NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

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

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • Weekend Video: Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Explains New Energy And Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: This Changes Everything
  • Weekend Video: The People’s Climate March Is Sunday
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-CHINA, INDIA, RUSSIA LEADERS TO SKIP UN CLIMATE SUMMIT
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-WORLD’S OFFSHORE WIND TO HIT 40 GW BY 2020
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-SOLAR IS THE SOLUTION FOR SOUTH ASIA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-PARIS DIGS GEOTHERMAL
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE WORLD HAS 15 YEARS TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS
  • TTTA Thursday-WIND MAKES THE GRID MORE RELIABLE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR OIL DRILLING
  • TTTA Thursday-A SPORTS CAR THAT RUNS ON SALT-WATER
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE GREEN TRANSITION – MONEY KEEPS COMING TO NEW ENERGY
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 17: THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND; BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST; WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: THE BENEFITS OF PUMPED HYDRO STORAGE CALCULATED
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 16: THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE; A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES; ADVANCES IN WATER POWER
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: RENEWABLES IN THE COMING ARAB WORLD
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 15: SOLAR SUCCEEDING ON PRICE; EVEN MORE WIND THAT HONDA EXPECTED; THE HUGE UNRECOGNIZED BENEFITS OF EFFICIENCY
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

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

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

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

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

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

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

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

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

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

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

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

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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

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

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  • Monday, September 22, 2014

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

    REthinking Energy; Towards A New Power System

    September 2014 (International Renewable Energy Agency)

    Executive Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Why the world of energy is transforming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The cost of renewable energy plummets as deployment increases

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

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

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

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

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

    Financing renewables is getting cheaper, and easier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The wider benefits of renewable energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A new industrial paradigm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 22: BIG NEW WHITE HOUSE BACKING FOR SUN, EE; DOE BOOSTS RESEARCH ON BIGGER WIND; TEXAS CONSIDERS SPREADING GRID COSTS

    BIG NEW WHITE HOUSE BACKING FOR SUN, EE Obama pushes energy efficiency, rural solar power

    Timothy Cama, Sept. 18, 2014 (The Hill)

    “The Obama administration unveiled…[actions] aimed at improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of solar power in homes and businesses, including $68 million in spending…[and] said the actions would reduce carbon dioxide emissions…[and] save $10 billion in energy costs…[The actions] are part of President Obama’s second-term push to…mitigate climate change…[and] follow other recent efforts to help the solar power industry…The Department of Agriculture will spend $68 million on 540 renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects in rural areas, 240 of which are for solar power…The Energy Department’s program to train technicians to design and install solar power infrastructure will open programs at up to three military bases…At the Department of Housing and Urban development, officials will seek to give a boost to renewable energy in affordable housing communities…The Energy Department will certify a new set of building codes and propose efficiency standards for commercial unit air conditioners…” click here for more

    DOE BOOSTS RESEARCH ON BIGGER WIND Feds Fund Research Into Taller Wind Turbines

    Chris Clarke, Sept. 18, 2014 (KCET)

    “The U.S. Department of Energy…[will provide $2 million to] two groups working on ways to build [taller, more powerful] wind turbines …to harness winds at higher altitudes, which are often stronger and steadier than more turbulent winds closer to the ground…Onshore wind turbines installed in the U.S. in 2013 had an average hub height [where the blades attach] of 80 meters, or about 260 feet…[G]rant recipients Keystone Towers of Massachusetts and Iowa State University are working on separate technologies that could result in sturdy, relatively inexpensive wind turbine towers as tall as 120 meters, or about 400 feet…If a 120-meter tower is fitted with rotor blades that sweep an area 100 meters in diameter, those blade tips will reach 170 meters…[or 560 feet, where they can drive turbines with capacities as high as 7.5 megawatts, or even 10 megawatts [and weigh hundreds of tons]. The average capacity of onshore wind turbines built in the U.S. in 2013 was just under 2 megawatts… Keystone Towers is exploring a spiral welding technique that may allow on-site fabrication of tubular steel towers that are 40 percent lighter than those currently used,which would save on both materials and shipping costs. Iowa State is designing a modular hexagonal concrete and steel design that would allow shipping those tall towers to a project site in pieces, where they would be assembled like building blocks…” click here for more

    TEXAS CONSIDERS SPREADING GRID COSTS Generators push to get Texas regulators away from wind-cost investigation

    Christine Cordner, Sept. 16, 2014 (SNL)

    “Hoping to keep market improvements within the realm of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc., fossil fuel and renewable energy developers have joined together to ask the Public Utility Commission of Texas not to go down the road of assigning transmission-related costs to owners of wind and solar projects…[The PUCT] started showing interest in the topic on the back of the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission build-out earlier this year and continued massive growth in wind projects in the state…[Many called on the PUCT and ERCOT to not make changes but some] recommended that the PUCT direct ERCOT, when calculating production cost savings for a transmission project, to include increased costs related to the additional ancillary services needed as more wind is installed and large direct-current interties are built. These costs, however, should not be directly allocated to wind developers but rather consumers as the beneficiaries of a more stable grid…[and cautioned] about the legality of…[r]equiring certain generators to pay directly for the construction or enlargement of transmission…[Others] urged the PUCT to allow ERCOT to work on the issue, finding solutions such as possibly providing a new ancillary [ramping] service...[Wind and advocates] said wind power has considerably less negative effect on grid frequency than conventional generators and helps support frequency control…” click here for more

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Explains New Energy And Climate Change

    Some quick facts on New Energy and climate change from a future “where the air is clean, grass is green, and polar bears have plenty of ice…” From Simge Atay via YouTube

    This Changes Everything

    Individual decisions matter but bold government actions are needed. Getting them requires “a push from below.” From The National via YouTube

    The People’s Climate March Is Sunday

    Everybody’s talking about the climate but here’s a chance to DO something. From FelipeRadovitzky via YouTube

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    CHINA, INDIA, RUSSIA LEADERS TO SKIP UN CLIMATE SUMMIT

    U.N.’s Climate Change Push Gains DiCaprio, but Loses India, China and Russia

    Lucy Westcott, Sept. 17, 2014 (Newsweek)

    “Global turmoil and violence in Iraq and Syria will join climate change as key topics at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly…U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said…’Action on climate is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and money’…But the U.N. Climate Summit, set for September 23, is likely to be hampered by the failure of leaders from the U.N.’s three largest member nations—China, Russia and India—to attend. China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli will represent the country at the summit, as well as the September 24-30 General Debate, instead of President Xi Jinping…Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation…Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the General Assembly but is not expected to attend the Climate Summit…[India is] the world’s third highest carbon polluter, at 6.6 percent, behind China and the United States…Leonardo DiCaprio is the newest United Nations Messenger for Peace, with a special focus on climate change, and will be speaking at the opening of the Climate Summit [which] will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting deforestation and mobilizing financial support for action on the climate…Ahead of the Climate Summit, New York City will host the People’s Climate March on Sunday…” click here for more

    WORLD’S OFFSHORE WIND TO HIT 40 GW BY 2020

    Global Offshore Wind Market To Reach 40 GW By 2020

    Joshua S. Hill, Sept. 18, 2014 (Clean Technica)

    With offshore wind technology and installation techniques more affordable, the global market is expected to rise to nearly 40 GW by 2020. Offshore Wind Turbines and Foundations – Global Market Size, Market Share, Regulations and Key Country Analysis to 2020 forecasts the market to increase from 7.1 GW in 2013 to 39.9 GW in 2020, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28%. Growth from 2006’s 0.9 GW to 2013’s 7.1 GW came primarily in the UK, Germany, Denmark, and Belgium. The UK, Germany, and China should make offshore wind one of the biggest renewables markets in the world by 2020. click here for more

    SOLAR IS THE SOLUTION FOR SOUTH ASIA

    Can solar power save South Asia?

    Emily Cadei, Sept. 13, 2014 (Ozy via USA Today)

    “…[The nonprofit EcoEnergyFinance] is out in the villages of Pakistan's Sindh Province, going where no electricity line has gone before. It sells solar lanterns that charge themselves under the baking South Asian sun, and then provide eight to 16 hours of electricity. Solar could well help fill the subcontinent's gaping energy needs…South Asia's needs are crushingly obvious…[A]mid talk of South Asia's economic miracles, energy remains a mammoth Achilles' heel. South Asia's energy resources just can't keep up with its booming population and economy…The regular sunshine amounts to a huge underutilized resource, as solar technology improves and costs fall. Potentially it could cut India's and Pakistan's reliance on foreign coal, gas and oil...[and solar could bring electricity to the hundreds of millions of [offgrid] rural poor who lack access, in the same way that mobile phones allowed millions of people to leapfrog the expensive infrastructure of the landline…Big projects are still shackled by a lack of financing options and know-how necessary to attract big private investors and scale up solar energy use. But that's not stopping pioneers…” click here for more

    PARIS DIGS GEOTHERMAL

    France Bets on Geothermal Energy

    Sept. 17, 2014 (NY Times)

    “France is making a new push to develop geothermal energy…Hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas was banned in France in 2011, and the government of President François Hollande has pledged to reduce the country’s dependence on nuclear power from 75 percent of electricity produced to 50 percent by 2025…It thus makes sense to develop geothermal energy…Metropolitan Paris already has the world’s second-largest concentration of geothermal wells after Iceland, heating 170,000 homes, but geothermal development has lagged after an initial push in the 1980s. The minister of ecology, sustainable development and energy, Ségolène Royal, intends to change that. A bill aimed at unleashing private investment in renewable energy is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly next month…Renewable energy sources account for only 14.7 percent of France’s energy consumption today, and geothermal is a fraction of that…To show progress, a new 13-kilometer geothermal network is scheduled to provide heat and hot water to 10,000 additional homes in the greater Paris area by next year…” click here for more

    Thursday, September 18, 2014

    THE WORLD HAS 15 YEARS TO DO THE RIGHT THINGS

    This Is It: The Next 15 Years Will Seal the Fate of Earth's Climate

    Andrew Freedman, Sept. 16, 2014 (Mashable)

    “…[I]f infrastructure investments during the next 15 years follow the current path of high carbon dioxide emissions, the world will sail well past the threshold of what world leaders consider to be dangerous amounts of global warming…But [Better Growth, Better Climate; The New Climate Economy Synthesis Report] argues that it's possible to foster economic growth and tackle climate change at the same time, in nations both rich and poor…[The comprehensive economic analysis] finds that investments of $90 trillion will be needed over the next 15 years in energy systems, cities and land use…That translates to about $6 trillion per year. Investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon infrastructure will add only about $270 billion a year to this price tag, the report says, and without them, a business as usual path may prove to be a disaster…How the global community directs these funds — either toward sprawling, vehicle-intensive cities, or toward denser, more efficient urban areas — could make or break the global climate, the report finds…The commission calculates that if its recommendations are fully implemented, they could potentially achieve 50% to 90% of the emissions reductions scientists say are needed by 2030 to avoid dangerous climate change…” click here for more

    WIND MAKES THE GRID MORE RELIABLE

    Study of Eastern U.S. Shows Wind Energy Could Stabilize the Grid

    Robert Fares, Sept. 16, 2014 (Scientific American)

    “…[W]ind turbines might actually be a valuable tool for controlling and stabilizing the grid in the future…To understand the source of this counterintuitive result—and its implications…[Frequency regulation] is the process through which the grid operator maintains the frequency of the grid’s alternating current at a precise, predetermined level…To maintain this level of frequency, the grid operator must carefully ramp power plants up and down so that the total amount of electricity flowing into the grid is perfectly balanced with the total electricity being withdrawn by electricity customers…Concern about the effect of wind energy on the grid stems from the fact that wind turbines cannot produce power on demand, so intuitively it seems like adding too much wind energy might reduce the grid operator’s capability to keep the grid’s frequency balanced…[but Eastern Frequency Response Study from the National Renewable Energ Lab (NREL)] suggests otherwise…[T]he authors found that wind turbines could actually help stabilize the grid if they hold back just 5 percent of their power output using governor and inertial mechanical controls. By doing so, turbines unlock the ability to rapidly increase or decrease their power output by a small amount if called upon to do so by the grid operator…” click here for more

    SOLAR OIL DRILLING

    Strange bedfellows: Solar power meets oil drilling

    Javier E. David, 14 Sept. 2014 (CNBC)

    “…GlassPoint Solar last week landed a $53 million investment from Royal Dutch Shell and the sovereign investment fund of Oman for its enhanced oil recovery (EOR) technology. In a twist of irony, GlassPont's technology runs on solar power, which produces steam to help pump more fossil fuel from conventional crude plays...GlassPoint has been using this technique in Oman since 2012, and it helped the firm score more than double its initial funding. Given the age of its oil fields, Oman relies on EOR—a complex process that extracts more oil than traditional drilling—to boost production…Enhanced recovery is characterized by flooding wells with carbon dioxide, with major producers like Occidental Petroleum using the process more than 70 percent of the time. Natural gas is used to turn water into high pressure steam, which helps drillers access heavy oil…[T]he increasing use of EOR techniques [is] a hallmark of a world where the largest oil fields [are approaching depletion]…Companies spend at least $5 billion annually on the process…and the need for methods to expand the efficiency of wells is particularly acute in places like Oman and Russia where oil fields are getting long in the tooth…Using solar rather than carbon-burning technology makes the process easier on the environment, and conserves natural gas, experts say…” click here for more

    A SPORTS CAR THAT RUNS ON SALT-WATER

    Salt water-powered electric car approved for roads in Europe

    16 Sept. 2014 (dezeen Magazine)

    “…[A] company that claims to have developed the first electric car powered by salt water says the vehicle has now been approved for testing on public roads in Germany and the EU…Nanoflowcell, which designed the Quant e-Sportlimousine, has received official approval to test…from German industry certification organisation TÜV Süd…In development for 14 years, the four-seated car measures roughly 5.25 metres in length and sports what its creators say is an entirely new kind of energy storage system, also called Nanoflowcell. The company claims that the automobile is capable of speeds of 350 kilometres per hour and acceleration of 0-100 kilometres per hour in just 2.8 seconds, and can travel distances of 600 kilometres with a full tank of a petrol made from a salt water solution…An electrochemical reaction is created by combining two liquids with metallic salts acting as the electrolyte. These solutions are pumped through a fuel cell where an anode or cathode electrode is located, creating electricity that is then forwarded to super capacitors within the car…[O]ne litre of the salty liquid contains 400 times more energy than a typical lead-acid battery, and the prototype car carries two 200-litre tanks on board, the company states…” click here for more

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE GREEN TRANSITION – MONEY KEEPS COMING TO NEW ENERGY

    The Green Transition Scoreboard 2014 Mid-Year Update; Green Bonds Growing Green Infrastructure

    Hazel Henderson, September 1, 2014 (Ethical Markets)

    Adding Green Bonds to the Mix

    In this 10th anniversary year of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil), we review our five years of research in our Green Transition Scoreboard® (GTS). Since 2009, when we released our first totals of private green investments at $1.2 trillion since 2007, we drew attention to the huge opportunities for all countries meeting in Copenhagen at the Climate Summit. Instead of that deadlock between Tier 1 and Tier 2 countries, still constrained to arguing within the Kyoto Protocols, which only cover 12% of global CO2 emissions, our GTS illustrated the fact that all nations would need to shift away from fossil fuels toward low-carbon, more inclusive green economies. Progress outside formal agreements is evidenced by US president Obama’s new initiative on forging a sweeping international agreement to “name and shame” countries on climate change, without Congress.

    Today, our GTS model has proven predictive. By 2012, our $3.3 trillion total was presented at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil where 191 countries agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and accelerate their progress in this green transition. Our GTS focuses on market-based, private finance because new financial models are also needed to transition away from the distortions, mis-pricing and mal-investments and the influences of incumbent 19th and 20th century fossilized sectors. London-based Carbon Tracker Institute (CTI) estimates a $91 billion risk in 20 high-cost oil projects of major oil companies. As our GTS private investment totals continued at our projected US$1 trillion annually, governments and political leaders remained hamstrung by their legacy fossil fuel sectors. Leadership continued growing among NGOs and private investors. Pension funds and groups joined in, including CERES, Clean Trillion Investor Network and IGCC (Investor Group on Climate Change), UNEP-FI, UN Global Compact and PRI, as well as Social Investment Forums in the USA and UK.

    The growth of the sustainable sector investments GTS tracks shows a positive picture. Take the new explosion of investments in green bonds, the subject of this report. The total issued in Q2 of 2014 of $10 billion jumped by $1 billion over Q1 total, reports London-based Climate Bonds Initiative. Two recent reports summarize this new asset class: The Climate Bonds Initiative and HSBCs 2014 Bonds and Climate Change reports $503 billion now invested in bonds covering renewable energy, transport, waste and pollution control, water, buildings, industry, agriculture, forests and climate finance. Bloomberg’s Green Bonds Market Outlook details bonds at the international level (World Bank, European Investment Bank and Africa Development Bank); national and municipal levels; corporate “self-labeled” bonds; green asset-backed securities and project bonds for infrastructure. For example in the USA, $384 billion is required just to ensure safe drinking water over the next 20 years. Infrastructure investments over the next 20 years are estimated at $35 trillion – whether or not they are more sustainable depends on implementing new metrics and green bonds, as advocated by groups including Infrastructure-Basel. Lead underwriters are often insurance companies, pension funds and countries such as Sweden, with private banks, Citi, Bank of America ML, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Credit Agricole, Unicredit, DZBank and Rabobank leading the pack. Use of proceeds of these international bond issues is largely for renewable energy, efficiency, transmission lines, transport, water and climate change. The ICLEI white paper on Financing the Resilient City brilliantly inverts traditional “top down” approaches to climate mitigation and adaptation by reframing a more local demand driven approach to financing urban infrastructure systemically for long term resilience. The China Greentech Report 2014 calls for fundamental redesign of cities, transportation, efficiency, distributed renewable energy and production methods to shift toward a circular economy. The International Energy Agency’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2014 forecasts to 2020, and their Energy Technology Perspectives 2014 tracks similar trends toward green transitions globally.

    We predicted the scale-up of renewable energy as GTS totals mounted to our current $5.3 trillion and efficiency technologies began approaching grid parity. We reported how central electric utilities’ efforts have failed to counter their shrinking demand due to the inroads of solar photovoltaic and centralized power projects, wind generation and widespread efficiency gains. In Europe, utility stocks plummeted and in the US, their bond issues faltered due to misgivings of asset managers and the array of new instruments: ETFs, mutual funds, yieldcos, REITs, MLPs and even crowdfunding such as MOSAIC became more attractive than new investments in coal and nuclear power. New leasing models pioneered by SunEdison are now applying to energy efficiency, transport and agriculture as founder Jigar Shah details in his Creating Climate Wealth (2013). These leasing models which expanded the solar PV market are leading the new growth in ownership as well, tracked by ILSR. While cheap gas from the shale boom fills the gap, we warned of coming price hikes as constraints (opposition to fracking’s environmental damage, methane leaks, lack of pipelines) and rapid depletion of gas wells become evident in the 25,000 new wells dug annually in the Bakken, North Dakota. EPRI, the utility industry association, advises massive purchase of EVs to bolster sagging demand, as well as shifting to promoting solar by colonizing its customers’ roofs. While EV markets are exploding, we favor charging only with renewables. US utilities lobby extensively at federal, state and municipal levels to maintain their obsolete demand-expanding business models and CWIP (construction work in progress) billed to customers. Therefore, consumers, NGOs and ethical investors need to demand full disclosure of their lobbying activities and funding of political campaigns, while encouraging new thinking on integrated supply management and reframing energy storage as a new type of asset.

    The pioneering exposé of company carbon and water use by CDP and explosive reports of Carbon Tracker were released in 2012 and 2013 on massive over-investment in “proven” fossil reserves. As a result, the scale of “stranded assets” that needed writing down reached mainstream media and finance. The IMF’s 2014 report on externalities which should be internalized on company balance sheets illuminates the mispricing problem. The World Bank launched its carbon pricing statement: Putting a Price on Carbon in June 2014, now open for business and investor support. The fatal flaw in economic models I exposed in The Politics of the Solar Age is that it ignores the primary role of energy underlying their factors of production (land, labor and capital). This is further clarified by modeling “exergy” (energy actually applied to production, not wasted ), developed by economist and Ethical Markets advisor Dr. John “Skip” Laitner. Obsolete models persist, notably by economist Charles R. Frank, Jr., reported in The Economist (July 26, 2014) that solar and wind were more expensive than nuclear. Rebuttals by Amory Lovins of RMI and Prof. Michael Grubb of University College, London, appeared in The Economist (August 16, 2014). However, to soothe worried asset managers, rather than writing down stranded fossil fuels, I propose that their value can be modestly re-assessed as “in situ” reserves for future possible use as chemical feedstocks. The debate over the global energy transition rages on, with think tanks funded by the fossil fuel and nuclear industries still sowing doubt about climate change and claiming that low-carbon energy will hurt the poor. A recent effort to criticize solar thermal power plants as killers of birds was soon countered with facts on the1.4-3.7 billion birds killed annually by cats.

    Pioneer asset managers began offering fossil-free portfolios such as that managed by Shelton for the Sierra Club’s mutual fund, and others who attended our Finding Ethical Alpha conference, May 2014. Government agencies began taking note of these growing renewable energy and resource investments, guided by London-based Climate Bonds Initiative; US-based Green America, the American Sustainable Business Council; CERES and other groups.

    These initiatives were buttressed by all the broader accounting protocols of European-based GRI, IIRC, ICAEW, Tomorrow’s Company and those in the USA promoting ESG socially responsible and so-called “impact investing.” The SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), and founder Jean Rogers, emerged as a leader, recruiting Michael Bloomberg (now back with his company Bloomberg L.P.) and Mary Schapiro, former SEC chief as SASB’s Chair and Vice Chair. Ernst & Young’s 2014 survey Tomorrow’s Investment Rules of global institutional investors on non-financial performance added gravitas to IRRC’s six forms of capital: financial, social, intellectual, physical, human and environmental and other intangible and non-financial values material to investors. The survey found that US asset managers lagged far behind those in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia – indicating need for more Wall Street reforms!

    At last, financial models (based on 200 year old economic theories) are changing. Risk is being rethought, beyond financial risk to all the real-world risks humanity faces: climate change, desertification, fresh water shortages, pandemics, ocean acidification, declining fish stocks, social and ethical conflicts driven by globalization of IT, corporate expansion, energy and food speculation, depletion of global commons. All these require innovation in global governance, treaties and reforms of financial systems, now pursued by the UNEP-FI Inquiry into Design of Financial Systems for Sustainability, launched in mid-2014 in which I am a participant.

    The good news is that financial models are rapidly evolving – enriched by capturing new data. Just as asset-managers investing in oil, coal and minerals had to learn the basics of geology, today’s portfolios need managers to crank in ever more science beyond economics, as I describe in Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age. Today, beyond biomimicry and the promise of desert-greening covered in previous GTS reports, asset managers need to take into account real-time data from the 120 Earth-observing satellites now reporting on atmospheric and geophysical conditions worldwide, such as the new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite (OCO-2) which reports on how much CO2 is acidifying oceans, sequestered in land and biomass and still building up in Earth’s atmosphere. Are asset managers up for this re-tooling? We think so (see Ethical Markets’ forthcoming Green Money Directory). Retraining is offered by UN PRI’s Academic Network, OECD’s Green Growth Knowledge, Frankfurt School-UNEP Centre, offering courses for asset managers to widen their knowledge-bases and overcome their cognitive capture by defunct economic models.

    Although our GTS focus is still on private investments, many of these green bonds issued by governments for green infrastructure are underwritten by private sector insurance companies, banks and institutional investors. Thus in this GTS update, we highlight these green bonds worldwide and hope to apply our GTS criteria to help assess whether their proceeds actually will assist vital green infrastructure and genuinely sustainable technologies. We will track the emerging Climate Bonds Standard; Green Bond Principles and other third-party evaluations and add our own best judgments going forward.

    For further details, read on.

    Sector Data

    The Green Transition Scoreboard® tracks private investment in six sectors: Renewable Energy, Green Construction, Water, Energy Efficiency, Corporate R&D and Cleantech. Demonstrating the strength of the market in these and complimentary sectors, adding reports on green bonds signifies that this new asset class has broken into mainstream finance. For example, growth in assets managed by impact bond manager SNW Asset Management grew from $5 million to nearly $97 million in a 20 month period, starting January 2013. While any given bond may not raise the bar on the scoreboard significantly, most still being linked to government programs, each serves as an example of the demand for additional investment vehicles funding the green transition beyond the growth of securitization, ETFs and yieldcos in our last report.

    Focusing on the institutional level, we recommend investing at least 10% of institutional portfolios directly in companies driving the global Green Transition both as opportunity and as risk mitigation. The current shifting from fossilized sectors includes increasingly stranded assets as low-carbon regulations are implemented and oil and coal reserves become harder and more expensive to exploit. This transition strategy was recognized in the 2012 report by Mercer which suggests 40% of portfolios should be in Green Transition sectors. Today, it is adopted more widely, even in China and India.

    Companies, organizations and the sources of financial data included in the GTS are screened by rigorous social, environment and ethical standards as well as the latest auditing standards for sustainability, including SASB, ICAEW and others. Data is gathered from green and sustainability indexes, financial media, UN and other international studies, and the Climate Bonds Initiative.

    Government funded projects and initiatives are purposefully omitted. When government funding is part of a larger project, the research team removes, in as far as is transparent, the portion of investments from government funds. In sectors for which separating out government investments is a challenge, an appropriate amount of the capital expenditure is left out of the total.

    Our definition of 'green' is quite strict, omitting clearly unsustainable sectors as well as certain technologies having unsubstantiated claims, negative EROI or unexplored or untested consequences. For example, we omit coal carbon sequestration (CCS) due to its major government subsidies, huge costs, unproven technology and lower efficiency of energy production. Reporting on green bonds, each will need to be evaluated case by case with sector specific criteria and compared with evolving third party evaluators and standard setters.

    International investments are reported in US dollars, subject to fluctuating exchange rates. For the early quarters of 2014, currency changes dampened the report’s grand total, with the US dollar getting stronger against most global currencies (especially the Euro).

    Renewable Energy

    Investments in Renewable Energy include private technology development, equipment manufacturing, project finance and M&A activity. The sector is divided into current investments by year of funding and future commitments. This is the largest sector in this report increasing from $ 2.58 trillion in Q4 2013 to $2.66 trillion in Q2 2014. As a rule, Corporate R&D is omitted here and reported in Green R&D to avoid double-counting.

    Applying specific criteria to emerging green bonds helps not only identify “greenwashers” but also those bonds which are “unlabeled.” For example, Greenko, an Indian clean energy producer, issued a $550 million, 5 year, high-yield corporate bond to re-finance its portfolio of wind farms. The offering was 3x oversubscribed. Greenko did not label the offering as a “green” bond but the pure-play nature of the company qualifies it as such.

    Energy Efficiency

    Investments in Energy Efficiency include conservation efforts and initiatives and products focused on lowering energy needs or using less energy than a comparable product. Widely considered the lowest hanging fruit for investors, efficiency provides ROI in less than 2 years in most cases. Though definitions are in flux, energy efficiency broadly counts: heat, power, waste to energy; improvements in construction materials such as windows, insulation, lighting and other demand-side management (DSM) companies’ methods; hybrid vehicles and charging stations; select biomass and waste management, and smart grid. Investments in energy efficiency comes in at $1.3 trillion for Q2 2014.

    Just as sustainability metrics for green bonds differ sector by sector, financing tools vary as well. In the US, PACE (property assessed clean energy) is a financing tool which allows property owners to gain upfront financing for 100% of the costs of energy efficient retrofits. Local governments issue the municipal bond to investors and then use the proceeds to make loans to building owners for renewable energy or energy efficiency upgrades and installations. The loan is then repaid through a property tax assessment.

    Green Construction

    The term Green Construction continues to evolve from green construction investments broadly including new building construction and existing building retrofits to many reports now only counting LEED building. We calculate using the value of the green construction market, defined as construction built to LEED standards or that incorporate multiple green building elements. Since public-sector information is not recorded, the Q2 2014 total of $575 billion includes some government buildings.

    According to a July 2014 report from HSBC and the Climate Bonds Initiative, over $13.5 billion has been issued in “Buildings & Industry” green bonds. While this figure includes green property bonds and energy efficient appliance manufacturers, green product manufacturers and green building projects are also include with 16% of the total coming from the latter. The HSBC figures count municipal bonds separately, at only 8%, making the case for the importance of corporate green bonds. An easy baseline for green construction bonds is LEED certification at any level. One may have to dig deeper, however, as retrofits of buildings may garner significant improvement in pollution emissions, energy efficiency, water conservation while not being LEED compliant.

    Water

    Water is the single most important commodity for life on this planet, with Global Water Intelligence finding the global water market worth more than $500 billion annually. We include pipes, valves, filters, membranes, meters, and even biological systems. We omit anything involved with bottled water, privatization, large-scale hydroelectric dams, and chemicals used by dirty industries to clean up their mess, limiting our tally to investments by utilities in water and wastewater systems. Since so many utilities are owned and operated by various levels of government, a 60% discount has been applied. As we pointed out in earlier reports, virtually all these investments focus on the planet’s 3% of fresh water, while still ignoring the potential of food, fiber and biofuel production from seawater agriculture and aquaculture from the 97% of saltwater.

    As an example of sector specific green bond criteria, those specific to water used by asset managers such as HIP and SNW Asset Management include metrics such as management of health concerns, use of natural disinfection methods, recapture, managing bio-solids, diversity in management positions, transparency in metering and 3rd party certification.

    Green R&D

    The data collected for the GTS on Green R&D is the most comprehensive assessment of corporate green R&D available. Scouring press releases, sustainability reports, and financial statements, we have identified nearly 200 companies responsible for the green R&D tallied in this report. We believe $363 billion understates by half actual global Green R&D, considering how much is kept as corporate secrets, how much of international R&D does not reach mainstream media, and tens of thousands of middle-market and smaller companies with R&D budgets below our $1 million reporting threshold. Significant investments in green R&D show that a company has integrated sustainability into its core strategy, serving as a strong indicator for investors betting on increasing consumer demand for green products. This data helps identify innovative companies who are ahead of the curve in responding to heightening environmental risks and regulations.

    The Climate Bond Initiative has found development of green bonds lagging in the Corporate R&D sector.

    Cleantech

    Cleantech is a broad sector which includes companies in the following areas: agriculture; air quality and environment; energy efficiency, lighting, infrastructure and storage; materials; recycling and waste; transportation; and water/wastewater. This sector is divided into Venture Capital, Initial Public Offerings and Mergers & Acquisitions, avoiding overlap with the Green Construction and Energy Efficiency sections which only count revenues. Where VC, IPO and M&A investments are included in the Renewable Energy category, they are omitted here.

    Green Bonds are being seen in the cleantech world as a potential bonanza. Headlines such as Growth in Green Bond Market Set to Fuel Cleantech Revolution from Natural Capital News and Green Bonds are the New Black for Cleantech from CleanTechIQ predict a hopeful future as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Banking, JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Daiwa, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Mizuho Securities, Morgan Stanley, Rabobank and SEB agree to the Green Bond Principles, voluntary guidelines for issuing green bonds.

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 17: THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND; BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST; WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST

    THE NEWEST NUMBERS ON BIRDS AND WIND New Study Provides Most Comprehensive Analysis Ever of Bird Fatalities at Wind Energy Facilities; Cell Towers, Buildings, Other Threats Are Much Greater

    Sept. 15, 2014 (American Wind Wildlife Institute)

    “A comprehensive peer-reviewed study released today provides the most detailed analysis to date of the impact of bird fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America, and is the first to measure the relative impact of those fatalities on populations of small passerines, including songbirds [according to A Comprehensive Analysis of Small-passerine Fatalities from Collision with Wind Turbines at Wind Energy Facilities]…[O]f the more than 5 billion small passerines in North America, an estimated 134,000-230,000, or less than 0.01%, collide annually with wind turbines…[A]ll bird fatalities from wind turbines range from 214,000 to 368,000 annually--a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers, 1.4 to 3.7 billion fatalities from cats, and of the many other, much larger threats that birds face today…On September 8, a report by the National Audubon Society for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that climate change threatens the survival of more than half of all species of birds in North America…AWWI is working with its partners to sponsor additional studies, including on eagles and prairie birds…” click here for more

    BIG SOLAR COMES TO THE SOUTHEAST Duke Energy commits $500 million to N.C. solar power expansion

    John Downey, Sept. 15, 2014 (Triangle Business Journal)

    “…[Duke Energy]is making a $500 million commitment to a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina…The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities — totaling 128 megawatts of capacity — including the largest solar photovoltaic facility east of the Mississippi River…Duke also signed power-purchase agreements for five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 megawatts of capacity…Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 megawatts. The $500 million commitment includes the investment in the three facilities and the value of the five long-term power-purchase contracts…The company says the initiative will help further its commitment to renewable energy, diversify its energy portfolio and meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard…” click here for more

    WHERE THE EV CUTS EMISSIONS MOST Electric Vehicles Are Cleaner, but Still Not a Magic Bullet

    Paul Stenquist, Sept. 16, 2014 (NY Times)

    “…[In 60 percent of the United States, electric vehicles are now responsible for fewer heat-trapping global warming emissions per mile than even the most efficient hybrids [according to the Union of Concerned Scientists]…[In 2012,] in an area where electric power was generated using a high proportion of coal — as it is in much of the nation’s midsection — an electric vehicle was no cleaner than a high-m.p.g. gasoline-engine subcompact…[In the last two years,] some utilities have added clean renewable sources of electricity to their mix and, more important, electric vehicles have become more efficient…[T]he average battery- powered electric vehicle sold over the past year uses 0.325 kilowatt-hour per mile, a 5 percent improvement…That means an electric vehicle operating within the Midwest electric power grid, which blankets several states in whole or in part, is now as clean as a gasoline-engine car achieving 43 miles per gallon…An electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g…[I]n California the number is 95 m.p.g…Colorado, which relies heavily on coal, is once again at the bottom of the list, with an E.V. achieving the same emissions as a 34 m.p.g. gasoline-engine car…” click here for more

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: THE BENEFITS OF PUMPED HYDRO STORAGE CALCULATED

    Quantifying the Operational Benefits of Conventional and Advanced Pumped Storage Hydro on Reliability and Efficiency

    I. Krad, E. Ela, V. Koritarov, July 2014 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

    Abstract

    Pumped storage hydro (PSH) plants have significant potential in providing reliability and efficiency benefits in future electric power systems. New PSH technologies, like adjustable-speed PSH, have also been introduced and can present further benefits. An understanding of these benefits on systems with high penetrations of variable generation (VG) is a primary focus. This paper will demonstrate and quantify some of the reliability and efficiency benefits afforded by pumped storage hydro plants utilizing the Flexible Energy Scheduling Tool for Integrating Variable generation (FESTIV), an integrated power system operations tool which evaluates both reliability and production costs. A description about the FESTIV tool and how it simulates PSH operations at multiple timescales will be given. Impacts of PSH on area control error, production costs, and system operation are quantified on a high VG scenario in the Balancing Area of Northern California. We also perform a study on how advanced PSH can provide a fast form of regulation to improve reliability and potentially reduce costs.

    Introduction

    The benefits of energy storage systems are desirable and well documented. They can help reduce production costs by providing power during expensive peak periods, while purchasing the power and storing it during cheap off-peak periods. They can provide numerous types of active power control support including contingency reserve, primary frequency control, automatic generation control, and load following. It can also provide benefits for reducing capacity needs, congestion management, and voltage and reactive power support. The response time, synchronization time, and ability to provide energy as both a generator and a load give energy storage unique qualities for both improving reliability and reducing production costs. Currently, the most common form of utility-scale energy storage is pumped storage hydro (PSH).

    PSH first began gaining popularity in the 1970s in response to a sharp rise in natural gas and oil prices. In the USA, the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act was enacted which would limit the amount of oil and natural gas that can be consumed via new power plants [1]. The construction of new PSH plants was justified by comparing the net cost of a PSH plant and an equivalently sized fossil fuel plant [1-3]. This method disregarded the operational benefits that PSH can provide and failed to provide a level comparison. The financial justification of PSH was based on the potential for energy arbitrage. As a result, the allure of PSH has slowly diminished over the years due to falling oil and gas prices and improved thermal generator operating characteristics. However, by incentivizing and recognizing the other benefits afforded by PSH, namely their ability to aid in system reliability, there is potential for PSH to again return to the forefront of emerging grid technologies.

    There has been some research performed in an attempt to better model PSH plants. The authors of [4] developed a mixed integer linear programming (MIP) model of PSH that considers the operating characteristics of PSH such as ramp transition constraints and pumped-storage operating mode constraints. They also introduce a method to model the head effect through approximations to capture the relationship between power, volume of the water, and the flow of the water. The authors of [5] developed an aggregate hydro plant, mixed-integer model that considers minimum on and off times, unit availability constraints, start-up constraints, change of water flow limit constraints, water flow constraints, reservoir balance constraints, reservoir volume limits, and reservoir spill constraints.

    Conventional PSH units typically utilized synchronous machines to generate electricity. As a result, the generators’ speed is fixed at the corresponding synchronous frequency. Adjustable-speed PSH can utilize a doubly-fed induction machine (DFIM) rather than the synchronous generator. As a result, the speed of the generator can be varied and a power electronics converter can be used to control the output power [6].

    There has been considerable research performed in an attempt to demonstrate the value of PSH in facilitating the penetration of variable generation such as wind and solar. The authors of [7] indicate that new PSH plants could significantly improve grid reliability while reducing the need for new thermal generation in areas with high levels of wind and solar generators. The authors of [8] devise a co-optimized coordination of wind power and PSH. They develop a stochastic MIP-based solution method that minimizes expected operating costs and corrective action costs. Wind forecast uncertainties and component outages are treated as stochastic variables. The authors of [9] investigated the use of PSH in small, islanded systems with high wind penetration.

    Their study showed that PSH is particularly valuable in such scenarios due to their ability to provide primary frequency control. The authors of [10] develop an operating strategy of a hybrid wind-hydro system with the goal of ensuring wind generation output for 24 hours. The operational strategy is determined via a 24-hour stochastic, operational profit maximization optimization problem incorporating the operational constraints of the wind-hydro system. The authors conclude that by co-optimizing wind and PSH, operational profits can be increased anywhere from 12% to 22% depending on the deviation penalty level.

    Today’s electricity markets may not be designed in a way that would allow market regions to obtain all the benefits that energy storage owners can provide. Potential ways that ISOs and RTOs could extract more of the benefits and avoid limitations are described in [11]. For example, some entities argued in the past that in some wholesale electricity markets, some market participants may have faced undue discrimination in the way that frequency regulation was procured. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) acknowledged that previous compensation methods for frequency regulation did not recognize the performance benefit of faster-ramping and more accurate resources. In order to correct this, FERC Order 755 requires all system and transmission operators to pay resources based on their actual performance, including a capacity payment that covers opportunity costs and a performance payment that reflects the generator’s ability to follow the control signal [12].

    Traditionally, resources were sent a smoothed, low frequency control signal for frequency control, but now it may be beneficial to allow certain generators that have the ability to follow the unfiltered or high-frequency control signal.

    Power systems will become more susceptible to variability and uncertainty as the amount of VG installed increases. Variability can be seen as the expected changes in system variables while uncertainty is the unexpected changes in system variables [13]. Variability and uncertainty occurs at multiple timescales and it is important to understand these characteristics vary at different timescales. As more and more VG is installed, net load forecasting can become less accurate and system ramping events can become more prevalent. As a result, systems must adapt and become more flexible in order to maintain reliability at least cost. Due to their fast ramping and response time, PSH can be a useful tool in mitigating these problems.

    The rest of this paper is organized as follows: section II introduces the model used, section III describes the test system and assumptions used, section IV describes the results of the simulations, and section V concludes the paper…

    Simulation

    Utilizing the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Western Wind and Solar Integration Study data set, a test system based on the Balancing Area of Northern California (BANC) was developed. This system was deemed large enough to produce meaningful results and included significant variable generation penetration so as to adequately capture the benefits PSH can provide. The test system was then simulated for two individual weeks. One week was chosen due to its being the system peak period in July. The second week was chosen as a high variable generation output period in April. A brief system overview is provided in Table I.

    The day-ahead unit commitment problem was solved every 24 hours for the next 24 hours with hourly time steps.

    The real time unit commitment was solved every 15 minutes for the next three hours with 15 minute time steps. The real-time economic dispatch was solved every five minutes for the next 60 minutes with five minute time steps. The automatic generation control was solved every four second interval.

    In order to simulate the advanced, adjustable-speed pumped storage hydro plants, the operating characteristics shown in table II were used. The main difference of adjustable-speed and conventional PSH is that the minimum pumping output of conventional PSH is equal to its maximum pumping output of 133 MW. As a result, the adjustable-speed PSH is able to regulate its active power output while pumping while the conventional PSH cannot.

    The reserve schedules were determined based on the methodology employed in phase 2 of the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study. The requirements take into account the needs that wind and solar forecast uncertainty have on reserve requirements. Wind generators are assumed to have short term persistence forecasts and solar generators are assumed to use a cloudy, persistence forecast (i.e., assumes the current cloudiness will remain but the daily ramp up and down are factored in). These requirements are then added to the base requirements to obtain the total system reserve requirements.

    The types of reserves considered are spinning, non-spinning, regulation up, regulation down, and flexibility reserves. An in depth discussion on these reserves can be found in [13].

    The spin and non-spin reserves were taken as 3% of the system load. The regulation reserves were taken as the geometric sum of 1% of load and the additional requirements due to the additional wind and solar generators. The flexibility reserves were taken as the geometric sum of the solar and wind hour-ahead forecast errors covering 70% of the distribution. More details on the methodology used to determine these reserves can be found in [19]. The flexibility reserves were held in the unit commitment problems and dispatched in the economic dispatch problem. This is because the flexibility reserves were viewed as products deployed across dispatch intervals to assist the system operator.

    Three different scenarios were simulated. Scenario one is the base case scenario that does not include any pumped storage hydro plants. Scenario two includes a conventional, single-speed pumped storage hydro plant consisting of three units. Scenario three includes an advanced, adjustable-speed pumped storage hydro plant consisting of three units…

    Conclusion

    This paper explored these benefits of PSH and quantified the total production cost savings and reliability impacts on CPS2 violations, AACEE, and the standard deviation of the ACE. PSH plants can provide both production cost savings and reliability improvements for systems with significant VG. They provide much more than just energy arbitrage, including numerous ancillary services and, especially adjustable-speed PSH, system reliablitiy improvements. PSH was able to reduce total production costs in all scenarios when compared to the system without PSH. The adjustable-speed PSH was able to improve reliability, especially during high load periods. Both types of PSH were able to reduce the number of CPS2 violations. In a system without VG, the PSH were able to provide more production cost savings rather than reliablity improvements. Adjustable-speed PSH was able to signficantly improve reliablity metrics by following the unfiltered ACE control signal. Further research should be pursued to better model conventional and advanced PSH, and how best to extract and quantify their potential benefits.

    QUICK NEWS, Sept. 16: THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE; A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES; ADVANCES IN WATER POWER

    THE ENERGY TRANSITION TAKES SHAPE Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

    Justin Gillis, Sept. 13, 2014 (NY Times)

    "...Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level…It is more than twice the percentage in the United States…[It] is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible…Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset…A reckoning is at hand…The word the Germans use for their plan is…energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model…But it is becoming clear that the transformation, if plausible, will be wrenching. Some experts say the electricity business is entering a period of turmoil beyond anything in its 130-year history, a disruption potentially as great as those that have remade the airlines, the music industry and the telephone business…” click here for more

    A LABOR-ENVIRO CALL FOR NEW ENERGY, NEW WIRES Labor, Environmental Leaders Back Wind Energy Transmission Line

    Sept. 15, 2014 (Public News Service)

    “…[T]he winds of change are blowing in Missouri, as more people speak out in favor of a plan to build a high-voltage wind energy transmission line through the state [including the Sierra Club, which] says the line, which would transfer 3,500 megawatts of power from wind farms in Kansas, would help the state move away from its reliance on coal [and meet the mandate] that the state's utilities generate at least 15 percent renewable energy by 2021…The Public Service Commission is accepting comments on the plan, and is expected to make a final decision toward the end of December. Gerald Nickelson, president of the IUE-CWA Local 86114… says in recent years, more and more contracts have come from wind farms, and he believes the transmission line would be a major economic boon for the state...The project, known as the Grain Belt Express, is one of five long-haul transmission lines planned across the country by Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners. Construction is expected to begin in 2016.” click here for more

    ADVANCES IN WATER POWER Wave Energy Research Progressing

    Joanna Schroeder, Sept. 11, 2014 (Domestic Fuel)

    “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the funding of up to $4 million for continued wave energy technological research and monitoring efforts. Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) faculty will also share in another $3.25 million grant to improve ‘water power’ technologies that convert the energy of waves, tides, rivers and ocean currents into electricity…The new funding will allow NNMREC to develop an improved system for real-time wave forecasting; create robotic devices to support operations and maintenance; design arrays that improve the performance of marine energy conversion devices; improve subsea power transmission systems; and standardize approaches for wildlife monitoring. Federal officials said the overall goal is to reduce the technical, economic and environmental barriers to deployment of new marine energy conversion devices...Significant progress has been made in how to process, permit and monitor wave energy technology as it emerges from the laboratory to ocean test sites, and ultimately to commercial use. Wave energy’s sustainable generating potential equates to about 10 percent of global energy needs.” click here for more

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