Renewable Energy News: Xcel Energy Becomes First Major Utility 100% Committed to Green Energy

On Tuesday, December 11, Xcel Energy announced the company will go 100 per cent green. This comes after the announcement that Xcel Energy is reducing its carbon emissions 60 per cent by the year 2026 and 80 per cent by 2030.

Xcel Energy is Colorado’s largest utility company and serves seven other states as well. The company’s commitment to a carbon-neutral future is a light in the darkness, coming out of the American government’s seeming indifference to the profit potential of renewable energy. Americans in the eight states served by Xcel can breathe a little easier, at least knowing that their utility company is right-minded.

In this edition of Renewable Energy News, read about how the major US utility Xcel Energy plans to go 100 per cent green by the year 2050.     

Renewable Energy News: Major US Utility Xcel Energy Goes 100% Green

Xcel Energy calls Minneapolis, Minnesota home. The utility holdings company has over 3 million electric and nearly 2 million gas customers in the eight states that it serves. Xcel Energy operates subsidiary utility companies in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.  

The announcement by Xcel Energy to deliver 100 per cent clean energy is the first declaration of its kind in the country. No other US utility has made as lofty a goal, but many have gotten onboard the renewable-energy train.

The Indiana utility NIPSCO is closing down coal plants faster than expected in order to set up renewable energy plants. Another Midwest frontrunner, Midwest Utility MidAmerican, says that by 2020 it will deliver 100 per cent renewables energy.

Utility companies across the Midwest are making the transition to renewable energy, for several reasons. To begin with, the midwest of the United States has less coal and gas resources than the coasts and the southern United States. But, the biggest reason is financial.  

What’s the Difference Between ‘Green’ and ‘Renewable’ Energy?

Energy is the big umbrella. Underneath the main ‘Energy’ umbrella, sits conventional energy and renewable energy. Green energy is a subset of renewables and sits under the renewable energy umbrella.

Green power is the best kind of energy production for the environment. It is best for reducing carbon emissions and carries a zero-carbon footprint. According to the EPA, green energy is harnessed from geothermal, solar, wind, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydroelectric sources.

Renewable power is that which comes from energy that naturally restores itself over some time. These include the wind, water, sun, and heat from the core of the earth.

Some renewable energy sources can carry an environmental impact that makes them less than 100 per cent green. For example, large hydroelectric dams and tidal energy machines affect the oceans plant and animal life. Dams change the migratory patterns of marine life and clear out the surrounding wildlife that relies on the waterways for sustenance.

The difference between renewable and green energy is small. It distinguishes renewables that are zero-impact from renewables that have a slight or moderate impact.

Proponents of nuclear energy make an argument for the clean and renewable nature of nuclear fission plants. Nuclear plants, however, are not carbon neutral. You must mine the earth to build the plant, store radioactive material for a long period of time, and run the risk of a nuclear meltdown.

You can make an argument for nuclear as a renewable but not a green energy source. Green energy includes anything that has a zero-impact on the environment.

How is Power Generated Currently?

Power is electricity. The power grid of the United States provides accessible power to homes and buildings, produced by electricity generators. To make a generator create electricity, the generator must spin a turbine which produces an electrical current.

The electricity produced by the generators spinning of a turbine can be used immediately, or, stored in a battery for later use. The standard method of making the generator turbine spin is steam heat.

Heat is the crux that brings you back to fuel. Utilities burn fossil fuel to heat water, which creates steam and rises to spin the generator’s turbine. This produces electricity.

Cars are one of the classic burners of fossil fuels, but electric car sales are rising. And the US government recently launched an incentive program for buying electric.

None of this, however, has changed Washington’s stance on the global climate change outlook. The White House seems happy to increase coal production tenfold.

The simple process of spinning the turbine with steam is a necessity that brought the world to its current dependency on fossil fuels.

So, when thinking of how best to solve an energy crisis we must look for methods of spinning the turbine that is just as effective-yet environmentally, socially, and economically responsible.

So far, making the generators turbine spin has put the world in a deep pit of problems. But Xcel Energy’s announcement on Tuesday stands as proof that the resources and technology to create zero-emission power is not only available but cheaper than ever.

Why are Utilities Going Green?

Coal is expensive to mine, both in time and human labour. Despite the Trump administration’s stance on bringing back coal, most American utility companies are looking for a cleaner, cheaper source of power to spin the generator turbine.

In the United States, 2019 will see the lowest coal production for nearly 40 years.

Utilities are shifting away from coal, oil, and natural gas in favour of renewables. 
A report from the Lizard Investment Bank shows that the cost of utility energy production is cheaper with renewables than coal. Even if the United States government shuns that facts, at least the utility owners can read the writing on the wall.

In fact, the cost to produce energy from renewables is steadily decreasing year over year. That has led many US states to deregulate electricity programs to offer more renewable incentives.

For a utility company, green power is a triple-win. A customer that gets green energy is paying a little more to make up for the infrastructural costs, but they are happy to do so in order to do their part for the environment. It also means that they are less likely to leave for a cheaper service since the customer is invested in their green energy.    

What’s in it for Xcel Energy?

Xcel Energy is one of the largest utilities in the United States. The company operates in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Michigan-all four of which just put a Democrat in as Governor.

Xcel already has been leading the industry on cutting emissions, and it sees an opportunity to get a stronghold while the getting’s good.

Customers in Colorado are demanding renewable energy, and customers everywhere are demanding lower rates. Public opinion, mixed with cost savings allows Xcel to expand into new area’s and buy up little utilities.

Renewables are popular for the Western United States where oil, coal, and water are all in short supply. Politicians in these states find a stronghold base of support, contingent on the support of the state for green energy. This trend is working its way East, into Colorado, Michigan, and more.

Xcel receives cheaper renewable bids than coal, and renewables are rivalling the price of natural gas. So much so, that when Colorado cities, like Denver and Breckenridge cried-out for renewables, Xcel energy made a change.

The Power of the People

Sure-if you demand an unattainable thing, you won’t get it. But, when a lot of customers unilaterally tell a company what they want, the company is inclined to listen and change.

It is true: Seaworld no longer takes in killer whales. Circuses all over the United States are no longer using elephants in shows, and Armani doesn’t use real animal fur in their kids’ clothing anymore.

And, when customers say to their utilities, we want renewables, the company listens. The way in which you spend your dollar, where, and for what is the most democratically powerful right you have.

America might not have a federal policy regarding global climate change and cutting carbon emissions, but Americans do. Xcel Energy sees a leadership opportunity where federal leadership is coming up short.

It is to the advantage of the American electorate to support utilities, like Excel Energy, that commit to a zero-carbon footprint. Companies that move forward the public realization of the immediacy of climate change and the long-term process to rectify such, are true American patriots.

Not to mention, the more support Xcel Energy has amongst the electorate, the more political leverage they possess in Washington. So, it makes sense that Xcel will use the increase in revenue and decreased production costs to expand the companies reach.       

Final Thoughts

Utility companies make their money from a rate-of-return on energy infrastructure investments. The mining of coal and natural gas offers little, to no return on their investment. Green energy, on the other hand, provides infrastructural investment return on everything.

Xcel Energy is the first to make such an overarching commitment to the wellbeing of the world, but it certainly will not be the last.

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10 Ways Australia Can Start Aggressively Fighting Climate Change

The world needs to come together in a global effort to avert the worse scenario of global warming, which would result in severe droughts, floods, extreme heat, and poverty.

According to the United Nations, the world has 12 years to significantly limit the impacts of Climate Change. 

As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Australia has an important role to play in fighting climate change over the next decade. 

The good news is that many of the tools to make climate change progress already exist.

So let’s check out the 10 ways Australia can start to aggressively fight against global warming in the years ahead.

1. Introduce a Carbon Tax

Over 70 percent of the carbon emissions since the 1980s can be attributed to the activities of one hundred fossil fuel companies

What incentive do such companies have to change course?

Currently, there is absolutely no financial cost of producing carbon emissions. That’s why the Austrailian government, along with the other world’s major economies, needs to introduce a carbon tax. This would provide companies with an incentive to switch to renewable energy. 

Although Australia previously introduced a “carbon tax” in 2011, this was subsequently killed by the incoming Abbott government in 2014, according to the Guardian

2. Greater Subsidies for Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, is becoming increasingly affordable and competitive. As a result, the Prime Minister has touted pulling the current subsidies for renewable energy.

If Australia is going to play an important role in the fight against climate change, this is definitely the wrong course of action. Therefore, greater subsidies for renewable energy would result in a greater incentive for investments in clean energy. 

3. Give up Dependence on Coal

Currently, Australia remains one of the most coal-dependent countries in the world. Australia needs to go cold turkey on its addiction to the black stuff. 

According to experts, coal is not only one of the biggest contributors to climate change, but it’s also damaging to human health and the wider environment.

Australia’s allies, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, have already made commitments to end coal over the next decade.

By contrast, the government has continued to back coal power stations recently. Again, this continues to show that the government denies the evidence of global warming.

The announcements that the government considers coal as the backbone of the energy system of Australia in the coming years suggests this is not good news for those concerned by the impacts of global warming. 

4. Power Everything via Electricity

One of the most cost-effective ways to make climate change progress is to electrify everything.

Move away from oil heater and gas stoves and make everything electric. As the overall source of energy is dominated by renewable energy, our energy system will be cleaner.

Furthermore, this also includes replacing fuel-driven cars with electric cars. Since in Australia, two-thirds of people drive to work, this could have a significant impact on the carbon emissions generated by the country as a whole.

How can we achieve this?

It’s a matter of more funding from the government, in the form of incentives. Plus, penalties for those unprepared to switch to electricity.

That’s because approximately half of the people in Australia are prepared to switch to e-vehicles. However, according to a survey, they are concerned about price and infrastructure

If the so-called inevitable rise of electric vehicles is going to occur, the government has to encourage people to move to low-carbon vehicles. 

5. Research and Development

Even though many of the tools for fighting climate change are available to us, there are probably many more technological solutions yet to be invented.

That’s why it’s important that the Australian government starts to increase the amount of money spent on research and development in the struggle against global warming.

According to experts, even the money currently spent is often not effectively commercialised.

The federal government has set aside $10 billion annual spending for innovations in climate change solutions. However, it is yet to be seen whether this money will be spent wisely.

6. End Production of Fossil-Fueled Transport

Australia continues to lag behind other developed countries in reducing the transport which runs on fossil fuels.

Nearly 20 percent of the carbon emissions in Australia is generated by transportation. Furthermore, as a large and sparse country, many Australians travel on domestic flights. 

However, Australia needs to show the way by switching from a transport system fueled by fossil fuels to one driven by low-carbon and electric vehicles. 

7. Halt Deforestation 

According to reports, Australia is currently in a “full-blown land-clearing crisis“. By the year 2030, over 3 million hectares of previously untouched forests will have been deforested in the East of Australia. 

Forests play a very important role in fighting climate change. They serve as a “carbon sink” by keeping carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere.

However, around the world, as well as in Australia, trees continue to be bulldozed down to make way for agricultural land and other damaging land uses.

This causes greater forest fires, extreme droughts and contributes even more global warming. 

Australia has an important responsibility in maintaining the biodiversity on the planet. Nearly 8 percent of plant and animal life in the world exists in Australia. Additionally, 85 percent of animal and plant life in Australia is uniquely found here.

In order to fight climate change, the Australian government needs to introduce a “zero deforestation” policy which bans the cutting down of trees. 

8. Encourage Reduced Meat Consumption

According to the United Nations, the reduction of the consumption of meat and dairy products is essential to fighting climate change. 

According to the United Nations, animal agriculture accounts for nearly 40 percent of global land use. While this represents 20 percent of the global emissions. 

Australia is one of the biggest consumers of meat in the world. We eat over 3 times the global average of meat consumption

Over the past decades, Australians have increasingly moved away from eating beef towards the eating of chickens. At the same time, Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world. 

The Australian government needs to encourage people to reduce the amount of meat and dairy products they consume. This could be achieved through a “meat tax”.

However, it seems more likely that the government could simply inform people about the benefits of a plant-based diet. But at the end of the day, this is also up to people who care about what’s happening to the planet. 

9. Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere

Most of the solutions to fighting climate change are reflected by the need to adapt or mitigate climate change.

However, an increasing number of people are placing their faith in the removal of carbon emissions from the atmosphere. 

The technology is known as CDR (carbon dioxide removal) or CCS (carbon capture and storage). It’s only in the early stages so it requires a lot more investment and research.  

Although until recently the Australian government was investing $460 million in research and development in relation to CCS, this has since been heavily cut. This is another sign that the government is unwilling to do what it takes to tackle climate change. 

10. Eliminate Food Waste

Currently, Australians throw away up to $8 billion worth of food annually. That’s an incredible 20 percent of food purchased in the supermarket.

Many of the problems of global warming are related to the production and consumption of food. However, if we’re throwing so much of it away, something definitely has to change at both ends of the supply chain.

However, the Australian government is showing signs that they’re waking up to the damage of food waste. In 2018, Australia became the first country in the world to announce a commitment to reduce food waste by half by 2030. 

This has been combined with $1.2 million investment to support charities and organisations which campaign to reduce food waste. 

Hopefully, this results in the kind of changes that the government wants to see in the next few years. 

Fighting Climate Change 

Climate change is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced.

As one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the world, the Australian government has a duty to fight climate change at every stage.

Now it’s your turn to decide what you need to do to contribute to fighting climate change. There are many things you can do to contribute the reducing your personal carbon footprint. 

Have you considered replacing your polluting vehicle with a low-carbon, electric vehicle? Check out our electric vehicles web page today to see what we have available.  

Are Mobility Scooters Safe?

The mobility-scooter industry has been booming for the past 20 years, and sales are only continuing to grow. In fact, trade shows specifically for mobility scooters are now held in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.

Not so long ago, people driving these vehicles were ridiculed and scrutinized, but today, the stigmas have all but dissolved, and traffic in public has dramatically increased. However, as scooter traffic has increased so has the number of accidents being reported in cities around the world.

Scooters Improving Lives

Millions of people with disabilities have had their lives improved by the availability of mobility vehicles, which has increased to the level where choosing one is nearly as complex as choosing a car. In fact, some disabled individuals own two, three or even four different models for specific situations. Of course, the largest segment of the population to take advantage of these four-wheeled scooters is the elderly. After seniors are people with disabilities, but also on the list are healthy adults.
Adults without health problems are increasing scooter traffic because these vehicles are involved in several gray areas of the law, but government agencies are trying to eliminate these gray areas in the name of safety. In the U.K., the government is being pushed to make mobility scooters illegal for anyone without disabilities, and some organizations want them to be registered with the state just like cars and motorcycles.

Australian Doctors Concerned

Doctors in Australia have recently become alarmed at the growing rate of mobility scooter use in the country and the number of accidents that have caused fatalities and serious injuries. Some doctors, citing incidents that involve motorized wheelchairs colliding with pedestrians, automobiles, and other objects, have called for new regulations that make helmets and other safety equipment mandatory.

Current estimates show that about 230,000 medical scooters are now on the road, and with a maximum speed of 10 km/h, the risk of accidents and injuries they are causing is growing out of control.

Dr. Edward Gibson of Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide took it upon himself to research exactly how many accidents are caused by motorized wheelchairs. Because Dr. Gibson is a surgical registrar for the hospital, he has access to the data from its emergency department.

He found that between July 2010 and November 2015, 81 patients sustained injuries from scooters. The age of patients ranged from six to 90, and the average was 68 years of age. Although 85 percent of the injured patients were driving scooters, the other 15 percent were pedestrians, and 12 percent of the accidents occurred when a mobility scooter collided with a car.

Head Trauma, Fractures Common Injuries

Dr. Gibson found that the most common injuries from scooter accidents were head trauma and fractures. About one-third of the injured patients in the study sustained head injuries, and nearly as many had broken at least one bone, usually in the hands or arms. Two-thirds of those seeking treatment in the emergency department were later admitted to the hospital for further observation and treatment.

Injuries were not solely caused by scooters involved in collisions. Some of the drivers were injured a result of the vehicles tipping on their sides, falling off steep pathways and losing control following heart irregularities.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Study

In 2010, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission completed a study that showed 62 people died and 442 were hospitalized as a result of mobility-scooter accidents between 2000 and 2010.

Since that time, some states have adopted new laws to address the matter, but so far, Queensland is the only state to require scooters to be registered. Most other states only require a person in a mobility scooter to follow the same rules of the road to which pedestrians are subject.

Also, the safety features incorporated into scooters by the manufacturers are completely voluntary even though these vehicles can achieve speeds that create a safety risk for drivers and pedestrians.

In a study from 2002 conducted by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) in conjunction with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), several recommendations were made on how to improve scooter safety:

• The use of mobility scooters on roads is not desirable and should be discouraged except when absolutely necessary.
• Registration of scooters could provide a means for gathering accurate data on their use and safety.
• Scooter operators could be tested for skills and required to carry a driver’s license.
• Scooter operators could be required to carry third-party insurance covering property damage and injuries.

Another study conducted by Monash University states that “the high prevalence of head injuries indicates improved head protection, such as the wearing of helmets, may warrant further consideration.”