In this issue:
Renewable energy underwent significant growth through 2010, despite a climate of austerity. For example:
- The Renewables 2011 Global Status Report, released by REN21 in July, found that the renewable energy sector continues to perform well despite continuing economic recession, incentive cuts, and low natural-gas prices. Among their findings: solar PV more than doubled thanks to declining costs, and global investments in renewables grew in 2010 by over 30% to a record $211 billion.
- REN21’s findings were also echoed the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011 report, prepared for the UN by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Perhaps the most surprising of their findings: in terms of financial new investment, developing countries overtook developed economies for the first time.
- According to Bloomberg, The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that solar generators may produce the majority of the world’s power within 50 years. The World Bank is also reportedly bullish on solar energy.
- According to analysis by Greenpeace, wind and solar power grew faster than that of any other power technology in 2010.
Growth is expected to remain strong, thanks to a number of policies and commitments from countries around the world. Some notable developments:
- Reuters reports that Italy’s solar power market is expected to grow by a factor of four to 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2020, thanks to the renewal of their incentive plan.
- Japan has adopted a feed-in tariff, and set target of 30,000 MW of new renewable development within the next decade, which has reportedly attracted the attention of Chinese renewable energy manufacturers.
- Germany passed a new renewable energy law which stipulates the country must attain at least 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The new law, which comes into effect in 2012, will raise payments to biomass, geothermal and off-shore wind, while
- According to the European Wind Energy Association, the U.K. leads the world in installed off-shore wind capacity. The U.K. also saw a huge spike in solar installations in the months preceding cuts to the country’s feed in tariff rates.
- There are reports that China may also adopt a feed in tariff for solar.
- Nova Scotia’s feed in tariff is also moving ahead. The province’s Department of Energy released standards in late July which provide more detail on small-wind project specifications and eligible biomass sources. Nova Scotia’s program is reported to be drawing international attention.
Not surprisingly, renewable energy firms are doing well, with many beating the expectations of analysts. Some examples:
- Chinese Suntien Green Energy said it expects net profit for the first half of 2011 to be up by more than 100 per cent from the same period of last year, which it attributed to a “significant improvement” in their wind power operations.
- Canadian Solar also reported good financials in the second quarter of 2011, with all major indicators well up over last year.
- Wind turbine maker Vestas is also optimistic about the future of the wind industry, after announcing forecast-beating second-quarter results.
- Chinese solar energy company Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. reported a profit for the second quarter well up over last year, beating the expectations of analysts.
Ontario’s Feed in Tariff continues to receive a great deal of attention as the provincial election looms. Over the past two months:
- Ontario was visited by John Podesta, ex-chief of staff for former president Bill Clinton, who urged the province to keep with its renewable energy program because it’s “good for consumers, good for business and good for workers.” The CAW and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment also issued a joint release, warning that a cancelation of the FIT program would cost Windsor up to 1,600 jobs.
- A report issued by the Pembina Institute found that renewables will have a minimal effect on electricity prices over the next 15 years, and over the long term installing more green power could actually reduce electricity costs.
- The provincial government argued that the FIT program has brought in commitments for C$20 billion in private-sector investment since 2009.
- The Canadian Solar Industries Association announced that they support a reduction in feed-in tariff rates, set to be reviewed this fall.
- The political uncertainty and other complications were credited with the layoff of 70 workers at a new solar panel manufacturing facility in Windsor. Most of those workers have since been recalled.
- Despite the uncertainty more panels have become eligible for the province’s program. For example, two of Suntech’s panels now qualify for the program, thanks to a partnership with Celestica.
The Feed in Tariff program has also given rise to a variety of other complementary initiatives, benefiting a number of communities.
- Last month, TREC Renewable Energy Corp’s SolarShare bonds, which allow investors to buy a share in solar installations, became available.
- The Town of Newmarket announced they will lease roof space to SunEdison install, operate, and maintain a number of solar systems with a total capacity of about 1.7 megawatts. SunEdison also announced a similar contract with Purolator.
- Alderville First Nation will also be participating in the FIT, after signing a contract with Silfab Ontario to supply and support a 5 MW ground mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system, composed of 20,410 modules.
- Walmart Canada announced it has installed a rooftop solar power-generating system as well as a wind turbine at two separate Walmart Canada locations in Ontario, to take advantage of the province’s program.
Growth in demand for renewable energy is naturally giving rise to new manufacturing facilities and adding jobs here in Ontario and elsehere.
- SunEdison announced the creation of approximately 400 new manufacturing jobs at a facility in Newmarket, Ontario, where they will make solar panel components.
- Reuters reports that GM has invested $7.5 million and taken a stake in Sunlogics Inc to aid the solar manufacturer with establishing plants in Michigan and Ontario, leading to the creation of 310 jobs
- Kingston-based solar manufacturer, Centennial Global Technology Inc, announced that they will be adding 50 jobs.
- London has been chosen as the site of a solar module manufacturing plant as part of the provincial government's partnership with Korean industrial giant Samsung. The facility is expected to employ 100 to 200 people.
- Canada-based 5D Composite announced that they will manufacture blades for small wind turbines in Sarasota Florida, creating approximately 120 jobs there.
- A small scale wind turbine manufacturer opened in Galway, Ireland, expected to create 145 jobs over the next three years.
- A large solar panel factory, capable of producing 160 MWs of solar panels, was inaugurated in Italy.
- French firm Alstom and Spain-based Gamesa reportedly confirmed that they are considering sites along the east coast of Britain to base huge new factories for the manufacture of offshore turbines.
- California’s SunPower Corp. announced plans to open a solar panel manufacturing facility in Mexicali, Mexico to meet the demand of a growing North American solar market.
The number of Green jobs continues to increase across the globe.
A recent study from the Renewable Energy Policy Network found that over 3.5 million people are now employed in renewable energy worldwide. China’s renewable energy industries employ over half a million people, and Germany, the country Ontario’s feed-in tariff is modeled after, now boasts over 370,000 renewable energy jobs.
U.S. thinktank, the Brookings Institution, recently reported that the U.S. clean economy, which encompasses more than just renewable energy, employs some 2.7 million people, and it far outperformed the rest of the economy during the recession.
Green jobs are showing good growth in the U.S. as well, according to a recent report out of the Mid-Atlantic which found that 8-9% of region's employers have more than one employee with a green job, 235,600 green jobs exist in the region and that number is expected to grow by 12% in the next two years.
A study released by Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs Network found that Los Angeles has surpassed the Bay Area and is home to more green jobs than any other region in the nation. According to the report, those jobs will more than double in number in the next 30 years with the number of green jobs rising to more than 433,000 by 2040.
RenewableUK and Energy & Utility Skills published a report which estimated that the UK’s wind and marine energy sector could employ as many as 115,000 people by 2021. The authors also warned that a failure to address a shortage of skilled labour could hamper this growth.
And experts reportedly believe India will see about 1 million green jobs over the next two years.
As the job numbers increase, the need for training also increases.
Staff at the U.K.’s Centre for Alternative Technology argued that the green energy sector faces a shortage of skilled workers in the U.K. The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian manufacturers are also having difficulty finding skilled labour.
Nowhere is this labour shortage being addressed more proactively than in the U.S. Some examples:
- In Seattle, stimulus funds are being used to train 130 people in deconstruction, dismantling homes and buildings rather than demolishing them, which can divert up to 70 per cent of the associated waste from landfills and avoid the use of virgin materials.
- The U.S. EPA awarded a college in South Dakota $300,000 to trains students in contaminated sites clean up and remediation. A similar grant was also awarded to South Tucson in California. Other grantees include the Fortune Society of New York, the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) of Kansas City, The Enterprise Center in Chattanooga, and Camden County College in New Jersey. All told, 21 such grants have been awarded to colleges and training centres in the U.S.
- The U.S. Department of Energy announced a series of new partnerships to support manufacturing job training.
- A municipal community services agency in Washington D.C. has been awarded $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of the Jobs for the Future consortium to train workers for green careers.
- A report issued out of California counted 298 green-job training programs in the state, most created within the last five years. In total, these programs train between 12,600 and 15,100 students per year.
The pace of development is made possible by record setting levels of investment from governments and private firms. Recent announcements include:
- The Dutch government is reported to be contemplating a green investment back to promote the country’s green economy.
- In the U.S., the so-called “Green Energy Bank” bill and the Energy Efficiency Loan Fund, which will provide financing for clean energy technologies and for energy efficiency projects, respectively, were approved by a key committee.
- Reuters reports that a Russian partnership is launching a 200 million-euro clean technology fund to attract clean tech companies.
- Venture capitalists invested significant sums in green chemistry start-ups in Michigan. While others are reportedly shying away from renewable energy, in response to flagging government support.
- Paradigm Change Capital Partners LLP, a new partnership which includes the European Investment Bank, Moody’s Corp, and KPMP, was launched in Europe to promote low carbon bonds intended to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects.
- U.S. private equity group Blackstone announced they will invest $3.5 billion in two German offshore wind farms.
- ClearEdge Power, an Oregon startup that makes small-scale fuel cells, raised $73.5 million in one of the bigger green tech funding rounds of the year.
A number of international green economy developments took place over the summer. Among them:
- Mexico announced a $2.5 billion investment in new wind farms capable of generating more than 300MW of electricity. In a related announcement, Mexican firm, Sempra, is seeking approval to construct a cross-border transmission line between Mexico and California, so they may sell power from these and other wind farms to the Californian market. A report from the University of Utah argues that approval of the transmission line would cost the U.S. thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue.
- In early July, more than 20 energy ministers from around Africa signed onto a communiqué calling for accelerated development of renewable energy.
- Poland’s historic Gdansk Shipyard may be going green in a bid to service and assemble off-shore wind turbines.
- Fiji’s environment minister told attendees at a meeting of the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation that Pacific economies must go green is they hope to remain viable.
- The UNDP and ILO released a report which argued that thousands of green jobs could be created in Lebanon if the government sticks to its plans to green the economy.
- The Thai government is also moving towards a green economy, their strategy anchored by an increase in the national R&D budget and tax incentives.
- Reports indicate the Philippines could generate up to 50,000 green jobs over the next 20 years.
Of course, the green economy isn’t just about renewable energy. Here are some other interesting developments this month:
The Economist reports that B.C.’s carbon tax is popular, and has successfully wooed sceptics.
A panel of experts commissioned by Albert Premier Ed Stelmach concluded that demand for Alberta oil may dry up before the supply does.
U.K. Climate and Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, reassured steel-makers that the government would ensure they remain competitive once they are subject to a proposed carbon tax, stating that “ steel will be crucial to the future of green energy.”
Vancouver has vowed to become the world’s greenest city by 2020 by implementing a series of initiatives, projected to create over 10,000 green jobs.
Mississauga-based battery maker, Electrovaya, will be supplying batteries to Chrysler for use in two plug-in hybrid electric cars, according to The Globe and Mail. Electrovaya has also signed a contract to provide a lithium ion Battery Energy Storage System, as part of a $7.6 million project supported by the Government of Canada's Clean Energy Fund.
The Ontario government unveiled a plan to spend $80 million to help build electric vehicle charging stations across the province.
Plans for build out an electric car charging network are underway in the U.K.
Volkswagen is reportedly planning a single-seat electric vehicle, which will be accompanied by an offer to purchase green energy.
American Airlines announced a $38 billion commitment to fuel efficient, climate-friendly airplanes with the purchase of 460 new Airbus A32neo aircraft.
Forbes reported on a bi-partisan piece of legislation, aimed at reviving low-cost long term loans to support residential solar energy and energy efficiency projects.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to make the city's buildings more energy-efficient.
The Canadian federal government announced $53 million in funding for 17 cutting-edge clean technology projects.
A Dutch study has concluded that offshore wind farms provide habitat and shelter for marine life and may be good for biodiversity.
Some of the U.K’s most prominent businesses, including Lloyds Banking Group, have joined forces in the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change (CLG), and committed themselves to tacking ling climate change.
Solar companies have begun sponsoring German soccer teams in a bid to garner a larger share of the booming German market.
A team at the University of Alberta is reported to be making progress with ultrathin solar panels that can be sprayed or rolled onto surfaces like paint or wallpaper, or even woven into fabric.
A report out of the U.S. shows that new fuel economy standards would create approximately 150,000 jobs in the U.S., adding to the 150,000 existing jobs in clean vehicle research, development and production.
Forbes reports that Europe’s biodiversity strategy may offer up some business opportunities.