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February 11 2014

20:17

EPA Leader McCarthy Talks Good Jobs, Green Jobs at D.C. Conference

Global warming, job creation and the growing divide in incomes and wealth – three controversial, divisive issues that have come to take center stage in U.S politics and society since the dawn of the new millennium. Though his efforts have wholly pleased neither left nor right, Democrat or Republican, oil industry executive or environmentalist, President Obama and his administration have sought to address all three, and in an integrated manner, to a greater degree than any of his predecessors.

Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference highlights the benefits of the green economyHeard, read about and seen in various guises – sustainable development, the green economy or low-carbon society – the President has been assembling the elements of a new self-organizing paradigm for the U.S. economy and society in the 21st century, one that recognizes that while economic development and growth are vital to the health and well-being of society, so is a fair, equitable and inclusive distribution of income and wealth, and so are clean air, clean waters, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

Taking this green economy platform out to the public, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is one of a host of prominent Americans speaking today and tomorrow at the eighth Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C.

Environment, economy, ethics

In the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference’s first plenary session, a panel that included United Steelworkers International president Leo W. Gerard, BlueGreen Alliance Foundation President David Foster, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar discussed U.S. infrastructure needs.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was the featured speaker in an afternoon panel session that also included Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Ms. McCarthy opened with a strong statement of values and environmental ethics:

“Whether it’s the teachers union or the steelworkers, the moral of the story is the same, our work and our family values have little value without fair protections that keep us all safe and healthy. At the end of the day, what is economic productivity worth if our water is too dirty to drink and our air is too dirty to breathe?”

The terrible, and rising, costs of climate change inaction

Times they are a’changing, the EPA Administrator continued, highlighting the emergence of a new, clean energy economy and the growing costs and threats posed by climate change. “Climate impacts are not only hurting our people and our planet, they are a threat to our economy.”

By how much exactly?  Emergency and disaster relief cost the U.S. government and taxpayer $110 billion in 2012, the second highest price tag in American history, “all off budget,” Ms. McCarthy highlighted.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka earlier this month talked about the already high and terrible costs of climate change inaction, Ms. McCarthy noted. Repeating Trumka for emphasis, “The nation that goes all in on innovation today will own the global energy [of] tomorrow,” she stated.

“That’s what this president, President Obama, said in his State of the Union. President Trumka, President Obama know what they’re talking about. They agree on these issues. That’s why we need to work together to explore creative approaches to meet our energy demands.

Making lemonade

“That’s why President Obama reiterated his commitment to climate action in the State of the Union. And we need to take action without sacrificing the health protections, without sacrificing jobs in our communities, and without sacrificing a reliable, affordable energy system. And we need to do it with every sensitivity to the workers who have brought energy to American families for decades.

“It’s not just about jobs, it is about fairness, it is about communities, communities where those workers live, and we need to be sensitive to those issues as we struggle to find the right solutions moving forward.”

Strong words. Good words. Positive words, delivered with what sure looks like hones belief and genuine commitment. Tune in and listen to Ms. McCarthy’s entire speech

*Image credit: Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

The post EPA Leader McCarthy Talks Good Jobs, Green Jobs at D.C. Conference appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 07 2014

00:47

Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction

Record growth in wind energy construction after an uncertain 2013

For American wind power, 2013 was the best of times, and the worst of times. On one hand, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reports that 1.084 gigawatts (GW) of wind power came online in 2013, down fully 92 percent from the 13.131 GW of new capacity brought online in 2012.

Despite yet another expiration of the Production Tax Credit in Congress, there are a record number of wind energy projects under construtionNot surprisingly, we can thank Congress for the precipitous drop in new wind capacity last year due to uncertainty and delay in dealing with the Production Tax Credit (PTC). We can all recall fondly the looming threat of the “fiscal cliff” that ushered in the start of 2013. The PTC was allowed to expire on December 31st 2012, extended the next day and signed back into law on January 2nd. By then the damage had been done for 2013. According to the AWEA when the PTC is allowed to expire the wind energy industry typically experiences a 70 percent to 95 percent drop-off in new installations. 2013 bore out this historical trend.

Originally enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Congress has extended the PTC five times and allowed it to expire 5 time, the last time on December 31, 2013. Given the “off” status of Congress’ on-again, off-again approach to energy governance, you may think things don’t look well for 2014 for wind energy growth. Fortunately, part of the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, enacted in January 2013, allows eligible wind projects under construction before January 1st 2014 to qualify for the PTC.

Now the good news.

In it’s fourth quarter 2013 report, AWEA reports a record 12,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity under construction at the end of 2013. Of that, 10,900 MW started construction in the forth quarter. AWEA also reports at least 60 Power Purchase Agreements for nearly 8000 MW were established between utilities and corporate buyers.

Congress and the PTC –  why bad governance must end

Even with a record number of new projects under construction, Congress needs to stop it’s short-sighted policy for the PTC. Not only does it adversely impact renewable energy development, it hampers overall economic growth. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, wind capacity more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, representing an average annual investment of $18 billion. There are now more than 550 manufacturing plants in 44 states producing 72 percent of all wind turbines and components in the United States. That’s a 25 percent increase since 2006. Furthermore, the cost of generating electricity from wind power has fallen by more than 40 percent in just the past three years.

Now it’s time for Congress to act responsibly on behalf of all Americans and offer long term support of the future of America and the new energy economy.

“Our current growth demonstrates how powerful the tax credit is at incentivizing investment in wind energy,” says AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan. “Now it’s up to Congress to ensure that growth continues by extending this highly successful policy.”

Let your Senators know you want action to support U.S. wind energy growth!

Image credit: ClarkMaxwell, courtesy flickr

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February 04 2014

19:06

Big Returns for Utility Customers Using New Power Efficiency-Battery Storage Platform

Commercial and utility-scale battery storage and systems providers are getting a boost from state government initiatives in California, and, if a new proposal passes legislative muster, in New York. Integrated as part of intelligent demand response/reduction systems, and you may have the missing link that could drive the decarbonization, and decentralization, of US power infrastructure to new heights.

A new breed of smart grid, demand response and energy management systems is emerging in the US, spurred on by, and in turn spurring, fundamental change in the way electricity is produced, distributed, used and priced in US markets. Thanks in large part to financing provided by the Department of Energy via President Obama’s 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Santa Clara’s Green Charge Networks (GCN) is emerging from the margins into the commercial mainstream.

Already boosting power, as opposed to energy, efficiency and smoothing out load profiles among commercial customers including 7-Eleven, Avis and Walgreens, management anticipates demand for its flagship GreenStation intelligent demand reduction system scaling up another notch thanks to new state government grid and battery storage mandates and energy efficiency incentives.

GreenStation power efficiency dashboardA new energy infrastructure emerges

Coupled with a diversified mix of local renewable energy resources and electric vehicles (EVs), smart grid and intelligent demand response systems, a new, clean energy infrastructure is taking shape in the US, one that not only would be the most effective means of mitigating and adapting to a changing climate, but also enhancing the performance and resiliency of US grid infrastructure and providing a green economic boost that would generate good green jobs and boost local and the national economy.

Smart grid and intelligent demand response/reduction systems are an integral part of this emerging new energy infrastructure, and Green Charge Networks (GCN) looks to be very well situated to capitalize on this fundamental shift at the base of the US economy and society.

Formed in 2009 in the wake of the housing crisis and financial industry debacle with a $12 million Department of Energy (DOE) grant that came courtesy of the 2009 ARRA, GCN subsequently landed a partnership role in a $93 million DOE Smart Grid Demonstration Program project.

As a result, GCN, working in collaboration with New York City and Westchester County utility Con Edison, was able to develop its flagship products: the GreenStation intelligent demand reduction system and GCN GridSynergy smart grid energy management system for utilities.

Marking a first in the US, 7-Eleven had a pilot GreenStation system installed in New York in July 2011. GreenStation’s ability to reduce peak power demand, boost power efficiency and deliver savings month after month has since been driving GCN’s transition from bleeding to leading edge, and from pilot stage to commercial scale.

GCN today announced that it had reached a milestone, having signed 1 megawatt (MW) worth of 10-year Power Effiency Agreements (PEA) with customers including 7-Eleven, Avis, Walgreens. The start-up’s client roster is expanding rapidly to include municipalities and universities, as well as other commercial businesses across California as well as New York, GCN founder and CEO Vic Shao stated in an interview.

A Bayesian decision making process

Lying at GreenStation’s core are proprietary, patent-pending software algorithms and service-delivery features, the former Shao likened to stock trading algorithms. Monitoring a client site’s power usage in real-time, GreenStation’s predictive analytics are then able to make forecasts that optimize power efficiency, smooth out load profiles and reduce electricity bills.

The other key aspect of GreenStation is energy storage side. In addition to the client’s electrical system, GreenStation is linked to the latest in Li-ion battery storage packs. Supplied by SAFT, these battery packs discharge and recharge on a second-by-second basis based on instructions from GreenStation’s controller.

“Building loads change minute to minute. We employ stochastic decision-making based on imperfect information to charge or discharge the battery pack on a second-by-second basis to even out demand and flatten out the load profile,” Shao elaborated.

By accumulating and analyzing an increasingly large amount of real-time data on clients’ energy usage and other real-world operating conditions, GCN has been able to realize drastic improvements on the ability of its system to predict power usage and minimize peak power demand charges. GreenStation’s primary cost driver, GCN has been able to reduce the battery storage capacity required installations by one-third.

Reducing peak power demand charges, and costs

The peak demand rates utilities charge large, non-residential customers are based on power – and charged by the kilowatt (kW), as opposed to energy usage, which is based on kilowatt-hours (kWh). The latter have been falling, while the former have been rising at 7-10 percent a year. Hence, commercial, industrial and other non-residential utility customers are seeing peak demand charges growing to account for larger shares of their electricity bills, as high as 70 percent, Shao related.

That makes GreenStation’s ability to boost power efficiency and reduce peak power usage increasingly valuable. Utility peak demand charges during California summers are around $37/kW, Shao continued. “New York, it so happens, has the highest demand charges in the US, at $43/kW in peak summer.”

As a result, GCN and its customers are finding that the capital outlays for GreenStations are attractive even without federal and state subsidies. Electricity bill savings realized by customers in Con Ed territory in New York pay back their GreenStation investments in as little as 1.5 – 2.5 years. The story is similar in California.

Ninety percent of the proposals GCN is sending out to prospective customers in the Golden State have ROIs, or payback periods, of 5 years or less. The average is in the 3.5- 4 year range. “The returns are absolutely incredible when you factor in all these rebates and tax credits and so forth. Some really super attractive situations have ROIs in the 1.5-2.5 yr range, about 25 percent of our deal flow,” Shao stated.

Image Credit: Green Charge Networks

The post Big Returns for Utility Customers Using New Power Efficiency-Battery Storage Platform appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 03 2014

16:20

17 Foundations Divest from Fossil Fuels

Seventeen U.S. nonprofit grantmaking charities have announced they are divesting from fossil fuel investments.  For those new to this world, foundations are typically funded by endowments created by a benefactor or family legacy.  These funds are invested, usually in a combination of mutual funds, stocks, hedge funds and bonds.  The foundations distribute a portion of the profits as grants and use the rest to pay for operations and reinvestment into the endowment.

17 foundations are divesting their holdings away from dirty energy companies. Will the fossil fuel divestment movement grow to have real impact in our energy economy?As even the most novice investor would tell you, there are many different strategies for investing.  However, there is a growing belief that we can do good with our money by choosing investments wisely.  By investing in companies that are doing good, we are furthering our own values; be they social, environmental or community-driven.  By selling our shares in companies we perceive to be harming things we believe in, we can have a different kind of impact.  The latter strategy is called “negative screening” and the former “positive screening”.

Negative screening has been in the news a lot lately, in the form of prominent investors “divesting” in particular companies or funds.  350.org, perhaps the most notable grassroots organization fighting against climate change, has led the charge against institutional investments in fossil fuels and other environmentally harmful industries.

Named for the maximum safe concentration of carbon in the atmosphere (350 parts-per-million), 350.org has organized over 500,000 people globally in the fight against global warming.  Their latest win is successfully convincing 17 major foundations it was worth shedding their investments in dirty companies.  350.org and their partner gofossilfree.org maintain a list of the top 200 companies that deal in dirty fossil fuels.

So what’s the big deal if 17 of the thousands of foundations choose to shift their money?  Collectively they manage $1.8 billion in assets.  Not much next to Warren Buffet.  But quite a hefty amount of money nonetheless.

There is a strong argument from traditional investment advisors that divesting in a particular company has very little (if any) impact on that company’s behavior unless it is a magnitude of dollars very few people control.  This may be true.  But at this point, we are early in the institutional divestment movement and every action sends a message.

Recent efforts to convince the largest institutional investors such as Harvard and Yale to divest in fossil fuels have failed.  But the popular opinion is quickly shifting about these dirty fuel sources.  Some major donors to university endowments have actually started placing restrictions on their funds, limiting them to clean and/or renewable energy investments only.  Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

Image credit: Seven Days VT

The post 17 Foundations Divest from Fossil Fuels appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 29 2014

00:13

IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance

The dollar amount of venture capital (VC) investments in the solar power sector dropped sharply in 2013, but public market financings, large-scale project funding and mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) activity jumped sharply higher, indicative of mainstream investors’ increasing level of confidence and a shift in government policies and incentives in key markets around the world, according to Mercom Capital Group’s Solar Funding and M&A 2013 Fourth Quarter and Annual Report.

Solar finance shifts toward mainstream acceptance in 2013Investors’ growing interest in downstream solar (integrators, developers, leasing and installation companies) was apparent in the U.S. market. Downstream solar investments accounted for 45 percent of total VC solar funding last year, garnering a total of $262 million spread across 34 deals, up from $269 million over 26 deals in 2012.

Another 3.34 billion was invested in 22 U.S. solar residential and commercial lease funds, 69 percent more than was raised in 2012 when $269 million was raised via 26 deals. Vivint Solar, SolarCity and Sunrun each raised well over $600 million in capital, with Vivint raising some $740 million from an undisclosed group of investors. Nearly $1 billion was raised in 4Q alone, Mercom’s report authors noted.

2013 in solar energy finance

Breaking VC solar investments down further, $104 million was invested in concentrating solar power (CSP) companies across 17 deals. That compares with $146 million in 15 deals in 2012, a 25 percent decline in dollar-amount invested. A total $104 million in 17 deals was raised by PV companies as compared to $114 million in 17 deals in 2012, an 8.77 percent decline. Investment in thin-film companies dropped the most (77 percent), totaling $72 million last year as compared to $314 million in 2012.

Also highlighting activity in solar energy in 2013, more than $1 billion was raised in seven solar IPOs. In all, public market solar equity financings totaled $2.8 billion spread across 39 deals. That’s more than triple 2012′s total, which came in at $893 million across 23 deals, and $1 billion in 13 deals in 2011.

Solar debt financings totaled $6.2 billion in 38 deals as compared to $6.9 billion in 34 deals in 2012 and $20 billion in 41 deals in 2011. China Development Bank was the single largest provider of solar debt financing, extending credit to five Chinese solar companies, some of the largest of which have been fighting to avoid insolvency and bankruptcy.

9 gigawatts of large-scale solar in development

Credit: Mercom Capital Group
Funding for large-scale solar projects also surged higher, with Mercom tracking 9 gigawatts (GW) of new large-scale project announcements in various stages of development as of 4Q. Some $13.6 billion in 152 deals worth of large-scale solar projects were financed in 2013, a jump of over 56 percent from $8.7 billion in 84 deals in 2012. Activity in 4Q, at $6 billion in 46 deals, was the highest since 2010.

The U.S., far and away, continues to be the predominant market for solar VC funding. U.S. VCs accounted for $432 million of a total $600 million (72 percent) in VC solar funding in 2013 and 68 of 97 transactions (70 percent).

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Mercom recorded 97 VC investments totaling some $600 million in the solar sector in 2013, around 40% less than 2012′s total of $992 million. The deal count dropped just 8 percent year over year, with an average size of $6.2 million, down from $9.6 million in 2012. Average deal size has been falling steadily since peaking in 2010 and 2011, according to Mercom.

Solar M&A activity was nearly 90% higher year over year in 2013, totaling $12.7 billion across 81 transactions, according to Mercom, up from $6.7 billion in 51 transactions in 2012. Deal activity jumped 60%.

On the downside, 28 solar companies field for insolvency or bankruptcy in 2012, with PV manufacturers being the most numerous at 18. Overall solar insolvency and bankruptcy filings were down 12 percent from a peak in 2012.

Image credit: Seth Anderson, courtesy flickr

The post IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 27 2014

20:03

Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013

New electrical generating capacity in 2013

According to the just-released Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Office of Energy Projects, 37 percent of all new U.S. electrical generation deployed in 2013 came from renewable sources.

New electrical capacity provides clean power and jobs for AmericansEnergy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind provided 5,279 megawatts (MW) of new installed electrical capacity in 2013, contrasting with coal, which ramped up only 1,543 MW, or just under 11 percent of total new generation. Oil produced 38 MW of new capacity or just 0.27 percent. Nuclear had no new capacity come online in 2013. Renewable sources of energy coming online in 2013 were three times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined.

Not surprisingly, natural gas provided most new electrical capacity, putting online 7,270 MW in 2013, or a bit more than 51 percent. The balance of new electrical capacity came from waste heat, providing  76 MW or 0.53 percent.

Solar leads renewables

Solar power led the pack among renewables, bringing online 266 new generating “units” for 2,936 MW of capacity. Wind followed with  1,129 MW of new generating capacity from 18 units. Behind solar and wind came 97 new biomass units generating 77 MW, hydro with 378 MW from 19 unites and geothermal with 4 new units producing 59 MW of new electrical generation.

New solar capacity last year grew 42.80 percent over the same period in 2012. In the two-year period from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013 renewable sources of energy provided 47.38 percent of new  of electrical generating capacity, for a total of 20,809 MW placed into service.

Renewable energy totals for U.S. electrical generation

As a whole, renewable energy sources account for 15.97 percent of total generating capacity* in the United States. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Hydro: 8.44 percent
  • Wind: 5.2 percent
  • Biomass: 1.36 percent
  • Solar: 0.64 percent
  • Geothermal: 0.33 percent

The total from renewable sources is now greater the nuclear and oil combined.

Renewable energy continues to expand in the US, providing more clean energy and jobs – a win-win for the environment and the economy

——————–

* Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals about 13 percent according to the most recent data (i.e., as of November 2013) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Thanks to the SUN DAY Campaign:  a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

Image credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory, courtesy flickr

 

The post Renewables Account for 37 Percent of All New Electrical Generating Capacity in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 17 2014

01:29

U.S. Energy Efficiency Forecasts for 2014

Efficiency will have an even greater impact on both residential and industrial energy consumption this year compared to 2013. This is driven by policy at the federal, state and municipal levels. Net-positive energy buildings is another trend expected to grow in 2014. Other specific initiatives that will define energy efficiency in 2014 relate to financing, data usage, operational savings, and equipment integration.

According to forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2014, U.S. residential energy use is expected to decline. Even though energy is increasingly being used more efficiently by industry, industrial electricity use is expected to expand along with the economy. The EIA report indicates that improvements in appliance and lighting energy efficiency will continue to slow the growth of residential electricity consumption. The aver

U.S. energy efficiency forecasts for 2014  indicate increased conservation in both commercial and residential markets

age household’s energy use is expected to decline 1.1 percent this year and another 0.4 percent in 2015. However, the improving economic picture will increase electricity use by the U.S. industrial sector, which is forecast to consume 2.2 percent more electricity this year and 2.5 percent more in 2015.

A Rhodium Group and United Technologies report, entitled “Unlocking American Efficiency: The Economic and Commercial Power of Investing in Energy Efficient Buildings,” indicates that the U.S. government and utility sponsored programs have only a five percent penetration rate. An increase in energy efficiency can be expected in 2014 as wider adoption of these programs positively impacts the efficiency finance equation.

As reviewed in Energy Manager Today, federal energy efficiency initiatives in 2014 include final equipment standards for a variety of products such as electric motors, commercial refrigeration equipment, and residential furnace fans. Together, the DOE and HUD are expected to release housing initiatives that include new energy standards for manufactured homes. New energy efficiency requirements for federally-backed mortgages are also anticipated. This may also include modifications to mortgage underwriting criteria, which would factor a home’s energy efficiency. We may even see bipartisan energy efficiency legislation in 2014.

States like Oklahoma are expected to create new energy efficiency policies and California is expected to launch equipment efficiency standards, while both Maryland and New York will likely release energy savings targets.

At the municipal level, cities are also pursuing additional energy efficiency initiatives. An update to the Los Angeles building code is a notable highlight. As of the beginning of 2014, all new or refurbished buildings must be equipped with “cool roofs” (a cool roof is built of reflective rather than absorptive material). Compared to traditional roofs, these roofs can be as much as 50 degrees cooler on the roof surface, and can lower interior building temperatures by several degrees. Los Angeles is the first major American city to pass a cool-roof ordinance.

Green builder Hammer & Hand predicts that the popularity of net-zero energy buildings will begin to be replaced by net-positive energy buildings in 2014 and beyond. They attribute this trend to low cost solar panels, more electric vehicles and market mechanisms that reward onsite energy production. They also believe that we will see a policy shift in building energy codes, which will move away from prescriptive codes towards performance-based measures.

Hammer & Hand also forecast big things for CO2 heat pumps, US-made high performance windows, and ventilation system quality in 2014. They anticipate that the U.S. led move to make Passive House (a standard for energy efficiency in a building) more climate-specific will improve performance at both micro and macro levels. Finally, building energy efficiency initiatives in both Europe and China will help to drive the U.S. market.

According to a Greentech Media (GTM) interview with energy efficiency executives, in 2014 we can expect to see the growth of PACE financing, better data usage, operational savings, and new approaches to equipment integration. Here are the details of their thoughts on the biggest energy efficiency trends for 2014.

Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls sees growing momentum in commercial property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing. A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation in support of commercial PACE programs. Nesler also cited Johnson Controls’ 2013 global survey, which found that executives with energy efficiency goals were 2.7 times more likely to increase energy efficiency investments in 2014 than organizations without such goals.

Mark Housely of Vigilent sees intelligent analytics as the salient focus for energy efficiency in 2014. As Housely explained, “Sensors have become both inexpensive and ubiquitous, efficiently providing great data in significant volumes. When combined with intelligent analytics, this data will provide unprecedented insight into data center energy use and operating behavior, enabling entirely new and likely unexpected ways of gaining efficiency and uptime safety.”

Bennett Fisher of Retroficiency shares Housely’s view and believes large-scale analytics deployments in commercial buildings will be the biggest energy efficiency trend of 2014. “In 2014, analytics will be applied to entire cities and states to transform efficiency forever,” Fisher said.

Swapnil Shah of FirstFuel says that with advances in education and awareness, energy efficiency will move beyond retrofits and towards operational savings. He points to low and no-cost operational savings which represent half the savings of commercial buildings. “Their adoption could spark a legion of energy-efficiency advocates in commercial buildings across the U.S.” said Shah.

Chuck McKinney of Aircuity says that the next big trend in 2014 will be “airside energy efficiency.” This trend will encompass several different strategies including improved economizer utilization, natural ventilation, and demand control ventilation. He points to the increasing availability of utility incentive programs for ventilation optimization. “[W]e expect demand control ventilation for airside efficiency to become one of the next standard offerings that utilities begin to drive as the next big category of energy efficiency measures,” McKinney said.

Paul Baier of Groom Energy indicated that LEDs will be the major trend of 2014. Two of the factors helping to drive widespread adoption are lighting controls, and increased adoption of enterprise energy management software.

The GTM article also asked energy efficiency executives what they thought were the most serious hurdles for efficiency in 2014. Their replies included ongoing financing barriers, education and accountability, and data applications.

Many of the hurdles are the flip side of the forces that are driving the growth of energy efficiency. A good illustration is Bennett Fisher who on the one hand believes that “analytics will… transform efficiency forever,” while at the same time he says that proper use of building data for analytics purposes will be a hurdle for efficiency in 2014.

Clay Nesler said the lack of funding is the greatest barrier to the growth of energy efficiency. Swapnil Shah concurs with Nesler and said that private investment and financing are the most serious hurdles for commercial efficiency. As Shah sees it, the fundamental challenge is the absence of uniform, reliable, and universal building performance data required to assess energy efficiency investments.

Paul Baier believes that inadequate energy accountability is a problem for many organizations in 2014. Firms may understand the importance of managing energy use, but there is a lack of clarity as to who is responsible for improving energy efficiency.

Mark Housely believes that there is a problem with what he calls a “legacy mindset” for data center operations. He believes the wrong-minded thinking of  “always on, all the time,” practice for operation hampers energy efficiency. He indicates that data centers are resistant to intelligently using monitoring sensors to “simultaneously reduce energy use and gain time and insight for more strategic, proactive planning.”

Energy efficiency programs will be expanded as will public awareness of both the need and the opportunities. Policies that improve building efficiency may also be improved including efficiency finance, portfolio standards, regulatory reform, as well as building labels, codes and standards.

Scaling the U.S. efficiency market in 2014 will be achieved through a combination of policy, technology, data, analytics, education, incentives and financing options.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Anton Fomkin, courtesy flickr

The post U.S. Energy Efficiency Forecasts for 2014 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 14 2014

22:25

An Uptick in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Utilities Use More Coal

Greenhouse gas emissions rise slightly in 2013

Finalizing its 2013 report on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects an increase of 2 percent for the year, the first in three years. Looking out over the longer term, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been in a downtrend, one that the EIA expects will continue, with emissions from energy generation declining four out of the past six years since their 2007 peak.

2013 national greenhouse gas emissions will come in at slightly more than 10 percent below 2005 levels, according to an EIA press release, “a significant contribution towards the goal of a 17 percent reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the current Administration.”

2013 uptick belies longer term downward trend


The EIA attributes 2013′s expected rise in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions to a small increase in coal consumption in the U.S. power sector. With U.S. natural gas prices coming off lows, electric utilities have been using more coal this past year.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reached a peak in 2007. Since then, utilities switching to cheaper natural gas from coal, along with growing use of non-hydro renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, helped drive U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a historic low in April, 2012, when they were 12 percent below 2005 levels.

The EIA identifies key drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape in its press release:

  • Weak economic growth in recent years, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations;
  • Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation;
  • High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010;
  • An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas (i.e. fracking);
  • Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal.

Though coal regained some market share among electric utilities in 2013, the EIA forecasts that the downtrend in national greenhouse gas emissions will continue.

Rising tide of renewables

Renewable energy supply continues to rise in the United States

In its latest “Short-term Energy Outlook,” the EIA predicts that emissions-free hydropower and non-hydropower renewables for electricity and heat generation will grow at a 4.7 percent rate in 2014. Use of hydropower to generate electricity and heat will rise 2.2 percent, while non-hydropower renewables will rise 6.1 percent.

U.S. installed wind power capacity will increase 8.8% in 2014 to reach some 66 gigawatts (GW). The EIA pegs growth in 2015 at 14.6 percent, with total installed capacity reaching 75 GW. Wind-driven electricity generation will increase 2.2% this year and 11.4% in 2015, accounting for over 5 percent of the national total.

EIA also foresees ongoing growth in capacity and use of electricity from utility and end-user solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy sources.

The EIA doesn’t forecast “customer-sited” solar energy capacity or use, though it does expect this largest segment of the solar power market to continue to exceed that for utility-scale solar power in terms of capacity and use. The EIA does track and forecast utility-scale solar power capacity and use, however. The EIA projects that utility-scale solar will increase through 2014 and 2015, though it will account for just 0.4% of overall U.S. electricity generation.

Utility-scale solar power installations more than doubled in both 2012 and 2013, the EIA highlights. It forecasts the sector will grow another 40% or so between year-end 2013 and year-end 2015, “with photovoltaic (PV) capacity accounting for 85 percent of that growth.”

EIA also highlighted the commissioning of the 280 megawatt (MW) Solana solar thermal power plant in Arizona. Designed and built by Abengoa, Solana is the first utility-scale solar thermal, or concentrating solar, power plant to come online since 2007.

Solana is unique: it’s the only solar thermal plant in operation in the U.S. with integrated storage capacity, which enables the system to store and distribute electricity at maximum capacity for up to six hours. EIA expects more of these to come online in 2014.

All images courtesy of Energy Information Administration

The post An Uptick in US Greenhouse Gas Emissions as Utilities Use More Coal appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 03 2014

16:26

Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014

While the overall outlook is good, there is a mixed bag of trends, predictions and problems that will directly impact sustainability, renewable energy, greenbuilding and cleantech in 2014.

Many feel we've turned a corner in cleantech. What are the trends for the green economy in 2014?Sustainability

The year to come may prove a challenging one for sustainability. According to an Ecova report, the growth of sustainability in 2014 will be complicated by increased energy and resource prices. The report titled 2014 Energy and Sustainability Predictions: Findings from Leading Professionals is based on a survey of 500 energy and sustainability professionals.

The combination of cost cutting pressures and environmental disclosure will push firms to develop a total energy and sustainability management strategy to remain competitive and meet resource management needs, says Jeff Heggedahl, Ecova president and CEO.

A total of 70 percent of respondents predicted that water will emerge as the top sustainability initiative in 2014. The report indicates that water is percieved as a significant opportunity for savings and improvement. The survey states that water concerns are second only to energy. Ford’s 2014 Trend’s Report concurs with the Ecova assessment that water will be the priority issue this year as does a Credit Suisse report titled Water: The Next Challenge.

The Ecova report also states that benchmarking regulations will contribute to an increasingly complex environment. However, it further indicates that peer benchmarking is another area where there are opportunities to capture additional costs and energy savings.

Renewable energy

While there is both good and bad news for the U.S. renewable energy industry in 2014, overall, the skyward trend continues. As reported in Renewable Energy World, on December 20 Credit Suisse released a highly favorable report that predicted unprecedented growth for renewable energy in the US.

They attribute their bullish forecasts to a combination of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and cost competitiveness of renewables when compared to conventional power generation including natural gas. Their report predicts that renewable energy will meet 85 percent of future power demand growth through 2025. This translates to a forecast of 100 GW of new renewable capacity with wind and solar market share more than doubling from 2012 to 2025, accounting for approximately 12 percent of US electricity generation.

Despite these positive predictions for renewable energy, a new report called America’s Power Plan points to problems associated with outdated utility business models in the U.S. As it stands now, utilities are being rewarded for building and maintaining fossil-fuel plants and this is having a deleterious effect on U.S. renewable energy. The report suggests that these problems can be addressed with the right shift in policy.

Kevin Wedman, Vice President of Power and Utilities, Bureau Veritas North America, believes that the biggest obstacle to the development of utility scale renewable energy comes from the absence of adequate transmission infrastructure to support renewable energy projects.

George Danner of the Business Laboratory indicated that he is concerned about the fact that electric utility companies use dated models to predict demand. While Brian MacCleery, Principal Product Manager, Clean Energy Technology, National Instruments, believes it’s time to reward utilities for switching to renewable energy.

Solar 

At utility scale power levels, economies of scale have driven down the cost of solar. Due in part to these price declines, the Credit Suisse report anticipates that U.S. solar will increase 11 times and account for 20 percent of the growth in renewable energy between 2012 and 2025. Higher efficiency and the declining price of technology has brought solar into the range of price parity with natural gas. The costs of solar are expected to continue falling for the next several years.

Mercom Capital Group, an Austin, TX-based clean energy communications and consulting firm, released its solar industry outlook for 2014. Their report predicts that new U.S. installations will total 6 GW in 2014 adding to the country’s current total of 10.25 GW.

The report says utility-scale projects and leased residential projects have been the main drivers of U.S. growth. With more than $3 billion in solar lease funds to finance installations, third party-financed residential installations have been the catalysts of growth in 2013.

Mercom predicts that in 2014, the U.S. will install more solar power than Germany, India, Italy and the UK. Only China and Japan are expected to install more solar energy than the U.S. in 2014.

Wind

The Credit Suisse report projects that wind power will double and account for about 80 percent of U.S. renewable energy growth from 2012 to 2025. Wind energy is becoming much less expensive and much more effective at harnessing power and making electricity.

One of the unknowns that will directly impact the future of renewables in the U.S. is the fate of the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expired at the end of 2013. It remains to be seen what Congress will do when it resumes in January. It is important to note that the PTC has been allowed to expire only to be subsequently resurrected many times in the past.

Green Building

Green building in North America will continue its strong growth in 2014. This is but one of a number of predictions made by Jerry Yudelson, an author and leading green building consultant. He attributes this growth to the confluence of commercial real estate construction along with government, university, nonprofit and school construction.

In 2014, the focus will increasingly be on the greening of existing buildings. He anticipates that we will see growing interest in energy efficiency in all types of buildings involving automation for energy efficiency using cloud-based systems. He calls 2014, “The Year of the Cloud.”

He sees zero-net-energy buildings as the next logical step for building design and development. He further predicts that there will be much more competition for LEED, including the Green Globes rating system offered by the Green Building Initiative.

Other trends that he predicts will continue are Green Building performance and disclosure, healthy building products, disclosures and declarations as well as “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern. Solar power use in buildings will also continue to grow alongside water awareness and conservation.

Cleantech

Cleantech is expected to do well in 2014. This is due to a broad cleantech recovery and the rise of crowdfunding. However, electric vehicles may not perform as well as many had hoped and there are some surprises in store for the rare earth elements (REEs) industry. These are some of the salient predictions from cleantech guru Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm.

Despite some speculation to the contrary, Kachan believes the term “cleantech” will remain through 2013. He succinctly defines cleantech as shorthand for environmental and efficiency-related technology innovation.

The forecasts offered by Kachan & Co.’s 2014 cleantech predictions are far more optimistic than last year’s assessment or the year before. In 2014, they see an overall upward trend in metrics like corporate, private equity and family office investment, venture debt, project finance, mergers and acquisitions, and new innovation.

While Kachan is bullish about cleantech, he is downright negative about electric vehicles (EVs) for 2014. He anticipates slower-than-expected growth of EVs due to improving efficiency innovations for the internal combustion engine and fuel cell vehicles.

Kachan further predicts that REEs will not generate the huge returns that some had anticipated. He also suggests that this will be due to growth in REEs recycling in 2014.

Kachan’s optimistic assessment is in part derived from an earlier report which compares investments in cleantech with other technology booms. Whether we are talking about dot coms, networking, biotech or the PC, there are parrallels that bode well for the future of cleantech. In all of these technological revolutions there were periods of rapid growth that ultimately gave way to corrections, after which we saw more stable growth. This appears to be where cleantech is at in 2014.

As explained by the Kachen report, “we believe the world turned an important corner in cleantech in 2013.”
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Artis Rams, courtesy flickr

The post Top U.S. Green Economy Trends and Predictions for 2014 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 31 2013

18:42

2013 A Promising Start for California’s Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program

If California were a nation, its economy would be the twelfth largest in the world. Not only does the Golden State have the largest and one of the most diverse economies in the U.S., it has been at the leading, even cutting, edge of efforts aimed at forging a leaner, cleaner, low-carbon society for the 21st century.

When it comes to government-led efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate and adapt to the potentially devastating effects of rapid climate change, 2013 marked another path-setting year for California. In 2013, its first full year of operation, the value of carbon allowances traded under the state’s pioneering carbon emissions Cap-and-Trade Program totaled $1.1 billion and brought nearly $500 million in much needed revenue to a fiscally challenged state government.

California's first year of its cap-and-trade program is a successSetting a price on carbon pollution

As  News10 ABC reported, California’s climate change law sets annual caps on greenhouse gas emissions for heavy polluters, such as coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and industrial companies. The carbon/greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pollution cap will slide lower 3 percent each year beginning in 2013.

Those that cannot reduce their GHG emissions to the cap level or below are required to offset their emissions by investing in cleaner, less polluting operations, such as reforestation projects, or purchase carbon emission offset allowances on the cap-and-trade market. These are offered by companies whose emissions fall below the cap or issuers that have developed projects that effectively offset quantifiable amounts of carbon and GHG emissions.

Auctions of carbon cap-and-trade allowances brought in nearly $477 million for the California treasury in 2013, News10 ABC reported. “Those pollution allowances are selling like hotcakes,” commented political editor John Myers.

California’s carbon cap-and-trade program “brings together the best aspects of regulation and using the market to drive flexible mechanisms,” added Stanley Young of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board (CARB).

Making polluters pay for pollution

As CARB explains on its website,

“Market forces spur technological innovation and investments in clean energy. Cap-and-trade is an environmentally effective and economically efficient response to climate change.”

As originally enacted, California’s cap-and-trade auction revenues were earmarked to be invested in efforts to combat climate change. Struggling to balance the state’s budget, the governor and state congress suspended that aspect of the legislation and used them to help balance the state’s budget, however.

With huge budget surpluses projected in coming years, proponents and supporters of the cap-and-trade bill are now urging Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators to repay that money and invest it in the type of projects for which it was originally intended.

“Let’s spend the climate change revenues to reduce the pollution that causes climate change,” Bill Magavern of the Coalition for Clean Air stated in an News10 interview, such as home weatherization or subsidizing solar panel installations for low-income households.

Moreover, even more in the way of cap-and-trade revenue would have come the state’s way had oil companies and other big polluters not been given carbon emissions allowances for free, Magavern noted.

“The oil companies are essentially getting off the hook…I think politics has everything to do with it,” he commented.

Other governments are now looking to emulate and/or link to California’s carbon cap-and-trade market. Quebec looks like it will be the first. An announcement was made back in October that representatives from the respective U.S. state and Canadian provincial governments had signed “an agreement outlining steps and procedures to fully harmonize and integrate the two programs.”

With some luck, opposition legislators in Washington D.C. may finally see the light and hold polluters responsible for the pollution they create and the health and environmental damage that results. Enacting a national carbon emissions cap-and-trade program, or perhaps even a national carbon emissions tax, would be a historic step in that direction.

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December 30 2013

23:48

Will Our Cities Save Us? Municipalities at the Nexus of Change

Editor’s note: The following post is adapted from several previous posts published in GWIR over the past year about how cities are often the best examples of furthering sustainable development, resilience and adaptation in a climate-changed world. This post has been entered in the Masdar Engage blogging contest for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week

At the national and international level climate action is stalled under the unyielding weight of factionalism and meeting the diverse agenda of a global community. At the personal level the issues of climate change and building a sustainable future for our children seems overwhelming; whatever efforts we can lend to the cause feels too small and inadequate.

In many ways meeting the challenge of climate change and sustainable development is often most effective at the municipal level. Cities strike a balance between meeting the diverse needs of its inhabitants with the ability to adopt and adapt to the realities and challenges of global warming, development, infrastructure and energy.

Cities offer the best opportunities for sustainability and resilience in the 21st century. Climate adaptation for cities

In the wake of the devastating storms of 2012, including Hurricane Sandy in the United States, the need for municipal-level adaptation and resilience became clearer than ever. With Sandy, New York and New Jersey saw communities destroyed and lives devastated due in part to decades of poor planning and decimation of natural infrastructure. Urban communities often take the brunt of not only extreme weather events, but the consequences of poor planning and development. The extreme weather trend has only continued globally in 2013, with drought, unprecedented storms and record temperatures in every part of the world.

Coming to grips with the risks, especially as climate change bears down on urban centers with more intense storms, there are a growing number of initiatives aimed at building resiliency in the urban environment. Earlier this year the Rockefeller Foundation announced support for RE.Invest, a new public-private partnership at helping cities across the US integrate increased resiliency in urban infrastructure and adapt effectively to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. The Foundation, in partnership with c.dots development and CH2H Hill, has pledged $3 million in the effort.

Initially, RE.Invest will select eight US cities through a national application process to provide seed money and technical support to create “community investment vehicles” that leverage private investment in local municipal water infrastructure.

“Using innovative sustainable infrastructure such as replacing concrete with porous pavement, restoring creeks and wetlands, and increasing tree cover can help cities manage storm water often at a fraction of the cost of upgrading traditional concrete infrastructure.  These projects can also save significant taxpayer money, beautify communities, and make them more attractive to businesses and investor and more resilient to extreme weather,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, in a press release.

“As we focus on ensuring the federal government makes it easier for cities to build and invest in sustainable infrastructure, the RE.invest Initiative is a great example of how private organizations can forge creative partnerships that leverage private investment to support clean and healthy cities, and save taxpayer dollars.”

The city as an agent of change

But cities also represent the best, most effective means of implementing proactive change. Dr. Emma Stewart, head of Sustainability Solutions at Autodesk, sees the urbanization of human populations as a “tipping point” for change:

“We are now an urban species by definition,” says Stewart. It took until 1960 to reach 1 billion people living in cities, another 25 years for the second billion, 18 years for the third, and “if projections are right only 15 years to add a fourth.”

From a sustainability aspect there are “significant positives in terms of this tipping point we’ve reached,” explains Stewart:

“So on the social side, cities have been a boon, really, to humans. On the resources side cities also, theoretically, provide us economies of scale delivering basic services like utilities or water, or even health care, safety, security.

As well as investing for adaptation to climate change, many cities and urban planners are adopting methods and policies for creating the “sustainable city of the future.” Initiatives like the CDPCities Program, the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction or the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities are but a few examples of motivated action on climate action and the future of human development.

Resilient cities

In the face of changing climate, growing resource constraints and increasing population, the conversation lately centers on the idea of resiliency as the new sustainability.  Writing in the New York Times, Andrew Zolli describes resiliency as “how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.” 

It’s a broad-spectrum agenda that, at one end, seeks to imbue our communities, institutions and infrastructure with greater flexibility, intelligence and responsiveness to extreme events and, at the other, centers on bolstering people’s psychological and physiological capacity to deal with high-stress circumstances,” writes Zolli.

Cities are ground-zero for this new resiliency-focused thinking and planning in our chaotic times. And partnerships between cities help shepherd the best ideas across international borders and economic sectors.

On December 3rd, 2013 the Rockefeller Foundation named the first 33 cities for its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge. Each city was selected based on its vision, need and plan for building resilience in a manner that connects government, citizens and the private sector. The Challenge is an example of how cities working together can develop and share ideas, innovations and best practices for meeting the common challenges we all face in the 21st century as individuals as well as members in local and global communities.

Will our cities save us?

Is it enough? Can we depend on local governments and private organizations to meet the challenges we face without national and international policy action and individual effort?

In the end the global community will need to step up and do its part and individuals will need to embrace how their singular understanding and action feeds the collective effort to create a livable future. But, as Stewart says, we are an urban species, and it is in the cities where ideas can take root and the great challenge of our times will be met.

Will our cities save us? To the extent that cities, and networks of cities, represent the best collective effort toward a better future, they are the best catalyst of change for a sustainable, resilient future.

In cities we can most effectively plan for the worst and hope (and work toward) the best.

Image credit: Nicola since 1972, courtesy flickr

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December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

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December 24 2013

18:11

Gifts That Keep On Giving: Pledges to Mosaic’s “Put Solar On It”

Christmas and the year-end holidays mark a season of giving in the U.S. and around the world. In that spirit, Mosaic – the pioneering solar energy energy provider whose “crowdsourcing” online investment platform enables individuals to earn income by directly investing in residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) projects – is launching a campaign to “Put Solar On It.”

A 2014 New Year’s resolution campaign for the Oakland-based solar energy company, anyone can use “Put Solar On It” to pledge to put a solar PV system “on a local home, school, place of worship, business, or other property,” Mosaic explains in a press release.

Mosaic SolarPledging to Put Solar PV on a Rooftop

Mosaic’s “Put Solar On It,” New Year’s resolution campaign for 2014 has garnered some celebrity interest. Actor Mark Ruffalo, who played The Hulk in the Avengers film version of the comic books, has pledged to put a solar PV system on his children’s elementary school – Stephen Gaynor Elementary in Manhattan, NYC.

As Ruffalo explained,

“I’m helping put solar on my kids’ school to save the school money and free up resources that will be aimed at their education instead of fossil fuels. We can also demonstrate the shining future that is now within our grasp. I love that Mosaic is making it possible for all people to participate in an economy meant for all — the solar economy. We are powerful.”

In turn, the Make It Right foundation has pledged to put solar PV on a home for a family living in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. Pledges have come in from across the nation, Mosaic relates, including from Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Maui, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Woodbury, Minnesota.

With budgets tight and concerns about jobs, energy costs and its environmental impacts figuring prominently in the public media, 2013 was another record-setting year for solar energy in the U.S. As Mosaic highlights,

“In 2013, a solar installation was installed every four minutes throughout the US and the price of a solar dropped to 60 percent of 2011 prices, according to the US Solar Energy Industries Association and Greentech Media Research. The nation installed more clean energy than coal, oil, and nuclear combined, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. According to the Solar Foundation and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the solar industry is creating jobs at four times the rate of the economy at large.”

“This year, President Obama put solar panels on the White House, Mayor Bloomberg committed to putting solar on New York City’s largest landfill, and Walmart reached a solar generating capacity greater than the solar generating capacity of 38 states. On the investment side, Warren Buffet invested over $7B in solar.”

Mosaic president and “Movement” team leader Billy Parish explained that the company’s vision is “to build a powerful and purpose-driven membership community dedicated to accelerating humanity to the inevitable transition to 100% clean energy.

“In the past year, thousands of people have invested in solar through Mosaic. We’re now crowdsourcing other aspects of the solar development process. We’re building a movement to power the world with 100 percent clean energy and this movement is people powered.”

Mosaic intends to follow “Put Solar On It” with a series of announcements throughout 2014 regarding its efforts to develop and provide tools to help spur solar energy adoption and use in the U.S. and around the world. The first of these is to be an announcement of Mosaic expanding internationally to take place on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

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December 10 2013

23:31

EPA Launches 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 5 released its 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan as it looks to build on four years of efforts to streamline operations, cut expenditures, and reduce waste and the carbon footprint of federal government operations.

The inaugural Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan for the federal government was produced in October 2009 in the wake of President Obama issuing Executive Order 13514 on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, which set “aggressive targets for reducing waste and pollution in Federal operations by 2020,” according to an EPA press release.

The EPA launches its Strategic Sustainability Performance PlanThe Federal government’s Green Economy leadership

Strengthening the federal government’s leadership in forging a “greener,” more dynamic economic model, the President this past June launched the nation’s first Climate Action Plan.

Coincident with the release of EPA’s 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan, the President on December 5 issued a Presidential Memorandum that further reduces federal government waste and pollution by setting a target of more than doubling the amount of renewable energy consumed to 20% by 2020.

The 2013 Strategic Sustainability Plan adds impetus to and seeks to realize the aims of these initiatives, providing “an overview of how the agency is saving taxpayer dollars, reducing carbon emissions, and saving energy.

“Meeting this renewable energy goal will reduce pollution in our communities, promote American energy independence, and support homegrown energy produced by American workers,” the EPA stated.

As the EPA highlighted, in just the past four years, the Obama Administration’s waste, energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives have:

  • Reduced energy use by almost 8 percent; allowing EPA to avoid $1.5 million in utility costs annually. Compared to the 2003 baseline, EPA has reduced energy by more than 25 percent
  • Used renewable energy and purchased Green Power Renewable Energy Credits equal to 100 percent of its conventional electricity use. Use of Green Power, coupled with energy conservation and fleet management efforts, reduce EPA Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions by nearly half from FY 2008 levels.
  • Reduced annual water use by more than 25 percent – that’s more than 30 million gallons per year.

The principal goals the EPA aims to achieve in the 2013 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan include:

  • Pursuing reconstruction of key EPA research infrastructure. Projects completed at the Cincinnati, OH, A.W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center, EPA’s second largest research center, have already reduced energy use by more than 30 percent.
  • Consolidating the Research Toxicology Laboratory in Durham, NC into the Main laboratory at Research Triangle Park, NC. This project will reduce agency rent costs, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and result in a net reduction in EPA space without impacting research capacity.
  • Continuing work on EPA’s award winning water conservation program.

The EPA has published Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans for federal agencies online.

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December 05 2013

00:16

Diversified Renewable Energy Base Emerging in the US Northeast

A mix of renewable energy sources are emerging in the US Northeast

Renewable energy initiatives and investments in the northeastern US are producing results and paying dividends economically, socially and environmentally, according to a report from ACORE, the American Council on Renewable Energy.

Northeast region state governments have been at the leading edge of the drive to craft and implement policies to foster development and use of a distributed, diversified mix of renewable energy resources. With supportive policies in place in nearly every state in the 12-state region, the Northeast ranks second in the US for both solar and biomass power capacity. This progressive policy framework, which includes establishment of the pioneering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is driving renewable energy deployment and driving down costs to the point where they are competitive with fossil fuel power, ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” the third in a four-part series of reports on renewable energy conditions and prospects nationwide.

As the ACORE report authors highlight:

“Renewable energy is steadily becoming more cost competitive in the Northeast. Three large utilities in Massachusetts recently signed long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy at less than $0.08 per kilowatt hour, below the cost of most conventional sources. If the contracts are approved by state regulators, they would save customers between $0.75 and $1.00 a month.5 Likewise, if it doubles the amount of wind power it plans to build, the PJM Interconnection could actually reduce wholesale energy market prices and save nearly $7 million per year in the mid-2020s.”

Renewable Energy Resource Diversity: The Northeast’s Strength

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

Heavily dependent on imported energy and affected by retirements of fossil fuel power plants, Northeastern states have good reason to develop and deploy local renewable energy sources, ACORE notes in its latest regional report. Supportive state and local policy initiatives are proving instrumental in helping residents, businesses and the public sector realize the economic, social and environmental benefits that renewable energy resource development, along with greater energy conservation and energy efficiency, offer.

Eleven of the 12 states profiled in the report have instituted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that mandate power utilities increase their use of renewable energy resources. Vermont, the 12th, has instituted a standard contract program along the lines of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT), the first of its kind in the US, ACORE highlights in its report. Established to spur clean energy and energy efficiency investments across the region and reduce the regional greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change, the RGGI, is also helping fund New York’s $1 billion Green Bank, the report authors note.

With less in the way of large, utility-scale wind and solar farms, the US Northeast ranks lower overall than other regions profiled in ACORE’s “Renewable Energy in the 50 States” series. It’s comparatively strong when it comes to local, distributed renewable power capacity, as well as the diversity of renewable energy resources available, however.

“An array of policies and incentive programs, including feed-in tariffs, renewable energy credits (RECs), green banks, and rebates, support the development of renewable power, heat, and fuels in the Northeast.

“Many Northeastern states have set targets for solar energy generation, which, coupled with financial incentives, are largely responsible for driving more solar power capacity in the Northeast than in the Midwest or the Southeast. In fact, ISO New England, the regional transmission organization serving six Northeastern states, anticipates distributed generation installations within its territory to increase from 250 MW in 2012 to 2 GW by the end of 2021, with generation forecast to be mostly solar power.”

Moreover, most of the states in the region are working to produce clean energy from waste and biomass by  making use of municipal solid waste, wood waste and landfill gas. They’re also looking to produce more and make greater use of biodiesel and ethanol to reduce reliance on petroleum, an area where they have lagged other regions.

“To reduce reliance on expensive heating oil, some states, such as New Hampshire, have set goals for renewable thermal energy use. With the availability of wood waste from the forestry sector, homes in New England use wood for space heating, water heating, and cooking at nearly twice the national rate, and growth in this sector is expected to continue.”

Large-scale hydropower has and will continue to play a large role in the Northeast region’s energy mix. Meanwhile, recent developments suggest that offshore wind power could play a significant role in fueling renewable energy growth.

“The Northeast’s wind power market has grown more slowly than other regions’, but this fact could change soon,” the report authors state.

“Coastal states in the region have identified immense offshore wind power potential, and developers are in the advanced stages of planning what would be the first offshore wind projects in the country. In August 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior held the nation’s first offshore wind lease sale off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the scale of which could support enough turbines to power one million homes.”

“Renewable Energy in the 50 States: Northeastern Region,” ACORE

 

Main and featured image credit: All Earth Renewables

The post Diversified Renewable Energy Base Emerging in the US Northeast appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 19 2013

23:21

Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

Energy and climate scientists call for a coal moratorium, saying unabated coal is the road to climate catastrophe

Coal Sunrise over Beijing

An international group of 27 prominent energy and climate scientists are calling for a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired power plants, a policy they say has become a global imperative if “climate catastrophe” is to be avoided this century.

Their call comes amid renewed efforts by coal and power utility lobbies “to portray ‘high efficiency low emissions coal combustion’ as a climate solution.” Global carbon emissions are set to hit another new record high this year, according to a report released earlier this week as UN climate treaty negotiators meet in Warsaw. Ironically, taking place at the same time in the Polish capital is the Coal and Climate Summit.

The assertion that coal combustion to produce electricity should be considered a “climate-friendly” power technology flies in the face of the facts, all good judgment, and, needless to say, any semblance of adhering to the “precautionary principle.” Agreeing to it would set humanity and ecosystems around the world firmly on course for global warming of 6°C (10.8°F) , according to the scientists.

That’s three to four times the 1.5-2°C cap (compared to pre-industrial era levels) and climate warming threshold world leaders agreed to at the UN’s climate treaty negotiations in Cancun in 2010.

On the road to climate catastrophe

The world’s known coal reserves contain more than 2,000 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. Burning or combusting these reserves “would dramatically overshoot the remaining global carbon budget of about 1,000 gigatons CO2. This comes on top of oil and gas reserves accounting for more than 1600 gigatons,” the scientists highlight in a press release.

“The current global trend of coal use is consistent with an emissions pathway above the IEA’s 6°C scenario. That risks an outcome that can only be described as catastrophic, beyond anything that mankind has experienced during its entire existence on earth,” the scientists state.

Source:

Source: “New Unabated coal is not compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“The IEA’s medium-term coal market report (IEA, 2012) projects a further expansion of coal use that is even higher than IEA’s own 6DS scenario for 6°C warming in the long-term,” they elaborate.

“The 6DS scenario assumes around 4°C warming by 2100 (Schaeffer and Van Vuuren, 2012). As the Secretary General of the OECD warns: ‘Without CCS, continued reliance on coal-fired power is a road to disaster. (OECD, 2013)”

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

“We are not saying there is no future for coal”, added Professor P.R. Shukla of the Indian Institute of Management, “but that unabated coal combustion is not compatible with staying below the 2°C limit, if we like it or not.”

Following is a short list of the main points of the climate and energy scientists’ statement:

  • Unabated coal is not a low carbon technology
  • Avoiding dangerous climate change requires about 3/4 of known fossil fuel reserves to stay underground
  • Current trends in coal use are harbouring catastrophic climate change
  • To keep global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial, use of unabated coal has to go down in absolute terms from now on
  • Alternatives are available and affordable
  • Public financing institutions and regulatory agencies are reining in unabated coal, but more is needed to prevent new unabated coal to be built

False claims, Sustainable energy scenarios

The group of scientists also noted that “false claims about ‘high-efficiency coal’ as a low-emissions technology” were made by the World Coal Association (WCA) in their recently released Warsaw Communiqué. In it the WCA “calls for ‘the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Contrary to such assertions, Dr Bert Metz, former Co-Chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation, stated,

“New or retrofitted coal plants without CO2 capture and storage will have a life time of 40-50 years. We need to dramatically reduce emissions over the next 40 years. That is not possible with unabated coal.”

“Alternatives to fossil fuels are already available and affordable. It is therefore up to the coal industry to show that coal-fired plants with CCS can compete with other zero carbon options.”

The scientists welcomed the growing number of prominent multilateral and international financing institutions and regulatory agencies, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, to curtail or “rein in unabated coal.” Much more action is needed, and now, however, they added.

As Professor William Moomaw of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA pointed out:

“The trend of future coal use is changing rapidly. The World Bank, US development assistance and the US Import-Export Bank will no longer finance or support new unabated coal power plants internationally, except in rare cases.

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon dioxide emission standards that rule out unabated coal power plants altogether. The European Investment Bank and Scandinavian countries have taken similar steps.”

Genuinely low-emissions alternative, renewable energy technology are readily available, competitive with fossil fuels, and continue to decline in cost, the scientists highlight. This stands out in stark contrast to trends in fossil fuels, which are increasingly costly in narrowly defined dollars-and-cents terms, and much more expensive over the long-term when their environmental, health and other socioeconomic costs, such as military interventions, are factored into the equation.

In their statement, the scientists lay out a range of alternative energy and emissions scenarios:

Source:

Source: “New unabated1 coal is not
compatible with keeping
global warming below 2°C”

For more on this topic, check out the scientists’ full statement on coal

 

Main and featured image credit: Shel Israel, courtesy flickr 

The post Energy, Climate Scientists Call for a Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 01 2013

14:19

U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013

The U.S> solar industry makes great strides in 2013The U.S. solar industry has logged one of the strongest quarters ever and it has already eclipsed last year’s record breaking growth. The U.S. is riding the crest of a solar tsunami that is sweeping around the planet. Declining photovoltaic (PV) prices along with attractive incentives in Asia (Japan and China) are helping to power solar’s global growth in 2013. Around the world solar PV added 30.5 Gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2012 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that we will see 36.7 GW of additional PV capacity worldwide in 2013. The growth of solar power is so strong that it is outpacing wind energy for the first time this year.

Growth of solar 

In 2012, the U.S. brought more new solar capacity online than in the combined totals of the three previous years. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, solar power production was 537 megawatts (MW) of the 1,880 MW of utility power brought online. This represents about 30 percent of the new generation capacity. In Q2 Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power which represents a 15 percent increase over Q1. This is the second largest quarter in the history of U.S. Solar. It is worth noting that these numbers reflect only the larger generating facilities and not systems on homes or small businesses.

As of the end of Q2 2013, the cumulative commercial solar deployment totaled 3,380 MW and was located at more than 32,800 facilities across the country representing an increase of more than 40 percent over 2012. According to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as of August 2013, the U.S. had already surpassed the year end totals for utility-scale solar installations in 2012 (1,774 MW compared to 1,476 MW).

The solar electric market will have another record year in 2013, with a projected year end total of 4,400 MW of PV (which represents 30 percent growth over 2012 installation totals) and over 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP). Together PV and CSP total energy output is equivalent to the energy required to power 860,000 American homes. Cumulative PV capacity is projected to surpass 10 GW by years end.

Drivers of solar

The most powerful driver of solar growth is declining prices. We have seen an 11 percent decrease in PV over the past year. Over the past two years PV prices have fallen by nearly 40 percent, and over the last three years the average price of solar panels has declined by 60 percent.

Other factors are also at play and they include renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits that have forced utilities to add in more solar. Businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impacts and cut energy costs. Across the board solar is being accepted as an increasingly mainstream and less esoteric form of energy.

Solar is an abundant source of energy, if only 1 percent of global landmass were covered in solar panels we could power all of the world’s energy needs. Solar is also a very popular energy source in the U.S. As revealed in a 2012 poll, 92 percent of American voters support developing more solar energy.

Economy and Employment

Solar is not just good for the environment it is also a powerful economic driver. According to the Solar Foundation, as of 2012, 119,000 Americans were already employed in the solar industry, this represents a 13.2 percent increase over the preceding year.

There are a total of 6,100 businesses operating across the U.S. In 2012 the total value of solar electric installations was $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010.

Business

SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) released their annual Solar Means Business report on October 15, they found that some of the biggest corporate entities in the U.S. Are helping to drive the growth of solar energy power production. The top 25 U.S. companies have deployed 445 megawatts of solar capacity, a 48 percent increase from one year ago.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said solar is,  “helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment.  At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”

Solar proves a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations. However, it is not just well known corporate behemoths like Walmart that are getting in on the action. A restaurant called Pizza Port in California has also installed solar panels into its operation, and the chain of five restaurants and breweries, expects to reduce energy costs by as much as $30,000 annually.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Surprising States

There are several states that are well known solar players, they include California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. However, as pointed out by GTM Research, there is a surprising amount of solar power anticipated from unlikely places with “hidden growth opportunities.” They include Minnesota, Virginia, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Georgia. GTM Research projects a total of over 1 GW of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of 2013 and 2016.

Solar is providing an ever growing amount of energy to utilities, businesses and homes. Despite retrenchments due to oversupply and resultant low prices, U.S. solar will continue to shine well into the future.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Lance Cheung, courtesy flickr

 

The post U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 29 2013

20:22

Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible

rosietheriveterCompletely phasing out net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 is not only technically feasible, but could be done at very manageable cost, according to a comprehensive study by Ecofys for the Global Call for Climate Action.

“It is technically and economically feasible to reduce emissions to zero for roughly 90% of current sources of GHG emissions with technological options that are available today and in the near future.” The remaining 10% of GHG emissions could be offset by enhancing carbon sinks, the Ecofys’ report authors conclude. The cost of doing so: around 5% of GDP per year.

Realizing this goal would effectively assure that mean global temperature would not exceed the 2ºC climate change tipping point theorized by the world’s leading climate scientists and agreed to by world leaders in the Copenhagen Accord of 2009. It would also improve the odds of keeping global mean temperature increase to 1.5ºC by the end of the century to 50%.

Phasing out GHG emissions by mid-century

Affecting the changes required to phase out net GHG emissions by 2050 would require globally coordinated action of unprecedented speed, scope and scale, the report authors rightly point out:

“Reducing net emissions close to zero by mid-century means fundamentally restructuring all of our economic sectors in the coming decades.”

“The energy system presents the greatest potential for emission reductions through efficiency savings and fuel shift,” the Ecofys report authors found. Use of fossil fuels for energy, transport, buildings and industry accounts for some 2/3 of global GHG emissions. The other 1/3 results from land use, raising livestock and industrial processes, they explain.

imageedit_3_5663497138

In their study, “Feasibility of GHG emissions phase-out by mid-century,” Ecofys modelled “several low emissions scenarios that result in (nearly) zero net GHG emissions by 2050…Thse are categorized as one of two types, reflecting two slightly different modelling approaches and resulting strategies:

  • Scenarios with (near) 100% renewable energy by 2050: These scenarios aim, at the outset, at a certain emissions target as well as a certain contribution of renewables. They find that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is possible. Saving energy is a key strategy in these scenarios because high efficiency facilitates an energy supply based almost entirely on renewable sources.
  • Scenarios with less than 100% renewable energy but carbon capture and storage (CCS): So-called integrated assessment models are commonly used to choose from different technological options to achieve a cost optimal global energy system within certain economic boundary conditions, e.g. very low emissions. Energy efficiency is modelled on a more generic level. Consequently, these scenarios result in a higher use of energy and a lower share of renewables. To still meet certain emissions targets, the models assume that carbon capture and storage (CCS), and possibly also nuclear power, are deployed on a large scale. The use of biomass with CCS enables these scenarios to sometimes reach net negative emissions in the second half of the century.”

The possible and the probable

While technically and economically feasible, the likelihood of such fundamental, globally coordinated change occurring is remote given current political, economic and social conditions and trends. While GHG emissions are on the wane in the world’s largest industrialized countries, including the EU and US, responsible for the bulk of anthropogenic GHG emissions in the atmosphere, they’re increasing by greater amounts in rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India.

Barring a series of climate-linked disasters, it seems clear that enacting anything remotely akin to a national strategic plan to phase out GHG emissions in the US would continue to be stymied in a Congressional quagmire of opposition and debate. For their parts, China, India and other large, emerging market economies are clearly unwilling to accept the uncertainty and take the risks of seeking to develop their economies and societies in ways that don’t require locking in their own dependence on fossil fuels.

In their report, Ecofys’ authors echo calls by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the conclusions reached in groundbreaking, comprehensive studies such as the “2010 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.” As the Ecofys report authors state,

“Initial steps taken to decarbonise need to be amplified drastically. The longer we wait to act, the more expensive change becomes. Whether a phase-out is politically feasible will be determined in the coming years.”

The post Phase-Out of Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 Technically, Economically Feasible appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 22 2013

17:46

DOE Highlights Early Results of US Offshore Wind Energy Research and Development

The potential of US offshore wind energy is huge, says DOE report

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released the special offshore wind edition of its Wind Program Newsletter October 22, highlighting the seminal role federal funding and support is playing in the development of a potentially huge clean and renewable energy resource, one that could go a long way in spurring economic growth and job creation as well as helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change risks.

Stronger, more abundant and more consistent than onshore winds, US offshore wind energy resource potential in US federal and state coastal waters and the Great Lakes has been estimated at more than 4 million megawatts (MW).

Aiming to “speed technical innovations, lower costs, and shorten the time frame for deploying offshore wind energy systems,” the DOE allocated $43 million to help fund 41 offshore wind power research and development (R&D) projects around the nation back in September 2011. The fruits of this labor, such as an online repository for DOE-funded offshore wind project results, are beginning to show.

US offshore wind energy participants gather in Providence

In addition to providing the public with the latest information on its new website, DOE staff will be discussing results of agency-funded offshore wind R&D and demonstration projects at this year’s AWEA Offshore WINDPOWER Conference and Exposition in Providence, Rhode Island, which began today, October 22.

Threatened, as well as offered opportunities, by the rise of distributed solar, wind and other renewable energy generation, offshore wind power development poses the big US power utilities opportunities they should be eager to seize upon.

Spurred onward by federal support, a formative US offshore wind industry is finally coalescing as well. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) completed the historic first two offshore wind lease sales earlier this year. Deepwater Wind New England LLC won the bidding for two offshore wind energy sites off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts in July. More recently, in September, Dominion Virginia Power won a second competitive offshore wind energy lease.

DOE Advanced Technology Demonstration project partners are also making progress in “developing engineering, design, and permitting plans for their proposed offshore wind demonstration projects,” DOE Wind Program Director Jose Zayas notes in a DOE program update. A total of $168 million over six years was allocated in 2012 to fund seven advanced offshore wind power technology demonstration projects. Most are slated to begin commercial operation by 2017.

Main image credit: Penobscot Bay Pilot
Featured image credit: Stanford University

The post DOE Highlights Early Results of US Offshore Wind Energy Research and Development appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 21 2013

18:28
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