Global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts of power generation capacity, and the next trillion may be finished within the next five years.
BLOOMBERG -- That’s the conclusion of research by BloombergNEF, which estimated the industry reached the 1-terrawatt milestone sometime in the first half of the year. That’s almost as much generation capacity as the entire U.S. power fleet, although renewables work less often than traditional coal and nuclear plants and therefore yield less electricity over time.
The findings illustrate the scale of the green energy boom, which has drawn $2.3 trillion of investment to deploy wind and solar farms at the scale operating today. BloombergNEF estimates that the falling costs of those technologies mean the next terrawatt of capacity will cost about half as much – $1.23 trillion – and arrive sometime in 2023.
"Hitting one terrawatt is a tremendous achievement for the wind and solar industries, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s just the start,"said Albert Cheung, BloombergNEF’s head of analysis in London. "Wind and solar are winning the battle for cost-supremacy, so this milestone will be just the first of many.’’
The world had a total of about 6.2 terrawatts of installed capacity in 2016, about 1 terrawatt of that being coal plants in China, according to the research group. Like all milestones, reaching 1 terrawatt is an arbitrary mark that scratches the surface of the debate about how much renewables will contribute to the world's energy system.
Each power plant works at a different ``capacity factor,’’ a measure capturing both the efficiency of the facility in generating electricty and how often it works. On average, wind farms have a capacity factor of about 34 percent worldwide, meaning they work about a third of the time, according to BloombergNEF. Some of the best sites have factors above 60 percent. For solar photovoltaics that track the sun, those readings range from 10 percent in the U.K. to 19 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent in Chile's Atacama desert. By comparison, coal plants have a 40 percent capacity factor and nuclear sometimes double that.
Even so, the terrawatt of installed capacity for renewables marks substantial growth for an industry that barely existed at the start of the century. More than 90 percent of all that capacity was installed in the past 10 years, reflecting incentives that Germany pioneered in the early 2000s that made payouts for green power transparent for investors and bankers alike.
Asian nations absorbed 44 percent of the new wind and 58 percent of solar developments to date, with China account for about a third of all those installations.
Wind made up 54 percent of the first terrawatt but solar is expected to overtake wind in early 2020. China has led the world in installing solar power over the last five years holding 34 percent of global solar capacity and it’ll continue to be the world’s largest market for both power sources, reaching 1.1 terrawatts in the country by 2050.
``As we get into the second and third terrawatts, energy storage is going to become much more important,’’ Cheung said. ``That’s where we see a lot of investment and innovation right now.’’
AMERICA'S FIRST CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGEES ARE PREPARING TO LEAVE AN ISLAND THAT WILL DISAPPEAR UNDER THE SEA IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS
Louisiana — America comes to an end here. Connected to the marshes and moss-laced bayous of southern Louisiana by two miles of narrow causeway, waters lapping high on each side, Isle de Jean Charles takes you as far into the Gulf of Mexico as you can go without falling in. But the dolour in the salt air is not just about loneliness and separation. It's about impending demise.
ISLE DE JEAN CHARLES, LOUISIANA -- Don't call it a death sentence - the intention is the opposite - but state officials in late March made the announcement that had been a long time coming. Some on the island, nearly all members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian tribe, met it with relief; others with hostility.
Marking the kick-off of what will be the first climate resettlement of its kind in the entire United States, land had been chosen an hour's drive to the north for a whole new town to be thrown up. No one will force them exactly, but the intention is clear: to evacuate those still living on the island to the new site, where at present nothing but sugar cane stands, before it is too late.
When that will be depends on whom you ask. But no one disputes that the island is sinking, thanks to a combination of subsidence and rising sea levels. Where there were 22,000 acres in 1955 there are only 320 acres today. Climate change isn't helping, but the principal problem traces back to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 when the corps of engineers responded by building giant levees to constrain the river. The result was stopping the flow of sediment into its delta, which once gave the state's barrier islands the material to rebuild as fast as they eroded.
The vanishing of Isle de Jean Charles into the waves of the gulf might take another decade or even five. On the other hand, one more big storm could finally end its viability for human occupation for good, flooding homes beyond repair or cutting through the connecting road.
"The next hurricane could force all of them, at that point, to move," Thomas Dardar notes, navigating his truck along the causeway on Palm Sunday morning. The Chief of the United Houma Nation, another large Louisiana tribe, with several close relatives on the island, has been deeply involved in helping to forge the resettlement plan with the state. He is therefore anxious for it to succeed. But he is equally aware of the multiple hurdles it still faces.
Success matters because at least in the eyes of Chief Thomas, as well as Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development which must execute the resettlement, a blueprint is being drawn that one day will be followed by countless other communities confronted by climate extinction, maybe in Louisiana, which is losing coastal territory at the rate of one football field per hour, or elsewhere in the country. Or the world.
"It's really a test run," Mr Forbes concedes in an interview from his Baton Rouge office. While Americans may have been displaced by environmental change before, notably in Alaska, no single community has been relocated lock, stock and barrel like this. "We are trying to keep the community intact and ensure that it's economically and socially vibrant and viable. To our knowledge, it's unique. There are places around the world who are looking at a similar type of thing but nobody in the US has done this."
Which makes residents on Isle de Jean Charles canaries in the mineshaft. And if they are not opposed outright, they see problems and pitfalls everywhere, a couple of which emerged at the most recent of the monthly community meetings on the island, instituted by Mr Forbes to make sure their concerns are heard. For example: moving the quick is one thing, but what about the dead? What does the state propose doing about their ancestors beneath the island's overgrown cemetery? (There may be as many as 200 resting there, but one estimate puts the number at only 50.)
Then there is the matter of Theo Chaisson and the small marina he has run for 30 years at the island's tip. On our visit it bustled with pleasure-boaters and fisherfolk using the dock and slip. His family left for drier land in 1948, but his business is his livelihood. What will become of it if the island is abandoned? No one knows, and that leaves him unsettled and a little angry. He questions why the $48m (£34m) granted by Washington, specifically the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to pay for the evacuation hadn't instead been assigned to build better flood defences.
"I don't think it's necessary," Chaisson, 81, says of the resettlement plan. "This here will go," he adds, gesturing from the elevated deck at the back of his tackle shop to the dry land still remaining, "but not right now. It's good for another 25 years for sure, or better." He expects the state will eventually be forced to offer him cash to shut down, although nothing to that effect is settled yet. "I am not for sale," he says defiantly. "I'll tell them, 'No, no no'" - maybe. "With a lot of money, I might be interested. I might be interested."
Breaking off repeatedly to greet customers looking to buy bait, cold beers or new hooks for their lines, Chaisson argues people can make up their own minds whether to stay and brave the next hurricane or flee. "The ones that want to go, they left already," he reckons. "They've gone."
Some have. Scan the creaky wood-framed homes that line the single road on the island, many perched perilously high on 15-foot pilings, and several appear abandoned, doors and windows swung open. The fire station was shuttered long ago. There are only 45 adults and 12 children still living on Isle de Jean Charles, according to state officials. A year ago, there were 93 full-time residents. Some who left took up an offer made last November to move to interim housing in the city of Houma, further inland, while they wait for the new community to be built. But the exodus really began after Hurricane Katrina savaged the island back in 2005.
Ground should be broken at the new site north of Houma by year's end, and the new town - homes, streets, shops, playgrounds - could be ready by 2022, not just for those still on the island but also those already gone. But there are other legal issues beyond the cemetery and the marina. Will relocation really be voluntary? (Mr Forbes is adamant it will.) If the residents do leave will they have to surrender ownership of their properties? Will they be allowed to visit them? Much depends, Mr Forbes admits, "on how far we can push the federal regulatory structure". In other words, the money from Washington comes with conditions.
Sitting in shade beneath the stilts of the home that has been in his family for seven generations, Chris Brunet, 52, agrees that the uncertainties still make him wary. "We are working on how we can come out on the better end of the deal," he explains. But the idea of having to leave has clearly taken root in him. "Eventually, eventually," he says. "But things can't be done overnight and that's what we are dealing with right now in making my decisions. Saying 'yes' to it."
Legalities aside, it's also what they will lose that weighs heavily on some. "This is paradise. How do you transpose what you have here into town?" sympathises Chief Thomas, whose own home is on the Houma outskirts. "When you are asking people to give up what they have, it's like death, they are dying, the community is dying." Most importantly they will be moving away from the water that has sustained them. "They make a living out here," notes Theo Chaisson. "What are they going to do when they get there? You think they'll have oysters in their backyard, speckled trout, red fish, shrimp? No."
It's hardest for older residents, who see little attraction in giving up everything they know so late in their lives to avoid a giant storm that could come this year or may not for 10. People like Hilton Chaisson. A cousin of Theo, he raised 18 children in his modest home across from the cemetery but lost four. One drowned at the marina at just four years old. Speaking sometimes in English and sometimes in French, the first language of generations in bayou country until the latter part of the last century, he has trouble remembering his age - it seems he is 70 - but about the proposal to relocate everyone, he is quite clear.
"They will have to move me in a box. I am going to die here," he grumbles, gesturing to the midway mark of a ground-floor window where the water got to after the last serious hurricane struck this part of the coast. He points too towards the southwest where they usually come in from. The vegetable garden he used to till out back with his grandchildren is useless now, because the saltwater has soaked the ground too often. If his neighbors are ready to uproot themselves and quit their island lives, he says, so be it. But that won't be him and his brood. "If they want to move let them move, I don't talk much to them people. I stay over here, I stick to my business."
Refusing to leave is one thing, but it's not clear if the state would maintain the island's shaky infrastructure once the offer to relocate has been made. The mains gas line that used to run out to it under the causeway has already been shut off, though the power lines remain up. At the marina, Theo Chaisson understands he may eventually have no choice but to shut up shop. "The only problem will be if they don't fix the road, then we are stuck out here or we'd have to get a boat to get out here. I'd just sooner close because I'm not getting in a boat to open a boat launch."
Despite everything - the suspicion and resistance of some and the maddening number of issues still unresolved - Mr Forbes sees no alternative but to make his plan work. Letting the islanders drown isn't an option. And, leaving aside Hilton and Theo and a few others, the response to it has been "overwhelmingly positive", he says.
"I don't mean for any of these complications to indicate that there is less than a full chance that we are going to make this happen. These are just things we have to figure out."
The Sunshine State is beginning to see record growth in home solar installations, according to a recent report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
SUN SENTINEL -- The report cited recent policy developments in Florida that are projected to nearly quadruple the amount of home solar capacity over the next half-decade.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Energy study shows reductions in pollution from clean energy prevented 7,000 lost lives and saved $56 billion in healthcare costs in the United States from 2007-2015. Imagine the cost savings and environmental benefits that Florida could achieve with more households embracing the use of solar energy.
The Public Service Commission’s April 20 decision to allow Sunrun to offer its “solar-as-a-service” gives Floridians an option starting from zero down to install solar energy equipment on their homes and begin saving money immediately. This new model for residential solar challenges preconceived notions about the affordability of solar energy products, providing greater access to alternative energy for more Floridians.
On Friday, July 13, professionals working in emergency management, urban planning, sustainability, and resilience from across South Florida gathered at a post-disaster redevelopment planning workshop hosted by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact in Fort Lauderdale, where they focused on “how climate resilience efforts can be integrated into and inform emergency management efforts.”
In hurricane-prone areas, rooftop solar and home batteries carry an additional benefit: greater resiliency during power outages while customers of traditional utilities are left in the dark.
One powerful example was during Hurricane Irma when solar-paired battery systems kept the lights on in 115 schools across Florida which had been converted into shelters housing thousands of residents. By offering local, decentralized power, these Floridians were able to stay safe and connected while 6.7 million utility customers surrounding them had no power.
Solar energy was also indispensable to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Solar and battery systems provided by Sunrun along with nonprofits Empowered By Light and GivePower ensured fire stations could continue to provide essential emergency services to people across the island. These essential services have had uninterrupted solar energy power since installation, helping the island endure the longest blackout in American history. With solar-as-a-service now available on the island as well, Puerto Ricans now have peace of mind during outages and the freedom to create and store energy to power their homes.
Whether households choose to buy solar-as-a-service or the equipment outright, rooftop solar reduces the cost of producing and consuming electricity for everyone. Locally-generated energy means eliminating transmission and distribution costs, which frequently exceed the cost to generate the electricity itself. And with more than 70 percent of America’s transmission lines and large power transformers at least 25 years old, investing in locally-generated resources saves us from wasting money by doubling down on yesterday’s outdated infrastructure.
The Public Service Commission is preparing to make recommendations to state utilities for improving their hurricane preparedness and power restoration procedures following a storm. One early version of their report noted that “despite substantial, well documented improvement, customers were dissatisfied with the extent of outages and restoration times. The public’s expectations are rising, indicating resilience and restoration will have to continually improve.”
One of the report’s recommendations is to place more power lines underground, which according to the top utility trade organization will cost roughly ten times the amount of building overhead power lines. Those costs will ultimately be passed on to households and will further perpetuate the cycle of investing in infrastructure without advancing efficiency or environmental benefits. Wider implementation of locally-generated power, such as rooftop solar paired with home batteries, is an indispensable component of any sound plan to make Florida more resilient after a storm. And it reduces the need for those expensive lines in the first place.
In a post-2016 election clean energy survey, 84 percent of respondents felt America should lower our dependence on fossil fuels while pursuing energy efficiency. Even more resounding, 86 percent of respondents said they would support acting to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.
These numbers show that people recognize that we have an opportunity to radically remake our energy infrastructure into a more affordable, resilient and environmentally sustainable system.
The windows of many cars and buildings often are tinted with a film that shuts out unnecessary sunlight, an energy efficiency measure that helps lower heating and cooling costs. Other types of environmentally friendly windows feature a coating of see-through solar cells that transform the windows into mini generators of electricity.
ECO WATCH -- But you probably won't find any windows anywhere that can do both. Not yet anyway.
This could be about to change. Chinese scientists have invented a new material that can both block the sun and produce power. They predict that windows outfitted with this product—or even window curtains that have it—eventually could cut the average household's electric bills by half or more.
"We combine both material innovation and optical thin film design to achieve the goal of combining both solar electricity generation and heat insulation in one single film," said Hin-Lap (Angus) Yip, a professor of materials science and engineering at the South China University of Technology. "Our energy efficiency for the house is kind of double: power generation and power saving."
Constructing a prototype that could simultaneously make electricity and prevent excessive heat required the scientists—who also included Fei Huang, also of South China University—to perform a balancing act between harvesting light to make electricity and blocking it, mixing and matching from among a variety of materials and chemical compounds to find exactly the right working combination.
Eventually, they designed a product that allowed visible portions of sunlight to pass through, but rejected infrared light, which is "a major heating culprit," Yip said. The researchers then transformed the near-infrared region in-between into an electric current.
"The major material we used for turning the solar light to electricity was a polymer semiconductor," Yip said. "We can design the chemical structure and tune [its] absorption property. This organic material has very unique absorption property, which can selectively absorb the near-infrared light, [but] allow a major portion of visible light to pass through it, making it a perfect material for semitransparent photovoltaic (PV) window application."
Current solar cell technology based on silicon or other inorganic semiconductors is not suitable for photovoltaic window applications "as they are opaque and dull in appearance," he added. "Instead, we can make organic photovoltaics into semi-transparent, lightweight and colorful films that are perfect for turning windows into electricity generators and heat insulators."
A paper describing the research appears in the journal Joule.
Yip said the material was similar to the pigment used in printing newspapers or coating cars, "but more functional," he said.
Actually, we can manufacture the polymer solar cell on flexible substrate using roll-to-roll printing process, just like the way we print our newspaper. If you compare this to the energy intensive process required for the production of silicon solar cells, the production of polymer solar cells consumes less energy, with a lower carbon footprint.
The material has a number of potential applications. Because it's a flexible and roll-able film, Yip thinks it would make a great window curtain. "Nowadays, many curtains are controlled electrically to open and shut, and since our photovoltaic window film will generate electricity, the same electrical circuit can be used to carry out the power, which can be then directly used or stored to power other facilities in the house," he said.
He also sees their value for use in self-powered greenhouses. "It just requires tailoring the optical property of the photovoltaic window film, as plants mainly absorb blue and red light, which is why they are green," he said. "So the design of the photovoltaic window film for greenhouse applications will have to maximize the transmission of blue and red light. This is feasible through new material design and optical engineering."
The scientists estimate that installing windows with dual purpose electricity-generating and heat-insulating properties could reduce the average household's reliance on external electric sources by more than 50 percent, although this figure assumes that every square inch of every window would have panels made of multifunctional solar cells.
Yip pointed out that the researchers didn't even use "the best organic photovoltaics that are out there in this field," for their own research demonstration, he said. "Their efficiency is improving rapidly, and we expect to be able to continuously improve the performance of this unified solar-cell window film. Making heat-insulating multifunctional semitransparent polymer solar cells is just the beginning of exploring new applications of organic photovoltaics."
Yip said it would be easy to scale up the product for widespread use and—although it initially may be more expensive than traditional films—it could pay for itself fairly quickly. "We think that polymer based solar cells will have a much shorter energy payback time compared to inorganic photovoltaics, as they can be manufactured using low energy printing processes," he said.
"In terms of the cost of the film, since it has a very similar structure to current heat insulating film—but with just a few additional layers—I expect it will be slightly higher than current window film," he added. "But since its energy efficiency can be double, we believe the cost payback time will be very short, maybe within three to four years."
He projected that the materials could be in commercial use within five years.
"It's been about 25 years from the discovery of polymer solar cells until now," he said. "We've had some very nice progress improving the efficiency and stability of polymer solar cells. If we can identify the best materials and processes to scale up these photovoltaic technologies in the next few years, maybe we will be able to see them everywhere on their 30th anniversary."
On Thursday, July 19 The Hill reported that the Republican controlled Congress passed a non-binding resolution saying a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."
ECO WATCH -- But the next Monday, a Republican duo introduced and co-sponsored the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463)that would implement a carbon tax and funnel the proceeds towards improving infrastructure.
The two approaches, Time Magazine reported Thursday, could represent the past and future of the Republican party.
"The pendulum will swing," former Republican South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, who heads the non-profit RepublicEn, which promotes conservative solutions for environmental problems, told Time. "And when that pendulum swings…it may just be the solution you don't want on climate."
The two congressmen who introduced and co-sponsored the carbon tax bill could be the beginning of that swing.
Carlos Curbelo, the Florida Representative who introduced the bill, represents a district stretching from Key West to outside Miami.
He has been a unique Republican voice on the reality and threat of climate change since he was first elected in 2014, according to Grist.
"I tell my skeptical colleagues: When my district is underwater, I'll move to their district and run against them," he told Grist. "That usually breaks the ice."
He formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus with fellow Floridian and Democratic Congressperson Ted Deutch, which is designed to have an even number of Republican and Democrat members.
As of now, Time reports it has 43 Republican members, even though many still vote against climate action despite claiming to believe in its necessity.
"We're seeing trends in the House that should give us all hope," Curbelo told Time.
The bill's co-sponsor, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voted in line with the environment 71 percent of the time in 2017 according to the League of Conservation Voters' scorecard, the highest percentage of any Congressional Republican, Grist reported.
One reason a carbon tax might be a gateway climate proposal for Republicans is that it is actually favored by companies who see climate policy as inevitable, and prefer a tax to more complicated regulations, Time explained.
On Wednesday, 34 major companies including BP America, Shell and General Motors wrote a letter to Curbelo thanking him for introducing the bill, though they did not endorse it outright.
"We believe that an economy-wide, market-based approach to valuing or pricing carbon, when carefully crafted, can both strengthen our economy and reduce carbon emissions by encouraging technological innovation and stimulating new investments in infrastructure, products, and services," the letter said.
Curbelo's current bill is not likely to pass, given the opinions of the rest of the Republican majority in Congress, but it might model a way forward for the party in the future. Time reported two polls by the Alliance of Market Solutions and the Pew Research Center respectively that showed that more than half of younger Republicans care about climate change and that almost 25 percent of people under 30 who identified as Republican in 2015 had since left the party.
However, Emilie Prattico, director of development at We Mean Business, a private-sector climate mobilization non-profit, cautioned in a Huffington Post opinion piece that carbon tax supporters could do better than Curbelo's bill.
While it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 27 to 32 percent by 2025 and 30 to 40 percent by 2030, its other provisions would not go far enough to adequately address climate change.
It would devote as much as 70 percent of generated revenue to updating existing fossil-fuel-based transportation infrastructure and only a small percent to developing carbon-free transport options and it would allow emitters a chance to perform their way out of having to obey Clean Air Act regulations if they followed the law.
"A successful carbon tax bill, whether it is proposed by Democrats, Republicans or both, would not only impose a levy on fossil fuels but steer the economy toward innovation, less-polluting alternatives for high-emitting sectors, and fairness to consumers and citizens," Prattico wrote.
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.
THE STATE -- Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives and a failed nuclear project.
Those utilities also poured more than $300,000 in contributions into state election campaigns through May of this year, largely to Republican incumbents, according to disclosure reports compiled by the National Institute on Money in Politics.
The solar industry, which saw the nuclear fiasco as an opportunity to expand its footprint in the state, was outspent badly and lost. It spent more than $177,000 to hire 11 lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session.
“Solar consumers are in a David versus Goliath battle with the big power monopolies,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition industry group.
But the traditional utilities and solar companies weren’t the only ones spending tens of thousands this year to try to influence legislators. The state’s electric cooperatives, trying to weigh in on the future of the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, spent almost $239,000 on 25 lobbyists.
Selling a deal
Cayce-based SCANA and its would-be acquirer, Dominion Energy of Virginia, account for most of the lobbying done by utilities in the most recent legislative session, which ended last month.
The two utilities have been engaged in a marketing campaign trying to win support from the public and legislators for Dominion’s proposed $14.6 billion buyout of SCANA. SCANA, the parent company of SCE&G, has taken heat for abandoning construction on two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County in July 2017 that have cost SCE&G customers $2 billion in higher rates so far and could cost billions more.
SCANA, with customers in the Midlands and Lowcountry, spent $111,782 and hired eight registered lobbyists for the legislative session. Dominion doubled its S.C. lobbying staff to 10, spending $120,500 during just the first five months of 2018 compared to more than $51,000 for all of last year.
Dominion spokesman Chet Wade said the increased lobbying expense was needed to educate lawmakers about why the proposed Dominion-SCANA merger “is the best solution for customers, the state and South Carolina’s long-term energy needs.”
“It’s a long conversation on complicated topics that takes a lot of education, and we will keep pursuing that outreach,” Wade said.
SCANA and Dominion also unsuccessfully lobbied lawmakers to keep them from cutting SCE&G’s electric rates. Dominion has said lawmakers, in passing that 15 percent rate cut last month, were gambling with ratepayers’ money.
An SCE&G spokesman did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article208116869.html
Ocean Springs resident Matt Campbell explains how a bi-directional meter measures electricity flow in two directions. Campbell and his wife, Lea, are able to sell the excess energy that their solar panels produce to their utility company.
A new player
Charlotte-based Duke Energy, which has customers in the Upstate and Pee Dee, spent $136,176 on nine registered lobbyists during the 2018 session — the same number it has employed since January 2014.
Both Duke and SCANA long have been among the biggest lobbyists and contributors at the State House.
New to the mix this year was Florida-based NextEra Energy, which spent $59,500 to hire nine S.C. lobbyists, including former S.C. lawmakers Harry Cato and Tommy Moore.
NextEra’s first S.C. lobbyist registered with the state less than a month after news broke that the utility was interested in buying the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, SCANA’s junior partner in the failed nuclear project.
The Florida utility is also part of the Palmetto Energy Coalition. That group is pushing S.C. lawmakers to sell Santee Cooper and has criticized Dominion’s proposed buyout of SCANA.
According to its website, the group seeks “a long-term, economically viable solution to the future energy challenges faced by South Carolina residents and businesses as a result of the failure of the SCANA/Santee Cooper V.C. Summer nuclear energy project.”
A spokesman for NextEra did not respond to questions Tuesday.
Meanwhile, state-owned Santee Cooper — NextEra’s presumed acquisition target — hired two additional lobbyists this session, spending more than $85,000 for four lobbyists.
Solar expansion blocked
While the V.C. Summer debate — with its often unflattering portrayal of utilities — dominated the session, those utilities were successful in blocking a bill that would have raised the state’s cap on solar power to 4 percent from 2 percent, allowing more future customers to earn a credit for the excess power their rooftop solar panels produce.
After heavy lobbying by Duke and SCE&G, the Legislature refused to increase the cap on the number of people who can sell excess solar energy back to the utilities at favorable rates.
Solar-industry representatives and supporters argue the state’s growing solar industry would suffer if those rates are lowered, as fewer homeowners sign up for rooftop solar, costing installers and salespeople their jobs.
However, a Duke spokesman said the cap on solar power has worked, allowing solar power to take off in South Carolina.
“The incentives that were established (by lawmakers in 2014) were never meant to be permanent, but to jump-start a nascent solar industry,” said Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier. “The law clearly spelled out milestones ... that once reached would trigger a new conversation to establish a reasonable and fair solar policy that benefits everyone for many years to come.
“We are hopeful this current effort will lead to consensus, common-sense legislation that is fair and balances the interests of ... solar providers, energy companies and customers who use solar energy — and those who do not.”
The solar companies insist the electric utilities flexed their political muscles to ward off competition.
“And many are looking to solar as an available and preferable alternative to the traditional utility,” he said.
Watch video here: https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article134560669.html
A 6.8 megawatt solar facility with 31,000 solar panels is producing electricity in Saluda. The Solar power industry is lobbying the South Carolina legislature to order state counties to give it tax breaks.
‘Lobbying on steroids’He said lawmakers rely on lobbyists from both sides of issues to educate them on complicated topics such as energy policy, and keep them advised about challenges facing utilities.
While solar expansion lost traction — a victory for traditional power companies — lawmakers also passed a rate cut “in the face of opposition from the energy sector,” including SCANA, Massey noted.
Said Ballentine, “There’s a reason why these utilities are monopolies and why they want to stay monopolies.”
The Legislature failed to increase the number of residences that can participate in a program that requires electric utilities to purchase their solar-generated power. Delayna Earley Island Packet
Billionaire Elon Musk pledged to pay to secure clean water for homes in Flint, Michigan, the city that fell into economic depression amid the decades-long decline of Detroit’s auto industry and is still recovering from a major public health emergency.
BLOOMBERG -- “Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination,” the chief executive officer of electric-car maker Tesla Inc. said in a tweet Wednesday. “No kidding.”
Flint’s water supply was contaminated with lead after the state of Michigan changed sources in 2014. The state has said that the city’s water now meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, but some homeowners say the water coming from their faucets remains undrinkable.
By stepping up to offer assistance to Flint, Musk is thrusting himself into a second high-profile crisis in a matter of days. Some of his more than 22.3 million Twitter followers encouraged him to get involved with the city’s water issues in response to his attempt to aid a Thai youth soccer team that was trapped in a cave before being rescued this week.
Musk’s vow to help the former home of General Motors came hours after Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder called for the CEO to focus on key business matters after a prolonged struggle to boost production of the Model 3, the first car the company has tried to mass-manufacture.
“A time of quiet and peace is what is needed to work through these issues,” James Anderson, a partner and portfolio manager at Baillie Gifford & Co., said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “It would be good to just concentrate on the core task.”
In follow-up tweets, Musk said he would reward volunteers willing to organize a “barnstorming weekend” for water-filter installations and said he would set up an email address -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- for residents to request help.
“Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results,” he said in another tweet. “Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.”
Candice Mushatt, Flint’s public information officer, said in an email that neither Musk nor anyone representing him had contacted the city. Flint is replacing pipes and covering the costs involved with that process, she said.
“However, fixtures, which were badly damaged in homes and still have lead, are not covered in the replacement,” she wrote. “If Mr. Musk is seriously interested in helping Flint, the mayor would be open to speaking with him about our specific needs.”
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance describes some of the implications of the growing solar power and energy storage trend as it relates to the current, centralized utility-based electricity distribution model.
CLEAN TECHNICA -- Because solar and energy storage can be cost competitive with grid electricity prices in some places, consumers now have an alternative to only using utility-based electricity. Report author John Farrell answered some questions for CleanTechnica.
1. Are you expecting home energy storage to continue decreasing in price?
Yes, definitely. I’ve heard of prices today close to $500 per kilowatt-hour of capacity. I’d expect that to fall to closer to $100 in 5-10 years.
2. Is it likely that home solar power systems will be increasingly paired with home energy storage?
For sure. Given the evidence that pairing the systems can help decrease payback times under net metering successor policies (and the benefits of backup power), I expect to see that increase.
3. How can utilities plan for more and more homeowners using solar power and energy storage?
Don’t build any central-station power plants and instead look for ways to make money supporting choices customers will make anyway. Restructure rates to encourage customers to use their distributed energy systems to aid the grid (e.g. by storing energy when cheap and selling it back when expensive).
4. Will utilities ever become obsolete, or will they exist to back up individually owned solar and energy storage systems?
It depends on how you define a utility. Vertically integrated utilities that combine generation, transmission, and distribution aren’t suitable for a market in which customers can substantially fulfill the generation needs of the system locally. What we don’t need is centralized planning, what we do need is coordination.
5. Are you expecting that more and more homeowners will go off-grid completely, or will they remained grid-tied, most likely?
I don’t expect many homeowners to go off-grid at all in the next decade, but that depends a lot on whether they live in a particularly good region for it and if the utility makes it worthwhile with high fixed charges or other dumb policies.
6. How does the increasing number of EVs figure into the home solar and energy storage picture?
As we reported last year, increasing EV deployment can increase the local grid capacity for distributed solar. It’s also a large source electricity demand that can typically be time-shifted. It’s not quite as useful as a standalone battery until there are viable, commercial vehicle-to-grid services or ways for a vehicle owner to tap the battery.
7. Are there states currently that are leading the others in terms of solar and energy storage adoption?
Massachusetts comes to mind, as do Hawaii and California. Mostly those that have required utilities to do it, provided strong incentives, or where the economics have driven customers to it on their own.
8. Have you seen any cases where homeowners use their own electricity from home energy storage to avoid peak usage charges?
Personally? No. But I’m sure if you talk to Sunrun they will say that’s why 1 in 5 residential customers in California are combining solar and storage.
9. Are you expecting more home energy storage products to enter the market to increase competition?
10. Are more businesses also using solar and energy storage onsite?
They will. Clean Energy Group’s landmark study last year shows how incredibly valuable storage is to cutting demand charges for commercial customers.
11. Should utility workers be planning to have their jobs phased out eventually?
Power plant workers should be exploring their options. Line workers will always be needed because we’ll still want a grid.
12. By 2030, how much home solar and energy storage penetration will there be?
Honestly, I have no idea because there are so many factors. I’d be willing to wager that about half of distributed solar installed in the 2020s will come paired with energy storage.
Nearly 43% of the US workforce will work in gig economy jobs by 2020. Here are the cities where you can earn the most in these roles.
TECH REPUBLIC -- Freelance work via the gig economy has skyrocketed in recent years, offering new nontraditional work opportunities across industries in the US. The more than 57 million Americans who work freelance jobs contribute nearly $1.4 trillion to the economy every year, according to a study from Upwork and the Freelancers Union. And by 2020, Intuit projected that 43% of the US workforce will be represented by gig economy jobs.
While there are many opportunities available, it's crucial for freelancers to carefully decide where to start working these jobs, if possible, to get the biggest bang for their buck, according to a recent report from FitSmallBusiness.com.
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs, the report found—think ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft, short-term rentals like Airbnb, and freelance task services, like TaskRabbit. These areas are also popular for startups and tech companies that rely more on nontraditional employees, as well as those that run pilot programs of new service platforms, the report noted.
The report analyzed publicly-available data from 20 cities to determine which are best for gig economy jobs. In ranking the cities, the report took into account current per capita gig revenue, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment, and growth of the gig economy. As a tiebreaker, it also considered resources for nontraditional employees in each city, such as the availability of shared workspaces and high-speed internet.
Here are the top 10 best cities to make money in the gig economy in 2018. To see the full list, click here. You can also check out this list of the highest-paid gig economy jobs overall.
1. San Francisco
Despite a high cost of living (a one-bedroom apartment typically costs $3,460/month), San Francisco offers high earning potential and accelerated growth of the gig economy, leading it to rank no. 1 on the list. The city had a per capita revenue of $9,272 for technical gig-based jobs, and experienced a 93% growth rate in its gig economy industries between 2012 and 2014 alone.
Specialized gig economy jobs brought in $4.7 billion in 2017, giving Atlanta a per capita revenue of $9,665. The city also ranked highly on cost of living, with an average $1,328/month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Atlanta tied with no. 3 Los Angeles for this spot, but the city's Google Fiber network and number of co-working spaces gave it the edge, the report noted.
3. Los Angeles
Between 2012 and 2014, LA experienced a 79% increase in its "rides and rooms" economy, with the ground transportation industry alone increasing 136% in that time. While a one bedroom apartment is costly at $1,949/month, the city's per capita revenue for specialized gig jobs was $4,575 in 2017.
Home to many top universities, Boston's per capita gig revenue was $7,882 in 2017, with gig economy growth at 59%. While rental costs are relatively high at $2,260/month for a one-bedroom apartment, the overall cost of living was sixth on the list.
5. Washington, DC
The nation's capital had the second-highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $11,240 in 2017. With an average one-bedroom rental cost of $1,966/month, the overall cost of living makes it the third most affordable city on the list. While growth of the gig economy was lower than many other cities at 36%, DC has a number of services available to local freelancers.
Dallas offers the second-lowest rental costs on the list, at an average of $997/month for a one-bedroom apartment. This low rent combined with an annual per capita gig revenue of $4,698, and 40% growth in the industry between 2012 and 2014, help Dallas rank highly for overall cost of living and gig opportunities.
7. San Jose
San Jose ranked no. 2 for gig economy growth, with a 91% increase in gig economy jobs from 2012 to 2014. However, a high cost of living of $2,548/month for a one-bedroom apartment led it to drop in the rankings.
8. San Diego
San Diego had among the lowest per capita revenue for gig jobs of the cities on the list, as well as high rental costs of $1,547/month. However, the city ranked fourth for growth, with a 66% increase in gig jobs in the years studied, and offers high-speed internet and a number of highly-ranked coworking spaces.
Miami saw the highest per capita gig revenue on the list, at $16,402 in 2017. While the average rent of $2,000/month is high, the high earning potential and growth in the gig economy makes up for it, the report said.
Phoenix, AZ has the most affordable housing options of any city on the list, with an average monthly one-bedroom apartment rent of $770. Combined with 46% growth in gig jobs in the period studied, Phoenix is a strong contender as a city where a gig workers can live comfortably and make money.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
The cities where gig economy workers can make the most money and have the best quality of life are San Francisco, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
Gig economies are strongest in metropolitan areas with greater demands for service industry needs. — FitSmallBusiness.com, 2018
An innovative and simple solar panel efficiency device has just gone open source in order to get renewable energy to those who need it most.
SILICON REPUBLIC -- When you picture solar power, you might think of the enormous Ivanpah solar power plant in California (the largest in the world) or huge tracts of land in other sun-drenched parts of the globe.
But not everyone has access to such enormous grids and particularly in remote villages in developing nations, there is only a need for a single or small group of solar panels that could maintain maximum efficiency to sustain a family or the village itself.
This is exactly what inspired Inspirefest 2018 speaker and software/mechanical engineer Eden Full Goh to develop her SunSaluter device from cheap, recycled materials found across the globe.
Her original idea aimed to tackle one of solar energy’s biggest problems: having a solar panel pointing directly at the sun at all times, otherwise known as solar tracking.
As the Earth rotates, the sun’s position in the sky above changes, meaning that while at one point the panel will be pointed directly at it around midday, in the morning and evening it is out of direct sunlight, leaving those in need with limited power.
Unlike what you might find at Ivanpah, however, Full Goh wanted to make a moveable solar panel that could be easily put together.
A device for allAfter a trip to east Africa to test the prototype SunSaluter, Full Goh quickly learned that the challenge at hand was greater than she first thought, with those in one village saying the parts were not readily available there and that it could be dangerous to local children playing nearby.
“I decided to spend the rest of my trip learning about them,” she said on stage. “If these complicated metal parts weren’t available to them, what would be?”
Then, a brainwave hit the Chinese-Canadian inventor: what if she could hit two birds with one stone and create both a device that could harness more solar energy but also create potable drinking water?
What resulted was the final SunSaluter device, which is now capable of providing energy and safe water to those who need it the most. She announced on stage that while it was originally patented, it has been made open source for anyone to build.
“We’ve impacted 17,000 people so far,” she said, “but I’d really like us to expand our reach.
I'm your go to solar energy expert here to guide you step-by-step through all of your solar options.
James The Solar Energy Expert