Mercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver. It has been linked to attention deficit disorder in children, and is particularly hazardous to developing fetuses and young children. Poison control centers and emergency rooms took 18,000 calls in 1998 because of broken mercury fever thermometers. Continue reading
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If a proliferation of small-scale power plants serves the interests of the general community, cities and counties should include this concept as an element in their general plans and zoning ordinances. Continue reading
Electric utilities are in the business of selling electricity. And even though most utility sponsored energy conservation programs reward the utility handsomely for saving electricity, the lure of selling more and more is overpowering. The problem only gets worse in the era of electric competition since the regulatory incentives for utilities to help their customers save energy and use energy more efficiently are removed. To solve this inherent problem regulators have normally required divestiture of generation assets as a precursor to full retail competition – so former integrated utilities now become separate generation, distribution or transmission utilities. But this does not do enough to remove utility preferences to discourage distributed generation and energy efficiency. Continue reading
Recognizing the benefits that small-scale and locally-owned wind projects can have, in 2005 Minnesota lawmakers enacted legislation requiring all of the state’s electric utilities to establish Community Based Energy Development (C-BED) tariffs. The key aspect of the C-BED tariff is higher payments in the first 10 years of a power purchase contract. The only other state to enact such a law as of 2009 is Nebraska. Continue reading
In the era of electric deregulation customers in some states now have the ability to choose their electric supplier. But early indications are that the vast majority of consumers will choose not to choose. Who, then, should be their default supplier? In most states the incumbent utility has been given this huge pot of customers – California,Massachusetts and Ohio have decided that it should be the town or city who is responsible for serving these customers. Continue reading
Emissions reduction efforts to address the issue of climate change focus on two primary greenhouse gases: CO2 and methane. CO2 is released when fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas – are burned to power our cars, produce electricity or heat our buildings. Methane is emitted in urban areas when garbage and waste products decompose, primarily in landfills. Local and state governments can play a key role because they directly influence and control many of the activities that produce these emissions. Decisions about land use and development, investments in public transit, energy-efficient building codes, waste reduction and recycling programs all affect local air quality and living standards as well as the global climate. Continue reading
I just came across an interesting interview that radio host Diane Rehm did with Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution. The excerpts below lay out his vision for an energy future that is decentralized and democratized. (He also notes that this vision has just emerged in the past two to four years, but we’ve been around since 1974…).
The book is organized around five pillars of the third industrial revolution:
Pillar one, renewable energy. Pillar two, your buildings become your own power plants. Pillar three, you have to store it with hydrogen. And then Pillar four…the internet communication revolution completely merges with new distributing energies to create a nervous system…Pillar five is electric plug-in transport…
when distributed Internet communication starts to organize distributed energies, we have a very powerful third industrial revolution that could change everything…
You can find some renewable energy in every square inch of the world. So how do we collect them? … If renewable energies are found in every square inch of the world in some frequency or proportion, why would we only collect them in a few central points? …
[it] jump starts the European economy, that’s the idea. Millions and millions and millions of jobs. Thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises have to convert 190 million buildings to power plants over the next 40 years…
That’s the vision: a decentralized energy system can be democratized with local ownership, spreading the production of energy and the economic benefits as widely as the renewable energy resource itself.
In recent weeks, I wrote a Solar Grid Parity 101 and published an animated map of the year when major U.S. metro areas will reach solar grid parity. The most frequent criticism was “you didn’t include tax incentives!”
Yes, there is a 30% federal tax credit on the table until 2016 (barring Republican control of Congress and the White House) and it makes a substantial difference. Mouse over the following map to see the impact of the federal Investment Tax Credit on solar grid parity in 2016.
My one thought: if the ITC expires as scheduled, the 2017 map will have a lot more red than the 2016 one if we measure grid parity with incentives.
But you’ve seen the difference (from 3 states to 21 states with grid parity!), now vote in the comments:
Should the tax credit be included in a calculation of grid parity? Why or why not?
Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote an excellent essay on the value of electric vehicles (a rebuttal to the idea that Americans hate EVs), but this paragraph could stand alone as the “reason to buy an electric car.”
3) Screw you, electric cars are fun to drive.
Look, I know this is purely subjective. But “not fun,” Johnson? Seriously? Have you gotten a chance to floor the accelerator on a Nissan Leaf on a stretch of empty one-way street? Because I have. And it’s hella fun. Electric motors don’t shift gears the way internal combustion engines do. Which means, when you accelerate, you just keep accelerating, without the slow-down that accompanies each shift up. Which means you’re slammed back in your seat like you’re riding a motherf***ing rocket ship to the moon. Only it’s silent. How is that not awesome? If I buy an electric car, I am going to get sooooo many speeding tickets**. I think that’s pretty much the all-American definition of a fun car.