Thursday, November 17, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Revenge of The Electric Car: Interview with Director Chris Paine

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 03:33 PM PST

Chris Paine takes EN! anchor Thalia Assuras for a ride in his Tesla Roadster

Environmental filmmaker Chris Paine has documented much of the modern history of electric vehicles in America. Five years ago, his film "Who Killed the Electric Car" accused U.S. automakers of killing EV development in the 1990's by declaring them unprofitable and stifling battery development.

But now EVs are showing up on roads across the country, and Paine is out with a new movie declaring them back from the dead. Anchor Thalia Assuras interviewed Paine at his home and to hear about "Revenge of the Electric Car" and the future of EVs in America. You can watch the full interview below:

Paine had unprecedented access to auto manufacturers and their CEOs, including General Motors' Bob Lutz, Nissan's Carlos Ghosn, and Tesla's Elon Musk. Much like consumers, Paine thinks the shift in automakers' attitudes toward EVs has more to do with economics than with going green. "The core reason of the electric car has nothing to do with the environment, it has to do with not importing oil," said Paine.

Paine thinks that as oil prices have risen, consumers have sought more affordable transportation options. In his view, automakers made their u-turn toward EVs when they saw a market opportunity. "Carlos (Ghosn) is not an environmentalist," he said. "He's about the spreadsheet and the numbers."

Even though Big Auto has gotten involved in the EV business, industry can't succeed on its own, says Paine. "You have to have the government leading this," he said. "You're talking about…trying to break into a monopoly industry that's a hundred years old – you've got to incent this technology or it won't happen."

Federal tax credits make it possible for EVs to compete with gasoline-powered cars while automakers work to bring down battery and technology costs, said Paine. "The Leaf is $32,000, and there's a $7,500 tax credit, and in California, there was a $2,500 to $5,000 credit," he said. "The Leaf we have, and I paid full retail price for it, ended up costing about $24,000."

Another hurdle to consumer acceptance of EVs, range anxiety, will soon be a speck in the EV rear-view mirrors, says Paine. He points to the Chevy Volt's ability to run on battery power with a gasoline backup as a way to alleviate driver anxiety, and thinks charging infrastructure will continue to spread like it has in Europe, where companies are building parking meters that double as charging stations.

While Paine is an unabashed EV booster, his positive outlook toward the technology comes from his personal life. He owns three EVs (a Tesla Roadster, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Volt), and charges his home and vehicles with rooftop solar panels. His solar system provides 100 percent of the juice he needs for his cars, hot water, and home in the summer, and 60 percent in the winter.

Even though solar charging is key to realizing the environmental potential of EVs, says Paine, they're still an environmental asset even if charging with electricity from the grid. "The issue is the word zero emissions – that's the ideal of what they can be, if you have solar power," he said. "I think the fact that you're guaranteed 50 percent less emissions is, 100 percent improvement."

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10 Cleantech Consumer Products & Services

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 10:00 AM PST


electric armored car

Some more cool cleantech consumer products or news about consumer products:

  1. SunPower has released an AC solar panel series that is “designed to bring clean solar power to homes that have energy production challenges, such as shading, less-than-perfect orientation or irregular rooflines.”
  2. A year-long UK study, “the largest ever field study” of solar heating systems, found that solar water heaters that cost £3,000-5,000 ($4,818-$8,030) end up saving customers and average of £55 ($88) a year — not a bad ROI.
  3. NTT DoCoMo Inc plans to release a portable household solar power system that will cost about 100,000 yen ($1,315)…. The system will consist of a small solar panel and a small-capacity storage battery and will be sold as early as next year.”
  4. You can now rent the 93-mpg-equivalent (MPG-e) Chevy Volt at MPG Car Rental (in Southern California).
  5. SANYO is the latest to offer a solar lease program, currently available California, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, and Hawaii, but expected to roll out in additional states over the coming months. It’s currently offering 3 options: 1) Zero Money Down, 2) 20-year Prepaid Lease, 3) Variable Upfront Payment Lease (more money up front = more savings).
  6. Sharp Electronics Corporation’s Solar Energy Solutions Group has introduced the SunSnap AC Solution, a new retail-friendly solar electric appliance designed to expand and simplify the mainstream adoption and use of solar energy for homeowners,” Sharp recently announced. “The SunSnap AC Solution is a home appliance that consists of black-on-black Sharp photovoltaic (PV) modules, making the roof installation more aesthetically pleasing, and is Enphase Energized™ with high-efficiency microinverters from Enphase Energy with a new mounting assembly from Zep Solar incorporated into the module.”
  7. The inventor of the iPod has developed a smart thermometer that can program itself based on your behavior patterns, knows when you're not home, and optimizes temperatures to minimize energy use. The Nest Learning Thermostat, designed by Tony Fadell's new startup, Nest Labs, uses six sensors that track temperature, motion, humidity, and ambient light to control energy consumption. Within a week, the device begins to create a schedule for heating based on the user's habits, adjusting the heating and cooling automatically when no one is home and documenting how much energy is used each day. Using a Wi-Fi connection, the technology also tracks weather conditions and forecasts, enabling it to better monitor how outside conditions affect the user's energy use. While it costs $249, the company says the technology, which will be available commercially in mid-November, will cut energy costs by an average of $173 per year.”
  8. An EV car-sharing service, Car2Go, has opened up for membership in San Diego. The service is also available in Vancouver, Austin, Lyon (France), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Hamburg (Germany), and Ulm (Germany).
  9. Dartz, a luxury armored car company, is apparently looking to launch a solar electric car (picture above) — is this for real?
  10. Changers, the company that gives people the power to transform their energy behavior, is launching the Changers System, the world's first Social Energy Marketplace on the Web. The Changers System enables people to produce their own energy, measure how much they produce, and convert it into a currency that's backed by the sun. Today, to jump-start all of us into independent power generators, Changers is debuting an intelligent personal solar charging kit that captures energy, records how much power it has generated, and then uploads precise metrics to the energy marketplace——for tracking, sharing, competing and redemption into Changers Credits.” Interesting.
Photo Credit: Dartz

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Fun, Green Vehicle from Top Formula 1 Designer (VIDEO)

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 07:30 AM PST


electric cars Gordon Murray

Below is the last “Energy Opportunites” video I’ve been meaning to share. This one is of Gordon Murray. Gordon was a “car designer and winner, with McLaren, of five Formula One championships and 50 Grand Prixs.” No small feat. He was McLaren’s F1 Head Designer, but he’s turned to creating greener cars and features the T27 in the video below. His T25 (designed first, of course) was gas-powered, but achieved nearly 100mpg on the Brighton to London future cars rally. The T27, which is apparently featured for the first time in the video below, adds an electric motor, is cheap, and is green in a number of unique ways. Check it out:

iPhone App to Help You Save Energy at Home

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 07:00 AM PST


home energy app

Envirolytics, a Canadian mobile software company with a green vein, has created a pretty cool-looking iPhone app that helps you to save energy (donate an iPhone and I’ll be happy to test it out for you).

The iViro Home Energy Analysis Tool helps you to conduct your own home energy analysis, gives you a breakdown of your home's energy consumption, and list the most profitable energy saving retrofits you can conduct. The iPhonne app gives you actual savings estimates for implementing those retrofits, as well as emissions reductions estimates.

“iViro uses advanced cloud based home energy modeling software to accurately calculate energy usage and cost estimates based on the user provided information,” the company stated in an email to CleanTechnica. “The system is designed to be used by people with no prior technical background in order to appeal to a large audience.”

Looks pretty handy and fun. For more information, check out: Envirolytics or the app’s itunes page.

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$500 Billion in Fossil Fuel Subsidies; Removing Them Would Boost Growth & Revenues, Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: OECD

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 01:39 AM PST

Photo courtesy of OECD, IEA

Removing fossil fuel subsidies would boost economic growth and make energy markets much more efficient, not to mention all the good that would result in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study and policy report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Doing so would also give a big boost to financially strapped governments at a time when many are in dire, or near dire, need of improving their finances.

In order to realize this aim, the OECD has published a groundbreaking report based on International Energy Agency (IEA) data that for the first time provides detailed information on more than 250 fossil fuel subsidy mechanisms. Entitled, “Inventory of Estimated Budgetary Support and Tax Expenditures for Fossil Fuels," the publication will be update regularly and expanded over time to cover additional countries and subsidy mechanisms.

At Least Half a Trillion Dollars of Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Some $500 billion of government and taxpayer funding went to subsidize fossil fuel production and consumption in 2010, according to the OECD. That’s despite G-20 leaders pledging in 2009 to phase-out energy subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, reduce our energy security and undermine efforts to deal with the threat of climate change,” according to an OECD press release. Reform efforts have been hindered by a lack of information on the amount and nature of fossil fuel energy subsidies, particularly in developed countries that make up almost all of the OECD’s 34-nation membership, the organizations noted.

Moreover, fossil fuel subsidies often fail in achieving their touted benefits, noted OECD Secretary-General and IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. Rather than alleviating energy poverty or fostering economic development, they often result in wasteful energy use, add to volatility in energy and fuel prices, cause extensive environmental damage, encourage fuel smuggling and stifle competition from cleaner, renewable energy alternatives.

"In a period of persistently high energy prices, subsidies represent a significant economic liability," stated IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven, noting IEA estimates that subsidies that artificially reduce the price of fossil-fuels amounted to USD 409 billion in 2010 – almost USD 110 billion higher than in 2009. This is based on the IEA's global survey to identify economies that artificially lower end-use prices for fossil fuels to below the full cost of supply.

Removing Fossil Fuel Subsidies: Benefits Abound

The OECD’s latest analysis shows that phasing out subsidies to fossil-fuel consumption alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% in 2050 compared with a business as usual scenario, while at the same time increasing economic efficiency.

Doing so would also stimulate renewable energy and energy efficiency investment, growth and job creation, while also providing a big boost to public finances, as governments across the OECD, and wider world, struggle to support economies wracked by the latest financial crisis and recession, as well as the sharply rising costs of more frequent extreme weather.

“We estimate that the annual value of the transfers generated by these policies has ranged from about USD 45 billion to 75 billion a year in recent years. This wide range is, in part, influenced by the price of crude oil. In 2008, when oil prices peaked at over 140 dollars a barrel, the support for fossil fuel production and use had risen to around 75 billion dollars. In 2010, when oil prices were lower, the total support dropped to around 60 billion dollars,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria elaborated.

The OECD provides a country-by-country breakdown of fossil fuel subsidies included in its report. An interactive map shows fossil fuel consumption subsidy rates as a proportion of the full cost of supply as of 2010.

Progress and Keys to Successfully Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Thankfully, there are some signs of progress, the OECD notes: nearly half of the countries identified by the IEA as artificially lowering the price of energy to below the full cost of supply have taken steps since the since the beginning of 2010 to rationalize energy prices.

"While this is an encouraging start, much work remains to be done in order to realize the full extent of benefits. It is crucial that countries follow through on their commitments by implementing reforms that are well-designed and durable," IEA executive director van der Hoeven said.

The OECD reviewed some of the strategies that governments are using to successfully phase out fossil fuel subsidies. They highlight key elements that are keys to their success:

• Available and transparent data are essential to inform objective discussion.
• Financial support for economic restructuring and assisting poor households can help to protect vulnerable groups.
• Integrating reforms to fossil fuel subsidies into broader structural reforms can help build support for the reforms, particularly when the money saved is used to benefit the wider public.

"Both developing and developed countries need to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. As they look for policy responses to the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, phasing out subsidies is an obvious way to help governments meet their economic, environmental and social goals," OECD Secretary-General Gurria said.

"For this to succeed, we need well-targeted, transparent and time-bound programs to assist poor households and energy workers who might be adversely affected in the short-term. OECD and IEA data and analysis can help guide the process."

Related posts:

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World Bank Bringing Solar Power to Over 1 Million Homes, Shops in Rural Bangladesh

Posted: 16 Nov 2011 10:35 PM PST

Photo courtesy of Solar for Bangladesh

Only around 1/3 of rural residents in Bangladesh have access to electricity. Some 16 million homes have yet to be connected to an electricity grid. That’s changing fast with help from the World Bank.

On October 4, the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) approved a $172 million credit facility to support installation of solar power and other renewable energy ‘mini-grid’ systems for as many as 630,000 more homes in rural Bangladesh.

The funds add to the IDA’s Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED) in Bangladesh, which aims to install solar power systems on more than 1 million rural Bangladeshi homes and businesses by 2012. This latest financing follows an additional $130 million the World Bank awarded RERED in December, 2009.

More than 300,000 solar home systems have already been installed via the IDA’s RERED program. The latest IDA credit facility has a 40-year term to maturity with a 10-year grace period and carries a 0.75% service charge.

RERED in Bangladesh, and Around the World

On the ground in Bangladesh, the program’s being carried out by the Infrastructure Development Co. (IDCOL), a financial institution owned by the Bangladeshi government. Partner organizations, primarily non-profit NGOs, install the solar power systems.

"More than a million homes and shops in remote areas have installed solar home systems with support from the World Bank and other development partners. Such systems are the most suitable for remote and dispersed communities which the grid connection cannot reach." said Ellen Goldstein, World Bank country director for Bangladesh in a press release.

"The solar home systems have already improved the quality of life of millions of people in Bangladesh and provided opportunities for new village enterprises.''

The IDA’s RERED program is helping bring clean, renewable energy and rural economic development Afghanistan, Cambodia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen, as well as Bangladesh.

The IDA program’s been up and running for a decade in Bangladesh. In addition to financing installation of solar power systems, it funds grid connection efforts.

It’s also helped design and implement an energy efficiency program, the Efficient Lighting Initiative, that set set a one-day record by distributing 5 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) in a single day, potentially reducing electricity demand by 50 megawatts (MW). The IDA helped Bangladesh obtain Carbon Financing for the project and is working with the government to build CFL manufacturing facilities to meet replacement CFL demand.

For more on growing use of solar power and renewable energy around the world, check out:

- 10 Cleantech Projects
- Give Solar while Going Solar
- Cleantech Continues to Rise as an Emerging Global Industry: Report

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