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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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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Electric Vehicles Going Mainstream?

        Although electric vehicles have been around for decades, they have yet to make a huge impact in the competitive market. Gas guzzlers continue to dominate the roadways despite the fact that electric cars can save drivers thousands of dollars a year in fuel costs. They have been proven to be just as safe, reliable and affordable as other cars, yet there has yet to be a true electric vehicle revolution in the United States. However, two recent articles show that the market may soon start shifting towards electric over gas. The two main arguments against electric vehicles are their unfair reputation as slow, expensive and weak cars and the lack of charging stations available for long distance driving. Articles from Motor Trend and the Huffington Post, respectively, have helped disprove these myths and point towards a bright future for electric cars. In the January 2013 edition of Motor Trend, the magazine will name the Tesla Model S the car of the year. This marks the first time in their 64 year history that they will give the award to a car without an internal combustion engine and signals that public stereotypes against electric vehicles are becoming less prevalent. Motor Trend touts the impressive horsepower and torque of the Tesla, while also praising the storage space, sleek design and on-board navigation system. The Model S passed or exceeded all safety tests and was found to have a range of up […]

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New Report Warns US Risks Losing Ground in Clean Energy

Third Way’s recent report, Fire Sale: The End of American Ownership of Clean Energy, predicts that by 2014, federal clean tech investment will drop by 75%, from $44.3 billion in 2009 to just $11.0 billion.  So what happens if the federal government really does decide to stop supporting the U.S. clean energy sector?  Well, one thing can be certain; clean energy won’t die but it will move to foreign markets. Just because U.S. clean energy investment growth has fallen short within the past five years, doesn’t mean that the market is vanishing.  “The United Kingdom has established a £15 billion Green Bank.  The China Development Bank has made available $32 billion in low-interest credit facilities to Chinese solar and wind companies.  Saudi Arabia wants to raise $109 billion for its solar industry.”  Countries like Germany and the U.K. are already coming close to doubling their clean energy use just since 2011. While other governments are building massive programs to fund clean energy, Congress claims that it can no longer fund these sorts of initiatives, stressing that if a clean energy industry fails it’s because it’s not a competitive market player.  Ironically, government funding has been used to make many other American industries “competitive players.” Between 1994 and 2009 the government provided approximately $447 billion (adjusted for inflation) in cumulative energy subsides to the oil and gas industry.  Compare that to the less than $6 billion federally invested in the clean […]

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