PUC commissioners approved a plan for restructuring Southeastern Pennsylvania’s electric industry in a landmark case decision on Thursday, December 11, 1997.
The decision, made on a 3 to 2 vote of the commissioners, promises a 15% savings to customers who shop and permits PECO to recover $5 billion. Under the plan, PECO starting January 1999, will give residential customers who shop for electricity a credit of 5.2 cents per kilowatt hour. One third of PECO’s customers will be eligible to start shopping 1/1/99 with another third the following day and the remainder beginning January 1, 2000.
The outcome which was called “an easy decision to appeal” by PECO officials seemed to be a compromise which left all parties unhappy. The parameters for the PUC decision were established in three competing restructuring plans; the Philadelphia Electric Company’s self-christened “Pennsylvania Plan”, Enron’s “Choice Plan”, and the Environmentalist’s ”Better Choice Plan”.
The contentious portions of PECO Energy’s plan included the level of compensation requested for expected losses from its monopoly based investment decisions and the treatment of so-called default customers who do not chose an electric supplier. To Enron’s credit, their Choice Plan reawakened local public debate about the future of our electric industry, the size of offered rate discounts, and the handling of so-called default customers (those not choosing a supplier). It also cast a new light on a negotiated “public” settlement agreement with PECO over the level of stranded cost allowed and other key elements of introducing competition.
The Environmentalist’s, which include the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association (PSEA), developed a plan that promised a more
environmentally friendly electric industry. The proposal would assign customers who decide not to choose an electric supplier to a supplier
according to criteria which promote a healthier, safer, and economy boosting electric industry. Local environmental organizations
offered the Better Choice Planto the PUC as an alternative that goes beyond the submitted plans and settlement agreements to insure the
promised benefits of a competitive market.
A broad coalition of Philadelphia area environmental non-profit organizations established standing before the Public Utility Commission by filing an intervention in PECO’s request for stranded costs. The primary issues for the environmental coalition include nuclear decommissioning, universal service, consumer education, fair competition, and renewable energy development. Concern remains about the environmental effects of the generation mix employed to serve our electric needs and the public’s ability to effectively and positively influence that mix with their choices.
PSEA members are working to ensure that renewable energy sources are not disadvantaged by the new rules for electric competition. Many believe that our best hope for building a healthier electric industry lies in the unfetered ability of individual customers to generate their own electricity using renewable technologies such as rooftop photovoltaics. We are working to remove the institutional barriers to net metering which would enable
self-generation to become cost effective.
PUC commissioners approved a plan for restructuring Southeastern Pennsylvania’s electric industry in a landmark case decision on Thursday, December 11, 1997.
The Renewable Energy Training Institute (RETI), with support from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Organizacion Latino-Americana de Energia (OLADE), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), and the Instituto de Investigaciones Electricas (IIE-Mexico), is conducting a two day workshop on solar energy technologies in Mexico.
The Solar Energy In Mexico Workshop will be held Janaury 25-27, 1995 during the ENERCON 1995 Conference and Exhibition in Mexico City, Mexico
and in conjunction with MEXCOMM 95, a telecommunications conference and exhibition. The RETI Mexico Workshop will discuss opportunities for
solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies in the utility power and industrial or commercial process sectors in Mexico. Solar energy experts
from Mexico and the United States will present authoritative analyses of utility and industrial sector solar energy projects and programs in the
U.S. and Mexico. The RETI Mexico Workshop will also examine the tools and techniques needed to ensure successful technology deployment, utility
integration, and business development.
As leader of the Democrats, Senator Meg Lees negotiated the passage of the GST legislation with John Howard in 1999. She is standing for re-election in South Australia at the election for the ‘Progressive Alliance”.
This energy announcement and the diesel measures within bring us back to 1999 negotiations on the New Tax Package.
Then we were able to reduce the planned diesel bonus by $714 million and to include an environment package worth $376 million that covered fuel emission standards, gas conversions, renewable energies grants, green power, greenhouse gas emissions abatement, incentives for rail and gas vehicles.
At that time regional Australian relied heavily on diesel fired trucks for transport and for remote power generation. There were virtually no subsidies for any other fuels but diesel.
The aim of the negotiations with the government in 1999 was to encourage a shift to non fossil fuels to clean up diesel and petrol. The key aim of the abolition of the Diesel Fuel Rebate Scheme and its replacement with the Energy Credit scheme was to encourage use of other fuels – not just diesel.
Issues such as support for remote power generation were addressed through support for gas and/or solar and/or wind energy.
These reforms gave birth to lots of small renewable energy firms, particularly across regional Australia. They now provide the energy infrastructure for remote areas. It is an industry that has grown up since 1999 and has the potential for much more growth.
The 1999 changes to the Governments energy priorities were designed to take us into the 21st century. The new vision was for a smarter, and more innovative Australia through promoting clean renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.
In today’s energy package the government claims that it is providing a balance between clean and dirty energies. Between the old and the new. That is plain rubbish. The scales are tipped significantly in favour of fossil fuel. The government has given the cake to the fossil fuel industry and the crumbs to the renewable energy industry. And even those crumbs are at risk.
Not only is the ‘clean’ package far from adequate, with an increase in the MRET missing, we find vastly increased support for diesel and petrol use.
The government proposes to extend an off-road excise rebate for diesel to those industries which were previously denied it, including forestry, manufacturing and construction. Primary producers will receive a benefit for their off road business use of petrol in their utility vehicles and 4 wheel motorcycles.
There is little point in providing support for research and development into renewable energies if these renewable options are priced out of use by the availability of cheap fossil fuels.
So while parts of the package that support the development of solar energy and support research into the storage of renewable energies are positive, the diesel part of the package undermines these measures.
The changes to the fuel excise system will have far reaching ramifications for Australia’s renewable energy industry if they are implemented – particularly the growing remote power generation industry – the traditional market for solar energy in Australia.
Making polluting fossil fuels excise free for stationary energy applications in regional Australia such as heating, electricity, generation and industrial applications reduces the cost of it by around 40 percent and works to make clean renewable energy systems uncompetitive.
Australia was generally recognised as a world leader in PV a number of years ago, largely driven by the extensive rollout of solar energy in remote area power supply – reliably meeting the power needs of our regional and remote communities. This has been Australia’s traditional market for solar energy.
Mr. Howard’s energy statement now undermines this industry sector, and this sector will face collapse if these measures are implemented. This puts at risk the livelihoods of around 300 renewable energy businesses and their families that are active in this market.
This not only results in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions but also reduces investment in regional and rural communities – the same communities who face the brunt of climate change.
The tragedy in this announcement is that Australia’s remote power generation sector has been a world leader with a number of businesses actively supplying renewable energy systems to developing countries. This is now jeopardised.
This is another example of the Howard government failing the renewable energy industry and small emerging businesses.
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Food is easily and conveniently cooked with solar energy as the “fuel” in devices called solar cookers. Solar cookers are an ideal addition
to any kitchen wherever there are predictable hours of sun many days of the year. Solar cooking and baking are easy. Solar cookers are safe around children and provide a great way to learn about and use solar energy. Solar cookers are clean, convenient, non-polluting and easy on the environment. And, for millions of people living in arid, fuel-scarce regions of the world, solar cookers can literally save
Solar Cookers International (SCI) spreads solar cooking awareness and skills worldwide, particularly in areas with plentiful sunshine and diminishing sources of cooking fuel. SCI has enabled 30,000 families in Africa to cook with the sun’s energy, freeing women and children from the burdens of gathering wood and carrying it for miles. Tens of thousands of individuals and organizations — from all over the world —
have learned about solar cooking through SCI’s excellent publications and educational materials, and have benefited from SCI’s information exchange networks, research, technical support, and the SCI-sponsored Solar Cooking Archive, the internationally recognized Internet resource for solar cooking information.
SCI’s nonprofit, tax-deductible work is supported by generous individuals, private foundations, and sales of solar cookers and supplies. If you are a current member of Solar Cookers International, we thank you. If you are learning about solar cooking for the first time, please explore the possibilities and join us in teaching the world that with sunshine, cooking is free and easy.
Wonder where the fuel will come from for tomorrow’s hydrogen-powered vehicles? Virginia Tech researchers are developing catalysts that will convert water to hydrogen gas.
The research will be presented at the 228th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Philadelphia August 22-26, 2004
Supramolecular complexes created by Karen Brewer’s group at Virginia Tech convert light energy (solar energy) into a fuel that can be transported, stored, and dispensed, such as hydrogen gas.
The process has been called artificial photosynthesis, says Brewer, associate professor of chemistry. “Light energy is converted to chemical energy. Solar light is of sufficient energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas, but this does not happen on its own; we need a catalysts to make this reaction occur.”
One major challenge is to use light to bring together the multiple electrons needed for fuel production reactions. Electrons are the negatively charged particles that surround an atom’s nucleus, allowing atoms to react and form bonds.
Previous research has focused on collecting electrons using light energy. The Brewer group has gone the next step and created molecular machines that use light to bring electrons together (photoinitiated electron collection) then deliver the electrons to the fuel precursor, in this case, water, to produce hydrogen.
Solar energy is utterly incapable of powering the sort of heavy industry that our economy relies upon. This is yet another one of those statements which is true and meaningless. Solar energy certainly isn’t capable of powering industry directly, and central generation of electricity by solar means is not all that practical. However, solar energy can power a lot of things on which centrally generated power is wasted, such as water heating and home heating and cooling.
I never said that solar energy is useless. As you pointed out, it can be quite useful as a supplemental source of power for small-scale applications. However, many people seem to think that solar energy can provide all the power needed for everything we do, and that if we just built enough solar collectors, we could abolish all other forms of energy generation. That simply isn’t true.
Decentralizing by putting solar panels on everybody’s roofs wouldn’t reduce the cost or the amount of materials used, either, but simply spread them out more thinly. In fact, it would require more, for the same reason that McDonald’s uses less oil to cook two tons of french fries than eight thousand housewives who fry half a pound each. The [power] storage problem wouldn’t go away, either, but would become each household’s own responsibility. In a battery just big enough to start a car, gases can accumulate that one spark can cause to explode, sometimes with lethal consequences, as some unfortunates have discovered when using jumper leads carelessly. Imagine the hazard that a basement full of batteries the size of grand pianos would present, which a genuinely all-solar home would need to get through a bad spell in, say, Minnesota in January. Who would do the maintenance and keep the acid levels topped up? And there would be the problem of keeping the panels free from snow and wet leaves–not in the summer months, but when the roofs are slippery and frozen. Even today, the second biggest cause of accidental deaths in the country [U.S.], after automobiles, is falls. If we build all those houses with skating rinks on the roofs and bombs in the basements, we’d better build a lot more hospitals and emergency rooms, too, while we’re at it.
Solar energy is useful–no doubt about it. But it’s not a magic solution to all our energy problems.
I am a visitor from India to California. I am here for some more weeks. I am a retired government of India officer 68 years old. I live in
Trivandrum, Kerala. I have been using a solar cooker for over 12 years on a consistent basis. Since I have hardly seen the solar cooker being used by
any one else in my neighbourhood I have been making efforts to making its advantages made more widely known by means of articles in magazines and
newspapers. For a better effect I have now written a book.
Solar cooking was being encouraged by government of India some 15-20 years ago but not anymore now. More correctly they are paying lip service to this idea. Sadly even the energy gurus in India have forsaken it. It is perhaps considered infradig to be associated with a technology which is low tech.
The same mental mindset considers it fashionable to be associated with hi-tech technologies because they are the ones in use in western countries
even if they are costly and not relevant to the conditions prevailing in India.
I am specifically referring to photoelectricity or PV. PV got a big fillip in USA because of space exploration. The cost of PV has gone down considerably because of this. Even so it remains a costly technology. In western countries since every activity is driven by electricity it makes sense to look to PV for providing some of the electricity needs. Several multinational companies are in the PV business and looking for business in developing countries. They are pushing this costly technology and developing -country -governments are falling for it. A PV device which powers the equivalent of a 40 watt incandescent bulb costs about Rs.5000 (or US$ 100). A 40 watt bulb costs about Rs.10. It costs nothing to run it with grid electricity. But to run it independently it costs Rs.5000. This can make sense only in villages which have no hope of getting grid power.But this device is being sold all over India with govenrment subsidy to the extent of 60 %. It does not make sense.
On the other hand cooking makes a great demand on energy in developing countries. It constitutes as much as 70-90 % of the energy requirement in
developing communities. In western countries it is not cooking but other needs such as air-conditioning, household gadgets(washing,
drying clothes etc)etc which consume energy. In developing countries even the meagre cooking needs of energy are very burdensome for the poor. They have to trudge for miles in search for firewood and spend their lives in smoke filled kitchens. It is noteworthy that the energy “experts” have
not found a solution for this. The only solutions touted over the last 50 years are improved chula or stove and bio gas. Both these approaches are
flawed. An improved chula still depends on scarce and difficult to get firewood. Biogas from cow dung is not a cheap device. The hardware for the
biogas plant is costly. To charge the unit requires the dung from several heads of cattle and poor in India do not have cattle or at any rate so many
heads of cattle. Well to do farmers may be able to make a success of it but not the ordinary run of people in the villages. Life in the villages cries
out for a solution for the energy required to cook food. But the solution offered is energy for lighting. An artificial case is made out that
lighting liberates the villages from darkness. This is like offering cake to one asking for bread. Even this is excusable because the cake can be
eaten. But PV lighting cannot provide the energy required for cooking. Cooking needs several visiits to the kitchen in a day and consumes much
more energy than lighting. A wick lamp used to provide the light in the night in olden days but cooking cannot be done with a wick lamp.
In this situation it is my submission that the solar cooker can provide a modicum of relief. I say a modicum because it can work only on sunny days
which is the case 70 % of the year. The solar cooker is cheap. A durable cooker can be made for Rs.1500 ($30)or less. The solar cooker will last a
lifetime without maintenance. If you spread the cost of Rs.1500 over its lifetime which may be assumed to be 15 years it cost is next to nothing.
But even this may not be affordable to the poor because of the initial downpayment. So there is a case for giving it to them on a subsidy or
working out an appropriate financial package using microcredit. At least there is a better case for subsidising the solar cooker than for
subsidising a solar PV lamp costing Rs.5000.
The solar cooker needs no fuel. Sunshine provides the fuel. The solar cooker will take 2-3 hours to cook. But this not a problem in most houses.
If you have cook in an emergency or cook at odd hours when there is no sun the solar cooker will be of no avail. But barring these exceptional cases
it will give good service. The solar cooker is very convenient because it does not burn the food and therefore does not require close attendance. Yet
can cook several items in one go. You can not only boil food but also roast nuts, make bread or boil water or make dried vegetable and fruits. It is
very verstaile. The solar cooker requires no costly infrastructure. An individual can buy one and set it up instantly if he can find a sunlit premises in or around his house. And lastly it is, of course, pollution free.
For all these reasons I strongly advocate solar cooking as something which is cheap and affordable. I have been practising it for 12 years and I know
what I am saying. I am not simply theorising.
I said earlier that I have written a book on the subject. It is over 200 pages and is in English. It is published in Delhi and is titled MAKING THE
MOST OF SUNSHINE – A Handbook of Solar Eneergy for the Common Man. I have also written a 40 page booklet and got it translated in Malayalam. It is
published by the Kerala Literacy Mission . I would like to translate this book in other languages as well.
“Solar power has two big advantages over fossil fuels. The first is in the fact that it is renewable; it is never going to run out. The second is its effect on the environment.
While the burning of fossil fuels introduces many harmful pollutants into the atmosphere and contributes to environmental problems like global warming and acid rain, solar energy is completely non-polluting. While many acres of land must be destroyed to feed a fossil fuel energy plant its required fuel, the only land that must be destroyed for a solar energy plant is the land that it stands on. Indeed, if a solar energy system were incorporated into every business and dwelling, no land would have to be destroyed in the name of energy. This ability to decentralize solar energy is something that fossil fuel burning cannot match.
As the primary element of construction of solar panels, silicon, is the second most common element on the planet, there is very little environmental disturbance caused by the creation of solar panels. In fact, solar energy only causes environmental disruption if it is centralized and produced on a gigantic scale. Solar power certainly can be produced on a gigantic scale, too.
Among the renewable resources, only in solar power do we find the potential for an energy source capable of supplying more energy than is used.5
Suppose that of the 4.5×1017 kWh per annum that is used by the earth to evaporate water from the oceans we were to acquire just 0.1% or 4.5×1014 kWh per annum. Dividing by the hours in the year gives a continuous yield of 2.90×1010 kW. This would supply 2.4 kW to 12.1 billion people.6
This translates to roughly the amount of energy used today by the average American available to over twelve billion people. Since this is greater than the estimated carrying capacity of the Earth, this would be enough energy to supply the entire planet regardless of the population.
Unfortunately, at this scale, the production of solar energy would have some unpredictable negative environmental effects. If all the solar collectors were placed in one or just a few areas, they would probably have large effects on the local environment, and possibly have large effects on the world environment. Everything from changes in local rain conditions to another Ice Age has been predicted as a result of producing solar energy on this scale. The problem lies in the change of temperature and humidity near a solar panel; if the energy producing panels are kept non-centralized, they should not create the same local, mass temperature change that could have such bad effects on the
“Of all the energy sources available, solar has perhaps the most promise. Numerically, it is capable of producing the raw power required to satisfy the entire planet’s energy needs. Environmentally, it is one of the least destructive of all the sources of energy. Practically, it
can be adjusted to power nearly everything except transportation with very little adjustment, and even transportation with some modest modifications to the current general system of travel. Clearly, solar energy is a resource of the future.”
Wind power already supplies 8 percent of Denmark’s electricity and 15 percent of the electricity for Schleswig-Holstein,the northernmost state of Germany. In Spain’s northern state of Navarra, it has gone from 0 to 23 percent in just three years. Worldwide, the wind power potential is several times that of hydropower, which now supplies just over one fifth of the world’s electricity. A new Japanese solar roofing material promises to revolutionize the electrical generating industry. In Germany, the 100,000 roofs program launched in December of 1998 by the new coalition government is leading to a joint investment by Shell Oil/Pilkington in a solar cell manufacturing facility that will be the world’s largest.
The more enterprising corporate CEOs are beginning to see this economic restructuring as the greatest investment opportunity in history. In a speech on February 9, Mike R. Bowlin, Chairman and CEO of ARCO, a major oil company, described the beginning of “the last days of the age of oil”and the emergence of the new hydrogen-based energy economy. He sees ARCO’s large holdings of natural gas playing a key role in the transition from a carbon-based energy economy to one based on hydrogen. Within the last two years, British Petroleum has committed $1 billion to the development of wind and solar energy and Royal Dutch Shell has announced a $500 million investment in renewable energy sources (Some of the big Oils are finally moving)
Governments, too, are changing. Denmark has banned the construction of coal-fired power plants.Costa Rica plans to get all its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. In mid-August 1998, after several weeks of near-record flooding in the Yangtze River basin,
Premier Zhu Rongji ordered a halt to tree cutting in the upper basin, arguing that trees standing are worth three times as much as those cut.
With high energy prices and mounting concerns over human-induced climate change, there is intense interest in renewable energy, especially solar, which produces no pollution and is readily available in the form of sunlight.
In recent years, however, the solar-energy market has been hampered by supply shortages of refined silicon, the critical resource needed for solar-cell fabrication. Further,
because solar installations traditionally require a large surface area to capture as much sunlight as possible, solar arrays often take up real estate, occupying land used agricultural production and other purposes. Without government subsidies, solar is not
presently viable in many areas.
Given the promise of solar, a slew of companies are working to address these concerns. Some are attempting to tackle the real-estate issue by adding solar to office buildings—where routine maintenance is sometimes a hassle—or constructing multiphase structures like carports that can serve as solar arrays. Google and Kyocera are two
firms that have implemented such systems, but these are not practical in rural areas, where solar would sometimes be most useful. Further, these designs require sizeable
amounts of silicon, where high prices remain a limiting factor.
Now an innovative startup is developing a solar design that may put these issues to rest
by reducing the need for costly polysilicon and real estate.
CoolEarth Solar, based in Livermore, California, believes its technology could make
solar farming economically competitive within three years by making solar cheaper than
coal and allowing farmers to become net suppliers of electricity.
“In short we are developing free-market-hyper-competitive renewable energy with the mission of reaching global carbon neutrality,” CoolEarth Solar founder Dr. Eric B. Cummings told mongabay.com via email. “We are working to reduce the cost of solar
electricity by a factor of 25, making it cheaper to produce than energy from coal or
other non-renewable sources. By developing a solution from minimal, low-cost materials,
we aim to make solar generation as profitable as today’s best investment options.”
Cummings’s lofty objectives are supported by an impressive background. Earning an M.S.
degree from Caltech in aeronautics and his B.S. degree from Penn State University in
engineering science, Cummings returned to Caltech for his Ph.D in aeronautics and
chemistry. There he also won Caltech’s top honor, the Francis Clauser Prize, awarded
“for opening new avenues of human thought and endeavor,” as well as Caltech’s William H.
Ballhaus Prize for his thesis work on lasers. After spending eight years at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Cummings founded CoolEarth Solar.
The closely-held firm has developed a technology that uses a string of balloons to concentrate and capture the sun’s energy without occupying valuable real estate or using
large amounts of silicon.
“Inflatable concentrators gather light and focus it onto photovoltaic cells, increasing
the energy impacting the cells many times over,” the CoolEarth website explains. “Series
of concentrators are suspended on support and control cables stretched between poles. By
suspending the concentrators, vast areas of land can be easily converted for solar-energy production with limited environmental impact. The ground beneath the concentrators remains free for other uses, such as farming or ranching.”
The firm notes that its design “costs 400 times less per collected area than conventional mirrors, can withstand 100 m.p.h. winds, and can protect the mirror surface and receiver from rain, insects, and dirt,” issues that can significantly reduce the productivity of solar cells.
Cummings says each balloon, measuring two meters (6 1/2 feet) in diameter, can generate 500 watts of electricity and will eventually cost less than $2. With low maintenance and replacement costs, he believes the system will significantly reduce the cost of solar energy from the current price of around $4 per watt of installed capacity to level where is competes directly with fossil fuel-based energy sources. The technology will offer new economic opportunities for farmers who will be able to “farm” electricity in
addition to their crops.
“Solar farms generate energy inexpensively—and generate profit for their operators,” the Cool Earth web site notes. “We are confident that our minimum-material design and use of commodity materials will cut the cost of photovoltaic electricity in a 1 megawatt installation to 29 cents per watt by 2010. At that price, solar farming is a highly attractive option for land-holders. We can then expect free-market forces to drive the spread of clean solar-energy generation.”
“The big advantage of our system in rural areas is the abundance of area that is easy to access and maintain (far easier than up on a rooftop), the ease of setting up large power plants (at roughly eight acres per megawatt of electricity), and less resistance from homeowner associations,” Cummings explained via e-mail.
Gopal Shanker, president of Récolte Energy, a green-energy consultancy firm in Napa, California, says the system seems to offer a lot of potential for the wine industry.
“While I haven’t seen the technology, it sounds like it could work well for the wine industry, since it’s off-the-ground and wouldn’t shade grapes,” he said in a conversation with mongabay.com. “The ease of maintenance and low replacement costs would
be a big benefit.”
Shanker, who is working on a proposal to make Napa County a net exporter of clean energy within five years, says that if CoolEarth delivers on its goal of 29-cent-per-watt solar power it would be a revolution in the energy industry.
“We’re looking for anything that makes solar cost competitive on a massive scale. Right now the total install cost for solar is running $7-$10 per watt,” he said, “so 29 cents per watt would eliminate the need for subsidies under the California Solar Initiative and transform solar energy from a green decision to an economic one. We’d be very interested in taking a closer look at the system”
Shanker may have that chance later this year. Cummings says that CoolEarth plans to have pilot installations by the fourth quarter of 2007.
“We aim to do what no company or government has yet achieved, and we aim to do it within the next few years,” the CoolEarth Solar web site says. “Our goals are ambitious. Our solution is innovative. Our technology is ready.”