Maine Utilities Partner to Improve Grid

Emera Maine and Central Maine Power (CMP) have agreed to jointly develop electric transmission projects in Maine. The goal of all projects is to improve links between southern New England and northern Maine, where more than 2,100 megawatts of wind power development have been proposed. The agreement between the utilities comes in response to a call by the six New England governors for investments in the region’s energy infrastructure to diversify the energy portfolio and gain access to new renewable energy resources.

As the state’s two largest utilities, the companies serve more than 95 percent of Maine’s homes and businesses. The utilities have significant expertise with transmission projects, including the MEPCO transmission line that extends from central Maine to New Brunswick, Canada.

Transmission Project in MaineCentral Maine Power is the state’s largest utility serving 605,000 homes and businesses in the southern third of the state. The company is nearing completion of the Maine Power Reliability Program, a $1.4 billion investment in new transmission lines and substations to reinforce its 345,000 volt bulk power grid.

“Our Maine Power Reliability Program is the largest construction project ever in Maine, and one of New England’s largest transmission projects,” said Sara Burns, president and CEO of Central Maine Power. “It’s a vast and complex undertaking, but four years into construction, the project is on time and on budget.”

Emera Maine serves approximately 154,000 homes and businesses in eastern and northern Maine. Significant transmission projects completed by Emera Maine include the 43-mile, 115,000 volt Downeast Reliability Project, and the 85-mile, 345,000 volt Northeast Reliability Interconnect in 2007.

“Electric transmission can be a significant challenge to new low/no emitting generation sources seeking to enter our New England market”, said Gerard Chasse, president and COO of Emera Maine. “That’s a challenge that our companies have been working together on for some time, particularly in Northern Maine. With this MOU we are renewing and expanding these efforts to identify and develop creative and cost effective transmission solutions to benefit the State and the region.”

The partners have outlined two initial phases of work. Phase One will analyze the feasibility of each project, including technical feasibility, public policy, regulatory considerations, and outreach to other potential parties to the project. Phase Two will include all development activities from design, engineering, siting, through construction bidding.

Fight Over Clean Power Plan Gets Dirty

I’ve written a bit about the Clean Power Plan – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions from utility plants by 30 percent by 2030. The plan has caused hope and consternation and both environmental groups and the utility industry is weighing in.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has cited a new disinformation campaign has been waged by “Big Polluters” who they say are intent on subverting the country’s first ever carbon pollution standards (aka, Clean Power Plan. In response, NRDC has launched a campaign of it’s own in response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Study and National Mining Association (NMA) who say that putting limits on carbon will increase electricity prices. However, both the Washington Post and Denver Post have fact checked the study and claims and found some of them to be false.

“The real truth is: We need to cut the carbon pollution spewing out of power plants to protect our health and future generations. We can do this, and save people money on their electric bills even as we invest in energy efficiency that creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” said Peter Altman, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Campaign.

NRDC launched the ad on national television outlets and digital platforms to challenge critics of carbon pollution standards proposed on June 2 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The standards, when finalized says NRDC, can reduce carbon pollution at least 30 percent by 2030 by empowering states and utility companies to work together to make reductions in the most cost-effective way for each state.

In addition to debunking opponents’ claims, the NRDC ad goes after Big Polluters’ efforts to undermine energy efficiency initiatives in a number of states. For example, utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups peddled disinformation to attempt a freeze on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2014.

But ramping up energy efficiency, NRDC has shown, can help accomplish the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and help consumers. NRDC recently released an analysis showing that strong limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants could save Americans $37 billion on their electric bills and create a net 274,000 jobs. These jobs, growing mostly through investments in energy efficiency and renewables, can put to work electricians, roofers, carpenters, insulation workers, heating/air conditioning installers and heavy equipment operators, among others.

$14.5M in Bioenergy, Biomass Funding From USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) has announced up to $14.5 million in funding to two program funding through the 2014 Farm Bill. RD is accepting applications for companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is offering $2.5 million in grants designed to improve national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels (biodiesel or ethanol, etc.) biopower and new bio-based products.

USDA Biomass Energy MapAs part of the programs, the USDA is also offering assistance to individuals, or companies interested in starting a bio-energy business called the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a free portal offering users access to a complement of web-based tools and information, statistical data and other resources related to the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel, a process often referred to as the bioeconomy.

“These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and they benefit our economy as well as the environment,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary. “USDA’s support for bio-based technologies is good for the climate, and enhances rural economic development while it decreases our dependence on foreign sources of oil. These and other USDA efforts will create new products out of homegrown agriculture from this and future generations of American farmers and foresters.”

USDA plans to make up to $12 million in payments for eligible biorefineries through RD’s Repowering Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biorefineries in existence on or before June 18, 2008 are eligible for payments to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power with renewable biomass. Since President Obama took office, USDA has provided $6.9 million to help biorefineries transition from fossil fuels to renewable biomass systems. Applications, deadlines and details will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, June 16, 2014.

USDA is also seeking applications for NIFA’s Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector. Congress authorized the Sun Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized the program in 2014. The program provides grants to five grant centers and one subcenter, which then will make competitive grants to projects that contribute to research, education and outreach for the regional production and sustainability of possible biobased feedstocks. The project period will not exceed five years.

GENERcoin to Back Renewable Alternative to Coal

Now this is an interesting concept that I’ve run across – a mix of digital currency with renewable energy. The crypto currency is backed by real Green ENERgy and their product is coined ‘GENERcoin’. The product is being offered through Arterran Renewables and according to the company combines stable value together with economic utility that neither debt-backed or gold-backed currencies offer.

Ok, let’s take a step back. Arterran Renewables is a nextgen biofuel company whose technology converts any waste with a suitable cellulose content into a solid biofuel that can replace coal.  According to the company, the result is a renewable and abundant source of energy that produces significantly more energy than industrial wood pellets, with no off gassing, superior combustion characteristics, and lower handling costs.

“Arterran Renewables is very enthusiastic about the potential from this partnership with members of the crypto currency community. The mutual discovery of the benefits that each of us can offer the world is enormous,” said Arterran’s CEO Lloyd Davis. “Arterran believes both parties have disruptive innovation at the core of our technologies and our innovations will change the World.”

GENERcoinNow back to GENERcoin. The solid biofuel, which is a replacement for coal, is reality thanks in part to GENERcoin, whose currency is in essence backing the technology.

“GENERcoin is simply about one thing: a World with sustainable renewable energy. The world cannot afford to ignore the effects of 150 years of fossil fuel use, nor can it continue down the big energy business as usual path,” said GENERcoin’s lead visionary David Tiessen. “The effects of fossil fuel use will continue to increase the CO2 levels of the planet and negatively affect our climate and the future of thousands of species, including ours.”

“We now have the choice of business as usual and the continued burning of dirty fossil fuels and the polluting of the planet, or renewable and sustainable alternatives like Arterran Renewables,” continued Tiessen. “Mankind now has at our disposal clean, sustainable energy alternatives and Arterran Renewables with their ability to directly replace coal is the latest exciting addition. GENERcoin is the medium to deploy Arterran’s NextGen Renewable Solid Biofuel and we’re excited to get down to the business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

GENERcoins will be released through a crowdsale taking place on the Master Protocol on June 11, 2014. Each participant will actually be pre-purchasing Arterran’s NextGEN Solid Biofuel at the rate of $0.062 USD per coin, equivalent to 10,000 btu calculated at a significant discount (according to current market prices as reported by Argus Media). Each coin holder then has the option of redeeming their coins for the fuel or exchanging or trading them as they see fit.

Clean Power Plan Should Give Utility Industry a Boost

Earlier this week the EPA announced a legacy proposal that would reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent below 2005 numbers. While much of the response from organizations was positive, may associations believe the proposed Clean Power Plan regulation will harm rural areas, not help.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the reduction in carbon will lead to higher energy prices; but not only would farmers face higher prices for electricity, but any energy-related input such as fertilizer. They also claim rural electric cooperatives that rely on old coal plants for cheap electricity would be hit especially hit hard.

Coal-Fired-Power-Plant“U.S. agriculture will pay more for energy and fertilizer under this plan, but the harm won’t stop there,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said. “Effects will especially hit home in rural America.”

Yet according to Lux Research, the Clean Power Plan have noted that while the proposed regulation has spurred furious debate, what is missing from the conversation it the role of innovation. The firm said these rules can help spur innovation that will make it easier for the world to reduce its emissions.

The new EPA rules are unlikely to have a dramatic impact on global emissions on their own, said Lux Research, given that almost all future growth in carbon emissions will come from developing and underdeveloped countries – most notably China, which became the largest carbon emitter in 2007. Hence, much of the debate about the rules has centered on how likely they are to help induce China and other nations to agree to binding targets of their own.

“The political discussion about climate change misses a critical point; whatever their role in climate negotiations, these new rules will accelerate technology development and deployment, making it more practical and affordable for nations everywhere to reduce emissions,” said Aditya Ranade, Senior Analyst at Lux Research. “Their influence on innovation is where they will need to have the biggest impact for the world to achieve its CO2 reduction goals.”

Lux Research analysts predict that four major technology sectors will get a boost: Continue reading

EPA Officially Releases Clean Power Plan Proposal

In what could be an unprecedented move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency has released a proposed plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan is the first proposed policy that would cut CO2 from existing power plants – the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. Possible solutions to cutting carbon include integrating renewable power to the grid from sources such as geothermal, solar, wind and bioenergy (biomass or pellets derived from waste).

According to the EPA, power plants account for nearly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Although there are current limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

EPA Gina McCarthy“Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants.”

“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs,” added McCarthy.

Building upon trends already underway to reduce GHG emissions (including carbon) in other industry sectors including the transportation sector (cars, planes, etc.) as well as working along side states who have already put carbon policies in place for their utility sectors, the goal is to create a nationwide plan to cut pollution while make power plants more energy efficient. In addition, the plan fits within the steps laid out in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and his June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.

In 2009, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. By 2030, The Clean Power Plan specifically calls for:

  • Cutting carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cutting particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
  • Avoiding up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

Continue reading

U.S. Policy Outlook Featured at World Congress

A special pre-conference workshop has been added to the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology that is taking place May 12-15, 2014 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. “U.S. Policy Outlook: From the RFS to Tax Reform to Farm Bill Implementation – What Lies Ahead for Advanced Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals?” is designed to assess the threats and opportunities on the U.S. federal policy landscape for 2014. Issues discussed will include the Farm Bill, tax reform and potential changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

BIO logo“This robust policy discussion is a great way to start to the world’s largest event on industrial biotechnology. Industrial biotechnology touches all of our lives and changes to these policies could have significant impact the industry’s future growth,” said James Greenwood, President and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization. “I am pleased to lead a panel of such prominent policy experts in a conversation during a time when the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Farm Bill and tax reform have become top Congressional priorities, the Obama Administration and key federal agencies.”

Pre-conference Workshop on U.S. policy outlook for industrial biotechnology will be moderated by James Greenwood, President & CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization, with opening remarks from Representative Allyson Schwartz (D), Member of Congress for Pennsylvania’s 13th District and Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania (invited). Panelists include James Massie, Alpine Group; Ryan Stroschein, Green Capitol LLC; Tim Urban, Washington Council Ernst & Young; and Dr. Matt Carr, Managing Director, BIO.

Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association Formed

A group of industrial biotechnology companies have joined forces to form the Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association (in Portuguese ABBI – Associação Brasileira de Biotecnologia Industrial). This new association (ABBI) brings together companies and institutions developing and using microorganisms and its derivatives to deliver renewable products for industries and consumers worldwide. ABBI’s primary objective is to foster a dialogue within Brazilian society about the advancements of industrial biotechnology in Brazil. The founding members of ABBI are Amyris, BASF, BioChemtex, BP, Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, Dow, DSM, DuPont, GranBio, Novozymes, Raízen and Rhodia.

ABBIABBI will promote a dialogue with stakeholders and policymakers to improve Brazil’s biotechnology regulations and update current legislation in light of technological advances of the last several years. The trade association also believes there is room for improvement in Brazil’s patent laws, particularly as they relate to biological products and processes. The group supports additional investments in research and development, capacity and training for skilled and technical labor, and laboratory infrastructure.

“The establishment of ABBI is important for the Brazilian government as this group is reliable partner in the formulation of a coherent positive agenda, with proposals for the advancement of business and technology,” said Luciano Coutinho, President of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), who participated at the event launching ABBI yesterday in São Paulo. BNDES has invested R$1.2 billion (about US$540 million) in biotechnology projects in Brazil.

Brazil is one of most biodiversity rich countries in the world and provides good conditions to utilize industrial biotechnology to make significant gains in productivity and competitiveness. The use of such biotechnology can increase productivity, improve process efficiencies, and reduce waste and pollution in Brazil and beyond. Speaking at the event in Brazil yesterday, Professor Greg Stephanopoulos, of the Bioinformatics & Metabolic Engineering Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that industrial biotechnology would help Brazil take a leadership position in the 21st Century global economy.

EPA Announces People, Prosperity, Planet Winners

Seven winners of the People, Prosperity and Planet (P3) competition were announced as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 10th annual National Sustainable Design Expo recently held in Washington, D.C. The phase II awards are for innovative and sustainable designs created to help solve today’s environmental problems.

USA Science and Engineering Festival“As we mark the 10th year of the National Sustainable Design Expo and P3 competition, we continue to be inspired by the next generation of scientists and engineers shaping the future of our country,” said Bob Perciasepe, U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator. “These students support a vision for the future that encourages a prosperous economy while seeking sustainable and creative solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and health challenges facing our world.”

EPA’s P3 Program challenges student teams to create designs for a sustainable future while offering quality hands-on experience that brings science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classroom learning to life. This year’s winners were selected from 35 competing teams following two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each award-winning team is recommended for a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design, apply it to real world situations, and bring it to the marketplace.

Winners of this year’s awards are:

  • Cornell University, New York, for designing a low-cost monitor for measuring water quality.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida, for designing an innovative air conditioning system that runs on solar power.
  • Iowa State University for designing a new kind of fabric made with fibers from bacteria and yeast grown in tea and polymers of corn and soy.
  • Purdue University, Indiana, for researching how to improve indoor air quality by using plants grown in the air filter of a home HVAC system.
  • SUNY Stony Brook, New York, for designing and building Poseidon, an ocean energy harvester that converts wave motion into electrical energy.
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for exploring ways to use green oak or “heart centers,” the low-quality part of hardwood logs in U.S. building construction.
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, for implementing a campus recycling program for expanded polystyrene packaging thereby diverting almost 2000 boxes and other polystyrene material from landfills in 6 months of operation.

In addition to the seven winning team, 17 teams were recognized as Honorable Mentions for their project quality inspiring innovation for environmental solutions.

UK Announces 8 Major Renewable Energy Projects

The UK government has announced support for eight major renewable electricity projects giving a big boost to green energy and green jobs. By 2020, the projects will provide up to £12 billion of private sector investment, supporting 8,500 jobs, and they could add a further 4.5GW of low-carbon electricity to Britain’s energy mix (or around 4% of capacity), generating enough clean electricity to power over three million homes.

Once completed and in operation, the projects will contribute around 15TWh or 14 percent of the renewable electricity estimated to be produced by 2020, helping to put the UK well on the way to meeting its renewable energy target. The clean energy projects will also reduce emissions by 10 MtCO2 per year compared to fossil fuel power generation.

The projects have been offered under Contracts for Difference (CfD), which form part of Government’s Electricity Market Reform programme. They include offshore wind farms, coal to biomass conversions and a dedicated biomass plant with combined heat and power.

offshore-wind-power-Photo Christopher ThomondEnergy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said of the announcement, “These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom. By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.”

“These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market – reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumers,” Davey continued. “Record levels of energy investment are at the forefront of the Government’s infrastructure programme and are filling the massive gap we inherited. It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”

The eight projects have been awarded contracts under the Final Investment Decision (FID) Enabling for Renewables process, allocating the first CfDs that are being introduced through the Electricity Market Reform programme. Under CfDs, generators and developers receive a fixed strike price for the electricity they produce for 15 years. As a result, these contracts are vital to give investors the confidence they need to pay the up-front costs of major new infrastructure projects. The contracts are supported by the new legislative framework introduced through the Energy Act 2013. Further CfDs will be made available in the fall.

Renewable Electricity Could Reach 16% In Five Years

According to an early release review of the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (the final report is slated for release on April 30th) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy could hit 16 percent of the net U.S. electrical generation by the year 2040. This includes biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind. But the SUN DAY Campaign challenges these predictions by asserting this could happen in the next five years.

When reviewing EIA’s own published data for the 11-year period January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2013 revealed that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation Biomass pelletsrepresented by renewable energy has expanded from less than 9 percent in 2004 to nearly 13 percent in 2013. Given the relatively consistent growth trends of the past decade or longer for most renewable energy sources and their rapidly declining costs, it seems improbable that it will require another 27 years to grow from 13 percent to 16 percent according to SUN DAY Campaign. Thus, EIA’s forecast is not just unduly conservative; almost certainly, it is simply wrong.

If the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, cite the SUN DAY campaign, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5 percent of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, to 14.4 percent in 2015, to 15.3 percent in 2016, and reach or exceed 16.0 percent no later than 2018 — i.e., within five years and not the 27 years forecast by EIA. At worst, they would reach 16 percent by 2020.

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors – as well as the media and others – rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”

The SUN DAY Campaign has published its own full 32-page report that includes the assumptions and projections made, on a technology-by-technology basis, using EIA data. In addition, following the projections provided for each technology is a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios – many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative.

CSR Looks to Convert Used Railroad Ties to Biofuels

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) has announced a new initiative to review the feasibility of “upcycling” used railroad ties into advanced biofuels. The research project is funded by a grant from the Indiana Rail Road (INRD). Working with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota – Duluth, CSR aims to determine the viability of converting some of the 15 million ties replaced by U.S. railroads each year into a clean-burning coal alternative.

railroad ties“CSR is thrilled to have the support of the Indiana Rail Road on this important, potentially historic opportunity,” said CSR President, Davidson Ward. “INRD is dedicated to innovation and technology, and its investment in our primary research is an inspiration to the entire team.”

Using a biomass processing technique known as torrefaction, the researchers at NRRI and CSR will convert the structure of used railroad ties, primarily made from hardwood species, into a clean, renewable, homogeneous, and densifiable biofuel. The final result is anticipated to be a pelletized biofuel that can be used in power plants. However, the biofuel will first powe CSR’s test bed steam locomotive, the Santa Fe Railway’s 1937-built No. 3463.

“As the son of a Santa Fe dispatcher and a lifelong student of that railway, I’m intrigued in CSR’s desire to rebuild and modernize such an innovative piece of technology as the 3463, and especially NRRI and CSR’s pursuit of energy, fuel and transportation development,” said INRD President and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas G. Hoback. “This important research impacts not only the future of energy in the U.S., but it honors the tradition of American innovation, from the reconstruction and modernization of an iconic steam locomotive to the biofuel development associated with our donation.”

This initial investigation aims to identify any hurdles involved with the conversion of railroad ties to fuel, including the handling of wood preservatives found in railroad ties. CSR will make results of the research known through its “White Paper Program“.

Hoback concluded, “This is something that I believe could lead to a key development in the future of the railroad industry. It is important to take pride in the history of where we’ve been, and the unique melding of research with preserving history, as championed by CSR, is a great way to honor the legacy of the Santa Fe.”

Cogeneration Explained

WASILENKOFF headshot-1The country is beginning to hear a lot about cogeneration, or cogen, but what it is exactly? How is it different, then say, a traditional electricity plant? To get the low-down on cogen I spoke with Chad Wasilenkoff, CEO of Fortress Paper whose company has been working with cogeneration and recently put its first cogen project online.

Q: Can you explain how cogeneration is different than a traditional electricity plant? For example, “wind” can provide power to the grid but is not considered cogen.

A: Wind will run a turbine and produce electricity similar to cogeneration. The difference is cogen also produces energy mechanically with steam to turn the turbine but also uses the thermal energy produced in the industrial process for additional energy needs. In conventional systems the heat is an unused byproduct of energy production. Cogen can also uses waste material as the energy source and in our case residual biomass from the paper making process.

Q: Obviously, cogeneration is not a new idea. Why do you think there is such a small rate of adoption/use of cogeneration in North America?

Cogen OutsideA: Cogeneration plants are capital intensive and the costs involved have to be balanced with the costs of other energy sources in the area. For industrial installations cogen works well for operations that use a lot of power, steam and heat. Cogen also tends to be more suitable in areas where the heat can be utilized. An example is Denmark where some cities get 95 percent of heat from cogeneration sites. There are also some small scale cogeneration units on the market for the individual homeowner.

Q: The potential for cogeneration is quite large. For cogen to reach its full potential, what would need to happen? Would there need to be legislation, tax credits, etc?

A: Yes assistance with financing, preferential pricing tax credits etc. would all help cogen to reach its full potential. Cogeneneration is already part of many plans for expanding renewable energy, According to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Q: Fortress Paper has made a significant investment in cogen at your Fortress Speciality Cellulose Mill in Thurso, Québec where you have constructed a cogen facility. Can you give the readers of DF more information about this project?

A: The Fortress Specialty Cellulose mill capex for the Cogen Plant was over Canadian $120 million and included a new turbine and generator with cooling tower and condenser, new biomass boiler, and new water treatment system among other items. Continue reading

National Grid Salutes Veterans

Today is Veterans Day in the United States where the country comes together to thank those Americans who have risked or given their lives to keep the country safe. In recognition of this day, National Grid is highlighting its programs to attract and retain veteran employees including it participation in Troops to Energy Jobs. The program is an initiative in which National Grid has partnered with five other energy companies across the country, and the Center for Energy Workforce Development, to develop an accelerated process for bringing military veterans into the energy industry workforce nationwide.

National Grid’s pilot program for Troops to Energy Jobs took place in Massachusetts, and employing veterans in the state remains a top priority for the company.

Troops-to-Energy-Jobs-logo“National Grid, along with other electric and gas companies, recognizes that veterans have spent their military careers protecting national security and are, among many things, battle-tested, self-motivated and safety-conscious—traits that translate well into a second career in the utility industry,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “By hiring veterans into the company, we are ensuring the continued production and delivery of safe, reliable power to Massachusetts homes and businesses, and that service members are continuing to protect national security as they work to deliver a product that fuels our lives and powers our economy.”

In recent years National Grid said it has taken several steps to improve its opportunity for veteran outreach, including creating a dedicated veterans outreach specialist role within the company. This integrated specialist is responsible for veteran recruiting efforts and assists veterans as they transition into civilian positions within the energy field.

“Hiring veterans is a smart business decision. But, beyond that, it’s about pride and opportunity,” said Steven Spaeth, veterans outreach specialist for National Grid who is also a veteran himself. “Our industry has a role to play that is bigger than just hiring—we can help to pave the way for transitioning veterans into civilian jobs. Recognizing and supporting veterans once they are hired is critical to achieving a successful transition as we move our dedicated service members from the front lines to the power lines.”

National Grid also has its own Veterans Employee Resource Group (VERG) to help implement the Troops to Energy Jobs national template in all its service territories. This group of 185 members is strongly involved with recruitment and outreach efforts that encompass National Grid’s Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Upstate NY and Downstate NY businesses. The company’s VERG provides ongoing support to veteran employees, assists the Human Resources Department by reviewing resumes for candidates who are veterans, and maintains a visible presence in local communities, including attending career fairs to recruit other veterans.

National Grid works with the Department of Labor in Massachusetts as well as at local One-Stops in its efforts to recruit veterans. The company also works closely with veterans organizations such as the Office of Veterans Affairs, directing candidates to the Troops to Energy Jobs website for assistance in translating military skills to those needed in energy jobs. The company will often tweet job openings and veteran-themed resources as part of its effort to reach as many veterans in as many different ways as possible.

Sustainable Roadmap for Jamaica Released

The Worldwatch Institute has released the report, “Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap: Pathways to an Affordable, Reliable, Low-Emission Electricity System,” that looks at the measures that the Jamaican government can take to transition its electricity sector to one that is socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. The report also analyzes the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment in Jamaica and discusses the social and economic impacts of alternative energy pathways, concluding that a scenario of high renewable penetration can bring significant savings, greater energy security, gains in competitiveness, and many other important benefits to the country.

Jamaica Sustainable Energy Roadmap“Jamaica is paying a colossal price to import polluting and health-threatening fossil fuels, even when it has the best clean energy resources at its doorstep: wind, solar, hydro, and biomass,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and a co-author of the study. “The Jamaican government has set a nationwide goal of 20 percent renewable energy use by 2030; our Roadmap will help to realize this goal. What’s more, our analysis shows that the bar can and should be set much higher: Jamaica can become a zero-carbon island in a matter of decades, and its people would benefit enormously from such a transition.”

Worldwatch collaborated closely on this project with the Government of Jamaica. “I am very confident that the outcome of this project will enable Jamaica to map, in more precise ways, the additional electricity generation capacity that we seek,” says Jamaican Energy Minister Philip Paulwell. “We intend to use the Roadmap to determine the next phase of new generation capacity, and it will enable us to be far more efficient than we have in the past.”

Jose Maria Figueres, president of the Carbon War Room and former president of Costa Rica, points to the broader benefits of the study and Worldwatch’s Sustainable Energy Roadmap work: “This report provides the practical steps that enable us to fast-forward the deployment of renewable energy. With it, we can boost national economies and improve conditions of well-being. [Jamaica] can become a shining example of what the future is all about.”

The Roadmap also delves into the full societal costs of Jamaica’s current electricity sector to the costs of alternative pathways that are based on high shares of domestic renewable energy. The report concludes that Jamaica will benefit economically, socially, and environmentally if it relies more heavily on renewable energy sources and less on fossil fuels. In addition, based on analysis of Jamaica’s investment environment, the Roadmap suggests regulatory and institutional changes that will be necessary to attract new investments in clean energy solutions.