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The Rooftop Revolution (feed-in tariffs)
Mariah Blake, Washington Monthly
A little-known policy is turning sleepy central Florida into a green energy hub. Could it do the same for America at large?
This winter, as Congress was scrambling to pass the stimulus package, the bottom fell out of the renewable energy sector—the very industry that lawmakers have held out as our best hope of salvaging the economy. Trade groups like the American Wind Energy Association, which as recently as December was forecasting "another record-shattering year of growth," began predicting that new installations would plunge by 30 to 50 percent. Solar panel manufacturers that had been blazing a trail of growth announced a wave of layoffs. Some have since cut their workforces in half, as stock prices tumble and plans for new green energy projects stall.
But there is one place where capital is still flowing: Gainesville, Florida. Even as solar panels are stacking up in warehouses around the country, this city of 120,000 is gearing up for a solar power boom, fueled by homegrown businesses and scrappy investors who have descended on the community and are hiring local contractors to install photovoltaic panels on rooftops around town.
One of those investors is Tim Morgan, a tall fiftysomething man with slicked-back hair and ostrich-skin boots who owns a chain of electrical contracting companies. His industry has been hit hard by the downturn, but he has a plan to salvage his business, which he explained over a drink at the Ballyhoo Grill,
... Why is the renewable energy market in Gainesville booming while it’s collapsing elsewhere in the country? The answer boils down to policy. In early February, the city became the first in the nation to adopt a "feed-in tariff"—a clunky and un-descriptive name for a bold incentive to foster renewable energy. Under this system, the local power company is required to buy renewable energy from independent producers, no matter how small, at rates slightly higher than the average cost of production. This means anyone with a cluster of solar cells on their roof can sell the power they produce at a profit.
California utility prepares for surge in plug-in electric cars
Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Automakers envision electric cars as a solution to gas price jumps. Environmentalists see bluer skies. And electric utilities? They could be the biggest winners of all.
Electric cars use lots of juice and are typically plugged in to recharge at night when utilities have excess power-generating capacity. That's great for power companies.
But electric cars and plug-in hybrids, which are expected to start hitting the streets next year, could pose a challenge for utilities that aren't ready for them. Power companies need to make sure that a concentration of cars in a relatively small area won't overwhelm the grid. Charging has to be safe. Public charging stations need to be considered.
... Plugging in an electric car can be the equivalent of running up to six plasma television sets at once — a big energy drain.
The key appears to be the strategy of adjusting rates to encourage charging at off-peak times.
(16 March 2009)
Saudi Arabia Warns on Rapid Shift to Renewable Energy
Tara Patel, Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, cautioned against falling investment in fossil fuels and a “premature shift” to renewable energy, which may leave the world short of fuels when the economy recovers.
All energy sources have a role in meeting the energy demand though the fossil fuels of oil, natural gas and coal will remain the world’s energy “work horse” for many decades to come, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said in a speech at the Energy Pact Conference in Geneva today.
“The days of easy oil may be over, the days of oil as a primary source for the people of the world are far from over,” he said.
Switching too early to “slowly evolving” alternative fuels risks lowering levels of investment in fossil fuels and increasing market speculation on oil prices, he said. “The consequences can be deeply counter-productive to global energy security.”
(16 March 2009)
David Roberts at Gristmill calls calls this the "Hilarious headline of the day."
Related from Saudi Gazette: Naimi: Oil substitutes must wait .
Despite Gloom, Encouraging Cleantech Trends
Libby Tucker, Green Inc. Blog, New York Times
The clean energy sector grew by leaps and bounds last year — despite the global economic downturn and the brutal beating to the stock market. Revenues from the solar photovoltaics, wind power and biofuels sectors increased 53 percent in 2008, to $115.9 billion from $75.8 billion in 2007 – and are predicted to reach $325.1 billion in the next decade, according to a Clean Energy Trends report released this week.
Just don’t expect the same high-growth trend to continue in 2009, said Ron Pernick, a co-founder of Clean Edge, the West Coast technology research firm that produces the annual report. Despite the long-term promise of the renewable energy industry, Clean Edge expects revenues to “remain level or decrease slightly”until global credit markets are restored and investor confidence returns, he said.
(12 March 2009)
Interviews on renewable energy
Marc Strassman, Etopia News
Jim MacDougall at OPA on first state or provincial feed-in tariff in North America
Jim MacDougall, Manager of Distributed Generation at the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), talks about that province's adoption of a feed-in tariff for the generation of renewable energy, recorded from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on March 13, 2009
Andrew Walmsley at Florida Farm Bureau on Renewable Energy Dividends in Florida
Andrew Walmsley, Assistant Director of Agricultural Policy at the Florida Farm Bureau, talks about the introduction of renewable energy dividends as a way of increasing renewables production in Florida, recorded from Gainesville, Florida, on March 12, 2009
Rep. Keith Fitzgerald talks about HB 1317, the Florida renewable energy dividend bill
Keith Fitzgerald, Florida State Representative from the 69th District, talks about creating a renewable energy dividend in Florida through the passage of HB 1317, recorded from Tallahassee, Florida, on March 12, 2009
David Strahn, Last Oil Shock
Thomas Edison might have relished the irony. Just as his most famous legacy, the incandescent light bulb, heads for extinction, his other great passion, direct current, is set to boom. The bulb that dominated lighting for over a century is now a pariah of climate change and banned in many countries. Meanwhile direct current, which was defeated by alternating current in the race to establish the industry standard during the 1890s, is now emerging as crucial weapon in the fight against global warming, in the form of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines.
(12 March 2009)