Renewables, efficiency and em-power-ment: Dec 17

December 17, 2012

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Coming soon: 100% renewable power

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
One day in the not-too-distant future — probably sooner than many expect — some parts of the world will have power grids that are completely powered by renewables. Eventually, the entire world could be powered by renewables.

These are not green pie-in-the-sky fantasies, but the conclusions of recent research.

There is no doubt that renewable resources are positively vast. Solar alone could power the world: The solar energy that falls on the Earth every minute is more than the amount of fossil fuel the world uses every year. Wind alone could provide about 15 times the world’s energy demand. The recoverable geothermal heat under the U.S. is about 140,000 times its annual energy consumption. Wave power alone could supply twice as much electricity as the world consumes.

Capturing that energy, and being able to use it to power everything, is the hard part.

Probably the most ambitious attempt to quantify that challenge to date has been done by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi of Stanford University, who have published a series of papers over the past several years outlining how it could be done. In 2010, they published two papers (Part I and Part II) estimating how the world’s energy demand for all purposes — including electric power, transportation, heating and cooling — could be met with renewables by 2030, and replace the existing energy generation mix by 2050…
(12 December 2012)

How Data and Social Pressure Can Reduce Home Energy Use

Dave Levitan, Yale Environment 360
With the relationship between utilities and their customers changing in unprecedented ways, new companies are deploying vast amounts of data and social psychology techniques to try to persuade people to use less electricity in their homes.

Visit the website of Opower and your eye will be drawn to a counter in the corner, its digits ticking ever higher. The counter represents energy that the company says its customers have saved after it provided them data on electricity usage and employed behavioral science to change their consumption patterns. As of this writing, the counter is climbing past 1.62 billion kilowatt-hours.

Virginia-based Opower is just one of a growing number of so-called electricity consumer engagement companies around the U.S. that have sprung up in recent years with the aim of helping customers reduce their electricity use, primarily by analyzing their current consumption and finding the easy fixes. These companies are mixing in data from the rapid deployment of smart meters with behavioral science to try and answer a key question: How can we get people to care? The central idea is that by showing people how much electricity they use, when they use it, and what their neighbors and peers use, consumers can be driven to change…

In a recent webinar, Opower’s blog editor, Barry Fischer, cited a study showing that of various possibilities, peer pressure was the most effective method of lowering electricity usage. Knowing that your neighbor uses less than you appears to be a stronger motivator than environmental concerns, or even the promise of money saved. Opower leverages this in its home energy reports, with comparisons of a customer’s electricity usage to all neighbors, as well as “efficient neighbors.”…
(4 December 2012)

Fatih Birol: Energy efficiency is one of last options after Kyoto

Arthur Neslen, Euractiv
The chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has told EurActiv that energy savings are one of the “few valuable options” left for humankind to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as he expects no global climate agreement before 2020.

In a wide-ranging interview, Birol also said that he thought Europe would benefit from a binding energy efficiency target for 2030, and called on European member states to stop trying to weaken the current Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), which comes into effect today [5 December].

Any second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol would be “only a shadow of its former self” because of the absence of states representing 85% of global emitters, Birol said. “Consequently I see little likelihood of substantial emissions reductions.”

“It would be a very good surprise if there is such an agreement before 2020 and as such, I believe that energy efficiency is one of the very few valuable options to reduce emissions in the short term and perhaps for some time after,” he said.

Political leaders routinely tip their hats to the importance of energy efficiency, only to take measures which environmentalists claim sabotage energy savings practice.

“We are putting energy efficiency where it should be, at the heart of our energy policy,” the British prime minister, David Cameron, told energy ministers at a clean ministerial summit in London last spring.

But the UK proceeded to hold out for a weakening of key Energy Efficiency Directive measures, proposing articles to include the concept of ‘banking and borrowing’ efficiency measures.

These allow member states to count energy savings from four years before – and three years after – the directive’s nominal 2014-2020 period towards their achievements. But the article is contested and final interpretation guidelines by the European Commission are still awaited.

“It will definitely have negative consequences if [the EED] is weakened for the European economy first of all,” Birol said, “because looking at the higher energy costs in Europe compared to major competitors such as the US and China, it is the only way that the European energy systems and therefore manufacturing industries can compete.”…
(5 December 2012)

Solar Mamas – trailer


The remarkable story of Rafea, a mother-of-four from Jordan who challenges the status quo of her traditional marriage by travelling to India to train as a solar engineer for six months.

(2 December 2012)
PBS link for US.
In the UK this was shown as part of the
BBC’s Why Poverty? series. It isn’t currently available. but may be repeated.
Link to a
Guardian review of the programme.

Tags: climate change, Energy conservation, Energy Policy, Renewable Energy