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Clean Economy Wire

July 25, 2014

(Think Progress)
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback expressed support for gradually phasing out the state's Renewable Energy Standard (RPS) during an impromptu meeting with reporters on Wednesday morning. Later that afternoon the Republican governor's office said he wasn't actually proposing to phase out the clean energy policy, but meant to refer to the federal energy production tax credit (PTC), which expired last year.
An overwhelming majority of California residents support the state's mandate for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, so long as they do not bear the higher costs of cleaner energy themselves, a new public opinion poll shows.
(New York Times)
The wind is so relentless that a week can go by before it is calm enough for a crane operator to install the 30-ton blades atop the 260-foot towers at the Panhandle 2 wind farm here. It's worth the wait; a single turbine at the farm can produce 40 percent more energy than an average one.
(The Hill)
White House adviser John Podesta has indicated the administration plans to raise the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation's fuel supply, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said Thursday.The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed draft on blending volumes, which was released late last year, cut the amount of biofuels that refiners would need to mix into their fuels. The plan represented the first time the agency had lowered the target from the previous year.
Germany's push toward renewable energy is causing so many drops and surges from wind and solar power that the government is paying more utilities than ever to help stabilize the country's electricity grid.
(Sustainable Business)
Last year was a tough one for the wind industry because of  headwinds in the U.S. and other key markets, but now it's growing rapidly again. Wind capacity is expected to grow from providing 3% of the world's electricity today to 7.3% by 2018, estimates Navigant Research.
A government cashback scheme offering £7,600 to people improving the energy efficiency of their homes has been slammed shut overnight after a last-minute surge of applications threatened to blow the budget. The green deal home improvement fund (GDHIF) was intended to give a boost the government's flagship energy efficiency programme, which is widely seen as a failure, having attracted few takers and caused loft and cavity wall insulations to crash.
(Midwest Energy News)
As utilities seek to cut energy use, one of the tactics they're employing is encouraging customers to modify their habits. And while data is limited on how effective these so-called "behavior" programs are, some recent reports show promising results.
Another one for the record books! The Sunswift eVe solar car, put together and maintained by the University of New South Wales' dedicated engineering team, has just smashed a 26-year-old electric land speed record at a track in Victoria.

July 24, 2014

(Denver Post)
The opening salvo in the battle over the future of rooftop solar in Colorado is slated to take place Thursday at a Colorado Public Utilities Commission workshop. Xcel Energy, the state's largest electricity utility, with 1.2 million customers, has challenged a key financial incentive—net metering—for installing a residential rooftop solar array.
(Pine Tree Watchdog)
Maine utility regulators gave approval for the second time to a multimillion-dollar project to construct wind turbines across the region Tuesday's vote by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was the second time the agency approved the deal to create a joint venture owned by First Wind and Nova Scotia energy giant Emera, and also involves Emera-owned utilities Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service.
The European Commission agreed on Wednesday to put forward a target to improve energy efficiency by 30 percent as part of a package of climate and energy policy for 2030, E.U. sources said. Member states will decide whether the target should be binding on individual nations or at an E.U.-wide level, said two sources, requesting anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the media.
A ceiling of £200 million (approximately U.S. $340 million) a year will be placed on subsidies to some of the major forms of renewable energy from this autumn, affecting the funding of large-scale low-carbon installations from wind and solar farms to biomass-burning power plants. The money will be available under the coalition's new "contracts for difference," which subsidize renewable energy companies who offer electricity at a lower rate of carbon emissions than fossil fuel generators, and are paid for by levies on household energy bills.
(Business Green)
The publication today of Mars Inc's annual sustainability report could have been more than a little embarrassing for the global food and drinks giant. The high profile company has long had some of the most ambitious environmental targets in the world, having pledged to drive sustainability standards throughout its supply chain and eliminate all fossil fuel energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations by 2040.
(New York Times)
Geothermal energy—tapping into heat deep underground and using it to produce power—is sometimes described as a forgotten renewable. It languishes in the shadows of better-known sources like wind and the sun, and in 2011 it accounted for less than 1 percent of electric power worldwide, according to last year's World Energy Outlook.
(The Hill)
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) launched a campaign Wednesday to encourage Latinos in the Southwest to push for renewable energy and other electricity fuels with low emissions. LCV said its polling has already shown strong Latino support for renewables. About 70 percent of Latinos live in high-pollution areas, the group said.
(Sustainable Business)
Scotland is home to the world's first community-owned tidal power plant, now powering about 30 homes, a locally-owned ice plant and industrial area. Installed early this year, the tide flows past a rotating turbine propeller that sits 100-feet deep on the sea floor.
(Oil Price)
The beauty of biofuels is that they don't pollute. After that things can get ugly. First, biofuel, an oil made from plant tissues, doesn't generate as much energy as an equal amount of crude oil. And the oil is difficult to refine because it contains too much water and is acidic.
Japan is about to raise the bar for governments subsidizing zero-emission cars, as it pledges incentives that may exceed $30,000 a vehicle for Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)'s first hydrogen-powered sedan. Rebates from Japan's national and local governments may top a combined 3 million yen ($29,500) per car.

July 23, 2014

(Climate Central)
Cutting-edge renewable energy technology as a way to tackle climate change may be a sexy topic, but the next 15 years are likely to bring few revolutionary changes in how we generate our electricity. Instead, any revolution is more likely to be in how U.S. power grids are managed and how utilities do business, scientists say.
France's energy minister threw her weight behind an energy savings goal of at least 30 percent for 2030 ahead of talks in Brussels on Wednesday to thrash out a target. Energy efficiency has gained popularity in the context of the Ukraine crisis as E.U. member states seek to do all they can to reduce the need for imported Russian energy.
(The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey's largest electricity provider is now one of its biggest electric vehicle cheerleaders. Public Service Electric & Gas today will announce a program to provide up to 150 free electric car charging stations to businesses in New Jersey, hoping to accelerate the plug-in car market that has been slowed by high prices and range issues.
(PV Tech)
Rises in consumer electricity prices, caused in part by a backlog of unbuilt PV projects, could put Japan's solar industry in serious danger of losing support, a Tokyo-based analyst has warned. Hiroshi Matuskawa of RTS PV told PV Tech in a phone call yesterday that consumer electricity prices have risen by between 10 percent and 20 percent across Japan since the establishment of the feed-in tariff (FiT) in mid-2012.
(Think Progress)
A new analysis from the government of Denmark found that wind power is by far the cheapest new form of electricity in the country. New onshore wind plants coming online in 2016 will provide energy for about half the price of coal and natural gas plants, according to the Danish Energy Agency (DEA), and will cost around five cents per kilowatt hour.
(Business Green)
Imagine a storm crashing through Britain, tearing down bridges and power lines across the country, cutting off communications, and leaving the government a bill worth one per cent of its entire GDP. Now what if there is a one in five chance this $24 billion of storm damage could occur every year.
SunEdison Inc. (SUNE), the best-performing solar company this year, agreed to provide electricity to Southern Nevada Water Authority under a 20-year power-purchase contract.
(Greentech Media)
It appears that work has already begun on the site of the new $5 billion Tesla Giga factory near Reno, Nevada. It's the planned location of the world's largest lithium-ion battery factory and the potential enabler of lower-cost Tesla electric vehicles.

July 22, 2014

(PV Tech)
In the first six months of 2014, solar has represented almost a third of new electricity generation capacity additions in the U.S., more than doubling its performance in the same period of 2013, according to U.S. government statistics.
A small Indian village in the northeast of the country, with the help of Greenpeace, is now meeting all of its own energy requirements with solar, after 30 years of apparent neglect from the government.
(Think Progress)
While the politics of fracking has taken hold of election-year energy discussions in Colorado, the wind power industry is quietly surging. On Friday Vesta Wind Systems announced it was hiring 800 new workers, part of plans to fill 1,500 jobs this year in Colorado, after receiving orders for 370 turbines over the last few weeks. The jobs will be full-time, high-skilled jobs primarily in the manufacturing of blades and towers.