Sen Klobuchar: Time to Govern by Opportunity

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) keynoted the opening session of the BioEnergy 2015: Opportunities in a Changing Energy Landscape conference in Washington, D.C. During her remarks, she noted it isn’t an easy time to be in Washington in terms of Sen Amy Klobuchar BioEnergy 2015energy policy and the country has “lost opportunities” in energy policy since 9-11.

Sen Klobuchar explained that in the summer of 2008, right before the downturn, energy legislation was pushed through but legislators were unable to push through a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Instead, President Obama, during the worst downturn since the Great Depression, opted to move forward with failed Cap and Trade legislation.

“We’ve been governing by crisis,” said Klobuchar who stressed that now is the moment to govern by opportunity. She quoted Pope Francis who recently released his Encyclical on climate change who asked, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” A better world, said Klobuchar.

Klobuchar ended her remarks focusing on ways the country can build on the progress of the past few years, including the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s remarks: Senator Amy Klobuchar Remarks

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album.

(Note: two days after her presentation the EPA held a public comment hearing in Kansas City where hundreds of people from across the country came together to support the RFS. Coverage can be found here.)

DOE Invests in Sorghum

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to investing up to $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program. The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so, said DOE, will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

“This investment is critical for the sorghum industry’s future,” said J.B. Stewart, National Sorghum Producers board chairman. “Producer investments alone cannot move the industry forward. We must have government and private industry investment. We applaud DOE for making such a vital commitment to our rapidly growing industry.”

This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation. The project locations are Clemson University, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, University of Illinois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“This underscore’s something we strongly believe in,” added Clayton Short, renewables committee chair for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “Sorghum is a genetically diverse crop ripe for improvement. The DOE realizes this and we are excited to see what additional opportunities this leads too.”

NSP and the Sorghum Checkoff continue to invest in relationships with DOE, private industry and researching universities and will keep members updated as research progresses and results are published.

Approps Bill Shortchanges Rural America

According to the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), the current version of the House Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill would shortchange rural America. As it currently stands, the bill would reduce mandatory spending levels for Energy Title programs including the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. In light of this, AgEC has vowed to fight the changes in mandatory spending.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new manufacturing opportunities and AgEC logostable, well-paying jobs. A new report to Congress, released just yesterday, demonstrates the broad economic impact of innovative biobased technology. The biobased products industry contributes $369 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs more than four million Americans. The more than 40,000 biobased products already on the market displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Countless wind, solar, biomass and other projects are making a major impact as well.”

Ritter continued, “Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee is seeking to roll back the mandatory funding levels Congress agreed to last year when passing the bi-partisan Farm Bill. For Fiscal Year 2016, the House bill proposes cutting millions from the Section 9003 program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Renewable Energy for America Program.”

“Such reductions in the mandatory funding levels that Congress previously set will undermine the ongoing effectiveness of these programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition, comprising renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented successfully,” concluded Ritter.

NMMA Endorses Gevo’s Isobutanol for Boats

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has endorsed Gevo, Inc. for the use of isobutanol by the marine industry. They say the renewable fuel is an effective, less damaging, more suitable biofuel than ethanol for powering various types of marine and recreational boat engines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 11.34.09 AMNMMA has worked with Gevo for five years, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Coast Guard and others on testing of various renewable fuels. During this testing, NMMA said the data supported isobutanol as the preferred renewable fuel for marine engines.

“Based on years of collaborative testing across the industry, biobutanol fuel blends, such as the ones provided by Gevo during our test program, are a safe and viable alternative to ethanol for use in recreational marine engines and boats up to 16.1 percent by volume,”said Jeff Wasil, engineering manager, Emissions Testing, Certification and Regulatory Development at Bombardier Recreational Products, an NMMA member.

According to NMMA, isobutanol fuel blends solve the concerns of boaters such as damaging engine parts. The studies found isobutanol provided a higher energy content, prevented moisture absorption and phase separation and reduced engine corrosion.

“We believe that the marine industry will be an important market for Gevo’s isobutanol. The technical properties of isobutanol shine in this application. We appreciate the efforts and the collaboration between Gevo and the NMMA throughout the testing program. We are pleased to have provided, from our plant in Luverne, the isobutanol needed to make the 16% isobutanol blended fuels that the studies required, for both on-water tests and in the laboratory,” added Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO. “We are delighted with the results of the testing and to have the endorsement of the NMMA. Isobutanol has proven to be an effective, highly compatible biofuel for the recreational boating industry.”

Pope Francis Advocates for Renewable Energy

Addressing all persons living on the plant, Pope Francis’ LAUDATO SI’, Encyclical Letter calls on mankind to address climate change and heal earth. He writes, “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. He stresses throughout the Encyclical, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change“.

do908_laudato_si-255x363“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” writes Pope Francis and notes that while efforts have been undertaken, they are not enough. “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.”

Pope Francis’ Encyclical spans six chapters with each section focused on a particular area of importance to climate change discussions and action steps to be undertaken. In chapter 5 he focuses on approach and action as it relates to energy and calls for the end of fossil fuel use.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions,” continues Pope Francis. 

He calls for a worldwide consensus – all countries – to come together to develop “renewable and less polluting forms of energy”. While he acknowledges the work already being done to develop more sustainable, alternative forms of energy, he stresses that countries must come together and take responsibility for paying for the costs of energy transition and that politics and businesses must speed up their pace of acknowledgement and action to curtail climate change.

If only one message were received by those reading LAUDATO SI, it is that humans are at the center of climate change, that none of us is without fault, and it will take all of us to restore earth to a state of health and beauty.

BayWa r.e.’s Beethoven Wind Project in Operation

The Beethoven wind project located in South Dakota is in full operation. BayWa r.e. bought the project from a local developer in August 2014. The power is sold under a 20 year contract to NorthWestern Energy and GE has been engaged to maintain the turbines for the next 10 years.

BayWa r.e. Beethoven Wind Project“The 80 MW Beethoven Project is the largest wind project brought online in the US and the second largest one in BayWa r.e.’s history worldwide. Its output will supply clean, reliable, renewable energy to 31,000 homes.” said Matthias Taft, CEO of BayWa r.e. and BayWa AG board member for the energy sector. “The completion of Beethoven is an important milestone and we are on to the next project. As we continue to seek out the next opportunity, we welcome any introduction to exciting projects.” said Florian Zerhusen, CEO of BayWa r.e.’ wind business in the US.

In 2014, BayWa r.e. sold two operational renewable energy projects located in New Mexico but is still managing the facilities.

California Breaks the 10,000 MW Solar Barrier

According to the new U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, California has become the first state in the country to exceed 10,000 MW of installed solar capacity. California has more solar assets than most nations, including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia and Belgium. The report was conducted by GTM Research and supported by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

During Q1 2015, California installed 718 MW of solar energy raising the state’s total capacity to 10,649 MW – enough to power nearly 2.6 million homes. The report went on to point out that California had big increases in Q1 across all solar sectors. Of the new capacity added, 231 MW were residential, 88 MW were commercial and 399 MW were utility scale. Together, these installations represented a $1.7 billion investment across the state in the first quarter alone, found the report.

FIGURE- U.S. PV Installations, Q1 2010-Q1 2015“When it comes to creating clean energy jobs and protecting the environment, California is showing the world how to get the job done,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “To put the state’s remarkable progress in some context, today California has 10 times more installed solar capacity than the entire nation had in 2007. We congratulate Gov. Brown, his administration, legislative leaders and the people of California for being at the forefront of America’s efforts to create a vibrant and growing clean energy economy.”

Resch said California’s explosive growth in solar is due, in large part, to stable and effective public policies such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and Net Energy Metering (NEM). Nationwide, solar remains the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States.

The residential market also continued to flourish in Q1, with installed system prices dropping 4 percent year-over-year – and down nearly 50 percent since 2010. The upswing in residential installations is expected to continue in the foreseeable future, especially in light of a recent report by the California Energy Commission, which shows that more than a quarter of all new homes being built in Southern California are being constructed with solar energy systems. Presently, there are 2,226 solar companies at work throughout the state, employing 54,700 Californians.

Canadian Wind Industry Grows

Yesterday was Global Wind Day and Canada celebrated its growing wind energy industry. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) announced that they are now the 7th country in the world to surpass 10,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity with the commissioning of the K2 Wind Power Project.

“Meeting the 10,000 MW milestone confirms that Canada is a global leader in wind energy development,” said Robert Hornung, CanWEA president. “Wind energy’s cost competitiveness, coupled with the fact that it produces no greenhouse gas emissions, Wind Facts websitemeans it is well positioned to continue its rapid growth as a mainstream contributor to Canada’s electricity supply.”

According to CanWEA, in the past five years, more wind energy capacity has been installed in the country than any other form of electricity generation. The country has witnessed three record years for the annual installation of new wind energy capacity and Canada’s wind energy capacity has grown by an average of 1,300 MW, or 24 percent, annually, and 2015 is on track to exceed this five-year average for new installations.

Wind turbines are now operating in every province in Canada, and in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, providing energy to over 100 communities and accounting for nearly 5 percent of domestic Canadian electricity demand.

“Wind energy is meeting Canada’s demand for new electricity in a clean, reliable and cost-competitive way,” added Hornung. “As concerns about global climate change grow, wind energy will also need to play a critical role in Canada’s transition to a more flexible and decentralized low carbon electricity system. We celebrate wind energy as Canada’s success story – with another milestone reached the best is yet to come.”

Celebrate Global Wind Day

Today is Global Wind Day. Coordinated by the Global Wind Energy Council along with the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), this year the groups are partnering with SolutionWind, a worldwide wind awareness campaign promoting the use of wind power leading up to COP21 climate negotiations in Paris in December.

Global Wind Day logoGlobal Wind Day is a day for “discovering wind energy, its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonise our economies and boost jobs and growth”. This is also a day the wind industry is honoring the companies who have committed to using wind energy to power their operations.

According to EWEA, wind power is one of the fastest growing industrial sectors globally attracting $100 billion in investment in 2014. Research also shows that onshore wind power is now cheaper than conventional energy sources in an expanding number of markets worldwide.

“Climate change is happening faster than expected, but so is the transition to renewable energy. As businesses become increasingly aware of the progress in technology and falling costs we are seeing a rapid change in investment patterns,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council. “Companies like IKEA pave the way for a fossil free future and give an important example for others to follow.”

Neb Governor Ricketts On Global Biofuels Tour

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has been spending the past few weeks on a global agriculture and biofuels promotion tour. Ricketts attended Expo Milano 2015 last week and while there, he visited the “Sustainable Farm Pavilion” sponsored by New Holland where with a group that included CNH Industrial Governor-Ricketts-Headshot-FINALdiscussed Nebraska’s ethanol industry. CNH Industrial operates a Combine Center of Excellence in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Carlo Lambro, a member of the Group Executive Council and Brand President of New Holland Agriculture, spoke to the group about their commitment to using biofuels across all sectors as well as highlight their local investments in agriculture. Nebraska is the top state in terms of cattle feed and the Nebraska ethanol industry, the second largest ethanol producer in the U.S., produces more than six million tons of livestock feed each year.

The meeting also addressed Governor Ricketts’ active advocacy for the widespread use of ethanol as a biofuel in the United States. The two parties discussed their shared commitment in promoting the use of alternative fuels, which include natural gas and biomethane.

Gov. Ricketts and his Nebraska delegation had discussions in Italy about renewable fuels with Italian energy company Enel. Next, the group headed to Brussels, Belgium where they have planned a visit to Novozyme’s headquarters in Denmark. The company operates a plant in Blair, Nebraska that makes enzymes used in the ethanol industry.