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Feed-in tariffs responsible for most renewable energy

Cross-posted from CleanTechnica. Feed-in tariffs are a comprehensive renewable energy policy responsible for 64 percent of the world's wind power and almost 90 percent of the world's solar power (see charts below). With simplified grid connections, long-term contracts, and attractive prices for development, that's policy that works. Image: David Jacobs Image: David Jacobs The basic premise of the feed-in tariff is that the electric utility must connect any wind turbine or solar panel (or other generator) to the grid and buy all the electricity via a long-term contract with a public price. Its use in Germany and its simplicity have …

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Water. Coal. Texas. Sanity. One of these words does not belong.

Texas' water problems won't be over anytime soon.Photo: SeanIn case anyone missed it, Texas had a big drought last summer -- the worst one-year drought in the state's history. Lakes dried, animals were slaughtered, cities imposed lawn-watering restrictions, the governor prayed for rain. Among the doom-and-gloom sector of the left, talk has been circulating of Texas as a failed state. That's easy to dismiss as tit-for-tat revenge for Texas' age-old talk of secession; after all, droughts end, and places recover. Unless they don't: When one takes a hard look at Texas' water supply, and plans to build nine water-intensive coal …

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Think Walmart uses 100% clean energy? Try 2%

turtle with walmart logoWalmart is moving like a tortoise toward its clean-energy goal.Context is critical to understanding Walmart's sustainability initiatives and their impact on the retailer's overall environmental footprint. But context has been sorely absent in the news media's coverage of Walmart's green efforts. Even within the environmental community, conversations about Walmart tend to miss the big picture.

Walmart's renewable-energy activities provide a perfect example. Six years ago, the company announced that it was setting a goal of being "supplied by 100 percent renewable energy." Succinct, powerfully stated goals are a signature of Walmart's sustainability campaign -- in part, it seems, because journalists often repeat these goals verbatim, so they function like stealth marketing slogans that infiltrate media coverage. Walmart's renewable-energy goal has been especially effective on this front, appearing in thousands of newspaper articles and countless blog posts. Many of these stories use the goal as a jumping-off point to highlight the retailer's renewable-energy projects, which include putting solar panels on 130 stores in California and buying 180 million kilowatt-hours of wind power in Texas annually. These stories create the overall impression that Walmart is making great progress on renewable energy.

But what if, rather than repeating Walmart's stated goal of 100 percent renewable power, these news stories had instead reported that the company currently derives less than 2 percent of its electricity from its solar projects and wind-power purchases?

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Wind electricity to be fully competitive with natural gas by 2016

Photo: Vlasta JuricekCross-posted from Climate Progress. The best wind farms in the world are already competitive with coal, gas, and nuclear plants. But over the next five years, continued performance improvements and cost reductions will bring the average onshore wind plant in line with cheap natural gas, even without a price on carbon, according to analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). After analyzing the cost curve for wind projects since the mid-1980s, BNEF researchers showed that the cost of wind-generated electricity has fallen 14 percent for every doubling of installation capacity. These cost reductions are due to a number …

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Keystone ‘victory’ is nothing of the sort, say testy wonks

Enviros’ opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has succeeded in delaying or possibly even deep-sixing a project that would have carried oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas (and over a drinking water aquifer and the epicenter of a bunch of earthquakes). But not everyone is celebrating. Professional wet blanket Michael Levi wants you to know that this is probably a pyrrhic victory, more likely to result in delays to the kind of action the U.S. needs to take to avert the worst of climate change's effects. And he has a point, sort of. If Keystone …

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How electric vehicles can give a boost to local clean energy

A plug for plug-ins.This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. The Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if one in eight of the region's cars used batteries. That's the conclusion of a study [PDF] from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system. The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest. With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, …

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Dalai Lama supports nuclear power, disses wind and solar

In a news conference in Tokyo, the Dalai Lama told his increasingly anti-nuclear hosts that nuclear power is an important solution for underdeveloped countries still grappling with basic energy poverty. His talking points were almost identical to those of stateside nuclear advocates, including discussions of the risks of nuclear accidents compared to other everyday risks. The Wall Street Journal reports: … [H]e warned that no amount of preparation can completely rule out danger. Riding a car, eating a meal, and even sitting in the very venue of the news conference always comes with a degree of risk: “There is still …

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Wind could provide at least 25 percent of electricity for most states

At least 32 states could get 25 percent or more of their electricity from wind power generated within their own borders. This is an updated version of a map included in the report "Energy Self-Reliant States" from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Click on the map to see a larger version. State wind power potential (percent of electricity sales)

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California pushes back against energy imports

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project. Western grid operators have been making plans for large-scale renewable energy imports into the California electricity market, prompting the governor's senior advisor for renewable energy facilities to write a "self-reliance" response. Here are a few highlights of his letter [PDF] to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC): California has plenty of in-state development: "The California Independent System Operator [CAISO] indicates that renewable projects totaling 70,000 [megawatts] of installed capacity [nearly enough to meet all of the state's peak summer demand] are …

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U.S. carbon emissions down as renewable energy keeps growing

Cross-posted from Earth Policy Institute. Between 2007 and 2011, carbon emissions from coal use in the United States dropped 10 percent. During the same period, emissions from oil use dropped 11 percent. In contrast, carbon emissions from natural gas use increased by 6 percent. The net effect of these trends was that U.S. carbon emissions dropped 7 percent in four years. And this is only the beginning. The initial fall in coal and oil use was triggered by the economic downturn, but now powerful new forces are reducing the use of both. For coal, the dominant force is the Beyond …