Featured photo from our gallery:
One of the main ways US policy encourages the uptake of new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies is through the use of tax credits. There are tax credits for qualified windows, boilers, air conditioners, insulation, and more.
The US is something of an outlier in this. In the KPMG Green Tax Index — a ranking of countries according how much they use tax penalties and incentives to achieve sustainability goals — the US ranks number one. Notably, the US is 14th in the use of tax penalties. It is America's profligate use of tax incentives, mainly tax credits, that vaults it to number one overall.
Some new research brings troubling news about those tax credits. To put it bluntly: They are highly inequitable. Most of the money goes to relatively affluent consumers.
Let's look quickly at the research, touch on how the credits might be improved, and then discuss the political implications.
Clean energy tax credits mostly accrue to the affluentShare This Post
ELON MUSK IS VENTURING HEADFIRST INTO THE BATTERY BUSINESS. HERE'S WHY IT MIGHT BE HIS BOLDEST BET YET.
BY MAX CHAFKIN
Elon Musk walks briskly onto the stage as hard rock blasts in the background. The guitar riff, which sounds like entrance music suitable for a professional wrestler or a minor-league cleanup hitter, fades out, and Musk surveys the crowd, nodding his head a few times and then sticking his hands in his pockets. "What I’m going to talk about tonight," he says, "is a fundamental transformation of how the world works."
The 44-year-old CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX (and the chairman of the solar energy provider SolarCity) is wearing a dark shirt, a satin-trimmed sports coat, and, at this moment, a knowing smirk. An admirer of Steve Jobs, Musk is an heir to the Silicon Valley titan in some psychic sense, but in a setting like this, he’d never be mistaken for the Apple founder. Jobs worked the stage methodically, with somber reverence and weighty pauses, holding tightly choreographed events on weekday mornings for maximum media impact. Musk’s events, which are generally held at the press-unfriendly hour of 8 p.m. Pacific time, have a more ad hoc feel. His manner is geeky and puckish. He pantomimes and rephrases, rolls his eyes, and cracks one joke after another—his capacity for expression barely keeping pace with the thoughts in his head.
Musk begins by showing an image of thick yellow smoke pouring out of a series of giant industrial chimneys, contrasted with the Keeling Curve, the famous climate-change chart that shows more than 50 years of carbon dioxide levels soaring toward a near-certain calamity. It could be mistaken for something out of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. "I just want to be clear," Musk says, with a nervous giggle, his accent betraying his boyhood in South Africa. "This is real."
His comments on this April evening, in front of a raucous crowd of Tesla owners (and some reporters) at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, are quintessential Musk—weighty but also a bit cheeky. They’re also just preamble. His electric-car manufacturer is launching a new product line: large batteries that store energy in homes and even larger batteries that do the same for utilities and businesses. The Powerwall, a slender appliance designed to be mounted in your garage, comes in five colors and starts at $3,000; the Powerpack, an 8-foot-tall steel box that looks a bit like a utility transformer, is aimed at the energy industry and costs roughly $25,000. These prices are roughly half of what competing battery manufacturers charge.Share This Post
MARCOS HERNANDEZ / CALIFORNIA SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSN.
Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn., speaks at a rally at the state Capitol in October.
BY IVAN PENN November 22, 2015, 5:00 a.m.
The gig: Bernadette Del Chiaro, 43, is executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Assn., the industry group pushing expansion of solar power in California on rooftops and with power plants in the desert. The native of Sonoma Valley has held the post since July 2013.
Yosemite's beauty: In eighth grade, Del Chiaro visited Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada and marveled at its beauty. "I literally had a crush on that place," she said. "I fell in love with the Sierra Nevada." She pondered the musings of Scottish American naturalist John Muir and the idea that "our air and our water and our earth is a common good that we all share. If we're not careful we will hurt ourselves and all of the other little creatures."
Beyond tree-hugging: Del Chiaro bristles at the notion that she's just a tree hugger. She has seen herself as a political activist, working to organize people to push for sensible environmental policy. In the 1980s and 1990s, "I didn't find much camaraderie in a lot of the other environmental activists at the time. A lot of them were angry white men. I didn't see role models in that."
http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-85108538/Share This Post
With the geothermal business in a rut, developers look to batteries and compressed air storage.
by Mike Stone November 24, 2015
Ormat Technologies, a leading geothermal developer based in Nevada, is being secretive about plans to get into the energy storage business.
The company, which is dealing with a stagnating U.S. geothermal market, indicated in April that it wanted to explore other areas of business -- both geographically and technologically. Those plans will include storage.
During a third-quarter earnings webcast earlier this month, CEO Isaac Angel claimed that the company is “progressing well” in storage and would soon have a development deal. He also indicated that Ormat would be combining geothermal with solar to offer a “blended solution.”
In a brief telephone conversation with GTM, VP of Business Development Rahm Orenstein confirmed Ormat's plans, but declined to expand on them. When asked if he could give some indication of the storage technology involved, he was vague in his response. "We have a multi-disciplined team, so there are plenty of possible alternatives," he said.
Meanwhile, competitor AltaRock Energy is being slightly more forthcoming about its plans to marry geothermal with storage. The company announced this week that one of its subsidiaries had bought the 55-megawatt Bottle Rock dry-steam geothermal power plant in California, to which it plans to add storage.
AltaRock also says that it wants to add battery-based storage to its existing geothermal plants. So, why are geothermal companies rushing to energy storage -- what do they have to gain?
“Geothermal can benefit from energy storage in exactly the opposite way to wind and solar. They (wind and solar) need storage to provide baseload energy. Geothermal is a reliable baseload source but can achieve greater flexibility with storage," said Benjamin Matek, research projects manager at the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).
With more renewables entering the mix, that flexibility is increasingly in demand, said Matek.Share This Post
by Chris Clarke November 24, 2015 2:35 PM
Those of us Californians who have gone to a lot of trouble to reduce our climate change footprint ought to be mighty peeved at the Southern California Gas Company right now: that corporation has just undone a huge amount of our hard work, significantly raising the state's emissions of a dangerous greenhouse gas.
According to the California Air Resources Board, a leak that started October 23 at a SoCal Gas well in the Aliso Canyon area near Porter Ranch has accounted for a quarter of all the methane released by the state since the leak started, with estimates of up to 50 metric tons of the potent greenhouse gas leaking into the atmosphere each hour since the leak started.
Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So far, the leak may have spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gas output of burning just under a billion pounds of coal -- and SoCal Gas says it may be several more months before it is able to stop the leak.
Assuming that upper-hand estimate of 50 metric tons of gas per house is correct, that would be about 37,000 metric tons of methane leaked from SoCal Gas's well since October 23, from what is apparently a cracked 11-inch well casing somewhere a few hundred feet below the surface of the earth.
Calculating methane's greenhouse gas potency as compared to carbon dioxide isn't straightforward, as the gas breaks down over time into water, CO2, and other compounds. That breakdown takes a while. A commonly used comparison says that methane has 21 times the greenhouse gas potential of CO2, but that figure averages out that methane's impact on climate over 100 years after it's released, as much of the methane breaks down. Methane's short-term warming effect in the atmosphere is even greater: when you measure using a timeframe of 20 years, the gas is 56 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2.Share This Post
Santa Barbara alliance says it spent $425,000 advocating for public
By Jeff McDonald | 3:54 p.m. Nov. 24, 2015
A Santa Barbara nonprofit group is criticizing the California Public Utilities Commission for rejecting its application for public-advocacy funds related to its work on the failure of the San Onofre nuclear plant.
The commission awards so-called intervenor funds to groups whose work benefits the public in utility matters.
The World Business Academy, an energy sector think tank, sought more than $425,000 for contributions to the decision last year that settled costs related to the premature closure of the plant on San Diego County’s north coast.
The deal calls for customers of plant owners Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to pick up 70 percent of the $4.7 billion in estimated costs related to the January 2012 closure.
Commissioners declined the World Business Academy request last Thursday, the same day they agreed to pay another nonprofit group almost $290,000 for similar work.
“It’s clear to me that what happened is a gross miscarriage of justice,” said Rinaldo Brutoco, founder and president of the advocacy group and think tank. “We expended every penny of that money after we were approved as intervenors.”
In its 33-page application, the World Business Academy said it “assisted the commission in developing a full record necessary to assess the reasonableness of 2012 expenses charged to ratepayers.”
Also, the academy “made significant contributions throughout this proceeding, many of which were incorporated into the final settlement agreement,” stated the application, which cited almost 1,200 hours of legal work and expert testimony.
According to the commission, the academy application was rejected in part because it is not a direct customer of either Edison or SDG&E. Instead, its utility costs are built into its monthly rental payments.
“The participant must be an actual utility customer who represents more than the participant’s own self-interest; a self-appointed representative,” wrote Karen Clopton, the commission’s chief administrative law judge. “WBA does not receive an electric bill in WBA’s name.”Share This Post
By MATT RICHTELNOV. 24, 2015
A Honda salesman gave a test drive to a customer in an electric car in San Rafael, Calif. Many dealers are unenthusiastic about selling electric cars.
Jason Henry for The New York Times
More than seven years ago, President Obama called for one million electric cars to be on the road by this year, and the vehicles have gained a large fan club. Environmentalists promote them as a smart way to cut dangerous emissions. Owners love their pep and the gas money they save. Apple and Google have jumped into the race to build next-generation battery-powered cars.
So why are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road? One answer lies in an unexpected and powerful camp of skeptics: car dealers. They are showing little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars.
Some buyers even tell stories of dealers talking them into gas cars and of ill-informed salespeople uncertain how far the cars can go on a charge or pushing oil changes that the cars don’t need. And industry officials themselves acknowledge a hesitancy to sell cars that may not suit drivers’ needs.
In a speech this year, the former chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group, said that tougher fuel-economy regulations can mean pushing cars on consumers that are about as enticing as broccoli, when they really want “low-calorie doughnuts” like fuel-efficient gas cars. The former chairman, Forrest McConnell, cited a survey finding that 14 percent of buyers cited fuel efficiency as the most important factor in buying a car.
“That was a nice way of saying 86 percent of them didn’t think so,” he said.
Others disagree that consumers think of zero emissions cars as broccoli. “That would be interesting if it was true,” said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the Air Resources Board, a California agency that Gov. Jerry Brown has charged with developing policies to spur electric car sales. Ms. Nichols said she believes that consumers want these cars and that they have been dissuaded in part by unenthusiastic dealers and “horror story” sales experiences.Share This Post
Electric vehicles require less maintenance and more time to sell, so car dealerships have business reasons to be reluctant about selling electric cars.
|By Cathaleen Chen, Staff NOVEMBER 24, 2015||Save for later|
- Stephen Lam
Electric cars, according to the former chairman National Automobile Dealers Association, are like broccoli. Considering the facts, he might be right.
Despite the avid enthusiasm of environmentalists, existing owners, tech luminaries, and President Barack Obama himself in promoting them, electric cars are not selling well in America.
But part of the reason for the lack of interest, as reported by Matt Richtel of The New York Times, is the reluctance among auto dealers themselves to sell electric cars.
Seven years ago, Mr. Obama called for one million electric cars to be owned by Americans by now. But only about 330,000 are on the road. Why? According to car-shopping website Edmunds.com, buyers are trading in used hybrid and electric vehicles for new SUVs at a higher rate than ever before, and only 45 percent of this year’s hybrid trade-ins have gone towards another alternative-fuel vehicles.
Analysts suggest the under $3-per gallon gasoline prices have something to do with the trend.
New-car buyers, however, have found that electric cars are difficult to buy at auto dealerships because models simply are not in stock and salesmen often lack technical knowledge. In some cases, salesmen have even tried to talk buyers out of electric in favor of fuel-efficient gas cars.Share This Post
The results of a new BNEF study come days ahead of high-stakes climate negotiations in Paris.
by Julia Pyper November 24, 2015
Emerging economies attracted record levels of clean energy investment last year, surpassing investment in wealthier nations for the first time ever, according to a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
In 2014, the 55 developing nations studied in the Climatescope report brought in $126 billion in clean energy investment -- up $35.5 billion, or 39 percent, from 2013 levels.
These countries installed a total of 50.4 gigawatts of new clean energy capacity last year -- up 21 percent from 2013. In another first, renewable energy capacity deployed in emerging markets surpassed the amount deployed in wealthier OECD countries.
Furthermore, the majority of investment did not stem from OECD countries. Rather, it was investment from developing countries to other developing countries, which jumped to $79 billion in 2014, up from $53 billion in 2013.
China played a major role. Last year, China added 35 gigawatts of new renewable generating capacity on its own, which is more than the clean energy projects built last year in the U.S., Britain and France combined.Share This Post
The leading German storage company is also rolling out a community energy program for customers.
by Jason Deign November 25, 2015
Sonnenbatterie, the battery company that recently poached Tesla’s top German team, is announcing an all-in-one residential PV and storage system for €9,999 ($10,645).
The price, being unveiled in a Berlin press conference today, includes a 2 kilowatt-hour eco 2 Sonnenbatterie battery, a German-made PV panel, an inverter, an intelligent control system and 19 percent sales tax (called value added tax or VAT in Europe).
The only cost not included is installation, since this varies according to location. Philipp Schröder, Sonnenbatterie’s managing director, told GTM a “low end” installation cost could be in the region of €700 ($745), including VAT.Share This Post
Posted on November 24, 2015 | By Robert Grattan
HOUSTON — Continued global conflict in Syria sent oil higher early Tuesday, after Turkey downed a Russian plane officials said had crossed into the country’s airspace.
The news was a reminder to traders that the crude oil glut weighing on oil prices has been built in part by an excess of oil flowing from some of the world’s most volatile regions, and that it could easily be reversed by a major outage. It also adds another layer of uncertainty regarding how the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization — which includes Turkey — will react to escalated tensions with Russia, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers.
http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/11/24/oil-prices-jump-on-syria-tensions/#36739101=0Share This Post
NOV 23, 2015 @ 07:52 AM 188 VIEWS
William Pentland , CONTRIBUTOR
I write about energy and environmental issues.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Crimea was left in the dark yesterday after explosions knocked down power lines linking the peninsula located on the northern coast of the Black Sea with generators in Ukraine.
The identity of the individuals or organizations responsible for the explosions that knocked down pylons supporting four major power lines is not clear, but a Russian official described the incident as an “act of terrorism” and implied that Ukrainian nationalists were to blame, according to reports in Reuters.
Crimea, which was annexed last year by Russia despite intense opposition from the Ukraine and its allies, relies on generators in the Ukraine to provide the lion’s share of its electricity supply.Share This Post
Posted on November 24, 2015 | By Rhiannon Meyers
A huge natural gas find recently discovered offshore Egypt could provide the spark needed to ignite broader development of the entire Eastern Mediterranean, giving a much-needed boost to projects still slogging through regulatory hurdles in Israel and Cyrpus, a new report finds.
The Zohr discovery found by Italian oil company Eni earlier this year was characterized as a major competitor to Israel’s Leviathan field discovered by Houston-based Noble Energy in 2010. But a new report by research firm GlobalData argues that the commercialization of Zohr could help boost other natural gas developments in the region.
“Reduced exploration risk and the potential to share infrastructure could see the eastern Mediterranean blossom into a key development area for international oil companies,” Matthew Jurecky, GlobalData’s head of oil and gas research and consulting said in a statement.
http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/11/24/report-enis-massive-zohr-find-could-catalyze-eastern-mediterranean-development/#34195101=0Share This Post
The world must go fossil-free — and fast. But the proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that the U.S. and other countries are proposing for the upcoming climate summit in Paris will still allow nearly twice as much global warming as scientists — and even those very governments — say is compatible with civilization as we know it.
Americans have often been told that meeting scientific climate targets is impossible without threatening jobs and costing a fortune. But a new report shows that the opposite is true.
“The Clean Energy Future: Protecting the Climate, Creating Jobs and Saving Money,” by the respected economist Frank Ackerman and his colleagues at Synapse Energy Economics, shows that the U.S. could dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions and move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 — while adding half a million jobs and saving Americans billions of dollars on electrical, heating, and transportation bills.
The report comes from what some might consider strange bedfellows: a labor organization and an environmental group. But the sponsors of the report, the Labor Network for Sustainability and 350.org, are joining hands to encourage an economic pathway that will meet America’s obligation to protect the climate in a jobs- and consumer-friendly way.
The Clean Energy Future lays out an aggressive strategy for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will:
- Transform the electric system, cutting coal-fired power in half by 2030 and eliminating it by 2050; building no new nuclear plants; and reducing the use of natural gas far below business-as-usual levels.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, in the sectors analyzed (which account for three-quarters of U.S. emissions).
- Save money — the cost of electricity, heating, and transportation under this plan is $78 billion less than current projections from now through 2050.
- Create new jobs — more than 500,000 per year over business-as-usual projections through 2050, mostly in the relatively high-paid manufacturing and construction sectors.
Why is this possible? The Clean Energy Future does not depend on any new technical breakthroughs to realize these gains, only a continuation of current trends in energy efficiency and renewable energy costs — but the cost of renewables is falling so fast that they are already cheaper than fossil fuel energy in some places and soon will be in most. And reducing our energy use through energy efficiency is already far cheaper than burning more fossil fuels. The Clean Energy Future shows in detail how we can use these new energy realities to meet our climate goals.Share This Post
By Ben Adler on 23 Nov 2015
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is cleaning up her province's act. REUTERS/Todd Korol
Alberta, aka the Texas of Canada, is taking a giant step forward to protect the climate. And it couldn’t have come at a more crucial moment.
The government of Canada’s Alberta province, home to the country’s controversial oil sands, said Sunday that it will implement an economy-wide tax on carbon emissions in 2017, addressing long-standing criticism that it is not doing enough to combat climate change.
The provincial government estimated that the plan, including a pledge to phase out pollution from coal-fired electricity generation by 2030 and a limit on emissions from the province’s oil sands industry, would generate the equivalent of $2.25 billion in annual revenue.
Until very recently, Canada had lousy climate policies and Alberta was the main reason why. The Conservative federal government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who came from Alberta, was committed to rapacious natural resource extraction. The Alberta tar sands ramped up oil drilling during his tenure — oil that is especially dirty and energy-intensive to extract and process — which led to the push for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Just a year ago, it looked like Alberta might be driving North American — and, by extension, global — climate policy off a cliff. If Keystone XL were approved, and if Canada and the U.S. — the two biggest per capita carbon polluters among large countries — were not going to get serious about climate change, that would stand in the way of getting a strong global climate agreement in Paris this December.
Things have quickly changed. In May, Alberta elected the New Democratic Party to control its provincial government. In Canada, the Liberal Party is the equivalent of the moderate Obama/Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, and the NDP is further to the left. Basically, it’s as if Texas or Wyoming elected Bernie Sanders as governor. And it wasn’t just economic populism that brought the NDP to office. New Alberta Premier Rachel Notley campaigned explicitly on a platform to diversify Alberta’s economy and improve its retrograde policies on climate change.Share This Post