Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/24/15)

April 24th, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/24/15).

  1. Greentech Media lists “20 companies that are transforming the electrical power sector.”
  2. At Renewable Energy World, Tony Clifford of Standard Solar has “3 Solar Trends to Watch After the First Quarter of 2015.”
  3. Climate Progress reports, “In an especially fractious split, the day after [Oklahoma’s] energy and environment cabinet acknowledged that the ‘recent rise in earthquakes cannot be entirely attributed to natural causes,’ state lawmakers passed two bills to limit the ability of localities to decide if they want to allow fracking and drilling nearby.”
  4. According to Bloomberg: “Germany’s cost of producing solar energy has shrunk to about a third of the price households pay for power after the nation made developers compete for subsidies. Most bids to build large ground-mounted solar plants in the first solar auction came in at 9 euro cents (9.7 U.S. cents) to 10 euro cents a kilowatt-hour, Deputy Economy Minister Rainer Baake said. German retail consumers are paying on average 29.8 cents a kWh, according to Eurostat.”
  5. Gizmodo reports: “So far, specific details are thin on the new battery designed for home use that Tesla’s announcing next week. But just based on what we do know, it’s a pretty big deal. The quest for a good battery that can store home-generated power is kind of like the holy grail for a renewable energy future. This one product might change everything.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/23/15)

April 23rd, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/23/15).

  1. InsideClimate News reports, “The federal government has issued new guidelines to correct the chronic underestimation of toxic air pollutants emitted from oil refineries and petrochemical plants.”
  2. According to the Checks and Balances Project, “Desperate Fossil Fuel Interests Seek to Undermine Clean Energy Choices in Communities of Color.”
  3. RenewEconomy reports, “Fossil fuel companies should be factoring in the risk of a climate change-driven ‘black swan event’ – such as the sudden and complete transformation of the global energy market, or a decision to cap global emissions – as part of their basic business strategy, a new report has found.”
  4. According to Mother Jones: “In the ongoing wars over solar energy, one power company is consistently painted as the archetypal, mustache-twirling nemesis of clean electricity: Arizona Public Service. So you might be surprised to learn that this same company is about to become a big new producer of rooftop solar power.”
  5. The New York Times reports, “flow batteries are being viewed as a possible way to help the electrical grid handle greater amounts of renewable energy, and they are being developed further by companies like UniEnergy Technologies, the maker of the Pullman battery, and academic and government researchers.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/22/15)

April 22nd, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/22/15).

  1. In Newsweek, Jim Marson of the Environmental Defense Fund lays out “the true benefits of wind power,” while demolishing the anti-clean-energy arguments of Randy Simmons, “senior fellow at the Koch- and ExxonMobil-funded Property and Environment Research Center.”
  2. The Guardian reports, “Three-quarters of known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if humanity is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, a group of leading scientists and economists have said in a statement timed to coincide with Earth Day.”
  3. According to InsideClimate News, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to crack down on carbon pollution from power plants would create more than a quarter of a million additional jobs, according to a new analysis by economists using a trusted, sophisticated model.”
  4. The Washington Post reports, “Newsweek adds disclosure about Koch ties of professor who wrote anti-wind power piece.”
  5. According to DeSmogBlog, “Five Years After The BP Oil Spill, Gulf Coast Residents Say ‘BP Hasn’t Made Things Right’.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (4/21/15)

April 21st, 2015

Here are five recommended reads for today (4/21/15).

  1. The Washington  Post reports, “The U.S. electric grid will require major changes to reposition itself for the future challenges of climate change, new technologies, and national security in coming decades, according to a first-ever ‘Quadrennial Energy Review released by the Obama administration.”
  2. According to Climate Progress, “At least 20 animal species are still suffering from the effects of the largest oil spill in U.S. history nearly five years after it occurred, according to a National Wildlife Federation report released Monday.”
  3. The Wall Street Journal reports, “China accelerated its solar-energy buildout in the first quarter, adding 18% to total capacity as the government prioritized renewable-energy investment to clean the skies and shore up economic growth.”
  4. At CleanTechnica, Tina Casey writes, “Florida Officially Denies Climate Change, But Could Get More Solar Anyway (Piece Of 1.5 Gigawatt NextEra Solar Pie?).”
  5. RenewEconomy writes: “Fossil fuel companies face an increasingly ‘acute’ risk of becoming ‘stranded assets’, as a result of climate change policies, changing economics such as plunging commodity prices, and the impact of new technologies such as solar and storage. That’s the assessment of global investment bank HSBC in a new report titled ‘Stranded Assets, what next?’

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive Sees Fossil Fuels Becoming the “Alternative” Source of Energy

April 20th, 2015

We wrote recently about new polling, produced for Clean Edge and SolarCity, that found enormous support among Americans for clean energy.  For instance, by a nearly unanimous 87%-7% margin, Americans said that renewable energy is important to America’s future. Also, by a 74%-12% margin, U.S. homeowners “back the continuation of federal tax incentives that support the growth of solar and wind.” Americans strongly oppose, by a 61%-24% margin, efforts by electric utilities aimed at “being able to charge an additional fee for solar powered homes and businesses.” Finally, asked which energy sources they view as “most important to America’s energy future,” solar power came out on top (50% of homeowners agreed), with wind power second (42%), and energy efficiency (25) also in the top four. In contrast, fossil fuels like coal (8%) and oil (17%) scored near the bottom.

Today, Clean Edge and SolarCity held a webinar on these poll results, with some fascinating insights provided by Lyndon Rive of SolarCity, Ron Pernick of Clean Edge, and pollster John Zogby.  A few that jumped out at us include the following.

  • Lyndon Rive of SolarCity notes that while in 2009, only 2% of new power capacity installed in the U.S. was solar, during the first three quarters of 2014, that share reached a whopping 35%. In Rive’s view, solar’s share of new installed capacity in the U.S. could hit 50% over the next five years.
  • John Zogby said that solar and wind have moved beyond being “esoteric” to being real and visible. Zogby noted that when a homeowner sees solar being installed on a neighbor’s home, it becomes more real and more accessible.
  • Zogby also argued that non-renewable energy sources have undergone the “exact opposite of a renaissance” in recent years, in part due to their perceived economic and geopolitical volatility.
  • Rive argued that, despite a perception of a partisan divide on solar power, that actually solar has “total bipartisan support.” In fact, Rive noted, if you go back to the beginning of the solar tax credit, it was led by Republican Senators, and was extended for eight years by a Republican president.  It’s unfortunate, in Rive’s view, that the “Solyndra blowup” turned solar into a “Democratic political football,” as “in reality it’s supported by both parties.”
  • Rive made an interesting point about how the drought in the West could drive more clean energy, as solar power uses no water at all. In stark contrast, Rive explained, the amount of water used by fossil fuel-generated power plants is enormous, while if a homeowner were to install solar power, “the net effect of that is better than using no water at all.”
  • With regard to political opposition at the federal and state levels to clean energy scaling, Rive argued that when you have a technology source go from 2% to 35% of new power capacity in just a few years, it’s very threatening to incumbent energy sources. In response, those incumbents are “leveraging all their political muscle” to persuade politicians to slow down the growth of clean energy.
  • Even with that incumbent, fossil-fuel-industry opposition, Rive said that the attitude in Congress towards extension of the ITC has gone from “no way in hell” to “how do we make this work…get it extended” in just the last year or so. Rive also noted that in the U.S., the fossil fuel industry has over 13 permanent tax credits, and in general is highly subsidized.
  • Rive recommended fighting back by educating customers to fight for their right to energy competition.  Beyond that, though Rive argued that the solar industry needs to work with utilities to resolve the “natural friction” between the two industries, to make it possible for utilities to make money off the solar sector, in part by changing the utility business model to one where it becomes the manager of the “flow of energy” from “everywhere.”
  • Finally, Rive commented that microgrids are growing, particularly in islands and small communities, to the point where fossil fuels are becoming the “alternative source” of energy, not solar.  Rive said he sees that paradigm playing out in the future.