Floatovoltaics Enable Solar Energy Expansion

100 MW Floating PV Power Plant Project in Huancheng Town, Weishan County, Jining City, Shandong Province (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power) Posted for media use

100 MW Floating PV Power Plant Project in Huancheng Town, Weishan County, Jining City, Shandong Province (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Floating solar photovoltaic panels on the surfaces of lakes, hydropower and agricultural reservoirs, industrial ponds, and near-coastal areas is one of today’s fastest-growing renewable energy technologies.

The floating of solar arrays on water relieves the pressure on scarce, densely populated lands and can be used to repurpose mining reclamation areas. The technology opens new horizons to scale up solar power globally.

The total installed floating solar power in 2018 is foreseen to be near one gigawatt, enough energy to power about 700,000 homes.

Floating solar is especially attractive to fast-growing Asian economies. Interest is growing in the region, and large plants are being installed or planned in China, India and Southeast Asia, finds a newly published market report from the World Bank Group and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

This first-of-its-kind market report estimates the global potential of floating solar to be 400 gigawatts –  a figure roughly equal to the total capacity of all solar photovoltaic (PV) installations worldwide at the end of 2017.

In India the first floating PV plant of 10 KW was installed in a lake in Kolkata in 2014. More recently a 100 KW floating solar power plant was installed in NTPC Kayamkulam in the state of Kerala, which is the largest such system in India.

The floating platform was developed in India by the joint efforts of a private company, NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance, and the government of India’s Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology.

The NB Institute of Rural Technology headed by Gon Chaudhuri reports that around 300 GW of solar power could be generated by tapping just 10 to 15 percent of the water bodies in India. The Institute identifies the states of Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Odisha and Assam as those with the greatest floating solar potential.

In May, the Chinese company Sungrow completed installation of a 100 MW capacity floating solar array in the Erlonggang mining subsidence area in Huancheng Town, Weishan County, Jining City, Shandong Province.

Now the Chinese company Sungrow is building a 150 MW floating PV power plant project in the mining subsidence area of Guqiao Town, Fengtai County, Huainan City, Anhui Province.

In August, South Korea completed world’s first floating solar power plant that tracks sunlight. The 1,600 solar voltaic modules installed on a floating deck go round and round, following the Sun’s movements throughout the day while the array floats on a reservoir in Gyeonggi-do Province.

Since the floating modules can collect sunlight reflected off water, developers say this type of floating solar plant can generate more power than ground-based systems.

The Water Resources Corporation in Korea found that floating PV systems generate 11 percent more energy than equivalent land-based systems.

 Artist’s impression of Kyocera’s Yamakura dam power plant in Japan. (Photo courtesy Kyocera Corp.) Posted for media use

Artist’s impression of Kyocera’s Yamakura dam power plant in Japan. (Photo courtesy Kyocera Corp.) Posted for media use

One supplier of floating PV systems has claimed that water losses could be reduced to as much as 70 percent and makes a good case for these systems. Besides preventing water losses, the modules and the floats anchoring them reduce the photo-synthesis process that promotes algae and other organic growth. This is particularly of interest to water utility companies as it reduces the water treatment and labor costs. Also as large power consumers, utilizing the water surface to generate electricity help them save on their energy cost.

The modules in floating systems operate under a much cooler environment reducing thermal losses and also heat induced degradation. Dust collection issues would be minimal, leading to enhanced power generation and reduced cleaning frequency.

The Chinese firm Trina Solar announced on October 31 that it has supplied 17MW of PV modules to the largest floating PV plant in Europe. The O’MEGA 1 PV project has been developed by Akuo Energy, France’s leading independent producer of renewable energy.

Once operational, the plant located in Piolenc (Vaucluse) will produce 100 percent renewable energy covering the consumption of more than 4,700 households. The plant is spread over a 17-hectare property and will avoid the emission of roughly 11,100 tons of CO2 per year.

In the UK, water company United Utilities started work last year on a floating solar farm on a Greater Manchester reservoir, which will be Europe’s largest once complete next year.

Some challenges persist – the lack of a long-standing track record, the possible effects on water quality, the costs and complications of anchoring and mooring the installations, and the relative complexity of maintaining the electrical components of the floating solar arrays.

Despite being land neutral, the cost of the floating systems including anchoring, installation, maintenance and transmission renders the overall cost of the floating solar systems as much higher than land-based systems at this initial stage of development.

Yet the benefits are clear. In some cases, floating solar allows for power generation to be sited much closer to areas where demand for electricity is high.

Floating solar complements existing hydropower infrastructure, the World Bank report points out.

“At some large hydropower plants, only three to four percent of the reservoir would need to be covered with floating solar panels to double the electricity generation capacity of the dam,” the report calculates.

Combining hydropower and solar power outputs can smooth the variable nature of solar power and help manage periods of low water availability by using solar capacity first and drawing on hydropower at night or during peak demand.

In agricultural reservoirs, the solar panels can reduce evaporation, improve water quality, and serve as an energy source for pumping and irrigation, the report points out.

According to the report, “While up-front costs are slightly higher than siting solar arrays on land, the costs over time of floating solar are at par with traditional solar PV, because of floating solar’s higher energy yield due to the cooling effect of water.”

Japan has several floating solar farms built as part of the country’s drive to generate more renewable energy after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The shutdown of nuclear plants has seen Japan increasingly reliant on fossil fuel imports. Floating solar arrays can help shoulder the energy-generating burden.

Featured Image: 150 MW Floating PV Power Plant Project in Mining Subsidence Area of Guqiao Town, Fengtai County, China (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power) Posted for media use


Greenest Big Companies Go 100% Renewable

Solar panels cover the roof of Sony's Jimmy Stewart Building in Culver City, California, 2018 (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures) Posted for media use.

Solar panels cover the roof of Sony’s Jimmy Stewart Building in Culver City, California, 2018 (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

CUPERTINO, California, October 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Not every company, of course, but increasing numbers of corporations, led by some of the world’s largest tech firms, are taking responsibility to protect people and planet with renewable energy and other forms of low-carbon development.

As part of its commitment to combat climate change and create a healthier environment, Apple announced in April that its global facilities are powered with 100 percent clean energy. This achievement includes retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India.

The company also announced nine additional manufacturing partners have committed to power all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, bringing the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

Apple currently has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totaling 626 megawatts of generation capacity, with 286 megawatts of solar PV generation coming online in 2017, its most ever in one year.

The company has 15 more renewable projects under construction. Once built, over 1.4 gigawatts of renewable energy generation will be spread across 11 countries.

Cook said, “We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

Just days ago, a little further north, T-Mobile signed on to Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, giving the communications giant access to a blend of local wind and solar renewable energy sources. Relying on these sources, T-Mobile plans to power its Bellevue, Washington, headquarters with 100% renewable energy by 2021.

“At T-Mobile, we really mean it when we say we’re going to clean up wireless for good … and in this case that means cleaning up our impact on the planet by making a BIG commitment to renewable energy,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile.

“We’ve put a stake in the ground to go 100% renewable by 2021,” he said, “because it’s the right thing to do and it’s smart business.”

The wireless company has been commended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Resource Solutions for its industry-leading green energy initiatives.

“T-Mobile’s choosing green power because it makes sense for the planet and for our customers – plus it’s helping grow America’s green energy market big-time,” said Legere. “I’m incredibly proud of our team for earning recognition for their hard work – but there’s lots more to be done and you can be sure, we won’t stop!”

The move will help T-Mobile save millions of dollars in energy costs, while also putting it one step closer to its RE100 clean energy commitment to use 100% renewable energy across the entire company by 2021.

RE100

Businesses like the benefits of saving on energy costs, and so RE100 was officially launched in New York City at Climate Week NYC 2014.

Today, it’s a global, collaborative initiative of influential businesses committed to using 100% renewable electricity. RE100 members are companies large and small with operations all over the world, spanning a wide range of sectors, from telecommunications and IT to cement and automobile manufacturing.

RE100 shares the compelling business case for renewables and showcases business action, while working with others to address barriers.

Companies gain a better understanding of the advantages of going 100% renewable, and benefit from peer-to-peer learning and technical guidance, as well as greater public recognition of their ambitions and achievements as they work towards their goals.

RE100 is organized by The Climate Group in partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP as it is known today, as part of the We Mean Business coalition. The organizers believe it will accelerate the transformation of the global energy market and aid the transition toward a net-zero economy.

Sony Promises to Go 100% Renewable by 2030

RE100 member Sony  has brought forward its target year for reaching 100% renewable electricity in the United States to 2030.

Sony joined RE100 in September with a goal of going 100% renewable globally by 2040. By setting an earlier target for its US operations, the tech giant is demonstrating it is possible for businesses to go further and faster.

Sam Kimmins, head of RE100, The Climate Group , welcomed the news, coming as it does right after a new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid and profound transitions in energy systems everywhere.

“In a week when scientists are telling us we need to do more to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, you couldn’t have a more powerful message than one of the world’s largest electronics and entertainment companies stepping up the pace on climate action,” said Kimmins.

“This shows the business community what can be done, and we encourage all major companies to follow suit,” he said.

Executive Vice President with the Sony Corporation of America Mark Khalil said, “Our commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity usage in the North American region by 2030 is a step toward our global goal. By joining RE100 and establishing global and regional targets, we hope to accelerate the usage of renewable electricity at Sony and inspire other companies to do the same.”

In 2001, Sony Pictures Studios (SPS) was certified under the international environmental standard ISO 14001 and has maintained and expanded it each year since, the first and only major studio to do so.

Sony installed solar photovoltaic cells on the roof of its Jimmy Stewart Building and is using 100 percent renewable energy in its Arizona data center. Combined, this will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by  1,000 tons over three years.

Sony Pictures Entertainment renovated and expanded the Central Plant on the Studio Lot to incorporate additional buildings in this efficient HVAC loop. This has avoided 550 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

L'Oreal products get sustainable packaging treatment, April 30, 2017. (Photo by Maria Martinez Dukan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

L’Oreal products get sustainable packaging treatment, April 30, 2017. (Photo by Maria Martinez Dukan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Greener French Cosmetics

L’Oréal S.A., the French cosmetics company headquartered in Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine with a registered office in Paris, is the world’s largest cosmetics company. Hair color, skin care, sun protection, make-up, perfume and hair care – L’Oréal makes and markets them all.

It was also “Newsweek” magazine’s #1 ranked Green Company last year, a ranking based partly on L’Oréal’s sustainable packaging policy.

“Today, for certain products, up to 100% of the plastic used in our packaging has been recycled,” says Philippe Thuvien, managing director of packaging and development at the L’Oréal Group, referring to the bottles of new shampoos from the Redken, Kiehl’s and Pureology brands.”

“In total, the amount of recycled plastic in our packaging increased by 33% in 2017,” said Thuvien.

“As an industry leader invested in the future of sustainable packaging,” he said, “the Group has been working with a specialist environmental consultancy, Quantis, to launch the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for Cosmetics (SPICE), which is designed to help the industry commit to more responsible packaging and improve the environmental performance of the entire packaging value chain.”

Unilever Adores Animals

Unilever, the British-Dutch transnational company, the world’s largest consumer goods firm, says that on any given day, “2.5 billion people use Unilever products to feel good, look good and get more out of life – giving us a unique opportunity to build a brighter future.”

Earlier this month Unilever announced its support for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics as part of an ambitious new collaboration with the animal protection nonprofit Humane Society International.

David Blanchard, chief research and development officer at Unilever, explained, “Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned in the EU since 2013, and we hope that an adoption of similar bans in other countries will accelerate the regulatory acceptance of alternative approaches and thereby remove any requirements for any animal testing for cosmetics anywhere in the world.”

Unilever will support HSI’s global #BeCrueltyFree initiative, which is leading legislative reform in key beauty markets to prohibit cosmetic animal testing and trade, consistent with EU model.

Dove, Unilever’s largest beauty and personal care brand, has gained accreditation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Dove’s cruelty-free status recognizes the brand’s commitment to not conduct any tests on animals anywhere in the world. PETA’s cruelty-free logo will begin to appear on Dove packaging from January 2019.

We want to play our part in tackling climate change and reduce the depletion of natural resources. It makes business sense to reduce our risk by securing sustainable sources of supply for raw materials, to cut costs through reducing packaging materials and higher manufacturing efficiencies, and to appeal to more consumers with sustainable, purpose-led brands.

The company said in a statement, “In 2017, our factory sites reduced CO2 emissions from energy by 47% per tonne of production compared to 2008. We have also increased our use of renewable energy within our manufacturing; in 2017, this increased to 33.6% compared to 15.8% in 2008. Additionally, 65% of all grid electricity used in our manufacturing operations was generated from renewable resources.”

Unilever has pledged to source 100% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Yet, all does not run smoothly, even in companies with the best of intentions. Unilever said in September that the greenhouse gas impact of its products has risen by 9% since 2010. Underlying sales growth over the same period was 33.1%, so, the company said, “…it is encouraging to see that we are decoupling our value chain greenhouse gas  impacts from our business growth.”

Featured Image: Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, in part from a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation. (Photo courtesy Apple) Posted for media use


Protecting Climate Health Keeps Humans Healthy

Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center's parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center’s parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 18, 201 (Maximpact.com News) – The health care industry is committing to quickly transition from dependence on climate-destroying fossil fuels to an economy based on clean, renewable energies such as wind and solar.

The initiative comes from Health Care Without Harm, an international nongovernmental organization based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that aims to transform health care worldwide to reduce its environmental footprint and lead the global movement for environmental health and justice.

As Health Care without Harm puts it, “Climate change is an urgent threat to human health everywhere, and health care organizations and professionals are coming together around a collective vision of healthy people living in sustainable and equitable communities on a thriving planet.”

In San Francisco last week, Dr. Aparna Bole, Health Care Without Harm board member and division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, announced commitments by large health systems, hospitals, and health centers around the world to procure or install 100 percent clean, renewable electricity.

The commitments were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), an affiliate event to the three-day Global Climate Action Summit.

Dozens of health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals in more than 120 countries announced commitments and unveiled a Call to Action on Climate and Health aimed at accelerating stronger advocacy and action in addressing climate change.

To protect their patients and communities from the health impacts of climate change and air pollution, 18 health care institutions, representing the interests of more than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 10 countries, committed to power their facilities with 100 percent renewable electricity.

When fully implemented, these institutions will collectively serve more than 23 million patients a year at facilities powered by 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity.

In doing so, they will have reduced their aggregate annual greenhouse gas emissions by over one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), equivalent to preventing more than 453 tonnes of coal from being burned.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to health of this century. It is impacting health in every country today and is projected to reverse half a century of progress on global health. Global action is urgent and must be accelerated to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global warming. The health sector has a vital role to play,” said the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences, an organizer of the Global Climate and Health Forum where these commitments were made public.

Health Care Without Harm president and co-founder Gary Cohen and Kathy Gerwig, Health Care Without Harm board member and Kaiser Permanente VP of environmental stewardship announced more commitments.

First, they said, 178 participants, representing the interests of more than 17,000 hospitals and health centers, have joined the Health Care Climate Challenge.

Launched in June 2018, the Health Care Climate Challenge mobilizes health care institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change.

The Health Care Climate Challenge now has over 335 participants, representing the interests of hospitals and health centers in 24 countries. It is supported by Global Green and Healthy Hospitals and Practice Greenhealth.

In another commitment announced in San Francisco, 21 U.S. health systems, representing 918 hospitals and over one million employees in 41 states signed the We Are Still In pledge, a reply to the move from President Donald Trump to take the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate.

Finally, representing 119 hospitals in California, five of California’s largest health systems – Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Providence St. Joseph Health, Sutter Health, and University of California Health – have formed the California Health Care Climate Alliance to drive stronger commitments from California’s health care sector and to work with policymakers to support the state’s climate goals.

Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean said, “At Dignity Health, we believe that our well-being is inextricably connected to the health of our planet. We also see the effect of environmental change on vulnerable populations – the elderly, our children, people with chronic diseases, and in low-income communities.”

Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, expects to be carbon net positive by 2025.

“Climate change causes extreme heat waves, wildfires and droughts that hurt people, make them sick—and worse,” said Elizabeth Baca, MD, senior health adviser in the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. “This alliance of large California health providers is taking action to help make our hospitals and healthcare systems more resilient and better prepared for the worst impacts of climate change.”

Alliance members have committed to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions to help in the State of California’s effort to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, known as Senate Bill 100 signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this month.

SB 100 sets three targets for California:

50 percent renewables by 2026

60 percent renewables by 2030

100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045

Thousands of hospitals, health centers and entire health systems around the world are already implementing climate-smart health care strategies.

Working with the UN Development Program <undp.org>, the government of Zimbabwe installed solar energy systems on more than 400 health centers across the country.

Health systems in New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica are committed to becoming carbon neutral.

Health Care Without Harm is providing a series of tools and resources to support the implementation of climate-smart health care.

  •  A series of case studies from around the world demonstrating the viability of a diverse set of replicable strategies for health care infrastructure and community resilience.
  • A set of standardized measurement tools, and a detailed methodology for understanding health care’s contribution to carbon emissions by country and globally.
  • Technical, legal, and financial tools to help decarbonize large facilities and power health care in energy-poor settings.
  • Communications tools and trainings so that employees of member health care institutions can become communicators to their patients and in their communities.

Bob Biggio, senior vice president Facilities & Support Services, Boston Medical Center, is supportive of the health care industry’s move toward climate health. “As the largest safety net hospital in New England, we know first-hand how climate change is impacting the health of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said. “That’s why Boston Medical Center has invested in a 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina, the largest renewable-energy project ever built in the U.S. through an alliance of diverse buyers.”

Featured Images: Doctors in an operating room at Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy Boston Medical Center) Posted for media use


Photo 2:

Caption: Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center’s parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/kaiser-permanente-commits-to-increasing-onsite-solar-power-generation/

Solar, Wind Power Create Hotter, Greener Deserts

Morocco’s Noor-Ouarzazate Solar complex hosts the launch of the World Bank Middle East and North Africa Concentrated Solar Power Knowledge and Innovation Program. March 8, 2017 (Photo by Michael Taylor / IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Morocco’s Noor-Ouarzazate Solar complex hosts the launch of the World Bank Middle East and North Africa Concentrated Solar Power Knowledge and Innovation Program. March 8, 2017 (Photo by Michael Taylor / IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois, September 6, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat and humidity in the regions where they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region.

The study, “Climate model shows large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara increase rain and vegetation,” reported in the journal Science, is among the first to model the climate effects of wind and solar installations while taking into account how vegetation responds to changes in heat and precipitation.

Lead author Yan Li, a postdoctoral researcher in natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois, said, “Previous modeling studies have shown that large-scale wind and solar farms can produce significant climate change at continental scales. But the lack of vegetation feedbacks could make the modeled climate impacts very different from their actual behavior.”

The new study, co-led with Eugenia Kalnay and Safa Motesharrei at the University of Maryland, focused on the Sahara for several reasons, Li said.

“We chose it because it is the largest desert in the world; it is sparsely inhabited; it is highly sensitive to land changes; and it is in Africa and close to Europe and the Middle East, all of which have large and growing energy demands,” he said.

The Sahara is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi) is comparable to the area of China or the United States.

The Berber people occupy much of the Sahara, and Tuareg nomads continue to inhabit and move across wide stretches of the Sahara today.

The wind and solar farms simulated in the study would cover more than nine million square kilometers and generate, on average, about three terawatts and 79 terawatts of electrical power, respectively.

“In 2017, the global energy demand was only 18 terawatts, so this is obviously much more energy than is currently needed worldwide,” Li said.

The model revealed that wind farms caused regional warming of near-surface air temperature, with greater changes in minimum temperatures than maximum temperatures.

“The greater nighttime warming takes place because wind turbines can enhance the vertical mixing and bring down warmer air from above,” the authors wrote.

Precipitation also increased as much as 0.25 millimeters per day on average in regions with wind farm installations.

“This was a doubling of precipitation over that seen in the control experiments,” Li said.

In the Sahel, average rainfall increased 1.12 millimeters per day where wind farms were present.

“This increase in precipitation, in turn, leads to an increase in vegetation cover, creating a positive feedback loop,” Li said.

Solar farms had a similar positive effect on temperature and precipitation, the team found. Unlike the wind farms, the solar arrays had very little effect on wind speed.

“We found that the large-scale installation of solar and wind farms can bring more rainfall and promote vegetation growth in these regions,” Kalnay said. “The rainfall increase is a consequence of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces.”

And the development of solar power in the northern Sahara Desert has already begun on the dunes below Morocco’s sun-scorched High Atlas mountains.

Thousands of curved mirrors, each taller than a human, stand in rows as part of the Noor solar-power generating plant that is changing how the African continent produces its electricity.

The mirrors cover an area of roughly 1.4 million square metres. The first phase of this plant, which came online in 2016, generated enough electricity to supply 650,000 people.

By 2020, or possibly sooner, the US$9 billion solar power plant is expected to generate 580 megawatts (MW), enough electricity to power over a million homes.

It’s a game-changer for Morocco, a country that until recently imported 97 percent of its energy. In the near future, Morocco aims to become an exporter of power supplies to Europe, elsewhere on the African continent and the wider Arab-speaking world.

And the environmental effects of the solar installation are likely to benefit the region where it is located.

“The increase in rainfall and vegetation, combined with clean electricity as a result of solar and wind energy, could help agriculture, economic development and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East and other nearby regions,” Motesharrei said.

That help is much needed. According to a study published in March in the “Journal of Climate,” the Sahara Desert has grown by roughly 10 percent over the past century.

A research team from the University of Maryland analyzed data collected since 1923 and concluded that while the greatest causal factor of the growth of the desert that is roughly the size of the United States is due to naturally-occurring changes, a third of the expansion can be linked directly to climate change.

The expansion is not good news, particularly for inhabitants of the neighboring Sahel border region, as the increased heat changes fertile farmlands to dry, barren land.

This is the first study to take a century-long look at the world’s largest desert. The authors suggest other deserts may be expanding as well because of global warming.

“Our results are specific to the Sahara, but they likely have implications for the world’s other deserts,” Sumant Nigam, senior author of the study and professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at University of Maryland, said in a statement.

The Sahara Desert expanded over the 20th century, by 11 percent to 18 percent depending on the season, and by 10 percent when defined using annual rainfall.

The desert expanded southward in summer, reflecting retreat of the northern edge of the Sahel rainfall belt, and to the north in winter, indicating potential impact of the widening of the tropics.

The evaluation shows that modeling regional hydroclimate change over the African continent remains challenging, warranting caution in the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The study points to far-reaching implications for the future of the Sahara and other subtropical deserts like it. With inadequate rainfall to support crops, there will be “devastating consequences” for the world’s growing population, the scientists said.

Natalie Thomas, a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic science at University of Maryland and lead author of the research paper, said the next step for the team is to look at the rainfall and temperature trends that are driving the expansion of the Sahara and other deserts.

“The trends in Africa of hot summers getting hotter and rainy seasons drying out are linked with factors that include increasing greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere,” said Ming Cai, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research on the Sahara Desert. “These trends also have a devastating effect on the lives of African people, who depend on agriculture-based economies.”

Featured Images:  A traveler walks the Erg Chebbi dunes at sunset in Morocco’s part of the Sahara Desert. October 8, 2017 (Photo by Brian Geltner) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Fund_NGO

Costa Rica: World’s First Carbon-Neutral Country

The partnership's fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

The partnership’s fuel cell bus emits only water vapor. April 12, 2018 (Screengrab from video courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, May 15, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The inauguration ceremony for President Carlos Alvarado  Quesada, celebrated Tuesday, May 8, was carbon neutral for the first time in Costa Rican history, a harbinger of larger plans for the future of this forward-looking Central American nation. Measures were taken to reduce waste, limit the carbon footprint, and offset the unavoidable emissions generated by the event.

Central America’s first hydrogen fuel cell electric urban bus, Nyuti, rolled through the streets of Costa Rica’s capital on inauguration morning transporting President-elect Alvarado and his new cabinet to the ceremony held at Democracy Square in downtown San Jose.

The symbolic 3.30 km route, highlighted the new government’s commitment to set Costa Rica on a course to full decarbonization of its transportation sector by the country’s bicentennial in 2021.

While the nation’s electric grid is already 98 percent carbon-free, the transportation sector still relies on imported carbon-based fuels.

Nyuti, meaning star in the language of the Chorotega people of northwestern Costa Rica, is part of a hydrogen ecosystem demonstration partnership, led by Texas-based Ad Astra Rocket Company, to validate and measure hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel, generated from renewable water and Costa Rica’s clean and abundant domestic electricity sources such as solar and wind.

The public-private partnership with Costa Rica’s Development Bank System, includes Air Liquide, a world leader in gases, technologies, and services for industry and health; US Hybrid Corporation, specializing in hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles, Cummins Inc., a U.S. global power leader in diesel and alternative fuel engines, and Relaxury S.A., a subsidiary of Costa Rica’s Purdy Motor S.A, which operates the bus for the partnership.

All team members have contributed their own resources to the project.

“Costa Rica has made excellent progress in de-carbonizing its electric grid, or about 30 percent of its energy needs. The other 70 percent, which lies primarily in the transportation sector, remains to be done and hydrogen could help us bridge that gap and become the first country to achieve total independence from carbon-based fuels,” said Franklin Chang Díaz, chairman and CEO of Ad Astra Rocket Company.

“The new government’s clean energy and de-carbonization commitment gives us hope that, through teamwork and focus on a common vision we could achieve a national objective in a short time,” said Chang.

“This extraordinary achievement, obtained by a young team of Costa Rican engineers and technicians, demonstrates the great potential of our youth to lead in advanced technology projects of high social, economic and environmental impact,” he said.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

The new Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, center, talks transportation in front of the Nyuti fuel cell-powered bus. April 28, 2018 (Photo courtesy U.S. Hybrid) Posted for media use.

Under Alvarado’s predecessor, President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, the Costa Rican government has been developing plans to offset all of the country’s heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. Now President Alvarado will shoulder that challenge.

“Carbon neutrality is big homework for our generation, and Costa Rica must be among the first countries that achieves it, if not the first,” said President Alvarado. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

He then signed an executive decree promoting the use of hydrogen as fuel.

 Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens' Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a member of the center-left Citizens’ Action Party (PAC), Alvarado was previously Minister of Labor and Social Security during the Presidency of Solís Rivera. 2015, (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

“We are instructing institutions that are involved in the environment and energy sectors so that, within the frame of their competency (MINAE, ICE and Recope), they develop a plan of action with the purpose of promoting the investigation, production and commercialization of hydrogen as fuel,” reads the decree.

“We must drive a decided and coordinated action of all sectors in society to begin and accelerate in an irreversible way this process, not just pushing electric transportation and production, hydrogen and other technologies, but also by modernizing our institutions,” said President Alvarado.

The greatest challenge to Costa Rica’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions is the transportation sector. More than half its greenhouse gas emissions are produced by a transport fleet of over 1.3 million vehicles.

The country is lagging in the modernization of public transport and transportation that operates with alternative energies such as electricity.

Even though the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021 is considered unrealistic, establishing this goal has pushed the country in the right direction by taking steps towards the use of clean energy and the reduction of emissions. However, there is still a long road ahead.

Former Environment and Energy Minister Roberto Dobles, who served in the government of President Solis, said Costa Rica aims to reach this goal using budgeting, laws, and incentives, including measures to promote biofuels, hybrid vehicles, and clean energy.

A key part of the national strategy will be a “C-Neutral” label to certify that tourism and certain industrial practices mitigate all of the carbon dioxide they emit.

Under the new certification system, tourists and businesses will be charged a voluntary “tax” to offset their carbon emissions, with one ton of carbon valued at $10, according to “La Nación” newspaper.

The money will be used to fund conservation, reforestation, and research in protected areas.

To augment the development of C-Neutral, the country is cultivating a carbon certificate market that aims not only to increase carbon capture and storage in the nation’s forests, but also help maintain their scenic beauty.

In 2002, Costa Rica’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels totaled 5.8 million metric tons, ranking 108th in the world according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Delegates at a recent United Nations meeting in Nairobi, Kenya noted that they were watching Costa Rica’s initiative and hope to replicate it elsewhere.


MaxTrain

Egypt Funded for Africa’s Largest Solar Array

Solar panels at the 3rd project in Aswan province under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Egypt Renewable Energy Framework (Photo courtesy EBRD) Posted for media use

Solar panels at the 3rd project in Aswan province under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s Egypt Renewable Energy Framework (Photo courtesy EBRD) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, November 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) have agreed that they will strengthen their cooperation to mobilize green energy financing.

The ISA is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them sunshine countries, which lie completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

A joint declaration to promote solar energy in the countries where both organizations operate, was signed November 2 in New Delhi by Nandita Parshad, the EBRD’s managing director for energy and natural resources, and the ISA’s interim Director General Upendra Tripathy.

The ceremony was attended by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitely and visiting EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti.

Signing the declaration, the EBRD President said the bank has always been eager to share its expertise with new partners and also to learn from them. “With the ISA,” he said, “we share the vision of sustainable development and of green energy, which ultimately benefits the global economy.”

During a panel discussion at the Prabodhan Leaders’ Conclave, entitled “Smart Cities: what can India learn and unlearn from Europe?” Sir Suma presented the bank’s work to modernize urban infrastructure in the 38 emerging economies where the multilateral development bank invests.

Under its Green Energy Transition approach, launched in 2015, the EBRD seeks to increase the volume of green financing from an average of 24 percent of its annual business investment in the 10 years up to 2016 to 40 percent by 2020.

To date, the EBRD has invested more than €3.7 billion directly in renewable energy, supporting 111 projects in 23 countries and funding more than 5.7 GW of generating capacity.

For instance, the bank has set its course to help build the largest solar installation in Africa near a village in the Aswan governate in the sunny land of Egypt.

The EBRD, the Green Climate Fund  and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) are supporting the expansion of renewable energy in Egypt with a US$87 million syndicated loan to Infinity Solar Energy SAE, an Egyptian renewable energy developer, and to ib vogt GmbH, an international solar developer based in Germany.

The funds will be used to construct and operate two solar photovoltaic power plants located at the Benban solar complex in Egypt’s southern governorate of Aswan.

There, the country’s first solar power complex is being built on an area of 14.4 square miles in Benban village.

The land for the Benban solar development complex was dedicated to the state-run New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) by presidential decree in 2014.

The NREA divided the site into 41 plots and made them available to developers and companies to carry out individual projects. The Benban complex consists of 41 solar power plants with a total capacity of 1.8 GW.

The project began in 2015 and is expected to be complete by 2018 with an investment worth 40 billion Egyptian pounds (US$2.26 billion).

Benben is expected to be one of the largest solar generation facilities in the world, certainly the largest solar installation in Africa, with a planned total capacity of 1.8 GW.

The village of Benben takes its name from the Benben Stone, one of the most important of the Egyptian religious symbols. The sun temple, located in the city of Heliopolis, Egypt, was dedicated to the solar deity Ra, and housed the sacred Benben Stone.

A pyramid-shaped capstone on top of an obelisk, the discovery of the Benben Stone led to the construction of the famous Egyptian pyramids. The Benben stone was discovered in the Temple of the Phoenix. It is a symbol of this bird with red and golden feathers that sheltered in the Tree of Life and had the power to be reborn.

The two EBRD solar plants at Benben will be built by Alfanar Energy, a Saudi-based construction and electric manufacturing company.

Each development will be funded through loans of US$87 million under an A/B structure, comprising EBRD A Loans of US$58 million, of which US$44 million will be from the Bank’s own account and US$14 million from the Green Climate Fund. FMO will provide B Loans of US$29 million.

The investment is part of the EBRD’s US$500 million framework for renewable energy in Egypt, adopted by the bank’s Board of Directors earlier this year. The framework focuses on developing Egypt’s potential in renewables and strengthening private sector involvement in the power and energy sector.

The EBRD loan will be complemented by a parallel loan of up to US$28.5 million from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) , the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank.

The project is expected to abate up to 100,000 tons of CO2-equivalent every year, supporting Egypt’s emission reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as promoting sustainable energy development and private sector participation in the country’s energy landscape.

Sabah Mohammed Al Mutlaq, chairman of Alfa Solar and vice-chairman of Alfanar Group, commented, “Globally, countries are experiencing the effects of climate change and renewable energy investors and financier’s role is vital to cultivate more investment in the region for green energy and scale down the effects of global warming.”

“This partnership will assist the socio-economic development in Benban by providing local population with infrastructure, job creation and skills training. The region has tremendous potential when generating power from the natural resources, and Alfanar will continue to actively consider venturing with ICD for additional renewable technology projects in solar, wind as well as energy from waste.”

Support for the EBRD framework is provided by the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Energy Efficiency Policy Dialogue Framework, funded by the European Union’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility, and the SEMED Multi-Donor Account.

The Green Climate Fund is picking up the pace in implementing its project portfolio, and has now reached the milestone of $100 million in project disbursements, GCF officials say.

Ayaan Adam, private sector facility director for the Green Climate Fund, said, “This first investment with the EBRD under our Egypt Renewable Energy Financing Framework project is a big step forward. It shows the potential for public and private climate finance to drive the transition to low-emission energy in support of Egypt’s climate goals.”

Once the Benben solar power plants are completed, the energy generated will be connected to the national grid and then distributed across the country. Officials estimate the whole Benben project’s generated power to equal 90 percent of the electricity generated by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam.

Egypt aims to increase its use of renewable energy to 22 percent by 2020, the country’s Investment and International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr said during a corporate meeting in Cairo in April.

Egypt is a founding member of the EBRD and has been receiving funding since 2012. To date, the bank has invested €2.7 billion in 51 projects in the country.

The EBRD strives to be ahead of the field in green investment. Together with the Green Climate Fund, the bank signed an agreement on cooperation in April 2017 that cements the EBRD’s position as the largest single recipient of Green Climate Fund resources and paves the way for more joint projects aimed at combating climate change in the bank’s regions. In October 2016 the Green Climate Fund decided to allocate US$378 million to support green investments by the EBRD.

International institutional interest in solar has helped some 30 companies close on power plants in Benben, “African Review” reports.

The International Finance Corporation has been among the international finance institutions to dish out some of the US$1.8 billion pledged to the Benban solar complex, helping companies in the project reach financial close.

The UK government announced it would be taking part in the IFC’s debt package through the state-owned CDC Group, which is investing US$97 million in the complex.

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank’s infrastructure fund for Africa, Africa50, signed financing documentation with Scatec Solar and Norfund for developing 400 MW in solar plants in Benban by contributing equity and leveraging total funding of close to US$450 million.

Featured Image: Benben stone from the Pyramid of Amenemhat III, 12th Dynasty. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (Photo by Jon Bodsworth courtesy Wikipedia) Creative Commons license


Japan Builds ‘Hydrogen Society of the Future’

A Toyota Mirai fuel cell car is ready to take on fuel at an Iwatani hydrogen fueling station. (Photo ©Iwatani Corporation courtesy Government of Japan)

A Toyota Mirai fuel cell car is ready to take on fuel at an Iwatani hydrogen fueling station. (Photo ©Iwatani Corporation courtesy Government of Japan)

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, August 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Hydrogen is already fueling cars and stationary power systems in Japan, North America and Europe. Now Japan is envisioning an entire society powered by hydrogen and has opened its wallet to make that happen.

A hydrogen society is a set of communities with sophisticated, integrated, green-energy networks powered by mini-hydrogen plants that create a carbon-free, hydrogen distribution system.

That’s the long-term dream. To make that dream come true, Japan is starting with Tokyo.

With less than three years until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is pursuing plans to establish a hydrogen society.

Back in the spring of 2016, then Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe declared, “The 1964 Tokyo Olympics left the Shinkansen high-speed train system as its legacy. The upcoming Olympics will leave a hydrogen society as its legacy.”

And the current Tokyo government, headed by Yuriko Koike, is working to make the dream a reality.

Since March 2017 Tokyo has been operating two commercially sold fuel-cell buses on regular routes. Governor Koike says she aims to have 100 fuel cell buses, including vehicles operated by private bus operators, as well as 6,000 fuel cell cars, operating on the city’s roads by 2020.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has created a ¥45.2 billion (US$400 million) fund for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle subsidies and installing hydrogen refueling stations.

One issue is the high cost of the initial investments required. Setting up a standard hydrogen fueling station costs some ¥500 million (US$4.3 million), five times the cost of an ordinary gas station.

But with support from both the national and metropolitan governments, it has become possible to install one of these fueling stations for a net cost of ¥100 million (US$870,000).

Tokyo metropolitan authorities aim to increase the number of hydrogen stations to 35 by 2020. This will make it possible to reach a station within 15 minutes from most places in the metropolis.

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by electricity generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, and emit no carbon dioxide, only water vapor.

With Japan relying more on fossil fuels since the shuttering of most of its nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster almost six years ago, the move to a hydrogen society is a push that has only gained urgency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has become a vocal advocate for hydrogen, to stimulate developments in technology and to help  lower greenhouse gases.

“Hydrogen energy is an ace in the hole for energy security and measures against global warming,” Abe said in a speech to parliament on January 20. “Thanks to deregulation, a hydrogen society of the future is about to begin here in Japan.”

The creation of a hydrogen society aims at achieving four major goals.

First is the reduction of the burden on the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells emit only water vapor.

Second is the diversification of energy sources. Hydrogen can be produced with renewable energy sources, and its use can promote stability in the supply of energy.

Third, it will generate beneficial economic ripple effects. The shift to a new energy source will naturally mean new demand and new jobs.

And fourth, it can help in coping with natural disasters. Fuel cell cars generate electricity to power their motors using hydrogen from their tanks, and when disasters cause power outages, these vehicles can serve as large-scale movable generators. This adds to the appeal of hydrogen for Tokyo, which is highly conscious of the importance of disaster readiness.

Some progress in bringing Japanese companies together to accomplish these goals has already been made.

In May 11 companies agreed to collaborate on large-scale construction of hydrogen fueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell cars across Japan.

Several good looking, high performing hydrogen fuel cell models are on the market now, including four from Japanese and Korean automakers: the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, the Nissan X-Trail and the Toyota Mirai FCV.

Yet in the first half of 2017, fewer than 500 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were sold or leased in Japan and Korea, and only 1,600 were sold or leased globally, according to an August 24 report from Information Trends, a Washington, DC market research and consulting firm.

One important reason that new car buyers pass up hydrogen fuel cell cars is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.

To make the leap to a hydrogen society will take cooperation and lots of money.

The 11 companies that signed the memorandum of understanding on collaboration toward the large-scale construction of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles are:

Toyota Motor Corporation

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.

Iwatani Corporation

Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd.

Toho Gas Co., Ltd.

Air Liquide Japan Ltd.

Toyota Tsusho Corporation

Development Bank of Japan Inc.

The agreement is aimed at accelerating the construction of hydrogen stations in the current early stage of FCV commercialization using an “all Japan” approach centered on collaboration among the 11 companies and others than will be brought into a new company the initial 11 plan to create.

The initiative stems from the Japanese government’s “Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells” of March 22, 2016, which aims to achieve a total of 160 operational hydrogen stations and 40,000 in-use fuel cell vehicles by fiscal 2020.

The Iwatani Corporation announced August 10 that it has partnered with two companies, the Toshiba Corporation and the Tohoku Electric Power Co. to construct and operate a large-scale hydrogen energy system in Namie-cho, Fukushima prefecture, based on a 10,000 kW class hydrogen production facility.

The system will use hydrogen to offset grid loads, and deliver hydrogen to locations in Tohoku and beyond, and will seek to demonstrate the advantages of hydrogen as a solution in grid balancing and as a hydrogen gas supply.

That project has won a positive evaluation from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and its continued support for the transition to the technical demonstration phase. The practical effectiveness of the large scale system will be determined by verification testing in fiscal year 2020.

Moriyuki Fujimoto, Iwatani general manager said, “Iwatani considers that this project will contribute to the early establishment of a hydrogen economy that draws on our experience in the transportation, storage and supply of industrial hydrogen, and the construction and operation of hydrogen stations.”

The Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) began soliciting research proposals to spur the development of a hydrogen society,  under the new program this month.

The ¥100 million (US$890,000) program will fund between 10 and 20 projects, giving each project selected up to ¥10 million (US$89,000).

The foundation is looking for projects that demonstrate progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lowering the cost of using hydrogen by 2030.

A panel of hydrogen and energy experts from universities and public-sector research organizations will review the proposals and oversee their selection based on originality and viability of each proposal.

TMF wants to see innovations in the generation, storage, transportation, and use of hydrogen and will focus on attracting young researchers to participate in the program.

The program will last five years. In the first year, the foundation will solicit proposals from applicants from universities and public-sector institutions in Japan.

In years two through five, researchers from universities and public-sector research institutions worldwide will be eligible for funding.

Hydrogen can be produced using a variety of energy sources, including fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, modification of methanol and methane gas from biomass, and electrolysis of water with wind and solar power.

Tokyo Institute of Technology Professor Takao Kashiwagi says the use of hydrogen is the key to a carbon-neutral world, but only if it is produced using clean technologies.

“The hydrogen that serves as the energy source is currently produced mainly by reforming fossil fuels like natural gas, and this process results in the emission of carbon dioxide,” said Kashiwagi. “But in the future it will become possible to greatly reduce the volume of these emissions by combining the process with technologies such as underground storage of carbon dioxide and the growing of tiny algae to produce biofuel.”

“In the future,” said Kashiwagi, “it will become a zero-emission energy source when produced using solar and other types of renewable energy.”


Feature Image: Hydrogen can supply energy for many uses as illustrated in this Government of Japan infographic.

Civil Society Pressures G20 to Decarbonize

SolarTowerGermany

The Solarturm Jülich about 60 km west of Cologne, Germany is a test facility for commercial solar tower power plants. (Photo courtesy German Aerospace Center, DLR) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HAMBURG, Germany, July 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The German Presidency of the G20 meeting in Hamburg this week has put energy and climate high on the agenda as civil society groups call for 100 percent renewable energy across Europe by 2030.

Addressing NGOs in June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her view of the importance of climate in the G20 talks this year. “What we need to do is pool various interests, so that we can find answers to the big questions of our time. One of these is protecting the climate,” she said. “The aim is to as rapidly as possible reduce the carbon emissions of our economies.”

“The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will guide us along the way,” said Merkel. “I believe this is true more than ever now that the United States has announced it is leaving the Paris Agreement.”

U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June that he is pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate, the first global agreement to limit the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities that are sending the global temperature into the record high territory.

Merkel said that as host of the G20 meeting this year the German government has a message for the world. “The message, in a nutshell, is: First, the G20 is assuming responsibility for life here and now – through its partnership with Africa, by tackling the causes of displacement, by fighting terrorism and corruption, and with constant efforts to achieve food security and development.”

“Second,” she said, “the G20 is also assuming responsibility for the world of tomorrow and beyond – by pursuing climate protection, by implementing the ever so important 2030 Agenda, and by shaping digitalization and strengthening global health.”

“All of this is easy to say – but much harder to do,” Merkel acknowledged.

Germany is moving quickly to implement renewables, and on April 30, the country set a new national record for renewable energy use. During part of that day, 85 percent of all electricity used in Germany was produced from renewables: wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power.

With these goals in mind, the 25-year-old nonprofit European Association for Renewable Energy, known as Eurosolar, sees renewable energy as central to the G20 discussions, saying it plays “a decisive role for current and future economic structures and dynamics.”

Based in Bonn, Germany, Eurosolar members are: solar associations engaged in renewable energy expansion, companies, scientific institutes, trade unions, regional and local governments, municipal and county district administrations, members of the European Parliament and regional parliaments, scientists, architects, engineers, tradesmen, farmers and teachers.

Eurosolar is demanding that the G20 heads of state and government “take concrete steps towards the rapid conversion of the energy industry to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This expansion is urgently necessary, and it is also possible,” the association said in a statement this week.

Eurosolar wants a clear commitment “to a decentralized energy supply, which is entirely based on renewable energies.”

With offices in 14 countries including Austria, Italy, Turkey, and Ukraine, Eurosolar says it conducts its work independent of political parties, institutions, commercial enterprises or interest groups.

Eurosolar points to progress on the renewable energy front over the past five years. The share of renewables in power generation grew by 70 percent in the G20 countries from 2011 to 2016 and by 300 percent in the UK. Germany was able to increase its share by 360 percent.

Eurosolar President Professor Peter Droege says the G20 leaders “should remove restrictions on renewable energy in their countries, such as regressive limits, eliminate fossil and nuclear subsidies, and stamp out the systemic corruption that permeates the conventional energy sector and its influence on the captive public policy environment.”

“The governments of the G20 must finally fulfill their responsibilities and show real global leadership by removing all national and international obstacles to the rapid and comprehensive local and regional expansion of renewable energy systems,” said Droege.

“In doing so, they will not only support peace, harmonious development and democratic justice, but also build the necessary foundation for the rapid achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

As holder of the G20 Presidency this year, the German government believes that resolutions taken at G20 meetings can move the entire world.

Climate policy is the latest example. After the G7 expressed its commitment to adopting an ambitious world climate agreement in order to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C, the G20 issued a similar signal in support of this goal.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 adopted a legally binding international climate agreement, which is designed to keep global warming significantly below 2°C. Germany adopted its national climate plan before the 2016 UN climate conference in Marrakech, Morocco was over last November.

But on behalf of Eurosolar members, Droege says, “Subscribing to the Paris Agreement clearly does not contradict the continued subsidy of coal, gas, oil and uranium.”

Eurosolar sees the Paris Agreement as “an agreement for the de facto promotion of nuclear power.”

Renewable energies are actually mentioned only once in the Paris Agreement, Droege points out, and only in relation to Africa.

However, he argues, a reasonable climate protection agreement is not possible without a decentralized global use of renewable energies.

Many European energy companies are interested in cleaner renewable energy generation that finds success in the marketplace.

In late June, 13 industry leaders and groups, including SolarPower Europe, launched “Make Power Clean,” a joint initiative to promote a European electricity market designed to deliver cleaner energy for all.

The European Union’s electricity market must become more flexible, secure and sustainable to put Europe on track for the energy transition, the group maintains.

The new Make Power Clean initiative supports the European Commission’s proposal for a carbon eligibility criterion in the Regulation on the Internal Market for Electricity, saying it is a most needed step in the right direction.

“We call on the Council and the European Parliament to endorse the 550g CO2/kWh carbon criterion, which is critical to the overall consistency and efficiency of EU climate and energy policy,” said the coalition.

As proposed by the European Commission, making the eligibility for capacity mechanisms conditional to a 550g CO2/kWh carbon criterion is transparent and in line with the European Investment Bank’s investment lending policy.

The carbon criterion is consistent with Europe’s 2030 decarbonization goal and supports the effectiveness of the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

The Make Power Clean initiative currently includes: ENI, ESIA, Eurogas, Gas Natural Fenosa, Iberdrola, Nordex/Acciona Windpower, Shell, SNAM, Siemens, SolarPower Europe, Statoil, Total and WindEurope.

“It is high time,” said Droege of Eurosolar, “to reassign the trillions of dollars in currently wasted armament costs and conventional energy subsidies for peaceful, future-minded purposes and to rapidly implement local energy systems worldwide in the paramount challenge of our times: the fight against the manifest and imminent existential threat of climate change.”

The G20 countries meeting in Hamburg account for 85 percent of all global economic output. They govern more than 62 percent of the world’s population, almost 4.7 billion people.

At the same time, these 19 countries and the European Union are responsible for 80 percent of polluting emissions worldwide.

The G20 includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.


CapacityBuildingBillboard970x250.160312

China Leads the New Clean Energy Reality

EnergyMinistersBeijing

Jim Carr, Minister of Energy, Canada; Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China; Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency; Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, USA; Terje Søviknes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Norway (Photo courtesy IEA) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, June 8, 2017 (Maximpact.com) – Now that President Donald Trump has announced that he will exit the Paris Agreement on climate, the world’s major emerging economies, including China and India, are replacing the United States at the center stage of the clean energy transition.

By betting on energy efficiency, wind, solar and other renewables, these countries are increasingly leading the way, while the United States falls behind as Trump moves the country towards greater reliance on coal and oil.

The International Energy Agency projects that all of the growth in energy demand in the next 25 years will take place in emerging and developing countries.

“There is a new reality in clean energy,” says Christian Zinglersen of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who heads the new Clean Energy Ministerial Secretariat. Based at the IEA headquarters in Paris, the Clean Energy Ministerial is a global forum that promotes clean energy policies.

This is the importance of the top-level meeting of energy ministers from the world’s biggest economies taking plan in Beijing this week, said Zinglersen, formerly deputy permanent secretary at the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate.

“The fact that representatives from fossil-fuel producers like Mexico and Saudi Arabia will join renewable-energy pioneers like Denmark and Germany for a top-level meeting in China is not a coincidence,” he said. “We are witnessing a global consensus that the key to the energy transition will reside with decisions made in emerging economies.”

China, the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is changing its coal-burning ways. “China is now the undisputable global leader of renewable energy expansion worldwide, and the IEA forecasts that by 2021, more than one-third of global cumulative solar PV and onshore wind capacity will be located in China,” said Zinglersen.

India was the first country to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for light emitting diodes (LEDs), and it expects to save as much as 277 terawatt-hours of electricity between 2015 and 2030, avoiding 254 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of 90 coal-fired power plants.

On June 6, during a side event on efficient lighting at the Clean Energy Ministerial, 13 companies announced new commitments to the Global Lighting Challenge totaling nearly six billion LED lighting products.

The Global Lighting Challenge has now reached 14 billion high-efficiency, high-quality lighting products committed, surpassing its 10 billion light goal set at the sixth Clean Energy Ministerial two years ago.

Twelve Chinese solid-state lighting companies committed to deploy 3.29 billion LED Lamps and 5.77 million LED streetlights by the end of 2018.

Based on these commitments, the total cumulative energy savings from 2017–2018 is estimated at more than 45 billion kWh, which is roughly half of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station’s annual power generation (93.5 billion kWh in 2016).

These energy savings lead to CO2 a emissions reduction estimated at more than 40.5 million tons.

LEDVANCE, an international company for lighting products and networked light applications based in Germany, announced its commitment to sell 2.5 billion LED lamps by 2023.

LEDVANCE’s goal will save the equivalent amount of energy produced by 75 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, the company estimates.

“We made a very conscious choice in pledging this commitment and are very proud in taking part in the Global Lighting Challenge,” said Thomas Dreier, global head of research and development at LEDVANCE.

“LED lamps are not only ecologically sensible but also economically. In combination with smart lighting solutions, LED lamps in the current generation have a potential of reducing energy consumption and costs by 90 percent,” Dreier said.

“At LEDVANCE, we have been investing a lot in researching the potential of tomorrow’s LED lamps, which will continue to increase the scope of what is possible in energy efficiency.”

The number of electric cars on the roads around the world rose to two million in 2016, following a year of strong growth in 2015, according to the latest edition of the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook.

China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40 percent of the electric cars sold in the world.

With more than 200 million electric two-wheelers and more than 300,000 electric buses, China is by far the global leader in the electrification of transport. China, the United States and Europe made up the three main markets, totaling over 90 percent of all electric vehicles sold around the world.

Four large U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, are leading a partnership of over 30 cities to mass-purchase EVs for their public fleets including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers. The group of cities is currently seeking to purchase over 110,000 EVs, a significant number when compared to the 160,000 total EVs sold in the entire United States in 2016.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry told his counterparts in Beijing, “I don’t believe you can have a real conversation about clean energy without including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). The United States understands the importance of this clean technology and its vital role in the future of energy production.”

Perry made these comments at a meeting of the energy ministers of Canada, China, Norway, and the United States, as well as heads of delegation from Australia and the European Commission, business leaders and civil society organizations held ahead of the Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage is a process that captures CO2 emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses it or stores it so it will not enter the atmosphere.

The ministers were invited by the International Energy Agency and China to review how to increase collaboration to drive further deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The meeting was held ahead of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8), in Beijing.

“We have already seen the success of projects like Petra Nova in Texas, which is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system,” Perry said. “Our experience with CCUS proves that you can do the right thing for the environment and the economy too.”

The system at Petra Nova can capture 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year from an existing coal-fired power plant unit, a capture rate of up to 90 percent from a supplied slipstream of flue gas. By using CO2 captured from the plant, oil production at West Ranch oilfield is expected to increase from around 500 barrels per day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.

Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said, “Carbon capture, use and storage holds enormous potential to enable economic growth and create jobs, while ensuring the environment is protected.”

“Canada hopes to continue working with domestic and international partners, including through the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, to help us all address the technical and policy challenges around wide scale implementation of this important technology,” Carr said.

“There are many reasons to stand for clean energy today,” said Zinglersen. “These can range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also battling the scourge of air pollution, improving energy security by reducing the dependency of fossil fuels, diversifying supply, creating high-tech jobs or fostering innovation. As such, approaches to clean energy will vary from country to country.”

By committing to these new clean technologies, he said, countries like China are helping drive down costs for the benefit of the world.


Featured Image: Dabancheng is said to be China’s the wind power capital. The Dabancheng Wind Farm is situated on the road from Urumqi to Turpan in northwestern China. (Photo courtesy Asian Development Bank) Creative commons license via Flickr

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2016 a Record Year for Renewables, Latest IRENA Data Reveals

2016 a Record Year for Renewables

Solar outpaces wind for new power capacity

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 30 March 2017 — Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 161 gigawatts (GW) in 2016, making the strongest year ever for new capacity additions, according to data released today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017, estimates that by the end of last year the world’s renewable generation capacity reached 2,006 GW, with solar energy showing particularly strong growth.

We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world, and this is reflected in another year of record breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “This growth in deployment emphasizes the increasingly strong business case for renewables which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment. But accelerating this momentum will require additional investment in order to move decisively towards decarbonising the energy sector and meet climate objectives. This new data is an encouraging sign that though there is much yet to do, we are on the right path,” Mr. Amin added.

IRENA’s new data shows that last year’s additions grew the world’s renewable energy capacity by 8.7 per cent, with a record 71 GW of new solar energy leading the growth. 2016 marked the first time since 2013 that solar growth outpaced wind energy, which increased by 51 GW, while hydropower and bioenergy capacities increased 30 GW and 9 GW respectively —the best ever year for growth in bioenergy capacity. Geothermal energy capacity increased by just under 1 GW.

Asia accounted for 58 per cent of new renewable additions in 2016, according to the data, giving it a total of 812 GW or roughly 41 per cent of the global capacity. Asia was also the fastest growing region, with a 13.1 per cent increase in renewable capacity. Africa installed 4.1 GW of new capacity in 2016, twice as much as 2015.

This year’s edition of Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics contains for the first time data specifically for off-grid renewables. IRENA shows that off-grid renewable electricity capacity reached 2,800 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2016. Roughly 40 per cent of off-grid electricity was provided by solar energy and 10 per cent from hydropower. The majority of the remainder came from bioenergy. It is estimated that globally as many as 60 million households, or 300 million people, are served with and benefit from off-grid renewable electricity.

Highlights by technology:

Hydropower: In 2016, about half of new hydro capacity was installed in Brazil and China (14.6 GW in total). Other countries with major hydro expansion (over 1 GW) included: Canada; Ecuador; Ethiopia and India.

Wind energy: Almost three-quarters of new wind energy capacity was installed last year in just four countries: China (+19 GW); USA (+9 GW); Germany (+5 GW); and India (+4 GW). Brazil continued to show strong growth, with an increase of 2 GW in 2016.

Bioenergy: The majority of bioenergy capacity expansion occurred in Asia last year (+5.9 GW) and Asia is fast approaching Europe in terms of its share of global bioenergy capacity (32 per cent compared to 34 per cent in Europe). Europe (+1.3 GW) and South America (+0.9 GW) were the other two regions where bioenergy capacity expanded significantly.

Solar energy: Asia saw the most growth in solar capacity last year, with capacity of 139 GW (+50 GW). Almost half of all new solar capacity was installed in China in 2016 (+34 GW). Other countries with significant expansion included: USA (+11 GW); Japan (+8 GW) and India (+4 GW). Capacity in Europe expanded by 5 GW to reach 104 GW, with most expansion occurring in Germany and the UK.

Geothermal energy: Geothermal power capacity increased by 780 MW in 2016, with expansions in Kenya (+485 MW), Turkey (+150 MW), Indonesia (+95 MW) and Italy (+55 MW).

Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017 offers the most comprehensive, up-to-date and accessible figures on renewable energy capacity statistics. It includes figures from 2000 to 2016, and contains data from more than 200 countries and territories.

Access Renewable Energy Capacity Statistics 2017: Here

About the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) 
IRENA is mandated to be the global hub for renewable energy cooperation and information exchange by 150 Members (149 States and the European Union). 27 additional countries are in the accession process and actively engaged. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.


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Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends of 2017

LouisianaTribalLand

Sea level rise caused by climate warming has inundated Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, displacing the Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe, the first official U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The Climate Trust, a nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for climate benefit, announced its fourth annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in the coming year.

Trends range from U.S. citizens becoming climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record, to more native tribes joining carbon markets, to China taking the global climate leadership role, to environmental justice concerns playing an increased role in climate policy decisions.

These trends were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their group of working partners: governments, investors, project developers, large businesses, and the philanthropic community.

Our team has identified areas of potential advancement, despite the anticipated inaction around climate at the federal level,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust.

This year, more than ever, we felt there was a need for positivity, and have primarily chosen to share industry insights that are positive in nature, yet still strongly based in reality,” said Penrith. “We expect that the New Year will bring together unlikely, yet strong, domestic partnerships with corresponding resolve to address climate change, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by banding together.

The Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends

1. As our nation heads into uncertain times with respect to climate change policy and action, states, cities, and regional collaborative groups are going to lead the fight against climate change.

In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Accord, mayors from 128 cities will pick up the cause.

In the Midwest, wind turbines continue to rise out of the cornfields.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken recently issued an opinion and order  denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss a climate change lawsuit filed by 21 young people.

In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up the draft considerations for a cap-and-trade program for the state. In the vacuum created by a Scott Pruitt-led EPA, and a Rex Tillerson-led State Department, rulings like the one issued by Judge Aiken, and statements like the one from California Governor Jerry Brown challenging Trump on climate change, indicate where the action on climate change is going to be for the next four years.

2. Progressive states and foundations will pick up support for domestic climate finance in the absence of federal action. We expect that climate denial from federal leaders will alarm foundations and progressive states. Many foundations previously had an international climate focus, and The Climate Trust anticipates that these institutions will refocus on their U.S. agenda.

The political will for carbon pricing will grow in progressive states, demanding more immediate state action.

Increasingly, public entities are aware that their dollars are most effectively used when they leverage private capital. In 2017, states and foundations will look for opportunities to mitigate risks to private climate finance providers investing in the United States through new financial mechanisms like first loss capital contributions, loan guarantees, credit enhancements, and other new structures.

YouthPlaintiffs

The 21 young plaintiffs in Our Childrens’ Trust’s landmark lawsuit against the federal government celebrate the judge’s order backing their right to sue. November 2016 (Photo courtesy Our Childrens’ Trust) Post for media use.

3. Global climate litigation campaigns will gain momentum during 2017, legitimizing our children’s right to a healthy planet.

This is no ordinary lawsuit,” U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her ruling on November 10, 2016 on a landmark case filed in Oregon by 21 young people and Our Children’s Trust. The plaintiffs allege that over the last 50 years, the government, including President Barack Obama, violated their constitutional rights and imperiled their future by failing to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Also acting as a plaintiff is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, who is a youth plaintiff in the case.

Whether the case is heard in federal court or settled, it provides a solid legal foundation for future climate litigation, and gives hope to the growing ranks of youth climate activists and their supporters.

We believe that more judges will acknowledge that the climate change crisis is within their purview, and that the constitutional rights of youth plaintiffs will be upheld against other governmental branches.

The world is watching this historic precedent set in Oregon. We predict the optimism gained from this victory will encourage judges and activists to look to the courts to validate the science behind climate change and allow judicial systems to require governments to take tangible action.

4. Private industry picks up U.S. government slack, making progress towards Paris commitments. During his campaign, President-elect Trump referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and asserted that he will cancel the Paris Agreement. While he has walked back these statements, most recently saying that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real, his choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that Trump is going to try and make his campaign promises.

In the days after the November 2016 election, business leaders called on Trump to honor America’s agreement to the Paris Accord. Savvy business leaders and people like Bill Gates who recently drew attention to his $1 billion clean-technology fund, not only understand that climate change is real, but understand that taking no action will have a negative impact on their bottom line.

Progress will be made toward our U.S. Paris commitments due to the efforts of private industry. The Climate Trust anticipates that the Trump Administration will be left on the sidelines while the rest of the world rallies to meet the commitments made in Paris to keep greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent global climate change increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

5. Environmental justice community concerns are increasingly built into climate policy discussions throughout the United States. The environmental justice community in California has brought into sharp focus the need to balance the impact on disadvantaged communities with climate policy and programs.

Meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas goals now required by law in California in the cheapest manner possible is a central equity issue.

There will be continued attention given to these environmental justice concerns both in California and across the country as state climate policy evolves.

6. U.S. citizens become climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record. The top 10 hottest years in human history have all occurred since 1998, and 2016 is among them. It is anticipated that this continued trend will give rise to an increasing number of climate refugees within U.S. borders.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana is considered the first official community of climate refugees in this country. Whether it’s a 1,000-year flooding event in Louisiana, or wildfires on the west coast, global warming is altering the country in ways that will displace thousands of Americans.

This changing geography will necessitate the development of new solutions that not only sequester carbon, but also focus on adaptation. Some of these solutions are already under development, such as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which seeks to restore coastal wetlands to sequester carbon in plants and soils and protect against dangerous storm surges.

7. More native tribes will join carbon markets. The California Compliance Offset Protocol, U.S. Forest Projects, now has more than 34 million offset credits issued, including over 7.7 million tons from properties owned by Native American Tribes; nine projects located in six different states. The second largest individual issuance to date in the California carbon market is from the White Mountain Apache tribe project in Arizona.

Tribes that have taken part in carbon transactions have indicated that credit sales provide a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat, expanding the tribe’s natural resource program, and acquiring and protecting land in its ancestral territory.

Last year, the protocol rules for the California market were expanded beyond the lower 48 U.S. states to include Alaska, opening the door for even more tribes to engage.

8. China takes the lead in carbon markets, encouraging linkages. The year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar is also the year China will take a leading role in using markets to fight global climate change.

After several years of piloting regional emissions trading programs, China will launch a national system that will cover over four billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making it twice as large as the next biggest market in Europe.

As a developing nation and large emitter, China’s bold commitment to carbon markets will send a signal that will be felt in America and beyond,” says Erika Anderson, a climate change attorney doing business in China.  

9. U.S.-based institutional investors will increase commitments to investments that hedge out carbon risk. Following the example of Norway’s sovereign fund, and other large European institutional investors, U.S.-based pensions and family offices will continue to de-risk their portfolios from the negative impacts of climate change, and take advantage of opportunities in the sustainable real assets space.

Lindsey Brace Martinez, founder of StarPoint Advisors, LLC and advisor to institutional investors and asset managers, says, “Given the prevailing sentiment for a low return environment, U.S. institutional investors are looking for investment managers who have a competitive edge and can deliver value over the long-term. Investment managers who systematically review and update their risk management approaches and apply their expertise through focused strategies will have a competitive edge.”

10. California Air Resources Board prevails in CalChamber lawsuit and commits to cap and trade. A long-standing lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce, Morning Star Packing Co.,and the National Association of Manufacturers has hung over the cap and trade market. The lawsuit argues that the auctioning of the cap and trade allowances constitutes an illegal tax since it does not have the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.

Oral arguments are scheduled in Sacramento for January 24, 2017.

There are three possible outcomes for the lawsuit. It may be deemed a tax, and cause California to have a cap and trade system without the auction element unless the Legislature approves with a two-thirds vote.

It could be deemed a regulatory fee, and thus uphold the validity of the allowance auctions. Or, the third possibility is that the court finds that the auction is neither a tax nor a fee but something else not subject to the strictures of tax voting requirements under the state constitution.

The Climate Trust believes that this third option will be the outcome of the suit and be a complete victory for the cap and trade program.

In 2016, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including an increased number of institutions committing to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of the transition to a clean energy future,” said Kristen Kleiman, director of investments for The Climate Trust.

The divest movement has provided a valuable market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance,” Kleiman said. “Riding this wave of interest from large institutions, late last year, The Trust executed a milestone contract with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, securing a $5.5M Program-Related Investment to seed our first-of-its-kind carbon investment fund.


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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Glitters in the Sun

AbuDhabiSustainabilityWeek

The International Renewable Energy Agency exhibit at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, January 16, 2017 (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, January 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The oil-rich Middle East’s largest gathering on sustainability is happening this week, featuring the rock star business and opinion leaders who are shaping the present and future clean energy world.

An estimated 35,600 people representing 170 countries are attending Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) under sunny skies, including 80 government ministers, 382 exhibiting companies, and more than 200 high-level speakers.

As a global platform for addressing the interconnected challenges of clean energy, water and sustainable development, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week has developed lasting partnerships with many of the world’s most admired experts and opinion formers on sustainability issues,” said Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi, chief executive officer of Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company and the host of ADSW.

ADSW 2017 explores the theme “Practical Steps Towards a Sustainable Future” from January 12-21 with presentations, discussions and workshops on clean energy, water and waste.

From the podium, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto said, “Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is a testament to the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to sustainable development and a new diversified, low carbon economy. Similar to how Mexico is leading the way as a developing country, the UAE was in fact the first country in the Middle East to set renewable energy targets at a time when there was widespread doubt about renewable energy’s viability and value.

Workshops are considering strategies to drive investment, implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate, and the challenges of adapting existing infrastructure to the new market reality of small-scale, distributed power.

Another critical new market reality was detailed by Michael Liebreich, founder and chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and Board member, Transport for London.

Developing countries are overtaking the wealthiest economies in attracting clean energy investment, with the Middle East & North Africa playing a growing role,” said Liebreich, citing research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The global profile of ADSW is valuable in bringing emerging market opportunities to a wider stage,” he said, “thereby enabling greater cooperation between developed and developing economies.”

All kinds of clean energy investments are being forged in Abu Dhabi this week. “The clean energy sector has moved from the margins into the mainstream as a dynamic, commercially viable growth market,” Al Ramahi said.

The UAE Ministry of Energy, SKM Air-Conditioning and the Masdar Institute Wednesday signed an agreement to develop advanced energy-efficient building chillers specific to the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

If adopted nation-wide, the new efficient chillers could provide the UAE with national energy savings of over 20 percent while lowering life-cycle cooling plant costs. Currently 50 percent of the UAE’s electricity consumption goes towards cooling energy requirements, which can rise to as high as 75 percent during peak-day electricity use in the summer.

On another front, the United Arab Emirates announced a landmark new US$50 million grant fund for renewable energy projects in Caribbean island countries. 

Launched by Reem Al Hashimy, minister of state for international cooperation, the UAE-Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund is one of the largest-ever single investments in the region’s clean energy sector. It represents a significant deepening of bilateral relationships between the UAE and Caribbean countries.

Grant funding is provided by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs managing the initiative and Masdar leading implementation.

The announcement, which brings UAE development assistance for renewable energy to almost US$1 billion since 2013, was made on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, as part of the annual General Assembly meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

AminAbuDhabi

International Renewable Energy Agency Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Photo courtesy IRENA) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin anticipates great success ahead for renewable energy. “Renewables are gaining ground by nearly every measure,” he said. “Accelerating the pace of the energy transition and expanding its scope beyond the power sector will not only reduce carbon emissions, it will improve lives, create jobs, achieve development goals, and ensure a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Introducing the third and latest annual issue of IRENA’s report, “REthinking Energy,” Amin said that the falling costs of renewable energy, driven by innovations in technology and policy, is behind the rapid spread of renewables and an accompanying host of socioeconomic benefits.

As we advance deeper into a new energy paradigm, we need to pick-up the pace of our decarbonization efforts. Policies and regulations continue to remain crucial to this end and to develop the renewables market,” explained Amin. “We are seeing more and more countries hold auctions to deploy renewables, and as variable and distributed sources of renewables take-on a greater role, regulators have implemented changes to enable grid integration at scale.”

Heating and cooling, and the potential of renewables for transport, are areas where future efforts are needed,” Amin said.

REthinking Energy,” provides insights on the innovations, policy and finance driving further investment in sustainable energy system, finding that:

  • Renewable energy auctions are gaining popularity in both developed and developing countries, generating record-breaking low energy prices;
  • Demand for battery storage is increasing rapidly and playing a larger part in integrating variable renewables;
  • New capital-market instruments are helping increase available finance by offering new groups of investors access to investment opportunities;
  • Institutional investors are moving into renewable energy as it offers stable returns over the long term;
  • New business models promise new ways to finance renewable energy.

Of the clean energy technologies, the report finds that solar photovoltaics will grow the fastest in terms of capacity and output, and new ways to store electricity will be a game changer for growing variable renewable energy generation.

IRENA estimates that battery storage for electricity could increase from less than 1 GW today to 250 GW by 2030.

Cost-effective off-grid renewables already provide electricity to an estimated 90 million people worldwide. “REthinking Energy” describes how off-grid solutions can provide modern energy to hundreds of millions more people to help the world achieve its sustainable development goals.

Achieving universal electricity access by 2030, will require us to boost global power generation – nearly 60 percent of that will have to come from stand-alone and mini-grid solutions,” said Amin. “Meeting this aim with off-grid renewables depends on the right combination of policies, financing, technology and institutional capacity.

At the World Future Energy Summit 2017, a part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week that aims to build the business case for renewable energy, India’s solar power industry is showcasing an unprecedented range of investment opportunities, after the Indian government’s announcement of its plans to add an additional 175 GW of renewable energy to the nation’s electricity supply by 2022.

The Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to install 100 GW of solar power, including utility-scale and rooftop solar. The remaining capacity will include 60 GW of utility-scale wind energy, 5 GW of small hydro, and 10 GW of bioenergy.

Private sector investors are showing new interest in Saudi Arabia’s solar energy market, after the nation’s leadership included plans to add 9.5 GW of renewables to the energy supply as part of Saudi Vision 2030, a strategy announced last April.

The Vision 2030 strategy sets 9.5 GW as an “initial target” to help build the Saudi renewables sector, noting that energy consumption will triple in the next 14 years. The Saudi government confirms that it aims to achieve that target by 2023, a rapid increase from the nation’s 25 MW of installed renewable energy capacity at the end of 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s plans are supported by a comprehensive restructuring of government departments responsible for energy. Vision 2030 calls for a complete review of the country’s legal and regulatory framework to allow the private sector to buy and invest in the renewable energy sector.

The projects that will flow from Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy plan create a landmark opportunity for technology manufacturers, developers and investors in solar energy, setting out a very real, very achievable ambition,” said Roberto de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, the largest GCC-based solar photovoltaic developer and one of the largest in the world.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week took place on Monday with the awarding of this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize to nine pioneers in renewable energy and sustainability.

Founded in 2008, the Zayed Future Energy Prize has lit up the world for more than 289 million people through the actions of its international community of winners.

This year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners:

Li Junfeng, director general of China’s National Center of Climate Strategy Research, won the Lifetime Achievement award for his commitment to the adoption of renewable energy in China.

General Electric won the Large Corporation award for leadership in the wind and solar energy markets. GE’s wind business alone has commissioned 41.3 GW of total generating capacity and installed more than 30,000 wind turbines to date.

Sonnen, the German smart home and commercial energy storage system manufacturer, was awarded the prize in the Small and Medium Enterprise category for leadership in providing battery storage solutions.

In the Non-Profit Organization category, UK-based Practical Action was recognized for its work in providing deprived communities with clean energy in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Joining them were the winners in the Global High Schools category, five schools spanning five regions of the globe: Starehe Girls’ Center, Kenya for the Africa region; Green School Bali, Indonesia for the Asia region; Bolivia’s Unidad Educativa Sagrado Corazón 4 for the Americas; Belvedere College in Ireland for Europe; and Huonville High School, Tasmania, Australia for the Oceania region.

Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, took great satisfaction in announcing the winners. “The Zayed Future Energy Prize continues to honor the legacy of sustainability advocated by the UAE’s late founding father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” he said. “With each awards ceremony, the UAE leadership accelerates the pursuit of innovation, reinforces the significance of sustainability at the top of the global agenda, and gives opportunities and far-reaching benefits to communities around the world.

Since the start of the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards, over 25 million people in Africa and Asia have been provided with access to modern, clean energy, off-setting more than one billion tons of carbon emissions, and ensuring that 17 million school age children can study at night using innovative solar-powered utilities.

Chair of the Zayed Future Energy Prize Jury Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of the Republic of Iceland, said, “Through the sustainable actions of its winners, the Zayed Future Energy Prize is a model example for how far the world has come in the last nine years. It is extraordinary that, through the impact of each winner and the lives they continue to improve, we now see a growing strength in being able to deliver a sustainable future.


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Maximpact’s Tom Holland Founder & CEO was proud to attended the ADSW from Maximpact‘s Masdar City Office.

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First Flight ‘On Wings of Waste’

WingsofWastePlane

Pilot Jeremy Rowsell with the On Wings of Waste aircraft. Rowsell was born in London into a family of military pilots. He first flew solo at age 14, flew during university, then travelled and flew extensively in Africa. Working as a broker at Lloyds of London led to a job in Australia. He currently lives Sydney and works for multinational insurer Jardine Lloyd Thompson, who supported his flight On Wings of Waste. (Photo courtesy On Wings of Waste) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Pilot Jeremy Rowsell made history this week by flying a light plane across Australia from Sydney to Melbourne, using blended fuel  – 10 percent derived from plastic waste blended with 90 percent conventional fuel.

After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use,” said Rowsell as he arrived in Melbourne today.

The flight from Sydney to Melbourne covered 500 miles. The Vans aircraft RV9a traveled at 100 nautical miles an hour over a period of 20 hours.

With the unique ‘On Wings of Waste‘ flight, Rowsell, co-pilot Chris Clark and their team set out to prove that plastic waste can be transformed from a pollutant into an alternative fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel.

We blended 10 percent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream,” Rowsell enthused upon landing in Melbourne.

The team’s campaign to inspire people to recycle plastic waste has taken four years to lift off. The four-stage proposition is:

re-cycle – public support for a recycling campaign

re-use – plastic waste is transformed into fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel

re-fuel – airlines adopt a 10 percent blend of fuel derived from plastic waste

rescue – pollution of the world’s oceans is slowed down and eventually halted

The unique project came about after Rowsell observed from the air the danger posed by ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste found in the ocean.

Marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes, from large trawl nets, discarded or lost at sea, to plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice that float throughout the water column.

The equivalent of a garbage truck full of waste plastic is dumped into the sea every minute, says Rowsell, the equivalent of eight million tons of plastic that enters the oceans every year.

He was inspired to test out a solution.

For the fuel that made up the 10 percent derived from plastic, Plastic Energy used end-of-life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and in landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade.

The waste can be turned into recyclable material; 95 percent is usable for diesel fuel and the other five percent, known as Char is a solid that can be used for fuel additives and pigments. 

Plastic Energy uses a process called thermal anaerobic conversion. Plastics are heated in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning, and then broken into their component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. This can then be separated into different fuels.

As there is no burning of the plastics, but rather a melting process, no toxic emissions are released into the environment.

Carlos Monreal, president and CEO, Plastic Energy, said, “Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.”

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A seal approaches discarded fishing nets that cover a coral reef in Hawaiian waters. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

Plastic breaks up into small particles, mixing with the plankton at the ocean surface. Plankton is at the heart of the food chain and provides us with more than half the oxygen we breathe – our oceans keep us alive,” explains Jo Ruxton, part of the On Wings of Waste team and one of the producers of “A Plastic Ocean,” a film on plastic pollution to be released January 20. 

We can’t yet safely remove plastic particles from plankton that lives in the ocean, so we must stop dumping plastic waste in the ocean,” Ruxton said.

There are estimated to be 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating – mainly at the bottom – of the world’s seas,” she says.

Besides using waste plastic that otherwise could be dumped in the ocean, Jeremy’s flight could have a major effect on the aviation industry.

Rowsell points out that 33 percent of airlines’ operating costs are spent on fuel.

A 747 aircraft on a 10,000 mile flight burns 36,000 gallons of fuel. If 10 percent of fuel burned on that flight were sourced from plastic waste, 3,600 (UK) gallons, it would be the equivalent of 18 tonnes of waste plastic, utilized, not dumped.

Calculate in the 1,200 flights a day that are made from Heathrow alone, and it is possible that more than 21,000 tonnes of waste plastic could be transformed from pollutant to fuel – every day.

The On Wings of Waste team is looking for support from the general public and other investors to build a recycling plant in Australia that could lead to a change in culture and attitude about how we dispose of single use plastic.

World renowned naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough has backed the project saying, “The Wings of Waste flight, I hope, will bring the attention of the world to this great solution that is there waiting to be taken if only we can get the support of people to do so.” 

Rowsell and survival trainer Tony Loughran from Zerorisk International have started to roll out an educational campaign in Australia, building a groundswell of support for On Wings of Waste.


Featured Image: This photo, taken after a marine debris removal effort by NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, shows 4,781 bottle caps collected from Midway Atoll’s shoreline. Most plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene, a hard, durable plastic that can be tough to recycle. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

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USA: 100% Renewables by 2050?

altawindfarm

America’s most powerful wind farm – 1.5 gigawatts in size, generating enough electricity for a city of millions – is on the edge of the Mojave Desert at the foot of the Tehachapi Pass, site of one of the earliest and still largest collections of windmills in the world. In total, there are more than 5,000 wind turbines in the area. (Photo by Steve Boland) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – More than 450 organizations, local officials, academics, civic leaders and businesses are calling on Congress to support a shift to powering the United States entirely with renewable energy by the year 2050.

Although the lawmakers are on holiday recess, the renewable energy advocates Wednesday delivered a letter to Congress. The signers are urging support for H.Res. 540 introduced by Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and S.Res. 632 introduced by Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, all Democrats. 

Both bills contain the same resolution calling for “rapid, steady shift” to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Burning coal, oil and gas is polluting our air, water and land. It is harming our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” the letter warns. “At the same time, low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous people often bear a disproportionate share of the impact.

Senators supporting the resolution include Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota as well as Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who ran in the presidential primary as a Democrat.

As a technological giant, the United States must continue to lead the clean energy revolution,” said Senator Markey. “ The question is no longer if we can power our country with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s when and how we will make the transition.”

The letter points out that dozens of major corporations, including General Motors, Apple, and Walmart, have set goals to meet all of their energy needs with renewable energy. Google announced last week that in 2017, renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Kevin Butt, regional environmental sustainability director for Toyota Motor North America, has said he wants to take the company “beyond zero environmental impact” by eliminating carbon emissions from vehicle operation, manufacturing, materials production and energy sources by 2050.

Renewable energy is virtually unlimited and pollution-free, protecting our communities from global warming and other harmful pollution while revitalizing our local economies,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for the nonprofit Environment America,  a national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations.

America needs a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy and our leaders need to get on board,” said Sargent.

The letter stresses the environmental and economic imperatives for shifting to renewable energy – to help consumers, support the economy and national security of the United States, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The letter says, in part, “We need to transform the way we power the country – and we need to do it fast. But, we still have a long way to go. That’s why we are calling for swift action to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.” 

For the past eight years, President Barack Obama has been a leader in bringing the world to act against climate change by moving away from fossil fuels and investing in renewables. The Obama initiative and partnership with China brought the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters into alignment on this issue. It culminated in the Paris Agreement on climate, which took effect in November, less than a year after it was agreed in December 2015, lightning speed for an international agreement.

But the renewable energy advocates will have a steep uphill path if they try to persuade the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, whose Cabinet nominations demonstrate that he wants to rely on fossil fuels, extracting the maximum amount of coal, oil and gas without delay.

Trump has chosen the CEO of the world’s largest oil company, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, as his nominee for secretary of state, fossil fuel advocate and climate denier Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency,  former Texas governor Rick Perry, a fossil fuel supporter, as energy secretary, and Ryan Zinke of Montana to head the Department of the Interior.

Jeff Turrentine of the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council today called them “the Four Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse.

The renewable energy advocates point to the enormous job creation potential of transitioning to renewable energy sources, particularly in communities with high rates of unemployment or underemployment.

There are currently 310,000 people in the United States employed in the solar industry and 88,000 in the wind industry. 

The United States is projected to add more electric generating capacity from solar and wind than from any other source in 2016. More than half of all new electricity capacity added in the world in 2015 was from renewable sources.

Climate change is both the greatest threat facing humankind, and also a tremendous economic opportunity if our nation rises to meet it,” said Congressman Grijalva. “Every day our energy future becomes more obvious – either we live in the past and continue to degrade our environment, or we embrace the future of renewable energy which ensures our continued success on a global scale and leaves our children a clean and healthy planet.

Moving to 100 percent clean energy will power job creation that is good for all creation. We can and will meet this goal and now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand up and fight for our clean energy future,” said Grijalva.

The resolution is not just a pipe dream – it’s technically feasible. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to generate more than 100 times the quantity of electricity it consumes each year as of 2016 solely from wind, solar, and other renewable resources.

Today’s resolution sends a message loud and clear to our Senate colleagues – it’s time to get serious about our climate efforts with big, bold and rapid moves to accelerate the clean energy economy,” said Senator Merkley. “Transitioning to clean and renewable energy is not only the right thing to do for clean air and a strong economy, it is what we must do to save our beautiful blue-green planet.

 


 Featured Image: Utility-scale solar power requires skilled workers. Here, workers monitor solar thermal parabolic troughs at the Adams County detention center in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Warren Gretz / National Renewable Energy Lab) Public domain.

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Europe’s ‘Clean Energy Revolution’

solarpowertower

Gemasolar was the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. May 7, 2009, Seville, Spain. (Photo by Markel Redondo / Greenpeace)

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To keep the EU competitive as renewables displace fossil fuels, shaking up global energy markets, the European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to “equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals are designed to show that, as the Commission said, “the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future – that’s where the smart money is.”

The measures are aimed at establishing the EU as a leader of the clean energy transition, not just a country that adapts to a renewable energy future as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, which more than 100 nations have now formally joined.

In October 2014 the European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU.

That’s why the EU has committed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by at least 40 percent by 2030, less than 15 years away.

Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” said Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.

With these proposals, said Cañete, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. “Now,” he said, “we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”

If the new proposals become law, EU consumers of the future may have the possibility of producing and selling their own electricity, a better choice of supply, and access to reliable energy price comparison tools.

Increased transparency and better regulation give civil society more opportunities to become more involved in the energy system and respond to price signals.

The package also contains several measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU is consolidating the enabling environment for the transition to a low carbon economy with a range of interacting policies and instruments reflected under the Energy Union Strategy, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission.

junckerjean-claude

Caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefs the European Parliament, Oct. 26, 2016 (Photo © European Union 2016 – European Parliament”) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, September 14, President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized investment.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed just 12 months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments in its first year of operation. And now we will take it further,” said President Juncker, doubling down on the EU’s future.

We propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity to provide a total of at least €500 billion of investments by 2020,” Juncker said.

The Commission has already offered CO2 reduction proposals. In 2015, the executive body proposed to reform the EU Emission Trading System to ensure the energy sector and energy intensive industries deliver the needed emissions reductions.

Last summer, the Commission proposed ways of accelerating the low-carbon transition in other key sectors of the European economy.

Today’s proposals present the key remaining pieces to fully implement the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework on renewables and energy efficiency.

All the Energy Union related legislative proposals presented by the Commission in 2015 and 2016 need to be addressed as a priority by the European Parliament and Council.

Modernising the EU’s economy is key, said Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic. “Having led the global climate action in recent years,” he said, “Europe is now showing by example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

Clean energies, in total, attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015, and the Commission sees opportunity for the EU in the clean energy wave of the near future.

By mobilising up to €177 billion of public and private investment a year from 2021, this package can generate up to one percent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs, the Commission said.

The Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union.

The Commission also proposes a new way forward for Ecodesign, the law that sets minimum mandatory requirements for the energy efficiency of household appliances, information and communication technologies and engineering.

The package includes actions to accelerate clean energy innovation, to renovate Europe’s buildings and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.

Commissioner Cañete said, “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30 percent energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions.

Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies,” he said, “set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets.

Links to all documents in the Clean Energy package:


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Green Firms Outperform Fossil Fuelers 3: 1

Vestas wind turbines

Vestas wind turbines generate power in The Netherlands, December 2015 (Photo by Siebe Schootstra) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

OAKLAND, California, August 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A 21.82 percent return on investment over the past decade – that’s the proud record of The Carbon Clean 200 – a new list of 200 clean energy companies selected for this inaugural version of the list by the nonprofit groups As You Sow and Corporate Knights.

 The Clean200 ranks the largest publicly listed companies worldwide by their total clean energy revenues as rated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

 In order to be eligible, a company must have a market capitalization greater than $1 billion, as of June 2016, and earn more than 10 percent of total revenues from clean energy sources.

The Clean200 list is being presented as the inverse of the Carbon Underground 200, a trademarked list of fossil fuel companies being targeted for divestment.

The Carbon Underground 200 generated just a 7.84 percent annualized return over the same past decade.

 “The Clean200 nearly tripled the performance of its fossil fuel reserve-heavy counterpart over the past 10 years, showing that clean energy companies are providing concrete and measurable rewards to investors,” said co-author Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights, based in Toronto, Canada.

What’s more, the outstanding performance of this list shows that the notion that investors must sacrifice returns when investing in clean energy is outdated,” said Heaps.

Many clean energy investments are profitable now,” he said, “and we anticipate that over the long-term their appeal will only go up as technologies improve and more investors move away from underperforming fossil fuel companies.

The top 10 Clean200 companies are:

  • Vestas, Denmark – wind power
  • Philips Lighting, Netherlands – LED lighting
  • Xinjiang Gold-A, China – wind plants
  • Tesla Motors, United States – electric vehicles
  • Gamesa, Spain – wind turbines
  • First Solar, United States – solar modules
  • GCL-Poly Energy, China  – solar grade polysilicon
  • China Longyuan-H, China – wind farms
  • Kingspan Group, Republic of Ireland – insulation and building envelopes
  • Acuity Brands, United States – LED lights

 Over 70 of the 200 companies on the list do receive a majority of their revenue from clean energy, the listing shows.

Our intention with The Clean200 is to begin a conversation that defines what companies will be part of the clean energy future,” said co-author Andrew Behar, chief executive of As You Sow, headquartered in Oakland.

The Clean200 turns the ‘carbon bubble’ inside out,” said Behar. “The list is far from perfect, but begins to show how it’s possible to accelerate and capitalize on the greatest energy transition since the industrial revolution.

Part of the reason behind the high rate of return appears to lie in China.

 “The 21.82 percent return was due in large part to significant exposure to Chinese clean energy companies which have experienced explosive growth,” said Heaps.

The returns of the Clean200 outside of China were lower, but still superior to the S&P 1200 global benchmark and Carbon Underground 200, he said.

The Clean200 list excludes all oil and gas companies and utilities that generate less than 50 percent of their power from renewable sources, as well as the top 100 coal companies measured by reserves.

 The list also filters out companies profiting from weapons manufacturing, tropical deforestation, the use of child and/or forced labor, and companies that engage in negative climate lobbying.

The performance analysis for each of the three lists is based on a ‘snapshot in time’ analysis of current constituents as the BNEF clean energy revenue exposure database is new and does not go back in time.

 The analysis also introduces a survivorship bias that can be present when stocks which do not currently exist (because they have failed, for example) are excluded from the historical analysis. This bias can result in the overestimation of past returns.

The methodology and list used to develop the Clean200 are in the creative commons and can be downloaded at www.clean200.org.

 As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy and coalition building. www.asyousow.org.

 Corporate Knights calls itself  “The Magazine for Clean Capitalism,” and says it “seeks to provide information that empowers people to harness markets for a better world.” www.corporateknights.com

 The groups disclaim responsibility for any unprofitable investments that might be made by their readers.

 “As You Sow and Corporate Knights are not investment advisors nor do we provide financial planning, legal or tax advice,” they state. “Nothing in the Carbon Clean 200 Report shall constitute or be construed as an offering of financial instruments or as investment advice or investment recommendations.


Featured image: Safer, cooler, sturdier and longer-lasting than other lighting, LED lights are used for a road sign (Photo by Washington State Dept. of Transportation) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Innovative Nuclear Reactors Attract Investors

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, July 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Private investors such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma are among many from around the world who are backing new types of nuclear reactors that will be safer and more efficient than those operating today.

They have formed the Breakthough Energy Coalition, an influential group of investors, committed to investing in technologies that can help solve the urgent energy and climate challenges facing the planet.

The University of California (UC) is the sole institutional investor among the 28 coalition members from 10 countries.

UC’s Office of the Chief Investment Officer has committed $1 billion of its investment capital for early-stage and scale-up investments in clean energy innovation over the next five years, as well as an additional $250 million to fund innovative, early-stage ideas emerging from the university.

The University of California, with its 10 campuses and three national energy labs, is home to some of the best climate scientists in the world and as a public research institution we take the imperative to solve global climate change very seriously,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “With access to the private capital represented by investors in the Breakthrough Energy Coalition we can more effectively integrate our public research pipeline to deliver new technology and insights that will revolutionize the way the world thinks about and uses energy.”

We can’t ask for a better partner than the University of California Office of the President and the Office of the Chief Investment Officer to help accomplish the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s ambitious goal,” Gates said. “The UC system – with its world leading campuses and labs – produces the kinds of groundbreaking technologies that will help define a global energy future that is cheaper, more reliable and does not contribute to climate change.”

High costs, together with fears about safety and waste disposal, have stalled construction of new nuclear plants, although construction continues in some countries. China is building 20 new reactors, South Korea is building four; even Japan is restarting some of the nuclear plants shut down after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown disaster and is building new reactors.

But the excitement in the nuclear industry is being generated by emerging new technologies, such as a traveling wave reactor, a new class of nuclear reactor that utilizes nuclear waste to generate electricity.

Gates is founder and chairman of TerraPower, a company based in Bellevue, Washington that designed the traveling wave reactor.

Conventional reactors capture only about one percent of the energy potential of their fuel. The traveling wave reactor is “a near-term deployable, truly sustainable, globally scalable energy solution,” TerraPower says on its website.

TravelingWaveReactor

TerraPower’s new traveling wave reactor is based on an original design by Saveli Feinberg in 1958. (Image by TerraPower. Posted for media use)

Unlike the existing fleet of nuclear reactors, the traveling wave reactor (TWR) burns fuel made from depleted uranium, currently a waste byproduct of the enrichment process. The TWR’s unique design gradually converts this material through a nuclear reaction without removing the fuel from the reactor’s core. The TWR can sustain this process indefinitely, generating heat and producing electricity.

The TWR offers a 50-fold gain in fuel efficiency, eliminates the need for reprocessing and reduces and potentially eliminates the long-term need for enrichment plants. This reduces nuclear proliferation concerns and lowers the cost of the nuclear energy process.

As the TWR operates, it converts depleted uranium to usable fuel. As a result, says TerraPower, “this inexpensive but energy-rich fuel source could provide a global electricity supply that is, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible.”

TerraPower aims to achieve startup of a 600 megawatt-electric prototype of the TWR in the mid-2020s, followed by global commercial deployment.

Transatomic Power, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff, is developing a molten-salt nuclear reactor that co-founders Mark Massie and Leslie Dewan, PhD candidates at MIT, estimate will cut the overall cost of a nuclear power plant in half.

Highly resistant to meltdowns, molten-salt reactors were demonstrated in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Lab, where one test reactor ran for six years, but the technology has not been used commercially.

The new molten salt reactor design, which now exists only on paper, would produce 20 times as much power for its size as the Oak Ridge technology.

Transatomic has modified the original molten-salt design to allow it to run on nuclear waste.

And it’s safer than today’s water-cooled nuclear power plants. Even after a conventional reactor is shut down, it must be continuously cooled by pumping in water. The inability to do that is what caused the hydrogen explosions, radiation releases and meltdowns at Fukushima.

Using molten salt as the coolant solves some of these problems. The salt, which is mixed in with the fuel, has a boiling point much higher than the temperature of the fuel, giving the reactor a built-in thermostat. If it starts to heat up, the salt expands, spreading out the fuel, slowing the reactions and allowing the mixture to cool.

In the event of a power outage, a stopper at the bottom of the reactor melts and the fuel and salt flow into a holding tank, where the fuel spreads out enough for the reactions to stop. The salt then cools and solidifies, encapsulating the radioactive materials.

It’s walk-away safe,” says Dewan, the company’s chief science officer. “If you lose electricity, even if there are no operators on site to pull levers, it will coast to a stop.

Transatomic envisions small, powerful, reactors that are built in factories and shipped by rail instead of being built on site like costly conventional ones.

Both government and private sector organizations are working towards nuclear innovations.

John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, recalled that last November the White House held a summit announcing the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), “an organizing principal meant to transform the way we execute public-private partnerships.

GAIN is a new framework for how the Office of Nuclear Energy, in partnership with the Idaho, Argonne, and Oak Ridge National Labs, to leverage people, facilities, and capabilities to better support advancing nuclear technologies.

Kotek said, “We are already seeing huge payoffs from this new approach, including the issuance of a Site Use Permit for identifying potential locations for the first small modular reactor.

The nonprofit Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA), launched last November in Cambridge, Massachusetts, aims to improve the overall policy, funding and market environment essential for rapid commercialization of safer, lower cost and more secure nuclear technologies.

Motivated by the urgency of reducing carbon dioxide emissions responsible for climate change, the NIA brings together nuclear energy stakeholders, technical experts, nuclear technology companies, investors, environmental organizations and academic institutions.

The consensus emerging from nearly every scientific study on combating climate change is clear,” said Armond Cohen, NIA co-chairman. “In addition to energy efficiency, renewables and carbon sequestration, the world will need a lot more nuclear energy to sufficiently decarbonize our society’s energy consumption.”

“Emerging innovative reactor designs promise to be safer, more economical and faster to build, with less waste and lower proliferation risk,” Cohen said.

Christofer Mowry, NIA’s other co-chairman, said, “Real change to energy regulation and policy is needed to make these advanced designs commercially available in time to help limit climate change to an acceptable level.

Investors and developers need to see a clearer and lower risk path to their deployment,” said Mowry, “including an innovation-enabling licensing framework and more substantive public-private partnerships for rapid deployment.

At the same time, some of the largest environmental groups are easing their negative positions on nuclear power.

The “Wall Street Journal” reported in June that the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are concentrating more on preventing runaway climate change and less on the dangers of nuclear power than they have in the past.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups continue to urge the shutdown of existing nuclear plants, for fear that the environmental dangers outweigh the climate benefits.


 

India, World Bank Empower Sunshine Nations

India, World Bank Empower_Sunshine Nations

India One, a 1 megawatt solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan, India is due for completion in 2016. It uses 770 newly developed 60m2 parabolic dishes and features thermal storage for continuous operation. The plant will generate enough heat and power for a campus of 25,000 people and is a milestone for clean power generation in India. (Photo by Brahma Kumaris) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, July 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Solar power prospects are brightening with a new global focus on renewable energy to avert climate change. A burst of financial power was added at the end of June as the World Bank Group signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) – 121 countries led by sunny India – with the goal of mobilizing US$1 trillion in investments by 2030.

 The ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on November 30, 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande. Most of the sunshine countries lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and China. The United States and European Union also are involved.

KimModi

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, meets with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi before attending the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On a two-day trip to New Delhi at the end of June, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim established the Bank as a financial partner for the ISA and pledged to collaborate on expanding the use of solar energy in India.

After meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, World Bank Group chief Kim said with a smile, “One of the reasons that I always appreciate my meetings with the Prime Minister is that he always pushes us to move faster and faster – to keep pace with him. We promised that we would do so, and in particular talked about supporting his government’s pace on expanding renewable energy sources.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of adequate climate change financing for countries like India which are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path.

India’s plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country’s energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change,” the banker said.

The International Energy Agency calculates that India is set to contribute more than any other country to the projected rise in global energy demand. Steep rises in power production and consumption are expected to accompany India’s economic growth.

 “Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” said Kim. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.”

Kim said he envisions the ISA as using its global development network, global knowledge and financing capacity to promote the use of solar energy throughout the world.

 India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy identified the initial joint projects to actualize the new agreement as:

  • Developing a roadmap to mobilize financing.
  • Developing financing instruments including credit enhancement, reduce hedging. costs/currency risk, bond raising in locally denominated currencies etc. which support solar energy development and deployment.
  • Supporting ISA’s plans for solar energy through technical assistance and knowledge transfer.
  • Working on mobilization of concessional financing through existing or, if needed, new trust funds.
RooftopSolar

Solar panels on the rooftop of the Reserve Bank of India in Jaipur. (Photo by Kirti Solar Limited) Posted for media use by India PRwire

In addition, India will receive a loan of more than US$1 billion dollars to support expanding solar power through investments in solar generation.

 Projects now under development include solar rooftop technology, infrastructure for solar parks, bringing innovative solar and hybrid technologies to market, and transmission lines for sun-rich Indian states.

As part of our $1 billion dollar solar commitment to India, today we signed an agreement with the Government of India for a $625 million dollar grid connected rooftop solar program,” said Kim.

The project will finance installation of at least 400 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations.

These investments for India will together become the Bank’s largest financing of solar projects for any country in the world. The banker said. “India has become a global leader in implementing the promises made in Paris for COP21 and the global efforts to tackle climate change.”

 India’s pledge to the Paris summit offered to bring 40 percent of its electricity generation capacity, not actual production, from non-fossil sources – renewable, large hydro, and nuclear – by the year 2030.

India has capacity of 4GW and the Modi Government has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

In January, Modi and Hollande jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance headquarters and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in National Institute of Solar Energy in Gwal Pahari in the Gurgaon District of Haryana state in northern India.

At that ceremony, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) each announced a contribution of US$1 million to the ISA.

Prime Minister Modi has described the ISA as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the Sun.


 Featured image: Solar Panels | by Jeremy Levine Design flickr.com

Wood Pulp Waste Transformed Into Biocrude Oil

LicellaTechnology

The Licella Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) at Somersby, NEw South Wales, Australia (Photo courtesy Licella)

By Sunny Lewis

 VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, June 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Canfor Pulp Products Inc. has formed a joint venture with an Australian energy startup to convert biomass from its kraft pulping processes into biocrude oil that can be blended into petrochemical refinery streams to generate renewable fuels.

Publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Vancouver-based Canfor Pulp is the largest North American producer of Northern bleached softwood kraft, used for manufacturing printing and writing paper and tissue products.

Based in Sydney, Australia, the startup Licella has developed the unique process in partnership with the University of Sydney. Their Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) technology converts low-cost, non-edible, waste biomass from pulping into biocrude oil.

The biocrude can then be used to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals.

The ITQ laboratory in Valencia, Spain has demonstrated the upgrade of Licella’s biocrude to kerosene and diesel utilizing standard refinery infrastructure.

CanFor President Brett Robinson says Licella’s Cat-HTR™ technology could transform their company. “The opportunity to directly produce advanced biofuels from our existing streams could transition Canfor Pulp from being strictly a pulp and paper manufacturer to a bio-energy producer as well,” he said.

Currently, pulp and paper waste is burned for low-quality process heat. But now Licella’s Cat-HTR technology can theoretically process any form of lignocellulosic biomass, without the need to dry the feedstock before processing nor transport it over long distances at great expense.

 Sugars derived from lignocellulosic biomass already have been fermented to produce bio-ethanol, and other lignocellulose-derived fuels are of potential interest, including butanol, but the unique Licella process is not based on fermentation.

PulpBiomass

Biomass waste from the pulpmaking process at a Canfor pulp mill in Prince George, British Columbia. (Photo courtesy Licella)

Licella’s process uses a supercritical water-based technology and catalysts to break up the pulp waste biomass and reform it into biocrude. It uses all of the biomass, including lignin and provides all its own process heat and water. Uniquely, it is a net producer of water.

The Licella process produces a stable, blendable bio-oil that is expected to be competitive with petroleum fuel.

The Licella process has a small physical footprint compared to fermentation technologies because of its continuous flow design and a rapid processing time measured in minutes, not days.

Licella was co-founded by University of Sydney chemistry professor Dr. Thomas Maschmeyer, who saw a way to make use of the millions of tons of biomass waste left from the pulping process each year around the globe.

“Only 30 percent or so of a tree becomes paper, the rest is waste. We use this waste to make a new product – biocrude oil from renewable, already aggregated waste,” Maschmeyer explained.

Over the past nine years Licella has invested A$60 million in its technology development. “After nine years of very hard work by an amazing team of individuals at Licella and the university, it is extremely pleasing to see this Australian green technology going global; it will make a substantial impact,” Maschmeyer said.

“In the pulp and paper industry worth billions of dollars, this shift will have global impact for good,” he said.

Licella CEO Dr. Len Humphreys said, “Licella’s Cat-HTR technology may add significant value to Canfor Pulp’s kraft process by creating new products from Canfor Pulp’s waste streams. What we are potentially building towards is a bio-refinery to utilize the entire tree, rather than part of the tree.”

“Using the whole tree and not just a minor part will move the industry towards biorefining,” said Humphreys.

The Cat-HTR™ upgrading platform will be integrated into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills in Prince George, British Columbia.

Licella is a subsidiary of Licella Pty. Limited, which in turn is a subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources Ltd., an Australian public unlisted natural resource and energy technology development company.

In late May, Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and the publicly-traded Canfor Pulp Products Inc. signed an agreement to form a joint venture under the name Licella Pulp Joint Venture.

The agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted on feedstock from Canfor Pulp’s Prince George pulp mill at Licella’s pilot plants located at Somersby, an hour north of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.

In these trials, wood residue streams from Canfor Pulp’s kraft process were successfully converted into a stable biocrude oil.

CPPI chief executive Don Kayne said, “Biofuels and biochemicals represent the next frontier in the utilization of sustainable wood fibre to produce green energy and chemicals.”

“This initiative underscores Canfor Pulp’s commitment to innovation and the importance of green energy and chemicals in our future product mix, and we look forward to developing this potentially transforming technology with Licella,” he said.

Upon successful integration of the Cat-HTR™ technology, the Licella Pulp joint venture will look at offering this technology to other third party pulp mills.


Discover the Ins and Outs of Wind Turbines

To continue educating our community about renewable energy, we’re sharing this infographic about How Wind Turbines Work from SaveOnEnergyWind energy can be used to power everything from neighborhoods to telecom towers, and it has countless benefits. Wind energy produces much less pollution than traditional, nonrenewable resources, and the development of wind energy is creating new jobs across the country. Take a moment to learn more about how wind energy is created from wind turbines, because these turbines may be powering your home sooner than you think.

Visit SaveOnEnergy.com for more information about green energy, industry news and energy saving tips.

How Wind Turbines Work

 

Demand for Electric Cars Hits New Highs

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Charging a Nissan LEAF in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo courtesy Heijmans)

By Sunny Lewis

PALO ALTO, California, April 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Luxury electric automaker Tesla unveiled its latest model at a March 31 event, and demand was so strong for the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 that within the week 325,000 would-be customers purchased preorders at US$1,000 each.

The preorder offering raised US$14 billion, tweeted Tesla founder, chairman, CEO and product architect Elon Musk. He will use funds to finish building an enormous lithium-ion battery factory near Reno, Nevada and begin Model 3 production at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Everyone will have to be patient though – production of the Model 3 is not scheduled to begin until the second half of 2017.

The sheer number of Model 3 orders amazed many people including “EV World” publisher Bill Moore, who wrote to his newsletter subscribers, “The market’s not only ‘spoken,’ it bloody ROARED.”

“Fifteen years ago, some three years after I launched EV World,” wrote Moore, “there were maybe 5,000 OEM-built electric cars on the road in the United States; and roughly a comparable number in Europe, mainly in France.”

Now, he compared, “In just seven days time, Tesla now has pre-orders and $1000 deposits for more than 30 times the number of all the electric cars in the world back just over a decade and a half ago.”

Tesla Model 3s are revealed to an admiring crowd, March 31, 2016 (video courtesy Tesla Motors)

As of March 31, Tesla Motors had sold nearly 125,000 electric cars worldwide since delivery of its first Tesla Roadster in 2008.

The current world leader in zero-emission mobility, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, sold its 250,000th electric vehicle – a white Renault ZOE – in June 2015.

The 250,000th owner is Yves Nivelle, a computer engineer from Bordeaux, who traded in his 21-year-old diesel car for the subcompact Renault ZOE.

Nivelle bought his EV after the French government introduced an environmental bonus in April 2015 to allow owners of older, polluting diesel cars to trade them in and get a rebate of €10,000 on a new electric vehicle.

“The government’s environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV,” Nivelle said. “But I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It’s a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment.”

Watch a video  of Nivelle getting into his historic Renault ZOE at the dealership. Renault Nissan Bordeaux

In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also makes the e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2014. In addition to the ZOE, Renault also sells the Renault Kangoo Z.E van, the SM3 Z.E. sedan and the Twizy, a two-seater urban commuter vehicle.

“Demand for our electric vehicles continues to grow thanks to government incentives and the expanding charging infrastructure,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, formed in 1999.

“The positive response of our customers is also driving demand. These vehicles enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction rates from our customers around the world,” Ghosn said.

As public fast-charging infrastructure proliferates so that a nearly full charge is possible in less than half an hour at many locations, and electric vehicle batteries offer ranges up to 250 miles on a single charge, public acceptance of EVs grows stronger.

An all-electric vehicle offering more than 200 miles of range per charge for an affordable price in the neighborhood of US$30,000 – that’s what a growing segment of the driving public wants and an increasing number of automakers are answering that demand.

There are more than 20 models of electric vehicles on the market today, including, among others, the Chinese BYD e6, the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Kia Soul EV, India’s Mahindra Reva e2o, all Mercedes B-class cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Smart EV, Volvo’s XC90 T8 and the VW e-Golf.

Across the industry, at least 24 newly announced electric vehicle models are expected to be on the market before 2019.

General Motors will have the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for sale late this year; it offers 200 miles of range for about $30,000 after the federal government rebate.

GM head Mary Barra believes a real “revolution” is underway. She told the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January that soon petrol-fueled cars will be “a thing of the past.”

“In the auto industry, the revolution is being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs,” Barra said. “It is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter and more energy-efficient vehicles for customers in every market around the world.”

Ford delivered its first Focus E in 2011, but now has fallen behind. The 2017 Ford Focus Electric will have just 100 miles of range, according a Ford media presentation in Dearborn, Michigan last December.

But Ford will add DC fast charging to the car, so it can recharge to 80 percent of battery capacity in 30 minutes at a growing network of Combined Charging System sites in the USA and Europe.

Many other companies are jumping into the strengthening EV market.

At the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Hyundai Motor introduced the IONIQ – the world’s first model with three distinct electrified powertrains: the IONIQ Hybrid, the IONIQ Plug-in and the IONIQ Electric.

German automaker Audi is preparing its international production network to make autonomous cars, electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Production of the first all-electric SUV from Audi will begin in Brussels in 2018, the company says. It will offer a range of more than 250 miles on a single charge. In a decade, the company projects, 25 percent of Audi’s sales will be electric vehicles.

As production increases, the market grows, especially in India and China.

India’s Minister of State for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal wants to make every car on India’s roads an electric vehicle by 2030.

“We have created a working group under the leadership of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is good at coming up with large scale programs. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and I are members of this group,” Goyal told a conference of Indian youth in late March.

Goyal suggested that drivers could buy bare bones electric cars with no money down. The buyers could pay for their EVs over time from the savings realized by not having to purchase fuel.

In China, electric car sales surged to 220,000 in 2015, surpassing the United States to rank first worldwide, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, sold more EVs than any other Chinese company in 2015. CAAM projects sales of 300,000 EVs in China this year.

Unveiling the Tesla Model 3, Musk addressed the underlying reason behind the rapidly electrifying auto industry.

“Why are we doing this? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter?” he asked.

“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. It’s really important for the future of the world,” he answered his own question.

Musk is concerned about climate change. He pointed to the record high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere: as of March 2016 – 403.5 parts per million – and climbing.

“The last time there was this concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 11 million years ago, when primates first started walking upright,” he told the crowd at the unveiling event, many of them owners of earlier and much more costly Teslas.

Tesla founder, chairman and CEO at the unveiling of the Tesla Model 3. (From video courtesy Tesla Motors)

Musk pointed to the Earth’s steadily rising temperature. He pointed to the fact that 53,000 people a year die in the United States alone from exposure to automobile emissions.

Musk is not alone in his concerns. And research shows that the growing popularity of electric vehicles can indeed help avert climate change.

In September 2015 the California-based Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly released a study finding that widespread adoption of electric transportation, including the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio,” projects emissions through 2050 and air quality impacts in 2030.

It finds that greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles could drop as much as 64 percent below today’s levels as drivers abandon internal combustion engines in favor of electrics.

“This research points to the importance of two fundamental and parallel trends in energy and the environment,” said EPRI President and CEO Mike Howard. “First is the continuing decarbonization of the electricity sector and second is the electrification of energy use in transportation and industry.”


 

 

U.S. Teaches Its Power Grid Interoperability

JewellSolarArraySandia

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, February 16, 2016 (ENS) – The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) has been chosen to participate in four projects that will build a modern, responsive electricity grid across the United States capable of supporting a two-way flow of both electricity and information.

This nonprofit industry consortium includes: utilities, vendors, investment institutions, industry associations, regulators, government entities, national labs, services providers and universities.

The four SGIP projects are among those that will be funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s new $220 million in grid modernization awards to DOE’s national laboratories and their partners.

SGIP is focused on accelerating grid modernization and the energy Internet of Things through policy, education, and promotion of interoperability. That means the many components of the grid working together even when they are technically different and are managed by different organizations.

According to the 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review published by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. electricity grid connects more than 19,000 individual one-megawatt or larger generators, sited in some 7,000 operational power plants, with more than 642,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, and 6.3 million distribution-system line miles.

America’s electricity grid is built with legacy and proprietary technology, and today it is not completely interoperable.

The challenge is to modernize the power grid so that it becomes smart – able to incorporate information technology to deliver electricity efficiently, reliably, sustainably, and securely, enabling a sustainable energy future.

"We are well positioned for this challenge," said SGIP President and CEO Sharon Allan.

“We are well positioned for this challenge,” said SGIP President and CEO Sharon Allan.

“We are well positioned for this challenge,” said SGIP President and CEO Sharon Allan. “DOE’s funding investment will help ensure that the rapidly emerging needs of the grid can be met. We look forward to the potential of working with the selected national labs and the other partners.”

Unlike the grid of the 20th century, which delivered electricity in a one-way flow from generator to outlet, the modernized smart grid permits the two-way flow of both electricity and information.

Interoperability is the essential quality that all modern components, such as solar power or energy storage, must have to be integrated into the existing electricity grid.

The U.S. energy industry is investing at least $400 billion to revamp and modernize the nation’s electric system, and to develop a kind of digital security blanket to protect the system from cyber terrorism.

The DOE’s $220 million three-year grid modernization funding initiative will support research and development in advanced storage systems, clean energy integration, standards and test procedures, and other key grid modernization tasks.

PowerLinesNJ

The Smart Grid Interoperability Panel was named to participate in four projects:

  •  1) Grid Architecture – This project aims to build a new stakeholder-driven architecture for grid modernization, provide it to the industry along with the tools industry players need to adapt it to their needs, and use it to inform the playbook for Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium program managers.

Partners with SGIP on this project are: GE-Alstom, Electric Power Research Institute, United Technologies, the Omnetric Group, and the California ISO. Eight national laboratories are involved.

  •  2) Interoperability – This project provides strategic vision for interoperability endorsed by stakeholders with tools to measure interoperability maturity and the progress of related investments. It prioritizes interoperability gaps and develops an overarching roadmap for stakeholder endorsement.

Partners with SGIP on this project are: the GridWise Architecture Council, Electric Power Research Institute, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), (NIST Beginners Guide). Under federal law, NIST has been given the key role of coordinating development of a framework for U.S. smart grid standards.

Also participating in this project will be standards-development organizations, utilities, and vendors as well as several national laboratories.

Hundreds of standards will be required to ensure the building of an efficient and effective smart grid. “For comparison purposes, one of today’s smartphones incorporates over 150 standards,” says NIST. “For the smart grid, we are still in the early stages of developing the framework for the standards and the lists of specific standards.”

  • 3) Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium Testing – This is a two-part project that will:
  •  Establish a Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium – Testing Network (GMLC-TN); federated lab-based resource for standards-based testing and validation of grid devices and systems.
  •  Develop and establish a Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium – Open Library (GMLC-OL) public repository for validated component models, simulation tools and testing resources.

Partners with SGIP on this project are the same organizations that will participate in project 2 above.

  • 4) Standards and Test Procedures for Interconnection and Interoperability – This project will build on prior efforts and leverage existing activities spanning multiple Department of Energy programs that are developing interconnection and interoperability standards and test procedures to harmonize requirements across jurisdictions, eliminate conflicting requirements across technology domains, and streamline conformance test procedures.

Partners on this project include: NIST, the GridWise Architecture Council, Electric Power Research Institute, the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group, and Bryndan Associates, a consultant to the electric power industry, as well as national laboratories, standards organizations, utilities, and vendors.

“SGIP is contributing valuable expertise toward the complexities of modernizing the grid, reflecting two of our core priorities – tackling issues that are inhibitors to grid modernization and driving innovation through collaboration,” Allen said. “We are pleased to be the central go-to convener of multi-stakeholders to address these issues.”


Main image and featured image: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell tours Sandia National Lab’s solar tower facility and announces approval of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, a major electricity infrastructure project for the American West, Jan. 2015. (Photo by Randy Montoya courtesy Department of the Interior) public domain.
Image 01: Transmission lines carry electricity across the state of New Jersey (Photo by Lisa Campeau) creative commons license via Flickr

Image 02: Smart Grid Interoperability Panel President and CEO Sharon Allan (Photo courtesy SGIP)

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Press Release : UN News Network – Philippines Solar Energy

Solar Power Plant Surallah/Philippines

Official inauguration of Mindanao´s currently largest diesel replacement solar power plant

(PresseBox) nv vogt Philippines Solar Energy One, Inc. inaugurated the Surallah solar power plant in Mindanao/Philippines last Saturday. The plant with a capacity of 6.23 MWp was commissioned in November 2015 and is the largest one operating in Mindanao to date. The project was developed by nv vogt and its joint venture partner ib vogt GmbH, based in Berlin/Germany. ib vogt GmbH was the off-shore EPC contractor, working together with its local partner ADV Builders as the on-shore EPC. The funding for the construction was provided by Armstrong Asset Management (AAM).

Covering an area of about 8 hectares, the 23,520 installed modules will generate over 9.5 GWh per annum – or sufficient electricity to power the monthly needs of 8,740 households*1. Lifetime carbon dioxide (CO2) savings generated by the plant compared to fossil fuel generation alternatives are calculated to be around 180 million tonnes*2.

The project development and permitting has been an extensive process. Construction of the plant was rapid – taking less than 2 months from when the first posts were rammed until the last module was installed, due the excellent infrastructure and cooperation of all project participants.

nv vogt is developing and constructing several projects in the Philippines and Southeast Asia together with its joint venture partner ib vogt. At the moment, solar power plants with a capacity of around 16 MWp are under construction, while a pipeline of 150 MWp is also under development. Vivek Chaudhri, Director of Philippines operations, said “with the building of the Surallah plant, we have now demonstrated our ability to produce a world class solar production facility locally. We are committed to further development and to being a significant player in the local solar market. We are focused on Mindanao and will come up with a specific plan for that part of the country.”

Anton Milner, Managing Director of ib vogt GmbH, says “we see a strong potential for photovoltaic technology to bring much needed, cost effective and clean electricity with all its benefits to the country and its population, and to help meet the increasing energy needs of the country in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. This is the first of our projects in the Philippines and we are very proud to have completed the project in such a short period of time. We, as nv vogt, are actively investing in a number of such future-oriented projects and hope that this is one of a series of such developments over the coming years, where major benefits, investment and employment can be achieved to the benefit of the country and the region.”

“Armstrong Asset Management is proud to be a financing sponsor to the Surallah project that represents the achievement of many firsts in more ways than one. It is the first operating solar power plant in South Cotabato; an important milestone for energy security and the development of renewable energy in the region. It is also the first project to have been built by German contractor ib vogt in the Philippines. Last but not least, the Surallah project is the first solar project to be completed under the Armstrong-nv vogt partnership,” said Andrew Affleck, Managing Partner of Armstrong Asset Management.

Armstrong and nv vogt are continuing their efforts to develop more solar projects in the county and are currently working together to complete an additional 45 MW of solar projects in the Philippines. While the Surallah project marks the milestone of many firsts today, it is only a collective first step towards a cleaner, greener future in the Philippines.

  1. Based on the average household consumption of 90.54 kWh / November 2015 in Surallah, South Cotabato, Philippines – Source: South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative, Inc.
  2. Based on the average production of 0.76 kg CO2 emissions per kWh from electricity generation by diesel fuel, 161.386 pounds of CO2 emissions per million British thermal units (Btu) by diesel fuel, considering a heat rate of 10,334 Btu per kWh – Source: U.S. Department of Energy (EIA)
About nv vogt

nv vogt Singapore Pte Ltd is focusing on the Development, Design, Financing, Construction Management and Operation of solar power plants in India and SE Asia. The founders of nv vogt are pioneers of the solar industry with extensive experience in developing and operating solar power plants in Europe and Asia. The primary customer focus for nv vogt is energy-intensive industry, which is underserved by the grid and is heavily reliant on diesel power. nv vogt invests in its own projects as well as offering a flexible model for co-investors. Initially, the company is focusing on the Philippines and India and will be expanding in Thailand and Indonesia as the next stage. The company is developing a portfolio of projects that combine excellent engineering with financial optimization, in order to generate superior returns, both for customers and investors. Technologically, its projects are optimized to minimize LCOE (levelized cost of energy) while maintaining long-term reliability. Financially, its projects are structured to ensure bankability and investment-grade returns. ib vogt GmbH is a 40% owner of the Singapore-based nv vogt.

About Armstrong Asset Management (AAM)

Armstrong Asset Management is an independent asset manager, based in Singapore, focusing on the clean energy sector in South East Asia’s emerging markets. Armstrong invests in infrastructure projects and achieved a final close on its debut clean energy fund of US$164m in November 2013, with institutional investors such as IFC, DEG, FMO, Proparco, SIFEM, GEEREF and Unigestion. Operating with a multidisciplinary team of investment professionals, all of whom possess deep sector knowledge and a collective 80 years of experience operating in South East Asia, Armstrong Asset Management integrates strict environmental, social and governance compliance into its investment process to deliver tangible benefits and reduce risks for all of its stakeholders.

 

 

Hydricity: Zero Emission 24/7 Solar-Water Power

SolarConcentrators

By Sunny Lewis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, January 12, 2016 (ENS) – American and Swiss researchers are proposing a new integrated “hydricity” concept – the synergistic coproduction of solar thermal power and hydrogen. The cycle generates electricity from the sun and also produces and stores hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power generation whether the sun is shining or not.

The scientists view this proposal as one route to a sustainable economy with abundant electricity generated 24/7 without emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

The hydricity proposal is currently at the stage of a simulated computer model, with the researchers moving in the direction of lab experiments.

Once real-world tests begin, hydricity would use specially-designed solar concentrators to focus sunlight.

This can “superheat” water, heating it far beyond its boiling point to produce high-temperature steam. The steam can run turbines to generate electricity and also can be used to operate solar reactors that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen thus produced can then be stored to superheat water to run the steam turbines overnight when the solar cells aren’t active, generating more electricity.

Or it could be used for other applications, such as fuel for fuel cell cars.

However used, clean-burning hydrogen produces no planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, just water vapor.

When the proposed integrated process is operated in a standalone power production mode, the resulting solar water power cycle can generate electricity with unprecedented efficiencies of 40 to 46 percent.

When sunlight is unavailable, the researchers envision that the stored hydrogen would be used in a turbine-based hydrogen water power (H2WP) cycle with the calculated hydrogen-to-electricity efficiency of 65-70 percent, a figure comparable to fuel cell efficiencies.

Agarwal_Rakesh

“The proposed hydricity concept represents a potential breakthrough solution for continuous and efficient power generation,” explained Professor Rakesh Agrawal at Purdue University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

Agrawal is a co-author of the new research paper, “Hydricity: A Sunshine Route to Sustainability,” which was published in December in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” (PNAS)

“Traditionally electricity production and hydrogen production have been studied in isolation,” said Agrawal, “and what we have done is synergistically integrate these processes while also improving them.”

“The concept provides an exciting opportunity to envision and create a sustainable economy to meet all the human needs, including food, chemicals, transportation, heating and electricity,” he said.]

Hydricity, a fusion of hydrogen and electricity, is a word coined by the late, great Canadian geophysicist and businessman Geoffrey Ballard, founder of the fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems.

Recognized world-wide as the father of the fuel cell industry, Ballard was named a “Hero for the Planet” by “Time” magazine in 1999.

“It will take a combined effort of academia, government, and industry to bring about the change from a gasoline economy to a hydrogen economy,” Ballard told the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) one year. “The forces are building and progress is being made. It is of major importance that a change of this magnitude not be forced on unwilling participants, but that all of us work together for an economically viable path to change.”

To Ballard and to the study’s co-author Professor Mohit Tawarmalani at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, the two processes complement one another to overcome the weakness of sunlight’s intermittancy.

“In the round-the-clock process we produce hydrogen and electricity during daylight, store hydrogen and oxygen, and then when solar energy is not available we use hydrogen to produce electricity using a turbine-based hydrogen-power cycle,” explained Tawarmalani.

“Because we could operate around the clock, the steam turbines run continuously and shutdowns and restarts are not required,” he said. “Our combined process is more efficient than the standalone process that produces electricity and the one that produces and stores hydrogen.”

The hydricity research paper was authored by Purdue chemical engineering doctoral student Emre Gençer; former chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada; and Francois Marechal, a professor and chemical process engineer from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland; as well as professors Tawarmalani and Agrawal.

Gençer compared the efficiency of the hydricity process in generating and storing power to that of solar cells.

“The overall sun-to-electricity efficiency of the hydricity process, averaged over a 24-hour cycle, is shown to approach 35 percent, which is nearly the efficiency attained by using the best photovoltaic cells along with batteries,” said Gençer.

“Our proposed process stores energy thermo-chemically more efficiently than conventional energy-storage systems,” he said.

“The coproduced hydrogen has alternate uses in the transportation-chemical-petrochemical industries,” said Gençer, “and unlike batteries, the stored energy does not discharge over time and the storage medium does not degrade with repeated uses.”

Agrawal says that the hydrogen, once separated out of the water, can be combined with carbon from agricultural biomass to produce fuel, fertilizer and other products.

“If you can borrow carbon from sustainably available biomass you can produce anything: electricity, chemicals, heating, food and fuel,” Agrawal said.

Their research was published the week of December 14, 2015 in the online early edition of the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Read more in Emre Gençer et al., “Round-the-clock power supply and a sustainable economy via synergistic integration of solar thermal power and hydrogen processes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (14 December 2015) (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1513488112)

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the DOE‘s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels at Purdue’s Discovery Park and through a Solar Economy project led by Agrawal under the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Education and Research Traineeship Program.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Professor Rakesh Agrawal, right, at work with former Purdue chemical engineering graduate student Dharik Mallapragada (Photo courtesy Purdue University) www.purdue.edu
Head image: Solar concentrators at the Solar Energy Generating Systems facility in northern San Bernardino County, California.

Russia’s Bright Renewable Energy Future

RussiaSolarPanelsa

By Sunny Lewis

MOSCOW, Russia, January 7, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A fully renewable energy system for Russia and Central Asia by 2030 is achievable and economically viable, finds newly published research by Finnish scientists.

Although fossil-fuel rich Russia is now the world’s largest exporter of oil and natural gas, a completely renewable energy system for the region would be half the cost of a system based on carbon capture and storage or even on the latest European nuclear technology, the Finns calculate.

Researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology modeled a renewable energy system for Russia and Central Asia. Results show that renewable energy is the cheapest option for the continent and can make Russia an energy competitive region in the future.

“We think that this is the first ever 100 percent renewable energy system modeling for Russia and Central Asia,” said Professor Christian Breyer, co-author of the study.

“It demonstrates that Russia can become one of the most energy-competitive regions in the world,” Breyer said.

Moving to a renewable energy system is possible due to the abundance of various types of renewable energy resources in the study area. It would enable the building of a Super Grid, connecting the different energy resources – wind, hydropower, solar, biomass and some geothermal energy.

Wind power amounts to about 60 percent of Russia’s renewable energy production, while solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower make up the remaining 40 percent.

The total installed capacity of renewable energy in the system today is about 550 gigawatts.

While hydropower is the most used form of renewable energy in Russia, geothermal is the second most used form of renewable energy, but it represents less than one percent of the country’s total energy production.

The first geothermal power plant in Russia was built at Pauzhetka, Kamchatka, in 1966, with a capacity of 5 MW. By 2005, the total geothermal installed capacity was 79 MW, with 50 MW coming from a plant at Verkhne-Mutnovsky.

Russia has developed a new 100 MW geothermal power plant at Mutnovsky and a 50 MW plant in Kaliningrad.

The Mutnovsky geothermal steam field has been under exploration for 20 years, and to date more than 90 wells have been drilled.

Most geothermal resources are used for heating settlements in the North Caucasus and Kamchatka. Half of the geothermal production is used to heat homes and industrial buildings, one-third is used to heat greenhouses and 13 percent is used for industrial processes.

In October 2010, Sergei Shmatko, then Russia’s energy minister, said that Russia and Iceland would work together to develop Kamchatka’s geothermal energy sources. Russia is also investigating foreign investment possibilities for developing geothermal energy in the Kuril Islands.

The geographical area of the Finnish research covers much of the northern hemisphere. In addition to Russia, the research area includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan as well as the Caucasus and Pamir regions including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and Kirgizstan and Tajikistan.

Many of the countries in the area are currently reliant on the production and use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

One of the key insights of the research is that energy sectors’ integration lowers the cost of electricity by 20 percent for Russia and Central Asia.

The more renewable capacity is built, the more it can be used for different sectors: heating, transportation and industry. This flexibility of the system decreases the need for storages and lowers the cost of energy.

The research was done as part of Neo-Carbon Energy research project, which has previously shown that a renewable energy system is also economically sensible in North-East Asia, South-East Asia, South America and Finland.

Russia’s renewable energy sector may be tiny today, but it’s growing.

On December 20, Russia’s largest wind power developer, Wind Energy Systems LLC, announced that it joined the Russian Association of Wind Power Industry (RAWI).

Established in 2009 as non-commercial partnership, today RAWI membership includes more than 40 Russian and foreign organizations as members, working toward development of the Russian wind power market.

RAWI aims to develop the wind power market in Russia as development of wind farms, and the localization of production of wind turbines in Russia.

RAWI members and partners include major international manufacturers of wind turbines, developers and expert companies, educational institutions and administrative and diplomatic organizations.

Solar power is attracting attention, and funding too.

On December 18, the trading system administrator OJSC ATS, a subsidiary of the NP Market Council, announced the results of selection of investment projects for the construction of generating facilities using renewable energy sources for the years 2016 – 2019.

Russia approved 280 megawatts (MW) of solar and 35 MW of wind power projects in its third renewable energy tender.

The government has authorized eight solar projects with a combined capacity of 95 MW by Avelar Solar Technologies, a unit of Hevel Solar.

Also, Solar Systems and T Plus won contracts for 50 MW and 135 MW, respectively.

At the same time, Fortum OAO was awarded a 35-MW wind project in Russia’s Ulyanovsk Oblast. In addition, the government approved two 24.9 MW hydropower projects.

According to a recent report by GlobalData, Russia’s cumulative installed non-hydro renewable power capacity is expected to grow to 2.87 GW by 2025, with the country realizing a tiny portion of its potential.

Last year, the country approved 557 MW of renewable energy projects, most of which were solar.

Viktor Vekselberg, Technopark-Skolkowo MOU 05

Viktor Vekselberg, one of Russia’s oil billionaires, has been developing solar power with his Hevel solar venture.

Hevel LLC, a joint venture of Vekselberg’s Renova Group and state-owned Rusnano founded in 2009, is the largest integrated solar power company in Russia. Hevel Solar is expected to construct 22.5 billion rubles ($450 million) worth of solar projects through the year 2018.

In 2015 Hevel launched Russia’s first full-cycle plant for the manufacture of solar cells. Located in Novocheboksarsk, Chuvash Republic, it has the capacity to manufacture 97.5 MW annually of thin-film solar modules.

The new plant will produce thin-film solar cells by deposition of nanolayers, reducing use of silicon – the main raw material in solar energy equipment – by up to 200 times.

These solar cells can generate electricity even in cloudy weather, which makes them well suited to the Russian climate.

The Hevel modules will be used for the construction of solar power plants for people living in remote areas of Russia. The company expects to build solar power plants with a total capacity greater than 500 megawatts by the end of 2020.

On October 29, 2015 Hevel and Rusnano launched the first stage of a 10 MW solar power plant in Buribay, Republic of Bashkortostan. The launch command was given via TV bridge by the Minister of Energy of Russia Aleksander Novak, High-Tech Assets Development Director of Renova Group Mikhail Lifshitz and Chairman of the Executive Board of Rusnano Anatoly Chubais from the Open Innovations Forum.

The Kosh-Agach solar power plant in Russia’s Altai Republic is already operational, and design and construction work is now underway on large solar power plants in the Orenburg and Saratov regions and also in other parts of the country.

To set up a solar power R&D center, Hevel is partnering with the Ioffe Science and Technology Center in St. Petersburg, the only scientific organization in Russia that conducts solar energy research and development.

One of the main drivers behind the push to renewables is the idea that diversifying power generation will benefit the country.

In fact, overall, Russia appears to be paying more attention to environmental issues.

On January 5, President Vladimir Putin signed an Executive Order resolving to hold the Year of the Environment in the Russian Federation in 2017. Putin said the Year of the Environment would help to attract public attention to Russia’s environmental issues, preserving biodiversity and ensuring environmental security.

RussiaSolarPanelsSunlight copy


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: The sun shines on icy, snowy Russia as Avelar Solar executives cut the ribbon, opening a new solar power facility. (Photo courtesy Avelar Solar Technologies)
Head image: Russian snows are now dotted with solar arrays. (Photo courtesy Avelar Solar Technologies)
Image 01: Viktor Vekselberg, Russian oil billionaire and solar power mogul, 2010 (Photo by Jürg Vollmer) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 02: The company Avelar Solar Technology, a division of Hevel LLC, was established in 2011 to promote projects in the field of solar energy in Russia and the CIS countries.

Climate Polluters Collaborate on Nuclear Fusion

ITERComplete

by Sunny Lewis,

PARIS, France, December 17, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement approved December 12 commits all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Now, the world is focused on finding clean sources of energy to replace the coal, oil and gas that, when burned to generate electricity, emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

All the countries that top the greenhouse gas emissions list are among those cooperating on a long-term energy project that some say is also a long shot – nuclear fusion.

The opposite of the nuclear fission that splits atoms to power all current nuclear generating stations, fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars.

When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which in Latin means the way, is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

In Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest Tokamak. This magnetic fusion device is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

ITERconstruction

Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

The seven ITER Members – China, the European Union (plus Switzerland, as a member of EURATOM), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

ITER is financed by the seven Members. Ninety percent of contributions will be delivered “in-kind.” That means that in the place of cash, the Members will deliver components and buildings directly to the ITER Organization.

The ITER Organization estimates the cost of ITER construction for the seven Members at roughly €13 billion, if all the manufacturing were done in Europe.

But each Member State is producing its contributions in its own country. “As production costs vary from Member to Member, it is impossible to furnish a more precise estimation,” says the ITER Organization.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of ITER construction, while the other six Members are contributing equally to fund the rest.

Organizers say the ITER project is “progressing well despite delays.”

On Monday, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics said they have reached a milestone in the quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They started up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time and briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel, a key point in the experimental process.

The 16-meter-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X, a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma.

The first plasma in the machine lasted one-tenth of a second and reached a temperature of around one million kelvins. “We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X. “Everything went according to plan.”

At its 17th Meeting, held on November 18-19, the ITER Council reviewed the progress made by the ITER Organization Central Team and the Members’ Domestic Agencies from the ITER design and early construction phase to the current phase of full construction.

The Council recognized the “tangible progress” made during the past eight months on construction and component manufacturing.

Onsite, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, the European Domestic Agency has completed the framing of the Assembly Hall and the platform for the first level of the Tokamak. There has also been progress on magnets, the neutral beam injector, remote handling, and other ITER components.

India has completed the fabrication, pre-assembly, and shipment of the initial components of the ITER cryostat, for assembly in the already completed cryostat building onsite, as well as the first cooling water piping for ITER’s chilled water and heat rejection systems.

Four 400kV transformers procured from the United States have been shipped and installed onsite, and the U.S.-procured drain tanks for the cooling water and neutral beam systems have arrived onsite.

China has completed the manufacturing and testing of the first batch of pulsed power electrical network equipment. China also has reached qualification milestones in the manufacturing of magnet feeders, correction coils, and the blanket first wall.

Japan has started the series production of the toroidal field coils. Full-tungsten prototypes of plasma-facing components for the ITER divertor have been manufactured and shipped, and required performance for ITER has been demonstrated.

Russia has fully met its obligations for delivery of superconductor cable for ITER magnets. At Russia’s Divertor Test facility, high heat flux testing is also underway for divertor plasma-facing components from Japan, Europe, and Russia. Beryllium fabrication has begun, and the gyrotron complex prototype facility has passed its acceptance tests.

In Korea, manufacturing is ongoing for the ITER vacuum vessel and thermal shield, and design milestones have been achieved for many of the purpose-built tools ITER will need for assembly.

The Council noted the completion of superconductor production, which has been a coordinated effort involving laboratories and companies of ITER Members in 12 countries.

This complex process involves the multinational harmonization of design attributes, production standards, quality assurance measures, and testing protocols.

The Council recognized “the substantial benefit this will create for all ITER Members, positively impacting the capacity for cross-border trade and innovation, not only in energy industries but also in fields such as medical imaging and transportation applications.”

If ITER is successfully completed, it will be able to claim many firsts. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.

And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

MaxPlancktechniciann


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Visualization of the completed ITER Tokamak courtesy of Jamison Daniel, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Lab, United States
Image 01: Construction is underway at the 42-hectare ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in southern France, where building began in 2010.
Image 02: A technician at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics works inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.

Climate Crisis! Energy Efficiency to the Rescue

PARIS, France, November 30, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “Mobilising energy efficiency is an urgent priority,” says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“To transition to the sustainable energy system of the future, we need to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is the most important “arrow in the quiver” to achieve this,” writes the Turkish economist and energy expert in the IEA’s new Market Report.

Encouragingly, the IEA report estimates that 40 percent of the emissions reductions required by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase to the world’s agreed target of less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could potentially come from energy efficiency.

“energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

The IEA’s 2015 Energy Efficiency Market Report shows how businesses, households and policy-makers generate the investments that drive the energy efficiency market and how this market impacts the world’s energy system.

As negotiations to achieve a universal climate protection agreement open today in Paris, Birol says “energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Something is more energy efficient if it delivers more services for the same energy input, or the same services for less energy input.

For example, when a compact florescent light (CFL) bulb uses one-third to one-fifth less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light, the CFL is considered to be more energy efficient.

The International Energy Agency is pursuing many strategies to improve energy efficiency both among its 29 member governments and with partner countries.

Per capita energy consumption in the IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s, yet income per capita has never been higher, according to the Market Report.

“The ongoing, steady improvement in energy efficiency over the past four decades has been one of the most pronounced and significant changes to the global energy system, yet its impacts go largely unnoticed,” writes Birol in his Foreword to the report.

“Per capita energy consumption in IEA countries has dropped to levels not seen since the 1980’s yet income per capita is at its highest level and access to energy services is continually expanding. This is why energy efficiency is so important. It is improving prosperity with a domestic, clean ‘source’ of energy,” he writes.

BirolAbe

The IEA Market Report states that energy efficiency investments over the last 25 years are the primary reason for this uncoupling of energy consumption from economic growth.

These investments have enabled consumers in IEA countries to spend US$5.7 trillion less on energy, while at the same time receiving higher levels of energy service.

The returns from energy efficiency investments have not been limited to financial gains. The report examines the strategic returns to consumers, industries, utilities and governments from improvements in energy productivity and energy security as well as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2014, the estimate of avoided total final consumption (TFC) from energy efficiency investments increased to over 520 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe).

The IEA reports that “the energy efficiency market is anticipated to grow in the medium term – even in the current context of lower oil prices,” if this market is supported by policies that deliver “strategic returns.”

Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015 highlights

  • The energy intensity of countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) improved by 2.3 percent in 2014. OECD energy consumption is now as low as it was in 2000, while GDP has expanded by US$8.5 trillion, an increase of 26 percent.

“This suggests that these countries have successfully decoupled economic growth from energy consumption growth, with energy efficiency being the main contributing factor,” the report states.

  • Energy security in IEA countries is improving with increased energy efficiency. In 2014 alone, at least 190 Mtoe of primary energy imports were avoided in IEA countries, saving US$80 billion in import bills.
  • Energy efficiency improvements in IEA countries since 1990 have avoided a cumulative 10.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, helping to make the 2 degree warming goal more achievable.
  • Investments worldwide in energy efficiency in buildings, which account for more than 30 percent of global energy demand, are estimated to be US$90 billion (+/- 10 percent) and are set to expand.
  • Electricity consumption in IEA countries has flattened partly as a result of energy efficiency improvements. In the face of flat electricity demand, many electricity utilities are diversifying into energy efficiency services businesses to increase profits.

National governments are increasing their energy efficiency.

For instance, in March, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order setting new targets for the U.S. Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 2008 levels by 2025.

U.S. federal agencies have developed strategies to cut their emissions by reducing energy use in their buildings, making their vehicles more efficient, using clean energy sources like wind and solar, and employing energy savings performance contracts.

In the European Union, the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive establishes a set of binding measures to help the EU reach its 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020. Under the Directive, all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain from its production to its final consumption.

EU countries were required to transpose the Directive’s provisions into their national laws by June 5, 2014.

New national measures have to ensure major energy savings for consumers and industry alike. Energy distributors or retail energy sales companies have to achieve 1.5 percent energy savings per year through the implementation of energy efficiency measures. Large companies must audit their energy consumption to help them identify ways to reduce it.

The IEA reports that subnational governments such as cities and states are emerging as key actors in the efficiency market. The agency gives four examples:

In Paris, France actions taken by the city since 2008 under the Paris Climate and Energy Action Plan have resulted in the saving of about 130 gigawatt hours of power. The Plan stimulated investment of €640 million, creating 1,300 local jobs and 420 jobs elsewhere, according to the IEA report.

The U.S. state of Massachusetts invested US$680 million in energy efficiency programmes in 2013. The state estimates that its main efficiency programme, Mass Save, generated US$2.8 billion in benefits in 2013 through almost 3.3 million programme participants. This supported a state-level energy efficiency labor market of over 65,000 jobs.

Seoul, Korea’s “One Less Nuclear Power Plant” plan reduced municipal energy consumption by 2 Mtoe between 2012 and 2014. The plan promoted energy efficiency as a means to avoid the same volume of energy as could be supplied by a new nuclear plant. Energy efficiency efforts have leveraged over US$1 billion in private energy efficiency investment since 2008.

Tokyo, Japan has implemented transport policies that added 4.9 billion passenger-kilometres while reducing transport energy consumption by 35 percent. Investments in energy efficient public transport in tandem with dense residential and commercial developments have allowed the city to achieve some of the lowest energy intensities of buildings and transport in the OECD.

Developing countries too are making energy efficiency efforts. As fast-developing countries such as China and India grow, “their energy efficiency markets may have the most promise and greatest importance” for limiting climate change, finds the report.

“As this report describes, the breadth, scale and effect of the energy efficiency market is sizable but it is still only a start,” writes Birol. “We need more more investment, but also more political will and leadership at all levels to grow this market.”

“The potential is there, the benefits are ready to be realised, and the imperative to act is clear,” he writes. “Energy efficiency is poised to be a key component of global inclusive growth along the transition to a sustainable energy system.”

International Energy Agency Member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Compact fluorescent bulbs come in many colors (Photo by AZ Adam under creative commons license via flickr)

Slide images: A. ThermoLift, recipient of a grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Buildings Technology Office, uses thermal energy from natural gas to heat and cool efficiently, reducing energy costs by up to 50 percent. (Photo by Matty Greene / U.S. Department of Energy) B. At the 2015 IEA Ministerial meeting Chair U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz picks out the next speaker, with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and Deputy Executive Director Paul Simons to his left and US Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for the Office of International Affairs Jonathan Elkind to his right.

Image 01: IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan during their meeting in Tokyo, September 15, 2015. (Photo courtesy IEA via Flickr)

Floating Windfarms to Generate Power for Europe

PortugalVestasWindFloatBy Sunny Lewis

LISBON, Portugal, November 19, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Windfloat Atlantic, Europe’s second floating windfarm, will be built off Portugal’s northern coast under plans outlined this week by an international consortium of energy utilities and engineering companies.

Energias de Portugal Renewables (EDP), the French multinational electric utility company Engie, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp and Chiyoda Corp, and the Spanish energy group Repsol are buying in by acquiring a stake in the Portuguese corporation that owns the project, Windplus, S.A.

The three or four turbines that will make up the 25 megawatt facility will float in the ocean 20 kilometers off the Portuguese coast at Viana do Castelo. Operational startup is planned for 2018.

The project will be the second floating offshore windfarm pilot in Europe, after Norway’s Statoil said this month it would invest about US$236 million in a 30 megawatt, five-turbine floating windfarm off Scotland.

PortugalWindFloatMap

In Portuguese waters, the consortium will use the WindFloat technology, an innovative semi-submersible foundation developed by Principle Power, Inc.

EDP says the floating foundation is anchored to the seabed. Its stability comes from the use of “water entrapment plates” on the bottom of the three pillars, and a static and dynamic ballast system.

“WindFloat adapts to any type of offshore wind turbine. It is built entirely on land, including the installation of the turbine, thus avoiding the use of scarce marine resources,” EDP explained in a statement.

This technology has already been used in a first-of-its-kind prototype called WindFloat 1 close to Aguçadoura. There, a two-megawatt Vestas V80 commercial wind turbine is mounted on a WindFloat foundation and was connected to the grid in December 2011.

The prototype is the world’s first offshore wind deployment, floating or fixed, that did not require the use of heavy lift equipment offshore, and it is the first in open Atlantic waters.

This prototype has produced more than 16 gigawatts of power over nearly four years of operation, performing well even in extreme weather with with waves of up to 15 meters, according to EDP and Vestas.

The consortium says the aim of the Windfloat Atlantic project is “to demonstrate the economic potential and reliability of this technology, advancing it further in the path towards commercialization.”

Floating offshore windfarm technology makes it possible to generate electricity from parts of the ocean that are too deep for conventional offshore wind foundations.

The consortium estimates the total cost of the Windfloat Atlantic project at €121.4 million (US$130.1 million or 16 billion Japanese yen).

The project will receive financial help from the European Union.

In April 2015, the European Commission determined that the Portuguese floating windfarm project was in line with EU state aid rules.

The aid will be granted for 25 years in the form of a feed-in-tariff to compensate for the higher costs of the new technologies.

The cost estimates for ocean energy technologies submitted by Portugal show that the maximum feed-in tariff available under the scheme is “proportionate to the objective pursued,” limiting potential distortions of competition brought about by the state aid, the Commission decided.

The project will also benefit from investment aid and funding from NER300, the EU support program for innovative low-carbon energy demonstration projects.

“The development of new renewable technologies is crucial to help Europe meet its environmental commitments. Today’s approved scheme is an important step for bringing new technologies to the market.”

The Commission found that the project contributes to increasing Portugal’s share of renewable energy by developing new generation technologies.

EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in April, “The development of new renewable technologies is crucial to help Europe meet its environmental commitments. Today’s approved scheme is an important step for bringing new technologies to the market.”

This year is already the biggest on record for European offshore wind, with a total of 584 electricity-generating turbines coming online across the Netherlands, the UK, and Germany in the first half of 2015, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

“It has taken the offshore wind industry just six months to set the best year the sector has ever seen in terms of installed capacity,” said Kristian Ruby, chief policy officer at the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

“While this clearly shows a commitment to offshore wind development in Europe, a number of completed projects, explosive growth in Germany and the use of higher capacity wind turbines are major contributors to these numbers,” Ruby said.

France currently has no offshore wind installed – fixed or floating – but plans to install six gigawatts of offshore windpower by 2020.

Today, Europe’s 128.8 gigawatts of wind power can meet 10 percent of European power consumption in a normal wind year.

Wind energy will be the largest source of power supply in the EU by 2030 if governments apply the right level of ambition in their climate and energy policies, according to EWEA’s latest report, released November 17.

Wind power can exceed gas, coal and other forms of energy by the end of the next decade if European member states follow the ambitious end of the policy framework they have set for 2030, the report projects.

Giles Dickson, EWEA’s chief executive officer, said, “Wind power can be the foundation of the European energy system within the next 15 years.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: The prototype WindFloat 1 in Portuguese waters near Aguçadoura (Photo courtesy Energias de Portugal)
Main image: A Vestas wind turbine on a floating platform is the first-of-its-kind Windfloat Atlantic prototype (Photo courtesy MHI Vestas Offshore Wind)
Map image: Map showing the location of the Windfloat Atlantic project off Portugal’s northern coast. (Map courtesy Chiyoda Corp.)

Solar-Powered Lights Flick On Across Nigeria

LumosSolarAfrica

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 4, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The U.S. government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has signed a US$15 million commitment to finance a business that provides solar electricity to homes and small business throughout Nigeria.

The off-grid electricity provider is Txtlight Power Solutions, Ltd. doing business as Nova-Lumos, and the signing took place on October 21 as part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Climate and Clean Energy Investment Forum.

“Lumos brings vision, innovation, and sound business sense to address the power access challenge in Africa,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC’s president and chief executive.

“With a dedication to those who live off-grid or have unreliable power access,” she said, “Lumos’ creative business model will positively impact millions with new affordable electricity access in homes, businesses, medical facilities, and schools.”

This is the largest OPIC investment in Africa’s off-grid power sector, a key component of increasing energy access in a region where people are not grid-connected and the need for reliable power is especially acute.

Based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Nova-Lumos is the world’s first distributed utility provider, bringing affordable, modern and clean electricity to communities that have been living off the grid.

With this OPIC financing, Lumos will be able to increase power access to the nearly 90 million Nigerians who currently live without any connection to the electric grid.

Lumos connects the mobile payment revolution and solar energy. Through partnerships with mobile operators, Lumos provides electricity on a lease to own basis, purchased by mobile phone.

Lumos customers replace kerosene and candles with solar-powered electricity that can allows them to turn on lights, cellphones, fans, computers and TVs – all at once.

Lumos offers a patented, self-deployable mobile energy system, with integrated cellular payment and advanced security mechanisms. The service includes a home solar panel linked to an indoor storage and connection unit.

And it’s affordable. Lumos customers utilize a “pay-as-you-go” model, buying power in small amounts, by text message.

One the corporate level, it’s the $15 million in funding from OPIC that makes it possible for Lumos customers to make small, affordable payments.

David Vortman, Lumos chief executive and co-founder, said, “We are very excited about this major financing milestone in partnership with OPIC, which will enable us to accelerate our growth in Nigeria and improve the lives of millions.”

“Having the backing of an institution such as OPIC provides a vote of confidence in Lumos’ innovative core technology and our unique business model that drives most of our value as a company,” Vortman said.

Lumos’ business model is scalable in large part due to the company’s partnerships with mobile communications operators.

In Nigeria, Lumos has partnered with MTN, Nigeria largest telecommunications company with a subscriber base of over 60 million people.

Lumos was also a recipient of early-stage catalytic funding through OPIC and the Africa Clean Energy Finance initiative. This partnership with the U.S. State Department provided start-up capital for 30 innovative clean energy projects across 10 African countries.

Lumos recently became an official private sector partner of President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative, a partnership among more than 100 public and private sector partners to bring new power access to the more than 600 million Sub-Saharan Africans that currently live without electricity.

As a key part of Power Africa, OPIC financing allows private companies like Lumos to scale up business models and broadly increase new power access across Africa.

Vortman and other Lumos executives believe the Nigerian project is just the beginning of the company’s relationship with OPIC as it grows in Nigeria and elsewhere across the developing world.

OPIC declares that all its projects “adhere to high environmental and social standards and respect human rights, including worker’s rights.”

By mandating high standards, OPIC says it helps to raise the industry and regional standards of the more than 160 countries in which its projects operate.

NigerianGirlLumos

A young girl in Nigeria is able to do her homework after dark with the help of a solar light powered by Lumos, an OPIC partner that provides off-grid solar solutions to remote communities.

(Photo courtesy OPIC)
Featured image: Nigerian man installs a Lumos solar system. Customers will pay by cellphone as they consume the power. (Photo courtesy Nova-Lumos)

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Aligning Institutional Investment With Sustainable Development

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 22, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The largest public pension fund in the United States, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), with upwards of US$300 billion in assets, takes sustainability seriously.

Just days ahead of a United Nations summit in New York that will adopt new Sustainable Development Goals to guide international efforts through 2030, CalPERS has joined the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in issuing a report that calls on regulators to build a new culture of sustainable investing.

Entitled “Financial Reform, Institutional Investors and Sustainable Development: A review of current policy initiatives and proposals for further progress,” the report calls for proactive policies putting sustainability at the core of new institutional investment frameworks.

Henry Jones, who chairs the CalPERS Investment Committee, said, “At CalPERS we have no doubt that our focus on sustainability is entirely consistent with our fiduciary duty – indeed it is an essential part of it.”

JonesHenryHenry Jones heads CalPERS Investment Committee (Photo courtesy CalPERS)

“Where doubts on this score remain, they must be dispelled,” Jones said. “And we need institutions that have the knowledge, the skills and the ways of working that are required to embed sustainability in their investments – to manage the risks it brings, and to capitalize upon the opportunities it offers.”

In his forward to the report, Jones writes, “Of all the sustainability challenges we face, climate change is one of the most pressing.”

“This report is being published just a few weeks before the Paris Climate Change Conference. At CalPERS, we earnestly hope the world’s governments will reach an ambitious global agreement to address climate change. Bold action is needed in particular to introduce stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing, and to strengthen regulatory support for clean energy. This will enable us, as investors, to manage the risks and take the opportunities that climate change brings. We hope every country will reflect on how it can best address these challenges,” Jones wrote.

The report’s author, Rob Lake, is a UK-based independent responsible investment advisor and expert, working with asset owners.

With an estimated annual financing gap of up to US$7 trillion a year in infrastructure investments alone, the global financial system, worth more than US$300 trillion, has a potential to transform the international economic landscape to better serve the needs of humanity, Lake’s report concludes.

The report had its genesis in the Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System initiated by UNEP in January 2014 to advance policy options that could improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital towards a green and inclusive economy.

Nick Robins, who serves as co-director of UNEP Inquiry, said, “A package of measures is needed to deliver the full sustainability potential of institutional investors. Disclosure is important, but without effective governance frameworks and incentives, this will not drive sufficient change.”

The report shows that policy intervention has evolved from focusing on disclosure obligations and statements about investors’ core legal duties to a “second generation” approach that addresses the synergy between sustainability and other policy objectives.

CalPERSbuildingSolar panels on the roof of CalPERS’ Sacramento, California headquarters generate some of the electricity that powers the building. (Photo courtesy CalPERS) – Building for the Future, Protecting the Environment.

Seven critical policy objectives that hold the strongest potential for positive change are explored in the report together with 14 policy tools to achieve them.

The seven policy objectives are:

  1.  Aligning Institutional Investment System Design with Sustainability
  2.  Removing Policy Barriers
  3.  Stimulating Demand for Investment that Integrates Sustainability
  4.  Strengthening Asset Owner Governance and Capabilities
  5.  Lengthening Investment Horizons
  6.  Aligning Incentives along the Investment Chain
  7.  Ensuring Investor Accountability

The 14 policy tools are:

  1.  The Design of Pension Systems Investment
  2.  Performance Measurement
  3.  The Legal Duties of Investment Institutions
  4.  The Legal Duties of the Directors of Risk-Taking Financial Institutions
  5.  Solvency and Risk Regulations
  6.  Prudential Regulation
  7.  Investor Disclosure Rules
  8.  Corporate Disclosure Rules
  9.  Fiscal Incentives
  10.  Rules on Equity and Credit Research
  11.  Investor Rights, Codes and Stewardship
  12.  Risk Mitigation and Market Development for Green Assets
  13.  Soft Law Sustainability Frameworks
  14.  Professional Qualifications and Knowledge Transfer

The report concludes, “Enormous potential exists to pursue new policy initiatives designed to achieve sustainability goals through the institutional investment chain while simultaneously strengthening other public policy objectives: better governed asset owner institutions that serve their beneficiaries more effectively, enhanced prudential regulation, increased economic welfare meeting energy, water and food needs, and restored public trust in the financial system.”


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Hundreds of Hospitals Lead the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge

kaiser-portfolio

By Sunny Lewis

RESTON, Virginia, August 29, 2015 (Maximpact News) – More than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 13 countries are pledging to take meaningful action on climate change in a worldwide campaign to mobilize the health care sector ahead of the United Nations conference on climate change this December in Paris.

There, governments around the world are expected to adopt a universal, legally-binding agreement to take effect in the year 2020 limiting greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge, an international initiative from Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network, invites health care systems and hospitals everywhere to reduce their carbon footprints and protect public health from the warming climate.

The 2020 Challenge is the first international effort to track emissions and take measurable actions to reduce the health care sector’s carbon footprint.

“At a time when climate change is posing one of the greatest threats to public health, hospitals and health systems are stepping up to help the world kick its addiction to fossil fuels,” said Josh Karliner, global projects director for Health Care Without Harm.

“This is a leadership moment for health care,” Karliner said.

“In every region of the world, health care can lead by example,” said Veronica Odriozola, executive director of Health Care Without Harm Latin America.

“Whether it is an off-the-grid clinic deploying solar power to run its operations and help electrify a community, or a large hospital reducing its own emissions to address respiratory disease from air pollution, we can all move toward low carbon health care,” she said.

The 2020 Health Care Climate Pledge relies on climate change and public health information from The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change convened by the prestigious British medical journal

“We know that climate change is already exacerbating a wide range of health problems the world over,” the Pledge states. “As the earth warms, infectious diseases like malaria and dengue are spreading to new locations, threatening to reverse hard won health gains in many parts of the planet.”

“Heat waves are growing in intensity and number, killing tens of thousands outright and aggravating asthma, heart disease and heat stroke. Increasingly severe storms, droughts and floods, harm human health and put oft-overstretched and ill-prepared health systems at risk,” states the Pledge.

“Kaiser Permanente is making this pledge because climate change isn’t a distant threat,” said Kathy Gerwig, vice president and environmental stewardship officer with Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest American not-for-profit health plans.

“The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma, spread of infectious diseases, heat stress, and injuries from severe weather events,” said Gerwig. “By addressing climate change for the future, we are improving the health of communities today.”

The Pledge warns, “If greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked, climate change will, within a matter of decades have severe pervasive and irreversible effects, undermining the food and water supply in many parts of the world, setting off mass migrations, and thereby triggering potentially unmanageable public health crises.”

Sonia Roschnik, who heads the Sustainable Development Unit of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, views the challenge as an opportunity. “We recognize that not only does climate change present a huge challenge for the health and care sector in England but also a great opportunity to change the way we work – to improve the health of people and communities, save money and help the environment.”


 

IMAGE: One megawatt elevated solar array above parking garages at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Medical Center, California reduces the facility’s carbon footprint. (Photo courtesy Recurrent Energy)  Featured image: from Health Care Without Harm challenge

Butterflies Teach Scientists How to Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

Butterflies Teach Scientists How to Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

By Sunny Lewis

PENRYN, Cornwall, UK, August 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The way a small white butterfly holds its wings has inspired technology expected to make solar power cheaper and up to 50 percent more efficient.

In its caterpillar stage the Cabbage White butterfly is a pest that eats its way through cabbage crops across Europe, North Africa, Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

But University of Exeter scientists have seen past the pest stage to the butterfly stage.

The Cabbage White butterfly takes flight before other butterflies on cloudy days because its V-shaped wing position, known as reflectance basking, maximizes the concentration of solar energy on its thorax.

By mimicking this V-shaped posture the butterflies take to warm their flight muscles before take-off, and the structure of their wings, the researchers found that the power produced by dye-sensitized, thin-film solar cells can be increased by almost 50 percent.

“This proves that the lowly Cabbage White is not just a pest of your cabbages but actually an insect that is an expert at harvesting solar energy,” said Professor Richard ffrench-Constant, who conducts research into butterfly mimicry at the University of Exeter.

The V-shaped wing position is “strikingly similar to the V-trough solar concentrator which uses mirrored side walls to focus light towards a small area of photovoltaic material, thereby increasing the output power of any solar cell to which it is attached,” the scientists write.

The team found that the optimal angle by which the butterfly should hold its wings to increase temperature to its body was around 17 degrees. This angle increased the insect’s body temperature by 7.3 degrees Centigrade compared to when the wings were held flat.

A dye-sensitized solar cell is a low-cost, thin film solar cell. This photoelectrochemical system is based on a semiconductor formed between a photo-sensitized anode and an electrolyte.

To create more efficient solar cells, the researchers designed a novel photoanode structure, the part of the solar cell that absorbs the sun’s energy, using the wings of the Cabbage White as biotemplates.

Photoanode structures with arranged ridges and ribs made of nanoparticles were synthesized onto a fluorine-doped glass substrate coated with tin oxide.

Analysis indicated that the light-harvesting efficiencies of these photoanodes were higher than the normal titania photoanode without butterfly biotemplates.

The scientists replicated the wings to develop a new, lightweight reflective material for solar energy production.

“Biomimicry in engineering is not new,” said the study’s lead author Professor Tapas Mallick. “However, this truly multidisciplinary research shows pathways to develop low-cost solar power that have not been done before.”

Increasing solar cell efficiency by 50 percent is a big deal as the world weans itself off power generated by coal, oil and gas, which raises the planetary temperature.

Because there are many different types of efficiencies when it comes to solar cells, it can be difficult for non-specialists to do direct comparisons.

Currently, the official accredited World Record Efficiency is 14.1 percent, but efficiencies exceeding 15 percent are being achieved in the laboratory, and experts forecast efficiencies beyond 20 percent for the near future.

The paper, “White butterflies as solar photovoltaic concentrators,” by Katie Shanks, Dr Senthilarasu Sundaram, Professor Richard ffrench-Constant and Professor Tapas Mallick from the University of Exeter, is published in the journal “Scientific Reports,” online here.


Blog image: Cabbage White butterfly on yellow milkweed, North Carolina, USA (Photo by John Flannery, June 2015 creative commons license, Flickr.com) Featured Image: Cabbage White butterfly Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand (Photo by Troup Dresser, July 2011 creative commons license, Flickr.com)

After Davos: Lessons for Impact and Social Investors from the WEF 2015

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Aerial photograph of Davos, Switzerland

Davos: Returning to normal after WEF15 but what will the forum mean for us?

The World Economic Forum has been and gone, leaving the Davos snow more than a little trampled. Now that 2500+ of the world’s most powerful people have flown home in somewhat fewer (it seems) than 1700 private jets, what do we know about what’s coming in 2015? And, more specifically, what lessons did the Forum hold for impact and social investors?

Impact and social investing are part of the global economic reality, so the larger trends identified at Davos will be felt in our sector, too. Quantitative easing in the Eurozone, the unpredictable fallout from the Grexit, the slowdown in growth in China and India, its surge in the US, will all shape the world economic outlook for 2015 and will inevitably have their effects on the social sphere. And yet it was interesting to notice certain issues — some our own favorite topics — were more prominent on the agenda than they have been in previous years.

Climate Change

The financial crisis pushed climate change off the agenda; the presence of Gore as the opening act at Davos seems to indicate that it’s now back on. The ex-US Vice President (and his musical friend Pharrell Williams) were on hand to drive home, once again, the message that we need to act fast to avert disaster. This can’t have been news to the delegates at Davos, all of whom have heard Gore’s arguments before and yet have presided over the increase in the use of fossil fuels we’ve seen in recent years.

Among those in the know, real indicator that things are changing was the advocacy of Lord Stern, Tony Blair’s climate change adviser.  At Davos, he argued cogently that fossil fuel is not, as it long appeared, cheap anymore, and that alternatives are now getting cheaper. Governments don’t have to make a tradeoff between growth and preventing climate change, he said, and his argument seems to be gaining traction in the world of business. It’s one that impact and sustainable investors have long understood, of course, but the mainstreaming of sustainability should bring new opportunities for impact investors and climate-friendly social enterprises alike, especially when it comes to collaborating with business and government.

Alternative energy

Related to the issue of climate change is that of energy, another hot topic at Davos. The energy landscape is changing, partly because of the wider acceptance of the reality of climate change, but also because alternative energy sources are coming into their own. A plunge in oil prices, due in large part to the availability of cheap gas from fracking, is driving oil-producing nations to re-examine their strategies, diversify their activities and rethink their future. It’s also fanning the flames of the divestiture movement, which is gaining ground as the value of fossil fuel stocks, for so long the central pillars of many portfolios, continues to fall.

For impact and social investors, this shift in focus will help in two ways. First, the exit of capital from fossil fuels could spur a renewed wave of investment in existing forms of alternative energy such as wind, solar and hydrogen, and in energy efficient technologies, all areas where impact investing has a track record. Second, turning away from fossil fuels will require more investment into developing new alternative sources of energy. Investment in energy R&D and in companies rolling out alternative energy solutions to new markets will be attractive opportunities for social investors.

Inequality

The specter of Thomas Piketty was found haunting many of the sessions at Davos. The French economist’s landmark tome, Capital in the 21st Century, has sparked wide-ranging debate about the nature and role of capital in our times. One of its impacts is to highlight the growing problem of wealth inequality, an important theme threading through many discussions at WEF15.

The Economist explains Piketty in four paragraphs

Different delegates working in different contexts and sectors interpreted inequality in a number of ways. Piketty is mainly concerned with the current dynamic that sees wealth in societies moving inexorably in one direction—upwards—and accumulating in the hands of fewer and fewer people at the top (such as those attending the Davos conference, for instance). Other kinds of inequality, however, were on the agenda, including the disparity between rich and poor nations, and among different groups, for example women and marginalized groups, within societies.

For impact and social investors, investments aimed at reducing inequality of all kinds are already part of the landscape and can take a number of forms. Affordable loans for college students, edutech that brings learning to those who need it, and provision of healthcare for girls and women, are all examples of investments that can help reduce inequality. Technology also has a role to play. Sheryl Sandberg, when asked by Arianna Huffington, opined that more technology, specifically access to the internet, and, less specifically, “more data” would bring more equality to the world. Social investments that extend tech to the tech-poor are already on the cards, but more work, targeted specifically on easing inequality, is needed from our sector.

Corruption and crime

In a recent blog, we showed why the impact and social investing sector should be putting its weight behind the growing global movement to fight corruption.  At Davos, corruption and crime were prominent on the agenda, an indication that the movement is now hitting the mainstream thanks to the efforts of campaigners like Global Witness. The connection between corruption, poverty and the health of markets is becoming clearer, as is the role of the business community in tackling this scourge. These topics and others were addressed in number of sessions and an issue briefing at the WEF. Impact and social investors should keep abreast of how this discussion develops and, in keeping with their commitment to ethics, adopt anti-corruption strategies wherever possible.

Changes to the way the world invests

The delegates at Davos showed a new level of interest in the way capital markets are changing, and this has implications for the impact and social investing movements. This change-consciousness was evident in this year’s sessions, many of which acknowledged, in different ways, a new mood and attitude toward investing in  mainstream markets. Yet it can be seen most clearly in the future projects funded by the WEF for next year. Projects on accelerating capital markets in emerging economies and direct investment by institutional investors, for example, point to trends in the markets that could be important for impact investors. Meanwhile. Phase III of the Mainstreaming Impact project has been cleared to move forward, led by Abigail Noble. If the excellent work coming out of this project so far is any indication, this will give us even more data to work with and deepen our understanding of the developments in our own corner of the financial world.

An insight into the things to come?

The World Economic Forum provides a fascinating snapshot of the forces that shape our global economy and thus determine the fate of billions—billions of people, that is, not only dollars. It gives us a fleeting glimpse of the individuals making the decisions and the merest hint of how things will go in the year to come. For our emerging sector, it’s vital to tune in to the lessons of Davos and learn what we can, especially if our aim is to one day become the mainstream that Davos represents.

And yet, in another sense, Davos may be less relevant to us than it first appears. As a guage of the status quo—what is now—nothing compares to it. But as a guage of what will be, it falls short. Piketty reminds us all that economics is, after all, not a hard science like mathematics, but a social science with historical underpinnings. Looking at the past is very helpful for understanding the present, as he ably proves. However it doesn’t necessarily help us predict the future with perfect certainty. For many, Davos is already the past. The future, if committed impact and social investors have their way, could be very, very different.

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The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

Sustainability:
1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.

Conclusion

Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

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The New Energy Landscape: A Roadmap for Impact and Sustainable Investors

By Marta Maretich, Maximpact Chief Editor @maximpactdotcom

Energy is set to be a key global concern for the foreseeable future; and to continue to be an important focus for the impact and sustainable investing sector.

The reasons for this are familiar by now: fossil fuels are becoming scarcer, energy costs are rising, levels of industrialization are increasing, as is global prosperity, bringing increased demand for energy as well as unwanted side effects from its use, like pollution.

Climate change is another factor driving interest in energy. A series of reports from the IPCC are shining a light on the urgent need to change the way we use energy as well as the types of energy we use. According its recent report, energy is responsible for 47% of the increase in anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 emissions; fossil fuel byproducts linked to climate change. High carbon-intensity energy, related to economic growth in developing countries, is an important contributor. These statistics mean that energy use is set to become an important front in the battle against runaway climate change.

Whether or not you accept the idea of man-made climate change, there’s little doubt that the IPCC’s reports will affect the outlook for investing in the energy sector. Right now, the UN is using them to inform its process of forging a new international convention on climate change. When this framework emerges in 2015, this in turn will have implications as governments react by establishing new policies, setting regulation and, probably, funneling more public money into mitigation measures.

All these factors; plus the fact that new technologies and approaches are proliferating; are making energy a focus for investors of all kinds, despite the fact that some alternative energy markets have proven volatile in the past. Today there are more ways to invest in energy than ever before and everyone seems to be looking for the technologies that will replace fossil fuels in our investment portfolios as well as our economies.

A multitude of solutions

Developments recent years seem to indicate that seeking a single solution to the energy question is the wrong approach. It’s more probable that there will be a wide array of approaches that form a patchwork of solutions for different applications. Many of these will be local, rooted in culture and geography, and investors who know how to spot an opportunity at the local level will reap the benefits, as will those who know how to support energy businesses as they scale up and roll out products and services on a wider basis.

But there is much more still to do if we are to meet growing energy demands while at the same time cutting emissions. Fortunately, there’s also increased scope for investing as the clean and green energy market grows and diversifies. Here are some of the areas to watch:

Known values

Solar power, wind power and hydroelectric generation businesses have long been staples in impact and sustainable investment portfolios. Global growth in the uptake of these technologies has been significant overall, at least partly due to government subsidies and policy support, and the worldwide demand for solar and wind power continues to skyrocket. Since 2009, global solar photovoltaic installations increased about 40% per year on average, and the installed capacity of wind turbines has doubled.

Against this background, some investors, like Triodos with its renewable energy fund, have already garnered considerable experience in investing in diverse energy solutions including hydroelectric, wind and solar. Others, like the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have been instrumental in financing specific energy technologies to fit local needs in countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Egypt.

Impact capital has played a role in bringing these technologies forward and rolling them out into new markets, sometimes riding the roller coaster of a new investment sector, as in the case of solar power. As a result, renewables now represent an evolved market and continue to have strong returns. With future outlooks positive, especially in light of advances such as new approaches to managing existing grids and new technologies coming online to improve energy storage thus making wind power more viable, these sectors remain good bets as we move into 2014.

IPCC top energy picks

The IPCC weighs into the energy debate with a new report flagging its top picks for alternative energy sources to lead climate change mitigation measures. In it, zero-carbon technologies join low-carbon ones, with both seen as essential to success. The list of top technologies they cite is controversial (even deeply flawed, according to some critics), yet the IPCC’s recommendations may turn out to be influential as the global conversation about new energy sources evolves. Certainly, it pays impact and sustainable investors to consider how they could usefully engage with these sectors.

Nuclear power

In a post-Fukushima world, nuclear power is more controversial than ever. Germany, a global leader in greening its energy sector, is set to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030.

Nonetheless nuclear power is central to the IPCC’s plans for climate change mitigation. Though certainly not a “renewable”, as the report claims it is, nuclear is nonetheless a zero-carbon source of power and may be an option in some situations. Despite its drawbacks of danger and waste, it appeals to countries worried about energy security as well as those trying to wean themselves away from using polluting coal as a main source of energy. For these reasons, worldwide nuclear capacity is increasing annually, with countries such as Spain and the USA stepping up production. New reactors are going up in many counties including Taiwan, China, South Korea and Russia.

All this activity may hold opportunities for impact and sustainable investors who believe that nuclear may offer the best hope for a carbon-neutral future; as well as those who are willing to back an unpopular industry as it develops better, safer technologies. The good news is that advances in technology may change the outlook for nuclear soon. Molten salt reactors; which so far exist only on paper; could produce 20 times more power per plant, cast half the price of existing reactors and consume, rather than produce, nuclear waste. It’s worth noting that China has pledged to build one before 2050 and western countries too fastidious to take the risk may miss an important opportunity here.

Energy efficiency

The drive toward greater efficiency in energy use is already underway as rising fuel costs push consumers in every sector to find ways to get more out of their energy spending. The search for energy efficiency will create business opportunities in a number of industries including construction, where energy-saving design is becoming the norm, and transportation, where more efficient vehicles are cutting fuel bills for individual consumers, companies and municipalities.

Manufacturing will be an important growth area when in comes to energy efficiency. According to a recent survey, energy use is becoming an issue for top managers who now see it as key to bottom-line success. The drive for efficiency will create opportunities for growing businesses in consultancy and service delivery, too, as companies seek expert advice on how to optimize their specific processes: just six percent would know where to turn for more tailored advice, a recent survey reveals, and this is seen by managers as a significant barrier to investing in energy saving measures.

Biofuels

Biofuels have come in for a lot of criticism in recent years and now the United Nations has released a report officially warning that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices. Still, biofuels are central to the mitigation pathways proposed by the IPCC, a fact that some critics, like environmental groups Biofuel Watch and the Global Forest Coalition, have attacked as “false” and “confused”.

This may not be sufficient reason to exclude biofuels from a green energy future, however. Promising new technologies, particularly those that convert waste into biofuel, may yet put this sector back on the map for impact and sustainable investors. A recent study found that biofuels derived from paper, wood and food waste could provide 16% of fuel needed for road transportation in Europe by 2030. On the other hand, the report warns that the successful commercialisation of these advanced biofuel technologies now depends on political leadership and adequate policies, a scenario that industry insiders fear is a long way off.

BECCS

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS or Bio-CCS) is another controversial technology central to the IPCC’s mitigation measures report. The process involves power plants burning biomass to generate electricity with the carbon created being extracted and stored underground for “geological timescales”. BECCS could potentially provide large amounts of carbon-zero electricity, yet there are doubts about how viable, or safe, it would prove in practice and so far no working plants are up and running. It may be years before BECCS can prove its worth; but watch this space as the idea of carbon capture as a necessary measure for achieving carbon neutrality gains ground.

And don’t forget…

In many ways, the IPCC recommendations for the future are notable for the many technologies they leave out of their vision of a low- and zero-carbon energy future. A quick scan of the alternative energy sector reveals a wealth of new approaches and processes the report ignores: micro-generation, hydrogen fuel cells and smart grids, to name only a few. There’s evidence, too, that large public utility companies are starting to change the way they provide energy, making them justifiable investments for impact and sustainable investors. Lifestyle changes leading to reduced energy consumption will also create attractive business opportunities, for example in the areas of smart metering, transportation and green building.

The list is long; and, happily, getting longer. Impact and sustainable investors would do well to have a good look around before deciding where to put their capital.

How to pick a winner

With all of these opportunities open to impact and sustainable investors, the challenge may be finding an effective focus when investing in energy. Where should we invest for maximum impact and delivering the most benefit?

To answer this question, investors should review their core values, determine their appetite for risk, and keep in mind the definitions provided by bodies like the World Economic Forum and GIIN. Employing evaluative tools like ESG and SROI can help narrow the search for the right place to put your capital, especially when it comes to mainstream investments.

In a rapidly changing energy landscape, however, there is no substitute for keeping informed. New technologies are coming online almost weekly. Known technologies are evolving, as is the political and regulatory climate. Investors with their ear glued to the ground and their feelers out will have the best chance of making the impact they want to make.

But the point isn’t just to pick a winner. Regardless of how effective the social investing sector is in bringing needed capital to a new energy landscape, there’s a bigger problem on the horizon, one that should concern all of us.

Despite massive IPCC reports and high-profile efforts by international bodies like the UN, there’s concern that the political will to deal with the problems caused by our energy use just isn’t there. C02 emissions have risen since 2010 and, with the upturn in the world economy, it doesn’t look like they’ll be falling any time soon. Global surveys indicate most world citizens are more concerned about economic development than they are about climate change. And look what happened to the flawed carbon trading system and the now defunct Kyoto agreement, our last attempts to tackle this issue.

Clearly, business as usual will only result in the deepening of our shared crisis. If impact and sustainable investors really want to make a difference to our future, they will have to do their part to fundamentally change the way business and finance works; and to convince others; governments, businesspeople, the public; that our way can deliver sustainable development and a viable future for the planet. To succeed at this, we will have to demonstrate that impact and sustainable approaches to finance really work. Let’s just hope we can do it in time.

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Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

The IPCC Summary Report on Climate Change: What it Means for Impact Investing

By Marta Maretich

On 27 September 2013, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first of three volumes of its fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The long-awaited report summary emerged amid a flurry of media coverage and a volley of commentary, both pro and contra. Its main conclusions were clear, however: climate change is real, its effects are already measurable, and it is being caused by human activity.

AR5 Summary Highlights

– Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe.

– Warming in the climate system is unequivocal.

– Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2ºC for the two high scenarios

– Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.

Source: the UK government

The summary report has sparked controversy worldwide.

Some rushed to embrace the findings while others immediately set out to disprove the science and question the motives behind it. The world’s reaction is a measure of how emotive; and divisive; the issue of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has become for governments, businesses and individuals in the years since the first IPCC report in 1990. With passionate feelings on both sides, the controversy is set to continue.

Challenging times for believers

The report’s publication follows a rough period for those who believe that climate change poses a threat to life on earth. In 2001, the US, under the administration of George W. Bush, rejected the Kyoto agreement on global warming. Flaws in the AR4, IPCC’s 2007 report; among them the apparent claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035; drew intense fire from critics and distracted attention away from AR4’s core findings. They provided more fuel for the so-called climate change deniers; those who hold that global warming is a hoax or a conspiracy to slow progress.

From 2008, the economic crisis prompted world leaders to put economic growth ahead of environmental protection, with many governments backing away from previous emission-lowering commitments. The worldwide carbon market, including the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme, essentially collapsed in 2012, leaving questions about its efficacy as a means to control emissions.

Against this background the summary report comes as a wakeup call from the most respected source of climate science the world has. The new report has been widely accepted as the most convincing body of evidence of climate change and the human role in it so far. For impact investors, it could have profound importance on many levels.

What does it mean for the impact investing sector?

It’s fairly safe to say that most of those involved in the impact investing sector are already convinced of the reality of climate change. Many already focus their investing activity on areas relating to climate change such as agriculture and agribusiness, food security, forestry, land and water use, waste management and reduction, clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleantech. For this reason, it’s likely that impact intermediaries, impact investing funds and social entrepreneurs will take the IPCC report as a renewed call to action.


However, the new IPCC report will change the impact investing landscape for everyone. Impact investors will see the effects of changes in government policy, the attitude of big business and international public opinion.
What will be some of the main currents affecting our impact investing strategies?

Governments respond with policy

The release of the summary report was a huge event, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the IPCC findings. The 19th annual meeting of the UN Climate Change Convention will be held in Warsaw from 11-22 November. At this meeting, the IPCC will deliver further scientific evidence to diplomats in order to facilitate policy decisions. A new legal commitment with respect to carbon emission will then be drawn up, replacing the 1994 accord. This is scheduled to take effect by 2015.

In preparation for these events, governments across the world are already formulating their policy stances. There are questions about how individual governments will react in the face of the new evidence. Climate change remains highly controversial in some developed countries, notably the US and Australia where it has become an issue that divides the political left and right. India, China and other rapidly industrializing countries are also wary: they have so far been unprepared to agree emissions cuts unless more developed countries do the same. Meanwhile island nations like Tuvalu, and South Asian countries like Bangladesh, both highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, argue for a robust international response.

For impact investors, one thing is certain: there will be a new legal framework guiding climate change policy worldwide in 2015. Whatever the shape of this framework, it will change the investing landscape in many countries and have far-reaching effects for impact investors in many parts of the world. Much will depend on the structure and extent of the new laws, which will be hotly debated by governments. Regardless of the outcome, things will change for impact investors. The direct effects will be felt through the policies, programs and incentives governments create in response.

Where governments take a lead

In places where government policy supports pro-climate investing there are likely to be more opportunities for collaborative investments working across government agencies, impact intermediaries, impact funds and private investors.

Collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements are already a characteristic of the impact investing world. In the UK, Sustainable Development Capital was awarded £50 million by the UK government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to invest in energy efficiency infrastructure projects. Big Society Capital, an independent fund created by the government, invests in many climate-friendly initiatives, especially in cleantech, energy efficiency, and sustainable energy for disadvantaged communities in Britain.

The UK provides what is probably the best current example of a dynamic government-lead approach to market-based social investing. As other governments take action to meet new policy commitments, they will be looking for solutions and partners.

Seasoned impact intermediaries and funds; of which there are a growing number; can bring specialist skills and knowledge to collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements for financing impactful businesses. They are also in position to benefit from government subsidies and tax incentives focused on meeting carbon reduction targets. For these reasons, the ability to work for and with government could prove essential for impact investors and the businesses they finance.

..and where they don’t

Where government leadership is lacking; and incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies and government co-investment are not forthcoming; global development agencies, philanthropic organizations, activists and impact investors will have to take the initiative in catalyzing the response to climate change. This may not be a bad thing: some commentators believe that private action, not government intervention, will be the key front in the fight against human-caused climate change. There’s already evidence that governments have been scaling back their commitments to climate change action and pushing responsibility onto NGOs and private companies, while private investors have been picking up the slack.

Many organizations and activists have been operating this way for decades and will continue to do so regardless of what governments do in response to the IPCC findings. The US provides many examples. The same country that rejected the Kyoto Protocol; and produced some of the most virulent and well-funded examples of climate change denial; has also given the world some of the most progressive models of local and state support for climate-friendly businesses and approaches.

This independence has made parts of the US leaders in areas like clean energy, energy efficiency, renewables, organic and sustainable agriculture and sustainable forestry. The States boasts some of the most mature markets in these new kinds of businesses, proving that federal government policy needn’t be an obstacle to progress.

The new markets remain volatile and, despite everything, still subject to the effects of government policy and subsidy (the rollercoaster of cleantech provides one example). Yet it looks as though these market areas will grow as communities and values-driven businesses, if not governments, look for new ways to react to climate change. This could be a growth area for impact investors and businesses.

Mainstream businesses go greener

Large multinational corporations and mainstream business will also feel the effect of the new climate change policies at ground level; and this will have a knock-on effect for impact investors and the businesses they capitalize.

All businesses will need to respond to the international regulations that grow out of the new IPCC report findings. More directly, they will need to meet national and regional standards set locally, and these too will be affected by the report. There also seems to be a feeling in the corporate sector that an upturn in the economy will leave them freer to take steps toward carbon emissions reduction. Many see a “green” profile as key to their corporate image. A growing number of organizations in the developed world are making sustainability a core value in their operations and employing sustainability professionals to help them achieve it.

All this will drive the market for services that support sustainability and carbon emission reduction in companies; for example, consultancies that help organizations shrink their carbon footprint and conserve resources. This will create a possible growth area for impact business-to-business providers, offering services that embed sustainability and carbon-thrift into corporate operations practice.

CSR, now a norm for business, will continue to play a key role in the business/government/climate change triangle. Already an important factor, CSR will become more central as the need for businesses to meet emissions targets increases under new regulations; and new, very real resource pressures anticipated by the IPCC report. A closer relationship between CSR and impact investing could open new avenues for corporations to use their considerable resources for good. Supports like the impact business CSR Hub, which helps track the effectiveness of CSR efforts, will help businesses hone their choices and give the public information about the real effect of corporate claims.

Beyond this, there’s a trend toward mainstreaming businesses that once were considered alternative. Words like sustainability, clean or green technology, renewable and clean energy; all important areas for lowering carbon emissions; already feature prominently in the reports of large multinational companies. General Electric invests in renewable energy projects, while ExxonMobile has programs for reducing its greenhouse emissions and innovating carbon capture technologies and biofuels made from algae. This is largely an effect of earlier government regulation on emissions. But it’s partly due to public pressure and, for some of the companies, canny strategic positioning for a future where business will have to be energy efficient to be successful.

The fact that these companies continue non-climate friendly business practices alongside these progressive ones leaves them open to the accusation of greenwashing from some quarters. Nonetheless, these examples are evidence of a mainstreaming of climate-friendly technologies and approaches in business. This trend suggests that the demand for them will continue and increase, especially as resources, such as fossil fuels, arable land and water become more scarce, as the IPCC findings seem to indicate they will.

This “greening” trend among multinationals could create opportunities for impact intermediaries, dynamic impact enterprises and engaged impact investors. Those who successfully bridge what’s been called the “pioneer gap” and manage to scale up socially and environmentally beneficial businesses to the point where they can join the mainstream, will be able to attract investment by multinationals and a wider pool of “neutral” investors; those for whom positive impact goals are not a motive for investment. This could increase the flow of capital into beneficial enterprises exponentially; and finally establish impact investing as a normal way to do finance.

Reducing Carbon Emissions: Key sectors for impact investment

(Maximpact Deal Listing)Agriculture

Agribusiness

Cleantech

Biotech

Renewable Energy

Energy Efficiency

Forestry

Waste Reduction

Land Remediation

Water

Sanitation

The public demands change

Another important consequence of the IPCC report will be its influence on public attitudes toward climate change; this too will have consequences for impact businesses and for the practice of impact investing.

Some recent surveys of public attitudes in developed countries have recorded a shift toward a more skeptical view of human-generated climate change. Pro-climate-change commentators put this down to the success of a well-organized media campaigns by special interest groups opposed to more government regulation.

But there is also a common-sense issue: people doubt the science when they don’t perceive significant climate change around them. Extreme weather events, such as the last year’s heavy snowfall in the US and the high temperatures in Australia, have been shown to produce large swings in public opinion in favor of belief in climate change. As events such as these become more common, as the IPCC report suggests they will, it’s likely that the climate will make its own case for action.

Still, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the public already accepts the idea of anthropogenic climate change and wants to see governments, businesses and individuals do something about it. The IPCC report will strengthen the convictions of many who already feel that we need to change tack. As impact investing becomes more accepted as a means of effecting positive change, this group will be supportive, buying products and services from impact businesses and providing funding, through micro-lending and crowdfunding platforms. The popular movement for divestment from fossil fuels could create a whole generation of small investors looking for more climate-friendly ways to deploy their capital.

People in developing countries; some of whom will be the worst hit by the effects of climate change; may need more convincing. As mentioned before, the governments of countries like China and India look on moves to limit carbon emissions as curbs to their growth by developed nations. Similarly, people in the developing world focus on the need for economic growth and view the talk of controlling emissions and resource consumption with suspicion.

There is some evidence that this is beginning to change. As in the developed world, people in economically emerging countries are beginning to see the effects of climate change for themselves; often in disastrous forms. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have the power to change opinions there, too. And there is anecdotal evidence that those who work on the land, farmers, are seeing the changes firsthand. These local observations, plus the hard lessons of extreme natural forces, may shift world opinion in time to make a difference.

For people in the developing world, the impact investing model could offer a middle way between economic development and climate stewardship. Its market-based approach encourages economic growth, while its commitment to positive impact has the power to channel that growth in climate-friendly directions. In this sense, the multiple bottom line of impact investing holds out hope for developed countries, too, who also need to find new ways to thrive economically without further damaging the planet.

Impact: a powerful tool to counter climate change

It looks likely that the IPCC report will generate a new groundswell of activity around the issue of climate change and this could be a boon for the growing, diversifying impact investing sector.

Impact investing’s pragmatic approach to finance, and its commitment to capitalizing impactful businesses, make it a powerful weapon in the fight to save the planet from the effects of global warming. Its market methods translate across borders and geographies, providing solutions for developed and developing countries alike. Its flexible techniques can be used in many contexts to support the kind of businesses, processes and technologies that can help minimize climate damage while supporting economic development.

All this means that it’s time to for the impact sector to get to work. There are still market infrastructure issues that need to be solved: impact metrics and the lack of exits are two important examples. More research is needed; investment models need to be tested, honed and replicated. Education for impact professionals, now in its early days, still needs to be developed as the sector expands, professionalizes and becomes, in time, part of mainstream finance.

However, if some of these limitations can be overcome, impact investing could play a key role in helping mankind develop an effective response to the threat of climate change. Let’s all hope the warning has come in time; and we are up to the job.

Shine On: Solar Deals Light Up Maximpact


By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Sun energy has enjoyed favored status with governments and investors for years. Today however prices for solar products are falling and capital is harder to come by, encouraging many solar companies to change strategy and seek finance from new sources; notably from impact investors.

Maximpact has always hosted a wide variety of solar deals. Today’s deals reflect key trends in the solar sector including a new focus on deployment of existing technologies, diversifying services to support other parts of the solar supply chain and offering sustainable energy solutions for off-grid users in emerging markets.

Deal D00084: This company manufactures patented solar roofing tiles and insulating tiles for the residential market. Its solar tiles are attractive and easy to integrate with modern home design; and they can reduce the costs of residential solar by 50%-100%. The company has recently refined its products to meet the building code for the US Net Zero Energy requirements coming in by 2020. Its current focus is expanding to meet market demand set to increase five-fold over the next seven years.


Deal D000344: This company is poised to capitalize on the growing use of solar energy systems in challenging environments where snow and dust can reduce the effectiveness of solar panels and surfaces. It has perfected a technology that makes panels self-cleaning: electro-sonic waves repel sand and dust while heat elements melt snow. Integration of the technology into solar energy systems can restore energy efficiency by up to 40% in tough climates. It conserves water and saves on cleaning costs, too.


Deal D000307: This social enterprise is tackling the problem of fuel poverty by providing affordable renewable energy solutions for the UK social housing sector. Taking advantage of dipping costs in the sector, it makes a range of energy technologies available to the domestic market: solar PV, renewable heat, including biomass and ground pump technologies, and for the first time fuel cell CHP. Acting as a bridge between investors and projects, it promotes the uptake of all these technologies by identifying technical solutions and arranging financing.


Deal D000135: This company has developed a portable solar generator that eliminates the need for fossil fuel generators it even comes with a convenient handle and wheels, like a carry-on bag. Their product is powerful enough to run laptops, appliances, power tools and other vital equipment without the need for expensive infrastructure. It can provide reliable energy in a range of challenging environments and circumstances including emergency situations and power outages, making it a valuable tool for customers in emerging markets.


Deal D000011: This social enterprise has a mission to provide access to energy for low income Africans. It has developed an effective model for selling and distributing high-quality modular solar PV home systems to off-grid users in East Africa. The business works through local franchise networks and offers an end-user credit facility that makes renewable energy affordable for its clients. Having developed a model that works on the ground, it is poised to scale up, bringing its sustainable approach to other parts of Africa.


Deal D000353: A solar plant developer for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, this company offers a full range of services to cover every stage of the plant development process: site identification, choosing technologies, organizing permits, licensing, construction contracts, construction management and arrangement of debt and equity. The business already has a portfolio of 2.2GW of projects across a number of countries using a range of solar technologies including CSP Tower and PV. It’s looking to expand to meet the growing demand for solar power across the world.

For more information on any of these deals register or log in to Maximpact.com.

View other Maximpact spotlight deals.

Equitable Origin: An Eco-label for Fossil Fuels

 

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Imagine a Fair Trade-style eco-label for fossil fuels. A glance at the logo tells customers buying this fuel – or products made from it – that it’s produced using the highest environmental standards and in a way that helps rather than harms local communities. This is the idea behind Equitable Origin, the first and only independent certification and certification trading system for oil and gas production. It’s now seeking impact investment on the Maximpact deal site.”

The buzz in cleantech circles may be about renewable energy, but fossil fuels are set to be the world’s main energy source for decades to come. Demand is projected to rise 7% by 2020 and 28% by 2035 due to industrialization of countries such as China and India. And not only will the environment suffer from this increased push for production, so will many indigenous communities. Some 60% of the world’s proven oil reserves are located in emerging economies; countries that lack national standards for responsible production or the incentives to enforce them­.

David Poritz, Equitable Origin founder and co-President saw the impact of these problems first-hand. He spent a decade working with indigenous peoples in Ecuador, a nation rich in fossil fuels where local communities struggle to protect themselves and their lands from the negative consequences of extraction. Through this experience, he began to see an urgent need for a market-based mechanism to incentivize oil and gas companies to operate with the highest levels of social and environmental performance.

Equitable Origin Logo

Poritz developed the Equitable Origin system through extensive consultation with the oil and gas industry, NGOs, indigenous communities and governmental agencies. The result is the EO100 Standard, a comprehensive standard for oil and gas exploration and production as well as a certificate trading system and ecolable program.

The EO100 Standard provides metrics and performance targets that address the social and environmental impacts of oil and gas production. It rates a company on six principles: corporate governance and accountability, human rights and social impact, fair labor, indigenous rights, climate change and environment, and project life-cycle management. Companies that score above a certain minimum level of performance and in these areas are granted certification.

Certification can then be converted into tradeable certificates that can be bought by consumer-facing brands wanting to green their supply chain and offer a choice to support responsible production. The Equitable Origin logo can be attached to products made from certified fuels, rewarding oil and gas industry for applying the highest standards of environmental and cultural care to their work while allowing customers to support better production practices with their choices.

Equitable Origin has built an impressive cross-sector team around this idea including experienced petroleum industry professionals and environmental, sustainability and stakeholder involvement experts. It is now seeking investment to scale its operations into more markets in oil-producing countries including Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Mexico.