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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.

July 25 2013


Renewables can Power the World

Renewable can power the world: Gemasolar is a baseload solar thermal plant, using molten salt storage to run 24 hours per day.We already see strong evidence to support the contention that renewable energy can supply the world’s power needs. As explained in Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2013, we need to move beyond fossil fuels before its too late.

“Renewable technologies broke all growth records in recent years,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy program, and contributing author of State of the World 2013.

“In 2011, new investments in renewables for the first time in modern history topped those in conventional energy technologies with clean energy investments in developing countries now outpacing those in many industrialized countries. These promising trends need to be accelerated, with action on all political levels. Science tells us that global greenhouse gas emissions have to peak well before 2020 if we want to avoid the danger of major climate disruptions.”

Despite the fact that we urgently need to transition away from hydrocarbon based energy systems, there are many who continue to deride renewables as an unstable and unpredictable source of power.  In an effort to debunk the myths about renewable energy being unpredictable, Karl-Friedrich Lenz coined the term “unreliables myth”. He was responding to critics who say that wind and solar only offer intermittent energy (the wind is not always blowing and the sun is not always shining).

Describing wind and solar as unreliable is inaccurate. First, photovoltaic solar and wind can be supplemented with storage capacity that enables them to provide uninterrupted power. A good example of a technique for creating storage capacity involves generating hydrogen with renewable energy which can be stored and used at will. Once you are producing large enough volumes of energy you can stockpile it and avoid concerns about intermittency.

Second, even if part of the energy grid uses intermittent renewable energy without storage, as long as there are other energy sources on the grid (ie concentrated solar power, hydro, and geothermal etc) there will be no interruption of supply.  Even if there is a shortage, this can be managed by smart grids, or as a worst case scenario, energy can occasionally be supplemented by hydrocarbons.

Despite these solutions, many continue to be doubtful about the possibility of an entirely renewable electrical grid. The old energy industry would like to have us believe that it will take at least 50 years before we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.

However,  this is refuted by the 50 nations that are currently meeting most of their energy needs with renewables. A total of 11 countries are supplying all of their power demands with renewables and some of these have become net exporters of clean energy.

Paraguay is one of those countries that gets all of its electricity from renewable energy while at the same time exporting 90 percent of its production. Renewable energy is not only clean it also provides good jobs.  Albania, which produces all of its electricity with renewables, is looking to create 100,000 green jobs by 2020.

The following list of countries get 60 percent or more of their electricity from renewable energy. It was compiled from data at the CO2 scorecard site. All the data is derived from this source with the exception of nations designated with an asterix, which are sourced from Wikipedia.

  • Afganistan (62%) *
  • Albania (100%).
  • Angola (96%)
  • Austria (73%)
  • Belize (90%)
  • Bhutan (99%)
  • Brazil (88%)
  • Burma/Myanmar (62%)
  • Burundi (100%)
  • Cameroon (77%)
  • Canada (61%)
  • Central African Republic (81%)
  • Columbia (85%)
  • Congo (82%)
  • Costa Rica (93%)
  • DPR Korea (61%)
  • DR Congo (99%)
  • Ecuador (64%)
  • El Salvador (62%)
  • Ethiopia (88%)
  • Fiji (68%)
  • Georgia (85%)
  • Ghana (75%)
  • Guatemala (61%)
  • Iberia (70%)
  • Iceland (100%)
  • Kenya (62%)
  • Kyrgyzstan (90%)
  • Lao PDR (92%)
  • Latvia (62%)
  • Lesotho (100%)
  • Madagascar (66%)
  • Malawi (86%)
  • Mozambique (99%)
  • Namibia (70%)
  • Nepal (99%)
  • New Zealand (72%)
  • North Korea (61%)*
  • Norway (97.11% )
  • Panama (63%)*
  • Paraguay (100%)
  • Peru (60% )
  • Portugal (70%)
  • Sweden (60%)
  • Tajikistan (98%)
  • Tanzania (61%)
  • Uganda (74%)
  • Uruguay (61%)
  • Venezuela (69%)
  • Zambia (99%)

As most of these figures date back to 2008, the percentage has in many cases increased over the last five years. It should also be noted that most of these states get their energy from hydroelectric projects, which although commonly considered a renewable energy, comes with a number of environmental concerns. Further, there are many small developing nations in this list which have limited power requirements. Nonetheless, this list demonstrates the viability of renewable energy, albeit on a small scale.

Developing countries are not the only ones ramping up renewable energy. In terms of developed nations, Germany is a recent standout for producing almost half of its energy needs from solar.  In the U.S., almost half of all new generating capacity installed in 2012 was renewable, and in Q1 2013, 49 percent of all new US electricity generation capacity came form solar.

A number of independent researchers have demonstrated that renewable energy sources can replace fossil fuels and provide for all of the world’s energy needs. This research has also debunked claims that the emissions attributable to intermittent power production from renewable sources offer only nominal reductions in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to fossil fuels.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has conducted research which demonstrates that green energy can affordably replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary source of electricity within 20 years.

The NOAA’s findings add to other studies that also support the feasibility of replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy. In 2011, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report which indicates that nearly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by renewable sources of energy by 2050. Research published in 2009 by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi also supports the contention that renewable energy can replace fossil fuels, as does research published in 2010 by Robert Howarth.

Sandy MacDonald, a director at NOAA said that wind and solar could supply 70 percent of electricity demand in the lower 48 states as soon as 2030.

Together the evidence supports the notion that we can meet our energy needs with renewable sources of energy. This is not just an urgent necessity, it is also a technologically and economically viable solution to the looming threats we face.

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: Beyond Coal and Gas, courtesy flickr

The post Renewables can Power the World appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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January 18 2012


Energy Subsidies: Oil versus Renewables

The lopsided story of energy subsidies in the United StatesIn a world that must reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, replacing oil subsidies with renewable energy subsidies makes sense. Although this is undeniably difficult, it would produce both environmental and economic benefits. Putting an end to oil subsidies would free public money that could be used to promote clean energy and make renewables more competitive.

Although renewable energy is destined to increase it will not grow fast enough to stabilize GHG concentrations below 450ppm which will result in a temperature increase of more than 2°C. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for renewables currently account for approximately 4 percent of total energy. Demand for renewables is expected to rise to 14 percent by 2035, while fossil fuels, which now have 75 percent of global energy demand, will decline to 62 percent over the same period.

The case against fossil fuel subsidies

The case against the fossil-fuel subsidies is overwhelming. They encourage inefficient energy use and they represent a huge amount of lost revenue. Sheltering consumers from oil’s price volatility also shields them from incentives to pursue renewables.

Fossil fuel subsidies are “creating market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption,” the IEA said. “The costs of subsidies to fossil fuels generally outweigh the benefits.”

Oil subsidies are actually increasing the consumption of fossil fuels. Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the IEA, points out that 95 percent of current growth in oil demand is coming from countries where the oil price is subject to subsidies. The IEA estimates that removing fossil-fuel consumption subsidies would reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions by 1.5 to 2 billion tons by 2020.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook report indicates that eliminating subsidies by 2020 would cut global energy demand by 3.9 percent or the equivalent of 600 million tons of oil. The abolition of these subsidies would reduce demand by almost 5 percent by 2035.

Although many have agreed on the need to eliminate oil subsidies in principle, nothing has actually been done. The Obama Administration has proposed ending fossil fuel subsidies, as did U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Sir Nicholas Stern, Al Gore, and Sir John Browne (the former Chief Executive of BP). In September 2009, G20 Leaders also committed to “rationalize and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.”

An analysis made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the IEA illustrates that removing fossil fuel subsidies in a number of non-OECD countries could reduce world Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 10 percent in 2050. Removing these subsidies would amount to roughly a seventh of the effort needed to keep temperature increases below 2°C.

In the U.S., the fossil fuel industry and their allies claim eliminating oil subsidies would cause domestic production to fall, the loss of jobs, and a rise in gas prices. But the advocacy group Oil Change International says removing fossil fuel subsidies will have “little to no impact on domestic production, jobs, or prices at the pump.”

Calculating Fossil Fuel Subsidies 

Fossil fuel subsidies are difficult to estimate because they are complex and take many forms. In its simplest essence, these subsidies refer to any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuels. This includes everything from tax breaks, to preferred rate loans, price controls and purchase requirements.

A report from the OECD estimates that between $45 billion and $75 billion in budgetary support and tax expenditures have been provided to the coal, oil and gas industries by the 24 richest OECD countries.  According to the IEA, consumption subsidies in 37 developing countries were worth $557 billion annually.

The IEA data indicates the worldwide cost of fuel subsidies for oil amounted to about $190 billion in 2010, up from around $120 billion in 2009. According to the agency, expenditure on all fossil fuel (oil, coal and gas) subsidies could rise to $660 billion in 2020, up from $409 billion in 2010.

U.S. federal subsidies to the domestic oil and gas industry, excluding coal, may be as high as $41 billion annually. When all forms of subsidies are tallied, including production subsidies and consumption subsidies, that total may be closer to $600 billion annually.

Comparing Renewable Energy Subsidies

A November 11, 2011 Bloomberg article reports that while governments are increasingly subsidizing oil and gas they are not making similar investments in renewable energy. According to the chief adviser to oil-importing, fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times more government subsidies than were given to the renewable-energy industry.

In its World Energy Outlook, the IEA said State spending to cut retail prices of gasoline, coal and natural gas rose 36 percent to $409 billion as global energy costs increased, while aid for biofuels, wind power and solar energy, rose only 10 percent to $66 billion.

At the current rate, the IEA predicted that onshore wind generators will not be be competitive until 2020 in Europe and 2030 in China. In the U.S., wind turbines will not be competitive until at least 2035.

The IEA data supports the idea that for renewable energy to be competitive with fossil fuels, they need more short-term subsidies.

Promising Signs for Renewable Energy

Despite disproportionate support for fossil fuels, a November 25, 2011 Bloomberg article reveals that in terms of new power-plant investments, renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time. Electricity generated by wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year, compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal.

Last year was also the first time expenditure in developing countries exceeded that of the industrialized world.

The growth of renewable energy prompted United Nations Environment Program Executive Secretary Achim Steiner to say:

“The progress of renewables has been nothing short of remarkable. You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis.”

We are witnessing a promising trend in wind and solar power. According to GWEC estimates, there were 36 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in 2010, 43 gigawatts of generating capacity in 2011, and 48 gigawatts are anticipated in 2012.

New Energy Finance said there were 18.2 gigawatts of solar installations in 2010, 26.4 gigawatts in 2011, and 27.8 gigawatts are forecast for 2012. They estimate that investment in renewable energy may double to $395 billion a year by 2020.

Obstacles to Growing Renewable Energy and Eliminating Oil Subsidies

Despite their growth, renewable energy companies are struggling with oversupply issues and the austerity of the current business environment. The surge in production to meet growing demand has driven down prices and created an overcapacity. This has forced renewable energy companies to cut their margins and reduce their sales forecasts in 2012.

The ongoing financial crisis has also hit renewable energy companies hard, making it even more difficult to develop new projects. Austerity measures are cutting spending on climate protection measures, including renewable energy subsidies, tax credits, and pollution abatement programs.

In the U.S., the Department of the Treasury’s Section 1603 cash grants program for clean energy projects expired in 2011, while tens of billions of dollars continues to go to the American oil industry in annual subsidies.

The sheer number of oil subsidies makes eradicating them a very complex problem. The IEA and the OECD indicate that there are at least 250 different kinds of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Perhaps the most difficult problem concerns the fact that ending subsidies for oil and gas is a political minefield.

Despite these difficulties, the world is moving towards renewables driven by the inescapable logic of clean energy. However, this shift could be significantly expedited if we eliminated fossil fuel subsidies and increased subsidies for renewable energy.


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, a leading sustainable business blog 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: CleanTechnica.com

July 07 2011


Power Generation from Renewables Surpasses Nuclear

Renewable electrical generation surpasses nuclear power generationThe latest issue of theMonthly Energy Review published by the US Energy Information Administration, electric power generation from renewable sources has surpassed production from nuclear sources, and is now “closing in on oil,” says Ken Bossong Executive Director of the Sun Day Campaign

In the first quarter of 2011 renewable energy sources accounted for 11.73 percent of US domestic energy production. Renewable sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass/biofuel. As of the first quarter of 2011, energy production from these sources was 5.65 percent more than production from nuclear.

As Bossing further explains from the report, renewable sources are closing the gap with generation from oil-fired sources, with renewable source equal to 77.15 percent of total oil based generation.

For all sectors, including transportation, thermal, and electrical generation, renewable energy production grew just over 15 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010, and fully 25 percent over first quarter 2009. In a break-down of renewable sources, biomass/biofuel accounted for a bit more than 48 percent, hydro for 35.41 percent, wind for nearly 13 percent, geothermal 2.45 percent, and solar at 1.16 percent.

Looking at just the electrical generation sector, renewable sources, including hydro, accounted for nearly 13 percent of net US electrical generation in the first quarter of 2011, up from 10.31 percent for the same quarter last year. Non-hydro renewable sources accounted for 4.74 percent of net US production.

Electrical power generation from renewable grew by almost 26 percent in the first quarter of 2011 over the same quarter in 2010. Solar power generation was up 104.8 percent, wind generation increased 40.3 percent, and hydro expanded by 28.7 percent. Electricity generated from biomass decreased by 4.8 percent. By comparison, natural gas generation increased by 1.8 percent, nuclear by 0.4 percent, and coal-fired electrical generation declined by 5.7 percent.

“Notwithstanding the recent nuclear accident in Japan, among many others, and the rapid growth in energy and electricity from renewable sources, congressional Republicans continue to press for more nuclear energy funding while seeking deep cuts in renewable energy investments,” said Bossong. “One has to wonder ‘what are these people thinking?’”

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December 27 2010


Latest EIA Report Shows Renewable Energy Production Continues Growth in 2010, Equals Nuclear Energy Output

Wind energy saw the largest growth in 2010The latest Monthly Energy Review released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) last week shows both nuclear and renewable energy sources provided roughly 11 percent each of primary energy production for the first nine months of 2010 – the latest period for which data is available.

The EIA report states that renewable energy sources, including biomass/biofuels, solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal contributed 10.9 percent of domestic energy production through the end of September, up 5.7 percent over the same period in 2009. Nuclear energy accounted for 11.4 percent of domestic production – down 0.5 percent from the same period last year.

Renewable energy statistics breakdown

Of the various sources of renewable energy, each contributed the following to the overall renewable portfolio:

  • Biomass/biofuel: 51.95 percent
  • Hydropower: 31.50 percent
  • Wind: 10.52 percent
  • Geothermal: 4.65 percent
  • Solar: 1.38 percent

Wind, biofuels shows biggest growth

Comparing those statistics with the same period of 2009 shows solar energy production expanding 2.4 percent and hydro declining by 5.2 percent. The big winners were biomass and biofuels, which grew by 10 percent in the first three quarters of 2010, and wind energy, which grew a full 26.7 percent. Combined non-hydro renewable sources grew 11.5 percent.

Overall, U.S. primary energy production rose 2 percent in the first nine months of 2010 over the same period last year. Fossil fuels accounted for 78 percent of primary energy production.

“Members of the incoming Congress are proposing to slash cost-effective funding for rapidly expanding renewable energy technologies while foolishly plowing ever-more federal dollars into the nuclear power black hole,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The numbers clearly show this would be betting on the obvious loser while ignoring the clearly emerging winner in the energy race.”

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