U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman promoted international collaboration on shale gas, CCS, and nuclear. Image source: doe.gov

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman promoted international collaboration on shale gas, CCS, and nuclear. Image source: doe.gov

Last month, I attended two events on U.S. international collaboration on energy issues, both of which involved presentations and panel discussions featuring high-level representatives from government, business, academia, and non-governmental organizations. Despite some discussion of renewable energy and climate change, U.S. government and business representatives centered the discussion largely on shale gas, “clean” coal, and nuclear power.

The first event was the third U.S.-India Energy Partnership Summit, co-convened by Yale University and The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) of India. Panelists discussed experiences and opportunities for collaboration on sustainable energy initiatives, from joint research and development of technologies to promoting policies and financial mechanisms that encourage clean energy investment. The Summit was chaired by Rajendra K. Pachauri, President of TERI North America and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A forum for sustainable energy collaboration between the United States and India is especially important in the context of stagnating international climate negotiations, where the two countries have often assumed adversarial roles. Although the Summit demonstrated the promise of mutual interests, I was disappointed by the focus of several of the high-level speakers on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The nature of the energy partnership described by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman centers largely on “clean coal” technology and shale gas exploration, as well as tighter standards for nuclear energy in India. Dr. Charles Ebinger, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, reinforced this position by highlighting the central role that the coal industry plays in the Indian economy, including as a large employer. Dr. Ebinger also took a rather pessimistic view of India’s ability to expand the share of renewable energy, claiming that renewable energy could not account for more than 20 to 25 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030 or even 2040.

Read the rest of this entry

CCS, Europe, India, nuclear power, shale gas, U.S. Department of Energy, United States

The most important renewable energy project in the United States this year could be a transmission line.

The Unsung Hero of Renewables Growth in Nevada

The One Nevada Transmission Line (ON Line), which the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) announced February 15 that it would support with a $343 million loan guarantee, is supposed to be just the initial piece of the 570-mile Southwest Intertie Project (SWIP) that will connect Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada to the large consumption centers of Southern California and the Southwest. The project is expected to cost roughly $500 million. The 500 kilovolt, 235-mile line will have the capacity to carry 600MW, while SWIP as currently planned could eventually carry over 2,000MW.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the ON Line was actually held last October, and the line is expected to become operational by the end of 2012. ON Line is a joint venture of NV Energy and Great Basin Transmission LLC, the company behind SWIP. The groundbreaking was a well-attended affair, with the likes of Senator Harry Reid and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar present. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu personally announced DoE’s decision to award the loan guarantee, the first ever from the Department for a transmission project.  

Read the rest of this entry

geothermal, grid infrastructure, Ken Salazar, Nevada, renewable energy, solar, Stephen Chu, transmission, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of the Interior, United States, wind

This entry is the latest in a series on innovations in the climate and energy world.

Is this homeowner lazy, or lazy like a fox?

Ethanol from corn and sugar cane? Beyond passé at this point, with major environmental, land use, and food security concerns.

Second-generation biofuels, made from non-food crops and wastes? So 2008.

The next big thing in biofuels? Algae.

So-called third-generation biofuels have begun to receive serious attention. Biofuels can technically be made from just about any plant material, and some of the advantages of algae are obvious: it wouldn’t compete for arable land, for example, as it is grown in water, and it grows like, well, a weed, allowing for incredible yields.

The two avenues of third-generation development being considered so far are microalgae (pond scum, etc) and macroalgae (seaweed). Research is going into both harvesting algae from its natural environment and creating artificial growing environments.

Read the rest of this entry

algae, biofuels, DARPA, Innovation, U.S. Department of Energy
Solar Array at Nellis Air Force Base

Solar array at Nellis Air Force Base, image courtesy of Nellis Air Force Base

Last month, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to “identify a framework for cooperation and partnership” for developing and testing sustainable energy technologies. At a July 29 briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, representatives of the two departments highlighted the opportunities for collaboration and the unique role that the military could play in accelerating the development and deployment of innovative energy solutions. The briefing coincided with the release of a report on the same issues by the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) Military Advisory Board, titled Powering America’s Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroad of National Security Challenges.

At the briefing, Brigadier General Gerald E. Galloway, a member of the CNA report team, observed that the U.S. military has a long history of technological innovation, including helping to develop the Internet and engaging in military research that served as the basis for the civilian nuclear power industry. The DOD also recently conducted a series of renewable energy analyses for its facilities, including an assessment of the six most promising solar technologies and the development of models to determine economically viable solar projects for military bases.

Read the rest of this entry

Climate Change, military, oil dependence, renewable energy, security, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Energy

IRENA logoStarting yesterday, a new international organization dedicated to the “rapid development and deployment of renewable energy worldwide” officially powered up. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will function much like the International Energy Agency (IEA): collecting and analyzing statistics, providing policy suggestions, facilitating partnerships and financing across countries, promoting research and development, and creating technical codes and standards—but only for renewable energy. Still, significant challenges await the fledgling agency if it hopes to promote renewable energy worldwide. An earlier attempt at an international hydrogen fuel agency provides a cautionary example.

One question is what counts as renewable. The agency’s website is filled with descriptions and pictures of wind turbines, solar panels, and even waste-to-biogas plants in China. While no universal definition of “renewable energy” exists, IRENA has made clear what it won’t address—nuclear is out, but so is energy efficiency.

As Frauke Theis reported earlier in this blog, the IEA sees a big place for technologies like nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) in reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Not so IRENA. Before the Copenhagen climate negotiations, IRENA issued a statement condemning the IEA’s support for nuclear and CCS in carbon markets. Energy efficiency receives much better treatment, at least gaining mention in the agency’s 2010 Work Programme where nuclear does not, but it is clear that the focus will be on promoting electricity production from renewable energy, and not on energy savings.

Read the rest of this entry

Bonn, Bush Administration, carbon capture and storage, CCS, China, Copenhagen, electricity, energy efficiency, Eritrea, European Union, Frauke Theis, fuel cell, Germany, greenhouse gas pollution, hydrogen, hydrogen infrastructure, hydrogen vehicles, IEA, International Energy Agency, International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy, International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, International Renewable Energy Agency, international safety and operational standards, IPHE, IRENA, Maldives, markets, Mongolia, nuclear, Obama Administration, policiy, ratifying, renewable energy, research and development, statistics, statute, technical codes and standards, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. government, United Arab Emirates, United States