Sunday, January 31, 2016

3 Ways Wind and Solar Can Continue To Grow In a 21st-Century Grid

Earlier this year, MIT researchers were the latest in a series of analysts to raise alarm about the perceived limitations of solar PV’s continued growth. In short, these analysts propose that variable renewables will depress wholesale prices when they run, thereby limiting their own economic success.

These concerns have garnered coverage in other venues (including Vox, Greentech Media, and The Financial Times), leading observers to suggest that the future prospects for renewables may be dim.

But are these concerns really justified, or do they rely on outdated assumptions about the grid and about electricity markets? We argue that these critiques, assuming a static grid and unchanging market mechanisms, can be used to make any innovation look bad. However, more integrative assessments of a least-cost, clean, and reliable power system of the future will factor in high fractions of variable renewables, along with more-efficient markets (and usage) and new technologies to integrate these resources seamlessly and resiliently.

In this article, we argue that falling wholesale prices is a good problem to have, and that concerns about economic limitations ignore remedies available from supply-side evolution, demand-side resources, and updated market mechanisms. As the world gathers in Paris for COP21, these messages are as important as ever for charting and pursuing a low-carbon clean-energy pathway.

Understanding the "Problems"

There has been increasing concern that variable renewables such as wind and solar may face an upper limit to adoption in the U.S. grid. The argument is that large amounts of variable renewables will create excess supply concentrated at the particular times of day when they produce. The notorious "duck curve" is an example of this—the duck-like shape of a particular, daily demand curve modeled for California’s grid when the production of large amounts of solar photovoltaics (PV) is netted out.

Critics argue that this technical characteristic of variable renewables, specifically PV—a daily generation pattern that is not perfectly matched with load—can have economic consequences for all forms of generators, especially the renewable resources themselves. Large amounts of renewable resources can sell a glut of power when it’s available, offsetting production from higher-marginal-cost resources (like gas-fired power plants). Since power prices are generally set by the resources with the highest marginal cost that clear in the market, additional generation from renewables tends to lower market prices.

This "merit order effect" often decreases revenues for fossil generators. This impact has been particularly dramatic in Europe, where generation from costly-to-run thermal plants during the daily solar peak was formerly very profitable for fossil generation owners. PV has decreased energy prices so much there that the top 10 EU utilities lost half their market capitalization. However, the merit order effect also means that variable renewables themselves may also earn lower profits as their adoption rises. A common conclusion is that variable renewables can play only a modest role in power production, marginalized by declining wholesale value at higher adoption levels.

The Other Half of the Thought Experiment: Three Factors That Can Accelerate Renewable Energy Adoption

Analysts who have put forth these arguments have elaborated only the first half of a microeconomics thought experiment. The problems they hypothesize hinge upon the laws of supply and demand, but omit important aspects of both, drastically overstating the perceived "problems." Let’s see how.

1) Supply is changing holistically, not incrementally

Many of these thought experiments consider adding just a single supply resource (often solar PV) without considering many of the other supply-side changes happening at the same time. In reality, solar PV, wind, and natural gas are all joining the supply mix in a big way at the same time; the first two are often complementary and the third is dispatchable, so together, they can do a lot to mitigate the "duck curve" often portrayed.

At the same time, retirements of uneconomic assets will provide a countervailing buoyancy to wholesale prices. For example, even though old, dirty plants often have low production costs, they may exit the market anyway due to high costs of compliance upgrades or other fixed costs that erode their profits. The resulting less-abundant supply can cause the marginal supply curve to contract in quantity, leading to higher prices and higher profits for renewables and remaining fossil generators—unless demand drops too, as it’s doing in the industrialized world.

2) Demand is increasingly flexible, not fixed

Analysts arguing that renewables’ variability will limit their growth often assume perfectly efficient wholesale markets, but unchanged retail markets and fixed demand profiles. This incomplete and asymmetrical treatment ignores the emerging capability to harness the demand side of the equation. For example, people like and respond to time-varying pricing programs, and these programs are starting to roll out at scale. The electricity demand of many appliances including electric water heaters and electric vehicles is inherently flexible without disrupting the service provided. Furthermore, new business models (from both utilities and third parties) are driving this convenient flexibility by providing seamless solutions, unobtrusively, conveniently, and without requiring customers to become part-time energy traders.

These factors together increase flexibility of demand, an important low-cost resource, and enable what is the most natural response to changing prices in an efficient market where consumers find ways to use and benefit from cheap electricity from wind and solar. In other words, as renewables reduce energy prices during certain times of day, demand flexibility allows customers to shift demand to those times, which will both reduce energy prices at other (peak) times and raise the price paid to renewables during times when they produce the most.

3) Storage makes renewables dispatchable, not variable

Diverse supply and flexible demand will play a big role in easing renewable integration concerns but, to the extent that issues remain, the continuing decline in battery prices and the range of values available from batteries means that remaining variability issues can probably be addressed at modest incremental costs. At the retail level, this can lead to increasing self-balancing of distributed generation (we’ve already seen this in Germany and Australia, and it may affect utility business models in the U.S.). At the wholesale level, as variable resources begin to saturate the market, high-priced hours will incentivize developers to begin to look at storage. Already, storage is seen as a near-term replacement for peaking generation, and batteries installed for peaking capacity can also be used to smooth the economic impact of renewables on power prices.

Storage is already a common feature of concentrating solar power (via molten salt), and becoming an increasingly common feature of solar PV. For example, the all-renewable winning bids in the latest Chilean auction for unsubsidized electricity included not just solar power as low as $65/MWh in the daytime, but also nighttime solar power—via thermal or electrical storage—for $97/MWh at night. With storage, variable renewables become dispatchable, and dispatchable renewables do not have nearly the same merit order effect as variable ones. To be sure, our recent demonstration that 13 kinds of benefits of behind-the-meter distributed storage can make batteries cost-effective does not necessarily make them competitive with the many other ways to achieve grid flexibility, but similar reasoning suggests an abundant range of options for averting the problems that narrowly constrained models imply.

Whole-System Thinking Illuminates a Path Towards Least-Cost Outcomes

Analysts arguing that renewables will economically limit their own continuing adoption generally leave out the considerations listed above—and more importantly, these arguments are built on incremental thinking, assuming that today’s grid and markets are fixed and only one thing changes (e.g., PV or wind-energy market share). A more holistic, integrative, and accurate analysis would start with the ultimate objectives (reliable, resilient, and least-cost energy services), and promote a whole-system design to get there promptly.

With this perspective in mind, the characteristics of renewable energy that have caused so much hand-wringing—variable output and near-zero marginal costs of production—simply add to the list of design considerations for a market design that rewards efficient investment. Given supply diversity, demand flexibility, and emerging technologies like storage, variable renewables are unlikely to face any practical limit to growth even under current grid paradigms and market structures.

Nothing Sacred About Existing Markets

But even if renewables do face adoption limits in current markets, there is no reason we have to keep these markets the way they are. Wholesale power markets are largely a product of historical coincidence, formed out of the paradigms of the last century in which thermal power plants competed only with each other. Modern market design that reflects the realities and changing resource mix of the 21st century grid, being pioneered in Germany already, can go a long way towards aligning incentives for least-cost resource mixes. Particularly, incorporating behind-the-meter distributed energy resources and flexible loads into energy markets—as is being done in California and New York—can bring new capabilities and a refined level of control to the grid.

An Integration Challenge?

Evolving supply, flexible demand, storage, and updated markets can remove the limits to increasing renewable energy on the grid. In a later post, we will highlight how these same levers can address the common concerns—and misunderstandings—about "integration costs" of renewable energy. For example, a much-hyped recent paper claims that high-penetration renewables must incur steeply rising integration costs. But that turns out to be an artifact of extremely restrictive assumptions in the models used, combined with an assertion that competitive harm to thermal-plant incumbents is an economic cost of the renewables that beat them.

Renewables Are Here To Stay

The "problems" with renewables often brought up by analysts may be real in isolation, but are overstated when the full range of options is considered. Indeed, these are good problems to have: they’re the natural forces of supply and demand acting to send signals to market participants to diversify resource choice, incentivize demand flexibility, and invest in storage and other emerging technologies. Arguments against wind and solar PV conclude that these resources will need greater subsidies to survive in the "duck curve" era. But instead, we can tap the latent power of supply diversity, demand flexibility, storage, and market design to level the playing field for all resources, rather than clinging to the premises of the 20th century grid. Protecting the old system is far inferior to enabling the new one so that innovation can flourish, entrepreneurs can thrive, and all options can compete fully and fairly. Source

 

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grenada hosting inaugural Caribbean Waste to Energy conference

A four-day inaugural Caribbean Waste to Energy Conference and Exposition began here on Wednesday with Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell indicating that Grenada is fully committed to working towards a zero-waste economy.

PM Dr. Keith Mitchell

He told delegates attending the conference, which is intended to improve understanding that effectively managed waste can be a renewable resource, that it was necessary for the island to develop such a policy, which will provide the framework for sustainable management of waste in the region.

“We recognise that waste is a valuable resource, an important source of energy, and that the current waste management practices are resulting in an economy and citizenry that are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.

“A critical issue is that in the majority of Caribbean countries, imported petroleum is the chief source of primary commercial energy, while vast renewable energy resources remain to be developed.”

The conference is being held under the theme ‘Energy Services From Waste: The Development of a Regional Integrated Organic Waste Management Sector, and is being organised to promote improved management of waste for environmental protection and strengthening coastal resilience to climate change impacts.

Mitchell said that while global oil prices are now at their lowest levels in over a decade, high and generally unpredictable oil prices have consistently retarded the competitiveness of regional goods and services.

Scarce foreign exchange earnings that are being spent by our countries to pay for energy imports could be otherwise directed to alleviating poverty, adapting to climate change and sea level rise, or finance other critical interventions which are necessary for building our social, economic and climate resilience; thus increasing our ability to recover and respond which is the cornerstone of sustainable development,” he suggested. More

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment

Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment

http://www.worldwatch.org/cserms/baseline-report

The Caribbean region stands at a crossroads, faced with several critical challenges associated with the generation, distribution, and use of energy. Despite the availability of tremendous domestic renewable energy resources, the region remains disproportionately dependent on imported fossil fuels, which exposes it to volatile oil prices, limits economic development, and degrades local natural resources. This ongoing import dependence also fails to establish a precedent for global action to mitigate the long-term consequences of climate change, which pose a particularly acute threat to small-island states and low-lying coastal nations.

While onerous, these shared challenges are far outweighed by the region’s tremendous potential for sustainable energy solutions. By acting on this potential, the Caribbean can assume a leading role in the global effort to combat climate change while promoting sustainable regional economic and societal development. Representing a geographically, culturally, and economically diverse cross-section of the region, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) provides the ideal platform to construct the legislative and regulatory frameworks necessary to achieve this transition.

CARICOM represents 15 diverse member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Although these states vary widely, they face many common energy challenges.

CARICOM has already begun to play a crucial role in the regional transition to sustainable energy. Recognizing the need to develop a coordinated regional approach to expedite uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in the Caribbean, CARICOM adopted its regional Energy Policy in 2013 after a decade in development. The policy charts a new climate-compatible development path that harnesses domestic renewable energy resources, minimizes environmental damage, and spurs social opportunity, economic growth, and innovation.

To translate these intentions into action, the CARICOM Secretariat commissioned the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS), designed to build on existing efforts in the region and to provide CARICOM member states with a coherent strategy for transitioning to sustainable energy. In this C-SERMS Baseline Assessment and Report, the Worldwatch Institute provides an analysis of the region’s current energy and energy policy situation, evaluates regional potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions, and recommends regional targets for energy sector transformation in the short, medium, and long terms.

Download Report: http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/C-SERMS_Baseline_10.29.2015.pdf

 

 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The collapse of Saudi Arabia is inevitable

On Tuesday 22 September, Middle East Eye broke the story of a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulazi

In a letter circulated among Saudi princes, its author, a grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, blamed incumbent King Salman for creating unprecedented problems that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.

“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.

Whether or not an internal royal coup is round the corner – and informed observers think such a prospect “fanciful” – the letter’s analysis of Saudi Arabia’s dire predicament is startlingly accurate.

Like many countries in the region before it, Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a perfect storm of interconnected challenges that, if history is anything to judge by, will be the monarchy’s undoing well within the next decade.

Black gold hemorrhage

The biggest elephant in the room is oil. Saudi Arabia’s primary source of revenues, of course, is oil exports. For the last few years, the kingdom has pumped at record levels to sustain production, keeping oil prices low, undermining competing oil producers around the world who cannot afford to stay in business at such tiny profit margins, and paving the way for Saudi petro-dominance.

But Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity to pump like crazy can only last so long. A new peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering anticipates that Saudi Arabia will experience a peak in its oil production, followed by inexorable decline, in 2028 – that’s just 13 years away.

This could well underestimate the extent of the problem. According to the Export Land Model (ELM) created by Texas petroleum geologist Jeffrey J Brown and Dr Sam Foucher, the key issue is not oil production alone, but the capacity to translate production into exports against rising rates of domestic consumption.

Brown and Foucher showed that the inflection point to watch out for is when an oil producer can no longer increase the quantity of oil sales abroad because of the need to meet rising domestic energy demand.

In 2008, they found that Saudi net oil exports had already begun declining as of 2006. They forecast that this trend would continue.

They were right. From 2005 to 2015, Saudi net exports have experienced an annual decline rate of 1.4 percent, within the range predicted by Brown and Foucher. A report by Citigroup recently predicted that net exports would plummet to zero in the next 15 years.

From riches to rags

This means that Saudi state revenues, 80 percent of which come from oil sales, are heading downwards, terminally.

Saudi Arabia is the region’s biggest energy consumer, domestic demand having increased by 7.5 percent over the last five years – driven largely by population growth.

The total Saudi population is estimated to grow from 29 million people today to 37 million by 2030. As demographic expansion absorbs Saudi Arabia’s energy production, the next decade is therefore likely to see the country’s oil exporting capacity ever more constrained.

Renewable energy is one avenue which Saudi Arabia has tried to invest in to wean domestic demand off oil dependence, hoping to free up capacity for oil sales abroad, thus maintaining revenues.

But earlier this year, the strain on the kingdom’s finances began to show when it announced an eight-year delay to its $109 billion solar programme, which was supposed to produce a third of the nation’s electricity by 2032.

State revenues also have been hit through blowback from the kingdom’s own short-sighted strategy to undermine competing oil producers. As I previously reported, Saudi Arabia has maintained high production levels precisely to keep global oil prices low, making new ventures unprofitable for rivals such as the US shale gas industry and other OPEC producers.

The Saudi treasury has not escaped the fall-out from the resulting oil profit squeeze – but the idea was that the kingdom’s significant financial reserves would allow it to weather the storm until its rivals are forced out of the market, unable to cope with the chronic lack of profitability.

That hasn’t quite happened yet. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s considerable reserves are being depleted at unprecedented levels, dropping from their August 2014 peak of $737 billion to $672bn in May – falling by about $12bn a month.

At this rate, by late 2018, the kingdom’s reserves could deplete as low as $200bn, an eventuality that would likely be anticipated by markets much earlier, triggering capital flight.

To make up for this prospect, King Salman’s approach has been to accelerate borrowing. What happens when over the next few years reserves deplete, debt increases, while oil revenues remain strained?

As with autocratic regimes like Egypt, Syria and Yemen – all of which are facing various degrees of domestic unrest – one of the first expenditures to slash in hard times will be lavish domestic subsidies. In the former countries, successive subsidy reductions responding to the impacts of rocketing food and oil prices fed directly into the grievances that generated the “Arab Spring” uprisings.

Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, and its unique ability to maintain generous subsidies for oil, housing, food and other consumer items, plays a major role in fending off that risk of civil unrest. Energy subsidies alone make up about a fifth of Saudi’s gross domestic product.

Pressure points

As revenues are increasingly strained, the kingdom’s capacity to keep a lid on rising domestic dissent will falter, as has already happened in countries across the region.

About a quarter of the Saudi population lives in poverty. Unemployment is at about 12 percent, and affects mostly young people – 30 percent of whom are unemployed.

Climate change is pitched to heighten the country’s economic problems, especially in relation to food and water.

Like many countries in the region, Saudi Arabia is already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of stronger warming temperatures in the interior, and vast areas of rainfall deficits in the north. By 2040, average temperatures are expected to be higher than the global average, and could increase by as much as 4 degrees Celsius, while rain reductions could worsen.

This would be accompanied by more extreme weather events, like the 2010 Jeddah flooding caused by a year’s worth of rain occurring within the course of just four hours. The combination could dramatically impact agricultural productivity, which is already facing challenges from overgrazing and unsustainable industrial agricultural practices leading to accelerated desertification.

In any case, 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s food requirements are purchased through heavily subsidised imports, meaning that without the protection of those subsidies, the country would be heavily impacted by fluctuations in global food prices.

“Saudi Arabia is particularly vulnerable to climate change as most of its ecosystems are sensitive, its renewable water resources are limited and its economy remains highly dependent on fossil fuel exports, while significant demographic pressures continue to affect the government’s ability to provide for the needs of its population,” concluded a UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report in 2010.

The kingdom is one of the most water scarce in the world, at 98 cubic metres per inhabitant per year. Most water withdrawal is from groundwater, 57 percent of which is non-renewable, and 88 percent of which goes to agriculture. In addition, desalination plants meet about 70 percent of the kingdom’s domestic water supplies.

But desalination is very energy intensive, accounting for more than half of domestic oil consumption. As oil exports run down, along with state revenues, while domestic consumption increases, the kingdom’s ability to use desalination to meet its water needs will decrease.

End of the road

In Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Egypt, civil unrest and all-out war can be traced back to the devastating impact of declining state power in the context of climate-induced droughts, agricultural decline, and rapid oil depletion.

Yet the Saudi government has decided that rather than learning lessons from the hubris of its neighbours, it won’t wait for war to come home – but will readily export war in the region in a madcap bid to extend its geopolitical hegemony and prolong its petro-dominance.

Unfortunately, these actions are symptomatic of the fundamental delusion that has prevented all these regimes from responding rationally to the Crisis of Civilization that is unravelling the ground from beneath their feet. That delusion consists of an unwavering, fundamentalist faith: that more business-as-usual will solve the problems created by business-as-usual.

Like many of its neighbours, such deep-rooted structural realities mean that Saudi Arabia is indeed on the brink of protracted state failure, a process likely to take-off in the next few years, becoming truly obvious well within a decade.

Sadly, those few members of the royal family who think they can save their kingdom from its inevitable demise by a bit of experimental regime-rotation are no less deluded than those they seek to remove.

- Nafeez Ahmed PhD

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Solar panels empower indigenous people in Canada's north

BEHCHOKO, Northwest Territories, Canada, Oct 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Daniel T’seleie, an indigenous activist in Canada’s far north, is campaigning to help his people wean themselves from a worrying dependence on imported fuel and food, recover old traditions and win greater autonomy from the government.

Daniel T’seleie

In a region with nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer, one way to help meet his goals seems obvious: more solar power.

“Right now a lot of communities in the Northwest Territories are dependent on diesel-generated electricity, along with store-bought food,” said T’seleie in an open air interview near Behchoko, a clutch of small wooden houses nestled along the shores of Great Slave Lake.

Standing beside spindly jack pine trees growing from thin soil on the hard granite rock that covers much of northern Canada, T’seleie sees renewable energy as the force which could respond to the region’s complex, intertwined challenges.

Canada’s north is particularly vulnerable to global warming, which is making it harder for indigenous people to continue their traditions of hunting and trapping on the land, as ice sheets melt and caribou herds collapse.

And although indigenous people want what they call a “nation to nation” relationship with the Canadian government, they largely depend on it for diesel fuel in order to keep warm.

By harnessing renewable energy, T’seleie believes indigenous communities could gain more freedom from the state and revive ancient cultural practices, while doing their part to combat climate change which is hitting them particularly hard.

“Any way that communities can produce energy at a local level produces independence,” said the 34-year-old, sporting a baseball cap and jeans, the informal dress common in Canada’s rugged north.

SOLAR SURGE

The Northwest Territories has seen a surge in the use of solar power over the last five years, after the regional government spent about $50 million to boost renewable energy production and improve efficiency, said Jim Sparling, the territory’s senior climate change manager.

“On a per capita basis, we are second only to Ontario (Canada’s most populous province) for installed solar capacity,” Sparling told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in the territorial capital Yellowknife.

The huge and sparsely populated northern territory has fewer than 50,000 residents, about half of whom are indigenous, many from the Dene Nation, a tribal people who traditionally hunt caribou.

Solar power still represents a fairly small part of its energy consumption, though the level is rising, said Sparling.

Private individuals and companies in the territory are also installing solar panels on their own to try and bring down their energy bills and cut dependence on imports, he said.

That combination of rising use of renewable and better energy efficiency has allowed the province to hold its climate-changing emissions stable at 2005 levels despite a rise in the population and a growing economy, Sparling said.

The territorial government plans to be part of a Canadian delegation going to Paris for a U.N. climate summit in December, aimed at reaching a new global agreement on climate change.

Average temperatures in parts of the northern territory have already risen more than 3 degrees from pre-industrial levels, Sparling said.

Scientists say average world temperatures should not rise more 2 degrees if the world is to avoid the worst disasters associated with global warming.

“We have to scale up the ambition,” Sparling said. “We are very vulnerable if this problem gets worse.”

SWITCH OVER

North of the Arctic Circle, the village of Colville Lake, with fewer than 200 residents, is in the midst of a major switch from diesel power to solar.

Last year, the mostly indigenous community faced weekly power outages. But after a new solar power system was set-up, the area is now nearly self sufficient in electricity production during summer months when the sun shines almost round the clock.

It still needs to import fuel for the winter, but officials believe the new investments will lead to a 30 percent drop in diesel consumption, helping the environment and saving money.

Other small northern towns are looking to mimic the project to save cash and allow people to maintain traditional lifestyles by being less dependent on expensive imports.

“In the last 10 to 15 years there has been a huge push from (indigenous) communities to try and support themselves,” said Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, an indigenous studies professor at Cape Breton University and a researcher on climate change impacts.

As global warming leads to the thinning of Arctic sea ice and changes in the habits of northern animals, the region’s indigenous inhabitants are struggling to adapt their lifestyles while holding onto old traditions, she said.

The caribou population has collapsed in parts of the territory in a development experts link to climate change, and melting ice makes it harder for hunters to navigate the land in search of other animals to hunt.

“The north is the fastest changing geography in the world,” Cunsolo Willox said in a phone interview. “There is a lot of concern that traditional knowledge and skills will be lost with climate change.”

OLD TRADITIONS, NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Building greater self sufficiency - including by adapting cleaner, cheaper energy - may be a strategy for holding onto the old ways, activists say.

T’seleie, a law school graduate, said he previously tried to work through Canada’s court system and treaty negotiations to win greater autonomy for his people, after what he considers years of colonial abuses.

In the 1920s, Canadian colonial administrators declared the government’s aim was to “get rid of the Indian problem” by ending indigenous cultural practices, corralling the population into reserves and forcing aboriginal children into grim residential schools.

Canada’s government signed treaties with many indigenous groups, often in return for political support during periods of conflict, granting them access to parts of the land they once controlled and other benefits.

But many legal scholars and historians say the government did not honor those agreements in good faith.

After becoming disillusioned with the legal process, T’seleie decided working towards greater self-sufficiency in food and energy was the best way forward.

T’seleie is part of the first generation of indigenous people not forced to attend residential schools usually run by religious groups in other parts of Canada which took children from their parents, and forced them to speak English rather than native languages as a means of assimilation.

Sexual and physical abuse were rife at the institutions, the government now admits following years of litigation.

Health experts and indigenous leaders believe the legacy from these schools - including that many parents never learned how to raise children, as they were taken from their own parents - partially explain high rates of substance abuse, family violence and poverty in some indigenous communities.

Allowing people to stay on their ancestral land, continuing hunting and trapping practices, and learning stories and traditions from community elders are key to overcoming these problems, said Cunsolo Willox.

To support traditional practices and allow indigenous communities to live off the land as they have done for centuries, they need access to renewable energy, T’seleie said.

“A huge aspect of our lives, culture and language is lost when we can’t be on the land,” he said. “For me, that’s one of the biggest threats of climate change.” More

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

IEA Ministers Call for Successful COP 21

18 November 2015: The International Energy Agency (IEA) held its 2015 Ministerial meeting under the theme, ‘Innovation for a Clean, Secure Energy Future.’

According to the Summary of the Chair, Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy, discussions focused on “the critical role that energy sector policies and energy innovation can play to successfully combat climate change.” Among the meeting outcomes was a statement calling for the successful outcome of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC.

The IEA Ministerial Statement on Energy and Climate Change highlights five key opportunities for reducing emissions from the energy sector and advance the date that emissions peak. These opportunities are: increasing energy efficiency in the industry, buildings and transport sectors; phasing-out the use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants; increasing investment in renewable energy technologies (including hydropower); gradual phasing out of inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies to end-users; and reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production.

In the context of COP 21, the ministers call for explicit recognition and a signal that an energy transformation is necessary to achieve climate goals and that the transformation is underway. They further pledge to support their negotiators to successfully conclude an ambitious agreement.

During the meeting, ministers heard from IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol on three pillars for modernizing the IEA, the first being the opening of the IEA’s doors to membership of emerging economies. On 16 November 2015, Mexico announced its decision to pursue membership of the IEA. The second pillar, according to Birol, is broadening the IEA’s core mandate of energy security, and the third pillar relates to “transforming the Agency to become a global hub for clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.” According to the Chair’s Summary, ministers also noted an analysis by the IEA Secretariat that energy efficiency is the “first fuel” and is supporting economic growth without increasing emissions.

The meeting was held 17-18 November 2015, in Paris, France. All 29 IEA countries were represented by ministers or other high-level officials at the meeting. Nine partner countries and 30 top business executives also attended. [IEA Press Release] [Chair’s Summary] [IEA Ministerial Statement on Energy and Climate Change]

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saudi Arabia risks destroying Opec and feeding the Isil monster

The rumblings of revolt against Saudi Arabia and the Opec Gulf states are growing louder as half a trillion dollars goes up in smoke, and each month that goes by fails to bring about the long-awaited killer blow against the US shale industry.

Saudi Arabia is acting directly against the interests of half the cartel and is running Opec over a cliff. Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets

Algeria’s former energy minister, Nordine Aït-Laoussine, says the time has come to consider suspending his country’s Opec membership if the cartel is unwilling to defend oil prices and merely serves as the tool of a Saudi regime pursuing its own self-interest. “Why remain in an organisation that no longer serves any purpose?” he asked.

Saudi Arabia can, of course, do whatever it wants at the Opec summit in Vienna on December 4. As the cartel hegemon, it can continue to flood the global market with crude oil and hold prices below $50.

It can ignore desperate pleas from Venezuela, Ecuador and Algeria, among others, for concerted cuts in output in order to soak the world glut of 2m barrels a day, and lift prices to around $75. But to do so is to violate the Opec charter safeguarding the welfare of all member states.

“Saudi Arabia is acting directly against the interests of half the cartel and is running Opec over a cliff. There could be a total blow-out in Vienna,” said Helima Croft, a former oil analyst at the US Central Intelligence Agency and now at RBC Capital Markets

The Saudis need Opec. It is the instrument through which they leverage their global power and influence, much as Germany attains world rank through the amplification effect of the EU.

The 29-year-old deputy crown prince now running Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, has to tread with care. He may have inherited the steel will and vaulting ambitions of his grandfather, the terrifying Ibn Saud, but he has ruffled many feathers and cannot lightly detonate a crisis within Opec just months after entangling his country in a calamitous war in Yemen. “It would fuel discontent in the Kingdom and play to the sense that they don’t know what they are doing,” she said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the oil price crash has cut Opec revenues from $1 trillion a year to $550bn, setting off a fiscal crisis that has already been going on long enough to mutate into a bigger geostrategic crisis.

Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Rumhy, Oman’s (non-Opec) oil minister, said the Saudi bloc has blundered into a trap of their own making - a view shared by many within Saudi Arabia itself.

“If you have 1m barrels a day extra in the market, you just destroy the market. We are feeling the pain and we’re taking it like a God-driven crisis. Sorry, I don’t buy this, I think we’ve created it ourselves,” he said.

The Saudis tell us with a straight face that they are letting the market set prices, a claim that brings a wry smile to energy veterans. One might legitimately suspect that they will revert to cartel practices when they have smashed their rivals, if they succeed in doing so.

One might also suspect that part of their game is to check the advance of solar and wind power in a last-ditch effort to stop the renewable juggernaut and win another reprieve for the status quo. If so, they are too late. That error was made five or six years ago when they allowed oil prices to stay above $100 for too long. But Opec can throw sand in the wheels. More