Hard coal receives subsidy set back

» By | Published 23 Jul 2010 |

The European Commission’s move to rein in coal subsidies by suggesting that unprofitable mines be shut down within the next four years has received wide coverage this morning. The move, announced yesterday and set for formal approval in December this year, would see the closure of hard coal mines located mainly in Germany’s Ruhr region, north-west Spain and Romania’s Jiu Valley.

The announcement is a signal that the European Commission firmly believes that renewable energies, including wind power, are the path to a carbon-neutral future:

Renewable, clean energy is the way to go,” said European Commissioner for competition Joaquín Almunia, reported by EurActiv.

Leading environment group WWF said the Commission has finally “stood up to complacent attitudes and acted in the broader European interest”. In total, subsidies to the sector hit €3.2 billion in 2008, down from €6.4 billion in 2003, the Financial Times noted in its article.

The Ecocentric blog described coal subsidies as the “dirty secret of fossil fuels.” Coal receives tax payer support “even in environmentally friendly Europe.”

But the Commission’s proposal could hit opposition from some countries in Europe that are heavily reliant on hard coal. According to the New York Times Green Blog about a month ago, Spain, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania want to keep coal subsidies while the industry also employs around 100,000 people across Europe.

Meanwhile, EWEA foresees the creation of around 250,000 new jobs in the European wind industry by 2020.

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Global wind power and other renewables about to surpass fossil fuels

» By | Published 22 Jul 2010 |

Chris Rose

Wind power got another strong vote of confidence last week when the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network (REN21) jointly issued reports saying supplies of new green electricity capacity should overtake fossil fuels later this year or in 2011.

The reports noted that in 2009, for the second year in a row, both Europe and the US added more power capacity from renewable sources such as wind and solar than conventional sources like coal, gas and nuclear. According to a press release, renewables accounted for 60% of newly installed capacity in Europe and more than 50% in the US.

“Globally, nearly 80 GW of renewable power capacity was added in 2009, including 31 GW of hydro and 48 GW of non-hydro capacity. This combined renewables figure is now closing in on the 83GW of fossil-fuel, thermal capacity installed in the same year,” the press release said.
“If the trend continues, then 2010 or 2011 could be the first year that new capacity added in low carbon power exceeds that in fossil-fuel stations.”

The press release said wind was even more dominant as a destination for investment in 2009 than 2008.

“In 2008, it accounted for $59 billion or 45 [%] of all financial investment in sustainable energy; in 2009, it accounted for $67 billion and its share rose to 56 [%].”

Wind power additions reached a record high of 38 GW last year, the release noted, adding the emissions-free generating technology now exists in more than 82 nations.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said 2009 was a year of resilience, frustration and determination for sustainable energy investment.
“Resilience to the financial downturn that was hitting all sectors of the global economy and frustration that, while the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen was not the big breakdown that might have occurred, neither was it the big breakthrough so many had hoped for,” the release quoted Steiner saying. “Yet there was determination on the part of many industry actors and governments, especially in rapidly developing economies, to transform the financial and economic crisis into an opportunity for greener growth.”

Mohamed El-Ashry, Chair of REN21, was quoted saying favorable policies in more than 100 nations played a critical role in the recent strength of global renewable energy investments recently. “For the upward trend of renewable energy growth to continue, policy efforts now need to be taken to the next level and encourage a massive scale up of renewable technologies.” El-Ashry said.

Do you think we’re about to reach a global green energy tipping point, where wind and other renewables will soon supply more new electricity than fossil fuels? Join in the discussion by commenting below.

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Global Wind Day in Norway

» By | Published 22 Jul 2010 |

It may have taken place last month, but pictures from Global Wind Day are still coming in. Here’s some from Norway…

Taken in Oslo where wind energy enthusiasts met Snorre Valen, spokesperson for  environment policy in the Socialist Party.

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Wind power builds bridges between Israel and Palestine

» By | Published 16 Jul 2010 |

A Palestinian company and another from Israel have announced a unique joint wind power development project that shows working together can bring real benefits to the troubled Middle East.

Despite the deadly flotilla incident near Gaza, Brothers Group Engineering Company from Bethlehem and Israel Wind Power near Tel Aviv hope to install wind turbines for factories, offices and private homes in the West Bank.

According to a recent press release, the venture will include marketing, manufacturing and installation of wind turbines generating from 2 kW to 50 kW of electrical power.

“The Israel Wind Power company will provide its Palestinian counterparts with the technology and professional training to manufacture large capacity turbines, use of resistance accumulators for many years as well as advanced techniques which implement the most advanced standards,” the press release said.

“Business collaboration in the area of wind energy is something which will be for the benefit of everyone, it will serve as a bridge of peace for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Dr. Mohammed Salem, CEO of the participating Palestinian company.

Yoram Suissa, the business development manager of Israel Wind Power, reportedly said the joint venture will allow the Brothers Group to receive an open channel to market its products internationally as well as the ability to receive raw materials and significantly upgrade its development. “We will be for our Palestinian friends and colleagues a pipeline for their products to be marketed both in Israel and abroad. We shall partially finance their initial activities and act to raise money for joint projects from various sources.”

Specialising in renewable energy systems, the Brothers Group has developed and installed five wind turbine systems to generate 2 kW of clean off-grid electricity for private homes, collected by batteries. Israel Wind Power specialises in the development, design and installation of wind turbines producing clean electricity for both the private and business sector. 
 
“We see this joint business venture to be a business enterprise which connects these two communities in a blessed way, setting aside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Salem was quoted as saying. “We believe that this is an example of the ability of ordinary people to bridge gaps between our communities, especially during these stormy days.”

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Dependable wind energy begins powering huge US Army electricity needs

» By | Published 13 Jul 2010 |

As the first wind turbine installed at a US Army base was excitedly celebrated last week in the western desert of Utah, officials at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were already contemplating an expansion of the emissions-free technology.

According to the Army, which is currently fighting two wars and looking to make budgets as efficient as possible, the 80 metre tall turbine with its 38 metre- long blades will result in energy savings of about $207,000 (€165,000) a year. Officials estimate that  the  wind energy produced can supply approximately one-quarter of the Tooele Army Depot’s electricity needs.

“I felt like it was Christmas morning all day,” base energy manager Jay Weyland was quoted as saying after watching the turbine officially turn on Wednesday. “Imagine a young child that had been shaking Christmas presents for weeks before Christmas, and was finally allowed to open them. That was the type of excitement I was experiencing.”

Depot commander Col. Yolanda Dennis-Lowman said the base, which stores and develops munitions, is trying to embrace renewable energy solutions. “Going green will enable us to remain always at the ready,” said Dennis-Lowman. “This is the first turbine for the depot, but with [Weyland’s] help, hopefully more will come.”

“From the power output that we are seeing right now, I can see we are going to get a higher payback then we anticipated and I believe other turbines here will be justified,” Weyland reportedly said.

Completed a year ahead of schedule, the Army says the turbine was turned on and off for training and maintenance from 29 June to 6 July but still generated electrical power for about 52 hours. During that time, the turbine generated approximately $2,000 (€1,959) worth of electricity.

“Right now this is the only one in the Army, but it is going to be the test case for many other wind turbines throughout the United States,” Dennis-Lowman was quoted as saying in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. “We hope to see more installed here at this installation.”

Approved in 2007, the $3.8 million (€3.03 mn) project was funded by the Army Energy Conservation Investment Program.

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