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.
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.
Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.
A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.
The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.
“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”
The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’
NEW YORK — The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off on Tuesday here with more than 140 heads of state and government and a yearly tradition of speeches made to the 193 member states of the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations.
This year marks the 71st session of the UNGA, convened under the theme ‘The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world’, with particular focus on Goal #13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
This high-level week with world leaders is an opportunity for the Kingdom of Morocco to promote the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) set to take place in Marrakech, November 7 to 18. Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, will be on hand for a series of side-events and bilateral meetings aimed at reinforcing and promoting Morocco’s climate initiatives, including those on energy, agriculture, capacity building, adaptation and finance, discussing global warming issues affecting the most vulnerable countries and island states, and mobilising the international community for an ambitious global climate action agenda in Marrakech to implement the Paris Agreement.
United Nations Secretary
hosted a special event to encourage parties to ratify the agreement. According to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, as of Tuesday, 29 parties have ratified the agreement, accounting for 40.12 per cent of global emissions. The Kingdom of Morocco will be among approximately 20 countries to deposit their instruments of ratification here during this week’s proceedings, inching closer to the 55 per cent necessary for legal entry into force when the agreement takes effect and becomes legally binding for those countries that have joined.
During his opening remarks, Ban underscored the importance of the climate change agenda.
“With the Paris Agreement we are tackling the defining challenge of our time. We have no time to lose. I urge you to bring the Agreement into force before the end of year. We need 26 more countries equalling 15 per cent of global emissions for entry into force,” he stated.
US President Barack Obama, during his last speech to the UNGA, called on the international community to keep working together to solve global issues including climate change. “The Paris Agreement gives us a framework to act, but only if we scale up our ambition,” he stated.
UNGA President Peter Thomson, the first from a Pacific Island nation (Fiji), underscored the need to act on climate change to avoid its negative impacts. “We are steadily moving towards the ratification of the Paris Agreement. We must not delay any further.”
Brazilian President Michel Temer affirmed his country’s commitment to fighting global warming, saying: “Tomorrow I will deposit Brazil’s instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement.”
As the first African head of state to address the UNGA, Idriss Déby Itno, president of Chad, highlighted the importance of working with the international community to fight global warming on the continent. “It’s not about giving charity to Africa, it’s about true partnership with Africa to tackle climate and global challenges,” he said.
The traditional roll call of speeches to the UNGA starts with the United Nations secretary general, followed by the President of the UNGA, president of Brazil (first Member State to speak in the general debate since the 10th session of the General Assembly) and president of the United States (host country). For all other member states, the speaking order is based on the level of representation, preference and other criteria such as geographic balance.
Normal is not a homonym, but it could be. It means standardisation, but it also alludes to a range of typical occurrences.
In statistics, a normal distribution is a set of observations that occur around a mean. In common society, normal is an acceptable form of behaviour.
Whatever the case, it means a range of events that centre on an average. The problem with ‘normality’ is that averages move. For example, fashions change. Music styles evolve. Normal dress from a century ago is no longer acceptable.
The same occurs in markets. Shocks force occurrences to morph, leading to corresponding movements in price ranges. A few years ago, pundits began using the notion of ‘new normal’. This meant that the market had shifted to a different range that would now be considered typical. Three years ago, high commodities prices were considered normal. Last year, plunging commodity prices became the new normal.
However, we are again witnessing a movement to a different normality.
Most visible in oil sector
Last year’s massive reduction in commodity capex set the stage for an eventual spike in prices. The situation has been most visible in the oil sector. At the end of 2014, many Wall Street firms began cutting their oil forecasts, calling for a “new normal”.
They cited the slowdown of the Chinese economy and overproduction in the United States and the Middle East for their pessimistic outlook.
However, they seemed to have forgotten the natural depletion aspects of commodities. Oilfields, mines and farms are not eternal. Production decays as the resources are depleted. Oilfields run dry. Mineral deposits are depleted. Nutrients are taken out of the soil. That is why commodity producers constantly need to plough capital into exploring for new mineral deposits and replenishing farms. This makes the sector extremely capital intensive.
Each commodity product has a different decay schedule. Offshore oilfields, for example, have a natural depletion rate of about 20 per cent per year. Meanwhile, some onshore fields have an annual depletion rate of only two per cent. Analysts estimate that the average annual global depletion rate for the oil sector is about 4.5 per cent.
It takes time
The problem is that the oil industry slashed capex by US$380 billion since 2014, reaching half of total sector capital investment in 2016. This means that oil production will decline at some point, with the effect accelerating in the years to come. The typical gestation period for a new oil project is about seven years, from the start of exploration to full production.
It takes time to do the necessary seismic surveys. Most of the new oilfields are in remote areas, which require the construction of facilities for workers. Heavy equipment needs to be deployed. Plus, transportation infrastructure – including roads, pipelines and ports – needs to be put in place in order to bring the products to market.
Oil, as well as most of the other commodity products, cannot be switched on and off. They require a great deal of time and capital to bring them to market.
Unfortunately, the decline is already materialising. The net decline in United States oil production is estimated at about 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016 and another 400,000 bpd in Latin America.
At the same time, the global economy is growing at a pace of about two per cent y/y. Hence, total demand should rise by about a million bpd. As a result, the two million bpd glut that was estimated at the end of last year will evaporate in 2016. This should bring oil prices to a more neutral equilibrium price of about US$60 per barrel before the end of the year.
However, it also means that oil prices will continue to move higher in 2017 and beyond.
Until we see a meaningful increase in capex, output will continue to decline. Therefore, we can expect prices to overshoot on the upside.
The results of this scenario are a boom for oil-producing countries, such as Venezuela. With annual oil exports of about 640 million barrels, an oil price of about US$50 to US$60 will allow Venezuela to produce annual exports of about US$32 to US$38 billion.
Venezuela and PDVSA’s annual bond debt service is about US$9 billion, giving the country between US$23 billion to US$29 billion to pay for imports. This is more than twice the minimum import levels that are estimated to sustain the economy.
As a result, the government will not need to recur to its supplemental liquid and non-liquid assets, such as international reserves, gold holdings, offshore refineries and PetroCaribe, to meet their external obligations.
Of course, other large oil-producing countries, such as Russia, Mexico, Nigeria and Angola will also benefit from the looming changes in the international oil markets.
Therefore, we are now moving the parameters for a ‘new normal’ that will be much more conducive for the emerging world.
Dr Walter T. Molano is a managing partner and the head of research at BCP Securities LLC.
Kamina Johnson Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, will this Friday represent Jamaica during the official signing of the Paris climate-change agreement in New York, following last November’s conference in France.
Some 200 countries had gathered in Paris for the COP 21 climate conference and, in December, adopted the new agreement, which aims to limit carbon emissions.
Clifford Mahlung, project administrator at the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, told The Gleaner that the signing is a significant step towards strengthening the work that has started to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“We will be among the other heads of state who will be there. This is the first step towards becoming a party to the Paris agreement because this has to be followed up by ratification,” he said.
“The process towards ratification will require government approval, and so that process is on the way. We should be complete before the year ends.”
Mahlung said now that the agreement is open for signature by the parties to the convention, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been asked to convene a crucial ceremony, which will be attended by United States President Barack Obama, among others.
Making reference to a post-COP 21 discussion held last week at the Four Seasons Hotel in New Kingston, Mahlung said it was important that Jamaicans are sensitised to the importance of the agreement, especially as it relates to carbon emissions.
“With the significance of COP 21, we decided to have this discussion one week before the official signing. This new climate-change agreement builds on the convention and provides the basis which will accommodate further work, with respect to the climate-change process,” Mahlung said.
The agreement itself consists of many areas, including the new long-term goal in keeping future temperatures well below 2˚C and pursuing efforts to keep those temperatures as close to 1.5˚C as possible.
“Even though we contribute less than one per cent to the global emissions, it is important that we do our part to control our energy output, which will signal to the emitters that we are serious about climate change, which will mean also that they have no excuse but to reduce their emissions as well,” he said.
The announcement of an agreement between Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) and a Chinese firm is expected this week for the construction of the new energy plant at Old Harbour.
JPS and American company New Fortress Energy are executing separate projects at Old Harbour – the Jamaican utility company is building a new 190 MW plant, while Fortress is financing and developing the gas infrastructure to supply the plant with LNG.
Together, the projects are estimated at around US$500 million.
JPS said it will have no ownership in the gas infrastructure project nor contribute to the cost of developing it, but will solely be a client of New Fortress, which will build its pipeline to connect to the JPS plant. The same arrangement applies to the gas infrastructure under development by New Fortress in Montego Bay, which will feed gas to JPS’ Bogue plant.
The utility company said previously that the 190 MW combined cycle plant at Old Harbour is expect to cost close to US$300 million.
The name of the Chinese contractor will be disclosed only after the deal to develop the plant is finalised, JPS said. The utilitycompany had previously chosen Abengoa to develop the plant only to be embarrassed when the Spanish firm filed for bankruptcy protection in its home country just days later.
JPS is also in final negotiations with General Electric (GE) as the primary equipment supplier for the Old Harbour plant.
“JPS is currently finalising the agreements with both GE and the ‘EPC’ contractor and coordinating the start of this new generation facility with the completion of an associated LNG facility that will be built to provide gas. These two projects will total over US$500 million and begin operation in early 2018 with full commercial operation by the middle of 2018,” said JPS via email.
EPC is a categorisation, which stands for ‘engineering, procurement and construction’ contractor.
The plant’s advance GE turbines will utilise cleaner burning natural gas, replacing the heavy fuel oil currently used at Old Harbour, and will be able to integrate increased solar, wind and hydro resources as Jamaica moves towards producing more electricity from renewable resources.
“GE will provide four turbines – three gas turbines and one steam turbine the three heat recovery steam generators, the four electrical generators and the major controls,” said JPS.
Once the new Old Harbour plant is built, the current structure will be dismantled, and the property will resort to brownfield status, according to JPS spokeswoman Winsome Callum.
New Fortress is negotiating separately with the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team regarding its gas project, Callum said.
JPS has spent some US$4 million so far in preparing for the upgrade over the past 24 months.
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft [Image source: On Innovation.com, via Flickr]
On the opening day of the COP21 global climate change meeting in Paris, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have announced they have joined together with other private investors to help fight climate change by investing in renewable energy. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition will provide financial support to companies that take clean energy innovations out of the laboratory and commercialize them, the main idea being to accelerate progress on clean energy development.
“The world is going to be using 50 percent more energy by mid-century than it does today” said Mr Gates on his gatesnotes blog. “That should be good news, especially for the world’s poorest, because right now more than 1 billion people live without access to basic energy services. Affordable and reliable energy makes it easier for them to grow more food, run schools and hospitals and businesses, have refrigerators at home, and take advantage of all the things that make up modern life. Low- and middle-income countries need energy to develop their economies and help more people escape poverty. But the world’s growing demand for energy is also a big problem, because most of that energy comes from hydrocarbons, which emit greenhouse gases and drive climate change. So we need to move to sources of energy that are affordable and reliable, and don’t produce any carbon.”
Mr Gates added that although current renewable energy technologies, like wind and solar, have made a lot of progress and could be one path to a zero-carbon energy future, given the scale of the challenge, the world needs to be exploring many different paths, and that means it also needs to invent new approaches. These energy breakthroughs will be made by private companies, but their work will rely on the kind of basic research that only governments can fund.
Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook [Image source: Jason McELweenie, Flickr]
Ways in which to promote clean energy innovation
Earlier in the year, Mr Gates set out on his blog three important ways in which to promote clean energy innovation – incentives, markets and treating poorer countries fairly.
The first of these involves governments drastically increasing their funding for research on clean energy solutions. At present, only a few billion dollars are spent per year on researching early-stage ideas for zero-carbon energy, when really, the world should be spending two to three times as much. Gates said that governments should be doing this for the public good and that the benefits of doing so are “far greater than the amount that the inventor can capture.” Expanded government support for energy research will also lead to more private investment. Gates has invested in companies developing new batteries and other energy storage solutions and also companies developing advances in solar power technology. However, governments need to act quickly on this because these energy transitions are time-intensive.
Windmill Sunset [Image source: Max and Dee Bernt, Flickr]
The second important step is to ensure that energy prices reflect the full impact of emitting carbon. At present, the market does not factor in ‘negative externalities’ – the costs to health and the damage to the environment caused by greenhouse gas emissions. If these costs are reflected in the price, renewable energy will become more competitive with fossil fuels and that in turn will attract more investors to the market. Governments should support this process by creating incentives to develop new solutions while also ensuring certainty in the market so that energy companies can plan ahead and enact the transition to zero-carbon energy.
The third step is to recognize that, at this late stage when climate change is already starting to have disastrous effects on the world, it will continue to hit the poorest people in the world hardest. This means that those countries that have done most to create this problem should spend the most to invest in mitigation and help poorer countries to adapt. The Gates Foundation is now doing this by helping small farmers in poorer countries to adjust to hotter and more unpredictable weather by increasing productivity.
The Breakthrough Coalition
The Breakthrough Coalition consists of some of the world’s top investors who have joined together in the understanding that technology will help to solve the world’s current energy issues, particularly the urgent issue of climate change. This requires an aggressive and urgent global program of zero-emission energy innovation based on a model of public-private partnership between governments, research institutions, and investors. It will involve large funding commitments with a key role being played by governments, with aggressive increases in funding for basic and applied energy research. Current levels of government funding are insufficient.
[Image source: CheapFullCoverageAutoInsurance.com]
The coalition is focused on the creation of a network of private capital intended to drive forward the transition to an advanced energy future. It is doing this by concentrating on providing investment for early stage companies, involving early investment through seed, angel and Series A investments, with commercial capital expected to take over in the later stages once the investments are de-risked. It will invest in a number of sectors, including electricity generation and storage, transportation, industry, agriculture and energy efficiency. The aim is to boost the development of novel technologies and innovations that make existing technologies more efficient, scalable or help to reduce costs. Given that most of these innovations will come through government research pipelines, the coalition has decided to focus its investments on countries participating in the Mission Innovation international initiative.
Mission Innovation was also launched on the opening day of COP21. It consists of a commitment by20 countries to invest in clean energy research and its aim is to “reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable.” The initiative will seek to double government funding for clean energy innovation in each of its member states
The Breakthrough Coalition consists of:
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, and Dr Priscilla Chan; Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries (India); John Arnold, co-chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Salesforce.com; Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, Amazon; HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Alwaleed Philanthropies, Saudi Arabia; Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group; Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates; Aliko Dangote, Founder and Chief Executive, Dangote Group, Nigeria; John Doerr, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, United States; Reid Hoffman, Founder, LinkedIn and Partner, Greylock, United States; Chris Hohn, Founder, The Children’s Investment Fund, UK; Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures, United States; Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group, China; Patrice Motsepe, Founder and Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), South Africa; Xavier Niel, Founder, Iliad Group, France; Hasso Plattner, Co-founder and Chairman, SAP, Germany; Julian Robertson, Founder and Chairman, Tiger Management, United States; Neil Shen, Founding Managing Partner, Sequoia Capital China, China; Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons, Co-founders, Prelude Ventures, United States; Masayoshi Son, Founder, Chairman and CEO, SoftBank Group Corp., Japan; George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management LLC, United States; Tom Steyr, Businessman, Philanthropist, and President, NextGen Climate, United States, Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons, India; Meg Whitman, CEO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, United States; Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi Co-founder and CEO, SOHO China, Chairman, SOHO China; and finally, the University of California (UCLA).
The Mission Innovation initiative consists of:
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.