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Beyond Copenhagen: Two bits of positive news for renewable energy

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More than two dozen coal plants were thwarted in 2009, while the federal government has just committed $336 million to accelerating R&D in renewable energy and energy innovation.

So, most people who followed the Copenhagen climate talks came away feeling vaguely disappointed, but I just came across two bits of news that give me hope that even though we aren't seeing the broad sweeping action we'd like, we are making progress.

The first is a report, which I read on the Sustainable Business site, indicating that NO new coal plants "broke ground" in 2009. Over the past 12 months, plans for more than two dozen new plants were either abandoned or shot down. These plants would have coughed up approximately 146 million tons of carbon dioxide on an annual basis. Also on the positive side, there was a 22.5 percent increase during 2009 in the amount of electricity produced by wind generation technology.

There are still plants on the planning boards, despite the push toward renewable energy. You can read about them, as well as the defeated ones, on a special Sierra Club Web site.

The other tidbit I appreciated is the announcement that the U.S. Department of Energy intends to put approximately $336 million into three new Energy Innovation Hubs, where they hope to accelerate research and development in the following:

  1. The production of fuels directly from sunlight
  2. Improving energy-efficient building systems design
  3. Developing computer modeling and simulation for the creation of advanced nuclear reactors

The funding will come over the course of the next five years and the money for each hub (about $122 million each) will be metered out over that time period. More information about the specific research plans for each site are found here.

Slowly but surely, the balance is shifting so that renewable energy doesn't represent a business proposition for everyone that just doesn't make sense. Can't flip the switch to parity, of course, but this is great news for the end of an eventful year in green power.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure