News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, May 11

Going green is harder for Detroit’s low-income communities

Grist, feat. Tony Reames

Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescents, use 85 percent less energy, and, despite a higher cost upfront, save money in the long run.

But there’s the rub: The people who could most benefit from making the switch may not be able to. For those who live in higher poverty areas in Detroit, LEDs can be harder to find — and when they are available, they can be more expensive than the same type of bulbs for sale in higher-income areas, according to a new University of Michigan study.

The researchers surveyed 130 stores in Wayne County, Michigan. In the highest-poverty areas, incandescents were $1.63 and LEDs were $7.87. In the wealthiest areas, the prices were $2.10 and $5.20. That means poor Detroiters would have to fork over an extra $6.24 for an LED while wealthier residents could upgrade for about half the price.

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How Republicans shifted gears on Calif. car emissions

E&E Greenwire, feat. John DeCicco and Barry Rabe

It was the summer of 1967, and Sen. George Murphy was on a mission.

The Republican urgently wanted to address air pollution in his home state of California. Due to its increasing population and unique topography, the Golden State had some of the smoggiest skies in the country.

The main culprit, Murphy thought, was harmful emissions from vehicles. So he delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor endorsing legislation that would crack down on tailpipe pollution.

“By combining our resources of government, industry and individuals, I for one am confident that we can clean up the air,” Murphy said.

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Chinese steel and aluminum exports rose in April, undeterred by U.S. tariffs

WBUR, feat. Ellen Hughes-Cromwick

Chinese exports of steel and aluminum are up according to the latest figures, despite new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in March.

Liu He, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, will visit Washington next week to continue trade talks between the two countries.

Meanwhile the subject of tariffs remains contentious among U.S. economists. On Monday, we heard from an economist who says tariffs can protect American workers. Today, another economist says that view is misguided.

Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson speaks with Ellen Hughes-Cromwick (@EllenHughesCrom), former chief economist with the Department of Commerce under President Obama. She’s now with the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan.


How even one automated, connected vehicle can improve safety and save energy in traffic

University of Michigan News

Connected cruise control uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication to let automated vehicles respond to multiple cars at a time in an effort to save energy and improve safety.

University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated its effectiveness on public roads, even when just one automated vehicle is moving among human-driven cars.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, or V2V, refers to the ability of cars to wirelessly share data including their speed and position in real time. Connected cruise control can adjust a vehicle’s speed based on information obtained through V2V. It’s different from adaptive cruise control in that it tracks more vehicles than just the car in front of it.

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In Michigan, more questions than answers about life after net metering

Midwest Energy News

Two weeks after Michigan regulators approved a new method for compensating utility customers who send electricity back to the grid, there were more questions than answers about the future of distributed generation here.

On April 18, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved a distributed generation tariff that replaces net metering, a 10-year old program that credits customers — most often with rooftop solar panels — with retail rates for their excess electricity sent back to the grid. The new prices will vary by utility but will be lower than retail rates, feeding the ongoing debate about the net value rooftop solar customers provide to the grid.

It was still unclear what the new prices will look like, when they will take effect, or even if they will, as lawmakers mount an attempt to restore net metering.

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Cleantech investors should put their money in transportation, says village capital

Greentech Media

A report from investment firm Village Capital has suggested cleantech investors should focus more on the transportation sector in the struggle to cut carbon emissions.

The report, called Moving Electrons and co-sponsored by Autodesk Foundation and BNY Mellon, points to transport as the single biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions.

It listed five subsectors that could prove particularly attractive to investors: aviation and aerospace, electric vehicles, the sharing economy, mass transit, and trucking and logistics.

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Solar has transformed into solar-plus-storage: What will net metering become?

Utility Dive

When distributed solar becomes more of a stress than a service to the grid, it transforms into solar-plus-storage and begins again the struggle to build economies of scale to drive its price down to levels competitive with traditional generation.

That transformation happens when distributed solar penetration levels approach the point where the system can no longer benefit from new daytime generation. That happened in Hawaii. Growth trends show that penetration level is coming in California, Arizona and Massachusetts.

Net energy metering (NEM), the policy that solar has long relied on to drive its growth, was no longer tenable in Hawaii. It is facing the same circumstances and the same fate in California, Arizona and Massachusetts.  But NEM, too, is being transformed. Policymakers are trying new rate designs intended to drive solar-plus-storage growth the way NEM drove solar.

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Steel town that voted for Trump banks on renewables

E&E Climatewire

In this prairie city, where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rise to meet the parched expanse of the Southern Plains, blue-collar workers whose grandfathers toiled for generations in steel mills are making wind turbines and installing solar panels.

The world’s largest wind turbine tower factory has sprouted up on the southern bank of the Arkansas River, alongside the blackened smokestacks and furnaces of a steel mill once owned by John D. Rockefeller. Nearby, a solar farm touted as the largest east of the Rocky Mountains encircles a massive coal plant, the Comanche Generating Station.

Even the old steel mill is talking about going green.

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In a first, California requires solar panels for new homes. Will other states follow?

InsideClimate News

Rooftop solar, already more common in California than anywhere else in the country, will be required for most new houses and apartments by 2020, part of a landmark policy adopted on Wednesday that supporters hope will inspire other states to follow suit.

The California Energy Commission voted unanimously to approve the building standards in a process that was notable for the lack of high-profile opposition.

The commission estimates the rules will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 493 million pounds of carbon per year. That’s roughly equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road.

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Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

Carbon Brief

Worldwide tourism accounted for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.

The study, which looks at the spending habits of travellers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought.

The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement, a study author tells Carbon Brief.

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