Some top cleantech policy stories from around this week:
1. Clean Energy Standards Create Clean Air & Water with No Cost to Economy
The U.S. is sorely in need of a clean energy standard. A recent post by Richard Caperton, Director of Clean Energy Investments at the Center for American Progress, points out the following: “EIA analysis finds that Senator Bingaman’s clean energy standard would reduce carbon emissions by 43% and lower GDP growth by just .02 percent.”
2. South American Cleantech Policy May Trump the U.S.
It’s no news to anyone that U.S. cleantech policy is hampered, stalled, and sometimes even killed by the traditional energy lobby and the politicians it can influence. Well, a recent piece on Greentech Media ventures into the possibility that more cleantech companies may postpone investment in the U.S. in favor of investment south of the border. Some of that piece:
… multinational developers, weary of fighting U.S. policy and regulatory resistance, are starting to take note of untapped renewables riches in Latin America’s emerging economies.
In both wind and solar, Latin America has “an enormous resource potential,” according to Global Energy Network Institute (GENI) President Peter Miesen, as well as “policies in place” to drive development.
There is already incipient growth, Miesen said in an Agrion Global Network for Energy presentation. In addition, established manufacturers and developers, especially those in Spain who share both a language and a cultural history, may have a unique opportunity in Latin America. He was suggesting, but did not name, Spanish multinational renewables powerhouses like Iberdrola, Gamesa, and Acciona.
From the middle of the last decade, growth in Latin America’s installed wind capacity has been greater than that of any of the world’s leaders except China. There is now, Miesen said, a cumulative 2,500 megawatts of wind power, largely in Brazil and Mexico, with some development in Costa Rica and Argentina.
“Just a toe in the water” is how Miesen described Latin America’s approximately 200 megawatts of installed solar capacity. “The region is blessed with solar [resources] but nobody has taken up the charge.” There is also, he said, little solar manufacturing capability, and what is there is essentially limited to Mexico and Argentina.
3. Shutting Down Coal Plants Doesn’t Hinder Reliability
David Roberts of Grist had a couple of good posts recently on how the shutting down of coal power plants will NOT hinder electric grid reliability. Here’s just a piece of one of his pieces:
First, as Inside EPA reports, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade group for investor-owned utilities, has done its own internal study on coal-plant shutdowns. Now, you have to keep in mind that EEI and other industry groups have, inpublic anyway, been making hysterical predictions about a huge wave of immediate plant shutdowns that will cast whole regions of the country into darkness. So what do they find when they study the matter internally?
- There will be far fewer shutdowns than industry shills are predicting — around 321 plants, or 48,000 megwatts’ worth (roughly 14 percent of current coal capacity, or 5 percent of total generation capacity).
- The shutdowns will take place over a much longer period of time than industry shills are predicting — over a decade rather than in the next two or three years.
- Most of the closures are happening for other reasons, unrelated to EPA rules — the plants are old, they’re uneconomic to run, they’re getting beat by cheap gas.
Second, the Dept. of Energy (DOE) has just released its own in-depth study [PDF] on the reliability question. It’s interesting because DOE deliberately analyzed a worst-case scenario, a “Stringent Test Case” that the agency acknowledges is more severe than what’s actually anticipated when the rules are implemented.
Even using that extreme case, DOE found that “the overall supply-demand balance for electric power in each region examined would be adequate,” and furthermore, that “mechanisms exist to address such reliability concerns or other extenuating circumstances on a plant-specific or more local basis.” This is more or less what other analysts have found as well.
4. Wind Turbine Owner Can’t Connect It to His Home
One of the challenges still blocking the adoption of renewable energy in some places are grid connection policies that make it hard for people to connect their solar panels or wind turbines to the grid. However, in some places, it can be hard even to connect them to their own home. Jay Nygard of Orono city in Minnesota is the owner of a small wind turbine he wants to connect to his home, but Orono doesn’t have any ordinances on the books for home wind turbines, and it believes that the wind turbine “violates several ordinances.” However, many other localities around Minnesota and the country have developed ordinances to evaluate and allow small wind turbines, and Nygard believes that, if Orono would establish one, his turbine could be hooked up. I’m sure this is, and will continue to be, a challenge facing people around the country — many localities are slow to implement ordinances for new ideas and technologies like this.