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08/06/2018
GREEN ENERGY PRODUCERS JUST INSTALLED THEIR FIRST TRILLION WATTS
Global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts of power generation capacity, and the next trillion may be finished within the next five years.

BLOOMBERG -- That’s the conclusion of research by BloombergNEF, which estimated the industry reached the 1-terrawatt milestone sometime in the first half of the year. That’s almost as much generation capacity as the entire U.S. power fleet, although renewables work less often than traditional coal and nuclear plants and therefore yield less electricity over time.



The findings illustrate the scale of the green energy boom, which has drawn $2.3 trillion of investment to deploy wind and solar farms at the scale operating today. BloombergNEF estimates that the falling costs of those technologies mean the next terrawatt of capacity will cost about half as much – $1.23 trillion – and arrive sometime in 2023.



"Hitting one terrawatt is a tremendous achievement for the wind and solar industries, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s just the start,"said Albert Cheung, BloombergNEF’s head of analysis in London. "Wind and solar are winning the battle for cost-supremacy, so this milestone will be just the first of many.’’

The world had a total of about 6.2 terrawatts of installed capacity in 2016, about 1 terrawatt of that being coal plants in China, according to the research group. Like all milestones, reaching 1 terrawatt is an arbitrary mark that scratches the surface of the debate about how much renewables will contribute to the world's energy system.



Each power plant works at a different ``capacity factor,’’ a measure capturing both the efficiency of the facility in generating electricty and how often it works. On average, wind farms have a capacity factor of about 34 percent worldwide, meaning they work about a third of the time, according to BloombergNEF. Some of the best sites have factors above 60 percent. For solar photovoltaics that track the sun, those readings range from 10 percent in the U.K. to 19 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent in Chile's Atacama desert. By comparison, coal plants have a 40 percent capacity factor and nuclear sometimes double that.




Even so, the terrawatt of installed capacity for renewables marks substantial growth for an industry that barely existed at the start of the century. More than 90 percent of all that capacity was installed in the past 10 years, reflecting incentives that Germany pioneered in the early 2000s that made payouts for green power transparent for investors and bankers alike.



Asian nations absorbed 44 percent of the new wind and 58 percent of solar developments to date, with China account for about a third of all those installations.



Wind made up 54 percent of the first terrawatt but solar is expected to overtake wind in early 2020. China has led the world in installing solar power over the last five years holding 34 percent of global solar capacity and it’ll continue to be the world’s largest market for both power sources, reaching 1.1 terrawatts in the country by 2050.



``As we get into the second and third terrawatts, energy storage is going to become much more important,’’ Cheung said. ``That’s where we see a lot of investment and innovation right now.’’
08/02/2018
AMERICA'S FIRST CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGEES ARE PREPARING TO LEAVE AN ISLAND THAT WILL DISAPPEAR UNDER THE SEA IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS
Louisiana — America comes to an end here. Connected to the marshes and moss-laced bayous of southern Louisiana by two miles of narrow causeway, waters lapping high on each side, Isle de Jean Charles takes you as far into the Gulf of Mexico as you can go without falling in. But the dolour in the salt air is not just about loneliness and separation. It's about impending demise.​

ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, LOUISIANA -- Don't call it a death sentence - the intention is the opposite - but state officials in late March made the announcement that had been a long time coming. Some on the island, nearly all members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian tribe, met it with relief; others with hostility.



Marking the kick-off of what will be the first climate resettlement of its kind in the entire United States, land had been chosen an hour's drive to the north for a whole new town to be thrown up. No one will force them exactly, but the intention is clear: to evacuate those still living on the island to the new site, where at present nothing but sugar cane stands, before it is too late.



When that will be depends on whom you ask. But no one disputes that the island is sinking, thanks to a combination of subsidence and rising sea levels. Where there were 22,000 acres in 1955 there are only 320 acres today. Climate change isn't helping, but the principal problem traces back to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 when the corps of engineers responded by building giant levees to constrain the river. The result was stopping the flow of sediment into its delta, which once gave the state's barrier islands the material to rebuild as fast as they eroded.



The vanishing of Isle de Jean Charles into the waves of the gulf might take another decade or even five. On the other hand, one more big storm could finally end its viability for human occupation for good, flooding homes beyond repair or cutting through the connecting road.​

"The next hurricane could force all of them, at that point, to move," Thomas Dardar notes, navigating his truck along the causeway on Palm Sunday morning. The Chief of the United Houma Nation, another large Louisiana tribe, with several close relatives on the island, has been deeply involved in helping to forge the resettlement plan with the state. He is therefore anxious for it to succeed. But he is equally aware of the multiple hurdles it still faces.



Success matters because at least in the eyes of Chief Thomas, as well as Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development which must execute the resettlement, a blueprint is being drawn that one day will be followed by countless other communities confronted by climate extinction, maybe in Louisiana, which is losing coastal territory at the rate of one football field per hour, or elsewhere in the country. Or the world.



"It's really a test run," Mr Forbes concedes in an interview from his Baton Rouge office. While Americans may have been displaced by environmental change before, notably in Alaska, no single community has been relocated lock, stock and barrel like this. "We are trying to keep the community intact and ensure that it's economically and socially vibrant and viable. To our knowledge, it's unique. There are places around the world who are looking at a similar type of thing but nobody in the US has done this."



Which makes residents on Isle de Jean Charles canaries in the mineshaft. And if they are not opposed outright, they see problems and pitfalls everywhere, a couple of which emerged at the most recent of the monthly community meetings on the island, instituted by Mr Forbes to make sure their concerns are heard. For example: moving the quick is one thing, but what about the dead? What does the state propose doing about their ancestors beneath the island's overgrown cemetery? (There may be as many as 200 resting there, but one estimate puts the number at only 50.)

Then there is the matter of Theo Chaisson and the small marina he has run for 30 years at the island's tip. On our visit it bustled with pleasure-boaters and fisherfolk using the dock and slip. His family left for drier land in 1948, but his business is his livelihood. What will become of it if the island is abandoned? No one knows, and that leaves him unsettled and a little angry. He questions why the $48m (£34m) granted by Washington, specifically the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to pay for the evacuation hadn't instead been assigned to build better flood defences.



"I don't think it's necessary," Chaisson, 81, says of the resettlement plan. "This here will go," he adds, gesturing from the elevated deck at the back of his tackle shop to the dry land still remaining, "but not right now. It's good for another 25 years for sure, or better." He expects the state will eventually be forced to offer him cash to shut down, although nothing to that effect is settled yet. "I am not for sale," he says defiantly. "I'll tell them, 'No, no no'" - maybe. "With a lot of money, I might be interested. I might be interested."




Breaking off repeatedly to greet customers looking to buy bait, cold beers or new hooks for their lines, Chaisson argues people can make up their own minds whether to stay and brave the next hurricane or flee. "The ones that want to go, they left already," he reckons. "They've gone."



Some have. Scan the creaky wood-framed homes that line the single road on the island, many perched perilously high on 15-foot pilings, and several appear abandoned, doors and windows swung open. The fire station was shuttered long ago. There are only 45 adults and 12 children still living on Isle de Jean Charles, according to state officials. A year ago, there were 93 full-time residents. Some who left took up an offer made last November to move to interim housing in the city of Houma, further inland, while they wait for the new community to be built. But the exodus really began after Hurricane Katrina savaged the island back in 2005.



Ground should be broken at the new site north of Houma by year's end, and the new town - homes, streets, shops, playgrounds - could be ready by 2022, not just for those still on the island but also those already gone. But there are other legal issues beyond the cemetery and the marina. Will relocation really be voluntary? (Mr Forbes is adamant it will.) If the residents do leave will they have to surrender ownership of their properties? Will they be allowed to visit them? Much depends, Mr Forbes admits, "on how far we can push the federal regulatory structure". In other words, the money from Washington comes with conditions.



Sitting in shade beneath the stilts of the home that has been in his family for seven generations, Chris Brunet, 52, agrees that the uncertainties still make him wary. "We are working on how we can come out on the better end of the deal," he explains. But the idea of having to leave has clearly taken root in him. "Eventually, eventually," he says. "But things can't be done overnight and that's what we are dealing with right now in making my decisions. Saying 'yes' to it."



Legalities aside, it's also what they will lose that weighs heavily on some. "This is paradise. How do you transpose what you have here into town?" sympathises Chief Thomas, whose own home is on the Houma outskirts. "When you are asking people to give up what they have, it's like death, they are dying, the community is dying." Most importantly they will be moving away from the water that has sustained them. "They make a living out here," notes Theo Chaisson. "What are they going to do when they get there? You think they'll have oysters in their backyard, speckled trout, red fish, shrimp? No."



It's hardest for older residents, who see little attraction in giving up everything they know so late in their lives to avoid a giant storm that could come this year or may not for 10. People like Hilton Chaisson. A cousin of Theo, he raised 18 children in his modest home across from the cemetery but lost four. One drowned at the marina at just four years old. Speaking sometimes in English and sometimes in French, the first language of generations in bayou country until the latter part of the last century, he has trouble remembering his age - it seems he is 70 - but about the proposal to relocate everyone, he is quite clear.



"They will have to move me in a box. I am going to die here," he grumbles, gesturing to the midway mark of a ground-floor window where the water got to after the last serious hurricane struck this part of the coast. He points too towards the southwest where they usually come in from. The vegetable garden he used to till out back with his grandchildren is useless now, because the saltwater has soaked the ground too often. If his neighbors are ready to uproot themselves and quit their island lives, he says, so be it. But that won't be him and his brood. "If they want to move let them move, I don't talk much to them people. I stay over here, I stick to my business."



Refusing to leave is one thing, but it's not clear if the state would maintain the island's shaky infrastructure once the offer to relocate has been made. The mains gas line that used to run out to it under the causeway has already been shut off, though the power lines remain up. At the marina, Theo Chaisson understands he may eventually have no choice but to shut up shop. "The only problem will be if they don't fix the road, then we are stuck out here or we'd have to get a boat to get out here. I'd just sooner close because I'm not getting in a boat to open a boat launch."



Despite everything - the suspicion and resistance of some and the maddening number of issues still unresolved - Mr Forbes sees no alternative but to make his plan work. Letting the islanders drown isn't an option. And, leaving aside Hilton and Theo and a few others, the response to it has been "overwhelmingly positive", he says.



"I don't mean for any of these complications to indicate that there is less than a full chance that we are going to make this happen. These are just things we have to figure out."
08/01/2018
SOLAR ENERGY WOULD GUARANTEE A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR THE SUNSHINE STATE | OPINION
The Sunshine State is beginning to see record growth in home solar installations, according to a recent report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

SUN SENTINEL -- The report cited recent policy developments in Florida that are projected to nearly quadruple the amount of home solar capacity over the next half-decade.



Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Energy study shows reductions in pollution from clean energy prevented 7,000 lost lives and saved $56 billion in healthcare costs in the United States from 2007-2015. Imagine the cost savings and environmental benefits that Florida could achieve with more households embracing the use of solar energy.



The Public Service Commission’s April 20 decision to allow Sunrun to offer its “solar-as-a-service” gives Floridians an option starting from zero down to install solar energy equipment on their homes and begin saving money immediately. This new model for residential solar challenges preconceived notions about the affordability of solar energy products, providing greater access to alternative energy for more Floridians.



On Friday, July 13, professionals working in emergency management, urban planning, sustainability, and resilience from across South Florida gathered at a post-disaster redevelopment planning workshop hosted by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in Fort Lauderdale, where they focused on “how climate resilience efforts can be integrated into and inform emergency management efforts.”



In hurricane-prone areas, rooftop solar and home batteries carry an additional benefit: greater resiliency during power outages while customers of traditional utilities are left in the dark.



One powerful example was during Hurricane Irma when solar-paired battery systems kept the lights on in 115 schools across Florida which had been converted into shelters housing thousands of residents. By offering local, decentralized power, these Floridians were able to stay safe and connected while 6.7 million utility customers surrounding them had no power.




Solar energy was also indispensable to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Solar and battery systems provided by Sunrun along with nonprofits Empowered By Light and GivePower ensured fire stations could continue to provide essential emergency services to people across the island. These essential services have had uninterrupted solar energy power since installation, helping the island endure the longest blackout in American history. With solar-as-a-service now available on the island as well, Puerto Ricans now have peace of mind during outages and the freedom to create and store energy to power their homes.



Whether households choose to buy solar-as-a-service or the equipment outright, rooftop solar reduces the cost of producing and consuming electricity for everyone. Locally-generated energy means eliminating transmission and distribution costs, which frequently exceed the cost to generate the electricity itself. And with more than 70 percent of America’s transmission lines and large power transformers at least 25 years old, investing in locally-generated resources saves us from wasting money by doubling down on yesterday’s outdated infrastructure.



The Public Service Commission is preparing to make recommendations to state utilities for improving their hurricane preparedness and power restoration procedures following a storm. One early version of their report noted that “despite substantial, well documented improvement, customers were dissatisfied with the extent of outages and restoration times. The public’s expectations are rising, indicating resilience and restoration will have to continually improve.”



One of the report’s recommendations is to place more power lines underground, which according to the top utility trade organization will cost roughly ten times the amount of building overhead power lines. Those costs will ultimately be passed on to households and will further perpetuate the cycle of investing in infrastructure without advancing efficiency or environmental benefits. Wider implementation of locally-generated power, such as rooftop solar paired with home batteries, is an indispensable component of any sound plan to make Florida more resilient after a storm. And it reduces the need for those expensive lines in the first place.



In a post-2016 election clean energy survey, 84 percent of respondents felt America should lower our dependence on fossil fuels while pursuing energy efficiency. Even more resounding, 86 percent of respondents said they would support acting to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.



These numbers show that people recognize that we have an opportunity to radically remake our energy infrastructure into a more affordable, resilient and environmentally sustainable system.
07/31/2018
THESE WINDOWS CAN GENERATE ELECTRICITY AND PROVIDE INSULATION
The windows of many cars and buildings often are tinted with a film that shuts out unnecessary sunlight, an energy efficiency measure that helps lower heating and cooling costs. Other types of environmentally friendly windows feature a coating of see-through solar cells that transform the windows into mini generators of electricity.

ECO WATCH -- But you probably won't find any windows anywhere that can do both. Not yet anyway.​



This could be about to change. Chinese scientists have invented a new material that can both block the sun and produce power. They predict that windows outfitted with this product—or even window curtains that have it—eventually could cut the average household's electric bills by half or more.



"We combine both material innovation and optical thin film design to achieve the goal of combining both solar electricity generation and heat insulation in one single film," said Hin-Lap (Angus) Yip, a professor of materials science and engineering at the South China University of Technology. "Our energy efficiency for the house is kind of double: power generation and power saving."


Constructing a prototype that could simultaneously make electricity and prevent excessive heat required the scientists—who also included Fei Huang, also of South China University—to perform a balancing act between harvesting light to make electricity and blocking it, mixing and matching from among a variety of materials and chemical compounds to find exactly the right working combination.



Eventually, they designed a product that allowed visible portions of sunlight to pass through, but rejected infrared light, which is "a major heating culprit," Yip said. The researchers then transformed the near-infrared region in-between into an electric current.



"The major material we used for turning the solar light to electricity was a polymer semiconductor," Yip said. "We can design the chemical structure and tune [its] absorption property. This organic material has very unique absorption property, which can selectively absorb the near-infrared light, [but] allow a major portion of visible light to pass through it, making it a perfect material for semitransparent photovoltaic (PV) window application."



Current solar cell technology based on silicon or other inorganic semiconductors is not suitable for photovoltaic window applications "as they are opaque and dull in appearance," he added. "Instead, we can make organic photovoltaics into semi-transparent, lightweight and colorful films that are perfect for turning windows into electricity generators and heat insulators."



A paper describing the research appears in the journal Joule.




Yip said the material was similar to the pigment used in printing newspapers or coating cars, "but more functional," he said.

Actually, we can manufacture the polymer solar cell on flexible substrate using roll-to-roll printing process, just like the way we print our newspaper. If you compare this to the energy intensive process required for the production of silicon solar cells, the production of polymer solar cells consumes less energy, with a lower carbon footprint.

The material has a number of potential applications. Because it's a flexible and roll-able film, Yip thinks it would make a great window curtain. "Nowadays, many curtains are controlled electrically to open and shut, and since our photovoltaic window film will generate electricity, the same electrical circuit can be used to carry out the power, which can be then directly used or stored to power other facilities in the house," he said.



He also sees their value for use in self-powered greenhouses. "It just requires tailoring the optical property of the photovoltaic window film, as plants mainly absorb blue and red light, which is why they are green," he said. "So the design of the photovoltaic window film for greenhouse applications will have to maximize the transmission of blue and red light. This is feasible through new material design and optical engineering."



The scientists estimate that installing windows with dual purpose electricity-generating and heat-insulating properties could reduce the average household's reliance on external electric sources by more than 50 percent, although this figure assumes that every square inch of every window would have panels made of multifunctional solar cells.

Yip pointed out that the researchers didn't even use "the best organic photovoltaics that are out there in this field," for their own research demonstration, he said. "Their efficiency is improving rapidly, and we expect to be able to continuously improve the performance of this unified solar-cell window film. Making heat-insulating multifunctional semitransparent polymer solar cells is just the beginning of exploring new applications of organic photovoltaics."



Yip said it would be easy to scale up the product for widespread use and—although it initially may be more expensive than traditional films—it could pay for itself fairly quickly. "We think that polymer based solar cells will have a much shorter energy payback time compared to inorganic photovoltaics, as they can be manufactured using low energy printing processes," he said.



"In terms of the cost of the film, since it has a very similar structure to current heat insulating film—but with just a few additional layers—I expect it will be slightly higher than current window film," he added. "But since its energy efficiency can be double, we believe the cost payback time will be very short, maybe within three to four years."



He projected that the materials could be in commercial use within five years.



"It's been about 25 years from the discovery of polymer solar cells until now," he said. "We've had some very nice progress improving the efficiency and stability of polymer solar cells. If we can identify the best materials and processes to scale up these photovoltaic technologies in the next few years, maybe we will be able to see them everywhere on their 30th anniversary."
07/30/2018
NEW CARBON TAX BILL SUGGESTS A FUTURE REPUBLICAN SHIFT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
On Thursday, July 19 The Hill reported that the Republican controlled Congress passed a non-binding resolution saying a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."

ECO WATCH -- But the next Monday, a Republican duo introduced and co-sponsored the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463)that would implement a carbon tax and funnel the proceeds towards improving infrastructure.



The two approaches, Time Magazine reported Thursday, could represent the past and future of the Republican party.



"The pendulum will swing," former Republican South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, who heads the non-profit RepublicEn, which promotes conservative solutions for environmental problems, told Time. "And when that pendulum swings…it may just be the solution you don't want on climate."



The two congressmen who introduced and co-sponsored the carbon tax bill could be the beginning of that swing.



Carlos Curbelo, the Florida Representative who introduced the bill, represents a district stretching from Key West to outside Miami.



He has been a unique Republican voice on the reality and threat of climate change since he was first elected in 2014, according to Grist.



"I tell my skeptical colleagues: When my district is underwater, I'll move to their district and run against them," he told Grist. "That usually breaks the ice."



He formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with fellow Floridian and Democratic Congressperson Ted Deutch, which is designed to have an even number of Republican and Democrat members.



As of now, Time reports it has 43 Republican members, even though many still vote against climate action despite claiming to believe in its necessity.




"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us all hope," Curbelo told Time.



The bill's co-sponsor, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted in line with the environment 71 percent of the time in 2017 according to the League of Conservation Voters' scorecard, the highest percentage of any Congressional Republican, Grist reported.



One reason a carbon tax might be a gateway climate proposal for Republicans is that it is actually favored by companies who see climate policy as inevitable, and prefer a tax to more complicated regulations, Time explained.



On Wednesday, 34 major companies including BP America, Shell and General Motors wrote a letter to Curbelo thanking him for introducing the bill, though they did not endorse it outright.



"We believe that an economy-wide, market-based approach to valuing or pricing carbon, when carefully crafted, can both strengthen our economy and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging technological innovation and stimulating new investments in infrastructure, products, and services," the letter said.



Curbelo's current bill is not likely to pass, given the opinions of the rest of the Republican majority in Congress, but it might model a way forward for the party in the future. Time reported two polls by the Alliance of Market Solutions and the Pew Research Center respectively that showed that more than half of younger Republicans care about climate change and that almost 25 percent of people under 30 who identified as Republican in 2015 had since left the party.



However, Emilie Prattico, director of development at We Mean Business, a private-sector climate mobilization non-profit, cautioned in a Huffington Post opinion piece that carbon tax supporters could do better than Curbelo's bill.



While it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 27 to 32 percent by 2025 and 30 to 40 percent by 2030, its other provisions would not go far enough to adequately address climate change.



It would devote as much as 70 percent of generated revenue to updating existing fossil-fuel-based transportation infrastructure and only a small percent to developing carbon-free transport options and it would allow emitters a chance to perform their way out of having to obey Clean Air Act regulations if they followed the law.



"A successful carbon tax bill, whether it is proposed by Democrats, Republicans or both, would not only impose a levy on fossil fuels but steer the economy toward innovation, less-polluting alternatives for high-emitting sectors, and fairness to consumers and citizens," Prattico wrote.
07/26/2018
DAVID V. GOLIATH: POWER COMPANIES DWARF SOLAR IN LOBBYING FIGHT OVER SC’S ENERGY FUTURE
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.

THE STATE -- Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives and a failed nuclear project.



Those utilities also poured more than $300,000 in contributions into state election campaigns through May of this year, largely to Republican incumbents, according to disclosure reports compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics.



The solar industry, which saw the nuclear fiasco as an opportunity to expand its footprint in the state, was outspent badly and lost. It spent more than $177,000 to hire 11 lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session.​



“Solar consumers are in a David versus Goliath battle with the big power monopolies,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition industry group.



But the traditional utilities and solar companies weren’t the only ones spending tens of thousands this year to try to influence legislators. The state’s electric cooperatives, trying to weigh in on the future of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, spent almost $239,000 on 25 lobbyists.



Selling a deal
Cayce-based SCANA and its would-be acquirer, Dominion Energy of Virginia, account for most of the lobbying done by utilities in the most recent legislative session, which ended last month.



The two utilities have been engaged in a marketing campaign trying to win support from the public and legislators for Dominion’s proposed $14.6 billion buyout of SCANA. SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, has taken heat for abandoning construction on two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County in July 2017 that have cost SCE&G customers $2 billion in higher rates so far and could cost billions more.


SCANA, with customers in the Midlands and Lowcountry, spent $111,782 and hired eight registered lobbyists for the legislative session. Dominion doubled its S.C. lobbying staff to 10, spending $120,500 during just the first five months of 2018 compared to more than $51,000 for all of last year.



Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said the increased lobbying expense was needed to educate lawmakers about why the proposed Dominion-SCANA merger “is the best solution for customers, the state and South Carolina’s long-term energy needs.”



“It’s a long conversation on complicated topics that takes a lot of education, and we will keep pursuing that outreach,” Wade said.



SCANA and Dominion also unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers to keep them from cutting SCE&G’s electric rates. Dominion has said lawmakers, in passing that 15 percent rate cut last month, were gambling with ratepayers’ money.



An SCE&G spokesman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.



Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article208116869.html

Ocean Springs resident Matt Campbell explains how a bi-directional meter measures electricity flow in two directions. Campbell and his wife, Lea, are able to sell the excess energy that their solar panels produce to their utility company.

A new player
Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which has customers in the Upstate and Pee Dee, spent $136,176 on nine registered lobbyists during the 2018 session — the same number it has employed since January 2014.



Both Duke and SCANA long have been among the biggest lobbyists and contributors at the State House.



New to the mix this year was Florida-based NextEra Energy, which spent $59,500 to hire nine S.C. lobbyists, including former S.C. lawmakers Harry Cato and Tommy Moore.


NextEra’s first S.C. lobbyist registered with the state less than a month after news broke that the utility was interested in buying the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, SCANA’s junior partner in the failed nuclear project.




The Florida utility is also part of the Palmetto Energy Coalition. That group is pushing S.C. lawmakers to sell Santee Cooper and has criticized Dominion’s proposed buyout of SCANA.



According to its website, the group seeks “a long-term, economically viable solution to the future energy challenges faced by South Carolina residents and businesses as a result of the failure of the SCANA/Santee Cooper V.C. Summer nuclear energy project.”



A spokesman for NextEra did not respond to questions Tuesday.


Meanwhile, state-owned Santee Cooper — NextEra’s presumed acquisition target — hired two additional lobbyists this session, spending more than $85,000 for four lobbyists.



Solar expansion blocked
While the V.C. Summer debate — with its often unflattering portrayal of utilities — dominated the session, those utilities were successful in blocking a bill that would have raised the state’s cap on solar power to 4 percent from 2 percent, allowing more future customers to earn a credit for the excess power their rooftop solar panels produce.



After heavy lobbying by Duke and SCE&G, the Legislature refused to increase the cap on the number of people who can sell excess solar energy back to the utilities at favorable rates.



Solar-industry representatives and supporters argue the state’s growing solar industry would suffer if those rates are lowered, as fewer homeowners sign up for rooftop solar, costing installers and salespeople their jobs.



However, a Duke spokesman said the cap on solar power has worked, allowing solar power to take off in South Carolina.



“The incentives that were established (by lawmakers in 2014) were never meant to be permanent, but to jump-start a nascent solar industry,” said Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier. “The law clearly spelled out milestones ... that once reached would trigger a new conversation to establish a reasonable and fair solar policy that benefits everyone for many years to come.


“We are hopeful this current effort will lead to consensus, common-sense legislation that is fair and balances the interests of ... solar providers, energy companies and customers who use solar energy — and those who do not.”



The solar companies insist the electric utilities flexed their political muscles to ward off competition.


“And many are looking to solar as an available and preferable alternative to the traditional utility,” he said.



Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article134560669.html

A 6.8 megawatt solar facility with 31,000 solar panels is producing electricity in Saluda. The Solar power industry is lobbying the South Carolina legislature to order state counties to give it tax breaks. 


‘Lobbying on steroids’
He said lawmakers rely on lobbyists from both sides of issues to educate them on complicated topics such as energy policy, and keep them advised about challenges facing utilities.



While solar expansion lost traction — a victory for traditional power companies — lawmakers also passed a rate cut “in the face of opposition from the energy sector,” including SCANA, Massey noted.



Said Ballentine, “There’s a reason why these utilities are monopolies and why they want to stay monopolies.”

The Legislature failed to increase the number of residences that can participate in a program that requires electric utilities to purchase their solar-generated power. Delayna Earley Island Packet
07/25/2018
ELON MUSK PLEDGES TO PAY FOR CLEAN WATER TO HOMES IN FLINT, MICHIGAN
Billionaire Elon Musk pledged to pay to secure clean water for homes in Flint, Michigan, the city that fell into economic depression amid the decades-long decline of Detroit’s auto industry and is still recovering from a major public health emergency.

BLOOMBERG -- “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination,” the chief executive officer of electric-car maker Tesla Inc. said in a tweet Wednesday. “No kidding.”



Flint’s water supply was contaminated with lead after the state of Michigan changed sources in 2014. The state has said that the city’s water now meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, but some homeowners say the water coming from their faucets remains undrinkable.



By stepping up to offer assistance to Flint, Musk is thrusting himself into a second high-profile crisis in a matter of days. Some of his more than 22.3 million Twitter followers encouraged him to get involved with the city’s water issues in response to his attempt to aid a Thai youth soccer team that was trapped in a cave before being rescued this week.



Musk’s vow to help the former home of General Motors came hours after Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder called for the CEO to focus on key business matters after a prolonged struggle to boost production of the Model 3, the first car the company has tried to mass-manufacture.




“A time of quiet and peace is what is needed to work through these issues,” James Anderson, a partner and portfolio manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “It would be good to just concentrate on the core task.”



In follow-up tweets, Musk said he would reward volunteers willing to organize a “barnstorming weekend” for water-filter installations and said he would set up an email address -- flint@x.com -- for residents to request help.



“Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results,” he said in another tweet. “Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.”



Candice Mushatt, Flint’s public information officer, said in an email that neither Musk nor anyone representing him had contacted the city. Flint is replacing pipes and covering the costs involved with that process, she said.



“However, fixtures, which were badly damaged in homes and still have lead, are not covered in the replacement,” she wrote. “If Mr. Musk is seriously interested in helping Flint, the mayor would be open to speaking with him about our specific needs.”
07/24/2018
A SOLAR POWER & ENERGY STORAGE REVOLUTION IS UPON US | CLEANTECHNICA
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance describes some of the implications of the growing solar power and energy storage trend as it relates to the current, centralized utility-based electricity distribution model.

CLEAN TECHNICA -- Because solar and energy storage can be cost competitive with grid electricity prices in some places, consumers now have an alternative to only using utility-based electricity. Report author John Farrell answered some questions for CleanTechnica.



1. Are you expecting home energy storage to continue decreasing in price?
Yes, definitely. I’ve heard of prices today close to $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity. I’d expect that to fall to closer to $100 in 5-10 years.



2. Is it likely that home solar power systems will be increasingly paired with home energy storage?
For sure. Given the evidence that pairing the systems can help decrease payback times under net metering successor policies (and the benefits of backup power), I expect to see that increase.



3. How can utilities plan for more and more homeowners using solar power and energy storage?
Don’t build any central-station power plants and instead look for ways to make money supporting choices customers will make anyway. Restructure rates to encourage customers to use their distributed energy systems to aid the grid (e.g. by storing energy when cheap and selling it back when expensive).



4. Will utilities ever become obsolete, or will they exist to back up individually owned solar and energy storage systems?
It depends on how you define a utility. Vertically integrated utilities that combine generation, transmission, and distribution aren’t suitable for a market in which customers can substantially fulfill the generation needs of the system locally. What we don’t need is centralized planning, what we do need is coordination.



5. Are you expecting that more and more homeowners will go off-grid completely, or will they remained grid-tied, most likely?
I don’t expect many homeowners to go off-grid at all in the next decade, but that depends a lot on whether they live in a particularly good region for it and if the utility makes it worthwhile with high fixed charges or other dumb policies.



6. How does the increasing number of EVs figure into the home solar and energy storage picture?​
As we reported last year, increasing EV deployment can increase the local grid capacity for distributed solar. It’s also a large source electricity demand that can typically be time-shifted. It’s not quite as useful as a standalone battery until there are viable, commercial vehicle-to-grid services or ways for a vehicle owner to tap the battery.




7. Are there states currently that are leading the others in terms of solar and energy storage adoption?
Massachusetts comes to mind, as do Hawaii and California. Mostly those that have required utilities to do it, provided strong incentives, or where the economics have driven customers to it on their own.





8. Have you seen any cases where homeowners use their own electricity from home energy storage to avoid peak usage charges?
Personally? No. But I’m sure if you talk to Sunrun they will say that’s why 1 in 5 residential customers in California are combining solar and storage.



9. Are you expecting more home energy storage products to enter the market to increase competition?
Yes.



10. Are more businesses also using solar and energy storage onsite?
They will. Clean Energy Group’s landmark study last year shows how incredibly valuable storage is to cutting demand charges for commercial customers.



11. Should utility workers be planning to have their jobs phased out eventually?
Power plant workers should be exploring their options. Line workers will always be needed because we’ll still want a grid.



12. By 2030, how much home solar and energy storage penetration will there be?
Honestly, I have no idea because there are so many factors. I’d be willing to wager that about half of distributed solar installed in the 2020s will come paired with energy storage.
07/23/2018
THE 10 CITIES WHERE YOU CAN MAKE THE MOST MONEY IN THE GIG ECONOMY
Nearly 43% of the US workforce will work in gig economy jobs by 2020. Here are the cities where you can earn the most in these roles.

TECH REPUBLIC -- Freelance work via the gig economy has skyrocketed in recent years, offering new nontraditional work opportunities across industries in the US. The more than 57 million Americans who work freelance jobs contribute nearly $1.4 trillion to the economy every year, according to a study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union. And by 2020, Intuit projected that 43% of the US workforce will be represented by gig economy jobs.



While there are many opportunities available, it's crucial for freelancers to carefully decide where to start working these jobs, if possible, to get the biggest bang for their buck, according to a recent report from FitSmallBusiness.com.



Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs, the report found—think ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft, short-term rentals like Airbnb, and freelance task services, like TaskRabbit. These areas are also popular for startups and tech companies that rely more on nontraditional employees, as well as those that run pilot programs of new service platforms, the report noted.​



The report analyzed publicly-available data from 20 cities to determine which are best for gig economy jobs. In ranking the cities, the report took into account current per capita gig revenue, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, and growth of the gig economy. As a tiebreaker, it also considered resources for nontraditional employees in each city, such as the availability of shared workspaces and high-speed internet.



Here are the top 10 best cities to make money in the gig economy in 2018. To see the full list, click here. You can also check out this list of the highest-paid gig economy jobs overall.



1. San Francisco
Despite a high cost of living (a one-bedroom apartment typically costs $3,460/month), San Francisco offers high earning potential and accelerated growth of the gig economy, leading it to rank no. 1 on the list. The city had a per capita revenue of $9,272 for technical gig-based jobs, and experienced a 93% growth rate in its gig economy industries between 2012 and 2014 alone.



2. Atlanta
Specialized gig economy jobs brought in $4.7 billion in 2017, giving Atlanta a per capita revenue of $9,665. The city also ranked highly on cost of living, with an average $1,328/month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Atlanta tied with no. 3 Los Angeles for this spot, but the city's Google Fiber network and number of co-working spaces gave it the edge, the report noted.



3. Los Angeles
Between 2012 and 2014, LA experienced a 79% increase in its "rides and rooms" economy, with the ground transportation industry alone increasing 136% in that time. While a one bedroom apartment is costly at $1,949/month, the city's per capita revenue for specialized gig jobs was $4,575 in 2017.




4. Boston
Home to many top universities, Boston's per capita gig revenue was $7,882 in 2017, with gig economy growth at 59%. While rental costs are relatively high at $2,260/month for a one-bedroom apartment, the overall cost of living was sixth on the list.



5. Washington, DC
The nation's capital had the second-highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $11,240 in 2017. With an average one-bedroom rental cost of $1,966/month, the overall cost of living makes it the third most affordable city on the list. While growth of the gig economy was lower than many other cities at 36%, DC has a number of services available to local freelancers.



6. Dallas
Dallas offers the second-lowest rental costs on the list, at an average of $997/month for a one-bedroom apartment. This low rent combined with an annual per capita gig revenue of $4,698, and 40% growth in the industry between 2012 and 2014, help Dallas rank highly for overall cost of living and gig opportunities.



7. San Jose
San Jose ranked no. 2 for gig economy growth, with a 91% increase in gig economy jobs from 2012 to 2014. However, a high cost of living of $2,548/month for a one-bedroom apartment led it to drop in the rankings.



8. San Diego
San Diego had among the lowest per capita revenue for gig jobs of the cities on the list, as well as high rental costs of $1,547/month. However, the city ranked fourth for growth, with a 66% increase in gig jobs in the years studied, and offers high-speed internet and a number of highly-ranked coworking spaces.



9. Miami
Miami saw the highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $16,402 in 2017. While the average rent of $2,000/month is high, the high earning potential and growth in the gig economy makes up for it, the report said.



10. Phoenix
Phoenix, AZ has the most affordable housing options of any city on the list, with an average monthly one-bedroom apartment rent of $770. Combined with 46% growth in gig jobs in the period studied, Phoenix is a strong contender as a city where a gig workers can live comfortably and make money.



The big takeaways for tech leaders:
The cities where gig economy workers can make the most money and have the best quality of life are San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
07/20/2018
AMAZING SOLAR PANEL DEVICE THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD GOES OPEN SOURCE
An innovative and simple solar panel efficiency device has just gone open source in order to get renewable energy to those who need it most.

SILICON REPUBLIC -- When you picture solar power, you might think of the enormous Ivanpah solar power plant in California (the largest in the world) or huge tracts of land in other sun-drenched parts of the globe.



But not everyone has access to such enormous grids and particularly in remote villages in developing nations, there is only a need for a single or small group of solar panels that could maintain maximum efficiency to sustain a family or the village itself.



This is exactly what inspired Inspirefest 2018 speaker and software/mechanical engineer Eden Full Goh to develop her SunSaluter device from cheap, recycled materials found across the globe.



Her original idea aimed to tackle one of solar energy’s biggest problems: having a solar panel pointing directly at the sun at all times, otherwise known as solar tracking.



As the Earth rotates, the sun’s position in the sky above changes, meaning that while at one point the panel will be pointed directly at it around midday, in the morning and evening it is out of direct sunlight, leaving those in need with limited power.




Unlike what you might find at Ivanpah, however, Full Goh wanted to make a moveable solar panel that could be easily put together.


A device for all
After a trip to east Africa to test the prototype SunSaluter, Full Goh quickly learned that the challenge at hand was greater than she first thought, with those in one village saying the parts were not readily available there and that it could be dangerous to local children playing nearby.



“I decided to spend the rest of my trip learning about them,” she said on stage. “If these complicated metal parts weren’t available to them, what would be?”



Then, a brainwave hit the Chinese-Canadian inventor: what if she could hit two birds with one stone and create both a device that could harness more solar energy but also create potable drinking water?



What resulted was the final SunSaluter device, which is now capable of providing energy and safe water to those who need it the most. She announced on stage that while it was originally patented, it has been made open source for anyone to build.



“We’ve impacted 17,000 people so far,” she said, “but I’d really like us to expand our reach.”
07/19/2018
5 TOP SALESPEOPLE SHARE HOW THEY GET OUT OF SALES SLUMPS
It’s happened to all of us: One minute, we're hitting home runs out of the park; the next, we're swinging and missing every time.

ENTREPRENEUR -- What's happening? We've hit a slump. And while slumps can happen to any of us, a sales slump is especially unfortunate, because making sales is how a person makes a living. Not making any sales? You’re not making any money.



As the owner of multiple marketing agencies, I’ve spent years in sales, and I’ve had my fair share of slow periods. But the good thing about slumps is, they don’t last. If you just push through, you can get past your slump and get back to making sales.



Even the best salespeople have bad days -- it’s how they get through those days that makes the difference. Here’s what five of them had to say about how they deal with sales slumps:

1. Don’t give up.
When you fall into a slump, your first instinct is to stop what you’re doing and wait for it to pass. But sales consultant Peter Collins (who, in a career spanning 53 years, has worked for two multinationals and achieved Hall of Fame status in both) says that waiting for a slump to pass is exactly what you shouldn’t do.



In an article on LinkedIn, Collins wrote, “The easiest way to address this is that you need to keep getting in front of prospects, keep presenting and above all keep doing all the activities you are aware of that lead to getting sales across the line.”



Tip: If you stop doing the activities that lead to sales, you’ll only extend the slump. You just need to keep going, and the slump will pass.

2. Get your head in the game.
A slump can easily get you down and cause you to lose motivation, but success is all about mindset. If your mind isn’t in the right place, you won’t be able to pull yourself out of the slump.



In an interview with Inside Sales Summit, sales strategist Jill Konrath, the author of multiple books, said: “My best investment in becoming a better salesperson wasn’t in a course or a book -- the best investment I ever made was changing my mindset.”




Tip: If I myself am not 100 percent focused on my goals as a salesperson, I know I won’t be successful. And it’s even more important to stay focused when you’re in a slump. That’s why I do whatever it takes to stay positive and keep my mind on the task in front of me.

3. Find inspiration.
So how do you get into the right mindset? Sometimes, deciding that you need to focus isn’t enough to actually do it. You need to look around you for inspiration and motivation.



In a blog post for Salesforce, Alice Myerhoff, VP of sales at EdSurge, wrote, “There are so many great free podcasts about sales. Look for motivational stuff from folks like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy or Tony Robbins, or podcasts specific to sales to shift your thinking. I like to listen while I’m commuting to the office to pump myself up.”



Tip: I also love listening to podcasts. I even host my own, (with Aaron Agius), called the Growth Mapping Podcast where we talk about how to grow businesses. There’s so much knowledge out there today, and it’s all easily accessible. You just have to go out and find it.

4. Get back to basics.
If your slump is going on longer than you’d like, maybe it’s time to look at your process. Where might you be going wrong? Take a look at what you’ve done at those times when you were successful. What were you doing that made you successful? What are you doing now that might be different?



On her blog, sales strategist Colleen Francis has written: “Problems aren't usually caused by something complicated. They're usually the result of doing the simplest thing just slightly wrong. And more often than not, we know exactly what the problem is.”



Tip: Start at the beginning, and look at each step of your process. Analyze what you’re doing; look for problems that are occurring; and figure out how you can do things better.

5. Get help.
No one likes a martyr. If you’re really struggling, reach out to someone for help. Chances are someone has gone through a slump just like yours and may be able to provide some wisdom.



On LinkedIn, sales manager David Murray wrote, “Talk to a senior colleague about your ‘slump.’ I do this every time because another person's perspective is excellent at highlighting problems. They may simply listen, provide suggestions or just give you a boost in confidence, but the end result is that you feel better about yourself.”



Tip: Sales is also a team effort. If one person is struggling, it affects the whole team. The best way to get out of a slump is to find a solution together.
07/18/2018
WHY SOLAR POWER SHOULD BE BUILDERS' NEXT STEP IN THE REAL ESTATE REVOLUTION
As president of the country's tallest solar residence, located in Midtown Manhattan, there’s a lot I can tell you about the stresses and ins and outs of managing a 45-story skyscraper residence in the heart of the nation’s biggest city.


FORBES -- Satisfying a luxury clientele can sometimes require outside-the-box thinking, to say the least. That’s why perhaps the most crucial decision I made in opening up the building had nothing to do with the amenities inside.


I’ve become an evangelist of sorts for solar power, because the benefits are there for the taking and too many of my peers seem to be dragging their feet. For a modest installation cost, any building under the sun can join the green energy revolution and save money at the same time. In an industry where being environmentally conscious is becoming more important and being money conscious has always been crucial, solar power is the easiest way to generate clean energy and excitement at the same time.



These are a few of the lessons I’ve learned since getting started in solar.
It's easy to start small, but you don't have to.I can freely admit that I was somewhat skeptical when I began dipping my toes into solar power for my properties. My first experiment was on top of a four-story building in the Bronx, where I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give a potential new project a try. When I saw the energy savings happen, I knew I shouldn’t waste any time scaling up, and eventually that meant bringing solar to the top of a 45-floor Manhattan luxury high-rise. Just like in real estate, the higher you go, the better the view — only this one looks straight up.




Getting installed correctly is key. An accredited installer certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) can get you set up, and like any vendor, you’re free to shop around for the best quote. There are even leasing options if you don’t feel ready to make a long-term buying commitment.



It's cheaper than you think, in both the short term and the long run.The days of prohibitively expensive solar installations are long over. As the technology improves, the cost of switching to solar becomes lower by the day. Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the same thing, forecasting a drop of 60% in solar prices (registration required) over the next two decades. By 2040, their experts found, solar energy will be cheaper than coal and natural gas in metropolitan regions across the country. You won’t have to wait until then to enjoy the financial benefits, however.



In all, we save about $120,000 per year on energy costs thanks to the solar array. Not to mention the management team isn’t assuming these relatively meager costs alone. The Solar Investment Tax Credit will pay back 30% of my company’s investment in commercial solar between now and 2021, so getting started ASAP was crucial. But the ease of installation and the savings don’t paint the whole picture.


The benefits extend beyond myself.In both residential and commercial real estate, making your tenants happy can take a lot of work and takes on an infinite number of forms. Adding solar is one of the few methods that saves you money while you generate goodwill for yourself and your building. My tenants are continually telling me how happy they are about the solar panels on the building’s roof.


They’re not happy because I’m saving on energy costs or because of my company’s solar tax credit. They’re happy because they’re proud to live in a place where innovation is embraced, not ignored. They’re happy because they can tell their friends and family that they’re living sustainably without sacrificing the amenities that make their building so attractive. They’re happy because living with green energy is the way of the future, and they can all take part just by taking up residence in this building.



I realize I must sound like a solar salesman at times here, but there’s no profit motive for me. If I seem very attached to the solar method, it’s because so many of my peers seem irrationally resistant to this easy way to improve their bottom line and lessen their environmental impact at the same time. I don’t think putting a solar installation on my roofs was a revolutionary act — only when the rest of my peers in real estate do the same thing can we call it a true revolution. With savings, ease of installation and goodwill to be had, why wait?
07/16/2018
CLIMATE CHANGE IS HEATING UP LOS ANGELES. WE NEED A GRID THAT CAN KEEP THE POWER ON WHEN IT'S SWELTERING
The record-breaking heat that baked Southern California and prompted mass power outages last weekend was just a taste of what is to come. Summers in SoCal have already been getting hotter over the last century. 

LA TIMES -- Climate change is expected to produce more frequent and more blistering heat waves in the coming years that will put unprecedented stress on the electrical grid and challenge utilities to keep the power on.



Los Angeles, apparently, isn’t ready for the new normal. The demand for electricity Friday, Saturday and Sunday overwhelmed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s aged system, prompting power outages that affected more than 80,000 customers. The unluckiest people went 48 hours without electricity; they and many others had to evacuate their homes in search of air conditioning elsewhere.



Los Angeles wasn’t alone. Other communities, including some served by Southern California Edison, experienced heat-related electrical outages. But the number and duration of the power problems in Los Angeles should be a wake-up call that there is a lot of work needed to make the city more resilient as heat waves like this become more common.



The number of days over 95 degrees could triple or quadruple by 2050, UCLA scientists have forecast. That means increased electricity demand as people crank up the AC. It also means more residents will install air conditioning, putting additional strain on the electrical grid. Such temperatures can be deadly to residents without air conditioning — or those who lose their air conditioning in a power outage.​



In Los Angeles, the power situation last weekend was complicated by several factors. With the severity of the heat wave — triple digits across much of the city, with record-setting temperatures in many areas — more people switched on the air conditioning, creating near-record demand for electricity. And because the temperatures didn’t drop overnight, more people keep their air conditioners running. That further strained the electrical system and caused more outages.




Communities in the DWP’s “metro” area — neighborhoods in the central city south of Mulholland Drive — were hit particularly hard. These areas (unlike, say, the San Fernando Valley) don’t usually get temperatures in the triple digits for extended periods of time and have older electrical infrastructure that is often underground and takes longer to repair. The result was widespread and lengthy outages.



To make the electrical grid more resilient, it has to be more reliable. The DWP has an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance projects, leaving its system vulnerable. After heat waves in 2006 and 2007 caused mass outages, the utility launched an ambitious plan to replace old and overloaded electrical distribution equipment. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council then hiked customers’ rates in 2016 to expedite the modernization of the electrical system, but officials say it will still take decades to catch up.



The solution has to go beyond electrical wires and circuits. The DWP has to work closely with customers to keep their homes and their communities cooler so there is less demand for power.



It means getting more homes and businesses to install solar panels to provide their own power and take pressure off the grid. It means ramping up energy efficiency programs to encourage more customers to invest in “power-sipping” appliances, double-paned windows, insulation and other products that can both lower electricity demand and cool a home. California has been a national leader in requiring that new appliances and buildings be energy efficient.



There needs to be greater focus on making older buildings energy efficient and getting landlords to modernize their apartment buildings. That’s especially important in low-income communities and neighborhoods where, in the past, air conditioning was often viewed as an unaffordable luxury. Residents in those areas will be increasingly vulnerable as the number and severity of heat waves increase.



The DWP and the city also need be more aggressive in planting shade trees around homes and businesses, and replacing dark pavement and roof tiles with light-colored materials that reflect, instead of absorb, heat.



Preparing for a hotter future won’t be cheap or easy. But the past weekend provided a worrisome glimpse into what will happen in Los Angeles if we don’t.
07/12/2018
NORTH AMERICAN CITIES WILL SEE MAJOR ECONOMIC BENEFITS BY SWITCHING TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY
While policymakers in national governments are debating whether or how much to address global warming, over 70 cities and towns in the United States alone have committed to transitioning to 100% clean, renewable energy in one or more energy sectors. 


LEONARDODICAPRIO.ORG -- Each locality, though, needs a way to get there. In a new paper published this week in Sustainable Cities and Society, I, Dr. Mark Delucchi and 12 others from Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley provide roadmaps for 53 towns and cities across North America to obtain 100% of their energy from wind, water, and solar power plus storage. The cities include large ones, such as New York City, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, and Phoenix as well as small ones, such as Abita Springs (Louisiana), Boone (North Carolina), Moab (Utah), Denton (Texas), and Standing Rock (North Dakota), among others. 

The proposed transition timeline is an 80% conversion by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

If such a transition occurs, the towns and cities collectively are projected to gain 93,000 more permanent, full-time jobs than are lost, reduce each person’s energy cost by about $133 per year, and eliminate a total of about 7,000 air pollution deaths per year, according to the study.

Explore the Solutions Project interactive map to see what 100% renewable energy could look like where you live in the year 2050.​​
The main idea behind the plans is to electrify or provide direct heat for all energy, then to produce the electricity and heat entirely with onshore and offshore wind, solar photovoltaics on rooftops and in power plants, concentrated solar plants, geothermal plants, existing hydroelectric plants, and small numbers of tidal and wave devices. Because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, storage will be needed as well. When excess wind or solar is available, it will be stored as electricity in batteries or pumped hydroelectric storage; as heat in water or underground rocks; as cold in water or ice; or in the form of hydrogen. Excess water will be stored in existing hydroelectric reservoirs, which are basically big batteries. When no direct wind, water, or sunlight is available, energy will be drawn from storage. Grid operators will also set prices to reduce electricity use during times of peak consumption, as is done now.




Each energy sector will be transitioned as follows: transportation, including cars, trucks, buses, construction machines, ships, trains, and aircraft, will run on batteries and/or hydrogen fuel cells, where the hydrogen is produced from electricity. Building air and water heat will be provided by electric heat pumps, as will refrigeration and air conditioning. Cooktops will be electric induction. Leaf blowers and lawn mowers will be electric. High-temperature industrial heat will come from electric arc furnaces, induction furnaces and dielectric heaters. In other words, all combustion-based energy-consuming devices and machines today will be transitioned. No natural gas, nuclear power, biofuels, or coal with carbon capture will be needed.



Such a transition is estimated, across the 53 towns and cities considered, to reduce end use power demand in 2050, compared with a “business-as-usual” case by 54-69%. This reduction is due to the higher work output per energy input of electricity over combustion; eliminating the energy used in mining, transporting, and refining fossil fuels; the efficiency of heat pumps over combustion heating; and end-use energy efficiency improvements beyond those in the business-as-usual case. 



From the end use power requirements calculated for each town and city, a mix of wind-water-solar energy generators was proposed based on the availability of renewable resources within the state that the town or city resides in. Subsequently, the numbers of jobs created and lost to build the new infrastructure and eliminate the old infrastructure were calculated. Changes in energy costs, air pollution health costs, and climate costs were similarly determined. 



The most important result is that all towns and cities examined can transition at low cost while, on aggregate, creating jobs, saving consumers money, and reducing climate impacts. The obstacles for such a transition are no longer technical or economic, but social and political. This result gives us hope for a brighter future for our planet.
07/11/2018
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF RESIDENTIAL SOLAR PANELS?
From the residential consumer’s point of view, there are mostly pros when it comes to switching to solar.

FORBES -- If the consumer is adding solar while still having access to the grid electricity, I don’t really see a con, unless the cost of the solar system is prohibitive and financing is not available. First of all, the consumer gets almost free energy after the paying for the solar energy system, so you start saving on the electricity bills. Depending on the cost of the system, the payment is recovered from these savings over a certain period of time. That time depends on the initial cost, any financing costs, maintenance costs and price of the energy the consumer is saving. In most cases, the cost of a solar water heater or a PV system could be recovered in 5-10 years. The time could be smaller if any government incentives (tax credits etc.) are available. A solar system increases the value of the house also. On top of that, the consumer has the satisfaction that he/she is contributing to a cleaner environment. One additional advantage we have seen as a consumer using a solar water heater is that it comes with a large storage tank. Therefore, if one member of the family takes a long shower, the others don’t have to wait for the water to heat up before taking a shower. This is the main reason we have had a solar water heater on every home we have owned since 1979.




The situation from the electricity provider’s view point is a bit different. The pro for them is that solar systems produce the most energy during their peak time, which reduces their peak load, that is usually provided by less efficient equipment. And they don’t have to invest in additional equipment just to cover the peak load. The con for their side is that if a lot of residential customers have PV and PV generation becomes more than about 20% of their load, it introduces instability in the grid. However, if energy storage is introduced whether on the consumer side or the provider side, it can alleviate that problem.
07/10/2018
MIAMI FACES AN UNDERWATER FUTURE
In Miami, the rising sea is already an ineluctable part of daily life. Everyone is affected

THE NEW YORKER -- whether storm flooding forces a small-business owner to shut down for a few days (at tremendous cost), or daily tides hinder students commuting to school, or the retreating coastline forces people to abandon their homes. There are other, less obvious, but equally troubling impacts. People’s increased contact with overflow water from urban canals and sewers is a significant health issue. Low-income communities of color—like Liberty City and Little Haiti—also face rising housing costs as residents seek higher ground. Some have started referring to this as climate gentrification, “a trend of underserved communities being taken over by investors and developers due to rising sea levels,” Valencia Gunder, a community organizer, explained. Historically, “low-income communities of color were forced to live in the center of the city, high above sea level. Now that the sea level is rising, that puts us in prime real estate.” Gunder is one of the many Miami residents who appear in this video series, which focusses on the high-stakes questions that arise as people begin to adapt, and the factors that help create and strengthen resiliency for what’s ahead. “Every adaptation project is an opportunity to improve our environmental quality,” Tiffany Troxler, a wetlands biologist, said. “And to improve social equity.”

As the average global temperature increases, sea level is projected to rise more than one foot by 2045, which would put a fifth of Miami underwater at high tide. While the entire East Coast of the United States is at tremendous risk, Miami is particularly vulnerable. Its underlying bedrock is limestone, which makes the effects of sea-level rise particularly insidious. “Limestone is very porous, so salt water can seep up,” Ben Wilson, an environmental scientist, said in an episode that examines the intersection of ecology and development. “We can’t just build a wall to keep salt water out.” Along the shoreline, freshwater marshes, which act as natural coastal buffers against storm surge, are collapsing because of increased salt-water intrusion. Once those grasses are gone, storm waters will flood Miami much more quickly.

The economic effects will be staggering. Tourism and property taxes—derived from real-estate development—are the region’s two main sources of income. “There are many in the business community, and even government officials, who feel we shouldn’t talk about it,” Wayne Pathman, a real-estate lawyer, said. “But it’s too late for that.” The median family income in Miami-Dade County is roughly forty-five thousand dollars—not high for a metropolitan area. The hardest-hit communities will be, and have already been, those with the fewest resources to adapt and rebuild.

“With climate change there already are winners and losers,” Jesse Keenan, a Harvard professor who teaches courses on climate adaptation, said. “The idea, as a matter of public policy, is how do we subsidize and and support the most vulnerable populations, who are very often the economic losers.” There is no easy answer. But the people featured in these videos are, at least, trying. “I love this place,” one activist told the filmmakers. “I love the people, I love the diversity and the colors and the richness. I love that cross-cultural mix we have going on here. The question is, ‘Can we live here much longer, and safely? And if so, how much longer, and how safely?’ ”

Some residents are planning real-estate development and new infrastructure to attempt to keep the city dry.
07/06/2018
GOSUN FUSION COMBINES SOLAR POWER WITH ELECTRIC HEATING FOR OUTDOOR COOKING
07/05/2018
07/05/2018
HOW BIG WILL THE BATTERY BOOM GET? TRY $548 BILLION, BNEF SAYS
We’re no strangers to GoSun’s lineup of solar-powered ovens. The company has been creating and crowdfunding its unique outdoor cookware since 2013.

DIGITAL TRENDS -- Five years later, it’s back again with its latest project. It’s called the GoSun Fusion, and it goes a bit beyond solar power. Rather than relying exclusively on our favorite star to provide power, the Fusion integrates an electric heating element, which is to say, it fuses solar power with more traditional cooking power.​



Like all GoSun ovens, the Fusion features its trademark cylindrical cooking chamber that derives its heat from two parabolic reflectors, responsible for capturing heat from the sun and transferring it into the cooking chamber. While this is particularly effective on a sunny day with plenty of direct exposure to the natural power source, it’s not quite as useful when the forecast is cloudy or in the evening. But that is where the Fusion comes in. GoSun introduced a 150-watt electric heater to its latest product, which can be powered either using a car’s cigarette port or a lithium ion power bank (though that costs extra). If you want to get fancier and more expensive still, you can elect to receive a solar panel charger for the battery pack, though this seems to be a bit redundant given that the entire contraption is meant to provide an alternative to solar power.




According to GoSun’s founder and CEO Patrick Sherwin, the cooking chamber of the Fusion can reach a toasty 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and with plenty of direct sun, can cook a meal for five people in an hour. Sure, that’s a long time, and you won’t be able to sear or broil your meal, but it’s still a much cleaner energy option than other products on the market (not to mention a pretty neat device in and of itself).



The GoSun Fusion is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, where it has already blown past its original funding goal of $30,000. With nearly two months left, it’s already raised nearly $110,000. Of course, you should always exercise caution before backing a crowdfunding project, but if you’re intrigued by the Fusion, the GoSun team is offering early bird pricing of $299 for the most basic version of the Fusion, and $619 for the most souped-up, solar panel charger battery pack version. Units are slated to ship in April 2019.
07/04/2018
WHY BUSINESS NEEDS A 'MORAL REVOLUTION'
Acumen founder Jacqueline Novogratz issued a powerful challenge to the roomful of CEOs at Fortune’s CEO Initiative conference on Tuesday: Business had the technology revolution; now it needs a “moral revolution.”

FORTUNE -- Describing her journey of leaving a successful career on Wall Street three decades ago to start a microfinance institution in Rwanda—which turned into more than $100 million in investment across 108 companies around the globe that has used entrepreneurism to bring services to more than 270 million people in the developing world—Novogratz shared lessons and advice for CEOs seeking to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.



Among Novogratz’s lessons: Empathy alone isn’t enough, she said, because empathy allows power dynamics to remain intact. “We don’t really have to change if we feel another person’s pain,” she said. Instead, solving the world’s problems calls for business leaders to channel their “moral imagination.”



Partnering, she said, is critical for scale. She cited Acumen’s eight-year partnership with global consulting firm Bain, which includes senior partners coming into Acumen’s offices and a total of 52,000 hours of pro bono consulting, but also “reverse apprenticeships.” These involve Bain embedding its young leaders in externships at Acumen initiatives in the field—in Ethiopia, say, or post-conflict Colombia—after which they come back with a different level of understanding of things like the supply chains in which their large-corporate clients are working in. “It makes them better leaders,” she says.




Along the way, Novogratz says she’s learned a lot about the commonalities between the companies and entrepreneurs that succeed and those that fail. It comes down to one word, she says: character. “Those that have the character let them fight the bureaucracy and corruption and let them fight in long-term, gritty ways.” The enterprises that win, she says, “have won in really big ways,” like the Mumbai-based company that has redefined emergency health delivery with 3,500 ambulances in rural India, or two entrepreneurs out of Chicago who addressed Ethiopia’s protein deficiency by creating EthioChicken, which produces highly fertile, disease-resistant chickens and sells them to small farmers.



The key, she says, is betting on the right entrepreneurs “on the edges” and bringing them to the center.



She also encouraged the group to embrace the contradictions between peoples and beliefs, but try to move toward the center—and encourage others to do the same—in the name of the “radical idea of creating hope in a cynical world.” “Even if you seem to be at the polar opposite of me, I can find a partial truth and move toward you,” she said, citing the poet Rumi: “Beyond right doing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
07/03/2018
HOW YOUR HOME COULD GENERATE, STORE AND SELL ENERGY
As we move towards renewables in our efforts to decarbonise our economies, energy storage is becoming increasingly important. Could householders become an integral part of national electricity networks?


BBC -- When Adam Courtney decided he wanted to reduce the energy bills at his "not particularly energy efficient" Grade II listed house in Godmanchester, England, solar panels were the obvious answer.



But, he says, he soon realised that the savings weren't as great as he'd hoped. Renewable sources of energy don't necessarily deliver at the right time and cloudy days saw his family drawing heavily on the national grid.



Meanwhile, he had spare capacity on sunny days, but got very little in return.



"We'd ended up feeding back into the grid, but the payment is tiny, so I ended up thinking 'why do that?'," he says.



Instead, the data centre owner decided that he himself could make better use of the electricity he was generating, if only he were able to store it for when it was needed.



He started researching battery storage - even at one point considering building his own system - before opting for a Tesla Powerwall that can store the excess energy generated by the solar panels.



The unit and supporting hardware costs just under £6,000, with installation costs of up to £3,000 on top. But it enables him to buy energy at cheaper times, lowering the running costs of both his home and the family's two electric cars.



"With Economy 7 there's cheaper electricity at night and the Powerwall knows it's going to be sunny tomorrow so it knows how much power to buy," he explains.



"My bill was £140 a month, but I spend £25 a month now on electricity, and most of that goes on the cars."



More energy storage providers - such as Ovo Energy, Powervault and Moixa are entering the market - particularly as electric vehicles (EVs) promise to become a useful addition to the domestic energy mix. BMW i3 batteries are already being used to store windfarm energy in Wales, so it makes sense to integrate such car battery tech into homes.

In the meantime, Tesla is leading the charge. Its wall-mounted battery the size of a fridge door can be installed inside or out. An array of electrical current sensors monitors energy usage and how much solar energy is being produced, while intelligent forecasting software predicts future usage and production.



"Based on the varying cost of electricity from the grid, Powerwall optimises the times it charges and discharges," says a Tesla spokeswoman.



"As Powerwall learns, you get the most value from your solar production without having to change how or when you use energy."



Meanwhile, Ovo Energy has launched a suite of batteries that can be used with or without renewable energy generation.



"I would describe the Tesla system as being designed to operate primarily on its own," says chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick. "You have to have generation. Ours is designed to be integrated into an existing grid."



Ovo's system helps householders make the most of cheaper off-peak energy - which can be roughly half the peak price - and also integrate the energy stored in their electric cars.

There's no need for solar panels or any other form of power generation; customers can simply charge their batteries overnight and export spare electricity back to the grid during the day.



Ovo's software, VCharge, manages this ebb and flow, drawing on information such as weather forecasts and television schedules to predict periods of high demand.



The obvious benefit to Ovo as an energy provider is that the technology flattens out the peaks and troughs associated with electricity daily demand, making it easier and cheaper to maintain a regular supply.



"But that translates into smaller bills," Mr Fitzpatrick points out.



The company's testing its technology in Orkney, Scotland, by installing its systems in local homes and allowing VCharge to control storage heaters and hot water cylinders.



"We're managing hundreds of devices and balancing that with a local wind farm," says Mr Fitzpatrick.



"In the past, the turbines often had to be turned off because the network didn't have enough capability."



Ovo thinks the energy saved could power the equivalent of 2,000 homes for a year.



"Storage has an important role to play supporting the country as it makes the exciting transition towards more low-carbon sources of generation, like wind and solar power, providing ever increasing system flexibility," a spokesman for the UK's National Grid tells the BBC.



But to have any significant effect at a national level, home energy storage needs to reach massive scale, and cost is currently an issue, with systems costing several thousands of pounds. Without serious government subsidies, householders would not recoup their costs for years.



"While the technology is proven and works, it's still at a nascent stage and doesn't benefit from economies of scale in production," says Nick Browne, an analyst at energy research consultancy Wood Mackenzie. "Therefore it's currently expensive.



"But we expect that battery costs could fall by 50% by 2025. If this happens, battery installations will grow significantly, boosting renewable energy penetration further and reducing the role for fossil fuel generation."



In south Australia, Tesla is installing its kit in 600 homes this year, and up to 50,000 by 2022. The aim is to create a "virtual power plant" with 250 megawatts of solar energy and 650 megawatt-hours of battery storage.



"At key moments, the virtual power plant could provide as much capacity as a large gas turbine or coal power plant," Tesla claims, leading to lower bills and a more secure supply.



But this is still very small beer compared with the amount of energy stored by pumped hydro, which accounts for 96% of all energy storage worldwide.



These are early days for home energy storage, but for some householders the cost isn't an issue.



"Financially, it's not there yet, but I'm not doing it for financial reasons," says Warren Philips of Shoreham, Kent, another Powerwall user.



"It's about my daughter and changing the world for her."
07/02/2018
GREENING THE CLOUD WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY - EARTH911.COM
Despite serving a valuable purpose to us all, tech companies have been criticized for years for their exorbitant energy consumption. Data centers are the backbone of the internet and keeping all that information just a click away requires a lot of electricity.

EARTH911 -- A transition to renewable sources is underway, which cloud users can encourage by choosing their online service providers based on what energy sources the service uses.



Data centers use up to 3 percent of all U.S. electricity and the information iechnology sector is responsible for 7 percent of global electricity consumption. The term “dirty cloud” was even coined to refer to the coal and other high-emissions fuel sources that power cloud computing.



Since 2009, Greenpeace has been putting pressure on some of the more polluting tech companies while praising greener ones. When examining the energy footprint of tech companies, some clearly lead the way in the corporate use of renewable energy deployment, energy transparency, advocacy, and energy efficiency innovations.



The Greenest Internet Companies

Apple, Google, WhatsApp, Instagram, iTunes, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook all received high scores in the 2017 Clicking Clean report by Greenpeace.



Amazon, eBay, Etsy, HBO, Netflix, and Vimeo received mediocre scores from Greenpeace, while Hulu, Pandora, Pinterest, SoundCloud, Twitter, and WeChat received poor ratings because they rely heavily on coal and other unsustainable energy sources.



In addition to sourcing renewable energy, the highest-ranking companies have also put in place energy efficiency improvements to cut overall use in the business. There has also been a shift in recent years towards larger, more efficient data centers. Higher server utilization rates, that is, getting more from each watt of power expended, and improved data center design have reduced the energy required for non-computing purposes such as equipment cooling. This has helped slow the growth of data center energy consumption.



Google Leads the Way in Clean Energy


Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy globally. It has been involved in numerous utility-scale wind and solar energy projects across the globe. Google — along with Facebook and Apple — was among the first corporations to make a 100 percent renewable energy commitment several years ago.



Google has also done a lot of work with clean energy on its campus. It installed the largest corporate solar energy system of its kind with 1.7 megawatts of capacity in 2007 at its Mountain View, California, campus. Google also operates a 970-kilowatt cogeneration system powered by local landfill gas that produces heat and electricity for its campus. 




Corporate Use of Renewable Energy


Tech companies are not alone in their use of renewable energy. When President Trump announced that the United States would back out of the Paris climate deal, many U.S. corporations voluntarily committed to increasing their use of clean energy while reducing emissions to maintain their Paris commitments.



“You’re definitely not seeing corporations slow down their appetite for renewables under Trump — if anything, demand continues to grow,” said Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president for policy at Advanced Energy Economy, a clean energy business group. “And it means that many utilities increasingly have to evolve to satisfy this demand.”



Large corporations can create power purchase agreements with energy companies to build new solar and wind energy projects. Some retailers, such as Target and Walmart, have also used their roofs to host solar arrays. Although this is an innovative use of empty space, rooftop solar is not possible at all business locations, making power purchase agreements more appealing for most large companies.



Last year, 19 large corporations announced deals with energy companies to create 2.78 gigawatts of renewable energy generation capacity. In 2018, Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, and Walmart have announced the largest capacity corporate renewable energy deals.



The cost of wind and solar energy has come down in recent years, causing a surge in clean energy demand. Renewable energy has achieved grid parity in many markets. Apple announced that it believes it will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the contract from its $850 million California Flats project. The surge in corporate use of renewable energy is largely economic, although pressure from consumers and nonprofit organizations has helped fuel this trend. 



Smaller Companies Left Behind


Although large corporations have taken a leadership role in the renewable energy movement, smaller companies are getting left behind. These companies currently have fewer opportunities to get involved, hindering growth. Economics promises cheaper renewable energy, but the pace needs to be accelerated by large firms embrace of wind, wave, and solar generation.



“If we can show utilities that the demand is there, that could convince regulators to expand these programs and allow access for smaller companies,” said Rob Threlkeld, global manager for renewable energy at General Motors.
06/28/2018
THIS CONCRETE CAN TRAP CO2 EMISSIONS FOREVER
Concrete is the most abundant man-made material on earth. There's a good chance you're standing on it right now, and it's holding up the buildings around you.

MONEY.CNN -- But concrete has an emissions problem. Its essential ingredient, cement, has a huge carbon footprint.



Cement is the glue that makes concrete strong, but the process of making cement requires superheating calcium carbonate, or limestone, and releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.



Cement is responsible for 7% of global man-made greenhouse emissions, making it the world's second largest industrial source of carbon dioxide, according to the International Energy Agency. Data from the United States Geological Survey -- the scientific agency of the US government -- reveals that global cement production was responsible for about 4 billion pounds of CO2 emissions in 2017 alone.



But a Canadian startup has invented a new system for making concrete that traps CO2 emissions forever and at the same time reduces the need for cement.



CarbonCure's system takes captured CO2 and injects it into concrete as it's being mixed. Once the concrete hardens, that carbon is sequestered forever. Even if the building is torn down, the carbon stays put. That's because it reacts with the concrete and becomes a mineral.



"The best thing about it is the mineral itself improves the compressive strength of the concrete," Christie Gamble, the director of sustainability at CarbonCure, told CNNMoney.



"Because the CO2 actually helps to make the concrete stronger, concrete producers can still make concrete as strong as they need to but use less cement in the process."



And using less cement is how producers can really reduce emissions.



Atlanta-based Thomas Concrete, a concrete producer, has been using CarbonCure's system since 2016. Thomas Concrete says it has since prevented 10 million pounds of CO2 emissions.



Justin Lazenby, a manager of technical operations at Thomas Concrete, said the move toward greener tech is a long-term decision the concrete industry should embrace.




A cylinder of CarbonCure concrete after undergoing a strength test.​
"The industry as a whole has always kind of looked at trying to solve today's problems with yesterday's technology, which doesn't really work," he said.



Thomas Concrete pays to use CarbonCure and buys captured CO2 from a fertilizer plant where it's emitted, but the company says those costs even out with what they save by using less cement.



"We understand that to make environment impact, you have to make business sense," Gamble said.




CarbonCure's technology utilizes CO2 that would otherwise be a waste product from factories. Finding uses for captured CO2 is an economically-friendly way of incentivizing companies to capture their emissions.



"We're leading that movement right now [by] showing it is possible to take CO2 and turn it into something that makes financial sense," Gamble said. "This concept of beneficial reuse of CO2 is expected to be a one trillion dollar industry by the year 2030."



A new mixed-use development in one of Atlanta's trendiest neighborhoods, called 725 Ponce, is a real-life example of the impact of building with greener concrete. When it opens in 2019, it will become the largest structure ever made with CarbonCure concrete.




Construction is underway at 725 Ponce in Atlanta
Ultimately, the 360,000 sq. ft. office building, which will have a Kroger supermarket on the first floor, will save 1.5 million pounds in CO2 from being released into the air -- the same amount 800 acres of forest would sequester in a year, according to Gamble.



The building is a step in the right direction, but CarbonCure is far from widespread adoption. Right now, only 90 concrete plants in the US and Canada are using their technology -- a small fraction of the estimated 5,500 plants in the US alone.



CarbonCure isn't the only company working to make concrete more environmentally friendly, but it's one of the first to market. Carbicrete and Carbon Upcycling are two other startups working on more sustainable solutions for concrete.



Gregg Lewis, executive vice president of strategy for the National Ready-Mix Concrete Association, said these types of technologies will help push the concrete industry toward a more sustainable future.



"[It will] offer a huge advantage to how we build as an industry," he said.



CarbonCure's Gamble noted if the industry is able to reduce 5% of its carbon footprint, that is a significant change from where it is right now.



"If this technology is deployed across the globe, we could reduce about 700 megatons of CO2 each year. That's the same as taking 150 million cars off the road every year," Gamble said.



Although concrete isn't going away anytime soon, it appears there is room to make all that grey a bit greener.



"Everytime I see concrete being made, I see it as a missed opportunity to save CO2 emissions," Gamble added. "Maybe it will take 20 years; maybe it will take 50 years. Maybe something crazy will happen and it will happen in five years. But we're starting to see that process."
06/27/2018
WHAT IF CANADA HAD SPENT $200BN ON WIND ENERGY INSTEAD OF OIL?
In explaining Canada's decision to nationalise the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5bn, Bill Morneau went hard on the economic argument. “Make no mistake,” the finance minister said. “This is an investment in Canada’s future.”

THE GUARDIAN -- In fact, since 1999, more than $200bn has been invested into the Alberta oil sands for that future. But what if that cash had gone into wind energy instead?


Let’s compare.



Vehicles powered
Oil sands

73m

In 2017, the Alberta oil sands produced roughly 912m barrels. About 60% was turned into gasoline and diesel, enough to fuel 73m vehicles for 16,000km (the roughly average yearly driven distance).



Wind energy

122m

Had $200bn been invested in the wind energy sector, at the current cost of $1.8m megawatt (MW), Alberta would have 111,000 MW of capacity. Based on what Alberta actually generated in 2017, it could power more than 122m electric vehicles for the same 16,000km​.



CO2 driving emissions
Oil sands

325m tons

Driving those vehicles would emit more than 325m tonnes of carbon dioxide. (Total CO 2 emissions for the UK in 2017 ​were 388m tonnes.)



Wind energy

Zero

No CO 2 emissions result from the operation of electric vehicles.



CO2 operations emissions
Oil sands

66m tons

“Upstream” emissions – produced by essentially boiling the oil out of the ground – have reached an official 66m tonnes a year. (The figure does not include the energy to "clear" the boreal wetlands or build the facilities.)




Wind energy

Zero

No CO 2 is emitted by wind turbines while generating electricity. (The figure does not include the energy to build the turbines.)



Operations cost
Oil sands

$31.9bn

At an estimated production cost of $40 per barrel, making oil in Alberta costs roughly $36.5bn a year.



Wind energy

$7.1bn

Generating 111,000 MW of electricity at an estimated cost of $64,000 per MW = $7.1bn.



Fuel cost for drivers
Oil sands

$2,688

Based on gas prices in Fort McMurray on 27 May 2018, driving a car with a fuel efficiency of 12 litres per 100km for 16,000km would cost drivers about $2,688.



Wind energy

$190.40

Driving a Chevy Bolt electric vehicle using 28 kilowatt hours (kWh) for 160km at 6.8 cents per kWh (roughly the current cost in Alberta) the same distance would cost you $190.
06/26/2018
30 YEARS LATER, DENIERS ARE STILL LYING ABOUT HANSEN’S AMAZING GLOBAL WARMING PREDICTION | DANA NUCCITELLI
30 years ago, James Hansen testified to Congress about the dangers of human-caused climate change. ​

THE GUARDIAN -- In his testimony, Hansen showed the results of his 1988 study using a climate model to project future global warming under three possible scenarios, ranging from ‘business as usual’ heavy pollution in his Scenario A to ‘draconian emissions cuts’ in Scenario C, with a moderate Scenario B in between.

Changes in the human effects that influence Earth’s global energy imbalance (a.k.a. ‘anthropogenic radiative forcings’) have in reality been closest to Hansen’s Scenario B, but about 20–30% weaker thanks to the success of the Montreal Protocol in phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Hansen’s climate model projected that under Scenario B, global surface air temperatures would warm about 0.84°C between 1988 and 2017. But with a global energy imbalance 20–30% lower, it would have predicted a global surface warming closer to 0.6–0.7°C by this year.



The actual 1988–2017 temperature increase was about 0.6°C. Hansen’s 1988 global climate model was almost spot-on.

In the WSJ, deniers again lie about Hansen


The incredible accuracy of Hansen’s climate model predictions debunks a number of climate denier myths. It shows that climate models are accurate and reliable, that global warming is proceeding as climate scientists predicted, and thus that we should probably start listening to them and take action to address the existential threat it poses.​



Hansen’s predictions have thus become a target of climate denier misinformation. It began way back in 1998, when the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels – who has admitted that something like 40% of his salary comes from the fossil fuel industry – arguably committed perjury in testimony to Congress. Invited by Republicans to testify as the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement was in the works, Michaels was asked to evaluate how Hansen’s predictions were faring 10 years later. ​



In his presentation, Michaels deleted Hansen’s Scenarios B and C – the ones closest to reality – and only showed Scenario A to make it seem as though Hansen had drastically over-predicted global warming. Deleting inconvenient data in order to fool his audience became a habit for Patrick Michaels, who quickly earned a reputation of dishonesty in the climate science world, but has nevertheless remained a favorite of oil industry and conservative media.​




Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Michaels was joined by Ryan Maue in an op-ed that again grossly distorted Hansen’s 1988 paper. Maue is a young scientist with a contrarian streak who’s published some serious research on hurricanes, but since joining the Cato Institute last year, seems to have sold off his remaining credibility to the fossil fuel industry.



In their WSJ opinion piece, Michaels and Maue claimed:

Global surface temperature has not increased significantly since 2000, discounting the larger-than-usual El Niño of 2015-16. Assessed by Mr. Hansen’s model, surface temperatures are behaving as if we had capped 18 years ago the carbon-dioxide emissions responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect.​

They provided no evidence to support this claim (evidence and facts seem not to be allowed on the WSJ Opinion page), and it takes just 30 seconds to fact check. In reality, global surface temperatures have increased by about 0.35°C since 2000 – precisely in line with Hansen’s 1988 model projections, as shown above. And it’s unscientific to simply “discount” the El Niño of 2015-16, because between the years 1999 and 2014, seven were cooled by La Niña events while just four experienced an El Niño warming. Yet despite the preponderance of La Niña events, global surface temperatures still warmed 0.15°C during that time. There’s simply not an ounce of truth to Michaels’ and Maue’s central WSJ claim.​



It’s also worth noting that Hansen’s 1988 paper accurately predicted the geographic pattern of global warming, with the Arctic region warming fastest and more warming over land masses than the oceans. And climate deniers in the 1980s like Richard Lindzen were predicting “that the likelihood over the next century of greenhouse warming reaching magnitudes comparable to natural variability seems small.” If anyone deserves criticism for inaccurate climate predictions, it’s deniers like Lindzen who thought there wouldn’t be any significant warming, when in reality we’ve seen the dramatic global warming that James Hansen predicted.



Michaels’ and Maue’s misinformation didn’t stop there:

And it isn’t just Mr. Hansen who got it wrong. Models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have, on average, predicted about twice as much warming as has been observed since global satellite temperature monitoring began 40 years ago.​

Once again, this unsupported assertion is completely wrong. I evaluated the IPCC’s global warming projections in my book, and showed in detail that theirs have been among the most accurate predictions. The climate model temperature projections in the 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC reports were all remarkably accurate; the IPCC predicted global warming almost exactly right.



Why lie? To keep cashing Koch paychecks
We don’t even have to guess at the motivation behind Michaels’ and Maue’s misinformation; they give it away toward the end of their opinion piece, asking: 

Why should people world-wide pay drastic costs to cut emissions when the global temperature is acting as if those cuts have already been made?

Michaels and Maue don’t want us to cut carbon pollution, and it’s easy to understand why. They work for the Cato Institute, which was co-founded by and is heavily controlled by the Koch brothers, who have donated more than $30 million to Cato. As Michaels admitted, they’re basically fossil fuel industry employees.



But the answers to their question are simple. As climate scientists have predicted for decades, global temperatures are rising dangerously rapidly. Moreover, research has shown that the economic benefits of cutting carbon pollution far outweigh the costs.



Michaels and Maue want us to bet the future of all life on Earth. They want us to put all our chips on black – a bet that burning billions of barrels of oil and billions of tons of coal every year won’t cause dangerous climate change. They want us to make that bet even though their arguments are based on unsupported lies, whilst they cash paychecks from the Koch brothers.



We would have to be incredible suckers to take their bet.
06/25/2018
HOW BIG WILL THE BATTERY BOOM GET? TRY $548 BILLION, BNEF SAYS
Batteries will attract $548 billion in investments by 2050 as costs fall and homes and businesses push to use more clean energy.

BLOOMBERG -- That’s one of the conclusions of the New Energy Outlook released Tuesday by analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Batteries will become increasingly viable on the grid as demand for electric cars spurs manufacturing of lithium-ion systems, driving down prices.

Batteries will allow more solar and wind to meet demand -- even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing, helping end the era of fossil fuel dominance on the grid by mid-century, BNEF said. Battery prices are expected to fall to $70 a kilowatt-hour by 2030, down 67 percent from today, according to the report. BNEF expects 1,288 gigawatts of new batteries to be commissioned by 2050.

“It’s a matter of ‘when and how’ and not ‘if’ wind, solar and battery technologies will disrupt electricity delivery all over the world,” Seb Henbest, lead author the report, said in an interview.
06/21/2018
NEXTERA CEO: CHEAP, `DISRUPTIVE' BATTERIES COMING TO KILL COAL
Cheap batteries coupled with wind or solar power will soon compete head-to-head with coal-fired and nuclear plants.

BLOOMBERG -- Solar farms with about four hours of storage capacity will be able to sell power for about 3.5 cents within a few years, said Jim Robo, chief executive officer of NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s largest generator of power from wind and sunshine. Wind paired with batteries will be even cheaper, at about 2.5 cents.

The shift comes as battery prices are expected to slide 67 percent by 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Advocates of coal, natural gas and nuclear power often cite the intermittent power from wind and solar farms as a barrier to wider use of clean energy. Cost-effective storage counters that argument and will become a “disruptive” force in the utility industry, Robo said Tuesday at the JPMorgan Chase & Co. 2018 Energy Conference in New York.



“That’s lower than the operating costs of existing coal and nuclear,” Robo said. “That’s a fact that most of the rest of the industry hasn’t come to grips with yet.”
06/19/2018
BREAKTHROUGH SOLAR PANEL CAN HARVEST POWER FROM RAINDROPS — DAY OR NIGHT
In a truly remarkable feat of innovation, scientists have figured out how to create “hybrid” solar cells that generate power not just from sunlight but also from raindrops. This means we may soon see all-weather solar panels that work when it is cloudy and even at night, if it’s raining.


THINK PROGRESS -- Solar has soared in recent years, as panel prices have dropped so fast that solar keeps crushing its own record for the cheapest power “ever, anywhere, by any technology” — even without a subsidy.​



But scientists and engineers around the world keep innovating, looking for ways to make solar panels more efficient and less expensive. Much of this innovation is now coming from China, the world leader in both manufacturing and deployment of solar energy.



For instance, China has developed “double-sided” solar panels that can generate power from light that hits their underside. That can enable a 10 percent boost in output, especially if you put the panels on a roof or other area that is painted white to help reflect the suns rays. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects these panels could capture a remarkable 40 percent share of the market by 2025.



In another remarkable advance, researchers at China’s Soochow University have demonstrated a solar cell that can generate electricity from falling rain. A recent article in the American Chemical Society’s nanotechnology journal Nano describes the innovation in an article titled “Integrating a Silicon Solar Cell with a Triboelectric Nanogenerator via a Mutual Electrode for Harvesting Energy from Sunlight and Raindrops.” 


The device makes use of a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), which converts mechanical energy — motion — into electricity. In this case, the solar cells harvest power from the movement of raindrops that fall on them.  



Since solar panels typically generate only one tenth of their potential output during rain, and virtually nothing at night-time, the advance could address one of the biggest problems facing solar power: its variability.



“Our device can always generate electricity in any daytime weather,” as Soochow’s Baoquan Sun told the UK Guardian. “In addition, this device even provides electricity at night if there is rain.”



Here is a video of the basic principle behind TENG from Georgia Tech Prof. Zhong Lin Wang, whose group first demonstrated this kind of nano generator in 2011:



The potential applications of TENG include generating power from walking and typing. The recent Chinese breakthrough was to figure out how to make it work in a simple and efficient manner for a solar cell.



It could be a while before the technology makes its way into a commercial product for widespread use, though. We are still 3 to 5 years from a prototype according to Sun. He told the Guardian, “the output power efficiency needs to be further improved before practical application.”



But if the technology takes off, we may actually have solar panels that work rain or shine.
06/18/2018
SOLAR JUST HIT A RECORD LOW PRICE IN THE U.S.
Even Donald Trump’s solar tariffs and desire to prop up the coal industry can’t stop renewable energy. A solar auction in Nevada just yielded the cheapest solar project in the country.

EATHER -- It broke a record that was set [checks calendar] last week. Not only that, the price the plant will operate at is cheaper than new natural gas and coal plants. While the sunny weather in Nevada and federal tax credits certainly play a role, it’s also part of a clear trend of solar power becoming cost-competitive with and even starting to beat fossil fuels.





The project in question is the Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm, which will begin operating in 2021. The farm will have a generating capacity of 300 megawatts, enough to power about 210,000 American homes. But it’s the price part that’s eye-popping. It will operate at a flat rate of $23.76 per megawatt-hour over the course of a 25-year power purchasing agreement (the term for a contract between an electricity generator and utility who buys it). On the surface, that price may not mean a lot to you if you’re not an energy nerd, but it’s a huge deal.



“On their face, they’re less than a third the price of building a new coal or natural gas power plant,” Ramez Naam, an energy expert and lecturer at Singularity University, told Earther in an email. “In fact, building these plants is cheaper than just operating an existing coal or natural gas plant.”



There’s a 30 percent federal investment tax credit for solar projects that helps drive down the cost of this and other solar projects. But Naam said even if you take away that credit, “these bids, un-subsidized, are still cheaper than any new coal or gas plants, and possibly cheaper than operating existing plants.”



The price and size of the plant handily beats the cheapest confirmed solar project in the country, a title that formerly belonged to a piddly 30 megawatt farm in Arizona that was part of an effort to replace the aging Navajo Generating Station (some tribal members aren’t happy). That project was auctioned for the low, low price of $24.99 per megawatt-hour over the duration of its 20-year contract.




The Nevada auction also included a number of projects that link up utility-scale solar with batteries. Mastering solar plus storage will be critical for renewables to truly overtake fossil fuels, since they only generate power when it’s sunny or when the wind blows.



“Three years ago you almost never saw batteries as part of a new solar or wind project,” Naam said. “In 2018, we’ve seen battery storage frequently show up as part of these bids. Energy storage is becoming the new normal with solar bids.”



All these projects have one important have one important factor in common: being located in the sunny Southwest. That geography absolutely plays a role in keeping prices low. But increasingly efficient technology also helps, and Naam said these prices are a bellwether of what’s to come in the next few years in places like Texas, California, and Colorado.



They also show that the efforts of the Trump administration to prop up fossil fuels at the expense of renewables aren’t enough to push solar out to sea. Thetariffs that Trump levied earlier this year against cheap solar panels imported from China could eventually dampen installations. Naam said they add roughly 10 percent to the price of utility-scale projects, but “at most, they move the price of solar back by about a year.”



And they haven’t slowed solar deployments yet. A report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association on Tuesday revealed that 55 percent of all U.S. electricity generating capacity installed in the first quarter of 2018 was solar. A whopping 2.5 gigawatts of solar was added, marking the 10th straight quarter where more than 2 gigawatts of capacity added. The report also noted that total installed capacity could double in the next five years.



All this is good news, but the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables needs to happen even faster to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
06/14/2018
GLOBAL SPENDING ON RENEWABLES IS OUTPACING FOSSIL FUELS
The world is going green. Global spending on renewable energy is outpacing investment in electricity from traditional energy sources like coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.


THE STREET -- Investments in renewable energy totaled $297 billion in 2016, the last time full-year data was available. That's more than twice the $143 billion that was spent on fossil fuels and nuclear power. The IEA estimates that renewable energy will account for 56% of net generating capacity added through 2025.


Demand for renewable energy is expected to increase 7% to 30% by 2022, according to the IEA.




The increase in investment comes as wind and solar energy represent the cheapest options for generating electricity after years of research and development. 



China, which has a notorious air pollution problem, has helped lower the cost of renewables by investing heavily in domestic solar manufacturing, creating a glut of inexpensive solar panels. 



Hydroelectric power consumption has also seen growth in non-OPEC countries, according to the IEA, growing at an annual rate of nearly 4% between 1990 and 2015. 
06/12/2018
POPE TELLS OIL EXECUTIVES TO ACT ON CLIMATE: ‘THERE IS NO TIME TO LOSE’
Pope Francis has called for swift action to care for the environment and the planet.

NY TIMES, ROME — Three years ago, Pope Francis issued a sweeping letter that highlighted the global crisis posed by climate change and called for swift action to save the environment and the planet.



On Saturday, the pope gathered money managers and titans of the world’s biggest oil companies during a closed-door conference at the Vatican and asked them if they had gotten the message.



“There is no time to lose,” Francis told them on Saturday.



Pressure has been building on oil and gas companies to transition to less polluting forms of energy, with the threat of fossil-fuel divestment sometimes used as a stick.



The pope said oil and gas companies had made commendable progress and were “developing more careful approaches to the assessment of climate risk and adjusting their business practices accordingly.” But those actions were not enough.



“Will we turn the corner in time? No one can answer that with certainty,” the pope said. “But with each month that passes, the challenge of energy transition becomes more pressing.”



He called on the participants “to be the core of a group of leaders who envision the global energy transition in a way that will take into account all the peoples of the earth, as well as future generations and all species and ecosystems.”



In an era when the White House is viewed by many scientists as hostile to the very idea of climate change, with President Trump announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Francis is seen as an influential voice to nudge oil executives to take action on the issue.

Robert Dudley, chief executive of BP, was among the oil executives summoned to a two-day conference in the Vatican, “Energy Transition and Care of Our Common Home.”


Among those summoned to a 16th-century villa in the Vatican gardens were the chairman of Exxon Mobil, the chief executive of the Italian energy giant Eni and the chief executive of BP.



Paul J. Browne, a Notre Dame spokesman, said the university’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, had been inspired by the pope’s 2015 encyclical instructing “all schools and departments of the university to respond to Francis’ evocative appeal on behalf of ‘our sister,’ the Earth.”



Many had complied, he said, including by expediting plans to stop coal burning at the university power plant. Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business sponsored the conference.



In his 2015 encyclical, Francis, a vocal supporter of the Paris accord, warned that climate change represented “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” He called for a model of energy transition.



On Saturday, the pope reiterated his call for a transition from fossil fuels “to a greater use of energy sources that are highly efficient while producing low levels of pollution.” It was a challenge “of epochal proportions,” he acknowledged, but also one that presented an immense opportunity to “promote the sustainable development of renewable forms of energy.”



He said that though the world is affected by climate change, it was the poor who would “suffer most from the ravages of global warming.” Francis added that the transition “is a duty that we owe towards millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, poorer countries and generations yet to come.”



Last month, a group of investors representing more than $10.4 trillion in assets published a letter in The Financial Times urging the oil and gas industry to “be more transparent and take responsibility for its emissions,” which account for 50 percent of global carbon emissions, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project, an organization based in London. 



To date, according to the Global Catholic Climate Movement, dozens of Catholic institutions have divested from fossil fuels, including Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of relief organizations; Catholic banks with more than 7 billion euros, or $8.3 billion, on their balance sheets; archdioceses; religious orders; and lay movements.


In “Laudato Si’,” Francis warned that climate change represented “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”


On Thursday, Equinor, the Norwegian oil giant formerly called Statoil, released a report saying that the world needed to move faster in adopting renewable energy to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement.



“The climate debate is long on targets, but short on action,” the company said. “We believe it’s possible to achieve climate targets set out in the Paris agreement, but that requires swift, global and coordinated political action to drive changes in consumer behavior and shift investments towards low carbon technologies.”



Other oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, have endorsed the Paris accord and have called for carbon taxes, but the Equinor report appeared to be more explicit in its endorsement of more vigorous climate action. Still, Equinor remains a major producer of oil and gas, and it continues to search for hydrocarbons.



The Rev. Seamus P. Finn, a participant at a conference in 2013 that brought mining companies to the Vatican, said that exercise had been useful for the industry and the Vatican “to better understand each other,” and that follow-up meetings had “deepened the quality of the conversation.”



The Vatican is a “safe place for discussion,” said Father Finn, a Catholic priest and the chairman of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.



“I think that all can agree that there needs to be a shift from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy, but the debate is how long is that transition period going to be,” Father Finn said.



“For some, it’s tomorrow. For others who believe that climate change is not so serious, there is plenty of time,” he added.



The pope on Saturday said that the situation was dire. Despite the Paris agreement, carbon dioxide emissions and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases remained high. He said the search for new fossil fuel reserves was “even more worrying.”



“We received the earth as a garden-home from the Creator,” Francis said. “Let us not pass it on to future generations as a wilderness.”  
06/11/2018
FLORIDA'S 'CITY OF THE FUTURE' IS FIRST SOLAR-POWERED TOWN IN AMERICA
Jasmin Day is pregnant and when her girl or boy is born later this year—she’s keeping the gender a surprise—her baby will become the first child ever born in Babcock Ranch, Fla. 

FOX NEWS -- “Almost all the boxes are undone,” she says while stepping over the just delivered new bed. She, husband Josh, and little kids, Judson and Elliot, just moved into their new house and this brand new community – dubbed the city of the future. 



The young couple from Memphis, Tenn. could not be happier.



“To be able to be a part of a community of everyone that cares,” Josh Day said, “and wants that for them, not only for themselves but also for their children and their grandchildren, to have it be a more clean Earth whenever our children are older.”



His wife added: "I think we’re pretty all in! We live here. We work here."



Babcock Ranch, near Fort Myers on state’s west coast, was developed from the beginning with a massive solar power farm generating 100 percent of the electric needs. About 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels stretch across a swath of land the size of 200 football fields.



When developer Syd Kitson, a former NFL lineman with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, bought the 17,000-acre property, it was all old mining and farmland. 

Babcock Ranch, near Fort Myers on state’s west coast, was developed from the beginning with a massive solar power farm generating 100 percent of the electric needs. About 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels stretch across a swath of land the size of 200 football fields.
It’s now the country’s first, fully solar city, with a very low carbon footprint, a soon-to-open school, electric shuttles that will eventually be driverless, a cute town square with shops and an emphasis on the environment and preservation.




Where most developers would build and sell as many homes as possible, for greater profit, Kitson’s vision from the beginning was preserving most of the open space, now encompassing several lakes and 50 miles of bike trails.



The homes run from $190,000 to about $499,000. Residents can work in the town, but are not required to do so. The fully completed footprint will eventually be 19,500 homes.



"We think about the way we develop differently…. It’s the most environmentally responsible, the most sustainable new town that’s ever been developed,” Kitson said. “And, it’s the first solar-powered town in America. And we’re very proud of that." 



In January, the first two people moved in. Now, there are 150 homes under contract with an expectation that will there will be 250 families moved in by December. Eight developers are now building homes. The vision is a unique creation of a 45,000-person small city.



But first came the enormous solar farm. Kitson gave the land to Florida Power & Light for free, which then spent more than $100,000,000 installing all the panels, wires and storage batteries. That solar-generated power now is shared throughout FPL’s grid, as Babcock Ranch’s demand, at this point, remains very small.



John Woolschlager, an urban planning professor at nearby Florida Gulf Coast University, said all cities can ultimately follow Babcock Ranch’s model, but it will take years. Babcock Ranch’s huge advantage was that it’s being built from scratch with the self-sustainability and pro-environment philosophy on the ground first.



“I think, also, if you look to the distant future, it’s going to be a necessity,” Woolschlager said. “If we want to have a good life in the future, we have to think more sustainability, because if we don’t, we’re going to run out of energy, run out of water and run out of resources."



For Josh Day, he’s landed a physical therapy job in the town square’s Life Wellness Center. So, if he doesn’t bike to work and home, he can just ride a solar powered, electric shuttle, in a town which – for now – has no traffic nor rush hours.
06/07/2018
WOMEN LOOK TO CLOSE RENEWABLE ENERGY’S EMPLOYMENT GENDER GAP
Women make up about a third of U.S. wind and solar energy jobs, higher than other technology fields.

ENERGY NEWS -- Sarah Fischer’s journey into the renewable energy field began with a high school French teacher whose husband had been a child slave in Haiti. The couple opened Fischer’s eyes to human rights and international development issues and sparked a desire to make a difference in such situations.



The more she learned about the role of deforestation and natural resource exploitation in creating poverty, the more she became interested in sustainability and renewable energy as ways to address injustice.  



Fischer, who recently graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University with a degree in sustainability economics and business, hopes to work in renewable energy policy, first in the U.S. and eventually related to international development.



She is among a cohort of young women whom an organization called WRISE(Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy) hopes will increase representation of women in the wind energy field. Fischer was among 11 women who received two different fellowships to attend last month’s annual WINDPOWER conference in Chicago.



Fischer was among the Rudd Mayer fellows (named for a Colorado sustainability campaigner who passed away suddenly in 2002) who are considering a range of policy and other jobs in renewable energy. WRISE’s Wind at Our Backs scholars, meanwhile, are entering wind technology specifically, and received $2,500 scholarships along with attending the conference.



The Wind at Our Backs fellows includes Ashley Hobbs, who became interested in wind energy seeing wind turbines along the drive to her high school in Arnett, Oklahoma.


“I always wanted to know how they worked,” she said.


For seven years, Hobbs worked in another heavily male-dominated field: as a corrections officer and dispatcher in the corrections system.


Then Hobbs completed an advanced wind turbine technician certificate at the High Plains Technology Center in Oklahoma, and she recently accepted a job with GE that will see her not only knowing how wind turbines work, but helping them do so. She’s done all this while also raising two girls as a single mother.

“My goals in wind energy are to work my way up over the next several years, as in lead tech and even site lead,” Hobbs said. “Wind is crucial for our future when it comes to clean energy and power. Sustainability is the biggest factor to me in wind energy; wind will always be here.”


Numbers growing, slowly

Kristen Graf entered the renewable energy field herself about 16 years ago. In college, she was “stunned” to see how few women were in her engineering classes, and that trend only continued once she entered the renewable energy technology and policy world. So after a stint with the Union of Concerned Scientists, Graf took the opportunity to become executive director of WRISE, previously called Women in Wind Energy (WoWE), to try to change that disparity.



“There were tons of women in my high school calculus classes, but they didn’t appear in the college programs to the same extent,” said Graf. “There are lots of women in nonprofits, but not as many in the policy space making decisions on the energy side. And you look at public utility commissions, energy committees in Congress; I’d like to see more women there.”



A 2017 Department of Energy employment report found that women make up 32 percent of the wind industry workforce, which it found had a total 102,000 jobs. Women also made up 32 percent of the solar energy workforce. Those numbers are higher than some other tech industries; one recent report found women hold less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs overall.



The current numbers of women in wind could be seen as an improvement from five years ago when another study showed only about 20 to 25 percent of wind industry jobs were held by women.



Graf said that various studies or ways of looking at employment data have placed women at 20 to 30 percent of the wind workforce over the past decade, with small gains likely made in recent years.



“I’m optimistic this small increase we’ve seen will be something that continues,” she said. “For me it needs to be across the entire sector and every level of that sector, whether entry-level technicians, the manufacturing floor, C-suites, and boards. Some of those roles — admin, paralegal, marketing — are much further ahead in terms of having significant numbers of women in them. It’s the edges, the C-suite, the boardroom, the more technical roles, the highly financial roles that have struggled to get numbers of women.”



The DOE report found similar proportions of women in other energy fields including biofuels, coal and combined heat and power. Energy efficiency and petroleum fuels each had about a quarter of jobs filled by women. Racial and ethnic minority women are likely even more under-represented, though Graf said there is no comprehensive data that looks at renewable energy jobs by both gender and race. When race alone was considered, the DOE report found Latinos to make up about 20 percent of the workforce and African Americans to make up about 10 percent, in a number of renewable energy sectors.


Futures in Renewable Energy

During college, Fischer, 22, interned with nonprofits including the Ohio Environmental Council, Clean Fuels Ohio and the Electrification Coalition. She focused for a while on electric vehicles.



“Electric vehicles are great and more efficient, but Ohio runs mostly on coal power, so electric vehicles aren’t emissions free unless you can promote renewable energy and make sure electricity comes from those sources,” she noted.

She recently began a new job with the DC Sustainable Energy Utility, and she plans to later go to graduate school focused on energy policy. While small-scale solar arrays are increasingly being used to improve the lives of people in developing countries, Fischer imagines wind power could also have a bigger role.



“In the U.S. we developed through this incredible push for industrialization and fossil fuels, and it had all kinds of impacts on our environment,” she said. “We eventually cut back our impacts but something we need to focus on when looking at other countries developing is finding a way they can skip that [fossil fuel stage] and go straight to green renewable energy.”



While she is emphatic that the U.S. “should not be telling other countries what to do,” she’d like to be part of such efforts. 



“We’ve seen oil pipelines and coal plants being developed on an industrial scale in developing countries, so I can’t see why we can’t develop wind there.”  



Hobbs, meanwhile, plans to later get her associate’s degree, thanks in part to the Wind at Our Backs fellowship, and continue working in wind energy.



“There’s always a need for women in male-dominated fields such as wind energy,” she said. “All industries need equality for women. Every woman has to prove ourselves to the men in the industry. We have to show them that we can keep up with them and can do the same work that men can do.”



Opening doors






Even as employers — especially larger corporations that make up the bulk of the wind industry — make commitments to hire more women, “hiring managers appear baffled on how to meet this challenge, often citing a lack of qualified female candidates for positions,” Graf wrote on WRISE’s website.



WRISE has an initiative called “Find Her Keep Her: Recruiting and Retaining Women across Renewable Energy” that is aimed at showing corporations how to bring women into their workforce, also highlighting the stories of women in renewable energy.



WRISE notes that mentoring, developing leadership pipelines, transparency around salary, flexibility in schedule and other specific policies can help bring more women into the industry. WRISE also runs its own one-on-one and peer group mentoring programs, along with the fellowships.



“It’s exciting to me to be able to help open at least a few doors for them,” Graf said of the Fellows. “And it’s incumbent on the industry as a whole to make sure they have the opportunities they need to flourish and grow and become an integrated part of the sector.”



“The success of the sector is reliant on us doing a good job not just on gender but in all different aspects of race, ethnicity, ability, geography, background,” she continued. “We can’t just have all the same people talking around the same ideas all the time, or we’re not going to make the type of progress we want to make.”


06/05/2018
TESLA GETS GREEN LIGHT TO CREATE THE WORLD’S LARGEST VIRTUAL SOLAR PLANT IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The government of South Australia, which changed hands after an election this March, just announced that it would move forward with the previous regime’s agreement with Tesla to install solar panels on 1,100 houses, according to ABC. The original deal – to create what’s being called the world’s largest virtual power plant

ABC – was first struck in February between Tesla and South Australia’s then-dominant Labor Party. But when Steven Marshall of the Liberal Party was elected Premier of South Australia, it was unclear if the government would honor that agreement, or move forward with the Liberal Party’s own plan to subsidize 40 thousand home battery units to bring renewable energy to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.



In good news for clean energy innovation, the government decided to do both.



The Tesla plan, funded by a two million dollar grant and 30 million dollar loan from the Australian state’s government, could scale up to 50 thousand solar-powered home batteries if the earlier stages are successful. In addition to the Liberal Party’s own 100 million dollar program — which would subsidize about 2,500 dollars of installation costs per household — this means that South Australia may have a grid of some 90 thousand solar-powered homes within the next few years.



If everything goes as planned this could make South Australia a world leader. It could also be a major proving ground, not just for renewable energy, but also for decentralized “virtual” power plants – a new type of energy infrastructure that’s gained some popular traction lately.



Right now, almost all of our electricity is generated in real time by power plants that produce enough power to meet demand, but can’t really store any extra for later. A distributed network of home-based generators hooked up to batteries would, advocates argue, be able to provide for the energy needs of that community without putting extra demand on the power plants in that area. And doing so with a network of solar panels hooked up to battery units would let them do so without any greenhouse gas emissions, aside from those given off while producing the solar panels themselves.



The network of batteries would help the community stay powered even in spite of that annoying, anti-solar talking point “lol what happens if its cloudy,” and would also help distribute energy if one house needs (or produces) a little extra power.



There’s a lot that needs to happen before South Australia gets off the grid and starts powering itself with Tesla’s solar cells, but the government’s continued support for low-cost renewable energy is a good sign for the environment and a future increasingly powered by clean energy.
06/04/2018
GOOGLE REALLY WANTS YOU TO GET SOME SOLAR PANELS
​Google’s solar mapping tool Project Sunroof, which uses Google Maps’ satellite imaging software to gauge the suitability of individual homes for solar panels, is now available in the UK. ‘Project Sunroof’ was first launched in the US in 2015, originally covering Boston and San Francisco Bay before being rolled out to include tens of millions of homes across the country. It also launched in Germany earlier this year.

TECHRADAR -- Now Google has partnered with UK energy supplier E.ON to bring the online tool to the UK. Homeowners visiting the E.ON website are able to diagnose the suitability of their roof for panel installation, based on the roof’s size, pitch, and nearby obstacles such as other buildings or trees that could block sunlight.

Can your gadgets really live off solar power alone?

In one or two minutes you can be looking at a cross section of your roof tagged with your estimated ‘solar yield’ per year, and the predicted costs for standalone panels or those with in-built battery storage.


All your friends are doing it.

For an accurate quote, users are asked to input the number of residents in their home, as well as their average power usage and peak usage periods in the day. The mapping service can also show you which buildings nearby already have solar panels installed – possibly to prod your sense of social obligation.

Unsurprisingly, E.ON is unable to install panels on rented properties, though you’re still able to get a quote for your home if you’re curious.
06/01/2018
ELECTRIC VEHICLES WILL GROW FROM 3 MILLION TO 125 MILLION BY 2030, INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY FORECASTS
​The number of electric vehicles on the road around the world will hit 125 million by 2030, the International Energy Agency forecasts. The world's fleet of electric vehicles grew 54 percent to about 3.1 million in 2017. The IEA says government policy will continue to be the linchpin for electric vehicle adoption.

CNBC -- There will be enough electric cars on the road for roughly every person in Japan — the world's 11th most populous country — in just more than two decades, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).



Electric vehicle (EV) ownership will balloon to about 125 million by 2030, spurred by policies that encourage drivers, fleets and municipalities to purchase clean-running cars, the policy advisor to energy-consuming nations forecast on Wednesday.



That marks a big jump from 2017, when the IEA estimated there were 3.1 million electric vehicles in use, up 54 percent from the previous year.



IEA's 22-year outlook still leaves plenty of room for fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Forecasts put the world's total car count at roughly 2 billion somewhere in the 2035 to 2040 window.



However, the IEA also sees a pathway to 220 million electric vehicles by 2030, provided the world takes a more aggressive approach to fighting climate change and cutting emissions than currently planned.



While battery costs are falling, the IEA acknowledges that government policy remains critical to making EVs attractive to drivers, spurring investment and helping carmakers achieve economies of scale.



"The uptake of electric vehicles is still largely driven by the policy environment," the IEA said in the report. "The 10 leading countries in electric vehicle adoption all have a range of policies in place to promote the uptake of electric cars."



Policies in place today will make China and Europe the biggest adopters, in the IEA's view. In China, credits and subsidies will help EVs grow to account for more than a quarter of the car market by 2030. Meanwhile, tightening emissions standards and high fuel taxes in Europe will boost the vehicles to 23 percent of the market.




As for the United States, the IEA sees electric vehicle deployment growing at two speeds. While it sees "rapid market penetration" in places like California and other states with zero emissions plans, relatively low taxes on fuels and the Trump administration's intentions to scale back vehicle emissions standards could hold back growth.



China is already becoming a behemoth in the space. New electric car sales surged by 72 percent, or 580,000 units, in 2017, pushing total ownership over 1 million vehicles. The country is also driving growth in electric buses and two-wheeled vehicles, accounting for about 99 percent of the world's stock of the fast-growing categories.



Still, Germany and Japan posted the biggest electric vehicle growth in 2017, with electric vehicle sales more than doubling from 2016.



There are also regional differences when it comes to the type of electric vehicles consumers are gravitating towards. The IEA measured the strongest orientation to pure battery electric vehicles in China, France and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom have the highest share of plug-in hybrid cars.



Norway remains the leader when it comes to market share. Electric vehicles accounted for 39 percent of Norway's new car sales last year, and 6.4 percent of the country's cars are powered by electricity. That makes Norway the leader in both categories.



But in another sign of the importance of policy, Norway is the only member of the IEA's Electric Vehicles Initiative that saw annual sales volume and market share fall between 2013 and 2017. The IEA chalks up those declines to a change in the way the tax system treats private use of company cars and the end of tax incentives last year for plug-in hybrids.
05/30/2018
IN A SINGLE DAY, THE ELECTRIC CAR BOOM GAINS SPEED IN 3 STATES
In a single day, the electric car boom may have scored hundreds of millions of dollars of additional investments in three states. First, New Jersey’s biggest utility owner Public Service Enterprise Group laid out a plan to spend $300 million on electric-car charging stations. Then California cleared utilities to invest a combined $738 million on projects promoting EVs. 

BLOOMBERG -- And the New York Power Authority committed as much as $250 million on charging stations, including ones at airports.

States are doubling down on efforts to replace gasoline-guzzling cars with emissions-free, electric vehicles, even as the White House moves to unravel automotive efficiency standards. Just as electric-car initiatives were gaining speed in California, New Jersey and New York on Thursday, the Trump administration was said to be seeking an end to California’s unique authority to set its own fuel efficiency limits to curb emissions.

Despite federal efforts to save fossil fuels, the U.S. is on pace to have more than 1 million electric vehicles on the road by the end of the year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that figure will surpass 16 million in 2028.

​“It’s a watershed moment,” said BNEF advanced transportation analyst Salim Morsy. “There’s no longer any question that electrification is going to happen on a very large scale.”

The plan approved by the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday marks the largest-ever utility investment toward the adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S., laying the groundwork for a statewide electric car-charging network. It follows a 2015 California law that required utilities to invest in electrifying transportation to help curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
05/29/2018
10 MASSIVE CORPORATIONS GOING BIG ON SOLAR POWER
American businesses are investing record amounts in solar, with the top corporate users adding 325 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity last year, according to the "Solar Means Business 2017" report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

CNBC -- The impact of corporate solar is significant: the solar installations analyzed in the SEIA report produce enough electricity to power 402,000 U.S. homes and offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

​Here, CNBC's Sustainable Energy looks at the top 10 corporations in the U.S. by their installed capacity of solar power.


10. Amazon.com — 33.6 MW

It's not only solar power that Amazon is embracing. Last year, the business announced that its largest wind farm to date, Amazon Wind Farm Texas, was up and running. The facility, located in Scurry County, has more than 100 turbines and will add one million megawatt hours of clean energy to the grid each year.


9. Macy's — 38.9 MW 

As well as having installed almost 40 MW of solar capacity, Macy's wants to increase the amount of its waste diverted from landfills to 70 percent by this year.


8. IKEA — 44.9 MW

By 2020, the IKEA Group wants to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes in its operations. On its website, the business says it wants to source all its wood from more sustainable sources, also by 2020.



7. General Growth Properties — 50.2 MW

Real estate business General Growth Properties describes sustainability as "an integral component of GGP's long-term success."



6. Costco Wholesale — 50.8 MW

Costco is embracing solar in a big way. The businesses states that at the end of the fiscal year for 2017 it was using solar photovoltaic systems at 100 warehouses, from New York to Japan.



5. Kohl's — 51.5 MW

Department store Kohl's is not only turning to solar power to reduce its environmental impact. On its website, the business states that it recycles around 150,000 tons of materials annually, which represents more than 80 percent of waste generated.



4. Apple — 79.4 MW   

Tech giant Apple places fourth in the SEIA's list. Earlier this year, Apple announced that its global facilities were powered by 100 percent clean energy. CEO Tim Cook described the development as a significant milestone for the business.




3. Prologis — 120.7 MW

Third placed Prologis has a little under 121 MW of installed capacity, according to the SEIA's report. The business is targeting a 20 percent cut in corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, from a 2011 baseline.



2. Walmart — 149.4 MW

With just under 150 MW of solar capacity installed Walmart grabs second place in the SEIA's list. Looking at the bigger picture, the retail giant wants to slash emissions from its value chain by one billion metric tons by 2030.



1. Target — 203.5 MW

Target added over 40 MW of solar to its portfolio in 2017. The business now has more than 200 MW of installed capacity.
05/28/2018
FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE COULD SAVE THE WORLD TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS
On the White House lawn in June 2017, President Donald Trump announced his plan to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate agreement — a deal he considers bad for the American economy. 

MASHABLE -- The climate agreement, which is intended to limit the severity of climate change, will likely be a substantial benefit to most of the world's economies, argue researchers in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Not placing limits on climate-warming carbon emissions, however, would be costly for nearly everyone.



The plan — which was even signed by North Korea — hopes to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, back in the 1800s when the atmosphere had substantially less carbon pollution.



Until now, there's been an inadequate understanding of how nations might fare economically from collectively meeting these climate goals. 



To figure that out, researchers combed through both temperature and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data from 165 countries between 1960 and 2010, finding that 90 percent of the global population will likely benefit from meeting the ambitious Paris carbon target of limiting warming to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).



Higher than average temperatures, they found, can drain economic productivity. 



"As temperature's warm, output level falls," Marshall Burke, lead author of the study, said in call with reporters.




It's particularly important that scientists get some sense of how economies will respond in a warming world, in part, because the Earth's climate is already changing. 



The planet may soon breach the 1-degree Celsius benchmark above pre-industrial levels, although some scientists think it already has.



It's unknown exactly how climate change will affect each and every country in the coming decades, said Burke, but he emphasized that "the benefits of meeting the stringent targets vastly outweigh the costs."



And it appears humanity has underestimated how large the magnitude of these costs — which include pummeling storms, declines in crop yields, and the spread of disease — truly is. 



"As we further grasp the consequences of disrupting the fundamental environment on which modern civilization depends, projections of these costs continue to climb," Sarah Green, an environmental chemist at Michigan Technical University who was not involved in the study, said over email. 



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that in 2017 the U.S. "experienced a historic year of weather and climate disasters," with 16 separate billion-dollar disasters. 



The world's three largest economies — the U.S., Japan, and China — are all expected to benefit from meeting the 1.5 Celsius carbon target, although the researchers found the poorest nations in the world, which are generally also the hottest, serve to benefit the most. 




Overall, this means avoiding the nearly unfathomable losses of income associated with a warming climate. For example, if the world were to warm to between 2.5 and 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the researchers project that global economic output would fall between 15 and 25 percent, which amounts to tens of trillions of dollars.



Some of this loss is caused by the direct impact of heat on our bodies. 



"Humans function really well when the temperature is mild," said Marshall. He notes that heat makes us less productive, affecting labor output, cognitive abilities, and the fact that "people are more violent went you crank up the temperature."




Transforming massive, complicated economies to meet the 1.5 or 2 degree Celsius targets certainly won't be a simple, nor cheap, task.



Tearing down fossil fuel burning-power plants while constructing renewable energy infrastructure has a massive price tag, perhaps costing nations a considerable chunk the all the money they bring in each year, known more formally as Gross Domestic product, or GDP. (U.S. GDP in 2017 was over $19 trillion.)



If a country wanted to cut emissions in an extreme way, it would need to spend the equivalent of a few percentage points of GDP, David Victor, a professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego who had no involvement in the study, said in an interview.



"That’s a lot of money," said Victor. "That’s the amount of money you spend on a war."



But, he notes, politicians nearly always emphasize the costs of energy transformation, often ignoring the economic benefits illustrated in this study. 



Simply put, it costs money to make money.



And even if nations don't meet the 1.5 Celsius target, these benefits can still be momentous. 



"It's not an all or nothing game," Kate Larsen, the former White House Council on Environmental Quality Deputy Director for Energy and Climate Change under the Obama Administration, said in an interview.



"There's a spectrum of impacts that go from pretty bad to only minor," she said. "There will still be impacts if we meet the Paris goals, but we would have avoided some of the most damaging consequences."



But not meeting the Paris goals, either the more stringent 1.5 degree or 2 degree Celsius targets, will likely hit nations in the place they care about most: their wallets. 



"Temperature affects the fundamental building blocks of economies," said Marshall.
05/25/2018
NORMAN BECOMES FIRST OKLAHOMA CITY TO COMMIT TO CLEAN ENERGY
The city of Norman took an environmental leap Tuesday with a resolution to transition to 100 percent renewable energy in city buildings by 2035.

NORMAN TRANSCRIPT -- The resolution makes Norman the first city in Oklahoma to make such a commitment to renewables and will see the city tap sources like wind and solar for electricity. By 2050, the resolution calls for 100 percent clean energy commitment across the board, including heating and transportation.



“We’ve already been taking baby steps toward this, and I think this is the public commitment to take us the rest of the way,” Ward 6 council member Breea Clark said. “We’re getting noticed for our efforts; now it’s time to follow through.”



According to the Sierra Club, 69 cities have made the commitment to clean energy, and six cities have reached that goal.



Ready for 100% is a national Sierra Club campaign whose Norman contingent was responsible for bringing the issue to the city. Norman campaign representatives presented recommendations to the Community Planning and Transportation Committee in March and have since been working with the city’s Environmental Control Advisory Board (ECAB) to further develop a plan.



How the city will reach its energy goals is to be determined. There could be legislative hurdles, and the city is still negotiating a long-term franchise agreement with OG&E, but the resolution has received broad support from the community and some practical measures are already being explored.



“It definitely makes our community a lot harder to get to renewable energy, but OG&E has stated they want to work with us, and we made it very clear where we want to go in the future,” Clark said. “I’m sure there are hurdles, but look at what our state has done in terms of [compressed natural gas] … I think Oklahoma is trying to get there.”



During the Ready for 100% presentation before the Community Planning and Transportation Committee in March, Ready for 100% policy committee chair Katherine Trent suggested that a wind farm could be a viable option. At an estimated cost of $87.6 million and an annual upkeep of $14.1 million, a 22-turbine facility that generates 50 megawatts of electricity would be less labor intensive than a solar facility at $20.2 million for 25 megawatts, she said.



Trent said a wind farm of that magnitude would generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of the city’s current needs and could be supplemented with an expansion or solar energy as technology becomes more cost effective.



If land availability is an issue, Trent suggested the wind farm could be constructed in Tuttle and electricity could be routed to Norman.



Clark said that’s just one idea and the city will look at all its options, like solar panels on city buildings and possibly schools. A Mayor’s Climate Agreement Subcommittee of ECAB will be formed to develop an outline for the transition process, with the aim of completing it by Jan. 1, 2020.




“What I’m excited about is there’s an ECAB subcommittee focused on it,” she said. “I think that shows that we’re moving forward on the issue and giving residents of Norman a chance to participate in the process.”



One way or another, Trent said renewable energy is happening. In 2017, the World Bank made a commitment to no longer fund fossil fuel extraction, and some industry experts have predicted that oil prices will fall over the next 10 years as consumer demands change and supplies flood a market that’s increasingly saturated due to the U.S. shale boom.


• Griffin land acquisition: The city has awarded a $900,000 contract to Lippert Bros. Inc. for the Norman Forward Griffin Sports Complex project.



The city still hasn’t worked out a deal to acquire the land from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, but city attorney Jeff Bryant said both parties are inching toward a resolution that may take the form of a long-term lease.



“They’re looking at new facilities … and it’s taken them a little more time for them to figure that out than we hoped,” he said.



Bryant said one possibility is a collaboration between Norman Regional Health Systems and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to secure new facilities for the department.



Meanwhile, Bryant said the city has submitted a lease term sheet to the department and is hoping to get a response soon, possibly by the end of the week.



The city would have to pay the lease, but Ward 4 council member Bill Hickman said that could make a large portion of the $10 million allotted to the land acquisition available for other projects.



Ward 1 council member Kate Bierman said though it’s reassuring that a deal appears imminent, it’s worrying that the city finds itself tied up in a project that was put together and approved without assurances regarding the land acquisition.



“This is not the only Norman Forward project that we have run into this roadblock,” she said. “I hope we don’t do this again … I hope we’ve learned a lesson.”



Ward 3 council member Robert Castleberry bemoaned the fact that the city has spent $1.4 million in sales tax on Norman Forward projects that could have been avoided, had the city found a way to exercise its tax-exempt status.



“I think it’s ridiculous that we’re not using our tax-exempt status and we’re paying sales tax,” he said. “We only get half of it [back]. And the reason is that we don’t have the staff to manage it. This is why we need an internal auditor.”
05/24/2018
BP INVESTS $20M IN TECH TO CHARGE ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN 5 MINUTES
BP announced Tuesday it plans to invest $20 million in StoreDot, an Israeli startup that claims to offer 5-minute electric-vehicle charging with a new generation of lithium-ion batteries.

“Ultra-fast charging is at the heart of BP’s electrification strategy," said Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive of BP downstream, in a statement. "StoreDot’s technology shows real potential for car batteries that can charge in the same time it takes to fill a gas tank."



StoreDot is currently developing lithium ion-based battery technology that enables super-fast charging for both mobile and industrial markets. The startup demonstrated a proof of concept for 5-minute EV charging last year, showing investors how its new organic compounds combined with nanomaterials are implemented in the battery cell.



The firm's new "flash batteries" are currently in the advanced stages of development. StoreDot plans to deploy the technology in mobile devices as early as next year. BP’s investment will help bring the technology to vehicles.



StoreDot claims its batteries contain an eco-friendly electrolyte that's stable at high temperatures and allows an EV to travel for more than 300 miles on a single charge. The promise of StoreDot's technology recently caught the eye of Daimler's truck and buses unit, which led a $60 million investment in StoreDot in September of last year.



StoreDot's “flash battery” departs from traditional lithium-ion batteries in the active materials it uses, according to Ravi Manghani, senior director of energy storage at GTM Research. Typical lithium-ion batteries use metal oxides, whereas StoreDot is commercializing the use of polymers.




"This can improve the energy density, as well as allow less reliance on metals such as nickel and cobalt," said Manghani. "There are additional safety attributes, which may be important as well."



Another company that's working on a polymer-based battery solution, Ionic Materials, has also been in the news for having recently scored an investment from the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. 



"This technology has great promise. I don't really know how quickly it can be commercialized, though," said Manghani. "There's always a gap in battery technology R&D between lab or pilot results and actual manufacturing at scale. We project polymer-based chemistries have the potential to become mainstream sometime in the 2030 time frame."



A strategic investor like BP can afford to wait. The company's Advanced Mobility Unit was set up to build material, sustainable businesses for BP’s downstream business in a low-carbon, digitally enabled future — giving the oil giant a foothold in the evolving cleantech market.



BP significantly boosted its EV projections in its most recent energy outlook. Earlier this year, BP's venture arm invested in mobile EV charging company Freewire.



“With our growing portfolio of charging infrastructure and technologies, we’re excited by our opportunities to develop truly innovative EV customer offers," said Erginbilgic. "We are committed to be the fuel provider of choice — no matter what car our customers drive.”
05/23/2018
NISSAN'S FOLLOWING TESLA INTO SOLAR POWER AND HOME BATTERIES
GIVEN THE WEATHER in the United Kingdom—that cloudy, foggy, drizzly country—it doesn’t seem like the best place to launch a business that revolves around solar power. 

WIRED -- But this is where the builder of the world’s best-selling electric car just started selling Nissan Energy Solar, a generation-to-acceleration scheme that equips customers with roof-mounted panels and a battery to store some of the electricity they generate. If they drive a Leaf, or Nissan’s e-NV200 electric van, they can combine the whole process and drive from Scotland to Wales to wherever, guilt-free, fog lights on, windshield wipers whisking away.



Despite the weather, solar works well in the UK. Panels can do their thing even with indirect sunlight, and the country’s northerly position makes for 16 hours of daytime during the summer. Nearly a million people there already use solar panels, according to Nissan. Adding batteries to the mix will help them stay powered up even when the weather turns, well, normal. “It enables UK homeowners to make significant savings on their household electricity bills, and become champions of sustainability and green technology,” says Gareth Dunsmore, electric vehicle director for Nissan Europe.



If this sounds familiar, it’s because Nissan is biting at Tesla’sheels. A decade after CEO Elon Musk said he wanted to offer zero emission power generation options, Tesla acquired Solar City. Now, its customers can buy an entire clean energy stack: roof panels, a Powerwall home battery, and of course, a car. (Tesla also created a sleek design for solar panels that look like a normal roof, and that does away with that ugly flat black glass look.)



Nissan says its all-in-one system will start at $5,200 for six solar panels, or $10,300 for panels and a 4-kWh battery, including installation. Customers can choose between a brand new battery, or a “second-life” pack made from cells that have been retired from electric vehicles but remain good enough for the more gentle demands of daily storage. Tesla’s powerwall, which can store 13.5 kWh, costs $5,900, but installation is extra.



While Nissan’s solar scheme is only available in the UK for now, it’s easy to see how this sort of setup could improve life in the US. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 28 percent of greenhouse gases came from transportation in 2016, and 28 percent from electricity. Get more people to combine renewable energy with zero emission driving, and you can start to chip away at more than half of US emissions.




An average US household uses around 30 kWh of electricity per day, so these batteries aren’t meant to take you off the grid or keep you Netflixing through a lengthy power outage. The smaller systems are designed to smooth out the peaks in electricity demand, storing solar generated power during the day for use in the evening, when the sun goes down and the lights, TV, and stove go on.



This kind of local storage takes some of the pressure off over-taxed electricity grids. It also pairs well with the time of use tariffs providers in the US and UK are starting to introduce, where rates vary with demand—climbing at peak time, but lowering overnight. Instead of paying more at peak times, just draw power from the battery your solar panels spent the day filling up. And when prices drop overnight, tap into the grid to charge up your EV. Nissan is also experimenting with the idea of making use of the large battery in electric cars (40 kWh in the Leaf) to power homes, which, with smart controls to maintain adequate driving range, could provide an even more integrated infrastructure solution.



Other solar panel companies offer home batteries, but it makes sense for automakers to jump into this game. They’re increasingly the biggest global customers for batteries, and can control supply chains and prices. Tesla has taken on projects in Australia, Puerto Rico, and Belgium, where racks of batteries help balance demand across the entire grid and reduce the use of natural gas power plants when demand spikes.



For now, Nissan’s has no firm plans to bring the system to the US, but a spokesperson says "we're always looking at ways to bring new, interesting technology to our customers here”. And these products are still niche, without a proven market. BMW has has been quiet recently about a plan it once promoted to sell recycled i3 car batteries. Mercedes-Benz reportedly pulled out of the home energy storage market completely, which in 2016 it said it wanted to develop along with electric cars.



Even if this energy business thing doesn’t work out, automakers are eager to tout their green credentials. Displaying shiny solar panels alongside sparkly vehicles in showrooms is a nice way to do that. And if the EV market does pick up as fast as they’re predicting, inserting themselves into the power supply business could secure them a place in a very sunny future.
05/21/2018
WATCH OUT FOR DOUBLE-SIDED SOLAR PANELS TAKING OFF IN CHINA
Here’s one way to get more power from solar panels: use both sides of the cells. But don’t expect that to double the output.

BLOOMBERG -- China is expected to jump-start the market for panels that can absorb light on both sides with plans to install 2.7 gigawatts this year, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Other regions may add as much as 200 megawatts in 2018, and the global market may reach 5 gigawatts by 2020. A typical nuclear reactor has about 1 gigawatt of capacity.


Standard solar panels have a mostly aluminum backing. The so-called bi-facial panels remove most of the aluminum from the bottom, exposing the semiconducting material so it can produce electricity from light that hits it on either side.



This costs more to make, and until recently, the higher output hasn’t been enough to attract developers. Better manufacturing techniques are making them cheaper, and early installations show about a 10 percent boost in output as light bounces off the ground to hit the underside of the panels. Pro tip: It helps to paint the ground white.
05/15/2018
BUSINESSES ARE BUYING MORE RENEWABLE POWER THAN EVER BEFORE
Buyers already signed deals for 3.3 gigawatts this year. On pace to break record of 4.8 gigawatts set in 2017.

BLOOMBERG -- Companies are buying renewable power at a record pace.

AT&T Inc. and Walmart Inc. are among 36 businesses, government agencies and universities that have agreed to buy 3.3 gigawatts of wind and solar power so far this year. That’s on track to shatter the previous high of 4.8 gigawatts of disclosed deals last year, according to a report Monday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.


One of the key reasons is that smaller companies are more comfortable doing these deals now.
“There’s a blueprint now,” said Kyle Harrison, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “So it’s a lot easier for other companies to do it.” In addition to the 4.8 gigawatts in announced deals last year, BNEF also estimates 600 megawatts of undisclosed contracts were signed in Asia.


The gains are also due to local renewables program and growing demand in international markets like Mexico and Australia.


Buying Binge
Corporations are acquiring more clean power than ever before

There are several reasons clean power is attractive. Renewable energy is often the cheapest source of electricity. Long-term contracts to buy clean power from wind and solar farms can also act as hedges against uncertain wholesale prices.
Google and other big technology companies have driven the trend, but the pool of clean-power buyers is deepening.
Smaller companies have benefited from growing standardization in the ways companies agree to buy clean energy. Sometimes these companies are recruited to buy wind and solar power from the same power plant as larger buyers that function “like anchor tenants,” Harrison said.
Other findings from the BNEF report:

* Of the 3.3 gigawatts of clean-power deals signed this year, 76 percent involve U.S. power projects
* The 15 clean-power deals signed globally in April will add almost 1.1 gigawatts of new wind and solar power
* Industrias Penoles SAB signed the largest agreement in April, a 245-megawatt wind-power contract that’s also the biggest such deal in Mexico since a landmark energy-market reform
* Mumbai Metro signed India’s second-biggest corporate power-purchase agreement
05/09/2018
CONSUMER INTEREST TRENDS TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY, SAY REALTORS®
As consumer demand trends toward green and sustainable home features, Realtors® continue to work to promote environmentally responsible features and business practices. Sixty-one percent of Realtors® reported that consumers are interested in sustainability.

NATIONAL ASSOC. OF REALTORS -- The report, www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/realtors-and-sustainability, which stems from NAR’s Sustainability Program, surveyed Realtors® about sustainability issues in the residential and commercial real estate markets and the preferences they are seeing in consumers in their communities.



“Consumers continue to make it clear that environmentally friendly features and neighborhoods are an important factor in deciding where and what home to buy,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “Realtors® are leaders in the conversation about real estate sustainability, energy conservation and resource efficiency, and will continue to promote environmentally conscious strategies and best practices that benefit not just our clients, but also our communities.”



Seventy-one percent of agents and brokers reported that promoting energy efficiency in listings is either somewhat or very valuable. When asked what they consider to be the top market issues and considerations regarding sustainability, agents and brokers listed understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar panels (36 percent), improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock (34 percent) and the lack of information and materials provided to real estate professionals (30 percent).



The survey asked Realtors® how comfortable they are answering questions about home performance and efficiency; 39 percent said they are comfortable or extremely comfortable. Forty percent of respondents say they are confident or extremely confident in their ability to connect clients with green lenders.



To account for growing consumer interest, 40 percent of respondents reported that their Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, have green data fields, compared to only 15 percent that do not. Among those that do have green data fields, 37 percent of respondents use them to promote green features, 27 percent to promote energy information and 16 percent to promote green certifications.




A majority of respondents (80 percent) said that solar panels are available in their market, and 39 percent said that solar panels increased the perceived property value. Twenty-three percent of brokers indicated that tiny homes – homes that are 600 square feet or less – are available in their market.



The transportation and commuting features that Realtors® stated are very or somewhat important to their clients include easy access to highways (82 percent), short commute times and distance to work (81 percent) and walkability (51 percent).



For the first time questions about commercial real estate were included in the survey. Seventy percent of agents and brokers indicated that promoting energy efficiency in their commercial listings was very or somewhat valuable. The top building features that clients specified as very or somewhat important to their agents or brokers are utility/operation costs (80 percent), efficient use of lighting (64 percent) and indoor air quality (62 percent).



NAR initiated the Sustainability Program as a platform for dialogue on sustainability for Realtors®, brokers, allied trade associations, and consumers. The program’s efforts focus on coordination and articulation of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers, helping members to assist home buyers and sellers.



The REALTOR® Sustainability Program invited a sample of 112,220 active Realtors® to participate in an online survey pertaining to sustainability issues facing consumers and the industry, resulting in 6,834 usable responses. NAR plans to use this report to better benchmark Realtor® understanding of sustainability and create resources to help Realtors® better serve clients surrounding sustainability topics.
05/08/2018
MINNEAPOLIS BECOMES 65TH U.S. CITY TO COMMIT TO 100% CLEAN ENERGY
​On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved the city’s commitment to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030, the Sierra Club has announced.

SOLAR INDUSTRY MAGAZINE -- According to the Sierra Club, Minneapolis now represents the largest city in the Midwest and the 65th city in the country to establish a goal of transitioning entirely to clean energy.



As part of the city’s commitment, the Minneapolis City Coordinator’s Office will prepare a blueprint by the first quarter of 2019 for how Minneapolis will meet its goal, including policy and technology strategies. The Sierra Club says the blueprint will also include strategies to “ensure that all consumers, especially those who have been left out of the benefits of energy programs in the past – communities of color; low-income communities; renters; and communities that have borne the brunt of past environmental racism – receive equitable benefit from this transition.”




According to a release from the city, municipal facilities and operations will transition to 100% renewable energy by 2022, and the city will transition by 2030. The city says it opposes the rollback of climate policy at the federal level and reaffirms its ongoing commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.



In addition to the city’s commitment, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has joined the Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative, a growing coalition of nearly 200 mayors nationwide who have announced support for a goal of powering their communities with 100% renewable energy.



“One effective way to make sure that energy remains affordable and that the transition to clean energy meets the needs of those most marginalized and historically impacted by pollution is persistent and intentional community engagement from a wide range of people,” says Frey.
05/03/2018
NEW YORK BOOSTS EFFICIENCY TARGET, MAKES WAY FOR MORE SOLAR AND ENERGY STORAGE
New York regulators green-light multiple initiatives to advance the state’s clean energy goals, while the governor doubles down on energy efficiency.

GREENTECH MEDIA -- Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new energy efficiency standards for New York on Friday, calling for investor-owned utilities to achieve annual efficiency savings equal to 3 percent of sales by 2025.



The new target would accelerate energy efficiency by more than 40 percent over current forecasts and reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion Btu. The state also committed $36.5 million to train more than 19,500 New Yorkers for clean energy jobs.



"Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way for New Yorkers to lower utility bills, curb harmful emissions and battle climate change," said Governor Cuomo, in a statement.



The energy efficiency plan should help the state achieve nearly one-third of its climate goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030. 



New York’s Public Service Commission also approved a series of measures last week as part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. Now in its fourth year, REV is a sweeping overhaul of utility and energy regulations meant to enable more distributed energy on the grid.



One of the changes will allow distributed energy storage projects of up to 5 megawatts to connect to the grid, which the commission says will expand the integration of larger energy storage technologies.​



“New York is sending strong signals to the storage industry to come to invest in New York, and those signals are coming in [the form of many] different changes, and this is one of them,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.



Regulators also improved upon the application and contract process for Standardized Interconnection Requirements, which should help developers connect distributed generation projects to the distribution system more efficiently.




Another rule will make it easier for neighboring farms to form community distributed generation projects, including the use of anaerobic digesters to produce electricity. Previous rules required at least 10 farms to work together in order to start a project.



“Now you can have just two or three or four farms get together and do distributed wind, or digesters orsolar” said Reynolds. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see if now you can have small farm cooperatives — two neighboring dairy farms having a solar project together.”



Another measure approved last week will create a utility energy registry to give the public online access to customer-load data for the state’s major utilities. Starting in mid-2018, the project is intended to foster “increased awareness of energy use patterns” and promote conservation. Officials included a new privacy standard for data collected from apartment buildings as well.



The commission also approved a request from New York State Electric and Gas to implement time-based rates for a smart energy community project in the Ithaca area. On a pilot basis, about 12,000 customers with advanced metering infrastructure will be charged at least 2.5 times more for energy consumed during peak hours. Regulators said the change should send “a clear price signal to customers…to manage their energy usage.”



Earlier this month, Cuomo announced that up to $15 million would be available for projects that help advance and improve the resiliency of the electric grid, as part of an effort to lower energy costs and combat climate change. The state has already awarded $9.6 million through 22 contracts solicited in 2016 that focus on smart grid technologies.



In January Cuomo unveiled a series of clean energy proposals, including a pledge to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by 2025 as the state works toward 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The target came just a month after he signed a bill to create a storage deployment program.



The 1,500-megawatt goal comes with $200 million in funding from NYSERDA's Green Bank and another $60 million from NYSERDA's Clean Energy Fund. But so far, REV hasn't produced final tariffs to compensate storage for the locational value it provides to the grid.



Despite ongoing efforts to boost clean energy and efficiency in the state, many critics say New York should be doing more. More than 1,500 activists descended on the state capitol on Monday to blast Cuomo for not doing more to combat climate change. One of the protestors was actor and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who announced a platform calling for 100 percent renewable energy last week.



Reynolds says the enthusiasm of climate activists in New York has pushed Cuomo to move forward on clean energy initiatives in recent years.



“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of implementation," she said. "But the goals are really strong, and this latest energy efficiency announcement was the missing piece in getting us toward those goals.”
05/01/2018
SUNSHINE STATE IS SET TO GET MORE SOLAR AFTER FLORIDA RULING
Expect to see a lot more solar rooftops in Florida.

BLOOMBERG -- The Sunshine State is removing what solar installer Sunrun Inc. has seen as a roadblock to consumer panel leasing, an arrangement that drove a boom in rooftop power systems elsewhere in the U.S. A ruling by Florida regulators on Friday will allow Sunrun, the largest U.S. residential-solar company, to expand in the state, the company said.

​Utilities are the only entities that can legally sell electricity in Florida. Sunrun requested a clarification to that policy, and the Florida Public Service Commission ruled that the company’s 20-year solar-equipment leases don’t constitute a retail sale of electricity.



The commission said Friday that Sunrun didn’t require its approval before starting to lease panels. Julie Brown, a member of the agency, went as far as to tell the company during a hearing that it didn’t need to seek action. But the company said that households in Florida were unable to lease solar until Friday’s decision.




“The commission’s vote to grant our petition is a critical step toward broadening access to solar energy for Floridian households,” Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer for Sunrun, said in an emailed statement.



Leases let consumers get rooftop panels with little or no upfront costs. Absent leasing, homeowners have to pay for the systems themselves or finance them -- a barrier that has helped utilities like NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light Co. fend off a wave of residential solar. NextEra declined to comment.



While Florida doesn’t have clean-energy targets, it ranks third in the U.S. in terms of potential rooftop solar and 12th in installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.



“Florida was already going to be a growth market,” Hugh Bromley, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview. “This could supercharge that.”
04/30/2018
MGM RESORTS WILL USE SOLAR ARRAY TO POWER LAS VEGAS CASINOS
MGM Resorts International plans to power its sizable share of the Strip with a dedicated solar array capable of supplying up to 90 percent of daytime demand at the company’s 13 Las Vegas casinos.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL -- MGM Resorts is partnering with Chicago-based renewable developer Invenergy on a new 100-megawatt photovoltaic array set to go online in 2020, about 25 miles northeast of Las Vegas.



Invenergy is slated to start construction next year on 640 acres of federal land northwest of where U.S. Highway 93 splits from Interstate 15 near Apex Industrial Park. All of the electricity generated by the array will go to MGM Resorts under a 20-year agreement.



The site is located within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, one of five areas in Southern Nevada and 19 nationwide designated by President Barack Obama’s administration to fast track utility-scale solar development.



Ortega said the array will consist of 336,000 solar panels capable of producing enough power for about 27,000 homes.



The project is expected to employ about 350 people during construction and generate about $20 million in sales and property tax revenue, according to a joint statement from MGM Resorts and Invenergy.



Ortega said such a project would not have been possible before MGM severed its relationship with NV Energy in 2016 and began buying its own electricity on the wholesale market. “A huge rationale for why we did that as so we could do this project,” she said.




The gaming giant had to pay an exit fee of $86.9 million to leave NV Energy, which counted on MGM Resorts for nearly 5 percent of its energy sales.



Wynn Resorts Ltd. also withdrew as a retail customer of the utility in 2016, after paying a $15.7 million exit fee.



In January, Wynn Resorts announced it had partnered with Enel Green Power North America on a 20 MW solar array near Fallon, 375 miles northwest of Las Vegas.



The project is under construction and scheduled to go online this summer. All of its power will be sent through existing transmission lines directly to Wynn Resorts, where it eventually will provide all of the electricity needed for the company’s $1.5 billion Paradise Park development.



MGM Resorts started the growing solar arms race on the Strip when it built an array atop the Mandalay Bay convention center in 2014 and expanded it to 20 acres of roof and 8.3 MW of output in 2016. It still ranks as nation’s largest contiguous rooftop solar project, according to the company.



Once the Invenergy project goes on line, Ortega said, 30 percent of MGM Resort’s power in Southern Nevada will come from clean, renewable sources. “That means no carbon emissions,” she said.



The company hopes to increase that amount to 50 percent in the coming years with the help of advancing battery technology that will enable the storage of solar power for nighttime use.



“Protecting the planet is a business imperative for MGM Resorts, and it is our responsibility to find innovative ways where we can use clean energy to power our resorts,” Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said in a written statement. “Incorporating renewable energy into MGM’s portfolio will fundamentally reduce MGM’s environmental footprint.”
04/27/2018
TARGET LEADS THE WAY AS U.S. CORPORATIONS LOOK TO GO BIG ON SOLAR
American businesses are investing record amounts in solar, with the top corporate users adding 325 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity last year, according to a report.

CNBC -- Leading the way was Target, which added over 40 MW of solar capacity to its portfolio in 2017. The retailer now has more than 200 MW of installed capacity.



Released Thursday, the "Solar Means Business 2017" report, from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), contains data from more than 4,000 businesses.


"To leading companies across America, deploying solar is a common-sense business decision," Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, said in a statement. "Large corporations have found that going solar not only benefits the environment, but also their bottom-line, satisfying both shareholders and customers alike."




The top 10 corporate solar users in the U.S. include businesses such as Walmart, Apple, Amazon and Kohl's.


The impact of corporate solar is not insignificant. The solar installations tracked in the SEIA report produce enough electricity to power 402,000 U.S. houses and offset 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.



Target's vice president for property management, John Leisen, said that the business was "putting solutions in place across our business to leave our homes better for future families."



The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to the "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018" report from UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.



The report, released earlier this month, found that 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity was installed in 2017. Solar power attracted $160.8 billion of investment, more than any other technology. China, where a staggering 53 GW was added and $86.5 billion invested, was described as a "driving power" behind the increase in solar.
04/26/2018
SOLAR PROJECT LENDING STARTUP WUNDER CAPITAL RAISES $112 MILLION AS RENEWABLE ENERGY SHINES
04/26/2018
As renewable energy continues to gobble up more and more of the new energy capacity coming online, the solar project lending company Wunder Capital has raised $112 million in primarily debt financing to boost its business.

TECHCRUNCH -- The 90 percent debt and 10 percent equity commitment came from the multi-strategy investment firm Cyrus Investments, which has backed renewable energy projects for years through its investment in RePower Group.



“The debt component is going to blow out the lending opportunity,” says Wunder chief executive Bryan Birsic.



Wunder chose to consolidate the debt and equity round with a single lead investor to simplify the negotiation process on both sides of the table, Birsic said. “Since Cyrus is an equity holder in the company we can come to better terms,” on debt facilities and repayment, he said. 



Wunder lends money to commercial solar energy development projects throughout the U.S. and its business has been buoyed by a flood of demand for new solar energy projects coming online.



Since its launch in 2016, the company has financed more than 180 projects throughout the U.S., which are generating somewhere in the range of 50 megawatts (or enough electricity to power roughly 32,500 homes).




The Boulder, Colo.-based company makes money in three ways: It charges closing fees, a servicing fee and annual interest rate on the debt it provides — typically Wunder will pull in between 4 percent and 5 percent off of each loan it provides to a project.



And business… for renewable energy… is booming.



For instance, the industry appears to have shaken off concerns over price increases stemming from the tariffs imposed on solar panels as part of broad punitive measures President Trump has taken against China (which supplies most of the world’s solar panels).



“It was really pleasant to see that folks were less reactionary and more responsive to the data,” says Birsic. The headlines, Birsic explains, were worse than the reality for the industry. The headlines in January predicted a 30 percent tariff on solar panels, but banks thought those increases would ultimately result in a 3 percent price increase for residential solar installations and a 4 percent price increase for commercial solar.



Those price increases would only bring costs in line with what they were at the end of 2017, since over the course of the year prices on installations declined 10 percent, Birsic says.



“We’re very cool with the economics as it existed in 2017,” he said. 


NEW JERSEY TAKES A BIG STEP TOWARD RENEWABLE ENERGY (AND NUCLEAR GETS HELP, FOR NOW)
New Jersey significantly altered the future of its energy sector on Thursday, passing two bills that set ambitious goals for expanding renewable power and curtailing greenhouse gases in the state.

THE NEW YORK TIMES — The bills, which require power companies in New Jersey to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and subsidize existing nuclear power plants, mark one of the biggest new policy steps that any state has taken toward cutting greenhouse gases since President Trump was elected.



The central piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 3723, sets the renewable energy goal and anchors much of the growth in wind and solar energy, aiming to hit 35 percent renewables by 2025 and eventually 50 percent by 2030. That goal would pull New Jersey in line with some of the leading states on the issue, like New York and California.



The bill was passed in tandem with a $300 million annual subsidy to the state’s remaining nuclear power plants, which provide the state with roughly 40 percent of its electricity. Public Service Enterprise Group and Exelon, the utility companies that operate the power plants, say the subsidies are necessary to keep the power plants operational and open.



The bills passed by a wide margin in both the Assembly and Senate.



Since Mr. Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, 14 Democratic and Republican governors have announced that they would continue to uphold the accord and push forward with their own efforts to reduce emissions.



But, to date, new progress has been slow. States like California and New York already had progressive clean-energy policies that were well underway before Mr. Trump took office. And few states have managed to significantly step up policy action; efforts to put a price on carbon failed to pass through legislatures in Washington and Oregon this year.



But in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy has seen some success, and these energy bills, which the governor has indicated he will sign, mark a significant step. Having made environmental issues a focus of both his campaign and his early tenure, Mr. Murphy has already signed numerous executive orders, including one that laid the groundwork for expanding offshore wind energy near Atlantic City.



While his administration has struggled to sell the tax increases arising from his inaugural budget to fellow Democrats, he has largely had success when it comes to moving the state forward in combating climate change.



“The environmental reality in this state for the past eight years, and if that weren’t enough, the environmental chops of the Trump administration,” Mr. Murphy said in an interview, “felt like an urgent crisis.”



The inclusion of the nuclear subsidy, though, has dampened enthusiasm among some environmental groups for the package of measures, exposing the rift among those who view nuclear energy as inherently clean — in that it has no greenhouse gas emissions — and those who view the industry as a threat because of safety, regulation and waste disposal issues.



Mr. Murphy is wholly in favor of nuclear energy.




“I believe the biggest bridge we have to our clean energy future are the nukes and, not to mention, the thousands of jobs they support,” he said.



The ambitious goals set forth in the renewable energy bill have caused concern among some environmental groups usually opposed to nuclear energy. But the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been supportive of New Jersey’s efforts toward renewable energy, has said it will not oppose the nuclear subsidy bill.



“We don’t want to see the abrupt closure of nuclear plants, because if you close them tomorrow, we know that they’ll just be replaced by more fossil fuels,” said Dale Bryk, senior strategic director at the defense council. “You have to have an orderly transition plan that involves scaling up renewables first, so that when the nuclear plants close, they’re replaced with clean energy.”



Indeed, environmental groups are increasingly being forced to grapple with the climate consequences of retiring nuclear plants. Across the United States, there are still 99 nuclear power plants in operation that supply one-fifth of the nation’s electricity without generating any carbon dioxide emissions. Six reactors have closed since 2013 and more than a dozen more are scheduled to retire by 2025 unless states decide otherwise.



New Jersey’s nuclear subsidy bill is similar to programs passed recently in New York and Illinois, where the Legislature would give the nuclear power plants financial credit for the carbon-free electricity they produce. Every three years, the companies that operate these reactors will have to open their books and show that they need the subsidies to stay operational.



In New Jersey, the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor is expected to close, but the subsidies would benefit the remaining three.



Still, some environmentalists in New Jersey have scoffed at this plan, viewing it as falling short in transparency for not requiring the utility companies to open their books to the public. And, they assert, the inclusion of the nuclear subsidy taints the clean-energy efforts in the companion bill.



“It’s going to put a chilling effect on spending more for renewable energy, because to build out renewable will cost much more,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This bill is about a nuclear subsidy, and that’s the primary purpose. And that’s the diversion to make you think you’re getting something that you’re not.”



The two bills will likely lead to an increase for New Jersey utility ratepayers, though the exact amount remains murky. The cost of subsidizing nuclear energy will be passed down to each ratepayer at a fee of approximately $41 a year, but Mr. Murphy has said he hopes to require public utilities to slash rates based on savings from the new federal tax law, which could potentially offset any increase.



The ambitious goals for renewable energy also follow a trend among the cities and states that have pledged to commit to upholding the Paris accord: By exceeding their share of the national commitments that would have existed under the international agreement, the states are accelerating the country’s overall progress, despite the headwinds from Washington.



“If you look at the United States commitments under Paris, these percentages would more than uphold New Jersey’s share of the burden,” said Robert C. Orr, one of the architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement as the United Nations secretary general’s lead climate adviser. He is now dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.



“Obviously, New Jersey is a significant state, but it’s not a driver in the same sense that California is,” Mr. Orr said. “But by putting New Jersey in a group with California and New York and then Vermonts and the Marylands, you start to see, not getting all the way to Paris targets, but you start to see the trend line moving toward us meeting Paris.”
04/23/2018
APPLE SAYS ALL OF ITS WORLDWIDE FACILITIES ARE NOW 100 PERCENT POWERED BY CLEAN ENERGY
Apple announced on Monday that its facilities around the world were now entirely powered by renewable energy.

(Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday said it had achieved its goal of powering all of the company's facilities with renewable energy, a milestone that includes all of its data centers, offices and retail stores in 43 countries.



The iPhone maker also said nine suppliers had recently committed to running their operations entirely on renewable energy sources like wind and solar, bringing to 23 the total number to make such a pledge.



Major U.S. corporations such as Apple, Wal-Mart Inc and Alphabet Inc have become some of the country's biggest buyers of renewable forms of energy, driving substantial growth in the wind and solar industries.



Alphabet's Google last year purchased enough renewable energy to cover all of its electricity consumption worldwide.




Costs for solar and wind are plunging thanks to technological advances and increased global production of panels and turbines, enabling companies seeking to green their images to buy clean power at competitive prices.​



"We're not spending any more than we would have," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, said in an interview. "We're seeing the benefits of an increasingly competitive clean energy market."



Renewable energy projects that provide power to Apple facilities range from large wind farms in the United States to clusters of hundreds of rooftop solar systems in Japan and Singapore. The company has also urged utilities to procure renewable energy to help power Apple's operations.



Encouraging suppliers to follow suit in embracing 100 percent renewable energy is the next step for Apple. The suppliers that pledge to use more clean energy know they will have "a leg up" against competitors for Apple's business, Jackson said.



"We made it clear that over time this will become less of a wish list and more of a requirement," she said. 
04/18/2018
ILLINOIS APPROVES PATH TO 25% RENEWABLE ENERGY BY 2025
This week the Illinois Commerce Commission finalized the state’s Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, with tweaks that clean energy advocates say will boost installation and access to renewables in the state.

GREENTECH MEDIA -- It also officially places Illinois in the upper echelons of state renewable energy procurement targets.   

The Illinois Power Agency, the state's energy procurer, detailed a plan to acquire 25 percent of Illinois' energy from renewable sources by 2025, a requirement under the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act. To meet that goal, the plan outlines the procurement of 666 megawatts of community and distributedsolar The text also lays out procurements for the state's utilities and discusses the implementation of its Solar for All Program, which is designed to make solar more accessible to low-income communities.



The final text of the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan also includes several updates that clean energy advocates lobbied for.



The commission did away with spot procurements, where states purchase renewable energy credits on a yearly basis from existing generation. The Illinois Power Agency planned to purchase 37 million spot RECs over two years, more than double the 10 million spot RECs it’s purchased for $65 million over the past nine years. Instead, Illinois indicated it would spend on forward-looking clean energy projects to reach its long-range goals.



“The legislation was written with the understanding it would take some time,” said Christie Hicks, manager of clean energy regulatory implementation at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Meeting long-term goals takes priority over meeting annual goals.” 




Rather than focusing solely on large utilities, the final plan also includes municipal and rural electric cooperatives in its REC program — something utilities like ComEd had lobbied against because those companies don’t have “public utility” status, meaning they aren’t bound by the state’s renewable portfolio standard and don’t pay for its programs.​



But the Illinois Power Agency argued that projects run by co-ops still benefit the entire state. Other groups, like the Environmental Law & Policy Center, agreed, saying rural and economically disadvantaged communities should have access to the same benefits even if not serviced by a regulated utility. The municipal and rural companies mostly serve central and southern Illinois, areas where the commission said it hopes to see project growth.



The final document also includes a change to compel in-state development of clean energy projects. While Illinois can purchase RECs from facilities in nearby states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, the state will assess whether these facilities meet the requirements of the program using a point system.



In its final version, the commission raised the point threshold required for out-of-state facilities to qualify. That offers in-state facilities the upper hand and should lead to fringe benefits like more jobs and cleaner air.



According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, the first procurements, which will include utility-scale wind and brownfield solar, will come this summer. The Illinois Power Agency said the plan should be revised in 2019, after it assesses progress on reaching state goals. But according to the state's utility watchdog, it's a clear move in the right direction. 



"No question, there’s a lot of work to do," said David Kolata, executive director at the Citizens Utility Board. "But Illinois now has an excellent opportunity to act on the promise of the Future Energy Jobs Act to make sure that everyone receives the benefits of the clean energy economy.”
04/18/2018
GOOGLE SAYS IT WILL BE BIGGEST CORPORATE BUYER OF RENEWABLE ENERGY ON THE PLANET
- Google now has contracts to buy 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects.

- The search giant says it will carry on signing contracts to purchase more renewable energy.


CNBC -- Google's total purchase of energy from renewable sources in 2017 was greater than the electricity used by its global operations, the tech giant has said. This follows on from a 2016 announcement that the business was on target to buy enough renewable energy to "match" electricity usage.​

In a blog post Wednesday, Google's Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, described what the business meant by "matching." Put simply, for every kilowatt hour of electricity the company used in 2017, it bought a kilowatt hour of renewable energy from a solar or wind farm built specifically for Google.​

Hölzle said that Google now had contracts to buy 3 gigawatts of output from renewable energy projects, and that no corporate purchaser was buying more renewable energy than Google. Renewable energy contracts for Google had resulted in more than $3 billion in new capital investment across the globe, he said.


"We say that we "matched" our energy usage because it's not yet possible to "power" a company of our scale by 100 percent renewable energy," Hölzle explained.

"It's true that for every kilowatt-hour of energy we consume, we add a matching kilowatt-hour of renewable energy to a power grid somewhere," he added. "But that renewable energy may be produced in a different place, or at a different time, from where we're running our data centers and offices."



What was important to Google, he said, was that it was adding "new clean energy sources to the electrical system" and buying renewable energy in the same volume that it was consuming both globally and on a yearly basis.



Looking forward, Hölzle said that Google would carry on signing more contracts to buy renewable energy. 
The search giant is among a number of technology businesses looking to "green" their operations with big, ambitious projects. Last October, for instance, Amazon announced that its biggest wind farm to date was operational.


The business said that Amazon Wind Farm Texas would add over 1 million megawatt hours of clean energy to the grid annually. The facility, which is located in Scurry County, has over 100 turbines, each standing more than 300-feet tall and with a rotor diameter over double the wingspan of a Boeing 787.
04/16/18
SOLAR POWER ECLIPSED FOSSIL FUELS IN NEW 2017 GENERATING CAPACITY
Chinese solar power led a record 157 gigawatts (GW) of new renewable energy capacity added worldwide last year, more than double the amount of new generation capacity from fossil fuels, a U.N.-backed report showed on Thursday.

REUTERS -- Globally, a record 98 GW of solar power capacity was installed last year with China contributing more than half, or 53 GW, according to U.N. Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.



The new renewable energy generating capacity, also including wind, biofuels and geothermal energy, dwarfed the 70 GW of net new capacity from fossil fuels in 2017, it said.



“We are at a turning point ... from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” Erik Solheim, head of U.N. Environment, told Reuters. “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.”



Fossil fuels, however, still dominate existing capacity. Solar, wind, biomass and other renewables generated 12.1 percent of world electricity in 2017, up from 5.2 percent a decade earlier, it said.



Climate scientists have advised governments that renewables should be the world’s dominant source of energy by mid-century if they want to achieve the toughest goals set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to combat global warming.



Global investment in renewable energy rose by two percent to $279.8 billion in 2017 from a year earlier. China invested the most in renewables at $126.6 billion - its largest amount ever and 45 percent of the global total.



“Much lower costs ... are the driver of solar investment worldwide,” said Angus McCrone, chief editor of Bloomberg New Energy Finance and lead author of the report, told Reuters.




And solar power in China benefited from government policies to help industry, reduce air pollution and slow climate change, he said.



The report said the cost of generating electricity from large-scale solar photovoltaic technology fell by 15 percent last year to $86 per megawatt hour.



In the United States, renewable energy investment fell by six percent in 2017 to $40.5 billion. However, it was relatively resilient to policy uncertainties under President Donald Trump, who wants to promote fossil fuels, the report said.



“Trump can no more brake this than those who opposed the Industrial Revolution could stop the Industrial Revolution,” said Solheim, a former Norwegian environment minister.



Still, Trump’s decision in January to slap tariffs on imported solar panels could dent U.S. solar power in the short term, McCrone said.



But there was no sign the U.S. Congress would scrap tax credits for renewables that are a bigger driver of long-term investment, he said.



Europe’s investment in renewables plunged by 36 percent to $40.9 billion due to factors including the end of subsidies in some countries for solar and wind and lower technology costs.



“In Europe the fall in investment is strongly driven by Germany and the UK,” said Ulf Moslener, lead editor of the report at the Frankfurt School.
04/12/18
MICROSOFT CONTINUES CLEAN ENERGY BUYING SPREE
Poles without ice. Oceans without oxygen. Areas of the planet without people.These are just some of the effects of a rapidly warming planet. Add to the list: coasts without beaches.

Poles without ice. Oceans without oxygen. Areas of the planet without people.These are just some of the effects of a rapidly warming planet. Add to the list: coasts without beaches.

FUTURISM -- You might assume this will happen sometime in the distant future, when sea levels rise. But it’s already happening. Climate change is taking beaches away from humans — in a physical way, as rising seas erode them, and in the way humans interact with them, as several governments have closed beaches to visitors to limit further damage.



Just this week, the Thai government announced that it was closing one of its most famous beaches for four months out of the year. Its rationale? To allow nearby coral reefs to recover from the effect of millions of visitors, which range from pollution to physical destruction from boats and human hands. And as the ocean grows warmer, stressed coral ecosystems like these recover more slowly from these intrusions.



Several other Southeast Asian islands have done the same, closing off beaches to allow their marine inhabitants to recover with some peace and quiet.



I know: this sucks. And that’s fair — many people think of beaches as a universal public right. But beaches are also bigger than you and your summer plans.​



Organisms in, above, and next to the water dwell there, even if you don’t see (or eat) them. Without beaches, most of these animals would lose their homes, risking extinction.




If you live near the ocean, you can thank beaches for keeping your water drinkable and keeping your house where it is. Beaches and sand dune ecosystems are a vital barrier between the powerful seawater and shore-based ecosystems. They also stop salty ocean water from leaching into fresh groundwater.



Protective closures like the ones in Southeast Asia also mean tens of thousands of jobs could be lost, many in developing countries that rely on tourism to survive, as The Outline reports.



Southeast Asia may seem far away, but the problem is global, and happening faster than you might expect. Without human intervention, up to two thirds of beaches in Southern California will disappear from erosion within the next century, a 2017 U.S. Geologic Survey study found.



By 2100, sea levels may rise between 0.2 and 2 meters (0.66 to 6.6 feet), depending on how much the Earth warms. That could swallow the majority of beaches worldwide.



Banning beaches is disappointing for humans. But it might be worth giving up a chill place to sunbathe and sip out of coconuts to save an ecosystem.
04/11/18
MICROSOFT CONTINUES CLEAN ENERGY BUYING SPREE
Software maker’s latest purchase was for an additional 315 megawatts of solar power

BLOOMBERG -- Microsoft Corp. is racing ahead in the rankings of corporations buying clean energy in 2018, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Corporate PPA Deal Tracker. Microsoft’s announcement in March that it will buy 315 megawatts of solar power as part of the largest purchase of photovoltaic energy in the U.S. boosts the software maker to No. 2 among companies procuring clean energy this year. AT&T Inc.’s announcement in February that it will buy 520 megawatts of wind energy continues to secure its position as the biggest buyer.​
04/09/18
THIS FLORIDA CITY IS 100% SOLAR-POWERED
The world’s biggest solar project is going to get underway in Saudi Arabia, according a plan whipped up by the country’s sovereign wealth fund and the Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank.

FORTUNE -- The partners are joint investors in the $100 billion Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund, which will provide the initial cash for the first phase of the scheme.


Here’s what you need to know about the project:


How big is “biggest”?

SoftBank and the Saudis say the solar project will be able to generate around 7.2 gigawatts of power in 2019, and 200 gigawatts by 2030.

Today, all the solar deployments around the world generate around 400 gigawatts (which is slightly more than is generated by nuclear, incidentally.) The largest installation at the moment, the Tengger Desert Solar Park in China, generates just over 1.5 gigawatts. So yes, this is a big deal.


How does Saudi Arabia generate power today?

Mostly by burning oil, unsurprisingly. Because domestic petroleum is so heavily subsidized, around 60% of the kingdom’s electricity comes from it. But because consumption is rising, that has implications for the amount of oil Saudi Arabia has left to sell abroad. So there’s a big economic angle to this.

Saudi Arabia is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but it has not been clear as to how it intends to achieve its carbon emissions reduction targets. It’s a bit clearer now. And that doesn’t just matter for the global pact—the country is also particularly sensitive to climate change.


How much will this cost?

According to SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, the first phase will cost $5 billion. The Vision Fund will stump up $1 billion for that, while the rest of the financing will come from debt.

By the time the project is completed, it will have cost an estimated $200 billion. That includes the cost of labor, panels—which will be imported until local production capacity is up to speed—and an unprecedented network of batteries that will be able to store this energy for measured distribution over the Saudi grid.

“The project will fund its own expansion,” said Son, who explained that the profits generated in each step of the build-out would help fund the next phase.
04/06/18
THIS FLORIDA CITY IS 100% SOLAR-POWERED
About 343,000 sun-hungry panels fuel Babcock Ranch, where residents are just starting to move in.

About 343,000 sun-hungry panels fuel Babcock Ranch, where residents are just starting to move in.

BLOOMBERG -- Babcock Ranch offers a town-size rejoinder to those who say solar power can’t scale. In the suburbs of Fort Myers in South Florida, Babcock is meant to become America’s first city fueled entirely by the sun, thanks to its 75-megawatt array of solar panels. 



Only two families have moved in so far, but students from nearby towns have already filled the first of several planned schools, and the footprint includes plans for 19,500 homes and about 50,000 residents. “Along with innovation and change, there’s a throwback to an earlier time,” says Donna Aveck, who arrived in January with her husband, Jim. “We’re thrilled to be pioneers.”



Developer Kitson & Partners started building the town about a decade ago after buying land from the Babcock Ranch Preserve, which retains about 73,000 acres of pinelands and prairie nearby. So far, only about 100 homes are contracted for construction—but self-driving shuttles have already begun to ferry people around. —Photographs by Rose Marie Cromwell
04/05/18
ARIZONA REGULATORS FREEZE NEW GAS PLANTS, DEMAND MORE CLEAN ENERGY PLANNING FROM UTILITIES
Arizona’s energy future took an unexpected turn this week.

GREENTECH MEDIA -- At a hearing Tuesday for the routine assessment of major utilities’ long-term resource plans, regulators rebuked the proposals and instituted a nine-month moratorium on new gas plants larger than 150 megawatts.



The commissioners are in the midst of examining an energy system overhaul to pursue 80 percent clean energy with a focus on energy storage to meet peak power with clean sources. The building freeze will prevent near-term investments in gas infrastructure that could become stranded assets if the grid overhaul comes into force.



Halting gas construction was an unusual move, especially for a panel of five Republicans in a state without a political mandate to tackle emissions from electricity, as seen in California or Massachusetts. Indeed, the nine-month freeze appears to be the first of its kind.



In contrast to the recently proposed grid reform, the utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRPs), originally submitted last year, relied primarily on natural gas for keeping the lights over the next 15 years.



Arizona Public Service, for instance, calls for more than 5,000 megawatts of natural-gas additions (some of which replace retiring capacity), but negligible new utility-scale renewables. The plan does anticipate 3,315 megawatts of distributed solar though, and several hundred megawatts of energy storage.​



In Arizona, the utility regulators don’t approve or reject IRPs; they “acknowledge” them -- or not.



“This is the first time the commission did not acknowledge the utility IRPs,” said Jeff Schlegel, who testified at the meeting on behalf of the public interest group Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “For the commission to not acknowledge meant essentially that they had some pretty serious concerns with what’s in the utility plans.”



The regulators then made their concerns explicit in an amendment that called on the utilities to consider a scenario where fossil fuel additions are capped at 20 percent.



Another amendment asks them to model a case with 1,000 megawatts of energy storage, 50 percent clean energy and 20 percent demand-side management. That mix of resources more closely resembles the grid overhaul proposed in January by Commissioner Andy Tobin.



The freeze on new large gas plants expires January 1, 2019 and includes a process for utilities to seek special approval if needed.



APS didn't have any plans to build new gas facilities in that timeframe, said Greg Bernosky, director of state regulation and compliance, so the moratorium will not affect any utility operations. The decision also applies to utilities Tucson Electric Power and UNS Electric.



Fast times on the Arizona grid



Tuesday's outcome highlights a difficulty of the energy transition: Utility planning takes a long time, while new energy technologies move very fast.



"It’s a multi-year process, so information gets outdated," Bernosky said of the IRP process. He supports a commission decision Tuesday to begin streamlining the IRP process.



As a result of that procedural pace, the vision described in APS' plan, based on the view from Q3 2016, now looks out of date compared to APS' own actions.



Last month, the utility announced a groundbreaking solar-plus-storage plant to be built by First Solar, which will store solar production in a 50-megawatt battery to dispatch precisely during the summer peak hours of 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.



That project won an open-ended request for proposals, beating out gas plants and standalone solar and batteries. In doing so, it exceeds the IRP's expectations for new batteries and utility-scale solar in the next five years.



"When we went to market and saw what was available to meet the need, that project was there and we were able to obtain it," Bernosky said.



That experience reveals a disconnect between the official projections of grid planning and what's available now from the clean energy industry. The utility won't insist on outdated projections in the face of changing market dynamics, Bernosky added.



"The IRP is a planning document -- it’s not a rigid, static document," Bernosky said. "It’s something we use to look out over a period of time, but we are making short-term procurement decisions based on what is available in the market and what meets our customer and system needs."



The right kind of solar



Still, the planning document carries weight as an expression of where the utility thinks its energy mix is heading. It's already looking probable that the next iteration will differ in significant ways.



APS remains skeptical of standalone utility-scale solar. Given the expected influx of distributed solar, the grid will see a large influx of generation in the middle of the day that drops off before the evening peak hours. APS isn't interested in simply getting more surplus generation at noon.



"If we were to just keep doing more solar without that blend of [storage] technology, we would be almost causing more harm to the system or additional costs to customers," Bernosky said. "The ability to catch and release solar with that technology pair is really exciting to us now, and we'd love to see more in the future."



A year or two ago, that asset hadn't materialized, and APS turned primarily to gas as the future tool to balance the fluctuations of solar. In the meantime, APS itself has proven that another option exists and can even beat a gas plant's economics.



The utility does not have any procurement processes going on currently, but is evaluating what will come next, said Jeff Burke, director of resource planning. New rounds of procurement, in turn, will inform future planning efforts.



The commissioners' skepticism will influence which investments Arizona utilities can expect to achieve rate recovery on in the coming years, said Stacy Tellinghuisen, senior climate policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates. That organization modeled a high-renewables scenario for APS that it says would save ratepayers roughly $300 million compared to the official IRP.



"I hope that we will see the utilities put out RFPs for clean energy resources to meet their growing loads," she said.



APS has also pursued ways to procure capacity from merchant gas plants in shorter time increments, Bernosky said, like seven years instead of 20. That allows the utility to get capacity it needs in the short term without committing to an unnecessary expense in the long run. But, he noted, that was not described clearly in the last IRP.
3/26/18
MAJORITY OF REALTORS SAY CLIENTS INTERESTED IN SUSTAINABILITY
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS -- Growing consumer interest and demand for greener, more sustainable properties is driving a dialogue between Realtors® and homebuyers and sellers. Over half of Realtors® find that consumers have interest in real estate sustainability issues and practices, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ 2017 REALTORS® and Sustainability report.


The report, stemming from NAR’s new Sustainability Program, surveyed Realtors® about sustainability issues facing consumers in the real estate market and ways Realtors® are setting their own goals to reduce energy usage.


“As consumers’ interest in sustainability grows, Realtors® understand the necessity of promoting sustainability in their real estate practice, such as marketing energy efficiency in property listings to homebuyers,” said NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, and founder of Investment Properties. “The goal of the NAR Sustainability Program is to provide leadership and strategies on topics of sustainability to benefit members, consumers, and communities.”


To meet growing consumer interest, more Multiple Listing Services are incorporating data entry fields to identify a property’s green features; 43 percent of respondents report their MLS has green data fields, and only 19 percent do not. Realtors® see great value in promoting energy efficiency in listings with seven out of 10 feel strongly about the benefits of promoting those features to clients.  


The survey asked respondents about renewable energy and its impact on the real estate market. A majority of agents and brokers (80 percent) said that solar panels are available in their market; forty-two percent said solar panels increased the perceived property value.



Twenty-four percent of brokers said that tiny homes were available in their market, compared to 61 percent that reported tiny homes were not yet available. When asked about involvement with clients and green properties, 27 percent of agents and brokers were involved with 1 to 5 properties that had green features in the last 12 months. Seventy percent of members worked with no properties that had green features, leaving a great deal of room for future growth.


The home features that Realtors® said clients consider as very or somewhat important include a home’s efficient use of lighting (50 percent), a smart/connected home (40 percent), green community features such as bike lanes and green spaces (37 percent), landscaping for water conservation (32 percent), and renewable energy systems such as solar and geothermal (23 percent).            
                        
When it comes to the sustainable neighborhood features for which clients are looking, 60 percent of Realtors® listed parks and outdoor recreation, 37 percent listed access to local food and nine percent listed recycling.


The transportation and commuting features of a community that Realtors® listed as very or somewhat important to their clients included walkability (51 percent), public transportation (31 percent) and bike lanes/paths (39 percent).


NAR initiated the Sustainability Program as a platform for dialogue on sustainability for Realtors®, brokers, allied trade associations, and consumers. The program’s efforts focus on coordination and articulation of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers, helping members to assist home buyers and sellers.


To further position NAR as a leader in real estate sustainability topics with consumers, Realtors®, brokers and allied trade associations, the REALTOR® Sustainability Program surveyed Realtors® pertaining to sustainability issues facing consumers and the industry. NAR plans to use this report to better benchmark Realtor® understanding of sustainability.
TRUMP’S SOLAR TARIFFS GET HIT WITH A WAVE OF LEGAL CHALLENGES
Three Canadian solar companies are suing the administration, while at least five U.S. trading partners have launched complaints at the WTO.
GREENTECH MEDIA -- The anticipated fallout from the Section 201 solar trade case is now officially underway.
Three Canadian solar panel manufacturers launched a lawsuit against the Trump administration at the United States Court of International Trade last week, claiming the new global safeguard measures violate the Trade Act of 1974 and the NAFTA Implementation Act. The complaint was filed on February 7 -- the same day President Trump’s tariff proclamation took effect.
The European Union also filed a request for consultations with the World Trade Organization that day, following similar steps taken by China, Taiwan and South Korea. Singapore subsequently filed for consultation at the WTO on February 9. Bilateral consultations between the parties are the first stage of formal dispute resolution.
Legal actions follow Trump’s decision in the Section 201 case petitioned by U.S.-based crystalline silicon (CSPV) solar manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. In a proclamation issued January 22, Trump decided to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported CSPV solar cells and modules -- set to decline by 5 percentage points per year over the four-year tariff period. The ruling also includes a tariff-free carve-out for the first 2.5 gigawatts of solar cells imported each year.
Several developing nations, listed as Generalized System of Preferences beneficiary countries, were exempt from the tariffs because they currently account for a small portion of U.S. solar imports (although that could soon change).
In recommendations submitted to President Trump by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last fall, three of the four commissioners determined that imports from Canada are not harmful to U.S. producers. The fourth commissioner did not explicitly address Canada in her proposal. Despite the negative findings, Trump’s ruling did not exempt companies from north of the border.
Similarly, all ITC commissioners exempt U.S. free trade partner Singapore (home to solar manufacturer REC Group) in their recommendations. However, Singapore was not exempt in Trump’s decision.
The Canadian lawsuit -- brought by Silfab Solar, Heliene and Canada Solar Solutions -- states that the president’s proclamation is “unlawful as applied to plaintiffs, and inflicts grave and irreversible harms on them.” They are now seeking an injunction prohibiting the enforcement of new tariffs against them.
Canadian manufacturers face layoffs and plant closures
The case argues that the U.S. violated Sections 201 and 203 of the Trade Act by imposing safeguard measures on Canada without the required recommendation from the ITC. The plaintiffs also claim the U.S. violated Sections 311 and 312 of the NAFTA Act because, as the ITC determined, Canada does not “account for a substantial share of total imports” or “contribute importantly to the serious injury, or threat thereof, caused by imports.”
The plaintiffs state that American-based solar manufacturers account for less than 5 percent of CSPV cells and modules used in the U.S., while Canadian manufacturers account for only 2 percent.
It’s worth noting Trump decided Generalized System of Preference countries are exempt from the tariffs until they reach 3 percent of U.S. CSPV cell and module imports. If the 2 percent figure cited by Canadian manufacturers is correct, it would seem to represent a reasonable level by the administration’s own standards.
But while the effect on the U.S. solar market is minimal, these exports represent the “bulk” of the Canadian solar manufacturing industry, according to a plaintiff memo. Because the plaintiffs produce CSPV modules, and not cells, Canadian solar products are immediately subject to tariffs.
“That tariff will make it prohibitively expensive for Plaintiffs to import CSPV modules from Canada to the United States, and within weeks, it will compel Plaintiffs to terminate employees, close manufacturing facilities, forego business opportunities, lose sales, and -- in several cases -- cease business entirely,” the memo states.
The Court of International Trade is a special court based in New York City with a very experienced group of judges looking to answer a very specific set of legal questions that differ from the WTO, said Allan Marks, energy and project finance attorney at law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.
“They’re looking at whether these tariffs, in particular as applied to Canada, comply with U.S. law,” said Marks, who teaches energy trade issues as an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley. “The WTO is looking at whether U.S. government safeguard measures, broadly applied, comply with international law. Those are different questions and the standards are slightly different.”
Action at the court level is also likely to be much faster than at the WTO level, which could take 18 months or more. In the Canadian company case, the U.S. government will have to respond within the coming weeks. The administration could choose to act through the courts, or the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative could modify the tariff order to exempt Canada, which would render the case moot. Marks noted the USTR has the authority to change or rescind the tariff at any point.
China threatens retaliatory measures
At the WTO, there are several different courses of action countries can take to challenge the tariffs. One route is to question whether or not the sudden increase in imports affecting U.S. companies was “unforeseen.” The Trump administration prepared for this challenge by requesting the ITC submit a supplemental report.
However, countries can also challenge whether the ITC did a good job in making its determination in the global safeguard case, or they can take issue with how the safeguard measures were implemented. To that end, several complaints submitted to the WTO center on the need for proper “consultation” and “compensation” between trading partners, in accordance with international law.
In a global safeguards case, trade authorities only have to find injury against their domestic industry -- they don’t have to prove specific countries have broken the rules, as is required in an anti-dumping and countervailing duties case. As part of the Section 201 process, the U.S. needs to discuss its tariff decision with affected countries prior to applying the safeguard measures, said Marks.
“If the WTO finds that our injury finding wasn’t thoroughly done or it didn’t allow proper time for compensation and consultation, then retaliatory compensation would be allowed under international trade rules,” he said.
Retaliatory measures played a role in convincing the U.S. government to withdraw tariffs on imported steel products in a Section 201 case decided in 2002. Retaliation is intentionally designed to create political pressure, and is often targeted at unrelated industries, said Marks.
Chinese officials have already confirmed they’re launching an investigation into whether about $1 billion of U.S. sorghum exports were being dumped or receiving subsidies -- a move widely viewed as a response to the Trump administration’s protectionist trade policies, The New York Times reports. According to Bloomberg, China is also looking to impose trade restrictions on soybeans imported from the U.S.
“If you’re smart, you [retaliate] on things being exported from districts of congressional leaders,” Marks said, assuming the WTO gives the go-ahead. “You could see [countries] imposing it on coal exports. I’ve also heard whiskey or bourbon mentioned. In the past, it was North Carolina textiles. If Paul Ryan is still Speaker of the House, exporting Wisconsin cheese could get harder. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be something that moves the needle politically.”
The Trump administration is likely also thinking about the political dynamics. “I don’t think they want to hurt the U.S. economy or even renewable energy; I think they just want to placate their base,” Marks said.
“They want to find a way to thread the needle that meets their political goals,” he surmised. “Whether or not it works is another question.”
As challenges move forward at the WTO and the New York court, individual companies have until the end of the month to request an exclusion from the new tariffs. With American jobs on the line, this decision also comes with political implications.