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Renewable Power Is Most Cost-effective Option Today




The Carbon Tracker Initiative has found that renewable power generation costs are lower on average around the world than clean energy plants and fossil fuels. This is set to be more cost-competitive by 2020.

“Policy-makers and investors really need to question out dated assumptions on technology costs that do not factor in the direction of travel post-Paris. Planning for business-as-usual load factors and lifetimes for new coal and gas plants is a recipe for stranded assets,” said Carbon Tracker’s head of research James Leaton.

End of the load for coal and gas?, compares the power-generation costs of four new-build coal, gas, wind and solar plants. The paper applies a Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) 1 sensitivity analysis across three scenarios: the 2016 reference case scenario, an updated 2016 scenario and a 2020 2 ̊C pathway setting, where investment decisions take into account decarbonisation trends.

The LCOE study shows that reduced load factors and shorter lifetimes for coal and gas plants in a world that is decarbonising steadily, significantly undermine plant economics. Few models to date have factored in this kind of dynamic when calculating future LCOE. Meanwhile, the combination of lower cost capital with cheaper technology for solar and wind improves the relative competitive position of renewables.

This analysis explains why renewables are already the cheapest option in a number of markets.

“This trend is only likely to spread as the growth of renewables undermines the economics of fossil fuels,” said Paul Dowling co-author of the report. The analysis compares the technical specifications of coal and gas plants with what is being achieved on average in plants currently operating and then with projects that may occur in 2020 and beyond. For example, typical plant utilisation rates used by industry in reference case scenarios are around 80% for coal and 60% for gas. But we know from available 2013 data that global average plant capacity factors were much lower at 59% and 38% respectively thereby making the plants less competitive than had been thought.

By 2020 falling utilisation rates under a 2 ̊C scenario finds plant capacity factors for coal and gas drop to an average of 42% for coal and 31% for gas, thereby leading to an increase in costs of $16/MWh for gas plants and $38/MWh for coal. By contrast, if solar and wind could deliver capacity factors of 20% and 40% respectively, they would cut their LCOEs by $6/MWh for solar and $15/MWh for wind.

Who is developing renewable power plants is an important factor to consider – developers and management funds with lower costs of capital are entering the market, bringing down
1 The levelled cost of electricity is a way to compare different methods of electricity generation using average total cost to build and operate a power plant divided by its total lifetime energy output LCOEs for more capital-intensive renewables. Factoring in the higher deployment of renewables and learning curves for technologies indicated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance further reduces the capital costs of clean power plants.

The study finds that the direction of travel forged by the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions post-2020 will see renewables on average more cost- competitive even if fossil fuel prices fall and carbon prices are modest at around $10/tCO2 or lower.

The chart below shows the transition of relative average global costs from 2016 reference numbers through updated 2016 operational indicators to a post-2020 low carbon world.


Main chart release.png

“Markets are having to deal with integrating variable renewables on a growing scale. Rather than continue debating whether this energy transition is already occurring, it is time to focus on developing the opportunities in energy storage and demand management that can smooth the process,” said senior analyst and co-author Matt Gray.

The full report can be found here:


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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