NewEnergyNews: 06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • TODAY’S STUDY: Solar For Everybody Else
  • QUICK NEWS, May 22: The Plan To Beat Climate Change; Ready For The Offshore Wind Boom; Solar Research Faces Trump Cuts
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Forget The Planet, Save The Pizza
  • Weekend Video: Wind Power Shines Its Light
  • Weekend Video: Storing Solar As A Liquid
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-The Inner Circle Of Climate Action
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Europe Building Wind For A Continent
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Global Solar Is A Better And Better Buy
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Big Wind A Go-Go Near Home of Beatles’ Beat
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, May 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-Methane From Alaskan Tundra Accelerating Climate Changes
  • TTTA Thursday-U.S. Voters Back Paris Climate Deal 5 to 1
  • TTTA Thursday-The Tesla Solar Roof Value Calculation
  • TTTA Thursday-Senator Slams Tilted DOE Grid Study
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: How To Plan For New Energy
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: What New Wires Could Do
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Questions To Answer To Get New Energy Right
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Big Benefits In Big Wind
  • QUICK NEWS, May 16: Why New Energy Won’t Be Stopped; Silicon Valley Takes On Laptop Wind; Floating Solar To Cut Costs
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • 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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      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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  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, May 23:

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Most Energy Efficient Cities Right Now
  • QUICK NEWS, May 23: How To Tell Kids About Climate Change; California Takes A New Look At Wind; Mercedes Benz Goes Solar – With Batteries

    Saturday, June 29, 2013

    Changing Climates

    Great punch line: Don’t let go of the hand you are holding or everybody will go down. From William Blofeld via YouTube

    Fourth Graders Figure Out Solar

    This and the solar boom now setting in across the county are proof that the general intelligence of the U.S. at large is finally beginning to approach a fourth grade level. From USDepartmentOfEnergy viaYouTube

    Images Of Wind

    A well done strong wind advocacy piece in pictures. From Mario Desmit via YouTube

    Friday, June 28, 2013

    THE SLEEPING GIANT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

    Is Arctic Permafrost the "Sleeping Giant" of Climate Change?

    June 27, 2013 (Philadelphia Inquirer)

    “…Over hundreds of millennia, Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon - an estimated 1,400 to 1,850 billion metric tons of it. That's about half of all the estimated organic carbon stored in Earth's soils…Most of the Arctic’s sequestered carbon is located in thaw-vulnerable topsoils within 3 meters of the surface…But, as scientists are learning, permafrost - and its stored carbon - may not be as permanent as its name implies. And that has them concerned…As heat from Earth's surface penetrates into permafrost, it threatens to mobilize these organic carbon reservoirs and release them into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and methane, upsetting the Arctic's carbon balance and greatly exacerbating global warming…” click here for more

    NEW ENERGY TO ALMOST DOUBLE WORLDWIDE IN 5 YEARS

    Renewables to surpass gas by 2016 in the global power mix; IEA report sees renewable power increasingly cost-competitive with new fossil-fuel generation, but agency warns against complacency

    26 June 2013 (International Energy Agency)

    “Power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2016, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said…in its second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR) …[D]espite a difficult economic context, renewable power is expected to increase by 40% in the next five years. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector and will make up almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011. The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006…” click here for more

    SOLAR PV EMERGING IN ASIA

    Solar PV Growth Prospects in Emerging Asia Pacific and Central Asia

    Steven Han, June 24, 2013 (SolarBuzz)

    “…The major markets in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region (Australia, China, India and Japan) have shown significant PV demand growth over the past few years and have become key drivers of global demand. Recently, new markets across the Asia-Pacific region have gained momentum and are expected to contribute notable demand levels over the next five years and should account for 5% of global PV market by the end of 2017…” click here for more

    WORLD WIND MILEPOST COMING

    Global Wind Energy Blows Away Old Expectations

    Kristopher Settle, June 22, 2013 (Energy Collective)

    “…[W]ind energy will surpass the threshold of 300 gigawatts, or 300,000 megawatts at some point before the end of the calendar year. Total wind energy capacity reached 280 gigawatts by the end of last year, when a record 44 gigawatts were installed worldwide…China led the way in 2012, adding over 13 gigawatts of wind energy. The added wind capacity was enough to officially surpass coal energy generation for the first time in the country’s history…” click here for more

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    STANDOUTS IN THE OBAMA CLIMATE PLAN

    The 5 Most Interesting Pieces of Obama’s New Climate Plan; There’s a lot of repackaged stuff in the president’s plan. Here’s what’s new.

    Stephen Lacey, June 25, 2013 (Greentech Media)

    “After promising to make climate change a top priority in his second term, President Obama has finally rolled out his new plan for action…With Congress unable to pass anything substantive on climate change -- let alone admit that it's a problem -- Obama explained in his recent State of the Union address that he would do as much as possible with his executive authority. After a period of silence on what executive actions the president might take, the White House released an official plan of action…[It includes]…1. Doubling renewable energy by 2020…2. Establishing strong new goals for energy efficiency…3. Launching a climate data initiative…4. Stopping the public financing of international coal projects…5. Potentially avoiding construction of Keystone XL…” click here for more

    SUN’S RESPONSE TO THE OBAMA CLIMATE PLAN

    SEIA Applauds President Obama's Climate Change Initiatives

    June 25, 2013 (Solar Energy Industries Association)

    “…[Rhone Resch, president/CEO, Solar Energy Industries Association:] ‘This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history…It’s indisputable. Climate change threatens our economy, our future progress, our health and safety, and even our way of life. Every day, the Earth suffers a little more from human neglect…To his credit, President Obama understands that. We commend him for offering a bold, decisive plan…America’s solar energy industry stands ready to do our part to help fight climate change and usher in a new era of clean energy in America and around the world. Despite what some critics say, this isn’t a choice between clean energy and a robust economy. We can have both, and solar is showing how to make that possible.’” click here for more

    WIND’S RESPONSE TO THE OBAMA CLIMATE PLAN

    Statement on the President’s expected climate initiative

    June 24, 2013 (American Wind Energy Association)

    “…AWEA supports administration policies using existing authority, which can help deploy more wind energy and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions…[including…1.Maintain a commitment to a renewable energy goal for the nation…2.Increase the amount of renewable energy purchased by the federal government for its own use…3.Regulate greenhouse gases from new and existing power plants…4.Facilitate workable permitting for wind projects and for the transmission infrastructure needed to deliver renewable energy…5.Continue to accelerate the development process for offshore wind energy projects…6.Support transmission infrastructure initiatives at federal agencies including DOE and FERC…7.Continue to invest in research and development…” click here for more

    THE MONEY IN STORING WIND AND SUN

    Energy Storage for Wind and Solar Integration; Market Issues, Business Case Analysis, Technology Issues, and Forecasts for Energy Storage Systems for Wind and Solar Applications

    2Q 2013 (Navigant Research)

    “…Globally, the way in which variable generation is compensated is changing. Key markets are moving away from generous feed-in tariffs and toward feed-in premiums and other market signals to encourage the adoption of variable generation. Major markets for renewables – including Germany, Japan, and the United States – have enacted rules or legislation specifically to encourage the adoption of energy storage systems (ESSs) for the purpose of integrating variable energy sources onto the grid. Navigant Research forecasts that the installed capacity of energy storage systems for solar and wind power integration will total 21.8 GW from 2013 to 2023…” click here for more

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    TODAY’S STUDY: TEXAS SHOWS HOW NATURAL GAS AND NEW ENERGY CAN FIT

    Partnering Natural Gas and Renewables in ERCOT

    Dr. Jurgen Weiss, Heidi Bishop, Dr. Peter Fox-Penner, Dr. Ira Shavel, June 11, 2013 (Texas Clean Energy Coalition/Brattle Group)

    Executive Summary

    Within the past decade ERCOT has seen the arrival of abundant, cheap natural gas resources and increasing levels of wind generation capacity. New shale supplies and drilling techniques have doubled Texas’ natural gas supplies which are now projected to last through 2030 or even 2050. In addition, a well-functioning competitive market, ample and excellent wind resources combined with the Federal Production Tax Incentive for wind (PTC) and Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standards have made Texas the national leader installed wind capacity. Texas is now facing a new set of challenges in the face of rapidly changing economics for electricity generation and the need for more coordinated development of its resources.

    Low natural gas prices have fueled concerns that natural gas will soon crowd out renewable resources, undermining Texas’ progress towards the development of a thriving wind industry and towards reducing emissions. At the same time, recent ERCOT analysis found wind and solar resources to be competitive with natural gas over the next 20 years under a number of plausible scenarios. This white paper therefore analyzes the interactions between gas and renewables in ERCOT, both in the short and in the long term.

    The main conclusions of this white paper are that in the short run low gas prices are extremely unlikely to change the fact that existing renewables will nearly always have priority over gasfired plants since, due to the absence of fuel costs, their variable costs are lower than those of essentially all other resources. Over the long term, as new plants are planned and built, it is possible that new gas-fired plants will compete with new sources solar and wind generation. Which source is cheaper will depend on the levels of gas prices, the existence (or lack thereof) of continued federal (and perhaps state) support and the technological progress of both wind and solar resources. In addition, it is possible that in the long run some combination of renewables and gas will displace existing coal-fired generation.

    This is possible because, despite this competition, there is a strong complimentary relationship between natural gas and renewables. Not only may increasing concerns about air pollution and associated health and environmental consequences create additional costs for coal-fired generation, but gas-fired generation also matches much better with intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind projects than do coal-fired power plants. The path to low-carbon generation in Texas will therefore likely require the co-development and integration of both gas and renewable resources.

    Low natural gas prices also facilitate Texas’ continued transition towards a low-carbon emissions electricity sector by dampening any potential additional costs of renewable over conventional power generation sources. The cost of both wind and solar power has decreased significantly, but they are still not necessarily the lowest cost options, at least not without some explicit consideration of greenhouse gas emissions or continued federal subsidies such as the PTC. However, due to low natural gas prices, electricity bills, as a percentage of household income, are near their historical lows. Consequently, increased levels of a combination of renewable energy and new lower-cost gas power can likely be accomplished without materially increasing the share of income Texans have to dedicate to paying for electricity relative to the past.

    How the precise interaction of natural-gas fired and renewable electricity generation plays out in ERCOT over the coming decades depends on several factors, including the price trajectory for both coal and gas, state and federal energy policies, transmission development, market design choices and environmental regulations. While making precise predictions about the future interactions between renewables and natural gas is therefore beyond the scope of this paper, we demonstrate that the two are not necessarily in competition and could both see significant growth in Texas over the next decade or so.

    Introduction

    Over the past few years, the story of falling natural gas prices has made major headlines in the press and has also raised questions about the future of renewable energy development. In May of 2012 the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned: “Golden Age of Gas Threatens Renewable Energy.” A recent blog post in the New York Times explained “…more and cheaper natural gas does not help our prospects for bolstering renewable sources of energy, including solar, wind and biomass. History has shown repeatedly that nothing is worse for renewable energy…” The belief that natural gas competes with renewable energy in power markets is also evident from discussions specific to the Texas Market. In 2011 a Texas NPR member station, State Impact, reported that “the low price of natural gas has an automatic negative impact on the development of renewable energy sources…”

    At the same time, national labs, energy technology companies, trade associations and think tanks across the U.S. have documented natural synergies between the two resources. As a fast ramping resource that is relatively easily turned on and off, natural gas-fired power plants (in particular combustion turbines) are well- suited for backing up and smoothing out intermittent renewables and providing capacity. Stakeholders in the Texas market ask themselves how two such conflicting views can co-exist and what the net impact is of bringing both high levels of natural gas and renewable energy in the Texas market. This paper describes the nature of both competition and complementarity of natural gas fired and renewable electricity generation and under what conditions both might thrive together in Texas in the future.

    Natural Gas and Renewable Energy; Friends or Foes?

    Two contrasting views of the relationship between natural gas and renewables currently frame the discussion across the U.S. and in Texas. The first view worries that they are competing with and displacing each other in power markets; the second sees both resources as natural complements that fit well together in a power system. In this paper we explain that the full relationship involves elements of both views and how electric sector policies can improve the complementarity between these two “fuels.”

    Recognizing that the fastest way to a low carbon future in the next few decades may be the coordinated development of both gas and renewables, The Mitchell Foundation asked The Brattle Group to explore the relationship between these resources and to identify ways to strengthen and improve policies that maximize the complementary relationship between natural gas and renewables in Texas. While primarily focused on the Texas/ERCOT gas and power markets, much of the discussion also provides insights useful in other states and countries.

    The Challenge in Texas

    Today Texas has almost 69 GW of natural gas-fired power capacity, most of which came online between 2000 and 2005. After a period of investment in coal and then nuclear generation, capacity investments shifted toward new, efficient gas-fired combined cycle (CC) plants. Texas had just deregulated its market and new CC plants provided significant cost savings over older less efficient plants. Policy supports also favored gas at this time and the 1999 Natural Gas Goal for Texas was established, although market conditions were sufficient to drive investment and its provisions were never needed. By mid-decade gas prices rose again and capacity investment shifted back towards coal. Between 2007-2009, a large amount of new wind capacity was built in response to high gas prices and renewable policy supports. Increased natural gas production and reserves over recent years have pushed gas prices lower again. From 2009 to 2011 Texas gas prices have dropped from a little over $6.00/MMBtu to just over $4.00 MMBtu. This has led to high levels of coal to gas switching in existing plants across much of the U.S. and a resurgence in gas generator construction in 2007-2011, though not nearly at the levels seen in the early 2000’s.

    Today natural gas prices remain close to their lowest levels over the past decade, and are expected to stay low for the foreseeable future. Consequently, electricity markets are naturally experiencing a shift away from coal and towards natural gas. In the short run, this shift takes the form of generating more electricity from existing natural gas plants.8 Persistent low natural gas prices will likely also lead more coal plants to retire in the future, many of which will likely be replaced by gas plants. This trend could well be reinforced by the fact that the costs of coal-fired generation may well be rising due to a number of potential new environmental regulations. At the same time, thanks to federal tax supports, state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and substantial cost declines due to technological progress, many power markets are experiencing a significant influx of renewable energy and consequently face the need to integrate these resources. The shift towards cleaner energy supply will require a higher degree of coordination between abundant, cheap natural gas and variable renewable resources.

    This challenge is most pressing in Texas, where the ERCOT electricity market is characterized by high levels of both natural gas and wind resources. Boosted by new unconventional gas resources, Texas is the leading U.S. producer of natural gas, providing 28% of all U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2011.10 Texas is also the leading state for installed wind generation capacity and has the potential to further develop wind resources equal to twice the state’s total annual peak electric demand.11 No other State comes close to Texas’ more than 12 GW of installed wind capacity.12 The two leading wind states after Texas, California and Iowa, each have less than half of Texas’ installed wind capacity.13 While Texas currently ranks 13th among states for cumulative installed solar capacity, deployment of solar resources could increase because of their high complementary with peak demand.14 Texas is considered to have the highest solar energy potential in the nation because ofits large size and abundant sunshine.

    The need for energy policies that will guide efficient and complementary development of both natural gas and renewable resources will require a strong understanding of how they interact in the ERCOT market, both in the short and long-term.

    In the remainder of this report we examine the complex and dynamic relationship between natural gas and renewable power generation, with a primary focus on the ERCOT market. We begin by examining the basic mechanisms by which gas and renewable power sometimes displace each other in the supply mix and other mechanisms that add both forms of generation together. We explain that the specific impact of these mechanisms on future ERCOT markets depends critically on price and cost trajectories for these resources -- which are difficult or impossible to control – and a variety of federal and state policies and market rules. These factors interact in complex ways, foreclosing simple answers as to who will “win”.

    Section III summarizes current state, federal, and ERCOT policies having the greatest effect on gas and renewable generation. Section IV builds on this discussion to examine additional policies that might be considered in ERCOT or other power markets to improve gas-renewables complementarity. Section V offers brief concluding thoughts.

    This report is not intended to be a comprehensive examination of the issues and tradeoffs inherent in natural gas and renewable generation, nor does it offer a complete catalog of policy options available to ERCOT and other electricity markets. It is intended to be one contribution to a multi-faceted discussion of low-carbon energy futures and to provide suggestions as to the circumstances under which, and time frames over which renewables and natural gas act primarily as complements, and when they might compete.

    Nevertheless, there are many ways that state and federal policymakers can guide ERCOT and other markets towards a low-carbon future in which gas and renewables both play a major part, especially in the next few decades…

    Conclusion

    In this report we explored the multi-faceted relationship between gas and renewables in Texas. We explained that gas and renewables can be either complements or substitutes, depending on the time frame of analysis as well as a number of additional factors such as the long-run trajectory of gas prices, renewable technology costs, electricity market rules and complementary policies affecting all power generation technologies.

    Given the current expectation of relatively low gas prices, it is likely undesirable to increase coal-fired generation in the long run, due to climate, air pollution, water and other considerations, and due to the ongoing improvements to the cost and performance of several renewable technologies it is quite possible and perhaps even likely that natural gas and renewable generation technologies will be the primary pillars of Texas’ future electric grid in the near future.

    QUICK NEWS, June 26: SOLAR STILL GROWING FAST; WIND COMING BACK; THE NAT GAS VEHICLE MARKET

    SOLAR STILL GROWING FAST U.S. Solar Market Insight: Solar accounts for 48% of new electric capacity in Q1 2013

    June 11, 2013 (Solar Energy Industries Association)

    “The U.S. installed 723 megawatts (MW) of solar energy in Q1 2013, which accounted for over 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S. last quarter. Overall, these installations represent the best first quarter of any given year for the industry…’ click here for more

    WIND COMING BACK Port Operator: U.S. Wind Market Beginning To Resurrect Following PTC Extension

    Mark Del Franco, June 20, 2013 (North American Windpower)

    “The late extension of the production tax credit (PTC) has certainly crimped wind development activity this year. However, Washington-based Port of Vancouver USA says it is beginning to see some rumblings of activity regarding turbine component shipments slated for U.S. projects…”

    click here for more

    THE NAT GAS VEHICLE MARKET Market Data: Natural Gas Vehicles;Global Natural Gas Vehicle Sales and Refueling Infrastructure Forecasts: 2013-2020

    2Q 2013 (Navigant Research)

    “…While the price of natural gas is contributing to growth in many different vehicle segments, from passenger cars to heavy duty over-the-road trucks, other factors, such as increased vehicle availability, a shortage of oil refining capabilities, tightening emissions restrictions, and increased energy security, are also fueling growth within specific countries. Navigant Research forecasts that the number of NGVs on roadways worldwide will reach nearly 35 million by 2020…” click here for more

    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE SUCCESSES OF RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY STANDARDS

    Renewable Electricity Standards: State Success Stories

    May 20, 2013 (Governors Wind Energy Coalition)

    Introduction

    Renewable electricity standards (RES) in the states are well-established policies for both encouraging renewable energy development and electric generation fuel diversity. More than 30 states have adopted mandatory or voluntary standards over the past 30 years, stimulating significant renewable energy growth, economic development, and pollution reduction.

    Because of the substantial turnover of state legislators and governors since the adoption of RES laws, plus new scrutiny of renewable energy policy at the state and federal levels, this is a good time to highlight the impact that RESs have had on the states.

    The RES is market-based — firmly rooted in public interest goals, and consistent with both traditional utility regulation and competitive markets. The RES has enjoyed strong bipartisan support both during adoption and repeated revisions. It has been tailored to meet the evolving needs and market conditions of each state, but has never been repealed or reduced.

    RES laws have stimulated the significant growth of renewable energy, especially wind power. Collectively, state RES policies have already supported the development of more than 33,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable power through 2011. Once fully achieved, current state standards will support more than 103,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2025, or about 10 percent of the nation’s current electric generation capacity. More than 87,000 MW will come from new projects, which represent enough new clean power to meet the electricity needs of 50 million homes.

    The RES advances a set of public interest goals:

    ❚ renewable energy is diverse energy. It creates a diverse energy portfolio – analagous to a diverse investment portfolio – reducing exposure to increases or volatility in fuel costs, which are passed through to consumers. as a result, it can stabilize prices and support predictable, long-term economic development.

    ❚ renewable energy is american energy, adding to the nation’s domestic energy supply. It is also primarily a local energy supply. While fossil and uranium fuel production is concentrated in a few states, renewables are everywhere. This can reduce energy imports and keep energy dollars in local economies.

    ❚ renewable energy creates new industries with new jobs and new wealth. These jobs occur in manufacturing, construction, operations and maintenance. Because wind and solar are mass-produced in factories, they have revitalized manufacturing in many states, often in places far from the energy source. and because renewable energy equipment consists of hundreds of components — both high-tech and conventional — they can spur new high-tech ventures as well as support traditional manufacturing.

    ❚ renewable energy reduces emissions. Renewable energy reduces air pollution, including smog, acid rain, toxic metals, and other emissions. It reduces water use and water pollution, including the risk of coal waste spills, aquatic impacts from thermal discharges, and mercury deposition.

    ❚ renewable energy is primarily rural energy. It can stimulate economic activity needed in rural areas. new construction jobs, ongoing operations and maintenance jobs, and teady property tax payments pump substantial revenues into rural communities, supporting vital services and stimulating a revitalization of states’ rural economies.

    Market Based

    What is the most effective way to achieve these public goals? In the long run, renewable energy will deliver the most benefits when it is competitive with conventional power sources. The fastest way to realize those cost reductions is through the scale and discipline of market forces.

    The RES is a market based policy, using competition to drive down technology prices and move technologies to maturity — all at the lowest cost. It motivates action by the private sector, by creating a market opportunity for project developers to pursue. The government’s role is to set the standard that will be met by utilities and project developers.

    Because the RES is performance based, and increases over time, the most attractive projects are the ones with the lowest cost, that best fit power company needs, and that are of sufficient scale to meet the standard with minimum transaction costs. Winning bidders are chosen by power marketers in competitive markets, or by utilities with oversight from their regulators, or, in a couple of states, by a centralized government procurement entity.

    This approach uses the size of the marketplace to deliver large-scale and longterm investments — projects that are large enough to capture economies of scale, attract low-cost financing, and create sufficient experience by project developers. These projects in turn drive down future costs.

    The RES delivers value to consumers while also creating constant innovation, not just in technology but in business models, finance, and execution.

    RES Fits Well in Diverse Power Market Contexts

    The RES was originally applied in a regulated utility world, but has been adapted to apply to competitive markets as well.

    In a regulated market, the RES provides guidance to the utility procurement process, which is typically overseen by a state utility commission. By setting a procurement target, the RES adds the numerous public interest goals to the traditional regulatory goals of low cost, reliability, and equity.

    The RES is also compatible with competitive markets, through the flexibility of renewable energy credits (RECs). While deregulation uses market competition to deliver low cost, reliability and equity, an RES can help ensure that public policy goals are met.

    While electricity is different from conventional products, setting minimum standards for a product is very common. Vehicle safety standards, energy efficiency standards for appliances, and many more have been applied for over a century. Setting standards is a fundamental role of government in protecting consumers, guiding markets to deliver public benefit, and meeting public policy goals.

    What the RES Is Not

    The RES is often misrepresented by opponents of renewable energy as a popularity contest, as the government “picking winners and losers,” and as a barrier to competition.

    These characterizations ignore the fact that the role of government policy is to protect the public interest, setting clear standards to accelerate economic development or addressing market failures that might otherwise harm public health or safety.

    Renewable technologies are eligible for the RES because they meet these policy criteria, not because they are “popular.” for example, large hydroelectric power is a renewable energy source, but is often not included because it is a mature and competitive technology, and because there is little opportunity for growth from large new dams.

    The RES is intended to create change in the power supply, not to simply reward power companies for past decisions.

    States often tailor their eligibility rules to local circumstances, to achieve unique public policy goals. north Carolina is trying to address livestock waste pollution through energy policy, by creating an incentive for manure-derived energy production. Pennsylvania included “waste coal” in their advanced energy standard as an incentive to clean up piles of coal mining waste that were polluting waterways. Some states use the RES to encourage combined heat and power, solar water heating, and sustainable forestry for biomass fuel production.

    The RES is sometimes accused of being a quota system that picks winners and losers from politically favored companies and technologies. While policymakers indeed tailor eligibility to meet local public interest goals, the RES also requires competition between technologies and companies, and rewards those that are most ready for large-scale deployment.

    The RES is also assumed by some to be a permanent prop for technologies that will never be competitive. But one public interest goal of the RES is to accelerate the maturity of new technologies, so they can compete without special policy support. It is possible that once a technology has reached market competitiveness, it may no longer need a sheltered marketplace.

    RES In Context

    While states take the lead in regulating electricity markets, the federal government also has good reasons to support renewable energy. The federal government provides policy support for renewable energy because it creates national benefits that go beyond state borders. This includes reducing cross-border pollution, promoting domestic energy production, spurring investment in new industries with future growth potential, and improving our global economic competitiveness.

    Because of these national benefits, Congress has maintained federal tax incentives for over twenty years, such as the production tax credit (PTC) and the investment tax credit (ITC). Congress has repeatedly considered adopting a national RES. Both houses have approved RES legislation, though at separate times. Recent legislation has proposed setting a “clean energy standard” based on carbon emissions, which would require more renewables, nuclear, and natural gas power.

    The federal government also has a lead role in regulating wholesale power markets and transmission, through the federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Commission’s rules are critical for integrating renewable energy into regional power markets, removing barriers, and expanding transmission to connect renewables to customers.

    A partnership between states and the federal government can deliver the benefits of renewable energy…

    Conclusion

    Renewable energy standards are bipartisan policies with a strong history of producing remarkable results — modernizing the nation’s power systems while delivering significant benefits. Renewable energy standards deliver jobs and economic benefits to rural areas and cities alike, all while insulating consumers from fuel price risks and building america’s global competitiveness in a growing market for new technology.

    QUICK NEWS, June 25: GLOBAL NEW ENERGY TO $244 BIL IN 2012; NEW PV TEST CENTER; A LAB FOR MATCHING NEW ENERGY AND THE GRID

    GLOBAL NEW ENERGY TO $244 BIL IN 2012 Renewable Energy: World Invests $244 billion in 2012, Geographic Shift to Developing Countries

    June 2013 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century)

    “…19% of global final energy consumption in 2011 (the latest year for which data are available), with a little less than half from traditional biomass. For only the second time since 2006, global investments in renewable energy in 2012 failed to top the year before, falling 12% mainly due to dramatically lower solar prices and weakened US and EU markets, says the Frankfurt School – UNEP/BNEF report, Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2013. However, with $244 billion (including small hydro-electric projects) 2012 was the second highest year ever for renewable energy investments. There was a continuing upward trend in developing countries, with investments in the South topping $112 billion versus $132 billon in developed countries—a dramatic change from 2007, when developed economies invested 2.5 times more in renewables (excluding large hydro) than developing countries. The gap has now closed to just 18%...” click here for more

    NEW PV TEST CENTER Fraunhofer CSE and Fraunhofer ISE joint testing venture ranks performance of PV modules

    June 18, 2013 (Fraunhofer ISE)

    “The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE in Boston and the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg announce the release of the first report from their PV Durability Initiative (PVDI). PVDI’s robust testing protocol generates scores that enable the credible rating of PV modules based on their likelihood to perform reliably under different kinds of stress. The report provides solar PV financiers, developers, and other industry players with the first widely available quantitative dataset to assess long-term durability…” click here for more

    A LAB FOR MATCHING NEW ENERGY AND THE GRID Energy Department, NREL Announce New Research Center to Boost Clean Energy Technologies on a Smarter Grid

    June 20, 2013 (U.S. Department of Energy)

    “The Energy Department and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Colorado, as the latest Energy Department user facility and the only one in the nation focused on utility-scale clean energy grid integration. The facility’s first industry partner – Colorado-based Advanced Energy Industries – has already signed on to start work at ESIF, developing lower cost, better performing solar power inverters…” click here for more

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    TODAY’S STUDY: SCIENTISTS ON THE POSSIBILITY OF NEW ENERGY

    Renewables: Energy You Can Count On

    April 2013 (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    Ramping Up Renewables

    Renewable energy is providing reliable electricity today in the United States and around the world. From 2007 to 2012, electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar nearly quadrupled nationally.

    This growth is part of a transition away from dirty, coal-burning power plants—which harm public health and destabilize our climate—toward cleaner, more sustainable sources of electricity. Using existing technologies and smart policy decisions, the United States can continue this clean energy transformation while maintaining a reliable and affordable electricity system.

    Transitioning to a system that relies heavily on wind and solar facilities—which provide variable amounts of power—does pose challenges to managing the electricity grid. After all, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and grid operators must match electricity demand with supply each and every moment of the day (see Box 1, p. 2). However, meeting electricity demand in the face of variability and uncertainty is not a new concept for grid operators. They already make adjustments for constantly changing demand, planned power plant outages for maintenance, and outages stemming from severe weather, equipment failure, and other unexpected events. Adding variable energy sources to the system may increase the complexity of the challenge, but does not pose insurmountable technical problems or significant costs.

    We know this because the U.S. grid and electricity grids throughout the world have already reliably integrated variable energy sources such as wind and solar power. We have the tools to significantly ramp up renewable energy use and keep the lights on. With ingenuity, innovation, and smart policies, we can fully transition to a clean, renewable electricity system.

    Recent Growth in Wind and Solar Power

    A number of utilities, states, and countries already have much higher percentages of renewable energy than many people thought possible just a few years ago (Figure 1). Wind power is growing rapidly in the United States—more than tripling from 2007 to 2012.

    The nation broke a record in 2012, installing more than 13,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity and investing $25 billion in the U.S. economy (AWEA 2013a). This made wind power the leading source of new capacity in the United States, representing 42 percent of the total, and surpassing new natural gas capacity.

    While wind provided only 3.5 percent of the country’s electricity in 2012, several states and regions have reached much higher levels. For example:

    • In 2012, wind power provided 24 percent of the electricity generated in Iowa and South Dakota, and more than 10 percent in seven other states (EIA 2013).

    • On October 23, 2012, the Pacific Northwest set a new record as electricity from wind power exceeded that from hydropower for the first time ever (Sickinger 2012).

    • On November 23, 2012, the Midwest set a record when more than 10,000 MW of wind power supplied 25 percent of the region’s electricity (Reuters 2012).

    • On December 5, 2012, the Southwest Power Pool—which includes Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle—set a record as wind power supplied more than 30 percent of the region’s electricity (AWEA 2012b).

    • On January 29, 2013, the main grid operator in Texas set a record when wind power produced 32 percent of total supply—enough to power 4.3 million average homes (AWEA 2013b; ERCOT 2013). Texas leads the nation in installed wind power capacity, with more than 12,200 MW at the end of 2012 (AWEA 2013a).

    Solar power is also growing rapidly and supplying reliable electricity for U.S. consumers. The capacity of solar photovoltaics (PV) expanded by a factor of five from 2009 to 2012 (SEIA 2013). California leads the nation, with 35 percent of all U.S. PV capacity in 2012. New Jersey, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, and New York have also seen significant investments in solar power during the past few years (Sherwood 2012). Some of the nation’s largest utilities are relying on significant levels of renewable energy. For example, renewables supplied 21 percent of the electricity Southern California Edison (SCE) sold to its 14 million customers in 2011, which included 7.5 percent from wind and solar (Karlstad 2012). SCE was the secondlargest retail supplier of solar power in 2011, and the third-largest supplier of wind power (AWEA 2012a; Campbell and Taylor 2012). SCE projects that wind and solar will supply 18 percent of its retail electricity sales by 2017, as the utility works to meet California’s renewable electricity standard of 33 percent by 2020 (Karlstad 2012).

    Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based utility serving customers in eight states, was the largest retail provider of wind power in the United States in 2011, and the fifth-largest solar provider (AWEA 2012a; SEPA 2012). On April 15, 2012—a night when the winds were strong and electricity demand was low—Xcel set a new U.S. record by relying on wind to produce more than 57 percent of its customers’ power in Colorado (Laughlin 2012). Xcel is pursuing several approaches to integrating high levels of wind power into its system efficiently and affordably while maintaining reliability (see Box 2).

    Globally, renewable energy accounted for almost half of the generating capacity added in 2011, with wind and solar PV accounting for 70 percent of that amount (REN21 2012). In the European Union, renewable sources supplied nearly 20 percent of all electricity consumed in 2010 and more than two-thirds of the total installed capacity in 2012 (EWEA 2013; REN21 2012). Wind supplied 30 percent of electricity in Denmark in 2012 (EWEA 2013). In Germany, renewable energy provided about 25 percent of electricity used in 2012, with more than half coming from wind and solar PV (Figure 2) (Böhme 2012).

    On May 8, 2012, wind and solar reached a record 60 percent of total electricity use in Germany (NREL 2012). On April 19, 2012, wind power set a new record in Spain, generating 61 percent of the nation’s electricity (Casey 2012).

    Replacing Conventional Power Plants with Renewable Energy Can Enhance Reliability

    While integrating large amounts of variable renewable energy into the grid poses challenges to grid operators, conventional power plants present their own reliability challenges. The potential for a sudden outage at large coal and nuclear plants and transmission facilities means that grid operators must always have generation and transmission reserves on hand to immediately replace them.

    Because of their size, those facilities also make the grid less flexible and more vulnerable to blackouts when they go offline. Severe weather events can also affect power plant reliability. For example, freezing temperatures during a cold snap in Texas in February 2011 disabled 152 power plants—mostly coal and natural gas—leading to rolling blackouts across the state (AWEA 2011). Local wind power facilities kept operating and provided enough electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes, reducing the severity of the blackouts. According to Trip Doggett, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, “We put out a special word of thanks to the wind community because they did contribute significantly through this timeframe. Wind was blowing, and we had often 3,500 megawatts of wind generation during that morning peak” (Galbraith 2011).

    During extremely hot weather, especially droughts, lakes and rivers may be too warm or lack enough water to cool large thermal power plants. For example, in 2007 and again in 2010 and 2011, the temperature of the Tennessee River rose above 90°F. That ensured the temperature of water discharged from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry nuclear power station would exceed permitted limits, and forced extended reductions in output from the plant (NRC 2011). These cutbacks compelled the authority to purchase electricity at high prices, and cost ratepayers more than $50 million in higher electricity bills in 2010 (Kenward 2011; Amons 2007; Associated Press 2007).

    Extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and more severe because of climate change, which will further strain our reliance on such conventional generating sources. That means events such as Hurricane Sandy—which caused $70 billion to $80 billion in damage and widespread power outages for 8 million people from Virginia to Maine—will become more common (Lee 2012; Webb 2012). Yet renewable energy facilities in the Northeast appear to have weathered the hurricane much better than their fossil and nuclear counterparts (Wood 2012).

    Just as diversifying investments strengthens a financial portfolio, adding new energy sources and technologies to the electricity grid can fortify its portfolio—improving its reliability in the process. Renewable resources are less vulnerable to prolonged interruptions in fuel supplies stemming from weather, transportation problems, safety concerns, terrorist threats, and embargoes.

    And because renewable energy technologies are more modular than conventional power plants, the impact on the grid is usually insignificant when weather damages individual facilities. Because they do not rely on fuels that are subject to price spikes or long-term price increases, renewables also add price stability for consumers.

    While we urgently need to transition to a cleaner, low-carbon energy system to reduce the impact and cost of climate change, this transition could take decades because of the enormous scale of the U.S. energy infrastructure, and the complexity of planning, building, and operating electricity grids. We may need to rely on some existing power plants to ensure a reliable electricity supply in some locations, at least in the near term. However, with enough lead time, we can replace such plants with renewable energy, more efficient technologies in homes and businesses, natural gas plants, transmission upgrades, energy storage, and other cleaner approaches.

    Many Tools Are Available To Ramp Up Renewable Energy And Maintain Reliability…

    …storage technologies include:

    • Pumped hydroelectric. These plants store energy by pumping water to a higher elevation when electricity supply exceeds demand, and then allowing that water to run downhill through a turbine to produce electricity when demand exceeds supply. With 22 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity in the United States—much of it built a generation ago to help accommodate inflexible nuclear power plants—pumped hydro is the largest source of storage in the power system today. However, the potential for more pumped hydroelectric storage is limited, as the long permitting process and high costs make financing new hydro facilities difficult.

    • Thermal storage. Heat from the sun captured by concentrating solar plants can be stored in water, molten salts, or other fluids, and used to generate electricity for hours after sunset. Several such plants are operating or proposed in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The Bonneville Power Administration is also conducting a pilot program in the Northwest to store excess power from wind facilities in residential water heaters (Mason County PUD 2012).

    • Compressed air energy storage. These systems use excess electricity to compress air and store it in underground caverns, like those used to store natural gas. The compressed air is then heated and used to generate electricity in a natural gas combustion turbine. Such facilities have been operating in Alabama and Europe for many years, and developers have proposed several new projects in Texas and California (Copelin 2012; Kessler 2012).

    • Batteries. Batteries can also store renewable electricity, adding flexibility to the grid. AES Corp. is using 1.3 million batteries to store power at a wind project in West Virginia (Wald 2011). Batteries in plug-in electric vehicles can also store wind and solar energy, and then power the vehicles or provide electricity and stability to the grid when the vehicles are idle. A pilot project with the University of Delaware and utilities in the mid-Atlantic region showed that such vehicles could provide significant payoffs to both the grid and owners of electric vehicles, who would be paid for the use of their batteries (Tomic and Kempton 2007).

    • Hydrogen. Excess electricity can also be used to split water molecules to produce hydrogen, which would be stored for later use. The hydrogen can then be used in a fuel cell, engine, or gas turbine to produce electricity without emissions. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has also researched the possibility of storing hydrogen produced from wind power in wind towers, for use in generating electricity when demand is high and the wind is not blowing (Kottenstette and Cottrell 2003).

    Powering the Future with Renewable Energy

    With these tools in hand, we can ramp up renewable energy to much higher levels. Leading countries and states have set strong targets for renewable energy to realize this future. At least 18 countries have binding renewable electricity standards (REN21 2012).

    Denmark is aiming to produce 50 percent of its electricity from wind by 2025—and 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050. Germany has a binding target to produce at least 35 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020—with the target rising to 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. China also has a near-term target of producing 100 GW annually from wind, and is considering doubling its solar target to 40 GW by 2015. These targets are 40 percent higher than installed U.S. wind capacity, and more than five times U.S. solar capacity, as of the end of 2012.

    The United States does not have a national target or other long-term policy to expand the use of renewable energy. However, 29 states and the District of Columbia (DC) have adopted renewable electricity standards, which require utilities to supply a growing share of power from renewable sources. DC and 17 states require at least 20 percent renewables by 2025. Hawaii and Maine have the highest renewable standards in percentage terms (40 percent by 2030), followed by California (33 percent by 2020), Colorado (30 percent by 2020), and Minnesota (27.5 percent by 2025) (UCS 2011).

    Numerous studies show that we could transition to a low-carbon electricity system based on large shares of renewables within two decades, given the right policies and infrastructure. For example, detailed simulations by U.S. grid operators, utilities, and other experts have found that electricity systems in the eastern and western halves of the country could work by sourcing at least 30 percent of total electricity from wind—and that the West could work with another 5 percent from solar (EnerNex 2010; GE Energy 2010). Using energy storage technologies to balance out fluctuations in these resources would be helpful but not necessary, and not always economical, according to these analysts.

    These simulations did show that such gains would require significant investments in new transmission capacity, along with changes in how the grid is operated (as noted above). Expanding transmission lines to allow wind power to supply 20 percent to 30 percent of the electricity used in the eastern United States in 2024 would require just 2 to 5 percent of the system’s total costs (EnerNex 2010). However, as noted, reductions in the cost of operating coal and natural gas plants would offset most or all of these new costs.

    Other studies have shown that the United States can achieve even higher levels of renewable power while significantly reducing reliance on coal plants and maintaining a reliable, affordable, and much cleaner electricity system. For example, NREL has found that renewable energy technologies available now could supply 80 percent of U.S. electricity in 2050, while meeting demand every hour of the year in every region of the country (Figure 4) (NREL 2012). Under this scenario, wind and solar facilities provide nearly half of U.S. electricity in 2050. NREL also found that an electricity future based on high shares of renewables would deeply cut carbon emissions and water use.

    Needed investments in new transmission infrastructure would average $6.5 billion per year, according to NREL—within the recent range of such costs for investor-owned utilities.

    In Climate 2030, the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed a scenario consistent with targets set by states that are leaders in clean energy investments (Cleetus et al. 2009). The analysis set a national target to cut U.S. carbon emissions 57 percent by 2030, and at least 80 percent by 2050. When combined with improvements in energy efficiency, renewable energy could reliably supply at least half of U.S. electricity needs by 2030, according to this analysis.

    To achieve these targets, more than half of the renewable power would come from bioenergy, geothermal, hydro, and concentrating solar plants with thermal storage—technologies that can produce electricity around the clock, and during periods of high demand.

    Variable power from wind and solar PV would provide 22 percent of total U.S. electricity by 2030. Another study found that investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy could allow the nation to phase out coal entirely, and significantly reduce reliance on nuclear power (Synapse 2011). A 2011 study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that renewable energy could reliably supply up to 77 percent of world energy needs by 2050 (IPCC 2011). And several studies have found that renewables could provide 100 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 (DeLuchhi and Jacobson 2011; WWF 2011; Jacobson and Delucchi 2010).

    Accelerating the Transition to Renewable Energy

    Achieving high levels of renewable energy will require a major transformation of the U.S. electricity system, as NREL’s analysis of attaining 80 percent of electricity from renewables by 2050 suggests:

    This transformation, involving every element of the grid, from system planning through operation, would need to ensure adequate planning and operating reserves, increased flexibility of the electric system, and expanded multi-state transmission infrastructure, and would likely rely on the development and adoption of technology advances, new operating procedures, evolved business models, and new market rules (NREL 2012).

    Both NREL and MIT’s Future of the Electric Grid show that a more flexible and smarter grid can overcome challenges to integrating renewables into the grid. However, these changes alone will not be enough to achieve a meaningful transition to renewable electricity. Strong state and national policies are needed to overcome market barriers to developing clean energy and the supporting technologies, and to more fully realize the economic and environmental benefits of transitioning away from coal. Policy support is essential to ensure continued growth of the renewable energy industry, and the cost reductions that come from learning, innovation, and economies of scale.

    Expanding on the success of the 29 states with a renewable electricity standard by adopting a strong national standard of at least 25 percent renewables by 2025 can accelerate the transition to clean energy.

    Targeted incentives—such as tax credits, direct payments, grants, and low-interest loans—and more funding for research and development are also important for lowering the costs of emerging renewable energy and integration technologies. Strong pollution control standards for coal power plants are also essential to protect public health and the environment.

    A national commitment to renewable energy will deliver deep cuts in carbon and other heat-trapping emissions swiftly and efficiently, enabling us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and help level the playing field between fossil fuels and cleaner, lowcarbon energy sources. As Climate 2030 showed, combining these policies with standards and incentives to invest in more energy-efficient appliances, buildings, and industries can curb energy use, reducing the need to build new power plants and significantly lowering the cost of reducing carbon emissions.

    Other low-carbon technologies for producing electricity—such as advanced nuclear plants and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and storage—may also become available to compete with advanced renewables. If they do, we will have even more opportunities to create a low-carbon energy system. Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies available now—along with investments in energy efficiency and the appropriate use of natural gas—can affordably get us most of the way there.

    QUICK NEWS, June 24: PRESIDENT COMING AFTER CLIMATE CHANGE; GLOBAL NEW ENERGY ADDED 115GW IN 2012; U.S. OFFSHORE WIND GETS $200 MIL BOOST

    PRESIDENT COMING AFTER CLIMATE CHANGE Obama to address climate change in speech Tuesday

    David Jackson, June 23, 2013 (USA Today)

    “Environmentalists who have been prodding President Obama to address climate change get their answer this week...” click here for more

    GLOBAL NEW ENERGY ADDED 115GW IN 2012 Renewable Energy: World Invests $244 billion in 2012, Geographic Shift to Developing Countries

    June 2013 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century)

    “…In terms of power generation capacity, 2012 was another record year with 115 GW of new renewables installed worldwide, equivalent to just over half of total net additions. REN21’s Renewables 2013 Global Status Report demonstrates that the right policies can drive the successful integration of larger shares of renewables in the energy mix. Of the 138 countries with renewables targets or policies in place, two-thirds are in the developing world. The geographical distribution of renewables deployment is also widening, particularly in the developing countries…” click here for more

    U.S. OFFSHORE WIND GETS $200 MIL BOOST PensionDenmark Invests in Wind Farm Offshore Nantucket

    Peter Levring, June 18, 2013 (Bloomberg News)

    “PensionDanmark has pledged $200 million in funding for a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, in the first committed investment in Cape Wind Associates LLC’s proposed 468-megawatt park offshore Cape Cod…” click here for more

    Saturday, June 22, 2013

    Check It Out, Check It Out

    Great song, great message. As long as there is new energy, there’s no good reason to give up on this good earth. From Melissa Copeland via YouTube

    Exporting Coal Leaves Trouble At Home

    “Asia gets the energy. Coal companies get the profits. Unfortunately, Montana gets stuck with the tab.” From Pus M Productions via Vimeo

    Think About A Bridge

    A bridge to Zero Net Energy homes and a New Energy future. From USDepartmentOfEnergy via YouTune

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    THE CLIMATE CHANGE COVER GIRL?

    Blind, starving cheetahs: the new symbol of climate change? Thorny plants have begun to smother grasslands, transforming rangeland into impenetrable thicket – bad news for the big cats

    Adam Welz, 21 June 2013 (UK Guardian)

    “The world's fastest land animal is in trouble. The cheetah, formerly found across much of Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, has been extirpated from at least 27 countries and is now on the Red List of threatened species.

    “Namibia holds by far the largest remaining population…Between 3,500 and 5,000 cheetahs roam national parks, communal rangelands and private commercial ranches…[but] multiplying armies of thorny trees and bushes…are spreading across its landscape and smothering its grasslands…So-called bush encroachment…[is] bad news for cheetahs…Low-slung thorns and the locked-open eyes of predators in "kill mode" are a nasty combination. Conservationists have found starving cheetahs that lost their sight after streaking through bush encroached habitats…”

    “Savanna ecosystems, such as those that cover much of Africa, can be seen as battlegrounds between trees and grasses, each trying to take territory…[F]ire kills small trees and therefore helps fire-resilient grasses occupy territory. Trees have to have a long-enough break from fire to grow to a sufficient size…Lab research shows that many savanna trees grow significantly faster as atmospheric CO2 rises, and a new analysis of satellite images indicates that so-called 'CO2 fertilisation' has caused a large increase in plant growth in warm, arid areas worldwide…

    “…If increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is causing climate change and also driving bush encroachment that results in blind cheetahs, should blind, starving cheetahs be a new symbol of climate change, to join polar bears whose Arctic sea ice hunting grounds are melting? …There's no hard proof…But if bush becomes so dense that it's difficult for cheetahs to move through (as happens in severe cases of encroachment) then cheetahs will disappear…Organisations like AfriCat and the Cheetah Conservation Fund are…pioneering methods of dealing with bush encroachment like turning invading trees into biomass fuel blocks, although it remains to be seen if these methods can be economically scaled up to deal with the literally millions of hectares of expanding encroacher bush…”

    OFFSHORE WIND FIGHTING AT NORMANDY BEACHHEAD

    Analysis - Anti-wind groups seek advantage from D-Day row

    Jan Dodd, June 13,2013 (Windpower Monthly)

    “A storm is raging over whether it is appropriate to install 75 wind turbines at the 450MW Courseulles-sur-Mer project, 10 kilometres off the Normandy coast and within view of memorial sites commemorating the D-Day landings during World War II…This is one of the most sensitive aspects of the project, says Claude Brévan, president of the special commission, which was set up as a neutral and independent body to run the public debate in Normandy and canvassing opinion from British and Canadian war veteran groups…

    “…[Some] veterans view the idea of a coastal development of wind turbines unthinkable, and assume that sense will prevail to cause the structures to be moved further along the coast [but are not expected to protest approval]…More worrying is the stance of the Fédération Environnement Durable (FED), an umbrella group opposed to industrial-scale wind power, which has already derailed a number of onshore projects…”

    “The French government is keen to push ahead with the 450MW project, which has overwhelming political and popular support in lower Normandy. But with the 70th anniversary of the landing next year and many veterans now in their 90s, the development has sparked an understandably emotional response…

    “…[Developer Eolien Maritime France (EMF), a consortium of EDF Energies Nouvelles and Dong Energy says] many structures have already been built along the beaches without raising an outcry…[and the site, selected] by the government after broad consultation, is located well away from the WWII conflict zone…The project has already been modified to lower the visual impact from the landing beaches, reducing its planned footprint by 35%...The public debate will continue until the end of 20 July, with EMF due to make its final investment decision in 2015..”

    THE PRICE OF SOLAR GOING LOWER AND LOWER

    GTM Research’s Module Cost Outlook: 36 Cents Isn’t As Low As You Think; In which we finally admit to not owning a crystal ball.

    Shyam Mehta, June 20, 2013 (Greentech Media)

    "GTM Research’s latest update on the future of module manufacturing costs…[forecasted a] top-line 2017 base case estimate of $0.36 per watt for low-cost Chinese manufacturers…36 cents per watt at the end of 2017 implies a compounded annual decline of less than 8 percent from Jinko Solar’s reported Q4 2012 manufacturing cost of 54 cents per watt (down to 51 cents per watt in Q1 2013)…

    "…That is a very small rate of decline compared to the cost reductions experienced over the past three years. From Q4 2009 to Q4 2012, Trina Solar’s all-in module cost dropped from $1.29 per watt to $0.61 per watt, which is a compounded annual decline of 62 percent…[O]ur base-case forecast has a relatively conservative outlook on metrics such as consumables pricing, plant scale-up and technology parameter trends (increasing automation aside) than in years prior…"

    "…[The] low-case estimate of $0.29 per watt…[shows] there is definitely room to run below our base-case estimate under favorable conditions…[but] cost levels so low would [not necessarily] trigger hitherto unforeseen levels of demand for PV due to price elasticity…[A] reduction of around $0.20 per watt in module prices (from $0.62 per watt at the end of 2012 to $0.42 per watt in 2017) is…[a]ssuming an installed cost of $2.25 per watt for a utility-scale system in the U.S. right now…a system cost reduction of less than 10 percent…[T]he burden of influencing meaningful system cost reductions in the future lies firmly on the shoulders of the BOS side of the equation…

    "There is considerable uncertainty involved in forecasting…[A] realistic range for best-in-class manufacturing costs in Q4 2017 is about $0.23 per watt wide, from $0.29 per watt in the low case to $0.52 per watt in the high case…[T]he risk is skewed toward the downside. It’s also worth noting that our low-case projections do not incorporate adoption of a number of advanced technology platforms…all of which could serve to lower manufacturing costs to levels even lower than the numbers laid out here…"

    WHY EUROPE NEEDS NEW ENERGY

    Silent Killers; Why Europe must replace coal power with green energy

    June 11, 2013 (Greenpeace International)

    “32,000 life years would be robbed every year if the coal-fired power plants currently under construction or in planning go into operation. This loss of life is entirely unnecessary, as renewable energy and the latest cutting-edge energy-efficient solutions enable us to keep Europe's lights on…Coal-fired power plants are among the worst sources of toxic air pollutants in the EU and globally…

    “…Acid gas, soot, and dust emissions from coal are the biggest industrial contributors to microscopic particulate pollution that penetrates deep into the lungs and into the bloodstream. The pollution harms the health of babies, children and adults, causing heart attacks and lung cancer, as well as increasing asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Tens of thousands of kilograms of toxic metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium are spewed out of the stacks, contributing to cancer risk and harming children’s development…”

    “…[Coal buring increased] in Europe each year from 2009 to 2012, and with more than 50 new dirty power plants in development…[Silent Killers; Why Europe must replace coal power with green energy] from the Stuttgart University…investigates the health impacts of each of the 300 operating large power plants in the EU, as well as the predicted impact of the 50 new projects if they come online.

    “…Using a sophisticated health impact assessment model, the report estimates that pollution from coal-fired power plants in the EU resulted in thousands of premature deaths, shortening the lives of Europeans by an estimated total of 240,000 lost life years in 2010. In countries with heavy coal use, the results indicate that more people are killed by coal than in traffic accidents…European governments need to set targets for green energy that ensure coal can be phased out.”

    Thursday, June 20, 2013

    THE PRESIDENT TO COME BACK TO CLIMATE CHANGE

    Next up for Obama: Major effort on climate change

    June 19, 2013 (CBS News)

    “President Barack Obama is planning a major push using executive powers to tackle the pollution blamed for global warming in an effort to make good on promises he made at the start of his second term…[Senior energy and climate adviser Heather Zichal] said the plan would boost energy efficiency of appliances and buildings, expand renewable energy and use the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants…

    “…[N]one of the proposals would require new funding or action from Congress…The plan, with details expected to be revealed in coming weeks, comes as Obama has been under increasing pressure from environmental groups and lawmakers from states harmed by Superstorm Sandy…Several major environmental groups and states have threatened to sue the administration to force cuts to power plant emissions…”

    “It was unclear whether the White House's plans would include controls on existing power plants…But since the administration has already proposed action on future power plants, the law would likely compel it to eventually tackle the remaining plants, or it would be forced to through litigation…Obama's remarks in Berlin echoed comments he made in his State of the Union and inaugural speeches this year…

    “Some environmentalists who cheered those remarks when they were made months ago…[say the President] should do more than talk about the problem…[and are] growing impatient…[because the] orchestrated and well-publicized campaign to persuade Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, appears to be an uphill battle. Opponents call the $7 billion project a ‘carbon bomb’ that would carry ‘dirty oil’ and exacerbate global warming. But the State Department in an environmental evaluation concluded that other means of transporting the oil would be worse from a climate perspective.”