The Top 10 Energy Stories of 2013

1. Subsidy Wars: Fossil Fuels vs. Renewable Energy

Some are saying it’s time to change the game on subsidies and climate — and that the obscene subsidies paid to the fossil fuel industry must end.

Many in the renewable energy sector would be happy with a level playing field — where renewable energy would receive the same amount of subsidy dollars per kilowatt hour as fossil fuel or nuclear power have felt they were entitled to for decades. Source: IEA. 2013 – Redrawing the energy climate map

2. Fossil Fuels get a $550 Billion Dollar Christmas Present

Fossil fuels have dominated the global energy market and even the global economy for a long time. You would think that such mature industries wouldn’t need government subsidies — their annual revenue and profits are mind-boggling. However, with money comes power. And that money-power has a stranglehold on governments of the world such that it convinces governments to give them even more money in subsidies.

Another recent study comes to the conclusion that the total annual subsidies fossil fuel companies get from governments (in just the developed world) comes to about half a trillion dollars. This follows a 2010 study from the International Energy Agency that found fossil fuel industries got $550 billion in annual subsidies.

3. Unlike Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy subsidies expire Jan 1, 2014

The end of 2013, just like the end of 2012, 2008, 2005, 2003 and many years prior, brings with it the expiration of the Production Tax Credit for Renewable Energy (PTC).

Thanks to a long history of federal support, the incumbent fossil fuel sectors enjoy solid business certainty provided by permanent, embedded federal tax breaks.

Renewable energy, however, being the new kid on the block, does not have this luxury.

4. Utilities Face a ‘Perfect Storm’ From Falling Renewables Costs

A new report from leading utilities analysts at investment bank UBS suggests that energy utilities in Europe, North America and Australia are facing a ‘perfect storm’ from the falling cost of renewables, energy efficiency and falling demand, and may not be able to sustain their business models.

The report is entitled; Can utilities survive in their current form? – and is the latest in a series of assessments, reviews and analysis that point to the severe disruption to the centralized generation model, and the demand and supply dynamics that have governed the industry for the past few decades. To briefly summarise the UBS response to its own question, the answer is No.

UBS says the biggest impact on the current utility model will occur in developed markets, where renewables in general and distributed solar in particular will take more of an already depleted “demand pie.”

5. Obama Pushes the Big ‘Green’ Button

Part of President Obama’s executive order of December 5th 2013,  included directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020. Obama instructed agencies to incorporate “Green Button” data further into their energy management practices.

First unveiled in 2012, the Green Button Initiative is literally a green button on a energy utility’s website that allows consumers to download their energy consumption data in a format that’s easy to understand.

6. Obama: Federal Government Has 7 Years to Triple Renewable Energy Use

On Thursday, the administration released an executive order directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, which would bring the government’s renewable energy usage to 20 percent. The order will apply to all federal agencies, including the military.

The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the executive order before it was published, noted that the federal government itself occupies approximately 500,000 buildings and operates 600,000 vehicles, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. The order does not disclose the cost of the transition, but says the goal will be reached “to the extent economically feasible and technically practicable.”

7. Nissan Leaf Fleets Can Power Offices and Homes

You may have heard of the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) concept in which electric vehicles can supply their battery power to electricity grids during peak hours and other electricity shortages. Nissan recently decided to apply a somewhat similar concept to the Nissan Advanced Technology Center in Atsugi City, Japan. The company calls it “Vehicle-to-Building.” During peak hours, when electricity prices are highest, the vehicles supply their battery power to the building, enabling them to avoid this peak charge.

8. 13 Brilliant Energy Breakthroughs of 2013

While the news about climate change seems to get worse every day, the rapidly improving technology, declining costs, and increasing accessibility of clean energy are the true bright spots in the march towards a zero-carbon future. 2013 had more clean energy milestones than we could fit on one page, but here are thirteen of the key breakthroughs that happened this year.

9. U.S. Deficit Could Be Cut by 1 Trillion Using Carbon Tax

A carbon tax of $25 per ton of emissions would cut the deficit by $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The finding was part of a report CBO just put out detailing 103 different ways — in terms of both cutting spending and raising revenue — the U.S. government could reduce its deficit. At a total haul of $1.06 trillion by 2021, the carbon tax was far and away the biggest deficit reducer of any option listed.

It’s a policy that enjoys widespread support amongst politicians, industry spokespersons, economists, and polling of the general public.

10. 100% Renewable Energy Powers All These Places All The Time

A handy selection of jurisdictions where renewable energy has taken over completely.

Iceland. (Yes, all of it) runs on clean, renewable energy.

Iceland: A 100% renewables example in the modern era


Tokelau. A South Pacific Island. Runs on 100% Solar Power. Used to burn shiploads of expensive diesel and kerosene to create electrical power.

An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar Energy

An Island (Tokelau) Powered 100% By Solar Energy →

Samsø. An Island in Denmark. Citizen cooperative formed to power the entire Island. Sells excess electricity to mainland Denmark. Cooperative makes a tidy profit.

Introducing Samsø, A 100% Wind-Powered Island

Güssing. Formerly near-bankrupt town in Austria now runs on solar and locally-sourced biofuels. They sell their surplus electricity to neighbouring towns. Oh, and they export solar panels and biofuel by the truckload. And town coffers are filling with clean gold.

Güssing, Austria Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy


The renewable energy stories will get even better in 2014, as renewable energy ‘comes into its own’ around the world.

Happy 2014 and thanks for reading JBS News!