Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

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Energy Efficiency Could Save US Billions, Create 1.3 Million Jobs By 2030

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 01:33 PM PST

If you were choosing an investment strategy, you'd probably choose the option that would double your money, right? Now, what if that same investment could create millions of jobs and reduce carbon emissions? 

Turns out America has this kind of an investment opportunity ready to go, according to the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy's Energy 2030 recommendations. The ambitious action agenda, released yesterday, aims to double US energy productivity by 2030 while boosting the economy and cutting emissions through energy efficiency measures. 

If enacted, the aggressive blueprint outlines steps for policymakers at the federal, state, and local level that could save $327 billion annually by 2030 across the nation's buildings, transportation sector, and industrial economy.   

The bipartisan commission was created in 2012 by the Alliance to Save Energy. It defines energy productivity as the level of economic output divided by the energy used to create that output. While doubling energy productivity will require an additional $166 billion per year, the benefits would be significant and widespread. 

National Economic & Environmental Impacts

At a national level, the Energy 2030 outlook could create 1.3 million clean energy jobs, boost gross domestic product by up to 2%, and save America $327 billion annually by 2030 – $97 billion in buildings, $139 billion in transportation, and $94 billion in industry. 

In addition, our country would become much cleaner and safer. Under the plan, emissions would fall 22% by 2020 and 33% by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) while reducing energy imports by over $100 billion. 

Energy 2030 economic impact

Energy 2030 Economic Impact image via Alliance to Save Energy

While the plan would benefit the US as a whole, it would also create trickle-down effects. The average American household would reduce annual energy spending by $1,039 per year – roughly half the $2,200 Americans spend on their annual energy bill today, or the same as each family spends on medicine and produce combined.  

Big Potential, But Significant Requirements

These economic impacts would also create additional momentum and could capitalize on more than $1 trillion in energy-saving opportunities while driving new economic growth. "The solutions will drive innovation and new technologies forward, improving and modernizing US infrastructure," said Tom King, commission co-chair and US President of National Grid.  

Energy 2030 outlines the tremendous economic potential of energy efficiency, but it also highlights the significant steps required by policymakers. Recommendations are organized into three groups: investments in efficiency, modernization of regulations and infrastructure, and consumer education. 

A bitter partisan divide in Congress has largely ground progress on any energy or environmental issue to a halt. But Energy 2030 could seize upon rumors that energy efficiency is the one topic that both Democrats and Republicans could support. "This is an issue we can get done," said US Senator Mark Warner, a commission co-chair.

You can learn more about the Energy 2030 commission's recommendations by checking out this short video:

Energy Efficiency Could Save US Billions, Create 1.3 Million Jobs By 2030 was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Fox News Fails BIG TIME On Solar Subsidies

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 06:30 AM PST

So, I just published a long article on the most hilarious statement from a new Fox News segment on solar power — the idea that Germany has “lots more” sun than the US.

I also tackled another key topic from the segment in that article — the reasons why solar power is so much cheaper in Germany than in the US.

But one of the other key claims about US solar power that Fox & Friends spewed out of their completely confused or completely ignoble mouths was the absurd claim that US subsidies for solar haven’t had any effect and that solar compares unfavorably with fossil fuels on the matter of subsidies. Completely insane.

Luckily, I just wrote a couple posts on US coal, oil, and gas subsidies, which make solar subsidies look like pennies in comparison. For more details on those, check out:

One key finding from my research on those subsidies was this one: renewable energy subsidies have correlated with a great deal of power capacity growth.

This is really no surprise: solar costs have been falling rapidly in correlation with subsidies, and solar power growth has been tremendous — solar is the fastest-growing US energy industry (and probably the fastest growing energy industry in the world). The US solar industry now has over 100,000 jobs. Many of those are a direct result of the subsidies the US has offered American citizens.

As noted in my previous post, subsidies that stimulate the market — stimulate market demand (as solar subsidies have) – help the market to mature, and thus bring down numerous soft costs related to solar power. Germany’s stronger solar subsidies have made this happen much faster, which is why solar power is much cheaper and more abundant there, but US policies have had the same effect (just to a lesser extent). Soft costs are still much higher in the US than Germany, but those will come down as our market continues to mature.

On the solar supply side, regarding the absurd comments about solar companies that have received government loan guarantees and later gone out of business (and that being a reason to give up on one of the biggest industries of the coming century!), we’ve covered before the simple fact that a tiny percentage of those companies have gone bankrupt. Additionally, we’ve noted the obvious before: if you invest in high-risk, high-reward companies, you’re going to have some failures. To expect 100% of the companies to succeed is illogical. This is a role the US government has filled many times for many industries (including the oil and gas industry) with great success. And, again, the government is seeing great success while doing this for solar. The solar industry is young and maturing. Just as with pretty much every industry that reaches this stage, hundreds of manufacturing companies will narrow down to just a handful. But that handful will be extremely successful — and it’s common sense to want them based in your country, and to do what you can to make that happen.

Additionally, as far as jobs go, studies have found that $1 million of subsidies for solar creates more jobs than $1 million of subsidies for natural gas or coal. A University of Massachusetts study on the matter found that, for every dollar invested, almost three times as many solar jobs are created as natural gas jobs, and twice as many solar jobs are created as coal jobs:

The bottom line is: solar is better for jobs and the economy, solar is better for our health, and solar is better for the climate.

But, you know, it’s Fox, science and facts don’t really matter.

Fox News Fails BIG TIME On Solar Subsidies was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Fox News: Can You Get Any More Insane? Germany Is Sunnier Than The US? (VIDEO)

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 05:36 AM PST

–>Update: also see: Fox News Fails BIG-TIME On Solar Subsidies

Fox News astounds me. It’s like the Onion, except that it thinks it isn’t joking. I’ve seen a lot of crazy lines from the puppets over on Fox, but this week’s statements on solar may take the cake. On Fox & Friends this week, co-host Gretchen Carlson embarrassed herself again by claiming that the future for the fastest-growing US energy industry “looks dim.”

Reality Check: Solar just had a record-crushing year of installations and costs continue to fall fast. It has hit grid parity in Hawaii and parts of the Southwest. If subsidies for coal and natural gas were taken into account, it would surely have hit grid parity in many, many more regions by now. But even without a price on pollution and cut in fossil fuel subsidies, solar is projected to have an extremely bright future. Solar growth is expected to continue at a breakneck pace. And this is one key reason why nearly every major economy is making solar power investment a top priority — everyone wants to lead the world in this industry.

But let’s not get bogged down by reality, let’s get to the fun! Beyond the dim-witted claim by Ms Carlson, the statements by Fox Business reporter (and apparent solar expert) Shibani Joshi are what took the day. They’re also the kind of statements that make the rest of the world think the US is full of morons who don’t know anything about geography. Ms Joshi commented (and apparently not in joking way) that Germany is ”a smaller country, and they’ve got lots of sun. Right? They’ve got a lot more sun than we do.” Ummm….

Going on: “The problem is it’s a cloudy day and it’s raining, you’re not gonna have it. In California, it’s a great solution, but here on the East Coast it’s just not going to work.”

Wowza!

The US Southwest has some of the best solar resources in the world, which Ms Joshi didn’t quite seem to know. The US, as a whole, is significantly more solar endowed than Germany. When it comes to sunshine, Germany doesn’t have anything on the US. I’ve lived in Poland for about 4.5 years. Poland, right next door to Germany, is extremely similar in respect to sunshine and climate. The hardest thing for me living here is probably how dark and grey it is. It’s a world of difference from basically the entire US (if you remove Alaska — and hey, even Alaska has a better solar profile than Germany). But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at this solar resources map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):

solar resources map NREL

I could go on and on about this hilarious joke (tragic comedy, I guess, given that it wasn’t a joke and probably influenced a few million people). However, let’s get to the crux of the matter — the differences between Germany and the US when it comes to solar power and solar policy.

For some perspective, here are a few standout stats to put Germany’s solar capacity into perspective:

Furthermore, these disparities are sure to have grown in the past year. While the US has installed a tremendous amount more solar power in the past year, Germany has installed an even greater amount… and still has less electricity demand, less electricity production, less GDP, and fewer residents.

So, let’s get back to the question Fox & Friends started with — why does Germany have so much more solar power? Luckily, this is a topic CleanTechnica has covered many times. There are a few key reasons (which are quite interrelated):

  • Germany installs solar power for about half the cost the US installs solar power.
  • Germans get much more profit out of their solar power systems than Americans.
  • Germans install solar systems much more quickly than Americans.

The next question, naturally, is why there are the above differences. Solar panels themselves are a global commodity, the prices are essentially the same all across the world.

The thing is, due to Germany’s better solar policies, permitting is much cheaper in Germany, and achieving a permit to install a solar system is much quicker. Also, due to the country’s feed-in tariff (a simple policy that requires utilities pay solar power producers of any size a set rate for the electricity they generate), greater financial benefits are available to the common household and more residents have seen the value in installing solar.

With greater market penetration, a much simpler government incentive, and faster installation times, customer acquisition costs are much lower than in the US, supply chain costs are much lower, labor is much cheaper, and overhead costs are much lower.

In other words, despite Germany’s much more limited solar resources, it is kicking our butts in solar power installations because it has implemented a simple policy that rewards residents and businesses for using their rooftops to improve the world. But hey, if you just came here for a quick laugh, here’s the video of Fox & Friends‘ illuminating chat:

Fox News: Can You Get Any More Insane? Germany Is Sunnier Than The US? (VIDEO) was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

EU is Burning More Coal, Looks to “Burn” Seawater Instead

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 05:21 AM PST

Europe’s use of coal has been going up, not down, but it’s not all bad news. The trend looks to be short-lived as mammoth wind farms and the DESERTEC international solar project come on line, and now a new EU research consortium based at the University of Aberdeen is looking to use seawater as a source of biofuel. Plenty of that stuff to go around, right?

The consortium is called AccliPhot, and while the basic concept isn’t exactly spanking new (they’re talking about using seawater to grow microalgae, in other words algae biofuel), the use of seawater presents some interesting challenges and opportunities.

EU's AccliPhot project will develop algae biofuel from seawater

The Great Seawater Algae Biofuel Race

The main issue that seawater resolves for algae biofuel is the fact that algae cultivation is water-intensive, and water scarcity has become a critical issue at least as far as fresh water is concerned.

The U.S. has also been checking into seawater algae biofuel, and back in 2009 our sister site Gas2.org reported that California-based Aurora Biofuels was making good progress on an open-pond saltwater algae biofuel pilot project in Florida. It has since moved on to a larger demonstration algae cultivation site in western Australia, also using open ponds.

That solves the freshwater problem but it opens up land use issues. One way to get around that is to grow algae in vat-like bioreactors. These could be sited in derelict industrial properties and other brownfields, and the AccliPhot team plans on taking that approach.

As explained by the University of Aberdeen’s Dr. Oliver Ebenhoeh:

"We need to find efficient ways of supplying our energy demand in a way that doesn't compete for valuable resources like arable land or fresh water…Cultivating algae using water that can't be used for irrigation, like salt water or brackish water, makes sense because it's so vast – it's all around us and there's no competition to use the land to grow other things."

Specifically, the multidisciplinary team will seek optimal light conditions and other variables that optimize microalgae biofuel yields.

The four-year project is also expected to produce other products including cosmetics, nutritional supplements and antibiotics.

Drinking Our Way Out of Rising Sea Levels

Not that it would have a direct mitigating effect on rising sea levels, but putting seawater to use in new ways could become an important piece of the climate change management puzzle.

Aside from using seawater directly to cultivate algae for biofuel, another track is to desalinate seawater.

Conventional desalination is an energy intensive process, but more energy efficient desalination processes are under development, including one under way at MIT that uses our favorite material, graphene.


Projects like Sahara Forest are also on track to resolving the desalination energy issue by using renewable sources, namely solar power.

Desalination systems could also be designed to run as a multipurpose renewable energy generators. At the University of Colorado – Denver, researchers are developing an integrated system based on microbes that desalinates water (or purifies wastewater), generates electricity and produces hydrogen, which can then be used as fuel.

Image (cropped): Seawater by Mados

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EU is Burning More Coal, Looks to “Burn” Seawater Instead was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are Public Enemy Number One, Says IEA

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 03:00 AM PST

International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol made no bones about his opinion on fossil fuel subsidies at the European Wind Energy Association conference this year. Birol said that “[f]ossil fuel subsidies are public enemy number one for green energy.”

Birol delivered a direct message to governments that continuing tax breaks for fossil fuels companies doesn’t make sense because renewable energies can’t compete with artificially cheap oil and gas, making it impossible to meet climate change targets.

To contend with the charge that renewable resources are too intermittent and unpredictable to replace fossil fuels, Birol asserts that political instability is the real culprit holding green tech back.

Birol called for “governments around the world” to end the $500 billion in annual subsidies that are given to oil and gas production (not to mention the additional subsidies given in the form of permitted externalities), according to Business Green.

Unfortunately, Birol realizes the unlikelihood of any government totally abandoning fossil fuel subsidies in the near future, especially in light of the spike in oil prices after the Arab Spring.

Understanding the true nature of subsidies is a tricky thing. Need some additional reading? Look no further:

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are Public Enemy Number One, Says IEA was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

All Work And No Play Makes Earth Hotter And Hotter

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 02:00 AM PST

Leisure proponents rejoice! A new study says that cutting work hours would slash greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.

The idea goes that by reducing hours that factories and offices are operating, energy usage would drop, according to a study authored by economist David Rosnick and released by the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

In US News Rosnick argues that by shortening working hours, the resulting diminished carbon emissions “could prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100.”

Rosnick says that developing countries have to choose which work schedule they’re going to follow: an American model of 40 hours a week with little vacation, or a European model with less output and lower emissions.

An important caveat is what people do with this extra leisure time. If it’s gardening or reading a book in the backyard hammock, then carbon emissions will drop, but if this newfound vacation time is used to take a jumbo jet ride to Thailand, then one type of emissions is traded for another.

It’s also critical to address the personal and national economic climate of places. Reducing work hours could throw people into desperate financial situations and stunt national economic growth — that is unless a country invests in green tech and bolsters its green workforce for greater global competitiveness.  Take Maryland for example.

Even if the U.S. doesn’t move towards a European workweek, we can do a few more things to improve office efficiency like turning off printers and lights; using laptops rather than PCs; replacing standard bulbs with energy saving bulbs.

Source: Inhabitat

All Work And No Play Makes Earth Hotter And Hotter was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

Public Transportation Saved 865 Million Hours Of Delay On US Roads

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 01:00 AM PST

According to the Texas Transportation Institute, public transit reduced road delays by 865 million hours, and avoided the consumption of 450 million gallons of fuel.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

"This report demonstrates how important public transportation is, not only as one of the solutions to reducing traffic congestion, but also in reducing fuel use and travel delays," said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "Mayors know that a city's competitive position is enhanced by reducing congestion and public transportation is a key tool in minimizing congestion."

Public transportation by bus has the potential to save fuel (if enough people use it) partially because the total amount of weight that has to be transported per person is significantly less than that of personal cars.

For example: A sedan would normally weight about 3,000 pounds, and one person driving the sedan would entail a transportation weight per person of 3,150 pounds, if the person weighs 150 pounds. If eighty-four 150 pound people drove cars instead of taking a bus, that would amount to a gross vehicle weight of 264,600 pounds.

On an 84 passenger bus that weighs 22,000 pounds can carry all 84 of these people. The combined weight of the people is 12,600 pounds plus the 22,000 pounds of the bus is 34,600 pounds, which is 230,000 pounds less than the weight of the cars mentioned above.

This is why public transportation is so fuel and cost efficient. A bus literally has a lower weight than that of personal car transportation.

The use of public transportation annually saves Americans 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline. As public transportation saves the population money, it frees income for the payment of bills, or even an improved standard of living. Also, for every $1 billion invested in public transportation, 36,000 jobs are created and supported.

Source: APTA

Public Transportation Saved 865 Million Hours Of Delay On US Roads was originally published on: CleanTechnica. To read more from CleanTechnica, join over 30,000 others and subscribe to our free RSS feed, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or just visit our homepage.

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