Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Renewable Energy Profitability’ tag

Colorado’s Green Energy Future

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Having done a bit of work with both of these groups, Fort Zed and Boulder’s Energy Future, I have seen the positive strides that each has already made, and have also seen a bit about the setbacks that have occasionally befallen them.

These set backs can be frustrating, and Mr. Greenlee is right to point out that we need to be skeptical of claims from activists, any activists, but especially those proffering programs that seem to be too good to be true.

In discussions on teaching “Intelligent Design” in the science classroom, a good friend and very intelligent educator made some comments about the differences between science and religion that I adapt here to distinguish between science and activism: In science we start with a question and examine objectively all available evidence to develop our conclusions; activism starts with conclusions and works the other direction.

Activists can often be committed to their projects without having first evaluated the evidence. That idealism and faith can play a big part in pushing past obstacles to reach solutions. But these need to be balanced with practical evaluation of what is possible, beneficial, and as this article points out, profitable, rather than pursued blindly.

All this said, let’s not discount Colorado’s energy efforts just because some aspects have at times been led off track.

Both towns, and especially Boulder, have greater financial resources and political will to pursue these renewable energy goals. As is the case with highly successful companies such as Google, let’s support them as they pave the way for more corporations and municipalities to produce and use more affordable clean, domestic, renewable energy.

Boulder Daily Camera

Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

Greenlee: New energy future?

By Bob Greenlee
Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

There`s a disconnect between Boulder`s concept of energy and environmental idealism that continues to frustrate activists. As the community attempts to resolve achieving its carbonless and sustainable energy goals reality has a nasty habit of revealing a number of inconvenient truths.

A collection of well-meaning citizens make up a group called Boulder`s Energy Future. They`re involved in trying to sort out what comes next as concerns the expired franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and whether or not attempting to “municipalize” the existing electric utility grid makes any sense. Boulder oftentimes suffers from having far too many armchair experts when it comes to making decisions on complex issues whether it involves expanding access to open space lands or carving out our “new energy future.”

Read the entire article here.

The Profitability and Economic Advantage of Renewable Energy

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“[Then Gov.] Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the [renewable energy] industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.
There still is. And if Congress doesn’t hurry, most of it is going to be made in China.”

With the August recess just a few days away, and politicians focused on the most important mid-term elections in at least a decade, I have little faith that anything substantive will happen with energy legislation before the new year. And with Republican prospects as strong as they are and a lack of Republican support for rewriting the way our government influences our energy usage, the chances don’t look much better in 2011.

I suggest not a quantitative change in government intervention, unless it’s a decrease, but a qualitative shift. In other words, this is not a call for increased government intervention or market distortions, but a change in the way the government intervenes. Today’s regulations hamper the ability of people in the free market to find the most efficient solutions to our energy challenges. Not good.

The best bet would be for the government to set the standards, as with Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), bring pricing in line with the externalities associated with different forms of fuel, so that issues such as healthcare costs incurred as people get sick from breathing air that’s been polluted by coal, and then let firms work within this transparent framework to deliver reliable power at the best possible price. These RES would offer much better prospect for people in later generations to enjoy more of the options we have presently, without forcing us to make unrealistic sacrifices now.

Without these measures, we face a number of serious problems, including an economy plagued by dependence on foreign energy, air that continues to be dirtied by coal and petroleum, and more jobs going to places like China as those visionaries who know that renewable fuels are going to bring big returns on investment flock to the countries that encourage, and benefit from, this necessary and lucrative innovation.

Senate Inaction Cedes U.S. Energy Race to China

By Eric Pooley – Jul 29, 2010 7:00 PM MT

Right now the U.S. Senate is conducting a master class on the perils of legislation by rearview mirror. On July 27, when Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act,” the two most powerful clean energy provisions were missing: a cap on carbon emissions from the electric power sector and a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), which would require utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021.
For years, business leaders from General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt to venture capitalist John Doerr have warned that if America failed to pass a comprehensive climate-and-energy bill, the country risked losing the clean energy race to China — sacrificing the jobs of the future in a timid, ill-fated effort to preserve the jobs of the past. Now those warnings are coming true.

In a meeting with business leaders and environmental advocates early last year, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers described a “scissors” approach to economic recovery, according to several people who were present but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The first blade of the scissors, Summers explained, was the stimulus package and its tens of billions for clean energy deployment. The second blade would be a mandatory, declining cap on carbon, which would remove the investment uncertainty that has hobbled the energy market, and draw billions of private dollars off the sidelines.
Instead of funding U.S. projects, banks and venture capitalists increasingly are putting their energy money into China, where the market is large and secure, thanks to government mandates. In the second quarter, for example, China attracted more clean-tech asset financing than Europe and the U.S. combined, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
On the same day that Reid pulled the plug on the carbon cap, China Daily announced that the People’s Republic would begin an experiment in carbon trading — a policy mechanism invented in America, used by Republican George H.W. Bush to fight acid rain, and vilified by today’s GOP as “cap and tax.”
Colorado voters approved one in 2004, and the state has increased the standard twice: The current target is 30 percent by 2020, double the one left out of the Senate bill. Colorado now generates almost 6 percent of its electricity from wind, and its commitment to clean energy has helped develop a solar industry as well: from 100 companies in 2007 to more than 400 today, according to the governor’s office. When Vestas Wind Systems, the Danish turbine maker, chose to build its North American manufacturing plants in Colorado (a $1 billion investment that was good for 2,500 new jobs), it called the RES a major factor in the decision.
Another early adopter is Texas. Its RES, signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1999, has helped the state become a major producer of U.S. wind power, adding almost 10 gigawatts (up from 0.2 in 1999) and thousands of new jobs in the decade since the law was enacted. Although Texas has reduced its carbon emissions as a result of this push into wind energy, Bush and his fellow Texans didn’t create the industry because they were worried about global warming. They did it because there was money to be made.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 30th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

BP Sells Oil Rigs, Keeps Renewables

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Whatever their faults, and there are many, BP has run a successful business for many years. This decision to retain their alternative and renewable energy assets in the face of massive selloffs in other areas, including oil-rich Venezuela and potentially Alaska, signals the belief on the part of some very intelligent business minds that this once hippy pipe dream has some very profitable potential.  Does it also signal their belief that Venezuela (or Alaska) may be destabilizing? That’s a separate matter.

The main point here is that the big players in the energy world see a necessary place for wind, solar, and other renewables.

July 14, 2010, 8:27 p.m. EDT

BP: No plans to sell alternative-energy units

By Naureen S. Malik

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) has no plans to sell its renewable-energy businesses as the British oil giant seeks to sell billions of dollars of assets in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the head of the company’s wind-power unit said Wednesday.
BP executives “have reaffirmed their commitment to the alternative-energy business; they told us it’s not for sale,” Graham said. “We look at every option all the time; if the price is right, we will sell.” However, “we haven’t built it [the renewable-energy business] to sell it. There is no need to sell it.”
The integrated oil company talked about selling off the renewable-energy business at an analyst meeting two years ago when it had a value of at least $5 billion, but later “they took it off the table,” said Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss. BP doesn’t break out the value of these assets in its financial reports. Every major oil company has some exposure to alternative energy, albeit a relatively small one. “I’m not sure it would be wise for any of them to move out of that space altogether,” Weiss said.
BP is reviewing options to build two wind-power projects totaling 400 megawatts, either by expanding existing wind farms or by going to new locations, possibly in California, Colorado, Indiana or Wyoming.
“We are not going offshore,” Graham said when asked whether the company was interested in developing wind power along the East Coast. “We have not seen anything that would attract us to go offshore. Too risky.”
By the end of the 2010, wind-power capacity will total 1,500 megawatts, up from 1,200 megawatts. BP has two projects under construction in Idaho and Colorado totaling 375 megawatts. A megawatt is enough to power up to a 1,000 homes.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 20th, 2010 at 8:30 pm