ahuja, Ph.D., performed theoretical calculations to illustrate the mechanism of how these catalysts work.

    "The study appears
    online and in the journal Nano Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society. The work was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy…"


    DOE TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH NUKE WASTE
    Reid will defer to DOE commission on Yucca Mountain alternative
    March 27, 2009 (AP via Reno Gazette-Journal)

    "Nevada Sen. Harry Reid [will] defer to a federal Energy Department plan to create a commission to study alternatives to a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

    "The Democratic majority leader scrapped his own proposal for a similar commission after meeting…with Energy Secretary Steven Chu…"


    click to enlarge

    "The dueling plans for a nuclear waste panel were proposed earlier this month, after Chu declared Yucca Mountain, a site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, was no longer considered an option for housing the nation’s radioactive waste.

    "Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., both Yucca Mountain foes, proposed legislation that ordered Congress to create a study group to come up with alternatives. Its members would have been appointed by Reid and other congressional leaders."


    click to enlarge

    "The bill drew fire from the Nuclear Energy Institute and other industry groups who suggested the panel would not be independent if Reid appointed some of its members.

    "The Energy Department plan…allows Chu’s department to appoint commissioners…Reid and other stakeholders will also have a say in naming its members…"

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    PLAN B 3.0, A PATH TO THE FUTURE

    Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
    Lester R. Brown, March 2009 (Earth Policy Institute)

    SUMMARY
    In Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester R. Brown, the Founder and President of Earth Policy Institute describes the growing evidence of global climate change and the best ways to respond.

    Brown notes the Summer 2007 observations of accelerating Arctic melting and the falling away of chunks of the Greenland glacier, indications that sea level rise of 20+ feet around the world – and the concomitant social and economic upheavals – could be in the offing.

    Action is urgently needed. Business-as-usual is not an option. Brown’s book describes a comprehensive response. It offers 4 goals: (1) stabilize climate, (2) stabilize population, (3) eradicate poverty, and (4) restore earth’s ecosystems. He describes them as inextricably intertwined.

    click to enlarge
    (Click here for the complete slideshow)

    World population is growing at 70 million per year, stressing basic resources like water, soil, forests and land. When coping fails, governments weaken, leading to states failing. Examples: Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, and Pakistan. The list grows longer every year, indicative of civilization weakening. The result is a worsening climate and accelerating stresses.

    The solution, according to Brown, is to stabilize climate first by cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% in the coming decade to stop global temperature rise before the situation is beyond control. Doing so requires 3 steps: (1) Increased energy efficiency, (2) increased New Energy supplies and (3) increased tree cover everywhere on the earth. These 3 changes will make it possible to turn off coal burning, the single most devastating factor in emissions generation.

    Efficiency begins with changing the light bulbs. That alone, by Brown's count, would cut electricity consumption 12% — and eliminate ~705 of the world’s 2,370 coal plants. Greater efficiencies can be achieved with complete retrofits.

    Retrofitting U.S. buildings cuts their energy consumption 20-to-50%. Reduced consumption in conjunction with increased New Energy supply makes it practical to think in terms of a zero-emissions economy.

    click to enlarge

    Wind is the key to New Energy in Brown’s thinking. He is one of the many advocates of a massive ramp-up in capacity, using a World War II-like mobilization to build 3 million megawatts of wind (1.5 million 2 megawatt turbines) by 2020 worldwide to meet 40% of world electricity consumption. Both distributed solar (rooftop photovoltaic, or PV, and solar hot water systems) and solar power plants also figure in Brown’s plan. As does geothermal energy.

    With efficient battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and a grid supplied by New Energy, the transportation system is the next place after the building sector where energy consumption cuts and concomitant emissions cuts are possible.

    The last part of Plan B 3.0 is economic. Putting a price on emissions is, to Brown, a way of telling the truth about Old Energy and the old habits it enabled. Brown advocates an essentially revenue-neutral tax on emissions that starts right away at $20 per ton and ramps up yearly to $240 per ton in 2020. Brown’s proposed emissions tax recognizes social inequities by returning portions of the revenues via the income tax. It uses the rest to finance the transition to New Energy.

    The tax is – even if revenue-neutral – a burden. Plan B necessitates the recognition that the time has come to assume burdens, if for no other reason than to avoid much greater brudens for future generations. Since it is time to go to Plan B, it is time for elected leaders to lead the way with greater responsibility-taking in the form of this truth-telling tax.

    click to enlarge
    (Click here for the complete slideshow)

    COMMENTARY
    The reflexively conservative are repelled by dire warnings about the consequences of global climate change. One recently characterized things he had heard from former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore as “baloney.” Brown’s book will not please such people.

    click to enlarge

    If it sounds radical, that’s because it is. Brown says he’s not interested in what politicians consider politically feasible. That’s Plan A, business-as-usual. This is Plan B: All-out action at wartime tempo to match the size and rate of the civilizational challenge.

    In his discussion of population, Brown points out that failed states are the wedge that opens up problems as diverse as rising oil prices, rising food prices and, ultimately, worsening climate change in all its ramifications. The ultimate consequence is further destabilization, more failed states and a worsening of the cycle.

    click to enlarge

    Brown rightly puts efficiency first in taking on the enormous challenge. Efficiency can make a big difference because commercial and residential buildings generate ~40% of the nation’s GhGs. This means that simple changes in everyday habits of average consumers can have a cumulatively huge impact.

    After light bulbs and retrofits, comes eating habits. Switching from largely meat-based eating to a plant-based diet can cut 3/4 of the energy used to grow and transport food. This, according to Brown, is about the same as driving a Toyota Prius hybrid instead of a Chevrolet Suburban SUV.

    The potential for a massive ramp-up in New Energy capacity will be demonstrated in Texas’ plans to build 23,000 megawatts of wind instead of 23 coal-fired power plants. The Chinese plan to triple its 40 million solar hot water systems to 110 million by 2020 is another test. As are Algeria’s 6,000-megawatt solar power plant and trans-Mediterranean transmission plans. If Texas, China and Algeria win their bets, they will put themselves in positions of power in the coming carbon-constrained world.

    click to enlarge

    The best thing about battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is that in conjunction with a smart grid capable of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) operation, BEVs become a source of short-term electricity storage. In this way, BEVs make the transition to New Energy more practical by providing a partial solution to New Energy’s biggest remaining technological challenge, storage against intermittency.

    click to enlarge

    Brown’s clever formulation is that the change he calls for is not “a spectator sport” because “time is our scarcest resource.” Physics, chemistry and biology don’t ask permission and they don’t wait. Everybody will suffer the consequences if everybody doesn’t pitch in.

    QUOTES
    - Lester R. Brown, President/Founder, Earth Policy Institute and author, Plan B 3.0: “…[By Summer 2007) the Greenland ice sheet was melting so fast that huge chunks of ice weighing several billion tons were breaking off and sliding into the sea, triggering minor earthquakes…We need not go beyond ice melting to see that civilization is in trouble. Business-as-usual is no longer a viable option. It is time for Plan B…”

    click to enlarge
    (Click here for the complete slideshow)

    - Brown: “Time is our scarcest resource. We are crossing natural thresholds that we cannot see and violating deadlines that we do not recognize…These deadlines are set by nature. Nature is the timekeeper, but we cannot see the clock…We are in a race between tipping points in natural and political systems…Which will come first? Can we mobilize the political will to phase out coal-fired power plants before the melting of the Greenland ice sheet becomes irreversible? Can we halt deforestation in the Amazon basin before it so weakens the forest that it becomes vulnerable to fire and is destroyed? Can we cut carbon emissions fast enough to save the Himalayan glaciers that feed the major rivers of Asia?”
    - Brown: “It is decision time…Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we have to make a choice. We can stay with business as usual and watch our economy decline and our civilization unravel, or we can adopt Plan B and be the generation that mobilizes to save civilization. Our generation will make the decision, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.”

    EPA TO MAKE BIG MOVE ON EMISSIONS IN MID-APRIL

    Leaked Memo: EPA Planning Historic Action on Global Warming in April
    Bruce Nilles, March 17, 2009 (AlterNet)

    SUMMARY
    A leaked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document shows that the agency will "fast-track" action on emissions. EPA will issue a "finding that global warming threatens both public health and welfare."

    Issued under the authority of a 2007 Supreme Court decision, the finding will allow the agency to take further steps to control emissions.

    EPA will, according to the leaked document, issue the finding April 16. A 60-day public comment period and 2 public hearings will follow.

    This leak from EPA follows recent good news just announced by the agency that it will institute a required complete national reporting system for greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions by large emitters (greater than 25,000 tons per year).

    The “endangerment” finding is another indication of the Obama administration’s commitment to fighting climate change.

    The Obama EPA appears headed toward a complete reversal of the agency’s performance under President Bush, when EPA refused to act on the Supreme Court decision.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    The EPA move is based on an April 2, 2007, Supreme Court decision (Massachusetts v. EPA). The decision found that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act and required EPA to determine whether CO2 endangered public health or welfare. If so, EPA must regulate CO2 emissions.

    The EPA action is expected to have 2 important effects. The first, obviously, will be to force a change in the way power plants and other major GhG emitters do business.

    This is especially invigorating for the grassroots movement dedicated to stopping the use of coal as a source of energy.

    click to enlarge

    By stipulating it would not impose emissions-reporting burdens on smaller businesses, the EPA negated the charge often made that EPA regulations unduly hamper small businesses.

    The second effect of the action will be to make more likely an EPA grant of the waiver requested by California (and joined by 13 other states comprising nearly 40% of the car market) for the right to institute a vehicle tailpipe emissions standard stronger than the national standard established by the 2007 energy bill.

    Vehicle spew is ~20% of total U.S. GhG emissions

    click to enlarge

    Taken together, these EPA actions represent a signal to Congress that if it does not pass potent climate change legislation, legal action can be taken.

    QUOTES
    - Bruce Nilles, Director, Sierra Club Move Beyond Coal Campaign: “This is very big, very historic, very exciting news -- this action by EPA will set the stage for the first-ever national regulation of CO2 in US history.”

    click to enlarge

    - From the EPA, on its recently announced emissions reporting requirements: "The new reporting requirements would apply to suppliers of fossil fuel and industrial chemicals, manufacturers of motor vehicles and engines, as well as large direct emitters of greenhouse gases with emissions equal to or greater than a threshold of 25,000 metric tons per year….The vast majority of small businesses would not be required to report their emissions because their emissions fall well below the threshold."
    - Nilles, Sierra Club Move Beyond Coal Campaign: “The Bush administration unlawfully ignored the decision for nearly two years, continuing its long campaign of denial, obfuscation, and foot-dragging on global warming and other key environmental issues.”

    MORE NEWS, 3-30 (TITANS CLASH ON CLIMATE CHANGE; SCIENCE SHOWS INCREASING NEED TO STOP SPEW)

    TITANS CLASH ON CLIMATE CHANGE
    The Civil Heretic
    Nicholas Dawidoff, March 30, 2009 (NY Times Magazine)

    The Civil Heretic is a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile of Freeman Dyson, the prominent physicist and science writer.

    As described in the piece, Dyson has also become a high-profile voice among climate change deniers.

    According to the report, Dyson's denial begins with a reflexive aversion to consensus. “Most consider me wrong about global warming,” Dyson somewhat proudly told the Times reporter.

    Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg: “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”

    Dyson was recognized as a denier 4 years ago when he publicly announced, “…all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.”

    Dyson (click to enlarge)

    The Times piece: “…Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s 'chief propagandist,' and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s 'lousy science' for 'distracting public attention' from 'more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.'"

    The Times piece goes on: “For Hansen, the dark agent of the looming environmental apocalypse is carbon dioxide contained in coal smoke. Coal, he has written, 'is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.' Hansen has referred to railroad cars transporting coal as 'death trains.' Dyson, on the other hand, told me in conversations and e-mail messages that 'Jim Hansen’s crusade against coal overstates the harm carbon dioxide can do.' Dyson well remembers the lethal black London coal fog of his youth when, after a day of visiting the city, he would return to his hometown of Winchester with his white shirt collar turned black. Coal, Dyson says, contains 'real pollutants' like soot, sulphur and nitrogen oxides, 'really nasty stuff that makes people sick and looks ugly.' These are 'rightly considered a moral evil,' he says, but they 'can be reduced to low levels by scrubbers at an affordable cost.' He says Hansen 'exploits' the toxic elements of burning coal as a way of condemning the carbon dioxide it releases, 'which cannot be reduced at an affordable cost, but does not do any substantial harm.'"

    More: “Science is not a matter of opinion; it is a question of data. Climate change is an issue for which Dyson is asking for more evidence, and leading climate scientists are replying by saying if we wait for sufficient proof to satisfy you, it may be too late. That is the position of a more moderate expert on climate change, William Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University, who says, 'I don’t think it’s time to panic,' but contends that, because of global warming, 'more sea-level rise is inevitable and will displace millions; melting high-altitude glaciers will threaten the food supplies for perhaps a billion or more; and ocean acidification could undermine the food supply of another billion or so.' Dyson strongly disagrees with each of these points, and there follows, as you move back and forth between the two positions, claims and counterclaims, a dense thicket of mitigating scientific indicators that all have the timbre of truth and the ring of potential plausibility…Beyond the specific points of factual dispute, Dyson has said that it all boils down to 'a deeper disagreement about values' between those who think 'nature knows best' and that 'any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil,' and 'humanists,' like himself, who contend that protecting the existing biosphere is not as important as fighting more repugnant evils like war, poverty and unemployment."

    And from the Times again: "Climate-change specialists often speak of global warming as a matter of moral conscience. Dyson says he thinks they sound presumptuous. As he warned that day four years ago at Boston University, the history of science is filled with those 'who make confident predictions about the future and end up believing their predictions,' and he cites examples of things people anticipated to the point of terrified certainty that never actually occurred, ranging from hellfire, to Hitler’s atomic bomb, to the Y2K millennium bug. 'It’s always possible Hansen could turn out to be right,' he says of the climate scientist. 'If what he says were obviously wrong, he wouldn’t have achieved what he has. But Hansen has turned his science into ideology. He’s a very persuasive fellow and has the air of knowing everything. He has all the credentials. I have none. I don’t have a Ph.D. He’s published hundreds of papers on climate. I haven’t. By the public standard he’s qualified to talk and I’m not. But I do because I think I’m right. I think I have a broad view of the subject, which Hansen does not. I think it’s true my career doesn’t depend on it, whereas his does. I never claim to be an expert on climate. I think it’s more a matter of judgement than knowledge.'"

    Hansen (click to enlarge)

    The Times account of Hansen’s position: “Reached by telephone, Hansen sounds annoyed as he says, 'There are bigger fish to fry than Freeman Dyson,' who 'doesn’t know what he’s talking about.' In an e-mail message, he adds that his own concern about global warming is not based only on models, and that while he respects the 'open-mindedness' of Dyson, 'if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework — which he obviously has not done on global warming.'"

    The Times concludes: “When Dyson hears about this, he looks, if possible, like a person taking the longer view.”

    Here is Hansen’s complete unedited reply to the Times, as communicated by email: “The reporter left the impression that my conclusions are based mainly on climate models. I always try to make clear that our conclusions are based on #1 Earth’s history, how it responded to forcings in the past, #2 observations of what is happening now, #3 models. Here is the actual note that I sent to the reporter after hanging up on him:

    'I looked up Freeman Dyson on Wikipedia, which describes his views on "global warming" as below. If that is an accurate description of what he is saying now, it is actually quite reasonable (I had heard that he is just another contrarian). However, this also indicates that he is under the mistaken impression that concern about global warming is based on climate models, which in reality play little role in our understanding -- our understanding is based mainly on how the Earth responded to changes of boundary conditions in the past and on how it is responding to on-going changes.

    'If this Wikipedia information is an accurate description of his position, then the only thing that I would like to say about him is that he should be careful not to offer public opinions about global warming unless he is willing to first take a serious look at the science. His philosophy of science is spot-on, the open-mindedness, consistent with that of Feynman and the other greats, but if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework -- which he obviously has not done on global warming. My concern is that the public may assume that he has -- and, because of his other accomplishments, give his opinion more weight than it deserves.'"





    SCIENCE SHOWS INCREASING NEED TO STOP SPEW
    New Science Demonstrates Need for Aggressive Cap on Carbon Pollution
    25 March 2009 (National Wildlife Federation via Newswise)

    "Overwhelming scientific evidence supports reducing carbon pollution that causes global warming as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Global warming is happening faster than predicted even several years ago, with many natural systems already seriously impacted. Sea-level rise by the end of the century may be two to three times previous projections. Arctic sea ice is melting faster than anticipated even a few years ago. Northern forests are under attack from heat, drought, insects, and fires. And, many of the changes in our climate may be with us for hundreds and thousands of years."

    Dr. Amanda Staudt explains the situation. From NationalWildlife via YouTube

    "New scientific findings indicate that holding further increases in global temperatures to no more than 2°F above today’s levels, which many believe will allow us to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, may not be enough to protect people and the planet from significant harm…

    "Furthermore, a target of 450 ppm CO2, widely thought to be sufficient for keeping
    warming below 2°F, only gives us a 50 percent chance of keeping warming that low. More alarming are the early warning signs that we could be approaching tipping points that would cause global warming to accelerate even faster. The United States and the international community must come to terms with an increased sense of urgency…"

    Sunday, March 29, 2009

    BIG CAN BE BAD (SCANDAL IN SPAIN’S NEW ENERGY BOOM) AND...

    Scandal sullies Spain's clean energy; The arrest of 19 people accused of corruption highlights the dirty by-product of the country's booming economy in renewable fuel
    Giles Tremlett, 22 March 2009 (UK Guardian/Observer)

    SUMMARY
    The New Energy boom has apparently been just a little too much for Spain’s reportedly shifty real estate and construction sectors.

    The Mayor and 18 citizens in La Muela, Spain, (including 1 of the Mayor’s sons and town councillor Juan Carlos Rodrigo) have been arrested for “eco-corruption.”

    The boom in wind has been La Muela’s temptation. There are 500 wind turbines lining the windy hillsides above and around the town. It earns €1 million ($1.33 million) a year in rent and taxes. Landowners earn a combined €0.5 million a year. Each turbine earns ~€3,000 ($3,987)a year.

    Reportedly, the corruption stems not from the wind projects but from the construction boom that followed the wind boom. Development of projects has been ongoing for 8 years. La Muela’s population has tripled. 5,000 residents now have 3 museums, a theatre, a bull-ring and a new sports and swimming center.

    Mayor María Victoria Pinill denies any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, she owns 3 new houses and her supporters have vacationed in Mexico, Brazil, and the Caribbean.

    A Spanish magistrate is investigating.

    This kind of growth is hard to manage. (click to enlarge)

    Similar accusations follow Spain‘s boom in solar power plant development, a boom driven a Spanish feed-in tariff (FiT) that guarantees a 12% return on solar project investment for 25 years.

    The FiT made Spain one of the leading solar producers in the world in a span of a few years. In 2004, the country was installing 2 megawatts of solar every 3 months. In 2008, it was installing 2 megawatts a day.

    Growth like that brings fast money. Fast money often brings dreams of easy money.

    Solar power plants require a lot of land. Gaming land sales is reportedly an excitement Spanish real estate players couldn’t resist.

    Officials are alledgedly taking bribes to grant the precious licenses to build “solar gardens” and to connect to the national grid and allowing the licenses to be trafficked illegally. And for the right price, it is said, inside knowledge about where grid connection points are to be built can be purchased.

    Land around grid connection points is extremely valuable to solar power plant developers. Installations there, because they do not require expensive extra transmission to deliver solar generated electricity to the national system, are less expensive to build. Real estate players who buy such strategically located land just before transmission plans are announced can turn it over quickly and profitably.

    The value of land around connection points has been known to multiply 10 times over.

    In Castilla y León, in the sunny northwest, some dozen public officials whose relatives turned up owning licenses were dismissed. José Joaquín Moya, socialist mayor of Bigastro, in eastern Spain, was arrested for allegedly granting licenses to those who crossed his palm.

    The inadequately designed FiT may be one of the reasons Global Green downgraded Spain. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    The wind installations have brought new riches to many landowners whose families have for centuries owned but never prospered from the hard lands around La Muela.

    Many say the practices of which the La Muela Mayor and others have been accused are not uncommon in newly rich Spanish wind country boomtowns.

    Spain's wind industry is now one of the world's biggest. (click to enlarge)

    In the Canary Islands, former wind industry department chief Celso Perdomo is accused of taking millions in bribes for identifying in advance the lands where projects would be approved.

    In the solar sector, business grew ninefold in 2 years. The country built 29,000 “solar gardens” in 3 years and now has the world’s 2nd-biggest solar energy installed capacity.

    It is hard to regulate that kind of growth. The Spanish National Commission for Energy inspected 30 solar gardens and found only 13 had been built properly. Many were dumping electricity into the grid.

    The redesigned FiT. (click to enlarge)

    Corruption was not the only problem created by Spain’s FiT. It wrought havoc in the international solar marketplace. The subsidized Spanish price was so high and growth was so rapid that there were supply shortages almost everywhere else and the price of solar cells and modules went up around the world.

    The original Spainish FiT was designed without a satisfactory degression rate that would drop the subsidized price as installed capacity grew. By the time the government stepped in and established new rates with a tighter degression, Spain had 10 times the solar capacity it had targeted.

    Nevertheless, despite corruption and market craziness, Spain has positioned itself as a world power in New Energy. In February 2009, Spain got nearly 1/3 of its power from its New Energy sources.

    Spain's Acciona Solar is at the cutting-edge in solar power plant technology. From interacciona1 via YouTube.

    QUOTES
    - La Muela local: "She has done fine things for La Muela…People are just envious."
    - Another: "She has been making fools of us for 22 years…"
    - Spanish solar energy professional: "Entire boatloads of panels from China were being auctioned before they even got to port," said one dealer.
    - Juanma Redondo, Spanish New Energy expert: "It became an instrument for speculators…Solar gardens were being sold like pension funds. It was a risk-free investment."
    - Luis Gómez, journalist, Spain’s El País: "Who got the licences? That is where the shadow of doubt appears. There have been no public tenders and no transparent decision-making…"

    ...SMALL CAN BE BEAUTIFUL (S.E.L.F. BRINGS SOLAR TO THE DARKNESS, WINS KING’S AWARD)

    King Hussein Leadership Prize Presented to Robert Freling of the Solar Electric Light Fund; Award Honors Leader's Transformative Impact on Environment
    March 27, 2009 (AScribe Newswire)

    SUMMARY
    Robert A. Freling, Executive Director of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) was awarded the 2008 Leadership Prize from Jordan’s King Hussein Foundation.

    The prize is awarded annually for exceptional humanitarian leadership in sustainable development, human rights, equity, and peace.

    The award-winning Mr. Freling. (click to enlarge)

    Freling was recognized for the work SELF does bringing solar electricity to people living off the grid and without power in the remote rural villages of the developing world.

    The Foundation described SELF’s work, ongoing since 1990 in 18 nations, as "inspiring and honorable." SELF is based in Washington, D.C., and works to “end global poverty” and uses “clean, renewable electricity” to improve “the health, education and welfare of the two billion people living in energy poverty.” It has sustainable projects in places like Benin, Brazil, China, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

    Freling has been with SELF since 1994 and has been Executive Director since 1997. He has overseen solar energy applications to power drip irrigation in Benin, telemedicine in the Amazon rainforest, vaccine refrigeration in Rwanda, online distance learning in South Africa, and microenterprise development in Nigeria. The result is a comprehensive, whole-village approach that SELF calls its Solar Integrated Development model.

    click to enlarge

    The King Hussein Foundation, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, was founded in 1999. It honors His Late Majesty King Hussein's memory with this annual prize recognizing extraordinary contributions.

    Previous winners: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and microloan Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus.

    Villagers in Benin, West Africa, install a solar powered drip irrigation system. From solarfund via YouTube.

    COMMENTARY
    The installation of solar panels in remote locations attacks the energy poverty at the core of a whole host of developing world ills. And solar energy delivers power that makes possible a whole host of good things, things many in remote rural locations consider wonders, things Jordan’s Queen Noor called “basic rights” in presenting the award.

    The cornerstone of SELF's "whole-village" approach. (click to enlarge)

    The solar energy-generated electricity can be used to run purification systems that clean the limited, compromised water supplies of rural people in emerging nations.

    The solar energy-generated electricity can drive irrigation systems that make it possible to grow food in barren soil for hungry people.

    click to enlarge

    The solar energy-generated electricity can also be stored in batteries that accompany many of the single-panel off-grid installations. The battery power can then be used at night to power lamps by which children who work all day can learn to read.

    The same lamps make it possible for adults to work at night at tasks like sewing or machine repairs to supplement their incomes and move toward a small degree of financial empowerment.

    The solar energy-generated electricity is also used to run SELF-provided computers with wireless Internet access so that no location is too remote to be connected to the wider world.

    Finally, solar energy-generated electricity can power small health clinics where vital care, delivered at urgent moments, can alleviate needless agony, save lives and sustain families.

    CNN took a look at SELF’s work in Nigeria. From solarnow2007 via YouTube

    QUOTES
    - Her Majesty Queen Noor, presenting the award: "Robert Freling is a visionary leader working at the intersection of environmental stewardship and sustainable human development, whose work has had a transformative impact on the quality of life, opportunity, and the security and stability of communities around the world. SELF helps whole villages leapfrog from no reliable energy to affordable, green power that in turn provides access to other basic rights - clean water, education, healthcare and economic empowerment. Bob's commitment and determination to abolish energy poverty around the globe embodies the humanitarian vision and indomitable spirit of King Hussein that we celebrate with this award."
    - Robert Freling, Executive Director, S.E.L.F.: "To be recognized by the King Hussein Foundation for my work with SELF is an extraordinary honor. This award validates our commitment to providing sustainable energy as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty and generating light and hope in some of the poorest, most marginalized parts of the world. Access to electricity, as an absolute prerequisite for development, has a vital role to play in the securing of peace, equality, and human rights for all."
    - Steven L. Swig, board of directors chair, SELF: "I believe fervently in SELF's mission to bring clean, renewable energy to the developing world, and I am so pleased that Bob's dedicated and visionary leadership has been recognized in this exceptional way."

    MORE SUNDAY WORLD, 3-28 (DENMARK INVADES COLORADO; CHINA STIM STIMS CHINA SUN; AUSSIES IN EMISSIONS TRADING TRIAL RUN)

    DENMARK INVADES COLORADO
    Danish prince celebrates new Colo. wind plants
    Judith Kohler, March 26, 2009 (AP)

    "Danish Crown Prince Frederik said…expanding a country's renewable energy sources and recovering from a recession didn't have to be mutually exclusive…at a Brighton plant groundbreaking for Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind System…

    "The prince, his wife Crown Princess Mary and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter attended the ceremony for two parts plants by Vestas, which already has a blade-making plant in Windsor, about 50 miles north of Denver."


    Vestas is #1 with a bullet. (click to enlarge)

    "The company also is planning a 400-employee factory in Pueblo to build towers that support the turbines, which it has said would be the world's largest such factory. Ritter has championed alternative energy, which he called the state's "new energy economy" for creating jobs and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions…"

    Denmark is also WAY ahead of the rest of the world in building offshore wind. (click to enlarge)

    "The crown prince said that during a similar economic downturn in the 1970s, Denmark decided to wean itself off fossil fuels, leading to dramatic economic growth and a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of more than 13 percent. He also said renewable energy accounted for 28 percent of Denmark's electricity supply.

    "Ritter said Denmark could be an example for his state and the United States to follow. The crown prince and his wife also visited Dana College in Blair, Neb., and attended a groundbreaking for a new ethanol enzyme plant being built by Danish-based Novozymes."



    CHINA STIM STIMS CHINA SUN
    Solar Company Shares Jump On Chinese Energy Subsidy
    Shara Tibken, March 26, 2009 (Dow Jones Newswire via Wall Street Journal)

    "Shares of solar companies soared Thursday after the Chinese Ministry of Finance said on its Web site that it will offer a subsidy for solar energy…[that] will provide RMB20 ($2.93) per watt for projects over 50 kilowatts…Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said the subsidy is comparable to what California is paying as part of its solar-rebate program.

    "Analysts called the subsidy generous and some estimated it could cover more than half the cost of a solar panel… [But one analyst] believes the market reaction is overdone because the subsidy's impact on demand for solar projects is going to be relatively minor."


    In rural China, solar energy provides for necessities. (click to enlarge)

    "Chinese-based solar companies gained the most…[because they] stand to benefit the most from any Chinese subsidies…Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (STP) soared 47% to $11.50, and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (YGE) rose 44% to $5.98. LDK Solar Co. Ltd. (LDK) jumped 40% to $8.25, and Trina Solar Ltd. (TSL) rose 46% to $12.65. China Sunergy Co. Ltd. (CSUN) climbed 34% to $3.35, and JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd. (JASO) gained 43% to $3.79…

    "Non-Chinese companies also traded higher, though they are less likely to benefit from the subsidies…First Solar Inc. (FSLR) gained 13% to $151.43, while SunPower Corp. (SPWRA) rose 16% to $27.95. Both are U.S. companies."


    Who WOULDN'T subsidize this kind of growth? (click to enlarge)

    "Analysts at Piper Jaffray said the Chinese subsidy is a long-term positive…[But] some analysts expressed caution over how much the subsidy would help the companies…[I]t's unclear whether the subsidy is restricted to building-integrated PV, or BIPV, cells - which means the modules have to be an element of the building structure - or whether it could also be used for retrofit modules, which are less expensive and can be put on an existing building…BIPV solar panels are a small niche market in China and account for only about 2% to 3% of solar demand.

    "Barclays Capital analyst Vishal Shah said in a note the program is applicable for both BIPV and regular solar module applications, but analysts at Piper Jaffray said in a note only building owners and manufacturers of PV products can take advantage of it. In addition, analysts at both Piper Jaffray and Barclays said the new subsidy program likely won't be capped."



    AUSSIES IN EMISSIONS TRADING TRIAL RUN
    Test drive on carbon trading
    Valerina Changarathil, March 23, 2009 (Adelaide Advertiser/Sunday Mail)

    "Australian businesses will get a chance to test drive the Federal Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in May, through KPMG's new auction simulation program.

    "A national pool of up to 100 participants will buy and sell ``dummy'' permits based on their actual emissions under the Carbon Permit Auction Simulation program, to test their readiness ahead of the proposed rollout of the scheme next year.

    "KPMG, which has held such programs in the UK, will hold three half-day auctions over the program's six months and offer participants anonymity."


    The real world of emissions trading. (click to enlarge)

    "There will be a cap on the number of permits auctioned off and the price of the permits will be demand-driven…For [Australia] the simulation includes trading forestry/carbon offsets…KPMG claims the program is the first of its kind in Australia and expects strong participation…[so companies can] understand the "complicated'' CPRS scheme in a "learn-by-doing'' fashion…

    "The simulation will help businesses consolidate and field-test emissions data collection systems and procedures, bring in a disciplined approach to managing greenhouse gas emissions and price-test carbon reduction strategies.

    "Each participant will receive a report and performance feedback at the end of the exercise…"

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Van The Man Has His Say – And What A Say It Is!

    Van Jones explains the new ethic, the new commitment and the new math to Vice President Biden. This incredible talk is well worth 9 minutes of your time: “We save the soul of America when we connect people to opportunity.” From gotSelena via YouTube.

    Action Alert – Tonight’s The Night to Vote Earth 2009

    Tonight is this year’s chance to join with the people of nations all around the world and express respect for this good earth with the flick of one finger. From basvg1 via YouTube.

    Climate Crock Of The Week

    In a new installment of his fine series, Peter Sinclair explains changing temperatures throughout this planetary system and why they are not related to climate change here on our planet: “Climate change is real, we’re doing it, the consequences are dire and we need to stop.” From greenman 3610 via YouTube.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    MORE EVIDENCE OF HOW EFFICIENT EFFICIENCY IS

    Energy Efficiency Improvements Will Create Thousands Of New Jobs While Saving Ohio Billions; National Group's Study Shows Ohio Can Create More Than 32,000 New Jobs, Save Over $19 Billion, and Reduce Energy Demand Over The Next 15 Years
    March 25, 2009 (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)

    SUMMARY
    National primary elections and national presidential elections have been deeply influenced by what happened in Ohio because Ohio is as much the heartbeat of the nation as anyplace. For that reason, Shaping Ohio's Energy Future: Energy Efficiency Works is much more than a study of what energy efficiency can do for Ohio. By demonstrating what energy efficiency can do for Ohio, it offers a vision of what it can do for the nation.

    The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) study finds energy efficiency strategies can save the state $19 billion and create 32,000 new jobs by 2025 in a wide range of fields.

    Those are the benefits. To obtain those benefits, the program's goal is to cut electricity consumption through (1) efficiencies (building weatherization, changing light bulbs and appliances, etc.), (2) adopting combined-heat-and-power (CHP) technology and (3) instituting smart power hardware and demand-response (DR) strategies to alter peak demand. The first 2 will cut electricity use 18% by 2025. DR will cut it another 11%.

    click to enlarge

    Efficiency improvements started in Ohio with the passage of SB 221, the state’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), which requires 22% electricity consumption savings by 2025.

    ACEEE’s report lays out 10 further program and policy innovations (5 EERS-related and 5 complimentary) by which Ohio's investor-owner utilities can get to the 2025 goals.

    click to enlarge

    EERS-related suggestions:
    (1) Increased residential building initiatives and improved incentives for homes now unable to participate in current programs due to costs.
    (2) Increased commercial building initiatives beyond simple equipment upgrades to upgraded system design, equipment integration and building operations.
    (3) Manufacturing Centers of Excellence in partnership with universities to get at (a) identified efficiency opportunities, (b) expertise and (c) a trained workforce.
    (4) Increased rural and agricultural initiatives (educational programs, rural audit programs, matching funds for USDA grants).
    (5) Expanded CHP via regulatory reform and new financial incentives.
    Complementary Policies:
    (6) Workforce development.
    (7) Increased use of efficiency measures in state and local government facilities (31% of commercial electricity consumption).
    (8) Increased state-level appliance and equipment efficiency standards that expand on federal standards.
    (9) Better building codes that meet federal guidelines and make for more energy-efficient homes.
    (10) Expanded demand-response (DR) programs (customer education, financial incentives, agency coordination) to shift peak period consumption to off-peak periods.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Interesting observation: Investing in efficiencies provides as much work and generates as much in revenues as building 250 new manufacturing facilities but without any of the increased demand for energy or raw materials and with no associated emissions or other pollution.

    The nature of the jobs created in expanding efficiency programs is remarkable. It ranges from attorneys, scientists, engineers and consultants to blue collar laborers paid “skilled work” salaries with benefits.

    The report's 10 detailed actions and strategies (energy-efficient windows, compact fluorescent light bulbs, ENERGY STAR® appliances, expanded CHP at factories and institutional buildings, etc.) alone could keep electricity demand growth flat through 2025.

    Demand-response (DR) is one of the hottest topics in the energy world right now. The basic idea is simple: When demand on the grid starts rising toward peak capacity, there are many things the system as a whole and individual customers can do to avoid stresses.

    click to enlarge

    DR includes a pricing system to encourage ratepayers to choose to avoid using electricity during periods of peak demand.

    It also includes having a supply of New Energy such as solar rooftop systems or local wind that can be brought onto the grid quickly to supplement the base load.

    DR is an essential capability of a “smart” grid. It begins in the transmission system with wires adequate for 2-way communication between the utility and the consumer. The system "intelligence" recognizes the onset of peaking demand and invites ratepayers, voluntarily and automatically, to reduce power use.

    DR requires transmission system software as well as software at the individual building level. Lights can be dimmed an unnoticeable but crucial level. Thermostats can be adjusted without significantly affecting comfort. Appliances not being used can be temporarily put into “sleep” mode. Outlets, circuits, and even whole buildings without activity can be temporarily tuned out.

    The report includes a summary of energy efficiency programs in Ohio, a discussion of key issues and a list of detailed recommendations and "best practices" based on ACEEE's ~30 years of experience.

    CHP schematic. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Dr. R. Neal Elliott, Associate Director, ACEEE/lead author: "Energy efficiency is the most affordable energy resource in Ohio…While 22% efficiency savings may seem challenging, other states are already reducing electricity growth at higher rates than that, at a cost of less than 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Energy efficiency resources are available in this cost range in every state, including Ohio."

    click to enlarge

    - Max Neubauer, Research Assistant, ACEEE/lead researcher: "Energy efficiency is the first fuel in the race for affordable and clean energy, because it is the cheapest and fastest to deploy…When combined with demand response programs, efficiency offers Ohio a sustainable energy future that provides greater energy security, costs less, pollutes less, and supports economic growth better than its current course."

    NEW ENERGY’S PLACE ON THE WIRES

    Integrating Renewables
    Bill Opalka, March 4, 2009 (Michigan Green)

    SUMMARY
    The power industry is preparing to answer consumer demand, state policy requirements and political pressure for climate change action by providing increased portions of their electricity from New Energy sources.

    The power industry’s biggest concern is not New Energy supply but transmission reliability due to inadequate capacity on the wires and aging technology.

    Planners and advocates are beginning to formulate a strategy to integrate ever larger supplies of New Energy into the transmission system.

    Part of the challenge is developing a system capable of interacting with intermittent home rooftop solar systems of 3-to-5 kilowatts and intermittent multi-thousand megawatt wind installations in addition to the gigantic coal, natural gas and nuclear plants currently online.

    click to enlarge

    Another part of the challenge is delivering electricity generated from local solar energy and electricity from wind and solar projects 1000 or more miles distant to energy-hungry and ever-greener city consumers.

    Among the policy initiatives in the works that will impact this process are (1) a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), (2) a transmission bill funding new wires, smoothing regulatory disputes and requiring states to create Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) pre-establishing rights-of-way (ROWs) and (3) the re-organization of power markets into regional transmission organizations (RTOs) with central "balancing authorities."

    Improving day-ahead and real-time forecasting is a necessary factor for New Energy to continue coming onto the transmission system without reducing reliability.

    Forecasting is getting ever better. (click to enlarge)

    Newest computer hardware, pushed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and National Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) in recent years, makes integrating the myriad of factors coming into a balancing authority feasible.

    Studies in the U.S. and Europe show there are no technical barriers to bringing New Energy up to 20% or more of grid power. An Xcel study showed the cost would be $5 per megawatt-hour (~10% of wind’s wholesale price).

    Solar power plants will not present transmission system difficulties different than those already faced and resolved by the wind industry but solar power plants already face Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site-approval considerations for the 200+ megawatts of planned projects and the large land tracts needed for them.

    click to enlarge

    COMMENTARY
    Reliability is not a term of art in the power business, it is the essence of the job.

    The effectiveness of state Renewable Electrricity Standards (RESs) at driving utilities and power companies to develop New Energy and plan for integrating it into their supply is obvious. Where there are standards, utilities are acquiring New Energy resources. Where there are carve-outs specifying New Energy sources or distributed generation, investment is driving those industries. Regardless of the particular New energy, be it solar in the Southwest, wind on the Great Plains, biomass in the Southeast or ocean energies in the Pacific Northwest, one part of the planning is constant: Preparing the transmission.

    In a regional transmission organization (RTO), a “balancing authority” can control and facilitate integration of New Energy while handling the many varying supply and demand factors popping up throughout a system moment by moment.

    The advantage: Variations of power supplies like wind intermittencies or coal plants suddenly going offline would, in the control of a big balancing authority, not be anymore problematic than any number of other ramping events. In a small system, however, any such event could be problematic or even trigger a brownout.

    The newest high-capacity wires will preserve the landscape while facilitating transmission and integration. (click to enlarge)

    Contemporary wind equipment is an indication of what 21st century technology can mean in a relationship between grid operators and New Energy. Not long ago, turbines were forced to go offline during severe whether conditions. Newer turbines have sophisticated gearing and the capacity to stay online and drop voltage 10%. This keeps the supply of wind-generated electricity to the grid steadier and reduces the grid operator’s need to shuffle supplies.

    New developments and technologies informed the U.S. Department of Energy’s official conclusion that it is feasible for the nation to get as much as 20% of its power from wind by 2030. This official finding of feasibility no doubt informs the widespread belief that the grid can also get 10% of its power from solar energy, 10% of its power from ocean energies and a similar portion from geothermal energy in the foreseeable future.

    Full system integration, the ultimate goal. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Charlie Smith, executive director, Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG): "I prefer to call it a variable output resource. Intermittent implies it comes and goes rather quickly and that's not the case. While an individual turbine or turbines may stop spinning, the output over an entire area in the aggregate tends to balance the load…"
    - Brian Parsons, National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): "The hardware is getting more grid-friendly. Perhaps the greatest example is in the old days if there was fault the entire system would go off. Now, low voltage raided through is developed into all hardware."
    - Mike Taylor, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA): "Photovoltaic, prior to 2006, was about 99 percent distributed and almost all of that less than a megawatt or two…"

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