The End of Nuclear Power? Or Just the Beginning?

This week’s news: US NRC freezes decisions on new reactor, license renewal applications

“The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted unanimously Tuesday not to issue final decisions on granting licenses to build new nuclear power reactors and 20-year license renewals to existing ones, pending resolution of the agency’s waste confidence rule overturned by a court in June.

The commissioners, however, also ordered that NRC review of these license applications continue and that the agency’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel not accept or deny new challenges that may be filed in these proceedings relating to waste storage issues.”

Nukes in the US not dead of course, but the revival still on hold?


The post Fukushima nuclear future in Japan?  Still shut down, the replacement generation fleet still a patchwork.  The future is . . .?


And Germany?  Trying to get out of nukes puts intense pressure on gas (from Russia), renewables, and the grid.  As well as adds costs. Prognosis unclear.


Has Fukushima changed China’s nuclear energy ambitions? Or just its technology choices?


And exactly what are the costs for nuclear?  I will say generally, that on a cents per kwh basis, the broad lowering of interest rates benefits nukes better than any other form of power but hydro, given the combination of high portion of the of costs from the capital, and the high capacity factor.


So is the end of nuclear power’s 50 year challenge to coal power insight?  Or are we on the verge of a resurgence?  Situation unclear at best.

Getting Lucky With Water Technologies

by Richard T. Stuebi

For cleantech investors in the water space, one of the most attractive aspects of the water technology sector is that there’s a well-established set of well-heeled companies with strong interests in building their water businesses via acquisitions.  This list includes most prominently General Electric (NYSE: GE), Siemens (NYSE: SI), and Veolia (NYSE: VE):  multi-billion dollar global corporations who are accustomed to buying smaller companies to achieve growth targets.

This list has recently grown:  the Korean conglomerate LG (KSE: 066570.KS), formerly known as Lucky Goldstar, recently announced their intentions to make a major move into water treatment technologies.  Their aspirations are very ambitious:  $400 million allocated for investments to reach a $7 billion revenue target by 2020.

The addition of LG further improves exit dynamics for water tech ventures.  It will be interesting to track M&A activity in the water arena in the coming years.

GE Buys 12,000 Chevrolet Volts

GE Announces Largest Single Electric Vehicle Commitment

GE will purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015 for its own fleet and through its Capital Fleet Services business – the largest-ever electric car commitment. GE will convert most of its 30,000 global fleet and will partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. GE will initially purchase 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios.

Chevrolet Volts will roll off production lines this month and other automakers are bringing electric vehicles to market. As this occurs, GE is in a strong position to help deploy the supporting infrastructure to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets.

Wide-scale EV use to bring GE $500 million in near-term business

GE owns one of the world’s largest fleets, operates a leading global fleet management business, and offers a portfolio of product solutions including charging stations, circuit protection equipment and transformers that touch every part of electric vehicle infrastructure development. This enables GE to lead wide-scale electric vehicle adoption and generate growth for its businesses.

“Electric vehicle technology is real and ready for deployment and we are embracing the transformation with partners like GM and our fleet customers,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action.

“We make technology that touches every point of the electric vehicle infrastructure and are leading the transformation to a smarter electrical grid,” Immelt said. “This transformation will be good for our businesses and for our shareowners. Wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will also drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value.”

GE businesses including Capital Fleet Services, Energy and GE (NYSE: GE) will purchase 25,000 EV including electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2015 for its own fleet and through its Capital Fleet Services business – the largest-ever single electric vehicle commitment. Licensing & Trading will benefit from an emerging electric vehicle market that could deliver up to $500 million in GE revenue over the next three years. This includes rapidly developing markets for GE’s charging station, the WattStation.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said, “GE’s commitment reflects confidence that electric vehicles are a real-world technology that can reduce both emissions and our dependence on oil. It is also a vote of confidence in the Chevrolet Volt, which we will begin delivering to retail customers by the end of this year. We are pleased that the Volt will play a major role in this program, which will spur innovation and benefit our companies, our customers, and society as a whole.”

FedEx Chairman, President and CEO, and Electrification Coalition member Fred Smith said, “With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation in 2009, the nation’s fleet can drive initial ramp-up scale in the battery industry and OEM supply chains. By buying these vehicles, GE is helping ramp up production which will help lower the price of vehicles and their components and make electric vehicles more visible and acceptable to the public at large. This is good for GE, good for our economy, and good for our nation.”

GE also announced today two electric vehicle customer experience and learning centers to provide customers, employees and researchers first-hand access to electric vehicles and developing technologies. One will be located outside of Detroit, in Van Buren Township, Michigan, as part of GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center. The other will be located at GE Capital’s Fleet Services business headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with several other centers to be announced in 2011. The centers will monitor and evaluate vehicle performance and charging behaviors, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies, while also affording the opportunity to experience a variety of manufacturers and models, and gain insights on electric vehicle deployment.

GE is launching this comprehensive electric vehicle program as part of its ecomagination business strategy to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology though innovation and R&D investment. In support of the announcement today, an electric vehicle readiness toolkit has been launched on to help municipalities, customers, and individuals prepare for wide-scale electric vehicle deployment.

GE Bets $10 Billion on Digital Energy

5,050 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations for SF Bay

By John Addison (8/10/10)

The San Francisco Bay Area will add over 5,000 electric car charging stations (EVSE) in the next 2 years and continue as one of the nation’s leading areas for electric cars. The Bay Area’s 7 million people live in cities that have adopted hybrid cars, like the Prius, faster than in 99 percent of America. One in 5 new car sales are hybrids in cities like Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Sonoma. The San Francisco Bay Area already has about 8,000 electric cars on the road from Tesla Roadsters to Prius Plug-in Hybrids to light EVs limited to 25 miles per hour.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors approved $5 million to support further development of a regional electric vehicle charging infrastructure program in the Bay Area. Most health damaging air pollution in the Bay Area is from cars and trucks. Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are also critical to achieving an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the SF Bay Area.

“The past several years have seen exciting progress in the development of electric vehicle technology,” said Air District Executive Officer Jack P. Broadbent. “Creating a useful charging network will make it easier for Bay Area residents to Spare the Air every day by going electric.”

The new program will leverage up to $5 million in Air District funds to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure grants including:

3,000 home chargers at single family and multi-family dwellings
2,000 public chargers at employer and high-density parking areas
50 fast chargers within close proximity to highways

The plan will especially help the majority of early adopters that do not have houses with garages. Electric cars with ranges of less than 100 miles are well suited for people who live in the urban density of cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. Most in these cities live in multi-family dwellings such as apartments and condos. Chargers for these dwellings, places of employment, and key public areas will be critical to encourage the Bay Area’s 4.5 million car and truck owners to buy and lease electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf (NSANY) and Chevrolet Volt.

Dozens of companies are now offering electric car charging stations that are smart grid enabled with network services for drivers and fleets: Aerovironment (AVAV), Ecotality (ETLE), Coulomb Technologies, Eaton, and GE.

Over 20 percent of the SF Bay Area’s energy comes from renewable sources such as wind, hydropower, solar, geothermal, and biowaste from agriculture. Ocean power is being added. Coal power plants are not allowed in the Bay Area. The new electric cars can be programmed to charge at night when excess power is on the grid. As utilities make the information available, they can even be programmed to charge when excess renewables are on the grid.

By John Addison, publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. (c) Copyright John Addison. Permission to repost if a link is included to the original article at Clean Fleet Report. Mr. Addison owns no stock in the public companies mentioned.

Cape Wind is New Source of U.S. Renewable Energy

By John Addison (4/29/10)

The United States now has a new source of clean electricity for homes, buildings, and industrial stationary power and also for the growing use of electricity in rail and electric cars. Wind power is especially available at night when we hope to eventually charge millions of vehicles.

Global wind energy capacity is increasing by 160% over the coming five years from 155 GW to 409 GW, according to the annual industry forecast presented by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). A growing part of the renewable energy (RE) mix is off-shore wind, popular in Europe for 20 years, but stopped in the U.S. by not-in-my-backyard opposition, or more accurately “not in the view of my expensive ocean front property.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar showed political courage on April 28 by approving the Cape Wind renewable energy project on federal submerged lands in Nantucket Sound. He will require the developer of the $1 billion wind farm to agree to additional binding measures to minimize the potential adverse impacts of construction and operation of the facility. Salazar said,” With this decision we are beginning a new direction in our Nation’s energy future, ushering in America’s first offshore wind energy facility and opening a new chapter in the history of this region.”

The project is a big win for Siemens who will supply 130 3.6 MW towers, outbidding GE, Vestas, and other competitors. Siemens has already sold over 1,000 of these large off-shore turbines. The Cape Wind facility will generate a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts with an average anticipated output of 182 megawatts. At average expected production, Cape Wind could produce enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts, or charge 200,000 electric cars.

One-fifth of the offshore wind energy potential of the East Coast is located off the New England coast and Nantucket Sound receives strong, steady Atlantic winds year round. The project includes a 66.5-mile buried submarine transmission cable system, an electric service platform and two 115-kilovolt lines connecting to the mainland power grid. The project would create several hundred construction jobs and be one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the nation, cutting carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually.

Over one GW of off-shore wind is proposed for other Eastern coastal states, eager to catch-up with the renewable energy use of Western and Central states. For example, due to California’s abundance of wind, solar, and geothermal power, my California utility does not use coal.
To overcome years of opposition, the number of turbines at Cape Wind has been reduced from 170 to 130, minimizing the visibility of turbines from the Kennedy Compound National Historic Landmark; reconfiguring the array to move it farther away from Nantucket Island; and reducing its breadth to mitigate visibility from the Nantucket Historic District. Translation is that from shore it will take Superman vision to notice the wind turbines 5.2 miles from the mainland shoreline, 13.8 miles from Nantucket Island and 9 miles from Martha’s Vineyard.

A number of tall structures, including broadcast towers, cellular base station towers, local public safety communications towers and towers for industrial and business uses are already located around the area. Three submarine transmission cable systems already traverse the seabed to connect mainland energy sources to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

“After almost a decade of exhaustive study and analyses, I believe that this undertaking can be developed responsibly and with consideration to the historic and cultural resources in the project area,” Salazar said. “Impacts to the historic properties can and will be minimized and mitigated and we will ensure that cultural resources will not be harmed or destroyed during the construction, maintenance, and decommissioning of the project.”
Renewable Energy Reports and Articles

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker.

Cash is King in Renewable Energy Development

It is a buyer’s market for those developing large wind, solar, bioenergy, biofuel, and other renewable energy projects. In 2009, land is less expensive , equipment cost less, deliveries are faster, and warranties longer. It is a buyer’s market if you have cash, yet it continues to be a difficult time to secure debt financing. This message was consistent from the majority attending the FRA Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Summit this week. I chaired the renewable fuels track and had a chance to talk with a number of developers and financers of renewable energy and fuels.

Demand for renewable energy is at a record high as U.S. utilities in about 30 states struggle to meet RPS (renewable Portfolio Standards). These utilities want to sign PPA (Power Purchase Agreements) for 5 to 20 years of wind power, solar, bioenergy, geothermal, and other renewable production. In the future, to meet targets these utilities may need to directly develop, own, and operate these RE plants. Many would need PUC (public utility commission) approval to make this part of their business model.

RE has been a historic opportunity for developers who would take projects through 3 to five years of analysis, regulatory approvals, securing equity and debt financing, buying equipment, program management, and operating the plant. Now, few investors and lenders have the appetite for risk, as projects such as ethanol plants have gone bankrupt.
Credit worthiness of developers, utilities and end users are scrutinized. For example, major public real estate owners of buildings, hotels, and shopping centers that want MW of solar cannot get the RE because their corporation or REIT has a sub-prime debt rating.

Risk is intensified as redundant regulation and NIMBY (not in my backyard) opposition can delay installation of high-voltage lines for 7 to 10 years from wind or solar farm to major cities that need more electricity. Even billionaire Boone Pickens was unwilling to tie-up money for that period of time.

New high-voltage lines can be done. Prairie Wind went from zero to a transmitting 345kV line in less than 3 years. It is now optimistic about completing a 110 mile 765kV transmission system in Kansas. Prairie Wind Transmission is a joint venture of Westar Energy and Electric Transmission America — a joint venture of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. ITC Great Plains (ITC) and Prairie Wind Transmission are authorized to build different segments of the Kansas V-Plan.

Although large-scale RE development in 2009 is beyond the financing capabilities of most entrepreneurs, it is an opportunity for major public companies with investment-grade bond ratings such as FPL Energy (FPL), GE Energy (GE), Iberdrola Renovables (IBR.MC), and EDF Energy Nouvelles (EEN.PA). Wall Street analysts are forecasting record 2009 and 2010 earnings for Iberdrola and EDF.

Smaller wind and solar developers find that new developments are possible, though more difficult. Utilities are standardizing RFPs and making conditions more reasonable. Private equity money is available if investors can be convinced of high returns and low risk. David Perlman, Managing Director with investment banker Fieldstone Private Capital Group, reports that, “Liquidity is returning, but with fewer banks than before economic crisis, smaller lending commitments, shorter maturities, and club deals rather than syndications. Bankers might offer construction terms and an operating loan of no more than five years for developments that show little risk.

The ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) has helped and hurt. More federal bureaucracy and slower release of money is reported. New wind and solar deals are more likely to use ITC than PTC. The cash flow for an ITC is sooner and more predictable. For many projects, the new Treasury Department Grant is even more favorable than ITC. Tax-exempt bonds are another avenue for financing RE projects reported John M. May, Managing Director of investment banker Stern Brothers. He identifies bioenergy and biofuel from solid waste are good targets for tax-exempt bonds.

Wind and solar developments are difficult. Biofuel debt financing is next to impossible according to conference participants. Bankrupt corn ethanol plants are being sold for pennies on the dollar, with Valero’s (VLO) purchase of VeraSun assets being a prime example. Clean Fleet Ethanol Report. Cellulosic plants and algal fuel pilots are moving forward for those who have received equity investments in the tens and hundreds of millions, and do not require bank financing, including Abengoa, Enerkem, Mascoma, Poet, Sapphire, and Synthetic Genomics to name a few.

The demand is growing for renewable energy and fuels. The rewards are significant for the patient investor who can moderate risk with a portfolio of RE projects at various stages of approval. In 2009, the year of the Great Recession, cash is king.

John Addison speaks at cleantech and renewable energy conferences. He publishes the Clean Fleet Report. Disclosure: he owns stock in Iberdrola Renovables, EDF Energy Nouvelles and some wind and solar manufacturers.

GE: Doing Cleantech The Right Way

I have long had a respect for GE (NYSE:GE), and how it runs its business. In cleantech, I am very, very jealous. They have made themselves into the company to beat. Whether by plan, luck, or simply applying sound business discipline, GE has made itself into a top 3 global cleantech player no matter happens. And they did it for a fraction of the price, and a lot less risk than anyone in Silicon Valley or the energy sector. Venture capitalists beware, in cleantech, the behemoths have beat you to the punch, have done it cheaper, faster, and with more grit than you realize.

5 step Cleantech Program by GE

Wind – In 2002, GE bought Enron Wind out of Enron’s bankruptcy for about $300 mm, making GE one of the top 5 wind players overnight (it’s now well in excess of a billion in revenue). It was their first cleantech steal, right before the wind industry got amazingly tight (and huge).

Power – In 2003, GE acquired one of the leading gas engine manufacturers in Jenbacher, making GE an overnight leader in small, clean power systems, and powering their way into everything from distributed generation to landfill gas markets.

Solar – In 2004, just before the solar boom, GE acquired Astropower, one of the top 5 solar energy companies in the US, for less than $20 million out of bankrupcty, after the company was delisted following accounting irregularities. You cannot even build a single solar manufacturing line for $20 mm. Only the subsequent silicon supply shortages, and a lack of the needed investment in the business and next generation technology kept GE from making a homerun out of it. But despite that, there will never be another steal in solar quite like this.

Water – In 2005, GE acquired one of the largest water technology businesses in the US, Ionics, to complement its previous acqusitions in the water sector. Paying a full price of $1.1 Billion, it virtually guaranteed GE a top 5 position in the reverse osmosis, desalination, and water purification markets going forwrad, right after Ionics was shored up through a merger with Ecolochem.

Ecomagination Brand – Then on the back of these deals, in 2005 GE launched its Ecomagination initiative, and anchored the entire company’s image around its new cleantech empire.

That, my friends, is the way you make money in cleantech venture capital. I would venture to guess that GE has made 10x its money, no matter how you spin it. Or put another way, an IPO of the GE cleantech business would be the hottest thing in years.

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, a boutique merchant bank advising strategic investors and startups in cleantech. He is founding contributor of Cleantech Blog, a Contributing Editor to Alt Energy Stocks, Chairman of, and a blogger for CNET’s Cleantech blog.

Up in the Air With Biofuels

by Richard T. Stuebi

Over the weekend, Virgin Atlantic Airways flew a passenger-less Boeing 747-400 partially fueled by a biofuel mixture of coconut oil and babassu oil from London’s Heathrow Airport to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. (Read USA Today story.)

The test flight, performed to evaluate comparative engine performance and emissions rates with standard jet fuel and biofuel mixtures, was conducted by Virgin along with partners Boeing (NYSE: BA), the engine-maker General Electric (NYSE: GE), and the biofuel company Imperium Renewables.

No matter how the results of the experiment pan out, and no matter your personal view on the fundmental utility of biofuels, this is yet another example of how a passionate entrepreneur — albeit one with billions of dollars on his personal balance sheet like Richard Branson — is exploring the cleantech frontiers of what is possible, what is economical, what is environmentally-beneficial.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.