DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 2012 Fuel Economy Guide on November 16th. The guide provides information that can help consumers choose more efficient vehicles that save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While fuel-efficient vehicles come in a variety of fuel types, classes, and sizes, many new advanced technology vehicles debut on this year's annual list of top fuel economy performers. The 2012 all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV topped this list, after a conversion from gas-to-electric was factored in to give it a 112 miles per gallon (mpg) average. The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, the Azure Dynamics Transit Connect Electric Van, the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, and last year's leader, the Toyota Prius hybrid, rounded out the top five spots.
Fuel economy leaders within each vehicle category—from two-seaters to large SUVs—include widely available products, such as conventional gasoline models and clean diesels. Some 2012 models will be voluntarily displaying a new fuel economy and environment label that provides consumers with more comprehensive fuel efficiency information, including five-year fuel costs or savings compared to the average vehicle, as well as new greenhouse gas and smog ratings. These labels are will be required in model year 2013.
The online rankings include the vehicles with the lowest fuel economy. Each vehicle listing in the guide provides an estimated annual fuel cost. The estimate is calculated based on the vehicle's mpg rating and national estimates for annual mileage and fuel prices. The online version of the guide allows consumers to input their local gasoline prices and typical driving habits to receive personalized fuel cost estimates. See the DOE press release, the complete guide, and 2012 fuel economy leaders.
DOE announced on November 15 up to $7 million as part of the SunShot Initiative to reduce the non-hardware costs of residential and commercial solar energy installations. The funds will support the development of tools and approaches that reduce non-hardware, or "soft" costs, such as costs related to installation, permitting, interconnection, and inspection. Soft expenses can amount to as much as half the cost of a residential system. This work is supported through the SunShot Incubator Program, and will make the process of buying, installing, and maintaining solar energy systems faster, easier, and less expensive.
The incubator previously focused on solving hardware challenges. This new round of funding applies to the soft costs of installing solar systems and acknowledges the vast potential for cost reductions in this area. The balance-of-system soft costs addressed by this funding opportunity include any non-hardware aspects of an installed solar energy system, such as labor, permitting and inspection, customer acquisition, financing, and contracting. Funding will be awarded in two tiers. Tier 1 includes awards up to $500,000 with a 20% cost share over 12 months to accelerate the development of innovative non-hardware concepts. DOE may issue approximately 3-5 awards in this category. Tier 2 includes awards up to $5 million with a 50% cost share over 18 months to transition innovative systems and solutions to the demonstration stage and eventually to full-scale deployment. DOE may issue approximately 1-3 awards in this category.
The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy by about 75% by the end of the decade. A primary objective of the SunShot Incubator Program is to launch new start-up businesses and new business units within existing commercial entities. Concept paper applications for soft-cost funding are due January 16, 2012. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity announcement, an Energy Blog post, and the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE recognized four organizations on November 16 for expanding the market for electricity produced from renewable energy during the 11th annual Green Power Leadership Awards. These organizations' "green power" programs provide consumers with opportunities to purchase clean energy from environmentally preferred sources, such as wind and solar energy.
Winners include San Francisco-based 3Degrees and Virginia's Washington Gas Energy Services, which were recognized as the Non-Utility Green Power Suppliers of the Year; Detroit Edison for Utility Green Power Program of the Year for developing its voluntary green power program; and The Clean Energy Collective, in Colorado, for Innovative Green Power Program of the Year. Organizations are evaluated on total annual renewable energy sales, number of customers served, market impact, resources and technologies used, and overall value provided to customer participants.
According to the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, about 860 utilities offer green power programs in the United States, and annual sales from utility green power programs have more than doubled since 2005. Annual green power market sales increased to more than 35 million megawatt-hours in 2010, and more than 1.8 million customers purchased green power in 2010 through a green power program, competitive marketer program, or renewable energy certificates marketer. See the DOE press release and the 2011 Green Power Leadership Awards on the Green Power Network, part of DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website.
DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will hold its third annual Energy Innovation Summit on February 27–29, 2012, at the Gaylord Convention Center near Washington, D.C. The summit is designed to unite key players from all sectors of the U.S. energy innovation community to share ideas for developing and deploying the next generation of clean energy technologies. The event is co-hosted by ARPA-E and the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu and ARPA-E Director Arun Majumdar will join Bill Gates, founder and chairperson of Microsoft Corporation; Susan Hockfield, president and professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart; and other thought leaders as distinguished keynote speakers.
In addition to featuring an expanded showcase, the Innovation Summit will again this year include top U.S. businesses focused on developing energy technology. The summit connects top corporate businesses with clean energy researchers and entrepreneurs with the goal of building lasting partnerships for commercialization. Some of last year's corporate participants included Lockheed Martin, Dow, DuPont, Battelle, and Bosch. See the DOE progress alert, the summit website, and the ARPA-E website.
Innovative Energy Storage Technologies Enabling More Renewable Power
Solar and wind power provide the means for America to strengthen its energy security, create jobs in growing markets, and improve the environment. Thanks to breakthroughs in energy storage systems, including the first grid-tied solar and storage facility, that potential is getting closer to reality. By combining energy storage systems with smart grid technology, utilities are able to automatically "smooth" the output of energy. This allows intermittent energy sources to be available even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
Across the United States, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding is allowing 32 demonstration projects, including large-scale energy storage, smart meters, distribution and transmission system monitoring devices, and a range of other smart technologies, to explore the deployment of integrated smart grid systems on a broader scale.
Recently, three of these projects have been recognized for their progress in the development and implementation of energy storage systems. As the worldwide market for clean energy expands, projects like these are continuing the tradition of American leadership in developing next-generation technologies. See Energy Blog post.
Energy Matters: Industrial Energy Efficiency
On November 16th, Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, discussed industrial energy efficiency on an Energy Matters video livechat.
Dr. Hogan answered questions, submitted by industry professionals and the interested public via email, Facebook and Twitter, on how commercial building efficiency, advanced manufacturing, and corporate partnerships can increase American competitiveness.
The manufacturing industry represents 12 million American jobs and 60% of U.S. exports. DOE programs like the American Manufacturing Partnership and the Better Buildings, Better Plants create jobs, help companies boost their competitiveness, and strengthen the nation’s economic position. See the Energy Blog post.
More info at: CCRES site.
CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)