Massachusetts Most Energy Efficient US State

Massachuesetts has edged out California as the most energy efficient state in the U.S. according to the ninth annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Several states continue to improve their scores including California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas and Washington D.C. The report is published by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

2015-map-640ACEEE Executive Director Steve Nadel said of this year’s findings, “As states move to frame their plans under the federal Clean Power Plan this year marks a tipping point for energy efficiency. State policies are increasingly encouraging utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency, prompting them to adopt new business models that align their interests with those of customers and policymakers. We can see this taking hold in the 20 states that improved their Scorecard rank in 2015. Utilities across the United States invested more than $7 billion in energy efficiency over the past year alone.”

Some key finding of the 2015 State Scorecard include:

  • The top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and New York, with Minnesota and Illinois tied for 10th place. Massachusetts retains the top spot for the fifth consecutive year based on a strong commitment to energy efficiency under its Green Communities Act.
  • A solid 20 states rose in the State Scorecard rankings. California, a leading state, is also one of the most improved states this year. Maryland, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and Texas also deserve recognition for improvement over the past year.
  • Overall, 16 states fell in the rankings this year, due to such factors as policy or program rollbacks or failure to keep pace as other states expanded efficiency efforts. The five states most in need of improvement (starting with dead last) are: North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Mississippi, although new efficiency programs in Louisiana and Mississippi mean these states may not be in the bottom for much longer. While not in the bottom five states, New Mexico dropped the farthest in 2015, losing four points and falling six positions from 25th to 31st in the rankings. This is due in part to the state’s failure to adopt energy building codes beyond the 2009 requirements.

Another key finding: Savings from electricity efficiency programs in 2014 totaled approximately 25.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh), a 5.8% increase over last year. These savings are equivalent to about 0.7% of total retail electricity sales across the nation in 2014. Gas savings for 2014 were reported at 374 million therms (MMTherms), a 35% increase over 2013. Click here to read the full report.

RE-VOLT Helps Haitians with Energy Needs

A new start-up company, RE-VOLT, is helping to bring reliable and affordable electricity to families in rural Haiti and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund a service expansion. The system is a combination of a solar panel, control/power storage unit, lights and a phone charger. Founded by Digicel Haiti chairman, Maarten Boute, the RE-VOLT campaign hopes to raise the working capital necessary to grow its customer base on La Gonave to 2,000 households or 10,000 people by January 2016.

Photo Credit: RE-VOLT

Photo Credit: RE-VOLT

Customers are charged a low monthly fee of 250 Haitian Gourdes (about USD $5) and pay for the service through Digicel’s Mon Cash mobile banking platform. The units themselves contain a cellular antenna allowing RE-VOLT to manage payments and maintenance remotely. An on-ground team handles basic maintenance and troubleshooting on installed systems.

“To their tremendous credit, Digicel Group chairman Denis O’Brien and the Digicel board decided to commit even more capital to Haiti after the earthquake,” said Boute. “Others might have walked away at that point, but they decided to double down instead.”

The idea for RE-VOLT’s business model came to Boute over five years ago in the aftermath of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. At the time, he was two months into his tenure as CEO of Digicel Haiti, having previously served as the company’s chief operating officer.

According to Boute, “At the start of that period of expansion, Digicel already had a strong subscriber base in cities like Port-au-Prince. The biggest opportunity to grow the business was in rural areas, and, as we expanded our network there, we began to realize how much of a problem energy-poverty was. It became very clear to us that there was a huge business opportunity to provide affordable, reliable energy to these people – as well as it being a morally compelling thing to do as well.”

IEA Releases Mid-Term Renewable Report

According to the International Energy Agency (EIA), renewable energy will represent the largest single source of electricity growth over the next five years. Pointing to the need to economically mitigate climate change and enhance energy security, the report calls on governments to reduce policy uncertainties that are creating barriers to development.

MT_Renew_MR_2015_Cover_HR“Renewables are poised to seize the crucial top spot in global power supply growth, but this is hardly time for complacency,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol as he released the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2015 (MTRMR) at the G20 Energy Ministers Meeting held in Turkey. “Governments must remove the question marks over renewables if these technologies are to achieve their full potential, and put our energy system on a more secure, sustainable path.”

The Renewable Energy Mid-Term Market Report 2015 finds that renewable electricity emissions will exceed 700 GW and will account for nearly two-thirds of global power capacity additions. Non-hydro sources such as wind and solar will represent nearly half of the total global power capacity increase finds the report. Similarly, the Natural Resources Defense Council in a recent study also found wind and solar to be leading the way in renewable energy growth.

The share of renewable energy in global power generation will rise from 22 percent in 2013 to more than 26 percent in 2020. Also by 2020, the amount of global electricity generation coming from renewable energy will be higher than today’s combined electricity demand of China, India and Brazil.

The report says the geography of deployment will increasingly shift to emerging economies and developing countries, which will make up two-thirds of the renewable electricity expansion to 2020. China alone will account for nearly 40 percent of total renewable power capacity growth and requires almost one-third of new investment to 2020. Continue reading

NRDC Report: U.S. Energy Economy Healthy

America’s energy economy has never been better according to a new report, “A Tectonic Shift in America’s Energy Landscape,” from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). One key finding is that innovative energy saving techniques have enabled the country to more than double its economic productivity from oil, natural gas and electricity over the past 40 years. This means, finds the report, that energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting the country’s needs than all other resources combined.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 11.00.06 AM“Although the nation’s energy news has trended from bad to worse for decades, we’ve seen a remarkable turnaround, much of it due to the huge and inexpensive resource of energy efficiency — getting more out of every energy dollar,” said Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC co-director of the energy program. “But you’d never know it from those who want to build the massive KXL pipeline, ratchet up oil and gas drilling, launch a nuclear renaissance or embrace an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

NRDC’s First Annual Energy and Environment Report, America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News, is the product of a detailed, extensive analysis of recent government data that shows total U.S. energy use in 2012 was below the 1999 level even though the economy grew by more than 25 percent (adjusted for inflation) during that period. This result, shows the report, is that factories and businesses are producing substantially more products and value with less energy, the amount of gasoline per mile driven is down, and the cost of all energy services (from lighting to refrigeration) also has decreased.

“These energy reductions are saving hundreds of billions of dollars every year, helping U.S. workers and companies compete worldwide, and making our country more secure,” added Cavanagh.

The report notes that the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide pollution also is down, putting the nation on track to meet President Obama’s emissions reduction target of 17 percent over the next seven years, though much more must be done, says NRDC, to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Here is a snapshot of several of the report’s major findings: Continue reading

Alliant Launches Solar Demonstration Project

Alliant Energy is launching a solar demonstration project at its headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. As part of the initiative, Telefonix, Inc. installed 13 L2 PowerPost electric vehicle charging stations.

The goal of the program is to evaluate solar technologies in climates with varying weather including extreme cold. Alliant is planning on installing more than three dozen unique renewable energy features over the next few years.  In phase one the company will install solar power canopies over 50 parking spaces, solar café tables, and over 1,000 solar panels from multiple manufacturers with 11 different types of panels being used. The 13 PowerPost EV Charging Stations are being powered by the building, but the solar energy generated will offset total building consumption.

L2 PowerPost(TM) EV charger (PRNewsFoto/Telefonix Inc.)

L2 PowerPost(TM) EV charger (PRNewsFoto/ Telefonix Inc.)

“As a Midwest company ourselves, we are excited to see other organizations taking the lead in these types of research initiatives that will be critical in the adoption of sustainable energy solutions in the coming years,” said Bill Williams, business development manager at Telefonix Inc. “Alliant Energy’s solar lab will help answer a lot of questions about solar energy in the Midwest and help move forth renewable energy as a whole.”

As part of the testing, solar energy features will be located in various areas and positioned in multiple angles an elevations. The learnings will inform Allliant Energy on how best to optimize solar energy in the Midwest.  A unique interface available both onsite and on the internet will allow anyone to view real-time performance data of the solar lab.

“We are excited about this innovative demonstration project and view it as a learning laboratory for research that our customers can view on a regular basis,” added John Larsen, president of Alliant Energy’s Wisconsin utility. “This multi-year effort will enable our company and our customers to discover the many ways solar energy and renewable technology can be used in a Wisconsin setting.”

 

Renewable Energy Future Postcard

Hawaii at the Energy CrossroadsThe Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has released a new paper, “Hawai’i at the Energy Crossroads“. The report highlights the fight in Hawai’i to control and harness it’s vast renewable energy resources including solar energy. The paper demonstrates the choice between utility-promoted strategies and the distributed energy resources that are gaining ground on their own. The report also provides a “postcard” from the future for how other states can plan for a 100 renewable energy future.

Hawai’i pasted legislation early this year requiring all energy to be produced from renewable resources by 2045.

“More and more customers have easy tools to manage their own energy,” said John Farrell, director of Democratic Energy at ILSR. “Hawai’ians are demanding more opportunities to harvest and store the power of the sun on their own rooftops. Now, mainland leaders are looking toward the island state to decide whether to unlock the same opportunity.”

Ultimately, Hawai’i at the Energy Crossroads shows how outdated utility business plans and corporate takeovers can affect a state’s energy market for years to come.

Will Steger Wilderness Center Renewable Showcase

Will Steger, a globally renowned climate expert, has announced a major milestone toward the completion of the Will Steger Wilderness Center, that will be used as a leadership retreat center. The facility now features a stand-alone, carbon free power system that will provide electricity to buildings and workshops throughout the site located outside of Ely, Minnesota near the protected Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The renewable power system is an extension of the Center’s focus on clean energy and the use of renewable materials and sustainable processes throughout its operation.

Photo Credit: John Ratzloff

Photo Credit: John Ratzloff

The island-mode power grid will also serve as a demonstration project intended to be a model for other off-grid power systems in remote locations.  With the completion of Phase I of this power grid, the system is now capable of providing up to 20 kilowatts of power from a combination of solar and battery sources with solar providing more than half of the energy. The system includes automated demand management capability to provide power for mission-critical functions along with a backup diesel genset for emergencies. It is designed to provide power for multiple buildings on the site and power for the construction finalization of the main retreat center building. The first pilot leadership team is expected to use the center by the fall of 2016.

A launch event will take place October 7, 2015 at the Will Steger Wilderness Center and will include a ceremonial flip of the switch to ‘power-on’ the system by key participants who have provided both technical and material resources. Cummins Power Generation provided the genset and helped in the technical design and feasibility study in the early stages of the project. Other partners include Jon Kramer, CEO of Sundial Solar; Dr. Greg Mowry, associate professor in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas; tenKsolar; and BAE Batteries. Participants in the demonstration project have donated the vast majority of the material and labor for the system.

“This is an exciting time for all those who have worked to demonstrate that it is possible to have a community working with modern technology in a remote wilderness area using only self-contained and renewable energy sources,” said Will Steger, executive director of the Will Steger Wilderness Center. “The completion of the power grid is also a leap forward toward our goal of bringing leaders to a fully functioning wilderness retreat center to work on complex issues such as climate change and sustainability. We’re grateful to all of the contributors to this project who are demonstrating that it is possible to live and work on real-world problems using sustainable practices that will not deplete scarce resources.”

In addition to its future purpose as a leadership retreat center, the Will Steger Wilderness Center has been the base for more than a dozen significant expeditions including the 3,471 mile International Trans-Antarctic expedition, the first unsupported dogsled expedition to the North Pole and many other expeditions that have brought back some of the earliest eyewitness accounts of climate change in remote arctic regions.

BNEF: Wind, Solar Competing with Fossil Fuels

According to a new analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), this year has seen a shift in the generating cost comparison between renewable energy and fossil fuels. The report, “Levelised Cost of Electricity Update,” for the second half of 2015 based on extensive data and global projects shows that onshore wind and crystalline silicon photovoltaics – the two most widespread technologies- have both seen significantly reduced costs while costs have gone up for gas-fired and coal-fired generation.

The BNEF study shows finds that the global average levelised cost of electricity, or LCOE, for onshore wind nudged downwards from $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the first half of the year, to $83 in the second half of the year, while that for crystalline silicon PV solar fell from $129 to $122.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance logoIn the same period, the LCOE for coal-fired generation increased from $66 per MWh to $75 in the Americas, from $68 to $73 in Asia-Pacific, and from $82 to $105 in Europe. The LCOE for combined-cycle gas turbine generation rose from $76 to $82 in the Americas, from $85 to $93 in Asia-Pacific and from $103 to $118 in EMEA.

“Our report shows wind and solar power continuing to get cheaper in 2015, helped by cheaper technology but also by lower finance costs,” said Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Meanwhile, coal and gas have got more expensive on the back of lower utilisation rates, and in Europe, higher carbon price assumptions following passage of the Market Stability Reserve reform.”

Levelised costs take into account not just the cost of generating a marginal MWh of electricity, but also the upfront capital and development expense, the cost of equity and debt finance, and operating and maintenance fees.

Among other low-carbon energy technologies, offshore wind reduced its global average LCOE from $176 per MWh, to $174, but still remains significantly more expensive than wind, solar PV, coal or gas, while biomass incineration saw its levelised cost stay steady at $134 per MWh. Nuclear, like coal and gas, has very different LCOE levels from one region of the world to another, but both the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region saw increases in levelised costs, to $261 and $158 per MWh respectively.

BCSE Calls for Passage of Clean Energy Programs

More than 580 companies including the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) are calling for the passage of legislation that provides the extension of expired and expiring tax incentives designed to promote the growth of clean energy and clean energy technologies. The groups submitted a letter to Congress stressing to the federal lawmakers that,”Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies.”

“Businesses and investors need stable, predictable federal tax policy to create jobs, invest capital, and deploy pollution-reducing energy technologies. Allowing the lapsed clean energy tax provisions to languish undermines investor confidence and jeopardizes continued economic and environmental benefits,” said Lisa Jacobson, BCSE President.

2015FB_1According to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and BCSE, the use of lower and zero carbon energy sources has grown rapidly over the past seven years. BCSE says the clean energy tax provisions have a proven track record of helping scale up production and drive down the cost of clean energy technologies, thereby ensuring that market-ready technologies are deployed to their full potential.

Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) whose organization was also a signer of the letter, said of the need for these programs to have multi-year extenders, “American wind power is building momentum right now, but Congress has yet to pass these critical tax incentives, and the clock is ticking. The U.S. wind energy industry has rebounded from the loss of 23,000 jobs in 2013 due to policy uncertainty, and we can grow to support 380,000 jobs by 2030 with stable policy. That’s why we join hundreds of other voices in the business community to call on Congress to take action now.”

Kelly Speakes-Backman, Senior Vice President of Policy and Research at the Alliance to Save Energy and also a letter signer added, “Extension of the clean energy tax incentives is a bipartisan issue. This extension will bring stability to a growing private industry, while reducing pollution from the energy sector. The Alliance endorses this business-oriented approach to strengthen our economy and encourage energy efficiency and clean technology investments.”

ConEdison Assists “Renewable” Waste Treatment

The Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant located on Staten Island has been updated to include “renewable” energy to help power the waste treatment facility. Three new boilers – a combination of biogas and natural gas – along with a new exhaust system and a rootfop solar array. Biogas is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process and is now being captured and used to replace equipment from the 1970s that ran on heating oil. The solar array, installed by ConEdison Solutions, is expected to produce 1.6 million kilowatt hours, approximately 10 percent of the plant’s power needs. The project is part of OneNYC’s initiative to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

21218149303_ee1802d0ae_z“This $30 million investment in new technology at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant will significantly reduce pollution and result in cleaner air for New York City,” said New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd. “Our wastewater treatment plants require a tremendous amount of electricity in order to protect public health and the environment, and we’re focused on not only reducing their demand for electricity, but also capturing and maximizing their potential for energy production.”

In September 2014, New York City committed to the goal of achieving an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2050 (80×50). With buildings comprising nearly three-quarters of New York City’s overall emissions, the City has implemented an initiative to retrofit all public buildings with any significant energy use by 2025, and supporting many private buildings to do the same. In addition, in order to reduce emissions from City government operations, an program was put in place to achieve net-zero energy use at the City’s wastewater treatment plants by 2050.

“ConEdison Solutions is proud to help the New York City Department of Environmental Protection promote sustainability through this ambitious solar installation,” added Michael N. Perna of ConEdison Solutions. “Throughout New York City, both public-sector and private-sector entities are learning how to utilize renewable power as a money-saving and energy-saving asset. With these significant improvements at the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant, DEP is setting an outstanding example for other facilities throughout the region.”