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Germany: The Clean Energy Conundrum

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Sep 4, 2014 1:16:29 PM

GERMANY HAS BEEN LAUDED as the leader in distributed, clean energy, its renewable energy strategy touted as one of the most innovative and successful worldwide. The claim certainly has validity—Germany has increased the share of its total electricity production from renewables from 6% to 30% over the past decade; it has the highest per capita installed solar power capacity in the world; and its feed-in tariff (FIT) policy establishes long-term, fixed fee contracts for renewable energy producers, encouraging households, cooperatives, and communities alike to produce clean distributed energy.

However, when examining the country’s total energy portfolio, the facts belie Germany’s reputation as “the world’s first major renewable energy economy.” In glaring contrast to its image as a leader in sustainability, Germany is a heavy user of coal and the largest importer of Russian natural gas (over 40 billion cubic meters in 2013).

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Renewable Energy in Iran

Posted by Wyatt C. King

Aug 19, 2014 5:17:00 PM

MOST OF THE TIME WHEN we read about Iran in the news these days, at least in the U.S. media, the focus is on the international negotiations over the fate of the country’s nascent nuclear program. Apart from the nuclear issue and references to Iran’s enormous oil and gas reserves, we hear little else about the country’s energy plans. So it may come as a surprise to learn that Iran is stepping up its commitment to renewable energy, particularly wind and solar.

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Study: Biomass Plants May Pollute Worse Than Coal

Posted by Matt Power

Jul 15, 2014 1:10:21 PM

New scrutiny finds that large-scale biomass burners, often sold as a "clean" or "sustainable" source of renewable energy, are actually far more polluting than their claims.

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MIT May Have Solved the Vexing Problem of Shading on Solar Panels

Posted by Matt Power

Jul 14, 2014 11:47:00 AM

A team of researchers at MIT has arrived at a low-cost solution for the power loss associated with partly shaded solar panels: using the solar cell as an energy storage itself. The Unified Solar team won the MIT Clean Energy Prize this year for its clever, affordable solution to the fact that "shade happens."

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London Calling: The U.K.’s Distributed Energy Revolution

Posted by Wyatt C. King

Apr 7, 2014 12:51:35 PM

Last fall, at a Conservative Party conference in the United Kingdom, Greg Barker, a Conservative Member of Parliament and the country’s Energy & Climate Change Minister, called for a revolution. “I want to unleash a completely new model of competition and enterprise,” he said. “I want to encourage a vast new army of disruptive new energy players to challenge the Big Six [U.K. energy suppliers] …A decentralized power-to-the-people energy revolution—not just a few exemplars, but tens of thousands of them. The Big Six need to become the Big 60,000.”

What an invigorating call to action and inspiring vision of the future! Tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the U.K., each generating its own power and sharing excess with the grid. It’s a compelling idea, one made all the more remarkable by the fact that it’s not really new. In fact, one might call decentralized—or distributed—power the oldest idea in the energy business.

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