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Archive for the ‘Socio-Economic Issues’ Category

BBC News, November 24, 2009

Three UK groups studying climate change have issued a strong statement about the dangers of failing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the world.

The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than ever.

They say the 2007 UK floods, 2003 heatwave in Europe and recent droughts were consistent with emerging patterns.

Their comments came ahead of crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

‘Loss of wildlife’

In a statement calling for action to cut carbon emissions, institutions said evidence for “dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change” was growing.

Global carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, Arctic summer ice cover was lower in 2007 and 2008 than in the previous few decades, and the last decade has been the warmest on average for 150 years.

The best thing we could do is to prepare for the worst. Build better flood defences in vulnerable areas Lee, Bracknell

Persistent drought in Australia and rising sea levels in the Maldives were further indicators of possible future patterns, they said.

They argue that without action there will be much larger changes in the coming decades, with the UK seeing higher food prices, ill health, more flooding and rising sea levels.

Known or probable damage across the world includes ocean acidification, loss of rainforests, degradation of ecosystems and desertification, they said.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world faced more droughts, floods, loss of wildlife, rising seas and refugees.

But Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the Met Office, Professor Alan Thorpe, Nerc’s chief executive, and Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, said cutting emissions could substantially limit the severity of climate change.

Copenhagen summit

Prof Slingo told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the importance of the statement was that “it emphasises that whilst global mean temperature changes may not sound very large, the regional consequences of those are very great indeed”.

She said: “As the inter-governmental panel on climate change stated very clearly in 2007, without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we can likely, very likely, expect a world of increasing droughts, floods, species loss, rising seas [and] displaced human populations.

“What this statement says very clearly is that some of those things, whilst we can’t directly attribute them at the moment to global warming, are beginning to happen.”

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SustainableBusiness.com News, April 30, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoA bill introduced in the Senate aims to encourage development of renewable ocean energy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the legislation as a companion to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), that would authorize as much as $250 million a year to promote ocean research.

The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 and a companion tax provision would expand federal research of marine energy, take over the cost verification of new wave, current, tidal and thermal ocean energy devices, create an adaptive management fund to help pay for the demonstration and deployment of such electric projects and provide a key additional tax incentive.

“Coming from Alaska, where there are nearly 150 communities located along the state’s 34,000 miles of coastline plus dozens more on major river systems, it’s clear that perfecting marine energy could be of immense benefit to the nation,” said Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It simply makes sense to harness the power of the sun, wind, waves and river and ocean currents to make electricity.”

The legislation would:

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to increase its research and development effort. The bill also encourages efforts to allow marine energy to work in conjunction with other forms of energy, such as offshore wind, and authorizes more federal aid to assess and deal with any environmental impacts. 
  • Allow for the creation of a federal Marine-Based Energy Device Verification program in which the government would test and certify the performance of new marine technologies to reduce market risks for utilities purchasing power from such projects.
  • Authorize the federal government to set up an adaptive management program, and a fund to help pay for the regulatory permitting and development of new marine technologies.
  • And a separate bill, likely to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, would ensure marine projects benefit from being able to accelerate the depreciation of their project costs over five years–like some other renewable energy technologies currently can do. The provision should enhance project economic returns for private developers

 The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity–6.5% of America’s entire electricity generation–if ocean energy gained the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.

“This bill, if approved, will bring us closer to a level playing field so that ocean energy can compete with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies to generate clean energy,” Murkowski said.

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wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoMendoCoastCurrent, February 14, 2009

Acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff recently published Facilitating Hydrokinetic Energy Development Through Regulatory Innovation

Consider it required reading as a backgrounder on US wave energy policy development, FERC’s position on the MMS in renewables and FERC’s perceived role as a government agency in renewable energy, specifically marine energy, development.

Missing from this key document are the environmental and socio-economic-geographic elements and the related approval process and regulations for:

  • environmental exposure, noting pre/during/post impact studies and mitigation elements at each and every marine energy location;
  • socio-economic factors at each and every marine location (including a community plan with local/state/federal levels of participation).

Approaching the marine renewable energy frontier with a gestalt view toward technology, policy and environmental concerns is a recommended path for safe exploration and development of new renewable energy solutions.  

It has been FERC’s position that energy regulatory measures and policies must precede before serious launch of US projects and other documents by Wellinghoff have noted a six month lead time for policy development alone.

MendoCoastCurrent sees all elements fast-tracked in tandem.  Environmental studies/impact statements are gathered as communities gear up to support the project(s) while technology and funding partners consider siting with best practices and cost-efficient deployment of safe marine energy generation.  All of these elements happen concurrently while FERC, DOI/MMS, DOE local and state governments explore, structure and build our required, new paradigm for safe and harmonious ocean energy policies.

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MendoCoastCurrent from Platts Energy Podium, February 12, 2009

The recently approved Economic Stimulus Plan includes expanding the US electric transmission grid and this may be the just the start of what will be a costly effort to improve reliability and deliver renewable energy to consumers from remote locations, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told the Platts Energy Podium on February 12, 2009.

Wellinghoff defines the Stimulus energy funds as “seed money. But it really isn’t [enough] money to make huge advances in the overall backbone grid that we’re talking about to integrate substantial amounts of wind.”

While details of the plan compromises are unclear, the measure could provide $10 billion or more to transmission upgrades. Wellinghoff said backbone transmission projects could cost more than $200 billion. “And I think we’ll see that money coming from the private sector,” based on proposals already submitted to FERC.

Wellinghoff’s focused on Congress strengthening federal authority to site interstate high-voltage electric transmission lines to carry wind power to metropolitan areas and expects FERC to be heavily involved in formulation of either a comprehensive energy bill or a series of bills meant to address obstacles to increasing renewable wind, solar and geothermal energy, and other matters that fall within FERC’s purview. 

FERC plays a critical role “given the authorities we’ve been given in the 2005 and 2007 acts and our capabilities with respect to policy and implementation of energy infrastructure.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 31, 2009

On January 26, 2009, Lockheed Martin and Ocean Power Technologies agreed to work together to develop a commercial-scale wave energy project off the coasts of Oregon or California.

OPT is providing their expertise in project and site development as they build the plant’s power take-off and control systems with their PowerBuoy for electricity generation.  Lockheed will build, integrate and deploy the plant as well as provide operating and maintenance services. Lockheed and OPT have already worked together on maritime projects for the U.S. government.

Spanish utility Iberdrola is using OPT’s PowerBuoy on the Spainish coast in Santoña for first phase deployment, hoping to become the first commercial-scale wave energy device in the world.  In the Spainish project, Lockheed and Ocean Power are working toward an increased cost-performance of a power-purchasing agreement from which this U.S. wave energy project may benefit.

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Editors Note:  On May 11, 2009, PG&E pulled-out of Mendocino WaveConnect, read it here: http://tinyurl.com/qwlbg6 . The remains of the $6M are now solely allocated to Humboldt WaveConnect.

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPG&E caught a major renewable energy wave today as the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4.8 million in funding their centerpiece wave energy project, WaveConnect. The program also received an additional $1.2 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy. PG&E’s WaveConnect, a project already two years in the making, launches with a $6M kitty.

WaveConnect is chartered with exploring wave energy development off the coasts of Mendocino and Humboldt counties in Northern California. The stakeholders in this region are dyed-in-the-wool political activists, living in environmentally-centric coastal communities and have reacted protectively, sounding alarms that PG&E and the Federal government’s wave energy plans may foul, diminish and destroy the Pacific Ocean and marine life.

Over the two years that PG&E and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) advanced WaveConnect, only recently have environmental concerns and study become part of the discussion. The opportunity for Mendocino and Humboldt coastal communities and local governments to embrace wave energy development and connect with WaveConnect has not gone well, especially as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has disallowed the City of Fort Bragg and local fishermen to be party in the WaveConnect FERC Preliminary Permitting.

Jonathan Marshall, publisher of Next100, a PG&E blog, wrote “PG&E’s first step will be to conduct meetings with local stakeholders and agencies to learn about their issues and concerns. After completing appropriate environmental reviews and permit applications, which could take a couple of years, PG&E then plans to build an undersea infrastructure, including power transmission cables, to support wave energy demonstration projects. The utility will then invite manufacturers of wave energy devices to install them offshore for testing and comparison.”

“The anticipated cost of wave power compares favorably to the early days of solar and wind,” says William Toman, WaveConnect project manager at PG&E. “It will take several stages of design evolution to lower costs and increase reliability.” The CPUC and the DOE are betting on this evolution as in this funding scenario engineered by PG&E, the CPUC awards $4.8M in ratepayer funds while the DOE $1.2M is a matching grant.

Wave energy may become a key source of renewable energy in California. It’s proposed that the 745-mile coastline could produce 1/5th of California’s energy needs if, admittedly a big if, economic, environmental, land use and grid connection issues — and community issues — don’t stand in the way.

Marshall wrote in closing “Making ocean power technology work reliably and at a competitive price will be the first big challenge. Serving offshore installations with power transmission lines will be another economic and engineering hurdle. Finally, ocean power developers must also convince local communities and government regulators that their installations will not destroy marine life, cause boating collisions or navigational hazards, or degrade ocean views.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

As the Monday, February 9, 2009 before 2 p.m. deadline for filing FERC Motion to Intervene papers regarding the Green Wave LLC wave energy preliminary permit off the Mendocino village coast approaches, locals, the City of Fort Bragg and fishing organization are participating and electronically filing their views with FERC.

Here’s the excellent brief filed by the County of  Mendocino, California:  HERE

Have you filed your FERC Motion to Intervene today?

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STEPHEN POWER, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2009
images1Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated Tuesday that the Obama Administration could be open to expanded offshore drilling and is considering doing away with a controversial program that allows oil companies to pay in kind for oil and natural gas taken from public lands.

Salazar inherited a Bush Administration plan that would open tracts off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where drilling had previously been prohibited. Environmental groups want the Obama administration to re-impose a ban on expanded offshore drilling that President George W. Bush lifted last year.

Asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal whether President Barack Obama might try to reinstate the ban, Salazar paused 18 seconds before saying: “I don’t know.”

“We have significant drilling already in many places of the Gulf coast. We have drilling in many places off the Alaska shorelines. There are other places that hold potential for exploration. We’ll develop our guidelines as to how we’re going to look at it. But we’re still at the beginning of an information-gathering process,” he said.

Asked about the Bush administration’s proposal to open certain areas of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling and whether he saw any opportunities for expanded development of the nation’s offshore areas, Salazar said: “When you look at the whole [outer continental shelf], it’s a huge potential. And it has to be done carefully. We don’t want to ruin the beaches of Florida and the coastlines of other places that are sensitive.”

“On the other hand, there are places where it may be appropriate for us to have reconnaissance and exploration and even development. Those are questions that we are exploring and hopefully over the months ahead we’ll have answers to these questions,” he said.

Salazar left the door open to curtailing the “royalty-in-kind” program, under which the government receives oil or natural gas instead of cash for payments of royalties from companies that lease federal property for oil and gas development, and then sells the product into the marketplace and returns the proceeds to the Treasury. “We’re going to put everything on the table — I think everything needs to be looked at,” Salazar said.

Meanwhile, Salazar said new legislation may be needed to overhaul the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, a bureau of Interior that manages the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves.

Salazar said his top priority is to restore confidence in the agency, and in particular the MMS, which was rocked last fall by a report from the department’s inspector general that accused some MMS employees of accepting gifts from and having sex with oil and gas industry representatives whose activities they were supposed to regulate.

Although the Bush administration late last year announced disciplinary action ranging from warnings to termination of more than a half-dozen workers implicated in the report, Salazar said he is mulling “whether additional actions are required.”

Many environmental groups are looking to Salazar to reverse certain policy changes made in the final months of the Bush administration, including new regulations on commercial oil-shale development that the groups say lock in inappropriately low royalty rates for energy firms. Salazar said he and his aides intend to review “all those issues” and that “I expect that there will be changes.”

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RenewableEnergyWorld.com, January 27, 2009 

One Choice

One Option on the Shortlist

A shortlist of proposed plans to generate electricity from the power of the tides in the Severn estuary has been unveiled by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has also announced £500,000 [US $702,000] of new funding to further develop early-stage technologies like tidal reefs and fences. The progress of these technologies will be considered before decisions are taken whether to go ahead with a Severn tidal power scheme.

The tides in the Severn estuary are the second highest in the world. The largest proposal being taken forward has the potential to generate nearly 5% of the UK’s electricity from this domestic, low carbon and sustainable source.

Over the past year, the Government-led feasibility study has been investigating a list of ten options, gathering information on the costs, benefits and environmental challenges of using the estuary to generate power.

The proposed shortlist is includes:       

  • Cardiff Weston Barrage: A barrage crossing the Severn estuary from Brean Down, near Weston super Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff. Its estimated capacity is over 8.6 gigawatts (GW).
  • Shoots Barrage: Further upstream of the Cardiff Weston scheme. Capacity of 1.05 GW, similar to a large fossil fuel plant.
  • Beachley Barrage: The smallest barrage on the proposed shortlist, just above the Wye River. It could generate 625 MW.
  • Bridgwater Bay Lagoon: Lagoons are radical new proposals which impound a section of the estuary without damming it. This plan is sited on the English shore between east of Hinkley Point and Weston super Mare. It could generate 1.36 GW.
  • Fleming Lagoon: An impoundment on the Welsh shore of the estuary between Newport and the Severn road crossings. It too could generate 1.36 GW.The proposed shortlist will now be subject to a three month public consultation which begins this week.

“Fighting climate change is the biggest long term challenge we face and we must look to use the UK’s own natural resources to generate clean, green electricity. The Severn estuary has massive potential to help achieve our climate change and renewable energy targets. We want to see how that potential compares against the other options for meeting our goals,” said UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

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MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press, January 22, 2009

laventosax-largeLa Ventosa, Mexico — On January 22, 2009 Mexico inaugurated one of the world’s largest wind farm projects as the nation looks for alternative energy, in part to compensate for falling oil production.   

Mexico is trying to exploit its rich wind and solar potential after relying almost exclusively on petroleum for decades. With oil production down by 9.2% in 2008, Mexico now is turning to foreign companies, mainly Spanish, to tap its renewable riches. 

“If we don’t do something about this problem of climate change it probably could become — I’m sure it already is — one of the biggest threats to humanity,” said President Felipe Calderon at the inaugural ceremony attended by about 1,000 residents, many of whom held on to their cowboy hats on this wind-swept day.

The new, $550 million project is in a region so breezy that the main town is named La Ventosa, or “Windy.” It’s on the narrow isthmus between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, where winds blow at 15 mph to 22 mph, a near-ideal rate for turbines. Gusts have been known to topple tractor trailers.

Spanish energy company Acciona Energia says the 6,180-acre farm should generate 250 megawatts of electricity with 167 turbines, 25 of which are already operating. The rest should be on line by the end of the year, making the project the largest of its kind in Latin America.

It will produce enough energy to power a city of 500,000 people, while reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 600,000 metric tons each year, according to the company.

Esteban Morras, Acciona board member, said the project could be just the start for Mexico.

“This country has great potential for wind development and should take advantage,” he said.

The project is also a joint venture with Cemex Inc. and will provide 25% of the Mexican cement giant’s energy needs, fulfilling the company’s goal of using alternative fuels.

Mexico hopes to boost the nation’s wind energy capacity, mainly at La Ventosa, to 5,000 megawatts — about 10 times its current output. Wind energy now accounts for less than 2% of electricity production.

Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel said the government is planning a series of wind projects that by 2012 should generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity.

“The intensity of wind in various parts of the country can make our plants among the most efficient in the world,” she said.

But the project hasn’t been welcomed by local residents, who say they see few benefits and aren’t being paid enough for use of their lands.

Several hundred protesters blocked a road leading to the site, holding a banner reading “no to the project.”

The mayor of Juchitan, the municipality where La Ventosa is located, attended the ceremony but called for more benefits for the local community.

“We want to be part of a project that does not consider us just cheap labor but property owners and partners,” Mariano Santana Lopez said.

Critics argue that foreign companies build the turbines, rent the land, run the project and produce the power for companies like U.S.-owned retailer Wal-Mart.

“They promise progress and jobs, and talk about millions in investment in clean energy from the winds that blow through our region,” a leftist farm group known as the Assembly in Defense of the Land said in a statement. “But the investments will only benefit businessmen, all the technology will be imported … and the power won’t be for local inhabitants.”

The group is calling on supporters to “defend the land we inherited from our ancestors.” But so far it hasn’t been able to stop the project.

Acciona, for its part, says the construction of the project created 850 jobs.

Local residents, largely Zapotec Indians, are accustomed to foreigners’ coveting their land. The United States demanded rights to transport goods over the isthmus in the 1850s, and foreigners tried to build a railway alternative to the Panama Canal there.

 

 

 

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