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green and sustainable business

Renewable yin and yang

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newsThe news on renewable energy is  mixed this week, what with the carbon emissions “cap and trade” (aka the latest market swindle) debate now fully controlled by well-heeled lobbyists and the algae producer GreenFuel Technologies shuttering its doors, a victim of the economy and a lack of cash.

But a couple of items crossing the desk, er computer screen, are heartening and one is positive and somewhat startling, given the parlous state of the economy and global credit markets..

Environment News and REN21 (see links next door) report that for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in the European Union and the United States last year.

That demonstrated a “fundamental transition” of the world’s energy markets towards renewable energy, according to a report released May 13 by REN21, the global renewable energy policy network based in Paris.

It’s the fourth such exercise from REN21 and comes in the midst of an “historic and global economic crisis,” says Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21. Although the future is unclear, he continues, “there is much in the report for optimism.”

Global power capacity from new renewable energy sources (excluding large hydro) reached 280,000 megawatts (MW) in 2008 – a 16 percent rise from the 240,000 MW in 2007 and nearly three times the capacity of the United States nuclear sector.

Solar heating capacity increased by 15 percent to 145 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), while biodiesel and ethanol production both increased by 34 percent. More renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States for the first time ever.

“The recent growth of the sector has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself,” says El-Ashry, adding that much of this growth was due to more favourable policies amidst increasing concerns about climate change and energy security.

Companies are devoting an increasing amount of capital to renewables. By August 2008, at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies worldwide had a market capitalization greater than $100 million, the report says.

During 2008, a number of governments enacted new policies, and many countries set ambitious targets, it continues. Today, at least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets, up from 66 at the end of 2007. In response to the financial crisis, several governments have directed economic stimulus funding towards the new green jobs the renewable energy sector can provide, including the U.S. package that will invest $150 billion over ten years in renewable energy.

Developing countries – particularly China and India – are increasingly playing major roles in both the manufacture and installation of renewable energy. For example, China’s total wind power capacity doubled in 2008 for the fourth year running.

Access the 32-page report here.

EPA gives it up for PNW clean air projects

More positive news from my neck of the woods, namely the Pacific Northwest, from the EPA. The agency honored three PNW organizations for their innovative projects to improve air quality in the region.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in Seattle, WA, Renaissance Fireplaces of Bellevue, WA, and the Nez Perce Tribe in Meridian, Idaho are winners of EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for air quality improvement programs. Nationwide 15 entities received the award.

At the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency a climate education program known as the Cool School Challenge engages students and teachers in practical strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions school-wide. The program also encourages student leadership and empowerment, fostering a new generation of air quality advocates, EPA says.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and partners Puget Sound Energy and Northwest Clean Air Agency built the program around an idea created by environmental science teacher Mike Town and the students of Redmond High School.

Student teams conduct energy audits of classrooms assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity use, waste and recycling practices, transportation, and heating. Classrooms then pledge to shrink their carbon footprint through simple but effective behavior changes, such as turning off one panel of lights, using durable coffee tumblers instead of disposable cups, or carpooling instead of driving alone. The Web-based program is designed for grades 7-12 and includes a Web site, a Challenge toolkit, classroom carbon calculator, classroom activities, and supplemental resources.

Now that is cool.

From cool to hot but still cool, in nearby Bellevue, Renaissance Fireplaces has produced the world’s first certified clean burning open fireplace. First introduced to the fireplace industry at the Hearth Patio and BBQ Association trade show in February 2008, the Renaissance Rumford 1,000 has been specifically developed to surpass the low emissions performance requirements of the new ASTM low mass fireplace standard. It incorporates a positive sealing outside air intake, a gasketed guillotine style glass door, and utilizes an insulated chimney to prevent uncontrolled cold air leakage from the chimney system. In addition to surpassing the national standards for woodstove emissions, the Renaissance Rumford fireplace surpasses the most stringent state standard of 4.5 g/hr set by the State of Washington.

Finally for this section of today’s program, EPA calls the Nez Perce Tribe Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Division’s Air Quality Program is “a model program that has developed and implemented a number of significant innovative air quality programs that go beyond applicable laws and regulations.” An example of this leadership is the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program, which promotes community awareness of air quality concerns in connection with agricultural, open, and forestry burning.

The Tribe’s smoke management program, which has been in place since 2002 in a voluntary capacity, has achieved compliance through collaboration. The policies implemented by the program provide flexibility to the regulated community by allowing input, ownership, and responsibility to them as the affected public. There are also collaborative meetings with the EPA, states, and tribes in the region to amend the program’s policies and procedures.

The voluntary nature of the program allowed the agricultural community to prepare for the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) implementation in 2005. The agricultural community, which initially resisted the new FARR rules, now supports the program and is encouraging the State of Idaho to parallel the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program.

The yang part, or is it the yin?

Almost done for today. I know it’s a lot of reading, but it is free.

On the downside, CNET News’ Green Tech blog reports that GreenFuel Technologies, one of the first companies to enter the algae biofuels business, is shutting down after running out of money.

The blog’s Martin LaMonica wrote that investor Duncan McIntyre of Polaris Venture Partners confirmed GreenFuel Technologies’ demise, saying that the company is a “victim of the economy.” He said investors, who have raised more than $70 million for GreenFuel Technologies since 2001, are exploring ways to sell the company’s intellectual property and assets.

The financial situation at GreenFuel Technologies had been degrading since last year, despite the fact that the company had landed a $92 million deal to sell algae-growing greenhouses to a cement maker in Spain, LaMonica says.

In January of this year, the company laid off about half its staff, bringing the number of employees to 19.

At last the end is in sight dear reader, at least for today, but not anytime soon for cap and trade apparently.  See this item in today’s Triple Pundit, which some of you may know I contribute to on occasion (but not this piece):

PR Battle Over Cap-and-Trade Reaches a Fevered Pitch

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Written by William DiBenedetto

14 May, 2009 at 11:02 am

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