The solar power industry is about to get a big boost in San Francisco. On April 19, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to become the first major US metropolitan area requiring that new buildings install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on their roofs. California already mandates that new buildings with 10 floors or less designate at least 15% of their rooftop area (pdf, p8) as being ready for solar panel installation. The city of San Francisco now requires that builders actually install solar panels in these areas (at a minimum) starting in 2017. Larger buildings are exempt for now.
The District of Columbia is sailing ahead on wind energy, having signed the largest wind power deal ever made by an American city. That agreement means a Pennsylvania wind farm will generate 35 percent of the city government’s electricity over the next 20 years.
The sharply divided U.S. Senate is poised to pass comprehensive energy legislation for the first time in nearly a decade, forging a rare bipartisan compromise -- even if the result is far less ambitious than energy packages of years past. "It’s probably not going to be known for the sweeping changes it makes to the U.S. energy system," said Sarah Ladislaw, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "But it is a big deal because it shows bipartisan energy policy is still possible. In this Congress, in energy policy, that matters."
A new analysis released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) shows that strengthening Michigan’s clean energy policies, together with a national carbon emissions-trading program, provides a sensible way for the state to deliver significant health and economic benefits to residents and comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
Last week, even as Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company,declared bankruptcy, the U.S. government issued striking figures showing how much coal production in the United States has declined in the space of just a few years. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, stated that the U.S. production of coal last month totaled 52 million short tons — which was a 36 percent decrease from levels seen just one year earlier, in March of 2015. Looking at annual production numbers over the past few years, combined with EIA’s prediction for total production in 2016, gives a similar message.
In a rapid turn of events, the bipartisan “Energy Policy Modernization Act” went from the legislative dustbin to an upcoming Senate floor vote. And not a moment too soon considering the unexpectedly rocky road the bill embarked on since it was first introduced. In February, the Senate took up the bipartisan bill, introduced last summer by Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), that would modernize our nation’s energy policy for the first time since 2007. Yet, the bill—on track to pass owing to strong support on both sides of the aisle—was derailed when a small group of senators objected because of an impasse over funding for the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and other separate policy initiatives. Votes on final amendments to the bill were postponed, and the package ultimately stalled, leaving our nation’s energy sector without the comprehensive policy reform it desperately needs.
In December, 196 countries adopted the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, creating the first universal pact to put the world on a path towards a zero-carbon, resilient future. Since then, some concrete steps have been made while examples of substantial progress that took place in 2015 is just now coming to light. Countries, regions, cities and businesses are taking action to move the world in the right direction toward a low-carbon, climate resilient future. With global leaders gathering in New York on April 22 to sign the Paris Agreement, now is a good time to reflect on the changing landscape of the global response to climate change.
The G7 leading industrial nations pledged last year to phase out fossil fuels by the year 2100. While the announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hailed by environmental campaigners as historic, a new study claims the feat could theoretically be achieved by 2026. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that, if the right measures were put in place, the world could completely transition away from fossil fuels in less than a decade. “Energy transitions have no magic formula,” the study, published in the journal Energy Research and Social Science, states. “Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behaviour of users and adopters.
The Solar Impulse project to fly a plane around the world without consuming a drop of fossil fuel is nearing the end of the Pacific crossing — its biggest hurdle. While its mission is not over yet, the team has already demonstrated that renewables can provide reliable power both day and night, an important step towards a clean energy future.To get this far, the Solar Impulse team has had to overcome many of the same technological challenges that are facing humanity on our low-carbon transition. Its solutions to these challenges deserve our attention.
After four years of steady growth, U.S. plug-in electric car sales were essentially flat last year. Low gas prices and increased demand for SUVs had a dampening effect on the segment, which still accounts for a very small fraction of U.S. new-car sales. However, in other parts of the world, it was a different story. Global electric-car sales actually increased significantly last year, thanks to strong sales outside the U.S., according to data compiled by the Department of Energy.
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