Guardian, on why SolarAid is part of its Christmas appeal: “Chepnyaliliet school, with its rough concrete walls and tin roof at the end of a dusty lane lined with cacti and wild roses, seems an unlikely place find early adopters of technology. But that is exactly what Rhoda Sigei is. The determined nursery teacher was the first person in Bomet county, a verdant patch of Kenya‘s Great Rift valley, to buy into the potential of using solar lamps.” Read more
Guardian: “….Sally Kayoni, the shopkeeper, stands on tiptoe to be seen over a counter lined with car batteries, radios and DVD players. Yet the prime retail space on the eye-level shelf behind her is given over to small solar lamps presented in a neat row. They get pride of place because they are among her bestsellers.” Read more
Guardian: “Reduced subsidies for onshore windfarms and solar power announced on Wednesday are “good news”, according to a leading renewable energy trade body, because it shows the costs of the technologies are coming down. The cuts set out by the energy secretary, Ed Davey, mean onshore windfarms will for the first time receive lower subsidies than future nuclear power stations.” Read more
REW.com: “An innovative Office of Naval Research (ONR) program is looking to Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard veterans for the cutting edge in alternative energy-and is highlighted this week in a new video released during the Navy’s Warrior Care Month.” Read more
Bloomberg: “SolarCity Corp., the first US company to offer bonds backed by rooftop solar panels, plans to sell as much as $200M of additional notes as soon as the second quarter, its CFO said. The company expects subsequent bond offerings as often as every quarter, CFO Bob Kelly said in an interview.” Read more
REW.com: “The U.S. brought online nearly 700 MW of new electricity generation in October, and practically all of it was large-scale solar energy, according to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects.” Read more
EnergyPost: “At a meeting in the European Parliament on 5 November, organized by Eufores, the “Coalition of Progressive European Energy Companies” took the opportunity to stress the importance of the contribution of renewable energy to European competitiveness, growth, employment and energy security.” Read more
NYT: “Amid polemics over rising electricity prices in Europe and the level of green energy subsidies in various countries, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the growth in clean-energy generation is a huge success story.” Read more
FT: “The world’s first sunshine-backed bond could be sold in the coming weeks after securing a coveted credit rating that should make it palatable to large investors. SolarCity said on Monday it would sell a $54.4m bond backed by cashflows from the rooftop solar panels leased to US home owners, who can then claim certain tax breaks from the government.” Read more
REW.com: Germany is racing past 20 percent renewable energy on its electricity grid, but news stories stridently warn that this new wind and solar power is costing “billions.” But often left out (or buried far from the lede) is the overwhelming popularity of the country’s relentless focus on energy change (energiewende).” Read more
Bloomberg: “California’s three biggest utilities are sparring with their own customers about systems that store energy from the sun, opening another front in the battle that’s redefining the mission of electricity generators.” Read more
REW.com: “In 2009, Jacobson caught people’s attention with his co-authored article A Plan To Power 100 Percent of the Planet With Renewables, which was the cover story of November’s Scientific American.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett column in Recharge magazine: “The closer renewables get to becoming the first choice for energy, the more our opponents come out into the open and show themselves as the intransigent incumbency they are at heart.” Read more
Guardian: “IKEA is to sell solar panels at its British stores for the first time….. The world’s biggest furniture retailer…. plans to offer solar panel packages at all of its 17 British stores within the next 10 months.” Read more
Jeremy Leggett describes in Green Futures how systemic risks to energy and finance also come with opportunities.
The scene: Slough, UK, September 2010.
An opening ceremony with a difference. Solar roof tiles, glistening on the roofs of eight homes as though rained on under a grey autumn sky, can provide all the electricity the homes use, with plenty left over to power the battery car that the families living in the community share. Four technologies are each capable of heating the whole of the airtight, triple-glazed, development: air-sourced heat pumps, ground sourced heat pumps, a biomass boiler, and solar thermal panels.
SSE, the British utility, and investor in Solarcentury, has built this development for some of its workforce, as a showcase for what could be done. Half Britain’s carbon emissions come from buildings. Half those come from residential buildings. These homes use no coal, no gas, no oil, no nuclear. They go beyond Zero Carbon.
Ian Marchant, SSE CEO, gives a speech.
This is a stunning glimpse into the future, he says. These homes took just 8 months from beginning building to occupancy.
Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, follows him.
Low-carbon energy is going to be a massive industry, he says. Congratulations to all.
Back to London, I have a meeting at GE with Mark Elborne, their UK CEO. We have another demonstration project to talk about: solar schools, a flagship within GE’s sustainable cities programme. We are destined to hit the front page of GE’s website: a £50 million minnow partnered with a £100 billion giant.
I recount my morning with SSE to Elborne with a pride I can’t disguise.
Just wait until we marry this kind of technology up in a few years time with the storage technologies we are working on, he says. Then we’ll see some changes in energy markets.
This is a good day at work.
Back home in Holland Park, I am dragged back to earth. A meeting of my flat-dweller neighbours convenes. We have all been thrown in purgatory in past months as the owner of the mansion next door builds an underground cinema in his back garden. Platoons of Polish builders troop in and out of the mansion. Our flats shake all day in the incessant jackhammer hell they create. The owner of the mansion has moved out for the duration. We his neighbours can’t.
He is an investment banker. He is spending his bonus, or part of it.
The passage you just read is an extract from my book, The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, in which I set out my best-guess scenario for how systemic risks in our global energy and finance systems will play out in the years ahead, and analyse the implications. Amid the mega-risks there are also opportunities for society. As the story unfolds, a potential good-news future scenario emerges, which I think of as a ‘renaissance’.
Since the dot.com crash, I have developed an ex-academic’s passion for studying the patterns of play in energy markets, and in the financial markets where they pertain to energy. I have logged and analysed these patterns in a 2005 book, Half Gone and, since 2006, on my website [www.jeremyleggett.net]. Today I observe four global systemic risks directly connected to energy that threaten capital markets and hence the global economy. They involve oil depletion, carbon emissions, carbon assets, and shale gas. A market shock involving any one of these would be capable of triggering a tsunami of economic and social problems, and there is no law of economics that says only one can hit at one time.
There are other systemic risks in the energy sector, of course. Persistence with and proliferation of nuclear power risks spawning nuclear devices with which terrorists could take out cities, or weapons that could make nuclear war between nations more likely. The growing use of water in most forms of energy production could accelerate an already grave global water crisis. And so on. But in my book I concentrate on the four systemic risks that I have most direct vocational experience of.
I also write about a fifth risk. Ongoing systemic risk in the financial sector may at first glance seem to have nothing to do with energy. But I share a common view, fashioned with the benefit of hindsight as are the views of so many interested in the 2007 credit crunch and the 2008 financial crash, that they were indirectly connected to energy. Peak panic about the toxicity of mortgage-backed securities followed shortly after the highest ever oil price in history: $147 per barrel in July 2008. Could the high price of gasoline have had anything to do with all those owners of shiny new homes in American suburbs defaulting on their sub-prime mortgages? How could it not.
How best to describe the risks, and analyse the dangers? I have chosen to do this in the course of a historical account, rooted in my own experiences. I hope a chronological narrative approach will interest the reader more than a conventional format, while giving me the opportunity to recount how my own thinking has evolved over the years in the stoking of the serial crisis that faces society today.
REW.com: “Five months ago, one of the country’s ten largest electric utilities told regulators in Minnesota that it needed three new natural gas power plants to handle peak energy demand. This week, the same company’s Colorado division announced plans to use more solar power because it is cost competitive with gas.” Read more
FT: “Nine of Europe’s biggest utilities have joined forces to warn that the EU’s energy policies are putting the continent’s power supplies at risk. Gérard Mestrallet, chief executive of GDF Suez and Paolo Scaroni, head of Italian oil group Eni, will present proposals for reforming the system at a European Parliament meeting on Tuesday.” Read more
SolarPowerPortal: “The latest results of DECC’s public attitudes tracker show that solar continues to be the most popular generation technology in the UK, with 81% of those surveyed expressing support for the deployment of solar across the UK. In each of the six waves of research carried out by DECC, solar has come out as the most supported renewable technology.” Read more
Recharge: “Germany last year lost jobs in the renewable energy sector for the first time in more than a decade – a trend that is about to worsen dramatically due to the crisis in the PV sector, claims a leading Green politician. While the number of people employed in green energy jumped more than tenfold from 30,000 in 1998 to 372,000 in 2011, it receded slightly to 368,000 in 2012, says Green Party MP Hans-Josef Fell.” Read more