energy

New Solar Jobs Numbers Set The Stage For National “Shout Out For Solar” Friday

Following up on the massive gains made in 2013, U.S. solar energy had another banner year in 2014—and the industry is poised to shout it from the rooftops.

In this case, of course, “rooftops” means social media.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which is celebrating its 41st anniversary as a national trade association, is organizing its second annual national “Shout Out For Solar” day on Friday, January 16, 2015 to proclaim the wonders of solar energy in the U.S. via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

The national “Shout Out For Solar” day was also planned to coincide with the release of The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census, which came out today and reports that the U.S. solar energy industry now employs nearly 174,000 people—a 22% increase since November 2013. As Climate Progress reports, that is 20 times faster job growth than the national average.

Energy Shift Requires Shift In Conversation

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

Abundant, cheap fossil fuels have driven explosive technological, industrial and economic expansion for more than a century. The pervasive infrastructure developed to accommodate this growth makes it difficult to contemplate rapidly shifting away from coal, oil and gas, which creates a psychological barrier to rational discourse on energy issues.

The ecological and true economic costs of energy use force us to scrutinize our way of living. And because our infrastructure doesn’t allow us to entirely avoid fossil fuels, we must face the contradiction between how we should live and constraints against doing so.

Canada has no national energy plan, other than governmental desire to be a fossil-fuelled energy-export superpower. Given the consequences of human-induced climate change already hitting home, you’d think the highest priority of governments at all levels would be to decide on the lowest-emission energy path. But politicians focused on election intervals have difficulty dealing with generational issues.

California Governor Proposes Most Ambitious Renewable Energy Target In U.S.

California Governor Jerry Brown used the occasion of his fourth inaugural address to propose an ambitious new clean energy target for the state: 50% renewable energy by 2030.

“We are at a crossroads,” Brown said in announcing the proposal, according to Climate Progress. “The challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it, to live within our means and to keep California ever golden and creative.”

Already the leader in installed solar capacity and third when it comes to wind power, the Golden State had previously adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandate to procure 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, a goal it was easily on pace to meet.

Environmentalists were quick to applaud Governor Brown’s 50% by 2030 proposal, which would give California the most ambitious renewable energy target of any US state, eclipsing Hawaii’s 40% by 2030 target.

But given the current growth rate of California’s renewable sector, even 50% by 2030 might not end up being that ambitious, according to Abigail Dillen, Vice President of Climate and Energy for Earthjustice.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Leave A Lot Of Renewable Energy Gains On The Table

Many states are already on track to meet or beat the renewable energy targets laid out for them by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, according to a new report from Earthjustice, which is calling on the agency to strengthen the plan in order to promote more ambitious renewable energy growth.

The Clean Power Plan sets out different emissions reduction levels for each state to reach by 2030, and suggests renewable energy targets as one means of achieving those goals. But Earthjustice has found that many states have already adopted their own renewable energy standards that either meet or even exceed the suggestions made by the EPA.

Three extreme examples are California, Colorado, and Hawaii, some of the states that have done the most to embrace renewable energy. California ranks first in installed solar capacity and third in wind—it even set a record earlier this year for single-day solar photovoltaic energy generation—and has set a mandatory goal of generating 33% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Yet the Clean Power Plan sets a standard of 21% by 2030 for the Golden State.

Colorado has a similarly ambitious self-imposed goal of 30% by 2020, but the EPA’s suggestion is also 21% by 2030. And Hawaii, which is aiming for 40% by 2030, is being urged by the Clean Power Plan to hit just 10%.

Here’s how several other clean energy early adopter states' own commitments stack up against the goals called for in the Clean Power Plan:

Walton Family, Owners of Walmart, Using Their Billions To Attack Rooftop Solar

A recent trend has seen utilities deciding that since they haven't been able to beat back the rise of rooftop solar companies, they might as well join them (or at least steal their business model). But the Walton Family, owners of Walmart as well as a stake in a manufacturer of solar arrays for utilties, aren't ready to give up the fight.

A new report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has found that, through their Walton Family Foundation, the Waltons have given $4.5 million dollars to groups like the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Americans for Prosperity—groups that are attacking renewable energy policies at the state level and, specifically, pushing for fees on rooftop solar installations. The head of ALEC has even gone so far as to denigrate owners of rooftop solar installations as “freeriders.”

But support for groups seeking to halt the rise of clean energy is only half the story. According to Vice News, the Waltons own a 30% stake in First Solar, a company that makes solar arrays for power plants as “an economically attractive alternative or complement to fossil fuel electricity generation,” per its 2013 annual report, which also identifies “competitors who may gain in profitability and financial strength over time by successfully participating in the global rooftop PV solar market” as a threat to First Solar's future profitability.

Perhaps it was that threat to its long-term strategic plan that led First Solar CEO James Hughes to publish an op-ed in the Arizona Republic voicing his support for a proposal by Arizona Public Service, the state's biggest energy utility, to charge owners of rooftop solar installations a fee of $50 - $100 a month, which would effectively wipe out any economic benefits of generating one's own power. A compromise was eventually reached to adopt a lower fee of roughly $5 per household, but even that has had a chilling effect on the growth of rooftop solar in Arizona, as residential solar installations subsequently dropped 40% in APS territory.

Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice, said at the time that First Solar's move was unprecedented: “no solar company has publicly advocated against solar until First Solar did it.”

Having collected its scalp in Arizona, First Solar is now attacking policies that foster rooftop solar in California and Nevada, according to the ILSR report.

Utilities Couldn't Kill Distributed Solar, So Now They're Co-Opting The Business Model

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they… steal your business model?

Solar energy is booming: More than half a million US homes and businesses have gone solar, some 200,000 in just the last two years alone. The Solar Energy Industries Association estimates that in the first half of 2014, a new solar installation went up every 3.2 minutes.

That scares the hell out of the electric utilities, who have been fighting rooftop solar tooth and nail.

Utilities are right to be scared—the rise of distributed solar energy generation presents an existential crisis to their business model. But solar's steady march has not slowed down, so now the utilities are taking a different tact: they're simply trying to co-opt the rooftop solar business altogether.

“You have to question their motives,” Will Craven, a spokesman for the Alliance for Solar Choice, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “They’ve been attacking rooftop solar for years at this point, and they’ve tended to lose most of those battles. This is just the latest tactic.”

Uncertainty Over Tax Credits Causing Turmoil In Renewable Energy Sector

Uncertainty over the future of the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit—and Congressional inaction on both matters—could pose a serious challenge to development in the renewable energy sector.

Wind energy had a huge year in 2012, with 13,128 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity installed, but has failed to get anywhere close to matching that number since. The fact that the wind production tax credit (PTC) expired last year might have something to do with that.

Wind energy developers only need to have made minor investments by the 2013 deadline to qualify for the tax credit, so there are still a number of new installations in the works, and 2014 has so far seen a fair amount of growth in wind energy capacity. But that will not be the case for long if Congress doesn't act.

According to the American Wind Energy Association's latest quarterly market report, some 711 turbines capable of producing 1,254 megawatts of wind energy were installed in the US during the first three quarters of 2014, which is more than in all of 2013.

But while there are more than 13,600 more MW of wind capacity currently under construction, that number is expected to drop off sharply as projects are brought online and fewer new projects are started due to the expiration of the wind production tax credit (PTC).

Why Support DeSmog Canada? Here Are Six Reasons It’s Totally Worth It

DeSmog Canada team

As many of our readers have already seen, DeSmog Canada recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign where we raised $50,000 from our generous supporters. Even though we're on the other side of that fundraiser, we still rely on support from readers like you. That's why we make it easy to contribute to DeSmog Canada at anytime through PayPal

If you are wondering why DeSmog Canada deserves your support, here's a list of our top reasons: 

Solar Could Be Our Biggest Source Of Energy By 2050, If Politicians Make it Happen

The sun could be our biggest single source of energy and prevent 6 bilion tonnes of climate-warming CO2 pollution by 2050, according to two new reports.

Issued by the International Energy Agency, the two “Technology Roadmap” reports conclude that solar photovoltaic (PV) systems could supply 16% of the world's electricity needs and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants could provide another 11% by the mid-point of the 21st century.

Underscoring these findings, IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven says, “The rapid cost decrease of photovoltaic modules and systems in the last few years has opened new perspectives for using solar energy as a major source of electricity in the coming years and decades.”

To get there, however, the reports warn that “clear, credible and consistent signals from policy makers” must be provided in order to inspire confidence in investors, as both PV and solar thermal electricity technologies like CSP require big up-front capital expenditures.

“Lowering the cost of capital is thus of primary importance for achieving the vision in these roadmaps,” Van der Hoeven adds.

China To Create National Cap-And-Trade Program As Obama Admin Must Bypass U.S. Senate On Climate

The Obama Administration is pursuing an international climate agreement that would be “politically binding” but would not be a treaty requiring ratification by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, China has announced it will create a national cap-and-trade program.

These two facts amount to a stunning juxtaposition. China, currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution, is taking decisive action to lower its emissions, while the leader of the United States, historically the world’s largest climate polluter, must circumvent his own government to take even modest first steps towards dealing with climate change.

According to the latest Global Carbon Budget report, CO2 emissions rose 2.3% in 2013, with China responsible for 28% and the United States contributing 14%.

Emissions are projected to increase by another 2.5% in 2014, according to the report, which also notes that the world is on track for a temperature rise somewhere between 3.2 and 5.4 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2100—well above the 2-degree mark scientists say we must limit warming to in order to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The New York Times reports that negotiators for the Obama Adminstration are calling an international agreement that bypasses the treaty ratification process in the Senate the only viable path forward:

Lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill say there is no chance that the currently gridlocked Senate will ratify a climate change treaty in the near future, especially in a political environment where many Republican lawmakers remain skeptical of the established science of human-caused global warming.


This is not the first time Obama has gone around Congress to take action on the climate. The centerpiece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan uses authorities granted to the EPA under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon emissions on a state-by-state basis and requires states to come up with plans to achieve those cuts.

But even the Obama Administration admits that this type of measure is not, in and of itself, a solution to the climate crisis we’re facing.

“The point is, that this is a start,” White House science and technology advisor John Holdren recently told the House Science Committee. “The carbon-action plan is a start, and if we do not make a start, we will never get there.”

Pages

Subscribe to energy