Microsoft announced it plans to power its data centers around the world using 50% renewable energy by 2018. The company also plans to boost its use of renewable power for its data centers to 60% by the early 2020s. Rob Bernard, Microsoft's chief environmental & cities strategist, made the announcement at the VERGE16 conference last week. Bernard's comments during a conference keynote were a reiteration of a commitment earlier this year by the company to increase its use of clean energy. Microsoft's latest announcement came on the same day that Apple committed to 100% renewable energy use by joining RE100, a global initiative by influential businesses. To date, RE100 has amassed membership from 77 corporations, including Microsoft.
A federal appeals court will hear what one participating lawyer calls an environmental "case for the ages" on Tuesday. At issue: the centerpiece of President Obama's climate change plan. The administration's effort to regulate the electricity sector and burn less fossil fuel is the Clean Power Plan. The coal industry and more than two dozen states are challenging the rule, which gives every state an emissions target. The overall goal is to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by one third by 2030. A central legal question: does the EPA have authority to regulate beyond physical power plants, and "green" up the broader power grid? It's a rather untested question.
The California ISO (CAISO) was recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission to introduce new regulations to boost accuracy in determining market demand. These revisions will be affecting non-generator resources or distributed energy resources (DERs), basically locally generated power via wind turbines and solar panels. This represents a small portion of the California power but means the grid is taking steps to become more efficient.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is being asked to step in after Montana officials suspended payment for solar projects until a rate structure can be determined. The Montana Environmental Information Center and Vote Solar filed a complaint after the Public Service Commission decided to review standard rates for small solar energy developers in Montana. Supporters say the commission violated federal regulations that encourage renewable energy production and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. "That rate has now been taken off the table when projects were in their late stages," said Brian Fadie, clean energy program director for the Montana Environmental Information Center. "It undercuts solar development in Montana at the moment." He said three developers had 43 projects each moving forward with power purchase agreements at 3 megawatts, which would have meant a lot more electric power in Montana.
Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Minnesota Department of Administration has announced a new partnership with Xcel Energy called the Renewable*Connect Government Pilot Program. The new initiative will ensure that 33% of the base energy used at the State Capitol Complex comes from renewable sources. If approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the program will provide a reliable and stable supply of solar and wind energy on a long-term basis, and serve as a template for other government customers to purchase utility scale renewable energy packages.
While legal experts are debating EPA’s Clean Power Plan in Washington next Tuesday, the U.S. business community is galloping ahead on the clean energy future. From General Motors to Bank of America to Apple, dozens of iconic companies are now fully committed to running their companies with 100 percent renewable energy. The writing is on the wall: clean energy has arrived and fossil fuel power generation is fading. And a favorable Clean Power Plan ruling will hasten this transition, benefiting both our global climate, which is over-heating due to carbon pollution, and businesses that want policy certainty in dealing with this threat. By enacting this rule, all 50 states will be on the path to lowering the carbon footprint of their electric power plants.
According to a new report published by the World Energy Council in partnership with CESI S.p.A., renewables, including hydro, now account for over 30% of the total global installed power generation capacity and 23% of total global electricity production. In the past 10 years, wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) have witnessed an explosive average annual growth of 23% and 50% respectively, although their combined contribution to the global electricity supply is currently only 4%, according to “Variable Renewables Integration in Electricity Systems 2016 – How to get it right”. The Report draws upon 32 country case studies, representing about 90% of installed wind and solar PV capacity worldwide. Renewables have become big business: in 2015 a record USD 286 billion was invested in 154 GW of new renewables capacity (76% in wind and PV), by far overtaking the investment in conventional generation to which 97 GW were added.
Off the coast of Hawaii, a tall buoy bobs and sways in the water, using the rise and fall of the waves to generate electricity. The current travels through an undersea cable for a mile to a military base, where it feeds into Oahu's power grid — the first wave-produced electricity to go online in the U.S. By some estimates, the ocean's endless motion packs enough power to meet a quarter of America's energy needs and dramatically reduce the nation's reliance on oil, gas and coal. But wave energy technology lags well behind wind and solar power, with important technical hurdles still to be overcome. To that end, the Navy has established a test site in Hawaii, with hopes the technology can someday be used to produce clean, renewable power for offshore fueling stations for the fleet and provide electricity to coastal communities in fuel-starved places around the world.
Nikola Tesla, the engineer for whom the Tesla Motor company was named, once worked for Thomas Edison. In 1885, Tesla left Edison's company, prompting the famous "War of the Currents," but it looks like their "descendants" have buried the hatchet in an effort to build a greener, more prosperous future. Tesla recently announced that the company has signed a contract with Southern California Edison. Tesla will provide Edison with twenty megawatts worth of Powerpacks, with a capacity of 80 MWh, to reduce the state's reliance on "peaker" electric plants that run on natural gas. This is part of a larger trend to use batteries in place of peaker plants; California alone hopes to install 1300 MW of battery power over the next four years. This will have ramifications for related industries such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and even consumer electronics.
General Motors Co. said Wednesday it is committing to power all of its global operations completely by renewable energy by 2050. The Detroit automaker said its goal is to generate or source electrical power for 350 facilities in 59 countries with renewable wind, sun and landfill gas energy during the next three-plus decades. This year, GM expects to have 3.8 percent of electricity use come from renewable resources. “Establishing a 100 percent renewable energy goal helps us better serve society by reducing environmental impact,” GM Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “This pursuit of renewable energy benefits our customers and communities through cleaner air while strengthening our business through lower and more stable energy costs.”
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