#COP21 Participants Commit to Energy Transition

Over the weekend UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) attendees made commitments to accelerate the ongoing energy transition through several initiatives discussed during the Lima-Paris Action Agenda Focus on Energy (LPAA). New analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) finds that achieving a 36 percent share of renewable energy by 2030 would result in half of all emission reductions needed to maintain a two-degree pathway, while energy efficiency measures could supply the rest.

From left to right: Nick Nuttall (Moderator), UNFCC; Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO, Accenture Resources; Steve Howard, CSO, IKEA; Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, IRENA; Rachel Kyte, incoming CEO, SE4All; Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment, Egypt, Chair of AMCEN

From left to right: Nick Nuttall (Moderator), UNFCC; Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO, Accenture Resources; Steve Howard, CSO, IKEA; Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General, IRENA; Rachel Kyte, incoming CEO, SE4All; Khaled Fahmy, Minister of Environment, Egypt, Chair of AMCEN

“With the energy sector accounting for some two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions, the decarbonisation of energy must be at the heart of any effort to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The energy transition is underway worldwide but more action is needed. To scale up efforts to the level needed, we must utilise all available technologies, increase ambition among all actors in all regions of the world, and mobilise the funds needed to enable the transition.”

The announcements included new initiatives emerging to help further drive this transition including:

  • The Global Geothermal Alliance launched during the event. This Alliance is set to achieve a 500% increase in global installed capacity for geothermal power generation and a 200% increase for geothermal heating by 2030. The world contains vast geothermal energy potential, proven across nearly 90 countries. However, almost 90% of this remains untapped with roughly 12 GW installed so far. What was only an idea a year ago, is now a partnership of 36 countries and 23 institutions with an action plan in place to guide its success.
  • The Africa Clean Energy Corridor aims to boost renewable power deployment, reduce carbon emissions and support sustainable, climate-friendly economic growth. By facilitating a larger electricity market, the initiative could attract sufficient investments to meet half of all power needs in eastern and southern Africa by 2030. At COP21, IRENA and its partners announced efforts to develop a clean energy corridor in western Africa as well.
  • The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Lighthouses initiative announced that Saint Lucia is the 29th island to join the initiative. Since its launch in September 2014, 18 SIDS have developed roadmaps for deployment of renewable energy, USD 150 million has been mobilised for renewable energy projects on SIDS, and 18 MW of renewable energy has been deployed. The initiative will also announce a new pilot project development facility to help develop more bankable projects.
  • To meet climate objectives, renewable energy uptake would need to increase six-fold from current levels. This would require global annual investment to nearly double to exceed USD 500 billion in the period up to 2020, and more than triple to exceed USD 900 billion from 2021 to 2030. The Sustainable Energy Marketplace was launched to provide a matchmaking platform for renewable energy projects and investors to connect. The Marketplace expects to house 100 projects by the beginning of 2016, and to mobilize USD 10 billion in project financing over the next 3 years.

These initiatives are the latest in a series of renewable energy announcements made during COP 21 including the African Renewable Electricity Program; Breakthrough Energy Coalition; and the Mission Innovation initiative.

UN Climate Deal May Spur European Wind Growth

EWEA_vertical_01Ambitious climate plans are being unveiled in Paris during COP21 and some of these could spark an export boom for European wind industry according to European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). China, India, Morocco, Brazil and Turkey are just a few of the countries that have made post-2020 national pledges on the deployment of wind energy in the coming years. In all 70 countries have identified wind as a key climate mitigation technology.

Giles Dickson, CEO of EWEA, said, “The pledges from emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America should read like an investment brochure for the wind industry in Europe. The EU’s export potential for wind and renewable technologies is vast. There could be a real opportunity here for Europe to cement its place as the number one manufacturer and supplier of wind power technology globally.”

Europe is home to three of the world’s five largest wind turbine makers with installed wind capacity able to meet over 10 percent of electricity consumption across the continent. More broadly, says EWEA, renewable energy contributes EUR130 billion each year to the European economy with EUR35 billion coming from export revenues to countries outside the EU.

Dickson says, however, that despite the clear economic benefits, the lack of ambition from EU countries on renewables post-2020 puts a big question mark over whether Europe will realize its huge export opportunities.

“The hard truth is that we go to Paris with long-term renewable energy pledges from India, China and Turkey, who have come forward with ambitious targets, while the UK, Poland, Spain and others have yet to outline their own plans beyond the next five years,” said Dickson. “Europe should be a torchbearer on climate and renewable energy ambition. The EU’s leadership in renewables must not be sacrificed due to a lack of ambitious policies from Member States. The wind industry alone supports 262,000 jobs across Europe. Political impetus could see those numbers grow over the next 15 years but a new renewables law is needed to underpin a vibrant home market.”

African Renewable Electricity Program Debuts @COP21

Africa launched an ambitious Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) during the Conference of Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris, France. The program’s goal is to produce 300 gigawatts (GW) of electricity for the continent by 2030 as a demonstration of Africa’s leadership in the UN climate negotiations. AREI is an outcome of African leadership in Workstream II of the Durban Platform including their May 2014 proposal for a global renewable energy support programme.

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 9.35.04 AMThe project aims to help African countries leapfrog towards renewable energy systems that support their low-carbon development strategies while enhancing economic and energy security. The initiative is expected to deliver 10 GW of new and additional electrical installed capacity by 2020 and 300 GW by 2030.

Speaking during the launch of the project at the Africa Pavillion in Paris, Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the major sponsors of the initiative, said the institution has tripled its financing to climate change initiatives.

“We are aware that Africa needs massive financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. That is why we are dedicating 40 per cent of our resources to such efforts,” Adesina said. He regretted that Africa is often referred to as a dark continent because majority of the residents have no access to electricity.

“Africa has 640 million of its people who don’t have access to electricity. A total of 7 million Africans have no access to clean energy and majority use charcoal and kerosene. This always leads to deaths. We must stop this,” Adesina continued. “The initiative is a game-changer as Africa loses 4 per cent of its GDP due to lack of clean energy. Let us use our abundant sunshine to light our homes and our water to generate clean energy. This investment must bring electricity to our people. ”

The AfDB also launched $300 million which will be given as loans for women to engage in smart environmental businesses as a way of empowering them.

Companies Embrace Solar

A new report finds growth in the use of solar energy has surged 183 percent among America’s top companies in the four years. “Solar Means Business 2015,” also found 59 percent growth in solar installations since last year. The study, the first in four years, was released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Solar Means Business 2015For the fourth year in a row, Walmart ranked No.1 with 142 MW of solar PV capacity at 348 locations. Other top companies recognized for both their amount of solar capacity and number of solar installations include Kohl’s, Apple, Macy’s, Walgreens, Target, IKEA, Prologis, FedEx, Intel, General Motors, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, Bed Bath & Beyond, Safeway, Hartz Mountain, Staples, L’Oreal, Kaiser Permanente and Toyota.

“These blue-chip companies have realized investing in solar is a common-sense, cost-effective decision that pays dividends for both the environment and their bottom lines,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Not only are they helping to create thousands of American jobs in solar, the nearly 1,700 systems currently in operation are generating enough clean, reliable electricity to offset nearly 890,000 metric tons of harmful carbon emissions a year.”

Combined, America’s top corporate solar users installed 1,686 systems totaling 907 MW of solar. Representing a “Who’s Who” of the corporate world according to SEIA. These companies, says the association, are playing an increasingly important role in the development, expansion and promotion of solar nationwide, while also reducing their operating expenses, benefiting customers and shareholders alike.

The report notes that growth in corporate solar adoption is no longer limited to traditional solar markets, but that “solar is a smart business decision wherever your business may be.”

Canada Commits to Greater Wind Energy Use

The Alberta government has made a commitment to use renewable energy to replace two-thirds of the electricity currently produced by coal-fired electricity generation. As part of this plan, the government has indicated that wind energy will be the primary source of this new energy mix. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) applauded the news.

Photo Credit: Canadian Wind Energy Association

Photo Credit: Canadian Wind Energy Association

Wind energy is one of the most cost-competitive ways to generate new electricity in Alberta and Alberta is wise to draw on its tremendous wind energy resources to help replace coal-fired electricity in the province,” said CanWEA President Robert Hornung. “Wind energy can also ensure that greenhouse gas emission reductions in electricity generation are sustainable and long-term and can contribute to the creation of a low carbon electricity grid that can ultimately help reduce emissions in other sectors of the economy.”

CanWEA cites that while the new renewable energy targets are ambitious, they are achievable without negatively affecting the electricity grid. Today, wind energy supplies 4 percent of power needs but the organization says more than 10 countries and U.S. states have already seen wind energy contribute more than 15 percent and they believe Alberta’s ability will be no different.

“Alberta has said it will use an auction process to bring new renewable energy on-line and such competitive processes have been used successfully in many Canadian jurisdictions,” said Hornung. “Experience has shown that these processes are intensively competitive and ensure that ratepayers receive the lowest cost power.”

CanWEA looks forward to working with the Government of Alberta and key stakeholders on the detailed design and implementation of policy measures that will facilitate the deployment of high quality and cost-competitive new wind energy projects in the province.

Hornung added, “Alberta’s decision to move away from coal-fired electricity generation and dramatically increase its use of renewable energy reflects a trend happening in countries all over the world. More renewable energy in Alberta will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, clean the air, and produce significant new investment and jobs – particularly in rural areas of the province.”

GRID Alternatives Helps Bring Solar to Families in Need

Mitsubishi Electric Green Team volunteers, students from CSULB Disabled Student Services and GRID Alternatives project leader pose in front of a newly installed 3.24kW solar system in Los Angeles. (Photo: Business Wire)

Mitsubishi Electric Green Team volunteers, students from CSULB Disabled Student Services and GRID Alternatives project leader pose in front of a newly installed 3.24kW solar system in Los Angeles. (Photo: Business Wire)

When we think of Thanksgiving and helping those in need, many people take action to help provide food. Yet this holiday, thanks to GRID Alternatives, employees from Mitsubishi Electric and California State University Long Beach’s Disabled Student Services, two low-income families now have access to affordable, clean energy. The group installed solar electric systems with the PV modules donated by Mitsubishi Electric US.

While Mitsubishi Electric US donated 6kW of Diamond Premium high performance monocrystalline PV modules bundled with inverters donated by SolarEdge and racking donated by Orion Solar Racking, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation provided financial support for the installations with a grant to GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles. The solar package is bundled as the Diamond Kit as provides a simpler way for residential homeowners to install solar energy and save money. The grant provides hands-on training and education in renewable energy for the student volunteers, most of whom are interested in pursuing careers in the solar industry.

At the second installation, volunteers installed a 2.7kW solar system. (Photo: Business Wire)

At the second installation, volunteers installed a 2.7kW solar system. (Photo: Business Wire)

“We are pleased to extend our reach this year to two families in need,” said Gina Heng, vice president and general manager of Mitsubishi Electric U.S., Inc.’s Photovoltaic Division. “We appreciate the generosity of SolarEdge and Orion Solar Racking, and the leadership of GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, for making these installations possible.”

The photovoltaic systems were installed in the homes of Edward Wong, a CSULB alumnus, and his family, of Los Angeles, and Zelmira Medina of East Los Angeles. “As a CSULB graduate, it was great to connect with these student volunteers from my alma mater,” said Mr. Wong. “On behalf of my family, I also want to thank all the companies for giving us the gift of solar energy for our new home.”

Kevin Webb, director of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, added, “GRID Alternatives gave us the opportunity to further our mission to help youth with disabilities maximize their potential and participation in society. I’m impressed by the students’ interest in solar technology. We’re proud to continue our support of GRID Alternatives not only to help these students get practical experience in their chosen careers, but also to assist them to serve their community.”

Pilot Hill Wind Project Goes Online

The Pilot Hill Wind Project, a 175 MW wind farm located in Illinois, has begun commercial operations. The EDF Renewable Energy project was made possible through Microsoft Corporation’s commitment to purchase the power under a 20-year purchase power agreement. Pilot Hill will provide 100 percent of the energy needs of Microsoft’s data center.

EDF_PilotHill_20152917-0048_(Copy)

Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois generating 175 MW.

EDF Renewable Energy is proud to partner with Microsoft to power its Illinois data center with 100% renewable energy, through the Pilot Hill Wind Project,” said Ryan Pfaff, executive vice president of EDF Renewable Energy. “Corporate America is increasingly turning to renewable energy to power its business operations, based both on consumer preferences and because renewable energy simply makes good business sense from a cost standpoint. Technology companies like Microsoft have been leading the way in this regard, and many other industries are beginning to follow suit.”

Located 60 miles southwest of Chicago in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, Pilot Hill commenced construction of its 103 General Electric (GE) wind turbines in September 2014. The facility will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft, added, “Microsoft is excited to see renewable energy from Pilot Hill coming on line. We are strong supporters of green power, and projects like Pilot Hill are one way we are meeting our commitment to powering our data centers and operations with renewable energy.”

EDF Renewable Services will provide balance-of-plant operations and maintenance for the facility including 24/7 remote monitoring from its NERC compliant Operations Control Center (OCC).

TASC Poll: Public Unhappy with Hawaii Solar Direction

According to a new poll from the The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), in Hawaii, a majority of respondents support political candidates that support solar development as well as rooftop solar. In addition, a majority said they oppose the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) recent decision to eliminate solar net metering, the fundamental policy for rooftop solar growth according to TASC.

Solar supporters rally in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PRNewsFoto/The Alliance for Solar Choice)

Solar supporters rally in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PRNewsFoto/The Alliance for Solar Choice)

Three out of four respondents oppose the Commission’s October decision, which was made without holding a hearing or conducting an analysis of the costs and benefits of solar net metering, and without providing notice to customers. In response, dozens of people gathered at a “Rally To Be Heard” in front of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Solar supporters erected a large megaphone to demonstrate the desire for public participation. “I support greater solar growth,” said Charlie Jeffries who attended the rally. “I’m disturbed that the PUC made a rash decision without giving the public an opportunity to make our voices heard.”

“The Hawaii Public Utility Commission failed to do a study of the costs and benefits of solar,” said Roy Skaggs, also a rally attendee. “How do you make sweeping decisions that impacts thousands of families and jobs without at least knowing the data?”

Those speaking at the rally share the public’s sentiment. A nearly-universal 97% of poll respondents support more rooftop solar in Hawaii.

“The public overwhelmingly supports rooftop solar and believes that Hawaii is moving in the wrong direction on energy policy, but policy makers are not listening,” said Bryan Miller, President of TASC. “This poll shows that Governor Ige and the Commission are ignoring the voices of their constituents.” Continue reading

PHG Energy Kicks of Waste-to-Energy Project

Construction of a new gasification plant at Lebanon, Tennessee’s waste water treatment facility is underway following a groundbreaking ceremony held last week. Tens of thousands of tons of sewer sludge, used tires and industrial wood waste will be processed to produce electricity to help power the plant.  PHG Energy of Nashville is designing and building the new facility, which will include utilization of the world’s largest downdraft gasification unit with a full capacity of 64 tons per day through the system.

Lebanon Groundbreaking 11-12-15 smaller size

From left to Right: Chris Koczaja (vice president of implementation and engineering at PHG Energy); Tom Doherty (environmental specialist with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation); Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead; Lebanon Councilman Fred Burton, Ward 2; Lebanon Councilman Rob Cesternino, Ward 3, and Jeff Baines (public works commissioner for the city of Lebanon)

“This facility is going to be a model for waste-to-energy partnerships,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said of the project, “as well as the first stage in moving our city completely away from dumping waste into landfills.”

Gasification is a clean thermo-chemical process that breaks down biomass-based material in a high-heat and low-oxygen environment. According to a PHG Energy press release, there is no incineration or burning involved in the process. The only residue after production of synthetic fuel gas is a carbon biochar that has multiple agricultural, industrial and direct fuel uses.

Tom Doherty, Environmental Specialist with the Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), said the new facility is an important step forward in efforts Tennessee and his department are fostering across the state. “When we look at the thousands of tons of wood waste and sludge this plant will cleanly process, that is a tremendous step forward. One of the most exciting parts of deploying this technology in Lebanon is that hundreds or tons of scrap tires will be put to beneficial use while saving Wilson County a considerable portion of their previous disposal expense.”

TDEC has awarded the project funding of $250,000 through the Clean Tennessee Energy Grant program, and facilitated a subsidy of 70% of the $3.5 million financing’s interest cost through the Federal Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds program.

Wind Energy Can Lead Europe in 2030

According to a new report from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), wind power can exceed gas, coal and other forms of energy by 2030 if European member states follow the ambitious policy framework put in place through 2030.

EWEA Report - Aiming HighThe report finds total wind installations in Europe could reach 392GW with 294GW of onshore and 98GW of offshore wind. Today, Europe’s 128.8GW can meet 10 percent of European power consumption in a normal wind year. Giles Dickson, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association, noted wind power can be the foundation of the European energy system within the next 15 years.

The report outlines a number of policy priorities that need to be addressed including the development of national renewable energy action plans for member states; streamlining national permitting procedures; proposing legislation for well-functioning energy markets and driving reform of the Emissions Trading System. Should these policies be implemented the report finds the measures will result in a net gain of EUR13 billion, the equivalent of the EU’s funding for transport infrastructure over the next 5 years. The wind industry would also support up to 366,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“Wind power makes economic sense. But policymakers must demonstrate more determination than is on show today,” said Dickson. “Wind power can deliver economic growth in Europe by boosting investments, creating jobs and reducing electricity bills. A new market design, a reformed ETS and rigorous accountability on 2030 targets are essential if these goals are to be achieved.”

“Already onshore wind is cheaper than any form of new power generation. Last year wind power installed more than gas and coal combined in the EU. Europe’s energy and economic transition is underway.” Dickson added, “Now politicians must decide whether to accelerate this transition or drag their heels, which would damage investments and job creation.”