Clean Energy Initiative

Lithium Batteries Cheaper by 2017, Public Poll Shows 48% Would Like Opportunity To Manage Home Energy

The lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles are going to be a lot cheaper by 2017, says a new report from Pike Research. Better manufacturing efficiencies and the availability of more lithium means battery prices will drop by a third – a change car manufacturers and buyers alike will certainly be glad to see.  The current costof lithium iron batteries is thought to be one of the primary obstacles to widespread adoption of Electric Vehicles.  The market for Lithium -ion batteries will be driven primarily by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles which require a  larger battery pack than a hybrid.

A new Harris poll says almost half (48%) of the 2,056 people surveyed online would likely install and manage a computerized dashboard in their homes to control energy use and cut their power bills. While the 48% number sounds surprisingly high, particularly considering that many observers and industry analysts (including SGN) have repeatedly said consumers are not likely to adopt new energy saving technologies.  This percentage shows that they will take the time to monitor and manage it. 

Energy Update: U.S. Military Stealth in It's Pursuit of Smart Grid Technology, Wind Energy PTC Fosters Growth

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  The U.S. Military has been stealth in their efforts to use renewable technologies and employ energy efficiency.   The Republican Leadership in the House does their best to denigrade  clean energy investments by DOE and the EPA but the U.S. military has taken up the slack.  The military has been involved in smart grid technology in what seems like every possible way, from its buildings to field operations:  renewable energy,  batteries and storage, microgrids and more. DoD's recently released Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan strengthens that commitment considerably with ambitious targets for increased efficiency and increased use of renewables, notably in the form of biofuels.  

The military has been using energy efficiency, microgrid, tactical solar and other smart grid technologies overseas in Afghanistan to reduce our vulnerability of fuel convoys to attacks.  A  sampling of what the DoD plans to do in the years to come are:

·         Obtain 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025

·         Use 50% biofuels for Air Force domestic aviation by 2016

·         Cut fuel use 15% in Navy ships by 2020, and reduce dependence on fossil fuel 50% in the next 10 years

Tom Gray has an excellent response to arguments in opposition to a Production Tax Credit.  He points out that the wind industry is growing rapidly and providing an increasing number of new manufacturing jobs which require  a stable, predictable tax policy to flourish. This point was made more generally in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed (see WSJ op-ed: 'Want Growth? Try Stable Tax Policy', January 5, 2012). Stability has been sorely lacking ...since this PTC has never been renewed for more than three years at a time.  U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) stated in a recent Politico op-ed, "Low, stable tax rates generate jobs and economic growth. This idea has been the bedrock of conservative economic ideology for decades. One industry that represents this essential conservative principle is U.S. wind energy. Low taxes in the form of the federal Production Tax Credit for wind have driven as much as $20 billion of private investment a year into the U.S. economy. Wind power is now one of America’s biggest sources of new electricity and fastest growing manufacturing sectors. It has accounted for more than a third of all new U.S. electric generation in recent years."    It should be noted that  current and past subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power have played a major role in helping the United States develop its enormous domestic energy resources, but they have also helped the recipient industries gain a dominant position in the marketplace. 


Dem Senators Want Obama to Check Speculation Mkts, PV Installations Up 109%, Harris Poll -Consumer Interest in SmartGridri

Democratic lawmakers are concerned that President Obama has not done enough to push back speculative trading which they say threatens to drive gas prices up and wreck  our fledgling economy.    Last week 71 Democratis signed a letter to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission last week complaining that it hasn’t done enough to check speculation in the energy markets — a responsibility that’s part of the Dodd-Frank regulations limiting how many crude oil contracts can be held by individual banks and investment funds.   Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he believes Obama could avoid the political beating he’s taking from gas prices averaging $3.80 per gallon by clamping down on the financial sector.

Photovoltaic installations totaled 1,855 megawatts last year, a 109 percent jump from the amount installed in 2010, according to a Solar Energy Industries Association report released Wednesday. Cumulative U.S. PV capacity now stands at 3,954 MW, eight states installed over 50 MW each and the average PV system price fell 20 percent, module prices fell 50 percent.

A new Harris poll says almost half (48%) of the 2,056 people surveyed online would likely install and manage a computerized dashboard in their homes to control energy use and cut their power bills. The 48% number sounds surprisingly high, particularly considering that many observers and industry analysts have repeatedly said consumers are not likely to adopt new energy saving technologies if they need to take the time to monitor and manage it. Harris says 31% of survey participants said they are neither likely or unlikely to install the device and 21% are definitely unlikely to do so.

Invite: Today, Friday, March 16 - Solar Tariffs: Smart Policy or Protectionism?

Please join NDN/NPI today for an event taking a look at “Solar Tariffs: Smart Policy or Protectionism?”  This lunchtime discussion will spotlight the issues surrounding the impending March 19th preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce on whether to issue countervailing duties on Chinese-made crystalline silicon cells and modules.

Joining us for a spirited discussion of this issue will be three leading experts in international trade and solar technologies:

William Morin –will address the disruption tariffs could have on the US solar industry and the overall manufacturing value chain.  Morin is Senior Director for Government Affairs at Applied Materials. 
Lewis Leibowitz –will address the impact of these tariff cases on American manufacturers that depend on imports to be competitive in the marketplace.   Leibowitz is an international trade attorney with Hogan Lovells, LLC.
Elizabeth Drake –will address trade remedy laws as a legitimate tool for addressing trade distortions caused to domestic manufacturers by dumping and subsidies.  Drake is an international trade attorney with Stewart & Stewart, LLC

This panel is the seventh in our "Clean Energy Solution Series" to showcase the leaders, companies, ideas and policies hastening our transition to a cleaner, safer and more distributed energy paradigm.

This event will take place today, Friday, March 16th, noon, at the NDN event space, 729 15th Street, NW in Washington, DC.  Please RSVP.

President Obama Opposed to High Gas Prices, Senior Democrats Ask CFTC Curb Speculators, EPA Releases Tier 3 Fuel Standards

In his first solo live press conference since November 2011, President Obama, made it clear that he is opposed to higher gasoline prices stating "I want gas prices lower because high gas prices hurt families".

Four Senior House Democrats Senda letter to Commodities Future Trading Commission on Gasoline Prices. Natural Resources Committee Ranking Democrat Ed Markey (D-MA), Financial Services Committee Ranking Democrat Barney Frank (D-MA), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Gary Gensler on Wednesday.  The foursome urged the CFTC to follow through on rules to establish position limits for speculators in energy markets – particularly in light of the recent increases in gasoline prices.  The legislators expressed concern that the CFTC has become timid in the face of litigation and pressure from Republican lawmakers.

EPA’s Air Chief Provides Preliminary Details of Forthcoming “Tier 3” Fuel Standards.  Responding to an inquiry by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and 67 other Members of Congress, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy provided details regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's  “Tier 3” emission standards for fuels and light-duty vehicles.  Ms. McCarthy clarified that EPA’s only planned change to gasoline standards is a potential reduction in maximum sulfur levels to 10 parts per million (ppm).  According to McCarthy, the more stringent sulfur standard would increase the cost of gasoline by approximately one penny per gallon by 2017.  She also noted that at least seventeen refineries around the country are currently capable of meeting the 10 ppm standard, and are already exporting such fuel to Europe.  The proposed Tier 3 standards are expected to be released later this month.

DOE signs Agreements on 3 Small Nuclear Reactors, Rising Trend of Super Efficient Homes, Billing Changes for Customers in 2012

The Department of Energy has signed three separate agreements with Hyperion Power Generation and NuScale Power to develop plans for deploying small modular nuclear power reactors at the DOE's Savannah River Site facilities near Aiken, S.C.    Nuclear power advocates have long wanted the government to foster use of small reactors to supply low-carbon power in areas where big ones don't make sense, and these public-private ventures will help with siting and land use issues at Savannah River that could guide such efforts elsewhere.

The  is a rising trend of super-efficient, solar-powered new homes which allow homeowners to combat rising energy costs by giving back to the power grid. These Net-zero-energy homes are at the leading edge of the U.S. green building trend and some owners are even realizing a small profit from their home's power-generating capacity. However, the price of net-zero-energy homes are still $30,000 to $40,000 higher than those that are not net-zero-energy but that margin is dropping with a decline in photovoltaic costs.  Intelligent house layout and design, and home features such as dual-pane windows, air-tight ductwork and high-caliber wall and attic insulation, are significantly curbing energy consumption. When coupled with solar energy, captured through photovoltaic panels, these homes are becoming their own mini power plants that feed electricity to the grid.

Billing systems and customer information systems (CIS) used by electricity utilities and retailers will begin to change during 2012 to enable better use to be made of data collected from the smart meters now being deployed in large numbers around the world according to a new report from Innovation Observatory.   This report, "Smart Grid Billing Outlook 2012-2016” by  Danny Dicks points out that  while smart meter deployments have been growing steadily over the last 3-4 years, utilities' IT system priorities have been focused on preparing for how to deal with large volumes of smart meter data. This year the emphasis changes towards making use of that data – to develop innovative tariffs and new services, including for charging of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. 

Invite: Fri March 16th - Solar Tariffs: Smart Policy or Protectionism?

The U.S. Department of Commerce is expected to announce a decision on March 19, 2012 on the issue of tariffs for Chinese-made silicon modules and cells in its investigation into whether to impose duties to offset the impacts of any illegal Chinese subsidies. If the agency finds in favor of the tariff, the effective date of duties under its critical circumstances finding would be in late December.

Proponents believes that this tariff would prevent the global solar manufacturing market from being dominated by China’s unfair trade practices, which they say has created a worldwide price decline of 40% in 2011 (despite rising demand) and closure or downsizing at seven US solar plants. Proponents, represented by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) include Solar World which has a major plant in Oregon, but is located in Germany. CASM points to a spike in Chinese imports at the close of 2011, asserting that this was evidence of anti-competitive dumping in advance of tariff impositions.

Opponents of this tariff contends that the U.S. is a net-exporter of solar products to China by $200 million and a tariff would put this at risk. Opponents are represented by Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE). They note that less than 20% of jobs in the American solar industry are in manufacturing, while the majority of solar jobs lie in retailers, installers, service/support and engineers, and raw materials,  CASE commissioned a study by the Brattle Group which found that an 100% tariff on Chinese modules would cost as many as a net 60,000 jobs in the United States over three years and net economic losses amounting to between $698 million and $2.6 billion

Each side has a legitimate case. No one wants to see the establishment of a Chinese monopoly on silicon manufacturing, but no one wants to dampen the rate of installations.  Will the tariff raise prices for American consumers and cause US job losses  Or, will a failure to impose a tariff allow Chinese manufacturers to continue to dominate, and eventually monopolize, the PV market through unfair trade and subsidy practices?

Our Clean Energy Initiative will host a lunchtime panel discussion on this subject on Friday, March 16 at 12Noon.  Featured panelists will be: William Morin of Applied Materials, who will discuss the disruptions tariffs can have on the US solar industry and the overall value chain.  Lewis Leibowitz of Hogan Lovells LLC, who will talk about the impact of these cases on American manufacturers that depend on imports to be competitive in the marketplace and Elizabeth Drake of Stewart and Stewart LLC who will review why the trade remedy laws are an important tool for addressing trade distortions and remedying harm caused to domestic manufacturers by dumping and subsidies.  The panel discussion will be held at our event space located at 729 15th Street, Washington, DC.  PLEASE RSVP TODAY!

One Year Later - Effects of Fukishima Meltdown Mixed, Administration takes issue with Politico Story US Dependence on Oil

Matthew Wald has in interesting blog in the New York Times today about the health impacts from the radioactive materials released in theFukushima Daiichi meltdowns.  In a panel discussion hosted by the Health Physics Society it was determined that the health impacts  will probably be too small to be easily measured but that the area cordoned off by the Japanese government as uninhabitable is probably far too large, the experts said. The overall theme of the discussion was that radiation is widely feared but poorly understood, and is a smaller problem than the vast destruction and loss of life caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

The Energy Department is taking issue with a Tuesday POLITICO story  describing Secretary Steven Chu as saying DOE is working to promote alternatives to oil rather than directly lowering gasoline prices. "This report is false," a DOE spokeswoman said. "In the hearing Tuesday, the secretary repeatedly reiterated his concern about the impact that increased prices at the pump are having on families and that we continue to do all we can to provide relief. That said there are no quick fixes, which is why this administration has taken steps to continue to expand production, dramatically increase the efficiency of the vehicles we drive, and invest in alternate fuels - all with an ultimate goal of reducing our reliance on foreign oil and protecting American families from the ups and downs of the international oil market."  Chu's testimony

Bingaman Unveils Clean Energy Standards, Justice Releases Environmental Justice Study, Pres Clinton Embraces Keystone

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) unveiled  the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 this morning at an event with Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). The legislation will mandate that power companies provide a major portion of the country’s electricity from low- or no-carbon sources like wind, solar and natural gas.  “The 24-page bill employs a straightforward, market-based approach that encourages a wide variety of clean electricity-generating technologies,” according to Bingaman’s office.  The bill is expected to echo a proposal first outlined by President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union address. The plan calls on utilities to generate 80 percent of the country’s power from “clean” energy by 2035.  However, it is unlikely that this bill will pass Congress this year.  

The Justice Department this week issued its first annual report on environmental justice activity, and it's worth paging through to see how DOJ has been coordinating with other federal offices to beef up enforcement of environmental laws. If you already thought the administration was pursuing prosecutions and settlements related to alleged violation of climate regs, for instance, this document will give some examples. It also describes extensive interagency outreach and discussion efforts to tie Justice lawyers into health and safety issues that other agencies regulate. Part of the focus is on poor or other disadvantaged areas, Justice said, because "low-income, minority, and Native American communities are often disproportionately burdened with pollution, resulting in health problems, greater obstacles to economic growth and a lower quality of life."

Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday the United States should "embrace" the Keystone XL pipeline.  According to Clinton, "One of the most amazing things to me about this Keystone pipeline deal is that they ever filed that route in the first place since they could've gone around the Nebraska Sandhills and avoided most of the dangers, no matter how imagined, to the Ogallala [aquifer] with a different route, which I presume we'll get now, because the extra cost of running is infinitesimal compared to the revenue that will be generated over a long period of time, "So, I think we should embrace it and develop a stakeholder-driven system of high standards for doing the work."  Clinton spoke at an energy conference on innovations Tuesday at the National Harbor.

Renewable Tax Extenders for Duck Session, Commerce to Issue Preliminary Tariff Decision Mar 2, Reps say No to SPR

Many of the expired or expiring tax breaks, especially those for renewable energy, may have to wait until a lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections.  To the lament of many in the clean energy business, the extenders missed a chance to ride on the payroll tax cut extension, and now industries such as the wind industry hope lawmakers will make the credits retroactive if and when they act. 

This Friday, March 2, the Department of Commerce is expected to issue a preliminary determination in its countervailing duties investigation- or a tariff - on solar cells from China.The preliminary anti-dumping duty ruling is not scheduled until March 27. 

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming distributed an eight-page memo of arguments against using the Stategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) against the latest rise in gasoline prices, arguing that doing so is a politically motivated stunt that threatens U.S. preparedness against a real oil emergency. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee a possible SPR release remains “on the table.” Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski conceded there is probably little that Congress can do in response. “The way the SPR is set up, it allows for that discretion," she said. But she added that parameters for using it "need to be more clearly defined.”

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