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Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (9/19/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on September 19th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (9/19/14).

  1. At the NRDC Switchboard blog, David Doniger discusses “A One-Two Punch to Curb Powerful Climate Pollutants — Carbon Dioxide from the Power Sector and Methane from the Oil and Gas Industry.”
  2. A new report by the Center for American Progress finds, “By investing $200B/yr in efficiency & renewables, US can cut 40% CO2 while generating ~3M new jobs.”
  3. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Keystone Pipeline Cost Expected to Double, TransCanada CEO Says.”
  4. The White House issues a fact sheet detailing new “Executive Actions and Commitments from Across the Country to Advance Solar Deployment and Energy Efficiency.”
  5. RenewEconomy reports, “Just two months after Australia’s Abbott government achieved the dubious honour of becoming the first in the world to abolish a national carbon pricing scheme, more than 350 global institutional investors representing around $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders across the globe to put a price on carbon, to help redirect investment on the scale required to combat climate change.

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (9/18/14)

Posted By Lowell F. on September 18th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (9/18/14).

  1. The NRDC Switchboard blog reports: “Today, from the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released Tracking the Sun VII—the seventh Tracking the Sun report since 2009…Tracking documents how incredibly fast solar is growing here in the U.S. And it also reinforces just how important pro-solar policies are to that growth—creating a huge number of jobs, helping mitigate climate change, and giving our kids cleaner air to breathe.”
  2. According to the Financial Times, “Large wind farms and solar plants are now cost-competitive with gas-fired power in many parts of the US even without subsidy, according to Lazard, raising the prospect of a fundamental shift in the country’s energy market.”
  3. The Hill reports, “The Obama administration unveiled a slew of actions Thursday aimed at improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of solar power in homes and businesses, including $68 million in spending.”
  4. Mother Jones investigates China’s “Great Frack Forward,” noting that China’s “coal addiction threatens the planet,” and wondering whether it can “handle a natural gas revolution.”
  5. Scientific American report: “Last month, General Electric (GE) consulting presented the results of a U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) sponsored study testing if wind turbines can be controlled to manage the stability of the electric grid. The authors found that wind turbines might actually be a valuable tool for controlling and stabilizing the grid in the future, disputing the conventional notion that wind energy doesn’t play well with the grid.”

“Better Growth, Better Climate” Report Says “Next 15 Years Are Crucial” for Switch to Clean Energy

Posted By Lowell F. on September 18th, 2014

A new report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate is well worth reading. Entitled “Better Growth, Better Climate,” its bottom-line conclusion is a powerful and compelling one:: “Investments to help fight climate change can also spur economic growth, rather than slow it as widely feared, but time is running short for a trillion-dollar shift to transform cities and energy use.”  A few more key points are:

  • The next 15 years are crucial – and require urgent action – for transforming the world’s energy system in order to head off disastrous global warming. These 15 years “could be an era of great progress and growth.”
  • “We have the technological, financial and human resources to raise living standards across the world.” Now we just need good policies to make that happen.
  • “US$45 trillion will be required in 2015–2030 for key categories of energy infrastructure. How that money is spent is critically important: it can help build robust, flexible energy systems that will serve countries well for decades to come, or it can lock in an energy infrastructure that exposes countries to future market volatility, air pollution, and other environmental and social stresses.”
  • “Much of the needed investment in low-carbon infrastructure can be handled through existing structures and mechanisms, with the help of effective policy, regulation and market signals. But for some investments – most notably a low-carbon transition in the power sector – creating efficient finance structures and attracting finance is more challenging and may require dedicated policy.”
  • Among the key recommendations are things we’ve been advocating for years: “Phase out subsidies for fossil fuels;” “Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies and remove barriers to entrepreneurship and creativity;” and “aim for a global phase-out of  unabated fossil fuel power generation by 2050.”

Given the plummeting cost of clean, renewable energy, these goals are now more doable than ever. The big question is: how long fossil fuel industries will keep national and state-level governments in their grip, slowing and otherwise impeding progress towards the vision laid out in this excellent new report?

NRG President David Crane Calls on Young People to Demand Clean Energy Future

Posted By MarkS on September 18th, 2014

by Mark Sokolove, Executive Vice President of Tigercomm

We recently wrote about how NRG President and CEO David Crane is one utility executive who “gets it” when it comes to the inevitability of a transition from dirty to clean energy. As Crane said, far from trying to fight what’s coming, his belief is that utilities need to be “looking toward the future, with solar, energy retailers and electric vehicle networks all under the corporate umbrella…ready for a new energy landscape that is vastly different.”  Which, of course, is exactly the right attitude to have, for reasons of pure economic self interest no doubt, but also for the future of the planet.

Now, David Crane has written a piece specifically with future generations in mind. Addressed to students and young people in general, Crane writes:

The irony is that an old guy like me thinks about 2050 every day. Perhaps even more worth considering is that every day decisions are being made by me and people like me that will deeply impact you in 2050. Decisions are being made to build multi-billion dollar power generation facilities and related infrastructure—some clean, some not so clean—that will still be fulfilling your energy needs in 2050 and, while you will certainly enjoy the fruits of our labor, you also will have to live with any negative side effects. We can invest now to mitigate against the future systemic risk of climate change or we can keep doing what we are doing and kick the can down the road to you.

See that’s the thing.

Whether it be carbon capture, distributed solar, smart thermostats or electric vehicles, the technology exists now to bring about a clean energy economy and a sustainable society. But it is always easier in an established society to perpetuate the status quo than it is to effect change. What we need is for you to demand control over your own energy choices so that you can make the choices that are right for you and your generation.

Crane concludes with a call to action, which seems particularly appropriate with the People’s Climate March and other important, climate-related events coming up next week. With tens of thousands of young people converging on New York City to make their desire for a clean and sustainable energy future loud and clear, and with far-sighted utility industry leaders on their side, the chances of victory appear greater than ever.  Let’s make sure we seize this opportunity and not let the dying-yet-still-politically-powerful fossil fuel industries, who are growing more anxious by the minute over the financial threat clean energy poses to their profitability and even viability, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Turning Point: In 2014, Politicians Compete For Who Supports Cleantech More

Posted By mikec on September 17th, 2014

by Mike Casey, President of Tigercomm

There’s no getting around the fact that clean energy took a popularity hit, particularly among Republicans, with the fossil lobby’s 2011 subterfuge: the phony Solyndra non-”scandal.” We can now say with confidence that there was never any “there there” (“hat tip” to normally pro-fossil fuels Joe Nocera, who wrote that the entire “scandal” was “phony”). But the constant drumbeat by the iron triangle of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Daryl Issa, Fox News and the fossil lobby pushed clean energy into the culture wars. The effect was to cut into clean energy’s previously sky-high support among Republicans.

The result was upwards of 80% of negative ads in the 2012 presidential cycle focused on attacking clean energy, and the clown show of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Koch Industries)introducing bills to cut energy “subsidies” that left the fossil lobby’s vast welfare check largely in place. Perhaps the apex of the anti-cleantech stupidity was Mitt Romney campaigning by mocking “wind turbines on a car,” (note that Romney lost wind-rich Iowa). Romney also falsely claimed that “about half” of the clean energy companies that received DOE loans had gone “out of business,” while ridiculing President Obama for trying “to heal the planet” by supporting clean energy.

But 2014 might be the year when we turned a corner on this madness, because politicians see that clean energy is a political winner.

Maybe it started with the TKO loss delivered by the Arizona solar industry to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and its member utility Arizona Public Service (APS). The utility guys said that homeowners generating their own power were a serious, “disruptive” threat to their business model, so they tried to impose a $100 per month tax on solar consumers. Theyhad to settle for $5. Now, APS says it wants to get into the rooftop solar business.

Then there were the efforts by the Koch brothers and fossil fuel players to launch two years of multi-state attacks on renewable portfolio standards (RPS). They lost in practically every state they made an effort in – including in the Koch brothers’ own backyard, conservative-leaning Kansas.Cory Gardner

Now, candidates from both parties are now trying to out-compete each other for who can help cleantech the most. Consider how hard Governor Sandoval (R-NV) worked to ensure Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) didn’t get all the creditfor winning the Tesla “gigafactory.” Staunchly conservative Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) just ranan ad featuring himself standing in front of a wind farm. And, in Kansas, the neck-and-neck race for governor recently saw incumbent Sam Brownback (R) competing at a recent debate with his challenger, State Rep. Paul Davis, about which candidate was a more staunch defender of that state’s RPS:

The most pointed exchange came moments later when Mr. Davis turned to the governor and asked if he would support a renewable-energy standard in the state, which would require more green energy from power companies.

“I supported it a lot more than you did,” Mr. Brownback fired back as supporters for both candidates cheered while the men spoke over each other. Mr. Davis continued to press the governor on whether he would veto a bill that eliminated the standard, while the governor went on about waiting for a bill to reach his desk, their voices drowned out by the clamor of the crowd.

Clearly, politicians across the ideological spectrum are realizing that voters like clean energy. And for good reason, as wind and solar are big-time job creators and economic drivers, making them not just good politics but smart policy investments for any state’s future.

Politicians from both parties are now vying to see who can help scale these industries. How’s that for a change?

It’s worth noting that this didn’t happen on its own. Some leaders in the cleantech space aggressively invested in clean energy policy, communication and market defense. Advocates in many states did excellent work organizing businesses to push back against the anti-cleantech chatter.

But don’t string up the hammock just yet. The fossil fuel guys have nowhere to go, so count on more flailing, desperate attacks from what I call the “cornered-animal syndrome” from EEI, the Koch brothers and other parts of the fossil lobby.

That means we need to scale our investment in public communications along with our sectors, a cost entry in the business plan. We’re not a new industry, but we are a new sector within an industry dominated by guys who don’t appreciate the market disruption from cleantech. And they aren’t going to take that lying down.

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