Solar news: first edition

Solar news: first edition

This is Rackam’s biweekly news report. Topics covered include energy efficiency, renewable energy trends, and the transition to a more sustainable world.

Recognizing the importance of energy efficiency in construction and renovation of Europe’s buildings 

Speaking at the Brussels IEA conference, Paul Hodson, the head of the EU’s energy efficiency unit, flagged "micro" public action as the way forward, dampening hopes of major policy advances in the review which will stock-take progress towards meeting 2020 energy saving goals and mull 2030 objectives.

Oliver Rapf, the executive director of the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) said that it was a mistake to consider efficiency improvements in the construction sector solely from a short-term profit and loss perspective. “There is a myth that energy efficiency impacts are only valuable if they pay back in cost savings,” he said. “This is the wrong approach as Europe’s building stock is in utter need of deep renovation.” In addition to the climate benefit accruing from widespread refurbishments, poorly insulated and damp buildings had a public health cost in the residential sector, as well as affecting children being taught in sub-standard schools, he said.

Link between economic growth and increased energy use severed 

The Alliance to Save Energy recently published an article showcasing the increasing disparity between economic growth and energy consumption for the last forty years. A sign that the economy of the future will be based on increased energy efficiency and the rational use of energy sources.

Opportunity costs of renewable versus conventional energies : a problem for many regions of the world 

In a report published this week, Energy Intelligence informs us of the opportunity costs that many governments face when the time comes to invest in new power plants. As the chief editor David Pike notes on Twitter: “When you build power plants, they are there for many decades. If you make the wrong choices, you’ll be in trouble.” Because of externalised costs, cheap labor, and the absence of economic incentives, many developing nations find it much more affordable to use conventional, dirty energy sources, which come at a cost that is often quite inferior to that of renewable energies.

Solar boom in the United States 

According to the Solar Foundation, the solar industry was subject to significant growth in 2013: employment in the sector grew by more than 20% during the year. The organization expects this tendency to continue during the present year, with a projected growth of 15.6% in 2014.

Energy transition: at what price? 

The consultant and analyst Craig Shields answers an often mentioned question: Won’t our efforts to migrate away from fossil fuels hurt our economy? The answer: not necessarily! Renewable energies have many characteristics which provide important economic benefits.

First, because of their relatively low energy density, many believe that the renewable energy industry will create more jobs than fossil energies.

Second, because investments in research and technology and their associated positive externalities, societies that bet on renewable energies will likely maintain internationally competitive industries.

Third, nearly all trend measurements indicate that the costs of the main renewable energy sources are steadily decreasing. For instance, in the U.S. many analysts expect wind energy to reach parity with coal in the upcoming decade.

Finally, if renewable energy sources are considered “expensive,” it is only because we do not fully account for the negative externalities of conventional energies. At the collective level, it will almost always be wiser to invest in renewable energies.

Discovery of the week: @SunViewer 

It’s worth having a look at it: go have a look at the magnificent photos shared by @SunViewer. This is the sun as you have never seen it before.