Saturday, November 28 2015

How long until wind energy gets to the same price as fossil fuels in Canada?

Reaching cost parity with fossil fuels, where renewable power doesn’t cost any more than fossil fuels, is one of the holy grails for renewable power, and it looks increasingly possible. According to a recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in parts of Europe onshore wind energy will reach cost parity with fossil fuel-based electricity by 2016. The study argues that there are two main factors behind wind energy’s increasing competitiveness.

The first are the economies of scale and improved supply chains that result from more turbines being manufactured.  In Canada, the growth of wind across the country, including the generation for Bullfrog customers, is helping build the scale and experience the industry needs to be cost competitive.

The second cause of wind energy’s newfound competitiveness has to do with the technology itself. The technology is improving to the point that capacity factors – the ratio of the amount of energy that a turbine produces and the theoretical maximum amount of energy that a turbine can produce – are increasing. Improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of wind turbines result in decreases in operations and maintenance costs and increases in the generating capacity of the average turbine. In the 1980s, the capacity of the average turbine was 1,800 MWh; today that number has increased to an impressive 2,900 MWh.

As a result, the cost of electricity from onshore wind turbines will drop 12 per cent in the next five years.  To put this in perspective, before any subsidies or forms of support are taken into consideration, the cost of energy from onshore wind turbines has dropped by 14 per cent every time that the installed capacity has doubled between 1984 and 2011.

The European situation is a little rosier than in Canada. Canadian terrain, distance and wind regime, among other things, make wind power more expensive here at home. In addition, conventional electricity prices are lower here in Canada than generally in Europe, so the cost of renewable power has further to fall in order to reach parity. However the trend is certainly in the right direction, and if not in 2016 then likely in the 2020s Canada could reach the point of cost parity for wind.

Bullfrog customers help reach this holy grail of cost parity not only by supporting the development of wind power economically, but also by empowering the government to support developing renewable power at scale. We need to continue to be vocal about our support for renewable energy alternatives.  If we do, Canada – like Europe – will reach a point where new wind power will be cost competitive with fossil fuels.

As Justin Wu, the lead wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, put it: “In the next few years the mainstream world is going to wake up to wind cheaper than gas, and rooftop solar power cheaper than daytime electricity … we are clearly talking about a whole new game.”

Posted on January 4, 2012

Sometime in the near future…

What would a zero-emissions life look like? This isn’t science fiction. In 2050, we could find ourselves living in a net-zero energy home and commuting to a smart office in an electric car powered with green electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the San Francisco-based energy consulting firm Energy and Environmental Economics have worked together to publish a study that appeared last month in the journal Science.

Entitled “The Technology Path to Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts by 2050: The Pivotal Role of Electricity,” the article takes the state of California as a case study for how to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels.

So how would it be achieved? The solutions may not surprise a Bullfrog Power supporter. The study has three central suggestions:

  1. Transitioning from oil and gas to electricity for cars, heating systems and equipment that use these dirty fuel sources.
  2. Changing how we use and generate our energy by working to improve efficiency and decarbonizing electricity.
  3. Using wind and solar for up to 74 per cent of the state’s electricity needs.

How many of us are already on the path to sustainable living? When many people imagine a carbon-free future, they envision a radically different world, hampered by restrictions and restraints. What is most surprising is how little our lives could change.

At today’s pace of innovation, “the scientists say that all of this will be technologically feasible by 2050.”

If Canada committed to an equally aggressive target, how soon might we be living in a zero-emissions future?

Posted on December 30, 2011

Rise of the Canadian cleantech industry

Tom HeintzmanDid you know that Canada’s clean technology (Cleantech) industry is now rivaling mining, forestry and logging in revenue and jobs? According to the recently released 2011 Canadian Clean Technology Industry Report, more than 44,000 Canadians are now employed by Cleantech, about the same number as those employed by the mining industry. Cleantech revenues for 2010 are estimated at $9.1 billion dollars, putting it in striking distance of forestry and logging, for which Canada is more widely known.

The global market demand for clean technology is huge. It is estimated to have been $1 trillion in 2010 and this is expected to triple by 2020, when it will be the third-largest global industrial sector. Even during the recession, Cleantech continued to grow by 19 per cent. In 2010 alone, it expanded by an impressive 56 per cent.

What these developments in clean technology tell us is that collaboration among business, government, ENGOs and the voluntary market is helping to advance the industry—but there is more work to be done. Only by continuing to support renewable energy providers and clean technology companies can these predictions become reality.

By choosing green energy with Bullfrog Power, you support renewable energy providers and help fuel the Canadian Cleantech industry. You also send a message to government that Canadians understand that our future economic prosperity is tied to our commitment to sustainable development.

Join us here at The Bullfrog Blog as we explore green energy news and the continuing progress of the global movement to fight climate change and find sustainable ways of living.

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on December 5, 2011

Would a new geological period change the way we think about the earth?

The Anthropocene, which is potentially a new geological epoch for the earth, is covered in the May 28 edition of the Economist.

Up until recently, the consensus was that mankind was living in the Holocene epoch, a stable 10,000 year stretch in the Quaternary period. Now, a growing number of scientists are making the case that that we have entered, or rather created, a new epoch: the Anthropocene, “the recent age of man.”

The fossils of our age will be remarkable, revealing entirely unique buildings and materials. The fossils will also reflect the impact of people on the vast majority of earth’s ecosystems, and provide evidence of humans’ homogenization of plants and animals through domestication. The Anthropocene fossil records will also show extinctions at a record rates. Changes to the earth’s systems, including humans’ involvement in the recycling of carbon and nitrogen, will reflect the dawn of a new age.

Should the Anthropocene be accepted as a new epoch, it could have a profound and welcomed effect. Most of the previous paradigm shifts―from Copernicus’ to Darwin’s―minimized the importance of humans. A paradigm shift that instead recognizes the magnitude of the impact humans are having on our planet, measured on a geological scale, holds the potential for transforming our perspectives the same way evolutionary theory did, and fundamentally affecting the way we think and act as a species.

What do you think? Would recognizing the Anthropocene shift the paradigm and result in significant changes? What changes?

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on June 22, 2011

Canada can lead international reform on energy subsidies, says leader of International Institute for Sustainable Development

Bullfrog Power has long advocated that subsidies on fossil fuel-based energy generation be reduced. Subsidies help feed a reliance on polluting forms of energy generation (and energy waste) and do not motivate Canadians to develop or champion alternate (currently, more expensive) renewable energy options.

Franz Tattenbach, president and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, recently made a case in the Toronto Star for subsidy reform. According to Tattenbach’s article, reform has the potential to bring about two critical benefits:

  • It’s a powerful solution to climate change. The phase-out of subsidies for fossil fuels could provide over 40 per cent of the greenhouse gas reductions required by 2020 to limit the global temperature rise to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Subsidy reform is good economic policy. With the current subsidies, governments are giving $312 billion of taxpayers’ money annually to fossil fuel producers. Governments give producers an additional $100 billion annually. Eliminating subsidies would allow these funds to be directed towards much more sustainable uses including transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Tattenbach also thinks that Canada is in a position to lead on subsidy reform. All of our political parties have in one way or another supported reform, and the country, through its membership in the G20, has agreed with the international community that action is required. Further, Tattenbach states, “As the one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, Canada’s commitment to act on this issue positions it as a credible leader in international discussions and negotiations on subsidy reform…”

The article was written and published prior to the recent election. Is there a good chance the author’s vision will come to fruition in this new parliament – or is he being optimistic?

Tom Heintzman
President, Bullfrog Power

Posted on May 9, 2011