The Green Economy Review: Insight into Green Job Developments Worldwide
Volume 14. February, 2012
In this issue:
A recent report from the OECD and IEA, the Green Growth Studies: Energy, argues that a “fundamental transformation is required in the way we produce, deliver and consume energy” if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of climate change while ensuring a secure energy supply for the world’s increasingly urban population.
The good news is that that transformation appears to be getting underway. Some indications:
- Late in 2011, Bloomberg New Energy Finance announced that over a trillion dollars have been invested in renewable energy since they began tracking it in 2004.
- Renewable Energy is now Germany’s second most important energy source, surpassing both coal and nuclear.
- And 2011 was hailed as Scotland’s “best year yet” for green energy
- While Ontario’s Feed in Tariff is under review, news continues to surface of communities benefiting from the province’s renewable energy program. For example, late last year, Ontario-based solar PV manufacturer Eclipsall announced that their panels were chosen for a project in Kapuskasing and a community co-operative began their hunt for a suitable site for a solar installation in Sudbury. Faith groups are benefiting from the feed-in tariff as well, such as Trinity United Church in Cobourg, where over 50 solar panels were recently installed. A community hall near Sault Ste Marie has also found new life, thanks to plans to install solar panels on the roof and generate income through the feed-in tariff.
- Nova Scotia’s renewable energy program is also moving ahead, driven by their community feed-in tariff and target to generate 25 per cent of its power from renewables by 2015, and 40 per cent by 2020.
- The International Energy Agency estimates that solar could account for a third of global energy production by 2060 if governments get serious about tackling climate change.
- More immediately, the U.S. solar PV market is expected to double in 2012 and an article in Forbes argues that the solar industry is positioned for good growth
- In recent years, the costs of solar have come down dramatically, and a study out of Queen's University found that the costs of solar are much lower that widely believed and the technology is close to parity with traditional energy sources in many markets.
- Solar is becoming increasingly attractive for investors. For example, TransCanada Corp recently expanded its green energy portfolio with the purchase of 9 solar energy projects in Ontario, for $470-million. And Google also announced plans to buy a share of four solar plants in California with a total capacity of 88 megawatts.
Here at home:
- Canada installed 1,400 megawatts of wind capacity in 2011, more than double that installed in 2010. In total, Canada’s installed wind capacity is now 5,400 megawatts, enough to power 1.5 million homes. The past year’s installations represent almost $3.5 billion in investment as well as 13,500 jobs.
- The IESO reported that Ontario produced a record 3.9 TWh of wind energy in 2011.
- And Windstream Energy announced that they had signed an agreement with Siemens Canada Limited, to supply up to 130 turbines for its 300 MW offshore wind power project on Lake Ontario. Windstream also announced a partnership with Hamilton firms and the port authority. All told, Windstream’s project is estimated to lead to 1,900 jobs if it goes forward.
- Japan utilities announced plans to increase their wind capacity by 400 MWs over 4 to 5 years. This growth has been spurred by Japan’s feed-in tariff, launched in July.
- Wind has become sufficiently significant in Europe that forecasts for strong winds pushed down electricity prices last month.
- U.K energy secretary, Chris Huhne, announced plans for 32,000 additional wind turbines.
- Scotland is taking the lead in wind deployment in the U.K. Last month, Scottish utility SSE announced they have in excess of 1 GW of onshore wind capacity and the Scottish government approved plans for two more large wind farms. Also last month, Samsung announced they would invest £100m in an offshore wind farm, expected to create some 500 Scottish green jobs.
- And wind energy leaders, environmentalists and policy makers have formed a coalition in Pennsylvania to encourage residents to buy locally manufactured wind mills.
Transportation is responsible for nearly a third of green house gas emissions and, as such, there is considerable interest in electrifying transit to increase efficiency and in order to make use of renewable sources of energy. Recent announcements include:
- Mississauga Ontario battery maker, Electrovaya, announced financial results for 2011, which showed revenues were up over 100 per cent from the year prior, in part thanks to their sales in to the EV market.
- A recent report found that California captured $467 million, or 69 per cent, of global investment in electric vehicles.
- GM announced they would have a fully electric version of the Chevy Volt available in 2013 and the Chevy Volt, in partnership with OnStar, is helping customers be even greener by alerting them to the availability of renewable energy on the grid so they can time their charging appropriately.
- A new coalition in Maui, the Electric Vehicle Alliance, was formed to speed the adoption of electric cars in the island state.
- The Chinese government is also employing a strategy to help accelerate the adoption of EVs in that country.
- Michigan utility, Consumers Energy, reported that the state’s electricity grid is capable of handling electric vehicles once they become more common.
- Electric vehicle manufacturer, Coda, is exploring using their batteries for energy storage.
Despite a gloomy economic outlook and pervasive austerity measures, the green economy received record levels of investment in 2011.
- $260 billion was invested in clean energy in 2011, up 5 percent from the previous year.
- 2011 also saw the U.S. investment overtake China for this first time since 2008 and as mentioned above, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, one trillion dollars have been invested in renewable energy since they began keeping records in 2004.
- Reuters also reported that clean energy investment in the U.K. hit $3.9 billion in 2011 and according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, that investment could yield some 12,000 jobs.
Governments and utilities are making record investments. Some notable examples:
- The EU has announced plans to set aside €25 billion for climate research as part of the Horizon 2020 program, which aims to boost innovation and competitiveness.
- German utility E.ON AG announced plans to invest another €7 billion in renewable energy over the next five years.
- The South African government announced an investment of R25 billion ($3.28 billion) to install 1 million solar hot water heating systems by 2015. And the African Bank, Investec, and the European Investment Bank announced their plan to establish a €100 million fund to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency also in South Africa.
Private firms and individuals are increasing their renewable energy nd other green economy holdings as well. For example:
- Warren Buffet is apparently bullish on solar, as indicated by his $2 billion purchase of a U.S. solar farm and the acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in another.
- U.K green energy company, Ecotricity, beat their target of £10m in their second ecobond offering. All told, over 2000 people applied and the bond was oversubscribed by 62 per cent.
- Recurrent Energy successfully secured $250 million in financing for 20 solar PV projects planned in Ontario.
- Google agreed to invest an additional $95 million, also in solar farms built by Recurrent Energy, bringing Google’s total renewable energy portfolio near the $ 1 billion mark.
- Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) launched a £95 million ($147 million) green energy fund.
- EcoEnterprises Capital Management raised $22 million in a biodiversity-focused fund.
- Wells Fargo committed $100 million to fund solar development in the U.S.
While this is good news, the amount of investment required to bring about the transformation called for by the IEA will continue to be a challenge, provoking some novel financing models and tools. For example:
- An article in Forbes makes the case for a green bank to provide low-interest capital to green energy projects.
- Forbes reports that the Director of Texas-based Transcend Equity Development thinks he’s unlocked the key to energy efficiency retrofit financing with their Managed Energy Services Agreement (MESA) transaction.
- The Brookings Institution released a paper which concluded that although Federal action on climate change is lacking in the U.S., a number of states are making use of Clean Energy Funds to accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and driving green economic development.
As always, there were a number of developments that are not readily categorized, including:
- A recent report found that Massachusetts’ cap and trade program is giving the local economy a critical boost.
- Ski resorts are increasingly using green energy in their operations.
- Facebook has recruited Google’s former “Green Energy Czar” to build the company’s renewable energy portfolio.
- Windsor Castle is going green and installing a wind turbine.
- Airlines are now included in the EU’s cap-and-trade regime, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), meaning flights into and out of the EU must account for their carbon emissions.
- A report from the Chinese government found that climate change threatens the country’s future prosperity, citing possible impacts to crop yields, reduced fresh water and increased incidence of droughts and floods.
- In a similar vein, the Bank of England was asked to examine how climate change could impact the country’s financial system and prospects for long-term economic growth.
- Large corporations and powerful investors are challenging the notion that the environment and economy are in conflict, citing huge opportunities in clean tech and other green sectors.
- The World Resources Forum published a report, titled “Shaping the Future of our Natural Resources - Towards a Green Economy,” which argues for a green economy, sustainable consumption and production, technology transfer, and stronger international governance structures for resource efficiency.
- Recent data suggests that the cost of cutting carbon emissions by 30 per cent in the EU are much less than previously thought.
- A study out of Chicago predicted that LED lights will capture more than half of the world’s demand for new lighting over the next decade.
- Energy efficiency retrofits are getting a boost in the US thanks to an estimated $4 billion commitment to upgrade public and private buildings, spearheaded by President Obama.
- The U.S. Federal Transit Authority awarded $117 million to 46 transit projects that will help reduce U.S. dependence on oil and promote green technologies.
- A recent report found that the EUs recycling industry doubled its revenue from 2004 to 2008 and is a significant economic sector, contributing to job creation and innovation.
- According to recent estimates the global smart grid market is showing good growth and will reach $57 billion by 2016.
- China set a new record for energy storage, by employing advanced batteries originally developed for use in electric vehicles.
Countries around the globe continue to green their economies. Recent announcements include:
- Malaysia adopted a feed-in tariff for solar, modeled of Germany’s program.
- Canadian Solar donated solar panels, manufactured in their Guelph facility, to a Brazilian project which will install them in impoverished villages in the country.
- Taiwan announced plans to accelerate the promotion of their “million-sunshine-roof plan” which aims for an additional 200 megawatts of solar power capacity in 2012.
- The United Arab Emirates launched an initiative to build “A green economy for sustainable development,” in a bid to become a hub for green technologies. Perhaps to help with this, the UAE is reportedly planning to open their energy market to boost private sector involvement and bolster growth in renewable energy.
- South Korea officially launched its Green Economy Initiative, a five year plan that commits $13 billion to nurture a “low carbon, green growth” economy.
- Low power solar systems are providing electricity to rural Bangladeshi’s who have previously been without access to electricity.
- Experts in India project that the number of green jobs will grow by up to 60% by 2012.