The Energy Scout newsletter informs professionals and laymen on the near-future of energy, particularly (but not only) the rise of clean and smart energy worldwide.
Aside: 2013 is bringing lots of interesting energy news, but this newsletter has been delayed by your host's other work; future issues will ratchet down to a monthly release cycle. Now without further ado:
- Uh-oh news: Lord Nicholas Stern, world-renowned climate and energy scholar, now believes he was too optimistic about climate change. Related note: sea level rises are happening 60% faster than projected by the IPCC; also, a major re-examination of temperature data from a former global warming skeptic confirms both temperature rise and anthropogenic causes. As this summary of the recent World Future Energy Summit put it, we're on track for catastrophe, but/and clean energy is growing fast, but it's still not yet enough to avert catastrophe.
- The Jevons Paradox is an important concept in energy economics: observing that relative efficiency improvements (with energy technologies) may still result in higher absolute energy consumption afterward, aka the "rebound effect." A recent article/survey argues the said effect is not as bad as commonly thought, and should not serve as an excuse for inaction: see laymen's summary and scholarly version (paywalled).
- REN21 has issued a new global report, Renewables Global Futures Report, interviewing 170 experts worldwide to provide a sweeping overview of current thinking. Even reading just the first dozen pages will give a good overview. (Who's REN21? The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century - known for the major/flagship annual status publication, Renewables Global Status Report - next one due in June).
- CleanTechnica discusses 7 big-picture charts from BNEF that highlight major trends worldwide.
- Late last year was a survey of solar industry executives as to the biggest challenges facing solar power; I should've found it sooner but it's still timely information. To summarize, the solar industry is experiencing the pains of early adolescence. On related notes, CleanTechnica summarizes the solar-lessons from Germany very well, and the EPIA announced that solar capacity worldwide exceeded 100 GW in 2012.
- The global bank UBS forecasts a boom in unsubsidized solar PV power (increasingly battery-backed) through 2020 - particularly in Germany, Italy, and Spain - based entirely on saving money and hedging against rising costs for households and businesses (and not due to subsidies nor eco-correctness). See an explanation of UBS' research, parts one and two.
- Despite the proven results of renewable energy sources, many traditional sources of capital - i.e. banks - get skittish about investing at the slightest hints of uncertainty, prompting a global search for new RE financing approaches. REITs are one means, and being adapted now to solar.
- The annual mega-energy-gathering, Abu Dhabi International Renewable Energy Conference (ADIREC), concluded in January, with most countries/ministers attending calling for a doubling of renewable energy usage by 2030.
- Readers should know that in recent years, the learning rate of solar PV power systems is about 20% - meaning every doubling of solar capacity worldwide brings 20% lower prices, on average, or halving of prices every 3-4 years. There's plenty of new technologies to keep up that pace of innovation, including a gas-to-crystal process for solar's silicon wafers.
- A transactive energy system is one compelling possibility for the future of the grid: like how computing moved from a centralized and expensive system of big standalone mainframes, to a massively decentralized and interconnected world, the ongoing merger of Internet and distributed energy technologies could lead to a highly decentralized, peer-to-peer energy infrastructure. Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, has dubbed this the Enernet - watch his talk for a longer exposition.
- As noted before, over half the costs of solar power are for the non-module costs, esp. so-called "soft costs" like permitting; needless complexity there is a major reason US solar is >50% higher than (not-so-sunny) German solar costs. FERC's new proposal and new town-level solar guidelines could help.
- Over 13 GW of wind power was installed in 2012 in the US; highest annual amount for wind ever, and bringing total wind capacity to 60 GW (for comparison, global wind capacity is about 280 GW; the total US electric capacity is about 1000 GW; and total global capacity about 5000 GW) - that beat natural gas generators.
- The US GAO warned Congress that climate change is a major threat.
- Per above, the solar industry is going through a painful consolidation period, including China's solar companies are not spared from it.
- Germany's 2012 solar PV installation numbers easily beat prior years, continuing the country's global leadership. Also recently announced was a new incentive program for solar PV storage systems.
- A German study finds that cars impose almost half a trillion USD in societal costs; certainly far exceeding any subsidies ever given to renewable energy.
- Qatar announced its intention to supply 16% of its electricity from solar power by 2018.
- Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that Australian wind power is now cheaper than coal or gas power; much howling from dirty power ensued.
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