Environment Forum

North American photovoltaic market predicted to double in 2011

IMG_1348.JPGRenewable energy lobbyists on Wednesday held a press conference to warn that the failure of Congress to extend a key financial incentive would be disastrous for the solar and wind industries. At the same time, IDC, a research firm, released a report predicting that the North American photovoltaic market will double in 2011.

So what gives?

What has the renewable energy industry worried is the expiration at year’s end of a Treasury program that lets developers take a cash grant to cover 30 percent of the cost of big solar, wind and geothermal projects in lieu of taking an existing investment tax credit.

Since most green energy companies have no profits to offset with the tax credit, the cash grant has become crucial to obtain financing to build multibillion-dollar solar power plants and wind farms.

“It’s simply the most important policy for continuing growth of renewable energy in the United States,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said Wednesday during a press conference.

While some of those projects are photovoltaic farms that install tens of thousands of solar panels like those found on residential roofs or on the ground in huge arrays, many are solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to heat liquids to create steam to drive an electricity-generating turbine.

Greens party soars to new heights in Germany

Germany’s Greens party are already the world’s most successful environmental party – having spent seven GERMANY GREENS/years in government of one of the world’s largest economies as junior coalition partners to the centre-left Social Democrats. The Greens wrote Germany’s renewable energy law that helped the country become a major player in wind and solar energy technology between 1998 and 2005 — and the party is chiefly responsible for raising the share of renewable energy to 16 percent of the country’s total electricity consumption.

Although in opposition since 2005, the Greens’ popularity has nevertheless soared to record levels over 20 percent in recent months and the party – which only recently celebrated its 30th anniversary – is doing so well in opinion polls that they could possibly end up heading coalitions in two state elections next year ahead of the SPD in Baden-Wuerttemberg and the city-state of Berlin. 

Pollsters say the Greens are benefitting from an increasing awareness in environmental issues, such as climate change and the public’s opposition to government plans to extend nuclear power in Germany beyond 2021. The Greens are also profiting from voter frustration over broken promises by the ruling parties.

This Earth Day, call for clean energy

TAIWAN/

– Michael Brune is Executive Director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States and author of Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal. –

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and people are looking back at an amazing 40 years of environmental successes. Americans have come together in their neighborhoods, cities, states and nationally to demand cleaner air and water – and they have been successful.

This should serve as an inspiration for the current and future work to help our planet and the challenges we face along the way. While our rivers were at one time catching fire, it is now our rapidly warming planet we turn the focus to.

Chinese solar player Yingli looks to score at World Cup

worldcupChinese solar power companies have shone amid the downturn in the solar industry,  converting their low cost advantage into bigger market share and profits.

Now, China’s Yingli Green Energy Holding Co Ltd is making a play to raise its global profile.  It’s taking its solar panels to the world’s biggest sporting event, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and has signed up to help sponsor the event.

The news makes Yingli the first renewable energy company to sponsor the World Cup — where the world’s best football (or soccer for U.S. fans) teams compete —  as well as the first Chinese company to seal a global sponsorship deal with FIFA, the world’s governing body for football.

from The Great Debate UK:

Good eco-sense is good business sense too

JulietDavenport- Juliet Davenport is founder and CEO of Good Energy, a renewable electricity supplier. She is unique in being the only female founder in the UK of an energy supply business, traditionally a male-dominated sector. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a "follow-the-sun" live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women's Day. Please tune in. -

Regardless of their views on climate change and man’s contribution to it, most business leaders agree on one point – as fossil fuels get scarcer and the UK decarbonises our economy, our energy prices will continue to rise.

The UK’s recent cold snap gave us a foretaste of what we could be in for – with some businesses having their gas supplies cut to relieve pressure on pipelines - although it appears that the widely reported claim that the UK had just eight days’ gas supply left was political bluster and scaremongering.

Will Germany kill its energy golden goose?

Will Germany kill the goose laying the golden eggs?
  
GERMANY/Germany is understandably proud of its renewable energy sector — wind and solar power supply more than 15 percent of the country’s electricity. Its Renewable Energy Act (EEG) has fuelled its rapid growth over the past decade and been copied by more than 40 countries around the world.
  
But is the party over?
  
A new centre-right government announced plans to slash the EEG’s guaranteed feed-in tariffs (FIT) that utilities are required to pay the myriad of producers of solar energy, many of whom feed the modest amounts of solar power from their roofs into the local grid. The EEG already foresees a FIT decline of about 10 percent per year — a built-in incentive to keep overall costs falling.
  
Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen wants an additional 15 percent cut in April on top of the 10 percent from Jan. GERMANY/1, 2010 and ahead of the next 10-percent cut on Jan. 1, 2011. In the past decade, the previous two environment ministers from the Greens party and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) worked closely with the solar industry before making changes.
  
Roettgen made it clear those days of compromise were over. He said he spoke to solar firms last week before proposing the cuts, but rejected their offer to a one-off mid-2010 cut of 5 percent. “This is not a compromise,” he told journalists in Berlin on Wednesday. “It’s a bullseye.”  He said the cuts would save consumers about 1 billion euros a year over the next decade. Consumer groups and some industry groups had wanted deeper cuts, Roettgen noted.
  
Solar companies in Germany, which have until now worked closely with the government on reducing the tariffs the utilities pay to producers of green electricity, criticised the cuts which amount to about 35 percent within 13 months. They fear they will cripple the sector and kill jobs. Roettgen said he wants solar power, which now generates about 1 percent of Germany’s electricity, to be providing 4 to 5 percent by 2020 even though the support is being slashed by one-third in the course of 13 months. He portrayed the cuts as if he were doing the industry a favour.
   
Several leading German companies — such as SolarWorld, Q-Cells and Solon — said there were dark days ahead for the solar industry. They pointed out that prices, and support, were already falling steadily and would reach grid parity by the middle of the decade. Why, they asked, ruin a good thing? Frank Asbeck, CEO of Germany’s biggest solar company by revenue SolarWorld, called the plans unacceptable. As my colleague Christoph Steitz reported here, the cuts would cause problems for solar companies around the world.
  
Carsten Koernig, managing director of the BSW solar industry lobby, said “a radical cut like that will rob German companies of the foundation for business”.
  
Claudia Kemfert, an energy policy expert at the independent DIW economic research institute, said: “This level of 15 percent is quite problematic. It means a 25 percent cut within a few months and I consider that to be too much. It’s going to hit the small and medium sized companies very hard. It’s going to bring a lot of uncertainty into the market.”
  
The German Renewable Energy Association also used strong language, saying: “The radical cuts endanger the expansion of renewable energy.”

Is it a done deal? It’s hard to say at this point. There could be a lot of resistance from key conservative-ruled states such as Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg. They have important solar power industries and in the past succeeded in watering down attempts to cut the FIT.

Major California port sees greener trucks

cleantruckOne of California’s biggest ports has cleaned up its fleet of 8,000 trucks.

The Port of Long Beach has cut nearly 80 percent of emissions from truck engines at the port since it started its ban of old diesel-fueled trucks. That’s roughly 200 tons less of soot — known as particulate matter — in the air at the port annually.

In 2008, the port of Long Beach, together with its sister port in Los Angeles started to green their truck fleets, targeting trucks built before 1989. Together the ports make up the busiest cargo hub in the United States.

Obama gets high marks for green record: environmental group

obama_solarPresident Barack Obama came into office with climate change and the environment on his list of top priorities.

Nearly a year later, one of the top environmental groups in the United States says that Obama has made the grade so far.

In a review of his green record, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted dozens of moves by Obama at home and abroad. They cited the $50 billion the president put in the stimulus package for cleaner energy and energy efficiency; an executive order for federal agencies to set targets to cut emissions by 2020; and the adoption of strict auto emissions standards, modeled after environmental trendsetter California.

Which way will the wind (power) blow in 2010?

windturbinesThe United States became the No. 1 wind power market in the world in 2008. But under the credit crisis in 2009, the building of new wind farms slackened and the United States ceded its top global spot to China.

With the demand for renewable energy still growing, the American Wind Energy Association is eyeing 2010 as a critical year. Here are some of their top trends to watch for:

Second to natural gas: Wind power generates only 2 percent of the U.S. electrical supply. But new wind power generation in the United States has been second only to natural gas generation in terms of new capacity built each year since 2005. Watch for the industry to work to keep that spot.

California looks to catch a wave, of energy

surferBesides surfing, tourism and the ocean views, California may get another benefit from its famed coast: energy.

With shores that stretch for 745 miles along the Pacific Ocean, California could harness more than 37,000 megawatts of ocean power, or enough to supply a fifth of the state’s energy needs, according to the California Energy Commission.

On Friday, California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co, or PG&E, took a dive in that direction. The company said it signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to study a wave energy project near a base and off the coast of northern Santa Barbara County. The utility is also seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

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