Saturday, May 30, 2015

Civil Aviation Unveils Design For New Cayman Air Terminal

The Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) has unveiled the interior conceptual drawings for the multi-million dollar expansion project at Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA).

Commenting on the design created by Florida based firm RS&H Group, CIAA’s CEO Albert Anderson said, “The interior design is very impressive and I am confident that once completed the new expanded airport will be a first-class terminal facility

The CI$55 million expansion project should take around three years to complete and will nearly triple the current space at the airport. Construction on the first phase of the project is expected to begin this summer.

Here is the Cayman Islands Government's chance to save money and show their support for alternative energy. Covering the roof and parking lots with solar panels, and using LED lighting would set an example for Caymanians and Caymanian businesses to follow. Editor


The Cayman Islands Energy Summit 2015


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Global climate on verge of multi-decadal change

A new study, by scientists from the University of Southampton and National Oceanography Centre (NOC), implies that the global climate is on the verge of broad-scale change that could last for a number of decades.

The change to the new set of climatic conditions is associated with a cooling of the Atlantic, and is likely to bring drier summers in Britain and Ireland, accelerated rise along the northeast coast of the United States, and drought in the developing countries of the Sahel region. Since this new climatic phase could be half a degree cooler, it may well offer a brief reprise from the rise of global temperatures, as well as resulting in fewer hurricanes hitting the United States.

The study, published today in Nature, proves that ocean circulation is the link between weather and decadal scale climatic change. It is based on observational evidence of the link between ocean circulation and the decadal variability of temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lead author Dr Gerard McCarthy, from the NOC, said: "Sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic vary between warm and cold over time-scales of many decades. These variations have been shown to influence temperature, rainfall, drought and even the frequency of hurricanes in many regions of the world. This decadal variability, called the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO), is a notable feature of the Atlantic Ocean and the climate of the regions it influences."

These climatic phases, referred to as positive or negative AMO's, are the result of the movement of heat northwards by a system of . This movement of heat changes the temperature of the sea surface, which has a profound impact on climate on timescales of 20-30 years. The strength of these currents is determined by the same atmospheric conditions that control the position of the jet stream. Negative AMO's occur when the currents are weaker and so less heat is carried northwards towards Europe from the tropics.

The strength of ocean currents has been measured by a network of sensors, called the RAPID array, which have been collecting data on the flow rate of the Atlantic meridonal overturning circulation (AMOC) for a decade.

Dr David Smeed, from the NOC and lead scientist of the RAPID project, adds: "The observations of AMOC from the RAPID array, over the past ten years, show that it is declining. As a result, we expect the AMO is moving to a negative phase, which will result in cooler surface waters. This is consistent with observations of temperature in the North Atlantic."

Since the RAPID array has only been collecting data for last ten years, a longer data set was needed to prove the link between ocean circulation and slow climate variations. Therefore this study instead used 100 years of sea level data, maintained by the National Oceanography Centre's permanent service for mean sea level. Models of ocean currents based on this data were used to predict how much heat would be transported around the ocean, and the impact this would have on the sea surface temperature in key locations.

Co-author Dr Ivan Haigh, lecturer in coastal oceanography at the University of Southampton, said: "By reconstructing ocean circulation over the last 100 years from tide gauges that measure sea level at the coast, we have been able to show, for the first time, observational evidence of the link between and the AMO." More


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LAC Negotiators Prepare for Paris

19 May 2015: Senior officials and negotiators from Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries gathered for a meeting, titled ‘4th Meeting of Chief Climate Change Negotiators of Latin America and the Caribbean,' to discuss the content of a climate change agreement, which is expected to be adopted during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC in Paris in December 2015.

The meeting, which took place from 14-15 May 2015, in Santiago, Chile, brought together representatives from 20 countries in the region. It was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and promoted by the Governments of Chile and Brazil, with support from the EU and France. It aimed to deepen the understanding of priorities, national circumstances and differing positions of countries in the region regarding environmental issues. Participants also discussed, inter alia, regional priorities and needs regarding adaptation, loss and damage, mitigation, finance, national contributions and vulnerability.

During the opening session, Edgardo Riveros, Chilean Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, said the region can make a contribution that reflects its capacities and priorities, while promoting the concept of climate justice, given that environmental degradation contributes to deepening inequalities. France's Ambassador to Chile, Marc Giacomini, noted that France seeks to support a process for a "Climate Alliance" in order to reach an ambitious accord that is "forged collectively." Alexandra Knapton, the EU's representative in Chile, expressed hope that LAC countries will show leadership and present ambitious mitigation contributions.

Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary, emphasized the "asymmetries of climate change," noting that while LAC produces 9% of global CO2 emissions, it is one of the most vulnerable regions to the impacts of climate change. She added that ECLAC has proposed that countries build a "countercyclical investment architecture with a portfolio of low-carbon projects," noting that equality-centered development requires diversified production. ECLAC estimates that a temperature rise of 2.5°C could lead to a loss of about 3% of the region's GDP by 2050.

Attending the meeting as President Pro Tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Ecuador noted its intention to promote opportunities for dialogue in advance of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers and Ministers of Environment of CELAC to be held in October in Quito, Ecuador, in order to forge consensus on a CELAC regional position on climate change. [ECLAC Press Release] [Government of Chile Press Release] [Government of Ecuador Press Release]

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

IRENA: Renewable Energy Employs 7.7 Million People Worldwide

19 May 2015: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has released a report stating that the renewable energy industry employs more than 7.7 million people worldwide, an 18% increase from 6.5 million in 2014.

The report, titled ‘Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015,' also provides, for the first time, a global estimate of jobs supported by large hydropower.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin said renewable energy is "a major global employer" generating strong economic and social benefits, and that the increase is being driven, in part, by declining renewable energy technology costs. He said the increase is expected to continue as the business case for renewable energy becomes stronger. Amin noted that IRENA's research estimates that doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030 will result in more than 16 million jobs worldwide.

Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative, underscored the importance of the findings at the Second SE4ALL Forum being held 18-21 May 2015 in New York City, US.

The report finds that renewable energy employment is impacted by regional shifts, industry realignments, growing competition, and advances in technologies and manufacturing processes. Employment in the sector is increasingly in Asia, with five of the 10 countries with the most renewable energy jobs, namely: China, India, Indonesia, Japan and Bangladesh. The EU and the US currently represent 25% of global renewable energy jobs, compared to 31% in 2012. The 10 countries with the largest renewable energy employment figures are: China, Brazil, the US, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France, Bangladesh and Colombia.

The largest renewable energy employers worldwide are the solar PV industry with 2.5 million jobs, liquid biofuels with 1.8 million jobs, and wind power, which passed the one million job mark for the first time. Solar, wind, biofuels, biomass, biogas and small hydropower have all seen employment increases, according to the report.

Other findings include: France leads Europe in biomass, ground source heat pumps and biofuels employment; China is the world's largest overall renewable energy employer with 3.4 million jobs; Brazil is the leading employer in biofuels with 845,000 jobs; total solar employment in the US increased 22% from 142,700 to 173,800, with employment of women increasing from 26,700 to 37,500; and Germany is the leading renewable energy employer in Europe with 371,400 jobs. [IRENA Press Release] [Publication: Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2015] More



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Weak climate deal would jeopardise new development goals - experts - TRFN

LONDON, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's chances of achieving new international development goals will be slim without more ambitious action to curb climate change, researchers said.

Dr. Ulric 'Neville' Trotz

Pakistan, for example, is unlikely to be able to end poverty by 2030 if accelerating climate change brings worse weather disasters, water scarcity and other problems, a new report from the UK-based Climate and Development Knowledge Network said.

But if global warming is held to 2 degrees Celsius - the aim of negotiations toward a new U.N. climate deal at the end of the year in Paris - Pakistan would have only a "low" risk of failing to eradicate poverty, the report said.

Planned new sustainable development goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty, improving gender equality, and giving access to water and clean power have a much higher chance of being achieved if action to limit climate change is ambitious, the report's authors said.

But if weaker efforts on climate change put the world on track for a 3 to 5 degree Celsius temperature rise, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could see poverty rates 80 percent to 140 percent higher, the report found.

If the new sustainable development goals, expected to be agreed in New York in September, have strong targets, they could lift ambition in the year-end climate deal, the report said.

"There's a simple message: Climate action is developmental action," said Ulric "Neville" Trotz, a science advisor at the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change in Belize.

Countries need to fully incorporate climate action into national development plans, he added.

The report, by a team of economic policy and development experts, is one of the first attempts to put rough numbers on how the two new global deals due this year on climate change and sustainable development might interact.

States are negotiating over a proposal for 17 new sustainable development goals, backed by 169 targets, focused on everything from reducing inequality, hunger and climate change to managing forests and oceans better and promoting sustainable economic growth.

At the climate negotiations in December, leaders will aim to put in place an agreement, which would take effect in 2020, to curb carbon emissions and help poorer countries adapt to climate change and adopt a cleaner development path.


There are huge areas of overlap, experts say, not least because climate change impacts - such as water insecurity and more weather-related disasters - can cut harvests and incomes, and lead to children leaving school, as well as forcing governments to divert development funds to disaster relief.

"There's a simple message: Climate action is developmental action," said Ulric "Neville" Trotz, a science advisor at the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change in Belize.

Investing in cleaner, cheaper energy could not only cut climate risks but also improve health and provide the power needed to spur economic growth, the researchers said.

Many Caribbean islands, for example, rely on expensive imported fossil fuels, making their economies uncompetitive.

They are also extremely vulnerable to climate-related impacts, such as sea-level rise and stronger storms, said economist Anil Markandya, one of the report's authors.

"Unless we change the architecture of our energy sector, we might as well forget development under the SDGs," Trotz said.

Funding that change would require international support, such as from the new Green Climate Fund (GCF), he added.

Andrea Ledward, head of climate and environment for Britain's Department of International Development and a GCF board member, told a launch event for the report there is a need to "break down the firewall" between funding for climate and development projects because the two areas are so closely tied.

Rich nations have committed to mobilise by 2020 an annual $100 billion in climate finance that is "new and additional" to existing funding.

Jonathan Reeves of the International Institute for Environment and Development said that while climate and development funding streams could be merged, the accounting must be kept separate to ensure the money is "new and additional".

He warned that the least-developed countries have the most to lose if efforts to address climate change fail.

"If your country is going to be submerged within a couple of generations by sea-level rise, you're not even going to be thinking about achieving the SDGs," he said.

Ilmi Granoff, a researcher with the Overseas Development Institute in London, said public support for an ambitious climate deal and strong sustainable development targets could be won by focusing on a new, understandable aim for all countries: "zero poverty and zero emissions within a generation". (Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Megan Rowling) More


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wind of change sweeps through energy policy in the Caribbean

Aruba in the southern Caribbean has 107,000 people, a lot of wind and sun and, until very recently, one very big problem. Despite the trade winds and sunshine, it was spending more than 16% of its economy on importing 6,500 barrels of diesel fuel a day to generate electricity.

People were furious at the tripling of energy prices in 10 years and the resulting spiralling costs of imported water and food.

That changed at the Rio earth summit in 2012, when the prime minister, Mike Eman, announced that the former oil-producing Dutch island close to Venezuela planned to switch to 100% renewables by 2020.

Working with the independent US energy group the Rocky Mountain Institute and the business NGO Carbon War Room, Aruba ditched its old steam turbines for more efficient engines and changed the way it desalinated seawater.

It cost $300m (£183m), says the energy minister and deputy PM Mike D’Emeza, but Aruba immediately halved its fuel consumption and saved itself $85m a year. It then built a 30MW wind farm and cut its diesel consumption a further 50%. Now it is planning another wind farm and a large solar park. By 2020, Aruba will be free from fossil fuels and possibly storing renewable electricity under water or using ice.

The move to energy independence has had dramatic results, says De Meza. Electricity prices, which were US 33c/ KwH in 2009, have dropped 25% and are stable; inflation has been reversed; the island has nearly paid off the $300m it cost to switch out of diesel; the price of drinking water has fallen by almost a third; and the number of people unable to pay their bills has declined drastically.

“We had been grappling with very high energy costs for 15 years. We realised that our dependency on fossil fuels was leading to political and economic instability. We had to act,” De Meza says.

Aruba is already enjoying health and economic benefits. More tourists are keen to visit a green island, he adds, and children are fitter because it costs families less to pay for sports, and there is less illness. “It has been very popular. Instead of energy prices being the top of the political agenda, the debate now is about which is the best renewable energy source Aruba should go for next.”

Many other Caribbean islands are eager to follow Aruba. Some in the region pay more than 42c/ kwh – three or four times the price paid in most of the US and Europe – and up to 25% of their GDP on diesel for electricity.

Many are also locked into long-term contracts with monopolistic US or Canadian utility companies which have negotiated 17% or even higher guaranteed profit margins.

With many states also having to pay off onerous long-term loans to regional banks, the net effect of high power costs is continual misery, says Nicholas Robson, director of the Cayman Institute thinktank. “People are coming to me saying they cannot afford electricity. It costs 42c in the Caymans. It’s approaching a crisis point. People are struggling because of energy prices.”

“We are very concerned about the high cost of energy and how it affects jobs,” BVI prime minister Orlando Smith adds.

“We pay 38c/ KwH,” says James Fletcher, St Lucia’s energy and science minister. “The result is that industries like tourism, which are very heavy electricity users, are not competitive, our agriculture cannot move out of being just primary commodity producers, and our people have no money.”

St Lucia plans over the next 10 years to switch much of its electricity from diesel to renewables, using geothermal, wind and solar power. The government will make it easier for people to generate their own electricity to reduce diesel demand, and changing street lights to LEDs could reduce costs by $11m a year, he explains.

“Renewables will provide new jobs, everyone will have more money in their pockets, transport will be cheaper and companies will be able to expand more easily,” Fletcher says.

“Islands can get prices down to just 12c/ KwH,” says Ed Bosage, a wealthy American financier who bought the small island of Over Yonder Cay and who has switched it to 96% renewables with wind, solar and a tidal generator. “The wind blows at an average of 16 knots. The tidal is extremely reliable. We learned that wind trumps sun by 2:1. We now produce electricity for 12c, the cheapest in the Caribbean, and will get it cheaper. It’s repeatable everywhere,” he says.

Caribbean islands share similar problems to thousands of others in the Pacific and elsewhere. Mostly, they are not on national grids, which makes them vulnerable to high energy costs, fuel has to be imported at extra cost, and they are often reliant on just one utility company and most are too small to benefit from economies of scale.

While some can attract high-spending tourists and offshore finance companies, small island states are often heavily indebted, with weak economies, pockets of intense poverty and often rundown hospitals and schools.

But, says Peter Lilienthal, director of Colorado-based Homer Energy and former US national energy laboratory chief, islands stand to benefit from the renewable revolution more than anyone. “Diesel is now hurting small islands. They are burning money. But the price of solar has plummeted in the last few years. It’s now cost-efficient everywhere. Islands now can be the leaders.”

Jamaica is investing heavily in wind, Barbados in solar power and eight island states – Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos,and the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andreas have joined the Carbon War Room’s “10 island challenge”. This gives them access to technological and funding help from the Rocky Mountain Institute and others.

“Renewables have come slowly to the Caribbean and other developing countries but the technology is now cheap enough and diverse enough to make it much easier to install,” says Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Small islands can move fast if they have coherent policies. They can be the future.” More


This machine makes salty water drinkable

The American engineers who traveled to rural India two years ago believed they were going to help poor villagers get rid of microbes in their drinking water. But soon after their arrival, they began hearing about a different problem: salt.

“People kept talking about the salt in the water,” recalled Natasha Wright, a doctoral candidate who was part of the team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology that made the journey in 2013. “The groundwater beneath the villages was brackish.”

Those complaints inspired new technology that could some day supply water to thirsty villages and drought-stricken farms in other parts of the world. The MIT team developed a solar-powered water desalination system that uses the sun’s energy to turn brackish liquid into contaminant-free water safe for drinking and for crops.

While there are dozens of different desalination systems in use around the world, MIT’s is uniquely designed to be small, relatively cheap and 100-percent solar-powered, making it suitable for remote areas where the electricity supply is unreliable or non-existent, Wright said.

The panel of judges last month deemed the machine’s potential so impressive that they gave the inventors the $140,000 “Desal Prize,” an award sponsored by Securing Water for Food, a joint project of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the governments of Sweden and the Netherlands. Some 68 engineering teams from 29 countries competed in the contest, hosted by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation in Alamogordo, N.M.

“Providing a sustainable water supply is important for the West, the country and the world,” Esteva Lopez, the department’s reclamation commissioner, said after the top prize was awarded to MIT and its research partner, Jain Irrigation Systems.

Wright said she and fellow engineers from MIT’s Global Engineering and Research Laboratory became aware the extent of saltwater intrusion in northern and central Indian aquifers during visits to investigate solutions for widespread water contamination in India. In addition to problems with bacterial contamination, the groundwater in much of rural India is brackish, having a salt content lower than seawater but still high enough to cause problems. In some of the villages visited by the MIT researchers, locals were trying unsuccessfully to remove the salt using filters and chemicals.

“People complained about the salty taste,” Wright said, “and the salt ruined their cooking pots.”

Traditional desalination systems are expensive and require substantial amounts of electricity to operate, making them impractical for India’s remote farming communities. Instead, the MIT researchers designed a system that removes salt through a process called electrodialysis, using a series of electrodes and membranes to remove the salt. They added solar panels and batteries to run the pumps and charge the electrodes. Then, in a final step, they installed ultraviolet light arrays to kill any microbes remaining in the water.

The finished prototype is small enough to fit in a tractor-trailer and includes photovoltaic cells to supply the electricity. The system, when fully operational, can supply the basic water needs of a village of between 2,000 and 5,000 people, MIT officials said. Although the prototype was more expensive, Wright said the team is hopes to lower the costs of a village-sized unit to about $11,000.

Such a lower-power system is useful mainly for treating brackish water and not seawater, which contains far more salt. But the prototype now being tested could handle water that contains salt concentrations of up to 4,000 parts per million, meaning it would work in about 90 percent of India’s wells, Wright said. Seawater’s salt concentration averages about 35,000 parts per million.

“There are places where this kind of system won’t work, but the advantage is, it uses half the energy of other systems,” said Wright. And, thanks to solar cells, “you can be fully off the grid.” More


World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns

The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”, according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.

Anything built from now on that produces carbon will do so for decades, and this “lock-in” effect will be the single factor most likely to produce irreversible climate change, the world’s foremost authority on energy economics has found. If this is not rapidly changed within the next five years, the results are likely to be disastrous.

“The door is closing,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. “I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.”

If the world is to stay below 2C of warming, which scientists regard as the limit of safety, then emissions must be held to no more than 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the level is currently around 390ppm. But the world’s existing infrastructure is already producing 80% of that “carbon budget”, according to the IEA’s analysis, published on Wednesday. This gives an ever-narrowing gap in which to reform the global economy on to a low-carbon footing.

If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room for manoeuvre at all – the whole of the carbon budget will be spoken for, according to the IEA’s calculations. More


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Terrifying NASA Video Shows How Carbon Emissions Are Engulfing the World

Carbon dioxide emissions are invisible, but NASA has just made them all too real.

The space agency has released a video of high-resolution imagery documenting carbon emissions released over an entire year. The result is what looks like the world’s biggest storm stretching the length of the northern hemisphere. The video is the first time scientists have been able to see in fine detail how carbon dioxide moves through the atmosphere, showing the source of greenhouse emissions and their destination.

It’s mesmerizing and scary. The large, swirling, cloud-like plumes grow and spread across the globe over an entire seasonal cycle, showing just how far C02 emissions can spread. As the time-lapsed animation rolls through the year, the differences between spring, summer, fall, and winter are obvious—especially in the northern hemisphere. As the plant-growing season peaks in late spring and summer, the dark red plumes that signify the worst concentrations of carbon dioxide dissipate.

But as plant growth levels off in fall and winter, the dark plumes creep back up as humans spew carbon into the atmosphere from power plants, factories, and cars. Bill Putman, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, narrates the three-minute video and explains what the terrifying dark reds really mean."As summer transitions to fall and plant photosynthesis decreases, carbon dioxide begins to accumulate in the atmosphere," Putman says. "Although this change is expected, we’re seeing higher concentrations of carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere each year." That, in turn, is contributing to the long-term trend of rising global temperatures.

So what else does the map show? For starters, the world’s top three emitters—China, the U.S., and Europe—are easy to spot. Large red-tinged tails swirling above the areas indicate the highest concentrations of carbon. The video also shows how wind plays a key role in pushing carbon around the world, and how emissions levels can change rapidly because of weather patterns.

"The dispersion of carbon dioxide is controlled by the large-scale weather patterns within the global circulation," Putman says. The released video portrays carbon emissions in 2006. Given that emissions have only increased since then, the current situation is even more dire.

In the future, the computer modeling data can help scientists better determine the location of carbon sources and sinks.

In the 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

To visit the official COP21 website for more information, click here.



Saturday, May 2, 2015

Caribbean “island laboratories” making a case for renewable, says Mazurier

In early March, Stéphane Tromilin, a sustainable energy attaché in the French government, gave a United Nations webinar on the French government’s work on French islands.

In it, he spent most of the time discussing the unique challenges of islands, specifically those in the Caribbean like Guadeloupe, but also noted an island’s value as “laboratories to develop renewable energy solutions.”

Christophe Mazurier, a European financier and climate defender, has seen these laboratories in action, specifically in the Caribbean, where he has a home in the Bahamas. While many of these nations are at greater risk of climate disasters - in the form of devastating hurricanes and other storms - than most other places on earth, many refuse to become victims of the global intransigence on climate change. Instead, many Caribbean nations are taking it upon themselves to be the change they wish to see in their developed-nation counterparts.

Guadeloupe, the overseas French territory mentioned earlier, is getting nearly 30 percent of its energy from solar, a number on par with climate leaders Germany. Aruba gets 20% of its energy from wind, and is aiming to be totally sustainable by 2020. Ten island nations, including the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Dominica and more have joined the Ten Island Challenge, launched by Richard Branson as a means to give these Caribbean island clear renewable goals and support them in meeting those goals.

Mazurier says that in many ways, the Caribbean’s move to solar was preordained. Not because they are at the forefront of climate change susceptibility, but because of their incredibly high energy costs. Most Caribbean island nations pay around 33 cents per kWh of energy, while for comparison the United States pays 10 cents per kWh. Even with the price of fuel bottoming out, and energy costs in places like Jamaica being cut in half, Jamaica and others were already well on their way to a renewable future.

In 2013, Jamaica signed a deal that would bring 36 MW of wind power for $63 million, which would help it divest from diesel oil in the long-term. By investing heavily in renewables now, the islands can avoid paying for diesel in the future… No matter how the price fluctuates. Mazurier says that this is the key for these Caribbean island nations, who don’t have multimillion dollar climate budgets. These nations cannot just throw money at the problem in hopes that they can play a role in the ultimate cooling of the climate. Their emissions are negligible in the grand scheme of things. The only aspect that can get these nations to buy in if they know they will ultimately pay less for energy than they do now. The positives for the overall climate and the state of the planet are simply a secondary byproduct of these finance-driven deals.

Whichever way it breaks out, says Mazurier, the Caribbean turn toward renewable energy is a refreshing and encouraging sign. The question now becomes: Can the larger nations take note of their island peers? More


Friday, May 1, 2015

Elon Musk debuts the Tesla Powerwall

Why Tesla’s announcement is such a big deal: The coming revolution in energy storage

Tesla CEO Elon Musk presented his new Powerwall solar batteries on April 30, 2015. Musk says the batteries could dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels by replacing use of the power grid. (AP)

Late Thursday, the glitzy electric car company Tesla Motors, run by billionaire Elon Musk, ceased to be just a car company. As was widely expected, Tesla announced that it is offering a home battery product, which people can use to store energy from their solar panels or to backstop their homes against blackouts, and also larger scale versions that could perform similar roles for companies or even parts of the grid.

The anticipation leading up to the announcement has been intense — words like “zeitgeist” are being used — which itself is one reason why the moment for “energy storage,” as energy wonks put it to describe batteries and other technologies that save energy for later use, may finally be arriving. Prices for batteries have already been dropping, but if Tesla adds a “coolness factor” to the equation, people might even be willing to stretch their finances to buy one.

The truth, though, is Tesla isn’t the only company in the battery game, and whatever happens with Tesla, this market is expected to grow. A study by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association earlier this year found that while storage remains relatively niche — the market was sized at just $128 million in 2014 — it also grew 40 percent last year, and three times as many installations are expected this year.

By 2019, GTM Research forecasts, the overall market will have reached a size of $ 1.5 billion.

“The trend is more and more players being interested in the storage market,” says GTM Research’s Ravi Manghani. Tesla, he says, has two unique advantages — it is building a massive battery-making “gigafactory” which should drive down prices, and it is partnered with solar installer Solar City (Musk is Solar City’s chairman), which “gives Tesla access to a bigger pool of customers, both residential and commercial, who are looking to deploy storage with or without solar.”

The major upshot of more and cheaper batteries and much more widespread energy storage could, in the long term, be a true energy revolution — as well as a much greener planet. Here are just a few ways that storage can dramatically change — and green — the way we get power:

Almost everybody focusing the Tesla story has homed in on home batteries – but in truth, the biggest impact of storage could occur at the level of the electricity grid as a whole. Indeed, GTM Research’s survey of the storage market found that 90 percent of deployments are currently at the utility scale, rather than in homes and businesses.

That’s probably just the beginning: A late 2014 study by the Brattle Group, prepared for mega-Texas utility Oncor, found that energy storage “appears to be on the verge of becoming quite economically attractive” and that the benefits of deploying storage across Texas would “significantly exceed costs” thanks to improved energy grid reliability. Oncor has proposed spending as much as $ 5.2 billion on storage investments in the state. California, too, has directed state utilities to start developing storage capacity – for specifically environmental reasons.

For more power storage doesn’t just hold out the promise of a more reliable grid — it means one that can rely less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energy sources like wind and, especially, solar, which vary based on the time of day or the weather. Or as a 2013 Department of Energy report put it, “storage can ‘smooth’ the delivery of power generated from wind and solar technologies, in effect, increasing the value of renewable power.”

“Storage is a game changer,” said Tom Kimbis, vice president of executive affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement. That’s for many reasons, according to Kimbis, but one of them is that “grid-tied storage helps system operators manage shifting peak loads, renewable integration, and grid operations.” (In fairness, the wind industry questions how much storage will be needed to add more wind onto the grid.)

Consider how this might work using the example of California, a state that currently ramps up natural gas plants when power demand increases at peak times, explains Gavin Purchas, head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s California clean energy program.

In California, “renewable energy creates a load of energy in the day, then it drops off in the evening, and that leaves you with a big gap that you need to fill,” says Purchas. “If you had a plenitude of storage devices, way down the road, then you essentially would be able to charge up those storage devices during the day, and then dispatch them during the night, when the sun goes down. Essentially it allows you to defer when the solar power is used.”

This will be appealing to power companies, notes Purchas, because “gas is very quick to respond, but it’s not anywhere near as quick as battery, which can be done in seconds, as opposed to minutes with gas.” The consequences of adding large amounts of storage to the grid, then, could be not only a lot fewer greenhouse gas emissions, but also better performance.

2. Greening suburban homes and, maybe, their electric cars, too.

Shifting away from the grid to the home, batteries or other forms of storage have an equally profound potential, especially when paired with rooftop solar panels.

Currently, rooftop solar users are able to draw power during the day and, under net metering arrangements, return some of it to the grid and thus lower their bills. This has led to a great boom in individual solar installations, but there’s the same problem here as there is with the grid as a whole: Solar tapers off with the sun, but you still need a lot of power throughout the evening and overnight.

But storing excess solar power with batteries, and then switching them on once the solar panels stop drawing from the sun, makes a dramatic difference. Homes could shift even further away from reliance on the grid, while also using much more green power.

Moreover, they’d also be using it at a time of day when its environmental impact is greater. “If you think about solar, when it’s producing in the middle of the day, the environmental footprint is relatively modest,” explains Dartmouth College business professor Erin Mansur. That’s because at this time of day, Mansur explains, solar is more likely to be displacing electricity generated from less carbon intensive natural gas. “But if you can shift some of that to the evening … if you can save some to the middle of the night, it’s more likely to be displacing coal,” says Mansur.

Some day, perhaps, some of the sun-sourced and power could even be widely used to recharge electric vehicles like Teslas — which would solve another problem. According to a much discussed 2012 paper by Mansur and two colleagues, electric vehicles can have a surprisingly high energy footprint despite their lack of tailpipe emissions because they are often charged over night, a time when the power provided to the grid (said to be “on the margin”) often comes from coal.

But if electric vehicles could be charged overnight using stored power from the sun, that problem also goes away.

All of which contributes to a larger vision outlined recently by a team of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability in which suburban homeowners, who can install rooftop solar combined with batteries and drive electric vehicles, start to dramatically reduce their carbon footprints — which have long tended to be bigger in suburbia, due in part to the need for long commutes — and also their home energy bills.

Granted, it’s still a vision right now, rather than a reality for the overwhelming number of suburbanites — but energy storage is a key part of that vision.

3. Helping adjust to smart energy pricing

And there’s another factor to add into the equation, which shows how energy storage could further help homeowners save money.

For a long time, economists have said that we need “smart” or “dynamic” electricity pricing — that people should be charged more for power at times of high energy demand, such as in the afternoon and early evening, when the actual electricity itself costs more on wholesale markets. This would lead to lower prices overall, but higher prices during peak periods. And slowly, such smart pricing schemes are being introduced to the grid (largely on a voluntary basis).

But if you combine “smart” pricing with solar and energy storage, then homeowners have another potential benefit, explains Ravi Manghani of GTM Research. They could store excess power from their solar panels during the day, and then actually use it in the evening when prices for electricity go up — and avoid the higher cost. “There’s an economic case to store the excess solar generation and use it during evening hours,” explains Manghani by email. (For more explanation, see here.)

Notably, if there are future reductions in how much money solar panel owners can make selling excess power back to the grid — and that’s one thing the current pushback against net metering wants to achieve — then energy storage comes in and gives panel owners a new way for using that power.

“Storage increases the options,” explains Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s an enabling technology for solar. It allows customers to meet more scenarios economically.”

So in sum — cheaper, more easily available energy storage helps at the scale of the power grid, and also at the level of our homes, to further advantage cleaner, renewable energy. So if the economics of storage are finally starting to line up — and its business side to ramp up — that can only be good news for the planet. More


New IUCN publication: Making an Economic Case for EbA

"Knowledge Gaps in Making an Economic Case for Investing in Nature Based Solutions for Climate Change".

This report is available both in English and French on the IUCN EBA web page. This preliminary rapid assessment is now being followed up with an in-depth analysis in the Philippines and Peru. We aim to have this study available for the Paris COP 21.

Climate change is having increasingly adverse impacts on people and nature. It exacerbates existing environmental threats, poses new risks and impedes our ability to achieve global conservation and development objectives such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Across the globe, initiatives have been established to help communities implement approaches that enable them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) is one such approach. EbA uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a larger adaptation strategy – an excellent example of a viable nature-based solution. As well as providing climate change adaptation benefits, this approach also contributes to biodiversity conservation and enhances local economies. IUCN has been extensively involved in EbA work, strengthening community resilience and livelihoods in almost 60 countries. This work demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the implementation of nature- based solutions.

The conservation and sustainable development community considers EbA to be a strong method of addressing climate change and its associated challenges. However, there is still a tendency for policy makers to implement traditional engineering solutions for adaptation, rather than investing in EbA. The need for solid data on the cost-effectiveness of this nature-based approach was the driver behind an IUCN study identifying the economic costs and benefits associated with EbA. The lessons learned from this appraisal process will make it easier for policy makers to compare EbA options with engineered solutions. Download English / French