Archive | Energy Industry

AGL Energy Doubts Wind Farm Project in Austrailia Due to Renewable Energy Certificates

SYDNEY, Dec. 24 (UPI) — AGL Energy expressed doubt about the future of its proposed $800 million wind farm in Victoria because of a collapse in the price of Australia’s renewable energy certificates.

The value of the certificates, aimed at encouraging investment in renewable energy, has almost halved since the Australian government began issuing them to consumers who install solar hot water systems and other products that do not generate power.

The 350-megawatt wind farm, with a planned 150 turbines nearly 300 feet tall, powering 150,000 homes, was expected to be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

AGL Managing Director Michael Fraser said Tuesday the government’s approach was a fraud that threatened the industry’s ability to meet the target of obtaining 20 percent of power from renewable sources, the Herald reports. More than $30 billion of expected investment is needed to reach the target.

The oversupply of certificates had caused investment in renewable energy to stop, he said.

The only new wind farms AGL would definitely build were those required under contracts to supply power to desalination plants for the Victorian and South Australian governments, Fraser said.

”Beyond that, you simply won’t see us invest until this issue gets resolved,” he said.

The project was expected to create 500 jobs during construction. Fraser said up to seven of AGL’s other wind farms being considered are also under threat.

”The reality is that you’ve seen virtually no new announcements around large-scale investments in the renewable sector from anybody for months now,” he said.

Victoria state Energy Minister Peter Batchelor said Canberra’s policies have delayed investment in renewable energy projects and undermined job creation.

”We in Victoria want to move away from our overwhelming dependence on brown coal, but to do that we need to encourage investment in new wind farms,” he told The Age.

Coal-fired plants supply about 86 percent of Australia’s electricity.

Batchelor said the value of renewable energy certificates has fallen from more than $50 in May 2009 to less than $35 now.

“We are very concerned about the inability of the national renewable energy scheme to stimulate jobs and investment in Victoria,” he said.

When the legislation was passed in August, it was expected to generate $28 billion of investment in new generation capacity in Australia over the next decade and the creation of 28,000 jobs in industries such as wind and solar power, according to the Clean Energy Council, an alliance of the Australian Wind Energy Industry Association and the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy.

A spokesman for Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong acknowledged that the fall in price for certificates partly reflected the higher uptake of solar water heaters as a result of state incentives and the federal stimulus package, The Age reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Other, Policies & Solutions, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Duke Energy to Spend $93M for Violations

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 22 (UPI) — Duke Energy will spend $85 million to resolve Clean Air Act violations at its Indiana plant and pay a $1.75 million fine, federal officials said Tuesday.

The company agreed to reduce harmful air pollution and pay the penalty under a settlement to resolve the violations, the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency said in a joint release.

The settlement also requires Duke Energy to invest $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects, the agencies said.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Indianapolis, resolves violations found at the company’s Gallagher coal-fired power plant in New Albany, Ind., across the Ohio River from Louisville. The settlement is expected to reduce the plant’s sulfur dioxide emissions by almost 35,000 tons per year, an 86 percent reduction when compared to 2008 emission levels, the Justice Department said.

The settlement also requires Duke to spend $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects, including $250,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to address acid rain in downwind national forests, $5 million for at least one project such conversion to hydro-generation or hybrid vehicle fleets, and $1 million for environmental mitigation projects allocated among the states — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — that joined the settlement.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollution, Air Pollution Remediation, Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Business & Economics, Coal, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Ethics & Responsibility, Justice0 Comments

Department of Energy Must Upgrade Computer Security, Says Inspector

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) — An Inspector General’s report finds the U.S. Department of Energy has been dragging its feet on computer security, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Delays in upgrading security on computer systems at the department’s Office of Science could be both dangerous and costly, the report said. The office is responsible for research in a number of areas and manages nuclear facilities at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., and facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M.

“Any system that is not as secure as it should be could be subject to compromise,” said Rickey Hass, deputy inspector general for audit services. “There are literally thousands of people who scan systems to try to gain access.”

The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy reviewed the office’s spending on computer security in 2008, $287 million for the year. The report said the seven field offices have not upgraded security to a high enough level.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Nuclear, Office, People, Policy, Law, & Government, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

Biden Issues Positive Clean Energy Report

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) — Vice President Joe Biden has issued a report to the president indicating U.S. Recovery Act initiatives are building a more energy-efficient economy.

“I’m pleased to report that the administration is laying the foundation for a clean energy economy that will create a new generation of jobs, reduce dependence on oil and enhance national security,” Biden wrote in the memo Monday. “Through the Recovery Act and more effective use of programs already in existence, the administration is taking the critical steps to transform the United States into a global clean energy leader.”

The memo outlined ways the Recovery Act and other investments are allowing the United States to make clean energy advances, and asserted the nation is scheduled to double geothermal, solar and wind generation manufacturing facilities in three years.

The memo also touted three of the first-ever electric vehicle facilities along with 30 new battery plants expected to be operational during the next six years. U.S. homes will have 26,000,000 Smart meters installed by 2013, triple the number now in service, the memo said.

There are plans to build and operate five commercial scale power plants with carbon capture facilities intended to help control greenhouse gas emissions.

All the projects are to be funded, the memo says, either by Recovery Act monies alone or in combination with private sector investments.

Biden will discuss the measures at a meeting on climate change in Copenhagen next week.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Energy Industry, Energy Policy & Advocacy, Geothermal, Other, Solar, Wind0 Comments

Solar Power Units Create More Power with Less Sun

KONA, Hawaii, Dec. 14 (UPI) — The world’s first solar thermal plant using proprietary MicroCSP solar panels opened at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii in a major new response to the state’s clean energy initiative.

The thermal energy project spans 3.8 acres in the Kona desert and features 1,000 of the solar panels, the first of their kind, Hawaii-based Sopogy Inc. said.

Through the use of mirrors and optics and an integrated sun tracker, the company claims the panels achieve higher efficiencies than conventional solar panels and are good at gathering energy even in the cloudiest of conditions.

Solar energy is attracting funding and support worldwide amid a scramble for clean energy. As the panels’ manufacturer, Sopogy is poised to replace the “chaotic” solar power installations worldwide with its branded product.

Sopogy has projects operating in Idaho, California, Hawaii and several more across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, many of Sopogy’s customers are using the systems as a competitive advantage and have intentionally kept their projects confidential.

Analysts said several factors supported upgrading of conventional solar panels with more efficient and versatile devices that respond to familiar challenges, such as poor sunlight or fragility and unreliability of the equipment.

Sopogy’s branded system also uses a thermal energy storage buffer, the first of its kind, that allows energy to be produced during cloudy periods. The buffer can also transfer energy produced during the day to evening hours.

Sopogy named the project, “Holaniku at Keahole Point” to add local color and to reflect the diversity of the technology’s uses. The Hawaiian term stands for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency.

Sopogy also believes it is on to an all-round winner with the MicroCSP technology applied in solar power systems. “MicroCSP is an achievement in rugged, modular and cost-effective solar thermal technology,” said Darren T. Kimura, the company’s president and CEO.

Kimura said the completion and demonstration of the 2 megawatt solar thermal project is an important first step toward widening its usage across the world.

Sopogy’s MicroCSP technologies are being used in such diverse applications as process heat, solar air conditioning, rooftop deployment and power generation.

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative has attracted the attention of the renewable energy industry. Sopogy and its local solar project development partner Keahole Solar Power plan to bring 30 megawatts of MicroCSP power to the state by 2015.

Analysts said competitive pricing of Sopogy’s systems would be crucial to establishing the company into solar thermal energy markets with less cash than Europe’s industrial countries or oil-rich states experimenting with energy diversification.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar0 Comments

Presidential Cabinet Shows Strong Support for Emissions and Climate Bill

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) — Top Obama officials joined Senate environment committee leaders to rev up enthusiasm for a major climate bill but faced opposition from Republicans and some prominent Democratic senators as well.

Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the second ranking Democrat on the committee as well as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was among those who quickly voiced reservations during the first day of climate legislation hearings by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Baucus said he had concerns with the overall direction of the bill and some “serious reservations” about its steep metrics for cutting carbon gas emissions.

“Montana, with our resource-based, agriculture and tourism economies cannot afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change,” Baucus said. “But we also cannot afford the unmitigated effects of climate change legislation.”

The bill, sponsored by the committee chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., would mandate a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020, higher than the 17 percent cut called for in the House of Representatives’ version. It also would set caps on companies’ carbon emissions and create a market for them to trade unused allocations — a provision called “cap and trade.” The mechanism has been criticized by opponents as a secret carbon tax.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified Tuesday alongside other top Obama administration officials, including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, rallying behind the provisions in Kerry and Boxer’s bill.

“I believe this is a workable mechanism to get this done,” Kerry told the committee. “By putting this target in place, I believe we will attract private investment and spur a new revolution in America.”

But the bill’s greenhouse gas emissions targets and its possible costs in higher consumer prices and job losses have rankled some Republican and moderate Democrat senators. None of the Republicans present Tuesday seemed likely to support the bill, though some did say the bill should include more support for the U.S. nuclear energy industry.

Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee is one of five other panels that have jurisdiction over the climate bill before it reaches the floor. There, the senator could be instrumental in shaping or rewriting its “cap and trade” mandates for carbon gas emissions.

With a mix of dissenters more generally united by geography and state industry than party, getting Baucus’ support could help the bill reach the 60 votes it would need to end debate in the Senate.

Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., another pivotal vote in the committee, voiced concerns about the impact on the coal and steel industries in his state, calling measures to protect jobs in Pennsylvania “critical.”

“When I hear comments about loss of jobs and higher costs for consumers, I’m very much concerned with that,” Specter said. “We all have the same objectives and the same goals. It would be very refreshing today if we could find a bipartisan answer.”

After testifying before the committee Tuesday, Chu indicated there are some cooperative efforts being launched by the administration behind the scenes to build consensus on the bill.

Chu said he met with moderate Democrats to discuss the climate legislation and also had a two-hour meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Graham has been working with Kerry to build bipartisan support for the bill.

“I have to say, coming away from that meeting, we were both very optimistic because we’re thinking, about 95 percent of the things, we agree on,” Chu said.

Even with the panel of U.S. President Barack Obama’s top environmental and energy officials on hand, Republican senators did not remain to hear testimony from the witnesses, trickling out one by one after giving their five-minute opening statements.

Baucus, who left the hearing for a meeting on the equally contentious healthcare reform bill, reiterated the need to craft a solid bill and one with a consensus behind it. Baucus worked hard to draft Republican support for the Democrats’ healthcare bill.

“We cannot avoid a first step that takes us further away from an achievable consensus from common-sense climate change legislation,” Baucus said.

“We could build that consensus here in this committee. If we don’t, we risk wasting another month, another year, another Congress, without taking a step forward to our future.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Effects Of Air Pollution, Energy, Energy Industry, Other, Policy, Law, & Government, Transportation0 Comments

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Agrees to Mercury Emissions Deadline

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to issue rules covering power plants’ mercury emissions by 2011, documents indicate.

A consent decree filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington detailed an agreement with environmentalists and public health groups in which EPA officials agreed to a Nov. 16, 2011, deadline to close longstanding gaps in its regulation of mercury and other toxic substances from coal- or oil-burning power plants, The New York Times reported.

Less than one-third of U.S. coal-burning power plants have basic “scrubbers” for such pollution, in which tiny particles of mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, dioxins and other toxic substances are thrown into the atmosphere, John Walke of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Times.

But energy industry groups and big electricity consumers are likely to challenge the rules emerging from the consent decree in court, the newspaper said.

Scott Segal of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council reportedly warned that forcing utilities to speed up their ongoing efforts to cut mercury emissions would raise electricity costs and send pollution-producing manufacturing activities overseas.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Energy Industry, Other, Pollution & Toxins, Toxic Substances0 Comments

Wind Energy is Helping Britain Meet Country's Green Targets

LIVERPOOL, England, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Britain is on track to reach its ambitious green energy targets, according to the country’s wind energy industry.

The British Wind Energy Association Monday announced that Britain now has 4 GW of wind power generating capacity, enough to power 2.3 million homes.

“We are on track to hit the target of 10 percent of energy in the U.K. coming from renewables by 2010,” BWEA head Maria McCafferty told the industry’s annual conference, which takes place this week in Liverpool. “And with the very large capacity offshore schemes coming in from 2015, we should get to the target of 30GW of wind by 2020.”

While BWEA hopes for wind to bypass nuclear by 2012, other experts say Britain’s long-term green energy targets are unrealistic.

Wulf Bernotat, the head of German energy giant Eon, told the London Times that he believes Britain’s target of generating one-third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is naive.

“There is a big mismatch with what is achievable,” he said. “I think it is even bigger in the U.K. than in Germany. Politicians need to be more realistic.”

Eon has scaled down investments in renewables because state subsidies and carbon prices are not high enough, Bernotat said.

“The carbon price is too low to support any accelerated investment in carbon abatement. Every investment must deliver an acceptable return.”

Eon trough its daughter Eon UK is nevertheless backing the world’s biggest wind farm, the 1 GW London Array, which is being built in the Thames Estuary at an estimated cost of $5 billion.

And former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says public opposition, and not market realities, is the main stumbling block for wind energy.

He told the conference that a vocal minority was trying to block the spread of wind turbines in Britain, with as much as 9 GW of wind capacity currently stalling.

“Time and time again,” Prescott was quoted as saying by British daily Independent, “we see ambitious and worthy wind turbine applications defeated by a vocal minority of landowners and NIMBYs. They hire professional consultants to delay, obstruct and ultimately defeat these applications.”

He urged London to set aside public areas where wind turbines can be built.

“We cannot let the squires and the gentry stop us meeting our moral obligation to pass this world on in a better state to our children and our children’s children,” he said. “They’ve had it their way for far too long.”

Prescott’s unusually harsh comments are reminiscent of remarks made last March by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

Miliband said opposition to wind farms should become as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt or refusing to stop at pedestrian crossings. Anti-wind lobbyists had harshly criticized Miliband for those comments.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Nuclear, Other, Wind0 Comments

Truce Lifts Hope for Nigeria's Citizens; Five Year Oil War May End Soon

LAGOS, Nigeria, Oct. 2 (UPI) — Hopes were raised Friday that the end of a five-year conflict that has ravaged one of Africa’s largest oil industries may be in sight after a senior rebel chieftain made a last-minute acceptance of a government amnesty.

At least two other key leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a coalition of tribal factions demanding a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth for the impoverished tribes of the delta, have yet to take up the amnesty that is due to expire Sunday.

But the formal acceptance of the amnesty by Tom Ateke, leader of one of MEND’s main groups, the Niger Delta Vigilante, is widely seen as a significant breakthrough for President Umaru Yar’Adua, who launched the amnesty Aug. 15.

Ateke’s acceptance of an unconditional pardon came only a few days after one of China’s top three oil companies was reported to be negotiating a massive investment deal with Yar’Adua’s government.

The China National Offshore Oil Corp. wants to buy up one-sixth of Nigeria’s known oil reserves, currently owned or operated by western oil giants, for a reputed $30 billion to $50 billion.

Ateke has operated independently of MEND for much of the time, but he has led anti-government action for more than a decade and is popular in the region.

His group is also heavily involved in large-scale theft of which is smuggled into the international market.

But at least two other top insurgent commanders have not yet accepted the amnesty, and until they do the violence is likely to continue despite the likely renewal of large-scale military operations.

The holdouts are Farah Dagogo of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, active since 2006, and Government Ekpemupolo, universally known by his nom de guerre of “Tompolo,” of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities. The Ijaw is the main tribal confederation in the delta.

Bringing the conflict to a close would restore an oil industry that has been badly hit by the violence centered in the oil-rich delta that provides 90 percent of the state’s revenues.

Nigeria’s oil production, largely in the hands of international oil giants such as Chevron of the United States, Total of France and the Anglo-Dutch Shell company, has been reduced by one-third since 2006.

At the same time, oil theft has become a multibillion-dollar industry in the delta, the center of Nigeria’s energy industry.

On Tuesday, MEND, which had called a 60-day truce on July 15 and extended it by a month after the government amnesty was declared, named a team of mediators who would negotiate with the federal government once the amnesty expires.

Mend said in a communique that the team would “have our mandate to oversee a transparent and proper MEND disarmament process that conforms with international standards as the current disarmament process is flawed and lacks integrity.”

It accused the government in Abuja, Nigeria’s administrative capital, of not showing “willingness to conduct a dialogue, preferring instead to make wild unrealistic threats, purchase more useless military hardware and dole out bribes to traitors to our noble cause.”

However, MEND leader Henry Okah has said that attacks on oil installations would continue once the amnesty expires because the root causes of the violence have yet to be addressed.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Causes, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Military, Other0 Comments

Australia Plans Smart Electricity Grid to Reduce Energy Pollution and Carbon Pollution

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Australia today announced a $100 million plan for the country’s first commercial-scale “smart” grid to deliver electricity.

The “Smart Grid, Smart City” initiative will be a cooperative effort between the Australian government and the energy and communications sectors. The program has the potential to reduce home energy bills, reduce carbon pollution and help tackle climate change, the government says.

Australia has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest per capita producer of carbon emissions.

“From the power plant to the power point, smart grids enable a two-way flow of information between energy suppliers and consumers,” Environment Minister Peter Garrett said in a release. “Linking all these energy data points creates a web of information so that energy can be delivered where and when it is required. The potential economic benefits of creating an Internet for the energy industry are staggering.”

The announcement comes in conjunction with the completion of a two-month study commissioned by the government — “Smart Grid, Smart City: A New Direction for a New Energy Era” — on how smart grids can optimally work in Australia. A target date for the plan was not disclosed.

“With this $100 million investment, Australia will showcase the world’s best practice when it comes to investing in smart grid technologies, helping industry get on with the job of rolling out these technologies and supporting clean energy jobs,” Garrett said.

Smart grids interact with information technology and communications infrastructures using two-way digital communications to deliver electricity. They help energy suppliers to better manage peak loads, reduce the risk of blackouts during peak-use periods and improve the reliability of electricity supply. Renewable energies can also be incorporated into the grid.

Australia’s minister for resources and energy, Martin Ferguson, said the rollout of a smart grid — which uses two-way digital communications to deliver electricity — will provide Australia with more reliable energy delivery, allow consumers to sell power back into the grid and ideally will cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Access Economics, if Australia were to invest $3.2 billion in smart grid technology over five years, electricity use would decrease by 4 percent and the country’s gross domestic product could increase by up to $16 billion over 10 years. The move could also create nearly 18,000 new jobs.

Australia has the potential to become a world leader in deploying smart grid technology, but the country will need to deal with any regulatory barriers, consider possible tax incentives as well as invest in research and development, Guido Bartels, IBM’s global energy and utilities general manager, said at a Melbourne energy conference in September.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Other, Science, Space, & Technology4 Comments

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