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By Daisy Simmons
Food may be a universal language — but in these record-breaking hot days, so too is climate change. With July clocking in as the hottest month on Earth in recorded history and extreme weather ramping up globally, farmers are facing the brunt of climate change in croplands and pastures around the world.
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Last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report sounded a global alarm about the need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach "net zero" levels by 2050. While there have been stark climate warnings for decades, this time the reaction was different. There is an unprecedented global surge of inspired climate activism, and across the country governors and state legislatures are taking up emissions reduction plans. Even some top-tier Democratic presidential candidates are pushing climate policies that would have been mostly unthinkable just a few months ago.
The monarch butterfly has a new chance at recovery, thanks to an innovative program seeking to crowdsource funding and habitat for the beloved species at an unprecedented scale and pace.
"The Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange is a market-based solution for restoring and conserving high-quality monarch habitat on America's private working lands," said David Wolfe, director of conservation strategy and habitat markets at Environmental Defense Fund. "We like to call it an 'Airbnb for butterflies' because it's the only program of its kind that can open the vast untapped potential of large-scale farms and ranches to make habitat available for monarchs, fast."
By Pierre Delforge
Reducing pollution from direct use of fossil fuels in buildings—such as burning natural gas, propane, and fuel oil in furnaces and water heaters—is critical to helping us stave off dangerous climate change and cut harmful pollution.
So finds a groundbreaking new NRDC report.
By Jake Schmidt
It has been almost two years since world leaders agreed to the historic Paris agreement. Since then a lot has changed (both positive and negative). As leaders meet in Bonn, Germany for the next round of international climate negotiations there will be several key issues on the table. This meeting will set the tone for how leaders will come together in the era of President Trump and show that they are prepared to carry forward climate action.
To the casual observer, we are making tremendous progress moving off fossil fuels and developing a clean, renewable energy system. The good news seems to be everywhere: The U.S. Conference of Mayors passed a resolution calling for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and legislation passed in the California Senate to mandate 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. After Trump announced he was backing out of the Paris climate agreement, communities across the country pledged to meet its goals. The cost of renewable energy is dropping fast, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) "Electric Power Monthly" seems to show that renewables are surpassing nuclear power.
By Jocelyn Timperley
The UK could soon see its first use of hydraulic fracturing since 2011.
The controversial technique for extracting shale gas and oil, known as fracking, is set to be used by the end of this year at a site in Fylde, Lancashire, owned by UK company Cuadrilla. The firm said it hopes to start drilling within weeks.
But how close is the UK to shale gas production on a large scale? And what would the carbon impacts of this be?
By Han Chen
At the recent Belt and Road Summit hosted by China, 30 countries reaffirmed their support for the Paris agreement and called on all countries to implement their commitments under the agreement. At a time when the White House is attempting to backslide from the global effort to combat climate change, this statement demonstrates once again that a Trump effort to evade climate action would make the U.S. a global outcast.
By Lauren Wolahan
Behold the Impossible Burger, the plant-based indulgence that looks, cooks, smells and tastes just like meat, but without the environmental price tag. The no-meat treat emerged onto the food scene in 2016, when it debuted at restaurants in Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"I think the natural assumption people make is that because we've basically made a food that looks and tastes and cooks and smells just like meat from a cow … that there must be some kind of sketchy business going on," said Pat Brown, CEO and founder of Impossible Foods, which makes the Impossible Burger. "But, in fact, there was a lot of work that went into figuring out in detail what it took to make something that delivered all the sensory pleasures of meat using plant ingredients."
Recently welcomed onto the menus of Chef Brad Farmerie's Michelin-starred restaurants Public and Saxon + Parole, the Impossible Burger has solidified its place at the cutting edge of both gastronomy and sustainability. At a panel hosted at Public, Farmerie described the Burger as a "gateway drug" into alternative protein, offering his patrons the chance to enjoy a new treat that represents an "incredible flip on what we can do for our world."
The Impossible Burger.Impossible Foods
Impossible Foods is developing the whole gamut of traditionally animal-sourced meats, from fish to bacon. Brown said the decision to start with a plant-based burger was a no-brainer. The burger is an iconic American food and beef production has the biggest environmental impact of the foods we eat. The all-plant patty sends a clear message, he said, that "the best meats in the world don't have to come from animals."
Our food choices have a huge environmental impact. Livestock production accounts for a third of global cropland, pollutes water and air, and almost 15 percent of man-made greenhouse gases. Among farm animals, cattle are the biggest culprits, accounting for the large majority of livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions. Demand for meat and dairy is set to skyrocket in the years to come.
Experts disagree on the best approach to shrinking the environmental impact of food production. Agricultural purists are deploying low-impact farming practices that reduce pollution, build healthy soils, and scrub carbon from the atmosphere. Agri-tech companies, on the other hand, are using advanced tools to increase yield crops and convert livestock waste to biogas. Some are even feeding seaweed to cows so that they burp less methane.
Many environmental advocates say we should look beyond the farm and try to change the way we eat—consuming more plants and less meat—as a way to combat climate change.
The Impossible Burger at Saxon and Parole.Lauren Wolahan
Asking people to change how they eat is a thorny subject. There are personal and cultural barriers to eating less meat. But Brown says we can protect the planet without asking people to sacrifice a beloved food by developing tasty, plant-based alternatives to meat. The Impossible Burger requires using 95 percent less land and generates 87 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a beef patty.
"Because we're constantly improving it, we're discovering fundamental things about how to make delicious meat flavor from simple plant ingredients and discovering new ways to make it better and better and better all the time," said Brown.
"This is how I know that we are going to succeed in our mission," he added. "As soon as we're kind of running even with the cow, the race is over, because the cow's not going to get any faster and we are—every single day."
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Nopalimex has built the world's first cactus-powered plant in Mexico. The company is utilizing a digester to make biogas from prickly pear cacti. In addition to powering Nopalimex's operations, the digester's 8-ton daily production will fuel the town of Zitacuaro's vehicle fleet in central Michoacan state, Noticias MVS reported.
"The fruit or prickly pears are pureed, mixed with manure, then left to decompose, producing methane," Climate Home explained. "That gas is used for fuel and burned to generate enough electricity for 300 homes at 50 percent cheaper than grid prices."
In the city's vehicle fleet, the cactus fuel is expected to decrease gasoline use by at least 40 percent, Antonio Soto Sanchez, secretary of Economic Development, told Noticias MVS.
The idea came to Nopalimex's Rogelio Sosa about a decade ago when he was looking for ways to lower the energy bills for his company, which manufactures corn and cactus chips.
Economic Development Secretary Adrian Lopez hailed the project as a great example of the renewable energy projects Mexico should be adopting. Last month, the Latin American nation mandated that renewables supply 35 percent of the country's electricity by 2024.
"What makes prickly pear so interesting as a fuel for making biogas or other forms of biofuel is that it can be grown in places where traditional energy crops can’t. Imagine vast fields of cacti in remote, arid areas of the country, where normal crops can’t grow. It wouldn’t suck up the resources or space needed to feed people, as current bioenergy crops are criticized as doing."
Citing research from a group of Oxford scientists, "growing prickly pear at that scale might actually help produce more food in drought-stricken lands, because converting organic waste into biogas creates its own waste. ... Prickly pear absorb a ton of water, and after digestion happens and the biogas is made, liquid and solid fertilizer will be leftover. That, in turn, could be used to better cultivate crops in areas that normally couldn’t support them."
One owner of a prickly pear biogas facility in Chile, Rodrigo Wayland Morales, told Renewable Energy World he sees vast potential for the crop. He has cactus biogas projects in various stages of completion in Mexico, India, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.
He believes the geography of his native Chile makes it an ideal location for the crop. “Chile could desalinate sea water and grow the cactus in the desert,” Morales said. “I imagine the Atacama Desert with cactus, producing the energy that our country needs.”
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The decision was announced hours after a bruising meeting of the board of the giant French energy company EDF, at which directors decided by 10 votes to seven to go ahead with the building of two 1,600 megawatt reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, southwest England.
A computer-generated image of what the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant would look like. EDF Energy / PA
One director, Gerard Magnin, had already resigned in protest before the meeting, saying the project was "very risky." All six union members, who are worker directors, said they were going to vote against because they believed that any new investment should be directed at making ageing French reactors safer.
So certain were EDF that a signing ceremony with the British government would take place today to provide the company with 35 years of subsidies for their electricity that they had hired marquees, invited the world's press and laid in stocks of champagne to toast the agreement.
But EDF Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz, who had pushed for the deal, cancelled a trip to Britain on hearing the government announcement.
Britain's new prime minister, Theresa May, who had never publicly endorsed the project like her predecessor David Cameron, has clearly heeded the myriad voices outside the nuclear industry that say this is a bad deal for British consumers.
Her new business and energy secretary, Greg Clark, in a brief statement, said the decision was deferred until "early autumn" while the "government reviews all the component parts of the agreement" to build what is the most expensive power plant the world has ever seen.
Hinkley Point C, as the new station would have been called, is estimated by the company to cost £18 billion, take nine years to build and provide 7 percent of the UK's electricity via two 1,600 megawatt reactors.
This is a new type of reactor, of which four are being built—one at Olkiluoto in Finland, one at Flamanville in France and two in China. All are years behind schedule and costs in France and Finland have trebled. None are expected to produce power until 2018, although what is happening in China is not clear.
Because of these delays, the French were not actually going to start pouring concrete for construction until 2019 and there were already severe doubts that the timetable proposed by the French for Hinkley Point could be met.
Some have even suggested that the delays elsewhere have shown that the design is flawed and that the reactors may never work efficiently. This may concern the British government, but the sticking point is more likely to be the staggeringly high cost that consumers will have to pay for electricity produced by the plants.
Up in the air: the controversial Hinkley Point project has been the focus of many past protests.Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament via Flickr
In 2012, the previous government agreed to pay £92.50 for each megawatt hour of electricity produced—a price that would rise with inflation.
With wholesale prices going down, that is already three times the current price of electricity and it is calculated that it would cost every bill payer in Britain £10 a year for 35 years just to keep the station open—and it could be more.
If Theresa May is anything like her predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, who did not think nuclear power was value for money, the project will be in jeopardy.
EDF already runs 15 ageing nuclear reactors in Britain and was looking to build the two at Hinkley and another two in Essex to replace the old ones as they close down. The Chinese, Japanese and Americans were being encouraged to build reactors in other parts of England and Wales. All these look less likely now.
The problem for nuclear power is that new stations cost billions to build and take a decade before they get any income back. This has brought EDF huge debts and borrowings, which has put the company in financial difficulty—hence the internal controversy about the Hinkley decision.
Claire Jacobson, head of climate, energy and environment policy at EEF, the British manufacturers' lobby group that supports the nuclear industry, said the government's decision was "yet another blow to a decision that has been hindered by many delays and uncertainties."
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industries Association, warned that failure to go ahead with the project would risk the lights going out and missing the country's carbon emissions reduction targets. He said ministers "need to act quickly to endorse the decision [to go ahead]."
However, critics of the controversial project were delighted. John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said: "Theresa May now has the chance to stop this radioactive white elephant in its tracks."
"She should look at the evidence and see that this deal would be a monumental disaster for the taxpayers and the bill payers. Countless experts have warned that for British families this power station will be terrible value for money, Sauven added."
Until last night, the UK was the most positive country in Europe about nuclear power and planned to build a total of 10 nuclear power plants, Hinkley Point being the first of them. This was despite the fact that nuclear costs continue to escalate while its main competitors—renewables of all kinds—fall in price.
The Hinkley Point project is now more expensive than offshore wind power, which is the most expensive renewable and is far more costly than solar and onshore wind. Biogas and small-scale hydro projects in Britain, all so far underdeveloped, are also cheaper than nuclear.
The price of all renewables is going down as they develop, while the price rises for nuclear power, with safety fears and threats from terrorism pushing costs up.
It is also argued, even by the UK's national electricity grid, that the day of the large power plant is over, to be replaced by small local generators providing electricity near to homes and factories—something that renewables are ideally suited for.
Even France, which has 58 reactors and is building a Hinkley prototype at Flamanville in Normandy, has no plans to build any more. All its new energy projects are renewables and it has plentiful supplies of untapped wind and solar power, which are cheaper.
China, which is currently building more nuclear plants that any other country, is also hoping to build new plants in Britain, and China General Nuclear Power had agreed to fund one-third of the Hinkley Point project to get an entry to the UK market.
They were due to be at the celebrations in Somerset today, but in a statement said: "We respect the new government's need to familiarize itself with a project as important to the UK's future energy policy as Hinkley Point C and we stand ready to help the government in this respect." They then flew home.
World's First Off-Grid ReGen Village Will Be Completely Self-Sufficient Producing Its Own Power and Food
ReGen Villages, a completely self-sufficient village that can power and feed itself, is rising across Europe—and hopefully, one day, around the world.
A sustainable development in The Netherlands generates its own energy and food. Photo credit: EFFEKT
ReGen Villages Holding, B.V., a visionary real estate development company founded by entrepreneur and developer James Ehrlich, is piloting its first 100 homes across 15,500-square-meters in the planned city of Almere in The Netherlands with construction set for this summer. The company is also developing four other eco-villages in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany and has partnered with Copenhagen-based architectural firm EFFEKT as the global architectural framework company.
The village features a slew of already-existing green technologies such as energy-positive homes, mixed renewable energy sources, energy storage, organic food production, vertical farming, and aquaponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems. ReGen itself stands for "regenerative," an apt name for a village that aims to have its input and output entirely full circle.
"Today we spend 40 percent of the surface of our continents producing food," EFFEKT co-founder Sinus Lynge explained to DW. "Food production is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, the biggest driver of deforestation and responsible for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption. We ship our food from one end of the world to another just to waste 30 percent of the total production before consumption."
The village's pre-fabricated homes are enveloped in a glass shell to protect the building from area's cold and wet climate. The units also include passive heating and cooling systems, built-in solar panels, a garden and water collection. Household waste can be composted or converted into biogas.
ReGen homes are encased in glass to protect itself from the elements. Now thats truly a greenhouse. Photo credit: EFFEKT
As for food production, the village will host aquaponic and vertical farms. Both urban farming methods require much less space compared to traditional farming methods, meaning they have minimal impact on the surrounding area's forests and fields and will help preserve its natural beauty.
Public areas in the village also include electric car stations, space for livestock, communal dining and community centers.
"ReGen Villages is all about applied technology," the company points out on its website. "Already existing technologies are simply being applied into an integrated community design, providing clean energy, water and food right off the doorstep. ReGen Villages adds not only environmental and financial value, but also social value, by creating a framework for empowering families and developing a sense of community, where people become part of a shared local eco-system: reconnecting people with nature and consumption with production."
According to Gizmag, funding for villages has come from investors who have been looking to divest from fossil fuels "into impact and knowledge-based investments." The company is also working with national and local municipalities that support the project.
On-site vertical farms produce hyperlocal organic food. Photo credit: EFFEKT
Lynge told DW that if all goes to plan, the first ReGen Village is just the beginning. "We are launching our prototype in Almere, Holland, but the big potential for ReGen lies in developing countries, where billions are moving away from rural communities in search of better living conditions," he said.
Ehrlich explained, "We tackle the first two hardest climate areas [wet and cold]. Then from there we have global scale—rural India, sub-Saharan Africa, where we know that the population is going to increase and also be moving to the middle class. If everybody in India and Africa wants the same kind of suburbs that we've been building so far, the planet's not going to make it."
The off-grid neighborhood is comprised of power positive homes, food production units, renewable energy facilities, water management and waste-to-resource systems, and community areas. Photo credit: EFFEKT
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And Greenpeace has been chattering more than usual about it since we, along with more than 20 partners, launched a pledge asking all candidates to start fixing democracy by both rejecting campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies and protecting voting rights.
With all that chatter, it may be easy to lose sight of what is actually wrong with big money in politics. What are the real-world consequences of politicians bought by corporate money and influence? How does a cozy relationship between a governor and a lobbyist impact you and me?
Let us go to Nevada.
What Happened to Nevada’s Solar Energy Boom?
The Silver State is not only the next stop for the upcoming Republican and Democratic caucuses, following on the heels of the New Hampshire primary, it is also the site of a fierce debate around solar energy that has everything to do with money in politics.
Most people’s descriptions of Nevada include sunshine and lots of it, making it a natural place for a thriving solar market. Nevada was well on its way to becoming a national hotspot for affordable rooftop solar until a few months ago, when the ramifications of corporate influence over politics had its day in the sun.
Prior to a December decision by Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission, homeowners could not only enroll in affordable solar investment for their homes, they could also sell back any energy they didn’t use to the utility NV Energy, like rollover minutes on a cell phone plan. This is called net metering and is a common practice across the country. Basically, that customer gets credit for the energy it sends back to the local grid. High fives all around!
Unfortunately, the Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission struck a big blow against rooftop solar passed in December. The commission passed a resolution that hiked up the fees for solar customers and significantly lowered the payout for the electricity solar customers contribute back to the grid. The real bummer here is that when customers signed up for a solar rebate by installing panels on their roofs, they expected the rates to stay the same for years to come. Now, the cost of installation and maintenance of rooftop solar just got significantly more expensive for customers, forcing them to pay for electricity they are producing themselves.
The solar installation industry now employs more people than oil and gas extractive industries and does so without harming human health or the health of our climate. So why would any state—particularly one as swamped with sunshine as Nevada—suddenly unleash an attack on renewable and affordable solar energy?
The cozy relationship between the governor of Nevada and the state’s utility company might have something to do with it.
And in case you’re starting to lose perspective here, affordable access to solar energy is really important right now. Those changes made such an impact that SolarCity, the major provider for the solar installations in Nevada, pulled their company out of Nevada along with 500 jobs that could have benefited the state.
If we’re going to avoid catastrophic climate change, the world needs to be done with fossil fuels by 2050. That means every state should establish easy and affordable access to rooftop solar and a place like Nevada, which enjoys nearly 300 days of sunshine, should lead the pack on solar energy.
So why the quick change?
A Governor and a Lobbyist
When following the bizarre solar attack in Nevada right now, the first question to ask is, "Who would not like booming solar in Nevada?"
The answer is a utility company and, in this case, energy monopoly NV Energy.
The rise of renewable and affordable energy is a direct threat to the utilities’ outdated business model, despite the unmistakable environmental and economic value of distributed solar energy. By putting a stop to rooftop solar, those utilities hope to protect their own bottom-line profits.
NV Energy needed to end this solar circus and thankfully the utility had a friend in the right place to help make that happen: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Gov. Sandoval’s ties to NV Energy are substantial. First, Sandoval’s two election campaigns have both received the maximum allowed donation under state law from NV Energy.
Next, two of NV Energy’s primary lobbyists, Pete Ernaut and Gregory W. Ferraro, are two of the Republican governor’s closest advisers. In addition to being an executive at NV Energy’s public relations firm, Ernaut managed Sandoval’s gubernatorial campaign.
Let me repeat that last part.
The same guy who led Gov. Sandoval into office is in charge of making NV Energy look good and make a lot of money.
As governor, Sandoval then had to appoint members of Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission, who are in charge of regulating the state utilities and really in charge of regulating NV Energy.
And those three people, on the commission and appointed by Sandoval, voted in December to hike up rates so much that rooftop solar was no longer feasible for most homeowners, meaning NV Energy could breathe easy with a protected revenue stream at the expense of citizens.
Presidential Promises of a Fixed Democracy in Sunny Nevada
As illustrated by the case in Nevada, the ripple effects of money in politics are everywhere in this country, from the Flint water crisis in Michigan to an attack on solar energy in Nevada.
Sanders called the rate hike "just about the dumbest thing I have ever heard. We should be making it easier, not harder for people to go solar" in a December speech in Las Vegas.
Last month, Clinton spoke about the job boom from solar energy, going on to say it is “a win-win to move us away from fossil fuels, to diversify the grid, to give homeowners a chance to be empowered to do something about their own energy usage and put people to work.”
Where the candidates generally seem to agree is that money in politics is a problem. Gov. Jeb Bush called for an overturn of Citizens United earlier this week and Sen. Ted Cruz even said that big money, lobbyists and corruption are a problem in Washington.
Of course, voters want more than rhetoric from any candidate.
Each candidate has an opportunity to prove to voters right now that they are committed to fixing this rampant problem of money in politics by taking the #FixDemocracy pledge, vowing to reject fossil fuel money and support voters rights.
Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has officially pledged to fix democracy. Who will be next?
If you’re ready to see an end to corporate influence over politics, ask this year’s candidates to sign the pledge to fix democracy.
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The Climate Trust, a mission-driven nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for environmental benefit, announced its third annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in 2016.
The trends, which range from climate change playing a larger role in federal decision-making to increased carbon market linkage and momentum in conservation finance, were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their diverse group of working partners—government, utilities, project developers and large businesses.
“The trust pays close attention to market signals throughout the year, identifying areas where we can have the greatest impact,” Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust, said. “Each year, we look forward to putting together our team’s collective knowledge and sharing our industry insights.”
1. Carbon pricing will play a key role for many jurisdictions worldwide as they plan to meet their emission reduction targets from the Paris negotiations.
Roughly one-quarter of the world’s emissions now fall under some form of carbon pricing system. In the aftermath of the Paris negotiations, this percentage is only expected to grow, as countries will be examining low-cost, high-impact options to comply with the nationally-determined emission reduction goals that they have submitted to the UN. Several jurisdictions worldwide have expressed interest in cross-border emissions trading, to lessen the potential economic risks from acting unilaterally. The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, launched on the first day of COP21 in Paris, brings together key governments along with nearly 90 global businesses and NGOs to strengthen and expand carbon pricing worldwide. We expect to hear many more announcements of national carbon pricing initiatives in the coming year, as well as announcements of interest in linkages to and among existing systems. In addition, countries are confronting—for the first time—how setting and keeping emission reduction goals can be made easier by coordinating all their domestic climate policies in service of these goals; therefore, we expect to see more academics, industry groups and government coalitions weighing in on these opportunities for “complementary” policy.
2. In Oregon, policies related to clean energy will take center stage in 2016.
Importers of transportation fuels will be under obligation to comply with the state’s Clean Fuels Program in 2016. This program is designed to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10 percent by 2025, by integrating more low-carbon fuels (like ethanol and biogas) into the fuel supply. In addition, the 2016 ballot is very likely to contain initiatives that would increase Oregon’s acceleration of a clean energy transition, including phasing out the use of coal-fired electricity and increasing the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Finally, carbon pricing will remain a topic of discussion during the 2016 legislative short session, as bills advance which could add enforceability to our state’s emission reduction targets by capping emissions from various economic sectors. We predict passage of at least one clean energy-related ballot measure this year. Carbon pricing in Oregon is still at least a year away, as even if a legislative bill were to pass in 2016, the state would need time to design and implement its optimal strategy.
3. Climate risk will get real for private industry.
Beginning with the groundswell at Climate Week in New York City in September 2015 and becoming more strident at the Paris climate summit, it is clear that the era of managing and disclosing a corporation’s exposure to climate risk has arrived. Nothing could have sent a clearer signal to the business community—Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, announced the establishment of the new Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures at COP21 in Paris. Their chief aim will be to evaluate how well the financial markets disclose their exposure to climate risk. Carney commented that this effort was in response to the current “market failure” of providing appropriate information to investors, insurers and lenders. Corporate leaders are realizing with stark clarity that a changing climate will have profound effects on business. Companies will continue to act with increasing velocity in 2016 to not only manage for risk but to monitor for opportunity.
4. Addressing climate change will play a larger role in federal decision-making and political platforms in 2016.
With the energy created by the COP21 gathering in Paris still buzzing around us, a presidential campaign well underway and a little more than a year left for members of the Obama Administration to leave their full mark on history, it seems clear that 2016 will be a year of climate action. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and his recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline paint a clear picture of how the 44th president wants to be remembered with respect to climate change. In June 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will take additional steps to integrate climate change adaptation into its programs and operations. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has a little over a year left to make good on this promise. The Democratic candidates for president have also clearly indicated that climate change is an important part of their respective campaigns. On a state level, California is working to extend the Global Warming Solutions Act beyond the current 2020 deadline with major decisions expected in 2016. Legislators in Oregon are hoping to implement a similar cap-and-trade program. In the Northeast, states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are also seeing success—A Duke University led study suggests that emissions would have been 24 percent higher without the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and an article published by the Energy Collective claims that early adoption of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative puts northeastern states ahead of the curve with respect to Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
5. U.S. carbon market linkage will increase as states prepare for the Clean Power Plan.
The final draft of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan was released in 2015, with 24 states filing a lawsuit against the plan questioning EPA’s authority. The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed. In fact, many of the states involved in the lawsuit are still drafting compliance plans. 24 other states launched a countersuit in support of the plan and George Bush’s EPA chief reminds the states that EPA’s authority has been upheld by the Supreme Court twice before. The plan allows states to choose a mass or rate based approach to compliance. Many states will likely elect a mass based approach, because it allows for interstate trading, making compliance efforts more efficient. New York Gov. Cuomo announced October 2015 that the state would explore the possibility of linking the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—a cap and trade program comprised of nine Northeastern states—and the California/Quebec program, as these programs will likely be leveraged to comply with the Clean Power Plan. New Jersey is seeking to re-enter RGGI after Christie elected to remove the state from the initiative. We anticipate that in 2016, the opposition to the plan will fail, states will seek a mass based approach to compliance and the use of carbon markets across the U.S. will grow as a result.
6. Conservation finance will be spurred by divest/invest movement.
There has been a marked amount of movement in the finance arena. 2016 will see this turn to a flood coming out of the climate summit talks in Paris. The International Energy Agency has estimated that we need investment flows of $53 trillion by 2035 to mitigate the projected catastrophe of runaway climate change. The divest/invest effort has brought urgency to the need and we saw many major institutions, such as the World Council of Churches, California’s Public Employees Retirement System and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation all rise to the commitment to divest from fossil fuel as part of the transition to a clean energy future. DiCaprio’s divestment from his fossil fuel holdings has led to increased investment in renewable energy companies. To date, 430 institutions across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. Ahead of the Paris climate talks, we witnessed a fifty-fold increase in the combined assets of those entities pledging to divest from fossil fuels. The Climate Trust predicts that this momentum will gain significantly in 2016. The divestment movement is providing a vital market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance. These divestment dollars will continue to seek out a home investing in a low carbon economy that includes renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart agriculture, clean transportation and forestry.
7. New legislation in 2016 will extend California’s cap-and-trade system to 2030 or beyond.
California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets currently end in 2020. Existing legislation gives the California Air Resources Board the authority to continue to enforce the 2020 emissions target (a return to 1990 emissions), even after 2020. However, without new legislation ARB cannot require deeper cuts beyond this 2020 target. California is working now to create new, more stringent emission reductions targets for 2030 and 2050. In April 2015, Gov. Brown issued Executive Order B-30-15, which solidified this commitment by calling for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2030. With the cap-and-trade system as the backbone of California’s strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the continuation of their successful system will be essential to meeting these goals. As mandated by this executive order, the California Air Resources Board is currently developing a scoping plan to meet these 2030 emission reduction goals. New legislation is needed to give the board the statutory authority to solidify the 2030 and 2050 emission reduction requirements in an extended cap-and-trade system. Senate Bill 32, authored by Sen. Pavley, proposed to give the California Air Resources Board this authority. It codified 2030, 2040 and 2050 emission reduction targets. On Sept. 13, 2015, the bill failed to pass the Senate floor after being read for a third time and Sen. Pavley announced she would present the bill again in 2016. We predict that 2016 is the year in which these new targets will be captured in legislation and any uncertainty about the future of California’s cap and trade system will be significantly reduced. Stacy Swann of Climate Finance Advisors, LLC, said:
“There really is a transformation afoot. Not only is there momentum around the issue of divestment out of fossil based energy and a surge in renewable investment, but there is also a growing recognition that finance must incorporate climate risk considerations. This means that all investments—from buildings to roads to hospitals and schools–need to build-in resilience. This is a huge opportunity for orienting the entire financial system to become more sustainable and climate-friendly in both the short and long-term.”
8. The tight spread between California carbon allowances and California carbon offsets will continue.
The California Carbon market took a surprising turn in 2015. California carbon offsets, which have historically been valued at a 25 to 30 percent discount to California carbon allowances, shot up in the latter half of the year to a discounted value of 10 to 15 percent. A big reason behind the reduced spread was the Nov. 2, 2015 deadline for compliance companies to surrender offsets and allowances to demonstrate compliance with the first compliance period reduction target. The big question going into 2016 is whether this tight spread will continue or dissipate, as the second compliance period surrender deadline isn’t until late 2018. Despite the availability of allowances, offsets will show some staying power in 2016, as compliance buyers continue to search for lower cost compliance options. With offset supply forecasted to remain below the 8 percent limit, offsets that are issued and tradable in 2016 should expect to obtain prices that have a discount in the mid-teens range relative to allowances.
“One of the main factors contributing to this tight spread is the longer than expected lead time to verify and receive issued offsets through the Air Resources Board process,” Chandan Kumar of Californiacarbon.info, said. “Therefore, this trend is expected to continue until the volume of projects increases, while the lead time for verification and issuance falls.”
9. California will lead the way in using shorter-term global warming potential (GWP) values.
As the effects of climate change are increasingly felt and action is demanded, there is an increased focus on “short lived climate pollutants” like methane. To compare methane to the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide, it is assigned a global warming potential (GWP) or equivalency value for the amount of warming compared to carbon dioxide. Because methane has a short lifetime in the atmosphere and carbon dioxide has a very long one, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes different GWPs for different time periods. Recent data shows that over a 100-year period, methane causes 28 times as much warming as carbon dioxide. Compared over 20 years, however, methane is 84 times as potent. It is up to regulators and policy-makers to decide which time period is the most appropriate to use for comparison. This is a subjective judgement, trading off how to weigh the impact of warming in the short term versus warming in the future. The 100-year GWPs are by far the most commonly used—in California’s cap-and-trade offset protocols, in the inventory for reporting the U.S.’ GHG emissions and throughout the Kyoto Protocol and other emerging international agreements. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change writes, “there is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices” and California is intelligently beginning to question this paradigm. The Climate Trust predicts that in 2016 policy makers and regulators become increasingly aware of this nuance and begin to use GWPs with shorter time periods. A shift to 20 year GWPs could have a massive impact on the trust’s ability to invest in projects. Offset protocols currently use the outdated 1995 100-year global warming potential for methane: 21. Updating protocols to use the current 20-year GWP, 84, would immediately quadruple the number of offset credits livestock digesters generate every year. Even with these outdated GWPs on the conservative 100-year time frame, carbon credits for the avoided methane emissions of digesters currently make up 20 percent of the revenue of projects. By quadrupling this revenue, many more of the potential digesters in this country could be quickly built.
10. The volume of forestry carbon offsets will continue to significantly increase in the California cap-and-trade program.
Forest project offsets were the most rapidly growing project type in the California compliance market in 2015. As of December 2015, ozone depleting substances, livestock and mine methane capture consist of 12,957,201 (aout 38 percent) of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) offset credits issued. U.S. forests constitute 20,933,016 (or 62 percent) of the issued offsets, approximately double that of all other project types combined. The Climate Trust expects this trend to continue in 2016. There are still several Early Action Eligible Projects in the queue to be reviewed and potentially approved by ARB staff. These projects, which have been approved by voluntary registries for greenhouse gas reductions that occurred between January 2005 and December 2014, will add a significant number of offsets to the market in 2016. The cap-and-trade regulation requires that early action projects be reviewed and approved by ARB by August 2016. In addition, ARB adopted new Common Practice Values for all U.S. Assessment Areas on Nov. 2, 2015. More than 65 new forestry projects were listed as potential ARB compliance projects before this date in order to make use of the older Common Practice Values, which in many instances are lower and thus more favorable for many projects. This includes more than 35 projects with Climate Action Reserve and more than 30 with American Carbon Registry. Not all of these projects will move forward, but it will be an option if the landowner decides the economic benefit is worthwhile. These newly listed projects will increase the offset volume from forestry projects in 2016 as well. In late October 2015, ARB staff held a public workshop to present a white paper on the possibility of including international sector-based offsets in California’s cap-and-trade program. While ARB has not yet approved these offsets for use to meet compliance obligations under AB 32, ARB staff have presented a compelling argument for why Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) offsets should be allowed for the third compliance period starting in 2017. Despite the challenge of ensuring that these offsets meet the same standards as CCOs, the trust expects that ARB staff will establish the framework by which REDD offsets can be approved for compliance in the state’s cap-and-trade program in 2016.
“In 2015, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including increased public sentiment and political will around the impacts of climate change, the extension of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program and approval of a new compliance offset protocol for rice cultivation projects,” Sheldon Zakreski, director of risk management for The Climate Trust, said. In late 2015, the trust was awarded a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to build an innovative conservation investment fund for biogas, forestry and grassland conservation projects; offering a tremendous opportunity to cost-effectively mitigate and sequester carbon emissions.
For a full accounting for how The Climate Trust measured up to our 2015 predictions, take a look at our hindsight assessment from Executive Director Sean Penrith.
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From fabric, to food, to feed, cotton has thousands of uses. Its ubiquitous presence, however, is entrenched with a long, brutal history that tremendously affects our world today. The Organic Consumers Association said that cotton is the most toxic crop in the world, using more than 25 percent of all the insecticides in the world and 12 percent of all the pesticides. The World Wildlife Fund says it takes 20,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton, the equivalent of a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans.
About half of all textiles are made from this environmentally unsustainable source, which is why the cotton industry could use a little competition. The good thing is there are plenty of eco-friendly choices to add to your wardrobe. In an article last week in The Guardian, three surprising fruit fabrics are featured that could not only contend with the cotton industry, but also uses up parts of the plant that would normally be left to rot.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
1. Pineapples leaves: We usually think of pineapples as a healthy snack or even a pizza topping, but Ananas Anam is using pineapple leaves to make a sustainable and cheaper alternative to leather called Piñatex, The Guardian reported. With a Cradle-to-Cradle approach, the textile company enlists pineapple farming communities to extract fibers from leaves in an extraction process called decortication. The resulting biomass from decortication can also be converted into organic fertilizer or biogas as an extra source of income to the communities.
Pineapple waste can also be useful for the food industry. In a study published in the journal Food and Bioproducts Processing, researchers found the enzyme bromelain (used to tenderize meat, baking and brewing) can be extracted from all parts of the pineapple, especially from the peel and the crown. As Food Navigator reported, the researchers said that bromelain extraction from pineapple waste would not only add revenue through increased bromelain supply, it would also reduce the impact of waste disposal.
Found in abundance in the Philippines, piña fabric is already used in traditional Filipino clothing for its fine and lightweight qualities. It's ideal for warmer climates, and as Ecosalon wrote, the "glossy surface of the material also eliminates the need for toxic treating agents, since it acts as a protective layer for the fabric in itself." There's plenty of supply for the luscious fabric. The Philippine Information Agency announced that the country's 59,000 hectares of pineapple plantations can yield 55,483 tons of pineapple fiber, adding that this agricultural waste can be alternative materials for apparel, home textiles, upholsteries, non-woven and industrial fabrics.
Watch here to find out how pineapple fabric is made:
2. Coconut husks: Approximately 50 billion coconuts fall from trees annually but the husks and shells are typically tossed. But a coconut is a terrible thing to waste—its milk, meat, shell and even its fibrous outer layer can have a second life. Also known as coir, this versatile coconut fabric can be turned into many things, from common items such as door mats and brush bristles, as well as not-so-common items.
Specialty weavers Belton Industries spins this sturdy, biodegradable fabric into logs and fencing for landscaping and erosion control. Its absorbent nature is also being applied for for oil spills on land and water, as well as aiding re-vegetation along stream beds and on river embankments. Coir pith, a waste byproduct from coir production, can be used for mulching, soil treatment and a hydroponic growth medium, as Made How pointed out.
Essentium Materials, a bio-composites company, is producing automotive trunk liners, load floors (battery pack covers in electric cars) and living wall planters out of coconut husks and recycled plastics. The researchers said that replacing synthetic polyester fibers with coconut husk fibers will reduce petroleum consumption by 2-4 million barrels and carbon dioxide emissions by 450,000 tons annually.
In terms of clothing, cocona fabric is made of coconut husks that have been recycled into activated carbon. When incorporated into fibers and fabrics, the result is a garment that dries fast, absorbs odor, stays cool and offers UV protection, which makes it ideal for sports wear.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/TOG24
3. Banana stems: Another versatile fabric comes from banana plant stalks, a part of the plant that's usually dumped or burned once the fruit is cut off, causing pollution. As The Guardian wrote, approximately one billion tons of banana plant stems are wasted each year, even though "it would only take 37 kilograms (about 81.571 pounds) of stems to produce a kilogram (about 2 pounds) of fiber."
The fabric is already used in Japan and Southeast Asia, as the course outer layers of the stem can be used for baskets or table cloths and the fine inner layers can be used for delicate kimonos. According to eco-textile company Offset Warehouse, "Banana plants often do not require pesticides or fertilizers when grown in the tropics. Being a waste product of the food industry, these stalks that were once often just thrown away are being used as a new valuable resource with very little extra cultivated acreage being required."
In India, paper manufacturing firm Eco Green Unit the NGO Chaitanya Mandal are buying banana stems directly from banana farmers to manufacture paper, The Indian Express reported. "Earlier the farmers had to pay Rs 3,000 (about $50) per acre to get their fields cleared," Dileep Kulkarni of Chaitanya Mandal told the publication. "Now, if they decide to supply banana stem to the processing units they would not only save on that amount but instead they would be paid well for it."
As a side note, if you are looking for cotton clothing, look for organic varieties that are grown without toxic, synthetic chemicals. Seek out natural dyes to further reduce the amount of chemicals dumped into our ecosystem.
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President Obama’s recent announcement that he wants to begin normalizing relations with Cuba generated news around the world. But the Cuban province of Granma may soon be making headlines for another reason: its embrace of renewable energy.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
While Cuba is an island full of sun, rivers and windy coasts, only four percent of the island’s electricity is generated from renewable energy. The island hopes to soon change that, with a goal of generating 24 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030, and Granma is leading the way.
Granma province (pop. 836,000), located in the eastern part of the island, is home to the Sierra Maestra, and is named after the boat from which Fidel Castro and his rebel soldiers disembarked to begin the Cuban Revolution. The Cuban government wants to make Granma province 100-percent renewably powered, a project the Cubans call “The Solarization of Granma Province,” as a model the rest of the island can follow. They are well on their way. In 2013, renewables supplied 37 percent of all the energy consumed in Granma province, and the province currently has 3,664 renewable energy systems in operation. These include everything from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to biogas digesters to solar food dryers.
Energy From the Sun
Granma province, being in the most mountainous part of Cuba, has many isolated rural towns. At last count the province had 1,628 small off-grid PV systems powering medical clinics, hospitals, schools, social centers, museums and homes located in remote areas without access to grid power. The Cuban government funded most of these systems, supplied with PV panels fabricated in Cuba out of imported cells. Cubans take education so seriously that across the island all 2,364 schools in rural areas without grid power are powered with solar panels and wind turbines—including the 51 schools with only one student. Many of these fall in the mountainous regions of Granma province.
Taking advantage of the huge amount of sun that falls on the province, there are also 426 solar hot water heaters, three solar distillers to produce water for PV system batteries and a solar dryer that dries medicinal plants for the Natural Medicine Center.
Energy From Water and Wind
Granma province is also blessed with many small rivers. Thirty-six mini- and micro-hydropower plants produce over seven megawatts (MW) of electricity for homes, hospitals and schools not connected to the grid. Five of these, with a capacity of 1,740 kilowatts (kW), feed electricity into the grid. However, many even more remote homes in the area were left without electricity until a young campesino named Miguel Gonzalez figured out he could develop a cheap way to electrify the homes with running water. Using car alternators and bicycle dynamos he created a small nano-hydro generator with a capacity of less than one kW that is now used in 172 homes throughout Granma province, allowing people access to electric light, radio and television.
Although most of the wind potential on the island is found along the coast, there are 938 windmills that pump water in Granma. And wind-measuring stations have shown that there is a potential of more than 800 MW wind capacity in the province (and far more across the entire island), so they hope to put up more wind turbines, adding to the five wind farms across the island that currently account for 11 MW of installed capacity.
Energy From Waste
Sugar is one of Cuba’s largest export crops. Granma province is home to 11 of the 56 sugar mills in the country, all of which employ generators that turn the bagasse—the waste material that remains after sugarcane is crushed to extract the juice—into electricity. The Granma sugar mills produce 29 MW of electricity that power the processing plants and that occasionally gets fed back into the grid. The province also has abundant biomass in the forms of sawdust, coffee husks, rice hulls and marabú, an invasive plant that seems to be everywhere and that you will hear Cubans across the island grumbling about over their coffee. Granma has 14 commercial dryers to dry coffee, rice and wood; 135 brick kilns; and 632 domestic kitchens that use these sources of biomass.
There are also 127 biodigestors throughout the province that use animal waste from cows and pigs to produce methane. The methane is used to run lights or for cooking. Animals are not only being utilized for their waste, but also for transport. The 4,000 animal drawn carts transporting passengers, solid waste and cargo throughout Granma save an estimated 5,900 metric tons of diesel per year.
Cuban environmental engineers are also experimenting with making biodiesel out of Jatropha curcas, a non-edible plant that grows in difficult terrain. There is currently a 20-acre Jatropha farm in Granma making biodiesel for the province’s tractors.
Educating the Next Generation
Granma province is home to the Camilo Cienfuegos School Complex (CECC), the first educational project built by the Cuban Revolution in 1962. The school complex, covering more than 1,000 acres in the largest city of Granma province, was built for illiterate children of the Sierra Maestra, and currently has 5,000 students from preschool to high school, and even a pedagogical institution for those learning to be teachers. The campus showcases bioclimatic architecture, and one of the main focuses of the school is environmental education.
Schoolchildren throughout the island belong to school clubs, and many of the clubs at CECC are related to environmental issues and renewable energy. So many so that in 2003 the Center for Solar Studies was added to the school complex, which showcases solar photovoltaic panels, solar hot water systems, wind turbines, hydraulic ram pumps, biogas systems, and solar distillers, dryers and cookers.
“We aspire to convert Granma into a province that is a model in everything related to solar energy, as an example that the rest of the country can follow,” according to the president of the provincial assembly of people’s power in Granma province (equivalent to a city council). “We are required to create active environmentalists,” he wrote in Cuba’s renewable energy magazine, “citizens who are not only concerned but who also address environmental problems closely related to energy use and who contribute to their solution—from children in small, rural schools, to residents of a neighborhood affected by pollution, to workers demanding the elimination of violations of environmental regulations.”
Granma province is well on its way to achieving its goal and becoming a 100-percent renewable province. For the entire island to reach its goal of 24 percent renewable by 2030, it plans to add 640 MW of wind, 700 MW of PV, and 750 MW of biomass to its mix. While some of these projects will be 100-percent Cuban owned, the island will be looking for more than $9 billion in foreign investment for more than 200 new renewable energy projects. Time will tell if President Obama’s historic phone call with Raul Castro opened new doors to help make that renewable energy transition happen.
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When it comes to clean energy and sustainability, solar looks to be a shoo-in one day for the “green” Hall of Fame. Today, more and more sports teams, sports leagues and sports organizations are embracing the advantages of solar energy.
At Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Eagles have 2,500 solar panels installed. Photo credit: NRG Solar
On Monday, the National Hockey League (NHL) released a new sustainability report, saying, in part, “We believe it’s important to invest in clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro in North America. Supporting clean energy will help achieve long-term benefits for our business, such as price stability.”
The report went on to add: “In addition to pursuing reduction measures, five NHL arenas now supply a portion of their power needs for the facility by using on-site solar power or lower-emission energy sources, such as biogas-fueled fuel cell technology.”
One good example of this growing trend are the Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings, who play at the world-famous, multi-purpose Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Far away from the view of fans, the Staples Center has 1,727 solar panels on its rooftop. Today, this state-of-the-art, 364-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system provides up to 20 percent of the facility's energy needs on a non-game day and a portion of the power it needs when the puck is dropped for the opening faceoff.
Clearly, solar has become a fan favorite. From San Jose to Winnipeg and Tampa Bay to Montreal, communities that embrace professional hockey are embracing solar energy, too. We commend the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman for their ongoing commitment to renewable energy and a cleaner environment. They recognize, like so many others, that clean, affordable and reliable solar energy creates thousands of new jobs on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border, pumps billions of dollars into our respective countries’ economies and helps to significantly reduce pollution. We’re proud to share our "green team" colors with the NHL and look forward to being part of a winning "power play" that benefits both of our great nations as well as the environment.
But hockey isn’t alone in the solar spotlight. Earlier this month, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS)–home to the greatest racecar event in the world, the Indy 500–installed the largest solar-powered system of any sporting facility in the world. That’s right–the world! IMS boasts a 9.6 megawatt (MW) PV system, employing 39,312 solar modules, bringing new meaning to that famous Brickyard saying: “Start your engines." Clearly, solar is off and running at the Indy 500, lapping all other forms of renewable energy.
Major League Baseball and the National Football League have "drafted" solar systems, too. At Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Eagles have 2,500 solar panels installed; the San Francisco Giants have 590 solar panels at AT&T Park; the Boston Red Sox are currently heating nearly half of their hot water with solar thermal panels; and the St. Louis Cardinals are producing 32,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy per year at Busch Stadium.
Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America. But guess what? You can also make a persuasive case that we are actually #1 overall. According to a recently-released report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) natural gas and solar ran 1-2 in new capacity installed in the first half of 2014, with 1,555 MW of natural gas coming online and 1,131 MW of solar. But if you add in the 457 MW of distributed generation solar added (and in the first quarter of this year alone!)–something FERC fails to take into account–solar topped all other forms of energy with at least 1,588 MW of new installed capacity.
So quietly, without anyone really noticing, solar is now leading the energy Super Bowl at halftime. How will the rest of the year turn out? Let’s just say that I like our chances a lot, and I’m betting on the home team!