Energy and Global Warming News for September 1: DOE says 2 million smart meters installed nationwide; Nuclear giant Exelon switching to wind; L.A. mayor, Latinos take on oil companies over Prop 23

Energy Dept. says nationwide ‘smart meter’ army hits 2 million

The Energy Department said Tuesday more than 2 million “smart” electric meters have been installed nationwide, sped along by funding in the big 2009 stimulus law.

The devices help consumers and businesses track and control power consumption and, hence, costs.

Lots of them (more than 180,000) are in Ohio, where they’re being distributed through a partnership between DOE and utility giant American Electric Power.

“As a result of an unprecedented investment from the Recovery Act, smart meters are being installed in Ohio and across the country to create a more reliable, modern electrical grid and give consumers the ability to monitor and control their energy use,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a prepared statement.

DOE cited an analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute “” a utility industry group “” that found various “smart grid” technologies could trim power use by more than 4 percent annually by 2030.

“That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country each year and more than $700 million for Ohio alone “” or $61 in annual utility savings for every man, woman and child in Ohio,” according to DOE.

A Nuclear giant moves into wind

Exelon, a nuclear giant that recently backed away from building new nuclear plants, is moving into wind.

The company announced today that it was buying John Deere Renewables, which has 735 megawatts in operation and 230 megawatts in “advanced stages of development” in Michigan. The price was $860 million, plus another $40 million if ground is broken on the Michigan projects.

In March, Exelon withdrew its application for a construction and operating license for a twin-unit nuclear plant in Victoria County, Tex., citing lower projections for electric demand because of the recession. It had stopped work on the application last year. Instead, it asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for pre-approval of the site, which would speed up the approval process if it decided later that it wanted to build. But the decision left the country’s largest nuclear operator without a direct role in what the nuclear industry hopes is a renaissance.

But the company says it is sticking by its commitment two years ago to cut its carbon dioxide output in 2020 by 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. That would be more than its total emissions in 2001, the company said.

The purchase will instantly make Exelon one of the nation’s largest wind operators.

L.A. mayor, Latinos take on oil companies over Proposition 23:  They say the ballot initiative to suspend the state’s climate change law would hurt low-income communities already suffering the most from pollution.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday rebuked Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., which operate refineries in Wilmington, for bankrolling a measure that would effectively scuttle the state’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Go home, Texas oil companies,” Villaraigosa urged at a news conference aimed at encouraging voters to oppose Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative to suspend California’s 2006 climate change law until the state’s unemployment rate drops.

“We won’t compromise our environmental and health standards so you can make more money,” he said.

The sharp tone was an early indication of the battle expected over the measure, which proponents say would save jobs and lower energy costs but that opponents say will choke California’s pioneering effort to reduce planet-warming pollutants and attract alternative-energy jobs….
The No on 23 campaign released a four-page report, “Toxic Twins: Soiling the Southland,” detailing environmental violations and fines assessed against the two Wilmington refineries in recent years.

Cleaner cars, A to D

The Obama administration has proposed new stickers for cars and light trucks that will make it easier to see whether you are buying a fuel-efficient one or a guzzler, and how much it contributes to global warming. The stickers are a symbol of how far this country has come in providing a wider range of environmentally responsible choices to help ensure cleaner air and a healthier planet.

The present labels, created three decades ago, display fuel economy estimates for city and highway driving. The administration is offering two possible variants, the winner to be chosen after a public comment period.

Both would include the traditional miles-per-gallon metric plus an estimate of the vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in terms of grams per mile, as well as an estimate of annual fuel costs. One would assign a letter grade for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from A+ to D. The other would not, but both systems would provide enough information for consumers to make sound choices.

New fault lines in mountaintop coal debate

The war over mountaintop removal mining is opening up on several new fronts “” including, as I note in an article in The New York Times on Tuesday, among several big banks.

Several lenders, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargohave developed internal lending policies that limit or eliminate their relationships with mining outfits that engage in mountaintop removal mining, which is precisely as it sounds: mining companies simply blast off mountaintops to quickly (and cheaply) gain access to coal seams, dumping the debris in valleys below.

The banks appear to be wagering that mountaintop removal has become sufficiently objectionable that it threatens their reputations if they’re seen as connected to it “” something opponents have become all too happy to expose.

The policies also suggest that the environmental risk divisions within these banks believe that the regulatory noose is tightening around this and other forms of extreme surface mining “” making it a risky investment on its face.

World Bank says population growth, climate change demand better water management

A soaring world population, climate change and greater demands for food are placing greater demands on the planet’s water resources.  The World Bank says the best way to address those issues is to have better information and a more integrated approach to water management.

The bank says a review of its 2003 water resources strategy finds many successes in water projects.  But it also sets priorities and makes recommendations as access to water becomes critical for many people around the world.

Life and death

“As every high school child knows, water runs through absolutely every we do,” says  World Bank Water Sector Manager Julia Bucknall.  “We can’t grow any food without water.  We can’t live without water.  We can’t run our cities without managing our water properly.”

The floods in Pakistan, she says, show the importance of having a good water management policy in place.

“Both from the resource point of view, in the sense of the floods, but also from the basic management of water supply and sanitation.  That’s what is going to be killing a lot of people now after the immediate impact of the floods,” she says.

Cape Wind gets key green light on state permitting

Developers of the Cape Wind project won a legal decision that brings the controversial offshore wind farm in Massachusetts closer to the start of construction.

In a 4-2 decision issued on Tuesday, the state supreme court upheld an earlier ruling that Cape Wind could get a “composite” of permits from the state to cut through the local permitting process.

Placement of the turbines would be in federal waters, but a transmission line connecting to the mainland on Cape Cod needs to be built. Local towns and the Cape Cod land planning agency denied the project a permit in 2007, saying it didn’t have enough information, according to The Boston Globe. Cape Wind appealed to the state Energy Facilities Siting Board, which was created to evaluate energy projects held up by local permitting.

The board approved a single permit for construction of the transmission line but the decision was challenged by the Cape Wind opposition group Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound and local permitting agencies, according to the Globe.

Flexible rooftop-mountable solar panel unveiled by global solar

Global Solar, a solar cells manufacturer, has just developed and released a flexible solar panel designed for flat commercial rooftop buildings. The modules, consisting of solar panels 19 feet long and 1.5 feet wide, are actually made with CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenium) cells that work as well as their rigid counterparts.

Their advantage, though, is that they occupy less space, because they don’t need frames and are much lighter. Global Solar’s solar cell modules can be embedded into the roofs they are installed on, and because they need no racks, they don’t occupy as much space, hence producing more power.

About the prices, the company says that they are comparable with those of standard solar cells installations. The only thing Global Solar needs right now is to get certifications for the modules, and they’re ready to ship the first units as soon as next year. No word about the efficiency, though. We may suspect it lies somewhere between 10 and 15 percent.

To prove their technology works, the company has already built solar power systems worth 75 megawatts in Tucson, Arizona and Berlin, Germany. Their CEO, Jeff Britt, has also revealed that they want to produce their own solar panels, rather than sending the cells to panel manufacturers, like they did until recently.

8 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for September 1: DOE says 2 million smart meters installed nationwide; Nuclear giant Exelon switching to wind; L.A. mayor, Latinos take on oil companies over Prop 23

  1. Mark says:

    There is not so good news for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.
    Efforts to encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support PACE have failed.

    Many homeowners who participated in a program that let them repay the cost of solar panels and other energy improvements through an annual surcharge on their property taxes must pay off the loans before they can refinance their mortgages, two government-chartered mortgage companies said Tuesday.

    The guidance came from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as efforts to resolve a dispute over the program — called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE— have failed.

    Approved by 22 states, the programs let municipalities sell bonds to finance improvements in energy efficiency. Homeowners typically pay back the loans over 20 years through an annual property tax assessment. As is the case with other property tax assessments, a lien is placed on the home that has priority over the mortgage if the homeowner defaults.

    In July, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, effectively derailed the program when it issued guidance to lenders stating that the liens violated the agency’s underwriting standards. Fannie and Freddie buy and sell most of the nation’s home mortgages.

    That guidance led to the halt of most PACE programs and left in limbo those homeowners who had already taken out energy improvement loans.

  2. Gord says:

    With regard to roof top solar Photovoltaic cells mentioned above and heating. No mention in the article above of the effects heating has on the power output.

    Here at The Ravina Project we have taken over 3.5 years of data and local summer weather statistics to try to get a handle on exactly what the effects of heating are upon solar PV.

    Read our paper on solar PV power output and ambient temperature at

    From our paper we see a problem with surface mounting PV modules to a roof top without adequate ventilation. We also anticipate that with increased warming, solar PV will require a some sort of de-rating of their power. This is especially true for large installations in hot areas like deserts.

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    Record ocean temperatures off the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Coast

    The period May – July was the hottest such 3-month period in history for the Northeast and Southeast U.S., according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Most of the hurricane-prone states along the coast, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina had their hottest May – July in the 116-year record. These record air temperatures led to record ocean temperatures, according to an analysis I did of monthly average 5×5 degree SST data available from the UK Met Office Hadley Centre.

  4. Ziyu says:

    Why is there an ad against Jerry Brown by Meg Whitman on Climate Progress?

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    Financing said vital for world climate change deal

  6. FS says:

    Just encountered the following article:

    “Do We Need A Zero Pure Time Preference or the Risk of Climate Catastrophes to Justify A 2°C Global Warming Target?”, Dumas, P.; Hourcade, J. C.; Fabert, B. Perrissin, World Bank Policy research working paper 5392,

    As is statet by the authors, there is enough reasoning for early action even if you don’t believe on catastrophic outcomes or dis-value future impacts of climate change. Of course, it’s some number playing they do. But anyways, I gues it’s a point worth mentioning. Of course, this won’t help with those who still believe (or at least tell others so) human made climate change won’t happen anyway or – worse – will be good…

    PS: It’s from July, but I think it wasn’t announced at climateprogress.