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China drought underlines hydropower reliance risks

Emma Graham-Harrison, Reuters
A major drought has squeezed electricity output at big dams across southwest China, highlighting the risks of Beijing’s massive hydropower expansion plans on coal and oil markets in a warmer, drier world.

Ships are stranded, millions are short on drinking water, and power supplies to big consumers in several Chinese provinces have been cut back, industry officials and local media have said.

And while building more dams will help Beijing meet more of its electricity demand using resources within its own borders, it also risks short-term surges in consumption of oil, coal or natural gas to generate emergency power when rivers run low.
(17 January 2008)

2007: record year for US wind industry

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
This is impressive news:

Shattering all its previous records, the U.S. wind energy industry installed 5,244 megawatts (MW) in 2007, expanding the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 45% in a single calendar year and injecting an investment of over $9 billion into the economy, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced [yesterday].

This was widely expected to be an excellent year, after an already good year in 2006, when more than 2,500MW were installed in the US. hopes were that 3,000, or even 3,500MW would be installed in 2007. With more than 5,000 MW built and connected to the grid, the record for any country is shattered (the previous one was Germany with 3244 MW in 2002). And 2008 is looking good too.

As the AWEA notes, wind power has several advantages…

…Wind power prices are quite simple: there is no fuel cost, just a little bit of maintenance, so each additional kWh of power provided when wind blows is almost free once the turbines are installed. Which means that the only cost is the amortization (or financing) of the initial construction. And the good news is that this cost is set in stone from the start, and will not change for the next 20 years: you know how much interest and principal you need to pay, and that’s it. Compared to gas-fired plants or even coal-fired plants, whose main cost is that of the fuel, it’s becoming a huge advantage, and an incredibly safe bet.

…Today, wind power, while still more expensive than existing coal and nuclear plants, is cheaper than gas-fired power and, thus, most of the time, cheaper than market prices which are driven by gas prices. The trouble is that investors are not yet convinced that this will be true for the full next 15 years, and are still reluctant to some extent to support wind construction without some form of support.

…And as a final note about my partiality here: as a financier for the industry, I have to make sure that we do not take inappropriate risks. In particular, that means making sure that performance claims are not inflated, that costs are as announced and, a very important thing, that each project is well accepted by the local community and that there is no hostility (as this can lead to judicial procedures, delays, and bad publicity, all things which cost money and can compromise debt repayment). So bankers – when they do their job – have to remain clear-eyed about the industries they work with…
(18 January 2008)
Also at Daily Kos and The Oil Drum.

Advocates of Renewable Energy React to 2007 Energy Bill

Energy Policy TV
Washington, DC – Advocates of renewable energy react to enactment of the 2007 Energy Bill. They also look toward new legislation, such as a planned economic stimulus bill, to gain provisions such as extension of renewable tax credits, that didn’t make it into the final Energy Bill. This United States Energy Association Newsmaker is co-sponsored by BP America and Pricewaterhouse Coopers and moderated by Scott Nance.

David Hamilton, Director and Team Leader, Global Warming and Energy Programs, Sierra Club;
Rhone Resch, President, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA);
Randy Swisher, Executive Director, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)
(17 January 2008)