FIFA World Cup to Feature Biofuels & Solar

FIFA World Cup BrasilThe FIFA World Cup 2014 is underway in Brazil and this year’s event features several renewable energy and sustainable measures never before seen during the event.

Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA) is supplying the governing body of the football fleet (known as soccer to those living in the U.S.) with ethanol. Flex-fuel cars from Hyundai, Model HB20 Edition FIFA World Cup, are running the streets and roads of Brazil powered with fuel from cane sugar.

The adoption of ethanol is one of the measures to avoid, reduce and offset emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) released dioxide in the atmosphere, the ‘Football for the Planet,’ according to FIFA’s official environmental program that aims to reduce the negative impact of their activities on the environment. In Brazil, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the 2014 World Cup are putting in place projects that address key areas such as waste, water, energy, transport, logistics and climate change.

Kids play football on the beach as Brazil prepare for the World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Maceio, Brazil. (Photo by Alex Livesey - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Kids play football on the beach as Brazil prepare for the World Cup on June 11, 2014 in Maceio, Brazil. (Photo by Alex Livesey – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

For the consultant Emissions and Technology of Sugar Cane Industry Association (UNICA), Alfred Szwarc, the initiative of the FIFA program is extremely appropriate as sugarcane ethanol compared with gasoline. He cites sugar-based ethanol reduces 90 percent of greenhouse gases that cause climate change when compared to straight gasoline. Reducing global warming is one of focuses of the “Football for the Planet” FIFA campaign.

In addition to biofuels, Yingli Green Energy has provided dozens of solar panels to various operations involved with FIFA and this year the company plans to offset all carbon emissions arising from its promotional activities in Brazil to make the FIFA World Cup Brazil the greenest in history. The company’s efforts included all solar powered stadiums, commercial displays, customer hospitality, media activities, and employee travel and accommodation. To achieve carbon neutrality, Yingli has:

  • Supplied over 5,000 Yingli solar panels and nearly 30 off-grid solar energy systems to help power matches at multiple FIFA World Cup stadiums;
  • Partnered with ClimatePartner, an independent, certified environmental agency, to accurately calculate and verify emissions data for the duration of Yingli’s sponsorship activation in Brazil;
  • Committed to investing in carbon emission reduction certificates that are generated by a local Brazilian project, and that are certified by the Bureau Veritas Certification Holding SAS.

“By becoming history’s first carbon neutral sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, Yingli is honoring its commitment to our environment and to our planet,” noted Mr. Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “As a company whose products and mission are deeply intertwined with sustainability issues, we are dedicated to reducing the ecological impact of all aspects of our business operations, including our highly visible and pervasive marketing activities.”

Best Way to Curb Harmful Emissions? Restore the RFS.

The renewable fuels industry has not weighed in much on the debate surrounding the recent unveiling of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation: Clean Power Plan. The proposed mandate, that is now open for comment, would reduce power plant emissions by 30 percent by 2030 using 2005 levels. According to Brian Jennings, executive vice president for the American ACElogoCoalition for Ethanol (ACE), while acknowledging the ambitions rule to limit GHG emissions from power plants, it must be noted that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has been successfully reducing GHG emissions from the transportation sector since 2007 when the legislation was enacted.

Jennings said that in 2013 alone, the use of biofuels cut 38 million metric tons of GHG emissions from the transportation sector – the equivalent of the emissions from removing 8 million cars on the road or permanently parking every motor vehicle in Florida. “In other words, the RFS is the strongest and most successful law ever enacted to reduce dangerous GHG emissions from transportation fuels,” said Jennings.

“If the Administration is serious about using the Clean Air Act to implement a broad-based effort to reduce GHGs across various sectors, the best and most important way to do that is to ensure that the RFS works as intended to drive higher usage of renewable fuels versus how EPA has proposed to reduce the RFS for 2014,” continued Jennings. “EPA’s current RFS proposal sets a dangerous precedent by letting oil companies off the hook when it comes to compliance with Clean Air Act GHG standards for transportation fuel. If the Administration expects power plants to comply with this new proposal by curbing their emissions, how can it let oil companies shirk responsibility for complying with the Clean Air Act RFS provision by refusing to allow consumer access to higher blends of ethanol?”

Clean Power Plan Should Give Utility Industry a Boost

Earlier this week the EPA announced a legacy proposal that would reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 numbers. While much of the response from organizations was positive, may associations believe the proposed Clean Power Plan regulation will harm rural areas, not help.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the reduction in carbon will lead to higher energy prices; but not only would farmers face higher prices for electricity, but any energy-related input such as fertilizer. They also claim rural electric cooperatives that rely on old coal plants for cheap electricity would be hit especially hit hard.

Coal-Fired-Power-Plant“U.S. agriculture will pay more for energy and fertilizer under this plan, but the harm won’t stop there,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Effects will especially hit home in rural America.”

Yet according to Lux Research, the Clean Power Plan have noted that while the proposed regulation has spurred furious debate, what is missing from the conversation it the role of innovation. The firm said these rules can help spur innovation that will make it easier for the world to reduce its emissions.

The new EPA rules are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on global emissions on their own, said Lux Research, given that almost all future growth in carbon emissions will come from developing and underdeveloped countries – most notably China, which became the largest carbon emitter in 2007. Hence, much of the debate about the rules has centered on how likely they are to help induce China and other nations to agree to binding targets of their own.

“The political discussion about climate change misses a critical point; whatever their role in climate negotiations, these new rules will accelerate technology development and deployment, making it more practical and affordable for nations everywhere to reduce emissions,” said Aditya Ranade, Senior Analyst at Lux Research. “Their influence on innovation is where they will need to have the biggest impact for the world to achieve its CO2 reduction goals.”

Lux Research analysts predict that four major technology sectors will get a boost: Continue reading

EPA Officially Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal

In what could be an unprecedented move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency has released a proposed plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan is the first proposed policy that would cut CO2 from existing power plants – the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Possible solutions to cutting carbon include integrating renewable power to the grid from sources such as geothermal, solar, wind and bioenergy (biomass or pellets derived from waste).

According to the EPA, power plants account for nearly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Although there are current limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

EPA Gina McCarthy“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants.”

“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs,” added McCarthy.

Building upon trends already underway to reduce GHG emissions (including carbon) in other industry sectors including the transportation sector (cars, planes, etc.) as well as working along side states who have already put carbon policies in place for their utility sectors, the goal is to create a nationwide plan to cut pollution while make power plants more energy efficient. In addition, the plan fits within the steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and his June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. By 2030, The Clean Power Plan specifically calls for:

  • Cutting carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cutting particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoiding up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

Continue reading

Denver Clean Cities Helps Reduce Gas Use

Coloradans are breathing cleaner air with the help of the Denver Metro Clean Cities (DMCCC). Utilizing alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies, stakeholders displaced 5.88 million gallons of gasoline in 2013. This prevented 27,000 tons of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from entering the atmosphere – equivalent to the carbon dioxide generated by approximately 90,000 homes during five days.

electricvehicleparkingClean Cities is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to reduce petroleum consumption in the transportation sector. Colorado is home to three such coalitions, which cumulatively helped stakeholders displace 10.2 million gallons of gasoline and 49,000 tons of greenhouse gases last year.

Tyler Svitak, the Clean Cities Manager at the American Lung Association in Colorado, described how the program works. “We assist public and private vehicle fleets, local governments, fuel providers, utilities, and other stakeholders in beginning or expanding an alternative fuel portfolio, which often involves education, technical guidance, or connection to a similar project locally or nationally.”

The City and County of Denver has had a close relationship with Clean Cities since its inception in 1993, and as the City’s fleet continues to look toward innovative ways to save money and reduce emissions, Clean Cities is assisting in the process.

“The Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition has been a valuable resource for Denver for years, helping educate our City about alternative fuels and opportunities to implement them,” said Felix Espinoza, Denver Public Works’ Fleet Management Director. “Our partnership with Clean Cities has furthered our goals of incorporating alternative fuels and green technologies that improve air quality, lower operating costs, and provide a healthy, livable, and connected city.”

Svitak explains that harnessing alternative transportation fuels like electricity, natural gas, and propane can dramatically reduce pollutants coming from vehicle tailpipes, increase our nation’s energy security, and boost local economies, but what is often a more convincing argument is the amount of money saved in operating costs from using these alternatives.

Last quarter the average national price of natural gas was $2.09 per gasoline gallon equivalent (the amount of energy in natural gas it takes to equal the energy of one gallon of gasoline), propane was $2.43/gallon, and electricity was $1.16 per eGallon (the electrical energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline), and for fleets or consumers traveling enough miles, the payback over the life of a vehicle can be significant.

Though, there are still significant challenges to the widespread adoption of alternative fuels and Clean Cities helps to overcome those through education, knowledge, and training. Refuel Colorado, a Colorado Energy Office project aimed at increasing alternative fuel use in the state, incorporates an energy ‘coaching’ program where organizations like Clean Cities, Garfield Clean Energy, and 4CORE help fleets and local governments understand the factors influencing their bottom line, including lifecycle ROI analysis to help look at the long term savings instead of the initial investment.

DOE Issues Draft Renewable Energy Solicitation

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation to identify innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. The projects much avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is US DOE Energy logoexpected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

“Through our existing renewable energy loan guarantees, the Department’s Loan Programs Office helped launch the U.S. utility-scale solar industry and other clean energy technologies that are now contributing to our clean energy portfolio,” said Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We want to replicate that success by focusing on technologies that are on the edge of commercial-scale deployment today.”

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market ready. Within the draft solicitation, the DOE has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the eligibility requirements is eligible to apply, the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities; and efficiency improvements.

The Department welcomes public comment on a range of issues and will consider public feedback in defining the scope of the final solicitation. In addition to initiating a 30-day public comment period, a schedule of public meetings will be posted on DOE’s website. The draft solicitation can be found online at http://lpo.energy.gov.

Stanford Scientists Convert Carbon Monoxide to Ethanol

Stanford University scientists have discovered a new way to produce liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide gas. The researchers believe the discovery could provide an “green” alternative to conventional ethanol production from corn and other crops. The results were published in the April issue of Nature.

“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford and coauthor of the Nature study.

Stanford's Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

Stanford’s Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry, co-authored a study on producing liquid ethanol from carbon monoxide.

According to Kanan, most ethanol today is produced at high-temperature fermentation facilities that chemically convert corn, sugarcane and other plants into liquid fuel. But growing crops for biofuel requires thousands of acres of land and vast quantities of fertilizer and water. He cites a study that found it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn, which in turn yields around 3 gallons of ethanol.

The new technique developed by Kanan and Stanford graduate student Christina Li requires no fermentation and, if scaled up, they team says could help address many of the land- and water-use issues surrounding ethanol production today.

“Our study demonstrates the feasibility of making ethanol by electrocatalysis,” Kanan said. “But we have a lot more work to do to make a device that is practical.”

Two years ago, Kanan and Li created a novel electrode made of a material they called oxide-derived copper. They used the term “oxide-derived” because the metallic electrode was produced from copper oxide.

“Conventional copper electrodes consist of individual nanoparticles that just sit on top of each other,” Kanan explained. “Oxide-derived copper, on the other hand, is made of copper nanocrystals that are all linked together in a continuous network with well-defined grain boundaries. The process of transforming copper oxide into metallic copper creates the network of nanocrystals.” Continue reading

Study: Algae-based Biofuels Cut CO2 by 50-70%

ABOA new study shows that biofuels made from algae can reduce life cycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels. And according to the Algae Biomass Organization, citing the study in the journal Bioresource Technology, algae biofuels are approaching the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) values that conventional petroleum has.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.”

The study, “Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL),” is a life cycle analysis of an algae cultivation and fuel production process currently employed at pre-commercial scales. The authors examined field data from two facilities operated by Sapphire Energy in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico that grow and process algae into Green Crude oil. Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude can be refined into drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The study found that when produced at commercial scales, algae technologies can be expected to be better than first generation biofuels when considering greenhouse emissions and on par with the return on energy investment when compared to those first generation biofuels. This is the first study to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm.

“These real-world data from demonstration scale facilities gave us new insight and allowed us to understand how scale will impact the benefits and costs of algae-to-energy deployment.” said lead author Andres F. Clarens, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “These results suggest that algae-based fuels made using HTL have an environmental profile that is comparable to conventional biofuels.”

POET Plants to Add Liquefied Carbon Dioxide

POET_LogoTwo POET biorefineries in Ohio are installing liquefied carbon dioxide facilities on site.

POET Biorefining – Marion and POET Biorefining – Fostoria will be operating in the Greater Ohio Valley liquid carbon dioxide marketplace. The plants will be able to serve the traditional food freezing and beverage carbonation markets as well as secure new carbon dioxide customers.

“One of our priorities at POET is to get the most value from the corn kernel,” POET Biorefining – Marion General Manager Cliff Brannon said. “We don’t just produce biofuel here. We produce Dakota Gold high-protein animal feed, Voila corn oil and more. We’re excited to add carbon dioxide to that list.”

With the latest two plants coming online this year, nine POET plants will be producing liquefied carbon dioxide.

Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map

Warning that the world is not on track to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has urged governments to swiftly enact four energy policies that would keep climate goals alive without harming economic growth.

Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the redrawing the climate mapproblem is not going away – quite the opposite,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in London at the launch of a World Energy Outlook Special Report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, which highlights the need for intensive action before 2020.

Noting that the energy sector accounts for around two-thirds of global greenhouse-gas emissions, she added, “This report shows that the path we are currently on is more likely to result in a temperature increase of between 3.6 °C and 5.3 °C but also finds that much more can be done to tackle energy- sector emissions without jeopardising economic growth, an important concern for many governments.”

New estimates for global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012 reveal a 1.4 percent increase, reaching a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes(Gt), but also mask significant regional differences. In the United States, a switch from coal to gas in power generation helped reduce emissions by 200 million tonnes (Mt), bringing them back to the level of the mid-1990s. China experienced the largest growth in CO2 emissions (300 Mt), but the increase was one of the lowest it has seen in a decade, driven by the deployment of renewables and improvements in energy intensity. Despite increased coal use in some countries, emissions in Europe declined by 50 Mt. Emissions in Japan increased by 70 Mt.

“We identify a set of proven measures that could stop the growth in global energy-related emissions by the end of this decade at no net economic cost,” said IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, the report’s lead author. “Rapid and widespread adoption could act as a bridge to further action, buying precious time while international climate negotiations continue.”