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February 19 2014


February 17 2014

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February 14 2014


Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved

Despite all of the efforts being made to resist the construction of the Keystone XL, it will likely gain the approval of U.S. President Barack Obama. Supporting evidence for the notion that we will move ahead with the Keystone XL comes from the corporate sector. Powerful corporate interests have considerable resources that often enable them to ascertain the outcome of political decisions well ahead of the general public. Berkshire Hathaway has made a move that indicates that they believe the pipeline will be approved. Berkshire controls BNSF which is comprised of nearly 400 different railroad lines that merged or were acquired. Despite its rail holdings, since the end of 2013, Berkshire has been greedily buying shares of Phillips 66 Pipeline Flow Improver in a stock deal valued at about $1.4 billion.

Will the Keystone XL pipeline be approved? If so, it's for all the wrong reasonsThe logic to move forward will be based primarily on nine major points:

First is the way the question was framed in the State Department’s most recent report. When faced with the choice between pipe and rail, the former is the better option from a total carbon emission point of view. Rail takes far more energy to move oil compared to a pipeline. Oil moved by rail increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 27.8 – 39 percent and if the oil is transported to the Gulf of Mexico, GHG emissions would rise to about 41.2 percent. What this assessment does not factor is the issue associated with the increasing exploitation of tar sands oil, which has a far worse emissions profile than conventional crude.

The second issue concerns safety and when presented with the false dichotomy between pipe and rail, the former is once again the better option. As explained by the Manhattan Institute, pipe is the safest way to move oil. While pipe is superior from an environmental safety point of view, this is another false choice, as moving oil by any means is not safe.

Third is the economic argument, moving oil through a pipeline is more cost effective than rail. The State Department has indicated that there will be as many as 42,100 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, a number of independent analysis, including one from Cornell University, have refuted this number. The President himself has rebuffed the economic and jobs benefits of the Keystone XL and he stated that very few permanent jobs would be created. Some have even suggested that the pipeline will have a harmful economic impact due to increased fuel costs. In the final analysis, the costs of climate change will utterly eclipse any short term economic gain.

The fourth rational has to do with political considerations. The Keystone has been a fund raising bonanza for pro-oil Republicans and some Democrats, so this issue is at the forefront of their midterm campaign strategies. As we head into the 2014 midterms, denying the Keystone would be political suicide for many Democrats up for reelection. Despite the President’s go it alone strategy, there is only so much he can do with Executive Orders. He cannot afford to lose control of the Senate or lose ground in the House. However, there are times when a President must lead rather than succumb to the the short-sighted math of political equations.

A fifth reason is President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy which he reiterated in his most recent State of the Union address. The President has repeatedly stated that he seeks energy independence and the Keystone XL may be construed as a means of achieving this objective. Climate activists would prefer that he abandoned his all of the above strategy and adopt a “best of the above” approach.

The sixth reason is the demand for oil and heavy bituminous oil in particular. Heavy bituminous oil is critical for operations at U.S. refineries because light crude does not have the carbon content to make anything other than diesel and gasoline. Bituminous oil is used to make a far larger number of products. Currently, heavy oil is being shipped to the U.S. from Venezuela, but those reserves are expected to be depleted in the next five years. What this argument does not factor is that tar sands oil is far more environmentally destructive and demand needs to be curtailed rather than expanded.

A seventh reason arises from the claims that suggest if this oil is not used by the U.S. it will be shipped to China. The fact is that this is not accurate. The Canadian government has not been able to gain approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline which would ferry the bitumen to the west coast for transport to China. Further, the U.S. should not be phased by investment groups invovled in Alberta’s tar sands as they are driven by profits that will be generated from shipping the oil to the U.S, not moving tar sands oil to China.

An eighth reason involves the fact that because oil is already being moved by pipelines across the country, one more will not make a difference, even if it traverses the Ogallala aquifer. Proponents of the Keystone point to the pipelines, gas stations and chemical plants that are already on top of the aquifer. What this assessment ignores is the vast number of massive oil spills that have occurred and the fact that pipelines inevitably spill oil. A pipeline as large and as dangerous as the Keystone XL represents an unacceptable level of risk. At a time when we should be scaling back fossil fuel pipelines, we should not build another simply because this is what we have done in the past.

A ninth factor and perhaps the most salient issue involves the fact that shutting down the Keystone XL would be a blow to the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful and lucrative industry on earth. The fact remains that we cannot be held hostage to an industry that threatens to destroy our civilization. If we are not be able to curb our consumption of petrochemicals, we will not be able to reduce our GHGs. The result will be runaway climate change. Simply put, we cannot afford to ramp up oil production, particularly oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands.

As Bill McKibben pointed out early last year,

“Physics…takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.”

McKibben concludes by saying that we cannot afford to wait for President to reign in the fossil fuel industry, “we’re not waiting for him. We can’t.”

While it may be tragically unfortunate, the Keystone will likely win the approval of the President, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Those who understand the environmentally perilous course of expanding Alberta’s tar sands know that the Keystone XL pipeline fails the President’s own climate test, which he outlined in his speech at Georgetown last year.

The large body of climate science clearly tells us that we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels, particularly not oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands. It would be far better to shut down the Keystone XL and allow the combination of government regulations and market forces to wean America off of fossil fuels. This could in turn drive massive investment in renewable energy which is both clean and abundant.
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: Shannon Ramos, courtesy flickr

The post Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 07 2014


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

The post Record Number of Wind Energy Projects Under Construction appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 30 2014


The Perilous Contradictions in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Staying within prescribed climate change limits will be difficult under Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy. Although Obama may be the greenest President in American history he is not doing enough to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. In his State of the Union address, he did talk about the veracity of climate change and the need to further reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions, however his ongoing support for fossil fuel extraction is dangerous and imperils hopes that we can tackle the issue of climate change before we reach irreversible tipping points.

The President made many laudable points during his address including his desire to increase protections for air, water, land and American communities. He quite correctly explained that, “we have to act with more urgency because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods.”

In his state of the union address, Obama touted his The President touted the growth of solar power saying: “[W]e’re becoming a global leader in solar too. Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced.”

The President has repeatedly stated his desire to put an end to tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry and use that money for fuels of the future (ie renewables). A point which he reiterated in his State of the Union address.

The President also touted his efficiency efforts including efficiency standards for new cars. He went on to suggest that he will be imposing new fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy weight trucks. However, their is an irreconcilable paradox between efficiency and the expansion of fossil fuel.

The President indicated that he wants to “cut red tape” to help businesses build factories that use natural gas. As he explained, “If [natural gas is] extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”

While natural gas could be made far less destructive if we could eradicate (or substantially reduce) methane leaks associated with extraction, it is easier said than done.

The President made the point that the U.S. has reduced its carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth over the last 8 years. He further indicated that he wants to set new standards for power plants which would tighten restrictions on CO2 emissions.

All of the above – Obama can’t have it both ways

While efforts to reduce GHGs are beyond reproach, his overall strategy conceals an irreconcilable contradiction. Reducing GHGs is at odds with increasing domestic dirty energy exploitation. The simple fact is he cannot have it both ways.

Despite pleas from the leading U.S. environmental organizations to stop fossil fuel extraction, President Obama’s State of the Union address indicates that he intends to move forward with his “all of the above” energy strategy.

The reliance on natural gas and oil may undermine efforts to stay within prescribed scientific limits. The first limit concerns temperature increases, the second involves greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to keep warming below the internationally agreed upon upper threshold limit of 2°C, we will need to stop pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It is widely known that the primary contributors of GHGs are fossil fuels.

This is the conclusion reached by numerous studies including the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was published late in September 2013. According to the IPCC report, we cannot add more than another 140 gigatons of carbon globally (500 GtCO2).

If we continue to exploit and burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we will considerably exceed these limits. If we burn only 20 percent of estimated available carbon reserves we will have already reached the upper allowable limit of carbon emissions. If the remaining reserves are exploited there will be no way to stop runaway climate change.

We cannot afford to move forward with planned coal projects or the tar sands, nor can we afford President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

In fairness, President Obama acknowledges the veracity of climate change but he is constrained by the Republicans in congress and the general ignorance of many Americans. We cannot appreciate efforts to engage climate concerns without factoring political considerations. Obama may be advancing domestic fossil fuels for political reasons, not the least of which is the impending midterms. If he loses control of the Senate, his efforts to manage climate change will suffer a serious blow.

A Ceres report titled, “Inaction on Climate Change: The Cost to Taxpayers.” sees political factors as a major part of inaction. “[T]he reason for our collective shortsightedness is that the issue of climate change, and what to do about it, has become politicized in the U.S,” the report said.

Despite his considerable efforts (not the least of which is his climate action plan), the President can be faulted for failing to lead efforts to educate Americans. To create the political support we need to see, Americans need to be apprized of the implications of failing to act. Obama’s State of the Union address focused on education and this could be expanded to include efforts to explain the rationale for action and expose the ignorance of climate denying Republicans who control the House.

More than any other single factor, people respond to economic considerations. The focus on the economy and jobs in the President’s State of the Union speech is a reflection of this understanding. He needs to do a better job informing Americans about the price associated with climate change.

The President can do far more to help Americans apprehend the scope of the costs of failing to stay within the prescribed limits. Failing to heed these limits will result in a massive price tag that will cripple the U.S. (and global) economy and ultimately, irrevocably change life on Earth.

The costs of climate change

Evidence for these costs are not just part of some apocalyptic future, they are with us here and now. According to the the Ceres report, Federal and state disaster relief payouts are estimated to have cost every person in the U.S. more than $300. According to the report, the costs of climate change to taxpayers going forward will get worse and ultimately be “debilitating.” A cogent argument can be made for acting now, as one dollar spent on prevention saves four dollars in damages. From this perspective mitigation efforts are a far better investment than adaptation.

“Continuing to ignore these escalating risks may be more comfortable than confronting the challenges of climate change, but inaction is the far riskier and more expensive path,” the Ceres report concluded.

“[T]he debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” the President said.

However, “booming” oil and natural gas production is inconsistent with efforts to combat climate change. Reducing emissions while boosting domestic oil and gas production is a contradictory policy position. At a time when we most need the President to lead, we really got nothing new in this state of the Union speech.

The U.S. cannot simultaneously be a leading producer of fossil fuels and at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change. Selling the facts to the American public will not be easy, but it is necessary.

“The the shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way,” the President said. The question is whether he is prepared to make those tough choices.
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: scatteredView, courtesy flickr

The post The Perilous Contradictions in the President’s 2014 State of the Union Address appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 27 2014


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


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


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 13 2014


Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar

Americans want residential solar

This infographic from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) underscores how Americans really feel about solar energy. Despite the misleading characterization of solar and cleantech from the likes of 60 Minuets and Fox News, Americans understand the importance of going solar and want more of it.

A recent study by BrightCurrent shows that 91 percent of those with installed solar systems would recommend going solar to their friends. The study also said that residential solar grew dramatically over the past three years, doubling in 2011 and expanding by 60 percent in 2012. According to the research, the biggest challenge for solar is not technology or cost, but how the sector is misrepresented and therefore misunderstood by the general public.

92 percent of American Voters feel it is important we develop and use more solar power

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January 10 2014


The Cleantech Revolution and 60 Minutes’ Epic Fail

60 Minutes offers an epic fail on the Cleantech sector as this chart demonstratesOn Sunday, January 5th the venerable TV news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment called the Cleantech Crash. According to the report, the billions of dollars of government money poured into clean energy has essential come to nothing – or very little at best.

Really? At best the reportage from 60 Minutes was narrow and shallow, misrepresenting the real progress in clean energy development. At worst it represents the sort of biased, agenda-driven pablum that is the hallmark of the likes of Fox News – journalism be damned.

Leslie Stahl appeared intent in focusing on the failures, starting with Solyndra, the poster child of cleantech naysayers, which failed several years ago. That’s just lazy. The fact is that three out of four startups in any sector fail. Stahl gave only a half-hearted effort to point to any successful cleantech ventures with what writer Dana Hull called a “token throw away line about Tesla Motors.”

In fact, since the failure of Solyndra, solar and wind energy has expanded exponentially, with continued growth all but assured, bringing jobs and clean, sustainable energy to the United States.

Stahl apparently didn’t think it important to tell her viewers that the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program has a 97 percent success rate. Hull reports that Jonathan Silver, who formally directed the DOE loan program, spoke to the segment’s producer for over an hour in preparation for the piece. On Monday, after Cleantech Crash aired, Silver tweeted about his conversation with the producer, saying that “facts did not seem to affect his analysis.”

A U.S. Department of Energy report entitled Revolution Now , published last fall, outlines four “technology revolutions that are here today,” including onshore wind, PV solar, LED lighting and electric vehicles.

In the last five years they have achieved dramatic reductions in cost1 and this has been accompanied by a surge in consumer, industrial and commercial deployment. Although these four technologies still represent a small percentage of their total market (e.g. electricity, cars and lighting), they are growing rapidly.

A big part of the success of these revolutions comes from state and federal incentives.

One can only speculate why 60 Minutes chose to misrepresent the Cleantech sector so egregiously. Clearly they have the resources and expertise to provide sound journalism. Instead they ignored the whole truth in favor of a slanted, misleading report on one of the most promising sectors in the American economy.


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January 09 2014


Review of U.S. Energy Efficiency in 2013

Energy efficiency has played a pivotal role in American productivity improvements. In 2013, energy efficiency continued to move forward in the U.S. Driven by cost savings, energy efficiency is good for business and the economy. Improving efficiency increases production and can even lead to a higher quality of material life. Energy efficiency improves the nation’s GDP for each national energy dollar. Perhaps most importantly, energy efficiency is a meaningful part of emissions reductions, which combat climate change and improve air quality.

U.S. energy efficiency continued to improve in 2013 - this map show efficiency state-by-stateDespite progress, there is still a lot of room for improvement in energy efficiency. As reported in Forbes, the U.S. is the global leader in wasting energy with the nation currently wasting more energy than it uses. A total of 57 percent of the energy flowing into our economy is wasted as heat, noise, and leaks, costing U.S. businesses and households an estimated $130 billion per year. In addition to massive cost savings, it is estimated that energy efficiency can also create more than one million jobs in the U.S.

Federal legislation pertaining to energy efficiency has been around for almost 27 years. Existing energy efficiency standards for everything from appliances to commercial products was first signed into law in 1987. Congress and the Department of Energy have subsequently added many new products and updated standards.

According to a 2012 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), appliance, equipment, and lighting standards will save businesses and consumers more than $1.1 trillion by 2035. By updating existing standards and setting new standards for additional products, consumers and businesses could save another $170 billion.

Climate benefits of energy efficiency

The benefits of energy efficiency extend well beyond cost savings. As indicated in an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, adopting measures to promote energy efficiency can buy the world an additional five years to secure a global climate deal. The IEA also suggests that energy efficiency may help us to keep temperature increases within 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) or perhaps even the 2 degrees Celsius upper threshold limit agreed upon by scientists.

Economic improvements

The health of the American economy is being buoyed in part by energy efficiency. This is one of the findings in a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) titled Energy and Environment Report, America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News. The report demonstrates that energy efficiency measures are working in America. Although the U.S. economy grew by 25 percent between 1999 and 2012, total U.S. energy use actually declined during this period. The costs of energy services has also declined during the same period according to the NRDC report.

Energy productivity

Energy efficiency was largely replaced by the term energy productivity in 2013, this is due to the growing appreciation that conserving energy is good for the economy. Energy productivity is defined as the amount of economic output possible at a given level of energy supply.

Energy productivity rose to prominence in 2013, due largely to the political advocacy of the Alliance to Save Energy and their Energy 2030 plan, which was put forth by the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy. The plan proposes doubling energy productivity by 2030.

The Obama administration and energy efficiency

The Obama administration embraced energy efficiency in earnest in 2013. President Obama showed his support for energy efficiency in his State of the Union address in which he called for cutting energy waste by half in our homes and buildings by 2030. As outlined in the President’s 2014 budget, energy efficiency is central to the Race to the Top program.

Doubling energy productivity is a key strategy in the President’s Climate Action Plan. The President’s Plan also sets power plant carbon standards, builds a 21st-century transportation sector, reduces energy bills for families and businesses, invests in R&D, and modernizes the grid.

The federal government’s Better Building Challenge has been expanded to include multifamily housing, and incorporate new accelerator programs for building data, performance contracting, and energy performance certification. Govenment agencies have also increased their energy savings performance contracts, which augments efficiency in federal buildings. Another catalyst is the Energy Efficiency and Loan Conservation Program, which provides $250 million for energy efficiency retrofitting projects in rural communities.

A couple of federal government agencies stand out for their promotion of energy efficiency. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz are energy efficiency advocates.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is taking a leadership role by working on energy efficiency with new publications detailing methods for estimating energy efficiency savings and creating protocols for energy efficiency programs. Moniz has pledged to address appliance and equipment standards as well as establish rules pertaining to efficiency standards in electric motors. As reported by The Hill, the new rules will save up to $23 billion in energy costs over 30 years, as cited by DOE data.

According to Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE, electricity use and oil for transportation were down nationwide in 2013 as compared to 2011 and 2012 levels. He attributed the decline to utility-run energy efficiency programs, as well as equipment and vehicle standards.

States and cities

Energy efficiency is also moving forward on state and municipal levels. According to Nadel, highlights include utility programs in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, and legislation that was passed in Connecticut and Maine.

ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard shows that the top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois. With Mississippi, Maine, Kansas, Ohio, and West Virginia showing the most improvement.

As explained in the ACEEE Scorecard report, states are continuing to use energy efficiency as a key strategy to generate cost-savings, promote technological innovation, and stimulate growth.  A total of twenty six states have adopted and adequately funded an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS), which sets long term energy savings targets and drives investments in utility sector energy efficiency programs.

Ranked number two by the ACEEE Scorecard, California is one of the best examples of state level energy efficiency efforts. However, action at the municipal level is proving to be another important factor driving energy efficiency. This is particularly true of Minneapolis, Chicago, Boston, Atlantic City, and Dallas.


Driven by cost concerns, the business community has been leading energy efficiency efforts. A growing number of corporations are getting onboard the efficiency train and putting pressure up and down their supply chains to produce economy wide impacts.

According to an article in Greentech Media (GTM), in 2013, energy efficiency became “cooler, sexier and cheaper than ever before — driven largely by innovations in intelligent efficiency such as energy management software, virtual audits and better data crunching abilities.”

GTM solicited the perspectives of efficiency executives in response to the question “What was the most important technology or market development for efficiency in 2013?” These executives indicated that a growing number of large corporations are getting serious about energy efficiency, they also talked about the importance of data, reporting and technology. Here is a summary of their responses:

Clay Nesler, VP of global energy and sustainability Johnson Controls, shared the results of their 2013 global survey of 3,000 facility and energy management executives. Their study showed that 73 percent of organizations surveyed had made internal or public goals to reduce energy consumption, of those, 50 percent implemented more efficiency measures in 2013.

Stephen Cowell, CEO, Conservation Services Group, said that smart devices provided multiple benefits by combining technologies to control equipment, engage customer behavior and link both demand response and efficiency.

Paul Baier, vice president of sustainability at Groom Energy indicated that the widespread acceptance of energy efficiency among senior management was driven by three trends: 1) Execution to achieve publicly stated greenhouse gas reduction goals. 2) Pressure from top customers like Wal-Mart. 3) Increased funding from utilities for behavior change (through demand response) and retrofits (through incentives).

Chuck McKinney, VP of marketing at Aircuity suggested that the availability of building energy consumption information helped to drive the efficiency market in 2013. Swapnil Shah, CEO at FirstFuel, said that in 2013, utilities demonstrated some innovative thinking in energy efficiency. He further indicated that energy efficiency oriented pilot programs were a defining feature of 2013.

Buildings and energy efficiency

Buildings account for 40 percent of all U.S. energy requirements, and a report by the Rhodium Group and United Technologies, entitled “Unlocking American Efficiency: The Economic and Commercial Power of Investing in Energy Efficient Buildings,”  indicates that this translates to costs of almost half a trillion dollars per year. ($432 billion in 2011).

Building efficiency not only saves costs and benefits investors, it actually boosts the economy. Improving energy efficiency in buildings by 30 percent can create a $275 billion market for advanced technology, engineering and design services, and construction activity.

As reviewed in the 2013 State Energy Scorecard, a total of seven states adopted building energy codes in 2013, which require large commercial buildings to benchmark and report on their energy use.

Building efficiency is good business that offers outstanding ROI. It not only increases the productivity of existing assets, it also protects against volatile energy costs. According to the Rhodium Group report, the return on investment is exceptional.  As explained by John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Climate, Controls & Security in an Energy Manager Today article,

“[I]nvesting…30% improvement in building energy efficiency would have an internal rate of return (IRR) of 28.6% over a 10-year period. An IRR of 28.6% is four times better than average corporate bond yields or average equity performance, and more than double the returns even high-performing venture capital firms.”

As reviewed in the Rhodium Group report, with a five percent penetration rate, U.S. government and utility sponsored programs are just starting to impact on the efficiency finance opportunity.

The financing barrier

Despite the fact that energy efficiency is a valuable investment for almost all companies, a lack of capital and difficulties associted with financing continue to represent challenging obstacles. In addition to addressing the issue of up-front costs, financing can make energy efficiency cash flow positive by spreading out payments over time so that the cost is actually less than the savings cash flow. For qualifying companies there are also a number of utility rebates, tax refunds, credits, and other sources of free money that will improve a project’s financial return.

However, as pointed out by Clay Nesler of Johnson Controls, funding is a perennial barrier to investment in energy efficiency. The specific barriers cited by Nesler include lack of internal capital, competition from other investments and lack of competitive third-party financing options.

Swapnil Shah, of FirstFuel, concurs, reiterating the point that fostering private investment is the most serious hurdle for commercial building efficiency. He sees the absence of standard assessment metrics in energy efficiency as the major problem.

Despite these financing problems, the increasing focus on energy efficiency/productivity in 2013 represents important progress in the evolution of the green economy.

 Next week: Energy Efficiency Outlook for 2014

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: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

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January 06 2014


Reduce Your Small Business’s Environmental Footprint

No business is too small to contribute to making a difference in the state of our environment by lowering its resource consumption. A series of little changes add up to big change, both at the micro and macro level. If enough small businesses take steps to curb their water and energy usage, not only will it have a practical impact on the world around us, but it will also help pressure larger corporations to do the same.

Although there are justifiable concerns about the expense or inconvenience of such actions, in fact, a few DIY updates and minimal investments in the short-term can actually help you save money as time goes on.

There are two major areas businesses should be concerned about: energy usage and water consumption. Here are some tips to help you reduce your environmental footprint by making a few small adjustments.

Reducing the environmental footprint for your small business starts with simple things like switching to LED lightbulbs Energy Usage

1) Replace incandescent lights with LEDs

Notice that I said ‘LED’ instead of ‘CFL’? Although CFLs are still an improvement over incandescents, LED lights last far longer than traditional lightbulbs and also use significantly less energy. This means that although there might be some expense associated with making the original change, in the long run your small business may actually save money. In addition, the cost of LEDs is dropping as the technology develops and grows more popular.

2) Increase Awareness of Energy Usage

In a business setting, because employees do not directly pay the power bill themselves, they are often not as aware and conscientious of their energy usage as they might be in their own home. Develop programs that raise employees’ consciousness of behaviors that contribute to high energy usage and that reward them for lowering costs by turning off lights and equipment when they are not in use, particularly overnight and on weekends. Additionally, keep thermostats on low settings, use natural light, and keep doors and windows closed to prevent heat or air conditioning loss when the above are in use.

3) Avoid Waste

You can avoid wasting energy by performing routine maintenance. For example, clean all filters in the heating or air conditioning systems regularly, as well as in any exhaust fans. Check periodically on any automatic settings in lighting systems or the thermostat to ensure that they are at the most energy-efficient levels. Remove any unneeded light bulbs or replace them with more energy-efficient models where possible.

4) Look into Energy-Efficiency Programs for Small Businesses

Some state or local municipalities may have energy-efficiency programs (like this one) that offer discounts and assistance to businesses trying to make the switch to energy-efficient appliances or other energy saving improvements. These could include programmable thermostats, furnace replacements, boiler optimization controls and others. In addition, such programs can include a free energy assessment to offer you advice about which specific steps will be most effective for your business.

Water Consumption

1) Install Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

One very simple and inexpensive change is to change the aerators on your faucets. By putting in new low-flow aerators that reducing the flow of water from the faucets in your bathroom sinks and any other areas in the office that use water, you can reduce your bill every month and also stop waste. Buying new aerators is relatively inexpensive – just make sure to get the right fit from your local hardware store.

2) Look for the EPA’s WaterSense Label for New Fixtures

Another slightly more elaborate investment that might work best for new businesses or businesses with aging fixtures is to look for the EPA’s WaterSense Label when selecting a faucet, urinal or toilet. These labels show that the fixtures are “water-efficient,” meaning that they use a significantly lower flow of water than comparable models. This could save businesses the cost of thousands of gallons of water a year. More information about the WaterSense labeling program and the advantages of using products bearing the label can be found at the EPA’s website.

3) Fix Leaks

Another way of potentially saving money is to look for leaks in your faucets, pipes, or hot water heaters. Water leaks can cost you money every month and also mean wasting water that isn’t really needed. Many leaks can be fixed yourself with some simple supplies. Just be sure to invest in a professional if the leak looks more complicated to repair.

Have you taken any steps toward lowering your resource consumption that you think other small businesses should know about?


Angelo DiGangi has been a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs since 1994. Angelo is also a regular contributor to the Home Depot website on electrical and plumbing topics, on everything from LED lighting to kitchen sinks.

Image credit: Stephan Ridgway, courtesy flickr

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December 27 2013


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.
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 23 2013


Infographic: State of Solar 2013

U.S. solar market grows 30 percent in 2013

The infographic prepared by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM research reveals another banner year for solar energy in the United States. The continued growth in solar power is summed up by Shayle Kann of GTM:

“We are on the cusp of an unprecedented shift in the U.S. solar market, and by extension the entire electricity market”

The state of solar power for the US in 2013

Thanks to the EnergyCollective 

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November 29 2013


Geothermal Energy can be a Potential Source of Green Energy to Mitigate Global Warming

Geothermal energy has room for growth for US energy production. Overall, growth remains strong for renewable sources of energy production and electricity generation

By Stephen Roshy

Geothermal energy is one of the most exciting and cheap source of green energy. It comes from the heat generated below the surface of the earth. Geothermal energy has great potential as a source to slow down and control the increasing global warming. It is a completely natural source and is environmental friendly. Many countries including the USA, China and Japan have already started using geothermal energy for different purposes.

Geothermal energy for electricity generation

Geothermal energy can be used to generate electricity especially in those regions that are tectonically active. Geothermal energy is produced when wells are drilled down in to a geothermal reservoir that generates hot water, which is consequently converted into electricity that is used to run industrial power plants, etc. The hot water in the reservoir and steam created is the carrier of geothermal energy.

Using geothermal energy to produce electricity is environmental friendly and can help curb global warming to a certain extent. As geothermal energy doesn’t use a lot of water, which is otherwise required to generate electricity, it is a sustainable way of producing electricity for huge power plants and projects.

Geothermal energy reduces carbon footprint

Geothermal energy essentially produces no carbon dioxide, or extremely low levels of it. Carbon dioxide is known to be one of the most considerable gases that stimulate global warming. Global warming has increased with time as industries generate electricity and the waste produces lets off carbon emissions and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Geothermal energy helps to reduce the carbon footprint hence helps to mitigate global warming.

Geothermal energy uses less land

Geothermal energy uses less land to generate energy and electricity with the help of hot water from the surface of the earth. Out of all the sources used for electricity production such as wind, hydro power, nuclear energy, solar energy, natural gas, etc, geo thermal uses the least amount of land per generated power over a period.

The use of geothermal energy has great potential to mitigate global warming as it releases the least or no amount of toxic gases that accelerate global warming and eventually have a negative effect on the habitat of the earth. The increasing use of geothermal energy in America has enabled homeowners to install geothermal heating and cooling systems in order to create a greener environment, mitigate global warming and save on thousands of dollars on bills and costs in the end. Many companies provide geothermal systems for homes to ensure hot and cold water is available at all times. Find out more about the nuts and bolts of geothermal systems.


Author Bio: Stephen Roshy is a professional writer and he writes quality and informative content on Ground Source Contractors. You can find him on Facebook , Twitter and Google+


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November 20 2013


The Benefits Of Converting A Pool To Solar Power

The benefits of converting you pool to solar power are manyBy Grant Weaver

A pool can add tremendous value and create joy for your family, but the costs of an indoor or outdoor pool may be equally tremendous. Neil Anderson Associates calculates the cost of heating a 5 feet deep, 525-square foot pool between one hundred dollars in the summer time and one thousand dollars in the winter. If you want to cut down on the costs of your pool heating bills, solar panels may be the ideal solution for hefty utility fees.

Solar Vs Gas

A gas pool heater may be less expensive than filter and chemicals, but this does not make it cheap. The Department of Energy suggests that most heaters may run about two thousand dollars if the pool is not adequately covered. Solar Swim calculates that it takes around half a million BTUs of energy to heat a pool, which is about the energy requirements of an entire house. By installing a solar grid, you can cut down on the energy output by a huge amount.

Buying Solar

According to Solar Heating For Dummies, a single 4×20 foot solar panel costs a little over two hundred dollars, a steep discount from a decade ago. What’s more, most pool supply stores sell solar panels and grids, so that you need not deal with a contractor to buy and install a grid for your own pool. If you install solar grids in and around your pool, you need only worry about larger objects that block the path of the sun.

Heating Efficiency

The amount of power that a solar grid creates will depend on the amount of sun that it can soak up. When you start to think of installing solar grids, plan to uproot any and all trees or shrubs around a pool that can interfere with solar collection. You can check out which areas of the country have the most sunny days in order to determine cost efficiency. The National Renewable Energy Laboratories created a graphic that shows which areas of the country get the highest yields; the southwest and Great Plains states rank highest, while the Pacific northwest and Alaska rank lowest.

Energy Efficiency For A Pool

In addition to installing a solar grid, pool owners can take other steps to cut down on the amount of energy their pool requires. The pool covering as well as its liners will minimize the heat lost and ensure better efficiency. PoolProducts.com inground liners cut down on the heat loss of a pool by insulating the water from the cold cement. What’s more, you can install these liners yourself and save money in the process.

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November 19 2013


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: “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: “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: “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


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.


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


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.


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 28 2013


I Have a Solar Job: Insider Dispels 5 Myths about Solar Energy in the U.S.

5 myths about solar energy in the United StatesThere are over 120,000 people with solar jobs in the US and I am one of them.

I sell solar PV (photovoltaic) to home and business owners in Washington State and the majority of my job is education. The more the public is educated on the facts of solar power the better the solar industry will do.

Can you think of many professions where most people know little about the product and what they think they know is often false? Most people in America have an opinion about solar energy, yet few of them have any experience with it. When it comes to solar the American public is highly opinionated and minimally educated, a combination that too often creates mass confusion. To combat this problem here are 5 myths about solar energy in the US.

  1. Solar is only for the wealthy:  media outlets often suggest that solar is only for rich people. A report just published  proves that over 60 percent of the households going solar in the California, Arizona and New Jersey earn below $90,000. If you live in a state that allows leases or purchase-power-agreements (PPAs) then you can go solar without any upfront cost.
  2. Solar must always be subsidized to make economic sense: opponents will tell you that solar is not good because it is subsidized. The implication here is that coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power are all not subsidized by the US government. The US government subsidizes all energy sources, sometimes in really complex and discrete ways.
  3. Solar companies in the US are failing: Listening to the news, especially certain networks, you’d get the impression that solar companies in the US are all failing. While solar manufacturers in the US are having a really hard time competing on the global market, isn’t this true for all US manufacturers of electronic products? Installers of solar are doing really well in the US, and US companies are leading the way. SolarCity is the US solar installer with the highest profile, they went public last year and their business has continued to grow with their stock price.
  4. Solar won’t work because the sun doesn’t always shine: The argument oft-heard argument is that since the sun doesn’t shine all the time it just won’t work as an energy source. There is an issue of storing excess electrical production but this is a solvable problem and strategies like Net Metering are doing the job. The other issue is that we use power when the sun is not shining. That’s why we have multiple sources of electricity that complement each other. The electrical grid in the US needs to be updated to fully utilize the benefits of renewable energy, this updated grid is called the “smart grid.”
  5. Unlike sun-drenched Germany, there isn’t enough sun in the US for solar to work. Leave it to Fox News to make the the most ridiculous claim ever regarding solar. With perfectly straight faces, their morning “news” crew claimed the reason solar won’t work in the US is because we don’t get enough sun, unlike Germany, a leader in solar power, due to the ample amount of sunlight that they get. Check out the solar irradiance map of the US and Germany in the following video clearly showing how much more sunlight falls in the US on average (except for Alaska) than in Germany.

Image credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie, courtesy flickr

The post I Have a Solar Job: Insider Dispels 5 Myths about Solar Energy in the U.S. appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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