Germany to Increase Storage on its Renewable Grid

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Last week, grid storage provider Younicos, in partnership with the German utility WEMAG, broke ground on a new facility to increase grid storage capacity at the Schwerin battery park. The Schwerin facility was Europe’s first battery storage facility, commissioned in 2014 with a capacity of 5MW. The primary function of the storage facility is to level out momentary dips in output coming from the grid, which is mostly powered by wind turbines. When so-called frequency regulation power is provided by conventional power plants, the plants are required to remain running at 60% capacity in order to be able to respond quickly enough. Batteries can provide the same function far more efficiently, and because of their rapid response time, more effectively as well. According to the Energy Storage Association, “In the group of “ancillary services” provided in the open market management of the grid, frequency regulation has the highest value.”

This latter, no doubt underscores the rationale. “The fact that WEMAG is now investing €5 million in order to increase the available power and energy for system service is a strong testament to the commercial success and performance of battery storage in Europe,” said Alexander Schönfeldt, Younicos Vice President of Sales for EMEA.

The Road Beyond Paris: A Tale of Three Countries

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Once the COP21 agreements are hammered out and signed, there will surely be celebration that the words point to commitments that whole world is finally taking the problem seriously and that the pace of progress will undoubtedly be increased. It won’t be perfect, but it will certainly be the best agreement we’ve had yet.

Then there will be the morning after, when the party’s over, when we all wake up and get back to work and try to figure out, what exactly are we going to do now. Let’s take a look at what some countries that, while clearly not the largest emitters, have taken action early and effectively, and therefore could be considered role models, have done.

Germany has perhaps been the most visible leader, making huge public commitments to solar power, despite not being in a particularly sunny locale. Germany, which is already receiving 28% of its electricity from renewables (more than they get from coal), set out on their journey back in 1991, by investing in a feed-in tariff that guaranteed that those homeowners installing solar on their property would see a financial benefit. The program, which came to be known as Energiewende, or Energy Transition, has led to the effective decoupling of carbon emissions from economic growth. Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy saw their economy grow by 1.5% last year, even as energy consumption fell. This notion of decoupling, which is beginning to take hold on a global scale, is crucial to a successful climate battle.

Germany has achieved this even as they took on the additional challenge of phasing out their nuclear program, in response to concerns over safety and received close to one million refugees. Consumers will bear some of these costs, but they are committed to leaving their children a cleaner, more sustainable world.

In Europe, Markets Follow the Green

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - With all the turmoil in the financial markets  recently, it’s not easy to focus on a long term issue like climate change. But there is a connection that might surprise you. Across the pond, we are seeing some things that tie the two together.

G7 Leaders Up the Ante on Climate Action

(3BL Media/Justmeans) When the leaders of the world’s largest economies, United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, Great Britain, France, and Italy, otherwise known as the G7, met last week to discuss the global economy, climate and energy were high on the agenda, given the heightened level of concern and the major climate talks coming up later this year in Paris.

The group took a bold step, pledging to completely phase out greenhouse gas emissions by the century’s end, and to cut somewhere between 40 and 70% by 2050. Can they back it up? Not by themselves. These seven countries currently represent about a third of the world’s GHG emissions. That means they can have a significant impact, but they can’t do it without help, especially from rapidly growing economies like China (now the #1 emitter), India (#4) and Russia (#5). That will not be easy, considering that even among those in the G7, consensus did not come easily. Both Canada and Japan pushed back before finally agreeing to sign on to the statement that said, “We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to join us in this endeavor. To this end we also commit to develop long term national low-carbon strategies.”

However, if the goal is to limit global warming to 2 degrees or less, the goal of eliminating emissions by the end of the century is not enough. Even the 40 to 70% cuts mentioned by 2050 will fall short, even at the higher end, according to some sources. The carbon calculus shows that we have used up about two-thirds of the total emissions limit of around 3,200 gigatonnes that must be maintained if we hope to keep the climate from spinning out of control. At the current rate of emissions, we will run through that in the next 27 years. That’s a frightening thought when you consider that, at this point, the rate is still going up (albeit more slowly than it was a few years ago). That trend has to be dramatically reversed if the goal is to be met. Keep in mind that most greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a hundred years or more, so even when we stop emitting, it will take a while for the concentration to begin falling. It also means that when we stop, we need to stop for good, or at least the next hundred years. Given the way that these emissions accumulate in the system, the sooner we act, the better.

The United States Without Nuclear Power

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - With the start of the new session of Congress, there is a lot of maneuvering going on to establish turf and battle lines. Senator Lamar Alexander, long-time Republican senator from Tennessee, now the head of the Sub-committee on Water and Energy Development, has come out with a strong statement regarding the future of nuclear energy in this country.

The speech was entitled “The United States Without Nuclear Power,” and while that sounds like a perfectly reasonable title for an advocate of alternative energy, it was, in fact, anything but. The senator refers to a hypothetical day when the US is without nuclear power and calls it, “a day we don’t want to see in our country’s future.”

It’s not exactly clear who the “we” is that he’s referring, but it’s clear that it’s something that he wants to avoid. He gives three reasons and goes on to tell three stories.

The three reasons are:

  1. We use a lot of electricity (25% of the world total)
  2. Nuclear power provides 20% of that
  3. Since “the world’s leading science academies and many Americans say climate change is a threat,” nuclear currently provides about 60% of the country’s carbon-free power.

These facts are all undeniably true, though they don’t, by any means, add up to the conclusion he draws from them.

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ACEEE Ranks World’s Largest Economies on Energy Efficiency

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - We see a lot of analyses and projections showing why renewables, despite their rapid growth will not be able to provide sufficient energy to allow us to get off fossil fuels or nuclear for decades to come. Those analyses are based on assumptions regarding population growth, economic development and rate of energy consumption on a per capita basis.

But if you look at disparities in energy consumption, not just the obvious ones—developed vs. developing countries, but rather between countries and states with similar quality of life, we can see that there are still tremendous opportunities to be in exploited with regard to how efficiently we use energy. As an example, the state of Texas, uses 50% more energy than California, despite California’s 48% larger population.

If forecasts and projections were based on the best populations, who are bound to get even better, rather than the average, these renewable goals might begin to look far more achievable

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just completed a ranking of the 16 largest economies in the world. Results are somewhat surprising. The US, which likes to think of itself as technologically advanced, actually ranked 13th out of 16, while China, despite its sizeable growing pains, managed to achieve a 4th place rank.

Below is the list in order.

1.            Germany                

2.            Italy

3.            EU

4.            China

5.            France

6.            Japan

7.            UK

8.            Spain

9.            Canada

10.          Australia

11.          India

12.          South Korea

13.          US

14.          Russia

15.          Brazil

16.          Mexico

The ranking are based on thirty-one metrics, divided between policy metrics, which they call national efforts (e.g. national energy savings target, fuel economy standards) and performance metrics (e.g.  Average mpg, energy per square foot in buildings). State and local policies were not included. Performance metrics were divided between Buildings, Industry, and Transportation. These four categories were equally weighted, receiving 25 points apiece.

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