Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/27/14)

August 27th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/27/14).

  1. The New York Times reports, “Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of ’severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts’ over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.”
  2. According to DeSmogBlog: “Governor Scott recently met with prominent climate scientists from universities with the expressed goal of learning all that he could about climate change.  The truth, however, is that the entire experience was more of a publicity stunt than a science lesson.”
  3. The Hill reports, “A government probe into the metric used by federal agencies to measure the ’social cost of carbon’ found no evidence that it was improperly developed, investigators said Monday.”
  4. According to the New York Times, “The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.”
  5. Greentech Media reports: “Vivint Solar’s $200 million IPO registration document appeared in the wee hours this morning and gave a little bit of background on the fast-growing solar installer and financier. Second only to SolarCity as an installer, Vivint Solar could also benefit from the increased access to capital afforded by going public.”

Five Energy Stories Worth Reading Today (8/26/14)

August 26th, 2014

Here are five recommended reads for today (8/26/14).

  1. Gigaom reports, “Verizon plans to expand the amount of solar panel projects that power its network by almost double. Following a $100 million investment in solar panels and fuel cells last year, the telco announced on Monday that it is spending another $40 million to build out 10.2 MW of new solar panel systems at eight Verizon network sites across five states.”
  2. According to Media Matters, “Extensive reporting from the Associated Press on the Koch brothers’ financial background and political influence glossed over the duo’s ties to the fossil fuel industry and ignored their efforts to dismantle action on climate change.”
  3. Climate Progress reports: “Scotland is building what it calls the world’s biggest tidal array in the Pentland Firth in northern Scotland, the country’s government announced last week. Once built, the tidal array is projected to provide enough electricity to power 175,000 homes, and will also create up to 100 jobs.”
  4. According to RenewEconomy, “The Australian renewable energy industry has warned that it faces destruction if – as is now widely anticipated – the Abbott government decides it wants to drastically scale back the renewable energy target, or even close it to new entrants.”
  5. The New York Times reports, “India’s top court on Monday ruled that coal fields allocated by the government between 1993 and 2009 were assigned illegally, a decision that could ultimately hinder the industry.”

11 Years and $1 Billion in Taxpayer Money Later — No “Zero-Emissions Coal Plant”

August 25th, 2014

The next time the coal industry wags its finger at clean energy about “standing on its own two feet,” someone should tell them to pay for their taxpayer-funded “clean coal” science project.

In 2003, President George W. Bush unveiled plans for the world’s first zero-emissions coal plant, a project that would serve as a global showcase of America’s ability to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels…More than a decade later, there has yet to be a groundbreaking for FutureGen 2.0.

[...]

Even the Energy Department now has doubts about whether FutureGen will succeed. Last year the department designated the FutureGen alliance charged with building the project as a “high-risk” grant recipient that might not be able to meet a September 2015 deadline for spending $1 billon in federal stimulus dollars, according to a document reviewed by The Seattle Times.

So, how come there isn’t constant coverage about this enormous boondoggle? It only seems fair, since seemingly every cleantech stumble is shouted from the rafters by fossil-fuel-funded “think tanks” and their allies in the media.

China “smart in the way it has incented private industry to build out solar power capacity”

August 25th, 2014

According to a new article in OilPrice.com, China is busy “cutting its dependence on coal, oil and natural gas and replacing it with solar at a breakneck pace.”

According to a 2014 report by Hanergy Holding Group, China installed 12 GW of new photovoltaic (PV) generation capacity in 2013, a massive 232 percent increase over the previous year. Compare that to Germany, whose new PV capacity dropped 56.5 percent, and Italy, where new solar power additions fell by 55 percent.

Why is China racing ahead when it comes to solar power growth, while certain other countries are falling behind? Simple: the way China incentivizes solar power. A few key points form the article explain what’s going on here:

  • Policies aimed at boosting market demand for solar: “While Germany and the rest of Europe have scaled back government incentives to install solar, in China, increased targets for solar power generation have been backed by programs to boost market demand. A feed-in tariff passed last year amounts to a subsidy of between 14 and 16 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour, and applies to both ground-mounted and rooftop panels. Feed-in tariffs incent renewable energy producers by allowing them to charge a higher price for their electricity than the retail rate.”
  • Financing and investment innovations: “The Chinese government is encouraging financial institutions to offer discounts on loans and is encouraging the formation of PV industry investment funds among insurance companies and trusts, Bloomberg reported this month.”
  • A smart and highly motivated country: “There is no doubt that China’s push to increase solar power is being driven by an acute and pressing national problem – air pollution. Solar offers a way out of the competing pressures China is under to fuel economic growth and also arrest deteriorating air quality. But the Chinese government has also been smart in the way it has incented private industry to build out solar power capacity. As long as China’s solar competitors do not have the same environmental imperative, they will likely continue to lag behind China in new solar power additions. For that reason, the solar growth story is likely to be centred in China, at least for the foreseeable future.”

MIT Study Finds Health Benefits of CO2 Reductions Can Save 10x the Cost of Policy Implementation

August 25th, 2014

Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption.  We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels — economic, environmental, national security, health, etc.  Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full “lifecycle cost” of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won’t find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental “externalities” associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it’s a totally different story — one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.

Just in case you wanted even more evidence along these lines, a new study is out from researchers at MIT which finds that policies aimed at cutting fossil-fuel pollution can more than pay for themselves.

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution.

But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions? MIT researchers looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big — in some cases, more than 10 times the cost of policy implementation.

…The researchers found that savings from avoided health problems could recoup 26 percent of the cost to implement a transportation policy, but up to to 10.5 times the cost of implementing a cap-and-trade program…Savings from health benefits dwarf the estimated $14 billion cost of a cap-and-trade program…The price tag of a clean energy standard fell between the costs of the two other policies, with associated health benefits just edging out costs, at $247 billion versus $208 billion.

In sum, by implementing smart policies to cut CO2 emissions, not only do policymakers help head off disastrous global warming, they also reduce other forms of pollution in the process, saving enormous amounts of money on health care costs. How much money? Enough, depending on the policy, to more than pay for the policy’s implementation. Who ever said you can’t get something for nothing? In this case, you actually get MORE than that — cleaner air and water, a habitable planet for future generations, sharply lower health problems and associated healthcare costs, as well as lower energy bills for consumers and a more competitive country in the world economy. If that’s not a “win-win-win” situation, it’s hard to know what is.