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Global Tracking Framework Sheds Light on the State of Renewable Energy

Global Tracking Framework Sheds Light on the State of Renewable Energy

Vivien Foster, The World Bank
May 28, 2013

How many people around the world lack access to electricity and safe household fuels? What’s the share of renewable energy in the global mix? How are we doing in improving energy efficiency?

The Sustainable Energy for All Global Tracking Framework Report, released at the Vienna Energy Forum on May 28, answers these questions. It presents detailed country-level and global data that outline the scale of the challenges ahead as countries try to meet the three objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative: providing universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency — all by 2030.

The report tells us that 1.2 billion people — almost equal to the population of India — don’t have access to electricity, and that 2.8 billion rely on wood or other biomass for household fuel. Those solid household fuels produce health-damaging indoor pollution that contributes to about four million premature deaths a year, most of them women and children. The report also tells us that most of the people still without access live in 20 countries in developing Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and that about 80 percent of them live in rural areas.

How quickly is energy access expanding?

Although 1.7 billion people obtained connections to electricity between 1990 and 2010, the rate was only slightly ahead of the population growth of 1.6 billion over the same period. Electricity expansion growth will have to double to meet the 100 percent access target by 2030. Getting there will require an additional $45 billion invested in access every year, five times the current annual level. The carbon cost of such expansion, however, is low: to bring electricity to those without it would increase global carbon dioxide emissions by less than 1 percent.

Sustainable Energy for All, a global coalition of governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations, aims to ...


Link to report site: http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/energy/publication/Global-Tracking-Framework-Report

Big New Investments in Wind Energy Across the Country and Around the World

Mary Anne HittDirector, Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign

Big New Investments in Wind Energy Across the Country and Around the World
Posted: 05/23/2013 12:06 pm

After spending last weekend at the Heartland Coalfield Alliance's retreat in the Illinois coal basin region, I'm more inspired than ever. Listening to such amazing, committed people talk about their tireless work to move beyond coal was really exciting. These activists know the potential for clean energy in their region -- especially wind power. And there has been some blockbuster news about wind in recent days.

Wind power is growing like gangbusters across the country, and employs more than 75,000 workers across 43 states. Just last week, Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy Co. announced it will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa wind power, which Governor Branstad called, "The largest economic development investment in the history of the state."

The project will lower energy bills, be built at no net cost to customers, generate millions of dollars for landowners, and "enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years," according to the Des Moines Register.

The clean energy stakes got even higher last week when Facebook announced it had chosen Iowa over Nebraska as the location for a $1.5 billion new facility. As state Senator Galen Hadley wrote in an op-ed:
The fact that Iowa generates 10 times as much electricity from wind as Nebraska was a major factor in [Facebook's] decision. We are dead last among our neighboring states in wind development despite the fact we have better wind potential than most of them, in large part because of public policies that have not supported wind development. I represent the Kearney area and know that we have everything but the wind energy component to offer projects such as Facebook.

State officials are....


Hanford Nuclear Waste Cleanup Plant May Be Too Dangerous

Hanford Nuclear Waste Cleanup Plant May Be Too Dangerous
Safety issues make plans to clean up a mess left over from the construction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal uncertain

By Valerie Brown


...The pulse jet mixers suck waste into their vertical tubes and then eject it forcefully back into the tanks. Unfortunately, they have not yet been shown to provide sufficient mixing at the scale necessary for the Vit Plant. They do, however, apply enough force to the slurry for the solids to grind away at the stainless steel of tanks and pipes, weakening them enough to risk leakage. Besides this erosion, there’s also potential for chemical corrosion. The Defense Nuclear Safety Board, which advises the White House, has called these problems “a show-stopper.”

“The way [the plant] is currently designed poses unacceptable risks. DoE now admits that,” says Tom Carpenter, executive director of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge. In December the Government Accountability Office issued a highly critical analysis of the Vit Plant’s unresolved safety issues

Disagreements over the safety risks have also prompted outspoken protests from several senior Hanford officials. Chief project engineer Gary Brunson resigned in January. Busche and former deputy chief process engineer Walter Tamosaitis filed whistleblower complaints alleging that their concerns about safety were suppressed by Bechtel. (Bechtel declined to be interviewed for this story, citing nondisclosure agreements signed with Chu’s expert panel.)

But Langdon Holton, DoE’s senior technical authority for the Vit Plant and a member of Chu’s expert panel, believes the project’s problems are technical snags, rather than the insoluble consequence of incompetence or hubris. He also thinks that although the current risks are real, they are unlikely and would be of low magnitude if they did occur. For example, he says, “You’d have to have a vessel unmixed for half a year” for enough hydrogen to accumulate for a significant explosion. “Do I have concern we won’t be able to resolve the issues? No, but it will take some time,” he adds. (Chu’s panel does not expect to issue a formal report, according to Holton.)

Time may be limited. The 177 tanks, built between 1943 and 1986 and most intended for only about a 20-year life span, are decaying...


S. Korea suspends more nuclear reactors over fake documents

S. Korea suspends more nuclear reactors over fake documents

Asia’s fourth-largest economy is halting the operations of two nuclear power reactors to replace unauthorized equipment that was supplied using fake documentation, South Korea’s nuclear regulator said on Tuesday.

The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission also delayed the restart of operations at two other reactors that were closed last year, also over forged documents, Reuters reported.

Two of the affected nuclear reactors are in Kori, about 320 km (198 miles) southeast of Seoul, and in Wolsong, about 280 km (173 miles) from the capital. The reactors each have a maximum capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

The shutdown of the reactors is more than just an embarrassment for the South Korean government, which has said the closures present no public threat. The country is heavily dependent on outside supplies of oil, gas and coal, with about a third of its electricity coming from nuclear power generation.

This is not the first time...


The Calm Before the Solar Storm

The Calm Before the Solar Storm
As solar installations accelerate, a need for new business models on both sides of the meter.

Virginia Lacy, Rocky Mountain Institute
May 27, 2013

If I told you that a New York Times article described growing homeowner interest in solar power, spurred in part by declining solar module prices, interest in clean energy, and a (somewhat uncertain) landscape of incentives, that would probably sound pretty familiar. It wouldn’t exactly be surprising news. But here’s what would: the article published more than 20 years ago, in 1991.

For decades, we’ve been hearing that a solar PV-powered electricity consumer revolution is coming. Lately, this “coming” solar revolution has been posting some impressive numbers; it’s moving more rapidly than ever.

Consider California. To date, about 150,000 distributed solar PV systems, totaling 1.5 GW, have been installed on homes and businesses in that state. Last year, U.S. utilities interconnected nearly 90,000 net-metered solar projects totaling almost 1.2 GW-ac, a 46-percent increase over 2011. In total, there are currently 3.5 GW of net-metered projects in the country, the capacity equivalent of 3.5 nuclear plants. This growth is due in part to third-party solar ownership and financing. SolarCity, the biggest player in that game, enjoyed 117-percent growth in installations from 2011 to 2012, and expects 2013 to be another 60 percent higher again than 2012.

These numbers are impressive, but take note: solar is no longer coming. Why? Because solar is here. It has officially arrived...


See also: "Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business" , Edison Electric Institute

“Net Energy Metering, Zero Net Energy and the Distributed Energy Resource Future: Adapting Electric Utility Business Models for the 21st Century.” , Rocky Mountain Institute

TAYLOR GLACIER, ANTARCTICA BLOOD FALLS Natural time capsule containing an alien ecosystem

Natural time capsule containing an alien ecosystem

This five-story, blood-red waterfall pours very slowly out of the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys. When geologists first discovered the frozen waterfall in 1911, they thought the red color came from algae, but its true nature turned out to be much more spectacular.

Roughly two million years ago, the Taylor Glacier sealed beneath it a small body of water which contained an ancient community of microbes. Trapped below a thick layer of ice, they have remained there ever since, isolated inside a natural time capsule. Evolving independently of the rest of the living world, these microbes exist in a place with no light or free oxygen and little heat, and are essentially the definition of "primordial ooze." The trapped lake has very high salinity and is rich in iron, which gives the waterfall its red color. A fissure in the glacier allows the subglacial lake to flow out, forming the falls without contaminating the ecosystem within.

The existence ...

Photo spread: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/blood-falls

Hot Water Heaters: When Energy Efficiency Fights Demand Response

Hot Water Heaters: When Energy Efficiency Fights Demand Response
Out of the basement and into the fire


The home hot water heater is hardly the cool kid in the appliance schoolyard. It doesn't receive daily human interaction. It mostly dwells in the basement. There is no former Apple designer bringing us a new, sexy water heater.

But that doesn't mean the appliance is completely forgotten. There is a tussle brewing in Washington over the second-largest energy hog in the house. The lowly hot water heater has long been part of load control programs run by electric utilities. Some hot water heaters also receive significant rebates as part of utility energy-efficiency programs. Now the two programs are potentially pitted against each other because of proposed energy conservation standards for residential hot water heaters put forth by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Demand response and energy efficiency are often seen as two peas in a pod. While efficiency can drive down overall energy use, even more kilowatts can be shed when the grid needs it most.

The point of contention is that large water heaters, over 55 gallons, will be required to have an energy factor of at least 2.057, a figure that’s double the efficiency of a high-efficiency electric storage heater. The new standard could only be met with heat-pump water heaters, instead of the classic electric resistance water heaters.

The problem is that heat-pump water heaters, while far more efficient, are essentially no good for demand response...


Microgrids: A Utility’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Microgrids: A Utility’s Best Friend or Worst Enemy?
Microgrids could be a threat or an opportunity for utilities.


Defenders of the electric grid status quo have long argued that always-on baseload power generators like coal and nuclear plants are essential, and that variable renewables like wind and solar will remain bit players in power generation.

They argue this for several reasons: The grid isn’t designed to accommodate them. They’re too expensive. Or they aren’t reliable enough, so they require 100% backup from conventional power plants at all times. An essay by former utility CEO Charles Bayless in the September 2010 issue of the Edison Electric Institute’s Electric Perspectives magazine details the utility view of these issues nicely.

But one by one, those arguments are being knocked down.

A recent data roundup by renewable energy industry analyst Paul Gipe shows that variable renewables are meeting much larger percentages of grid power than previously thought possible in some European countries. Wind provided nearly 20 percent of Portugal’s power and 30 percent of Denmark’s in 2012. Wind and solar combined contributed more than 18 percent of Spain’s power and 11 percent of Germany’s in 2011. (More recent data shows that renewables now provide about 25 percent of Germany’s total grid power, and as much as 50 percent of its peak power.) A study by German engineers found that its grid can handle up to a 40 percent share of renewable power without needing much storage or baseload power for backup.


Now the reliability and stability arguments, which were the main focus of Bayless’ essay referenced above, may be about to lose their potency too...


Wind and the Myth of Widespread Negative Pricing

The two people being quoted are:
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Transmission Policy Manager Michael Goggin
An economics researcher for the nuclear and fossil industries, Jonathan Lesser

I strongly urge reading the entire article.
Wind and the Myth of Widespread Negative Pricing

Does wind power reduce grid pricing and grid reliability?


...“Nobody disputes the fact that adding more wind energy to the grid displaces more expensive sources of generation,” explained American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Transmission Policy Manager Michael Goggin. “That has two impacts. One, it reduces the total use of fuel and therefore the total fuel cost. It also drives the market price for electricity down, which is creating billions of dollars in savings for consumers."


“The wind production tax credit (PTC) has greatly exacerbated the number of hours where electric prices are negative,” economist Jonathan Lesser, a researcher for the nuclear and fossil industries, recently testified to a Congressional subcommittee. “As schedulable generating plants shut down because it is uneconomic for them to operate, they jeopardize reliability, and increase the costs of maintaining reliability because additional gas-fired generators must be placed on standby or operated at a higher cost.”



In extremely infrequent instances, in isolated regions where wind development is ahead of the transmission build-out needed to move it to larger load centers, the market price is set by wind, Goggin explained. When there is nothing but wind to sell, wind project owners can pay grid operators to take their output. With the PTC, they can sell as low as negative $23 per megawatt-hour and still break even.

“This almost never happens,”...

...Wind only sets the market price if it is the most expensive resource on the system, and that almost never happens because wind has a zero fuel cost, Goggin explained. If wind is setting the price, it means that everything else in the area has been turned off, and that only happens on very localized parts of the grid..


A New Model for Valuing Distributed Energy

Here’s the secret sauce: E+C-Co+Be+Ext.

The process of valuing energy resources can be very complex. As a result, the current model for assessing value is a reflection of the assets that have traditionally populated the grid, such as large centralized power plants, sprawling transmission and distribution lines, and the inherent costs for operating and managing this system. The valuation model has been to compensate these big investments over long periods of time through consumer’s electricity bills.


A new paper from Travis Bradford of Columbia University and Anne Hoskins of Princeton University has tackled this issue head on, laying the groundwork for an expert energy policy roundtable that will aim to come up with a new model for valuing distributed energy. The full report has two important points:
1) A new valuation model must consider both the energy and capacity value of distributed energy....
2) A new valuation model should consider both the costs and benefits of distributed energy....


Creating a New Valuation Model

Based on these findings, the authors suggest a new model for valuing distributed resources. The alphabet-soup version is "E+C-Co+Be+Ext." In layman’s terms, this means adding the savings from offsetting wholesale energy purchases (E) to the savings from avoided capacity investments (C), subtracting the range of costs listed above (Co), and adding the benefits (Be). The “Ext” part of the equation is the right of states to assess environmental, security, and job creation into the mix and value those benefits accordingly.

This is actually very straightforward. The equation boils down to valuing energy based on the savings from using distributed energy compared to using the next best option, along with considering the balance from a cost-benefit analysis perspective. There are a few real-world examples of this, but unfortunately, as the report notes, “none of them are comprehensive.” Examples include net energy metering, which allows consumers to be compensated for the electricity they generate, but only assesses retail energy value and not the long-term energy and capacity values or the costs and benefits.

There is also the ...
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