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Here’s Why Al Gore Is Optimistic About the Fight Against Climate Change

Al Gore has something of a reputation as the Cassandra of climate change. But amid the doom and gloom—melting glaciers, ever-rising carbon levels, accelerating species extinction—the former vice president has been positively sunny of late.

Why? Solar energy. “There is surprising—even shocking—good news: Our ability to convert sunshine into usable energy has become much cheaper far more rapidly than anyone had predicted,” Gore wrote recently in Rolling Stone. “By 2020—as the scale of deployments grows and the costs continue to decline—more than 80 percent of the world’s people will live in regions where solar will be competitive with electricity from other sources.”

Now a new report substantiates Gore’s optimism. Research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts renewable energy will account for 49 percent of the world’s power by 2030, with another 6 percent coming from carbon-free nuclear power plants. Solar, wind, and other emissions-free sources will account for 60 percent of the 5,579 gigawatts of new energy capacity expected to be installed between now and 2030, representing 65 percent of the $7.7 trillion that will be invested.

Gore is right that solar is driving the shift away from fossil fuels, thanks to plummeting prices for photovoltaic panels and the fact that solar fuel—sunshine—is free.

“A small-scale solar revolution will take place over the next 16 years thanks to increasingly attractive economics in both developed and developing countries, attracting the largest single share of cumulative investment over 2013–26,” the report states.

Solar will outpace wind as an energy source, with photovoltaic power accounting for an estimated 18 percent of worldwide energy capacity, compared to 12 percent for wind. That’s not surprising given that a solar panel can be put on just about any home or building where the sun shines. Erecting a 100-foot-tall wind turbine in your backyard usually isn’t an option.

In the United States, solar is projected to supply 10 percent of energy capacity, up from 1 percent today. In Germany, though, solar and wind will account for a whopping 52 percent of all power generated by 2030, according to the BNEF estimate.

These are all projections, of course, based on the existing pipeline of projects and national policies and involving a certain amount of guesswork.

The big wild card is what happens in developing nations like China and India, where energy demand is expected to skyrocket with a burgeoning middle class. Energy consumption will grow to an estimated 115 percent in China and 200 percent in India over the next 16 years. (Falling birth rates in the West mean that energy use will drop 2 percent in Japan, for instance, and 0.2 percent in Germany.)

Whether the world kicks its reliance on coal-fired electricity will depend in large part on what kind of energy choices China and India make. China installed a record amount of solar capacity last year and has set ambitious goals for ramping up renewable energy production.

But old ways die hard. While the Obama administration has proposed regulations to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, on the other hand, is considering financing a 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power station in India.

The good news, though, is that individuals around the world can make a difference with their personal power choices. According to BNEF, much of the solar energy to be generated over the next 16 years will come from solar panels installed on residential roofs. More

 

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Lebanon, Hezbollah Cut off from Iran

Juan Cole writes ‘With the alleged fall to the Islamic State of Iraq, and [in] Syria of Qa’im on Saturday, and of Talafar a few days ago, the border between Iraq and Syria has now been effectively erased.

A new country exists, stretching from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Aleppo.

The first thing that occurred to me on the fall of Qa’im is that Iran no longer has its land bridge to Lebanon. I suppose it could get much of the way there through Kurdish territory, but ISIS could ambush the convoys when they came into Arab Syria. Since Iran has expended a good deal of treasure and blood to keep Bashar al-Assad in power so as to maintain that land bridge, it surely will not easily accept being blocked by ISIS. Without Iranian shipments of rockets and other munitions, Lebanon’s Hizbullah would rapidly decline in importance, and south Lebanon would be open again to potential Israeli occupation. I’d say, we can expect a Shiite counter-strike to maintain the truck routes to Damascus.

He goes on to say ‘Syrian jets bombed eastern positions of ISIS near the Iraqi border, perhaps signalling a likely alliance of Damascus and Baghdad to put the Sunni radical genie back in the bottle’.

From a petro-political perspective I find myself asking the following questions;

  • What will be the reaction of Saudi Arabia with the Sunni forces in Iraq having both Damascus and Baghdad allied against them?
  • What will Iran now do to support Bashar al-Assad?
  • What will Iran do to keep their supply route to Hezbollah open?

The answer to these three questions will inform the price of oil going forward. According to Reuters Libya’s oil output has sunk back to a current 1.16 million barrels per day of oil due to disruption at fields and terminals, a senior industry source told stated on Tuesday. Iran put OPEC on notice of its plans to raise output swiftly with the help of foreign investors immediately after any lifting of sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Iran could increase oil exports by 500,000 barrels per day immediately after any lifting of sanctions. “Very quickly we can increase by half a million and after a couple of months we can increase it to 700,000 barrels per day,” he told reporters ahead of OPEC’s Wednesday meeting. He said Iran could pump 4 million bpd in less than three months after any lifting of restrictions. When sanctions may be lifted is the unknown factor.

For those of us living on Small Island Dveloping States (SIDS) and other states dependant on fossil fuel, the path towards alternative energy, i.e. solar, wind, OTEC and ocean current technologies looks more attractive with every passing day. Editor

 

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Island Nations Build Ocean Thermal Power to Reduce Dependency on Fossil Fuels

Seawater is proving to be one way to combat climate change by reducing fossil fuel dependency for some ocean island nations. Taking a page from land-based geothermal power which uses the coolness below ground in heat exchange systems, islands are using the thermal energy gradient in a column of seawater to generate electricity.

The technology is known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or OTEC. A French defense contractor, DCNS Group, is the latest to deploy it in the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. It plans a second project in Martinique which is expected to come online in 2015.

Lockheed Martin, the American defense contractor, has been working with OTEC for over a decade. When I previously wrote about this technology I described apilot project Lockheed was building in Southern China. The company currently plans to have an OTEC power plant operating offshore in Hawaii.

Why offshore? Because OTEC projects need to be on or near the water. The Lockheed and DCNS technology above the water looks very much like a marine production oil platform (see picture below).

Because the ocean is a great energy storage medium, in fact, the largest on the planet, we can take advantage of the temperature gradient that occurs in a column of water and use it to our advantage. Surface water can be as warm as 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) off islands like Reunion and Martinique. At depths of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), however, that water remains a constant 4-5 degrees Celsius (39-41 Fahrenheit). Go deeper and you approach freezing temperatures or below freezing. The difference in temperature between surface and deep water is what makes OTEC work.

OTEC technology is built using a membrane that serves as a heat exchanger. The warm surface water is exposed to a liquid with a low boiling point. DCNS uses ammonia. When it gasifies the ammonia drives a turbine which is attached to a gemerator. The second part of the OTEC technology involves drawing the cold from below to act as a coolant. This condenses the ammonia back to a liquid state where the process can then be repeated.

Key to OTEC's successful deployment is the finding of island and coastal locations that currently experience high energy costs because fossil fuels need to be imported for energy generation. The second key is locations where there is a sufficiently high temperature gradient in nearby ocean and seas. Japan, China, the Bahamas, Curacao, South Korea and Hawaii are current locations where OTEC is under development or being considered. For countries looking to lower their carbon footprint with all the right keys in place, OTEC may prove to be a strong renewable energy play. More

 

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Seychelles Grid Connected Rooftop Photovoltaic Systems

The Seychelles, like many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is almost 100% reliant on imported oil for energy needs, which is a significant economic and budgetary cost, and is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the country (based on emissions during the shipping process and in the burning of fuel to produce electricity).

Given that Seychelles is a tropical country receiving large amounts of sunshine, with an average 6.9 hours of sunshine per day, there is great potential to replace at least some of the current oil-generated (and polluting) electricity with solar energy systems. One opportunity with high economic, financial and environmental viability is the implementation of rooftop grid-connected PV systems. Current barriers to a more widespread utilization of PV systems in the Seychelles include market barriers, institutional and regulartory barriers, and technical barriers.

The objective of the project is to increase the use of PV systems as a sustainable means of generating electricity, thereby significantly reducing reliance on fossil fuel, through pilot projects for rooftop PV systems on all of the main and selected smaller islands, of the Seychelles. The identified barriers to the deployment, diffusion and transfer of solar PV systems will be addressed through the following project components: a) establishing a strategic policy and legal framework, b) strengthening technology support and delivery systems, and c) creating pilot PV projects.

More: FTP PDF document

Access the Project Documents through the Global Environment Facility Site

 

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International Year of SIDS Launched

 

The International Year of SIDS was launched this morning by PM of Samoa, President of General Assembly, UN Secretary General, President of Nauru and USG of UNSIDS Conference. The event was emceed by Ambassador Jumeau of Seychelles. A great start to build momentum towards UNSIDS Conference in August 2014 focused on genuine and durable partnerships.

 

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Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era

Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era offers market-based, actionable solutions integrating transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. Built on Rocky Mountain Institute's 30 years of research and collaboration in all four sectors, Reinventing Fire maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions. This would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—in addition to the value of avoiding fossil fuels' huge but uncounted external costs.

Dig Deeper With Our Series of Core Sector Presentations:

View the Reinventing Fire Transporation video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1icbBaBNCBM

View the Reinventing Fire Buildings video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIi4aDCDrO8

View the Reinventing Fire Industry video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXcYkIMTGgU

 

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Many Strong Voices: What we do

Global engagement in climate negotiations & IPCC

Many Strong Voices uses the Unted Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations to spread the word on climate change and its effects on SIDS and the Arctic while raising awareness about the rapid changes happening in these regions.

A storm off the Seychelles

Lobbying and awareness raising

Over the years, MSV and its partners have organized side events, lobbied and developed language for official documents and draft texts, held exhibitions of works by student photographers as part of the Portraits of Resilience project. Highlights include:

  • Getting human rights language into the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA)
  • Holding successful side events, including one on Food Security and Human Rights in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States, which was reported in the MSV blog. Speakers included Patricia Cochran (head of the Alaska Native Science Commission), Ronny Jumeau (Seychelles Ambassador to the United Nations), Kirt Ejesaik (Vice-president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council – Canada), and Margreet Wewerinke (a member of the Climate Change Human Rights Working Group).
  • Portraits of Resilience exhibitions have been held at negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 and Durban in 2011. The project has been featured by UNEP and on numerous web sites, including Google Earth.
  • Outreach and communications are important parts of MSV activities at UNFCCC events. Besides the activities mentioned above, these include displays, posters, participation in activities such as Development and Climate Days, and media interviews. Social media play a major role in MSV communications at the COP with information circulating on MSV blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

Observer at IPCC

MSV has recently become an observer at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will use this position to support efforts by partners in the Arctic, SIDS and other regions to support science and research from some of the most vulnerable regions being included in the next Assessment Report in 2015.

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