Book Review: Power From The People

“We must take rapid, effective, innovative action to change the ways we generate and use energy; renewable energy is ubiquitous, offering a new model of energy generation that is local, democratic, and free from the abuses of a centralized monopoly.

Power From the PeopleThis week I focus on community energy. The call to action above is from the Energy Democracy, Renewable Communities Alliance and leads off the last chapter of Power From The People,” by Greg Pahl. The book discusses how to organize, finance and launch local energy projects. While the book is now a few years old, the information in which it contains is still valuable.

Local energy, writes Pahl, is the result of rethinking energy to look at ways of becoming more energy-resilient that don’t necessarily rely on centralized corporate-dominated utilities. “Simply stated, local energy projects rely on locally available renewable energy resources that service local needs.”  This can be solar, wind, biomass, ag waste, and more and in some instances can become regional projects such as a hydropower project.

The book walks the reader through the current energy situation from a climate and economic perspective and discusses why and how to “rethink” energy. Pahl then moves to how a consumer can make his/her home energy resilience and then how a community can become energy resilient. Throughout the dialogue, Pahl provides examples of successful projects – even some that took years and a lot of creative thinking to come into fruition. He also offers four core principles of community energy.

  • Community Ownership, Community Benefit: Ensuring that projects meet broader  needs of the community including the health of the local economy and environment.
  • Renewable, Local, and Distributed: Renewables by definition won’t run out, so they are ideal for building local energy security.
  • Adaptive Resilience: A community is not going anywhere, so the ability to adapt to changing conditions is essential.
  • Conservation First: We must reduce the overall amount of energy we use.

Continue reading

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.”

Energy, Ag Scholarships Available from CHS

Current college students and soon to be college students who are interested in alternative energy and agriculture are eligible to apply for scholarships from the CHS Foundation. The major giving entity of CHS Inc., more than 300 scholarships will be awarded in 2016.

CHS_LOGOOne hundred $1,000 scholarships will be made to high school students who choose to pursue agricultural-related degrees or STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of study with an interest in agriculture or energy industry careers. More than 200 additional scholarships will help fund expenses for existing agriculture college students currently pursuing agriculture-related degrees at two- and four-year colleges.

“CHS and the CHS Foundation are dedicated to developing future leaders,” said William Nelson, president, CHS Foundation and vice president, CHS Corporate Citizenship. “We are proud to invest in educating young people to ensure they gain experience and build the skills necessary for long-lasting careers in the agriculture and energy industries.”

High school scholarship applications must be submitted by April 1, 2016. An independent, external committee will select scholarship recipients based on essays, transcripts and reference letters. For additional eligibility information and to apply, click here. The college scholarships are directly administered by more than 30 partnering universities throughout the U.S. and application deadlines vary by by school. For more information and a list of partnering universities, click here.

ACE: Tax Credits Will Increase Cheaper Ethanol Blends

Last week Congress approved the Omnibus Bill that included tax credit extensions for clean, renewable energy. One of these credits is for retail fuel station owners who buy equipment to offer alternative fuels such as E85. Ron Lamberty, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) senior vice president and a fuel retailer, says additional ethanol blends  could further increase profitability for retailers.

E85 Sign December 2015

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Refueling Property Credit until the end of next year, according to Lamberty. The credit, which allows retail gas station owners to claim a 30% tax credit, up to a maximum of $30,000 per location for qualified AFV refueling infrastructure, originally expired on December 31, 2014.

“Marketers who saw the opportunity to gain new customers by offering E85 at the pump, also saw they could increase profits by selling the RIN credits they earned for selling higher ethanol blends. Some added pumps earlier this year, others will, in 2016,” said Lamberty “E85 compatible equipment costs more than standard or E25 compatible fueling equipment, and this credit helps offset some of that additional cost. That means retailers can pass the lower price of E85 through to consumers sooner, increasing volume and RIN profits, which most station owners use to reduce E85 prices even further.”

That means, says Lamberty, retailers can pass the lower price of E85 straight through to consumers, increasing volume and RIN profits, which most station owners use to reduce E85 prices even further.”

Lamberty pointed out that the credit is available for E85 fueling infrastructure only, and is scheduled to expire again at the end of 2016. “Fortunately, the equipment needed to sell ethanol blends up to E25 – including E15, adds only a few hundred dollars per dispenser,” he said.

“Having E15 – a lower cost, higher octane blend that 80 percent of the cars on the road can use – should justify that expense.  And with a growing number of station owners, including innovative retailers like Kum & Go, Sheetz and Protec, adding E15, consumers will quickly become more familiar and be looking for E15,” added Lamberty. “Those retailers were already selling E85 in some locations, and are expanding offerings through USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP) program. We’re hoping the availability of this tax credit inspires those companies and others to make higher ethanol blends available sooner, in even more places.”

New Report, Some Hits…Some Misses for Renewables

A new report, “Some Hits, Some Misses…All-in-All…To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt,” looks at the accuracy of the forecasts for renewable electricity made by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its monthly “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (STEO) reports. Published by the SUN DAY Campaign, the report finds 2015 forecasts have generally followed the actual pattern of ups-and-downs in electricity generation rates from renewable energy sources. However, finds the report, with a few exceptions, EIA underestimated the actual overall growth.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign notes that EIA’s monthly predictions of new capacity from renewable sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, have been lower than what went into production. He says EIA has failed to capture the magnitude of the swift growth rates in utility-scale solar. Forecasts, he predicts, will likely be exceeded by actual growth. For example, EIA’s 2016 predictions of 0.6 percent – 0.7 percent for utility-scale solar’s share of total U.S. electrical generation will very possibly be met a year earlier. Predictions of 10 – 12 GW of new utility-scale solar capacity installed between 2014 and 2016 are also likely to be exceeded.

Bossong finds that 2015 reports began with more optimism about the prospects of hydropower and wind, than what has actually gone into production. However, generation by wind and hydropower new appear to be bouncing back, he says. Despite a slow start to the year, Bossong ultimately, EIA forecasts will be underestimated as wind generation is headed for levels above those recorded in 2014 while hydro’s shortfall for 2015 will more than likely be less than EIA anticipated.

“While EIA’s short-term energy forecasts can provide a very useful pulse of changes in the nation’ energy mix, they tend to mirror the agency’s long-term forecasts which notoriously low-ball expectations for renewable energy growth,” explains Bossong. “In recent years, renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, have vastly outpaced and outperformed EIA’s predictions – even those made for very short-term time periods.”

In addition, Bossong’s analysis finds actual end-of-the-year figures for new capacity and electricity generated by both nonhydro renewables, and renewables including conventional hydropower, will likely exceed EIA’s predictions by at least modest levels. It is almost certain, adds Bossong, that the majority of new electrical generating capacity installed during 2015 will be from renewables and renewables will account for more than 17.5 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity by year’s end.

Report: Renewables Fastest Growing US Power Source

According to GlobalData, non-hydro renewable energy will be the fastest growing power source in the U.S. through 2025. Installed capacity is expected to increase from 121.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2015 to 216 GW in 2025. “US Power Market Outlook to 2025, Update 2015 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape,” finds the strong rate of growth suggests that the current U.S. government fully supports the growth of clean generation technologies. The U.S. was one of signers of the most historic climate treaty agreed upon in Paris earlier this month during COP21.

GlobalData logoChiradeep Chatterjee, GlobalData’s senior analyst covering Power, warns that this positive forecast for non-hydro renewables could be subject to the result of the 2016 US presidential election, with a Republican victory likely to mean considerable changes to present policies due to the party’s lower support for green energy projects in general.

“There are several renewable power regulations that have been implemented or revised by the Obama administration in 2015 that will aid the production of renewable energy,” explained Chatterjee. “For example, the Fannie May Green Initiative provides smart energy through financing solutions, while the Weatherization Assistance Program, instituted by the Department of Energy, offers grants to improve the energy efficiency of resident low-income families. Such initiatives are positive steps to achieving green targets established by US states.”

Targets take the form of Renewable Portfolio Standards programs, state policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy supplied to consumers by a utility within the state should come from renewable sources.

“Generally, the objectives are ambitious, ranging from 10% to 40%, with a variety of target dates. However, there is considerable variation between individual states, as Hawaii is aiming for renewables to constitute 100% of all energy use by 2045, while South Carolina is targeting just 2 percent by 2021.” Chatterjee concluded, “Attitudes towards the growth of green energy differ throughout the US, and it must be acknowledged that other sources of power will remain dominant throughout the forecast period.”

Congress Votes to Extend ITC for Wind, Solar

The renewable electricity industry got an early holiday present this week as Congress included a five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for renewable energy projects that provides a 30 percent federal tax credit for commercial installations of solar PV systems and new wind energy projects in the tax extenders package. The ITC was set to expire at the end of 2016.

WIND•e20®CGE Energy, a company that offers no capital cost energy solutions, commended Congress on their vote for clean energy. According to a company, they make energy projects possible for commercial and nonprofit facilities without having to rely on government stimulus incentives.

“We have made an important focus on not being dependent on the Investment Tax Credit on our project development, especially considering the uncertain future of the credit,” said CGE Energy’s President and CEO Bryan Zaplitny. “Seeing these latest legislative decisions, the utilization of the ITC where appropriate will increase the benefits we can give our customers as well as expedite our growth and stockholder appreciation.”

e2-logo-color-webCGE Energy is also in the midst of bringing to market their own patented vertical axis small wind turbine, called WIND•e20. The 105-foot tall turbine is being manufacturing by Burtek Enterprises, Inc. a well-recognized market leader in safety critical applications.

Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), noted that the ITC extension gives wind and solar industries the policy certainty they need to plan future investments, create good jobs and continue to see progress on meeting climate change goals. Continue reading

Americans United for Change New Climate Video

COP21 will go down in history as nearly 200 countries came together to reach an historic climate agreement. Despite the efforts, there is still a political contingency of “climate deniers” (check out the Climate Deniers Anthem spoof released by Funny or Die last week) and Americans United for Change noted they will be taking the presidential debate stage tomorrow in Nevada. Today the organization released a new video called ‘Still Not a Scientist’, a sequel to the Webby Award nominated video ‘Not A Scientist’.

According to Americans United for Change, ‘Still Not A Scientist’ features numerous Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls all singing from the same climate denial hymnal, all refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific data that climate change is happening and is man-made. The truth, the organization says, is 99.99 percent of peer-reviewed climate science papers have concluded that climate change is happening and that it’s man-made, but that doesn’t matter when the Koch brothers own 99.99 percent of the GOP.

Under President Obama, the U.S. has made huge strides on climate, cites Americans United for Change, leading here at home with the Clean Power Plan and leading abroad by helping negotiate key commitments from countries like India, Brazil and China ahead of the Paris agreement. However, that could change, says the group, if the presidential candidates show their commitment to Big Oil. Because of the Koch brothers hold, Americans United for Change said, President Obama sent actual scientists and negotiators like Secretary of State John Kerry to Paris. While Ted Cruz, the group said, was showing he’ll rely on conservative shock jock radio host fill-ins for Rush Limbaugh for counsel on climate science, because Republicans know the further they drive their heads into the sand on climate change, the bigger the “Hero” they are to their big polluter donors.

Biodico Westside Bioenergy Facility Begins Production

The Biodico Westside bioenergy facility is now in production in San Joaquin Valley, California. Biodico President and Rounder Russ Teall says the 20 million gallon-per-year biodiesel facility is the first world’s first fully sustainable liquid biofuel facility.

(From Right to Left) JJ Rothgery, Chairman of the Board at Biodico; Russ Teall, President and Founder of Biodico; Janea Scott, California Energy Commissioner; John Diener, President and CEO, Red Rock Ranch; Jim Costa, U.S. Congressman; Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District; and Captain Monty Ashliman, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore, at Biodico Westside Facility Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif. (Photo: Business Wire)

(From Right to Left) JJ Rothgery, Chairman of the Board at Biodico; Russ Teall, President and Founder of Biodico; Janea Scott, California Energy Commissioner; John Diener, President and CEO, Red Rock Ranch; Jim Costa, U.S. Congressman; Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Dr. Frank Gornick, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District; and Captain Monty Ashliman, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Lemoore, at Biodico Westside Facility Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif. (Photo: Business Wire)

“Biodico Westside Facility is a result of years of research and development to produce biofuels that make good environmental, social and business sense,” said Teall during the commissioning event. “Today, we are forging a new path in biofuel production by utilizing sustainable solutions to convert diverse feedstocks into renewable sources of fuel and energy.”

Biodico Westside is located at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, Calif., which is in one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. According to Biodico, the facility operates entirely on renewable heat and power and incorporates advanced real-time and remote monitoring leading to complete system automation. In addition to processing multi-feedstocks, including used cooking oil, vegetable oil, and animal fats to name a few, the facility also utilizes anaerobic digestion, gasification and an advanced utility scale solar cogeneration system.

“We developed proprietary technology to greatly enhance the economics of producing high-quality biodiesel, as well as create a modular system that is easy to deploy on a global scale,” said JJ Rothgery, Biodico’s board chair. “The facility is uniquely designed to meet the practical needs of regional transportation companies, and at the same time, provide a solution to address energy security and sustainable farming practices.”

The development of Biodico Westside was supported, in part, by grants from the California Energy Commission and in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, UC Davis, UCSB and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In addition, many of the jobs at Biodico Westside were created in partnership with West Hills Community College, a region with high unemployment rates. Biodico developed an internship program specifically for West Hills and hires graduates of their two-year Industrial Technology Program, which gives many farm laborers higher skills and more lucrative employment says Teall. Continue reading

U.S. & Britain Partner to Power Up Africa

Bringing reliable, renewable power to Africans has been an ongoing conversation around the climate talks in Paris this month. Both the U.S. and the UK have programs with goals to do just this. Going forward, however, the programs will be power amplified with the new collaboration between the two countries. The partnership was announced during COP21 by UK International Development Minister Nick Hurd and Associate Administrator of USAID Eric Postel.

The goal of the new partnership between the UK’s Energy Africa campaign and the America’s Power Africa initiative is to leverage much-needed private investment, develop networks to share power across borders and harness geothermal resources to boost access to electricity across the continent.

ID 40753251 © Meshmerize | Dreamstime.com

ID 40753251 © Meshmerize | Dreamstime.com

“It is shocking that 600 million Africans still live without power at home. This is not just holding back individuals; it is holding back an entire continent,” said Hurd during the announcement. “No one can tackle Africa’s energy challenge alone. We will only make progress if we work together. That is why this new partnership is so important.

Hurd added, “The US has led the way over the past few years with its Power Africa campaign. Together with our Energy Africa campaign we can boost access to reliable, clean and affordable household energy, helping millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries was signed at COP21 during the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and New Climate Economy event “Climate change in Africa: Financing low-carbon pathways for Development”. The new deal will harness the skills, expertise and investment power of the private sector to help improve energy access, boost economic growth and reduce poverty.

“The United States Government is thrilled to work closely with DFID on the Energy Africa campaign, to accelerate the household solar market,” added Postel. “In partnership with DFID, development agencies, African governments, the private sector, and civil society, we can help accelerate Africa’s energy path toward economic and environmental sustainability and ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”