Emerging Nations Hit Record Clean Energy Investments

According to the new report Climatescope, developing nations have surpassed the world’s wealthiest countries in securing more renewable energy investments. Climatescope is a clean energy country competitiveness index, interactive report and online tool supported by the U.S., U.K. and Inter-American Development Bank Group. The report unveils a portrait of clean energy activity in 55 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America Climatescope2015and the Caribbean. The group includes major developing nations China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as dozens of others. Energy solutions reviewed included solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal, biomass, and other zero-carbon emitting technologies (excluding large hydro).

The news came shortly before a round of UN-organized climate negotiations kicked off in Paris prior to the start of COP21. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which released the report, says these talks often focus on the question of how much capital wealthier countries should make available to lesser developed countries to address the climate challenge.

Climatescope’s key findings include:

  • For the first time ever, over half of all new annual investment into clean energy power generating projects globally went toward projects in emerging markets, rather than toward wealthier countries.
  • New investment in renewables soared in 2014 in the 55 Climatescope countries assessed to hit a record annual high of $126bn – up $35.5bn, or 39%, from 2013 levels.
  • The results were substantially bolstered by the remarkable growth in China, which added 35GW of new renewable power generating capacity all on its own – more than the 2014 clean energy build in the US, UK, and France combined.
  • Meanwhile, “South-South” investment (funds deployed in Climatescope nations from banks or other financial institutions based in those countries) surged to $79bn in 2014 from $53bn the year prior.
  • Continuing declines in clean energy costs appear to be driving growth. Costs associated with solar photovoltaic power have ticked down 15% year-on-year globally. Solar is particularly competitive in emerging markets which often suffer from very high power prices from fossil generation while also enjoying very sunny conditions.
  • A total of 50.4 gigawatts (GW) of new clean capacity was built in Climatescope countries, marking a 21% uptick from the prior year. In another first, renewables capacity deployed in emerging markets topped that in wealthier Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.
  • On a percentage basis, clean energy capacity is growing twice as quickly in Climatescope nations compared to OECD ones.

The report found that progress was achieved during 2014 despite a number of countries in the survey seeing economic growth rates slow. Average gross domestic product growth across Climatescope nations slipped to 5.7 percent in 2014 from 6.4 percent in 2013 with the slow-down most apparent in major nations, Brazil, South Africa, and China. Despite the pullback, these three countries attracted a total of $103bn in new clean energy investment in 2014.

60% New Electricity Generation Renewable Power

Becoming a trend, renewable energy sources accounted for more 60.2 percent of the 7,276 of new electrical generation placed in service in the U.S. during the first three quarters of 2015. According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, 26 new units of wind totaling 2,966 MW of new electrical generation have been placed in service so far this year. This accounted for 40.76 percent of all new capacity brought online year-to-date.  Among renewable sources, solar followed with 1,137 MW (142 units), biomass with 205 MW (16 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit), and hydropower with 27 MW (18 units). Thirty-four units of natural gas contributed 2,884 MW.

wind power in Iowa

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Only 9 MW of new generation from oil and 3 MW from coal were put into production and there was no new capacity from nuclear power. In total, new capacity from renewable energy sources so far this year is 1,460 times greater than that from coal while new capacity from wind alone exceeds that from natural gas. In just September, wind (448 MW) again dominated, with 54.83 percent of new capacity followed by natural gas (346 MW), and solar (20 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.40 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.59 percent, wind – 5.91 percent, biomass – 1.43 percent, solar – 1.13 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.35 percent of capacity in September 2014 and 15.68 percent in September 2013). The share of total installed capacity from solar alone has more than doubled over the past two years (1.13% vs. 0.54%). Total installed capacity from non-hydro renewables (8.81%) now exceeds that from conventional hydropower (8.59%).

“With Congress and numerous states now questioning the ability of renewable energy sources to meet targets called for in the Administration’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP), the explosive growth of wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal in recent years confirms that it can be done,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “In fact, the latest FERC data suggest that the CPP’s goals are unduly modest and renewables will handily surpass them.”

Renewable Industries Call on Secy of State for Support

COP 21 is fast approaching and the U.S. will be in the spotlight for its efforts to reduce climate change impacts. In anticipation of the worldwide climate event, leaders of the U.S. biomass, geothermal and hydropower industries are urging Secretary of State John Kerry to support a “pan-renewable technologies approach”. The National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association and Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) said in the letter that today these technologies provide 86 percent of the world’s renewable power and this amount is anticipated to grow in the coming years.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 2.57.22 PM“As baseload renewable power technologies, our industries are particularly critical to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and we encourage Secretary Kerry to recognize the contributions our industries are making to fight climate change,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association.

The letter highlighted some of hydropower, biomass and geothermal benefits:

  • Hydropower was the leading renewable power technology in each of the top five renewable electricity producing countries: China, U.S., Brazil, Canada and Russia.
  • Biomass provides a significant percentage of renewable power around the world, and was the leading renewable electricity source in Germany in 2014, providing 10% of the country’s electricity.
  • Geothermal provides power in 24 countries, including 51% of in-country power supply in Kenya, where these additions are credited with reducing consumer bills by over 30%.

Karl Gawell, GEA executive director, called on the Administration to increase its support of renewable electricity generation. “We are asking for a U.S. approach that recognizes hydropower, biomass power and geothermal power are also important contributors to avoiding fossil fuel emissions today and will be important contributors to meeting future climate goals.

The group stressed in the letter, “. . .[P]ower grids will continue to be a vital means for electricity delivery. Therefore, enhancing the grid and grid-connected technologies is important.

Bob Cleaves, president, Biomass Power Association, added, “Biomass power is recognized the world over for its many environmental and economic benefits. As a baseload power source, it’s an essential part of any renewable energy mix that uses low-value materials that often have no other use. Biomass will play an important role in reducing the use of fossil fuels.”

Gravity Renewables + St. Lawrence U Ink Hydro Deal

Gravity Renewables is going to connect St. Lawrence University, located in Canton, New York, to around 4.3 kilowatt hours (kWh) of clean hydropower per year with a new agreement. The renewable, clean energy source will provide St. Lawrence University with reliably prices clean power that will help them get nearly 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

“Several years ago, the University made a commitment to strengthening its environmental stewardship,” said President William L. Fox ’75. “The hydro power we have committed to is one more step by St. Lawrence on that important journey.”

Gravity Renewables' Dog River Hydroelectric Facility, also known as Nantanna Mill hydro, is located in Northfield, VT. The plant was originally commissioned in 1983 and now generates approximately 650,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year — enough to power nearly 100 average Vermont homes.

Gravity Renewables’ Dog River Hydroelectric Facility, also known as Nantanna Mill hydro, is located in Northfield, VT. The plant was originally commissioned in 1983 and now generates approximately 650,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy each year — enough to power nearly 100 average Vermont homes.

The power will come from the King Falls small hydro facility in Lewis County. The dam and its power generation unit were damaged during Hurricane Irene and have been offline since 2011. This agreement will allow for the refurbishment and repair of the dam.

“St. Lawrence University is moving towards the clean energy future and utilizing one of upstate New York’s great natural resources,” said Ted Rose, CEO of Gravity Renewables. “New York is rich in sustainable small and micro hydro facilities—and agreements like this support their continued health. Hydropower’s reliability makes it a perfect fit for institutions looking to move to full carbon neutrality. ”

St. Lawrence University is fast becoming a national leader in clean energy and sustainability. In addition to clean hydropower, the university is using solar and wind energy, and implementing conservation, green building and energy efficiency in an effort to have all 100 percent of its power needs met by renewable sources.

Voith Hydro Completes WELP Expansion

The $900 million expansion of the 335 MW Waneta Expansion Limited Partnership (WELP), has been completed. Located near Trail, British Columbia, Canada, the project was executed by a partnership between Fortis Inc., Columbia Power Corporation and Columbia Basin Trust. Voith Hydro supplied two Francis turbines, generators, governors, exciters and various additional auxiliary systems for the project and served as the prime contractor.

Waneta Expansion Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting.

Waneta Expansion Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting.

“In 2010 when I was Energy Minister the first time, there was a vigorous debate within government about whether to allow the Waneta Expansion project to proceed,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines who officially inaugurated the expansion. “I am grateful that, as a Kootenay resident, I had the opportunity at the time to ensure that this tremendous project was allowed to proceed.”

Located immediately downstream of the Waneta Dam on the Pend d’Oreille River, the Waneta Expansion adds a second powerhouse that shares the existing hydraulic head, generating clean, renewable, cost-effective power from water that would otherwise be spilled. The project also included the construction of a 10 km, 230 kV transmission line.

“The grand opening of Waneta is the culmination of many years of hard work to complete one of British Columbia’s largest infrastructure projects,” said William Malus, CEO of Voith Hydro in Canada. “With Waneta’s expansion now operational, customers across British Columbia will see even more benefits from reliable, affordable, and renewable hydropower generation.”

To celebrate WELP’s expansion, an inauguration ceremony took place that included a First Nations welcome and prayers by Chiefs and Elders of Ktunaxa Nation and Okanagan Nation, the unveiling of plaques by Minister and ribbon cutting, a powerhouse tour of the intake, the control room and walkway to service bay.

Santorum, Sanders Miss Energy Boat, Chafee Pro Hydro

There are a lot of candidates vying to be the next president of the United States floating around the Iowa State Fair, but for being in Iowa, many are missing the boat on two very important issues to the state – energy and agriculture. This weekend, presidential candidates Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania (Republican); Lincoln Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island (Democrat); and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont (Independent running for the Democratic nomination) all pushed their economic and military agendas as part of the Des Moines Register Soapbox series while laying low on other major issues. Let’s recap their remarks.

Rick SantorumRick Santorum touted his military expertise by noting that “no one in this race has the record I do on national security”. If elected, he will defeat ISIS and how he will do this is being explained in his 2020 Perfect Vision for the Future. Like George Pataki (R-NY) he wants to cut corporate taxes. Santorum was silent on renewable energy, agriculture and climate change.

Listen to why Rick Santorum wants to be president here:Rick Santorum at the Iowa State Fair

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders had quite the crowd and has set himself apart as being the only candidate to speak on the soapbox so far who wants to expand social security. He plans on doing this by lifting the cap on taxable income. Several other hot button issues: make all higher education free; overhaul campaign finance; end racism by bringing about major reform in the criminal justice system; equity pay for women in the workforce; and economy – “We need an economy that works for working people”.

And, climate change is real. He said, “When we talk about our responsibilities, as adults, as parents, as citizens of this Earth, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that we leave this planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity. Climate change is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world. What the United State must do, and I will do as president, is lead the world in working with other countries to transform our energy system.”

Listen to why Bernie Sanders wants to be president here:Bernie Sanders at the Iowa State Fair

Lincoln ChafeeLincoln Chafee believes that when electing legislators, voters need to look at past performance, character and vision. He told the crowd that while he was governor, he worked to curb climate change; fought for marriage equality; made investments in education a priority; and helped to lead the nation in the rollout of Obama Care. In terms of national security, he will work hard to end wars if elected saying, “Prosperity comes with peace”.

While he didn’t address renewable energy during his remarks, he did answer the question on his stance on renewable power for rural America. His answer: hydropower. He was part of a group who worked with Canada to bring hydropwer down to the northeast. He stressed that it is reliable, affordable and clean and needs to have a more prominent position in the energy discussion. He also supports other forms of renewable energy including geothermal, wind and solar.

Listen to why Lincoln Chafee wants to be president here:Lincoln Chafee at the Iowa State Fair

None of the candidates specifically addressed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this time around. But at some point all candidates in the race will have to discuss their position to win the state’s nomination- Iowa is the leader in biofuels production including ethanol and biodiesel and has been leading several campaigns to save the RFS.

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Mid-Year Renewable Energy Check-Up

Heading in to the second half of 2015, renewable energy accounted for nearly 70 percent of new electrical generation for the firs six months as reported by the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The report finds wind accounts for more than half (50.64%) of the 1,969 MW of new installed capacity. Solar accounted for 549 MW, bimomass with 128 MW, geothermal with 45 MW and hydropower with 21 MW. The rest of the new capacity was added using natural gas (1,173 MW).

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com - Solar Panels Photo

© Metalmaster | Dreamstime.com – Solar Panels Photo

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from oil or nuclear power and just 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, as calculated by the SUN DAY Campaign, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first half of 2015 is 904 times greater than that from coal and more than double that from natural gas. For June alone, wind (320 MW), biomass (95 MW), and solar (62 MW) provided 97 percent of new capacity with natural gas providing the balance (15 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.27 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.61 percent, wind – 5.84 percent, biomass – 1.40 percent, solar – 1.08 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.34 percent (for comparison, renewables were 16.28 percent of capacity in June 2014 and 15.81% in June 2013).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.20%) and oil (3.87%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, sources the SUN DAY Campaign, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.96 percent in mid-2013 to 26.83 percent today.

“With Congress now debating whether to extend the federal tax incentives for renewable energy sources, it is reasonable to ask whether the American public has gotten a good return on these investments to date,” noted Ken Bossong, executive eirector of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The latest FERC data confirms that the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.”

HydroPower Opportunities Abound in Oregon

HydroVision took place this week in Oregon and during the event, Voith Hydro President and CEO Bob Gallo said that the state provides, “the perfect setting to shine a light on the value of hydropower”. The company has an office in Springfield, Oregon in addition to offices in several other states.

“Oregon is the perfect showcase for hydropower’s past, as well as its future potential,” said Gallo. “Though hydropower accounts for over 50% of Oregon’s power generation, the state has the capacity to double the clean and renewable hydropower it already provides to power its homes and businesses. With the right policies in place, we can truly unleash hydropower’s vast untapped potential, and Voith Hydro has the environmentally-friendly hydropower equipment and technology to power the future.”

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia. Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German "PR Bild Award 2014".

Francis-Turbine for the hydro power plant Bratsk, Siberia.
Awarded picture of the year and product image of the year at the German “PR Bild Award 2014”.

Hydroelectric power provides Oregon with half of the state’s power. According to a 2014 Department of Energy New Stream-reach Development report, Oregon could more than double its current 8,000 MW in installed capacity and its potential, finds the report, is greater than any other state. The potential capacity is part of 65,000 MW of available but untapped hydropower across the country.

The same report said the U.S. can develop this potential by powering many of the approximately 80,000 dams that currently do not produce hydroelectric power and spread up the process to hydropower by streamlining an often burdensome and timely licensing process. Congress is currently attempting to build on 2013 legislation that streamlined the process for many small hydropower projects by exploring further regulatory reforms that will reduce inefficiencies and redundancies in the licensing process for projects both large and small. The need, agress Gallo, for timely reform is important given that 250 projects representing 11,000 MW of installed capacity are up for relicensing over the next 10 years.

While hydropower’s direct environmental benefits are immense, explained Gallo, its other attributes are significant. It supports the development of other renewables through baseload power generation, provides for flood control, creates recreational opportunities, and supports irrigation projects. It also creates jobs. By one estimate, with the proper policies in place, hydropower could create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025, on top of the 300,000 jobs already supported by American hydropower.

“Hydropower is a win-win for both the environment and the economy,” Gallo concluded. “Voith Hydro looks forward to continued progress to bring more of America’s largest renewable resource online.”

Renewables “Rock” U.S. Energy Growth

The SUN Day Campaign’s Ken Bossong, has noted once again that renewable energy sources are dominating the new energy landscape according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects. The reports shows wind and solar accounted for all new generating capacity placed in-service in April. For the month, two “units” of wind (the 300 MW Hereford-2 Wind Farm Project in Deaf Smith County, TX and the 211 MW Mesquite Creek Wind Project in Dawson County, TX) came on line in addition to six new units – totaling 50 MW – of solar.

In addition, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower together have provided over 84 percent (84.1%) of the 1,900 MW of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first third of 2015. This includes 1,170 MW of wind (61.5%), 362 MW of solar (19.1%), 45 MW of geothermal steam (2.4%), and 21 MW of hydropower (1.1%). The balance (302 MW) was provided by five units of natural gas.

Hereford Wind ProjectFERC has reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from biomass sources nor any from coal, oil, or nuclear power.

The reports finds the total contribution of geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind for the first four months of 2015 (1,598 MW) is similar to that for the same period in 2014 (1,611 MW – in addition to 116 MW of biomass). However, for the same period in 2014, natural gas added 1,518 MW of new capacity while coal and nuclear again provided none and oil just 1 MW. Renewable energy sources accounted for half of all new generating capacity added in 2014.

“Members of Congress and state legislators proposing to curb support for renewable energy, such as Renewable Portfolio/Electricity Standards and the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, are swimming against the tide,” noted Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “With renewable energy’s clear track record of success and the ever-worsening threat of climate change, now is not the time to pull back from these technologies but rather to greatly expand investments in them.”

Today renewable energy sources now account for 17.05 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the country: water – 8.55 percent, wind – 5.74 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 1.05 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent (for comparison, renewables were 13.71 percent of capacity in December 2010 – the first month for which FERC issued an “Energy Infrastructure Update”).

For renewable energy supporters, what may be the best news: renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.14%) and oil (3.92%) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. In addition, total installed operating generating capacity from solar has now reached and surpassed the one-percent threshold – a ten-fold increase since December 2010.

Know the Down Low on RPS Legislation

csu-new-energyThere is a lot of activity happening throughout the United States with respect to Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) legislation for the year. To keep people informed, the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) has published a Summary of State Renewable Portfolio Standard Legislation in 2015 brief. To date, 87 distinct bills have been introduced in 32 states although only two bills have actually been enacted.

The brief categorizes the bills into three categories:

  • Rollback: includes outright repeals, reductions to targets delays in target dates, exceptions for utilities and bills to extend eligibility for non-renewable fuels or existing large capacity hydroelectric resources;
  • Increase: would create a larger market by expanding renewable generation targets, creating new carve-outs or requiring compliance by additional utility-types; and
  • Modification: addresses the mechanics of how an RPS program is implemented.

Here is the topline for 2015:

  • To date, RPS legislation has been introduced in 32 states. Of the 87 bills, only two have been enacted. A bill in West Virginia repealed the state’s standard and legislation in New Mexico enacted a modification to include a new definition for thermal energy and include Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to be issued to rural electric cooperatives for generating thermal energy from geothermal resources.
  • The percentage shares by category of legislation have shifted over the last three years. RPS increase legislation was more common in 2015 as a percentage of all introduced legislation, than in 2013 and 2014.
  • Legislation to increase or rollback an RPS does not appear to be correlated with state policy target dates.
  • The most common policy type continues to be modifications to existing RPS policies with revisions to resource eligibility clauses have making up the majority of these bills for the past three years.

Many states’ legislative sessions are still underway and the Center for the New Energy Economy keeps real-time track of changes. Click here to download the brief.