Energy news: China profits from solar policy as Europe backpedals; 10 million solar roof law could get boost from DOE program

China Profits From Solar Policy as Europe Backpedals

China, the world’s biggest electricity consumer, is figuring out how to capture a larger share of the solar-energy market without losing money.

The government will spend at least a year studying Europe’s system of paying above-market prices for solar power before deciding if there’s a better way to spur clean-energy plants across China, said Wu Dacheng, an adviser to national power regulators. The delay has stalled projects planned on Chinese soil by developers such as First Solar Inc. of the U.S.

“We need to learn from European countries like Germany” that pay subsidized rates to spark solar-panel installations, Wu, vice chairman of the Solar Photovoltaic Committee of China’s Renewable Energy Society, said in an interview.

Europe, which attracted more than $65 billion in solar plant investment in 2010, is providing lessons for China. Germany, the largest panel market, together with Spain and France carried out four unscheduled subsidy cuts in 2010, trying to slow a torrent of projects by developers and speculators.

China’s wait-and-see strategy on projects is part of a broader industrial plan to take a leading global role in harnessing energy from the sun. China is first focusing state support on its own equipment manufacturers. That helps them gain market share and cut prices, lowering the eventual cost of a nationwide solar construction program China plans for itself.

10 Million Solar Roof Law Could Get Boost from DOE Program

The Department of Energy’s new SunShot Initiative to make solar energy as cheap as coal has given fresh hope to industry enthusiasts. And it may even give life to a nearly dead effort in Congress to put solar panels and water heaters on 10 million of America’s roofs by 2020.

The 2010 legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hasn’t had much momentum since the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved it in July, and November’s Republican gains in Congress has not helped the measure along. But experts say Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s SunShot Initiative may give the Ten Million Solar Roof Act new political legs.

Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at GTM Research, said that the DOE plan could make the Sanders’ bill more politically palatable, because it would drive down the cost of solar installations. The legislation aims to finance the installation of up to 40,000 megawatts of new solar energy.

“These are two parallel but distinct programs. They could play together very well because “” to the extent that the SunShot initiative is successful “” it will lower the [financial] incentives that are required per project for the Ten Million Solar Roof Act,” he told SolveClimate News.

“Any program designed at reducing the cost of solar installations will be a service to any deployment program by lowering costs” to the government, Kann said.

Jared Blanton, a spokesperson for the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said that the solar energy plans are aligned because “they both are focused on removing needless regulatory barriers that prevent Americans from going solar.”

Explaining what wind energy is all about

Take it from a reporter who covers wind energy: The issues get thorny.

Few people are against wind energy, in theory, but the placement of giant turbines has raised concerns about bird and bat deaths, noise, and, of course, aesthetics.

New Englanders can now try to understand the issues through the New England Wind Energy Education project, an eight-part webinar series and an in-person conference this spring. The most recent webinar was on shadow flicker, the alternating changes in light caused by rotating blades.

For more information about the webinar, to sign up for notifications, or to view a listing, go to

Funded by the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Initiative, the two-year project is designed to provide “objective information to allow informed decisions about proposed wind energy projects,” according to a news release. The agency stresses that the project is not industry-funded.

Obama’s budget to call for slashing oil tax breaks, boosting clean energy

President Obama is expected to call on Congress Monday to eliminate billions of dollars in oil industry tax breaks, while setting aside money for his top clean-energy policy priorities.

Obama will send his fiscal year 2012 budget request to Congress on Monday. The budget comes as Republicans are calling for massive cuts in spending, unveiling a proposal this week to fund the government through the end of this fiscal year that would cut $100 billion in spending when compared to Obama’s 2011 budget request.

Obama’s 2012 budget request will also make major budget cuts. It will freeze domestic spending for he next five years and cut the deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

Obama’s budget request will call for eliminating a series of oil industry tax breaks. The Department of Energy estimates that such a repeal will save $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2012 and a total of $46.2 billion during the next decade.

But the proposal to eliminate oil tax breaks faces major opposition in Congress. Though Democrats have thrown their support behind the proposal, Republicans have said any attempt to revoke industry tax breaks could harm the economy and result in job losses. The president has long called for cutting the tax breaks, but Congress has not been able to muster the necessary support to pass such a proposal.

While Obama’s budget will be marked by major cuts, the administration will make a series of investments in clean energy. The budget request will include more than $8 billion for clean energy programs, including money for research and development.

E.U. Climate Chief Has Work Cut Out for Her

Connie Hedegaard embodies the way the European Commission would like to be perceived in the 21st century.

Ms. Hedegaard, 50, leads the commission’s efforts on climate change, an issue with global resonance, and she is a confident and telegenic communicator, helping dislodge the commission’s image as a haven for graying politicians who settle fights over fish quotas.

She sums up her job as keeping the European Union “in the front-running position when it comes to being the most energy-efficient, climate-friendly region in the world.”

“That is not a small ambition, I know,” she said.

She has had a challenging start since taking office a year ago.

The realities of projecting influence at a time when economic and political power has ebbed away from Europe, and of managing an unwieldy system for trading emissions among 27 nations, quickly caught up with her.

Even before she took office, she was reeling from the failures of the Union to participate in the initial drafting of a nonbinding agreement at a U.N. conference in Copenhagen and to persuade other nations to set a date for reaching a global deal limiting greenhouse gases.

Ms. Hedegaard, a former television news anchor and a political conservative who was Denmark’s climate and energy minister, started the conference as its president. But she aroused the mistrust of some negotiators who regarded her as too supportive of the industrialized world.

Energy Department to seek $600 million in budget cuts

The Obama administration will call for deep cuts in the headquarters staff of the Energy Department next week but will seek $8 billion in investments in the research, development and deployment of what it calls “clean energy technology programs.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu posted a note to “colleagues” on the department’s blog site Friday listing about $600 million in cuts, saying that the department will take “responsible steps to cut wasteful spending and reduce expenses.”

According to Chu’s note, the budget to be unveiled next week will propose cutting spending on department management by nearly 13 percent, slashing the office of fossil fuel budget by 45 percent by zeroing out four programs, and cutting a hydrogen technology program by 41 percent. It will shrink the department’s vehicle fleet by 35 percent in the next three years and eliminate funding for two relatively small projects at two national laboratories.

The $600 million in program cuts would be felt deeply in those sections of the department, but the overall budget request last year was $28.4 billion, not including funds it allocated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Chu did not say what the total budget request would be this year.

23 Responses to Energy news: China profits from solar policy as Europe backpedals; 10 million solar roof law could get boost from DOE program

  1. Anne van der Bom says:

    Shell release its future energy scenarios

  2. PurpleOzone says:


    There’s a proposed bill to withdraw New Hampshire from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative submitted to the NH house.

    NH is part of a 6 state initiative to reduce emissions by cap and trade. One of the stated purposes for the withdrawal is to save poor consumers from the extra expense. The cost per residential household is 36 cents a month. Another reason is because other countries aren’t doing, so what could would does RGGI do?

  3. Bill W says:

    Re the Shell release linked by Anne at #1, here’s the most important (and last) part of the summary:

    “7. Environmental stresses are increasing. Even if it were possible for fossil fuels to maintain their current share of the energy mix and respond to increased demand, CO2 emissions would then be on a pathway that could severely threaten human well-being. Even with the moderation of fossil fuel use and effective CO2 management, the path forward is still highly challenging. Remaining within desirable levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will become increasingly difficult.”

    Of course, this comes after all the points about growth in markets in developing nations.

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    House Republicans introduced spending legislation Friday that would strip U.S. EPA of its ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, gut the State Department’s climate aid programs and slash funding for energy and climate research across the federal government.

  5. Anne van der Bom says:

    Bill W,

    Only had time for a cursory look, but the report seems pretty clear and sober on climate change. It is presented as a simple fact, not a hotly-contested topic. Encouraging.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Great Barrier Reef In Jeopardy Following Cyclone
    Feb. 13, 2011 — Suspended sediment around the Great Barrier Reef appears as peacock blue swirls in the waters off the Queensland coast of Australia in this image taken on Feb. 5, 2011, following the wake of Tropical Cyclone Yasi. Along the coast, river runoff appears green, especially north of Townsville. Further out to sea, strong winds likely churned up the sediment from the seafloor. The localized flooding and cyclone damage is estimated to cover 13 percent of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Read More

  7. Colorado Bob says:

    Still, the main threat to coral reefs remains climate change. Because weak cyclones are a regular feature of coral reef systems, it’s the increase in intensity rather than frequency that is cause for concern, says Katharina Fabricius, principal research scientist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS).

    Between 1970 and 2005 Australia’s Great Barrier Reef saw 116 cyclones cross its path, none of which were category five. Since 2006, three cyclones — Larry, Hamish, and now Yasi – have tackled the coastline with category-five strength, dislodging large coral heads, the older corals in the reef.

    “Reefs take 10 years in the most favorable conditions, and up to 50 years in deeper water to recover, so the presently high frequency of disturbance doesn’t give the reefs sufficient time to recover, and consequently coral cover is declining,” Fabricius told Discovery News.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb. 14 (UPI) — Recent flooding in Sri Lanka destroyed more than one-third of the county’s upcoming rice harvest, a government official said.

    After January’s second round of massive flooding, nearly 500,000 acres of the 1.7 million acres of rice planted have been destroyed, IRIN news service of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports.

    Rice experts warn that yields could also be low in areas that weren’t directly affected by the flooding.

    “The indirect damage is the spread of fungal diseases that will cause the harvest to drop even in areas outside the flood zones,” said Nimal Dissanayake, director of Sri Lanka’s Rice Research and Development Institute.

    Read more:

  9. Colorado Bob says:

    Climate cash goes up in smoke

    According to Rod Sims, chairman of NSW’s independent energy pricing tribunal and expert adviser to Parliament’s multi-party committee on climate change, the bad policies are eroding public support just when it is needed to finally establish a price on carbon.

    ”Some of these schemes were dreamed up because we weren’t doing the substantive things but some are amazingly expensive, and when we feel the pain of power price rises it lessens the public willingness to accept a sensible and efficient carbon price,” Mr Sims said.

    ”We’ve drawn down on our political capital with little to show for it and it’s going to make sensible action harder.”

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Nowata , Oklahoma may see a temperature rise of more than 100F in 7 days. Their forecast for Thursday is 72F.

    Oklahoma’s coldest morning on record: -31°F ; storm leaves 2 feet of snow

  11. Zetetic says:

    You’ve just got to love the naked contradictions in the Republican’s positions….

    Repub: Cut funding for renewable energy, we’ve got a budget crisis.

    Dem: Well then let’s cut the subsidies for fossil fuels, it would to more for the budget and it would be good for the country.

    Repub: We can’t do that! It would cost people jobs!

    Dem: Not likely with their profits, besides renewables employ lots of people and cost less in subsidies. If you’re worried about jobs, why cut renewables?

    Repub: Quiet you damn hippy!

    I really wish the news media would call out these rather obvious contradictions to the public more.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Category 3 Bingiza hits Madagascar

    Tropical Cyclone Bingiza roared ashore over Northern Madagascar early today as a dangerous Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Recent microwave imagery from NASA’s TRMM satellite shows that Bingza had a large region of heavy rains of 0.4 – 0.7 inches per hour in the eyewall and inner spiral bands at landfall. Rainfall amounts of up to 8 inches are being predicted along Bingza’s path over northern Madagascar for the coming 24 hours by NOAA’s automated tropical cyclone rainfall prediction system. Rains of this magnitude are capable of causing dangerous flooding in Madagascar, and the storm’s winds and storm surge likely caused serious damage in the moderately populated area where the storm came ashore. Bingiza will weaken today as it traverses the island, but is expected to re-intensify once it emerges over the Mozambique Channel between Africa and Madagascar on Tuesday, where sea surface temperatures are about 0.4°C above average. As the storm skirts the western coast of Madagascar Tuesday and Wednesday, the island will receive additional very heavy rains on its mountainous slopes. Madagascar suffers from extensive deforestation, and a storm like Bingiza is capable of causing very dangerous floods.

  13. paulm says:

    So with the increase of methane bubbles rising from the clathrates… does this reduce the capacity of the arctic water to freeze?

    Is this another form of feedback?

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    Massive Flux of Gas, in Addition to Liquid Oil, at BP Well Blowout in Gulf

    The researchers explained that the 1,480-meter depth of the blowout (nearly one mile) is highly significant because deep sea processes (high pressure, low temperature) entrapped the released gaseous hydrocarbons in a deep (1,000-1,300m) layer of the water column. In the supplementary online materials, the researchers provide high-definition photographic evidence of the oil and ice-like gas hydrate flakes in the plume waters.

    Joye said the methane and other gases likely will remain deep in the water column and be consumed by microbes in a process known as oxidation, which en masse can lead to low-oxygen waters.

    “We’re not talking about extensive hypoxic areas offshore in the Gulf of Mexico,” Joye explained. “But the microbial oxidation of the methane and other alkanes will remove oxygen from the system for quite a while because the time-scale for the replenishment of oxygen at that depth is many decades.”

    Leifer added that some of the larger gaseous hydrocarbons documented, such as pentane, have significant health implications for humans and potentially for marine life.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Growing Valentine’s Day roses harming Kenya’s ecological site

    Supermarkets eager to meet demand for cheap flowers urged to show more concern for the environment

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    According to environmental activists planning a day of protests across the US tomorrow, “climate crank” is set to be the latest name added to the growing list – self-appointed, or otherwise – which already includes sceptic, denier, contrarian, realist, dissenter, flat-earther, misinformer, and confusionist. But, for the protest organisers, the term “crank” more accurately describes this grouping:

    For years, climate “sceptics” have denied the near-unanimous scientific consensus around global warming in an effort to delay action. They’re not “sceptics” – they’re cranks, and it’s time to unmask those who are holding our nation’s climate policy hostage. We’re taking action to call out the climate cranks, shift the climate debate in Washington and, yeah, we are looking to make news.

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    Be Nice To Bigots
    Republican leaders tiptoe around the smear campaign against Obama’s faith and citizenship.

    The party that was supposed to stand up to President Obama can’t even stand up to its own fringe.

  18. paulm says:

    The Bloomberg report, which analyzed confidential data provided by 28 major purchasers of wind turbines, found that expanding scale, improved efficiency and over-capacity among wind energy hardware manufacturers have combined to push the average price of onshore wind turbines below one million Euros per megawatt.

  19. paulm says:

    A southern California utility has received contracts under which small-scale photovoltaic farms would produce electricity at a lower long-term cost than electricity generated by a gas-powered plant.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The news that Connie Hedegaard is to be EU Climate Commissioner is, in my opinion, bad news, indeed. She was integral to the push to railroad the poor countries to the benefit of the industrialised West, in the familiar mode of GATT and WTO ‘negotiations’, that was the real reason for the Copenhagen debacle. That she has been rewarded for that service makes me very suspicious of EU bona fides in future climate negotiations.

  21. jyyh says:

    Probably someone already posted this one:
    then they’re also doing this:

    This is clearly a long term plan to deplete the oil exports to US republicans.