Sunday, June 23, 2013

Locally Owned Wind And Solar Will Build Support For Climate Policy

Just one link today. John Farrell hits it out of the park in his piece @ the Huffington Post -   “The One Thing Obama's Climate Policy Can't Leave Out”. Spoiler alert! It’s locally owned renewables. Though I’m not optimistic the administration will address barriers to local owned wind and solar, John’s correct about ownership building the necessary public support for climate policy in the U.S. It’s the ONLY way we will start to lower CO2 emissions here. John quotes  "Andrew Cumbers of the UN Research Institute for Social Development explains the ongoing strength of the Danish commitment to renewable energy:
“The participation of communities in the ownership and development of the technology has been a critical factor in the successful growth of renewable energy capacity. Surveys suggest around 70 per cent of the population are in favor of wind farms with only around 5 per cent against”.  

A lot of Midwest energy advocates (and their funders, for that matter) keep pushing for energy efficiency measures and utility scale renewables. The quote -   “whose bread I eat is whose song I sing”, (Thanks Ed Woolsey) often attributed to Warren Buffet, comes to mind.    I should just point out that the countries mentioned in the article are kicking our butts building wind and solar, so maybe we should consider adopting their local ownership ideas. But let’s look at the current approach favored by Midwest energy advocates a little deeper. 

Energy efficiency – I’m going to get into this in more detail soon, but for today, let’s consider this: Most climate scientists are advocating for an 80% reduction in co2 emissions.  Fellow energy advocate  Ed W. points out that the most optimistic projections of the percentage EE (energy efficiency) can lower co2 emissions is about 30%. Ed also notes that Iowa electric usage has grown by an average of just under 4% a year over the last 20 years.  It kind of looks like Energy efficiency will barely hold the line on co2 emissions. Since the math is not exactly working here, Maybe it’s time to discuss the best policy for getting a lot more renewable energy built in this country.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve become keenly interested in EE since my solar PV system was installed. I’ll list some of the EE plans I have for our farm soon. 

However, some Midwest energy advocates still stubbornly cling to the mantra – “first everyone needs to do all the EE available before we talk renewables”.   Or “EE is the lowest cost method of reducing co2”.  With the current cost of solar PV, don’t bet on it. At any rate, I’m confident that this “EE first” message will prevail at conferences and nonprofit newsletters for the foreseeable future.  It’s encouraging to see a lot more folks supporting local owned wind and solar these days. But, loosely translated, Midwest advocates have been giving the public the message that they need to change their behavior, and spend _ sacrifice to help lower co2. Meanwhile, opportunities to invest in and benefit from wind and solar remain with Wall Street, not main street. Like Farrell, I hope the Obama administration has figured this out this strategy hasn’t been working too well. We’ll soon see.     

Thursday, June 13, 2013

MidAmerican wind project property tax update coming

And also some other interesting stories to check of course! 

Iowa’s elected officials keep bragging about our state leading in renewable energy (we do have some wind energy installed here).  I found this story that lists per capita co2 emissions by state. Iowa is the ninth highest in co2 emissions, even though some days wind turbines generate an equivalent of 20% of our electrical load.  

 So what’s up? I’ve heard in the renewable energy circles for a while that a lot of Iowa wind electricity is exported to surrounding states to serve their renewable energy mandates. A number of surrounding states score better on this chart than we Iowegians, so maybe there’s something to that.  Can anyone send some data my way on this? Since the Midwest can be cost effectively powered by renewables (credit Ed W), it’s kind of sad that none of Midwest states rank very well on this chart.  Looks like a strong local ownership renewables program would keep more of our wind generation in this state benefitting Iowans instead of our neighbors.  

Germany’s wind and solar is heavily owned by farmers and citizens, not utilities. In this post, Frances Moore Lappe notes -   “Something is working in Germany. But why is it working? For me, Germany demonstrates that sane steps to carbon freedom are possible where democracy functions -- where private industry is not in control of public policy. Consider this: In a recent global study of the effectiveness of laws governing money's role in politics, on a scale of 100 Germany scored highest at 83.
And the U.S.? We tied Tajikistan for the sad score of 29.”
Ouch! Though I’ve told fellow energy advocates for quite a while that campaign fund disclosure would help a lot of the issues they work on. She goes on to mention – “Private and corporate contributions are not limited but transparency laws are strict: Contributions of more than 10,000 euro per year must be disclosed.” I just love it when a story reinforces something I believe. Quite different from the “spooky pac” scene in the U.S. 

And finally, David Roberts at has posted a mini- series on how the utility industry and the agencies that regulate them function, and how they need to change to address climate change .  He realizes how boring this issue can be to non-energy wonks, so he has included cute photos of wildlife to keep readers awake.