Why the U.S. Air Force wants to fly on renewable energy

Posted on January 16th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the Northeast, including the area surrounding Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst (JB MDL) in New Jersey. JB MDL played a critical role in the relief and recovery from Sandy. The sprawling base, including what used to be known as McGuire Air Force Base, provided essential support as a staging area for relief efforts and aid distribution for more than 100 nonprofits and government agencies, including FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Homeland Security.

"They were the central node for receiving aid and stationing for deployment," observed Michael Wu, special assistant, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, "but the reason they were able to do that is because the storm just missed them. If the storm had been a little bit farther south, they would have been knocked out like everybody else."

The experience of Sandy vividly demonstrated the crucial role that energy resilience plays in mission assurance for the Air Force. And so Wu, together with a team drawn from Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon, JB MDL and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), joined teams from across North America at RMI’s third annual eLab Accelerator to investigate clean energy approaches to resilience.

A brave new world

The Air Force team came to Accelerator with the goal of honing "a replicable and scalable process for implementing resilient energy projects and resilient energy systems throughout the Air Force enterprise," said Wu. "Climate change could create significant challenges to readiness, and is already having an impact on our installations and will impact our ability to operate going forward." 

Threats from more frequent and more intense storms are on the minds of all enterprises. Indeed, the White House’s recent memorandum Climate Change and National Security calls out climate change as “a significant and growing threat to national security, both at home and abroad,” and directs all federal entities to "ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans."

Wu, providing an example for the Air Force, noted, "The energy resilience tools that we’ve used have been mostly spot-diesel generation on our critical facilities." But diesel fuel runs out and can be hard to resupply, especially in the midst of widespread disruption. Wu believes "that we’re entering a new threat environment, where there’s a much greater concern over long-term, widespread power outages.” 

The Air Force, being a military service, also has its eye on a somewhat more colorful set of threats beyond just climate change. Wu explained: "The driving factor for a lot of our new initiatives has really been the determined-adversary aspect of it." For example, our increasingly interconnected world is also increasingly susceptible to sabotage, as revealed when someone armed with only bolt cutters and a rifle shot up an electrical substation in Silicon Valley in April 2013, doing $15 million worth of damage that took 27 days to repair. PG&E was able to compensate using other grid resources, but it put the world on notice that grids are physically vulnerable. 

Think globally, act locally

Sandy provided JB MDL the impetus to implement localized clean energy technologies and approaches. "They really wanted to create more self-sufficiency and resiliency for themselves and their mission partners on the base," said Wu. The solution that JB MDL is finalizing is one that includes energy storage, controllable loads and "high renewable energy penetration, because that will strengthen our ability to maintain our missions in one of those prolonged power disruption scenarios," said Wu.

But the team that came to Accelerator ultimately had their eye on innovating solutions for all U.S. bases, not just JB MDL, and on ensuring resilience in the face of any disruption, not just weather-related natural disasters. In Wu’s words, "How do we create a process that we can learn from, replicate and scale? How do we do it in such a way that it’s helpful for JB MDL, but it’s also something that we can apply across the Air Force enterprise?" Rather than have an architecture and engineering firm take on the resiliency project at JB MDL, the team "did a really good job of sitting down and trying to do some long-term visioning and strategic thinking," said Wu.

"It was exciting to work with a team that had such diverse perspectives on resilience for mission assurance," said Jason Meyer, RMI facilitator for the Air Force team at Accelerator. "The application insight from folks at JB MDL, the enterprise strategy from Air Force headquarters [HQ AF], the experience of NREL across a number of similar projects and efforts and the technical knowledge of O’Brien & Gere [contractor to JB MDL] really advanced the development of immediate solutions for JB MDL, with an eye toward application across the Air Force."

JB MDL is an excellent model from which to scale up. Wu said, "There are so many stakeholders just within the base and within HQ AF, and it’s a joint base that includes all four services," that it was valuable to create a process for stakeholder engagement there. The team also has ideas about how to pursue opportunities with the local grid operator, PJM and the local utility, Jersey City Power & Light. 

Lessons from — and for — the private sector

The problems and opportunities that Air Force installations face regarding resilience are faced by just about every large organization you could imagine. Many such organizations had teams at Accelerator. Wu said, "The space that they had, and the faculty and other teams that were doing similar projects, really made the difference at Accelerator." He said their team learned a lot from "how much other teams were struggling and wrestling with the same questions: How do we pay for this stuff? What’s the value of resilience? How do we do this in the regular course of business, and not just for the pilot project?" 

"We share a lot of energy resilience requirements with other sectors — with the financial systems sector, with cities," said Wu. "Our missions are a little different, but the energy resilience side is actually remarkably similar ... Those kinds of folks will hopefully be helping to push the technologies and the market factors in the same direction. What I think is critical is to recognize the common requirements." Wu said he thinks "it will help create more standardized business models that allow more expansion and, hopefully, a self-perpetuating cycle of enhancements and improvements to the way we create resilient energy systems." 

"Resilience and resilient energy systems are critical concerns for many different types of stakeholders," concluded Meyer. "The complexity of the need — which could range from mission assurance to sheltering in place or continued operations of critical facilities in times of disaster — is compounded by the complexity and newness of the technology that could provide solutions." Accelerator is "such a powerful forum to work through these challenges due to the diversity of stakeholders and faculty members in the room that can lend a hand in the development of a solution," Meyer said.

Mission ready air force

"Every mission expansion or shift or new technology that the Air Force has implemented in the last three decades has increased the importance and prominence of access to electricity for our installations," Wu summarized. "The expansion of our cyber mission, the expansion of our space mission, the proliferation of remotely piloted aircraft and other new platforms — all of them are more networked, and that creates new interdependencies."


As electricity has become more critical to the Air Force, so has resilience, whether the mission is providing local relief during disasters, air support for forces across the globe or reliable communications via satellites in Earth’s orbit. That’s why the resilience inherent in on-site renewable energy generation and storage has such great potential to help ensure the Air Force is always ready, at home, on the other side of the world, and even in outer space. 


India Launches Online Training Course On Solar Energy Which Costs Just $8.79!

Posted on January 16th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



India is preparing to have a huge army of skilled professionals ready to service the rapidly growing solar power market.

The Indian government has announced the launch of an online training program to help young individuals turn into professional solar power technicians. The Solar Energy Corporation of India recently reported that a Chennai-based company has been roped-in to implement this online program.

For just INR 599 ($8.79), anyone with an internet connection can enroll in this online program and learn the various aspects related to solar power generation. Among the various topics that will be covered in the course are the basics of photovoltaic power systems, electromagnetic spectrum and radiation, designing solar power systems, testing and commissioning of solar power plants, and operation and maintenance.

Successful candidates shall be issued a certificate from the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India, which would open up vast opportunities for them. The program is likely a part of the Skilled India mission announced by Prime Minister Modi that aims at creating millions of jobs in the country.

The renewable energy secto, especially solar power, presents a massive jobs creation opportunity for India’s youth. The government has announced plans to have 175 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity operational by March 2022 which includes 100 gigawatts of solar power capacity. At the end of the November 2016, the renewable energy capacity stood at less than 47 gigawatts, with solar power capacity at just below 9 gigawatts.

According to a report issued by the Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC) last year, India may end up creating over a million new jobs in its endeavor to have 100 GW of operational solar power capacity by March 2022.

Around 210,800 site engineers and designers would be required to set the large-scale as well as rooftop solar power systems rolling. Around 624,600 semi-skilled workers would be needed for the construction and on-field execution of the projects. To monitor ongoing operations at the power plants, and their maintenance, another 182,400 semi-skilled workers would be needed. Thus, a total of 1,017,800 jobs are expected be created if India indeed manages to set up a cumulative operational capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022.


Saudi Arabia seeks $30bn-$50bn solar and wind energy investment

Posted on January 16th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Saudi Arabia will “within weeks” start issuing tenders for a big solar and wind power programme that envisages investment worth $30bn-$50bn by 2030, the country’s oil minister said on Monday.

The oil-rich kingdom was also in the early stages of feasibility and design proposals for the country’s first commercial nuclear power stations, with capacity of 2.8 gigawatts, added Khalid al-Falih. “There will be significant investment in nuclear energy,” he said at a renewable energy event in Abu Dhabi. Mr Falih gave no further details on the programme’s timeframe and cost. The pledge marks the first solid indication of the kingdom’s commitment to developing nuclear energy, after it recently signed co-operation agreements with Russia, France and South Korea on feasibility work. Fleshing out his previously announced ambition to turn Saudi Arabia into a “solar powerhouse”, Mr Falih said that the country was targeting renewable power projects with a capacity of 10GW by 2023.

The pledge to invest heavily in broadening the energy mix builds on previous commitments to alternative power sources as part of Riyadh’s ambition to diversify the economy away from crude oil production by 2030. Its national development plan had earlier set a target of developing 3.45MW of renewable energy capacity by 2020. The broader economic reform plan aims to create new revenue streams to wean the government off dependence on oil. Energy forms a major component of the strategy, sparked by a fiscal crisis after two years of sustained low oil prices. The slump in oil revenues has prompted the government to draw down more than $100bn in financial reserves and borrow $17.5bn on global bond markets to help finance its budget. The government is also expected to cull billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure projects to cut costs, and is set to return to bond markets this quarter.

Renewable and nuclear energy are seen as vital to cut domestic demand for oil, freeing up production for export. Mr Falih also said the kingdom would turn to natural gas as a feedstock for local electricity production. The government has pushed forward with cutting utility and petrol subsidies despite some disapproval from a population accustomed to a generous welfare state. The reforms are expected to save about $55bn a year by 2020. Speaking at another event in Abu Dhabi last week, Mr Falih said that earlier price rises had already produced a “significant drop” in demand growth from an average 5-6 per cent to 0.5 per cent last year. He also reaffirmed Riyadh’s commitment to privatisation as part of the economic reform push. The long-awaited initial public offering of a minority stake in state oil company Saudi Aramco — “the largest IPO in history” — was still scheduled for 2018, he said. The state-owned Saudi Electricity Company was also set to be split and sold off, he said. Mr Falih reiterated plans to privatise the stock market next year, adding that this could be followed by other sectors such as seaports and airports. Addressing last year’s Opec deal with non-Opec producers to trim output to sustain prices, Mr Falih said he doubted that the six-month agreement would need to be extended as demand would increase and the market would return to balance.


Dutch Railways' Electric Trains Now Run On 100% Wind Energy

Posted on January 12th, 2017 in wind by Spencer R.



A single Dutch Railways line in the Netherlands still runs on diesel fuel—but only until the end of this year. Every other train owned by the national rail company is already electric and now gets that electricity from Dutch wind farms.

"We want to give our commuters and train passengers a real sustainable alternative to flying or driving a car," says Ton Boon, spokesperson for Dutch Railways or NS, which runs a network of 5,500 Dutch trains. "Especially daily commuters."

 The company, working in partnership with all other Dutch rail companies—including freight trains—had planned to source all of its electricity from wind by 2018, but after learning that extra wind power was available on the Dutch market, was able to purchase it earlier. The trains use a huge amount of power, roughly as much as the entire city of Amsterdam. But the growth in wind energy makes it possible to supply the whole amount.

Rather than buying power from existing renewable energy plants, the rail company chose to support newly-built projects. The power is sent into the grid, and the company buys certificates for each megawatt-hour of energy that it uses. Wind power doesn't go directly to the trains, both because that's not how the infrastructure is set up and because the trains need to pull from the grid for a constant source of power.

"If there is no wind you can run the trains," says Boon. "There needs to be enough power on the grid always."

Each day, 1.2 million people ride the trains—compared to less than 90,000 a day on Amtrak in the U.S. In 2011, the most recent year that data are available, Amtrak directly emitted nearly 800,000 metric tons of carbon pollution; NS's operational footprint is close to nothing, while running more than 15 times as many trains.

"We want to set an example for the market that it's possible to make an agreement with an energy supplier on making your energy usage really sustainable," says Boon.


Storing thermal solar energy from summer to winter

Posted on January 12th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Can thermal solar energy be stored until wintertime? Within a European research consortium Empa scientists and their colleagues have spent four years studying this question by pitting three different techniques against each other.

We are still a far cry from a sustainable energy supply: in 2014, 71 percent of all privately-owned apartments and houses in Switzerland were heated with fossil fuels, and 60 percent of the hot water consumed in private households is generated in this way. In other words, a considerable amount of fossil energy could be saved if we were able to store  from sunny summer days until wintertime and retrieve it at the flick of a switch. Is there a way to do this? It certainly looks like it. Since autumn of 2016, following several years of research, Empa has a plant on a lab scale in operation that works reliably and is able to store heat in the long term. But the road to get there was long and winding.

The theory behind this kind of heat storage is fairly straightforward: if you pour water into a beaker containing solid or concentrated sodium hydroxide (NaOH), the mixture heats up. The dilution is exothermic: chemical energy is released in the form of heat. Moreover, sodium hydroxide solution is highly hygroscopic and able to absorb . The condensation heat obtained as a result warms up the sodium hydroxide solution even more.

Summer heat in a storage tank

The other way round is also possible: if we feed energy into a dilute sodium hydroxide solution in the form of heat, the water evaporates; the sodium hydroxide solution will get more concentrated and thus stores the supplied energy. This solution can be kept for months and even years, or transported in tanks. If it comes into contact with water (vapor) again, the stored heat is re-released.

So much for the theory, anyway. But could the beaker experiment be replicated on a scale capable of storing enough energy for a single-family household? Empa researchers Robert Weber and Benjamin Fumey rolled up their sleeves and got down to work. They used an insulated sea container as an experimental laboratory on Empa's campus in Dübendorf – a safety precaution as concentrated sodium hydroxide solution is highly corrosive. If the system were to spring a leak, it would be preferable for the aggressive liquid to slosh through the container instead of Empa's laboratory building.

Unfortunately, the so-called COMTES prototype didn't work as anticipated. The researchers had opted for a falling film evaporator – a system used in the food industry to condense orange juice into a concentrate, for instance. Instead of flowing correctly around the , however, the thick sodium hydroxide solution formed large drops. It absorbed too little water vapor and the amount of heat that was transferred remained too low.

Then Fumey had a brainwave: the viscous storage medium should trickle along a pipe in a spiral, absorb water vapor on the way and transfer the generated heat to the pipe. The reverse – charging the medium – should also be possible using the same technique, only the other way round. It worked. And the best thing about it: spiral-shaped heat exchangers are already available ex stock – heat exchangers from flow water heaters.

Fumey then optimized the lab system further: which fluctuations in NaOH concentration are optimal for efficiency? Which temperatures should the inflowing and outflowing water have? Water vapor at a temperature of five to ten degrees is required to drain the store. This water vapor can be produced with heat from a geothermal probe, for instance. In the process, 50-percent sodium hydroxide solution runs down the outside of the spiral heat exchanger pipe and is thinned to 30 percent in the steam atmosphere. The water inside the pipe heats up to around 50 degrees Celsius – which makes it just the ticket for floor heating.

"Charged" sodium hydroxide

While replenishing the store, the 30-percent, "discharged" sodium hydroxide solution trickles downwards around the spiral pipe. Inside the pipe flows 60-degree hot water, which can be produced by a solar collector, for instance. The water from the sodium hydroxide solution evaporates; the water vapor is removed and condensed. The condensation heat is conducted into a geothermal probe, where it is stored. The sodium hydroxide solution that leaves the heat exchanger after charging is concentrated to 50 percent again, i.e. "charged" with thermal energy.

"This method enables solar energy to be stored in the form of chemical energy from the summer until the wintertime," says Fumey. "And that's not all: the stored heat can also be transported elsewhere in the form of concentrated sodium hydroxide solution, which makes it flexible to use." The search for industrial partners to help build a compact household system on the basis of the Empa lab model has now begun. The next prototype of the  storage system could then be used in NEST, for example.



Nigerian community benefit from solar energy to rebuild homes after Boko Haram attacks

Posted on January 12th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Vandalized houses in Gahara Mojiri, a village in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state, bear the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.


The houses were destroyed by the militants who raided people’s homes and meted out attacks on residents in early 2015.

Many of those who fled the violence have since returned home since the militants lost most of the territories they took over from the Nigerian army.

Residents are now able to access clean water using solar powered water pumps and street lighting to help improve on security.

In an effort to help residents rebuild, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) introduced solar panels in the village located in the Hong Local government area.

“Before the solar, we used to fetch water in the stream but since the solar comes we stop going to the stream because the solar gives us water so much,” said Gahara Mojiri, Jacob Musa

“All the people of this community are benefiting from this borehole. One of the boreholes has stopped functioning properly, but we are hoping it will be fixed in time,” added another Gahara Mojiri resident,” Abraham Bulgumi.

Tapping renewable energy is helping tackle persistent energy shortages in the region as people work to develop themselves.

The solar panels have been set up in 8 villages, benefiting over 13,000 people. Residents are also now able to charge their mobile phones as well as use clean energy to light up their homes.

At the nearby Garaha Health centre, patients can access vaccines that were not available to them a few years ago. Joel Markus is the facility manager at Mojili Health Centre.

“There is even so many cases of hepatitis in this community now and the problem is because they did not have the vaccine earlier, so that is the cause of the problem they are having. But now since we have the vaccine, I believe the cases going to be less,” ha said.

Though Nigeria’s army has pushed the Islamist group back to its base, the militants still stage suicide bombings.
In recent years Boko Haram’s attacks have spilled into neighbouring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.


Smaller Businesses Want Renewable Energy Developers To Spread The Green

Posted on January 11th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.

The guys at Google and Facebook, for example, are stimulating the need for wind and solar energy that they are using to feed their electricity-starved data centers. The developers of those energy projects, in return, are getting solid customers that are buying their output at a fixed price over a certain period of years.

But individual commercial and industrial customers aren’t generating the type of demand that can propel big energy projects into the market. Now, though, that may change. The same so-called power purchase agreements that are used to attract the likes of Microsoft, Intel and SAP can also be parceled out to smaller businesses, albeit in much smaller blocks of energy and for much shorter time frames.


“We connect the corporate community to power purchase agreements,” says Paul Schuster managing director for Altenex, a unit of Edison Energy, in an interview. “We have noticed those larger-to-mid-sized energy users need to achieve cost efficiencies, which can be done by buying smaller blocks of renewable electricity.”


A traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years. But the contract now offered to the smaller players might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.

So how does all this work? A wind developer can’t go forward until it knows that it can sell its output into the market at a fair price. Because there are tax breaks for both building the project and buying the output, developers have proved able to sell that product into wholesale markets.

Let’s say it is an insurance company or a bank that buys the bulk of the wholesale power before it would be resold into retail markets: They often line up the major corporate outlets or Internet giants and contact with them to sell the energy at fixed prices over a set number of years. What Altenex is doing is going to that insurer or banker — in this example — and offering to market smaller blocks of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses.

“The return on equity should be infinite,” says Schuster. “Customers, in fact, are not putting down any upfront capital. Hopefully, they are buying renewable energy at the same cost or lower cost than they are paying for fossil energy.”

Is the corporate green market on fertile ground? PriceWaterhouseCoopers says that it has grown over the last 24 months and that it will continue to expand. Seventy-two percent of the companies it surveyed said that they are pursuing renewables, noting that they want to be more sustainable and to use green energy to hedge against volatile energy prices.

Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, adds the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it notes, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours.

The larger companies are the main drivers with the likes of General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors and Walmart setting a goal to run their entire operations using green energy. That includes a number of different options — everything from investing directly into deals to buying their electricity through power purchase agreements.

“The contracts are pretty favorable to the corporate buyers,” says Lori Bird, senior analyst for the National Energy Renewable Lab, in an interview. “Because companies are doing this, they are getting a credit and the energy is going into the grid. The companies are playing a vital role in driving renewable energy projects. Utilities have played that role and still do. But companies are now doing so with these financial arrangements.”

But the smaller businesses also want in on the action. Historically, such enterprises have bought so-called renewable energy credits that guarantee green energy gets generated and fed into the grid, she adds. But those purchases are nominal and have often been procured through their local utilities. 

More than 860 utilities offer green power programs to their customers, the renewable energy lab says, giving more than half of the electricity customers nationwide the option to buy renewable energy. But the aim now is to ratchet up the stakes and to offer commercial and industrial businesses a chance to contractually buy more green power.

“Until now, the market has only worked well for large companies willing to take large amounts of renewable energy on long-term contracts,” says Marty Spizer, with the World Wildlife Fund. “This promising market development could be really important to meet the needs of the critical middle-market segment that need easy, flexible, and cost-effective options.”

What it signals above all else is that the trend to go green is, in fact, a sustainable one and not a fad that will get ensnared by current political happenings. Indeed, big businesses started the momentum and the smaller ones now have the potential to carry it forward.


Solar energy powers an entire island in American Samoa thanks to Tesla, SolarCity

Posted on January 11th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Located over 4,000 miles from the west coast of the United States in the South Pacific Ocean, the island of Ta’u in American Samoa is powered almost entirely by the sun.

The island previously relied on diesel generators for power, but thanks to government funding and contributions from SolarCity and Tesla, the remote island operates on solar power, a cleaner and more cost-effective energy source.

Back in November, SolarCity announced in a blog post that a microgrid of 5,300 solar panels and over 60 battery packs had been completed on the island within a year’s time. The solar panels can generate 1.4 megawatts of energy, while Tesla Powerpacks provide 6 megawatt hours of battery storage. 

Unlike with diesel generators, which can lose power when powerful storms hammer the island, Ta'u's microgrid is able to store energy for several days, which is a huge benefit to the island of nearly 600 people.

Located in the South Pacific, American Samoa will get the occasional encounter from a tropical cyclone. Most recently, Tropical Cyclone Tuni hit the island chain in November 2015, causing significant property and crop damage.

American Samoa has a wet, tropical climate, with over 120 inches of rain falling per year, said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

However, while solar panels are most effective in direct sunlight, they can still function when it's cloudy. Rain can be beneficial in that it helps keep panels operating efficiently by washing away dirt or dust, the Solar Energy Industries Association states.

The region still gets plenty of sunshine. Island resident Keith Ahsoon, whose family owns several stores on the island, told SolarCity that "it's always sunny out here" and being able to retain the sun's energy and not lose power will allow him to sleep "a lot more comfortably at night."

The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior and American Samoa Power Authority, which operates the system, funded the project. The island was chosen as part of an initiative by the Manu'a islands, which include Ta'u, to become fully free of fossil fuel-generated electricity. 

According to SolarCity, the project will offset the use of more than 109,500 gallons of diesel per year.

Ahsoon has seen the effects of climate change firsthand and said this endeavor will help lessen the carbon footprint around the world.

"Beach erosions and other noticeable changes are a part of life here. It’s a serious problem, and this project will hopefully set a good example for everyone else to follow,” said Ahsoon.


Obama: Renewable Energy Revolution Is 'Irreversible', Will Outlast Trump

Posted on January 11th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Barack Obama, outgoing president of the U.S., has stepped directly into the climate debate. He believes that the U.S. is on the way to a "clean energy" world and he delivers four reasons why he thinks the shift is now irreversible.

In an article for the journal Science, President Obama said that although the understanding of the impact of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, "There is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy—a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition."

That is almost his only acknowledgment of President-elect Donald Trump's declared belief that climate change is a hoax, invented by the Chinese.

Clean Energy Economy

"But putting near-term politics aside," he wrote, "the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow."

First of these is that between 2008 and 2015, the U.S. economy grew by 10 percent while carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5 percent, an outcome that "should put to rest the argument that combating climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living."

Renewable energy costs fell dramatically during his years in office: 41 percent for wind, 54 percent for rooftop solar photovoltaics and 64 percent for big solar-power installations. Clean energy now attracts twice as much global capital as fossil fuels.

President Obama also believes that businesses now understand that reducing emissions works for the benefit of business—it cuts costs for consumers and delivers returns to shareholders.

It also matters to the workforce: 2.2 million Americans are now employed in the design, installation and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services, while 1.1 million Americans are employed in producing fossil fuels and generating electric power with those fuels.

The power sector of the economy has changed too. It has shifted from coal to natural gas, largely because of market forces, and the drop in renewable electricity costs has prompted big businesses such as Google to promise that 100 percent of their energy will be from renewable sources in 2017.

Global Momentum

And, he argues, there is already global momentum. Nations in Paris in 2015 agreed on "smart" climate policies for all. It would undermine U.S. economic interests to walk away from the agreement.

"This should not be a partisan issue. It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends," wrote President Obama.

"Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States, and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community."


China Aims to Spend at Least $360 Billion on Renewable Energy by 2020

Posted on January 10th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



China intends to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind, the government’s energy agency said on Thursday.

The country’s National Energy Administration laid out a plan to dominate one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, just at a time when the United States is set to take the opposite tack as Donald J. Trump, a climate-change doubter, prepares to assume the presidency.

The agency said in a statement that China would create more than 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2020, curb the growth of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and reduce the amount of soot that in recent days has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities in a noxious cloud of smog.

China surpassed the United States a decade ago as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and now discharges about twice as much. For years, its oil and coal industries prospered under powerful political patrons and the growth-above-anything mantra of the ruling Communist Party.

The result was choking pollution and the growing recognition that China, many of whose biggest cities are on the coast, will be threatened by rising sea levels.

But even disregarding the threat of climate change, China’s announcement was a bold claim on leadership in the renewable energy industry, where Chinese companies, buoyed by a huge domestic market, are already among the world’s dominant players. Thanks in part to Chinese manufacturing, costs in the wind and solar industries are plummeting, making them increasingly competitive with power generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

Sam Geall, executive editor of Chinadialogue, an English- and Chinese-language website that focuses on the environment, said that the United States, by moving away from a focus on reducing carbon emissions, risked losing out to China in the race to lead the industry.

Mr. Trump has in the past called the theory of human-cased global warming a hoax and picked a fierce opponent of President Obama’s rules to reduce carbon emissions, Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

The investment commitment made by the Chinese, combined with Mr. Trump’s moves, means jobs that would have been created in the United States may instead go to Chinese workers.

Even the headline-grabbing numbers on total investment and job creation may understate what is already happening on the ground in China. Greenpeace estimates that China installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day in 2015, and covered the equivalent of one soccer field every hour with solar panels.

China may meet its 2020 goals for solar installation by 2018, said Lauri Myllyvirta, a research analyst at Greenpeace, who is based in Beijing.

But despite these impressive numbers, China’s push to clean its air and reduce its greenhouse gasses faces political pressure from the politically powerful coal industry.

Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta both said that Thursday’s announcement was missing any language on curtailment, or the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar that never finds its way to the country’s power grid. In China, wind power curtailment was 19 percent in the first nine months 2016, Mr. Myllyvirta said, many times higher than in the United States, where curtailment levels are often negligible.

The main reason for curtailment, he said, is that China is plagued by overcapacity in electricity generation and operators of China’s grid often favor electricity generated from coal.

In recent years the country has also been building coal-fired power plants at a furious pace, although that has recently slowed along with China’s economy. Another omission from Thursday’s announcements, Mr. Myllyvirta said, was the absence of any specific target to reduce coal consumption.

But both Mr. Geall and Mr. Myllyvirta said Thursday’s announcement set the stage for still more power generation from renewable energy and a gradual shift away from coal.

“My experience with China is when a numeric target gets written down, it gets implemented,” Mr. Myllyvirta said. “It doesn’t always get implemented in the way you like, but it does get implemented.”