The Energy Scout is a monthly curated list of significant news in sustainable energy, particularly the near-future of clean+smart energy systems; it's intended for both professionals and laymen.
- There is a very direct relationship between energy and food production + distribution + consumption. Like the UN FAO report of 2006, the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers' recent report on global food argues for much more efficiency with food and all its required resources, especially reducing wasteful animal agriculture.
- As most energy industry observers know, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has enabled a torrent of natural gas production in North America; but is it sustainable in a purely technical/economic sense? Possibly not: depletion in fracking wells is very high.
- Ernst & Young released their quarterly report on countries' renewable energy competitiveness; the USA and China vie for 1st place.
- Deutsche Bank joins a handful of other global banks and consultancies (McKinsey, Macquarie) coming to the same conclusion: unsubsidized solar power will be cost competitive w/ conventional grid power in increasingly numerous markets worldwide in just the next few years. 2012 saw a milestone with over 100GW of cumulative installed capacity worldwide (over 10GW in the US), and the next doubling should be by 2015. Citigroup also projects that shale gas will end up being a complement to renewable energy.
- Fighting solar power FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt): like the hapless hunter always one step behind Bugs Bunny, some energy commentators keep rationalizing the status-quo. This op-ed on Germany's solar policy has at least two lessons: 1) It's easy to give the wrong impression with slanted information from one source; 2) But do that loudly enough, and better-informed people will come to bite you - here, the comments easily surpass the article (esp. from Kent Otho Doering, Thomas G, Davis Carson).
- Solar, wind, and other "free fuel" power systems generally cost more up-front, so developing ways to channel more capital more conveniently into such projects is a priority, along with cutting non-hardware "soft costs." One example effort underway is the US National Renewable Energy Lab's standardization effort and its Solar Securitization and Public Capital Finance program. Another article surveyed third-party ownership (TPO) solar in the US residential market. Last but not least, this RenewableEnergyWorld article nicely summarizes three different finance models for clean energy, underway in the USA: MLPs, TPF, and REITs.
- Worldwide, Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) policies for renewable energy have been the most popular policy mechanism to promote clean energy development, by directly reimbursing system owners for every kWh produced. FiTs have helped dramatic growth in solar power in the EU, but very high growth and rapid reductions in cost have prompted hasty revising of FiTs programs, eroding investor/buyer confidence in such markets as Spain, Italy, and Germany. Furthermore, FiTs should reflect local contexts better, e.g. crediting solar power more if it supports weak grids, or reducing its value when solar is already heavily deployed. One possible improvement is a contextually adjusted "Smart FiT".
- What is a self-healing grid? Let Dr. Amin (possible originator of the term "smart grid") explain this vision.
- Ernest Moniz was nominated (subsequently confirmed) as the new US Secretary of Energy; he's expected to back Obama's all-of-the-above policy for developing US energy security.
- Congress extends the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit - major news to the US industry, of course, and furthermore, energy projects that "begin" before January 1 2014 are eligible (previously, they needed to be finished by the credit expiration year/date); the IRS will define what "begin" means.
- A new US-wide, DOE supported solar permitting database was started. On the same topic, the new solar industry group Solar Freedom Now released a whitepaper on cutting costs in the US.
- Here's a roundup of recent clean energy news from Latin America; Uruguay will aim for large solar farms to offer electricity at 9 cents per kWh.
- In China, new president Xi Jinping and new premier Li Keqiang entered power; Li has promised to fight pollution. Key policies affecting solar and wind power are under review, as the markets continue to consolidate (the Chinese solar manufacturer SunTech declared bankruptcy). Here's a good summary of trends in Asia.
- The EU's European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI) has published its 10-year research and innovation roadmap, covering the electrical transmission and distribution changes needed: see a summary, or the full report.
- Generally, subsidies for solar and wind power are being scaled back in EU countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, etc. but per the news above, compelling financial performance means many projects still continue.
- This is a good summary article on current developments in Germany's Energiewende; also, a recent update by the Fraunhofer Institute shows solar and wind's growing contribution to the power supply, while renewables continue to undercut old, dirty centralized power in Europe. Also, Germany is encouraging further decentralization with a new subsidy for small-scale battery-backed solar.
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