“Kirby’s Future” Wins Fuel the Future Video Contest

A young woman from Des Moines, Iowa, Helena Gruensteid, who attends Roosevelt High School, took home the top honors in the Fuel the Future video contest. The top three placing high school videos were unveiled yesterday during the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit held in Altoona, Iowa. Gruensteid was awarded $1,000 for her video “Kirby’s Future. The contest was sponsored by the BrownWinick Law Firm.

Evan Boss, Brock Henderson, and Christian Moore of North Linn High School and North Linn FFA and won the $600 second place prize for their video entitled, “North Linn FFA E15 Video.”

Hannah Song, a senior at Iowa City West High School, was awarded the $400 third place prize for her video entitled, “Fuel the Future with E15.”

“I want to thank all of the Iowa high school students who took on the challenge of entering this year’s contest and learning about the benefits of using renewable fuels, like E15 and biodiesel,” said IRFA Communications Director T.J. Page. “While all of the videos were fantastic, Helena’s entry stood out for its entertaining storyline, and imaginative presentation of benefits of using homegrown, cleaner-burning E15.”

View the 10th Annual Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1A new report, “LNG and Renewable Power: Risk and Opportunity in a Changing World,” by economists at global consulting firm The Brattle Group finds that competition between renewable power and gas-fired generation using liquefied natural gas (LNG) from North America is increasing in overseas markets as a result of declining renewable power costs.
  • Sullivan Solar Power recently installed a solar PV system at National Association of Music Merchants‘ headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. Six solar carport structures were installed to not only provide shade for vehicles, but also to eliminate 73 percent of the organization’s energy needs. Sullivan Solar Power designed and installed 714 locally manufactured Kyocera solar panels. The 235,950-Watt solar power system will provide the organization an annual savings of $56,000.
  • Southern California Edison (SCE) has received the green light from state regulators to begin a pilot project to support installation of as many as 1,500 electric vehicle charging stations within its service territory. The California Public Utilities Commission’s approval clears the way for SCE to begin implementing its $22 million “Charge Ready” program to get more electric vehicle charging stations installed in locations where people park their cars for extended periods of time.
  • Green Charge Networks has announced $20 million in non-recourse project finance debt plus a $30 million accordion from Ares Capital Corporation. The financing will be used to fund Green Charge’s rapidly growing Power Efficiency Agreement portfolio that includes equipment, construction, operations and maintenance of behind-the-meter projects. Green Charge has more than 31.3 megawatt hours of energy storage projects in operation or under construction ranging from school districts, retail, governments and utilities. Green Charge’s projects are the energy storage industry’s first to be financed through non-recourse debt.

Secy Vilsack: Continue to Tout Biofuel Benefits

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, spent the morning back in his home state of Iowa (Vilsack is a former Iowa Governor) to kick off the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. He began his remarks by saying its great to be back in Iowa and great to be back in front of folks who understand the importance of the renewable fuels industry. He also mentioned he is proud of the work the USDA has done to help expand the industry.

The key focus on his speech was the amount of people, both consumers and legislators, who don’t see the benefits of this industry the way we see them, who are attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in the courts, and attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard in the halls of Congress. “But we continue to point out to those who oppose this industry, the benefits of the country.”USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack during 10th Annual Iowa Summit

For example, the ethanol industry has helped reduce the price of gas at the pump, even as gas prices go down, and given consumers choice at the pump. He also noted biofuels benefit the farm and rural communities, and help to reduce the trade deficit.

Vilsack discussed several of the programs the USDA has implemented to help grow and improve the industry including the Biomass Assistance Program, Biomass Research Centers and Loan Guarantees. But he said he was most excited of the new markets that are being developed. He also highlighted the Farms to Fly program that is looking at producing renewable biofuels for the aviation and shipping industry as well as biofuels for our military.

We need consumers to understand that every time they go to the pump, they are helping the industry. He also stressed the importance of the blender pump program and continuing to bring more mid-level blends to consumers.

In closing, Vilsack said expanding the renewable fuels industry is more than just the benefits (choice at pump, environment, national security, etc.). “It’s really about preserving the value system of rural America. This is an industry that allows us the process of diversifying the opportunities in rural America, to support production agriculture, to expand the biobased economy…so that we have more stable farm income and we give people opportunities to live, work and raise their families in rural areas. That is important to me.”

Listen to USDA Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s full remarks: Vilsack Remarks During IRFA Summit

10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album

IRFA’s Shaw: We Will Not Retreat

“Today, Iowa’s renewable fuels industry – the entire renewable fuels industry quite frankly – is at a fork in the road. We must decide whether to retreat, or whether to fight for victory. I know we will not retreat. It is simply not in the farmers DNA. So we fight,” said Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) during the opening session of the 10th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit referring to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This legislation, said Shaw, is the key to long-term success of renewable fuels.

IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw“I know the renewable fuels industry will not waiver or retreat or surrender,” said Shaw. “It will continue to battle for market access and to tear down the bogus ‘blend wall.’ I know this because the renewable fuels industry has fought the odds for 35 years – and won.”

He continued, “Keeping the RFS intact is key to near term biodiesel growth, the ability for cellulosic ethanol to have a chance to develop, and to pulling corn ethanol above 15 billion gallons per year. When the RFS finally breaches the artificial blend wall and major markets add the distribution infrastructure necessary for E15, ethanol use won’t increase by just that prescribed amount. Once the hole is in the dam, the octane value of corn ethanol will burst through – pulled by the RFS just as certainly as cellulosic ethanol and biodiesel.”

He also noted there is not a consensus to repeal nor modify the RFS in D.C. Do buy in to the narrative and choose the path of retreat because Big Oil is trying to win, he added.

To view Shaw’s selected prepared remarks, click here.

Why Chris Soules Supports Ethanol

Chris Soules at Iowa NASCAR race 2016

Iowa farmer Chris Soules speaks with race fans about ethanol during the Iowa Iowa NASCAR race last summer.

Iowa native and farmer Chris Soules rose to fame as The Bachelor and his participation in Dancing With The Stars. He has since used his status to spread positive messages about biofuels including ethanol. I spoke with Chris recently to learn why biofuels are so important to him and why he has leveraged his notoriety in partnerships with several ag and biofuel organizations to be a national face and voice for agribusiness.

Q: Was one of the reasons you went on The Bachelor to create a platform to talk about agriculture to consumers?

A: I went on show to hopefully meet someone. However, since then I’ve realized that I have interesting, positive experiences, in particular about being a farmer, that I want to share. I’m thankful that I have been able to work with organizations such as Growth Energy who have given me the opportunity to share my stories about how farmers work every day to provide food and fuel to consumers across the country.

Q: Of all of the issues you can champion, why biofuels?

A: Biofuels are an important way to help America diversify its fuel choices and move away from foreign oil. It’s also a clean burning fuel as compared to gas, so not only is it a good economic choice, but the consumer is also helping the environment at the same time.

Q: Do you use biofuels (biodiesel or ethanol) on your family farm? Do you grow crops for biofuels?

A: Yes, on our farm we use both ethanol and biodiesel. We also grow the crops, corn and soybeans, that are used to produce the biofuels.

Q: How will your farm be affected if the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) doesn’t continue to ramp up?

A: My family began to lose demand for our products resulting in lower prices. It would also end up costing jobs in rural areas. When biofuels were identified as a way to diversify our fuel supply and bring jobs back to rural America, demand for our product rose. So if the RFS doesn’t move forward, demand will drop again hurting not only our family’s livelihood and family farms across the country, but millions in the Midwest who rely on ag-based jobs and a thriving ag community.

*Note, while final volumes for renewable fuels under the RFS were increased for 2104, 2015 and 2016 at the end of last year, they are still not at mandated levels leaving the RFS in jeopardy.

Q: Do you plan on continuing your public awareness efforts around biofuels in 2016?

A: Yes. Biofuels are very important to me and my family, and the nation’s energy security. That is why I an proud to help raise awareness of the importance of biofuels and the RFS.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1China Sunergy has announced that it has successfully completed a 2.5MW solar module supply agreement with Stobart Group. The modules will be used for the construction of the solar farm located at London Southend Airport to satisfy around 20% of the airport’s annual electricity requirement. The solar array, which consists of over 9,500 individual solar panels and occupies 3.2 hectares of unused grassland at the north of the airport site, makes it the largest at a UK airport.
  • ReNew Power Ventures Private Limited, one of India’s largest clean energy companies, has announced the commissioning of 40 MW wind power project in the Raichur district of Karnataka. This project consists of 20 X 2 MW G97 turbines supplied by Gamesa India. With this, the total wind capacity commissioned by ReNew Power till date is 693 MW.
  • 3 Phases Renewables has announced a new contract with the City of Santa Monica to supply clean, 100% renewable power for all municipal operations, beginning in January 2016. Santa Monica was the first city in the nation to convert its operations to renewable power and in the coming years it has plans to expand its renewable energy purchasing to benefit all electric utility customers in Santa Monica.
  • SPI Energy Co., Ltd. has announced that its application to list the Company’s American depositary shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market has been approved by Nasdaq. SPI Energy expects its American depositary shares to commence trading on January 19, 2016 under the ticker symbol “SPI”. Upon commencement of trading, the company’s American depositary shares will cease to trade on the OTC Markets.

Biofuel Industry’s United Stand

The biofuel industry continues to maintain its united front on encouraging legislative support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) especially during the presidential campaigns. Leaders from the renewable fuels and agriculture community released a public letter to allies outlining their support for America’s Renewable Future (ARF) to protect the RFS.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 12.11.31 PMThe letter urges Iowa voters to turn to ARF to know where candidates stand on the RFS. It also designates the organization as the definitive voice on the issue. This letter comes as Sen. Ted Cruz has been under fire for his confusing stance on ethanol and the RFS. In a statement from ARF, they said they are committed to continuing let Iowans know that despite his change in tone, Cruz is still anti-RFS and he will destroy Iowa’s agriculture economy and Iowa farmers.

The letter was signed by the following leaders: Tom Buis, CEO – Growth Energy; Bob Hemesath, President – Iowa Corn Growers Association; Tom Brooks, President – Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; Jeff Broin, CEO – POET Biorefining; Bob Dineen, President & CEO – Renewable Fuels Association; Wayne Fredricks, President – Iowa Soybean Association; Joe Hrdlicka, Executive Director – Iowa Biotech Association; Grant Kimberly, Executive Director – Iowa Biodiesel Board; Will Rogers, Director of Government Affairs – Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealers; Bruce Rastetter, CEO – Summit Agricultural Group; and Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President – American Coalition for Ethanol.

More Renewable Energy = Higher GDP

According to a new report, achieving a 36 percent global share of renewable energy by 2030 would increase global domestic product (GDP) by up to 1.1 percent or nearly U.S. $1.3 trillion. “Renewable Energy Benefits: Measuring the Economics,” conducted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), provides a global estimate of the macroeconomic impacts of renewable energy deployment. Specifically, it outlines the benefits that would be achieved under the scenario of doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030 from 2010 levels.

“The recent Paris Agreement sent a strong signal for countries to move from negotiation to action and rapidly decarbonise the energy sector,” explained  Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.08.14 AMDirector-General. “This analysis provides compelling evidence that achieving the needed energy transition would not only mitigate climate change, but also stimulate the economy, improve human welfare and boost employment worldwide.”

The report also looks at country-specific impacts. Japan would see the largest positive GDP impact (2.3 percent) but Australia, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea would also see growth of more than 1 percent each. In addition, the impact of renewable energy deployment on welfare is estimated to be three to four times larger than its impact on GDP, with global welfare increasing as much as 3.7 percent. Employment in the renewable energy sector would also increase from 9.2 million global jobs today, to more than 24 million by 2030.

The report also found that a transition towards greater shares of renewables in the global energy mix would also cause a shift in trade patterns. It would more than halve global imports of coal and reduce oil and gas imports, benefiting large importers like Japan, India, Korea and the European Union. Fossil fuel exporting countries would also benefit from a diversified economy.

“Mitigating climate change through the deployment of renewable energy and achieving other socio-economic targets is no longer an either or equation,” added Amin. “Thanks to the growing business case for renewable energy, an investment in one is an investment in both. That is the definition of a win-win scenario.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) have announced USD 46 million in concessional loans for four renewable energy projects in developing countries. The loans will fund a wind and solar project in Antigua and Barbuda, a solar project in Burkina Faso, a solar and wind project in Cabo Verde and a solar project in Senegal. The four projects will result in nearly 12 MW of new renewable energy capacity, reduce emissions, create jobs, and electrify rural communities without access to modern energy services.
  • Guzman Energy has reached an innovative agreement with the City of Aztec, New Mexico to serve as the city’s primary power source – as well as construct, own and operate a solar energy farm. The project, which combines traditional power supply with the development and ownership of solar energy, will reduce the city’s energy costs as well as provide residents with clean renewable energy.
  • Zoetic Global, a US-based project developer, has executed a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) for 100 MW of additive power generation at the nation’s Akosombo Dam on Lake Volta. The project will involve an array of modular hydrokinetic turbines to be deployed in the post-dam wash of the Akosombo Dam. The In-Stream Auger Turbine (IAT) technology being used is designed for high efficiency power generation from flowing water and will leverage existing infrastructure at the dam site including grid connections, access roads, and on-site maintenance buildings.
  • Open Energy, an innovative commercial solar debt finance provider, has announced the closing of a loan totaling $1.2 million to SunLight General Solar Fund III. The New York City based investment fund invests in distributed generation solar projects. The SunLight investment fund received a hybrid term and construction loan for four commercial solar projects, including a school district and a private business in New Jersey, as well as a school district and a municipality in Massachusetts.

Berkely Lab Study Finds RPS Policies Save Money

In 2013, there were $2.2 billion in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions and $5.2 billion came from reductions in other air pollution for states with renewable portfolio standards (RFS) according to a new study. “A Retrospective Analysis of the Benefits and Impacts of U.S. Renewable Portfolio Standards,” evaluates the benefits and other impacts of RPS policies and was conduced by researchers from U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

RPS report from NRELRPS policies require utilities or other electricity providers to meet a minimum portion of their energy output with eligible forms of renewable electricity such as wind and solar power.  The report finds there are 29 U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., with RPS policies in place and they have been a driver for renewable electricity generation in the U.S. over the past decade. Many states are currently considering whether to extend, eliminate, or otherwise revise existing RPS policies and the goal of the report is to help officials evaluate their programs.

“Our goal was to estimate the magnitude of RPS benefits and impacts at a national-level, using established methodologies, while recognizing that individual states can perform their own, more-detailed assessments,” said NREL’s Jenny Heeter one of the report’s authors.

In addition to evaluating environmental benefits, the study also assessed other impacts. The research estimates that RPS policies supported 200,000 renewable energy-related jobs in 2013, saved consumers up to $1.2 billion from reduced wholesale electricity prices and another $1.3 to $3.7 billion from reduced natural gas prices.

This work was a follow-up and complement to an earlier study by the two labs that focused on the costs of state RPS programs to-date and that noted the need for a full understanding of the potential benefits, impacts, and costs of RPS programs. To that end, this most recent study provides a point of comparison for estimates of RPS program costs. The researchers are planning a follow-up effort for the coming year to evaluate the costs and benefits of RPS programs prospectively, considering scheduled increases to each state’s requirements as well as potential policy revisions.