Energy transitions – headlines

November 6, 2013

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U.S. support of grid energy storage charges up

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
Heads up, renewable energy doubters. Yes, we all know the electrical grid will need storage capacity to accommodate a larger share of power from variable wind and solar generators. But the date for this development is no longer in some distant, hand-wavy future. It’s coming, and it’s coming fast.

A wide array of power storage technologies is waiting for that moment: from traditional batteries and old-school pumped hydropower (in which water can be pumped up to a reservoir and then allowed to run through turbine generators on demand) to newer systems using compressed air, flywheels, new types of batteries, and thermal approaches like molten salts or even ice. (For an overview of some of these technologies and their relative costs, see my article from last year.) The new $2 billion, 280-megawatt (MW) utility-scale Solana solar project in Arizona, for example, will use molten salts to keep the plant running for up to six hours after the sun sets.

Consider the following developments, all of which happened in just the past two months….
(26 October 2013)

Berlin energy grid nationalisation fails in referendum

A bid to renationalise the electricity grid in the German capital Berlin has narrowly failed in a referendum.

The measure was backed by 24% of those eligible to vote, but a quorum of 25% was needed for it to pass.

It had been supported by green groups, who believe the current provider relies too much on coal. Opponents said it would burden Berlin with debt.

In a referendum last month, Hamburg, Germany’s second biggest city, voted to buy back its energy grid.

In Berlin’s referendum, 80% of those who voted supported the measure, but a "yes" vote required at least 25% of eligible voters to cast ballots and that figure fell just short…
(4 November 2013)

In Brazil, the wind is blowing in a new era of renewable energy

Juan Forero, Washington Post
To keep pace with that growth, Brazil’s capacity to produce energy must increase by 50 percent over the next decade, government planners say — in line with a target set by rapidly growing China, and even faster than what is projected for Russia and India, two similarly sized, energy-hungry emerging economies.

In Brazil, wind will play a vital role: The aim by 2021 is to have Brazil rely on wind turbines for up to 10 percent of its generating capacity — nearly enough to power São Paulo, South America’s largest city…
(31 October 2013)

Actively cutting energy bills in Oldham – welcome to the ‘Passivhauses’

John Vidal, The Guardian
…Inez’s house is one of nearly 7m in Britain that have uninsulated solid walls and are little more than cold boxes. But Justine’s is one of Britain’s very few "Passivhauses" – super-low energy buildings (the German name translates literally to "passive houses"). It’s packed with insulation, is triple-glazed and looks like any other new home, except for a box of tricks in the loft which uses warm air sucked out of the kitchen and bedrooms to heat fresh air being sucked in.

"I’d never heard of a Passivhaus and I don’t know anything about climate change," says Hutton, who is about to start work as a healthcare assistant in Oldham hospital. She pays social housing group Contour £97 a week to rent the house which costs £95,000 to build.

"I Googled it but I was still sceptical. But it’s great. There are no draughts and it’s quiet. I was in a freezing council house which I used to pay £35 a week to heat, way more than 10% of our income, and it was still cold. It was horrendous what we were paying and it was a breeding ground for illness. They should definitely build more like this"…
(1 November 2013)

China’s troubled shift to a green economy

Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail
Harbin, the big industrial city in China’s northeast, had a few of its alarmingly regular “airpocalypse” days earlier this week. The smog was so bad that visibility was reduced to 50 metres in some areas. At its worst, the tiny and potentially deadly airborne particulates known as PM2.5 reached 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre. The World Health Organization’s recommended safe level is 25.

I was in Beijing a few days earlier and there were a couple of cloudless days when I could barely see the towers a few hundred metres from my hotel. The sky was like grey soup; my eyes were stinging. Any first-time visitor to China realizes within minutes that a green revolution is not just the country’s economic goal – it’s a national health goal, one with dire consequences if it fails.

But you would be wrong to think that improving air quality, creating jobs and reducing carbon-dioxide output are the main drivers of the pursuit of clean energy. It’s really about energy security. China realizes it can (literally) manufacture its own energy security in wind-vane and solar-panel factories or it can traipse around the world competing with other energy-thirsty countries for oil, gas and coal….
(25 October 2013)

Green planet image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.


Tags: Energy Policy, energy storage, Passive House, Renewables