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Energy storage is here, and it’s waiting to be unleashed

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has predicted that by 2020, energy storage use could be “widespread”. But what will this mean for the renewables industry? And more importantly, is it already here? Alex Blackburne finds out.

In debates about renewable energy productivity and usage, one question from naysayers – “what happens when it isn’t sunny or windy?”, and variations thereof – has the potential to trip clean energy advocates up. But is this justified?



Bloomberg New Energy Finance has predicted that by 2020, energy storage use could be “widespread”. But what will this mean for the renewables industry? And more importantly, is it already here? Alex Blackburne finds out.

In debates about renewable energy productivity and usage, one question from naysayers – “what happens when it isn’t sunny or windy?”, and variations thereof – has the potential to trip clean energy advocates up. But is this justified?

Insight business, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), predicts that in the not-too-distant future –we’re talking less than five years – large scale energy storage technologies could be common amongst global electricity grids.

This has the potential revolutionise the renewables industry, and the subsequent perception of it.

BNEF cite the “expected drop in battery prices” as the main driver behind its predictions, claiming that, “More substantial penetration of energy storage within the grid system will become economic within the next five years”.

An appropriate regulatory framework would need to be installed in order to achieve a “successful roll-out of energy storage”.

But, despite welcoming the report, Anthony Price, director of the Electricity Storage Network, is puzzled about BNEF’s predictions.

“There is need [for energy storage] now”, he said. “That opportunity is there now, and we are already seeing that opportunity being exploited.

“We might have to wait a couple of years in order for people to develop large projects, but if there was will, there is no reason why we couldn’t see several projects of 100MW in size being completed in the next few years.

“Storage projects can be very fast to build.”

BNEF’s line of study concludes that energy storage will be “economically viable” by 2016. Shu Sun, energy storage analyst at the organisation, explained what it means by this.

“When we say ‘economically viable’, we mean that it will be economically viable across a wide range of applications – across generation, transmission, distribution and end-use”, he said.

“The main reason for this is that the use of storage for transmission, distribution and end-use is still at an early stage.

“The financial benefits are not yet clear and the cost of these new technologies that can provide these transmission, distribution and end-use functions is still high.”

The report hasn’t been, and isn’t going to be, released to the press. Are BNEF simply sitting on the fence then, releasing information that is both ignorant of the reality and inaccurate from the facts?

Price reaffirms his point.

“People can come up and say that over the next five or ten years, there will be further cost reductions [to energy storage], but that’s not the issue”, he claims.

“The technologies are there, and they can be delivered now.

“There is a choice: environment or economics. We need to use energy storage charged up from wrong time supplies of renewable energy instead of relying on fossil-fired power stations to provide back-up frequency response and other reserves.”

Amidst the continual renewables boom globally, researchers have strived to develop effective energy storage technologies.

Price points towards the Dinorwig and Ffestiniog Power Stations in North Wales – the first major pumped storage system in the UK.

“We’ve already got pumped storage, and it is being used, so there is an education process needed to show what storage is and what it does on the network”, Price explained.

“The reason that storage is required is to assist with balancing the network over short and long time-frames. Advanced storage technologies will make a real difference here.

“We’ve already got some long-term storage, but not enough to deal with the potential for increased production.

“We’re seeing projects already being installed for short-term storage – we just need more of them.”

In the UK, companies such as Highview Power, with its cryogenic electricity storage, have won awards for its novel technology, installed on a power station in Slough, whilst ABB has installed battery storage in Norfolk to deal with local wind fluctuations.

Sun agreed that energy storage certainly wasn’t an unknown entity, but it wasn’t cost-effective to become marketable at present.

“There are already large-scale projects out there in [places] such as Japan, US and China”, he said.

“Some of these are government-backed demonstration projects, some are purely commercial.

“Our analysis shows that for most applications, the financial value gained is still lower than the cost of storage, which means that commercial projects will therefore not be widespread before 2016.”

Last year, a group from Stanford University claimed to have struck gold when they touched upon “a high-power battery electrode that is so inexpensive to make, so efficient and so durable that it could be used to build batteries big enough for economical large-scale energy storage on the electrical grid“.

Although encouraging, the researchers’ project still needed more work, and an extra battery according to New Energy and Fuel.

For renewable energy, reaching a stage whereby power can be stored for days when it isn’t windy or sunny is hugely important.

BNEF’s Sun agreed that the increasing development of storage will “facilitate” the increasing use of renewable power generation.

What is for sure is that these technologies and energy generation methods will continue to grow thanks to investments made by people like you. Yes, you.

Ask your financial adviser about putting your money into places that really will benefit the world. Imagine being able to say that.

You can also fill in our online form and we’ll connect you to a specialist ethical adviser.


What Does the Rising Alt-Right Movement Mean for Climate Change Propaganda?



climate change propaganda
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Time author Justin Worland penned an insightful post this summer about the increasingly divisive attitudes on climate change. Worland pointed out that concerns about climate science used to be a bipartisan focus, but have since become primarily the concern of the left.

The Alt-Right Gives Renewed Voice to Climate Change Denialism

Unfortunately, the battle is becoming more divisive than ever before. The rise of the alt-right movement has propelled climate change denialism into overdrive. The election of Donald Trump illustrates this perfectly. In 2012, Trump tweeted that climate change was a mess created by the Chinese. At the time, his statement was dismissed as a mocking jab at the current president. However, after millions of alt-right voters put Trump in office, these fears became more pronounced.

The alt-right movement is gaining steam across the Western World. This has created profound concerns about the inevitable future of climate change. Of course, not every alt-right group adheres to climate change denialism. A British paper writing service would likely publish more articles that are favorable to the climate change discussion, even if it was read primarily by right-wingers. However, that is of little solace to the rest of the world. While alt-right groups in mainland Europe may not share the American GOP’s hostility towards climate science, they will help reinforce their political capital.

Around the same time Worland published his article, his colleague at The Guardian, David Runciman wrote a piece that focused more heavily on recent developments driven by the alt-right.

“Not all climate sceptics are part of the “alt-right”. But everyone in the alt-right is now a climate sceptic. That’s what makes the politics so toxic. It means that climate scepticism is being driven out by climate cynicism. A sceptic questions the evidence for a given claim and asks whether it is believable. A cynic questions the motives of the people who deploy the evidence, regardless of whether it is believable or not. Any attempt to defend the facts gets presented as evidence that the facts simply suit the interests of the people peddling them.”

Does this mean that the quest to fight climate change has been lost? No. A new generation of right wingers are beginning to break the cycle of climate change denialism. According to recent polls, millennial conservatives are much more likely to be concerned about the future of climate change then they’re older conservative brethren. They may help turn the tide of the political discussion, so climate change can once again be a bipartisan concern.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of concerns:

  • Millennials are less politically active, so they may not have the influence necessary to temper the alt-right position on climate change.
  • The alt-right has significant control over the discussion. Trump has taken efforts to bar studies that contradict his position on climate change. Millennial attitudes on climate science make shift after being exposed to alt-right propaganda.

The biggest concern of all is that it may be too late to address the problem by the time millennials have any meaningful political influence.

So what can be done to address the issue? Climate change advocates must be more diligent than ever. They will be combating a group of climate change deniers with a lot more political support. They will need to make the case that fighting climate change is not a political concern, but a concern of human survival.

With concerns about climate change mounting, they will also need to make it one of their primary ballot points during coming elections. If they create enough of a protest, they may be able to turn the tide of discussion.

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How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green



home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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