VERGE Conference Update

The Conference Coordinator wanted to share some exciting updates that were recently added to the VERGE Hawaii conference program agenda:
  • Seven new program tracks — Resilience and Security, Models for Market Transformation, Distributed Energy Systems, Grid-Scale Power, Decarbonizing Transportation, Building Efficiency and Sustainable Tourism.
  • Nearly 70 speakers confirmed to date, including: Dennis McGinn, Asst. Sec. of Energy, Installations & Environment for the U.S. Navy; Brian Janous, Dir. of Energy Strategy for Microsoft; Gary Bulson, Sr. Engineer for Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa; Jacqueline Kozak-Thiel, CSO for the City of Fort Collins; Dave Bartlett, CTO for Current, powered by GE; and Dawn Lippert, CEO of Energy Excelerator (recently rebranded as Elemental Excelerator).
  • Broader and deeper session topics that cover pressing issues like inclusion, energy-efficiency finance, community resilience, climate strategies and much more.
If you’re considering participating in VERGE Hawaii this June, the Conference Coordinator encourages you to register before the Early-Bird rates expire on May  19 to save more than 20% off on-site rates.


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VERGE Hawaii: Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit

Dates and location: June 20-22, 2017 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, HI

VERGE Hawaii (June 20-22 in Honolulu) will explore groundbreaking clean energy policies, models, technologies and infrastructure and identify immediate actions needed to deliver on Hawaii’s mandate to reach 100% renewable energy in the electricity sector by 2045. In partnership with the Hawaii State Energy Office, VERGE Hawaii will convene 900+ clean energy stakeholders working to build a sustainable future in Hawaii and beyond. Join us and save 10% with code VH17HREA

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VERGE Hawaii – Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit

Aloha All,

As an a friend of HREA, we can offer you a special HREA %10 discount to the upcoming June  Hawaii – Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit n Honolulu.  Just click on the link below.


Hope to see you there,

The Webmaster

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Community Solar

From the Grist:

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grist-3 grist-4 grist-5 grist-6 grist-7 grist-8

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Carribean Island Goes 100%

From Renewable Energy World:





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Pacific Biodiesel Wins Green Business Award

Congratulations to our proud member Pacific Biodiesel!

Best Green Business

Pacific Biodiesel

Owners: Robert and Kelly King
Nominator: Blue Planet Foundation


Big Island Biodiesel staff work in the control room at the facility near Keaau.Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Biodiesel

In the mid-1990s, Robert and Kelly King saw a problem: Massive amounts of used cooking oil were being dumped into the Central Maui Landfill, creating serious environmental and health concerns. Robert, who owned King Diesel at the time, proposed converting the cooking oil into biodiesel to fuel diesel engines.

Kelly and Robert King speak at Big Island Biodiesel’s opening in July 2012.Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Biodiesel

“The vision started with us asking, ‘How are we going to keep this gunky oil out of the landfill, and what can we do with it to make it into something useful?’ ” Kelly King says.

When the Kings began Pacific Biodiesel in 1996, the startup operated at the landfill and had just one employee. Today, the company has developed 12 facilities across the mainland and Japan. Its latest venture, Big Island Biodiesel, launched in 2012.

In the early days, few people understood biodiesel.

“Ten years ago, I’d be in a room and ask if anyone knew what biodiesel was, and maybe one person out of 10 would raise their hand,” Kelly King explains. “Today, probably eight out of 10 would raise their hands.”

Pacific Biodiesel’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond producing a green product. The company promotes a community-based model that reduces the demand for fossil fuels, has created hundreds of local jobs and paved the way toward energy security.

“Everything we do is modeled to stay local,” says Kelly King. “The folks who come to the biodiesel pump feel so good about supporting a local product that’s also good for the environment.”

Extended Horizons, a Maui scuba dive company, has woven sustainable practices into its operations, including converting its office to use solar energy, recycling company-wide and installing moorings to protect coral. In 2006, it converted its dive boat to run completely on biodiesel.

“From an environmental point of view, it just makes sense,” says Extended Horizons CEO Erik Stein. “People think it’s not cost effective, but the price is on par with conventional fuel, and it brings customers in our door. So it makes sense from a business standpoint as well.”

Kelly King adds, “There are at least half-a-dozen motives for people and companies who use biodiesel – environmental, economical, supporting local. … We want to be a catalyst for people to do the right thing.”


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Solar Prices – Going Where?

This just in from Renewable Energy World:

The Aggressive Solar Pricing U-Turn that Was Impossible to Make

Paula Mints, SPV Market Research/Strategies Unlimited 
October 14, 2013

Traditionally the solar industry has tracked its progress along the learning curve by observing price behavior. This methodology has led to premature announcements of success under the headings of grid parity and the PV industry’s version of Moore’s Law. The price function is more complex and because it is market-based, assumptions of success in this regard were not only premature, but led to the unfortunate conclusion that price declines were indicative of true learning.

Figure 1 (below) depicts PV industry average prices (ASPs) and shipments from 2002 through 2012, and the equilibrium price (the point at which demand equals supply) is indicated.  As costs are not included in Figure 1, the potential of the equilibrium point being misleading is high.

solar price 1

Figure 1: PV Industry Cell/Module ASPs and Shipments 

Price strategy is the result of various considerations such as entry pricing (typically aggressive), the availability of substitutes (defensive pricing), inventory (shedding), and premium pricing, to name a few.  Aggressive pricing strategies typically count on the ability to make a U-turn at some point to profitable pricing (once competitors are trounced).  The PV industry with its many substitutes (including entrenched conventional energy), the perception of being too expensive and promises of grid parity is a bad choice for an aggressive pricing strategy.  The illusion of success via rapid price declines led governments (the bodies that legislate incentives) to assume that PV was becoming inexpensive enough so that support (subsidies and incentives) could be removed.

A better way to represent PV industry progress is by using costs either instead of prices or along with prices.  Figure 2 depicts ASPs, average costs and shipments from 2002 through 2012.  In Figure 2 the periods during which cost was higher than price are apparent.  Note that the equilibrium price is below the cost of production.

solar price 2

Figure 2: PV Industry Cell/Module ASPs, Costs and Shipments 

During the period beginning in 2002 and ending in 2012, PV cell/module ASPs declined by compound average 14 percent while costs declined by compound average 10 percent.  The 10 percent decline in costs represents significant progress.  Unfortunately, when the true progress represented by the 10 percent cost decline is compared with the compound average 14 percent decline in ASPs, the reason for the current consolidation becomes clear.

Moreover, too low prices cannot be explained away as the result of over capacity.  The solar industry has historically been in an over-capacity situation. Aggressive pricing is not new to the solar industry, but the recent period has had a pernicious effect on it in that a higher degree of progress was assumed and expectations for continued significant decreases in price were set. This pricing is a critical factor that led the industry down a slippery slope from which it was impossible to make a U-Turn and recover.

Figure 3 offers PV industry ASPs, costs and the cost/price delta. 

solar price 3

Figure 3: PV Industry Cell/Module ASPs, Costs and the Cost/Price Delta 

Low polysilicon prices are giving PV cell/module manufactures a bit of a break currently, but true recovery will take time and will require prices to hover in holding pattern as costs continue to decline.  Since polysilicon prices will not stay low forever, strategies with this expectation are bound to fail eventually and perhaps spectacularly.  Currently, too low prices are threatening participants all along the PV value chain as well as participants in the CSP and CPV industries.

The goal should be a situation where costs decrease at a faster rate than prices leaving enough margin for a healthy industry to continue progressing.

Lead image: U-turn sign via Shutterstock

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“No batteries for you!”

This just in from the Grist:

California utilities say, “No batteries for you!”

By John Upton

No Batteries

No batteries allowed.

California has the nation’s biggest “net metering” program, allowing solar panel and wind turbine owners to pump their excess electrons onto their local power grid so they can be sold to their neighbors by a utility company.

But in some cases the state’s utilities are refusing to allow customers to take part in the program if they hook up a battery to their renewable energy system. In others, the utilities will allow solar plus battery systems — but only if customers submit to costly double-metering upgrades.

The companies claim battery owners could game the system by pumping dirty power through their pristine power lines instead of the renewable variety for which the program was designed. Critics, on the other hand, accuse the utility companies of putting up roadblocks to prevent the renewables renaissance from making the utilities and the dirty electricity that they sell obsolete.

“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” Matthew Sperling told Bloomberg after he spent $30,000 installing eight panels and eight batteries atop his Santa Barbara home. He says Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid:

Power-market regulations and the industry’s ability to monitor flows from solar systems haven’t kept pace with the technology, said Gary Stern, director of regulatory policy at Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.

“Our rules are not really caught up to effectively include issues with energy storage,” Stern said in a phone interview from Rosemead, California.

The company doesn’t want to “discourage solar” and is working with regulators to come up with “reasonable policies” for battery-storage systems, said Vanessa McGrady, a Southern California Edison spokeswoman.

State regulators are aware of the problem and are working on guidance to offer both solar installers and utilities, according to Terrie Prosper, a spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco.

“There have been some complaints from developers in Southern California Edison’s territory that Edison has inconsistently applied the benefits of net energy metering to energy-storage projects,” Prosper said in an e-mail. The commission is working with all three utilities “to provide formal direction on these issues in the coming months.”

Until this is resolved, Californians who own solar panels and battery packs have two main options: disconnect the battery, or bulk up on hardware and go entirely off the (electric) grid.


Battery-Stored Solar Power Sparks Backlash From Utilities, Bloomberg.  John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles toFacebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:


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U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions

This in recently from the New York Times:

U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions


Published: September 27, 2013

STOCKHOLM — The world’s top climate scientists on Friday formally embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases for the first time, establishing a target level at which humanity must stop spewing them into the atmosphere or face irreversible climatic changes. They warned that the target is likely to be exceeded in a matter of decades unless steps are taken soon to reduce emissions.

Unveiling the latest United Nations assessment of climate science, the experts cited a litany of changes that were already under way, warned that they were likely to accelerate and expressed virtual certainty that human activity is the main cause. “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time,” said Thomas F. Stocker, co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sponsored group of scientists that produced the report. “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.”

The panel, in issuing its most definitive assessment yet of the risks of human-caused warming, hoped to give impetus to international negotiations toward a new climate treaty, which have languished in recent years in a swamp of technical and political disputes. The group made clear that time was not on the planet’s side if emissions continued unchecked.

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” the report said. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

The new report is a 36-page summary for world leaders of a 900-page report that is to be released next week on the physical science of climate change. That will be followed by additional reports in 2014 on the most likely impacts and on possible steps to limit the damage. A draft of the summary leaked last month, and the final version did not change greatly, though it was edited for clarity.

Going well beyond its four previous analyses of the emissions problem, the panel endorsed a “carbon budget” for humanity — a limit on the amount of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, that can be produced by industrial activities and the clearing of forests. No more than one trillion metric tons of carbon could be burned and the resulting gases released into the atmosphere, the panel found, if planetary warming is to be kept below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the level of preindustrial times. That temperature is a target above which scientists believe the most dangerous effects of climate change would begin to occur.

Just over a half-trillion tons have already been burned since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and at the rate energy consumption is growing, the trillionth ton will be burned sometime around 2040, according to calculations by Myles R. Allen, a scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the authors of the new report. More than three trillion tons of carbon are still left in the ground as fossil fuels.

Once the trillion-ton budget is exhausted, companies that wanted to keep burning fossil fuels would have to come up with ways to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground. In the United States, the Obama administration is moving forward with rules that would essentially require such technology, which is likely to be costly, for any future coal-burning power plants; the president’s Republican opponents have accused him of waging a “war on coal.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a worldwide committee of hundreds of scientists that issues major reports every five or six years, advising governments on the latest knowledge on climate change.

The group has now issued five major reports since 1990, each of them finding greater certainty that the world is warming and greater likelihood that human activity is the chief cause. The new report finds a 95 to 100 percent chance that most of the warming of recent decades is human-caused, up from the 90 to 100 percent chance cited in the last report, in 2007.

But the new document also acknowledges that climate science still contains uncertainties, including the likely magnitude of the warming for a given level of emissions, the rate at which the ocean will rise, and the likelihood that plants and animals will be driven to extinction. The scientists emphasized, however, that those uncertainties cut in both directions and the only way to limit the risk is to limit emissions.

Climate-skeptic organizations assailed the new report as alarmist even before it was published.

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago organization, issued a document last week saying that any additional global warming would likely be limited to a few tenths of a degree and that this “would not represent a climate crisis.”

One issue much cited by the climate doubters is the slowdown in global warming that has occurred over the past 15 years. The report acknowledged that it was not fully understood, but said such pauses had occurred in the past and the natural variability of climate was a likely explanation.

“People think that global warming means every year is going to be warmer than the year before,” said Gerald A. Meehl, an American scientist who helped write the report. “It’s more like a stair-step kind of thing.”

Climate scientists not involved in writing the new report said the authors had made a series of cautious choices in their assessment of the scientific evidence. Regarding sea level rise, for instance, they gave the first firm estimates ever contained in an intergovernmental panel report, declaring that if emissions continued at a rapid pace, the rise by the end of the 21st century could be as much as three feet. They threw out a string of published papers suggesting a worst-case rise closer to five feet.

Similarly, the authors went out of their way to include recent papers suggesting that the earth might be less sensitive to carbon dioxide emissions than previously thought, even though serious questions have been raised about the validity of those estimates.

The new report lowered the bottom end of the range of potential warming that could be expected to occur over the long term if the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere were to double, reversing a decision that the panel made in the last report and restoring a scientific consensus that had prevailed from 1979 to 2007. Six years ago, that range was reported as 3.6 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit; the new range is 2.7 to 8.1 degrees.

In Washington, President Obama’s science adviser, John P. Holdren, cited increased scientific confidence “that the kinds of harm already being experienced from climate change will continue to worsen unless and until comprehensive and vigorous action to reduce emissions is undertaken worldwide.”

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, spoke to delegates at the meeting on Friday by video link, declaring his intention to call a meeting of heads of state in 2014 to push such a treaty forward. The last such meeting, in Copenhagen in 2009, ended in disarray.

Note: A version of this article appears in print on September 28, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: U.N. Climate Panel Seeks Ceiling on Global Carbon Emissions.

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Fracking Study – 2

This in from EDF:

EDF defends its controversial study of methane leaks from fracking wells

By Sam Parry

I am not a scientist and I don’t play one on the blogosphere. My background is in grassroots organizing and communications. And for the last decade, I have been honored beyond words to be part of Environmental Defense Fund. I get to wake up every morning thinking of ways to advocate for my two young kids and their generation’s future by mobilizing public support for solutions to the world’s biggest environmental threats.

And no threat is more urgent than climate change, a fact that has inspired EDF to make solving the climate crisis our No. 1 top priority issue for as long as I’ve been here.

Right now, one of the most important climate concerns is the issue of fugitive emissions — specifically methane leaking from the natural gas supply chain. As most people who follow the climate debate already know, methane is a major climate pollutant 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. So, tracking methane leaks and venting is a very big deal — if we get this wrong, climate consequences could be devastating.

The problem is that right now there is very little hard data to go on to say with any confidence what the extent of the natural gas industry’s methane leakage problem is, or even where in the supply chain methane is leaking.

The old maxim that you can’t manage what you don’t measure inspired EDF to look for ways to advance the dataset. So, we got to work (it’s what we do). And we partnered with the University of Texas and an independent scientific advisory panel to begin compiling hard data from hundreds of wells across the country.

Let me pause a second to acknowledge that yes, we also worked with natural gas companies on this study. And, yes, I understand that for some that fact alone casts a shadow over the results of this scientific study. But there is a very good reason we did so — it was the only way to get access to the wells to collect direct data. Without the participation and cooperation from these companies, getting the data would have been impossible.

This week, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the first of 16 EDF-coordinated studies examining the problem. The main takeaway is that some natural gas drilling operators are successfully deploying technologies and strategies, called green completion, to minimize methane leakage from production. They are doing this because a new EPA regulation says they have to. This should be inspiring news — technology and smart regulation can work to solve a major environmental challenge.

But — and this is very important — those green completion requirements need to be extended to shale oil and combined oil-and-gas wells, which are not covered by EPA’s New Source Performance Standards. And emissions for other production activities — liquids unloading, pneumatics, compressors, etc. – came in way higher than previous estimates.

So, there’s PLENTY of work to be done. That’s the takeaway. That is what the data show. Now, we, as activists and organizers, have a mobilizing mantra – we have work to do and we have hard data to help drive the debate and set clear goals.

I understand that some environmental allies are already reacting skeptically to this first study. I’ve been around progressive politics and environmental activists long enough to know that there are always disagreements — about strategy, about policies, about when and with whom to cut deals, about the best ways or organize and build movements. It’s par for the course.

But the climate crisis is far too serious to let ourselves get distracted. I encourage people who care about the climate crisis to stay focused on the task at hand. If there are specific concerns about the science behind the study, let’s air them out and let’s continue to learn from each other. As I said, I’m not a scientist, but I know enough about science to understand that it is an iterative process and there are always lessons to learn.

As a climate activist and organizer, my hope is that we can all use the data from this and the next 15 reports to come together and advocate for the strongest possible standards and to promote the use of effective environmental technologies along the natural gas supply chain. That’s our mission, that’s our goal. And of course reducing methane emissions isn’t enough. We have to double down on carbon pollution — which is why the new EPA power plant rules are so important.

But that’s for another day.

One more thing: We at EDF realize how sensitive the natural gas issue is for millions of Americans. I can’t count the number of times our team has responded to natural gas questions from members and activists. And our natural gas team well understands the pain, frustration, and powerlessness many families feel when the natural gas industry comes to town and plays hardball with a community’s rights to breathe clean air, drink safe water, and even to simply participate in decisions about what happens in their backyards.

This isn’t some academic exercise for us. Protecting communities and our shared environment is the singular reason EDF has been working so hard to get the rules right on natural gas extraction and to hold the industry accountable. And that’s why we are engaged in these studies – to build the data and science and to inform the debate and guide policymakers. That is our only motive in this work.

I once heard a quote from environmental activist Nick Carter who said (paraphrasing): “If you see a problem and no one else is working on it, you’re elected.” That makes a lot of sense to me. At EDF, methane leakage is one of those problems. Getting the rules in place to accelerate clean, renewable energy is another. For more on that work, go to

Sam Parry is the director of membership at Environmental Defense Fund.


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