You can practically see the circuits blowing at conservative Bloomberg News, which is following the evolving story of Germany’s transformation to a renewable electric economy.

First, this week, Paul Gipe, the indispensable sage of renewables sent me this:

Recent data shows Germany continues to export electricity despite closing seven nuclear reactors.

Meanwhile Bloomberg reports that continued renewable energy expansion in Germany is driving down power prices.

The Bloomberg article reports:

“The installed solar base in Germany is growing rapidly thanks to continued feed-in tariff support,” Jenny Chase, a solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy, said today by e-mail. “We expect this to weigh on power spot prices, particularly because renewable energy has priority grid access and near-zero marginal cost.”

but includes the usual caveats about “less reliable” renewables, oldthink need-for-baseload, yadda yadda.

Now, we have this, again Bloomberg – Utilities Giving Away Power as Sun Floods Grid:

The 15 mile-per-hour winds that buffeted northern Germany on July 24 caused the nation’s 21,600 windmills to generate so much power that utilities such as EON AG and RWE AG (RWE) had to pay consumers to take it off the grid.

Rather than an anomaly, the event marked the 31st hour this year when power companies lost money on their electricity in the intraday market because of a torrent of supply from wind and solar parks. The phenomenon was unheard of five years ago.

With Europe’s wind and solar farms set to triple by 2020, utilities investing in new coal and gas-fired power stations no longer face stable returns. As more renewables come on line, a gas plant owned by RWE or EON that may cost $1 billion to build will be stopped more often from running at full capacity. It may only pay for itself on days like Jan. 31, when clouds and still weather pushed an hour of power on the same-day market above 162 ($220) euros a megawatt-hour after dusk, in peak demand time.

“You’re looking at a future where on a sunny day in Germany, you’ll have negative prices,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief solar analyst Jenny Chase said about power rates in wholesale trading. “And a lot of the other markets are heading the same way.”

Clearly, this is a temporary situation as the old centralized grid reforms itself to deal with distributed, decentralized renewable technologies.  Better transmission, load management, and probably some energy storage based on off the shelf technologies will more than solve this.

Germany’s model Feed-In-Tariff, now being copied in places like Ontario and Japan, seems like one of the most effective models for bringing new technology to market quickly, creating jobs, and jump starting new industry.

The pattern holds. Whenever someone moves boldly in the direction of renewable energy, they meet with greater success, sooner, and at lower cost, than even the most enthusiastic proponents have imagined.


This is the smartest, most engaging conversation you will hear this week.

It’s great to listen to someone who is genuinely inspired by a cool idea, and is making it work.
If you’re stuck on a project, and need some inspiration, check this out.

SnapGoods  CEO Ron J. Williams discusses the “access economy”. Just like Zip Cars offers consumers personal transportation, rather than car ownership, – as a service, – SnapGoods (“Own Less, Do  More” – could this be a perfect slogan for a more sustainable society?) facilitates the  use and sharing of goods through social communities. (You may not be able to justify buying that gadget – but what if you could get one just for that project this weekend?….)

“The SnapGoods consumer is very much a New Consumer,” says Baranowski. “It was exciting to talk with Ron about a shift we’ve been tracking over the last few years, from an ownership mindset to one of collaborative consumption—which is, of course, easier on the wallet and better for the environment. We believe the ‘access economy’ will create opportunities for innovative, more sustainable business models.”

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Obviously these insolent Asians have not gotten the memo. They are to wait for a large nuclear power plant to be built near their neighborhood, and a multibillion dollar grid extended into their homes. This kind of uncontrolled creativity could be dangerous, and should not be tolerated.

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Double dog dare you.

Rachel Maddow, above,  has a timely and insightful historical view of government investments in infrastructure and technology.

While on a family trip to the east coast this past summer, we drove thru the graceful Mohawk Valley on Interstate 90- one of the most green, soft and soothing landscapes imaginable. That’s a place I could live.

Looking to the north, wind turbines could be seen slowly whirring, and along the road side, I noticed a number of historical markers indicating bits and pieces of the old Erie Canal. It made me wonder – how did large engineering projects, aimed at improving communication and commerce, get built in traditional America – before evil socialists took over?

Today’s Tea Partiers would  have us believe that loan guarantees to jump start what is obviously the industry of the future, renewable energy, are evil – but prescribe exactly those kinds of guarantees to promote nuclear energy, despite the Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation that “risk of default on such a loan guarantee to be very high—well above 50 percent.”

Purists will, I  hope forgive me if I consult Wiki –

The advocate who finally got the canal built was entrepreneur Jesse Hawley. He envisioned growing huge quantities of grain on the Western New York plains, then largely unsettled, for sale on the Eastern Seaboard. He went bankrupt, however, trying to ship it to the coast. While in Canandaigua debtors’ prison, he started pressing for the construction of a canal along the 90-mile-long Mohawk River and valley. He had strong support from Joseph Ellicott, agent for the Holland Land Company in Batavia. Ellicott realized that a canal would add immense value to the land he was selling in the western part of the state. Ellicott later became the first canal commissioner.

The Mohawk River, a tributary of the Hudson, runs in a glacial meltwater channel across the Appalachians in New York state, separating them into the Catskills and Adirondacks. The Mohawk Valley was the only cut across the Appalachians north of Alabama, and led almost directly from the Hudson River in the east to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in the west. From there, much of the interior and many settlements would be accessible by the Great Lakes and related rivers.

The problem was that the land rises about 600 feet (180 m) from the Hudson to Lake Erie. Locks at the time could handle up to 12 feet (3.7 m), so at least fifty locks would be required along the 360 miles (580 km) canal. Such a canal would cost a fortune even today; in 1800 the expense was barely imaginable. President Jefferson called it “a little short of madness” and rejected it. Nevertheless, Hawley managed to interest New York Governor DeWitt Clinton. There was much opposition, and the project was scorned as “Clinton’s Folly,” or “Clinton’s Ditch.” But in 1817 Clinton got the legislature to appropriate $7 million for construction.

From Clean Technica:

Solar power in some markets is already cost-competitive with power from fossil fuels or nuclear energy. It’s expected to take over more and more markets in the very near future as its costs continue to decline and the costs of other antiquated energy sources continue to rise.

Nuclear, coal, even natural gas — even if you don’t take into account externalities (public health, environmental, and national security externalities that you really should take into account), probably won’t be competitive with solar soon (marking important crossovers in the history of our planet).

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Rasmussen Reports:

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Likely U.S. Voters think free market competition is more likely than government subsidies and regulation to help the United States develop alternative sources of energy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% believe government subsidies and regulations are the better way to go. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But then 71% of voters say private sector companies and investors are better than government officials when it comes to determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologiesSixty-four percent (64%) think it’s likely that if a private company which cannot find investors gets funding from the government, that money will be wasted.

Now, although I’m a big believer in paying attention to what markets tell us,  I don’t think the above assertion is correct. We wouldn’t have the internet I’m accessing, or the computer I’m accessing it on, without forward-leaning public investments. (and I still clearly remember the abuse that Rush Limbaugh heaped on “Al Gore’s Information Superhighway”..)

Nevertheless, fossil fueled congresscritters have been falling all over each other warning of the evils of socialistic loan guarantees that encourage renewable energy.

Rep. Markey has now issued a challenge to his GOP mates to apply this litmus test across the energy board.


Congress should examine whether the U.S. nuclear industry pressed lawmakers and the Energy Department to alter loan-guarantee requirements for reactors, Representative Edward Markey said.

“I urge you to commence hearings into the implementation of the nuclear power plant loan-guarantee program,” including an $8.3 billion award to a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co. (SO), Markey said today in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican.

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Bob Inglis, former Republican House member from South Carolina, has a nice piece up in USAToday, that includes the following-

Aided by energized climate deniers on talk TV and radio, we’re driving a powerful wedge that divides God-fearing, red-meat eating Republicans from the arugula-eating bed-wetters we see on the left. Wedges work. And yet we aspire to bring America together?

Perry asserts, and many conservatives believe, that the flow of grants have produced a corresponding flow of studies indicating human causes of climate change. Skepticism is warranted, but it’s relieved by an observation: Scientists become famous by disproving the consensus, not by parroting it. You don’t get a theory named for yourself by writing papers that say, “Yeah, like he said.” You become famous (and, for the pure of heart, you advance science) by breaking through with new understandings.

Grasping at outliers

In the zeal of our disproof, many conservatives have latched on to the outliers to create the appearance of uncertainty where little uncertainty exists. Accordingly, only 15% of the public knows that 97% of climate scientists have concluded that the planet is rapidly warming as a result of human activity.

Wangari Maathai

September 26, 2011

Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai has died.

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