Renewable Energy
By Common DreamsEnergy  01:44PM EST
50% of EU Residents Could Be Generating Their Own Renewable Energy by 2050

By Nadia Prupis

A people-powered energy revolution—an era in which people can produce their own electricity—is possible, and could happen soon, according to a new report released Monday by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE).

birgstockphoto.com

The report, The Potential of Energy Citizens in the European Union, finds that over half the residents of the EU could be generating their own renewable electricity by 2050. That's 264 million "energy citizens" meeting 45 percent of the region's energy demand through a democratized, citizen-owned system that allows people to be the operators of their own utilities—taking power away, in more ways than one, from a market monopolized by large corporations.

"[People] have the power to revolutionize Europe's energy system, reclaiming power from big energy companies, and putting the planet first. We need to enshrine the right for people to produce their own renewable energy in European and national legislation," Molly Walsh, FOEE community power campaigner, said.

The report also found that overall, 83 percent of European households, whether individually or as part of a utility collective, have the potential to help create, store or help provide renewable energy.

Electricity production by energy citizens, potential to 2050 per Member State.Friends of the Earth Europe

The researchers analyzed the potential for renewable energy generation, storage, and distribution for different categories of "energy citizens"—households generating energy individually; households producing energy collectively as part of a co-op or association; public entities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings; and small enterprises with less than 50 people on staff.

The sources of renewable energy analyzed in the report included on- and off-shore wind farms, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, stationary batteries and electric boilers.

Number of energy citizens for the various technologies assessed, potential to 2050 for the EU28.Friends of the Earth Europe

The report found that:

"[About] 115 million EU households will have an electric vehicle in 2050, 70 million may have a smart electric boiler, 60 million may have solar PV on their roof and 42 million may have stationary batteries on their premises. Another 64 million households could participate in renewable energy production through an energy collective."

[...] About 161 million can potentially provide flexible demand services with an EV, (smart) electric boiler or stationary batteries. A large share of the households that could have demand flexibility could also be an energy producer."

"Citizens are already playing a role in renewable energy projects across Europe—benefiting the local economy, as well as creating public support for the energy transition. Their potential is huge, and this research shows these projects could, and should, be the norm," Dirk Vansintjan, president of the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives, said.

Potential energy storage by energy citizens, estimates for 2015, 2030 and 2050.Friends of the Earth Europe

The report was commissioned by the European Renewable Energies Federation, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace EU Unit, and the European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives. The organizations are calling for a framework to promote citizen-owned energy within the European Commission's Energy Union package, the commission's strategy for ushering in a low-carbon economy.

Such a call aligns with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's wish for "the EU to become the world number one in renewable energies," the groups said.

Because the data surrounding renewable energy is limited, there are some uncertainties surrounding the findings, the report cautions, but that in itself is evidence that more in-depth research need to be devoted to the industry and that policymakers should undertake measures to tap the potential of citizens' collective energy creation.

"The EU should be clearing a path for forward-thinking, nimble energy citizens, not supporting big, polluting utilities," Tara Connolly, energy policy adviser for Greenpeace EU, said. "The age of energy dinosaurs is over."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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By Lorraine ChowEnergy  10:32AM EST
World's Largest Solar Plant Goes Online

The Indian state of Tamil Nadu is now home to the world's largest solar power plant, according to local reports.

The world's largest single location solar power plant is located in Tamil Nadu in the south of India. Adani Group

The massive, 648-megawatt array was officially linked to the grid after being hooked up to a 400kV substation, the operator Adani Green Energy Ltd announced Wednesday.

The plant is spread across 2,500 acres in the town of Kamuthi in the Ramanathapuram district and will supply enough clean, green energy for 300,000 homes.

The Deccan Chronicle reported that the $679 million solar park consists of 380,000 foundations, 2.5 million solar modules, 576 inverters, 154 transformers and 6,000-kilometers of cables. The plant was built with parts and machinery from around the world.

Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani formally dedicated the structure to the nation.

"This is a momentous occasion for the state of Tamil Nadu as well as the entire country," he said. "We are extremely happy to dedicate this plant to the nation; a plant of this magnitude reinstates the country's ambitions of becoming one of the leading green energy producers in the world."

India has an ambitious solar energy goal. In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans to increase solar power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022, five times higher than the previous target.

The plant was commissioned by Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Indian Express reported in July 2015 that the state government would buy the entire 648 megawatts produced by Adani at a fixed price of Rs 7.01/kWh ($0.10/kWh) for 25 years.

Impressively, the structure was built in a record time of only eight months thanks to the around-the-clock dedication of a 8,500-member team. Roughly 11 megawatts were installed in a day on average.

The construction process, however, wasn't all smooth sailing. National Geographic recently featured the Adani solar plant in their "Megastructures" series, documenting how the company faced months of setbacks from the historic monsoons and resulting floods that devastated southern India at the end of 2015.

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By Climate NexusEnergy  09:28AM EST
3 More Companies Commit to 100% Renewables

Apple, Bank of America and Amalgamated Bank have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, joining the RE100 group.

This new solar project will supply Apple's data center in Arizona with renewable energy.Apple

Bank of America also announced it will be "carbon neutral" by 2020, while Apple announced new commitments to power its supply chain with renewable energy.

"Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we're happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort," said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

The announcements at Climate Week come on the heels of GM's pledge last week to power its worldwide operations with 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

"Apple has taken another important step to deliver on its commitment to powering its corner of the internet with 100 percent renewable energy," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace senior IT analyst. "This deal once again shows that renewables are not just good for the environment, but good for business."

For a deeper dive:

News: GreenBiz, BusinessGreen, Ars Technica, Mashable, Global Times, PV-Tech, edie.net, Environmental Leader, CNBC

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Kristin FalzonClimate  09:26AM EST
David Letterman Returns to TV

David Letterman is taking a break from retirement and is returning to TV to lend his voice to the important issues of climate change.

Letterman will lend his wry humor and interview skills to National Geographic Channel's Emmy-winning climate change documentary-series Years of Living Dangerously. It will be his first work on television since he left The Late Show a year-and-a-half ago.

The show's producers, Joel Bach and David Gelber, told Rolling Stone they reached out to Letterman after noticing his particular interest in the environment during interviews with scientists on The Late Show.

"He seemed to perk up when this issue came across his lap," Bach said. "We reached out to him to see if he'd want to be part of this, and he said, 'Absolutely.' He said [that climate change is] something he does think about a lot."

While walking through a field of solar panels, Letterman announces in the promo video below:

"Think about the coal-fired, dangerous, smoke-belching generating plants, and then you look at this and it's friendly. There's something very appealing about this, and it's smooth. Look at it: I can touch it and it's safe. I put my head right there on it."

In Letterman's episode, Into the Light, which airs Oct. 30 for the season's premier, he traveled to India to interview Prime Minister Narendra Modi about how that nation provides energy to its people.

Season 2 of Years of Living Dangerously will include hosts Ty Burrell, Cecily Strong and Jack Black, as well as returning correspondents Don Cheadle, Olivia Munn, Ian Somerhalder, Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron.

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By Climate NexusEnergy  08:30AM EST
General Motors Commits to Run on 100% Renewables by 2050

General Motors committed to power its operations in 59 countries with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

General Motors

The Detroit-based carmaker, whose total electricity demand for operations was nine terawatt hours last year, said it saves $5 million annually from renewable energy use. Earlier this week, GM revealed that its 2017 Chevy Bolt EV has a range of 238 miles per charge, outpacing Tesla's Model 3 by 10 percent.

General Motors

For a deeper dive:

News: Independent, Detroit News, BusinessGreen, Green Car Congress, Road and Track, UPI, Michigan Radio

Commentary: Nexus Media, Jeremy Deaton column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By Solar Energy Industries AssociationEnergy  08:40AM EST
Obama Administration Drastically Restricts Renewables in Southern California Desert

After eight years of work, the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) will effectively foreclose development of renewable energy resources on millions of acres of federally managed lands in Southern California, said a coalition of renewable energy and labor groups in response to the federal government's release of the plan. The plan abandons the initial promise to balance renewable development with preservation of desert land.

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm is located in east Riverside County, California on 3,600 acres of federal land.First Solar, Inc.

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the California Wind Energy Association, the California & Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers, Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the plan will significantly and permanently limit solar and wind energy development on these public lands, and could hamstring existing state and federal environmental goals, as well as any future, more ambitious goals that could engender further growth of the clean energy economy.

Since the initiation of the DRECP in 2008, California has substantially increased its renewable energy and carbon reduction goals, and the Obama administration has declared even more ambitious plans to combat climate change. Unfortunately, the DRECP never changed to address the need for additional renewable energy.

"The DRECP has simply failed to adapt to enormous changes in law and policy that mandate a significant and urgent increase in renewable energy development on public lands and elsewhere," said Shannon Eddy, executive director of LSA. "The DRECP issued by the BLM today is a Model T in a Tesla world. Rather than fostering sustainable clean energy development as a part of a conservation plan, it severely restricts wind and solar."

The California desert is arguably the most important renewable energy resource area in the country, with world-class solar radiance and wind energy resources near major population centers.

"With today's [Tuesday's] release of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, the Interior Department and BLM missed a golden opportunity to balance the preservation of parts of the California desert with clean, renewable energy development across some of America's richest renewable resource areas," said Tom Kimbis, acting president of SEIA. "The Obama administration is unparalleled in its support for renewables, but this plan permanently locks up some of our greatest untapped solar and wind resources, and chooses regulation over innovation and progress."

Of the nearly 11 million acres of public lands that the BLM studied as part of the DRECP, the final plan sets aside less than 388,000 acres for renewable energy development, much of which BLM acknowledges is not appropriate for solar and wind projects.

The plan also punts identification of additional lands for renewable energy development to an elusive "Phase 2." The groups expect little coordination between the BLM and counties since the focus will be on private lands, and renewable energy developers doubt that the next phase will yield the lands necessary to meet long-term energy and climate goals.

Approximately three million acres that had been available for solar and wind development are rendered off-limits under the plan. "No one is saying that utility-scale renewable energy should go everywhere, but done responsibly and with safeguards, it does have to go somewhere if we are to meet state, national and global carbon-reduction goals," said Nancy Rader, executive director of CalWEA. "The broad-scale ban on wind-energy development represented by the BLM's plan indicates an unwillingness to confront the reality of our climate-change predicament."

The groups also highlight the squandered opportunity to create jobs and economic growth associated with utility scale renewable development. From research and development to manufacturing and construction, solar and wind projects have created 100,000 jobs to date nationwide.

"The plan misses an opportunity to put thousands of people to work in high-paying jobs," Richard Samaniego, secretary-treasurer of the California State Association of Electrical Workers, said.

"It is disappointing that the plan does not reflect better balance," added Gregory Wetstone, president and chief executive officer of ACORE. "We can protect desert habitat without effectively prohibiting pollution-free wind and solar energy development on millions of acres of the planet's best renewable resources."

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By Carbon BriefEnergy  12:39PM EST
7 Charts Show New Renewables Outpacing Rising Demand for First Time

By Simon Evans

For the first time ever, investment in new renewables was more than enough to cover rising global electricity demand in 2015, according to the first World Energy Investment report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

While fossil fuels still dominate energy supplies, the IEA says changing investment flows point towards a "reorientation of the energy system."

Carbon Brief has seven charts showing why the IEA thinks an energy shift is underway.

1. Energy Investment

World energy investment amounted to $1.8 trillon in 2015, the IEA says, equivalent to 2.4 percent of the global GDP. Around half went towards fossil fuel extraction and distribution, mainly for oil and gas.

Renewables accounted for 17 percent of the total, around $300 billon. The vast majority of which was in the electricity sector, where nearly 70 percent of investment in power stations went towards renewables.

Global energy investment in 2015, by sector.World Energy Investment 2016 / IEA

2. Oil Slide

Investment in energy was down 8 percent year-on-year in 2015—around $150 billon—largely because of falling investment in oil and gas. Soft demand and Saudi Arabia's determination to squeeze competitors has created a prolonged period of cheap oil that has decimated incomes.

Reductions have been particularly steep in North America, the IEA says, with investment halving in the past two years. The smaller companies that dominate the U.S. shale industry have been particularly hard-hit by the falling oil price, with scores of firms filing for bankruptcy.

Upstream oil and gas investment in 2015, by region.World Energy Investment 2016 / IEA

3. Falling Costs

The Saudi strategy has only been partially successful. Some two-thirds of the fall in oil and gas investment has been absorbed by cost reductions, particularly in the shale sector. Upstream oil and gas costs fell 15 percent in 2015, the IEA says.

These recent oil and gas cost reductions have been easily outpaced by those for new energy technologies. Costs for onshore wind are down by nearly 40 percent since 2008, solar by more than 80 percent, LEDs more than 90 percent and grid-scale batteries by 70 percent.

The IEA says renewable costs will continue to fall, while the reverse will be true for oil and gas:

"IEA medium-term analyses foresee lower costs in renewables, lighting and electricity storage and eventually modest cost increases in upstream oil and gas."

Energy cost developments 2008-2015, by technology.World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

4. Power Shift

The large clean energy cost reductions are behind a continuing shift in the power sector, where 70 percent of investment in generating assets goes to renewables and fossil fuel investment is in decline.

Renewable power investment held steady at around $290 billon in 2015, the IEA says, yet cost reductions mean more capacity could be bought for the money. Solar investment was lower than 2011 in dollar terms, but 60 percent more capacity was added.

Last year, rising renewable additions combined with weakening power demand growth in a landmark way.

The IEA says:

"For the first time, investment in renewables-based capacity generates enough power to cover global electricity demand growth in 2015."

New renewables commissioned in 2015 have the capacity to generate 350 terawatt hours (TWh), against an increase in demand of less than 250TWh. This means all other capacity brought online in 2015 was effectively surplus to requirements.

(It's worth adding a couple of qualifiers: first, 40 percent of investment was to replace aging assets; second, renewables often generate power intermittently rather than on demand).

Net of retirements, nuclear also expanded last year, adding the capacity to generate an extra 50TWh. In total, new plant added in 2015 has the capacity to generate 1,000TWh of electricity a year, more than four times the increase in demand.

Global investment in power generation and electricity networks (colored bars, left axis) and electricity demand growth (line, right axis).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

Investment in electricity networks is increasing, reaching $260 billon last year. This is partly down to the need to incorporate renewables. However, the IEA says around 90 percent is being driven by the need to expand electricity access and replace old kit.

The network investment figures includes grid-scale batteries. Spending here has risen 10-fold since 2010, the IEA says, though it still amounts to less than 1 percent of the network total.

5. Investment Map

Power sector investments were disproportionately concentrated in China and other Asian countries. The split was particularly stark for new coal-fired generation, where more than 80 percent of investment was in Asia.

This trend is likely to continue. The IEA says around half of under-construction coal capacity is in China, which added more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of coal plant in 2015.

Investment in electricity generation and networks by region and type, 2015.World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

6. China Stranding

The IEA, in comments that echo recent Greenpeace analysis, says that much of this surge in Chinese coal capacity is unnecessary. It says:

"China has over-invested in new fossil fuel capacity … low-carbon sources are expected to be able to cover annual demand growth … through 2020, leaving little scope for an expansion in fossil fuel generation."

It illustrates the problem with the chart below, which shows falling demand growth being more than covered by consistent expansion of nuclear and renewables.

China's power generation growth (bars) and demand growth (line).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

Fossil over-investment in China and elsewhere, will lead to stranded assets that become redundant before they have repaid the money spent to build them, the IEA said. It calls Chinese investments "inconsistent with market fundamentals."

7. Climate Inconsistent

Low-carbon sources of power are on the rise and fossil fuel's share of the global energy mix is falling. Yet despite identifying a change in direction for energy investment, the IEA says spending on low-carbon will need to increase rapidly over the years ahead if countries of the world are to meet their agreed climate goals.

It concludes:

"Globally, energy investment is not yet consistent with the transition to a low-carbon energy system envisaged in the Paris Climate Agreement reached at the end of 2015."

New low-carbon electricity generation and growth rates in the IEA 2C scenario (2DS).World Energy Investment 2016, IEA

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.

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By The Climate Reality ProjectClimate  11:10AM EST
7 Buildings Prepared for Climate Change

Ever hear the old aphorism, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" When it comes to natural disasters, this saying rings true: Every $1 spent mitigating potential hazards leads to an average of $4 in future benefits.

Even as we take action to stop climate change, no one person can prevent a superstorm or a flood from impacting his or her home. That's why many architects and designers are planning ahead and anticipating the "new normal" of extreme weather due to climate change. And the best part—even if their buildings don't experience a natural disaster, the structure and its inhabitants still reap the benefits in safety and efficiency.

Here are seven completed buildings that are leading the way on climate-forward architecture: adapting to weather extremes, reducing energy costs and in some cases, fighting climate change while they're at it.

1. Taipei 101

Go big or go home! Taipei 101, in Taiwan, is notable in itself for its unique style and its one-time claim as the tallest building in the world. But did you know this megastructure contains a ginormous ball that helps it withstand typhoons?

When Typhoon Soudelor brought winds of around 100 mph, the enormous " tuned mass damper" inside helped the building stand tall. This mechanism also helps stabilize the structure in case of earthquakes. Amazing!

2. Pérez Art Museum

The typhoon's counterpart, the hurricane, is a formidable threat in the Western hemisphere and Florida is all too familiar with the powerful winds and surging waves brought on by strong storms. While recent major hurricanes have not struck Florida to devastating results, the state is still subject to increasing flooding caused by sea-level rise.

At the Pérez Art Museum, millions of dollars' worth of art is on display in a beautiful oceanfront building flanked by hanging gardens and enormous windows. But look closer—those windows are actually hurricane-resistant. Should Miami get hit by a hurricane or superstorm, the priceless art will be protected.

Even as tides rise, the building is built up above sea level to prevent nuisance flooding. And here's the best part: The entire museum received a LEED Gold rating, meaning it's green from the feet up. Architects found practically every way to make the building more sustainable: reducing concrete, using recycled steel, collecting and recycling rainwater, and other energy efficiency strategies ensure the building maintains a small carbon footprint. That's what we call a masterpiece!

3. Governors Island

Moving up the East Coast to New York, we find a climate-friendly way to approach the design and layout of public parks. Governors Island just got a makeover, transforming this green space into a climate bulwark.

In 2007, when designs were finalized for the new park, few would have imagined that the threats seen in An Inconvenient Truth would become reality so soon. But after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the decision to make Governors Island a sustainable destination was wiser than ever.

As part of the revamp, manmade hills were created out of debris from demolished buildings (the site was once a military base), 3,000 new trees were planted, resilient plants took root and large rocks were placed around the island to help dissipate strong waves. So, even if another superstorm strikes, the park will be resilient enough to withstand the waves. Now that's thinking green!

4. Italy Pavilion

Built for the 2015 Expo Milano, the Italy Pavilion is breathtaking—and it can help you breathe easier! That's because the forest-like structure around the building is made from a material that absorbs smog. This special cement is photocatalytic—it can transform unhealthy particulate matter in the air into inert salts using the power of sunlight. Plus, the roof contains photovoltaic glass, generating solar energy for the building. With buildings like this, Milan is cleaning up its act.

5. Richardsville Elementary School

It's not just big buildings going green. Even schools can help cut carbon pollution by switching to renewable energy. In Bowling Green, Kentucky, Richardsville Elementary School is believed to be America's first net-zero school—it consumes less energy than it uses by producing its own solar and geothermal energy. The school also reduced energy consumption (and increased healthy lunches) by removing its deep fryers, among other efficiency efforts. At the end of the year, the school gets back around $35,000 from the power company, thanks to its energy contributions to the power grid—and that's money they can reinvest back in the students and staff.

6. Bosco Verticale

You've probably heard of green roofs—when buildings are covered with plants to help absorb rainwater, increase insulation, improve air quality and reduce heating.

Bosco Verticale, also in Milan, takes the green roof idea and brings it to every resident of its two towers. The buildings are covered in more than 700 trees and 90 species of plants—the equivalent of nearly 2 acres of forests.

Inside, an irrigation system recycles the wastewater to sustain the plants. The plants help to regulate temperatures year-round by providing shade from the hot summer sun and allowing sunlight through to the apartments during the winter.

Bosco Verticale has inspired more designs around the world, with tree-covered buildings already planned in Switzerland and China. With that, we can only say: More trees, please!

7. Bullitt Center

Last and certainly not least, we can't discuss climate-friendly architecture without mentioning the "greenest office building in the world"—the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington.

When planning their new building, the Bullitt Foundation decided to shoot for the moon: a Living Building certification, signifying that the building meets at least 20 strict requirements, including achieving net-zero energy, supplying its own water, processing its own sewage and so on. In other words, if it saves water or energy, this building does it: solar panels on the roof, rainwater collection system, geothermal energy, energy-efficient lighting, composting toilets and more.

Less than two years after its completion, the investment was already paying off. In 2014, tenants paid nothing for electricity. Plus, the cost to rent space in the building is comparable to other new office buildings around Seattle. It's clear that climate action make sense—and cents.

It Can Be Easy Being Green

You don't have to be an architect or designer to create a sustainable future. In fact, all it takes is someone who cares enough to make it a reality! For more ways to get involved in supporting climate action, sign up for email updates from Climate Reality.

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