“We’re looking at building a new gas-fired generation plant, but this solution would mitigate the need to build the size power plant that we had anticipated.“
Tell me again why we need a new coal plant in North Carolina? Efficiency is cheaper, cleaner, and smarter. The caption for the figure: “Residents in a smart grid pilot project in North Carolina can manage their electricity usage online.”
A smart grid pilot project in Fayetteville, N.C., has resulted in an initial 20 percent decline in average electricity consumption, according Consert, a Raleigh, N.C. technology company.
Those numbers are based on the first month of the project, a joint effort between Consert and I.B.M. that installed energy management systems for 100 residential and business customers of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, the local utility.
Consert attached controllers on hot water heaters, air conditioners and pool pumps and then let customers go online and set targets for their monthly electricity bill. Smart meters and a wireless communications system provide real-time electricity consumption data to allow the utility to cycle appliances on and off to achieve the savings and help it manage peak demand.
The customer sets up a profile detailing when they wake up in the morning, go to work, return home and what temperature they’d like in their home.
“The consumer can say ‘I want my utility bill to be not to be greater than $200 a month,’ and then we’ll look at their past bill history to see if that’s achievable and ask what they want to do to achieve their goals,” said Jack Roberts, Consert’s chief executive.
The company’s software takes into account the customer’s billing history, local weather conditions and other factors to manage the home’s appliances. Mr. Roberts said Consert can control up to 256 devices but expects most savings will come from appliances such as air conditioners and water heaters.
“One of the things that was a bit of a surprise to us was how much pool pumps and hot water heaters contributed to peak demand,” said Mr. Roberts, who noted that one household had reduced electricity use by 50 percent. “On an August afternoon you’re less likely to notice that your pool pump is off for three hours than that your air conditioner is off for 10 minutes,” he said.
The Consert system, which is based on IBM software, would allow the Fayetteville Public Works Commission to selectively reduce demand among its 80,000 customers without having to, say, shut off everyone’s air conditioners at the same time.
Utilities typically spend hundreds of millions of dollars building so-called peaking power plants that provide electricity when demand spikes, and otherwise sit idle for most of the year.
Keith Lynch, an executive at the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, said the utility hopes the Consert system will help it to cut such capital costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re looking at building a new gas-fired generation plant, but this solution would mitigate the need to build the size power plant that we had anticipated,” he said.
Developing emissions markets to encourage farmers in poor countries to store more carbon dioxide in soil should be a key topic on the U.N. climate talks agenda, global warming activist Al Gore said. “I think that soil carbon conservation and recarbonizing of soil must be the next stage in this negotiating process,” former U.S. Vice President Gore told reporters on the sidelines of a climate conference at the United Nations.
Agriculturists can store more carbon in soil through techniques such as no-till farming that leaves crop residue on the ground instead of plowing it up and releasing the carbon into the atmosphere, or through crop rotations.
Gore said that if a clear signal on carbon storage in soil emerged from the 190-nation U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen in December, it would serve as a “very important measure” to help get developing nations to participate in helping to slow climate change. Rich and poor countries aim to hammer out a new global deal at the Copenhagen meeting on how to slow global warming and deal with its consequences, but talks have stalled on how to share the burden.
Turning China into the world’s manufacturing centre has given us a bountiful supply of dirt-cheap goods but is proving an environmental disaster. Chinese industry is overwhelmingly dependent on coal for its energy and China’s coal-fired power stations are among the least efficient in the world.
Britain’s coal plants are typically 35-40 per cent efficient, meaning that 35-40 per cent of the energy in the coal that they burn is turned into electricity and 60-65 per cent is lost in heat up the chimneys. China’s power stations are less than 25 per cent efficient. With more than 70 per cent of its electricity coming from coal, China has one of the worst scores of any country for carbon intensity, a measure of the amount of carbon emitted for every unit of GDP.
Britain likes to boast that it has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 21 per cent since 1990. But we have achieved this by closing energy-hungry factories and exporting manufacturing “” and emissions “” to China. However, while China now has the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the world, its per capita emissions are still only half that of Britain and a quarter of the level in the United States. China points to this difference when rejecting calls for it to set a target for cutting overall emissions.
Given that President Hu has already made clear that China would not sacrifice economic growth in the quest to prevent climate change, the best that could be hoped for from December’s Copenhagen climate summit is a cut in China’s carbon intensity. President Hu’s pledge yesterday to cut that intensity by a “notable margin” was promising, even if he failed to set any specific figure.
Several world leaders on Tuesday gave the most decisive indication in months that they will work to revive floundering negotiations aimed at securing a new international climate pact. But the vision that President Obama and others outlined at the United Nations climate summit — in which countries offered a series of individual commitments — suggests that a potential deal may look much different from what its backers originally envisioned.
Initially, many climate activists had hoped this year would yield a pact in which nations would agree to cut their greenhouse gas emissions under the auspices of a legal international treaty. But recent announcements by China, Japan and other nations point to a different outcome of U.N. climate talks that will be held in December in Copenhagen: a political deal that would establish global federalism on climate policy, with each nation pledging to take steps domestically.
“Many of the jigsaw pieces of an agreement lie across the board, but we have to put them together,” said British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Miliband, adding that negotiators are looking for a solution in which “every country is satisfied that every country is taking action” on climate change.
The world’s biggest carbon emitters took pains Tuesday to highlight what they have already done to curb their footprint and what they will do in the future. Obama recounted how his administration has made major investments in clean energy, set new fuel economy standards for vehicles and pressed for House passage of a bill to cap emissions and allow companies to trade pollution permits. Less than an hour after he spoke, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had finalized rules requiring facilities that emit the equivalent of 25,000 metric tons of carbon or more annually to report their pollution to the agency each year.
Poking out of the ground near the smokestacks of the Mountaineer power plant here are two wells that look much like those that draw natural gas to the surface. But these are about to do something new: inject a power plant’s carbon dioxide into the earth.
A behemoth built in 1980, long before global warming stirred broad concern, Mountaineer is poised to become the world’s first coal-fired power plant to capture and bury some of the carbon dioxide it churns out. The hope is that the gas will stay deep underground for millennia rather than entering the atmosphere as a heat-trapping pollutant. The experiment, which the company says could begin in the next few days, is riveting the world’s coal-fired electricity sector, which is under growing pressure to develop technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. Visitors from as far as China and India, which are struggling with their own coal-related pollution, have been trooping through the plant.
The United States still depends on coal-fired plants, many of them built decades ago, to meet half of its electricity needs. Some industry experts argue that retrofitting them could prove far more feasible than building brand new, cleaner ones. Yet the economic viability of the Mountaineer plant’s new technology, known as carbon capture and sequestration, remains uncertain.
The technology is certain to devour a substantial amount of the plant’s energy output “” optimists say 15 percent, and skeptics, 30 percent. Some energy experts argue that it could prove even more expensive than solar or nuclear power.And as with any new technology, even the engineers are unsure how well it will work: will all of the carbon dioxide stay put?
Environmentalists who oppose coal mining and coal energy of any kind worry that sequestration could simply trade one problem, global warming, for another one, the pollution of water supplies. Should the carbon dioxide mix with water underground and form carbonic acid, they say, it could leach poisonous materials from rock deep underground that could then seep out.
Climate change legislation won’t even get 50 votes in the Senate if possible harms to manufacturers in the bill aren’t addressed, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Tuesday. Temporary assistance will be needed to prevent American manufacturing jobs from relocating to India and China in order to address Rust Belt lawmakers’ concerns about the climate bill, Brown said in a conference call organized by the liberal Campaign for America’s Future.
“I don’t think there’s any way we get to even 50 votes if we don’t deal with manufacturing in the climate change bill,” Brown told reporters. “I do know for sure that there are a number of us who understand that manufacturing is so important to this country that if we don’t do manufacturing right, our standard of living will continue to decline. “We need some sort of border equalization “” temporary, not permanent “” until the Chinese and others move in the direction they need to on this issue,” Brown added.
Among lawmakers’ concerns is a sense that climate legislation in the U.S. would provide manufacturers with an incentive to relocate production overseas, where not only would they enjoy lower labor costs, they would also face far less stringent environmental regulations.
Brown called on President Barack Obama to get more aggressive on the regulatory imbalance on climate change and a number of other trade agreements during this week’s G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. “Leaders in Pittsburgh should go to lengths to not concern legitimate government intervention with protectionism,” he said. “The public has already lost confidence in trade agreements and the way we approach globalization.”
The US government has spent more than one billion dollars on private sector renewable energy projects from the massive economic stimulus program passed seven months ago, officials said Tuesday. At a meeting of a group of clean energy developers and manufacturers at the White House Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced 550 million dollars in new awards through the Recovery Act.
The awards for 25 projects brings the total to more than one billion dollars awarded to date “to companies committed to investing in domestic renewable energy production,” the Treasury and Energy departments said in a joint statement. The milestone spending number is a fraction of the 787-billion-dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted on February 17, a package of tax cuts and spending aimed at pulling the world’s biggest economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Under the Recovery Act, the renewable energy awards are made from a program that provides cash assistance to energy producers in place of a tax credit totaling 30 percent of the qualifying cost of the project — thus spending one federal dollar for every two private dollars invested in a project. The officials said that the federal stimulus spending in green energy was attracting billions of dollars of additional capital towards projects in the US.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday moved to speed debate on the bill funding environmental agencies for 2010 even as contentious amendments loom on regulation of greenhouse gases.
Reid’s cloture motion comes as Republicans are attempting to use the annual Interior Department, U.S. EPA and Forest Service spending bill as a vehicle for broader policy debates including climate change, offshore drilling and the Obama administration’s use of policy “czars.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, criticized the decision to invoke cloture on the bill, saying it would prevent senators from debating important issues. “I sure don’t think we’re ready,” she said. “I understand there’s been well in excess of 70 some odd amendments out there — amendments of some real substance. So I think it’s a little premature.”
Murkowski is one of several senators planning to use the measure to limit the Obama administration’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. She may introduce an amendment that would prohibit EPA from regulating heat-trapping emissions from stationary sources like power plants and industrial facilities for one year.
Two weeks ago, a group of marine biologists from Israel’s National Institute of Oceanography set sail from the country’s central coast. Under a full moon, with the lights of hectic Tel Aviv a band on the horizon, they cast their nets into waters that have sustained civilization for millenia in the Levantine Basin, the eastern branch of the Mediterranean Sea.
They had a rich catch that night on the research vessel Shikmona, according to Bella Galil, a senior scientist at the institute. Spilling from the nets were pucker-faced dragonet fish, sprawling octopuses and brown crabs, snapping their claws. On the examination table, it seemed a display of the sea’s bounty. Unfortunately, it was another sea’s bounty.
Almost all of the species Galil found that night were natives of the Indian or Pacific oceans. Lured by warming waters and a newly improved route through the Suez Canal, tropical marine species have enacted a slow march into the Mediterranean, displacing native species and disrupting ecosystems.
“We are open to this caravan of alien species,” Galil said. “When we trawl the southern Levantine Basin, about 80 percent of the fish we catch are of Red Sea origin. This,” she added, “is unprecedented.”
The United States is still working toward an agreement with G20 partners to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels, a top White House adviser said ahead of this week’s G20 summit. Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser and top G20 aide to President Barack Obama, said the United States was hoping to reach an agreement about the issue at the Pittsburgh summit on Thursday and Friday.
“We’ve put on the table the desirability of reaching an agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies,” Froman told reporters in remarks embargoed for release on Wednesday. “We’re working with the rest of the G20 to see if we can forge an agreement that would make a significant contribution in that direction.” Froman declined to flesh out the U.S. ideas by including a timeframe or identifying which countries were targeted.
A source familiar with the proposal said earlier this month it would seek to phase out subsidies in five years. The proposal — which could rankle G20 states with big fuel subsidies like China, Russia, and India — argues non-G20 members should end subsidies by 2020, the source said.