Alternate (clean) energy/renewables 2009-13

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Abengoa’s Solana solar plant in Gila Bend, Arizona. CREDIT: DENNIS SCHROEDER, NREL

13 Major Clean Energy Breakthroughs Of 2013

(Climate Progress) While the news about climate change seems to get worse every day, the rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy is the true bright spot in the march toward a zero-carbon future. 2013 had more clean energy milestones than we could fit on one page, but here are thirteen of the key breakthroughs that happened this year.
While the news about climate change seems to get worse every day, the rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy is the true bright spot in the march toward a zero-carbon future. 2013 had more clean energy milestones than we could fit on one page, but here are thirteen of the key breakthroughs that happened this year.

1. Using salt to keep producing solar power even when the sun goes down. Helped along by the Department of Energy’s loan program, Solana’s massive 280 megawatt (MW) solar plant came online in Arizona this October, with one unique distinction: the plant will use a ‘salt battery’ that will allow it to keep generating electricity even when the sun isn’t shining. Not only is this a first for the United States in terms of thermal energy storage, the Solana plant is also the largest in the world to use to use parabolic trough mirrors to concentrate solar energy.
2. Electric vehicle batteries that can also power buildings.
Nissan’s groundbreaking ‘Vehicle-To-Building‘ technology will enable companies to regulate their electricity needs by tapping into EVs plugged into their garages during times of peak demand. Then, when demand is low, electricity flows back to the vehicles, ensuring they’re charged for the drive home. With Nissan’s system, up to six electric vehicles can be plugged into a building at one time. As more forms renewable energy is added to the grid, storage innovations like this will help them all work together to provide reliable power.
3. The next generation of wind turbines is a gamechanger. May of 2013 brought the arrival of GE’s Brilliant line of wind turbines, which bring two technologies within the turbines to address storage and intermittency concerns. An “industrial internet” communicates with grid operators, to predict wind availability and power needs, and to optimally position the turbine. Grid-scale batteries built into the turbines store power when the wind is blowing but the electricity isn’t needed — then feed it into the grid as demand comes along, smoothing out fluctuations in electricity supply. It’s a more efficient solution to demand peaks than fossil fuel plants, making it attractive even from a purely business aspect. Fifty-nine of the turbines are headed for Michigan, and two more will arrive in Texas.
4. Solar electricity hits grid parity with coal. A single solar photovoltaic (PV) cell cost $76.67 per watt back in 1977, then fell off a cliff. Bloomberg Energy Finance forecast the price would reach $0.74 per watt in 2013 and as of the first quarter of this year, they were actually selling for $0.64 per watt. That cuts down on solar’s installation costs — and since the sunlight is free, lower installation costs mean lower electricity prices. And in 2013, they hit grid parity with coal: in February, a southwestern utility, agreed to purchase electricity from a New Mexico solar project for less than the going rate for a new coal plant. Unsubsidized solar power reached grid parity in countries such as Italy and India. And solar installations have boomed worldwide and here in America, as the lower module costs have driven down installation prices.
5. Advancing renewable energy from ocean waves. With the nation’s first commercial, grid-connected underwater tidal turbine successfully generating renewable energy off the coast of Maine for a year, the Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has its sights set on big growth. The project has invested more than $21 million into the Maine economy and an environmental assessment in March found no detrimental impact on the marine environment. With help from the Department of Energy, the project is set to deploy two more devices in 2014. In November, ORPC was chosen to manage a wave-energy conversion project in remote Yakutat, Alaska. And a Japanese delegation visited the project this year as the country seeks to produce 30 percent of its total power offshore by 2030.
6. Harnessing ocean waves to produce fresh water.
This year saw the announcement of Carnegie Wave Energy’s upcoming desalination plant near Perth, Australia. It will use the company’s underwater buoy technology to harness ocean wave force to pressurize the water, cutting out the fossil-fuel-powered electric pumps that usually force water through the membrane in the desalination process. The resulting system — “a world first” — will be carbon-free, and efficient in terms of both energy and cost. Plan details were completed in October, the manufacturing contract was awarded in November, and when it’s done, the plant will supply 55 billion litters of fresh drinking water per year.
7. Ultra-thin solar cells that break efficiency records. Conversion efficiency is the amount of light hitting the solar cell that’s actually changed into electricity, and it’s typically 18.7 percent and 24 percent. But Alta Devices, a Silicon Valley solar manufacturer, set a new record of 30.8 percent conversion efficiency this year. Its method is more expensive, but the result is a durable and extremely thin solar cell that can generate a lot of electricity from a small surface area. That makes Alta’s cells perfect for small and portable electronic devices like smartphones and tablets, and the company is in discussions to apply them to mobile phones, smoke detectors, door alarms, computer watches, remote controls, and more.
8. Batteries that are safer, lighter, and store more power. Abundant and cost-effective storage technology will be crucial for a clean energy economy — no where more so than with electric cars. But right now batteries don’t always hold enough charge to power automobiles for extended periods, and they add significantly to bulk and cost. But at the start of 2013, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory successfully demonstrated a new lithium-ion battery technology that can store far more power in a much smaller size, and that’s safer and less prone to shorts. They used nanotechnology to create an electrolyte that’s solid, ultra-thin, and porous, and they also combined the approach with lithium-sulfur battery technology, which could further enhance cost-effectiveness.
9. New age offshore wind turbines that float. Offshore areas are prime real estate for wind farms, but standard turbines require lots of construction and are limited to waters 60 meters deep or less. But Statoil, the Norwegian-based oil and gas company, began work this year on a hub of floating wind turbines off the coast of Scotland. The turbines merely require a few cables to keep them anchored, and can be placed in water up to 700 meters. That could vastly expand the amount of economically practical offshore wind power. The hub off Scotland will be the largest floating wind farm in the world — and two floating turbines are planned off the coast of Fukushima, Japan, along with the world’s first floating electrical substation.
10. Cutting electricity bills with direct current power.
Alternating current (AC), rather than direct current (DC) is the dominant standard for electricity use. But DC current has its own advantages: its cheap, efficient, works better with solar panels and wind turbines, and doesn’t require adaptors that waste energy as heat. Facebook, JPMorgan, Sprint, Boeing, and Bank of America have all built datacenters that rely on DC power, since DC-powered datacenters are 20 percent more efficient, cost 30 percent less, and require 25 to 40 percent less floorspace. On the residential level, new USB technology will soon be able to deliver 100 watts of power, spreading DC power to ever more low voltage personal electronics, and saving homes inefficiency costs in their electricity bill.
11. Commercial production of clean energy from plant waste is finally here. Ethanol derived from corn, once held up as a climate-friendly alternative to gasoline, is under increasing fire. Many experts believe it drives up food prices, and studies disagree on whether it actually releases any less carbon dioxide when its full life cycle is accounted for. Cellulosic biofuels, promise to get around those hurdles, and 2013 may be when the industry finally turned the corner. INOES Bio’s cellulosic ethanol plant in Florida and KiOR’s cellulosic plant in Mississippi began commercial production this year. Two more cellulosic plants are headed for Iowa, and yet another’s being constructed in Kansas. The industry says 2014′s proposed cellulosic fuel mandate of 17 million gallons will be easily met.
12. Innovative financing bringing clean energy to more people. In DC, the first ever property-assessed clean energy (PACE) project allows investments in efficiency and renewables to be repaid through a special tax levied on the property, which lowers the risk for owners. Crowdfunding for clean energy projects made major strides bringing decentralized renewable energy to more people — particularly the world’s poor — and Solar Mosaic is pioneering crowdfunding to pool community investments in solar in the United States. California figured out how to allow customers who aren’t property owners or who don’t have a suitable roof for solar — that’s 75 percent of the state — to nonetheless purchase up to 100 percent clean energy for their home or business. Minnesota advanced its community solar gardens program, modeled after Colorado’s successful initiative. And Washington, DC voted to bring in virtual net metering, which allows people to buy a portion of a larger solar or wind project, and then have their portion of the electricity sold or credited back to the grid on their behalf, reducing the bill.
13. Wind power is now competitive with fossil fuels. “We’re now seeing power agreements being signed with wind farms at as low as $25 per megawatt-hour,” Stephen Byrd, Morgan Stanley’s Head of North American Equity Research for Power & Utilities and Clean Energy, told the Columbia Energy Symposium in late November. Byrd explained that wind’s ongoing variable costs are negligible, which means an owner can bring down the cost of power purchase agreements by spreading the up-front investment over as many units as possible. As a result, larger wind farms in the Midwest are confronting coal plants in the Powder River Basin with “fairly vicious competition.” And even without the production tax credit, wind can still undercut many natural gas plants. A clear sign of its viability, wind power currently meets 25 percent of Iowa’s energy needs and is projected to reach a whopping 50 percent by 2018.

Alternative energy news
February 2010 The Pew Center on Global Climate Change: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities
North American Environmental Commission Promoting Green Jobs with Renewable Energy Training Courses Web Directory
Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) working collaboratively with more than 60 renewable energy training institutions to support a greener North American economy
Montreal, 16 December 2010 The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is helping to advance training for green jobs in North America with the first trinational web-based directory, listing over 100 renewable energy training courses.
(BBC) The Green Room
Donald Sadoway: The missing link to renewable energy
What’s the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Storage — so we can have power on tap even when the sun’s not out and the wind’s not blowing. In this accessible, inspiring talk, Donald Sadoway takes to the blackboard to show us the future of large-scale batteries that store renewable energy. As he says: “We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap.”


Stanford scientists calculate the energy required to store wind and solar power on the gridwindfarm
Conventional grid-scale batteries are fine for solar farms, but technological improvements are needed for efficient storage of wind power, Stanford scientists say.
Renewable energy holds the promise of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But there are times when solar and wind farms generate more electricity than is needed by consumers. Storing that surplus energy in batteries for later use seems like an obvious solution, but a new study from Stanford University suggests that might not always be the case.
“We looked at batteries and other promising technologies for storing solar and wind energy on the electrical grid,” said Charles Barnhart, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP).
“Our primary goal was to calculate their overall energetic cost – that is, the total amount of fuel and electricity required to build and operate these storage technologies. We found that when you factor in the energetic costs, grid-scale batteries make sense for storing surplus solar energy, but not for wind.”

14 August
Bjørn Lomborg: The Decline of Renewable Energy
(Project Syndicate) Many today believe that renewable energy will let us get off fossil fuels soon. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise.

This illustration is by Chris Van Es and comes from <a href=""></a>, and is the property of the NewsArt organization and of its artist. Reproducing this image is a violation of copyright law.
Illustration by Chris Van Es

According to International Energy Agency data, 13.12% of the world’s energy came from renewables in 1971, the first year that the IEA reported global statistics. In 2011, renewables’ share was actually lower, at 12.99%. Yet a new survey shows that Americans believe that the share of renewables in 2035 will be 30.2%. In reality, it will likely be 14.5%.
Solar and wind energy account for a trivial proportion of current renewables – about one-third of one percentage point. The vast majority comes from biomass, or wood and plant material – humanity’s oldest energy source. While biomass is renewable, it is often neither good nor sustainable.
Burning wood in pre-industrial Western Europe caused massive deforestation, as is occurring in much of the developing world today. The indoor air pollution that biomass produces kills more than three million people annually. Likewise, modern energy crops increase deforestation, displace agriculture, and push up food prices.
The most renewables-intensive places in the world are also the poorest. Africa gets almost 50% of its energy from renewables, compared to just 8% for the OECD. Even the European OECD countries, at 11.8%, are below the global average.
The reality is that humanity has spent recent centuries getting away from renewables. In 1800, the world obtained 94% of its energy from renewable sources. That figure has been declining ever since.

9 July
New plant at Toronto Zoo will use animal poop and garbage to generate electricity
(RCI) A new biogas plant to be built on zoo grounds in 2014 will combine 3,000 tonnes of manure and 14,000 tonnes of grocery waste to produce electricity, heat and fertilizer.
The waste mixture will be placed in an anaerobic digestion chamber where millions of bacteria will slowly break it down.
The 500 kW plant will generate enough electricity for 250 homes per year. ZooShare Biogas Co-operative has recently signed a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority.
Furthermore, emission reductions from the plant will be the equivalent of removing 2,100 cars off the road each year.

13 March
Surge in renewable energy as solar panel prices plummet
However, falling costs also meant that revenue generated by the industry remained flat, says Clean Edge report
Felix von Geyer in Montreal
(The Guardian) The global deployment of renewable energy from wind, solar and biofuels grew in 2012 but the income from the sector remained flat due to the plummeting costs for solar photovoltaic panels.
The revenue for the three technologies increased by 1% globally to $249bn in 2012, according to the Clean Energy Trends 2013 report released on Tuesday by renewable energy research firm Clean Edge.

19 February
UK green technology faltering, says EEF
(Financial Times) Manufacturers warn that UK green technology output is faltering, jeopardising hopes of achieving a potential £880bn boost to the economy by 2050.
Britain is the world’s sixth largest producer and provider in the field, generating £122bn in annual sales of green goods and services but the EEF manufacturers’ organisation said that position was in danger as industry’s output shrinks. Manufacturing’s share of UK sales of low-carbon goods and services contracted slightly in 2010-11, while countries such as China, the US, India and South Korea recorded double-digit growth in their green industrial base.

Renewables could soon supply 80% of world’s energy, Ban says
Politicians are lagging behind scientists and military leaders in sounding the alarm over climate change, and the consequences could be catastrophic, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week. “It’s time to move beyond spending enormous sums addressing the damage and to make investments that will repay themselves many times over,” Ban said. “With the right enabling public policies, close to 80% of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century. This is not utopian or science fiction. It is current fact,” he added. Council on Foreign Relations online (2/11),


14 December
Lawmakers to push tax code change for renewable energy in 2013
(Planet Ark/WEN) A group of U.S. lawmakers said on Wednesday that they plan to push ahead in the new year to change the tax code so renewable energy projects could qualify for beneficial tax structures commonly used by pipelines and other energy-related companies.
Democratic and Republican sponsors of proposed legislation said they think momentum is growing for their idea to allow wind, solar, biofuel and other renewable projects to structure as “master limited partnerships” (MLPs).
The structures allow companies to raise money in the stock market, while having income taxed only at the unit holder level, thus avoiding corporate income taxes.

12 December
Dreams of a ‘Green Utopia’ Wither in the Maghreb
(IPS) – When the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), an alliance of 21 major European corporations, first unveiled plans to install a network of solar thermal, photovoltaic, and wind plants across the North African Maghreb region to generate electricity, the project was greeted as a ‘green utopia’.
Expected to generate 100 gigawatts by 2050, the project demanded an investment of 400 billion euros.
In a study released last summer, Desertec predicted that an integrated power system for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa would allow Europe to meet its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction target of 95 percent in the power sector by importing up to 20 percent of its electricity from the Maghreb, thus saving 33 billion euros per year.
Meanwhile, the project would enable Middle Eastern and North African countries to meet their own energy needs using the abundant solar and wind resources in the region, and achieve 50 percent of CO2 reductions in the power sector despite a massive increase in demand.
The region would benefit from an export industry worth up to 63 billion euros per year.
Now, three years since the project was announced, the Desertec dream is yet to be realised, and euphoria has given way to harsh criticisms ranging from accusations of incompetence to shortfalls in corporate governance.

22 November
Mike De Souza: Cutting oil and gas incentives would create thousands of clean energy jobs, says report
( The federal government could create 18,000 jobs if it removed existing tax incentives for oil and gas companies, and invested the money instead in industries that reduce pollution, says a new report to be released Thursday by an alliance of labour and environmental groups.
The analysis immediately prompted an industry spokesman to respond by noting that oil and gas companies were responsible for hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs through private sector investments, while contributing billions of dollars to government coffers in tax revenues and royalty payments.
The industry’s main lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also said that subsidies for alternative forms of energy would not be economically responsible.
But the 30-page report – called More Bang for our Buck – based its estimates on previously published studies about the economic benefits of investments in energy efficiency, home retrofits, and emerging energy sectors such as wind and solar power.

2 July
UN Foundation Board Member Muhammad Yunus composes a forward for new green energy book
UN Foundation Board Member and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus memos the forward for Nancy Wimmer’s newest book, “Green Energy for a Billion Poor.” Yunus gives a detailed account of what the term “green energy” entails and also talks about his triumphs and struggles as the founder of the micro-finance organization, Grameen Bank. Read more.
Japan Approves Renewable Subsidies In Shift From Nuclear Power

(Planet Ark) Japan approved on Monday incentives for renewable energy that could unleash billions of dollars in clean-energy investment and help the world’s third-biggest economy shift away from a reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.
Industry Minister Yukio Edano approved the introduction of feed-in tariffs (FIT), which means higher rates will be paid for renewable energy. The move could expand revenue from renewable generation and related equipment to more than $30 billion by 2016, brokerage CLSA estimates.
The subsidies from July 1 are one of the few certainties in Japan’s energy landscape, where the government has gone back to the drawing board to write a power policy after the Fukushima radiation crisis … The push for renewables is aimed at cutting reliance on not only nuclear, but pricey oil and liquefied natural gas for energy needs.

8 June
Wirth: Renewable energy will power responsible development
Initiatives arising from the Rio+20 summit will benefit from the idea that “energy is essential for development, and sustainable energy is essential for sustainable development,” writes Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation. The three key objectives of the UN are ensuring universal access to energy, a 100% increase in the rate of energy efficiency gains and doubling renewable energy’s global share, Wirth writes. AOL Energy (6/8)
7 June
Cleaner World Economy Could Create 60 Million Jobs Over 20 Years
(The 9 billion) Contrary to what some have come to believe, a UN report says that a shift to a cleaner world economy could generate as many as 60 million jobs over the next 20 years, lifting millions of people off the poverty line and delivering the world into a more sustainable future.
The organization is urging governments worldwide to use the upcoming Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development to help turn this into a reality with new ideas and plans to create jobs and clean up their energy acts.
A new report [Working towards sustainable development: Opportunities for decent work and social inclusion in a green economy] released by the International Labour Organisation, United Nations Environment Programme, and International Trade Union Congress states industries such as energy, construction, transport, and agriculture have created tens of millions of jobs. Over time, these industries will affect as many as 1.5 billion people, or half of the world’s working population.
30 March
Investments in limbo as EU reconsiders biofuels
The European Union could be on the verge of changing its policies on biofuels amid claims that some renewable sources, such as diesel fuel made from vegetable oil and waste animal fat, are no better for the climate than conventional fuels. This could mean that demand for biofuels would drop, potentially undercutting many investments, as well as EU efforts to ensure that 10% of the total energy used in transport comes from renewable sources by 2020. The Wall Street Journal (2/3)
Rare earths are needed for clean energy
Growth of global clean-energy industries are at risk of a slowdown as a result of Chinese dominance of the market for rare minerals, which has led to soaring costs — as much as 10 times the levels in 2010 — for hard-to-find metals widely used in the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, electric car batteries and energy-efficient light bulbs. “There are so far not many alternatives,” said Rob Mathlener, author of a report urging companies to focus on recycling and reusing resources. The Guardian (London) (1/27)
Sustainable Energy for All
In his keynote address to the World Future Energy Summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on governments, the private sector, and civil society to make significant commitments to action in support of his Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. His call to action underscores the importance of energy to sustainable development, and contributes to the global launch of 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. To learn more about the Sustainable Energy For All movement, visit the UN Foundation website. Read more at the Sustainable Energy for All website.
Solar power affordability drives development
The falling prices of technology associated with solar power are opening up the possibility of shifting away from fossil fuels for millions across the developing world. About 1.3 billion people worldwide are without steady access to an affordable power source. Richenda Van Leeuwen, senior director for Energy and Climate at the United Nations Foundation, said, “This sector has exploded. There’s been a sea change in the last five years.” MIT Technology Review online (1/27)
UN chief seeks sustainable-energy commitment to reduce poverty
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for increased investment in wind, solar, hydroelectric and other sustainable-energy sources as a key piece of global poverty reduction in an address at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “Why should energy poverty condemn billions to darkness, to missed opportunities for education and prosperity?” Ban said. The Washington Post/The Associated Press (1/16), Google/Agence France-Presse (1/16)
Renewable-energy sector is growing across Africa
A combination of massive unmet demand, potential abundant renewable-energy supply and a lack of fossil fuel-reliant infrastructure are helping drive growth in renewable-energy investment across Africa, which rose from $750 million in 2004 to $3.6 billion last year. The United Nations designated 2012 as the year of Sustainable Energy for All and is bringing together the efforts of several initiatives including the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the Africa-European Union Energy Partnership. (U.K.) (1/4)


Innovation is a key driver of warming response
The race to develop green technologies — China reportedly invested $54 billion in low carbon energy technology in 2010, and the U.S. invested $34 billion — is likely to accomplish what negotiators at UN climate talks cannot. “There is an informal green technology race, led by China, that may in the end be even more successful than that formal deal,” said Jo Leinen, the lawmaker leading the European Parliament’s delegation to the talks in the South African port city of Durban. Reuters (12/9)
10 November
Renewable energy expansion believers ‘smoking dope’: IEA official
Environmentalists who believe a massive global investment in renewable energy is the answer to future demands are “smoking dope,” says the deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency.
(Financial Post) Richard Jones was responding to Greenpeace Canada accusations that the IEA was taking an “intellectually and morally inconsistent” stand by supporting pipelines and the oilsands sector while scolding world leaders about climate change inaction. Pipeline megaprojects, and the oilsands bitumen that would be carried by proposed energy arteries from Alberta to B.C.’s west coast and to Texas, are important components of global energy security, Jones said.
He was commenting on his organization’s annual report that warns of stark consequences if the world doesn’t take far tougher action to reduce carbon emissions.
22 August
Analysis: German Rail To Run On Sun, Wind To Keep Clients Happy
(Planet Ark|Reuters) It won’t be easy to run a national railway on renewable energy like wind, hydro and solar power but that is what Germany’s Deutsche Bahn aims to do for one simple reason: it’s what consumers want.
Deutsche Bahn says it wants to raise the percentage of wind, hydro and solar energy to power its trains from 20 percent now to 28 percent in 2014 and become carbon-free by 2050.
“Consumers in Germany have made it clear they want us all to get away from nuclear energy and to more renewable energy,” Hans-Juergen Witschke, chief executive of Deutsche Bahn Energie, said of the railway’s attention-grabbing revised targets that exceed the government’s already ambitious national aims.
“It’s what customers want and we’re making it happen,” Witschke said in an interview with Reuters. “The demand for green electricity keeps rising each year and that’ll continue.”
Computers Help Create a Clean Energy Future
(Tierramérica) – The use of information technology in energy planning can contribute not only to developing renewable energy sources but also to moving towards a green economy.
The Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning System (LEAP) is a software tool developed at the non-governmental Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) that is widely used for energy policy analysis and climate change mitigation assessment.
“It’s a sophisticated tool but at the same time user-friendly and functional,” Charles Heaps, LEAP developer and director of the U.S. branch of SEI, told Tierramérica. For example, he explained, if a government wants the answer to a specific question, such as the carbon footprint of a generator, the software gives rapid responses concerning a series of related questions, such as the location, capacity, and potential options for the resources to be used.
15 August
Developing world leading new investments in green energy

(SciDevNet) The developing world has, for the first time, outstripped richer economies in providing new investment in the renewable energy sector, according to a report.
And research and development (R&D) funding from government sources, at US$5 billion in 2010, for the first time overtook corporate R&D investment, according to ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011’, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) last month (7 July).
1 July
Solar Sister wants to light up rural Africa
(CSM) Rugged, intuitive to use, affordable solar lamps that women can sell door-to-door change lives.
One-year-old start up Solar Sister is using cosmetics company AVON’s model to distribute solar energy in Uganda, Sudan, and Rwanda.
16 June
Analysis: Gas Is Killing Green Energy In Price War
(Planet Ark) A widening shale gas revolution is killing the economics of renewable energy, even as falling costs allow wind and solar to overtake fossil fuels in niche areas, say energy executives and analysts.
Solar panel prices are down about 10 percent this year, but chasing a moving target as discovery of cheap shale gas spreads beyond the United States, experts told Reuters energy and climate summit.
Even big renewables investors, such as French energy company Total, see solar as a tiny part of the picture decades out, compared with gas. Total paid $1.4 billion for a majority stake in U.S.-based SunPower Corp.
26 May
Arab Spring Boosts Dream of Desert Power
(Spiegel) Desertec is a multi-billion-dollar energy initiative that hopes to meet Europe’s energy needs with solar power from the Sahara. The recent upheavals in North Africa have put the project in question. But many experts argue that the Arab Spring will actually help Desertec’s grand vision become reality. The Desertec project first got energy experts and the public buzzing back in 2009, when the plans were announced. The grand — some would say grandiose — idea is to construct a network of concentrating solar-thermal power systems in North African deserts to produce green electricity that can be used at the local level — and ultimately exported to European countries.
Solar power lights up East Africa
Barefoot Power has created a network of business people bring affordable solar power options to villages across East Africa. From a small portable panel with light and a phone charger to a larger system to power an entire house, the solar entrepreneurs have a product for every budget. Supporters tout the products as safer, more environmentally friendly than kerosene — which is a main light source across the region. The Christian Science Monitor (5/19)
Renewables could power global future
Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can produce enough supply to power the world and help fight global warming, according to a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Building capacity and use of renewables would cost only 1% of global GDP and help keep greenhouse-gas concentrations below levels where scientists predict climate change would become irreversible. The Guardian (London) (5/9) Renewables Could Be 80 Percent Of Energy By 2050: U.N. (Reuters/Planet Ark)
25 April
Sun-harvesting textiles power remote villages
( [CURITIBA] Portable solar-powered lights that combine nanotechnology with local crafts could help bring electricity to some of the nearly two billion people without access to electricity.
The Portable Light Project, a non-profit initiative led by Kennedy & Violich Architecture and Global Solar Energy, in the United States, inserts tiny solar cells into shirts, woven items and bags produced by remote communities in developing countries. The project aims to integrate clean energy and lighting with indigenous textile production. This helps local communities adopt the new technology and add value to it through their own work.
9 April
Power study boosts electrics
(Toronto Star) Are electric cars good for the environment?
In Ontario and Quebec, the answer is “Yes.” For Alberta, it’s a toss-up. In P.E.I., a definite “No.”
That, at least, is the conclusion of a new study that asked: Do electric cars cut pollution?
The study — from UK-based Ecometrica, which has offices in Edinburgh and Montreal and specializes in greenhouse-gas accounting — is good news for the electric-car crowd.
16 March
Tapping natural gas as a bridge to the future
A gas supplier’s hunch in the 1980s about tapping natural gas locked in shale formations has paid off handsomely and with huge implications for global energy. Hydraulic fracturing has greatly boosted supplies of the clean-burning fossil fuel, which could now serve as an “enabler” for renewables, supplying power when wind and sun are insufficient. “The sudden abundance of low-cost natural gas is a gift,” said Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, who also notes that it should be “managed properly.” The Wall Street Journal (4/2)
2 February
China Takes Lead in Race for Clean Nuclear Power
(The Energy Report) China has officially announced it will launch a program to develop a thorium-fueled molten-salt nuclear reactor, taking a crucial step toward shifting to nuclear power as a primary energy source.
The project was unveiled at the annual Chinese Academy of Sciences conference in Shanghai last week, and reported in the Wen Hui Bao newspaper.
If the reactor works as planned, China may fulfill a long-delayed dream of clean nuclear energy. The United States could conceivably become dependent on China for next-generation nuclear technology and/or fall dramatically behind in developing green energy.
Figueres: China leads on clean energy spending
China is making more progress in developing a renewable energy economy and industry than the U.S. or the European Union, says Christiana Figueres, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. China instituted the world’s largest budget increase for spending on development of low-carbon energy in 2010, earmarking more than $51 billion. Bloomberg (1/27)
20 January
Experts Criticize Evidence Used to Diagnose a Suspected Leak at One of the World’s Largest CO2 Storage Sites
(Scientific American) The recent release of an independent geochemical consulting firm’s report concluding that carbon dioxide is leaking from one of the world’s largest CO2 geologic storage projects—located at the Weyburn–Midale oil fields in Saskatchewan—has caused a public relations crisis, not only for Cenovus Energy, the oil company that operates the site, but for the CO2-alleviation strategy of carbon capture and storage (CCS). But scientists are pushing back, arguing that the evidence does not justify the report’s conclusions.
18 January
(NYT Debate) Can the U.S. Compete With China on Green Tech?
The Obama administration has sought to promote green technology as a growth engine in the U.S. But even with some government support, new firms have a hard time competing with foreign producers. The U.S. currently accounts for just $1.6 billion of the world’s $29 billion market for solar panels, with China, using aggressive policies, to become the dominant maker of equipment like solar panels and wind turbines. Congress was so concerned about unfair trade practices harming American manufacturers that it recently approved a provision to require the Pentagon to buy only American-made solar panels.
India plans Asian tidal power first
(BBC) The Indian state of Gujarat is planning to host Asia’s first commercial-scale tidal power station.
The company Atlantis Resources is to install a 50MW tidal farm in the Gulf of Kutch on India’s west coast, with construction starting early in 2012.
UN chief appeals for clean energy transformation
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is calling for a revolution in clean energy as a key to addressing not only climate change but also world development goals. Addressing the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, he said affordable and clean energy is necessary for the health of the planet as well as meeting Millennium Development Goals across a range of peace and prosperity issues. Google/Agence France-Presse (1/17)


25 December
African Huts Far From the Grid Glow With Renewable Power
(NYT) As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.
6 December
Russia’s Putin Says Wind Turbines Kill Birds
(Planet Ark) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that wind power can pose environmental risks, casting doubts over plans to develop this alternative energy source in the oil-rich country.
29 November
Ecometrica was recently named the first Canadian “Carbon Calculation” partner by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).
As only five other companies have managed to attain this status, the accreditation is a significant endorsement for the
Montreal-­‐based company. ecometrica-cdp-accreditation-press-release.pdf
Globalizing the energy revolution — How to Really Win the Clean-Energy Race
Clean-energy technology is expensive and the United States is spending far too little on developing it. The U.S. government must do more to promote cross-border innovation and protect intellectual property rights.
(Foreign Affairs November/December) … A massive drive to develop cheaper clean-energy solutions is necessary. Indeed, many claim that it has already begun — just not in the United States. They warn that the United States is losing a generation-defining clean-energy race to China and the other big emerging economies.
… But an energy agenda built on fears of a clean-energy race could quickly backfire. Technology advances most rapidly when researchers, firms, and governments build on one another’s successes. When clean-energy investment is seen as a zero-sum game aimed primarily at boosting national competitiveness, however, states often erect barriers. They pursue trade and industrial policies that deter foreigners from participating in the clean-energy sectors of their economies, rather than adopting approaches that accelerate cross-border cooperation. This slows down the very innovation that they are trying to promote at home and simultaneously stifles innovation abroad.
29 September
Alternative Energy Projects Stumble on a Need for Water
(NYT) Solar Millennium finds itself in the midst of a new-age version of a Western water war. The public is divided, pitting some people who hope to make money selling water rights to the company against others concerned about the project’s impact on the community and the environment. Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.
23 September
An Ailing Shipyard Finds New Life with Renewable Energies
(Spiegel) The German wind energy sector is expanding, opening up fresh business opportunities — even for unlikely candidates like warship makers. The Nordseewerke shipyard has rejiggered its business model and decided to go green. Schaaf Industrie AG (SIAG), a mid-sized company specializing in supplying parts for wind turbines and located in the Westerwald area, well inland of Emden, bought the 106-year-old shipyard this March. The company isn’t interested in continuing with shipbuilding and certainly not with manufacturing armaments. Environmental technology offers far better opportunities.
British firms miss out as world’s biggest offshore windfarm opens off UK coast
Blow to UK green techonology industry as less than 20% of £900m investment in Thanet windfarm goes to British firms
The lack of British content in the new offshore windfarms is an awkward reality check for successive governments, which have always talked about the number of “green” jobs that will result from renewable investment.
But industrialists said this situation would continue until the UK attracted a major turbine-making facility because the blades account for the bulk of the total project cost.
3 August
New inexpensive solar cell design
One of the most promising technologies for making inexpensive but reasonably efficient solar photovoltaic cells just got much cheaper. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada have shown that inexpensive nickel can work just as well as gold for one of the critical electrical contacts that gather the electrical current produced by their colloidal quantum dot solar cells.
3 June
Loan Giants Opt to Block [Clean] Energy Programs

Two government-chartered mortgage finance companies are unlikely to accept loans on homes that are part of a special program that lets homeowners repay the cost of energy improvements through a surcharge on their property tax bills, according to Energy Department officials. The Obama administration has allocated $150 million in stimulus money to support the financing technique, called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, and 22 states have authorized such programs. In a separate stimulus effort, President Obama on Saturday announced nearly $2 billion in loan guarantees for solar energy production.
How Canadian Oilsands Can Go Green – At Less Than $10/barrel
(The Energy Report) A large part of Canada’s massive oil sands deposits could become one of the most “green” energies on the planet, by using electricity to heat up and break down the heavy oil. EEOR, or Electrically Enhanced Oil RecoverySM is a new technology being field tested in Saskatchewan by a Canadian junior producer, Deloro Resources.
Comment from Dr. Catherine Gillbert: Interesting technology but some issues not addressed. Where is the electricity coming from? In Saskatchewan it is probably coal so that means the greenhouse gases produced for the whole process could be worse than using natural gas. Secondly it is not clear if the heavy fraction of the oil is left in the ground. I suspect not so there would still be the problem of the ponds. The plus is no strip mining which is not something that has bothered me. I have visited the mines and I think the regeneration will be fine as long as the laws are enforced.
31 May
Singapore Chases Green Dollars In Clean-Tech Race
(Reuters/Planet Ark) The plant is the world’s largest of its type making solar wafers, cells and panels that harness the sun’s energy.
Luring REC was a major coup and key element of Singapore’s drive to become a global hub for clean-tech investment, development and education and a center for the carbon market.
The clean-tech sector is also part of the government’s efforts to try to gradually shift one of Asia’s most energy-intensive economies onto a greener footing as well as tap a boom in green energy and services in the region.
23 April
Hydrogen tries again
Has the lightest and most abundant stuff in the universe found a new role in energy?
[Has] the hydrogen economy been finally laid to rest? Yes, as far as motoring is concerned. But the industrial use of hydrogen—as an energy carrier that is both clean and free of foreign influence—seems to be gaining favour in business circles. [The] policy shift that axed research on hydrogen cars simultaneously poured $1 billion of stimulus money into a clean-coal project called FutureGen … actually a huge hydrogen production facility in disguise.
8 April
China Is Eager to Bring High-Speed Rail Expertise to the U.S.
The Chinese government has signed cooperation agreements with the State of California and General Electric to help build such lines. The agreements, both of which are preliminary, show China’s desire to become a big exporter and licensor of bullet trains traveling 215 miles an hour, an environmentally friendly technology in which China has raced past the United States in the last few years.
26 March
Agency urges new focus on green tech
In Canada, upstart clean-tech companies suffer from the lack of domestic buying support
“Canadians don’t seem to want to buy from their own companies,” said Vicky Sharpe, chief executive officer of federal agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
25 March
Pew report: China leading in clean energy spending, amid slew of resource deals
China has taken the lead in investments in clean energy, spending nearly double what the U.S. did in 2009, as it ramps up projects in both renewable and traditional energy, a report said Thursday. China’s investment and financing for clean energy rose to US$34.6 billion in 2009, out of $162 billion invested globally, according to WHO’S WINNING THE CLEAN ENERGY RACE? Growth, Competition and Opportunity in the World’s Largest Economies, the report by the non-profit Pew Charitable Trusts. U.S. spending ranked second, at $18.6 billion, with European nations also recording strong growth. Canada was ranked eighth.
24 March
Steel mill Gerdau makes TSX’s new clean-tech index
Talk of clean technology typically conjures notions of cutting-edge fuel cells and sprawling wind farms, not the blast furnaces of a steel mill. But among the companies in the Toronto Stock Exchange’s new clean-tech index is a fixture of the smokestack industry, Gerdau Ameristeel Corp.
The new S&P/TSX Clean Technology Index, announced yesterday, is made up of 21 companies whose main business is to develop and use technologies friendly to the planet.
Its constituents range from familiar names such as Burnaby, B.C.-based Ballard Power Systems Inc., the hydrogen fuel-cell company, to more obscure names such as Burcon NutraScience Corp. of Vancouver, which describes itself as a health and nutrition company that purifies proteins in canola and soy.
19 March
Bloomberg predicts renewable energy boom
Although annual global expenditure on renewable energy projects is expected to jump from $90bn (£59bn) last year to $150bn by 2020, it will need to increase by up to a third more if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
That is the conclusion of new research released this week by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, an analyst firm specialising in renewable energy and carbon markets, which warned yearly investment in renewable power sources must rise to $230bn by the end of the decade if governments are to meet their goal of ensuring global greenhouse gas emissions peak.
3 March 2010
Bio-Fueling the Future
Four Canuck technologies are out to change the way we gas up.
Canada might hold much of the world’s oil supply, but that is not stopping its entrepreneurial companies from being world leaders in second-generation biofuel technologies. More than 100 companies are in the race to prove their technology can replace fossil fuels with affordable and planet-friendly biofuels to heat homes and schools, and rev up industrial and transportation engines.
Despite decades of work, the majority of the next generation biofuels – which are made from materials that do not compete with food production – are still in the R&D stage. But, a few Canadian companies are among the dozen that are commercial or near commercial, and each has the potential to change the way the world fuels up.
17 February
Pew Center Briefs Point to Clean Energy Jobs, Detail Carbon Market Oversight
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has released two timely publications that make the case for market-based clean energy and climate solutions.
Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities, a new brief, explains how investment in clean energy technologies will generate economic growth and create new jobs in the United States and around the world. Comprehensive, market-based national policy that attracts investment in clean energy markets can help create these economic benefits.
A second brief, Carbon Market Design & Oversight, assesses the opportunity now before Congress to create the optimal design and oversight mechanisms to ensure a viable, transparent, and robust carbon market.
January 22, 2009
Collapse of the Clean Coal Myth
A month of negative news for the Tennessee Valley Authority could lead to positive changes in national policy, including federal regulation of toxic coal wastes and new legal constraints on coal-fired power plants. More broadly, the authority’s recent travails may help persuade the public that coal is nowhere near as “clean” as a high-priced industry advertising campaign makes it out to be.

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