- OriginOil and DOE to Develop Direct Conversion of Algae into Renewable Crude Oil
- Energy Efficiency Rocks — Rebound Effect Overblown
- California Public Utilities Commission Approves 5 Renewable Energy Contracts Totaling 1,088 MW!
- New Record: $260 Billion Invested in Clean Energy in 2011; US Overtakes China in Clean Energy Investment
- Massive Solar Power Deal Being Made in San Antonio
- Deutsche Bank Report May Unlock Billions More for Energy Efficiency Retrofits in Multifamily Housing
- Solar is an Asset, Not a Cost — Why Focus on Grid Parity? (Reader Comment)
- EVs & Gasoline-Powered Cars Face Different Standards
- States Need to Develop Entire Clean Energy Economy, Report Finds
- Direct Data from Largest US Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Available Online for First Time
Posted: 13 Jan 2012 08:49 AM PST
Good news on the algae-to-oil front has been released by Los Angeles-based OriginOil, Inc. in conjunction with the US Department of Energy. The company will work in partnership with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to help algae growers to enter the global crude oil market.
Origin, a developer of a technology platform to extract oil from algae, reports that it plans to co-develop an integrated system with the DOE’s INL for direct conversion of raw algae into a renewable crude oil that can be used by existing petroleum refineries.
“We believe this is a major breakthrough for OriginOil and a major step forward for the algae industry,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO, in a press announcement. This is particularly good news for algae enthusiasts who have seen lots of potential for algae as a renewable energy source but little action in terms of business development.
Eckelberry points out that OriginOil already leads the industry with its chemical-free, low-energy, continuous high-flow harvesting system.
“From there it’s a natural step to helping algae growers make a direct crude oil replacement right on site, giving them direct access to the existing world market for transportation fuels, including jet fuel. That’s an instant upgrade from what is now a niche market, to the immediate 86 million barrel per day global crude oil market.”
OriginOil’s planned Biocrude System will integrate its own harvesting system with biomass processing technology being developed under the recently-announced research agreement with INL for the conversion of raw algae into barrels of renewable crude oil.
In operation since 1949, INL is an applied engineering national laboratory providing support to the DOE on energy research and national defense.
Source: Business Wire
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 07:00 AM PST
We’ve published a couple of posts on the less-than-concerning “rebound effect” (in particular, when it applies to energy efficiency). Nonetheless, its a popular topic in some media outlets and amongst some institutions. The CO2 Scorecard published a tremendous take-down of the rebound effect (again, when it comes to energy efficiency) this week, reposted over on Climate Progress. The CO2 Scorecard published a full report on its site, but I’ll just give you the gist of it by reposting the summary here (click the link above to read the full report):
by Shakeb Afsah and Kendyl Salcito and Chris Wielga
Energy efficiency is an over-rated policy tool when it comes to cutting energy use and CO2 emissions—that's the basic message promoted by the US think tank the Breakthrough Institute (BTI), and amplified in major news outlets like the New Yorker and the New York Times. Their logic is that every action to conserve energy through efficient use leads to an opposite reaction to consume more energy—a "rebound" mechanism, which, according to the BTI, can negate as much as 60-100% of saved energy, and in some cases can backfire to increase net energy consumption.
In this research note we refute this policy message and show that the BTI, as well as its champions in the media, have overplayed their hand, supporting their case with anecdotes and analysis that don't measure up against theory and data. Our fact-checking revealed that empirical estimates of energy rebound cited by the BTI are over-estimated or wrong, and they contradict the technological reality of energy efficiency gains observed in many industrial sectors.
We provide new statistical evidence to show that energy efficiency policies and programs can reliably cut energy use—a finding that is consistent with the policy stance of leading experts and organizations like the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the World Bank. Additionally, we take our policy message one step further—by using new insights from the emerging multi-disciplinary literature on "energy efficiency gap", we recommend that the world needs more energy efficiency policies and programs to cut greenhouse gases—not less as implied by the BTI and its cohorts in the media.
Posted: 13 Jan 2012 06:55 AM PST
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved five renewable energy projects yesterday that total 1,088 megawatts (MW) in capacity. 711 MW of that capacity is from solar PV power projects. The remaining 377 MW are from wind power projects. In total, annual generation of 2,927 gigawatt-hours (GWh).
Solar Power Plants
“Southern California Edison received approval of three 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Solar Star California (SunPower) for the Quinto, AVSP I, and AVSP II projects. The PPAs are for solar photovoltaic facilities that will provide 711 MW of new renewable capacity and an estimated 1,835 GWh of energy annually. The projects will be located near Los Banos and Rosamond, Calif. Energy deliveries from the Quinto project are anticipated to begin in December 2014. Energy deliveries from the AVSP I and AVSP II projects are anticipated to begin in October 2016.”
Wind Power Plants
“Pacific Gas and Electric Company received approval of a 25-year PPA with Montezuma Winds II, LLC (NextEra) for the Montezuma Winds II project. The PPA is for a wind facility that will provide 78.2 MW of new renewable capacity and an estimated 201 GWh of energy annually. The project will be located in the Montezuma Hills of Solano County, Calif., a well-known wind resource area. Energy deliveries from the Montezuma Winds II project are anticipated to begin in November 2012.”
“San Diego Gas & Electric received approval of a 20-year PPA with Ocotillo Express, LLC (Pattern) for the Ocotillo Express project. The PPA is for a wind facility that will provide 299 MW of new renewable capacity and an estimated 891 GWh of energy annually. The project will be located 25 miles west of El Centro in Imperial County, Calif. Energy deliveries from the Ocotillo Express project are anticipated to begin in December 2012.”
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 06:24 AM PST
Ceres, director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), “a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling about $10 trillion,” informed us of the above, yesterday, as 450 global investors controlling tens of trillions of dollars from four continents gathered at the United Nations offices in New York City for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions.
"Climate change is certain to be a major factor in investments for the foreseeable future—perhaps the biggest investment factor of our lifetimes," said Kevin Parker, global head of Deutsche Asset Management.
Some key news and points made at the NYC summit include:
There was one important note made regarding US clean energy investments: “before anyone in Washington celebrates too much, the US figure was achieved thanks in large part to support initiatives which have now expired," said Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Liebreich also noted: "The performance of solar is even more remarkable when you consider that the price of photovoltaic modules fell by close to 50 percent during 2011, and now stands 75 percent lower than three years ago, in mid-2008."
"Investors are acutely aware of climate impacts on the global economy and corporate bottom lines," said Jack Ehnes, CEO of the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS), the nation's second largest public pension fund managing $146 billion in assets. "As a matter of fiduciary duty, we must elevate our attention and action on this huge issue. That means improving our own practices and making sure companies we own are doing the same."
Yes, climate change affects companies’ bottom lines. It affects nearly everyone’s bottom lines. And the only way to be fiscally responsible in this case is to move the world towards a low-carbon economy.
It seems there was a definite sense of urgency at the conference, to not sit pretty with record investments and 45 positive policy actions, but to push for the much stronger policies and much more investment in clean energy.
"Our global carbon footprint is growing and our climate is discernibly changing," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, which organized the Summit along with the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Office for Partnerships. "We need leaps, not baby steps, in tackling this colossal threat. And we need them now, not next year."
A report from Deutsche Asset Management also summarized the ups and downs of the year, especially noting some of the now-expired US policies again.
Ceres head Mindy Lubber sums the big picture up rather well in this statement to the attendees: "The clean energy economy is coming—whether via severe crisis or, alternatively, via the unleashed human ingenuity that can forestall that crisis. You in this room have a lot to say about which option we choose."
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 05:39 AM PST
“In a unique, first-of-its kind generation-to-manufacturing proposal, CPS Energy is entering into negotiations for a power purchase agreement from one of the nation's largest solar projects,” CPS Energy wrote yesterday. “The project will mean new corporate headquarters and U.S. manufacturing operations for global companies in San Antonio.”
The solar project, offered by OCI Solar Power, is expected to:
“Multiple solar manufacturing facilities in the San Antonio area to produce proven components of solar power plants” under the agreement.
"This proposal would diversify our energy sources in a manner that makes good business sense and meets our objectives. Our goal is to always provide our ratepayers safe, reliable and affordable energy, and wherever possible, bring additional value to our community," said CPS Energy’s President and CEO Doyle Beneby (a top utility company CEO when it comes to solar). "As San Antonio becomes a central hub for solar development in the U.S., there is also a beneficial opportunity for other Texas based municipal utilities to achieve their renewable energy goals by becoming sites for parts of the project."
The solar project is supposed to be built in phases over the next 5 years.
"In just a few short years, this initiative could help CPS Energy achieve our Vision 2020 goal of attaining 20 percent or 1,500 MW of renewable resources by the end of the decade. It's a phenomenal opportunity that propels this utility to a leadership position for both wind and solar energy," stated CPS Energy Board Chair Derrick Howard.
With this company relocating its headquarters to San Antonio due to CPS Energy’s work, the utility has now brought 7 clean energy companies to the area. The utility announced last June that it intends to become “a New Energy Economy hub” — looks like it is sincere about that.
Here’s a list of some of CPS Energy’s additional clean energy stats:
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 05:13 AM PST
Deutsche Bank recently conducted quite a significant study on the financial impact of building retrofits on multifamily housing in NYC. It said in a news release yesterday that this was the most comprehensive such analysis to date. And, the good news is that it indicates that loans for energy efficiency retrofits are a safe and sound investment. Additionally, there’s already movement to increase lending for multifamily building retrofits that aim to improve energy efficiency. Anyway, the news release from Deutsche Bank is actually quite good, so I’ll just repost that here (bolding a few comments):
Deutsche Bank today announced the results of a new study that sets the foundation for what could be an unprecedented change in multifamily lending: the ability to incorporate energy savings projections into underwriting practices. The innovative approach would allow for larger loans to multifamily owners, increasing the availability of capital required to unlock billions of dollars of energy savings potential in the nation's multifamily building stock. The report, "Recognizing the Benefits of Energy Efficiency in Multifamily Underwriting," is a comprehensive analysis of energy efficiency retrofits of affordable multifamily housing in New York City.
A research team composed of Steven Winter Associates and HR&A Advisors was retained by the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation with support from Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative, to aggregate and analyze a data set of 230 affordable multifamily housing projects that had undergone energy efficiency retrofits in New York City. This data set, comprising 21,000 units, is the most comprehensive of its kind.
The study addresses a key bottleneck for private capital flowing to the sector: the lack of confidence in projecting energy savings against which lenders can underwrite loans. The authors found that energy savings across the building portfolio examined were real, and that the fuel savings (19% across the portfolio) were more predictable and of greater magnitude than electricity savings. The study also suggests an underwriting methodology that would allow lenders to compare an auditor's savings projections for a particular building with empirical data from past retrofits, to assess whether the auditor's projections should be discounted when making an energy efficiency loan.
On the heels of the study's release, Living Cities announced a grant to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation to develop a multifamily mortgage enhancement product that would put the concept into action.
"Providing hard data that clearly shows the impact and value of building retrofits is a critical step toward stimulating greater retrofit activity and investments," said Gary Hattem, Managing Director of the Community Development Finance Group. "The report signals an important milestone in connecting the fields of finance and building science. Importantly, increasing the flow of private capital to retrofits will significantly help reduce carbon emissions, while upgrading multifamily buildings and stimulating much-needed job creation."
"Among its many findings, the study discovered that for half the projects examined, savings alone were sufficient to fully support loans for energy efficiency capital improvements. That is fantastic news, but now we need to take the next step," said Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. "To that end, a follow-up grant from Living Cities to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation will support a dedicated program to help lenders monetize cashflows from energy efficient building retrofits."
"We're excited that the report documented that real savings can be generated from retrofits," said Susan Leeds, CEO of the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. "The Living Cities grant provides NYCEEC with dedicated funding to develop a multifamily mortgage enhancement product, informed by empirical data, which will induce mortgage lenders to recognize and finance comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits by underwriting the projected energy costs."
The report is now accessible via the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation's website at http://www.db.com/usa/content/en/ee_in_multifamily_underwriting.html
Multifamily housing via shutterstock
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 04:41 AM PST
Got this great comment on a post on solar and grid parity yesterday and wanted to share it with more eyes:
I’ve been thinking that focusing so much on grid parity is missing half the point of going solar (or wind, etc).
Whenever you rely on grid power, you are always incurring a COST. As long as you’re using it, money is simply flowing out of your pocket and into someone else’s.
But when you install a solar system, you are purchasing an ASSET. You are becoming your own supplier. You can even sell any excess you produce, making it a source of income.
Parity calculations only compare the cost of purchasing the panels to the cost of staying with the grid supplier, which is an important consideration, certainly. But it distracts from the fact that after the (calculated) payback period is covered, what remains is essentially free energy, for the rest of the life of the system.
In the end, focusing on parity is comparing apples to oranges. It implicitly treats the solar purchase as if it were just another cost incurred, instead of the INVESTMENT that it actually is. It also relies on massaging a few key assumptions such as projected cost of electricity and the longevity of the panels. Shift those assumed values a little and the whole outcome changes, because in the end the whole comparison is rather arbitrary.
So how about trying to remove the parity comparison from consideration entirely and measuring home solar on its own terms?
Solar panels on home via shutterstock
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Posted: 13 Jan 2012 04:30 AM PST
Charis touched on the unequal expectations for and criticisms of electric vehicles (EVs) compared to gasoline-powered vehicles in her post on why EVs are awesome the other day. Over on sister site Gas2, Andrew Meggison gets into that topic a lot more in this repost below. Check it out (& share with your friends… we’ve got a lot of unbalanced press to combat):
Posted: 13 Jan 2012 04:00 AM PST
This post was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.
Congressional commitment to action on clean energy policy in 2012 is about as secure as Kim Kardashian's wedding vows.
So with states once again representing the major driver for renewable energy, how can they keep the momentum going at a time when federal enthusiasm is at its lowest level in years? The key, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, is for states to focus not just on project-level deployment, but to shift some funds toward support broader sustainable economic goals that foster the clean energy economy from the ground up.
And there are still a fair amount of funds to work with on the state level, as the below map illustrates:
What do "broader sustainable economic goals" mean exactly?
Historically, states with clean energy funds have focused expenditures on rebates, direct loans or performance-based incentives in order to encourage development of commercial and residential projects. The funds are raised through electricity surcharges, carbon auctions, utility penalties for not meeting clean energy targets, issuing bonds, and a variety of other methods.
These funds are found in 20 states and represent about $500 million of per year in revenues to support renewable energy and efficiency. They're extraordinarily important tools for encouraging project activity — ultimately helping ratepayers and businesses invest in projects themselves. But they don't always help create the "bottom-up" solutions that help multiply the economic impact, say analysts at the Brookings Institution:
Creating an integrated clean energy economy is about more than simply deploying renewable energy projects. It's about putting the structures in place to support technological innovation, boost local manufacturing, and create the supply chain to support a new industry.
The authors point to states like California, Massachusetts and New York, which have set aside good chunks of money from these funds to create cleantech research hubs, business incubators, and worker training programs. These help build the industry from top to bottom and potentially keep greater amounts of economic value within a state.
For example, according to figures released from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center released this fall, the commonwealth now boasts 64,000 green jobs — with the workforce in that sector growing 6.7% between July of 2010 and July of 2011, while other industries grew on average 1%.
This is the type of economic multiplier that other states could realize with a greater deployment of funds toward "clean energy economic development." Roughly $3 billion has been set aside for clean energy funds in the last 10 years. But only a sliver of those funds have been deployed for activity other than project-level deployment.
The Brookings researchers recommend shifting about 10% of funds toward broader economic development activities:
At a time when Congress can't even muster the support to pass very basic tax incentives for renewable energy projects, we need to use the tools we do have. And as usual, those are on the state level where policy makers actually recognize the enormous benefits to fostering innovation in clean energy.
Posted: 12 Jan 2012 11:59 PM PST
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data direct from the largest emitters in the US are being made available for the first time ever via a new online database from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 2010 GHG data released Jan. 11 by the EPA accounts for 80% of total US GHG emissions for the year. Public information from more than 6,700 entities organized across facilities in nine industry groups and 29 source categories that directly emit large quantities of GHGs, as well as suppliers of fossil fuels,” is included, according to an EPA press release.
The EPA’s GHG online data publication tool enables users to view and sort 2010 calendar-year GHG data from more than 6,700 facilities in various ways, including by facility, location, industrial sector, and type of GHG emitted. Data for 2010 show that:
The online GHG database can be used in any number of ways by private and public sector organizations, as well as by individuals, the EPA notes. For example, communities can use it to identify and find out just how much in the way of GHGs are being emitted, as well as their type. Businesses can use it to compare and track emissions and provide information to state and local governments.
GHG Reporting Expanding in 2011
US greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.9% in 2010 to 213 million metric tons, the highest rate since 1988, according to the US Energy Information Administration, as the US economy rebounded somewhat. Total 2010 emissions were lower than in 2005 and 2007, however.
Fossil fuel burning – coal, oil and natural gas — accounted for 80% of total US emissions for the year as factories ran at higher capacity and a hot summer led consumers to use more air conditioning.
The GHG emissions database is the latest result of the EPA’s GHG Reporting Program, which was launched in October, 2009 as stipulated by the FY2008 Consolidate Appropriations Act. The act requires large GHG emitters across a range of industry sectors and suppliers of products that emit GHGs, if released or combusted, to report emission levels.
An additional 13 source categories will begin reporting their 2011 GHG data this year if their emissions meet the EPA threshold. The 13, all in the “Industrial Activity” sector are:
The Global Warming Potential of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The concept “‘Global Warming Potential‘ (GWP) is used to compare the ability of each greenhouse gas to trap heat in the atmosphere relative to another gas,” the EPA explains. In order to make apples-to-apples comparisons, a gas’s GWP is defined as the ratio of heat trapped by one unit mass of the greenhouse to that of one unit mass of CO2 over a specified time period.
To ensure consistency with the international GHG emissions measurement and reporting standard established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), EPA’s greenhouse gas analyses use the 100-year GWPs listed in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) Second Assessment Report (SAR).
Carbon dioxide remains the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions that cause atmospheric warming, not only in the US, but globally. Methane ranks a distant second, but the absolute amount is misleading, as methane is 21-times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2.
Moreover, atmospheric methane concentration is now higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years of Earth’s history. The average global atmospheric concentrations of methane have increased 150%, from approximately 700 parts per billion (ppb) to 1,745 ppb between 1750 and 1998, according to a definitive IPCC study. A more recent study indicated the atmospheric methane level had been in a steady state between 1999 and 2002.
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