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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


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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/

10 New Energy Pioneers Driving Our Future

Löfbergs coffee roasting house in Karlstad, Sweden is home to the world’s first large-scale testing facility with SaltX salt-technology solar panels for heating and cooling on the roof of the roasting house. (Photo courtesy SaltX) Posted for media use

Löfbergs coffee roasting house in Karlstad, Sweden is home to the world’s first large-scale testing facility with SaltX salt-technology solar panels for heating and cooling on the roof of the roasting house. (Photo courtesy SaltX) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, April 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The top 10 innovators revolutionizing the energy, transport, and technology sectors were unveiled April 9 at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in New York City .

The 2018 New Energy Pioneers, as they are known, are responding to changes and disruption in the energy system, and are pursuing new opportunities in storage, EV charging, digitalization, heat recovery, and blockchain.

By recognizing innovators, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) aims to highlight and accelerate the transition that is underway in today’s new energy economy, towards new business models, technologies, market structures and commercial opportunities.

An independent panel of industry experts, assisted by BNEF’s analysts and technology specialists, selected the 10 winners from more than 160 applicants from 47 countries.

Each candidate was assessed on three criteria: technology or business model innovation, and what novelty it brings to the market; evidence of substantive progress in the form of strong commercial partnerships, the distribution channels in place and sales growth; and the potential to scale and have a global impact.

The 2018 New Energy Pioneers are:

  • Advanced Microgrid Solutions (U.S.) designs, develops, and manages portfolios of distributed energy resources providing dynamic grid management and value to wholesale markets.

“Being recognized as a New Energy Pioneer is a great honor for AMS,” said Susan Kennedy, CEO, Advanced Microgrid Solutions. “This award really is a signal that the era of trans-active energy management has arrived.”

  • Bidgely (U.S.) is a load disaggregation company that uses machine learning and data analytics to process smart meter data and provide its users with insights about their energy consumption.

“Bidgely leverages Artificial Intelligence to help utilities personalize the energy experience for consumers around the world,” said Abhay Gupta, CEO, Bidgely. “We celebrate becoming a Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer, an honor which recognizes our ability to solve real-world utility business challenges like digital transformation and a rapidly evolving energy landscape.”

  • BURN (Kenya) has designed and manufactured over 370,000 clean cook stoves, improving both air quality and access to power for low-income households.

Peter Scott, CEO, BURN, said, “To win an award from an organization I admire so much is humbling. Recognition as a Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer means that BURN is able to share its story with the world. It gives a boost to our mission of saving forests and lives in the developing world through improved cooking solutions.”

  • Climeon (Sweden) has commercialized the extraction of electricity from low-temperature heat (70-120 degrees Celsius), used in the context of waste heat or geothermal power.

“Climeon’s vision is to become the Number 1 climate solver. To reach this we have to be true pioneers. Becoming a Bloomberg New Energy Pioneer confirms that we are on the right path and it really makes us very proud,” said Climeon CEO Thomas Ostrom.

  • Enbala (U.S.) operates a real-time energy-balancing platform creating controllable and dispatchable energy resources from flexible loads, energy storage and renewable energy sources.

Said Arthur (Bud) Vos, CEO and President, Enbala, “We exist for one reason: to create an energy future that’s sustainable and balanced. It’s gratifying to me personally and to everyone who works at Enbala to have our energy balancing technology recognized by such a prestigious and well-respected organization.”

  • Greenlots (U.S.) is a hardware-agnostic provider of electric vehicle network management software and services. These give utilities, cities, communities and automakers the ability to control grid loads through smart charging and demand response.

“At Greenlots, we’re dedicated to delivering cutting-edge technology to our customers, allowing them to optimize and manage their EV charging infrastructure, and provide drivers a seamless, reliable charging experience, said Greenlots CEO Brett Hauser. “This recognition from Bloomberg New Energy Finance is a key indicator of the significance of our work to make EVs a part of everyday life across the globe, while creating new market opportunities at the grid edge.”

  • Limejump (U.K.) is an energy tech company that connects data capabilities and renewable energy generation to the national grid, optimizing assets’ value and supporting sustainability using proprietary software to aggregate and manage a distributed fleet of flexible assets.

“We see Bloomberg as a key ally in providing our customers with insight and information which is needed to ensure we all build this new energy market bottom up,” said Erik Nygard, CEO, Limejump.

  • LO3 Energy  (U.S.) is an early mover in peer-to-peer energy trading using blockchain technology, and is developing other applications for its blockchain platform.

“A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network,” according to Wikipedia. “The result is a robust workflow where participants’ uncertainty regarding data security is marginal.”

“Making energy is about one of the dirtiest things we do on the planet. It puts more toxins and pollution in the air than just about any other industry,” said Lawrence Orsini, CEO, LO3 Energy. “We are honored that BNEF chose to recognize the impact LO3 Energy is making today with its blockchain technology. Empowering prosumers and bringing choice to consumers, together we are making fundamental changes that will affect the energy sector’s advancement in clean energy forever.”

  • SaltX (Sweden) is an innovator in storing heat chemically, using a proprietary salt-based technology. This uses a nano coating and graphene to prevent salt crystals from growing when energy is stored, greatly improving the number of storage cycles whilst also reducing corrosion.

“Being a BNEF New Energy Pioneer means of course a great honor and helps putting SaltX on the map, but it also means a great responsibility for making the sustainable energy revolution happen,” said Karl Bohman, CEO, SaltX. “We at SaltX promise to work tirelessly – and we will not stop – until our low-cost, scalable and natural energy storage technology is used on a global basis.”

  • WiTricty (U.S.) has developed wireless charging through magnetic resonance technology, allowing high-efficiency power transfer for the electric vehicle industry.

WiTricity CEO Alex Gruzen said, “WiTricity is the pioneer in developing wireless charging for electric vehicles that is as fast and efficient as plugging in. Global automakers are accelerating development of EV platforms, and WiTricity is focused on improving the ownership experience—no more cables, no mess, and no worry about remembering to charge. We also recognize that the future of mobility is electrified, autonomous and shared, and wireless charging is an essential enabler for fleets of robotaxis where there is no driver to plug in.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance is an industry research firm focused on helping energy professionals generate opportunities. With a team of 200 experts spread across six continents, BNEF provides independent analysis and insight, enabling decision-makers to navigate change in an evolving energy economy.

Michael Wilshire, selection committee chair and head of strategy at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said, “We have seen a sharp uptick in the number of applicants that use digital technologies and software to help make the electricity system more resilient, flexible and efficient – all critical elements of a more decentralized and renewable energy system.”

“Emerging technologies such as machine learning and blockchain are being used to improve decision making and to make operations more efficient, as well as to create new capabilities, such as peer-to-peer energy trading and the ability to manage complex sets of distributed assets,” he said.

“Transport is being transformed, with two of this year’s Pioneers developing infrastructure, software, and services to support the rollout of electric vehicles,” said Wilshire. “We are very encouraged by the innovation, determination and creativity shown by these Pioneers and by the potential that they have to help transform the energy and transport systems.

Featured Image: In summer 2016, California State University enlisted Advanced Microgrid Solutions to install the first fleet of Hybrid Electric Buildings® at an educational institution. Hybrid Electric Buildings® store energy when it is cleaner and more plentiful, and shift building loads from the electric grid to battery power when demand is high. (Photo courtesy Advanced Microgrid Solutions) Posted for media use


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Which U.S. States Care About The Planet?

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Houston, Texas January 12, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) Energy companies, around the globe are paying attend to environmental issues, as much as countries, states and cities are showing a renewed interest in green energy.

Amigo Energy a electric company from Texas recently ran an analysis of Google Trends data and state statistics related to the planet and environmental issues.

Below are the results of their compiled research as written by Mike Strayer, Amigo Energy blog writer.

Recycling and Reusing

How to recycle in Washington, as it turns out, is rather easy. 87 percent of Washingtonians have access to curbside recycling, while the remaining 13 percent of the population has access to 109 drop-off locations throughout the state. In Texas, how to reuse waste seems to be on everyone’s mind. The City of Irving’s Green Seam Project—which takes scraps of fabric and turns them into reusable bags—is a real-world example of just how scrappy one Texas town is.

Renewable Energy

Home to the wind-swept Badlands, wind power is on the rise in North Dakota. Combine that with a higher concentration of Internet searches in the region and it looks like fracking has a cleaner rival poised to power more Roughrider State homes and businesses.

While you may have guessed that sunny places like Hawaii would rank high for solar power, Leesburg, Virginia probably didn’t come to mind. It’s strange, but community efforts like Solarize NOVA (Northern Virginia) may account for Leesburg’s ranking.

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Energy Efficiency

Solar power is hot in California. According to data from 2015, California generated the most solar energy in the US, which might help explain why so many Californians are curious about installing residential solar panels.

We all know that Virginia is for lovers, but did you know that Virginians love to save energy? Maybe that’s because saving energy has boosted business—energy efficiency in Virginia is a $1.5B industry that employs over 75,000 people.

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Air Quality

Utah is famous for its national parks and powdery mountains. Counterintuitively, the region also has the worst air quality in the US, which probably accounts for tons of Utahns searching for information on air quality.

It’s no secret: traffic in California can really suck. Luckily, carpooling is more convenient than ever with programs like 511 SF Bay that make commutes easier by connecting residents via cutting-edge technology.

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Sustainability

Because Google Trends calculates the relative popularity of keywords, tiny towns like Drexel often rank higher than big cities. Perhaps the city’s number one ranking is due to the Western Piedmont Community College Program in Sustainable Agriculture, which features a 40-acre student-run farm.

Colorado may be known for a different sort of “green,” but Coloradans also search more for “sustainable living” than any other state. This might be because of the Sustainable Living Association based out of Fort Collins, which specializes in educating people about sustainable choices.

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Planting and Composting

Those who know Portland may not be surprised by the city’s ranking. You could probably even say that gardening is a town pastime—the city maintains nine community garden sites with plots costing only $15-50 a year to lease. Aside from preserving pristine beaches and forests, Oregonians are interested in greening their homes, too. That may be because the state runs its own environmentally-friendly programs like this super useful composting resource page.

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If Internet searches are any indicator, it looks like Americans are becoming more and more interested in greening our country. For more information on how to go green in Texas, check out the Amigo Energy Blog—we’ve got helpful resources and interesting information that can help you green your life today.


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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


Civil Society Pressures G20 to Decarbonize

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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.


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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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Transforming Africa

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Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

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President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week Glitters in the Sun

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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).

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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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USA: 100% Renewables by 2050?

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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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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

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By Sunny Lewis

 WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2016 – (Maximpact.com News) – The green bond market reported a worldwide milestone in August when aggregate green bond issuance topped US$150 billion for the first time since the World Bank issued the inaugural green bond in 2008. It was a US$400 million four-year bond issued in Sweden during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

 Green bonds finance projects that achieve energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, clean transportation, sustainable water management, and the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies.

 Green bonds are similar to traditional bonds in terms of deal structure, but they have different requirements for reporting, auditing and proceed allocations.

A green bond is distinguished by its “use of proceeds” pledge, which earmarks the proceeds from sale of the bonds for specific projects with environmental benefits. Marketing and branding values not available to traditional bonds arise from this difference.

With the heightened awareness of global environmental and climate challenges, green bonds are increasingly seen as a tool that could allow the private sector to take an active part in raising the funds needed to put our society on a more environmentally sustainable footing,” wrote Charles Smith in an article ‘How the green bond market works‘ for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) earlier this month.

 The EBRD first started issuing green bonds in 2010, and its portfolios of green projects now include 261 investments worth a total of €2.7 billion.

Smith, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of green bond issuance for the EBRD, views green bonds as “a new tool for helping the private sector green the world.”

Mobilising green projects is the goal but, ultimately, I think it is a much larger transition process,” Smith told a roundtable organized by the publication “Environmental Finance” last November. “It is about changing the way companies and entire societies think about and engage with the environment. And that is not done in a day.

At the same roundtable, some of the challenges were outlined by Yo Takatsuki, associate director, Governance and Sustainable Investment, BMO Global Asset Management. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of the Bank of Montreal.

I think one of the challenges is that the underlying assets that are being financed through green bonds are mostly renewable energy or energy efficiency. If we want a broader range of corporates to come to the market we need to encourage opening up the focus of projects beyond just climate change,” said Takatsuki.

I think people are struggling with impact reporting,” Takatsuki said. “For renewable energy, it is relatively straightforward, but for other types of projects the impact reporting is either not agreed or is not sufficiently established.

Smith comments on this issue in his article on the EBRD site, writing, “The reporting is made more complicated by the broadening range of issuer types – from banks to corporates in various industries – with different green assets and operating in dissimilar regions.

This makes comparing the bonds challenging to say the least, and the reputational risk for the issuer in making a mistake in the reporting could be considerable,” Smith writes.

Despite the challenges, the green bond market is growing quickly.

In 2015, green bond issuance hit what was then a record high, amounting to US$41.8 billion worth of investment worldwide. Compare that to 2012, when green bond issuance worldwide amounted to just $2.6 billion.

Of all the green bonds issued in 2015, $18 billion worth was issued in the European Union and $10.5 billion was issued in the United States, making these regions the leaders in the green bond initiative.

India and China are expected to get more involved in this type of investment in the near future.

The World Bank is a important issuer of green bonds. The bank has been very active through the first half of 2016, especially in the United States, where its issuances total over US$496 million and in India, where its issuances total over US$2.7 billion Indian rupees.

World Bank green bonds finance projects such as India’s Rampur Hydropower Project, which aims to provide low-carbon hydroelectric power to northern India’s electricity grid.

The World Bank Green Bond raises funds from fixed income investors to support World Bank lending for eligible projects that seek to mitigate climate change or help affected people adapt to it.

The product was designed in partnership with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) to respond to specific investor demand for a triple-A rated fixed income product that supports projects that address the climate challenge.

 Since 2008, the World Bank has issued over US$9 billion equivalent in green bonds through more than 125 transactions in 18 currencies.

World Bank Vice President and Treasurer Arunma Oteh said, “We have a responsibility to our clients to help them both recognize and respond to the risks that climate change poses.” 

To date, green bond issuer groups include supranationals, government agencies, cities, states, and also corporate entities.

Investors have expressed a desire for more choice of products for their growing portfolios – green bonds from more issuers and more diverse types of green bond products that offer different risk profiles, according to the World Bank.

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Green-bond supported wind farm in Penonome, Panama. (Photo by Alessandra Bazan Testino / International Finance Corporation) Posted for media use

There are several types of tax incentives policy makers can put in place to support the issuance of green bonds. The incentives can be provided either to the investor or to the issuer.

With tax credit bonds, bond investors receive tax credits instead of interest payments, so issuers do not have to pay interest on their green bond issuances.

An example of tax credit bonds in the area of clean energy is the U.S. federal government Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) program. The program allows for the issuance of taxable bonds by municipalities for clean energy and energy conservation, where 70 percent of the coupon from the municipality is provided by a tax credit or subsidy to the bondholder from the federal government.

With direct subsidy bonds, bond issuers receive cash rebates from the government to subsidize their net interest payments.

This structure also is used under the U.S. federal government CREBs and QECBs program.

With tax-exempt bonds, bond investors do not have to pay income tax on interest from the green bonds they hold, so the issuer can get a lower interest rate. An example is tax-exempt bond issuance for financing of wind projects in Brazil.

Green bond issuers report both use of proceeds and the impact achieved. Still, specific reporting requirements are under development and currently non-standard.

A coalition of organizations including leading issuers and buyers are working together to establish reporting procedures. Anticipated reporting standards include third party review by an auditor of the sustainability of qualifying projects, and annual reporting on a universal template.

Meanwhile, the Green Bond Principles (GBP) are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Green Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Green Bond.

The Green Bond Principles are intended for broad use by the market, according to the World Bank. They provide issuers guidance on the key components for launching a credible Green Bond; they aid investors by ensuring availability of information for evaluating the environmental impact of their Green Bond investments; and they assist underwriters by moving the market towards standard disclosures that will facilitate transactions.


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Image: Green shoots growing in the kitchen gardens, Tatton Park, Cheshire, England, May 2010 (Photo by Will Clayton) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Turning CO2 Into an Asset

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As the climate heats up, scientists and engineers are finding new ways to lessen the impact of fossil fuel combustion on the climate – both by sequestering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and also by producing electricity with this most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The most familiar carbon capture and storage technologies enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, transport the gas via ships or pipelines, and store it underground or undersea in depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline formations.

The world’s first large-scale carbon capture and storage project, launched in November 2015, will reduce emissions from oil sands processing in Alberta, Canada.

The world’s first CCS project started in Norway in 1996 and continues to operate today, storing nearly a million tonnes of CO2 ever year beneath the North Sea.

CCS projects are entering operation, are under construction or are in advanced stages of planning in Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

But energy losses and large capital costs are associated with this type of CO2 capture, transport, and sequestration, so scientists are seeking newer and better ways to keep CO2 from acting as a greenhouse gas, raising the planetary temperature.

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Carl Pendragon, Co-Founder of Carbon Wealth – image courtesy of COP21 www.cop21paris.org

Carl Pendragon, co-founder of the Swedish cleantech firm Carbon Wealth , has developed a new patented process for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2, into a cheap, clean-burning copy of coal and charcoal – a process he calls “SkyMining.”

SkyMining was designed to be a profitable source of carbon negative energy, that can operate and grow organically in the global markets without any kind of subsidy or legislation.

In a May 2016 interview with the global media platform Climate Action, Pendragon explained how the process works.

 “Businesses are invited to invest in a SkyMining contract to offset their carbon emissions. For each tonne of CO2 that is offset, a company gets a return taken from our fuel sale profits.

We use their investment to plant specialized grass on marginal land; atmospheric carbon is extracted through hyper-efficient CO2-pumps found in the grass,” Pendragon explained.

A large proportion of the CO2 pulled down by our grass is sequestered in the soil on which it is grown. The grass can grow four meters (13 feet) in 100 days, exclusively on marginal land that can’t be used for any other kind of agriculture,” he said.

Our own patented process of thermal carbonization turns harvested grass, saturated with carbon, into a clean copy of coal,” said Pendragon. “Thermal carbonization effectively replicates a 30 million-year natural process in under 30 minutes.”

Pendragon calls his process “the world’s first scalable and profitable carbon-negative energy solution.”  SkyMining safely sequesters large amounts of CO2 as fuel that can be burned instead of fossil fuels in industry, heating and electricity generation. The next step is a commercial SkyMining installation in Senegal.

 Pendragon said, “Our fuel costs less than fossil fuels and charcoal in all chosen target markets. The energy density per tonne of SkyMining fuel is similar to fossil fuels. And, SkyMining fuel does not emit any CO2 in the context of climate change.

 Pendragon says SkyMining brings new advantages to the renewable energy sector.

 “SkyMining produces a burnable fuel that can replace coal,” he said. “This fuel not only directly offsets fossil fuels when it takes their place in an oven, but it also allows us to capitalize on the world-spanning fossil fuel infrastructure built up since the industrial revolution, vastly reducing our costs.

SkyMining is carbon negative,” said Pendragon, “meaning that our fuel’s production and combustion results in a net-reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Finally,” he said, “SkyMining avoids the problem of intermittency, since it does not rely on an irregular source of energy such as wind or sunlight. This makes SkyMining a viable source of backup power for modern renewables like wind and solar. Our carbon-negative energy can ensure that wind and solar power is always beneficial for the environment, unlike when their backup power comes from dirty coal.”

SkyMining involves clean fuel production, electricity generation, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agriculture — all key factors for reaching zero-carbon future, Pendragon said.

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This graphic explains Dr. Lynden Archer’s novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and converting it to a useful product, while producing electrical energy. (Image courtesy Cornell University)

In a completely different approach, Cornell University scientists have developed a power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester CO2 and produce electricity.

Cornell engineering professor Dr. Lynden Archer and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell.

The group’s proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode.

The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the CO2 into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

Their paper, “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation,” was published July 20 in the journal “Science Advances.”

The fact that we’ve designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important,” Archer said.

The Cornell group reports that the energy produced by their cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

Archer explained that their process generates superoxide intermediates, which are formed when the dioxide is reduced at the cathode. “The superoxide reacts with the normally inert carbon dioxide, forming a carbon-carbon oxalate that is widely used in many industries, including pharmaceutical, fiber and metal smelting,” he said.

A process able to convert carbon dioxide into a more reactive molecule such as an oxalate that contains two carbons opens up a cascade of reaction processes that can be used to synthesize a variety of products,” Archer said.

Al Sadat, who worked on onboard carbon capture vehicles at Saudi Aramco, said this technology in not limited to power-plant applications.

It fits really well with onboard capture in vehicles,” he said, “especially if you think of an internal combustion engine and an auxiliary system that relies on electrical power.

He said aluminum is the perfect anode for this cell, as it is plentiful, safer than other high-energy density metals and lower in cost than other potential materials, such as lithium or sodium, while having energy density comparable to lithium.

A current drawback of this technology is that the electrolyte – the liquid connecting the anode to the cathode – is extremely sensitive to water. The group is working to find electrolytes that are less water-sensitive.

This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, which is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding came also from a grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Global Research Partnership program.


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.

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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

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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.

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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.
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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

Making Waves on World Oceans Day

Making Waves on World Oceans Day2
NEW YORK, New York
, June 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Musician Jack Johnson started the Wave for Change conservation social media campaign just in time for World Oceans Day this year. The Hawaii-based performer is asking people around the world to do something for the ocean – cut down on plastics, use more renewable energy and spread the word that the oceans need our help.

Doing a Wave for Change is easy and fun, says Johnson, himself a singer-songwriter, musician, actor, record producer – and a former professional surfer.

  1. Make a promise to the ocean such as shopping with reusable bags or giving up plastic straws.
  2. “Sign” your commitment by recording yourself saying your commitment and making a wave with your body – doing the wave!
  3. Share it with the world! Pass it on by sharing your video online with the tags #WaveForChange and #WorldOceansDay. Don’t forget to tag World Oceans Day on Facebook & Instagram, and @CelebrateOceans on Twitter.

Johnson celebrated World Oceans Day in New York on June 8, its annual date, at the United Nations with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with whom he made a strong connection two years ago in Samoa.

Back then, Ban came aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule’a and offered the gift of a message in a bottle, a handwritten note pledging to take action and protect the world’s oceans.

Along her sailing route since then, the Hokule’a crew has collected 40 pledges from around the world and ceremonially returned the bottle to the secretary-general in honor of World Oceans Day 2016.

Hokule'aWelcomingNewYorkBanThompson

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, holds hands with Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, who holds the hands of two Hawaiian dancers behind him at a welcoming event for the Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, World Oceans Day New York City, June 8, 2016 (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) Posted for media use.

The winners of the Third Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition were announced at the ceremony. Among the five judges was native Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” is the theme of World Oceans Day this year, and there is no one on Earth who knows the effects of climate change to the oceans better than World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas of Finland.

 “We don’t need to be reminded of the challenges we currently face with a changing climate – the impacts on the ocean are clear: sea level rise, eroding  coastlines, warmer waters and ocean acidification,” said Taalas on World Oceans Day.

We are currently witnessing unprecedented coral bleaching, which may be endangering some of the world’s best-known coral reefs,” he said, among them the Great Barrier Reef along the east coast of Australia, the world’s longest reef.

The most pristine section of the big reef is experiencing the worst mass bleaching event in history, scientists have found during aerial and in-water surveys.

After surveying more than 500 coral reefs from Cairns, Australia to Papua New Guinea, scientists rank the overwhelming majority of reefs in the most severe bleaching category.

The powerful El Niño event and long-term global warming joined forces with potentially harmful effect on marine ecosystems. This may impact the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Taalas.

We now know that although the oceans are seemingly endless, their capacity to withstand human activities is limited, particularly as they also cope with the threats posed by climate change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message.

 “Urgent action on a global scale is needed to alleviate the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face, and to protect them from future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity,” said the secretary-general.

Long overlooked in international negotiations about climate change, the role of oceans was taken into account for the first time at the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris and is part of the Paris Climate Agreement, now signed by 175 countries.

Oceans are also specifically recognized in the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by the UN last fall.

 “To implement these agreements, multi-stakeholder partnership and collaboration are key,” advised Taalas.

Given the close inter-linkages between the ocean and climate, WMO works closely with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO on ocean and climate observations, ocean and atmospheric research, as well as forecasting and early warning systems for hazards like tsunamis and storm surges.

Taalas warned that there is ocean warming both at surface level and deeper down. He said the ocean is absorbing more than 90 percent of the excess heat from human activities and about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide.

And, the rate of sea level rise is increasing. From 1901-1990 it was 1.9 mm/year. It was 3.0 mm/year during the period 1990-2010; and from 1993-2016 the rate of sea level rise 3.3 mm/year.

Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

 And finally, Since pre-industrial times, surface ocean waters have become nearly 30 percent more acid, Taalas warned.

WMO will therefore intensify its drive to improve multi-hazard early warning systems, provide science-based climate services for sustainable coastal planning, and the preservation of coastal ecosystems that act as natural barriers such as corals and mangroves.

 “For all of these reasons, WMO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO need to stand together and continue close collaboration as leaders in the global community on these matters,” he said.

There are 11 young people from throughout the world on this year’s World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council . One of them is Caitlin Philipps, 16, of Melbourne, Australia, a sailor and school leader.

The ocean is my starting point,” says Philipps. “I come from a family of sailors and therefore salt water runs through my veins. It is my first home and the place where I feel free.

The ocean is the beating heart of the planet. It utterly destroys me that we as humans believe that the Earth is ours to corrupt and bleed dry when we share it with 8.7 million other species of plants and animals.” Philipps said. “The ocean is the most exploited system on the planet and that’s why I am here. It’s my starting point to change the world because as Emma Watson has said, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ So, what better time.


Main Image: Musician Jack Johnson Kicks Off the #WaveforChange: World Oceans Day 2016 (Screengrab from video) Posted for media use

Featured Image : Exploring the ocean at sunrise on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, July 12, 2014 (Photo by Andrew Dai) Winner in MassAudubon’s 2014 Photo Contest in the 18 and under “People in Nature” Category. Creative commons license via Flickr    

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

 

Earth Hour: Going Dark to ‘Change Climate Change’

EarthHour2015Karachi

Engro Green Office Program personnel celebrate Earth Hour 2015 with a candlelight vigil in Karachi, Pakistan. March 27, 2015. (Photo by Green Office Engro) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, March 17, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – On Saturday evening, March 19 at exactly 20:30 local time, millions of people around the world will switch off their non-essential lights for one hour to show their commitment to cooling the over-heated planet. This is Earth Hour, a WWF initiative to inspire climate change action.

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Earth Hour Global Executive Director Sid Das joined Earth Hour from Google in 2009, when he lived in Sydney, Australia. He moved to Singapore with the Earth Hour organizing team in 2012. (Photo courtesy Earth Hour)

“The world is at a climate crossroads,” said Siddarth Das, executive director, Earth Hour Global, based in Singapore. “While we are experiencing the impacts of climate change more than ever, we are also witnessing a new momentum in climate action transcending borders and generations.”

“From living rooms to classrooms and conference rooms, people are demanding climate action,” said Das. “This 10th edition of Earth Hour is our time to ensure people are empowered to be a part of climate solutions.”

In 2007, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney residents to show their support for climate change action in the first Earth Hour event. More than 2,000 businesses and 2.2 million individuals turned their lights out for an hour to take a stand against runaway climate change.

Over Earth Hour’s 10-year history, an increasing number of businesses, individuals, institutions and landmarks have participated.

Last year, 7,000 cities in more than 170 countries and territories got involved.

This year, WWF Earth Hour organizers believe their campaign has helped persuade people to cool their demand for electricity generated by fossil fuels after 195 nations agreed in December to limit their greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement.

LeonardLou

As Vice President of the WWF Climate Change Program, Lou Leonard is the organization’s strategic leader on fighting climate change. (Photo courtesy WWF-US)

Based in Washington, DC, Lou Leonard is vice president, climate and energy, World Wildlife Fund, which is WWF in the United States. “Earth Hour arrives at a pivotal moment. The threat has never been clearer but the momentum has never been so clearly on our side,” he said. “Last year was the warmest year on record and the first year the entire world agreed to act together to turn back the climate threat.”

“But we can’t stop here,” warned Leonard. “As the lights go out from New Zealand to New York, it’s time to do the work needed to make the Paris Agreement come alive. From the Clean Power Plan in America to a national cap-and-trade law in China, to a global system to tackle international aviation pollution, 2016 is the year where we can prove that a zero-carbon future is within our grasp. It’s up to all of us to do our part.”

In the United States alone, many landmarks and businesses have pledged to go dark for Earth Hour. They include: the Empire State Building and many Broadway theatres in New York City, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle in Seattle, and dozens of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and in other cities across the country. See a complete list here.

Around the world, more than 350 of the world’s most iconic landmarks will be turning out the lights on Saturday evening, including the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge is mobilizing action and support from cities throughout the world in the global transition towards a climate-friendly future by offering recognition as a reward.

Cities are invited to report inspiring and credible commitments and actions that build climate resilient communities based on renewable energy and low carbon development.

One city will be crowned as the 2016 global Earth Hour Capital, selected by an international jury of experts from among 124 participating cities across 21 countries.

The Earth Hour City Challenge began in 2012, when WWF invited cities from six countries – Canada, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States – to participate. A total of 66 cities accepted WWF’s challenge – the winner, announced in 2013, was Vancouver, Canada.

Last year, Seoul, South Korea was the global winner of WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge out of 166 participating cities in 17 countries. An ambitious initiative by the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tons and to achieve 20 percent electricity self-reliance by 2020 was acclaimed by the international jury of experts.

As part of the 2015 Earth Hour City Challenge, the city of Balikpapan, Indonesia was recognized as the Most Loveable City. Balikpapan was one of 47 green city finalists selected through the social media platform We Love Cities . The We Love Cities site enables visitors to vote for the city they love the most this year. The most loveable city will be announced April 9.

WWF explains, “The Earth Hour City Challenge is not about rewarding cities for the most impressive, hi-tech plans, but about commitment and innovative thinking that promotes attractive, one-planet lifestyles, and provides solutions to the challenges of food, water and energy security.”

To date, Earth Hour has powered more than 530,000 individual actions taken “to help change climate change.”

WWF and Earth Hour teams across six continents are working right now to mobilize public action on climate change in the lead-up to the hour and throughout the year.

They are rallying individuals to participate in reforestation efforts in Georgia and Indonesia, promoting a switch to renewables in Uganda and India, spreading awareness on sustainable food in Italy and Australia and encouraging sustainable lifestyles in Chile and China.

For the first time this year, supporters have been invited to share their commitment to the planet by donating their own personal landmarks – their Facebook feeds and social media profile pictures – to Earth Hour to inspire their friends and communities to join the movement. Click here to donate.

Follow Earth Hour and/or comment on Twitter at #ChangeClimateChange.

Das said, “Whether it is the flick of a switch or the click of a mouse, Earth Hour’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to connect people and show them that we all stand united in our ambition to change climate change.”EarthHourWebBanner


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.

 

Marketing Key to Return on CSR Investment

Corporate social responsibility_CSR

By Sunny Lewis

AMES, Iowa, February 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The combination of skillful marketing and corporate social responsibility can yield a 3.5 percent gain in stock returns for a company’s shareholders, a new study by U.S. and Canadian researchers shows.

The study is useful because regardless of the positive effects for society of corporate social responsibility (CSR), there remains an extensive debate regarding its consequences for shareholders.

“A lot of firms question the benefit of corporate social responsibility activities, because they are often viewed as more of a cost. Firms may not always see the benefit because they have to make an investment,” said co-author Sachin Modi, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s College of Business.

“What we want to show is that if a firm is good and has some complimentary capabilities, it can gain a lot from CSR activities,” Modi said.

The researchers defined CSR as “discretionary firm activities aimed at enhancing societal well-being.”

The study, published in the “Journal of Marketing,” analyzed six different types of CSR – environment, products, diversity, corporate governance, employees and community to determine whether marketing of these efforts increased long-term firm value and stock price.

WalmartCardboardRecycling

Walmart employee moves bundled carboard packaging out of a store for shipment to a recycling facility. (Photo by Walmart Corporate)

Walmart’s company-wide goal is to create zero waste. Corrugated cardboard is bundled into bales and sent to paper mills to be recycled into new paper products. But do consumers buy more at Walmart as a result? Not if the company’s marketing doesn’t dramatize and promote its corporate social responsibility, the study finds.

Co-author Saurabh Mishra, an associate professor at McGill University with a PhD in Marketing, says there is a “direct and measurable link” between corporate social responsibility initiatives and financial performance.

The analysis conducted by Modi and Mishra utilized secondary information for a large sample of 1,725 firms for the years 2000-2009.

The findings demonstrate that the effects of overall CSR efforts on stock returns and risk are not significant on their own but only become significant in the presence of superior marketing capability.

Firms benefited from five of the six types of CSR efforts studied, with the exception of charitable giving and philanthropy.

Many companies engage in CSR activities, but do the shareholders benefit?

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro's purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro’s purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Hasbro, Inc., the U.S. playtime giant, specializing in toys and games, television programming, motion pictures and digital gaming, last December announced the purchase of enough wind power to equal growing 164,767 trees for 10 years.

Hasbro’s renewable energy purchase qualifies the company for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club, a distinction given to organizations that have significantly exceeded the U.S. EPA’s minimum purchase requirements.

“We are pleased to be among leading businesses partnering with the U.S. EPA as we continue on our sustainability journey,” said Brian Goldner, chairman, president, and CEO. “Hasbro’s decision to use green power is an important choice in advancing our energy conservation efforts in support of a low carbon economy.”

“Hasbro should be congratulated for its purchase of clean, renewable green power,” said James Critchfield, director of EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “Hasbro’s green power purchase and leadership is something its employees can feel empowered by, the community can stand behind, and its customers can take notice of.”

The purchase of renewable energy benefits the climate and the environment generally, but will the shareholders and customers take notice?

Modi said, “As firms pick what initiatives to get involved with for the community and for charitable giving, they might want to focus on those which are more easily verifiable by consumers. They don’t necessarily have to advertise it, consumers just come to know this firm does a lot for a particular charity.”

“It is very important to give from a community and charity standpoint. And it may be a more true form of giving, because it doesn’t always give the firm value in return,” he said.

The biggest payoff comes from letting shareholders know about a firm’s efforts to improve products, be environmentally friendly, create a diverse workplace and use sustainable resources.

But Modi says it’s important to note this return is not a guarantee for all firms. It depends on effectively communicating and executing a strong marketing strategy. A weak marketing department can translate to weaker returns or payoffs.

Firms must also recognize that some efforts to be more socially responsible can backfire. As an example, Modi asks the question, “Would you buy a recycled toothbrush?”

While most consumers are supportive of and applaud recycling efforts, this is a product few would be likely to buy.

SunChips_Bag

This Sun Chips bag says it’s compostable and a customer is giving the claim a personal test. (Photo by Alan Levine)

Fans of Sun Chips may also remember another example, when the company created a biodegradable bag for its chips.

It was a good move for the environment, but Modi says the bag made a loud crinkling sound at the slightest touch and irritated consumers complained about the noise.

Not all efforts will be a win-win, but that should not be a deterrent for firms, he said.

“Our hope is that firms see it is important to be socially responsible. It’s not a choice of one versus the other. Firms have to do multiple aspects of being socially responsible,” Modi said. “Different types of CSR will have different benefits for firms. Some will be more critical and some will give firms more bang for their buck.”

 


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.

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.

Green Economies Arising Across Europe

GermanyWindfarm By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, February 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A broad political will and the involvement of many different economic and social actors are essential for successful transition to a green economy, conclude researchers from five institutes of the Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER).

For their newly published report, “Implementing the Green Economy in a European Context: Lessons Learned from Theories, Concepts and Case Studies,” the researchers studied 10 innovative cases from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

They found that successful projects include a broad range of stakeholders, have strong and consistent political support, and integrate research activities into the implementation of the initiatives.

In his forward to the report, PEER Chairman Prof. Dr. Georg Teutsch wrote, “These case studies were utilized to reveal opportunities, but also barriers and challenges for the transformation into a zero waste, renewable bio- and ecosystem-services-based production system.”

“The project aimed at producing increased understanding about the concepts and foundations for future circular and green economy securing the maintenance of a full range of ecosystem services on which society relies,” he wrote.

Transitions to a green economy are never purely based on win-win solutions, but require trade-offs among multiple goals across many sectors, the report finds.

Reaching a win-win proposition becomes more laborious the more stakeholders and competing interests there are, the researchers explained. “Sometimes win-win solutions were not enough if the alternatives remained more profitable, market structures did not encourage change or stakeholders were not committed.”

Driven to meet growing demands for food, drinking water, timber, fiber, and fuel as well as minerals, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively over the past 100 years than at any time in human history, according to the report.

“These changes are a result of traditional one-way linear economic models: resource – product – waste and may lead to depletion of natural resources and irreversible changes in the environment,” the report states.

Today, civil society, industrial and political leaders are acknowledging the urgent need for reconsideration and revision of this type of thinking.

Greening an economy is being promoted as a new strategy for enhancing human well-being and reducing environmental risk, defined as “low-carbon and climate proof, resource-efficient and socially inclusive,” according to the report.

The PEER report contains conceptual analysis and empirical case studies that indicate the need for far-sighted planning, multi-source financing and wide stakeholder participation in green economy initiatives.

Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä is the largest city in the region of central Finland on the Finnish Lakeland. It was the subject of one of the 10 cases analyzed in the PEER report.

 

 

 

 

The 10 case studies spanned national, regional and local activities.

The two on the national level are:

  • Germany’s energy transition, since the 1980s
  • Increasing the construction of large-scale buildings from wood in Finland, since the 1990s

 

The five regional cases are from France, Finland and Germany. They are:

  • A project to support the implementation of biogas plants in the area of Brittany, France (2007-11)
  • A project to minimize organic waste in the Rennes Metropole region of France (2010-2012)
  •  A project to develop the city of Jyväskylä, Finland into a resource-wise region (2013-2015)
  •  A project to form a network of Finnish municipalities that creates and carries out solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since 2008
  • An initiative to sell certificates on emission reductions to support peat land restoration, since 2010

 

The three local case studies are:

  • An industrial symbiosis initiative in the harbor area of Dunkirk, France, since the 1960s
  • Cooperation between farmers and the water company to improve soil in the Duurzaam region of The Netherlands, since 2013
  • A project on off-shore macroalgae cultivation to promote circular resource management and bio-based production in Denmark, since 2012

 

Lea Kauppi, Director General of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson.

“As illustrated by the study, the complexity and multi-sectoral nature of the green economy calls for a broad integration of sectors connected to environment, innovation, transport, housing, energy, agriculture and spatial planning,” said Lea Kauppi, director general of the Finnish Environment Institute, one of the five institutes responsible for the report, and a former PEER chairperson.

“The case studies also illustrate the need for comprehensive analysis of the effects of regulation and legislation, as well as the importance of stakeholder commitment, good leadership and coordination,” she said.

The report concludes that transforming the economy requires innovation in terms of technology, organizational support, market and broader societal conditions, and an overarching governance framework, but most of all, a consistent and cross-sectoral political will.

All the PEER partners supported the preparation of the project, and finally five institutes were the active research members: the Finnish Environment Institute, which handled coordination of the project; Alterra Wageningen UR in the Netherlands; IRSTEA – the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture in France; the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany; and the (DCE) Danish Centre for Environment and Energy at Aarhus University.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

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.

Main and Featured image: This windfarm in Gemeinde Driedorf, Hesse, Germany is part of the German transition from energy generated from fossil fuels and nuclear power stations to renewable energy. June 2013 (Photo by Neuwieser) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 01: Lea Kauppi is director general of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson. (Photo courtesy Linkedin)
Image 02: A biogas plant in the Brittany (Photo courtesy Hera Cleantech)

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.

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

ChinaUSPressConf

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

ChinaSolar

In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

ChinaNuclear

Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

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: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)

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 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.

Live energy sector deals on Maximpact.

Image credit: lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Where Are the Opportunities for Impact in Agriculture?

The big corporations, governments and NGOs will continue to be active in agriculture, but there are still opportunities for impact investors.

Scaling up existing models

Impact investing already has a track record of success in agriculture. Over years of experience organizations like Root Capital have developed models that have proved their effectiveness in providing impact finance to key rural smallholder communities. Now these methods are ready to be brought to scale, applied to new parts of the world and extended to new crops and new markets. GEXSI, Toniic and Total Impact Advisors are some of the intermediaries currently listing smallholder finance deals on the Maximpact platform now.

This could be an important avenue of growth for impact investing and for world agriculture with a ready-made demand for capital, a group of experienced financiers and proven models for making the finance work. And, because these seasoned financiers are good at sharing their knowledge, possibilities for replication and franchising make more impact possible.

Pioneering longer-term finance

These providers are also taking their investing into new territory and this could be another area to watch for investors. So far, most of the tried-and-true models have provided short-term finance for specific agricultural activities. Yet there’s a need for longer-term finance for a greater range of activities.

Some experienced lenders, including Triodos, are beginning to establish longer-term funds for just these cases. The buzz is that we may see other organizations joining forces and coordinating their efforts to create a bigger impact in the sector. This is a riskier approach,yet it has the potential to catalyze food production in many parts of the world and have an impact beyond any seen so far. Watch this space.

Moving from “alternative” to mainstream

The taste for sustainably produced,responsibly sourced and organic and Fair Trade certified food is growing in all parts of the world, as is the interest in locally produced food. Banks in many places are still reluctant to lend to small and mid-sized producers on terms they can afford.

This creates another area of potential profit for impact investors. Some already have a track record of providing finance to small and medium-sized, local producers of high-quality food. In the US, Iroquois Valley Farms is one example of a company tapping into this part of the market. Iroquois ValleyFarms buys land then leases it on a long-term basis to mid-sized local and organic farming businesses. In New Zealand, Agro-Ecological offers a range of supportive finance for organic and sustainable producers, while in Canada Investco Sustainable Food Fund does the same.All these companies currently have live deals on the Maximpact deal site.

Embracing agribusiness

Impact investors should look beyond farmers to find opportunities in agribusiness in its widest sense. The term agribusiness embraces every aspect of commercial food production, from growing, to processing,to market delivery. It includes new and high-tech methods and equipment as well as services to producers, including financial ones. It links agriculture with rapid growth areas like cleantech, renewable energy, water technology, bio-technology and sustainable forestry.

This broad sphere provides multiple opportunities to invest for impact a snapshot of Maximpact’s platform demonstrates this with its range of agribusiness deals: a business that caters to the information management needs of coffee farmers; an off-grid cold storage system that allows farmers to get their perishable produce to market in good shape; a eco-lodge that combines sustainable cocoa production with tourism. Several deals combine forest stewardship and agriculture; and important theme for impact. Agribusiness even extends into the ocean, with a deal for Hawaiian company innovating new ways to produce seafood.

For more information on any of the deals mentioned here, log in to Maximpact and navigate to the deal platform. Not a Maximpact member? Register now.

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.