Earlier this summer, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates endorsed climate confusionist Bjorn Lomborg’s claim that developing countries can only emerge from energy poverty by tethering themselves to centralized power plants burning fossil fuels. But in this August 22 post on Greentech Media, SunEdison founder Jigar Shah states that “no expert on energy access is paying any attention to Gates’ folly on energy for the poor.” The International Energy Agency has reported on what it will take to deliver electricity to 1.3 billion people who currently have none, and “the truth is that an over-reliance on centralized grid extension and large-scale power plants will keep a billion people in the dark,” Shah writes. Real energy experts “know that Gates’ approach has been tried for 60 years and has failed miserably in almost every emerging market outside of China.” Everywhere else, “energy is starting to look a lot like mobile phones, as distributed solutions leapfrog outdated and ineffective centralized networks. They have done so overwhelmingly out of the desire to power the poor,” with climate solutions as a secondary benefit. A week after Shah published, ex-Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope joined the fight, arguing that fossil fuels won’t work in most energy-deprived regions. “The idea that renewable electricity costs more than fossil fuel power is simply no longer true,” Pope wrote, and Lomborg “ought to base his projections and assumptions on current numbers, not outdated ones.”
Lack of investment is a limiting factor for energy efficiency projects in the United States, often because developers are unaware of third-party financing options that have helped attract funds to the solar energy market. “Despite a lot of talk about creating third-party models and a small surge in activity, the efficiency industry is still many steps behind solar,” Lacey writes. “A lack of education in the market, an overly complicated closing process, and distrust of the claimed savings are the three big obstacles preventing a surge in deal flow.”
It’s either a $5-billion gigawatt battery plant commissioned by Tesla Motors, the first of several the company plans to build to drive down the cost of its electric vehicle, and a source of 6,000 largely high tech jobs for the U.S. state of Nevada. Or it’s a very big pizza factory. That’s the cloak-and-dagger talk around the Reno Tahoe Industrial Center at 2641 Portofino Drive, after 50 earth movers were spotted preparing the ground for…something big. Greentech’s Eric Wesoff has the story, including a photo of the construction site.
In this article for Greentech Media, Louis Berger explores the pros and cons of yield companies (YieldCos) as an investment vehicle for renewable energy projects. “A YieldCo is a corporate structure where the income component (generated by the underlying assets) is emphasized,” explains Berger, co-founder and partner at Washington Square Capital Management. The companies “use completed renewable energy projects with long-term power purchase agreements in place to deliver dividends to investors.” By transferring their renewable energy assets to YieldCos, “power producers are attracting interest from two types of investors who may not have been interested otherwise: socially responsible investors and income investors.”
SolarCity, the largest residential solar installer in the U.S., plans to build a 1-gigawatt solar module factory in New York in the next two years, following the acquisition of high-efficiency solar manufacturer Silevo. On the SolarCity blog, Elon Musk, Peter Rive, and Lyndon Rive said they plan “one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity” in subsequent years. The gigawatt plant will involve scaling up a 200-megawatt module factory that Silevo was in the early stages of building.
Brazil’s main World Cup stadium may boast a 390-kilowatt solar array, but the country has had to increase its reliance on coal and natural gas as a result of the most severe drought in decades. Hydro accounts for more than 70% of Brazil’s electricity but water reservoirs in the southeast and central-west regions of the country are at less than 38% capacity and falling, and much of the power that is generated is lost to an inefficient distribution system. Grid modernization efforts are under way—but to avoid rolling blackouts with the whole world watching, “Brazil has turned to generating more power rather than reducing losses,” Tweed reports. “Utilities are importing more natural gas and ramping up coal-fired power plants, which make up only a small portion of installed capacity.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projects that its carbon reduction rule will increase U.S. renewable electricity capacity by 50% to 67% by 2020, while coal generation declines by about 20%, Lacey reports. In the EPA’s high-deployment scenario, renewables grow by two-thirds through 2020 and another 25% by 2025. “These proposed EPA carbon pollution regulations will accelerate innovation and development across the U.S. energy sector,” said Ken Locklin of Impax Asset Management. “Other countries have surged into the forefront in clean energy practices. These standards can catalyze new low-carbon investment here at home.”
The solar supply sector is on the verge of a “new growth phase” heading into 2015, according to the latest monthly research report from GTM Research. Mehta notes that profit margins have been rising since early 2013, solar component prices have recovered from a period of overcapacity, and “demand growth is expected to be robust, even under a stable-to-up pricing environment.”
Renewable energy is quickly becoming cost-competitive with natural gas, and will soon be more affordable, according to a panel of researchers at the Windpower 2014 conference. In many cases, wind is already cost-competitive with wholesale electricity prices and natural gas plants. “These are not your grandfather’s wind turbines,” said one panelist. “They are not even your older brother’s turbines.”
Also from the U.S. National Climate Assessment: Storms, droughts, heat waves, and other severe climate events could have an alarming effect on the country’s energy infrastructure. Extreme weather is already causing more major power outages, the heavy storms responsible for those outages are getting heavier, and U.S. electricity demand will increase as temperatures spike.