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Mercedes-Benz Launches a US Energy Storage Company

Mercedes-Benz Launches a US Energy Storage Company

by Julian Spector
November 03, 2016

...Parent company Daimler AG has created Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, LLC to sell stationary storage of all sizes to the U.S. market. Like Tesla, this is a car company that developed electric vehicles (EVs) and then put its battery expertise to work in a stationary storage product.


Energy Americas will act as the U.S. counterpart to Germany's Mercedes-Benz Energy GmbH. Both companies develop and sell batteries made by Daimler's wholly owned subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive. This company has been manufacturing lithium-ion battery systems for Mercedes-Benz electric cars, so the batteries have seen rigorous testing and are built for much more intensive use than most stationary systems ever see.

Mercedes isn't just dipping its tires into the electric mobility craze. By 2025, the company wants to sell 10 or more EV models, and it's investing 1 billion euros in scaling its battery production capacity. The company has bigger ideas than just cars, too -- it's envisioning an "electric mobility ecosystem" including automation, ride-sharing and home improvements like battery storage and EV chargers.

The residential market will be an early focus for the fledgling U.S. enterprise. The metallic gray modular system looks like a home appliance, stacks from 2.5 kilowatt-hours up to 20 kilowatt-hours and comes with a 10-year warranty. That goes on sale the first quarter of next year, as will larger commercial packages. Mercedes is looking for channel partners to distribute and install the systems.

Mercedes will also pursue utility-scale projects, and ...

Incentives Vs. Information: Why the Best Science isn’t Always Published

Incentives Vs. Information: Why the Best Science isn’t Always Published
October 22, 2016 SHELBY ROGERS

... the need for popular and cool research has even tampered with defining success in the sciences. Papers and findings get awards which lead to grant money which leads to more papers, and the cycle continues. However, the cycle can quickly spiral out of control, resulting in unintended consequences.

“The problem that we face is that the incentive system is focused almost entirely on getting research published, rather than on getting research right,” says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in an interview with Science News.

“Real evaluation of scientific quality is as hard as doing the science in the first place,” Nosek says. “So, just like everyone else, scientists use heuristics to evaluate each other’s work when they don’t have time to dig into it for a complete evaluation.”

Paul Smaldino, a cognitive scientist at University California Merced, put that theory to the test to determine if poor science wins out. Smaldino and Richard McElreath at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig created a simulation of a scientific “ecosystem.” Just like natural selection, the simulated labs that best met “success” parameters reproduced. The ones that didn’t simply died out.

Smaldino and McElreath discovered that...

National Bailout Of U.S. Nuclear Reactors Based On New York Approach Would Cost $280 Billion By 2030


NIRS: National Bailout Of U.S. Nuclear Reactors Based On New York Approach Would Cost $280 Billion By 2030
Not A Viable Climate Strategy: With More Than Half of US Reactors Expected to Be Uneconomical by 2020, $160 Billion Would Still Be Required for "Narrower" Subsidy Program; Huge Infusion of Support Would Crowd Out Renewables.

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Washington DC
Nov 03, 2016, 11:00 ET


WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nuclear power started out in the United States with the promise it would be "too cheap to meter," but may end up being "too big to bail out." A new report by the nonprofit Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) finds that a national bailout of nuclear energy patterned on the model advanced this year in New York State would cost ratepayers and taxpayers more than $280 billion by 2030. Based on an independent analysis that over half of existing nuclear power in the U.S. will be unprofitable by 2020, a narrower bailout would still cost the U.S. $160 billion by 2030. In addition to enormous expense, NIRS found that one major side-effect of bailing out nuclear power on a large-scale basis would be the starving of renewable energy of needed capital.

Available online at http://bit.ly/too-big-to-bail-out-nuclear, the "Too Big to Bail Out: The Economic Costs of a National Nuclear Power Subsidy" report notes that since 2014 nuclear power companies have lobbied aggressively for new subsidies to benefit existing nuclear power stations in the U.S. So far, such proposals have only been adopted in one state (New York), and legal and regulatory challenges have resulted today in only one nuclear reactor receiving temporary financial support to date: the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in New York. A long-term, statewide subsidy policy recently adopted in New York, to be implemented beginning in April 2017, is now being touted as a model for other states and for national implementation. The total cost of the 12-year subsidy New York is offering to four reactors is substantial: an estimated $7.6 billion -- more than three times as much as the subsidies for new renewable energy sources ($2.44 billion by 2030) under the state's new standard.

How good a yardstick is New York in terms of what the industry wants for a broader bailout?

A recent draft report by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends providing new and increased subsidies and incentives to promote the longevity of existing reactors and also the deployment of new reactors; the DOE report recommends subsidies amounting to $27/MWh, very close to those under the New York model. Relying upon the close symmetry between the New York State first-in-the-nation bailout scheme and the comparable DOE national subsidy recommendations, the NIRS report looks at both the cost of bailing out all reactors ($280 billion by 2030) and, more narrowly, the 56 percent of U.S. nuclear energy production that is expected to be uneconomical by 2020 ($160 billion by 2030). For comparison purposes, the smaller of the two bailout totals projected by NIRS is significantly more than the $128 billion invested in all new wind generation in the U.S. over the last 10 years.

Report author Tim Judson, executive director, NIRS, said: "Investing in aging nuclear plants diverts scarce consumer energy dollars from investments in new, zero-carbon energy resources. It puts utilities and regulators in the posture of investing in legacy infrastructure, rather than modernizing the grid. Analysis of the bailout scheme in New York State looking at social cost factors such as climate change shows that conventional renewable energy subsidies are at least four times as effective at mitigating CO2 emissions in the medium-term as nuclear subsidies and twice as cost-effective in the short-term. The bottom line is that renewable energy could be developed to replace or phase-out nuclear generation at far lower cost than nuclear could be subsidized."

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner Peter Bradford, currently adjunct professor on Nuclear Power and Public Policy, Vermont Law School, and former chair of the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions, said: "This report illustrates that the subsidies now being sought for nuclear units that are already massively subsidized may pay far too much for relatively little climate benefit. Worse still, they may slow the evolution of the electric industry to a less concentrated and more customer friendly form."

Other key findings in the NIRS report include the following:

- The U.S. would be bailing out a decidedly geriatric nuclear industry. Proposals to subsidize existing nuclear power plants are being driven by the declining economic viability of the nation's aging nuclear fleet. From 2002-2012, average operating costs for nuclear power plants rose by 50 percent, or about 4.5 percent per year, on average. The U.S. now has the oldest reactor fleet in the world, now averaging 35.6 years, with 37 percent older than their original licensed lifespan of 40 years; another 37 percent are between 31 and 40 years old.
- High industry operating costs are a key factor in nuclear's inability to compete. Since 2014, six more closures have been announced, and several more reactors have been named as potential closure candidates. The blame for nuclear's economic problems has been misplaced on lower electricity prices resulting from declining demand and the growth of lower-cost energy sources. If nuclear operating costs had not increased so dramatically over the last 15 years, reactors would neither be unprofitable nor would their owners require such large subsidies to ensure their continued operation.
- Nuclear is already heavily subsidized. The NIRS report points out that it is untrue for the industry to maintain that existing nuclear power stations are unsubsidized or even "under subsidized." Nearly all reactors were heavily subsidized by state and federal policies, from research and development, to favorable cost-recovery treatment by state utility commissions, to the $130 billion bailout (in 2016 dollars) for bad debts in the 1990s. The new proposed subsidies are for these same reactors, nearly half of which were sold or transferred effectively debt-free to merchant power generators between 1998 and 2004. The industry also benefits from federal and state policies that reduce or eliminate reactor owners' liability for environmental impacts, including nuclear accident insurance, nuclear waste management and disposal, reactor decommissioning and site cleanup, uranium mine and processing waste, and water consumption. A comprehensive study of nuclear power subsidies in 2011 concluded that the cost of financial supports to the nuclear industry has frequently exceeded the value of the electricity nuclear power plants produce.
- A nuclear bailout is not a good climate strategy. Nuclear subsidy costs would be incurred without, on their own, reducing carbon emissions. Maintaining existing reactors' operations does not, in and of itself, cut greenhouse gas emissions, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined in framing the Clean Power Plan. It would only hedge against possible increases in emissions, if fossil fuel generation were to increase due to reactor closures. This is consistent with the EPA's determination in issuing the Clean Power Plan regulation, which concluded that incentives for existing reactors were unwarranted to meet carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction goals.
- Nuclear plant retirements can ... and should … be handled like non-nuclear generator retirements. The NIRS report recommends, among other things, creating "proactive plans to replace or phase out nuclear, in concert with emissions reduction and renewable energy goals, and grid modernization initiatives. In this way, reactor closures may be treated similarly to reliability impacts of generator retirements, which involve a similar process: (1) independent evaluation of the likelihood and scale of grid impacts resulting from the plant closure; (2) evaluation of the availability, cost-effectiveness, and timeframe for alternatives, through resource planning, market-based processes, or procurement through open, competitive bidding; and (3) time-limited economic support for the incumbent generator only until more cost-effective alternatives can be identified and implemented."

2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of Nuclear Information and Resource Service. NIRS was founded to be the national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues. http://www.nirs.org

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available as of 4 p.m. ET on November 3, 2016 at http://bit.ly/2ff9xTK.

SOURCE Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Washington DC

Southern California SEIU Caucuses Call On AFL-CIO to Kick Out Police Union

Southern California SEIU Caucuses Call On AFL-CIO to Kick Out Police Union

In July 2015, the University of California’s student-workers union, United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865, passed a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to terminate the membership of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).


The AFL-CIO did not officially comment on the resolution, but Carmen Berkley, the federation’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, told Buzzfeed’s Cora Lewis in January:
“We are not in the business of kicking people out of unions ... What we are in the business of is having conversations with our law enforcement brothers and sisters about how they can have different practices ... I do think there’s a lot of reconciliation that needs to happen between communities of color and law enforcement, and we want to be the bridge that helps them get there.”

When asked about Berkley’s remarks, Taiwo tells In These Times, “She’s posing the issue as if what it is—is there’s individual victims of police violence and individual perpetrators of police that need to sit down and have a mediation.”

“If what they’re for is protecting the ruling class, then it’s not an issue of mediation. It’s not an issue of reconciling individual differences or healing individual acts of violence,” Taiwo says. “It’s an issue of reconciling our union structures with what we’re trying to fight for as unions.”

Wallace says that as long as police side with “bosses” on the picket line and police unions “unequivocally [defend] the police murdering people” then they should not be members of labor organizations.

“They can defend themselves just fine. Their pensions aren’t challenged, their healthcare benefits aren’t cut, their raises continue to happen and ours are always on the chopping block,” Wallace says. “Ours are always in question and there’s a reason for that. It’s because they defend the wealthy.”


Justice Delayed — New Sources of Carbon Pollution and the Clean Power Plan

Justice Delayed — New Sources of Carbon Pollution and the Clean Power Plan
October 27, 2016
By Joel B. Stronberg

...On Oct. 13, plaintiffs challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) offered oral arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case of North Dakota, et. al. v USEPA, et. al. Don’t be fooled by the name; the challengers in this instance are basically the same crew of states, industry and organizations challenging the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants in the Clean Power Plan case West Virginia v EPA.

Technically the latest challenge is not a direct shot at the CPP. Finalized last August by EPA, the new source standards limit carbon emissions from four types of electric generating units (EGUs): new and modified fossil steam EGUs; reconstructed EGUs; and, new combined-cycle combustion turbines.

The two rules, however, are inextricably linked in the Clean Air Act (CAA/Act). According to the Act, EPA can neither require existing generating units under section 111(d) to meet stricter requirements than new units nor can they regulate existing sources before new or modified plants under section 111(b).

Stated simply, EPA is prohibited by the Act from regulating existing plants before new/modified ones. Practically speaking, even if the limits under 111(d) are found constitutional, a successful challenge of the NSPS would prevent EPA from ever enforcing the CPP.

Plaintiffs’ Argument


Florida utilities spend $43 million since Jan. 2015 to limit rooftop solar

Florida utilities spend millions to make case to limit rooftop solar
BY MARY ELLEN KLAS Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Lost in the tumultuous presidential election and the down-ballot fears, something big has been happening quietly in Florida this year: Electric companies have dropped $29.3 million into political campaigns.

Since January 2015, $20 million of the industry’s profits went to finance and promote Amendment 1, the ballot initiative that attempts to frustrate the expansion of consumer-owned rooftop solar in Florida. And another $9.3 million more went to fuel the campaigns of a select group of powerful legislative leaders in an effort to prepare for a prolonged war against rooftop solar. (Note this number is updated after a significant miscalculation of the total in initial reports.)

The bulk of the money is being used to promote Amendment 1 but, if that effort fails, the industry is also investing heavily into the Legislature to create favorable conditions in Florida, as utilities have in other states, to push back against the proliferation of rooftop solar. (The money the companies are allowed to use to finance campaigns does not come directly from consumer bills but from utility company profits, which are guaranteed as regulated monopolies.)

In other states, that effort has included attempts to make solar less economically feasible by reducing the amount the utility spends to reimburse customers for generating excess electricity to the grid through “net metering,” imposing new fees on solar users and pre-empting local governments from opening the door to more solar competition. 

Former Florida U.S. Sen. Bob Graham blasted the amendment on Tuesday as “deceptive” and unneeded...

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/election/article111832342.html

Solar: Advanced Module Technologies Moving onto the Main Stage

Advanced Module Technologies Moving onto the Main Stage
October 31, 2016
By Roberto Labastida


...The main players in the market have been announcing small capacity expansions since early 2014, but these announcements have soared since November 2015. As they expand capacity, manufacturers are starting to introduce new technologies that could differentiate them from the competition.

The dramatic reduction in solar module prices during the past few years has exposed the importance of the balance-of-system (BOS) costs. Module and inverter manufacturers are increasingly finding themselves squeezed by the growing number of grid requirements, customer demands for increased functionality, and the need for solar to keep reducing costs to achieve grid parity in most of the world.

According to the latest U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2016 report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, non-equipment-related costs were $1.91/W, while the module plus inverter cost was only $0.85/W for a residential installation in the U.S. in 2015. For utility-scale projects, these costs vary significantly depending on the size of the installation, but non-hardware-related costs usually represent between 45 percent and 55 percent of the final cost of a project.

Manufacturers have targeted high-efficiency module technologies that allow them to keep module prices similar to current levels while simultaneously reducing other costs in the value chain. Passivated emitter rear cell (p-type PERC or simply PERC) modules and negative type (n-type) semiconductor modules have been the favored technologies for capacity expansion.

Tough Market to Test the Value of New Technologies


See also
PERC Solar Cell Technology Gaining Ground in 2014

Passivated emitter rear contact solar cells are at 20% efficiency today—but price premiums are steep.

by Jade Jones
August 14, 2014

Over the course of the last year, progress in the manufacturing of passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) solar cells has begun to reveal the full technological and commercial potential of this new cell architecture. There have been developments in equipment and manufacturing processes, as well as research, summarized in the following graphic....

Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn’t

Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn’t
By Christopher Ingraham March 3

Legal marijuana may be doing at least one thing that a decades-long drug war couldn't: taking a bite out of Mexican drug cartels' profits.

The latest data from the U.S. Border Patrol shows that last year, marijuana seizures along the southwest border tumbled to their lowest level in at least a decade. Agents snagged roughly 1.5 million pounds of marijuana at the border, down from a peak of nearly 4 million pounds in 2009.

The data supports the many stories about the difficulties marijuana growers in Mexico face in light of increased competition from the north. As domestic marijuana production has ramped up in places such as California, Colorado and Washington, marijuana prices have fallen, especially at the bulk level.

"Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90," a Mexican marijuana grower told NPR news in December 2014. "But now they're paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It's a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they'll run us into the ground."

And it's not just price — Mexican growers are facing pressure on quality...

19 French Nuclear Reactors taken offline, 12 more due to shut down

Those who promote nuclear power to address carbon emissions make a number of errors in the reasoning. IIRC the estimate is 5000 1GW reactors to meet global energy needs. This event illustrates one of the often overlooked risks associated with putting our faith in that path.
It turns out this plant, which forges critical components for NPPs around the world, has been off spec for a considerable amount of time. The failure of these components could lead to a Chernobyl scale event. Given that most reactors are near large population centers, speculating that an event directly affecting up to several million people is a credible proposition.

What happens to our global low carbon nuclear investment if that were to happen? It's a serious question that needs to be considered.

French nuclear problems shake European power market, boost prices
* French nuclear fleet restricted, causing tight supply

* Prices up across Europe's medium-, long-term curve

* Germany, others to plug gaps, see their prices rise

* Problems increase importance of winter weather

By Vera Eckert and Oleg Vukmanovic

FRANKFURT/MILAN, Oct 27 Deepening setbacks to France's nuclear reactors have shaken confidence in Europe's wholesale electricity markets as traders push winter prices to new highs in anticipation of fresh outages and tight supply.

The month-long rally intensified this week after French nuclear safety watchdog ASN warned its sprawling probe into forged quality control reports on reactor parts would turn up more irregularities. .

This leaves traders guessing as to how many more reactors could be shut.

The scale of forced closures in nuclear power-reliant France - 19 reactors offline and 12 more due to shut - is the biggest since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 crippled Japan's entire nuclear sector....


Brexit sees UK drop to new low in global renewable energy league table

Brexit sees UK drop to new low in global renewable energy league table
The Government’s decisions to scrap the Department for Energy and Climate Change and approve a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point also hit investor confidence in green energy

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent Thursday 27 October 2016

The UK has fallen to its lowest position on an international league table of the best countries to invest in renewable energy following Brexit and Theresa May’s decision to scrap the Energy and Climate Change Department.

Analysts EY, part of financial giant Ernst & Young Global, put Britain, normally a regular in the top 10, in 14th place on the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, just behind Morocco.

The UK energy industry has complained that numerous and sudden changes in Government policy are putting off potential investors in any kind of electricity generation, threatening what could be a “golden age” of cheap and green power.

In a report, EY said: “Uncertainty caused by Brexit, the closure of the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the approval of [nuclear power plant] Hinkley Point C all dealt a sizeable blow to the UK renewables sector....


Sweden on target to run 'entirely on renewable energy by 2040
Renewables surpass fossil fuel in record year for green energy
MPs accuse Government of preferring ‘dirty diesel’ to renewables
Government tinkering 'threatens golden age of cheap and green power'
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