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Renewable energy jobs have almost doubled in past five years

The rise of clean energy jobs is outpacing the loss of fossil fuel ones. […]

Why is California building fossil-fuel power plants it doesn’t need?

The state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, had vetoed a bill that would require utilities to buy 25 percent of their electricity from wind, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources by 2020, but legislators voted to override his veto.

Now this new, stronger renewable energy standard replaces the previous one, which had called for utilities to be getting 20 percent of their power from clean sources by 2020.

Democrats argued the bill would create jobs, mitigate climate change, and clean up air pollution. Republicans said it would cost too much. According to the Baltimore Sun, “Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated it might raise residential electricity bills by 48 cents to $1.45 per month.”

It’s easy to focus on the U.S. presidency — that’s the center of the national reality show. But much of the substantive policy in this country is made on the state and local levels, where people are often more practical than ideological — or, you could say, more likely to be tailored for reality, rather than for reality TV.


Google will be able to offset 100% of electricity needs with renewable energy in 2017

The tech giant has hit this major renewable energy goal ahead of all its competitors. […]

To cut emissions faster, U.S. should ditch tax credit-based subsidies for renewable energy

Tristan R. Brown, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry A solar array goes up in New York. Is this the best place to locate solar, given the relatively clean New York state grid? Lucas Braun, CC BY-SA Congress last month extended valuable tax credits to producers of electricity from wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, a move that came as a relief to an industry that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. A tax credit for wind power producers had lapsed almost a year ago, and the credit for solar power was scheduled to decline sharply at the end of 2016. Now, renewable electricity generators have several years of unprecedented stability: the renewed wind and solar power credits don’t expire until 2020 and 2022, respectively. The extensions were finalized just days after 196 countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as part of a global effort to mitigate climate change. The White House hailed the extensions as an important step toward this goal. Recent studies, however, indicate that tax credits are not the most effective means of achieving cutting greenhouse gas emissions. A closer look at this tax credit policy not only shows its flaws but also sheds light on how to best promote the spread of renewable energy and lower carbon emissions. Good news for solar and wind Tax credits have played an important role in promoting the construction of new wind and solar power capacity in U.S. Owners of solar generators receive a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of a system, while wind power generators have received as much as US$23 for every megawatt-hour of energy produced. A 2014 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that maintaining the credit for wind power through 2020 would lead to 10 gigawatts per year of additional capacity constructed. That’s roughly the same generating capacity as 10 full-size nuclear power plants, although wind turbines produce power only about a third of the time. In the past, the tax credit for wind had been allowed to expire for short periods before renewal and new construction fell sharply during each of these periods. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2016). National Renewable Energy Laboratory (2016). Similarly, if the solar tax credit had expired, solar power installations were expected to experience much slower growth in the years ahead. The Energy Information Agency projected residential solar power’s annual growth of 30 percent from 2013 to 2016 to slow to only six percent. If solar power is to displace a significant share of fossil fuels for power generation, then it needs to have much higher growth. In 2014, solar power accounted for less than half of one percent of all electricity generation in the U.S., even after several years of rapid expansion. Is there another way? The tax credits for wind and solar power are different from many U.S. renewable energy subsidies in that their value is not determined by the amount of GHG emissions displaced by new installations. The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard both provide financial incentives to produce renewable transportation fuels. Only those renewable fuels that achieve substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions than the fuels that they are displacing qualify, however. Wind now accounts for about four percent of electricity generation in the U.S. lawmurray/flicrk, CC BY Wind now accounts for about four percent of electricity generation in the U.S. lawmurray/flicrk, CC BY Proponents of the solar and wind credits note that both are “zero emission” in that they generate electricity without emitting climate-changing gases. The amount of GHG emissions displaced, however, depends on which fossil fuels are displaced. This, in turn, varies widely by state. Wyoming’s coal mines, for example, produced 39 percent of the coal mined in the country in 2013 and 88 percent of the electricity generated in the state in 2014 came from coal. Coal is one of the largest fossil sources of GHG emissions. Wyoming’s electric sector is thus one of the country’s most polluting in terms of its emissions of carbon dioxide and other GHGs. At the opposite end of the spectrum is New York. That state derives 48 percent of its electricity from zero emission sources, notably hydropower and nuclear energy, and another 48 percent from relatively low-emission natural gas. A gigawatt of wind capacity installed in Wyoming therefore displaces more GHG emissions than in New York. The contrast between Wyoming and New York shows how the renewed tax credits for wind and solar power are not as effective at reducing GHG emissions as they could be. This is because the credits subsidize both enegy sources equally regardless of whether the installations are displacing highly polluting fossil fuels or zero-emission renewables. Displacing coal or hydro? Further reducing tax credits’ effectiveness is the fact that fossil fuels remain cheaper sources of electricity than many renewables. This is true even when renewable energy receives subsidies. Wind and solar power are most competitive in those markets with the highest electricity prices. That’s why New York has almost 1,400 times more installed solar power than Wyoming, because its electricity prices are the higher of the two. Installed solar capacity by state with lighter colors showing more solar. States that are among the most coal-heavy in West and South have the least solar. National Renewable Energy Laboratory Installed solar capacity by state with lighter colors showing more solar. States that are among the most coal-heavy in West and South have the least solar. National Renewable Energy Laboratory The tax credits reinforce this disconnect between environmental benefits and installation locations by ignoring displaced GHG emissions. Yet where renewable energy is installed in the U.S. has profound implications. A 2013 analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at the benefits of U.S. wind and solar power installations in multiple locations. It identified a range in the combined environmental and health benefits of $10 to $100 per megawatt-hour depending on where they were installed. The authors concluded that one megawatt-hour of wind energy produced in coal-rich Ohio yields five times the combined benefits of the same energy produced in New Mexico. A study published this month in Nature Climate Change reached a similar conclusion. It valued the combined benefit range of U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency projects at $14 to $170 per megawatt-hour depending on location. Without a doubt, the extensions of the tax credits for wind and solar power will cause renewables’ share of the U.S. electricity market to displace that of fossil fuels at a much faster rate than would have otherwise been the case. However, a growing body of research suggests that the ability of the tax credits to slow climate change would have been still greater had the value of the subsidies been instead linked to the amount of GHG emissions displaced by installing renewable energy. Tristan R. Brown, Assistant Professor of Energy Resource Economics, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Renewable Energy Offers Speed and Scale Needed for Climate Action

On an almost daily basis, the scientific community provides new evidence that climate change is accelerating, its impact is deepening, and its associated costs skyrocketing the longer we wait to take action. The challenge is straightforward: to limit global temperature rise to 2°C, greenhouse gas emissions must stop increasing, and must rapidly start decreasing by no later than 2020. To keep it at 1.5°C, as low-lying island states and many other countries are calling for, the peak in emissions must occur even sooner. This means that speed and scale are of the essence in any climate solution. As world leaders prepare to gather in Paris to finalize an international climate agreement, and as countries further consider how best to meet their commitments, it is important to emphasize that renewable energy and energy efficiency are the more compelling means currently available to achieve the needed emission reductions in the amount of time remaining to achieve them. While there are other low-carbon energy options which could potentially address global warming, like carbon capture and storage and nuclear fission, what puts renewable energy ahead of these options is the pace, scale and cost at which renewables can – and are – being deployed. The world installed four times more renewable energy capacity last year alone (135 gigawatts – the equivalent of roughly 100 million pounds of coal burned) than total nuclear energy capacity built globally in the past decade (28 GW). If adequate planning procedures are in place, the construction time of decentralized and off-grid renewable energy projects such as rooftop solar, is a matter of a few days or weeks. Large wind farms can be built in two to six months. With nuclear power on the other hand, any plant that has not already started construction is unlikely to contribute to greenhouse gas reductions this side of 2025. The same is true for any large-scale carbon capture and storage deployment. With this comparison in mind, it is no surprise that renewable power capacity has accounted for more than half of capacity additions in the global power sector since 2011. The United States produces two and a half times more wind energy today than it did just five years ago and twenty times more solar energy. Between January and September of this year, wind and solar installations represented 56 per cent of all new electricity generating capacity. Germany has increased its share of renewable energy in electricity consumption from six to 25 per cent in just four years. On July 25, 2015, Germany sourced 78 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, topping the previous record of 73 per cent. The record-breaking pace of renewable energy deployment is not just limited to wealthy, developed countries. In Bangladesh, a program initiated in 2002 with an ambition to install 50,000 solar home systems over five years is now installing 50-60,000 systems each month, benefiting more than 20 million people country-wide. This massive growth is being fueled, in part, by the strong business case for renewable energy. Biomass, geothermal, hydropower and onshore wind are all competitive or cheaper in comparison with coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support and despite falling oil prices. Yet despite the growing business case and the impressive pace of deployment in recent years, we are still only using a tiny fraction of the technical and economic potential of renewable energy technologies. In Paris, it will be up to countries to commit to strong targets, and in turn, give a strong political signal to catalyze further investments in renewable energy. The climate solution is in our hands. Renewable energy technology is available today, quick to implement, scalable and cost-effective. These traits are probably not what most people think of when they think of renewable energy. They should. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Whatever Happens in Paris: Four Reasons Why the Future Will Be Fueled by Renewable Energy

More than 60 ministers gathered in Paris over the last three days to help shape the outcome of climate negotiations this December. Regardless of what appears in the final agreement, however, it is already clear that a low carbon future will be fueled by renewable energy. Here’s why: 1. It’s the only way: 2015 is shaping up to be the hottest year in recorded history and momentum is building to address climate change. Countries accounting for 90 per cent of global CO2 emissions have submitted their climate action plans in advance of the Paris negotiations, but there is a gap between what governments have committed to do, and what needs to be done to keep temperature rise below the agreed maximum limit of 2°C. The energy sector accounts for some two-thirds of all global emissions. Renewable energy and increased energy efficiency are the only technologies that can be deployed fast enough and at sufficient scale to close this gap in time. 2. It’s the least-cost option: Renewables are the most affordable sources of power in many parts of the world, and are becoming more so all the time. Just since the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, solar PV panel costs have plummeted a staggering 75 per cent. Onshore wind is now one of the most competitive sources of electricity available with some projects now delivering electricity for as little as $5 cents per kilowatt hour. Biomass, geothermal, hydropower and onshore wind are all cost competitive with coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even in the absence of financial support and despite falling oil prices. In contrast, fossil fuels are becoming more difficult and expensive to extract, and external costs such as pollution and health costs are increasingly being taken into account. When accounting for the cost of pollution, including ill health, environmental degradation and CO2 emissions, doubling the global share of renewable energy would results in savings of up to $740 billion per year by 2030. 3. It meets other goals along the way: Renewable energy is the fastest and safest way to provide modern energy services to the more than one billion people who currently have no access to electricity. Off-grid renewable energy solutions can meet the majority, roughly 60 per cent, of energy demand needs. The Marshall Islands for example, brought clean energy to more than 95 per cent of its remote, outer island communities, thanks to the installation of stand-alone solar PV systems. Bangladesh’s solar home system programme has also deployed 3.6 million units benefiting more 20 million people. Beyond access, renewable energy also creates jobs, dramatically reduces air pollution and boosts GDP growth through lower costs, development of domestic industries and local value creation. 4. The transformation is already underway: Renewable power capacity has accounted for more than half of capacity additions in the global power sector since 2011. More than 130 countries have already committed to a long-term goal of decarbonisation. Companies such as IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, H&M, Nike and Nestlé have joined the RE 100 initiative, all of whom are making commitments to go 100% renewable. And new commitments are being announced daily. All of these actions have one thing in common: decisions were taken because renewable energy is not only good for the climate, it is good for the economy, for the job market, and for people. It helps explain why renewables are now the world’s second largest source of electricity after coal – ahead of gas, oil and nuclear power. It is now not a question of ‘IF’ the world ultimately transitions to a renewable energy future, but rather whether it will do so quickly enough. The energy choices we make in the next few years will determine whether we are able to close the emissions gap, and in so doing secure a livable climate where our children and future generations can thrive. This December, for the first time at any UN climate conference, renewable energy solutions will take centre stage. During a series of high profile events and proceedings, renewable energy will be showcased as the fastest, cleanest, most reliable and most economically beneficial way to meet our climate goals. Whatever comes out of Paris, one thing is sure: the future belongs to renewable energy. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Wind and Solar Power Are Taking the Lead

Dam builders like to claim that hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable electricity. After a century-long head start over wind and solar power, large hydropower indeed accounted for 52 percent of the world’s renewable energy capacity in 2014. But new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) show that the picture is quickly changing […]