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NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

hApPpY hApPy dAY to Abigail!!!

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While the OFFICE of President remains in highest regard at NewEnergyNews, this administration's position on climate change makes it impossible to regard THIS president with respect. Below is the NewEnergyNews theme song until 2020.

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • TODAY’S STUDY: How The Residential Solar Market Works
  • QUICK NEWS, October 22: Things To Do About Climate Change; New Energy Can Be A Political Winner
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Colbert On The President’s Climate Science
  • Weekend Video: Will Miami Sink?
  • Weekend Video: Cleveland Rocks 100% New Energy
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Heritage Treasures Threatened By Climate Change
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Global New Energy Demand Enablers
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-China Leading The New Energy Transition
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, October 18:

  • TTTA Thursday-A Diet For The Planet
  • TTTA Thursday-100% New Energy Is The Only Option Left
  • TTTA Thursday- Beach Home Real Estate In A Time Of Climate Change
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: La-La Land Plans For 100% New Energy
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: All About South Carolina’s Nuclear Woes
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    Founding Editor Herman K. Trabish

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • TODAY AT NewEnergyNews, October 23:

  • TODAY’S STUDY: The Cost Of Sea Level Rise Comes Home
  • QUICK NEWS, October 23: Why Eating Meat Defeats Beating Climate Change; California Opens Up To Ocean Wind

    Tuesday, October 23, 2018

    TODAY’S STUDY: The Cost Of Sea Level Rise Comes Home

    Underwater; Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (Union of Concerned Scientists)

    Introduction

    Along nearly 13,000 miles of coastline of the contiguous United States, hundreds of thousands of buildings lie in the path of rising seas: schools, hospitals, churches, factories, homes, and businesses. Long before these properties and infrastructure are permanently underwater, millions of Americans living in coastal communities will face more frequent flooding, as the tides inch higher and reach farther inland. As sea levels rise, persistent high-tide flooding of homes, yards, roads, and business districts will begin to render properties effectively unlivable, and neighborhoods—even whole communities— financially unattractive and potentially unviable.

    Yet property values in most coastal real estate markets do not currently reflect this risk. And most homeowners, communities, and investors are not aware of the financial losses they may soon face.

    BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF PROPERTY AT RISK IN THE COMING DECADES

    In the coming decades, the consequences of rising seas will strain many coastal real estate markets—abruptly or gradually, but some eventually to the point of collapse—with potential reverberations throughout the national economy. And with the inevitability of ever-higher seas, these are not devaluations from which damaged real estate markets will recover.

    This analysis estimates the number of homes and commercial properties throughout the coastal United States that will be put at risk from chronic, disruptive flooding—defined as flooding that occurs 26 times per year or more (Dahl et al. 2017; Spanger-Siegfried et al. 2017)—in the coming decades. It brings together data on coastal regions that are projected to experience this type of flooding, and data on existing properties provided by Zillow*, the online real estate company. Our findings indicate that sea level rise, driven primarily by climate change and even absent heavy rains or storms, puts more than 300,000 of today’s homes and commercial properties in the contiguous United States at risk of chronic, disruptive flooding within the next 30 years. The cumulative current value of the properties that will be at risk by 2045 is roughly $136 billion. In those 30 years—encompassing the terms of a typical mortgage taken out today—what will the properties be worth if they are flooding on a chronic basis? And how will the broader coastal real estate market fare in the long term? Our analysis finds that by the end of the 21st century nearly 2.5 million residential and commercial properties, collectively valued at $1.07 trillion today, will be at risk of chronic flooding.

    Many experts in risk assessment, credit ratings, real estate markets, insurance markets, and flood policy (dozens of whom were consulted for this report), recognize that the risk of sea level rise to coastal real estate is significant and growing— and that for the most part, financial markets do not currently account for these risks.

    RISKS BELOW THE RADAR

    In many cases, the risks are masked by short-sighted government policies, market incentives, and public and private investments that prop up business-as-usual choices and fail to account for sea level rise (McNamara et al. 2015). Even in places such as Miami-Dade County, which is already experiencing disruptive tidal flooding, the real estate market is only just beginning to adjust (Tampa Bay Times 2017; Corum 2016; Urbina 2016; Spanger-Siegfried, Fitzpatrick, and Dahl 2014). This disconnect can be attributed to a lack of information about risks; subsidized, myopic development choices; and the continued attraction of seaside property and vibrant coastal economies (Keenan, Hill, and Gumber 2018). Other smaller, less in-demand locations, such as in coastal Louisiana and the eastern shore of Maryland, are already facing a chronic flooding reckoning (Spanger-Siegfried et al. 2017).

    Properties will not be the only things to flood. Roads, bridges, power plants, airports, ports, public buildings, military bases, and other critical infrastructure along the coast also face the risk of chronic inundation. The direct costs of replacing, repairing, strengthening, or relocating infrastructure are not captured in our analysis, nor do we account for the indirect costs of flooded infrastructure, including disruptions to commerce and daily life (Neumann, Price, and Chinowsky 2015; NCA 2014; Ayyub and Kearney 2012). Taken together, these costs of chronic flooding of our coastal built environment—both property and infrastructure—could have staggering economic impacts.

    A NARROWING WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE BETTER CHOICES

    Even when these risks are understood, there are seldom easy solutions. As chronic flooding increases in coastal communities, a tricky cycle begins: investments in adaptation measures could be made to potentially forestall the flooding of properties and the subsequent decline in the tax base. But for communities to maintain credit-worthiness and access to the capital needed for these investments, they would increasingly need to show that they have already made smart decisions and investments to adapt and build resilience (Moody’s Investors Services 2017; Walsh 2017; S&P 2016). Falling behind in this cycle, or lacking the means to invest in the first place, could have grave fiscal consequences.

    ’ There are many stakeholders in the coastal real estate market, from individual homeowners and business owners, to lenders, taxpayers, developers, insurers, and investors. Whether a property market crashes, or property values steadily decline in response to worsening flooding, these stakeholders are poised to sustain large collective losses. Many coastal residents, whether they own homes or not, will be affected as shrinking property tax bases prevent cities and towns from fully funding schools, emergency services, and infrastructure repairs, or as property tax rates rise for all residents to compensate for those properties devalued by flood risks.

    As a nation, we have a narrowing window of opportunity to make better choices and ameliorate risks. The actual physical risks from sea level rise are growing and risk perceptions in the marketplace can shift abruptly, both of which leave communities vulnerable to economic hardships that many will not be able to cope with on their own. This creates a national imperative to prepare individuals and brace our communities and economies for an irreversible decline in the value of many coastal homes and commercial properties, even as we create pathways to new beginnings in safer locations. Given the scale of this challenge, action from the local to the national level will be required, engaging many sectors of the economy. The federal government has a unique and critical leadership role to help provide the tools, funding, resources, and policies that can guide more resilient choices and equitable outcomes along our imperiled coasts.

    There will be no simple solution. But continued inaction is unacceptable; we must use the remaining response time wisely to meet this serious threat and protect coastal communities as effectively as we can.

    Findings

    In this analysis, we identified residential and commercial properties at risk of chronic inundation as sea levels rise, defined as experiencing at least 26 floods per year (Figure 1) (Dahl et al. 2017; Spanger-Siegfried et al. 2017). Using data provided by Zillow (Zillow 2017)*, we determined these properties’ current collective value and contribution to community tax bases. We looked at outcomes for the entire coastline of the contiguous United States at multiple points in time through the end of the century, based on localized projections of three different sea level rise scenarios developed for the 2014 National Climate Assessment (Huber and White 2015; Walsh et al. 2014; Parris et al. 2012). In addition, we examined basic demographics of at-risk communities, including the number of people currently housed in these properties and at risk of being displaced, as well as factors such as race, age, and income that could make some populations more vulnerable than others to the physical and financial risks of flooding (Cleetus, Bueno, and Dahl 2015; US Census Bureau 2010; Cutter, Boruff, and Shirley 2003). For more information see Appendix: About this Analysis, p. 22.

    Given the importance of individual properties to those who own or live in them, and the broader importance of the coastal real estate market to many market actors invested therein, the following results are based on the high sea level rise scenario, a scenario that results in 6.6 feet of global sea level rise by 2100 and should be used to inform decisionmaking where there is a low tolerance for risk (Parris et al. 2012).1 Our results through the end of the century are generated based on today’s existing property numbers, property values, and related data (Zillow 2017), and today’s demographic statistics (US Census Bureau 2015; US Census Bureau 2010). Aside from rising sea levels and their direct threat to property, our results do not reflect what the future will bring in terms of additional coastal development, adaptation measures, the impact of major storms, population growth, other changes in property values, or other relevant factors. As a result, our findings may under- or overestimate the future number of properties, people, and value that will be affected over time (Hardy and Hauer 2018; Hauer 2017; Lentz et al. 2016).

    THE COAST-WIDE PICTURE

    With this high sea level rise scenario, we found that within the next 15 years roughly 147,000 existing homes and 7,000 commercial properties—currently worth $63 billion—are at risk of being inundated an average of 26 times per year, or more. About 280,000 people are estimated to live in these homes today; in this time frame many will need to either adapt to regular floods or relocate.

    By 2045—near the end of the lifetime of a 30-year home mortgage issued today—sea levels are projected to have risen such that nearly 311,000 of today’s residential properties, currently home to more than half a million people, would be at risk of flooding chronically, representing a doubling of at-risk homes in the 15 years between 2030 and 2045. Not only are the mortgage loans on these homes at growing risk of default if the value of the properties drops, but each successful sale of one of these homes represents the potential transfer of a major latent financial liability. Eventually, the final unlucky homeowners will hold deeds to significantly devalued properties (Conti 2018). Our calculations show that in about 120 communities along US coasts, the properties that would be at-risk in 2045 currently represent a full 20 percent or more of the local property tax base, a crucial source of funding for schools, fire departments, law enforcement, infrastructure, and other public services. For about 30 communities, properties accounting for more than half of the local property tax base today would be at risk by 2045.

    By the end of the century, as many as 2.4 million of today’s residential properties and 107,000 commercial properties, worth $1.07 trillion today—roughly equivalent to the entire gross domestic product of Florida—would be at risk of chronic flooding (BEA 2018). Those properties are estimated to currently house about 4.7 million people, the equivalent of the entire population of Louisiana.

    Together with previous studies of property at risk from rising seas, our findings illustrate a clear, rapidly growing risk to both coastal communities and the nation as a whole, given the deep financial stakes that both the private sector and the US taxpayer have in our coasts (Figure 2, p. 6) (Center for the Blue Economy 2018; Bretz 2017).

    COMMON THEMES AND STATE-LEVEL FINDINGS

    As sea levels rise, each of the 23 coastal states in the contiguous US faces the loss of residential and commercial properties and frequent flooding of populated areas, posing new challenges for all communities and adding particular stressors for communities of color and low-income and working-class communities. The following is a selection of common themes that arise across many states. While our discussion of states and locations highlights areas of high risk, this does not mean that other locales face only minimal risk.

    MOST TO LOSE? FLORIDA AND NEW JERSEY…HOUSING RISK HOTSPOTS: CALIFORNIA AND NEW YORK…POVERTY, RACIAL INEQUITIES, AND TIDES CREATE HOTSPOTS OF RISK: LOUISIANA, MARYLAND, NORTH CAROLINA, AND NEW JERSEY…GENERATIONAL WEALTH AT STAKE: NEW JERSEY, MARYLAND, AND TEXAS…BLUE COLLAR AMERICA AT RISK: MASSACHUSETTS, DELAWARE, PENNSYLVANIA, MARYLAND, VIRGINIA, MISSISSIPPI, OREGON, AND WASHINGTON…BUSINESS AS USUAL? FLORIDA AND NEW JERSEY…TOURISM REVENUE AT STAKE IN VACATION STATES: NEW JERSEY, NORTH CAROLINA, SOUTH CAROLINA, AND TEXAS…

    REALIGNING POLICIES AND MARKET INCENTIVES TO REFLECT GROWING FLOOD RISKS

    Well-intentioned but short-sighted federal, state, and local policies can mask risk and create incentives that reinforce the status quo, or even expose more people and property to risk. The market’s bias toward short-term decisionmaking and profits can also perpetuate risky investment choices. Identifying and reorienting the principal policies and market drivers of risky coastal development is a necessary and powerful way to move the nation toward greater resilience.

    Here we identify several existing federal and state policies that play a de facto role in how communities—and financial markets—perceive and respond to coastal risks. Each of these policies can be improved to better incentivize and enhance resilience:

    1. Federal disaster aid, when not accompanied by explicit incentives to reduce residents’ and businesses’ exposure to risks, has led states and municipalities to rebuild in a business-as-usual way and underinvest in risk-reduction measures (Kousky and Shabnam 2017; Moore 2017). Postdisaster investments should instead be made with a view to reducing future risks through a range of protective measures, including home buyouts and investments in flood-proofing measures as appropriate, and a requirement for adequate insurance coverage. For now, communities and financial sector actors rely on the assumption that federal aid will continue in its current form. Credit rating agencies have cited this assumption of continued federal aid for rebuilding as a reason to avoid downgrading the credit rating of municipalities that are exposed to risks of sea level rise.

    2. Existing federal, state, and local policies could be effectively deployed for investments in measures that will both reduce risks ahead of time and help rebuild in a more resilient way (Kousky 2014). We should recognize coastal flood risk for the predictable, slow-moving disaster it is, rather than respond only episodically, i.e., in the aftermath of major storms. One way this can be done is by ramping up investments in FEMA’s pre-disaster hazard mitigation grant program and the flood mitigation assistance program, and the community development block grant program administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A recent analysis by the National Institute of Building Sciences of almost a quarter century’s worth of data found that for these types of flood risk mitigation programs, every $1 invested can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs (MMC 2017).

    3. The taxpayer-backed National Flood Insurance Program—while a vital program—has long been recognized as subsidizing some homeowners in flood-prone areas and inaccurately portraying flood risks because, in too many cases, insurance premiums and the flood risk maps that underlie them do not reflect true risks (Schwartz 2018; Joyce 2017; Kousky and Michel-Kerjan 2015). The most egregious examples are so-called repetitive loss properties that have received repeated payouts from the program despite being in places that are clearly too risky to insure (Moore 2017).8 With sea level rise, the maps used by the National Flood Insurance Program are increasingly out of sync with the actual risks to coastal properties. Commonsense reforms to the program can ensure that it more effectively communicates flood risks, protects communities, and promotes better floodplain management.

    4. A robust federal flood risk management standard should be restored and mandate that all federal investments take into account future flood risks in order to help protect vital federally funded infrastructure, ensure wise use of taxpayer dollars, and also set a valuable guidepost for communities. State and local building and zoning regulations that are solely focused on near-term economic outcomes, and thereby allow questionable coastal development, are essentially building new exposure to risk when they could and should be reducing such exposure (IBHS 2018). Additional important opportunities include more protective building standards and coastal zone management regulations to help encourage floodresilience measures in floodplains, including the protection of wetlands and barrier islands and other natural flood-risk reduction methods.

    5. Increased funding for voluntary home buyout programs administered by FEMA and the HUD can also help homeowners move to safer locations. Communities in high-risk areas may also increasingly need relocation grants and technical assistance, and, correspondingly, communities that receive an influx of new residents may need financial resources. And as sea levels rise, federal, state, and local policies and resources should specifically target and address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

    6. Banks, insurers, real estate investors, developers, and other major financial actors in coastal areas should establish guidelines and standards to incorporate the risks of sea level rise in their business models, thus better serving the long-term economic interests of their clients. A blinkered focus on near-term profits and market factors can obscure significant risks just beyond the horizon.

    If there are changes in the perception of risk to coastal properties or if there is a growing political or social pressure to make changes, the marketplace or policymakers could make rapid changes to align incentives with risks. Potential examples of these types of shifts include changes in insurance premiums or criteria for insurability, changes in lending terms, and changes in credit ratings for communities. These types of tipping points could trigger very quick shifts in property values and the broader economic health of a coastal community.

    Unfortunately, a rapid realignment of taxpayer and private-sector investments reflecting true risk could jeopardize the well-being of communities unless deliberate steps are taken to provide options for them ahead of time. The withdrawal of private-sector investment dollars, and even public dollars when places are deemed too costly to support, could bring disruptive local impacts and market speculation with inequitable outcomes, particularly for those communities with fewer resources. Rather than a wholesale rapid withdrawal of funding for these areas, a judicious scaling back of new investment in line with flood risks would be far preferable from a societal perspective, together with a redirection of those investments toward options to help communities cope and build resilience.

    PLANNING FOR A RESILIENT FUTURE FOR ALL

    As a nation, we must use wisely the diminishing response time that communities have to reduce their exposure to this threat, from the individual scale to the economy as a whole. For communities facing chronic flooding of properties in the near term, it is imperative to act quickly to phase out policies that perpetuate and increase risk, while considering options for retreat from the highest-risk places. For cities and towns where the effects of chronic inundation will become apparent by mid-century, a slightly longer time horizon might allow for more creative solutions and comprehensive policies and planning. Targeted resources must be made available for disadvantaged communities for whom any of these adaptive responses could pose steep challenges. Given the wide-scale nature of the risks to our nation, we need a holistic, timely response strategy.

    Decisionmakers still have choices that can help limit— even if they cannot eliminate—threats to coastal cities and towns, and ultimately, to the national economy. Three main strategies exist for adapting to sea level rise on any coast: defend, accommodate, and retreat. Decisions about which combination of strategies to employ, and when and where, require expertise, stakeholder engagement, and ultimately the resources to implement the chosen options. Many cities and towns can expect adaptation to be costly, and that some financial losses will be inevitable. Homeowners and communities cannot be expected to absorb all of these potentially crippling costs on their own, especially those with fewer resources. A range of relevant actors—chiefly, the federal government—can implement policies that will help support adaptation and limit the extent of financial loss, ensuring that these taxpayerfunded resources are wisely and equitably deployed. The private sector also has an important role in driving innovative risk-reduction measures and creating new loci of economic opportunities in areas further inland.

    Sea level rise is challenging us to reimagine our coasts in many ways. Hundreds of communities will face losses. Retreat may be necessary from some of the highest-risk places. But there are opportunities to be had too—especially if we plan and invest wisely. Inland communities may be revitalized by the influx of new residents and new businesses. New communities can emerge, new infrastructure be built, and new economic opportunities created. All of this will only be possible with visionary leadership from policymakers, the private sector, and communities themselves.

    Critically, the United States must also work with other nations to slow the pace and limit the magnitude of sea level rise through aggressive reductions in heat-trapping emissions, in order to allow as many communities and homes as possible—both at home and abroad—to avoid chronic inundation in the years ahead.

    Developing a coherent, just, and forward-thinking approach to the challenges we face will require further research on several fronts.

    First, the many stakeholder groups within the coastal real estate sector—from individual homeowners to insurers— need to examine their tidal flooding tolerance and explore thresholds beyond which a pull-back (physically or financially) from affected areas is required. Within the private sector, for example, a careful examination of the risks could trigger decisions—such as not granting loans, raising insurance premiums, or downgrading credit—which will in turn drive big, sometimes painful, changes that begin to align market outcomes with those risks. Local-scale, community-specific modeling under different climate projections is a key piece of this research that can be built out.

    Second, communities will need more complete information on whether and how they can be made more resilient in place: for example, through what measures, at what cost, for how long? Third, further research is needed around successful models for retreat that could lead to positive outcomes for coastal and inland communities, particularly considering lessons learned following buyouts and individual homeowner retreat after Hurricane Sandy (Binder and Greer 2016). Critical areas in which we need to build our understanding are the necessary governance structures that will best support coastal retreat, legal implications of historically dry land going underwater, and the relationship between market downturns and climate-induced migration (Flavelle 2018; Kousky 2014). Additionally, as communities increasingly face the challenge of frequent, disruptive flooding, they will need to marshal resources to rise to that challenge—which inherently puts communities with fewer resources at a disadvantage (ERG 2013). We will therefore need to deepen our understanding of how policies can be made equitable and how best to enact them (Deas et al. 2017).

    Conclusion

    The cliff’s edge of a real estate market deflation due to flooding and sea level rise is already visible for many communities if they choose to look. The trajectory of our current actions— continued building in vulnerable places and ever-increasing global warming emissions—is propelling us closer to that edge. There are thresholds for properties at risk of chronic flooding from sea level rise beyond which regular life becomes unmanageable and financial loss becomes a better bet than struggling to live with floodwater. There are thresholds for communities beyond which economic and financial viability, and crucial public services, are threatened. When enough of those households and communities falter, entire real estate markets may face a tipping point. Whether we react to this threat by implementing science-based, coordinated, and equitable solutions—or walk, eyes open, toward a crisis—is up to us right now.

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    QUICK NEWS, October 23: Why Eating Meat Defeats Beating Climate Change; California Opens Up To Ocean Wind

    Why Eating Meat Defeats Beating Climate Change Our meat addiction is going to kill our chances of beating climate change; The case for shifting to a plant-based diet, immediately.

    Eillie Anzillotti, October 18, 2018 (Fast Company)

    “…New research from the World Resources Institute finds that, taking into account trends in population growth and meat consumption, agriculture alone could…[make it impossible to limit] global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius…[WRI mapped trends in population growth and animal-based food consumption from 1961 and extrapolated them out to 2050, and found people in 2050 will probably eat 70% more meat and dairy, and 80% more beef…[Beef creates] around 30 times the amount of emissions required to produce the same caloric quantity of beans. And that’s not even considering land-use implications…

    …[Producing beef requires both land to grow feed, and land upon which cows can graze or pasture…[That makes it] radically less efficient than just using that land to grow produce [like beans] that humans can consume…[P]lant-based alternatives are gaining momentum…[and WRI and others have] launched a new initiative to get restaurants, companies, and hospitals to up their share of plant-based food offerings with a goal of reducing food emissions by 25% by 2030… Researchers have found that if everyone in the U.S. immediately swapped out beef for beans, we could hit 50% to 75% of our greenhouse-gas-reductions targets for the year 2020…” click here for more

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    California Opens Up To Ocean Wind Something New May Be Rising Off California Coast: Wind Farms

    Ivan Penn and Stanley Reed, October 19, 2018 (NY Times)

    “…[The U.S. Interior Department has taken] the first steps to enable companies to lease waters in Central and Northern California for wind projects. If all goes as the state’s regulators and utilities expect, floating windmills could begin producing power within six years…[Several wind developers] are expected to enter the bidding, equipped with new [floating] technology that has already been tested in Europe…California’s determination to fully rely on carbon-free electricity by 2045, mandated in a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, is forcing the state to look beyond solar power and land-based wind farms to meet the goal…[There are potential rewards from offshore wind development but] the potential impact on birds, fisheries and marine mammals will be closely scrutinized…

    …California is a particularly opportune spot for such a project, given the length of its coast and the size of its population. And the coast offers an added advantage: winds over the ocean tend to pick up strength as the sun sets, just when the contribution of solar power is done for the day…[The Interior Department identified a parcel off Humboldt County in Northern California, and two sites in the Morro Bay area on the central coast for leases, 15 to 30 miles off the coast where they will be less visible from land and less of a hazard to seals and migratory birds.]…Offshore wind projects in California will largely benefit from existing power lines to keep costs down. Several power plants along the coast have closed or will be retired because of pollution and other environmental concerns…” click here for more

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    Monday, October 22, 2018

    TODAY’S STUDY: How The Residential Solar Market Works

    The Evolving Market Structure of the U.S. Residential Solar PV Installation Industry, 2000–2016

    Eric O’Shaughnessy, January 2018 (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    The U.S. residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installation industry is evolving in terms of market structure—the number of installation companies (installers) and the distribution of market shares of those installers. This study explores the evolving market structure. Long-term trends in residential PV market structure are presented using a data set of nearly one million residential PV systems installed from 2000 to 2016.

    About 8,700 different companies installed at least one residential PV system from 2000 to 2016, with about 2,900 installers being active in 2016 (Figure ES-1, left). About half of these companies installed fewer than five systems, and many companies may represent firms from related industries (e.g., electrical contracting) that install PV as a side business. At the same time, more than 800 companies have installed more than 100 residential PV systems, and more than 100 companies have installed more than 1,000 systems.

    The U.S. residential PV installation industry became less concentrated from 2000 through about 2010 as a large number of installers entered the growing market. From 2010 to 2016, the industry became increasingly concentrated as a subset of high-volume installers accumulated a disproportionately large market share (Figure ES-1, right). Increasing market concentration has occurred at every market level, from national to state and local markets. The period of increasing market concentration occurred concurrently with—and may have contributed to—a period of significant market growth overall. As a result, increasing market concentration has generally not occurred at the expense of lower-volume companies. High-volume companies have increased market share, but lower-volume companies have also increased sales in the growing market.

    There are several possible explanations for increasing market concentration in the U.S. residential PV installation industry. In this study, the connection between increasing concentration and the emergence of third-party ownership (TPO) customer financing models is explored. High-volume installers are more likely to offer TPO products than are low-volume installers. Hence, the increasing popularity of TPO products from 2010 to 2016 likely facilitated market concentration. As evidence of this relationship, sales of customer-owned systems did not exhibit the same degree of market concentration as did sales of TPO systems over the study period. The implications of market concentration are an ongoing area of research.

    Introduction

    Market structure describes the organization of firms within a given industry. It is of interest to policymakers and researchers owing to the relationships among competition, prices, and innovation. The number of firms and the distribution of market shares among those firms determine an industry’s competitive intensity. In turn, the degree of competitive intensity determines the pressures on firms to innovate, reduce costs, and offer lower prices (Tirole 1988).

    In the context of the U.S. residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installation industry, stakeholders are interested in how market structure affects installed PV system prices and PV adoption (e.g., Gillingham et al. 2016; Nemet et al. 2017; Pless et al. 2017). High installed prices have posed the key barrier to large-scale residential PV deployment. Significant price reductions over the past two decades have driven a rapidly expanding residential PV market. This price decline is associated primarily with falling PV hardware costs. Non-hardware or “soft” costs—including installation costs—now constitute a larger share of PV price stacks than in previous years (Barbose and Darghouth 2017; Fu et al. 2017).

    Market structure affects these soft costs by determining installers’ incentives to reduce profit margins and installation costs and thus offer lower-priced systems. As a result, market structure can impede or facilitate future soft cost and installed price reductions. Studies to date have described PV market structure at a high level based on limited data sets, showing that—among the thousands of U.S. residential PV installation companies—a subset of high-volume companies accounts for a large proportion of installations (Fu et al. 2017; Litvak 2017; Perea et al. 2017).

    This study provides a more granular depiction of the evolving U.S. PV market structure by applying a rich data set of nearly one million residential PV installations.1 The aim is to provide a benchmark of the key trends in residential PV market structure from 2000 to 2016. Several metrics and visualization methods show how the industry has changed over time in terms of the number of installation firms, rates of market entry and exit, and distribution of market shares among installers. Descriptive analyses are also provided to explain these trends. However, the results do not include evaluation of the effects of market structure trends on industry competition, prospects, and so forth; the implications of the observed trends will be examined in future research.

    The remainder of this report is organized as follows. Section 2 describes the data and methods used for the study. Section 3 summarizes market structure trends in the U.S. residential PV industry in terms of number of installers and market concentration. Section 4 presents a descriptive analysis of the relationship between PV market structure and recent trends in customer financing options. Section 5 summarizes key findings.

    Discussion and Conclusion

    The U.S. residential PV installation market has become more concentrated over time. However, the concentration does not imply that some high-volume companies have grown at the expense of small companies. The period of increasing market concentration from 2012 to 2015 coincided with a significant expansion of the residential PV market. Figure 20 depicts trends for installers that had entered the industry in 2012 or earlier. The left pane of Figure 20 clearly shows that the highest-volume installers increased market share considerably from 2012 to 2015. However, the right pane of Figure 20 shows that other active installers continued to increase sales volumes through 2015 despite losing market share. In other words, market concentration during this period was not a zero-sum game, as the growing market allowed smaller installers to increase sales volumes even while losing market share. The drop in volumes in 2016 corresponds with a drop in installations in the data set overall for 2016.

    The relationship between market concentration and market size in the U.S. residential PV industry remains an ongoing area of research, and plausible arguments of causality run in either direction. The emergence of the TPO model, led by high-volume installers, resulted in a significant expansion of the residential market (Drury et al. 2012; Rai and Sigrin 2013). Thus, increasing market concentration associated with the TPO model may have facilitated an expansion of the residential PV market. Further, several studies indicate that market concentration may generate lower market prices (Gillingham et al. 2016; Pless et al. 2017). At the same time, increasing market concentration may allow some high-volume installers to exercise more market power than lower-volume installers, resulting in higher prices and possibly stymying PV adoption (Bollinger and Gillingham 2014, O’Shaughnessy and Margolis 2017a). Alternatively, high-volume installers appear to experience diseconomies of scale in terms of customer acquisition (Fu et al. 2017; Mond 2017), suggesting that PV market concentration may increase soft costs. The effects of market structure on market size and prices are areas of future research.

    The residential PV industry’s increasing concentration over time does not necessarily imply that the industry has become less competitive. Indeed, several studies show that market prices can be lower in more concentrated PV markets, possibly because high-volume installers engage in price wars or exert downward price pressures on smaller installers (Gillingham et al. 2016; Nemet et al. 2017; Pless et al. 2017). The residential PV industry is also evolving as customers find new ways to procure PV. For instance, several third-party quote providers have emerged that provide platforms connecting customers to installers for the purposes of finding quotes. These quote platforms foster competitive pricing, allowing customers to obtain quotes from several installers and thus benefit from lower prices (O’Shaughnessy and Margolis 2017b).

    Finally, the objective of this study is to describe trends in the residential PV installation industry’s market structure rather than analyze the implications of those trends. The implications of market concentration are not necessarily unambiguously positive or negative for the residential PV industry. The potential accumulation of market power among high-volume installers could be a policy concern because of the implications for PV soft costs. At the same time, market concentration may simply reflect market maturation and the accrual of market share among the industry’s most innovative and successful companies, in which case policies to reduce concentration could stunt further industry growth.

    To conclude, about 8,700 companies installed at least one residential PV system from 2000 to 2016. In 2016, the U.S. residential PV industry consisted of about 2,900 installers. The market has become increasingly concentrated over time as a group of high-volume installers has gained market share. By 2016, less than 1% of installers installed more than 1,000 systems per year, but these high-volume installers accounted for about 60% of all systems installed. The data provide descriptive evidence that the emergence of the TPO model contributed to this market concentration. The effects of this market concentration are areas for future research.

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    QUICK NEWS, October 22: Things To Do About Climate Change; New Energy Can Be A Political Winner

    Things To Do About Climate Change What the new report on climate change expects from you

    Eliza Mackintosh, October 8, 2018 (CNN)

    A stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change calls on individuals, as well as governments, to take action to avoid disastrous levels of global warming...[The report calls for] "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society…" …[C]onsumers can shift to more sustainable choices like car sharing and hybrid and electric cars…[and] using more efficient modes of travel…[In their homes, people can use] smart thermostats or more efficient air conditioners…[The report] suggests that people consume about 30% less animal products…[because livestock] account for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, more than direct emissions from the transport sector…[The report shows consumer actions] allow emissions to be cut much faster…” click here for more

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    New Energy Can Be A Political Winner It’s the economics: Red states embracing wind energy don’t do it for the climate

    Sarah Mills, October 22, 2018 (The Converstion)

    “…The federal government has never played a leading role in restricting the carbon footprint of the nation’s power plants. But now that the Trump administration is trying to dismantle many energy regulations, that national role is even smaller…Many states have been trying to fill this vacuum…and encourage the deployment of renewable energy like wind and solar power…[P]olicies have mainly taken hold along the East and West Coasts, where Democrats command a majority of the vote and concern about global warming is highest...[But] renewable energy is on the rise in not just Democratic strongholds and the “purple” states where leadership is bipartisan. It’s booming in some of the nation’s most conservative bastions…Many communities in these states < see renewable energy as an economic opportunity…

    Landowners earn money when they host wind turbines or solar panels…[It is] a drought-proof and pest-proof income stream…And solar and wind developers also often pay property taxes that fund government services, such as local public schools…[which is] a much-needed boost in areas that are struggling financially or losing population…94 percent of Democrats say they support [state-level mandates for New Energy] compared to 69 percent of Republicans – a 25-point gap in support…[But the] gap in support for increasing the use of wind or solar is much smaller: just 6 percentage points for solar energy and 10 percentage points for wind…[Those numbers show] that conservatives like wind and solar power. They just don’t want the government to tell them that they must use renewable energy…” click here for more

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    Saturday, October 20, 2018

    Colbert On The President’s Climate Science

    Even when words fail the rest of us and we want to hang our heads in chagrin, Colbert comes through. From The Late Show With Stephen Colbert via YouTube

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    Floridians and the president can deny it all they want, but this is what must happen as climate change matures. From PBS NewsHour via YouTube

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    Cleveland Rocks 100% New Energy

    Cleveland, home of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, just stuck its thumb in the eye of the Washington establishment by joining the 100% New Energy movement. From NationalSierraClub via YouTube

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    Friday, October 19, 2018

    Heritage Treasures Threatened By Climate Change

    Climate change endangers dozens of World Heritage sites

    Sandee LaMotte, October 16, 2018 (CNN)

    “…Across the Mediterranean region, flood risk may increase by 50% and erosion risk by 13% by the year 2100…with considerably higher increases at specific World Heritage sites, areas chosen to be preserved due to their importance in human history…The impact on those historical icons would be significant…unless actions are taken quickly…[According to a new scientific study, many of the 1,092 cultural historical sites on the 2018 World Heritage List] are already at risk from rising sea levels. Venice, for example, has been thought to be sinking for years. In reality, Venice floods regularly, and has done so for centuries. In 1996 a combination of rain, high tides and high wind caused the canals to rise a devastating 6 feet above normal levels…

    …The researchers ranked and compared 49 locations facing the highest risk…Flooding risk was highest for cities along the northern Adriatic Sea. Some are in severe danger now. Besides Venice and its lagoon, the Italian city of Ferrara and its wetlands of Po Delta and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia at the northern coast of Italy are currently at high risk due to rising sea levels…[The study also] found 42 of the 49 sites were suffering coastal erosion today…[By 2100, the Lebanese city of Tyre topped the list of cities endangered by erosion…followed by Ephesus, Greece, known for the nearby Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In equal danger are Heraion, a large temple dedicated to Hera in Samos, Greece, and the Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco in Spain, said to be the first and oldest Roman settlement on the Iberian Peninsula…” click here for more

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    Global New Energy Demand Enablers

    Demand For Renewable Energy Jumps Tremendously As Costs Decline

    James Lee, 17 October 2018 (Forbes Middle East)

    “…[Three key enablers—price and performance parity, grid integration, and technology—allow solar and wind power to compete with conventional sources on price, while matching their performance…[According to Deloitte’s just released “Global Renewable Energy Trends,” prices for New Energy prices will continue to fall and accessibility to it will continue to grow due to] technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and 3-D printing…Longstanding obstacles to greater deployment of renewables have receded as a result…

    The unsubsidized cost of solar and wind power has become comparable or cheaper than traditional sources in much of the world. New storage options are now making renewables more dispatchable—once an advantage of conventional sources…Once seen as an obstacle, wind and solar power are now viewed as a solution to grid balancing.They have demonstrated an ability to strengthen grid resilience and reliability and provide essential grid services…[And] automation and advanced manufacturing are improving the production and operation of renewables by reducing the costs and time of implementing renewable energy systems…” click here for more

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    China Leading The New Energy Transition

    Global Renewables Forecast: Chinese Export Aspirations To Grow

    18 September 2018 (Fitch Solutions)

    “…China will make up 45% of total global renewables capacity additions over the coming decade, as the Chinese government will remain a strong supporter of the sector…[Growth in China's renewables sector will likely] slow over the coming decade, as it transitions away from feed-in-tariffs to competitive auctions…[and renewables exports will likely] become increasingly important under the Belt & Road initiative…[Non-hydropower renewables capacity is forecast to] double over the coming decade, from 1,034GW by end-2017 to 1,088GW by 2027…[Solar power capacity will] grow the fastest,] from 38% to 45%. By 2027, globally installed solar capacity will total 936GW, marginally lower than the 976GW we forecast will be installed in the wind power sector…

    Renewables power generation growth will average 7% annually between 2017 and 2027, with the wind power sector making up 51% of the renewables power generation mix by 2027…[Solar power’s lower capacity factor will keep it at] 29% by 2027…Geothermal and biomass power will comprise 3% and 18% of total renewables power generation respectively, despite the sectors only making up 1% and 8% of total renewables capacity…China will make up 45% of total global renewables capacity installations between 2017 and 2027, adding almost 500GW of renewables capacity between 2017 and 2027. This will take total installed capacity in the market to 768GW by the end of our 10-year forecast, meaning China will make up almost 37% of total installed renewables capacity by 2027…” click here for more

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    Thursday, October 18, 2018

    A Diet For The Planet

    The ideal diet to combat climate change; Plant-based diets better for planet, study says

    Lisa Drayer, October 18, 2018 (KXLY Spokane)

    “…[A]s a result of population growth and the continued consumption of Western diets high in red meats and processed foods, the environmental pressures of the food system could increase by up to 90% by 2050…[and] Earth's vital ecosystems could become unstable…[According to a study Oxford University, this] could lead to dangerous levels of climate change with higher occurrences of extreme weather events…Sustaining a healthier planet will require halving the amount of food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies. But it will also require a shift toward more plant-based diets…

    …[The study animal products generate] up to 78% of total agricultural emissions…due to manure-related emissions…The feed-related impacts of animal products also contribute to freshwater use and pressures on cropland…[B]eef is more than 100 times as emissions-intensive as legumes…[C]ows emit about 10 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat than pigs and chickens, which themselves emit about 10 times more than legumes…[A] flexitarian diet, which is predominantly plant-based, can help…[It] includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein sources including legumes, soybeans and nuts, along with modest amounts of poultry, fish, milk and eggs, and small amounts of red meat…” click here for more

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    100% New Energy Is The Only Option Left

    ‘There is no alternative to a world of 100% renewables’

    Emiliano Bellini, October 17, 2018 (PV Magazine)

    “Electrifying the global energy system with clean energy is the only way to reach the targets set by the Paris agreement on climate change and avoid the catastrophic scenarios outlined by the recent IPCC report…[A] 100% renewables model is not only technically feasible, but also the cheapest and safest option. With solar and storage at its core, the future energy system… will not only stop coal, but also nuclear and fossil gas, while seeing solar reach a share of around 70% of power consumption by 2050. By that time, PV technology could cost a third of its current price…[The findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report calling for urgent measures leaves] no other appropriate option…

    …[According to Lappeenranta University of Technology research, this] is not science fiction but a real world scenario that must be taken into serious consideration, unless we don’t want to commit a collective suicide…[I]t is also the cheapest way to shape our energy future, as solar and renewables have the potential to reduce the LCOE of global power supply from €70 [$80.91]/MWh in 2015 to between 50 and €55/MWh by 2050…The easiest part of this trajectory will be the switch to renewables of the power sector, while the hard job will have to be done for the transport, industry and chemical sectors. In the transport sector, marine and aviation will also have to go through electrification, as economically they only work with low-cost electricity, and this will come mainly from renewables in the future, particularly from solar…” click here for more

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    Beach Home Real Estate In A Time Of Climate Change

    Climate change and the coming coastal real estate crash; It could rival the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008

    Patrick Sisson, October 16, 2018 (Curbed)

    “…[Techniques used to build the home in Florida that survived Hurricane Michael] such as raising it on stilts and using additional concrete supports…[roughly doubles the cost per square foot…Like many of the impacts of a warming planet, the serious economic reverberations and permanent damage caused by declining coastal property values are simply not being addressed in an urgent enough manner…[A 2016 investigation found] the impact of a coastal property collapse brought on by climate change…could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008…The warnings have only become more dire…In many ways, real estate will be the canary in the coal mine of climate change…For many coastal communities in the United States threatened by hurricanes, a period of rapid change has already arrived…

    At the very least, we need a serious dialogue at the national level after repeated billion-dollar recovery efforts continue to tax the government as well as the insurance industry…[A detailed Union of Concerned Scientists analysis found] that most coastal real estate does not factor these risks into current value projections…[and] the value of waterlogged land won’t simply bounce back. Everyone from institutional investors to private homeowners will face losses that will drag down the wider economy…300,000 residential and commercial properties will likely face chronic and disruptive flooding by 2045, threatening $135 billion in property damage and forcing 280,000 Americans to adapt or relocate…[Florida] will be the state most at risk…Roughly 64,000 homes—including 12,000 in Miami Beach, a nexus of real estate investment—will face chronic flooding…[It will likely be a slow-motion disaster resulting in] a broken flood insurance system… click here for more

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    Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: La-La Land Plans For 100% New Energy

    The two key questions about going to 100% renewables in Los Angeles; Will it be solar or more solar in Hollywood? And can solar star without fossil fuel backup?

    Herman K. Trabish, April 5, 2018 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: With California’s new state-wide commitment to 100% New Energy, the path for Los Angeles is expected to clear.

    In 2016, the Los Angeles City Council asked the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to study the possibility of moving to a 100% renewables resource mix. For renewables, this could be what Hollywood calls a “marquee moment.” Many see in renewables the 'star' quality to run the 'show' on their own. Others worry that co-stars, in the form of backup fossil generation, will be needed into the 2040s if LADWP is to guarantee reliable electricity for its 1.5 million-plus customers. That's because if renewables get casted, LADWP faces a big challenge: Limits on regional transmission constrain LA’s renewables choices largely to solar and more solar. To answer the questions raised by the city council’s order, LADWP formed a high-powered advisory group that is winning rave reviews from renewables advocates. In the meantime, to create a “roadmap” to 100% renewables and help inform the debate, local advocacy group Food & Water Watch (FWW) commissioned “Clean Energy for Los Angeles” by Synapse Energy Economics.

    The Synapse paper has been welcomed by advocates for a more rapid transition to 100% renewables. It found the city’s transition to 100% renewables by 2030 is “feasible” and “will be cheaper for LADWP ratepayers” than business as usual, according to FWW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. Synapse also offers new co-stars for renewables. Instead of fossil fuels and hydropower delivered on costly new transmission, the co-stars can be energy efficiency, demand response and battery energy storage, Synapse says. Synapse associate and paper co-author Spencer Fields said the study has one very important takeaway. The biggest change for LADWP in the coming transition will not be its resource mix. It is already more than 30% renewables and quickly adding more to meet its clean energy mandates. The biggest change in moving to 100% by 2030 will be how the utility operates its system… click here for more

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    ORIGINAL REPORTING: South Carolina’s Nuclear Woes

    What's next for South Carolina's embattled utilities? A failed investment in nuclear puts the futures of SCE&G and Santee Cooper in danger

    Herman K. Trabish, April 9, 2018 (Utility Dive)

    Editor’s note: The debate over what should happen to this $9 billion-plus money hole goes on.

    To keep electricity flowing at affordable prices, South Carolina faces difficult choices about its debt-burdened electric utilities. Public power utility Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G), the state’s dominant investor-owned electric utility (IOU), have a combined obligation of more than $13 billion. It was incurred when the expected $9.8 billion cost to jointly finance two new units at the V.C. Summer nuclear facility ballooned to more than $20 billion and the project had to be abandoned. There are five choices for Santee and six for SCE&G, according to new papers. Among the choices, both utilities could attempt to meet their debt by economizing, but the debt is too large for that approach to be effective. They could pass the obligation to customers or taxpayers, but many of the lawmakers responsible for the ultimate decision on the utilities' fates have declared it unacceptable to shift the financial burden to those who did not create it.

    A new Palmetto Promise Institute paper says the responsibility should fall on the utilities and investors in the uncompleted nuclear facility. SCE&G, as an IOU, could aid itself and its customers by cutting dividends to shareholders, according to a study done for the state senate by Bates White, a financial consulting firm. Both utilities could sell out if they can find buyers; Dominion Energy has made an offer for SCANA. but completion of the deal is far from certain. Or both could default on the debt, shifting the burden to bondholders and driving the question to bankruptcy courts. The dilemma is complicated by the fact that the utilities’ decision to expand the nuclear facility was made in good faith during the “nuclear renaissance” of the early 2000s. Many in South Carolina (SC) believed it was the right decision. But it was a wrong decision and now somebody must take “a haircut" — a financial world euphemism for a loss. The more legislators discuss options for the utilities, the more unlikely a viable way forward that avoids bankruptcy or sale of the utilities seems… click here for more

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    NO QUICK NEWS