Commodity Corner

Views on commodities and energy

Now in the movies: The gentle giant


Gentle giant

German utility RWE – Europe’s fifth-largest power company and the continent’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxcide – has resorted to a new way to counter what it sees as a fundamental misunderstanding about power companies.


Its animated movie – to be shown on TV and in cinemas – is meant to show what the company is really about – and overcome the public’s distaste for an industry whose dominance has allowed it to mete out ever higher power prices.


RWE portrays itself as a colossus with trees growing on his shoulders. He dives into the sea to install tidal-power plants and repairs power lines with gentle force.


Interestingly, this leviathan has characteristics that run contrary to what RWE might want to say. It supports some of the charges consumers level against utilities and has traits utilities always deny.

Hey America, don’t forget about your renewable energy neighbor to the north. Not Canada. It’s Alaska!


Alaska is known as a big oil producing state, but don’t forget about it when it comes to renewable energy. That was the message of the state’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. 
salazarAt a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing this week, Salazar showed several large U.S. maps of potential wind, solar and geothermal energy resources. One problem, the country’s biggest state, Alaska, was nowhere to be found.
“There are few things that irritate me more than maps of the United States of America that do not include that great northern state,” Murkowski told Salazar, as the standing-room-only hearing room burst into laughter.
“Our renewable energy resources are wonderful and vast and we look forward to the time that you will come up to visit them,” she said. 
Murkowski even defended Hawaii, which was also left off Salazar’s maps.
“We do encourage the Department of the Interior to make sure that all 50 states are represented on your maps,” she said, raising more giggles from committee members and those sitting in audience, including the press table.
Salazar was just as amused.
“That’s a point well taken,” he said. “Alaska is so important that it merits a map all to itself.”
“You’re right,” Murkowski responded.
If Salazar follows through on his promise, the solar energy map for Alaska would be rather dark — at least during the winter, when the sun doesn’t shine in some parts of the state for several months and is out for only a few hours a day elsewhere.

–Tom Doggett

For more news on renewable energy, click here.

Photo credit: DOI (Interior Secretary Salazar testifies before Senate committee)

from Jasmin Melvin:

Who needs stocks when you’ve got solar panels

While everyone's talking about recession and job cutbacks, the solar industry is growing and finding new customers, the head of a solar installation company told Reuters.
Jeffery Wolfe, founder and CEO of groSolar, said, "There's still a huge amount of people out there that can well afford solar and haven't done it yet."
GroSolar, the fourth largest residential solar panel installer in the United States, saw $60 million in sales last year and exceeded its sales targets for January.
Consumers can lease solar panels for their home or purchase a system upfront for around $20,000-$25,000 after figuring in tax incentives.
"While the economy is what it is, there are an awful lot of people out there who still have equity, have good jobs, have savings, have investments that are working," Wolfe said.
He maintained that people who are losing money in the stock market are beginning to look at solar as returns on solar panels on a home are guaranteed. 
"We are 0.1 percent of the marketplace today so our marketplace is growing rapidly, and we've got a lot of room to grow still --  even in this current economy," Wolfe said.
Wolfe noted that almost every state in the country has at least 30 percent more sun than Germany, the world's leader in solar energy.
Some homebuilders are even looking to solar to differentiate their developments from others while the housing market remains in disarray. Wolfe said he's seen developers market new solarized projects in hopes of attracting more interest and buyers.
Third party financing is just beginning to reach the solar market and will only add to the industry's growth potential, according to Wolfe.
He said after taking into account redbates and tax credits, and amortizing the rest over 18 years, the cost is about what a consumer would normally pay for power from the grid.

GroSolar isn't alone in its sector. Other solar companies are also seeing profits despite the economic slump.
Solar module maker First Solar saw its fourth quarter earnings and revenue more than double from a year ago to $132.8 million and $433.7 million, respectively, thanks to growing demand for its solar panels.

Pickens misses the turn

T. Boone Pickens is pretty calm for a guy who lost more than a billion dollars.

The Texas energy tycoon has put his considerable wealth behind a renewable energy effort, saying he’s sick and tired of seeing America send all of its money overseas to pay for imported oil. But he’s also suffered a considerable loss on his energy investments: He “missed the turn.”

Read about it here and watch edited video below.