Policies for a Green Energy Economy

An e-mail survey came today from the Democratic Party asking for thoughts about how we should move forward.

What do you think of this answer???

With thanks for the progress made toward a greener economy, I would like the President to make leadership for a new energy economy his top priority.  The price of a transition to efficiency and clean energy would be much less than the cost to our society of continuing to burn oil, coal and natural gas.

Americans know that burning fossil fuels increases catastrophic weather damage and risks future economic collapse. We have good alternatives, just in time to help us preserve our economy and our resources.

This plan would result in revitalization of our economy, increased employment, lower energy costs, export profits, and a safer world.

We need the administration to:

1. Support Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulings based on climate science and a political policy imperative to end the burning of all fossil fuels

2. Increase Department of Energy (DOE) support for energy efficiency, and clean energy research, development and marketing

3. Cancel tariffs on foreign on clean energy technology and subsidize American clean energy production, (maybe with Department of Defense (DOD) funds, as military say our dependency on fossil fuels is a vulnerability,) Set carbon related tariffs on imported products from countries without a carbon tax.

4. Mandate all government facilities retrofit for energy efficiency and double required energy efficiency standards in new buildings

5. Mandate all new purchases of government vehicles be electric or hybrid, and continue research into non-food biofuels for aviation

6. Deny permits for additional oil or gas drilling, pipelines, or export terminals for coal, oil, gas or liquid natural gas

7. Support legislation for a carbon fee and dividend, energy standard, an end to subsidies for fossil fuel, tax credits for solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy production and other steps to incentivize investment in green energy, energy efficiency and conservation. The legislative goal should be for all new investments in energy to go into development of clean energy, not more oil, coal or natural gas. (Please note that the EPA has not determined that natural gas is better for the climate, and studies measuring unavoidable leakage and venting of gas/methane indicate that it is as bad as coal and oil. )

The Obama administration has helped the transition to a green energy economy, but worldwide carbon emissions are increasing. U.S. leadership could turn the tide.

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Green Energy Economy, Vision for a Healthier, Happier Future

Baby Sally, when you graduate from college in 2032, the world will be different than it is today.

You will have a comfortable home, so well insulated and ventilated that it will need very little heat or cooling, and may get these from geothermal. Your electricity will be mainly from clean energy sources, wind and solar, powering highly efficient appliances and lighting. You may have a car or scooter, and its battery will add to your home’s electric storage.

For most of your transportation, you will be able to use transit, frequent electric mini-buses and high speed trains and buses, giving you a relaxing ride to work, stores or recreation without traffic delays. You may live close enough to schools, community centers and parks so that you can walk or bike to them on tree lined paths, and use a shared car for longer trips.

You may work in the booming clean energy industry. American inventors and entrepreneurs will be manufacturing green technologies such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, battery, algae fuel, smart grids, and charging stations. They will be hiring people with skills in engineering, software, marketing and international sales to serve these vibrant new domestic businesses. Sustainability policies will have become normal, – zero pollution, recycling and composting, preservation of sources of clean water, and methane and heat recovery, and protection against pollution of air, soil and food supplies.

We will be encouraged by our success in slowing the warming of the Earth with conservation, efficiency and clean energy. Around the world people will be farming in new ways that conserve water and topsoil, planting trees, restoring wetlands, and meeting many of their needs with local resources and efficient methods informed by high tech information services.

The carbon pollution already in the atmosphere will probably have melted so much of Greenland and West Antarctic ice that the oceans will flood many seacoast cities. We will have to make painful decisions to stop trying to protect or rebuild some areas and instead move homes, businesses, schools, airports and port facilities inland. Hopefully our patriotism and democracy will help us work together for the needs of our communities.

Money to finance these changes will be available from consumers who previously paid fossil fuel companies for oil, coal or natural gas. Our government will not have to pay to protect foreign sources and shipments of oil. Investments in efficiency measures in buildings and transportation will be paying back with lower energy costs. American made green technology will bring increased export earnings and spur markets for other products. Corporations that had accumulated trillions in savings while they waited for relief from volatile fuel costs will enjoy the steady energy rates and profitably invest in the new clean energy markets.

Will we get everything we want? No. We will still be consumers, greedy for toys and pretty things. However, we can rein in our indulgence in wasteful luxuries. We can courageously listen to and follow the treatment plan advised the climate scientists, specialists in the health of the world. We can heed the dire warnings of the consequences of continuing to release warming emissions and make carbon free policies and lifestyle our first priority.

It will not be easy, but the alternative is to fail to protect you from the worst outcomes of uncontrolled weather disruption. I promise to do everything I can to save, for you, a world with butterflies, that can feed the children, and educate them to take care of their children. We can do this; we can change from a fossil fuel based economy to sustainability in a green economy, stabilizing the climate and living healthier lives.

Why not export green technology?

The Port of Los Angeles is holding classes on exporting American products according to a WSJ report.

Response:

Green energy is the export opportunity of the century. Solar and wind electricity are competitive in many places already, and substantially cheaper than conventional options in underdeveloped areas.

Southeast Asia is a new growth market for solar PV according to speakers at a Bloomberg leadership forum.  Thailand installed 219 MW by the end of 2011 and aims to install 2GW more. Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are taking steps to increase solar power.

India awarded contracts for 350 MW solar last December and is auctioning contracts for 20,000 MW more. A US solar panel maker is building solar capacity for utilities in the Middle East and Australia with sophisticated technology for integrating facilities with current networks.

If the US redirected some of the billions that we spend to defend foreign supplies of oil, and for cleaning up spills, and for covering businesses and homes against increasing climate related disaster into support for new clean energy industries, perhaps that would inspire corporations to invest more in American green manufacturing.

Fossil fuels supply 85% of US energy. Isn’t it time to let competitive American enterprise provide some alternatives that will get the prices down, and win new customers for American goods?

Investment in solar energy

A Wall Street Journal editorial criticizes a new Interior Department plan to make it easier for utilities to get permits to build solar electric plants on public land and help them link up with transmission lines.

Response:

Investments in solar and wind electricity make sense. Some government encouragement for clean energy will help the industries mature, compete, and provide us with many benefits. Most people, whether or not they are concerned about global warming, want to see clean energy developed.

The solar and wind industries are growing, costs for consumers are dropping, and design discoveries are increasing their potential.  The export potential is large and we can produce this technology in the U.S.

Renewable energy grew even in 2009 when many other businesses were shrinking, according to  Renewable Energy Policy Network’s 2011 report.  By early 2011, one quarter of global power capacity came from renewables.  During 2011, half the new electricity generation capacity added in the world was renewable.

In the U.S., photovoltaic projects have grown by 58% a year since 2004, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Now, new financing mechanisms are being developed, including third party financing structures, solar-backed securities, master limited partnerships, investment trusts, and publicly listed ownership funds.

Another Bloomberg paper, Re-considering the Economics of Photovoltaic Power, explains reasons for the recent rapid drops in the cost of photovoltaics (PVs). Renewables have demonstrated that they can work, that manufacturing materials are available, that the industries can expand, and that they can provide fair returns on the high initial installation costs.

Feed-in tariffs, and concern about energy security and climate change stimulated PV production between 2004 and 2008 in Germany and Spain, but shortages of the raw material for PVs, polysilicon,  held it in check. Then polysilicon manufacturing expanded, and although incentives for PV production in Spain ended in 2008,  prices for PVs fell from $4.00/W to $2.00/W, with investors still making profits.

The cost of the raw material, silicon, which is about 20% of the cost of modules, has dropped from $450/kg in 2008 to less $27/kg.

There are export opportunities now in many areas. Solar PVs are a clearly a cheaper alternative where diesel generators provide electricity, as in parts of Africa, the Persian Gulf area, and India. In many other areas, solar and wind can provide electricity at the same price as electricity from coal or natural gas fired plants.

Right now, there is no uniform way of measuring all the costs that go into producing power.  Analysts use, and sometimes confuse, price-per-watt, levelized cost of energy (LCOE), and grid parity. Better metrics will help investors see even more opportunities in these alternative technologies.