renewables

Extreme Weather Causing Higher Carbon Emissions Even As Renewables Grow

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Two new reports from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) summarizing energy usage trends for the first part of 2014 were released this week.

The first was EIA’s Electric Power Monthly, which provides data on electricity usage through the end of April. The second was EIA’s Monthly Energy Review, which provides usage data in all sectors (including transportation and heating) for the first quarter of the year.

In a nutshell, renewables are growing quickly, but not as quickly as carbon emissions. During the first four months of the year, renewables provided 14.05% of all electricity generated nationwide. That’s a level that wasn’t expected to be seen until 2040. No longer can anyone say that renewables provide an insignificant portion of our energy needs. No one expected them to proliferate this fast.

During that same period, wind power grew past the 5% threshold, contributing 5.15% of US electricity production. At the same time solar doubled its contribution compared to the previous year, increasing  108.9%. Solar surpassed geothermal for the first time in April and is now contributing almost 0.5% of the total US electricity supply. Solar is gaining on second place wood and wood-derived fuels, which has remained steady for several years. If the present trends continue, solar should take the #2 spot among renewables in the next year or so.

This year has also seen non-hydro renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) overtake conventional hydropower.

Nuclear power generation increased by 0.7% over this time frame, though its contribution to the overall total actually fell. This illustrates the fact that overall generation increased, at least during the first three months of the year. This could be explained in part by the very cold winter experienced in many parts of the country.

Earth Day 2014: Where Do We Stand?

(Justmeans/3BL Media) - As I sat at my desk trying to find a suitable subject for the 44th annual Earth Day, I scoured my Twitter feed and my inbox looking for the story that would capture the essence of where we stand right now in our battle to save the planet. While there is plenty of interesting news coming out every day, it is so strongly divided into good news and bad news, that there is no way that one story can possibly sum it all up.

Take the IPCC, for example. Earlier this month, Working Group II, responsible for studying the impacts of climate change issued a frightening report that was hard to view as anything other than a call to action. The impacts are already occurring, chain reactions have been set in motion, and we can expect things to get quite bad, especially if we don’t begin to substantially escalate our efforts to curb emissions. IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri, said. “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.” This will be particularly true for those most vulnerable, including low-lying and poorer countries, as well as the poorest residents of all countries. But the same report (which still is yet to be officially published) also said that the economic cost of a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise is going to be somewhere between 0.2 and 2.0% of the global GDP, far less than expected. That might be considered good news, though it might also encourage politicians to defer action on the bad news contained in the report.

Then there is the question of natural gas. There can be no doubt that the large-scale replacement of coal with natural gas for electric generation purposes, accelerated by the drop in natural gas prices, has led to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions. Coal has been the largest source of carbon pollution, and natural gas emits only half as much carbon. Unfortunately, this boom in natural gas production has come to us via hydraulic fracking, a method that is fraught with problems of its own, ranging from earthquakes, to sizable methane releases (methane is twenty times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas), to contamination of drinking water. These concerns are substantial enough for the National Renewable Energy Lab to declare natural gas less climate-friendly than diesel fuel, though still better than coal. Producers are also pressing to increase natural gas exports, which is not only bad for the environment, but will also raise gas prices here in the US.

Renewables Coming Online Way Ahead of Schedule

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Efforts to address the increasingly pressing climate challenge with rational policy continue to languish in Washington, as willfully ignorant conservatives continue to choose donor loyalty over science. But based on the surprisingly robust growth of renewable energy, you almost wouldn’t know it. It seems to be the case that if the government won't make us do it, we're just going to have go ahead and do it anyway. Indeed it seems as if we've done a far better job than anyone expected.

A new study conducted by the SUN DAY campaign, projects that electricity generation from renewable sources will reach 16% of the total by 2018. This is 22 years sooner than that predicted by US Energy Information Administration.

Using The EIA’s own data, the study was able to show that if renewables continue to grow at the present rate, they will outperform the EIA’s projections by a wide margin.

Considering the fact that between the years 2009 and 2013 renewables grew from less than 9% to nearly 13%, it’s hard to imagine that it would take until 2040, as the EIA forecast predicts, to reach 16%. Granted, there are obstacles to face and much low-hanging fruit has been harvested, but given the compelling combination of low prices, growing investment, available innovative financing, built-in cost resiliency, energy security, and the moral imperative to take meaningful action, there seems to be no stopping them now. A more realistic assessment, according to the SUN DAY report, shows us reaching 16%, conservatively, in five years, and possibly in as little as four, certainly not the 27 years that EIA claims.

This is a “disservice to the public,” says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors - as well as the media and others - rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation's environmental and energy future.”

Indeed, Bloomberg estimates that investment in renewables should be expected to grow by somewhere between two and a half and four and a half times by 2030. That number is 35% more than their previous forecast that was made just a year ago. This underscores the fact that renewables are growing faster than anyone had predicted.

World Economic Forum Releases 2013 Energy System Rankings

The World Economic Forum just released their rankings for this year’s Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). The report ranks the energy systems of 124 countries from the perspective of Economic Growth and Development, Environmental Sustainability, and Energy Access and Security. They refer to these three perspectives as the “energy triangle."

Three Paths to Canadian Clean Energy Competitiveness

wind_turbinesWhile growing and vibrant, Canada’s clean energy industry currently holds 1% of the $1 trillion global clean tech market—an industry that will triple in size by 20201.

New Home(s) For UK Green Investment Bank

offshore-wind-turbines£3bn of UK taxpayers money has been allocated to help businesses finance early-stage, new and untested renewable energy projects through the Green Investment Bank (GIB), which will incidentally, be the world’s first bank dedicated to supporting a low carbon economy.

World’s Carbon Concentration Highest in Last 800,000 Years

3066904589_05f08c642e_b"For the first time we have made no improvement in our rate of decarbonization. We have in fact increased the carbon intensity of growth." -- State of Green Business Report 2012

Air Force: Science and Regulation Dovetail to Give Wind Power a Boost

flowe_24_small"The global wind power available 30 feet off the ground is greater than the world's electricity usage, several times over." -- John Daibri, California Institute of Technology."

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