We’re losing the race against global warming. Worldwide coal production increased about eight times faster than solar- and wind-power generation last year. China added more new coal plants in 2011 than are running in Texas and Ohio, even as it leads the world in wind-power capacity. Meanwhile, the United States is only modestly cutting carbon emissions by transitioning from coal to natural gas, which is still a carbon-rich fuel.
Reforming our patchwork of rules directing the electric utility industry is essential. The generation and delivery of electricity is as fundamental to our national prosperity as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Most of us rely on electricity from the moment our alarm buzzes in the morning until we turn out the lights to sleep at night. In the case of regulations affecting our natural resources, we have elected to fight back against their degradation through comprehensive federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations that by comparison to energy rules are clear and effective. By contrast, the current legal framework regulating the electric utility industry is a hodgepodge of reactive rules cobbled together in response to periodic developments in the energy industry.
BrightSource has cancelled the proposed Hidden Hills concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in California’s Inyo County, saying proposed changes to the site’s configuration would require numerous revisions and re-analyses, and even more delays and uncertainty.
The Republican Party is not known for taking action on climate change, or even for acknowledging its existence. Republican voters across the country evidently do not feel the same way. A recently released national survey conducted by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communica
Triodos Investment Management BV, an arm of Dutch lender Triodos Bank NV, plans a clean-energy fund focused on emerging markets as growth in the industry shifts away from Europe.
Nevada’s major public utility NV Energy announced Wednesday that it plans to shutter its four coal plants in southern Nevada and increase its investment in renewable energy and natural gas. Three of its coal plants will be shut down by 2014, and the fourth is scheduled to close its doors by 2017. NV Energy is calling its proposal “NVision,” and included it as an amendment in Senate Bill 123.
Increasingly countries and regions are leapfrogging timid renewable targets and moving toward full 100 percent integration of renewables into electricity supply. Some thought leaders, politicians, and advocates are moving even further, suggesting 150 percent, even 300 percent renewable electricity generation to meet not only electricity supply but also heat and transport.
While the broad market of small stocks as measured by my benchmark the iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM) managed to turn in a small 2% gain in March for the third month in a row, clean energy stocks repeated February’s performance, giving back more of January’s spectacular gains. My clean energy benchmark, the Powershares Wilderhill Clean Energy Index (PBW), declined 3.2% to end the quarter up 5.5% for the year, while IWM closed up 12.2% for the first quarter.
Last week in Phoenix, I watched the very conservative governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, deliver a brief keynote speech to open the second day of the CleanTech Future conference put on by CleanTech Connections and the Arizona Commerce Authority. Nineteen floors above the impressive solar PV arrays at Arizona State University’s downtown campus across the street, Brewer extolled the virtues of solar and other clean energy as a business boon for her state.