Cap and Trade vs Carbon Tax – 6 Myths Busted

In the midst of the debate over exactly what commitments will come out of the Copenhagen Accord follow-up discussions, and how a cap and trade system to incorporate those might work, we asked long time carbon trader Olivia Fussell, the CEO of Carbon Credit Capital in New York, to opine a bit on myths on cap and trade v carbon tax for the layman.  Cleantech Blog has written lots on this topic, but it always needs more. 

Myth 1: A Carbon tax provides much greater price stability than emission trading under a cap and trade system.

This argument is valid only when an emission trading system is designed without banking and borrowing options which allow firms to smooth emissions over time. This in turn contributes to leveling of the price of allowances and creates certainty in the market and thus spurs investment.

Moreover, tax regimes can easily be changed by legislative bodies which in turn can also introduce instability.

Myth 2: A carbon tax is a preferable option because the revenues from taxation can be used to invest in low carbon technology and/or used to offset potential regressive effects of carbon taxes on poorer households.

This argument is valid only with the assumption that allowances are grandfathered in an emission trading scheme. One solution to this potential problem is the auctioning of allowances which can potentially generate the same revenues as a tax.

In addition, governmental funding tends to “pick a winning” technology, whereas technological innovation is needed in many areas (renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, etc). A cap and trade system provides an important incentive for the development of these technologies by providing a price signal that enables firms to capture the value of new technologies. Because cap and trade is not technology specific, it can encourage and accommodate any emerging GHG control technologies or practices.

Myth 3: The introduction of a carbon tax is simpler than an emission trading scheme under cap and trade.

True, an emission trading scheme is much more complicated than taxation. The introduction of a new tax does not require setting up a new system with additional administrative costs attached to it. However, having an international agreement on a global tax is highly unlikely if not impossible. This statement is supported by an example of the unsuccessful attempt to impose carbon tax in the 1990s within its multi-national European Union’s structure. Also the Clinton administration unsuccessfully tried to introduce an energy tax in the mid 1990s but encountered strong opposition in Congress.

Myth 4: A Cap and trade system creates market and environmental uncertainty.

Not true, a tax does not set a quantitative, legally enforceable limit on emissions. On the other hand, a cap and trade system measures, monitors, and achieves a specific environmental objective.

Myth 5: Cap and trade doesn’t work because the European Union Emissions Trading (EU ETS) Scheme did not prove that significant emissions reductions were achieved.

The fact that Phase I of the EU ETS achieved only small reductions in emissions was not due to the embedded flaw in the cap and trade but because the emission cap was set too high. In addition, the EU over allocated allowances. This was mainly due to many countries lacking reliable data monitoring and information standards of GHG emissions when the scheme was first introduced. Since then the EU has solved the problem of monitoring and reporting and tightened the cap for Phase II.

Myth 6: A Cap and trade system allows for ‘windfall profits’ for regulated firms.

It is true that implementation of the trading scheme in the EU led to the increase in retail electricity prices. However, this situation can occur under any type of regulation and it’s not cap and trade specific. The determining factor is not the type of regulation but the ability of a company to pass through the costs to consumers. Based on the EU ETS example, electricity generators were able to make profits because they were able to reflect the value of allowances in prices of electricity, even though they received the allowances for free (‘grandfathering’). This problem can be addressed through the mechanism of allocating allowances and more specifically through auctioning. Regulators would require companies to purchase allowances, and this could ensure that the companies incur direct costs, thus reducing their profit margin. However, this does not solve the problem of passing costs onto consumers. One can solve this by passing the revenues from the auctioning of allowances back to the consumers.

You can reach Olivia for comment at

Will Google Charge your Electric Cars?

By John Addison – original article at Clean Fleet Report

Google Energy could be a Smart Charging and V2G Provider

Google finally won approval from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be an electric utility. Now that they are making billions delivering web ads, do they want to make added billions selling electricity? Quite possibly. Google already offers a smart meter app that allows smart grid customers to manage their home electricity use. With their new approval to be a utility, Google could be a smart grid / smart charge service provider.

Auto makers and utilities have already agreed on smart charging standards that allow you to plug-in using a J1772 connection, but not have charging start immediately. A service provider is needed to look at your preferences, take action, and provide information. Your preference might be to not charge until 9 p.m. when rates fall to a fraction of peak electricity demand hours. You might want to receive a text message when your charging is complete. You might want Google Maps to show you the nearest public charging stations that are available and display their cost per kilowatt hour. It looks like a natural for companies like Google. They story gets better in the year’s ahead when cars are V2G enabled.

Electric car sales will get a boost when the utility meter spins backward and customers make money by plugging-in. University of Delaware, AutoPort, and partners are planning to put 100 electric cars on the road in the next 18 months that will plug-in and sell power back to the utility using vehicle-to-grid (v2G) technology. AutoPort plans to secure local fleets that fund conversion of their vehicles. The University of Delaware currently has six Scion eBoxs, converted by AC Propulsion, to be electric cars with V2G.

I just got to hear from the V2G experts while I attend the American Association for Advancing Science (AAAS) Conference. I am posting this report from the conference.

A solar home might have 3 to 5 kW of solar PV. An electric car might have 24 kWh stored in its lithium batteries. Vehicles can be charged at night when excess wind and other forms of electricity are generated. The electricity can be sold back at premium rates during peak hours.
By the end of the decade, some electric cars will be less expensive to purchase than gasoline powered cars; most will be much cheaper to fuel. Monthly electric utility bills will be small for some; others will get paid to plug-in. The concept is not new. Solar power grew rapidly whenever feed-in tariffs created an incentive by having utilities purchase power from homes and businesses.

V2G will initially be promoted by agile businesses that can make things happen much faster than cautious utilities or automakers. When V2G becomes a billion dollar business, look for hundreds of players including auto makers and utilities.

The V2G cars in Delaware will get Big Bucks to sell electricity back to the grid. Electric utilities are becoming desperate for stored energy. Utilities are willing to pay serious money for some contracted delivery of electricity. Dr. Jasna Tomic of CALSTART reports that utilities will pay $15 to 55 MWh for electricity supplied for frequency regulation, but the utility does not want to deal with 100,000 car drivers. The utility wants one aggregator in the middle to provide the power. This could eventually be a billion dollar opportuntity for a Google, GE, IBM, EnerNOC, Better Place, or a new start-up.

Spinning reserves is another major opportunity. If a GW coal or nuclear plant goes down, a utility needs to find a new GW of power online in ten minutes. If you are an energy aggregator who can guarantee that GW 24/7 year-round you can make money every day of the year, even if reserves are rarely needed. A utility might pay $20 MWh for spinning reserves.

Ken Huber, Manager Advanced Technology for PJM, an independent systems operator (ISO) PJM, told me that they had 30 incidents last year that required the use of spinning reserves. On average, the reserves were only needed for about ten minutes. PJM is an energy wholesaler with over 550 member companies that serve 51 million people services in 13 states. On a typical day they are providing 100 GW of electricity. They can handle a 144 GW peak load.

These premium ancillary services can cost-justify early adoption of V2G. A decade from now, less valuable peak and base-load delivery of electricity from electric car batteries may add to the economic value of V2G.

Utilities and their air quality regulators would like to get rid of dirty peaker plants that may only be fired up a few hundred hours per year, when temperatures soar and air conditioning blasts cold air. Dr. Tomic estimates a peak power value of 5 to 80 cents per kWh. For those afternoon peak hours, utilities might offer 2 to10 cents per kWh.

100 V2G cars in Delaware is only a beginning. Fleets will be early adopters of V2G. In the United States, fleets currently have over 20,000 light-electric vehicles in operation. These same fleets will be candidates for new freeway-speed electric vehicles with V2G. Early adopters will include other universities, corporate leaders, and government organizations. The U.S. Post Office, if it secures funding support, may convert part of its 220,000 fleet to electric delivery vehicles with V2G. Utilities with thousands of cars and heavy-duty trucks are perfect candidates for early adoption of V2G.

A New Breed of Energy Service Providers

Electric cars, smart grids, and needed grid available storage will attract a agile innovators, many with deep pockets. Ken Huber of PJM identified a number of potential aggregators that include energy storage providers such as CAES which currently provides PJM with one MW of lithium-ion battery storage; smart grid providers such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco; vehicle service providers such as GM OnStar, Grid Point, and Better Place; and demand-response providers such as Comverge and EnerNOC.

Some energy providers will fight to be first to market with smart charging and V2G services. Others will be fast followers. Most utilities will leave the investments of capital and creating new business models to others. Some innovative utilities may directly offer their own V2G services – Duke, Edison, Sempra, Austin Energy, and Xcel come to mind. Electric car customers will benefit from the convenience, smart charging cost savings, and ability to make money with V2G.
The Grid is Ready for Millions of Electric Cars

“Electricity is the new vehicle fuel,” explains Dr. Will Kempton, Director, Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, University of Delaware. He is confident that the U.S. electric grid can support millions of electric cars that are likely to be added in the next decades. He observes that the U.S. total grid load is about 417 GW. If all U.S. cars will converted to V2G plug-ins with an average of 15 kWh per vehicle, they would provide 2,865 GW. A U.S. fleet of electric vehicles could provide 7X entire electricity needed in U.S.

The average U.S. car is parked 23 hours per day. If most charge off-peak and only 20 percent are available for V2G at any given time, V2G will be a major contributor in energy security and more affordable electricity. A brighter future will be created by early adopters of electric vehicles, utilities with renewable energy portfolios, and a new breed of smart grid and V2G service providers.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Vermont Yankee to be Shut Down

“Vermonters sent a message to President Obama and the nuclear industry today,” said Greenpeace’s Nuclear Policy Analyst Jim Riccio. “The nuclear renaissance is dead on arrival. We can retire old, decrepit and leaking reactors like Vermont Yankee and help usher in the energy revolution that America needs.”

“When American’s have the choice about the kind of energy they want in their communities, they don’t want nuclear. Vermont has shut down the myth of the so-called nuclear renaissance. Greenpeace is calling on Vermonter legislators to vote against relicensing in the house as well so that the message to America registers loud and clear.”

This decision is an interesting one. Like Sacramento many years before it, Vermont decided to proactively shut down their Nuclear plant. In this case, Vermont was choosing this pathway even though the variable costs of the plant were less than $0.03/kWh.

For new Nuclear we have a slightly different case. The recently $8.3B in loan guarantees for Southern Company’s nuclear plant is on a total bill of $14.4B for just 2,200MW of nuclear. At the same time, McKinsey claims that over over 85% of the 17 gigatons of carbon reduction we need globally by 2020 could be achieved by efficiency alone. Further, that for $14.4B, Southern company could perform such deep energy efficiency retrofits that they would create 10 times the number of construction jobs than the Nuclear plant.

I am not anti-nuclear, but some of these large Nuclear plants plans need to rethought towards more manageable strategies. Companies like Hyperion are creating small reactors that can be sited and financed more easily than the large Nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power holds the promise to be a big player in our effort to decarbonize the electricity grid, but their lack of common sense around how to handle public relations seems to be their Achilles heel.

Jigar Shah
CEO, Carbon War Room
Founder, SunEdison

Saving Cleantech: Bloom town Silicon Valley?

Just on the eve of the industry headliner San Francisco Cleantech Forum, Bloom Energy finally blooms?

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) like the Bloom Box have been under development for a couple of decades, and many of the major firms both in the US and abroad are still at it. The issues, questions and performance/cost/longevity triangle constraints are well known. So far Bloom Energy has answered none of them. Though we congratulate them on getting into what looks like significant first field trials. That puts them in small company with the maybe twenty or so other companies out of 1,000 plus who have tried. All of those handful took well over $100 mm plus to do it (though $400 mm is rather a lot of money, I must say, that’s taking one for the team). All of them took 5-10 years plus. At one point as an industry we were spending $1.5 Billion per year in annual R&D on fuel cells. Perhaps two companies, Fuel Cell Energy and Smart Fuel Cell, are arguably shipping commercial product today, with UTC, Plug Power and ClearEdge Power other possible contenders for “commercial”.

Of course, none of them have shown as little evidence of what progress has actually been achieved as Bloom. And while it’s a great list of customers, I’m not certain that eBay or Google are necessarily seasoned fuel cell buyers whose judgment I’d trust (especially after reading the rather suspect financial cost effectiveness analysis Google subjected their original solar PV pilot to).  Where’s the Department of Defense and Department of Energy who has bought and/or validated virtually every fuel cell in existence?  But view the quality of the information provided for yourself:

Bloom Energy;

The major SOFC SECA players’ peer reviewed reports:

I’ve been asked numerous times this week what I think of the Bloom unveiling. My answer was simple, I’m excited at the promise, but since they haven’t actually shown anything yet, the skeptic in me says beware the devil who asks for the check before showing the details.

I have sent an inquiry to the “press” button on Bloom’s website. We shall see if I’m one of the privileged reporters who gets a call back. I won’t hold my breath. Because I’m just a blogger who once helped found a fuel cell company, right? Not exactly Lesley Stahl.

And I hope the $800,000 price quoted in this week’s media was for something larger than the 25kW unit the Kanellos reporting machine was crediting as the Bloom Box size last year. I imagine it must be. Somebody check me on my math, but that would be ugly. Perhaps it’s for a 100 kW size (one of the 400 kW total 4 unit installation Google reportedly has), which is a more manageable but still ugly $8,000/kW a bit better (as it should be) than ClearEdge’s 5 kW residential unit of 1/20th the size, or maybe it’s $800,000 for the full 400 kW and then would be close Fuel Cell Energy’s $2,000-$3,000 /kW larger MCFC units (for which they lose 30 cents on every dollar and have stated they need to double to c $150 mm in revenues before the gross margin will be positive)? Have to be careful here, the fuel cell /DG industry makes the solar and hybrid car industries look like choir boys when it comes to economic analysis statistics.

So on the technology itself, any one who has been around fuel cells for long, before answering any question like, “what do you think, is it exciting?”, would hope you’d get the basic questions people ask of all serious fuel cell technologies answered. Questions like these:

On the technology:

What’s the basic design of the cell and stack?

What are the cell/stack/system performance and efficiency curves?

How many cells/stack, stacks/unit, cell and stack size/performance?

How many of the current generation of cells, stacks, systems have they built and when?

What’s the production yield of the cells/stacks? Is it automated?

What’s the metal alloy they use?

How do they do the sealing?

How do they handle the metal to ceramic junction?

What’s the history of cracking?

What do the cell degradation curves look like (in the lab and the field)?

How many hours do they have on cell/stack/system/field trials?

How many thermal cycles?

What are the results of the 1,000 and 5,000 hour tests in the lab, and how do the field trials stack up against the lab results? How many of each is the sample size/distribution of results?

On the system:

What is the operating temperature, normal operating condition specs, fuel/air flow rates, electrical and thermal output?

What are charging, and what’s the installation cost? Is it turnkey?

How long to start up/cool down the system?

Are all the stacks in the field trials the same? Have any of them been replaced?

How does the system move the gas/air/exhaust? What’s the history with that BOP system?

What’s the actual system level field performance across the fleet in the field?

And how much of this is externally validated?

Then we’ll get to the real questions.  First, just the basics please.  The same questions I’ve personally asked executives at dozens of fuel cell companies over the years.

And then let’s hope this week’s launch is because the technology is actually ready, not because the company’s last round came in short and Kleiner Perkins has been after them to try and float it. Fuel cell companies have a long history of doing that, too.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners, LLC, and a long time entrepreneur in cleantech.  And yes, I did my time in fuel cells, too.

Gators Go for World Championship With Record Prices for Solar Power

by Tom Rooney

Something’s gotten into those Gators.

First, they won back to back championships in college basketball. Then they added a national football title to the mix, along with a Heisman trophy.

Now the city surrounding the University of Florida is doing something of even greater national import. Something that just might be remembered in 100 years as the place where America began its march to world energy leadership:

The Gainseville city leaders became the first in the country to set a competitive price for people who create renewable energy with their solar panels or wind farms or whatever, and who sell it back to the local utility.

They call it a feed-in tariff, if you must know the technical term. But it is simply the price you receive for generating your own power then selling it back to the utility.

Many solar leaders regard it as the key to the next step in the growth of solar in America — both the use and manufacture.

Which is also the key to creating energy independence and reducing carbon.

Which of course we are not doing enough of.

On a recent trip to China, I visited several large factories where they make solar panels.

I wish everyone who wishes America to be an energy super power could have seen what I saw. These factories are world-class models of efficiency and skill. Their managers, many of whom are trained in the United States are very good and getting better.

Many of the panels they make are going to places where local utilities pay premium prices for solar power generated on rooftops; there is no doubt that wherever solar owners receive higher prices, more solar power exists.

In Germany and Spain and France and Italy, the feed-in tariff is as high as 72 cents per kilowatt hour. In German it is the highest, that is why they have more solar than anyone anywhere.

And most of this they did ten years ago.

In Gainseville, they recently set their price at 32 cents per kilowatt hour. Interest in solar in this college town is exploding far beyond what an economist might expect from the financial incentives alone.

Which tells us that people have important economic and non-economic reasons for using renewable energy.

If only they get the chance.

A competitive feed in tariff is just the beginning. The bigger the local market for solar, the greater the chance for local manufacturers to compete.

And that is what is missing in America so far. Missing from the plans of those who hope for tens of thousands of green jobs; Missing from the folks who crave energy independence. Missing from those who say solar is the cure for carbon.

But not missing in Gainseville — where their 32 cent per kilowatt hour is a message to the rest of the country that this is what people do who are serious about energy independence and carbon reduction.

Compare that with California, the most solar friendly place in America, where solar power owners are lucky to get 1/3 of that.

There’s always a reason why we are not going whole hog on solar. The grid is not ready. The price is too high. We have more and better energy in — fill in the blank — that all we have to do to get it is — fill in the blank.

But the blanks are always years and and years and trilions of dollars away. Meanwhile, Asian suppliers and European competitors are racing ahead.

Today our national leaders correctly say that America can and should be a world power in renewable energy. But business leaders in Asia feel America will not get there.

If we are going to compete — let alone win – for this world energy championship, we are going to have to acting like winners. And we can begin by acting the way they do in the hometown of the national championship Gators.

Tom Rooney is the President and CEO of SPG Solar. He can be reached at

Batteries ‘R’ Us

by Richard T. Stuebi

Of all the cleantech technology sectors, the one I can least keep track of is batteries. For those of you who want to keep pulse of this dynamic arena, a new blog called This Week in Batteries is just what you might be looking for.

The host of this blog is Venkat Srinivasan, who is part of the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, so he should be pretty near the center of the action in the battery world — at least as it pertains to electric vehicle applications.

Srinivasan’s most recent post is a nice riff exposing the absurdity of extrapolating Moore’s Law for semiconductors to other realms of technology advancement — as if forever-continuing exponential improvements won’t bump up against the laws of physics.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

Investing our way out of the Recession

I recently ran across this blogpost from a man I really respect. He says, “However, Paulson acknowledged to NPR host Scott Simon, the “conundrum” is that to spur the economy, we now need to spend more and create more jobs. Paulson did not offer a solution to this impasse.

Indeed, this contradiction is now paralyzing the nation’s political life, as Americans are worried about both high unemployment and record deficits. The Obama Administration and Congress are now walking a tightrope between these anxieties.

Investment as Solution. The solution to this jobs vs. savings conundrum is to invest money now, into projects that when completed will help us individually and as a nation to save more.”

The blog post goes on to offer some recommendations and I would visit it here:

My recommendation is to focus only on the built environment. According to a Navigant study funded by the Energy Foundation, there are 15,000,000 Commercial buildings in the US. out of a total of 130,000,000 million structures. There has been huge movement in the non-recourse financing space since SunEdison pioneered financing for solar PV in 2003. Today Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bonds and utility on-bill payment mechanisms can bring interest rates for non-recourse energy efficiency bonds down to below 8.5% over 20 years. Not bad!

Companies like Pulse Energy, SCI, and others have software/hardware solutions that for less than $15,000 per building to perform retro-commissioning/continuous commissioning solutions to save over 10% of total electricity used in the Commercial sector — or around 150 terawatt hours. Given the 80/20 rule you would focus your efforts on the 3,000,000 buildings that are the largest opportunities or $45B in investment. The savings from these 20% of buildings would exceed 100 terawatt-hours per year or $10B per year. With interest the customer pays an extra $1,000 per year and savings of over $3,000 per year.

Job creation occurs from this one cost effective technology alone is almost a half a million job years. Taking energy audits that have already been completed for deeper energy retrofits and giving them a non-recourse financing solutions gives you a 2-3X multiplier on this opportunity. Cost effective solar, demand response, ice storage, and other consumer technologies multiply this by another 3X. LBNL estimates that the opportunity is around $440B using today’s technology.

The job creation from the work is important but not really what we are after. Money that is freed up from the sleepy electricity industry is usually redeployed in much more value creating areas — new businesses, consumption, savings

The multiplication effect here is what we are after. The Carbon War Room has recently launched the Green Capital Global Challenge to go after this opportunity.

There are so many investment opportunities that do not need federal government financial support — simply some assistance on removing market barriers. Smells like an opportunity!

Jigar Shah
Founder of SunEdison
CEO of the Carbon War Room

Luntz on Climate

by Richard T. Stuebi

Frank Luntz is an influential pollster in Republian circles. So, it’s notable when Luntz releases findings that support movement on the climate front.

That just what happened in late January, when Luntz’s firm The Word Doctors collaborated with Environmental Defense Fund to announce recent polling data that suggest that a majority of Republican voters continue to believe that human-induced climate change is a real phenomenon and want action to address it.

Some of the more interesting findings in the report “The Language of a Clean Energy Economy” include:

  • The concept of “carbon neutral” does not resonate well with the American public. “Energy efficiency” and “healthier environment” carry more weight.
  • The statement “it doesn’t matter if there is or isn’t climate change; it is still in America’s best interest to develop new sources of energy that are clean reliable, efficient and safe” is the most compelling framing of the issue.
  • National security tops every other reason to support climate action — particularly among Republican voters but also among a large segment of Democratic voters.

As Luntz summarized in his own words, “Americans want clean, safe, healthy, secure energy. That’s why Republicans and Democrats alike strongly support action to address climate change. Sure, Republicans are more concerned about the national security component and Democrats the health component, but support for action right now spans all partisan and ideological lines.”

It’s a fine and pleasant synopsis, but I’m not as sanguine as Luntz, only because energy independence is a strained rationale (not to mention probably more unattainable than major carbon emission reductions) for dealing with climate change. Why? Two reasons:

  • One, if you want to maximize domestic energy production immediately and cheaply, you’ll rush right to coal — which only exacerbates the climate concerns.
  • Two, until America’s vehicle fleet becomes electrified — a long way off — you can’t run America’s vehicle fleet on coal or any other lower-emitting form of domestically-produced electricity. For the foreseeable future, we’ll have cars and trucks running primarily on (mostly imported) oil, and producing carbon emissions to boot.

I’m not the only observer to be concerned about an unrealistic or even ill-advised pursuit of energy independence — see “Oil Independence: Realistic Goal or Unrealistic Slogan?” for a good summary of the literature, and a nuanced and balanced view of the notion of “energy independence”. This reinforces how unfortunate it is when the seemingly only basis for bipartisanship on climate policy is a principle that is very slippery at best and easily warped at worst.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

USPS may buy 20,000 Hybrid and Electric Vehicles

By John Addison (2/15/10)

Most of the 220,000 U.S. Postal Service vehicles only travel 20 to 25 miles per day making them a good match with the range of an electric vehicle. Hundreds of stops make hybrids and electrics ideal for capturing braking energy and regenerating the batteries.

Instead most USPS vehicles run on gasoline, increasing our nation’s dependency on oil. The popular mid-sized delivery vans achieve about 10 mpg. The 40,000 that sometimes run on E85 ethanol do worse. The Postal Service generates over 5 million tons of CO2 per year, only 12 percent of that is from its 220,000 on-road vehicles.

A Winton electric automobile was first used by the Postal Service in 1899. It only took an hour-and-a-half to collect mail from 40 boxes, less than half the time it took the horse-powered wagon. Over the years, USPS has used a variety of hybrid and electric vehicles.

No one type of vehicle meets all delivery needs. Jets and long-haul trucks move mail across the nation and around the world. Many delivery routes demand larger delivery vans. Others are best served by smaller and lighter vehicles.

Mail is being delivered on a trial basis by three-wheel electric vehicles in Florida, California and Arizona. The T3 has a range of 40 miles, a maximum speed of 12 mph and a load capacity of 450 pounds. Powered by two rechargeable power modules, the T3 has zero gas emissions and costs 4 cents a mile to operate.

The Postal Service is testing a fourth generation fuel-cell Chevrolet Equinox. The crossover vehicle has an electric drive system, lithium batteries, and a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to keep delivering electrons for extended range. When I visit my alma mater in Irvine, I see the Equinox used to deliver mail. The Irvine hydrogen station is used by the University, corporations, the USMC, and early personal drivers of the Honda FCX Clarity. A second fuel-cell vehicle is being tested in Washington, DC.

In New York City, the Postal Service has had 30 electric 2-ton vehicles on the street since 2001. They were recently joined in Long Island, NY, by two 2-ton hybrid electric vehicles.

The USPS uses medium-duty hybrid electric vans from Eaton Corporation (ETN) and Azure Dynamics (AZD.TO). They join the 10 existing Hybrid-Electric Ford Escape vehicles currently in the fleet.

USPS had ordered 185 Chrysler plug-in hybrid vans, but new Chrysler executives have cancelled the ENVI electric and plug-in vehicles. The electric vehicle manufacturing was cancelled even though that was part of Chrysler’s argument that it needed $20 billion of loans from the taxpayers.

Quantum (QTWW) announced on February 1 that it was selected by the US Postal Service (USPS) to produce an advanced electric postal delivery vehicle based on the widely used Long Life Vehicle (LLV) platform. Quantum is also making the hybrid-electric drive system for Fisker.

Quantum was competitively selected, along with 4 other companies, for participation in a 1 year demonstration and validation program to be conducted by the USPS for the use of electrification of the 178,000 LLV segment of the postal delivery fleet, the largest civilian fleet in the country.
The short range mail routes with numerous stops make postal delivery vehicles an ideal application for a battery electric vehicle with regenerative braking features. Under this program, Quantum will integrate its Quantum Quiet™ high efficiency battery electric drive system, into a Grumman LLV, and optimize for the 500 to 700 stops per day use of a postal delivery vehicle. UQM has received from Quantum an electric-motor and propulsion system order for the USPS electric drive system.

A bill is now being debated in Congress, HR 4399: American Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Act, that would enable the USPS to have 18,000 hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as part of its fleet, plus at least 2,000 pure battery electric vehicles. The bill would reduce the need for dirty peaking power plants by accelerating the use of smart grid and vehicle-to-grid. The bill calls for 3,600 charging stations. The bill priorities buying of American made vehicles with American made advanced batteries. Recycling and reuse of the batteries is part of the proposed legislation. The bill calls for $2 billion of estimated spending, investment, and research.

The USPS has demonstrated zero-emission leadership for over 100 years. In sun and darkness, rain and snow, carriers walk billions of miles delivering mail and packages.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences.

Big Oil Fights Big Ag

By John Addison (2/9/10)

Americans are Spending 20 percent of their income on transportation. In the average two-car household it is often higher. Big Oil and Big Ag are fighting for their share of that money
Petroleum use has started to drop in the United States as we have fewer cars and more fuel efficient cars. The U.S. Department of Energy continues to report drops in refinery utilization due to weak demand for gasoline and diesel.

Ethanol and biodiesel further cut into oil profits. Big Oil is maneuvering to slow Big Ag from selling more biofuels. Big Oil giants include Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX), and Shell (RDS.A). Big Ag giants include ADM, Bunge (BG), and Cargill.

Industry leaders are trying to sound high-minded, not crude. No food fights. No fighting in the war room.

The latest EPA Renewable Fuels Standard will cause over 8 percent of our car and truck fuel to come from food crops in 2010. That lowers Big Oil’s sale of gasoline and diesel by 8 percent. That’s real money. Billions. The EPA does not require that the biofuel come from food, that’s just our only volume choice in 2010. Cellulosic and waste production is still at the expensive pilot stage. EPA talked tough in developing the new RFS, but in the end, gave the industry ways to qualify by making corn ethanol.

We need fuel from wood and waste, not food and haste. Big Oil may actually win the fight to stop using food crops with low-yields per acre, and help the transition to high-yield low carbon emission sources. The industry has invested over a billion dollars in advanced biofuels, algal fuel, and biotech ventures.

Exxon Mobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson famously referred to ethanol as “moonshine.” Now Exxon is investing $300 million in Craig Ventor’s Synthetic Genomics with plans to produce fuel from algae. BP Biofuels was voted 2009 Biofuels Corporation of the Year by the World Refining Association at its 4th annual Biofuels Conference. BP has poured hundreds of millions into basic biofuel research and into a variety of partnerships including biobutanol with DuPont and Virgin Fuels, and energy cane in the U.S. with Verenium. Shell has established a $12 billion sugarcane ethanol joint venture with Brazil’s Cosan (CZZ).

In the future, if biotech can deliver low-cost liquid hydrocarbons from biomass that can be profitably blended at the refinery, then Big Oil may partner with industrial agriculture. Valero (VLO), the largest refiner in the U.S. bought a number of ethanol plants at deep discounts from bankrupt VeraSun.

For now, both the petroleum producers and industrial agriculture want to control EPA regulation, federal tax breaks, and billions of federal funds. They also want greenhouse gas emissions measured their way. If growing more corn for ethanol and soy for biodiesel leads to rainforests being destroyed, then Big Oil favors that being included in biofuel emission lifecycle analysis. Big Ag is against such land-use analysisArgonne Lifecycle Presentation California Lifecycle with Land-use Studies
Renewable Fuels Standard.

EPA has finalized a rule implementing the long-term renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022 established by Congress. The Renewable Fuels Standard requires biofuels production to grow from last year’s 11.1 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons in 2022, with 21 billion gallons to come from advanced biofuels. Increasing renewable fuels will reduce dependence on oil by more than 328 million barrels a year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than 138 million metric tons a year when fully phased in by 2022. For the first time, some renewable fuels must achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions – compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace – in order to be counted towards compliance with volume standards.

Biomass Crop Assistance Program. USDA has proposed a rule for Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to convert biomass to bioenergy and bio-based products. USDA provides grants and loans and other financial support to help biofuels and renewable energy commercialization. BCAP has already begun to provide matching payments to folks delivering biomass for the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of biomass to eligible biomass conversion facilities.

Biofuels Working Group. In May, President Obama established the Biofuels Interagency Working Group – co-chaired by USDA, DOE, and EPA, and with input from many others – to develop a comprehensive approach to accelerating the investment in and production of American biofuels and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Today the Working Group released its first report: Growing America’s Fuel – a new U.S. Government strategy for meeting or beating the country’s biofuel targets. The report is focused on short term support for the existing biofuels industry, as well as accelerating the commercial establishment of advanced biofuels and a viable long-term market by transforming how the U.S. Government does business across Departments and using strategic public-private partnerships.

Frank Maisano, an energy specialist based in Washington D.C. at Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm that represents refiners and cellulosic ethanol makers, gives this perspective: “The long-suffering lifecycle Greenhouse gas rule was released last week with great fanfare, including a call with Energy Secretary Chu, EPA Administrator Jackson, Interior Secretary Salazar and USDA Secretary Vilsack. It followed a meeting with the White House and highlighted several biofuels task force recommendations. Beyond confusing most reporters about EPA’s authority to go beyond the 2007 Energy law requirements for ethanol, the two takeaways seem to be EPA was giving in some (at least enough to placate Vilsack) on indirect land-use regulation of biofuels, and that the US is WAY behind its biofuels requirements in the same 2007 Energy law. Certainly, the coalition of enviro advocates, food groups, small engine groups and refiners were annoyed with the first point while ethanol supporters reluctantly said they could live with the EPA position. Ethanol emissions expert Tim Searchinger of Princeton may have said it best: “the numbers are inconsistent with the great bulk of analyses by others, which consistently find that emissions from indirect land use change for crops grown on productive land cancel out the bulk or all of the greenhouse gas reductions.” EPA’s Jackson said they weren’t messing with the equation to get to a specific result.”

Frank Maisano also summarized the following: “House Legislation to Limit EPA Authority, GHG Lifecycle Analysis –Last week, House Ag Chair Colin Peterson introduced legislation to prevent EPA from regulating GHGs, but added a twist: a provision blocking its land-use biofuels rule as well. This makes for an interesting dilemma should the two remain together, especially for members such as oil-patch Democrats that may want to block EPA authority on GHG regulation, but toughen land-use provisions to ethanol’s measuring stick. We shall see how this plays out. On the Senate side, Sen. Murkowski said she is likely to petition the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee by the end of February to force the release of her proposal to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Murkowski now has 41 votes, including her own, supporting the resolution (S.J. Res. 26).”

Regulation that helps Big Oil and Big Ag is billions of tax breaks for exploration and for not growing crops. EPActs encourage government buying of flex fuel vehicles. No automaker, including the primary beneficiaries of the regulation GM and Ford, offer a flex fuel vehicle in the U.S. that can deliver 20 mpg (EPA combined) running on E85. No U.S. sold flex fuel vehicle does much better on gasoline. As the 4 million vehicles in federal, state, and local government fleets continue to add flex fuel vehicles, more gasoline and more ethanol must be purchased to deal with the poor mileage. In the end, it’s more taxpayer dollars going to Big Oil and Big Ag.

By John Addison. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and speaks at conferences. He is the author of the new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – now selling at Amazon and other booksellers.

Why isn’t there a Building Efficiency Trade Association

Is it time for a real trade association for the Building Efficiency industry?

I was thinking about this today. I have seen one that really does the job. For those of you that have been a part of the efficiency industry for a long time, you know that it is like a greyhound race. Companies running as fast as they can to realize the dream only to come up short on actually catching the rabbit. Energy Efficiency in the US alone is estimated to have $440B of potential by LBNL and over $3 Trillion when calculating the ultimate economic potential by 2030. As the costs of new electricity, water, and natural gas capacity continues to rise, saving electricity, water, and natural gas becomes a far more cost-effective option – important during a recession. The challenge is that from energy efficiency financing to building codes – there is no coherent industry voice.

That’s why we need a real trade organization. Yes, there’s the Alliance to Save Energy; American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy; US Green Building Council and many others. And, yes, these organizations have worked on standards, financing, and regulations that would help the industry.

All that’s well and good, but we need an organization willing to do the hard work in the industry to establish and prioritize efforts to tackle the biggest obstacles to our growth. This is not easily done by a non-profit – we need a trade association. Currently, there is no widely recognized leader for energy efficiency financing, standards, and other issues. Leaving this to non-profits will leave us in the slow lane. A pathway for incremental change and more stop/start efforts.

An industry-wide trade association dedicated to energy efficiency financing, building codes, and other important areas make sense.

Jigar Shah, CEO Carbon War Room, Founder of SunEdison

Gray Power

by Richard T. Stuebi

The distinction between “green power” — electricity without any carbon emissions, usually from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind — has been clearly drawn vs. “brown power” — electricity generated from fossil fuels.

In a recent article in The Nation, author Lisa Margonelli writes about “The Case for ‘Gray Power'”. “Gray power” is the term that Ms. Margonelli uses for a concept called “energy recycling”, wherein electricity is generated from capturing waste heat from burning fossil fuels. So, gray power is not as “green” as renewables, but given that the fuel is being burned anyway, generating more electricity from the same amount of fuel burn is surely a good thing.

Ms. Margonelli makes the point that there are huge untapped opportunities for capturing waste heat to generate electricity in the U.S. — especially in the Midwest and South, with the plethora of coal-fired powerplants in the region. This message has been pounded home loudly and frequently by such people as Thomas Casten of Recycled Energy Development.

So what’s preventing this opportunity from being captured? Ms. Margonelli argues that there are two main impediments. First, various electric utility and state regulatory practices impair the economics of those who might pursue gray power opportunities. Second, the U.S. Clean Air Act is written in such a way to discourage major modifications of powerplants — even if they are modifications that improve economic and environmental performance.

Her proposed remedy is the creation of a federal Clean Power Authority, analogous to an organization like the Tennessee Valley Authority or Bonneville Power Administration, whose mission would be to recycle wasted energy from powerplants in the South and Midwest.

While I agree that the two issues she identified are in fact real impediments to recycled energy, Ms. Margonelli misses a third critical one.

In Europe, waste heat recapture is much more prevalent than in the U.S. Why? Because the waste heat often can’t be economically converted into electricity, but must remain as heat — and Europe’s infrastructure is much more optimally configured to economically use this heat.

Given that Europe is so compact and densely populated, pretty much every powerplant is within 20-30 miles of a sizable town, and many of these towns have central district heating systems that can make direct use of the waste heat piped in from the powerplant. In contrast, most major powerplants in the U.S. heartland are situated hundreds of miles away from any city center with a district heating system that can use waste heat. Lacking an economically proximate market for waste heat, it just goes up the stack — poof!

No question that opportunities to capture gray power in American urban centers are non-trivial, and they should be diligently pursued. But what’s needed to make gray power in the U.S. more of a widespread reality is not so much a federal Clean Power Authority, but technology that can economically convert low-grade (and low-value) waste heat into higher-value electricity. And that is exactly what firms like Akron-based ReXorce Thermionics are working to develop.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

U.S. Wind Energy Breaks Record with 10 GW added in 2009

By John Addison

The U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing 9,922 MW installed last year. This expanded the nation’s wind fleet by 39% and bring total wind power generating capacity in the U.S to over 35,000 MW. The five-year average annual growth rate for the industry is also 39%. U.S. wind projects today generate enough to power the equivalent of 9.7 million homes, protecting consumers from fuel price volatility and strengthening our energy security.

Wind power and natural gas are the leading sources of new electricity generation for the United States, generating 80% of new capacity, as most utilities avoid the risks of adding coal and nuclear power plants.

The 39% expansion of wind power is remarkable because many projects required hundreds of millions in long-term financing during the sever recession and time when many banks stopped lending. Also, many lenders who previously wanted production tax credits (PTC), lost money in 2009 and had no need for PTC.

There is mixed optimism about wind power’s continued growth will continue in 2010. Three GW of new wind are under construction with more projects that will be added during the year. TVA added 815 MW is a good example.

Improved price-performance of equipment is one driver. 1603 Treasury Grants (Excel spreadsheet of 240 Funded Projects), Investment Tax Credit, and other tax credit with completion deadlines will also fuel growth in 2010. RPS in 30 states is another driver.
Without new energy or climate legislation we may not see added growth of wind and other renewables. Uncertainty is a deal killer. Lack of new high-speed electricity transmission is the biggest obstacle to growth of renewables. NIMBY activism and lack of appropriate cost sharing are challenges for high-speed transmission.

Natural gas growth may surge ahead if wind growth stalls in 2010. Utilities also prefer natural gas power plants for baseload power. In the decade ahead, large-scale grid storage may make the variability of wind power less of an issue. Report about 32 new grid storage and smart grid projects.

“The U.S. wind energy industry shattered all installation records in 2009, chalking up the Recovery Act as a historic success in creating jobs, avoiding carbon, and protecting consumers,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “But U.S. wind turbine manufacturing – the canary in the mine — is down compared to last year’s levels, and needs long-term policy certainty and market pull in order to grow. We need to set hard targets, in the form of a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), in order to provide the necessary stability for manufacturers to expand their U.S. operations and to seize the historic opportunity we have today to build up a thriving renewable energy industry.”

Early last year, before the Recovery Act (ARRA), the industry anticipated that in 2009 wind power development might drop by as much as 50% from 2008 levels, with equivalent job losses. The clear commitment by the President to create clean energy jobs and the swift implementation of ARRA incentives by the Administration in mid-summer reversed the situation.

Recovery Act incentives spurred the growth of construction, operations and maintenance, and management jobs, helping the industry to save and create jobs in those sectors and shine as a bright spot in the economy. Some 50 U.S. facilities are planning expansion, including turbine manufacturers headquartered outside the U.S., although some will need financing and greater market certainty to expand. The United States competes with Europe and Asia for wind industry job growth. In 2009, most U.S. wind projects were divided among a dozen turbine manufacturers such as General Electric, Vestas, Suzlon, Siemens, and Mitsubishi.

America’s wind power fleet will avoid an estimated 62 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking 10.5 million cars off the road, and will conserve approximately 20 billion gallons of water annually, which would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants.

Texas extended its lead benefiting from strong winds and fewer regulatory hurdles than many states in the nation. Fourteen U.S. states now have over 1 GW of installed wind. The top five states by wind power installed (in MW):

Texas 9,410
Iowa 3,670
California 2,794
Washington 1,980
Minnesota 1,809
AWAE Market Report

Can wind power continue to grow? Yes. The November 2009 feature article in Scientific American reported how wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels by 2030. Recommended reading is “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables“ by Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and presents at conference.

Getting the LEDs Out

by Richard T. Stuebi

Keith Scott, VP of Business Development at Bridgelux, recently posted on GreenTech Media an interesting take on the state of LED lighting markets. Mr. Scott claims that “we are in the middle of the LED lighting revolution”, and sees big expansion ahead in for the sector.

In some ways, the picture he paints parallels the recent trends in the photovoltaics sector. The prices for LED lighting system are high in large part because of booming demand for LEDs from other applications (e.g., high-def TVs). This is triggering expansion of LED manufacturing capacity, which should alleviate supply constraints and drive down prices. Regulatory drivers — Energy Star, California’s Title 24 and other code tightenings — will spur demand to absorb the increased supply. Product designers are working to integrate LED into holistic systems that better satisfy customer needs on a variety of attributes — not just light quality, but also temperature.

Solar energy has consistently been one of the sexiest segments of the cleantech arena. If LED technology is following a somewhat similar trajectory, then shouldn’t it start garnering more attention?

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.