Competitive wind energy prices could help the U.S. increase interest in renewables
Could the United States be on the verge of a wind energy renaissance? It’s quite possible, now more than ever before. According to a new report produced by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the price of wind energy in the United States is at an all-time low.
"Wind energy prices—particularly in the central United States—have hit new lows, with utilities selecting wind as the low cost option," Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser said in a new report releasing this data. "Moreover, enabled by technology advancements, wind projects are economically viable in a growing number of locations throughout the U.S."
According to the new report, wind energy prices in projects throughout 2014 averaged below 2.5¢/kWh, thanks to factors like better design and the heightening and scaling up of wind turbines, which has increased options by allowing investors to build and operate turbines in areas with lower wind-speeds. As more and better wind turbines are built, energy prices are dropping which has led to additional favorable effects.
For instance, a lower price for wind turbines has also helped to push down overall project installation costs—the report notes that wind turbine prices have dropped by as much as 40 percent since 2008, with a cost of $1,710/kW for the average wind project installed in 2014 (reduced nearly $600/kW compared to similar projects installed in 2009). Less overhead has also intensely improved wind energy’s standing as a competitive alternative to traditional energy sources, and has led to an increase in demand for wind energy from both individual commercial consumers and electric utility companies.
All of these factors together are helping to legitimize wind energy as a vital and increasingly reliable source of energy for the United States public:
As the Washington Post reports, this report happens to come at an important time for the United States energy industry—the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan calls for the U.S. to start relying more heavily on renewable energy sources over the next fifteen years. While some major businesses like Microsoft are acting as early investors in wind energy, incentives could go a long way toward helping others make the switch—and what better incentive is there than competitive prices?
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.