Friday, March 2, 2012

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

Ford Focus Electric: 110 MPGe & Most Fuel-Efficient Car in U.S.

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 07:38 AM PST

 
ford focus electric

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has certified the 2012 Ford Focus Electric as the most fuel-efficient 5-passenger car in the U.S. now, with a fuel efficiency of 110 MPGe (in the city).

The 2012 Ford Focus Electric is now on sale for $39,995.

Ford Focus Electric beats Nissan Leaf (a little) in performance metrics: The Ford Focus Electric’s combined fuel efficiency is 105 MPGe, 6 better than the Nissan Leaf’s 99 MPGe. Also, it reportedly offers “more motor power, passenger room and standard features.” (I still prefer the Leaf, though.)

“Customers can make more use of this efficiency with Ford’s faster charging technology that can recharge Focus Electric in about half the time of Nissan Leaf,” a news release today said. Hmm,.. it’s growing on me.

Ford Focus Electric would save you money: Even today (and you know gas prices are only going to continue rising), the Ford Focus Electric would save the average U.S. customer $9,700 in fuel costs over the course of five years, compared to a comparable new car. But, the news release noted that “the cost for a gallon of gas rose 20 cents in a seven-day period” in California last week. Expect more of that in the years to come. So, if you drive an electric vehicle, expect more savings in the years to come.

Range — nothing to worry about: The Ford Focus has a range of 76 miles per charge, but can be driven up to about 100 miles on a single charge with good driving habits. With the average American driving 29 miles a day, that is way more than most people would need to ensure that they just have to charge the car at night (not even every night) and don’t get stranded anywhere.

Ford Focus Electric to soon be joined by Ford Fusion: “The Focus line soon will be joined by the new 2013 Ford Fusion – aiming to be America’s most fuel-efficient gas- and hybrid-powered midsize sedans – to help create one of the industry’s most fuel-efficient car lineups. The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid is projected to become the world’s most fuel-efficient midsize sedan by achieving more than 100 MPGe in electric mode.”

“Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or powertrain technology they choose,” said Eric Kuehn, chief nameplate engineer, Focus Electric. “The Focus and Fusion are great examples of how we transformed our fleet of cars, utilities and trucks with leading fuel efficiency.”

For much more on the 2012 Ford Focus Electric and a host of other fuel-efficient cars from Ford, check out the Ford Motor Company news release.

Thoughts?

Related posts:

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Fisker Karma — Justin Bieber’s 18th Birthday Present (VIDEO)

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 07:15 AM PST

Justin Bieber got a $100,000 plug-in hybrid with a solar panel roof, the Fisker Karma, for his 18th birthday. I imagine most of our readers don’t listen to Bieber’s music, but I thought this news might be a bit of an item of interest for you. And it’s Friday, after all, so why not have a little more fun?

Justin Bieber's new electric car, as presented on Ellen.

Justin Bieber's new electric car, as presented on Ellen.

If you’re interested in the birthday details, Scott Braun, Bieber’s manager, surprised Bieber with the car on Ellen (the Ellen Degeneres Show) yesterday.

“We wanted to make sure, since you love cars, that when you’re on the road you are always looking environmentally friendly,” Braun said as DeGeneres stood on the side and smiled large.

“And we decided to get you a car that would make you stand out. I think you know where I’m going, and you’re kind of freaking out right now. That’s a Fisker Karma.”

Bieber looked pretty surprised, as you can see in this video:

The Fisker Karma is a bit contentious in the green car scene. On the one hand, it is a plug-in hybrid, and it’s got a super sexy design, even its critics will note. However, the car only gets about 30-50 miles on electricity alone.

Chris DeMorro of sister site Gas2 thinks a lot more government support should be going towards Tesla Motors’ cars than Fisker Automotive’s. Basically, he recently called for the DOE to drop its support for Fisker and shift it over to Tesla.

“If anything, Obama needs to cut off Fisker's funding and double down on Tesla. I know that sounds harsh, but so far Tesla is the only company with the means to build electric cars with the range and performance of conventional gas-powered cars.”

Chris was a lot more into the Karma back in March 2011. At that time, he wrote: “It seems like its been a decade since Fisker first introduced the world to its super-sexy plug-in hybrid, the Karma (though it's only just over three years). Finally though, the first Karma is complete, with more to come…. This has been a long time coming, and the Karma is at the top of the list of cars-I'd-give-up-beer-but-not-bacon-for. Never giving up bacon (and there's always whiskey!)”

But Fisker has run into a number of problems that, he thinks, show it’s not as worthy of support as Tesla.

What are you thoughts? (And what are your thoughts on Justin Bieber getting the car and what that could do for broader public appeal, if you have any?) I have to say, I’m not an expert on Fisker or Bieber.

h/t LA Times

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Oil Subsidies Need to Go, Obama Rallies

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 07:03 AM PST

One week ago, I covered some of Obama’s statements from his energy speech in Miami. One of the big points of interest was his emphasis that “drill, baby, drill” isn’t an energy strategy — “that’s a bumper sticker,” Obama said. Now, a new video has just popped onto the scene that has Obama going all logical and grassroots-activist on oil subsidies. Here’s the video and text (posted on Planetsave this morning):
 

Obama wants Congress to vote yes or no on extending $4 billion in oil company subsidies within the next few weeks (video below).

 
Obama has stepped up to the plate big time with this portion of a recent speech on energy below. First is the video, followed by some of the key quotes in text with commentary:

Obama:

“Right now, $4 billion of your tax dollars, $4 billion, subsidizes the oil industry every year.” (Struggles to hold in a smile…. I wonder why… maybe because the oil industry basically threatened him after he rejected a proposal to rush through permitting of the Keystone XL oil pipeline without conducting a required environmental review first. Or maybe just because he knew the audience would be up in arms about that statistic. Who knows — it’s anyone’s guess.)

“$4 billion — now, these, these companies are making record profits right now. Tens of billions of dollars a year.”

“Now, does anyone really think Congress should give them another $4 billion this year? Of course not! It’s outrageous, it’s inexcusable, and I’m asking Congress, eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks. Let’s, let’s put every single member of Congress on record. You can stand with oil companies, or you can stand up for the American people. You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean energy future.” (Obvious choice.)

And, in closing, a good call to action:

“So I’m asking everybody here today, anybody who’s watching at home, let your member of Congress know where you stand — will you do that?”

h/t Climate Denial Crock of the Week
–> Check out the post on Obama’s “drill, baby drill” and environmental conservation points for more along these lines.

Related posts:

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Legendary Investors Step Up Investments in Clean, Renewable Energy

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 06:48 AM PST

Photo courtesy SolarCity

The battle to extend, even expand, federal government support for renewable, clean energy resource development as opposed to continuing to favor fossil fuels is shaping up to be a key political issue distinguishing Democratic and Republican platforms in the run-up to this year’s elections. Signs that private sector investors of various stripes are willing to invest in renewable energy projects are being seen even as expiration of federal subsidies and other incentives for wind, solar and other clean energy resources threatens fast-growing industries sure to be key economic drivers in coming decades, however.

On Feb. 29, residential solar energy systems crowdsourcing pioneer SolarCity announced that legendary investor George Soros’s recently launched clean energy development fund, Silver Lake Kraftwerk, and Valor Equity Partners co-led the raising of $81 million in private equity capital to help fund its expansion plans.

Buying Into Solar Leasing

Also investing were Tao Ventures partner Nicholas J. Pritzker, Shea Ventures, an affiliate of SolarCity partner Shea Homes, SolarCity chairman Elon Musk and existing shareholder DBL Investors. Soros, Pritzker and the other prominent investors join Warren Buffet in stepping up their investments in the clean, renewable energy sector.

SolarCity has been especially adept at raising venture and private equity capital. Google and SolarCity in mid-June announced the creation of a $280 million fund – the largest of its kind – to finance residential solar energy projects across the country. At the time, SolarCity had created 15 project funds with seven different partners to finance $1.28 billion in solar energy projects.

"Individuals and organizations of all shapes and sizes are fed up with the growing cost and consequences of traditional energy," stated SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive in the press release. "This investment provides SolarCity the resources to explore new products and services and identify new geographies and potential acquisitions as we seek to deliver better energy choices to more customers."

Addressing the typically high up-front costs of individual homeowners purchasing and installing solar energy systems, SolarCity’s business model, whereby it pools and finances residential solar energy projects through leases, is proving particularly attractive to financiers.

"The company's unique, vertically-integrated model, paired with incentives and falling technology costs, allows it to provide solar electricity to customers at lower rates than they pay for utility power,” commented Silver Lake Kraftwerk co-founder Raj Atluru. “We've thoroughly analyzed SolarCity's full-service approach to solar and energy efficiency and we believe it has the ability to deliver superior customer experience and service across multiple sectors."

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Clean Energy Is Needed Now (Climate Scientists & Climate Economists Say)

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 06:42 AM PST

 
I posted David Roberts’ piece on a new climate and energy study by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold and climate scientist Ken Caldeira here on CleanTechnica the other day. I’ve run across more good quotes and a good graphic on the matter since then and just posted on these over on Planetsave. Additionally, I posted a related story on the difference in cost between taking strong climate action now versus continued climate inaction. Skipping most of what was already posted on here (see the link above for that), here’s a bit more on the Myhrvold–Caldeira study, "Greenhouse gases, climate change and the transition from coal to low-carbon electricity," followed by a repost on some climate-action–climate-inaction studies:

Which Technologies to Use (to Stop Considerable, Considerable Global Warming)

From Caldeira and Myhrvold:

Despite the lengthy time lags involved, delaying rollouts of low-carbon-emission energy technologies risks even greater environmental harm in the second half of this century and beyond. This underscores the urgency in developing realistic plans for the rapid deployment of the lowest-GHG-emission electricity generation technologies. Technologies that offer only modest reductions in emissions, such as natural gas and — if the highest estimates from the life-cycle analyses are correct — carbon capture and storage, cannot yield substantial temperature reductions this century. Achieving substantial reductions in temperatures relative to the coal-based system will take the better part of a century, and will depend on rapid and massive deployment of some mix of conservation, wind, solar, and nuclear, and possibly carbon capture and storage.

Reiterated by the Institute of Physics news release:

… technologies that offer only modest reductions in greenhouse gases, such as the use of natural gas and perhaps carbon capture and storage, cannot substantially reduce climate risk in the next 100 years.

Delaying the rollout of the technologies is not an option however; the risks of environmental harm will be much greater in the second half of the century and beyond if we continue to rely on coal-based technologies.

 

Climate Progress' Joe Romm has more on the significance of this study (one of the most interesting things to note is who conducted it,… well, one of the authors, and his former stance on the matter):

These results are not entirely news to people who follow the recent climate and energy literature, which I've written about at length — see "NCAR Study: Switching From Coal to Gas Increases Warming for Decades, Has Minimal Benefit Even in 2100." The fact that natural gas is a bridge fuel to nowhere was first shown by the International Energy Agency in its big June report on gas — see IEA's "Golden Age of Gas Scenario" Leads to More Than 6°F Warming and Out-of-Control Climate Change.

But what's new is the first peer-reviewed analysis that "has predicted the climate effects of energy system transitions" with "a quantitative model … that includes life-cycle emissions and the central physics of greenhouse warming."

What's also remarkable about this study is the lead author, Nathan Myhrvold. You may recall Myhrvold, the former CTO of Microsoft, from his anti-clean-energy and pro-geoengineering quotes in"Error-riddled book Superfreakonomics," which I and many, many others debunked at length in 2009.

Myhrvold was quoted back then about the "carbon debt" of the clean energy build-out: "Eventually, we have a great carbon-free energy infrastructure but only after making emissions and global warming worse every year until we're done building out the solar plants, which could take 30 to 50 years."

Of course, not noted in all of this is energy efficiency and the economy's role in all this. The study assumes constantly rising energy demand. We'll see about that. Also, we'd be wise to invest a LOT more money in energy efficiency — it's critical to a clean… clean energy transition.

Costs of Climate Action versus Costs of Climate Inaction

The rest of this post is a repost of a great piece by Skeptical Science on this matter, which is partially a debunking of a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal that misrepresents a prominent Yale economist, William Nordhaus:

Yale's William Nordhaus is one of the foremost experts on climate economics.  His research has frequently been misrepresented by climate "skeptics" to argue that CO2 limits will harm the economy.  For example, Christopher Monckton cited a climate economics review by Richard Tol (which in turn heavily cited work by Nordhaus) in claiming:

"…the overwhelming majority of economic studies on the subject (which are summarized in my paper) find the cost of climate action greatly exceeds the cost of inaction…"

As we demonstrated in our response, Monckton completely misrepresented the work of Tol(and Nordhaus, by extension), and thus his claim is 100% wrong.  The reality is that the overwhelming majority of economic studies on climate find the cost of climate inaction greatly exceeds the cost of action (Figure 1).  That's why there is a consensus amongst economists with climate expertise that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 2).

Figure 1:  Approximate costs of climate action (green) and inaction (red) in 2100 and 2200. Sources: German Institute for Economic Research and Watkiss et al. 2005

Figure 2: New York University survey results of economists with climate expertise when asked under what circumstances the USA should reduce its emissions

Similarly, a recent letter published by the Wall Street Journalsigned by 16 climate "skeptics" (few of which have any climate or economics expertise, and many of which have received fossil fuel funding) misrepresented Nordhaus' research as supporting climate inaction from an economic standpoint.  When Nordhaus objected to this misrepresentation of his work, Patrick Michaels doubled-down on the misrepresentation, claiming Nordhaus didn't understand his own research.

However, as discussed by Alex C on Skeptical Science, the "skeptics" had indeed misrepresented Nordhaus' work.  They focused on the cost-to-benefit ratio of various climate mitigation options, whereas it is the difference (benefit minus cost, as opposed to benefit divided by cost) which tells us how much money is saved, and thus is the most important factor in determining which option is most economically beneficial.

In a recent article, Nordhaus sought to set the record straight that the climate economics literature clearly indicates that CO2 limits will save money.  Nordhaus confirmed that the SkS approach is the correct one:

"The authors cite the "benefit-to-cost ratio" to support their argument. Elementary cost-benefit and business economics teach that this is an incorrect criterion for selecting investments or policies. The appropriate criterion for decisions in this context is net benefits (that is, the difference between, and not the ratio of, benefits and costs).

This point can be seen in a simple example, which would apply in the case of investments to slow climate change. Suppose we were thinking about two policies. Policy A has a small investment in abatement of CO2 emissions. It costs relatively little (say $1 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $10 billion), for a net benefit of $9 billion. Now compare this with a very effective and larger investment, Policy B. This second investment costs more (say $10 billion) but has substantial benefits (say $50 billion), for a net benefit of $40 billion. B is preferable because it has higher net benefits ($40 billion for B as compared with $9 for A), but A has a higher benefit-cost ratio (a ratio of 10 for A as compared with 5 for B). This example shows why we should, in designing the most effective policies, look at benefits minus costs, not benefits divided by costs."

Nordhaus went on to further dispel the myth that CO2 limits will hurt the economy.  In fact, the opposite is true:

"My research shows that there are indeed substantial net benefits from acting now rather than waiting fifty years. A look at Table 5-1 in my study A Question of Balance (2008) shows that the cost of waiting fifty years to begin reducingCO2 emissions is $2.3 trillion in 2005 prices. If we bring that number to today's economy and prices, the loss from waiting is $4.1 trillion. Wars have been started over smaller sums.

My study is just one of many economic studies showing that economic efficiency would point to the need to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions right now, and not to wait for a half-century. Waiting is not only economically costly, but will also make the transition much more costly when it eventually takes place. Current economic studies also suggest that the most efficient policy is to raise the cost of CO2 emissions substantially, either through cap-and-trade or carbon taxes, to provide appropriate incentives for businesses and households to move to low-carbon activities."

[...]

"The claim that cap-and-trade legislation or carbon taxes would be ruinous or disastrous to our societies does not stand up to serious economic analysis. We need to approach the issues with a cool head and a warm heart. And with respect for sound logic and good science."

Despite the economic reality that CO2 limits will save money, the myth that they will harm the economy is a pervasive one.  However, this myth is based on nothing more than a misunderstanding of climate science and economics, and misrepresentation of the climate science and economics body of research.

Note: this information has been incorporated into the rebuttal to the myth "CO2 limits will harm the economy"

Related posts:

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10 Huge German Solar Energy Myths Bjørn Lomborg is Trumpeting

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 05:28 AM PST

 
No doubt, you’ve heard about Germany’s likely decision to quickly and severely cut its solar PV feed-in tariff policy, a world-leading solar policy that has made Germany a solar power hero of sorts. A friend recently shared a story by Bjørn Lomborg on these cuts with me and asked me for my opinion. It’s taken me a few days to get to it because Lomborg’s piece is so full of myths and lies, but before I get to debunking Lomborg’s claims, let’s have a little context.

Who is Bjørn Lomborg?

Lomborg is infamous for denying global warming’s existence and the fact that it is caused by humans for years, despite clear scientific evidence on the matter and, as a result, nearly every overarching scientific body in the world supporting climate scientists with official statements and positions on the matter.

About a year and a half ago, Lomborg finally flipped on this and acknowledged the scientific conclusion that humans are causing global warming, saying "man-made global warming exists" and "we have long moved on from any mainstream disagreements about the science of climate change." Yes, we have, and too bad it took you so long to realize that, and enabled so much nonsense in the meantime.

But… with Lomborg’s new realization, didn’t come much understanding about how to address global warming. Lomborg has stuck to his odd idea that deploying clean energy now isn’t the best way (again, going against a large consensus on the matter by experts in the field). Unfortunately, for Lomborg, the Danish government recently announced that it was cutting $1.6 million in funding for his “Copenhagen Consensus Center” —  "It's been very strange that particular researchers have received special treatment due to ideology. We're going to run fiscal policy differently," said Ida Auken of the Socialist People’s Party at the time.

But, now, onto the matter of the day….

Germany Solar Feed-in Tariff Cut

There are a handful of reasons why Germany is cutting its solar feed-in tariff policy so quickly and dramatically. As Susan noted the other day, though, the big one is that it cuts into rich and influential utility companies’ bottom lines. It’s also related to the extremely fast and unpredicted drop in the cost of solar PV panels, but mostly because of the effect that is having on the utilities.

“New solar installations of a record 7.5 GW in 2011, far outpacing the country's 2.5 to 3.5 GW plans, have cut into the business model of German utilities,” as Susan notes.

“Increasing the amount of solar power on the grid has actually lowered peak electricity prices (How the merit order effect works) but it has generated a backlash among German utilities, who are having their bottom line hurt by solar competition….”

But, his has already been covered in more depth (a few times here on CleanTechnica) so let’s just get on to the Lomborg myths.

Note: because I’d rather not drill the myths into your head, I’m leading with the most important (accurate) point related to each myth.

1. Solar PV reduces the price of electricity (or keeps it lower than it would be otherwise). Lomborg makes the claim that Germany’s increase in solar PV is going to result in a massive spike in electricity bills.

First of all, we’ve written on the documented evidence that solar PV reduces electricity bills, since it produces the most electricity at peak demand when baseload power is already stretched and producing new electricity costs the most. (Aside from Susan’s piece from this week linked above, I wrote about how solar PV reduces the price of electricity on February 9th and John Farrell posted a piece on it again on February 13th — I don’t think Lomborg caught either of those.)

The same thing happens with wind power, which is even cheaper than solar today, as I’ve documented here. (Note, again, that Lomborg isn’t a fan of wind energy either — basically, he’s just not a fan of deploying clean energy.)

Now, as implied above, utility companies’ inability to charge more than a pretty penny for peak electricity (since homes are now providing it themselves) might very well be hurting their profits. But should energy policy be about making sure traditional, rich utility companies make a hefty profit, or should it be about what’s best for the citizenry?  (Tough one, I know… if you’re a politician.)

2. Solar power is already cheaper than fossil fuels and nuclear. Solar’s levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) may not be, and if that’s the only thing that matters to Lomborg, his claim that solar is more expensive than coal, natural gas, or nuclear, might be right. However, if you look at a couple of important factors, solar is already cheaper.

First, I know folks like Lomborg don’t like to do this, but if you take the true cost of all energy sources into account (including health costs not included in the LCOE), solar is already cost-competitive (and subsidies to support solar adjust for failures in the market that leave out those important externalities).

Furthermore, if people actually evaluated the price of solar based on the true lifespan of solar power systems, the situation gets even better. If you do this and even continue to leave out externalities like health costs, solar is already cost-competitive in many or most regions.

But we’re not done yet! As discussed on our solar energy page, the projected cost of solar in a few years is already lower than coal and nuclear at that time. And the important but often overlooked point here is that it takes years to get a new coal or nuclear power plant up and running. So, by the time you had a new plant up and running, the electricity from it would already be more expensive than the projected price of solar at that time (and note that solar prices have been falling faster than anyone predicted in previous years). Here are two images and a video on this matter from our Solar Power page (linked above):

solar energy versus solar power costs

3. Solar doesn’t work at night (for the most part) — who cares?! Lomborg focuses a little on solar not working at night (solar PV, that is). Yes, solar doesn’t produce electricity at night, and the water doesn’t come out of the shower head when I turn the shower off — no problem. Wind is often more abundant at night, so mixing wind and solar works well (which Germany and anyplace with much clean energy does). Additionally, as noted above, peak demand isn’t at night, and what solar is most useful for (at the moment) is covering peak demand. Aside from wind, there are many other ways to fill in at night when needed, but the bottom line is that diversity is key, and no one is ever going to try power a country 100% from solar (at least not in the near future), so this is really a completely moot point.

4. Solar power from Germany is sometimes exported and electricity from other power sources is sometimes imported. Lomborg makes a fuss about power from other countries sometimes needing to be imported when solar power production is low. This need is not unique to solar, though, and isn’t really an issue. As I noted about a month ago, Germany’s abundant solar power helped to save France’s butt when it got really cold in France and nuclear power production dipped. The key, again, is a good diversity of energy sources, a good grid, and good planning. Solar is actually very flexible, one of its strengths, unlike nuclear and coal baseload power that takes ages to start up (sometimes days) and can actually really “get in the way” as a result of that, as the article linked above notes. Solar’s intermittency is not a problem at this level of integration and it’s not likely to be any time soon (if ever). But why not knock a potential weakness while we have the chance — right, Lomborg?

5. Solar PV drives electricity bills down. Again, Lomborg comes back to the claim that solar is going to wildly drive up consumer electricity bills. The key to spreading a myth is pounding it into you head, you know? As described above, solar PV drives down the price of electricity. In the medium- to long-long run, solar installed today is clearly a cost-effective solution to new power production. And, of course, if you put solar on your home, the better off you are!

6. The cost of global warming inaction is MUCH greater than the cost of strong global warming action now. As noted the other day, a new study by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold and climate scientist Ken Caldeira finds that we need a 100% shift to truly clean energy now in order to avert serious climate consequences in the second half of this century (the climate consequences of the coming decades from previous emissions are basically already locked into place).

Bill Gates and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu emphasized basically the same thing this week at the ARPA-E 2012 summit.

Perhaps more importantly, for countering Lomborg’s claim that the cost of global warming action and clean energy deployment today is too expensive for us (that it’s more expensive than not acting), Yale economist has shown that the cost of climate inaction is MUCH greater than the cost of action. Here’s a chart on his findings:

climate change action costs climate change inaction costs

Others have come to the same finding. Lomborg’s claims to the contrary, without any supporting evidence, are just plain untrue.

6.5. Clean energy deployment today is a MUST in order to address global warming. Woops, I jumped the gun a bit. Debunking Lomborg’s claim that “focus first on increasing research and development to make green-energy technology cheaper and more competitive,” much of what was included in the point above is again relevant. We need action now, not in 10 years. However, even beyond that, this R&D to cut costs, not deployment, is a false choice. Firstly, deployment is one of the best ways to get costs down. Solar prices dropped off a cliff in the last year, and have for years, largely due to increased demand and deployment. This creates better economies of scale and also stimulates private sector innovation. Furthermore, we don’t need one or the other, but both. We need continued R&D, but certainly not at the expense of extremely effective policies stimulating clean energy installation around the world.

7. Germany’s solar policy has been a wild success. One of the most ridiculous claims Lomborg makes, perhaps, is that “Germany's experiment with subsidizing inefficient solar technology has failed.” If anything, the policy has been so successful that it may need a bit of restructuring. Again, as Susan noted: “New solar installations of a record 7.5 GW in 2011, far outpacing the country's 2.5 to 3.5 GW plans.” There’s a reason why countries around the world have gone the same route as Germany — the policy has been a wild success.

8. Today, we should try to reduce price of solar PV, first and foremost, with rapid deployment. Woops, I jumped the gun again. The main summary of why deployment is critical to further reducing the price of solar, not just R&D, is above. Basically, we’ve got the technologies to the point we need to produce them at a cost-competitive level, and the best way to further bring down the costs is with deployment. This is the route Google has now gone, and this is the route advised by studies and analysts. Of course, as stated multiple times above, not ignoring R&D, but not ignoring the potential from deployment either.

9. Solar produces green jobs. Lomborg uses the following quote as an absurd scare tactic: “many ‘green jobs’ are being exported to China, meaning that Europeans subsidize Chinese jobs.” Yikes, China is getting jobs out of a German solar energy boom, oh no! The fact of the matter is, this fast-growing solar industry is creating jobs around the world. The U.S. now has over 100,000 jobs from the solar energy industry. Germany has even more. The EU has over 1 million jobs in the clean energy arena. One of the really nice things about solar is that it creates a ton of jobs for local, small business. Solar installation and maintenance is, surely, giving Germany a huge jobs boost. Killing solar policies might take away some Chinese jobs (if that’s your main aim… and why should it be?), but it will also take away good jobs for Germans.

10. Germany’s solar energy growth is having a tremendous, positive impact on COemissions. It’s so off point, I almost don’t even want to share this quote from Lomborg, but for the sake of debunking it, here it is: “the actual effect of extra solar panels in Germany leads to no CO2 reductions, because total emissions are already capped…. Germans simply allow other parts of the EU to emit more CO2.How are you going to cut CO2 emissions if you don’t deploy clean energy?! Seriously, I think this claim takes the cake. Yes, policies are in place that require cutting emissions, and solar PV in Germany helps to hit those targets. Without solar in Germany, that would certainly be harder, and hey, it might not even happen. But Lomborg seems to think that it magically happens without doing anything and, so, doing something is counterproductive. Got that? Furthermore, there’s a huge push in the EU now to considerably raise its emissions reductions target (from 20% by 2020 to 30% by 2020), something that a recent study found would save the EU money. Certainly, such an improved target wouldn’t be possible, let alone talked about, if countries like Germany hadn’t aggressively reduced emissions ahead of schedule!

All in all, Lomborg tries to scare the reader (probably successfully in most cases) with big number that have no context and gross claims that the average reader wouldn’t know are just plain false. It’s a disservice to society, a disservice to Germany, and a disservice to generations to come that might have to live with the consequences if Lomborg (and friends) influence enough people.

 

To reiterate, as Giles Parkinson of REneweconomy writes, the German solar PV subsidy cut is “not so much because of the problems of trying to match a tariff rate with the plunging costs of solar, or the potential cost of consumers, but because solar PV is starting to create a large hole in the business models of the conventional power industry.”

Furthermore, “prices in peak power periods in the middle of the afternoon on sunny days are running lower than base power prices of 2am.” (In other words, electricity is now cheaper when it has traditionally been least expensive than it is when it should be least expensive.)

And: “The merit order impact was detailed in a recent study by IZES, which found that solar power has reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated. This causes massive problems for generators of conventional power, who rely on increases in peak power prices to deliver their profit margins.”

 

Some quick details on the German solar subsidy cuts from James Montgomery of Renewable Energy World: “The newly proposed subsidies cut the FiT levels by up to 30 percent, limit the payback on electricity produced, and eliminate a self-consumption bonus. They also take effect on Jan. 2013 but apply to everything installed by March 9, not April 1 as many had thought. (The previous FiT structure would have cut the levels by another 15 percent in July.)”

 

Read Lomborg’s myths in full on Slate (if you are masochistic or curious enough).

Bjørn Lomborg image modified from image by anabananasplit.

Related posts:

  1. How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper
  2. Common Renewable Energy Myths
  3. Desertec (HUGE Solar & Clean Energy Project) Moving Forward


DOE Launches 6-Year, $180mm Offshore Wind Development Initiative

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 04:15 AM PST

The US has been slow to try and capitalize on the huge potential of offshore wind energy to reliably supply clean, renewable electricity to population centers along the US’ extensive coasts. That’s beginning to change, however, as the Obama administration ramps up its efforts to stimulate economic growth and environmental sustainability by fostering development of domestic renewable energy resources.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu yesterday announced the launch of an ambitious offshore wind energy research and development initiative that, over the next six years, will see some $180 million invested in accelerating “the deployment of breakthrough wind power technologies that will help diversify our nation’s energy portfolio, promote economic development and launch a new industry here in America,” according to a Dept. of Energy (DOE) press release.

"Developing all of our nation's vast energy resources is an important part of President Obama's blueprint for an American economy that uses all of America's energy resources," the EnergySecretary stated. "The new offshore wind energy initiative announced today will help to catalyze the development of offshore wind in America, supporting U.S. innovators as they seek to design and demonstrate next generation wind energy technologies. These investments are critical to ensuring that America remains competitive in this growing global industry that can drive new manufacturing, construction, installation and operation jobs across the country."

The funds are subject to Congressional appropriations, with an initial $20 million slated to be made available in 2012 as the first step in supporting up to four innovative offshore wind energy installations, according to Secretary Chu.

Soliciting Letters of Intent for Initial 4 Offshore Wind Projects

Strong, consistent winds blow all along the US Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes’ coastlines, holding out potential energy estimated at some 4,000 gigawatts (GW). Tapping into them poses significant challenges that will require advances and testing all along the wind power supply chain, however.

High up-front capital costs are another constraining factor that needs to be addressed. It should be noted that a combination of supportive accounting rules, government tax incentives, and subsidies have helped the US offshore oil and gas industry to thrive.

It also should be noted that offshore wind power development has been robust in Europe. Denmark’s DONG Energy recently announced that the family firm that owns LEGO will invest some $534 million for an equity stake in DONG’s 277-MW Borkum Riffgrund 1 offshore wind farm. Expected to start generating clean, renewable electricity in 2015, the offshore wind farm will supply all of LEGO’s power needs through 2020.

Developing offshore wind energy resources also has a large upsdie in terms of job creation. A recently published Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) study found that some 33,000 Germans are now employed in the offshore wind power sector.

Aiming to surmount these hurdles, the DOE’s offshore wind power initiative will focus on achieving “large cost reductions over existing offshore wind technologies,” according to the DOE. Demonstration projects “will help address key challenges associated with installing utility-scale offshore wind turbines, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes.”

The Obama administration’s offshore wind power program is being launched as the DOE continues to work with the Dept. of Interior and other federal government offices to evaluate the nation’s offshore wind resource potential, identify areas with the highest potential, and devise a comprehensive offshore wind energy strategy.

The DOE is soliciting proposals from offshore wind power resource development groups for the first four projects slated for funding in 2012. Program funds may be used to cover up to 80% of a project’s design costs and 60% of hardware and installation costs. Letters of intent (LOI) are due on March 30 and applications are due on May 31, 2012.

Related posts:

  1. US Virgin Islands Launches 15-Year Energy Initiative to Reduce Fossil Fuel Use 60%
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  3. Conditions Clearing for Take-Off in US Offshore Wind Power


Time to Support PACE Financing! (It’s Good for You)

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 03:19 AM PST

 
Yes, I wrote just a few weeks ago on two opportunities to save (or resurrect) PACE financing — one of the best things that happened to local, democratized, clean energy… before it was killed — and one of those opportunities still remains (you can still ask your Representative to co-sponsor a PACE financing bill via Vote Solar).

pace actionHowever, I’ve had an article from a friend and former (long-time-ago) CleanTechnica writer, Jeff Kart, pending in my “stories to cover” list since about that time and am finally able to come back to it today. After summarizing the history of PACE a bit, Jeff offered another opportunity for getting involved in bringing PACE back from the dead.

An advocacy group called PACE NOW is encouraging people to voice support for the program.

If you’re not sold on the importance of PACE and ready to take action yet, though, Jeff also did a good job of quickly summarizing some of PACE Now’s arguments:

The bottom line, says the group: "PACE programs can drive energy projects that result in significant economic activity, federal, state and local tax revenue and jobs." They point to examples like a PACE program in Boulder County, Colorado, which created more than 120 jobs, generated $20 million in overall economic activity and cut consumer energy use by more than $125,000 in its first year.

national study commissioned by PACE NOW also concluded that $1 million spent on PACE improvements in four U.S. cities would generate $10 million in gross economic activity, a total of $1 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, and 60 jobs.

The four cities used in the study (by ECONorthwest) included Columbus, Ohio; along with Long Island, N.Y.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and San Antonio, Texas.

Now that you are fully sold on it, here’s the important part: you can submit comments in support of PACE to the federal government up through March 26. You’ve got some time, but don’t sit on it until it’s too late! Healthy democracy relies on an informed and active citizenry.

And, again, you can also still sign that letter to your Representative asking him or her to co-sponsor a PACE bill (all you have to do on that one is stick in your zip code and hit submit).

Related posts:

  1. PACE Program in Babylon Rockin’ It (VIDEO)
  2. PACE Coming Back?
  3. Could PACE Get Help from the Energy Bill?


Report Details Federal Action to Address Climate Change Risks, Impact

Posted: 02 Mar 2012 02:58 AM PST

 

While the need and best way to reduce carbon emissions is still (obtusely) being debated in Congress, the federal government has begun a widespread effort to detail and respond to the long-term risks posed to the U.S. by climate change.

These findings are put forward by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) in an updated report, "Climate Change Adaptation: What Federal Agencies Are Doing." The report details efforts by federal agencies to analyze climate change impacts on their respective missions and operations, commit each agency to adaptation planning, and prepare a climate adaptation plan by June 2012.

Environmental and Economic Impact

The Obama Administration's Executive Order 13514, which aims to reduce the federal government's emissions 28 percent by 2020, is the primary driver for these efforts.  While the order was announced in 2010, C2ES notes federal activities to respond to climate change have doubled since their first report on the topic in April 2010.

Even though federal actions will have an environmental impact, they also make economic sense, according to Steve Seidel, senior advisor at C2ES:

Federal agencies are under growing pressure to reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and make certain the public is getting a good return on the tax dollars they invest in government. In the context of climate change, federal agencies are reviewing the programs they operate and the facilities and resources they manage to identify cost-effective steps to minimize their vulnerability and enhance their resilience to increased risks of extreme weather and a changing climate. With our nation having experienced a record number of extreme weather events last year, each causing economic damages exceeding $1 billion, it's both common sense and smart fiscal policy to analyze and minimize the vulnerability of federal assets to extreme weather and climate impacts.

Executive Branch Leads the Way

As would be expected, most action has happened in the Executive Office of the President. In addition to Executive Order 13514, the C2ES report highlights multiple initiatives by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), including instructions for federal agencies to implement climate change adaptation as well as plans to address impacts on freshwater resources, fish, wildlife, plants, and oceans.

A lesser-known program, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRA), has also been quite busy. USGCRA has led efforts to integrate climate change adaptation science, effects on human health, and a national climate assessment into federal efforts.

Efforts Across All Agencies

While notable, adaptation efforts have not been limited to the executive branch. Department-wide efforts have been undertaken by every federal agency, including an adaptation plan specific to each agency, and may ultimately have a greater effect on U.S. adaptation efforts. The comprehensive list of agency efforts is lengthy, but notable highlights include:

Department of Commerce

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides planning guidance and training to communities to build capacity to prepare for climate change.
  • NOAA launched the Climate Services Portal to provide climate data, products and services

Department of Defense

Department of Health and Human Services

  • Center for Disease Control's Climate and Health Program is working to incorporate health impacts of climate change into public health operations.

Department of Homeland Security

  • Federal Emergency Management Administration is developing a Risk Map to provide data for, and increase awareness of climate change rise to the US.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • HUD’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities is improving planning efforts, land use, and zoning across the US.
  • Long-term Disaster Recovery Working Group is helping protect communities against climate change effects.

Department of the Interior

  • DOI is identifying resources vulnerable to climate change and implementing adaptive actions for 50 percent of the country.

Environmental Protection Agency

  • EPA's National Water Program Strategy identifies climate change impacts on water and goals/objectives to respond to expected impacts.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • NASA's Applied Sciences Program uses Earth science information and data to support other agency planning and response to climate change.

Image courtesy of Associated Press-Bill Poovey

Related posts:

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Obama’s Algae Biofuels Communications Problem (i.e. Leaving Out Global Warming)

Posted: 01 Mar 2012 02:00 PM PST

When did "innovation" become a dirty word in American politics?

I suppose it was right about the time when college aspirations became snobbish, when electing a presidential candidate could magically reduce the global price of oil, or when environmental protection became a "phony theology."

Welcome to the 2012 campaign circus, arguably the most bizarre in history.

And now, adding to the long list of oddball attacks, Republican politicians and media pundits are launching an assault on President Obama's offer of $14 million for research on algae-based biofuels — calling for a "pond scum czar" and offering the President "the algae in my fish tank" for this "goofy gas."

Really? Yes, really. A $14 million grant for an innovative, abundant fuel that could potentially displace 17% of petroleum use in the country is now the focus of a coordinated political attack. It seems innovation is now becoming a politically untouchable word.

Well, not completely. Innovation just means different things to different people.

For those concerned about finite resources and maintaining a liveable planet, innovation means finding entirely new, clean sources of energy. And putting $14 million toward research that could spur revolutionary changes in our fuel use is a complete no-brainer.

But those concerned with preserving the status quo — particularly those who don't believe that global warming is a problem — see innovation within an entirely different context. To them, innovation means tar sands, oil shale and unconventional gas. Indeed, due to the rising price of conventional oil and the changing economics of these unconventional fossil resources, there are a lot of advances taking place in these sectors.

And that is why the Obama Administration is getting hammered on algae. By talking about these technologies from an innovation and jobs perspective and failing to address them within the context of global warming, Obama sets himself up for criticism from those who simply want to access more unconventional fossil fuels. They ask: what's wrong with innovation in oil and gas?

This presents a serious contradiction in messaging that needs to be remedied.

Severin Borenstein, co-director of the University of California Energy Institute, recently published an op-ed piece that illustrated this point well:

[I disagree with some of his conclusions, but I largely agree with his thesis.]

Sure, the cost of low-carbon energy technologies — wind, solar, biofuels and others — is coming down. But improvements in technologies for extracting fossil fuels are making it harder for renewables to reach cost parity. Scientific breakthroughs are hard to predict: still, the most likely scenario is that domestically produced fossil fuels will be the lowest-cost way to meet most of our energy needs and achieve greater energy security for years to come.

The employment argument also falls short. During a recession, it makes sense for the government to promote job creation with subsidies and federal expenditures, some of which may be targeted at specific industries. In the longer run, however, economists are almost unanimous that the economy creates more and better jobs when companies operate in the most cost-effective way. If we don't count the cost of environmental damage, that's likely to mean carbon-based energy for generations.

The only compelling argument for policies to boost renewables and reduce fossil fuels is the environment. The vast majority of climate scientists believe that carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change. Most believe there is a real risk that the changes could cause major ecosystem disruptions, including more frequent droughts, floods, hurricanes and wildfires, as well as rising sea levels, more conflicts over resources and accelerated species extinction.

I certainly don't think the "only compelling" argument for renewables is the environment. Renewable sources of energy have an extraordinary diverse range of benefits: they can offset fossil fuel price swings; they can localize energy production; they help create high-paid, export-heavy jobs; and yes, they, offer new innovation challenges to companies and universities around the country.

I also think it's clear that renewables (mostly electricity technologies) are still chasing the record-low prices in natural gas and won't be killed off. (See: Top Three Reasons Cheap Natural Gas Won't Kill Renewable Energy).

Finally, because unconventional fuels like tar sands and oil shale require massive amounts of water and natural gas for extraction, there are very real concerns about how water shortages and an increase in natural gas prices will impact the economic viability of these resources.

But ultimately, I agree with Bornstein's basic point. Given the surge of political interest in unconventional fossil fuels, sticking simply to innovation and job-creation talking points while completely sweeping aside global warming and other environmental challenges is a terrible strategy.

Sure, global warming is a politically dirty word today too. But that's because the President and other political leaders failed to talk about it, allowing the deniers an opportunity to hijack the word. If you look at the polls showing an increasing number of Americans concerned about global warming, now is the perfect opportunity to make the issue a centerpiece of our energy strategy.

If Obama fails to make the global warming case for clean energy, technologies like algae will just be another "weird" special interest — not an environmental imperative.

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and has been reposted with permission.

Related posts:

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  3. Americans Have Some Strange Ideas About What Causes Global Warming


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