In yet another record-breaking year, the solar industry in the United States installed 7,286 megawatts of solar PV in 2015. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association announced the historic figures today ahead of the March 9 release of the U.S. Solar Market Insight report.
FIGURE: U.S. Solar PV Installations, 2000-2015
For the first time ever, solar beat out natural-gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.5 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. in 2015.
Led by California, North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts and New York, the U.S. solar market experienced a year-over-year growth rate of 17 percent. Geographically, the market continues to diversify with 13 states installing more than 100 megawatts each in 2015. States that made major solar strides include Utah, which jumped in the rankings from 23rd to 7th place, and Georgia, which moved from 16th to 8th in the nation.
FIGURE: Ranking States by Annual PV Installations
The residential solar market grew 66 percent year-over-year and, for the first time in history, eclipsed the 2-gigawatt mark. The residential solar segment now represents 29 percent of the entire U.S. solar market — its largest share since 2009.
FIGURE: Share of U.S. PV Installations by Segment, 2000-2015
“Without a doubt, 2015 was a monumental year for the U.S. solar industry, and perhaps what’s most amazing is that we’re only getting started,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “Over the next few years, we’re going to see solar continue to reach unprecedented heights as our nation makes a shift toward a carbon-free source of energy that also serves as an economic job-creating engine.”
“The U.S. solar market remains concentrated in key states, with the top 10 states accounting for 87 percent of installed capacity in 2015,” said Shayle Kann, senior vice president of GTM Research. “But growth has been widespread, and 24 of the 35 states that we track saw market growth in 2015.”
On March 9, GTM Research and SEIA will release the complete U.S. Solar Market Insight2015 Year in Review with detailed market analysis and updated forecasts.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — The Nigerian and Saudi leaders yesterday supported efforts to stabilise the oil market but Africa’s top producer did not commit to a production freeze.
After talks in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Saudi King Salman “committed themselves to doing all that is possible to stabilise the market and rebound the oil price,” Buhari’s office said in a statement.
Buhari was in Riyadh a week after Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar agreed at talks in Doha to freeze production at January levels in a bid to stem the dramatic fall in oil prices.
The agreement is conditional on other major producers joining in, as oil heavyweights seek to ensure others not to take advantage of output limits to win market share.
The statement after yesterday’s talks made no mention of Nigeria joining the freeze but analysts say the OPEC member is likely to eventually support the move.
Saudi Press Agency also reported that talks between Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi deputy oil minister, and his Nigerian counterpart, junior oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, focused on “the best way for (market) stability” and “the cooperation of producing countries inside and outside OPEC” to achieve this.
Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries had been refusing to limit or reduce production, leading to a supply glut that has seen prices fall by 70 per cent since mid-2014.
Poorer OPEC members, including Nigeria, have been hard hit by the price drop but even the wealthy Gulf states have been forced to adopt austerity measures to cope with falling oil revenues.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them voice their support to the freeze agreed in Doha,” Abhishek Deshpande, lead oil market analyst at Natixis in London, said of Nigeria.
But he said that unless Iraq and Iran also commit to limit production such talks “carry very little weight”.
The two countries are OPEC’s second- and third-largest producers.
Iran, returning to world markets as sanctions are lifted under its nuclear deal, has insisted on boosting production to pre-sanctions levels.
“Some neighbouring countries have increased their production over the years to 10 million barrels per day and export this amount, then say let’s all freeze our oil production,” Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said yesterday.
“They freeze production at 10 million bpd and we freeze at 1 million bpd. This is a very funny joke.”
Saxo Bank analyst Christopher Dembik told
AFP that Nigeria’s position is “a bit ambiguous,” supporting the mooted freeze but at the same time wanting to increase its production to respond to domestic market needs.
Nigeria could be crucial
“In the longer term, there is no reason why the country won’t align itself with the position of Saudi Arabia and Russia,” Dembik said.
Nigeria and Saudi Arabia would also discuss their position towards Iran and Iraq, he added.
“Nigeria could have a crucial role in this respect because of its measured position” that Iran and Iraq should elevate their production before envisaging freezes, Dembik said.
“It is probable, then, that Nigeria meanwhile establishes a bridge for negotiations, notably between Riyadh and Tehran.”
According to OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report, Iraq produces about 4.4 million barrels a day, followed by Iran at more than 2.9 million.
Saudi Arabia’s output is close to 10.1 million barrels a day, according to January data.
Kachikwu, who is head of Nigeria’s state-run oil firm, also discussed joint oil and gas investments during his meeting with Abdulaziz, SPA reported.
Oil prices nudged higher Tuesday as the two OPEC members met.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in April was up one cent at US$33.40 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for April rose 18 cents to US$34.87 compared with Monday’s close.
After the Saudi visit, the Nigerian delegation was to travel to Qatar for more oil talks.
The more efficient the solar panel, the less space used.
Solar giant SunPower announced on Monday that it can now make a solar panel that can convert 22.8% of the sunlight that hits it into electricity. According to SunPower, that’s a new world record.
The efficiency of solar panels is an important metric to both solar companies and to its customers. When panels are more efficient it mean that rooftops can be covered in fewer efficient panels, which use less materials, but that can generate the same amount of energy as more less-efficient panels.
SunPower says its highly efficient panels can generate 70% more energy in the same space over the first 25 years, compared to less efficient panels. Many solar panels are somewhere between 15% and 18% efficient. SunPower and others have been working to boost the efficiency of panels using material science and optics tech innovations.
Solar companies are in a battle to boost the efficiency of their panels and tout new records. SunPower SPWR -5.85% says its 22.8% solar panel was verified by the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Last year, SolarCity claimed that it had started making its own highly efficient panels, with an efficiency that “exceeded 22%,” verified by the Renewable Energy Test Center (which isn’t one of the more commonly used verification labs). But SolarCity’s SCTY -5.92% solar panels were also planned to be made in small volumes on a pilot solar panel manufacturing line in Fremont, Calif.
Creating solar panel efficiency breakthroughs in the lab or on a small scale, is far easier than making those efficient panels in very large volumes. But SunPower says the average efficiency of its solar cells (which make up panels) at the end of last year was close to 23%.
SunPower’s stock was up over 3% in morning trading to $21.84. Oil giant Total owns 66% of the Richmond, Calif.-based SunPower.
Last week SunPower announced fourth quarter and year 2015 earnings. SunPower says it generated $1.58 billion in revenue in 2015, with an annual loss of $299.44 million. The company was profitable on an annual basis in 2014 and 2013.
Check out Fortune’s recent interview with SunPower CEO Tom Werner.
Jamaica is, in the coming months, to assess the global climate deal brokered in Paris last December, before putting its final seal on it.
The first order of business, according to Colonel Oral Khan, chief technical director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, is to educate stakeholders.
“We are at the stage now of sensitising everybody, and some internal sensitisation has taken place. We have [also] been in the media and will be rolling it out to the public as well, so they get to understand what the agreement is about – what obligations it places on us and on other countries,” he told The Gleaner.
Thereafter, Khan said, “We will be taking steps, as soon as Cabinet gives direction, to ensure we can sign on to the agreement when it opens up later this year.”
A part of that ratification process will be a full assessment of the deal, which is currently captured in a 32-page document.
“There is a whole process of review [that will have to be done]. The attorney general [for example] will need to read the document to see what the Government will be bound by, to ensure that those things are things we want to be bound by, and also [to look at] the implications,” he noted.
Albert Daley, head of the Climate Change Division, attested to the work ahead, while emphasising the need to have the document thoroughly assessed.
“For this agreement, all the factors that affect any one area are not found in any one section. For example, there is one section that deals with mitigation and the general issues surrounding mitigation will be reflected there. But there is also a section on finance, and there is a link between mitigation and finance,” he explained.
“So one has to look through the entire document to understand what each section is saying about the other and to get an overall sense of what are the implications of the agreement in the various areas,” Daley added.
As such, in addition to a post-Paris meeting to be held towards the end of this month, he said the plan is to engage one-on-one with groups of actors.
Now that solar power is reaching prime time, the fossil fuel industry is doing all that it can to stop its growth.
For many years solar was on the periphery, installed by early adopters and helped along by government subsidy. But over the last several years, solar has emphatically become mainstream. It is still growing from a low base, but it is now one of the most preferred sources of new electricity generation. The cost of residential solar have been cut in half since 2010, and utility-scale solar has achieved even greater cost declines.
In 2015, the U.S. saw 16 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity installed, which accounted for two-thirds of the total. Solar alone accounted for about one-third of new capacity last year. Natural gas only captured 25 percent of the newly installed capacity despite several years of incredibly low prices. The banner year for clean energy occurred while 11 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity came offline as old plants were retired amid rising costs and stricter environmental regulation. The clean energy transition is very much underway.
Oil powerhouses Russia and Saudi Arabia joined Qatar and Venezuela in pledging Tuesday to cap their crude output if other producers do the same, aiming to halt a slide that has pushed oil prices to their lowest point in more than a decade.
The decision followed an unexpected closed-door meeting involving the four countries in the Qatari capital, Doha, and reflects growing concern among big producers about the effects the slump poses to their domestic economies.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in a statement issued after the meeting that the four countries would be ready to cap production based on last month’s output levels if others join.
“We are ready to maintain, on average in 2016, the level of oil production of January 2016 and not exceed it,” he said in a subsequent statement.
Whether the plan is enough to put a floor under prices is uncertain. The proposal depends on cooperation from a range of producers with differing budget priorities all scrambling for market share since prices began falling in summer 2014.
Among the hardest to bring on board will likely be Iran. It was noticeably absent from Tuesday’s gathering even though it shares control of a major underwater natural gasfield with fellow OPEC member Qatar.
Iran is eager to ramp up its exports now that sanctions related to its nuclear programme have been lifted, saying recently it aims to put another 500,000 barrels a day on the market. Figures from the International Energy Agency show that it pumped 2.9 million barrels daily in December, before sanctions were lifted.
Iran’s petroleum minister, Bijar Namdar Zangeneh, signalLed the Islamic Republic has no intention of giving up its share of the market. He acknowledged that global markets are “oversupplied,” but said Iran “will not overlook its quota,” according to comments carried by his ministry’s Shana news service.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio Del Pino heads to Tehran next for talks with his Iranian and Iraqi counterparts today, Wednesday.
“The key OPEC members that need to take part are Iran and Iraq, where the big increases are likely this year, but there are big doubts over whether this can be achieved,” Barclays analysts Miswin Mahesh and Kevin Norrish said in a research note.
Efforts to make the plan work are complicated by deep levels of distrust between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has built close ties to Iraq’s government in the years since the 2003 US-led invasion.
The two countries are in opposing camps in regional disputes from Yemen to Syria. Last month, Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Shiite powerhouse Iran after the Saudi embassy and a consulate were torched by Iranian protesters angry over the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said producers would continue to assess the state of the market in the months ahead. He described freezing output at January levels as an “adequate” step for now.
All of the countries at Tuesday’s meeting, except Russia, are part of OPEC. Saudi Arabia dominates policymaking within the 13-member bloc of oil-producing countries, which has refused to cut its official production targets. Doing so could bolster faltering prices.
The aim of OPEC’s keep-pumping strategy has been to attempt to ride out the 12-year lows in prices and force higher-cost producers, including shale drillers in the US, out of the market.
The bloc collectively pumped 39 million barrels of crude and natural gas liquids a day in December, or about two out of every five barrels globally. Russia pumps around 11 million barrels a day.
After rising soon after the meeting, a barrel of benchmark New York crude was trading down 35 cents at US$29.09 by midmorning in New York. A barrel of Brent, the international standard, fell 59 cents to US$33.42.
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) says it is unable to definitively state how the use of both automotive diesel oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the Bogue power plant in St James will impact the price of electricity to consumers.
It said the power plant currently burns on automotive diesel oil “and we are doing a conversion that adds the capability to also burn natural gas. So we will end up with the ability to burn both fuels at no extra cost”.
Responding to Wednesday Business queries about the rationale for the dual-fuel facility, the JPS said natural gas will be the primary fuel on which the plant operates and automotive diesel oil will be a back-up fuel “in case we have any problems with receiving natural gas”.
It added that under normal conditions, the plant will effectively be a gas-fired power plant.
As to how it will impact the price of electricity the JPS said in emailed responses that “we cannot speak to the likely impact on electricity prices given the uncertainty of prices in the future (for oil vs LNG)”.
However, it said that the impact is expected to be negligible given that Bogue only represents approximately 10 per cent of the company’s total costs.
“What we can say with fairly good certainty is that the cost of electricity today is 30 per cent lower than it was one year ago, and we expect that trend to continue throughout 2016, given that 80 per cent of our net generation (production) will still be based on oil, 10 per cent will be from natural gas, and we expect renewables to make up 10 per cent of our net generation once the three renewable energy projects currently under construction (for circa 80 megwatts) are completed before the end of 2016.”
The JPS, an integrated electric utility company and the sole distributor of electricity in Jamaica, added that “that means we continue doing a good job as a country of increasing the penetration of renewable, while also diversifying our fuel mix and reducing our overexposure to oil”.
It said that it is hoping to continue doing more of that through the 37 megawatts of renewables currently being pursued by the Office of Utilities Regulation through a request for proposal, as well as its 190 megawatt gas-fired power plant that will be commissioned in mid-2018.
Reducing the cost of electricity is critical to improve competitiveness, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest updated memorandum of economic and financial policies.
It said that the action plan prepared by the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team foresees replacing current oil-fired generation capacity with gas, coal and ethane-fired plants to achieve significant cost savings.
Next steps will include the conversion of the Bogue power station from oil to gas, a process which the JPS is currently undertaking.
In addition, said the memorandum, the Government has approved the construction of Jamaica’s first natural gas-fired power plant, a 190-megawatt facility to be built and operated by JPS, and to be completed by 2018. Several renewable energy projects are also under way.
The Government said it will prepare a plan to ensure that all public entities – central government, local government and public bodies – meet their financial obligations in a timely manner.
In the memorandum, the Government also pointed out that urgent actions will be taken to reduce the time needed for entrepreneurs to get an electricity connection. Plans foresee the automation of the work processes within the government electrical regulator and the acquisition of an Application Management and Data Automation (AMANDA) software to streamline procedures for scheduling, inspecting, approving and certifying electrical installations.
An action plan for implementation of the reforms and adoption of the AMANDA system are expected to be completed in fiscal year 2016/17, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Light distributor Jamaica Public Service (JPS) has reported a 24 per cent jump in annual profits, increasing from US$23 million in financial year 2014 to US$28.6 million for 2015.
The increase in profits came despite a 54 per cent decline on year-on-year net profits for the December period, with the quarter closing at US$4.87 million ($589 million), compared to almost US$10.5 million for the same quarter in 2014.
The decline in net profit was led by a US$47.6 million dip in revenues as oil which fuels most of JPS power stations continues to trend downward and the consistent passing of the reduced rates on customer’s electricity bills, according to just released data.
Revenue for the three-month period ending December 2015 was US$176.7 million, compared with US$224.3 million a year earlier.
“It’s really great to have lower prices, yes, but what’s not great is for them to go up and down. So we’ve worked on how we do create a more sustainable environment that doesn’t have that volatility. I have to say that the one that’s right here, right now is the Bogue project,” JPS CEO Kelly Tomblin stated at a press conference earlier this month.
“The other thing that will help with this problem is an integrated resource plan (IRP), which will help us in determining what resource and where will best support sustainability and most of all affordability,” she added.
Consumer electricity rates are currently at a five-year low.
Despite seeing significant declines in net profit, JPS expressed some satisfaction with the quality of service being provided to consumers which trended upwards at 70 per cent in 2015.
JPS saw one of its lowest satisfaction rates back in 2012 at 22 per cent; however, Tomblin is encouraged by the growth in customer satisfaction and plans on implementing 10 initiatives geared towards continued growth in customer service.
“You can see how customer satisfaction has grown; it’s almost at 70 per cent. We are not happy with that but we have worked very hard to say to our customers we appreciate you and we want to be in a different conversation,” she said.
Senior vice-president for energy delivery and technology, Gary Barrow, noted that the company has already seen a 30.3 per cent decrease in the frequency of outages when compared with the previous year. The company also noted that it is working on the Government of Jamaica to improve payment for street lights, as it moves to implement LED lighting over the next five years.
Throughout 2016, JPS plans on completing the conversion of the Bogue power plant, while partaking in initiatives to lead in a ‘clean and green’ Jamaica. Additionally, the company has started the process of implementing advance smart grid, proliferate prepaid meters, improving customer engagement, and the implementation of the JPS mobile application.
JPS also plans on connecting 10 new communities during the year.
Warmer and wetter conditions facilitate transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, which may have added to spread, says lead climate change scientist
The outbreak of Zika virus in Central and South America is of immediate concern to pregnant women in the region, but for some experts the situation is a glimpse of the sort of public health threats that will unfold due to climate change.
“Zika is the kind of thing we’ve been ranting about for 20 years,” said Daniel Brooks, a biologist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “We should’ve anticipated it. Whenever the planet has faced a major climate change event, man-made or not, species have moved around and their pathogens have come into contact with species with no resistance.”
It’s still not clear what role rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns have had on the spread of Zika, which is mainly spread by mosquitos; the increased global movement of people is probably as great an influence as climate change for the spread of infectious diseases. But the World Health Organization, whichdeclared a public health emergency over the birth defects linked to Zika, is clear that changes in climate mean a redrawn landscape for vector and water-borne diseases.
According to WHO, a global temperature rise of 2-3C will increase the number of people at risk of malaria by around 3-5%, which equates to several hundred million. In areas where malaria is already endemic, the seasonal duration of malaria is likely to lengthen. Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries Zika and other diseases, is expected to thrive in warmer conditions.
As climate change reaches almost every corner of the Earth’s ecology, different diseases could be unleashed. Increased precipitation will create more pools of standing water for mosquitos, risking malaria and rift valley fever. Deforestation and agricultural intensification also heightens malaria risk while ocean warming, driven by the vast amounts of heat being sucked up by the oceans, can cause toxic algal blooms that can lead to infections in humans.
“We know that warmer and wetter conditions facilitate the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases so it’s plausible that climate conditions have added the spread of Zika,” said Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a lead scientist on climate change at WHO.
“Infectious agents in water will proliferate with more flooding. It’s clear that we need to strengthen our surveillance and response to a range of diseases. Globalization, the movement of people, is an important factor too. In a world where we are disrupting the climate system we’ll have to pay the price for that.”
WHO estimates that an additional 250,000 people will die due to climate change impacts – ranging from heat stress to disease – by 2050, but Campbell-Lendrum said this is a “conservative estimate”.
“It is based on optimistic assumptions that the world will get richer and we’ll get better at treating these diseases,” he said. “We do need to get better at controlling diseases at their source and we do need to drive down greenhouse gases because there is a limit to our adaption. By moving to cleaner energy sources we will also help relieve one of the largest health burdens we have, which is the air pollution that kills seven million people a year.”
Until now, efforts to push back the threat of infectious diseases has been successful. Malaria, for example, used to be found in the New York area – and there is evidence to suggest it was once present in southern England; much earlier, the Romans used to retreat to the hills at certain times of the year to avoid mosquitos carrying the disease. Vaccines have been developed for a range of diseases including, belatedly, Ebola.
The eradication of threats like these makes wealthy western countries fret over outbreaks like Zika. As the world warms, there may be a lack of preparation for other diseases not currently considered threats.
“This is likely to become an equal opportunity crisis,” said Brooks. “The developing, poorer countries are impacted disproportionately but they deal with these diseases all the time, they are not surprised by them. But in Europe and North America, people have lived in a bubble where we think our wealth and technology can protect us from climate change. And that’s not true.
“The thing that worries me most is a death by a thousand cuts. I don’t think an Andromeda strain will wipe out all humans. But the amount of time, money and effort needed to combat these many different problems can overwhelm a healthcare system.”
So which climate-fueled diseases are likely to pop up next? Some experts believe that water-borne diseases could escalate, which would have significant consequences for countries such as Bangladesh – a low-lying nation with plenty of rivers that has a public health system already struggling to meet its population’s current needs.
“There’s not nearly enough attention paid to diseases that cause diarrhea, crypto spiridium, Hepatitis A,” said Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician at Harvard Medical School.
“We’ve seen outbreaks of these diseases in the past due to extreme precipitation. The build environment we live in wasn’t designed for the climate we will soon be living in; when you consider half the world’s waterways have been engineered by man, they won’t be able to contain the extra water that will flood them.
“Flooding will certainly lead to mosquito-borne diseases but also cause water-borne diseases and also a lack of drinking water. People in Asia and Africa, particularly those living on the coast, will be very vulnerable, climate change could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of public health.”
Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) said it wrote off $100 million in debt owed by residential and commercial customers for electricity under its year-end amnesty programme.
It offered customers the opportunity to start the new year at least partially debt free.
The power utility also said it continues to work with the Government, through the Ministry of Finance, to ensure payment for street lights on a timely basis.
In introducing the amnesty, which ran from November to December 2015, JPS said it had identified critical cases where some of its customers’ debts to the light and power provider had accumulated so significantly over time that they had been classified as bad debt.
However, for customers who wanted to regularise their accounts and in some cases restore their electricity, JPS gave residential rate 10 and commercial rate 20 customers an opportunity to negotiate up to 70 per cent debt forgiveness.
Persons qualified to apply were those owing in excess of $50,000 at August 2015 and had their service disconnected; as well as residential and small commercial customers who owed more than $100,000 up to August, but whose accounts were still active.
Last Friday, JPS President and Chief Executive Officer Kelly Tomblin, addressing a media briefing at the company’s offices in New Kingston, said more than 1,000 account holders benefited from the amnesty.
As for the issue of defective street lights, Tomblin said repairs were ongoing, while acknowledging that the utility got daily complaints.
JPS has about 100,000 street lights and last year the company replaced 27,700 of them, an average of 514 per week.
“We are replacing street lights, hundreds and hundreds every week, so it’s not that JPS isn’t aware…”, she said.
Against that background, Tomblin said: “There are two things that are going on that we have to fix.
“We are working with the Government right now to find a way for us to get paid more promptly,” she said. “I have a commitment by the minister of finance. We work with him all the time. We all know that we have a lot of different obligations and a lot of different challenges to meet and we do know today that we are working on solutions to run our street lights on, for instance, LED.”
At the same time, she said the company has to be careful how much it invests in the current solution “if we are going to have this three to four year plan to replace them.”
She acknowledged the issue is, for some, one of security, but said the street light problem is compounded by theft.
“With the level of electricity theft, we will never have first-class street lights … we cannot have street lights operating if we have a couple of hundred people stealing,” the utility boss said.
JPS is manager of the national grid and monopoly distributor of electricity supplies. The utility collects around $100 billion per year in billings.