SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

DIY - Solar Panels Meet Cattle Panels

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 03:35 AM

DIY Boat Solar Power Solution for LED Lighting

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 12:06 AM

M101 DIY SOLAR PANEL KIT

Fri, 05/9/2014 - 08:14 AM

DIY 15$ 40w Solar Panel

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 12:28 AM

DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand for $10

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 12:10 AM

Homemade Solar Panels Diy tutorial

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 02:12 AM

Solar panel install to SkyMax grid tie inverter DIY How To

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:36 AM

Make Solar Panels DIY | Build Wind Turbines Tutorial | How to Build Solar and Wind Energy System

Wed, 03/5/2014 - 07:55 AM

Make Solar Panel at Home | How to Build Solar Panels DIY | Learn to Make Your Own Solar Panels

Wed, 03/5/2014 - 07:14 AM

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia PT4

Sun, 02/23/2014 - 10:37 AM

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

How Solar Power Solar Panels Work by SolarCity mp4

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:15 PM

Solar Panel Systems for Beginners - Pt 1 How It Works & How To Set Up

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 05:34 PM

How Solar Panels Work - Aztec Renewable Energy

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 03:03 PM

How Do Solar Panels Work? Bonus! Simple trick to increase your solar output power

Wed, 05/7/2014 - 05:46 AM

[solar energy how it works] Solar Energy 101 - How Solar Panels Work

Tue, 05/6/2014 - 03:43 AM

How Solar Panels Work - Uses The Sun To Create Free Electricity MP4 2

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 04:38 PM

[solar energy for home] How Solar Panels Work

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 12:28 PM

Solar Cell :: How it Works?

Sat, 03/15/2014 - 02:25 AM

Solar Cell System - Solar Cell How It Works

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 03:54 AM

How solar panels work 2

Tue, 12/24/2013 - 12:07 AM

Solar Projects In Google News

SunEdison Awarded 17.7 Megawatts (MW) Of Distributed Solar Projects In ... - MarketWatch

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 11:33 AM

BELMONT, Calif., Oct. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- SunEdison, Inc. SUNE, +6.42% a leading solar developer and technology provider, has been awarded 17.7 MW DC of distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) power projects through the Regional Renewable  
 

Folsom's 8minutenergy to develop solar projects in Kern County - Sacramento Bee

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:11 PM

Sacramento Business Journal
Folsom's 8minutenergy to develop solar projects in Kern CountyFolsom-based 8minutenergy Renewables LLC says it has received approval to build solar projects of up to 135 megawatts in Kern County. Approval for the Redwood Solar Farms came from the Kern County Board of Supervisors. The Redwood projects will Folsom's 8Minutenergy signs construction firm for huge projectSacramento Business Journalall 5  
 

Hanwha Supplying 17 Megawatts for North Carolina Solar Projects - Businessweek

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 02:57 PM

reNews
Hanwha SolarOne Co., the photovoltaic manufacturing unit of Korea's Hanwha Group, agreed to supply panels with 17 megawatts of capacity for three projects in North Carolina. The modules will be used in O2 Energies' Cirrus, Chocowinity and Rockwell Hanwha SolarOne Supplies 17 MW of Modules for Three O2 Energies Projects MarketWatchHanwha SolarOne Unveils New S Series Modules, Starts DeliveriesSolar IndustryHanwha notches treble in NCreNewsall 16  
 

SolAmerica Energy Completes Two 1 MW Solar Projects under Georgia Power ... - MarketWatch

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 02:01 PM

ATLANTA, Oct 21, 2014 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- SolAmerica Energy, LLC (“SolAmerica”) a leading solar design, development and construction firm announced the completion and sale of two 1 MW ground mount solar arrays in Perry and Alma, Georgia,  
 

SolAmerica Energy Completes Two 1 MW Solar Projects under Georgia Power ... - Business Wire (press release)

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 02:00 PM

ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SolAmerica Energy, LLC (“SolAmerica”) a leading solar design, development and construction firm announced the completion and sale of two 1 MW ground mount solar arrays in Perry and Alma, Georgia, respectively.
 

Folsom's 8Minutenergy signs construction firm for huge project - Sacramento Business Journal

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:32 PM

Folsom's 8Minutenergy signs construction firm for huge project"These … contracts demonstrate 8minutenergy's ability to bring solar projects to successful conclusions," 8minutenergy CEO Martin Hermann said in a news release. "We look forward to working closely with Gehrlicher Solar America Corp. to build these  
 

UK investor eyes rooftops to mitigate solar farm cuts - PV-Tech

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:53 AM

As of 31 March next year, any UK solar projects above 5MW in capacity will be refused grid connection and unable to qualify for ROCs, competing instead for a limited renewables budget under CfDs. The commercial rooftop segment underperforms in the UK Investor TRIG eyes rooftops to mitigate solar farm cutsSolar Power Portalall 3  
 

Borrego Solar, sPower break ground on 6.3 MWac PV project in Suffolk county ... - solarserver.com

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 05:19 AM

Borrego Solar Systems Inc. (San Diego, California, US), a designer, developer, installer and financier of grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and sPower (Sustainable Power Group), a renewable energy provider based in Salt Lake City (Utah, US sPower and JinkoSolar Partnership Brings 34 Megawatts of Solar Power to AltEnergyMag (press release)JinkoSolar Provides sPower With Modules For 34 MW California ProjectSolar Industryall 13  
 

8minutenergy Taps Gehrlicher Solar America To Build California Projects - Solar Industry

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 04:54 PM

"These EPC contracts demonstrate 8minutenergy's ability to bring solar projects to successful conclusions," says Martin Hermann, CEO of 8minutenergy Renewables. "We look forward to working closely with Gehrlicher Solar America Corp. to build these  
 

DIF selects Radian Generation to manage portfolio of solar projects - Renewable Energy Focus

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 03:52 PM

DIF, an independent fund management company with an extensive global portfolio of solar projects, has chosen Radian Generation, LLC to provide commercial and technical asset management services for than 65MW of solar projects in Ontario, Radian Generation engaged by fund management company DIF to provide solarserver.comall 4  
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

Project aims for 'Holy Grail' of solar, wind energy storage - Tribune-Review

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 03:36 PM

Project aims for 'Holy Grail' of solar, wind energy storageThe project by Southern California Edison, a utility that serves about 14 million people, is part of a push for wind and solar power in the state, which is among the nation's sunniest. A third of California's electricity must come from renewable
 

sPower Procures JinkoSolar's Modules for Four Solar Projects in California - AZoCleantech

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:56 PM

sPower Procures JinkoSolar's Modules for Four Solar Projects in CaliforniaAccording to the terms of the contract, JinkoSolar supplied approximately 115,000 of its 305W high efficiency solar PV modules to sPower for the 34MW solar plant which is comprised of four separate projects located in Lancaster and Victorville, California.California continues solar lead as 34MW solar power plant nears completionPV-Techall 3  
 

Abandoned Solar Energy Project Highlights Pitfalls of Tax Uncertainty - Energy Collective

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 05:26 PM

In the latest evidence of the need for stable federal tax policy, a major solar project in California was abandoned in part due to uncertainty around whether the project would be placed in service in time to qualify for the investment tax credit (ITC
 

Jinko, sPower add 34MW in California - reNews

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 03:57 PM

Recharge
JinkoSolar has supplied 34MW of solar modules to sPower for four projects in Antelope Valley, California. The manufacturer delivered some 115,000 of its 305W units for sites in Lancaster and Victorville. When fully operational, the sPower complex is sPower readies 34MW PV for SCERechargesPower and JinkoSolar Partnership Brings 34 Megawatts of Solar Power to SYS-CON Media (press release)all 6  
 

California county authorizes construction of 135 MW of solar - Utility Dive

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 01:40 PM

Kern County, Calif., has signed off on permits for 135 MW of utility-scale solar photovoltaic projects being developed by 8minutenergy Renewables LLC. The Redwood Solar Farm projects are sited on 640 acres of low-productivity farmland. Construction 8minutenergy Renewables signs EPC agreement with Gehrlicher Solar America solarserver.comall 2  
 

JinkoSolar Supplied 34MW of Solar Modules to sPower for Four Solar Power ... - CNNMoney

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 01:10 PM

Recharge
According to the terms of the contract, JinkoSolar supplied approximately 115,000 of its 305W high efficiency solar PV modules to sPower for the 34MW solar plant which is comprised of four separate projects located in Lancaster and Victorville, California.Jinko, sPower add 34MW in CaliforniareNewssPower readies 34MW PV for SCERechargeall 9  
 

8minutenergy Renewables Signs EPC Agreement with Gehrlicher Solar America ... - PR Web (press release)

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 03:06 PM

(GSAC) for three of its solar projects located in Kern County, Calif. The 8minutenergy projects, and the associated 8minutenergy subsidiary that wholly owns them, are the 16.66 MW-ac Redcrest Solar Farm (67RK 8me), 26.66 MW-ac Hayworth Solar Farm  
 

8minutenergy Renewables gets green light for 135MW solar farm in California - PV-Tech

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:21 AM

California-based 8minutenergy Renewables has been given the go ahead for its 135MW Redwood Solar Farms PV projects in Kern County, California. After being given conditional use permits from the Kern County Board of Supervisors, the company said  
 

EDF Renewable Energy purchases 24.3 MWp of Canadian Solar modules for ... - solarserver.com

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 05:07 AM

ecoRI news
Located in California's Mojave Desert, Catalina Solar is comprised of 82 MWp Solar Frontier and 61 MWp First Solar thin film photovoltaic modules. The project's solar power is provided to San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) under a 25-year Power Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory | Renewable Energy UpdateLinex Legal (press release) (registration)Solar Power Becoming Better Bargain in RIecoRI newsEDF buys 24.3 MW of solar modules for Catalina 2 projectPennEnergyEnergy Digitalall 109  
 

Canadian Solar to supply modules to EDF RE project in California - PV-Tech

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 11:00 AM

Catalina Solar 2 was among three projects totalling 42MW of generation capacity in California sold by EDF RE to energy producer Dominion in mid-September. That deal will close on installation, with EDF RE responsible for management, commissioning and Canadian Solar to deliver PV modules for EDF's Catalina Solar 2 projectCleanTechnology News, Industry Analysis, Market Research Reports - Clean Technology Business ReviewEDF Renewable Energy Purchases 24.3 MWp of Canadian Solar Modules for PR Newswire (press release)all 6  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

Troubled Fenimore landfill's tax lien up for sale, owner could lose the property - The Star-Ledger

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:22 PM

Troubled Feni landfill's tax lien up for sale, owner could lose the propertyEarlier this year, the the Highlands Commission, which is responsible for protecting water resources in much of northern New Jersey, declined to undo its 2011 authorization for a solar facility atop a cleanly capped landfill. Vice Chairman Kurt He
 

Blackstone forms Onyx Renewable Partners - Thomson Reuters' peHUB (press release)

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 01:43 PM

With this expertise, the team has built an extensive portfolio of solar projects for Solops, achieving a significant position in markets across the United States and Canada and creating substantial value for investors. Over the past three years, the  
 

The Blackstone Group LP: Blackstone Teams with Former Solops Management ... - The Wall Street Transcript

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 01:08 PM

With this expertise, the team has built an extensive portfolio of solar projects for Solops, achieving a significant position in markets across the United States and Canada and creating substantial value for investors. Over the past three years, the
 

Blackstone Teams with Former Solops Management Team to Fund Utility Scale ... - Rock Hill Herald (press release)

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:46 PM

With this expertise, the team has built an extensive portfolio of solar projects for Solops, achieving a significant position in markets across the United States and Canada and creating substantial value for investors. Over the past three years, the  
 

Blackstone Teams with Former Solops Management Team to Fund Utility Scale ... - MarketWatch

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:33 PM

With this expertise, the team has built an extensive portfolio of solar projects for Solops, achieving a significant position in markets across the United States and Canada and creating substantial value for investors. Over the past three years, the  
 

Solar Providers Look To Residential Financing - CivSource

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 02:47 PM

Two new solar initiatives announced at the end of last week could have a notable impact on how solar projects move forward in the United States. Solar technology has seen rapid development in recent years, however, much of this has Sungage, which DCU, Sungage start solar finance programWorcester Telegramall 4  
 

DCU, Sungage start solar finance program - Worcester Telegram

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 09:27 AM

Sungage, which offers a solar finance program in Connecticut, will expand its operations to serve installers and homeowners in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Sungage created the industry's secured solar loans, a product in which the solar  
 

BJ's Wholesale Adds Energy Storage to Solar System - PV Solar Report

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 02:20 PM

BJ's Wholesale Adds Energy Storage to Solar SystemSolarCity, Direct Energy Business, and BJ's have already installed one solar system together at a North Brunswick, New Jersey site, and BJ's boasts nearly 20 solar projects total across the United States. All three of these BJ's projects were made  
 

BJ's Wholesale Adds First Energy Storage Systems to Planned Solar System - PV Solar Report

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:19 AM

BJ's Wholesale Adds First Energy Storage Systems to Planned Solar SystemSolarCity, Direct Energy Business, and BJ's have already installed one solar system together at a North Brunswick, New Jersey site, and BJ's boasts nearly 20 solar projects total across the United States. All three of these BJ's projects were made  
 

EPC Firms Must Adapt To Industry Changes With New Business Models - Solar Industry

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:09 PM

With U.S. renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower) expected to double by 2021, the firms that provide engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for wind and solar projects will need to adapt to the economic realities of a  
 
 

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

There are many ways to do solar right - The Denver Post

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:41 PM

Large solar projects have an important role to play in our state's energy future. But we hope that our state regulators and policy makers will realize the state's solar industry has been doing solar right for years to help Colorado grow into a solar  
 

There are many ways to do solar right - Burlington Record

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:31 PM

It shows that the utility is realizing all the benefits: solar energy emits no harmful air pollution, it uses no water, and it harvests the abundant free fuel that Colorado is blessed with 300 days a year. Solar is starting to compete favorably with  
 

The Future of Solar Economics and Policy - CleanTechnica

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 03:20 PM

The following chart illustrates, with the levelized cost data for Missouri (about average for the U.S., but much above the cost in sunny areas like California or Colorado). installed solar capacity and cost u.s..001. The growth in solar power and  
 

Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power - Energy Collective

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 02:25 PM

These competitive prices for large-scale solar projects are not unique to Georgia. In Texas, Austin Energy recently signed a PPA for 150 megawatts of solar for 5 cents per kilowatt-hour; in Colorado, Xcel Energy said it can buy electricity from 170  
 

Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power - Greentech Media

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 04:23 PM

These competitive prices for large-scale solar projects are not unique to Georgia. In Texas, Austin Energy recently signed a PPA for 150 megawatts of solar for 5 cents per kilowatt-hour; in Colorado, Xcel Energy said it can buy electricity from 170
 

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Neal St. Anthony column [Star Tribune (Minneapolis ... - Businessweek

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 01:45 PM

SunShare, a pioneering developer of community solar projects in Colorado, has hired four Minnesota executives it described as "renewable energy heavy hitters" to expand its business in this state. The Denver-based company said it hired Ken Bradley as 
 

Innovative solar investing fund launched - Energy Harvesting Journal

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 11:12 PM

Wunder sources solar projects from its growing national network of installer partners, surfacing only the best investment opportunities to institutional and individual accredited investors. Located in Boulder, Colorado, Wunder is the first solar
 

New Incentives Create Unprecedented Growth of Solar Power in Minnesota - DigitalJournal.com

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:51 PM

The company works with installers, constructors, developers and organizations interested in financing and developing solar projects. JJR Power capitalized on opportunities in the energy sector and In 2009, the firm began advising, developing and
 

Solar Power Becoming Better Bargain in RI - ecoRI news

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 09:17 PM

Quess which month Rhode Island began marketing its solar incentives? (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)NORTH SMITHFIELD — Solar energy is becoming a better bargain in Rhode Island, as the costs for home systems are on par with Massachusetts, one of the  
 

For renewable energy in the desert, a new beginning - The Desert Sun

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 01:52 AM

California's deserts are a case in point. The Mojave, Colorado and Sonoran deserts have some of the best sunlight in the world, but many large-scale solar projects have stalled or been dropped. Experts have blamed financial woes, but note that such
 
 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

Opinion: energy storage - Sierra Wave

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:49 PM

Private sector companies, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are making progress on energy storage cost and scale, but there are not yet any major breakthroughs and the need for storage  
 

Microgrids: 5 things to know - TechRepublic

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:28 AM

The DoE promotes its master "smart grid" plan, but no one should expect a giant smart grid to appear any time soon. A reasonable plan involves microgrids, which have emerged as a popular solution as people have taken solar and other clean energy 
 

California PPAs to take different shape for 2015 - PV Insider News and Analysis

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:57 AM

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the state's big three Investor-Owned Utilities (IOU)s; PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E now include most of the world's largest solar projects. In a gigantic solar gold rush that was brought into being by the Recovery Act
 

Honda, SolarCity expand sun-powered partnership with new $50 million fund - Autoblog (blog)

Wed, 10/8/2014 - 02:04 PM

It must be solar-power announcement time. The DOE is ready to throw $25 million at concentrating solar power and New York State just announced $94 million for solar projects. At the broadly green-minded South By Southwest Eco festival in Austin, TX  
 

Is America's Renewable Energy Revolution About to Fall Off a Cliff? - Motley Fool

Sun, 10/5/2014 - 02:42 PM

Is America's Renewable Energy Revolution About to Fall Off a Cliff?Well according to Ryan Wiser, a co-author of the DOE/ Berkeley Laboratory report, it would raise the cost of wind power by 60% to four cents/KWhr. of 2016 this tax credit is set to go to 0% for residential systems (such as those installed by  
 

Executive Actions to Advance Solar Deployment and Energy Efficiency - Breaking Energy

Thu, 10/2/2014 - 07:11 PM

Among the major actions, DOE's Solar Instructor Training Network will launch a veteran's job training pilot project at up to three military bases this fall to create at least 50,000 highly-qualified solar installers by 2020. The U.S. Department of US DOE announces USD 25 million to lower cost of concentrating solar powersolarserver.comall 91  
 

US DOE announces USD 25 million to lower cost of concentrating solar power - solarserver.com

Thu, 10/2/2014 - 10:06 AM

Building on the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan, the Energy Department on October 1st, 2014 announced USD 25 million in funding to advance concentrating solar power (CSP) system technologies. This investment will fund research and  
 

De Blasio announces major solar investment at City schools - Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 02:34 PM

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the New York Power Authority will implement the projects, in partnership with the Department of Education (DOE). The planned 6.25 MW of solar power at these 24 installations will result in a  
 

Mayor announces new plan for going green in schools - Examiner.com

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 05:26 AM

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the New York Power Authority will implement the projects, in partnership with the Department of Education (DOE). The planned 6.25 MW of solar power at these 24 installations will result in a  
 

Hokulani and Lunalilo Elementary Schools Awarded Grants for Renewable ... - Urban Oahu

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:29 PM

HPS was awarded a Department of Education (DOE) contract to install solar panels at some Oahu and Kauai schools under a Power Purchase Agreement whereby the system is owned, operated and maintained by RC Energy of Denver Colorado.
 
 

The Green Life

Ideas for living well and doing good from Sierra magazine.

Hiking Guru Shares Perfect Paths

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 05:15 PM

Bob Manning at a trailheadRobert Manning is a hiking guru. At the University of Vermont, he researches and teaches park managment, which in practice means that he does a lot of hiking. With his wife, Martha, he cowrote the book Walking Distance (Oregon State University Press), which details 30 walks for any hiker's bucket list. Sierra spoke with Manning about his book, his experience with park management, and the best trail in the world.

The subtitle of your book is Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People. Who's "ordinary"? I mean, what's the face of the American hiker today?

I think it’s quite a cross-section, but the "ordinary people" part of the book is something that Martha and I feel strongly about. That’s the main purpose of the book, really: to get people walking more. Compared with people in a lot of the countries we’ve visited, not a lot of Americans are out there walking. With this book, we’re trying to do something about that, to get people to explore and create and ultimately protect these places.

A section of the Muir TrailYou have a strong connection to the John Muir Trail in particular, which you call one of your top 10 walks in the world.

I have a long and deep relationship with the John Muir Trail. When I graduated from college, it was 1968, and the Vietnam War was raging, and so I joined the Coast Guard. I enjoyed living in the city, but even more I enjoyed getting out to Yosemite. It really convinced me that I wanted something to do with the National Parks. That’s also how I became aware of John Muir and the Sierra Club. 

I always get a kick out of hiking above the tree line, of visiting places that I’d been seeing in Sierra Club calendars for years, thinking, "I really want to go there." Hiking over John Muir Pass and then on to Gifford Pinchot Pass -- the legacy of American conservation is just written into the landscape. To me, there’s no mountain range that’s more beautiful and friendly and engaging than the Sierras. That, combined with the Muir legacy, makes the trail my favorite hike.

Manning views the Colorado river nestled in the depths of the Grand CanyonYou’re an expert in park management. What’s your take on how the John Muir Trail is managed?

It has been around for a long time, so it’s well marked and well managed. One area where it excels is the permit system.

What makes a good permit system? The only innovation I’m aware of is the Grand Canyon's rafting permit system, which switched to a weighted lottery. I should also mention that you profile a hike along the Colorado River in your book.

The rafting waitlist was 20 years [laughs], and that can’t work. The John Muir Trail innovation is the simplicty of a single permit that cuts through two national parks and two U.S. Forest Service areas. It would be daunting if one had to get a permit from those four entities and then had to coordinate the dates. At Yosemite in general, they allocate things in a way that's easy for the user, even when it's not easy for them. 

Hiking the Camino de SantiagoSo nationally, we’ve got some good parks. What about internationally? In Walking Distance, you list a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as El Camino de Santiago, in northern Spain and parts of France.

UNESCO sites are very sucessfully managed. It’s the Parks Service ramped up on a global scale. For a country to get the status, they have to have a plan in place to manage it. And they take that very seriously. 

El Camino de Santiago is a Catholic pilgrimage, and yet there’s a mix of people that there.

The mix, the diversity of people, on the Camino is probably the most on any trail that I’ve walked. We met people from all over the world. Even more impressive, we came across people of all age groups. The religious significance is obviously important, but I’d say that a large portion of the people we encountered were not walking for religious reasons.

In your book, you focus on provencial hikes like the Camino and wilderness hikes like the Muir Trail. What about urban hiking? 

Martha and I have really begun to embrace urban walks. One that we did this summer is what’s called the River Thames Walk in England. It starts at the source in the Gloucestershire and goes right through London -- which takes three days -- and then on to the sea. Martha and I would like to include urban and suburban walks in a future book. We love, for example, that portion of the California Coastal Trail from Muir Beach south to Cliff House. We sort of christened it "the Golden Gate Way."

--interview by Cedar Attanasio / all photos courtesy of Robert Manning

You can learn more about Robert and Martha Manning, and 30 of their favorite hikes -- including Vermont's Long Trail, British Columbia's West Coast Trail, and Florida's Ocala Trail -- on their website.

READ MORE:

6 Most Dangerous Hiking Trails

Pro Hiking Tips: Excercises

Breathtaking Canyons

 

 

Defending The F-Word

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 02:59 PM

Fracking protest sign

The oil and gas industry dislikes the noun fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing. It prefers frac, a literal reduction of fracture, but at this point it's probably out of luc. Last week, Merriam-Webster announced that it was including fracking in its 2014 Collegiate Dictionary (along with spoiler alert, hashtag, selfie, and turducken, among others). Frac hasn’t caught on outside the industry –- it seems vaguely French for starters -- and its verb form, fracing, would be totally confusing. (Some industry sources employ the even more tortured frac’ing.)

Blame it on those impish enviros, always eager to mock their opponents in as few words as possible on 36-by-48-inch protest signs. “No Fracking Way,” “Frack Off,” “Don’t Frack Our Future,” and “Stop Fracking Mother Earth” are just a few of the ways shale-oil opponents have happily turned the emotionally neutral term “hydraulic fracturing” into a dirty word.

It’s clever framing – put “fracking” on the list with “death tax” and “job creator” –- but environmentalists didn’t need to hire a political wordslinger to concoct a winningly charged term. Merriam-Webster traces industry use of the term “fracking” back to 1953.

Image by iStock/Joe_Potato.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

 

Read More

The Clean Dozen

Surcharge for Smoggers

China Chips Away at its Pollution Problem

 

Not Your Grandparents’ Road Trip: 5 Green Reasons to Visit National Parks

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 01:46 PM

Mount ranier

Wailing children, crotchety parents, sand and sunscreen in uncomfortable places… you get the idea. If this sounds familiar, chances are you’ve been on what feels like an eons-long summer trip with your family. But the National Park Service’s new, sustainable outlook on life may forever change the face of summer vacations, retrofitting the National Parks we know and love with some seriously awesome green technology.

With some of the vastest wilderness resources in the country, National Parks are feeling the brunt of climate change. Extreme flooding, serious drought, wildfires and glacial melt have meant that the severity of climate change is taken very seriously by the NPS. They are growing as a voice for climate change education and activism and are leading the way with green technology and infrastructure. On Earth Day of 2012 the NPS issued the Green Parks Plan (GPP), a comprehensive road map for change that emphasizes engaging visitors and communities in initiatives that mitigate climate change and educate about sustainability.

In the year since the plan’s debut, the National Parks have made impressive progress. Ninety-two percent of construction waste is diverted from landfills and greenhouse gas emissions are down thirteen percent. Here are five clean, green examples of why you should visit and support their efforts:

1.) The Pinnacles National Park West Side Visitors Center received a Platinum LEED certification (the highest available) for energy and water saving features—the building was even constructed using photovoltaic powers sources. Captain Planet would approve.

Sequoia Shuttle

2.) At Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, you can now take a sustainable ride through the forests—the surrounding communities have partnered with park services to implement hybrid and electric buses as transportation. Thirteen other parks have also received grants from the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program to make the switch from fuel hogging diesel vehicles to electric and hybrid technologies. Ah, smell that fresh, clean air! 

3.) Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks also spearheaded an initiative to start illuminating park attractions with solar power—the famous Crystal Cave is now completely lit by solar powered lights, which seriously lower energy consumption.

4.) On the East Coast, Assateague Island National Seashore is using solar power to generate light for the bathrooms, convenience store, campground office, ranger station, and parking lot.

5.) In Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Cottonwood Cove Marina Building on Lake Mohave is the first ever LEED certified floating building, and is highly energy efficient and sustainably constructed.

Cottonwood cove floating buildingJeffrey Olson, an NPS Spokesman, said “There were over 273 million visitors to the parks last year alone, and we hope our sustainable initiative will engage visitors, neighbors and communities and to ask them to participate for the betterment of national parks and our world.”

When asked why Sierra readers should make an effort to visit the parks, Olson responded “visitor participation can have big environmental benefits. We hope our commitment to sustainability spreads and that park visitors, Sierra readers included, find opportunities to take similar steps in their own lives”.

- Photos and video courtesy of the National Parks Service

MAREN HUNSBERGER is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 

 

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How Can I Save Fuel on Summer Vacation Trips?

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 01:11 PM

Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

Our family will take a long road trip by car this summer. Now don’t get on your high horse, Mister Know-It-All, and command us to ride bikes to our destination. Here’s the deal: I don’t give a damn if burning fossil fuel causes global warming, but I do want to save money on gas. How can I accomplish this? —Neal, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Enjoy your trip, Neal, and keep the ol’ car radio tuned to your favorite right-wing global-warming-denial talk show so you can pick up some new rhetoric for blasting us climatological Cassandras.

There are a number of ways you can cut your fuel consumption. The first thing to do is to give your vehicle a tune-up if it hasn’t had one in awhile. Following are eight more ideas, with estimates how much they’ll save you, courtesy of the EPA and Car and Driver magazine. (The percentages have a big range because of wide variations in fuel efficiency and driving habits.)

1. Drive sensibly: Chill out, don’t stew about environmentalists or vent your road rage with jackrabbit starts, jamming on the brakes, changing speeds, etc. Aggressive and stupid driving can reduce fuel efficiency by anywhere from 5 percent to 33 percent.

2. Slow down: You can waste 30 percent or more of your fuel by speeding. For every 5 miles an hour you drive over 55, you use 6 percent more fuel.

3. Keep your cargo off the roof, if possible: Wind resistance can squander from 6 to 17 percent of your fuel on the highway.

4. Don’t idle excessively: Don’t leave the engine running when you pop into your favorite fast food joint. A minute of idling can cost 1–3 cents, depending on the type of  engine. You get zero mpg when idling.

5. Keep tires inflated: You can save up to 3 percent on fuel by keeping tires inflated to the recommended level.

6. Reduce air conditioning: You can waste up to 15 percent of your fuel by using the air conditioner. Although driving with windows open creates wind resistance and therefore reduces efficiency, the loss is considerably less than the loss from air conditioning. I once advised rolling up the windows when going over 45 mph. I hereby stand corrected.

7. Shed weight: You can waste 1 to 2 percent of fuel for every 100 extra pounds you carry. This includes human cargo. See my timely blog, “Does Obesity Waste Fuel?”  which cites a study indicating that moving overweight Americans in cars requires a billion more gallons of fuel per year than if we all weighed what health professionals recommend. 

8. Use cruise control except on steep hills, in heavy traffic, on roads that are winding or have sharp bends, or are slippery from rain, ice or snow.

If you want to go way, way deeper into saving gas, delve into "109 tips for Hypermiling.”  But beware, because some of this advice might lead to family squabbles, like “Let the most efficient driver drive,” or sound way too eco-trippy: “Drive like you ride a bike,” or be downright dangerous, like driving barefoot, coasting in neutral, turning off the engine to coast, or pushing your car instead of starting the engine when you’re only moving a short distance. - Bob Shildgen

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!

 

READ MORE:

How Does Less Gas Become More Emissions? 

How Much Energy to Make a New Car?

Does Obesity Waste Fuel? 

 

5 Blogs about Sierra Club History

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 10:56 AM

MuirAndRooseveltThe Sierra Club was founded by John Muir and his eco-conscious compatriots 122 years ago this week. Since then the club has sought to explore, enjoy and protect this amazing planet. Together we’ve protected millions of acres of wilderness, saved endangered species and kept natural resources clean. Muir would surely have been proud of the relentless efforts of our members.

To commemorate this anniversary week enjoy these Green Life posts about the Club’s legacy.

1. Women of the Sierra Club: Marion Randall Parsons - A writer, artist, photographer, mountaineer and nature enthusiast, Parsons was a force to be reckoned with. Read all about the first lady to be elected onto our board of directors.

2. Original Beards of the Sierra Club - Beards have come back into fashion, but our earliest members were masters of this style long ago. Take a look at some of our favorite facial hair.

3. Women of the Sierra Club: Allison Chin - After working with an Inner CIty Outings group, Chin stepped up her involvement and eventually became the first board president of color. Learn more about her thoughts on the outdoors, diversity and civil disobedience. 

RetroHikingFashions4.Retro Hiking Style - Early Sierra Club ladies wore dresses and bloomers on outdoor club trips. Check out these fabulous photos from 1896 to 1946.  

5. Chiura Obata and his Sierra Legacy - After Obata was released from the interment camps he took part in Sierra High Club trips, sharing his technique with other clubbers on the trail. The painter left behind inspirational art and a story of resilience.

 

- top image courtesy of the Library of Congress

- bottom image by Joseph N. Leconte

HS_Bianca_BlogBIANCA HERNANDEZ is the Acting Web Editor at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

 

Environmental Media Draws Kids into the Green Movement

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 01:38 PM

Some act of vision
When you think of sustainability, chances are that young adult novels and comic books are not the first things to come to mind. But getting kids to read new narratives may be the thing that piques their interest in the world's well being. Earth-conscious novels have a long and illustrious history, from Edward Abbey's 1975 The Monkey Wrench Gang to Carl Hiaasen's 2002 Hoot. The newest wave of YA fiction is addressing the reality of contemporary teen life while honing in on green issues, like fracking and environmental justice (you can find a great list here).

Lori Ann Stephens’ new novel Some Act of Vision, for example, is a fast-paced read with a sci-fi lens. It has political and environmental intrigue, teen drama, vivid characters, and a splash of romance—it’s currently a finalist for the National Reader’s Choice Awards in the YA category. Stephens’ novel centers around a young protagonist whose life is disrupted when fracking-induced earthquakes rip her town apart. The geological disturbance destroys a nearby chemical plant, which releases a compound that has a, shall we say, interesting effect on her and her family (that's where the sci-fi comes in--no spoilers here!). Stephens says she was thinking of her own teenage son when she heard a piece about fracking on NPR. She was listening to the piece in her car when it suddenly hit her that he, and many young people his age, probably had no idea what was going on with the fracking industry in their home state of Texas.

She wanted to write a novel with elements that would appeal to young readers while sparking curiosity in real-world issues. Stephens hopes the novel will not only make young people more aware of fracking, but get them to look into it further to understand the reality of the situation. She says “Being aware and educating themselves about the reality of the situation is the first step." When she adds that "youth already feel like their world is falling apart," she's admitting that including environmental catastrophe in her novel felt like a bit of a risk. But despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Stephens hopes readers will see themselves in her protagonist and feel more empowered to explore the issues and take action on their own.

Mayah's lot

The comic book world is also taking a turn for the green and the visual nature of this medium makes it very compelling, especially for younger readers. Comics like Mayah's Lot, about a young girl's fight to keep her inner city community from being exploited by an irresponsible corporation, are created to be both entertaining and educational. The genre has become increasingly popular in the last decade or so, grabbing the attention of educators and students alike. Rebecca Bratspies, one of the authors of the comic, is also the founder of the Center for Urban Environmental Reform. She writes that the main goal comics like Mayah's Lot, is to reach "non-traditional audiences with an environmental justice message." 

Hop on the brain train to get your kids connected to the environmental issues outside their tween bubble.

 

 

 

- Photos coutesy of Lori Ann Stephens and Charlie LaGreca & Rebecca Bratspies, respectively

--Maren Hunsberger is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 

 

Read More:

Peoms to Inspire Outdoor Adventures

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

Book Review: EarthArt

 

Environmental Media Draws Teens into the Green Movement

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 10:26 AM


Some act of visionWhen you think of sustainability, chances are that young adult novels and comic books are not the first things to come to mind. But getting kids to read new narratives may be the thing that piques their interest in the world's well-being. The green novel for adults is nothing new (Edward Abbey’s 1975 The Monkey Wrench Gang), and the earth-conscious read for kids and teens has been rapidly evolving (Carl Hiaasen’s 2002 Hoot). The hyper-popular YA dystopian novel is even incorporating elements of eco-awareness: from the coal mines of The Hunger Games’ District 12 to the desolate wasteland outside the walls of the Divergent series, environmental devastation is taking up more space in young adult literature. The newest wave of YA fiction is breaking away from the dystopia and focusing on the reality of the present, addressing green issues like fracking and environmental justice while keeping the focus on teen life.

Lori Ann Stephens’ new novel Some Act of Vision, for example, is a fast-paced read with a sci-fi lens. Currently a finalist for the National Reader’s Choice Awards in the YA category, Stephens’ novel centers around a young ballerina whose life is disrupted when fracking-induced earthquakes rip her town apart on the eve of her big debut. The geological disturbance destroys a nearby chemical plant, which releases a compound that has a, shall we say, interesting effect on her (that's where the sci-fi comes in--no spoilers here!). The political intrigue that follows the disaster is thrilling, and the splash of first romance makes balances out the whole book perfectly.

Stephens says she was listening to a piece on NPR about fracking when she thought of the premise for the novel. It hit her that her teenage son, and many young people his age, probably had no idea what was going on with the fracking industry in their home state of Texas—things like geological instability and water pollution so bad residents could light their tap water on fire. “The first step” she says in reference to eco-awareness, “is being aware and educating [yourself] about the reality of the situation.” She admits that including environmental catastrophe in her novel felt like a bit of a risk, adding that “youth already feel like their world is falling apart”. But despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Stephens hopes readers will see themselves in her protagonist and feel more empowered to engage with their environment and take part in activism on their own.


Mayah's lotThe comic book world is also taking a turn for the green. Like young adult novels, the material is engaging and colorful, with characters so vivid you feel like you could reach out and touch them. Comics like Mayah's Lot, about a young girl's fight to keep her inner city community from being exploited by a corporation that wants to dump toxic waste in an empty lot where she’s growing a garden, showcase teen heroes bringing people together to fight for the good of the city. Rebecca Bratspies is one of the authors of the comic (along with Charlie La Greca), and is also the founder of the Center for Urban Environmental Reform.

The main goal of comics like Mayah’s Lot and YA novels like Some Act of Vision is to reach young people with the messages they may be accustomed to tuning out. As part of a narrative, environmental issues become personal and tangible for teens, ultimately using fiction to deepen their awareness of the real world around them.

 

 

-Photos courtesy of Lori Ann Stephens and Charlie La Greca & Rebecca Bratspies, respectively

MAREN HUNSBERGER is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 

Read More

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters Books For Young Environmentalists Eco-Activities for Parents and Kids

 

 

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 04:54 PM

Martha_maxwell Martha Maxwell with her two favorite things.

You may have heard of Rachel Carson, but have you heard the story of Martha Maxwell?  Maxwell married a miner 20 years her senior and followed him through the west, panning for gold.  When their claim was jumped by a German taxidermist she was inspired to pursue taxidermy and began shooting and stuffing animals on her own, building a large collection of species, from foxes to bighorn sheep, which she displayed at museums around the country.  A staunch vegetarian she addressed those who would call her a hypocrite by asking, “Which is the more cruel? To kill to eat? Or to kill to immortalize?”

Maxwell is just one of many inspiring women profiled in Robert Musil’s book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. Musil had several goals in writing this book. One was to contextualize Silent Spring as the culmination Musil cover of decades of work by other women in science, who were consistently overlooked, underappreciated and dismissed by their male peers and institutions.

These ladies ranged from Victorian garden observers to die-hard chemists and marine biologists. “They are tied together by a fierce sense of activism” and beautiful writing, says Musil. Compelling writers like Rachel Carson and Terry Tempest Williams bred curiosity and bridged the civilian-scientist gap by presenting scientific evidence in a ‘readable’ format. Indeed, their writing is what drew Musil in.  He too wants “people to connect with science in an approachable way.” 

These women were not writing for the sake of writing, they all had political motivations.

Richards_telescope Ellen Richards and her mentor Maria Mitchell.

One of Musil's most intriguing subjects is Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman admitted to MIT. She quickly established herself in chemistry and focused on sanitation.  Not one to mince words, she accused the American Public Health Association of murder for their shoddy upkeep of Boston Public Schools, which until then, had no ventilation or clean toilets. This speech rendered her unemployable, but she continued to teach chemistry and lobby for better sanitation in schools despite being blacklisted.

Women like Richards and Maxwell shattered the idea of the lady as a ‘shrinking violet.' Their dogged activism paved the way for Carson’s crusade against pesticides, argues Musil. Carson’s work has opened the doors for countless other female environmental activists. 

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters is a Rutgers University Press publication and is available on bookshelves and as an ebook now.

 

--top image courtesy of The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, the second courtesy of Robert Musil and the third courtesy of The Vassar College Observatory

HS_Caitlin_BlogCaitlin Kauffman is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a sea kayak and hiking guide in the Bay Area and the Greater Yellowstone area. She enjoys good eye contact and elk burgers.

 

Read More:

How Rachel Carson are You?

"Silent Spring"--Told in Vanity License Plates

Women of the Sierra Club: Marion Randall Parsons

 

No Vacation Nation: 7 Facts That Will Have You Packing Up

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 03:18 PM

Cathedral LakeWhen was the last time you took a vacation? How long did it last? These are among the important questions explored in the recent short film The Great Vacation Squeeze, written and directed by John de Graaf. De Graaf has explored the differences in vacation and leisure time between the US and Europe for years, and in 2002 he co-founded the organization Take Back Your Time “to point out the problems connected with overwork in America.”

Supported by Sierra Club Productions, this film is one of his latest projects that examines just how stark these differences are and hopes to inspire people to do something to change it. De Graaf believes that the idea of vacation and leisure is strongly intertwined with the Sierra Club’s mission statement.

“The Sierra Club's purpose is enjoying, exploring, and protecting the natural world, and it's hard to enjoy it or explore it when you don't have any time off. It also leaves you less likely to want to protect it,” he said. “As a member I think it important that the club not forget its commitment to enjoying and exploring nature.”

Which of these facts from the film will convince you it's about time for paid vacations?

Time to catch up. The US is the only wealthy country without paid vacation time, which may be an underlying cause of a whole host of issues, including stress and overwork. “Our lack of policy [mandating paid vacations] contributes to serious health problems, weakens family connections, and [reduces] the opportunity for all of us to get out in the natural world, especially children,” de Graaf said.

Strong ties. “It was John Muir, key founder of the Sierra Club, who, as I point out in the film, was the first American to advocate a paid vacation law, way back in 1876,” de Graaf said. Muir called for a law of rest that would give time off each year for people to reconnect with nature. The idea lived on in the early 20th century when President William Howard Taft suggested of a three-month long vacation for every worker.

So close, yet so far. During the Great Depression, the Labor Department proposed a two-week paid vacation law, but it failed due to business opposition. Still, two-week trips were common in America at this time, whereas they’ve now dwindled into near oblivion.

Practice what we preach. Seventy-three percent of Americans say vacations help recharge their batteries, but fewer actually take this time. Of all working Americans, 28% receive no paid vacation time and 24% get only one week or less.

Vacations are win-win. “They do wonders for us in so many ways, as every other country understands, and they are actually helpful to business productivity and creativity as well,” de Graaf said. On an individual level, vacations can be healing in that they give us relief from stressors of daily life. Time off also promotes reflection. “In idleness there is the opportunity for contemplation, there is the opportunity for soul-searching, and for seeing, for really truly, clearly seeing, what’s around us,” says Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson in the film.

Europeans have it better. On average, Europeans live longer and are less likely to suffer from chronic illness after age 50, even though they spend less on health care. Having long, paid vacation time may have something to do with this. It's known that taking breaks from work greatly reduces stress and even improves productivity. 

It’s about justice. “Most low-income Americans never have the opportunity and don't even get paid vacations,” de Graaf said. Many believe that a law mandating paid vacations would eliminate this inequality and ultimately benefit all Americans.

If you’re interested in organizing a viewing with your community, school, or local Sierra Club chapter, you can reach de Graaf at jodg@comcast.net.

--Image by David Fox, used with permission of John de Graaf

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College. On campus she works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth, and as the Sustainability Chair for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.

 

READ MORE:

Save the Vacation

Family Vacations: The Good, the Bad, the Eco-Friendly

Holy Green Vacation!

 

A Supercell is Born

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 11:40 AM

While you were watching a CGI Godzilla emerge from the Pacific this weekend, these stormchasers were capturing the birth of a monster storm (no special effects required).

Thanks to the time-lapse video made by Basehunters, we can see this supercell thunderstorm taking shape over Newcastle, Wyoming.  

BIANCA HERNANDEZ is the Acting Web Editor at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 
 

Compass

Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

Are U.S. taxpayer dollars supporting coal industry human rights violations overseas?

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:51 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/c1807283-8ab6-4080-9880-78e1f803ea16.png The Sasan coal-fired power plan and coal ash pond. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Today, a fact finding team of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Pacific Environment -- released a scathing report, The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Dirty Dollars,  on the rampant human rights abuses at the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) financed Sasan coal-fired power plant and mine in Singrauli, India.

For years, reports of human rights, indigenous rights, labor, and environmental violations have plagued Sasan and its owner, Indian company Reliance Power, and the U.S. government are partly to blame. The 3,960-megawatt project has received over $900 million in taxpayer finance from Ex-Im, and when allegations against the project are raised, Ex-Im prefers to look the other way.

When Indian groups and NGOs alerted Ex-Im to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers, the Bank

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/f7e57873-5f4b-4265-8d0a-22077db38a7c.png This tribal child is one of the people who have been relocated in order to build Sasan. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.


did nothing. When reports emerged of irregularities with the coal allotments for Sasan, foreshadowing the coal-gate scandal that would envelop then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ex-Im said nothing. Eventually the outrage prompted the Bank to conduct a visit to the project, but while they met with Reliance, the Bank refused to meet in the communities. Instead, they insisted that the affected people who had faced violence at the hands of Reliance – people without access to reliable transportation – meet them at a hotel that catered to industrial interests. Shockingly, people were afraid to speak out in such an unsafe venue. But even so, they refused to stay silent for long.

Today’s fact finding report contains first-hand accounts from the front line communities Ex-Im attempted to ignore.

What we uncovered in our trips to Sasan was heartbreaking. We heard from villagers whose homes were destroyed in the middle of the night while they were still living in them. We met with indigenous residents whose children were denied entry into schools. And we learned how Reliance covers up injuries -- and even deaths -- at the project.

There were two groups, though, that we did not hear from. Reliance Power refused to meet with the fact finding team, and Ex-Im refused to provide the supplemental environmental reports -- including the remediation or mitigation plans and related monitoring documents  -- that Reliance is required to submit to Ex-Im, and which federal legislation and the Bank’s own policies require be made available on request.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/53e0a623-c14e-457e-a907-5e1741766aec.png This seed pod is covered in coal dust from the conveyor belt that brings coal to Sasan from the mine. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Recognizing the risk Sasan could pose, Ex-Im classified it as a Category A project when the Bank approved the financing. This means the coal project is required to comply with additional standards, including the IFC Performance Standards and their provisions for environmental and social impacts, labor and working conditions, pollution prevention, community health, and resettlement. It is clear from first hand reports that Sasan fails in all these areas.

However, without the monitoring documents, it is impossible to know if Ex-Im willfully ignored these requirements or if it failed to do its own due diligence to monitor Sasan and investigate complaints. In order to learn the truth, the Sierra Club submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today to obtain the missing documents.

But the truth is not enough for the people living with the impacts of Sasan. They need justice.

We hoped the first step would take place last week, when the U.S. Export-Import Bank Office of the Inspector General (OIG) – the independent investigative body for Ex-Im -- traveled to Singrauli for an inspection of Sasan. But the OIG seemed more interested in building a relationship with Reliance than listening to the communities.

The OIG representatives arranged to travel to Singrauli in a Reliance helicopter, but were forced to change their plans due to weather. Once they finally arrived, they also refused to meet with the affected people in their communities. The OIG did allow a few representatives to visit them at their hotel at 7:30 in the morning while Reliance officials waited outside and could take note of who attended, possibly endangering those who showed up.

The U.S. can no longer allow itself to be complaisant in the abuses taking place at Sasan. We call on the OIG to conduct a thorough inspection that includes follow-up visits using the best practices established by the CAO and with third party experts who can evaluate the impacts.

Moreover, it is imperative that Ex-Im use its influence to halt a proposed expansion of Sasan and work with Reliance to bring the project into compliance with the IFC Performance Standards. Should this prove impossible, Ex-Im must withdraw from the project.

To do less calls into question the legitimacy of the Export-Import Bank and its ability to effectively monitor the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars abroad.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Will the Export-Import Bank’s Office of the Inspector General Ignore Human Rights Violations?

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:27 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14101716/11671cc0-4e11-42d9-b2e8-c1716e73630a.png The entire Harrahawa Village was relocated to make way for the Sasan coal ash pond. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Sudarshan Rajak disappeared under suspicious circumstances after protesting the relocation of families for Reliance Power’s 4,000-megawatt Sasan coal project in Singrauli, India. Some of his neighbors believehe was in his house when it was bulldozed by Reliance. Krishna Das Saha's home was destroyed in the middle of the night -- while his family was still living in it -- to make way for Sasan’s coal ash pond. And when Sati Prasad challenged Reliance’s refusal to hire local workers, he was dragged out of his home and beaten by the police.

These are just a few people who have met violence and intimidation at the hands of Reliance Power. This aggression is subsidized U.S. tax dollars in the form of over $900 million in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Indian groups have documented these and other abuses in Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh: A Brief Report.

Ex-Im has turned a deaf ear to the allegations against the project, but it appeared as though the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) -- the independent investigative body for Ex-Im -- was prepared to listen. Now, we are not so sure

This week, the OIG traveled to Singrauli as part of its inspection of Sasan. While the two OIG representatives were happy to make arrangements to travel to Singrauli in a Reliance helicopter – plans they later had to amend due to rain – they refused to meet with the affected people, claiming that meeting in the communities would make the OIG appear biased. Instead, the OIG summoned a small group of local people to their hotel at 7:30 in the morning while Reliance officials waited outside and could see which villagers came to meet with the OIG.

This is flat out wrong. By holding the meetings at the hotel instead of in the communities, as was originally requested, the OIG put villagers who are concerned about the project at future risk.

Moreover, the OIG has an obligation to follow-up on complaints from affected people. Ex-Im classified

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14101716/a0e299f0-de1d-4ff8-aff2-8825a5b7ab0f.png The Sasan coal-fired power plant in Singrauli, India. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Sasan as a Category A project, which means that it is required to comply with additional standards, including the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards for environmental and social impacts, labor and working conditions, pollution prevention, community health, and resettlement. The OIG is abdicating its responsibility if it ignores the human impacts and restricts its inspection to the Ex-Im standards for the export of equipment and other weaker benchmarks.

I personally met with affected communities and retold their stories to officials at Ex-Im -- including alerting the Bank officials to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers as well as irregularities in coal allotments. These irregularities foreshadowed the coal-gate scandal, which later rocked India and forced then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to defend himself to Parliament.

But instead of using their trip to listen to the people affected by Sasan, the OIG was only willing to take a tour of the sites by car, where they could view the communities out the windows while refusing to stop and talk to them. Unsurprisingly, the community members felt this was unacceptable.

This is not justice.

The OIG does not currently have a process for this type of inspection, but other institutions do. Last week, Civil Society Organizations sent a letter to the OIG outlining how to conduct an objective and complete report, using the process employed by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation as a guideline. This includes conducting follow-up visits to meet with affected people in their communities and employing third party experts to assess the impacts.

Will the OIG step up and conduct an impartial inspection? Or will it aid in the suppression of the impacted communities?

If the OIG chooses the latter, they will receive a rude awakening. Local residents have shown time and time again that they will not be silenced.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Momentum builds in Louisiana, the latest front in the fight against coal exports

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 06:51 AM

La coal export mtg

In recent weeks, something amazing has been happening in the Gulf Coast of Louisiana – communities have been standing up and casting votes to ring the alarm about proposed coal export projects. As U.S. coal use has declined, mining companies are looking for a future in international markets. And while most people might think of the Pacific Northwest as ground zero for planned coal export facilities, the Gulf Coast is home to over a dozen proposed coal export terminals as well. Thankfully, as the plans to export coal through the state grow, so does the opposition from local residents.

Case in point - the small town of Gretna, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish. This is a historic metro area of New Orleans, and it's also the site of a proposed coal export project called the RAM coal export terminal. If constructed, the facility could see some six to eight million tons of coal and refinery waste exported overseas every year (that's about six coal-fired power plants worth of coal). It would add to the dust and water pollution burden in the communities it neighbors by sending mile-long, uncovered coal trains running through historic neighborhoods, and it also threatens the state's vital coastal restoration projects.

La coal export signsThe fight over this export facility hit a milestone in September, when residents packed a Jefferson Parish Council meeting. They cheered when the council voted unanimously on a resolution that questioned the impacts that the RAM terminal would have on coastal restoration, and also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to hold public hearings and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement on RAM.

"This was the outcome of an entire summer of outreach by the Sierra Club, our partners in the Gulf Restoration Network, and the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition," says Devin Martin, a New Orleans-based organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "We made a big push to generate turnout and demonstrate public opposition to the export terminal at the previous council meeting in August, and more than 100 people attended -- it was standing room only."

Residents worked together to phone-bank, write letters, put up yard signs, collect petition signatures, and much more to educate their neighbors and to pressure the council. They also packed the Gretna City Council meeting in July and previous educational forums. Martin credits some amazing community activists, especially Grace Morris of the Gulf Restoration Network, for such a successful movement of residents against this polluting facility.

There's still much work left to do - especially after the Army Corps of Engineers responded to the Jefferson Parish Council vote by issuing a press release saying there's no need for public hearings on the RAM terminal proposal. But Martin and other coal export opponents still have lots of reasons for optimism.

Momentum is building against coal exports in the Gulf. The unanimous vote by the Jefferson Parish Council on Sept. 17 was preceded by a unanimous vote by the Gretna City Council on September 10. In June, the neighboring city of Westwego passed a resolution opposing coal trains.

"While the (Jefferson Parish Council) resolution doesn't stop the project or even force the Corps to act, the political implications cannot be overstated," said Martin. "Jefferson is Louisiana's second most populous parish, the home turf of some of our most powerful and infamous politicians, and so deep Red that it falls into the infrared spectrum of political leanings."

You can help! Sign the petition to oppose coal exports in Louisiana.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal campaign director

 

Poisoned Chalice: California rate design reform and its consequences for rooftop solar, efficiency, and conservation

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:11 AM

Last year the California Legislature passed a bill (AB 327 - Perea) granting the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) the ability to make broad changes to how the state's investor owned utilities (PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E) charge customers for electricity. In his departing comments (PDF) from the CPUC, former Commissioner Mark Ferron observed that the bill was "a poisoned chalice" because "the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness."
 
Sure enough, that intense pressure has begun. Utilities are now asking the CPUC to significantly change rates that would hurt low-income customers and, as an analysis by the Sierra Club demonstrates (PDF), cripple the market for rooftop solar and efficiency upgrades. At public meetings throughout the state, hundreds of Sierra Club members, clean energy workers and consumers are speaking out against the proposed changes.  
 
La ratepayers
Speaking out against utility proposed rates at a public participation hearing in Fontana

What Utilities Want: Fixed Charges and Flat Rates

Currently, electricity rates are "tiered" so the more you use, the more you pay. Initial consumption is charged at a low rate, with rates increasing significantly with energy use. This structure rewards conservation and is in large part responsible for the rapid growth of rooftop solar in California because it makes energy-savings investments economic for customers with high energy-usage. Energy bills are also almost entirely tied to the amount of energy consumption with few unavoidable fixed charges.

Last summer, utilities succeeded in passing AB 327, which removed protections limiting the price of energy at lower consumptions levels and allowed utilities to seek CPUC approval of a "fixed charge" of up to $10 on energy bills.  With the passage of AB 327, utilities are now seeking to exploit AB 327 to its fullest by asking the CPUC to:

1) add the maximum permissible monthly fixed charge of $10 to each customer's bill in 2016, rising over time from there;
2) collapse the existing four-tiered rate structure to just two tiers, with only a small difference in the rates charged between tiers.

What Fixed Charges and Flat Rates Do:  Hurt Low-Income Customers and the Environment

Let's unpack the impact of the proposed utility changes. First off, what does a fixed charge mean for your average customer bill?  Well, opening up my bill from Southern California Edison, every bill my family pays begins with a 99 cent "basic charge" at the top of my bill. If you’re an SCE customer, yours is about the same. That charge is going to jump to $10 per month. Nothing I do, from conserving energy to going solar will offset that charge. It's fixed on my bill, which means my family has to pay ten bucks every month to SCE before we consume a single kilowatt hour. This type of charge is bad policy for two reasons.

Graph

As shown in the above graph, fixed charges punish those that conserve and consume little energy by significantly increasing the cost of the little energy they do use. Unavoidable charges also reduce everyone's incentive to reduce energy use by reducing the savings from conservation and measures like rooftop solar. For example, in its analysis of the utilities’ proposed rates, the Sierra Club determined (PDF) that the $10 fixed charge would increase the average payback period for a rooftop solar investment for SCE customers by an average of 1.4 years, making the decision to go solar significantly less economic.   

SCE's primary argument is that maintaining the grid has costs and everyone should pay for it, regardless of how much energy you use. If that sounds nuts to you, join the club. It's sort of like a grocery store charging you $10 bucks a month to cover the costs of their dilapidated shelving units, before you walk in the door. A better policy is a minimum bill. Unlike a fixed charge, which affects all customers, a minimum bill is only triggered when a bill would otherwise fall below the minimum rate. A properly set minimum bill ensures all customers contribute to grid expenses without significantly impacting conservation and low-income customers like fixed charges do.
 
SCE also wants to reduce the tiers from four to two with little difference in price between tiers. Typically, my family stays within the first two tiers. Over time we have invested in insulation, an attic fan, and replaced some more energy efficient light bulbs. Even during this recent heat wave, we've only barely climbed into the third tier. Under the SCE's proposal, tiers and two would increase into one single more expensive tier, while tiers three and four would drop significantly. In other words, families like mine would see their bills go up while energy hogs would see their bills drop. On top of that, flat rates make it more difficult for energy hogs to do the right thing by significantly reducing their economic incentive to invest in rooftop solar and efficiency measures.

What's the justification? Well, utilities say the current rate structure is unfair because high energy users pay a disproportionate share of costs of the energy grid. However, energy hogs should pay more because they impose greater costs by driving the need for new gas plants and more expensive peak power. In addition, rates should reinforce state energy and climate policies, not undermine them. Rates with meaningful differences between tiers are not only fair, but also critical to encouraging clean energy solutions like energy efficiency or rooftop solar. At minimum, utilities should include three balanced tiers. The third tier should be twice the tier one rate so that customers are encouraged to use less energy.

Time for the PUC to Stand Up to Utilities and Defend State Clean Energy Goals

In his closing remarks (PDF) on the "poisoned chalice" of rate design, former Commission Ferron called on his fellow commissioners to "be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation." The CPUC should reject the utilities' proposed fixed charge and extreme tier flattening and ensure rates continue to foster a clean energy economy. You can weigh in now by sending a comment to the CPUC today. A final CPUC decision on rates is expected in early 2015.

-- Evan Gillespie, western region deputy director, Sierra Club

 

Will a dirty coal plant in Kosovo spoil the Clean Energy Record of Dr. Kim and World Bank?

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 08:34 AM

Kosovo-Clean-Air-project-World-Bank-Source-Facebook-3502013_2

Light projection on the World Bank building in Washington DC Source: 350.org, 2013

 

For the fourth year in a row, the World Bank’s investments are coal-free. But the real test of the strength of this commitment will come when the bank decides whether or not to fund the Kosovo C coal-fired power plant in Kosovo.

Currently, Kosovo relies on two old and extremely dirty coal-fired plants for most of its electricity. One of these plants recently exploded, leaving the country to rely on even more imported energy. In light of this disaster, the Kosovar government -- and the World Bank -- are hinging all of their hopes on the proposed Kosovo C coal-fired power plant to quell this seemingly endless energy import and finally meet the Kosovars’ growing energy needs.

But what the World Bank is failing to realize is that the solution to Kosovo’s energy crisis cannot be found in outdated, dangerous energy supplies like coal. By turning to a modern 21st century energy plan -- including energy efficiency, wind, and solar -- Kosovo will be able to easily meet its growing energy demands, protect the health of its people and environment, and subsequently drive growth in the country.

Currently, nearly one-third of the nation’s energy is wasted on an antiquated and inefficient transformer fleet and energy grid. The proposed Kosovo C coal-fired power plant will not only continue to perpetuate the use of this outdated system, but it will lock the country into using lignite coal -- the dirtiest type of coal -- for at least the next several decades.

By increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to clean energy sources over time, this waste will be drastically reduced and, in turn, will save countless lives and much-needed money. On top of that, by reducing and eventually eliminating the use of lignite coal, the country will be in a better position to ensure a safer, healthier future for its people.

Luckily, many local groups have already taken up this fight.

As we speak, the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) and their allies are protesting energy rate hikes approaching 10 percent, which is on top of several rate hikes that have come in the years before.

But how can Kosovars afford a new coal-fired power plant? The answer is they can’t.

The Kosovo C coal-fired power plant is estimated to cost approximately $1 billion of the country’s $6.9 billion annual gross domestic product. So, where is this money coming from? You guessed it: from the pockets of Kosovars.

Already, some estimates are predicting more than a 40 percent increase in energy bills for Kosovars in order to offset the cost. And that’s before construction has even started. This is more than the people of Kosovo should have to pay for energy, particularly when clean energy solutions will not only lower energy bills but health-related costs as well. Investments in energy efficiency and clean energy could solve Kosovo’s energy crisis for a fraction of a price -- which is something the World Bank, as the world’s foremost multilateral development bank, should be in the market for.

As the decision to fund the Kosovo C coal-fired power plant looms ahead, the world will be watching to see if the World Bank is truly committed to ending coal financing or if it will stain its impeccable record and ignore the commonsense clean energy solutions already available.

Kosovo is the question. The World Bank now has to answer.


-- Andrew Linhardt, Associate Washington Representative

 

College students continue to lead the way on clean energy

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:55 AM

UNC Students at PCMAll this good clean energy news lately, and I haven't talked about the recent college victories! Last month, thanks to tremendous student activism, officials at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Georgia announced significant steps related to moving beyond coal.

First, at UNC, The Board of Trustees passed a resolution to target clean energy investments in the school's $2.2 billion endowment. This decision comes after more than three years of students campaigning for coal divestment and action on clean energy. Students are thrilled - but they also know their work isn't done.

"I'm proud that UNC has joined those efforts for environmentally sustainable investing. This is a huge accomplishment for UNC and all its current and future students," said UNC junior and Sierra Student Coalition activist Lauren Moore. "This decision is a good first step, but one that ultimately needs to lead to UNC completely divesting from fossil fuels, and transitioning to 100 percent just, clean energy."

Meanwhile at the University of Georgia,  the President confirmed publicly for the first time that they will retire the campus coal boiler -- which "is the largest single source of pollution in Athens (Georgia)."

This announcement comes after five years of student pressure and activism on campus. I have written on the many victories the students have achieved along the way in the Beyond Coal campaign at UGA, including most recently the moment when students finally secured an update from their Facilities Management office that the Administration was pursuing replacements to the coal boiler. 

Despite much silence and opposition by previous UGA Administration, for five years the students worked toward one thing: a formal announcement by their President that UGA is retiring the coal boiler and moving beyond coal. This announcement by current President Morehead is a testament to all those years of hard work.

"I think this victory shows how persuasive student voices and activism can be on college campuses," said recent UGA grad Laura Toulme. "The campaign was long and hard with many obstacles, but I am so happy that our administration finally understands the importance of eliminating this source of pollution and carbon from our campus and community."

Toulme says UGA students will continue to push the school to divest from fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy.

Young people like those at UNC and UGA are at the forefront of ensuring campuses and communities are making the transition to a 100 percent just, localized clean energy economy. I love the inspiration these young leaders provide every day, and I'm so proud to work with them to move the nation beyond coal and toward more clean energy.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign

 

MSNBC's "All In With Chris Hates" talks coal

Thu, 10/9/2014 - 10:00 AM

If you haven't been watching MSNBC"s "All in with Chris Hayes" every night this week, you've been missing out on some phenomenal research into the coal industry, its future in the U.S., and the people fighting for clean energy to replace. Here's the brief outline of what he's covering each night.

Let's start with this great brief interview with Sierra Club Mississippi volunteer Barbara Correro talking about the Kemper coal plant and its strip mine being built right next to her home.


Monday night's segment was all about coal in Kentucky. Tuesday covered how Big Coal is very similar to Big Tobacco. Wednesday night delved into whether "clean coal" actually exists - that's where the brief interview with Barbara comes from.

There are many excellent bonus segments on the show's website, so we encourage you to check them all out to learn more. And of course, watch Thursday and Friday night's segments!

 

Why Is The World Bank Failing On Energy Poverty?

Thu, 10/9/2014 - 08:01 AM

World Bank energy investments are categorically failing to end energy poverty.

That’s the stark finding of a new report released by Sierra Club and Oil Change International which measures how multilateral development banks (MDB) fare on their efforts to end energy poverty.  The report benchmarked recent MDB investments in clean energy access against the breakdown of needed investment called for in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) “Energy for All” scenario. In that scenario, universal energy access is achieved by 2030.  

As it stands, if the “Energy for All” scenario is going to succeed, it will require 64 percent of all new investments be used to fund the fastest, cheapest, and most effective source of energy that will help energy poor populations get on to the energy ladder. That source of energy? Distributed off-grid and mini-grid clean energy systems for those living Beyond the Grid.  

The  problem is, the world’s foremost development institution -- the World Bank -- is failing miserably to live up to the IEA’s goals.

Despite the presence of wildly successful programs like Lighting Africa and Bangladesh’s IDCOL program -- which has jumpstarted a booming off-grid solar market totaling 3.3 million systems installed to date -- the report shows that the World Bank Group fell painfully short on its investments in clean energy access.

Key findings include that less than 10 percent of the Bank’s energy funding specifically targets the poor – a group that makes up nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, when you include people who lack access to electricity and/or modern cooking fuels. Even worse is the fact that out of that miserly 10 percent, only one quarter was spent on off-grid or mini-grid clean energy deployment -- well short of the IEA’s benchmark of 64 percent.

As a result of this pitiful performance, the World Bank received an ‘F’ on its report card for energy access efforts.

Scorecard 1

While those who follow the Bank will likely be unsurprised by these figures, they are nonetheless appalling. The World Bank is, after all, a vocal supporter of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) campaign. It also claims poverty eradication as an overarching priority for its investments. So its patent failure on this issue is, simply put, unacceptable.

But an even more important question is: Why is the World Bank failing so miserably?

As my colleague Peter Bosshard at International Rivers has pointed out, it’s structural. For instance a World Bank evaluation found in 2009 that “internal Bank incentives work against [efficiency] projects because they are often small in scale, demanding of staff time and preparation funds, and may require persistent client engagement over a period of years. This makes them less attractive to managers and agencies that use disbursement as a measure of action and large turbines as a visible symbol of achievement.”

As Peter goes on to point out, “Five years later, the Bank's Quality Assurance Group castigated the institution's ‘pressure to lend’, and pointed to the ‘fear that a realistic, and thus more modest, project would be dismissed as too small and inadequate in its impact.”

The World Bank's central problem is, according to author Bruce Rich, “a culture of loan approval, institutionalized in various perverse internal incentives.”

That’s why despite having a nearly $4.1 billion dollar annual energy portfolio, the World Bank has failed to pony up a meager $500 million in investment for beyond the grid clean energy markets. And our analysis confirms that investment is enough to catapult this rapidly-growing  market towards a $12 billion clean energy access marketplace that can end energy poverty in our lifetime.

Scorecard 2

That’s not to say the Bank can’t overcome these problems if they want to.

Aggregating investments via financial intermediaries is an already well-worn path that offers a way to overcome the problems associated with a large number of small deals. Similarly, ring-fencing resources, developing new funds, altering staff incentives, and creating mandates to lend in this market would all encourage Bank staff to invest in this space and help turn around the Bank’s failing grade.

And let’s be clear: the upside to investing in these clean energy markets is tremendous. According to the Bank’s own Lighting Africa program, these markets are growing at an astounding 95 percent annual rate. Bangladesh’s IDCOL program has increased solar installations at a 60 percent rate for an entire decade. Those are growth rates roughly two times what mobile phone penetration grew at in the early 2000’s. And, to top it all off, this market solves one of the most high profile development challenges of our time.

Scorecard 3

But that’s a solution that requires leadership, which clearly isn’t being provided. That was especially obvious when World Bank President Dr. Kim infamously said he believed the World Bank could only be ‘taken seriously’ if it continued investing in businesses as usual -- businesses including coal.

As long as Dr. Kim remains uninterested in truly innovative approaches to ending energy poverty, the one institution that should ‘own’ this problem and provide scalable clean energy investment is sitting on the sidelines.

But World Bank or no World Bank, private investors and foundations are waking up to the opportunities in this market, with $45 million invested this year alone. That means Dr. Kim faces the very real possibility that instead of being at the vanguard of ending energy poverty, he will be missing in action.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

All signs point to the fact that Dr. Kim is serious when he talks about innovation and that he truly cares about ending poverty. If that’s truly the case, it’s time he stood up and declared a new day at the Bank; one where those taken seriously are the innovators - not defenders of the status quo.

That’s because in the 21st century, villagers won’t wait for the grid, and those that are serious about ending poverty shouldn’t promise it.

Help Dr. Kim lead the World Bank into the 21st century and demand he pledge $500 million of the Bank’s energy portfolio to clean energy access.

--Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program, and Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative, International Clean Energy Access

 

Highest Percentage Yet of U.S. Electric Vehicle Sales

Wed, 10/8/2014 - 01:37 PM

Lots of cars on display Montclair

Last month, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) made up the highest percentage ever tallied of total vehicles sold in the United States. This is good news.

According to the latest monthly scorecard from the prolific EV media site InsideEVs, auto manufacturers sold 10,538 electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. last month. This includes both plug-in hybrids and full battery electrics. Out of the 1,246,006 total vehicles sold in the U.S. last month, plug-in vehicles made up .85 percent of total vehicle sales in September –the highest percentage to date according to our calculations.

This portion may sound small, but it’s 20 percent bigger than the percentage from September 2013.

For an environmental group like the Sierra Club, it is this percentage that we care about more than total EV sales (which were strong, but not outstanding last month). As a way to slash oil use and emissions, we need people to switch from driving to transit, biking, and walking –meaning fewer auto sales and less driving overall. But for the millions who will continue to drive in the near future, we need them to switch to EVs, which are significantly cleaner than conventional vehicles.

What accounts for this highest ever percentage last month? We like to think it's because of the more than 90,000 people who attended National Drive Electric Week events in 150+ cities in mid-September -– not to mention the hundreds of thousands more who read the 200+ media hits from the week’s exciting events.  The increasing number of appealing plug-in cars on the market must also play a factor as well as glowing consumer reviews of cars like the Volt, the Leaf, and the Model S -- to name a few.

For statistic hawks and EV advocates who may be questioning our math, I’ll mention a caveat: the EV sales figures reported by the Electric Drive Transportation Association last month were lower than those reported by InsideEVs. The reason is that each is making a different guesstimate of Tesla Model S sales, since Tesla reports quarterly rather than monthly. However, the Editor-In-Chief of InsideEVs Jay Cole told me that his team has averaged only about 150 cars higher or lower than the final quarterly numbers over the last few years. Meaning: these guys are really good at estimating EV sales figures.

Relatedly, there was also promising news out of the EPA this week. The agency reported that model year 2013 car and truck fuel efficiency and emissions reductions are at an all-time record high, having improved eight of the last nine years. At an average of 24.1 mpg, there is a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction.

To rev up fuel efficiency and reach a tipping point, EVs must, of course, make up a much higher percentage of total U.S. sales. Whether it’s five, 10, or 25 percent (think about the point when people quickly started buying TVs and cell phones for the first time), that is where the rubber will really meet the road. Consumer rebates, public education programs, utility incentives, workplace charging initiatives, and other aggressive EV policies and programs must accelerate to get us there.

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield directs Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative. Christina Rohrbacher also contributed to this article. Photo by Tom Moloughney from Montclair, NJ 2014 National Drive Electric Week event.

 

Four Reasons Pay-As-You-Go Solar And Digital Financing Are Unlocking Energy Access For All

Tue, 10/7/2014 - 11:47 AM

We already know that pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar companies are making high-quality, modern clean energy products readily available for those living beyond the grid -- a factor that is poised to expand energy access to the 1.2 billion people currently without access to power.

When combined with digital finance -- which includes branchless banking and mobile money -- PAYG technologies can not only expand more rapidly, they can potentially -- for the first time ever -- begin to build a credit history for people living beyond the grid. That makes clean energy all the more transformative because the ability to build credit enables low-income populations to access the financial system and affords them the opportunity to buy productive assets and ultimately improve their economic situation.

Now, thanks to The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) comprehensive new report,  it’s easy for those interested in the transformative potential of the PAYG market -- including investors and those looking to work in energy access -- to understand the nuts and bolts of this nascent market.  

CGAP’s report -- which counts at least 25 companies using pay-as-you-go technology -- lays out some of the factors that have converged to make this such an opportune time for the sector.

Reason 1: Solar Got Really Cheap.  There has been a significant drop in the price of solar panels, batteries, and LEDs.  The CGAP report points out that solar panels currently cost half of what they did in 2008 and are still getting cheaper.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14100717/ce006116-4ec5-4945-b30c-f8a7c197bbc7.png Source: Dalberg analysis

Reason 2: The Market Is Exploding With Growth.  There has been dramatic market growth for small-scale solar products.  For example, the compound annual growth rate from the sale of four million portable solar lighting products in Africa from 2009 to 2012 was 300 percent.

CGAP 2

Reason 3: Quality And After-Sales Service Is Improving.  Changes in technology mean better quality solar products, including a 20 percent lengthening of battery life in the past four years alone. There is also a greater ability to monitor and manage solar devices remotely through machine-to-machine chips and GSM/GPRS modules.  

Reason 4: Mobile Phone And Mobile Money Penetration Unlock Solar.  The proliferation of mobile phones has enhanced communication between customers and companies, and mobile-enabled money transfer platforms have made payment collection more efficient and easier for solar companies.

These converging factors mean that the road ahead for PAYG is an exciting one.  It’s important to note, however, that the sector is not homogenous, and this is where CGAP’s report is most useful. It lays out various options and models that are succeeding in the PAYG sector, including:

PAYG solar product categories, with examples of companies;

different models for digitizing payments with mobile money and energy credits, with on-network or off-network payment hardware;

options for pricing based on time or usage; and

financing terms.  

PAYG solar can also promote access to other sources of formal financing, which is exactly why CGAP is interested in these issues. CGAP, housed at the World Bank, has an overall objective of advancing financial inclusion for all, including low-income customers, and is engaging with these issues through its Digital Finance Plus initiative. This initiative aims to help providers leverage branchless banking and digital payments to make basic, essential services and utilities more accessible and affordable to people at the base of the pyramid. This includes not only improving energy access but also access to healthcare, education, and water.

Innovative pay-as-you-go technologies are creating new ways to finance assets for low-income consumers, reducing the risks of financial exclusion based simply on income or wealth. That’s without even mentioning the benefits affordable lighting can provide for health and education.    

It is an exciting and dynamic time for the PAYG market, for those attempting to keep up, CGAP’s new report is a must-read.

--Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program, and Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative, International Clean Energy Access

 
 

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