SciDev, Positive News and a Palestine Polytechnic bring good news

hebron7In 2009 Israeli physicists Elad Orian and Noam Dotan (below) set up an Israeli group Community Electricity and Technology Middle East (COMET-ME which became an Israeli-Palestinian NGO). It was initially set up to help people to make their own renewable power, funded in large part by the German foreign ministry.

The Palestinians living in this part of the West Bank are mainly off-grid and either have no electricity at all, or use expensive diesel generators if they can afford them. Area C, which spans two-thirds of the West Bank and is under Israeli control, is home to 300,000 Palestinians. For villages in the mountains of South Hebron — often no more than a few households living in caves in the hillside — Palestinians living in this part of the West Bank are mainly off-grid and either have no access to basic services is a daily struggle. According to Israeli-Palestinian NGO Comet-ME, the Israeli authorities refuse to provide energy to Palestinians as part of a systematic campaign to push them off their lands, into Areas A and B. But these arid, windswept lands are perfectly suited to solar and wind energy

As work proceeded, from 2012 onwards, several disturbing reports came of threats to this work. The following paragraph is typical of such reports.

2013 HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Sunday demanded Palestinians remove 10 solar panels from their rooftops in the Yatta region south of Hebron, a local group said. The team often had to erect turbines at night to avoid confrontation with the Israeli authorities who previously halted installations.

An escalation from state threats in 2014 was widely reported: settlers destroyed solar panels and olive trees in the West Bank on Thursday, local news agencies reported. A group of settlers from the illegal outpost of Mitzpe Yair attacked and smashed solar panels belonging to a Palestinian community in the south Hebron hills, locals told Ma’an news agency.

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An off-grid solar system in Sha’eb el Buttom, a village in the South Hebron hills. In the background is an illegal Israeli settlement that Israel has fully connected to the grid. 

Positive News and SciDev report that, more recently, persistence appears to have won the day, bringing renewable energy to around 2,000 people in 24 villages in the southern West Bank. In 2015 Comet-Me summarised a few years’ work with people in South Mount Hebron to set up small-scale renewable energy systems based on these technologies. These have improved lives and livelihoods by providing clean energy for refrigeration, cooking, making butter and cheese, and communications.

hebron-2Hajeh Nuzha pours milk into a new butter churner, powered by renewable energy. Electric churners slash the time it takes women to make butter and cheese — one of the staple livelihoods here.

Many of the villagers in the Mount Hebron hills live in caves such as this one in Tuba. Family incomes have grown by as much as 70% since the electric goods were introduced.

hebron-3Women also use renewable energy to run laundry machines, such as this one in a home in Sha’eb el Buttom. Electricity has “revolutionised the lives of women”, Orian says, because they tend to do household tasks and take care of butter and cheese production.

As many Palestinians in Mount Hebron had to rely on rainwater harvesting, Comet-ME has built clean water systems for the communities — 70% of whom, the UN reports, are not connected to the water network. In some villages, people use as little as a fifth of the World Health Organisation’s recommended level. Because this often fails to meet their needs, families have paid high prices for extra water brought in by tanker. To reduce this burden, Comet-ME supplies equipment to improve access to clean water. Here the team are installing meters to monitor water use for new water systems.

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A pump and priming tank on top of a cistern in which rainwater is stored. Pipes carry water from the cistern to homes, where taps are installed. Before reaching the tanks, the water goes through particle filters to clean it. The new systems mean that children no longer have to carry heavy loads of water to their homes.

In July 16 the Palestine Energy Ministry granted licensing and permits for its first large-scale solar power plant near the city of Hebron, according to the two companies involved in the development. To develop the 5.7MW PV project, US-owned, Holland-based solar power firm Gigawatt Global formed a joint venture with Jordan and Palestine-based energy engineering and technology solutions company Rack Tech. As reported by Saur Energy International, Fadi Bkirat, Rack Tech founder and CEO said, “This project really is very important at this time because of the shortage of electricity in the vicinity. Also it will be a good way for employment for the Palestinian engineers. It will be very good for the country.”

An MRES course is now being offered at Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron. The Master of Science in Renewable Energy & Sustainability is a project of eight universities, three from European countries & five from Mediterranean countries, with financial support from the European Union (EU) under the umbrella of TEMPUS projects. It aims to establish a program that will effectively utilize the renewable energy resources and help to support the sustainability of these sources and local environment. 

 

 

 

 

Germany’s people-powered energy and American micro-grids

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Source (2013): https://ilsr.org/germanys-63000-megawatts-renewable-energy-locally-owned/

A 2015 National Geographic article with the most remarkable photographs: Germany Could Be a Model for How We’ll Get Power in the Future … led to the ISLR article written earlier this month.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ISLR) informs readers that its mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support environmentally sound and equitable community development. To this end, ILSR works with citizens, activists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to design systems, policies and enterprises that meet local or regional needs; to maximize human, material, natural and financial resources; and to ensure that the benefits of these systems and resources accrue to all local citizens.

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Instead of expanding or connecting to the national energy grid, some companies, municipalities, and individuals are creating miniature grids of their own that can operate independently – “microgrids” – providing options for groups that want lower energy bills, more control over where their energy comes from, or a level of reliability that the grid cannot provide.

The costs are high and they are economically viable for only a limited set of situations. As Karlee Weinmann, ISLR Energy Democracy Initiative Research Associate pointed out, however, the cost of new technology invariably falls as it is adopted: “The cost of materials, installation, and maintenance for the components that make up a microgrid are going down, so the value proposition for a microgrid increases in turn. The general viability of microgrid projects is also reinforced through replication, like anything else, so the more that various stakeholders test the technology, prove its value, and improve upon it, the easier it is to justify buying in . . . As we see it, the future of the grid will be far more decentralized than the system we have now. Rather than paying a far off utility for electricity, which in many cases comes from problematic, dirty sources, customers’ money can stay closer to home.”

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Hurricane Sandy, which cut power to 8.5 million people, one million of whom went without power for a week, was cited by the ILSR report Mighty Microgrids as one of the key motivators of regional investment in microgrids. While up to 60% of backup diesel generators failed in medical centers and other essential facilities, Princeton University’s 20 MW microgrid kept the campus operational in island mode for three days while a connection to the grid was being restored.…

Regulations governing interconnection processes can also hinder microgrid adoption, particularly because these regulations vary from state to state. Opposition from utility companies is often a factor that makes the regulatory environment hostile or resistant to positive change. In an ideal world, a national standard would be adopted.

Richardson concludes: “Perhaps in the future, microgrids will be a common feature of communities . . . connected by the larger grid and selling electricity to each other as necessary. For now, they represent a useful tool for businesses and communities that need reliability that the grid can’t offer or that can leverage scale to reduce energy costs”.

 

 

 

Using our waterways reduces road congestion, fuel consumption and air pollution

Graham Dixon: “If one ship brings 3000 tonnes of freight up the canal, that’s over 100 lorry journeys removed from the roads, requiring only the first and the final few miles to be carried by lorry instead of potentially hundreds of miles.”  

graham-dixonFor two years Esprit Warehousing & Docks owned by Graham Dixon (left) has been refurbishing the derelict Trafford Park Docks site so that bulk goods such as road salt, aggregates, grain and biomass can be brought via the Manchester Ship Canal into Manchester, removing many lorries from the surrounding roads and reducing  congestion and pollution. The Esprit Trafford Park Docks can now handle vessels carrying oversized freight which is too large for normal transport by road. Esprit have also refurbished two warehouses on the site up to food-grade standard, so that freight can be stored at the docks, inside or outside, and gradually collected over a period of time.

In January the 2300 tonne ship ‘RMS Duisburg’ arrived at Trafford Park Docks, marking its re-opening after being closed for over 10 years. It brought two large silos from Germany, bound for a factory in Manchester.

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The silos were collected from Rotterdam by RMS Duisburg, shipped around the south coast of England and arrived at Esprit’s Trafford Park Docks in Manchester where two large cranes quickly transferred to low loaders ready for the final four miles by road under police escort.

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“Imagine the congestion these would have caused if they’d travelled by road from Hull or Liverpool. Freight back on the Manchester Ship Canal: surely this has to be the way forward?” 

Not only can goods be brought into Manchester, but those produced in Manchester can also now be shipped out via the Manchester Ship Canal. Equally freight doesn’t have to be international to use the canal. Esprit recently signed an agreement with Belgian company Blue Line Logistics who operate smaller barges on inland waterways. These can be used for moving palletised goods between the many berths up and down the ship canal, utilising their onboard cranes for lifting pallets directly onto and off the quayside.

In Belgium, many local authorities impose planning conditions requiring developers to bring their construction materials as near to the site as possible via the canals. The Manchester Ship Canal can now be used in this way, with Trafford Docks as the ideal location, leaving only the final few miles for road transport.

Graham Dixon adds: “Businesses need to start thinking ‘can our raw materials or finished goods be transported on the canal rather than by road?”

(A map showing Britain’s inland waterways and canals may be downloaded here.)

 

 

 

 

 

Antidotes were hard to find this week as one cheering message after another was debunked – only Positive News was buoyant

The message in so many headlines: “From January 1st this year, all Dutch electric trains are being powered by renewable energy – wind power. Not so, it is claimed: 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind. 

global-fossil-fuel-subsidies-graphThen Jonathan Ford in the FT (former chairman of the Cameron generation of the Bullingdon Club, now responsible for writing and commissioning the FT’s editorials) argued that green jobs are not valuable because of public subsidy (How subsidy culture keeps Britain’s green industry in the black – leaving the uniformed or prejudiced reader to assume that fossil fuels receive no subsidy. Statistics for the UK are not readily available here – but the IMF reports that America is the world’s second biggest culprit overall, spending $669 billion this year—mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.

Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs, Solar Trade Association replied in the FT that the UK subsidy is required only because the “polluter pays” principle has not been fully applied to fossil fuels.

She adds that despite the global market failure to tax carbon pollution, there are increasing parts of the world where solar and onshore wind compete with the cheapest fossil fuels even without subsidy or “polluter pays” taxes.

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Lucy Purdy of Positive News writes cheeringly: “It was a tough year by many measures but 2016 also saw some reasons for celebration. We look behind the headlines for signs of progress”. (First republished on a sister site):

right-in-2016Illustration by Spencer Wilson: the fact that some conflicts have ended has helped reduce world hunger

  1. World hunger is at its lowest point for 25 years
  2. The Rio Olympics featured more female athletes than ever before
  3. The Paris Climate Change Agreement came into force
  4. For the 24th year in a row, teenage pregnancy rates declined in the UK and US
  5. Wild tiger numbers increased for the first time in 100 years
  6. The number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes has almost halved since 1990
  7. Evidence suggests that major diseases, from colon cancer to heart disease, are now starting to wane in wealthy countries
  8. India turned on the world’s largest solar power plant – spanning 10 sq km – in the state of Tamil Nadu
  9. Public smoking bans appear to have improved health in 21 nations
  10. Black incarceration rates fell in the US
  11. Measles has been eradicated in the Americas – the first time the disease has been eliminated from an entire world region
  12. An HIV cure may be a step closer after a trial cleared the virus in a British man
  13. Italy became the last large Western country to recognise same-sex unions
  14. China installed 20 gigawatts of solar in the first half of 2016
  15. Volunteers in India planted 50m trees in 24 hours
  16. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, it was announced this year
  17. The amount of money it would take to eliminate extreme poverty is now lower than the annual foreign aid spend
  18. Giant pandas are no longer endangered
  19. The number of deaths from malaria is at a global record low
  20. The World Bank says we are now one generation away from achieving universal literacy

and

uk-electricity

                                                 Another sign of progress

 

 

 

 

Cheaper batteries for domestic solar energy and grid-scale storage

As disturbing news piles up, so does news of the sort of positive developments covered on this site. Today’s post was going to be about the news that “as of the first of January this year, all public transport trains in the Netherlands are being powered by renewable energy” (wind) first brought to me by Futurism.

elon-muskThat subject is being set aside as it has been very widely covered in the MSM. So instead we turn to specific news about the work of Elon Musk (left), a co-founder of PayPal who is now chairman of Tesla Motors.

The FT reports that householders are starting to buy more battery storage systems as costs come down and consumer interest is rising in Tesla, the electric car company founded by Elon Musk, which is also making the Powerwall domestic battery.

“Tesla’s market entry has led to a surge of interest from the media and public alike in a way that rarely happens in the energy sector,” the UK Renewable Energy Association said in a report published earlier this week.

In February last year the Guardian reported that Mark Kerr became the first British owner of a Tesla Powerwall. Kerr and his family tend to be out at work and school when the sun is shining and the 16 solar panels on the roof of their home in Cardiff are producing power. The excess is fed into the grid and they make a return on it but they are not able to use the power from their panels.

powerwall-battery

 

 

 

 

 

However, from now on, energy produced but not used during the day will charge the Powerwall and provide them with the energy they need when they’re at home and their lights, music centres, computers, televisions and myriad other devices need feeding.

Jonathon Porritt – who recently wrote about the relatively low prices of solar tiles produced by Musk – gives a ‘wee glimpse’ into the transformative impact of cheaper storage technologies, on this video of a presentation by Tony Seba which focusses on their use in cars..

While cheaper battery storage offers potential benefits to renewable power stations and homeowners, industry analysts said that grid-scale storage could also produce large savings by reducing the need for new power stations and transmission lines.

News of others working on battery storage systems (Agassi and Khosla) may be seen here: http://www.economist.com/node/10766460.

 

 

 

Is mitigation an acceptable strategy in the transition to lower emissions?

A 2015 International Energy Agency report sees coal demand outside China ‘modestly increasing’ through 2020 as the decline in Europe and the United States will be ‘more than offset’ by growth in India and Southeast Asia.

quartzIf this is so, should we welcome the news in Quartz magazine that Carbon Clean Solutions technology could help to reach the low carbon-emissions targets set out in the Paris climate agreement?

Carbon Clean Solutions is a ‘20-person company’ with headquarters in London, employees in India and the US. It was founded in 2009 by two chemical engineers, Aniruddha Sharma and Prateek Bumb.

The company built a plant in Tuticorin in southern India which captures carbon dioxide from its coal-fired boiler and converts it into soda ash – and did it so cheaply that it did not need any government subsidies.

“So far the ideas for carbon capture have mostly looked at big projects, and the risk is so high they are very expensive to finance. We want to set up small-scale plants that de-risk the technology by making it a completely normal commercial option.” Sharma told the Guardian.

ccs-headerThis informative website was set up in 2013 but has not been updated

Carbon Clean Solutions technology is said to be cost effective to install and also to run: at a recent industry conference, Professor Peter Styring (University of Sheffield) is widely quoted as saying that the true cost of carbon emissions, measured through environmental degradation, is close to $30 per ton. Sharma says the plant captures emissions from coal at a cost of about $30 per ton and adds, “The next generation of the technology we are working on could cut the price down to $15 per ton”.

The author of the Quartz article, Akhat Rashi, points out that the earlier emphasis on carbon capture and storage (CCS), has shifted in part to carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), where the emissions are turned into useful products.

Mr Rashi adds that the proportion of global renewable energy supply is increasing rapidly, but not yet fast enough to keep global temperatures from rising 2°C above the pre-industrial average, which is estimated to be the point at which that climate change reaches a critical point of no return – so we ask readers, is Carbon Clean Solutions technology a useful and acceptable strategy in the transition to lower emissions?

Jeremy Heighway comments:

Maybe it depends on what mitigation means in newspeak. Lessening negative effects to what extent? How much reliance is there going to be on something positive arriving that tops the negatives?

As far as the text goes, carbon capture and utilisation is better than carbon capture and storage in my book (except that a living tree would out-perform the book I’d be reading from in terms of CCU)!  

I guess a more serious response is that of course mitigation CAN be an acceptable PART OF THE strategy, yes, but it doesn’t make it the solution per se.

 

 

 

WEF: installing new solar panels is now cheaper than comparable investment in coal, natural gas, biomass or fracking

michael-corenThe bearer of this week’s good tidings is Yale graduate Michael J. Coren (left) of Quartz, which is designed by its experienced founders to deliver information primarily to users of tablet and mobile then to website readers.

To summarise: the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported in December that the renewable energy future has arrived – solar and wind is now the same price or cheaper than new fossil fuel capacity in more than 30 countries.

Coren reports that Michael Drexler, who leads infrastructure and development investing at the WEF, issued a statement adding that renewable energy is not only a commercially viable option, but a compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returs.

wef-re-coverIn 2016, utilities added 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic capacity to the US grid, making solar the top fuel source for the first time in a calendar year, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s estimates. The US added about 125 solar panels every minute in 2016, about double the pace last year, reports the Solar Energy Industry Association.

But global investment in renewable energy still lags behind levels needed to avoid potentially catastrophic global warming, according to the United Nations. Global renewable investment last year was $286 billion, or 25% of the $1 trillion goal set by nations at the Paris climate change accord.

As prices for solar and wind power continue to fall, two-thirds of all nations will reach the point known as “grid parity” within a few years, without subsidies. Renewable energy technology, especially solar and wind, has made great gains in efficiency in recent years with advances in manufacturing processes and economies of scale considerably reducing production costs

Solar photovoltaic systems have seen a reduction of up to 22% for every doubling in production capacity and price compression of 80% since 2009, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) citing EPIA, 2011a and Kersten 2011. Its working paper is part of a set of five reports on solar photovoltaics, wind, biomass, hydropower and concentrating solar power that address the current costs of these key renewable power technology options. Wind turbine prices have fallen by more than 30% over the past three years. Solar is projected to fall to half the price of electricity from coal or natural gas within a decade or two. That milestone has already been reached in some places. In August, energy firm Solarpack contracted to sell solar electricity in Chile at just $29.1 per megawatt hour, 58% below prices from a new natural gas plant.

grid-parity2-2015See clearer version here: https://www.db.com/cr/en/concrete-deutsche-bank-report-solar-grid-parity-in-a-low-oil-price-era.htm

It is estimated that more than 30 countries have already reached grid parity without subsidies, and around two thirds of the world should reach grid parity in the next couple of years. If electricity costs were to rise by 3% annually, 80% of the global market would reach grid parity in the next couple of years, according to Deutsche Bank. A search produced the Deutsche Bank 2015 report: Solar grid parity in a low oil price era and the map above. Countries that have already reached grid parity include those in which demand is rising at a fast pace (e.g. Chile, Mexico) or insolation is high (e.g. Brazil, Australia).

Dolf Gielen, Director, Innovation and Technology, stresses in the preface to the Irena report that though in recent years there have been dramatic reductions in renewable energy technologies’ costs as a result of R&D and accelerated deployment policy-makers are often not aware of the latest cost data.

Many will share his hope that presenting this data will inform the current debate about renewable power generation and assist governments and key decision makers to make informed decisions on policy and investment.