Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category
Don’t miss out. Stay Informed. Get EcoWatch’s Top News of the Day.
Is it possible for the U.S. to ditch fossil fuels? The answer is yes, according to researchers and engineers from Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley, who have developed a state-by-state plan to convert the country to 100 percent renewable energy in less than 40 years.
The study, published in the Energy and Environmental Sciences, showcases how each state can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state, such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.
The report, led by Stanford civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson and U.C. Berkeley researcher Mark Delucchi, argues that converting the current energy infrastructure into renewable energy will help fight climate change, save lives by eliminating air pollution, create jobs and also stabilize energy prices.
You can check out an interactive map summarizing the plans for each state at The Solutions Project, an organization of scientists, business leaders and other forward-thinking minds with a mission of accelerating the world’s transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
The project’s concept has attracted high-profile funders including the Elon Musk Foundation and Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, according to The Plaid Zebra.
Board members of The Solutions Project include notable environmental advocates including filmmaker and founder of the the International WOW Company Josh Fox, co-founder and president of Mosaic Billy Parish, and actor and noted environmentalist Mark Ruffalo.
Undoubtedly, the plan involves a lot of difficult and expensive changes, but the authors believe that the complete transition to renewables is economically and technically viable.
“The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change. One way to overcome the barriers is to inform people about what is possible,” Jacobson said. “By showing that it’s technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation.”
According to a news release, the study’s authors examined each state’s current energy usage in four sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. For each sector, they then analyzed the current amount and source of the fuel consumed—coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewables—and calculated what the fuel demands would be if replaced with electricity. (This includes all the cars on the road becoming electric, as well as homes and businesses fully converting to electric heating and cooling systems). They then calculated how this new electric grid could be powered using only
resources available in each state.
“When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050,” Jacobson said. “About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity.”
Check out South Carolina, for instance (you can see the infographics for the other 49 states here):
The good news is that several states are already on their way. For example, Washington state already meets 70 percent of its current electricity needs from existing hydroelectric sources.
Yes, the upfront cost of the massive conversion would be expensive, however the study’s authors argue it would even out over time and the environmental benefits are clear.
“When you account for the health and climate costs—as well as the rising price of fossil fuels—wind, water and solar are half the cost of conventional systems,” Jacobson said. “A conversion of this scale would also create jobs, stabilize fuel prices, reduce pollution-related health problems and eliminate emissions from the United States. There is very little downside to a conversion, at least based on this science.”
Check out Jacobson’s 2013 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, where he explains his plan of transitioning the country to clean energy.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
The country’s tropical climate with high rainfall, mountainous interior and low population gives it a distinct advantage in terms of renewable energy. (photo: Shutterstock.com)
23 March 15
or the last 82 days, Costa Rica has powered itself using only renewable energy sources.
That means the Latin American country hasn’t had to use fossil fuels at all so far in 2015.
Last week, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that 100 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables for the first 75 days of the year, as heavy rains boosted the country’s hydroelectric power plants.
Costa Rica is one of the most developed countries in Latin America and ranks above some European Union countries in annual prosperity rankings.
The country also boasts strong green credentials on energy policy.
In 2009, it announced a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021, and the country already gets around 88 percent of its total electricity from renewable sources.
The country’s tropical climate with high rainfall, mountainous interior and low population gives it a distinct advantage in terms of renewable energy.
Its reliance on renewables prompted the country to lower electricity rates by 12 percent, and the ICE predicts they could continue to drop in the second quarter of the year.
However, the country’s reliance on hydroelectricity—which provides 68 percent of the country’s electricity—also makes it vulnerable to climate change. Any change to rainfall patterns could disrupt its supply.
In addition to hydroelectricity, Costa Rica receives 15 percent of its electricity needs from geothermal plants, while five percent is supplied by wind.
Solar and biomass also contribute to the country’s energy mix.
‘The Fukushima disaster shows us exactly why we cannot and should not try to rely on nuclear energy to solve the climate crisis.’
Just ahead of the four-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, five organizations have issued a message that the only way to avert climate disaster is by embracing a clean energy future.
It was March 11, 2011 when the Great East Japan earthquake caused a massive tsunami which triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and destroyed thousands of lives and livelihoods.
Signs that the disaster is ongoing are clear: nearly a quarter-million Japanese people arestill displaced, radioactive trash has piled up in the affected region, radiation levels remain elevated, and clean-up efforts at the plant continue amid leaks. And despite public opposition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues his push to restart nuclear plants.
But “there is a better way,” the Make Nuclear History website states.
The new site, which offers a humorous new video launched by the organizations—Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Nuclear Information and Research Service (NIRS), Public Citizen and Sierra Club—adds: “There is a way to power our lives without fossil fuels. There is a solution to climate change without nuclear energy. There is a future where we can solve the climate crisis and power our lives from 100 percent renewable sources and energy efficiency. Now is the time to create our fossil and nuclear-free future.”
“Now is the time to create our fossil and nuclear-free future.”The interactive video shows three energy paths—fossil fuels, nuclear energy and renewable energy—to highlight the problems, like higher carbon footprints and environmental and health impacts, of failing to switch to wind and solar.
The projected future under the fossil fuel and nuclear energy scenarios are depicted as apocalyptic.
“If the goal is heading off climate change, nuclear power and next generation fossil fuels are just an expensive and dangerous distraction,” the video’s renewable champion states.
The new site also invites viewers to take action on specific campaigns from the groups, like Public Citizen’s campaign to urge the NRC to enforce a dozen safety recommendations for nuclear reactors that were issued after the Fukushima disaster; and Sierra Club’s campaign to urge members of Congress to phase out nuclear power and commit to 100% renewable energy.
“The Fukushima disaster shows us exactly why we cannot and should not try to rely on nuclear energy to solve the climate crisis,” said Tim Judson, Executive Director of NIRS. “Japan’s decision to invest in nuclear rather than renewables left the country totally unprepared when calamity struck. Clean, renewable energy sources are abundant, affordable, and ready to go. They can replace nuclear and fossil fuels, which are two sides of the dirty, extreme energy coin.”
Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard adds: “The Fukushima disaster is a constant reminder that nuclear energy is a dirty and dangerous distraction from real solutions like wind and solar. We should commit to rejecting costly nuclear pipe dreams and supporting the renewable efforts that can help avert our climate crisis.”
Watch the introductory video below:
But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.
An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan.
It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the
Fukushima coast are now thriving.
Five U.S. reactors have shut since March 11, 2011. The operable fleet is under 100 for the first time in
I’m talking about community choice, or, in the horrid legalese, “community choice aggregation.” I’ve discussed it before in passing, but it’s starting to seriously catch on, so I want to take a closer look.
Say a town, city, or county is dissatisfied with the power it gets from its utility — it’s too expensive, or too dirty. One option would be for each municipality to leave its utility and form its own “municipal utility.” That has its advantages, but it’s a pretty huge step, since the municipality would have to take over not only power procurement but grid operation and maintenance, billing, customer service, etc. In many smaller towns, it’s not practical.
The other, emerging option is community choice aggregation, whereby a county or municipality takes over only the job of buying and selling power, leaving grid management and billing to the utility. It aggregates customers from every participating city, town, and county and uses their collective purchasing power to procure exactly the kind of electricity it wants.
The two main motivations to opt for CCA are cheaper power and cleaner power. At least to date, those two goals have not come into conflict. In most cases, CCAs get power that’s cheaper and cleaner than what they were getting from their utility. (Whether those goals conflict in the future will be of keen interest.)
CCA must be enabled by legislation and it has been in six states: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. According to the website Local Power, which tracks these things:
Today, 5% of the U.S. population is under CCA service for electricity in 1300 municipalities, including well-known population centers like City of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cape Cod, Sonoma County as well as hundreds of less known small towns and rural counties. CCA formation by municipal ordinance or local election is allowed and provided for under state laws governing 25% of the U.S. electricity market.
California has been particularly on the ball. Marin County startedthe state’s first CCA program — it now serves 125,000 customers. Sonoma County has followed suit. San Mateo County isconsidering it; county supervisors just voted to do a study of the proposal. The mayor of San Francisco, who’s running for reelection this year, has reversed his previous opposition to the city joining a CCA. Now he says his only objection was that there wasn’t enough local power required!
Perhaps the most interesting battle is happening in San Diego. Whereas San Francisco represents only about 5 percent of utility giant PG&E’s customer base, San Diego represents over 40 percent of San Diego Gas & Electric’s. That’s a big chunk to lose!
CCA is a key part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which among other things commits the city to a legally binding target of 100 percent renewables by 2035. There is effectively no way for it to hit that target if it has to accept whatever power SDG&E sees fit to buy for it.
There have been various efforts to kill CCA at the state level, some supported by the state chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), many of whose members work for utilities. The local San Diego chapter of IBEW, however, supports the city’s 100 percent renewables target. The fate of the San Diego’s climate plan, or at least CCA’s place in the plan, remainsuncertain. It if did go through, it would represent something of a watershed for the CCA movement.
CCAs vary from place to place, but Cali’s share a few common features. They are opt-out rather than opt-in — customers can choose to remain with the utility, but they have to affirmatively indicate as much. That alone ensures high participation rates (readers of Nudge will understand why).
There are tiers of participation: in Marin, you can choose a base level 50 percent renewables or pay a premium for 100 percent renewables; in Sonoma, it’s 33 percent or 100 percent. Some also include a premium option for 100 percent local renewables. The tiered system allows low-income customers to choose an affordable option while more eco-minded or well-off residents can indulge their aspirations.
CCA can also give a huge boost to a bunch of other policies that utilities typically fight or slow-walk, including net metering, feed-in tariffs, and efficiency programs. This post by Woody Hastingslists a few of the benefits that came along with the Sonoma County CCA. In addition to the basic benefit — giving those consumers more choices in energy — it also has 30 percent lower emissions than the utility, and it boasts rates that are 5 to 8 percent lower than the utility’s (depending on the tier).
Sonoma’s CCA features a robust net metering program, “NetGreen,” that compensates solar customers better than the utility. It features a version of my own favorite policy, feed-in tariffs, in the form of “ProFiT,” which guarantees clean energy developers favorable terms for the power they feed into the grid. It has doubled the amount of solar in Sonoma County’s energy mix and established power purchase agreements for 70 megawatts of new solar. And it will bring the level of geothermal in the county’s mix up to around 23 percent by 2018.
Perhaps best of all, enrollment in the plan’s phase-one rollout was much higher than expected: 85 percent of customers stayed with the CCA.
Not every CCA is going to spur all those policies. But that’s kind of the point: they will enable the exact mix of policies that best expresses the needs and values of their customers. It will give consumers some power and agency in the process, something they haven’t had for some time.
Is CCA power really cheaper? At least in California, at least so far, yes. These charts come via San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt:
As you can see, the Marin and Sonoma CCAs are charging slightly lower rates than the utilities they left behind, despite providing substantially more clean energy.
How do they do it? This post from lawyer Ty Tosdal hits the basics. First, CCA represents competition for utilities, putting pressure on them to keep costs down and keep customers happy. (Utilities aren’t used to competition, to say the least.) And this:
An alternative energy provider behaves differently than a utility. CCA programs, for example, have used the political and legal process to advocate for lower transmission and distribution charges, utility fees and rates in general. You’re not going to see that kind of advocacy from utilities, who must serve shareholders, or regulators that are struggling with proper oversight.
(If you read the linked story, you’ll see that “struggling with proper oversight” is a rather charitable characterization.)
In other words, CCA provides not just an economic and environmental but a civic counterweight to utilities. It enables electricity consumers to organize on behalf of their interests and values. Why, you could almost call it democratic.
A PG&E representative did not respond to a request for comment. A 2011 law prohibits the company from using ratepayer revenue to market against community choice aggregation.
Aww. I doubt utilities will be similarly restrained in other states. Watch for them to go after CCA with even greater fury than they’ve attacked net metering. It is a strike directly at the heart of their business model.
For all the same reasons utilities hate CCA, I love it. It completely cuts through the utility Gordian knot — the tangle of restructured and unrestructured regions, corrupt PUCs and broken business models, obscure political maneuvering and big-money deals — and puts power directly in the public’s hands. It opens up opportunities for all the talk about Utilities 2.0 to become reality, to start experimenting in the real world.
Most of all, it enables citizens who want clean energy to get it. That seems like the kind of thing Americans could rally around.
Greg Semler, the CEO of Lucid Energy. (photo: Mind)
26 February 15
he turbines work where water is flowing downhill, and are already recouping some of the energy cost in keeping the water system running. When fully in place, these pipe generators can power hundreds of thousands of homes.
Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, followed his dream of “helping water become more sustainable” by developing this smart piping system. Not only are they electricity generators, they also have state of the art sensors to detect change in water pressure to keep pipes from bursting, and the ability to detect if drinking water is contaminated.
The UK already hosts seven of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, making it a sustainable energy forerunner like no other, but that isn’t stopping them from even more grandiose plans. The government has given consent for the building of the largest offshore wind farm in the world.
Dogger Bank Creyke Beck will sit in the North Sea approximately 81 miles from the UK coast, and cover 8660 square kilometers. This means that the wind farm will be only slightly smaller than the country of Puerto Rico.
The UK already has more offshore wind power than all of Europe combined. The Dogger Bank project will have enough capacity (2.4 gigawatts) to power 1.8 million households, coming only second in power to the Drax coal-fired energy station in North Yorkshire.
Though the project gained consent from government regulators, it has yet to be built, and the process for its realization is a long, and sometimes tedious one. A collection of British and Norwegian countries is backing the project, and pre-construction is expected to last into 2019.
Much of the mega wind farm’s financing will come from subsidies. A UK general election in May could promote renewable energy or cause interest to grow stale, depending on the outcome. All energy projects in the UK have to bid for the same pot of government subsidies.
Experts agree that the US has great potential for wind energy as well. Even taking into account that wilderness areas and national parks, as well as other areas which are unlikely to be developed, such as some urban areas and water bodies, mass swaths of US land, even in areas you wouldn’t expect, are prime for wind harnessing.
A recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University also showswhich areas would be best to build wind farms in the US. Oddly enough, New Jersey would offer more overall benefits than Arizona. A wind farm built in West Virginia would be more beneficial than one in California.
New technologies are also making wind turbines not only more eco-friendly, (i.e., they won’t turn 50,000-plus birds into a mess of feathers and bird song annually) but more efficient. ‘Wind-lens’ turbine-less wind technology candouble or even triple conventional wind turbine power.