Toxic Coal Ash Pours into Lake Michigan
A partial retaining bluff collapse Oct. 31 at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant in Wisconsin sent toxic coal ash spewing into Lake Michigan. This collapse comes just weeks after the U.S. House voted to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from protecting Americans from coal ash.
In response, Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign issued the following statement:
"The EPA has been trying to enact national protections to stop this kind of disastrous spill from happening again, ever since the TVA disaster in 2008, and our Congress has been blocking them every step of the way. As a result, communities across the nation remain at risk and unprotected. This spill in the Great Lakes is a tragic reminder of why the status quo is not good enough. As long as Congress interferes, spills like this are going to happen, and dozens of communities are at risk. Congress needs to back off and allow the EPA to finalize strong protections.
"In 2008 we witnessed first-hand how a lack of strong national protections leaves the job in the hands of state regulators that lack the will and ability to protect communities from coal ash incidents. Since the TVA disaster, industry groups have been lobbying hard to block the EPA from establishing strong federal protections, arguing, they say, that states are doing a fine job regulating coal ash. Just weeks ago, at the urging of We Energies and others in the coal industry, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to block the EPA from enacting strong national protections, thereby allowing states to continue the status quo that led to this disastrous collapse. This bill, called the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (S.1751) is now before the Senate for consideration.
"This spill shows that states are not protecting our health and our environment from cancer-causing coal ash, and as long as the EPA fails to act there will be more coal ash spills. "This collapse is particularly troublesome because We Energies has known for years that its management of coal ash was a threat to human health. They have even been providing bottled water to neighbors who have contaminated wells.
"The Senate should immediately stop work on its bill to block the EPA from protecting Americans from toxic coal ash, and our Senators should urge the EPA to finalize its rulemaking process that began in 2009, received hundreds of thousands of comments in support, and has still not been finalized because of industry pressure.
"We want to thank the first responders, cleanup and safety workers for their courage in helping to clean up this mess. We are very grateful that no one appears to have been injured. Unfortunately, residents of Southeast Wisconsin have been victims of We Energies negligence for years. The burning of coal is a public health menace. This incident underscores that as long as we are still mining and burning coal someone somewhere is paying the price."
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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