Tuesday, December 23, 2008

This is "Clean Coal": Massive Coal Sludge Spill Dwarfs Exxon Valdez Disaster

Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

Let's see how the "clean coal" PR hucksters at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity try to spin this tragic news: a retention pond holding toxic coal ash slurry burst Monday in Roane County, Tennessee, releasing over half a billion gallons of potentially toxic sludge that swept into the nearby town of Harriman and contaminated tributaries of the Tennessee River. The resulting flood damaged 15 homes, injured one man as it knocked his house of its foundations, and has left over 400 acres of land covered by several feet of coal ash, mud and contaminated water (see video below).

Coal ash and slurry is the normal byproduct of coal-fired electricity generating, and is usually stored in giant retaining ponds near coal plants. The resulting coal slurry is frequently contaminated by heavy metals, mercury and arsenic.

Yesterday's tragedy struck at the coal ash impoundment associated with the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-fired steam plant and released about 2.6 million cubic yards of slurry, the Tennessean reports. That's enough to fill nearly 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and is over 40 times more contaminated sludge than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill.

As usual, a picture is worth a thousand words - and a video is worth even more; you can see scenes from the environmental disaster at the photo gallery here and the video below:

Greenpeace has called for a criminal investigation into the disaster, noting that similar spills in the past have resulted in felony charges.

"Every facility like this is supposed to have a spill contingency plan to prevent this kind of disaster," said Rick Hind, Greenpeace Legislative Director. "The authorities need to get to the bottom of what went wrong and hold the responsible parties accountable."

The coal industry has a long and not-so-stellar record of coal slurry disasters.

"This is the kind of scary thing that people living with coal worry about every day," notes Dana, a West Virginia-based activist with the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

At ItsGettingHotInHere.org, Dana writes:
In February 1972, Buffalo Creek Sludge Impoundment, [burst and released] a mere 132 million gallons, killed 125 people, left 5,000 homeless and thousands more with post traumatic stress disorder. In 2000, a 2.2 billion gallon coal waste dam failed in Martin County, Kentucky. The largest dam in the hemisphere is the Brushy Fork Sludge Impoundment, which holds 9 billion gallons of toxic coal waste.

So, this is the history coalfield residents hold in our hearts when we open our emails and see “Slurry Pond Bursts.”
The Sierra Club's Bruce Nilles, writing at DailyKos, notes:
"There are literally hundreds of these sludge impoundments across the United States. As coal has dominated Appalachia, it has left behind a toxic legacy for residents, a legacy that will haunt the region for decades. For example, in Sundial, West Virginia, an elementary school sits just 400 yards downhill from a massive impoundment containing 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal sludge."
Greenpeace notes that, like Exxon Valdez, the millions of gallons of coal sludge released Monday could take years to clean up, and some of the damage to the ecosystem could be irreparable.

"If the Exxon Valdez was a symbol of pollution 20 years ago, the Tennessee Coal Spill of 2008 is the symbol of it today," said Kate Smolski, Senior Legislative Coordinator for Greenpeace.

Smolski added that these local impacts represent only a small fraction of coal's negative impact.

"The really sad thing about this spill is that it's only a small example of the damage coal causes," Smolski added. "Add in global warming, tens of thousands of annual premature deaths from power plant pollution, and hundreds of mountains leveled across Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, and that's the real picture of coal."

Monday's tragic slurry spill puts the lie to the coal industry's recent multi-million dollar "clean coal" PR blitz. You simply can't argue with reality - at least not for too long.

See related posts:

Ernst&Young reports record investments in Cleantech companies

Global investment in cleantech companies reaches record US$4.6 billion
in the first three quarters of 2008

Venture capital investment in cleantech companies reached a record
US$4.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2008, according to Ernst
& Young's analysis of activity in the United States, Europe, China and
Israel based on data from Dow Jones VentureSource. This is an increase
of 82% compared with the same period last year and represents 13% of
all venture capital investment in these geographies.

"Global venture capital investment in cleantech accelerated in 2008 as
a number of companies, particularly in the solar and wind market,
entered the capital intensive stage of commercializing new
technologies. This increase in activity has been stimulated by a
strengthening corporate commitment to tackling climate change," said
Gil Forer, Ernst & Young's Global Director of Cleantech, IPO and
Venture Capital Initiatives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Konarka Announces Strategic Collaboration and $45 Million Investment from Total

Total, One of the World's Major Integrated Oil and Gas Companies, and
First Rank Player in Chemicals, Aims to Grow Photovoltaic Thin Film
Business through R&D, Collaboration with Konarka

Konarka Technologies, Inc., an innovator in development and
commercialization of Power Plastic(R), a material that converts light
to energy, today announced the company has signed bilateral R&D and
cooperation agreements with Total, one of the largest publicly-traded
integrated international oil and gas companies in the world. Konarka
has secured $45 million in funding and Total will become the leading
shareholder with its stake being slightly less than 20%. Konarka will
work on developing new components for their products with Total's
chemical subsidiaries – Atotech, Bostik, Hutchinson, Sartomer and
Total Petrochemicals USA. Already present in solar energy through its
interest in Photovoltech and Tenesol, Total intends to step up its
crystalline silicon-based cell production. At the same time, it aims
to grow in the thin film segment; which Konarka will help it to do.

"This is a very substantial and significant investment from a major
global energy corporation," commented Howard Berke, executive chairman
and co-founder of Konarka. "This strategic alignment will give Konarka
access to a new strength of resources, assets and operations from
around the world. Through the agreements, Konarka will be very
instrumental in helping Total to secure its future in solar energy by
facilitating the growth of its solar thin film segment of the
company's renewable energy business."

Following the transaction, Philippe Boisseau, President, Total Gas &
Power, stated: "This investment positions Total strategically to
secure the future of solar energy while expanding its technological

"We look forward to working with Total's five chemical subsidiaries on
technical collaboration, as well as efficient operational procedures,"
commented Rick Hess, president and CEO at Konarka. "Active in the area
of solar energy for the past 20 years, Total also brings extensive
expertise in carbon chemistry. The collaboration between the two
companies will advance the deployment of solar power for more
cost-efficient, renewable energy around the globe."

Total is one of the world's major oil and gas groups with activities
in more than 130 countries. Its 96,000 employees put their expertise
to work in every part of the industry – exploration and production of
oil and natural gas, refining and marketing, gas and power and
trading. Total is working to keep the world supplied with energy, both
today and tomorrow. The Group is also a first rank player in

Friday, December 05, 2008

Too Big To Fail? Too Big, Period.

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

The executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler made yet another trek to Washington DC this week - this time ditching the corporate jets to drive hybrid cars - and once again pled for a federal bailout to prop up their struggling companies. Up to $34 billion taxpayer dollars are apparently all that stands between at least two of the "Big Three" automakers and bankruptcy.

GM's executives told Congress the company will fail very, very soon unless it receives at least $12 billion in loans in the coming months. Chrysler warned they could go belly up by year's end without $7 billion in government aid. Even Ford, which is doing a bit better than its two Detroit brethren, is asking for an open, taxpayer-funded line of credit of up to $9 billion dollars.

All this means its time for Congress and the American public to face two basic facts.

First, GM and Chrysler are essentially bankrupt already, and Ford may not be far behind. The insular management of the Big Three has already run their companies into the ground, and if a massive government loan is the only thing that will keep them afloat, we might as well consider them failed companies, for all intents and purposes. So let's start treating them that way. With the economy in recession already, we certainly need to ensure a soft landing - rather than a hard collapse - for the auto companies and the millions of Americans who depend on them for their paychecks. But the objective of the bailout should be to preserve American auto industry jobs, not to preserve the Big Three companies themselves. GM, Chrysler, and perhaps even Ford are done. We shouldn't be afraid to turn the page on this chapter of the American auto industry and usher in something entirely new - and better.

Second, if GM, Chrysler and Ford are too big to fail, then it's time to realize that they are simply too big, period. If taxpayers are going to put their money on the line to bailout Detroit, we should be taking advantage of this opportunity to make fundamental changes to the American auto industry. It is time to say, "Never again!" to auto companies that are so large that they can hold taxpayer's hostage because the consequence of their failure is too great - companies that are so large that competition and innovation are stifled by their vast and unwieldy bulk.

Here's what we propose: offer government loans to the Big Three to ensure the companies don't collapse now during the midst of recession. But the conditions of those loans should be similar to the conditions of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy the companies would enter in absence of the loans. No blank checks for the Big Three to continue business as usual.

Instead, Congress will appoint an independent blue ribbon commission. They'll staff that commission with the best bankruptcy judges, restructuring consultants, and industry experts in the world. This commission will be charged with breaking the company up into several smaller companies that will inherit the different divisions, car models and assets of the parent. The commission will then seek new management to run each new company, deploying head hunters to recruit top talent from mid-level management within the Big Three, or even in the ranks of foreign companies like Toyota, Volkswagen or Hyundai.

The new companies - Baby GMs, or Baby Chryslers - will then be turned back over to the private sector and they'll be encouraged to issue new common stock to raise more operating capital. The government will have to vigorously enforce anti-trust laws to ensure these companies remain small, at least for the time being, and to keep foreign automakers or governments from gobbling them up (the Chinese government has already been shopping for one of the Big Three, and would gladly snatch up the new companies if we let them).

In the end, we'll have a new kind of American auto company - leaner and nimbler, and under a new class of managers - and a new kind of America auto industry - one that's more competitive and fosters the continual innovation that's been absent in Detroit for too long.

In the short run, we'll protect as many automaker jobs as possible by injecting capital into these new companies to help them weather the transition period. In the long run, some of these new companies will fail, but when they do, they won't be large enough to send the entire economy into tailspin. And for every company that fails, others will succeed by adopting a corporate culture that embraces innovation and produces high-quality cars that match the American consumer's demands.

The net result will be a vibrant and innovative American auto industry that sustains good manufacturing jobs here in the United States. The new competitive environment will foster the adoption of more efficient vehicle designs, encourage the development of cutting-edge technologies like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and create space for up-and-comers like Silicon Valley-based electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors to enter the field.

That's the future of the American auto industry. Anything short of this kind of dramatic restructuring of the industry will merely prolong the inevitable day when GM, Chrysler and Ford fall under their own weight, taking American jobs, taxpayer dollars and our economy with them. Too big to fail? Too big, period.

[Image source: FoxNews.com]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solairedirect raises 20 million euros in equity and becomes a major player in clean electricity in France

Solairedirect has closed a 20 million-euro round of equity financing with its existing shareholders (Demeter Partners, Schneider Electric Ventures, TechFund) and mutual insurance companies: MACIF, AGPM, UMR and Ofivalmo Partenaires

This operation, which stands out in the present financial environment, demonstrates the attractiveness of Solairedirect, its market and its business model. It strengthens the company’s position as France’s first pure play operator in solar power, a clean energy with enormous potential.

Founded in 2006, Solairedirect is an integrated solar power provider, present on the photovoltaic value chain from module production to decentralized power network operation. The company develops and operates infrastructures of all sizes (rooftop and ground-mounted) with turnkey service offers (design and engineering, installation and construction, financing, operation and maintenance) as part of carbon footprint community projects.

Solairedirect’s mission is to provide everyone with the choice of clean and home-based electricity, producing reliable, high performance, low-cost and smart solar kilowatt-hours. It systematically implements technology, manufacturing and service innovations with the stated intention to be among the first power producers to reach grid parity in France and other countries.

The company has 150 employees, 1 500 residential and commercial customers and over 300 megawatts of solar parks under development. One of the very first solar parks in France (4.2 megawatts) is now being built in Vinon-sur-Verdon (Southeastern France) as a part of Solaire Durance, a joint venture between Solairedirect and Caisse des Dépôts, France’s largest government-owned financial institution.

For Thierry Lepercq, CEO of Solairedirect, “ this round of financing sets off the second phase of Solairedirect’s development, with the national coverage of our residential and commercial service offers, the launch of our PV module production and the construction of our first large solar parks. It helps secure our growth objectives which will create hundreds of new jobs in 2009 “.

Friday, November 21, 2008

UK Auctions First Carbon Permits; Government Hoarding Revenue

Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary and the Breakthrough Institute

The UK Government auctioned the first four million allowances to emit greenhouse gases under their portion of the European Union's Emissions Trading System this week, raising £54m ($80.9m). However, the government is drawing fire for failing to earmark the auction revenues to investments in clean energy and energy efficiency that could further cut emissions and help reduce the costs of compliance with the cap and trade program. Instead of reinvesting the revenues in clean energy ventures, the government is reportedly planning to add revenues to the general budget.

The Financial Times has details on the auction:

"The first auction of carbon dioxide permits netted the government £54m ($80.9m) on Wednesday as bidders fought for the right to emit greenhouse gases.

Almost 4m permits were sold in an auction that was four times over-subscribed. Previously, all of the emissions permits allocated to UK businesses under the European Union's trading scheme were given out free.

The government has pledged to auction another 80m permits in the next four years, which is likely to bring in revenues of more than £1bn. The identities of bidders were not disclosed, but electricity producers were expected to be the main buyers as they had their free allocation of permits cut by 30 per cent.


The free allocation of permits in the first phase of the scheme, from 2005 to 2008, enabled power companies in the UK and other countries to make windfall profits by raising electricity prices to cover the notional cost of having to buy permits, despite receiving them free. The government said on Wednesday the auctions should not result in further electricity price increases, as the cost of permits had already been factored in.

The UK is pushing for power generators to have to pay for all of their carbon permits in the third phase of the EU scheme, from 2013, arguing that electricity producers tend to be well-insulated from international competition."

However, the UK government apparently isn't planning to spend the money raised by the auction on clean energy investments and is instead putting the funds into the general coffer, the UK Guardian reports:
"The UK government was under fire today for "undermining" the European Union's fight against climate change by auctioning off carbon allowances for the first time and not earmarking the cash for "green" projects.

Around four million permits are being distributed today under a new phase of the European Union's (EU) emissions trading scheme (ETS) with expected receipts of up to £60m going to the Treasury for general spending purposes.

"The policy of the UK government on this issue undermines the very purpose of the EU ETS... Auctioning undermines this flexible mechanism as it takes money away from those who can do something about climate change, the emitters, and it gives it to those who can't, the politicians," said James Emanuel at emissions trading broker, CantorCO2e.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said ministers should change their mind and use the cash specifically for projects such as improving energy efficiency of homes, investing in low-carbon technologies and helping poorer countries cope with climate change.

"This is a great opportunity to help poorer households make their homes both cheaper to heat and warmer, and create jobs through investment in new green technologies," said Lisa Harker, IPPR co-director.

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, agreed saying the review by Lord Stern into the economics of climate change had shown that tackling the problem made sense financially. "This battle can't be won if we don't find the money to invest in solutions and kick-start new green industries," explained Allott."
More on the EU ETS price and auction format later in the article:
"The price of emission allowances have plunged by nearly 30% since September to around €16.50, partly because there are fears that the auction will flood the market and partly because a recession will cut industrial output and reduce pollution worldwide.

The ETS scheme implements an overall cap on the amount of emissions countries can produce, allocates carbon allowances to companies and then allows them to buy or sell the permits to cover shortfalls or profit from cutting their emissions.

Phase II of the scheme, which covers energy generators and heavy industry and aims to cut emissions by encouraging the market to produce carbon reductions at least cost, allows for up to 10% of permits to be auctioned.

In the UK, 7%, or 85 million, permits are being auctioned over five years of the scheme to 2012. The main target of the auction is energy companies which have lost 30% of their free allowances."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good Corporate Citizens: Five Major US Companies Call for Climate, Clean Energy Solutions

Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Sun Microsystems and Timberland Challenge Lawmakers to Raise the Bar for U.S.Climate and Energy Policy; Call for CO2 Emission Cuts, Clean Energy Investments, Coal Plant Limits

Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary...

Today, five leading US companies joined Ceres investment group to launch a new coalition of corporate citizens calling on Congress to quickly enact strong U.S. climate and energy legislation that will spark a new clean energy economy and reduce global warming pollution. The new coalition issued several key principles for climate policy today, including proposals to stimulate renewable energy, promote energy efficiency and green jobs, cap global warming pollution and auction 100% of pollution allowances, and limit new coal-fired power plants to those that capture and store carbon emissions.

The group, which includes Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Sun Microsystems and Timberland, calls themselves Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, or BICEP for short, and aims to flex some lobbying muscle to support climate and clean energy action.

The coalition’s goal is to work directly with key allies in the business community and members of Congress to pass meaningful energy and climate change legislation consistent with the following eight core principles:

  • Set greenhouse gas reduction targets to at least 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

  • Establish an economy-wide GHG cap-and-trade system that auctions 100 percent of carbon pollution allowances, promotes energy efficiency and accelerates clean energy technologies.

  • Establish aggressive energy efficiency policies to achieve at least a doubling of our historic rate of energy efficiency improvement.

  • Encourage transportation for a clean energy economy by promoting fuel-efficient vehicles, plug-in electric hybrids, low-carbon fuels, and transit-oriented development.

  • Increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables and carbon capture and storage technologies while eliminating subsidies for fossil-fuel industries.

  • Stimulate job growth through investment in climate-based solutions, especially “green-collar” jobs in low-income communities and others vulnerable to climate change’s economic impact.

  • Adopt a national renewable portfolio standard requiring 20 percent of electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources by 2020, and 30 percent by 2030.

  • Limit construction of new coal-fired power plants to those that capture and store carbon emissions, create incentives for carbon capture technology on new and existing plants, and phase out existing coal-based power plants that do not capture and store carbon by 2030.

  • Recognizing that climate change will ripple across all sectors of the economy BICEP members aim to offer new business perspectives on climate solutions to balance the sometimes narrow viewpoints offered by some of the more engaged members of the business community.

    BICEP members also apparently recognize that being a good corporate citizen requires more than just purchasing carbon offsets and building more sustainable products. Like individual citizens, a real commitment to a new energy future requires more than personal actions, it requires active participation in the political process.

    “We can voluntarily change our own behavior in the hopes of mitigating impacts and are doing so," said Hilary Krane, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., "but we also believe that U.S. government leadership is essential if we are to create an environment in which every U.S. company recognizes the role it must play in addressing climate change."

    "Nike understands the value of investing in innovative solutions to address the challenges of sustainability," added Sarah Severn a corporate responsibility director with the company, "so we are proud to be part of a coalition of companies that believes legislative action on climate change and clean energy is not only urgent but imperative to creating positive, long-term change."

    As a native Oregonian, I can't help but contrast Beaverton, OR-based Nike's active commitment to good corporate citizenship with Oregon's other major employer: Intel. The microprocessor giant is Oregon's largest private employer, and while it launches ads touting their efficient processor designs and issues press releases about renewable energy purchases, Intel quietly lobbies to block progressive energy and climate policy at the Oregon legislature.

    Intel is a key member of the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities group, a state lobbying organization that represents large electricity and natural gas users in Oregon and Washington. ICNU has consistently been on the wrong side of good energy policy - from the Oregon Renewable Energy Act of 2007 to the state's efforts to lead on climate policy - and is now forming a front-group called something like Oregon Industries for Balanced Climate Policy, gearing up to block progressive legislation in the 2009 Oregon legislature.

    Unlike Nike, who puts it's lobbying muscle behind it's clean energy commitments, Intel tacitly and at times actively supports ICNU's efforts to stand in the way of Oregon's transformation into a clean energy leader. Intel should take queues from fellow Oregonians, Nike, and their semiconductor competitors at Sun about what good corporate citizenship means, and actively distance itself from ICNU's dirty deeds.

    Until then, bravo to Nike and the BICEP members for leading the way.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Barack Obama Commits to "New Chapter" on Climate Change

    Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    In a prepared video address delivered today at the Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, CA, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to turn over "a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change."

    In the short address, viewed by an audience that includes leaders from around the nation and the world, Obama emphasized the importance of the upcoming international climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland, and said he was "looking forward to working with all nations to meet [the climate] challenge in the coming years."

    Obama reconfirmed his campaign commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 through a national cap and trade program and again pledged to "invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future."

    Convened by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other US governors on the forefront of global warming solutions, the Bi-partisan Governors Global Climate Summit convenes in Los Angeles today and begins two days of dialog designed to spur global cooperation on climate change in advance of the UN-sponsored talks in Poland next month. To this crowd of climate leaders, Obama said:
    "Few challenges facing America -- and the world -- are more urgent than combating climate change. Many of you are working to confront this challenge....but too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office."
    Watch the short video address below (full transcript below the fold):

    Remarks as Delivered:

    Let me begin by thanking the bipartisan group of U.S. governors who convened this meeting.

    Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We've seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.

    Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

    I know many of you are working to confront this challenge. In particular, I want to commend Governor Sebelius, Governor Doyle, Governor Crist, Governor Blagojevich and your host, Governor Schwarzenegger –all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we've also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies.

    But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

    That will start with a federal cap and trade system. We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050.

    Further, we will invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future. We will invest in solar power, wind power, and next generation biofuels. We will tap nuclear power, while making sure it's safe. And we will develop clean coal technologies.

    This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.

    But the truth is, the United States cannot meet this challenge alone. Solving this problem will require all of us working together. I understand that your meeting is being attended by government officials from over a dozen countries, including the UK, Canada and Mexico, Brazil and Chile, Poland and Australia, India and Indonesia. And I look forward to working with all nations to meet this challenge in the coming years.

    Let me also say a special word to the delegates from around the world who will gather at Poland next month: your work is vital to the planet. While I won't be President at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one President at a time, I've asked Members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there.

    And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.

    Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious.

    Stopping climate change won't be easy. It won't happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am President, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America. Thank you.


    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Huge Legal Ruling Blocks All US Coal Development

    Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    BREAKING NEWS: The Sierra Club just won a HUGE legal victory in a coal permitting case at the Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Appeals Board.

    The ruling in the Bonanza coal plant permitting case (pdf) ruled with the Club's lawyers that since the Mass. v EPA Supreme Court ruling said Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, new coal-fired power plants must implement "Best Available Control Technology" (BACT for short) for CO2.

    While the Sierra Club's legal team and other lawyers are still determining the full implications of the decision, it appears that this decision will essentially stop all new coal plant permitting dead in it's tracks for at least a year as EPA decides what BACT means in the context of CO2.

    The BACT provision of the Clean Air Act requires that new power plants must employ the most effective, readily available pollution control technologies for regulated pollutants in order to receive air quality permits required for development, ensuring that new power plants are progressively cleaner as new technologies become readily available. Until this ruling, BACT has only applied to NOx, acid rain-forming SO2, particulate matter, mercury and other noxious pollutants, but not carbon dioxide, which spewed freely from permitted power plants.

    What BACT means for CO2 is therefore undefined, and the process of defining it will take time - time during which no new coal plants can receive permits. BACT for CO2 is unlikely to mean carbon capture and storage (yet), since it's not readily available, but it will probably mean some combination of co-generation (making use of waste heat from electricity generation), efficiency improvements, and/or fuel switching/co-firing with biomass. Ultimately, President-elect Obama's EPA gets to decide how BACT is defined for CO2, a process which will take at least a year.

    In the meantime, 30 permits for new coal-fired power plants in the seven state directly regulated by the EPA's permitting process, plus projects on all Indian Reservations will immediately die because of this ruling. Other states that do their own permitting under devolution of authority from EPA will have to start their permitting processes over from scratch. They can either decide on a case by case basis what BACT means for CO2, or they can wait for EPA to rule on nationwide basis. The Environmental Appeals Board ruling says that decision is best made on a national basis.

    In short, with this new regulatory uncertainty, it's highly unlikely anyone will want to invest a dime in a new coal plant for the foreseeable future.

    Of course, this will also leave President Obama with an interesting ruling to make with some real political ramifications. But I'd say Obama has plenty of cover since the coal industry has been so avidly touting how clean it is these days. The real bold move would be to require all new coal plants to meet an emissions performance standard that essentially means they'd have to sequester at least half their emissions (as in CA or WA state's emissions performance standards), put an end to mountain top removal coal mining, and really tell the coal industry, "it's time to put up or shut up" and make this "clean coal" thing they keep talking about a reality.

    The Club will have a press release out later today, and I'd refer you to the Warming Law blog for more detailed legal analysis no doubt coming soon. This was an unexpected ruling, so they're still sorting out all the ramifications.

    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Post-election Poll Confirms Bipartisan Support for Barack Obama's Clean Energy Plans

    Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    This week, we've been writing about President-elect Barack Obama's powerful mandate to build a new, clean energy economy and revitalize our nation's ailing economy. A new post-election poll from Zogby Interactive confirms that Americans overwhelmingly view new investments in clean energy as critical to revitalizing America's ailing economy.

    The poll found that more than three out of four voters - 78% - support clean energy investments to revitalize the economy, with 50% saying they strongly agree that clean energy investment is vital to the nation's economic future.

    Clean energy investments enjoy broad, bipartisan support as well, the poll found. According to Zogby:

    "While the vast majority of Democrats (96%) and independent voters (77%) view clean energy investment as a key means to boost the U.S. economy, more than half of Republican voters (58%) also said the same."

    Support for clean energy investments is strongest among young voters, African Americans and latinos, three demographics that were critical to Obama's landslide electoral success. Zogby found that:

    "Support for clean energy investment is particularly strong among younger voters - 87% of those age 18-24 and 80% of those age 18-29 believe this type of investment is necessary to help improve the U.S. economy. African American voters (94%) and Hispanic voters (84%) also showed overwhelming support for clean energy investment."

    "While the economy was the top issue in the 2008 election, clean energy clearly emerged as part of voter expectations for getting the economy back on track," said John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International. "Support for action on global warming, already strong in the 2006 election, was even stronger in 2008, particularly among young voters that are the future electorate."

    The Zogby Interactive survey of 3,357 voters nationwide was conducted Nov. 5-6, 2008, and carries a margin of error of +/- 1.7 percentage points. The survey was commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation.

    President-elect Barack Obama's New Energy Mandate, Part 2

    Part 2: Dos and Don'ts

    Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    This is the second post in a continuing series delving into Barack Obama's opportunity to capture this political moment and provide a direction for energy policy and economic growth in the 21st century. Part 1 is here.

    As Barack Obama assumes the mantle of President-elect of the United States of America, we are witnessing an historic realignment of the American political landscape. With the election of our nation's first African-American president, record voter turnout, and a dramatically redrawn electoral map, it seems that anything is possible now.

    However, while Obama clearly has a new mandate to lead our nation, electoral mandates are fickle and even this one could fade in time. President-elect Obama has just 76 days to prepare for his inauguration. Then the real work of governing will begin, and what Obama decides to do in his first 100 days will either cement or erase the wave of popular support the President-elect rides today.

    His job won't be easy. On January 20th, President-elect Obama will inherit the White House along with a plethora of pressing challenges all competing for his attention. There will be no time for baby steps, and President Obama must show bold and effective leadership right out of the gate. Furthermore, while the economic crisis will remain his top concern in the short-run, Obama cannot afford to ignore longer-term challenges and must develop synergistic solutions that can tackle multiple problems at once.

    Thankfully, Barack Obama has stated that building a new energy economy will be his top priority upon assuming office. If he fully integrates this effort with his shorter-term economic stimulus plans, Obama could effectively tackle several priorities - economy recovery, energy security, and global warming - simultaneously. And getting this job done right could cement Obama's electoral mandate and pave the way for a truly transcendent presidency.

    With the all the frantic focus on economic stimulus these days, it's easy to forget that Obama really faces two economic challenges. Yes, we need quick, effective, short term stimulus to pull our nation out of recession. But we also face a longer run economic revitalization challenge that is critical to ensuring our nation's prolonged prosperity.

    For too long, we have neglected to invest in our nation. We've let or infrastructure crumble, our schools and universities want for funding, and we've neglected the once-solid pipelines of technological innovation that made us the envy of the world. Blinded by an era of cheap credit and unrestrained consumer spending and bound by a dominant and dogmatic market fundamentalist philosophy of governance, we've seen the light go out of our once vibrant economy. Rekindling the flame of American prosperity will no doubt be the defining task of the Obama administration.

    Obama has already made it clear that he believes a new energy economy will be America's next engine of growth. That's smart. There are few (if any) other major growth sectors waiting to be spurred, and building a new energy economy knits together his central economic challenges with other national priorities. And if Obama makes the right decisions in the coming months, his short-term stimulus agenda can be an effective bridge to the longer-term investments necessary to build a new energy economy and secure prolonged American prosperity.

    To get it right there a few things President-elect Obama should avoid doing:

    • DON'T be afraid of deficit spending. Obama should ignore the counsel he will no doubt receive from deficit hawks and Clinton-era small-government Democrats to avoid deficit spending and stick to pay-go. And he should not listen if Greens council him to use a full-on cap and trade program to fund all of the spending for his new energy economy agenda. As the spender and lender of last resort during times of economic crisis, reining in government spending would be just as bad for the economy as raising taxes.

      The fact is, deficit spending is necessary for effective stimulus and it's smart for longer-term investments that will net returns for the U.S. Treasury. And with so much demand for U.S. Treasury Bonds, yields on two-year bonds are just 1.3%. After factoring in inflation, that means the government can borrow money essentially for free. All this means that President Obama shouldn't be afraid to borrow and invest if it helps get our nation out of today's recession and lay the groundwork for a new energy economy.

    • DON'T focus on short-term stimulus only. That being said, Obama also cannot afford a myopic focus on stimulus alone or rely solely (or even at all) on cash rebate checks.

      While quick-acting, cash rebate checks are not a particularly effective form of stimulus. In fact, initial studies find considerable evidence that most of the 2008 stimulus checks were put into savings or used to pay down debt. Furthermore, when they do work, rebate checks significantly under-perform investments in infrastructure and direct aid to state governments.

      Perhaps most importantly, if Obama relies on rebate checks to stimulate the economy, he will miss the golden opportunity to make his stimulus investments a bridge to longer-term priorities, like sparking a new energy economy. Given the many challenges he faces as president, Obama cannot afford to miss that opportunity.

    • DON'T propose policies that raise energy bills. While a carbon price would be an important accelerator of clean energy investment and innovation, offering policies that raise energy prices at a time of economic insecurity is a risky political venture (to say the least). Instead, Obama should make the development of clean, affordable energy sources the explicit focus of his policies. To the degree that carbon pricing plays a role in his new energy agenda, President Obama must be clear that the revenue raised will be directly invested in programs that reduce the cost of clean energy alternatives and in energy efficiency programs that will slash the energy bills of households and businesses.

    • DON'T promise short-term fixes to high gas prices. There simply aren't any, and Obama would be smart to use his new bully pulpit and impressive communication skills to make that fact clear to the American public.

      The false promise of "Drill Baby, Drill!" is a disingenuous myth that President Obama should put to rest for good. Oil prices are set in a global commodity market, and the United States simply lacks sizable enough domestic production capacity to have a significant moderating effect on oil prices. If we want to moderate oil prices, we can't do it with a focus on the supply side of the equation, a fact Obama has correctly emphasized by repeatedly saying, "We can't drill our way out of our energy crisis."

      If we want to expand domestic oil production, it shouldn't be motivated by false promises of lower gas prices. To the extent that we do expand drilling operations, it should be to raise revenues for public investment in a new energy economy, or to (modestly) enhance our trade deficit.

      Obama also should make good on his promise to speak openly and honestly to the American people about the challenges we face: the American public needs to hear their President say that while gas and oil prices are low today, they will not remain so for long. According to the International Energy Agency, oil prices will rebound to well above $100 per barrel as soon as the global economy recovers, adding dead-weight just as our economy struggles to stand again. That means that today's temporary relief from $4.00/gallon gas is exactly the time to invest in new, affordable alternatives and efforts to sever our dependence on oil. If he's clear and honest about the challenge of oil dependency, Obama will have further reason to invest in a new energy economy and launch the critical, long-term effort to electrify transportation and create the clean, cheap energy sources we need. If implemented, this strategy will finally free our nation from the volatility of oil prices and the havoc gas price spikes wreck on our economy.

    • DON'T: separate out his clean energy and economic agendas. For too long, clean energy policy was the domain of a relatively isolated environmentalist agenda. Despite it's widespread impacts on issues of national security, economic prosperity and public health, clean energy failed to take it's rightful place as a core progressive issue.

      Now, Obama has successfully transformed clean energy into a bread and butter economic issue. During the closing weeks of the campaign, Obama's clean energy agenda became fully intertwined with his economic recovery plans, and that's exactly where it should stay. A clean energy program will be most effective when fully integrated with the President-elect's economic recovery plans and it should remain a core component of his vision for renewed, long-term prosperity. Clean energy is an economic not environmental issue now, and that's exactly right.
    In Part 3 of this ongoing series, we will outline several principles for smart investments in our nation's recovery and the birth of a new energy economy.

    President-elect Barack Obama's New Energy Mandate, Part 1

    Building a New Energy Economy
    Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Blog and WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    Energy policy has never featured more prominently in a presidential election. Both candidates leaned strongly on their energy agendas during the campaign, frequently highlighting their plans to increase America's energy security, reduce energy prices and create jobs.

    But while both candidates agreed that energy was a high priority and rhetorically supported an "all of the above" approach to new energy sources, the two candidates proposals actually differed sharply.

    Furthermore, Barack Obama enjoyed the most success when his energy proposals were linked to his plans for economic recovery and couched in the rhetoric of job creation. That makes Obama's historic victory a clear endorsement of the President-elect's plans to invest in a new energy economy and argues for further integration of his energy plans into his economic recovery agenda.

    While he claimed to support an "all of the above" energy plan, John McCain's energy platform revolved around increasing domestic production of oil and nuclear power.

    McCain repeatedly touted nuclear power as his favorite (if not only) answer to our nation's energy challenge, and "Drill Baby, Drill!" practically became the all-encompassing mantra of the Republican party and it's presidential nominee.

    McCain's repeated absence from key clean energy votes in the Senate and the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate and supposed energy czar was the final proof that a McCain-Palin administration would focus centrally on expanding the old energy sources of the 19th and 20th century - oil and nuclear power - rather than the new energy sources of the future.

    In contrast, while Barack Obama eventually embraced expanded drilling, he truthfully told the American people that "we can't drill our way out of our energy crisis." Similarly, he voiced conditional support for nuclear power, but made it clear that unresolved issues with nuclear waste and security needed to be addressed before nukes could play a central role in America's energy future.

    Instead, Obama called for the creation of a comprehensive new energy economy, with a central focus on increasing vehicle fuel efficiency, electrifying transportation, expanding renewable energy production and retrofitting millions of homes and businesses to be more energy efficient. He considers this effort a new "national project" and promised to fund it to the tune of at least $150 billion over ten years.

    Interestingly, Obama didn't really find his voice on energy policy until the economic crisis hit, unseating energy as the top campaign issue.

    Back in September, when energy prices were the top election issue and Americans were shouting for quick fixes, Obama fumbled for an adequate response. In many ways, this was understandable, since there really are no quick fixes for high gas prices (that is, unless you consider the Bush energy plan - crashing the global economy! - to be a viable solution).

    So while Obama had long-ago outlined a detailed and comprehensive energy plan that would spur the creation of clean and affordable new sources of energy in the long-term, he must have felt that telling the American people there was no short-term answer was a dangerous move. It certainly wasn't what Americans wanted to hear, but by remaining largely silent, Obama quickly found himself in the darkest days of the campaign.

    Republicans had no qualms about proposing disingenuous solutions to spiking prices at the pump and quickly rallied around "Drill, Baby Drill!" It worked. McCain surged, taking the lead in the polls, and for the first half of September, it looked like Obama was headed towards defeat.

    Then the economic crisis hit in all it's fury, and everything changed. The threat of global recession caused oil prices to fall almost as quickly as the Dow, and fears of another Great Depression displaced nearly every other concern.

    That's when Obama realized that he was holding an ace up his sleeve: his energy plan.

    In the closing weeks of the campaign, Obama hit his stride and brought his energy plan front and center. He touted opportunities to strengthen the American auto industry, bring manufacturing jobs back to American towns and save energy and money while creating new jobs in the energy efficiency sector. And in speech after speech, whenever he mentioned economic recovery and job creation, he talked about investments in clean energy and energy efficiency.

    As he outlined his economic recovery plan on October 13th, Obama reiterated his pledge to "create 5 million new, high-wage jobs by investing in ... renewable sources of energy." He included funding for "energy efficient school and infrastructure repairs" in his Jobs and Growth Fund proposal and called on Congress to fast track "$50 billion in loan guarantees to help the auto industry retool, develop new battery technologies and produce the next generation of fuel efficient cars here in America."

    In an October 22nd interview with Time magazine's Joe Klien, Obama clearly stated, "[Building a new energy economy] is going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office," saying, "there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy."

    A week later, Obama aired his thirty-minute October 29th TV special, "American Voices, American Stories." In it, he highlighted Seattle-based energy efficiency specialists, McKinstry Company as "a model for the nation," and again pledged to "invest $15 billion a year in energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar, and biofuels, creating five million clean energy jobs over the next decade -- jobs that pay well and can never be outsourced."

    In versions of his "closing argument" speech delivered across swing states in the final week of the election, Obama called for the creation of "an economy that rewards work and creates prosperity from the bottom up," exhorting America to "invest in... renewable energy for our future."

    Finally, in his victory speech last night, he reiterated this theme, saying, "There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created!"

    History will record energy and the economy as the top issues of the 2008 presidential campaign. In the face of the mounting financial crisis, Barack Obama's calm assurance was the leadership the electorate was looking for. And as he successfuly united his clean energy and economic recovery proposals, Obama provided the vision of renewed prosperity Americans were hungry for.

    Obama's landslide victory carries with it a clear mandate to build the new energy economy he so frequently spoke of. But he should be clear-eyed that this mandate derives from the economic crisis and continue to pursue his energy agenda hand-in-hand with his economic recovery plans.

    With so many pressing concerns facing our nation, there will be little time for Obama to tackle issues one at a time. Instead, our nation's 44th President must find innovative and synergistic solutions that can address several priorities at once. We will see his abilities quickly tested. Even before Inauguration Day, Obama will be counted on to offer an economic stimulus agenda, and he'll be expected to act upon his self-selected No. 1 priority, - building a new energy economy - immediately upon assuming office. In fact, the fate of the Obama presidency may very well hang on his performance on this critical first test.

    In Part 2 of this series, we will focus on how President-elect Barack Obama can get the job done right and advance an integrated clean energy and economic recovery agenda in his first 100 Days in office.

    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    Waxman Challenges Dingell for Leadership of Influental House Committee

    Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

    Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) plans to challenge venerable Representative John Dingell (D-MI) for chairmanship of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to a report from Roll Call.

    "The move marks a major showdown between two Democratic powerhouses, with implications for a host of major legislation next year from health care to global warming to renewable energy. Waxman currently chairs the Oversight and Government Reform panel."

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of critical issues, including energy policy, health care, interstate commerce issues and most likely global warming policy as well. The committee will no doubt be a critical player in the legislative implementation of President-elect Obama's policy agenda.

    Waxman and Dingell have taken two dramatically different stances on global warming and energy during the 110th Congress and a change in chairmanship could reshape the Congressional political landscape on these issues.

    Reflecting their differing constituencies, Dingell opposed California (and 15 other states') efforts to set tailpipe emissions standards for greenhouse gases while Waxman led hearings to press EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson on why the agency had blocked California's efforts.

    The difference is just as clear when it comes to federal climate policy. In March 2007, Waxman introduced the Safe Climate Act, still the most aggressive proposal for global warming pollution caps in the Congress. In contrast, Dingell and his committee waited until the final hours of the 110th Congress to release a draft outline for economy-wide greenhouse gas regulations.

    Roll Call reports that a number of other key House leadership races were also underway, less than 24 hours after the polls closed.

    A hat tip to Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room on this one

    Monday, November 03, 2008

    UK-Qatar investment deal

    News of a significant new UK-based cleantech investment fund, largely bankrolled from the Middle East. From the Carbon Trust announcement -

    The Prime Minister has today announced a long-term strategic partnership between Qatar and the UK as part of the UK Government's commitment to forge new partnerships between hydrocarbon producing countries and consumer countries to help the move to a low carbon economy.
    The Carbon Trust - set up by the UK Government in 2001 and one of the world’s leading experts on low carbon technologies - has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) on a new Low Carbon Innovation Partnership to set up a new £250m Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund and to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar.
    The Fund will seek to make venture capital investments in clean energy businesses primarily located in the UK. Selected investment opportunities in continental Europe will also be considered. In addition, the Fund will consider investing in the Gulf Region once an investment capability is established in Qatar. The Fund will begin investing with up to £150m committed from the QIA alongside the Carbon Trust’s commitment. It will look for further funding from other investors to bring the maximum amount to £250m.
    The Memorandum of Understanding also includes a commitment to carry out a feasibility study to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar. It will aim to share skills and knowledge on the development, commercialisation and deployment of low carbon technology between the UK and Qatar.

    Saturday, November 01, 2008

    Renewable energy on the EU Agenda

    The implementation of an European Energy Research Alliance was recently defended in Bruxels, a measure that is intended to boost up new technologies and favour the use of clean energy in the European Union (EU).

    The measure was proposed by the European Commission and is seen by entities as a «determining factor» in the sense that it may improve the growth of new technologies which may distinguish themselves by producing low carbon emissions and help increasing the scale of the clean energy tech market.

    The main EU research institutes will be responsible for the alliance, which is based on the idea of «amplifying and improving the means» dedicated to the investigation of the energetic sector.

    The creation of cooperative programs at state and EU level will serve as a starting point for fulfilling the «triple challenge of: energetic safety, climatic change and competitiveness, which the EU is facing today»

    This alliance was created on the framework of the Set-Plan, a model intended to promote the development of renewable energy and reduce, on the long-term, the EU dependence on fossil fuel imports.

    CO2 storage, bio, solar and wind energy, sustainable fusion and intelligent electric supply are amongst the processes intended to be improved through the creation of this plan.

    Source: IOL PortugalDiário

    More info:
    EU Innovation and technological development in energy

    Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Forget Joe the (Unlisenced) Plumber: Here's Troy the Wind Turbine Builder

    Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    Here's the voice of just one of millions of new, clean energy jobs we can create if we spark a new energy economy. Barack Obama has said it's his top priority if elected, so we should expect more people like Troy the wind turbine builder to find well-paying, dignified work that helps put America back on track.

    Hat tip to Clean Tech and Green Businesses for Obama.

    Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski Unveils Clean Energy Agenda for 2009

    Cross-posted from WattHead - Energy News and Commentary

    Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski unveiled the ambitious clean energy agenda he hopes to see implemented by the 2009 Oregon Legislature on Monday. Following up on a landmark 2007 legislative session that saw the Beaver State enact an ambitious renewable energy standard, expand tax credits for clean energy, and enact new standards for energy efficiency, Governor Kulongoski isn't resting on his laurels.

    "Climate change is the most important environmental and economic issue of our time," Kulongoski said as he laid out his proposal for new clean energy tax incentives and ambitious goals he wants the 2009 Legislature to adopt.

    On Monday, Governor Kulongoski said it's time to redouble the state's commitment to a clean energy future. "In 2009, we must be bolder, more comprehensive and even more visionary," Kulongoski said. Right on!

    According to the Oregonian, Kulongoski's proposals include:

    • Greenhouse gas reduction: Authorizes regional cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions; sets limits on emissions from the state's largest sources; sets low-carbon standards for all new electricity generation

    • Energy efficiency: Establishes energy performance certificates for new homes or commercial buildings, similar to MPG ratings for new cars; sets goal of zero-emission new buildings by 2030; allows 50 percent tax credit for large-scale energy efficiency projects, up to $20 million

    • Renewable energy: Sets up pilot program to pay for energy produced from solar projects; establishes tax credit for residents who donate to a renewable energy incentive fund

    • Transportation: Offers $5,000 credit for purchase of new plug-in hybrid or all-electric car; authorizes new low-carbon fuel standard similar to those in Washington and California
    His plans to implement a cap and trade program, joining with other states in the Western Climate Initiative, will likely draw the most opposition. Groups representing industrial energy consumers are already lining up in opposition. But it's clear that Governor Kulongoski, who faces his last legislative session as Oregon's governor, has decided to pin his legacy on efforts to make Oregon a clean energy leader and tackle global warming.

    More on Kulongoski's clean energy plans at the Oregonian

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Solyndra Introduces Cylindrical Panel PV System; Announces $1.2 Billion in Multi-year Orders

    Solyndra, Inc. today announced a new solar photovoltaic (PV) system for the commercial rooftop market. Solyndra's PV system is designed to generate significantly more solar electricity on an annual basis from typical low-slope commercial rooftops with lower installation costs than conventional PV flat panel technologies. Commercial rooftops represent a vast, underutilized resource and huge opportunity for generating solar electricity. Since its founding in 2005, Solyndra has been developing technology and ramping manufacturing capacity to produce its proprietary CIGS-based thin film PV system. Solyndra is currently shipping its systems, comprised of panels and mounting hardware, to fulfill more than $1.2 billion of multi-year contracts with customers in Europe and the United States.
    Solyndra's panels employ cylindrical modules which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. This self-tracking design allows Solyndra's PV systems to capture significantly more sunlight than traditional flat-surfaced solar panels, which require costly tilted mounting devices to improve the capture of direct light, offer poor collection of diffuse light and fail to collect reflected light from rooftops or other installation surfaces.
    Conventional flat PV panels must be mounted at an angle and spaced apart for optimum energy production. The sunlight striking the spaces between the panels is not collected and thus is wasted. Solyndra's panels perform optimally when mounted horizontally and packed closely together, thereby covering significantly more of the available roof area and producing more electricity per rooftop on an annual basis than a conventional panel installation.
    To meet rooftop wind loading requirements, conventional flat solar panels must be anchored to commercial roofs with either ballast or rooftop penetrations, which are inherently problematic. Together with the need for tilting, the resulting complex mounting systems require significant investment in labor, materials and engineering. Conversely, because wind blows through Solyndra panels, no rooftop anchoring is required. Further, the low weight of the Solyndra system enables the installation of PV on a broader range of rooftops.
    For typical conventional PV installations, a solar panel is only half the cost of a complete installation; the other half includes additional expenses such as installation, cables, and inverters. The horizontal mounting and unique air-flow properties of Solyndra's solar panel design substantially simplify the installation process for Solyndra's PV systems. The ease of installation and simpler mounting hardware of Solyndra's system enables its customers to realize significant savings on installation costs.
    "By eliminating the need for roof-penetrating mounts and wind ballasts, PV arrays with Solyndra panels can be installed with one-third the labor, in one-third of the time, at one-half the cost," said Manfred Bachler, Chief Technical Officer at Phoenix Solar AG, one of the largest solar power integrators in Europe and a Solyndra customer. "For commercial rooftops, PV module installation time can now be measured in days, not weeks. For flat commercial rooftops this is game-changing technology."
    According to Solyndra founder and CEO Chris Gronet, "Solyndra's system uniquely optimizes PV performance on commercial rooftops by converting more of the sunlight that strikes the total rooftop area into electricity while also providing for a lower installation cost and lower cost of electricity."

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    Time for A Green Bailout? Van Jones Says Clean Energy Investment Can Solve Our Economic and Ecological Challenges

    Van Jones is one timely man. With the economic crisis spurring a new search for ways to revitalize and rebuild our flagging economy, Van Jones, the founder and president of Green For All, is ready with answers: "a national commitment to green economic development as a way to address our environmental and economic crises at once."

    That's the message of Van's new book, The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems (due out in bookstores October 7th), as well as the nationwide Green Jobs Now! day of action organized by Green For All last weekend. He couldn't have picked a better time for the book release and the day of action.

    The $700 billion economic bailout plan passed last Friday by Congress may get Wall Street back to square one. But Americans on Main Street want more than a bailout. We want a real plan to move forward. We want a plan to create a more sustainable, prosperous and secure future for ourselves and our loved ones.

    In a piece in Huffington Post last Friday (reprinted below), Van points out that investments in a 'green bailout plan' - a series of timely, strategic investments to ignite a new clean energy economy and restart our ailing economy - is our best hope, perhaps the only strategy that can move our troubled nation forward into a new era of shared prosperity. This quote from the intro to The Green Collar Economy sums it up well:
    "[W]e cannot drill and burn our way out of our present economic and energy problems. We can, however, invent and invest our way out. Choosing to do so on a massive scale would have the practical benefit of cutting energy prices enough—and generating enough work—to pull the U.S. economy out of its present death spiral."
    I look forward to cracking open Van's book this evening (I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy), and I encourage you to pick up a copy for yourselves (you can order a copy here). If there's one question that should be on everyone's mind right now, it's how do we get our economy back on track, kick our dirty energy addiction and ignite a new, clean energy economy. I'm sure Van has some answers.

    I'll try to post a review of the book once I've read more of it. For now, here's Van's piece from HuffPost (reprinted with permission from Green for All):

    "Now For A Green Bailout: Twice The Bang, Half The Bucks"
    By Van Jones

    Maybe the Wall Street bailout package is a good idea.

    But the only thing I know for sure is this: even if we avert a total economic meltdown, we will still be in a recession. Millions of Americans still will be without jobs -- or in real fear of losing their job. Worse, we will still be dependent on dirty fuels like oil and coal, which are draining our monetary resources and cooking the planet.

    The Earth and everyday people will still be suffering.

    I wrote a new book to propose elegant solutions for our economic and environmental crises. The Green Collar Economy offers a green cure for the dilemmas we face and the financial messes we are in.

    At this point, I am willing to concede that Wall Street and the big bankers need some propping up. But while we are at it, we should find a way to bail out the little people -- and the planet, too.

    So how about a green bailout -- to help both? We already took an important step in that direction today. Perhaps the only thing in the whole bailout package that is inarguably good is the support for the U.S. clean energy sector.

    After unconscionable delays, Congress finally gave a boost to our wind power industries and our solar power industries by extending the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit. The price tag was about $9 billion, but the cost was entirely offset, mostly by changes that were made to oil and gas tax rules.

    What does America get for that no-net-cost shuffling of the tax code? Plenty. The 8-year extension of ITC alone will create 440,000 jobs. And $230 billion of private investment would be created in the solar and other industries, according to a recent report by Navigant Consulting.

    Green Bailout: Half The Money, Twice The Impact

    That's a good start. Let's keep going. An all-out "green bailout" could give America TWICE the bang ... for half the bucks.

    We just found $700 billion. Let's find another $350 billion. That's half the price tag of the Wall Street rescue - which has no guarantee of success. But with $350 billion investment, we absolutely and positively could retrofit and repower America using clean, green energy - and create millions of new jobs, in the process.

    A new report just released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors says that we can create over 4 million green jobs if we aggressively shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

    Another report just released by the Political Economy Research Institute and the Center for American Progress shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs over two years by investing $100 billion in a green economic recovery plan. The report also shows that this investment would create four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

    Green For All and its partners are proposing a Clean Energy Corps that includes a revolving loan fund to finance the ambitious retrofitting of the nation's building stock. An investment of less than $3 billion per year would provide financing and can be expected to create close to 120,000 green jobs a year and 600,000 over five years, while also lowering home heating and electricity bills for homeowners and small businesses.

    Clean Energy Corps: Retrofitting & Repowering America

    The United States should have a Clean Energy Corps, combining community service with green-collar job training. Such a program could get hundreds of thousands of people ready to go to work, greening the nation's infrastructure.

    The New Apollo Program is a comprehensive economic investment strategy developed by the Apollo Alliance to build America 's 21st century clean energy economy and dramatically cut energy bills for families and businesses. It estimates that the investment of $500 billion over the next 3 years and create more than 5 million high quality green-collar jobs.

    It will accelerate the development of the nation's vast clean energy resources and move us toward energy security, climate stability, and economic prosperity. And it will transform America into the global leader of the new green economy.

    A massive green economic stimulus package like this could even pay for ITSELF in energy savings and in tax dollars generated by new jobs and businesses.

    As Thomas Friedman says, "We don't just need a bailout. We need a buildup." In my new book, The Green-Collar Economy, I spell out other green remedies for our economy.

    Friedman: Not Just a Bailout, A Buildup

    The bottom line is: we can't base a national economy on credit cards. But we can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart bio-fuels and massive, a program to weatherize every building and home in America.

    Rather than giving platinum parachutes to those who wrecked the economy, let's throw a green lifeline to the ordinary people who want to rebuild it. We can't drill and burn our way out of our present mess. But we can invent and invest our way out.

    Our present economy is based on consumption, debt and environmental destruction. The next U.S. economy should be based on production, smart savings and environmental restoration. You can't have a stable economy based on unregulated greed at the top. But you can have one based on unleashing green, at the bottom.

    Millions of green jobs would be a Main Street solution to the Wall Street meltdown.

    America's number one resource is not oil or mortgages. Our number one resource is our people.

    And it is time to put our people back to work - retrofitting and re-powering America.

    That's what my book is all about.

    Tax Credit Extension Ensures Strong Future for Solar Industry

    By a vote of 263-171, the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic legislation that extends the 30-percent federal investment tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations for 8 years.
    This legislation will:

    • Extend for 8 years the 30-percent tax credit for both residential and commercial solar installations;
    • Eliminate the $2,000 monetary cap for residential solar electric installations, creating a true 30-percent credit;
    • Eliminate the prohibition on utilities from benefiting from the credit;
    • Allow Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) filers, both businesses and families, to take the credit; and
    • Authorize $800 million for clean energy bonds for renewable energy generating facilities, including solar.

    Read SEPA`s statement about how this will impact utiliies` engagement with solar energy.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    CPV Industry Consortium Formed to Steer Rapid Growth in Solar Industry

    Founding Members Include Concentrix Solar, Emcore, ISFOC, Isofoton, and SolFocus

    Founding members announced the establishment of an industry organization -- the CPV Consortium -- focused on supporting the development and optimizing the success of concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) as a mainstream energy source. The CPV Consortium is a global organization comprised of members from all segments of the CPV industry, which uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate sunlight onto high efficiency solar cells in order to generate more solar electricity from dramatically less photovoltaic material. Membership is open to all companies and institutions that have a vested interest in advancing the CPV industry. Founding members include Concentrix Solar (Germany), Emcore (USA), ISFOC (Spain), Isofoton (Spain) and SolFocus (USA) who have been working on the creation of this organization for the past 12 months.
    Developments in the CPV area have been extensive in the past few years, fueled by the efforts of innovative companies contributing to all aspects of this emerging next generation photovoltaic technology. "Today CPV is on the cusp of delivering on its promise of low-cost, reliable solar-generated electricity that will be cost competitive with traditional energy sources," explained Nancy Hartsoch, Director of the CPV Consortium and VP of Marketing for SolFocus. "The challenge now is to assure that a proper foundation and infrastructure is in place to support CPV, which is why we are pleased to have a broad and expanding membership which will include cell and material suppliers, panel suppliers, tracker companies, integrators, power generators, universities and government organizations, among others." Veeco and 3M, leading equipment and materials suppliers to the CPV industry, have also joined the Consortium as charter members.
    Dr. Pedro Banda, Director General of founding member ISFOC commented on the organization. "The CPV consortium is a key instrument to allow for this growth, bringing together all key industrial and R&D players. It is with this type of commitment that we all can ensure the future of this technology, becoming a major trend and providing global solutions for the deployment of renewable energies. ISFOC is committed together with the industrial players to support their technology and product developments and serve as their test bed. This consortium will help bringing CPV up to the pace at which the PV market is growing across the world."
    "With its outstanding efficiencies CPV technology has an immense potential for lowering costs of solar electricity," commented Hansjorg Lerchenmuller, CEO of Concentrix Solar. "In order to fully exploit the potential of the technology we need to join forces throughout the whole CPV industry."
    Membership is available at several levels including Charter Membership which includes a seat on the steering committee, General Membership, and Informational Membership. Governmental, University and non-profit memberships are available on an invitation-only basis. Interested parties should contact the Consortium at info@cpvconsortium.org for more information.
    "It is crucial for the companies participating in the CPV industry to collaborate and ensure that this technology meets and exceeds the cost and performance requirements of the global energy market. The CPV Consortium is the mechanism where the industry leadership will partner to ensure Concentrating PV systems reach their full market potential," explained David Danzilio, VP and GM for Emcore's Space and Terrestrial Solar Products. Vincente Diaz, CPV Business Manager for ISOFOTON S.A. added, "CPV technology means a cost effective and reliable product in the PV sector. The mature technologies present in CPV allow big improvements in terms of system efficiencies. It is the right moment for joining in a powerful team that could boost CPV technology market presence in the short term."

    Home energy efficiency specialist Sustainable Spaces secures financing

    Sustainable Spaces, a national leader in the growing field of home energy efficiency and health, announced it has closed its Series A funding. The company secured $6 million dollars from RockPort Capital Partners and Shasta Ventures. The infusion of funding will enable the company to invest in building its infrastructure to meet the exploding demand for its services.
    Sustainable Spaces brings homes up to today’s high standards of energy efficiency, health and comfort by applying building science to conduct home energy audits and retrofit projects. Existing homes currently account for almost 21% of the U.S. carbon output, more than all the cars, trucks, and buses combined. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective avenues for improving energy security, reducing energy bills, and addressing the important issue of global climate change—all while creating green collar jobs and growing the economy. Since 2004, the company has performed over 400 home retrofits in the San Francisco Bay Area, lowering homeowners’ energy usage and expense by an average of 40%, while improving indoor air quality and thermal comfort.
    "We are very pleased to be working with investors who understand the value proposition and market potential of our business and are committed to successfully growing companies that can make a real impact on global climate change and the emerging green economy," said Pratap Mukherjee, CEO of Sustainable Spaces. "There are more than 70 million single-family, owner-occupied homes in the U.S. and they typically use one and a half to two times the energy required to achieve the homeowners’ desired level of comfort. Finding the causes of wasted energy in homes and fixing the underlying problems represent the single most potent and cost-effective measure we can take to combat global warming."
    "Sustainable Spaces has created a compelling value proposition for homeowners," said Chuck McDermott of RockPort Capital Partners. "By addressing each individual homeowner’s concerns and constructing an improvement roadmap customized to that customer, they can work within any homeowner’s budget to reduce their bills and make an impact on global climate change. Our investment enables the company to further increase the tremendous results they have seen in their local market and expand their programs into new markets."
    "There’s a massive opportunity to create the trusted brand in home performance to help homeowners sort through the dizzying array of green products and services in the most cost-effective way possible," said Tod Francis of Shasta Ventures. "Sustainable Spaces has been leading the way with a track record of providing a very high quality service enabled by leading building science know-how. We are very excited to be working with the company on the ground floor of this growing sector."
    Founded in 2004, Sustainable Spaces has been a national leader in creating the home performance industry. The company is committed to its employees, and has created more than 40 positions in living wage jobs with a full benefits package. The company is also closely involved in local green collar jobs programs, and is committed to giving back to the communities in which it does business.