renewable energy

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:45Mike Gaworecki
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Renewable Energy Loan Program That Funded Solyndra Is Paying Off

Despite the high-profile bankruptcy of solar panel maker Solyndra, the Department of Energy's renewable energy loan program is officially in the black as of September and now expects to earn as much as $5 to $6 billion.

According to a report released last week by the Energy Department's Loan Program Office, some $810 million in interest has already been collected on the $21.71 billion the program has loaned out so far. Solyndra and three other companies that failed after receiving funds from the program, meanwhile, accounted for $780 million in losses.

The $5-6B in projected earnings is calculated based on average rates and expected returns over the next 20 to 25 years. Michael Morosi, an analyst with Jetstream Capital, told Bloomberg Businessweek that that return is better than many venture capital and private equity investors, many of whom got burned by Solyndra along with the federal government, will see from their investments in renewable energy. “A positive return over 20 years in cleantech?” Morosi says. “That's not a bad outcome.”

According to the LPO report, 20 projects that received funds from the program are already in operation, generating revenue, and have begun paying back their loans (some $3.5 billion in loan principle has been recouped so far). Tesla Motors is perhaps the biggest success of the program so far, and it paid back its loan of $465 million last year—9 years early.

Thu, 2014-11-13 14:17Mike Gaworecki
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China-U.S. Climate Deal Is Historic, But On Its Own Is Not Enough

Despite the fact that they've been using the “climate action is useless because China won't act” canard as one of their favorite arguments for years now, Republicans' outraged response to the historic climate deal between China and the U.S. probably took noone by surprise.

Because that's the thing: it is historic. For the first time ever, China has agreed to put a cap on the emissions produced by its rapid, voracious economic expansion. While it's certainly not true that the U.S. taking responsibility for its share of global warming pollution wouldn't have had a meaningful impact anyway, it also can't be ignored that averting runaway climate change would be nearly impossible if China's emissions keep growing unabated.

But to say it's historic that two of the world's biggest economic superpowers—and the world's two largest carbon polluters, together responsible for nearly half of global emissions—have agreed to begin to lower their respective contributions to global warming is not the same thing as saying that the deal President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck is enough to get the job done.

The most important issue, of course, is the emissions targets themselves, which come nowhere near what climate scientists say are needed to prevent catastrophic warming. We must lower global warming pollution 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century, yet the US is still using 2005 as its baseline, and has only committed to lowering emissions 26-28% by 2025. China, meanwhile, needs to see its emissions peak by 2020, climate scientists say, but has only committed to doing so by 2030.

Thu, 2014-11-13 13:02Chris Rose
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G20 Governments are Spending $88B Each Year to Explore for New Fossil Fuels. Imagine if Those Subsidies Went to Renewable Energy?

oil change international, subsidies, oil gas exploration

Rich G20 nations are spending about $88 billion (USD) each year to find new coal, oil and gas reserves even though most reserves can never be developed if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to a new report.

Generous government subsidies are actually propping up fossil fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic, states the report, “The fossil fuel bail-out: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration.”

Produced by the London-based Overseas Development Institute and the Washington-based Oil Change International the 73-page analysis also noted the costs of renewables is falling and the investment returns are better than fossil fuels.  

Every U.S. dollar in renewable energy subsidies attracts $2.5 in investment, whilst a dollar in fossil fuels subsidies only draws $1.3 of investment,” said the report released Tuesday, just days ahead of the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane, Australia.

The report also notes the G20 nations are creating a ‘triple-lose’ scenario by providing subsidies for fossil-fuel exploration.

Thu, 2014-11-13 04:00Julie Dermansky
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Texas Regulators Sidestep Connection Between Fracking Industry and Earthquakes

XTO wastewater disposal plant

New rules for Texas injection wastewater well operators offer no relief to people impacted by more than 30 earthquakes that hit Azle, Reno and Springtown almost a year ago. Many buildings in the three small cities, 50 miles west of Dallas, Texas, suffered broken windows, cracked walls, damaged plumbing and foundations. 

Seismic activity is not something the region is known for. It was only after deep injection disposal wells used to house fracking's toxic wastewater went into operation that the earthquakes started. There are several injection wells in the area — three of which some suspect to be the cause of the quakes due to their proximity to impacted neighborhoods and the volume of disposal operations. 


Crack in an Azle, Texas, residence that opened after an earthquake. ©2014 Julie Dermansky 

“Injection raises the underground pressure and can effectively lubricate fault lines, weakening them and causing earthquakes, according to the U.S Geological Survey,” reports McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, was met with public outcry after the first earthquake swarm. The commissioners acted fast (by the agency’s standards), coming up with new rules to address the situation released on Oct. 28.  

The new rules require oil and gas companies to check local seismic data from the U.S. Geological Survey before opening a new waste disposal well. They also give the agency the power to change, suspend or revoke an injection operator’s permit if the commission determines the well is contributing to seismic activity.

Thu, 2014-10-23 10:00Chris Rose
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Wind Power Could Supply 25% of Global Electricity By 2050 — If Fossil Fuel Industry Doesn't Get in the Way

wind power, clean energy

Wind power has become so successful that it could provide 25 to 30 per cent of global electricity supply by mid-century if vested interests don’t get in the way, according to a new report published Tuesday.

The report — Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 — said that commercial wind power installations in more than 90 countries had a total installed capacity of 318 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2013, providing about three per cent of global electricity supply.

By 2030, the report said, wind power could reach 2,000 GW, supply up to 17 to 19 per cent of global electricity, create over two million new jobs and reduce CO2 emissions by more than three billion tonnes per year.

The report published by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International noted that while emissions-free wind power continues to play a growing role in international electricity supply, political, economic and institutional inertia is hampering attempts to deal with the consequences of climate change.

Wed, 2014-10-15 02:00Chris Rose
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Europe Poised to Press Ahead on Drastic Greenhouse Gas Reductions As Other Nations Lag Behind

Solar farm

Pressure continues to grow for European politicians to agree to further reductions of greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030.

The European Union’s 2020 climate and energy package, which is binding legislation, calls for emissions to be cut by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020. In addition, the plan calls for energy efficiency savings of 20 per cent and a 20 per cent increase in renewable energy technologies.

While the European Union seems largely on track to meet those targets, later this month politicians are going to vote on even greater emissions reductions, energy savings and growth in renewables by 2030.

In January, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, published the 2030 policy framework for climate and energy.

Despite six years of economic uncertainty, the plan includes targets to reduce EU domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent below the 1990 level by 2030, which would ensure that Europe would meet its objective of cutting emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

Fri, 2014-10-10 09:53Sharon Kelly
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A Shift from Fossil Fuels Could Provide $1.8 Trillion in Savings, Two New Reports Conclude

A worldwide transition to low carbon fuels could save the global economy as much as $1.8 trillion over the next two decades, according to two reports published Thursday by the Climate Policy Initiative.

By switching to renewable energy sources, the high costs associated with extracting and transporting coal and gas could be avoided, the reports, titled Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition, and Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values, conclude.

This would free up funds to bolster financial support for wind, solar and other renewables – with enormous sums left over, the reports conclude. Following an approach aimed at capping climate change at 2 degrees Celsius will require walking away from massive reserves of fossil fuels, stranding the assets of major corporations, many researchers have warned. The new reports give this issue a closer look, demonstrating that more than half of the assets at risk are actually owned by governments not corporations.

This finding could be double-edged, since that means taxpayer money in many countries is at stake and those governments have the power to establish policies that could promote or repudiate the fossil fuels they control. But the reports' conclusion that trillions could be freed up if governments and private companies abandon those assets could make it easier for governments to leave those fossil fuels in the ground.

Sun, 2014-09-14 23:42Brendan Montague
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Denier Lord Lawson’s Fight Against Wind Farms Proves Quixotic

Lord Lawson and the Global Warming Policy Foundation have blasted foreign owned wind farms but there is one Polish company supported by a Tory lord which is doing very well out of renewables

If you tried to devise the most costly and inefficient means of generating electricity imaginable, you would choose wind power,” bellows Lord Lawson of the denial charity the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). 

Sun, 2014-09-14 08:00Chris Rose
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Speeding Up Renewable Energy Access Critical for Climate, Health and Economy: Report

Renewable energies are increasingly seen as the best solution to a growing global population demanding affordable access to electricity while reducing the need for toxic fossil fuels that are creating unsustainable levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s the underlying message of a new report — REthinking Energy: Towards a New Power System — published this week by the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs, a better understanding of financial risk and a growing appreciation of wider benefits, means that renewable energy is increasingly seen as the answer,” the 94-page report says.

Not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply, while contributing to limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius – the widely cited tipping point for climate change,” the report adds.

A technology once considered as niche is becoming mainstream. What remains unclear is how long this transition will take, and how well policy makers will handle the change.”

The world’s population grew from four billion to seven billion people in the past 40 years, the report said, adding that population trends forecast more than eight billion people by 2030.

In the next two decades, the report noted, world electricity generation is expected to increase by 70%.

But the report warned that there is an environmental cost to producing the required future levels of electricity.

Mon, 2014-06-23 05:00Farron Cousins
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House Spending Bill Contains Huge Giveaways To Dirty Energy

The House Appropriations Committee is currently debating a spending bill that would set America back decades when it comes to energy policy and environmental protection.  The 2015 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will designate money to everything from nuclear waste cleanup to renewable energy investments, and the Appropriations Committee has made sure that neither of those particular items get the funding they need.

The bill, if passed by the full House, will cut $113 million from renewable energy projects, dropping the yearly total to $1.8 billion.  This comes only a year after the Treasury Department was forced to cut renewable energy grants by more than 8% following last year’s sequester cuts.  And while the current incarnation of the spending bill provides $150 million for nuclear waste disposal at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, it also presses the Obama administration to approve the project immediately.

While the bill itself is a slap in the face to renewable energy, the riders that some industry-funded politicians have added are a complete assault on environmental protections.

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