- Energy Efficiency Benchmarking to Take Effect for Second Phase of Seattle Buildings
- 10 More Cleantech Project Stories
- Wind Turbine Big Enough To Land A Helicopter On? Scotland Has It Covered
- Simple, Transparent Feed-in Tariff Policy Responsible for Most Renewable Energy
- Cleantech Policy News (16 Stories)
- Google Earth Lands in Middle of Magnetic Cow Controversy
- EPA Regulations CREATE Jobs, Even Electric Company CEOs Will Tell You That
- Clean Energy: Best Documented Rate of Return of ANY Federal Program
- Rich Countries “Give Up” on Climate Treaty
- World’s Oldest Electric Car, Rebuilt
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 04:11 PM PST
Energy efficiency for buildings will soon move from theory to reality in Seattle.
As part of a second phase for its energy efficiency benchmarking programs that measure and rate a building's energy performance, Seattle is sending letters to the owners of 8,000 buildings this week informing them of its building energy-efficiency program. The program is meant to help building owners and managers reduce energy costs using benchmarking.
Such benchmarking should provide owners with a clearer understanding of how their building uses or wastes energy. Ultimately the city hopes to encourage owners to identify ways to improve energy efficiency and increase savings.
Seattle's Building Energy Benchmarking and Reporting Program is already underway for nonresidential buildings exceeding 50,000 sq. ft. This new phase will require nonresidential buildings over 10,000 sq. ft. and multifamily buildings with five or more units to benchmark and report their energy performance by April 1, 2012.
To support the program, a series of educational materials are available, including workshops, webinars, and a "How To" guide. Aggressive benchmarking programs like this are expected to provide savings through the adoption of energy-saving programs, and the availability of rebates or other financial incentives to save energy.
"Buildings consume more than 40 percent of the energy produced in the U.S. but there is a huge opportunity to lower energy costs through better building efficiency", said Diane Sugimura, Director of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development, in a press announcement.
This second group of targeted buildings includes offices, schools, restaurants, and retail outlets. These properties make up a significant portion of Seattle's building inventory.
Owners and managers already familiar with the benchmarking program see it as a good business practice that helps boost bottom lines.
"The more information and knowledge you have about your building's energy performance, the more power you have to control it, " said Lynda Carey, Construction and Asset Manager at Bellwether, an affordable housing organization in Seattle. "For us, benchmarking and making energy-efficiency improvements isn't just about helping the environment, it is also a good business decision."
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 03:03 PM PST
More cleantech project news:
Taiwan High-Speed Train via dhchen
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 02:42 PM PST
Scotland has an ambitious and admirable goal: 100% renewable energy. Taking steps toward reaching this goal, the Scottish government approved an offshore test site for a new 6MW wind turbine.
2-B Energy, based in the Netherlands, has permission to install an innovative two-bladed wind turbine approximately 70 feet off the coast of Methil in Fife, according to Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing. 2-B is one of several companies which has a lease in the 2010 offshore wind demonstration leasing round, which is supposed to help develop wind farms offshore and in deep water.
Local, Green, 100% Renewable
All of the energy generated by the prototype turbine is earmarked for local use. Ewing says that the demonstration will help Scotland achieve a low-carbon economy, and:
2-B was initially supposed to install two prototypes, but only one is currently approved. Fife Council did not oppose the application, and no public representations were received. 2-B was founded in 2007 and is currently funded in part by developer Mainstream Renewable Power and the European firm Truffle Capital.
As an island, Scotland is pretty well suited to developing offshore wind farms – hopefully the project will generate some useful – or at least fun – information (landing a helicopter on a turbine looks fun, right?).
Source | Image: Business Green
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 02:41 PM PST
Feed-in tariffs are a comprehensive renewable energy policy responsible for two-thirds of the world’s wind power (64 percent) and almost 90 percent of the world’s solar power. With simplified grid connections, long-term contracts and attractive prices for development, that’s policy that works.
The basic premise of the feed-in tariff is that the electric utility must connect any wind turbine or solar panel (or other generator) to the grid and buy all the electricity via a long-term contract with a public price. It’s use in Germany and its simplicity have led to mass local ownership of renewable energy in that country.
In the U.S., the policy is spreading, having been adopted by multiple municipal utilities in Florida, Indiana, and California as well as states including Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Vermont.
Source for pie charts: Jacobs, David. Applicability of the German FIT to the Taiwanese policy framework. (Presentation to the International Symposium on Germany's Renewable Energy Development and Power-purchasing Policy Trends, Taipei, Taiwan, 9/28/11).
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 05:37 AM PST
Today, I’m going to do a few round-ups to catch you all up on what I think were important stories in the cleantech arena. This first one is on cleantech policy.
1. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) have introduced the Storage Technology for Renewable and Green Energy Act of 2011 (STORAGE). “This investment tax credit for energy storage technologies of all types is expected to jump start an industry that has enormous potential to increase the reliability, security and efficiency of our nation’s electric grid.” Let’s hope that moves forward.
2. When reporting on the International Energy Agency’s announcement that we have 5 years to cut our CO2 emissions quickly or face serious consequences, I missed something rather odd. While saying we needed to change, the IEA promoted more of the same, “… more development of coal, nuclear and the dirty oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.” Greenpeace didn’t, and it has more on that as well as the IEA’s response to its criticism.
3. Who’s behind the push to dismantle the EPA and nearly all (if not all) clean-energy-job-creating policies? Well, a number of people, but perhaps no one compares to the Koch Brothers.
4. While GOP Congressmen and presidential hopefuls attack clean energy and the Clean Air Act, a recent poll shows that Republican voters actually oppose efforts to dismantle the EPA’s air pollution rules.
5. Over half of U.S. tax subsidies go to 4 industries. Two of those industries are the utilities, gas, and electric industry and the oil, gas, and pipelines industry. Yet clean energy industries, not even significant enough to be on the list, get the bad wrap for having any subsidies at all, right? Bookmark that link for the next time someone tells you that dirty energy doesn’t get subsidies or clean energy gets too much in subsidies.
6. Center for American Progress’ Kate Gordon does an excellent job linking the Occupy Wall Street movement with the energy industry in this in-depth post: Power for the People: Energy For the 99 Percent.
7. A new national survey conducted by an independent, non-partisan think tank finds that most Americans do not support a focus on fossil fuels and nuclear power at the expense of clean energy.
8. A new report by the Environmental Defense Fund and Trust for America's Health finds that “over the next decade… four Clean Air Act rules will yield pollution-related health care savings of over $82 billion dollars.”
9. The Power Smart Pricing program from Ameren Illinois, a program “designed to help customers save money by giving them access to hourly, market-based electricity prices,” is resulting in a 25 percent savings (on average) on the electricity supply portion of participants’ electricity bills.
10. Kuwait recently “set the most ambitious target for using renewable energy in the Gulf region,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. It aims to get 10% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
11. A report by the UK’s Green Alliance finds that paying people to save energy (en energy-efficiency feed-in tariff) would save the country money.
12. Denmark is now looking to have 50% of its electricity coming from wind power by 2020 and is looking to be fossil-fuel-free by 2050.
13. A recent report by the Military Advisory Board urged the U.S.to cut its foreign oil dependence 30% over the next decade or face national security problems. ”This is a national security threat that grows ever year, and we as a nation need to recognise is at such,” said vice admiral Dennis McGinn, a former deputy chief of naval operations, and one of the authors of the report…. ”This isn’t just about the volatility of gas prices at the pump. This isn’t just about big oils vs the environment. This is a national security problem, manifesting itself economically, diplomatically and militarily, and it is not just going to go away.” A little more from the authors as published in The Tampa Tribune: “Should we press ahead as a nation to move away from fossil fuels? Should the government continue supporting the nascent clean-energy industry, similar to what it has done for decades for the oil and gas business? Do we really even need clean energy in our country?… Based on our collective years of service in uniform, totaling more than a century in both peace and war, we think the answer should be, unequivocally, yes.”
14. Joe Romm of Climate Progress had an in-depth piece a couple weeks ago on why “deploy, deploy, deploy, research and develop, deploy, deploy, deploy” is the best clean energy policy — worth a read if you’re not sure why that’s the best way to go.
15. China’s relatively new national photovoltaic feed-in tariff policy (a “deploy, deploy, deploy” policy) is driving a 14-GW photovoltaic pipeline in China, SolarBuzz reports.
16. A couple months ago, under the radar of most cleantech blogs (in fact, I’ve only seen mention of this on Reuters), Nova Scotia, Canada’s second-smallest province, “unveiled the highest [feed-in] tariff in North America for developers of small wind energy projects as well as the highest in the world for small power plants driven by ocean tides.” ”We have set some of the most aggressive targets in North America,” Nova Scotia Energy Minister Charlie Parker told Reuters. “I am pretty confident we will meet them.” ”They are the only province that has what I will call a renewable portfolio standard with teeth,” said Jeff Jenner, chief executive of Sprott Power Corp, a wind power project company. Nova Scotia’s 2020 goal is to get 40% of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
Nova Scotia Wind Turbine via m.gifford
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 05:04 AM PST
Google Earth has become the epicenter of an international dispute among competing researchers as to whether or not cattle have a mysterious but widespread tendency to orient themselves along a magnetic north-south axis when grazing or at rest. Though the whole thing is worth a chuckle, it’s also a reminder that Google Earth and Google Maps are emerging as important tools in fields related to sustainability, including renewable energy and energy conservation, not only for professional researchers but for the general public as well.
Using Google Earth to Spot Cattle
The magnetic cow ruckus has its origins in a 2008 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, in which a team headed by German scientists used images from Google Earth to conclude that herds of cattle routinely align themselves along the Earth's magnetic field. A Google Earth blogger responded with an ad hoc survey of his own, and his admittedly unscientific conclusion was that cows were indeed aligning their bodies along a north-south line, but only because that was the shortest distance between them and their feeding bins.
Google Earth Provides More Evidence…
In 2009 the same German-lead team found evidence that supported their original conclusion. They studied the effect of magnetic fields from high-voltage power lines on herds of cattle and determined that proximity to the power lines can disrupt the bovines' magnetic sense, causing them to align randomly. The phenomenon dissipates as the cattle move farther from the lines, as described in an article in scienceblogs.com by writer Ed Yong. Yong also pointed out that magnetic orientation in mammals has been known to scientists for quite some time, but the research has generally been confined to animals that are easy to study in a laboratory, namely, small mammals such as bats and hamsters. Google Earth provided the first opportunity to study large mammals on a systematic basis.
As chronicled in a recent article in nature.com by Daniel Cressey, earlier this year a research team based in Czechoslovakia attacked the German team's findings with a new set of Google Earth images that failed to indicate any magnetic alignment. The German team argued back that the Czech team selected individual cattle subjectively rather than surveying herds, and it included numerous images of cattle near power lines, and images that were not cattle at all but were sheep or even bales of hay. The issue is dormant for now, as Cressey reports: the Czech team lobbed back a snappy defense of their research and then announced their disinclination to pursue the matter further.
Google Earth, Google Maps and Sustainability
Google Earth is already being used as a tool for getting the most bang for your solar energy buck in California, where researchers at the University of California have used it to create a solar power map that lets homeowners predict the most efficient placement for solar panels. Meanwhile, Google Maps is being used as an urban forestry tool and an EV charging station locator. While the magnetic cow mystery is still somewhat up in the air, the agriculture industry has already begun using Google images to save energy and as a general management tool, as an alternative to drive-throughs and flyovers when surveying land or livestock.
The Last Word on Magnetic Cattle
It is tempting to point out one obvious explanation for magnetic alignment in cattle, which is that many domestic cattle actually have magnets – real magnets – in their stomachs. Yes, really.
Called cattle magnets, these are small, slim rods typically force-fed to young cattle at branding time. They probably feel nasty going down but they neutralize the effects of tiny bits of iron that cattle can swallow while grazing, such as pieces of barbed wire, nails, and other detritus known as "tramp iron." The cattle magnet settles in a forward stomach where it can catch and hold tramp iron safely for the lifespan of its host. However, the German research team had also surveyed deer, few if any of which were sporting cattle magnets, and found the same distinctive orientation. Until further research is conducted, the magnetic cow mystery will remain just that – a mystery.
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 04:40 AM PST
What happens when the GOP mantra that environmental regulations kill jobs is proven false? In politics, that usually means doubling down on the original false argument.
Even after losing a bid to roll back EPA's cross-state air pollution rule last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul vowed to keep fighting federal air pollution standards, saying that he would not "let this administration continue to pass job-killing regulations."
But those regulations aren't killing jobs. And as we've pointed out several times, strong, well-designed environmental regulations have never killed jobs. The entire anti-environmental regulation platform of the Republican party is based on a made up scenario that has somehow trumped reality.
In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that regulations are having virtually no impact on job losses. In 2010, only 0.3% of job losses occurred because of government regulation, according to the figures.
What about coming EPA regulation of mercury and carbon emissions? Won't that cause a "train wreck" that will kill tens of thousands of jobs? Well, estimates vary on the precise jobs impact. One report from the University of Massachusetts estimates that more than 250,000 jobs will be created through installation of new equipment at existing power plants and construction of new clean energy facilities.
Net job creation is a bit harder to gauge, as there will be jobs lost in some areas of the industry in a shift away from coal to natural gas and renewables. But leading power providers are contradicting GOP "job-killing" talking points by explaining that new air-quality regulations will have an overall positive impact on job creation. The Washington Post just ran a piece on the impact of EPA rules:
This has been the story of how industry responds to regulations. Since the founding of the EPA in the 1970′s, aggregate emissions of ozone, particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and lead have come down 63%. The economic impact? A tripling of Gross Domestic Product.
The Washington Post story points to a 1998 study on the net impact of EPA regulations on major industries:
Despite these historical facts, Republicans continue to claim that environmental regulations are killing jobs. This is egregiously false.
If we're serious about transitioning away from coal in order to clean up local air pollution, improve public health and combat climate change, there will be job impacts in the coal industry. That's a fact. And we need to be prepared to transition workers in the sector to new types of jobs.
But we will see major job gains in other sectors on the industry, creating a net-neutral or, possibly, substantial net-positive jobs impact — all while reaping the economic benefits in public health and investment in cleaner generation. That's a fact, too.
It's time to stop the nonsensical claims that strong environmental regulations kill jobs. As Republican candidates continue to campaign on this platform, we need to hold them accountable for their distortions.
The post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been republished with permission.
Light bulb head image via shutterstock
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 04:23 AM PST
I kept meaning to come back to this post of Joe Romm’s from last week. Finally, I’m just going to repost it in full. Check it out:
The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2001 that a handful of clean energy technologies returned about $30 billion on an R&D investment of about $400 million. The United States is an amazing venture capitalist when it comes to clean energy R&D.
But the all-Solyndra, all-the-time stenographers of the status quo at the Washington Post put out this context-free nonsense:
If you read the Post article (wearing multiple head vises), you'll see that Mufson and the Postdon't understand the first thing about venture capital nor have they done even the minimal amount of homework on the myriad major independent studies of the value of clean energy research.
You'd never even know from the article that most private sector VC investments go bankrupt or have no positive return. It is a risky business that investors put money into for the few really big wins. You'd never know that VC investments are judged by their portfolio return — and by that criteria you would have to say that federal clean energy investments are wildly successful. I reviewed the data on this in a 2008 post, which I'll update below.
First, though, let me quote from the Post:
Actually, experts support clean energy investments because they have such huge financial benefits, as we'll see.
But first, the following chart from that report shows just how grossly misleading the Post's attack is:
Yes, the Post uses the $172 billion figure to create outrage over how much the federal government has spent on energy research, but the overwhelming majority of it didn't go to energy efficiency and renewables. The Post makes the briefest passing mention to a key point:
Actually, it isn't just "many policy experts" who says this, it is the National Academy of Sciences, among others. And their findings invalidate the Post's entire analysis. Here's the back story.
I was at the US Department of Energy when the Gingrich gang took over and tried to shut down all of DOE's applied energy research, claiming it was a waste of the taxpayers money. I helped organize a major report documenting the large return to the US taxpayers of federal spending on energy efficiency (and other energy technologies). The once-honorable GAO (formerly General Accounting Office, hypocritically renamed Government Accountability Office) didn't want to meet the same fate as the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, so it became a wing of the Gingrich hit squad.
The GAO tried and failed to debunk the report, but the end result was a request to the National Academy of Sciences to independently verify the stated benefits of DOE energy research. The ensuing report Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000 was a stunning vindication:
Let me expand on that last point: The handful of energy technologies cited above, developed through funding by my old office, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, havereturned about $30 billion on an R&D investment of about $400 million. I defy anybody to identify an independent report from a body as credible as the National Academy showing such a staggering return on investment for US taxpayer dollars.
Of course, you can't know a priori which investments will pay off and which won't, so you need to invest in many technologies, just to have a few winners. The GAO actually argued in a Congressional hearing where I was a DOE witness that if the DOE invested in 10 technologies for $10 million, and nine of the technologies failed, but one of the technologies saved taxpayers $100 million, that the entire effort was a waste of money. Such was the logic of the Gingrich Congress. Such apparently is the logic of the Washington Post.
I would add that the above numbers do not even count the environmental benefit of reducing pollution, although the report notes that, on the whole, the energy technologies in the report avoided "more than $60 billion in damage and mitigation." And even that estimate does not include any benefit from carbon reductions.
Significantly, the way we did the benefit analysis was quite conservative by nature. We did notassume a technology funded by the DOE would never have been commercialized, only that the DOE involvement accelerated the date of commercialization by 5 years.
I have said many times that I do not believe that we need Apollo program aimed at technology breakthroughs to solve our energy problems (See "The breakthrough technology illusion").
But clean energy R&D and demonstration and deployment is going to be severely underinvested in until the full harm to society of fossil fuel use is reflected in its cost (see Economics Stunner: "Oil and Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added"; Natural Gas Damage Larger Than Its Value Added For Even Low CO2 Prices — and Life-cycle study: Accounting for total harm from coal would add "close to 17.8¢/kWh of electricity generated").
Energy efficiency is especially underinvested in because the biggest barriers to deployment are not better technology but flawed regulations (see, for instance, "Why we never need to build another polluting power plant"). Also, the upside of low carbon technologies is immense for the industries involved, but companies that make commercial and industrial products and processes themselves see very little benefit from developing a widget that uses 10% less energy with a 4-year payback.
So I very much think that we should have an aggressive energy efficiency development and deployment program that is several times larger than today. Indeed, in 1997, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommended doubling the energy efficiency budget from $450 million to $880 million, noting "the return for this portion of the government investment would be on the order of 40 to 1–a cost to the government of about $5 per ton of carbon" with annual fuel cost savings of $75 to $95 billion in 2020, and reductions in oil consumption of 4 to 10 million barrels of oil a day by 2030.
So the government appears to be a very good venture capitalist when it comes to clean energy. Can anyone in the media get this story right?
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 03:38 AM PST
This is not good news. From the Guardian:
Full story here: Rich nations ‘give up’ on new climate treaty until 2020
Starving Child & Santa Clause image via adriansalamandre
Posted: 21 Nov 2011 03:24 AM PST
Ever wonder what the world’s oldest electric car looks like. Well, apparently, like this:
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