As reported in Huffington Post

AP Energy Writer Sandy Shore reported from Denver.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The same week that automakers sought billions in aid to avoid bankruptcy, two states, including Michigan, announced huge alternative power industry investments, with one site being built on land once set aside to lure auto manufacturers.

Manufacturing strongholds hardest hit by job losses years ago began laying the groundwork to land green jobs and may now be poised for the biggest gains, depending on federal economic stimulus funding.

The $900 billion economic package before Congress has more than $50 billion in energy-related incentives.

President Barack Obama has set a goal of doubling the use of renewable energy in three years, potentially placing states with established programs in a position to replace thousands of manufacturing jobs lost over the last decade.

Michigan created a $2 billion fund using tobacco settlement money to target four economic sectors, one being alternative energy.

The state, which has lost more than 150,000 automotive jobs over the past eight years, began using community colleges to retrain the unemployed and underemployed for green jobs.

“Employers, if you come to Michigan, we will deliver trained employees to you,” Gov. Jennifer Granholm said. “And employees, we will pay for your training, but the kicker is you’ve got to agree to be trained in an area that we know we have need in.”

The alternative energy industry, like others, is being shaken right now by a wave of layoffs and bankruptcies. Without help from the government, analysts are forecasting double digit declines in business and installations.

States continue to look beyond the current economic downturn, however, and many expect a boom in alternative energy investments ahead.

The competition to lure green industry jobs heated up several years ago, and is expected to grow even tighter with more money in play.

Federal proposals include $32 billion to upgrade the nation’s electrical distribution system, more than $20 billion in tax cuts to promote the development of alternatives to oil, and billions more to make public housing, federal buildings and modest-income homes more energy efficient.

Glen Andersen, of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said states began lobbying for green jobs long before it was known that Washington might sweeten the investment pot.

“They definitely are just looking at their own interests and not considering the federal government,” he said.

Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems said it would invest $680 million in Colorado and employ as many as 2,450 people in the state by 2010.

Though economic incentives could exceed $8 million, Larry Burkhardt, president and chief executive officer of Upstate Colorado Economic Development, said that plays a small role in luring companies like Vestas.

A trained work force and a transportation infrastructure to move raw materials are what launches a community to the top of a company’s list, Burkhardt said.

“Incentives are just icing on the cake, and they usually are used to differentiate finalist communities,” he said.

Hexcel Corp., a British wind turbine component maker, recently announced plans to build a facility next to a Vestas plant in Colorado.

“We’re going to see continued inquiries,” Burkhardt said.

Pennsylvania, which was hit by contraction in the steel and manufacturing sectors, began seeking out alternative power companies long ago, and landed Spanish wind energy manufacturing giant Gamesa six years ago.

Today, Gamesa has its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia and facilities further west in Ebensburg and Fairless Hills, at a former U.S. Steel site.

Add-on projects that come with big alternative energy deals are getting increased attention.

Michigan is extending tax credits to suppliers of alternative energy companies as well.

“If they lure any of their supply chain into Michigan, we will give them a tax break in addition to the tax breaks we would give to the companies they’re luring,” Granholm said.

Hemlock Semiconductor Corp., which is building the giant manufacturing facility originally intended to lure an auto company in Tennessee, plans to spend more than $2.2 billion to expand solar operations in Michigan.

The initial $1.2 billion investment by Hemlock, a joint venture between Dow Corning Corp. and Japanese companies Shin-Etsu Handotai Co. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp., could become the largest industrial project in Tennessee history.

James Chavez, president of the local economic development council, said the 1,215-acre site near the Kentucky border was originally being prepped to lure in an auto manufacturer.

Yet he and others were waiting and preparing for companies like Hemlock.

“If communities are not already prepared for these types of projects, they’re probably going to be a long way from getting there,” he said.

Competition for green projects has only grown more competitive, said Fred Mondragon, New Mexico’s economic secretary.

Schott Solar Inc., a subsidiary of Schott AG of Germany, announced last year that it would build a $100 million photovoltaic production facility in Albuquerque, but only after the state beat out nearly a dozen other states and 17 countries for the project.

“We see that frequently,” he said.

___

Posted by Kate Sheppard at 9:08 PM on 04 Feb 2009

 Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) on Wednesday introduced legislation in the House to create a federal renewable electricity standard (RES) that would require the United States to draw a quarter of its electricity from clean sources by 2025. Markey also introduced a second bill that would require the country to reduce energy consumption 15 percent by 2020.

 The American Renewable Energy Act [PDF] would put an RES in place starting in 2012. The legislators estimate that it would help create more than 350,000 new jobs over the next 10 years. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia already have RES’s in place, including both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, the legislators’ home states.

 Markey and Platts helped get an RES passed in the House last Congress as part of the 2007 energy bill, but the provision didn’t make it through the Senate.

 “With our economy in crisis, renewable energy can create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, revitalize declining manufacturing sectors, and decrease global warming pollution,” said Markey, who chairs the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming and the energy and environment subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Establishing a federal renewable electricity standard will help to protect our environment as well as promote economic development and energy security,” said Platts.

Markey’s second bill, the Save American Energy Act [PDF], would create an energy-efficiency resource standard that mandates a 15 percent reduction in electricity demand by 2020. Markey estimates that the measure would reduce peak electricity demand by 90,000 megawatts and eliminate the need for 300 new medium-size power plants.

The Union of Concerned Scientists put out a statement in support of the RES bill, noting that it would increase power generation from renewable sources by 135 percent and provide enough clean electricity to power 150 million homes, according to its analysis.

“This electrifying standard would provide a smart, proven, cost-effective strategy to ramp up our clean energy use, create tens of thousands of jobs, and lower consumer utility bills,” said Alan Nogee, director of the UCS Clean Energy Program. “The clean energy tax incentives that Congress is finalizing will get us moving in the right direction in the near term, and the renewable energy standard makes sure we stay on that path for the foreseeable future.”

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski also praised the bill. “This bill will create an economic demand for wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years,” he said. “It will help establish a powerful, productive, and profitable clean energy industry that will employ generations of Americans.”

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

As reported in Huffington Post Green

Published: February 3, 2009
Wind and solar power have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Dan Koeck for The New York Times

Despite layoffs, Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., has high hopes for wind energy.

Dan Koeck for The New York Times

Towers for wind turbines on the ground at the DMI Industries plant in West Fargo, N.D. Falling sales and tight credit have forced the company to lay off nearly 20 percent of its employees.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 to 50 percent declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20 percent of its work force because of falling sales.

Much of the problem stems from the credit crisis that has left Wall Street banks reeling. Once, as many as 18 big banks and financial institutions were willing to help finance installation of wind turbines and solar arrays, taking advantage of generous federal tax incentives. But with the banks in so much trouble, that number has dropped to four, according to Keith Martin, a tax and project finance specialist with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Wind and solar developers have been left starved for capital. “It’s absolutely frozen,” said Craig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer. He projected his company would build just under half as much this year as it did last year.

The two industries are hopeful that President Obama’s economic stimulus package will help. But it will take time, and in the interim they are making plans for a dry spell.

Solar energy companies like OptiSolar, Ausra, Heliovolt and SunPower, once darlings of investors, have all had to lay off workers. So have a handful of companies that make wind turbine blades or towers in the Midwest, including Clipper Windpower, LM Glasfiber and DMI.

Some big wind developers, like NextEra Energy Resources and even the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a promoter of wind power, have cut back or delayed their wind farm plans.

Renewable energy sources like biomass, which involves making electricity from wood chips, and geothermal, which harnesses underground heat for power, have also been slowed by the financial crisis, but the effects have been more pronounced on once fast-growing wind and solar.

Because of their need for space to accommodate giant wind turbines, wind farms are especially reliant on bank financing for as much as 50 percent of a project’s costs. For example, JPMorgan Chase, which analysts say is the most active bank remaining in the renewable energy sector, has invested in 54 wind farms and one solar plant since 2003, according to John Eber, the firm’s managing director for energy investments.

In the solar industry, the ripple effects of the crisis extend all the way to the panels that homeowners put on their roofs. The price of solar panels has fallen by 25 percent in six months, according to Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who said he expected a further drop of 10 percent by midsummer.

(For homeowners, however, the savings will not be as substantial, partly because panels account for only about 60 percent of total installation costs.)

After years when installers had to badger manufacturers to ensure they would receive enough panels, the situation has reversed. Bill Stewart, president of SolarCraft, a California installer, said that manufacturers were now calling to say, “Hey, do you need any product this month? Can I sell you a bit more?”

The turnaround reflects reduced demand for solar panels, and also an increase in supply of panels and of polysilicon, a crucial material in many panels.

On the wind side, turbines that once had to be ordered far in advance are suddenly becoming available.

“At least one vendor has said that they have equipment for delivery in 2009, where nine months ago they wouldn’t have been able to take new orders until 2011,” Mr. Mataczynski of Renewable Energy wrote in an e-mail message. As he has scaled back his company’s plans, he has been forced to cancel some orders for wind turbines, forfeiting the deposit.

Banks have invested in renewable energy, lured by the tax credits. But with banks tightly controlling their money and profits, the main task for the companies is to find new sources of investment capital.

Wind and solar companies have urged Congress to adopt measures that could help revive the market. But even if a favorable stimulus bill passes, nobody is predicting a swift recovery.

“Nothing Congress does in the stimulus bill can put the market back where it was in 2007 and 2008, before it was broken,” said Mr. Martin, the tax lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke. “But it can help at the margins.”

The solar and wind tax credits are structured slightly differently, but the House version of the stimulus bill would help both industries by providing more immediate tax incentives, alleviating some of their dependency on banks.

Both House and Senate would also extend an important tax credit for wind energy, called the production tax credit, for three years; previously the industry had complained of boom-and-bust cycles with the credit having to be renewed nearly every year.

Over the long term, with Mr. Obama focused on a concerted push toward greener energy, the industry remains optimistic.

“You drive across the countryside and there’s more and more wind farms going up,” said Mr. Mattern of West Fargo. “I still have big hopes.”

Our Perspective:

I feel like everyone is holding their breath.

Is this really happening? Pinch me!

We have lived thru many difficult times in the past but we never took the necessary steps to correct the issue. We just kept pushing the rock forward.  You can see the results of our inaction.

We are at the fork in the road!

What will be the direction we choose?

Let us know your thoughts? you may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

by Jane Burgermeister, European Correspondent Vienna, Austria [RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

The world needs a one-off switch-over to renewable energy — and this could be largely accomplished in just forty years time, slashing energy costs and greenhouse gases while allowing healthy economic growth, experts say.

By 2050, 80 percent of the world’s electricity could be coming from renewable energy sources provided efforts are made, in parallel, to improve energy efficiency, according to a study by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). That means, the children of today might well grow up to experience a world where the energy they use comes almost entirely from the sun, wind, sea and biomass.

By 2090, the shift to renewable energy around the world could be almost 99 percent completed reducing pressure on the environment and laying the foundations for a new era of prosperity based on green energy.

Also, the short-term financial costs of switching over to renewable energy will be outweighed by the long-term financial benefits, according to the study. In fact, the projected savings to be made by not using the amount of coal we do today could amount to US $15.9 trillion by 2030 alone — a sum that would pay the whole US $15 trillion bill needed to switch over the entire world to renewable energy power sources once and for all.

The accumulated savings of a switch-over to renewable energy by 2030 could be as high as US $18.7 trillion or $750 billion a year, according to one DLR scenario.

The DLR estimates that the world today spends approximately US $2 trillion on its electricity supply, which comes primarily from fossil fuels. However, it calculates that this cost could rise to almost US $9 trillion by 2050 on current trends of soaring oil and coal prices as well as the rising cost of dealing with the environmental impact of carbon emissions. However, if the world largely completes its switch over to renewable energy by 2050 and introduces energy saving measures in parallel, the bill for the annual electricity supply will only be about US $4 trillion a year — a savings of $5 trillion.

Consumers could also be faced with more affordable or even no energy bills once installation costs for renewable energy micro-generators and weatherization have been met, ushering in a new era of energy self sufficiency for householders.

The goal of obtaining 80 percent of our electricity from renewables is achievable even if the world, including China and India, continues to see high economic growth, says the DLR.

The Energy [R]evolution Report commissioned by Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) also outlines a scenario that would see a fairer redistribution of the burden of cutting greenhouses around the globe. Under the DLR plan, America and Western Europe would decrease their high per capita energy use by switching over to renewable energy and introducing energy saving measures as soon as possible while countries such as China and India would initially slow down their increase in energy demand before starting the switch-over to green energy.

This would bring the western industrialized and the non-western countries closer together in terms of the amount of energy they consume by 2050, although even using this “scissors” approach North America and Western Europe will still be using far more energy per capita than India or China in 40 years time.

 The DLR study has also put forward an action plan that would see 32.5 percent of the world’s electricity supply coming from renewable energy by as early as 2020. Until 2020, the current spectrum of renewable technologies such as wind power, hydro power and biomass are expected to play a key role. After 2020, by contrast, new technologies generating abundant and low cost clean energy are expected to become available and to play an increasingly important part in the world’s green tech mix.

Technologies like dye-sensitive solar cells and thin-film photovoltaics are being developed rapidly and present a huge potential for cost reduction. Also, major innovations in geothermal and ocean wave technology can be expected as research in these areas increases in the future.

The DLR study says that there has to be a drastic reduction in primary energy demand for the world to switch to largely renewables by 2050. The introduction of a raft of energy saving measures will ensure that there is only a slight increase in the total primary energy demand from the 474,900 petajoules [roughly 30 million kilowatt-hours], in 2005 to 480,860 petajoules in 2050, compared to 867,700 petajoules In 2050 without such energy efficiency measures.

“Smart power” will improve the efficiency of buildings and transport, and the DLR predicts that the city centers of the future, for example, could be producing power and heat as well as consuming it. The buildings will have photovoltaic facades not only for energy production but also as an element of architectural design. Solar thermal collectors are set to produce hot water in the networked cities of tomorrow where energy comes from a variety of sources, large and small in scale.

 In addition, the DLR predicts that the energy supply system of the future will move from the large and centralized one of today’s world towards a much more decentralized one, based on a wide mix of energy sources. These will be tailored to the geography of a particular region to optimize its specific and unique potential.

 According to the DLR, solar photovoltaics, followed by wind power, concentrated solar power and geothermal, have the highest potential for development from technologies currently available.

 To study notes huge amounts of energy currently wasted from cooling towers could be harnessed for co-generation.

A further piece in the puzzle to create a world powered by renewable energy is to make the transport sector more efficient by switching over to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy sources and also by building up public transport system.

 Government legislation will have a vital role to play in facilitating the energy revolution according to the DLR. It recommends that governments phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy; put a cost on carbon emissions and so take into account their damage to the environment. Also, governments should introduce strict energy efficiency standards and legally binding targets for renewable energy as well as increase the budgets for research into renewable energy and energy saving measures.

 If all goes according to plan, the DLR predicts that by 2050, around 77% of electricity will be produced from renewable energy sources and a capacity of 9,100 GW will produce 28,600 TWh/a of renewable electricity in 2050.

 In the heat supply sector, the contribution of renewables such as biomass, solar collectors and geothermal will increase to 70% by 2050. The study estimates that 56% of primary energy demand will be covered by renewable energy sources by 2050 when energy efficiency potentials will have been largely exploited. As a result, primary energy demand will stabilize at 2060 levels. The proportion of renewables to cover this primary energy demain will continue to rise.

By 2070 over 93% of electricity will be produced from renewable energy sources, with whatever gas-fired power plants remaining in use serving as a backup for power. By 2080, about 90% of primary energy demand will be covered by renewable energy sources and by 2090 the renewable share will reach 98.2%. By 2100, a capacity of 23,100 GW will produce 56,800 TWh of renewable electricity or 17 times more than today.

Our Perspective:

I found this to be a very interesting article. I am in the midst of reading a book by Thomas Friedman…Hot, Flat and Crowded. Anyone interested in the learning more about the true obstacles we face in meeting our growing energy needs should read this book.

We have been living in a world of abundance that is supported by finite fossil resources. As our demand grows, the resources diminish.

What happens when the demand continues to grow and it reaches our resource capacity? Are we prepared to meet this challange?

Steps must be taken now to address these issues. If planned properly and implemented, we can expect a smooth transition. Failure to act can prove to be very detrimental.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

As reported in Huffington Post Green

SANDY SHORE | February 3, 2009 03:23 PM EST | AP

DENVER — As the United States became the world leader in wind power, venture capitalists poured money into alternative energy projects until the recession hit in October, drying up investments and stalling projects.

The quick turnaround shows how rapidly the global economy deteriorated and how fast money for alternative energy dried up.

Fourth-quarter venture capital investment totaled $954 million, down 44 percent from $1.7 billion invested in the third quarter of 2008, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Ernst & Young LLP. For the year, venture capital investment hit a record $4.7 billion.

There is a wide belief that the alternative energy will experience immense growth in the coming years, yet frozen credit markets and falling stock prices have been particularly harsh on the sector.

All eyes are on President Barack Obama and Congress where a $885 billion stimulus plan is before the Senate.

The outlines of that measure reflect a change in political priorities, with an emphasis on spending and tax breaks to encourage production of alternative energy sources and new efficiencies for buildings.

There is cautious optimism about how far the technology has advanced, but much of it is evolving or experimental.

“As a whole, the industry is still not generating cash flow so capital from investors is still a predominance of the funding mechanism for the industry,” Ernst & Young clean technology analyst Joseph Muscat said. “That’s venture capital, that’s private equity, that’s investors from the public equity markets, it’s debt, the whole thing.”

Some companies are especially sensitive to the economic downturn because they do not have a sustained, healthy internal cash flow.

While alternative energy remains a small fraction of all power used, wind and solar are among the fastest growing in the United States.

The U.S. has become tops in the world in wind power installations, the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council reported Monday. The nation added 8,358 megawatts in 2008 to put total capacity at 25,170 megawatts. Germany has 23,902 megawatts of capacity.

The industry is closely tied to venture capital, however.

Venture capital investment has grown steadily since 2002 when just 43 U.S. clean energy companies raised $234 million. Investment has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 65 percent through the $4.7 billion invested in 171 companies in 2008.

When that outside funding dries up the industry is vulnerable, and not just in the United States.

A recent report by London-based consulting firm New Energy Finance, which found overall global investment in clean energy dropped sharply in the second half to $155 billion for the year, but for the year was up 4.4 percent from $148 billion from 2007. Venture capital investment was about $3.9 billion of the total.

Ethan Zindler, who heads the North American research arm of New Energy, said it’s difficult to say which companies will recover more quickly given the unique circumstances in each country.

In the United States, much will depend on how Congress structures its economic stimulus package. Proposals include $14.4 billion for government energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $4.5 billion for a smart electricity grid; $2.9 billion to weatherize modest-income homes and a tax credit extension for renewable energy production.

“We’re in an interesting situation where I think a lot of the industry right now is literally in a wait and see mode,” Zindler said. “Some of the biggest questions should be answered fairly quickly if they move at the speed that they’ve been promising.”

During the fourth quarter, the U.S. electricity generation segment, led by solar companies, received $539 million, or 57 percent of all capital invested, Ernst & Young said.

Alternative fuels garnered $236 million, or about 24 percent of the quarter’s total capital, the report showed. Biofuels raised $140 million and the natural gas segment raised $96 million.

That industry has been hit by a series of bankruptcies as the market became saturated, including VeraSun Energy Corp., the nation’s second largest ethanol producer.

About $68 million, or 7 percent, was invested in energy efficiency.

Our  Perspective:

All eyes are on Washington!

What’s going to happen with the proposed stimulus package?

How much will be designated to actual stimulus?

How much will be designated toward alternative energy?

Ahhh! The Washington waiting game, nobody does it better.

Let us know your thoughts? You may leave a comment oe email george@hbsadvantage.com

Should you be interested in learning more about alternative energy solutions, feel free to email us.

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

 

Hey Army,

I’ve told you this all along — our addiction to foreign oil could bring us to our knees, and there wouldn’t be a damn thing we could do about it. Now take a look at today’s headlines. OPEC just announced it’s cutting production by 2.2 million barrels. Remember – this is on top of the 2 million barrels in cuts they’ve already made since this summer! These guys are serious about getting the price of oil back up right where they like it: $75 a barrel, $100 a barrel, $150 a barrel.

This is exactly why now is the time to pull together and Push the Pickens Plan. Every time the price of oil drops, America falls asleep. The Saudis don’t. The Iranians don’t. The Venezuelans don’t. But we do.

President-elect Obama said it best a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes. “Oil prices go up, gas prices at the pump go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity. And then the prices go back down and suddenly we act like it’s not important, and we start, you know, filling up our SUVs again. And, as a consequence, we never make any progress. It’s part of the addiction, all right. That has to be broken. Now is the time to break it.”

I couldn’t agree more. We’ve got to break that addiction now. Before it breaks us.

Click here to join your Pickens Plan District Group. Better yet, sign up to be the leader if there isn’t one already so you can help bring in 500 more members to the New Energy Army in your Congressional District before Inauguration Day. Those first 100 days are right around the corner, and the way OPEC is playing we’re going to have to move fast.

Boone

Our Perspective:

Let’s not take our eye off the ball. This happened once before in the early 70’s. I can remember being in college and we had to implement odd/even gas rationing. People were very vocal saying,:

” We got to do something!”!

“Never again”!

Well, almost 40 years have passed and we find ourselves saying the same thing.

This is our time to act.  The nation that takes the lead in the energy evolution will be on the cutting edge and will define our path to the future.  The world will be looking to this nation to partner in their efforts to attain their energy independence.

This is our time!

This is our time to lead!

Let us know your thoughts? Leave a comment or email george@hbsadvantage.com

As reported in Huffington Post Green

 

WASHINGTON — When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, global warming was a slow-moving environmental problem that was easy to ignore. Now it is a ticking time bomb that President-elect Barack Obama can’t avoid.

Since Clinton’s inauguration, summer Arctic sea ice has lost the equivalent of Alaska, California and Texas. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since Clinton’s second inauguration. Global warming is accelerating. Time is close to running out, and Obama knows it.

“The time for delay is over; the time for denial is over,” he said on Tuesday after meeting with former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming. “We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now that this is a matter of urgency and national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way.”

But there are powerful political and economic realities that must be quickly overcome for Obama to succeed. Despite the urgency he expresses, it’s not at all clear that he and Congress will agree on an approach during a worldwide financial crisis in time to meet some of the more crucial deadlines.

Obama is pushing changes in the way Americans use energy, and produce greenhouse gases, as part of what will be a massive economic stimulus. He called it an opportunity “to re-power America.”

After years of inaction on global warming, 2009 might be different. Obama replaces a president who opposed mandatory cuts of greenhouse gas pollution and it appears he will have a willing Congress. Also, next year, diplomats will try to agree on a major new international treaty to curb the gases that promote global warming.

“We need to start in January making significant changes,” Gore said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press. “This year coming up is the most important opportunity the world has ever had to make progress in really solving the climate crisis.”

Scientists are increasingly anxious, talking more often and more urgently about exceeding “tipping points.”

“We’re out of time,” Stanford University biologist Terry Root said. “Things are going extinct.”

U.S. emissions have increased by 20 percent since 1992. China has more than doubled its carbon dioxide pollution in that time. World carbon dioxide emissions have grown faster than scientists’ worst-case scenarios. Methane, the next most potent greenhouse gas, suddenly is on the rise again and scientists fear that vast amounts of the trapped gas will escape from thawing Arctic permafrost.

The amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has already pushed past what some scientists say is the safe level.

In the early 1990s, many scientists figured that the world was about a century away from a truly dangerous amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, said Mike MacCracken, who was a top climate scientist in the Clinton administration. But as they studied the greenhouse effect further, scientists realized that harmful changes kick in at far lower levels of carbon dioxide than they thought. Now some scientists, but not all, say the safe carbon dioxide level for Earth is about 10 percent below what it is now.

Gore called the situation “the equivalent of a five-alarm fire that has to be addressed immediately.”

Scientists fear that what’s happening with Arctic ice melt will be amplified so that ominous sea level rise will occur sooner than they expected. They predict Arctic waters could be ice-free in summers, perhaps by 2013, decades earlier than they thought only a few years ago.

In December 2009, diplomats are charged with forging a new treaty replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set limits on greenhouse gases, and which the United States didn’t ratify. This time European officials have high expectations for the U.S. to take the lead. But many experts don’t see Congress passing a climate bill in time because of pressing economic and war issues.

“The reality is, it may take more than the first year to get it all done,” Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said recently.

Complicating everything is the worldwide financial meltdown. Frank Maisano, a Washington energy specialist and spokesman who represents coal-fired utilities and refineries, sees the poor economy as “a huge factor” that could stop everything. That’s because global warming efforts are aimed at restricting coal power, which is cheap. That would likely mean higher utility bills and more damage to ailing economies that depend on coal production, he said.

Obama is stacking his Cabinet and inner circle with advocates who have pushed for deep mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas pollution and even with government officials who have achieved results at the local level.

The President-elect has said that one of the first things he will do when he gets to Washington is grant California and other states permission to control car tailpipe emissions, something the Bush administration denied.

And though congressional action may take time, the incoming Congress will be more inclined to act on global warming. In the House, liberal California Democrat Henry Waxman’s unseating of Michigan Rep. John Dingell _ a staunch defender of Detroit automakers _ as head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee was a sign that global warming will be on the fast track.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., vowed to push two global warming bills starting in January: one to promote energy efficiency as an economic stimulus and the other to create a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from utilities. “The time is now,” she wrote in a Dec. 8 letter to Obama.

Mother Nature, of course, is oblivious to the federal government’s machinations. Ironically, 2008 is on pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line. Experts say it’s thanks to a La Nina weather variation. While skeptics are already using it as evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming.

The average global temperature in 2008 is likely to wind up slightly under 57.9 degrees Fahrenheit, about a tenth of a degree cooler than last year. When Clinton was inaugurated, 57.9 easily would have been the warmest year on record. Now, that temperature would qualify as the ninth warmest year.

___

Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.

As reported in Huffington Post Green

 

Ask most people about the benefits of residential renewable energygeothermal, rooftop solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, and backyard wind turbines, primarily–and the response is usually the same: they are good for the environment, raise property value and lower or eliminate utility bills. While undoubtedly true, these responses present an incomplete picture of the benefits of distributed renewable energy. In certain instances, such as last week when a single ice storm left over 1 million homes and businesses in New England without power, a residential energy system can mean the difference between seeking shelter and being able to shelter others. Other times, particularly during peak demand, renewables stabilize the grid and lower costs for all utility customers.

The Grid Can Fail, and It’s Expensive When It Does
America’s electricity grid is an engineering marvel, but it is also old, outdated, overstrained and susceptible to failure from storms, terrorism, accidents and high energy demand. And when the grid fails, not only is the loss of power inconvenient, it is also dangerous and costly. For example, the 2003 blackout that stretched from Canada to New York was estimated to have an economic cost of “between $7 and $10 billion. . .due to food spoilage, lost production and overtime wages” as well as the cost of repairing and upgrading the affected parts of the grid. While the 2003 grid failure was one of the most extraordinary outages to hit the United States, smaller scale blackouts, particularly from storms and natural disasters, are rather common.

Advantages of Distributed Energy
Distributed energy has the distinct advantage of functioning regardless of the state of the electrical grid as a whole. What’s more, small, residential energy systems actually make the grid more stable by reducing peak demand–the times during which power lines strain to carry enough power to enough homes. Even better, reducing peak demand goes a long way towards reducing electricity prices. In fact, according to the Department of Energy “a 1% reduction in load during high peak periods can reduce wholesale electricity prices by 10%, and a 5% reduction in load can reduce peak prices by as much as 19%.” In other words, distributed wind, solar and geothermal can reduce the high demand for energy that often leads to outages and mitigate the impacts of blackouts when they do occur in a way that large scale renewable energy cannot. That is, even massive wind farms in the Midwest and solar concentrating plants in the Southwest are reliant on an energy grid to bring the power from where it is produced to where it is consumed. So while these large scale operations are necessary if we are to tackle rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative that the true advantages of residential scale, distributed energy be taken into full consideration as well.

Dreaming of Solar Rooftops
The day after last week’s ice storm in New England the sky was crisp and clear, and puddles of sunshine flooded rooftops across Providence, Rhode Island. Even though the blackout didn’t affect my hometown, I couldn’t help but think about the potential for millions of homes and businesses to be soaking up the sun to produce electricity and hot water (that can be used for showering as well as heating a home through radiant floor heating). The reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are well documented, as well as the potential cost savings to the owner of a renewable energy system. However, the cost savings to society–in terms of jobs created from installation and manufacturing, stability provided to the grid, and avoided health care costs due to reduced pollution, to name a few–are not. In order to establish proper incentives for these systems, their internalized value must be estimated and built into subsidies.

Financing is Essential
Finally, as I argued last week, new and innovative mechanisms for financing the up-front cost of renewable energy and energy efficiency need to become policy priorities. After all, no matter how much time advocates spend touting the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal, and efficiency, if people can’t afford them, the benefits will never fully be realized. Fortunately, companies like Solar City, Sun Run, and Sun Edison, and cities such as Berkeley, San Francisco and Milwaukee, are blazing a path towards making renewables affordable and accessible to all.

Obama’s new Green Team

December 12, 2008

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008; Page A09

 

The Obama administration has ambitions for a radical change in U.S. environmental policy. But President-elect  Barack Obama did not pick radicals to lead it.

This Story

Instead, the three officials tapped for leadership posts on the environment are not activists but regulators who have spent years in the weeds of such issues as mercury emissions, brownfields and black-bear hunts.

They will inherit the usual issues — dirty air, dirty water, brownfields and red tides — plus an unprecedented one. Obama has promised to cut back U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases — a proposal that could set off an enormous political fight.

A review of their records and past statements reveals little about the exact policies they would pursue under Obama. It shows they have won over some environmental activists with an open attitude and disappointed others who felt they were not pushing hard enough.

Their expected efforts to limit greenhouse gases would be more ambitious than changes they have sought in previous positions.

“It’s going to be an enormous challenge,” said Felicia Marcus, the western director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “To call it ‘herding cats’ would be to oversimplify it. It’s like herding dogs, cats, wolves and sheep.”

Democratic sources say Obama plans to name Carol M. Browner, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to a new position overseeing energy, environment and climate change policy from the White House. He will choose Lisa P. Jackson, who headed the New Jersey environment agency, as head of the EPA.

And, sources said, he will name Nancy Sutley, a deputy mayor in Los Angeles, to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The president-elect is expected to announce the appointments next week.

Along with Steven Chu — a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who sources say will be named secretary of energy — the three will form the core of Obama’s environmental team.

Word of their appointment was greeted enthusiastically yesterday by some environmental groups. The League of Conservation Voters called the group a “green dream team.”

Industry groups were more cautious. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Vice President William Kovacs said the group worried that the new officials would use their power to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and impose painful new costs on energy use.

“I think that they could be aggressive, and we’re hoping that they’re really going to look at the circumstances” of the economic downturn, Kovacs said. “That is our biggest single concern, because literally all three of them have a regulatory bent.”

Victor Flatt, a law professor at the University of Houston who has studied environmental legislation, said he saw a strategy behind the picks. In a legislative fight about the right way to cut emissions, he said, it would be valuable to have officials who’ve been in similar state-level battles.

“This shows a really good understanding of the negotiations that are going to go on,” Flatt said. He said that Sutley and Chu, who heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, could bring valuable experience from that state. “California’s just ahead of everybody else” on climate issues, he said.

Yesterday,  Rep. Henry A. Waxman, who will be the new chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, called Obama’s picks “outstanding people.”

“It’s going to be a dramatic change from what we’ve seen in the last eight years from the Bush administration, where even some of the agencies that were supposed to be working to protect the environment were doing all they could to undermine it,” Waxman said in an interview.

Among the three tapped to be environmental officials, Browner is the best-known. During her eight years at EPA under President Bill Clinton, she led the fight for tougher air pollution standards, which the agency eventually won after a legal fight that led to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Two years ago, Browner was part of a group of former EPA leaders that called on the Bush administration to impose caps on greenhouse gases. Now, she will probably be called on to help Obama do that. The president-elect says he wants to reduce emissions to 1990 levels over 12 years.

Ed Krenik, who worked as the EPA’s liaison to Congress for two years under Bush, said he worried that Browner’s new role could upset government scientists if it is seen as a deadening layer of bureaucracy.

“If there’s a concern out there, it’s probably concern amongst EPA staff” that their director would have a less direct line to Obama, Krenik said. Browner declined a request to comment.

Jackson, who led the New Jersey environmental agency from 2006 to 2008, has impressed both activists and business groups with her open leadership style. An official at the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce recalled that Browner agreed to give businesses in Paterson, N.J., a brush-up on environmental laws before sending officials in on an enforcement sweep. The leader of Environment New Jersey remembered calling Jackson on her cellphone to warn that legislation was being introduced to try to weaken environmental laws.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said employees of the agency complained that Jackson was not tough enough in pushing for cleanups of polluted “brownfields,” or requiring polluters to limit greenhouse gases.

“We called her a pliant technocrat, who sort of time after time did the wrong thing, but did it charmingly,” he said.

But environmentalists credit her with stopping New Jersey’s controversial bear hunt and urging Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to adopt an aggressive goal on climate change. The state committed to reducing emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

“I think she pushed [Corzine] as far as she could,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey. Still, New Jersey has found it difficult to say how it will reach those goals. A spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said a climate action plan is overdue but expected next week.

Jackson declined to comment yesterday.

Sutley, tapped to lead the council on environmental quality, had worked for California Gov. Gray Davis (D). Marcus, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, supervised Sutley in the 1990s when she was a senior policy advisor at the EPA. Marcus described her as a quick study, easily able to master the technical details of any controversy.

“She’s one of those people [to whom] you give the toughest issues,” Marcus said. The Obama transition team did not respond to a request to interview Sutley.

Staff writer Philip Rucker and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

 

 

Posted on Tue, Dec. 2, 2008

By Suzette Parmley

Hoping to profit from the growing demand for renewable, large-scale solar energy, Lockheed Martin Corp. will start constructing a solar test center today at its Moorestown facility.

The company said the Solar System Test and Engineering System (SolSTES) Array test bed in South Jersey will provide Lockheed Martin engineers with the opportunity to research a variety of solar technologies and materials.

“This will allow us to test and model different ways to produce solar arrays and allow us to do risk reduction,” Ken Ross, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, said yesterday. “So when we do get our first contract to construct one of these utility-scale solar-generation facilities, we will have the best-of-breed technology ready to go.”

Ross said Lockheed, which employs 5,600 in South Jersey, including 5,000 in Moorestown, agreed in November 2007 to create a joint venture with Starwood Energy Group Global L.L.C., of Greenwich, Conn., to enter the potentially lucrative solar-energy market.

Starwood Energy focuses on energy-infrastructure investment, primarily power generation and transmission projects that are mostly in North America.

The Lockheed Martin-Starwood team will initially focus on solar-energy projects in California and the Southwest, based on initial market assessments, Ross said.

“Given our nation’s need to engender energy independence, reduce greenhouse gases, and create new careers, the utility-scale solar-generation projects we are working on with Lockheed Martin are of critical importance,” Madison Grose, vice chairman of Starwood Energy, said yesterday.

Lockheed Martin and Starwood estimate that up to 10,000 megawatts of solar power could come on line in the next 10 years. At an expected cost of $3 per watt of generating capacity, that would put the market size at $30 billion.

Last month, several states approved measures requiring a certain percentage of the power they use to come from renewable energy. The largest was California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order raising the state’s renewable-energy requirement to 33 percent by 2020.

“It’s definitely a growing movement,” Ross said. Even with recent declines in oil prices, he said, “the cost of solar power versus fossil fuel is starting to converge.

“Solar has historically been more expensive, but now, it’s much more cost neutral with fossil fuel.”

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