Clean Energy: States and Cities in the Lead

Wayne Forest Solar 2

Focusing on the big picture can be helpful for analyzing the impacts for clean energy, but just as important is the impact that renewables have on individual states and communities. Localized power sources and incentive programs have transformed areas across the country and turned them into thriving clean energy hotspots. The jobs and revenue from clean energy projects have helped […]

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Obama’s Second Wind on Clean Energy

Wayne Forest Solar 1

                Last night, President Obama laid out an ambitious plan to fix the national economy and stop the ballooning national debt. One area he specifically detailed was the current US energy industry and its many shortcomings. While he touted the benefits of domestic oil and natural gas production, the president also mentioned the burgeoning impact that solar and wind power […]

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New Solutions for Clean Energy

In order to properly tackle the gargantuan problem of climate change, we will have to employ a variety of solutions. There is no one technology improvement or policy change that will lower our emissions, clean our air and protect our resources over the long term. What we need is the right combination of policy proposals, scientific funding, clean energy adoption and international cooperation. Here are a few interesting links to provide an idea of the kinds of solutions being discusses right now: Renewable energy industries have started pushing innovative financing options that may be able to help increase their ability to draw revenue from investors like oil and gas companies. Currently, renewable energy companies are not eligible for real estate investment trusts (REITs) or master limited partnerships (MLPs). Both of these mechanisms are utilized by fossil fuel producers to seek out investors who are willing to accept a lower rate of return because the investor pool is so large. Opening up clean energy projects to these resources might allow for more financing and has been projected to cost less than $1 billion over a ten year period (compared to $11 billion for tax credit programs). This relatively new and unproven solution has yet to be applied to clean energy and we would love to hear your opinion on how effective you think they would be. The feed-in tariff is another mechanism that has been able to make an impact on […]

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Green Banks and Clean Energy Victory Bonds

Green banks are not a new development but they may finally hit the mainstream thanks to a recent endorsement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His proposition would create a one billion dollar “NY Green Bank,” a semi-autonomous entity that would provide funding to clean energy projects that otherwise may struggle to secure startup money. The bank would use public and private funds to create credit enhancements and low-interest loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. Cuomo has expressed his support for the idea in part because it wouldn’t cost New York much money; they would be able to get most of the capital from already existing government funding. He acknowledged that New York is not close to their goal of 30 percent renewable energy by 2015 and stated that creating a green bank would be a good way to boost confidence in the clean energy sector. Wind and solar projects will likely see the biggest gains from the Green Bank initiative because of their relatively strong foothold in the market already. The idea for green banks has already been tried on a smaller scale in the United States. The most recent example can be found in Connecticut, where the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) was created in 2011. The goal of CEFIA is to help transition state clean energy programs away from grants, rebates and one time subsidies and towards low-cost financing. By partnering with Connecticut’s […]

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Looking to a Brighter Clean Energy Future in 2013

2012 was a trying year for climate activists. Little progress on has been made on climate change mitigation domestically or internationally. President Obama passed regulation regarding fuel efficiency standards, but has otherwise failed to seriously address the problem of our warming planet. All of this inaction comes on the heels of some of the most compelling evidence in support of climate change to date. November 2012 is the 333rd straight month of warmer than average global temperatures. Arctic sea ice reached its lowest recorded level, with an area the size of Texas subtracted from 2007’s previous low. The area destroyed by wildfires is expected to double by 2050. And 2012 is nearly assured to be the hottest year on record, according to NOAA. Climate change deniers are finding it harder to defend their stance, but there continues to be a lack of initiative from important governing bodies. Congress is not advancing pollution regulation or clean energy initiatives that will help steer our economy away from dirty and costly fossil fuels. These companies receive generous government subsidies and subsequently produce incredible amounts of toxic and planet-warming byproducts that deteriorate the health and safety of our country. International climate negotiations have stalled too, as seen at the recent COP 18 event that produced few substantive results. President Obama has promised to make climate change a priority in his next four years, but given his previous record, it will be hard to take […]

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Clean Energy Victory Bonds: The Path to an American Renewable Energy Revolution

Over the past decade, the United States has seen its advantage in the clean energy sector go from substantial to non-existent. Though America was one of the first nations to embrace the idea of solar power (think Jimmy Carter and his PV panels on the White House), political opposition kept renewable energy technologies from making a significant impact on our national energy portfolio. But while lawmakers here were debating the merits of renewable energy, countries across the globe, particularly in Europe, began to take notice and build their own clean energy industries. Over the course of 2012, Germany, Spain and Italy have all been producing over 20 percent of their electricity from renewables, while the United States continues to hover around 6 percent. Germany in particular has dominated the renewable energy discussion, thanks in large part due to their Renewable Energies Act which went into effect in 2000. Since then, Germany has incrementally increased their solar, wind and biomass efforts that now compromise 25 percent of their total electricity use. They have their sights set on producing 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, indicating their willingness to pursue ambitious energy goals. Progressive policies and firm leadership are spurring Germany’s clean energy growth. Feed-in tariffs ensure that all renewable energy transmitted to the grid gets used, ensuring that there is a fixed price for these energy sources in an otherwise volatile industry. This price security enables renewable companies […]

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The Key to Slowing Climate Change? Use Less Energy!

We have already covered the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal and electric cars in this blog space. But perhaps the most effective and inexpensive method to reducing our climate impacts is actually the simplest: improving energy efficiency standards. By making products and buildings that consume less energy, we can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gases needed to meet our energy needs. Energy efficiency improvements are particularly important because they have been proven to reduce energy demand while also saving the consumer money. A recent analysis from Platts indicated that simply changing to more energy efficient air conditioners throughout the country could save $2.5 billion in energy costs annually and preclude the need for seven new mid-size power plants. The implementation of LEED certification for buildings has also saved billions in energy costs while also allowing property owners to charge more to rent space in these buildings. But almost all tenants end up spending less money renting these buildings because of decreased electric and water bills. Multiple studies have shown that these efficiency technologies end up paying for themselves rather quickly, and people are beginning to realize the benefits. Even the Republican-controlled House recently passed legislation to improve standards for water heaters, refrigerators and air conditioners. The measure was sponsored by two Republicans and had backing from major industry institutions. Most of the support can be attributed to the demonstrated ability of energy efficiency measures to save money. Energy Secretary […]

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Geothermal: The clean energy powerhouse you’ve never heard of

Geothermal Plant

Everyone knows about renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines, but few know the details about one of the most abundant clean energy resources available: geothermal power. Geothermal electricity is generated by extracting heat from up to 2 miles below the surface and converting it into useable power. The United States produced 3,086 megawatts (MW) of geothermal electricity […]

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