Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees


Goldwind Americas, an arm of a leading wind-turbine manufacturer based in China, has been expanding its business in the United States. It has been careful to seek out local, American workers for permanent jobs on the wind farms it supplies.

Now it is trying to extend that policy to an unlikely place: Wyoming, which produces more coal than any other state and has hardly welcomed the march of turbines across the country, even imposing a tax on wind-energy generation.

On Thursday at an energy conference in Wyoming, the company announced plans for a free training program for one of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs: wind farm technician. And it is aiming the program at coal miners having trouble finding work, as well as those from other industries.

Called Goldwind Works, the program would begin next month with a series of informational meetings in Wyoming and include a safety training and tower climb at a wind farm in Montana.

The company has an agreement to supply turbines, potentially 850, to a project in Carbon County, Wyo., where the state’s first coal mine opened a century ago. Once construction is completed, as many as 200 workers will be needed to maintain and operate the plant.

The chief executive, David Halligan, said in a telephone interview that he expected coal workers to have relevant skills, mainly electrical and mechanical, and experience working under difficult conditions.

“If we can tap into that market and also help out folks that might be experiencing some challenges in the work force today, I think that it can be a win-win situation,” he said. “If you’re a wind technician, you obviously can’t be afraid of heights. You have to be able to work at heights, and you have to be able to work at heights in a safe manner.”

The program could offer a needed boost. Hundreds of coal miners were laid off in Wyoming last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that national employment for mining and geological engineers will grow by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024, while employment for wind turbine technicians is expected to grow by 108 percent.

Robert Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said the announcement could lead to a shift in thinking about the potential economic development benefits of wind projects. The state has some of the most robust winds in the country and has attracted keen interest from developers.

“This is actually a realization of these benefits in a way that hasn’t been apparent before,” Mr. Godby said. “The more you hear these positive stories and you start to see more direct benefits, it changes local perspectives and kind of begins to open minds.”

He cautioned, though, that the program could hardly make up for job losses in the coal industry, in part because each coal job results in related jobs, given the supply chain involved in handling and transporting the fuel.

Beyond Wyoming, the program could have implications for complex trade relations with China. In 2013, the Commerce Department finalized steep tariffs on some wind towers after finding that China was providing unfair subsidies to manufacturers that were then selling their products at below-market prices.

“This seems to be an effort — and perhaps a smart effort — by a Chinese company to win its way into the hearts of this administration and get beyond what’s happened in the past by targeting a core group of supporters of this president,” said Rory MacFarquhar, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“But this administration has been talking much more about manufacturing than about services,” added Mr. MacFarquhar, who helped set international economic and trade policy in the Obama White House. “They seem to want to actually have factory jobs back in the United States.”

Mr. Halligan said that Goldwind did not have plans for American manufacturing, but that the Wyoming wind project could generate thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of full-time operations and support positions.

The company plans to use the Wyoming program as a pilot. It hopes to eventually roll it out in other states where it supplies turbines, like Texas.

European Energy Auctions Yield Ever-Lower Wind Energy Prices In Germany & Spain


Two recent European renewable energy auctions in Germany and Spain have yielded not only significant interest in onshore wind energy, but record low onshore wind prices for Europe.

Earlier in the month the results of Spain’s renewable energy auction were announced, with wind energy accounting for nearly all of the 3 gigawatts (GW) which was on offer, all of which was offered at the maximum possible discount, meaning that Spanish consumers won’t need to foot the bill. This resulted in contracts being awarded for nearly 3 GW of wind energy for €43 per megawatt-hour (MWh), reportedly the lowest level ever awarded in an onshore wind tender in Europe, according to the European wind energy trade body, WindEurope.

“The tender results show how onshore wind is today the cheapest option for new power generation,” explained Giles Dickson, CEO WindEurope.

“Some may think wind energy no longer needs subsidies. But it was the fact the auction offered a guaranteed minimum income that attracted investors and ensured there were enough bids to deliver the low price. And this is the point — it’s not subsidies but revenue stabilisation mechanisms, addressing the risk of wholesale price volatility, that will be critical to the deployment of onshore wind across Europe at competitive costs. By offering revenue stability, auctions play a crucial role in enabling investors to finance a project — they’re key to making projects happen.”

The Spanish auction awarded 2,979 MW of wind energy, 1 MW for solar PV installations, and 20 MW for other technologies, all of which is expected to be operational before 2020. However, unfortunately, the Spanish solar association, Unión Española Fotovoltaica (UNEF), has claimed that solar was discriminated against in the auction.

Moving north, Germany’s Federal Network Agency, the Bundesnetzagentur, announced the results of the country’s first auction for onshore wind energy, which apparently yielded “a pleasingly high level of competition” and was significantly oversubscribed. According to the Bundesnetzagentur, the onshore wind energy auction received 256 bids with a volume of 2,137 MW. In the end, 70 bids totaling 807 MW were accepted, at an average of €57.1 MW/h. (The Bundesnetzagentur announced the results in Euro-cents per-kilowatt-hour (KWh), with the average being 5.71 Euro-cents, which can also be written as €0.0571.) The highest bid accepted was for €55.8 MW/h.

The auction was specifically interesting with 70% of all bids being submitted by citizens’ energy companies, receiving 93% of the bids and 96% of the volume awarded.

The Cheap and Reliable Form of Solar Energy Storage for Homes That is Already on the Market


How should we store solar electricity? How about as heat? A Swedish research team is storing solar energy in liquid form, but it is still a way off being commercially available. A competing technology using molten salt is already on the market and shortlisted for a major renewable energy prize. But there is already a much cheaper and already well-proven solution now being used in a brand new context.

The problem

Solar photovoltaic power it is increasingly being installed on buildings but a major challenge is that it is difficult to store so that it can be delivered when needed.

Storing solar electricity as heat is useful because the world uses more than twice as much energy in the form of heat as electricity. So for solar power to become ubiquitous, it needs to be delivered as heat more than as electricity – and round the clock.

Liquid solar energy
The solution of researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden is a chemical liquid that can tranport solar energy and then release it as heat whenever it is needed. The research, described in March’s edition of Energy & Environmental Science, describes how the team came up with a way of copying the means by which plants store solar energy – in molecules.

Transforming it into bonds between atoms in a liquid chemical makes it possible to transport it as well as store it.

“The technique means that that we can store the solar energy in chemical bonds and release the energy as heat whenever we need it,” says Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen, who is leading the research team.

“Combining the chemical energy storage with water heating solar panels enables a conversion of more than 80 per cent of the incoming sunlight.”

The research project has come a long way since it began six years ago when the solar energy conversion efficiency was 0.01 per cent and the expensive element ruthenium played a major role in the compound.

Four years later, the system stores 1.1 per cent of the incoming sunlight as latent chemical energy – an improvement of a factor of 100, and ruthenium has been replaced by much cheaper carbon-based elements.

“We saw an opportunity to develop molecules that make the process much more efficient,” Moth-Poulsen says.

“At the same time, we are demonstrating a robust system that can sustain more than 140 energy storage and release cycles with negligible degradation.”

The process is based on the organic compound norbornadiene, which upon exposure to light converts into quadricyclane.

Hybrid panels

The rooftops of buildings can take advantage of the benefits of installing both solar water heating and photovoltaic modules.

Typical efficiencies for photovoltaic modules are now at least 20 per cent. Solar water heating systems have an efficiency of between 20-80 per cent, depending on the application, location and the required temperature.

Solar water heating systems make use of the full solar spectrum, whereas photovoltaics can only harvest a much more limited proportion.

Some companies have used this difference to design hybrid panels which contain both solar water heating and photovoltaic cells, particularly since the water can be used to stop the photovoltaic panels overheating, making them more efficient. The downside is the expense.

The Swedish researchers think that one of the potential applications for their technology, when it has become more efficient, will be a new generation of hybrid panels that utilise the heat, which can be released from the liquid storage medium.

They say that combining solar water heating with their system allows for efficient usage of low energy photons for solar water heating combined with storage of the high-energy photons in the form of chemical energy.

Their simulations have persuaded them that these hybrid panels could be up to 80 per cent efficient. In terms of energy density they are comparable to a lithium ion battery.

The team will continue work on the technology to evaluate the potential cost and bringing it down by finding a way to mass produce the constituent chemicals, and to find a non-toxic solvent.

More than a pinch of salt

A totally different technology is from Sunamp, a British company that has developed its technology by collaborating with the University of Edinburgh School of Chemistry. It guarantees low-cost materials, exceptional long life, recyclability, safety and high energy density.

The technology has been shortlisted for the 2017 Ashden UK Awards alongside the work of the Passivhaus Trust and the Carbon Co-op, a community benefit society that helps its members to retrofit their homes.

Sunamp’s form of storage uses a salt as a phase change material. This absorbs and releases thermal energy during the process of melting and solidifying respectively.

Similar technology is used on a large scale with concentrating solar thermal power stations, typically located in hot, arid deserts.

In this case it is used for storing energy from photovoltaic panels, waste process heat, or heat from heat pumps and micro CHP (combined heat and power) systems, in order to increase efficiency.

How does it work? In the case of storing solar electrical energy, an electrical element connected to the solar panels heats up the salt, thereby melting it.

The salt is kept liquid in a vacuum-insulated container. When heat is required, cold water is passed through the liquid in a heat exchanger, absorbing the heat and causing the salt to re-solidify. The heated water passes to the tap and the salt is ready to be charged again.

Sunamp’s batteries come in various sizes and can be used in series, meaning they can be used in anything from small homes to large hotels, for example. They take up much less space than a hot water tank, can store heat for longer and are more efficient.

The battery can store heat at half the weight of hot water in a tank storing the same amount of energy. Whether they are cost-effective depends upon the location and pattern of usage.

The easy solution

Tenants moving into a new passive solar mini-housing estate in Wales – Pentre Solar, Glanrhyd, near Cardigan – have roofs covered with grid-connected solar panels and zero energy bills.
Dr Glen Peters, CEO of Western Solar, which is behind the development, has an ambition for his company to supply 1,000 homes and to work with housing associations and local authorities to provide sustainable, solar-powered social housing.

The occupants of the estate have been given a Nissan Leaf electric car to use collectively, charged by the solar panels on the roofs. So that’s one form of storage.

But the homes’ heating is provided in a surprising manner, using the best of old technology with new: solar electricity and storage heaters.
Storage heaters contain thermally massive blocks which are heated up by an element. They then release that heat gradually over many subsequent hours.

This form of energy storage was introduced to British homes in the 1960s and ’70s on a special tariff called Economy 7. Since nuclear power stations could not be switched off unlike other forms of electricity generation, these tariffs allowed people to use nuclear electricity at night – at a lower rate when national demand was low – to charge the storage heaters.

The problem was that by the time the heat was needed, the following evening, they were often too cool and many people subsequently removed them and installed central heating instead.

Here, the idea is to let the storage heaters be heated up during the day by the solar panels on the roof, meaning that they are able to provide adequate heating through the evening and night provided that there has been average sunshine (50% of a June summer day) during the day.

This may not be the case in the depths of winter and so the homes are also grid-connected. They export surplus energy when there is some – after the electric car and storage heaters have been topped up – and purchase it when not enough has been generated.

“Storage heaters are incredibly cheap,” says Glen, “and a well proven technology. Whereas the storage we had to start with in our prototype house – lithium ion batteries – were designated a fire risk and we had them taken out. They are also much more expensive – a couple of hundred rather than thousands of pounds.”

This sounds like a solar energy storage solution that deserves far wider application. Good luck to the other technologies, but if I was looking for energy storage for a house, I know which I would choose.

India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low


India has cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – about the same as the total amount in the UK – with the price for solar electricity “free falling” to levels once considered impossible.

Analyst Tim Buckley said the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India would have “profound” implications on global energy markets.

According to his article on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s website, 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been cancelled so far this month – in a stark indication of the pace of change.

In January last year, Finnish company Fortum agreed to generate electricity in Rajasthan with a record low tariff, or guaranteed price, of 4.34 rupees per kilowatt-hour (about 5p).

Mr Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the IEEFA, said that at the time analysts said this price was so low would never be repeated.

But, 16 months later, an auction for a 500-megawatt solar facility resulted in a tariff of just 2.44 rupees – compared to the wholesale price charged by a major coal-power utility of 3.2 rupees (about 31 per cent higher).

“For the first time solar is cheaper than coal in India and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound,” Mr Buckley said.

“Measures taken by the Indian Government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable.

“India’s solar tariffs have literally been free falling in recent months.”

He said about it has been accepted that some £6.9bn-worth of existing coal power plants at Mundra in Gujarat were “no longer viable because of the prohibitively high cost of imported coal relative to the long-term electricity supply contracts”.

This, Mr Buckley added, was a further indication of the “rise of stranded assets across the Indian power generation sector”.

Investors from all over the world were showing an interest in India’s burgeoning solar sector.

“The caliber of the global financial institutions who are bidding into India’s solar power infrastructure tenders is a strong endorsement of India’s leadership in this energy transformation and will have significant ripple effects into other transforming markets, as is already seen in the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Chile and Mexico,” Mr Buckley said.

Renewable Energy Generates Jobs for Nearly 10 Million People


Renewable energy now employs nearly 10 million people worldwide, according to a new report.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said Wednesday in its 2017 annual review that the solar industry alone provides more than three million jobs worldwide, and projected that the renewable industry could employ 24 million people by 2030.

“Falling costs and enabling policies have steadily driven up investment and employment in renewable energy worldwide since IRENA’s first annual assessment in 2012, when just over seven million people were working in the sector,” IRENA director-general Adnan Z. Amin said in a statement. “In the last four years, for instance, the number of jobs in the solar and wind sectors combined has more than doubled.”

As reported by CNBC:

The report showed that solar photovoltaic was the biggest employer last year, accounting for 3.1 million jobs, up 12 percent compared to 2015. The wind sector represented 1.2 million jobs, while biofuels were responsible for 1.7 million jobs.

Amin went on to state that the potential for renewable jobs was significant.

“As the scales continue to tip in favor of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”



Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has announced that it is pushing ahead with its sustainability drive in the UK, unveiling a new solar farm at its factory in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and a commitment to sourcing 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The solar farm, installed by Athos Solar, will power the manufacturer’s Wakefield factory and help Coca-Cola to reduce the factory’s operational carbon footprint. The drinks giant hopes that the move will provide a boost to the country’s renewables industry after the UK recently moved back into the top ten countries in Ernst and Young’s worldwide renewable energy country attractiveness index (RECAI).
Covering eight hectares of land owned by local farmer Stephen Butterfield 1.5 miles from the Wakefield site, the solar farm, which will be able to produce five megawatts of energy at full capacity, is connected to the factory by a series of underground cables, delivering 15 per cent of the site’s electricity and reducing its operational carbon footprint by 8.6 per cent.

Together with the emissions saved by a £1 million combined heat and power system installed on the same site in 2014, it is hoped that the 3,800 tonnes of CO2 will be saved per year.

Furthermore, CCEP has begun using 100 per cent renewable electricity, provided by EDF and complying with Ofgem’s Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGO) scheme and the emissions reporting guidelines laid out in the Global Greenhouse Protocol.

Commenting on the move last week (18 May), Nick Brown, Head of Sustainability at CCEP, said: “We are committed to minimising the impact of our operations, with a core goal to reduce the carbon footprint of the drink in the consumers’ hand by a third in time for 2020. By guaranteeing that 100 per cent of the electricity we use comes from renewable sources we’re taking a major step forward in achieving this.

“We’ve been collaborating with partners across Great Britain to build our renewable energy credentials and have enjoyed working together with a number of local groups and businesses in Wakefield to support this.”

To get its sustainability efforts right over the years, CCEP has been working with the Carbon Trust. John Newton, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust, added: “Working with CCEP over the past decade, the company has continuously made impressive reductions in its environmental impact, at the same time as taking a strong leadership position on sustainability issues. This new move to purchase renewable electricity is yet another positive step forwards from the company, demonstrating that the business case for going low carbon is no barrier to commercial success.”

Swiss Voters Embrace Shift to Renewable Energy


Swiss voters backed the government’s plan to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy, ban new nuclear plants and help bail out struggling utilities in a binding referendum on Sunday.

Provisional final figures showed support at 58.2 percent under the Swiss system of direct democracy, which gives voters final say on major policy issues.

The Swiss initiative mirrors efforts elsewhere in Europe to reduce dependence on nuclear power, partly sparked by Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. Germany aims to phase out nuclear power by 2022, while Austria banned it decades ago.

“The results shows the population wants a new energy policy and does not want any new nuclear plants,” Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said, adding the law would boost domestic renewable energy, cut fossil fuel use and reduce reliance on foreign supplies.

“The law leads our country into a modern energy future,” she told a news conference, adding some parts of the law would take effect in early 2018.

Debate on the “Energy Strategy 2050” law had focused on what customers and taxpayers will pay for the measures and whether a four-fold rise in solar and wind power by 2035, as envisaged in the law, can deliver reliable supplies.

Leuthard has said the package would cost the average family 40 francs more a year, based on a higher grid surcharge to fund renewable subsidies.

Critics said a family of four would pay 3,200 Swiss francs ($3,290) in extra annual costs, while more intermittent wind and solar energy would mean a greater reliance on imported electricity. Switzerland was a net power importer in 2016.

Green Future

Most parties and environmentalists hailed the result.

“The voting public has … paved the way for a future that builds on sustainability, renewable energies and energy efficiency. Today’s decision is good for the climate, the environment, our jobs, the Swiss economy and the whole population,” the Social Democrats said.

The electrical and mechanical engineering sector, which opposed the law, said it was important to see how it is implemented.

“The problem of long-term security of electricity supplies must be resolved. It is also important for companies that the costs and the regulatory burden not swell,” it said.

Under the law, 480 million francs will be raised annually from electricity users to fund investment in wind, solar and hydro power. An additional 450 million francs will be set aside from an existing fossil fuels tax to help cut energy use in buildings by 43 percent by 2035 compared with 2000 levels.

Solar and wind now account for less than 5 percent of Switzerland’s energy output, compared with 60 percent for hydro and 35 percent for nuclear. Under the new law, power from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources would rise to at least 11,400 gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2035 from 2,831 GWh now.

The law will ban building new nuclear plants. Switzerland has five plants, with the first slated to close in 2019. Voters have not set a firm deadline for the rest, allowing them to run as long as they meet safety standards.

The law also helps utilities that now rely on hydropower, and whose costs exceed Europe’s wholesale prices.

Alpiq, BKW, AXPO [AXPOH.UL] and other utilities would share a 120 million franc annual subsidy to help close the gap between production costs and market prices. Other funds would help build new dams or refurbish old ones.

More Corporations Are Turning to Utilities to Source Renewable Energy


Utilities are breaking away from traditional electricity products to offer customers access to large-scale renewable energy. Until very recently, utilities did not differentiate the sort of power they offered customers. With very few exceptions, everyone shared in the cost and used electricity from the same fleet of power generating stations.

But over the past four years, even regulated U.S. utilities have begun to offer new, large-scale renewable energy options to customers. World Resources Institute (WRI) data shows that across 10 U.S. states, utilities now offer 13 green tariffs — programs that let customers purchase large-scale renewable energy over the grid.

We take a closer look at the trends and motivations that have made utilities important players in the rapid scale-up of renewable energy to serve corporate buyers in the U.S.

Why are utilities stepping up?

In markets where wind and solar power have become cost-competitive, utilities have more economic incentives to add renewable energy. Renewable resources offer a great low price for the next 20 years — without the risks of fossil-fuel price spikes.

Utility leaders overwhelmingly anticipate substantial solar and wind power growth in the next 10 years, according to Utility Dive’s 2017 survey of the sector. Among utility executives, 71 percent say utility-scale wind will increase moderately or significantly over the next 10 years, and 82 percent predict the same for utility-scale solar.

Recently, Pat Vincent-Collawn, CEO of PNM Resources, announced a plan to eliminate coal by 2031 and move toward renewables and natural gas, calling it “the best, most economical path to a strong energy future for New Mexico.” WEC Energy Group CEO Allen Leverett told shareholders in May 2017 that the company is exploring solar: “Probably the biggest change we’ve seen in last five years is solar and the cost of solar. The technology curve really has fallen fast in terms of improvement in cost.”

MidAmerican Energy, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary, has talked about its extensive investments in wind in the same way — as an effective way to keep prices low for customers. The company also used its wind investments to serve the renewable energy requirements of major data centers, such as Facebook and Google, in their service territory.

How big is the demand for renewable energy on the grid?

Through RE100, 90 companies have committed to 100 percent renewable power. Clean energy and greenhouse-gas reduction targets are now the norm for Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies. The World Wildlife Fund and Ceres’ Power Forward 3.0 report shows that almost half of the Fortune 500 and a majority of the Fortune 100 now have climate and energy targets.

Companies with renewable energy commitments can only go so far with on-site solar and efficiency. To meet the most ambitious targets, like a 100 percent renewable energy goal, companies have to tap into the grid and are turning to their utility to provide solutions.

Big businesses have communicated their needs to U.S. utilities. Sixty-five companies have signed on to the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which tell utilities and other suppliers what industry-leading, multinational companies are looking for when buying renewable energy from the grid.

And utilities are listening. Utilities without green tariffs or state mandates are still considering new renewable energy options to attract businesses. Describing a new wind project, Appalachian Power’s new president Chris Beam told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, “At the end of the day, West Virginia may not require us to be clean, but our customers are. […] We have to be mindful of what our customers want.”

How are utilities stepping up?

To meet customer demand for renewable energy, traditional utilities have now created 13 green tariff options across 10 states. In the six months since the last update to WRI’s issue brief, “Emerging Green Tariffs in U.S. Regulated Electricity Markets,” utilities have added three more green tariff options — including the first offered by a public power company, Nebraska’s Omaha Public Power District (OPPD).

States with renewable energy options are more competitive when attracting high-growth corporate business. When Omaha Public Power District announced a new green tariff to supply a Facebook data center, Tim Burke, OPPD’s president and CEO, told the Omaha World-Herald, “We have several customers right now that are putting together potential expansion projects and will utilize that [new] rate to grow.”

What is the impact of green tariffs on the grid?

Who is using these tariffs? To date, customers have contracted for approximately 900 megawatts of new renewable energy under five of the tariffs. This is approximately enough electricity to power 160,000 average American homes a year. This spring, utilities and customers are negotiating hundreds more megawatts of additional purchases.

In April 2017 alone, major announcements from Puget Sound Energy and OPPD confirm that buyers are ready and willing to act in partnership with their utility.

How can customers keep up with these new options?

WRI’s interactive U.S. Renewable Energy Map: A Guide for Corporate Buyers shows all of the green tariffs that utilities offer across the nation. The map also details one-on-one special contracts that customers have signed with utilities. These special contracts show a utility is willing to explore options, even if they haven’t gone as far as creating a new tariff.

What’s next?

Today, green tariffs are a small part of the overall U.S. renewable energy market, reflecting their pilot status. But the programs create a runway for renewables at a time when demand is increasing, not just from businesses, but also cities, universities, hospitals and smaller companies.

Innovative partnerships will continue to emerge between utilities and their customers as both grapple with the rapidly changing electricity sector. Green tariffs are only three years old, but with increasing demand, interest in renewables by utilities and the continued fall in renewable energy prices, green tariffs look like they’re here to stay.

China Shows Why Renewable Energy Is The Future, Not Coal


The problem with change is it takes so long to get here. China built its incredible industrial might by using thousands of cheap laborers to build cheap to fuel coal-powered generating plants. Then it reaped the whirlwind of air that was unsafe to breathe. Now it is focused on renewable energy.

Carbon Spewing Facilities Belching Crud

All those carbon spewing facilities belching crud into the skies over China led to smog in its cities so thick you could cut it with a knife. The incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases skyrocketed. Having clean air for their children to breathe became the number one priority for people when choosing where to live.

China’s leaders looked around at the damage their industrial revolution had wrought and decided then and there to do something about. Long before COP 21 in Paris, China was racing full speed ahead into the renewable energy future, building solar power plants in the Gobi Desert and wind farms everywhere. And it started closing hundreds of those old, high-polluting power plants.

China’s Coal Plants Are Ultra-Supercritical

While China is a global leader in renewable energy, it still needs lots of electrical power to keep its economy humming. The build-out of its renewable energy resources will take decades to complete. In the meantime, the country is building a fleet of new state-of-the-art coal-fired generating plants that are significantly cleaner than the vast majority of coal plants in the US.

When it comes to generating electricity from steam, efficiency rises with temperature and pressure. There are basically three types of conventional power plants — subcritical, supercritical, and ultra-supercritical. A report by American Progress defines them as follows:

Subcritical: In these conventional power plants, coal is ignited to boil water, the water creates steam, and the steam rotates a turbine to generate electricity. The term “subcritical” indicates that internal steam pressure and temperature do not exceed the critical point of water — 705 degrees Fahrenheit and 3,208 pounds per square inch.
Supercritical: These plants use high-tech materials to achieve internal steam temperatures in the 1,000–1,050 degrees Fahrenheit range and internal pressure levels that are higher than the critical point of water, thus spinning the turbines much faster and generating more electricity with less coal.
Ultra-supercritical: These plants use additional technology innovations to bring temperatures to more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit and pressure levels to more than 5,000 pounds per square inch, thus further improving efficiency.
There is only one ultra-supercritical facility in the US. China has 90. Among the top 100 generating plants in the US, the oldest was brought online in 1967. Among the top 100 generating plants in China, the oldest was built in 2006.

Ultra-supercritical coal plants use less coal and create few emissions. Not zero emissions, to be sure, but still less than older subcritical and supercritical facilities. China’s new coal plants use 286 grams of coal to generate a kilowatt-hour of electricity. US plants burn 375 grams per kilowatt-hour, on average. China’s top 100 plants create about 20 million fewer metric tons of carbon emission than America’s top 100.

China will require all coal plants to be at or below 310 grams per kWh by 2020. Those that do not meet the standards will be closed. Of the top 100 plants in the US, none can meet that standard today. With the Trump-inspired war on regulations, it is unlikely any will do so in 2020 either.

Coal And Jobs

The Shanghai Waigaoqiao No. 3 power station has two 1,000 megawatt ultra-supercritical units. 250 employees operate both.

Not far away, the Waigaoqiao No. 1 plant has four 300 megawatt supercritical units operated by 600 employees. The older Shidongkou No. 1 power plant also has four 300 megawatt units. It needs 1,000 people to keep the electrons flowing.

Things don’t get any better for job growth down in the mines. New high tech mining techniques need fewer workers with picks and shovels. The Chinese government warns that it expects 1.3 million coal miners will lose their jobs by 2020. By contrast, it expects renewables to create ten times that many new jobs by the beginning of the next decade.

Why The Spike In New Coal Plants In China?

But didn’t China build a bunch of new coal fired plants recently? Yes, it did and the American Progress report deals with that issue. “What American observers need to know is that many of those new plants are white elephants that China cannot fully utilize. They represent a blip rather than a trend, and Beijing is already moving to shut down many of these new plants.”

American Progress Did Its Homework
Their researchers actually went to China last December to visit several coal-fired plants. They went down into the mines and talked to dozens of local, regional, and national officials.

Their conclusion is that many of the newer plants were commissioned by local officials who saw the winds of change coming and ordered the construction of new coal-fired plants before certain government incentives were withdrawn.

India Launches Massive Push for Clean Power, Lighting, and Cars


India is in the midst of the “largest energy transformation project in the world” organizers of the Vienna Energy Forum declared, while introducing the keynote speaker, India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal on May 11.

“Everything changed in 2015 with the Paris climate agreement. We must decouple economic growth from environmental impacts and leave a better world,” said Goyal, to loud applause from the 1650 energy experts and government officials in Vienna. “Every moment counts.”

“I’ve never heard such visionary and progressive remarks from a world-leading country,” the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, told me afterwards. The small Pacific island country is barely ten feet above sea level and rising water levels resulting from climate change have forced thousands to leave the country already.

“India sees the urgency of climate action,” said Sopoaga.

India is in a big hurry to green its energy system to create jobs, improve the quality of life for its citizens, clean the air and water and, yes, tackle climate change, its leaders say. Keep in mind this is a country with 1.3 billion people, nearly 300 million of whom do not have access to electricity and where the average income is $1,600 a year.

Now mainly powered by coal, India is adding 50 percent more solar and wind than the U.S. currently has installed. It is replacing 770 million street and household lights with energy-saving and long-lasting LEDs and bringing electric access for the first time to tens of thousands of poor rural villages. And India is already doing all of this faster than anyone believed possible.

“India is the poster boy for clean energy… showing this is not a burden, just the opposite,” said Vivien Foster, an energy economist at the World Bank. “It’s a great opportunity.”

The LED lighting replacement for the entire country is hoped to be finished by 2019—just four years after the program was announced in 2015, shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected. Prior to that India was committed to using coal to develop its economy, just as China had done 25 years ago. But now Modi is trying to hitch India’s future to 21st century technologies.

The energy savings from replacing 770 million household and street lights will cut India’s peak electricity demand by 20,000 megawatts (MW) and slash emissions of climate-heating CO2 by nearly 80 million tonnes annually. That’s almost as much as Chile’s CO2 emissions in 2015. This drastically reduces the need to build more energy plants and will save $7 billion a year.

And all of this has been accomplished without government funding.

India is a leader in a type of business called an Energy Service Company (ESCO), which makes money only on energy costs they manage to save their customers. Government power utilities set up an ESCO company called Energy Efficiency Services Limited, which has made nothing but profits since its inception. This company has worked with LED manufacturers to drive the costs of these lights down 85 percent in less than three years. Now India gets the world’s lowest price, Goyal said in an interview.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has been so successful it just announced a three-year, $130 million investment in the United Kingdom, to tap into the estimated $8 to 10 billion energy efficiency market there. EESL aims to capture much of this by promoting and implementing low-carbon, energy efficiency, and renewable energy solutions along with LEDs.

There is nothing like a national LED conversion program in the U.S. However, many U.S. cities are converting streetlights to LEDs to save millions in energy costs—but it has been slow going. Chicago’s Smart Lighting Project to replace 270,000 light fixtures just launched in April and won’t be completed until 2021. In Washington, D.C., 71,000 streetlights may be replaced under the “Streetlight Modernization Project,” but it will only start in 2018.

India’s renewable energy sector is also growing at lightning speed. At the December 2015 Paris climate conference, Modi astonished many by announcing India would add 160 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar by 2022 to the existing 26 GW. The U.S. currently has just over 100 GW in total. One GW can power 100 million LED lightbulbs used in homes.

“This is an ambitious goal,” says energy expert Niklas Höhne, a founder of NewClimate Institute, a European research center. “There is significant momentum and now two Indian states are considering 100 percent renewable energy, which is remarkable.”

“Green energy is no longer expensive or difficult to build and it is well-suited to our needs,” said Goyal. Given all the benefits, every country should be taking the same path, he said.

India’s solar and wind boom has pushed costs off a cliff, falling from 12 cents a kW/hr to just 4 cents a kW/hr for solar. This is cheaper than coal. As a result, Goyal hope that no new coal power will be needed after 2022. One analysis suggests some of India’s existing coal energy is more expensive to generate than building new solar. India may soon end all imports of thermal coal, Goyal believes.

This gains are especially impressive given India’s substantial economic and social challenges, says Höhne.

As for those 300 million with no access to electricity, that too is changing. The last household will be connected by 2019, Goyal believes, three years before India’s 2022 target.

“Prime Minister Modi grew up poor. He knows what it is like to not have electrical power. He is completely committed to making this happen,” Goyal said.

India’s energy revolution may soon transform the country but it is also creating “solutions that other countries across the world can replicate and use to support their own sustainable energy transition,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO for Sustainable Energy for All and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.

Electric cars are the next big thing India hopes to jump on. It commissioned a study on how the country’s entire fleet of vehicles could be 100 percent electric powered by 2030. This is not an official government target yet.

But by that date, Goyal believes electric cars will be the only vehicles sold because of low operating costs, little maintenance or repairs needed, along with a long life. The batteries will also work very well with solar and wind as energy storage devices. No subsidies will be needed, he said, since India already taxes gasoline at about the world average—50 percent higher than the U.S. does.

“We are doing all of this even if no one else is. We have a big role to play in the fight against climate change,” Goyal said.