Archive | March 2014

“stick with foncho”

Dear Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP

Cheap bananas are threatening farmers’ futures.

In the last 10 years, a bitter price war has seen the UK supermarket sector almost halve the price of loose bananas while the cost of producing them has doubled. This is trapping many of the farmers and workers who grow them in poverty.

This cannot continue. We call on you as Secretary of State for Business to urgently investigate the grave impact of unsustainable supermarket pricing practices and act to protect the millions of poor farmers and workers who grow the UK’s favourite fruit.

Please sign the petition (

“The Pacific Ocean Is Turning Sour Much Faster Than Expected, Study Shows”


It’s common knowledge among the scientific community that climate change will eventually acidify the oceans and turn them sour. What’s less common knowledge is when exactly it will happen.

In the tropical Pacific Ocean, however, the answers are getting a little clearer — and they’re not pretty. According to a study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and University of Washington scientists on Wednesday, the amount of carbon dioxide in the tropical Pacific has increased much faster than expected over the past 14 years, making that part of the ocean much more acidic than previously believed.

Activist Investors Become Environmental Activists


BlackRock Joins Investors in Flagging Barrier Reef Eco-Risks

The potential threats posed by coal and natural gas projects to the Great Barrier Reef are sparking everything from lawsuits to tweets from Hollywood stars.

They’re also prompting close scrutiny from investors as a global campaign against fossil fuels gains momentum.


A new type of Activist Investor is emerging who places a higher value on the global environment than a growth is sales of fossil fuels.

“World Is Ill-Prepared for Global Warming Impacts, UN Says”



Global warming is depleting fresh water and crops, destroying coral reefs and melting the Arctic, the United Nations said today in a report that concludes the world is ill-prepared to face many new threats.


The bottom line is summed up in this quote by Greenpeace’s Kosonen:

“Governments own this report,” ……..

……….“They have now gone through it line-by-line. Now we expect them to take it home and act on it, speeding up the transition to clean and safe renewable energy for all.”

CITI: ‘The Age Of Renewables Is Beginning’


The age of renewables is upon us, Citi says.

In a new note titled “The Age of Renewables is Beginning – A Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE),” Perspective, Citi’s alternative energy team led by Shar Pourreza, writes that we can expect across-the-board price decreases in solar and wind, which will continue to fuel the renewable energy generation boom.


A couple of months behind Goldman.

Word of the Day: Storage


Japan launches subsidies for lithium-ion battery storage

Japan has launched a subsidy programme to support the installation of lithium-ion battery-based stationary storage systems, offering to pay individuals and entities up to two-thirds of their purchase price.

Redflow targets 40% cut in battery storage costs by 2015

Redflow, a Brisbane-based developer of unique zinc-bromine “flow” batteries, says it is targeting a 40 per cent cut in the capital cost of energy storage systems by the end of next year.

Thinking big on energy storage can, and will, save money

The market for commercial-sized battery installations is set to grow in the US, with a number of case studies demonstrating that the financials for PV plus storage on a large scale can add up.

Solar storage market tipped to boom in Germany

Sales of residential solar storage systems in Germany are tipped to boom, with new figures projecting roughly 20-fold growth over the next four years.

Morgan Stanley: Tipping point nears for going off grid

Investment bank Morgan Stanley says it has been overwhelmed by the response to its recent analysis which suggested that the falling costs of both solar modules and battery storage presented a potential tipping point that would encourage huge numbers of homeowners and businesses in the US to go off grid.

Sure, they had heard that solar was proving popular, but had no idea of the size of the market that Morgan Stanley had identified. And while most had been sceptical of the potential impact of battery storage, they were intrigued by the potential cost falls that could be achieved by Tesla, the electric car company, and its ability to monitor power levels in batteries and schedule a battery swap in the case of depletion.

More importantly, the investors were particularly focused on how utilities might respond. Solar, they suggested, should be seen as an opportunity and utilities should look at ways of becoming enablers of these technologies, rather than barriers.

Mixed Greens: Most German solar installers offer storage

More than two-thirds of German PV installers are now offering energy storage options to their customers, and British and Italian counterparts are starting to do the same, according to a new report from EuPD Research. PV Tech reports that EuPD found Germany has the biggest uptake, because a percentage of storage system costs are paid as a direct subsidy to consumers. One third of Italian installers and a third of British installers surveyed said that they would begin offering storage this year. French installers did not intend to offer any more storage systems because electricity prices remained relatively low.


The ability to store solar produced electricity during the day, for use at night is the key enabling technology.


It also means that utility companies can’t buy cheap solar electricity when the sun is shining and then sell it more expensively at night back to the houses they bought from.



“Italy, Spain, & Germany Hit Commercial Solar Grid Parity In 2013”


The days when solar power was more expensive than other power sources are quickly passing us by. News out of Europe is that commercial solar power is now at grid parity in some major European countries.

A new study, the PV Grid Parity Monitor, conducted by consulting firm Eclareon, has found that commercial solar power hit grid parity in Italy, Germany, and Spain in 2013. Based on levelized cost of energy (LCOE) calculations, commercial solar now competes with retail electricity in these European countries.


The interesting thing is that parity has been achieved, once support tariffs have been deducted. Solar is therefore competing on level terms on price, and holding its own.

“How China’s renewables revolution has tipped the scales”


China’s energy revolution, which underpins its transformation into the world’s largest manufacturing system (the new “workshop of the world”), continues to astonish all observers and to terrify some. China is known widely as the world’s largest user and producer of coal, and the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is true. Less noticed has been the fact that China is also building the world’s largest renewable energy system – which by 2013 stood at just over 1 trillion kilowatt hours – already nearly as large as the combined total of electrical energy produced by the power systems of France and Germany.





Looking at the numbers, if you add up all China’s renewable generation in 2013 it was equal to its fossil fuel generation. 2013/14 is therefore the tipping point at which China begins to substitute fossil fuels with renewables.

“World Unprepared for Threats From Warmer Climate, Oxfam Says”


The world is “woefully unprepared” for the threat to food security from drought and flooding brought on by a warming climate, the development charity Oxfam said.

In addition to extreme weather patterns, more marginal shifts such as small increases in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns are already harming food production, Oxford, England-based Oxfam said in a report.

Survival of the Wisest


Animals losing migratory routes?

Devasting consequences of scarcity of ‘knowledgeable elders’

Small changes in a population may lead to dramatic consequences, like the disappearance of the migratory route of a species. A study carried out in collaboration with the SISSA has created a model of the behaviour of a group of individuals on the move (like a school of fish, a herd of sheep or a flock of birds, etc.) which, by changing a few simple parameters, reproduces the collective behaviour patterns observed in the wild. The model shows that small quantitative changes in the number of knowledgeable individuals and availability of food can lead to radical qualitative changes in the group’s behaviour.

“When the number of informed individuals falls below a certain level, or the strength of their determination to go in a certain direction falls below a certain threshold, the migratory pathway disappears abruptly.”

“Too many know-alls are useless,” ….. “In fact, above a certain number of informed individuals, the group performance does not improve so much as to justify the “cost” of their training. The best cost-benefit ratio is obtained by keeping the number of informed individuals above a certain level, provided they remain a minority of the whole population.”