New Hampshire — The online community of readers who visit RenewableEnergyWorld.com is an important aspect of the news and information that we offer renewable energy stakeholders. We often post news that we feel will get people to view important topics from new angles, offering insights and opinions about technology, policy and more. Often that leads to engaging and informative discussions that add even more value to the article that we have posted.
We value our readers’ feedback and discussion and sometimes we commission new articles based on what our commenters are saying. So what did they want to talk about in 2014? Click through to see.
Natural Gas is a big topic in the energy community and for good reason: the U.S. is flush with it. Experts have long predicted a utility “dash for gas” and a slow transition away from coal as a primary energy feedstock to natural gas. How will this affect the renewable energy community? And is the race for new gas a good thing? John Farrell explored this topic in our 10th most commented article.
Natural Gas Isn’t a Bridge Fuel, It’s a Gateway Drug
Published: February 03, 2014 | 50 Comments
In his State of the Union, President Obama added to the conventional wisdom that supplanting coal with natural gas will act as a bridge toward a climate solution. Unfortunately, gas is more of a gateway drug than a bridge to a clean energy future.
1) It’s still a major greenhouse gas. Sure, natural gas is cleaner than coal, but that’s setting a pretty low bar.
A controversial report emerged last summer detailing what the report authors felt were costly mistakes in Germany’s transition away from fossil-based and nuclear energy. Our very own Meg Cichon explained the report in a news story.
US Should Learn from Germany’s Renewable Energy…Mistakes?
The Value of Solar: Old Wine in New Bottles
Why New Nuclear Technology Hurts the Case for Renewables
Does nuclear energy deserve a seat at the table alongside renewable energy technologies in weaning us off of fossil fuels and transitioning into a cleaner energy world? A new report published yesterday suggests not only will newer small modular reactor (SMR) technology be at least as expensive as larger reactors, it won’t fit the needs of a more flexible grid system, and its development will siphon away funding from the truly renewable energy options that need it.
Few debates rile up the renewable energy sector, and our own readership, more than the issue of whether nuclear energy should have a starring role in our energy shift from fossil to clean technologies.
Nuclear Giant Exelon Blasts Wind Energy
Corporate executives often tout the benefits of competition in a free-market economic system, but it’s striking just how much large corporations don’t like it. In fact, some companies will do all they can to squash it, lobbying for favors and subsidies while working to deny them to their competitors.
The squabble over a key federal tax break for the wind industry is a case in point. Called the production tax credit (PTC), it has helped quadruple the wind industry’s generation capacity over the last five years, and six states now have enough wind turbines to meet more than 15 percent of their annual demand.
Unlike most coal, nuclear, and oil and gas subsidies, the PTC — which has been around only since the mid-1990s — is not permanent. Congress has to renew it periodically. Last December, Congress let it expire yet again, and lawmakers likely will not restore it until after the November mid-term elections, if at all. The PTC represents roughly $1.2 billion in annual tax savings to the wind industry.
Wind’s more-established competitors want the PTC dead.
Nuclear Giant Exelon Launches Front Group to Cover Its Assets, Undermine Renewable Energy?
Nuclear power, which accounts for 19 percent of the nation’s electricity generation, is facing some serious challenges. Not only did its hoped-for renaissance fizzle out, four reactors shut down last year, another is closing this fall, and the nuclear giant Exelon says it will announce plant closings by the end of this year if market conditions don’t improve.
Indeed, market conditions have not been good for Exelon, which owns 23 reactors at 14 plant sites, making it the largest nuclear plant operator in the country. Although the company netted $1.16 billion on revenues of $23.5 billion from all of its energy holdings in 2013, none of the Chicago-based company’s six Illinois nuclear plants turned a profit in the last five years, according to a recent Chicago Tribune investigation. At least three of those plants are reportedly on the chopping block.
Why is the nuclear industry in such dire straits?
Our fourth and third most-commented articles covered the EPA’s new carbon emission plan, a topic that was also discussed in great detail during December’s Renewable Energy World Conference, North America. The Clean Power Plan as it is known, seeks to limit carbon emissions from power plants to a certain threshold by 2020 and puts control over how to do that in the hands of the states. It was a hot topic at the show and on the website as noted by the active comments on the new two articles.
Obama’s International Climate Strategy: More Grease for Renewables
It was good news for renewable energy when President Barack Obama in June proposed carbon dioxide restrictions on existing power plants. It is even better news now that he may use the plan to leverage an international climate accord.
That’s the word from renewable energy advocates who are closely watching as Obama works to broker a climate agreement with the world’s largest economies for signature at next year’s United Nations summit in Paris.
“Renewable energy is growing significantly in both developed and undeveloped country markets now. Any kind of international agreements, no matter how informal, just provides more grease in the financial community to sustain the support and direction in growing companies and projects globally,” said Scott Sklar, clean energy policy strategist and president of The Stella Group.
Obama’s New Carbon Plan Makes History for Clean Energy
In a history-making move for clean energy, the Obama administration today, for the first time, proposed a rule to restrict carbon dioxide on existing power plants.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the proposal amid strong praise from several clean energy groups and, not surprisingly, criticism from coal supporters. The rule calls for reducing carbon 30 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels.
While the proposal is complex, the bottom line is simple. Generators that emit high levels of carbon will find themselves in a less favorable position in the electricity marketplace. Those that emit little or no carbon — like renewable energy — gain a new level of value.
“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, in releasing the draft rule.
Our last two most-commented articles in 2014 topped the 100-mark, always a good sign of a heated discussion. Each one discusses important renewable energy technologies but offers opinions that drove our readers to step in and voice their own thoughts. This article delves into a firmly held belief that planting high-yield crops on marginal land is the best way to produce biofuel. The author posits a theory that there might be another way to think about biofuel production.
Biofuel & Biomaterial Crops: We Might Be Doing It Wrong
As I was recently dulling blades while chopping switchgrass for some experiments, I started thinking whether the “high yield perennial grasses on marginal land” paradigm makes any sense for biofuels. There are many positives about using perennial grasses. They are low maintenance, high yield, require low additional nutrients, and have broad growing ranges.
However, even with these salient advantages and decent government funding, the “high yield perennial grasses on marginal land” paradigm has not yet become a reality. Three key elements seem to be holding it back.
And now we give you RenewableEnergyWorld.com’s most-commented article of the year. This piece covered one of the hottest topics in the energy space in 2014: energy storage. It was written by a scientist for UL and discussed the myriad of reasons that the battery energy storage is a necessary energy technology, particularly for back-up generation during times of power outages, which the author poignantly describes with a touching story. The article was published in late October and for more than a month readers continued to comment on it.
Batteries Are a Crucial Component of Our Energy Portfolio
People take batteries for granted, typically worrying about them only when they fail in the electronic devices they carry or in the cars they drive.
But batteries are a crucial component of many modern conveniences, from medical devices to industrial machines. They help power other, less commonly seen, facets of modern life, in particular, the electric distribution system.
Today, two-thirds of electricity production comes from fossil fuel burning, with another fifth coming from nuclear power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yet the environmental hazards produced by these means, along with the finite supply of fuel for these technologies, means the production of power for the electric grid must be increasingly produced by sustainable energy sources.
Yet nature’s changeability means there will always be fluctuations in the energy produced by these methods at any time, with production rates that bear little relation to societal electricity demands. Developing better ways of efficiently harnessing water, solar and wind power will always be a priority, but the reliability of renewable energy sources must be supported by the increased use of batteries and storage strategies.
Lead image: Retro microphone via Shuttertstock