Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Utilities Feeling Rooftop Solar Heat Start Fighting Back

If you wonder why America’s utilities are rattled by the explosive growth in rooftop solar -- and are pushing back -- William Walker has a story for you.

Ewa Beach Oahu.

A flip-flop wearing Walker stands in his driveway pointing to a ubiquitous neighborhood feature – solar panels on the roofs of five of six houses nearby. He lives in Ewa Beach, a development on the sultry leeward coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu built on land cleared of sugar cane fields.

Shade is scarce and residents here call their homes “hot boxes,” requiring almost round-the-clock air conditioning. Hawaii, which imports pricey oil to power its electricity grid, has the highest utility rates in the nation -- at 37 cents a kilowatt-hour, they’re more than double California and triple the national average.

With bills for 1,600 square foot houses like these running as high as $400 a month, solar is seen as less a green statement than an economic no-brainer given state and federal tax credits for as much as 65 percent of installation costs. Almost every day since Walker and his wife Mi Chong moved in last April, solar installers came rapping on the door, hawking a rooftop system.

They finally bought one: an 18-panel, $35,000 installation producing 5.9 kilowatts of power financed for $305 a month. It would be connected to the grid under a system known as net metering that essentially lets residents deduct the value of their solar-produced electricity from their power bill and even be paid for electricity in excess of that.

Paying for Itself

Walker estimates his bill would have dropped most months to an $18 service charge -- offsetting that $305 loan payment. Anticipating his power bills would continue to rise, he figured the system could pay for itself in as little as five years; his electricity after that would be free.

That is until his utility, a subsidiary of Honolulu-based Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc., told the Walkers they couldn’t connect their system to the grid. They aren’t alone. Solar installers here estimate that hundreds if not thousands of the state’s residents are being put in solar limbo by a virtual moratorium on new connections in many parts of the company’s service area.

America's Power Machine

The reason, according to the Hawaiian Electric Co.: so many Hawaiians are stampeding to solar that circuits may become oversaturated, causing voltage spikes, damaging appliances, electronics and even the utility’s equipment. The company needs more time to study the matter.

The Walkers, who say they got no advance notice of the shutdown, are now paying both their power bill and their monthly rooftop loan. HECO, as the utility is known, recently told them they will eventually be allowed to join the grid without having to pay for expensive equipment upgrades. It still can’t say when.

‘Profit Motivation’

“Everyone is on board with getting solar and HECO has now put up a wall,” Walker said. “The only thing we can see is profit motivation.”

Spurred by a drop in panel prices, robust government subsidies and a technology that no longer appears experimental to mainstream America, rooftop photovoltaic solar is bursting out everywhere. About 200,000 U.S. homes and businesses added rooftop solar in the past two years alone – about 3 gigawatts of power and enough to replace four or five conventionally-sized coal plants.

The U.S. set a single-quarter record with 31,000 residential rooftop installations in the three months through Sept. 30. Solar represented 72 percent of all power added in the U.S. in October.

Connection Slowdown

Utilities, seeing a threat to about $360 billion a year in power sales and a challenge to the hegemony of the conventional grid, are feeling the heat and fighting back. HECO, despite criticism from Hawaii’s solar industry, denies the moratorium is anything more than an honest effort to address the technical challenges of integrating the solar flooding onto its grid.

The slowdown comes in a state where 9 percent of the utility’s residential customers on Oahu are already generating most of their power from the sun and where connections have doubled yearly since 2008.

In California, where solar already powers the equivalent of 626,000 homes, utilities continue to aggressively push for grid fees that would add about $120 a year to rooftop users’ bills and, solar advocates say, slow down solar adoptions.

Similar skirmishes have broken out in as many as a dozen of the 43 states that have adopted net-metering policies as part of their push to promote renewable energy. In Colorado, Xcel Energy Inc. has proposed cutting the payments it makes for excess power generated by customers by about half, because it says higher payouts result in an unfair subsidy to solar users.

Arizona Protesters

It faces a fight from solar advocates who are circulating a petition that has attracted 30,000 signers.

In Arizona, 1,000 protesters last month swarmed the state capital while local and national solar advocates lobbied against an effort by utility Arizona Public Service to impose a $50 monthly fee on new solar adopters. Solar advocates said the charge would have crippled the state’s 10,000-worker solar industry and thwarted the desire of residents to have a choice in the power consumption.

State regulators, after two days of often contentious debate, voted to allow the state’s largest utility to charge customers about $4.90 a month for solar connections after Dec. 31 -- less than 10 percent of what it was asking for.

Falling Short

Don Brandt, chief executive officer of APS and its parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp., panned the deal, saying that while it nods to the impact that net metering is having on utility operations and revenues, it “falls well short of protecting the interests of the 1 million residential customers who do not have solar panels.”

Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity Corp., said it was “crazy for a utility to charge for services they didn’t deliver.

‘‘Why not tax energy efficient homes, or small homes that consume less than average?’’ said Rive, whose company is the nation’s second-largest rooftop solar installer. ‘‘APS just doesn’t want to lose control.” More


New funding for marine parks expansion

Computer programmers are designing a smartphone app to allow boaters to assist with enforcement across an expanded network of marine parks.

The proposals, which include dramatically expanding the no-fishing zones around the Cayman Islands, will go through another round of public consultation this year, according to Environment Minister Wayne Panton.

Mr. Panton gave his personal support to the plan, saying Cayman’s current marine parks were “no longer enough” to protect the islands’ natural resources from the threat of overfishing and development.

His comments came as the U.K. based Darwin initiative announced more than $100,000 in new funding to research and address concerns raised in an earlier study.

This includes developing phone and iPad apps that will allow people to report poaching and other marine violations in real time.

Experts at Bangor University in Wales are working on the technology, which will also allow boaters to use the GPS function on their phone to identify if they are in a marine protected area and to check what regulations apply.

Department of Environment officers will also be equipped with tablets that allow them to log in to licensing databases from the field, saving time and paperwork.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, said the technology would enable the department to do more with the same resources, enabling them to police a much wider marine protected area without a significant increase in manpower.

Researchers will also look at the impact of lionfish on Cayman’s reefs, including a study to discover if the invasive fish has adapted its behavior to hide from divers. The lionfish research will ultimately impact how culling is managed.

Further work is also being done on aggregation sites, used by various species of fish, most famously the Nassau grouper, for annual spawning events. Scientists believe many different species could be using the same sites year-round, making them “the maternity wards” of the ocean and potentially worthy of additional protection.

They also want to take a closer look at recreational fishing habits in Cayman.

The marine parks plan proposes to include concessionary zones with boat ramps for fisherman at various points adjacent to the no-take areas.

Dr. John Turner, a senior lecturer at Bangor University and Darwin Initiative project partner, said, “When you have a marine protected area, there are going to be more fish, there are going to be larger fish. These concessionary areas would allow people to benefit from the overspill.

“We need to know more about how sustainable this would be. We are very interested in asking what fish people expect to be able to catch in these zones. We need to know what people are fishing now and how they may be impacted by the marine reserve around.”

Cayman was hailed as a world leader in environmental protection when it first introduced marine parks in 1986. The proposal to expand the protected zones, which came from an initial study also funded by the Darwin Initiative, has been discussed for several years, with some protest, particularly from fishermen who fear a threat to their livelihood.

Among the proposals are expanding the no-take zones – from which no marine life can be extracted – from about 15 percent of the narrow marine shelf around the islands to between 40 and 50 percent of the shelf and extending them from shore to a depth of 200 feet, compared to the current depth of 80 feet.

Mr. Panton said he supported an expansion of marine parks. But he said the new government needed the opportunity to consult with the public before going ahead.

The “post-project” phase of the research will be completed by September, at which point Mr. Panton hopes to be able to bring a proposal to the Legislative Assembly.

He added, “The current marine parks have provided benefits but they are no longer enough to counter the growing threats from overfishing, coastal development, invasive species, disease of corals and other marine organisms as well as the impact of climate change.”

He said Cayman Islands’ population had doubled and there had been significant development, as well as an increase in visitors, since the parks were first introduced 28 years ago.

“The legal and regulatory framework is no longer sufficient. It needs to be enhanced, it needs to be improved,” he said. More


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Management of marine resources requires radical change, according to FAO

The management of marine resources requires a new strategy to safeguard world food security while promoting sustainable development, says the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) CEO, Jose Graziano da Silva.

Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General

"Time for a sea change in the management of the oceans has come," said the FAO official during a meeting of high-level policy makers held in UAE.

Graziano da Silva stressed that it is necessary to make profound changes in the way we manage and use the planet marine resources, and it is important to ensure the welfare of coastal and island countries.

"We cannot keep using marine and aquatic resources as if they were endless. And we cannot keep using our oceans as a waste pool," he said in the context of the Blue Economy Summit, held between 19 and 20 January in Abu Dhabi.

The head of the FAO said that ocean health is seriously threatened by several factors, among which he mentioned pollution, overfishing, weather changes and rising sea levels caused by climate change.

On average, about 17 per cent of the animal protein consumed worldwide comes from fisheries-aquaculture sector. However, in many small island developing States that figure is much higher.

According to FAO, the livelihoods of 12 per cent of the world's population depend on fisheries and aquaculture, mainly in developing countries.

Nevertheless, experts estimate that 30 per cent of global fish stocks are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion.

Several studies by FAO indicate that economic losses for marine fishing industry due to mismanagement, inefficiency and fishing represent a USD 50 billion annually.

Moreover, scientists warn that climate change poses new challenges to the people who depend on the oceans, by changing the distribution and productivity of marine and freshwater species, and altering food webs.

Although in the past 30 years about 80 agreements were signed to address threats to the oceans and their resources, Graziano da Silva emphasized that "We not only need to commit, we need to act."

Since Rio +20 Conference in 2012, the model of "blue economy" emphasizes conservation and sustainable management, and aims to ensure that small island developing States and costal countries in the developing world benefit equitably from their marine resources.

Therefore, the FAO is promoting a new Blue Growth Initiative, through which the organization will support countries in the development and implementation of agendas on blue economy and growth. More


Saturday, January 18, 2014

A new voice for a determined island nation - Seychelles

(Forimmediaterelease.net) Seychelles will have a new voice in the world`s media with the development of an online communications project this year. As 2014 kicks off under the banner International Year of Small Island Developing States: Seychelles – A Determined Island Nation, the Department of Information is developing a project to provide the first Seychelles online news service called the “Seychelles News Agency” this year.

The Seychelles News Agency is tasked with the mission to create awareness of the Seychelles and its people in the global community, and position Seychelles regionally and internationally as a Small Island Developing State with a unique experience of social, economic, and cultural development.The Seychelles News Agency will have a website with an online text and photo news service in English and French which will be set up and managed by two co-Editors, Rassin Vannier and Sharon Uranie, who are professional Seychellois journalists with extensive experience in Seychelles news reporting and international news writing.They will be working with freelance journalists in Seychelles and the Indian Ocean region to provide the latest news and information on Seychelles to the world with the aim of becoming the leader in Seychelles online news distribution and cultural diplomacy. The project was initiated by the Honorary Consul for Seychelles in Bulgaria, Mr. Maxim Behar, who owns and manages a leading PR and social media corporation, M3 Communications Group, Inc. He presented the idea to Seychelles President James Michel and offered to make the concept and software development a donation to the Seychelles during his visit to Seychelles in November 2013. The Seychelles News Agency Co-editors and M3 Communications Group are currently developing the project, which is expected to be completed by April.

MEDIA CONTACT: seychellesupdatednews@googlemail.com

Developing countries still waiting for a global response to Climate Change: ACP

BRUSSELS, Belgium ---- As president of the Council of Ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states, Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had the perfect forum to voice his concerns about the effects climate change has had on his island nation.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Tuilaepa, who chaired a two-day ministerial conference in Brussels, earlier his month said that climate change was responsible for the frequency of natural disasters that have befallen Samoa in recent years.

“This is the view shared by most, although sadly we are still waiting for a concerted global response that would at least halt climate change,” he told delegates. Samoa will host the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

He said that the extreme danger climate change, ocean acidification and environmental degradation posed to the world could be overstated, adding that “the consequences of this to our island states and all our ACP membership would be devastating” as some observers think “the very existence of low-lying island countries could be in jeopardy.”

Tuilaepa said that assistance from partners such as the European Union (EU) was urgently needed by all ACP countries to support efforts to develop climate resilience through mitigation and adaptation measures "if the sustainability of our development efforts and long-term prospects are to have any meaning."

Jamaica’s ambassador to the ACP, Vilma Kathleen McNish, told IPS that the Caribbean has had to deal with the impact of climate change and it was “obviously a huge challenge.”

“For some of us … it is existential. We rely so much on our coastline in terms of tourism, which is one of our major economic livelihoods,” she said.

She said that the impact of climate change was evident in the Caribbean with sea levels rising and the resultant depletion of fish stocks. There were also increased occurrences of hurricanes. She said that this disrupted the economy of the Caribbean and the livelihoods of its people.

“So for us, climate change at the individual and regional level is a major challenge.”

She said that the SIDS summit in Samoa would be critical for the Caribbean and other developing countries because it would look not only at climate change but at various issues that affect small island developing states leading up to the post 2015 development agenda.

“Most countries in the region [Caribbean] are now putting in place policies geared towards adaptation and mitigation. We still believe, however, that the international community has a responsibility to support our countries in our development,” McNish said.

South Africa’s ambassador Mxolisi Nkosi told IPS that the ACP’s engagement with the EU on this and other matters should be based on the principle of equality, non-conditionality, non-interference and mutual benefit.

“We should call on the international community to commit to limiting a global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius in a legal instrument, and agree to a common global goal on adaptation as a way to recognise that, despite its local and context specific needs, adaptation is a global responsibility,” Nkosi said.

Tuilaepa said that Samoa, like other SIDS, remained highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

In the 1990s the Pacific Island nation suffered two devastating cyclones that wiped off industries and businesses that contributed 50 percent of GDP. Tuilaepa said this devastation reversed “economic progress by more than a decade”.

In September 2009, the island was struck by a deadly tsunami that killed more than 140 people and left thousands homeless. In December 2012, another cyclone struck, killing people and wreaking havoc on the infrastructure and the economy.

“For a small island country with a small population, the losses and setbacks from these natural disasters are hardly bearable,” Tuilaepa told IPS.

He said while he was grateful to the EU and other developmental partners for coming to the aid of the island, “Samoa’s experience is repeated in all our Pacific Island countries and, I am sure, right across the ACP membership.”

Last month, ACP countries agreed on a common position paper on the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Warsaw, Poland.

The 79-member grouping said adaptation to climate change and mobilising funding from a variety of sources were immediate and urgent priorities for ACP member states that should be addressed in a comprehensive manner at the global level with the same level of priority as mitigation. More


Monday, January 13, 2014

Time for the Cayman Islands to go green with alternative energy

Could the days of natural gas be over in Cayman? Billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is looking to wean ten islands off the fossil fuel fix.

“I am having people come to me and say we cannot afford to pay our mortgage and electrical bill this month. We have to decide – do we pay our light bill or our mortgage,” said Nicholas Robson of Cayman Institute.

Environment Minister Wayne Panton tells Cayman 27 he and Finance Minister Hon. Marco Archer will attend next month’s (February) summit in the BVI. More

Cayman 27′s Tammi Sulliman reports.


The Cayman Islands have the opportunity to transition off of fossil fuels and on to alternative energy


The Cayman Islands have the opportunity to transition off of fossil fuels and on to alternative energy via the Ten Island Challenge. This is due to Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Carbon War Room, a charity founded by him and based in London.

The Ten Island Challenge was first mentioned at the Rio+20 Summit, held in June 2012 where Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, shared the stage with Sir Richard Branson and Jose Maria Figueres, President of the Carbon War Room, and threw down a challenge for Carbon War Room to work with ten Caribbean islands to accelerate their transition off fossil fuels. She heightened the challenge by adding that those ten islands should be signed on by 2014.

The Carbon War Room took on that challenge and is currently working to bring ten islands onboard to become Smart Island Economies. Aruba was the first island to sign up and they now have St. Lucia, Grenada, and the British Virgin Islands committed, and are in conversations with others. Hopefully, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda will be the next islands to sign up.

The Cayman Island’s government has been invited to attend and hopefully will have a delegation traveling to the British Virgin Islands early next month. Bermuda has aslo been invited and we are awaiting their response. More


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Seychelles- a determined Island Nation

Dear people of Seychelles, Dear residents of Seychelles, Dear visitors to our country, A new year, a new chapter in our history. A new page that we all have to write together, guided by the experience of the preceding years, motivated by our tenacity to do more and better, inspired by our resilience and the values that unite us as a nation.

A small nation that is young and vulnerable. But we are a nation that is strong because of our patriotism, our solidarity, our resoluteness and courage to face challenges with enthusiasm and open mind. With intelligence and without fear. A small nation that has ambitions. It dares to realize its dreams in spite of the constraints it faces. A small nation that has reached an envious stage in its development and prosperity, always striving for an even better future for its people.

The start of this new year is a fitting occasion to look back at our past and draw the lessons that will enable us to chart our future. It has not always been easy. We encountered difficulties and obstacles. There were times when we made some errors. But we have learned our lessons. All this is behind us. We now have to look at the future.

History tells us that we are a resilient people. A nation forged by the flames of struggle and tenacity. This has made us strong and bold. Always ready to face the unknown. Always ready to take our own destiny and future in our own hands. No one else will do it for us. 2014 is the start of a new future. A future that we all help to build daily, in the spirit of sharing and solidarity. In a spirit of national unity and patriotism. In the spirit of the New Seychelles that unceasingly requires our love, our responsibility and our hard work in order to lead it toward the better horizon.

In all decisions we take, in all we do, the future of our homeland is more important than all else. The future of the New Seychelles comes first.

Small islands conjure up images of paradise on earth. They are small; they are beautiful! But small is also vulnerable. We are vulnerable to a host of threats ranging from climate change, to the plundering of the resources of our Blue Economy, piracy, trans-border organized crime. The challenges are many. But we, the inhabitants of one of the most beautiful small island states, have not allowed these to deter us from fulfilling our vision. It is a vision of a better world -- one of hope, justice, peace and opportunities. It is a vision constructed on our principles. A vision for the New Seychelles. A vision which has propelled us to the forefront of the fight for the cause of small island developing states.

For many years Seychelles has championed the cause of small island states. Our leadership role has long been recognised. And this year, our efforts and vision, along with those of others, have been vindicated. 2014 has been designated by the United Nations as the "International Year of Small Island Developing States".

The theme finds singular resonance with us. That is why we have adopted it as our national theme, while situating it in our own context. International Year of Small Island Developing States: Seychelles – A Determined Island Nation is our theme of the year 2014.

We are a truly determined island state. We are conscious of our weaknesses, our constraints … But we are a resilient small nation. A small nation that has proved its resolve and resilience on countless occasions in the face of vicissitudes. We have faced them, we have overcome them against all odds, and we have emerged stronger and bolder.

The New Seychelles is a reality. It is a modern and progressive edifice that continues to inspire us. We continue to strive for it. The New Seychelles is a small island state that is determined, courageous. Its eyes cast on the future, with plenty of hope and optimism. Our achievements are well documented and recognized worldwide. This makes us proud and happy. In our endeavour to bring more prosperity, greater wellbeing and a better standard of living to our people, we should never neglect the values that bind us together as a Creole nation. Our moral and spiritual values. The values and traditions we have inherited from our forebears. Values that define us as a nation but which, sadly enough, are in danger of being eroded by the social scourges which continue to afflict us.

It is for this reason that during this International Year of Small Island Developing States, we, as a determined island nation, have to continue to put emphasis on our diverse programs of education, re-education, cultural appreciation, rehabilitation, apprenticeship, etc. These programs should never lose their relevance, their raison d’ĂȘtre. Sustainable development cannot materialize without an ethos of hard work. It cannot happen without national unity and social harmony. Sustainable development thrives on respect -- for oneself and for one’s neighbor -- on responsibility, determination and hard work.

Let us in this Year of Small Island Developing States show to the whole world our mettle and determination. And let us cultivate and reinforce the values that define our small island nation.

In the face of all the challenges, opportunities and choices that the year 2014 will bring, let us make the resolution to live in peace, in harmony and in solidarity. Let us continue to remain steadfast in the building of our New Seychelles.

It gives me great pleasure in wishing all Seychellois, including our compatriots overseas, all residents and all visitors to our country, a Prosperous and Happy New Year 2014!

May God continue to bless our beautiful small country and protect us. Thank you.