Global New Energy To Boom Through 2040
The latest projections from the traditionally conservative International Energy Agency shows wind and solar taking over. From the International Energy Agency via YouTube
Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...
WEEKEND VIDEOS, November 18-19:
The latest projections from the traditionally conservative International Energy Agency shows wind and solar taking over. From the International Energy Agency via YouTube
Dubai has reached the “tipping point” and is turning from fossil fuels to solar. From General Electric via YouTube
From via YouTube
Norway’s Statoil just brought its 30 MW Hywind project online off Scotland’s coast. As the world's first utility-scale floating wind project, this stunning engineering achievement opens up a huge New Energy opportunity. From Statoil via YouTube
3 things we learned at this week’s U.N. climate change meeting
Joshua Busby, November 17, 2017 (Washington Post)
“…[Three key things emerged from the just-completed global climate conference. First, the] status quo is stable, for now…[After the president announced] in June that the United States would withdraw from the [international] agreement, COP23 took on added political significance…[But all] other parties, including China, India and the European Union, reaffirmed their commitments…[and a] host of U.S. governors, mayors and nonstate actors also struck a defiant pose…[Second, the] climate is still getting worse…[Emission reductions have reached] only about one-third of the level needed to be to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels…[And, third, it is] still not clear whether other actors can fill the gap left by the United States…[Commitments from Europe, China, and substate and nonstate actors will be tested and the world will] find out if they can succeed.” click here for more
World Energy Outlook: Seven key trends shaping the low-carbon economy
George Ogleby, 15 November 2017 (edie.net)
“…[The first of seven key trends identified in the just-released World Energy Outlook 2017 is that] global energy demand will rise by 30% … the equivalent of adding the energy needs of another China and India…[W]ithout improvements in energy efficiency, the projected rise in final energy usage would more than double…[The second is that despite broadly remaining flat in the past three years, global CO2 emissions are expected to increase slightly by 2040…[Renewable energy is set to become a cheaper form of new power generation that gas by the mid-2020s and] meet two-fifths of the increase in primary demand…
The growth of low-carbon energy sources and absence of large-scale carbon capture and storage will reportedly signify the ‘end of the boom years’ for coal, which is expected to decline by almost 15%...[T]he global car fleet will double to reach two billion…The global EV fleet is anticipated to surge from two million today to 280 million by 2040…Global oil demand is expected to continue to grow to around 105 million barrels a day by 2040, while natural gas use is projected to rise by 45% to 2040, with industrial demand becoming the largest area for growth…[And, finally, the] health impacts of global emissions will remain severe…Premature deaths from outdoor air pollution will rise globally from three million today to more than four million in 2040…” click here for more
World’s First Floating Wind Farm Powers Up off Scottish Coast
Abby Harvey, October 20, 2017 (POWER Magazine)
“…[Just off Scotland’s coast, the world’s first floating offshore wind farm] powered up October 18, delivering electricity to the Scottish grid…[The $2 billion, 30 MW] Hywind Scotland was developed by Norwegian oil company Statoil based on the results of an eight-year demonstration project located off the shore of Karmøy, Norway…[Each of the five 6-MW floating wind turbines] is 253 meters high, 78 meters of which are below the surface…
…[Each] weighs about 12,000 tonnes and is secured to the sea floor with 15 suction anchors, each of which is connected to the turbine by 2,400-meter-long chains…[The project will include] a 1-MWh lithium battery storage system…[The] turbines are suitable for water up to 800 meters deep, opening up areas previously inaccessible for offshore wind…[because conventional] offshore wind turbines must be embedded in the sea floor, limiting their use to relatively shallow areas near shore…[Up to 80% of the offshore wind resources are in deep waters (+60 meters) where traditional bottom fixed installations are not suitable, including the west coast of the U.S.]…” click here for more
Volkswagen Group earmarking $11.8 billion to develop, build China electric cars
November 15, 2017 (Reuters)
“…[The Volkswagen-Audi Group] plans to spend $11.8 billion by 2025 to develop and manufacture all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and] comply with upcoming stringent rules in China…[The company] intends to launch 15 of the so-called new energy vehicles (NEV) models over the next two to three years, and an additional 25 after 2025…China’s NEV production and sales quotas, which must be met by 2019, have prompted a flurry of electric car deals and new launches as automakers in China race to ensure they do not fall short. Automakers that do fall short will be required to buy credits. Volkswagen currently has around 10 NEVs already on the market in China, although all are imported models with limited sales volumes…[The company wants] to sell 400,000 new energy vehicles per year in China by 2020 and 1.5 million per year by 2025…[Some] will have a 400-600km driving range on a single full charge…” click here for more
An Inconvenient Sequel – the science, history, and politics of climate change; Al Gore’s new film is worth watching
John Abraham, 15 November 2017 (UK Guardian)
“…[Al Gore’s new movie An Inconvenient Sequel gets the science right] that humans are causing current climatic changes and the science is settled that we are observing these changes throughout the natural world…[It also shows] the misguided attacks on Al Gore, exclusively from conservatives in the United States…[that are the same attacks] climate scientists constantly have to endure…With respect to the science, this new movie focuses on actual implications of climate change…[but it isn’t] just more doom and gloom…[He also includes an] optimistic animation of how countries are installing clean energy…People are investing in clean energy because it makes economic sense. And this is the inflection point that makes the clean energy revolution unstoppable…” click here for more
World Energy Outlook 2017; Global shifts in the energy system
14 November 2017 (International Energy Agency)
“…[Global energy needs are expected to] rise more slowly than in the past but still expand by 30% between today and 2040. This is the equivalent of adding another China and India to today’s global demand…A global economy growing at an average rate of 3.4% per year, a population that expands from 7.4 billion today to more than 9 billion in 2040, and a process of urbanisation that adds a city the size of Shanghai to the world’s urban population every four months are key forces…Compared with the past twenty-five years, the way that the world meets its growing energy needs changes dramatically…with the lead now taken by natural gas, by the rapid rise of renewables and by energy efficiency…[New Energy will] capture two-thirds of global investment in power plants to 2040…[as electricity becomes] the rising force among worldwide end-uses of energy, making up 40% of the rise in final consumption to 2040 – the same share of growth that oil took for the last twenty-five years…” click here for more
Lessons from the oil and gas industry could power wind energy’s future
16 November 2017 (Washington Post)
“Innovation sometimes comes from surprising places. The leading edges of whale fins inspired the shape of wind turbine blades. A closer look at owl feathers has engineers thinking how to make blades quieter. And the way schools of fish move through currents sparked new arrays for maximizing how turbines interact with wind…Another unexpected source for innovation in the wind energy business has been the oil and gas industry…[T]here are broad similarities in how they become marketable power sources…Experienced energy companies can bring to bear the operating efficiency, environmental impact sensitivity and focus on safety that are key elements for growing an important alternative technology such as wind power…[Pre-planning is an] operations strategy borrowed from the oil and gas playbook. Efficient operations at remote locations require construction, maintenance and staff moves to be highly choreographed. In the oil and gas industry, shutting off the flow of oil for maintenance means shutting off supply, to the tune of potentially millions of barrels a day. Similarly, careful planning of maintenance is essential to wind operations…” click here for more
Transparent Solar Panels Slated To Innovate Green Energy; Researchers developed transparent solar panels that will turn every window into a power source: here’s how they did it.
Mariana Cid de Leon Ovalle, November 2017 (BOSS Magazine)
“…[T]ransparent solar panels have a way to go before making it to market…[but a new technology brings that closer. To date] the way a solar panel works has made it essentially impossible for transparent solar panels to exist…[because] photovoltaic solar cells produce energy by absorbing sunlight and turning it into electricity. This means that in order for a solar panel to work it needs to be visible enough to absorb light, which would not happen with transparent material because the light would just pass through it…[To realistically address this challenge, researchers changed] the way solar panels absorb light by creating what they call a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC)…[It] uses organic salts to absorb any infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of the solar spectrum. Once it harnesses infrared light, its luminescent glow is directed to the edge of the glass…[Thin strips of solar cells lining the edge of the glass [convert] solar energy to electricity…Transparent solar panels would be a total game changer…[In 2015, the TLSC’s efficiency was around 1 percent, which the team thinks can be scaled up to 10 percent once productions begins…” click here for more
Is renewable energy threatening power reliability? Reliability concerns are merely a 'Chicken Little argument' fossil generators use to advance their interests, analysts say
Herman K. Trabish, June 1, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The White House continues to use the Energy Department and the EPA to push its fossil fuel agenda.
Low and negative prices in wholesale power markets are the subject of intense scrutiny in the power sector today. Traditional generators warn that “around-market” energy policies like renewable portfolio standards and nuclear subsidies are depressing energy prices, threatening cost recovery for dispatchable coal and gas plants and potentially threatening reliability. The concerns were the subject of a widely-watched recent technical conference at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well as the subject of a controversial review of baseload power underway at the Department of Energy. Generators say something must be done to “level the playing field” for their fossil fuel plants, nuclear and renewable sources that receive direct subsidies.
A number of power market experts, however, say the arguments are overblown. There are, perhaps, 50 hours per year when prices are negative and, perhaps, another 50 hours per year when prices are $10,000/MWh, but the important focus is the average power price during the other 8660 hours per year when the power system is delivering, according to Michael Hogan, senior advisor to the Regulatory Assistance Project, who previously worked in gas generation. Brattle Group economist Hannes Pfeifenberger agreed, noting that the bigger problem is oversupply and low prices.. But far from a problem that needs a policy fix, the analysts say the negative prices are the result of an efficient market and too much inflexible capacity… click here for more
Colorado decoupling proposal unites Xcel, distributed energy advocates; Separating utility revenues from power sales would benefit efficiency and DERs, but some critics are worried about consumer costs
Herman K. Trabish, June 7, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The tension between New Energy advocates and consumer advocates over cost continues to be an obstacle. Regulators DO need to be reminded of the costs of remaking the power grid but they also must be reninded of WHY they need to remake the power system.
In the landmark 2016 Colorado distributed energy settlement between Xcel Energy and solar advocates, a small provision about something called “decoupling” went somewhat overlooked. The 26 stakeholder groups agreed to not oppose Xcel’s request for decoupling in a parallel proceeding when Xcel withdrew its request for proposed fixed charges. It is noteworthy that Xcel found decoupling worth the tradeoff. Interest in decoupling has been “on the rise,” according to Decoupling Policies: Options to Encourage Energy Efficiency Policies for Utilities from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories report. Only 12 electric utilities used it in 2009, but 24 used it in 2013 and it is now in place at 33 utilities, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Decoupling is a tool that breaks the link between how much energy a utility delivers and its revenues, eliminating the disincentive to the utility for using energy efficiency to reduce its sales. With decoupling, regulators authorize a utility that is facing revenue losses to reset rates between rate cases. The revenue loss can be due to weather, the economy, or shifts in customer behavior driven by technology advances or policy supporting energy efficiency and distributed generation. The rate reset either charges or credits customers when the utility’s actual revenues are less or more than the projection. Xcel’s proceeding filing listed a range reasons the utility wants decoupling, primarily because it aligns the company’s financial interests with customer preferences for distributed generation and efficiency… click here for more
Impact of small solar PV on the NSW wholesale electricity market
12 October 2017 (Energy Synapse)
Energy Synapse has been engaged by Solar Citizens Australia to perform an independent analytical study to investigate the impact of small solar PV systems on the NSW wholesale electricity market. As per the Service Agreement dated 20 June 2017, this impact has been estimated by constructing a counterfactual case where NSW has zero small solar installed and hence the electricity that would have been produced by small solar is instead serviced by existing centralised generators. This study considered a 12 month period from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2017. Small solar PV systems in NSW are estimated to have generated 1,540 GWh of electricity during this period.
Despite contributing only 2% to electricity generation, this study found that small solar PV systems put significant downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices in the NSW market. If there was no small solar installed in NSW, we estimate that the volume weighted average price of wholesale electricity would have been $29-44/MWh (33-50%) higher than the actual price of $88/MWh. This equates to a $2.2-3.3 billion cost saving to the NSW market (see Figure 1). Thus, each megawatt hour of power that was produced by small solar lowered wholesale costs by $1,400-2,200. This benefit is shared by all consumers, regardless of whether or not they have installed solar PV systems.
In addition to electricity pricing, small solar PV was also found to significantly reduce both the severity and length of peak demand. Severity is defined as the maximum five minute electricity demand on a given day. The length of peak demand is the number of hours in a given day that are within 5% of the maximum five minute demand. An examination of the top 10 demand days during the study period found that small solar reduced the severity of peak demand by an average of 432 MW or 3%. Even more significantly, small solar was found to reduce the length of peak demand by 58%, from an average of 5.3 hours to 2.2 hours.
Small solar in NSW Small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are defined as solar panel systems with a capacity of no more than 100 kW. They are generally found on the rooftops of homes and businesses, and occasionally as small ground mount installations. This study focuses on small solar PV only and does not consider the impact of solar systems greater than 100 kW.
This study considered a 12 month period from May 2016 to April 2017. During this period, it is estimated that small solar in New South Wales (NSW) generated about 1,540 GWh of electricity. This was approximately 2% of the state’s power needs. During peak production periods, small solar generated close to 960 MW of instantaneous power. Figure 2 shows the total monthly electricity generated from small solar PV systems in NSW over the study period. Small solar systems less than 10 kW represent approximately 80% of the installed capacity, and the remaining 20% are systems with a capacity between 10 kW and 100 kW.
How the wholesale electricity market works
The National Electricity Market (NEM) is classified as a real-time energy only market. The NEM is operated to balance the instantaneous demand and supply for electricity, while ensuring safety, reliability, and cost efficiency.
The dispatch process is complicated but to put it in very simple terms: Generators submit offers to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) for each five minute dispatch period, signalling how much electricity they are willing to provide and at what price. AEMO’s central dispatch process then orders these offers from least to most expensive. The least cost generators are then dispatched to serve the demand in the market. The marginal bid (i.e. the last/highest cost generator that is selected) sets the price for everyone in that dispatch period.
The NEM is currently financially settled on a 30 minute basis. Thus, the five minute dispatch prices are averaged to produce the 30 minute Trading Price. All Generators who were dispatched receive this Trading Price from AEMO, and in turn, all retailers pay this price for the electricity that their customers have consumed.
A notable recent event in the NEM is the closure of Hazelwood, a brown coal-fired power station in Victoria, at the end of March 2017. The exit of Hazelwood from the market is reflected in the data used in this study from late March to end of April 2017.
Relationship between small solar and the wholesale market
Small solar PV systems are not registered as generators in the wholesale market. Instead, their generation is essentially treated as negative demand. Therefore, if there was no small solar installed, there would be extra demand that would need to be met by centralised generators.
Below is a simple illustrated example. In this fictional example, there are three offers to generate electricity for the community. Generator 1 offers to supply 50 MW for $20/MWh. Generator 2 offers to supply 30 MW for $50/MWh. Generator 3 offers to supply 20 MW for $100/MWh. These offers are illustrated in Figure 3.
In the first scenario, no one in the community has small solar installed and the demand for electricity is 90 MW. According to the bid stack in Figure 3, all three generators will need to be dispatched to meet the demand. The marginal bid is the bid from Generator 3 and therefore all three generators will receive $100/MWh for their electricity.
In the second scenario, the community still needs 90 MW but some people have installed small solar PV systems, which are currently generating 20 MW. Even though the community still needs 90 MW, from the perspective of the wholesale market, this looks like only 70 MW, as 20 MW is being met locally.
If the bid stack is the same as in Figure 3, Generator 3 will not be needed in this scenario, and hence only Generators 1 and 2 are dispatched. Generator 2 is now the marginal bid, meaning that Generators 1 and 2 will both be paid $50/MWh.
In this example, small solar can be said to have reduced the wholesale price from $100/MWh to $50/MWh. This is known as the merit order effect. The reduction in prices from small solar will of course vary depending on how much electricity small solar is producing at any point in time and what the bid stack looks like at that time. The dispatch process in the NEM is far more complicated but this is the basic principle that has been employed in this analysis…
Scope and Assumptions… Impact of small solar on wholesale electricity prices…Impact of small solar on peak demand…
Under the assumptions of this study, outlined in Section 2 Scope and Assumptions, the following conclusions were made:
• Despite contributing only 2% to generation, small solar PV systems put significant downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices in NSW via the merit order effect. Over the 12 month study period, the volume weighted average price could have been 33-50% higher without small solar. This means that NSW consumers could have paid $2.2-$3.3 billion more in the wholesale component of electricity bills.
• Small solar PV systems continue to put significant downward pressure on wholesale prices in the late afternoon, particularly around 4pm, despite the generation from these systems declining during this time.
• Small solar PV systems significantly reduce the severity of peak electricity demand in NSW. An average reduction of 432 MW (3%) was found across the top 10 demand days over the study period.
• Small solar PV systems significantly reduce the length of peak electricity demand in NSW. An average reduction of 3.1 hours (58%) was found across the top 10 demand days.
Green Roofs To Fight Climate Change Green roofs to reduce the effects of climate change
November 13, 2017 PhysOrg)
“…[Between 512 acres and 1830 acres of green roofs in the city of Seville, Spain, could reduce the effects of climate change…[This between 11 and 40 percent of the buildings in the city…[According to The role of green roofs in climate change mitigation, there are two options for addressing climate change. One is attacking] at its origin, by eliminating or reducing the human factors that contribute to it (such as, reducing emissions, controlling pollution, etc.)…[The other is] developing strategies that allow for its effects to be reduced, such as…increasing green areas in cities…[by using] the tops of buildings as green roofs…The installation of these gardens would provide better insulation for the buildings, which would mean energy savings for their owners. A sufficient number of green roofs would result in an improvement in environmental conditions, contributing to a reducing pollution and cushioning the effects of climate warming…” click here for more
Solar Tariffs Threaten National Security Cracking down on foreign-made solar panels would make U.S. less secure
Norman R. Seip, November 13, 2017 (Washington Post)
“…The U.S. International Trade Commission is proposing tariffs on imported solar energy panels for Trump to approve. That [kind of protectionism] may be tempting for the president…[But it] would hurt our national security, cost veterans their jobs and increase power bills for everyday Americans…Over the past seven years, the price of solar has dropped by 70 percent, giving our military a cost-effective, reliable, flexible source of electricity for its operations. The tariffs proposed would significantly raise the cost of solar energy, jeopardizing the financial viability of solar projects at U.S. military bases across the globe and threatening our long-term security interests…The military is our country’s single largest energy consumer…[W]hen the military is forced to rely on a single source of fuel to power its global operations, the consequences can, quite literally, be devastating…[Also, the solar] sector employs 260,000 American workers, including 23,303 veterans…[An Energy Department program, Solar Ready Vets,] is connecting our nation’s highly skilled veterans to solar industry jobs. With tariffs, tens of thousands of these solar workers, including many veterans, will lose their job within months. The impact will continue for years…” click here for more
Unions Back Great Lakes Wind Electrical, steel workers lead show of support for the Icebreaker Wind project proposed for Lake Erie
James F. McCarty, November 13, 2017 (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"North America's first freshwater offshore wind farm scheduled to be constructed in Lake Erie next year is receiving a strong boost from electrical and steel union workers and entrepreneurs and business owners who support the project's job-creation and clean energy potential…Certification by the Ohio Power Siting Board is required before construction can begin on the $126 million, six-turbine wind farm planned for a site about eight to 10 miles northwest of Cleveland in Lake Erie…[T]he Lake Erie Energy Development Corp., the nonprofit development group that is guiding the project, will be monitoring and analyzing the potential impact of the turbines on birds, bats and fish…[LEEDCo] expects the environmental surveys will confirm their risk assessments showing that Icebreaker will have minimal adverse impact on fish and wildlife…[Birding groups who oppose the plan fear] the potential for high mortality rates due to collisions by birds and bats into the spinning fan blades…[The National Audubon Society is withholding] judgment until the wildlife surveys are completed…” click here for more
U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study: 2017 Current Trends, Best Practices, and Recommendations
September 2017 (The Solar Foundation)
The Solar Foundation’s 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is the first comprehensive research and baseline analysis of diversity in the solar industry. The data and analysis included in this report are the result of surveys and interviews conducted with both solar employers and employees.
The Solar Foundation’s National National Solar Jobs Census 2016 shows that there are more than 260,000 solar workers nationwide, and in 2016, one in out of every 50 new U.S. jobs were in solar. Although the industry has seen growth over the years, women make up only 28% of the solar workforce. This represents a four-percentage point increase from 2015, the largest annual jump to date. People of color still comprise relatively small percentages of the domestic solar workforce which has remained relatively stagnant over recent years. Today, 17% of U.S. solar workers are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are African American, 9% are Asian, and American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian each account for less than 1%. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces make up 9% of the industry’s workforce.
In this first quantitative and qualitative Solar Industry Diversity Study, which synthesizes data from both employers and employees, The Solar Foundationn sought to go beyond these high-level numbers and develop more granular insights that ensure a greater understanding of diversity in the industry so that change may occur over time.
Key Findings from the Employee Survey:
Positions By Race
• People of color are more likely to be represented at mid-level positions than at the Manager, Director, and President (MDP) level. This difference is particularly notable for African American respondents hold midlevel positions, while only 18% hold MDP level positions. • Women of color face the greatest discrepancy in promotion from mid-level positions to MDP level positions and the lowest likelihood of earning top-tier wages.
Wages By Gender And Race
• Men are significantly more likely to earn wages that fall in the highest wage bracket of $75 or more per hour. Thirty-six percent of white male respondents earn salaries in this wage bracket, compared to 28% of men of color and 21% of white women. Women of color are grossly excluded from the highest wage category, with only 4% of women of color earning wages above $75 per hour.
• Only 8% of African Americans indicated that they are “very satisfied” with their wage and position, and 42% indicated that they are “not at all satisfied.” For comparison, 52% of white respondents said that they are “very satisfied” with their wage and position, and only 6% of white respondents indicated that they are “not at all satisfied”.
• Women of color are least likely to be “very satisfied” with their current wage and position, with only 19% of women of color choosing this response (compared to 47% of men of color respondents, 60% of white male respondents, and 45% of white female respondents).
• All women and people of color are less likely to earn executive level wages compared to white men.
• In terms of career growth, 50% of all respondents indicated that they have successfully moved up the career ladder and continue to do so. However, women are significantly more likely to respond that they have not been successful in moving up the career ladder (12% of women vs 4% of men).
• Only 8% of African American respondents feel that they have successfully moved up the career ladder, and 50% think they have not been successful in moving up in their careers and feel stuck in their current positions. This differs greatly from 52% of white respondents and 58% of Asian respondents that feel they have successfully moved up the career ladder.
• Overall, women are less likely than men to serve as mentors or sponsors. 62% of men responded that they have served as mentors or sponsors versus 38% of women. The gaps in mentorships between men and women reduce after reaching MDP level positions. Sixty-four percent of female respondents at MDP level serve as mentors or sponsors, five percent more than 59% of men serving as mentors in MDP positions.
Tracking And Promoting Diversity
• Just a little over a quarter of solar employers formally track employee demographics and diversity. 47% of employer respondents do not formally track employee diversity and 25% do not know the answer and/or refused to answer.
• In terms of specific programs to promote advancement and diversity, 41% of solar employer respondents have mentorship/sponsorship programs. Only 14% have a strategy in place to increase female representation, and 7% have a strategy in place to increase the representation of people of color.
• Although the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) has made a commitment to hire 50,000 veterans by 2020, veteran hiring strategies have not spread across the wider industry. Just over 1 in 10 companies have a strategy to increase the representation of veterans at their firms.
• Solar companies most commonly prefer to post jobs on sites like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder. Following this, word of mouth and online media are noted as the next preferred methods for recruiting. While these methods are often the most popular and have a wide reach, they may miss the opportunity in attracting candidates who may not be in the network.
In addition to an in-depth dive into the above findings, this report underscores the importance of diversity for employee well-being, the strength of the workforce, and a company’s bottom line. The study concludes with key recommendations and five action items that solar companies can implement over the next year. These action items include: creating a company-wide diversity pledge, establishing a formal diversity tracking and measurement tool, broadening recruitment efforts, implementing a less biased job application process, and establishing diversity training programs.
The 2017 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study is the first of its kind, comprehensive baseline analysis of diversity in the solar industry. The study is based on statistically significant data gathered from surveys and interviews with both solar employers and employees, and provides a close examination of the representation and experiences of women, people of color, and to the extent possible, Hispanics or Latinos, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community in the solar industry.
The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2016 shows that there are more than 260,000 solar workers nationwide, and in 2016, one in out of every 50 new U.S. jobs were in solar. Although the industry has seen growth over the years, women make up only 28% of the solar workforce. This represents a four-percentage point increase from 2015, the largest annual jump to date. People of color still comprise relatively small percentages of the domestic solar workforce which has remained relatively stagnant over recent years. Today, 17% of U.S. solar workers are Hispanic or Latino, 7% are African American, 9% are Asian, and American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian each account for less than 1%. Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces make up 9% of the industry’s workforce. The Solar Foundation has long believed what renowned management consultant and educator Peter Drucker once wrote: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Thus, in addition to the annual National Solar Jobs Census, in 2015 The Solar Foundation issued a report on diversity and career pathways for disadvantaged populations in the state of Maryland. Long interested in going beyond anecdotes, myths, and assumptions, this first Solar Industry Diversity Study establishes a clear baseline for the U.S. and answers the following questions:
• What is the current landscape of diversity in the solar industry? How does it compare to other industries?
• What roles and responsibilities do individuals from diverse backgrounds hold in the solar industry?
• What are the examples of current policies, programs, and activities firms are employing to increase hiring of women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community?
• What are the best practices? How can the solar industry work toward increasing diversity in its workforce?
This report aims to go beyond the numbers and display a comprehensive understanding of diversity practices in the industry, as well as the experiences of men, women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community.
The following sections detail the findings from our surveys and lay out a set of best practices, recommendations, and action items companies might undertake to strengthen their diversity efforts. This report also includes five case studies of solar companies and organizations that are working toward making their workforce more inclusive. While the findings from our survey may not come as a surprise to some people, based on national trends on the topic of diversity and general observations of the solar industry workforce, it is our intent that the ideas presented here lead to meaningful actions, resulting in an increasingly diverse solar workforce. As substantial evidence suggests, diversity is positive for employee well-being, strength of the workforce, and a company’s bottom line.
The Case for Diversity
From information technology to utilities to academia, there is an ongoing push to increase workplace diversity of women, people of color, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ community to more accurately reflect the composition of the U.S. population.
Diversity in the American workplace has been steadily increasing over the years. Currently, women and people of color make up 47% and 34% of the American labor force, respectively.2 This is a dramatic increase over previous years. In the 1950s, for example, women accounted for only 29.6% of the labor force.3 Despite this increase in female representation, it is not yet seen across managerial and executive levels. Women still account for only 4.2% of CEO positions. In fact, at the large firms listed in the S&P 1500, female CEOs are outnumbered by CEOs named John alone.4 This discrepancy exists for people of color as well. Within the history of Fortune 500 companies, there have only been 15 African American CEOs; four of which hold CEO positions today.5 Of these, Ursula Burns of Xerox, who stepped down in 2016, is the only African American woman to have ever served as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
This lack of diversity has proven counter-productive as studies show companies with more diverse employees often fare better in both employee satisfaction and profitability. One study shows that companies with more diverse executive boards see 53% higher returns on equity compared to companies that score in the bottom quartile for diversity.6 Other studies show that having women in the senior management ranks of a company increases profitability.7 In 2016, research by the Peterson Institute for International Economics of 22,000 publicly-traded companies in 91 countries showed that companies with at least a third of their executive positions filled by women enjoyed, on average, an extra 6% in profits. Improvements in profits could be attributed to the inclusion of a range of skill sets and perspectives, resulting in better decision-making. Moreover, increased diversity allows companies to recruit, promote, and retain top talent resulting in a positive bottom line.
Similarly, other studies show that companies that rank at the top for racial and ethnic diversity overall are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns compared to their counterparts.9 A 2015 study found that organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns, while organizations with significant racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns.
Diversity in the workplace also fosters innovation and creativity, and consequently increases a company’s market share.11 Having a diverse workforce can introduce a company to new markets. According to HIP Investor Inc., companies that have a diverse workforce understand the unique characteristics of their customers and build products and services around those customers, leading to a greater diversification of revenues.12 In addition, employees from varied backgrounds can provide unique insights into the customer base with authentic reflections on cultural nuances, thereby giving companies a competitive edge. The evidence for diversity and inclusion resulting in emotional well-being is significant as well. Based on the Do Something Different program, an employee at a highly inclusive firm is four times more likely to report a healthy sense of well-being compared to one working at a firm with low levels of inclusiveness.13 A more diverse staff also helps a company attract and retain employees. A survey completed by the job site Glassdoor shows that 67% of respondents rated a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
Solar and other clean energy industries play an important role in the promotion of inclusiveness across the U.S. economy. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), along with groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar, to name a few, recognize the value of solar and clean energy in achieving environmental and economic justice for people of color and disadvantaged communities, not just on the consumer side, but also as a provider. According to the NAACP, African Americans, Native Americans, and low-income Americans are more likely to face health threats caused by power plant facilities and spend a larger share of their income on energy. At the same time, they are underrepresented in the energy industry workforce, severely limiting their ability to influence decisions ultimately impacting their communities. To address this inequality, institutions at all levels of governance are called to enact policy changes that work to reduce energy costs while expanding employment and business opportunities for people of color and low-income individuals.
Similar efforts by the Greenlining Institute work toward providing communities of color a voice on energy issues by ensuring that employment policies are fair and non-discriminatory and increase access to contracting opportunities for people of color, women, and veteran-owned businesses…
Sponge Cities Can Help The Climate Fight China is Building 30 “Sponge Cities” to Soften the Blow of Climate Change
Chelsea Gohd, November 12, 2017 (Futurism)
“...One consequence of our warming world is increasingly frequent and more severe flooding. This is especially problematic in growing, crowded cities...[China’s Sponge City Initiative will, by 2020, make 80 percent of urban areas in China able to] re-use at least 70 percent of their rainwater...Strategies include using permeable surfaces and green (meaning that it incorporates plant-life) infrastructure. The concept has so much potential that other cities around the world, like in Berlin, are looking to become more spongy...Increased natural disasters will be a consequence of climate change that threatens all countries around the world...China is taking a firm stand against [life-threatening] flooding with this initiative…From advanced drainage systems to roadways capable of absorbing water and creative planting, sponge cities are getting increasingly innovative in how they might be able to better fend off treacherous floodwaters...[But this is] just a band-aid for a much bigger problem…[U]nless we make radical, global changes, humanity will feel more and more severe effects of climate change...” click here for more
Surf’s Down – Wave Power Travails Whatever happened to wave power?
Dave Elliot, November 11, 2017 (Environmental Research Web)
“…The average rated capacity of wave energy devices over the past three years (2015-2017) was 70% lower than (in) the period between 2000 and 2014. In contrast tidal stream saw a 124% increase in the average rated capacity during the same period…Many wave devices have been tested and some are still under test, but it has proved harder to extract energy from the often turbulent wave environment than from the relatively calm undersea tidal flows. There have also been funding and program management issues, [according to Examining the Effectiveness of support for UK Wave Energy innovation since 2000: Lost at Sea or a new wave of innovation?. It found] that a major institutional barrier was ‘the overwhelming emphasis on full-scale device demonstration, with a view to ‘fast tracking’ progress to commercial array-scale projects before the underpinning early- to mid-stage R&D had been performed…Underpinning these developments was a poor understanding of the scale of the innovation challenge and the associated time and funds required…” click here for more
Powering Homes With Car Batteries How Your Electric Car Could Help Power Your Home
Thomas Hornigold, November 12, 2017 (Singularity Hub)
“..[F]ossil-fuel lobbyists and renewable energy skeptics [argue the sun and wind are not] always available...[but] it’s generally acknowledged we’re going to need better batteries to achieve a goal of 100 percent renewable energy...[B]attery research and development and manufacturing must be vastly improved before this is a truly scalable solution...[One concern is the installation cost but] batteries may have a specific advantage...[Many households will have access to a ready-made battery in their electric cars] which could be used to help power the home...[This] matches up very well with the way that many people use their cars... [Less than a third of [a car’s] battery power could provide all the energy your home needs for a full day…[T]his is not a catch-all solution. The key word for the electric grid of the future should be flexibility—an infrastructure that is capable of receiving electricity from a multitude of sources, spread out over a variety of different locations, meeting intermittent supply and demand needs…” click here for more