NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • THE STUDY: THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 29: WIND MAY TIP KANSAS ELECTION; YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY; GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE AFFORDABILITY OF THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 28: WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’; OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR; GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE HEALTH IN EMISSIONS CUTS
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 27: NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014; EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR; WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Talking With The Redwoods
  • Weekend Video: Evangelicals Confront Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Living The Platinum Rule: Making The Best Invention Of All Time Better
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE- EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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

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  • Thursday, October 30, 2014

    HOW TO TALK TO CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS

    Maybe you can change people’s minds about climate change after all

    Chris Mooney, October 28, 2014 (Washington Post)

    “…[C]onservative and pro-free market beliefs are strongly correlated with dismissal of climate science…[and conservatives] who are more scientifically literate, or better at math, are even less likely than their ideological compatriots to accept global warming…[raising the question of] whether educational initiatives can really make any difference…[A new study in the journal Climatic Change] suggests education may work…In middle school ‘individualists,’ as their level of scientific knowledge about global warming increased, so did their acceptance of the idea that it is caused by humans. In fact, the knowledge-acceptance relationship was stronger in these young individualists than it was among kids who had a disposition toward communitarianism…In other words, climate science education may well work to counteract political ideology after all -- at least if you get to kids when they're young enough…Somewhat surprisingly, the study suggests that middle school kids do seem to have ideology -- at least in a nascent form…” click here for more

    WIND AT STAKE IN THE ELECTION

    It May be Lights Out for the Wind Energy Come the Midterms

    Chris Versace, October 27, 2014 (Fox Business News)

    “…Congressional support for [wind’s vital $0.023 per kilowatt-hour production tax credit (PTC)] is largely split along party lines. Fifty-five Members of the House led by Rep. Mike Pompeo, (R-Kan.), have written a letter to the tax writing committee demanding an end to the wind energy subsidies…It is presumed that a GOP controlled Congress would see the PTC on the chopping block in 2015 and a Democrat-controlled Congress will fight for renewal…It would be an understatement to say that the outcome of the 2014 elections is important for wind energy producers…Unsurprisingly, much of the [League of Conservation Voters (LCV)] campaign activities have been aimed squarely at renewal of the PTC…[I]t will spend over $25 million supporting pro PTC candidates and attacking their opponents before November elections…Should LCV’s campaign fail, loss of the PTC could prove fatal to some wind companies…The outcome of the elections remain far from certain as does the fate of the PTC under any election outcome scenario and Washington D.C.’s capacity for cronyism should never be underestimated…” click here for more

    THE AESTHETICS OF SOLAR

    Swiss firm says it can make near invisible solar modules

    October 28, 2014 (PhysOrg)

    “…[Newly developed white solar modules with no visible cells and connections] can blend with a building's ‘skin’ to become virtually invisible…[according to] Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (SCEM)…The problem with the common blue-black solar modules, built to maximise sunlight absorption, is their ‘visually unaesthetic’ appearance, which tends to hamper their acceptance…White, the most sought-after colour for its elegance and versatility, is especially tricky because it generally reflects light rather than absorbing it…[SCEM combined solar cell technology for converting infrared solar light into electricity] with a special filter that ‘scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light’…[With it, crystalline silicon-based solar technologies can] be molded into modules that blend seamlessly with building surfaces in any colour, including pure white…[The] solar cells are expected to work at temperatures 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below standard models…” click here for more

    EV MRKT TO MORE THAN DOUBLE BY 2023

    Electric Vehicle Market Forecasts; Global Forecasts for Light Duty Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, and Battery Electric Vehicle Sales and Vehicles in Use: 2014-2023

    4Q 2014 (Navigant Research)

    “The rapidly changing market for electric vehicles (EVs), which includes hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles (HEVs, PHEVs, and BEVs), is a small but important part of the global automotive industry. Governments worldwide…have both pushed automakers to develop EVs and incentivized citizens to buy them…[T]he market for vehicles that reduce fuel consumption is becoming more competitive due to…fuel efficiency advances made to conventional internal combustion engines (ICEs)…Growth in HEV, PHEV, and BEV platforms will be contingent upon expanding EV availability outside of the small hatchback segment into larger vehicle formats such as SUVs and trucks. According to Navigant Research, the global light duty EV market is expected to grow from 2.7 million vehicle sales in 2014 to 6.4 million in 2023 under a base scenario…” click here for more

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE DIFFERENT WAYS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION TO NEW ENERGY

    Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values

    David Nelson, Morgan Hervé-Mignucci, Andrew Goggins, Sarah Jo Szambelan, Thomas Vladeck, Julia Zuckerman, October 2014 (Climate Policy Initiative)

    Executive Summary

    Energy plays a central role in the global economy, and for more than a century one of the cheapest and most prevalent sources of energy has been fossil fuels — coal, oil, natural gas, and the power that has been generated from these fossil fuels. Unfortunately, fossil fuel use has also been a major source of carbon emissions; in 2010, fossil fuels burned for energy contributed close to two-thirds of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.1 Addressing climate change will invariably reduce or change fossil fuel use, and in all likelihood reduce the value of fossil fuel resources.

    Some observers worry that a switch away from fossil fuels will not only have a significant cost to the global economy, but could also absorb the investment capacity of the financial system and even undermine the financial system if investors were burdened with worthless fossil fuel investments. We examine the impact of a low-carbon transition on the investment capacity of the global financial system in a companion paper, “Moving to a Low-Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition.” That paper shows that the increase in financial capacity due to reduced investment needs and operating costs for fossil fuel assets more than offsets the increased investment required for lower carbon investments, even when “stranded assets” (investor losses in existing fossil fuel assets) are taken into account.

    In this paper, we examine the question of stranded assets: What impact would a low-carbon transition have on the value of investor portfolios when:

    • Some fossil fuel assets become valueless as they are no longer needed and are left unexploited as demand falls?

    • Other assets that continue to produce lose value as a result of price declines resulting from lower demand?

    Most importantly, we examine how the decline in value would be spread between governments and investors and among various countries, and how both the level of stranded assets and their distribution depends on policy. For this analysis, we have built regional and global economic models for each of the fossil fuel industries — coal, oil, natural gas, and power — as a tool to assess stranding risks for various assets and their owners and investors. These models estimate risk by comparing two extreme scenarios — one where no action is taken on climate change and one where the IEA’s low carbon goals are achieved — to quantify risks and assess how they may be allocated between various groups and investors.2

    Actual risks are lower, as markets have built in expectations for climate action, but these two scenarios provide benchmarks for comparison.

    Our analysis finds the following: Governments, their citizens, and taxpayers, rather than private investors and corporations, face the majority of stranding risk. This risk is concentrated in resource-owning and producing countries, particularly major oil producers. Governments own 50-70% of global oil, gas, and coal resources and collect taxes and royalties on the portion they do not own. Thus, it is unsurprising that governments would bear close to 80% of the $25 trillion of value difference for producers under our two scenarios.

    Only some of the value at risk would actually be lost in the transition — most of the value would be transferred from one economic actor to another, or one country to another. For example, a falling oil price may hurt producers but benefit consumers.

    • Some of the lost value represents lost revenue collected by fossil fuel-producing governments from their own citizens. When these transfers are excluded, the total value at risk falls from $25 trillion to $15 trillion. Almost half of the potential stranding for governments represents lost profits and taxes that countries would raise from sales to their own citizens at world market prices. In practice, many energy producers subsidize local fossil fuel products compared to world prices, thus returning some value back to their consumers at the expense of taxpayers or service recipients. Even when adjusting for these transfers or potential subsidies, governments still face twice the risk that investors do. (To put this number in perspective, $15 trillion is equivalent to approximately 6% of the value of global stocks, bonds, and loans in 2013 (not including other assets), or less than 1% of projected global GDP from 2015-2035.)3

    • Net consuming countries would be better off with lower fossil fuel consumption, but producers would lose value. The benefits of lower prices to consumers in countries like Europe, China, India, Japan and even the U.S., will more than offset the value declines to their producers. The net benefit to China and Europe will each exceed $1 trillion, but the loss in value to some oil-exporting countries could also exceed $1 trillion.

    Across the four fossil fuel industries, oil accounts for the majority of value at risk, but coal holds the largest emissions reductions potential. Even though reducing oil consumption makes up less than 15% of the emissions reductions in IEA’s low-carbon scenario, oil accounts for close to 75% of the fossil fuel asset value at risk in the low-carbon transition, because of oil’s high marginal production costs and high profit margins. By contrast, coal faces lower costs and lower profits, and so has less value at risk — it accounts for approximately 80% of the emissions reductions in IEA’s low-carbon scenario with just 12% of the asset value at risk. Policy will determine both the net impact of stranding and how the impact is distributed. For many countries, the right policy mix could create a net benefit.

    Stranding is a function of changed consumption and expectations, which are in turn affected by changes in policy, pricing, technology, and behavior. Indeed, technology and behavior are also likely to be driven by policy. However, the range of policy options can lead to different responses from producers, consumers and investors, affecting the total net stranding cost and how that cost is spread among different investors, consumers, taxpayers, and governments.

    • Price or tax-based policies that reduce demand would produce very different results than innovation-based policies. One policy alternative would be to rely solely on prices as the mechanism to shift consumption and investment — for example through taxes on energy consumption or reduction of fossil fuel subsidies. Consumption responds predictably to higher prices as consumers make investments in efficiency, relocate or change consumption mix. All of these responses have a cost. In our oil model, when using taxes to increase retail prices, the cost to consumers of seeking alternatives combined with value loss to producers outweighed the benefits to taxpayers through tax receipts, leading to a global net stranding cost of $3 trillion under our two scenarios. On the other hand, if innovation, new technology, or other policy mechanisms could shift demand without a cost to consumers, there would be a net gain of $7 trillion, despite the lower government tax receipts.

    • A combination of innovation and price policies probably works best. A more realistic approach would combine the two, leading to net stranding within the range given above. Taxes have an initial advantage because they are a more certain policy tool than innovation. Tax revenue can then be channeled to support further innovation — and the more successful innovation is, the lower taxes will be needed to reach a low-carbon trajectory. Moreover, studies of the price elasticity of demand for oil suggest that a good deal of innovation and behavior change is driven by price changes; in fact, it could be argued that prices are the main driver of innovation and behavior change. Thus, the two policy pathways are not strictly alternatives, but could be complementary.

    • For global commodities such as oil and the globally traded portion of gas and coal, national policies have a global impact. For global commodities, the policies of one country spill over to have an impact on other countries. For example, one nation’s demand reduction can reduce global prices. Again using oil as an example, lower price increases would be required to reach global goals if all countries participate. However, if only net consuming countries were to institute price-based policies, these countries could still achieve 80% of the global target with 95% of the net benefit of global action — and if they did act, net producing countries would benefit from reducing their consumption as well. Innovation policy would have an equally important cross-border impact.

    • Policies that reduce demand are more effective than those that restrict supply. We also assessed the costs of supply restrictions or producer taxes. In our model, these policies only curtail demand by raising prices to consumers as in the price scenario. The result is significantly higher costs to consumers without the offsetting benefit of higher tax receipts, but significantly higher profits and value to producers. Outside of OPEC, our analysis shows that such a policy could involve significant losses to the acting country.

    • Delaying policy action can markedly increase stranding costs. Our analysis is based on the assets and investments in the ground as of 2014. Investments and valuations change on a daily basis. Delaying policy action or continuing with uncertain policy creates the risk that more investments will be made and that valuations — and potential stranding — of fossil fuel assets increase. Clear signals will ensure that the right investments continue at a reasonable cost while investments that are at risk of stranding in the future are avoided.

    While policy has an important impact on asset stranding, this impact will be colored by the specifics of the assets and industry and economy in which it competes. We found several specific factors that need to be considered, including the physical nature and location of resources which determine the markets in which the fossil fuels compete, nations’ growth rates and asset bases, nations’ energy strategies and resource endowments, potential substitution of one fossil fuel for another, and the timing of policy action.

    Investors have different options for managing risk. Financial investors can easily adjust their investment strategies to minimize the asset stranding risks they face, while governments play numerous policy levers to maximize the value of their resources. Fossil-fuel producing corporations face bigger challenges.

    Policy Implications

    Assessing these risks and minimizing them requires careful analysis of the policy options available to meet climate change goals and how these interact with the specific industry and resources. A wide range of outcomes is possible, and the policy mix chosen will influence not just potential value at risk or potential gain, but also who the winners and losers are in the transition.

    Our analysis of stranding risks offers the following insights for policymakers:

    1. To minimize asset stranding, policymakers could do well to first focus on reducing coal. Reducing coal consumption accounts for approximately 80% of the IEA’s projected carbon emissions savings in the move to a low-carbon future,4 while representing approximately 12% of potential stranded asset value at risk.

    2. Phasing out coal depends upon strategies and policies for power generation and other uses of coal:

    • Coal fired power generation in developed countries can meet most of their goals by phasing out their plants at the end of their natural lives and adapting operating modes to a low carbon weighted system.

    • Constraining coal fired generation in emerging markets in the face of growing energy demand creates an urgent need to develop alternative energy solutions and improved energy efficiency, especially in China and India (see point 5 below).

    • Coal mining will require different solutions across the major uses of coal in power generation, iron and steel making, other industrial usage, and residential and heating use. Finding alternatives to coal in China and India is a key challenge.

    3. Effective oil paths to a low carbon trajectory include reducing demand (for example through consumption taxes or the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies) driven by net consuming countries, investment in alternative fuels, and innovation. Additionally, there are policy tools that can reduce undesired distributional effects.

    4. Gas has a medium term future as a bridging fuel in power generation, though to minimize stranding, it will need to peak around 2030.

    5. Financial mechanisms can further reduce the impact of stranding. In emerging economies, providing renewable energy subsidies through low-cost debt or dollarizing renewable energy tariffs can reduce the cost to governments and energy consumers by up to 30%. In developed economies, changing financing and business models can reduce the cost of renewable energy by as much as 20%, making it more competitive with fossil fuel electricity generation.

    6. Governments need to develop strategies to address the budget consequences of phasing out fossil fuel production.

    Ultimately, the global economy needs to address century-old imbalances borne from years of structuring the economy around fossil fuel-derived energy. Policy decisions made today will direct the course of the economy for years to come.

    QUICK NEWS, Oct. 29: WIND MAY TIP KANSAS ELECTION; YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY; GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING

    WIND MAY TIP KANSAS ELECTION How Cheap Wind Energy Threatens To Upend The Kansas Governor’s Race And Upset The Koch Brothers

    Ari Phillips, October 27, 2014 (ThinkProgress)

    “Kansas Governor Sam Brownback once supported wind energy, but that was before petrochemical billionaires and Kansas natives Charles and David Koch became his largest campaign donors. Now, Brownback and the Kochs find themselves enmeshed in a highly competitive governor’s race, one that has become a referendum on the much-heralded notion that scaling back government and slashing taxes for the wealthy will lead to economic growth…A key aspect of this debate hinges on the role of renewable energy in the state and the future of the Kansas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), a law requiring a certain portion of a state’s energy mix come from renewable sources…

    “The Koch brothers have devoted a significant amount of time and money into repealing the standard and as of late, Brownback has wavered in his support. His Democratic opponent, Paul Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry…despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio…Koch Industries is not supporting Brownback’s re-election campaign because the RPS repeal effort was unsuccessful. This would follow the pattern of the Kochs lashing out at even very conservative state legislators who didn’t support the repeal…91 percent of Kansas voters are strongly supportive of using renewable energy, with 88 percent responding that they believe boosting renewable energy will lead to new investments in Kansas and help grow the state’s economy…” click here for more

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    YOUNG VOTERS BRING NEW ENERGY UT Energy Poll Shows Generation Gap on Vital Energy Issues

    October 28, 2014 (University of Texas at Austin)

    “…[M]arkedly different perspectives on energy issues based on the age of voters…[could impact] the outcome of next week’s elections…The latest [University of Texas] Energy Poll, conducted Sept. 4-16, shows contrasting views and preferences among consumers in numerous areas, including energy policy, preferred sources of energy and financial support from the federal government… Nearly half of the 2,105 U.S. residents surveyed (46 percent) say candidates’ views on energy issues will greatly influence their choices at the ballot box…[and a] much higher percentage of older respondents (87 percent) indicate they are likely to vote in the Nov. 4 election, compared with 68 percent of those age 35 or under…

    “Fifty-six percent of younger consumers say they are willing to pay much higher prices to protect the environment, compared with only 20 percent of respondents age 65 and older…Support for renewable sources of energy is considerably stronger among younger consumers, with nearly 2 out of 3 (65 percent) favoring an expansion of financial incentives…62 percent of younger respondents favor requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, versus 48 percent of older voters…Younger consumers also strongly support subsidies for renewable energy, with 72 percent saying they back federal government support, compared with 58 percent among Americans age 65 and older…” click here for more

    GREEN BUILDINGS BOOMING Driven by Higher Rents and Values, Green Buildings Market Grows to $260 Billion; 325 million m2 of new green buildings floor space was built in 2013 as internal rates of return reached a steady 5% or more…

    October 29, 2014 (Lux Research)

    “Construction of green buildings rose to 325 million m2 of new floor space in 2013, representing a $260 billion market…driven by economic benefits rather than environmental motivations…In the United States, for example, green buildings command an estimated 20% of new construction [according to Cash Is King: Assessing the Financial Performance of Green Buildings from Lux Research]…[B]uildings with LEED Gold certification outperform their baseline peers…Incentives like Germany's subsidized interest rates for energy-efficient homes, or government cash rebates in India, can lead to an IRR of 5% to 6% over 15 years…[B]uilding energy efficiency codes such as ASHAE 90.1, IECC and ECBC India can create a much larger market opportunity [than green building standards like LEED]. In Germany, Lux Research estimates that new floor space compliant with the EnEv 2009 code was 50 million m2, or about 36% of overall new construction, in 2013…” click here for more

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE AFFORDABILITY OF THE NEW ENERGY TRANSITION

    Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition

    October 2014 (Climate Policy Initiative)

    Executive Summary

    A major concern regarding a transition to a low-carbon economy is the impact that it could have on the global financial system. Would the scale of investment required consume financial resources and crowd out investments elsewhere in the economy? Would the impact that the transition would have on the value of existing investments — that is, the assets it would strand — reduce the capacity of investors and governments to invest?

    This paper assesses the impact of a potential transition, looking not just at the investment required and the impact of a transition on the value of existing assets, but also looking more broadly at other factors that could affect the financial capacity of the global financial system, including operating expenses, risk, and the lifespan of investments. A savings in operating costs, for instance, could provide investors additional cash that could then be invested back into the economy. Lower risk frees up reserves and enables investment in further growth. And longer asset life means that investments need not be replaced as often, freeing cash for investment that would otherwise be needed for asset replacement.

    When all of these factors are taken together, we find that transitioning to a low-carbon electricity system could actually increase the capacity of the global financial system by as much as $1.8 trillion between 2015 and 2035. Transitioning from oil to low-carbon transport could also result in a positive impact on the financial system over the same period, with an estimated impact ranging from a negative impact of $2.5 trillion to a net benefit of $3.5 trillion, depending on policy choices. Increasing the capacity of the system to invest creates opportunities for growth and lower costs that could reverberate across the economy.

    These overall benefit estimates capture the following dynamics in a move from business-as-usual to a 2-degree pathway.

    Electricity (Figure 1)

    • Low-carbon energy infrastructure is less expensive to operate, primarily because of avoided operating costs associated with extracting and transporting coal and gas. We estimate that operating savings would be significant, totaling $4.6 trillion.

    • The global electricity industry (including fuel extraction, generation, and transmission and distribution) would see more capital investment under a low-carbon pathway, because low-carbon energy tends to be more capital-intensive than fossil fuel energy. Low-carbon investments tend to have slightly longer lives, somewhat offsetting the higher investment levels. Taken together we estimate that total depreciation and amortization (D&A) (the amount of the investment capital actually used up over a given time frame) would increase by $1.1 trillion between 2015 and 2035 — the net impact of a $2.8 trillion increase in low-carbon capital (D&A) and a $1.7 trillion decrease in fossil fuel D&A.

    • Financing costs, which reflect both the level of investment and the riskiness of those investments, would increase by $0.6 trillion. Many low-carbon electricity investments carry lower inherent risk than some of the fossil fuel investments they replace and would particularly see lower costs of capital if the institutional and financial systems are fine-tuned to low-carbon investments rather than fossil fuel investments. However, total financing costs would still increase because of the larger quantity of capital investment under the 2-degree pathway. Globally, existing fossil fuel assets that would otherwise be employed in electricity generation (including coal, oil, gas and power plants) would lose an estimated $1.1 trillion in value during the low-carbon transition.

    • The net impact of transition is an increase in available investment capacity of $1.8 trillion.

    Transport (Figure 2)

    • Operating expenses would decrease by $2.8 trillion.

    • Total depreciation and amortization of capital would increase by $3 trillion between 2015 and 2035 — the net impact of a $6 trillion increase in investment in low-carbon vehicles and mass transit and a $3 trillion decrease in investment in fossil fuel transport (including the extraction, refining, and movement of oil for transport, as well as investment in fossil fuel powertrain vehicles).

    • Financing costs would increase by $0.5 trillion. The impact of the low-carbon transition on the value of existing assets would depend on the policy pathways chosen. We estimate that the impact could range from a $1.8 trillion net loss in asset value to a $4.2 trillion net benefit.

    • The net impact of the transition ranges from a $2.5 trillion reduction to a $3.5 trillion increase in capacity, depending on policy impact on asset values.

    Decisions by policymakers, regulators, and institutional and other investors have a major influence on the financial impact of the low-carbon transition. Our analysis suggests the following priorities to maximize the financial benefit of the low-carbon transition:

    Power

    • In developed countries, create and expand financing vehicles that can efficiently channel low-cost institutional investment into low-carbon energy infrastructure.

    • In both developed and developing countries, consider restructuring the electricity industry, market design, and regulation to clarify the infrastructure characteristics of the low-carbon assets and appropriately allocate risks between investors, consumers and governments.

    • More broadly, policy measures such as pricing carbon, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, and supporting the development of new low-carbon technologies also change the risk/reward equation in a positive direction for low-carbon infrastructure.

    Transport

    • To reduce the use of oil in transport, focus on policies that reduce demand for oil, rather than policies that restrict supply. A combination of taxes and innovation appears to be the most promising policy approach…

    Conclusions and policy implications

    Policymakers at all levels should consider the full financial picture when evaluating the potential gains or losses from transitioning to a low-carbon system. We find that in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable electricity, the savings from avoided fossil fuel investment and operating costs would more than offset the increased capital investment and stranded assets, leading to a net financial benefit of up to $1.8 trillion from 2015-2035. For the transition from oil to low-carbon transport, the net impact will depend on policy choices that affect asset stranding. Policy choices that reduce demand for oil with a combination of taxes and innovation could lead to a financial benefit of over $3 trillion for the low-carbon transition in transport. Both of these figures would grow significantly if health and environmental benefits of reducing emissions were taken into account.

    Decisions by policymakers, regulators, and institutional and other investors (discussed in Box 3) have a major influence on the financial impact of the low-carbon transition. In both cases, given the scale of investment needed, reducing the cost of capital is critical.

    QUICK NEWS, Oct.28: WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’; OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR; GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK

    WIND BOOMS AS ‘MOST AFFORDABLE ENERGY OPTION’ Record low costs drive opportunities in U.S. wind energy; Industry sees 4x growth by 2030, with critical tax policy up for renewal

    October 20, 2014 (American Wind Energy Association)

    "Driven by record low costs and high demand from power purchasers, the U.S. wind industry was at its busiest ever in the third quarter while completing the record number of wind projects that were under construction at the start of the quarter…19 wind projects have been completed in America this year, with as much wind generating capacity as in all of 2013, according to Third Quarter results…The American Wind Energy Association expects a strong finish to the year…stepped-up installations in 2015…[and] is optimistic that Congress will [extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit after the November election]… "...[R]ecent Department of Energy (DOE) data showing the cost of U.S. wind power down by more than half over five years…The DOE report also shows fix-priced wind energy is the most affordable energy option available, particularly after expected increases and volatility in the price of other energy sources are taken into account. Moreover, zero emission wind energy is ideally suited to help utilities comply with the pending EPA Clean Power Plan that will regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants…” click here for more

    OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR BIG SOLAR A tough road ahead for concentrated solar power

    Sammy Roth, October 25, 2014 (The Desert Sun)

    “…Unlike traditional solar photovoltaic panels — which convert sunlight directly into electricity — concentrated solar technology uses sunlight to heat water or another liquid, ultimately creating steam that can be used to turn turbines and generate electricity…Concentrated solar power is much more expensive than solar panels and wind turbines, but advocates say it has a major advantage over those technologies, particularly in California: the ability to store energy. As the state races to adopt renewable energy, one of its biggest challenges will be intermittency — the fact that most solar and wind plants only produce power when the sun is shining, or when the wind is blowing…Concentrated solar with storage could fill the gaps in intermittent renewable generation, limiting the need for carbon-emitting natural gas plants. But despite concentrated solar power's benefits, it has been hobbled by financial and environmental challenges…

    “Concentrated solar plants cost much more to build than solar photovoltaic plants, and environmental groups have criticized ‘power tower’ projects…for their potential to kill thousands of birds [if not carefully sited]. Concentrated solar plants can also use hundreds of times more water than solar photovoltaic plants...[But some environmental groups…see a future for concentrated solar — if the wildlife impacts can be reduced…[C]oncentrated solar development has intensified over the past year, with five large-scale projects expected to open by January…Among those projects is Crescent Dunes…[It] will be the country's first solar tower development to feature storage, with a capacity of 110 megawatts and the ability to store more than 10 hours of energy…” click here for more

    GEOTHERMAL COMING BACK Geothermal power industry lost steam but may be poised for comeback

    Julie Cart, October 19, 2014 (LA Times)

    “…[Geothermal] industry leaders say the energy harnessed from the Earth is poised for a renaissance, powered by new technology that will boost production, pare costs and expand its reach…Some impetus for the change has come from within. The geothermal industry's not-so-politically-savvy leaders, mostly geologists and mechanical engineers, had since the 1980s been eclipsed by hard-charging solar and wind energy developers who play the lobbying game, and play it well…Geothermal's leaders watched and learned. Their challenge now, they say, is regaining some of the lost political and financial ground…Although geothermal companies are unlikely to be the energy giants that solar and wind producers have become, new technology could enable the industry to grow far beyond the Western states…

    “…[G]eothermal energy accounts for barely 0.4% of the nation's available energy…[T he U.S. Energy Department’s] 2014 research budget for geothermal is $45 million, compared with $257 million for solar…The U.S. Bureau of Land Management estimates the average wind or solar project is greenlighted in 1 1/2 years. Approval for a geothermal project can take as long as seven years…[But] researchers are investigating ways to overcome technological barriers…Geothermal will never be a major energy source, [a 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology] report concluded, but if fully tapped, it could provide as much as 10% of the nation's power…” click here for more

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE HEALTH IN EMISSIONS CUTS

    Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants; Part 2 of the Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards Study

    September 30, 2014 (Harvard University and Boston University)

    Executive Summary – Part 2: Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards

    Background

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants on June 2, 2014. The EPA-proposed Clean Power Plan would achieve a 30% reduction in carbon emissions from U.S. power plants below 2005 levels by 2030 (USEPA 2014a). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important greenhouse gas and a major driver of human-induced global climate change. Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are the single largest source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the U.S. They emitted 2.2 billion tons of CO2 in 2012 (AOE 2014) and currently account for 39 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions (USEPA 2014b).

    Standards to address global climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from power plants can spur significant improvements to public health and the environment by also curbing other emissions from this source such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and mercury (Hg). SO2 and NOx emissions contribute to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) sometimes referred to as “soot”. NOx emissions are also a major precursor to ground-level ozone (O3), sometimes referred to as “smog”. For human health, these pollutants increase the risk of premature death, heart attacks, severity of asthma, and other health effects. For ecosystems, these pollutants contribute to acid rain, the over-fertilization of surface waters and many types of ecosystems, ozone damage to trees and crops, and the accumulation of toxic mercury in fish.

    The Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards Study

    Scientists from Syracuse, Harvard, and Boston Universities launched a three-part1 co-benefits study in 2013 to quantify the: (1) air quality, (2) public health, and (3) environmental co-benefits of three different carbon policy scenarios based on projected changes in power plant emissions of SO2, NOx, and PM. The term “co-benefits” refers to the added improvements that occur from implementing a policy, beyond those associated with the primary target. In this case, the primary target is the reduction of CO2 emissions and the co-benefits are the improvements associated with ancillary decreases in the other emissions. Since this study is strictly an analysis of co-benefits, it does not quantify the direct health benefits of mitigating climate change, such as anticipated decreases in future heat-related illness.

    The three policy scenarios for power plant carbon standards assessed in this study are described on the following page and on pages 7 and 8. The three scenarios represent differing CO2 emissions reduction stringencies, flexibility in compliance options, and investments in demand-side energy efficiency. These scenarios were designed prior to the release of the Clean Power Plan, and capture a broad range of alternatives that can inform the final rule. The analysis isolates the co-benefits that are solely attributable to the carbon standards by comparing power plant emissions under the policy scenarios to the emissions that would have occurred under a business-as-usual reference case in the year 2020. The reference case includes the implementation of existing air pollution control policies.

    Scenario 1: Power Plant Improvements (low stringency, low flexibility/no user efficiency)

    This scenario focuses on heat rate upgrades and other improvements in the operating efficiency of existing power plants. It represents what is commonly referred to as an “inside the fence line” approach favored by some industry groups and states. It does not include new end-user energy efficiency.

    Scenario 2: Electricity Sector Improvements (moderate stringency, high flexibility/high user efficiency)

    This scenario includes state-based CO2 emission targets, flexible compliance options, and significant program investments in new end-user energy efficiency. This scenario is most similar to the EPA-proposed Clean Power Plan.

    Scenario 3: Cost of Carbon Improvements (high stringency, moderate flexibility/no user efficiency) This scenario compels power plants to implement all upgrades and CO2 pollution controls up to a cost of $43 per ton of CO2 reduced. This scenario allows some shift to renewables but does not include new investments in end-user energy efficiency.

    Summary of Results

    In Part 1 of the study, changes in air quality in the U.S. were evaluated in response to expected changes in power plant emissions for each policy scenario in the year 2020 (Driscoll et al. 2014). The top-performing option for air quality was Scenario 2: Electricity Sector Improvements. It results in an estimated 24% decrease in U.S. power plant carbon emissions from the 2020 reference case (Driscoll et al. 2014). This is equivalent to a 35% decrease from 2005 levels, the baseline year used by EPA in the Clean Power Plan. For the other pollutants, Scenario 2 results in an estimated decrease in power plant emissions from the 2020 reference case of 27% for SO2, 22% for NOx, and 27% for Hg. The decrease in emissions in Scenario 2 results in widespread air quality improvements of up to 1.35 micro-grams per cubic meter (µg/m3 ) for annual average PM2.5 and up to 3.6 parts per billion (ppb) for the 8-hour maximum summertime ozone by 2020.

    In Part 2 of the study, we analyzed the health co-benefits of the air quality changes under each of the three scenarios. The results are summarized here and presented in detail in the sections that follow.

    1. Power plant carbon standards can improve air quality and provide substantial health co-benefits. The carbon standard that is moderately stringent has the greatest health co-benefits of the three analyzed (Scenario 2). The high compliance flexibility and high end-user energy efficiency in Scenario 2 results in the greatest number of premature deaths avoided overall and per ton of CO2 reduced. This scenario is most similar to the EPA-proposed Clean Power Plan in its design and resulting CO2 emissions. It yields the following estimated health co-benefits in the U.S. in 2020 compared to the business-as-usual reference case:

    • 3,500 premature deaths avoided each year (that is equivalent to 9 premature deaths avoided every day).

    • 1,000 hospital admissions avoided from heart and lung disease each year.

    • 220 heart attacks prevented each year.

    It would also lead to additional health benefits not quantified here, including reduced asthma symptoms and other health benefits for children, the elderly, and vulnerable adults.

    2. The geographic distribution of health co-benefits in the top-performing scenario (Scenario 2) is widespread with all lower 48 states receiving some benefit. The 12 states with the greatest estimated number of premature deaths avoided are those where there are a large number of exposed people and air quality improves the most. They are (in order): PA, OH, TX, IL, MI, NY, NC, GA, MO, VA, TN, and IN. The 12 states with the greatest estimated percent increase in premature deaths avoided are (in order): PA, OH, WV, MO, MI, KY, MD, DC, IL, DE, IN, and AR.

    3. The carbon standard with the lowest stringency has the lowest health co-benefits (Scenario 1). Its low flexibility and focus on improving power plant heat rates and operating efficiency results in little to no benefit with a slight increase in estimated premature deaths and heart attacks per year in the U.S. from the 2020 reference case.

    4. The carbon standard with the highest stringency (Scenario 3) has high health co-benefits but they are lower than Scenario 2. It results in fewer estimated premature deaths avoided per year in the U.S. from the 2020 reference case and nearly half as many avoided per ton of CO2 reduced as Scenario 2.

    5. Overall, the study shows that the health co-benefits of power plant carbon standards can be large but the magnitude depends on critical policy choices. The carbon standard scenario that combines moderately stringent carbon targets with highly flexible compliance options and more end-user energy efficiency (Scenario 2) has the greatest estimated health co-benefits.

    The results of this study indicate that carbon standards for existing power plants that are aimed at addressing the long-term issue of global climate change can bring substantial near-term state and local health co-benefits. They also demonstrate that the specific policy design choices for power plant carbon standards have a critical influence on the magnitude and distribution of the health co-benefits that occur. The improvements in air quality that accompany a carbon standard can result in nearly immediate benefits to human health. Extended implementation timelines would delay the accrual of these benefits. For the U.S. and other nations with significant greenhouse gas emissions and air quality challenges, local health co-benefits could be an important additional motivator for taking action on climate change.

    Power Plant Pollution: Emissions, Air Quality, and Health

    Power plants are the single largest source of CO2 (39%), SO2 (71%), and Hg (53%) emissions in the U.S. (NEI 2011, USEPA 2014b). They are also the second largest source of NOx emissions (14%) (NEI 2011). Carbon pollution standards for existing power plants would not only help address the challenge of global climate change, they would also confer substantial near-term state and local health co-benefits by reducing power plant emissions of SO2, NOx, Hg, and directly emitted particulate matter (PM). Emissions of SO2 and NOx contribute to the formation of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone (O3; referred to here as “ozone”)…

    Study Approach…Three Scenarios for Power Plant Carbon Standards…Air Quality Results…Air Quality Results…Health Co-benefits Results…

    In Conclusion

    Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are the single largest source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the U.S. (~39%). They emitted approximately 2.2 billion tons of CO2 in 2012. Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are also the single-largest U.S. source of SO2 and Hg emissions, and the second largest source of NOx emissions. The results from this study show that carbon pollution standards for existing U.S. power plants can provide the added bonus of substantial near-term health co-benefits for by reducing emissions of co-pollutants (SO2, NOx, Hg and PM) and improving air quality.

    The results of this health co-benefits analysis suggest that carbon standards that have stringent CO2 emissions reductions targets but are flexible and include new investments in energy efficiency, offer greater and more widespread health co-benefits than the other alternatives examined here. Scenario 2, which is most similar to the EPA-proposed Clean Power Plan, has the greatest estimated health co-benefits of the three scenarios analyzed. The results also show that carbon standards focused strictly on power plant retrofits could increase emissions and little to no health co-benefits nationwide. The results underscore that the design of power plant carbon standards strongly influences the magnitude and distribution of air quality improvements and health co-benefits that accrue to states and to local communities. For the U.S. and other nations with significant greenhouse gas emissions and air quality challenges, quantifying and valuing local benefits could be an important additional motivator for taking action on climate change.

    QUICK NEWS, Oct. 27: NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014; EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR; WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN

    NEW ENERGY OVER 40% OF U.S. NEW BUILD IN 2014 Renewable Energy Provides Over 40% Of New U.S. Generating Capacity In First Three-Quarters Of 2014; New Renewable Capacity Is 35 Times That Of Coal, Oil, And Nuclear Combined

    October 27, 2014 (Sun Day Campaign)

    “…[R]enewable energy sources…account for more than two-fifths (40.61%) of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity put in-service during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity...[N]ew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources thus far is almost 35 times that of coal, oil, and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW)…For the month of September alone, renewables accounted for over two-thirds of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in-service [367 MW of wind (60.86%) plus 41 MW of solar (6.80%)]…

    “Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 "units" of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%)…The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of "other" 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014…” click here for more

    EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NOW INCLUDE SOLAR Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program

    Diane Cardwell, Oct. 22, 2014 (NY Times)

    “…[Employees of Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic] will be able to buy or lease solar systems for their homes at rates substantially lower than the national average…The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada…Conceived at the World Wildlife Fund [WWF], the program, called the Solar Community Initiative, aims to use the bulk buying power of employees to allow for discounts on home systems…

    “The program’s expansion is a reflection of the shrinking gulf between camps that were once considered mutually exclusive: environmental advocacy organizations and mainstream corporate America…The program is consistent with [WWF’s] approach of working closely with corporations, often quietly trying to nudge them toward change from the inside, rather than pushing from the outside through more confrontational tactics…For Geostellar, which built a virtual marketplace from satellite imagery and big data, it offers a new route to attracting customers, which is still one of the more stubbornly high costs of operating a solar business…” click here for more

    WIND BRINGS JOBS TO MICHIGAN Michigan's wind energy industry soaring

    Fred Witsil, October 12, 2014 (Detroit Free Press)

    “The shift to renewable energy sources in Michigan — particularly wind — has picked up in the past few years and could get more of a boost as the Obama administration seeks a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030…That could mean more investment and more jobs to add to Michigan's modest energy sector profile of about 83,000 workers. One recent study concluded targeted local investment in wind and other renewable energy could support nearly 21,000 jobs in the state by next year…One reason: [Wind energy generated electricity is] about half as expensive to produce than utility companies initially expected, down to as little as $50 a megawatt hour last year from more than $100 a megawatt hour in 2009…

    “The nonprofit group, Natural Resources Defense Council, says Michigan is home to about 120 companies that supply wind components and employ 4,000…DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the two companies that serve Michigan's lower peninsula, are building wind turbines…Wind and other renewable sources of power are expected to provide a steadily increasing amount of Michigan's power needs by 2030…” click here for more

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Talking With The Redwoods

    “…All of a sudden there were humans and all hell broke loose…” From ConservationDotOrg via YouTube

    Evangelicals Confront Climate Change

    These evangelicals, having confronted the human face of climate change, join a growing movement concerned with “creation care.” From EvangEnviroNetwork’s channel via YouTube

    Living The Platinum Rule: Making The Best Invention Of All Time Better

    How to make batteries dirt cheap: Make them from dirt. From Alger via YouTube

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    EU UPS THE WORLD’S BAR ON EMISSIONS CUT TARGETS

    EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030; Climate commissioner hails ‘strong signal’ ahead of global Paris summit but key aspects of deal left vague or voluntary

    Arthur Neslen, 23 October 2014 (UK Guardian)

    “European leaders have struck a broad climate change pact obliging the EU as a whole to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030…But key aspects of the deal that will form a bargaining position for global climate talks in Paris next year were left vague or voluntary, raising questions…{t]two 27% targets were [also] agreed – for renewable energy market share and increase in energy efficiency improvement. The former would be binding only on the EU as a whole. The latter would be optional, although it could be raised to 30% by a review in 2020…With an eye on the haggling expected ahead of a global climate summit in Paris next year, the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said the agreement was an important step for the whole world…But a clause was inserted into the text that could trigger a review of the EU’s new targets if other countries do not come forward with comparable commitments in Paris…The Brussels summit was dominated by arguments over energy savings and climate policy, with countries from Poland to Portugal pleading special circumstances and threatening to veto any breakthrough unless their demands were met…” click here for more

    FIRST BIG MOROCCO SOLAR NEAR POWERING UP

    First plant in Morocco solar mega-project to open in 2015

    October 19, 2014 (AFP)

    “...[P] art of a multi-billion-euro project the oil-scarce kingdom [of Morocco] hopes will satisfy its growing energy needs…[the Nour 1 Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) piece of the Ouarzazate Solar Complex, the biggest solar complex in Africa, will be operational in 2015]…The North African country is aiming to [get 42 percent of its total power by 2020] and is eyeing the chance to export clean electricity to nearby Europe…Morocco expects to build five new solar plants by the end of the decade with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW) and at an estimated cost of seven billion euros ($9 billion)…The Nour 1 plant cost 600 million euros and is expected to have a capacity to generate 160 MW…A consortium led by Saudi developer ACWA Power won the contract to build the plant…The World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank are helping to finance…[Winners of contracts for Nour 2 and 3 will be announced by the end of 2014, with construction to] begin at the start of next year…[An announcement about a] third and final construction phase at Ouarzazate will be announced [soon]…” click here for more

    NORTH SEA WIND-HYDRO INTERLINK TO GROW

    Norway Approves First Direct Power Link to Germany

    Stefan Nicola, October 13, 2014 (Bloomberg News)

    "Norway approved the construction of the first direct electricity cable to Germany and granted a license for a link to the U.K. to aid power trading between the nations…Norway’s government granted power-grid operator Statnett SF the necessary licenses for the country’s portion of the Nord.Link project…DC Nordseekabel GmbH, which is owned by TenneT TSO GmbH and KfW Group, will carry out construction on the German side…Germany has already granted all necessary permits…The cable would be the first direct power link between the nations and have a capacity to transmit 1.4 gigawatts starting in 2018 or 2019…It would allow the countries to trade hydropower from Norway and wind electricity from Germany…[The] 1.4-gigawatt interconnector to the U.K. that’s scheduled to be completed in 2020…would link Kvilldal in Norway to Blyth in Northumberland and may bring low-cost renewable energy to the U.K. for an investment of more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion)…Norway is already linked with the Netherlands through NorNed, a 700-megawatt subsea cable that began operating commercially in 2008. It also has connections with Denmark and Sweden.” click here for more

    TURKISH GEOTHERMAL GETS INTELLIGENT

    Turkish Geothermal Power Plants Use Industrial Internet to Help Analyze Data and Save Water with GE Automated Solution

    18 October 2014 (The Financial)

    “Three geothermal power plants in Turkey, owned by Kipaş Holding, have significantly reduced water usage, lowered CO2 emissions, decreased corrosion and are using the Industrial Internet to analyze data…[Kipaş Holding was given GE’s Return on Environment (ROE) award for expansions] [at] three of its existing Maren Enerji geothermal plants…[It] is constructing one new plant—all with GE water treatment technology [which is saving $500,000 annually]. The three existing plants, together, produce a total of 68 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The new facility will produce 24 MW…[T]he Maren Enerji geothermal plants in Aydin, Turkey, are using GE’s InSight* Knowledge Management Solution, a remote monitoring and diagnostic platform, to monitor the performance of the water treatment systems at the power plants…[The] Web-based platform…maximize[s] the plants’ reliability through real-time visualization and diagnostics related to keeping the water systems’ performance and the contributing parameters on track…GE also provided an automatic chemical solution preparation unit…The geothermal power plants have one of the world’s longest underground piping networks to deliver the chemical to the geothermal wells…” click here for more

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT

    Evangelical Christian pastors frame environmentalism in religious terms

    Kelsey Dallas, October 18, 2014 (Deseret News)

    “For the past five years, Mitch Hescox has served as president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. For 18 years before that, he served as a local church pastor. And for 14 years before that, he worked in America's coal industry…[He believes] "creation care is the greatest cause in the world today…And it's the easiest way to tell the story of God to new generations of young people." [He] is among a growing number of evangelical Christian pastors who are making headway with their followers on the topic of environmental stewardship…[O]nly evangelical Protestants [among Christians] showed significant growth in environmental concern from 1993 to 2010…[E]vangelical leaders like Hescox have found a way to bring religious values into a conversation once dominated by secular, political claims…Among all Christian respondents [in a recent study], 44.4 percent reported being concerned by air pollution caused by cars in 2010, a 6.1 percent drop from 1993. Similarly, there was a 6.7 percent drop in willingness to pay higher prices to improve the environment and a 7.9 percent drop in willingness to pay higher taxes…[E]vangelical opinions…showed statistically significant increases in four of the 10 pro-environmental categories…” click here for more

    ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS

    Minnesota wind energy firm Sheerwind looking to test technology in Hawaii

    Duane Shimogawa, October 16, 2014 (Pacific Business News)

    and

    Google-owned Makani to test wind technology on Hawaii's Big Island

    October 9, 2014 (Pacific Business News)

    “…SheerWind Inc., which has developed a patented technology [called the INVELOX system] that captures, accelerates and concentrates wind energy, ultimately [outperforms traditional wind turbines and reduces] costs, may help solve major problems that have plagued the industry, including low turbine reliability, intermittency issues and environmental impacts…Makani, a wind-power startup owned by Google that is developing an energy kite to generate electricity at high altitudes, plans to be testing its technology on the Big Island of Hawaii by this time next year..[It] tested a smaller version of the product on Maui…[and] plans to test a wind kite that flies more than 1,000 feet from the ground on the end of a tether…mimics the motions of a wind turbine blade…[and] can generate enough electricity to power 300 homes.” click here for more

    TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES

    Tea party pushing for Florida to step up solar energy efforts

    Ivan Penn, October 17, 2014 (Tampa Bay Times)

    “Florida's investor-owned utilities have a new, unexpected opponent…[The Tea Party Patriots plan] to push for more solar in the Sunshine State as she has in Georgia...to challenge the monopoly control of Florida's major utilities…[through the new Florida] group Conservatives for Energy Freedom…Florida's investor-owned utilities have enjoyed what many see as a lock on Tallahassee's Republican-dominated political world...An uprising from within the Republican Party could alter the course of the state's energy policy at a time when a growing number of grass roots groups have been stepping up their efforts…The nation's power companies already are increasingly under pressure as solar's price continues to fall, solar panels become more efficient and solar companies offer programs that make it easier for homeowners and businesses to install…Combined with more energy-efficient products, solar is helping electricity customers envision the kind of personalized service that technology has brought to the communications, media and music industries…What the rest of the world admiringly calls renewable energy and "energy efficiency,'' the utilities call "disruptive'' technologies…” click here for more

    WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE

    What's Holding Back Electric-Car Sales? Many Consumers Don't Know Much About the Vehicles or Available Incentives

    Yuliya Chernova, September 28, 2014 (Wall Street Journal)

    “…Research suggests [electric car sales are lower than predicted because of] a basic lack of familiarity, a high price tag, misconceptions about the cars—and ineffective government incentives…In a survey by researchers from Indiana University and the University of Kansas, respondents couldn't correctly answer basic factual questions about plug-in electric vehicles more than 60% of the time. Some 75% of wrong answers underestimated the beneficial aspects of the vehicles…Many respondents didn't realize that all-electric cars require less maintenance than gasoline-powered cars. Oil changes aren't necessary, for example, and there are fewer breakable parts. The study also found that people often underestimated the fuel savings electric cars offer…Obstacles cited in [a National Research Council] report included high prices, few model choices, limited driving range on a single charge, the lack of a widespread charging infrastructure, and the inconvenience of installing charging stations at home…The report suggested that helping people learn more about electric cars, including through demonstrations at locations such as sports stadiums, office parks and malls, would go a long way to changing their attitudes…” click here for more

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