Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Disaster Preparedness in the Cayman Islands

Given the destruction that the Cayman Islands suffered in Hurricane Ivan I was surprised to see Caribbean Utilities has gone back to using wooden utility poles.

Yacht Club Round-About

Particularly when we (their customers) remember paying for the rebuilding of the transmission & distribution network. If wooden poles are again being used, and when we are struck by the next hurricane shall we have to again pay for rebuilding this critical infrastructure?.

Driving by the Yacht Club round-about on the Harquail Bypass Extension it is apparent that CUC has reverted back to the use of less expensive poles.

The reason that all of us living in the Cayman Islands had to pay for this infrastructure after Hurricane Ivan was that it was uninsured. After the Ivan experience I would have expected the Regulatory Authority to have mandated the use of high strength StressCrete concrete utility poles such which were used in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

StressCrete Utility Poles

With historical roots firmly planted in the first decade of the 20th century, spun concrete poles have evolved over the past hundred years to become the pole of choice for an ever-increasing number of specifiers and owners. Spun concrete is more widely used today than ever before because of its many advantages including, inexpensive installation costs, minimal maintenance requirements and universal aesthetic appeal

StressCrete products is a centrifugally cast reinforced concrete pole; commonly referred to as a “Spun Pole”. It combines elegance with durability and surpasses most other materials in economy. It meets the CSA and ASTM standards for spun concrete poles, as well

as our own specifications which are more demanding. The spinning process introduces qualities into the concrete which cannot be obtained by more conventional casting methods. As well, the centrifugal casting process automatically forms a hollow raceway inside the pole thereby providing a smooth conduit for electrical cables. Poles are readily available in a full range of lengths, strengths, colors, finishes and cross-sections for a multitude of uses such as lighting, power distribution, transmission, traffic, traction and communication towers. See http://www.stresscrete.com/stresscrete-products/stresscrete-products.asp

The fact that we have not been hit by another disastrous hurricane is no reason the become complacent. I would go as far as to argue that there should be a program to place more of the CUC network underground. This would be an expensive undertaking but it would be cheaper that rebuilding the network every ten of fifteen years.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Water Security and Climate Change in The Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands being situated in the North-West Caribbean and having no rivers or lakes are vulnerable to water insecurity.

Traditional Caymanian homes were built with a cistern or tank beside the house being fed by gutters from the roof. A hand pump would often be used to pump water up ten to fifteen to a barrel or two to supply gravity fed water in the house.

As water usage patterns have changed, with modern households having washing machines [rather than a wash tub) dishwashers, showers and all the modern conveniences, their water usage has gone up tremendously. As a result of these changes it has become easier and cheaper to connect homes to the city piped water supply and avoid the cost of constructing a cistern.

As a result of being connected to the city water system is has also become very easy to ignore ones water usage, allowing even higher consumption. In the old days homeowners would, as a matter of habit, check the water level of their cisterns and cast their eyes on the heavens to see if there was any rain clouds in sight.

It was also a tradition in the Cayman Islands to have a well beside each home. Many of these well produced water that was, if not fresh, at least had low enough salt levels to be drinkable. More


Caribbean water sector managers to benefit from CCORAL

September 16th 2013 A new initiative by the Caribbean Climate Change Centre (5Cs), the UK-based Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the Global Water Partnership – Caribbean is focusing minds on climate risk in the water sector.

In July, the 5Cs launched an innovative online tool to help governments and businesses to assess the climate-related risks of different investment options. The Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation tool (CCORAL) is a decision support tool that aims to encourage climate resilient choices. In this region of small island states that are vulnerable to sea level rise, droughts and increasingly frequent, intense storms, the tool couldn’t have come at a better time.

CCORAL is intended to embed a risk management ethic in decision-making processes across the Caribbean region. When it was launched, it received a rare endorsement by the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri. Now, a new project will fine-tune CCORAL’s online support system for the specific use of managers in the water sector

Most Caribbean countries are vulnerable to water scarcity and drought. One of the contributing factors to vulnerability is climate change, which will trigger significant changes in temperature and precipitation. Average rainfall is expected to decrease by 7% in 2050, and salt water intrusion will arise as a result of increased sea levels. This water scarcity will impact agriculture, tourism and public health.

The Centre, together with the Global Water Partnership Caribbean are working with government agencies and businesses in the water sector to understand how the CCORAL tool could help them. They are currently consulting with a range of regional organisations (such as international financial institutions, NGOs and universities), national agencies (government departments, water utilities) and businesses (water utilities, consultants, major industrial and commercial water users). They are exploring the following key questions:

What are the priority water services which would benefit from more climate resilient decision making? (for example; water resources allocation, water supply, agricultural / industrial / commercial / tourism / energy)

What water information, planning, operational or legal and regulatory activities would benefit from increased consideration of climate variability and risk? (for example; water supply planning, hydrological modelling, risk assessment, water system regulation, operational procedures)

Which organisations and specific capacities would benefit from being involved in the development and application of the CCORAL-Water tools? (for example; strategic water planners in governmental departments, consultants engaged in technical services for water planners, investment planners in water utilities, regulatory agencies for water)

If this project is successful, it will lead to improved climate risk management in water sector planning and management activities, which in turn will lead to improved levels of service for water users in the Caribbean.

The CCORAL-Water project is being developed in consultation with water managers in five countries: Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Suriname. The CCORAL-Water tool itself will be applicable and available to all Caribbean countries through the CCORAL online system, hosted by the 5Cs, from March 2014. Watch this space for progress with CCORAL – Water! More

This article was written by CDKN’s Pati Leon and was first posted at CDKN Global.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How solar and EVs will kill the last of the industry dinosaurs

Several years ago, Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, published a book called Solar Trillions, predicting how solar technologies would redefine the world’s energy markets and create an investment opportunity worth tens of trillions of dollars.

Most people looked at him, he says, as if he had three heads. That was possibly because the book was written before the recent plunge in the cost of solar modules had taken effect, and before most incumbent utilities had woken up to the fact that solar – even with minor penetration levels – was turning their business models upside down.

Seba is now working on a new book, with even more dramatic forecasts than his first. His new prediction is that by 2030, solar will make the fossil fuel industry more or less redundant. Even more striking is his forecast that electric vehicles will do the same thing to the oil industry by around the same date.

The predictions are made on the basis that the cost of solar and EV batteries will continue to fall, while the cost to consumers of sourcing energy from fossil fuels through the grid or liquid fuels will continue to rise. Before the decade is out, Seba says, both technologies will pass a tipping point that will eventually sweep the incumbents aside, just as technology and cost developments have done in the computer, internet, media, photographic and telecommunications industries.

“I am incredibly optimistic that by 2030, nuclear, coal, gas, big hydro, and oil will be all but obsolete,” Seba toldRenewEconomy in an interview in San Francisco last month. “The world will be mostly powered by solar and wind, and most new vehicles will be electric. The architecture of energy markets is going from centralized to distributed – in liquids and the electric market.”

The working title for the book is “Disrupting energy – how Silicon Valley is making coal, nuclear, oil and gas obsolete.” It is pinned on the theme that decentralised generation and storage will replace the centralised, hub and spoke model that has prevailed for the last century. The impact of decentralised generation is already being felt. The striking part of Seba’s prediction is the speed with which it will happen.

First, on the technology cost issue. For EVs, Seba says the success of Tesla – in sales and in reputation – has changed the conversation around EVs, particularly after it won the 2013 Car of the Year award.

“Basically, EVs were supposed to be expensive and underpowered and weak and 50 years away. Tesla showed all that was wrong. The EV will do to oil what solar will do to coal, nuclear and gas. EVs are a disruptive technology, there is no doubt about that.

“The propaganda says that it is too expensive and has little range. But if you look at the cost curve of batteries, even Detroit is saying that by 2020 lithium-ion batteries will be at $US200/kWh.

“The tipping point for the mass market to move from internal combustion engines to EVs is between $US250 and $US300/kWh. Once it gets to $US100/kWh, it is all over. I think we will get to $US250/kWh by 2020. By 2030, when batteries are at $100/kWh, gasoline vehicles will be obsolete. Not on their way out, obsolete.” Seba thinks that mass migration will start around 2018 to 2020.

On solar it is a similar story. “When I wrote my first book, a lot of people looked at me like I had three heads,” Seba says. “They thought I was way too optimistic because the conversation then was about grid parity for solar in 2060, or 2070.

“And what you hear is the same thing we heard 20 years ago, that this is not going to happen, that it is difficult, that power needs specialised scale, that it can only be done like this. When in fact, over the last few years, a country like Germany has pioneered the move from a few dozen central power plants to more than a million producers.

“Australia has done the same thing. Bangladesh has a million solar installations. So the poorest people in one of the poorest countries are adopting solar unsubsidised. Solar is already cheaper than grid – what people are paying for electricity – in dozens of countries already. And that is despite huge fossil fuel subsidies.

“The sun is more democratic than any other source of energy. Coal is in pockets, gas is in pockets, oil is in pockets. The sun shines a little bit more in some places than others, but everyone gets sunshine. And the thing about solar, is that it can be built on a distributed basis.”

Can solar really be built on a scale that would meet the bulk of the world’s electricity needs? Seba points to the computer industry, where he worked in the 1990s, and to the internet and telecommunications. All three were dominated by huge, centralised technologies. All three industries have been turned upside down by new “distributed”, or hand-held devices. He says the same thing will happen in electricity.

“This is not in the future. We are going from big centralised power plants to decentralised generation, to decentralised storage, and to decentralised distribution.

“It is just a matter of policy makers understanding this and making regulations appropriately. In India, about $30-40 billion goes to subsidise diesel. The grid there is already obsolete. It went down and 500 million people didn’t notice, because they are not on the grid.

“If they stop subsidising diesel and put it into solar, they could bring 100 million people a year into solar. If all you do is stop subsidising diesel, you can, in five years, bring solar electricity to 500 million people who are not on the grid today.

The biggest threat from all this radical change is to the traditional utility model, Seba says. “Utilities as we know them are over. They are the land line telephone companies of 20, 30 years ago. We will start using them as back-up, as world goes distributed and every house has solar, and factories do the same, and they are stuck with these stranded investments.

“What they will try to do is to keep jacking up prices – which makes solar even more affordable. It will be this death spiral. You will see bankruptcies. Finally, it will not make sense.

He says markets will be redesigned, and there will be huge opportunities for new companies – he dubs them the Ebays of the electricity world – that can aggregate and trade distributed production, and that can manage the process. More


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Asia Pacific Clean Energy / Islands & Isolated Communities Congress

The 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will be held jointly with the 2013 Islands & Isolated Communities Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center starting tomorrow September 9th, and through September 11.

The event is the preeminent meeting place for international leaders and energy experts at the forefront of the clean energy movement. Securing energy independence and developing a clean energy industry that promotes the vitality of our planet are two reasons why it is critical to reaffirm already established partnerships and build new ones throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo and the Islands & Isolated Communities Congress provide a forum for the high-level global networking necessary to advance this emerging clean energy culture.

Islands and Isolated Communities are the planet’s vanguard societies facing imported energy dependencies, constrained resources, and vulnerability to climate change. Join global leaders developing solutions and projects; from island nations worldwide, to land-locked greening cities, to isolated military installations.

The sustainability and resiliency of island communities depends on best practices developed in energy, water, agriculture, security, resource and disaster risk management and societal actions. As island communities are facing these complex and interdependent challenges across the planet, the Islands and Isolated Communities Congress is focused on building a global movement to champion these solutions. The solutions developed on islands will lay the foundation for best practices world-wide.

Auyuittuq - The Land that Never Melts is Melting

Many Strong Voices (MSV) will be represented here by Nick Robson, D-G of the Cayman Institute who sits on MSV's Advisory Committee.

The goal of Many Strong Voices is to promote the well-being, security, and sustainability of coastal communities in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by bringing these regions together to take action on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to tell their stories to the world.

Coastal Erosion - Seychelles

The Arctic and SIDS are barometers of global environmental change. As they are on the frontlines of climate change, they are also critical testing grounds for the ideas and programmes that will strengthen the adaptive capacities of human societies confronting climate change.

Lessons learned through MSV support policy development at local, regional, and international levels. They provide decision-makers in the two regions with the knowledge to safeguard and strengthen vulnerable social, economic, and natural systems. More


The good news this week is that a new Pacific regional pact, the Majuro Declaration, calling for aggressive action to combat climate change has achieved a “major accomplishment” by gaining U.S. support, officials said Sunday.

The Majuro Declaration, endorsed by the 15-nation Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) at their summit last week, contains specific pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Majuro, Marshall Islands

The PIF nations, some of which are barely a meter above sea level and risk being swamped by rising waters, have since received wide support led by the United States after presenting the document to more than two dozen countries at a post-forum dialogue.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced during the session a new climate change fund for Pacific islands vulnerable to rising sea levels.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” she said in launching the Pacific-American fund.

Separately, the U.S. was offering US$24 million over five years for projects in “vulnerable coastal communities” in the Pacific, she said. More