Rural Clean Energy Awards and Grants Announced

The United States Department of Agriculture's office of Rural Development administers the REAP grant program, among other clean energy incentives.

The USDA recently announced major new investments in clean, rural renewable energy and energy efficiency that will deliver significant benefits to our region and throughout the country. Here we will share those exciting announcements. New applications are also now being accepted for 2015 grants. Check out more on that below!

The 2014 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) awarded $68 million in grants, nationwide. 540 different projects were selected to receive funding. Here in the Southeast, 82 grants were awarded, totaling more than $1,500,000. And because these are 25% cost-share grants, the awards leverage more than $4.5 million in private funds.

Sheep grazing beneath a solar installation in North Carolina. Photo credit: O2 Energies.

The projects approved this year include almost entirely solar and energy efficiency. North Carolina surpassed other Southeastern states in numbers of solar projects approved. In that state, Loan Guarantees were awarded for 18 solar farm projects (totaling $55.2 million of federal commitments), averaging 4.35 MW each. If all these solar projects are completed in North Carolina, more than 78 MW of new solar capacity will be added to the grid.

Read more…

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For Renewable Energy, The Future is Now

Credit: Tesla all-electric Roadster

There’s been some pretty amazing news for renewable energy recently. Just this week, a consortium of companies announced that they will build a $4 billion wind farm, connected to a $2.6 billion high voltage direct current transmission line and a $1.4 billion compressed air energy storage facility near Los Angeles. That system will generate more power than the Hoover Dam and deliver dispatchable Wyoming wind energy to southern California. And with Elon Musk’s decision to build a $5 billion “Gigafactory” in Nevada to develop advanced battery technology for the all-electric car company Tesla, massive investments are being made to support clean and renewable energy resources. These announcements aren’t some futuristic bet on research and development: these are billion dollar investments on deployment. But why is this all happening now? Simply put, costs have dropped. Dramatically.

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Why $100bn invested in wind or solar will produce more energy than oil

This article by Giles Parkinson originally appeared in the Australian publication RenewEconomy on September 16, 2014 and can be viewed in its entirety here.

French investment bank Kepler Cheuvreux has produced a fascinating analysis that has dramatic implications for the global oil industry.

It estimates that $100 billion invested in either wind energy or solar energy – and deployed as energy for light and commercial vehicles – will produce significantly more energy than that same $100 billion invested in oil.

The implications, needless to say, are dramatic. It would signal the end of Big Oil, and the demise of an industry that has dominated the global economy and geo-politics, for the last few decades. And the need for it to reshape its business model around renewables, as we discuss here.

“If we are right, the implications would be momentous,” writes Kepler Chevreux analyst Mark Lewis. Read more…

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Energy Advice for Historic Homes

This guest post was written by Sean Stucker, Director of Facilities for Historic Columbia Foundation, and originally published in the Columbia Star Newspaper on September 12, 2014.

A 1956 ranch house in Athens, Ga., meets the historical requirement for age—50 years— for the National Register of Historic Places.

If you are a lover of old homes, then buying a historic house would be your natural choice. However, in the wake of a recession fueled by an abrupt halt in new construction and in light of the fact our cities and established neighborhoods naturally get older as the years pass, anyone looking to buy  a home these days will have far more to choose from and will have much greater flexibility in terms of price when considering pre-existing homes.

By now, post-WWII suburbs and even early ranch-house communities from the 1950s and ’60s meet the historical requirement for age—50 years—for the National Register of Historic Places. Indeed, my Forest Acres Colonial Ranch in Columbia, S.C. celebrates its semicentennial next year! Historic houses and neighborhoods offer a variety of benefits: character of architecture and design, proximity to downtown and central business districts, proof they can stand the test of time, and so on. In terms of energy efficiency, though, older houses often fall short of what their newly-built counterparts can offer.

Read more…

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¿Cómo me afecta la polución? Te caerías de espalda…

Escrito por Rudi Navarra, director del “Southeast Climate & Energy Network” (o en sus siglas en inglés, SCEN)

La agencia nacional estadounidense que controla la polución y sus efectos dañinos en nuestras vidas cotidianas, el “Environmental Protection Agency” (EPA), ha propuesto nuevas reglas contra la emisión de la polución del carbono. ¿Qué quiere esto decir? Una gran parte (o sea el 42%) de la electricidad que consumimos día a día en los Estados Unidos proviene de plantas de generación eléctrica a base de carbón. El quemar carbón para producir energía es un proceso supremamente sucio y dañino para el aire que respiramos y agua que tomamos. Aunque parezca increíble, hasta hoy día, el “Environmental Protection Agency” nunca había tenido la autoridad para regular la polución del carbono producida por las compañías de luz y electricidad. Es decir, nunca antes en la historia de los Estados Unidos se había regulado la polución del carbono emitido por plantas de generación eléctrica. Estas nuevas propuestas obligarían al estado de la Florida a crear nuevas reglas para limitar la polución emitida por estas plantas eléctricas. En el sur de la Florida, el “Florida Power & Light” y su compañía hermana “Next Era Energy” estarían sujetas a estas nuevas reglas en los próximos años.

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Energy Efficiency At The Forefront of Cooperative Principles In Tennessee

The following post was written by Appalachian Voices Energy Policy Director Rory McIlmoil, and was originally published on the App Voices Front Porch Blog. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is partnered with App Voices on on-bill financing advocacy work in Tennessee, and SACE Energy Policy Manager Taylor Allred participated in the September 5 retreat described below.

Rural electric cooperatives, which serve millions of families across Appalachia, operate on seven principles, the most important of which (at least to us) is principle number seven: “Concern for Community.”

Frank Rapley, General Manager of TVA's Energy Efficiency Programs, presents on the new EE programs that TVA will be offering in 2015. Photo credit: Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

The seventh principle commits electric co-ops to “the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members.” As we described in a blog series on the need for and benefits of “on-bill” financing programs supporting home energy improvements in Appalachia, the sustainable development of the Appalachian region relies on the ability of residents to invest in their communities. But first and foremost, they must be able to afford their electric bills. The clear first step to achieving this vision is expanding energy efficiency, and this is something that Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have taken to heart.

On September 5, thanks to a generous grant from the National Governor’s Association (NGA), the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA), in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), sponsored a statewide energy efficiency “retreat.” The goal of the day-long policy retreat was to hash through the details of what will hopefully become a statewide program to finance home energy efficiency improvements, especially for low-income residents. Such programs have proven to reduce home energy costs substantially, and are primarily intended to help families that can’t afford to pay for the upfront cost of needed improvements. Below is a testimonial from one family that participated in South Carolina’s pilot on-bill financing program known as “Help My House.” Read more…

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Celebration of National Drive Electric Week

National Drive Electric Vehicle is wrapping up today and tomorrow. I’ve been excited to see many new allies and information shared touting the new vehicles available or soon-to-be available vehicles and the benefits of electric vehicles to consumers. It is clear from our view that electric vehicles are here to stay. Unfortunately, we continue to get frequent questions about the feasibility, costs and benefits of EVs–they continue to be perceived as impractical, expensive and with limited range and charging infrastructure.

So, let’s take a look at what’s happening. For one, Georgia is now on top nationwide for electric vehicle sales. This is great news and Georgia should be very proud of this accomplishment. Not only is Georgia now on top, but we have been leading the way in electric vehicle (EV) sales in the US for the past year (and maybe longer). Just earlier this year, we were ranked 4th in the U.S. for electric vehicle registrations.

Electric vehicles are a proven path forward in a transition to cleaner transportation. Georgians are already benefitting from fewer emissions, less dependence on oil and price fluctuations, and cleaner air. The expansion of electric vehicles is also bringing economic benefits to the state–the electric vehicle industry is creating jobs, bringing new businesses to the state, saving money on fuel costs to individual drivers and fleet managers and ultimately the companies and governments who utilize them, and helping drive innovation.

One question that I often get is, “Don’t EVs just move pollution from the tailpipe to power plants?” It is true that while electric vehicles do not have tailpipe emissions, the electricity used to power EVs do. Here in the Southeast, this is concerning due to our heavy reliance on coal and natural gas. The good news is studies show that electric vehicles are driving much-needed reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

Read more…

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Attack of the Kochtopus in Florida

We have always known we are up against powerful and wealthy adversaries in the fight to promote clean energy, but now we have proof that we’re really ruffling some dirty feathers. Americans for Prosperity, a ‘dark-money’ organization sponsored by the notorious Koch Brothers, has unleashed an attack ad aimed squarely at SACE.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a front group founded and largely financed by the billionaire Koch Brothers, who have a vested interest in preserving the fossil-fuel status quo. Koch Industries Inc. is heavily involved in nearly every fossil-fuel market; they own several oil refinery subsidiaries, lobby heavily in the oil and gas industries, and engage in oil and gas price speculation that drives up costs for consumers while driving profits to their own accounts.  Not to mention Koch Industries’ tarnished environmental record which includes 300 oil spills in 6 states and massive greenhouse gas emissions.

The long arms of the Koch Brothers, courtesy www.kochcash.org

AFP’s negative ad comes straight out of the Koch Brothers playbook. They’ve sponsored similar hits in states around the country where they felt their interests were being threatened.  In Arizona, they portrayed solar customers as stealing candy from crying children as part of an effort to roll back net metering, and in Kansas they attacked former Governor Kathleen Sebelius for supporting a renewable portfolio standard.  In fact, the Koch family has been funding anti-science, pro-polluter policies for over twenty years. Read more…

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On Sunday thousands converge in New York City for the People’s Climate March

This Sunday, September 21st, the People’s Climate March is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people — from impacted community members to business leaders to faith groups — to the streets of New York City to demand action on climate change from global leaders. In the days following the march, 125 heads of state will gather at the United Nations to attend a special summit called by UN Secretary, General Ban Ki-moon, to discuss an ambitious proposal for a global agreement to reduce global warming pollution. Will the presence of thousands of marchers and hundreds of world leaders finally be enough to confront the climate crisis?

Why are people planning to throng the streets of New York City?

Because climate change is real and is already happening. Scientific studies confirm that global temperatures have risen more than 1 degree F over the past 100 years. Because last year was the largest annual leap in greenhouse gas concentrations that we’ve seen since the 1980s, and continued the annual trend of setting a new record each year for the highest greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere than ever before in human history. Because humans are primarily responsible for the amount of heat-trapping gases — mostly carbon dioxide and methane – in our atmosphere and a solution will require human action. Because despite various executive actions, the United States has yet to establish a national policy for reducing greenhouse gases and we’re fast approaching a global tipping point of atmospheric concentrations of these deadly pollutants. Because the world will be watching: the UN Climate Summit that follows the march will be covered by every major news outlet in the world. Read more…

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¿Por qué los latinos están a la vanguardia en la curva del cambio climático?

Este blog fue publicado originalmente en UCS The Equation el 12 de septiembre de 2014, por Roberto Mera, científico y  Kendall Science Fellow.

En el verano de 2009 tuve una oportunidad única en mi carrera como joven profesional. Di varias conferencias sobre el cambio climático y la sociedad en varios lugares en Guayaquil, Ecuador. Había un tema común en mis conversaciones: la aceptación de la ciencia del clima de la audiencia  y el gran sentimiento que tenían en actuar. Este sentimiento fue compartido por personas de diversos orígenes, desde los arquitectos, a los agricultores de soya, a los estudiantes.

Yo todavía era estudiante de doctorado en el momento de las conferencias, pero había estado expuesto a la interfaz de la sociedad y del clima a través de una pasantía en la cual estaba encargado de ayudar en el desarrollo de una Maestría en Cambio Climático y la Sociedad para la Universidad de Carolina del Norte. Yo estaba ansioso por comunicar la ciencia. Y, como ecuatoriano nativo criado en los Estados Unidos, tuve la oportunidad de ofrecer una nueva perspectiva.

Aquí en los EE.UU., hablar sobre el cambio climático es más complicado. Los intereses especiales tienen un gran interés en retrasar la acción sobre el cambio climático y han incrementado dudas sobre la verdad del calentamiento global a través de la desinformación. Read more…

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