Energy Efficiency


After a state senate bill increasing California’s renewable energy standard failed to pass, the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has gone ahead and increased the goal on their own.

The state now has a renewable energy standard requiring 33 percent of its energy come from renewables by 2020 and 20 percent by 2012, which puts more weight behind an executive order signed by the governor outlining the same requirement last year.

The state already gets about 14 percent of their electricity through renewable sources, but a six percent gain in less than two years is still quite a feat.

California has the highest renewable energy standard in the country, with Colorado just behind them requiring 30 percent by 2020.

Source: Eco Geek.

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Just before lawmakers left Washington on Friday to focus full time on the November elections, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced a package of tax incentives intended to support domestic clean energy manufacturing as investment from temporary stimulus measures expire. (E&E News Subs. Req.)

The bipartisan bill includes $2.5 billion to extend the section 48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, which would help domestic manufacturers retool or expand their operations to produce clean energy technologies. That tax credit is due to expire with the stimulus. As the Breakthrough Institute has long argued, incentives like these are critical to help U.S. companies compete in global clean energy markets and create jobs at home.

Last May, Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and a co-author of our joint report, “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” testified before Senator Bingaman’s Energy Committee on the importance of supporting domestic clean energy manufacturing:

“Without a policy focused on the supply side (e.g., developing a robust clean tech industry in the United States), there is a very real chance that any policies to spur demand for clean energy will simply result in that demand being filled by foreign supply. If that is the case and the United States continues to run trade deficits in clean energy, the United States will be a net loser of jobs in this growth industry.”

A short lame-duck session planned for after the November elections is now all that remains between the expiration of critical clean energy manufacturing tax credits and the continuation of America’s clean tech momentum.

Source: The Breakthrough Institute.

Over in the UK we like to do things … well, a little differently. That stiff upper lip nonsense was always a bit of a ruse, hiding a reckless ability to do those things sane human beings would never think of doing.

Like slinging a live four way power socket into a bath tub. Zap, you’re dead .. as the saying goes.

Yet this is precisely what’s been going on off the south west coast of Britain but with two crucial differences: the four huge plugs (like the one pictured) are designed as energy receivers, not emitters; and the Atlantic Ocean is a wee bit bigger than your average bathtub.

Ten miles off the Cornish town of Hayle, 180 feet below the sea, lies a 12 tonne four way plug which cost $64 million to build and install. Called the Wave Hub, it can have four 5MW marine power devices connected to it at any one time and is connected to the main national grid by a 15 mile length of cable.

Now, 5MW is peanuts compared to some of the projections for marine power installations; for example just up the coast it’s been estimated that the world’s largest tidal power generator could generate 187,000 MWh/year.

However permanent installation is not the aim of the Wave Hub. Rather, it’s all about providing a live scenario test bed for marine energy developers to come and test and tweak their inventions. If it just so happens it provides energy for 20,000 homes, then so much the better!

The first testers scheduled at the Wave Hub are New Jersey based Ocean Power Technologies, whose buoy based design is already live off the north coast of Spain. Their stint at the Wave Hub is to test out a new design which would see the buoys’ output increase by over three times.

Source: Clean Technica.

One of the most curious facts about energy is that economies use more of it even as they use it more efficiently. This strikes us as strange because many of us have heard that making cars, buildings, and factories more energy efficient is the key to cheaply and quickly reducing energy consumption, and thus pollution.

But energy experts have never seen this as particularly mysterious. As energy historian Vaclav Smil writes, “Historical evidence shows unequivocally that secular advances in energy efficiency have not led to any declines of aggregate energy consumption.” A group of economists beginning in the 1980s went further, suggesting that increasing the productivity of energy would have the same effect on the economy as making labor more productive, and that making labor more productive meant using more energy – that is, supplementing and then altogether replacing human labor with energy.

Efficiency advocates have long dismissed the evidence that there is significant “rebound” of energy use, suggesting it is only roughly 5 percent and thus fairly inconsequential. But these advocates typically focus on the relatively direct behavioral changes at the household or business level that are easiest to measure, while others note that the most significant rebounds are indirect and occur in places we consumers never see – in the production of energy, of raw materials, and consumer goods — not in “end use” consumer products.

Below, one of the leading energy efficiency economists, Harry Saunders, explains why energy efficiency does not decrease energy consumption in the way we are conventionally under stand it. In the process, Harry clarifies the controversy over his recent co-authored study for the Journal of Physics reviewing 300 years of lighting history and the likely impacts of new solid-state lighting technologies (e.g. LEDs). Against the claims that new lighting technology will reduce energy consumption, Saunders and his colleagues found that they will likely increase it – greatly expanding the global use of lighting in the process, especially in developing countries. Saunders clarifies some important questions, and explains the basics of “the rebound effect.”

With the new study, rebound has firmly moved from the theoretical to the empirical, and the implications of it must now be dealt with by all of us who were counting on efficiency to be an easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: The Breakthrough Institute.

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