To help further support the affected communities please donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal and help us build a better, cleaner, stronger and more sustainable Caribbean region.
Paris, FRANCE — Caribbean leaders yesterday announced the launch of a new public-private coalition to create the world’s first “climate-smart zone” in the region, which is still reeling from the unprecedented devastation wrought by recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Supported by funding and resources from the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the World Bank Group and the Caribbean Development Bank, the voluntary coalition comprises governments, regional and global public institutions, business and civil society working together to adopt and scale novel approaches to climate-smart infrastructure. With an estimated budget of US$6m – US$10m for a three-year period, it is being established to catalyse billions more public and private resources.
It aims to find a way to break through the systemic obstacles that stop finance flowing to climate-smart investments to bring greater energy and infrastructure resilience to communities across the region as the likelihood of future extreme weather events increases.
The announcement came at the One Planet Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, to review progress made on the Paris Agreement adopted by governments two years ago, yesterday.
The coalition’s charter says: “We seize this moment in 2017 to reject business-as-usual approaches and to envision a better future for the planet in which Caribbean nations and their peoples may prosper and thrive in the face of climate change, by implementing their own commitments with the help of partners while serving as global exemplars and path-finders for action needed by the global community.”
Coalition members will help to establish partnerships that can make investment deals happen. They will also bring their collective abilities together to break down the technological and financial barriers which represent the last obstacles to Caribbean people grasping the transformational opportunities that are in reach.
Specifically, the coalition’s work will focus on catalysing four initial critical priorities:
• Build low-carbon and resilient infrastructure, including nature-based approaches, to better withstand future extreme weather events.
• Create innovative financing models such as a debt-for-resilience swap initiative in exchange for demonstrated progress on policy reforms, and investments to strengthen resilience and promote climate-smart growth pathways. Build platforms to help facilitate the large public and private investments required.
• Strengthen the capacity of Caribbean countries and key regional institutions to plan for long-term resilience and climate- smart growth strategies.
“Caribbean leaders have come together as a powerful collective to build a better future for the people of the Caribbean. We welcome the financial commitments from our partners – around US$1.3 billion for recovery efforts and US$2.8 billion toward the vision shared by all members of the coalition and others. This is a great first step,” said prime minister of Grenada and Chair of Caricom, Keith Mitchell.
“Now we need to turn this possibility into a set of realities that benefit all our people. We all need to work together to change the rules of the game to accelerate climate-smart financial flows for the Caribbean and other small island developing states. Together we can build thriving economies fuelled by clean energy, nature-based resilient design and innovation. The time for action is now,” he said.
Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit said: “Despite the immense human suffering and economic damage caused by the recent hurricanes, the people of the Caribbean do not want to be just passive victims of climate change. Rather, they want to be active participants in designing and implementing solutions, and for their Caribbean region to serve as a beacon of hope for island nations all over the world.”
Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, put things squarely into perspective.
“The next hurricane season is only six months away, so achieving climate-smart and resilient development for the Caribbean is critical,” he said.
“Affected individuals are the focus of the $5-billion recovery process, but this effort will only be successful if it involves the private sector, civil society and governments at all levels working together for a more resilient Caribbean. Last month, close to US$2.5 billion was pledged at a conference co-organised by Caricom and UNDP for recovery and resilience in the Caribbean, and it is our objective to facilitate joint efforts with the work of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition.”
Luis Alberto Moreno, Inter-American Development Bank Group president, said: “The IDB Group reaffirms its continued and historical commitment to the Caribbean, and will work with leaders of the region to improve lives by creating climate-smart and vibrant economies where people are safe, productive, and happy. We hope that through this [Caribbean] Climate Smart Coalition, in addition to offering new affordable financing, we will use our wide physical presence on the ground to work closely with the people of the region to design their Caribbean of the future, today.”
Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group president, said: “The Caribbean is in the ‘eye of the storm’, and we need coordinated international support to rebuild and better plan for the future. At the World Bank Group, we welcome the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition and plan to support it so countries get back on their feet and are better able to deal with the growing frequency and intensity of storms and hurricanes.”
Warren Smith, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, said: “The destruction our region experienced during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season emphasises that we cannot afford to take a business-as-usual approach in tackling climate change. CDB therefore welcomes the establishment of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Coalition. The bank shares the vision of the coalition, and we look forward to supporting and investing in solutions to accelerate progress towards achieving this goal.
Comments also came from Sir Richard Branson, founder — Virgin Group; THE RISE Fund; Mary Robinson, chair of the Mary Robinson Foundation on Climate Justice; and Allen Chastanet, prime minister of St Lucia.
“Ultimately, we will only win the battle on climate change when investments in climate action and broader resilience become the economically sensible decision to make every time,” Chastanet said.
“It’s not just about protecting against negative impacts — climate action needs to be about enhancing competitiveness, creating jobs, improving our economies. Otherwise, our people cannot make the sacrifices needed. I’m pleased by the level of support from our coalition partners and others. But I’m excited about the possibility for the Caribbean to incubate new powerful ideas and accelerate their implementation.”
The charter has been adopted by Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands, and US Virgin Islands.
Hot off the presses, a new report released today by SEIA, The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180 shows vast growth in solar on K-12 schools in the United States. Solar capacity on our country’s schools has nearly doubled since the last version of this report in 2014, with 5,489 K-12 schools now powered by solar, totaling nearly 1,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity.
It’s no secret that many American schools are underfunded and classrooms often lack necessary resources for students to learn. Well, with the cost to install solar plummeting, schools are making the switch and seeing their electricity bills shrink, freeing up funds to use to strengthen what schools are here to do, which is teach our nation’s children.
The cost of a solar school installation pops off the page in this report, dropping 67% in the last decade and 19% last year alone. The result is a boom in installations allowing 4 million students in the United States to receive their education in a school powered by solar.
“There’s a reason solar is spreading so quickly across America’s school districts, and it’s pretty simple — when schools go solar, the entire community benefits,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO.
These 5,000+ schools are running with much lower electricity bills, and those savings can go toward higher pay for our nation’s teachers, school supplies, textbooks and other essential resources. An investment in solar on a school is a direct investment in that community. Plus, what could be better than a science and conservation lesson right on the school grounds?
“When schools go solar, the entire community benefits.” – SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper
California schools lead the way in solar adoption with nearly 2,000 schools making the switch. But it’s notable that other states have picked up the pace including New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and New York. These states are setting an example and laying the groundwork for other states to follow.
When a school goes solar and cuts their energy costs, that puts investment back into what matters most: the students. Learn more about the report here and see if your community’s school has made the smart choice to invest in their community and go solar.
Utilities that need to build new power generation facilities or replace old ones are going to have a hard time justifying anything but renewable energy in 2017 and beyond. Investment bank Lazard recently released its 11th analysis of the cost of new electricity generation, titled Lazard’s Levelized Cost Of Energy Analysis–Version 11.0, and showed that wind and solar energy are now cheaper than diesel, nuclear, coal, and in most cases natural gas.
Utilities and regulators are going to be hard-pressed to justify anything but renewable energy generation in the future. From Maine to Hawaii, the U.S.’s energy future is renewable.
The table below shows Lazard’s analysis of the cost, on a per kWh basis, to build new power plants with different fuel sources and technologies. You can see that the lowest cost option is wind at 3 cents per kWh, followed by gas combined cycle that’s as cheap as 4.2 cents per kWh, and solar, which costs between 4.3 cents and 5.3 cents per kWh.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.6 cents per kWh||5.3 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||4.3 cents per kWh||4.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||3 cents per kWh||6 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6 cents per kWh||14.3 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||4.2 cents per kWh||7.8 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||12.2 cents per kWh||18.3 cents per kWh|
|Diesel||19.7 cents per kWh||28.1 cents per kWh|
What you’ll also notice is that the range of costs is much wider for fossil fuels like natural gas. That’s because construction costs can be different depending on the state, fuel prices, and how often the plant is being used. Renewable energy, on the other hand, gets to cut to the front of the line on the grid, meaning nearly 100% of its electricity production is used, allowing for predictable electricity pricing.
What’s clear is that diesel, nuclear, and coal are all higher cost than both wind and solar energy on a per kWh basis. No matter how you slice it, renewable energy is winning versus fossil fuels on economics.
I’ll also point out that there’s no fuel cost risk for renewable energy. The wind and sun are zero-cost fuel sources, unlike extracted fuels, which could conceivably spike from current levels.
It wasn’t long ago that Lazard’s analysis wasn’t so favorable to renewable energy. In 2010, version 4.0 of Lazard’s levelized cost of energy study had wind costs at 6.5-11.0 cents per kWh and solar at 13.4-19.4 cents per kWh. Natural gas, coal, and nuclear all beat solar on a cost basis, and in some cases beat wind.
|Energy source||Low-End Estimate||High-End Estimate|
|Crystalline Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||15.4 cents per kWh|
|Thin-Film Utility-Scale Solar PV||13.4 cents per kWh||18.8 cents per kWh|
|Wind||6.5 cents per kWh||11.0 cents per kWh|
|Coal||6.9 cents per kWh||15.2 cents per kWh|
|Natural Gas Combined Cycle||6.7 cents per kWh||9.6 cents per kWh|
|Nuclear||7.7 cents per kWh||11.4 cents per kWh|
Clearly, the tides have shifted in the energy industry. Fossil fuels is at best flat and in some cases getting more expensive, while renewable energy costs are coming down every year. There’s no indication these trends will reverse course, and investors need to consider whether they’re using renewable energy’s growth as a tailwind for their portfolio or fighting the clear trends in energy. If these charts are any indication, fossil fuels’ days may be numbered.
Bonn, Germany, 10 Nov 2017 – Leaders from a wide range of sectors came together on Friday at Energy Day at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn to announce a new set of initiatives to transition to renewable energy and to show that more ambitious clean energy development can quickly become a bigger part of national climate plans submitted under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
“With the price of renewable and storage technologies tumbling, and greater understanding on how to set the policy table for a cleaner energy mix and more integrated energy planning, the question before decision makers is, why wait?” said Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and CEO, Sustainable Energy for All.
Success stories, action and new commitments shared during Energy Day at the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference from businesses, states, cities and forward-thinking countries continue to show ambition to ensure the clean energy transition is not only underway but is irreversible.
“Our pledge to leave no one behind is a critical component of the Paris Agreement. The energy transition that we can see is underway and must be a transition towards energy systems around the world that secure sustainable energy for all,” said Ms Kyte.
“This means placing energy efficiency first, adopting a laser like focus on ending energy poverty and using the renewable energy revolution to achieve universal access and a bending of the emissions curve. With each year, each COP, the health and economic impacts of carbon pollution are better documented and the science of what awaits us, if we continue on our current path, mounts,” she said.
Adnan Z. Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Director-General said: “Two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from energy production and use, which puts the energy sector front and centre of global efforts to combat climate change. Our analysis shows that renewables and energy efficiency can together provide over 90 per cent of the mitigation needed in the energy system by 2050 to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement, while also boosting the economy, creating jobs and improving human health and well-being.”
“We have a large, untapped, and affordable renewable energy potential waiting to be developed. Revising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) gives countries an opportunity to take a fresh look at how to harvest this potential, not only for mitigation, but in light of the multiple socio-economic benefits of renewables, also for adaptation,” said Mr Amin.
Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director, said: “The transition of the energy sector in the next decades will be critical to meeting shared climate and sustainable development goals. Widespread action by governments and private sector alike has helped keep global energy-related emissions flat the last three years. Our analysis shows we can meet climate goals while achieving energy access and improving the environment.”
The central goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress much further and faster with the global clean energy transformation.
Energy Day is organized by The Climate Group, IEA, IRENA and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) as part of a series of thematic action days held under the auspices of the Marrakech Partnership.
The global community has coalesced around the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, one of which is to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible. The longer we delay the peak — the point when global emissions switch from increasing to decreasing — the more difficult it will be to limit global warming. Yet global GHG emissions are still rising and are expected to continue to climb through 2030.
The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline — especially those of major emitters like the United States and China — is critically important in determining whether we can avoid the most dangerous climate impacts.
Although the timing of when global GHG emissions need to peak is well documented, there has been less research on when individual countries’ emissions have peaked. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) new paper, Turning Points: Trends in Countries Reaching Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions Over Tim e, fills this gap by analysing which countries’ emissions peaked in the past and which countries have emissions- reduction commitments that imply peaking in the future.
The paper documents steady progress in the number of countries reaching peak emissions over time. By 1990, 19 countries had peaked (representing 21 per cent of global emissions), and by 2030 this number is likely to grow to 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions). Among the 57 countries that have peaked already or have a commitment that implies a peak by 2030 are some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.
Peaking Progress by Decade
19 countries, representing 21 per cent of global emissions (based on 1990 emissions data), reached peak emissions in 1990 or earlier. Sixteen of them were former Soviet republics and/or economies in transition. The economic collapse after the break-up of the Soviet Union resulted in several former Soviet republics’ emissions declining sharply. Germany and Norway also peaked by 1990, and the European Union as a whole reached peak emissions by 1990.
By 2000, 33 countries’ emissions peaked, representing 18 per cent of global emissions (based on 2000 emissions data). Many of the countries peaking in the 1990s were European nations such as the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland. Costa Rica also reached peak emissions levels in 1999.
The number of countries that peaked by 2010 grew to 49, representing 36 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data). This includes several more European countries such as Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, as well as Brazil (which peaked in 2004), Australia (which peaked in 2006), and the United States and Canada (both of which peaked in 2007).
53 countries representing 40 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2020 projections) peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2020. Countries with commitments to peak as part of their Copenhagen Accord pledges for 2020 include Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malta, and New Zealand. By 2020, almost all developed countries are expected to have peaked. 42 of the 43 Annex I countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are expected to peak — all except for Turkey.
China, the Marshall Islands, Mexico and Singapore have unconditional climate pledges under the Paris Agreement that imply a peak in emissions by 2030 (China’s commitment is for CO2 emissions only). This brings the number of countries that have peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2030 to 57, representing 60 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2030 projections).
To be conservative, our analysis only considers countries with unconditional targets as having a target that implies a future peak. Additional countries that have targets that imply an emissions peak by 2030 but are contingent on receiving international support include Bhutan, Botswana, Ethiopia, Grenada and South Africa. The inclusion of these countries would increase the per cent of global emissions covered by peaking countries from 60 to 61 per cent in 2030.
Accelerating Climate Commitments
While this trend is encouraging, it’s not enough. Research suggests that to have a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit for the least cost, global GHG emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest. The world’s ability to limit warming to 1.5 or 2˚C depends not only on the number of countries that have peaked over time, but also the global share of emissions represented by those countries; their emissions levels at peaking; the timing of peaking; and the rate of emissions reductions after peaking.
Countries must make and achieve commitments to peak their emissions as soon as possible, set their peaks at lower emissions levels, and commit to a significant rate of emissions decline after peaking.
Countries can make these commitments when communicating or updating their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement in 2020. Doing so will help ensure that countries’ emission reduction commitments bring global emissions to the level needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
Minister without portfolio with responsibility for water, works and housing Dr Horace Chang says the housing sector must be governed by regulations and practices that are sustainable, climate-resilient and will ensure the safety and security of Jamaicans.
He made the comments ahead of the regional housing conference to be hosted by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, October 18-20 at the Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Hotel, Montego Bay.
The inaugural conference, themed ‘Providing Safe, Legal and Affordable Housing for All: From Policy to Implementation’, is expected to expose some of the issues and, where possible, bring solutions to the housing market. It will also identify best practices that can be used to improve service delivery and innovative approaches to housing.
Areas to be discussed include housing costs and financing, building technology within a changing environment, housing and land tenure, and housing sector management.
“The conference comes at an opportune time given the need to ensure that our houses are built with the best quality materials, which are environmentally friendly, structurally sound and climate-resilient,” stated Minister Chang.
He said these considerations are even more important considering recent devastating hurricanes which have impacted several islands in the Caribbean.
“This need is even more urgent in the face of climate change as our construction industry must adapt to the new realities, and must ensure that our buildings are robust and can withstand the more intense impacts of climate change, with its extreme weather events,” he explained.
In the meantime, Chief Technical Director at the MEGJC with responsibility for water, works and housing Doreen Prendergast said the regional conference has received overwhelming local and international support.
She indicated that representatives from St Lucia, Barbados, Guyana, World Bank, IDB, Cities Alliance, Habitat for Humanity and a representative from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development are scheduled to attend, and in some instances make presentations.
“There is a great need for this type of forum because of the challenges within the housing sector,” said Prendergast. “Challenges pertaining to governance, security of tenure, and housing need and demand that are not being satisfied.”
The ministry has received 26 abstracts from academia for the conference, which are intended to provide an avenue for academia to help chart the policy and planning of the sector.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria are still fresh in the mind of all of us who experienced them in the British Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean. These hurricanes have affected so many people, and everyone will have their own heart-breaking, moving and inspiring story to tell. I wanted to highlight a few, and share what I’ve been up to as well.
In the wake of the hurricanes, Virgin Unite has been working with Team Rubicon to bring practical, immediate and vital help to affected communities across the BVI. Lizzy Stileman, a member of Team Rubicon, shares her views about the impact of the hurricanes, and what needs to happen now. Meanwhile, John Ratliff – a long-time friend of Virgin Unite and member of our advisory council for the Virgin Unite Community – shares his story about flying out to the BVI to help on the ground. Below I’ve also shared Sam’s moving film, Help Hope Hurricanes, sharing his view from Virgin Gorda in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Meanwhile, I have been continuing to rally aid and support for the BVI as we continue the recovery process. I recently met with more than 50 representatives of Caribbean governments and utility companies at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum in Miami. It was hosted by BMR Energy, one of Virgin Group’s investments, and gave us all a platform to discuss plans to expand the use of renewable energy in the region.
We highlighted the importance of renewable energy – solar, wind, geothermal and others – to reduce costs, reduce the harm being done to the environment and increase the resilience of their electric systems to withstand future hurricanes. In the aftermath of Irma and Maria, this message resonated more than ever.
It was inspiring to see so many decision makers and stakeholders gathered together, committed to tackling climate action now, and putting clean energy as the centerpiece of rebuilding efforts in the Caribbean. There has never been a more important time to push for this type of infrastructure.
Before returning to the BVI, I also travelled to Puerto Rico to meet with governor Ricardo Rosselló. I wanted to meet in person to share my heartfelt thanks for the incredible support Puerto Rico gave to the BVI during Hurricane Irma. We also discussed plans to power Puerto Rico with more clean energy, and the Rocky Mountain Institute plans to complete a study on the most effective ways to do this. It was a really positive visit, testament to the amazing people in Puerto Rico, in such a testing time.
To help further support the affected communities please donate to the BVI Community Support Appeal and help us build a better, cleaner, stronger and more sustainable Caribbean region.
Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.
Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.
Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.
This year’s greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
The figures published by the WMO are what’s left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth’s “sinks”, which include the oceans and the biosphere.
2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015.
“It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network,” Dr Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch programme, told BBC News.
“The largest increase was in the previous El Niño, in 1997-1998 and it was 2.7ppm and now it is 3.3ppm, it is also 50% higher than the average of the last ten years.”
El Niño impacts the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by causing droughts that limit the uptake of CO2 by plants and trees.
Emissions from human sources have slowed down in the last couple of yearsaccording to research, but according to Dr Tarasova, it is the cumulative total in the atmosphere that really matters as CO2 stays aloft and active for centuries.
Over the past 70 years, says the report, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is nearly 100 times larger than it was at the end of the last ice age.
Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other gases have the potential, according to the study to “initiate unpredictable changes in the climate system… leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions.”
The study notes that since 1990 there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing, that’s the warming effect on our climate of all greenhouse gases.
“Geological-wise, it is like an injection of a huge amount of heat,” said Dr Tarasova.
“The changes will not take ten thousand years like they used to take before, they will happen fast – we don’t have the knowledge of the system in this state, that is a bit worrisome!”
According to experts, the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, in the mid-Pliocene era. The climate then was 2-3C warmer, and sea levels were 10-20m higher due to the melting of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets.
Other experts in the field of atmospheric research agreed that the WMO findings were a cause for concern.
“The 3ppm CO2 growth rate in 2015 and 2016 is extreme – double the growth rate in the 1990-2000 decade,” Prof Euan Nisbet from Royal Holloway University of London told BBC News.
“It is urgent that we follow the Paris agreement and switch rapidly away from fossil fuels: there are signs this is beginning to happen, but so far the air is not yet recording the change.”
Another concern in the report is the continuing, mysterious rise of methane levels in the atmosphere, which were also larger than the average over the past ten years. Prof Nisbet says there is a fear of a vicious cycle, where methane drives up temperatures which in turn releases more methane from natural sources.
“The rapid increase in methane since 2007, especially in 2014, 2015, and 2016, is different. This was not expected in the Paris agreement. Methane growth is strongest in the tropics and sub-tropics. The carbon isotopes in the methane show that growth is not being driven by fossil fuels. We do not understand why methane is rising. It may be a climate change feedback. It is very worrying.”
The implications of these new atmospheric measurements for the targets agreed under the Paris climate pact, are quite negative, say observers.
“The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.
“We have many of the solutions already to address this challenge. What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.”
The report has been issued just a week ahead of the next instalment of UN climate talks, in Bonn. Despite the declaration by President Trump that he intends to take the US out of the deal, negotiators meeting in Germany will be aiming to advance and clarify the rulebook of the Paris agreement.
So … that was fast. US natural gas stakeholders barely had time to congratulate themselves for pushing coal out of the power generation market, and it looks like karma is already getting the last laugh. Low-cost renewable energy is beginning to nudge natural gas aside. In the most recent and striking development, California’s massive 262-megawatt Puente gas power plant proposal has been shelved, perhaps permanently.
One key element is consumer pushback. At first glance, the proposal doesn’t seem overly controversial. The proposed plan, a project of NRG Energy, does not involve constructing a new facility. It would have replaced two existing gas units at the company’s existing Mandalay power generation facility in Oxnard, California.
All things being equal, the proposal would provide at least some degree of environmental benefit, because the new units would use 80% less water for cooling than the existing ones.
However, criticism of the new gas project was intense. Penn sums it up: earlier this month, a two-member review committee of the California Energy Commission took the rare step of issuing a statement recommending that the full Commission reject the plans after receiving “hundreds of messages protesting the project as another potential pollution threat to a community already overwhelmed by electricity-generating plants.”
Aside from concerns about local air quality, Penn also cites an LA Times investigation indicating that the state’s energy policy has over-estimated the demand for natural gas power plants, resulting in artificially high rates:
“The commissioners’ recommendation followed Los Angeles Times investigations that showed the state has overbuilt the electricity system, primarily with natural gas plants, and has so much clean energy that it has to shut down some plants while paying other states to take the power California can’t use. The overbuilding has added billions of dollars to ratepayers’ bills in recent years.”
According to Penn, NRG officials maintain that older plant retirements by 2021 make replacement imperative to build up now.
At current costs, local ratepayers won’t get much relief if old power units are replaced with wind or solar.
Land use issues and environmental justice issues also come into play. NRG’s Mandalay power generation facility is located on the beach, and as NRG acknowledges, in 2014 the City of Oxnard enacted a moratorium on coastal development.
That complicates development plans within the power plant site, though NRG emphasizes that the final decision rests with state-level regulators.
Among those objecting to the plant from outside the local community is billionaire investor Tom Steyer, who co-authored an op-ed about the proposed facility raising the environmental justice issue:
“…in our state, not all beaches are created equal. That becomes painfully clear if you drive 50 miles north of Los Angeles to Oxnard, where the beaches have been seized by corporate polluters, marred by industrial waste and devastated by three fossil-fuel power plants that sit along the shoreline.
“Oxnard has more coastal power plants than any other city in the state, and not coincidentally, its population is predominantly Latino and low-income….”
Oxnard residents — and no doubt, real estate developers — are looking forward to transitioning coastal property out of industrial use altogether. Here’s LA Times reporter Dan Weikel on that topic:
“Many residents of this predominantly Latino city with a population of 205,000 say they are fed up with the degradation. Their growing dissatisfaction with the condition of large sections of beach has coalesced into an effort to deindustrialize and restore the shoreline of this city that is framed by Ventura and Camarillo and wraps around the town of Port Hueneme.”
The Puente project has been suspended, not canceled. However, chances of revival are slim. Although the most recent study affirms that renewable energy is a more expensive choice currently, Steyer points out that the redevelopment of Oxnard’s beachfront could be balanced out by new economic activity related to tourism and recreation.
That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, as waterfront development typically drives up the cost of housing, squeezing former residents to outer rims with longer commutes and fewer resources.
Sticking to the energy cost issue, the basic problem comes down to local energy vs. long distance transmission.
NRG makes the case that local energy generation is more reliable. That’s a fair assessment as a general principle, as the old model of centralized power plants falls out of favor. Local and on-site generation is becoming a consensus argument among energy experts, regardless of the power source.
On the other hand, the risk involved in transmitting electricity from remote wind farms and solar power plants could be offset by local storage sites, where the growing microgrid movement would come into play.
New tools for financing energy efficiency improvements could also help tamp down local energy demand and ease the way for a more interactive grid that enables consumers to tweak their electricity consumption to help prevent outages.
Cities like Oxnard can also tap into a growing renewable energy knowledge base that leverages local opportunities for renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements.
Most of all, the Trump administration’s willy-nilly approach to oil and gas development — for example, a new proposal involving drilling along the Pacific coast — raises the stakes for citizens far outside of the communities dealing with local land use issues, leading to a groundswell of support for alternatives.