Google has had an impressive record in renewable energy. They invested over $850m dollars in renewable energy projects to do with geothermal, solar and wind energy. They entered into 20 year power purchase agreements with wind farm producers guaranteeing to buy their energy at an agreed price for twenty years giving the wind farms an income stream with which to approach investors about further investment and giving Google certainty about the price of their energy for the next twenty years – a definite win-win.
Google also set up RE < C – an ambitious research project looking at ways to make renewable energy cheaper than coal (unfortunately this project was shelved recently).
And Google set up a company called Google Energy to trade energy on the wholesale market. Google Energy buys renewable energy from renewable producers and when it has an excess over Google’s requirements, it sells this energy and gets Renewable Energy Certificates for it.
All hugely innovative stuff and all instituted under the stewardship of Google’s Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl (on the right in the photo above).
City experts believe the agreement hammered out between BP and President Obama should help it to rebuild its relationships in Washington, and protect the company’s future. But with three quarterly dividend payments axed, investors will bear the pain for many months.
Green activists using helicopters, divers and rotten butter yesterday confronted Libyan and Italian fishermen to release hundreds of threatened bluefin tuna which they strongly suspect were illegally caught off the Libyan coast.
When 4-year-old EcoFactor, which makes software that intelligently manages connected thermostats, officially launched last November, a lot of folks took notice — apparently including investors. On the heels of raising $2.4 million in December, EcoFactor announced this morning that it has raised another $3.5 million from RockPort Capital Partners.
The Department of Energy will give $100 million in grants to fund 54 smart grid workforce training programs. Ideally, 30,000 Americans will receive training to implement the smart grid programs that were funded by the DOE and private investors last year.
American presidents used to promise a chicken in every pot. If it were up to Google it would be a smart meter in every home.
In an initiative with the Climate Group, the company this week wrote a letter and hosted a summit at its Washington DC offices to urge Barack Obama to adopt a goal of providing every household with real time information about their electricity use.
This comprehensive website describes HP’s global citizenship policies and programs, as well as our performance through the 2009 fiscal year (ended October 31, 2009). It is our primary communication to people who want in-depth information about our global citizenship efforts and progress. Our audience includes customers, industry analysts, socially responsible investors, nongovernmental organizations, employees and corporate responsibility specialists.
Massey Energy is actively contesting millions of dollars of fines for safety violations at its West Virginia coal mine where disaster struck yesterday afternoon.
Twenty-five miners were killed and another four are missing after a explosion took place at 3 pm Monday at Massey subsidiary Performance Coal Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine-South between the towns of Montcoal and Naoma. It is “the most people killed in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah.”
This deadly mine has been cited for over 3,000 violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 638 since 2009
GE today announced plans to invest approximately €340 million to develop or expand its wind turbine manufacturing, engineering and service facilities in four European countries—the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden and Germany
Larry Gottesman, national FOIA officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, said emerging technologies present significant opportunities for agencies trying to eliminate FOIA pileups. EPA has reduced its pending requests by about 96 percent, in part by creating databases of popular information. The agency’s online reading rooms reduce the need to file a request in the first place, according to Gottesman.
Talk about low-hanging fruit. Ford estimates that it will save $1.2 million and reduce its carbon footprint by 16,000 to 25,000 metric tons annually–just by shutting off computers when they aren’t in use
Los Angeles is once again king of the hill when it comes to the number of energy-efficient buildings, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s second ranking of cities nationwide.
The scorecard calculates how many commercial structures in 2009 earned the agency’s Energy Star rating, which is given to buildings that perform in the top 25% of similar buildings nationwide. Eligibility extends to 13 types of structures such as schools, hospitals, office buildings, retail stores and supermarkets.
Los Angeles had 293 buildings with the label in 2009, covering 76 million square feet and saving an estimated $93.9 million in costs.
An analysis of water tested downstream from mountaintop removal mining operations in Appalachia shows high levels of toxins, with some samples testing 50 times the U.S. safety guidelines, according to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The independent analysis of previously unreleased data suggests that 14 of 17 sites tested in West Virginia and Kentucky in 2007 and 2009 exceed federal standards for toxins such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium.
China WindPower Group Ltd, Iberdrola SA and Duke Energy Corp will lead development of an estimated $65 billion of wind-power plants this year that let utilities reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
The estimate from Bloomberg New Energy Finance assumes a 9 percent increase in global installations of wind turbines this year, adding as much as 41 gigawatts of generation capacity. That’s the equivalent of 34 new nuclear power stations.
Google challenges Internet censorship in China. It invests in solar power, electric cars, geothermal energy and the smart grid, and runs an array of programs to help its employees become more “green.” It’s consistently voted one of the best places to work. And it has an inspiring mission: to organize all of the world’s information.
Yet Google doesn’t even come close to making the 2010 list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens put together by CRO Magazine, now known as Corporate Responsibility Magazine.
Oil companies Hess Corp. (No. 10 on the list) , ExxonMobil (No. 51, which for years sought to delay action to deal with climate change, says Greenpeace), Occidental Petroleum (No. 26, accused of contaminating the Amazon) and Chevron (No. 56, targeted in a landmark class action suit for creating en environmental catastrophe in Ecuador).
The Southern Co. (No. 71), a coal-burning utility which led the fight against the administration’s climate change bill.
And the Newmont Mining Corp (No. 16)., whose gold mines in Nevada have been major sources of mercury pollution.”
Corporate Responsibility Magazine (the new name of CRO Magazine) today announces its 11th annual 100 Best Corporate Citizens List, known as the world’s top corporate responsibility ranking based on publicly-available information and recognized by PR Week as one of America’s top three most-important business rankings.
The electricity grid may not need “baseload” generation sources like coal and nuclear to backup the variability of supply from renewables.
Jon Wellinghof is the Chairman of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is an independent agency that amongst other things, regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil – for more on FERC’s responsibilities see their About page. Chairman Wellinghoff has been involved in the energy industry for 30 years and appointed to the FERC as a commissioner by then president Bush in 2006.
Last year, shortly after being appointed as Chairman of the FERC, Mr Wellinghoff announced that:
No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States….
Wellinghoff said renewables like wind, solar and biomass will provide enough energy to meet baseload capacity and future energy demands. Nuclear and coal plants are too expensive, he added.
“I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism,” he said. “Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you’ll dispatch that first.”…
“What you have to do, is you have to be able to shape it,” he added. “And if you can shape wind and you can effectively get capacity available for you for all your loads.
“So if you can shape your renewables, you don’t need fossil fuel or nuclear plants to run all the time. And, in fact, most plants running all the time in your system are an impediment because they’re very inflexible. You can’t ramp up and ramp down a nuclear plant. And if you have instead the ability to ramp up and ramp down loads in ways that can shape the entire system, then the old concept of baseload becomes an anachronism.”
This was quite an unusual contention at the time (and still is) and despite the Chairman’s many years working in the sector it was, by and large, ignored – even by the administration who had appointed him to the Chairmanship. In fact, the Obama administration has since announced financial backing for new nuclear power plants.
However, a study published last week by the Maryland-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research backs Chairman Wellinghoff’s assertion. In a study of North Carolina’s electricity needs it concluded backup generation requirements would be modest for a system based largely on solar and wind power, combined with efficiency, hydroelectric power, and other renewable sources like landfill gas:
“Even though the wind does not blow nor the sun shine all the time, careful management, readily available storage and other renewable sources, can produce nearly all the electricity North Carolinians consume,” explained Dr. John Blackburn, the study’s author. Dr. Blackburn is Professor Emeritus of Economics and former Chancellor at Duke University.
“Critics of renewable power point out that solar and wind sources are intermittent,” Dr. Blackburn continued. “The truth is that solar and wind are complementary in North Carolina. Wind speeds are usually higher at night than in the daytime. They also blow faster in winter than summer. Solar generation, on the other hand, takes place in the daytime. Sunlight is only half as strong in winter as in summertime. Drawing wind power from different areas — the coast, mountains, the sounds or the ocean — reduces variations in generation. Using wind and solar in tandem is even more reliable. Together, they can generate three-fourths of the state’s electricity. When hydroelectric and other renewable sources are added, the gap to be filled is surprisingly small. Only six percent of North Carolina’s electricity would have to come from conventional power plants or from other systems.”
With larger and more inter-connected electricity grids, the requirement for baseload falls even further because the greater the geographical spread of your grid, the greater the chances that the wind will be blowing or the sun shining in some parts of it.
So, is there really any need for baseload power any more, or is this now just a myth perpetuated by those with vested interests?
In 2007, the Sierra Club brought the state of Wisconsin to court over emissions from some state-run coal plants used to provide heat and power to some university buildings and a hospital (UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-River Falls and Mendota Mental Health Institute). The Department of Natural Resources sided with the Sierra Club, and the state now has a choice between installing pollution-control equipment to greatly reduce emissions, reducing the use of coal by displacing part of it with other fuels, or simply eliminating the use of coal completely
“While electronic devices have greatly improved in many regards, such as in storage capacity, graphics, and overall performance, etc., they still have a weight hanging around their neck: they’re huge energy hogs. When it comes to energy efficiency, today’s computers, cell phones, and other gadgets are little better off than those from a decade ago, or more. The problem of power goes beyond being green and saving money. For electrical engineers, power has become the primary design constraint for future electronic devices. Without lowering power consumption, improvements made in other areas of electronic devices could be useless, simply because there isn’t enough power to support them.”
“Sustainable investments in Asia (ex Japan) could make a huge jump from approximately $20bn today to $4 trillion by 2015 according to research by Vontobel, the Swiss fund manager. Vontobel says it believes sustainability themes are being ‘seriously undervalued’ in a region undergoing a tremendous pace of change in environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. “
Waste from discarded electronics will rise dramatically in the developing world within a decade, with computer waste in India alone to grow by 500 percent from 2007 levels by 2020, a U.N. study released on Monday said.
Sourcing power from a company whose generation comes principally from coal is a very risky business and if there is anything that investors shy away from, it is risk!
Why is it risky?
Coal has significant negative environmental effects from its mining through to its burning to generate electricity contaminating waterways, destroying ecosystems, generation of hundreds of millions of tons of waste products, including fly ash, bottom ash, flue gas desulfurisation sludge, that contain mercury, uranium, thorium, arsenic, and other heavy metals and emitting massive amounts of radiation.
current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.
Note the wording “the public health and welfare of current and future generations”
Who knows what legislation the EPA will pass in the coming months and years to control CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants in the coming months and years – and the knock on effects this will have on costs.
Finally, when you factor in the recent revolts by investors in Shell and BP to decisions likely to land the companies in hot water down the road for pollution, the investors in FaceBook should be asking some serious questions right about now.
Ok, not all the time, but last weekend at 5:50am on Sunday morning (8th Nov) Spain set a new record, hitting 53.7% of its energy requirements being supplied by wind energy.
As you can see from the graph above, the amount of electricity being supplied by wind, the light green portion of the graph, doesn’t go below 30% at any point in the 24 hours and is closer to between 40-50% for most of the time!
These are figures the world’s most ambitious countries are targeting hitting by 2020, at the earliest!
Notice also on the graph that the contribution from coal (the red band) during this period is in the low single digits, never rising above 6.4%.
And finally notice also that for a lot of the period significant amounts of generation is below the 0MW line – this occurs when the electricity is being either stored using pumped hydro storage, or being exported for sale on the international markets.