The Renewable Energy Renaissance

The real Renaissance is in renewable energy whose sources could meet 25% of the nation's energy needs by 2025. Renewable technologies can help restore political and economic stability as well as save money…and the planet.



U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passes good solar roofs bill, two bad nuclear bills

On July 22, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, passed a flurry of bills, including one good renewable energy bill, and two bad nuclear power bills.

The first bad nuclear bill is S. 2052, a "nuclear energy research initiative," which would authorize $50 million annually from fiscal 2011 through 2015 for the Energy Department to conduct research for lowering the cost of nuclear reactor systems. It would include the research of modular reactors, small-scale reactors, balance-of-plant issues, cost-efficient manufacturing and construction, licensing issues and enhanced proliferation controls. In carrying out the research, the department would be required to consult with the departments of Commerce and Treasury, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill would require the department, within 180 days of the bill's enactment, to publish on its website a five-year strategy to lower the costs of nuclear reactors and to hold a public workshop for comment. What's not mentioned is the fact that if $50 million per year could significantly lower the cost for new atomic reactors, the nuclear power industry would have already done this. After all, the twin-reactor Indian Point nuclear power plant made $1.2 million in before-tax net profit in 2009, so $50 million isn't that much money for such a filthy rich industry. But than again, if the nuclear industry can get taxpayers to cover such costs, why not just pocket that much more as profit?

The second bad nuclear bill, S. 2812, entitled "Nuclear Power 2021, with an amendment," would require the Energy Department to work with private sector partners in a program to develop a standard design for two small modular nuclear reactors and to get the two designs certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 2018. At least one of the reactors would be required to have a capacity of 50 megawatts or less. Requiring a date certain reactor design certification from NRC increases safety risks, by pressuring NRC to approve an unsafe design before safety flaws are corrected. This bill smacks of the same pitfalls as "Nuclear Power 2010," a Bush administration program launched on Feb. 14, 2002 -- the very same day the dangerously flawed Yucca Mountain dump got the official thumbs up. "Nuclear Power 2010" aimed to not only certify, but even construct and begin operations at two full-scale atomic reactors by 2010. The reactors chosen for the program, the AP1000 and the ESBWR, have been plagued with design defects. The AP1000's shield building is vulnerable to earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and is not even structurally sound enough to hold up an emergency cooling water tank on its upper roof. The ESBWR was so flawed, NRC staff had to ask 6,000 Requests for Additional Information on its design -- of the 6 ESBWRs proposed across the U.S., all but one has been cancelled.

The good renewable bill is the "10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act," S. 3460, which, if "fully implemented, this legislation would lead to 30,000 MW of new PV, tripling our total current U.S. solar energy capacity. It would increase by almost 20 times our current energy output from PV panels. The legislation would rapidly increase production of solar panels, driving down the price of PV systems and it would mean the creation of over a million new jobs."

Not only is Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent of Vermont) the sponsor of S. 3460, he was the only Senator on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to oppose the two bad nuclear bills described above. No matter where you live, call Sen. Sanders' office at (202) 224-5141, fax him at (202) 228-0776, or fill out his webform at, to thank him for opposing nuclear power and supporting solar power!

Check the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member list to see if you're Senator is on there, and contact them to express your disappointment in their support for the bad nuclear power bills.


Solar power cheaper than nuclear for North Carolina saysa new report written by a former chancellor and economics chair of Duke University, claims that solar electricity will be cheaper than, and online before, new nuclear power. Moreover, solar power is poised to bring thousands of jobs to North Carolina, yet utilities are still preferring to invest in more expensive nuclear power. The author attributes this economic disconnect to North Carolina's monopoly power market versus the open competition for electricity sales in other states. These other states are rejecting nuclear in favor of renewable energy and are leading North Carolina in the renewable energy industry.


Vermont to buy wind power from New Hampshire

With Vermont Yankee nuclear plant due to close in under two years, the state of Vermont's two biggest utilities are planning to buy wind power from New Hampshire instead. Granite Reliable Wind, which is planning a 99 megawatt project, could be selling wind to Central Vermont Public Service Corporation and Green Mountain Power in a positive step along the path to a nuclear-free Vermont.


Renewables Held Hostage to Nuclear Loan Guarantee Expansion

Further twisting the meaning of “clean energy” as the Kerry-Lieberman "climate" bill undermines environmental protections and promotes dirty energy industries at taxpayer risk and expense,  the Obama administration and Democratic House leaders have reportedly agreed to attach $90 million to a pending war spending bill in order to expand the nuclear power loan guarantee fund by $9 billion. This would accelerate the construction of three new atomic power plants in Maryland (Calvert Cliffs 3), South Carolina (two reactors at Summer), and Texas (South Texas Project Units 3 and 4). The nuclear power industry has long tried to hitch a ride on renewable energy and energy efficiency's popularity, such as last year when it joined with renewables associations to urge the expansion of energy loan guarantees at taxpayer expense, or last week when it stood with the American Wind Energy Association at the National Press Club. Constellation Energy is even underwriting nuclear power, wind power, and energy efficiency in the same breath on National Public Radio ads, as if these aren't mutually exclusive; its ad campaigns blur its nuclear goals with a renewables smokescreen. But nuclear power cannot solve the climate crisis or even its own serious problems, while renewables and efficiency can. In fact, "negawatts" and "micro power" are whipping nuclear power in the free market, and have been for years and even decades, a hopeful trend that is speeding up over time. But taxpayer support for nuclear power, as proposed by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, undermines those very free market forces, squelching the competitive promise of renewables/efficiency, much to the atomic industry's delight. To paraphrase long-time congressional atomic watchdog Ed Markey, Orwell's spinning so fast in his grave he should be connected to the electric grid! As shown by this latest deal, nuclear power stands to gain $9 billion of financing at taxpayer risk, "in exchange," politically, for solar to get only $1 billion. Such Faustian bargains will continue to garner the atomic industry the lion's share, while renewables and efficiency are left with the crumbs. This would repeat the past half-century of failed energy policy in this country. Contact the White House at (202) 456-1111, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at (202) 225-0100. Urge President Obama and Speaker Pelosi to support the real solutions to the climate crisis -- renewables and efficiency -- but not at the taxpayer expense of further subsidizing dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power.


Cape Wind (finally) gets the green light

After years of struggle and controversy, America's first offshore wind project finally got the green light when Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, approved the Cape Wind project on Apil 28. According to the Cape Wind press release, "Cape Wind’s proposal to build America’s first offshore wind farm on Horseshoe Shoal would provide most of the electricity used on Cape Cod and the Islands from clean, renewable energy - reducing this region’s need to import oil, coal and gas. Cape Wind will create new jobs, help stabilize electric costs, contribute to a healthier environment, increase energy independence and establish Massachusetts as a leader in offshore wind power".