U.S. & Britain Partner to Power Up Africa

Bringing reliable, renewable power to Africans has been an ongoing conversation around the climate talks in Paris this month. Both the U.S. and the UK have programs with goals to do just this. Going forward, however, the programs will be power amplified with the new collaboration between the two countries. The partnership was announced during COP21 by UK International Development Minister Nick Hurd and Associate Administrator of USAID Eric Postel.

The goal of the new partnership between the UK’s Energy Africa campaign and the America’s Power Africa initiative is to leverage much-needed private investment, develop networks to share power across borders and harness geothermal resources to boost access to electricity across the continent.

ID 40753251 © Meshmerize | Dreamstime.com

ID 40753251 © Meshmerize | Dreamstime.com

“It is shocking that 600 million Africans still live without power at home. This is not just holding back individuals; it is holding back an entire continent,” said Hurd during the announcement. “No one can tackle Africa’s energy challenge alone. We will only make progress if we work together. That is why this new partnership is so important.

Hurd added, “The US has led the way over the past few years with its Power Africa campaign. Together with our Energy Africa campaign we can boost access to reliable, clean and affordable household energy, helping millions of people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries was signed at COP21 during the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and New Climate Economy event “Climate change in Africa: Financing low-carbon pathways for Development”. The new deal will harness the skills, expertise and investment power of the private sector to help improve energy access, boost economic growth and reduce poverty.

“The United States Government is thrilled to work closely with DFID on the Energy Africa campaign, to accelerate the household solar market,” added Postel. “In partnership with DFID, development agencies, African governments, the private sector, and civil society, we can help accelerate Africa’s energy path toward economic and environmental sustainability and ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”

PG&E Service Centers to be 100% Solar Powered

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has launched a new renewable energy initiative. The company plans to power all its operations service centers – nearly 100 in Northern and Central California – with solar energy. In addition, through the Solar Choice program, customers will have the choice to choose 50 or 100 percent of their electricity from solar sourced from new small to mid-sized solar projects that range in size from 0.5 to 20 MW. The program officially kicks off in early 2016.

COP21 logoThe news came on “Action Day” during COP21, a day where businesses and governments around the globe announced new climate-centric initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. PG&E hopes that through their company commitment to use solar energy, their customers will also make the choice. The Solar Choice program also enables homeowners without rooftop solar to still power their homes with clean energy.

“Solar power is critical to achieving California’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we strongly support its growth—whether it’s for customers who install rooftop solar or for others through our Solar Choice program,” said PG&E’s Geisha Williams, President, Electric.

PG&E has already connected more than 200,000 rooftop solar customers to the grid, more they say, than any other U.S. utility. The company has also made other climate commitments and this fall, signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate pledge.

Global Geothermal Alliance Launched at #COP21

As a means to increase geothermal energy globally, this week during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, (COP21) a coalition of 38 countries along with 20 development and industry partners have launched the Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA). The nonprofit was organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and was founded with the goal of achieving a 500 percent increase in global installed geothermal capacity by 2030 as well as a 200 percent increase in geothermal heating.

From left to right: Minister Ségolène Royal, France; President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Iceland; Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA. Photo by IISD/ENB

From left to right: Minister Ségolène Royal, France; President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Iceland; Director-General Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA. Photo by IISD/ENB

“Geothermal has proven its potential to be part of both the global climate and energy action agenda,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “While geothermal can provide baseload power at some of the lowest costs for any power source, it remains under-developed. The Global Geothermal Alliance will provide a platform for partners to share best practices, further reduce costs and get the most benefit out of this sustainable energy resource.”

IRENA cites that nearly 90 countries have potential for geothermal energy resource development; however, just 13 gigawatts of installed capacity exists worldwide. The agency says the main obstacle for geothermal power investment and development has been the high upfront costs of surface geophysical studies and drilling to explore for geothermal resources. However, the agency explains, once a geothermal project is in operation, it can generate electricity at a low cost. The GGA will aim to overcome these barriers by mitigating risks, promoting technological cooperation, coordinating regional and national initiatives and facilitating geothermal energy investments into energy markets.

The launch took place in the context of the Energy Action Day at COP21, co-organised by IRENA along with several members. In two years of preliminary consultations, IRENA says the GGA has gathered substantial support from governments, leading industry players, development partners, regional and national institutions and non-governmental organizations. The initiative was initiated in September 2014 at the Climate Summit organized by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Poll: Illinois Voters Support Clean Energy Credits

According to a new poll, three out of four (74 percent) Illinois voters support continuing to provide tax incentives for renewable energy. The poll comes out as Congress considers renewing a number of energy tax credits including the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Both of these federal incentives are designed to spur renewable power development for energy sources such as wind and solar energy. The poll was released by A Renewable America (ARA), a project of the Wind Energy Foundation.

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

The poll also found:

  • Support for renewable energy tax incentives is strong across the political spectrum. 60 percent of Republicans, 83 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Illinois Independents support continuing renewable energy tax incentives.
  • 74 percent of Illinois voters support continuing tax incentives for renewable energy, even when presented with contrasting arguments. This support was particularly strong among younger voters, as 92 percent between the ages of 18 and 29, and 82 percent of voters between the ages of 30 and 39 agree.
  • 88 percent of Illinois voters agree with the message that “we should continue to encourage renewable energy development so that the United States can move toward energy independence.”
  • 78 percent of Illinois votes agree with the message that “we should have a stable and predictable tax policy, because it makes it easier for the renewable energy industry to plan its investments and continue driving down costs.”
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of voters said they would be more favorable to a leader who supported continuing tax credits for renewable energy producers.
  • Recently, 46 renewable energy businesses and organizations with a significant presence in Illinois sent a letter to Senator Mark Kirk and Representatives Bob Dold and Pete Roskam, urging their support for timely extensions of the PTC and ITC.

“As an Illinois-based manufacturer, I can say that the policy uncertainty around these incentives jeopardizes industry growth and threatens jobs,” said Joni Konstantelos, director of investor relations and corporate communications for Broadwind Energy. “It’s not surprising that Illinoisans support stable policy to continue the growth of renewable energy in our state.” Continue reading

#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.”