Friday, August 29, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives - Alternative energy sources are crucial: reader opinion



As you know, the Clean Air Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the president.  (It was originally enacted and then signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, and amended in 1977 and 1990.)  In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Therefore, curbs on carbon dioxide emissions are, in effect, mandated.

A few weeks ago, The Charleston Daily Mail (in West Virginia) published an editorial concerning support for regulation of power-plant emissions which was surprising – given that The Daily Mail is in a major coal producing region. Also, The Houston Chronicle – a newspaper in an oil and gas state – editorially supported the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently, in testimony before a U.S. Senate Sub-committee, four former Republican heads of the EPA, supported such regulations. In addition, on June 21, in The New York Times, former Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, a Republican, called for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

In a nationwide poll conducted in June by ABC News and The Washington Post, 70% of the respondents reported "the federal government should limit the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort to reduce global warming."

These developments suggest that nationally the mood of citizens is changing in response to events in their lives and research reports by climate scientists worldwide.

The changes now under way may not proceed as smoothly as we would like, but increased use of alternative sources of energy and energy conservation are crucial to our economy, our health, and our survival.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives Editorial: Expand alternative energy with caution


Consumers should have the chance to produce their own electricity, but other customers shouldn't bear the cost

Lawmakers are considering a package of bills that would expand the state’s renewable energy program in several ways, including making it easier for consumers to be compensated for creating their own solar and other forms of alternative power.

Michiganians deserve as much autonomy as possible in choosing and generating their own electricity. As long as reliability is maintained and the grid is able to handle additional power, government shouldn’t arbitrarily cap participation.

But while greater electricity freedom is a step in the right direction for Michigan consumers, changes to the way electric grids function must be handled with caution. Electric utilities and consumers who rely on traditional electricity shouldn’t be punished in the process.

House Bill 5673 in the state House Energy and Technology Committee would lift restrictions on the number of residents who can participate in the program to create their own power, which is called “net metering.” It would also lift restrictions on the amount of electricity consumers can generate and sell back to energy companies, which makes sense.

But creating a system in which consumers and energy companies both buy and sell power poses new problems. Caps for participation have existed to keep grids secure and to allow alternative energy to be added gradually to mitigate risks for electric power grid operators.
The retail rate consumers currently pay for electricity includes many costs — the actual power being generated, along with fixed costs for overhead, grid maintenance and security and general operations.

When consumers who generate their own electricity are compensated at the full retail rate, as net metering does, those fixed costs get shifted onto consumers who are not generating their own electricity.

Alternative energy users still rely on main utility grids 100 percent of the time, because their supply and demand never fully match. And a patch of clouds for an hour or two might mean a solar user needs to tap into the grid.

They should pay for the overhead and operational costs they incur at a moment’s notice.
A recent California Public Utility Commission study on net metering showed consumers who invested in rooftop solar shift the fixed electric power grid costs to consumers who can’t afford expensive rooftop solar systems, live in multifamily housing or don’t have a rooftop appropriate for solar panels.

This means California customers who don’t use net metering will pay an extra $1.1 billion in shifted costs each year by 2020.

And the majority of solar customers have higher incomes than the average consumer, meaning the fixed utility costs are shifted onto lower-income customers. In California, 78 percent have higher incomes and in Nevada, 73 percent do.

Another bill in the Michigan package seeks to set fair-value pricing based on market demand for electricity being sold back to companies. If consumers produce power at 3 p.m., a high-demand time, they would be paid more than if they produce power at 3 a.m., when there is little demand.

Mandating electric utilities buy back electricity at retail rates, however, ignores the fact that utilities can produce the same product for much less or buy it at a wholesale rate. This increases the overall cost of electricity, which in turn is passed onto consumers.

Alternative energy usage in Michigan increased 18 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. That trend is likely to increase, and it’s good the Legislature is getting ahead of these issues for consumers.


As lawmakers find ways to expand the state’s alternative energy programs, they must consider overall grid safety and minimize burdensome costs on consumers who can’t afford or don’t want to invest in their own electricity generating systems.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Westward group alternatives: Alternative Energy: Investing Essentials

Alternative energy is currently one of the fastest growing areas in energy. There are also a variety of factors driving the industry's pursuit of alternatives to traditional oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy. Climate change in impacting how we look at fossil fuels, and Inexpensive oil is becoming more and more scarce, but the biggest driver may be the economics of alternatives to fossil fuels.

Over the next decade, it's improving costs that will drive the adoption of wind, solar, electric vehicles, and biofuels. That opens up a world of potential for investors.

What is the alternative energy industry?

Alternative energy consists of energy sources that are different from traditional energy sources like oil, natural gas, nuclear, and coal energy. They may be renewable and they may be clean but those aren't requirements to be an alternative.

On the electricity generating side of energy, alternative energy is dominated by hydro, wind, and solar energy. Hydroelectric energy has long been a contributor to the electric grid but wind and solar energy are growing in popularity as costs fall and concern about climate change increases. These are the two major growth markets in electricity generation in alternative energy.

Alternative energy is also of growing interest as an alternative to gasoline or diesel to fuel our vehicles. In recent years, electric cars have been produced in growing numbers as have natural gas trucks and even hydrogen vehicles. While these aren't a large part of the current energy industry, they do have long-term potential to replace oil as a primary fuel energy. But today, the energy industry is still dominated by fossil fuels.

How big is the alternative energy industry?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 9.3 trillion BTUs of alternative energy from hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and biofuels were consumed in 2013. The largest contributors were hydroelectric power (2.56 trillion BTUs), followed by wood energy (2.1 trillion BTUs), and biofuels (2.0 trillion BTUs). Wind and solar energy are the fastest growing among the renewable group.


While these are big figures in energy, they pale in comparison to the energy industry as a whole. Alternative energy accounts for just 11.4% of all energy consumed in the U.S. last year, so the upside for alternative energy is very large.


How does alternative energy work?

Alternative energy is sold into two primary markets: electricity and fuel. In the electric market, sources like wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy are sold to utilities through power purchase agreements or sometimes through the spot electricity market. Occasionally, utilities will own these generating assets themselves.

In the fuel market, alternative energy is often mandated by the government but is increasingly becoming a choice for consumers. For example, an ethanol mix into gasoline is mandated by the government, creating demand for the alternative energy. Tax breaks are also given to hydrogen and electric vehicles and both are growing in availability and popularity, opening up a new market for energy companies. In fuel, natural gas is also considered an alternative energy because it is competing with oil and provides a cleaner and cheaper alternative.

The EIA says that in 2011 (the most recent data available) the consumption of alternative transportation fuels increased 13% as more ethanol and natural gas were consumed by consumers.


Expect electricity and hydrogen to be a larger piece of the pie above in the future as the technology improves and costs come down.

What are the drivers of alternative energy?

There are two main drivers of alternative energy: cost and government mandates.

Falling costs for wind, solar, biofuels, and other alternatives to traditional energy sources will keep driving adoption further. To give an example of this progress, according to GTM Research the cost to install a utility scale solar-power system fell 61% from the first quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2014. These kinds of cost reductions will drive demand long-term, and are making alternative energy more economically attractive than fossil fuels.

Government mandates will also drive demand for products like ethanol and other biofuels. Incentives like tax breaks and renewable energy standards also drive demand for alternative energy, although these incentives are declining around the world as the cost of alternative energy falls.

For investors, it's important to understand the dynamics between cost and government mandates or incentives. Government incentives can come and go quickly, leading to an unsustainable market for some alternative energy sources. Investors should focus on energy sources that are becoming economically viable without these incentives because in the long-term, that's what will make alternative energy a winner over fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources.


More related article here: Westward Group Alternatives

Monday, August 25, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives Red ginseng-based ‘vitality drink’ is a tasty alternative to ‘energy drinks’


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For millennia, ginseng has been used as an herbal “remedy” believed to rejuvenate the body and mind, alleviate fatigue and stimulate cognition.

Sacramento entrepreneur Paul Vonasek and his partners are touting their Root 9 ginseng-based “vitality drink” for its “wide range of benefits,” which they say include boosting energy, metabolism, memory and libido.

The product contains “the highest grade of Korean red ginseng,” which is produced in a specific area of South Korea and is aged for six years before going to market.

The zero-calorie, sugar-free drink is lightly carbonated and has an intriguing flavor, akin to a mild strawberry-like taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s a pleasant alternative to caffeine-heavy energy drinks and cloyingly sweet soda.

“We’re developing a mango-flavored (version) that should be ready in two months,” Vonasek said.

Root 9 is sold in about 900 locations throughout California and parts of Nevada, including Nugget Markets, convenience stores and gas stations. It’s $3 for a 12-ounce can, or two for $5.

Westward Group Energy Alternatives is an autonomous service for patrons who want to save cash on their gas and energy bills. Here are several major pieces of information about our service.

Established in 2012, Westward Group Energy Alternatives provides wide-ranging and objective guidance on home energy services.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Westward Group Alternatives: Alternative Energy the Next Big Play?

Alternative energy plays have been around for decades, including Ballard Power Systems Inc. (NASDAQ/BLDP), a maker of hydrogen fuel cells that went public in 1993. The stock traded as high as $100.00 as a speculative investment opportunity in early 2000 but was unable to break into the automotive market. It is currently drifting at the $4.00 level.

However, what Ballard was hoping for is now materializing for battery-powered automaker Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ/TSLA), which has built a superhighway of charging stations across the U.S. and is expanding into Europe and China. Tesla is a great story and a decent possible investment opportunity.

Yet it’s not only vehicles that demand alternative sources of energy; we also see demand coming from numerous applications and, in some cases, manufacturing facilities.

The demand for alternative energy can be based on wind, solar, or water and has led to the development of a strong solar industry as an investment opportunity.

A small-cap that has been exciting the stock market while producing sizzling gains for speculators has been Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ/PLUG), a developer of hydrogen fuel cells that power forklifts and other devices. The stock traded as low as $0.32 over the past 52 weeks, surging to $6.37 on Thursday morning after reporting strong results. Plug Power has been on my technical analysis screens for some time, as the stock consistently breaks higher. If interested, I would suggest investors look to this stock on weakness for a volatile speculative investment opportunity.



Another possible investment opportunity that may interest investors in the alternative energy space is FuelCell Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ/FCEL), which has a market cap of $616 million. The stock has traded as low as $1.12 and as high as $4.74 over the past 52 weeks. The current price is halved at $2.37, so there’s a potential aggressive investment opportunity here.



FuelCell is a developer of fuel cell solutions by way of its stationary “Direct FuelCell” power plants, built to deliver ultra-clean, efficient, and reliable green power. The process involves harnessing the energy of renewable biogas from wastewater treatment and food processing.

Clients are varied and include commercial, industrial, government, and utility businesses. Sectors served include the food and beverage, manufacturing, hospital and prison, college and university, hospitality, utilities, and wastewater treatment areas.

FuelCell says its energy produced is up to two times more efficient than fossil fuel plants. The company’s plants produce output ranging from 300 kilowatts (kW) to 2.8 megawatts (MW) and are expandable to more than 50 MW. There are currently more than 50 plants worldwide that have generated more than 300 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity.

FuelCell is expanding in Southeast Asia, including South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, which the company sees as an investment opportunity.

Revenues are estimated to rise 7.2% to $201.16 million in FY14 followed by 22.6% to an estimated $246.54 million in FY15, according to Thomson Financial.

I suggest investors keep an eye on a company like FuelCell, as this volatile investment opportunity has tremendous upside if it can deliver results.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Westward Group Alternative: Energy Consumption Tips


For the past four decades, energy costs have spiralled beyond control and now eat up a lot of every family’s budget. But most people are not aware of simple energy-saving tips they could easily practice and save a lot of money they could use for other vital expenses.

Whether we are talking about electricity or gas, we can do something about the high cost of energy consumption. Here are a few easy to do tips:

1. Every small thing adds up to big expense

The casual way most people treat energy use leads them to waste a lot of money. Leaving small gadgets and appliances left plugged into outlets, such as cellphone chargers, unused PC’s, TV, aircons and electric fans can consume energy because of their standby mode features. They may not consume much when unused; but when left for hours, they could still add up to a sizeable chunk of a kilowatt-hour. In some cases such as defective electric fans, they could be actually pose as fire hazards when they are on and people think they are not and beign to heat up and burst into flames.

In the case of gas, an expert driver and energy-saving guru once advised that idling your car for just two minutes before driving off is sufficient to warm up the engine without wasting so much gas or damaging your engine. Most people warm their vehicles up for ten minutes or more, wasting so much gas and even polluting their own homes. Add up the daily waste of gas incurred which you could convert into actual mileage you get from your car.

2. Economic use of your air-conditioner

Use of the air-conditioner in warm climates cuts a big slice into a family’s budget. But the wise and self-sacrificing individual can do something to reduce the cost of its use. At night, when the temperature goes down a bit, you can turn on the aircon for an hour or two instead of the expected eight hours till morning and cool down your room comfortably throughout the night. When it gets warm in between, you can turn on a fan to cool you down. You can save more than fifty percent of the usual cost of running the aircon all-night-long.

Or you can opt to turn on the aircon all night but keeping the thermostat at the minimum. That way, you keep the room at a comfortable level without having to allow the condenser to work so much. A 10 to 20 % saving can be attained through this.

3. Schedule your use of energy to avoid wastage

Cooking can add a big cost to your energy use from other sources. For instance, if you live in a condo which you normally keep cool with a fan or an aircon, turning on the stove can raise the temperature and increase your expense. Having an exhaust fan to drive away heated air may help; but the better thing to do is to turn off the aricon and use a fan alone. You may also design the unit in order to isolate the kitchen from your living room.

Having so many gadgets that emit heat (PC, TV, water cooler and decors that use electricity) may also add up heat to your unit tremendously without you noticing it. Distributing them around your unit (keep the TV in the room while the PC should be placed in the living room) or scheduling their use so as not to create a multiplier -effect.

4. Keeping a simple lifestyle

Keeping a minimalist attitude in life may actually be the answer to reducing energy cost. Do you really need a big flat TV or two other monitors for your laptop? Can you not do with a smaller house than one that is oversized for you family?


Estimating your energy cost based on your lifestyle choices can bring a lot of savings. And choosing to be frugal when it comes to energy expense can free some funds for other beneficial use, such as education for the kids.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Westward Group Renewable Energy News Paris: Leading economies to global clean


SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) -- Policymakers from the world's leading economies that account for roughly 70 percent of all energy consumption on Tuesday called for accelerating the transition to a global clean energy economy that can help deal with climate change and energy security issues.

In a press conference held at the conclusion of the three-day 5th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meeting in Seoul, Yoon Sang-jick, South Korea's minister of trade, industry and energy, said clean energy development depends of three key pillars based on finding good technology, investment and market creation.

Yoon, who hosted the gathering, said for such pillars to contribute to clean energy use, trust building among interested parties is essential.

"By building trust, market actors can reduce risks associated with developing new technologies," he said.

The minister also noted that participants of the latest CEM meeting agreed to discuss in detail issues raised by Seoul on the need to deal with different certifications, diverse regulations and government policies that favor national companies over foreign firms in the clean energy development field.

"After discussing the matter for one year, CEM will decide whether or not to adopt the issues as a formal initiative when it meets again in Mexico City for the sixth round of ministerial talks," he said.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz also concurred on the need for close cooperation across the board and said that recent focus on "clean energy finance" and other measures are important to bring about progress that can allow the world to deal more effectively with global warming.

"The focus on clean energy finance and close collaboration with the private sector is part of the broader theme where if we are going to have the kind of energy transformation that we want, at the scale that we want, and at the pace that we want, we need to find ways to move large amounts of private capital off the sidelines so it can be invested in clean energy," the official stressed.

He said that the period between the CEM 5 meeting held in Seoul and the CEM 6 meeting set for next year is important because the international community will be discussing key issues related to climate change.

"Clean energy is central to the solution of climate change risks and energy security," Moniz said.

Countries around the world are moving to make collective commitments to greenhouse gas reductions at the end of 2015 in Paris. In regards to energy security, he pointed out that the recent developments in the Ukraine have highlighted the issue to a new level.

CEM 5, which gathered energy ministers and senior delegates from 22 countries and the European Commission, highlighted progress made through the ministerial collaborative initiative and announced new and expanded actions that will enhance clean energy supply, improve energy efficiency and expand clean energy access around the world.