Vancouver commits to run on 100% renewable energy

Canadian city of 600,000 people is the latest to announce it will use only green energy for electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years

‘There’s a compelling moral imperative but also a fantastic economic case to be a green city.’ – Andrea Reimer, Vancouver’s deputy mayor Photograph: George Rose/Getty Images

By: Stephen Leahy

Vancouver has become the latest city to commit to running on 100% renewable energy. The city of 600,000 on Canada’s west coast aims to use only green energy sources for electricity, and also for heating and cooling and transportation.

Cities and urban areas are responsible for 70-75% of global CO2 emissions and that’s where “real action on climate will happen” said Park Won-Soon, Mayor of Seoul, South Korea at the ICLEI World Congress 2015, the triennial sustainability summit of local governments where Vancouver made the announcement.

“We are the green tide coming together to save the world from climate change,” Park said to nearly 15,000 members of local government including more than 100 mayors.

Andrea Reimer, Vancouver’s deputy mayor told the Guardian: “There’s a compelling moral imperative but also a fantastic economic case to be a green city.” The 100% goal is likely to be set for a target year of 2030 or 2035 for heating/cooling, with transport taking until 2040 to 2050. These could happen sooner with national and provincial government support.

People and businesses want to live and work in clean and green urban areas, said Reimer, adding that whoever develops expertise in shifting to 100% renewable energy will own the 21st century.

Vancouver can achieve 100% renewable electricity in a few years but heating, cooling and transportation will take longer. The city’s ambition is to be the world’s greenest city by 2020 despite the fact Canada has had one of “the most environmentally irresponsible national governments” for the last 10 years, she said.

Park announced that Seoul, with 11 million people and growing fast, will reduce its energy use and increase renewable generation, including rolling out 40,000 solar panels to households by 2018 and 15,000 electric vehicles. By 2030 it is hoped that CO2 emissions will be cut by 40%.

More than 50 cities have announced they are on their way to 100% renewable energy including San Diego and San Francisco in California, Sydney Australia, and Copenhagen. Some are aiming for 2020, others by 2030 or 2035.

Some, like Reykjavik, Iceland, are already there for electricity and heat. The entire country of Costa Rica was powered by renewables for 75 consecutive days this year.

“Just three years ago we’re saying 100% renewable really is possible, now many cities and regions are doing it,” Anna Leidreiter, coordinator of the Global 100% RE Alliance – an international alliance of organizations pushing for a shift away from fossil fuels.

If large utilities or energy companies are in control it will slow down attempts to tackle climate change, Leidreiter said. “The business model for renewables is completely different, it should benefit people not corporations.”


Bill Makes Solar Power a Smart Move for Homeowners

By: Jaye Watson

(Photo: Laura Turner Seydel)

ATLANTA — “Welcome to our most favorite asset of our house,” Rutherford Seydel said.

Most people don’t do interviews on the roof of their house, but to Seydel and his wife, Laura Turner Seydel, showing off their solar power system is one way to celebrate the passage of House Bill 57. Called the Solar Power Free Market Financing Act, it will make it easier and more affordable for Georgia homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops.

The bill, expected to be signed into law by Governor Deal, allows home and business owners to finance installation, which can cost anywhere from a few thousand to up to $15,000. By financing, homeowners can avoid the upfront costs and pay for their system over time with what they save on their monthly power bill.

The Seydels’ home, Eco Manor in Buckhead, has served as a local blueprint for how homeowners can go green.

Rutherford Seydel explained that, “An installer will put it (solar panel system) there under this law. An installer will be able to be paid back from the savings that you get from your power bill.”

“After everything is paid off in six to ten years, you get free energy, because these panels are warrantied for 25 years, so you get free energy,” Turner Seydel added.

Brion Fitzpatrick with Inman Solar installed the Seydels’ nine kilowatt system, which cuts their power bill by $2,000 a year.

“The ultimate dream for us is to all have energy we produce not only in our country, but locally on your own home,” Rutherford Seydel said.

Pulling less off the grid puts more money in your pocket — not to mention what it does for the environment. One solar panel system is equivalent to planting 150 to 200 trees and offsets the emissions of two fossil burning vehicles — which makes for a happier earth.



Tesla’s New Battery Could Solve One of Solar Power’s Biggest Problems

By: Alissa Walker

photo: Eric Risberg/AP

So far, specific details are thin on the new battery designed for home use that Tesla’s announcing next week. But just based on what we do know, it’s a pretty big deal. The quest for a good battery that can store home-generated power is kind of like the holy grail for a renewable energy future. This one product might change everything.

A New York Times article published earlier this week essentially sets up the problem that Tesla’s battery will solve. In Hawaii, 12 percent of homes have some kind of solar energy, by far the highest rate for any place in the US at the moment. In fact, that rate is growing too quickly—solar customers are dumping so much energy back onto the grid that they’re taxing the delicate and often aging infrastructure that was only designed to deliver power to homes. What’s happening in Hawaii is actually indicative of what’s going to be an issue everywhere as many cities start to see an increase in large-scale solar implementation: There’s going to be too much energy generated, and nowhere to put it.

Utility companies might spend the money to upgrade the grid, but even then it’s difficult for them to predict how much more capacity they’ll need (and of course those costs will certainly be passed down to consumers). The absolute best idea is for homeowners to start installing batteries that can store the power for later use instead of giving the power back to the utilities, something called peak load shaving. It’s not just solar power that can be stored, of course—it can also come from wind turbines or hydroelectricity or the treadmill you rigged together to juice up your house with kinetic energy.

Enter Tesla. In its quest to design the perfect electric car, Tesla has pretty much engineered the best battery on the market. Now, basically, the company is manufacturing an electric car battery for home use. They’re already out there: Tesla’s installed batteries in about 400 locations, including businesses like Walmart. Supposedly this new battery concept will improve upon what’s available now. But the real game changer here—like almost everything about energy—is price.

Thanks to companies like Tesla, the cost per kilowatt-hour of these batteries is coming down much faster than once predicted. Right now, Tesla’s batteries are about about $300 per kWh, which is comparable to the market rate the industry expected for 2020. This cost is intertwined with the proliferation of renewable energy because cheaper batteries mean that the price of entry for something like solar energy is essentially cheaper. Which means more people will be able to get into the solar game.

The biggest news here—and why utility companies are likely worried—is that with a cheaper, more accessible battery, homeowners will now very easily be able to achieve complete energy independence. You could store your power for off-peak usage, and you might be able to sell your excess energy to a neighbor. In the near future, cord-cutting may mean severing one’s self from the electrical grid.


Eco-Friendly Home Updates That Save You Green

Celebrate Earth Day with home improvements that benefit the environment (and your budget) year-round.

By Vera Gibbons

Each year, Americans save billions of dollars by employing energy-saving measures and investing in energy-efficient homes. Some upgrades — like Energy Star appliances, new hot water heaters, or geothermal pumps — can be pricey upfront, but there are plenty of small, inexpensive updates that will make a big difference in your budget over time. Here are some places to start.

Go low-flow

Thousands of gallons of water go down the drain every day. Toilet flushing and showering are the two biggest culprits. One solution is to upgrade your home’s plumbing fixtures so you use less water to accomplish the same task.

Low-flow fixtures, which are both inexpensive and easy to install, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent, and save you up to $145 a year, according to Energy Star.

Insulate, insulate, insulate

Upgrading your home with energy-efficient insulation is one of the quickest energy payback projects you can undertake. If your house doesn’t have enough insulation (and many homes don’t, especially those built before 1980), bringing it up to current standards will not only make it more comfortable all year long, but you’ll save money — anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Consult the Department of Energy’s ZIP code specific recommendations for the right amount of insulation for your climate.

Use compact fluorescent light bulbs

Yes, fluorescent bulbs are more expensive that regular bulbs, but each bulb can save up to $40 over the lifetime of the bulb, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.

Install a programmable thermostat

Did you know that the average household spends about $2,000 annually on energy bills, and that close to half that figure can be attributed to heating and cooling?

Enter the programmable thermostat. When used properly (don’t be intimidated!), this little gadget, which you reset when you’re asleep or away from your home, can pay for itself in a matter of months. Annually, you’re looking at saving up to $150 or more.


Couple fit solar panels after $500 power bill shock


Mytchall Bransgrove/Fairfax NZ

Garry Robinson’s solar panels are unlikely to pay for themselves but at least he will not be getting $500 power bills any more.

After one too many $500 monthly power bills a Timaru couple switched to solar power.

Garry and Suzanne Robinson were gobsmacked their electricity bills kept going up when there were only the two of them living in their Fairview house and they both worked during the day.

Suzanne said they bought new appliances with good energy ratings when Garry built the house 10 years ago but their bills kept increasing. She admits the underfloor heating probably didn’t help but as water has become a valuable commodity and with environmental concerns the couple decided to make the change. They had the panels installed in February and were switched off the grid during the day last week. They eagerly await their next power bill.

With an 8 metre x 4 metre swimming pool to heat Garry had installed polythene piping in the roof to take advantage of the natural heat there but found it only heated the top layer of the 1.8m deep pool.

“We knew if we did not get it heated properly it would become a white elephant,” Suzanne said.

With the 44 solar panels meeting all their daily needs at a cost of $26,000 and a heat pump for the pool generated by the panels costing $7000 the water is now a toasty 28 degrees Celsius.

“We can now run the pool virtually all year round,” Suzanne said.

They estimate their panels will produce 900 kilowatts a month on average and last year in an average winter month they used about 1500 to 2000 kilowatt hours. On Sunday, though it was cloudy, they had stored 26kw by late afternoon.

What grates for the couple is that the sun is free yet there is not much encouragement to use solar energy.

The public is charged  20.175 cents per kWh for electricity while the Robinsons will be paid just 8 cents per KWh they produce for the grid.

“I’d rather store what we don’t use considering how they pay,” she said.

The couple have estimated they will get about $32 a month in winter from the power company by selling their excess electricity. If on average they paid about $300 a month for their power previously and they get the expected return, it will take them 8.3 years to pay off their expenditure. If the equation does not include extra power generation payments it will take them 85 years to get even.