Will Energy Storage Plus Solar Inspire Customers to Abandon Utilities?

- by Lisa Cohn, February 28, 2014, Energy Efficiency Markets

To hear the Rocky Mountain Institute tell the story, it’s not a question of whether utility customers will start defecting from their utilities in favor of off-grid solutions that involve energy storage and solar energy. It’s a question of when.

Truth is, it’s already happening in Hawaii—where solar plus storage are cost-effective when compared to utility electric prices, says Jon Creyts, a managing director at RMI. Along with Homer Energy and CohnReznick Think Energy, RMI just released a report detailing the potential for customer defection from the electric grid in major markets by 2025. And customers could do this without incurring higher costs, the report says.

“The economics for grid parity today are already happening in Hawaii. A very robust set of developers and suppliers entered and were doing quite well,” Creyts says. However, the utility experienced troubles taking in high levels of solar from independent solar producers. The power was overloading some of the transmission lines. So regulators took action to restrict developers’ activity, he says.

It makes sense that this is happening in Hawaii, where utility rates are three times higher than the average rates in the US. But what may come as a surprise is the speed at which off-grid solar, combined with energy storage, may be cost-effective in other parts of the US, particularly California and New York City, says Creyts.

Destruction of Demand: How to Shrink Our Energy Footprint

- by Richard Heinberg, November 4, 2014, Post Carbon Institute

The human economy is currently too big to be sustainable. We know this because Global Footprint Network, which methodically tracks the relevant data, informs us that humanity is now using 1.5 Earths’ worth of resources.

We can temporarily use resources faster than Earth regenerates them only by borrowing from the future productivity of the planet, leaving less for our descendants. But we cannot do this for long. One way or another, the economy (and here we are talking mostly about the economies of industrial nations) must shrink until it subsists on what Earth can provide long-term.

Saying “one way or another” implies that this process can occur either advertently or inadvertently: that is, if we do not shrink the economy deliberately, it will contract of its own accord after reaching non-negotiable limits. As I explained in my book The End of Growth, there are reasons to think that such limits are already starting to bite. Indeed, most industrial economies are either slowing or finding it difficult to grow at rates customary during the second half of the last century. Modern economies have been constructed to require growth, so that shrinkage causes defaults and layoffs; mere lack of growth is perceived as a serious problem requiring immediate application of economic stimulus. If nothing is done deliberately to reverse growth or pre-adapt to inevitable economic stagnation and contraction, the likely result will be an episodic, protracted, and chaotic process of collapse continuing for many decades or perhaps centuries, with innumerable human and non-human casualties. This may in fact be the most likely path forward.

Is it possible, at least in principle, to manage the process of economic contraction so as to avert chaotic collapse? Such a course of action would face daunting obstacles. Business, labor, and government all want more growth in order to expand tax revenues, create more jobs, and provide returns on investments. There is no significant constituency within society advocating a deliberate, policy-led process of degrowth, while there are powerful interests seeking to maintain growth and to deny evidence that expansion is no longer feasible.

Nevertheless, managed contraction would almost certainly yield better outcomes than chaotic collapse—for everyone, elites included. If there is a theoretical pathway to a significantly smaller economy that does not pass through the harrowing wasteland of conflict, decay, and dissolution, we should try to identify it. The following modest ten-point plan is an attempt to do so.

Air Pollution: Clean Up Our Skies

- by Julia Schmale, November 19, 2014, Nature

In December, the world's attention will fall on climate-change negotiations at the 20th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru. The emphasis will be on reducing emissions of long-term atmospheric drivers such as carbon dioxide, the effects of which will be felt for centuries. At the same time, the mitigation of short-lived climate-forcing pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, black carbon and ozone — which are active for days or decades — must be addressed (see 'Compounds of concern').

SLCPs cause poor air quality and are responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Particulate matter in the atmosphere is the leading environmental cause of ill health, and air pollution is causing about 7 million premature deaths annually. Interactions between warming, air pollution and the urban heat-island effect (which causes cities to be markedly warmer than their surrounding rural areas) will raise health burdens for cities worldwide by mid-century. Air pollution also damages ecosystems and agriculture.

Current air-quality legislation falls short. Existing measures would prevent just 2 million premature deaths by 2040. We estimate that around 40 million more such deaths would be avoided if concentrations of methane, black carbon and other air pollutants were halved worldwide by 2030.

Keep Corporate Polluters at Bay, Please Donate Today!

Energy Justice Network is one of the few national nonprofits in the U.S. organizing with grassroots communities to say NO! to all forms of dirty energy, from fracked gas, to coal plants, to biomass and waste incineration, to nuclear power.

Over 2014, we have raised $89,700 from individual donors, only $10,300 away from our goal of $100,000! Will you contribute $15-$150 for 2015 so we can keep helping communities like yours chase corporate polluters out of town?

We know there are a lot of organizations out there clamoring for your financial support, but here's what's different about Energy Justice Network:

1)   Grassroots- We offer our organizing expertise to communities fighting dirty energy proposals, empowering their advocacy, not taking it over. We provide the know-how gleaned from decades of experience pushing back against predatory polluters, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in your advocacy.

2)   Bang For Your Buck- Our lean and mean staff of sixmeans the vast majority of your tax-deductible donation directly funds grassroots community support work, instead of wasteful organizational overhead. Your money funds the organizing, networking, and informational resources needed to protect communities like yours from corporate polluters. 

3)   Taking the Hard Line- We believe that any energy source requiring a smokestack or cooling tower does more harm than good to the community that hosts it. We work to develop national solidarity to support only genuinely clean energy projects that don’t pollute the air or depend on finite and unsustainable resources.

Since 1999, Energy Justice Network has been there for you to provide community organizing support, networking, research, trainings, legal and technical support, policy analysis, and so much more! Will you help ensure we can build on this support in 2015 by donating today?

You can scour the nation and not find as focused, effective, and efficient organization as Energy Justice Network to support with your tax-deductible donation. We hope we can count on your help this year by making a $15-$150 donation for 2015!

In Solidarity,

Mike, Traci, Aaron, Alex, Josh, and Samantha

Questions of Reliability at Gainesville, Florida’s Biomass Generator Raises Concerns

- December 17, 2014, Before It’s News

In December 2013, the GREC Biomass generator was taken off-line to install noise-absorbing panels inside the main stack in an effort to quiet numerous noise complaints from residents living in Turkey Creek and surrounding communities. Even while noise and dust complaits continue, GRU/GREC, the City of Gaiesville and Alachua County have closed public access to log local complaints – requiring citizens to file complaints in the on-responsive vacuum of the State environmental protection department.

Through public records access, it’s now revealed that defective equipment at the GRU/GREC biomass generator was reported only a few months after the down-time required for noise abatement -  a revelation that has only recently come to light for public notice and GRU ratepayer review.

By GRU’/GREC’s s own estimate, the off-line time required to correct the defective parts could save GRU ratepayers $160,000 per day or a total of $2.2 million dollars.

Study Finds Ethanol Worse For Air Quality Than Gasoline

- by Bill Hudson, December 17, 2014, CBS Minnesota

For years, the state’s corn and ethanol industries have touted the environmental benefits of burning the alternative fuel in our vehicles.

But newly released research from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering is raising eyebrows.

The study compared pollution levels from gasoline fuel and 10 alternative energy vehicles, including hybrid electric, natural gas and corn-based ethanol.

One of the most surprising findings is that ethanol might actually be worse for air quality than conventional gasoline fueled transportation.

Maryland “Zero-Waste” Plan Draws Fire Over Inclusion of Incineration

- by Timothy B. Wheeler, December 15, 2014, The Baltimore Sun

With Marylanders throwing away far more trash per person than the average American, the O'Malley administration released a long-range plan Monday to virtually eliminate placing waste in state landfills in the next 25 years. The plan is drawing mixed reaction, however, as environmentalists criticize the blueprint's embrace of burning debris to generate energy.

State officials say that curtailing placing waste in landfills can save communities and taxpayers money, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce pollution, including the release of climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Marylanders have more than doubled their recycling rates in the past two decades, the plan notes, now diverting about 45 percent of what once was thrown away. However, the state's residents still discard more than half their waste, with most of that going to landfills, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

In a statement accompanying the plan's release, Gov. Martin O'Malley called it "an ambitious policy framework to create green jobs and business opportunities while virtually doing away with the inefficient waste disposal practices that threaten our future."

A Dollar a Day Keeps the Smokestacks Away

This is not just another fundraising letter.  We want to remind you of all the services we provide to help YOU protect your community from corporate polluters.  After all, Energy Justice Network exists to empower, inform, advise and support grassroots activists to win victories -- transforming communities from dumping grounds for dirty energy and waste industries into vibrant places where clean solutions can flourish.

We're excited that 2014 has been our best year yet, with 16 victories that we helped make possible.  It's also been our best year for individual donations, totaling about $80,000 so far.  Our goal is to reach $100,000 by the end of the year.  Please help if you can by making a donation of $15-150 for 2015!  We plan to expand our capacity to better serve the many communities seeking our support over the coming year.

How we help you win:

Community Organizing Support and Advice - We've "been there and done that" and can help you get a community group organized and on a path to victory.  We can help with strategy development, outreach plans, how to use open records laws and public hearings to your advantage, social media strategies, corporate research, designing flyers and websites, and much more.

Getting Networked! – We can put you in touch with other grassroots activists who you might want to know in your area, or those elsewhere who have fought the same company, technology or fuel, so you can learn from their experience.  We also use conference calls and email discussion lists to help you connect on specific issues.  We have lists on natural gas, nuclear, coal, several types of incineration (separate lists for trash, biomass, tire and poultry waste incineration), ethanol biorefineries, electric power transmission lines and more.

Information / Research – We document the problems with technologies that communities face, making complex info into useful factsheetspowerpoints and articles available through our two newsletters, Energy Justice Now and The Biomass Monitor, and throughout our Energy Justice.net and EJnet.org websites.  We have access to legal and science journal databases, and data from industry conferences that we can tap to help you.

Speaking / Trainings - Need a speaker, trainer or workshop presenter?  We do trainings for students, community groups and conferences on a range of topics and skills.  See Mike and Alex's topic lists for a guide.

Limited Legal and Technical Support - We help communities stop polluters with local ordinances, and understand many complex technical and legal issues.

Energy Justice Map - Our interactive mapping site tracks existing, proposed, closed and defeated dirty energy and waste facilities, the corporations behind them, and the people and groups fighting them.  It allows you to share information on polluters you're fighting, let people find your group through our site, and learn what polluters are in (or planned for) your area. 

Our new JusticeMap.org site is the first to enable easy race and class demographic mapping, and is being integrated into our mapping site, so you can easily build environmental justice maps, showing if polluters are targeting low-income or communities of color.  Our newest EJ mapping tool allows you to evaluate environmental justice trends in entire industries.

Policy Analysis and Development - With an eye for loopholes that would allow polluting industries to continue to harm communities, we've pushed to strengthen energy, waste and climate policies at all levels of government, and among our environmental allies.

Working with Students and Youth - We have a long history with the student environmental movement, from working with the Student Environmental Action Coalition since the 1990s, to co-founding Energy Action Coalition in 2004, to founding state-wide student environmental networks in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Our new Energy Justice Shale Initiative has brought students and recent college graduates together in a group house to work with shalefield residents fighting fracking, compressor stations and pipelines in the most fracked community in the nation, in northeastern Pennsylvania.  

An Energy Justice Shale Convergence is planned for mid-March to train students and others to support local residents in Susquehanna County, PA.  We have other campus organizing resources compiled here.

Activist Calendar - Share your events on our calendar!  It's the only one to organize events by geography, so if you sign up for our map and want event updates by email, you'll see all the major events, and only have to see the local ones for your area.

Action Alert System - Tired of using online petitions like change.org where you don't get all of the contact info from those who sign?  So were we, so we made our own system, which Energy Justice member groups can also use (joining is free!).  You'll get the full contact info from all who sign, and can target state or national legislators by district, or other email targets.  Unlike change.org, the message will go to the target, and direct from the signer's email.  Messages and alerts can include links and images, too!  Contact us if you're interested.


How do we provide all of this with a skeleton crew of two full-time and four part-time people and almost no overhead costs?  Let's just say, we're good at what we do, and are the best investment you can make to support grassroots work over the coming year!  Please make a generous donation of $15-150 for 2015.  Regular, monthly donations (no matter how small) are even better!

...and if we're the ones who should be supporting you, please be in touch and we'll join you on the path to victory!

Happy Holidays!

Mike, Traci, Aaron, Alex, Josh and Samantha

Biomass Industry Plays with Fire, Gets Burned

- by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

Smokestack emissions aren’t the only public health concern when it comes to biomass energy facilities. Fires and explosions have been responsible for multiple injuries and five deaths at biomass facilities and storage vessels over the past three decades.

As of January 2015, fires and/or explosions have occurred at 28 industrial biomass facilities and storage areas, based on research from UK-based Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations and The Biomass Monitor. Additionally, over 45 wood pellet plants and 20 wood products mills have experienced fires of varying levels of intensity and destructiveness.  

Clean is the New Dirty | December issue of The Biomass Monitor

You guessed right, the December issue of The Biomass Monitor — the nation’s leading publication tracking the health and environmental impacts of bioenergy — is here!

Inside this issue:

- Ten Things You Need to Know if You Burn Wood

Biomass Incinerator a Threat to Children

I Can’t Breathe: Air Pollution Worse for Communities of Color

...and more!

Please share the December 2014 issue of The Biomass Monitor with your friends, colleagues, neighbors, media, and elected officials! 

Subscribe to monthly email issues of The Biomass Monitor!

 

 

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