Weekly Clean Energy Roundup: March 24, 2010

  • Recovery Act Benefits Small Clean Energy Businesses
  • New Steps to Strengthen Energy Star Program
  • International Green Construction Code Launched
  • Innovations in EV Charging Roll Out
  • Colorado Boosts Renewable Energy Requirement to 30% by 2020
  • Chinese Policies Could Hurt U.S. Renewable Industries

    Recovery Act Benefits for Small Clean Energy Businesses

    A DOE report shows that through early March, small clean energy businesses have been selected to receive $5.4 billion in funding from the Recovery Act and related programs, including loans, loan guarantees, grants, contracts, and tax incentives. The funds complement the 2800 loans totaling $656 million the Small Business Administration approved for renewable energy businesses from 2006-2009.

    The report features 26 small businesses involved in clean energy technologies and related infrastructure, such as Smart Grid technologies, advanced batteries, energy storage, and energy efficiency tools.

    Success stories highlighted in the report include: UQM Technologies, a supplier of electric propulsion and generator systems, received a $45 million grant to build manufacturing facilities for electric drive systems for electric and hybrid vehicles; Solazyme, which produces diesel from algae oil, will use a $21.8 million grant to build its first algae fuel refinery; FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp. will use an $8.3 million grant to develop its high-efficiency shrouded wind turbine; and Universal Display Corp will use a $4 million grant to establish a pilot manufacturing line for organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). See the DOE press release and the full report (PDF 241 KB).

    DOE, EPA to Strengthen Energy Star Program

    DOE and the U.S. EPA outlined steps to strengthen the Energy Star program with expanded testing and enforcement. DOE began testing the most commonly used appliances, which account for over 25% of a typical household’s energy bill, and the agencies are developing a system to test all products that earn the Energy Star label.

    Recently, DOE began tests on freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters, and room air conditioners. 200 basic models will be tested at independent labs over the next few months.

    EPA and DOE are developing an expanded system that will require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs and will also require manufacturers to participate in an ongoing verification testing program that will ensure continued compliance.

    The agencies have taken a series of actions in recent months to ensure compliance with Energy Star and DOE’s appliance efficiency standards, including taking action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months. See the DOE press release and the Energy Star Web site.

    Building Industry Groups Launch International Green Construction Code

    Leading U.S. building industry associations launched the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) on March 11, representing a unique merger of two national efforts to develop adoptable and enforceable green building codes.

    The groups collaborated to make the IGCC a model regulatory framework for construction of high-performance commercial buildings. A document provides the building industry with language that broadens and strengthens building codes to accelerate construction of high-performance green buildings. Buildings use 39% of energy and 74% of electricity produced each year in the US.

    The International Code Council (ICC), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) developed the code.

  • For decades, ICC and ASHRAE have developed codes that have become the industry standard for the design, construction, operations, and maintenance of residential and commercial buildings in the US and internationally.

    In coordination with ICC and ASHRAE, USGBC has been leading a nationwide green building movement centered on the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System since 2000. LEED concentrates on improving performance across five key areas of environmental and human health: energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials selection, sustainable site development, and water savings. The IGCC combines these two efforts.

    A major addition to the technical content of the IGCC is the inclusion of ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1, "Standard for the Design of High Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings," as an alternate path of compliance. Standard 189.1 is a set of technically rigorous requirements, which like the IGCC covers criteria including water use efficiency, indoor environmental quality, energy efficiency, materials and resource use, and the building’s impact on its site and its community. The industry groups will work to accelerate adoption of the new model code in jurisdictions throughout the US and around the world. See the USGBC press release (PDF 54 KB) and the IGCC Web site.

    Companies Rolling Out Innovations in EV Charging

    As several electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to start shipping later this year, companies are seeking ways to make the new transportation mode more acceptable, including making recharging easier.

    General Electric and Juice Technologies jointly announced an agreement to create intelligent plug-in EV charging devices for U.S. and global markets. The chargers will integrate GE’s smart meters with Juice Technology’s "Plug Smart" technology, which enables EVs to communicate with the Smart Grid, to help people charge cars during low-demand, lower-cost time periods. The companies will begin offering EV chargers in the US in the second quarter of 2010, with full-scale production ramping up throughout the year. Global availability will follow. See the GE press release and the product description from Plug Smart, a subsidiary of Juice Technologies.

    Meanwhile, Evatran has developed "Plugless Power" recharging systems that use electrical induction to eliminate the need for cords and plugs. On February 23, they announced the launch of a field trial of pre-production units in its headquarter town of Wytheville, Virginia. Participants include the Town of Wytheville, several businesses and individuals, each of whom will drive EVs on a regular basis using the Evatran prototype systems. The company expects full-scale production by late fall 2010.

    Coulomb Technologies announced the ChargePoint iPhone App, a free application that allows EV drivers to locate ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations anywhere in North America. The App also allows users to see if a charging station is available in real time. See the Evatran press release and product description, and the press release from Coulomb Technologies.

    Colorado Boosts Renewable Energy Requirement to 30% by 2020

    Colorado raised its renewable energy standard to require utilities to obtain 30% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. Governor Bill Ritter signed the legislation on March 22, noting the new standard makes it the "best in the Rocky Mountain West" and one of the highest in the nation.

    In 2004, the state was the first in the US to pass a voter-approved renewable energy standard – 10% renewable power by 2015. In 2007, state legislation increased the requirement to 20% by 2020, which has now been raised by another 50%.

    The law credits electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass (including power generated from non-toxic plants, animal wastes, methane from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities), small hydropower, "recycled" electricity from waste heat, and fuel cells powered with hydrogen derived from eligible renewable energy resources.

    Utilities must derive at least 12% of their retail electric sales from such sources from 2011-2014, 20% from 2015-2019, and 30% for 2020 and thereafter. The requirements apply to all utilities that provide electricity service in Colorado, with the exception of municipal utilities serving 40,000 customers or fewer. In-state power facilities receive extra credit towards the requirements.

    The law also creates requirements for distributed generation from eligible renewable energy resources. The law divides this into "retail distributed generation," which includes customer-located facilities connected to the customer’s side of the meter, and sized to not exceed the customer’s load by more than 20%, and "wholesale distributed generation," which includes systems of 30 MW capacity or less that don’t qualify as retail distributed generation. Investor-owned utilities must draw on distributed generation for at least 1% of their retail electric sales in 2011 and 2012, ratcheting up to 3% by 2020. At least half the requirement must be met with retail distributed generation.

    According to the governor, that requirement will lead to at least 100,000 additional solar rooftops over the next decade. See the governor’s press release and the full text of the legislation (PDF 75 KB).

    Chinese Policies Could Hurt U.S. Renewable Industries

    China has enacted a series of policies that have made it one of the largest renewable energy consumers in the world, but has also moved to shut out foreign participation in its renewable energy market, according to a new report commissioned by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC).

    China’s Renewable Energy Law, enacted in 2006 and strengthened in 2009, requires utilities to buy all available renewable energy and pay full price for it, while offering it at a discount to their customers. The 2007 Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy in China requires large utilities to have 8% of their power provided by renewable energy by 2020. China has also implemented a $586 billion economic stimulus plan largely directed toward renewable energy, and a new program will provide a 50% subsidy for grid-connected solar systems.

    While these actions have spurred rapid growth in renewable energy jobs, the nation has closed itself to outside companies through policies that require or strongly encourage purchase of domestically made goods or products based on Chinese intellectual property.

    As an example, the report notes the foreign share of wind equipment has fallen from about 75% in 2004 to about 25% in 2008. In 2009, Chinese imports of U.S.-made wind turbines fell to zero, down from $15 million in 2008. Meanwhile, China has rapidly expanded solar cell production, nearly all of which is exported. Those exports have helped drive down solar PV prices, contributing to financial difficulties for non-Chinese solar cell companies. See the NFTC press release and report (PDF 703 KB).

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    EREE Network News is a weekly publication of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

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