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On Will a Dirty Coal Plant in Kosovo Spoil the Clean Energy Record of Dr. Kim and World Bank?

That's mostly right but remember how crazy this proposal is. It's a $1billion plant in a country where annual GDP is $7 billion. Just imagine if the US proposed a project of roughly the same size in proportion to our annual economic output. The words Too Big to Fail come to mind

October 17, 2014    View Comment    

On 'Pay-As-You-Go' Solar Energy Companies Win National Geographic Terra Watt Prize

Hi Bob,

Diesel is about the most expensive option available (it is after all linked to global oil prices hovering consistently around $100 bbl). The rates I've seen quoted are at a minimum $.40/kwh and can be as high as $1-2/kwh. That's because capacity factors are typically very low, price spikes happen all the time, fuel theft is rampant, and companies have to employ private militias to ensure their supply of fuel actually gets to them. So you can see that even when solar mini-grids are deployed with batteries (to ensure 24x7 power) they can compete. 

That's why companies like OMC power in India are acting as ESCOs to off grid cell towers to reduce their fuel spend. Check it out: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/How-Tower-Power-is-Breaking-Open-the-Rural-Clean-Energy-Market

June 17, 2014    View Comment    

On 'Pay-As-You-Go' Solar Energy Companies Win National Geographic Terra Watt Prize

Hi Bob,

As always, I appreciate the comments. You should talk to some of these companies I think you might find it interesting. The first thing you'll hear is that their first customers are not purely off grid - they're people who have a grid connection but have completely inadequate service. Maybe a few hours of power a day, no one to service the line when it goes down, etc. So they turn to solar for reliability. So you're right - this man lives within eye shot of a grid line. But for all intents and purposes he is 'off-grid' because there's no power, and no service. It's been that way since independence for him. It's time we tried a different approach.

And one other fun fact - check out the Global LEAP awards. There are now LED TVs that consume less than 10 W. That little panel can indeed power a sub 10 W TV.

The times they are a changing...

June 16, 2014    View Comment    

On An Off-Grid Solar Energy Angels List?

Amen Doug. People won't recognize change until it punches them in the face

June 6, 2014    View Comment    

On How Japan Replaced Half its Nuclear Capacity with Conservation and Efficiency

Jesse you're absolutely right. We can't ignore the LNG increases and the increase in CO2 which are a real issue.  We have good news on coal but bad news on gas that requires attention. But the point of this piece was to pull out a lesson we don't think got enough attention - the ability to save energy and to generate lasting energy efficiency gains.

As for what Japan should do going forward I think it will be interesting. I think the biggest lesson here is that enormous, chunky, capacity increases are not the wisest use of public policy or scarce public dollars. Incremental capacity additions likely make the most sense going forward particularly given the lasting impacts of EE on the economy as a whole. Given that RE and EE solutions are best placed for that approach I'd expect to see a heavier emphasis on those interventions going forward. However, Japan clearly wants to bring a portion of its nuclear capacity back on line. Clearly the gov't is pushing but the public is so adamantely against it they have an uphill battle so it is still an open question. The Tokyo elections are an interesting case in point.

As for your first question vis a vis RE, I'll let Lauri my co-author opine. Glad you read the piece!

April 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Solar Power in a Bottle

The reference to cooking was a typo. This specific product has nothing to do with cooking.

March 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Solar Power in a Bottle

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your comments. I'm not sure if you've ever actually visited an off grid solar installation, but if you had you would see first hand the impact these technologies have on people's lives. From increasing productivity for those selling goods by the streetside (by increasing the hours they are open) to providing light for children to study, to keeping people's phones charged this first generation of solar interventions are improving people's lives today. To disparage that means you've probably never seen it. I highly encourage you to do so.

The point around scale is a good one, and often misunderstood. These are not meant to be the end solution, they are the beginning. These interventions get people on an energy ladder that increases the services provided as they go. That's why solar is so appropriate - it's modular, can be added in increments that are appropriate to cash flow. 

Remember, we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. People have waited decades for grid extension. It's never come, and it won't if we keep believing in top down, trickle down, centralized solutions. The most impactful thing we can do is get power in the hands of people on a time frame that matters - now. Once we've done that we are beginning to build an entirely different power system, from the bottom up. 

March 21, 2014    View Comment    

On US Challenges India's Solar Energy Industry, Again

Thanks for all the comments guys. Nathan in response to your comment I think you have a point on the cost implications of trade barriers. Our point is more focused on the political economy of energy systems. In large power consumers dominated by entrenched interests (I.e. fossil fuels) outside competition is necessary to achieve systemic change. That to me is the most important thing and if India is trying to aid that process by creating new actors who can challenge encumbants that's more important than marginal cost improvements at least in the long run.

 

But again, take your point and do think this is a complicated topic.

February 21, 2014    View Comment    

On Clean Energy's Next Big Market Off-Grid Solar

Hi Bob,

I get that this was tongue in cheek but I don't think its appropriate to understate how transformative mobile communications technology is for poor populations. From receiving improved agricultural information to early warning systems to avoid storm related tragedies this technology is life changing. It's not about keeping these charged so they can chat, it's about keepting them charged so they can continue to dramatically improve their lives. 

More importantly though, the point here is that energy is transformational even at watt level. What we have done far too often is demand that the poor receive the grid and enormous amounts of electricity. What that means in effect is nothing at all since grid extension has been a spectacular failure in many parts of the world. So it's really about getting a small, but transformative amount of energy into their hands on a time scale that matters - now.

Building this distributed infrastructure into an energy system that is modular and can scale as demand increases is indeed a challenge. But it's not an argument to avoid the roll out of technologies that chan change lives. 

November 8, 2013    View Comment    

On Power Africa or Power Oil and Gas Profits?

One slight correction. A House bill was introduced in June; it was not passed. The Senate is not considering a version of that bill; it is discussing the issue. You can see the house bill here:http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/bill/hr-2548-establish-comprehensive-united-states-government-policy-assist-countries-sub-saharan

September 13, 2013    View Comment    

On Air Pollution Concerns Halt Enormous Coal Plant In China

Great question John. Actually the Chinese in recent years have greatly upped their air standards. Here's a really useful comparison. You'll see the egregious offender here is India: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/reports-documents/indian-coal-power-plant-pollution-standards-4-20-times-worse-those-china 

 

Here's a more EU vs US centric analysis http://www.sierraclub.org/international/kosovo/Comparison-Air-Quality-Standards.pdf

August 16, 2013    View Comment