The U.S. Energy Department needs a holistic approach in researching clean energy if it’s to out-compete the rest of the world, the energy secretary said.
U.S. President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address said the United States needed to invest heavily in research, “especially clean energy technology,” to remain at the top of the geopolitical hierarchy.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a subcommittee on energy and water at the House Committee on Appropriations that his department issued a budget request of $29.5 billion for 2012 to support Obama’s objectives.
“To reach our energy goals, we must take a portfolio approach to research and development: pursuing several research strategies that have proven to be successful in the past,” he said in prepared remarks.
Research and development targeting energy efficiency programs, he said, wouldn’t only help consumers save money but conserve energy as well.
As Tim Nilsen steps into one of his barns outside Sacramento, Calif., hundreds of turkeys snap to attention.
Turkeys are the name of the game at Nilsen Farms. But his property is also serving up something else “” solar energy for about 750 homes in the community.
That’s because the property is also home to an 8-acre solar array “” a field of shiny black panels. A lot of customers want solar, but for one reason or another, they would rather not have panels on their house, says Jim Burke, a program manager for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
Burke says it became apparent that “there’s really no reason why we had to climb on top of somebody’s perfectly good roof and drill a hole in it. We could actually come out to a larger facility like this, [and] take advantage of the economies of scale.”
Renewable power is on the rise across the country. But for states with ambitious clean energy goals like California, it isn’t growing fast enough. That has them turning to a new kind of renewable project “” midsized solar farms. Many are calling it the Goldilocks of renewable energy.
Things are looking up for demand response. Less than two weeks after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission refused to make any rash judgments regarding a double counting issue pertaining to the PJM Interconnection, the regulatory body–in an unrelated action to the double counting initiative–has amended the rules in another area to allow for demand response to receive the same payment as generation resources in wholesale markets.
The change in the Federal Power Act applies to Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators that have the ability to balance supply and demand instead of calling on more generation. Those grid operators will have to pay the full market price, known as the locational marginal price, to demand response resources in real-time and day-ahead markets as long as dispatching DR is cost-effective.
“Our customers want to know, ‘What is the value of price-based demand response?’ FERC’s final ruling answers that question. It makes it much more attractive to participate in these types of programs,” said Gregg Dixon, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales at EnerNOC. “Going forward, we expect much greater interest in these offerings, from new and existing customers alike.”
While the changes brought cheers from curtailment service providers like EnerNOC, the adjustment will take a while to be put in place. Each RTO and ISO has to determine a price level at which demand response dispatch is cost-effective compared to generation. The tariff changes need to be established by July 22.
“This landmark decision is just the motivation needed to transform the market and empower customers, clearly validating EnergyConnect‘s commitment and leadership in price-responsive demand,” Kevin R. Evans, President and CEO, EnergyConnect, said in a statement.
The sentiment echoes DOE Secretary Steven Chu’s cautious but steadfast comments supporting nuclear before the House Energy & Commerce committee.
The DOE Loan Program has issued a conditional commitment for a $8.33 billion loan guarantee to Georgia Power to build the first nuclear power plant in the U.S. in three decades. Silver noted briefly in his talk that the nuclear technologies used by Georgia Power will be different from the GE Mark I, which are the type of reactors that are under going a partial meltdown in Japan right now, in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami.
Silver said the Loan Program expects to move forward with the Georgia Power nuclear plant, as well as additional nuclear projects. The Georgia Power project is still a conditional commitment, and the loan guarantees take months to finalize.
Political unrest in the Gulf has complicated the task of lowering fuel subsidies to help cut carbon in a region with the world’s highest per capita emissions.
Gulf countries, where summer temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 F), want to adopt renewables like solar power to free up oil for export at high prices as well as cut emissions, which are six times higher than the world average.
But they have been dragging their feet by providing $30 billion a year in subsidies for oil and gas use, selling gasoline and electricity domestically at often a fraction of international rates.
G20 nations have pressured the region to end subsidies, which hamper fuel efficiency, push more oil into domestic power generation, and make renewable projects uncompetitive.
“With the protests … there is no regime that would dare to touch subsidies for quite some time, because the cost of living has been one of the main grievances throughout North Africa and the Gulf,” said Samuel Ciszuk, Middle East analyst at IHS Energy in London. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar all offer domestic fuel discounts. In Kuwait, the average fuel price break is 83 percent, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.
By making subsidies harder to discontinue, and by unnerving foreign investors, Arab unrest could limit Gulf oil exports and delay even modest regional plans to adopt cleaner energy.