Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed into law yesterday a revision to the state’s renewable energy standard, requiring that 30 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.
The state currently requires 20 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources. Ritter said at a signing ceremony that Colorado’s efforts to create a friendly business climate for renewable energy has attracted pioneering companies such as wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.
“This is a commitment to clean energy that is unparalleled in the country,” Ritter said. “There is no place in the world that compares to Colorado in research and technological innovation around renewable energy.”
The bill emphasizes home electricity production using devices such as solar panels and small wind turbines. State officials have predicted that 100,000 Colorado homes could begin producing energy because of state programs.
Solar-panel installers must be certified, according to the bill. The addition was criticized by Republicans, who described it as an effort to drive business to organized labor.
Chrysler Group LLC and Fiat SpA will produce a plug-in electric version of the Fiat 500 minicar as the first electric vehicle marketed under the automakers’ new alliance.
The car will feature a lithium-ion battery connected to an electric vehicle control unit to manage the flow of power to the engine. There are no other details about the car’s range or how far it can be driven between each recharge.
Every part of the vehicle except for the powertrain will be assembled in Toluca, Mexico. The battery is being developed by A123 Systems Inc. of Watertown, Mass. Neither would say where the battery will be produced, but signs point to Michigan, where the battery company recently got $100 million in tax credits.
Chrysler separately restated plans to produce a test fleet of plug-in electric versions of the Dodge Ram pickup with a $48 million Department of Energy grant. The Ram EV will have a lithium-ion battery from Electrovaya Inc. and is expected to get 65 percent better fuel economy than the gas-powered version. The automaker canceled plans for a gas-electric hybrid version of the Ram.
Toshiba Corp., owner of the U.S. nuclear firm Westinghouse, is in preliminary talks with a startup backed by Bill Gates on jointly developing advanced nuclear reactors, the Japanese electronics giant said.
Toshiba is discussing with TerraPower the possibility of manufacturing traveling-wave reactors, which are designed to use depleted uranium or other unconventional nuclear fuels and could run for as long as a century without refueling.
Such reactors, which would be smaller in scale than current nuclear plants, would be suitable for emerging markets, said Takeo Miyamoto, an analyst for Deutsche Securities.
“If you put a regular reactor like the one used in Japan in some emerging nations, that could sometimes create overcapacity and make it difficult to back that reactor up when you take the unit off line for maintenance,” Miyamoto said.
Toshiba said the talks are in an early stage, and nothing has yet been decided. The firm is also developing its own mini reactors, and it anticipates some 80 percent of the technology developed for these reactors could be applicable for traveling-wave reactors.
The Senate is due to unveil a bipartisan climate and energy package soon. As lawmakers consider it, they must not lose sight of the vital connection between people and nature.
Numerous studies “” including last month’s Quadrennial Defense Review by the Penatgon “” have detailed how the changing climate could affect people around the world, wreaking havoc on developing nations and punishing the poorest communities.
But why should Americans care about these far-off communities and the climate threats they face? The fact is, their plight is our plight.
Already, more frequent droughts, floods and other climate-related disasters in the most vulnerable countries are forcing entire communities to flee their homes. Military experts predict that conflicts over shrinking food and water supplies will destabilize already shaky governments and economies around the world.
In an age of globalization, these seemingly remote challenges directly affect Americans, from the prices we pay for coffee or cotton clothing to the families who send sons and daughters overseas to serve in war-torn nations.
Our two organizations have different missions “” one aimed at supporting communities, the other at protecting nature. But as we increasingly see the effect climate change is having on our work around the world, we share the goal of protecting the communities, both natural and human, we have pledged to help.
In the South American Andes, for example, decreased rainfall is threatening local communities and their greatest source of income “” alpaca wool production. “There is no snow, so there is no water,” Cayetano Huanca, a farmer in Peru, told us. “The springs, wetlands, are not the same as they were.”
We hear similar stories elsewhere. In western Zambia, the rainy season now arrives much earlier, causing floods that leave villagers homeless, hungry and vulnerable to disease. In Cambodia, droughts kill rice fields, pressing thousands of farmers and their families to migrate to already crowded cities.
Tackling climate change is not just about lowering carbon dioxide emissions. It is also about helping people and nature survive its inevitable effects.
The reality is that even if we stopped greenhouse gas pollution today, the fallout from 200 years of industrialization would be felt for generations to come.
A Japanese trade ministry panel today proposed expanding the feed-in tariff to require utilities to buy electricity at a premium from hydropower stations, wind turbine and geothermal operators.
Utilities may have to buy renewable power at between 15 yen (17 cents) and 20 yen a kilowatt hour, according to a report released in Tokyo today. The incentive program would run for between 10 and 20 years, it said.
The government wants to supply 10 percent of the country’s primary energy from renewable sources by 2020, compared with about 3 percent in 2007, according to the International Energy Agency. The proposed tariff compares with 5 to 7 yen a kilowatt hour utilities pay for nuclear power and about 8 yen for oil- fired generation, said Tomohiro Jikihara, an analyst at Deutsche Securities Inc. in Tokyo.
“The rate for renewable power, except for solar, should be as high as 20 yen if Japan really wants to boost the use of alternative fuels,” Jikihara said by phone.
Japan introduced a feed-in tariff in November, requiring utilities to buy surplus solar power supplied to the grid by homes and businesses, and pay as much as 48 yen a kilowatt hour.
Japan Wind Development Co. and Japan Power Development Co., known as J-Power, are among companies operating wind farms and geothermal plants. Tokyo Electric Power Co. and nine other regional utilities supply almost all the country’s power.
South Africa’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, has an op ed in the Washington Post that illustrates the challenges facing developing nations as they struggle to provide the affordable access to modern energy needed to pull citizens out of poverty. The piece highlights the tension between such objectives and simultaneous concerns about the environmental and climate impacts of energy development.
With South Africa’s economy growing rapidly — it’s expanded by two-thirds since 1994, when Nelson Mandela first took office — the nation’s demand for energy has grown apace. As Gordhan notes, “Millions of previously marginalized South Africans are now on the grid.” And that’s a very good thing.
Consider that not having access to affordable, modern energy sources, particularly electricity, means no access to potable, running water; it means having to burn dung and wood and other primitive biofuels to provide cooking and indoor heating; and it means sputtering kerosene lamps as the only source of light after the sun goes down.
The human toll of such energy poverty is incredible. According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use causes 1.6 million excess deaths per year globally, especially among women and children, while waterborne disease is one of the leading global killers, ending the lives of over 3 million annually — again, many of them young children — who lack access to clean and safe water supplies.
Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. took the top spots in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ranking of cities with the most energy efficient buildings.
Los Angeles was the star of the Energy Star rankings, with 293 buildings achieving the E.P.A. designation, according to the Top 25 list released Tuesday. The agency awards the Energy Star label to commercial buildings that rank among the top 25 percent in energy efficiency compared to similar structures.
Washington took second place with 204 Energy Star buildings while San Francisco, which has about 20 percent of the population of Los Angeles, came in third with 173 buildings. Denver and Chicago rounded out the top five.
With 90 Energy Star buildings, New York City ranked 10th, behind Houston, Lakeland, Fla., the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Atlanta.
Detroit came in 15th, just behind Seattle and ahead of cities with decidedly greener reputations like Austin, Tex.
The number of buildings qualifying for the Energy Star award jumped 40 percent from 2008, when the E.P.A. first issued the ranking.
Collectively, the 3,900 buildings that won Energy Star ratings in 2009 cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 4.7 million metric tons, saving some $900 million in energy costs, according to the E.P.A.
The agency said commercial buildings’ energy consumption accounts for 17 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.