January 19, 2015

Residential solar panels better investment than stocks

Residential solar installation

Residential solar panels better investment than stocks
A report issued by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) claims that investing in residential solar power is a better bet than the stock market. In fact, in 42 of the 52 largest cities in America, solar electricity costs less right now than buying electricity from the grid.

Surprised? Many people are. But the cost of solar panels has dropped sharply over the past few years. Where once only wealthy people could afford a solar panels, now the cost of is well within reach of most home owners.

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Jan. 14, 2015

Uranquinty Power Station

Photo by Bidgee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

EUC members concerned about gas plant study

While the future makeup of the city’s energy portfolio potentially rests on an upcoming independent review of a proposed natural gas plant, members of the Electric Utility Commission continue to vocalize their concerns about the study.

Vice Chair Karen Hadden and Commissioner Joep Meijer sent a letter Thursday to Austin Energy staff scrutinizing potential underlying assumptions and requesting that the study be fair and comprehensive in its cost, benefit and risk analysis of the natural gas plant and renewable alternatives such as wind and solar.

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DEC. 21, 2014

Energy-Storage Plans Gain Ground in California

Ice Energy Bear MachinesIn an unusual competition in California, proposals for energy storage systems beat out hundreds of bids to construct new power plants as a way to meet peak power needs.

Southern California Edison has retired its San Onofre nuclear reactors and is planning to retire natural gas units with environmentally troublesome cooling systems. So it invited proposals for storage — including conventional batteries and giant ice packs — and new gas-fired power plants.

To the surprise of the utility and even the storage companies, in many cases storage won. Demand response, or agreements with customers who volunteer to be unplugged at certain times, also did well.

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Oct. 17, 2014

Austin Plan for Renewable Energy at Odds With Utility

Webberville Solar Farm

Late this summer, the Austin City Council trumpeted its commitment to a progressive energy policy by calling for a dramatic expansion in solar power generation, earning accolades from environmental advocates across the country.

But the city-owned utility, Austin Energy, has balked at the council’s proposal and said it would be too expensive for ratepayers. And since then, a debate has ensued over how to be politically progressive and economically practical at the same time.

Resolution 157, which council members passed in August amid controversy, directed Austin Energy to make sure that 65 percent of the city’s energy needs are met with renewable resources in just over a decade. In less than three years, the resolution adds, the utility should strive to completely replace power generation from an old natural gas-fired plant with solar power.

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Austin Energy pushes back against renewable energy goals

Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

Austin Energy is fearful of one thing: becoming the next Germany.

The European country set an ambitious goal in 2010 of producing 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2050. German rooftops were blanketed with solar panels. Germany built solar and wind farms. And it decided to shut down its nuclear plants by 2025, motivated in part by concerns about nuclear safety.

But Germany’s quick embrace of renewable energy has been disastrous for the country, causing utility rates to skyrocket and still leaving a reliance on carbon-producing gas and coal plants during high-demand times. The Daily Telegraph reported that Germany released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2012 than in 2011.

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Group envisions carbon-free utility

July 09, 2014

Austin Energy should meet the goal by 2030, advisory task force says.

Austin Energy should become 100 percent carbon-emission free by 2030.

That’s not a pie-in-the-sky environmentalist’s dream.

It’s a policy recommendation delivered by an Austin advisory task force charged with setting new renewable energy goals for the city’s electric utility, though it was offered with a caveat: Do so as long as it doesn’t cause rates to skyrocket.

The group, called the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force, was asked in February to find ways to accelerate the city’s efforts to wean itself off carbon-emitting fuels such as coal and natural gas, which most scientists say contribute to climate change.

The task force is chaired by a former Austin Energy executive, Michael Osborne, and it includes people who work in the clean energy industry, as well as advocates for ratepayers and low-income residents.

In earlier discussions, Austin Energy was tasked with generating 35 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020. But the utility will meet that goal four years early — in 2016 — thanks to large solar and wind contracts and encouragement to customers to either install their own solar panels or participate in the utility’s renewable energy service.

On Wednesday, the task force approved a draft report with more than a dozen recommendations that will eventually be sent to the Austin City Council. But first, it considered feedback from advocates for low-income residents, environmentalists and supporters of the renewable power industry, who largely gave the task force a thumbs-up on the recommendations.

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Austin Climate Protection Plan

The Austin Climate Protection Plan will make Austin the leading city in the nation in the fight against global warming.

The broad elements of the plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions include:

Municipal Plan

Make all City of Austin (COA) facilities, fleets, and operations totally carbon-neutral by 2020.

  • Power 100% of city facilities with renewable energy by 2012.
  • Make entire city fleet carbon-neutral by 2020 through use of electric power and non-petroleum fuels (with alt fuel emissions offset through mitigation).
  • Develop departmental climate protection plans, including: policies, procedures, targets, and reporting for maximum achievable reduction of GHG emissions and energy consumption in all city departments.
  • Develop a COA employee climate education campaign; and programs and incentives to help employees reduce personal carbon footprint and engage in community outreach for climate protection.

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