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San Francisco plans hour of darkness for October

If you'll be in San Francisco between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, be sure to have a candle handy. Green group Lights Out San Francisco is encouraging residents to turn off all unnecessary lights during that hour to raise awareness of energy use. Nate Tyler, a former Google spokesperson who is spearheading the campaign, was inspired by a trip to Sydney during its annual light-extinguishing Earth Hour in March; he has printed up "Good Things Happen in the Dark" T-shirts and plans to give away 110,000 energy-efficient bulbs on the day of darkness. Just imagine: Without …

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Mr. Clinton goes to the public-goods markets

The promise of governmental buyers’ clubs

We often wonder whether the government is better suited to solving many of our problems, or whether the market should take the lead. The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has an article concerning the efforts of Bill Clinton's foundation which addresses this issue. The article shows how governments can work with markets for the benefit of large numbers of people and the planet by guaranteeing demand for a particular product or service. By doing this in the long-term, the production of beneficial goods and services can achieve the economies of scale that will make them practical to use within …

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Discover Brilliant: Renewables + smart grid

Today at the conference, everyone's broken out into small groups and are having more free-form discussions. Consequently, it's somewhat more difficult to summarize. I'm hanging out for the day in the "State of the Union in Renewables + Smart Grid" room. I'll try to pass along insights as they drift by. For now, there's some fairly animated discussion going on about just what a "smart grid" is and how to talk about it with customers, utilities, regulators, etc. There's some worry that the highfalutin' way energy wonks tend to talk about this might scare people off. "A grid that's smart …

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It's a wind that someone thinks blows ill

Rising blowback against wind power

Stumbled across an interesting site the other day -- an anti-wind power site.

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Residential solar PPAs

On buying solar electricity, not panels

One of the biggest hurdles to going solar is the large up-front costs. That's why solar power purchase agreements (PPAs in wonk-speak) have been so popular. With this model, a third party designs, installs, and owns a system on your roof. You simply sign a long-term contract to buy the output on a kWh basis. You avoid the need for financing, and shift performance risk to the service provider -- you only buy what the system produces. Check out this article for more. To date, solar PPAs have been offered exclusively for commercial-sized systems. That's because the developer has to …

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Setting an example for the feds

State renewable electricity standards create jobs while cutting pollution

Since the federal government has so far refused to adopt a nationwide renewable electricity standard (RES) the states have stepped in. Some 25 states, plus D.C., have adopted an RES, also known as a renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to purchase a rising percentage of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar. A new report by U.S. PIRG details the myriad benefits of state action to promote renewables: "Reaping the Rewards: How State Renewable Electricity Standards Are Cutting Pollution, Saving Money, Creating Jobs and Fueling a Clean Energy Boom." Here are some of the conclusions: In 2006, …

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Discover Brilliant: Renewables and baseload

What does the future hold for renewables?

Again, I babbled away too long in an interview (a great one) and missed the beginning of "Baseload Challenge and the Realities of Renewables." PIER, California Energy Commission, Gerry Braun, Renewables Team Lead SAIC, Chris McCall, Program Manager Sterling Planet, Mel Jones, CEO I really wanted to see all of this one. But let's jump in. Jones says comparing renewables and existing baseload is apples and oranges. Renewables are hobbled by the its competitors being heavily subsidized. Renewables have to have guaranteed return and guaranteed buyers. Also, most baseload doesn't pay for transmission costs, which is where renewables have a …

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Bush administration push for drilling in Colorado angers GOP constituency

Republicans in western Colorado, long a GOP stronghold, are losing patience with the Bush administration's relentless push for resource extraction in the state. According to a new report from the Wilderness Society, western Colorado currently has 4,500 oil and gas wells on federal public lands, and 22,000 more are in the proverbial pipeline. A total of 126,000 new wells in total are predicted to puncture Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, and Utah in the next 20 years. Ranchers and hunters in Colorado are a big anti-drilling contingent, but are joined by plain ol' unhappy residents who dislike seeing semis instead …

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My backyard carbon sink

Can planting trees offset your carbon footprint?

When my wife and I bought our house, the yard was typical for our neighborhood: a mostly barren plain of lawn so sunbaked that you could bounce a tennis ball off it. So being eco-groovy types, we've tried to improve the place: we put in a rain barrel, built a natural drainage system, and added topsoil planting berms. But I'm most proud of the trees we've planted: a pair of akebono cherries in the parking strip and a white-star magnolia in the front yard; and in the backyard, a shore pine, a Chinese dogwood, a couple of vine maples, a …

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Discover Brilliant: Demand response

How to enable consumers to be responsive to electricity prices

I had an interview so I missed most of "The Emerging Models for Demand-Response Technology." I walked in about halfway through. Reliant Energy, Mark Jacobs, CEO EnerNOC, Scott McGaraghan, Director of Business Development--West Coast IBM, Ron Ambrosio, Global Research Leader--Energy & Utilities  PG&E, Janice Berman, Senior Director of Customer Generation and Emerging Technologies Tons of interesting stuff being said, but I'm too late to helpfully summarize. Suffice to say, lots of people are out there working on ways to get information into consumers' hands, enabling them to modify their energy use based on price and environmental signals. There are nifty …