Weekly Resource for January 6, 2012
Renewable Energy Production Growing Despite of Obstacles
The renewable energy sector experienced a volatile year in 2011, confronting critics and competitors who question the validity of new, sustainable sources of power and fuels. Nevertheless renewable energy advocates surmounted many of the hurdles that were erected and continued to press forward on the long march to a clean energy future.
A review of the past year shows those advocates had much to point to in asserting the viability and validity of renewables in meeting our nation’s growing energy needs. A recent analysis by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration estimates that once the total supply of renewables is calculated for 2011, it will have grown by a remarkable 11 percent over the previous year’s total. Seeing how far the sector has come, partners must redouble efforts and continue the fight in 2012. It is critical that partners and stakeholders stay united and prepared for the time when the political environment inevitably turns more favorable, and that our messages focus on the clear benefits of renewable energy – economic recovery and job creation, national security solutions to volatile oil supplies from unstable regimes, and a better environment with improved soil, water and air quality. By reframing the national energy conversation to emphasize the renewable energy successes at the federal, state and local levels; by forging new alliances with other forward thinking sectors such as the military community; and by continuing to work for the adoption of enabling policies, we can bring the 25x’25 vision to life and achieve a clean energy future. Read more…

News of Note

Renewables Represent Growing Share of U.S. Energy Production

Data from the DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows renewable energy sources continue to grow rapidly while outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

According to EIA data for the first nine months of 2011, renewable energy sources   including biomass, biofuels, geothermal, solar, water and wind   provided nearly 12 percent of domestic U.S. energy production, compared to just less than 11 percent for the same period in 2010 and 10.33 percent in 2009. By comparison, nuclear power provided 10.62 percent of the nation's energy production in the first three quarters of 2011, about 11 percent less than renewables.

Looking at electricity, transportation, and thermal, renewable energy output, including hydropower, grew by 14.44 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. Among the renewable energy sources, conventional hydropower provided 4.35 percent of domestic energy production during the first nine months of 2011, followed by biomass (3.15 percent), biofuels (2.57 percent), wind (1.45 percent), geothermal (0.29 percent) and solar (0.15 percent).

Meanwhile, renewable sources accounted for 9.35 percent of total U.S. energy consumption, including oil and other energy imports, during the first three quarters of 2011.

The EIA says renewable energy sources, including biomass, geothermal, solar, water and wind, provided 12.73 percent of net U.S. electrical generation, an increase of nearly 25 percent compared to the same nine-month period in 2010. By comparison, electrical generation from coal dropped by 4.2 percent while nuclear output declined by 2.8 percent. Natural gas electrical generation rose by 1.6 percent.

Conventional hydropower accounted for 8.21 percent of net electrical generation during the first nine months of 2011 - an increase of 29.6 percent compared to 2010. Non-hydro renewables accounted for 4.52 percent of net electrical generation (wind - 2.73 percent, biomass - 1.34 percent, geothermal - 0.4 percent, and solar - 0.05 percent). Compared to the first three quarters of 2010, solar-generated electricity expanded in 2011 by 46.5 percent; wind by 27.1 percent; geothermal by 9.4 percent; and biomass by 1.3 percent.

"Notwithstanding the recession of the past three years, renewable energy sources have experienced explosive rates of growth that other industries can only envy,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, which analyzed the EIA data. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state and private funders have paid off handsomely, underscoring the short-sightedness of emerging proposals to cut back on or discontinue such support."

Solar Advocacy Groups Unite

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar energy industry, this week announced a merger with the Solar Alliance, an advocacy organization committed to establishing solar policies at the state level.

Effective immediately, the Solar Alliance will operate under the SEIA brand in an effort to present a unified solar industry voice in all advocacy efforts at the state level. Carrie Cullen Hitt, president of the Solar Alliance, is now Vice President for State Affairs at SEIA, and the Solar Alliance team joins Hitt as part of SEIA’s new department for State Affairs.

"The solar energy industry is expanding and it is critical for SEIA to mirror this growth and put our resources and expertise into developing state policy that expand markets for solar energy," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "Adding Carrie Cullen Hitt and her top-notch staff to the SEIA team is a critical step as we continue to scale the U.S. market and move toward our goal of installing 10 gigawatts of solar annually by 2015."

"We have tremendous opportunities for opening markets for solar across all regions," said Hitt. "With the Solar Alliance now a part of SEIA, we have the unified voice that is necessary on the policy front - both in Washington and in the states - to really take the U.S. solar industry to the next level."

Additionally, SEIA has established more formalized, collaborative relationships with nearly a dozen state and regional SEIA chapters to coordinate efforts. While the state and regional SEIA chapters remain wholly independent entities, this partnership brings additional resources and coordination on efforts that align with SEIA’s policy goals in the states.

Current SEIA staff and resources dedicated to federal legislative and regulatory work will continue at the same level to direct policy efforts in Washington.

"The focus on state-level policy allows SEIA to speak as the voice of the solar industry in all government arenas. We have important work to do to ensure solar energy has access to energy markets across the country and that solar is cost competitive in all 50 states. This is a major step in that direction," added Resch.

In 2012, SEIA will present a unified voice in policy issues ranging from international trade, extension of the Section 1603 Treasury Program, and improved access for solar developers on public lands to the policy efforts in the states. State efforts will entail a number of different policy efforts including net metering, a financial tool for recognizing value of distributed generation on the grid, and removing barriers to grid interconnection and permitting.

Ethanol Industry Supports Injunction against Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Ethanol industry groups greeted favorably a decision late last week by a federal court judge preventing implementation of the California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a key element in rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting new fuel technologies.

The Renewable Fuels Association and trade group Growth Energy, who are both plaintiffs in the case, said California “overreached” in creating the standard, calling the LCFS “unconstitutionally punitive for farmers and ethanol producers outside of the state's border.”

In a joint statement, the two industry groups said they hope that “California regulators will come back to the table to work on a thoughtful, fair, and ultimately achievable strategy for improving our environment by incenting the growth and evolution of American renewable fuels.”

The LCFS requires producers and refiners to gradually reduce emissions from their fuels, cutting back by 10 percent by 2020. To meet the carbon intensity requirements of the LCFS, fuel providers must either blend fuels with ethanol or purchase credits on the open market from approved organizations.

But federal Judge Lawrence O'Neill said the standard violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits state regulation of interstate commerce. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said it will abide by O’Neill’s ruling and cease enforcement of the LCFS for now. However, the board is appealing the decision before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and has asked O’Neill to stay his injunction pending the outcome.

The standard has the support of a wide range of environmental groups, who say the standard encourages cleaner, low-carbon fuels, and dispute the LCFS discriminates against fuels on the basis of geography.

However, O'Neill sided with the plaintiffs, finding that the state’s fuel standard specifically discriminated against out-of-state corn ethanol because it assigns more favorable carbon intensity values to California corn-derived ethanol than ethanol derived from corn coming from other states.

Other biofuel interests, including the biodiesel industry, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producers, and advanced biofuel advocates face some uncertainty because of the LCFS delay. Their products were deemed to have lower emissions than corn ethanol and were expected go a long way toward meeting the standard’s "advanced" fuel requirements, particularly in the first few years.

Headlines of Note for the Week Ending January 6, 2012

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