Energy transitions – Mar 14

March 14, 2013

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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Berlin to buy back grid and go 100 percent renewable

Renewables International
The German capital has resolved to buy back its power supply. On Wednesday, the grand coalition that governs the city-state passed a resolution to buy back its grid and switch to renewables.

On Wednesday, the grand coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats governing the city-state of Berlin announced that it was taking power supply back into its own hands and switching to renewables. Next week, Berlin’s Senate (equivalent to City Hall because the city is simultaneously a state) is to review the bill, which includes the founding of a municipal utility under the direction of BSR, the city’s waste authority, which already operates a number of large photovoltaic arrays and waste incinerators that generate electricity…
(7 March 2013)

Big Energy Battle: An Unlikely Effort to Buy Berlin’s Grid

Joel Stonington, Der Spiegel
Back in 2011, Arwen Colell was finishing up an undergraduate degree in political science and thinking about what to do next when her friend Luise Neumann-Cosel had an idea. They had met in a youth choir in Berlin and the friendship had blossomed through a shared passion for environmental issues. "She called me up and said, ‘We should buy the grid,’" Colell said in a phone interview. Colell didn’t have to think long before responding: "Sounds like a good idea."…

In anticipation of the auction in 2014, the two founded a group called BürgerEnergie (People’s Energy), which has raised €3 million in its drive to take the grid from Vattenfall, the Swedish company that currently owns the concession. It’s an impressive amount of money for such a small initiative, but a far cry from what they would need to make a serious bid.

BürgerEnergie isn’t the only group targeting the sale, though. A second citizen’s group, called Berliner Energietisch (Berlin Energy Table), has undertaken a drive to re-communalize the grid. Their plan is to gather enough signatures to put the issue onto the ballot in hopes of forcing the city-state of Berlin to buy back the grid with public funds. There are also six other bidders, including Vattenfall. But these two citizen-based groups have created an unusual movement by politicizing something most people take for granted…
(5 March 2013)

German town goes off the grid, achieves energy independence

Christine Lepisto, Treehugger
Imagine a town which no longer relies on fossil fuels or nuclear power, a place where residents reached into their own pockets to build their own energy grid, reaping the benefit of lower electric and heating prices from their investment. You are dreaming of Feldheim, a 100% energy independent town.

More windmills than houses The infrastructure for electric vehicle charging lured us to this small town 60 miles (90 km) south of Berlin, Germany. But it is the vast field of windmills, towering over the village of 150 inhabitants, that first catch your eye as you drive into town.

That vista greets thousands of visitors every year, people looking to Feldheim as a model for how to implement renewables into their infrastructure, perhaps even achieve their own energy independence…
(19 February 2013)

Crowdfunding and renewables: is power for the people by the people about to come of age?

Bruce Davis, greenwiseblog
When two wind turbines started spinning on Harlock Hill in Cumbria in the winter of 1997, it was a pioneering moment – for the UK at least. Our first renewable energy co-operative had just proven it was possible to harness hundreds of local people to raise the investment needed to turn such a project into reality. They were motivated by the desire to take action to help our environment whilst making a decent return in the process.

Seven similar co-operative projects have since been built across the country, from Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye to Westmill in Oxfordshire, all coalescing under the banner of Energy4All. Despite this however, the UK has a long way to go before mass financial participation in renewable energy is achieved. Consider Germany, for example, where there are now 600 energy cooperatives, with ordinary Germans owning nearly half of all the country’s renewables. Why crowdfunding?

Enter crowdfunding…
(29 January 2013)

Where next for the renewable energy European Supergrid?

Julian Jackson, Culture Change
The Supergrid is a massive project to connect renewable power and decarbonize Europe over the next four decades. With its rallying cry of "No Transition without Transmission" the supergrid consortium intends to link up all the national grids in Europe to facilitate the large-scale use of renewable power. Some of the visionaries behind this, like Mainstream Renewable Power’s Eddie O’Connor, visualize a Europe generating 100% renewable electricity, without any fossil fuels or nuclear reactors.

The Friends of the Supergrid, a support organization for the project, are having their second annual conference on Tuesday 19th March in Brussels. Details here: The FOSG is a non-profit umbrella organization based in Brussels which was formed by a group of companies to assist in the promotion of the supergrid and its regulatory framework. They include Alstom, ABB, Dong Energy, Siemens, GE, the UK’s National Grid and Mainstream Renewable Power among their member companies: a heavy-hitting brigade.

The plan is to have an overall structure technical, financial and administrative, to ensure that the national grids over Europe can connect up and share power across national boundaries. The vision is that Norwegian hydro-power could light up Italy when solar or wind is not active, and vice versa…
(13 March 2013)

The Price of Green Energy: Is Germany Killing the Environment to Save It?

Markus Dettmer, Peter Müller and Cornelia Schmergal, Der Spiegel
The German government is carrying out a rapid expansion of renewable energies like wind, solar and biogas, yet the process is taking a toll on nature conservation. The issue is causing a rift in the environmental movement, pitting "green energy" supporters against ecologists. The Bagpipe, a woody knoll in northern Hesse, can only be recommended to hikers with reservations. This here is lumberjack country. Broad, clear-cut lanes crisscross the area. The tracks of heavy vehicles can be seen in the snow. And there is a vast clearing full of the stumps of recently felled trees.

Martin Kaiser, a forest expert with Greenpeace, gets up on a thick stump and points in a circle. "Mighty, old beech trees used to stand all over here," he says. Now the branches of the felled giants lie in large piles on the ground. Here and there, lone bare-branch survivors project into the sky…
(12 March 2013)

Wind for Hydrogen – An Update.

Chris Rhodes, Energy Balance
This is an update of some numbers from an older posting in light of the larger commercial wind turbines that are now available There is some improvement in the overall figures, but the task of switching from oil to hydrogen remains stupendous.

At the outset, we should note that hydrogen does not occur free in nature but must be freed from other elements, such as oxygen in water, with which it is naturally combined, and the separation of elements requires other forms of energy. Almost all the hydrogen used currently in the world – principally as a chemical feedstock e.g. for oil refining and making artificial fertilizers – is made by steam-reforming natural gas, and there is a CO2 budget that must be costed-in, hence hydrogen from this source is not clean but contributes to CO2 emissions. Furthermore, it consumes natural gas, and so there is a further demand placed on another resource, in accord with the indisputable fact that it takes resources to extract resources. Ideally therefore, that hydrogen should be produced by e.g. water electrolysis using electricity made from renewable sources…
(11 March 2013)

India’s villagers reap visible benefits from solar electricity scheme

John Vidal, The Guardian
India’s rush for industrialisation may be stymied by a lack of power for its factories, but, barely noticed, solar electricity is being taken to thousands of villages in one of the most ambitious grassroots projects ever attempted.

Five years ago an estimated 400 million people lived with rudimentary, low-quality kerosene lamps, providing poor, polluting and often dangerous light. A further 100m homes were nominally connected to the grid but had intermittent power, often at times when no one wanted it.

But in five years, thanks largely to a single NGO that has not sold one lamp, 500,000 more homes have been provided with cheap, decentralised electricity via powerful solar LED lanterns using the latest batteries and panels…
(6 March 2013)

"Fool’s Gold" in the Climate Rush

David Hone, The Energy Collective
Late last week saw the public release of the new Shell energy scenarios, under the heading “New Lens Scenarios”. This is always a much anticipated moment in Shell, a bit like the Olympics as it only happens every few years – the last ones were released in 2008. In the interim many people across the company get involved in the scenario process through workshops and meetings, but the core team manages to keep the final product under wraps until the big day. While we might get an early sniff of the story, the final product always contains new themes and ideas, designed not to recast the status quo paradigm, but to challenge and surprise where possible.

So it is with Mountains and Oceans, the two new scenarios that look out to the very end of this century, a first in terms of “viewing distance”. I won’t attempt to tell the whole scenario story here, better to direct you to the website, here. But the climate stories buried within them are of real interest and should act as a wake up call for governments around the world…

Both scenarios make extensive use of CCS, but delaying deployment while lured by the attractiveness of a high renewable energy future has a real downside, more warming…

David Hone serves as the Senior Climate Change Advisor for Royal Dutch Shell.
(6 March 2013)
View Shell Energy Scenarios “New Lens Scenarios”

Why carbon capture and storage will never pay off

Chris Nelder, smartplanet
Will carbon capture and storage (CCS) ever pay off?

For many years, we’ve been told that CCS systems and processes will allow us to reduce carbon emissions and stop global warming while continuing to use fossil fuels. CCS has been a key assumption of the “450 Scenario” in the International Energy Agency’s annual energy outlook reports, in which the world can meet its energy needs while keeping atmospheric carbon concentration below 450 parts per million (ppm). If you read the news, you might even think CCS systems are well on their way to becoming a commercial reality.

But the fact is, they aren’t. And current trends suggest they never will be.

The main reason is the cost. Finding good data on the cost of CCS is difficult, because it simply doesn’t exist. No commercial-sized power plants equipped with the technology have been built yet. All of the cost data we have are estimates based on engineering designs, which are notorious for being much lower than reality.

Two things are clear: Since 2004, the cost of building a new power plant equipped with CCS has been escalating rapidly along with the costs of all construction commodities (like oil and steel). And those costs are now rising above the cost associated with power generation from renewables…
(6 March 2013)

Green planet image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.
Berlin TV tower image – 7B8/flickr

Tags: ccs, Community energy, decentralized renewable energy projects, Energiewende, Renewables