Costa Rica: World’s First Carbon-Neutral Country

The partnership's fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

The partnership’s fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, May 15, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The inauguration ceremony for President Carlos Alvarado  Quesada, celebrated Tuesday, May 8, was carbon neutral for the first time in Costa Rican history, a harbinger of larger plans for the future of this forward-looking Central American nation. Measures were taken to reduce waste, limit the carbon footprint, and offset the unavoidable emissions generated by the event.

Central America’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric urban bus, Nyuti, rolled through the streets of Costa Rica’s capital on inauguration morning transporting President-elect Alvarado and his new cabinet to the ceremony held at Democracy Square in downtown San Jose.

The symbolic 3.30 km route, highlighted the new government’s commitment to set Costa Rica on a course to full decarbonization of its transportation sector by the country’s bicentennial in 2021.

While the nation’s electric grid is already 98 percent carbon-free, the transportation sector still relies on imported carbon-based fuels.

Nyuti, meaning star in the language of the Chorotega people of northwestern Costa Rica, is part of a hydrogen ecosystem demonstration partnership, led by Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company, to validate and measure hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel, generated from renewable water and Costa Rica’s clean and abundant domestic electricity sources such as solar and wind.

The public-private partnership with Costa Rica’s Development Bank System, includes Air Liquide, a world leader in gases, technologies, and services for industry and health; US Hybrid Corporation, specializing in hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, Cummins Inc., a U.S. global power leader in diesel and alternative fuel engines, and Relaxury S.A., a subsidiary of Costa Rica’s Purdy Motor S.A, which operates the bus for the partnership.

All team members have contributed their own resources to the project.

“Costa Rica has made excellent progress in de-carbonizing its electric grid, or about 30 percent of its energy needs. The other 70 percent, which lies primarily in the transportation sector, remains to be done and hydrogen could help us bridge that gap and become the first country to achieve total independence from carbon-based fuels,” said Franklin Chang Díaz, chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company.

“The new government’s clean energy and de-carbonization commitment gives us hope that, through teamwork and focus on a common vision we could achieve a national objective in a short time,” said Chang.

“This extraordinary achievement, obtained by a young team of Costa Rican engineers and technicians, demonstrates the great potential of our youth to lead in advanced technology projects of high social, economic and environmental impact,” he said.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

Under Alvarado’s predecessor, President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, the Costa Rican government has been developing plans to offset all of the country’s heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. Now President Alvarado will shoulder that challenge.

“Carbon neutrality is big homework for our generation, and Costa Rica must be among the first countries that achieves it, if not the first,” said President Alvarado. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

He then signed an executive decree promoting the use of hydrogen as fuel.

 Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens' Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

“We are instructing institutions that are involved in the environment and energy sectors so that, within the frame of their competency (MINAE, ICE and Recope), they develop a plan of action with the purpose of promoting the investigation, production and commercialization of hydrogen as fuel,” reads the decree.

“We must drive a decided and coordinated action of all sectors in society to begin and accelerate in an irreversible way this process, not just pushing electric transportation and production, hydrogen and other technologies, but also by modernizing our institutions,” said President Alvarado.

The greatest challenge to Costa Rica’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions is the transportation sector. More than half its greenhouse gas emissions are produced by a transport fleet of over 1.3 million vehicles.

The country is lagging in the modernization of public transport and transportation that operates with alternative energies such as electricity.

Even though the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021 is considered unrealistic, establishing this goal has pushed the country in the right direction by taking steps towards the use of clean energy and the reduction of emissions. However, there is still a long road ahead.

Former Environment and Energy Minister Roberto Dobles, who served in the government of President Solis, said Costa Rica aims to reach this goal using budgeting, laws, and incentives, including measures to promote biofuels, hybrid vehicles, and clean energy.

A key part of the national strategy will be a “C-Neutral” label to certify that tourism and certain industrial practices mitigate all of the carbon dioxide they emit.

Under the new certification system, tourists and businesses will be charged a voluntary “tax” to offset their carbon emissions, with one ton of carbon valued at $10, according to “La Nación” newspaper.

The money will be used to fund conservation, reforestation, and research in protected areas.

To augment the development of C-Neutral, the country is cultivating a carbon certificate market that aims not only to increase carbon capture and storage in the nation’s forests, but also help maintain their scenic beauty.

In 2002, Costa Rica’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels totaled 5.8 million metric tons, ranking 108th in the world according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Delegates at a recent United Nations meeting in Nairobi, Kenya noted that they were watching Costa Rica’s initiative and hope to replicate it elsewhere.


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Which U.S. States Care About The Planet?

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Houston, Texas January 12, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) Energy companies, around the globe are paying attend to environmental issues, as much as countries, states and cities are showing a renewed interest in green energy.

Amigo Energy a electric company from Texas recently ran an analysis of Google Trends data and state statistics related to the planet and environmental issues.

Below are the results of their compiled research as written by Mike Strayer, Amigo Energy blog writer.

Recycling and Reusing

How to recycle in Washington, as it turns out, is rather easy. 87 percent of Washingtonians have access to curbside recycling, while the remaining 13 percent of the population has access to 109 drop-off locations throughout the state. In Texas, how to reuse waste seems to be on everyone’s mind. The City of Irving’s Green Seam Project—which takes scraps of fabric and turns them into reusable bags—is a real-world example of just how scrappy one Texas town is.

Renewable Energy

Home to the wind-swept Badlands, wind power is on the rise in North Dakota. Combine that with a higher concentration of Internet searches in the region and it looks like fracking has a cleaner rival poised to power more Roughrider State homes and businesses.

While you may have guessed that sunny places like Hawaii would rank high for solar power, Leesburg, Virginia probably didn’t come to mind. It’s strange, but community efforts like Solarize NOVA (Northern Virginia) may account for Leesburg’s ranking.

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Energy Efficiency

Solar power is hot in California. According to data from 2015, California generated the most solar energy in the US, which might help explain why so many Californians are curious about installing residential solar panels.

We all know that Virginia is for lovers, but did you know that Virginians love to save energy? Maybe that’s because saving energy has boosted business—energy efficiency in Virginia is a $1.5B industry that employs over 75,000 people.

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Air Quality

Utah is famous for its national parks and powdery mountains. Counterintuitively, the region also has the worst air quality in the US, which probably accounts for tons of Utahns searching for information on air quality.

It’s no secret: traffic in California can really suck. Luckily, carpooling is more convenient than ever with programs like 511 SF Bay that make commutes easier by connecting residents via cutting-edge technology.

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Sustainability

Because Google Trends calculates the relative popularity of keywords, tiny towns like Drexel often rank higher than big cities. Perhaps the city’s number one ranking is due to the Western Piedmont Community College Program in Sustainable Agriculture, which features a 40-acre student-run farm.

Colorado may be known for a different sort of “green,” but Coloradans also search more for “sustainable living” than any other state. This might be because of the Sustainable Living Association based out of Fort Collins, which specializes in educating people about sustainable choices.

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Planting and Composting

Those who know Portland may not be surprised by the city’s ranking. You could probably even say that gardening is a town pastime—the city maintains nine community garden sites with plots costing only $15-50 a year to lease. Aside from preserving pristine beaches and forests, Oregonians are interested in greening their homes, too. That may be because the state runs its own environmentally-friendly programs like this super useful composting resource page.

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If Internet searches are any indicator, it looks like Americans are becoming more and more interested in greening our country. For more information on how to go green in Texas, check out the Amigo Energy Blog—we’ve got helpful resources and interesting information that can help you green your life today.


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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Glitters in the Sun

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The International Renewable Energy Agency exhibit at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 16, 2017 (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, January 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The oil-rich Middle East’s largest gathering on sustainability is happening this week, featuring the rock star business and opinion leaders who are shaping the present and future clean energy world.

An estimated 35,600 people representing 170 countries are attending Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) under sunny skies, including 80 government ministers, 382 exhibiting companies, and more than 200 high-level speakers.

As a global platform for addressing the interconnected challenges of clean energy, water and sustainable development, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week has developed lasting partnerships with many of the world’s most admired experts and opinion formers on sustainability issues,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and the host of ADSW.

ADSW 2017 explores the theme “Practical Steps Towards a Sustainable Future” from January 12-21 with presentations, discussions and workshops on clean energy, water and waste.

From the podium, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said, “Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is a testament to the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to sustainable development and a new diversified, low carbon economy. Similar to how Mexico is leading the way as a developing country, the UAE was in fact the first country in the Middle East to set renewable energy targets at a time when there was widespread doubt about renewable energy’s viability and value.

Workshops are considering strategies to drive investment, implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate, and the challenges of adapting existing infrastructure to the new market reality of small-scale, distributed power.

Another critical new market reality was detailed by Michael Liebreich, founder and chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Board member, Transport for London.

Developing countries are overtaking the wealthiest economies in attracting clean energy investment, with the Middle East & North Africa playing a growing role,” said Liebreich, citing research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The global profile of ADSW is valuable in bringing emerging market opportunities to a wider stage,” he said, “thereby enabling greater cooperation between developed and developing economies.”

All kinds of clean energy investments are being forged in Abu Dhabi this week. “The clean energy sector has moved from the margins into the mainstream as a dynamic, commercially viable growth market,” Al Ramahi said.

The UAE Ministry of Energy, SKM Air-Conditioning and the Masdar Institute Wednesday signed an agreement to develop advanced energy-efficient building chillers specific to the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

If adopted nation-wide, the new efficient chillers could provide the UAE with national energy savings of over 20 percent while lowering life-cycle cooling plant costs. Currently 50 percent of the UAE’s electricity consumption goes towards cooling energy requirements, which can rise to as high as 75 percent during peak-day electricity use in the summer.

On another front, the United Arab Emirates announced a landmark new US$50 million grant fund for renewable energy projects in Caribbean island countries. 

Launched by Reem Al Hashimy, minister of state for international cooperation, the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund is one of the largest-ever single investments in the region’s clean energy sector. It represents a significant deepening of bilateral relationships between the UAE and Caribbean countries.

Grant funding is provided by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs managing the initiative and Masdar leading implementation.

The announcement, which brings UAE development assistance for renewable energy to almost US$1 billion since 2013, was made on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, as part of the annual General Assembly meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

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International Renewable Energy Agency Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin anticipates great success ahead for renewable energy. “Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure,” he said. “Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Introducing the third and latest annual issue of IRENA’s report, “REthinking Energy,” Amin said that the falling costs of renewable energy, driven by innovations in technology and policy, is behind the rapid spread of renewables and an accompanying host of socioeconomic benefits.

As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick-up the pace of our decarbonization efforts. Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market,” explained Amin. “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take-on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale.”

Heating and cooling, and the potential of renewables for transport, are areas where future efforts are needed,” Amin said.

REthinking Energy,” provides insights on the innovations, policy and finance driving further investment in sustainable energy system, finding that:

  • Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in both developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices;
  • Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables;
  • New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities;
  • Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy as it offers stable returns over the long term;
  • New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.

Of the clean energy technologies, the report finds that solar photovoltaics will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation.

IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Cost-effective off-grid renewables already provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide. “REthinking Energy” describes how off-grid solutions can provide modern energy to hundreds of millions more people to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.

Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation – nearly 60 percent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity.

At the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that aims to build the business case for renewable energy, India’s solar power industry is showcasing an unprecedented range of investment opportunities, after the Indian government’s announcement of its plans to add an additional 175 GW of renewable energy to the nation’s electricity supply by 2022.

The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to install 100 GW of solar power, including utility-scale and rooftop solar. The remaining capacity will include 60 GW of utility-scale wind energy, 5 GW of small hydro, and 10 GW of bioenergy.

Private sector investors are showing new interest in Saudi Arabia’s solar energy market, after the nation’s leadership included plans to add 9.5 GW of renewables to the energy supply as part of Saudi Vision 2030, a strategy announced last April.

The Vision 2030 strategy sets 9.5 GW as an “initial target” to help build the Saudi renewables sector, noting that energy consumption will triple in the next 14 years. The Saudi government confirms that it aims to achieve that target by 2023, a rapid increase from the nation’s 25 MW of installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s plans are supported by a comprehensive restructuring of government departments responsible for energy. Vision 2030 calls for a complete review of the country’s legal and regulatory framework to allow the private sector to buy and invest in the renewable energy sector.

The projects that will flow from Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy plan create a landmark opportunity for technology manufacturers, developers and investors in solar energy, setting out a very real, very achievable ambition,” said Roberto de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, the largest GCC-based solar photovoltaic developer and one of the largest in the world.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week took place on Monday with the awarding of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize to nine pioneers in renewable energy and sustainability.

Founded in 2008, the Zayed Future Energy Prize has lit up the world for more than 289 million people through the actions of its international community of winners.

This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners:

Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center of Climate Strategy Research, won the Lifetime Achievement award for his commitment to the adoption of renewable energy in China.

General Electric won the Large Corporation award for leadership in the wind and solar energy markets. GE’s wind business alone has commissioned 41.3 GW of total generating capacity and installed more than 30,000 wind turbines to date.

Sonnen, the German smart home and commercial energy storage system manufacturer, was awarded the prize in the Small and Medium Enterprise category for leadership in providing battery storage solutions.

In the Non-Profit Organization category, UK-based Practical Action was recognized for its work in providing deprived communities with clean energy in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Joining them were the winners in the Global High Schools category, five schools spanning five regions of the globe: Starehe Girls’ Center, Kenya for the Africa region; Green School Bali, Indonesia for the Asia region; Bolivia’s Unidad Educativa Sagrado Corazón 4 for the Americas; Belvedere College in Ireland for Europe; and Huonville High School, Tasmania, Australia for the Oceania region.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, took great satisfaction in announcing the winners. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize continues to honor the legacy of sustainability advocated by the UAE’s late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” he said. “With each awards ceremony, the UAE leadership accelerates the pursuit of innovation, reinforces the significance of sustainability at the top of the global agenda, and gives opportunities and far-reaching benefits to communities around the world.

Since the start of the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards, over 25 million people in Africa and Asia have been provided with access to modern, clean energy, off-setting more than one billion tons of carbon emissions, and ensuring that 17 million school age children can study at night using innovative solar-powered utilities.

Chair of the Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of the Republic of Iceland, said, “Through the sustainable actions of its winners, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is a model example for how far the world has come in the last nine years. It is extraordinary that, through the impact of each winner and the lives they continue to improve, we now see a growing strength in being able to deliver a sustainable future.


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Maximpact’s Tom Holland Founder & CEO was proud to attended the ADSW from Maximpact‘s Masdar City Office.

Create clean energy projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover if your projects are investor ready with Maximpact services.  Find the right expertise for your renewable energy projects through Maximpact consulting network.  Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

USA: 100% Renewables by 2050?

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America’s most powerful wind farm – 1.5 gigawatts in size, generating enough electricity for a city of millions – is on the edge of the Mojave Desert at the foot of the Tehachapi Pass, site of one of the earliest and still largest collections of windmills in the world. In total, there are more than 5,000 wind turbines in the area. (Photo by Steve Boland) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – More than 450 organizations, local officials, academics, civic leaders and businesses are calling on Congress to support a shift to powering the United States entirely with renewable energy by the year 2050.

Although the lawmakers are on holiday recess, the renewable energy advocates Wednesday delivered a letter to Congress. The signers are urging support for H.Res. 540 introduced by Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and S.Res. 632 introduced by Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, all Democrats. 

Both bills contain the same resolution calling for “rapid, steady shift” to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Burning coal, oil and gas is polluting our air, water and land. It is harming our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” the letter warns. “At the same time, low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous people often bear a disproportionate share of the impact.

Senators supporting the resolution include Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota as well as Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who ran in the presidential primary as a Democrat.

As a technological giant, the United States must continue to lead the clean energy revolution,” said Senator Markey. “ The question is no longer if we can power our country with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s when and how we will make the transition.”

The letter points out that dozens of major corporations, including General Motors, Apple, and Walmart, have set goals to meet all of their energy needs with renewable energy. Google announced last week that in 2017, renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Kevin Butt, regional environmental sustainability director for Toyota Motor North America, has said he wants to take the company “beyond zero environmental impact” by eliminating carbon emissions from vehicle operation, manufacturing, materials production and energy sources by 2050.

Renewable energy is virtually unlimited and pollution-free, protecting our communities from global warming and other harmful pollution while revitalizing our local economies,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for the nonprofit Environment America,  a national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations.

America needs a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy and our leaders need to get on board,” said Sargent.

The letter stresses the environmental and economic imperatives for shifting to renewable energy – to help consumers, support the economy and national security of the United States, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The letter says, in part, “We need to transform the way we power the country – and we need to do it fast. But, we still have a long way to go. That’s why we are calling for swift action to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.” 

For the past eight years, President Barack Obama has been a leader in bringing the world to act against climate change by moving away from fossil fuels and investing in renewables. The Obama initiative and partnership with China brought the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters into alignment on this issue. It culminated in the Paris Agreement on climate, which took effect in November, less than a year after it was agreed in December 2015, lightning speed for an international agreement.

But the renewable energy advocates will have a steep uphill path if they try to persuade the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, whose Cabinet nominations demonstrate that he wants to rely on fossil fuels, extracting the maximum amount of coal, oil and gas without delay.

Trump has chosen the CEO of the world’s largest oil company, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, as his nominee for secretary of state, fossil fuel advocate and climate denier Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency,  former Texas governor Rick Perry, a fossil fuel supporter, as energy secretary, and Ryan Zinke of Montana to head the Department of the Interior.

Jeff Turrentine of the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council today called them “the Four Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse.

The renewable energy advocates point to the enormous job creation potential of transitioning to renewable energy sources, particularly in communities with high rates of unemployment or underemployment.

There are currently 310,000 people in the United States employed in the solar industry and 88,000 in the wind industry. 

The United States is projected to add more electric generating capacity from solar and wind than from any other source in 2016. More than half of all new electricity capacity added in the world in 2015 was from renewable sources.

Climate change is both the greatest threat facing humankind, and also a tremendous economic opportunity if our nation rises to meet it,” said Congressman Grijalva. “Every day our energy future becomes more obvious – either we live in the past and continue to degrade our environment, or we embrace the future of renewable energy which ensures our continued success on a global scale and leaves our children a clean and healthy planet.

Moving to 100 percent clean energy will power job creation that is good for all creation. We can and will meet this goal and now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand up and fight for our clean energy future,” said Grijalva.

The resolution is not just a pipe dream – it’s technically feasible. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to generate more than 100 times the quantity of electricity it consumes each year as of 2016 solely from wind, solar, and other renewable resources.

Today’s resolution sends a message loud and clear to our Senate colleagues – it’s time to get serious about our climate efforts with big, bold and rapid moves to accelerate the clean energy economy,” said Senator Merkley. “Transitioning to clean and renewable energy is not only the right thing to do for clean air and a strong economy, it is what we must do to save our beautiful blue-green planet.

 


 Featured Image: Utility-scale solar power requires skilled workers. Here, workers monitor solar thermal parabolic troughs at the Adams County detention center in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Warren Gretz / National Renewable Energy Lab) Public domain.

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Private Transport Sector Embraces Climate Action

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Young people at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco will live with the consequences of the decisions made there. (Photo by UNFCCC) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Sustainable transport leaders from the private sector met at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) on Saturday for the Global Climate Action event on Transport to move the world towards a cooler future.

They discussed how progress made on 15 initiatives covering all transport modes and more than 100 countries demonstrates that tackling emissions from transport is both possible and cost effective.

The transport sector has made a great start, leading by example and spearheading the development of the broader Global Climate Action Agenda,” said Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations.

The 15 non-state actor transport initiatives whose progress are being reported in Marrakech have such a scope and scale that they are well on the way to triggering a broad transformation of the transport sector, as required to deliver on the Paris Agreement,” said Royal.

Prepared for the Marrakech conference, a report on the 15 Global Climate Action Agenda Transport Initiatives was released earlier this month.

The 15 initiatives are:

1. Airport Carbon Accreditation: Airport Carbon Accreditation, developed and launched by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in 2009, is the only global carbon management standard for airports. The initiative aims to increase airport accreditations in all regions with a commitment for 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe by 2030.

 2. Aviation’s Climate Action Takes Off: Collaborative climate action across the air transport sector aims to control growth of international aviation CO2 emissions through measures that include a goal of carbon-neutral growth through a global market-based mechanism.

 A landmark agreement, adopted at the last International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in October 2016, makes the aviation industry the first sector to adopt a global market-based measure to address climate change.

3. The C40 Clean Bus Declaration, led by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, aims to decarbonize urban mass transport.

Participating cities will incorporate over 160,000 buses in their fleets by 2020 and have committed to switching 42,000 buses to low emission. Greenhouse gas savings will be almost 900,000 tons a year, with a potential overall savings of 2.8 million tons each year if the cities switch their entire bus fleets.

To date, 26 cities around the world have signed the Clean Bus Declaration, demonstrating strong global demand.

4. Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GEFI) aims to double the average fuel economy of new light duty vehicles globally by 2030, and all vehicles by 2050.

For COP21 last year in Paris, GFEI launched “100 for 50 by 50,” a campaign to encourage new countries to commit to GFEI’s fuel economy improvement goals by developing and adopting national fuel economy policies, and to dedicate time and resources to supporting GFEI’s work. At COP21 GFEI announced funding for 40 new countries joining their work, with more expressing interest.

5. Global Green Freight Action Plan: Reducing the climate and health impacts of goods transport. The three main objectives are: 1) To align and enhance existing green freight programs; 2) To develop and support new green freight programs globally; and 3) To incorporate black carbon reductions into green freight programs.

Steering group partners include Canada, United States, International Council on Clean Transportation, Clean Air Asia, Smart Freight Centre, and the World Bank. The initiative has received support from 24 countries, 28 nongovernmental organizations, and four private sector companies.

6. ITS for Climate: Using Intelligent Transportation Systems to work towards a low carbon, resilient world and to limit global warming below the 2-degree target and contribute to adaptation to climate change in large cities and isolated territories.

7. Low Carbon Road and Road Transport Initiative: Led by the World Road Association (PIARC), with its 121 government members, the initiative is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of road construction, maintenance and operation through technological innovation, green tendering and contracting. Will develop road networks in line with electric propulsion, autonomous cars, road-vehicle and vehicle-vehicle interactions, and enhancing intermodal cooperation.

8. MobiliseYourCity: 100 cities engaged in sustainable urban mobility planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban transport in developing countries. This initiative was unveiled during the World Climate and Territories Summit that took place in July in Lyon, France.

9. Navigating a Changing Climate: Think Climate, a multi-stakeholder coalition of 10 associations with interests in waterborne transport infrastructure, is committed to promoting a shift to low carbon inland and maritime navigation infrastructure.

10. The UIC Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge: This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for improvement of rail sector energy efficiency, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable balance between transport modes.

Implementation of the Challenge will result in 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from train operations by 2030, and a 75 percent reduction by 2050, as well as a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption from train operations by 2030, and a 60 percent reduction by 2050.

11. UITP Declaration on Climate Change Leadership: UITP, the International Association of Public Transport, brings 350 future commitments and actions from 110 public transport undertakings in 80 cities. UITP’s goal is to double the market share of public transport by 2025, which would prevent half a billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2025.

12. Urban Electric Mobility Initiative: The UEMI aims to boost the share of electric vehicles in urban transport and integrate electric mobility into a wider concept of sustainable urban transport that achieves a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas by 2030.

The UEMI is an active partnership that aims to track international action on electric mobility and to initiate local action. Current partners include: UN-Habitat, Wuppertal Institute, the International Energy Agency, Michelin, Clean Air Asia and the European Commission.

13. World Cycling Alliance and European Cyclists’ Federation have committed to increase the modal share of cycling worldwide and to double cycling in Europe by 2020. The commitment is supported by ECF and WCA, representing about 100 civil society organizations worldwide.

14. Worldwide Taxis4SmartCities: This initiative aims to accelerate the introduction of low emission vehicles in taxis fleets by 2020 and 2030 and promote sustainability. Nineteen companies representing more than 120,000 vehicles have committed to date.

15. ZEV Alliance: The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) is a collaboration of governments acting together to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles – electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, United Kingdom, Vermont have signed up to the ZEV Alliance.

Scaled-up actions taken by the Global Climate Action Agenda Transport initiatives since COP21 in December 2015 include:

  • The Global Fuel Economy Initiative is supporting an additional 40 countries to realize the financial and CO2 benefits of improved vehicle fuel economy.
  • The Airport Carbon Accreditation Scheme now has 173 certified airports worldwide, including 26 carbon neutral airports; and 36 percent of air passengers now travel through an Airport Carbon Accredited airport.
  • The MobiliseYourCity initiative secured 35 million euro in funding over the last 12 months and is making use of COP22 to announce the start of developing Sustainable Urban Mobility plans in Morocco and Cameroon.

As the COP22 host country, Morocco is taking a leading role in reducing transport emissions. Morocco’s Transport Minister Mohamed Boussaid said Morocco is launching the new African Association for Sustainable Road Transport at COP22.

For a growing region like Africa which is heavily impacted by climate change we need affordable and locally appropriate transport solutions that support economic and social development, provide access to mobility, and create local value,” said Boussaid.

Through the “we want to share experience and catalyse the development of resilient and intelligent highway infrastructure and the deployment of e-mobility in Morocco and beyond,” said Boussaid.

Transport is already responsible for one fourth of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. under a business as usual scenario, transport emissions can be expected to grow from 7.7 Gt to around 15Gt by 2050.

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Nissan Leaf electric taxi charging at a Petrobras station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013 (Photo by mariordo59) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

This is a global problem. For 45 percent of countries, transport is the largest source of energy related emissions, for the rest it is the second largest source.

But discussions at COP22 indicate that tackling emissions from transport is possible and cost effective, sustainable solutions are available.

“Transport initiatives by non-state actors are key for a successful implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by over 160 countries on the occasion of COP21 in Paris,” said Dr. Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment and Climate Champion, Morocco.

“The transport initiatives, by creating a new reality on the ground, increase popular understanding and support for climate action which, in turn, drives up governments’ ambition to tackle climate change.”

To find out more about the 15 initiatives, please read: Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) Transport Initiatives: Stock-take on action on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and contribution towards the 2030 Global Goals on Sustainable Development Report


 

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Green Firms Outperform Fossil Fuelers 3: 1

Vestas wind turbines

Vestas wind turbines generate power in The Netherlands, December 2015 (Photo by Siebe Schootstra) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

OAKLAND, California, August 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A 21.82 percent return on investment over the past decade – that’s the proud record of The Carbon Clean 200 – a new list of 200 clean energy companies selected for this inaugural version of the list by the nonprofit groups As You Sow and Corporate Knights.

 The Clean200 ranks the largest publicly listed companies worldwide by their total clean energy revenues as rated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

 In order to be eligible, a company must have a market capitalization greater than $1 billion, as of June 2016, and earn more than 10 percent of total revenues from clean energy sources.

The Clean200 list is being presented as the inverse of the Carbon Underground 200, a trademarked list of fossil fuel companies being targeted for divestment.

The Carbon Underground 200 generated just a 7.84 percent annualized return over the same past decade.

 “The Clean200 nearly tripled the performance of its fossil fuel reserve-heavy counterpart over the past 10 years, showing that clean energy companies are providing concrete and measurable rewards to investors,” said co-author Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights, based in Toronto, Canada.

What’s more, the outstanding performance of this list shows that the notion that investors must sacrifice returns when investing in clean energy is outdated,” said Heaps.

Many clean energy investments are profitable now,” he said, “and we anticipate that over the long-term their appeal will only go up as technologies improve and more investors move away from underperforming fossil fuel companies.

The top 10 Clean200 companies are:

  • Vestas, Denmark – wind power
  • Philips Lighting, Netherlands – LED lighting
  • Xinjiang Gold-A, China – wind plants
  • Tesla Motors, United States – electric vehicles
  • Gamesa, Spain – wind turbines
  • First Solar, United States – solar modules
  • GCL-Poly Energy, China  – solar grade polysilicon
  • China Longyuan-H, China – wind farms
  • Kingspan Group, Republic of Ireland – insulation and building envelopes
  • Acuity Brands, United States – LED lights

 Over 70 of the 200 companies on the list do receive a majority of their revenue from clean energy, the listing shows.

Our intention with The Clean200 is to begin a conversation that defines what companies will be part of the clean energy future,” said co-author Andrew Behar, chief executive of As You Sow, headquartered in Oakland.

The Clean200 turns the ‘carbon bubble’ inside out,” said Behar. “The list is far from perfect, but begins to show how it’s possible to accelerate and capitalize on the greatest energy transition since the industrial revolution.

Part of the reason behind the high rate of return appears to lie in China.

 “The 21.82 percent return was due in large part to significant exposure to Chinese clean energy companies which have experienced explosive growth,” said Heaps.

The returns of the Clean200 outside of China were lower, but still superior to the S&P 1200 global benchmark and Carbon Underground 200, he said.

The Clean200 list excludes all oil and gas companies and utilities that generate less than 50 percent of their power from renewable sources, as well as the top 100 coal companies measured by reserves.

 The list also filters out companies profiting from weapons manufacturing, tropical deforestation, the use of child and/or forced labor, and companies that engage in negative climate lobbying.

The performance analysis for each of the three lists is based on a ‘snapshot in time’ analysis of current constituents as the BNEF clean energy revenue exposure database is new and does not go back in time.

 The analysis also introduces a survivorship bias that can be present when stocks which do not currently exist (because they have failed, for example) are excluded from the historical analysis. This bias can result in the overestimation of past returns.

The methodology and list used to develop the Clean200 are in the creative commons and can be downloaded at www.clean200.org.

 As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy and coalition building. www.asyousow.org.

 Corporate Knights calls itself  “The Magazine for Clean Capitalism,” and says it “seeks to provide information that empowers people to harness markets for a better world.” www.corporateknights.com

 The groups disclaim responsibility for any unprofitable investments that might be made by their readers.

 “As You Sow and Corporate Knights are not investment advisors nor do we provide financial planning, legal or tax advice,” they state. “Nothing in the Carbon Clean 200 Report shall constitute or be construed as an offering of financial instruments or as investment advice or investment recommendations.


Featured image: Safer, cooler, sturdier and longer-lasting than other lighting, LED lights are used for a road sign (Photo by Washington State Dept. of Transportation) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Vitamin B2 Inspires Batteries for Solar, Wind

FlowBattery

By using modified vitamin B2 molecules, researchers have created a rechargeable flow battery that could help solve large-scale electricity storage problems (Photo by Kaixiang Lin / Harvard University) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, August 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) –  Harvard scientists have identified a new class of high-performing organic molecules, inspired by vitamin B2, that can safely store electricity from intermittent energy sources like solar and wind power in large batteries.

The team has developed a “high-capacity flow battery” that stores energy in organic molecules called quinones and in the food additive ferrocyanide.

 To accomplish this, the Harvard team replaced metal ions used as conventional battery electrolyte materials with quinones, molecules that store energy in plants and animals.

Now, after considering about a million different quinones, we have developed a new class of battery electrolyte material that expands the possibilities of what we can do,” said Kaixiang Lin, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at Harvard and first author of the paper.

 That advance was a game-changer, and the Harvard team now is delivering what they call “the first high-performance, non-flammable, non-toxic, non-corrosive, low-cost chemicals that could enable large-scale, inexpensive electricity storage.

Its simple synthesis means it should be manufacturable on a large scale at a very low cost, which is an important goal of this project,” said Lin, a chemistry graduate student.

Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, is one of eight B vitamins. All the B vitamins help the body to convert carbohydrates in food into fuel in the form of glucose, which is used to produce energy, and metabolize fats and protein.

The key difference between B2 and quinones is that nitrogen atoms, instead of oxygen atoms, are involved in picking up and giving off electrons.

With only a couple of tweaks to the original B2 molecule, this new group of molecules becomes a good candidate for alkaline flow batteries,” said Dr. Michael Aziz, a Harvard professor of materials science.

Lin explained, “They have high stability and solubility and provide high battery voltage and storage capacity. Because vitamins are remarkably easy to make, this molecule could be manufactured on a large scale at a very low cost.

 “We designed these molecules to suit the needs of our battery, but really it was nature that hinted at this way to store energy,” said Dr. Roy Gordon, co-senior author of the paper and a Harvard professor of chemistry and materials science. “Nature came up with similar molecules that are very important in storing energy in our bodies.

The team will continue to explore quinones, as well as this new universe of molecules, in pursuit of a high-performing, long-lasting and inexpensive flow battery.

Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has been working with the research team to navigate the shifting complexities of the energy storage market and build relationships with companies well positioned to commercialize the new chemistries.

The ability to inexpensively store large amounts of electrical energy is of increasing importance, with the growing fraction of electric generation from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar, the study’s authors recognize.

As this fraction increases, problems associated with the mismatch between power supply from wind and solar and grid demand become more severe, they say.

While the versatile quinones show great promise for organic flow batteries, the Harvard researchers continue to explore other organic molecules in pursuit of even better performance.

The work was partly funded by a Department of Energy ARPA-E award, the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Technology Center and funded in part through the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The research also was supported by the Odyssey Cluster and Research Computing of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Theoretical work was funded in part through the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, which is supported by the National Science Foundation.

 Süleyman Er performed work as part of the Fellowships for Young Energy Scientists program of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter, which is part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

The new research is published in the journal “Nature Energy“.


Featured image : Dr, Michael Azia is the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at Harvard, he is a participant in the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, a faculty associate, Center for Nanoscale Systems, and a faculty associate, Harvard University Center for the Environment (Photo courtesy Harvard University) Posted for media use.

Innovative Nuclear Reactors Attract Investors

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, July 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Private investors such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma are among many from around the world who are backing new types of nuclear reactors that will be safer and more efficient than those operating today.

They have formed the Breakthough Energy Coalition, an influential group of investors, committed to investing in technologies that can help solve the urgent energy and climate challenges facing the planet.

The University of California (UC) is the sole institutional investor among the 28 coalition members from 10 countries.

UC’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer has committed $1 billion of its investment capital for early-stage and scale-up investments in clean energy innovation over the next five years, as well as an additional $250 million to fund innovative, early-stage ideas emerging from the university.

The University of California, with its 10 campuses and three national energy labs, is home to some of the best climate scientists in the world and as a public research institution we take the imperative to solve global climate change very seriously,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “With access to the private capital represented by investors in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition we can more effectively integrate our public research pipeline to deliver new technology and insights that will revolutionize the way the world thinks about and uses energy.”

We can’t ask for a better partner than the University of California Office of the President and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer to help accomplish the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s ambitious goal,” Gates said. “The UC system – with its world leading campuses and labs – produces the kinds of groundbreaking technologies that will help define a global energy future that is cheaper, more reliable and does not contribute to climate change.”

High costs, together with fears about safety and waste disposal, have stalled construction of new nuclear plants, although construction continues in some countries. China is building 20 new reactors, South Korea is building four; even Japan is restarting some of the nuclear plants shut down after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown disaster and is building new reactors.

But the excitement in the nuclear industry is being generated by emerging new technologies, such as a traveling wave reactor, a new class of nuclear reactor that utilizes nuclear waste to generate electricity.

Gates is founder and chairman of TerraPower, a company based in Bellevue, Washington that designed the traveling wave reactor.

Conventional reactors capture only about one percent of the energy potential of their fuel. The traveling wave reactor is “a near-term deployable, truly sustainable, globally scalable energy solution,” TerraPower says on its website.

TravelingWaveReactor

TerraPower’s new traveling wave reactor is based on an original design by Saveli Feinberg in 1958. (Image by TerraPower. Posted for media use)

Unlike the existing fleet of nuclear reactors, the traveling wave reactor (TWR) burns fuel made from depleted uranium, currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. The TWR’s unique design gradually converts this material through a nuclear reaction without removing the fuel from the reactor’s core. The TWR can sustain this process indefinitely, generating heat and producing electricity.

The TWR offers a 50-fold gain in fuel efficiency, eliminates the need for reprocessing and reduces and potentially eliminates the long-term need for enrichment plants. This reduces nuclear proliferation concerns and lowers the cost of the nuclear energy process.

As the TWR operates, it converts depleted uranium to usable fuel. As a result, says TerraPower, “this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.”

TerraPower aims to achieve startup of a 600 megawatt-electric prototype of the TWR in the mid-2020s, followed by global commercial deployment.

Transatomic Power, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, is developing a molten-salt nuclear reactor that co-founders Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan, PhD candidates at MIT, estimate will cut the overall cost of a nuclear power plant in half.

Highly resistant to meltdowns, molten-salt reactors were demonstrated in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Lab, where one test reactor ran for six years, but the technology has not been used commercially.

The new molten salt reactor design, which now exists only on paper, would produce 20 times as much power for its size as the Oak Ridge technology.

Transatomic has modified the original molten-salt design to allow it to run on nuclear waste.

And it’s safer than today’s water-cooled nuclear power plants. Even after a conventional reactor is shut down, it must be continuously cooled by pumping in water. The inability to do that is what caused the hydrogen explosions, radiation releases and meltdowns at Fukushima.

Using molten salt as the coolant solves some of these problems. The salt, which is mixed in with the fuel, has a boiling point much higher than the temperature of the fuel, giving the reactor a built-in thermostat. If it starts to heat up, the salt expands, spreading out the fuel, slowing the reactions and allowing the mixture to cool.

In the event of a power outage, a stopper at the bottom of the reactor melts and the fuel and salt flow into a holding tank, where the fuel spreads out enough for the reactions to stop. The salt then cools and solidifies, encapsulating the radioactive materials.

It’s walk-away safe,” says Dewan, the company’s chief science officer. “If you lose electricity, even if there are no operators on site to pull levers, it will coast to a stop.

Transatomic envisions small, powerful, reactors that are built in factories and shipped by rail instead of being built on site like costly conventional ones.

Both government and private sector organizations are working towards nuclear innovations.

John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, recalled that last November the White House held a summit announcing the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), “an organizing principal meant to transform the way we execute public-private partnerships.

GAIN is a new framework for how the Office of Nuclear Energy, in partnership with the Idaho, Argonne, and Oak Ridge National Labs, to leverage people, facilities, and capabilities to better support advancing nuclear technologies.

Kotek said, “We are already seeing huge payoffs from this new approach, including the issuance of a Site Use Permit for identifying potential locations for the first small modular reactor.

The nonprofit Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA), launched last November in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aims to improve the overall policy, funding and market environment essential for rapid commercialization of safer, lower cost and more secure nuclear technologies.

Motivated by the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change, the NIA brings together nuclear energy stakeholders, technical experts, nuclear technology companies, investors, environmental organizations and academic institutions.

The consensus emerging from nearly every scientific study on combating climate change is clear,” said Armond Cohen, NIA co-chairman. “In addition to energy efficiency, renewables and carbon sequestration, the world will need a lot more nuclear energy to sufficiently decarbonize our society’s energy consumption.”

“Emerging innovative reactor designs promise to be safer, more economical and faster to build, with less waste and lower proliferation risk,” Cohen said.

Christofer Mowry, NIA’s other co-chairman, said, “Real change to energy regulation and policy is needed to make these advanced designs commercially available in time to help limit climate change to an acceptable level.

Investors and developers need to see a clearer and lower risk path to their deployment,” said Mowry, “including an innovation-enabling licensing framework and more substantive public-private partnerships for rapid deployment.

At the same time, some of the largest environmental groups are easing their negative positions on nuclear power.

The “Wall Street Journal” reported in June that the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are concentrating more on preventing runaway climate change and less on the dangers of nuclear power than they have in the past.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups continue to urge the shutdown of existing nuclear plants, for fear that the environmental dangers outweigh the climate benefits.


 

India, World Bank Empower Sunshine Nations

India, World Bank Empower_Sunshine Nations

India One, a 1 megawatt solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan, India is due for completion in 2016. It uses 770 newly developed 60m2 parabolic dishes and features thermal storage for continuous operation. The plant will generate enough heat and power for a campus of 25,000 people and is a milestone for clean power generation in India. (Photo by Brahma Kumaris) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, July 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Solar power prospects are brightening with a new global focus on renewable energy to avert climate change. A burst of financial power was added at the end of June as the World Bank Group signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) – 121 countries led by sunny India – with the goal of mobilizing US$1 trillion in investments by 2030.

 The ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on November 30, 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande. Most of the sunshine countries lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and China. The United States and European Union also are involved.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, meets with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi before attending the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On a two-day trip to New Delhi at the end of June, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim established the Bank as a financial partner for the ISA and pledged to collaborate on expanding the use of solar energy in India.

After meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, World Bank Group chief Kim said with a smile, “One of the reasons that I always appreciate my meetings with the Prime Minister is that he always pushes us to move faster and faster – to keep pace with him. We promised that we would do so, and in particular talked about supporting his government’s pace on expanding renewable energy sources.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of adequate climate change financing for countries like India which are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path.

India’s plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country’s energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change,” the banker said.

The International Energy Agency calculates that India is set to contribute more than any other country to the projected rise in global energy demand. Steep rises in power production and consumption are expected to accompany India’s economic growth.

 “Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” said Kim. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.”

Kim said he envisions the ISA as using its global development network, global knowledge and financing capacity to promote the use of solar energy throughout the world.

 India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy identified the initial joint projects to actualize the new agreement as:

  • Developing a roadmap to mobilize financing.
  • Developing financing instruments including credit enhancement, reduce hedging. costs/currency risk, bond raising in locally denominated currencies etc. which support solar energy development and deployment.
  • Supporting ISA’s plans for solar energy through technical assistance and knowledge transfer.
  • Working on mobilization of concessional financing through existing or, if needed, new trust funds.
RooftopSolar

Solar panels on the rooftop of the Reserve Bank of India in Jaipur. (Photo by Kirti Solar Limited) Posted for media use by India PRwire

In addition, India will receive a loan of more than US$1 billion dollars to support expanding solar power through investments in solar generation.

 Projects now under development include solar rooftop technology, infrastructure for solar parks, bringing innovative solar and hybrid technologies to market, and transmission lines for sun-rich Indian states.

As part of our $1 billion dollar solar commitment to India, today we signed an agreement with the Government of India for a $625 million dollar grid connected rooftop solar program,” said Kim.

The project will finance installation of at least 400 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations.

These investments for India will together become the Bank’s largest financing of solar projects for any country in the world. The banker said. “India has become a global leader in implementing the promises made in Paris for COP21 and the global efforts to tackle climate change.”

 India’s pledge to the Paris summit offered to bring 40 percent of its electricity generation capacity, not actual production, from non-fossil sources – renewable, large hydro, and nuclear – by the year 2030.

India has capacity of 4GW and the Modi Government has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

In January, Modi and Hollande jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance headquarters and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in National Institute of Solar Energy in Gwal Pahari in the Gurgaon District of Haryana state in northern India.

At that ceremony, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) each announced a contribution of US$1 million to the ISA.

Prime Minister Modi has described the ISA as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the Sun.


 Featured image: Solar Panels | by Jeremy Levine Design flickr.com

Demand for Electric Cars Hits New Highs

AmsterdamCharging

Charging a Nissan LEAF in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo courtesy Heijmans)

By Sunny Lewis

PALO ALTO, California, April 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Luxury electric automaker Tesla unveiled its latest model at a March 31 event, and demand was so strong for the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 that within the week 325,000 would-be customers purchased preorders at US$1,000 each.

The preorder offering raised US$14 billion, tweeted Tesla founder, chairman, CEO and product architect Elon Musk. He will use funds to finish building an enormous lithium-ion battery factory near Reno, Nevada and begin Model 3 production at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Everyone will have to be patient though – production of the Model 3 is not scheduled to begin until the second half of 2017.

The sheer number of Model 3 orders amazed many people including “EV World” publisher Bill Moore, who wrote to his newsletter subscribers, “The market’s not only ‘spoken,’ it bloody ROARED.”

“Fifteen years ago, some three years after I launched EV World,” wrote Moore, “there were maybe 5,000 OEM-built electric cars on the road in the United States; and roughly a comparable number in Europe, mainly in France.”

Now, he compared, “In just seven days time, Tesla now has pre-orders and $1000 deposits for more than 30 times the number of all the electric cars in the world back just over a decade and a half ago.”

Tesla Model 3s are revealed to an admiring crowd, March 31, 2016 (video courtesy Tesla Motors)

As of March 31, Tesla Motors had sold nearly 125,000 electric cars worldwide since delivery of its first Tesla Roadster in 2008.

The current world leader in zero-emission mobility, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, sold its 250,000th electric vehicle – a white Renault ZOE – in June 2015.

The 250,000th owner is Yves Nivelle, a computer engineer from Bordeaux, who traded in his 21-year-old diesel car for the subcompact Renault ZOE.

Nivelle bought his EV after the French government introduced an environmental bonus in April 2015 to allow owners of older, polluting diesel cars to trade them in and get a rebate of €10,000 on a new electric vehicle.

“The government’s environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV,” Nivelle said. “But I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It’s a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment.”

Watch a video  of Nivelle getting into his historic Renault ZOE at the dealership. Renault Nissan Bordeaux

In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also makes the e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2014. In addition to the ZOE, Renault also sells the Renault Kangoo Z.E van, the SM3 Z.E. sedan and the Twizy, a two-seater urban commuter vehicle.

“Demand for our electric vehicles continues to grow thanks to government incentives and the expanding charging infrastructure,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, formed in 1999.

“The positive response of our customers is also driving demand. These vehicles enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction rates from our customers around the world,” Ghosn said.

As public fast-charging infrastructure proliferates so that a nearly full charge is possible in less than half an hour at many locations, and electric vehicle batteries offer ranges up to 250 miles on a single charge, public acceptance of EVs grows stronger.

An all-electric vehicle offering more than 200 miles of range per charge for an affordable price in the neighborhood of US$30,000 – that’s what a growing segment of the driving public wants and an increasing number of automakers are answering that demand.

There are more than 20 models of electric vehicles on the market today, including, among others, the Chinese BYD e6, the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Kia Soul EV, India’s Mahindra Reva e2o, all Mercedes B-class cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Smart EV, Volvo’s XC90 T8 and the VW e-Golf.

Across the industry, at least 24 newly announced electric vehicle models are expected to be on the market before 2019.

General Motors will have the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for sale late this year; it offers 200 miles of range for about $30,000 after the federal government rebate.

GM head Mary Barra believes a real “revolution” is underway. She told the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January that soon petrol-fueled cars will be “a thing of the past.”

“In the auto industry, the revolution is being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs,” Barra said. “It is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter and more energy-efficient vehicles for customers in every market around the world.”

Ford delivered its first Focus E in 2011, but now has fallen behind. The 2017 Ford Focus Electric will have just 100 miles of range, according a Ford media presentation in Dearborn, Michigan last December.

But Ford will add DC fast charging to the car, so it can recharge to 80 percent of battery capacity in 30 minutes at a growing network of Combined Charging System sites in the USA and Europe.

Many other companies are jumping into the strengthening EV market.

At the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Hyundai Motor introduced the IONIQ – the world’s first model with three distinct electrified powertrains: the IONIQ Hybrid, the IONIQ Plug-in and the IONIQ Electric.

German automaker Audi is preparing its international production network to make autonomous cars, electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Production of the first all-electric SUV from Audi will begin in Brussels in 2018, the company says. It will offer a range of more than 250 miles on a single charge. In a decade, the company projects, 25 percent of Audi’s sales will be electric vehicles.

As production increases, the market grows, especially in India and China.

India’s Minister of State for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal wants to make every car on India’s roads an electric vehicle by 2030.

“We have created a working group under the leadership of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is good at coming up with large scale programs. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and I are members of this group,” Goyal told a conference of Indian youth in late March.

Goyal suggested that drivers could buy bare bones electric cars with no money down. The buyers could pay for their EVs over time from the savings realized by not having to purchase fuel.

In China, electric car sales surged to 220,000 in 2015, surpassing the United States to rank first worldwide, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, sold more EVs than any other Chinese company in 2015. CAAM projects sales of 300,000 EVs in China this year.

Unveiling the Tesla Model 3, Musk addressed the underlying reason behind the rapidly electrifying auto industry.

“Why are we doing this? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter?” he asked.

“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. It’s really important for the future of the world,” he answered his own question.

Musk is concerned about climate change. He pointed to the record high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere: as of March 2016 – 403.5 parts per million – and climbing.

“The last time there was this concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 11 million years ago, when primates first started walking upright,” he told the crowd at the unveiling event, many of them owners of earlier and much more costly Teslas.

Tesla founder, chairman and CEO at the unveiling of the Tesla Model 3. (From video courtesy Tesla Motors)

Musk pointed to the Earth’s steadily rising temperature. He pointed to the fact that 53,000 people a year die in the United States alone from exposure to automobile emissions.

Musk is not alone in his concerns. And research shows that the growing popularity of electric vehicles can indeed help avert climate change.

In September 2015 the California-based Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly released a study finding that widespread adoption of electric transportation, including the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio,” projects emissions through 2050 and air quality impacts in 2030.

It finds that greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles could drop as much as 64 percent below today’s levels as drivers abandon internal combustion engines in favor of electrics.

“This research points to the importance of two fundamental and parallel trends in energy and the environment,” said EPRI President and CEO Mike Howard. “First is the continuing decarbonization of the electricity sector and second is the electrification of energy use in transportation and industry.”


 

 

Jury Still Out on Carbon Capture & Storage

SaskPower's Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Since the Paris Climate Agreement was reached in December, preventing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere has become a top priority for many governments, utilities and private individuals who believe climate change to be the major problem of this generation.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) enables a power station or factory that burns coal, oil or gas to remove the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere and store it permanently in an old oilfield or a deep saline aquifer formation.

Some attempts at capturing and storing CO2 have been more successful than others.

First, capture technologies allow the separation of CO2 from other gases produced by power generation and factories by one of three methods: pre-combustion capture, post-combustion capture and oxyfuel combustion.

The captured CO2 is then transported by pipeline or ship to the storage location. Millions of tonnes of CO2 are now transported for commercial purposes each year by road tankers, ships and pipelines.

Once at its destination, the captured CO2 is stored in geological rock formations typically located several kilometers below the surface.

At every point in the CCS chain, from production to storage, industry can use a number of process technologies that are well understood and have excellent health and safety records, says the London-based Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA).

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell's Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth's surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell’s Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

The Canadian province of Quebec is excited enough about this possibility that it just bet Cdn$15 million on a new enzyme-based technology.

Quebec has established a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 37.5 percent below this same level by 2030.

In its 2016-2017 Budget, released March 17, the Quebec provincial government announced that it has allocated $15 million over the next three years to create a consortium that will promote adoption of CO2 Solutions’ patented enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology.

The process is now ready for commercialization.

In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project is SaskPower’s flagship CCS initiative.

This project transformed the aging Unit #3 at Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan into a long-term producer of up to 115 megawatts of base-load electricity, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, the equivalent of taking more than 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually.

The captured CO2 is sold and transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan to be used for enhanced oil recovery. CO2 not used for enhanced oil recovery will be stored in the Aquistore Project.

Aquistore is a research and monitoring project to demonstrate that storing liquid CO2 deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Through the development of the world’s first and largest commercial-scale CCS project of its kind, SaskPower hopes to make a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the continued use of coal.

In Norway last December, Aker Solutions signed a contract with the city of Oslo for a five-month test CCS project to capture CO2 emissions from the city-operated waste-to-energy Klemetsrud plant.

The project is funded by Gassnova, the state enterprise that supports the development and demonstration of technologies to capture CO2.

“This is pioneering work with significant potential as the world focuses on finding ways to limit carbon emissions,” commented Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business. “This pilot project is of international importance.”

The test will be key to qualifying Aker Solutions’ amine-based CO2 capture technology for commercial application at the world’s waste-to-energy plants. There are about 450 such plants operating in Europe and about 700 globally.

Japan is preparing to test its biggest project yet for capturing and storing CO2 under the ocean floor despite concerns about cost and the safety of pursuing the technology in a region prone to earthquakes.

Starting this month, engineers plan to inject CO2 into deep saline aquifers off the coast of Hokkaido at the northern tip of Japan. The gas will be captured from a refinery operated by Idemitsu Kosan Co. under the government-backed project.

Some Japanese companies are already lending their expertise to and investing in CCS projects overseas.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. designed and built a project in the U.S. state of Alabama with the utility Southern Company.

Three of the six companies building the world’s largest CCS project on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Western Australia are Japanese. Although a Class A Nature Reserve, Barrow Island is said to be a location where industry and the environment co-exist.

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron's Gorgon CCS project on Australia's Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron’s Gorgon CCS project on Australia’s Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

The Gorgon Project is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) and domestic gas joint venture supplied by the Greater Gorgon Area gas fields.

The Chevron-operated Gorgon Project is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 percent), ExxonMobil (25 percent), Shell (25 percent), Osaka Gas (1.25 percent), Tokyo Gas (1 percent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 percent).

On March 20, Chevron announced that its first shipment of LNG from the Gorgon Project had left Barrow Island. The cargo goes to Chubu Electric Power, for delivery into Japan.

“Departure of the first cargo from the Gorgon Project is a key milestone in our commitment to be a reliable LNG provider for customers across the Asia-Pacific region,” said Mike Wirth, executive vice president, Chevron Midstream and Development. “This is also important for our investors as we begin to generate revenue from a project we expect will operate for decades to come.”

But bad news appears to dog the CCS industry.

On Friday, the Gorgon project had to temporarily halt production due to technical difficulties with a propane refrigerant circuit at the Gorgon plant site.

Chevron and its Gorgon partners are facing a repair bill that could amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars” after “a major mechanical problem flared as soon as the maiden LNG cargo was sent,” reported the “West Australian” newspaper on Friday.

There are many skeptics, given that it can cost billions of dollars for a CCS facility and none have a long record of successful operation at an industrial scale. Some investors initially put their money into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies only to see their CCS plans fail or get tossed out by governments.

“It is our view that CCS is unlikely to play a significant role in mitigating emissions from coal-fired power stations,” authors including Ben Caldecott, director of the sustainable finance program at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, wrote in a report published in January.

“Deployment of CCS has already been too slow to match” scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they warned.

Another concern is whether stored CO2 will leak from storage sites, releasing the gas back into the atmosphere.

“There is no guarantee that carbon dioxide can be stored in a stable way in Japan where there are many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” Kimiko Hirata, a researcher for Kiko Network, a Kyoto-based environmental group, told Bloomberg News.

In 2015, the FutureGen Alliance, a U.S. industrial group with a high-profile carbon capture project in Illinois, lost its Department of Energy financing.

FutureGen, a partnership between the U.S. government and an alliance of coal-related corporations, was retrofitting a coal-fired power plant with oxy-combustion generators. The excess CO2 would be piped 30 miles (48 km) to be stored in underground saline formations. Costs were estimated at US$1.65 billion, with $1 billion provided by the U.S. government.

But the U.S. Department of Energy ordered suspension of FutureGen 2.0 in February 2015, citing the alliance’s inability to raise much private funding. At the time of suspension the power plant part of the project had spent $116.5 million and the CCS part had spent $86 million.

In the UK, the British National Audit Office (NAO) has announced plans to investigate then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s 2015 decision to scrap a £1bn prototype carbon capture scheme that has already cost the taxpayers at least £60 million.

The spending watchdog said that this summer it will examine the expenses incurred in running, and then prematurely halting, a CCS competition for financing.

In the competition, the Department of Energy and Climate shortlisted two projects. Shell was developing a trial scheme at Peterhead in Scotland alongside one of the big six energy suppliers and power station owner SSE. A separate White Rose project was being developed by Drax at its coal-fired plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

They were awarded multi-million pound contracts to finalize these proposals before a final investment decision could be taken.

But in November 2015 the agency withdrew funding for the program, suspending the competition.

The NAO will review the government decision, what impacts it will have on the department’s objectives of decarbonization and security of supply, and the costs incurred by government in running the competition.

Dr. Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCSA, called the funding cut “devastating.”

“Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1 billion of funding for CCS,” said Warren. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”

In February, the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee reported on the future of CCS in the country in view of the funding cut.

The government’s decision to pull funding for carbon capture and storage at the last minute will delay the development of the technology in the UK and could make it challenging for the UK to meet its climate change commitments agreed at the Paris COP21 summit, the Energy and Climate Change Committee report warned.

Said Angus MacNeil MP, Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair, “If we don’t invest in the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage technology now, it could be much more expensive to meet our climate change targets in the future. Gas-fired power stations pump out less carbon dioxide than ones burning coal, but they are still too polluting.”

“If the government is committed to the climate change pledges made in Paris, it cannot afford to sit back and simply wait and see if CCS will be deployed when it is needed,” said MacNeil. “Getting the infrastructure in place takes time and the government needs to ensure that we can start fitting gas fired power stations with carbon capture and storage technology in the 2020s.”


Featured image Coal Pile courtesy of 123R

Russia’s Bright Renewable Energy Future

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By Sunny Lewis

MOSCOW, Russia, January 7, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A fully renewable energy system for Russia and Central Asia by 2030 is achievable and economically viable, finds newly published research by Finnish scientists.

Although fossil-fuel rich Russia is now the world’s largest exporter of oil and natural gas, a completely renewable energy system for the region would be half the cost of a system based on carbon capture and storage or even on the latest European nuclear technology, the Finns calculate.

Researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology modeled a renewable energy system for Russia and Central Asia. Results show that renewable energy is the cheapest option for the continent and can make Russia an energy competitive region in the future.

“We think that this is the first ever 100 percent renewable energy system modeling for Russia and Central Asia,” said Professor Christian Breyer, co-author of the study.

“It demonstrates that Russia can become one of the most energy-competitive regions in the world,” Breyer said.

Moving to a renewable energy system is possible due to the abundance of various types of renewable energy resources in the study area. It would enable the building of a Super Grid, connecting the different energy resources – wind, hydropower, solar, biomass and some geothermal energy.

Wind power amounts to about 60 percent of Russia’s renewable energy production, while solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower make up the remaining 40 percent.

The total installed capacity of renewable energy in the system today is about 550 gigawatts.

While hydropower is the most used form of renewable energy in Russia, geothermal is the second most used form of renewable energy, but it represents less than one percent of the country’s total energy production.

The first geothermal power plant in Russia was built at Pauzhetka, Kamchatka, in 1966, with a capacity of 5 MW. By 2005, the total geothermal installed capacity was 79 MW, with 50 MW coming from a plant at Verkhne-Mutnovsky.

Russia has developed a new 100 MW geothermal power plant at Mutnovsky and a 50 MW plant in Kaliningrad.

The Mutnovsky geothermal steam field has been under exploration for 20 years, and to date more than 90 wells have been drilled.

Most geothermal resources are used for heating settlements in the North Caucasus and Kamchatka. Half of the geothermal production is used to heat homes and industrial buildings, one-third is used to heat greenhouses and 13 percent is used for industrial processes.

In October 2010, Sergei Shmatko, then Russia’s energy minister, said that Russia and Iceland would work together to develop Kamchatka’s geothermal energy sources. Russia is also investigating foreign investment possibilities for developing geothermal energy in the Kuril Islands.

The geographical area of the Finnish research covers much of the northern hemisphere. In addition to Russia, the research area includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan as well as the Caucasus and Pamir regions including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and Kirgizstan and Tajikistan.

Many of the countries in the area are currently reliant on the production and use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

One of the key insights of the research is that energy sectors’ integration lowers the cost of electricity by 20 percent for Russia and Central Asia.

The more renewable capacity is built, the more it can be used for different sectors: heating, transportation and industry. This flexibility of the system decreases the need for storages and lowers the cost of energy.

The research was done as part of Neo-Carbon Energy research project, which has previously shown that a renewable energy system is also economically sensible in North-East Asia, South-East Asia, South America and Finland.

Russia’s renewable energy sector may be tiny today, but it’s growing.

On December 20, Russia’s largest wind power developer, Wind Energy Systems LLC, announced that it joined the Russian Association of Wind Power Industry (RAWI).

Established in 2009 as non-commercial partnership, today RAWI membership includes more than 40 Russian and foreign organizations as members, working toward development of the Russian wind power market.

RAWI aims to develop the wind power market in Russia as development of wind farms, and the localization of production of wind turbines in Russia.

RAWI members and partners include major international manufacturers of wind turbines, developers and expert companies, educational institutions and administrative and diplomatic organizations.

Solar power is attracting attention, and funding too.

On December 18, the trading system administrator OJSC ATS, a subsidiary of the NP Market Council, announced the results of selection of investment projects for the construction of generating facilities using renewable energy sources for the years 2016 – 2019.

Russia approved 280 megawatts (MW) of solar and 35 MW of wind power projects in its third renewable energy tender.

The government has authorized eight solar projects with a combined capacity of 95 MW by Avelar Solar Technologies, a unit of Hevel Solar.

Also, Solar Systems and T Plus won contracts for 50 MW and 135 MW, respectively.

At the same time, Fortum OAO was awarded a 35-MW wind project in Russia’s Ulyanovsk Oblast. In addition, the government approved two 24.9 MW hydropower projects.

According to a recent report by GlobalData, Russia’s cumulative installed non-hydro renewable power capacity is expected to grow to 2.87 GW by 2025, with the country realizing a tiny portion of its potential.

Last year, the country approved 557 MW of renewable energy projects, most of which were solar.

Viktor Vekselberg, Technopark-Skolkowo MOU 05

Viktor Vekselberg, one of Russia’s oil billionaires, has been developing solar power with his Hevel solar venture.

Hevel LLC, a joint venture of Vekselberg’s Renova Group and state-owned Rusnano founded in 2009, is the largest integrated solar power company in Russia. Hevel Solar is expected to construct 22.5 billion rubles ($450 million) worth of solar projects through the year 2018.

In 2015 Hevel launched Russia’s first full-cycle plant for the manufacture of solar cells. Located in Novocheboksarsk, Chuvash Republic, it has the capacity to manufacture 97.5 MW annually of thin-film solar modules.

The new plant will produce thin-film solar cells by deposition of nanolayers, reducing use of silicon – the main raw material in solar energy equipment – by up to 200 times.

These solar cells can generate electricity even in cloudy weather, which makes them well suited to the Russian climate.

The Hevel modules will be used for the construction of solar power plants for people living in remote areas of Russia. The company expects to build solar power plants with a total capacity greater than 500 megawatts by the end of 2020.

On October 29, 2015 Hevel and Rusnano launched the first stage of a 10 MW solar power plant in Buribay, Republic of Bashkortostan. The launch command was given via TV bridge by the Minister of Energy of Russia Aleksander Novak, High-Tech Assets Development Director of Renova Group Mikhail Lifshitz and Chairman of the Executive Board of Rusnano Anatoly Chubais from the Open Innovations Forum.

The Kosh-Agach solar power plant in Russia’s Altai Republic is already operational, and design and construction work is now underway on large solar power plants in the Orenburg and Saratov regions and also in other parts of the country.

To set up a solar power R&D center, Hevel is partnering with the Ioffe Science and Technology Center in St. Petersburg, the only scientific organization in Russia that conducts solar energy research and development.

One of the main drivers behind the push to renewables is the idea that diversifying power generation will benefit the country.

In fact, overall, Russia appears to be paying more attention to environmental issues.

On January 5, President Vladimir Putin signed an Executive Order resolving to hold the Year of the Environment in the Russian Federation in 2017. Putin said the Year of the Environment would help to attract public attention to Russia’s environmental issues, preserving biodiversity and ensuring environmental security.

RussiaSolarPanelsSunlight copy


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: The sun shines on icy, snowy Russia as Avelar Solar executives cut the ribbon, opening a new solar power facility. (Photo courtesy Avelar Solar Technologies)
Head image: Russian snows are now dotted with solar arrays. (Photo courtesy Avelar Solar Technologies)
Image 01: Viktor Vekselberg, Russian oil billionaire and solar power mogul, 2010 (Photo by Jürg Vollmer) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 02: The company Avelar Solar Technology, a division of Hevel LLC, was established in 2011 to promote projects in the field of solar energy in Russia and the CIS countries.

Climate Crisis! Energy Efficiency to the Rescue

PARIS, France, November 30, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “Mobilising energy efficiency is an urgent priority,” says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“To transition to the sustainable energy system of the future, we need to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is the most important “arrow in the quiver” to achieve this,” writes the Turkish economist and energy expert in the IEA’s new Market Report.

Encouragingly, the IEA report estimates that 40 percent of the emissions reductions required by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase to the world’s agreed target of less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could potentially come from energy efficiency.

“energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

The IEA’s 2015 Energy Efficiency Market Report shows how businesses, households and policy-makers generate the investments that drive the energy efficiency market and how this market impacts the world’s energy system.

As negotiations to achieve a universal climate protection agreement open today in Paris, Birol says “energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input.

For example, when a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses one-third to one-fifth less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, the CFL is considered to be more energy efficient.

The International Energy Agency is pursuing many strategies to improve energy efficiency both among its 29 member governments and with partner countries.

Per capita energy consumption in the IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s, yet income per capita has never been higher, according to the Market Report.

“The ongoing, steady improvement in energy efficiency over the past four decades has been one of the most pronounced and significant changes to the global energy system, yet its impacts go largely unnoticed,” writes Birol in his Foreword to the report.

“Per capita energy consumption in IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980’s yet income per capita is at its highest level and access to energy services is continually expanding. This is why energy efficiency is so important. It is improving prosperity with a domestic, clean ‘source’ of energy,” he writes.

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The IEA Market Report states that energy efficiency investments over the last 25 years are the primary reason for this uncoupling of energy consumption from economic growth.

These investments have enabled consumers in IEA countries to spend US$5.7 trillion less on energy, while at the same time receiving higher levels of energy service.

The returns from energy efficiency investments have not been limited to financial gains. The report examines the strategic returns to consumers, industries, utilities and governments from improvements in energy productivity and energy security as well as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2014, the estimate of avoided total final consumption (TFC) from energy efficiency investments increased to over 520 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).

The IEA reports that “the energy efficiency market is anticipated to grow in the medium term – even in the current context of lower oil prices,” if this market is supported by policies that deliver “strategic returns.”

Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015 highlights

  • The energy intensity of countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) improved by 2.3 percent in 2014. OECD energy consumption is now as low as it was in 2000, while GDP has expanded by US$8.5 trillion, an increase of 26 percent.

“This suggests that these countries have successfully decoupled economic growth from energy consumption growth, with energy efficiency being the main contributing factor,” the report states.

  • Energy security in IEA countries is improving with increased energy efficiency. In 2014 alone, at least 190 Mtoe of primary energy imports were avoided in IEA countries, saving US$80 billion in import bills.
  • Energy efficiency improvements in IEA countries since 1990 have avoided a cumulative 10.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, helping to make the 2 degree warming goal more achievable.
  • Investments worldwide in energy efficiency in buildings, which account for more than 30 percent of global energy demand, are estimated to be US$90 billion (+/- 10 percent) and are set to expand.
  • Electricity consumption in IEA countries has flattened partly as a result of energy efficiency improvements. In the face of flat electricity demand, many electricity utilities are diversifying into energy efficiency services businesses to increase profits.

National governments are increasing their energy efficiency.

For instance, in March, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order setting new targets for the U.S. Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 2008 levels by 2025.

U.S. federal agencies have developed strategies to cut their emissions by reducing energy use in their buildings, making their vehicles more efficient, using clean energy sources like wind and solar, and employing energy savings performance contracts.

In the European Union, the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive establishes a set of binding measures to help the EU reach its 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020. Under the Directive, all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain from its production to its final consumption.

EU countries were required to transpose the Directive’s provisions into their national laws by June 5, 2014.

New national measures have to ensure major energy savings for consumers and industry alike. Energy distributors or retail energy sales companies have to achieve 1.5 percent energy savings per year through the implementation of energy efficiency measures. Large companies must audit their energy consumption to help them identify ways to reduce it.

The IEA reports that subnational governments such as cities and states are emerging as key actors in the efficiency market. The agency gives four examples:

In Paris, France actions taken by the city since 2008 under the Paris Climate and Energy Action Plan have resulted in the saving of about 130 gigawatt hours of power. The Plan stimulated investment of €640 million, creating 1,300 local jobs and 420 jobs elsewhere, according to the IEA report.

The U.S. state of Massachusetts invested US$680 million in energy efficiency programmes in 2013. The state estimates that its main efficiency programme, Mass Save, generated US$2.8 billion in benefits in 2013 through almost 3.3 million programme participants. This supported a state-level energy efficiency labor market of over 65,000 jobs.

Seoul, Korea’s “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” plan reduced municipal energy consumption by 2 Mtoe between 2012 and 2014. The plan promoted energy efficiency as a means to avoid the same volume of energy as could be supplied by a new nuclear plant. Energy efficiency efforts have leveraged over US$1 billion in private energy efficiency investment since 2008.

Tokyo, Japan has implemented transport policies that added 4.9 billion passenger-kilometres while reducing transport energy consumption by 35 percent. Investments in energy efficient public transport in tandem with dense residential and commercial developments have allowed the city to achieve some of the lowest energy intensities of buildings and transport in the OECD.

Developing countries too are making energy efficiency efforts. As fast-developing countries such as China and India grow, “their energy efficiency markets may have the most promise and greatest importance” for limiting climate change, finds the report.

“As this report describes, the breadth, scale and effect of the energy efficiency market is sizable but it is still only a start,” writes Birol. “We need more more investment, but also more political will and leadership at all levels to grow this market.”

“The potential is there, the benefits are ready to be realised, and the imperative to act is clear,” he writes. “Energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

International Energy Agency Member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Compact fluorescent bulbs come in many colors (Photo by AZ Adam under creative commons license via flickr)

Slide images: A. ThermoLift, recipient of a grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Buildings Technology Office, uses thermal energy from natural gas to heat and cool efficiently, reducing energy costs by up to 50 percent. (Photo by Matty Greene / U.S. Department of Energy) B. At the 2015 IEA Ministerial meeting Chair U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz picks out the next speaker, with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and Deputy Executive Director Paul Simons to his left and US Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for the Office of International Affairs Jonathan Elkind to his right.

Image 01: IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan during their meeting in Tokyo, September 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy IEA via Flickr)