From void into vision, from vision to mind, from mind into speech, from speech to the tribe, from the tribe into din.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Carbon War and Energy Transition in Germany and Poland

Sales of heat pumps in Poland experienced a 120% rise in demand in 2022, as interest in the renewable heating technology booms across Europe.

Poland saw sales grow to over 200,000 units in 2022, accelerated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and plans to move away from natural gas in heating buildings.

In terms of equipment designed for central water heating, the increase reached 130%, representing almost one in three of all space heating units sold in 2022.


German heat pump sales were also up 53%


and German "Roof-mounted [solar] installations for family homes increased by 40 percent to nearly 3 GW"


Meanwhile, Poland installed the third most solar in the EU after Germany and Spain


More from  SolarPower Europe

EU Market Outlook for Solar Power 2022 - 2026

People, individual homeowners are responding to the carbon war by getting off fossil fuels and installing renewables.  This is a response to the current war between Russia and Ukraine as well as to climate change.  It's a connection I don't see made often enough.

As with climate change, perhaps this trend will only accelerate.

See Mandatory Solar for more

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Mandatory Solar


"The installation of solar panels on the roofs of buildings is already mandatory in Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, while Berlin, Hamburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein, and Lower Saxony have adopted laws introducing the obligation as of January 1, 2023.”

"The French parliament has approved a new measure to make it mandatory for parking lots to include solar if their surface area is more than 1,500 square meters."

Tokyo, Japan

"Tokyo is mandating that all new homes in the city be built with rooftop solar panels starting in 2025."

"Three in four houseowners in Germany wish to put a solar PV array on their roofs, according to a survey commissioned by the country’s solar industry lobby group BSW Solar. One in five houseowners aims to install solar PV arrays within the next twelve months, the survey by pollster YouGov also revealed, making the solar industry confident that a 'persistent solar power boom' lies ahead for Germany. Two thirds gave rising energy prices as a their main motivation, while 40 said they were driven by climate action. About 80 percent of the over 1,000 houseowners surveyed said they could imagine simultaneously installing a power storage unit to maximise the effectiveness of their roof-mounted solar power installations.”

I doubt if the survey asked anyone whether they were going solar to parry the energy weapon Putin, for one, is now using but it does.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Have a Solar Civil Defense Christmas

 I ordered some of these as Christmas presents this year.  I tested them.  They work.  

"Solar Battery Charger AA AAA C and D

Our solar battery charger is a simple way to keep your Ni-MH or Ni-CAD batteries charged. Compatible with all sizes (AAA,AA,C and D). Simply insert the batteries and put the solar charger into the sunlight.
Batteries not included (but I’m adding them to the gifts).

At these (retail) prices, $5 or 6 billion buys entry level electricity for the poorest billion people in the world - solar energy for light, communications, and battery charging.  This is also survival solar, what we are supposed to have on hand in case of emergency or disaster.

Combining even this miniscule amount of solar with bicycles as both small generators and batteries, from AAs on down and on up through 6 volts, 12 volts all the way to the grid, an individual could conceivably have access to bare minimum electricity almost all the time in almost any situation.  Looked at from this direction, bicycles, e-bikes, and the varieties of other new personal mobility devices as well as electric vehicles could be seen as a floating network of power producers and consumers* at the same time, mobile energy storage and generation.

This is one reason why I say Solar IS Civil Defense.

We would do well to prepare for the next weather event in ways that mitigate as well as adapt to the already occurring climate changes.  We may need it quicker than we think.  

*  This energy consumer/producer concept is also happening in our buildings as net zero energy building codes are adopted.
Years of links to net zero energy examples and developments at (also available as a free quarterly links list)

We remain alert so as not to get run down, but it turns out you only have to hop a few feet to one side and the whole huge machinery rolls by, not seeing you at all.
Lew Welch

Monday, December 19, 2022

Energy as a Weapon of War: Russia, Ukraine, and Europe in Challenging Times

This Zoom event comes from Energy (and Other) Events Monthly (  I attended and am sharing my notes.  

Energy as a Weapon of War: Russia, Ukraine, and Europe in Challenging Times
Margarita M Balmaceda, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, author of Russian Energy Chains, and an Associate of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director and Fritz Stern Chair of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution
Moderators:  Elizabeth Wood and Carol Saivetz, both MIT 

Video at
A transcript will be available as well

Margarita Balmaceda:  Energy used not just as a threat but also as a temptation, a subversion by getting people “hooked” on “cheap” natural gas.  For instance, German reliance on Russian natural gas increased after the first invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2014.
[Editorial Comment:  addiction as a model of late stage capitalism (see Anne Wilson Schaef’s work) was not mentioned.]

Industry uses of natural gas as a feedstock for chemicals, steel, glass is often overlooked as we focus on “energy” and it is hardest to replace with renewables.  These companies employ 8 million workers in EU with BASF being the largest user of Russian natural gas.

There are also markets outside the EU with China and India purchasing “discounted” Russian oil.  Without taking into consideration the Global South and their reliance on Russian energy, we will not counter Russia’s “energy weapon.”

Constanze Steizenmüller:  EU response has been more united than expected.  Germany decoupling from Russian natural gas with speed and throughout the economy, using different energy sources all without reducing industrial output.  Germany, however, was not the European country most dependent on Russian energy as some Eastern European countries were close to 100% reliant on Russian gas and oil.  Popular support has been higher than expected even with higher energy prices, 66-75% support even now.  Other surprises have been the weakness of the Russian military and less support from China than was expected.

Long term:  Will Ukraine be able to hold its territory, will its allies keep supporting it to the extent needed, especially since this war has shown the allies don’t have the force and material necessary themselves.

[Editorial Comment:  The arsenal, like the proverbial cupboard, is bare?  Or just bare of what is needed for this 21st century conflict?] 

Short term:  Biden’s climate subsidies have driven a wedge between USAmerica and EU.  EU has gone back to coal and nuclear power, contrary to climate goals.

Greatest possible challenge is if China decides to support Russia fully.  That could have dramatic effects throughout the world.

MB:  Russia does not have the infrastructure to increase exports to China & India, does not have facilities for liquifying natural gas, and cannot easily pivot from Europe to the East.

CS:  We don’t know how people will react if it is a COLD winter but the resilience of popular support with higher prices and fuel cuts has been encouraging.  Not worried about this winter.  Worried about a longtime deliberate disruption across many fronts - including things like the German coup attempt.
[Editorial Comment:  COVID was not mentioned nor was climate as disruption.]

Elizabeth Wood:  How is Ukraine going to cope and how is Russian industry dealing?

MB:  Ukraine is preparing 2000 “warming centers” for this winter.  The only pipeline still flowing to Europe is the one through Ukraine.  
[Editorial Comment:  According to one questioner, there is another pipeline running to Turkey.  In addition, one of the long-time points of disagreement between Russia and Ukraine is the pipeline system, with the Russians accusing the Ukrainians of stealing from it (which may very well be warranted).]

CS:  China can’t be happy with Russia showing such military weakness. Germany is wooing non-Western “swing states” like India and others, in some cases, in competition with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

MB:  Russia can not be happy relying so much on China, economically and diplomatically.  Russia has been affected by the export bans on technology, especially in energy production.  Putin has drawn soldiers from non-Russian ethnics to avoid stressing Moscow, St Petersburg.
[Editorial Comment:  this is ethnic conflict on a variety of different levels.  The level of “racism” and prejudice is ramping up, around the world, it seems.]

Through the written q&a, the moderator, who tacked on her own question about rebuilding Ukraine back “better,” asked about the explicit use of energy efficiency/energy conservation as a weapon in this carbon and climate war.  The speakers addressed the moderator’s question more than mine which leads me to believe that the speakers have not thought as deeply as I’d like about how many edges the energy weapon actually has.

CS:  Could be “mired” in fossil fuels by this war, not reach the “ambitious” climate goals, and she believes we are stringing out the military conflict which makes both of these more probable while also losing the younger, more climate-concerned  generation.  “This war will not be over any time soon”  but it may not be in our best interests for the war to continue.

MB:  Ukraine’s ability to get away from fossil fuels will not be easy and require a lot of funding.  Estimated $16 billion to move Ukraine away from fossil fuels before the war but it will now be much more expensive.  The Just Transition Model from the G7 pre-war is a blueprint for how to move Ukraine away from coal.  Ukraine will need to rethink its place in the global economy.

CS:  We may be looking at both a Ukrainian failed state and a collapsing Russian state at the same time.  This has grave consequences for EU and the world.  A rebuilt, renovated Ukraine would be positive and could be an example for a new Russia.

MB:  Whether Ukraine wins or loses, the rot in Russia is troubling for the rest of the world.  Ukraine, if supported, may win sooner rather than later.

CS:  The war crimes of Russia far outweigh those committed by Ukraine.  Russia must pay for this and we should not be afraid of escalation as  “we already have a war with a global impact.”  Not supporting Ukraine to the end would be catastrophic.

From another questioner in the q&a: are rebuilding Ukraine. Education is our tool, sustainable development our template….!AgAEn1pbwhx7kNhgSWHlNqI2qh1Bfw?e=SXb5NJ

Please connect with us at

Friday, November 18, 2022

Environmental Demonstrations Ideas from 1970s Science Fiction

 John Brunner was a UK science fiction writer active from the 1950s through the 1990s.  Some of his work was truly prescient, mostly the four novels Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Jagged Orbit (1969), The Sheep Look Up (1972) and The Shockwave Rider (1975), where the term worm for a computer virus was coined, which have been called the "Club of Rome Quartet" because they deal with overpopulation, ecological collapse, and runaway technology.

In The Sheep Look Up (ISBN 0-345-24948-8-195), Brunner comes very close to predicting the recent Just Stop Oil traffic blockades, down to the symbol they are using, a skull and cross-bones:

Sharp on nine the Trainites [environmental protesters] had scattered caltraps in the roadway and created a monumental snarl-up twelve blocks by seven.  The fuzz, as usual, was elsewhere - there were always plenty of sympathizers willing to cause a diversion.  It was impossible to guess how many allies the movement had;  at a rough guess, though, one could say that in New York City, Chicago, Detroit, LA or San Francisco people were apt to cheer, while in the surrounding suburbs or the Midwest people were apt to go fetch guns.  In other words, they had least support in the areas which had voted for Prexy.

Next, the stalled cars had their windows opaqued with a cheap commercial compound used for etching glass, and slogans were painted on their doors.  Some were long:  THIS VEHICLE IS A DANGER TO LIFE AND LIMB.  Many were short:  IT STINKS!  But the commonest of all was the universally known catchphrase:  STOP, YOU’RE KILLING ME!

 And in every case the inscription was concluded with a rough egg-shape above a saltire - the simplified ideogrammatic version of the invariable Trainite symbol, a skull and crossbones reduced to


I've always liked the way The Sheep Look Up ends with USAmerica having declared war against an enemy it can't name which is simply all the poisons we've thrown to the winds coming back to poison us and a woman in Ireland greeting someone at the door.

Opening the door to the visiting doctor, also to apologize for the flour on her hands – she had been baking – Mrs. Byrne sniffed.  Smoke! And if she could smell it with her heavy head cold, it must be a tremendous fire!  

"We ought to call the brigade!" She exclaimed. “Is it a hayrick?”

"The brigade would have a long way to go," the doctor told her curtly."It's from America. The wind's blowing that way."

My full notes are available at 

Steve Baer was one of the hippie domebuilders back in the 1960s©™allrightsreserved working at Drop City building Zomes out of the repurposed metals roofs of scrapped automobiles.  He has also invented a series of passive solar designs and founded the company Zomeworks to produce his products and designs.  In his book, Sunspots (Albuquerque, NM:  Zomeworks Corporation, 1975, 1977) he imagined a different vision of the environmental demonstrations of the future in a story called “The Sun Riots":

A week earlier at a demonstration a large van was driven next to the crowd.  The driver, a swarthy man of about 40, opened the back doors and began passing out foot square mirrors. “Give ‘em some sunshine.”

A few dozen mirrors began playing beams of sunlight on a police car that had been dogging the rear end of the demonstration.  The officers were caught by surprise.  The driver managed to back the car down the street, but not before his partner, panicked by the glare and the rapidly rising temperature, had jumped out and run.  More and more mirrors were out in the crowd now.  The crowd glinted like a bank of crystals…

The mirror crowds are completely silent.  They move everywhere on foot.  A secretary at City Hall says, “They just looked so funny - a whole crowd of them standing just as still as could be holding onto those mirrors and then pretty soon the store across the street was burning." 

He also imagined a response by an anti-solar and energy independence government:

On the outskirts of town the helicopters wheeled and took up stationary positions - you could see the crewmen struggling with lines as the shrouds were lowered.

A large white patch of frost and snow, an island of grey and white amid greenish brown, marked their target.

It was a method of non-violent control for dissidents who were disconnecting from the power system and going solar... 

My own preference is more practical and quotidian.  The daily practice of a kind of solar swadeshi, local production, a variation on Gandhi's "soul of satyagraha."  I have one room in my rented apartment off-grid for my reading lights at night through a couple of small solar panels in one south-facing window, solar flashlights and emergency power in another south-facing window, and a little solar light and charger on my backpack that I use as a bike light. 

This is also a solar civil defense, the light, battery, and phone or radio you've supposed to have on hand in case of emergency.  

This year I'm giving solar battery chargers with rechargeable batteries as Christmas presents.  Maybe it will become a movement.

I don’t know what you’re going to do about it,

But I know what I’m going to do about it. I’m just

     going to walk away from it. Maybe

A small part of it will die if I’m not around


      feeding it anymore.

from "Chicago Poem" by Lew Welch

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Insulate Britain Was a Bargain

Insulate Britain ( is an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion which demanded that the British government fund insulation for all public housing by 2025, and, by the end of 2021, the government must create a plan to fund retrofitting of insulation of all homes in Britain by 2030. Someone estimated that it would cost £5 billion to insulate all public housing by 2025, which I’m sure was “too much” for conventional wisdom. 

Insulate Britain demonstrated for these demands by blocking major highways around the UK, a dozen or more times, starting in September 2021 through February 2022 when the group announced "with a heavy heart" that the series of protests had failed in their aim to force the government into taking action. One poll from October 2021 showed that only 18% supported the protests while 72% of those surveyed opposed the protesters' actions, with 10% that "did not know." 

Energy prices are soaring in the UK and, according to columnist Caitlin Moran, "the present UK Energy Rebate Scheme will cost £9.1 billion for just one year"

and the Guardian reports that 
"UK must insulate homes or face a worse energy crisis in 2023, say experts 
Cutting heat loss from houses will be more effective in the long term than subsidising bills, according to analysis" 

 Looks like Insulate Britain was offering a bargain. 

Addendum: Other groups like Home Energy Efficiency Team [HEET] have done (and do) weatherization parties ( while back in the 1970s I was part of a group which did solar barnraisings ( 

 Incidentally, HEET has gone on to pioneer geothermal energy microgrids as a replacement for natural gas (

There is such a thing as positive protest too.

Saturday, September 03, 2022

Energy as a System, Systems as Synergy

 MIT has designed a program which maximizes the production of wind farms by operating the wind farm as a system, not individual wind turbines.  Reducing downwind turbulence within the whole wind farm can increase energy production by 1.2% to 3%, a result validated by field trials in working wind farms.


When you think of these things as systems, there are previously hidden benefits that become apparent. When you don't, you have the present situation and BAU forever and ever amen.

Another example, from Edwin Black's book, Internal Combustion:  How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives (NY:  St Martin's Press, 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-35907-2), about the Milwaukee Road, an electric rail system and the advantages thereof: 

"Sometimes electrified railways seemed to defy the laws of perpetual motion. For example, when the brakes were applied or the train traveled down a slope, the engine actually returned electricity to the grid. Regenerative braking and similar power returns helped the engines pay for themselves. In some mountain ranges, if timed correctly, a heavy downhill train could actually regenerate enough electricity to the grid to power another train passing it uphill. Thus both trains would travel in a minuet of seemingly energy-free motion. That might have seemed to violate the laws of physics, but not the rules of General Electric's wondrous workhorses, which were designed to observe this maxim: It is better to give than receive when it comes to electrical power. Those engines lasted not for years but for decades. Their endurance was measured in millions of miles. They were monumental vehicles that created economic prosperity and environmental balance everywhere they rolled."

Regenerative braking on electric trains is a technology that is over a century old and coming back to the fore, both on railways and with trucks.

Yet, thinking in systems is hard for most of us.

Donella Meadows' Guidelines for Living in a World of Systems [my comments] may help:

Get the beat of the system. [music and dance]
Expose your mental models to the light of day.
Honor, respect, and distribute information.
Use language with care and enrich it with systems concepts.
Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. [system failure is too often the first clue to what’s important]
Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
Go for the good of the whole. [Sarvodaya, a concept from Gandhian economics*]
Listen to the wisdom of the system.
Locate responsibility within the system.
Stay humble - stay a learner.
Celebrate complexity. [and recognize simplicity]
Expand time horizons.
Defy the disciplines.
Expand the boundary of caring.
Don't erode the goal of goodness.

More in my notes to Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems at

* Sarvodaya, Swaraj, and Swadeshi
Part of a series of Notes on Gandhian Economics

As for getting the beat of the system, here are roughly detailed plans for 145 countries to go 100% renewable by 2035 or earlier from Mark Z Jacobson et alia: [pdf alert]

According to this carbon countdown clock (, at the current rate, the most CO2 we can emit to stay below 1.5ºC rise is 400 Gt, starting from 2020, and that carbon budget will be used up by about July/August 2029. 

We are at 290 Gts carbon budget left as I write [September 3, 2022]

Would be good to run the thought experiment of 100% renewable by that climate deadline, July/August 2029, now that we have the model for one by 2035.

That seems to me to be the beat of this system.  Imagine 100% renewable by summer 2029 and backcast from there to see what we have to do today, and all the other todays from now to then if we want a more livable planet.

Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviors that will avoid extinction.  
R. Buckminster Fuller

We don’t have much time and should get cracking.