Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Geothermal energy company Torrens Energy to raise $6m in IPO (Australia)

One of Australia's most unique and timely public share offers, a $6 million Initial Public Offering (IPO) for Australian geothermal exploration company Torrens Energy Limited, opens today (Tuesday, 27 February 2007). The capital raised from the IPO will be applied to the initial exploration of the Company's large GEL land position in South Australia.
Unusually hot rocks are known to occur in South Australia. These rocks are a vast untapped reservoir of energy, which can be used to generate electricity. Cold water is pumped into the ground, with superheated water being returned to surface which is "flashed" into steam, to drive a turbine, to generate clean, reliable electricity. The Company's portfolio of geothermal exploration licences near Adelaide in South Australia capitalises on the unique combination of the right geological conditions coinciding with infrastructure and markets.
The Company plans to identify geothermal targets for development, to become a dominant player in efficient, reliable electricity generation in Australia, using sustainable, renewable, emissions-free geothermal energy. What sets Torrens apart is its proximity to infrastructure and markets, being the first Company to recognize the geothermal potential which exists just kilometres north of Adelaide, on the National Power Grid.
Torrens has already completed work that has confirmed the prospectivity of its licence areas; drill hole temperature data and rock thermal property measurements completed and independently verified, show temperatures of 200oC modelled to 5000m depth, on all of the Company's tenements in South Australia.

Monday, February 26, 2007

VYCON Announces Purchase of REGEN System by PSA Korean Port Operation Incheon Container Terminal (ICT)

VYCON, a leader in the design and manufacture of green tech, high cycling energy storage flywheel systems, today announced that the Incheon Container Terminal (ICT) in Korea has purchased a REGEN unit to maximize fuel savings on their Rubber Tired Gantry (RTG) cranes. This marks the first installation of the REGEN system in Asia. Over the past 6 months, Korea has experienced an increase in diesel fuel costs of 30%.
For ICT, the goal of this initial purchase is to integrate the REGEN system with a reduced output diesel engine to measure and verify fuel savings. Based on positive results from this integration, ICT plans on retrofitting an additional 7 existing RTGs at their site, and will be purchasing 8 new RTGs in 2008 that will have the REGEN system installed by the manufacturer prior to delivery.
Fuel savings are achieved through the REGEN's ability to harness the power generated during the lifting operations and use it during the crane's peak lifting cycles. Because of the duty cycle of the RTG crane, the reduced output diesel engine will provide additional fuel savings during idling. Exclusively with the support of the REGEN system, an RTG crane can be retrofitted with a lower output diesel engine. Expected fuel savings are in the range of 30 to 45% with this design.
VYCON has successfully launched the REGEN system in the ports of Southern California as an emission reduction system, offering up to 67% decrease in Particulate Matter (PM) emissions. Using the REGEN system will allow operators to install smaller output diesel engines, and not only improve on the emission reduction but also increases the fuel savings from 20-25% with the REGEN alone to 30-45% in combination with the smaller engine.Source: Press Release

ConsumerPowerline says actions by regulators could devastate emergency demand response programs

The energy firm ConsumerPowerline (CPLN) says New York may well face a significantly increased risk for a major blackout during the summer of 2007. The increased risk to New York's energy security would be due to what CPLN calls an arbitrary and detrimental rule change that holds the potential to hurt emergency demand response programs in New York City and the state. The proposed rule change is now in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and a ruling is expected in early March. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), with the backing of Con-Edison and the state Public Service Commission, proposed the changes.

Calling demand response an "electricity lifeline" that has kept the lights burning when the electricity grid was on the brink of failure, CPLN is urging FERC to immediately halt the NYISO's efforts to change the program, and appealing to FERC to protect New York's energy security. The company says efforts to change demand response are in direct opposition to two recent government reports by FERC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Both recommend implementing emergency demand response programs nationwide, to provide relief from an overloaded electricity transmission system, and to reduce the likelihood of blackouts.
CPLN says the current proposed reduction of specific power plants' "price-cap," from $105 kw/yr to $85 kw/yr would create a major disincentive to consumer participation in the program. CPLN says the move could potentially generate an enormous negative impact on the city's ability to call on needed energy during a power emergency.
"This proposed reduction would likely cut demand response capacity by a minimum of 25 percent, and by as much as 100 percent," said Mike Gordon, founder and president of ConsumerPowerline. "A substantial, but unknown number of participants would drop out of the program, putting hundreds of thousands of businesses, homes and hospitals at risk. The impact of just a 25 percent loss in program participation translates to 150 megawatts of lost emergency power capacity... If the entire program folds, we can almost guarantee a major blackout in the event the summer of 2007 even approaches the severity of last year's temperatures. Without a robust emergency demand response program in place, and with unanticipated load-growth, we're truly on red-alert. There is a real prospect of blackouts this summer that would make the 2006 Queens blackout look like a walk in the park."
The city's demand response program relies on participation from large energy users, who shed power and thereby re-supply the electric grid when the threat of a power outage looms.
Organizations that supply electric power to the grid during an emergency say if the FERC regulation goes through, they will be hard pressed to guarantee continued participation in the emergency demand response program, said CPLN in a recent press release.
FERC has less than a month to review the proposal, and Gordon says all New Yorkers should pay close attention to what FERC decides.
CPLN says that beyond the immediate critical challenge to demand response on its plate FERC should support rule changes that would expand demand response from its current 600 megawatts size to 1500 megawatts. Source: Press Release

SolarCity to Host Green Community Meetings in Menlo Park

SolarCity, a solar installation and service company inspiring communities to take charge of their energy needs, welcomes Menlo Park residents to a community meeting on "greening" Menlo Park and the economic and environmental benefits of household and commercial solar power.
Menlo Park Mayor Kelly Fergusson will kick off the meetings and discuss the alignment of SolarCity's concepts with the City Council's environmental stewardship goals. Strategies will be discussed identifying ways the community can cut residential and commercial greenhouse gas emissions consistent with Kyoto protocols.
Also, SolarCity's CEO Lyndon Rive will discuss how solar power provides a simple solution to help reduce carbon emissions and generate clean energy, and announce a special Menlo Park group incentive for solar packages.
The Menlo Park collective power initiative aims to deliver at least 175kW of solar power between the city's residential and commercial customers. Thanks to group purchasing power, Menlo Park residents will have the opportunity to save 30% over typical solar installation and service costs if they register for service between now and April 30, 2007. In addition, one of the first 30 Menlo Park collective power customers will receive an additional $5,000 discount on the cost of their new system.
All interested attendees will receive complimentary follow-up home solar evaluations on request.

Green Grid Addresses Energy Efficiency in Data Centers

The Green Grid, a non-profit consortium dedicated to advancing energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems, today announced the completion of its formation, membership structure, technical charter, and made available three new white papers.
The collective viewpoint of Green Grid members is that energy efficiency in the data center is the most significant issue facing technology providers and their customers today. This situation is not only due to exponential increases in power and cooling costs over the past few years, but also because customer demand for concentrated computing is outpacing the availability of clean reliable power in many places around the world. The Green Grid is the first industry initiative chartered to take a holistic view of the computing ecosystem, with a focus on addressing the pressing issues facing data center users.
The consortium also announced its Board of Directors, comprised of AMD, APC, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Rackable Systems, SprayCool, Sun Microsystems, and VMware. These companies represent leadership across all facets of product development for the data center and are collectively committed to driving new user-centric metrics, technology standards, and best practices for use by data center managers worldwide.
End users and technology suppliers are encouraged to become members of The Green Grid to help drive the creation of platform-neutral specifications and metrics. The Green Grid's membership structure includes Contributing and General Member levels. General members will have access to all technical documentation produced by The Green Grid, access to intellectual property licensing, and opportunities to attend events. Contributing members will have all the above benefits and be eligible to join technology working groups, review technology documentation at each phase of development and directly contribute to shaping future consortium direction.
The organization has also made available its first three white papers developed by The Green Grid's technical committee. The papers offer perspectives on data center efficiency issues as well as efficiency baseline recommendations, and are targeted at CIO, data center administrator and facility manager audiences.
For more information about The Green Grid's activities or to become a member, please visit the organization's Web site at www.thegreengrid.org. Source: Press Release

EnerNOC Files for Initial Public Offering

EnerNOC, Inc. announced that it filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the proposed initial public offering of its common stock. The shares will be sold by EnerNOC and certain selling stockholders.

Company Overview

«EnerNOC is a leading developer and provider of clean and intelligent power solutions to commercial, institutional and industrial customers, as well as electric power grid operators and utilities. Our technology-enabled demand response and energy management solutions help optimize the balance of electric supply and demand. We use our Network Operations Center, or NOC, to remotely manage electricity consumption across a network of end-use customer sites and make electric capacity and energy available to grid operators and utilities on demand. This provides a significantly lower cost and more environmentally sound peak load management solution than building power plants and transmission lines to meet extreme periods of peak electricity demand. By making our capacity available to grid operators and utilities, we generate a stream of recurring revenues. Since inception, our business has grown substantially. With over 1,150 customer sites and 525 megawatts, or MW, of electric capacity under management as of February 1, 2007, we believe that we are the largest national demand response solutions provider to commercial, institutional and industrial customers. Our revenues grew from $0.8 million in 2004 to $20.2 million in the nine months ended September 30, 2006.
The electric power industry in North America faces enormous challenges to meet increasing demand. Under-investment in generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in recent years in key regions, coupled with a dramatic growth in electricity consumption, has led to an increased frequency of blackouts and brownouts. Moreover, the margin between electric supply and demand is projected to drop below minimum target levels in Texas, New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain region within the next two to three years. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States and Canada need to add 758,000 MW of additional capacity at a cost of $1.6 trillion between 2003 and 2030 to meet projected demand. As the electric power industry confronts these challenges, technology-enabled demand response has emerged as an important solution to help address the imbalance in electric supply and demand.
We are a pioneer in the development, implementation and broader adoption of technology-enabled demand response solutions. We focus on the commercial, institutional and industrial market, which represents over 60% of U.S. electricity consumption. Our robust and scalable technology platform and proprietary operational processes enable us to manage electrical equipment located at multiple, broadly dispersed end-use customer sites to make electric capacity and energy available on demand for grid operators and utilities. We have the flexibility to remotely reduce electricity usage in a matter of minutes, or send curtailment instructions to our end-use customers to be implemented on site.
We began providing demand response solutions in one state in 2003 and expanded nationally to over 20 states in five regions by the end of 2006. From our start in one open market in 2003 to our current 18 contracts and open market programs with grid operators and utilities, we have increased our electric capacity under management with commercial, institutional and industrial customers to 137 MW at the end of 2005 and to 525 MW as of February 1, 2007. »
EnerNOC S-1 Registration Statement

BioSolar, Inc. Goes Public

BioSolar, Inc. Goes Public, Registration Statement Declared Effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission
BioSolar, Inc., developer of a breakthrough technology to produce thin film, flexible solar cells on bio-based plastic substrates, today announced that the company's SB-2 registration statement has been declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The company's CEO, David Lee, said, "We are very pleased that our registration statement has been declared effective and that we are a public company. We can now turn our energies and focus to developing our solar cells produced on bio-based substrates. We look forward to building a successful company for our shareholders."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Doubling Colorado's Renewable Energy Standard Could Add $1.9B to State's Economy

[From Wind Energy Weekly/AWEA:]

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (D) joined clean energy advocates to announce a new report showing that if the state doubled its renewable energy by 20%, it would add $1.9 billion to the gross domestic production in the state.

“More clean, homegrown energy means more jobs and higher wages paid for Coloradans,” said Ritter. “Increasing our use of renewable energy would bring over 4,000 high-paying, high-skilled jobs and over $570 million in wages paid to our state.”

The economic boon would come from increased manufacturing, installation, and operation of renewable electricity production, according to the report, which is entitled “Energy for Colorado’s Economy.” Produced by Environment Colorado, the report compares economic and environmental benefits of three alternative polices on electricity production, including “business-as-usual” with fossil fuel production, Amendment 37 which set a 10% renewable energy standard, and the 20% goal currently being considered by the Colorado state legislature.

The Environment Colorado report found job creation was 4.3 times higher, wages paid was 2.2 times higher, and an increase in gross domestic product was 1.9 times higher for a 20% renewable energy standard than under Amendment 37.

“We have only just begun to tap the potential of a New Energy Economy,” said Ritter. “Continued investment in clean energy helps our state ensure economic prosperity.”

The report shows that a 20% renewable energy goal would also result in significant reductions of soot, smog, and mercury pollution. Also, since wind and most solar resources use a negligible amount of water compared to fossil fuel sources, Colorado could save over 18 billion gallons of water by 2020, according to the report.

“Increasing our use of wind and solar power will help continue to unlock the economic potential of rural Colorado,” said Lee Swenson, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “ Colorado farmers benefit most from homegrown power and earn anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 for each wind [turbine] on their farms. Increasing the opportunities for community-based energy generation, on farms and ranches, will provide even greater economic benefits and returns to the rural economy.”

Craig Cox, executive director of Interwest Energy Alliance, noted that renewable energy policies help build the manufacturing sector. “A robust local renewable energy market is one of the number one things [wind power and other renewable] manufacturers will need before deciding to set up shop,” said Cox. “By doubling Colorado’s renewable energy standard to 20% by 2020, we become a competitive state for new manufacturing facilities.”

The report is available at www.environmentcolorado.org.

In 2004, Colordao became the first state in the country to enact a Renewable Energy Standard by popular referendum. Amendment 37 requires Colorado's larger utilities to get 10% of their energy from clean, homegrown, renewable energy sources by 2015. It now appears that Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest utility, is on track to blow through the 10% target several years ahead of schedule, and the Colorado State Legislature is considering expanding the RES to 20% by 2020.

Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard Signed Into Law

New Aggressive Standard Sits Well With Xcel, Minnesota's Largest Utility

[From Wind Energy Weekly/AWEA:]

Culminating two weeks of rapidly unfolding events, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R, picuted left), on February 22 signed into law a renewable energy requirement for 25% of the electricity produced by the state’s utilities to come from renewables by 2025.

Earlier in the week, the state House of Representatives passed the bill in a decisive 123-10 vote that had strong bipartisan support. The legislation also received overwhelming support in the state Senate, passing by a 61-4 margin earlier this month (see Wind Energy Weekly #1227). Depending on load growth and assuming that the entire “Renewable Electricity Standard” (RES) is reached through the deployment of wind power, it is expected that the state will need between 5,500 MW and 6,300 MW in new wind projects.

“This Renewable [Electricity] Standard blows open the door to a new electricity industry that will bring thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into Minnesota’s economy,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, a Wind Energy Works! coalition member and non-profit organization that works to lead a transition to a clean energy system. “It makes economic and environmental sense to create 25% of our electricity . . . and aggressively look at the options available to create global warming solutions in our state.”

The law specifies incremental benchmarks for utilities, with Xcel Energy’s RES ultimately reaching as high as 30%: 15% by 2010, 18% by 2012, 25% by 2016, and 30% by 2020. All other utilities, meanwhile, have a requirement of 7% by 2010, 12% by 2012, 17% by 2016, 20% by 2020, and 25% by 2025.

Xcel Energy, one of the entities that worked with the bill’s authors during its development, said that overall, the RES is a good piece of legislation. “We think it strikes a good balance between pursuing an aggressive wind standard and protecting our ratepayers,” Rick Evans, the director of government affairs for Xcel Energy in Minnesota, told Wind Energy Weekly.

Explaining how stakeholders had “a lot of discussions [with state officials] about “what could go wrong,” Evans said his company specifically liked the fact that any challenges in meeting the RES were to be taken to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which he called “the right place to go” to address such issues. The legislation allows for the possibility of the targets to be delayed, but only if the PUC determines that it would be in the public interest to do so; further, the bill includes language to ensure that various roadblocks would not indefinitely delay or prove fatal to implementation of the RES for any utility. For example, transmission constraints and delivery issues would be one legitimate reason for utilities not hitting RES targets; however, in that event, utilities would be required to move forward in the regulatory and construction process for the needed new transmission.

While highlighting the importance of what he called “ratepayer safeguards,” Evans made clear that, “We think we can accomplish this [RES].”

I guess adding the flexibility of being able to ask the Public Utility Commission to delay targets if they become too challenging to meet secured Xcel Energy's support for the Renewable Energy Standard. I'm a bit concerned about the level of flexibility this adds to the standard (policies have to have some teeth to them to ensure compliance), but having the state's largest utility on board throughout the process must have been instrumental in securing the kind of overwhelming support recieved by the MN RES. This policy practically flew through both the House and the Senate!

MN now jumps to the front of the pack of clean energy states, with perhaps the most aggressive ramp up rate for new renewables of any Renewable Energy Standard policy.

With any luck, Oregon will be snapping at their heals by the end of the year, although passing our RES is shaping up to be a bit more of a fight than the MN RES. Oregon's Governor Kulongoski has proposed a 25% by 2025 Renewable Energy Standard which will be right behind Minnesota's new policy in terms of the rate at which it requires Oregon's utility's to add new renewable energy sources to their mix.

I'm working hard at the Renewable Northwest Project to pass Oregon's RES. For more information on the Oregon RES, head to www.poweringoregonsfuture.org...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

CalPERS commits $400m each to cleantech, emerging market ventures

The California Public Employees' Retirement System will commit $400m each to two new private equity vehicles: one focusing on clean energy and technology investments, and the other on global emerging markets. The investments will be managed by specialised teams within Pacific Corporate Group, headquartered in La Jolla, California.
The clean energy and technology programme will concentrate on energy, water and material technologies, products and services that reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources and improve energy efficiency. CalPERS will be the anchor investor in the PCG cleantech fund, which will also raise capital from other institutional investors. The fund will pursue investments in cleantech partnerships as well as co-investments in cleantech companies alongside other general partners.
The new investments will augment CalPERS's Alternative Investment Management Program's current Environmental Technology Program, which has $200m in cleantech commitments to seven partnerships.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Minnesota House Passes Renewable Energy Standard - Governor Pledges to Sign Bill

123 to 10 Votes Shows Overwhelming Support for a Clean Energy Future

[From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:]

The Minnesota Legislature adopted the strongest renewable-energy standards in the nation Monday night when the House overwhelmingly approved the legislation.
The bill, which passed 123-10, mandates more production of such things as wind, hydrogen and solar power and sets in motion a timetable to increase the state's use of renewable energy for the next 18 years.

Identical legislation already has passed the Senate. The bill, which went through a delicate political navigation that included the utilities, environmental groups and business, now heads to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has pledged to sign it.

As of 2006, 23 states have established similar targets, but the Minnesota legislation would leapfrog the state to the front of renewable-energy generation nationwide.

Besides hoped-for environmental benefits, backers hail the measure as a way of producing home-grown energy, rather than being forced to rely on the vagaries of foreign fossil fuels.

Production and operation of such things as wind turbines could bring jobs to rural areas of the state long in need of steady work.

"Right now, Minnesota imports more electricity than any other state. We need to keep more of our money at home," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton.

It has been estimated that, when implemented, the use of renewable energy under the bill will save consumers and businesses as much as $500 million a year.

The measure requires the state's energy companies, except Xcel Energy, to provide 25 percent of their power through renewable sources by 2025. Xcel, which represents about half the state's electricity, would generate 30 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The proposal would require adding about 5,000 megawatts of renewable generating capacity to Minnesota's electricity grid, about eight times more than the state currently generates from renewable sources.

Most of the additional renewable energy probably would come from an estimated 3,000 new giant wind turbines that would dot farm country, but it could also come from other sources such as biomass.

Concerns raised about costs

During the House debate, critics registered concerns about the potential costs of implementing the mandates, suggesting that ratepayers might be forced to bear an undue burden for implementation.

One amendment, from Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, would have allowed an exemption from the mandates if those rules would cause rates to increase by 10 percent or more.

"We all support renewable energy, absolutely," Kohls said. "But let's make sure we're doing it in a way that our constituents -- yours and mine -- can afford."

That amendment failed.

"We don't want politicians setting the rates," said one opponent of the amendment, Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount.

Another amendment sought to allow the state to consider construction of new nuclear power plants. Minnesota is the only state that prohibits such construction.

"If we are to achieve energy independence in the U.S., all states need to keep nuclear energy as an option," said the amendment's author, Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers. It also failed.

Three states -- California, Texas and Iowa -- produce more wind-generated electricity than Minnesota, which added 145 megawatts of wind power in 2006, enough to light 43,500 homes.

Xcel, the nation's leading utility in using wind power, purchased about 1,000 megawatts of turbine-generated electricity last year and hopes to increase that to 2,300 megawatts this year. The utility recently announced plans to build a $210 million wind farm in Minnesota that will generate 100 megawatts of electricity by 2009.

The bill gives the state's Public Utilities Commission some leeway in determining whether to delay or modify implementation of the rules. The commission can consider such things as the potential impact on customer fees, issues of reliability, siting delays and transmission restraints.

The bill also allows utilities that exceed their required amounts of renewable energy to sell credits to other utilities.

I don't know what it is about Minnesota's political situation, but I am very impressed by how quickly this Renewable Energy Standard flew through the state legislature and the degree of support it recieved. The companion bill passed the Senate with a 64-1 vote after only a couple of days of debate and made it out of both committees with a unanimous vote in the Senate and only one nay in the House, if I'm not mistaken.

Those are the kind of results I can only dream about as I work on passing Oregon's proposed 25% by 2025 Renewable Energy Standard. We're looking at a
much longer fight in the legislature, and although I am optimistic it will pass eventually, it will probably not be by anything like the kind of margin of victory for Minnesota's RES.

I'm not sure exactly how the math works out, but Minnesota is now claiming the most aggressive RES in the nation. With Xcel making up about half of the state's load and having to meet the more aggressive target and deadlines (30% by 2020 instead of 25% by 2025 for the rest of the state's utilities), I would imagine that that claim is justified.

Bravo Minnesota!

[A hat tip to Jenny Bedell-Stiles]

Monday, February 19, 2007

Tesla Motors to Build Assembly Plant in New Mexico - Will Produce WhiteStar All-Electric Sports Sedan

New Mexico Governor Investigating Fleet Purchase of 100 WhiteStar Sedans

[From Green Car Congress:]

Tesla Motors [makers of the Tesla Roadster all-electric sports car (pictured left)] will build its new automobile assembly facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Construction on the 150,000 square foot plant will begin in April 2007, at the latest.

The New Mexico plant will be the company’s first assembly facility in the United States, and will produce the WhiteStar, an upcoming four-door, five-passenger all-electric sports sedan.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has directed the state’s General Services Division, and other appropriate agencies, to investigate the purchase of 100 WhiteStar vehicles for the state fleet over a two year period as a demonstration of the state’s commitment to clean energy.

Governor Richardson has also invited Tesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk and Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard to work with the state to develop a package of legislation for the 2008 session to encourage and incentivize the purchase of clean energy vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles.

"This is a major step toward making New Mexico a center for 'green' manufacturing. In my role as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will continue crafting policies at the federal level to ensure that the electric cars like those made by Tesla&madsh;and other companies specializing in cutting-edge renewable energy technologies—will eventually be commonplace. I commend Gov. Richardson, Secretary Homans, Gary Tonjes, Clark Krause and Mayor Chavez for working hard to recruit Tesla to our state."
—US Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Several states, including Arizona and California, were in talks with Tesla Motors over locating the WhiteStar assembly plant.

The first cars will roll off the assembly line in the fall of 2009, and Tesla Motors will produce at least 10,000 cars each year. The vehicles will cost $50,000 for the standard model or $65,000 for a premium model with greater performance and range. Tesla Motors begins production of its first vehicle, a zero-emission two seat Roadster, at a facility in England owned by Lotus Cars later this year.

Tesla Corporate Headquarters will continue to be located in San Carlos, California. Tesla recently announced the opening of an R&D facility in Rochester Hills, Mich., north of Detroit, where it expects to grow to a staff of 60 focused on design and engineering for the WhiteStar.

Tesla Motors will receive several incentives from the state, including the high wage job tax credit, the manufacturer’s investment tax credit and assistance from the Job Training Incentive Program.

In addition, Governor Richardson has committed $3.5 million in capital outlay from the 2007 legislative session, and another $3.5 million in capital outlay from the 2008 legislative session. These funds will go to Bernalillo County and be used for building and infrastructure investment related to the facility.

The state’s Economic Development Department worked closely with the Albuquerque Economic Development Department and the New Mexico Economic Development Partnership to close the deal with Tesla Motors. The city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have agreed to assist with development of infrastructure to the site. First Community Bank has agreed to participate as a local lender. SunCal, which recently acquired approximately 57,000 acres on Albuquerque’s west side, pledged at no cost up to 75 acres of land abutting the initial site if the company undertakes a major expansion in the future.

Who says the electric car is dead?! While Detroit delays on releasing even a plug-in hybrid, citing insufficient battery technology, start-ups like Tesla Motors, Pheonix Motorcars and ZAP march towards the commercial release of electric-vehicles. While pricey, this new generation of EVs will hopefully prove that the electric vehicle, and it's cousin the plug-in hybrid are the viable, clean, and efficient future for transportation.

Airtricity Invests $1.5 B to Transmit 4,200 MW of Wind Energy in Texas

[From RenewableEnergyAccess.com:]

A consortia backed by Airtricity has committed to the construction of a 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission 'loop' in the Texas Panhandle Plains region: The $1.5 billion 'Panhandle Loop' will be a 800-mile 'looped' transmission project bringing 4,200 megawatt (MW) of wind energy to more than one million homes.

The proposal for the three interconnected transmission lines extending from three separate loops on the grid has been filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) and, once approved, all parties are committed to moving it forward with a goal of project completion as early as late 2010.

The consortia behind the Panhandle Loop include Airtricity, Inc.; Babcock & Brown Renewable Holdings Inc; Celanese, Ltd.; Occidental Energy Ventures Corp.; and Sharyland Utilities, L.P.

"The Panhandle Loop project is like constructing a power station greater than the entire generation for Ireland and building it by 2010," said Airtricity's Chief Executive, Eddie O'Connor.

Airtricity, an integrated utility that generates and supplies green electricity, currently supplies renewable electricity to more than 35,000 commercial customers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is actively developing wind farms onshore and offshore throughout Europe (Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands), the U.S. and Canada, and has wind farms operating across Ireland and in Scotland at Ardrossan.

I don't know where they are getting their capital, but Airtricity has big visions and big plans, and if this project is any indication, it looks like they might actually be able to pull it off. More power to them!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prism Solar Technologies (PST) closes $1.15MM in bridge-round financing.

Prism Solar Technologies, Inc. (PST), has closed on a bridge-round of equity financing toward its Series "A" financing. After securing investment of $900,000, PST has received an additional $1,150,000 investment from CounterPoint Ventures, Phoenix-Fire II LLC, Magnesium.com, Inc. and individual investors as part of its equity financing to commercialize its patented holographic PV technology.
Through passive tracking, Prism's Holographic Planar Concentrator (HPC) technology can achieve higher output in the morning and late afternoon while reducing the amount of expensive silicon necessary in a module. Prism PV modules minimize the use of expensive solar cells in our modules but still maintain above average output.
PST continues to make advances on the business front and is in discussions with international PV companies regarding joint ventures and licensing of its holographic film and glass products.
"This funding will allow us to accelerate the development of our second generation of products", said Rick Lewandowski, Prism's President and CEO. "We will also be able to facilitate our R&D effort more extensively."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Governors of Illinois and New Jersey Call for Greenhouse Gas Reductions - 1990 Levels by 2020

The governors of both Illinois and New Jersey called for statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets yesterday. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich both issued new goals aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases within their states back to 1990 levels by 2020.

Governor Corzine also called for further reductions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey to 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. Governor Blagojevich issued a similar goal, calling for emissions levels 60% below 1990 levels by 2050 [I assume that in real terms, these targets are very close.]

"Today we have taken steps to preserve our planet for our children and grandchildren by adopting aggressive goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," Governor Corzine said. "In the absence of leadership on the federal level the burden has now fallen upon state executives and legislatures to lead the way on this issue and I’m proud that New Jersey is helping to blaze that trail."

To reach the governor's goal, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will work with the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and other stakeholders to evaluate methods to meet and exceed the 2020 target reductions, according to a press release. The DEP Commissioner will make specific recommendations to meet the targets while taking into account the economic benefits and costs of implementing these recommendations. This evaluation will be done in conjunction with the state’s Energy Master Plan, which will incorporate the new greenhouse gas reduction goal.

The order calls on the DEP to develop a 1990 greenhouse gas emission inventory as well as a system for monitoring current greenhouse gas levels so that progress toward goals can be accurately tracked. DEP will report progress towards the target reductions no less than every two years and if necessary will recommend additional actions to reach the targets.

To further reduce emissions, the order calls for the Director of Energy Savings to develop targets and implementation strategies for reducing energy use by state facilities and vehicles fleets.

The administration will call on other states to join in its efforts and will work closely with the Legislature to pass legislation to support and strengthen the targets set out in the Executive Order. Senator Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union) are currently working on a bill to accomplish that goal.

As a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the Corzine Administration will set up a cap and trade program to help limit carbon dioxide pollution from electric power plants.

Under this system power plants that exceed a predetermined level of carbon dioxide emissions will be required to pay a fee for each ton of carbon emitted over the limit. Governor Corzine will work with the Legislature to dedicate up to 100% of these funds to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy as well as other projects that benefit electric users. Senator Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) and Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex) are currently working on legislation to accomplish this goal.

In Illinois, similar efforts are underway to implement Governor Blagojevich's goal.

“The impact of global warming in Illinois and around the globe could be devastating, and we can’t wait for the federal government to act because scientists worldwide have warned that we must address climate change within the next decade to avoid serious and irreversible consequences,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The international community recognizes that rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and unusual weather patterns are warning signs telling us that climate change is a reality. Now, despite inaction by President Bush, we must deal with it. By committing ourselves to action in Illinois, we can help minimize the effects of climate change and ensure our children and grandchildren inherit a healthy world full of opportunity."

According to a press release, the Illinois governor has charged his Climate Change Advisory Group with recommending strategies to meet these GHG reduction goals. The advisory group will meet over a six-month period to identify measures to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gases.

“Illinois is stepping up to advance needed policy solutions to our global warming problems while the federal government has lagged behind,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Governor's Climate Change Advisory Group can help Illinois move to the forefront in developing more clean energy, cleaner cars and more energy efficient buildings that will help reduce global warming pollution. That provides benefits for our environment, our economy and future generations.”

The Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group will be chaired by Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Vice Chairs include Michael Carrigan, Secretary/Treasurer, Illinois AFL-CIO; Art Gibson, Senior Vice President, Baxter Healthcare; and Howard Learner, Executive Director, Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest. The World Resources Institute will facilitate the Advisory Group meetings and provide technical assistance.

Other members of the Advisory Group include: ADM, Ameren, BP America Inc., Caterpillar, Inc., Center for Energy and Economic Development, Citizen Action of Illinois, Citizens Utility Board, City of Chicago, Deere & Company, Dynegy, Environment Illinois, Faith in Place, Ford Motor Company, League of Women Voters of Illinois, Midwest Generation, Midwest Wind Energy, NICOR, Natural Resources Defense Council, Phoenix Architects, Inc., Regional Transportation Authority, Scates Farm, Sieben Energy Associates, Sierra Club - Illinois Chapter, State Farm Insurance, United Transportation Union, University of Illinois – Chicago, University of Illinois - Urbana/Champaign, Village of Schaumburg, and Waste Management, Inc.

In 2006, the California Assembly passed, and the Governor signed into law, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 which is also intended to bring statewide emissions of greenhouse gases back down to 1990 levels by 2020—an estimated cut of 25%.

CitizenRE - Solar Snakeoil Salesmen?

Some of you may have noticed a bit of buzz kicking up around a new player in the solar power industry, Citizenre. It's hard not to kick up some serious buzz when you're making claims like Citizenre is...

The new solar energy company claims it will soon open the world's largest solar photovolataic manufacturing plant - a 500 MW facility located in the Northeastern United States - will launch the world's largest vertically-integrated solar manufacturing, marketing and installation company and begin to install 100,000 solar PV systems in the United States annually (that number incidentally being larger than the total number of installations completed in the United State to date and about the same as the number of installations that Germany's highly-tuned, efficient solar infrastructure installed in 2006).

Oh, and they're going to do all this while offering residential solar systems for just $20,000, or about half the current market rate, enough to provide you with clean, solar power at the same rate you are currently paying for electricity, the company claims.

Citizenre is taking sign-ups now, and a lot of folks are getting caught up in the big promises. After all, who wouldn't want to generate their own solar power instead of paying their utility without paying any more than they do right now?!

Well, you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true, and Citizenre's hyped-up promises surely fit the bill.

RenewableEnergyAccess.com just posted a RenewableEnergyInsider opinion piece by Jeff Wolfe, CEO and co-founder of groSolar, one the nation's largest solar energy distribution and installation firms. He's been following the Citizenre debate, has interviewed their Chief Technical Officer, and makes some very good points about the company's claims.

While he's certainly part of the 'establishment industry' that would presumably be threatened if Citizenre's can deliver on their claims, his points are valid: to be as punny as possible, Citizenre is promising us the sun, and they haven't given us any indication that they can make good.

On to the article...

Citizenre: A House of Cards?
by Jeffery D. Wolfe, P.E., groSolar, CEO & Co-Founder
(groSolar's Jeff Wolfe has been tracking the Citizenre debate; the opinions expressed in this article are his own.)

There has been a buzz in the air lately. It's the sound of U.S.-based Citizenre, a new multi-level marketing machine targeting solar power. Their plan? Build "the world's largest" solar cell and module manufacturing plant with the stated intention to install 100,000 residential systems annually. Their pitch? You can have solar electric power for the same price that you currently pay for electricity. Sign up now and they will do the installation in September as long as your state offers net metering.

Does this mean that solar electricity has finally hit the mainstream? Is solar now affordable for all and at a scale that will make a difference in the U.S. and worldwide? Not so fast.

After several weeks of reviewing this new company's claims, discussing the manufacturing build out plan and its network marketing approach with others in the solar energy industry, plus reading online commentaries from a variety of sources and actually talking with representatives of the company, I have pieced together enough information to express my opinion that Citizenre is not going to be able to stand up to their promises.

There has been no financial announcement for a deal of significant proportion, which would be the enabling factor to meet the product or installation capacity required. This company is building is a "house of cards" and attracting a lot of customers who want a deal that's too good to be true.

So, you ask, what's the problem if Citizenre is not real or if they fail, and the public just gives early buyers a told-you-so, buyer beware shrug of the shoulders? The answer is we all lose.

As soon as someone signs up for a Citizenre solar system, they are removed from the pool of potential customers for other reputable solar dealers in the U.S. Already, photovoltaic (PV) dealers are telling me that they are losing business because potential customers are signing up with Citizenre -- people are waiting until the reported 500 megawatt "largest fully-integrated PV manufacturing plant in the world" comes online this fall.

But it will be September -- the deadline for the build out of the manufacturing facility and beginning installations will have come and gone -- before reality sets in for these customers when they do not receive their solar system on time as promised. Plans seem poised to fall apart, and at that point we'll have four results:

  • A lot of very disappointed and upset people.
  • A lot of traditional PV dealers who are out of business.
  • Reduced or eliminated federal and state incentives for solar electricity due to a perceived lack of need.
  • A solar electric industry in the U.S. that has been set backwards 5 years.

  • What follows is an exploration of Citizenre's claims based upon extensive communication from others in the industry, Internet postings and a telephone conversation with Rob Wills, Citizenre's Chief Technical Officer. Wills volunteered to join an industry list serve (RE-Markets@Topica.com) and answer questions regarding the company. From all sources, I have consolidated the results in each "Summary Opinion" below.

    This summary represents my opinion of the viability and status of Citizenre today:

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre is indicating publicly that they have raised $650 million, and are constructing the world's largest PV manufacturing facility (PR Web, January 23, 2007, "Is the Sun Finally Rising on Solar Power? An Interview with Rob Styler, President of Powur of Citizenre. This would be the single largest investment in solar power ever, yet we've heard not one detail -- not who, when, or where..

    Summary Opinion: What I found is that construction has not even started on the proposed manufacturing facility -- again the largest in the world. A ground breaking date is not set, nor a location. They will not break ground until they have closed on their major financing. They have not closed on their financing although they indicate it is lined up and they simply need to clear a few hurdles. Citizenre stated that they could have a plant on line in 12 months. In my opinion, that puts their available manufactured product supply out by at least 18 months.

    Questions & Issues: The PV manufacturers worldwide are experiencing a shortage of polysilicon. Industrial-strength PV giants have been forced to their knees, and signed up in advance for long term multi-million dollar contracts for silicon. New-comer Citizenre apparently plans on making silicon appear on command, at pricing they dictate. There has been no announced contract like every other major silicon deal. Like "where's the beef", I ask "where's the silicon"?

    Summary Opinion: Rob Wills indicated that Citizenre has a source for silicon at "significantly below $60/kg". My opinion is that when an established international PV companies like SCHOTT Solar cannot obtain sufficient silicon, there is no way for an unproven startup to obtain silicon, and certainly not at below market prices. Without public details, there is no way to justify this position.

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre claims they will install 100,000 systems. At $20,000 each (about half the cost of an average system today) that's $2 billion of installations per year. That's equivalent to 450 installations every business day -- a great goal. But 100,000 installations is more than the total number of installations completed in the U.S. to date. From zero to 100,000 is not an easy ramp up. Before millions of dollars in customer contracts are sold, we should know much more about the company's plan and its team to manage this steep trajectory of growth and speed.

    Summary Opinion: It turns out that the entire marketing effort to-date has been a "pilot program", according to Wills. He says they are now thinking 25,000 systems, yet the many Citizenre web sites and their representative "downline distributors" are still telling others 100,000. The marketing in the public domain is going to be revamped to "correct some issues" according to Mr. Wills, yet the question remains as to who is in control of the messaging to vulnerable consumers.

    Questions & Issues: Citizenre states it will be able to reduce material costs sharply because they have "vertical integration" and will "be able to produce the final product at half the cost of our competitors", according to Rob Styler in the interview quoted above. Unfortunately, the price of solar power is not purely a function of volume production. Glass, aluminum extrusions, Tedlar (R) and lead wires are all commodity products, but all comprise a significant piece of the cost that Citizenre can not affect. To think that a startup is going to beat world leaders like Sharp, Kyocera and Suntech (that are currently producing at scale) is naive. What technology is Citizenre planning on using? With more knowledge, we can then understand the probable costs of the technology for comparison purposes.

    Summary Opinion: I received no answer to the questions and issues above.

    Questions & Issues: Rob Styler, in the above cited interview, states that installation will take "about half a day". I've done installation work. I don't care what kind of fancy technology the modules have, they still need to get fastened down to a roof, and 200 to 500 square feet of panels are needed. Then a wire needs to be run to the electric panel, through an outside disconnect. On most jobs, after half a day the ladders are set up, and the conduit to the ground is run. Installations taking a day (in areas with one story homes and low slope roofs) are possible. Does Citizenre have some secret to speeding up installations beyond their AC PV module currently in design as stated? Have any installations been done by Citizenre that have approached this time schedule?

    Summary Opinion: Mr. Wills said he believes Citizenre can get to this reduced installation time. He speaks of automation and standardization to achieve this, but has presented nothing concrete on how to achieve this goal. So, Citizenre has no secret to lowering the cost of installation, they just believe they are smarter than the entire rest of the industry that has been installing on-grid non-battery systems. Even in Germany, which is so often touted as a model of efficient and quick installation, systems installs do not approach the half day goal.

    Questions & Issues: In one of the emails, Mr.Wills asked: "Is it better to try for a quantum leap that results in PV power costing less than retail electricity? Or should we sit back doing business as usual, letting the government tell us they are supporting solar. Please give us a chance to move this ahead and to succeed. There is plenty or work for all of us. Solar Energy is abundant."

    Summary Opinion: I'd love for solar to become ubiquitous, and it will. However, it takes more than clever marketing and unsubstantiated claims to do this. It takes the following items that it seems to me Citizenre is missing:

  • PV panels. The manufacturing facility will be operational in 18 months at the earliest in my opinion.

  • Inverters. Inverters have proven to be very difficult to create. Most new inverter companies fail before they succeed, and many established companies have new products fail before being fixed. The real world of PV is a harsh environment, with difficult input parameters. No beta tests mean that you cannot know when or how the inverter will function, or even if it can be produced at your super low vertically integrated required cost. And that says nothing about the arduous UL certification process.

  • Integrity. Say what is true, and deliver what you say. Citizenre cannot feasibly deliver what it has promised to date. Citizenre knew that the September installations could not happen at least as of January (with no plant under construction...) but has yet to make a public acknowledgment.

  • Realistic Plan. A complete integrated business plan that has sales coordinated with production and supply.

  • In its current incarnation, it is my opinion that Citizenre represents a significant threat to the solar industry. Exaggerated claims, inability to deliver product, sales to areas where they do not intend to install soon. These issues can taint the entire solar industry. Worse, misled customers will delay or not buy products from reputable dealers, putting these sound businesses at risk.

    This is not the reaction from people who are scared of change. This is the response from committed individuals and businesses who want the solar industry to succeed. To see Citizenre endanger that vision by over-promising and under-delivering reminds me of a teetering house of cards.

    Jeffery Wolfe is the CEO of groSolar, a national solar integration firm focused on designing, distributing and installing high quality energy systems. Jeff is a recognized leader in the solar industry and has led the design and installation of some of the largest solar projects in the U.S. He serves on the board of the Solar Electric Industry Association (SEIA) and chairs the PV division. While a partner at the engineering firm Bard, Rao & Athanas, he designed over four million sq. feet of construction and nine MW of power generation. He is a certified professional engineer and has a BSME degree from Cornell University.

    Stay tuned for a special report on Citizenre in this Thursday's episode of Inside Renewable Energy [which I will cover], featuring an interview with company CEO David Gregg.

    Detroit Goes on a Green Offensive With Plug-in Hybrids

    [From Wired:]

    Detroit is going on a green offensive with electric plug-in models that can run emissions-free for up to 40 miles -- at about a quarter the cost of gas -- on batteries that draw their juice directly from the grid.

    GM's Chevrolet Volt and Ford's HySeries Drive, unveiled as concept prototypes for the first time last month, leapfrog current hybrid designs and could put pressure on Toyota's popular Prius by offering consumers better value [see Green Car Congress write ups here (GM) and here (Ford) for more details on the cars and drivetrains].

    Although these cars are not scheduled for production until the end of the decade or later, many experts now believe plug-ins offer the best tradeoffs combination yet in terms of energy efficiency, emissions and practicality.

    "Once plug-in hybrids appear, I don't know why 'mere' hybrids would be appealing," said Philip Reed, the Fuel Economy Guide editor for Edmunds. "Plug-in hybrids do everything that hybrids can do but at a lower cost to consumers."

    Detroit's troubles run far deeper than next year's or even next decade's models: GM and Ford are struggling with massive pension liabilities and deep-seated labor problems at a time when Japanese rivals are making deep inroads with fuel-efficient models, including hybrids.

    [Image: Powertrain of the Chevy Volt E-Flex Concept. The 400 pound Lithium Ion battery pack runs along the spine. The electric motor is mounted in the front near the electric generator that takes over when the batteries are depleted. (Click to enlarge)]

    Ford last month announced a record annual loss of $12.7 billion for 2006, the result of painful restructurings that likely haven't ended. Toyota, by contrast, is coming on strong. With record net income of $3.5 billion during its most recent quarter, it is poised to overtake GM as the world's No.1 automaker, in part thanks to prescient bets on fuel-efficient technologies such as the hybrid drive that powers the Prius.

    GM and Ford, by contrast, which currently sell hybrid SUVs and trucks, have seen their reputations with consumers take a beating over short-sighted strategies, culminating in GM's portrayal in the movie Who Killed the Electric Car. In a survey by Harris Interactive of consumers rating the 60 most well-respected U.S. companies, GM ranked 57th, while Ford was 55th.

    Reed said plug-in hybrids would enable the companies to surpass hybrids by offering more environmentally friendly vehicles. But he added public relations may be the most practical benefit, at least in the immediate future. "The announcement of the plug-in hybrids seems designed to offset that negative publicity. However, the question is whether they really will reach the marketplace."

    Plug-in hybrids will be cheaper to own than today's hybrids because they can run on battery power for up to 40 miles before needing to be recharged. The cost of propelling a vehicle using electricity is a fraction of that of gasoline, according to data from the Electric Power Research Institute.

    Although the price of electricity and gasoline vary widely by state, EPRI says on average electric power is the equivalent of 75 cents a gallon gasoline, or between one-third and one-quarter of the cost of gas. Plug-in hybrid owners who drive 40 miles a day or more would save at least $900 a year, according to Beth Lowry, GM's vice president of environment and energy. Plug-in hybrid vehicles are expected to cost marginally more than today's hybrid vehicles, but relying primarily on electric power would pay back their extra cost much faster.

    Plug-in hybrids are appealing to environmentally conscious people because they do not spew greenhouse gases when utilizing battery power. While the coal and natural gas power plants that would provide the bulk of the electricity would increase their emissions, the net effect would be a significant pollution reduction. Running on battery power reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 23 percent and volatile organic compounds by 92 percent, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, or PNNL.

    [Image: The Ford HySeries drive. That's the fuel cell on top and the Li ion battery back below. I assume the central portion houses the electric motor. (Click to Enlarge).]

    "Once (plug-in hybrids) are out, they will make many other cars obsolete, including today's hybrids," said Andy Frank, a professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at the University of California at Davis. Frank, who has been developing hybrid vehicles for more than 30 years, has been granted nine patents for plug-in vehicles and sees them as the inevitable successor to the Prius. Frank built plug-in hybrids that weigh about the same as today's hybrids while offering superior fuel economy.

    Plug-in hybrids would also be attractive because they substantially reduce U.S. oil imports, an objective touted by President Bush and many national security experts. Plug-in hybrids would save hundreds of gallons of petroleum per vehicle each year, according to PNL. If 84 percent of the light-duty vehicle fleet were plug-in hybrids (the theoretical maximum that the electric grid could support), the United States could eliminate 61 percent of foreign oil imports, according to the PNL report.

    Plug-in hybrids would likely find an instant market with municipal fleets across the country. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed the technology, and many cities have joined with utilities in the Plug-In Partners (.pdf) consortium to promote their adoption.

    Honda and Toyota are also considering production plug-in hybrids, while DaimlerChrysler is testing 20 plug-in Dodge Sprinter vans to learn more about the technology's commercial potential.

    Hybrid cars, despite taking years to pay back their premium through fuel savings (if at all), have sold well for Honda and Toyota, which plans to increase hybrid vehicle production by 40 percent in 2007. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 instituted a federal tax credit that can refund consumers most of the additional cost of buying a hybrid.

    In 2007, GM will introduce its first two hybrid sedans, the Saturn Aura Green Line and Chevrolet Malibu, eight years after the first hybrid sedans were sold in the United States. GM is aggressively pursuing plug-in hybrids "because of the tremendous potential to significantly increase fuel economy," according to spokesman Brian Corbett. He said GM is developing plug-in hybrids now so "when the advanced batteries are ready for production, our plug-in vehicles should be ready, too -- which means we'll be ahead of the curve."

    Lowery said there will still be a place for hybrids and the market will support both types of vehicles. She said plug-in hybrids are appropriate for urban residents with shorter commutes, while larger hybrids serve people who take longer trips and "who want a certain class of vehicle but with added fuel economy."

    However, the current limitations of battery technology could stall the commercialization of plug-in hybrids. Manufacturers of plug-in hybrid vehicles, including GM and Ford, are pinning their hopes on lithium-ion battery technology to provide the 20-plus miles of vehicle range without a significant increase in weight and cost.

    Dave Alexander, a senior analyst at ABI Research, believes battery technology will not advance enough in the next two or three years to suit commercially viable plug-in hybrids. "The first plug-in hybrid vehicles will have more limited range than we have been led to believe," Alexander said. Cost could also be a factor as Alexander estimates that lithium-ion batteries for a plug-in hybrid currently cost about $10,000.

    [This article in the MIT Technology Review is much more optimistic than that, arguing that battery technology is sufficient to get a working prototype on the road by the end of the year. Given GM's existing contracts with Cobasys/A123 and Johnson Controls/Saft for Li ion battery packs, as well as the progress being made by ZAP, Pheonix Motorcars, Tesla Motors and others outside of Detroit to commercialize Li ion-powered full EVs, I find GM's skepticism about battery technology a bit pessimistic as well.]

    They're growing by several hundred thousand units each year, but hybrid vehicles made up only about 1.6 percent of the U.S. market in 2006, according to Alexander. He said because of the battery challenges "we won't see a big impact on hybrid sales" when plug-ins first go on sale.

    Nick Cappa, a spokesman for DaimlerChrysler, is also skeptical, saying plug-in vehicles would require "a significant leap in battery technology." He said his company has not committed to commercializing the technology because of the concerns about battery weight and reliability.

    Interest in plug-in hybrids could also be limited to people with garages or other ready access to charge their vehicles through electric outlets. Consumers recharge the vehicle's batteries -- preferably during off-peak hours -- by plugging the vehicle into a standard 110-volt outlet. After the batteries are depleted, another energy source such as petroleum, alternative fuel or a hydrogen fuel cell takes over propulsion.

    Plug-in hybrids "may not be for you if you live in an apartment or condo," said Sherry Boschert, the author of Plug-In Hybrids: The Cars that Will Recharge America. Outlets must be added to parking garages to provide public charging stations, and a metering system to charge vehicle owners would have to be developed by power companies, according to Boschert.

    Power companies in states like California, where demand occasionally outstrips grid capacity, would have to find ways to discourage or prevent cars from being recharged during peak demand periods. Until the infrastructure is created "it is going to be a bumpy ride" for plug-in hybrids, Boschert said.

    Plug-in hybrids will probably cause confusion in the market as the distinction between electric and hybrid vehicles will be obliterated, Alexander said. "You can't rigidly segment the market" so vehicles will be competing with one another, he said.

    Auto manufacturers are adding to the confusion as well, Alexander said. General Motors describes the Chevrolet Volt as an electric vehicle, even though it uses a gasoline generator to recharge the batteries. Most companies agree on the term "plug-in hybrid" to indicate a vehicle with multiple power sources that runs part time on externally rechargeable batteries.

    Plug-in hybrids would also likely temper, but not eliminate, interest in electric vehicles, according to Edmund's Reed. Tesla Motors has a waiting list for its $100,000 electric car, and some consumers would want to buy vehicles that avoid using fossil fuels altogether, Reed said. However, he added, "Plug-in hybrids have clearly broken from the pack" in becoming the front-running technology as cleaner and less consuming vehicles.

    [More pictures of the Volt at Wired here.]

    There'll be more on the promise of plug-in series hybrids soon. I promise....

    National Renewable Energy Standard Bill Introduced in House - 20% by 2020

    [From RenewableEnergyAccess.com:]

    New legislation that would require many U.S. utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020 was introduced yesterday by Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico.

    House bill 969 proposes to "amend title VI of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to establish a Federal renewable energy portfolio standard for certain retail electric utilities and for other purposes."

    The bill defines a renewable energy resource as solar (including solar water heating), wind, ocean, tidal, geothermal energy, biomass, landfill gas or incremental hydropower.

    "A renewable portfolio standard should be passed this Congress," said Alan Nogee, Union of Concerned Scientist Clean Energy Program Director. "The bill gives the American people what they asked for in the election -- a smart, cost-effective strategy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and get America on a track toward energy independence. And because power plants are a primary source of heat-trapping emissions, this bill can be an important part of solving global warming."

    With Washington State's passage this fall of an RPS ballot initiative, 21 states and the District of Columbia now have renewable portfolio standards. Since 2004, eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted standards, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    In August 2005, Texas more than doubled its standard, creating the second-largest new renewable energy market in the country, behind only California. Seven other states (Arizona, California, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and New Jersey) have also increased or accelerated their standards.

    "The states have already shown us that renewable standards can be successful," said Nogee. "The federal government should step in with its own standard so the entire country can enjoy the benefits of renewable energy. The nation's security and the health of our planet are too important to leave to the states."

    A 2004 Union of Concerned Scientist analysis of a similar bill calculates the multiple benefits from a national portfolio standard: By 2020, a 20 percent RPS would create 355,000 jobs -- nearly twice as many as electricity from fossil fuels would generate; competition from renewable energy generators would lower electricity and natural gas prices, saving consumers more than $49 billion on their energy bills; and farmers, ranchers and rural landowners would earn more than $16 billion in new income.

    H.R. 969 is being co-sponsored by representatives Todd Platts (R-PA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chris Shays (R-CT), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

    I need to look more into the details of this bill, but as long as this national Renewable Energy Standard does not preempt the 21 state-level RES policies already in place, this would be an excellent policy. As long as states have the freedom to set higher standards than the federal standard, enacting a national RES will be great step towards a clean energy future.

    RES policies ensure we utilize our clean, homegrown renewable energy resources, drives economic development (particularly in rural America), helps stabilize rising energy rates, reins in global warming pollution and creates a cleaner, healthier energy supply - all great reasons to support Renewable Energy Standard policies!

    If you are interested in telling your representatives to support this bill, head to the Union of Concerned Scientists' website here.


  • Draft of H.R. 969

  • Utility Group Calls for National Climate Policy; Pelosi Urges Action this Session

    Edison Electric Institute Calls for Carbon Prices Signals

    [From Wind Energy Weekly/AWEA:]

    Changing course on an issue key to their members, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) unanimously voted to approve a set of new climate change principles that back economy-wide national policies including price signals for carbon.

    The principles generally call for a national policy that would provide certainty within the business environment. EEI President Tom Kuhn said that any federal action or legislation needed to have three components: ensuring the development and cost-effective deployment of a full suite of “climate-friendly” technologies, minimizing economic disruption to customers and avoiding harm to the competitiveness of U.S. industry, and ensuring an economy-wide approach to carbon reductions.

    “No matter what path America chooses to address greenhouse gases, success will require an aggressive and sustained commitment by the industry and policymakers to the development and deployment of a full suite of technology options,” said Kuhn. Such options, EEI said, include renewable energy, demand-side management, energy efficiency, nuclear capacity, new coal technologies and carbon capture and storage, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

    EEI’s principles generally call for strong action that does not bring major harm to the economy. The document references wind specifically, stating that federal policy should address regulatory or economic barriers to wind’s (and other energy sources’) further deployment. The principles support federal policy that “employs market mechanisms to secure cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions and provides a reasonable transition and an effective economic safety valve.” The principles also call for a long-term price for carbon “that is moderate” and does not harm the economic competitiveness of U.S. industry and fosters the development of zero-emission technologies. Another element of note is that companies’ previous action to limit greenhouse gas emissions should be recognized, the principles state.

    “I applaud EEI taking this very meaningful step,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “This will make a vast difference on moving the debate forward. As the U.S. moves at long last toward action on global warming, stakeholders need to understand that wind is a vastly deployable zero-carbon energy source that is available today, and our nation’s policy for climate change should recognize and take advantage of this. That means ensuring that wind generators are directly allocated CO2 emission allowances on an output basis under a cap-and-trade program. Anything short of that does not recognize the full value of wind’s contribution to solving the problem.”

    EEI’s release of its principles follows the announcement by the Electric Power Supply Association, a trade group of electricity suppliers representing about one-third of U.S. power generation, calling for “comprehensive, mandatory” federal greenhouse gas legislation.

    Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pointed to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report’s statement that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half by mid-century to avoid major environmental impacts. Speaking before the House Committee on Science and Technology, Pelosi echoed the report’s conclusion that prompt action is needed to avoid those impacts. “We cannot achieve the transformation we need, both in the United States and throughout the international community, without mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution,” she said.

    Pelosi said that she hoped to have global warming legislation clear the appropriate House committees by July 4.

    Minnesota Senate Passes Renewable Energy Standard - 25% by 2025

    [From Wind Energy Weekly/AWEA:]

    By a 61-4 margin, Minnesota’s state Senate passed a renewable energy requirement for 25% of the electricity produced by utilities to come from renewables by 2025. With the bill having cleared the Senate, the House’s Energy Finance and Policy Division Committee is scheduled to debate similar legislation next week.

    The “Renewable Energy Standard” (RES), as it is called in the state, would result in 5,000-6,000 MW in renewable energy being developed. The legislation specifies incremental benchmarks for utilities, with Xcel Energy’s RES ultimately reaching as high as 30%: 15% by 2010, 18% by 2012, 25% by 2016, and 30% by 2020. All other utilities, meanwhile, would have a requirement of 7% by 2010, 12% by 2012, 17% by 2016, 20% by 2020, and 25% by 2025.

    The legislation allows for the possibility of the targets to be delayed, but only if the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission determines that it would be in the public interest to do so; further, the bill includes language to ensure that various roadblocks would not indefinitely delay or prove fatal to implementation of the RES for any utility. For example, transmission constraints and delivery issues would be one legitimate reason for utilities not hitting RES targets; however, in that event, utilities would be required to move forward in the regulatory and construction process for the needed new transmission.

    “The Renewable Energy Standard sends a clear signal that Minnesota is open for business,” Wind on the Wires Director Beth Soholt told Wind Energy Weekly. “5,000-6,000 MW of new renewable energy will be required to meet the strong standard. In turn we will see the creation of thousands of job, billions of dollars invested in the state, and enormous benefits to the environment.”

    [Update - Feb 13: According to Energista.org, the Minnesota RES bill passed the appropriate House committee on Monday with only one 'nay' vote. The House committee chose to adopt the Senate language and the bill withstood four efforts to ammend it. That means that the House version, which will likely see a floor vote very soon, will closely match the Senate version, meaning the conference committee process should be pretty smooth. This RES bill is flying through the Minnesota State Legislature!]

    Now THAT's what I'm talking about! 64-4! If only we could see that kind of nearly unanimous support for our RES efforts in Oregon...

    I've been following the development of the Minnesota RES as it plays out in the Minnesota Senate and House over at the excellent blog, Energista.org. Check out the long series of updates on the Minnesota RES over at Energista for more and stay tuned over there for continued updates as the RES progresses through the Minnesota House.

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Comverge Completes $40 Million Financing with GE Energy Financial Services to Grow Its Clean Energy Programs

    Press Release - Comverge, Inc. recently announced that it has obtained a $40 million senior credit facility from GE Energy Financial Services to expand its clean energy programs, which reduce energy costs by increasing available electric capacity during periods of peak electricity demand.
    GE Energy Financial Services’ debt finance group lead-arranged the credit facility for Comverge’s wholly owned subsidiary, Alternative Energy Resources, Inc. The credit facility, which has a seven-year term, will be used for capital expenditures and expansion of the subsidiary’s existing and future awarded pay-for-performance Virtual Peaking Capacity™ programs. Designed to provide electric utilities with fully outsourced demand response provided by Comverge, these programs use a long-term pay-for-performance contract structure and provide demand response resources quickly and economically, with low risk to the utility.
    GE Energy Financial Services identified Comverge as a leading demand response company within the clean energy industry, based on its innovative Virtual Peaking Capacity business model and its products that efficiently reduce demand for electricity during peak consumption periods.
    “As utilities are faced with higher peak costs every year, our Virtual Peaking Capacity offering is gaining broad acceptance. This additional capital will help fuel the ramp-up of new programs that we expect to be awarded,” said Comverge’s Chairman, President and CEO, Robert M. Chiste. “We appreciate the financial support of GE Energy Financial Services, a leader in clean energy investing.”
    “This transaction with Comverge is GE Energy Financial Services’ first corporate debt financing for a growing solutions provider in the strategically important demand response electricity management sector,” said Tony Shizari, Managing Director and leader of the debt finance group at GE Energy Financial Services. “It goes hand-in-hand with GE Energy Financial Services’ targeted effort in the renewables sector and aligns with GE's ecomagination program to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.” http://www.comverge.com

    China sets sights on clean energy

    China Daily - For the climate to change for the better, the country will use as much clean energy as possible and curb the use of fossil fuels, which is largely behind global warming.
    The message was delivered by the country's top weather official at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office yesterday in Beijing.
    In the first official response to the landmark United Nations report on climate change released last week, Qin Dahe, chief of the China Meteorological Administration, said the country takes the climate issue very seriously and is counteracting the problem.
    "The assessment report has gripped the attention of the government, the public and scientists in China," Qin said, adding President Hu Jintao had said climate change is not just an environmental issue but is also linked to development.
    The report's "best estimate" of temperatures rising by up to 4 C this century would cause more droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels, Qin said, citing the UN panel.
    Qin conceded China's energy is heavily dependent on coal, which emits carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas blamed for climate change.
    Largely because of coal burning, China is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States.
    The country lacks the money and technology to switch to cleaner alternatives to coal which supplies two-thirds of the country's energy but it is only a matter of time that it moves to cleaner energies, Qin said.

    "Our goal is to optimize the energy structure and use cleaner energies to the maximum extent," he said.

    Qin said his agency had advised the central government to increase inputs for climate change research and also provided technological support for the government to take countermeasures.
    The official said his agency has stepped up research on using wind and solar resources for alternative energies.
    China has set an ambitious target of reducing energy consumption by 20 percent during the years leading up to 2010.
    Energy use began to drop in the third quarter of last year, the first time in three years, and is a "positive signal" that China's efforts have begun to pay off, Xinhua quoted Xie Fuzhan, chief of the National Bureau of Statistics, as saying two weeks ago.
    At a separate press conference held yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China is willing to cooperate with the international community in coping with climate change.
    But she said: "It must be pointed out that climate change has been caused by the long-term historic emissions from developed countries and their high per-capita emissions."
    She said developed countries bear an "unshirkable" responsibility and should lead the way in assuming responsibility for emission cuts.
    Per capita carbon dioxide emission in China was around 2.72 tons in 2003, or less than 14 per cent of per capita emission in the US, according to information posted on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.

    Mini Green Trading Event to Be Held in San Francisco

    The Cleantech Venture Network LLC, subsidiary of the Cleantech Group(TM) today announced that on February 22 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, Peter Fusaro, global expert in the Green Trading Markets and Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs will convene a program of leading experts to explore the opportunities, and pitfalls in emissions trading as well as trends in the environmental financial markets being driven by cleantech. This event follows the highly successful Cleantech Venture Forum XII. http://www.global-change.com

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    EPRI Unveils Major Energy-Efficiency Research Initiative

    Project Is Aimed at Transitioning to a Smart Grid System
    The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently announced the launch of Dynamic Energy Management (DEM), a major energy-efficiency research initiative that will begin to address the near-term needs of utilities and other stakeholders to plan, invest in, and implement technologies that facilitate the transition to a smart power delivery, operation, load management, and end-use system.
    As part of the initiative, representatives from more than 35 electric utilities will meet with EPRI to create a collaborative that will address such issues as electricity savings, demand reductions, and peak load management. The goal is to improve energy efficiency by using the latest technology, thereby reducing electricity usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
    The new program will focus on three key areas: analytics and information on the economic and environmental impact of dynamic energy management; infrastructure component and system testing and development; and smart, efficient end-use device and equipment development, targeting the identification and influencing the design and deployment of equipment that has the highest impact on energy efficiency and demand response.

    'Sunshine' to power rebates - Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvanians considering installing solar energy systems in their homes but put off by the high price could start singing "let the sun shine in" if a proposed energy initiative sees daylight.
    About $200 million of the $850 million Energy Independence Fund proposed this week in Gov. Ed Rendell's Energy Independence Strategy is designated for a so-called Pennsylvania Sunshine program. It aims to jumpstart the state's commitment to have some 858 megawatts of electricity generated by the sun by 2021. One megawatt powers about 800 homes.
    Under the governor's plan, homes and small businesses could receive rebates of up to half the cost of a solar power system, including a rebate if the solar power panels are manufactured in Pennsylvania. That could amount to savings of $22,000.
    In addition, system manufacturers such as Solar Power Industries Inc., Belle Vernon, Fayette County, could be eligible for a production grant for all solar panels built and deployed in the state.
    "We believe this could have a very positive impact on economic development," said Richard Rosey, Solar Power's vice president of marketing. "We right now are looking at a substantial increase in our manufacturing space. We're in final negotiations to lease two buildings next to our existing 60,000-square-foot facility that would double our space."
    Rosey expects employment within one year to jump to more than 200 from about 120. He said sales this year are expected to double to between $30 million and $40 million. Ninety-five percent of Solar Power's business comes from overseas customers.
    "There has been considerable consumer interest and demand for solar power, but the big problem has been a system's cost," said Thomas J. Tuffey, a director at environmental watchdog group Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future in West Chester, Chester County.
    Tuffey said an average residential system today costs about $32,000, including installation, for a system that provides 4 kilowatts of power. Subtracting the rebates proposed under Rendell's Sunshine Program, the cost drops to about half of that, he said.
    "There also is a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar systems, which drops that figure by one-third," Tuffey added. The cost of a 4-kilowatt system would drop to $9,800 -- from $32,000 currently, he said.
    "On average, a typical solar system today ranges between $20,000 and $30,000, and that would handle 80 percent to 90 percent of an average home's energy needs," said Rick Rothhaar, a solar engineering consultant who serves as president of the nonprofit Conservation Consultants Inc., South Side.
    "I have a list of customers who are interested in solar systems at the current price," said Ann Gerace, executive director of Conservation Consultants. "I think the governor's program really could have a positive impact on people installing solar systems."

    EU urges relaunch of global-climate talks

    A worldwide agreement on climate change is now more urgently needed than ever, said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas after the publication of a major UN-backed report blaming most of global warming on humans.
    New scientific evidence on climate change is "alarming" and calls for "more action to limit greenhouse-gas emissions" worldwide, the EU said on 2 February.
    "It is now more urgent than ever that the international community gets down to serious negotiations on a comprehensive new worldwide agreement to stop global warming," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.
    The call came in reaction to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published on 2 February 2007, which showed that global average temperature will likely rise by a further 1.8-4.0°C this century, after increasing by more than 0.7°C in the past 100 years.
    "Even the low end of this range would take the temperature rise since pre-industrial times to above 2°C, the level at which there could be irreversible and possibly catastrophic consequences," the Commission said in a statement.
    On 10 January, the EU executive put forward plans for a 'unilateral' 20% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 in a bid to reduce Europe's dependency on imported fuels and trigger a new 'industrial revolution'.
    But it also warned that the EU, being responsible for only 14% of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions, could not solve the problem alone.
    "To stabilise global emissions of greenhouse gases, the next step must be for developed countries to cut their emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020," Dimas added. "In particular, we expect the US as the world first emitter of greenhouse gases to take action."
    Meanwhile, on 3 February, more than 40 countries signed a call for actionexternal to "promote growth that respects the environment" at a conferenceexternal on global ecological governance organised by French President Jacques Chirac in Paris.
    Approved summary for policymakers: http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf